#Bookreview for Circle of Dolphins by Clare Roskilly @PublishingPush #mentalhealth

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I don’t generally accept books to review, deciding instead to simply review what I choose to read, but in this case I made an exception. I was contacted by Publishing Push and then by the author herself and although my main reasoning for saying yes then was that the book was only 52 pages long, now, I’m delighted that I did.

Circle of Dolphins is a vivid description of life inside a psychiatric hospital. The author tells of her own experiences both before being diagnosed as schizophrenic, and the events that followed as she had to come to terms with the real world.

Fortunately, in recent years a lot of work has been done in the area of mental health. Although I’m sure progress has been made with its treatment, what I mean specifically here is with regard to its understanding and acceptance.

Clare Roskilly was sectioned when she was twenty-two and the first part of this book covers her experiences in the psychiatric facility she ended up in. I can tell you she had many scary and often violent moments but the overwhelming feeling I got from reading this was one of bewilderment as she tried to make sense of and deal with her situation.

The writing is clean and concise as she simply tells the story of what she encountered and I think that is what makes it so interesting. This is Clare’s life and she recalls the things that were important to her at the time, those things that made an impact.

The second part of the book was written some fifteen years later and covers what has happened to her since the breakdown. It shows just what a battle dealing with mental illness is, every day. I applaud the author for everything has made of her life and wish her every happiness.

There is a superbly chosen quote at the beginning of this book:

Be ready for whatever comes, dressed for action and with your lamps lit.

Luke 12:35 (Good News Bible)

I think this sums up what this book meant for me. There is no real explanation as to why this happened to Clare and some of her thoughts and descriptions made me realise just how perilous life is. How close we all are to the edge of something like this happening to us and the devastating impact it would have on our lives.

The author states at the end of the book that she is happy to have put this down on paper and I’m sure it was cathartic for her. At the same time, I can tell her it will also be an eye-opener for everyone who chooses to read it.

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#Bookreview for Reflecting Pieces by the students of Central College, Nottingham @PhilPid1 @GreenWizard62 #anthology

Reflecting Pieces

I have read all of the anthologies produced by the students of this creative writing course and am always amazed at the quality of the work produced by, often, first time writers, and in such a short period of time. In each of these anthologies there is always an informative Foreword from the editor, Phil Pidluznyj, which gives you an insight into what is covered on the course as well as what to expect in the book. As always there is something for everyone.

The Grand Old Barber Shop by Manda Greasley – Joe, the barber, is approaching retirement after a long career he wasn’t expecting to set out on, like so many of us. A long time regular comes in and I really enjoyed the observational writing about this customer, the twist at the ending completely taking me by surprise.

Opportunity Knocks – B.N. Newton – Set in East Berlin this tells the story of Peter, who works in a hotel and dreams of freedom beyond the Wall. An opportunity for just such an escape presents itself and grabbing it with both hands he sets off, only to be unexpectedly intercepted. However, there is a super twist at the end which changes the whole outcome.

Passerines – K.A. Nilan – This is the very well written tale, partly told as a dream, of a woman who finds out her life-long friend, and on off lover, is getting married. I thought the dream section worked very well portraying all the absurdities dreams have as well as revealing the subconscious thoughts that are so often expressed in them.

Time – Caroline Stancer – Told from the perspective of someone in a psychiatric facility who’s struggling to get through the time there this story is interesting and covers various episodes and characters. I really liked this, ‘there’s less time than there used to be. You don’t struggle to get through it, you struggle to slow it down.’ I think we can all relate to that!

Rose House – Elaine Davis – The Rose House is a story of a young innocent girl who meets a friend and ends up travelling to London to her party. She reminisces about another trip she’s been on and this style of writing comes across very much as a memoir.

The Destined Famalam – M.G. Kamau – This is the somewhat brutal story of three guys, Dom, Billy and Obadiah (love that name) who live ‘where drugs and violence stained the streets with blood and fear.’ I loved Obi’s grandmother, cool and solid, just what the boys needed.

The Bridge – Safa Choudhury – This is an interesting tale of how a wealthy lawyer, full of remorse for doing his job too well, winds up on a bridge where he’s about to be mugged. The reasoning behind the lawyer’s actions and the outcomes because of them are examined as decisions have to be made. The last line is breathlessly delivered in that way that leaves you wanting more.

The End of Autumn – Xanthe Hirst – In this fantasy the protagonist is a Soul Seeker who is starting to have doubts about what she is doing, even though she is very good at it. When she gets the chance to save someone from the fate she is offering she takes it expecting consequences, but not what actually happens.

The Dragon Prince – C.C. Boaler – This fantasy, part of a longer novella, would not usually be my chosen genre to read but I found myself drawn into the tale anyway able to picture the setting clearly and becoming interested in what was going to happen to the characters involved.

The Collection – Elaine L Smith – I was already enjoying reading this story, empathising with the younger sister, from whose perspective it is told, when something happened which took me completely by surprise, pleasantly, I should add! This author does a great job in building the characters so I could see exactly how irritating Lucy was, the atmosphere of the piece was great and the twist very well done.

Not only do these authors write prose but several have written poetry as well and there is a collection of that at the back of this book together with another by Julia Silverio and song lyrics by Jeri Taylor.

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The Power of our Pets – Revisited and Updated

Over two years ago now The Power of our Pets was a guest post on the much missed, A Woman’s Wisdom. Sadly no longer available I’ve reposted it here, and added an update because some of you have been kind enough to ask.

‘When Bodicia invited me to write this guest post I told her I was off out with my dogs and I’d mull over what I’d write about while I walked. As it was I’d decided before I’d left the house. For various reasons, but mostly because this is what is exercising my brain at the moment, I’m writing this as it spills out and whilst I will attempt to tidy up behind myself I fear this post will start in one place and end up somewhere very different.

I’ve always been interested in the link between animals and people and I like the way animal forms are used to portray the souls of people in literature. From Harry Potter where for the most accomplished witches and wizards the Patronus Charm produces a guardian which is a projection of their most positive feelings, taking the form of an animal with which they share the deepest affinity. To the Philip Pullman Northern Lights trilogy where the characters are accompanied by their own dæmon such as Lyra’s Pantalaiman (Pan). Pan provides a cautious and level headed counterpoint to Lyra’s impulsive, inquisitive and sometimes reckless character. What I particularly liked about Pan was his metamorphosis. When we first meet him he is a moth but through the story changes form from eagle to ermine, wildcat and mouse amongst others eventually settling as Lyra reaches adulthood into a pine marten. Pullman’s writing of a time when Pan and Lyra are separated is painfully heartbreaking and shows how truly deep that bond can be.

Pine Marten

Horses, dogs and the occasional cat have always been part of my life though very few of them have ever been mine. However, I’ve found that that doesn’t matter, there are just some animals that touch us so deeply, that we are so in tune with that it devastates us when they are gone. This was never shown more viscerally than in a raw and emotional post from Phil Conquest on the untimely death of his beloved Brando. (Sadly that post no longer exists).

With nothing approaching the intensity of Pullman I have animals in my books, four horses and a dog to be precise. To clarify for anyone that this has just put off from ever picking up one of my books, my plots are not about these animals but they are an integral part of the storyline.

You know that bit in the front of all our books where we say ‘All characters appearing in this work are fictitious…’? Well I have to confess that a couple of mine are quite close to the reality that I have borrowed from life and were written because of the power these characters can have over us. They are not exact copies, that wouldn’t be right, but bits and pieces of them here and there.

A couple of brief examples of minor borrows are that Benjy is based on a pony I once knew called Toffee and Zodiac is the name of the pony I used to fight fiercely to get on at my riding school although the actual Zodiac was nothing like the one in my book. The strongest resemblance to any horse I’ve known though is Regan. He is based on a horse I used to ride for someone until a couple of years ago.

I have been lucky enough on a few occasions in my life to ride some truly exquisite horses. Yet XXXX (and I shall protect his anonymity as I didn’t own him) though lacking in the breeding and training they often had outshone them all. He was a magnificent Irish Draught X hunter type standing at 17hh, which is mighty tall for the uninitiated among you, dark bay, handsome and whilst packed full of fun and mischief was always the perfect gentleman. Although a big horse he had a short stride so rode much smaller making every ride exhilarating, every moment on his back a joy.

I’ll give you an example, once we were cantering along a track that ended in a five barred gate. I knew he could jump, his owner had told me of his abilities but that wasn’t what I was meant to be doing with him however every time we came along this track he’d light up just at the sight of this gate. On this particular occasion someone had parked an old mini metro in front it. Not fazed in the slightest I felt his head come up in anticipation, his muscles bunching as his quarters came under me, his whole body ready and quivering with an anticipation that whispered seductively to me ‘Come on girl, we can do this’. I was tempted, I can tell you, oh so tempted but despite my adrenaline junkie tendencies I didn’t…he wasn’t mine you see, not mine to risk.

We had some terrific times together and he was never anything other than glorious, getting me into and out of many high-tailed shenanigans, scrapes and situations that both of us should have known better about tackling but totally heroic in every aspect he was always there ready to catch me should I ever be in danger of falling – if he’d been a man he’d have been a keeper for sure.

There came a time a while later when I was totally shocked to be told he was going to be put down the next day. It was that short stride of his you see, his conformation caused a condition to develop that meant constant pain for him and the vet was no longer willing to keep him going with cortisone injections and daily painkilling drugs. I remember hugging him for the last time, the warm dustiness of his coat as he stood patiently waiting for me to get whatever this was out of my system so that he could get on with his grazing. He wasn’t even mine but I was left heartbroken such was the power he had over me – the horse of a lifetime.

The second character I’ve ‘borrowed’ is indeed a pet and my very own, Poppy. Now the dog in my book, Susie, does not look like Poppy at all (more like Poppy’s mother actually, shhhh!) but when I write her it is Poppy I have in mind. Twelve and a half years ago now Poppy came to us as a puppy but became my dog people tell me because I am where the food and walks come from. I’d like to think it is more than that.

Poppy as a puppy

I remember feeling dismayed to find out that whenever I left the house she lay by the front door until I walked back in, walking off nonchalantly as soon as she heard my key in the door as if it didn’t really matter if I was in or not. I should add here that she is also the Coolest Dog in the World! The matriarchal dog in our village and, having set her stall out when a young and feisty thing, she is Queen of all she surveys.

She is under my desk when I work (right now!), in the kitchen when I cook and not being allowed upstairs she consoles herself at night by lying on the corner step of the stairs, just in case she is needed. My better half has often said ‘There’s something of the darkness about that dog’ and I’m not talking the Justin ‘Flames out of his Groin’ Hawkins kind of Darkness either…she’s just not a bubbly person… but we get along just fine, well matched if you will. She too is scruffy…

Poppy 2

Poppy became ill just before Christmas; I took her to the vets then on to the animal hospital for rigorous tests and fortunately after being diagnosed with a severe bladder infection she was pumped full of antibiotics and sent home. Wonderfully within only a couple of days she was bouncing around again like a spring lamb, wanting to fight with our other dog and feeling much better.

Over the years and through various states of emotional turmoil I have often wondered about my ability to love which may seem like an odd thing to say but there have been times when I’ve wondered if I love anyone or anything. Yet others when the love I feel is too much, too real, too raw…and then I came across this quote: –

“The way to love anything is to realise that it might be lost.” G K Chesterton

And here’s the thing. Whilst undergoing the intensive tests the vets found something else, something sinister and suddenly we had choices to make. A major operation and 6 months of chemo to give her more time or, allow her to live out her days naturally. It took a week before I was even able to discuss this and I look at her now and deep down know I was right, that it was right for her, to opt for B but part of me feels I should be throwing everything veterinary science has to offer at her, that I have failed her by not doing so and I can’t help but keep wishing that we didn’t know. If she hadn’t been ill we would never have found out until it was too late but now I watch her and fret if she doesn’t eat, thinking, is this it? If she doesn’t want her milk, is this it? Such is the power she has over me.

We were given a timescale which is just too sad to print here but I don’t know what to do with that time. I feel I should be doing something, such as taking her on her favourite walks…I tried but it felt falsely morbid, like it was going to be the last time she’d get to pee on that particular patch of soil. Or taking more photos, while she eyes me with suspicion as I snatch snapshots of her soul. Or more cuddles, that’s not our thing and she’d wonder what I was up to whilst shrugging me off muttering something about being too hot.

There are extra treats and the rules she’s grown up under have been relaxed or rather she’s pushed at the boundaries such as her blatant wandering through the border in our garden. Previously forbidden territory yet done now with a glance over at me and the unspoken knowledge that this is not going to be forever.

What it comes down to is this, we are not needy creatures, I don’t seek affection from her and she doesn’t crave my attention, we just are and as long as she is there and as long as I am there then we’re fine….

Poppy1 - Copy

And so onto the update…

Poppy was given three to six months, but she lived a further two and a half years. We finally lost her six weeks ago after she’d spent one final glorious day eating well and coming out on an afternoon walk in the sun.

I’d have said something earlier, but, well, you know.

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RIP Poppa, aka The Best Dog in the World!

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“The way to love anything is to realise that it might be lost.” G K Chesterton’

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#Bookreview for Where There’s Smoke by Cathy Cole @CathyCole66 #RBRT #RomanticSuspense

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Where There's Smoke

I received a copy of this novel as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team and in exchange for my honest review, so here it is.

Where There’s Smoke is a story about Jo Woods, a firefighter who, after stirring up trouble for the authorities in her previous town, has been banished to the backwater of Mourne Lough. She is a survivor but the guilt she carries with her is more than just survivor guilt. When it becomes clear the killer has struck again, she starts making waves, much to the displeasure of her seniors, and the killer. Before long she is the target and the pressure is on to reveal the killer’s identity before he/she strikes again.

I do like reading a good mystery but I’m not usually someone who spends their time trying to work out who the baddie is. Generally, I’m quite happy being absorbed in the tale and enjoying the writing. However, I found myself trying to guess who the killer was in this read putting myself very much in Jo’s shoes. The author does a very good job of presenting various options for who might be behind the horrific killings and attacks that take place throughout this story and keeps up the suspense. I had my suspicions but they were only confirmed just as the reveal came.

We get to see the killer’s side of the story, as parts are told from his/her point of view, which is a bit creepy, particularly with his/her desire to ‘free the little birds’. There was no introduction to these parts though which threw me a little until I adjusted to who was speaking.

For a romantic suspense the emphasise was definitely on the suspense with only a light touch of romance introduced. I really liked Jo Woods and certainly hope that after everything she has been through she gets to enjoy more of the romance side in the future.

This book is based on firefighting and firefighters and there was just enough detail to make me confident in the authors knowledge without there being an overload of technical fire stuff that could have made me switch off. Very well written, it was solid throughout, and a very well put together debut novel. Highly recommended.

I’ve given this novel 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 stars on Amazon.

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#Bookreview for #YA novel Dory’s Avengers by Alison Jack @AlisonJack66

DA_Finalb

I do not fit into the target audience for this novel, not being YA (a young adult) nor male, however I still enjoyed Dory’s Avengers which just goes to show that you should always be willing to try new things.

This is an original and interesting read with the main character, Louis, being an albino gymnast trained by the bad-tempered past champion, Gideon, who is now in a wheelchair. They live among a colourful cast in the fictional village of Blenthwaite in the Lake District.

There are some mentions early on about Sponsorship but we soon learn that term is not to be taken in the way it usually would be in sports because it actually refers to there being very much a class divide between the Sponsored and Unsponsored. People sign up to be Sponsored because of the privileges it affords but it also means that their life is controlled, ultimately by Lord Bassenford who’s in charge of the Sponsorship Scheme. The Unsponsored are, of course, the rebels who will not sign their lives away and therefore pay the consequences of not doing so.

Louis is contacted, in a somewhat unusual manner, by a childhood friend and travels to London to help the friend, his eyes being opened to the problems of the Unsponsored along the way.

I had a little difficulty with Lord Bassenford who at times was hideously cruel, particularly to his son Theodore and then at others behaved rather out of character, I thought, for example by dancing at an unsponsored wedding. So I wasn’t entirely convinced by his supposedly evil persona.

Some things also felt a little glossed over. The changes of heart by a few of the characters, for example, and Nicola, I’ll say no more on that as I don’t want to give anything away. However, I did love many of the cast and in particular Lysander, eventually, after all the stuff happens which I won’t tell you for fear of spoilers, again.

I only get to read books in fits and starts and it can be tricky keeping the relationships characters have with each other clear. In this book the cast is quite large and at times I got confused with names. Lord Bassenford was also known as Your Lordship, Your Lordshit (unsurprisingly, given his behaviour!) and William St Benedict. But this was not all, most of the characters (and there were quite a few) had nicknames or shortened forms of their own names or were occasionally called by their surnames, but like I say that was no doubt something to do with the way I read this book.

There was a lot of story packed into this book with many things happening which kept it fresh and interesting. I liked the setting and always love it when a plan comes together to try to thwart whatever it is that is going on. There was humour throughout, a certain amount of friskiness among the cast which was entertaining and all in all this was an enjoyable read.

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#Bookreview for A Taste of his own Medicine by Linda Fawke @LindaFawke #RBRT

A Taste of his own medicine

I received a copy of A Taste of his own Medicine from the author as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team and in exchange for an honest review.

I chose to read this book because I liked the premise of it. Kate has been invited to a thirty-year reunion of all those with whom she had graduated her pharmacy course. The mere thought of this fills me with horror. I can’t remember names to put with faces and the idea of catching up, reminiscing and the inevitable retelling of stories that would only show what an idiot I was back then brings me out in a sweat. Still, each to their own.

Kate doesn’t want to go either, initially, however, encouraged by her husband, Neil, the idea grows on her but mostly because of the opportunity for revenge. She enrols her long-time university friend, Becky, in her plans, although Becky is a little reluctant to go on the weekend (with good reason it turns out!) At first I thought Kate was only wanting to get back at one person but her ambition then grew and several were involved, which seemed a little unrealistic.

While I liked the idea, for me much of this story line was overly detailed. Quite rightly pharmacists need to be incredibly precise people and this author showed her character, Kate, to be just that by the way she was writing her but it did slow the story down somewhat. The dialogue could also do with a bit of a tighten up as well. When in conversation people rarely get the chance to say much more than one sentence, maybe two, in the general back and forth and there was a lot of explaining, which isn’t always necessary.

I thought the fallout from the weekend was particularly interesting though and enjoyed where the storylines led. The author has also left much open for the sequel with the surprising ending.

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#Author #Interview with multi-genre novelist, Mark Barry @GreenWizard62

Some of my most creative thoughts happen when on a dog walk, as do my best conversations with my dog-walking buddy. So I thought I’d invite some of my author friends along to join me and my girls and see if I can find out a little more about them and the book they’ve just released.

‘My girls’ are Poppy and Ruby 

Girls in the garden

Summer is here!

I’m delighted to welcome back Mark Barry who has just released his latest novel, A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice. He was here in 2015 and 2016. (Click the links if you want to find out what we discussed on those occasions)

Mark Barry Author Photo

Mark Barry is a multi-genre writer and novelist. His work includes the minor cult hit Ultra Violence, about football hooligans at a small Midlands football club, and the highly acclaimed Carla, a quirky, dark romance with shades of Wuthering Heights. A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice is a loose sequel to Carla.

Mark is the co-designer of the innovative Brilliant Books project aimed at engaging the many, many reluctant readers amongst young people.  He is based in Nottingham and Southwell, UK, the scene of most of his fiction and runs Green Wizard Publishing, an independent micro-publishing company that promotes his work as well as that of others.

I believe I’ve read all Mark’s books that are available and have posted reviews of them here: Carla, The Night Porter, Ultra Violence, Violent Disorder, Once Upon a Time in the City of Criminals, Hollywood Shakedown and Kevin and the Atomic Bomb. (Click on the links to go and read them)

I, along with many others, are always waiting for Mark to release his latest novel and after hearing on the indie grapevine that one was on the cusp of release I invited Mark along to the rather flat lands of Cambridgeshire for a chat about it.

Shiny Coin Final

Love this cover!

Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, I know how busy you are. So tell me all about A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice?

Shiny Coin, as it is affectionately known in my house, is a psychological love story set in a small and prosperous English town. Carol goes home, after four years at University, to sort out her deceased father’s affairs. She’s afraid of the town, after a horrific experience in her teenage years and her return is all about coming to terms with her demons, so she can move on with life. It has elements of mystery, puzzle, romance, thriller – and I have been told it is VERY YA – but mostly, it’s a return to those dark and absorbing novels of the nineteen seventies you could pick up on a spinner rack in the newsagent.

I’m proud of the book. I think its my best and I think, given a bit of luck, it could be successful.

Carla was published in 2013. Did you know then that there would eventually be a sequel, or has this idea only come to you recently?

I wrote Carla at the end of the lowest period of my whole life and its critical success was a major factor in my improvement in mental health. I love that book, deeply flawed though it is. I would LOVE to rewrite it based on what I know now, five years later, but I was young and reckless back then and it will have to stand. I still think the last eight chapters of that book are different class – I reckon Shakespeare’s crazy monkeys possessed my spirit when I was writing those.

I don’t really do sequels – I generally have one story to tell about a main character and that’s it – but I love connectivity within books and I knew the themes in Carla were too good not to continue. Criminals could not have existed without Carla and neither could Shiny Coin.  It’s a loose trilogy in which there is an older man and a younger woman at the core and for the final piece, I had to write from the point of view of the younger women to complete the set.

I know you love your music so if you could choose one piece of music to be the soundtrack to this book what would it be? And why?

I have whole soundtracks to my books – don’t you, Georgia? But this is all about Portishead. The two main characters play Dummy during the revelation chapter, the one where Carol reveals her horrifying secret. I also played a lot of Floyd with this – but then I always do. It’s quite a sombre book, quite a reflective book and that type of music works.

I know you have high hopes for this book, based on the considerable interest in it so far and the reviews to date…

I do. I love this book. I worked hard on it and thought it through page by page. I removed over 15,000 words too to make it a more modern (i.e. shorter) read.  I cannot write any better than this. If this one tanks, then I’m offski. I think I shall end up in beekeeping, tree surgery, or banana straightening, well away from the arts. It’s a brutal game selling books, absolutely brutal, and its even harder when you have a really sound, clever, well written piece of work which gets overlooked – which happened to some extent to my last book, Criminals. That one was good, but this one is better and I am seriously hoping for some exposure, to be honest. The reviews are excellent so far. None of which have come from my Aunty Betty, for the cynics out there, Georgia!

Who is your muse, if any?

For Shiny? A certain special woman who lives among the rolling shires of the beautiful south. You might know her – you live down that way, don’t you? (Ahh, there are many women  down here Mark, in fact I caught sight of one who reminded me of Carol Prentice just the other day in the multi-storey at Bedford Bus Station, that must be her! :-))

Here come a few quick fire ones.

Sunsets or sunrises?

Depends who I am with – probably sunrises: That’s always a great night!

sunrise

If you had to change your name, what would you change it to?

Mike Champagne.

What was your favourite childhood injury?

Deep mental scars from watching that evil hunter kill Bambi’s mother.

If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it?

Nearly Man – I always feel I have just missed out on the big stuff in life. Never by much (except sport – crap at all sports), but enough to leave me with a mild sense of frustration. Hopefully Shiny Coin is a turning point.

It is at this point that Mark gave me a prophetic tip for the National, if only I’d posted this earlier, we’d all be better off!!

It has been a pleasure, as always, chatting to you Mark. Thanks for joining me and I wish you every success for the sales of A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice – I’ve already read it (of course!) and my review is here!

Always lovely to have a natter Georgia, thank you, I’ll head back to the glorious North now!

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#Bookreview for A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice by Mark Barry @GreenWizard62 #psychological #suspense

Shiny Coin Final

‘…it’s all about the writing as art.’

This is a love story… this is what it says at the beginning of Shiny Coin but if you’re looking for hearts and flowers, tears and romance, walk on by, because this is not one of those. This is the other sort. This is the type of love story that tortures breaking hearts, the type of love story that can’t ever be, and that happens in real lives only too often.

Because this is what Barry writes, real lives. His characters, and their interactions with each other, are honest and totally believable, even when they do things we could never imagine. Nothing is shied away from and while we love the rapport shown between some of his people, the faults, failings and weaknesses of all are viscerally depicted on the page.

Carol has moved back to Wheatley Fields following the death of her father. I imagined her as glamorously gothic and totally cool, but her fabulous hair, makeup and clothes make her an oddity in the conservative passages of her home town. She gets a job at the book shop working for the older and wizardly wise Steve and they hit it off, becoming friends as well as work colleagues.

One day there’s an altercation between the odious Toby and Steve, when the former tries to buy a comic, and it is this that is the catalyst for the shocking events that unfold.

While Steve bears the brunt of what is to come Carol knows it is not aimed at him, because following a terrible betrayal when she was last home she has returned with a plan for revenge, and it’s one she’s determined to see through.

Readers familiar with Barry’s work will recognise references such as the Arkwright Trust from The Night Porter, The Jacket, a short story in Punk Rocker, and Carla, of course, as this is its loose sequel. There’s a brief cameo by Mark himself as the writer in Wheatley Fields the setting for many of his novels.

I enjoy reading Barry’s work in total silence and ideally in the dark, my screen the only illumination. I don’t like there to be anything to distract me from the precision of his words, the fabulous one liners and flowing passages, and throughout, the observational wit. This read was to be no exception, and it really is that cliché of all things, a page-turner, because you simply have to find out what is going to happen.

This is no boy meets girl romance but Barry is right, this is a love story, albeit a deeply saddening one which he makes you feel, all the way to its end. Because when you take away everything else there is only one thing left, hope, and I was left hanging on to that. A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice made me shed tears, and when a book does that to me I know it is truly special.

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#Bookreview for #crime #novel, Long Shadows by Julie Haiselden, @juliehaiselden

Long Shadows

I wasn’t sure about Long Shadows when I started it. The story begins quite slowly and at times is overly detailed but I soon got drawn into Lizzie’s tale. Lizzie Tennyson is a loving wife and mother. Somewhat grudgingly she gives up her nursing career to move to the Lake District and run a pub with her husband and son, Alex. She really didn’t want to do this but surprisingly finds herself settling well into their new life and becomes an integral part of the village community. She’s sociable, always willing to help out with village events, and popular, making many friends along the way.

Tragedy does strike but then everything settles again and appears perfectly harmonious in Lizzie’s life so I have to admit that when the ‘incident’ came it took me completely by surprise and seemed totally out of kilter with the character’s personality but then the more I read the more I realised why. There is a lack of emotion in this read which eventually made sense and I was drawn on as the reveals came, one a chilling reminder right from the beginning that I had completely forgotten.

This story develops over many years and I don’t have the necessary psychological knowledge to know what was going on with Lizzie but something most definitely was and I enjoyed watching her thought processes, and consequent actions, throughout this read.

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