My Favourite Five Fiction Books to Take Travelling

…whilst pushing your travel boundaries, push your literary ones too!

If you’ve ever been travelling you probably know that one way to survive long flights, bus trips or delays is to carry a good book.

These are just a few of my favourites, after all I love books and often read one a day if I’m on a beach day!

1. The Motorcycle Diaries – Che Guevara

One of my favourite books, short, easy to read and essential reading before any trip to South America or Cuba.

My Goodreads review

2. The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury

 

This will make you question how you judge a people and a place, so whilst pushing your travel boundaries, push your literary ones too.

My Goodreads review
Continue reading “My Favourite Five Fiction Books to Take Travelling”

The Hero’s Journey Formula – How To Write A Successful Novel

Fiction writers, especially new ones, sometimes fight the idea of conforming to a genre or sticking with a formula. They think it may suppress their creativity, but this isn’t the case.

The Hero’s Journey Formula – How To Write A Successful Novel

You will be familiar with The Hero’s Journey, even if you haven’t heard of it by name.

Star Wars, Matrix and Jane Eyre are just a few of the classic stories that follow The Hero’s Journey formula.

One vital component of the correctly applied formula is that at the beginning of the story, the protagonist can not possibly imagine how much their life is to change. They’ll go on a journey, their ‘character arc.’ As the plot moves along, so does their transformation.

In Star Wars Luke Skywalker has his dreams but in the wildest of those dreams he couldn’t contemplate his vital role in the fight against Darth Vader (No spoilers here just in case you happen to be the one person on the planet who isn’t aware of the storyline.)

Jane Eyre travels through her life and against all odds survives and ends up in a life she too couldn’t possibly have dreamt of. (Again, I won’t spoil your enjoyment of my favourite book, please read it, it’s beautiful.)

Fiction writers, especially new ones, sometimes fight the idea of conforming to a genre or sticking with a formula. They think it may suppress their creativity, but this isn’t the case.

If I use this formula won’t my story be predictable?

By being formulaic it doesn’t mean it will be boring or predictable. It will however be written in a way that your fans know what to expect. Fiction book readers like a story they can expect to a certain extent. This is why publishers usually give you clues. In the blurb or reviews on a book cover it will often say things like ‘If you like Harry Potter…’ or ‘This writer is the new Baldacci…’ these pointers help your fans find your book in the mass market that is the modern day bookshelf, whether that be in a physical book store or a digital one.

Continue reading “The Hero’s Journey Formula – How To Write A Successful Novel”

A Page Turner Thriller! No Spoiler Book Review – Love, Lies & Clones, Joynell Schultz

I had a vision of ‘Bones’ Temperance Brennan, you know the character created by Kathy Reichs. She’s not as ‘detached’ but certainly similar.

A Page Turner Thriller! No Spoiler Book Review – Love, Lies & Clones, Joynell Schultz

‘Geeks will love this thriller, scientists devour it and yes women will like the strong stubborn lead.’

Title: Love, Lies & Clones

Author: Joynell Schultz

Copyright: 2016 Joynell Schultz

Ebook 

Blurb:

June never asked to be cloned from her mother’s DNA. She didn’t ask for the faulty heart that beats in her chest either. She made a life for herself as a college professor, but what she really wants is the same as everyone else: a human connection. But how can she connect to someone when her heart’s next beat could be the last?

Her estranged father shows up on her doorstep, warning her that he’s being forced back into the illegal human cloning world and she’s in danger, but she dismisses him as paranoid. That’s until he disappears. The police are not prepared to confront a conspiracy this large, especially with a serial killer on the loose.

When approached by an AWOL soldier, insisting her father’s disappearance is linked to his brother’s odd behavior, she doesn’t trust him. She’s been taught her whole life not to trust anyone.

With time running out, she must avoid abduction attempts, untangle the web of lies, and above all else, hide her taboo origins.

Can June trust someone with her secret… and her heart

   

Plot:

This is a thriller with a hint at romance and embedded geekiness throughout. The scientist has to abandon her work to find her estranged ‘creator’ father.

This story has just the right balance of romance to keep it on the right side of the thriller genre. Any geeks out there will love the cloning science throughout. It’s slightly futuristic with electric self drive cars etc but hey, we’re there now aren’t we?

It’s obvious the writer knows the topic, although I’m no expert so I just guessed it was accurate. If not it was really convincing!

The characters really engage the reader, which isn’t always the case with thrillers.

Continue reading “A Page Turner Thriller! No Spoiler Book Review – Love, Lies & Clones, Joynell Schultz”

Is An Audible Subscription Good Value? Can I Download The Best Audio Books?

They are also an excellent way of making the best audio books accessible to those who may find the written word difficult, for whatever reason.

Audible on an ipad with Beats headphonesIs An Audible Subscription Good Value? Can I Download The Best Audio Books?

Free Audiobook Download from Audible.co.uk

Summary

Product Name: Audible UK – an Amazon Company

What It Does:

An online supplier of audio books, currently offering in excess of 200K of the best audio books, ready for you to instantly download. You can listen via their Audible app on your mobile device or on your Kindle.

Price:

UK £7.99 per month subscription, or one off payments as you buy (Free one month trial is on offer, as at January 2017)

Pros:

Easy to use

High quality audio

Makes the best audio books accessible to your mobile device

Cons:

The Audible app is getting some poor reviews, hopefully this is a short term problem

If you don’t read very many books, you may not benefit from the subscription.

It isn’t your local library.

Summary:

If you have an Amazon account signing up is ridiculously easy. The book choice is vast, the best audio books with high quality audio, often by the author brings the stories alive. You can even listen to a free sample before deciding. Search easily filtered virtual bookshelves, sample and download your book choice in minutes. The whole process is smooth and customer focussed, recommended.

Buy Now

By using this link to source the product, I will receive a small commission from the supplier. This doesn’t affect the price you pay. It does help support my work and keep these reviews FREE to you, thank you.

————————————————

Product Name:

Audible – an Amazon Company

Free Audiobook Download from Audible.co.uk

What It Does:

An online supplier of audio books, currently offering in excess of 200K best audio books, ready for you to instantly download. You can listen via their Audible app on your mobile device or on your Kindle.

Audible is a part of Amazon if, like me, you steer away from the huge companies, be reassured on this occasion it’s a good thing. OK, so it isn’t your local library where you may be able to obtain free audio books. However Amazon has the buying power and the technology to do their job well. The choice of books you can download is vast, up to date and as far as the ones I’ve sampled so far, with excellent audio, often by the author themselves.

The Audible app is ideal for anyone who uses a smart phone or mobile device. Sadly at the time of writing the app had been through an update and is receiving poor reviews. Hopefully this will be fixed soon. Amazon want happy customers to return to them again and again.

If you don’t fancy the Audible app, you can use your Kindle / Android etc.

I recently signed up for the free trial at Audible UK. I’d been asked by Audible to review the process

(For transparency this post does include Affiliate links, but I am not being paid to write this post)

So how did the sign up go? Easy!

  • I signed in as suggested using my Amazon ID. It auto-populated a payment option for the potential subscription cost to be paid on my chosen card. It had brought this information through from my Amazon account. Don’t worry you have an option to use a different payment method.
  • The sign up process immediately accepted me. I was auto-redirected to the ‘shopping’ page, my account already given ‘1 Credit.’ You get a credit a month, which you can spend as you choose.
  • The best value is box sets or anything over the cost of your subscription, but I guess you will work that out all on your own. My free trial has resulted in me being the proud owner of a £23 Stephen King audio book, so no complaints there.
  • The prices are shown in cash money prices or credit prices, so it’s easy to see what you can afford.
  • As with Amazon the search is quick and easy, filters apply for best sellers, genres, authors etc.
  • If you are community minded you can join up and follow other readers, see what they are reading etc.
  • If not, just click and buy, then sit with a brew and listen to your book. Job done.
  • My wi-fi is quite quick anyway so my new 10 hour listening book downloaded within moments. I’d recommend doing it on wi-fi when possible, if you are on a limited data package, just in case.
  • From start to finish it took me less than five minutes. If you don’t have an Amazon account allow a bit longer to add all your payment and account information.

Price:

Current UK price £7.99 a month, starting with a free month’s trial. Drop it in your calendar so you don’t pay after the first month, if you want to avoid payments going out after the free trial.

Pros:

If you haven’t discovered audio books yet, try it or maybe give a gift of a subscription to someone. They are also an excellent way of making the best audio books accessible to those who may find the written word difficult, for whatever reason.

The audio format is ideal when out on a walk or on the treadmill. I’d be reluctant to recommend listening in a car or whilst driving as I think it can be distracting, but maybe it depends what book you are ‘reading.’ I’ve recently got into baking again and use that time to listen to both podcasts and audio books.

How about downloading a children’s book and listening with your kids? There are free books on there too, ideal for bedtime.

Cons:

It’s not your local library and it’s not paper books. But get over it. It makes books accessible, you can read many more books and currently it really is great value. You can still snuggle up with a paperback when the mood takes you.

The subscription could become onerous if you don’t read enough, so don’t allow it to be like your gym membership, paid out but ignored, OK? In fact, listen to the books at the gym you’re already paying for but not using, exercising brain and body all at once. Result!

It’s part of a big machine, Amazon so I encourage you to drop in to your local charity or book shop and buy the odd paperback.

Summary:

The audio book will not be going away any time soon, it won’t replace a paper book, just yet anyway, but it can help you to ‘read’ many more books.

It’s quick and easy to sign up, the best audio books are immediately available and the ‘credit’ each month, if you subscribe, can be a real bargain.

I’d recommend listening to the free sample, you may be listening to that voice for a LONG time, so make sure it doesn’t grate on your nerves.

Buy Now:

Want to know more?

By using this link to source the product, I will receive a small commission from the supplier. This doesn’t affect the price you pay. It does help support my work and keep these reviews FREE to you, thank you.

Book Review of Non-Fiction / Autobiographical Book – On Writing, A Memoir of The Craft, Stephen King

We may not all end up with a back list as long as your arm, but if you want to write it’s a great place to get advice from someone who knows. He truly does have the t-shirt.

Book Review of Non-Fiction / Autobiographical Book – On Writing, A Memoir of The Craft, Stephen King

Stephen King On Writing Book Cover

Book Review

Title: On Writing, A Memoir of The Craft

Author: Stephen King

Copyright: 2000 Stephen King

Ebook 

Blurb:

On Writing – Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in the vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999 – and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery.

There is a reason why Stephen King is one of the bestselling writers in the world, ever. Described in the Guardian as ‘the most remarkable storyteller in modern American literature’, Stephen King writes books that draw you in and are impossible to put down.

Subject:

This book was high on my list of recommended books as a resource. I’d been told it’s essential reading to anyone who writes, or wants to. I wish to improve, hone my skill, I’m committed to ongoing learning. As I queued up to buy it at least half a dozen other writers encouraged my purchase with promises that I’d chosen well.

As the blurb states, it is a book on how to write told through the experiences of Mr King. It isn’t just for his fans, he does explain how he came up with numerous ideas so it will appeal to them.

I’m always amazed how many so called ‘expert’ writers criticise popular writer’s for their lack of style or excellence. Whilst I admittedly have veered away from best sellers in the past, how can anyone doubt the skill of someone who has such a wide variety of successful books out there.

This book is a great read, that’s all I want from a book. It teaches in a positive way, without criticism of others. Mr K even adds a generous reading list at the end of books he liked. Good lad!

Continue reading “Book Review of Non-Fiction / Autobiographical Book – On Writing, A Memoir of The Craft, Stephen King”

Book Review – The Hunger Games – Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

The relationship between Peeta, Katniss and Gale is developed further, loyalties and romantic feelings between them being delved into throughout.

The Hunger Games Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Book Review – The Hunger Games – Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games – Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins

Copyright: Suzanne Collins 2009

Ebook

In case you haven’t read my review of The Hunger Games (What do you mean you haven’t seen it? Look it up right now!) Anyway, as I said I started to read this trilogy as a study of YA (Young Adult) fiction. I know, woman in her 50s, YA? Hmmm, not the first combination the marketers had in mind eh? Or maybe they did as the books do have different covers for the YA and ‘adult’ markets.

I was advised to read them to understand the ‘formula’ for YA and this book, as did the first one, fit the formula very well.

That doesn’t mean it is any less of a book for it. 

This is the second in the Hunger Games book trilogy, you will see from the image that I didn’t stick posts it’s all over it like I did when I read the first one.

Blurb Extract:

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are still alive…As the nation watches Katniss and Peeta, the stakes are higher than ever. One false move and the consequences will be unimaginable.

Continue reading “Book Review – The Hunger Games – Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins”

Book Review – The Narrows, Michael Connelly

The stereotypical FBI agent was ineffective and egotistical which is disappointing but I guess usual for this type of novel.

The Narrows - Michael ConnellyBook Review – The Narrows, Michael Connelly

Title: The Narrows

Author: Michael Connelly

Copyright: Hieronymous Inc 2004

Ebook

Blurb: Former FBI agent Rachel Walling has received the call she’s been dreading for four years…

Harry Bosch is adjusting to life in Las Vegas as a PI and a new father. He gets a call…

Plot: This book, as stated on the cover, is a sequel. I haven’t read the first book. This is another holiday book I picked up on the way around the Greek Islands.

Reasons for picking it up? I was back packing and it’s a paperback, it’s in English and I’d watched “Bosch” on TV and liked it.

Continue reading “Book Review – The Narrows, Michael Connelly”

Book Review – Wikileaks – Inside Julian Assange’s War On Secrecy, David Leigh and Luke Harding

The authors were ‘at the centre of a unique publishing drama that involved the release of some 250 000 secret diplomatic cables and classified files from the Afghan and Iraq wars’

Wikileaks Book Cover

Book Review – Wikileaks – Inside Julian Assange’s War On Secrecy, David Leigh and Luke Harding

Title: Wikileaks – Inside Julian Assange’s War On Secrecy

Author: David Leigh and Luke Harding (with Ed Pilkington, Robert Booth and Charles Arthur)

Copyright: The Guardian

Ebook

Blurb Extract: It was the biggest leak in history. Wikileaks infuriated the world’s greatest superpower, embarrassed the British royal family and helped cause a revolution in Africa. The man behind it was Julian Assange…Leigh & Harding reveal the startling inside story of the man and the leak.

Subject: The authors were ‘at the centre of a unique publishing drama that involved the release of some 250 000 secret diplomatic cables and classified files from the Afghan and Iraq wars

I had more than one reason to pick up this book. I believe in free speech, I am a conspiracy theorist and I don’t believe what I’m told by ‘government TV’ and I own a computer so need to understand cyber security.

The authors are very honest, they are after all journalists who know their subject. This book doesn’t portray Assange as anything other than the odd ball enigma he is. He is a geek, highly intelligent and more than slightly paranoid, justifiably I’d say.

It’s a book full of facts, as a writer I’m very impressed with the research carried out during the whole Wikileaks saga. How they have extracted the right amount of information to include in this book. I felt informed, educated and curious to learn more. At the back of the book, there are numerous papers from the ‘leak’ itself. I glanced through them to be honest but will go back to re-read this book. I’m getting familiar now with the Panama papers too.

Characters: Assange, the journalist, lawyers and various others who were required to keep the secrets secret and the man in one piece.

Assange does not seem like a very nice bloke. In fact he comes across quite the opposite but he is brave in his way and deserves credit for that. He had a very odd upbringing and a psychologist reading this work would no doubt identify some personalty traits as a result. He is also someone who you may want to kick in the n*ts as a misogynist. I think the sexual offences he’s accused or are, as far as I am aware, still up for question.

I was impressed that Assange had 28 character + passwords. If we should take security advice from anyone it’s him. I guess in years to come he’ll not be wanted by the CIA, he’ll be employed by them. It could be a fiction story, I’m sure the movies will make their move once the court cases are all out of the way.

Conclusion:  The leak came out in 2010, the book in 2011. The media recently (Aug 2016) advised us that Chelsea (previously Bradley) Manning faces prosecution for a failed suicide attempt. It is a crime apparently. The punishment for this ‘crime’ could be solitary confinement for life. Once you’ve read this you may wonder, as I do, why ‘they’ say we encourage whistle blowers. I firmly support secrets for good reason but those brave enough to speak out about injustice, for the greater good, whether you agree with their actions or timing surely shouldn’t face a harsher sentence than those they expose. She was a military worker with an undoubted mental instability, shouldn’t she be supported as such.

Recommended: Definitely on the ‘must read’ section of my book recommendations. Anyone who has even a slight interest in world powers, politics, social commentary or just owns a computer should enjoy this. The saga continues today, and no doubt will for a while yet.

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Book Review – Robert Graves – Goodbye to All that

This definitely appears high up in my long list of book recommendations. War is sadly a necessity and I do think this book is worth a read to know how brutal it can be on the individual.

Book Review – Goodbye to All that, Robert Graves

Copyright Robert Graves 1957

Ebook

Blurb: ‘Goodbye…with its vivid, harrowing descriptions of the Western Front, is a classic war document.’

OK so the blurb may not make some of you pull this one from the shelf however I find war dramas, literature and history fascinating. I also feel it is a moral obligation for us to study conflicts to ensure we are aware of issues which led to wars and their resolution. As a traveller I wish to be sympathetic, understanding and sensitive to the history of the places I visit and the troubles faced by the people I may meet. As a potential psychology student I also have an interest in the human psyche and how resilient it is in such extreme circumstance.

Plot: When I read historical tales I’m always surprised at just how much travel people undertook before the days of cheap airlines and this book includes lots of toing and froing across a continent. The writer holds no bars when describing the trench warfare however his no frills, some may say harsh, matter of fact descriptions of battle and its resultant damages are written in a style which makes it quick to read although difficult to absorb on an emotional level.

“The first dead body I came across was Samson’s, hit in seventeen places. I found that he had forced his knuckles into his mouth to stop himself crying out and attracting any more men to their death”

The trench humour comes through, a survival mechanism at the time I guess. Whilst reading I imagined those at home would never have heard the stories as so many soldiers can not bring the tragedy home with them. They store the pictures of death and disease in some secret room in their brains to only revisit in their nightmares protecting their loved ones from such brutality. You only need to watch a remembrance day parade to know that these memories still surface in a moment decades later, hardened troops tear filled eyes gazing into the depths of despair.

Characters: Graves does not come across as a particularly sympathetic individual, I don’t think I like him very much but then that isn’t necessary. He describes unexpected resentment between rival regiments fighting on the same side, hints at the issues of homo-sexuality in the early 20th century and mentions his large family almost in passing as an aside to the war.

Conclusion:  This book is a rewrite by the author of a book written in 1929, he brought it up to date  in 1957 for various reasons one of which ‘…a general editing of my excusably ragged prose…’ Which to any writer is reassuring and no surprise as every time you read a piece of self penned text you see a way to improve it for the reader. I’m hopeful I won’t feel the need to revisit any of my work so may years later, but never say never.

Recommended: This definitely appears high up in my long list of book recommendations. War is sadly a necessity and I do think this book is worth a read to know how brutal it can be on the individual. For those who study literature you will see references throughout to eminent writers, those who study history or military tactics will maybe understand some of the references better that I did. All in all, a classic book which will remain on my bookshelves, inspiring, informative and very well written.

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Book Review – Midnight Sun, Jo Nesbo / Translation, Neil Smith

This is a fairly routine tale of ‘small’ bad guy robs ‘big’ bad guy, goes on the run and repents. Well sort of with an odd twist or two.

Midnight Sun, Jo NesboBook Review

Midnight Sun, Jo Nesbo / Translation, Neil Smith

C Jo Nesbo 2015

Ebook

(Apologies for the tatty cover in the image, at had been on a few breezy beaches by the time I finished it!)

Blurb:

Jon is on the run. He has betrayed Oslos’s biggest crime lord: The Fisherman. Fleeing to an isolated corner of Norway, to a mountain town so far North that the sun never sets, Jon hopes to find sanctuary among a local religious sect…

Plot:

This is a fairly routine tale of ‘small’ bad guy robs ‘big’ bad guy, goes on the run and repents. Well sort of with an odd twist or two.

Setting:

It is set in the cold North where the sun doesn’t set, which is difficult to imagine just from text. Maybe a film would be more effective but as if I was missing some major part by not really understanding the stress apparently caused by the eternal daylight.

Characters:

I never really took to the main character, he isn’t a nice man (by his own admission)

There are few other characters and although described effectively it isn’t really clear if the main characters like each other. Apart from the main ‘romance’ the others are vague and as a result it’s difficult to decide if the reader is being led towards liking them or not.

Conclusion: 

It was quick to read, so the prose is well written, and translated. However I do feel this tale probably is a lot more popular in Norway. If I hadn’t picked this up free from a book shelf on travels I’d feel a bit conned. Maybe I’m just biased as it was a huge ‘airport’ sized book with large print, too blooming big for my bag! I’ve mentioned this bug bear of mine before so regulars will be aware I really don’t get why they have to be so big! 

I have to be honest and say if this was my first Jo Nesbo book I would probably avoid him in the future. This is me speaking as a huge Nordic drama and Larsson fan. 

Recommended:

Yes, but maybe just for Nesbo fans.

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