Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Smashing review of my first book ‘Is death really necessary?’

September 8, 2018

Did I ever post this here? Who can say. I have the memory of a goldfish. So here it is, just in case:

Is death really necessary? by [Moore, Judi]“Judi Moore’s novel Is Death Really Necessary? provides a fresh and intelligent approach to the genre of science fiction, dispensing with stereotypical fodder such as androids and electric sheep and, instead, introducing an intriguing environmental terrorism angle that is relevant to today’s concerns about the planet. This clever combination of both the current and an idea of the future grips the reader from the start and ensures their interest is maintained throughout. The other main plot driver – the race to find a life-saving tonic for Teddy, the main female protagonist, brings to mind the topical debate of science playing God and asks how far will people go to cheat their own mortality. Thrown in to the fast-paced tension is a spot of romance, broadening the appeal and the scope of the novel to beyond the traditional realms of science fiction.

Moore handles the material deftly, with an attractive writing style that defies other exponents of Sci-fi. The narrative makes use of a wide range of writing styles to complement the unfolding action – we have beautiful, descriptive prose alongside tense action, and all wrapped up in a subtle yet charming humour that makes the novel easily likeable. The characterisation is skilful and the dialogue realistic and well-balanced, achieving a good parity between general fiction and the more specialist vocabulary and narrative style of science fiction. This is a novel that will appeal to a broad readership – male and female, sci-fi fans and lovers of general fiction – and the adept use of nanonics in the storyline weaves the science fiction alongside elements of the thriller, with a level of comedy that provides well-placed relief from the tension. A great story by a talented, skilful and diverse writer.”  Sam Pope,  April 2014

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‘A Writer’s life for me’

September 2, 2018

They asked me what it’s like being a writer. So I told ’em.

In Frost magazine, 1 September, 2018:

https://www.frostmagazine.com/2018/09/52103/

Review of ‘Tizita’ by Sharon Heath

August 25, 2018

**  Review originally prepared for Big Al & Pals. Received a free review copy  **

Genre: Literary fiction     

Description: Amazon’s blurb says “Physics wunderkind Fleur Robins, just a little odd and more familiar with multiple universes than complicated affairs of the heart, is cast adrift when her project to address the climate crisis is stalled. Worse, her Ethiopian-born fiancé Assefa takes off right after her 21st birthday party to track down his father, who’s gone missing investigating Ethiopian claims to the Ark of the Covenant. … Assefa’s reconnection with a childhood sweetheart leads Fleur to … a bumbling encounter with her rival. The experience of tizita – the interplay of memory, loss, and longing – [flings] Fleur into conflicts between science and religion, race and privilege, climate danger and denial, sex and love … with humor, whimsy, and the clumsiness and grace of innocence.

Author: Amazon vouchsafes “Sharon Heath writes fiction and non-fiction exploring the interplay of science and spirit, politics and pop culture, contemplation and community. A certified Jungian Analyst … and faculty member of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, she … has [inter alia] given talks … on topics ranging from the place of soul in social media to gossip, envy, secrecy, and belonging. She blogs at http://www.sharonheath.com/. Which is all to say that she knows whereof she writes. Her breadth of knowledge about all manner of things is astonishing. She has the magpie eye of the true writer.

Appraisal: This is an extraordinary book. It is so stuffed with ideas that they overflow. There is a curiosity about the world in all the vibrant characters who inhabit the book. I learned much (as you know, I do like to finish a book feeling that I have done so) about physics, philosophy, religions (various), Ethiopia, Jane Goodall’s Gombe chimp sanctuary, the odd way humans behave toward each other and (not the least just because I’ve put it last) climate change. Read it to be amazed and informed as well as royally entertained. (Some of the word choices are exquisite.) Along the way Heath discusses racism, rape, female circumcision and abortion in the present day through her characters’ experience of these. There is plenty of sex. There is also plenty of mild self-harm (if self-harm can ever be mild).

Do not be put off by (but be prepared for) descriptions of everything a character’s eye lights upon (the descriptions are always vivid). There is also rather too much harking back to the first book about Fleur Robins (The History of my Body). There is both not enough to make what happened in the first book meaningful for someone who has not read it, and too much of it for Tizita to carry without it becoming burdensome. These interpolations interfered with pace from time to time. This strategy also threw up that Fleur’s life (physics project apart) seemed to have been marking time for the five years between The History of my Body and Tizita.

FYI:   a few f*ck-bombs, plenty of sex, description of rape, female circumcision, and self-harm; discussion of abortion and racism.

Review: ‘The Slant Six’ by Christopher F Cobb

August 24, 2018

** Review originally prepared for Big Al & Pals. Received a free review copy **

Genre: Sci-fiThe Slant Six by [Cobb, Christopher]

Description: The Slant Six was a Semi-Finalist in the Florida Writer’s Association Royal Palm Literary Awards, presumably in 2017.

The book blurb says “The year is 2252 and Loman Phin is in trouble. A washed-up channelship racer turned freelancer, he hits pay dirt with his latest mission: a fortune is on the line if he can transport forty-three kilograms of human skin to a remote villa on Pluto’s moon, Nix. Little does he know his very life is at stake when he gets caught up in an ancient feud, chased by a space vampire, and forced into a death-race by the king of Ceres. Meanwhile, danger is always hot on his heels in the form of a massive space freighter out for Loman’s blood. With just his wits, his friends, and his beat-up cruiser, the Slant Six, Loman sets out on the most dangerous adventure of his life.”

About the author: Christopher Cobb set out to be an actor. That didn’t go so well, so he returned to Florida, did a degree in Social Science and Ethnic Studies, and now works as a Marketing Specialist for the Palm Beach County Film and TV Commission. He lives in Jupiter, lucky man (work it out). He is published by Florida-based Darkwater Syndicate who say they are ‘the publishing company with a defense contractor’s name … We refuse to be mainstream. Our authors are not afraid to push boundaries and buck trends.’ This is his second novel.

Appraisal: The Slant Six is a dashing space opera which rushes headlong from disaster to disaster. There is hardly a space opera trope which hasn’t been lovingly plundered to add to the mayhem. Cobb’s language is a sort of space opera patois which I have never come across before. Most appropriate. The plot is derivative but the story is told with such immense energy it outstrips its well-known origins. Cobb is good with dialogue and action (his actor background stands him in good stead) and he keeps the whole crazy ride just about on course.

Death is not an absolute in this book. People are more or less dead at various points. They quite often don’t stay that way. Sadly, the people one wishes could become less dead are usually the people who are dead for good. The right things happen to the right people by the end, but the ending is not a happy one (although it is complicated). Stick with it.

As people often say about a book which is very visual, this would make a good film. It begs to be Spielberged. If you enjoyed Stars Wars I – III you will enjoy this.

Almost every qualifier in the book is a bodily function. There is a lot of ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’ sex (without the thank you). There are some proper female characters, but most of the women in the book are described as whores and bitches most of the time. If that sort of thing doesn’t bother you, read on.

 

My latest book at almost half price on AmazonUK!

August 15, 2018

Review of ‘The Labyrinth of Osiris’ by Paul Sussman

August 8, 2018

The Labyrinth of Osiris by [Sussman, Paul]

This is a tremendous read. It is a whopping 744 pages long and after that there is a useful 20 page glossary. (Had I known it was there I might have referred to it during my reading of the book. It is not essential, but it is interesting.)

If you have an interest in Egyptology, and the modern Middle East (specifically Egypt and Israel) then this book was written for you. If you enjoy Dan Brown’s books but have no specific interest in the Middle East I believe you will still enjoy the ride.

Sussman’s grasp of the three Abrahamic religions in Jerusalem and Luxor, and elsewhere in Egypt and Israel, and their factions (Copts and Druze to name but two) is both wise and deep. Using that understanding, and his professional expertise in archaeology, he has woven this vast, labyrinthine book. His plotting is assured, his characters varied and complex. He leads the reader through his 744 pages without one ever losing one’s place in the scheme of things.

As the plot blossoms connections are made which span decades, then centuries. Eventually, what looked at first like a single murder in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem has grown to include a slew of bodies and an international conspiracy. The two main protagonists – Jewish policeman Alieh Ben-Roi and Egyptian policeman Yusuf Khalifa – have private lives filled with trouble. Indeed, trouble is everywhere: wells are poisoned, people get lost in life-threatening terrain. Politically, trouble is never far away either. Nevertheless, the Muslim and the Jew work well together, as they did in an earlier book by Sussman (which you don’t need to have read in order to enjoy this).

Sussman sets the book in 2012, the year he sadly died. Although 2012 is now six years in the past, and Middle Eastern politics are as fluid as water, many of the antagonisms in the region are as old as Abraham. I felt I had learned something about the ways of the Middle East from the reading of this book. I also learned plenty about Ancient Egypt (long an interest of mine). But the main grist of the book is a fascinating thriller.

Sussman only wrote four novels (plus one finished by other hands and published posthumously). His death (of an aneurysm at the age of 45) is a loss to the ‘history and mystery’ genre. This is work of superior quality. I read a lot in the genre and I have not come across a book as well written or plotted as this before.

A different kind of urban

July 7, 2018

It occurs to me that I may never have put the (lengthy) poem ‘A different kind of urban’ on my blog here. You may remember it formed the lyrics for the choral piece of the same name, for which Liz Lane wrote the music, which was commissioned from us by the Open University Choir to celebrate Milton Keynes @ 50 (there having been planning of the town going on in 1967, if no actual building). So here it is.

A different kind of urban

1: What do we celebrate?

We celebrate a different kind of urban,
something half a century old now, yet still brand new;
which embraces its past and its deeper past,
always changing, always growing –
still in a state of flux and roil, as it has always been.
Still excited, still exciting; fresh and hopeful for the future.

Everything begins with imagination …

2: Up in the air

Imagine: you are a bird flying home
from the south, as the day begins to go
and there beneath you, the whole of the town
lies like a complicated plaid below.

Behind the town, the remnants of the day
clamour a fanfare of glorious colour –
orange, red, purple – in the western sky.
Ephemeral. A burst of energy.

You think the show is over now, as twilight
deepens – ah, but wait! The orange streetlights
of our town begin to echo nature,
challenging the glory of the sunset.

First, the margins of the main roads come alight,
then the town’s estates begin to twinkle.
So many! As the twilight deepens on
they come, and on, like an ostinato
starting with a single voice, which grows
until the whole choir joins in song.

*

Through the pattern of lit streets, other lights are threading now;
sinuous as prayers floating on a holy river.

The white lights flow towards us and the red lights flow away.
And for a magic moment we cannot process what we see,

until we, too, start for home, when it at once comes clear
what these streams are. They do not float on any holy river;
they grind and growl and rumble upon asphalt roads,
for they are simply cars, cars, cars, and yet more cars –

and you and we and they are going home.

3: Down on the ground

Our history is woven through the earth we stand on
enriching our lives and the lives which came before.
Beneath our feet lie its warp and weft, a pattern
of primeval ley lines, alignments of constellations
and drovers’ roads, channeling ancient powers.

Canals, those engineering marvels, cut through
the land remorselessly. Beside them run the railways
triumphs of shaped steel, superceding them,
and superceded in their turn by tarmacked roads.

We live at a crossroads of Albion –
everything meets here: road, rail and water,
travelling north and south, east and west.
We are pinned in our place by the arrow
of Watling Street, the London Road, the A5,
thrumming to the spinning of a million wheels.

*

Up it, roaring mad, Boudicca came.

Where else would a grieving Edward stay
but here with us, the night he brought the
body of his dear Queen Eleanor
to London. Her crosses bear witness.

Crookback Dick kidnapped his nephews here
when he through trickery acquired the crown
he could not keep long, at last in his turn
hast’ning up Watling Street to Bosworth Field.

From all points of the compass dons and
crossworders came to crack Nazi codes
in World War Two. (Ten thousand people
working there – and no-one ever knew.)

Be assured, citizens of this new place,
we are no backwater of history here.

4: In the heart

This is the last and greatest of the new towns.
Architects, those techno-mages, drew up their plans
the very year of the summer of love,
when there were still loon pants, and long hair,
and money and vision. They made the town
out of straight lines and circles and low rise homes,
gave it good green lungs to help us breathe;
trees to scrub the air clean; open space,
where we may feel the grass beneath our feet,
As the town rose up out of the mud,
Baby Boomers arrived here in droves.
A unique generation of optimistic children,
rosy with free education and the welfare state,
we said, “let’s put the show on right here!” And we did.

In the middle of nowhere, we put on the shows,
the displays, the gigs and the festivals.
And we still do.

*

Those funky architects of ’67 knew
there is a little druid in us all
(it never truly leaves the human soul)
so built a boulevard to celebrate
the sunrise at midsummer.

So we whose town this is,
we techno-pagans
of every faith, or none,
know that there
at the city centre Belvedere,
as an affirmation
the sun will rise
as a ball of fire,
on the longest day of the year.

And again in November
we gather there together,
to mark the return of winter
on Guy Fawkes Night with fire.

As the fireworks burst above us
we stand silently in wonder,
shoulder to shoulder
in the dark.
At those times we realise
the town’s soul is older
even than the Druids
and not new at all.

5: An ending, but not the end

In this new place to live
we look for a new way to live
and cherish our diversity.

The deep past of our town,
and its continuing modernity
inform our lives from day to day.

What will our town’s next great story be?

Judi Moore © 2017

Review of ‘Little Mouse’ in ‘Frost’ magazine

June 11, 2018

Some of you may have noticed that the wee rodent won a prize recently. It is the 2018 Words for the Wounded Georgina Hawtrey-Woore Award for Independent Authors Fiction Winner.

Now a splendid review of it has appeared in Frost magazine here: www.frostmagazine.com/2018/06/wforw-georgina-hawtrey-woore-award-for-independent-authors-fiction-winner/

Here is the actual review, by Margaret Graham:

Mouse“Little Mouse is what any fiction judging team longs for, a book which is different, and it is one that this team felt was supreme. Little Mouse is succinctly written, structured perfectly, the point of view intact, the characterisation of all the characters spot on, even to the ‘voice’ of the almost four year old, Theo. Within a page it becomes unputdownable, and sustains the attention, leading the reader to the ultimate question: ‘What would I do?’

Judi Moore captures exactly, or so one imagines, the sense of peril felt by this Jewish family in Nazis Germany. She understands the historical perspective, and steadily peels back the layers to reveal the true nature of the friend, but can he really be as they suspect?

Moore’s understated style is multi-layered and subtle as we follow the passage of Theo’s young life as he is forced to burst into an early maturity. Decisions must be made, but what will be the cost to him?

Does this sound tantalising? Well it should. We were all left feeling thoughtful, stretched, enlightened, and moved. Such a novel, such writing and still that question: what would we do?”

 

 

The Georgina Hawtrey-Woore Award

June 7, 2018

Delighted finally to be able to announce that my novella, Little Mouse, has won the above this year. Words for the Wounded run a competition for long fiction and non-fiction. I entered Little Mouse in the fiction for adults category. “We are thrilled to let you know that Little Mouse is the winner of our Fiction category. It is a fabulous book, and we were unanimous in awarding you First Place. Congratulations from us all.”

I’ve known about this for many weeks, but have been sworn to secrecy – so, of course, I had to forget all about it or explode. But my subconscious didn’t forget. Yesterday was The Day of Announcement and a light bulb came on somewhere in my hindbrain. A little voice said, ‘time to blow your own trumpet.’ So here we are: toot, toot, tootle tootle, toot.

“After Kristallnacht in 1938 Doktor Theodore Goldstein, his wife Lisl, and their small son Theo, flee from Berlin, across the North Sea to Edinburgh. There, for more than ten years, they build a new life – a good life. But then a friend from the old days arrives, and they find themselves once again facing ruin and terror.”

‘Dropping Out: a tree change novel-in-stories’, Danielle de Valera

May 27, 2018

 

**originally prepared for Big Al & Pals indie review site: received a free copy**

Genre: linked short stories     Dropping Out: a tree change novel-in-stories by [de Valera, Danielle]

Description: these stories tell episodes in the lives of a number of people who moved to the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales in Australia as a result of the Aquarius Festival held in Nimbin in 1973. De Valera moved to the area in 1977. She writes about what brought these people to Murwillumbah, why they stayed, why they left, why they came back again. She draws beautiful pictures of the beauty and the hardships of life in this remote area at a time when almost all its traditional means of making a living were dead or dying. The stories cover 35 years.

And then there is the final story. More of that one anon.

Author: Danielle de Valera has had a chequered career, raising her family whilst working variously as a botanist, an editor, a cataloguer for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries Library and the John Oxley Library, and on the main floor of Arnott’s biscuit factory. She is best known for her short stories, which have appeared in diverse publications including Penthouse, Aurealis and Australian Women’s Weekly. Some of these linked stories were first published in that way. And you can buy several of them as standalones on Kindle.

Appraisal: I loved these stories. I loved the cover too. There is a sense of being out of time, in a rugged, basic Narnia which people found, loved, then stayed. They flee from it from time to time when life there gets too hard, but they return as well because it has a siren call. Life there has simple attractions. If you have an issue with the law, this is a place to hide. If you ARE the law, and need a change of pace, it’s good too. If you don’t want to pay taxes, or have people telling you what to do, or just need some peace, this is the place for you.

If you asked one of your parents to tell you stories of ‘the old days’, you’d hear a lot of different stories about the people your mum (or dad) was friends with. You’d probably think about what might’ve happened to those people in between stories. In the end you’d come to know the people in the stories really well. So well that you’d ask mum to tell you another story about Star or God or Baby in Murwillumbah. That’s what this book is like. When I finished it I kept thinking about the characters in it, wondering what they got up to in the interstices when de Valera wasn’t writing about them. I can’t remember the last book that had this effect on me: it will certainly repay rereading.

The stories are told with great pace and verve. They are gritty and poignant. The whole is leavened with wit and humour.

The final story is a problem. It is set 120 years in the future, so is out of sync with everything else. I found that hard to adjust to. It is about different characters (unsurprisingly) and isn’t about the descendants of the earlier stories either, as far as I can tell (although there is an Azure in the earlier stories and an Azuria in the last one, for reasons I couldn’t unpick). The society it sketches has gaps where more information would have helped (eg why were the artificial people created? why the wings?) but includes information dumps about pipe tobacco and bottles of stout that seemed to have little relevance to the plot. I felt deflated and puzzled by the story. It has cost the book a star, sadly.

(I should tell you I have no idea what a ‘tree change novel’ is.)


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