eBook Review: The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the WindowThe Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My son and his fiance gave me an iTunes gift card for Christmas. They know I love reading and thought I’d be able to purchase books for myself, rather than try to decide what I might want to read. So far I’ve purchased two ebooks. The first one was The Last Hours by Minette Walters and the second was this one. Both have been five star reads, so I’m doing well (so far) with my selections.

Blurb: What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

My Review: The Woman in the Window was purchased on a whim. Something about the blurb intrigued me. I’d also read some reviews that made it look promising.

In all honesty, this book didn’t grab me from the first page. In fact, it felt difficult to read at first. First person. Fragmented sentences. I was confused about what was happening and put it aside before the end of the first chapter. A few days later I picked it up and tried again and this time, the storyline grabbed me. By the end of the second chapter I was hooked.

The writing style needs to be gotten used to, in my opinion. But once accepted, the flow becomes easy and the characters draw you in. It felt a little like I was reading someone else’s diary, when I knew I shouldn’t be. And the reading gave me an insight into things I shouldn’t know.

There were two sections of this book that affected me immensely. Without giving anything away, one made me want to know more, made me want to keep reading, devouring every word. I couldn’t get enough of the book. I thought about it when I put it down. I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

The other section stopped me in my tracks. It was like I’d been punched in the face. I had no choice but to put the book down at that moment and let the words swim around in my mind and settle down. I was so affected that I found myself looking for some one to tell the story to, just so I could talk about it. Then, after that, I raced back to the book to discover what the outcome would be.

I haven’t read a book that affected me like this for a very, very long time. I was sad when it finished. I actually put the book down twenty pages from the end, just so I could return to it the next day — simply because I didn’t want to reach the end that day. It sounds stupid when I type that, but it’s the truth.

The Woman in the Window is excellent. It teaches you things you didn’t know, it warns you of other things you should know and remember, and it feeds the curiosity (very slowly) which keeps you coming back for more.

I really enjoyed the storyline. I believed in the characters. And I would whole heartedly recommend this book to anyone. Highly recommended.


Editing: Phase 1 – Listen!

The Lion Gods has entered the first editing stage. Everyone does things different. My recommendation is to do what feels right for you. Normally, I would read through the story first, making notes as to problem areas such as random sub-plots that go nowhere, scenes that make no sense, and other ‘jump out and smack you in the face’ sections of the story and/or character plots.

This time I thought I’d try something different. I thought I’d use the text to speech function on my laptop and allow the computer-generated voice to narrate my manuscript back to me. I set the voice so it wasn’t too slow as that would be mundane and could easily put me to sleep. 😀 Yes, the voice is monotone and emotionless, but that worked well as it helps make problem areas really stand out. Actually, I was surprised by how well it works. I’d be listening to this expressionless voice just speaking the words at an even pace and suddenly weird stuff would be said and I’d think “Ah, what’s that supposed to be” or if the words were right “that sounds awkward”. I’d make a notation in my notebook and, I must say, I have a (big) list.

I’ve listened to the entire manuscript in this way, making notes. And now I’m ready to go into Phase 2 – Fix Up.

Writing Notebook or Virtual Notebook

In my last post I reported that I have finally finished writing The Lion Gods. That was on 13 February and I have put it aside for two weeks before I start the editing phase.

But what have I been doing in the meantime?

Well, some years ago a friend showed me how to use a wiki for research notes. At the time, I used pbwiki because I was into Linux. However, when I returned to Windows I moved to Tiddlywiki.

Over the last ten or so days I’ve reconnected with wiki note keeping. PBwiki is online and whilst that is great for easy access from anywhere, I now prefer to install Tiddlywiki on my laptop for private use. (It’s amazing how tastes change over the years.)

In the thirteen years since I first started using a wiki, the base wiki system has improved and morphed into something I wasn’t used to working with. So, I downloaded Classic Tiddlywiki, which I believe is the best, but that’s just my opinion. You may feel differently.

I have been using a notebook for my writing research and notes. I have many of them. All of different shapes, sizes, colours and uses. I have them for planning a specific novel, for publishing notes, for writing tips in general and general research. It works fine, but they are bulky and take up room that I really don’t have now that we’ve downsized.

I remembered Tiddlywiki and decided to transfer my writing notebooks into virtual notebooks. I could have one wiki with everything, or I can have several wikis for specific things just like I have actual notebooks. The choice is mine.

And now that I have two screens, I can open the wiki of my choice on one screen and write on the other. I can refer to the wiki when I have a senior moment and can’t remember the character’s favourite thing or what the object was that they found, or what their sibling’s name is. Or I can open my publishing wiki if I want to refer to a checklist when doing edits or special notes when preparing an epub, or whatever. Then I can go to my general research wiki and find out what I discovered about riding a horse or archery or survival in freezing conditions, etc. It’s brilliant.

The other great thing about using a wiki, is that I can keep it up to date. Old notes can be updated easily, incorrect information deleted. I won’t have to flip through heaps of pages trying to find the reference I’m looking for. And I’ll have a neater workspace in general.

I should have done this years ago. How do you keep track of your writing research and notes?

First Draft: The Lion Gods is Finished

Over recent weeks I’ve been doing some tweaks to the website and I saw a notification saying that The Lion Gods was due for release in 2014. Here we are in 2018 and that still hasn’t happened.

In my own defense, a lot has happened since I wrote that notification — my father passed away, my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I took on the primary carer role for my mum and moved house and job location, my own house flooded leaving damage that made the house uninhabitable (it had to be sold), G’s dad passed away, his mum was diagnosed with dementia, he moved in with her and became her primary carer, G had a burst aneurysm and a stroke and lost his memory for three months, mum went into permanent care, I moved and relocated my job again, and I took on the primary role of carer for G. During that time I moved house three times and I had to clear out my mother’s home of 40 years and G’s mum’s home as well. As you can see the list is all major, stressful stuff, not little things. I’m glad to report now that G is doing well and is improving each month, mum is extremely happy in residential care and wishes she went there earlier and G’s mum is now living with his sister and also doing well. G and I have our own place at last, and we are now married. All good.

Over the last few months, since everything has settled down to a more normal way of living, I have been writing again. And I am so happy right now, because I can finally say that The Lions Gods has been completed. It might only be the first draft, but that is beside the point. I rediscovered the urge to write and the story has been written. I’m ecstatic.

I would dance on my desk if it wasn’t totally covered with my writing stuff (and if I were 100% sure it wouldn’t collapse). 😀

I intend to put the manuscript aside for a few days and then start the editing stage. I’ve decided that for the first round, I am going to use a generated voice read it to me as I take notes and make minor corrections. I’ve never done this before but feel it might be useful. I’ll let you know what I get from it after that phase is done.

Right now it’s time to party…or at least go make myself a cuppa!

eBook Review: Summer of the Woods

Summer of the Woods (The Virginia Mysteries #1)Summer of the Woods by Steven K. Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I saw this on Bookbub for free. The cover grabbed my attention, the blurb sealed the deal. This is the first book in a series called The Virginia Mysteries.

The blurb: When ten-year-old Derek and eight-year-old Sam move with their family to Virginia, they have no idea what adventures the summer will bring. As the brothers explore their creaky old house and the deep surrounding woods, they uncover a sixty-year-old mystery of a valuable coin collection stolen from the local museum. Join the boys as they spend their summer running from danger and searching the woods, secret caves, rushing waters, and hidden passageways for treasure and the rare 1877 Indian Head cent coin!

My review: As you can tell by the blurb, this is a story about children, written for children. I’m not a child but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Derek and Sam are likeable kids who have moved to a new area and go exploring and find themselves having an adventure. It’s a light, quick read. I felt the circumstances around the mystery came across as valid and the boys acted as most boys would.

I liked that they knew when they had done the wrong thing, and why. And the consequences of their actions were acknowledged by all and suitably dealt with. Young boys (and girls) will enjoy the adventure, will learn a bit about Virginian history and learn some lessons in life too (without even knowing they have been taught these lessons).

Recommended for young readers, or parents of young readers. Or, if you’re like me, older readers who just want a change of pace and a reminder of our younger days.

eBook Review: The Last Hours

The Last HoursThe Last Hours by Minette Walters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I believe the author usually writes crime fiction or thrillers and this book is a step in another direction for her. To be truthful, I do have one of her crime fiction books on my shelf that I have not read (yet). But crime fiction isn’t really my thing. Books involving the plague are right up my alley. The Last Hours is one of these books.

The Blurb: June, 1348: the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in the county of Dorsetshire. Unprepared for the virulence of the disease, and the speed with which it spreads, the people of the county start to die in their thousands.

In the estate of Develish, Lady Anne takes control of her people’s future – including the lives of two hundred bonded serfs. Strong, compassionate and resourceful, Lady Anne chooses a bastard slave, Thaddeus Thurkell, to act as her steward. Together, they decide to quarantine Develish by bringing the serfs inside the walls. With this sudden overturning of the accepted social order, where serfs exist only to serve their lords, conflicts soon arise. Ignorant of what is happening in the world outside, they wrestle with themselves, with God and with the terrible uncertainty of their futures.

Lady Anne’s people fear starvation but they fear the pestilence more. Who amongst them has the courage to leave the security of the walls?

And how safe is anyone in Develish when a dreadful event threatens the uneasy status quo..?

My Review: I gave this book an easy five out of five stars. The Black Death or Plague has always been of great interest to me. I read Doomsday Book by Connie Willis some years ago and loved it. And when I saw The Last Hours and realised what the theme was I instantly purchased the ebook. I have no regrets.

The history, the period, and the characters were excellent. I had no issues believing the facts as recorded in the book and I cared about the characters and their plights. Then add the blood and gore, in appropriate measures to the plot, and you end up with a story that keeps you rivetted. It did me anyway. The story pulled me in from the first page and held me to the last. Not many books do that. They usually waver in the middle somewhere for a short time, but not this one. The pace was constant, the secrets compelling, and the action surprising and heart breaking at times. You’ll have to read the book to find out why I say that.

In all honesty, there is only one thing about this book that irritated me. The ending. I was shocked to turn the page to find the book ended but the story didn’t. We have to wait for the sequel to be published later in the year (October 2018) to read more and find out what happens. This one thing almost made me give four stars, but I quickly pushed that notion away as being spiteful. The book is brilliant and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys following the lives of believable characters in a world that once existed, but thankfully does not any more. Now, we have other issues to contend with, but as they say, that’s another story.

Update from My Writing Desk

It’s the second month of the year already. Time flies when you’re having fun … or just when you’re older. Not sure which is truer these days.

Today, I’m glad to say that during the month of January, I averaged about 800 words per day. It may not sound inspiring to you, but to me that is one hell of a job well done. I am super proud of myself.

I’ve been working on Book 3 of The Land of Miu series, The Lion Gods. And, I might add, I am very close to writing those magic words “The End”. I should finish the first draft by the end of February. In fact, if I continue with my current average, I should finish it by mid-February. Then the editing stage begins. Without putting pressure on myself, I feel as if I will meet my goal.

In other writing news, the consistent writing has also awakened my mind to thinking about other ideas. I’ve written them down, but refuse to allow them to distract me from my goal. However, the ideas are quite vivid and I find myself thinking about how I might expand the ideas into another series for young readers. But this set of ideas will remain just that for the time being. Perhaps I will do something about writing these ideas when I’m in editing mode to give myself a break. I’m not sure yet. All I know for certain is that I do not want to lose the consistency of writing every day. So maybe writing 800 words for this idea and editing for an hour or so each day may be the way for me to go. I’ll see.

Lastly, I’m super excited to say that I purchased a cover for another of my manuscripts, known here as Mirror Image, but will be published with the title “Domino Effect”. The first draft of the manuscript is complete. This one is NOT for kids. It’s a very dark novel for adults. Totally the opposite to the stuff I write for kids. I have done a read through and corrected obvious errors, but that was in 2015 and my plan is to work on this one after The Lion Gods has been published.

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eBook Review: Gregory and the Grimbockle

MagykGregory and the Grimbockle by Melanie Schubert is a middle grade book. What am I doing reading middle grade books, you may ask. Well, I write for middle graders so I should read books for middle graders. It’s that simple. Plus, I enjoy them.

This book was offered for free through Bookbub, which is a place where they email you great deals each day. I’ve got some great books through them, so it’s worth an email per day. (No, this is not an affiliate link.)

It was a classic case of judging a book by its cover. I saw it, liked it, downloaded it. Yes, it was free, but I don’t download every free ebook offered to me. If it doesn’t appeal to me, I just keep going straight passed it. In this case, I downloaded it and a few days later when I finished the book I was reading at the time, I decided to read this one.

I am so glad I did. Because this book was excellent. I had no idea what to really expect. Or what it was about. The first chapter was well written and pulled me in. And then the grimbockle arrived and I was hooked.

It’s a story about how our lives intertwine with other people’s. And shows what we do in our life and the decisions we make can affect others. It was brilliantly put together and a fun lesson for middle graders to learn. However, I suspect they wouldn’t even know they were being taught something valuable. The characters are rounded and believable. The plot is plausible, as far as I’m concerned. The writing style was excellent. Truly, if you have a youngster in your life who loves to read, get this book for them. If you haven’t got a youngster around who’d enjoy it, get it for yourself.

Highly recommended.

Book Review: Magyk by Angie Sage

I used to write book reviews for all the books I’ve finished. However, due to circumstances I could not control I haven’t done so for many months (even years).

I wrote the reviews for others to find and read, and hopefully give them a feel for what they might be in for. But I also did it for myself as it became a permanent record of what I had read and gave me the opportunity to look back and find out, again, if I enjoyed the book or not.

As it’s a new year, I feel it is the right time to try and start the habit again. Here’s my first review, it’s ultra short but, hopefully, that will change as I get back into the swing of things.

Magyk by Angie Sage

I’ve had this book on my bookshelf for some time. Like most of my books I bought it second hand from an opportunity shop. I can’t say, because I don’t know, why I left it so long to read but I’m glad I finally got around to doing so.

I wasn’t sure about it at the beginning. It wasn’t anything I could point my finger on, as the saying goes, but I felt uncertain about the characters to begin with. However, I soon came to like them or accept them as they were, and I wanted to know what would happen to them.

I liked how the book “finished”. By this, I mean I appreciated that the author didn’t leave me hanging by stopping the story in mid stride. The book could be said to be a stand alone story as I don’t feel I HAVE to read any more of the series.

However, although I feel I don’t have to, I want to. I want to revisit this world of Magyk and find out what else might be in store for its people. I intend to return to this series shortly.