Monday, 13 August 2018

So That Was July...

Sometimes life gets in the way and distracts you, and I haven't really fancied reading as much or writing in July.

My cat, Tilly, died at the beginning of the month. I adopted her just over 2.5 years ago when I moved into my current home, and it was love at first sight. She rubbed up against my calves when I went to see her for the first time at her foster home. Such a cuddly cat, always meowing away, knew when I needed a cuddle. She was an older cat who needed a home, and although we didn't have as long as I hoped with her I'm still open to adopting an older cat in the future. She would lounge across the sofa, be naughty and snatch food from my plate at dinner time, take up the whole of the bed, and even jumped in the bath a couple of times to enjoy the bubbles!

There was also my mum's birthday, my sister's birthday, and my niece's too - we did laser tag, and I think all of those years spent watching sniper and action movies has paid off. Of course, I took it seriously - I wanted to win!

And the heatwave - too hot to move, too hot to think, everything turning to straw, too hot to read. My concentration shrivelled to the size of a pea.

The end of the July was the opposite of the beginning of the month with a fantastic trip to the Shard. One great thing about the heatwave is that the sky was clear and the view was incredible and we could see for miles. A day full of laughter, lots of walking, lots of cocktails.

It's only half way through August but I can tell it's going to be a great month.

Right, so books read in July. Folks, I think I've already found my book of the year...

I am, I am, I am - Maggie O'Farrell
I'm not sure why I've resisted until now with reading this book. I've seen I am, I am, I am recommended all over Twitter, Instagram and blogs so the world was shouting at me to read it - sometimes I'm oblivious to the signs. Maggie O'Farrell's memorie looks at the author's seventeen brushes with death. Ranging from a near miss in the woods with a man who goes on to kill another girl days later, nearly drowning at sea, a childhood illness she was not expected to survive, miscarriages. This is an insightful look into life's fragility and the need to make sure you seize the day.

When I Hit You - Meena Kandasamy
Possibly my book of the year. Shocking, brave and important about a controlling marriage and one woman's escape from the physical and mental abuse in India. Based in part on the author's own experiences, When I Hit You, delves into the caste system of India, the impacts of traditional gender roles, and one woman's fight from oppression. This is an important book, and is definitely a must read. This book will punch you in the gut as it's raw with emotion. Just bloody fantastic.

The Cartography of Others - Catherine McNamara
Catherine's latest collection of stories explores the lives of characters all on the verge of a turning point in their lives. A woman waits in a hotel room for her married lover to turn up, a son trekking across a hill thinks of his mother's last few moments before she died, a soprano in search of her voice. Characters are displaced, complex full of uncertainty.  There is never a story set in the same location - Catherine takes the reader on a tour around the world from a sail boat in Corsica, a hotel room in Hong Kong, scruffy Paris. Catherine packs so much detail in these stories, pulling the reader into the snapshot of these characters' lives. My review will be appearing later in the month.



Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Book Review: Disbanded Kingdom

Disbanded Kingdom
By Polis Loizou
Published by Cloud Lodge Books
Available in paperback and ebook

Polis Loizou's debut novel, Disbanded Kingdom, tells the story of Oscar, 22, disengaged from his family and friends, unable to find meaning with his life. He is an outsider and an observer as he wanders the streets of London. He is a shadow in his own life.

He sits on the edges of conversations of his friends as they talk their jobs, their relationships, gossip about each other. They come from privileged backgrounds while he has been thrown into this life of money and wealth, having been adopted, with no memories of his biological family other than being bounced between foster families, adding to his rootlessness and introspective nature.

He is also disconnected from the gay scene, walking through Soho unable to even speak up and have his voice heard - Loizou's writing is full of great details of London, drawing the reader into Oscar's aimless walks. Disconnected and distanced from himself after a break up from his boyfriend. He can't seem to break out from the weight of his own indecisiveness.

Full of melancholy, Oscar is a passive character, full of fear of rejection and worrying about not pleasing people with the expected. He develops a crush on his foster mother's Literary Agent, Tim, and watches him from the sidelines, not wanting to take a chance to see if this man feels the same. As they get to know each other, Oscar opens himself up to different religious and political points of view. He is on the brink of change juxtaposed against Brexit, and the fallout happening around him. There is change in the air but uncertainty and fear taints Oscar. I spent most of the book thinking that he needed a good therapist.

Loizou captures the restlessness of being in your twenties, being pulled and pushed between expectation and desire in this scream of conscious novel. This is a novel about being stuck in a loop about 'what could be' rather than what is actually happening around you. You can buy Disbanded Kingdom from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy from the publisher.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

June's Reading

This should have been posted sooner but I'm really busy at the moment but somehow I have managed to read five books in June. 

Which is really good because we're already half way through July and I've only just started my second book but I've got some good reasons which I'll save for next time (see what I did there - leaving you with a cliffhanger).

I've been trying to use my Kindle a little more just to make my bank balance look like this: Books, books, books, food, parking, books, food, books. There are a couple of drawbacks with the Kindle - one it hurts like hell when I'm drifting off to sleep and it hits me on the forehead, the second that it's simply not a book and thirdly it's hard to take an instagrammable picture of an ebook.

Right so lets look at the books I've read in June...

Disbanded Kingdom - Polis Loizou
Oscar, 22, is a lost cause, walking aimlessly through London, disconnected from his family, his friends, from gay culture. He sits on the edges of conversations and is an outsider to real life. This story tells of Oscar as he tries to find his place in life. A bigger review will be coming soon.

Becoming - Laura Jane Williams
Break ups, lust, sex and wanting to find your better self. Comes with great one-liners like "None of us is fucking up like we think we are." This is a great book if you're lost in life, and need to find a way of getting back to yourself or even re-inventing yourself. Don't worry this isn't a self-help book but more of a memoir as Laura battles through a nasty break up to find out who she really is.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays - Samantha Irby
A collection of essays from Samantha Irby. Each one packs a punch dealing with life, love, diets and other humans. A book full of attitude full of resilience, humour, and warmth. And the front cover has a picture of a cat, and it's yellow which to be is the ideal book cover.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank - Nathan Englander
I picked this book up when it was originally in hardback, because the title was similar to Raymond Carver's collection and I've kept it on my bookshelf since then. I picked this up one New Year's Eve in Waterstones Cambridge and the other book I purchased at the time was disappointing and went straight to the charity shop after I had read it. This collection of stories is a bit hit and miss, and I did find myself skipping over a story if the beginning didn't pull me in. This book tackles big subjects like anti-semitism, Holocaust, Israeli settlements, dysfunctional families but makes sure that he isn't preaching. Morally complex, with sadness and humour - this is a good collection.

The Lying Game - Ruth Ware
This is the third book for work book club. Enjoyed this more than the previous book (which was also a thriller - Dark Places). Complex characters, great atmosphere. Full of twists and turns where the past of a group of female friends catches up with them. Will their friendship survive the secrets and lies?

What did you read during June?

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Book Review: Call of the Curlew

Call of the Curlew
By Elizabeth Brooks
Published by Doubleday
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

New Year's Eve 2015, and 86 year old Virginia feels like her time is up. She knows she will meet her end on the marsh.

Virginia finally be free of guilt she has carried with her through her life, still trapped in her childhood home, unable to make peace with the events of one winter. She is overcome with memories of the past.

Call of the Curlew is an immersive novel, told with a dual time line narrative, pulling the reader in the unsettling setting of Tollbury Marsh, exploring loss, guilt and the way an resolved past can scar you for a lifetime.

1939, Virginia, 11, arrives at a mysterious house, Salt Winds, on the edge of a vast marsh to meet her adopted parents. Life here is different from the orphanage - this couple want to be real parents to her, share their lives with her.

Shifting sands, whipped up winds, cast empty space, luring people into its clutches. The villagers fear the marsh as much as WWII. The war is far away, happening only in cities, and to other people's families but then the war comes to them. A German fighter plane crashes into the marsh one afternoon while Virginia is a Salt Winds with her adopted father. One the same day, her adopted father goes missing, and Salt Winds becomes less a sanctuary and more of a place caught up in secrets and lies.

Virginia is feisty, smart and courageous, with hints of a younger Jane Eyre. This whole novel feels like a homage to the Brontes, and Elizabeth Brooks describes herself as a "Bronte nerd". I loved reading Jane Eyre for my A-Levels - even reading it five times on a loop didn't put me off. A coming of age story where Virginia's life will be spent dealing with the aftermath.

Full of atmosphere, and an uneasy that will have you turning each page, wanting to discover the truth. Elizabeth Brooks pulls the reader in to the building tension, unravelling small details along the way. This is a haunting book and I loved it!

Call of the Curlew is available from your favourite bookshop.

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I was sent a copy to review for the Call of the Curlew blog tour. You can find other posts on the following blogs:

Monday, 2 July 2018

New Story Published


Today my short story, My Daughter's Wings, has been published over at Idle Ink. Idle ink are a UK based online magazine published great stories so do read the other stories if you pop over there.

Originally started back in 2015, then left on my hard drive until an editing and feedback round came up on a writing forum I belong to. The feedback gave me the momentum to rejig the story completely and then I left it sitting on my hard drive to simmer away. This has been one of those stories that you chip away rather than coming out fully formed.

The story is inspired by the Icarus myth

Here's the opening paragraph....

"All I can hear is their laughter, in the next room, probably giggling with each other about something silly old mummy has done today. Turning up the television, trying to get the news programme to drown out their nattering. Those hiccups of giggles from Sophie make me smile – I haven’t heard her laugh for a long time. Only Frank knows how to make her laugh. I’m the one who dabs away the blood, soothe the tears, dashing between rooms with trays of food, deal with doctors. Simmer the tantrums."

You can rest the rest here.