Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT INSIDE OF ME by Hazel McHaffie #Contemporary

Today’s team review is from Alison, she blogs at http://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Alison has been reading Inside Of Me by Hazel McHaffie

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This is a very interesting novel, with an intelligent and thoughtful storyline and some well-crafted and believable characters. The subject matter covers many areas of body image, identity, gender and family relationships, in a very sympathetic way. The dynamics of family are well-portrayed and the prejudices, preconceptions and misconceptions we have about others, even those we are closest to, are well-drawn and feel authentic.

India has many of the attributes of a typical teenage girl, who turns angry, confused, needing her parents but needing her independence too. There were times however, when I wanted to feel more sympathy for her, but found this difficult because of the way she treated her mother. And while I appreciate that many girls of this age have conflicts like this with their mothers, there seemed to be no connection at all, which spoiled things a little for me.

Victor was drawn very well and in a very non-judgemental way, which was refreshing and valuable in the current climate. I found his storyline to be the most interesting of all the characters.

I felt very sorry for Tonya and felt she was treated rather unfairly. I would have liked things to have gone better for her – she seemed to have been left with all the issues, all the conflict, all the drama and difficulty and was expected to get on with it – which she did. There wasn’t a lot of sympathy here for her, or for the mistakes she made (which we all do). However, this portrayal was probably more realistic in the circumstances, and the author has stayed true to her story, and to her characters.

There were a few little details in the plot that I felt were a little too contrived, a little too coincidental, but on the whole this is a well-written, well-researched and enjoyable novel.

Four out of five stars.

Book Description

India Grayson is a happy 8-year-old girl, adored by her father, cherished by her mother. She’s devastated when her beloved father, Victor, suddenly disappears, leaving nothing but a neatly folded pile of clothes on a windy beach in Scotland. She bargains with God: no more chocolate … roast potatoes … packed lunch … if you send my daddy back.
Now 15 and in the grip of anorexia, she’s convinced she heard his voice on a crowded London station and is determined to find him. 
Isolated and overwhelmed, her mother, Tonya, succumbs to gnawing doubts about the man she thought she knew. Where was he on the night two teenage girls went missing? What was he really doing when he was away for two days and nights without explanation? Who exactly was he? What dark secrets were haunting him?
A third teenager goes missing in London in the same week India thinks she heard his voice. Can he be involved? Should Tonya share her secret suspicions with the police? Will India ever forgive her if she does? And how far will India go to be reunited with him? 
The revelation when it comes is much more challenging than Tonya ever dreamed of. 
Body image issues and identity crises trouble us all at times; this gripping story reaches to the core of what makes us ourselves and how we live with our doubts and conflicts.

About the author

Hazel McHaffie

Hazel McHaffie has changed career several times – nurse, midwife, university researcher, novelist. She’s a workaholic with obsessive tendencies and a taste for chopping things very small. Her last publication as an academic, Crucial Decisions at the Beginning of Life, won the BMA Medical Book of the Year award in 2002 and her fifth novel, Right to Die, was highly recommended by the BMA in 2009. She has published seven novels, all set in the world of medical ethics (assisted conception, decision making on behalf of those who can’t choose for themselves, assisted suicide), completed another one, and is currently researching and writing the ninth. After winning a couple of small prizes, her photo has appeared frequently in a creative writing course advert in publications as diverse as The Big Issue, Daily Telegraph, Private Eye and Gardeners World! She has a website http://www.hazelmchaffie.com and writes a weekly blog, VelvetEthics.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT THE BEAUTY OF THE FALL by Rich Marcello @marcellor #WeekendBlogShare

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

This beautifully written novel touches on many subjects that are important at different levels: some, like loss (be it the death of a child, a divorce, the loss of not only a job but also a life-project) can be felt (and there are heart-wrenching moments in the novel) understood and managed at a very personal level, others, like the role of communications technology (who must control it? Should it remain neutral or become involved in the big issues? Should it ally itself with governments or be creatively independent?) or domestic and gender-related violence, although no doubt having a personal component, also seem to require global solutions. This ambitious novel tries to give answers to many of these questions and it does so through a first person narrative interspersed with poetry.

The novel is narrated by Dan Underlight, whom we meet at a particularly difficult time in his life. His son died a couple of years earlier and he feels guilty about it (we learn the details quite late in the novel), he is divorced, and now, the technology company he helped to create, and by extension his business partner and the woman he’d been closer to than almost anybody else for many years, fires him. His job, the only thing that had kept him going, is taken away from him. He has no financial worries. He has a good severance pay, a huge house, two cars, but his life is empty. Through the novel, Dan, who still sees his son, has conversations with him and wants to start a project in his memory, meets many people. Most of them are enablers. He has known Willow, a woman who works helping women victims of domestic violence, and herself a survivor (although she doesn’t talk much about it, at least with Dan) for some time and eventually, their friendship turns into a romantic relationship for a while. He has also been attending therapy with Nessa, a very special therapist (as a psychiatrist I was very curious about her techniques, but working in the NHS in the UK I must admit I’d never even heard of a Buddha board) since his son’s death, and during his peculiar pilgrimage, he gets ideas, encouragement, and a few brushes with reality too.

Much of the rest of the novel is taken up by Dan’s creation of a new company, based on his idea that if people could converse about important subjects and all these conversations could be combined, they would reach agreements and solve important problems. As conversations and true communication in real life amount to more than just verbal exchanges, there are technical problems to be solved, funding, etc. I found this part of the novel engaging at a different level and not having much knowledge on the subject didn’t detract from my interest, although I found it highly idealistic and utopian (not so much the technical part of it, but the faith in the capacity of people to reach consensual agreements and for those to be later enforced), and I also enjoyed the underhand dealings of the woman who had been his friend but seemed somehow to have become his enemy. (I wasn’t sure that her character came across as consistent, but due to the subjective nature of the narration, this might have more to do with Dan’s point of view than with Olivia herself).

Dan makes mistakes and does things that morally don’t fit in with the code he creates for his company, or with the ideals he tries to live by (he is human, after all) and things unravel somewhat as life has a few more surprises for him, but, without wanting to offer any spoilers, let’s say that there are many lessons he has learned along the way.

As I said before, the language is beautiful, and the poems, most of which are supposedly written by Willow, provide also breathing space and moments to stop, think and savour both the action and the writing style.

First of all, let me confess I was very taken by this novel and I couldn’t stop reading it and even debating the points with myself (I live alone, so, that was the best I could do). I was also touched by both the emotions expressed and the language used. As a sensorial reading experience, it’s wonderful.

Now, if I had to put on my analysing cap, and after reading some of the reviews on Goodreads, I thought I should try and summarise the issues some readers have with the novel.

The themes touched are important and most people will feel able to relate to some if not all of them. Regarding the characters and their lifestyle, those might be very far from the usual experience of a lot of readers. Although we have a handful of characters who are not big cheeses in technology companies, those only play a minor part in the book. The rapid expansion of the technology and how it is used in the book is a best case scenario and might give readers some pause. Personally, I could imagine how big companies could save money using such technology, but charitable organisations, schools or libraries, unless very well-funded, in the current financial times when official funding has become very meagre, would have problems being able to afford it all, and that only in theoretically rich countries. (The issue of world expansion is referred to early on in the project but they decide to limit their ambitions for the time being).

Also, the fact that issues to be discussed and championed were decided by a few enlightened individuals (although there is some debate about the matter) could raise issues of paternalism and hint at a view of the world extremely western-centred (something again hinted at in the novel). Evidently, this is a novel and not a socio-political treatise and its emphasis on changing the US laws to enforce legislation protecting equality, women’s rights and defending women against violence brings those matters the attention and focus that’s well-deserved.

For me, the novel, where everything that happens and every character that appears is there to either assist, hinder, or inspire Dan (it is a subjective narrative and one where the main character is desperately searching for meaning) works as a fable or perhaps better a parable, where the feelings and the teachings are more important than the minute details or how we get there. It is not meant to be taken as an instructions manual but it will be inspirational to many who read it.

In summary, although some readers might find it overly didactic (at times it seems to over-elaborate the point and a word to the wise…) and might miss more variety and diversity in the characters, it is a beautifully written book that will make people think and induce debate. This is not a book I’d recommend to readers that like a lot of action and complex plots, but to those who enjoy a personal journey that will ring true with many. It is a touching and engaging read to be savoured by those who enjoy books that challenge our opinions and ideas.

Book Description

A TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVE CHARTS A HIGH-RISK, UNCONVENTIONAL PATH WHILE GRIEVING THE LOSS OF HIS SON Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself. Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. He then recruits three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change. Guided by Dan’s leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?

About the author

Rich Marcello

Rich is a poet, a songwriter and musician, a creative writing teacher, and the author of three novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, and The Beauty of the Fall.

As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet.

For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist and a teacher.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

 

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT THE BEAUTY OF THE FALL by @marcellor #Contemporary #Fiction

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

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading After The Fall by Rich Marcello

The Beauty of the Fall: A Novel by [Marcello, Rich]

My Review: 5 stars out of 5

Confession. I read The Beauty of the Fall on my Kindle. As I usually do for reviews, there were many pauses to highlight or bookmark or make notes, especially of some particularly beautiful phrase, metaphor, or line of poetry. At least, until my Kindle crashed, and the entire book disappeared into the unforgiving ether. After I downloaded the book again, and finished reading, I realized that my notes didn’t matter.

The reasons I love this book are broader even than the beautiful writing. And they are as precisely narrow as the definition of “fall”—a thing you can name, and a thing you can do:

“fall” defined by Google:

  • move from a higher to a lower level, typically rapidly and without control. Dan’s fall really starts when his workaholic lifestyle leads to the collapse of his marriage, followed by the death of his ten-year-old son Zack.
  • (of a person) lose one’s balance and collapse. He self-medicates his guilt and loss with scotch and obsession with his work at the software company he built with his best friend and boss Olivia.
  • decrease in number, amount, intensity, or quality. But when Olivia fires him, Dan has nothing left to center himself. antonyms:rise With the help of gifted therapist Nessa, with a core group of friends, and especially with his new love Willow, Dan literally climbs a sycamore tree to stop his freefall. He begins to build his relationships into a new company and a new life.
  • be captured or defeated, die in battle. Even as his new company is poised for epic success, Dan sabotages his personal life and puts everything he’s built at risk.
  • pass into a specified state, situation, or position. Dan’s self-destructive desperation is tempered by his talks with his dead son Zach, and by the love of his friends, and even by The Code—an evolving core set of beliefs for his business and his life.
  • be classified in the way specified. Dan’s journey begins as a pilgrimage to Fortune 500 companies, especially the technology giants. Inspired by a collection of small rocks he finds on his son’s grave, Dan begins leaving small pyramids of rocks to mark the stages of his journey. But when he’s robbed by a hitchhiker he’s befriended, Dan decides to abandon the pilgrimage and go back to what he does best—visionary leader. Taking the pyramid as symbol for his new company, Dan shares his dream of a company that could literally empower users to change the world. But even as the new company succeeds beyond his wildest dreams, Dan remains trapped between business success and a personal life spiraling out of control: “…ascension and fall were inextricably linked in my mind.”
  • Autumn. Dan’s fall starts and ends with the view through the CEO’s office window, a beautiful view of a fall landscape. But what once seemed to signal the end of growth and onset of winter is actually renewal. “The fall leaves are dotted with rich reds, bright yellows, and burnt oranges, though today I’m drawn to the greens. They’re living fully in the morning sun, aware and unaware of the endless rebirth cycle that lies ahead.”

On one level, The Beauty of the Fall is about one man’s straightforward journey to building a successful company. On another level, it’s almost a metaphor for what love looks like—as a lover, a father, a colleague, a friend.

Dan—who has failed at all those things—is still surrounded by people (mostly women) who love him in different ways. There is the almost maternal care from his therapist Nessa. Wilow’s spiritually romantic love energizes Dan and gives him permission to succeed with his idea for a new company. The frankly sexual physical act from prostitute Katie literally crucifies him even as it provides relief. Dan is left with the realization that his single most successful relationship, at least in terms of time spent together on a daily basis, is with Olivia his oldest friend/enemy. But in a bittersweet act of hope at the end, Dan not only realizes that he’s achieved all his goals, but that success even provides a surrogate daughter figure who seems to combine the best of himself and Willow.

There are a few things that didn’t ring true for me here. Time periods to develop world-changing software, let alone propel new companies into the stratosphere were astonishingly brief. I would have liked to see more actual content in the building of the company, but maybe that’s just my been-there-done-that experience. There were a few times when important information is slipped in as flashbacks or later recollections, taking me out of the story as I tried to figure out what happened and when. For example, I found it annoying to have to wait to find specifics of Zach’s death, or to realize what happened to Willow. And don’t even get me started on passing Equal Rights Amendment—languishing before Congress since the 1920s—in one year with the help of speedy-developed tech.

But all that pales beyond the achievement of this rich and layered novel. Anyone who has ever worked for a tech company will recognize the trappings—the fancy espresso machines, the sense of mission that makes a business into a cult of leader personality, the feeling that sacrifice of time, sleep, and occasionally hygiene will lead to the holiest of grails, the IPO.

And there is the other, darker side of business success in the toll it takes on personal relationships. Dan’s self-awareness is brutally honest: “With each of my lovers I didn’t have the same joy I got from work, or later the joy of being a dad I had with Zack. The truth: my best romantic relationship, if one judges such things by length, was unromantic. I saw Olivia almost every day for sixteen years, and I loved her. Together we were better than we were alone. We had a vision and a purpose; we built something that lasted.” 

Author Rich Marcello draws on his own corner office experience to nail so many aspects of this story. I particularly liked his depiction of savage power struggles. Pitted against longtime friend and adversary Olivia, Dan realizes: “This is as much about power as it is about content, and any emotional break in my voice will confirm in front of the whole board that Olivia is the pack leader.” And then…wait for it: “Olivia smiles as if the blood is already on her teeth.”

That kind of spectacular writing, interspersed with actual poetry, business vignettes drawn from life, and development of a deeply flawed, complex, and charismatic main character made this one of the best books I’ve read this year. For anyone with a technology background, The Beauty of the Fall is a must read. For everyone else, it’s a present right now, even as fall’s beauty heads to winter.

Book Description

 TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVE CHARTS A HIGH-RISK, UNCONVENTIONAL PATH WHILE GRIEVING THE LOSS OF HIS SON

Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.

Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. He then recruits three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.

Guided by Dan’s leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?

About the author

Rich is a poet, an accomplished songwriter and musician, a creative writing teacher at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative, and the author of three novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, and the forthcoming, The Beauty of the Fall, due out in 2016. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies. The Color of Home was published in 2013 by Langdon Street Press, and melds together honest generative dialogue, poetic sensory detail, and “unforgettable characters who seem to know the complete song catalog of Lennon or Cohen.” The Big Wide Calm was published in 2014, also by Langdon Street Press. The US Review of Books stated, “Marcello’s novel has a lot going for it. Well-written, thought-provoking, and filled with flawed characters, it meets all of the basic requirements of best-of-show in the literary fiction category.” The Beauty of the Fall will be published in 2016. Faulkner Award Winner Mark Spencer commented, “Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.” As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet. For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher. Rich lives in Massachusetts on a lake with his family and two Newfoundlands, Ani and Shaman. He is currently working on his fourth novel, The Latecomers.

Rich is a poet, an accomplished songwriter and musician, a creative writing teacher at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative, and the author of three novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, and the forthcoming, The Beauty of the Fall, due out in 2016. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies.
The Color of Home was published in 2013 by Langdon Street Press, and melds together honest generative dialogue, poetic sensory detail, and “unforgettable characters who seem to know the complete song catalog of Lennon or Cohen.” The Big Wide Calm was published in 2014, also by Langdon Street Press. The US Review of Books stated, “Marcello’s novel has a lot going for it. Well-written, thought-provoking, and filled with flawed characters, it meets all of the basic requirements of best-of-show in the literary fiction category.” The Beauty of the Fall will be published in 2016. Faulkner Award Winner Mark Spencer commented, “Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.”
As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet.
For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.
Rich lives in Massachusetts on a lake with his family and two Newfoundlands, Ani and Shaman. He is currently working on his fourth novel, The Latecomers.

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) |  Twitter

NEW VOICES IN THE VALLEY by Karenne Griffin #Contemporary #BookReview #SundayBlogShare

New Voices in the Valley (Book 1 of The Valleys series)New Voices in the Valley by Karenne Griffin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

New Voices In The Valley is a contemporary novel set in the small village of Allt-yr- coch, Wales in 2002. This is a big read coming in at around 447 pages. It follows the lives of a large cast of characters as they go about their day to day lives. Villagers range from a young Polish girl running away from her abusive husband, a new widow who turns her hand to x-rated phone calls, bringing in the cash, a bored husband who changes his ways to help the community and start up his band and a kebab shop owner whose strong religious beliefs bring danger and terror.

The style of writing tends towards telling us about the events and incidents, making it a dedication and a nod to the local people this book could well have been based on in a loose way. There were opportunities to show the reader, through well written descriptive layering of people and settings, which could have given the book a flamboyance to lift the characters from the pages. I know the author will have wonderful pictures of everyone and where they lived and worked but those pictures didn’t quite reach my own eyes during this reading.

One of my favourite characters was Linda, a widow who turned her life and finances around by answering a job ad to sell sex by phone. She even persuaded her bored friend to sign up and earn quick cash too.

This book might appeal to readers who enjoy a large cast of characters and snooping into their soap opera style, everyday lives.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Book Description

Polish-born Danuta escapes her violent husband and leaves Cardiff for good. But she only gets as far as Allt-yr-Coch, where she is offered a job in the village pub. It’s the prime venue for local rock bands. She soon forms the opinion that the people of the Welsh Valleys are mostly eccentric, mad about music, and have a language of their own. But Danuta is undaunted. Just as she starts to feel at home strange things begin to happen, and when Allt-yr-Coch hits the headlines everything changes.

About the author

Karenne Griffin

As a child I always had my nose in a book, and it was a foregone conclusion that I’d eventually start to write.
Nowadays I live in Wales, and have published ‘Beyond the Island’, ‘Return to the Island’, ‘New Voices in the Valley’, ‘Scream at the Mountains’, and ‘Bus Pass Holiday – A Short Circuit’.
Currently I’m working on a ‘Bus Pass Holiday’ sequel and another novel entitled ‘Headshot’ .
I’ve also contributed short stories to a couple of anthologies and occasionally dabble in poetry.

A HUNDRED HANDS by @diannenoble1 #Kolkata #India #Travel #TuesdayBookBlog

A Hundred HandsA Hundred Hands by Dianne Noble
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Hundred Hands is a contemporary novel set in Kolkata, India. When Polly’s husband in England is jailed as a paedophile, she can’t face the accusing looks from her local community and runs away to India. After visiting her school friend in Bhubaneswar, Polly travels to Kolkata, thinking that she will do some travelling, but she meets first Liam and then Finlay and her plans change.

Liam is a church aid worker and runs a small school for children, who come each day for free food and lessons. Finlay runs a school too, but he provides a place for the children to sleep too. Polly is drawn to help these children, by a sense of guilt over her husband. Splitting her time between the two schools, Polly teaches English six days a week.

Living conditions are terrible, fumes, poverty, filth, the street kids often feral and they fight for any hugs and attention. Constant smoke and toxic fumes give Polly a chest infection and after a fall out with Finlay she escapes to Amanda for rest and recuperation.

When her six month visa draws to an end Polly is reluctant to leave until a call from home about her Gran has her rushing to her aid, but back in England, Polly can’t settle. The local community now have a change of heart and help raise money and funds for clothes and books for the children back in India and soon Polly is heading back where she feels she belongs.

The author works really hard to fill the reader with the sights, sounds, smells and experiences of the chaos, poverty and ways of life in India. You can almost smell the noxious gases, see the scuttling cockroaches and feel the humidity and dust. A good book to get a real feel for Indian life.

Book Description

When Polly’s husband is jailed for paedophilia, she flees the village where her grandmother raised her and travels to India where she stays with her friend, Amanda.
Polly is appalled by the poverty, and what her husband had done, and her guilt drives her to help the street children of Kolkata. It’s while working she meets other volunteers, Liam and Finlay. Her days are divided between teaching the children and helping with their health needs. But when Liam’s successor refuses to let Polly continue working, she’s devastated to think the children will feel she’s abandoned them.
After a health scare of her own, she discovers her friend, Amanda, is pregnant. Amanda leaves India to have her child. At this time Polly and Finlay fall in love and work together helping the children. Tragedy strikes when one child is found beaten and another dead. Polly feels history repeating itself when Finlay becomes emotionally attached to a young girl.
Can Polly recover from her broken heart and continue to help the children, or will she give up and return home?

About the author

Dianne Noble

Born into a service family Dianne was brought up in Singapore, Cyprus and Yorkshire then went on to marry a Civil Engineer and moved to the Arabian Gulf. Since then, with sons grown and flown, she has continued to wander all over the world, keeping extensive journals of her personal experiences which she uses for her novels. Fifteen different schools and an employment history which includes The British Embassy Bahrain, radio presenter, café proprietor on Penzance seafront, and goods picker in an Argos warehouse, have resulted in rich seams to mine for inspiration.
She has always written, editing the school magazine at an early age, and over the years short stories and letters to magazines were published, but it was only on retirement that her novel Outcast was finished and accepted by Tirgearr. Another book, A Hundred Hands Outstretched, also based in India, is being edited and she is halfway through a third novel, set in Egypt. Her writing is atmospheric, steeped in the smells, sights and sounds of exotic locations. 
She lives – when not travelling – in a small, Leicestershire village. Her favourite destinations – so far – have been India and Russia, with Guatemala a close third.

Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

View all my reviews on Goodreads

 

FRIENDS WE HAVEN’T MET by Kaitlyn S C Hatch @faunawolf @PublishingPush

friends-we-havent-metFriends We Haven’t Met is a contemporary novel set in London around the residents of a block six flats. The book opens with pieces from them all as un-named characters, then as the book evolves we are told their names and more about each of their lives and how they interact as neighbours.
Chelle works in the local supermarket, her partner Darren drinks heavily and has hit her. Namisha lives alone with her baby after her husband walked out, she is depressed and lonely. Hester is an older woman with a son who worries about her. Darcy is from Calgary, Canada and shares her flat with two students. Tim is devastated and heart-broken after a recent relationship break-up and Gian Verdi is forced to downsize and doesn’t want to be in his flat.
I found the opening chapter quite confusing, not knowing which faceless character was talking, but once the author gave us names and small details to attach to those characters the book became easier to read. I enjoyed the little additional bits of information each chapter that dropped into the story line and the ending gave hope for most of them.

 

Book Description

This is a tale of six strangers living in a London apartment building, their lives & struggles unnoticed between them until they begin to intertwine.

A young man grieves, a new mother finds herself abandoned by her husband, a middle-aged menman lives in fear, an elderly woman longs to tell her son the truth, a student from Canada carries around guilt that she tried to run from by moving to London and an aging Italian immigrant feels abandoned after the death of his wife.  Depression, fear, anxiety, loneliness, guilt and grief – all human experiences that can either divide or unite us.

Each chapter is broken into six narratives of the occupants of a single floor of an apartment building in London.  In the first chapter we don’t know the names of any of the characters, just as they don’t know the names of one another, we are only introduced to their personal worlds.

As each narrative continues, the details of the personal trials of each character come to light and the characters begin to reach out to each other in various ways.  Ultimately, even the most cold and distant character is met with compassion.

This book explores how we are interconnected through the characterization of six strangers who, on the surface, think they have an apartment block in common and nothing else.

Find the book here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Meet The Author

kaitlyn-hatch-2

Kaitlyn Hatch has been writing since before she could spell. She’s a contributing writer to publication on Medium.com, as well as having kept her own blog since 2008. 

In addition to writing books, Kait keeps a blog, runs a podcast, does graphic design and makes art, which is why she calls herself a creative polymath. 

Originally from Calgary, AB, she lived in the UK for six years where she gained citizenship and a strange amalgamated Canadian-English accent. She can’t say where in the world she’s living now, but ‘home’ is with her wife, Gretchen, and fur-child, Delirium. 

http://www.kaitlynschatch.com

Twitter @faunawolf

 

THE LONELY LIFE OF BIDDY WEIR by @Lesley_Allen_ @BonnierZaffre #BookReview #Bullying

The Lonely Life of Biddy WeirThe Lonely Life of Biddy Weir by Lesley Allen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir is a contemporary piece about a poor child who was at the heart of a severe bullying campaign which lasted for more than seven years and left deep psychological and physical wounds.

The book opens with a prologue, we meet thirty year old Biddy as she phones-in to a live TV show which is discussing bullying.

The book then goes back to 1979 Ballybrock, Northern Ireland. Biddy was already a lonely child, her mother gone when she was young, brought up by a grandmother and then a father with no experience and no help. When new girl Alison Flemming came to the school Biddy was an instant target, quickly naming her “Bloody Weirdo”, getting her into trouble with teachers and humiliating her at every turn in a campaign of evil. Biddy never understood why Alison did the things she did to her, she had no one she could talk to and ended up self-harming.

Biddy fell through the net of support systems and adults and fellow students chose the easier option of ignoring and avoiding Biddy rather than seeing what was going on. The one teacher who tried to help, stepped too far over the line and small town gossip played a role in her downfall. The bulling reached its height the night Biddy nearly died.

Part two of the book is back with Biddy the adult, when her father dies, Biddy is left lonely once again and at rock bottom with despair. Her doctor persuades her to meet his friend Terri Drummond and Biddy is finally able to inch her way to the surface of her life and discover happiness.

This book was so well written, my heart broke during part one when Biddy was so severely bullied, I had tears streaming down my face during the school trip. Part two grabbed me again as I willed Biddy to blossom and to face her demons. Not just a book about bullying, this is a roller-coaster emotional read which left me wrung out and in need of a new box of tissues.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

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‘A wonderful debut: poignant, powerful and moving, with ripples of dark humour.’ Colin Bateman
‘A charming and uplifting story, perfect for fans of A Man Called Ove or Jonas Jonasson. ‘If you’re a bit of a weirdo you will love Biddy Weir’ – Ian Sansom, bestselling author of The Norfolk Mystery

‘I’m a little bit in love with Biddy Weir. In her, Lesley Allen has created a character who is the embodiment of all our adolescent insecurities’. Bernie McGill, author of The Butterfly Cabinet

‘In Biddy Weir, Lesley Allen has created one of those characters that gets under your skin and won’t leave . . . A must-read for anyone who has ever wondered about life and where we fit in.’ Doreen Finn, author of My Buried Life

The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir Lesley Allen

Published by Twenty7

Paperback Original, 3rd November 2016, £7.99 eBook also available

It is National Anti-Bullying Month from the 31st Oct – 30th Nov 2016 and this book examines the long-term effects that bullying can have.

Lesley Allen is available for interview and to write original features on some of the topics examined in the book such as bullying, loneliness, social exclusion & the danger of the ‘it-girl gang’

Biddy Weir is a shy young loner. Abandoned by her mother as a baby, and with a father who’s not quite equipped for the challenges of modern parenting, Biddy lives in her own little world, happy to pass her time painting by the sea and watching the birds go by. With no friends, no schoolbag, and, worst of all, no mother, Biddy is branded a ‘Bloody Weirdo’ by the most popular girl in her primary school. What follows is a heart-breaking tale of bullying and redemption, of falling down and of starting again, and of one woman’s battle to learn to love herself for who she is. Set in a fictional seaside town in Northern Ireland, the novel is a stark illustration of the extent to which bullying can affect us all, beyond just the victim and perpetrator. Spare, dark and often unrelenting, The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is a story with universal appeal, which ultimately affirms the value of being different.

For more information and review copies please contact Emily Burns, Head of PR at Twenty7

emily.burns@bonnierpublishing.co.uk | 07540763179

About the author

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Lesley Allen lives in Bangor, County Down. She is a freelance copywriter and the press officer and assistant programme developer for Open House Festival. Lesley is previous recipient of the James Kilfedder Memorial Bursary, and two Support for the Individual Artist Art’s Council Awards. She was named as one of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s 2016 Artist Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES) recipients for literature. She will be using the award to complete her second book. @Lesley_Allen_ 

My Book Deal Moment

I’ve actually had two book deal moments – the one that ran away, and the one that stayed put.

It’s quite a story. (And a bit of a long one, so brace yourself!)

Let’s rewind almost eight years, to the summer of 2008. My novel (which was then called Biddy Weirdo) had been submitted for publication by my (lovely) agent, Susan Feldstein. Initial responses were positive; a few rejections tinged with regret that, for whatever reason, they couldn’t or wouldn’t make a bid, mostly because they didn’t know where to place it. A couple of publishers were properly keen, but my novel clashed with a recent acquisition or another book on their list. A couple of others made notes of interest, which eventually came to nothing. ‘It will happen’, my agent reassured me. ‘We’re close’.

At the same time, my (then) husband’s non-fiction book was also in submission. His had been doing the rounds a bit longer than mine and had also come frustratingly close to getting a deal on a couple of occasions only for his hopes to be crushed. We were beginning to lose faith that either one would ever make it onto a book shelf. Then, out of the blue, one sunny August morning in 2008, he got The Call. We whooped and rejoiced, and hand on heart I was thrilled for him. I can genuinely say I never thought, you jammy git, not even fleetingly! Then, a few hours later, just as the champagne was chilling in the fridge, I got The Call too. I was sorting socks at the time. When Susan said the words, those words that every writer longs to hear, I cried so much that my terrified daughter ran for her dad screaming, ‘something’s wrong with mum’. And then, of course, we were all crying, hugging, whooping and cheering – overwhelmed with joy. It was one of those rare, serendipitous moments of total symmetry and unabated joy. The kind of thing you read about in soppy, romantic novels. The twist at the end of a Nora Ephron Rom Com. We were writing our very own happy ending.

The next few weeks were spent in a flurry of exciting activity, agreeing terms, fine tuning contracts, getting our heads around the fact that we were both going to be published at the same time. John (the then husband) had already published a successful business book a couple of years previously, so his elation didn’t quite meet the heady heights of mine. But this was my game changer. From now on I would be known as a published author. Not a copywriter or a press officer, but a novelist. A proper writer. I’d been given the validation I had craved and my life was about to change forever. As the deal was with a small independent publishing company, the advance was extremely modest. But that was fine. It would take time to mould, this new life of mine; it would be a while before everything shifted into place. Publication was set for the following spring; hardback first, followed by paperback release a few months later. All I had to do now was sign the contract, and while we waited on that, I carried on with everyday life, a few feet taller in a haze of happy mist.

I was doing the weekly shop in Tesco when The Other Call came. Standing at the fish section, a packet of cut-price smoked salmon pieces in my hand. Should I or should I not add it to the trolley? It would do grand for scrambled egg brunch on Sunday. Then again, what if it was stinking? My mobile rang and I tossed the salmon into the trolley and pulled the phone out of my bag. Susan, my agent. It isn’t everyone’s call I will accept whilst grocery shopping, for fear that chatting will prolong the agony, but Susan has instant access, wherever, whenever. Of course I knew at once, just the way she said my name; the grimace over the ‘Les’, the extension of the ‘ley’. Lezleeeeeee. I looked at the salmon and immediately knew I didn’t want it.

It wasn’t me, they said, it wasn’t my book – it was the climate. The downturn had changed everything. They were experiencing problems. They couldn’t commit after all. There was an element of my story that was too, well, risky. Sorry, and all that. The ‘crash’ had turned into a pile-up and I was one of the victims. Granted, compared to thousands of others I walked away relatively unscathed; just a fractured dream, a badly bruised ego, and a few bottles of champagne I felt obliged to return along with the congratulations cards. I hadn’t actually signed yet, so the book was still mine. Apparently I was lucky. Only I didn’t feel lucky. The lucky I had felt for three short weeks stuck two fingers up my nose, shoved them straight through my eye sockets, and laughed in my face. Only joking, you stupid twit, it roared. I was devastated, mentally and physically shattered, literally poleaxed with grief. I’m fully aware how ridiculously ridiculous that sounds, it was only a book deal after all, but honestly, my heart was broken. I felt as though I’d been jilted at the altar. Actually, I felt bereaved.

And then I really was bereaved. Not long afterwards a dear friend lost her battle with cancer. Within weeks my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and, after a horrendous few months, he too lost his fight. And shortly before his death a cousin, a beautiful, vibrant girl who had just turned 40 also lost her life. Cancer, again. All I’d lost was a bloody book deal.

I got over myself pretty quickly once I had proper heartbreak to deal with, but my confidence was wrecked and my ability to write seemed paralysed. A combination of all the grief coupled with some other personal garbage stifled me. My agent continued to send Biddy out to publishers, but in truth I felt like it was damaged goods. She encouraged me to write something new, and I tried, I really did, but each time I came up with a new idea for a novel the story sank like a brick, or stank like a stink bomb. I have several drafts of novels begun and discarded, sometimes after a few hundred words, sometimes thousands.

Fast forward a few years and I’d finally found my groove again. My second novel was taking shape, and Biddy had been neatly tucked away in a drawer somewhere, the key discarded. But then a friend visited from San Francisco. He asked if he could read Biddy, and after a few gin and tonics, I finally agreed. He called from SF a few weeks later. “Well, I loved it,” he proclaimed – I knew a BUT was coming – “but, have you ever thought of moving the telephone scene to the beginning?” I hadn’t. Of course I flipping hadn’t. And there was no way I was going down that road again. Biddy was over. Dead in the water. Done. But his suggestion kept flitting into my head like an annoying fruit fly, until eventually it stuck there. Okay, I sighed, I give in. So I found the key, opened the drawer, and dragged the manuscript out. Three months later, after a total re-write and valuable feedback from a very respected and totally lovely author friend, I pinged Biddy Weirdo mark two off to my agent. She loved it, and so began the submission process all over again. Initial responses were positive; a few rejections tinged with regret that, for whatever reason, they couldn’t or wouldn’t make a bid … oh, we’ve been here before, haven’t we?

I forced myself to put Biddy away once more and divert my attention to that second book. And then life took over again. My marriage ended suddenly in the most horrible of ways, and I was once again poleaxed by shock and grief. My focus became getting out of bed every day, finding a way to earn more money, and, most importantly, making sure my daughter got through the trauma that had decimated our family life. As far as writing was concerned, for a long time the only words I could pen were long, wild, rambling letters to my husband, most of which remain unsent. One day, a few months after the first thick layer of dust had settled, someone asked me what one thing would make ‘it’ better. A new man? A lottery win? (And a few other suggestions which are best not to repeat!) ‘A book deal,’ I replied, without even a hint of hesitation. And I slowly started writing again.

It was a dark February evening when The Call Mark Two came. I was sitting in the lounge dong some boring paperwork, my daughter and a bunch of her school friends were singing nosily in the kitchen. There were six of them, all staying overnight on a half term sleepover. My mobile rang. ‘Who the hell…’ I thought, then saw Susan’s name flash up on the screen. And I knew. I just knew. ‘This is it,’ she said when I answered, barely even able to whisper a hello. ‘This is it, and this time it’s for real.’ And it was. And it is. She had never given up on Biddy, ever. Over the years Susan and her husband, Paul, who run The Feldstein Literary Agency together, sent my book to almost one hundred different publishers and imprints. How’s that for dedication? For tenacity? And finally their perseverance paid off. A man called Mark Smith, who had just moved to Bonnier from Quercus to set up an innovative new imprint called Twenty7 Books, had read it. And he loved it. And he made an offer. And he produced a contract which I signed and he signed, and then, well, a year on, my book, which is now called The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir has finally, gloriously taken flight.

After Susan’s call, when I picked myself up of the floor and finally stopped crying, I went into the kitchen to share the news. Luckily I had a bottle of prosecco chilling in the fridge, and six enthusiastic sixth-formers on hand to help me drink it! And, yes, I do feel better. I feel very well indeed.

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT BEDSIT THREE by @sallyjenkinsuk #Thriller #fridayreads

Today’s second team review is from Judith, she blogs at http://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Bedsit Three by Sally Jenkins

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My Review:

I really enjoyed this novel, it’s a good psychological thriller that steadily builds in tension until the end.

Sally Jenkins’ style of writing is easy to read without being cosy. Her words take the reader steadily through the plot without revealing too much, yet there is also subtle foreshadowing. .

The main characters are well portrayed: the single mother, Sandra, with a young daughter, the new occupant of bedsit three, Ian, a middle class, unemployed man, separated from his wife and son, desperate to be reunited with them. And then there is the former resident of bedsit three;  the mentally disturbed  Ignatius Smith, evicted and living nearby in his car. The author gradually reveals the actions and thought processes of each of these people. And  I liked how the two”off the scene” characters associated with  Ignatius Smith were revealed.. And, no, I won’t say any more about that!

My only disappointment in the whole of this book was with the dialogue. Sometimes, with all of the characters, I thought the dialogue was stilted (perhaps a little contrived?) and didn’t fit their portrayed personalities. Every now a then a section of speech felt as though it was there, not so much for exposition, but for explanation to the reader. Hmm, does that make sense? .

The main setting is Vesey Villas, an old house separated into cramped bedsits. The descriptions of the building are evocative and gives a good sense of place; of seedy, uncared-for rooms. In fact each setting that the characters move around in is well depicted

Bedsit Three has a good, progressive plot, the story is equally shared between the three main characters and was gripping enough to  keep me reading almost in one session. Personally I was a little disappointed with the ending. But this wasn’t because of the writing or the way the plot evolved; it was because I wanted a different ending. I need to stress this was purely personal and gives credit to the writing of Sally Jenkins. So ignore what I’ve just written. You could always find out what I mean by buying this great book.

Bedsit Three is for anyone who enjoys a well written contemporary  psychological thriller.

Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2bOZQYY

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2c5OrG4

Rosie’s #BookReview team #RBRT OUT OF THE BOX by @JenTheRiot #SundayBlogShare

Today’s team review is from Luccia, she blogs at http://lucciagray.wordpress.com

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Luccia has been reading Out Of The Box by Jennifer Theriot

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I gave it 4 stars. Here’s my review:

This review is posted on behalf of Luccia Gray.

Out of the Box by Jennifer Theriot is a contemporary family drama with a hopeful ending.

Olivia, who is in her late 50s, is faced with making major life changes. Her children have grown up and left home, and she has to move from Huston to Chicago due to her husband’s new job. Her husband, Alan, is staying with his friend, Ash, who becomes Olivia’s supportive friend as her life unexpectedly falls apart.

We will follow Olivia through the discovery of betrayal and her traumatic divorce, as she gradually falls in love with Ash. She realizes she hadn’t really been in love with her husband for a long time before their marriage ended. For example, she loved music and dancing, while Alan didn’t, so she had abandoned her hobby until Ash and his son, who is a musician, open up a new world of music and dancing.  The realization that she has been drifting through life with Alan, who had never really appreciated her, comes as a shock. For instance, there’s a scene when she’s in hospital and Ash phones Alan to ask about her medical history to fill in a form, but he doesn’t know the answers.

‘Alan, tell me you actually know something about your wife? I’ve got to get these forms filled out and I goddamn need your help.’

Alan replies: ‘I honestly don’t know.’

It’s devastating, but at least Olivia is fortunate enough to have found Ash, who is supportive emotionally and helpful from a practical point of view too. He teaches her to value herself, her body, her hobbies and her freedom. He encourages her to find a part time job, to keep herself busy, motivated and independent.

Most romantic novels have young main characters, so it was refreshing to read a novel about a more mature love story including characters who were my age. There are also plenty of young people in the novel, such as Olivia and Ash’s young adult children, who liven up the story.

Although it can be read as a standalone because there is no cliff-hanger ending, and the ending is happy, there’s still a story to be continued. I was thrilled to discover that there are two more books in the series. How will their new life together work out? They both have families and personal baggage, will they be able to start again? Life with Ash will be better than life with Alan, because at least Ash respects and supports Olivia, but Ash also has his secrets. His job in government security, which we know little about and keeps him away for periods of time, is intriguing. I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment.

A free copy of the book was given to the reader in return for an honest review.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

RED DIRT by E.M. Reapy #Bookreview #Contemporary #Australia @HoZ_Books

Red DirtRed Dirt by E.M. Reapy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Red Dirt is the tale of 3 young Irish travellers who have gone to Australia to escape the Irish recession. They are full of hope, wanting experience a new better life, but reality throws obstacles in their way, temptations and causes acts of desperation.

The book opens in a back-packers hostel in Perth. Murph and Shane have failed a job interview due to their heavy drinking and drug taking, yet they continue to drink away their money. At rock bottom they agree to a job on a farm picking fruit in the outback, dragging a new fellow, Hopper with them. The drinking and drugs lead to an accident which haunts Murph for months.

The farm is rough, and life harsh. They befriend Fiona, the Irish sticking together. When tempers boil over, Murph, Shane and Fiona leave. But back in Perth Murph is restless with fear and leaves Fiona behind.

The next part of the book is Fiona’s tale, abandoned in a cheap hostel by Murph, with money running out, she sinks to an all time low. She’s so broke she’ll do anything and is taken out into the bush to house keep for a very rough family. Escaping with only the clothes she stands in, Fiona spends days alone in the bush until she finds hope in the form of a kind couple.

The third part of the book is Hopper’s tale, his own reasons for being in Australia and how he arrived at Perth, it brings the story to a full circle.

This book delves into the depths of humanity as the three characters search for answers and put some personal demons to rest. It isn’t for the faint hearted 277 F-bombs, heavy drinking and drugs abound and definitely don’t read this if you are about to send off your off-spring back-packing around the world.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

View all my reviews on Goodreads