Cornish Reading Challenge 2017

It’s back! You thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you? We may have missed St Piran’s Day, but the Cornish Reading Challenge will still be running in 2017 – from May 13th until May 27th.

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As usual, we’ll have a host of incredible authors involved. We’ll have guest posts, book reviews, giveaways, recommendations, and many more exciting things!

On May 17th & 18th, we’ll be focusing on the West Country as a whole. This will include writers who live in the West Country, and any work set there – including my own short story collection, Weltanschauung. Grave Oversight and Only If are set in Plymouth, and I’m super excited to be getting involved as an author this year, as well as a blogger.

The Cornish Reading Challenge brings writers, readers, and bloggers together to celebrate a love of Cornwall and Cornish literature. We talk about what inspires us to write, the Cornish books that suck us in and transport us to one of the most beautiful places in England. We’ll be talking about writing in Cornwall, writing about Cornwall, and supporting Cornish authors.

Keep your eyes peeled for further information in the coming months. Get ready for two weeks of celebrating all things Cornish!

If you want to get involved, pop me an email at thebandwagonreviews@gmail.com, or tweet me, @VikkiPatis, using #CornishReadingChallenge.

Feminist February: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

As part of Feminist February, I’m reading some selected texts that focus on feminism, whether that’s an obvious feminist text, or fiction depicting women as we are. You can read all about my selections here.

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I downloaded a copy of We Should All Be Feminists by  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and devoured it within half an hour. It’s a short book, with an introduction explaining how it was adapted from a TEDx talk Adichie gave.

A personal and powerful essay from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, based on her 2013 TEDx Talk of the same name.

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay – adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name – by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. With humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century – one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviours that marginalise women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences – in the U.S., in her native Nigeria – offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a best-selling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today – and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Earlier that evening, my partner and I had been discussing those social experiments that involve a man living as a woman for a period of time, and vice versa, to see how one another’s experiences might differ based on their gender. I said that you would have to “pass”, i.e. you would have to really look like a woman if you were going to experience life as a woman. I’m sure many people have thought about what life might be like if they were the opposite gender, but I’ve never truly wanted to be a man. Sure, it might make peeing a bit easier, and women are oppressed in ways that men aren’t, but I still love being a woman. I feel my womanhood strongly. I feel a kinship to other women, that sisterhood that many feminists talk about. Despite the problems we face, I don’t want to run away from my gender, I want to embrace it, fiercely, and fight for my rights, passionately. I am a woman, I love (almost) everything about being a woman.

Adichie defines a woman as someone who can bear children, which is a problematic definition at best. Not all women can have (or want to have) children, and not all those who are able to have children are women. This cisgender definition rubs me up the wrong way, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I like to think Adichie will have learned better since then, because, as feminists, we are constantly learning, and doing our best to, well, do better.

Adichie also mentions being “girly”. That word always makes me cringe. As a young child, I was called a “tomboy”, because I wore tracksuit bottoms and trainers, and liked to climb trees and go out on my bike. But I still wore dresses on occasion, and, as a teenager, I’d regularly change my style to suit my mood. I wasn’t a tomboy, nor was I girly – I was simply a child. And now I’m an adult, I can’t say I’m much different. I prefer to wear men’s shirts and leggings, but I also own skirts and ballet pumps. I always wear make-up, and I have long hair, and I get my nails and eyebrows done. But that doesn’t mean I can’t roll my sleeves up and clean the bathroom (fibromyalgia permitting, of course), or break the glass ceiling. I have a degree, I have a good job, I’m a published author. And I also wear mascara and lipstick, and enjoy having my hair done.

I know a woman who is super healthy. She’s a personal trainer, and she spends a lot of time and energy on being fit, so she doesn’t, in her words, have the inclination to be “girly”. She still wears make-up (albeit minimal), and she’s great at doing hair, a talent I envy. But she still wouldn’t describe herself as “girly”. So it makes me wonder, what do we mean by the term “girly”? Why are men shamed when they spend time on personal grooming? Why is it “girly” to wear lipstick, or heels, or dresses? Am I only half “girly” because, although I wear make-up and get my nails done, I’m crap at hair and can’t walk in heels? Terms like “girly” only serve to remind us that anything remotely feminine is bad. The aim of wearing make-up, for some, is to look as if we haven’t made much of an effort. We, like in the movies, woke up looking fresh, with defined brows and sky-high lashes and rosebud lips.

A colleague told me a few weeks ago that, upon first meeting me, she never would have guessed that I was a feminist. Why not? I asked. But she couldn’t answer. Perhaps she had the idea that all feminists are ugly, bra-burning, hairy-legged man-haters (though I am hairy-legged). So, in essence, I do agree with feminists like Adichie trying to smash this idea. But I do detest the term “girly”. There’s no right way to be a feminist (in this respect), just like there’s no right way to be a woman. Love make-up? Great! Prefer to go bare-faced? Fine! Have short hair? Nice! Have long hair? Awesome! These things are superficial, and yet, women are constantly judged on how we look. You may be the smartest person in your class, you might be super ambitious and want to rise to the top of your profession, but you will still be judged on your looks. And this is something that needs to change.

In all, We Should All Be Feminists is a great read. It reaffirms a lot of things that I already knew to be true, and have spoken about before, but it was also interesting to read Adichie’s version of feminism, and how her background influences the way she views the world, and how she plans on smashing the patriarchy in her own way. Smash on, Adichie, in your heels and dress and lipgloss. Smash on.

Goodreads | Amazon UK

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

I review The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney.

Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

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I am on the fence about this book. I enjoyed reading it – it was gripping and exhilarating, but it also got under my skin in quite a negative way. 1 Folgate Street is an ultra-modern, minimalist house, full of cutting edge technology. Those who want to rent the place must submit to intense questioning about their lives, and why they want to live there.

Controlling men. Why must we continue to suffer them? Edward Monkton’s display of toxic masculinity is right on point. It seems as if 50 Shades of Grey has normalised the controlling (read: abusive) relationship. [Spoiler alert] It transpires that Monkton had slept with both Emma and Jane (and probably others), embarking on casual relationships with them, before suddenly moving in, and slowly taking over their lives. The typical abuser, Monkton uses money and power to control these women.

Both Emma and Jane are troubled, having suffered from some kind of trauma. All is not as it seems, and I won’t delve too far into this side of The Girl Before, but it’s definitely intriguing, and the twist surprised me. I’m just a bit fed up with reading about men taking advantage of women, especially when it’s romanticised.

Also, a very good point has been made about books with the word “girl” in the title. The Girl On The Train, Gone Girl, Girls On Fire… while all of these are great works of fiction, the use of the word “girl” when really they mean “woman” (maybe not in the last one) is an example of the denigration of women. Reducing us to girls strips us of our adulthood.

I gave The Girl Before 3 stars, because I really can’t make my mind up whether I loved it or not. The story was thrilling, but aspects were really disappointing, and, at time, infuriating. Read it and make up your own mind, if you can.

Ask The Author: Theresa Braun

Author Theresa Braun chats to The Bandwagon about her writing process.

Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides with her two fur babies, who are her creative sidekicks. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Traveling is one of her passions—in fact, her latest adventure took her to Romania for a horror writers’ workshop where she followed in the steps of Vlad the Impaler. She writes horror fiction and the occasional romance. Oh, and she likes to guest blog about writing, television shows, movies, and books, mostly in the horror genre. Her short story “Shout at the Devil” appears in Under the Bed Magazine, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in Hindered Souls, and “Dead over Heels” is soon to be published by Frith Books.

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What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always had a creative streak. Whether it be pencil drawing, painting, or crafting stories, I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t creating something. It’s one of the things that drives me and makes me feel alive. Being an English teacher and reading all kinds of fiction has helped me to connect with writing even more. Now when a story idea comes to me, I jot it down in the notes on my phone and can’t wait to delve into it, making it come to life. I’ve learned to face my fears about the writing process. It can be really daunting having thoughts about whether or not I can finish the piece and make it as good as it can be. The whole process is rather exciting.

What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process?

I wish I’d known how difficult it can be to market your writing. It’s almost as much work as creating the stories. Luckily, I tend to get motivated to do it. It comes in waves and I know that I have to ride that wave when it hits. And, then I go back to working on another story.

Which authors do you look to for inspiration?

I’m a big Stephen King fan. At the moment I’ve been looking at several modern writers to see what is new in the horror genre. I find that horror anthologies can be a great way to get exposed to a number of authors. This past year, I’ve read quite a few anthologies: Fright Mare, Killing It Softly, Fresh Fear, and Once upon a Scream, to name a few.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

My advice is to find a fantastic editor that you can trust to help you polish your work. I find that I have to have an instinct for whether or not a story is done. To get unstuck, I have a couple of editors that I know I can send the piece to for them to see what I can’t see. Sometimes writers can get a kind of tunnel vision and we need someone not so close to the work to look at it. It took me awhile to realize that lots of writers do this and that it can be helpful in getting the story to that next level. And, always, always, let someone proof your work for grammar. I consider myself rather skilled in that area, but another set of eyes is always key. Get someone who is superior in this area. I’ve read through books that have had several errors in them and when I mention it to the author, he or she often tells me it has been professionally proofed. Don’t skimp on the editing—ever, ever. My last piece of advice is to network with other writers. It’s helpful to talk shop to get through ruts or writer’s block, etc.

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Tell us more about your book.

“Dead over Heels” started as a quick sketch several years ago. It sat on my computer until one day I decided to revise it. I was inspired by some of the local ghost lore in Ft. Lauderdale, having been on the ghost tour downtown and also having had worked in the area when I was younger. I infused a bit of online dating frustration into the story—knowing from experience that it can be somewhat horrific and soul-crushing. So, I wanted to mix the paranormal with the lives of two people who meet and think that they have a chance at true love. However, since relationships always have their challenges, they must face their pasts. They find that they have more than a romantic connection. Their lives are tangled in ways that they can’t even imagine—and, it’s supernatural to boot. The story is about how they confront this and whether or not they can get out alive.

What are you currently reading?

I just loaded Nicole Cushing’s The Sadist’s Bible and Hunter Shea’s The Jersey Devil onto my Kindle. They were listed as some of the best horror of 2016.

What’s next for you?

I just submitted my latest tale to a vampire anthology. And, I have several unfinished stories that I’m working on. I’ll be tackling a sort of time travel into another dimension in one. Another story involves a group of satanic teens and what happens when they invite evil into their lives. Eventually, I’ll tackle finishing a novel or two, but at the moment I’m having too much fun working on shorter stories.

Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter @tbraun_author

Author Interview: Vikki Patis — Observant Raven Book Reviews

Vikki Patis is a writer and blogger at The Bandwagon, where she reviews books, interviews authors, and gives her opinions on a wide variety of topics, from feminism to fibromyalgia. Vikki dropped by to talk about her new short story collection, Weltanschauung. What inspired you to start writing? This is the typical answer, I know, […]

via Author Interview: Vikki Patis — Observant Raven Book Reviews

The Bandwagon’s Books of 2016: David

2016 has been a fantastic year for books. We’ve been spoiled for choice here at The Bandwagon, with countless excellent review books and amazing debuts. Now it’s nearly over, so we’ve made a list of our favourite books of the year. Here are David’s picks of 2016.

David Spell

A Living Grave by Robert Dunn
The first in a gritty new series featuring sheriff’s detective Katrina Williams, as she investigates a-living-grave_final_smmoonshine, murder, and the ghosts of her own past…
 
BODY OF PROOF
 Katrina Williams left the Army ten years ago disillusioned and damaged. Now a sheriff’s detective at home in the Missouri Ozarks, Katrina is living her life one case at a time—between mandated therapy sessions—until she learns that she’s a suspect in a military investigation with ties to her painful past.
 
The disappearance of a local girl is far from the routine distraction, however. Brutally murdered, the girl’s corpse is found by a bottlegger whose information leads Katrina into a tangled web of teenagers, moonshiners, motorcycle clubs, and a fellow veteran battling illness and his own personal demons. Unraveling each thread will take time  Katrina might not have as the Army investigator turns his searchlight on the devastating incident that ended her military career. Now Katrina will need to dig deep for the truth—before she’s found buried…

This book has great characters that you will love in an instant. It had me feeling so many emotions while reading this book. The mystery is very well done and not easily solved. All around great read.

Read my full review here.

Stone Work by Dominic Stabile

City stands in the irradiated dunes of America, nearly two centuries after the Final War. The wallstone-work-edit surrounding it is a buffer for the wasteland inhabitants who covet entrance, and a trap for the citizens smothering in its polluted air and drowning in its blood-filled streets. Stone is a criminal for hire. Robbed of his loved ones and scarred almost beyond recognition, he navigates City’s darkest corners, doing some of its darkest deeds. In this collection, he’ll pursue an elusive thief, bent on raising an army of juiced up mutants. He’ll break into the office building of a mysterious corporation, only to find the executives are less into sending faxes and more into performing hexes. In the final chapter, he’ll track a man through the Alleys of South City with the help of his tech savvy partner, Megan, and together they’ll face the sentient darkness of City’s deepest underbelly, and confront the violent potential of City’s most dangerous cults.

Part Blade Runner. Part Sin City. Stone Work is an action-packed ride through the rain-slicked streets of a dark, unforgiving urban landscape, rife with sadistic criminals, inter-dimensional abominations, and a creeping darkness that seeks to erase the last, now almost mythical traces of human goodness left in a world always teetering over the edge of its own extinction.

The main character, Stone, is funny and sarcastic. His adventures are crazy good and the pacing is excellent.

Read my full review here.

Storm Orphans by Matt Handle

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In 2011, a television reporter inexplicably started spouting gibberish in the middle of her on-air report. Five years later, what’s become known as the Babylonian Plague has killed 99% of the world’s population and turned virtually everyone else into raving cannibals that are more blood-thirsty zombie than man. These monsters are now simply known as the Afflicted. Storm Orphans is the story of a handful of survivors that avoided infection and now make their way through the dangerous ruins of Florida and Georgia in search of who caused this biological catastrophe and what, if any, future might be left for mankind.
This is an excellent apocalyptic story in every way. Great plot and character development with tons of action.

Read my full review here.

The Invasion by Brett McBean

It was supposed to be a quiet end to a long day: five close-knit family and friends settling in for 30138996
some much-needed sleep after coming together for an early Christmas party.

Instead, it’s the beginning of a shocking night of brutality when six intruders break into the sprawling residence of Debra Hillsboro, a middle-aged romance novelist with a fierce devotion to her loved ones and a strong kinship with her home of almost thirty years.

Armed with smartphones and a modern brand of madness, the intruders – an internet-age cult disconnected from humanity and addicted to causing fear and mayhem – have come to the secluded property for one purpose: to terrorize, and ultimately kill, everyone inside all while filming their heinous crimes.

Outnumbered and cut off from the outside world, the terrified occupants find themselves trapped in a fight for survival as a once place of safety is turned into a deadly maze of darkened rooms and forbidding hallways. On this sweltering summer night, they must somehow find a way to escape before the cult turns the beloved home into a house for the dead.

This book is so great it should be made into a movie. It had me on edge from start to finish.

Read my full review here.

The Monster Underneath by Matthew Franks

Reality can be the difference between a dream and a nightmare…28695158

Max Crawford isn’t a typical prison therapist. He uses his unusual psychic ability to walk with convicts through their dreams, reliving their unspeakable crimes alongside them to show them the error of their ways.

Max always has to be on his toes to keep himself grounded, but the FBI agent waiting for him in his private office immediately puts him on edge. The bureau wants Max to go way outside his comfort zone to enter the dreams of suspected serial killer William Knox.

To get a confession and secure the future of his prison program, Max must gain Knox’s trust by any means necessary—and survive the minefield of secrets waiting inside a murderer’s mind. Secrets that could turn Max’s reality into a living nightmare.

Great psychological thriller. Great character arc and full of twists.

Read my full review here.

The Eight day by Joseph John

National Indie Excellence Book Award Finalist. “Five compelling stars. An impressive debut novel 28114836that mixes action, adventure, mystery, police procedural, and science fiction. If you enjoy Michael Crichton, Philip K. Dick, or Robert Ludlum, you need to read this book.”

A warning from a stranger.
“Nothing you know is real. Your name isn’t Shawn Jaffe, you’re not an investment broker, and you’re not from Ohio.”
But the stranger is murdered before he can explain.
Now Shawn isn’t sure who he can trust.
Even his own memories are suspect.
Someone is watching him, controlling him, using him.
To survive, he’ll need to find out who and why.
But the stakes are much higher than one man.
Our humanity is on the line, and on the eighth day, it could be the beginning of the end.

This is a hell of a ride and straight up thriller. Action packed and fast paced. Twists and turns everywhere and a case that is not easy to solve.

Read my full review here.

Check out Vikki’s picks here and James’s choices here.

Codename Cupcake by Jillian Green DiGiacomo

I review Codename Cupcake by Jillian Green DiGiacomo.

CODENAME CUPCAKE is an old fashioned suburban turned superhero spy novel. It is the story of Molly Peterson, a frazzled mother of two, who is recruited by a super spy agency to infiltrate the PTA at her son’s elementary school. A staunch PTA avoider, Molly is disappointed to learn that her assignment will require her to not only join the PTA but “become” the PTA. Midwood Elementary School is cooling at an alarming rate and Molly must spend as much time as possible in the building to determine the cause and help prevent a potential calamity. With a back drop of ordinary school functions including back to school night and a fall concert, CODENAME CUPCAKE offers a new twist on the super hero genre. It is a send up of motherhood, the PTA, comic books and spy novels. It is fast paced and funny with the underlying message that life really is better when you have super powers.

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Many thanks to the author for providing a review copy.

Molly Peterson is no ordinary stay-at-home-mum. One day, after thwarting a robbery, she finds herself with superpowers, and is recruited by a spy agency to investigate the PTA.

Codename Cupcake is hilarious, fast-paced and entertaining. I was engaged from start to finish; Molly is a brilliant character, one I’m sure many people can relate to. Codename Cupcake is a mix of genres, and should appeal to readers of all ages, from teen up.

DiGiacomo takes the trope of exhausted mother and Stepford Wife, and turns her into an crime-fighting superhero, who still has time to make her children laugh and pack their lunch for school. The ultimate feminist story to remind frazzled mothers that they can still kick arse and take names.

Goodreads | Amazon