#Bookreview – Rothaker (Everett #2) by Jenifer Ruff

book reviews

What Amazon says

“A fascinating peek into the mind and machinations of a sociopath . . . Absorbing, at times gory thriller featuring an oddly compelling killer ‘heroine.'”– Kirkus

Warning: this is NOT a cozy mystery or your typical thriller. Brooke Walton is brilliant, ambitious, and twisted.

As a first-year medical student at Rothaker University, Brooke is determined to win a coveted scholarship for future surgeons. She’s thriving, until a classmate experiences a family tragedy and must leave school. The situation creates conflict with Rachael, a rival student. When Rachael disappears without a trace, detectives descend on campus and the hunt for the truth begins.

My review

This is the second book in the Brooke Walton series and it takes the story to a whole new level.

Brooke has been accepted into the medical programme at the renowned Rothaker university. Despite the grotty dormitories occupied by the medical students, the huge debt she has taken on in order to study further and the fact that the medical faculty is situated in a dangerous and seedy area due to its proximity to the teaching hospital, Brooke is delighted to finally be embarking on this new phase of her dream to become a surgeon. She is hoping that everything will go smoothly at this new institution and she will not need to take any drastic actions to remove obstacles, in particular people, from her path to success, as she has had to do in the past.

On her first day in her new accommodation, Brooke meets Rachael, another first year student with an intelligence, work ethic and determination to rival her own, but with an overriding goal to help others. The initial meeting between Brooke, an exceptionally good looking woman, and Rachael, a self righteous, do gooder who is intent on always taking the high moral ground in any situation, does not go well and they dislike each other from the start. The author did a sterling job with the creation of Rachael as, despite her good intentions and high ethics, she comes across as being an insufferable prig which sets the reader up to dislike her which makes it difficult to empathise with her later in the book.

Brooke also meets Xander, another first year medical student with an interesting past. Xander chose to do two years of military service in Afghanistan before taking his place at Rothaker to study medicine. Within a short while of his arrival, he starts experiencing flashbacks and suffering nightmares as the medical work programme kicks in and he is exposed to classes in bisection and anatomy. Xander, like Brooke, is an exceptional athlete and ultra good looking so it is natural for the two of them to pair up and start running and exercising together.

The introduction of Xander was a clever move by the author for two primary reasons. Firstly, his story and the post traumatic stress disorder symptoms he displays are fascinating and provide an intriguing sub-plot, and secondly, his relationship with Brooke facilitates the telling of parts of the book from his point of view. Xander and Brooke become more than friends and as he gets to know her better and spend more time with her he gradually starts to see and hear things that act at warning bells to him and he starts to question Brooke’s character and motivations.

Brooke is a serial killer. She is completely focused and determined to succeed with an amazing intellect and not abilities to empathise with others or understand their emotional pain. Despite these characteristics, there are so many things about Brooke that are wonderful and she has some endearing characteristics which create a conflict in the reader as you find yourself routing for a serial killer to come out on top. The relationship between Xander and Brooke was particularly conflicting because they are both so interesting and you want their relationship to succeed.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly and will definitely read the next book in this series.

Purchase Rothaker (Everett) (Volume 2)

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My own prompt – The Modern Luddites

Here is an extract from my new dystopian WIP about the modern luddites. Did you know there were modern luddites? Let me know in the comments.

From the handwritten notes of Lisa Robinson

After the talk, David wanted to stay for a while and talk to other attendees and Nelson Ferguson about the development of a Modern Luddite manifesto. I had never heard of Chellis Glendinning and the Neo-Luddite Manifesto he developed in 1990 which contained additional points the Modern Luddites planned to include in their document.

“Chellis Glendinning philosophised that the impact of new technologies on society, economies and politics should be fully considered and critiqued before their implementation, including what will be gained through its introduction, and what will be lost, and by whom. His view was holistic and he advocated that the impact of new technologies on natural systems, the environment and all living beings, not just humans, should be assessed,” said a young man with thick glasses and an intense look who David introduced as Jack Fitchett.

“That’s interesting,” I said, “and it sounds like a sensible way of approaching the use of technology.”

“Yeah, I agree. His manifesto had four main points which many of us in this group are striving to have incorporated in some way into our new manifesto. I am in favour of the preservation of jobs too,” he smiled and nodded his head, “but jobs won’t be much good to any of us if we destroy the planet, will they?”

“No, they won’t,” I agreed. What are the four points you referred to?”

“Firstly, the Neo-Luddites favoured the dismantling of destructive technologies, in particular, nuclear, chemical, genetic engineering and electromagnetic technologies, the production of which pose significant health risks to humans. I am pro the inclusion of this principle in our manifesto. The original document also called for the dismantling of television and computer technologies as they claimed these result in a centralized mind-controlling force, enhanced centralized political power, a disruption of community life and the removal of people from a direct experience of life.  I don’t support Chellis Glendinning’s point of view of those two technologies as I believe that, used correctly, television and computers offer many benefits to humanity.”

“I agree with you about television and computers. They are a great source of entertainment and I can’t imagine my life without them. They are also good sources of news and education. I always check the weather and the news so that I know what’s going out around me.”

“The second point relates to the creation of technologies by people directly involved in their use instead of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs who gain financially from the mass production and distribution of the technologies they develop. The reasoning behind this point is that the current producers of technologies don’t have an understanding of their usage in society and the affect they have on the people who use them. Chellis Glendinning called for the creation of technologies with a high degree of flexibility and which favour independence from technological addiction and promise political freedom, economic justice and ecological balance.”

“That sounds good. I know that my mother was always on at me when I was growing up about not spending too much time on my iphone, ipad and computer. She was always harping on about balance. I am not sure how achievable that objective is though. I don’t think ordinary people have the knowledge and skills to create advanced technology. There are lots of benefits to digitalisation like being able to communicate with family and friends all over the world instantly. I wouldn’t want to give that up.”

“I’m not sure how that would work either but the principle is sound if it can be achieved. The third point is excellent as it advocates the creation of technologies which are for the good of all life on earth. That means it supports technologies facilitating community-based energy sources utilizing clean energy like solar, wind and water; organic and biological technologies based on natural models and systems for use in agriculture, engineering, art, medicine, transportation and defence; conflict resolution technologies and social technologies that encourage participation, responsibility and empowerment.”

“That is a good point. I do think it conflicts with the second point though as it takes great expertise and knowledge to develop that sort of technology. I know because that is what my bosses are trying to do.”

“Is that so, where do you work?”

“I work for a professor at the Department of Technological Development in London. We used to work for the UK government, but now we work for the new world government and are part of their global strategy,” I said with pride.

Jack pulled a face and said: “I’d be surprised if your bosses are really interested in the welfare of people. I’ve yet to meet anyone from any government organisation who is.”

I bit back an angry remark at his self-righteousness, “What is the last point on the manifesto?”

“Chellis Glendinning motivated for the development of a life-enhancing worldview through the use of technologies. The idea is to redirect technology towards the creation of digital platforms that integrate the human need for creative expression, spiritual experience and community with the capacity for rational thought and functionality in a balance way so that both human dignity and nature’s wholeness can be fostered and conserved.”

“That is another wonderful idea.”

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Guest Writer Spot

I am over at Esther Chilton’s lovely blog with a guest post about how I transitioned from being non-fiction writer to a fiction writer. Thank you so much Esther for hosting me.

This week’s Guest Writer is the very talented Robbie Cheadle. As you’ll see from her biography, she’s a very versatile writer:

Robbie, short for Roberta, is an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with her son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about her mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with her mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of Robbie’s children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

Robbie has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential her children’s books from her adult writing, these will be published under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. Robbie has two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

Robbie has also recently published a poetry collection, Open a new door, together with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

††

Transitioning from a non-fiction to a fiction writer

Introduction

In 2014, I wrote my first non-fiction publication called Listing in Africa which was sponsored by the firm where I worked. Investment into Africa was topical at the time and the document was well received with more than 29 on-line and physical newspapers featuring a story on my document. I had my first television and radio interviews and that, combined with the pleasure I had derived from doing all the research that went into the book, made the whole exercise seems hugely fulfilling and exciting.

Simultaneously with my plunged into the world of publication writing, I also started exercising my interest in writing poetry. This interest had lain dormant since I was 19 years old and made the decision to study towards becoming a chartered accountant. My early poems were triggered by the funny things my sons and their cousins did which, somehow, converted themselves into rhyming verse in my mind and all I had to do was write the poems down. The children and I had a lot of giggles over those poems.

Over the next few years I wrote a number of other publications, namely, Listing in Africa: Extractive Industries in 2015, What Influences Foreign Direct Investment into Africa and The African Debt Market, both in 2016, and my personal triumph, Africa In A Changing Global Environment in 2017.  This last publication, which focused on Africa’s fourth industrial revolution readiness in comparison to its major competitors, did extremely well and I participated in a few successful television interviews. The document was also featured by some noteworthy newspapers and economics institutions.

In 2016, I published my first fiction middle grade children’s book, Silly Willy Goes to Cape Town. It is a fun tale about two siblings and their interactions and adventures while on holiday in the beautiful city of Cape Town aimed at early readers. This was my first attempt at writing a longer fiction book and when I received feedback on this book, I realized that there were differences between writing non-fiction and fiction which I would need to consider and work on if I wanted to transition into a better writer of fiction. The feedback was useful, but not so discouraging or critical that I throw my writer’s pen down in despair.

via Guest Writer Spot

 

#Writephoto – Castle

Sue Vincent’s prompt this week is castles which fitted in nicely with parts of my forthcoming horror book, Through the Nethergate. This is an extract about a castle in …. Slovakia.

“A few hours later, the dark outline of an abandoned and ruined castle, shrouded in thick evening mist, came into view. It looked forbidding with thick foliage, stained black in the moonlight, surrounding the base of its broken walls. In the gloom, the dark grey moss patterning sections of the remaining light grey, stonework looked like splodges of blood and gore.  As the coach lurched to a halt on the thick grass in front of the castle, the spirits of the numerous girls who were murdered there started to gather. They stood silent and forlorn in the eerie light of the moon, which bathed their transparent forms with silvery light and created strange and mysterious shadows.

Lucifer rummaged under his seat and withdrew a thick coat.

“Take this, you’ll need it,” he said, handing it to Margaret. She took it gratefully and put it on straight away. The night air was piercingly cold. The party exited the coach and Lucifer marched towards the gathering, holding tightly onto Margaret’s wrist.

From a distance the ghosts looked like delicate waifs, but as the occupants of the coach ventured closer, Margaret could see the evil and twisted expressions on their darkly beautiful faces and splatters of blackness down the fronts of their thin white gowns. The moonlight itself seemed to quiver at the horrible sight and take refuge behind a mass of clouds.”

TTNG 15

You can join in Sue’s challenge here: https://scvincent.com/2019/07/11/thursday-photo-prompt-castle-writephoto/

#Bookreview – The Quarry Bank Runaways: The Journey to London of Thomas Priestley & Joseph Sefton in 1806

book reviews

What Amazon says

“Child apprentices in very many cotton mills continued to be treated like slaves well after the Slave Trade Acts of the 19th century.”

“Pauper child apprentices from workhouses were not even paid after working 12 hour days and for 5 or 6 days a week, mill owners counted the profit!”

In the early 19th century, when it was the policy of many of the poorhouses and workhouses to deter paupers from applying by making the conditions inside harsh and unpleasant, two boys set out on a journey to Hackney Workhouse in London. Their starting point was in the pleasant Cheshire countryside, where they were apprenticed to the cotton mill built by Samuel Greg in 1784. Children as young as 9 would be employed there, as scavengers, piecers, mule doffers or can tenters. These jobs could be just as unpleasant and difficult for a poor child as those we may have heard of, such as chimney sweeps and match girls.

Quarry Bank Mill was some 200 miles north of London and the boys had to sneak out unnoticed and then attempt to walk all the way. It was likely that these enterprising travellers took advantage of the drovers’ roads and the newly developed “motorways” of the times – the canals. Perhaps they were lucky enough some days to hitch a lift; their general direction of travel taking them to Beartown, the Potteries, Dunstable Downs and eventually to London. Whatever challenges they encountered along the way archive evidence shows that they made it.

Runaway apprentices had become a problem for society during the years of the Industrial Revolution – so what had prompted Thomas and Joseph to do such a hazardous thing? What happened to them on their long journey? Did they receive any help? Or were they chased relentlessly wherever they ran, since what they were doing was illegal in the eyes of the authorities?

This is the story of their adventure and it concludes with the events in the Middlesex courthouse, known then as the Old Sessions.

My review

I was introduced to the writing of G.J. Griffith through the second book in this series, Mules, Masters & Mud, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found this first book to be equally entertaining and interesting and I found myself even fonder of the main characters, Joseph and Thomas, as teenagers in The Quarry Bank Runaways.

Joseph and Thomas are both indentured apprentices to Quarry Bank Mill in the early 19th century, having spent the later part of their short childhoods in a workhouse in London after their mothers fell on hard times. The boys vividly recall the journey from London to the mill near Manchester in the bank of an enclosed wagon with a lot of other children. The paupers were bumped around and arrived battered and bruised and, although their master, Mr Greg, is one of the better mill owners as far as treatment of his workers was concerned, life does not improve for the apprentices after their arrival.

Following an accident in which Thomas loses a finger, he is desperate to travel to London to visit his mother. Joseph decides to accompany him and take advantage and visit his own mother. The two boys make a plan and manage to escape the mill and set off on the long and arduous journey by foot to London. Their determination to visit their mothers during a time of physical challenge seemed very natural to me and the mill owner was unkind to disallow the journey. Mr Greg’s refusal of Thomas’ request to have leave of absence from the mill highlighted the fact that workers were treated as commodities at that time in history and had no rights whatsoever.

The story tells of the boys journey and the various people they meet along the way. Many are kindly and do their best to assist the runaways, but others attempt to exploit them for their own personal gain.

The detailed depictions of life during the early years of the industrial revolution and the awful work conditions and related health issues in various walks of life from mill workers to bargemen to potters to charcoal burners is well researched and fascinating. The reader is also given a brief glimpse into the lives of a retired night watchman, a magistrate and a scullery maid as well as the harsh laws impacting the lives of people forced to enter the workhouses.

The dialogue is written in various dialects which some readers may find a bit challenging, but I quickly got used to it and thought it added to the authentic feel of the time and the story. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy delving into history and how people lived in the past.

Purchase The Quarry Bank Runaways: The Journey to London of Thomas Priestley & Joseph Sefton in 1806

The benefits of short stories

For the last eighteen months, I have been dabbling in writing short stories. Last year, two of my horror short stories were published in Dark Visions, an anthology of horror short stories edited by Dan Alatorre. Earlier this year, I was invited to contribute three short stories to a murder mystery anthology, Death Among Us, edited by Stephen Bentley. This book has recently been published as an ebook on Amazon.

During the past few months I have written an additional four short stories for two other anthologies which will be published during the course of this year. This exposure to anthologies has made me realise how popular short story collections are, particularly those which have a number of contributors thereby allowing the reader to experience a  variety of writing styles.

I have read a large number of short story collections since I had my first child in 2003. I believe that many other people like to read short stories for the same reasons I do, the most important being they are short and quick and easy to read.

We live in a time when more and more demands are placed on workers. Technology has made our lives easier in many ways but it has also broken down the concept of leaving work and being unavailable. Modern workers are generally expected to be available 24/7 through the mediums of cell phones and emails. Most modern mothers are obliged to work and help support the family and this combination has resulted in less time for reading and other pleasures. How can a reasonable person resolve this problem and still enjoy a good story? The story gets shorter, with a compact and concise story line.

The digital age has also resulted in people having shorter concentration spans and an expectation of instant gratification. Most younger readers do not appreciate the long drawn out descriptions included in many classic novels written by famous people like Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters. They want short, sharp stories which lots of punch in a short period of time. Short stories also fit the bill for the modern reader in this regard.

Novellas, short novels and short stories abound on Amazon and they are popular, I can see that from the numbers of reviews they have. I know that I check the length of a book before I purchase it and I rarely undertake a book that is more than 300 pages unless it is a classic (and I mainly listen to classics as audio books) or it is a Stephen King book (because Stephen King makes very paragraph count even in a 1 200 page book).

What do you think about short stories? Do you like to read them as stocking fillers when you are busy?

 

Greg promotional material 2 Updated

Dark Visions 2

#Poetry – Dear God, I’d like to negotiate

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Dear God

I’d like to negotiate

a reasonable exchange

My good health

for that of my son

I’ll take on his asthma

I know how it works

each breath is a struggle

through lips often tinged blue

I think my request’s fair

after all, it was you

who entrusted this child

into my tender care

and he came encumbered

with the duty of care

that accompanies health deficiencies

I’m willing to accept

his biofilm too

the one that developed

due to an enclosed sinus

I’m sure you remember

as it caused us such pain

and it wasn’t really fair

to do that to a child

but I’ll put it behind us

If you’ll consider my deal

As for his eyesight

damaged by cortizone

worsened by bad genes

I’d rather he had

my 20/20 vision

I want him to see

each leaf on each tree

and not to bear a burden of worry

he’ll loose what little he’s got

I’m his mother, you see

and I’ll willingly sacrifice

everything I have

for this lovely young man

I call my son.

by Roberta Eaton