Fable’s Fortune by Sue Johnson

This novel is a lesson in itself to all would-be writers who struggle with writing descriptive prose and forget to include sensory detail. The language is just beautiful. The detail is incredible and the descriptions bring the scenes to life in full colour. The reader gets to taste, touch, smell, see and hear everything that Fable herself experiences. Little touches such as the fact that Fable, as a child, “tastes” words, so that some taste like ginger biscuits and others liver and onions is quite enthralling. It really is beautifully written.
However, let’s not forget the story. This is a sheer delight. Fable is born under a roof of stars, to Jasmine, a gypsy woman who has broken up with Fable’s father as he has become a religious fanatic after guilt brings on a fervent desire to save fallen women. Fable’s early years are happy as she lives with Jasmine and Gangan, the old gypsy woman who has great wisdom and gift of sight. Unfortunately, they also share their home with Peggy, a bitter, spiteful young woman whose duplicitous actions lead to Fable being snatched back by her father and taken to live in the cold, damp and loveless vicarage, miles away from the people she loves.
As Fable grows her life takes many twists and turns and she suffers a great deal of sadness and loss. However, she hears the voice of Gangan in her darkest hours, urging her on, making her believe that things will get better.
As things reach crisis point for Fable she looks back on her life in order to make sense of where it all went wrong, and as she does so, she changes the course of her future and finds help from the most unlikely source.
I am so glad I read this novel. It’s a lovely story and so well-written. A real feast for the senses. 5/5

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Fable's Fortune

Fable’s Fortune

No Such Thing As Immortality by Sarah Tranter

Vampires eh? You’ve gotta love ’em. Well, no, actually. I never loved them. In fact, they terrified the c**p out of me. When I was young, many, many moons ago, I remember being paralysed with fear watching the old Bela Lugosi black and white Dracula films. And have you ever been round The Dracula Experience in Whitby? Dear God, my sister-in-law and I were too petrified to move as a chilling voice warned us not to dawdle as something may be behind us, but not to run either, “for to run implies a chase.” See, it’s stayed with me. I never liked Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Not the book – the actual character. He wasn’t the anguished love-lorn passionate creature of the film now, was he? And Twilight left me cold. I watched the first two films but just couldn’t see it as anything other than teenage tosh. I’ve been assured that the films get better after that and that the books are great but I just wasn’t that bothered. Vampires. Nah. I’ll leave them be thank you very much and hope that they return the favour.

Except…well, now I’ve read No Such Thing As Immortality by Sarah Tranter. And you know what? I’m in love with vampires. Well, one vampire to be exact. Nathaniel Gray, or Nate to his friends and family, all of which happen to be vampires, too. For two hundred years Nathaniel and his sister Elizabeth, brother-in-law Frederick,  and friends Madeline and James, have lived on Nate’s ancestral estate, Ridings, in the Derbyshire countryside, feasting on badgers, foxes and black pudding. These are not your average vampires. They don’t want to kill humans. Forced into a way of non-life that leaves him lonely and with his emotions all but vanquished, the only real feeling he has left is self loathing, defining himself as a monster.

Then one night, he is involved in a car accident, something that is unthinkable for a vampire. And suddenly his emotions are entangled with the girl in the car, the pretty and innocent Rowan Locke, and Nate’s awakening begins.

The keyword to this novel is intensity. It zips along from the opening paragraph and the emotions that Nate experiences are of a depth that grabs the reader from the beginning. His struggle to come to terms with his own feelings as well as coping with the onslaught of Rowan’s is beautifully portrayed. Nate is an old-fashioned Georgian gent and is baffled by the twenty-first century girl he loves. His every wish is to protect her, but how can he when he himself may be the most dangerous thing she will ever face?

There is more to this story than the romance, too, powerful though it is. There is a mystery running right through this book about Rowan’s background – her strange Aunt Hetty, her parents’ deaths, and the evil being Simeon Frey who stalks and terrifies her, driving Nate almost to the brink of madness and despair.

Told from the viewpoint of Nate himself, which is unusual in itself, this is a real gem of a novel. The hero is everything a hero should be – well, except alive. Still, you can forgive him for that and after all, nobody’s perfect. Rowan is a lovely hero with enough spirit and defiance in her to be likeable despite her vulnerability. Even Nate’s vampire family are all great characters and impossible to dislike despite their lack of a pulse. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for a passionate, intense love story or a paranormal romance or even a mystery. Or maybe you just want to cure your phobia of vampires? Well, it will work on that, too. The biggest compliment I can pay this book is that I just can’t wait for the sequel. And I may even go back to The Dracula Experience. Just don’t ask me to try black pudding…5/5

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No Such Thing as Immortality

 

Creative Alchemy/Surfing the Rainbow by Sue Johnson

Creative Alchemy: I was quite surprised when this book arrived as it was much smaller than a standard paperback, more of a pocket book. Then I started reading it. Don’t be deceived. Good things really do come in small packages!
This book, written by author and creative writing tutor Sue Johnson, is packed to the brim with brilliant tips and guidance to help you write. It has some wonderful exercises to do to get the creative juices flowing and not a word is wasted. There is no waffle, no padding. Each page is full of wisdom from someone who obviously knows how to teach. It really is a course in a book. As I was reading it ideas were already forming in my head that will enable me to improve my own work in progress immeasurably.
If you’re new to writing, stuck for ideas, lacking in inspiration or just plain lost in the muddle of a draft that seems to be going nowhere, pick up this book and watch the fog clear. Highly recommended. 5/5

I’m updating this review to comment on Surfing The Rainbow, Sue’s latest book. This has some content that is very similar to the stuff in Creative Alchemy. However, there is the addition of a look at chakras, relating them to creative writing. Sue shows how to balance the chakras and utilise them to unblock your creativity. She gives exercises to do for writing and visualisations  to aid you in your path to writing what you see in your head but can’t get down on paper. There are relaxation techniques, too.  A unique approach.

“‘Surfing the Rainbow’ is for anyone who has tried and failed to create the novel of their dreams. If you have been held back by negative messages from the past, or feel your imagination has gone away, then the exercises in this book will help to guide you back to the path of creativity and exploration. Color code your writing – follow the rainbow until you find the gold.”

 

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Creative Alchemy
Creative Alchemy

 

Once Upon A Winter by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but from the first chapter I was hooked. The story is very well-written and the characters are immediately likeable and intriguing. The setting is beautiful and the book was very easy to “get into”. The character of Nell was well observed and I also felt that the author wrote well when writing from the children’s point of view.
Nell arrives back in her old home village after years of living away in London as a single parent of twins, nine year old Joshua and Freya. Abandoned by her husband Silas when the children were just two years old, the shy, timid Nell has become stronger, determined to give her twins the best life she possibly can despite her own feelings of grief and inadequacy.
Her strength is tested when she runs in to Daniel, who was her major crush at school. Many years ago he had been party to a cruel trick played on her by Lauren, the school queen bee who was dating Daniel at the time and is now his ex wife. Despite her reservations, Nell is won over by Daniel who is genuinely sorry for his part in the incident and the two of them begin a tentative relationship, despite the scars inflicted on them by their previous marriages.

Never far away, though, is the shadow of Silas. Who is he? Why do some of the older residents of the village remember him with adoration? What is in the box hidden in Nana Gwen’s bedroom that he has asked her to keep secret? And what is so special about Joshua?
When Silas returns to seek out his son, life is completely shaken up for Nell, Daniel, her children, and for several of the other villagers, but Silas himself makes a discovery that changes everything he had assumed about himself. All of them must face up to the truth of the past to find a way to the future…whatever that future may hold.
This is a beautiful romance with a sprinkling of magic. Read it and be enchanted. 5/5

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Once Upon A Winter
Once Upon A Winter