Tuesday 30 June 2020

Six Years of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team

I have been a member of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team (#RBRT) for five and a half years, now.  I first 'met' Rosie online when looking for reviews for my own early books, and through her some of the other bloggers who later became part of the team.

I admit to being wary of making the commitment when I joined the review team, but I'm so glad I did; Rosie has created something so positive for the independently published world (the team deals mainly with the self-published or those published by independents), and I am proud to be a part of it.  When I joined, I decided to start my own book review blog - I don't profess to be a 'proper' book blogger as I'm primarily a writer; I don't take submissions and use it only for reviewing for Rosie and my own reading choices, but it's something I enjoy doing. πŸ˜€

If you are interested in joining us, Rosie has written an article about how her review team works, on BookerTalk blog - you can read it HERE.  Details of how to apply to join are HERE.  You don't need to have a book blog, and you don't need any credentials apart from a love of reading.

There are two main reasons why I'm so glad I joined the team, equally important.  The first is the discovery of some truly excellent books; now and again, you find a real gem, that you want to shout about; so often these are books that are hidden away on Amazon and you would have never discovered, had the author not submitted.  Here are a few that made me feel this way (link takes you to my review):

The Men by Fanny Calder
The Usurper King  by Zeb Haradon
The World Without Flags by Ben Lyle Bedard 
Singularity Syndrome by Susan Kuchinskas
The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle by James D Dixon
The Unravelling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn
Back Home by Tom Williams

Other books I've loved are highlighted on Rosie's two part post:


The second reason I love being a part of #RBRT is that some of us have become real life friends, too, enjoying several meet-ups.

Here are me, Rosie, Shelley, Cathy and Barb, in Matlock, April 2019 - a lovely weekend!

Leicester, December 2016

With Rosie, Cathy, Barb and Alison - Sheffield, October 2015

Here's to six more years of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team! πŸ’ƒ

Thursday 25 June 2020

~ What To Avoid In Social Conversation ~

I saw this delightful list from late Victorian/early Edwardian times, on @serialsemantic's Twitter page, and considered how it might be translated into these days of social media conversation.

As you will see, I think some should still apply to Twitterly interaction, though others should be disregarded entirely. πŸ˜‰

If you click on the item below it will be big enough to read, but I've written out each one before my Twitterly translation.  Enjoy!

1.  Do not manifest impatience.
Building a Twitter profile takes time - do not manifest impatience about your lack of interactions and retweets, or certainly not via tweet.  If a new writer, do not publicly manifest impatience about your lack of book sales.  It takes time to build up a readership, too.  Also, it might make other people wonder why no one is buying it.

2.  Do not engage in argument.
Debating differing opinions is one of the joys of conversation, online and off, but do not call someone a self-absorbed c*** if their opinion differs from yours, as happened to me a short while back. Or say that they are 'sad' because they do not perceive a situation in the same way that you do.  If someone is not willing to reasonably accept a differing point of view, it is best to bow out gracefully. Then mute the dickhead.

3.  Do not interrupt another when speaking.
If you see a conversation between two or three strangers, and you have strongly negative feelings about the subject matter being discussed, do not butt in and tell them how offended you are by their conversation.  Unless you're the sort of person who goes on Twitter to seek arguments, of course.

4.  Do not find fault, although you may gently criticise.
When you get those DMs that we all hate, in which the person (inevitably a total stranger) asks you to download their music, subscribe to their Youtube channel, review their new book, etc, do not tear them off a strip.  They may simply be ignorant of the best way to use social media.  If you wish to comment, it is more productive to suggest that this may not be the best way to promote themselves, and let them know that such an activity is considered spam.

However, if they're rude back, or continue to send them, give 'em hell.

5.  Do not talk of your private, personal or family matters.
A couple of weeks back, I saw a tweet from a woman complaining that she was having 'a particularly heavy flow this month'.   
WHY?  Why would anyone tweet that?????  πŸ˜– 😩

6.  Do not appear to notice inaccuracies of speech in others.
If they want to describe themselves as 'adverse' to something, or indicate their agreement by tweeting 'Here, here!', let them.  Unless it really, really irritates you.  Some inaccuracies, such as use of 'words' like 'irregardless' and 'deteriate' might cause you to spontaneously combust if not corrected.  In these cases, priority should be given to your own well-being.

7.  Do not allow yourself to lose temper or speak excitedly.
Do not call someone a self-absorbed c*** because their opinion, politely and amicably expressed, differs from yours.  If that insult is directed towards you, report and block.  But speaking excitedly?  What is life without joyful enthusiasm?  The floor is yours!

8.  Do not allude to unfortunate peculiarities of anyone present.
Unless they are Carol Vorderman, Bojo, the far-left ΓΌber-woke, etc.  In these instances, fill yer boots.

9.  Do not always commence a conversation by alluding to the weather.
But be aware that if you tweet about it, you will get more interaction on that tweet than on any other one before or since.  Much of it from people who have never spoken to you before, but feel the need to tell you that it's raining where they are.

10. Do not, when narrating an incident, continually say 'you see' or 'you know', etc.
Or those 280 characters won't go very far!

11. Do not introduce professional or other topics in which the company generally cannot take an interest.
Nah.  Do not feel scared to talk about stuff that you're enthusiastic about.  That's how you find like-minded people.  You will never please everyone, and trying to tweet only 'items of general interest' makes your profile look somewhat 'vanilla', as if you have read a book on How To Engage With Your Twitter Followers.  Your profile is your own; if you want to tweet about the sex life of the koi carp, go right ahead. 

12. Do not talk very loud.  A firm, clear, distinct, yet mild, gentle and musical voice has great power.
Do not greet someone in your Twitter feed by saying 'MORNING, FATSO!  SOLD ANY BOOKS YET TODAY?'  On the other hand, do not say, 'in my humble opinion' (IMHO) before expressing yourself; we know it's your opinion because you're saying it, and if you consider your opinion humble, so will others.

On yet another hand, it might be better to say, 'I'm not sure I agree with that' than 'You're talking out of your arse, mate'.

13. Do not be absent-minded, requiring the speaker to repeat what he has said, that you might understand.
It's perfectly acceptable to ask someone for that useful link a second time.  We all forget and lose stuff on our cluttered desktops, etc.  However, asking for a third and fourth time might get you a 😬 followed by the gritted-teeth suggestion that you keep the link somewhere you can find it.
14. Do not try to force yourself into the confidence of others.  If they give their confidence, never betray it.
If someone tells you in a tweet that they know a writer who sends DMs to other writers asking them to do review swaps, you'll be dying to know who it is, won't you?  Go on, ask them to tell you in a DM.  Just once.  If they don't reply, don't ask again.

And if they tell YOU in a DM that they haven't sold a book in three months, do not report this to anyone else.   

15. Do not intersperse your language with foreign words and high-sounding terms.  It shows affectation and will draw ridicule on you.
Or, at the very least, will make people mentally label you as pretentious.  It actually shows insecurity, but does not impress, as hoped; it usually has the opposite effect.

16. Do not aspire to be a great storyteller; an inveterate teller of long stories becomes very tiresome.  To tell one or two witty, short, new stories, appropriate to the occasion, is about all that one person should inflict on the company.
Do not use Twitter to detail, in a thread of tweets, the injustices caused to you by an former romantic partner, unless you already have an audience of online friends who have previously expressed their interest and concern, and are waiting for details of the latest developments.  If not, it will make you look like a nutcase.

~ Do unto other Twitter users as you would have them do unto you ~
πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

Friday 19 June 2020

Lately I've Been Watching

More mini TV reviews ... including, by popular demand, where they can be watched!  But if you ever want to find out where you can watch something, generally, just google 'where can I watch *name of show*' and you should be able to find out.

I add to this series every month or couple of months; if you would like to see more, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching

Some good ones this month!


Series: Gangs of London - Season 1 (Sky)

5 stars plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

LOVED this!  London gang lord Finn Wallace, played by Colm Meaney, is murdered - and his loyal son and heir Sean (Joe Cole) is determined to find out who gave the order, as well as who pulled the trigger.  As events unravel, he discovers that his father was not the man he thought he was, and must contend with associates who may not be the friends he thought.  Michelle Fairley (Caitlyn Stark in Game of Thrones) also stars as the horribly deluded mother, who has much to discover about her late husband.

Alongside Sean's story is that of Elliot Finch, undercover cop who works as an enforcer for the Wallaces, and soon finds that he is in too deep.

Absolutely gripping, edge of the seat stuff, not a dull scene throughout. Highly recommended.  Lots of violence - you have been warned.

Series: The Son - Seasons 1 and 2 (Amazon Prime)

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Based on the book of the same name by Philipp Meyer.  Pierce Brosnan stars as Eli McCullough, a Texas rancher and would-be oil man in 1915, battling with the local Mexican community, the big guns up north, and his favourite son, Pete (Henry Garrett).

Interspersed with the present day is Eli's back story - how his family's meagre home was attacked by Comanches, in 1849.  His brother, sister and mother perished, but he was kept as a slave by the tribe.  He soon learns their ways, however, and becomes a Comanche himself; he is adopted by the chief, expertly played by Zahn McClarnon, who you will have seen in every other other TV show and film that has ever featured a Native American (Westworld, Fargo).  

An unusual slant - it is soon evident that the main character of this show is no 'goodie' that you want to root for.  Although the young Eli (Jacob Lofland) is likeable, he grows into a manipulative and ruthless man.  Your sympathy will be with the Mexicans and possibly his wife and daughter; son Pete whines too much, and the elder son, Phineas, is as bad as his father.

This didn't grip me too much for the first couple of episodes, but as soon as it began to, I was totally sold; it's a great story.  Sadly, it was cancelled after only two seasons, and the story wrapped up.  So worth watching, and I must read the book, too!

Series: Homeland - Season 8 (Amazon Prime, Showtime, Channel 4)

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The final season, sadly - and it's another winner.  This time, the ever-tormented Carrie Mathison is suspected of being a Russian spy; echoes of Nicholas Brody.  It seemed a bit low-key in the first couple of episodes but got better and better as it went on, and the ending is completely satisfactory; it's not often one can say that, at the end of a long-running show.  

If you love Homeland you won't be disappointed, and if you've never watched it, you should start!

Reality TV/Documentary: Alone - Season 6 (Netflix) 

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Survival series in which 10 contestants are sent to live alone in the wilds; the one who sticks it out for the longest wins the $500,000 prize.  This time, they're in the Arctic, facing the freezing cold, lack of food, bear attacks - all the usual stuff.  All contestants are survival experts; as usual they range from the irritating to the slightly nuts, to the admirable and likeable.  Great fun guessing who's going to 'tap out' next, or who will be removed on medical grounds (like losing 20% of their body weight in 2 months), but what I like most about this is finding out about all the survival techniques.  Love it :)

Limited Series (complete story): Quicksand (Netflix)

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Swedish series dubbed into English.  Starts with a school shooting, and a girl (Maja, played by Hanna ArdΓ©hn) covered in blood, staring at the dead bodies surrounding her; she is taken away by the police.  Very soon we realise that she is not victim but possible co-perpetrator - but why?  And what part did boyfriend Sebastian play?

The story alternates between Maja's time in prison, in semi-isolation, including meetings with her lawyer/interviews with the police, and a more or less chronological account from when she met Sebastian, through to how her life began a dangerous spiral downwards as their relationship progressed.

I was glued to this from start to finish (watched it all in one night), but took a half star off because I hated the ending.  Alas, I cannot say why, as it would be a total spoiler!  Also, it's only my opinion - others might love it.

Series: Reality Z - Season 1 (Netflix)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

Brazilian dubbed into English, this is based on the original Charlie Brooker miniseries Dead Set, about a reality TV show in which the inhabitants of a Big Brother style house don't realise that the zombie apocalypse is taking place outside.  Created by ClΓ‘udio Torres and produced by Brooker, these are no Walking Dead, shambling, slow Walkers - the Reality Z zombies are wild-eyed, fast, and terrifying.

It's nothing like TWD, or indeed Black Summer; it's dark, satirical humour.  I enjoyed it and would watch more, but liked it rather than loved it.

Documentary Series: Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (Netflix)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Four part documentary based on the 2016 book of the same name by James Patterson.  It's good, kept me interested, but felt more as though it was made for anyone who doesn't know much about him; it focused on the survivors' stories, and only touched upon Epstein's vast network of the rich, famous and influential.  I felt there was a lot left unsaid, about how much was covered up by whom and for how long, which makes one wonder if the producers were cautioned against saying too much.