Monday, 29 February 2016

Film Review

The Suffragette


Starring: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw and Meryl Streep.
Director: Sarah Gavron
Producer: Alison Owen and Faye Ward
Screenwriter: Abi Morgan
Run Time: 106 min

Review by Hannah M. King 


As a strong believer in gender equality, I thought it my duty to watch this film. The trailers were captivating, empowering and inspiring, and the film was ever more so.

It is a real tribute to the incredible strength, endurance and determination of the Suffragettes, who so famously sacrificed so much to give every woman in the United Kingdom the right to vote, and the right to live as she deems fit.

This period drama takes place in 1912 – 1913. It is a world dominated by the man, and is run on the backs and hard labours of their women. Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) is one such woman. A laundress since she was seven years old, she works in horrific conditions and for so little pay. She suffocates under the fumes and steam. She suffers burns and ulcers on a daily basis. And what’s worse, she is managed by the vile, prevented and dictating Mr Norman Taylor (Geoff Bell) who slimes around the factory floor; leering at, groping and menacing his female employees – partly to keep them in line and partly for his own amusement.

This disturbing and outrageous mistreatment of women in the workplace plays a vital part in the story’s backdrop. And it is only amplified, as we follow Maud to the House of Parliament. At the last minute, she is drafted in to put the case for women’s suffrage to the then-chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George (Adrian Schiller). Originally, it was her politically active friend Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) who was to give testimony, but she arrives beaten by her husband and unable to speak. It is in this moment that Maud begins to grasp the bigger picture. And when the Prime Minister scuppers the voting reform, when the police start to attack and beat the Suffragettes, she realises she can’t do anything, but join the cause.

It was this scene that hit me the most. The sheer brutality, cruelty and force of it all was heart-breaking. To believe women should endure such violence is beyond me. All they wanted was for their voices to be heard, and in return they were lied to, betrayed and beaten for their worries. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t scream and curse, because I did. No woman should have to endure that. Ever.

But on the theatrical side of things, the scene was wonderfully captured. Like contemporary news footage, Gavron used tight framing and a long depth-of-field to de-beautify the action, and lend it a bustling immediacy that really sweeps you up into the mood of the moment.

Another scene to rock me to my core was Maud’s brutal force feed, while in prison a second time. Now a committed Suffragette, Maud goes on a hunger strike for five days. On the sixth day, nurses and a doctor storm in to her cell, ram a black pipe up her nose and force her milk. Horrific doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I guess scenes like this have to be, if they are to portray the harsh reality of the time. Women were mistreated everywhere. It was a fact of life, regardless of how well you behaved. Maud knows this better than anyone.

Carey Mulligan’s performance was awe-inspiring and incredibly powerful. The film plays out in her eyes, in her perspective. You see her highs and terrible lows; watching Maud being torn from her young son was perhaps the worst and the most heart-wrenching scene I have seen in a long time, and Mulligan expressed it so fully and brilliantly. Throughout the film, you see the growing emotion flicker across her face, as Maud comes into her own and finds her voice. Her interview and confrontation with Inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson) was fierce and powerful. It really demonstrated Maud’s new found confidence and fight. I loved every moment of the conflict exchanged.

The performances by Helena Bonham Carter and Anne-Marie Duff were as equally brilliant; both demonstrating other hardships such as illness, pregnancy and abusive relationships. Meryl Streep makes a brief cameo as Emmeline Pankhurst, who makes a rather magnificent and empowering speech from a London balcony; encouraging her followers to take control of their own destinies and to keep fighting. In her eyes, it is “better to be a rebel, than a slave.”

And I have to agree.

Overall, this film lived up to my expectations and made me ever more grateful to the lives and struggles those women went through to allow me to live my life as I should. I believe we still have a long way to go until there is absolute equality, but I hope with all my heart that this film awakens that need, that drive to take action and to do something about it. 

Friday, 26 February 2016

The Call to Search Everywhen Blog Tour 

and Launch Party!

3D BOX Vertical The Call to Search Everywhen

We're celebrating the release of Time for the Lost and the box set of the YA time travel series, The Call to Search Everywhen, with a blog tour and a Facebook party! Join the party for bookish games and giveaways. Keep reading for an except from the latest book in the series, Time for the Lost.

Read Calla and Valcas' full story in this collection of the first three books in The Call to Search Everywhen! More than 600 pages of YA time travel adventure inside the following full-length novels:

In TRAVEL GLASSES, Calla Winston falls into a world of worlds after meeting Valcas, a time traveler who traverses time and space with a pair of altered sunglasses. He offers his further protection in exchange for a promise. After learning that his search for her was no mere coincidence, she tracks down the inventor of the Travel Glasses in hopes of discovering more about Valcas' past and motivations. With Valcas hot on her trail, Calla hopes to find what she's looking for before he catches up.

In INSIGHT KINDLING, Calla faces charges against her for changing the past. Despite the risk of becoming lost, she accepts a dangerous travel mission that may help her find her father. She teams up with a group of talented travelers and discovers that she has a special travel talent of her own. But will that be enough to protect her and her teammates before they complete their mission?

TIME FOR THE LOST completes the story line of the first three books in the series. The travel team reunites for a mission they never saw coming: a journey to a world caught between life and death, and hidden within the deepest recesses of time. Ivory rediscovers a friend and Ray learns the meaning behind his tattoo. But the connections they make between travelers and the lost may twist the core of the Time and Space Travel Agency inside out.

Excerpt from Time for the Lost

TFTL Cover Reveal
Carefully, I climbed the clock, placing my feet on the times of other worlds, in order to see more along the top. Fragile materials supported my weight as if I weighed nothing—were nothing—but a breath of air in time and space. I climbed on, grabbing timepieces with my hands and pulling myself upward along the tower.

The skin on the back of my neck prickled when I reached the topmost third of the tower. An hourglass sat perched on the tower’s tapered tip, like a golden star crowning one of Earth’s Christmas trees. The top half of the glass was mostly full. Both halves rested on a crescent moon-shaped base. The hourglass hung balanced, lightly swinging back and forth, ready to flip over when empty.

I made my way back down the tower, wondering whether time ever ends, whether it could be eternal—how a system of worlds with World Builders could possibly have an end. My brain ached as I tried to make sense of it all, wondering where to begin searching for Calla.

My attention turned to something bright and painful: a miniature White Tower, representing the world my parents created, the timeline of which reset when I was born.

The White Tower replica had no clock hands. There were no digital measures of time, no sand trickling from the top of a glass. But I knew how the time was recorded and what time it was at the tower, based on the brightness of its glow. Like the sky which backlit the clock tower, the White Tower was a dazzling white. From what I’d learned as a child, the more brightly it glowed, the later its time and the closer to its end.

I tightened my grip and groaned. “Why does every search lead back to the White Tower? Have I traveled here to the Clock Tower only to be faced with it again?” I descended a few more steps toward the base of the tower. “Is there no way to escape the past—to leave it behind me?”

“You don’t appear to be biding time, friend.”

I nearly fell from the tower. I glanced beneath me to see who’d spoken.

The man who looked up at me was thin, with a nose as straight and long as his gangly limbs. He regarded me with eyes of purple ice. His hair, white like snow, was bound in a loose tail. Friend indeed.

I exhaled, relieved. Everything about him radiated Aborealian descent.

I jumped the last few feet from the Clock Tower and signaled to him, the way I would have greeted anyone in my mother’s home country, Aboreal.

His amethyst eyes met mine as he drew his lip into a thin line. He signaled back, and then frowned. “I disclaimed Aboreal long ago, but I respect the gesture.”

“You’re from my mother’s homeland,” I said. “I just wanted to be sure.”

The former Aborealian nodded and held out his hand.

“Valcas Hall,” I said, clasping it.

He grinned. “You can call me Nick.”

I squinted. Aborealians had no last names, so I hadn’t expected one. Aborealian citizens were simply individuals of Aboreal. But the man’s first name didn’t fit the metric. Nick didn’t have the same significance to it as Ivory and Sable, shades of white and black. He should have had a name that reflected his wintry hair. Nick meant nothing in Aborealian. 

I opened my mouth to say something.

“I’ve renamed,” he said. “When I denounced Aboreal, I changed my first name and adopted a surname of sorts.”

“Which is?”

“Time,” he said. “I’m now Nick, no longer of Aboreal, but of Time.”

Nick of Time. Was this guy serious? If he noticed my cringe at the horrible pun, he didn’t show it. 

“What brings you to this part of the worlds, friend?”

“A search.” I looked around, disturbed.

“How did you get here?”

“I’m the keeper of the Clock Tower. Welcome to my home.”
series graphic

Get the series for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.

chessChess Desalls is the author of the YA time travel series, The Call to Search Everywhen. She's a longtime reader of fantasy and sci-fi novels, particularly classics and young adult fiction. Her nonfiction writing has led to academic and industry publications. She’s also a contributing editor for her local writing club’s monthly newsletter. The California Writers Club, South Bay branch, has awarded two of Chess’ stories first place for best short fiction. When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys traveling and trying to stay in tune on her flute.

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Sunday, 21 February 2016

Book Review

The Sword Chronicles: Child of the Empire

by Michaelbrent Collings

(Pub: Michaelbrent Collings, 2015)

**I was provided with a ARC copy of this in exchange for an honest review**

I’ve declined some cringe worthy books in the last few months for review and The Sword Chronicles: Child of the Empire was a blast of fresh air. Collings knows his craft and fans (teens through to adults) of fantasy and dystopian fiction will enjoy reading this book. 

Collings’ novel is set in the kingdom of Anborn. Anborn is built on five mountains named – Faith, Strength, Knowledge, Fear and Center. It rests above the cloud line and anyone from Anborn who attempts to travel below the clouds dies horribly. The one dynasty has ruled Anborn for generations. 

The narrative opens with the dramatic, bloody dream of a girl – a dog. People, often children, are sold into the fighting pits (kennels) and once there, they are known as dogs. Everything about life in the kennels is dehumanising and torturous. The rule of life, for this girl, is kill or be killed. The girl doesn’t know her name or her age. She knows nothing of life outside the kennels. At the end of one of her fights events take a strange turn and she becomes one of Anborn’s Blessed Ones and in the service of the emperor. This sparks the beginning of an adventure that is action packed and has plenty of heart as well. 

Collings’ opening scenes had me intrigued and hooked me to continue reading this story. The initial dream and the girl’s point of view are conveyed wonderfully well. The action sequences are gritty with no holds barred. The use of staccato sentences in the action sequences adds to the pacing, provides great emphasis on key elements and directs the reader’s attention. “There was that particular noise of sword cleaving flesh. A gurgle…He laughed. The blood washed away. The day was begun.“ 

These abrupt sentences also place emphasis on the girl’s fragmented point of view early on. It serves to highlight animalistic nature of her existence – moment to moment survival and a struggle to understand the unfamiliar. 

This also works to create an effect for the reader like a camera panning in on specific moments in a film. This is a very cinematic piece of writing. The reader will have no trouble visualising the story as it unfolds and Collings sets a cracking pace.

The characterisations within the novel are well written. The girl's culture shock at life outside the kennels, her psychological recovery and gradual education are handled well and though she is the heroine of this story she is not without fault. The supporting cast are all well rounded and given detailed backstories which are woven into the narrative seamlessly. My only complaint was that it became clear to me early on who the bad guy really was, although there was a nice little twist to that which I didn't anticipate. 

Collings blends familiar dystopian elements along with many fantasy genre tropes and the tech in the novel is a blend of science and magic. Overall the world building has an eastern flare to it. The combination works and even though I knew where the story was heading, its execution was so good that I really didn’t mind – I was carried along on the roller coaster ride until the end. 

Would I read the next one? You bet! 

Four Stars!

Available from:

Friday, 5 February 2016

Book Review

Acne, Asthma and Other Signs You Might be a Half Dragon

by Rena Rochford

(Curiosity Quills Press, 2015)

**I was provided with a ARC copy of this in exchange for an honest review**

I was first attracted Acne, Asthma and OtherSigns You Might be a Half Dragon by the lovely cover; the title then “sealed the deal” for me. I was looking for some light fun reading and hoped that based on the title I’d get that and hopefully some sassy, quirky one-liners as well.

Rochford’s book did provide all that – it was fun and a bit sassy, though there were parts that I felt needed to be fleshed out a little more.

The protagonist of Rochford’s novel, Allyson, has never known her father and her mother moves them around the country a great deal with each new job offer and promotion. She’s always the new kid and outsider, without many friends. 

In the town she currently lives in she has finally made a friend – Beth. Allyson dreads hearing that her mother will move them yet again. Events rapidly unfold that make this the least of Allyson’s worries. She discovers an entire supernatural community lives around her and that her recurrent acne is really one of the signs that she is a half dragon – everybody else seems to know what’s going on except Allyson. Allyson and Beth get caught up in territorial wars between various supernatural races and find themselves prey to those involved in an evil plot which they must try and foil. 

What I loved about this book was that the unicorns were not squeaky clean – they were just as prone to hatred and the desire for revenge as any other race. They had suffered years of persecution only to adopt a “shoot first” policy in their dealings with others. Also the political intrigue between races was rife in this novel and I felt the world building and history in this regard was good. The pace was generally excellent.

I would like to have seen this story fleshed out a little more, particularly in terms of the initial set up. The book immersed the reader straight into the action, but at the expense of setting up the main character. It was clear from the title that Allyson was going to discover she was a dragon, that’s not the type of set up I’m referring to. Rochford revealed too little about Allyson’s character, her desires and her past early on. We learnt more about this as the story progressed, but the result was that I didn’t empathise with or care about Allyson until over half way through the book. I did, however, like her best friend from the beginning. 

Overall I really enjoyed it. I’d definitely read the next one. So if you’re after a light fun read give this one a try.