At the beginning of Mrs Engels, Lizzie Brown gives a warning about men. This warning perfectly introduces the reader to the character of Lizzie. She hAt the beginning of Mrs Engels, Lizzie Brown gives a warning about men. This warning perfectly introduces the reader to the character of Lizzie. She has been wonderfully crafted by Gavin McCrea, she is sparky and witty and quite incredible.
Mrs Engels is a work of fiction but is based upon Lizzie Burns. Lizzie was Irish and illiterate and also the long-time lover of Frederick Engels; a leading figure who wrote The Communist Manifesto.
This is novel that took me completely by surprise. I took a gamble on it and it paid off handsomely. Gavin McCrea has cleverly told this story in Lizzie's voice and has brought her to life so very well.
Lizzie and Frederick move to London to be closer to Karl Marx. For Lizzie, this really is a whole new world, far away from the cotton mills of Manchester. Lizzie is an observer and a quick learner and although she appears to adapt to this new world, she remains uncertain about money and wealth. She has strong memories of her first love, she is often confused by her own feelings but gains confidence as the story moves on.
Mrs Engels introduced me to a subject about which I knew nothing. McCrea makes the subject of Communism both fascinating and easily understood, his depiction of Marx and Engels is powerful.
Mrs Engels is really atmospheric, the reader is transported to the streets of London during the nineteenth century. Historical fiction has never been my favourite genre, but every so often I do stumble across a gem, and this is one of those. Lizzie Burns is a fabulous character, I adore her! ...more
Tracey Thorn doesn't do nostalgia gigs; she doesn't attend them, or play them. I kind of agree with her, it's always a bit of a let down when you realTracey Thorn doesn't do nostalgia gigs; she doesn't attend them, or play them. I kind of agree with her, it's always a bit of a let down when you realise that your idols age too! I did make an exception a couple of years ago though, and went to see The Who - I didn't regret it.
Naked at the Albert Hall is the perfect way to do nostalgia, I loved every page of it and it took me back to my younger days. Reminders of those Elvis Costello songs that I loved so much, X Ray Spex and Siouxsie; two of my heroines, and now that I'm middle-aged I can actually admit to how much I loved Karen Carpenter's voice.
Tracey Thorn's first book Bedsit Disco Queen told her own story. Naked at the Albert Hall explains more about singing as an actual process. I wasn't sure that I was interested in lungs and throats and how they work, but she writes with such passion, and uses such wonderful phrases, and I was hooked.
There is an honesty about Tracey Thorn that is refreshing. So many pop stars appear false and gaudy, not Thorn, she really is quite upfront about what she sees as her own flaws. I like that, it makes me want to read more, and it made this book so much more enjoyable.
Tracey Thorn is wise and witty, and this shines through in her writing. She is a naturally talented writer, of songs and of books. A must read for fans....more
Reading real books, and writing real letters; these are two things that I have spent my life doing. Some days I am glad that I am older, and that I prReading real books, and writing real letters; these are two things that I have spent my life doing. Some days I am glad that I am older, and that I probably won't be around when real books and actual letters that arrive in the post disappear altogether. Rowan Coleman has captured, within this story, the emotions that are instilled when a hand-written letter is received, the joy of receiving, the recognition of the time and effort spent on the writing and the ability to keep the letter for ever, and to cherish it when the sender may no longer be around.
The story is told in a relatively simple way, with multiple viewpoints. We are introduced to patients in the Marie Francis hospice, and to Stella, the nurse who cares for them during the long, lonely nights. Stella is the letter writer, or the enabler. The patients can share their secrets, their sorrows, their advice and their love, in their own words, Stella will write the letter and promises to post them when the sender has died.
Stella herself has lots to deal with. She loves her husband Vincent so much, she looks at him and sees the funny, strong, brave soldier that she married. Vincent looks at himself and sees a man who is no longer complete, he looks at himself and feels guilt and pain that he doesn't know how to share. He looks at Stella and wonders why she stays.
The reader also gets to know Hugh, he doesn't seem to be connected to the story, but Rowan Coleman gradually and expertly interweaves his narrative with Stella's, so creating a turning-point in Stella's life, and affecting Hugh and his mother profoundly too.
Dying, death, end of life, passing away; whatever you choose to call it, it will come to us all. It may be quick and unexpected, or drawn out and painful. It may happen too early, or tragically; whatever happens, the effect of death on everyone involved is enormous, and possibly one of the most difficult things that people have to deal with. We Are All Made of Stars is a sensitive look at the subject of dying. Rowan Coleman writes with tenderness and care, and some humour. Her characters are an eclectic bunch and painfully real, the reader will grow to love each and every one of them, The author treats the subject matter with respect and dignity, whilst still managing to captivate the reader during a story that is so rewarding.
Told in her distinctive style; We Are All Made of Stars is another triumph from Rowan Coleman. Existing fans will adore it, and readers who are new to her work will be spellbound.
I hope that readers will think about letter writing, even if they only sit down and write one letter. It could make so much of a difference to someone. It's almost like posting a big hug through somebody's letter box....more
How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst is published by Headline on 23 April 2015 and is the author's debut novel.
Over the past few years there has been aHow I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst is published by Headline on 23 April 2015 and is the author's debut novel.
Over the past few years there has been a steady rise in the amount of psychological thrillers written by female authors. It's taken a while, but I'm delighted about it and I think Jenny Blackhurst is a worthy entry to this stable of fine authors.
Susan Webster killed her three month old son. Smothered him with a cushion whilst she was in the midst of puerperal psychosis; a severe form of mental illness, brought on by childbirth. Susan can't remember anything about the day that Dylan died, she struggles to believe that she actually did it. She's been a patient at Oakdale, a psychiatric unit for three years and she has to depend on what the doctors tell her.
Susan is no more, she has served her time and become Emma Cartwright. Emma is free, she's making a new life for herself in a small Shropshire town. Emma will have to live with what she did to Dylan for the rest of her life.
When letters and parcels arrive, addressed to Susan, the terror and the doubts begin. Nobody should know who Emma is, only the authorities and her best friend Cassie should have any idea that she was Susan, and what she did. How can anyone send her a photo of a toddler, and claim that it is Dylan? Susan begins to think that she has never recovered, that she is still suffering from mental illness. It's only when she meets Nick, a journalist, that she begins to suspect that maybe, just maybe, Dylan didn't die. Maybe she didn't kill her baby. Maybe he is still alive .....
My goodness, I swore quite a lot whilst reading How I Lost You. It's one of those stories that you think you've sussed out, then bang ..... the author flings another couple of twists at you and you are left open-mouthed in shock!
Tense and clever and absolutely exhausting; How I Lost You is an incredibly good read. Jenny Blackhurst has created a plot that is scintillating and tense. Susan is not the strongest of characters, she can appear weak and gullible, often impetuous and difficult to warm to, but she is ably supported by a cast that are very well created, not least Cassie. Cassie is a bit of an enigma, she's strong and sassy and although Susan doesn't always recognise it, she's loyal and a real mate. Male lead Nick is handsome, smooth and fairly mysterious.
Nestled in among Susan's story are flashbacks narrated mainly by a guy called Jack. Jack is a complete and utter bastard, an evil manipulator who seems to have no conscience. This short excerpts from the past are quite mystifying at first - who are these boys? It's clear that this group of young men are linked to Susan's story, but the author very cleverly keeps the reader on their toes, only releasing the odd name every now and again. This extra dimension to the story adds even more tension and intrigue, especially as the reader slowly makes the connection between the then and the now.
There are some bad bad people in How I Lost You, and they do some bad bad things and even though I think I suspected almost every character at least once during this book, I didn't work it out at all. The conclusion races up and knocks you sideways, it's fast and it's daring and it's really very very good.
How I Lost You is not perfect, but it's very close. I do think that the author has tried to fit every single idea she's ever had into one story, I've read quite a few debut novels where the author does this. There were a couple of very tiny niggles that I had and I'd loved to have known more about Cassie, but these really are just tiny little things. I would certainly recommend How I Lost You and really do look forward to reading more from Jenny Blackhurst....more
The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is published in paperback and ebook by Penguin on 21 May 2015, and is Louise Candlish's eleventh novel.
Louise CandThe Sudden Departure of the Frasers is published in paperback and ebook by Penguin on 21 May 2015, and is Louise Candlish's eleventh novel.
Louise Candlish is an author that I've enjoyed reading for many years. I would have sworn that I'd read most of her books, but looking through my lists it seems that I've only read Since I Don't Have You, and Other People's Secrets. I read them way before I started blogging, but I checked on Goodreads and I gave them both five stars. I've had a look on my to-be-read shelves, and there are a couple more of her novels lurking on there. I think it's time to bump them up the pile!
I was really happy to find that The Sudden Departure of the Frasers had been chosen as the book of the month by the Curtis Brown Book Group ~ the synopsis is wonderful, the book is big and meaty at 500 pages. I dived in and didn't come up for air for quite some time!
The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is a story of modern sacrifices, of the quest for the perfect home, and of how top-notch postcodes and gleaming kitchens can often disguise fractured people and broken relationships. Readers who are currently house-hunting should approach this novel with caution, it may make you change your mind about what is important to you!
There is a secret on Lime Park Road. Christy and Joe Davenport cannot believe that they have actually bought their 'forever' house. The small flat that they left seems miles away, this is their dream, and at such a bargain price too. However, there does seem to be something a little strange about the neighbours. Christy feels snubbed and agitated by the residents and their response to her. Maybe there is a reason why their beautiful home with it's copper bath imported from Mexico was so cheap. Why did they never meet the Frasers during the purchase of the house, and why is there no forwarding address for them? It becomes very clear that everyone on the street adored Amber Fraser, it's pretty odd that none of her so-called friends know where she moved to.
Ahh, Amber Fraser. Probably one of the most beautiful and generous characters ever created, but also one of the most flawed, but absolutely compelling too. Amber tells her story in alternating chapters, alongside Christy.
This is a totally gripping read, the mystery of why the much-loved, wealthy and seemingly happy Frasers moved out of their beautiful home is central, and the clever way that Louise Candlish slowly reveals the story is spellbinding. Amber and Christy are developed extremely well, two women with nothing in common except for a house, and for me, that house took on a character all of its own. It is the show home of Lime Park Road, the house that everyone else aspires to, yet it has secrets within its walls that creates a darkness and almost sinister feeling for the reader.
Let's talk about Rob. In Christy's story he is a shambling, bearded, rude and surly man who everyone else on the street tries to avoid. He can be very offensive, he's often frightening, yet Christy's new neighbours are loathe to talk about him. In Amber's story, which take place only a few months previously, Rob is a popular, handsome man. The women of the street flirt with him, he's a much-welcomed guest at parties, he's a very popular guy. These contrasting views of the same character are central to the mystery of the Fraser's sudden departure, and when the reader finally finds out the truth it is shocking and cruel, and quite honestly, given the damaged characters involved, it's shouldn't be quite as much a shock as it is.
This is a subtle mystery, that is woven so incredibly well. Louise Candlish adds a hint of terror and darkness to her characters and the plot is engaging and unique.
I have little in common with the characters in The Sudden Departure of the Frasers, and it is a fascinating insight into the world of eye-watering mortgage payments, interior designers, and the battle to have the best. The story will almost make the reader consider just how much sacrifice should be made in the quest to find the perfect home. I've never craved a large house (or a large mortgage), I'm pretty happy with my tiny semi-detached in an average rural market town. Getting a glimpse into this other world through this excellent story has been eye-opening and convinced me that it really doesn't matter where you live, you will always be who you are.
The blurb for The Ice Twins is certainly enticing, with hints of terror and mystery and dead children contained in it. The book opens at a great pace,The blurb for The Ice Twins is certainly enticing, with hints of terror and mystery and dead children contained in it. The book opens at a great pace, the reader is catapulted straight into what becomes a fast and furious story.... but ... there is a hint of the ridiculous about the plot, and despite the excellent characterisation and the superb setting, I just couldn't shake it off.
Sarah and Angus were the parents of identical twin girls, christened the ice twins due to their white blonde hair. The girls were inseparable, they had their own special twin language, they seemed to know exactly what the other was thinking, and it was almost impossible to tell them apart. Then Lydia died. She fell from a balcony whilst staying with Sarah's parents in Devon, and the family have been ripped apart by her death. Struggling both financially and emotionally, the Moorcrofts have grasped the only apparent lifeline that they have, they will move to a remote Scottish island, and start to rebuild their lives.
Torren island is very remote. Uninhabited, accessible only via dangerous mud-flats, no internet connection, their cottage is almost derelict and overrun by rats. It's really no wonder that the remaining twin, Kirstie starts to display strange behaviours.
The pace of this story can be described as hurtling. The reader is led a merry dance, through emotions and lies and hidden secrets, never really knowing who is telling the truth. None of the characters are particularly likeable, except for the dog, oh that dog; what a wonderful creation!
The real star of this story is the setting, and the author's expertise in describing the barren land that is a force to be reckoned with. Even though the characters are battling their own demons, there is nothing can can stand up to the battering wind and rain of a winter storm on a remote island. The weather conditions add to the tensions within the story. Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate this book, not at all. I was totally wrapped up in the story, it is really quite compelling and the writing is excellent and will thrill any reader. For me though, it was just a little over the top. I usually love the unknown; that feeling of wonderment, and trying to suss out just what the author is trying to do, but there was a niggle in the back of my mind throughout this one, and it annoyed me....more
The Silent Hours is a story that is told in threads, and each thread is expertly woven together to create an unforgettable, and quite stunning story t The Silent Hours is a story that is told in threads, and each thread is expertly woven together to create an unforgettable, and quite stunning story that has such impact, and such power. It really is quite incredible that this is a debut novel, the story is haunting and beautiful and just knowing that it is based on a real story adds volumes to what really is a gripping read.
The Silent Hours is told in multiple voices and opens just after the war in the early 1950s in a nunnery in south-west France. Adeline is a mysterious woman, a mute who arrived on the doorstep of the nunnery some years ago. Nobody knows where she came from, or her story, or why she cannot, or will not speak. The reader is allowed into Adeline's thoughts, and her story slowly unfurls - with a gentle pace, and links in to the other voices of this novel.
The other main characters are Isabelle and her brother Paul, their stories are told in the main through the letters that they write to each other during the war years. Paul is held prisoner, Isabelle remains in their small village, and waits patiently for him to return. Sebastian is a young Jewish man, his family are successful bankers, but the war and the impact of the Nazi regime on the Jews in France alter his life dramatically. He and Isobelle meet and fall in love, and their story is the foundation of the whole novel.
The reader also hears from Tristan, a young schoolboy whose family have fled Paris, and now reside in the same small village. Tristan is naive, sometimes selfish and very well protected from the horrors of war. This is his coming of age story.
Cesca Major is a huge talent, and I am certain that The Silent Hours is the start of a very successful writing career for her. She has an incredible way with words and has created a love story that is memorable. She has skilfully incorporated the horrors of war and the devastating events that happened in this village in unoccupied France into the story, and whilst the love story is strong, it is the real-life events that she so skilfully portrays that really leave an impact.
There are comparisons to Louisa Young's My Dear I Wanted to Tell You, and I agree. The Silent Hours has the same shock factor that Young's novel delivered so well. This is an incredible story, one that will affect the reader for a long time after the final page is turned....more
Set in the 1950s and beginning on Coronation Day in 1953, Without A Trace is a story populated by colourful characters who the reader will really careSet in the 1950s and beginning on Coronation Day in 1953, Without A Trace is a story populated by colourful characters who the reader will really care about.
Molly Heywood lives in a small Somerset village. Molly is a kind, warm and loving girl despite living with her brutish, violent and critical father and her timid, nervous mother. Molly's sister Emily fled the family home as soon as she turned sixteen, and Molly longs to escape too, but would never leave her mother alone with that awful man.
Molly has befriended Cassie and her small daughter Petal. Cassie is a newcomer to the village, and is something of a mystery and is also the subject of village gossip. An unmarried mother with a mixed race child she dresses in tight skirts, dyes her hair bright red and holds her head high; Cassie is a breath of fresh air to Molly, despite her reluctance to reveal any personal details about her background.
When Molly finds Cassie dead in her small cottage, and little Petal missing, her world changes completely. The Police do not seem to be interested in finding Petal, or the murderer. Molly is determined that she will find Cassie's family, surely they will want to find Petal, to make sure that she is safe?
Lesley Pearse takes Molly and her readers to the riches of London's Oxford Street, and to the poverty of the the East End. Molly's trusting nature gets her into situations with people she never thought that she would meet, in places that are alien and so different to life in a sleepy village. Through all her troubles and sadness, Molly remains determined and strong. Her experiences with her abusive father have strengthened her character far more than she could ever have imagined.
Lesley Pearse deals with emotive issues within the story of Without A Trace. The 1950s were hard times despite the end of the War and people were still nervous of change and suspicious of anyone who may be different. Laws were still in place that actively encouraged prejudice and discrimination, and the author cleverly weaves these into Molly's story.
Twenty two books by Lesley Pearse have delighted me over the years, and I'm thrilled that Without A Trace is just as enjoyable as her previous books. Molly is another of this author's trademark strong women, the whole story is gripping, and compelling from the very first page.
Lesley Pearse is one of the greatest storytellers out there. Without A Trace is unforgettable, it is told from the heart and is really very very good....more
Letters to the Lost is a book that can be described in terms that are often overused and often felt to be clichéd, please forgive me when I tell you t Letters to the Lost is a book that can be described in terms that are often overused and often felt to be clichéd, please forgive me when I tell you that this novel really is a book that you will struggle to put down, a book that is a complete and utter pager-turner and a book that the reader will lose themselves in completely. It is a story that spans sixty years, and is over 500 pages long, but the pages fly by so quickly as the story captivates the reader, you will become totally engrossed.
Letters to the Lost is a love story, it is romantic to the core, but it is also a story of struggle, of pain, of lost opportunities and of heartbreak. Iona Grey is a truly gifted writer, her ability to create this story as her debut is incredible. Her characters are startlingly realistic, and her sense of place and era is spot on - transporting the reader to England during World War II, and then whisking them back to the same London back streets, but in the modern day.
The story is told as a dual time narrative. The reader meets Jess first, she's on the run from an abusive relationship, with little money and only the clothes that she stands up in. Jess has no family to turn to. She takes refuge in an almost derelict cottage, part of a mews terrace, hidden from the busy streets of London. It is in this empty and neglected house that Jess discovers the story of Stella and Dan; war-time lovers whose story does not have a happy ending.
A letter arrives from Dan, now ninety-years-old and in ill-health. Dan has thought about his lost love for the past sixty years and wants nothing more than to track her down before his time comes. When Jess discovers an old shoe box filled with the letters that Dan wrote during the war, she becomes determined that she must help him to find Stella.
Iona Grey slips back and forth from Jess's modern story to the wartime romance of Dan and Stella with ease. There are parallels between Stella and Jess; their poor background, their lack of family and their history of abusive relationships tie them together. Jess also recognises a kindred spirit of sorts in Will - a college drop-out, a disappointment to his wealthy family, but a kind and considerate man, and between them they set out to discover just what happened to Stella at the end of the war.
There are many issues dealt with within Letters to the Lost. The difficulties of life during the war time years, the difference between the US soldiers and the British men, the inequalities that women faced, the prejudices directed towards some people and the stigma attached to invisible illness that were not understood. Iona Grey handles each of these with grace and elegance, her story telling skills are very impressive, she has written a novel that is quite stunning and very memorable.
Fans of Lucinda Riley will adore this book, Letters to the Lost is a sweeping, majestic story, I highly recommend this one....more
Whilst the actual faerie tree of the title is so very central to this story, I must admit that 'themes of paganism' would not be my usual choice when Whilst the actual faerie tree of the title is so very central to this story, I must admit that 'themes of paganism' would not be my usual choice when selecting a novel to read. However, there is so much more to The Faerie Tree than magic and spells. This is a story of human relationships, it's also modern and gritty and so so elegantly written. I was quite swept away by the whole story.
The central theme that I take away from The Faerie Tree is that of memory and loss, and how the human mind can often play tricks on us when trying to deal with trauma and tragedy.
Robin and Izzie are tremendously strong lead characters, both have their own personal issues, both have been damaged, and both have led lives that been unfulfilling. When they met, back in 1986, they were young and they were discovering love. They visited the Faerie Tree, and it is there that their relationship changed for ever. Tragedy beyond their control affected their lives, and their minds and it wasn't until twenty years later that they would face up to what happened, how they dealt with it and how to move forward.
Jane Cable creates characters that are believable, who have problems, who are often annoying and frustrating, but whose story is compelling. She cleverly takes the reader into the heads of two damaged and fragile people, and this is done so very well. Despite their faults, both Izzie and Robin are characters that the reader will root for throughout this really excellent novel.
I have to mention the faerie tree of the title, and how wonderfully it is described; both the location and the fable. This fine, strong, old tree has been a place for people to share their problems and their hopes for many years. It is decorated with ribbons, and coins and letters are left for the faeries, in the hope that visitor's problems will be resolved. The faerie tree is a symbol of hope for Izzie and Robin, and many of the more emotional scenes take place under it.
The Faerie Tree was not what I was expecting at all, it far exceeded my expectations. This is high quality writing, and the author is very talented. Her characterisation is outstanding, the story is impeccably paced and very convincing. A great novel, and one that I'd certainly recommend....more
Where to start? Where on earth to start? It's not often that I am left speechless, but oh my goodness, words totally failed me when I came to the endWhere to start? Where on earth to start? It's not often that I am left speechless, but oh my goodness, words totally failed me when I came to the end of this extremely clever and quite captivating story. Lucy Robinson is one hell of a talent, she's created some characters, made a plot and then smashed the reader straight in the face with a great big unexpected twist.
I started reading The Day We Disappeared with no preconceptions at all, I vaguely thought that it would be a kind of romantic comedy, and the early chapters seemed to prove that. There's certainly a lot of humour in Robinson's writing, and romance features quite heavily.
I can't say much about the story, it's one of those books that would be so easy to spoil in a review, and I'm damned if I'm going to spoil this one for anyone. Let's say that it's a story of secrets, of friends, of family and of running away. Both Kate and Annie are well-formed characters with their own problems, their own demons, things that have shaped them. Lucy Robinson doesn't disclose these secrets easily, so I'm certainly not going to either.
Take two scarred and vulnerable women. Hide them away from their family, their friends, and from themselves really. Create two new worlds for them - an eventing yard and a city business, populate both of these with charismatic characters and then add some darkness to the plot. Deal with some pretty scary and very serious issues, and deal with them sensitively and compassionately, but keep the humour going too.
That is exactly what you've got from The Day We Disappeared, and I loved it. It's one of those books that stay there, in the corner of your mind, niggling away, making you think and wonder, and yes, making you feel a little bit uneasy.
This really is perfect storytelling, warm and funny, and mysterious and downright terrifying in places. ...more
There are lots of recently published books that are set during World War II, it would be easy to say that the subject has been done to death, and thenThere are lots of recently published books that are set during World War II, it would be easy to say that the subject has been done to death, and then, just when you don't expect it, you come across a story like Crooked Heart. This is a story that will pull the heartstrings with it's central character of Noel and his temporary mother Vera. Two characters who are original, and quirky and completely fabulous creations. Their story is like no other, it's charming and witty and will make you smile.
Noel is a ten-year-old boy who has lived with his Godmother Mattie for most of his life. We don't know why he lived with her and not his parents, but she has moulded him into a tiny shadow of herself. Mattie was a suffragette, she didn't agree with school, or with war and Noel has had a most unusual childhood. The story begins with Mattie's demise into senile dementia, and Noel does his best to cover up for her, but it's clear that he can't carry on for much longer.
When Mattie is no more, Noel finds himself evacuated to St Albans. He is billeted with Vera Sedge, her elderly mute mother and her lazy, fat son Donald. Once again, Noel finds himself living in a strange household, with very strange people. This family is so far away from anything that he knows, yet in Vera, he finds an unlikely friend. Both wily-minded, they work together to beat the system, and despite the troubles they encounter along the way, their unorthodox means of making a living bring them together and they become a family.
Lissa Evans has a huge talent. Her characters are so vibrant, so lifelike and so damn funny. The plot races along at a great pace, with twists and turns and unexpected events along the way. War torn London, with the underground shelters, the spirit of the Blitz and the black market dealings of the less salubrious characters is a dream, so cleverly created, the reader is transported there within a couple of sentences.
Crooked Heart is a joy to read, filled as it is with characters and places that are expertly drawn and a story that is exciting and vivid. A great story, I'd highly recommend it....more
Before The Fire was inspired by the UK riots of 2011, and the story takes place over the months just prior to the riots in August of that year.
There w Before The Fire was inspired by the UK riots of 2011, and the story takes place over the months just prior to the riots in August of that year.
There were a variety of responses to the riots that summer. In Parliament, David Cameron said: The whole country has been shocked by the most appalling scenes of people looting, violence, vandalising and thieving. It is criminality, pure and simple - and there is absolutely no excuse for it.
Whilst in the Guardian, Seumas Milne wrote: While bankers have publicly looted the country's wealth and got away with it, it's not hard to see why those who are locked out of the gravy train might think they were entitled to help themselves to a mobile phone.
Stick and Mac; two seventeen-year-old boys from a run-down Manchester estate. Neither of them have a father living at home, both of them are determined to escape their dreary surroundings. They are going to drive to Spain, in Stick's old Ford. They will drive across Europe, so what if it's only two hours by plane? They will drive, that way they will see more places. Stick has never seen the sea.
Their cases are packed. They have their Euros. Their mothers are worried but know that they have to let them go. Their going away party is planned. Mac, the joker, wants to dress up. Coconut shell bras, tropical print shirts and sunglasses on, they spend what should be their last Manchester evening in a bar with a sticky carpet getting drunker and drunker. When Mac decides that it is time to leave, Stick is otherwise occupied, in the toilets with a girl wearing a blue sequinned top.
That blue sequinned top will haunt Mac for the rest of his days. Mac gets into a spot of bother on the bus during his journey home and never arrives. Stick doesn't see Mac again.
Stick is distraught, and angry and filled with grief and guilt and loss. He pushes his family away, he gets drunk, takes drugs, he just wants Mac to come back.
When Mac meets J, with her shocking bright hair and the ability to land a good punch, he is intrigued. He sees someone who is like him, who understands, and who will let him talk, and explain.
Before The Fire was inspired by the riots, but isn't really about the riots. It is a story that is exquisitely written, about rage and grief, and about modern day living. Stick is not the nicest of lads, he's uncouth, he's self-centred, he drinks too much, takes drugs and thinks about sex quite a lot. However, he is pretty realistic, he's seventeen, he's out of work, he lives with a mother who has issues of her own, his dad has a new family, his sister died in a fire and now his best mate is gone.
Sarah Butler's writing is bold and daring. Her ability to recreate the mind of a young man is stunning, and despite the horror of the riots, she enables the reader to empathise with the rioters. She has an understanding of the whys and the hows, without condoning what happened.
This novel is gritty and very near to the knuckle. Some readers may be shocked by the language, by the lifestyle choices of some of the characters. This is brutally honest writing and whilst it exposes the seedier side of life, it is also very beautiful. Whilst the language may be coarse, the message is true and clear, the exploration of the devastation of grief and loss on family and on friendship groups is precise and striking.
Before The Fire is a clever, modern, poetic novel. It is complex, exploring issues that are often glossed over, with grace and ease.
I am very impressed by Sarah Butler's writing, she is an author that I am sure will keep us entertained for years to come...more
The three Devlin sisters; Julie, Louise and Sophie are very close, yet have very different lives and personalities. Despite the closeness of their relThe three Devlin sisters; Julie, Louise and Sophie are very close, yet have very different lives and personalities. Despite the closeness of their relationships, each one of them has their own secret. These secrets form the backbone of this warm, witty and at times, pretty emotional story.
Julie is mother to four boys, including nine-year-old triplets. In the past she's had to scrimp and save to make ends meet, but life was always good. Being rich was something that Julie dreamt of, she was sure that it would make life even better. Be careful what you wish for, because as Julie has found out, inheriting millions does not equal happiness. The large house, the flash car, the designer clothes and the private education means nothing if your husband is spending all of his free time on the golf course with his new rich friends.
Sophie did have it all. A successful modelling career, a handsome husband, a beautiful daughter; money was no object. When her husband made a bad investment and lost everything, Sophie's world crumbled. She's spent the last few years putting herself back together again, running a business, being a single mother. When her small daughter Jess falls under the spell of her ex husband's new, younger, slimmer partner, Sophie is heartbroken.
Louise is in control. She's a hard-nosed lawyer, her employees fear her. Her daughter Clara is exceptionally bright. Clara can read and write, she knows everything about birds, she is polite, she's just a little shy.
Sinead Moriarty takes the reader on each sister's journey as she deals with her secret. The chapters are narrated by either Julie, Sophie or Louise, and this brings the sisters to life, allowing the reader to learn more about each of them, than even their sisters knows.
Packed with colourful characters, The Secrets Sisters Keep is charming and frank. This is not a light fluffy read and deals with some pretty serious issues, yet at times it is wonderfully funny and will have the reader roaring with laughter. The author has a real knack for creating characters that the reader can both relate to and love, and others that are despicable, yet all are very realistic.
Dealing with family relationships and bond between siblings, and not just sisters, there is a brother; Gavin, who I defy anyone not to fall just a little in love with.
I enjoyed The Secrets Sisters Keep very much. Sinead Moriarty is a great author with the knack of combining humour and sadness together in one story. Her writing is warm and witty and very entertaining...more
Ghosting is a short, but absolutely stunning novel. Jonathan Kemp has created a story that is both haunting and beautiful. His exploration of the huma Ghosting is a short, but absolutely stunning novel. Jonathan Kemp has created a story that is both haunting and beautiful. His exploration of the human mind and the way that his lead character Grace's mind is affected by her grief and loss is so powerful.
Grace is an elderly lady who sees the ghost of her first husband. Seeing Pete's image brings back vivid, painful and terrifying memories and it is not until she sees the ghost again that she realises that it is not Pete's spirit, but a real man; Luke.
Luke looks so like Pete that Grace becomes consumed by her memories and by her present situation and makes the decision to change her life completely. The reader is treated to flash backs from Grace's life, we are taken back to her youth, the heady days of the late 1950s in Blackpool when she and Pete first met. As the novel progresses, we accompany Grace through the pain of her marriage to Pete and learn more about the loss, suffering and heartbreak that she has coped with during her life.
Mental illness, death, grief, loss and despair are the themes that run through Ghosting, and although these are dark and serious issues, the novel does at times, contain glints of black humour and lots of insight,
Grace finds herself caught up with people and in places that are totally alien to her, she encounters new ways of thinking and of living. Grace opens her mind and allows herself to be helped and guided by these new experiences, and in turn, Grace herself offers the wisdom of her years to the other characters.
Wonderfully crafted, Ghosting is a story that will remain with the reader long after the last page has been turned. A novel to savour, an author to admire....more