A lovely review of The Memory from Lynne Patrick, member of Promoting Crime Fiction #PromotingCrimeFiction #MysteryPeople #TuesdayBoolBlog

Published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press,
19 March 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-91290513-2 (PB)

Euthanasia is the greyest of grey areas in criminal terms, especially when the person on the receiving end is incapable of making such an irreversible decision. For thirty years Irene has lived with the memory of her mother Lilian standing at her sister’s bedside holding a pillow. No one has ever talked about it, but it has stood between mother and daughter ever since, a dark shadow that made an already fraught relationship almost unbearable 

And now Irene and Lilian are inextricably bound by the cruellest of fates. Lilian is in the most demanding phase of dementia, and before the disease took hold she refused point-blank to give Irene power of attorney. They are joint owners of the house they live in, Irene’s childhood home, but with no control over her mother’s financial affairs she cannot sell it to pay for Lilian’s care and has to do everything herself. Through a nightmare twenty-four hours, during which Lilian’s demands become increasingly challenging, memories flood into Irene’s mind and she relives the childhood that led to that appalling moment and the frustrated adulthood that followed. 

Rose, the dead sister, was a Downs baby, and Lilian rejected her from the outset. Irene, on the other hand, fell in love. Her adoration of her small sister, and the motherly care she lavishes on her is portrayed in almost tear-jerking detail, as is Rose’s affectionate nature, a common feature among Downs children. Irene is not without support, even after her father, who loves Rose but cannot deal with Lilian, leaves to set up home with another woman. There’s Sam, her childhood friend and later sweetheart, and Nanna, who willingly takes on the burden of the household. The network of complex relationships and all their ups and downs form the foundation of the novel.  

Whether The Memory is a crime novel in any conventional sense is open to conjecture. As a perfectly observed account of the last stages of dementia, and a picture of a family riven and distorted by both tragedy and great love, it is a masterclass. But it is also as meticulously and tautly structured as any psychological thriller. As well as vividly drawn characters and a rich sense of place, there are edge-of-the-seat moments of tension, and a twist at the end that I would never have predicted, obvious though it was the moment it was revealed.

Judith Barrow has taken two emotionally charged situations and woven them into a heart-wrenching story which had me close to tears more than once. Long before the end I had stopped caring whether it qualified as crime. I simply didn’t want to stop reading.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Buying Links:

Honno: https://bit.ly/3b2xRSn

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3qEbVnM

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/3k8DIMO

Judith Barrow originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for over forty years. She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.

https://judithbarrowblog.com

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

https://promotingcrime.blogspot.com/2021/09/the-memory-by-judith-barrow.html?showComment=1631538885937#c1304619422469911346

Promoting Crime Fiction

My photo
UK-based Mystery People, set up in February 2012, was founded by Lizzie Hayes following the discontinuation of the Mystery Women group.
Mystery People is dedicated to the promotion of crime fiction and in particular to new authors.
But this is not just a writers’ group, for without readers what would writers do?
Lizzie says…
“From an early age I have been a lover of crime fiction. Discovering like minded people at my first crime conference at St Hilda’s Oxford in 1997, I was delighted when asked to join a new group for the promotion of female crime writers. In 1998 I took over the running of the group, which I did for the next thirteen years. During that time I organised countless events promoting crime writers and in particular new writers. But apart from the sheer joy of reading, ‘I actually love books, not just the writing, the plot or the characters, but the sheer joy of holding a book has never abated for me. The greatest gift of my life has been the ability to read.”
As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion. Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction. New reviews are posted daily, but to search for earlier reviews please click on the Mystery People link below and select ‘reviews’ from the welcome page. This will display an alphabetic option for you to find the review you would like to read
:

https://promotingcrime.blogspot.com/2021/09/the-memory-by-judith-barrow.html?showComment=1631538885937#c1304619422469911346

The Long and Winding Road. The journey of a Wannabe Writer #MondayBlogs #Writing #EverHopeful

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I wrote for years before letting anyone read my work. If I was self-deluded; if it was rubbish, I didn’t want to be told. I enjoyed my “little hobby” (as it was once described by a family member). But then I began to enter my short stories into competitions. Sometimes I was placed, once or twice I even won. Encouraged, I moved on to sending to magazines – I had some luck, was published – once! But I hadn’t dared to send out any of the four, full length book manuscripts I’d written (and actually never did, they were awful!) That changed after a long battle with breast cancer in my forties and, finally finishing a book that I thought might possibly…possibly, be good enough for someone else to see, other than me, I took a chance.

I grew resigned (well almost) to those A4 self-addressed envelopes plopping through the letterbox. (yes, it was that long ago!) The weekly wail of ‘I’ve been rejected again,’ was a ritual that my long-suffering husband also (almost) grew resigned to.

There were many snorts of exasperation at my gullibility and stubbornness from the writing group I was a member of at the time. They all had an opinion – I was doing it all wrong. Instead of sending my work to publishers I should have been approaching agents.

 ‘You’ll get nowhere without an agent,’ one of the members said. She was very smug. Of course she was already signed up with an agent whose list, she informed me, was full.

 ‘How could you even think of trying to do it on your own?’ was another horrified response when told what I’d done, ‘With the sharks that are out there, you’ll be eaten alive.’

‘Or sink without a trace.’ Helpful prediction from another so-called friend.

So, after trawling my way through the Writers & Artists Yearbook (an invaluable tome) I bundled up two more copies of my manuscript and sent them out to different agents

Six months later I was approached by one of the agents who, on the strength of my writing, agreed to take me on. The praise from her assistant was effusive, the promises gratifying. It was arranged that I meet with the two of them in London to discuss the contract they would send in the post, there would be no difficulty in placing my novel with one of the big publishers; they would make my name into a brand.

There was some editing to do, of course. Even though the manuscript was in its fifth draft, I knew there would be. After all, the agent, a big fish in a big pond, knew what she was doing. Okay, she was a little abrasive (on hindsight I would say rude) but she was a busy person, I was a first time author.

But I was on my way. Or so I thought.

A week before the meeting I received an email; the agent’s assistant had left the agency and they no longer thought they could act for me. They had misplaced my manuscript but would try to locate it. In the meantime would I send an SAE for its return when/if ‘it turned up’?

So – back to square one.

For a month I hibernated (my family and friends called it sulking, but I preferred to think of it as re-grouping). I had a brilliant manuscript that no one wanted (at this point, I think it’s important to say that, as an author, if you don’t have self-belief how can you persuade anyone else to believe your work is good?) But still, no agent, no publisher.

There were moments, well weeks (okay, if I’m honest – months), of despair, before I took a deep breath and resolved to try again. I printed out a new copy of the novel. In the meantime I trawled through my list of possible agents. Again.

 Then, out of the blue, a phone call from the editorial assistant who’d resigned from that first agent to tell me she’d set up her own agency, was still interested in my novel and could we meet in London in a week’s time? Could we? Try and stop me, I thought.

 We met. Carried away with her enthusiasm for my writing, her promises to make me into a ‘brand name’ and her assurance that she had many contacts in the publishing world that would ‘snap her hand off for my novel’, I signed on the dotted line.

Six months later. So far, four rejections from publishers. Couched, mind you, in encouraging remarks:

Believable characters … strong and powerful writing … gripping story … Judith has an exciting flair for plot … evocative descriptions.”

And then the death knell on my hopes.

“Unfortunately … our lists are full … we’ve just accepted a similar book … we are only a small company … I’m sure you’ll find a platform for Judith’s work … etc. etc.”

The self-doubt, the frustration, flooded back.

Then the call from the agent; ‘I think it’s time to re-evaluate the comments we’ve had so far. Parts of the storyline need tweaking. I’ve negotiated a deal with a commercial editor. When she mentioned the sum I had to pay (yes, I had to pay, and yes, I was that naïve) I gasped.’ It’s a realistic charge by today’s standards,’ she said. ’Think about it. In the end we’ll have a book that will take you to the top of your field.’

 I thought about it. Rejected the idea. Listened to advice from my various acquaintances. Thought about it some more. And then I rang the agent. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I felt I had no choice; after all she was the expert. Wasn’t she? What did I know?

 When the manuscript came back from the commercial editor, I didn’t recognise the story at all. ‘This isn’t what I wrote. It’s not my book,’ I told the agent. ‘It’s nothing like it.’ The plot, the characters had been completely changed.

‘You know nothing of the publishing world. If you want me to represent you, you have to listen to me,’ she insisted. ‘Do as I say.’

‘But …’

‘Take it or leave it.’

I consulted our daughter, luckily she’s a lawyer qualified in Intellectual Property.

‘You can cancel the contract within the year. After that, you have problems. There will be all manner of complications...

I moved quickly. The agent and I parted company.

I took a chance and contacted Honno, the publisher who’d previously accepted two of my short stories for their anthologies. Would they have a look at the manuscript? They would. They did. Yes, it needed more work but

 I’m proud to say I’ve now been with Honno, the longest standing independent women’s press in the UK, for fourteen years, and have had six books published by them. I love their motto “Great writing, great stories, great women“, and I love the friends I’ve made amongst the other women whose work they publish, and the support amongst us for our writing and our books. In normal times we often meet up . I’m hoping those “normal times” will return before too long.

 Of course, there has been much editing and discussion with every manuscript. But at least, in the end, the stories are told in my words. With my voice

My Review of Megacity (Operation Galton Book 3) by Terry Tyler #Dystopian #TuesdayBookBlog

Megacity (Operation Galton Book 3) by [Terry Tyler]

 

Book Description:

The UK’s new megacities: contented citizens relieved of the burden of home ownership, living in eco-friendly communities. Total surveillance has all but wiped out criminal activity, and biometric sensor implants detect illness even before symptoms are apparent.

That’s the hype. Scratch the surface, and darker stories emerge.

Tara is offered the chance to become a princess amongst media influencers—as long as she keeps quiet and does as she’s told.

Aileen uproots to the megacity with some reluctance, but none of her misgivings prepare her for the situation she will face: a mother’s worst nightmare.

Radar has survived gang rule in group homes for the homeless, prison and bereavement, and jumps at the chance to live a ‘normal’ life. But at what cost?

For all three, the price of living in a megacity may prove too high.

Megacity is the third and final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy, and is Terry Tyler’s twenty-third publication.

‘As long as some of us are still living free, they have not yet won. Anyone who refuses to live as they want us to has beaten them. That’s how we do it. That’s how we win.’

My Review:

I knew this was going to be a difficult review for me to write. I’ve been an admirer of Terry Tyler’s work for many years, and I’ve really enjoyed her dystopian books in the Operation Galton series. But because it’s the last in the series, and because I never give spoilers in my reviews, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say without giving away the plot.

But, first, I need to stress that the writing is excellent, as always; the author never fails to tell a great story, never fails to draw the reader in from the beginning.

And there is an especially useful recap of the two previous books, Hope and Wasteland, for those readers who need a reminder of the former stories and characters. I did glance through this, and it is a good prompt. I was glad I was going to meet past characters and to find out what happens to them. And time and again the three stories subtly intertwine to provide an historical background to Megacity.

The settings are described in such depth there is an immediate sense of place. The sinister normality of the megacities vies with the Wastelands, a setting viewed (as are the characters who live there) as ‘the other’. The portrayal of both is instantly evocative and plausible.

Each chapter is told from the different characters’ point of view, and, in that way, it’s easy to become absorbed very quickly with the story of their individual lives. Their lives couldn’t be more different, there is a façade of acceptance most of the time. But underneath there is anger, fear, and frustration. And pain. And loss. Each character is multi-layered, each reveal themselves through their inner dialogue. Thoughts that, with some of the antagonists, is so completely at odds with their spoken dialogue, it reveals their inner depths of corruption. All the facets that humanity is capable of, from empathetic friendship, love and humility to manipulation and complete and unrelenting evil, is shown In this story.

Terry Tyler’s books are usually strongly character led, but in Megacity, the characters and plot are equally centre stage. And powerfully revealed. For me this has to be the most chilling of the series. And yet, ultimately, there are possibilities of hope …

I have no problem in thoroughly recommending Megacity any reader who enjoys dystopian fiction and well told stories.

And, for the author’s writing style, the plot, the satisfying denouement of Operation Galton, i give Megacity a resounding five stars

About the Author

Terry Tyler

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-two books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Megacity’, the final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy. Also published recently is ‘The Visitor’, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as her popular Project Renova series. She is currently at work on a psychological thriller that centres round an internet dating con, but has not yet finished with devastated societies, catastrophe and destruction, generally. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 12th-17th century), along with books and documentaries on sociological/cultural/anthropological subject matter. She loves South Park, the sea, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

The Rat in the Python #MondayBlogs #Fifties #Memoirs #Humour

Many of you will have enjoyed Trish’s writing here before. She is one of my many talented students that I’m privileged to tutor each week. Hope you equally relish this dip into the past. For some of you it’s a small history lesson, for others, a memory. I am not saying which group I belong to!!

The following words belong to Trish…

If you haven’t heard of a liberty bodice, believe that half-a-crown is something to do with impoverished royalty and never had the experience of slapping a television to stop the grainy black and white picture from rolling, then this book is probably not for you.

It is intended for us Baby Boomers who, in the stability following the Second World War, formed a statistical bulge in the population python. It is a personal snapshot of a time that is as mystifying to my children as the Jurassic Era -and just as unrecognisable.

My intention is to nudge some long-forgotten memories to the surface, test your own recollections and provide statistics to put it all in context.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

The Rat in the Python

Chapter One The House

It would be fair to say that most houses in this country pre-date our generation and so this topic should present few surprises.

However the external appearance is deceptive. We’ve all seen old postcards of towns and can instantly recognise many of the buildings. But what of the insides?

They were different.

In my day none of my friends had fitted carpets and central heating was unheard of. We did have carpets, and the ones I remember were hideously patterned, but they were square or rectangular, circular or oval and housewives in a hurry could lift a corner and sweep the dust and dirt under them.

Heating
We had a coal fire downstairs and my mother would plait and weave strips of newspaper, lay them like a nest in the grate and build a carefully-constructed pyramid of coal in the centre in and around more of these strips. Then she’d light the paper. If it looked as though it was going to sulk and go out she’d produce a sheet of galvanised zinc like a flat shield that she’d hold over the front of the open fire to ‘draw’ it up and once it was going properly we’d feed it with great hunks of coal the size of bread loaves that you could later split open with the poker.

My father would hold the paper he was reading in front of a flagging fire to quickly perk it up. This wasn’t always successful. A dark patch would appear in the middle of the newsprint before the hastily dropped paper burst into flames. Occasionally we’d use a toasting fork to dangle bits of bread in front of the fire but conditions had to be just right. Too soon after the addition of fresh coal and you had a brittle piece of bread with smoked edges; wait until it was too hot and the bread itself would flame and char. There was also a knack to balancing the bread on the fork so that as large a flat surface as possible presented itself to the heat. I lacked this knack. The bread would tear around the prongs and slide down towards the handle or I’d have it so delicately balanced that it would fall off into the gritty ashes or the blaze itself

Paraffin heaters were also popular; ugly great brutes that reeked and smoked but put out an impressive bit of heat. When I first heard ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ I thought of these heaters and even now I can see the blue ring of flames that had to be set at just the right height to balance heat against pollution. And if you’ve lived in a house with a paraffin heater you won’t need me to remind you of that all-pervasive, oily smell.

The non-smelly heating involved electric bar fires. Virtually everyone I knew had at least one of these in the home. They ranged from those of impressive size which stood proudly in the fireplace as a soulless coal substitute, to small, portable ones. These consisted of one or two tightly-wound bars of wire in front of a shiny concave area designed to reflect heat back into the room. You’d flick a switch at the side to turn on one or both bars and then you’d wait to see if either began to glow red. Eventually they’d click and creak and produce a vicious belt of radiant heat from bright-orange elements which were ‘protected’ by a few widely-spaced strips of thin steel. From a Health & Safety perspective these were a nightmare by anyone’s standards. On the other hand, as few families of our acquaintance used fireguards for their coal fires – or their paraffin heaters, for that matter – I suppose it points to a time when Darwinism ruled; parents warned offspring of the dangers and, if they didn’t want to end up as a Cautionary Tale, children kept fingers and other bits at a safe distance.

In the winter, when houses which had never heard of double glazing shivered and quivered, sash windows rattled and draughts moaned through closed doors, the family snuggled up in front of the heat source. Those old advertisements of parents and children in a compact group do reflect the times, but the togetherness was often down to a primitive need to be warm rather than a desire to spend time with each other. Anywhere further than six feet from a fire was as foolhardy as a penguin trying to go it alone in the Antarctic Those of us who got as close to the heat as was possible, without actually spontaneously combusting, suffered from chilblains. I don’t know if anyone in this country still gets chilblains but for me it was an expected accompaniment to the cold weather. My feet were affected more than my hands and I can remember stamping them hard on the ground on my way to school in an attempt to calm the dreadful itch of them.

It goes without saying that when the downstairs was cold, the upstairs was colder. In a time before electric blankets and duvets all we had to protect us was a sheet, blankets and a hot water bottle. Some expensive hotels still use sheets and blankets in preference to duvets but they have the benefit of centrally heated rooms that make them an affectation rather than a necessity. It didn’t seem to matter how many blankets were heaped on the bed, the only bit that felt warm was the bit right next to you that had leached the heat from your own body. Hot water bottles were very welcome but imperfect. Unimaginative relatives knitted weird, lank, garter-stitched covers for them but I never used mine because they absorbed some of the heat intended for me. This meant that at first the bottle was too hot to touch and I’d put my foot against it for as long as I dared before snatching it off at the last moment (exacerbating the chilblain situation). For the briefest of times the temperature was perfect, and it was a real comfort. On waking you quickly learned not to move beyond your imprint in the bed. Everywhere else was inhospitably cold and you could watch your breath curl around the room whilst you mustered the courage to get up. The hot water bottle, by now endothermic, was resolutely avoided until the last moment when both feet would dart down, snatch it up the bed and leave it on top for re-filling that night.

Sometimes, presumably after vivid dreams, I’d wake in the night to find myself either entangled in a nightmare of Witney blankets or shivering because one end was still attached at the foot of the bed but the rest were in a heap on the floor. In the latter case, it was impossible to simply pull them up and go back to sleep; they had to be individually replaced in the right order or they’d be sliding off before you could start counting sheep again.
I was a student when I used a duvet (or continental quilt as they were billed then) for the first time. It was synthetic and the filling quickly moulded itself into clumps that refused to even themselves out again. Nevertheless, from that moment on I knew there was no going back to sheets and blankets.

And there’s nothing more irritating than blankets with rucks in them, unless it’s blankets that don’t line up at the bottom of the bed, or blankets that don’t reach your chin. Or blankets.

Heating also leads me to the issue of plugs and sockets.

My grandmother had a friend who would make sure before she went to bed that every socket had a plug in it. She explained it was to stop the electricity escaping into the house. In her day, as in mine, those sockets were round and the plugs that went into them were round-pin plugs. They were usually brown bakelite and the flex that went into them was covered in a woven material that frequently frayed into long wispy bits at the ends. It’s weird but I don’t remember the changeover from round prongs to square. Did I sleep through it? Did it happen so slowly that it crept up in tiny steps until the old was gone and the new already commonplace?

I suspect that when houses were first wired for electricity they were done in a half-hearted way because no one could think of many uses for the stuff and so one socket per room was considered more than ample. Then people decided on table and standard lamps to cast a warm glow on father reading his paper or mother darning the socks, wirelesses that needed wires, gramophones, electric fires, irons. The only way to deal with such a constraint was to buy adapters and stick one into another until there were sufficient sockets to satisfy demand. The weight of the massed plugs vying for space was frequently enough to drag the adapters away from the wall and someone would have to push them back in to restore power. As I write this, one of the public information films of the time has surfaced in my head and it shows such a cluster of adapters smoking in protest before bursting into flames. It wasn’t just my family, then…

The kitchen
The kitchen seems to be at the forefront of change. In the 50s there were rich pickings to be had for anyone with an innovation that was labour-saving or which made the heart of the home look more modern. Into the 21st century, the wheel has turned in the opposite direction and the more modern look involves a return to butler sinks and free-standing shabby chic furniture in place of the streamlining of the fitted kitchen but, like a return to blankets, there is space for these when other things allow them to be decorative features over the practical.

When I was a child, like most of my friends it was assumed that my mother would stay at home and be a housewife whilst my father would go out and work to keep her there. Women were given housekeeping money and were expected to make it stretch to cover all our needs. A housewife wore an apron to protect her clothes that were comparatively expensive in a time before cheap, supermarket-produced goods. To make ends meet she would frequently cook the same things on the same day of the week so Monday’s meal would be something that made use of the leftovers from Sunday’s roast. She would cook the meals on a white, enamelled stove and ours had bluish-black chips showing where pans had knocked against the enamel. There would also be whorls of grey scratches around the rings where spills had been scrubbed clean.

The food was kept in cupboards or, if you had the space, in a pantry. Vegetable racks held greens with yellowing outer leaves and a limited selection of root vegetables that were prepared in the sink. The first kitchen sink I remember was a white, enamelled one with a green stain under the cold water tap. Taps – which invariably had knobbly cross-shaped tops – seemed to drip with a frequency uncommon today.

Milk was kept in a small fridge (and ours was the envy of our neighbours because it had a freezer compartment that was big enough for some ice cubes or a block of waxy ice cream). I knew someone who still put her milk and cheese in a milk-safe. This was a terracotta container that was placed over the items and doused in water. In hot weather the evaporating water kept the contents cool and at a time when milk arrived daily that was usually enough.

Without the benefit of freezers, a lot of our food came in cans and, before we bought our first rotary, or butterfly, can-opener, the lids had to be removed using a metal lever that was used to punch triangular holes around the top until you could bend the jagged edge back and get at the contents. The rotary opener was a vast improvement on this but there always came a time when it would slip its way round without cutting. You’d have to try clipping it onto the can at a rakish angle and grip really, really tightly, praying that it would get far enough round for success. Inevitably there would be a couple of patches that the opener had grooved but not cut and these were now more difficult to reach. We weren’t the first family, I’m sure, that would resort to sliding spoon handles into the gap, trying to prise the lid back.

There were very few kitchen gadgets in our house when I was a child. We did have a rotary whisk which I found mesmerisingly exciting. Chips were cooked in a saucepan with a wire basket to hold, remove and drain them. You’d put a slab of lard into the pan, heat it up until it was smoking, put the prepared chips into the wire basket and lower it, hissing and spitting like a trapped cat, into the fat. It is no surprise that chip pan fires also feature prominently in my memories of public information warnings.

The cupboards were filled with china, and there was always one cupboard that had the best china in it to be used when visitors came. Cups always had saucers, and mugs were unheard of in the home. If I fast forward to the beginning of the sixties I enter a different world of colour and melamine. We thought melamine was cool and trendy and it spun and clattered without breaking when dropped onto the equally colourful Marley tiles arranged checkerboard-style on the floor. We threw out our melamine when earthenware became popular…

As a child it wasn’t uncommon to have three cooked meals a day. Breakfast might be scrambled eggs on toast or a fry-up, lunch would generally consist of something meaty with vegetables plus a pudding and the evening meal would be a more substantial version of lunch. All of these meals were cooked from scratch which generated a good deal of washing up. As a consequence, mothers around the country would be continually reaching for their Marigolds and balancing the washed items on the wire rack on the draining board to be dried with a tea-towel that had a stripe down each side.

My Review of What’s Left Unsaid by Deborah Stone #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT



What's Left Unsaid

I was given a copy of What’s Left Unsaid by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT, in return for an honest review.

I gave this book 5*

Book Description:

Sasha is just about managing to hold her life together. She is raising her teenage son Zac, coping with an absent husband and caring for her ageing, temperamental and alcoholic mother, as well as holding down her own job. But when Zac begins to suspect that he has a secret sibling, Sasha realises that she must relive the events of a devastating night which she has done her best to forget for the past nineteen years.

Sasha’s mother, Annie, is old and finds it difficult to distinguish between past and present and between truth and lies. As Annie sinks deeper back into her past, she revisits the key events in her life which have shaped her emotionally. Through it all, she remains convinced that her dead husband Joe is watching and waiting for her. But there’s one thing she never told him, and as painful as it is for her to admit the truth, Annie is determined to go to Joe with a guilt-free conscience.

As the plot unfurls, traumas are revealed and lies uncovered, revealing long-buried secrets which are at the root of Annie and Sasha’s fractious relationship.

My Review:

There are some books that grab you from the first page, even the first paragraph. What’s Left Unsaid did just that for me:

“If Annie had just been honest with me, we might have avoided much of the ugliness which followed… but she wasn’t and we didn’t…”

How could I resist? I didn’t! It helped when I realised the story is told in one of my favourite formats; it’s written from different points of view under the name of three characters: the protagonist, Sasha, her mother Annie and her late father, Joe. I especially liked Joe’s objective viewpoint that balanced out the subjective viewpoints of the other two characters as they describe the complex and difficult relationship between them. Even so, the question hovering throughout the text is what is truth and what is lies. It’s a cleverly written narrative and I loved the writing style of Deborah Stone; she moves from character to character, slipping easily into their voices, alternately moving the reader to understand each with empathy, yet being able to see the flaws in them as well.

The plot is tense and tightly woven, moving at different paces to reveal the secrets held for years held by this family. There are many themes: family secrets and deceptions, emotional power struggles between characters, dementia, miscommunications, understandings and forgiveness. All delicately intertwined throughout the text.

I always think that, when we reach a certain age we are formed by the things that we have done, what has happened to us, how we have been treated and how we have treated others. In What’s Left Unsaid the flashbacks to Annie’s earlier life reveal her vanity, her prejudices of others and her jealousy of her own daughter. As a reader I was torn between disliking much of what she was and yet having compassion for what she has become; a woman in the throes of dementia. The flashbacks of Joe’s earlier life show his Jewish family’s struggles to move from a totalitarian Russia at the end of the nineteenth century to the North of England where they face fascism and suffer poverty that they fight to escape, much as they have escaped from an oppressive regime.

The characters are many layered. The protagonist, Sasha is living in a loveless marriage and cannot understand either her husband, Jeremy, who has a secret of his own or her son, Zac, typically a monosyllabic, hormonal teenager. She has no closeness with her mother yet is forced to be deeply involved in her life. The author cleverly and subtly reveals the tensions hidden in Sasha, much as she does in all the major characters.  Her internal dialogue initially shows her timidity, her nervousness, in the way she approaches her family. Yet there is also exasperation and even anger. And this comes out more and more as the story progresses.

Joe’s words, spoken from beyond the grave, are wise and, as I said earlier, objective. I felt they gave a distanced reflective view on human nature as a whole. Yet, through the dialogue and thoughts of the other characters, his personality in life is exposed to have had had the same flaws and weaknesses as their own.

Even without the story being allocated to each character the reader is left in no doubt who is speaking; each have their own distinctive voice.

The narrative describing the settings give a good sense of place and provide an interesting background to the story.

What’s Left Unsaid is a complex and poignant read. Thought provoking and absorbing it left me reflecting on the complexities of marriage and families. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy well-written family sagas

 

 

My Review of Someone Close to Home by Alex Craigie #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Someone Close To Home by [Craigie, Alex]

I gave Someone Close to Home 5*

My Review:

It’s been quite a while since I read a book in one go but I couldn’t put this one down. Someone Close to Home sent me through a whole range of emotions; delight, sadness, anger, joy, frustration. And this is a debut novel! The writing style of Alex Craigie  is sophisticated, emotive and empathetic.

The start of the story grabbed me straightaway: the image of the protagonist, Megan, watching “each minuscule judder of the hand (of the clock)”, her immobility and her thoughts on her childhood, especially of her selfish and destructive mother who Megan loathed – still loathes, is compulsive reading. There is one sentence that foreshadows all that happens as the story continues: ‘This is all down to my mother… she’s been dead for over thirty years now and still she’s poisoning my life.”

This is a story of two halves: the time that Megan is in the badly-run care home, which lasts around six months and is told in present tense, mainly through the internal dialogue of the protagonist, and the whole of her childhood and younger life.told in past tense as flashbacks. The latter leads the reader inexorably to the point where Megan is lying helpless after suffering a stroke. She is at the mercy of mostly inattentive carers, poorly paid and resentful. Their actions, the way they carry out their tasks on Megan is described simply by her; they are tasks done to her, sometimes carefully, sometimes without heed. And then there is the carer, Annie… I’ll say no more.

The description of  of the protagonist’s days evoke the dreariness. The word, “waiting” is repeated so many times that I, as the reader, also waited with Megan, knowing, with some dread, that something awful will happen.

The main characters: Gideon (childhood friend and later the man she loves. Claire, her true friend in later life, Jordan,  Megan’s husband, egotistical actor and a cruel man, Theo and Camilla, her greedy and selfish children), are many layered and well portrayed; their dialogue identifies them immediately. And, although there are many flat characters,, in the guise of the carers and the owner of the care home, the author also gives them distinguishable voices. 

The descriptions of the settings give a good sense of place. The room Megan is lying in is told in meticulous but confined detail. We see the limited view she has, and only that. (it did give me a sense of claustrophobia, I must admit.). There is “the sturdy chest of drawers topped with shapes that will become a television and some framed photographs”as “the heavy grey light” “pushes into the room” after a long sleepless night”. We hear “the rattle of trolleys” that she knows is “laden with clean and soiled bedding”, the “insistent buzzing” of room bells, the “moans, shouts and cussing from room nearby punctuated by the chivying of staff”. We feel her pain through the roughness of the care, the threat of bed sores. And the details of the places in her childhood, the  houses she lived in, countries she visited as a professional pianist, are full of evocative imagery.

It’s a plot that moves at an even pace but, ultimately, it’s also one that took me by surprise. Even closely following the actions of the characters in the story still didn’t prepare me for the ending.

Someone Close to Home by Alex Craigie is a book I thoroughly recommend to any reader.

Book Description:

Talented pianist Megan Youngblood has it all – fame, fortune and Gideon.

But Gideon isn’t good enough for Megan’s ambitious, manipulative mother, whose meddling has devastating repercussions for Megan and for those close to her.

Now, trapped inside her own body, she is unable to communicate her needs or fears as she faces institutional neglect in an inadequate care home.

And she faces Annie. Sadistic Annie who has reason to hate her. Damaged Annie who shouldn’t work with vulnerable people.

Just how far will Annie go?

Author details:

Born in Sunderland, in the north of England, Alex has wended her way south via Eccles, Bramhall, Histon, Cambridge, Leicester and Market Harborough before finally coming to rest thirty years ago in a peaceful village  in Wales. She lives in an old, draughty house with stone walls 2’ thick that make any DIY a real challenge and she knows she’s really lucky to have all her children and grandchildren living close by. It’s often chaotic and noisy but these are her most treasured moments and she savours them – even if she’s reduced to an immovable heap after they’ve gone.  When not writing, reading or simply enjoying the rural life, she’s in the garden waging a war of attrition against the brambles that she encourages in the hedges for birds to nest in, vicious nettles that support a variety of butterflies, and bindweed that looks lovely but doesn’t share nicely with the other plants.

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2JDruLL

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2KezulB

 

Books in my Handbag Blog Detective Indie Author Investigates #FridayReads #Editing #Publishing The Crime and Coffee Festival

Detective Indie Author Investigates

The Crime and Coffee Festival beckoned me to Cardiff Library to solve the mystery of writing and publishing. The workshop: Cut, Slash and Perfect promised to reveal more about the writing and traditional publishing journey.  As I passed the crime scene tape surrounding the bookshelves, I did wonder if any authors had been lost during the cutting, slashing and perfecting process. I went undercover to find out more about traditional publishing. Would I need an agent, and would I need a sharper pair of scissors?

The panel discussion with: Thorne Moore, Caroline Oakely and Judith Barrow. Has Judith spotted Jessie?

Authors, Judith Barrow and Thorne Moore, chatted with the editor, Caroline Oakley, of Honno Pressabout publishing. The entertaining chat provided food for thought for all authors who wish to publish their work.  As I listened, I captured some of the main points and discovered what makes editors cut and authors cry. The panel put me at ease, and I was able to remove my disguise as an indie author.

Introducing Caroline Oakley who is the editor at Honno Press

Caroline has worked in general trade publishing for over thirty years and has edited a number of award winning and bestselling authors. Caroline works for, Honno Press, an independent Welsh Women’s publisher in Wales.

Clues from the Editor

Caroline gave a balanced overview of publishing

Big publishers only work through agents.

A good editor is key to success for all authors

Agents often have useful contacts within the publishing world and deal with the contracts.  Care must be taken when selecting an agent because, as in all businesses, there are inefficient, self –styled experts, with little experience, out there. Google and search for those authors who write in your genre to find out the names of the agents who deal with your kind of book before submitting. You can approach independent and smaller publishers with or without an agent. Find out what this kind of publisher wants before approaching them.  Research their website; look at the work of the signed authors.  Take your time to select the appropriate one for your genre; consider how much advance that publisher pays, the amount of royalties for sold books you will get, your rights (such as audio and foreign rights for your work) and the terms and conditions of your contract. You must read the small print!

Don’t get disheartened with rejection letters sent to publishers.  Hope your manuscript reaches the publisher at the right time (by this I mean that it’s not a miserable Monday morning for them, or they’ve not had a quarrel with a partner or their family – or they’ve not had a week of wading through a pile of “not very good” manuscripts before they get to yours)– it is subjective.

Indie publishing has its challenges, but it gives you more control and you get all the profit.  The Indie author deals with every element of the process; from the writing to choosing the cover, the blurb formatting, publication and marketing. Traditionally published authors also are expected to promote and market. Indie publishing is time- consuming but as I said before, they do have complete control over their work.

The venue – Cardiff Library

Whichever publishing route you choose, you must get yourself an editor! Although time-consuming (and sometimes devastating!) you must go through the cut, slash perfect process.  A good editor will identify gaps, things that possibly don’t work in your writing, mistakes such as change of dates of characters’ birthdays or colour of eyes in different parts of the book, errors in time scale etc.. But will not tell you what to do, only point out those mistakes and suggest changes to make your work stronger.

It is advisable that every author, whether self-published or traditionally published, has a website, blog and social media accounts.

Introducing Judith Barrow:

Judith Barrow has published four books with Honno Press.  She writes historical family saga fiction. She has also self-published books and a collection of short stories of the minor characters in her trilogy.

What did Judith say about her publishing journey?

Judith Barrow and Thorne Moore are published by Honno Press

I love working with Honno Press.  The staff are friendly and accessible. As a writer you learn what you can and cannot get away with.  I have built up trust with the editor who I know has had a long and professional career in all genres. And, although  Honno Pressalso organises the front cover for the books, they have allowed me input to the final decision .

Working with Honno Press provides me with quality, professional editing.  I cry every time, I get the editor’s comments, but I know, in my heart, it makes the work better.  An editor will read your book line by line and give an overview. A good editor will ask the right questions but will not give you the answers. When you edit your work, you must keep your own voice.

I do not send my very first draft to an editor and probably have about ten revisions.  I ask my friend, who is an author, to give me an honest opinion on anything I have doubts about.  I am also a member of a writing group and we email sections of our books for discussion.  But do, avoid too much input from too many sources into your work as it can confuse you – have a small trusted network of writers.  Believe in yourself! The cut, slash and perfect stages involves a first general edit, as many more detailed edits then necessary to get the writing to its best, a line by line edit to weed out any noticeable mistakes and then a proof read by the publisher’s proof reader. Finally, it comes back to me for a last read to make sure all is correct. I do like this final stage; it does make me feel as though I have control over the end product to some degree.

Introducing Thorne Moore

Thorne had published three books with Honno Fiction and writes domestic noir and psychological fiction.  Thorne has self-published and works with two publishers.

What did Thorne say about publishing?

She has self-published short stories in order to market a published book.  The different publishers are relevant to the books promoted. Regardless of how the books are published, the author must have a good editor.

A writer needs an editor to stand on the mountain and look down on your work.  During the writing process the author becomes too absorbed to be objective.  Through the feedback from the editor, you learn to write.  The editor will locate your common mistakes then you will avoid these in subsequent drafts.

You do need a small critical group of friends who will give you constructive criticism.

Don’t worry about the reviews. Jane Austin has plenty of one star and two star reviews on Amazon.

Don’t give up!  I was rejected by Honno at first. In an interview with Thorne, she told me about the trials and tribulations of her publishing journey. This story of Thorne’s publishing journey will be published very soon.

A good editor is key to success for all authors: traditionally published and self-published need a good editor.  A good editor will identify gaps in your work and ask the right questions.  My editor forced me to ask lots of questions about my book and rework sections.  I learnt a great deal about my writing through this process. As a self-published author I have involved a professional editor, beta readers and other authors.  One must be careful of making new mistakes in a new edit – it is expensive to pay for all the various stages of the edit.  I understand the security of working with an independent publisher who provides an editor. The indie author has greater control of the book but must complete all stages of the process including the book cover and the marketing. In the end, all clues pointed towards the importance of a professional editor during the publishing process.  No matter how many times the author sharpens the scissors to cut, they still need an editor and dosh to pay for quality.   Clearly, this wasn’t an open and shut case and more investigation needed to be completed.

Clue of the Day

Narbeth Book Fair – see Judith, Thorne and Jessie!

Caroline suggested the market for the unreliable narrator in all genres will change. Like fashion in clothes, fashion in books also changes.  No one knows what will be the next ‘in thing’ for novels.

Judith Barrow, Caroline Oakley, Thorne Moore will all be at the Narberth Book Festival on 22nd September.

You can book individual session with Caroline Oakley of Honno Press for £35.  For more information visit the Narberth Book Fair website. Children’s writers can book sessions with Firefly Press.

 

My Review of You Can’t Go It Alone (Sunflower Book 1)by Jessie Cahalin #TuesdayBookBlog #relationships

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Book Description:
 

Love, music and secrets are woven together in this poignant, heart-warming narrative.

Set in a Welsh village, the story explores the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations of women. As the characters confront their secrets and fears, they discover truths about themselves and their relationships.
The reader is invited to laugh and cry, with the characters, and find joy in the simple things in life. Listen to the music and enjoy the food, as you peek inside the world of the inhabitants of Delfryn.

Let Sophie show you that no one can go it alone. Who knows, you may find some friends with big hearts…

My Review:

I really liked You Can’t Go It Alone, there are so many familiar ‘human life’ threads running throughout the relationships of the characters And there are a lot of up and down real life moments throughout, some poignant, some sad, some joyous, some humorous, some unexpected. All thought provoking. There is one sentence that foreshadows the troubles and upsets that will affect them;”The sun was trying to make an appearance but the clouds were dancing in the sky as if they intended to win the dual.”
 
The characters are well drawn and multi layered. From the protagonist, Sophie who, with her husband, Jack, has recently moved to the village in the hope of a new life (in more ways than one), to the owners of the cafe, Rosa, the ever optimist, and Matteo, a quick tempered, jealous husband and their daughter, the talented Olivia.  And then there is the delightful young Daisy.
 
The dialogue is exceptional; the personalities of the characters were instantly revealed to me, as the reader, through both the internal and the spoken speech.
  
It’s the Olive Tree Café  is where most of the action occurs and there is a strong sense of the cafe’s ambience. Indeed, all of the settings have a good sense of place and it’s almost as if the Delfryn itself is personified as a character in the story, with the interweaving, individual lives it holds at its centre.
Initially the story appears to be a lighthearted look at life in a Welsh village but it is soon revealed that, as the book description says, this really is an exploration of “the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations of women”.
Jessie Cahalin has a lovely light touch with her poetic prose; there are numerous sections which immediately evoke wonderful images and emotions and many sentences that made me stop to reread them just for the sheer beauty of the language.
I recommend Jessie Cahalin’s debut novel; You Can’t Go It Alone is an interesting and thoughtful story
Links:
About the author:
 
 

Jessie is a bookish blogger, word warrior and intrepid virtual explorer. She loves to entertain with stories, and is never seen without: her camera, phone, notebook and handbag. Fellow authors have deemed her ‘creative and quirky’ and she wears these words like a blogging badge of honour.

Having overcome her fear of self-publishing, she is now living the dream of introducing the characters who have been hassling her for decades. Her debut novel, ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’, is a heart-warming tale about the challenges women still face in society. The novel has light-hearted moments and presents hope. As C. S. Lewis said, ‘We read to know we are not alone.’
Connecting with authors via her Books in my Handbag Blog is a blast. She showcases authors’ books in the popular Handbag Gallery and has fun meeting authors in her virtual world. Communicating with her authors, still gives Jessie a creative buzz.

Jessie Cahalin hails from Yorkshire, but as a book blogger, she has realised that her country of origin is probably The World. She loves to travel the world and collects cultural gems like a magpie. She searches for happy endings, where possible, and needs great coffee, food and music to give her inspiration.

Visit Jessie’s website at http://www.JessieCahalin.com.
Connect with her at:
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/people/Jessie-Cahalin/100016975596193?fref=nf
Twitter @BooksInHandbag
Contact her at: jessiecahalin@aol.co.uk

My Review of The Usurper King by Zeb Haradon #RBRT # TuesdayBook Blog

 

The Usurper King by [Haradon, Zeb]

I was given this book by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review.

 I gave The Usurper King 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

The Usurper King takes place in an alternate universe where the serial killer Ted Bundy was never apprehended and is now running for president in 2016.

Jim, a sufferer of a hybrid computer-biological virus that causes premature aging, tries to pay for his treatments by winning money on the game show ‘Guts!’, which has contestants competitively predict the future by reading animal entrails.

As Jim begins to find omens in the entrails of Bundy’s victory, and details of Bundy’s murderous past are uncovered, Jim and another contestant take it upon themselves to stop his ascent to power before it’s too late

 My Review:

For once I’m stuck on how to review a book. Not only because I’m not sure how to describe the genre; The Usurper King crosses both fantasy, humour and political thriller; all mixed up together with some humour that more than borders on satire. The author has a quirky writing style that I admired and there are some brilliant observations on the human condition. Yet parts of the story did make me cringe and skip small sections; those parts were the descriptions on extispicy: (the practice of predicting the future or reading omens by reading the entrails and liver of animals. And yes, it did exist; I looked it up. And yes, I do know I’m a wimp.

But here I’m reviewing the book itself so I’ll break it down. As I said Zeb Haradon can write, it’s a fascinating, slightly convoluted plot told in the protagonists’s first person point of view,  Jim Galesh; a forty year old, divorced alcoholic who has contracted a disease called TAP: Technologically Acquired Progeria, that is ageing him  quicker than normal. This character jumps off the page, he is so rounded and believable, in what is otherwise a fantastical scenario. And, generally, the other characters are multi layered as well.

 The dialogue is good and more than fills out the protagonist’s character.There is a good sense of place throughout. And I found the ending clever and a total surprise,

A couple of problems that occurred in places: the pacing of the plot was slightly erratic, and there are punctuation and syntax errors throughout.

 But, to end on a positive note and to emphasise comments I made earlier; Zeb Haradon is an author to watch out for. I recommend The Usurper King for its originality, its sardonic observations of life and a great writing style

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2Iys7FM

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2KHBTlB

 

Changing Relationships #MondayBlogs #families #relationships

olive

It’s twenty years today since my auntie left our home for the last time to go into care; eight years since she died. I wrote some of the following on each of those occasions. Now it seems almost unbelievable how much time has passed. I remember …

During our lives, Auntie Olive and I had three different relationships.

When I was a child I was told she was ‘someone very important in the civil service.’ She was a spinster in every way. I think I was as much a mystery to her as she was to me and we avoided each other as much as possible. But there was one occasion when we united in gleeful rebellion and it caused the only quarrel I can remember between her and my mother.

 For a long time, when I was a child, my mother insisted on my having ringlets. Every night my hair was twisted into rags and my scalp lifted from my skull. It was sheer torture. Auntie Olive hated those ringlets as much as I did and one day, when I was ten, she put a pudding basin on my head and cut round it. I was overjoyed and imagined that I looked like George out of the Famous Five books. My mother was less impressed. She didn’t speak to my auntie for a whole month.

 As I grew up my auntie took it upon herself to educate me in classical music but gave up the day she caught me gyrating to the Beatles. She then changed tactics and taught me ballroom dancing. We whirled up and down the hall of the tiny terraced house, where she lived and I can still do a mean waltz and quickstep, but only in straight lines; I never learned to turn corners. She showed me how to sew which came in very useful in the 60’s; it was surprising how many mini skirts a couple of yards of material could make. Most useful of all Auntie Olive taught me to drive and trusted my skills enough to lend me her car; which gave me a lot of kudos in our village (even if it was just a little blue Ford Popular). And, although we still didn’t understand each other’s ways, we were fond of one another.

So it seemed natural that, when my Nan died, Auntie Olive came  to live with us in Pembrokeshire.

By that time I was married with children and she was not just my aunt; she had become a dear friend. Even so, with little patience for trivial pleasantries and the possession of an acerbic tongue, she demanded respect wherever she was and I was sometimes a little wary of her. 

This made the adjustment to my next relationship with her very difficult.

                                                ***********

 Thirty years later Aunt Olive lives in the apartment, attached to our house. As she walks past my kitchen window she waves a peeled banana at me, which she intends to eat on the way to the shops. She does this every morning, perhaps to let me know she’s eating properly, perhaps as a joke. But, probably, she doesn’t even realise she’s doing it. All I know is that at one time my aunt would not have done something so ‘unseemly’ as to eat in the street.

  As she walks down the drive I realise she has no skirt on.

‘You can’t go out just in your knickers, you’ll stop the traffic’ I joke and we go back to the house. We laugh. She and I laugh a lot these days; it’s the only way to cope. We both know she is trying to keep some control over her life and, more often than not, fails. When she stubbornly insists on wearing her vest over her cardigan; when I find her washing her soiled pyjamas in an overflowing bath, wearing a woolly hat because she can’t find the shower cap she thinks she should wear; when, for the tenth time, the smoke alarm shrieks because she has burned the toast, again, and we both run to waft at it with a tea towel, we laugh. Who cares?

I do, it’s heart breaking.

 In our discussions on current affairs she pretends that she has read the newspaper, yet I know she can no longer read and after less than five minutes conversation I am repeating myself and she is the echo. She remembers her school days, her work in the War Office during the Second World War, a lover killed at Dunkirk. But she forgets that she has already had lunch and insists that I make her another; I feel chained to that damn cooker. Her nights and days are muddled and I am getting used to grilling bacon and frying eggs at three in the morning. It’s easier than trying to explain.

 Sometimes she calls me by my mother’s name as we sit in the garden, and wonders where her own mother is. I have learned to play the game.

  She loves the sun these days.

  ‘Warms my old bones.’ She says, wearing a floral sun hat, which she wouldn’t have been seen dead in ten years ago.   

 She has the same route around the village each day, paper shop, chemist, Post Office, Co-op. Not that she needs anything, I shop for her, but it’s her routine and at each place they are good enough to make sure she is heading back in the right direction.  Sometimes she walks down the road as far as the cross roads. I watch from an upstairs window. She has begun to wander. She’s very clever at slipping out of the house without me knowing she has gone. I drive around in the car looking for her or I get a telephone call from some kind soul who has ‘captured’ her and is supplying tea and biscuits. And safety.

She’s started to flash her knickers at the man who takes her to the day centre once a week.

                                                ************

 Now there is a third relationship I have with my aunt. I am a visitor. We no longer laugh at the silly things she does. I no longer help her to dress or eat. Someone else does all that now. They do it with love and care but it doesn’t stop the guilt i feel. Our conversations are a monologue. She sits and smiles at me. We hold hands. Sometimes she squeezes my fingers and when I look into her eyes I see the fear. I wrap my arms around her and whisper, ‘you’re safe, I’ve got you. It will be alright.’

 Against my shoulder I feel her shake her head.

© Judith Barrow 2018

My Review of Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn by Thorne Moore #TuesdayBookBlog #Histfiction

long shadows

 

I gave Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn 5*

Book Description:

Llys y Garn is a rambling Victorian-Gothic mansion with vestiges of older glories.

It lies in the isolated parish of Rhyd y Groes in North Pembrokeshire. It is the house of the parish, even in its decline, deeply conscious of its importance, its pedigree and its permanence. It stubbornly remains though the lives of former inhabitants have long since passed away. Only the rooks are left to bear witness to the often desperate march of history.

Throne Moore’s Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn comprises a trio of historical novellas that let us into secrets known only to these melancholy birds.

The Good Servant is the story of Nelly Skeel, loveless housekeeper at Llys y Garn at the end of the 19th century, whose only focus of affection is her master’s despised nephew. But for Cyril Lawson she will do anything, whatever the cost.

The Witch tells of Elizabeth Powell, born as Charles II is restored to the English throne, in a world of changing political allegiances, where religious bigotry and superstition linger on. Her love is not for her family, her duty, her God or her future husband, but for the house where she was born. For that she would sell her soul.

The Dragon Slayer tells of Angharad ferch Owain in the early decades of the 14th century. Angharad is an expendable asset in her father’s machinations to recover old rights and narrow claims, but she dreams of bigger things and a world without the roaring of men. A world that might spare her from the seemingly inevitable fate of all women.

In these three tales the rooks of Llys y Garn have watched centuries of human tribulation – but just how much has really changed? If you enjoyed the kaleidoscopic sweep of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas you will appreciate Long Shadows.

My Review:

I have long been an admirer of Thorne Moore’s work and have not been disappointed with these three novellas in  Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn

The first, The Good Servant is told from the point of view of the housekeeper, Nelly Skeel; the protagonist, living at the end of the nineteenth century.  Well rounded and well portrayed in her actions, there is a vulnerability about this character; as the reader I found myself both can empathising and sympathising  with her and yet being exasperated. Yet should I? She is of her time and  of a certain status in her world.

And, so, on to The Witch. This story, set in the seventeenth century,  takes the reader through the early years of Elizabeth Powell to her adult life. Told mainly from the protagonist’s point of view with the occasional insight to one or two of the  other characters from a third person narrator, the emphasis is on the restrictions of the religion at that time. and the class struggles; land versus money. I liked Elizabeth, which is something I cannot say about Anthony, her brother. Always there is hope that all will be well but there is an all encompassing darkness to her story…

The Dragon Slayer is the story of Angharad ferch Owain, living during the fourteenth  century. Also told from the protagonist’s point of view we read of her fear of her father, of her future. This protagonist I liked the most. The ending is satisfying. I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. As with the first two novellas, this tale is dark with themes of the women being mere chattels to be bargained with, used for the progression in society of their families.

I enjoyed the way the women were portrayed as having a strength and internal rebellion. But yet there was always the conflicts of status and money, of land and possessions, of greed and thwarted love. Of patriarchy.

In all three novellas, both the internal and spoken dialogue the author has the tone and subtle dialect that I imagine Rhyd y Groes in North Pembrokeshire to have been in those eras.

And, in all, the descriptions of the buildings, of Llys y Garn and of the ever-changing Welsh countryside are evocative and easily imagined.

Just a comment about the style of the book:  

The intriguing Prelude, giving the history of the “rambling Victorian-Gothic mansion” that is Llys y Garn,  is fascinating.  And I loved the short explanations of the after-years of novella. And  then we have the Interludes; told in a conversational tone these are filled both with historical details and those pertinent to the story,. Finally, the Epilogue, giving the continuing, ever-evolving history of Llys y Garn through the following centuries. 

It is apparent that the author has researched thoroughly for each of these stories; the themes of Welsh legends, myths, superstitions  and tales are woven throughout the history of the decades.  

Watch out for the ravens

This is a collection of novellas I can thoroughly recommend to any reader, especially those who enjoys historical literature.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2rDFQj7

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2Iap5Hr

About the author:

Thorne Moore

Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister but now spends her time writing and making miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton. She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” and her first novel, A Time For Silence, was published by Honno in 2012. Motherlove and The Unravelling followed, also published by Honno. She has also brought out a book of short stories, Moments of Consequence. Her last novel, Shadows, was published by Endeavour in 2017. She’s a member of the Crime Writers Association.

Praise for Thorne Moore and her novels:

“Thorne Moore is a huge talent. Her writing is intensely unsettling and memorable” – SALLY SPEDDING, AUTHOR

“Totally had me hooked from page one… Highly recommended if you love a good psychological thriller” – BROOK COTTAGE BOOKS

“I devoured this book. Beautifully written, frighteningly real” – CHILL WITH A BOOK

“A compelling blend of mystery and family drama with a gothic twist… The author’s ability to create an atmosphere is exceptional” – JUDITH BARROW, AUTHOR

“Beautifully told, this really did have me captivated” – CLEOPATRA LOVES BOOKS

“Moore has created a figure who reaches out across the decades and grabs our sympathy… Her character transforms the novel” – BOOKERTALK

 

My Review of The Yellow Bills by Michelle McKenna #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlogs

 

the yellow bills
This book was submitted to Rosie’s Book Review Team#RBRT  and, as a member of the team I was given a copy of The Yellow Bills in return for an honest review.

 I gave The Yellow Bills  4* out of 5*

Book Description:

Mya loves planes and wants to be a pilot when she grows up. As luck would have it she comes across a flying school run by lieutenant Drake who awards his pupils splendid pilot hats when they graduate. Mya wants to join the class but there’s just one problem. She’s not a duck! Could Goose the little duckling with big flying ambitions be the key to Mya getting her pilot’s hat? Or will Mr Sour the teacher who never quite made the grade have other ideas…Inspired by authors such as Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, Michelle weaves a story with the humour and invention of Nick Ward’s ‘Charlie Small’ series meets Dick King Smith’s wonder of the animal world

 My Review:  

This is a children’s book, suitable for around six to nine years. It’s a well written story of perseverance and friendship told with gentle humour, the text interspersed with lovely ink-drawn illustrations.

Mya is a strong well-rounded female protagonist with Goose as a great side-kick. Ill matched in appearance they may be, but bonded together with one aim, they make a good team.

The steadily-paced narrative is easy to follow, with just enough descriptive passages ,and the dialogue is straight-forward.

I really liked the author’s style of writing. I should imagine that many children will as well.

 And I love the brightly coloured, comical cover.

 The Yellow Bills is definitely one book I would recommend. 

Links:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2K3kP9U

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2F7Gnyy

 

My Review of UK2 (Project Renova Book 3) by Terry Tyler #TuesdayBookBlog #Dystopian #PostApocolyptic

 

uk2

 

I gave UK2 5*

Book Description:

Two decades of social media had prepared them well for UK2.’

The pace steps up in this final instalment of the Project Renova trilogy, as the survivors’ way of life comes under threat.

Two years after the viral outbreak, representatives from UK Central arrive at Lindisfarne to tell the islanders about the shiny new city being created down south.  UK2 governor Verlander’s plan is simple: all independent communities are to be dissolved, their inhabitants to reside in approved colonies.  Alas, those who relocate soon suspect that the promises of a bright tomorrow are nothing but smoke and mirrors, as great opportunities turn into broken dreams, and dangerous journeys provide the only hope of freedom.

Meanwhile, far away in the southern hemisphere, a new terror is gathering momentum…

‘I walked through that grey afternoon, past fields that nobody had tended for nearly three years, past broken down, rusty old vehicles, buildings with smashed windows.  I was walking alone at the end of the world, but I was a happy man.  I was free, at last.’

Although this concludes the Project Renova trilogy, there will be more books in the series. A collection of five side stories is planned, and another novel, set far into the future.

My Review,

i have long enjoyed Terry Tylers’ work and I have read almost everything she has written. However, when I heard she had changed genres and written an end of the world novel I hesitated. Only once had I read a dystopian book  – and I hated it. What I forgot, at first, was that, not only does this author write a cracking good story, whatever the subject, she creates brilliantly  rounded characters that take  on a life of their own…and live, and grow and change as the  plots progress. I took a chance and was hooked. I read the first of the trilogy Tipping Point (you can read my review here). Following the lives of the characters through desperate times was both fascinating and felt unbelievably real. The second of the trilogy, Lindisfarne; my review here,  continues the story and, from my point of view, is equally riveting.

 I have also enjoyed  Patient Zero: short stories from the Project Renova series; a collection of nine short stories featuring minor characters from the series

And so to this last book, UK2, the conclusion of the the story (at least for the time being – as we see in the book description, Terry Tyler has other ideas). But, for now the stories of each of these characters I have grown to know and understand have sailed off into the distance.

There are so many well-rounded characters I honestly wouldn’t know where to start (and would probably ramble on for pages!). Some of the characters are told by a third person omniscient narrator, which allows the reader to sit back and observe. But many characters tell whole chapters from their own points of view. It’s interesting to hear the internal voices of Lottie, Vicky and Doyle, with their opinions on the world they are living in; all developing in the way good characters should in a novel. I was well impressed the way one character, Flora, changed. Oh, and I should mention the appearance of two characters I instantly loved, Seren and Hawk.

The dialogue is, as usual, good; some of the voices of  the characters with the intonations subtly changed as the characters go forward in their stories, some immediately recognisable.

The settings, whether of Lindisfarne, the devastated Britain of the past,  UK Central (ruled over by the plastic ‘Hollywood-style governor Verlander’) or islands far away, give a brilliant sense of place.

I have to be honest, it is a complex book with plots and subplots intertwined and a whole plethora of characters; so I can only recommend that readers start with the first book of the trilogy. And, to be fair, this is what the author recommends.

But, having the last word (well, this is my review!), whatever your preferred genre, give this series a go…you’ll be hooked.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2IekT4X

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2EctvXz

About the Author:

6oAA8mXm_400x400

 

 

Terry Tyler is the author of seventeen books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘UK2’, the third book in her new post apocalyptic series. She is proud to be self-published, is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and loves history, winter, South Park and Netflix. She lives in the north east of England with her husband; she is still trying to learn Geordie.

Connect with Terry:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TerryTyler4

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2xLJRa6

My Review of That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

I received  this book as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team#RBRT in return for an honest review

 I gave That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel 4*out of 5*

 

Book description

 

Mia Flanagan has never been told who her father is and aged ten, stopped asking. Haunted by this, she remains a dutiful daughter who would never do anything to bring scandal or shame on her beautiful and famously single mother. So when Archie Fitzgerald, one of Hollywood’s favourite actors, decides to leave Mia his Irish estate she asks herself – is he her father after all? That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is a tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal – and the ghost of a secret love that binds this colourful cast yet still threatens, after all these years, to tear each of them apart.

My Review:

 I did enjoy That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel, I really did. Whether it was the actual story, the way the narrative flows, the many differing characters, the sense of place that is so evocative throughout by the descriptions… I’m not sure. The reason I’m hesitant to say why I enjoyed this book is that the narrative actually goes into all the characters’ heads; we hear all their points of view, even the minor characters, sometimes only for a sentence or two. It’s odd, this usually irritates me. But the way this story is written it fits somehow

It’s a well worn plot in many ways; girl let down by boyfriend, handsome stranger on the sidelines; love finds a way, despite so many obstacles. But there are numerous other threads woven throughout that add depth and  intrigue (including one very large and intriguing mystery – see the hint in the book description; I’m not the one who will give away spoilers! )

There are some great rounded characters; quirky, poignant, funny, slightly wicked antagonists, and a great child character. Mostly I liked the way the protagonist grew in strength as the story progressed.

And each character is unmistakable in their dialogue; no dialogue tags needed a lot of the time, which, I think keeps the narrative moving well, especially at important section of the plot

There are wonderful descriptions of the scenery and the  settings, although sometimes these (mostly of the sea and sky) were a little too drawn out and repetitive  and took me out of the story

This was a different read for me. I usually enjoy novels where I can follow and empathise with one, maybe two, characters but, as I said before, this time it works (mostly).

There is one point where I would have liked to have more of a build up, more detail, more atmosphere. It’s a scene where one character threatens Mia. Already portrayed as obnoxious,yet not threatening, here he is menacing. Yet I felt that it didn’t quite work and the protagonist wasn’t shown to be really afraid. We are told she is but I didn’t really get any sense of real fear and the scene is quickly glossed over. Though it is actually a pivotal romantic point in the plot.

But, all in all this  book worked for me and I have no hesitation in recommending That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel  to readers who enjoy  contemporary women’s fiction with a hint or two of mystery.

Buying Links:

 Amazon.co.uk:  http://amzn.to/2Im2Cn7

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2DlHjhW

 

About the author

 

adrienne vaughan

Adrienne Vaughan has been making up stories since she could speak; primarily to entertain her sister Reta, who from a very early age never allowed a plot or character to be repeated – tough gig! 

As soon as she could pick up a pen, she started writing them down. No surprise she wanted to be a journalist; ideally the editor of a glossy music and fashion magazine, so she could meet and marry a rock star – some of that came true! And in common with so many, she still holds the burning ambition to be a ‘Bond Girl

My Review of Hiding by Jenny Morton Potts #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

Hiding: A gripping psychological thriller with chilling twists by [Morton Potts, Jenny]

I received this book as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review.

I gave Hiding 4*out of 5*

book-desc-2

Keller Baye and Rebecca Brown live on different sides of the Atlantic. Until she falls in love with him, Rebecca knows nothing of Keller. But he’s known about her for a very long time, and now he wants to destroy her.

This is the story of two families. One living under the threat of execution in North Carolina. The other caught up in a dark mystery in the Scottish Highlands. The families’ paths are destined to cross. But why? And can anything save them when that happens?

(Jenny Morton Potts takes to the psychological thriller stage on an international canvass, and with a unique, bold voice.)

My Review:

I enjoyed this book; Jenny Morton Potts has created a good psychological thriller; great plot, believable characters, good dialogue.

Hiding follows two main characters from different countries, both well-rounded and many layered: Rebecca, the protagonist, brought up in the Scottish Highlands with her siblings by her grandparents. It’s a bleak seemingly loveless household according to the narrative from Rebecca’s point of view.  But there are many unanswered questions, especially about the death of here parents; killed in a car accident. And Keller Baye, the antagonist;  an American youth, and son of a murderer. His narrative is revealed slowly and is, initially, more difficult to grasp. But what is obvious is the lack of love in his upbringing, and explains his total absence of empathy for anyone in his world. (I use the word ‘world’ on purpose, rather than his ‘life’; right from the start his character is portrayed as distanced from any other character in the story – he seemed to me to be more of a spectator). The most unsettling is his graphic, almost internal narration of his presence at his father’s execution.

Told alternately from each of the two main characters’ point of view, the plot lines are related  both in the present and in flashbacks, (a device I like as a reader; to me this always adds so many more layers).

 But it wasn’t only these two characters that came alive for me; most of the minor characters are many layered as well; some I liked, some I didn’t – which, is, undoubtedly,  as the author intended

And both  the internal and spoken dialogue expands on all the characters and there is never any doubt who is speaking. 

The descriptions of the settings give a great sense of place; it’s easy to envisage each scene. From the descriptions of the isolated chilly mansion in  Highlands of Scotland to the cramped unloving house that was Keller Baye’s home with his aunt in the USA, to the external scenes when each character is telling their own narrative and on to the scenes where they are eventually together.

As I said earlier it’s a great plot; seemingly separate tales with no connection, both well told, until a sudden realisation that there is an inevitable link. 

Initially there is an even pace to the two separate narratives but then the suspense builds up as threads of the parallel stories intertwine and connect.A gripping read.

And right up to the last chapter I would have given Hiding five stars. So many small twists and turns, so many suspenseful moments joining up all the past narrative. But then, for me, it ended too abruptly. I won’t say how, and no doubt other readers will have their own opinions. But the gradual deepening of the plot and the lead up towards the end worked so well – and then…it was over; a sudden and unsatisfying denouement.

 A last point; I love the cover; the silhouette of the woman looking outwards as though searching, the grim image of the man’s face as though watching; the contrast of light and dark. Wonderful!

Despite my reservations of the ending (and I leave that point for other readers to decide),  I would certainly recommend Hiding. Jenny Morton Potts has a great style of writing.

Links to buy:

 Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2F9UunH

 Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2Fkuzxe

 

about-author-2
jenny

Jenny writes contemporary novels and plays. Her new psychological thriller ‘Hiding’ was published in February.
Her sceenplay for ‘Piano from a 4th Storey Window’ was filmed recently in Sussex. The editor’s first draft is available to watch on Jenny’s website (above). She lives with her partner and son in Thaxted.