Saturday, 9 November 2019

Book Launch: 'Witch-bottles and Windlestraws' by Joy Stonehouse

When I started to delve into my family's history I never envisaged the ensuing research would lead to a book, or four. The first launches today.

Witch-bottles and Windlestraws brings to life the inhabitants of Reighton in Filey Bay, 1703-1709. Parish records revealed a close-knit community of large families - the vicar lived in a small vicarage with his wife, son and eight daughters. Researching further, I found an abundance of material for an imaginative reconstruction. How could I not commit it to paper?

The book - fictionalised fact - focuses on the Jordan family of yeoman farmers, and I chose the period because they were one of the dominant families at that time. They were also ancestors of mine on my mother's side, and I soon became totally absorbed in piecing together their lives.

The book opens in November 1703 when The Great Storm is set to hit. The people of Reighton have a wedding to celebrate, and are unaware of the impending devastation that will affect their lives. Courtships, betrayal, unrequited love and an inexplicable death are woven into a tapestry of early 18th Century life and customs, and the ever-challenging weather. 

Available as a paperback and Kindle ebook

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Feeding the Creative Soul – but not with Stars!


In a previous post I said I would return to the star system beloved of review sites. Online review sites almost always insist on every book being categorised in the range of 5* (best book in the world) to 1* (worst book in the world).

I have a problem with that. If I was to put my mind to a genuine categorisation of every book I read, then on the whole each would be different. If compelled to stick with 1 to 5, then I want to be able to give stars for lots of different reasons: how good a read was it, how involved did I become, was the characterisation believable, was I lost in the fictional world, did the facts stand up, was the background research meticulous and objective, how was the opening page, did it grab me from the first sentence… I could go on. And what a waste of time!

I also have a problem with allocating stars to a book that did nothing for me. Do I say ‘Bored rigid from start to finish. 1*’? That doesn’t seem fair if what bored me was that it was a historical novel and I wasn’t in the mood for a historical novel because I’d just finished a sci-fi book. If I knew the period well and could say, ‘Bored rigid by anachronisms and lack of research,’ or if it was non-fiction and I could say, ‘Bored by lack of accuracy and out of date research,’ that wouldn’t be so bad. At least those are valid objective reasons.

But who am I to put off other readers with my 1* when it’s based on a subjective judgement?

The other thing I won’t do is review a book I haven’t read, and that takes care of the examples above because I wouldn’t have finished a single one of those books. Why would I be ‘bored rigid from start to finish’ of any book? I don’t go out of my way to seek out boring experiences.

Despite all this, I still rather treasure an early review that appeared on Like False Money, which is now published as part of the Falling into Crime trilogy.

“Really enjoyed the book but it came badly packaged – 2*” 


I review books that I have enjoyed and with very few exceptions, I give them all their stars because I rarely have an objective reason not to.