Sarah Potter Writes

Pursued by the Muses of prose and poetry

Archive for the category “Reading”

Review: Feeding Time by Adam Biles

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This début novel is possibly the quirkiest one I’ve ever read. It’s set in a care home from hell, Green Oaks, which is directed/neglected by Raymond Cornish, a middle-aged guy who needs serious therapy himself and spends most of his time ensconced in his office, masturbating and leching over a teenage girl he can see out of the window at the bus stop most days and with whom he’s determined to get his end away.

The residents of Green Oaks suffer from dementia in varying degrees. Their elected commander-in-chief is someone who calls himself Captain Ruggles, having constructed from his delusions a complete history of his heroic actions in the war. He’s a wonderful character who you can’t help but applaud for his constant rebellion against the Care Friends (Carers) whom he believes are Nazis controlling the prison camp of which he’s an internee; hence his frequent attempted escapes.

The Care Friends are total pieces of work, especially with their Supervisor off his head on drugs most of the time. Of course the title “Care Friends” is a sick joke, as they are the worst enemies of the residents, and this is no delusion on the part of Captain Ruggles.

Adam Biles writes in a vivid and faultless literary style that plays on all the senses: in fact, his quality of writing is excellent. However, I decided to award his novel four rather than five stars for the following two reasons.

My first problem with the story is that in the real world, I cannot imagine a care home going so off the radar that it isn’t subject to regular statuary inspections. In the case of somewhere as bad as Green Oaks, at the very least it would be subject to warnings to improve followed by unannounced inspections, but more likely it would be a candidate for instant closure. As for the residents’ relatives, it seems too far-fetched that their visits are so rare and that they are so easily conned by the annual “show”, when the Care Friends give the home a temporary face-lift for their benefit.

My second problem is that there is too much preoccupation with bodily functions. Yes, I know that people suffering from dementia lose control over their bowels and bladders, and can become generally disinhibited in their behaviour, but there is just an overdose of excrement of one kind and another. Also, there was one chapter in the book about a rotting corpse, where things became so gross that I had to skim read a number of pages, and skim reading is something I rarely do. So I feel bound to warn readers, do not open this novel when eating, as you will definitely lose your appetite fast.

Would I read another novel by Adam Biles? Yes. I love his originality and his fluent prose, plus, I think that if he keeps writing, he’ll be a serious contender for a much-coveted literary prize sometime in the future.

As a footnote to this review, I feel compelled to give a special mention to the limited edition that is in my possession as it’s a wonder to behold. The publishers, Galley Beggar Press have produced a book that is simple and yet classy in design. I love the minimalism of the soft back black dust jacket with green interior, the blurb, and the author’s bio. There are also some wondrous, surprising, and fun black and white illustrations by Melanie Amaral and Stephen Crowe throughout the book.

Please note that the limited edition described above, I ordered direct from the publishers, Beggar Galley Press. However the mass-market paperback and Kindle editions for sale on Amazon (UK) & (US) are green, although the green paperback edition is also available direct from the publisher.

Review: The Elsewhen Gene by Gary Bullock

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I adore time travel romances, so was thrilled when Gary Bullock asked me to beta read his wonderful novel and write an honest review after the book’s publication.

The Elsewhen Gene is entrancing and brought many smiles to my face. It is one of those novels that has a real feel-good factor about it and reminded me that hope and beauty still exist, as well as innumerable mysteries on a cosmic scale. The writing flows with the same gentle forward momentum and intertwining of light and shade as a sun-mottled brook. The descriptions are vivid and the dialogue authentic to the characters, whom I adored.

Laura and Elijah are both science geniuses and soulmates since childhood. Elijah sees future events. Laura sees what she thinks are ghosts but are really people in another universe into which she can sidestep at will. A romance between two such unusual people is never going to run according to convention, when it involves multiple universes and alternate lives. But it is a story of enduring passion between them both, as well as their crusade to reunite another couple who have ended up in separate universes to each other.

The novel has a most satisfactory end, but I am hoping that the author has more adventures in store for Laura and Elijah in a possible sequel.

The Elsewhen Gene is available at any of the following links

Amazon (US)  (Paperback and Kindle) & Amazon (UK) (Kindle only)
Next Century Publishing  & GoRead (Paperback only)
Nook & Kobo (eBook)

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Gary Bullock was born and grew up in the hills of East Tennessee, then worked in New England, where he got his first film acting job, as Abraham Lincoln in a commercial for a Detroit radio station. He met his mate, Mil Nicholson there, and they were married in 1987 at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre on the set of The Importance of Being Earnest.

They moved to the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, where he won his first film role in Winter People. He has also toured with Poetry Alive!, performing poetry in schools all over the East. He has written and performed his own one-man show as Abraham Lincoln. He and Mil also worked in dinner theatre, and carried out an artist’s residency program in theatre in Western North Carolina schools.

Gary and Mil then moved to Los Angeles in 1992, just in time for the riots, the fires, the floods, and the Northridge earthquake, and a co-starring part in Twin Peaks –Fire Walk With Me. Some other notable film roles were in Lakota Woman and Terminal Velocity, and most recently, Racing Stripes. Gary was a member of Playwrights Kitchen Ensemble in Hollywood as an actor, then later became a writer/actor member of Playwrights 6, also in Hollywood. Two of his scripts and part of a third were developed there.

He began writing partly to preserve his sanity during slow times for acting work, and because there were stories he wanted to tell. He soon found that he loved it. He has written both in book and in screenplay form.

Gary and Mil returned to North Carolina in 2005, and are busy writing, recording audiobooks, raising apples, persimmons, paw-paws, a large organic garden, dogs (a Jack Russell and a Silken Windhound at present), and watching the wildlife.

Book Review: Enemies of the People by Sam Jordison

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a first for me, getting political online. There are some books that you wish you’d read earlier rather than later, and Enemies of the People is one such book. Not that it was available prior to the Brexit vote, or the electing of a reality TV star as President of the US. It seems we’re victims of lies and manipulation; this book tells us who the culprits are, plus a great deal more.

In Enemies of the People, Sam Jordison doesn’t pretend objectivity and, by his own admission, wrote it quickly and in anger.  On the front cover are the words “We’re all screwed and here’s who to blame”, and in his blurb he holds men responsible for the whole mess: mostly white men in a temper (not including himself, of course!).

Primarily, this is a history book written by somebody who can write “more than 140 characters at a time” and sees it as a “golden opportunity to snatch back the narrative and set the record straight”. The book does not go into great depth but is a series of snapshots of fifty people whom the author feels have had the greatest negative influence on our society. These include certain British prime ministers and US presidents, past and present; current members of parliament;  deranged dictators; people on the Rich List (some skilful, some moronic); founders of religions, from the relatively sane, through to extremist sects, down to the plain screwy; royalty, with William the Conqueror thrown in for good measure, and a closing chapter dedicated to a medical charlatan/founder of a commercial radio station, who almost became governor of Kansas in the 1930s and could be seen as a metaphor for our times.

Of the fifty people mentioned, not all of them are wholly bad or lacking in areas of brilliance, but I’m hazarding a guess that a fair percentage of them suffer from narcissistic personality disorders (or have suffered, because they’re now dead). A few have meant well, but power has corrupted them, filling them with greed, or they’ve just lost their way.

As the author points out, by the time this book went into print it was probably out of date in some respects. Certainly the chapter about Jeremy Corbyn needs updating, although, unlike the author, I had no issue with the Leader of the Opposition having “sloped off to his allotment association’s annual get together while most of his cabinet were busy resigning following the Brexit vote”. But then, as a keen allotmenteer myself, I can’t think of a better way to get away from it all and clear my head.

In summary, I enjoyed this book in a perverse way. It confirmed what I already suspected about those in charge of our society, with all the spin, lies, hypocrisy, greed, manipulation, and contradiction. This should have depressed me, but I felt oddly empowered by knowing my enemy better. Sam Jordison’s writing is pacey, entertaining, easy to read, and peppered with wry wit.  He comes over as very passionate about truth, justice, and the betterment of society.

I now challenge him to write a book titled “Friends of the People”…

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Sam Jordison is co-director of an Indy publisher Galley Beggar Press in Norwich (www.galleybeggar.co.uk) and editor of Crap Towns. He’s a journalist for The Guardian and writes regular articles about books and publishing on their website (www.theguardian.com/profile/samjordison). He also runs the online book club The Reading Group (www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/reading-group) and the annual Not The Booker Prize.

Enemies of the People is available from all good bookshops in the UK, as well as from HiveWaterstones, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Book review: The Writer and the Rake by Shehanne Moore

The Writer and the Rake (Time Mutants #2)The Writer and the Rake by Shehanne Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I totally loved everything about this time-travel romance and would give it ten stars if I could.

Brittany Carter is an author, who drinks, smokes, and parties too much. After a surreal encounter with a character called Morte, she’s transported to the Georgian era and meets bad boy Mitchell Killgower, who is locked into an inheritance dispute with some hateful relatives of his deceased wife. When Brittany materialises out of nowhere, he hopes she can prove useful by pretending to be his obedient and mousy wife for long enough to hoodwink those who hold the purse strings and stop his son getting the inheritance. The only trouble is that the feisty Brittany is incapable of fitting into this role and Mitchell has truly met his match on the impossible person’s front.

I don’t want to give too much away, as this will spoil readers’ fun; and the novel is such great fun, in a quirky sense of the word, always sustaining a great forward momentum with wonderfully entertaining dialogue. Come to think of it, I don’t recall the author using any dialogue tags at all and, if she did, they weren’t intrusive.

Brittany is often insufferable, but also pretty cool in a chaotic way. Mitchell is a Mr Darcy type: dark, handsome, brooding, stubborn, hard to impress, and master of his heart, but decidedly sexier than the original. His relationship with Brittany is meant as a short-term arrangement of convenience and nothing more. And the feeling is mutual …until it isn’t.

Speaking of the raunchy scenes, Shehanne Moore knows how to write about sex in a way that’s humorous, playful, erotic and, at times, intense. It’s never explicit, because it doesn’t need to be; the subtle interplay of all the human senses is sufficient.

On the hilarity front, the crowning moment for me is when Mitchell rifles through Brittany’s bag and puzzles over its contents from the future, and then questions her about one of the items in particular.

If you haven’t already guessed, I fell in love with Mitchell and felt really sorry for him when Brittany kept appearing and disappearing. A rake like Mitchell does not give his heart easily to a woman, preferring the casual company of floosies when needs dictate.

The Writer and the Rake can be read as a standalone novel, even though it’s the second part of a series. One reviewer has suggested that, in order to understand the time mutants better, it’s an idea to read the series in the right order, starting with The Viking and the Courtesan.

As you can imagine, Time Mutants #1 is near the top of my reading list, as I can’t get enough of Shehanne Moore’s writing and am delighted to have discovered someone with such a fresh and original voice.

A highly recommended read.

View all my reviews

Poll: Which Book Should I Publish Next?

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Okay, I need some help focusing here. The time-gobbling monster has already eaten January and is threatening to eat February, too.

First, before I go any further, it’s time to get something off my chest. I’m not sick of indie publishing but I am sick of trying to sell novels to children and young adults. On the plus side, I have some fabulous loyal adult readers, many of whom have read both Desiccation and Noah Padgett and the Dog-People and given me a heap of positive feedback. This has led me to believe that I don’t write the sort of novels that most people under the age of 18 want to read, but ones that their parents and grandparents want to read instead. Yes, my novels contain elements of fantasy and science fiction, but no, they’re not about wizards, vampires, paranormal romance, spaceships with lasers blazing (or whatever lasers do).

sarah-potters-quirky-novels

This leads me on to my next point: even if I publish a novel specifically for adults, it could still deviate from the expectations that die-hard fans of a particular genre might have.

I had considered writing a genre-bending novel, as it fits into the bracket of quirky and yet has an identifiable market. With that in mind, I decided to read Jane Austen’s  Pride and Prejudice and then carry out a textual comparison between it and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and the Zombies. The trouble was that I loved the original so much that I couldn’t get past the first few chapters of the zombie version, which I hated. Maybe if I hadn’t read the original, then I might have seen it differently. Certainly it made the New York Times best seller list. I don’t have a problem with zombie books per se, having read some excellent ones. I just don’t like ones that would make Jane Austen turn in her grave (no apologies for the pun), although I do acknowledge that some of her writing is quite witty. Maybe one day I might bring myself to write a novel based on a classic novel but not so that it follows the original text word-for-word in places; otherwise, what’s the point in having worked hard to develop a voice of my own?

I’ve written five novels in all, leaving three unpublished as yet. The fifth one, my speculative fiction novel Counting Magpies, I intend to submit to publishers after a further edit, as I’ve identified some new small press publishers that didn’t exist a couple of years ago but are looking for quirky novels. There are plenty of successful hybrid authors, who have both indie and traditionally published novels, so why not me?

Now to ask you, my wonderful blog followers and visitors, readers or potential readers, which book I should indie publish next. In other words, which would you be most likely to buy, if any at all? To help answer this, I would really appreciate it if you could take part in the poll and/or comment with some constructive feedback. I’m at a bit of a crossroads and am not sure which direction to take just now.

 

Hear Ye Hear Ye! New Kindle Owners in the UK & US

sarah-potter-interview_noah-padgett-cover

If Santa has given you a Kindle for Christmas (or any other device upon which you can download the Kindle app) and your library is looking rather bare, here’s a bargain book that would look just wonderful on your virtual shelves.

From 25th December – 1st January, in the United Kingdom and United States, the Kindle edition of my children’s crossover fantasy adventure, Noah Padgett and the Dog-People, will be on sale at the discounted price of £0.99 ($0.99). Please note that purchasers of the Kindle edition are also entitled to download its Audiobook version for a knockdown price.

Here’s the short link to my book on Amazon http://getBook.at/Zyx

Wishing you peace, joy, and happiness over the festive season 🙂

A Free Book Promotion, plus Other Bits and Bobs…

Desiccation cover (small)From today until this Friday, 25th November, those of you in the US and the UK can download for free the kindle version of my YA crossover science fiction/urban fantasy novel, Desiccation [Universal short link: http://myBook.to/QuirkyLit ]. Sorry to disappoint any bloggers who live outside of the US or UK, but the logistics of creating a worldwide free book promotion are rather complicated and can go totally wrong. It involves authors going to their accounts at KDP on Amazon and individually adjusting the prices down to zero in the different marketplaces. I’ve heard that if you time this wrongly, you can mess up the promotion.

I know that a few of my fellow bloggers have already purchased either the kindle or paperback version of Desiccation. Please, if you enjoyed reading it, could you tell your friends about the free promo, as personal recommendation is still the best way to help spread the word about books you’ve enjoyed and authors you like (hopefully!).

noah-audio-book-cover-72dpiWith regard to the audiobook version of my children’s crossover fantasy adventure, Noah Padgett and the Dog-People, I have a limited number of free promo codes that will enable a few lucky people to listen to actress, Mil Nicholson’s wonderful narration of my novel in exchange for writing an honest review. If you’re interested in doing this, please go to my blog’s contact page and leave me a message. I’m afraid these codes will not work in the US, so my apologies to anyone who lives over the Pond. Please note, that anyone who has already purchased the Kindle version of this book, or intends to do so in the future, is entitled to download the audiobook at a discount, so that they can read and listen to it at the same time.

Lastly, I have set up a new Facebook page called Sarah Potter’s Quirky Novels. I decided to use the word “quirky”, because of the number of times that reviewers have used this word about my two books. Please do pop over to Facebook and “like” my page (but only if you do like it, of course!).

Noah Padgett and the Dog-People #KindleCountdownDeal

Featured Image -- 7339Thirty days after the release of Noah Padgett and the Dog-People, it is Kindle Countdown Deal time. This means that those daunted by my book’s normal price of £1.99 on Amazon (UK) or $2.99 Amazon (US), can now download my 56,000-word children’s crossover novel for £0.99/$0.99 from today until midnight on 14th October. Where else could you pay so little for about six hours of fun entertainment?

The story in brief…

It’s adventure time for twelve-year-old Noah Padgett and his chocolate Labrador puppy, Bluebell. With one click of a link they landed themselves in the Zyx-dimension, where the predominate species is Canis sapiens.  These intelligent dog-people view Noah and his puppy as mutants and alien collectibles, forcibly separating them and putting both their lives in peril.

Will they survive, or won’t they?

Without a magic wand at his disposal, Noah must rely on his wits alone.

CLICK HERE TO PREVIEW

CLICK HERE TO BUY

Countdown to Publication Day: The Proof Copy

NPDP Proof copy

Lest my dear blogging friends are feeling somewhat neglected of late, I’ve been lost in another dimension ruled by Canis sapiens.

This has made a change from fighting giant inter-dimensional woodlice (pill bugs) in a girls boarding school, as in my science fantasy novel Desiccation.

Please bear with me a little longer, while I finish checking through the proof copy of Noah Padgett and the Dog-People, which is an upper-middle grade crossover children’s  fantasy novel.

It’s quirky, of course!

Recently, when I suggested it was time that I wrote something straight-genre and non-quirky,  a few people reacted along the lines of  “being normal is just not you“. I’m hoping they meant this as a compliment.

Under acknowledgements in my canine novel, it says, “Thank you to my husband, Victor, for designing the book cover and surviving the experience”. In fact we only had one argument (not that heated) about the choice of font and its size; especially the latter, when it started out too small to read easily as an online thumbnail image.

My official launch will be in the early part of September. I will confirm the date shortly, plus whet your appetites with a preview of the blurb.

Review: Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a an exceptionally quirky story. It’s main characters are a hitman who enjoys breaking legs and various other limbs for money, until he starts reading the Bible; a woman priest sacked from her job who doesn’t believe in God but has a brilliant brain for business, and a male receptionist at the hotel where the hitman is staying after release from prison for the nth time.

It took me a while to get into this novel, mostly due to the strong authorial voice employed. Once I’d accepted that Jonas Jonasson was narrating the tale as would someone versed in the oral tradition of storytelling, and I got into the rhythm of it, then the novel grew on me.

On the dust-jacket of the novel, words such “outrageously zany”, “many laughs”, a “comic delight”, and “feel-good” are applied to it.

Did I think it was funny? I guess so, but more like amusing than hilariously funny. Yes, it was zany. Maybe some of the hilariousness was lost in translation and different nationalities often have different senses of humour. To a Swedish person, the book is probably hilarious. To a British person, not so hilarious. Maybe it’s because I’m used to Nordic noir and not so used to Swedish comedy.

Humour beside, it’s a clever plot, with plenty of twists, turns, and double-crossings. The discussions between the hitman and the priest about God are priceless. In fact, I like the banter and dialogue best.

All in all, if you want to read a novel that doesn’t take too much effort and, in a diverse way (considering the subject matter), does have a feel-good factor rather like watching a farce on television or in the theatre, then give this a go.

I was smiling whilst writing this review, so the novel must have left behind some positive traces.

Give it a go. I’ll certainly try another of Jonasson’s novels in the future.

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