Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review for the Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird

Not what I was expecting – excessively much religion preached to the reader  - 2 stars

The reason for my selection of this book was the time period and place of the story.  I was not disappointed there, but there was way too much religion in this book for me.  With that being said I know there had to be some because of the story about witchcraft and how the pious people felt about that.  They felt threatened by anyone with this power because they were ignorant to most of the ways of the healers living in that time, even though they would call upon them for their ailments.

Maggie Blair is orphaned at a young age and is raised by her maternal grandmother, Elspeth, a supposed witch in rural Scotland.  The old woman is a cantankerous old sort and not all that nice to Maggie who has to work hard, but deep down the elderly woman loves her very much.  They are very poor and many times have to scrounge for food along the seashore.  Maggie is a very lonely girl, but determined to try her best so as not to bring down the wrath of her grandmother who no one in the small village likes because she shouts incantations at all of them and is an angry woman, yet despite all that she is called upon for her midwife talents.

I felt Maggie was lost most of the time as to what to do about any given situation and was easily swayed by others opinions and sure the wrath of the devil would descend upon her for any number of things she might have done.  She does mature as the story goes along and her granny’s voice bolsters her along when she’s feeling weak and unsure.

This story takes place in seventeenth century Scotland and this is a very significant time in history because people were very superstitious and ignorant about witches, so you had to be very careful to watch what you were doing when stirring up any potions for ailments or when chanting anything that could be construed as a spell.  It’s also the time when King Charles rules the land and is determined to rid the territory of Protestants or force them into submission.  Religion played a big part in people’s lives.

After little baby Ebenezer dies, as Elspeth predicts after she delivers him, Maggie and her granny are arrested for witchcraft and dragged from their small shack by an angry mob that includes neighbors granny has yelled at in the past.  They are thrown in the tollbooth to await trial.  

I’ve always been interested in the Salem witch trials and this charge was similar to what was going on in New England in the US at that time.  This perked my interest and I wanted to see what would happen to them as witnesses came forth at the trial and this was the reason for picking the book up to read in the first place.  

As it turns out they are both sentenced to die for their crimes, first by hanging and then by burning at the stake, which is how many of these trials ended during those times. We never do really find out if Elspeth and Maggie are indeed witches.  There are things in the book that make you think so, or make you wonder at least.

Maggie manages to escape with the help of a vagabond friend named Tam who has looked after her from afar all of her life.  I really liked this character even though he was a drunk, a thief, a liar, or whatever it took to survive his life on the road.  He was very good at getting around unseen, a great piper and had a good heart.

Tam helps arrange passage for Maggie to go and stay with her uncle and his family after her escape from the tollbooth.  Of course after she arrives at their farm there is nothing but more trouble because her uncle is a very religious man and one of the very Protestants that the king’s men are after.  Maggie is betrayed by Annie, the girl who gave false statements about her at the witch trial.  When Annie shows up at the uncle’s house he takes her in even though Maggie tries to talk him out of it.  The uncle thinks Maggie is just holding a grudge and should forgive the girl who almost got her hanged.  The uncle is way too religious for my blood and never wavers in his beliefs and is thus easily fooled by people who said they repent for all of their past sins whether they did or not.  Those seem to be the words he's longing to hear from everyone he meets.

Maggie works hard and tries to fit in with this new family that is so different from her grandmother, but they seem to think more of Annie than they do of her.  Times get rough for all of them after Annie betrays them and the king’s men arrest her uncle.  After this Maggie feels it's her duty to help him anyway she can even if it means giving up her own life to do so.  When the time is right she sets out into the Scottish countryside with Tam, the piper, in hopes of locating where her uncle is being held prisoner and giving him some money that has been collected and perhaps even helping him to escape.

All the characters in this book are well drawn.  The scenery and towns are described beautifully.  I truly enjoyed the many adventures and predicaments the characters get themselves into.  I was disappointed it wasn’t more about the witch trials and didn’t contain a bit more fantasy.  As stated above, it was a bit too religious for my tastes, filled with scripture and bible verses and not something I would ordinarily read although I know this probably set well with the time period, events and places portrayed.  Despite all this, it was an interesting quick read.  

Throughout the book Maggie wrestles with her natural ability to heal people like her granny and the religious beliefs held by her uncle, not knowing exactly where she fits in.  This is a thought provoking read.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Need help marketing your book?

NoiseTrade, a music marketing company, recently expanded to help authors and publishers market books.

How it works:

You release chapters or full books as giveaways in exchange for customer data.  The idea is to help you build your mailing list.  I’m not sure what I think of this idea since I’ve always been against authors giving away their writing free.  It’s too much hard work and, as they say, if you can get the milk free, why buy the cow?  Ultimately, it’s the writer’s choice.

But the good news is, NoiseTrade sends out a weekly email highlighting e-books and audio books.  This email goes out to 1.2 million people.  So you decide if it’s all worth it.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Need advice for love scenes?

Twenty authors share their tips with you.  The authors contributing advice write adult fiction and Y/A novels.  Check it out here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review of The Double (Spero Lucas) by George Pelecanos

Slow to start
4 Stars

This is the first book I’ve read by this author.  I love mysteries and the first thing that caught my attention was the title.

The main character, Spero, is a vet from Afghanistan turned private eye.  He is a womanizer, drinks too much, smokes too much, and likes to get into violent confrontations.  Even though he has all these bad traits, there is still some incentive to ride his bike, kayak, and stay fit.  On these adventures, the reader gets to see bits of the countryside around Washington DC.

It’s Spero’s job to find evidence about murder victims, retrieve stolen merchandise, etc which he’s good at doing because he’s willing to do whatever it takes.  Along with his main job, working for lawyer, Tom Peterson, he takes on odd jobs that usually bring him into contact with women, most of whom find him irresistible.  The women he meets all drink about as much as he does, which I don’t think would be the case in real life.

Pelecanos squeezes Spero’s private life with family in between his sleuthing and his beating up people to get information about his cases, which usually involve pretty and/or lonely women.  There is a lot of fighting with fists and guns and several descriptive sex scenes, so if this bothers you, be forewarned.

Once this book gets going, it’s an interesting read, but there was nothing special about the story.  It didn’t really have an “oh wow” that will stick in my mind long after I closed the cover.  But not everything is resolved in the end so maybe a sequel is coming.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A new site for humor writers

A new website called LaughRiotPress will be opening this year.  LaughRiotPress is a new site dedicated to self-published humor writers.  The purpose is for writers to connect directly with readers looking for humor books.

To sign up, or read more, check out LaughRiotPress.