Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected #ThrowbackThursday

Well, yes it is worth it – we love it, despite the unexpected. Having a holiday apartment attached to our house has brought us many friends; visitors who return year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We love seeing them again. And we are fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there have been downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the two elderly sisters …

I watched Husband walk past the kitchen window and waved. He didn’t wave back. Because of the goggles and the scarf around his nose and mouth  I couldn’t tell if he smiled or not. I thought – probably not. He wore a helmet over a balaclava on his head, navy overalls, elbow length gloves and thigh waders. He looked ridiculous but I didn’t dare laugh. This was serious. He was on a mission… a clearing the sewers mission…

Sewer Contractor New Rochelle Husband in a hole!

The story of the sewers began  a fortnight earlier in the shape of the two ladies. They arrived late on the Saturday evening; it was already getting dark.  Despite our assurances that it didn’t matter; that we were home anyway, they  continued to apologize profusely as we showed them to the apartment. There’d been traffic hold-ups, one of them suffered from car sickness so they’d had to stop often, they’d lost their way; gone off at the wrong junction of the M4 and ended up in Swansea.

We calmed them down, Husband offered to carry their luggage in.

‘No,’ they said, ‘we’ll be fine. You leave us to it. We haven’t much.’

They were ideal guests; the type we’d  hoped for when we started this venture.

old lady twoold lady

They were quiet, friendly, pleasant to have around.. Ever ready for a chat they sat with us in the garden a couple of the evenings enjoying a glass of wine, some nibbles. They didn’t go out much; just for one or two hours each day. Most of the time they sat on the guest patio, reading. Aged around eighty, we discovered they were twins; obviously both retired; one an ex school teacher, they other a librarian. They called us Mr and Mrs Barrow and we  called them both Miss Smith (obviously not their real name!!) They wore almost identical clothes and shoes, had the same hairstyle, finished one another’s sentences  in the same refined tones. 

When we asked if everything was all right,did they need anything , we were told all was perfect. On the middle weekend they insisted I hand over the clean  bedding and towels and changed the bed themselves. 

On the last evening we invited them in for a meal. They only stayed a couple of hours; we were told they had an early start in the morning.  Later we heard them hoovering. I knocked on the door and told them not to bother, they had a long day in front of them the following day.. Despite my protestations, they persisted for another hour.

 They must have gone very early, they’d left before we got up at seven the next day.

 Which I thought was great; it meant I could get on with the cleaning before the next visitors arrived.

It was halfway through the following week when we noticed the problem. Our new visitors complained that the loo wasn’t working properly and the bathroom was smelling. By the end of the day the kitchen sink in the apartment was backing up with unpleasant water and the lavatories in the main part of the house weren’t flushing efficiently. In fact they were overflowing!

At this point I’m wondering if I should have put a health warning on this post. Hmm?

 Trying to be as delicate as possible here!!!loo

And so to the beginning of this sorry tale… 

I watched Husband walk past the kitchen window and waved …

He stopped, came back to the window and motioned (sorry!) for me to open it. ‘I don’t suppose you want to help?’ he shouted through the scarf. I closed the window – the smell was bad. Besides I thought we should have sent for the local drains/ sewage clearing people. Being a ‘careful  with money’ man, Husband thought he could “do it himself” 

 The new visitors went out for the day with a donation from us for meals.

Without going into any more graphic detail all I can say is that the blockage was… cat litter (with the evidence!). Our two little old ladies had apparently smuggled brought their cat on holiday with them (into our “no smoking, no pets” apartment) and flushed the contents of the litter tray down the loo. Which was washed by the water along the pipes only so far before setting like cement in the drains.

Six hours later – and after much shovelling and swearing – Husband conceded defeat and we sent for the specialists. 

I connected the garden hose to the outside tap on the garage and hosed him downBefore he was allowed back into the house, he stripped off.

Which reminds me. Have I told you about the Naturists who came to stay…?

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Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a guest post from Suzie Tullett on her Blog Blitz for her new book, Little White Lies and Butterflies.

BLOG BLITZ

white lies final (2)

Little White Lies and Butterflies blurb

Lydia knows first-hand that ‘having it all’ isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. As far as she’s concerned, when it comes to job versus family, it’s a case of one or the other. And whilst most women her age have spent years climbing the corporate ladder, she’s made a career out of bagging her perfect man. Now nearly thirty and still single, Lydia wonders if she’d made the right choice.

Realising the time has come to take stock, she goes against her family’s wishes and goes travelling in the hope of finding a new direction. At least that’s the plan.

So when Sam comes along, she decides to tell a little white lie, re-inventing herself as a professional chef – not exactly the best new identity for a woman who can’t cook. But the truth can’t stay hidden for long and when her family show up unexpectedly things go from bad to worse…

Can Lydia find love? Will she ever learn to cook?

Little White Lies and Butterflies is a heart-warming comedy about finding your place in the world.

Suzie says:

As writers we don’t just want to tell a story, we want to pull our readers into our books and make them feel as if they’re there experiencing events alongside our main characters. One way to do this is through the senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Little White Lies and Butterflies is set on Kalymnos, one of the Greek islands, so as you can imagine I had great fun drawing upon all of these as I wrote.

I loved conveying the harshness of the Kalymnian landscape; a haven amongst climbers, its giant, craggy rock faces appeared intimidating to some of my characters, yet inviting to others. I enjoyed writing about the sound of the waves as they lapped against the shore, and the rhythm of the Greek language as Lydia tried to figure out where one word ended and the next one began. And with Autumn taking hold here in the real world, I’m sure we can all imagine the feel of the sand between her toes, the sun on her skin, and smell the aroma of pine cones and sea salt.

The sense that I had the most fun with though was taste. Greek food has a place in this story and just thinking about some of the dishes would be enough to make anyone’s mouth water, not just mine. Such as the Kleftiko, a mixture of melt-in-the mouth lamb, olive oil, oregano and garlic – talk about gourmet heaven. Which is why I thought I’d share the recipe for one of my favourite Greek dishes with you today – Stifado, made with big chunks of beef and juicy shallots in the most mouth-watering of tomato sauces.

Having lived on the island of Kalymnos you’d think I’d have an authentic recipe but, alas, I don’t. Alternatively, I have found one from a website called Greek Islands Travel which I hope you’ll give a try. I know I certainly will.

Beef Stifado

Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 1kg lean beef
  • 500g shallot onions
  • 2 large onions
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 2 tbl of tomato paste
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sprig of rosemary
  • 4 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small glasses of red wine
  • cider vinegar
  • black pepper.
  1. Put the chopped onions in a large skillet with the olive oil and cook on a low heat until the onions soften.
    2. Cube the beef and add to the skillet turning up the heat until the meat is sealed.
    3. Turn down the heat and add finely chopped garlic, chopped tomatoes, crushed nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, rosemary and a good pinch of black pepper.
    4. Stir on a moderate heat for 2 mins then add the wine and tomato paste.
    5. Add a generous splash of cider vinegar and stir well.
    6. Turn out into a casserole dish an add enough warm water to cover the meat.
    7. Cover with foil and cook in oven at 180°C for 40 minutes.
    8. Peel the shallots and shallow fry on a low heat until soft — don’t let them burn.
    9. Remove casserole from the oven and spoon in the shallots (not the oil).
    10. Return to oven at 150°C for another hour or until the meat is soft and tender.

Crown with some spinach leaves and serve with creamy mashed potato (use creme fraiche if you are weight conscious), with plain white rice or just some warm crusty bread.

Well, authentic or not, it sounds delicious to me, Suzie, thank you. Will be giving this recipe a go soon.

Author Bio:

suzie
Suzie Tullett is an author of contemporary humorous fiction and romantic comedy. She has a Masters Degree in Television & Radio Scriptwriting and worked as a scriptwriter before becoming a full-time novelist. Her motto is to ‘live, laugh, love’ and when she’s not busy creating her own literary masterpieces, she usually has her head in someone else’s.

Suzie lives in a tiny hamlet in the middle of the French countryside, along with her husband and two Greek rescue dogs.

 

 Links to buy:
 Amazon.c.uk: http://amzn.to/2xErFj9
 Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2x7a8Pf
 Links to Suzie:
Suzie’swebsite Suzie Tullett

Instagram suzie_tullett

Everybody’s Somebody by Beryl Kingston #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

everybod's somebody

I received a free copy of this book as a member of Rosie’s Book Review team in exchange for an honest review.

 I gave Everybody’s Somebody 4*out of 5*

Book Description:

“Life’s for real an’ you got to get on with it.”

Rosie Goodison is not one to shy away from life’s problems. Whether it’s finding work or challenging injustice, Rosie squares her shoulders, sets her chin high and faces it full on.

Born at the end of the nineteenth century, in the rural south of England and sent into service aged just twelve, Rosie quickly discovers that many good people spend their lives toiling for very little reward, whilst others ‘have it all’.

She decides it won’t be like that for her. Why can’t she ride in a car? Why can’t she work when she’s pregnant? Why can’t she live in a nice flat? Why can’t she be an artist’s model?

Whilst working as a housekeeper for two upper-class boys, Rosie starts to learn more and more about the world, gleaned from overheard conversations and newspapers left lying around. This triggers an ongoing thirst for knowledge, which shapes her views, informs her decisions and influences her future. 

Rosie aspires to have a better life than that of her parents: better living conditions, better working conditions and pay, better education for her children, to be able to vote, to be able to control how many children she has…

Without realising it, this young woman is blazing a trail for all those who are to come after.

Whilst working in London, Rosie meets her sweetheart Jim, but the The Great War puts paid to their plans for the future, and matters worsen afterwards, as she, along with the rest of society, tries to deal with the horrors and losses.

This heart-warming story follows the events of the early twentieth century – the impact and horrors of WW1, the financial crisis and the rapid social and political changes that took place.

All that remains of Rosie now is a quartet of paintings in an art gallery. The artist, now famous but the model, unnamed and forgotten; nobody of consequence.

But everybody has a life story. Everybody leaves some kind of mark on this world.

Everybody’s somebody.

My Review:

 I was really looking forward to reading Everybody’s Somebody. This is my kind of book, set in an era I have read and researched. I wasn’t disappointed; the story has  a true sense of the time, the place, the people. Told with great attention to period detail, there are some lovely passages of descriptive writing, particularly in relation to the interior scenes of buildings and houses.

The characters are well drawn: Rosie Goodison, the protagonist, has many layers; loyalty, love, pride, independence, and holds a great sense of self-preservation. I empathised with her from the word go. I had reservations sometimes with Jim, Though sensitive to a point with Rosie, I found him to be slightly self-centred and self-indulgent. But, for me, this was a sign of good writing, he is brilliantly  rounded. As is his sister, Kitty. And I liked the friendship and solidarity the two women are shown to share.

One of the themes running throughout the book is that of these two women, as well as others, fighting to asserting themselves, both within relationships and in society. This struggle is carried out before a backdrop of patriarchy,  poverty, unemployment and the devastation of the First World War. It is obvious that the author has researched both the social, economical and political backgrounds and changes: the book covers the Suffragette movement, WW1,the London floods of 1928,.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and the few problems I had with Everybody’s Somebody are slight and two of the reasons are purely personal. But to balance the review, I will mention them here.

The first is with the dialogue. I found the overuse of dialect a bit irritating and, for me, there was little to distinguish the voice of one character from another,especially between Rosie and Kitty. This wasn’t helped by the ‘head-hopping ‘ between them; in the middle of one character’s point of view, the voice of one of the other character would pop in.

And, for me, the dropping in of so many names of famous people in real life at that time felt contrived. One or two would have worked. As far as I was concerned so many were not needed; it’s blatantly obvious the author knows this era like the back of her own hand.

And, also, sometimes I felt as if time was skimmed over; I was just settling into a certain scene or set of circumstances and  the story moved on. However this is a personal thing; I so love this era I just wanted to read more about particular scenes or circumstances. I do realise that this could have made the book impossibly long,.. though it did cross my mind that Everybody’s Somebody could have stretched to a sequel… even a trilogy. 

But, as I’ve said, I’m only adding the above to balance the review.  I really liked this book, the plot is excellent with many twists and turns and Beryl Kingston has an easy to read writing style.

I would recommend Everybody’s Somebody to any reader who is interested in history, feminism and family sagas with a hint of mystery.

 Links;
 Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2y0a3v4
Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2wUVgmW
About the author
 
beryl

I was born in 1931 in Tooting, and when I was four was enrolled at a local dancing school run by a lady called Madam Hadley, which I attended until I was eight when the war began. Because of the war my school career was – shall we say – varied. I was evacuated twice, the first time to Felpham which is near Bognor Regis and the second to Harpenden in Hertfordshire, and consequently went to ten different schools. I ended up at Streatham Secondary School, an LCC grammar run on the Dalton system, which offered a few lessons as sparking points and then required pupils to be responsible for their own learning, either in study rooms with their teachers on hand to help and advise, or on their own in the library or the school hall. It suited me to a T. Then to King’s College London, where I read English and enjoyed myself a lot, but wasn’t particularly distinguished, having other things on my mind by then.

I am proud of the fact that I was in Tooting for the first four months of the blitz, and only left it to be evacuated again when our road was bombed and our house was uninhabitable. I spent the middle part of the war in Harpenden and returned to live in London again at the end of the war at the time of the V2’s, this time without my family.

When I was just sixteen I met the love of my life, who arrived on my doorstep in Air Force blue one February evening in the coldest winter on record. Despite heavy opposition from my parents, we married three years later during my first year at King’s and spent the next 53 years 11 months and 6 days living more and more happily together. We had three much loved children and five much loved grandchildren and once I’d embarked on my career as a novelist, researched all the books together, which was great fun. We finished work on ‘Gates of Paradise’ six weeks before he died. So this publication is special to me.

I have enjoyed two careers in my life – as a teacher from 1952 to 1985 (with ten years off to bring up my family, which some might consider a third career) and as a published writer from 1980 to date. I am also, although it sounds immodest to say it, an easy and charismatic public speaker, usually unfazed by any audience no matter how big or how small or what questions they might throw at me.

In the two schools where I was head of the English department, I deliberately covered the full range of age and ability, believing that as I was paid the largest salary I should carry the heaviest responsibility. My work was filmed by KCL Education Department for use in their PGCE course and I have given talks at various colleges and schools on a variety of educational subjects, from teaching poetry to ‘tackling’ sex education. I have never subscribed to the Gradgrind theory of education which is current now, but always believed that the job of a teacher is to enable her students to learn.

I have always been a political animal, taking part in street demonstrations, walking from Aldermaston to London, involved in the 1945 election despite the fact that I was only fourteen, taking to the streets again, along with a million others, to protest against the Iraq war when I was 72.

And as a last and rather lighter touch, I was a beauty queen in 1947. It wasn’t all protests!

My Review of Parallel Lies by Georgia Rose #FridayReads

parrellel lives

I received a copy of Parallel Lies from the author in return for an honest review. I gave the book 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

My name is Madeleine, Madeleine Ross. It is a name chosen with thought and because it is classy, and that is what is needed here…’ Madeleine Ross has life exactly as she planned it. Cosy cottage, friendly village, satisfying job. Company… when she wants it. It’s an enviable existence for an independent young woman, and one she’s keen to protect. Enter Daniel – strong, dependable and a danger to everything she’s built. He’s not something she was looking for, but hearts can’t be controlled and maybe, just maybe he might be worth letting into hers. But, all is not what it seems. Because Madeleine is hiding a lifetime of secrets. Deep secrets. And they never stay buried for ever. Her darkest secret returns, like the proverbial bad penny. He is her first love, shadowy, dangerous, the baddest of bad boys. No matter how far she runs, or how well she hides, she can never escape him. Or her past. Here he is, on her doorstep, with a proposition she is powerless to resist but which could devastate the future she hoped to have. Can Madeleine satisfy the old love while keeping the new? You can’t always get what you want but, desperate to preserve the life she has worked so hard for, Madeleine is willing to risk everything to prove that she can.

 My Review:

I’ve always enjoyed Georgia Rose’s work; she has a writing style that carries the reader along, never quite sure what will happen next in her books.

Parallel Lies is no exception; it’s a cracking good read, a mixture of mystery and crime with an  overlay of romance.

The main characters are strongly rounded,  The protagonist is shown to be flawed; she lives, as the title hints, parallel lives; a damaged woman hidden inside the persona she has skilfully and painstakingly acquired; the classy Madeleine. Then there is Dan, initially disliked by Madeleine, yet it’s a classic case; the dislike turns into reluctant love. A love  endangered by a character from her past life. Say no more!

And, something else I liked; the minor characters are given enough layers to make them believable (I particularly liked  Diane, a strong woman who grew up in the sixties, with all that the era represents)  and Joe, the gardener and friend of Diane, given wisdom and insight. Also Kourtney, a young woman rough around the edges who reminds the protagonist of herself when younger. For me, the way Kourtney’s  life evolves in the story suggests that there is more to come from this character at some times in the future. Or maybe not? Hmm.

Told mostly from Madeline’s  point of view. we get an insight both to the way the plot is progressing and also  to the subtle, inevitable changes in the protagonist. But there is, as well, another point of view, and I did like this; Dan’s point of view. This is in the second person point of view as internal dialogue. It worked well, for me.

And I thought the  dialogue throughout worked well for all the characters.

The descriptions of the settings  give a good sense of place; it’s easy to see the characters moving around the pubs and houses in Crowbridge, the gym and seedy shop in Hartleigh.

All in all, a well  written story by Georgia Rose  that builds the tension of the plot.

I  recommend Parallel Lies.

 Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2evommM

 Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2vQGEBx

 The Author: 

Georgia Rose 1

Georgia Rose is a writer and the author of the romantic and suspenseful Grayson Trilogy books: A Single Step, Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water. A short story, The Joker, based on a favourite character from the series followed and is free to download from Amazon.

Her fourth novel, Parallel Lies, a standalone, encompasses crime along with Georgia’s usual blending of genre.

Following a long stint working in the law Georgia set up her own business providing administration services for other companies which she does to this day managing to entwine that work along with her writing.

Georgia’s background in countryside living, riding, instructing and working with horses has provided the knowledge needed for some of her story lines; the others are a product of her passion for people watching and her overactive imagination.

Links to Georgia:

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/georgia.rose.books

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GeorgiaRoseBook

Mutterings by author, Thorne Moore

 Monday, 28 August 2017

Judith Barrow coming full circle

I have written four novels and each has been independent – different settings, different characters, different themes – but I have begun to feel the allure of keeping a story going, beyond the last page of a book. I have written short stories that accompany my novels, but I’ve never yet been brave enough to take on a whole series.
That is what Judith Barrow has done, with her Howarth Family trilogy, covering the decades from the Second World War to the late sixties, and she has completed it now with a prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, covering the early decades of the 20th century. I am hugely impressed.

Pattern of Shadows is the first of the Howarth family trilogy. Mary is a nursing sister at Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling, life at home a constant round of arguments, until Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the camp turns up. Frank is difficult to love but persistent and won’t leave until Mary agrees to walk out with him.

Sequel to Pattern of ShadowsChanging Patterns is set in May 1950, Britain is struggling with the hardships of rationing and the aftermath of the Second World War There are many obstacles in the way of Mary’s happiness, not the least of which is her troubled family. When tragedy strikes, Mary hopes it will unite her siblings. Will the family pull together to save one of their own from a common enemy.

The last of the trilogy, Living in the Shadows is set in 1969. There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way they can escape their murderous consequences.

And so to the prequel: A Hundred Tiny Threads: Winifred is a determined young woman eager for new experiences. When her friend Honora – an Irish girl, with the freedom to do as she pleases – drags Winifred along to a suffragette rally, she realises that there is more to life than the shop and her parents’ humdrum lives of work and grumbling.
 Bill Howarth’s troubled childhood echoes through his early adult life and the scars linger, affecting his work, his relationships and his health. The only light in his life comes from a chance meeting with Winifred, the daughter of a Lancashire grocer.

For the record, in my opinion, this is a great book, that places two people in the midst of some of the most earth-shattering and horrifying events of the early 20th century but shows it all through their very individual eyes, coloured by their own uniquely troubled situations. And, of course, knowing how it ends in the following trilogy adds a piquant regret to the tale.

Judith, like me, has lived in Pembrokeshire for many years and, like me, came here from a distant galaxy long ago and far away – Well, Yorkshire in her case and Bedfordshire in mine. Here, she tells how she came to Pembrokeshire.
We found Pembrokeshire by accident.
With three children under three, an old cottage half renovated and a small business that had become so successful that we were working seven days a week, we were exhausted. David, my husband, thought we should get off the treadmill; at least for a fortnight.
Pre-children, cottage and business, we always holidayed in Cornwall. But we decided it was too far with a young family and an unreliable van. We’d go to Wales; not too difficult a journey from Lancashire, we thought.
Once that was mentioned, David was eager to see Four Crosses, near Welshpool, where his grandfather originated from.
‘We could stay there,’ he said.
‘But the children will want beaches,’ I protested. ‘And I’ve heard Pembrokeshire has wonderful beaches.
We agreed to toss a coin and Pembrokeshire won. We’d call at Four Crosses on the way home.
I borrowed books on Wales from the library and, balancing our 8-month-old twins, one on each knee, I read as much as I could about the county. It sounded just the place to take children for a holiday. We booked a caravan and, when the big day came, packed the van to the hilt with everything the children would need, remembering only at the last minute, to throw a few clothes in for ourselves.
It took 10 hours.
In 1978 there was no easy route from the North of England to West Wales.
We meandered through small lanes, stopping for emergencies like much needed drinks, picnics, lavatory stops and throwing bread to the ducks whenever our eldest daughter spotted water. I’d learned to keep a bag of stale bread for such times.
The closer we were to our destination the slower we went. In the heat of the day the engine in our old van struggled; we needed to top up the radiator every hour or so. For the last 50 miles we became stuck in traffic jams.
We got lost numerous times.
All this and three ever-increasingly fractious children.
We arrived at the caravan site in the middle of the night so were relieved to find the key in the door.
The owner, a farmer, had given up and gone home.
I woke early. Leaving David in charge of our exhausted and still sleeping family, I crept out.
The sun was already warm; a soft breeze barely moved the leaves on the oak tree nearby. Skylarks flittered and swooped overhead, calling to one another. 
Although the caravan was one of four in the farmer’s field, we were the only people there. It was so quiet, so peaceful.
I walked along a small path. Within minutes I was faced by a panorama of sea. It seemed so still from the top of the cliff, but the water blended turquoise and dark blue with unseen currents, the horizon was a silvery line.
Faint voices from two small fishing boats carried on the air.
The sandstone cliffs curved round in a natural cove. Jagged rocks, surrounded by white ripples of water, jutted up towards the sky.
I fell in love with Pembrokeshire.
I’d always liked living so close to the Pennines. The moors, criss-crossed by ancient stone walls, were glorious with wild rhododendrons in summer, heather in the autumn. Even when brooding under swathes of drifting mist or white-over with snow, I was happy there.
But Pembrokeshire has a powerful glory of its own.
Within months we’d thrown caution, and our past lives, to the wind and moved here, much to the consternation of our extended family; as far as they were concerned we were moving to the ends of the earth.
But it was one of the best decisions of my life.

My Review of A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry #TuesdayBookBlog

A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by [Barry, Mark]

 

Book Description:

“I swore that I would never go home, 
but in the end, I had no choice. 
I had to confront what happened. 
And them too. 
It was going be icky. And totally scary.”

Carol Prentice left Wheatley Fields to attend university in Manchester and not once did she return in four years. Her beloved father visited her whenever he could, but then he passed away and it was up to her to sort his affairs. 

She could have done this from a distance, but a woman can run to the far corners of the earth, but, in the end, she can never escape herself

She had to come home: There was no other choice.

Taking a job at a bookshop for the duration, she befriends Steve – an older man who looks like a wizard and who knows everything in the world. 

Carol quickly encounters the demons that forced her to leave in the first place – including Toby, the raffish local villain, with whom she shares the most horrifying of secrets and whose very existence means evil and mayhem for everyone around. Especially the lovable Steve. 

Carol finds herself in the middle of a war between the two men: 
A war which can only have one victor. 

Soon, she wishes she had never come home. 
But by then it was too late. 
Much too late.

My Review:

I‘ve had A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice on my TBR list for ages but other books kept pushing it further down the pile. What a mistake! I was hooked from the word go (something to do with the fact that the protagonist was wearing a ‘satanic wedding dress, with layers and layers of blue and black lace – with Doc Martins’ ) Brilliant! I so wanted to dress as a Goth when I was younger and never had the courage.

 Anyway, enough; this is about Mark Barry’s powerful story of,  revenge, conflicting love, heartbreak, great friendship, empathy and strong characters.

 This is yet another book that I read while ‘doing domestic trivia’  (though cooking a meal can be a problem – ironing while reading is easy-peasy) I read this book in one session.

I don’t give away spoilers in my reviews and it would be too easy with this book. And, anyway, I think the book blurb says enough

The characters are multi-layered, rounded characters and, for me, are either loved or hated in equal measure (hated Toby Gifford and his mates with a vengeance, loved Carol and Steve.)

 The dialogue is so suited to all the characters, though initially I found Carol’s habit of interspersing her language with ‘like’ a little irritating I soon got used to it; it fits her personality. Fascinating internal dialogue from Carol as well; I always had  a slight unnerving feeling she could be an unreliable narrator but she won me over time and time again. And I love the interaction between her and Steve, it so emphasises the growing and enduring unusual friendship.

It’s an intriguing plot that caught me unawares in places. And I loved that, even though I was in no doubt Carol would triumph in the end, there were a few ‘wobbly’ moments… and, sadly, one casualty. I’m saying no more!

And great to see a male author write from  the perspective from a female protagonist. I can’t remember when I read another book with that angle.

This is a book I could read again and enjoy just as much. Without any doubt whatsoever I recommend A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice to all readers.

Loved the cover by the way.

Buying Links: (Go on, you know you want to)

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2xa8jz2

Amazon.com; http://amzn.to/2iojLny

About the Author:

Mark Barry

 

Mark Barry is a multi-genre contemporary fiction writer who lives in Nottinghamshire, in Great Britain. He writes extraordinary stories about ordinary people. 

Two of his books have been best sellers in their time and his most recent, A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice, has attracted rave reviews from everyone who has read it.

He has one son, one tattoo (on his chest), loves horse racing, rock music, and fanatically supports Notts County football club.

Brook Cottage Books Presents The House With Old Furniture  by Helen Lewis

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The house with old furniture

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Release Date: 20 July 2017

Publisher: Honno Press

 The ghosts of a century’s worth of secrets and betrayals are coming home to Pengarrow…

 Evie has lost her eldest son, Jesse, to gang violence. Leaving the house he grew up in is pulling apart the few strings left holding her heart together. Only the desire to be there for her younger boy, Finn, impels Evie to West Wales and the ancient house her husband is sure will heal their wounds.

Days later, Andrew is gone – rushing back to his ‘important’ job in government, abandoning his grieving wife and son. Finn finds solace in the horse his father buys by way of apology. As does his evasive and fearful new friend, Nye, the one who reminds him and Evie of Jesse… Evie loses herself in a dusty 19th century journal and glasses of homemade wine left by the mysterious housekeeper.

As Evie’s grasp on reality slides, Andrew’s parents ride to the rescue. It is clear that this is a house they know. They seem to think they own it, and begin making changes nobody wants, least of all Alys and her son, Nye, the terrified youth who looks so like Jesse.

My Review:

This book hooked me from the start: ” I don’t want to leave. I’m being ripped from the rock I cling to…” Right away i was in the protagonist’s heart and mind. The story of Evie Wolfe, her grief, her bewilderment, her sense of loss is threaded through the whole of The House With Old Furniture. Helen Lewis has a talent for writing phrases that evoke instant images, moods and sensations.This is rich,flowing prose.

Told alternately from the points of view of Evie and her young son, Finn, the contrast in tone is stark, yet the empathy, between the two is palpable.  The author relates many of the same scenes throughout the novel from their different perspectives, with their different voices, allowing each scene to come alive and enabling the reader to ‘see’ the confusion in each character’s mind. Yet also to begin to see the machinations of the other characters surrounding them.

All the characters are multi-layered and convincing in the roles they play, whether they live in the ‘real’ world or are more ephemeral. As a reader I found myself alternately empathetic, saddened, perturbed, intrigued, angry. The House With Old Furniture is not a book that lets the reader go so easily; I discovered it is quite easy to dust, to make a meal one -handed, to iron, with only occasional glances to see what I was doing. And to read.

The spoken dialogue defines each character to their part in the plot, yet it is so subtly written that it is easy, initially, to miss the manipulations that are woven throughout. Only through the internal dialogue of Finn and the gradual slipping of reality with Evie did the unease grow in me.

My review wouldn’t be complete without a word or two about the setting of the novel. The descriptive narrative brings alive the surrounding countryside of Wales; the isolation, the beauty, sometimes the danger, to give a great sense of place. I also love the title; The House With Old Furniture encompasses the descriptions of both Pengarrow and the cottage where Evie finds Nye and Alys.  Ah, Alys, an elusive character that I will leave other readers to discover for themselves, just as Evie ‘discovers’ her.

This is a story where a sense of disbelief has to be, and is, easily suspended. And it’s expertly brought about by Helen Lewis’ writing.

Love the cover by the way…and the wonderful inscriptions and patterns on the pages that divide the chapters.

As you can probably guess,I wholeheartedly recommend.The House With Old Furniture.

BUY LINKS

 http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781909983663

https://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Old-Furniture-Helen-Lewis/dp/1909983667/

https://www.amazon.com/House-Old-Furniture-Helen-Lewis/dp/1909983667

 ABOUT HELEN LEWIS

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Helen was born in 1967 in the New Forest. She spent her childhood dreaming of becoming a ballerina and doodling in the margin. She graduated from Southampton Faculty of Art and Design (so long ago now, that the place doesn’t even exist!) and worked as a professional Doodler of Margins (Graphic Designer) for twenty years. In 2006 She moved to Pembrokeshire with her family and lives in the middle of nowhere where she reads, writes, and runs.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helenlewisauthor

Twitter:  @hedlew

Blog: http://www.helen-lewis.co.uk/blog

Website: www.helen-lewis.co.uk

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GIVEAWAY

3 ebooks (open internationally)

3 paperbacks (Uk only)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4be03017242/