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My Faves – Book Review – The Lie Tree by Sarah Hardinge

So, I thought it would be good to go over some of the fiction that has inspired me whilst I’ve been on my writing journey (oh, that sounded a bit cliche, didn’t it?). I don’t have a list in order, as such, of my favourite books because that would be like asking me to pick a favourite child; it just wouldn’t happen. Besides, I’d end up with about one-hundred books in my top ten, lol!!!

I’m going to start with The Lie Tree, by Sarah Hardinge, just because…

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2015)

This book won the Costa book of the year in 2015 but I only read it last year so, not for the first time in my life, I was behind everyone else.

The Lie Tree is a wonderfully atmospheric historical novel – with a smidge of magical realism – focusing upon Faith, a fourteen-year-old girl, whose family is uprooted from Victorian England to live on the small island of Vane because “one of the most widely read and respected newspapers in the nation has decried” Faith’s father “as a fraud and a cheat.” Faith has no idea why this would be so as “his bleak and terrible honesty were the plague and pride” of her family.

When Faith’s father is then found dead under mysterious circumstances, she decides to investigate. She goes through his papers and belongings and finds a strange tree which only grows and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. Not only that, eating the fruit of the tree allows one to uncover truths. “The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered” (from the Amazon Blurb).

Faith decides to use the tree to root out her father’s killer by spreading lies across the island of Vane but soon she realises that lies and truths can hurt as well as heal.

This book is so well written, I devoured it in record time!

A thoughtful and provoking read which delves into a vast number of issues including class, good and evil, lies and truths, the treatment of women in Victorian society, the limits of science, the power of religion and family loyalty.

Faith, for me, was a great protagonist and her story arc was satisfying. She progressed from a timid girl to one who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. Her arc was refreshing given the male-oriented times the novel is set in.

I loved the fact that the only ally Faith really has isn’t human at all. And, is the tree really her “friend”?

I found The Lie Tree to be a beautifully written and dark tale. And how I wish I’d written it!!

Great for those who love intricate, escapist tales filled to the brim with the supernatural and mysterious. Not great for those who want something easy and light to read.

 

 

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Dragon Rider – A Story – Part Five

Dragon Rider

Chapter Three Continued

Willow

It was mid-afternoon when Drake and Gizmo left the warehouse.  The heavy cloud cover threatened rain, making the City even darker than usual, and a bitter wind had whipped up, the crisp packets and screwed-up newspaper somersaulting across the streets like tumbleweed in an old Western movie.  The streets were almost deserted, the remaining people scuttled away like cockroaches, whether from the impending rain, the threat of the Shadow Walkers or from the sight of Drake himself, he couldn’t tell.

‘So how come a rich boy is hanging out with the Lost Souls anyway?’ asked Drake, trying to break the awkward silence that was opening out like some great chasm between Gizmo and himself.

‘What, because I come from a wealthy family I shouldn’t hang out with them?  Is that what you’re saying?’

Drake shrugged.  ‘It just doesn’t strike me as a rich guy’s thing.’

Gizmo stopped and stared at Drake, his amber eyes tracing the Devil’s Mark snaking around Drake’s right eye.  He opened his mouth as if to say something, then shut it again and instead shook his head and turned away.  ’I wouldn’t expect you to understand,’ he muttered to the floor as he strode off down the road.

‘Fair enough,’ said Drake striding after him.  He preferred silence anyway; he was only making an effort for Willow’s sake.

Before long, after a hushed exchange of words between Gizmo and two burly security guards, they had entered the exclusive gated community of Fordbrooks, the place where the rich played safely whilst the rest of Devilsgate burned.

On the face of it, Fordbrooks was impressive with its vast mansions, swimming pools and luxury cars, but Drake would much rather have the honesty of the desperate people of the slums – they were what they were, nothing more, nothing less – and they didn’t hide it or pretend to be something that they weren’t.  And, as anyone knows, the biggest crooks live in some of the biggest houses, Drake thought to himself.

Selling just one of those Garelli cars with their fine leather seats and gold trimmed panelling, would probably feed the Lost Souls for an eternity.  Maybe he should just take one now, save him the bother of meeting this Funestus Black.  Not that feeding the Lost Souls was his problem; he’d enough trauma just looking after himself and Falkor.

Falkor?  Now, how would that go down with the rich kid?

Gizmo suddenly stopped in the middle of the street and spun around on his heels.  ‘What exactly are your intentions?’

This took Drake by surprise.  ‘My intentions?’

‘With Willow-’

‘Oh,’ said Drake smiling, ‘you think that Willow and I, you know-’

‘No.  I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking,’ said Gizmo, pushing his glasses up his nose.

‘Relax,’ said Drake holding his palms up in surrender, ‘we’re just friends.’

‘That’s exactly what she said,’ said Gizmo.

‘Well, maybe you should listen to her-’

‘But if that’s the case why was she so cut up when you left?’

Those words sliced through Drake’s heart like a sabre.  Drake rubbed his hand across his chin, not knowing what to say.  ‘I…’

Gizmo sighed loudly.  ‘Why did you have to come back to Devilsgate?’

Drake could feel a bolt of anger flash inside him.  This was a conversation he was not going to have with Gizmo.  ‘That’s my business.’

Gizmo glared at him, his body tense and as tight as a knot.  ‘Are you going to hurt her again?’

Drake took a deep breath and closed his eyes.  ‘No,’ he said, rubbing the top of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.  ‘No, I’m not.  Look, me and Willow, it’s not what you think.  We grew up together in the orphanage.  We were like brother and sister then I left-‘

‘Why didn’t you take her with you?’

Drake looked at Gizmo, and sighed; whatever he said would not be enough for him.  ‘I couldn’t.  I could only just about look after myself.  I went back to see her but every time I left her again it hurt more and more.  In the end, I just stopped going.’

Gizmo turned and started walking away.  ‘Just don’t run out on her again, okay?’

But Drake didn’t reply.

 

Death’s Apprentice – Part Twenty-Two

Joe followed Mrs Crow through the door at the back and down the long corridor that seemed to grow darker the further we went. Mr Crow, the fat man, and the tall man all followed behind. Lola, who hadn’t wanted to enter the first time I’d entered the home, was now trotting beside Mrs Crow quite happily. Joe, although he loved Lola with all his heart, couldn’t help feeling a little bit betrayed.

Mrs Crow entered an open doorway at the end of the corridor. Joe followed but stopped still in the doorway frozen not by fear but by a strange sense of foreboding which he couldn’t quite explain.

There was a large oval oak table polished to within an inch of its life with a large skull etched into its surface. A long scythe ran along the back of it which reminded Joe of the table used in one of his favourite programs, Sons of Anarchy. There were thirteen chairs arranged around the table.

‘Hello,’ said Mrs Crow to the room. She turned to Joe and said, pointing to an old woman wearing an oxygen mask, ‘Joe, this is Febris.’

Febris nodded.

Joe said hello to the old woman who looked like she was only inches from dying.

‘Next to her is Limos.’

‘Hello,’ said Joe.

Limos looked up, said hi, then went back to playing with his belt over which his large belly hung. Joe could see his stomach poking out from under his Metallica t-shirt. Joe couldn’t tell you why but he really took a liking to Limos.

‘And this is Marcus.’

Marcus stood up, shook his blonde hair and held out a hand to Joe. Joe took his hand in his and shook it. Marcus’ handshake was loose and his hands were very soft.

‘Hello,’ said Joe.

‘And I’m Lucifer,’ said a husky voice.

‘Lucifer?’ asked Joe, turning to where the voice had come from. He was sure that somehow all of this was a big fat joke and that at some point someone was going to jump out at him and shout “Surprise! Got you!”

Lucifer, if that was who he was (and Joe doubted this very much), was huge, both in width and height and he had a great mane of orange hair with a bushy beard and moustache. When he took Joe’s hand in his, Joe thought he was going to crush his hand to dust.

‘Yes. Pleased to meet you. And you are..?’

‘The answer to our problems. Hopefully,’ said Mrs Crow. Joe also doubted this very much. At no point in his life had he ever been the answer to anyone’s problems.

‘Sorry, but I didn’t quite catch that,’ said Marcus taking his seat.

‘Come and sit down, Joe,’ said Mrs Crow pointing to the seat at the side of her.

Joe did as he was told.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Five tips to help you when you’re feeling like you’re drowning.

Life sucks. And then some.

Sometimes life just gets too much, too hectic, and we can feel like we have no control over our own lives. In fact, it’s happened to me recently and that’s why I’m writing this post. I want to share with you the top five things that helped me get back on track and gain control of my life.

I’m so busy! But then, who isn’t? I write this blog, have three shops, need to make products for those shops, as well as look after my family and my dog. Oh, yeah, and myself!

I’m not moaning. I love my work. I wouldn’t have it any other way but sometimes it feels like there’s just too much stuff to do!

So what do you do?

Tip One:

Take one day at a time!

Rome wasn’t built in a day (I know, it’s a terrible cliche but still very true!). You don’t have to do everything in one day. Prioritise what needs to be done.

I follow a red, amber and green system where assign every task a colour ( red being the most urgent, green the least – I know, I know, it took me ages to think of that ;)). I make sure I do the urgent (red) jobs first. Usually, this is based on time constraints and as we progress through the week or month some jobs that were green will go to red. To do this you need to:

Tip Two:

Make lists! Every week I write a list of things that need doing. This is a big list with everything on, even things that I know can wait for a while. Then I assign them a colour so I know what needs to doing and when. I update the list every day, knocking items off that I’ve completed (Sooo Satisfying!). At the end of every working week, I rewrite the list fresh for the next new week.

person holding blue ballpoint pen writing in notebook
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Tip Three:

I print off a calendar which allows me to plan long term. This is especially good for planning blog posts and, in my jewellery and gift business, allows me to plan for big occasions such as Halloween, Christmas and Mother’s Day. It also allows me to see when my kids are going to be on holiday so that I can do all the planning, writing of blog posts etc. in advance rather than trying to do it all with the kids off.

flat lay photography of calendar
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Tip Four:

Even with all this planning, I can still get that awful overwhelming feeling that I’m sinking into the mud, never to return.

Lists are great for planning but sometimes looking at a long list can give you the heebie-jeebies. When this happens I walk away.

It sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But, it really works. Go and have a cup of tea, take an hour off, go for a walk, watch your favourite T.V. programme. Whatever you need.

OR…

Just take the day off. You’re not a machine. Sometimes when you’re feeling like this it’s because your body and your mind need a break!

Just because you’re sitting at you’re desk doesn’t mean you’re actually working!

If you take the day off you’ll probably find you’ll come back fresh the day after and actually get more work done!

Blimey, there were a lot of exclamation marks in those last few sentences, weren’t there?

Tip Five:

Learn to chuck things in the fuck-it bucket!

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair
Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Ask yourself; do I really need to do this? Does this add anything to what I’m doing? Do I really need to go to Aunt Sara’s party tomorrow when she can’t stand me and I haven’t seen her in ten years?

Learn to say NO. Learn to turn things down.

And, I’ll say it again for everyone at the back; LEARN TO SAY NO.

This, my friends, is very important because the majority of us are brought up to be people pleasers and that means we’re not very good at saying no.

A great resource I go to whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed and needing help to sort my head out (and my priorities sometimes) is the fabulous book by Sarah Knight, called, The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving A Fuck. I urge you to try it. It’s full of useful advice. As I said in a previous post (Books that have helped me with my writing), this book has changed my life! Knight teaches you “how to stop spending time you don’t have doing the things you don’t want to do with people you don’t like.”

Oh, and an extra tip; look at pictures of cute animals. Like this:

close up photo of dog
Photo by Juliano Ferreira on Pexels.com

Damn it, cute animals get me every time 🙂

What tips would you give to people who are feeling overwhelmed?

Dragon Rider – Part Four

Chapter Three Continued

Willow

Drake closed his eyes and exhaled deeply.  ‘Don’t be stupid, if you’ve got to go-’

‘And so said the Faery,’ replied Gizmo, his eyes still glued to his computer screens.

Drake winced at Gizmo’s reply, but tried, all the same, to ignore it.  For now.

‘No,’ said Willow unclasping her legs, ‘we’re not going anywhere.  We’re going underground,’ said Willow, the conspiratorial defiance clear in her voice.

‘We’ve been keeping an eye on the Authorities,’ said Gizmo pointing to his screens, ‘I use this to track their movements so that we can stay one step ahead.’  Gizmo began to flick at the screens in front of him again.  Once he’d found the one he wanted, he tapped a code into the virtual keyboard.  ‘Say hello to Ailsa.’

Drake opened his eyes.  There was a crackle in the air in front of him, a flicker of blue light as a small child-like figure appeared in three-dimensional form.

‘Wow,’ said Drake, his eyes wide as he leant forward to run his hand through the holograph.

‘Do you mind?’ said the figure, its nose pointed in the air, its arms firmly crossed over its chest.

‘Sorry,’ said Drake, jumping back in his chair.

‘She’s Gizmo’s creation,’ said Willow, ‘Ailsa is an Artificial Intelligence.’

‘We use her to munch through the Enforcerer’s Systems.  She searches for any information we can use.  But we’re having trouble,’ continued Gizmo, ‘The Enforcerer’s Department has installed some new Demon-ware that’s doing a damn good job of keeping us out.  We should have it sorted soon, there’s bound to be a back door-’

Ailsa spoke to Gizmo, her eyes still locked onto Drake, a distinct look of disgust on her face.  ‘Route 2267 is blocked, we need to try another path.’

‘Okay,’ said Gizmo, ‘we’ll try route 3345 now.  Report back as soon as you can.’  And with that Ailsa disappeared.

‘And how do I fit into all of this?’ asked Drake.  Just as he had expected, this conversation was beginning to go down a long road that he had no desire to travel on.

‘We need you to help us find something-’

‘Willow, I-’

‘Just hear me out,’ said Willow putting her palms up to pacify him.  ‘We need to find a book for a friend-’

‘How’s finding a book going to help?’

Gizmo stopped flicking through the screens and finally looked at Drake.  ‘My father is friends with the Chief Law Enforcerer-’

‘The guy who runs the Law Department?’ asked Drake.

‘Yeah,’ said Gizmo nodding.  ‘He approached me a few days ago, said that he knew what we were up to, but he promised he’d keep quiet if we did this little favour for him and find the book-’

‘Must be some important book,’ said Drake, unable to keep the scepticism from his voice, ‘if he’s willing to protect you in exchange for it.  You know, a man in his position wouldn’t usually help if there wasn’t something really good for him at the end of it.’

‘Funestus isn’t like that,’ said Gizmo.

Drake rubbed his hand across his chin, the desire to tell the rich kid – in his expensive leather jacket and designer glasses – the truth, was almost too much to bear:  Men like Funestus were always out for themselves.  ‘The guy is in charge of the Department that is kicking you out of Devilsgate and blocking Ailsa with Demon-ware-’

‘To be honest Drake, I don’t care, I just need to find the book because I’m not leaving Devilsgate,’ said Willow, her face full of steely determination.

‘I’m not a treasure hunter Willow,’ said Drake.

‘I know, but I thought you might help…you know…for old times’ sake.’  Willow stared off into the distance as she said this, and Drake was sure he could hear a trace of bitterness in her voice.

‘I don’t know.’

‘We’d let you have a percentage of whatever we make; 60:40.’

Drake laughed.  ‘I don’t think so.’

‘Please Drake,’ said Willow, but it was not a question.  ‘I’m going to find it anyway, with or without you-’

Drake crossed his arms over his chest.  ‘This isn’t what I came back for-’

‘You’re more experienced than us at finding things-’

‘Yeah, people and creatures, not books.’

Willow looked straight into Drake’s eyes.  ‘Just meet the guy and talk to him.   He’ll be able to explain what he wants better than us, and then you can make your mind up.’

Drake rubbed his forehead.  This conversation had definitely had gone down a route he didn‘t want to take.  He hadn’t come back for this, to take on other people’s problems.  He’d got enough of his own and doing this for Willow would only delay him.  But there was something pulling him towards her.  Guilt for leaving her alone in Devilsgate all those years ago?  Shit.  What the hell was he going to do?

Drake leaned back on the sofa and ran his hands through his thick black hair. ‘Okay, let me ask you this; if everyone else in this City is in Fenrik’s pocket, what’s to say Funestus isn’t?  I mean, chances are he’s the same as everyone else who gets in power; they turn into greedy, power-hungry gits who’ll do anything to make more money and get more power-’

‘No, he isn’t.  I’ve known him for most of my life and he’s not the power hungry type.  He hates what’s going on here as much as we do, he’s just trying to change things from the inside out, that’s all,’ said Gizmo.

‘Just meet him?’ asked Willow.

Drake sighed loudly.  ‘Okay, but I’m not promising anything, right?’

Death’s Apprentice – Part Twenty-One

The home was full activity. Mr Crow was standing next to the tallest man Joe had ever seen. He was even taller than The Mountain in Games of Thrones, but, just like Azrail and Mr Crow, he was spindly, with long thin legs. He held a large leather briefcase in his right hand and a dark brown trilby in the other.

‘But Josiah,’ he said, ‘things can’t go on like this. Something has to be done. The law states -‘

‘I’ve sorted it,’ said Mrs Crow, sweeping through the room.

Mr Crow and the tall man turned as she spoke. Mr Crow looked rather relieved. The other man looked rather irked as if he didn’t really want whatever it was sorted.

‘Ah, Corvina,’ said the tall man, doffing his cap, ‘how good it is to see you.’

‘Oh, do get out of my way,’ snapped Mrs Crow, pushing past the man, ‘we’ve got a meeting to get started. Joe, come on.’

Joe was still stood in the doorway unsure whether he actually wanted to enter into the funeral home. It wasn’t like he was scared, or anything like that, but he felt that as soon as he crossed into the home his life would be changed for good. For better or worse. And he just wasn’t sure.

And then he heard Lola snarl. He was pushed out of the doorway as someone forced entry. He went flying, face first, on to the carpet.

‘Please, Corvina, tell me, he’s not…?’

Mrs Crow turned and yelled at Joe, ‘Get up then. We’ve got things to do.’

Joe scrambled to his feet, his face felt hot and anger was beginning to simmer in the pit of his stomach. He turned to see who’d knocked him over. In front of him stood the widest (and shortest) man he’d ever seen.

‘I’m not late, am I?’

‘Oh no, Mr Smith,’ said Mrs Crow, ‘it’s nice that you could join us. Now, if you’d let my assistant through.’

‘Oh, sorry,’ he said, looking at Joe. But Joe could tell he wasn’t sorry at all.

‘Shall we go through?’ asked Mrs Crow.

‘I’ve set up the conference room. Febris, Limos, and Marcus are already in there -‘

‘I bet that’s a great atmosphere. Lucifer here?’

Lucifer? Did he hear that right? Nah, thought Joe, it’s got to be some sort of joke.

‘Yes, and his secretary. We’re just waiting on the Boss.’

‘Okay. Let’s get this over with. Joe,’ said, Mrs Crow, ‘this way.’