Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry @GreenWizard62

Today’s Team review is from Cathy, she blogs here http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry

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When Carol Prentice left her home town of Wheatley Fields for Manchester University she had no plans to return. Her father’s death precipitates a change in her and the subsequent return to Wheatley Fields, along with the resolve to address those intimated demons which have blighted her life and made her believe herself to be less than. She had A Plan.

After successfully applying for a job at a local bookstore, Carol and Steve, the manager, become firm friends. It’s an unlikely friendship, but they are both compelling characters, well defined with depth and relatability, even as we see their flaws. Steve, despite his previous failures and tendency to drink too much, becomes Carol’s source of strength, the foundation on which she can build, her rock.

However, it’s not very long before Carol’s demons appear and events are set in motion which spiral into disaster. Whatever happened to Carol prior to her leaving Wheatley Fields has defined her life up to date and is the catalyst that drives everything towards a riveting, and touching, conclusion.

Carol is a complex character, hiding behind a Goth exterior, emotionally damaged and with her feelings under such strict control, she perceives and registers rather than feels. The narrative is written informally in the first person from Carol’s point of view, giving a comprehensive insight into her psyche, and how deeply past events impacted on her. Although her subjective views could cast doubt on her credibility as a narrator, it doesn’t detract from believability and the vividness of her observations. Carol is real, fully developed, so much so that I felt like a spectator and completely forgot this was a man writing from a young woman’s perspective, it was so convincing.

This is the totally unpredictable and powerful story of a dramatic revenge planned down to the last detail. As more of the story is revealed, the more intriguing it becomes. How does Toby fit into Carol’s story and why is he so antagonistic? The disclosure, and learning the meaning behind the shiny coin, is appalling.

Mark Barry is a gifted storyteller with a knack for making this reader feel she’s been put though an emotional wringer (in a good way) every time. The writing is real, gritty and sometimes violent, but always eminently readable. Engaging characters are vividly portrayed and display a realistic range of emotions and reactions. Loved the Carla reference and the small but significant cameo of the author.

Book Description

“I swore that I would never go home,  but in the end, I had no choice.  I had to confront what happened.  And them too.  It was going be icky. And totally scary.” Carol Prentice left Wheatley Fields to attend university in Manchester and not once did she return in four years. Her beloved father visited her whenever he could, but then he passed away and it was up to her to sort his affairs.  She could have done this from a distance, but a woman can run to the far corners of the earth, but, in the end, she can never escape herself She had to come home: There was no other choice. Taking a job at a bookshop for the duration, she befriends Steve – an older man who looks like a wizard and who knows everything in the world.  Carol quickly encounters the demons that forced her to leave in the first place – including Toby, the raffish local villain, with whom she shares the most horrifying of secrets and whose very existence means evil and mayhem for everyone around. Especially the lovable Steve.  Carol finds herself in the middle of a war between the two men:  A war which can only have one victor.  Soon, she wishes she had never come home.  But by then it was too late.  Much too late.

Biography

Mark Barry

Bio: 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 Carla, a quirky, dark, acclaimed romance with shades of Wuthering Heights.  He is the co-designer of the innovative Brilliant Books project aimed at engaging the many, many reluctant readers amongst young people… He has one son, Matt, on the brink of University, with whom he shares a passion for Notts County Football Club.  Fast food, comics, music, reading, his friends on the Independent scene, and horse racing keep him interested and he detests the English Premier League, selfish, narcissistic people and bullies of all kinds.

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Rosie’s Team #RBRT A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry @GreenWizard62 #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here http://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry

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gold starMy Review: 5 out of 5 stars for A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice by Mark Barry

According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Narcissus was a youth of such surpassing beauty that he spurned admirers, including the infatuated nymph Echo. His only love was given to his beautiful face, causing the heartbroken Echo to fade away until only her voice was left. But the impossibility of his reflection ever returning his passion eventually led to Narcissus’ destruction, and he wasted away as well.

Carol admits that she may well be an unreliable narrator—”I was probably lying to myself, even then.” But even so, her descriptions of everything from her fabulous vintage/goth outfits to the English spring weather help to set the scene. “For late spring, it was cool, and rainy, an unbroken, ironed graphite sheet above, a breeze pregnant with moisture.” Forget your gamboling lambs and fluffy clouds—this is the England we all know. Her words paint what should be a picture-perfect English village, the kind the BBC loves to film, full of wealthy, beautiful people. But she shows it from the inside out, a Stepford landscape of assumed right and privilege.But when her father dies unexpectedly, Carol feels compelled to return home. She develops The Plan, a mysterious idea that will allow her revenge on those who hurt her in the past. Carol takes a job in a bookstore managed by Steve, a middle-aged intellectual who becomes first her friend and then her ally in the war which appears to start over a mispriced comic book. As the disagreement between Carol’s old adversary Toby and her new friend Steve escalates into all out war, she realizes two things. First, Toby is probably speaking the truth when he tells Carol, “I can no more stop now than a runaway train can stop itself plummeting over the cliff.” And second, the war is not, and never has been, about the price of a comic book. Instead, it’s something that their parents started.  “It may have been a war that would never end until the circle was squared.”

Even a terrific writer like Mark Berry does, very occasionally, get it wrong. I can’t believe that Carol—either in her deliberately acquired bubblehead voice or as her ironic intelligence shines through—would ever speak a sentence with “women nowadays.”  (“…women nowadays didn’t care about personalities…”) Still, the description that follows is pretty awesome and Carol-like “It was all about looks for them, especially around the town, a narcissistic jamboree fashioned from miles of silvered glass, endless selfies and constant self-reflection.” But wait! So it isn’t just Toby who is Narcissus? Apparently, the whole town is enchanted by their own reflection, and thus they all need to be punished.

Of course, the face of the war and targeting of Steve means the visible enemy on the battlefield actually IS Toby. “…his narcissus face, his reflection in the pool.” Carol realizes that she’s allowed Toby to make her disappear. “I had begun to realize something: my recent life had been all about Toby since that night.” She’s spent four years as a shade who can only repeat what those around her say. But now she needs to wake up. To extract her revenge, Carol needs to be seen.

Carol’s response is to become her old neighbors’ polar opposite. Her blonde hair is religiously dyed as black as possible. Instead of designer tweeds, she wears vintage gothic and biker boots. And instead of their “…cut glass, foppish, ultimately English accent, as smooth as silk and as creamy as expensive soap…”, she deliberately fills her sentences with the jarring one-size-fits-all negative “unawesome” and the incessant brain-fart “like”.

Within Carol’s first-person narration, unreliable as it is, we only meet her ideas about who the other characters really are. Because she needs him to be so, for example, Carol makes Steve—failed writer and musician, frequent drunk, and manager of a used bookshop that could never have survived without the charitable foundation backing it—into her “rock”, the one person she’s allowed to see her as more than a ghost. Even when Steve and her friend Pippa try to hold up other examples of people who’ve had experiences more horrific than hers, Carol ignores any hints that her own past doesn’t make her a special snowflake. After telling about being gang-raped as a teen, Pippa cautions, “Don’t pity me. Just understand. Don’t walk around the bloody world thinking it’s all about little you.”

There have been works of literature where the writing itself provided healing and closure. Long Day’s Journey Into Night was Eugene O’Neil’s attempt to explain the breakdown of his dysfunctional family. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez reveals the forbidden historical reality of the United Fruit Company’s murderous legacy through fictional fantasy. A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice isn’t one of those stories. Steve has tried writing, and it didn’t work. The author himself, Mark Barry, shows up in a book cameo, tells a somewhat irrelevant anecdote, and wanders off. An unimpressed Carol observes, “We could have used the extra pair of hands.”

Mark Barry, the writer character, had failed Carol. Steve’s lectures about writing failed too, especially when he talked about shades of grey among villains. Toby already knows this truth, that the sides and the outcomes are black and white, no shades of gray in between. Steve doesn’t know, so he can’t win. Carol doesn’t want to know, but in order to win, she becomes someone who believes. That’s the polarization that the concept of War allows, the absolution for any action they may take. “Like, whatever we do to guys as bad as these, they will deserve. There’s going to be no guilt or, like, beating ourselves up afterwards.”

Because she’s made Steve into her rock, because she’s allowed him to SEE her, Carol believes she can communicate with him. Just one person in her universe. But that means she has to accept responsibility for what happens to Steve. If it’s all because of her, then it has to mean everything. Both Toby and Carol are beautiful, but they are still just the reflections of a horrible cycle started by their parents, the truest forms of Narcissus incapable of love. When she unleashes The Plan, Carol needs to make them all SEE her at last, even if only across a battlefield.

But the War isn’t over. Sure, our unreliable narrator Carol intends to declare victory, change her name, and get on with her life. But she’s still trapped, waiting for approval she can never get. Not from her father who’s dead, not from Toby’s father who’s on the other side of the war, and not from Steve, who might never be the rock she needs. Instead Carol has to take victory where she can get it. Toby must become the Old Carol—”Reclusive, friendless and shunned.”  The rest must become a love story. But it’s not so much a love story as a story about how to rewrite history and call it love.

At the end, Carol muses about what writing can and can’t do. Without the war in which he is collateral damage, Carol tells Steve he would “…still be listening to Pink Floyd at night on your sofa with your feet up reading your Martin Amis and all those brilliant writers who don’t give a poo about story because for you, and for them, it’s all about writing as art.”

A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice is another Mark Barry masterpiece. All the epic themes—love, hatred, war, betrayal, greed, heroism, tragedy, victory, and loss—play out on a small stage in human scale. The beautiful, flawed characters from the tragic Narcissus legend are doomed to play out their mistakes as their reflected images become their realities. Five stars aren’t enough.

Book Description

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the author

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 Carla, a quirky, dark, acclaimed romance with shades of Wuthering Heights.
He is the co-designer of the innovative Brilliant Books project aimed at engaging the many, many reluctant readers amongst young people.
He has one son, Matt, on the brink of University, with whom he shares a passion for Notts County Football Club. Fast food, comics, music, reading, his friends on the Independent scene, and horse racing keep him interested and he detests the English Premier League, selfish, narcissistic people and bullies of all kinds.
He is based in Nottingham and Southwell, UK, the scene of most of his fiction.n Mark Barry’s retelling of the story, Carol Prentice left her home and her father four years earlier to attend University, but actually to escape from the devastating events of her past, and especially from the deceptively beautiful Toby. The only way she’s been able to cope was to disappear, to focus both physically and emotionally on appearances and details rather than on feeling…anything. “I sometimes think they murdered me and I am a ghost.”

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry @GreenWizard62

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry

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My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided with an ARC copy of the novel I freely chose to review.

Although I had heard about the author and read quite a few reviews of his previous books, this is the first of his novels I have read so I can’t compare it to his previous work. I know from his comments in the book that it links to another one of his novels, Carla (I won’t mention how, first, because I haven’t read the other novel, so I can’t comment on how well or badly that works, and second, because I’m going to try very hard not to reveal any spoilers) but I can put at rest the minds of all readers who are in the same circumstances as me. This book can be read as a stand-alone, although I suspect you’ll feel as curious as I am about Carla once you finish reading this novel.

This novel is narrated in the first person by the eponymous Carol Prentice of the title. And yes, we get to know what the shiny coin means, but again, I’m not going to tell you. She’s a young woman; she’s just finished her degree at Manchester University and has to go back to her hometown because her father has passed away. She had avoided the town for several years (for good reasons as you’ll learn when you read the book) but she comes back to renovate the house and because the time has finally arrived to put her plan into practice. Of course, we don’t get to know about the plan until much later in the novel, but we have some hints throughout. She gets a job at a bookshop (so there are some interesting discussions about literature, mostly initiated by her boss, Steve, who is a connoisseur, not only of books but also of ales and many other things) and it’s not long before ghosts from her past come knocking. What at first appears to be a snotty and spoilt young man’s tantrum turns into a black hole sucking in everything and everybody. Almost.

The novel has some meta-fictional aspects. I’ve already mentioned the conversations about literature, psychology concepts (like the halo effect, perceptual closure), Steve was an author years ago back but did not make it and has strong opinions about popular literature and bestsellers (if you love James Patterson or Fifty Shades, look away now), and the author of this novel, Mark Barry, also makes a cameo appearance in it. As I said before, I haven’t read any of his other works but from some of the reviews, I get the sense that he has appeared in some others. He does not have a big part, and it reminded me of Hitchcock’s appearances in his movies (although Barry’s is a bit more significant than that).

As the novel is narrated in the first-person, we get a close look into the functioning of Carol’s mind and we get to know her better than other characters. She seems to focus a lot of her attention on how people smell (and it’s not always pleasant), what clothes they wear, and how they look. She has some annoying speech habits. There are plenty of ‘like’, ‘I so’, ‘totally’… Those appear not only when she’s talking to others but also when she’s thinking, despite the fact that she’s fairly articulate and perceptive in other ways. It might be funny for some readers and perhaps somewhat annoying for others, but it keeps her real and the story will hook everybody in and will make you keep reading no matter what. Carol says quite a few times that she cannot feel, that she observes things but does not feel them, and when we’ve gone over half the novel she eventually tells Steve why. I had my suspicions but the truth is worse. From her description of the events (that of course, I won’t reveal either) it becomes clear that she was experiencing them she tried to focus on anything but what was happening. She concentrated and observed objects, smells, décor, and it seems her current focus on describing things is a defence mechanism to keep events and people at bay, a way of remaining in control of what is happening as she felt powerless at the time. After her confession to Steve, the floodgates open and she starts feeling again, including acknowledging her complex feelings for Steve, that is difficult to know if they are projected from her need to have support as he becomes some sort of a father figure, or are genuine. She herself is not so sure.

Steve is the other character we get to know in detail, although of course always from Carol’s point of view and this is biased. She likes him from the beginning and he seems a genuinely nice man, much older than her, who’s tried many things and seems to have settled into a quiet life. He is not one for talking much about his feelings (he talks about everything else, though) and he is a recognisable and multi-dimensional character, with a strong sense of moral, that gets caught in a situation not of his making, but doesn’t seem willing or able to extricate himself from it.

Other than Carol and Steve, there aren’t many characters we get to know through the novel. There’s Toby, the baddy, a handsome and rich young man and a bully who believes rules and laws don’t apply to him; there’s also his father, and some other characters that only appear briefly (like the chief of police) but they aren’t as well developed. They only play a minor part in the drama and don’t hold that much of the narrator’s attention. By contrast, the town becomes quite a recognisable character in its own right, with its social mores, its politics and its royalty (so to speak).

The novel is written in a very colloquial way as pertains to the character narrating it (I’ve already mentioned the characteristics of Carol’s language) and there are plenty of references and words very local that might be a bit obscure to readers from outside the UK (or even the region) but that is part of what makes it so distinctive and vivid.

The novel offers quite a few surprises and reveals them slowly. I think most readers will have a variety of hypothesis about what’s going to happen, what the baddies will do next and what the plan is. I’m not sure many people will guess right and is an interesting and effective twist. This is a novel of revenge and just deserts that highlights the fact that there is always a price to pay. We might feel we need to exact revenge to be at peace but things are never quite as easy. With regards to what sets off what Carol describes as ‘the war’ it is pretty banal but, as she acknowledges, it’s not really about that and unfortunately other people get in the middle and end up becoming ‘collateral damage’. It did make me think of Hannah Arendt and her concept of ‘the banality of evil’. In this case not only about the evil person but about what sets it all off. It does not take much for some people to ruin a person’s life, just because they can… I’ve already mentioned the ending but I wanted to add that the ending is also a beginning.

I know I’ve been a bit cryptic about this novel but I had to be. I recommend it to those who like stories with psychologically complex characters, where the how is as important as the what, and to readers who’re looking for an author with a distinctive voice and style. (There is some violence, some talk about sex and disturbing content but none of it is extremely explicit or gore. It is more what we feel at the time of reading it than what is on the page.)

Book Description

“I swore that I would never go home,  but in the end, I had no choice.  I had to confront what happened.  And them too.  It was going be icky. And totally scary.” Carol Prentice left Wheatley Fields to attend university in Manchester and not once did she return in four years. Her beloved father visited her whenever he could, but then he passed away and it was up to her to sort his affairs.  She could have done this from a distance, but a woman can run to the far corners of the earth, but, in the end, she can never escape herself She had to come home: There was no other choice. Taking a job at a bookshop for the duration, she befriends Steve – an older man who looks like a wizard and who knows everything in the world.  Carol quickly encounters the demons that forced her to leave in the first place – including Toby, the raffish local villain, with whom she shares the most horrifying of secrets and whose very existence means evil and mayhem for everyone around. Especially the lovable Steve.  Carol finds herself in the middle of a war between the two men:  A war which can only have one victor.  Soon, she wishes she had never come home.  But by then it was too late.  Much too late.

Biography

Mark Barry

Bio: 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 Carla, a quirky, dark, acclaimed romance with shades of Wuthering Heights.  He is the co-designer of the innovative Brilliant Books project aimed at engaging the many, many reluctant readers amongst young people… He has one son, Matt, on the brink of University, with whom he shares a passion for Notts County Football Club.  Fast food, comics, music, reading, his friends on the Independent scene, and horse racing keep him interested and he detests the English Premier League, selfish, narcissistic people and bullies of all kinds.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

#HotNews We’ve been nominated for a Best Book Blogger in the 2017 BloggersBash awards and we need your votes. Please vote here (Best Book Blogger)

Thank you.

http://sachablack.co.uk/2017/05/18/2017-annual-bloggers-bash-awards-voting-open-bloggersbash-bloggersbash/