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5 Stars "The Girl Behind The Painted Smile: My battle with the bottle" by CATHERINE LOCKWOOD
Beautiful, brutal, flawed and extraordinary.
It is always a concern for me when buying a self pubbed book because you only have your intuition to guide you. And mine was spot on here. What a wild, wild ride. The author's narrative and brutal self honesty will haunt me in the weeks to come. There is candour here that is so refreshing. An unapologetic journal of the tragedy behind addiction and the courage and integrity that it take to conquer it. Not a completely comfortable read. As always with this kind of searing truth you feel that you are in the spotlight alongside the author. Breathless and unkempt I was compelled to read this in one sitting. Absolutely super. Very well done.--Tabatha Stirling
The Girl with the Painted Smile: My Battle with the Bottle by Catherine Lockwood - 5 Stars!
Catherine’s story is so well-written it feels likes she sitting in your living room, telling you about her life, drawing you in further and making this book addictive. Often I would say to myself, just one more chapter…only to do the same as I closed into the final words of the chapter I was reading.
It broke my heart hearing about her childhood, an apathetic mother who threw around careless comments to Catherine and her sisters as well as neglected their wellbeing. Although a class clown in her teenage years she spiralled into an adolescence of self-harming, anorexia, depression and panic attacks.
I found it fascinating she worked with Vincent Price and Jack Nicholson on some films I love as well as Michael Caine, Dustin Hoffman and John Hurt to name a few! To follow her on her road to fame as a model, TV extra and even stuntwoman was fascinating…she even had a “ball-bag” incident with Russell Brand! I find it a crying shame she never got her big break (though not through lack of talent or determination, just a few unlucky moments.)
Although she outlines sad events she injects wicked sense of humour in her narration and I often found myself laughing out loud with her witty remarks.
As the book progresses to hear about her suffering from the troubled men in her life was hard and it broke my heart reading about the unnecessary pain she was put through. You want to keep reading, to make sure she’ll be ok in the end. Despite many around her bringing her down she always tried her best and the love for her children is undeniable. She accepts blame for her actions when drinking and has an honesty in her writing many would be scared to express.
Near the end there’s a chapter through the eyes of her daughter which was a great addition, if a little sad to hear. I feel this is quite important though, if alcoholics read this book. I think it could be a good wake-up call, to hear it from their children’s side and thought this was a clever chapter.
As the book comes to an end its lovely to read her about her victory on fighting alcohol, to hear that Cathy found her self-worth and inner peace and that she has loving people around her.
I like that the final chapter is her own 12 steps to healing from alcoholism. I think this is such a great touch and could help many people out there.
4 Stars "May Day" by Thom Stark
This is a book about the immediate after effect of a nuclear terrorist attack on New York. It is not the sort of book I would normally read, but it was offered to me for review by the author and I had decided I must review books outside of my normal 'reading frame' and so, in good faith I started it, and I am pleased to say, in good faith, I finished and, pretty much enjoyed it. I will come to the 'pretty much' later. Stark takes the obvious major players, POTUS and some Senators, Congressmen, as well as Generals and other high ranking officers of the US military machine, (overt and covert) and introduces them deftly and shows the mighty machine that is the US responding such an attack. And, of course, I cannot know, let alone predict how or what would happen. But I can say that Stark makes a pretty good fist of telling the tale. Some of the things he tells are, in fact, quite chilling, in particular the unholy alliance that seems to exist on the extreme right wing of the States. As the story progresses, this aspect of American life is chillingly exposed in the context of a society which is fighting to hold together in the most dreadful of circumstances. But he also tells stories of simple acts of kindness and goodness which always emerge in the wake of hideous disasters where ordinary people act in a good, kind and humane way. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, which does happen and makes good reading. I would compare this favourably with 'Road' by Cormac McCarthy which focusing almost entirely on the black, and was, for me, one dystopia too far. Stark also builds into to this essentially fragmented story enough 'long term' relationships that keep the 'story' afloat and forging forward. So I found this book a bloody good read, despite my initial reservations except, and this is where the 'pretty much' comes in, for me, it doesn't really end well. By which I mean, as a 'story' it still has not finished, even though I have, so to speak, closed the back cover. In fact, and the author makes this plain, this is the first third of a three-part book; had I the second part in front of me I would be reading it now. I believe that stories have a structure, that the human soul craves an ending, and honestly this book doesn't have a 'proper ending'. And although it draws one in, pushes one along, as it were, there are too many things that need finalizing, need an ending in the first novel.
Of course the author wants you the read the next installment, however, I think that can be done while writing a 'part' of a series.
But that is my only proviso, other than that, which is sort of technical, I guess, Stark has written a gripping and entertaining vision of dystopian post nuclear world. --David Powell
5***** "May Day" by Thom Stark
Wow, what did I like about this book?
Well for a long book, which can be daunting, I loved the punchy detailed chapters, some of which are primarily dialogue led, which offers action packed ‘showing not telling.’ The character development is well paced and not forced. The environment and events are realistic and obviously the result of intensive and thorough research. The visual imagery is excellent and reading chapters of May Day is like watching episodes of a television series, I can easily imagine this an action-packed film. The graphic detail is delicately woven into the chapters in such a way that it haunts you long after you finish reading. The craft and skill involved in maintaining so many characters in numerous settings throughout this epic book which covers just a few days in time is skillfully done.
The story is convoluted taking many twists and turns during the aftermath of a nuclear attack on the World Trade Centre in America. However, it is not your standard disaster scenario of merely hunting down the perpetrators. May Day takes you deep into the impact the events have on a variety of different people in various locations. The physical, psychological and financial events that make up the story are cleverly designed to keep the reader's attention. I am looking forward to the second book which no doubt will be equally entertaining and dramatic. -- Sarah Jane Butfield
5 Stars "Janine, Eggs and Lemons" by Jesamine James
To preface the fairness of reviews, I, as a reader do not read if a book does not interest me. There are more books to read than one can possibly get to, and my time is precious. My interest or lack thereof has nothing to do with the quality of a book, only that a review by me will never be forthcoming. In the case of Janine, Eggs, and Lemons by Jesamine James, I read the blurb, read the sample, and bought the book. Wonder of wonders, I not only read the book immediately, but left a review in a timely manner ~
This is a very swift read with a lot of meat coating the bones of a seemingly simple tale. The connection with the heroine is instantaneous and when you put down the tale, you wonder which way the characters will go since choices are on the table, so to speak.
The ending is surprising which then elicits laughter.
An overall good read wherever you're at, in locale or temper. -- Paula Shene
5 Stars "Janine, Eggs and Lemons" by Jesamine James
Delightful little recipe for fun. A child-custody case with as many layers as an onion with some delicious characters whipped in for flavor. Finished with speed and lots of surprises to a very satisfying conclusion. Only wish it had been longer. -- J. R. Biery
5 Stars "Janine, Eggs and Lemons" by Jesamine James
Wow! This novella had me gripped from the very beginning, with intense and interesting characters that came to life on the pages. The twists and turns were so unexpected I ended up reading it all in one sitting, only stopping for breath at the very end when the title completely made sense.
Quirky, clever and funny I would recommend this book to anyone who fancies something a little bit different that will leave you guessing until the very last pages. --Kelli Angliss
5 Stars "September Ends" by Hunter S. Jones and an Anonymous English Poet
This is an unpredictable book. It was nothing like what I had expected it to be when I started reading it. As a teacher and an avid reader, I am not only interested in finding a good plot, but I also tend to look for more literary aspects in a book. I was intrigued after a friend recommended this book to me to find out how a romance writer with a history of steamy-hot novels will blend her writing style with the voice of a metaphysical poet. Incongruous though it seems, they achieved a uniform style, each offering their readership a taste of their unique talents.
Why I thought this was an unpredictable book? Let me tell you about my experience with it. I bought it a few days ago and I started reading it at once. I read up to chapter 14 that day and only made myself to stop because of the late hour and the fact that I had to go to work early in the morning. It is that fast a read and it has HOT-HOT scenes that all romance fans will love. Work got in the way and I couldn't read it for the next couple of days, but the story was imbued in my mind. I picked it up again last night expecting the second half of the book to be equally lustful and that's when the unexpected happened.
Here I was then at 5.20 am. emailing my friend with a tear-streaked face and an overwhelmed heart. It took me at least twenty minutes to write a simple email. I could not find the words to express what this book made me feel.
If I was to give a subheading to this book, it would be "Life in full circle". Love, heartbreak, hope, love, pain, hope again... Isn't that how real life works? That's the message of this book. Liz Snow, the main character, goes through a lot of hardships, as we see in the first half of the book, but life has a way to show her what she should be looking for....what really matters...what we should all be looking for or expecting out of life.
I'm sure that each reader will discover something different in this book. It seems to have everything: lust, real love, pain, positivity...thrilling prose, thought-provoking poems, wittily-funny blogs...
So, high stars from me. This is a book with a difference and I honestly hope it will find the place it deserves on the book Market. --Catherine Lenderi
5 Stars "The Krankies Go Dogging" by Jesamine James
Cas is a young man in search of a job. When he finds one and embarks on a life far away from the nest, he thinks luck is finally on his side. He shares a flat with another man and fascinated by his way of life, Cas tries to imitate him. Despite obstacles, he is determined to succeed in the goals he has set. Sometimes, though, when the universe tells you you can't do it, you ought to listen.
"The Krankies go dogging" by Jesamine James is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time. The pace is fast and it keeps you turning the pages. It is a very well-written book and it promises a pleasant read that is bound to put a smile on your face. -- Catherine Lenderi
5 Stars "The Krankies Go Dogging" by Jesamine James
The Krankies Go Dogging is what you get when the world’s unluckiest man meets the world’s luckiest. It’s like an explosion contained within a book written by an author whose quirky style simply can’t be matched.
Determined to feel some of the success enjoyed by his friend Yahoo, Cas sets of on an adventure filled with misadventure as he tries to create the ultimate viral video. So unlucky is Cas that even when he manages to be in the right place at the right time, he still can’t catch a break.
Cas is likeable, though seems to have been very babied in his life and is quite willing to give up at the first hurdle. When he’s given a much needed push, he spends a lot of time stumbling. Fortunately, Cas meets Yahoo, who is willing to share is good luck, his home and even help Cas find his feet. I imagined the relationship between them as more of an uncle-nephew than a friendship, as it’s Yahoo that quite often tells Cas along the lines of, ‘never try, never know’. The message throughout the book is quite strong in that the only way to truly fail is to never attempt to succeed.
From a cat with two bums that moos like a cow, a naked dancing Batman that will stay with me forever, a book that cause havoc where ever it goes and a pub that needs saving from closing, the action and humour never stops. -- J. Cassidy
5 Stars "SARAH" by Joe Attanasio
Sarah by Joe Attansio is a fantastic read if you love historical fiction. Mr. Attansio has taken the life of Sarah Bradley Cox Oort Kidd Rousby and created a story that weaves what little truth we know about her life with a fictional background which will draw you in from the first chapter. The turbulent period which saw New Amsterdam become New York is the perfect background for this intriguing woman's life story. I highly recommend this book. It is easy to read and very entertaining. My favorite part is how Sarah and the pirate, Captain William Kidd, plot to remove her second husband. -- Hunter S. Jones
5 Stars "The Wrong Shade of Yellow" by Margaret Eleanor Leigh
Not the type of book I would ordinarily pick up, but so glad to get a copy from the author. Wonderful, funny, full of surprises. To imagine a mid-life crisis woman buying a bike to pedal across Europe alone to see Greece, well I couldn't. Read the book straight through. The writing is crisp, witty, and keeps you puffing over the next hill to see what the adventurous heroine is going to discover next, and more to the point, what insightful and honest thing she will have to say about it. Recommend this book to anyone wanting a fresh, wonderful read. -- J.R. Biery
5 Stars "The Wrong Shade of Yellow" by Margaret Eleanor Leigh
WHERE EVEN THE FISH ARE HAPPY - and so was this reader
I want to escape, I need to escape, but it is always easy to defer the actual moment – there’s a drainpipe to fix, and the kids still need a bit of watching. And so we read-escape.
I started reading Margaret Leigh’s THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW on a grey Monday morning in November. I had the makings of a cold at the time. Not ideal. I knew nothing of the author and nothing about the story, other than I liked the title and rather liked the splash of yellow on the cover. And I like bikes. And there’s a bike on the cover.
Here’s to serendipity, I thought. Here’s to escaping the known knowns in my life.
THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW is delightful reading journey about an actual journey at a mid-point in the author’s life journey. It’s the sort of journey many of us would love to make if only we.. The drainpipe, right? We are too busy, too settled, to dull to get off our comfy backsides to do it. The fact is probably a little less palatable to us, actually. We are probably too fearful to do it. We have too many possessions, too much to do, too much to lose. Too, too, too, too.
Not Margaret Leigh. To be fair though, she has the right background for a cycle ride from London to Greece in search of a personal utopia. She’d already moved around a bit in her life – from three continents – and avoided the usual middle-class career rut, basically by not having a career. A doctorate in church doctrine tells us she was never cut out to skyrocket through the glass ceiling to prominence in some serious busy-ness. She is the sort of person who prefers to plough their own furrow, or, more aptly, peddle their own bike. We need such people. Their vague impracticability is a sort of repository of useful genes, in a world where the quest for efficiency kills individuality. Our hopes for a better future are kept alive by such people because they are not afraid to take a risk, to get out there on a totally silly jaunt and just do it – damn it!
Margaret Leigh’s big bike ride is not what you would call a model of hyper-organised efficiency. She hasn’t ridden a bike for decades and she is lugging all kinds of stuff she will never use, but can’t bring herself to ditch. And guess what she does ditch. Her maps. Yes, the maps are gone before she’s got out of Holland.
The great thing about meeting new people, and we do meet Margaret Leigh through her charming little work, is that we learn their little ways. The author has very definite views about Belgium, Italy and dogs, for example. And she is not a purist about her journey. When she feels the need to is ready to resort to the odd train, though this causes her all sorts of problems, principally getting up and down stairs.
So how does she fare? Brilliantly and terrible, in equal measure. She suffers a sinister pursuit by a small black car, a rib-cracking injury, gratuitous insults on the open road, increasing worries over money, 40-degree heat, the threat of savage dogs – especially as she gets closer to her dreamed of utopia. But it is the annoying people she encounters who seem to drain her the most: surly ticket clerks, moronic bank staff back home, insane camp site owners, German tourists who’ve brought everything with them. Then there’s the snakes, spiders, flies and a pan-handling dog.
That said, she meets some beautiful people, especially when she reaches Greece. She catches their moments of pure joy in their company. Indeed, this is was the key characteristic of THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW for me, the joy the author conveys to us. It starts in Holland, once she’s plucked up courage to pedal forth after being stuck on a pink gin palace with a lugubrious Brit.
She experiences, ‘a growing sense of freedom and joy’ and ‘days of pure joy’ as she warms to being out on the road and alone in her tent at night, close to nature. The rhythm of the journey makes her philosophical, too. ‘There’s something to be said for illusions,’ she says, ‘They protect us for unpleasant realities to come.’ And this on reaching Nice, ‘There’s something unspeakably lonely about cycling in the city. I never once felt lonely in the countryside.’
Her internal compass directs her ever southwards until she reaches Greece, where a native say as she looks out over an idyllic bay, ‘see, even the fish are happy here.’ By the time she reaches Greece she is at times blissfully happy as she peddled among lonely mountains where her only companions ‘were eagles.’
Yet not everything is perfect. She records the ugly blistering that tourism causes. And there are those damned Greek dogs – definitely not pets – vicious farm dogs. But even one of her worst encounters produces a moment of ‘quite extraordinary grace, of providence.’
And then this, as some instinct draws her ever on to her utopia, ‘There was no feeling quite like the one that came from freewheeling down a gentle slope, wind in my hair, and not a care in the world.’ Marvellous! If we close our eyes and concentrate for a moment, we can feel it, too, if we have it in us to.
And so to Methoni – utopia – a place without even an artichoke festival to roll one’s socks up and down. And a campsite ‘unhygienic enough to deter Germans.’ Sauce! But we know what she means. You can be toooooo hygienic.
The author is in ‘the land of doves cooing’ – even if she can barely afford to eat and she’s its furnace hot. Sparrows feed from her hand.
But this is Greece, land of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, tragedy and there is a minor tragedy in THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW. Perhaps it is the nature of all utopias, all escapes to a better place and a better time. Ach, the human condition!
You will have to read THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW to learn the significance of its winning title – a title which sort of put its arm around my shoulder and whispered ‘read me’ into my ear. May it do the same for you. -- R.J. Askew
4 Stars "Solutions Inc." by DB Stephens
Solutions Inc. by DB Stephens is a thriller about an ex-marine, Bucky, who finds himself in a predicament and decides to become a mercenary for a ruthless mystery man. Although I am not a fan of thrillers of this kind and I was a bit intimidated by the length of the book at first, I have to admit now that I am glad I picked it up. This book is so well-written and fast-paced that the length doesn't matter. You will finish it in no time at all. It is obvious that Mr. Stephens has done a lot of research for this book and all the technicalities are absolutely accurate.
I liked it and I highly recommend it, not only to the fans of the genre but to all readers looking for a good book. -- Catherine Lenderi
5 Stars "A Slight Mistake in the Code" by Tom Greenwood
This well-written journeying, action adventure story, takes Janol and his new found friend Onnil around a world of continents inside a Dyson sphere which was constructed by Earth humans many thousands of years before.
It is a tale of fantasy and magic, but also completely scientifically explained and plausible.
I won't spoil the surprises in store for you by delving any deeper into the storyline, but I assure you that this book will leave you pondering on the similarities of this future world with our own present and past human flaws. -- Jesamine James
5 Stars "Altered Life" by Keith Dixon
PI Sam Dyke is a smart and calculating character when in the right frame of mind. At other times he gets confused and suffers from migraines making him likeable, real and down-to-earth.
I believe this is the first book in the series, and the murder mystery (which I won't spoil) unravels and is concluded to satisfaction while leaving an underlying storyline of Sam's personal life and past in the wings – waiting to be revealed in later books I assume.
This book has definitely made me want to read more of Keith Dixon's work not just the Sam Dyke series.
There are none of the usual problems associated with indie books. This book is exceptionally well written, edited and formatted to the standard of traditional publishing, if not more so.
Highly recommended. -- Jesamine James
5 Stars "Scrag - Up the Hill Backwards" by Jesamine James
WHEN READING A BOOK STRIKES A BLOW AGAINST EVIL - review of 'SCRAG - UP THE HILL BACKWARDS'
I read this story when I was on holiday with my family of three teens in a tranquil part of England during a very pleasant spell of sunny weather. This is how life should be, right? OK a teen is a teen is a teen is a teen. But on the whole my crew are OK. I try to be an OK dad. It is one of life's blessings for a guy to be a dad.
So why do so many men mess it up? Why do so many of us screw up the lives of those we are supposed to nourish and be espaliers to? What makes a man like Richard the vile step-father in Jesamine James acutely beautiful UP THE HILL BACKWARDS turn evil? I guess a shrink might offer a load of reasons with footnotes to all sorts of studies. But the word evil works for me.
UP THE HILL BACKWARDS is not about Richard though and it is not about his evil doings, few of which are detailed. The story is about Jes, his step-daughter, her suffering, intelligence, resilience, defiance, and survival.
I've read and heard a lot about evil men like Jimmy Savile preying on kids recently. If we are honest we all know it has gone on forever. It is one thing to be hurt by a stranger, but when the stranger is a parent, or step-parent. How the hell does a kid live with it? A kid doesn't know how to front down the person who is supposed to defend them, not destroy them.
UP THE HILL BACKWARDS shows us how Jes works things out as best she can, how she copes, how she makes her little escapes, and then her big escape, and ultimately takes a very, very big step to deal with the evil man who is her worst enemy.
This is a harsh story. But it is also achingly beautiful because of the insight it gives into a normal kid's spirit. Yes, she does bad things. She sleeps around in a lovelessly casual way to 'dilute' her tormentor's influence on her. She does glue with other messed up kids, at least one of whom dies young. She sneaks INTO a children's home to find friends and solace. And when she is older, Mr.Vodka awaits her .. 'I said, go easy on the mixer!'
The writing in UP THE HILL BACKWARDS is intelligent and matter-of-fact. It is stripped of sentimentality. The story shoots straight and sparingly. It is coolly and sharply told. No words are wasted. And it is very convincing.
I could see the traces of pink paint in the knot swirls in the long case of bad Richard's collection of clocks. And I could see the wooden lasts burning in the fire before which Jes is sitting in her Northampton trap of a home, burning her leg. The lasts for me were symbols of a more solid time. Naive I admit. But that is what I felt as I read that dab. So, too, later on, Jes bemoans the loss of so many pubs - in part because she wants a drink - but, more significantly because of the loss of community spirit. Perhaps bad things are less likely to happen when we get out from the intensity of our self-contained little worlds. Maybe there is a message for all of us in this as our online lives see many of us sinking into potentially damaging isolation. For it is not in that isolation that men like evil Richard can flourish?
Jes is not beaten, never beaten spiritually, though she is beaten physically. She plots her escape. This passage of UP THE HILL BACKWARDS was top draw because it made me feel how it was for her, the sheer terror of what she was attempting to do .. to .. just .. get .. on a bus .. and go. And, ach, the pain of how it all goes wrong for her. Yet she persists, this is the point .. she persists. She keeps going. But, o the sadness of how things turn out with her literally on a slow boat back to her tormentor, witnessing the hypocrisy of another man, this time a manipulative youth using religion to get his lustful way, con control.
So I learnt a lot and I thought a lot as I read UP THE HILL BACKWARDS, which I believe will make an excellent piece of drama on a stage or on a screen. I swear to you, it deserves to be on a stage in Northampton where the story is set. That would be something because it would show that Jes, through her art, has triumphed in a creative way over the destroyer who was Richard and over whom she does triumph personally.
I am a middle-aged bloke who's had an OK life. I have never messed anyone up and I was not messed up as a kid. But for anyone who has suffered or is suffering an evil Richard I am certain that UP THE HILL BACKWARDS may well prove a lifeline. So the book deserves to be out there and read because its message is an important message of survival and a slap for those of us who are complacent or dismissive about the things others less well off have to endure.
So the next thing to do it get it and read it. By reading UP THE HILL BACKWARDS you will be doing something to fight against the evil it shows us is among us. The more Jes succeeds, the more the evil recedes. -- R. J. Askew
5 Stars "Scrag ~Up the Hill Backwards" by Jesamine James
Scrag – Up The Hill Backwards by: Jesamine James is based on a true story, her story. Jesamine James had the courage and the motivation to pen her story in the hopes that it would help others. She was driven to write this by the need to share her story in order to enlighten people about the telltale signs of abuse.
This story contains the essence of her and her families own abuse for more than eleven years. Her step father who was a paedophile, an abuser, and a control freak walked into her life at the age of six. He was a clever and cunning monster who manipulated and misused all the people around him.
Jesamine’s story does not sugar coat the pain, paranoia, fear and loneliness that accompanies this kind of abuse. Jesamine’s survival hung precariously everyday of her life. Strength of character, a strong will and even dumb luck were ultimately responsible for her survival.
She will never be whole, for once a person is broken, they can never be whole again. Horrific memories will always haunt her. Her survival is her story. Jesamine is still alive and fighting for she has spirit.
This book may well save a child from similar atrocities. Read the book and open your heart and mind to see what happens. Look hard around you, for abuse is usually carefully disguised. Be ever watchful for this scourge affects many helpless children. -- Joe Attanasio
5 Stars "Scrag ~ Up the Hill Backwards" by Jesamine James
This book is one of the most harrowing that I've read. Having said that it is one of the best I've ever read too. It is a tale of horror and courage and I have to say I am very impressed that a person could overcome something as dire as this person did and still manage to cling to sanity by her finger tips. As the book states on several occasions - how can a child be taken to such extremes without the outside world seeing, believing and acting to make sure this vile crime stops. Pick it up and read it - I guarantee you won't regret the read but it may well change your perspective on parts of life and humanity. -- Pat Walker
5 Stars "Scrag ~ Up the Hill Backwards" by Jesamine James
Our worst fears is for our children to be preyed upon so what happens when it starts in the family home? Throughout her childhood Marie was branded a liar and yet showed a strength and bravery that not even very many “grown-ups” possess.
I found this a very hard book to put down, a combination of wanting to know if Marie finds the peace of mind she deserves as you are allowed further into her world, the inner workings of her heart breaking coping mechanisms and the excellent way it is written. Scrag - Up the Hill Backwards moved me to tears many times, making me hold my little girl that little bit longer and that little bit tighter.
I would definitely recommend this true story of a young girl’s painful childhood and how she refuses to play the victim. Although a person can never truly recover from such horrendous memories, her outlook and determination in not only her adult life but also her teenage years are an inspiration. A must read for all parents, for we must protect our children and pay attention to the signs of abuse.
I recently downloaded another book by Jesamine James, Janine, Eggs and Lemons and am looking forward to reading more of her work. -- Kelli Angliss
5 Stars "AKURITE EMPIRE BOOK 1: THE RED KNIGHT" by Samuel Z Jones
I must admit that though I am not a particular fan of fantasy books, I was instantly drawn into this story and kept reading it till I reached the last page. The Red Knight is a fast-paced story with lots of epic action. Besides the wonderful descriptions of characters and scenery, I was equally impressed by Samuel Z Jones remarkable ability to write using impeccable grammar and punctuation. As an English teacher, the correct use of language is something I always look for in a book and I was delighted to discover it in one of Mr. Jones' books.
I highly recommend it to all readers looking for an extremely good book and not just to fantasy fans. -- Catherine Lenderi
5 Stars "One Swift Summer" by R. J. Askew
Dat is Het. That’s what Vincent van Gogh used to say whenever he encountered a book or a painting possessing that indefinable quality for which no word exists in any language.
If he were alive today I do not doubt he would say of R J Askew’s One Swift Summer also: “Dat is het.” (Trans. That is It.)
Definitions might vary, but for me“Het” is a quality that transcends time, and is the mark of a work that is truly inspired. It is a quality that leaves a person speechless, even the normally garrulous. I was not expecting to discover “Het” when I started reading One Swift Summer, because one finds it so infrequently. But this is a book that flies as high above its contemporaries as its eponymous swifts and if you don’t believe me, I suggest you start reading it.
I normally avoid literary fiction. I find it mostly self-indulgent and almost always pretentious. But there’s nothing self-indulgent or pretentious about One Swift Summer. Dat is Het, after all.
One reading of this book can never be enough, and I will revisit it one day, although preferably in paperback. Now for the difficult bit – describing One Swift Summer, something I find well nigh impossible. On one level this book is a paean to nature, and a corresponding attack on the unnaturalness of modern life. “Maybe we are even more what we watch than what we eat…” says the main character, who spends his days watching the swifts in Kew Gardens, that “sweetest of smiles on the face of London.”
But it’s also a story and a great story too, populated with a cast of characters so perfectly drawn that they spring off the page, like the businessman with his “titanium halo of success,” or the middle aged woman “performing her devotions on the altar of that little Dell of hers.”
It is my prediction that this book will stand the test of time, and go on to become a classic of British nature-literature, of poetic literature. The down side of all that will be all the uber-boring literary critics who will start writing uber-boring articles about it. But that will be a small price to pay to see this book take its rightful place in the canon. -- Margaret Eleanor Leigh
4 Stars "One Swift Summer" by R.J. Askew
I have to admit that this book was not for me, but I have still given it 4 stars as I do recognize the skill, the thought and the effort that went into the writing. I suspect that this kind of book is the sort that wins literary prizes for its insight into the human psyche and goes deeply into behaviour and reactions. For me there was not enough action and I could not see where the book was going. I would recommend this book if you like literature that makes you think. -- Lucinda E. Clarke
5 Stars "One Swift Summer" by R.J. Askew
"One Swift Summer" will lure you into the magical world of poetic literature. When passionate poetry and captivating prose interweave in such a way that evoke your most beautiful inner emotions and help you escape reality, then this is a "must-read" book.
While Emma Saywell, his main character, captures images on her camera, R.J. Askew’s book promises to captivate your heart AND soul.
Highly recommended to lovers of good books. -- Catherine Lenderi
4 Stars "The Incorruptible" by Margaret Eleanor Leigh
Great book! I would definitely read more by this author.
A lady reporter goes to Greece to avenge the death of her cousin, who had been taken and killed by people traffickers
who are enticing young girls into prostitution.
Against all odds, she takes on the corrupt police force and the global mafia, but is finally helped by an unexpected source. -- Lynn Whyte-Heath
4 Stars "A Butcher's Tale" by Joe P. Attanasio
Although I had heard of Little House of the Prairie, I have not read the books and so had no prior knowledge to the events that appear in this book. I am a big fan of historical fiction, I particularly find the era of the Middle Ages very fascinating. I felt A Butcher's Tale effortlessly put in details of the 1300's and it is plain to see a lot of research has gone into carving out the characters' lifestyles to make them seem as authentic as possible.
The simplicity of the language used reflects the time period it is set in. Each chapter is fast-paced, a lot happens over the five years the book spans over. For a first book by Joe P. Attanasio I think it is great and have a lot of respect for him beginning his writing career at 62! -- Kelli Angliss
5 Stars "Taboo 0: Cliché of Memories (The Generalist, #1)" by Thomas Duder
This was quite strange at first but it was very easy to get on board with it. The characters are absolutely awesome in their unbelievably brash and politically incorrect attitude to everything and everyone. This simply makes them more enjoyable to be around and the adventure is never going to be dull with them! The banter between characters is at times hilarious and definitely enriches the tale adding to the multi-level enjoyment for the reader. This has definitely opened a hew series in a very good way and I heartily recommend it to anyone that enjoys life in a tongue in cheek way! -- Pat Walker
5 Stars "Taboo 1: Where's the Beef? (The Generalist #2)" by Thomas Duder
Following on from Taboo 0 this is just as much fun to read. We learn more about the 2 main characters as the story progresses and we also meet a new friend. The characters, as in the first book, are really well depicted and once again I often found myself throwing my vision of them around as the action took us into some exhilarating beat em up style scenarios. The story has all it needs to keep us turning those pages and cheering or shouting abuse as the Spook Squad stumble through another brilliantly written chapter in the saga. -- Pat Walker
5 Stars "Raiding on the Western Front" by Anthony Saunders
TEMPERED STEEL NERVES TO MATCH THE ENEMY'S WIRE - BRILLIANTLY ORIGINAL WW1 STUDY
Every now and again I need to read history. I feel it anchors my life in some deep way. I am interested in most history, but being British I am particularly interested in British history as it is my history, literally. WW1 fascinates many British people for all sorts of reasons, some deeply profound. That said, I’m no expert in the subject.
But I do know enough to enjoy a specialist read such as Anthony Saunders authoritative RAIDING ON THE WESTERN FRONT. I learnt a lot from this excellently researched and intelligently presented insight into a neglected aspect of the conflict. The outcome has the feel of a PhD thesis. It is convincing. I believe it and the conclusions to be drawn from it.
I found myself reading in two ways at once. My head was engaged on the analytical level because the book could have been written by a senior staff officer tasked with assessing the evolution of raiding, the principles at play behind it, and the effectiveness of the various armies in its practice.
At the same time, I read the book with my guts, with a keen curiosity as to how it must have felt to be charging along behind a barrage with a view to getting into the Hun trench before its defenders could get out of their dugouts. My imagination was at times entirely engaged.
There were also some surprising little insights, for example, that the need for closely co-ordinated action led to the popularisation of cheap wrist watches.
The books mastery of detail fed my imagination. For example, the destruction of the enemy’s wire was a key consideration in most of the raids described. Often this had to be done by hand, sometimes by just two men before the raid kicked off.
Saunders’ words brilliant evoked for me the critical ‘snip and ping’ moment when the wire was cut by hand with a pinging noise, one of the two man party holding the wire to prevent it also making a noise as it sprang apart. And then to think that the cutters might have to do this hundreds of times only a few yards from an enemy trench. I felt like I was there.
What really surprised me was that there may not have been anyone in the trench because of the practice of thinning the front line to minimise casualties from bombardments, a tactic which shows how the conflict evolved. I got a strong impression of it being as much a cat and mouse game requiring great deftness and cunning, in sharp contrast to the more populist view of it being a stupid slugging match. The raid was an art form involving great skill to pull it off successfully.
Above all though, was the notion that these mini wars were a breeding ground for new tactics. Infantry men evolved from being mere riflemen into all-arms experts. New notions of defence in depth also evolved and raiding clearly led to the development of storming parties and the new tactics which were used to shocking effect by the Germans in their Spring Offensive of 1918 and then by the allies in The 100 Day Offensive which destroyed German resistance and won the war.
Raids were going on all the time. They kept troops alert. Local domination was all to many of the troops engaged. Studying raids reminds us of how intensely personal it all was for those involved.
And they volunteered. Why we wonder? What motivated them? And always, how must it have felt? What must it have been like to practise the raid and then to be their doing it? How did the young officers feel? What did the tough sergeants think?
And the kit. How would the new grenades work? The new ideas of camouflage. They also had to worry about the moon. Too much light. Not enough light.
Another aspect revealed by RAIDING ON THE WESTERN FRONT is the analysis of the time. The raids were closely assessed, statistics emerged. So to, the planning for each raid could run into many pages of orders with carefully laid plans for scores of guns of various calibres to fire thousands of shells in carefully choreographed patterns.
And all so that thirty men could crawl across no-man’s-land, lay up, roll over the wire, bomb their way into a trench, jump in, bayonet any resistors and then scramble back out – hopefully with a couple of prisoners, possibly dragging a captured machine gun. All in about twenty minutes.
The raiders might even linger outside their own trenches to avoid the retaliatory shelling.
Yes, when you look with a careful eye – as Anthony Saunders does – there is a lot more to be gleaned from The Great War, tactically, strategically, from the general staff's 'SS107 Notes On Minor Enterprises' to the perspective of Tommy Atkins crawling around between the trenches.
Some of the language deployed in RAIDING ON THE WESTERN FRONT was finely rifled. For example, by 1917-18 the ‘enthusiastic extemporised enterprise was no longer even considered.’ Presumably, this meant that a raid could no longer be triggered because someone in the opposing trench had a habit of whistling in an annoying way. That said, some raids ‘retained an almost primordial texture’ as late as December 1917.
Oh yes, what a war it was! Can you imagine the tough old sergeant, himself wounded, who goes back to lug a wounded mate from an enemy trench only to discover half-way across no-man’s-land that he’s carrying a dead German.
I give RAIDING five stars because I was impressed by the works sheer authoritativeness and because it learnt from it and my imagination was stirred by it. I would and probably will read more of the author's works on the war at some future point when my need to read history grips me again. --R. J. Askew
5 Stars "I AM A COWBOY" by Alexander Kurtis
I AM A COWBOY is a tightly-written contemporary morality novella of character and charm. Wyatt, the cowboy, is the full package, your tall, square-jawed, manly dude, good with his hands and uncomplicated to a fault. He loves his place in the world, his farm, his cows, and his horse called Dakota. He has no internet connection and is not engaged with the allegedly civilised world in any way whatsoever, other than needing to go into town occasionally to buy nails and such.
He is your archetype strong silent man, has a commendable protestant work ethic and wastes no time for pleasurable distractions. His existence on his farm is a monk-like routine of simple chores.
Many modern men would be horrified if they had to live like him. They just couldn’t do it even if they wanted to because the nature of what a man is supposed to be has changed in many ways.
One of the key defining characteristics of Wyatt is his horror of attention. He is totally world shy. The concept of Facebook to someone like Wyatt wld make them want to leave the planet.
He is totally out of his time. Perhaps he is how men were before certain changes took place in the last half of the last century.
Some might say he is an impossibility, that he never existed. But then he is an archetype, a model, a construct. He doesn’t need to be for us to approve of him.
He doesn’t bullshit. His most likely response is, ‘Hrm’. Though when things get too much for him he will utter his almost robotic mantra, ‘I am a cowboy,’ as if to remind himself that he is not part of the contemporary human crap going on around him.
Unfortunately for him though, he is the shy, decent person, trapped in a hunk’s body. And the world, being the world, will not leave him alone.
One event changes everything for him.
A first meeting between Shea, a local girl in the Mom and Pop store, and her online boyfriend goes badly wrong. Wyatt walks in on what is shaping up to be a rape and saves the day. He becomes a hero. The press wants a piece of him. Shea falls for her saviour. The online boyfriend seems to symbolise the depths modern man has fallen to.
But Wyatt is a reluctant hero, naturally, aren’t all true heroes? He can’t wait to get back to his ranch and cattle. Phew!
But the press does its thing word gets out about Wyatt. And then the story really gets going as a sequence of intrusions into Wyatt’s life rock his equilibrium.
His estranged father, a womaniser and more, turns up to sponge on his son after a row with his present wife. Wyatt hates him, but suffers his presence.
A thank-you-supper with Shea’s folks almost unhinges Wyatt when Shea comes onto him big time. But our hero resists the lust she triggers in him, though it’s a close run thing. ‘Hrm.’
Wyatt does not crack in the face of these challenges to his simple ethic. He recalls his fifth birthday, the good times. His dead mother still looms large in his life, conditioning his responses to the world.
He ignores Shea and she fades from his thoughts. But his father becomes remorseful in his cups and partly redeems himself before he takes off as abruptly as he arrived.
And then things really go pear-shaped for Wyatt when his ex turns up. I was actually surprised when Wyatt cracked and had rampant sex with her, shattering his archetypal reserve. So he is human after all! His ex wants to get together again. But Wyatt has by now worked out that they were both lying to themselves in their earlier relationship, were pursing unrealistic dreams in each other. Both Wyatt and his ex seem to have grown up when they part.
But the archetype isn’t finished. There is a moment of pure bliss when Wyatt finds himself alone again with Dakota – his one true love – threatening not to comb out the knots in her mane if she doesn’t do his bidding. But Dakota is skittish as if letting Wyatt know that he’s neglected her. But then Wyatt knows her well enough not to push things. ‘Hrm’!
Then came the most interesting point in the story for me: how would the author would land it? We see Wyatt standing out in the yard of his ranch, ‘like a marble statue.’ Will he sink back into the isolationist life of an archetypal hero figure, or engage with the world in some way?
Perhaps I should leave it to you to find out.
The message I got from the story was that our romantic heroes are just as flawed and as frail as we are and that the key to happiness in human relations is honesty with and about ourselves and with others. And the importance of communication. The only way Wyatt and his ex could communicate was through rampant sex, with her reading the ‘familiar and addictive Braille of his pores.’ But such body language is never enough.
I AM A COWBOY might make really brilliant reading for many of those young guys who have suffered brain damage from watching too much internet porn. Their synapses have literally been fused leaving them impotent and confused. I believe the story might help some guys to work out their own relationship with self-image, expectations and their place in a world where relationships have been disastrously reduced to a sort of materialistic barrage of digital body language of the most primal sort. Wyatt, at the outset of I AM A COWBOY, is at an opposite extreme to this in his isolation from the modern. Perhaps the way he finds the middle ground could be of use to others who need to find it, too, though they are starting from a different position to Wyatt’s. That said they may be just as isolated from reality, hunched over their computer screens, perhaps making dates with the likes of Shea. -- R. J. Askew
5 Stars "The Obvious" by J. Cassidy
I can see this as a screenplay. That's how it played out in my mind.
The emotion and anger of the dialogue pulls you into this story and Sammy's mind, making it unputdownable. I read it in one go.
It's well written and although things are purposely hidden they are obvious (as in the title). This story is very cleverly put together.
Without spoiling it – I will only say that I was surprised by the ending. I didn't see it turning out the way it did. This book left me pondering over it for a long time afterwards. -- Jesamine James
5 Stars for "The Obvious" by J. Cassidy
Sammy is a young woman who has been through a lot in her life and although she doesn't quite like her way of life now, she doesn't know how to change it. She struggles to find the answers she is looking for, but sometimes what is right there in front you is the best solution. Will she realise the obvious before it's too late?
I will not say anything else, not wanting to spoil it for you, but this is no ordinary romance. The characters are absolutely realistic and their interractions are so lifelike, you honestly think they are people you know. This is a book worth reading and I am sure you will all enjoy it.
Note to the readers: Keep a box of tissues nearby, just in case! -- Catherine Lenderi
5 Stars "When Time Comes" by Cat Nicolaou
‘This is the story of’ is a beginning to a review that will not do the book justice. But this is the story of Athena, unhappy and unemployed, whose life changes because she finds a job in teaching art, something she adores.
Though it may not appear to have much to do with the story, it is a boost to her confidence and the reason she decides to treat herself to a concert starring Alex Dane. Good looking rock star, one time fling, and quite possibly, something much more.
Young Athena met Alex many years ago and a relationship started that never got the chance to properly develop. Now, faced with meeting him again, Athena dares to dream that now the time is right.
The romance is sweet, the steamy scenes are very…. steamy… and the characters are oh-so-bad at communicating. As much as this is a romance, it’s also a tale of how and why such perfect relationships can go wrong.
I would have liked to see more of both characters in different situations, so I could get to know them better. This wouldn’t help the story along in any way, but since I grew quite fond of them, I wasn’t quite ready to leave them yet. --J. Cassidy
5 Stars "When Time Comes" by Cat Nicolaou
Not being one for romance, I thought I'd give it a go and see what all the fuss was about.
Well, I was quite surprised by this shy, innocent, little Romance story. It's pretty steamy in parts—I'm not sure where the line is drawn for erotica, but it was more “Romantic” than I was expecting.
As a women's fantasy novel, it presses all the right buttons. The heroine feeling she is trapped with her parents in a mundane loveless life and a Rock star hero who is past his prime and accepting his life has been a flit from concert to concert and missing out on a settled family life.
For a début novel it's incredibly well-written and edited compared to the standards of many books on Smashwords.
There is a second short-story at the end which might be a taster of what this author has up her sleeve for the next book. I hope so. I'm looking forward to it already. -- Jesamine James
5 Stars "When Time Comes" by Cat Nicolaou
This is a beautifully written debut novella that pours love at first sight from every word. No matter how long it takes us to find The One, this story asks us to never stop looking and always be aware that the next stranger we see could be that person. It shows us that no matter what a person's situation or circumstance if we truly believe in something or someone, kismet will find a way to bring you together. In real life that fairy tale really can be just around the next corner and the story of the two characters in this tale gives us everything and more that we could ever want from happily ever after, even when it could so easily have fallen apart. Both of the central characters are well formed and cohesive and each brings the necessary flair to the story to give it credence with just a little extra surprise at the end to bring a smile to the face of the reader.
I received an e-copy of the novella from the author in exchange for an honest review. --Pat Walker
ST ALBANS, March 23 - Mother to daughter - 'How I wish you'd never been born, you've caused us all so much grief and pain'. Lucinda E Clarke's 'Walking over eggshells' is a tale of survival in the face of excoriating maternal rejection. Some mothers, it seems, are not naturally inclined to be the carriers and guardians of life; where they should comfort they reject, where they should encourage they damn, where they should love they revile.
Mother to daughter - 'If I'd known how you were going to turn out, I'd never have had you. You are such a disappointment to me, I'm ashamed of you.' Just typing such razor words is an unsettling experience. I can't imagine being on the receiving end of them. Nor can I imagine what it takes to utter them. Personally, I hope I would have walked and carried on walking and never turned back. But this may be easier said than done. Perhaps staying is even harder, however. No, there is no winning for the daughter of such a cruel mother.
Mother to daughter - 'You're just an ungrateful child. I told you you'd always be bad, you always have been. You never deserved a mother like me.' Year after year, decade on decade.
I confess the mother makes an interesting study. Most monsters do. We wonder why and how she is as she is, all sorts of things. And, of course, how we might respond to such systemic and routine belittlement. The author - who was still getting physically slippered when she was twenty - simply gets on with things as best she can. Her resilience as extreme as the attacks she endures. We are brutal animals at times. And all this behind a seemingly nice middle-class facade. It was ever thus. Amazingly, the author doesn't become an urban terrorist or even a junkie. She goes off to teacher training college. All very normal. Childline had not been dreamed up then. Things were hushed up. Yet, it was the late 1960s, and things they were a-changing - the music, hair, hemlines, the pill. To many of the mother's generation, it was a time of shocking degeneracy, the end of everything.
Inter-familial wars were commonplace, as the new youth pushed and pushed, and the last of the old school tried to keep their 'children' in their place.
Mother to daughter - 'Oh yes, it's all about the young now, isn't it? Everything's for them, nothing for normal (reviewer's italics) people.'
So 'Walking over eggshells' in some way reflects the wider pain of a new generation, struggling to find its way in a world that was lost and found in a tumult of war and revolt: Vietnam, civil rights, MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction), Led Zeppelin, purple flares. The author even owned the sixty-fifth Mini to roll off the production lines. Now how cool was that? Yet she still displayed strong traits of the old school. She dates a young Tory and seems set to marry into the burbs. But - what's this? - a powerful counter-weight to her mother enters the story. Jeremy the job-getter. Alas, Jeremy loses jobs as rapidly as he gets them. That said, he shows off-the-scale initiative, marries the author and whisks her off on a succession of adventures from Scotland to Joburg, via Libya, Kenya, and Botswana. For this reader, the best part of the book was the time spent in Libya. If you have to escape a cruel mother, Libya is as good a place as any. But in all seriousness, the insights into what seemed like a last hurrah for the buccaneering colonial approach to go-getting was both entertaining and enlightening. The author was kept very busy in every outpost and became progressively busier when she herself had children and Jeremy-the-job-loser becomes increasingly unreliable, as his drinking and business mishaps mount until he and the author finally drift apart. This part of the story is profoundly sad, reflecting and compounding earlier hurts. The questions mount along with the debts. I was moved that the author was still struggling to come to terms with her mother in her mid forties. Both she and her mother remarry, adding further players to their lifelong battle. It makes no sense to an outsider. But this seems to be the essential nature of family warfare - senselessness. That said, the author was not wont to dwell on her own misfortunes. She was too busy. A surprising new career in radio springs up for her. She gets even busier. She has to be. Meanwhile, there is her mother, always her mother, unrelenting to the end - apart, perhaps, from when she is medicated. But by the very end, the author has worked it all out.
Daughter on narcissistic mothers - 'There is nothing, absolutely nothing you can ever, ever, do to change things. Yes, we can distance ourselves in order to protect ourselves, but we cannot change our mothers' behaviour, no matter what we do or say.'
I am sure that 'Walking over eggshells' is a must read for any woman with an extremely domineering mother. -- Ron Askew
5 Stars "Frog Dog Summer" by Margaret E. Leigh
As a teacher of the English language, I feel it is my obligation to discover new books that my students might enjoy in class or at home. Frog Dog Summer is a gem in my opinion. I loved the plot. It is well-written, in a easy language that even non-native students of English will understand and it is a story that has a lot to teach young children.
Frog Dog Summer talks about friendship, family relationships, love for animals, and bravery. Most of all, though, it will teach children not to judge anything in life just by appearance, whether that is a human being or the ugliest dog in Wales, like little Froggy.
It is a touching story that I will not only recommend to my students or young children in general, but also to adults, like myself, who would like to feel like kids every once in a while and read a fairytale. -- Catherine Lenderi
5 Star Review for 'Frog Dog Summer' by Margaret E Leigh.
This is a great children's story, About Frog the Manchurian Mountain Dog. Children will enjoy reading it but Parents will enjoy reading it to them just as much. (Dads have the tissues handy).
A Day in the Life of Utter Nonsense by Faye Kename 5*
This book is for you if you like good old fashioned British humour. From page one the reader is drawn into a ridiculous saga that is side-crackingly funny throughout. Each character is deliciously silly and breathes life into the nonsense that is their every day living. Every character gives a greater depth of stupidity to ridiculous situations and it is impossible to ignore the laughter that just aches to be let free of the reader! We, the readers, are often left wondering who the villains really are and just who gave the interpretation of good guys...the answers are always there looking directly into the face that is a Life in the Day of Utter Nonsense.
This book came a very well earned and deserved 42 of top 50 indie books 2014
I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone that has a sense of humour that likes to be twisted round and about