It’s Who We Are by Christine Webber #TuesdayBookBlog

 

who we are

 

I was  lucky enough to win a copy of It’s Who We Are and gave the book 4*out of 5*

Book Description:

Five friends in their fifties find themselves dealing with unforeseen upheaval as they uncover long-hidden and devastating family secrets. Meanwhile, the world around them seems to be spinning out of control.
The events of It’s Who We Are take place between October 2016 and June 2017, against a backdrop of all the political uncertainty and change in the UK, Europe and America.
The story is set in East Anglia, London and Ireland, and is about friendship, kindness and identity. Most importantly, it highlights how vital it is to reach for what enhances rather than depletes you

My Review:

 This a contemporary read set against the detailed background of political upheaval, both through Brexit, the Trump presidency and economical uncertainly.  And there are some wonderful descriptions of the city of London and County Kerry in Ireland that give a great sense of place and the portrayal of the homes and work places belonging to the characters are really well written.

I did like the author’s easy to read style of writing and, right from the start of the novel, became engrossed in the plot which centres initially on the lives of five characters in their middle-ages: 

Wendy, a career woman, on the brink of the disintegration of her marriage with elderly parents and two sons who are making their own way in life.

Julian, a single gay man, struggling with his career as a performer ans singer.

Philip, whose uncertainty with his marriage leads him to take a younger lover and is convinced he need to make radical changes to his life. His elderly mother is a vibrant active woman who owns an exclusive hotel in the West of Ireland.

Araminta, lonely and struggling with life in general,with  an elderly father in a nursing home.

Michael, an Irish Catholic priest, lonely and questioning his faith.

All wonderfully rounded characters, with many layered personalities, whose both spoken and internal dialogue distinguishes them on the page.

The book, initially split into short sections that enlarge on, and give insight to, the lives of each of the characters is fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed the first two thirds of It’s Who We Are. And I gradually realised that, somehow, they were all connected.And, indeed, friendships were formed.

 And it was at this point I needed to suspend disbelief; all the characters, in one way or another, had shared histories or once removed coincidental relationships with one another. And, in a few short months, formed extremely close friendships to the exclusion of any other acquaintances. The descriptions of the way these characters interacted was extremely well written but it did seem to be an extremely insular portrayal.

I don’t give away spoilers in my reviews so I won’t dwell on the revelation that the plot then pivots on. But it is following that disclosure that, for me, the coincidences became too many and too easy.  I  bow to the author’s knowledge as a trained psychotherapist; her obvious expertise on  issues of  personal identity. And I did appreciate the wonderful balance between sadness and loss, juxtaposed with joy and contentment instilled in her writing. But, as the book progressed through the last third of the story, I just felt it was both a little rushed and that all the issues were tied up too neatly.

All  that said, I will reiterate that I did like Christine Webber’s style of writing and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read It’s Who We Are. Despite the points I made above I did enjoy the read and would recommend this novel.

 One last observation; I love the cover; the slightly out-of-focus head-shots, the seascape,the idea of the freedom of flight through the images of the birds, the mutes colours. Wonderful!

Buying Links:

 Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2FMBzze

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2BZFN4u

 

 About the Author:

An image posted by the author.

After a break of 29 years to write over a dozen non-fiction titles, Christine Webber returned to writing fiction in 2016. The result was a novel called ‘Who’d Have Thought It?’ which is a romantic comedy about the change and challenges we encounter in mid-life. ‘Who’d Have Thought It?’ is now also available as an audio book – both in digital and CD format. 

Christine is a former singer, TV presenter, agony aunt, columnist and Harley Street psychotherapist. 

Nowadays she is focusing on fiction – though she still pops up on the radio from time to time.

 

 

My Review of African Ways by Valerie Poore #memoir #TuesdayBookBlog

 

african

 

Book Description:

This is the story of a young woman’s first encounters with rural South Africa. Coming from the all-mod-cons society of Britain at the beginning of the 1980’s, the author is literally transplanted to a farm in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in what is now Kwazulu Natal.

Once there, she finds her feet in the ways of Africa
with the help of a charming, elderly Dutch couple, 
an appealing but wily African farm hand, his practical and motherly daughter and a wise and fascinating neighbour who has a fund of local knowledge.

These are tales of a different kind of life, which
include living without electricity, hand-milking cows, drought, veld fires and mad-cap adventures into the unknown.

They are stories told with deep affection and respect, and above all a liberal dose of tongue-in-cheek humour.

 

My Review: I gave  African Ways 5*out of 5*

Valerie Poore’s African Ways is a brilliant memoir that draws the reader in from the first page.

It is obvious from the beginning how much this author opens herself to people, places…and adventures that most of us would back away from.

I was enthralled throughout by her wonderful descriptions of the land where she made her home with her husband and two young children for three years in the 1980s ( a farm in Natal, South Africa). The love she has for the country and for the neighbours and friends that surrounded her (some with such fabulous names!) shines through in  her writing.

Despite everything: the droughts the families endured, the fires ( I was riveted by her portrayal of the unbelievably brave way she, her husband and friends battled against one fire and then, though exhausted, continued their BBQ), the venomous snakes, the swarm of bees that invaded her home and the lack of electricity, it is obvious she embraced the whole experience. 

And, threaded throughout the author reveals her superb  sense of humour; there are some great ‘laugh out loud’ stories and even some chuckles, despite the dangers, recollections.

African Ways is a memoir I can thoroughly recommend. In fact I would say, you should…really you should…read this book. 

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2mYreIN

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2mWSp6Y

 

Valerie Poore

 

Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children. 

Valerie left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way. 

She has written six books altogether: the Skipper’s Child (teen/kidult fiction), How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics (sort of grown-up, humorous fiction), Watery Ways and Harbour Ways (memoirs of her first years of living on a barge in Holland), Walloon Ways (three years as a weekend Belgian) and African Ways (a memoir her life on a farm in South Africa). Her seventh book (another novel) is in progress but is taking rather longer than she had hoped. This is simply due to real life getting in the way.

 

The Circumstantial Enemy: An astounding, based-on-true-events WW2 thriller by John R.Bell #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

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I received this book from the author as member of Rosie Amber’s review team #RBRT in return for a fair and honest review.

I gave The Circumstantial Enemy 4* out of 5*

Book Description;

On the wrong side of war, there is more than one enemy…

When Croatia becomes a Nazi puppet state in 1941, carefree young pilot Tony Babic finds himself forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Unbeknownst to Tony, his sweetheart Katarina and best friend Goran have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome are soon to discover that love and friendship will not circumvent this war’s ideals.

Downed by the Allies in the Adriatic Sea, Tony survives a harrowing convalescence in deplorable Italian hospitals and North African detention stockades. His next destination is Camp Graham in Illinois, one of four hundred prisoner of war camps on American soil.

But with the demise of the Third Reich, repatriation presents a new challenge. What kind of life awaits Tony under communist rule? Will he be persecuted as an enemy of the state for taking the side of Hitler? And then there is Katarina; in letters she confesses her love, but not her deceit… Does her heart still belong to him?

Based on a true story, John Richard Bell’s The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust and revenge. Rich in incident with interludes of rollicking humour, it’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love and forgiveness.

My Review:

The Circumstantial Enemy drew me in from the first page; Bell has a writing style that has great depth, tells a story that has so many sub-plots, mixes facts with fiction, yet is easy to read

This book is based on real events that happened during World War II and it is obvious the author has also researched extensively. The plot reads authentically with many twists and unexpected events. Set between 1941-1952 , It’s a cross-genre story of history, politics, war  and romance: a story that exposes the devastation and horror of war, the reactions of human beings to the stress and trauma of enforced separation from family and friends, of enduring love against all the odds. The pace is swift and encompasses the difficult period when Yugoslavia was divided into Serbia and Croatia,  moving to Italy, the stockades in North African,  American prisoner of war camps and on to post war Europe.

Yet all is not doom and gloom; there are touches of humour here and there, showing the resilience of the human condition.

The characters  are well portrayed with authentic and individualistic dialogue, particularly that of the protagonist,  Tony Babic, shown in so many layers through both his actions and internal  dialogue as the story progresses. As the story moved forward I felt, as a reader, that I almost knew what his responses would be to everything he faced. This is a strong protagonist, embodied by self-respect, honour, courage; a man who faces life with stubborn perseverance even in his darkest moments. And the minor characters, being well drawn and believable, give excellent support within the plot.

The descriptions of each of the settings are extremely well written and give a great sense of place.

If I had any reservations about this debut novel it would be that sometimes, just sometimes, a point is belaboured, slowing the action down. But, as I say, it is a small irritation compared with the enjoyment I had reading The Circumstantial Enemy.

 Striking cover as well!

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with wars as the background and a touch of romance and  I look forward to reading John R Bell’s next novel.

Links to buy:

 Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2AEWJfXhttp://amzn.to/2AEWJfX

 Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2CR1x7K

About the Author:

 

John Richard Bell

 

John Richard Bell was born in Chigwell, UK and now resides in Vancouver, Canada.

Before becoming an author of business books and historical fiction, John Bell was a CEO, global strategy consultant, and a director of several private, public, and not-for-profit organizations. A prolific blogger, John’s musings on strategy, leadership, and branding have appeared in various journals such as Fortune, Forbes and ceoafterlife.com.

John’s novel, The Circumstantial Enemy, chronicles the trials and capers of Tony Babic, a young pilot who finds himself forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe in 1941. Unbeknownst to Tony, his sweetheart Katarina and best friend Goran have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome soon discover that love and friendship can not circumvent this ideals of this war. Like many of the adventure novels of Wilbur Smith and Bryce Courtenay, The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust, and revenge. Rich in incident and rollicking humor, it’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love, and forgiveness.

John’s business book, ‘Do Less Better – The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World’, was released by Palgrave Macmillan USA in 2015. This book helps leaders recognize the complexity within their businesses and suggests how they can simplify and streamline through specialization and sacrifice. For leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs who need help embracing the practices that foster agility, foresight, and resilience, ‘Do Less Better’ provides a tool-kit of road-tested strategies.

.

A Hundred Tiny Threads: Wales Book of the Month January 2018 #Welshpublishers @WelshBooks @honno

I am so proud that  A Hundred Tiny Threads is The Welsh Books Council  BOOK OF THE MONTH in January 2018

The title,  A Hundred Tiny Threads,  is taken from a quote by Simone Signoret (the French actress of cinema and a writer in her later years. She died of cancer in 1985 at the age of 60. The full quote is, “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years. “

A Hundred Tiny Threads  is the story of the parents of protagonist in the Howarth  trilogy, Mary Howarth. I thought I’d finished with the characters when the last book ended. But something niggled away at me until I realised that until their story was told; their lives explained, the narration was incomplete. The story takes place during a time of social and political upheaval, between the years 1911 and 1922. It’s set in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Ireland at the time of the Suffragettes, the  first World War and the Uprising in Ireland.

I knew the years I wanted to cover so one of the obvious difficulties was the timeline. I needed to make sure that those characters, already existing in the trilogy, fitted correctly into those decades. And the two main characters, Winifred Duffy and Bill Howarth, are already fully formed, rounded characters in the previous books so I wanted to show how the era they had grown up in; the environment, the events, the conditions, had shaped them, moulded them into the characters they’d become.

I actually wasn’t going to write a trilogy. The first of the three books is called Pattern of Shadows

I’ve often told the story about how I discovered that the first German POW camp in the UK was a disused cotton mill in Lancashire. And how, because of my memories; of the noise, the colours of the cloth, the smell of grease and cotton when my mother worked as a winder in such a mill, I wondered what it would be like for those prisoners.  I imagined their misery, loneliness and anger. And I wanted to write a story about that. But research in a local history library; finding sources of personal accounts of those times, from ex-prisoners, the locals and the guards of the camp, proved that it wasn’t quite as bad as I had imagined. There were times of hope, of love even. So then I knew I needed to write the novel around a family who lived in the town where the camp was situated. Who were involved in some way with the prisoners.

The trouble was that once the story was told there were threads that needed picking up for the sequel, Changing Patterns

And after that book was completed I realised that there would be repercussions from the actions of the characters in the first two stories that would affect the next generations. And so I wrote Living in the Shadows

 

 

It’s been hard to let go of some of the characters, especially the protagonist, Mary. But in a way I’m still staying in their world. When I’d sent A Hundred Tiny Threads to  Honno , my publishers, for the final time, I wrote and Indie published an anthology of eight short stories called Secrets.

These are the stories of some of the minor characters in the trilogy. At least three of these are crying out for their life stories to be told. I’ve already started on two of the characters: Hannah Booth, the sour mother- in- law of Mary’s sister, Ellen, who appears in Pattern of Shadows, and on Edith Jagger’s tale; the woman who becomes the gossipy and sharp-tongued next-door neighbour of the protagonist, Winifred, in the prequel and previously in the trilogy.

As is often the case, how we finish up in life is shaped by our past.  And both women have a dark secret.

Perhaps, all along, I knew I was not going to walk away from these characters. Perhaps they knew they wouldn’t let me.

Please click  The Welsh Books Council for A Hundred Tiny Threads: Wales Book of the Month for January 2018.

double a hundred one

Click here  for my trilogy and prequel available from Honno.

Gwasg Honno Press

All my books are available from:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2klIJzN

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2CdPuNv

The Jewelled Jaguar by Sharon Tregenza #TuesdayBookBlog #MiddleGrade Children’s books #FireflyPress

the jewelled jaguar

 

Book Description:

‘When a hole in the ground opened up and swallowed my mum, my life changed forever…’ With his mother in hospital in a coma, Griffin has to stay with the uncle and aunt he hasn’t seen in years. His cousin Cinnamon doesn’t want him there. What s going on? Is it something to do with the fabulous Aztec knife about to go on display in the museum? Is it really cursed? Griffin and Cinnamon will have to find a way to work together to survive when they are lured down into the secret tunnels…

My Review:

The Jewelled Jaguar has a brilliant plot,  wonderful characters that stay with you long after you have read the last page and has descriptions that give a real sense of place.

This is a story  of mystery and adventure written in such a way to keep the reader on the edge of their seat; there are so many bizarre and strange events threaded through the book. Wonderful! I love this author’s style of writing, it’s almost as if Sharon Tregenza is telling the story aloud.

Love the wonderful cover, by the way; the images and colours are so striking!

This is a novel for Middle Grade readers but, believe me, this is one book anyone will enjoy. I can thoroughly recommend The Jewelled Jaguar.

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2oLcRf5

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2yYdIJ9

About the Author:

Sharon Tregenza

 

Sharon Tregenza was born and grew up in Penzance, Cornwall

She travelled widely with her husband and two children living for many years in Cyprus, Dubai and Sharjah, where she worked in the library of the American School of Dubai. Later she taught conversational English to local Arabic girls before returning to the UK to study at the University of Bristol.

After moving to Pembrokeshire she completed her MA in Creative Writing at the University of Wales – Trinity St David. More recently, she acquired a second MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University.

Sharon wrote for children’s magazines worldwide for several years. Her debut children’s novel TARANTULA TIDE won the Kelpies award and the Heart of Hawick Prize. Her second book, THE SHIVER STONE, published by Firefly Press, was shortlisted for the Welsh Book Council’s children’s book award and for the CWG teacher’s award. Her new book THE JEWELLED JAGUAR is now available on Amazon and in all good bookshops.

She is a member of The Society of Authors, The Scattered Authors Society and The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Sharon’s Amazon Author page: http://amzn.to/2yZsmjw

The Jewelled Jaguar is published by http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/

 

Firefly Press

 

 

My Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

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I received this book from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team ~RBRT, in return for an honest review.

I gave My Sweet Friend 4* out of 5*

Book Description

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives
A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?
Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.
But is Alexa all she claims to be?
As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?
In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

My Review:

I first came across  H.A. Leuschel when I read and enjoyed her collection of short stories, Manipulated Lives ( my review here, http://bit.ly/2BxfSVz.)

In this novella the author  has, once again, concentrated on the theme of manipulation; from the manoeuvrings for power in business to the exploitation that can be committed in personal relationships. This is an emotional exploration of the human psyche on various levels. It is also a brilliant story.

Told from the first person point of view of the two main characters, Rosie and Alexa, each have their own chapters, which move from present to flashbacks.  The plot takes us from absolute loyalty and hope in Rosie’s understanding of her relationship with Alexa, to the first seeds of doubt and distrust, (emphasised by the exchanges of dialogue with Jack; would be boyfriend and initially also taken in by Alexa). With Alexa the portrayal of  the ultimate confidence that she is in control of her life and is blinkered to any faults of her own, is gradually undermined by glimpses of vulnerability. Each character is so multi layered and believable that I found myself at various points throughout the narrative both empathising but being exasperated with Rosie and disliking yet understanding Alexa. Ultimately, though, I had compassion for both.

These are strongly- written characters; Leuschel has an innate sense of the way anyone can manipulate others through the facade of friendship and loyalty; even subliminally. Both the internal  and the spoken dialogue are used to give rise to unease and doubt in the reader’s mind as to who is actually the victim in this relationship.  Even the descriptions that give a good sense of place are used to show brilliant interpretation of the emotional weakness of each character.

I would have loved the intricacies of the relationships within the story to have moved more slowly, shift in the strengths and weaknesses between the characters. I felt this novella could easily have been made into a novel. But then, perhaps, it wouldn’t have worked; it is a very intensely controlled friendship so would have always burned out quickly.

There is only one tiny thing I really disliked in this story – and I will admit it sounds trivial and silly but it is a personal aversion; I did not like the word “sniggered” (Alexa sniggered a few times – it drove me mad!) the verb just did not fit in with the image I had of this character. Sorry H.A. Leuschel.

Putting such an inconsequential point to one side  I would certainly recommend My Sweet Friend to any reader; it’s a thought-provoking physiological and gripping read.

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2BpPp9K

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2k7Mw6a

 

About the Author:

H.A. Leuschel

 

Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle by James_D_Dixon #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

willem

 

Book Description:

In a Scotland beset with depression, Willem is one victim among many. He loses his job, his mother dies and he is forced out of the flat they shared. Seeing no other option, he takes to the streets of Edinburgh, where he soon learns the cruelty felt outside the confines of his comfortable life. Stories from his past are interwoven with his current strife as he tries to figure out the nature of this new world and the indignities it brings. Determined to live freely, he leaves Edinburgh, hiking into the Scottish Highlands to seek solitude, peace and an unhampered, pure vision of life at nature’s breast.

The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle is at once a lyrical, haunting novel and a set piece in the rage of an oppressed, forgotten community. J. D. Dixon’s sparse, brutal language captures the energy and isolation of desperation, uniting despondency and untrammelled anger in the person of his protagonist.

My Review:

I finished The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle thinking this has to be made into a film. And I’m ashamed to say I finished the book almost a week ago and have dithered on how to review because the emotion that it has stirred in me prevented a rational and objective/subjective ‘putting down words here’. Which delay does the author, James_D_Dixon, no favours at all, I know.

All I can say is that this is a brilliantly compelling read: the author’s stark but totally gripping style, the twists and turns of the story, the layering of the protagonist’s character and the many other characters that people this book and  the multiplicity of themes, all make The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle a novel that stands out…unrivalled in my opinion, especially as  it is a debut novels. But it also hits home… hard. This is a  harsh indictment of our times, of our country, of our humanity. Over the top? I don’t think so (having worked for a short while among such disadvantaged people – I believe the author has researched well.)

A little slow to begin with, the pace of the story then moves inextricably towards the protagonist’s decline, from bewildered homelessness, which instils pity in the reader to a brutal callousness and a total lack of empathy for and with those around him; his thoughts and actions shock and sicken. And yet, for me, the sympathy still hovers for Willem.

A word on the title: at a time when many titles are of one or two words I found this one intriguing. (I’d maybe suggest cut out the word “Unrivalled”?)  

And the cover? Loved the way the protagonist blends in with the brickwork behind him; much as he disappears from the view of those that pass him by.

Would I recommend The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle? You bet!! All I can say to anyone, whatever their usual preferred genre is …  please do read it

 Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2A7LcKw

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2AYug9v

About the author:

J. D. Dixon was born in London in 1990. He studied English Literature and History at Goldsmiths College, University of London, before pursuing a career as a writer. He currently lives with his wife, the psychologist Dr Lauren Hadley, in Edinburgh.

Links to J. D. Dixon: 

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2AxBKNu

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2iYxxOC

A Hundred Tiny Threads by Judith Barrow #familysaga  Reviewed by Julie Barham #review #women

 

 So thrilled with this review:

I received a review copy of this book from Honno Press, the Welsh Women’s Press, as I was intrigued by the idea of a book which swept through so much history through the eyes of one woman. Winifred lives and works in a shop in a grim mining town in 1911. Her parents own and run the general shop, and her mother’s sharp temper and determination to keep Winifred working mean that her horizons are, and always have been severely limited. Bill, a miner, is first seen trapped by a misplaced explosion in a mine, reflecting on his probable death and his dislike of his step-family. In many ways they are alike, but all the circumstances of their lives suggest that they will never meet, let alone come together. This novel is a family saga without the central family; personal dislike and forces beyond their control mean that these are two individuals struggling to survive in challenging social circumstances.

Winifred is tempted away from her home by chance meetings with Honora, an unconventional artist who has become an active worker for woman’s suffrage. This is not genteel campaigning but marches and protests which lead to violence and arrest, even death, for those women who become involved. I was not sure why Winifred becomes a speaker for this small group, but her absences from the shop annoy her mother and force her father to shield her. Winifred meets Conal, Honora’s attractive and clever brother, and becomes involved with him. She is horrified by her grandmother’s living conditions which have resulted from family losses and her own mother’s harsh unyielding personality. Developments within the shop and the campaign mean that Winifred becomes more isolated and more desperate.

Bill survives the accident but is unable to continue working at the mine; he travels away and encounters Winifred while trying to scrape enough to survive. He becomes entranced by her and takes desperate action to try and gain her interest. Terrible events graphically described force him into fighting in the War which is just as hideous as can be imagined. This is a novel which pulls no punches in describing death; I cannot say that there is much light or joy in any of its narrative.

This is an immense book which traces those pushed by events and a War which affected everyone in the country. The intense details leave little to the imagination as the struggle to survive is real and incrementally built as loved ones go and unyielding hatred makes loss worse. It is a layered view of life as characters find challenges on many fronts. Barrow has a keen eye for detail which builds up a feeling of reality in this chronicle of lives lived in harsh situations. The writing is painfully real and feels just as overwhelming as life; decisions quickly taken lead far into the story as a whole. This is apparently a book which precedes three others relating to the same family through several generations. Certainly it is just as diverse, with as many backstories and complicated feelings as real families tend to inherit. There are many elements of tragedy here as well as determined love and strands of hope. This is a superb book for those who like their novels immersive and intense, real life of people around them in times of trial and progress.

Julie blogs at Northern Reader.

Judith Barrow, A Hundred Tiny Threads (Honno Press, 2017). 978-1909983687, 320pp., paperback.

BUY A Hundred Tiny Threads from the Book Depository.

Enigma #poetry #woman #MondayBlogs

As some of you may know, as well as holding creative writing workshops I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing and poetry) I’ve kept promising to share some of their work. Here is a thoughtful piece of free verse poetry, written by Trish Power 

pixel man and woman

In the beginning:

Woman

Is an

Afterthought;

An off-cut

Of rib.

1917

Woman

Has no

Vote.

A chattel

Trapped in

Relentless

Domesticity.

1957

Woman,

Given by

Her father,

Pledges to

Obey

At the altar.

1967

Woman

Drinks from the

Poisoned chalice

Of permissiveness.

Prude or slapper

To

Jack the lad.

2017

Woman

Cracks

Glass ceilings

Occasionally.

Tables turning,

Upended.

Man

Vulnerable

Now.

As a Woman

I cheer

The Rightings

Of abusive

Wrongs.

The safety net

Growing

Underneath.

But as a Woman,

Anxious

At the

Blurring between

Friendship and

Lust.

A Woman

Welcoming

Kindness

In touches,

Supportive hugs,

Compassion

In a hand on

Shoulder.

A Woman

Who doesn’t

Bridle at

‘My lovely’ or

‘Pet’,

I want to be

Safe,

Not detached.

Feel friendship

Without fear.

Keep predators

At bay.

Keep companionship

Alive.

If Woman is

Enigma

So are

Her problems.

hands

 

 

© Trish Power 2017

 

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…?

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.