Healthy Speedy Suppers by Katriona MacGregor

Healthy Speedy Suppers [review]

Healthy Speedy Suppers by Katriona MacGregor
[Synopsis]

Bursting with quick, simple and deliciously healthy recipes, Healthy Speedy Suppers will inspire anyone who feels too tired or busy to cook at the end of the day. Katriona MacGregor started her Speedy Weeknight Suppers column for The Telegraphonline in 2013, after a move back to exhausting London office life caused a slump in her diet. Resolving to break away from eating ready meals and cheese on toast every night, she began developing recipes that took no more than 40 minutes to make, were packed with good quality, wholesome ingredients, and tasted fantastic.

The recipes are fresh, seasonal and nutritious and showcase a broad range of influences from around the world. Ingredient lists are short, prep is kept to a minimum and the methods are relaxed – often featuring one-pot or one-tray cooking. All of them have been put to the test at home after a busy day in the office, and the ingredients are easy to find and can be scooped up on the way back from work. Ranging from the summery Strawberry, Fennel & Chicken Salad, to warming Aubergine & Red Lentil Curry and zesty Sea Bass with Thai Vegetable Noodles, there is something here for every mood, diet and seasons. Most of the recipes are wheat- and dairy-free, and are all naturally low in fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates. Also including a guide to larder essentials, suggestions for leftovers, ingredient substitutions and simple variations, this is a one-stop cooking resource for stressed, busy people.

Healthy Speedy Suppers

[My Review]

I’m definitely continuing in my quest to cook healthier, tastier food. One thing I find that puts me off cooking something extravagant that I’ve seen in a cookbook is often the legnth of time it takes to prepare and then rustle up.

When I get back from work in the week, I don’t always fancy standing in the kitchen for hours to cook dinner. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. For those times when I don’t, this book is perfect! As the name suggests, it combines the convenience of quicker meals to prepare and cook with recipes that are actually healthy – and tasty! Result 🙂

I’ve tried out quite a few of these recipes – there’s no excuse not to, most only take 15 – 30 minutes to make! Some personal favourites so far have been the Paprika Pork with Peppers (I’m now pescatarian so any recipes with meat in that isn’t fish I’ve just replaced with a type of fish, veg, tofu or whatever I fancy!), the Sea Bass with Thai Vegetables and the Sweetcorn Pancakes!

Sea Bass with thai veg_healthy speedy suppers_screenshot
The book is split up by type of meal – whether it’s soups and salads, meat, fish, vegetarian, dips or sauces – and I really LOVE the design of this cookbook! The photos are really gorgeous (I’ve included a few in this post – I couldn’t resist, they’re so lovely) and the recipes are clear and easy to follow. Overall it’s so aesthetically pleasing it’d make a lovely and really useful present!

I’m really impressed with this book and will be making many more recipes using it. Great job Katriona MacGregor – Healthy Speedy Suppers deserves to do very well and I personally hreally hope it does!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Watkins Media Limited and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review

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Rarity from the Hollow - Robert Eggleton

Robert Eggleton [author spotlight]

Today on the blog I’m excited to have an spotlight post on Robert Eggleton, author of Rarity from the Hollow. It’s described as ‘a children’s story – for adults’ and ‘not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended’ – how can that fail to intrigue you?!


[About Rarity from the Hollow]

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire.

Rarity from the Hollow


Rarity from the Hollow - Robert Eggleton

[Excerpt from Chapter 10, “One Moment, Please”]

Scene Prologue: In this scene, Lacy Dawn stands up to her abusive father for the first time. Dwayne is a disabled Gulf War Vet who suffers from PTSD, night terrors and anger outbursts. Her mother, Jenny, is downtrodden and weak-willed. Lacy Dawn has just returned home from the android’s spaceship. At this point, her powers were evident but not fully matured. She had been negotiating extraterrestrial assistance to cure her parents of their mental disorders, but rushed home after sensing an emergency there…:

…Three minutes later, Lacy Dawn stood on the back porch. She was keen to hear a whisper. The yells could be heard half-way Roundabend. She peeked through the kitchen window. Her mother was on the floor with her back propped against the gasoline can that hid her GED study guide. Jenny’s nose bled.
“WHAT THE HELL ………GIVES YOU THE RIGHT ………………TO THINK ……….…………….that you can THROW AWAY …something that is MINE?” her father screamed.
Jenny adjusted her position. So did Lacy Dawn to get a better view through the window.
“Where’s my SWITCH?” Dwayne left the kitchen.
Lacy Dawn felt for her knife.
I hope Mommy runs for it.
Jenny moved the gasoline can to cover a corner of her study guide that stuck up. Dwayne had put the can in the kitchen two winters ago after he cut firewood. At the time, snow on the path to the shed had been deep. Jenny didn’t complain about the can in the kitchen because it turned into her best place to hide her GED book. It was convenient and the mice stayed away because of the smell. When her GED book was hid behind the refrigerator, it lost a corner to the nibbles. She repositioned her bra so that everything was contained.
If it’s okay with him, I’ll take it right here with my arms over my face. God, I wish I’d worn long pants today. If he finds that book he might kill me. Maybe that’d be better. I can’t handle anymore anyway. Welfare would take Lacy Dawn and put her in a group home. She’d have friends and stuff to do and decent clothes. That’s more than she’s got now. Who am I kidding? I’ll never get my GED or learn to drive. I’d be better off dead. She’d be better off. I ain’t no kind of decent mom anyway.
Jenny pulled out her GED study guide. Lacy Dawn burst into the kitchen and, at the same time, Dwayne appeared in the opposite doorway from the living room. Lacy Dawn and Dwayne stood face to face.
“She didn’t throw away those magazines, Dwayne. I burnt them all!” Lacy Dawn looked him in the eyes.
I’ve never called him Dwayne before.
“Well, here’s my switch, little girl, and you can kiss your white ass goodbye because it’s gonna be red in a minute.”
“I told Grandma that you had pictures of naked little girls my age kissing old men like you.”
“Well, your grandma’s dead and gone now and it don’t make no difference.”
Dwayne grinned at Jenny and resumed eye contact with Lacy Dawn. Jenny did not move. The GED study guide was in the open. Lacy Dawn straightened her posture.
“Not that grandma — the other one — your mom. I tore out a page and showed her. She said the Devil must’ve made you have those pictures with naked girls way too young for you to look at. She told me to burn them to help save your soul before it was too late and you ended up in Hell.”
Dwayne raised the switch to waist level. Lacy Dawn took a step forward.
“I was sick of them being in the trunk under my bed anyway. I did what Grandma told me to and now they’re gone.”
“That was my Playboy collection from high school. I bought them when I used to work at the Amoco station before I joined the Army.”
Dwayne lowered the switch and leaned against the door frame. Jenny sat up straighter and slid her GED study guide back behind the gas can. Lacy Dawn maintained eye contact.
He’s starting to lose it. Where’s my new butcher knife?
Dwayne looked to the side and muttered something that she did not understand. He raised the switch and then lowered it.
“But, Mom knew I had them when I was in high school and never said nothing. Hell, those girls were older than me back then. I bet they’re all wrinkled now — with tits pointing straight to the ground, false teeth, and fat asses.”
Dwayne muttered again. Lacy Dawn maintained eye contact.
I must have hit a nerve. He always mutters when he’s thinking too hard.
“Anyway, you’re both still getting switched even if Mom told you to do it. But, I won’t make it too bad. She wouldn’t like it.”
He paused. The point of the switch lowered to the floor.
Damn. I can’t think of a new name.
“Tammy, bammy, bo mammy…” Dwayne sang. (Dwayne named all of the switched that he used on Lacy Dawn and Jenny to discipline them.)
“If you even touch me or Mommy with that thing, I’ll tell everybody about Tom’s garden. (Tom is a neighbor who grows marijuana.) I’ll tell Grandma, the mailman, my teacher after school starts, and the food stamp woman when she comes next week for our home visit. I’ll tell Tom that I’m gonna tell the men working on the road at the top of the hill. I’ll tell all your friends when they come by after the harvest. And, I’ll call that judge who put you in jail for a day for drunk driving if Grandpa will let me use the phone. I swear I’ll tell everybody.”
“Oh shit,” Dwayne said.
I knew this day would come — ever since she brought me those DARE to Keep Kids off Drugs stickers to cover up the rust holes on my truck….
“Lacy Dawn, drugs are bad. I don’t take drugs and hope you never will either.”
“Cut the crap, Dwayne. This ain’t about drugs. The only thing this is about is if you even think about switching me or Mommy, that garden has had it — period.”
“But smoking pot is not the same as taking drugs,” he let go of the switch. Thirty seconds later, Lacy Dawn picked it up and hung it in its proper place on her parents’ bedroom wall.
“I love you, Daddy,” she said on the way back to the kitchen.
Dwayne went out the back door and walked to his pick-up. The truck door slammed. It started, gravel crushed, and the muffler rumbled. He floored it up the hollow road.
Things will be forever different.
Lacy Dawn sat down on a kitchen chair, did her deep breathing exercise, smelled an underarm and said, “Yuck.”
Things will be forever the same unless DotCom can help me change them. (DotCom is the name of the android, a recurring pun in the story.)
Jenny got off the floor, sat on the other chair, scooted it closer beside her daughter, put an arm around her, and kissed the side of Lacy Dawn’s head.
The muffler rumbled to nonexistence.
“Asshole,” they screamed out the open kitchen window at the exact same time without cue.
“He used to be a good man,” Jenny giggled and hugged…. (This phrase is an intergenerational familial saying that Lacy Dawn turned into a chant and used to magically elevate above the ground, and to travel back and forth between her home and the spaceship without getting her tennis shoes muddy.)

Awesome Indies Approve


[About Robert]

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia.  Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.


The final edition of Rarity from the Hollow was released on November 3, 2016; view more details here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/robert-eggleton/rarity-from-the-hollow/paperback/product-22910478.html.

Buy the updated e-book edition from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017REIA44/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk

 

Find out more about Robert Eggleton here:

http://www.lacydawnadventures.com
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13603677-rarity-from-the-hollow
https://www.facebook.com/robert.eggleton2
https://www.facebook.com/Lacy-Dawn-Adventures-73354432693864/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Have you read Rarity from the Hollow? If so, what did you think?

Shtum by Jem Lester

Shtum [review]

Shtum by Jem Lester

[Synopsis]

Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.

When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

Shtum

[My Review]

Shtum effectively combines humour with heart-wrenching sadness; it’s up and down, a bit like a rollercoaster. The story felt hugely important to read, not just because it was such a mix of emotions, but also because the topic reminds us of the struggles some families and parents face every day, to a point none us could accurately guess without living through it ourselves.

The characters are hugely complex. Ben is so likeable because he’s not perfect – in fact, at times, he’s a bit of a shit! But with everything he’s got going on I kind of feel he has a right to be. At times I really hated Emma but as the novel went on I found myself coming round to her point of view more and more, and a lot more than I imagined I would. And Jonah – the star of the novel – is enigmatic and, at times, utterly charming in his own way!

This is definitely not an ‘easy’ read, but the writing itself IS easy to read because it flows so well, even in parts that seem difficult or confusing. I didn’t really know what to expect before I read, and I’m glad of that – it’s easier to completely lose yourself in a book when you haven’t read too much about it, though I was aware that it had had great reviews. The way Jem Lester writers really leaves you with a sense of Ben’s (and Jonah’s, in a way) confusion as they essentially try to muddle through life together – there’s no handbook for this kind of parenting!

Despite the subject matter being hard-hitting, I really enjoyed reading Shtum, and it’s a testament to Jem Lester’s writing that he can take such a tricky subject and put it to readers with just the right amount of emotion, humour and love. Definitely recommended!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Orion Publishing Group and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review

This Secret We're Keeping by Rebecca Done

This Secret We’re Keeping [review]

This Secret We're Keeping by Rebecca Done

[Synopsis]

A pupil and a teacher. Is it ever right to break the rules?

Jessica Hart has never forgotten Matthew Landley. After all, he was her first love when she was fifteen years old. But he was also her school maths teacher, and their forbidden affair ended in scandal with his arrest and imprisonment. Now, seventeen years later, Matthew returns to Norfolk, with a new identity and a long-term girlfriend and a young daughter, who know nothing of what happened before. Yet when he runs into Jessica, neither of them can ignore the emotional ties that bind them together.

With so many secrets to keep hidden, how long can Jessica and Matthew avoid the dark mistakes of their past imploding in the present? From debut author Rebecca Done, This Secret We’re Keeping is a powerful and provocative novel about the ties which can keep us together – or tear us apart.

[My Rating]

So I really didn’t know what to expect from this book; I had purposefully not read much about it but the synopsis really intrigued me. As I carried on reading, I got even more intrigued – and then, by the time the ‘secret’ is revealed, I was really engaged and interested in the characters.

Rebecca Done has done a really great job of creating characters you care about, but that are also flawed and realistic. They seem like real people, and that’s why I really enjoyed this novel.

It really made me think about what I’d do in both Jess and Matthew’s positions – and their parents’ and friends’ too! I felt like Matthew and Jess made such a great couple but then sometimes had to remind myself that Matthew was breaking the law by having a sexual relationship with Jess, especially as a teacher in a position of authority and trust! It really makes you question things though as you can understand how happy they are together and it makes you wonder, was he really ‘abusing’ her? I wouldn’t say so but according to the law he is, and if I didn’t know the full story behind another couple in a similar position, I’d probably feel that the adult in that position was also a paedophile. It’s a real minefield and it’s certainly emotional at times.

I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it if you’re looking for something to make you question your own values and make you think. It’s ultimately a pretty easy read but I really enjoyed it, so that makes it a really good read in my book!

[Rating: 4/5]

Have you read This Secret We’re Keeping? If so, what did you think?

Many thanks to Penguin & Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

On Track For Murder by Stephen Childs

Stephen Childs [author spotlight]

BlogivalI am so pleased to today have author Stephen Childs on the blog, sharing the inspiration behind his new novel, On Track For Murder. It’s set in the 19th century and follows 18 year old Abigail as she tries to track down her father’s killer. With lots of mystery and adventure, it sounds like a great read!

It’s all part of Clink Street’s Blogival, which runs from 1- 30 June; find out more here.


On Track For Murder

Author Stephen ChildsOn Track for Murder is my debut murder mystery novel. Set in 1889 in Western Australia, the main character is eighteen year old Abigail Sergeant, freshly arrived from England with her younger brother in tow, dreaming of a better life.

My plan to author a full length fiction work was born of my own sea change. My wife and I had made the decision to leave behind our corporate executive life and head for warmer climes in search of much needed quality time for ourselves and our family. Perth, in Western Australia, became our new home. And I was instantly inspired.

Inspiration is a wonderful thing. It’s like a seed, the promise of magnificent blooms secured within. Yet without motivation and action, inspiration remains dormant; the seed stays dry in its packet. My love of storytelling had remained dormant since I was a child. Now, with time available to spend with my family, that love was to be revived.

How did it happen? We had taken a trip to a local railway museum. As we wandered around my son began regaling me with tales of exploding boilers and runaway trains. His mind was awash with fabulous stories. It took me back to my own childhood, when I would bombard my parents with equally bizarre fabrications. On that trip I spent considerable time – more than my son felt reasonable – staring at old black and white photographs: early train crews forging routes to remote outback towns, defying the harshness of the environment in their resolve to expand the colony. My interest had been piqued.

With time now my friend I set about searching the West Australian records. I was entranced. Most people know of the establishment of Sydney as a British penal colony. Yet few know of the growth of Perth and Albany as essentially commercial enterprises designed to secure the region for the British Empire. I couldn’t ignore this fascination. I was moved to action.

On Track For Murder by Stephen ChildsOddly, it was a diversion from Australian history that brought about the idea for a young female lead character. I was perusing old transport records when I stumbled upon a compelling historical account. Unrelated to Australian history it was the story of Bertha Benz, wife of Karl Benz, inventor of the Patent Motorwagen, the first successful automobile. Bertha had been inspired by their invention and had embarked, without her husband’s knowledge, on a mammoth 65 mile journey across Germany, taking two of her children with her. During the journey she managed to effect necessary repairs to the vehicle and arrived unscathed at her destination, hailed as a heroine. This story inspired the creation of Abigail Sergeant: a woman for whom the impending journey appears impossible, yet driven by her self-belief she manages to overcome and succeed.
I was inspired and motivated. I had my location, time period and main character. Now what to do with them?

I have always been fascinated by the way we humans communicate. As part of my work in the business world I am called upon to create and edit documents that form the basis for decision making. These need to be formed with minimal ambiguity to avoid any possible misinterpretation.

It was essentially rebellion against this premise that drove my decision to pursue the mystery genre. I love the idea of presenting readers with evidence that can be interpreted many different ways, then tempting them with side issues and red herrings. I find this freedom to explore ambiguity and misdirection incredibly refreshing. A complete turn around from my conclusive work in the business world.

Thus I had my character inspired by Bertha Benz, my time period and location inspired by the amazing Western Australian landscape, and a genre inspired by a desire to break free from the confines of business writing.

I was inspired and I had the time to sit at my computer and write. Abigail Sergeant was created and On Track for Murder saw the light of day.

I love writing. I love seeing the story unfold as I type. So I continue to write. Abigail’s next adventure is well underway. I’ve also commenced work on an audiobook version, which will be perfect for those rush hour traffic jams.

I hope you enjoy reading On Track for Murder and the subsequent tales to follow.”


On Track For Murder is out to buy now from Amazon. View it on Goodreads here: On Track For Murder

The Useful Book by Sharon and David Bowers

The Useful Book [review]

The Useful Book by Sharon and David Bowers
[Synopsis]

A modern and energetically designed encyclopedia of DIY with everything you need to know to roll up your sleeves and cook it, build it, sew it, clean it, or repair it yourself. In other words, everything you would have learned from your shop and home ec teachers, if you’d had them.

The Useful Book features 138 practical projects and how-tos, with step-by-step instructions and illustrations, relevant charts, sidebars, lists, and handy toolboxes. There’s a kitchen crash course, including the must-haves for a well-stocked pantry; how to boil an egg (and peel it frustration-free); how to grill, steam, sauté, and roast vegetables. There’s Sewing 101, plus how to fold a fitted sheet, tie a tie, mop a floor, make a bed, and set the table for a formal dinner.

Next up: a 21st-century shop class. The tools that everyone should have, and dozens of cool projects that teach fundamental techniques. Practice measuring, cutting, and nailing by building a birdhouse. Make a bookshelf or a riveted metal picture frame. Plus: do-it-yourself plumbing; car repair basics; and home maintenance, from priming and painting to refinishing wood floors.

[My Review]

WELL. This book is an amazingly wrapped package of… well, useful information! Most types of handy tasks, basic cooking and DIY skills, sewing skills – even mechanical tasks! – are there in the pages of this book, waiting for you to better yourself with! And who doesn’t like to improve their skillset every now and again?!

I think I’m quite good at carrying out basic tasks…but even on a first flick through this book, it became very apparent that there were loads of tasks that, had I needed to do them on my own, I’d have no flippin’ idea how to!

Enter… this book!

The authors Sharon and David Bowers tell you, step by step (and in some cases with pictures – yay!), exactly how to do a tasks which are a range of difficulty levels.

Now I know nowadays you can just google most stuff, but to be honest it’s not always clear what’s the BEST way to do something. Having it all in a handy book (more like encyclopedia really) feels reliable and more trustworthy to me. Plus, it’s all in one place – no internet access needed! Knowing how to fix household items, learn basic plumbing skills, fix a flat bike tyre – it’s all come in very handy for me, particularly now I’m a house owner myself!

Some parts probably won’t be relevant to me now or in the future, but it covers a great range of tasks and problems, with clear, concise instructions on how to sort them out. This would make a fab present for someone who has just moved into their own place, or is off to uni. Or just someone who’s not so practically-minded (which sums up me a lot of the time, to be honest!)

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Workman Publishing Company and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

TIm Connor Hits Trouble

Frank Lankaster [author spotlight]

BlogivalI am so pleased to today have author Frank Lankaster on the blog, sharing some fun facts about himself and his new novel, Tim Connor Hits Trouble.

It’s all part of Clink Street’s Blogival, which runs from 1- 30 June; find out more here.


TIm Connor Hits Trouble10 Things author Frank Lankaster wants you to know about him

As a young boy I was a bit of a ‘goodie goodie’ – I soon lost that!

At eleven years old I was sent off to a seminary – a Catholic boarding school aimed at training priests. It wasn’t much fun and I got out quickly and in time worked out my own way of life.

The best year in my life was in Vermont, USA.

I went there on a work exchange for a year in the mid-nineteen eighties. Vermont is so beautiful and the people so friendly and open, I had the time of my life. The only bad moment was when I crashed when ice-skating on Vermonts biggest lake, Champlain, and nearly decapitated myself. Ive never been skating again!

The toughest year of my life was starting out teaching in East London.

Full of youthful idealism I set out to educate the East End! I lasted a year but did go back for a while later.

I’ve written about what I know.

They say write about what you know and as I’ve spent most of my working life to date in higher education it’s not surprising that I’ve written a ‘campus novel’. It’s not an ‘ivory tower’ novel but written for our times when going to university is less a privilege and more of a routine, ordinary experience for many young people and even hard-worked academics.

I love travelling.

My last big trip was to Cuba – it was called ‘The Revolutionary Trail’. The group followed the march to power of the legendary Che Guevara but on our way it was all music, good food and rugged, varied terrain. I’m so glad that Presidents Obama and Castro are bringing the two countries closer together. My next place to visit will probably be along the North African coast or maybe Croatia.

If I can only play one game in my afterlife it will be tennis.

This is surprising as my dad and his brother were professional footballers and I might have been one myself. But I like the individualism of tennis whether it goes well or badly, it’s down to you.

Light on a dark horse.

I’ve often been considered ‘a bit of a dark horse’ and to be honest ‘Frank Lankaster’ is a writing name to give me a ‘clean slate’ and a bit of anonymity. I’ve always secretly wanted to write fiction. A novel may be less factual than academic work but it can get closer to personal truth. It can also be funnier and Tim Connor Hits Trouble is certainly full of humour.

I believe the ‘rise and rise’ of women will continue.

Maybe creating an age of women in which personal values, including caring about and for others, as well as career satisfaction will matter more than status and earning more and more money. Women are probably the best hope for humanising a still tough and brutal world.

To me younger people from the ‘noughties’ onwards seem more relaxed about what previous post-war younger generations had to battle for.

It’s good to see many young people tolerant and at ease with cultural and sexual diversity despite financial and career access issues. Some of the strongest and most interesting characters in Tim Connor Hits Trouble are women, especially Erica, his bi-sexual and sexually imaginative partner. The novel as a whole is quite physical and that’s certainly true of Tim and Erica.

I’m funny but serious.

But then life is like that. So is my novel – ‘laugh out loud’ but find some serious drama and themes about higher education and personal relationships as well.


Tim Connor Hits Trouble

Tim Connor Hits Trouble by Frank Lankaster (published by Clink Street Publishing RRP £9.99, RRP £4.99 ebook) is available to buy online from 25th March 2015 from retailers including amazon.co.uk and to order from all good bookstores.

The Missing by C.L. Taylor

The Missing [review]

The Missing by C.L. Taylor

[Synopsis]

You love your family. They make you feel safe. You trust them. Or do you…?

When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire Wilkinson, blames herself. She’s not the only one. There isn’t a single member of Billy’s family that doesn’t feel guilty. But the Wilkinson’s are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn’t until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface.

Claire is sure of two things – that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance.

A mother’s instinct is never wrong. Or is it?
The Missing

[My Review]

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Missing by C.L. Taylor, but it ended up really surprising me in its effectiveness – it really kept me hooked in throughout! I couldn’t really put it down and blame little sleep last night (and feeling exhausted today) solely on on this novel… I don’t mind though as I enjoyed every minute! 🙂

I really loved the characterisation in the novel – even though I didn’t particularly like all of them as people! They seemed real, and Claire and her husband Mark’s relationship seemed convincingly realistic; though a bit depressing at times, it felt like it reflected real life and really rang true as I read on. The relationship between the members of the Wilkinson family was strained sometimes, loving and caring at other times, but whatever happened with them I felt like it was genuine throughout – even if I wasn’t sure which of the characters were being truthful or not!

Saying that, some of the interaction between ‘ICE9’ and ‘Jackdaw44’ didn’t feel quite as genuine to me (this was mostly conveyed via text message conversations) and I felt like it wasn’t how I’d imagine people – of the age I was imagining them to be, anyway – to interact with each other, regardless of personality. However the rest of the novel and its twists and turns more than made up for this.

The problem – or in fact, the addictiveness – lies in the author’s ability to leave every end of chapter as a kind of cliffhanger, even if not a major one, which always left me wondering what on earth was going to happen a next! The narrative, though sticking mainly in the present day, does jump around a bit at times which I really like in a novel; it feels like I was slowly unpicking the ‘mystery’ at the heart of the novel.

I felt like this was a well-crafted psychological thriller and one that keeps the pace going even when nothing technically ‘happens’ as such, because you’re always finding out more and more about Billy’s disappearance, including things which you’re not quite sure of the reliability of… I like to question everyone in my mind!

I’ve had this on my ‘to read’ list for a while, and now I’ve read it I immediately want to catch up with all of C.L. Taylor’s other novels; I’ve already bought The Lie and am looking forward to giving it a go and seeing if it’s as compulsive reading as The Missing is!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Avon books and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

The One In A Million Boy - Monica Wood

The One-in-a-Million Boy [review]

The One In A Million Boy - Monica Wood

[Synopsis]

Miss Ona Vitkus has – aside from three months in the summer of 1914 – lived unobtrusively, her secrets fiercely protected.

The boy, with his passion for world records, changes all that. He is eleven. She is one hundred and four years, one hundred and thirty three days old (they are counting). And he makes her feel like she might be really special after all. Better late than never…

Only it’s been two weeks now since he last visited, and she’s starting to think he’s not so different from all the rest.

Then the boy’s father comes, for some reason determined to finish his son’s good deed. And Ona must show this new stranger that not only are there odd jobs to be done, but a life’s ambition to complete…

The One-in-a-Million Boy

[My Review]

This is a touching, charming novel about an unlikely friendship between a boy and the elderly Lithuanian lady he’s helping called Ona – and indeed, it’s a story of the friendship between Ona and the boy’s father, too.

The story is told through various narrators, with the boy’s name never being disclosed – he is just ‘the boy’ throughout. You’d think this would make him appear hard to identify with, which perhaps it does in a way, but it also makes him seem enigmatic and a bit of a mystery whilst still being sweet and lovely. it seems no one else, apart from Ona, quite understood how he was thinking – not the other school kids, his family or the other people around him. Without giving too much away, it’s obviously from fairly near to the beginning that the boy this novel is about has some unusual behavioural trails and habits, and his obsession with records is a charming element which made me smile!

I found the novel to be a little slow moving at times, and though it’s very good at building up the characters and making you care about them, I wasn’t blown away by it. I’d seen a lot about this novel and I’m not sure this quite lived up to the hype, for me anyway. It’s certainly an enjoyable and poignant novel about friendship and family, and at times it had me tearing up without being overly sentimental, but I didn’t finish it and feel strongly about it, one way or another.

It’s definitely worth a read though – comparisons to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry aren’t a million miles off (though they’re quite different too, of course) and that sums up a bit of The One-in-a-Million Boy‘s quirkiness and charm.

[Rating: 3.5/5]

Many thanks to the publisher Headline and to Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review

Declan Milling [author spotlight]

BlogivalI am so pleased to today have author Declan Milling on the blog, sharing his inspiration behind his new novel, Carbon Black, a fast-moving story of corruption and murder; definitely one to add to the TBR list!

It’s all part of Clink Street’s Blogival, which runs from 1- 30 June; find out more here.

Carbon Black by Declan Milling

So, over to Declan:

“There are two principal sources to which the inspiration behind Carbon Black can be attributed: firstly, the country of Papua New Guinea; and secondly, the issue of climate change and the role of the carbon market as a way of addressing it. Where they intersect provides the fertile ground for the story.

Papua New Guinea offers an extraordinary mix of elements as a background setting. The natural resources and biodiversity are amazing – ever heard of a poisonous bird? At least two types have been identified there! But it’s not just the variety and numbers of exotic bird and animal species: insects, spiders (including the huge bird-eating spiders), fish, coral and other species abound. Then there’s the timber, fishing and mineral resources.

But while these aspects of Papua New Guinea provide an important platform for the story, it’s not all just about the resources, the fauna and flora. The people, their customs, traditions and superstitions all add to the mix. Headhunters, sorcery and witchcraft are still prevalent.

Combine this with corrupt government officials, foreign criminals and conmen – operators on the lookout for deals – law and order problems – and throw in a health epidemic in the form of AIDS, for good measure, and the brew gets even headier. And stories abound. Cannibalism and the rituals of eating body parts of important persons.

Random acts of criminality by raskols (pidgin English for bad men), felling trees on remote roads to stop vehicles, rob and sometimes kill their occupants. The continuing adherence to cargo cult. The colourful expatriates who also contribute to this picture, as the reader of Carbon Black will discover: long term residents who have seen too much tropical sun and maybe just a little bit too much booze.

Secondly, climate change is a fact for all of us and has been the subject of fiction over the years through the cli-fi genre. These have been mainly disaster novels: Carbon Black seeks to break that mould and give climate change a different airing. The carbon market and its role in addressing climate change is a contentious subject of debate and in Carbon Black it sets the scene – the battleground between proponents and anti-market protesters.

The story draws on the international bureaucrats, governments and the resource developers for its protagonists. Areas of conflict between these parties abound: they’re all interested in climate change for one reason or another – either as climate change deniers and sceptics, or as scientists, or as professionals trying to make the carbon market work as a way of addressing the problem.

The intersection of these two sources of inspiration provides the foundation for the storyline and situation for Carbon Black. From the conference and trade fair at the start of the novel, to the climactic visit to the project sites at the end, these two elements are interwoven throughout Carbon Black.”

Carbon Black

Carbon Black is available to buy now in paperback and kindle; visit Declan’s website and don’t forget to leave a review when you’ve finished the book! 🙂

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