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For people who dig books and like to read honest reviews…

LOVE: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loving and Being in Love REVIEW

LOVE: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loving and Being in Love by [Barratt, Robin]LOVE: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loving and Being in Love
Published by Collections of Poetry and Prose
Ebook
Published 2 July 2016
402 pages
Publisher copy

Book Page (Publisher’s Website)

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

In the second of the Collections of Poetry and Prose book series, L0VE – A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loving and Being in Love features 194 contributions from 86 writers and poets around the world, all writing in their own unique, wonderful and occasionally quirky way about loving and being in love.

From rural towns and villages in Africa, Asia and India, and the tiny islands of Bahrain and Shetland, to the bustling metropolis’ of Europe, the Americas and Australasia, with an eclectic mixture of both traditional and modern verse, as well as the more abstract and esoteric, and with many of the contributions reflecting the diverse backgrounds and cultures of the writers, LOVE is being praised worldwide for its diversity and mix of poets, writers and styles.

EXTRACT

From When I First Saw You by Anonymous

When I first say you
I just knew
I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you…

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I enjoyed LOVE: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loving and Being in Love. This collection looks at one of my many obsessions – love and everything that encompasses it. I’m love’s bitch and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m a sucker for a good love story, especially if the love is unrequired. Talk about shivers! This collection was like a huge box of chocolates with all my favourite fillings. Like LONELY: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loneliness and Being Alone this collection contains poems and stories in a range of styles that explore everything you can imagine and a few things you never imagined about love. I really liked the range of style. I live diversity of I’m reading a collection featuring different writers. I enjoyed the poems and prose equally in LOVE: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loving and Being in Love. The opening poem, When I First Saw You by Anonymous brought a lump to my throat. Love by Andrew Hunter is a simple three line poem that speaks volumes about that crazy little thing called love. The story Break Out by Greg Bogaerts is a great story about how obsessive love can be. I really related to it. Love by Dayle Ashton and Love Haiku by Kimmy Alan made me smile with familiarity. I enjoyed the other poems and stories in this striking collection but these were of a slightly higher calibre.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

LONELY: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loneliness and Being Alone REVIEW

LONELY: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loneliness and Being AloneLONELY: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loneliness and Being Alone
Published by Collections of Poetry and Prose
Ebook
Published 1 April 2016
238 pages
Publisher copy

Book Page: Publisher’s Website

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Featuring 118 contributions from 57 writers in 26 countries, with many of the contributions reflecting the diverse backgrounds and cultures of the writers, and all writing in their own unique style, LONELY – A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loneliness and Being Alone, is an extraordinary, unique and eclectic mixture of both traditional and modern verse, and short prose, from writers around the world.

Focusing on just about every aspect of loneliness and being alone, and covering topics as diverse as old age, bereavement, abandonment, divorce, entrapment, unrequited love, depression, trauma, failure and addiction, as well as the more abstract and esoteric, LONELY is already being acclaimed worldwide for its diversity and mix of writers and styles.

EXTRACT

From Listen Carefully by Lonita Nugrahyu

Have you ever listened carefully to silence, my dear
If you do,
Would you agree with me that it is the noisiest noise you could ever hear?
It really is…

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I really enjoyed LONELY: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loneliness and Being Alone. I preferred the poetry in the collection. The stories were all really enjoyable but I enjoyed the poems a bit more. Loneliness is something most people have felt at some point in their life and it comes in different shapes and forms. I was lonely growing up because I was bullied at school. I was lonely before I became open about my sexuality. I was lonely when relationships ended. LONELY: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loneliness and Being Alone has something for everyone, some event, feeling or emotion to make a connection with. I was impressed by the different styles of poetry and fiction. No two pieces were the same or remotely similar. I was impressed by the multitude of ways the theme of being lonely was explored. The opening poem, Listen Carefully by Lonita Nugrahyu is excellent. The poem starts of subtly with powerful imagery and gradually builds to an incredible painful portrait about domestic violence. The power of this poem is what is not overtly stated but what simmer underneath. Empty Chair by Lynda Jessen-Tye is simple and heart-wrenching. The story But I Loved You All The Same by Courtney Speedy is about mental illness and the wedge it can drive between loved ones. Another story, The Hole by Claudia Hardt is an unusual tale about someone desperate to be alone. I enjoyed the other poems and stories in the collection but these stood out the most.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Quiet Ones by Betsy Reavley REVIEW

The Quiet Ones: A gripping psychological thriller

The Quiet Ones by Betsy Reavley
Published by Bloodhound Books
Ebook
Published 18 February 2016
215 pages
Kindle Owner’s Lending Library

Author’s Good Reads Page

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

What if you didn’t know where you came from?

Who am I?

This is the question Josie asks herself when a mysterious letter arrives. Then a brutal murder turns her world upside down.

To make sense of the present, Josie must go back to the start.

But who can she trust when no one knows the truth?

And who is the sinister stranger obsessed with her life?

The past is catching up with Josie and the consequences will be fatal …

OPENING 

Every step I take seems to be in slow motion, almost as if it’s happening to someone else. The thump from the door as I close it behind me sounds muffled and distant. The smell from the alcohol and bleach still lingers, stingin’ my nose.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I really enjoyed The Quiet Ones. I wouldn’t describe the novel as ‘gripping’ though. I enjoyed it, it was interesting and some crazy stuff happens to the characters but it’s not a gripping thriller, more domestic noir. Anyway, onto the good stuff. The book is well written, fast paced and easy to read – the kind of book you can get lost in and it held my interest from start to finish. I liked Josie as a character – she’s sort of messed up because of traumatic events from her past and seems determined to drink herself to death. She copes amazing well when a series of tragic events plague her including the murder of her adoptive parents. She’s real, flawed and completely sympathetic. There are plot twists and revelations in the final quarter of the novel I still can’t get my head around. I mean, no wonder she drinks too much. Onto the not so great stuff. There are no sub plots and the novel just tells us what happens to Josie in a linear pattern. A few sub plots would have made it gripping as the narrative was a bit to straight-forward A-Z to me. Some of the revelations towards the end of the novel, especially the person who killed Josie’s adoptive parents aren’t very believable and aren’t developed very well – they just come out of nowhere and events in the novel haven’t really led you in this direction so I was a bit disappointed. Overall, I enjoyed The Quiet Ones – it’s not brilliant but it is very enjoyable.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Best American Poetry 2016 ARC REVIEW

Best American Poetry 2016 (The Best American Poetry series)

Best American Poetry 2016
Published by Scribner
Ebook
Publication expected 6 September
224 pages
NetGalley ARC

Book Page (Publisher’s Website)

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

NET

I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher via NetGalley.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

The premier anthology of contemporary American poetry continues—guest edited this year by award-winning poet Edward Hirsch, a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and the president of The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

The Best American Poetry series is “a vivid snapshot of what a distinguished poet finds exciting, fresh and memorable” (Robert Pinsky); a guiding light for the mood and shape of modern American poetry. Each year, this series presents essential American verse and the poets who create it. Truly the “best” American poetry has appeared in this venerable collection for over twenty-five years.

A poet of decided brilliance since his 1981 debut collection, For the Sleepwalkers, Edward Hirsch curates a thoughtful selection of poetry for 2016 and an Introduction to be savoured. Jumpha Lahiri said of Hirsch, “The trademarks of his poems are…to be intimate but restrained, to be tender without being sentimental, to witness life without flinching, and above all, to isolate and preserve those details of our existence so often overlooked, so easily forgotten, so essential to our souls.” Hirsch’s choices for this collection reflect the soul of poetry in America. As ever, series editor David Lehman opens this year’s edition with an insider’s guide and a thoughtful contemplation of poetry today.

EXTRACT

From Sentence by Christopher Bakken

No one predicted we’d be sitting there,
Just come in from a blizzard to that bar,
And three beached fishermen in the corner would interrupt
Their beans to stare at us, then return to eating, since we
Were strange, but cold enough to be left alone….

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I really enjoyed reading Best American Poetry 2016. I enjoyed it even more than last year’s edition. Most of the poets are new to me and I always enjoy discovering new poets to read and obsess over. I enjoyed contemporary poetry and poetry that is quite narrative and uses free verse. This collection contains a lot of poems in the style and structure I enjoy. I enjoyed every poem in Best American Poetry 2016. This is very strong and enjoyable collection. Best American Poetry 2016 published newer poets alongside established greats such as Philip Levine and Jorie Graham. This is a good thing. My favourite poems include 32 Final Fantasy Football Teams by Joseph Chapman & Laura Eve Engel, Self-Portrait on the Street of an Unnamed Foreign City by Jennifer Grotz and Maid Maleen by Anya Silver. I’d highly recommend Best American Poetry 2016 to anyone who likes contemporary poetry.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

A Boy Made Of Blocks by Keith Stuart ARC REVIEW

A Boy Made of Blocks

A Boy Made Of Blocks by Keith Stuart
Published by Sphere
Ebook ARC
Expected publication 1 September 2016
500 pages
Publisher ARC

Author’s Good Reads Page

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

NET

I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Discover a unique, funny and moving debut that will make you laugh, cry and smile. 

Meet thirtysomething dad, Alex

He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself. 

Meet eight-year-old Sam

Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.

But when Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other . .

Can one fragmented family put themselves back together, one piece at a time? 

Inspired by the author’s experiences with his own son, A Boy Made of Blocks is an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism.

OPENING 

I am estranged.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I absolutely adored A Boy Made of Blocks. This is definitely one of my top books this year. I laughed and sobbed my way through every page. I just loved everything about this book. I thought the characters were great. They are so real they could step off the page. Alex is completely sympathetic and unbearably real. I loved the way the author portrayed his difficult relationship with Son and how he grew as a father throughout the book. He’s not completely likable at first. He has no idea how to connect with Sam and basically bails out at every opportunity. I sort of hated him at first for being spineless. As he starts to connect with Sam through Minecraft I grew too really like the character and rooted for him. Sam is a great character. The author handles Sam’s autism really well. I’ve read a couple of books with autistic characters but A Boy Made of Blocks is the best so far. At first, Alex and Jody don’t see Sam as a person with autism, they see autism as a problem that needs to be conquered and beaten into submission. As Sam starts to make friends and change they grow to realise how wonderful and unique their son is. I cried buckets, man, buckets! I really loved it when Sam starts to make friends and goes to the Minecraft competition. One scene that reduced me to tears is when Sam’s new friends blow up his Minecraft castle. This is an accident but Sam becomes withdrawn again and all of the steps he’s made look ready to disappear. His new friends come online and re-build the castle to show their sorry. This scene tugged at my heart-strings. A Boy Made of Blocks is absolutely brilliant.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton REVIEW

The Quality of SilenceThe Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton
Published by Little, Brown
Hardback
Published 2 July 2015 (first published 28 April 2015)
340 pages
Library book

Author’s Website

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

On 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrived in Alaska.

Within hours they were driving alone across a frozen wilderness.

Where nothing grows.

Where no one lives.

Where tears freeze.

And night will last for another 54 days.

They are looking for Ruby’s father.

Travelling deeper into a silent land.

They still cannot find him.

And someone is watching them in the dark.

EXTRACT 

Words Without Sounds @Words-No-Sounds – 1h

650 followers 

EXCITEMENT: Tastes like popping space dust; feels like the bump-thud as a plane lands; looks like the big furry hood of Dad’s Inupiaq parka.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I enjoyed The Quality of Silence. The novel is set in a remote park of Alaska, a place where only Ice Truckers venture. The setting works really well, creating a great, intense atmosphere. I really liked the way the author portrays Ruby’s character and how she copes with being deaf. This is really well done. I enjoyed the pacing of the novel and the chilling, tense atmosphere. However, there are two things which stopped me from loving The Quality of Silence. Yasmin and Ruby are being followed as they make their way across Alaska searching for Mike. This has the potential to be packed with suspense and tension. I can’t imagine anything more frightening than being stalked in one of the remotest, darkest places in the world. It never quite pans out in the novel. The plot element is a bit of a damp squid. The potential tension and terror of the situation is never really there. The ending sucks as well, it’s a bit rushed and the tension built up in the rest of the novel just sort of deflates. The quality of the writing is excellent and there are some great moments in the book. I would recommend The Quality of Silence.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Undying: A Love Story by Michel Faber REVIEW

Undying: A Love Story

Undying: A Love Story by Michel Faber
Published by Canongate Books
Ebook
Published 7 July 2016
145 pages
Digital library book

Author Website

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

How can you say goodbye to the love of your life?

In Undying Michel Faber honours the memory of his wife, who died after a six-year battle with cancer. Bright, tragic, candid and true, these poems are an exceptional chronicle of what it means to find the love of your life. And what it is like to have to say goodbye.

All I can do, in what remains of my brief time,
Is mention, to whoever cares to listen,
That a woman once existed, who was kind
And beautiful and brave, and I will not forget
How the world was altered, beyond recognition,
When we met.

OPENING

From Of Old Age, In Our Sleep

Although there is no God, let us not leave off praying
For words solemn order may yet prove to be a charm
Sickness swarms around us, scheming harm
Plotting our ruin behind our back
Let us pray we may escape attack…

WHAT I THOUGHT  

One of the things I love about poetry is how therapeutic it is – both reading and writing it. Poetry is therapy for a lot of things including grief, sorrow, getting over a lost love or just a way of coping with everyday troubles that are getting on top of you. I’ve used writing poetry as a form of therapy for years. In Undying: A Love Story, Faber writes poetry to cope with grief over the death of his wife and to express the anger he feels at being cheated out of spending his life with her. These poems are raw and full of dark and light. The pain and rage and sense of helpless literally leap off the page. I had a lump in my throat the whole time. I was moved to tears several times. I loved every poem in Undying: A Love Story. I really enjoyed Old Bird Not Very Well, Right There on the Floor, Cute and Such a Simple Thing I Could Have Fixed. I enjoyed part 2 the most. Most of the poems deal with the aftermath of his wife’s death and they are raw and painful to read. My First Date After You is particularly heart-breaking. Undying: A Love Story is a striking collection of poems that explore grief, sorrow and loss and I’d highly recommend it.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

Associates of Sherlock Holmes ARC REVIEW

Associates of Sherlock Holmes

Associates of Sherlock Holmes
Published by Titan Books
Paperback ARC
Expected to be published on the 23 August 2016
304 pages

Book Page: Publisher’s Website

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

A brand new Sherlock Holmes anthology to sit alongside George Mann’s successful Encounters of Sherlock Holmes anthologies, and Titan’s Further Adventures and New Adventures series.

A brand-new collection of Sherlock Holmes stories from a variety of exciting voices in modern horror and steampunk, edited by respected anthologist George Mann. Stories are told from the point of view of famous associates of the great detective, including Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, Sherlock himself, Irene Adler, Langdale Pike, and of course, Professor Moriarty…

OPENING 

From The River of Silence by Lyndsay Faye

Dearest Mum,

Thank you for the new muffler and fingerless gloves – you’re dead to rights in supposing a promotion calls for a fellow to look smart, and right to consider that I should have my hands free to boot!

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve seen most of the various TV adaptions including movies based on Conan Doyle’s own stories and more recent versions including Sherlock. I’ve read a huge amount of Conan Doyle’s stories. The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of my favourite books of all times. I leapt at the chance to read an ARC of Associates of Sherlock Holmes.

I really enjoyed Associates of Sherlock Holmes. I liked the fact the stories are told by various characters that have played minor parts in various Sherlock Holmes adventures. I thought this was an original idea. The stories in this collection are quite varied and diverse. Some of the stories such as The River of Silence by Lyndsay Faye are quite traditional and what you’d expect from a Sherlock Holmes adventure and others offer something different. My favourite stories were The River of Silence by Lyndsay Faye, A Dormitory Haunting by Jaine Fenn, Nor Hell A Fury by Cavan Scott, A Flash in the Pan by William Meikle and The Vanishing Snake by Jeffrey Thomas. Associates of Sherlock Holmes is a treat for fans of the great detective.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith REVIEW

The Price of Salt

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Published by She Winked Press
Ebook
Published 1 March 2011 (First published in 1952)
296 pages
Digital library book

Biography.Com Author Page

Amazon.uk

Amazon.com

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Therese is nineteen and working in a department store during the Christmas shopping season. She dates men, although not with real enthusiasm. One day a beautiful older woman comes over to her counter and buys a doll. As the purchase is a C.O.D. order, Therese makes a mental note of the customer’s address. She is intrigued and drawn to the woman. Although young, inexperienced and shy, she writes a note to the customer, Carol, and is elated and surprised when Carol invites her to meet.

Therese realizes she has strong feelings for Carol, but is unsure of what they represent. Carol, in the process of a bitter separation and divorce, is also quite lonely. Soon the two women begin spending a great deal of time together. Before long, they are madly and hopelessly in love. The path is not easy for them, however. Carol also has a child and a very suspicious husband—dangerous ground for the lovers. When the women leave New York and travel west together, they discover the choices they’ve made to be together will have lasting effects on both their lives.

Considered to be the first lesbian pulp novel to break the pulp publishing industry-enforced pattern of tragic consequences for its lesbian heroines, The Price of Salt was written pseudonymously by Patricia Highsmith—the author of Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

As one reviewer wrote in 1952, “Claire Morgan is completely natural. She has a story to tell and she tells it with an almost conversational ease. Her people are neither degenerate monsters nor fragile victims of the social order. They must—and do—pay a price for thinking, feeling and loving ‘differently,’ but they are courageous and true to themselves throughout.”

OPENING

The lunch hour in the co-worker’s cafeteria at Frankenberg’s had reached its peak.

WHAT I THOUGHT  

I’ve never read Patricia Highsmith before. I know. Shocking isn’t it? I saw the movie version of this recently called Carol starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and loved it so had to read the book.

The movie Carol sticks pretty close to the plot of The Price of Salt so there weren’t many surprises. I still enjoyed the book a lot more though. The Price of Salt is an important book, first published in the 50’s when two women being in love would have been considered freakish and unnatural. It still is for some people and in some places. The Price of Salt is the first lesbian pulp novel to have a reasonably happy ending. I didn’t read it for any of these reasons though. I read it for pleasure. Therese and Carol are hugely likable and hugely relatable characters. They are nothing like stereotypical lesbians portrayed in the media. I’m not butch or masculine so I instantly related to them. Even though the book is set in the 50’s the experiences of the two women still resonate now and probably always will. I remember how I felt the first time I thought I loved another woman. I felt exactly like Therese. I like how normal Therese and Carol are in The Price of Salt, as if the fact they are both women in love with each other is neither here nor there. The Price of Salt is hugely enjoyable and moved me deeply.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

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