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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Review of my novel, 'Bittersweet'.

Bittersweet was truly a fantastic read, thank you immensely for the opportunity to review it! Below is the review itself and it will be up on the website shortly, let me know what you think.
-Best Regards, David @benefry
and www. https://quick-book-review.blogspot.co.nz/

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“Bittersweet” by p.d.r. Lindsay – A Savage in Gentleman's Clothing

A Wickedness Unforgiven

As gloomy as the reality is, sexual violence is one of those things that have persisted throughout the ages and across all cultures in the world. It is, quite sadly, one of the few factors that unite all of our races and ethnicities together. While some of us may have the fortune of living in a place on Earth where such crimes are rather uncommon, there are countless people out there who aren't nearly as lucky, especially those living in countries with absurd disparities between the poor and the powerful. What's even worse, these acts are committed by the last person you would expect just as often as they are by the most obvious suspects. Rape is an insidious and damnable crime in every respect, one that merits punishment at all costs, something our hero, Bryce Ackerman, discovers in his life-changing journey in Bittersweet by p.d.r. Lindsay.

Without spoiling anything, the story takes place during the early 1870s in the British Raj, a period when the British Crown ruled on the Indian subcontinent. We are introduced to the afore-mentioned Bryce Ackerman, a banker who finds himself on a most noble mission: avenge the dishonour inflicted upon his fiancée, Aimée. Once slated to marry, their plans fell through when Aimée had been brutally raped by some so-called noble British soldiers. Upon learning and receiving confirmation that these men were predators in a very disgusting competition with each other (Aimée wasn't their only victim), Bryce decides to track them down by his own means and bring death to the one who commanded them. Needless to say, it's a task much easier said than done: to accuse influential and highly-reputed men of such sinister crimes is a most dangerous task, one that puts Bryce on a collision course with some truly powerful and ruthless villains.

An Eye-Opening Window Into Another Culture

There are a few things to discuss about the book, but first I would like to direct the attention towards the author's ability to recreate a world from the past and suck us deeply into it. A lot of effort and research was quite obviously put into the creation of the setting, with all the noises, sights, sounds and smells painting vivid and unforgettable pictures of 1870s India. The descriptions are quite deep and even touch on the atmospheres and mentalities that permeated through the air in those times, and while I can't exactly check them for accuracy, they feel absolutely genuine and help you become immersed as if you're a part of the world, rather than being a mere observer.

This world-building turns out to be quite useful in helping us understand the characters, what they are going through, what fears and desires and manipulate their whims, and by what customs and standards they are measuring their actions.

A Cast with some Spark

Speaking of the characters, the story is populated by a fair amount of them, with there being a central core of supporting characters around Bryce, opposite to them we have the villainous soldiers, as well as plenty of others who come and go as the plot progresses. The narration is told from Bryce's perspective, and so we are privy to his most personal, intimate and innermost thoughts. As things unfold he turns out to be quite a clever and capable thinker, a man who wrestles with inner turmoil as much as anyone else out there. His delivery is often simple, concise, and to the point, making the story quite easy to follow.

On the other hand, the villains are everything we need our bad guys to be. They are deceitful, prey on the young and weak, get away scott-free because of their status in society, and basically show no remorse in what they are doing, even convincing themselves they are actually in the right. In other words, there are no doubts about who you should be rooting for and it doesn't take much motivation to see them as the devil incarnate. There is a slight reproach to make however, and it's that there are a few sequences in which the villains' dialogue feels slightly dry and perhaps a bit unnatural, but those instances aren't prominent enough to become a real problem.

A Story that Sticks with You

Looking at the plot itself, I have no problem in characterizing it as one of those stories that will stay with you for a long time to come. You'll find yourself thinking about the events, mulling them over in your head, wondering what the messages, implications and consequences might be. While a few of the chapters and passages are on the slower and tamer side, much of the novel is about the evil that men do under the shadows of wealth and privilege. It's the kind of tale where things don't always work out, and just like in life, a happy ending is anything but guaranteed. There are a few truly jolting moments and twists that really keep you hooked in and increasingly worried for the fates of the heroes, all leading up to a memorable and satisfying conclusion.

As you might have gathered from the rest of the review, the story is full of very dark and heavy themes, touching on rape and dangerous kinds of lust. The author wrote it with a certain free-flowing honesty where ugly truths are addressed as they truly are, rather than sugar-coated with euphemisms. While the messages in regards to basic human decency might seem like common sense to many of us, I assure you there are still countless people in the world who have yet to learn them (though unfortunately, I find it doubtful they'll seek this book out). p.d.r. Lindsay doesn't shy away from sharing her opinions and points of view on the matter, and they are definitely deserving of some pondering.

The Final Verdict

Looking at everything from A to Z, Bittersweet is a book that definitely deserves some more recognition. It has a truly fascinating and enthralling world, interesting and memorable characters, a story that entertains you with its twists but also makes you contemplate on some of the darker aspects of the human condition, namely lust, violence and power. The premise is delivered in a unique way that really makes the novel stand out from its counterparts, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a top-notch historical drama seasoned with mystery and vengeance.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Dunedin Readers and Writers Festival

Full marks to the organisers for pulling the festival all together. It seemed to run smoothly and the writers invited were excellent. I could only attend at the weekend, the festival began on Wednesday and finished on Sunday evening, and I had to pick the sessions with the visiting authors as they were pricey. I enjoyed the  Friday evening opener with all the authors: Ian Rankin, Stella Duffy, John Lanchester, Hannah Kent, Bill Manhire and Victor Rodger, (M.J. Carter missed it) with MC Kate De Goldi. There was a crime panel on Saturday afternoon with M.J. Carter, Ian Rankin, Stella Duffy and a Sunday morning session with historical fiction writer,  Hannah Kent. I was delighted to hear her speak as she has written two historical novels in a similar vein to my historical novel, 'Tizzie' and she is an inspirational speaker!

It seems to me it's good pratice for a writer to attend such a festival as a reader. It certainly does give one a different perspective looking as a writer from the reader's side of the signing table. Writers are observers and I observed and learnt.

At my next group book signings I will remember not to huddle with my colleagues but try for a little separation. I had no idea how intimidating it can feel when you have to approach three authors with only one of their books. What do you do? What do you say? "Sorry I can only afford one book."?  Fortunately M.J. Carter was very kind and signed and smiled at me. Perhaps she's quite new to the Book Festival signing lark or maybe she's just a sweet person. The other two looked, looked away and chatted. I felt terrible, but I was saved by another reader wanting their signatures. I will, as a writer, remember to smile sweetly in that situation and make a friendly comment like: "Good choice, I really enjoyed that book and she's/he's a good writer." Readers remember. I still feel awkward and it's been a couple of days.

The other thing I will remember to watch is those first 3 second assumptions we will make about people. I don't go around wearing those 'Look at me! I'm a creative person, a writer person!' type clothes, I am grey haired and walk with a stick. I wear what I call classic clothing so I got the 'Oh no, this looks like another middle class gushing old lady' look. Not something to flick between yourself as author with an author colleague if, as is most likely, it turns out said little old lady/gentleman is a sharp minded, keen and critical reader. That glance will be noted and it will rankle. Never upset your readers, they won't buy your books. And I didn't!




Review: My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

My Italian BulldozerMy Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Goodness me! Mr McCall Smith has been on a wine tour of Italy, making notes all the way. The end result is this gently humorous, kindly love story. Food writer, Paul Stuart, devastated by his girl friend's defection with her personal trainer, is encouraged by his editor, Gloria, to head for Italy, Tuscany in fact, to finish his new cook book there.

In a delightful series of disasters Paul finds himself driving to his village retreat, Montalcino, in a bulldozer. His journey, and the people he meets, the village and his adventures there are typical of McCall Smith's gentle wit, wisdom and humour. Needless to say Paul recovers from his girl friend's heartlessness, finally realises what love is all about, and the bulldozer performs some secret tasks for the village which he prefers not to know.

For those wanting a pleasant read, a chuckle and a bit of comfort that the world is not always bleak then do enjoy this novel. It really is a heart warmer.



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