Tag Archives: Vivienne Tuffnell

Sunday Post – 19th June


Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Still in the foothills of Editland, I’m now more than a third of the way through line editing Breathing Space. I let loose Electric Annie’s voice, courtesy of Word, so the computer slowly reads through the manuscript aloud to me, while I follow it on the screen, set on 125% zoom. I haven’t yet found a more effective way of picking up the graunching phrases, small errors and fiddling plot holes and anomalies. The catch is that it takes a lot of time and concentration – and it isn’t something I can do when I’m tired.

This week’s Creative Writing classes went well – this term students bring in their own favourite pieces of writing that has inspired them in some way and share it with the group. We have had fiction ranging from Charles Dickens to J.K. Rowling and everything in between; the teachings of Idris Shah and the life of Desert Orchid; as well as poetry ranging from John Cooper Clark to Rudyard Kipling. It has been highly enjoyable – and the icing on the cake is that the work my lovely students produce just goes on getting better… One of my students won a poetry competition this week, while another was shortlisted for yet another competition. It’s been a good term.

I’m still not up to full speed on my reading this week, because when I do finally get to bed, I tend to fall asleep, as I find editing exhausting. So the two books I completed are:

The City of Mirrors – Book 3 of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin
thecityofmirrors“The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?”
The Twelve have been destroyed and the hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew and daring to dream of a hopeful future. But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy – humanity’s only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him. One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate…

This is the final book in this remarkable post-apocalyptic trilogy, which has been a real roller-coaster – the writing is remarkable, both gritty and lyrical. Cronin manages to make it acceptable to switch viewpoints three or four times in the space of a couple of pages and you can’t pull off a stunt like that without being very, very talented.

Titanborn by Rhett C. Bruno
Malcolm Graves lives by two rules: finish the job, and get paid. After thirty years as titanborna collector, chasing bounties and extinguishing rebellions throughout the solar system, Malcolm does what he’s told, takes what he’s earned, and leaves the questions to someone else—especially when it comes to the affairs of offworlders. Heading into hostile territory, Malcolm will have to use everything he’s learned to stay alive. But he soon realizes that the situation on the ground is much more complex than he anticipated . . . and much more personal.

Enjoyable, full-on space opera adventure that nevertheless provides some thought-provoking insights into the human condition. Featuring anti-hero Malcolm Graves, the ending was wholly unexpected and very memorable. I loved it! My review will appearing on the blog be next week.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 12th June

Review of The Square Peg by Vivienne Tuffnell

Teaser Tuesday – The City of Mirrors – Book 3 of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin

Review of Banished – Book 1 of The Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jager

The Freestyle Writing Challenge

Friday Faceoff – Better a Witty Fool Than a Foolish Wit featuring Master and Fool – Book 3 of The Book of Words series by J.V. Jones

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The City of Mirrors – Book 3 The Passage series by Justin Cronin

Other interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

I loved this enjoyable, articulate article about a long-standing passion. Why I Write Science Fiction by Kate Colby. https://katemcolby.com/2016/06/15/why-i-write-science-fiction-fantasy/

Some excellent safety tips now we are approaching the time of year when we take our littlies out and about by Wanda Luthman – https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/family-vacation-safety/

Another superb post from this lovely site about war poets – some I knew, and some I didn’t… https://interestingliterature.com/2016/06/17/interesting-facts-about-war-poets/

Haunting pictures of children who have been displaced. https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/from-the-far-from-home-series/

Drew’s Friday Face-off contribution this week featured the mighty Robin Hobb, with a number of different covers for her book Fool’s Errand. Which is your favourite? https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/friday-face-off-17th-june/

Last night I attended the All Night Write event at the old Emporium theatre that ran 88londonrdfrom 10 pm through to 6 am this morning. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but went along with my friend Sarah Palmer. The setting was amazing in an old theatre space, with plenty of tables, comfortable seating and refreshments laid on. Phil Viner, best-selling crime writer, had organised a whole series of talks about all aspects of writing ranging from the actual process of writing, through to a discussion about the role of agents by Phillip Patterson, head of the Books Department from the Marjacq Agency. I particularly enjoyed Sarah Rayner’s excellent talk on self publishing as a hybrid author – the bonus being that these talks were delivered on the set of Peter Pan… Quirky and atmospheric. There was so much going on, we looked around twice – and it was already 3 am. We reluctantly left at 5 am before breakfast was served as we had quite a long journey home and no one wanted to suddenly find themselves falling asleep at the wheel after a fried meal. It was an amazing experience – and the bonus was that I also managed to write the opening pages of Bloodless.

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Square Peg by Vivienne Tuffnell


I had downloaded Square Peg a while ago onto my Kindle, but suddenly turned to it as an antidote to the rather grim apocalyptic near-future NetGalley arc I’d just endured. I was so very glad I did…

“She’d seen faces like that before, but on the television, in films and in the history books. The faces of fanatics, cold and blind to all reason staring back at her.”

squarepegChloe is a square peg in an increasingly uncomfortable round hole. Brought up by her wildly unconventional grandmother, she’s a true free spirit and has never learned to pull her punches. She’s just married trainee Church of England clergyman Clifford, and is living at the theological college and trying to figure out what’s going on around her. She’s had very little connection with formal religion, and has a talent for stepping on all sorts of emotional land-mines with the wives of the other ordinands. That would probably be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that her grandmother has inconsiderately died, and left her a house full of exotic souvenirs of her days as a travelling doctor, instructions to track down her father and sister, and what everyone else regards as a really bad attitude. She’s also lost her job, her temper, but not the will to live.

Chloe may come across as something of an airhead during the above extract of a rather chatty blurb, but in actual fact, she is mostly level-headed and extremely likeable. She is also in big trouble. Very recently bereaved, she is adrift. Her Gran, who brought her up, is the only family she has and while she is very happily married, it is a relatively new relationship. Moreover, her husband has recently started a course at a theological college training to be a Church of England vicar. And then, she is made redundant.

Like many people in great emotional pain, Chloe has become a tad short-fused and succeeds in mortally offending one of the wives of the ordinands at a supper designed to welcome the new intake and their wives. And what should be a relatively minor clash, quickly forgiven and forgotten in a Christian society, becomes the poisonous bedrock upon which a whispering campaign against Chloe is formed.

I’ve always been aware that Tuffnell possesses a keen intelligence and understanding of human nature – it sings out of her writing on her blog, Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking. It is what prompted me to buy her books in the first place. But this challenging read about prejudice and how it can get a grip, is a masterly study in how we human beings function – and how it can go so badly wrong. However, let me start by reassuring you. If you enjoy reading a smoothly well-written account of a very likeable protagonist in her daily life, then dive right in. Tuffnell’s technically accomplished writing style won’t plunge you into scenes of over-wrought misery. She depicts an independent young woman who has suffered a grievous loss, but carries on anyway – because everyone around her expects her to. Indeed, she expects that she should.

And despite the fact she is dealing with a serious subject, there is plenty of humour. Many of the scenes that lead up to the shocking climax verge on the farcical and certainly had me grinning. What added to my pleasure was that another of Tuffnell’s protagonists, Isabel from Away With the Fairies – see my review here – makes a sudden appearance. The narrative arc is beautifully handled, as is the fallout. There are no over-dramatic flourishes, which could so easily have tipped this book into melodrama.

Tuffnell tried to get her work traditionally published and after a number of near misses, gave up and now self publishes her writing. Thank goodness for that option – it would be a crying shame if books of this calibre didn’t see the light of day.

Weekly Wrap-Up – 24th April


Weekly Wrapup

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written. It’s been a good week – a VERY good week… First piece of excellent news was that I was graded an Outstanding for my latest lesson observation at Northbrook College. I enjoy teaching and have a lovely group of students, so it’s gratifying to have such positive feedback.

The next slice of excitement came in the form of an email from Darren Pulsford, editor of the upcoming anthology Eve of War due to be published on 19th June by Fox Spirit. ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ by yours truly is the first story in the running order. To be honest, I’d sort of forgotten about it – making it a lovely surprise!

I’ve read four books this week:

Date Night on Union Station – Book 1 of the EarthCent Ambassador by E.M. Fonerdatenight
I needed something lighter in tone after a fairly hefty apocalyptic sci fi adventure – and this was Himself’s suggestion, which, as ever, was on the button. It is more of a comedy of manners than the gritted battle for survival we are more used to seeing on space stations brimful of alien races and gnarly tech. I shall be reviewing it in due course.



Square Peg by Vivienne Tuffnell
I got know Viv’s writing through her accomplished blog Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking and bought her book Away With the Fairies last year. I wanted to touch base with the contemporary world and Himself was nagging me to read this prequel, so I did. It’s another original, memorable read. No one writes quite like Viv and she deserves to be far more widely read. Another book I’ll be reviewing soon.


Outriders – Book 1 of the Outriders series by Jay Poseyoutriders
This military science fiction adventure starts with a bang and rolls forward as we get to see events spool forward in the viewpoint of Lincoln, the Outrider’s new commander. And the Outriders are an elite black ops team in a world teetering on the edge of war with Mars… This NetGalley arc is due to be published at the beginning of May and I was very pleased to be in at the start of what I think is going to be a very successful series, if the first book is anything to go by.



The Executioner’s Heart – Book 4 of the Newbury and Hobbes Investigations series by George Mann
This latest steampunk whodunit has been loitering on by TBR pile for far too long – and as I’m learning to interleave my NetGalley arcs amongst the rest of the books piled up waiting for my attention – it suddenly jumped up and down and demanded to be read. Quite right too. It’s much too good to be ignored – and the ending was a major shock, leaving me agog to know what happens next.




My posts last week:
Weekly Wrap-Up – 17th April
Review of The Rhesus Chart – Book 5 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Teaser Tuesday – Outriders by Jay Posey
Review of Space Hostages – Book 2 of the Mars Evacuees series by Sophia McDougall
Books I Wished I’d Reviewed
Friday Faceoff – Dead Men Tell No Tales featuring Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
The Spring Book Tag

I had planned to spend the week-end out in the garden, tackling all those early weeks and tidying up after the winter, but the grandchildren are staying, so inevitably the weather has turned cold. I only garden when it’s nice, so we’re going to snuggle down in front of the fire, read books together and watch some daft film together. Once more, thank you for taking the time out of your busy life to read my reviews and articles and have a great week.

Review of Indie Ebook KINDLE EDITION Away with the Fairies by Vivienne Tuffnell


I downloaded this book, because I knew from Viv’s blog that she is a fine writer, with high standards, so I knew I wasn’t in for a misspelled, poorly formatted offering – and I was intrigued by the opening passage I read as a sample.

awaywiththefairiesIrrepressible artist Isobel has survived most things and managed to bounce back from everything so far. A sequence of domestic disasters finally signals to Isobel that perhaps things aren’t quite as rosy as she’d like. With her half of the inheritance, Isobel buys an isolated holiday cottage where she hopes to be able to catch up with some painting, as well as have the occasional holiday. The cottage is idyllic, beautiful and inspiring, but odd things keep happening. Doors won’t stay shut, objects go missing and reappear in the wrong places and footsteps are heard when there’s no one there. One of Isobel’s new neighbours suggests that it is the fairies who are responsible, but Isobel is more than a tad sceptical: there’s not a hint of glitter or tinselly wings or magic wands.

As she works at a frenetic pace, the odd happenings begin to increase until even Isobel’s rational, sceptical mind has to sit up and take notice. And that’s when she gets really scared. Up until now, her motto has been that there’s nothing in life that can’t be made better by a cup of tea and some Hob Nobs. This time it’s beginning to look like it’ll take more than even chocolate biscuits to make things better.

That’s a heavily edited version of the rather chatty blurb – but if the rather misleading title has you expecting some whimsical tale of winged cuteness, then don’t. This is a far grittier tale of how a couple of people deal with the curved balls Life throws at us, often in quick succession while we are still reeling from the last wicked delivery. I was immediately drawn into Isobel’s world, recalling my own struggles to prevail while in the midst of coping with a very precocious toddler and small baby suffering with a major dairy intolerance at a time when I was being told such a thing didn’t exist – though I certainly wasn’t also trying to paint…

There is a leavening of edged humour running throughout this thought-provoking book – and I can see why Viv ended up publishing the book, herself. This contemporary story isn’t all about boy meets girl, though there is plenty of love in it. Neither is it any kind of thriller or mystery, though there is tension and death in it, too. And while it is on the edge of paranormal, you won’t find any fae, vamps or werewolves stalking through it. In short – it thoroughly blurs the main genre boundaries, which probably accounts for the fact that publishers and agents left it alone, despite the fact it is an original, well-written, engrossing story.

Along with Isabel, there is a cast of well depicted, realistic characters who help to make up Tuffnell’s world and contribute to the richness of the world which bounces off the page. I stayed up reading waaay into the night to see what would happen next, as the story swept me up. Is the narrative arc brought to a successful conclusion? Oh yes – and this could have so easily descended into facile sentimentality. Tuffnell is grappling with some gnarly issues here that has most of us staring into the darkness, shivering a little… What is the point of it all? What happens when we die? How will we be remembered – if at all? It would have been so much simpler to have wrapped this story up in a thick layer of treacle and served it up as comfort food for the soul.

That Tuffnell refuses to give into that temptation is a testament to her own gutsy take on the world, which becomes apparent in her blog – and her talent as a writer. If you’re a fan of well-written, contemporary fiction featuring a sympathetic female protagonist, then track this book down. You, really, won’t find anything else out there quite like it…