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That Old Black Magic by Cathi Unsworth. Review 

Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and Cathi Unsworth for my ARC of That Old Black Magic. 

I’m quite on the fence with this book, rounding it off at a safe 3* so I’m going to break this review into 3 parts. A synopsis, what I liked and what I think could have been done better. 

So first off, the storyline/synopsis. The story is mostly about witchcraft and spiritualism during World War II, it also features spies, MI5 agents and reporters. It follows the life of a German spy who is also a witch, and the investigation into her and her actions. 

What did I like? 

The premise of the story was great, I found the concept of witchcraft mixed with German spies during the war to be fascinating as well as it’s relation to ghosts and mediumship. The character of Spooner was really interesting and easy to like and empathise with. 

What didn’t I like? 

The story was a bit all over the place, it switched quickly between characters and lines of the story which made it hard to keep up or understand the relevance, there were also other minor stories going on which seemed to have little to do with the main story and left me with a lot of unanswered questions. Some of the character had similar names which got confusing too. Also, the synopsis is misleading as it details something which doesn’t actually happen while halfway through the book. 

Laid out better, with the strong storyline this could have easily been a five star read. 


The Fireside Guides for Grown Ups 

I decided to review these three together on account of them being fairly short. I’ve seen these in a few shops and thought they looked a lot of fun so I requested and was happily granted three of them on Netgalley. 

First up The Fireside Grown Up Guide to the Meeting. 

The meeting was very funny for anyone whose worked in an office. My partner as a business analysts has to attend lots of meetings everyday so it was more funny to him as I read it aloud. I think this book would make a fantastic gift for the office professional in your life. It’s amusing and punctuated with pictures which fit the statements although these weren’t always in line on the kindle version.
Book two is The Fireside Guide to the Mid Life Crisis 

Not quite as funny as The Meeting but still pretty funny. I like how the author has used the pictures to create the little stories and anecdotes. I probably didn’t find it as amusing because I haven’t actually reached middle age but I did recognise a lot of the little scenes/stories as funny cliches. Another enjoyable one which would make a great jokey present for someone hitting middle age head on. 
Finally The Fireside Grown Up Guide to the Hipster: 

Probably the most amusing of the all The Hipster looks at all the modern yet vintage pursuits of the modern day Hipster. Even more satirical than the others this tops it as the number one of the three I’ve read. Very amusing especially again because of the way the anecdotes have been put to the old fashioned pictures. 

Reading Challenge 2017 Week 7 

Picking my favourite female author was a toughy I must admit! Although it’s not something I do on purpose, the writers I read are mostly female. 

It wasn’t all that hard though I must admit. Katie Fforde dominates my bookshelves. I’m not kidding. Here’s a photo to prove it! 

Not to mention my kindle being full of all her short stories as well. Katie’s stories are happy stories. That’s the best way to describe them, they’re romantic sure, but they’re more than that too. Her characters are strong, independent women. Feminist women. No they’re not bra burners, nor is the word feminism ever really mentioned from what I can remember. But they are everything a feminist should be. Not to mention they have amazing jobs! 

Here’s some examples: 

  • In Love Letters Laura Horsley gets involved in organising a literary festival when the bookshop she works in closed down. 
  • Sarah in Wedding Season is a wedding planner.
  • Anna in Practically Perfect is an interior designer. 
  • Second Thyme Around’s main character is Perdita who has her own organic gardening business. 
  • Jenny Porter in A Highland Fling is a virtual assistant! Bet you’ve probably never heard of one of those! 
  • Paradise Field’s Nel is organising a farmer’s market while Life Skills’ Julia Fairfax unexpectedly becomes a cook on a boat. 

I could go on but I’m guessing you’re getting the idea that these are pretty cool books! When those that don’t have a job still get involved in really cool things, like restoring paintings or looking after old stately homes. 

Katie has a beautiful way of writing. She draws the reader in and makes them truly root for her characters, characters that you fall in love with and want to be friends with. 

She is and will remain my favourite author indefinitely!  

March Interview – Mike Wells 

This month I caught up with Mike Wells author of (among many) the Lust, Money and Murder series. You can get book 1 here:

What was your background and how did you get into writing? 

My background is in engineering—I have a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. As I was finishing that, I started my own business and became an entrepreneur, but I’ve been writing fiction ever since I was a teenager. I’ve done all kinds of different types of writing—press releases, newsletters, academic papers, advertisements, user’s manuals, and of course my thesis and dissertation. All of that helped with fiction writing. And of course the marketing experience I had owning my own businesses also helped in crafting books that I felt inspired to write but would also sell.

What are your ambitions for your writing? 

World domination.  
Seriously, I suppose I would like to see some of my books be successful enough and widely enough read to be made into Hollywood movies with A-list actors.  

Which writers inspire you? 

A lot of different writers inspire me—Thomas Hardy, Stephen King, Nora Ephron, Rod Serling, and David Mamet to name a few.

Your books are really detailed on the ins and outs of law enforcement and different job roles, how much research goes into writing them? Where do your ideas come from? 

A lot of research goes into every book. I spend many hours reading relevant media articles, blog posts, travel websites, law enforcement procedures handbooks, etc. Sometimes I travel to a place specifically to do research—for example, I went to Washington, D.C. and toured the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where U.S. paper money is made, for the fist Lust, Money & Murder books. I also often query experts, usually via email or the social networks, such as former Secret Service agents or lawyers or doctors or coroners when I have a specific question and can’t find the answer.

My ideas usually come from something I see in real life and my imagination takes over when I ask “What if?” type questions.

Are you working on anything new at the moment? 

I’m always working on something new—right now that’s Lust, Money & Murder Book 10 – Black Widow, and I’m also working on the outline for another book.

What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 

I mostly use an iPad with an external bluetooth keyboard because it’s so light and I can take it anywhere. I do a lot of writing outside of the house—at the beach, at cafes, etc. I use Apple’s Pages app and then at the end convert to MS-Word for uploading to publisher websites.

Would you ever consider writing in a different genre or is there a genre you wish you could write?   

I write in a lot of different genres already—YA science fiction, YA adventure—I’ve even published a romantic comedy called Secrets of the Elusive Lover. To me, genre is mostly setting and plot structure. It’s not that hard to switch genres if you spend some time studying that genre and understand what the reader expectations are. At the end of the day, great stories are about interesting conflicts between people, and between ourselves and our inner demons. Genre is secondary to that.

How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I would never finish a novel, and doubt anyone else would, either, just going when inspiration strikes. I don’t have a specific word count I target each day—I make myself put in four hours. Sometimes all four hours are taken up with plotting or editing what I’ve already written. But I know from experience I average about 1,500 words a day, which means it take me about three months to finish a novel, not including editing/proofreading time (another month at least)

What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

I spent quite a few years with some very good NYC and London agents trying to sell my work, and they were never able to do it without me having to make some major compromise that I wasn’t willing to make, so I never sold a book that way. With the advent of ebooks, I saw a way to reach readers myself and bypass that system and produce my books exactly the way I want them to be, so I went for it.  

How do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 
I use lots of different methods to market my books, but the main one is social media, and primarily Twitter. One of my failures was setting up my own ebook store. That didn’t work because I learned that people don’t want to set up a new account just to buy one author’s books. Also, there was a lot more customer support required having my own store, so I closed the store and decided that it was better to let Amazon, Apple, B&N, etc. handle all that for me.

If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why?  

For me, this question doesn’t apply, because I think every author who is writing from the heart could not have ever written any other author’s book—it’s impossible. I’ve never wished I’d written any other author’s book maybe because I know that. To want to do that is like not wanting to be who you are, not appreciating your own uniqueness. I like Mike Wells just fine and I’m very happy with every book I’ve published. If not, I wouldn’t have published them, and there are quite a few of mine still in the drawer which I don’t think are good enough (yet).

What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 

I’m not sure the success of a book is that closely tied to the reviews. I’ve seen some bestsellers that have pretty mixed reviews, if not flat out bad reviews. Very often the reviewer has the wrong expectations for the book in terms of the genre or sub-genre. For example I have had some bad reviews of Lust, Money & Murder particular written by science fiction reviewers. Why they decided to review that book is beyond me—it’s not science fiction and not advertised that way. But of course if you think it’s science fiction and were to read it with those expectations, it would be terrible! 





Amazon author page:

 Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me, Leonie, I’m honored!

Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed and answer my questions Mike, the honour is all mine! 

You can read my review of the first book in the Lust, Money and Murder series here: 

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter. Review

I really, really, really, wanted to like this book. I love Dawn O’Porter and her Column is the first thing I read in Glamour magazine every month. When I saw she was publishing a novel championing feminism I was really excited, and when I saw it on Netgalley I jumped at the chance. 

I wasn’t wholly disappointed don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, there was just too much going on

The novel is split between 3 characters; 

Tara is a documentary producer and a single mother of a 6 year old daughter, after a hot date in a bar she does something which is going to change her life forever. 

Camilla (Cam) was one of the first people to treat her blog as a business. She’s living the high life in her million pound Victorian flat with her 28 year old lover (Cam is 36) and her ability to write great feminist posts. Right now that involves becoming ‘the face of childless women’. 

Stella is having problems getting her life together, her mother and her twin sister died within a year of each other and now she’s had some devastating news of her own. News that’s made her just a little bit crazy. 

The novel covers A LOT of issues. I kind of get why, I see why Dawn an avid feminist herself would want to write about absolutely everything. I know what that’s like because when I start talking feminism I want to blurt it all out too. But that’s unfortunately how this novel feels. Like Dawn is trying to cram every single feminist issue into one 400 page book. 

Just a smidgen of what is covered in this book: 

  • Women with younger lovers 
  • Women having casual sex 
  • Women not telling men their pregnant 
  • Women mastrubating 
  • Sexism in the workplace 
  • Feminism in different age groups 
  • Cancer 
  • Crazy people who want babies so bad they create nefarious plans 
  • The solidarity of female friendships 

These subjects all matter don’t get me wrong. They’re all important subjects, they all need addressing but the flood of them all at once made this book boring, tedious and forced at times. 

I felt like feminism was being rammed down my throat and that’s coming from me as a feminist. This book felt like that angry bra burner who physically attacks men in the street. Not to ever tell an author how to write their book but this would have worked better as 3 serials. It doesn’t work as a novel. It’s just too far fetched. 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Review 

The first thing I have to say about this book is that is is hilarious! Like really the funniest book I’ve read in ages. For example; “Whats so bad about being drunk?” “Go ask a glass of water” is probably the best thing I’ve ever read. I laughed for much longer than was really necessary and repeated it to everyone I saw or spoke to that day. 

Arthur’s life is turned upside down when aliens called Vogons turn up on Earth to destroy it in order to make way for a new galactic bypass. The irony is, that just that morning Arthur was protesting to the local council who wanted to demolish his house to make way for a new bypass in his town. 

Thanks to his friend Ford Prefect who is really an alien conducting research for the intergalactic travel guide The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur finds himself on board the Vogen’s space ship as a hitchhiker himself and there’s lots of adventures in store. 

Arthur is mostly on a quest for tea and there are many amazingly amusing characters and escapades in store. I think one of my favourites has to be Marvin the depressed robot. 

I’ll definitely be picking up the next instalment of this series from my local library soon, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, I can’t recommend it enough. 

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. Review 

My regular readers will know how much I love Kate Morton’s novels. There’s just something delicious about them. The type of novels that remind me why I love reading, books that you can sink into like your favourite armchair. The Secret Keeper was no different. 

Like her other novels, The Secret Keeper is a time lapse between different periods with a mystery at its centre. This book features the Nicholson family. Laurel is 16 years old in the 1960s and lusting after a boy she’s met at a dance and thinking of her future career as an actress, away from the farm and family life. But then she witnesses a shocking crime which will resonate with her through the ages. 

The time switches then to 2011. Laurel is an old lady herself and her mother much older is in hospital close to death. An old photo turns up depicting her mother with another young woman during world war 2. The mysterious Vivian has never been mentioned to Laurel and her siblings and in light of this she decides to investigate what her connection might be to the crime committed so long ago. 

Finally, we switch back to the late 30s into the early 40s of Laurel’s mother’s teenage years as desperate to get away from the family who smother her, she moves to London to pursue her dream. Only to become involved in a plan which goes horribly wrong. 

The story is gripping from start to finish. The reader is drawn in to Laurel’s story and her quest for the truth. Throughout, as the story evolved I began to hate Dorothy ‘Dolly’, Laurel’s mother who was the most annoying, narcissistic character I’ve read in a long time. It was hard to connect her with the kindly, loving, mother Laurel remembered from her childhood. But it all makes sense in the end so don’t worry if you get the same feelings. I don’t want to give too much away but I will say that the ending was a complete shock to me. I really never saw it coming. 

Easily a five star rating, not only is it a gripping and extraordinary novel but Kate’s writing style is always wonderfully delicious to consume. I’d highly recommend any of her novels.