19 Jun 2018

ZELDA'S CUT.

Are we sitting comfortably? Have you whatever it is you normally drink at this time of the day/night to hand?

Good. Then I'll begin with what I suspect may be a longer than usual review.



ZELDA'S CUT by PHILIPPA GREGORY.


Isobel Latimer is trapped: by her need to be a good woman, by massive secret debt, and by the burden of impeccable literary reputation. Everyone wants a cut of her talent, her time or her money, but only she knows there's nothing left to give. In desperation, Isobel and her agent, Troy, conspire to create a shameless blockbuster with an author to match. Zelda is born.

Zelda can do everything that Isobel cannot: the unspeakable is said, taboos are broken and desires are unleashed. Troy revels in the wildness, but Isobel senses menace behind the beautiful mask, and she longs for the safety of her husband and home. But when she returns, the familiar has changed ...
- Back Cover Blurb

The question between them, being unresolvable, remained unresolved.
- First Sentence

Too many to mention; most memorable for how bad I thought them. See 'Full Of Weird Metaphors' below for two of my 'favourites'. TT
- Memorable Moment, Page 132

SOURCE ... Off our shelves.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... Yes.

  • What's In A Name?: 'A Word That Begins With the Letter 'Z' In The Title' category. 
With all six categories now read, this completes this year's challenge.

MY THOUGHTS ... For those of you who haven't read Zelda's Cut ...

In a nutshell, the story, Isobel, a successful (and I quote) literary author, who having discovered her writing is not paying the bills and with an ill husband to care for, is persuaded to write a 'trashy' novel. However, ashamed to have her loyal readers associate 'that kind of novel' with her and unwilling to use a nom de plume, a whole new persona is needed and thus Zelda is born.

What I thought of as badly and lazily written ...

  • Ridiculous ...  To feel that we, as readers, are being asked to suspend belief is one thing BUT to feel that what we are reading is an insult to our intelligence is quite another and I'm so disappointed/hurt/annoyed that I felt certain aspects of the story (I won't say what for fear of a spoiler) were an insult to our intelligence.
  • Repetitive ... I lost count of the number of times we were, for example, told the order in which the make-up and clothes that transformed Isobel transformed into Zelda were put on; that  the applying of lipstick was like a thousand kisses.
  • Laughable ... Cheesy, cringe worthy, regular visitors to Pen and Paper will know what I mean when I say the more, the more, err, erotic elements were worthy of a 'Bad Sex' award (and for those of you not in the know click here).
  • Full of weird metaphors ... For some reason many of them involving food; there were the numerous somewhat strange references that saw baked beans used as a metaphor for literature and then there were my 'favourites' ...
 'she unfolded like a lap-dancer coming out of a cake';
'heavy-jowled businessmen stared at her as if she was a desert trolley'
  • Awful Characters ... OK, as we've previously established, I don't have to like a character in order to enjoy them BUT many of them walking-talking cliches/negative stereotypes - the frumpy, needy middle-aged brunette; the beautiful, gracefully moving, sheer silk stocking wearing, tousled haired blonde; the handsome, younger man taking advantage of the said frumpy, middle-aged woman; the pitiful, manipulative ill man who uses his illness in order to get his own way; the lazy carer & con man not beyond taking advantage; - these were characters I, by large, found myself disliking so much that I couldn't enjoy them. 

As for those of you who have read it ... 

Reading this, this .... drivel, I can't help but think that Ms Gregory has pulled off something of a Zelda herself. Hats off to her, if it was her intention to prove she could write a 'trashy' novel, she certainly succeeded. My apologies if however, she, like Isobel, is feeling trapped by 'the burden of impeccable literary reputation'; that 'everyone wants a cut of her talent, her time or her money.' 

Having now read all of the author's books (bar her short stories) to date, I think it safe to say that her historical fiction novels are by far more to my taste. That I finished this book, more a reflection on my being stubborn, on my refusing to give up on a book (no mater how bad I thought it) than my in any way having enjoyed it.


15 Jun 2018

CARVED IN BONE.


Carved in BoneCARVED IN BONE by JEFFERSON BASS.


 The corpse of a woman dead is found in a remote cave deep in The Appalachian Mountains,, the body has been near-perfectly preserved by the cave's unusual chemistry.

Dr. Bill Brockton founder of the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Facility, a.k.a the Body Farm is called in to investigate the circumstances of the mummified corpse's death.

What Brockton uncovers is a secret with its roots buried deep in the past of the remote mountain community, placing him at the centre of a decade's old feud, and possibly its next victim.
- Back Cover Blurb 

I picked up the hunting knife with my left hand and tested its heft, then shifted it to my right hand to compare.
- First Sentence, Prologue

A boy at one side of the room - a quadrant from which I'd heard snores on more than one occasion - raised his hand. 'Did you say Mongoloid?' I nodded. 'Man, that's harsh. Why would someone kill a retard?'

The room erupted in groans. I checked the seating chart. 'Do your reading, Mr Murdoch!' I thundered. 'In physical anthropology, "Mongoloid" refers to peoples of Mongolian descent - Asians and Native Americans.' He slumped in his seat.
- Memorable Moment, Page 214 

SOURCE ... Borrowed from a friend, thanks Ruth.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.

MY THOUGHTS ... Having read and been informed by readers of these books that, book 7, The Bones Of Avignon (published in the US as The Inquisitor's Key) wasn't the best book in this, the Body Farm series, I decided to read this, the first book, in the hope I'd enjoy it more.

A bit of an odd read in so much as it didn't feel like the first in a series, there was so much back story; things that I would have liked to know more about; things that though alluded to were never really gone into.

Fascinated by the whole concept of the Body Farm, once again I was left a bit disappointed by how little of this there is in the book. Call me cynical but it feels as if the author is vicariously relying on the reputation of something that isn't in fact actually represented here . 

Then ....

A tad too much inconsequential waffle - to say nothing of the 'odd' tangents the plot went off on OR the multitude of oddly placed tertiary characters - that clouded the issues. 

The female characters, of whom there were only a handful, I thought weak. Perhaps better represented in future books (though I remember they were one of the issues I had with The Bones Of Avignon so perhaps not) but, as it was, I thought them so poorly written it was woeful.

Most of all though, there was Dr Bill Brockton himself (not to be confused with Dr Bass, the real life founder of the Body Farm and one half of the team behind the books, who I'm sure is a decent human being). What is so appealing about this type of character (along with Dr Brockton, I'm thinking Robert Langdon of The Da Vinci Code books amongst others)? 

Characters that, in the case of Dr Brockton; tragically widowed with an estranged son, have been (excuse the pun) done to death? Characters that, in general, in powers in position; emotionally damaged; seemingly irresistible to much younger women, we see featured again and again? 

Not a series I can see myself investing in any further. I had thought about reconsidering my rating but, rich in forensics (its definitely not one for the squeamish but then the more gory the forensics the better as far as I'm concerned), all things considered, worthy of its three stars.




11 Jun 2018

AGGGHHH! ME CUTTING OFF MY NOSE TO SPITE MY FACE?

'To contribute to Community Features (for example, Customer Reviews, Customer Answers), you must have spent at least £40 on Amazon.co.uk using a valid payment card in the past 12 months. Promotional discounts don't qualify towards the £40 minimum. You do not need to meet this requirement to post Customer Questions, create or modify Profile pages, Lists, or Registries, or to read content posted by other customers'.
- Amazon.co.uk
See their 'Eligibility' and other Community Guidelines by clicking here

OR ...

for Amazon.com's
'Eligibility' and other Community Guidelines click here

Just as I know I'm not the first, I know I won't be the last.

The last that is to be held to ransom by Amazon. And, yes, at this moment in time, that is truly what it feels like.

It may have escaped your notice (I know it had mine until, having received a pop-up message from amazon politely declining my latest review, I checked) but lots of bloggers are having not only their recent reviews declined BUT their reviews going back weeks .. months .. even longer deleted. Why?

As of 2018 ... 

For many reasons but seemingly way up there as one of the most common reasons  ... I refer you to the Amazon Community Guidelines at the top of this post.

Yes, I'm guilty of not spending £40 (if in the US $50, I don't know about elsewhere) in a year with Amazon.co.uk .. OR am I? 

Not uncommonly between Mr T and myself (Note I make no mention of all the family members who buy things for us as listed on our respective Wish Lists) we easily spend £40 (and the rest) each but, for reasons I won't bore you with here, I refuse to set up an online account and therefore always buy things  using his account.

Am I, as my nana would say, 'cutting off my nose to spite my face' by not taking the simple step of setting up an account in MY name? Probably, but, right now, I refuse to be held to ransom.

And especially not held to ransom by a site that as a fellow blogger explained ...


"I NEVER buy books from Amazon - I buy teabags and make up, but never books and I review EVERY book that I read, on Amazon.

Because I spend money with Amazon, I am allowed to review on Amazon, it doesn't matter where I bought the book from."

So basically, a site that allows you to review books when in fact you haven't bought a book off them for goodness knows how long (if ever) preferring to spend your £40/$50 if in the US (that by the way is £40 and another $50 if, like me, you are sometimes asked to post your review on both Amazon.co.uk AND Amazon.com) purchasing whatever it is your purchasing off them that isn't books.

Not that this is the only reason people are having their reviews declined/deleted. 

Not unlike many others, whenever I have reviewed a book on behalf of a second party (IE an author, a publisher, ETC) I have always added a disclaimer that is basically the same as the one you'll find at the top of the left hand side-bar. The proper thing to do? You'd may have thought so BUT woe betide anyone who gets the wording of this wrong. 

Yes, it seems as if Amazon has it as being OK for authors etc to give copies of books or Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) away so long as they don’t require a review in exchange (which by the way is considered your being financially compensated). Soooo best not use the term I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review" ... Amazon doesn't like it. Far better to go with something along the lines of “I received an this book/ARC at no cost from the author.


Hang on a minute, second party providing a print copy in thanks for a review is considered my being 'financially compensated'? Yes, and Amazon will decline your review AND possibly delete others.

What's more ...

Enter competitions where the prize is an Amazon gift card? I have it on good authority that entering a competition where the prize is an Amazon gift card IS considered to be compensation for a review (even if the review is years into the future). 

Hmm! It seems Amazon can and do track gift cards that authors send out by email and thus authors in the know apparently {whispers} buy Amazon gift cards from their local supermarkets, ETC, and mail them out to their readers, which doesn’t draw a direct line between them.

Then, nothing new, Amazon has always stated that "reviews written by anyone with a personal relationship to the author are inappropriate". Yes, we're talking nepotism. 

All well and good. Of course no one wants to think that all those five star reviews are being written by the author's mother, right?

Of course we don't BUT for me I guess the crux of the matter is how exactly Amazon defines a personal relationship?

A relatively small community, how many of us who review books on behalf of second parties (despite probably never having met them in the flesh and hardly likely to do so) befriend, lets say, an of author or heck, even their cat on FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodReads .. I could go on? Hardly what I'd describe as a personal relationship and, yet no matter how tenuous the link, Amazon don't like it. Far better, if they/their cat have one, rather than befriend them on their personal page, follow them on their public/author page'.

And finally, rant almost over ...

Were you aware that authors aren't allowed to review on Amazon? 

No, of course I don't mean they aren't allowed to go dishing out five stars to their own books, that goes without saying. I mean they aren't allowed to review full stop, the reason?

Having finally managed to solicit a response from them, an author friend received an email that  strongly suggested that they (authors) were unable to be circumspect; that they'd either (a) give positive reviews to those published by the same publishing house and/or (b) give negative reviews to their competitors.

A blow to the blogging community and authors (especially those authors who self-publish and don't have the backing of a big publishing house)?

I'd like to think not. After all, when all is said and done ...

  • Our reviews are important to authors. As I have been informed by several authors, reviews are the life-blood of the 'indie' author. If nothing else, its a way of getting their name/book(s) out there; even if less than glowing, its still feedback and, if well done, can provide constructive criticism.
  • Gutted to think all of the hours (to say nothing of the considerable thought) I've put into my review(s) has gone, deleted at the press of a button, BUT ...

  1. I started blogging as a way to chronicle the books I had read and, yes, whilst its both an honour and a privilege to receive books from second parties; to think that I might have provided just that little bit of exposure, no matter what, I'll carry on reviewing.
  2. Theirs isn't the only site, there are others apart from Amazon. OK so there isn't any research out there as to how much (if anything) reviews help sales on other sites but, again, its a way of getting an authors name out there and I'd like to think, no matter where posted, readers might, just might, be influenced by them.
Why might you ask, that given these issues and the fact that Amazon's working conditions have been questioned, do I still shop with them.

A good question and one I've been pondering for a while now.

Anyway,

Thank you for sticking with me, know its a been a longer than usual post but, well, I needed to say it.

8 Jun 2018

I LEAP OVER THE WALL.


I LEAP OVER THE WALL by MONICA BALDWIN.


Bewilderment - shock - exhilaration

These were Monica Baldwin's reactions to life in 1941 after twenty-eight years in a strictly enclosed convent.


Overwhelmed by the pace ofwartime London, embarrassed by her ignorance of everyday customs, excited by her first discovery of the cinema - radio - cocktails - silk lingerie, her new life seemed half nightmare, half luxurious adventure. Why did she renounce her vows? In this fascinating record the ex-nun reveals with candour the stresses of life in an enclosed community and her own inward struggle to conform to the Rule. 

- Back Cover Blurb

I am not the first member of my family to leap over a wall.
- First Sentence, Introduction 

The crescendo of shocks which awaited me began abruptly with my first introduction to up-to-date underwear. Frankly, I was appalled.

The garments to which I was accustomed had been contrived by thorough-going ascetics in the fourteenth century, who considered that a nice, thick, long-sleeved 'shift' of rough, scratchy serge was the right thing to wear next to your skin. My shifts, when new, had reached almost to my ankles. However, hard washing and much indiscriminate patching soon stiffened and shrank them until they all but stood up by themselves.
 - Memorable Moment,  Page 8

SOURCE ... Borrowed from a friend, thanks Sally.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.


MY THOUGHTS ... Have you ever wondered what changes you'd encounter if ever you were to, lets say, fall asleep for ten .. for twenty .. for almost thirty years?

You have?

Thank goodness I'm not the only one!

Well, not that she fell asleep but ...

From a world of physical hardships; with no getting away from what sounds like some pretty challenging characters to a world of war and thus very different 'hardships', from an orderly life to a very hectic one, life certainly had changed ... and how ... in the twenty-eight years the author, a niece of British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, spent as a nun in a enclosed order.

Told with an exquisitely British sense of humour. Chronicling life both pre and post entrance into the convent, I thought I Leap Over The Wall a truly fascinating read (that it was banned in Ireland for many years no surprise). The fact that we never got to know exactly why she chose this life in the first place; why she she stuck it out for quite so long (though I think we'll probably all have our own thoughts on this, many of them I'm sure, pretty accurate) when it became clear early on that she had no vocation for this life, my only small gripes and alas something we will never know for sadly she took her own life in 1975 after writing two other books; 'The Called and the Chosen' and 'Goose In The Jungle (the former a novel, the latter, a second autobiography).