Sunday, 25 September 2016

Want to make the summer last a bit longer?







Just £2.99 for all three books until 2nd October!


(The Bev and Carol books are also available in paperback.)


From Book 1: The summer of 1979 was the best summer ever! Pretty, blonde and dangerously impetuous, Bev and Carol head for the sun, lucky beneficiaries of a generous university grant. 
They are full of enthusiasm and the dazzling spirit of adventure that only seems possible when we are young. Essential swimwear is selected and Lipton’s vegetable oil is perfumed with patchouli for the perfect tan. 
They end up in Argelès-sur-mer, on a campsite close to the coast and not far from the border with Spain. Every day brings new challenges: how to hold a meaningful conversation on a naturist beach, what to do about a precocious teenage stalker, how to transport a gallon of port on a moped… all of which they meet head-on, with dubious philosophy and irrepressible optimism. 
'One Summer in France' is a humorous tale based on a three-month study break the author took as part of her languages degree course at Keele University in 1979. 
‘Would you do it all again?’ asked Carol.
‘Like a shot!’ I said.
And I would. 

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Review: Silas Marner by George Eliot



England in the early 19th century, where folklore and religious belief shape people’s lives.  Silas Marner, a trusting soul and master weaver, begins a new life after he is betrayed by his best friend and is forced to leave the village and church he has grown up with.

A victim of his deteriorating appearance, unsociable attitude and growing cynicism, he lives as a hermit and collects his gold as though there were nothing else of value in the world.

One day, the unthinkable happens – he is robbed – and he is left distraught.  But, as in every fairytale, there is a turn in his luck and with the arrival of a child, orphaned on the road side, he begins to feel the love and joy that have been missing from his life.

The plot is balanced and satisfying without being sentimental.  The characters are portrayed convincingly – there are those we can detest and those we can admire.  But what I enjoyed too was the historical aspect of the story.  The setting is rural England, in the Midlands and the harsh climate and rugged scenery bring out the empathy we develop for Silas Marner as he struggles to escape his cloistered existence and find a reason to live.

Raveloe is peopled with an authentic mix of landowners, farmers and trades folk.  It’s fascinating to follow the various social workings of a small and largely principled village community.  What strikes the reader is the pleasing simplicity of the work/life ethic by which inhabitants are judged and valued.  Religion is the guiding star, of course, closely followed by superstition and folklore.  Life in Raveloe is hard, but there is an interdependence between the villagers and a generosity that would be difficult to find in a more modern society.

What I enjoy most about George Eliot’s very accomplished work is a feeling of proximity to the characters and their environment, both physical and philosophical. I sit by the fire with the protagonist and accompany him along the difficult road to his personal epiphany.  And this, without undue sentimentality.

The workings of the early 19th century mind are uncluttered by technology, travel or consumerism.  The people of Raveloe spend their time in search of a life that is both rewarding and, it seems to me, ethically justifiable.  Apart, of course, from Dunstan Cass – there has to be a fiend in a story worth reading, after all.


To finish, I have to say that the language of Silas Marner is at times a challenge.  As a linguist, I welcome the challenge of a syntax and vocabulary which is of the story’s era.  Reminiscent of Shakespeare at times, the proverbs and sayings are clichéd, but apt.  There are words that are no longer in use, although it is perfectly possible to infer meaning.  There is, as so often is the case with writers of this time, a fashion for writing in dialect to add colour and authenticity to the divisions in society.  All this, in my opinion, makes Silas Marner even more of a pleasure to explore.  

Monday, 29 August 2016

My French Life - A Bit of a Rant

I don't usually complain, but...

Last week we went out to eat at a local restaurant whilst holidaying in the family mobile home.  It’s always a gamble, especially in a holiday resort, where tourists line up to be disappointed by mediocre food and disaffected kitchen staff, and owners lose sleep over rents and retirement funds, vying with other eateries for customers.  Of course, bad experiences are rare in France – we were just unlucky I suppose.

It was to be primarily a social occasion. The meal would be of secondary importance.  There was Al, my husband, Alfie, my son, Sally and Paul, two friends, Ollie, Sam and Tom, their teenage sons. 

Someone had recommended a place. Sally checked out the menu in advance and judging it to be refreshingly different from the ubiquitous pizza or hamburger restaurants, booked a table for eight thirty.

I’ll admit, I’m always a bit nervous about eating out at the best of times – home cooking is generally so much better.  And, although French cuisine is more exciting than the local Beefeater Pub fare in England, one tourist resort is very much like another no matter where you are. You never know what you’re going to get, who will be preparing it, or whether it will provoke a violent reaction later.  But, as I say, it was all about the company.

The menu was ominously prolific.  Gordon Ramsay would have given it a severe edit.  We made our selections, some of us ordering a starter and all of us carefully selecting a main course from the modern wipe-down menu.  If only I had ventured into the back of the restaurant before the waitress came to take our orders.

Tom and I ordered cod in a sauce (unspecified, but which turned out to be largely flour and water), served with summer vegetables (cold sweet peppers tainted with curry powder).  Four of our party went for the notorious French entrecote and chips, Sally had moules mariniere, Al had sole.  The starters arrived and were eaten:  A few prawns served with a dollop of mayonnaise, a meagre fruits de mer platter that looked as though it had been in a can moments earlier, an underwhelming ‘chiffonade’ of ham for Tom, fish soup for Alfie (straight from a jar, complete with sludge), and enormous salads for Paul, Ollie and Sam (mostly lettuce, decorated with cheese, fish and ham respectively). We were struck by the variations in portion size and nervously fascinated by the oddity of the dishes. 

My piece of cod came skin-up.  It measured less than the size of a small bar of soap and had rather less to recommend it in terms of flavour (I imagine).  The chef had lavished four potato wedges on me and the afore-mentioned summer vegetables sat in a one-person earthenware dish, shivering.  I exchanged more than glances with the waitress, who offered to bring me another piece of fish, and vanished before I could stop her.

I apologised to the party, feeling churlish for being so negative.  This was no beachside café, however, and the prices had hinted at some element of quality, not to mention a warm plate and a few therms running through the food upon it. 

We drank more wine, tried to find something positive to say, but Alfie reluctantly admitted that his steak was mostly fat, as was Sam’s, Ollie's and Paul’s.  They ate the parts that were edible and looked miserable.  Al, affable and uncomplaining, had eaten half his sole before asking me whether it should be pink and frozen in the middle.  

In the meantime, our waitress returned with another miniscule piece of cod in a microwave-safe dish, only to meet my eye and hear that I would not eat it, neither would I pay for my meal, adding that Al’s fish was raw.  

His second sole was hot and delicious.   

By this time, the simple act of eating had become surreal.

The waitress placed her hands on her hips and adopted a conspiratorial air. Over the course of the next few minutes, various discoveries were made to explain her pained yet strangely gleeful expression:  The owner, she said, was not himself.  He was standing in for the washer-upper and, as a result, the ‘chef’ had been left unsupervised in the kitchen with his lack of passion running wild.  This meant, our waitress told us, that he was serving ‘n’importe quoi’ to the diners.  I asked my son what this meant (he’s fluent in conversational derogatory French, whereas I am more at home reading Moliere) and he told me that it meant the food was basically ‘bollocks’.  I could only agree.  As could the waitress.

Grumblings began to turn to calls for action and as the rest of the party had little French (my son was not confident enough to rise to the challenge), I asked the waitress to take me to the ‘patron’.  A light flickered in her eye and she led me to the open kitchen where I was met by two young men (one no more than a teenager) both evidently brimming with pent up emotion and unused to being caught out.  I told them that they should be ashamed to serve such food to their customers.  This seemed to hit home – they had been expecting a rather more aggressive attack, I think.  I felt no remorse for their embarrassment.  The food had been exceptionally inedible.

The waitress, who was now unabashedly delighting in the spectacle of their maroon faces, led me further into the restaurant to speak to the patron, who was hosing down plates and looking shifty.  On the counter, were the remnants of four entrecotes.  His first defence was to point out the edible bits, sorting through the leftovers with a fork, oblivious to my incredulity. I said that the meal had been awful and that our evening had been ruined.  What was he going to do about it?  I would have been satisfied with an apology, a reduction in the bill and a quick getaway.

To my surprise, he responded that his evening had also been ruined, adding with a petulant flourish, as though I should be pleased, that he had sacked the chef with immediate effect.  In a gesture of magnanimity he had removed the price of the meal I hadn’t eaten from the bill and offered to do the same for one of the steak and chips.

Paul was all for walking out.

I negotiated further, amazed that the man in charge could miss the point so completely. 

In the end, the bill was adjusted a little more in our favour, but the evening still cost us far too much.  Al and I went on the big wheel, just to add some frivolity to an otherwise sober evening, and because he had drunk too much wine.  After that, we went home and Al had cheese and biscuits while I made myself a lovely tomato sandwich.

Happy Days

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Bev Spicer's Novels

I have written a number of novels, all of which are character-driven and involve intricate plots that will hopefully keep you guessing.

My Grandfather's Eyes is my first published novel, although it was not the first I wrote.
I tend to enjoy creating flawed characters, and Alex is probably one of my most complex.  There isn't much to like about her, it's true, but she does have some serious issues to deal with.  Her single-minded approach to investigating the past so that she can move on with her life often has shocking consequences.  What has she done and what will she do next?  These are the questions that drive the story forward.
You can download a free sample of My Grandfather's Eyes to find out whether Alex is the type of character you might enjoy.  Just click on the link below:





A Good Day for Jumping follows the lives of Stephen Firth, a handsome, rich, promiscuous young man and Joyce Shackleton, a deeply surprising middle-aged woman. (No, they are not going to have a torrid affair - sorry to disappoint!  Their stories are linked in a much more subtle and interesting way.)
Set in Greece, where I lived for two years, there is a many-layered plot involving characters whose worlds collide in the most disturbing ways.  
There are characters you can really care about and others you may despise.  The world is not full of perfect people, after all.
Follow the link below and look inside - you will find yourself in the small town of Rethymnon on the island of Crete, where Stephen Firth is considering his options.






A Life Lived Twice is quite different in format to my first two novels, with shorter chapters and rather more well-balanced characters, who lead normal lives and whose interactions do not always lead to disaster!  However, there are the usual scandals associated with a close-knit society and there is also Claude Cousteau (the undertaker's son) to add a touch of evil that will undermine the pleasant comings and goings in the small French village of St. Martin le Vieux, where our heroine, Martha Burton, has bought a traditional Charentaise house, and has attracted the attentions of her handsome neighbour.

Follow the link and download a free sample to find out how the idyll of everyday life in a French setting has no bearing on a man who has grown up in an altogether more disturbing environment.








What I Did Not Say is my most recent novel.  Jessica Morley is on her way to meet with a man she hasn't seen for fifteen years.  In her bag there is a package she must deliver.  As she travels south, she remembers Jack Banford, a boy who captured her imagination as a child and made her believe in a future that could never happen.  Now it is time for her to set the record straight and finally put the past behind her.  If you like a good courtroom drama, you'll love part two of this well-received story of love and cruelty in all its forms.







 


Saturday, 18 June 2016



There are three books in the humorous Bev and Carol series:

One Summer in France (just 99p for your kindle and £6.99 in paperback) is the first adventure, which takes place, you guessed it, in the South of France, and is based on the author's experiences during a study break from university.  I wanted to write a humorous memoir about the wonderful sense of freedom and possibility we all feel when we are just starting out in life as independent people.  It's true that I had some very strange experiences but I had a lot of fun too.  What's more, I learned a great deal about France, its language and its culture.
Although Carol is an entirely fictitious character, the friendship we share in the book is real.  We don't always agree on everything, and like to get the better of one another from time to time.  Bev and Carol are certainly very different characters.  They see the world in very different ways.
One Summer in France has received many positive reviews from readers who perhaps remember a similar time in their lives, when they took so many things for granted that, in adult life, seem to have all but disappeared.
You can download a free sample to your kindle by following the link below.  Why not relax for a while in the company of Bev and Carol in One Summer in France (two girls in a tent).  I hope it puts a smile on your face and takes you back to a less complicated, more spontaneous time:





Bunny on a Bike is the second in the Bev and Carol series. This time, the author recounts her real life experiences as a Playboy croupier in London in the 80s.  Bev and Carol are eager to stick together after university and find the prospect of the graduate jobs available too dull to contemplate.  They see an advertisement in the newspaper for blackjack dealers and apply.
I think you will be surprised at some of the realities of the less than glamorous lives they lead, always looking on the bright side even when faced with landlords from hell and stringent training schedules at Victor Lownes' mansion in Tring.
Bunny on a Bike has the same light touch as One Summer in France.  It's a humorous memoir which follows the lives of two girls thrown into 80s London, and gives an impression of what happened behind the doors of the Playboy casino.
Again, you can download a free sample by following the link below, where the Bev and Caroladventure continues:







Stranded in the Seychelles is the third and most recently published volume in the Bev and Carol series, although I do have plans for a further book at some point.
Our intrepid heroines have had a few years apart after leaving Playboy and have met up once more for a new adventure, this time in the Seychelles as teachers.
Stranded in the Seychelles is based once more on the author's real life experiences as a teacher on the tiny island of Ste. Anne in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and includes lots of local colour and cultural insights along the way.  Bev and Carol are older, but not particularly wiser.  They savour this new opportunity to duck out of the lives they are leading in England and jet off to somewhere altogether more exotic.  Of course it's not all plain sailing and, as usual, the girls have to cope with the unexpected, such things as giant spiders, insect infested cornflakes, heart-stopping bus rides and accident prone cleaners.  But they enjoy their experiences and learn a lot about expat society.
Stranded in the Seychelles will make you laugh just as much as One Summer in Franceand Bunny on a Bike, but this time, Bev and Carol are faced with rather more sobering choices from time to time, in between the absurd and the hilarious.
Follow the link below to download a free sample and find out what they get up to this time:







So, that's it for my humorous books.  If you would like to look at my other books, please go back to my home page and select Novels by B A Spicer. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

FIVE READS

FIVE AUTHORS

FIVE GENRES

99p/99c

FIVE DAYS ONLY


Discover a new author? Try something different? All of the authors below are offering readers the chance to download one of their ebooks that has received great reviews and has a high star rating. For the next five days you can download and enjoy any of these titles for just 99p or 99c (from 10th–15th June). Just click on the links to view any book on Amazon.






What I Did Not Say
Mystery/thriller 

"Outstanding mystery/thriller. I was blown away by this novel…" ~ Babus Ahmed, Amazon Top 1000 reviewer and prolific book blogger.

"Part 2 was the trial, where the pace and tension were excellent. The pages seemed to turn themselves." ~ Amazon reviewer. 

Jessica Morley is on her way to meet with a man she has not seen for fifteen years. In her bag there is a package she must deliver.

Click to view on Amazon





The House of York
Contemporary family drama



"The ending to the story kept me thinking for days." ~ Shaz Goodwin, book blogger and Amazon Top 100 reviewer.

"Best book I've read this year." ~ Joanne Phillips, top selling women's fiction author.


Love, loss, jealousy, abduction and murderous intent form the basis of this highly acclaimed, complex family saga spanning the years 1993  2014.

Click to view on Amazon









The Sickness
Supernatural horror


"If you like your supernatural horror to be dark, gruesome and unequivocally gory, then this is the book for you. It is explosive, expertly written and riveting." ~ Shelley Wilson, author of The Guardians, YA fiction novels.


"A captivating and suspenseful read . . . a story-telling standard equal to some of the biggest names out there in horror today." ~ Sharon Stevenson, author of The Gallows Novels and the After Death Series.


Forced home to attend his parents' funeral, 
James Harris returns to a place of childhood torment and gruesome horror.







Death Times Three
Cosy mystery


 "Elinor (Gray) is a wonderful amateur sleuth—she's whip-smart and determined without coming across as nosy or arrogant." ~ Elizabeth Maria Naranjo. 

"I'm a sucker for stories involving a female who can't resist sticking her nose into a curious puzzle and the attractive man who can't stop her." ~ Terri Case.



A Las Vegas librarian trips over a murdered artist and an amateur sleuth is born. 
Two short stories and a novella.






What Jennifer Knows
Contemporary women's fiction


"I started off liking What Jennifer Knows...I finished the novel loving it." ~ Judith Barrow, author and creative writing tutor.

"Sensitively drawn characters charm us… The shifting nature of loyalty and love is portrayed through searingly honest glimpses into the characters' lives, both past and present." ~ Jenny Worstall, author and musician.


Jennifer Jacobs unwittingly discovers a link between two of her friends. 
Should she speak out or stay silent?