Book Review: Broadcast, by Liam Brown

Publisher:  Legend Press

Publication date:  15th September 2017

Broadcast is a riotous victory for speculative live entertainment, delivering a sleek, alternative diversion for our appreciation. A streaming theatre without the prospect of an intermission becomes mind-cabaret for the masses, an innovation giving new meaning to the phrase ‘airing’ your thoughts.

Little by little our daily habits are already scrutinised, analysed and harvested until often they no longer feel like our own. With the rise of social media, You Tube, and Reality TV, the brave among us embrace this prospect when they volunteer to publicise moments of their daily routine in the name of recreation for a devoted audience. Staged bed hair and carefully placed brand placement is perfectly edited to present a censored version of their personality before any footage is Broadcast.

You’d think this kind of attention alone would feel intrusive. Yet the stars of these channels are the custodians of their own content and commercial destiny. They perform for their viewers, their ratings soar, along with potential advertising prospects.

I would imagine that maintaining that level of admiration would be exhausting, as YouTube star David Callow discovers. So when he is offered the opportunity that exceeds all others he jumps at the chance, as his current wavering success is no match for the possibilities of MindCast. Now anyone can tune in to see, hear and share the constant traffic of his thoughts 24/7, experiencing the unedited essence of David Callow, every silent judgement, aspiration, and caffeine craving now amplified.

Surely our minds should be the last frontier, even if the only protection that stands between social etiquette and oblivion is our mouth. But what if that were bypassed? Every reckless thought could escape into the wild – just think of all that uninhibited chaos your celebrity brain could cause!

This unhealthy brainchild is triggered by six rapid bursts of narration. The first is narrated in the third person until David steps into the spotlight to bare his soul for the remainder, and quite rightly so as he is the unique host after all. The story develops convincingly as the inclusion of ‘Plutchik’s Wheel’ (a scientific colour-code that classifies our primary emotions – yep, it’s an actual thing) shows how David’s initial thoughts were born as an embarrassing assortment of publicly identifiable hues before MindCast’s vision takes hold.

Not only is this book highly imaginative, it’s also one of my favourite reads this year. Terrific stuff!

Rating:  5/5

(My thanks to Tom Chalmers and Imogen Harris of Legend Press who kindly sent the advanced copy of this title. It is my absolute pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

PLUTCHIK’S WHEEL

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me – within a few months you’ll be the most talked about person on the planet.

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity.

Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world.

A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show’s creator has for him.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Liam Brown is a writer, filmmaker and former-life model. His debut novel Real Monsters was published in 2015, and was followed by Wild Life in 2016; both were long-listed for the Guardian‘s Not the Booker prize. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and two children.

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Book Review: Little Gold, by Allie Rogers #LITTLEGOLD #blogtour #bookreview

Publisher:  Legend Press

Publication date:  2nd May 2017

I took refuge from the world to indulge in the intense and emotive time travel of Little GoldIts ups and downs chiselled into my soul, as the fallout from the car crash adolescence and its passengers’ ongoing recovery is unquestionably raw.  

It encompasses the nostalgic awkwardness of 1980s life when ‘twelve’ should allow you a free ticket to a carefree happy place, even though you feel your life is being scrutinised under an invisible microscope and the whole world is passing judgement. As clarity becomes clouded by self-consciousness, the subtle signs of neglect creep into a family bubble which is already close to bursting.

Between the life wrestling there is also time for reflection, as this story shows becoming acquainted with unfamiliar and trying situations  has no age barrier. It revolves around an unlikely partnership formed between the dungaree clad, tree climbing ‘Golden One’ from number 167 and a retired, nicotine loving neighbour, Peggy Baxter, who has her own thoughts to put in order and a journey to share, which stray across the erratic path of Little Gold to give her direction when all seems lost.

The manner in which Little Gold looks out for her asthmatic brother, and her elder sister involuntarily adopts the role of parent to her two younger siblings, is just astoundingly written; nothing is obvious, just the gradual hint of an everyday routine taking the wrong turn down a road where money is directed away from the essentials, like food and washing powder.

Little Gold captures the spirit of an era where Wagon Wheels and Woolworths will be familiar to many. Where a cruel person nowadays has the benefit of social media to chuck anonymous insults at another, previously any offensiveness was shouted across the public spaces for all to hear – different platform, same effect, and all because of differences or ignorance.

There are times this book almost broke me. From the rippling apathy towards affecting circumstances, to the surge of something wicked that preys on innocence, growing up and growing older has never been more heartrending. 

Rating:  4/5

(My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this title. It is my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘Life affirming and triumphant’ Mark A. Radcliffe

‘Wonderfully moving and atmospheric’ Catherine Hall

‘Vivid and touching… this book left me haunted long after I put it down’ Umi Sinha

‘Brilliantly handled… a great first novel’ Bethan Roberts

‘I found myself engrossed… a vibrant, moving tale’ Alison Smith

The heat is oppressive and storms are brewing in Brighton in the summer of 1982. Little Gold, a boyish girl on the brink of adolescence, is struggling with the reality of her broken family and a home descending into chaos. Her only refuge is the tree at the end of her garden.

Into her fractured life steps elderly neighbour, Peggy Baxter. The connection between the two is instant, but just when it seems that Little Gold has found solace, outsiders appear who seek to take advantage of her frail family in the worst way possible. In an era when so much is hard to speak aloud, can Little Gold share enough of her life to avert disaster? And can Peggy Baxter, a woman running out of time and with her own secrets to bear, recognise the danger before it’s too late?

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Allie Rogers was born and raised in Brighton.

Allie’s short fiction has been published in several magazines and anthologies including Bare Fiction, Queer in Brighton and The Salt Anthology of New Writing. She has performed at local live literature events including the Charleston Small Wonder Flash Fiction Slam, which she won in 2014.

Little Gold, Allie’s first novel, will be published by Legend Press in 2017. Drawing a great deal on her memories of the Brighton of her childhood, the book is a story of survival and the power of love that comes up through the cracks.

Allie enjoys story in all forms, the magic of a surprising sentence and books that defy categorisation. She is a great believer in hot coffee, listening to waves on a pebble beach and talking to birds.

Allie is a librarian at the University of Brighton and wrote much of Little Gold in computer rooms surrounded by students eating crisps rather too noisily.

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You can catch up with the rest of the blog tour here:


By the way, Allie Rogers is running a wonderful giveaway for a poster and a signed copy of her book with a lucky winner to be drawn on 13th May – click here for her pinned Tweet to enter!


Book Review: Blame, by Paul Read #BLAME #blogtour #bookreview

Publisher: Legend Press

Publication date:  15th April 2017

Following the opening scenes of a less than flawless dispersal of cremated ashes on top of a hill, Blame sees the rehabilitation of a life after laying ghosts to rest. Its stark triggers of regret, judgement and recognition generates both contempt and concern for the main character, as he revisits the misery of his childhood and fumbles his way through an indifferent period of grief.  

As a rational, intelligent pharmacist, Lucas Marr is familiar with dissecting data. Yet his usual analytical tactics are of no use when he learns that the father he hasn’t seen for ten years has passed away. He trades his current salvation from addiction to binge on precious moments that cannot be revived, as retakes are no longer permitted.

His father’s sudden departure attempts to lure Lucas into temptation. As his will-power strikes the delicate balance between giving in and giving up his gradual indecision feels intense and authentic. While Lucas revisits his past through a diary written by his outraged younger self, a boy who was caught in the crossfire without little explanation, he painfully overlooks an opportunity which diminishes his self-discipline further.

Events that coincide with significant dates in our recent traumatic history are written into the story. As the rest of the world continues to turn, Lucas escaped to the other side of it before he found what he was looking for. His struggles to make sense of earlier divisive instances compared with the incriminating present day recollections made me pause to think how we deceive our impressionable selves. As the circumstances surrounding his father’s death are clarified he has the opportunity to finally process his father’s behaviour and the reasons for it.

What I found particularly perceptive was the subtle evidence of caring from a distance. For instance, his father displays the photographs of both his children sitting side by side not only in different frames, but in periods of time: Lucas is forever a boy as there would be no opportunities to capture a new moment, while his younger brother Ryan has grown into an adult. Also Lucas’s diary was found among his father’s effects and contained the gradual decline of his blissful childhood contentment, the den he made with his neighbour, and the invader who trespassed on their friendship. I was a mere bystander and witnessing just how stealthily everything fell into oblivion was emotionally brutal.

Blame opens the door to the agony of life and invites its caustic and destructive challenges in. It’s so astutely written that have no hesitation in highly recommending it.

Rating:    5/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publishers and it is my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘Cleverly and astutely observed’ Eben Venter

‘Shocking and wickedly funny’ Neil Hegarty

‘A raw, startlingly honest novel about family, love and redemption’ Matthew Norman

‘At a time when high-quality contemporary literary fiction is rarer than ever, Paul Read’s novels are a much-needed tonic’ Matt Thorne

It is the summer of 1989 when Lucas witnesses an event that will tear his family apart. Over a decade later, his estranged father succumbs to a suspected heart attack.

Lucas shuns grief and escapes to New York with his colleague Mariana. However, a dark secret from his past threatens to re-emerge and destroy the burgeoning relationship before it has even begun.

When his father’s girlfriend fails to reappear after reporting his death, the true cause of his demise falls under scrutiny. And as the startling truth comes to light, Lucas must confront the fact that father and son may not have been so different after all.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK. Photograph courtesy of Publisher.)

After gaining a first in Fine Art at the Kent Institute of Art and Design at Canterbury, Paul Read found employment at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road before becoming a teacher. He has taught at several inner city schools as an Art and English teacher, both in England and Italy, where he currently lives with his partner and two children. He received a distinction in creative writing for his MA at City University London.

The Art Teacher was published in 2016 by Legend Press.

His second novel, Blame, will be published in April 2017.

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THANK YOU FOR STOPPING BY 🙂 YOU CAN FOLLOW THE REST OF THE #BLAME BLOG TOUR HERE…

 

 

Book Review: The Magician’s Lie, by Greer Macallister #Legend100

Publisher:  Legend Press

Publication date:  3rd April 2017

the-magicians-lie-my-review

the-magicians-lieThe Magician’s Lie explores the life story of a famous fictional illusionist who possesses a phoenix complex, having the ability to re-invent herself by rising from the ashes of her early traumatic life. While some traumas she can never escape others she must exploit to her best advantage. If only her astonishing performance skills and notorious abilities could conjure a solution to her current circumstances.

We’re transported to Iowa 1905 and Officer Virgil Holt is watching the performance of the Amazing Arden from the very back of the theatre. Her act is not like any other insomuch as she is the main attraction, not a predicable stage accessory to provide a useful distraction when required.

It’s evident she can hold an audience in the palm of her hand as they are in awe of her exploits, waiting patiently for her grand finale where she appears to cut a man in half. Shortly after the breath-taking scene Holt learns that an actual man has been savagely murdered and his body crudely concealed inside one of the props, which is not looking good for the Amazing Arden considering the ‘Halved Man’ act he’s just witnessed and that Arden has amazingly ‘disappeared’.

We learn that Holt has received disturbing news about his health which he’s reluctantly putting off telling his wife as he travels home for the evening.  Perhaps that’s why he’s the perfect person to stumble across the suspect quite by chance; he’s got some time to kill and the person in his custody has a very special story to tell.

It’s no mean feat to narrate the majority of the tale leading up to the murder from the uncomfortable surroundings of a small town police station: two people, one room, and events that conspired to lead us to this point in time. The conversation cleverly switches to scenes that occurred when her early dreams grew and faded, the sadistic cruelty of a family member she was forced to endure, and the mother who just wouldn’t listen. This didn’t feel like a usual interrogation between lawman and a suspect but more like a curious therapy session, as she was secured to a chair with several pairs of handcuffs rather than reclining on a couch.

From the beginning I was captivated by her intimate, heart-breaking, courageous story, including the intricate details of the illusions she perfected and the dogged determination of a survivor who refuses to give up. I believed the stage was being prepped as her best trick was yet to come, alas the grand finale didn’t quite materialise and I can only assume that the intended conclusion was overshadowed by my own expectations. I would have also liked a certain ‘talent’ to be explored because it wasn’t a naturally occurring phenomenon. Regardless of whether it was medical or indeed truly magical I’d have loved to know more.

Perhaps this is the magician’s ‘lie’. On the surface she’s just an ordinary woman with the extraordinary ability to enthral an audience, her distinctive dual-coloured eye making her wholly unforgettable. This particular illusionist puts on a show that has you hanging on her every word, and as her account ends at daybreak she allows you to draw your own conclusions.

Rating:   3/5

(My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this title, for which it was my pleasure to read and provide an unbiased review.)

Legend 100 Club

the-magicians-lie-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A USA Today Bestseller

‘[A] well-paced, evocative, and adventurous historical novel…’ —Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

‘This is a book in which storylines twist, spiral and come together again in an ending as explosive as a poof of smoke from your chimney… or a top hat.’ –Oprah.com

‘Smart, intricately plotted… a richly imagined thriller.’ —PEOPLE magazine

‘This debut novel is historical fiction that blends magic, mystery, and romance.’ —Boston Globe, Pick of the Week

‘It’s a captivating yarn… Macallister, like the Amazing Arden, mesmerises her audience. No sleight of hand is necessary. An ambitious heroine and a captivating tale are all the magic she needs.’ —Washington Post

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. But one night she swaps her trademark saw for an axe. When Arden’s husband is found dead later that night, the answer seems clear, most of all to young policeman Virgil Holt.

Captured and taken into custody, all seems set for Arden’s swift confession. But she has a different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless, and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding.

A magical and mysterious historical thriller, perfect for fans of The Night Circus and Water for Elephants.

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the-magicians-lie-author-profile

(Courtesy of Publisher’s website)

Raised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist. Her plays have been performed at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. Her debut novel THE MAGICIAN’S LIE was a USA Today and MIBA Indie bestseller, an Indie Next, LibraryReads, and Target Book Club Pick, and was chosen by guest judge Whoopi Goldberg as a Book of the Month Club main selection. It has been optioned for film by Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films.

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Book Review: The Song of the Stork, by Stephan Collishaw #Legend100

Publisher:  Legend Press

Publication date:  1st March 2017

the-song-of-the-stork-my-review

the-song-of-the-stork-coverDistinctive, memorable and poignant. How such a slim volume can pack this much emotional punch, I have no idea. Its vivid, life-shattering horrors seized a little more of my heart with every passing chapter. 

During these uncertain times the contours of people’s bodies changed in tandem with the landscape; the deep ridges ploughed by German tanks mirror rib cages covered by streamers of shapeless rags, as persecuted human beings are reduced to scarecrows shivering in the fields they may have once owned. 

Through exceptional and sensitive narration the unbearable grief of what is to come will stir your soul. The Song of the Stork will drag you into the thicket to crouch alongside Yael, a mere fifteen year old, alone and stricken by hunger and fear as war tightened its steely grip. And yet, even when all other doors have been firmly closed to her she found the courage to prospect for one that may be open.

Under circumstances less gruelling than these it would be difficult to conjure optimism, but to convey the infinite joy of finding shelter in a chicken coop is the work of a truly gifted author. The initial reception Yael received from the owner of the coop is neither welcoming, nor hostile. Aleksei simply shows her a pamphlet as a stark warning for those breaking the law by helping the Jewish community. This non-verbal communication is his first tentative step of acknowledging her presence.

Yael has heard the rumours of this young man, of course she has. People mocked him for never uttering a word anyone, saying he was crazy and should be left alone. Witnessing the thoughtful and perceptive progression of how he adapted to the disturbance of his guest’s unexpected arrival was a pure triumph.

In a ravaged world where tomorrow may never arrive, you would be forgiven for mistaking the modest luxuries of having a floor to sleep on, or having a shallow bath of warm water to relieve your itching skin, for security or even love. As an agreeable routine lays down its roots, it is quickly followed by the first shoots of fondness which miraculously flourishes into something profoundly beautiful. But this humble, isolated life is not free from danger as unforgiving enemies continually threaten to force their way in.

The Song of the Stork captures the very essence of survivors longing for the wind to change and bring whispers of hope with it. Until then they embrace the conviction to not only salvage what remains of life but to live it, however challenging that may prove to be. An extraordinary read. Truly extraordinary. 

Rating:  5/5        

(My thanks to Legend Press for providing a copy of this title. It is my absolute pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

Legend 100 Club

the-song-of-the-stork-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘An elegantly crafted, beautifully written novel about love, survival and hope against all the odds’ William Ryan

‘Tightly written and suspenseful… a darkly compassionate fable of human endurance in absolute extremity’ Stevie Davies

‘…a dark jewel that holds up for examination the proximity of terror and savagery to innocence and love’ Guy Kennaway

‘Stephan Collishaw takes your hand and leads you into a world of tragic beauty, inspiring strength and delicate kindness in the midst of horror’ Aistė Diržiūtė

Fifteen-year-old Yael is on the run. The Jewish girl seeks shelter from the Germans on the farm of the village outcast. Aleksei is mute and solitary, but as the brutal winter advances, he reluctantly takes her in and a delicate relationship develops.

As her feelings towards Aleksei change, the war intrudes and Yael is forced to join a Jewish partisan group fighting in the woods.

Torn apart and fighting for her life, The Song of the Stork is Yael’s story of love, hope and survival. It is the story of one woman finding a voice as the voices around her are extinguished.

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the-song-of-the-stork-author-profile

(Courtesy of publisher’s website)

Stephan Collishaw was brought up on a Nottingham council estate and failed all of his O’levels. His first novel The Last Girl (2003) was chosen by the Independent on Sunday as one of its Novels of the Year. In 2004 Stephan was selected as one of the British Council’s 20 best young British novelists. His brother is the renowned artist, Mat Collishaw. After a 10-year writing hiatus, The Song of the Stork is Stephan’s highly anticipated third novel. Stephan now works as a teacher in Nottingham, having also lived and worked abroad in Lithuania and Mallorca, where his son Lukas was born.

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Book Review: Lily’s House by Cassandra Parkin #legend100 #LILYSHOUSE

Publisher:  Legend Press

Publication date:  15th October 2016

lilys-house-my-review

lilys-house-by-cassandra-parkin-coverMemories certainly leave their impression in Lily’s House, a bewitching novel holding the key to the past, the present, and the future.

Lily possessed a peculiar charisma which she used to influence the lives of those she loved. Her abilities allowed her to apply a specific kind of persuasion could only be perceived as manipulating a situation to its best advantage – or giving people a nudge in the right direction with extreme consequences.

Remarkably her estranged granddaughter, Jen, believed she had a gift and perhaps even dabbled in a spot of witchcraft on occasion. Her grandma’s absolute respect for the natural world and its beguiling properties were part of her world when growing up, much like the unquestionable bond they once shared.

It would be foolhardy to make a big deal out of this natural talent for ‘knowing’ things, especially now Lily is deceased and the only thing that matters is that Jen is faced with the mammoth task of sifting through her grandmother’s estate. Her intention is to value the assets and go home to her other half without the hint of reminiscence. But her progress is hindered as Lily’s presence remains, from her jewellery to the book she was reading, the cat she’d never admit was her cat, and the enigmatic photo album that captured fleeting moments for an inventive cause – it’s true the camera never lies, but more importantly it can tell the most extraordinary story.

Those few days Jen intends to spend at a house she had some of her most life changing moments in are tainted by arranging a decent funeral so the neighbours won’t think she’s a despicable human being, having to deal with the cantankerous old fella downstairs who’s making every effort to demoralise her, and a husband she’s left at home to happily dip into an inheritance they haven’t received yet. Jen’s daughter is the only one that speaks sense most of the time. She’s a wonderfully brave character whose intuition brings perspective to situations that would otherwise haunt most adults, let alone one so young.

The subtle melancholic lure of Lily’s House offers a pilgrimage to break down the barriers of communication in all its guises, and the emotional and physical distress caused by toxic relationships. It becomes apparent that Lily’s true legacy is so much more than bricks and mortar. Though her disquieting interference she hopes to restore harmony, even after her death.

First impressions can be unexpectedly deceptive. That gorgeous cover cleverly conceals a darkness where on the surface everything appears innocent, but it’s not until you dare to delve deeper that the brutal truth is revealed. I find it astonishing how words can stealthily raise ugly issues to such powerful effect, yet remain so beautifully written.

Rating:  4/5

(I received a paperback copy of this title from Legend Press  with my thanks and this is my unbiased review.)

Legend 100 Club

lilys-house-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

When Jen goes to her grandmother s house for the last time, she s determined not to dwell on the past. As a child, Jen adored Lily and suspected she might be a witch; but the spell was broken long ago, and now her death means there won’t be any reconciliation. Lily s gone, but the enchantments she wove and the secrets she kept still remain. In Lily s house, Jen and her daughter Marianne reluctantly confront the secrets of the past and present – and discover how dangerous we become when we re trying to protect the ones we love.

Praise for Lily’s House…

Lily’s House has a voice that leaps out of the page and holds you tight. Fresh. Original. Spell-binding.’–Jane Corry, author of My Husband’s Wife.

Lily’s House is a beautiful story that carefully unravels the depth of love and lies in a family. Cassandra’s writing pulled me in from the first page and wouldn’t let me go until I’d finished. Even then it stayed with me for a long time.’–Heidi Perks, author of Beneath the Surface.

‘Unexpectedly dark and dream-like. I loved the twists throughout – a very enjoyable read.’–Natalie K. Martin, No.1 Amazon best-selling author.

Lily’s House is a beautiful, rich, haunting and addictive read. Cassandra Parkin effortlessly weaves magic in this story of long-gone secrets, self-discovery, empowerment, and love. The book is assured, mature… a masterpiece. I’ll never forget it.’–Louise Beech, author of How to be Brave.

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lilys-house-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Cassandra Parkin grew up in Hull, and now lives in East Yorkshire. Her short story collection, New World Fairy Tales (Salt Publishing, 2011), won the 2011 Scott Prize for Short Stories. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. Author of The Summer We All Ran Away (2013) and The Beach Hut (2015).

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Book Review: The Art Teacher, by Paul Read #Legend100

Publisher:  Legend Press

Publication date:  1st September 2016

The Art Teacher - My Review

The Art Teacher - CoverThe Art Teacher is a portrayal of a blemished world where desperate youths are top of a dangerous food chain and the authorities are slowly losing their minds. Take every streetwise retort and sideways glare fuelled by troubled teenage tribes and simply accept that despite possessing a teaching degree, immense life experience, and your best efforts, you haven’t got a hope in hell of influencing their poor life choices.

An inoffensive Art Teacher wouldn’t normally orbit the infamous Braddock estate except he teaches the majority of the local kids who live at this unfortunate post code, infamous for its recruitment of youths into one of the territorial gangs – little did he know their worlds would soon collide.

Patrick might be paid to turn up every day and educate them on how to throw a pot to the best of their abilities and decorate it afterwards, but ironically all their interest lay in similar pursuits such as hurling clay bricks and daubing senseless graffiti tags all over the neighbourhood.

Yes, the cunning kids featured in The Art Teacher would seamlessly blend into a heckling pack of hyenas circling its prey. Their complacency in the classroom originates from dark, unpredictable motives and that’s the liberally greased slippery slope right there, as any problem behaviour is given a wide birth and their unbridled distain for authority is relatively unchallenged for fear of reprisal.

That is, until Patrick’s dignity is teetering on the verge of non-existent and he confronts one of his more troublesome students. The subject that day was Denis, self-appointed spawn of the devil by nature of his unruly actions. He uses the scar from his hair lip to his advantage to strike a menacing pose before he grunts something obnoxious at Patrick; wearing that scowl like a badge of honour he tallies invisible medals from the dishonourable deeds he’s been engaged in.

It was truly awful to witness Patrick’s downward spiral into oblivion as his spontaneous challenge only resulted in a larger target being placed on his back. While escape from the battle cries of the anonymous students who elected themselves judge and jury is nigh on impossible, retaliation festers behind their smirking jaws but it’s nothing like he (or I as a reader) could ever imagine.

On the flip side of the coin, in a place where hope isn’t snuffed out, Patrick attempts to side step the bad eggs to help one of his students pleading help. Frequent visits to the grim Braddock estate opens his eyes, yet naivety will be his downfall as he’s outsmarted at every turn. This brooding plot aims to turn Patrick into a social pariah, and the intimidation and taunting he suffers attracts the interest of the local police to his door when they are drafted in to investigate a major incident on the estate which will alter the course of his life forever.

The Art Teacher excelled beyond anything I was expecting. The steady and continual layering is most excellently done until the tension is as snap-worthy as Patrick’s patience threshold. There’s a razor sharp observation of everything that has been damaged sociologically within the blink of a generation. Despite the oppressive air of despondency smothering them all the writing is fresh, engaging, and slices through contemporary issues with ease.

Rating:  A HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 5/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review, with my sincere thanks.)

Legend 100

The Art Teacher - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘This is a superb debut… gritty, disturbing and pacy. It opens with thrilling intensity and never lets up.’ — Alex Lake, author of After Anna

Patrick Owen managed seven years at Highfields Secondary School without punching a pupil in the face.

Unknowingly drawn into a war against his own pupils, Patrick’s patience finally snaps as he finds himself the number one target with the boy the school just can’t seem to expel.

When one of his Art students needs his help, she unwittingly pulls Patrick further into the line of fire, altering their lives forever.

With the media circling and rumours of his involvement reaching new highs, Patrick must escape the world he lives in, or face the consequences.

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The Art Teacher - Author Profile

(Courtesy of Goodreads. Photograph with permission of Legend Press.)

Paul Read Author Profile

After gaining a first in Fine Art at the Kent Institute of Art and Design at Canterbury, Paul Read moved to London, finding employment at Foyles bookshop before becoming a teacher. He has worked in several inner-city schools as an Art, English and supply teacher, both in England and Italy. He received a distinction from City University London for his creative writing MA.

A few years ago, Paul was involved in a hit-and-run incident which put him in a wheelchair for several months and was where he wrote the first draft of The Art Teacher. He lives with Patricia and their two children.

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Book Review: The Blackbird Singularity, by Matt Wilven

Publisher: Legend Press

Publication date: 1st August 2016

The Blackbird Singularity - My Review

The Blackbird Singularity Matt Wilven Cover onlyGasping for breath as he drowns in his own sanity, Vince, or rather the state of his mind and the demons that dwell there, are the subjects of The Blackbird Singularity. He’s an ordinary guy with a creative intelligence, which is being suffocated by the Lithium coursing through his veins. He relies on the drug to see him through to the next day, well this, and the immense strength of his wife, Lydia.

His behaviour is erratic and he’s missing out on what’s left of his life since the tragic death of his young son pushed him into a dark, dark corner. With his writing career non-existent, incapable of holding down a paying day job, he’s financially supported by Lydia much to the disapproval of her family. In their eyes this waster locust who feeds of her good will has sunk lower than they could have ever thought.

As he discovers he and Lydia are to be parents again, there’s a pivotal point in Vince’s thinking. He stops taking the Lithium. He doesn’t tell anyone, as this is Vince staking a claim on himself once again. The withdrawal results in manic episodes that are blooming with clarity followed by hallucinations tapping into his sub conscious. Scary as this is, life becomes so vivid he is able to write again. But this liberation entwines with confusion when Blackbirds begin to visit his garden. Vince strikes an affinity with one fearless chappie who defies convention to cautiously investigate this strange man standing on the patio in his pj’s clutching a bag of raisins.

Their worlds become linked by something I could only describe as deeply spiritual, and Vince begins to look for meaningful signs from his feathered friend. The relationship could be a cathartic experience or may just give him a reason to get up every morning. By concentrating his efforts on getting well without clouding his judgement with his medication, he misses the most vital sign of all – Lydia is drifting further away.

It’s painful to see how a tragic circumstance eroded what they once shared. Charlie, their son, is not openly discussed after Vince’s breakdown but it’s clear that they both can’t accept that he’s not coming back.

The story is told in three ‘trimesters’ that cleverly correlate with the pregnancy and Vince’s own growth during it. There are some thought-provoking introductions to every new chapter on philosophical topics such as time, space and theories that tie in nicely with the current state of his writerly mind. I could only imagine the profound conversations he once must have had with Lydia as this is her area of expertise. I also looked forward to the rare visits Vince made to his hoarder friend’s house. Jamal possesses a quirky and relaxed nature which is complimented by humble wisdom;  while he smokes a joint he can rattle off his knowledge about all things deep and meaningful when the need arises.

The Blackbird Singularity is a brave and powerful book. I found the weight of Vince’s distress strangely hypnotic and couldn’t stop myself being drawn into the isolated world he found himself living in. It lays bare the spectrum of grief while offering a chink of light at the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Rating:  4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review, with my thanks.)

Legend 100 Club

The Blackbird Singularity - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Wilven does a masterful job of keeping his readers as off-balance as his protagonist… an intense and satisfyingly off-beat examination of a man lost in a landscape of unresolved grief and his heroic fight to find his way back home.’ Melissa DeCarlo, author of The Art of Crash Landing

Vince stops taking his lithium when he finds out about his partner’s pregnancy. As withdrawal kicks in, he can barely hold his life together.

Somewhere between making friends with a blackbird in the back garden and hearing his dead son’s footsteps in the attic, he finds himself lost and alone, journeying through a world of chaos and darkness, completely unaware of the miracle that lies ahead.

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The Blackbird Singularity - Author Profile

Matt Wilven was born in Blackpool in 1982. After receiving an MA with Distinction in Creative Writing, he spent the next ten years honing his craft. His part-time jobs in this time included: bingo caller, ice-cream man, fishmonger, paintball operative, camel derby caller, soap seller, copywriter, rollercoaster operator, warehouse packer, old people feeder and DJ workshop coordinator. Fresh from burying a library of juvenilia beneath his ex-landlord s patio, he has emerged as a debut novelist with a distinct, accessible voice and an eye as keen for reality as it is the surreal.

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Blog Tour Book Review: Owl Song At Dawn, by Emma Claire Sweeney

Publisher: Legend Press

Publication date:  1st July 2016

Owl Song At Dawn - My Review

Owl Song At Dawn -CoverIt’s been a long while since a book given me physical goose bumps while reading. This was not as a result of horror, or shocks, but because it was so beautifully written from beginning to end. People who know me well we understand that whilst I’m not unsympathetic, it does take quite a major event to bring a tear to my eye. Almost immediately I knew this would be a treasure chest of emotion where I would discover hoard of lump in the throat gem like moments within.

It contains a mountainous abundance of love, its strength more ferocious than many challenging stormy days ahead in this story of Maeve and Edie. Twins born in the 1930’s, both an equally special addition to their parents’ lives, their personalities shining through, and yet the only difference to them apart was Edie’s Down’s Syndrome and the full time care her condition demanded as a result.

What is clear is that the twin’s parents were fiercely protective of both of their daughters, irrespective of people’s blatant disregard of their feelings concerning the methods of care they lavished on both regardless of their differing personalities. They fought disagreeable medical intervention and suffered disapproval as a result, while tolerating narrow minded public opinion of the time as they gave their children every opportunity that was financially possible.

The disruptions Edie caused as the family participated in their daily routines caused ‘scenes’ at inopportune moments. While accepted by the supportive majority, others couldn’t bring themselves to make eye contact, astonishingly embarrassed by just how big her heart was. Maeve and Edie’s parents’ attitude could easily be mistaken as bravery for the complications they had to endure, but they simply had so much love to share. Oh my, I’m welling up again. This book has left me quite choked (in a good way). *composes oneself*

By the time she tells this story Maeve is a well presented, active octogenarian. Although her knees are creaking a little more than usual she works tirelessly to provide a service to her guests at her family home and B & B catering for clients with special needs. Or should I say some truly special individuals, who experience differing needs to the usual holiday makers (not unlike her sister, who would have remarked Maeve was quite ‘exhausticated’ with so much work and little play).

The B & B is a haven for those who return year after year to experience Maeve’s unique brand of hospitality, not the dated décor. All the guests and staff have the most marvellous character; honest, persistent, loyal, with aspirations most of us take for granted. These provide a painful reminder for this bachelor lady who, despite being surrounded by lively guests, experiences excruciating bouts of loneliness and grief.

It was decades ago that life threw Maeve an unexpected curveball yet she never recovered truly recovered from tragic events of the past that affected the family and her own personal life in different ways and her heart never healed completely to allow her the happiness she deserved. What becomes clear is that she could learn a thing or two from her guests, who aren’t restrained by what is thought to be acceptable, or even possible. To be honest, I think we all could.

Owl Song at Dawn a reflective journey of ‘what ifs’ and the emotional torment we reap from situations often outside out control. No matter how late the hour you can still discover what truly matters in life. It’s the most wonderful, soul-reaching read, which embraced me wholeheartedly, and in turn I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Rating: 5/5

(Many, many thanks to Lucy Chamberlain of Legend Press for kindly providing a paperback copy of this beaut in exchange for an unbiased review.)

Legend 100 Club

Owl Song At Dawn - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘Fresh, poignant and unlike anything else’ — Jill Dawson, Whitbread and Orange Prize-shortlisted author

‘Tender and unflinching, a beautifully observed novel.’ — Carys Bray, Costa Prize-shortlisted author

‘It crept under my skin and will stay there for a long time’ — Emma Henderson, Orange Prize-shortlisted author

‘Amazing: fierce, intelligent, compassionate and deeply moving’— Edward Hogan, Desmond Elliot Prize-winning author

‘Funny, heartbreaking and truly remarkable’ — Susan Barker, New York Times bestselling author

Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with. Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe’s 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness.

Until, that is, Vincent shows up. Vincent is the last person Maeve wants to see. He is the only man alive to have known her twin sister, Edie. The nightingale to Maeve’s crow, the dawn to Maeve’s dusk, Edie would have set her sights on the stage all things being equal. But, from birth, things never were.

If only Maeve could confront the secret past she shares with Vincent, she might finally see what it means to love and be loved a lesson that her exuberant yet inexplicable twin may have been trying to teach her all along.

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Owl Song At Dawn - Author Profile

(Profile courtesy of Amazon UK. Photograph courtesy of publisher.)

Emma Claire Sweeney Author Photograph

Emma Claire Sweeney is a multi-award-winning author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, who currently teaches on City University’s Novel Studio and at New York University in London.

Emma was brought up in the North West of England, the elder sibling of twins, and OWL SONG AT DAWN is inspired by her autistic sister.

With her writer friend and colleague, Emily Midorikawa, she runs the website Something Rhymed, which shines a light on the forgotten friendships of the world’s most famous female authors.

Emma writes literary features, reviews, and pieces on disability for broadsheets and magazines.

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Thank you SO much for popping by today, as Owl Song At Dawn is a truly wonderful read. Oh, and please don’t forget to visit the other blog stops on the tour! :

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All the best,

Wendy sig

 

Blog Tour Book Review: Wild Life by Liam Brown #WildLife #Legend100

To say I am overjoyed to be kicking off Liam Brown’s #WildLife blog tour today would be an understatement, as I have book love galore for Wild Life! This incredible treasure was published yesterday and now it’s my great pleasure to be able to release my humble review into the wild…

Publisher:  Legend Press   |   Publication Date:  13th June 2016

Wild Life My Review

Wild Life by Liam Brown - Kindle CoverHow to go from civilised to feral in just a couple of hundred pages…

Yep. It’s a Wild Life indeed for Adam. Once upon a time he lived in the dog-eat-dog world of high flying sales executives, until his career and its relentless entertainment schedule finally turned its back on him. When his gambling debts spiralled out of control and his recreational drug use became habitual, he stepped out of his front door with just the clothes on his back to contemplate how his life went so badly wrong.

During his impromptu walkabout, Adam stumbles upon a hidden world just a stone’s throw away from society. While society minds its own business, this primitive place embraces him, warts and all.

Except this exclusive place doesn’t feature ‘Eve’. Nope, Adam’s wife, Lydia, is back at home with his children and is none the wiser as to his whereabouts. Would they think less of him when they learn what a major disappointment he was professionally and personally, or that he’s now residing in an undiscovered and somewhat unconventional haven for a chorus of weather-beaten folks with histories not dissimilar to his own?

Most of them prefer their pack as an alternative to the lives they each left behind, dishevelled men like Hopper, Fingers and Al Pachino (no, not THE Al Pachino) … and the elusive Sneed who skulks about the park like a phantom, while you get a whiff of Rusty’s catering skills featuring curried everything with each turn of the page. Under the ‘guidance’ of Marshall, a kind of militant Butlin’s Redcoat and resident sage, these men live by their own moral code and means of survival. They follow a few basic rules: everyone contributes, and once you decide to stay it would be considered rude to leave.

This existence is a stark contrast to Adam’s old one and presents him with an entirely new set of challenges. While conventional law is not recognised, extreme daily activities create the backbone on which the pack survives (including some disturbing early morning yoga). But any freedom gained from abandoning your past self can so easily morph into isolation and fear in the blink of an eye.

It takes an enormous talent to place the peculiarities of fictional characters on trial and make you believe in each every one of them, for better or for much, MUCH worse. Not only that, it’s brimming with shrewd observations of the sinister side of herd mentality and how the group applies deluded reasoning for it. Made me wonder if we’ve ever truly evolved.

I lost all sense of time alongside Adam while reading Wild Life, and that’s no exaggeration. His story is aptly told in ‘seasons’ and I was gutted to reach the final one marking the end of his journey. With it’s wicked brilliance, sharp pace and darkly satirical delivery I can safely say it’s one of those books I could happily read again tomorrow, as it sits superbly in a class of its own.

Rating: A mesmerising 5/5 (and a promise never to take Quality Street for granted again)

(Huge thanks, as always, to the Legend Press folks for providing another great book for me to devour as part of the Legend 100 Club.)

Legend 100 Club

Wild Life Book Summary

New novel from the Guardian Not the Booker shortlisted author of ‘Real Monsters’.

‘…as intoxicating as home-distilled hooch.’ — Stephen May, Costa Novel Award-shortlisted author

‘…inventive, finely written and disturbing.’– Jim Crace, Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author

‘When we moved into the wild, the wild moved into us.’

When a troubled advertising salesman loses his job, the fragile wall between his public and private personas comes tumbling down. Fleeing his debtors, Adam abandons his family and takes to sleeping rough in a local park, where a fraternity of homeless men befriend him.

As the months pass, Adam gradually learns to appreciate the tough new regime, until winter arrives early, threatening to turn his paradise into a nightmare.

Starving, exhausted and sick of the constant infighting, Adam decides to return to his family. The men, however, have other plans for him. With time running out, and the stakes raised unbearably high, Adam is forced to question whether any of us can truly escape the wildness within.

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Wild Life Author Profile

Liam Brown is a writer, filmmaker and former-life model. His debut novel Real Monsters was published in 2015 and long-listed for the Guardian s Not the Booker prize. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and two children.

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Next Blog Stop

Join Butterflyy In The Skyy tomorrow for more #WildLife…

Wild Life Blog Tour

Thanks so much for stopping by,

Wendy sig