Georgian Recipes and Remedies, A Country Lady’s Household Handbook by Michael. J. Rochford

What a great book about Georgian culinary and medicine.

I really enjoyed that Rochford included Sabine Winn’s biography at the beginning of the book. Sabine is our hostess and collected the recipes and remedies that follow from friends, doctors, newspapers, cookbooks and her native land of Switzerland. She was the wife of Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet Nostell and her life is worthy of a biography itself. Rochford has also converted measurement etc. so we as readers can have a go at creating some of these dishes, though he does mention that some will be impossible to recreate due to ingredients we don’t use in food now but are included for our amusement. Though included is a recipe for mince pie including meat that I may have to try out this coming festive period, my mince pies will contain mincemeat.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an E-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Abandoned Industrial Places by David Ross

Image from Goodreads.com

Star Rating 4 out of 5 Stars

Released 14 May 2020

Two genres you don’t tend to see on my reading pile are Art & Photography and Outdoor & Nature.. I’m not really sure why, I do have some books on the shelves of these genres (admittedly not many), but I do enjoy them. I came across Abandoned Industrial Places by random chance but I’m glad I did. The book is exceptionally well presented, engaging, and entrancing.

This book documents not just industrial heritage but also peoples’ heritage. Once upon a time, each abandoned industrial location logged within the pages brimmed with life and roaring with noise. They are the industry of the local area, the livelihood of workers which put food on their family’s tables. Now silent, they seem sad, lonely, and of course creepy now, as mother nature reclaims them.

This book provides a platform for people like me to experiences hazardous places that I’d be too scared to visit and puts a sad but romantic light on a subject some reject as beautiful. The photographs within do speak a thousand words and during this time of Covid-19 lock-down, it is a great time to look back upon our industrial heritage and ponder its positives and negatives.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Amber Books Ltd for an E-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Dawn Empress by Faith L. Justice

Image from goodreads.com

The excitement I have experienced at the next book in The Theodosian Women series coming out is unfathomable! I’ve been highly anticipating this book since reading the first, Twilight Empress which if you haven’t read it yet, you should, although they work as stand-alone books and don’t have to be read in order. The Theodosian Women series centers around three Augusta’s, Placidia, Pulcheria, and Athenais, with each book being dedicated to their life and trials. Since they all lived at the same time with their stories overlapping, you will read about certain situations more than once – but don’t be put off. Justice is an expert at focusing on the women caught up in the situation, thus, the situation is never repetitive but rather a new adventure with a new champion. It must be noted that this happened rarely between Placidia of book one and Pulcheria of book two as both women ruled over an administratively split Roman Empire, where they had their own domains…but family and politics are family and politics.

Aelia Pulcheria is the featured Dawn Empress, sister to the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II. She is the Theodosian woman I was least looking forward to but I was very pleasantly surprised and she truly holds her own and so does the book; thus receiving a five-star rating. Being the eldest sibling with her brother in his minority, Pulcheria, grows up too fast in order to protect her orphaned family. She is named Regent for her brother at the tender age of 15, and rigid in her ways to make sure her brother’s reign is not sullied with the drunken, adulteress reign of her father. Pulcheria is raised to be an Augusta and lives out a virginal, pietist life devoted to family and people at a time of waning power in the West and a raising in the East, not to mention, having an influential hand in early Christian doctrine that still has a legacy today. There is no denying that Pulcheria was religious, steadfast and a strong ruler – but what was she as a person? Justice, within the book, manages to create a likely humanistic Pulcheria, a person with the world on her shoulders trying to do what she thinks is best and keep her brother alive.

Did I love this fictional Pulcheria? She was very difficult to like at times but that is to be expected. Her accomplishments required a singled minded person who could transcend emotion. But it is her fear that drives her to this, the fear of her mother and father’s sins which lead her into a consuming study about the downfall of past rulers so that she and her siblings can avoid their fate. This leads the family, led by Pulcheria, down a very religious path that is highly destructive on occasions not just to the siblings but also to the empire. Pulcheria suffers from pride and vanity when it comes to her position and religious efforts, but she is also an incredible woman with such a big heart that much good was done during her brother’s reign, especially for the lowly people. Pulcheria is an incredibly complex character and I’ve yet to decide what I truly feel about her but I do know that if I had to describe Pulcheria in one word it would be: understanding. She was excellent at understanding people and situations and this is a guiding light in hard times but I also found this frustrating, thus showing I wouldn’t make a good ruler.

I particularly loved the interactions of Pulcheria with Placidia and her children. From the first book, Pulcheria, at these times, was a religious zealot and somewhat condescending however getting behind the scenes from Pulcheria’s side makes the interactions far more juicier; as well as Pulcheria’s interactions and jealousies with Athenais. Unfortunately, I side with Athenais in these. I also loved how the book ended, it was beautifully poetic but simple and the reader is left with the gravity of how important Pulcheria was to the people. The ordinary people who’s lives are usually played with by the ruling elite and who are normally the first to feel consequences. I’m highly, highly looking forward to the next book in the series and hope it’s not too far off. Having teasers of the beautiful, romantically tragic Athenais (who couldn’t even keep her name) in the first two books has left me with book fever.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Raggedy Moon Books, for an E-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Want to read an interview with Faith taking about the first book in her series? Faith was my November 2019 Author of the month.

Back up and running!

Hi Guys! Due to personal reasons and an amazing husband who has been working on the front lines I’ve taken a step back from blogging. Now things are settling down into a “new normal” i’m finding some extra time in the day so i’ll be getting this site back to normal. The world been turned upside down and i hope you are all staying safe where ever you are.

Best wishes

Zoe

April Author of the Month: Emily Brand

Image from www.emilybrand.co.uk

This month I’m interviewing Emily Brand, who’s new book The Fall of the House of Byron, captures the scandals of three generations of Byrons, including a certain poet. With four other previously published books under her belt, Brand’s specialty of the history of love and sex c. 1660-1837 are fascinating and juicy reads. Brands other works also include writings for national and international media such as the BBC, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Telegraph, the Radio Times and CNN.com. Not to mention a feature discussing 18th century pick up lines, in Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast.

Let’s meet out author:

What do you like to read in your downtime?

Since only recently discovering audiobooks I find myself rattling through history books in this way – it’s so useful for making the best of travel time. On reading purely for pleasure I try to keep up with modern fiction but still sometimes have to remind myself to move beyond novels with historical settings, otherwise I eventually feel like I’ve been wallowing too much outside of the real world! I also tend to gravitate towards stories highlighting women’s voices and experiences – especially if those women are in some way problematic, or veer outside of the traditional ‘spirited but generally deserving and good’ heroine. A couple of recent books that seem to be really staying with me are Madeline Miller’s Circe and Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, The Serial Killer.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished The Five by Hallie Rubenhold, an inspiring study of the lives of the five canonical victims of Jack the Ripper – it’s an engrossing portrayal of common lives in the Victorian era and such an important moment in turning traditional historical narratives on their head.

I am now keeping everything clear for Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, which I’ve been anxiously awaiting since 2012!

What inspired you to forge a career in history?

I inherited my mum’s love for period dramas and family history, and as a result have been fascinated by the past since a young age – so she is partly to blame for that! My career has always been weighted towards history – in museums, as an editor, in genealogy and as an author. My enthusiasm is constantly fuelled by the idea of all the lost voices lying in archives just waiting to be uncovered, and all those forgotten personal stories that can unlock new perspectives on the past. Learning to step outside of our own world and try to understand the experiences of others is hugely important, and making even a small contribution with my research seems worthwhile.

Now and again we get to see historical object you own on your twitter, which one is your favourite and which one has the best story attached to it?

I’ve amassed quite a bit of 18th-century Byron family material, including prints and books that no one else seems to care about except me! My favourite is probably a large, hand-coloured engraving of Frances, Lady Byron – the mother of the three primary protagonists of my book – by William Hogarth, and dating to the 1730s. I’ve never come across another like it and it was my first buy at auction, so I will always associate it with the feeling of excitedly scampering across Nottingham to pick it up.

The most precious and personal, though, is something passed down from my late grandmother’s family, which I received for my 30th birthday. It’s a George III shilling (dated 1787) with a hole bored into it so that it can be fashioned into a necklace – a common form of love token in the 18th and 19th centuries. Sadly I doubt I will ever find out who it belonged to, or how it relates to my ancestors – but I wear it if I feel like I need an extra bit of good luck.

The Fall of the House of Byron

Image from www.emilybrand.co.uk

There are so many characters in your book each more scandalous than the last. Which Byron would you have loved to have interviewed for the book?

I think – partly out of some sort of morbid curiosity – I’d choose Jack Byron, the poet’s wastrel father, whose real life became almost irreparably clouded in myths after his son’s death in 1824. Almost three decades after his own demise he was branded as ‘mad’, as ‘worthless’, and even ‘evil’ by writers and biographers. The letters and debts he left behind do tend to confirm that he was a selfish, arrogant, and sexually deviant character, but a lot of questions are left unanswered – namely, how did he get away with so much?

Despite such obvious character flaws he managed to seduce at least two young heiresses, charmed his superiors and sent women into a flutter wherever he went. I think in order to get the measure of the man I’d have to see what he actually looked like – there are no reliable surviving images of him – and witness him in action in a candlelit ballroom. And, of course, give him a thorough interrogation to see what other terrible things (incest aside) that he might own up to!

Newstead Abbey plays a large role in the Byron dynasty, in some ways it stands as a Portrait of Dorian Gray for the decline of the House of Byron. Have you managed a visit there yet and traced your finger over the engraved window of the Byron children’s names?

I have been a number of times, both to tour the house and also to dig about in their archive. It’s been updated significantly since the time of the poet so it requires a little bit of imagination (and detective work) to envision how the interior must have looked in his day. Sadly the windowpane with his ancestors’ names and birthdates etched on was removed in 1809 when the poet was trying to prove his legitimate lineage – and has since disappeared! Which to me is an even sadder loss for Newstead than the artistic treasures that had already been sold off to settle debts. This was a poignant memorial made by a lonely young mother to her growing band of children, and a real glimpse at what life was like for women delivered into arranged marriages and sent off to live their lives on the other side of the country, whether they liked it or not.

William Byron, 5th Baron Byron, saw the height and decline of Newstead. By the end he reminded me of Charles Dickens’s Scrooge before the ghostly visit. He could have been great, why do you think he kept choosing the wrong path?

Almost all surviving evidence provided by the life of the 5th Lord points towards his having had a poor reputation ever since his youth – in particular for cowardice – and I think his bitterness about this only made things worse. Both his actions and his correspondence show him to have been selfish, entitled, irresponsible and immature. He was likely spoiled as a child; perhaps the death of his father and his inheritance of the family title when he was just 13 gave him unrealistically grand ideas. He certainly fell into a debauched and pleasure-seeking set of gentlemen even before he turned 21 – which laid the groundwork for a lifetime of extravagant spending,

Especially compared to his brother John, who was acclaimed for his feats of war and voyages of exploration, William’s lack of success was obvious. Where people were concerned he was utterly unable to hold his temper when criticised, which only led to further criticism. Where money was concerned, he simply didn’t know where to stop – leading to the downfall of his family’s fortune. He loved pursuing the trappings of an aristocratic life but had very little skill or interest in attending to his responsibilities – I think in order to have made a success of his life as a lord, he would have needed a complete personality transplant.

Happy Birthday for February! You celebrated the day by visiting the HMS Victory, immersing yourself in Nelson and Naval history. The Byron’s have a strong connection to the Navy and there is a fantastic telling of Foul Weather Jack’s adventures in your book. Do you also have a personal connection to the navy?

Thank you! And yes, I have been drawn to the history of the Georgian-era navy since I fell in love with Horatio Hornblower as an impressionable young teenager. The survival story of ‘Foul-Weather Jack’ Byron is really one of the most incredible I have ever read, and it was a privilege to re-tell it for the first time along with the wider context of his personal life and career.

A number of my near relatives and ancestors have been involved in the military, covering all three of the armed forces in three generations and also going back as far as Waterloo – perhaps that does inform my interest a bit. During the Second World War my grandfather was involved in Arctic Convoy duty when he was just a teenager, and just reading about those brutal conditions makes me shiver.

Isabella Byron, is a fantastic character, out of all her husbands and lovers which one would you say was the one that got away?

Isabella is actually my favourite of the Byrons, with her head so stubbornly full of romance! I was so delighted to find her unpublished letters to her second husband, through their whirlwind secret engagement to their cold-hearted separation – she had such a passionate and stream-of-consciousness style of writing, on reading them I felt like I was living through it with her.

She had a string of romantic attachments and flirtations throughout her life, and there is one I’d love to know more about. Sir Edward Swinburne was a baronet, a widower 12 years her junior and a talented artist – little survives of their relationship other than that Isabella seems to have followed him to Europe when in her early fifties, according to the gossips simply hoping to rekindle their relationship. Unbeknownst to her, he had already taken up with another woman in Vienna. They certainly met up during her travels, but clearly he had little intention of inviting scandal by travelling as her companion.

Like many a family at the time, the Byron liked to name their children after each other. By the end of the book, the fertile Byron family had three generations interconnecting, how did you manage to keep track of who was who?

Fortunately my years of experience in genealogical research and chart-making helped me here! I compiled a family tree (which will be included in the book), and have attempted to differentiate between characters by applying their preferred pet names (e.g. ‘Jack’, ‘Betty’, ‘Sophy’) used in their correspondence.

Certainly, the Byrons did not make things easy with their recurring tendency to marry, elope with, and commit incest with each other (both half- and full-siblings).

Lastly

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently gearing up to do a book tour of the UK in the coming months, to share my love for the Byrons – there are details on my website for anyone who is interested: www.emilybrand.co.uk

I’m also scouring archives and looking for inspiration for book two!

How can we follow you and keep in touch?

I’m most active on twitter as @EJBrand, but also have an instagram @historian_emily and facebook page @HistorianofLove. Please do say hello!

And you can also pre-order my new book about the Byrons here: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-fall-of-the-house-of-byron/emily-brand/9781473664302

March Author of the Month: Dr. Helen Frisby

Authors photo supplied by Dr. Helen Frisby

My Author of the Month this month is Dr. Helen Frisby. A very talented lecturer and non-fiction writer whose latest book, Traditions of Death and Burial, had me talking the ears off of family and friends. Helen currently, teaches at the University of Bristol, UK, and is an internationally recognized expert on history, folklore, and material culture of death, dying and bereavement. Helen has also appeared on the History Channel and BBC Radio 4.

Without further ado, let’s get to know Helen

First things first: are you a tea in bone china drinker or a coffee in a mug drinker?

Coffee in a mug. I collect vintage china teasets, but am too scared to use them in case I break them!

· Which books would you say impacted you most during your childhood?

I learned to read using the Ladybird Peter and Jane series, so you could say that they had a big impact. My teacher insisted that I ‘wasn’t ready’, so my parents took matters into their own hands and taught me. I’m very grateful to them for doing that. My childhood books were pretty typical of the time – Mog, Noddy, Wombles, Paddington Bear, Famous Five, Malory Towers and so on. Some of those are probably a bit old-fashioned now, but others have stood the test of time.

· What do you read in your downtime and what are you currently reading now?

I usually have one serious and one fun book on the go at a time. My current serious book is With The End In Mind by palliative care doctor Kathryn Mannix. I agree with her that we urgently need a new – or maybe reinvented – ritual vocabulary around death and dying.

My fun book at the moment is Cloak of Deception by James Luceno. I’m a huge Star Wars fan.

· Who or what led you to follow the field of research your in?

As an undergraduate I was taught by the amazing Professor Douglas Davies, who ran a course on ‘Death, Ritual and Belief.’ I didn’t know it then, but this (late 1990s) was the time when death studies was really taking off as an academic subject. My subsequent Masters’ dissertation was a micro-study of popular attitudes to death in Reformation York, and that in turn led to a PhD on Victorian folk funeral customs. Meanwhile, attending a particularly dreadful funeral around this time gave personal force to my growing belief that the past has a lot to teach us about dealing better with death.

· Your field of interest, I’m sure, can be quite overwhelming, do you find you need to take a step back at times? If so, what do you do?

I’m part of an international, multidisciplinary community of death studies scholars, and regularly touching base with people in that world who ‘get’ it helps keep things in perspective. In the lecture hall or seminar room we’re in academic mode, debating and discussing the issues, but otherwise we just talk about all the normal stuff that friends and colleagues do.

Attending funerals – obviously I’m there as a participant, but that said I never can completely put my inner observer away, so yes I do also end up analysing what’s going on. I guess it’s my way of coping.

Beyond my research I enjoy pottering at home, going to the cinema, theatre, music concerts and so on. I’d like to be good at gardening, but the reality is that I quickly get bored and cold, and end up paying somebody else to do it.

· In the heritage world, oral histories are finding a solid footing and turning up interesting results with regards to social history and its impact on the present-day generation. With regards to your current research, Grave Communications: An Oral History of Gravedigging, are you finding compelling results?

Dr Stuart Prior and I have found that gravediggers – or cemetery operatives as they’re called nowadays – are a really key part of how we do death in this country. However, until we came along nobody had previously thought to consult them in any detail – how a cemetery works day to day, and exactly how do you dig and then maintain the graves. Given that the UK presently is in the throes of a burial space shortage this seemed to us an especially peculiar oversight, one that our research is now correcting.

· Do you find stories of the supernatural turn up during your research and could you share one with us?

Our ancestors had a strong sense that until the funeral had taken place the dead weren’t so much dead, as lurking somewhere in-between life and death. It was therefore necessary to keep a watchful eye on while the body was laid out at home, and Folklore journal recounts a tale from a Worcestershire village about 1860, about a child who had died at the baker’s house: ‘One of the neighbours had been present in the sick-room, and after all was over she and the mother were sitting together in a downstairs room, when a slight noise was heard upstairs, rousing them both. The mother wanted to go up to the dead child, but the other restrained her. “You mown’t go upstairs. It’s Little Lucy. Yes, she’s dead, ma’am, but her spirit bain’t gone yet. We mown’t disturb her.”’

· You have done a lot of public speaking with students and on TV/Radio. Which do you find more nerve wracking?

Both in different ways. I’ve learned that it’s not the end of the world if you’re not always technically perfect as a speaker; what audiences really want – especially with a topic like this – is authenticity and warmth. And knowing my stuff, of course!

· Your area of interest has led to a treasure trove of information that I’m sure would make a spectacular gothic horror, have you ever thought about penning a fiction?

If I ever did write a (semi) fiction book it would actually be about one of my cats, and how he was adopted, escaped on the first night then travelled for three months to get back to his old home. My husband and I take his staying with us as proof that we’re running an acceptable cat hotel.

Traditions of death and burial:

Image supplied by Dr. Helen Frisby

· Do you have a favourite anecdote you’ve came across while researching?

My all-time favourite is the 1920s Yorkshire folklore collector Henry Fairfax-Blakeborough’s wry observation that port wine didn’t count as alcoholic when drunk at funerals, with the consequence that certain otherwise strict teetotallers were rather prone to, ahem, overdoing it on these occasions. This always amuses audiences, and is a nice reminder that sadness and humour are very often two sides of the same coin.

· If you could time travel, which period in history would you like to have gone back and witnessed for researching your book?

If I really had to choose, then it would probably be the medieval period. However I’d insist on taking some twenty-first century painkillers with me – it’s easy to over-romanticise the past, forgetting that the modern way of dying does have its plus points. And the greatest of these, I would argue, is effective pain relief.

· Your section about Halloween and All Souls Day was interesting and not something I have come across before. Do you know if All Souls Day is still observed?

Not that I’m aware of, but I’m saying that very carefully because you never know when somebody will say actually we do still do that!

· The connection you make between a low life expectancy and the need to be hands-on to help the soul and body compared to a long life expectancy and having a more hands-off approach is compelling. I’ve read around this subject and ultimately not made the connection until reading your argument. Have you found many other readers like me in this regard or perhaps yourself?

I usually begin talks by noting what sociologists call ‘the predictable death trajectory’ – whereby nowadays most of us in the West die gradually from the chronic diseases associated with old age. I also talk about our modern ‘sequestration’ of the dying and dead away to the hospital, care home and hospice, and after death to the euphemistically named Chapel of Rest. Audiences nearly always identify with this kind of experience – although perhaps not always in quite these, it has to be said, rather clinical terms.

· I connected with your conclusion that people are feeling emotionally unsatisfied with funerals post World Wars. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced the very off hands approach and the more hands-on approach: my gran was brought back to the family home for a wake, this is the first time I saw a dead person and I remember helping make sandwiches and meeting people who came to pay their respects for the few days before the funeral. Because of this, I felt more emotionally complete compared to the former. You mention that there is a turning of the tide to the hands-off approach, how far do you think this may go before the pendulum swings back again?

On a personal level, as I mentioned earlier, one of my formative experiences was attending a funeral which represented the worst of the typical British late twentieth-century send-off: rushed, impersonal, and denial of the real sadness of loss. This experience inspired my efforts to ensure that as a society we move right away from this kind of ‘hands off’ approach to death. With my academic hat on, however, I think you’re probably right – historically we do rather seem to go through these cycles of invention, rejection then reinvention (in slightly different clothes) of ritualised expressions of grief and loss. As I discuss in the book, I can only see that stopping if and when humanity acquires immortality – at which point ‘living’ and ‘dying’ mean very different things anyway.

Is there an aspect from the past traditions of death and burials you would like to see a re-emergence of?

Not so much any particular custom, as the underlying concept – which I think people in the past intuitively understood – that grief is actually about refiguring the ‘continuing bond’ between oneself and the dead person. For much of the twentieth century – courtesy largely of Sigmund Freud – we’ve instead had this bizarre, and frankly cruel notion that to ‘recover’ from a bereavement is to reach a point where it’s almost as if the deceased never existed. It’s great therefore to see the re-emergence of spaces – including, in a twenty-first century twist, digital spaces – where one can carry on that relationship with dead loved ones.

· Remembrance Day is mentioned in your work as an example of the present remembering the dead. The debate comes round every November of whether commemorating Remembrance is still relevant now that the World War generations are passing on. Do you think Remembrance will cease to be remembered in the coming century?

Sort of. Memory, I think, works in half-lives; although the actual World War generations with their first-hand memories are now rapidly passing on, something of those memories lives on in their children and even in my own generation, their grandchildren. Although clearly I wasn’t around during the war(!), I grew up hearing about it from my grandparents who were, so it’s a part of me albeit at second remove. So I think my generation at least might keep on observing Remembrance in some form, even if just as a way of keeping in touch with our own grandparents.

· You have mentioned that you have always wanted to write this book, how does it feel to have accomplished this goal and been able to hold the physical book in your hands?

To me the physical book in my hands represents a hectic, happy time in my life: while writing it I also got a job I’d wanted for years and moved house, all in just a few months. None of this would have happened without all the support from my wonderful family and friends; in particular my husband Andy, who supplied endless toasted bagels and mugs of coffee (see earlier question), listened to me whinge and (not entirely joking here!) reminded me to wash.

· Your book focuses on the UK’s traditions of death and burial, do you think you would ever write a sequel about other countries traditions of death and burials? Such as, the sky burials of the Mongolians, the turning of the bones of Madagascar, New Orleans Jazz funerals etc.

A whole world of funeral customs… where to start?! It just shows how people are so endlessly, defiantly creative in the cold face of mortality, and that’s what I really wanted to celebrate in the book.

Lastly:

· Are you working on any future books that are articles at the moment?

I’m working on a book about Victorian funeral customs, which is (sort of) the book of my PhD topic. Meanwhile Stuart and I are also writing up our findings from the Grave Communications project so far.

· How can we follow your progress?

https://independent.academia.edu/HelenFrisby is the best place to find me online; I’m also on https://speakernet.co.uk if anyone wants me to come and do a talk for their group or event.

Happy World Book Day 2020!

Happy World Book Day!!!! I hope your all dressed up and cuddling up with a book under a blanket. This year me and the tiny woman are dressing up as…

Mary Poppins

and

……

Alice in Wonderland

Together we are

Mary and Alice! … (note to self: family costume next year :D)

The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd Book Review

Image from Goodreads

Publisher: John Murry Press, Two Roads

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publish Date: 6 February 2020

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

A truly wonderful book that moves the heartstrings and leads you to question the climate issue of the present. Glasfurd has chosen to write a historical novel about the year known as, the Year Without Summer: 1816. In the Sumbawa Islands, Indonesia, Mount Tambora stood at14,100 feet but the 1815 eruption reduce its hight to 9,350 feet while also killing over 71,000 people and throwing so much ash into the atmosphere it leads 1816 to be known as a year without summer. Crops failed, livestock died and famine became widespread in North America and Europe. The eruption of Mount Tambora was a super-colossal explosion, the worst in modern times with the eruption of Krakatoa coming in second.

It is during this year that Glasfurd has written 6 stories, the majority based on living persons, that show how the year without summer affected their lives. Starting with the most famous; Mary Shelly. Mary during 1816 is traveling with her future husband Percy Shelly and Claire Clairmont to meet with poet Lord Byron and his doctor, Polidori, in Switzerland. This meeting in Switzerland leads to one of the literature greatest moments. The “incessant rainfall” and unusual summer would led to a competition over ghost stories that would see the birth of Frankenstein. Next is the famous artist John Constable who saw his life change drastically in 1816 due to bereavement, marriage, and painting. Sarah Hobbs is much less known. In real life, she was the only woman condemned to hang for the Ely and Littleport riots of 1816 but her sentence was commuted. The riots concerned farmers, grain costs and unemployment. Although the issue was bubbling away on the back burner the 1816 crop failure acted as the spark that led to the riot. In the book, Sarah mimics real Sarah’s life but it is very loose. Cleverly, Glasfurd doesn’t just concern herself with 1816 she also writs a narrative based on the account of the Captain of the Benares. In this narrative the ship’s Doctor, Henry, records his mission first, to discover the cause of a sound, believing it to be pirates, to then discover the immediate aftermath of the Mount Tambora’s eruption. This account is quite graphic and heart-wrenching! Next a fictional character and narrative. An American Preacher settled in Vermont, Charles Whitlock, stands firm and convinces his flock of farmers to remain and weather the storm when they were preparing to leave, thereby leading to disastrous consequences. And Lastly, Hope Peter, a returning soldier from the Napoleonic Wars who finds the remains of his home.

All six narratives interested me deeply, I know from reading some other reviewers’ reviews that they could have done without some and could have had more of others, but I felt that all the narratives played a part in what the author ultimately wanted to achieve. An example of what a natural disaster, that has an enormous effect on climate change, can do to all types of people at different stations and situations. It wasn’t until recently that 1816 could be connected as a consequence of the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 and that the 1 to 2 degree chill effect had impacted the world through famine, politics and social unrest. A lot of parallels can be drawn from 1816 and today – but as the author questions, what does this knowledge give us?

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an E-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book Signing Event – A Light in the Depths by Christoper C. Fuchs

One More Page Books in Arlington VA, hosted Christopher C. Fuchs, author of the Earthpillar Novels, for a book signing event to promote his newly released novel A Light in the Depths yesterday (8th February 2020).

A Light in the Depths is the second prequel novel to Fuchs’s debut novel Lords of Deception and concludes Rildning’s journey. You can read my full review of A Light in the Depths here

A Light in the Depths can be ordered at Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Nobles as well as your local book shop with the ISBN:

eBook: 978-1-946883-05-6
Paperback: 978-1-946883-04-9
Hardback: 978-1-946883-13-1

A Light in the Depths by Christopher C. Fuchs Review

Image from www.earthpillarbooks.com

Publish Date 8 Feb 2020

Star Rating 5/5

Fuchs is back, with a powerful follow up to that cliff-hanger he left us with! A Light in the Depths is the second and final part of Rildning’s story which began in The Depths of Redemption. Unlike The Depths of Redemption Fuchs has changed his writing style back to character point of view charters, letting us get inside the minds of his vast cast.

The last book left us with the fall of Nalembalen and Rildning’s journal filled with New World secrets falling into the hands of the enemy. This book begins a year after the fall. The Gallerlanders still won’t use horses and metal leaving them vulnerable, they have won some victories but not enough. There is one last meaningful location left to the Gallerlanders, Gilgalem, and our heroes flee to it to prepare its defenses but allies are needed. Envoys are sent off in winter to potential allies, hoping to make common cause. Unfortunately, the enemy who are flowing across the New World have the same idea, making the Gallerlanders potential allies into their vassal-kings. Add to the mix: heart-rendering deaths, many a battle and seeing the great cities of Eglamour and Rachard be birthed and grown, The Light in the Depths becomes a book just can’t be put down, even for toilet breaks.

Unfortunately, I can’t go into more story without going into spoilers, so I will leave it here. However, I can do shout out to some of my favorite elements within this book. Hilsingor of Ned Gollen, Marshal of the Frontier Corps of Pemonia. is a fantastic character and a lover of wine, cheeses, and strategy, a person I could get along with in real life and gives off echoes of Sun Tzu. Then, there is a wolf among the sheep, an enemy operative who sits on the psychotic scale who successfully causes chaos from within while perfecting the perfect stick eye at Rildning. The Naren-Dra are impressive, I picture them as the Gods sitting in Olympia, watching the mortals below and messing with their life’s when they seem fit or come too close. Next, is a Macavalian Raffen vassal-king, willing to do whatever is needed regardless of what others think. Throughout, we are left to guess whether his surrender and adoption into the Brintilian Empire is sincere. But the biggest shout out goes to the creepy jailer of the Nyden. A sweet blind jailer who offers comfort in pitch dark cells only to help you by stabbing your eyes out through the cells’ keyhole. His scene was writing soo well mimicking gothic horror that it leaked into my nightmares. After all, what would you need your eyes for, in the dark, he was just helping…

A lot happened in this book, it’s well-paced and thoroughly engaging. It also, left a lot of room for future books, which is exciting. I would love to spend more time with the Naren-Dra and the Macavalian Raffen vassal-king. The only disappointing part: this book marks the end of Fuchs’s rapid release of books. Now comes the long wait…. luckily, I hear through the grapevine Fuchs will be publishing two new novelettes: Arcodum and The feuding Tower, this year to help tie us over until the next big book. If you haven’t already subscribe to the Earthpillar website, www.earthpillarbooks.com. By doing so, you get not just all the news about the upcoming releases, you also get Fuchs other two novelettes for free, The Revolution Machine and The Fourth Messenger. But ultimately, Christopher C. Fuchs write faster!

Thank you to Loremark Publishing for an E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

February Author of the Month: DW Gillespie

Image from Goodreads

This month I present to you: DW Gillespie, winner of the MacDougle Award in 2002, lover of all things horror, sci-fi and supernatural and a master of suspense! Gillespie was a new find for me last year and the book that introduced me to him was One by One, a chilling haunted house tale complete with a recently moved in family and creepy stick men drawings. Needless to say, he has a fan for life. So let’s get to know him:

What was your favorite childhood book?

Do videogame instruction manuals count? Do people even remember those at this point?

Seriously though, I really loved short stories as a kid, and there were always tons of scary story collections to choose from. I also vividly remember heading to the same section of the library in grade school to check out all the classic monster books. No clue if those things even exist anymore, but there were these really great series of books that had tons of pictures of the old Universal monsters, King Kong, Godzilla, all that stuff. Whenever we were supposed to be reading something constructive, I was back in that corner rotting my brain.

You have stated that the first story you wrote was in second grade and involved monsters wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting victim. Can you tell us more about it and if you have ever considered fleshing or rewriting it into a novel?

There’s probably not a ton of meat on those bones, to be honest. I don’t remember all the details but one story ended with my dad shooting Frankenstein in the head with a shotgun. Probably not enough to work with be honest.

I will say that I do enjoy going back to my earlier stories from my 20s and cannibalizing those stories. Most of them were not very good in terms of character or perspective, but there were lots of good ideas in them. My current work in progress is actually based on an unfinished story from about a decade ago.

What was the first horror book or short story you read that truly sent shivers up your spin and had you keeping the lights on?

I jumped right into some pretty heavy stuff once I started reading novels. I think Pet Semetary was my first Stephen King book, which is pretty wild to think about now. I was almost too young for some of that horror to really work on me though. It’s a lot scarier now that I’m a parent.

I think one of the first short stories that stuck with me was Harold from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Looking back now, those stories were mostly very simple, but I think that’s what made them work so well on kids. You just had a basic story, a very creepy picture, and your imagination filled in the rest. The ending of that one in particular is excellent…I don’t remember the exact words, but it’s something about Harold stretching human skin out to dry. Just perfect.

What is your favorite book now?

It definitely changes depending on what I’m into at the moment. I just read Boy’s Life by McCammon, which is just as fantastic as I’d heard. Definitely shot into my top ten instantly. I love books like that, things that sort of defy classification or genre. It was less of a horror book and more of a slice of someone’s life and the history of a town.

I’m also kind of obsessed by A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. It’s a deceptively simple book with so much depth hidden there.

As a horror writer, what is Halloween like in your house?

It’s a blast. I’m lucky that my wife and kids are both really into it. We almost always end up building a fire in the back yard and sit around, taking turns telling stories. I have aspirations to write a short story collection for kids at some point, and if I do, it will almost certainly include a frame story about a family sitting around a fire.

Who has been a main influence in your writing?

It’s kind of cliché to say, but it’s pretty much everyone. It would take forever to make a real list, but off the top of my head, I’d say the following people are huge influences on my imagination:

Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, John Carpenter, Clive Barker, Guillermo Del Toro, John Steinbeck, Cormac MacCarthy, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Gillian Flynn, Junji Ito, and on and on…

Do you have any mascots or rituals to your writing?

The biggest ritual for me is trying to find a theme song of the book I’m working on. It’s become such a vital part of the process for me. I spend a ton of time in my car driving to and from work, so if I can find a song that captures the mood of a book I’m working on, I’ll just listen to it over and over again. It really helps me envision scenes, and its useful for me work through any sticking points I might have.

What are you currently reading?

I just got a few new Junji Ito collections for my birthday. I just love his work, mainly because it’s so insanely different from mine. I really enjoy spending time in worlds that I could never up with on my own.

One By One:

Image from Goodreads

How did the story of One by One first come to you?

I wish I could say there was some really cool story about it, but this one just sort of popped into my head one day. It took some work to flesh out the idea, specifically bringing the characters and the house to life, but the central hook was definitely the seed that everything grew from. The idea of a family finding a picture of themselves hidden away in an old house…that was an concept that I just knew I had to run with.

There is something creepy about stick people and having them on the book cover first drew me in. Why do you think stickmen are unsettling?

I think it’s all about finding things in places where they shouldn’t be. A child’s drawing itself isn’t super creepy, but a child’s drawing hidden under old wallpaper is pretty damn chilling. I always love fiction that deals with those impossible, out of place things.

The house creates a beautiful atmosphere for the story. I could never stay in a bedroom that had windows that look out into a laundry room for fear of shadows crossing the curtains! Did you ever live near a house that inspired it or rented one for a vacation?

I’d say about 90% of the house as described in the book is taken directly from a house I lived in when I was in high school. There were a few details that I created, but most of the big ones were all real. The pool, the bedroom windows, the upstairs crawlspace, all of it was real.

Alice’s bedroom was directly inspired by my own, and I really did have windows that looked into a different room. The whole house was just oddly arranged, and it had been built onto several times over the years. It made it feel like a small scale Winchester Mystery House.

After reading this book, I talked the ear off of my husband about it. We had just moved into our first home and as revenge, he pulled a prank on me by drawing stick people on the wallpaper. Any pranksters in your family that like to make your work come alive?

First off, that’s such a great story! I love to hear when one of my books has escaped into the real world, so to speak.

My kids definitely know all about the basic plots of my books. My son in particular wants to hear all about them, and we talk through them, even in the early stages of the books while I’m still working things out. Neither of my kids have tried to prank us like that though…honestly, I don’t want to give them any ideas!

I feel we all know someone like Debra and Frank, why do you think Frank just couldn’t settle?

I love Frank, because you’re right, most everyone knows someone like that. He’s a schemer, but not in a bad way. He’s just the type of guy who gets genuinely excited about bad ideas, and his excitement rubs off on his family. They’re excited too!

I think most people can relate to them, just because the grind of being an adult is so boring. Even if we don’t admit it, I think most of us dream a little bit about jumping into something crazy, if for no other reason than to just escape the feeling of everything being so safe all the time.

Kudos, on the plot twist! Since the appearance of Walker with his mental problems, it got creepier and creepier. His last scene was particularly disturbing. Were his endsceen and demise always set in stone?

I had that final image of Walker in my mind relatively early on, so I worked back from that to make it work. A lot of the details changed, but I’m still in love with that image of him tapping on the glass, almost politely asking to be let in. Its almost an inversion of the movie trope of the bad guy returning for one last, crazy action sequence. I think in a sillier story, Walker and Frank might have had one last fight where Walker gets thrown into the pool or something like that. This is much darker than that, much more stark.

The epilogue tied everything up in the end nicely did you ever consider leaving it out to put us, poor readers, into purgatory?

Well, going back to the previous question, I knew I wanted to hit the audience with the surprise and horror of seeing Walker at the window. Then, with a hard cut away from the action, I wanted to give them a chance to breathe before they realized what actually happened that night. The epilogue is just a nice chance to let the story relax and settle after that shock.

Did you edit anything out of the book?

There weren’t any big plot threads or branches that had to be cut, beyond just the usual trimming. It’s a lean story, and I wanted to stay focused on Alice’s point of view.

I’m convinced One by One would make an amazing movie and reading through Goodreads review comments I’m not the only one. If the opportunity came along who do you see acting which character?

I certainly agree! I’m not really up on too many child actors, but I think you could probably age Alice up a bit for a movie. Someone like Millie Bobby Brown would be great, but even she’s probably too old at this point.

Maybe, if I’m lucky, there will be more to talk about on that front at some point!

Where is the best place to get ahold of One by One?

It’s available wherever books are sold, including Amazon of course.

Lastly:

What are you currently working on?

Three projects up in the air at the moment. I have my first middle-grade novel being read by publishers as we speak. I really hope to have some news on it soon, mainly just because I want to talk more about it. It’s a great, simple hook that I don’t want to say too much about until it’s signed.

I also just finished the first big round of edits on my next horror novel, tentatively titled The Mill. It’s the most gruesome book I’ve ever written, and a big change from my usual, more quiet horror. Hopefully, they’ll be some news in early 2020.

And finally, I’m in the early stages of yet another book. It’s another great hook, and I can’t wait to say more about it.

How can we follow you and stay in touch?

www.dwgillespie.com

www.facebook.com/dw.gillespie

www.twitter.con/dw_gillespie

We Are Monsters – Brian Kirk Book Review

Cover Image from Goodreads

Star Rating 5/5

Release Date 16 January 2020

I loved this book, the second half more than the first though the first is needed to set the stage. Alex is a Psychiatric Doctor working in an asylum and is being groomed to become the next Director of the hospital by his mentor and current director. However, unbeknown to Alex’s mentor, their treatment methods differ greatly. Alex’s mentor believes in holistic treatment with antipsychotic drugs used only when necessary whereas Alex believes heavily in antipsychotics, to the point he may have secretly created an antipsychotic that can cure schizophrenia. Unfortunately, while the antipsychotic works fine animals, the formula needs to be adjusted to work on humans. Luckily Alex has a schizophrenic brother and a whole hospital full of patients to use as test subjects or perhaps just one criminally insane serial killer.

The book focuses more on questioning, what is sanity? as we learn that, due to past traumas doctors are not quite sane themselves. Also, explored is how people with mental disorders ought to be treated – holistically or with mind-numbing drugs? As I previously said I prefer the second half of the book where we go down the rabbit hole of the mind of the insane or perhaps, a living Salvador Dali painting. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to explore these issues in a fictional way or for anyone who wants to escape into madness for a few hours.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Flame Tree Press, for an advanced electronic readers copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.