Friday 15 July 2016

Summer Tales - Book Review

Summer Tales is here! Right on cue for the summer holidays and it would make a fantastic ‘beach read’ or a ‘relaxing in the garden’ read.

This is the third anthology of seasonal short stories from Ruler’s Wit, following on from Winter Tales and Spring Tales

Summer Tales has been written by the same four authors: Stephen Ashurst, Karen Ette, Melinda Ingram and Donna Shepherd plus a welcome, new addition - K. D. Parker who has only recently joined Ruler's Wit and so this is her debut appearance in their publications.  

The fourteen stories all have a summer setting, which brings them together in a united theme, but each one is very different from the others. Some of the characters from Winter Tales and Spring Tales take up new adventures as the seasons change.

The first five stories all have a different, well-known saying as their title and the book opens with a dark but hilarious tale, If You Can’t Stand the Heat, – you’ll never see Blackpool in the same way again.

At the Going Down of the Sun is set in July 1916 and the Battle of the Somme. It is fact-based fiction written from the unpublished diaries of a stretcher-bearer and a nurse.

Sign of the Times is a fascinating time-slip story, and is again fact-based fiction set around Salcombe’s South Sands.

In All that Glitters you can find out who Alistair’s group of friends are and what he discovers.

Life on a Silver Spoon shows how manipulative those in debt can be, and tells of one young lady’s plan to embark on life on a silver spoon.

Someone Who Cares will keep you on tenterhooks; it’s dark, it’s disturbing, and only two people can prevent devastation.

Scratchcards, however, is lighter and tells of a hot summer’s night in a village community, with a twist.

A Bloody Good Innings is a beautifully written story that made me cry; I’ll say no more other than ‘it’s been emotional’.

Back to the dark side with Excess Baggage – can relationships from a one-time meeting last? Fasten your seatbelts for take off!

If you have read Spring Tales you will recognise the characters in this fast-paced story, First Stop Venice. When tragedy strikes, a good friend will be there and take you on a holiday to remember.

More familiar characters continue their escapades in Far From Here (part 2). This Sci-fi adventure will make you smile, but there is a worrying element as to how on earth they are going to get out of this situation.

Cape Reinga is set in New Zealand, blending Maori culture and legend in this fictional tale.

Little Cuts of Film is another story based on accurate facts of the war in Iraq in July 2007. 

The last story, He Said What? is about two friends who live in different continents, but care so much for each other that drastic action has to be taken.
The openings of two of the fact-based stories, At the Going Down of the Sun and Little Cuts of Film can be read on the Ruler’s Wit website:

 Summer Tales is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.

Friday 1 July 2016

Steampunk Shakespeare

The rain had stopped and the sun was trying to put in an appearance too as we took our seats on the lawns of Thorsby Hall, near Ollerton in Nottinghamshire and awaited the performance of Macbeth by the Oddsocks Theatre Company.

The Oddsocks Theatre Company say that: ‘The Oddsocks approach is holistic, transcending from cast and crew through to local, regional and national audiences. No hierarchy and no elitism; just a creative group united by the aim to engage as many people as possible in exploring the potential of theatre and the stories it tells. Breaking down the barriers between communities and culture.’

Their adaptation of Macbeth was funny, hilarious at times, entertaining and had a musical theme where the cast could not only show off their acting skills but their musical talents also.

This was Shakespeare – Steampunk style.

Macbeth is a story of murderous ambition with supernatural intervention.  

After the introductions, the play opened with the three witches and then moves to a military camp where King Duncan hears that Macbeth and Banquo have defeated two invading armies. Banquo and Macbeth meet the three witches who tell them that Macbeth will be made Thane of Cawdor and eventually King of Scotland and Banquo’s heirs will be kings.

Lady Macbeth receives news from her husband of the prophecy and his new title and she vows to help him become king by any means she can. Macbeth returns as Duncan arrives. The Macbeths plot together and later that night, while all are sleeping and after his wife has given the guards drugged wine, Macbeth kills the King and Lady Macbeth leaves the bloody daggers beside the dead Duncan. Macduff then arrives and Duncan’s sons are blamed for the murder.

Macbeth, now King of Scotland, arranges for Banquo be killed, then at a banquet Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo, which troubles him and he begins to act strangely. 

Lady Macbeth tries to calm him but doesn’t succeed.

The witches tell Macbeth that he will be safe until Birnam Wood comes to his castle, and that he need fear no-one born of woman, but that Banquo’s son will be King.

Angered by this, Macbeth launches into murderous actions and many people are killed, including Macduff’s family. Macduff, however, has joined Duncan’s son, Malcolm, at the court of King Edward in England. Malcolm and Macduff decide to lead an uprising against Macbeth.

Back at Dunsinane Castle, Macbeth feels safe until he is told that Birnam Wood is moving towards him (cue audience to wave arms in the air) – Malcolm’s army is carrying branches to camouflage them.

Lady Macbeth is wracked with guild and commits suicide.

Macduff challenges Macbeth, who discovers that Macduff was born by caesarian section.

Macbeth riding a motorbike and singing Bat out of Hell, was brilliant. Macbeth realises he is finished and Macduff kills him. Malcolm declares peace and is crowned king.