September is here yet after a few days of autumnal promise, Summer has returned with the blistering heat. The kids must be back at school and the weather is teasing them that they should still be playing at home rather than sweltering in their new school uniforms.
Besides the beginning of Autumn, September is the month dystonians fill their social media feeds with articles and memes about the neurological condition to spread the word that dystonia exists. Raised awareness helps improve diagnosis, funding, support and research and for a condition rarely spoken about this is so important. My Dystonia Around the World challenge continues with walks but also a readathon over on From Under the Duvet. How many books can I read in the month?
Last year, I wrote my miles for the dystonia challenge and thanks to a prompt from Myszka during the Foxes Retreat Short Story course, I wrote The Ghost Writer. This tale based in an old Yorkshire cottage has been published in the Byline Legacies by Cardigan Press. This anthology is written by writers for writers and I feel privileged and excited to be part of the book. And even better, I can now say:
I’m a published author!
I even have a mug and T-shirt with my name on it to prove it, and soon I’ll have a physical copy to put on my bookcase. Holding a book with my name on it is one item ticked off my bucket list. Yay! It does not feel real. Now all I need to do is finish my current novel, tweak A Blend of Magic for submission and find them a home (if only it was that easy). The writers in the anthology share my pain and thrill of being a writer.
When Rich dies, he leaves behind a family without a father, a husband, a son and a best friend. His wife, Ruth, can’t imagine living without him and finds herself faced with a grief she’s not sure she can find her way through.
At the same time, their young son Ollie becomes intent on working out the meaning of life. Because everything happens for a reason. Doesn’t it? But when they discover a mismatched collection of presents left by Rich for his loved ones, it provides a puzzle for them to solve, one that will help Ruth navigate her sorrow and help Ollie come to terms with what’s happened. Together, they will learn to lay the ghosts of the past to rest, and treasure the true gift that Rich has left them: the ability to embrace life and love every moment.
Wonderfully funny and achingly beautiful, this is a story about love in all its forms: absent, lost and, ultimately, regained.
Behind the stunning, illustrated book cover that zings with life is a novel which shows the rawness and complexity of grief and love. The emotional story is told through the eyes of those who loved fun-loving and life-embracing Rich, and highlights the different ways grief affects people and how losing a key member of the family can shift the dynamics of relationships to reveal hidden traumas which need to be tackled before healing can begin.
It’s beautifully written, with distinctive voices which is quite a feat when there are multiple points of view. It was Ollie and his grandmother, Angran, who stole the spotlight from the others, with Gerald, Rich’s father a close third. All were complex characters, troubled and often misunderstood. Ollie is neuro divergent and is used to his dad knowing the routine and what he likes so he is left floundering when he dies but Ollie is also the thread holding the family together and it is his unique way of seeing things and belief that he can make things right which offers the lighter moments once Rich’s voice ends. His dad may only have spoken for a few chapters, but the love the others have for him, makes his personality shine on every page.
Angran’s isolated run-down cottage near the rugged river nicknamed The Ravages is a clever location used to amplify the turmoil and darkness of grief and emotions the characters have.
Would I recommend?
This Shining Life deals with some hard hitting, and heart breaking topics such as death, dementia and depression with sensitivity, accuracy and tenderness. It’s not an easy read because of the subject matter, but has a powerful and uplifting message making it an unforgettable. It would make an ideal book for book clubs because there is a wealth of topics to discuss and characters to explore.
HARRIET KLINE works part time registering births, deaths and marriages and writes for the rest of the week. Her story Ghost won the Hissac Short Story Competition and Chest of Drawers won The London Magazine Short Story Competition. Other short stories have been published online with Litro, For Books’ Sake, and ShortStorySunday, and on BBC Radio 4.
Thank you Random Things Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing me with this gem of a book to give my honest and unbiased opinion.
Hello September! The beginning of my favourite season and Dystonia Awareness Month. As promised in my previous blog, I am sharing flash fiction written for the Dystonia Around The World challenge in aid throughout the month. My aim is to complete 1000 miles of writing to fundraise and spread awareness for Dystonia UK. I have faltered in my writing thanks to dystonia flaring but I am hoping to get back on track.For more information and my fundraising page, click here.
So following on from the woodland theme of A Walk in the Woods which I shared to celebrate 100 miles, here is The Fallen.
Her long fingers ran over the ridges of the rough bark, and along the smoother lime lichen. They dipped into a furrow, disturbing a black beetle in its resting place. It scuttled away. A lone tear escaped, betraying her efforts of being stoic. She bit her lip and gulped the sob down. When the news came in, she hoped this magnificent solid specimen would survive, but the abundance of blue sky at their approach confirmed her fears. In full leaf and his splendour finery on display, he did not stand a chance when the high winds ripped through the woodland, uprooting the sturdy, and whipping the young, testing their resolve to survive. The majestic were felled by an unforgiving and relentless storm set on destruction to transform the familiar and loved landscape. The words on the clipboard blurred as she marked her location on the map and scribbled on the form. Name: Quercus.
How many others would mourn the loss of the magnificent oak, the keeper of secrets, creator of memories? More than enough, she decided. There were those who stood under the green canopy for illicit kisses, the readers who immersed themselves in another world while cocooned in his branches and generations of children who learnt to climb on his accommodating lower limbs. She moved along to locate the lovers’ initials circled by a deeply scratched heart, a sign of their eternal love, except now it was over with the exposure of the labyrinth of roots ripped from the earth.
Age? She nibbled the end of her pencil. 569 years. Her certainty wavered but there was no time to check. The petrichor intensified as she bent down to place her ear and flat palm against the trunk, hoping to feel the low thud of his wooden heart. His silence matched the crows circling above.
No one knew it was coming. There was no warning. Her chest tightened. Except from Harold. His repeated mutterings of an incoming storm increased in strength the evening before, but they were ignored and then silenced by the turn of a bedroom key; all of them certain his prophecy belonged to a storm decades before, playing on a historical loop in his mind. It made no difference; it could not be stopped, but she could have captured the landscape in her memory one last time.
It’s the circle of life. The fallen would provide shelter and nutrient for the new, but the flash of neon yellow through the remaining trees and groan of machinery advancing said different. She pressed her lips to the bark and murmured her goodbye. With a flick of her black tipped delicate wings, she darted away.
I am a huge fan of Jodi Picoult so was very excited to recieve an advanced copy of her new release A Spark of Light. Thank you NetGalley and Hodder and Stoughton for the opportunity to read this.
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
Title: A Spark of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughon
Genre: General Fiction
Release date: 30th October 2018
Whose choice is it?
The masterful new novel from the Number One bestselling author of Small Great Things.
The Center for women’s reproductive health offers a last chance at hope – but nobody ends up there by choice.
Its very existence is controversial, and to the demonstrators who barricade the building every day, the service it offers is no different from legalised murder.
Now life and death decisions are being made horrifyingly real: a lone protester with a gun has taken the staff, patients and visitors hostage.
Starting at the tensest moment in the negotiations for their release, A Spark of Light unravels backwards, revealing hour by urgent hour what brought each of these people – the gunman, the negotiator, the doctors, nurses and women who have come to them for treatment – to this point.
And certainties unwind as truths and secrets are peeled away, revealing the complexity of balancing the right to life with the right to choose.
This is another divisive novel by Jodi Picoult told sensitively as it tries to deal with all sides of the abortion debate. It is honest, gritty and hard-hitting and doesn’t shy away from the heightened emotion abortion evokes and the physical aspects of the procedure. Some may find parts distressing and a trigger. The plot revolves around the stories of the women and doctor at a women’s centre in Mississippi when a gunman attacks – these include a 15-year-old girl, her aunt, doctor and nurse. Each have their own reasons for being there that day and all different characters. Unusually, it is told in a reverse chronological order taking you from the end of day to the beginning. This could have been an awkward format but Jodi Picoult’s style and talent carries it off. My heartstrings were pulled because I felt an attachment to all characters whatever their beliefs and was on the roller coaster of emotion with them as the terror unfolds. It is a story about life and should read to start a conversation.
After all, as Jodi Picoult says
“Honestly, I do not believe we, as a society, will ever agree on this issue. The stakes are too high, and both sides operate from places of unshakable belief . But I do think that the first step is to talk to each other—and more important, to listen. We may not see eye to eye, but we can respect each other’s opinions and find the truth in them. Perhaps in those honest conversations, instead of demonizing each other, we might see each other as imperfect humans, doing our best.”
A Spark of Life Jodi Picoult 2018
Would I recommend?
Yes, whatever side you are on this novel shines a light on the shades of grey in the abortion debate which divides many in all countries. It is not an easy read but you come out of it a different person.
Have you read it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
On social media the trailer of an upcoming Sky 1 series is being shared based on the novel A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. It looks good with drama, fantasy, action and magic so it must be time to catch up with the book.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Title: A Discovery of Witches
Author: Deborah Harkness
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, paranormal
Release Date: 29th September 2011
The phenomenal international bestseller and the first volume in the enthralling All SOULS trilogy, preceding SHADOW OF NIGHT and THE BOOK OF LIFE.
It begins with absence and desire. It begins with blood and fear. It begins with a discovery of witches.
When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…
This is the first book in the All Souls trilogy and my favourite of the series. From the moment Deborah Harkness transported me to the Bodleian library with Diana Bishop I was hooked. I could not resist; this book has always the elements I love – old dusty books, libraries and magic bundled together with descriptive pose and intriguing characters. Lots of characters to discover and love besides the main characters, Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont. There are the witches including Emily and Sarah, the extensive vampire family including Miriam, Marcus, Ysabeau and Marthe and deamons especially Hamish. They all have depth and stories beyond this series.
Diana is a character who grew as her back story was revealed throughout the book. As a witch who loves research into the history of alchemy I longed to see the imagery she was seeing in the old manuscripts. Matthew Clairmont has all the element you would expect of a fictional vampire – wealthy, unrealistically handsome, tall and strong with overprotective tendencies but he is grounded by his flaws. They make him more realistic. His back story and secrets add to the depth of character. I found it refreshing that the relationship between him and Diana was more balanced than many vampire stories. She is not your usual damsel in distress.
This a mature paranormal novel with a wonderful blend of unique characters, history, science, location and description to form an epic adventure involving romance, fear and drama. Deborah Harkness has not just created a story for Diana and Matthew she has created a world to explore so it feels as if any character could easily have their own novel. Long after I put the book down my mind would drift back to the plot and characters.
Would I recommend?
Oh yes! I love this book and is in my top 10 favourite books and is on my forever shelf. With the upcoming TV programme I predict it will go wild with discissions. As with all book versus film debates it is worth a read before the programme release. Have you read it and let me know what you think below.
Thank you NetGalley and Headline for the opportunity to read a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.