What Willow Says By Lynn Buckle (Review)

Today dear readers I am reviewing What Willow Says (Published 27th May 2021) By Lynn Buckle. A big thank you to the publishers époque press for sending me a copy to read and review. I have read Buckle’s work before, her debut novel The Groundsmen. You can read the review here, enjoy!       

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What Willow Says

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Sharing stories of myths, legends and ancient bogs, a deaf child and her grandmother experiment with the lyrical beauty of sign language. Learning to communicate through their shared love of trees they find solace in the shapes and susurrations of leaves in the wind. A poignant tale of family bonding and the quiet acceptance of change.

About The Author

Lynn Buckle was educated at University of Warwick and NUI Maynooth as an art historian and tutor. She lives on the boggy hinterlands beyond Dublin with her children, large and small. She draws, paints, and teaches there. Her protest writing features in HCE Review, Luisne an Chleite, Brigid, Infinite Possibilities and the époque press é-zine. She has benefitted from awards by the John Hewitt Society, Greywood Arts, Kildare Arts & Library Service, and was appointed UNESCO Cities of Literature Writer in Residence 2021 at the National Centre for Writing, Norwich.

Lynn’s debut novel The Groundsmen was published by époque press in 2018

My Review 

This is one of those stories that will challenge and enhance your senses dear reader. The narrative follows a series of journal entires from a grandmother who cares for her deaf granddaughter. She tells her granddaughter Irish mythical stories of the woods, trees, kelpies and frogs. The grandmother is an artist and is often sketching different types of trees as part of a project. Not much is known about her past, she went to art college, was once married but the husband passed away and she lost one of her daughters, the mother to the granddaughter. She has classes to help her learn sign language but admits she hasn’t been practising a lot which means at times she struggles to understand her granddaughter or there is a lot of miscommunication. 

I enjoyed watching the relationship between the two relatives unfold. The granddaughter tells the grandmother that she will hear the trees talk if she practises. The grandmother silently carries a heavy burden and finds it easier to stay quiet, she doesn’t know how to talk. She admires how her granddaughter doesn’t let anything hold her back. Often the granddaughter leads the way and tries to show her grandmother a different view of the world. The grandmother feels very planted in the past and tales of old, trying to teach the granddaughter the stories of the land. There are signs and hints that soon the grandmother won’t be around and is trying to prepare her for this. It’s emotional to read as at times the grandmother doesn’t see much point in learning sign language and thinks back to loved ones she’s lost. There is a moment when she sees men ripping down some trees, watching the bark and leaves fly everywhere. She remembers clearly the day they were planted and moves quickly on. The distraction is hard to read as Buckle’s words pull you in, heightening your senses and cause for concern. Nature is such a beauty to behold that it’s scary how in a matter of seconds it can be destroyed and left to rot.   

Buckle brings a mythical and magical experience to her writing that bewitches you beyond the point of no return. This book is filled with sounds and nature that comes alive from the moment you start reading. Buckle has a gentle relaxing style that immerses your feet deep into the earth as the sounds of nature whisper through the air. You close your eyes and find yourself talking to the trees, learning a new language and form of communication. You will be surprised how much you learn dear reader, all you have to do is listen. 

I give What Willow Says By Lynn Buckle a Four out of Five paw rating.

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This book is a brief read at 128 pages long, but Buckle gives you just enough of a taste of the other worldly where children are turned into frogs and kelpies roam the waters that you will feel more than enlightened by your stay. You will crave more but will fully appreciate your time roaming the woods, talking to trees and listening to the river. It will soothe you and connect you to a language that speaks more truth than words could ever say.  

Links

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The Loch By Dee Taylor Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for The Loch (Published Jan 2021) By Dee Taylor. A big thank you to the publisher Conrad Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the lovely Anne for the invite, you make being a part of this wonderful community magical.     

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The Loch 

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The Loch is set on the shores of Loch Ness. It’s a harrowing, unforgettable tale of courage and romance, unfolding between the backdrop of the Scottish Highlands and in the murky depths of the loch itself.

With drama escalating in suspense, this entertaining and thrilling novel is the story of a former stripper from the Aberdeen clubs emotionally torn between two men: a deep sea diver from the oil rigs and a highlander with a violent and tragic past.

There is greed and horror in a search for Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite gold within the ever-present menace of the fabled creature of the Loch.

About The Author

Dee Taylor is now a professional artist, after spending most of his career in the advertising profession as art buyer at two of London’s top ad agencies. His many artistic achievements include designing a now famous flag for the Romney Marsh area of Kent in south-east England. Dee’s other passions are angling and Loch Ness.

My Review

Pack your bags dear reader because we are going on a trip that will change everything you thought you believed about the mythical legend that is the Loch Ness Monster. 

The story takes place in the Scottish Highlands mid summer of 1967. Told in third person we follow former Stripper Tina and her deep sea diver boyfriend Jack Armstrong as they escape to Loch Ness for a 3 week camping holiday. Their relationship lately has become frail and they hope that getting away together for a while will save it. They plan to travel to Cornwall after, get married and start a life together. However things don’t exactly go to plan and soon talks of monsters and gold begin to challenge just how much they are willing to risk.

Taylor has created some interesting characters with dark, disturbing backgrounds. The three main characters Tina, Jack and Red Angus have all had their fair share of pain. The more you learn about them, the more you wish them to succeed.

Tina is reminded frequently of her past life, the men she slept with and how she would drink to block out the memories. She is used to being pestered and pursued by every kind of riff-raff and dirty old man while she was working in Aberdeen. She hated the thought of ending up like so many other strippers trapped in that way of life which would eventually lead to prostitution. She had to stop drinking as it began to have an effect on her mind, struggling to sort out truth from fiction in her everyday life. She dreamed of settling down with the right sort of man. When Jack told her his feelings she grabbed at the chance. He was her way out, her escape but was unsure if she really loved him. She feels conflicted as she starts to have feelings towards Red Angus and starts to question everything.      

Jack has been diving professionally for 10 years and dreams of settling down far away from the North Sea and its oil boom. He wants to settle in Cornwall with Tina and start up a small freelance diving business. He gets jealous about her past and the amount of men she’s slept with but pushes it to the back of his mind. His hopes and dreams of a happy married life drastically change when he and Tina witness something unnatural while fishing on Loch Ness. With a new sudden desire to learn more and possibly catch the monster Jack wishes to stay, which leads them both down a dangerous path that changes everything for the couple.

Red Angus is a striking character that towers over you from the moment you meet him. A gentle giant when happy he can become dangerous when angered or drunk. He has lived by the Loch for seven years camping on the bank, surviving on fishing, hunting and growing his own vegetables. He is the best expert on the Loch Ness phenomenon and has his own theories on the creature. He has a secret past with whispers of once having a family and drinks to forget. Upon meeting Jack and Tina it becomes clear that it’s not just the Loch that will get between the unsuspecting couple. 

Taylor surrounds the reader with the towering mountains, high moors and the Loch. The depths of the murky water are never-ending as you feel a sense of foreshadowing doom the further you dive into this tale. The sheer size of Loch Ness is enormous, giving off a feeling of isolation and danger. I found that Taylor took an intelligent approach to including the Loch as its own entity, showing the reader that the Loch has many moods and that you have to learn to know them. There were scenes when the sun would be shining on its mirrored surface and the smell of delicious outdoor cooking filled the air. Then it would drastically change to the dead of night when the cold and darkness would surround you, sending shivers down your spine. Figures crept about and watched the characters from the shadows.  It was a drastic change and one that kept you in suspense. Fantastic writing! 

I give The Loch By Dee Taylor a Five out of Five paw rating.

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You will be left gasping for air, scared for your life and wondering just what does live in the famous Loch Ness? 

There are many, many heart stopping moments throughout this book. Moments when you are terrified for all three characters, willing them to fight, survive and find what they are all so desperately looking for. It’s an intense, chilling read that will keep you hooked from start to finish. You may also find yourself tempted to do your own little bit of digging and discover the mysteries of the Loch Ness Monster and Charlie’s Gold. 

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy! 

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Links

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Odd as F*ck’ By Anne Walsh Donnelly (Review)

Today dear readers I am reviewing Odd as F*ck (Published 14th May 2021) By Anne Walsh Donnelly. Happy Publication Day! A big thank you to the publishers Fly On The Wall Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. This is not the first time I have reviewed Donnelly’s work, check out my last review here.       

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Odd as F*ck

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In this collection, the author loses, finds and redefines herself, in poems that are sometimes visceral and often humorous. She ultimately shows how meaningful life can become after a period of darkness and how transformative those experiences can be.

About the Author

Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in the west of Ireland. She writes poetry, prose and plays. She was shortlisted for the Hennessy/Irish Times New Irish Writing Award for her poetry in 2019 and selected for the Poetry Ireland Introduction Series. In 2020 she was awarded a Words Ireland Mentorship and a bursary from the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. She is the author of the poetry chapbook, “The Woman With An Owl Tattoo” (Fly On The Wall Poetry Press, 2019.) It was awarded second prize in the International Poetry Book Awards in 2020.

My Review

Donnelly throws herself into her poetry as she loses, finds and rediscovers herself. These poems show the reader how wonderful life can truly be after the dark clouds of depression and suicide begin to slowly drift away. She shows the reader how her experiences changed and transformed her. I have always admired how vulnerable Donnelly’s poetry is. She stands naked for all to see, showing her scars. These poems speak of the relationship with her mother, her own children, the breakdown of her marriage, rediscovering her sexuality, the changes that menopause bring, therapy and questions her faith. 

I was intrigued by Donnelly’s journey with her faith when I read Days Like Today. The reader follows memories of her as a child praying to god before graduating with an honours degree, leaving Ireland to travel and then slowly starting to lose her connection to god. She becomes jealous of other’s devotion to their god and grieves her loss. When she leaves her marriage she realises that it is the first time she has put herself first and it is empowering. She questions why has god stayed silent as she wishes to bleed out the depression. Then she has a moment of clarity where she says he has come back to her and he answers, “I never left”. It’s a fascinating poem to read with many layers as you can feel the confusion and anger that Donnelly is experiencing.

This collection is dedicated to mothers who have lost children and children who have lost mothers. There are strong themes of not only a mother’s love but a child’s love for their mother with poems such as Conversations and Soon. I felt emotionally torn when I read Mother’s Day, 2020. The past year has changed the world and forced us to interact physically less with one another. We have not been able to see family without glass or a screen in the way. A simple hug, something so normal for a mother to give to their child was no longer allowed. Donnelly captures all of this in her poem, expressing her pain and wanting to be with her loved ones. We can all strongly relate and can only hope it’s not too long before some form of normality is restored.  

I felt my heart twinge when I read Wrench. I know that someday my own children will go off into this world and I will be left behind, watching and worrying. Donnelly remembers her son playing with his toy tool box and now he is no longer pretend playing. It reminded me to make the most of the time I have with my children, that this time goes so fast. Blink and I will miss it. Never wish it away. 

I give Odd as F*ck’ By Anne Walsh Donnelly a Four out of Five paw rating.

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Donnelly not only rips back the plaster exposing the wound in her poetry but she prods and investigates its purpose. She is done hiding and covering up who she is. She shows strength and an inspiring determination to continue to battle through life, clawing her way out of the misery and despair that try to pull her back down. She is determined to live, live her life the way she chooses; age, sexuality, she proves to others that once you accept yourself for who you truly are then life can begin. She is her own person and doesn’t wish to convert to the stereotype of how she should act, dress or even love. Her poems show that she’s been down that road before and all it did was make her unhappy and lost. She challenges her inner demons and pushes the boundaries, refusing to go back. It’s remarkable to read as you see that once you become honest with yourself you will begin to see the beauty that is all around.

Links

Buy a copy ac27b7_aa4f7cc98dd94694802dc0529a7cd098~mv2

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To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre By Victoria Bennett (Review) Kenyon Author Services Blog Tours

Today dear readers I am honoured to be kicking off the blog tour for To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre (Published Paperback 17/08/2020 By Indigo Dreams Publishing) By Victoria Bennett. A big thank you to Isabelle from Kenyon Author Services for sending me a copy to read/review and also to take part in the blog tour, always appreciated.        

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To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre

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These poems are an intimate meditation on love and loss, told by a daughter as she cares for her mother through terminal mesothelioma. The poet invites the reader to be witness to the private moments of dying, from the physical reality of caregiving through to the alchemy of death, telling the story of a relationship between women that is transformed through grief. Honest, unsentimental, and quietly uplifting.

About The Author

Victoria Bennett founded Wild Women Press in 1999 and has spent the last 21 years facilitating creative experiences and curating platforms for women to share ideas, stories, inspirations and actions for positive change, including the global #WildWomanWeb movement and #WildWomanGamer. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University (2002). Previous awards include the Northern Debut Award for non-fiction (2020), the Mother’s Milk Writing Prize (2017), The Writing Platform Digital Literature Bursary (2015), Northern Promise Award for Poetry (2002), and the Waterhouse Award for Poetry (2002). Her work-in-progress memoir, ‘All My Wild Mothers’, was long-listed for the Nan Shepherd Nature Writing Prize 2019 and the Penguin #WriteNow2020 programme. Victoria is currently undertaking her MRes in Creative Practice at the University of Highlands and Islands (Shetland), exploring narratives of absence within landscapes of personal and ecological loss. She is a director of The Wizard and The Wyld Ltd, creating immersive playable poetry within video-game platforms. A frequent digital collaborator, she interested in how poetry and new technologies can be used to create meaningful and authentic narratives.

My Review

Be prepared to have the tissues at the ready dear reader as this collection of poetry will leave you a sobbing mess. These poems are told by a daughter as she cares for her mother through terminal mesothelioma. The curtain is pulled back on those last precious private moments as the reader bears witness to the reality of looking after a beloved parent as they slowly fade away. 

The themes of loss, grief, death and love are delicately woven throughout Bennett’s poetry. The reader undertakes the journey of loss with her. They watch the story of the relationship between women unravel, the love and care they feel towards each other is everlasting in this world and the next.

What I admired about this collection was how honest Bennett is about death. There’s no escaping the truth that it will soon come and it’s a matter of waiting the quiet hours away. When I read The Suede Shoes I was filled with a comforting reassurance that life will go on. The hens are scratching outside as the bees continue to collect their nectar. Bennett questions why bother planting seeds and buying pretty suede shoes but then answers with the truth of it all. There will always be a summer even after a loved one is gone and there is still joy to be found in every step. She shows the reader that even in the most difficult of times there is still good news to be found. It brings a little ray of hope and gentle reminder that we will find the strength to cope and slowly carry on. For now we make the most of what we have by drinking tea and watching the clouds together.  

There were moments when bursts of colour in Bennett’s poetry would make a pleasant appearance. In When Did We Stop Bringing Flowers Bennet brings her mother flowers as she wanted to bring the garden she so loving cared for inside. I felt as though I was watching a montage as the flowers would change with the seasons and in doing so her mother slowly began to shed her petals too. It was beautifully done and I shed a tear when the mother took her daughter’s hand and asked “Why am I not dead?” Bennett captures the raw delicate reality of how fragile life is and that we will all slowly shed our leaves and fall gracefully back into the earth. 

These poems are filled with such intense emotion that they become difficult to read at times because of the tears that are filling your eyes. The reader watches Bennett care for her mother in The New Nightdress, grooming, brushing and dressing her. For anyone to undertake the role of caring for a parent as they near the end is a heartbreaking task. To have the roles reversed is a lot to get your head around but you devotedly take over. Love and family mean everything, they are worth it all. Every second is a gift. 

We also get a small glimpse into the mother’s point of view in Words For Dying To. The words are scattered all over the page representing her confusion and struggle to breathe. She has flashbacks of her childhood when her father looked out for bombs before returning to the present and having a dry mouth. This poem broke me and must have been hard for Bennett to write.  

We quietly follow Bennett throughout this collection as she says her last goodbyes in The Last Vigil, to remembering memories and wishing to hold on in Cooking. She offers advice to the reader in How To Watch Someone Die and talks about how you have to accept that you cannot change any of this. It brings light to the reader that there is no right or wrong way to handle grief. There will come a time where you will let go and live but you will get there in your own time. 

I give To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre By Victoria Bennett a Five out of Five paw rating.

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This book will break you. Full of private moments and devastating truths Bennett will grant you access to some painful memories that may help comfort others in knowing they are not alone in their grief. Seriously dear reader, you will need a box of tissues to get through this. Trust me. 

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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Links

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White Eye of the Needle By Chris Campbell (Review)

Today dear readers I am reviewing White Eye of the Needle (Published Paperback 12th April 2021 By The Choir Press) By Chris Campbell. A big thank you to Isabelle from Fly On The Wall Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.          

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White Eye of the Needle

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White Eye of the Needle is the second collection of poems by Chris Campbell, following his book Bread Rolls and Dresden, published by The Choir Press in 2013. This collection, written over six years, looks at the riches of life, its adventures and patterns. These 25 poems are united in their aim to challenge comforts and hardships as they cover themes of love, family and hope. Observational in tone, the poems explore connections with those around us, old and new, from loved ones to strangers who pass by. They focus on human – and sometimes animal – nature, special moments, relationships over time, and detail the strength and beauty of those ties, when so much can feel out of our hands. The book also touches on romance, marriage, the birth of a nephew, passing of a grandad, and recent experiences through lockdown and restrictions, as it seeks to find meaning in places, at a time when we’ve all been forced to slow down and reflect. The collection was put together in Nottingham and includes pieces from the author’s time in Bristol, London, Swansea, Glasgow and Gloucestershire, plus visits abroad including a honeymoon in Madagascar and trips to Tignes, France. White Eye of the Needle has been illustrated by Sandra Evans, a graphic designer and illustrator in Swansea Bay, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the media industry. Sandra was creative designer at the South Wales Evening Post and takes inspiration from the nature around her, with a passion for wildlife and the environment.

About the Author

Chris Campbell, born in Dublin, is a former national and regional journalist who worked for newspaper titles in London, Bristol, Bath, south Wales and Gloucestershire. Chris has a passion for poetry, writing and travel and has judged young writer competitions in Swansea. he graduated with an MA in Journalism from Kingston University and a BA (hons) in Economic and political Development from the University of Exeter, with a year’s study in Uppsala, Sweden. he currently lives in Nottingham.

My Review

This collection of poems explore love, life, family, hope and lockdown. From the old to the new, Campbell’s poems capture nature in all its wild beauty and those special moments shared behind closed doors in relationships. 

The past year has changed how we live forever. Life in lockdown has been an experience for us all. Campbell reflects on this in some of his poems such as Chimney snorkels. The cafés and pubs are empty, people social distance and wear masks. Yet he brings a positive attitude to his writing. Things may seem bleak now but there are better days ahead, there is a bright neon flashing pizza sign at the end of the tunnel saying we will once again all be together. 

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We have all become accustomed to life behind a screen. It’s a part of our everyday life with Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls. It’s hard to imagine life without technology and the ability to see loved ones from far away. When I read Virtual coo it made me realise how hundreds of people will be seeing their first glimpse of a new family member through a screen. Campbell has brought not only the reality of our situation to this poem but also the joy and celebration of witnessing new life. He makes it a positive experience and ends with the hope that someday soon they will be able to meet.

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Campbell brings the blinding beauty of the details in his poetry. He conjures the atmosphere right into your living room. When I read Synchronised buskers I could hear the rustle and bustle of the market traders. I was mesmerised and caught up in all that was happening around me. I loved it!  

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I enjoyed reading the sweet, endearing intimate moments in Campbell’s poetry. In Yellow Dress he uses beautiful imagery to reflect on a moment he wishes to pause. When I read You Shine I could feel the love and warmth radiating off the page. The simple act of a kiss and basking in the sun, sipping coffee and hearing the children’s cries from outside fading away. It was bliss to envision and I could relate to whiling away the hours with a loved one. For a minute I could close my eyes and escape. 

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I give White Eye of the Needle a Four out of Five paw rating. 

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Full of beauty, love and comforting imagery these poems will bring you hope and the realisation that life will always find a way. It might not be the way we are all used to but one day at a time we will get there. 

Links

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PowerPoint Eulogy By Mark Wilson (Review)

Today dear readers I am reviewing PowerPoint Eulogy (Published April 16th 2021) By Mark Wilson. A big thank you to the publishers Fly On The Wall Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.       

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This short story is a part of The Fly on the Wall shorts season. Every two months for a year starting from February 26th 2021 they are publishing a short story with a social message to be found in each one. Find out more details here.

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PowerPoint Eulogy

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Three corporate hours have been allotted to commemorate the life of enigma, Bill Motluck. Employee memories of his life are crudely recounted onto a dusty projector. No one has ever been quite sure of his purpose. No one is quite sure who wrote the PowerPoint…but it seems to be exposing them all, one by one.

About The Author

Mark Wilson is a Chicago based author and visual artist, often illustrating his own writing. His writing focuses on the consumption of content and the monotony of the modern age. He is the creator of a popular absurdist culture blog onetie-alltie.com/blog/ and his art and prose have been featured in journals including Burning House Press and Burning Jade Press. He has also self-published a work of surrealist satire.

My Review

The fellow coworkers of Bill Motluck reluctantly gather round for a three hour PowerPoint eulogy. They look back on what little memories they share of the 70 year old man and are unsure of who wrote the PowerPoint. The PowerPoint has been quickly put together with outdated animations, little care or attention has been made. The coworkers start to see that some of the slides are about them and begin to wonder if their lives are as sad as the old man’s or maybe if they are dead? On Bill’s poorly-made plywood coffin sits bar graphs and pie charts in hope that he will do one last round of pointless analysis. Wilson paints an eyeopening picture of how even after death the work still piles up, a sad truth that life goes on. Work stops for no one. 

This short story is told in presentation slides from different employees who worked with Bill. We quickly learn that no one seems to have been extremely close or remember much about him. They are unsure of what his purpose was. No one looked forward to seeing him or appreciated anything he did. One Christmas he gave everyone in the office a one hundred dollar bill out of his own money. They later found out that it was from his life savings and he starved for the rest of the month. No one offered to help him and each spent their gift regardless. This style of narrative was interesting to read and I admire Wilson’s unique technique. You learn snippets of information in quick succession over a short period of time and feel educated on a life that was barely lived. 

I felt sorry and a little disgusted at times for Bill. He is a character of simple pleasures and basic needs. He enjoyed eating at Subway once a week and would savour every single bite. He would say sometimes you have to live a little but in all truth he wasn’t really living. He kept a garden of dying dandelions next to his desks and liked the idea of living in a snow globe. A place where the seasons never changed. His character was desperate to fit in at work, he went as far as paying a mother to use her baby for bring your child to work day. Wilson has created a character that you are unsure if you should laugh at or feel deeply sorry for. You sort of want to root for him but then you are grossed out by his unusual behaviour. The poor guy didn’t help himself. He was beyond odd and doesn’t fit in which brings an uncomfortable vibe to the page. The more you learn about him, the more you wonder why he was this way. What happened to make him lead what appears to be a pathetic, worthless life? Wilson pulls you in as you want to understand Bill but you also start to think that maybe to him, this is a life well lived and you start to question your own stance on life. 

Wilson uses strong themes of depression, giving up and how work can become your life, taking over your very existence and grinding you down into the ground. The corporate lifestyle can quickly become your life. And what kind of life is that? On Bill’s 20 year anniversary working at the company he is allowed to pick a gift from a catalogue. When the gift arrives however and he opens it, is has been smashed into pieces. All that time for it to only account to broken glass. It’s a depressing realisation that transpires brutally into the reality of today’s world.

I give PowerPoint Eulogy By Mark Wilson a Four out of Five paw rating. 

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A raw reflection on how bleak and tragic life can be, this short story will leave you wondering if your own life has been worthwhile and if you will leave a legacy. Will you have your own PowerPoint eulogy and what would it say…

Links

Buy a copy ac27b7_64988ac658124cbbb11fa7233afcb9c8~mv2

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The House On The Old Cliffs By Adrian Tchaikovsky Review (Books On The Hill Kickstarter Project) (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers you are in for a treat. I have something exciting to share with you as well as a review.       

Books on the Hill Publishing is creating a project that will make exciting, good quality fiction accessible to a minority group, currently not provided for by today’s UK traditional mass book market. Check out the video below. 

Books on the Hill is passionate about helping people who have dyslexia, or have any difficulty with reading, to access the joy of good fiction. There are great books out now for children with dyslexia, with specialist publishers like Barrington Stokes and mainstream publishers such as Bloomsbury doing their part. However, there are sadly very few books for adults with dyslexia in traditional mass market publishing.

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The idea that when you become an adult there are no dyslexic accessible printed books to read is ridiculous, to be blunt. BOTH Press, which aims to fill this gap, is a project from Book on the Hill, which is a dyslexic friendly independent bookshop set in Clevedon, North Somerset. They are passionate about helping people who have dyslexia, or have any difficulty with reading, to access the joy of good fiction. They aim to make exciting, good quality fiction accessible to those not currently provided for by today’s traditional mass book market. They are working with talented and award winning authors to achieve this.

With your help through the whole process of the Kickstarter, they aim to publish and print 8 titles of dyslexic friendly books for adults. Their long term goal is to continue publishing good quality adult fiction to produce a wide range of books for people who have challenges when reading. 

Their initial target is 3 titles with successive stretch goals to get them to the magical 8. Of course they want to do more and if by your support they really go over their target, they will produce yet more stunning books with great authors.  

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They launched the Kickstarter project on 2nd April 2021, to run for 30 days, with the focus on paying for the printing of the books that they will publish. Click here to find out more.

Isn’t that just amazing news dear readers? As a writer who is dyslexic it gives me hope that our voices will be heard. That there are people out there fighting and supporting us to help tell our stories. YAY So happy about this! 

I have been lucky enough to be sent one of Books On the Hill’s 8 titles of dyslexic friendly books for adults to read and review, The House On The Old Cliffs By Adrian Tchaikovsky. A big thank you for my copy, always appreciated. And also to the wonderful Anne to take part in the tour and sharing of this fantastic project. 

 

The House On The Old Cliffs

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Doctor Hendry, a known pseudo-historian has gone missing. His employers want answers.

Michael is offered a job that pays ten times what he would get standing outside a club, knocking people over. On reaching the London office of the law firm, Branmer & Stokes, four other professionals are waiting. Two mercenaries, Shaw and Kelling, with broad minds and little scruples. Cohen, a paranormal investigator and Doctor Furrisky from the University of East Anglia’s department of history.

Together they are given one job. Find Doctor Hendry in his home on the remote clifftop. They find more than they bargained for or even comprehend.

 

About the Author

Adrian Tchaikovsky is an award-winning British fantasy and science fiction author. He is a keen live role-player, occasional amateur actor, and has trained in stage-fighting. He has written over 20 novels and won the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award for Children of Time and the 2017 British Fantasy Award — Best Fantasy Novel for The Tiger and the Wolf.

 

My Review

A group of professionals are called together to help find Doctor Hendry, a known pseudo-historian who has gone missing. They have one week to find him. Among the rabble are two mercenaries, Shaw and Kelling. Cohen, a paranormal investigator. Doctor Furrisky from the University of East Anglia’s department of history. And finally Michael who spends his nights standing outside a club knocking people over. Together they set off to Scotland to investigate Dr. Hendry’s house that sits upon the cliffs. They quickly learn that this case is far from the ordinary and becomes more disturbing the more they uncover. 

The narrative follows Michael and his personal experience of the whole expedition. The reader gains a deeper insight into the mystery and suspense of the case. On arrival Michael notices that the house sits upon some cliffs and becomes instantly on edge as heights are not his thing. He can see that half of the garden has already tumbled off into the sea. He senses something amiss from the moment they step inside and observes the others. Shaw and Kelling are trigger happy and appear unbothered while Dr. Furrisky is more on edge and shaky yet interested in Dr. Hendry’s discoveries in his study. Cohen knows that there is something more foul at play and keeps his theories silent until the time is right. A strange unwanted feeling stalks the characters throughout the house leading them to question how far they are willing to go to believe the horrifying truth that lies beneath the house.

Tchaikovsky’s writing immerses you throughout with chilling imagery and a haunting feeling that you are not alone. You slowly feel the hairs on the back of your neck creep up as you tiptoe around Dr. Hendry’s house. There are skulls and bizarre skeletons hanging all over the place. You feel an instant chill when you discover that his clothes, shoes and wallet are still there. With each page turn you dive deeper and deeper, wanting to know more but also at the same time scared of what you might see. My heart was pounding the whole time, I was freaked out! And yes dear reader, that is a good thing! 

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I give The House On The Old Cliffs By Adrian Tchaikovsky a Five out of Five paw rating. 

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This is gripping storytelling at its finest as Tchaikovsky plays upon the characters’ and reader’s fears, feeding into their imagination and the dread of what lurks beneath the waves. I loved every second and yearned for more. 

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Links

www.booksonthehill.co.uk

 

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The Colour of Hope: Poems of Happiness in Uncertain Times By Jen Feroze Review (Kenyon Author Services Blog Tour)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for The Colour Of Hope (Published 28th January 2021) By Jen Feroze. A big thank you to Troubador Publishing for sending a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the lovely Isabelle from Kenyon Author Services for the invite to take part, thank you, always a pleasure to work with.       

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The Colour Of Hope

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The Colour Of Hope is a poetry collection with happiness at its heart. The 45 poems inside were created during the first lockdown in the UK, at a time when finding beauty and comfort in the everyday seemed at once fraught with difficulty and vitally important. Each was written for a specific recipient, based on three things they guaranteed would make them feel happy. I received a wonderful range of briefs. From the beautifully universal – a longing for nature and freedom, time spent with family, summers spent in other lands – to the gloriously specific – snaffling a Toffee Crisp from the fridge late at night, Fleetwood Mac songs, making the perfect scrambled eggs, and Ceilidh dancing. The result is a collection of poems that serves both as a record of this intense and intensely strange year, and as an uplifting reading experience that will connect and resonate with a much wider audience than the individuals they were initially written for.

2020 will be one for the history books, a year that has created emergencies on many fronts, not least the emotional. 60% of adults, and 68% of young people in the UK reported a decline in their mental health during lockdown. As such, 20% from the sale of this book will be donated to Mind, to help provide a bit of light in these uncertain times.

About The Author

Jen has been in love with language for as long as she can remember. A former Foyle Young Poet of the Year, her poetry has appeared in national and international journals and anthologies. The Colour of Hope is her debut collection. Jen is a bookworm with a love of baking, conversation that makes your brain fizz and really good cheese. She lives by the sea in Essex with her husband and two young children.   

My Review

This beautiful, absorbing collection of 45 poems was created during the first lockdown of 2020 in the UK. A time of panic, fear and worry that will always be remembered in the history books. This collection started out for Feroze as a way to cheer up a friend during the pandemic. Each poem has been written by Feroze for an individual recipient based on three things that are guaranteed to make them feel happy with each poem titled after the person it was written for. Feroze has chosen not to share the specific briefs that inspired each of the poems as she allows the reader to draw their own conclusions, to discover their own piece of happiness within each one. I loved this idea as each poem is bringing the reader more positivity and hope. Something we all need more of during these scary unknown times.

Mental Health has taken a mega hit during this difficult time and is on the decline more than ever. 20% from the sale of this book will be donated to Mind. We all need to look after ourselves, each other and keep safe while we start to rebuild what’s been lost. We are all in this together. 

There are strong themes of nature and seeing the beauty in the little things, our favourite songs, cheeky late night snacks and the comforts of home. It is a powerful reading experience that reminds you to see the positives, the things that matter most in our life such as being able to hug loved ones or have a coffee date with a friend. There is so much we take for granted that we only realise when it is taken away from us how much we relied upon it, how it became our way of life and part of the norm. Now more than ever we are learning to find new ways to bring back the things that brought us joy and to fully appreciate them for all their worth. 

I found these poems absorbing and highly relatable. I could smell, taste and reach out and touch all that was happening in each one. Feroze creates an immersive experience that radiates happiness, sunshine and positivity to keep you going and never give up. 

Our lives have changed drastically within the past year and Feroze reflects on this in these poems. Technology has helped keep us connected and brought communities together to feel not so alone. The radio has become a frequent guest in our house reminding us of the songs we love and encouraging us to dance along. Children are getting out more than ever on their daily walks and discovering delicious treats baking in the kitchen. There is no pressure to go out every night, we have everything we need right here. We can indulge our appetite with comfort food, snuggle up with our loved ones in our private cinema on the sofa. It is enough and so are we. Feroze reminds the reader that they are loved, they are not alone and we need to keep safe. Things are tough and we still have a long way to go but we will get there, one day at a time, together. We will have dark days but if we remember all the little things that make us happy, bring us joy we can get through it. This too shall pass.

We’re here
We’re together
We’re alright

I give The Colour of Hope: Poems of Happiness in Uncertain Times By Jen Feroze a Four out of Five paw rating. 

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Absolutely breathtaking, everyone needs to read this powerful collection. We can all highly relate and relish in the things that make us happy. There is happiness to be found even in the most uncertain of times. Look a little closer and there you will find it. It’s all around, never give up hope. 

These poems are needed now more than ever in a world that is still suffering from the pain and tragic effect from Covid-19. They are just a snippet of our personal experience during a pandemic. We still have so much more to learn but this is a pretty good start. Feroze brings you hope, hope that one day we will get there. Together.    

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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Links

Buy a copy thumbnail_The_Colour_of_Hope_cover

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A Sherlock Holmes Adventure The Three Locks By Bonnie MacBird Review (Random Things Tours) 

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for The Three Locks (Published 1st April 2021) By Bonnie MacBird. A big thank you to the publishers Collins Crime Club for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the wonderful Anne for the invite to take part in the tour, thank you!

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The Three Locks

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The Three Locks – a gripping new Sherlock Holmes adventure by Bonnie MacBird – is published by Collins Crime Club, an imprint of HarperCollins, on 1st April 2021. It is the fourth in her acclaimed series.

The year is 1887 and an Indian Summer broils London and Cambridge. A mysterious impregnable box arrives for Watson, locked and with a secret from his past. Then a famous escape artist/conjurer fails to unlock his “cauldron” and burns to a crisp during a performance at Wilton’s Music Hall. And in Cambridge, three suitors including a priest, an aristocrat and a young physicist vie for the love of a spiteful beauty, who vanishes after her lookalike doll is found dismembered in the Jesus Lock on the River Cam. The cases convolve as Holmes and Watson tangle with clergy, police, academics and scheming siblings, risking life and limb to solve the murders and to keep the innocent from the gallows.

MacBird’s stylish updates to Conan Doyle’s canon bring all the wit, camaraderie and deductions one expects from Holmes and Watson, but with the extended arc of a novel allowing not only more character development but also action, which carries them far beyond the locked room mystery and into danger.

Each of MacBird’s four Holmes books explores a theme. Just as Art in the Blood revealed the perils and gifts of the artistic temperament, Unquiet Spirits uncovered the danger of letting ghosts of the past lie unresolved, and The Devil’s Due touched upon the cost of corruption, The Three Locks examines the risk of keeping dark secrets locked away.

Meticulous research and attention to period detail enrich the reading experience. The Three Locks is a must-read for fans of the original Sherlock Holmes adventures and for readers new to the genre.

 

About The Author

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Bonnie MacBird was born and raised in San Francisco and fell in love with Sherlock Holmes by reading the canon at age ten. She now lives in London and Lost Angeles. Her long Hollywood career includes feature film development at Universal, the original screenplay for the movie TRON, three Emmy Awards for documentary writing and producing, numerous produced plays and musicals, and theatre credits as an actor and director. In addition to her work in entertainment, Bonnie teaches writing at UCLA Extension, as well as being an accomplished watercolourist.

She is active in the Sherlockian community in both the UK and the US, and lectures regularly on Sherlock Holmes, writing, and creativity.

Bonnie’s previous three Sherlock Holmes adventures are: Art in the Blood; Unquiet Spirits and The Devil’s Due. Her books are now available in 17 languages worldwide.

 

My Review

I am an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes and his many adventures with Watson. I am fascinated with the inner workings of his mind and the quick ability he applies to observing and more-so, comprehending a scene or person within a matter of seconds. I am always intrigued to read new adventures of the dynamic duo by other writers and see how they approach such a daunting task. 

As is customary with a Sherlock Holmes adventure, the reader is greeted by Dr. John Watson who is famous for not only accompanying Holmes on his cases but also retelling their accounts to the public. The year is 1887 and the reader finds themselves sweating profusely as a heatwave in September melts London. There is no time to waste as Holmes and Watson quickly find themselves on not just one new case, but three. Madame Borelli the wife of Dario, a widely acclaimed escape artist comes to Holmes with a severed human finger in fear that her husband’s life is in danger. Just as Holmes begins to investigate the case, Deacon Buttons, a man of the cloth has traveled from Cambridge and is in desperate need of Holmes’ skills. He fears for the life Odelia Ann Wyndham, the daughter of a famous don. And on this very same morning Watson receives a mystical locked box that contains a secret from his past that has been kept hidden from him for years. 

MacBird applies all the essential ingredients that conjure a classic Holmes story. There is the mystery and suspense as you attempt to follow the bread crumbs in hopes of solving the crime yourself. But alas this is Holmes we are dealing with and it is a matter of observing what others often overlook, looking for the finer details that will lead us to the culprit. There are also plenty of red herrings thrown in that will misdirect you into thinking you have it all sussed. That’s the beauty of a Holmes story, just when you think you’ve worked it out the carpet is suddenly pulled out from under you and TA-DA you’re back to square one. 

The relationship between Holmes and Watson is always a interesting one to read. Apart from the exciting new cases that approach them, their relationship and camaraderie is what makes reading a Sherlock Holmes story such a captivating, surreal experience. Both characters are highly intelligent and educated in their fields and require the other’s skills more than they care to admit. As is classic with Holmes he is often perceived as cold and unemotional, always being ahead of Watson and surprising him with his conclusions. Holmes sees Watson as blank page meaning he is free to accompany him on cases. It is one of the things that he treasures about him. Watson admires Holmes’ vast knowledge that is always expanding and how he is able to see what others can not. However I felt MacBird allowed at times to show a small vulnerability in Holmes with his relationship to Watson. It is only shown for mere seconds but you are reminded that Holmes is a human with emotions, ones he keeps locked up and hidden along with his personal history. I also enjoyed diving into Watson’s past and learning about his childhood. It was an unexpected twist that sent chills down my spine. 

The contrast with the scorching heatwave and dash to solve the cases entwined beautifully together. I could feel the sweat dripping off the page as my heart pounded in my chest for answers. It was intense and I found myself downing ice cold lemonade after lemonade to keep hydrated.  

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I give A Sherlock Holmes Adventure The Three Locks By Bonnie MacBird a Four out of Five paw rating. 

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I was on tenterhooks as the pair raced between cases in an attempt to save more than one life. There are plenty of twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s addictive reading, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down until I knew everything! 

MacBird respected the original source material which these two legends are built upon but also added her own twist and brought a new refreshing adventure that would easily slot beside the classics. 

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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Links

Buy a copythumbnail_The Three Locks Cover

 

Website
http://www.macbird.com

 

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The Beasts They Turned Away By Ryan Dennis (Review)

Today on the blog dear reader I am reviewing The Beasts They Turned Away (Published 11th March 2021) By Ryan Dennis. A big thank you to the publishers Epoque Press for sending me a copy to review, always appreciated.       

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The Beasts They Turned Away

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Iosac Mulgannon is a man called to stand. Losing a grip on his mental and physical health, he is burdened with looking after a mute child whom the local villagers view as cursed. The ageing farmer stubbornly refuses to succumb in the face of adversity and will do anything, at any cost, to keep hold of his farm and the child. This dark and lyrical debut novel confronts a claustrophobic rural community caught up in the uncertainties of a rapidly changing world.

About The Author

Ryan Dennis is a former Fulbright Scholar in Creative Writing and has taught creative writing at several universities. He has been published in various literary journals, particularly in the US, including The Cimarron Review, The Threepenny Review and Fusion. In addition to completing a PhD in creative writing at the National University of Ireland, Galway, he is a syndicated columnist for agricultural journals around the world. The Beasts They Turned Away is Ryan’s debut novel.

My Review

The narrative follows the struggles of everyday life of an old man called Iosac Mulgannon and a mute child who is unnamed. It is unclear whether the child is related to him as he just appeared one night and the old man has cared for him ever since. When the old man is not working on the farm he is in the town with the child picking up food or having a pint in the Clarke Martin Pub. Everyone is extremely wary of the child and believe him to be cursed. They whisper and mutter when they walk by while also crossing themselves. They believe him to not be natural and tell the old man to send him away. He refuses and protects the child at all costs. His determination to let the child be is powerful and questions the town; who decides what is natural?   

I enjoyed the vivid imagery Dennis used as it sent chills down my spine. From the beginning the child wears a cow skull that stays on him up to near the end of the story. It’s a haunting image mixed with innocence and youth. It confuses you but has the right effect bringing up why the townspeople appear nervous in his presence. It acts as a barrier which limits the interaction between characters which effectively only intensifies the old man and child’s loneliness more.

This is a story about life and nature set against the backdrop of the loneliness and isolation that comes from working on the farm. It is a simple way of life that strips back all the nonsense and noise that modern living has accustomed us to. Here, it is just the land, the sky and the noise of the animals that surround you. The old man ploughs and ploughs to feel the day push against him, to feel the ache in his body. He needs to know that he still can and always will. He knows the sounds of the land and his body works in rhythm to its song. When letters start piling up with the bank’s logo it becomes clear that he is about to lose everything. He has put everything into the farm, he is embedded in its soil. He can not give up, it is all that he is. The music of the milkers are soaked into his skin, it takes over and consumes his heart. The old man tells the child how they are born of this ground and will let it tear itself from their feet before men take it from them. They will not move and will never yield.

The relationship between the old man and the child is an odd one. The old man speaks and the child says nothing. He follows and watches through the cow’s skull, showing little to no emotion. The old man cares for the child but keeps him at a distance. Sometimes he will attempt to reach out and touch him before the child quickly moves away. He wonders if the child sees things that he doesn’t and knows the child won’t be steered by anyone. 

There is a heavy weight of sadness to this story as the old man spends his days working the farm with little to no interaction with other people. He will talk now and then to the child who never speaks and finds himself thinking back on memories past. It is hinted that there was a chance for happiness years ago with a woman but he didn’t take it. I felt for both characters but took some comfort that they at the very least had each other to feel a little less alone.  

I give The Beasts They Turned Away By Ryan Dennis a Four out of Five paw rating. 

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No matter where I turned I was faced with the never-ending stretch of fields, looming ominously into the unknown. This is a story that shows you how to be a part of the land and the story it tells. It gets wedged in-between your nails, into your skin and hair reminding you of a different time, a place with an old sky and song. 

Links

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