Keeping an Open Mind

Today I’d like to share my thoughts about two books I read recently. My favourite genres are usually thrillers and sagas. I also love a good tale of triumph over adversity, which is a theme that traverses across many genres. However, I try to keep an open mind and try something new once in a while, especially if it’s something that has been talked about a lot or that is performing very well in the Amazon sales charts.

I was going through one of those reading lulls recently when nothing I read really excited me. Although I had read a few books that I thought were quite good, none of them set me on fire and I was eager to discover something that gripped me. Then I found, not just one, but two books that made an impact on me. Neither of them was in my usual genres, which shows that it’s good to keep an open mind. Here are the two books and my thoughts about them:

Me before You by Jojo Moyes

I picked this one up at my local pub (more about that in a future blog post), and the reason why I chose it was because I knew that Jojo Moyes is a very popular author yet I hadn’t tried any of her books before. I was also familiar with the title and had a vague recollection of it being a movie.

Wow! This was one of those books where the appeal lies in the storytelling as much as in the story itself. Jojo Moyes is a brilliant author and I’ll certainly be reading more of her books in the future.

It tells the tale of a young woman, Lou, whose life lacks direction. Will, on the other hand, is a highflyer, ambitious and adventurous, until an accident changes his life completely and he becomes a quadriplegic.

When Lou loses her job at the Buttered Bun teashop, she comes to work as Will’s carer. Finding it difficult to adapt to life as a quadriplegic, Will is embittered and has given up on life. At first he is antagonistic and patronising towards Lou but she eventually wins him round. There is a lot more to the novel than that but I don’t want to give too much away.

I found this book deeply emotional, which really drew me in. The story was told with a sensitivity and perception that only the most skilled of authors could pull off. Jojo Moyes is truly a talented writer.

But the book wasn’t all pathos; there were touches of humour that helped to break up the bleaker moments. I especially liked the author’s witty comments regarding the love-hate relationship between Lou and her sister, and Will’s sense of mischief.

As I read the book I could actually visualise it being played out on screen and it left me wondering whether the movie is in sympathy with the book or whether the producers have altered parts of it. Having read a little about the film since, I note that it caused a backlash because of its insensitive approach. That’s a shame because I didn’t feel that the book was insensitive at all. I can honestly say that this book touched me more than anything I’ve read in ages, and I’ll definitely have to watch the movie version to see what I think.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

I was drawn to this book for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a bestseller, and secondly, it’s the ultimate tale of triumph over adversity.

Heather Morris gives the reader an insight into life inside Auschwitz and Birkenau as seen through the eyes of the prisoner of war camps’ tattooist. The book definitely made an impact on me as it transported me to that time and place and, although most people are familiar with the hardship suffered by prisoners of war, this book lays it all bare. The author actually interviewed the tattooist so the book is told from his point of view, revealing what life was like for him and the other prisoners.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is undoubtedly harrowing but I felt that it lacked the emotional depth of Me before You. Having read the two books in quick succession, it did make me wonder whether this was due to differences in writing styles or whether it was a conscious approach by Heather Morris. Perhaps the emotional depth had to be lacking, otherwise the whole novel would have been deeply disturbing and depressing.

Furthermore, the writer’s matter-of-fact approach may have been a reflection of how hardened the prisoners had become to the harsh regime. As it was based on the tattooist’s own story, it was necessary for the book to reflect his thoughts and feelings. In fact, in the Afterword written by the tattooist’s son, he describes how his mother reacted when, many years after their release, they lost their home. He was curious as to why she was singing and had a smile on her face, and she explained to him that after surviving the prisoner of war camps they could deal with most things.

Both of these books were the types of novels that left me pondering long after I had finished reading. That’s the sign of a really good book, I think, and I highly recommend them both.

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Early Reviews for ‘Danger by Association’

I’m thrilled with how well ‘Danger by Association’ has been received. It’s had some glowing reviews already. Authors are generally advised not to respond to reviews on Amazon but I’m always tempted to thank the customers who have bought the book and taken the trouble to write a review. So, here is a big thank you to all those customers who have reviewed ‘Danger by Association’ (or any of my books) on Amazon or Goodreads and/or left a rating on Goodreads.

Here is a sample of some of the reviews that have come in during the last few days:

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed this book

By Ann on 13 July 2016

Enjoyed this book have read a lot of Heather Burnside books and must say they have all been good so yes roll on the next one .

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read can’t wait for her next book

By Kindle Customer on 11 July 2016

Excellent read can’t wait for her next book. Is there one on the way?

 

5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read.

By Amazon Customer on 5 July 2016

It was a great read though very hard to put down , knowing the characters from the previous book it was so easy to get into, if you hadn’t read the previous books it might have not been as easy to understand the story would recommend this book to all mancunians.

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Feedback

By Amazon Customer on 2 July 2016

I’ve read the trilogy in 5 days absolutely brilliant. Total suspense throughout and will be recommending this series to all my friends !

 

5.0 out of 5 stars A belting story

By Angela lockwood on 1 July 2016

A belter of a read . A real page turner full of twists and turns

 

In answer to the reader who asked whether there is another book on the way; yes, I’m currently working on a new book which I intend to publish early in 2017.

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Mind your Language

On a couple of occasions when I have been looking at books on either Amazon or Goodreads, I have noticed bad reviews based on the fact that the books contained a lot of swearing. One of the  Star-12920-medium reviews was for a book that had received predominantly good reviews, and this particular one star review was based solely on the fact that the book contained bad language. There was no mention of the rest of the content.

As an author, it irks me when people leave a one or two star review based solely on the bad language in the book, which, let’s face it, probably makes up no more than 5% of the content. What about the rest of the book? Does it not matter that the author has toiled for months, or even years, to produce that book? And if the book is otherwise excellent, is that overlooked in that puritanical reader’s quest to banish all bad language from books?

The type of approach described above causes me a little concern because my own books contain more bad language than most. Although I haven’t yet had a bad review because of the swearing in my books, I expect that it is likely to happen sooner or later. The use of bad language in my books isn’t because I am being gratuitous in an attempt to shock readers. It is simply because I want my books to be authentic and to reflect the way the characters would have spoken.

SwearingEven if books are fictional, they are often a reflection of real life, and in real life people swear. Anyone who thinks they can eliminate the use of those words from the English language is on a pointless mission. Swearing is used as a form of expression, to convey anger or humour, or perhaps because the character being described in a novel would typically speak that way. This can reveal a lot about the character’s personality or environment. In fact, in my forthcoming novel, the bad language (and violence) are a fundamental part of who my characters are and, to remove it, would be taking something away from the characters.

So, what can authors do about these negative reviews from people offended by bad language?

I have included an introduction in each of my novels explaining why I have chosen to include swear words and slang, and apologising to those readersNo-Entry-12083-medium who may be offended. I did toy with the idea of putting a warning on the Amazon description page, but would this be taking it too far? After all, the books are crime thrillers, targeted at the over 18s, and the book blurbs give a good indication as to the content, with words such as ‘murder’, ‘killer’, ‘spliff smoking’, ‘thug’ and ‘shady dealing’. Surely, the readers of such books would expect some bad language as well as violence?

I would love to know your thoughts regarding this. Is it a good idea to put a warning on the product page, or not? Do you find the use of bad language in books offensive or off-putting? Do you agree with people giving bad reviews because of the swearing in a book?

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