Book Review: Lingua Franca, by William Thacker #Legend100

Publisher: Legend Press   |   Publication date: 16th May 2016

Lingua Franca My Review

Lingua Franca Kindle CoverLingua Franca is absurdly original. This stunning book uses the power of words to make or break the world of farcical logic. One particular man’s world, to be precise.

Determined businessman, Miles Platting, finds himself in a hospital bed where the only treatment he is receiving is silence. While he is grateful for being rescued from the sea, he doesn’t understand why no one is speaking and the only word that is exchanged is the written one. To a man who uses verbal communication to his advantage this current situation is frustrating.

Through the odd note passed between the nurses and Miles, we discover how our survivor came to be in the water in the first place and hope to learn where the rest of his companions are. This is how we begin to understand the significance of Lingua Franca, the brainchild of Miles Platting. He is the co-owner of the company that uses no nonsense pressure selling techniques to convince town councils across the UK that it’s in their best interest to abandon their centuries old native place name and adopt a new one. Their existing name will be replaced by a corporate sponsor’s brand, who in exchange will provide continual investment to rejuvenate their tired town. Simples.

Lingua Franca never stands still. There are targets to meet, quinoa to eat, and cities to be matched with something you can find in your freezer. After an agreement is reached, a ceremony akin to a welcoming committee for an alien invasion allows ‘team Linga Franca’ to descend on the town and christen it by its newly sponsored brand name. Their customer relations’ exercise includes replacing all signage to completely erase the old name, while provoking the locals with their elitist wisdom.

Alas, no matter what ‘benefits’ they could reap some towns are just not ready to embrace change, unlike Stella Artois, formally known as Milton Keynes, home of Miles and his cat, Ptolemy. Disapproval can range from mild heckling to organised vegetable hurling – and these good people are not alone. Also madly opposed to Lingua Franca’s morals is Kendal, his wife, not the town. She’s passionate about English language and can’t comprehend why anyone would want to taint thousands of years of heritage with an advertising gimmick. There are frequent opportunities for some stealthy one-upmanship to support their individual cases throughout the book!

The shallow reasoning for his actions, and the aftershocks from the suicide of his most successful employee, begin to erode Miles’ high ground to reveal the message that perhaps it’s not the UK’s place names that needs to change.

Lingua Franca doesn’t waste a single word, and I highly recommend every one of them.

Rating: 5/5

(My thanks to Lucy Chamberlain of Legend Press for providing a paperback copy of this fascinating book for review.)

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Lingua Franca Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

There’s a problem with Barrow, but it can be fixed. You just need to change the name to Birdseye. Birdseye-in-Furness…

Miles Platting is pulled from the ruins of a shipwreck into a world in which no one will speak to him. The founder of Lingua Franca – a naming rights agency committed to renaming every UK town after a corporate sponsor – Miles recounts the story of his quest for linguistic supremacy to anyone who’ll listen. Confined to his hospital bed in a deathly quiet ward, Miles seeks to find his colleagues and reunite with his true love. But in doing so, Miles must confront his deepest held convictions and consider, what’s in a name? in a world where the spoken word has been replaced with silence.

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Lingua Franca Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Author and scriptwriter William Thacker was born in London in 1986. His debut novel, Charm Offensive, was published by Legend Press in 2014. As a screenwriter, William co-wrote the short film, Full Time, winner of the Best Film award at the 2014 Shanghai International Film Festival. He is also the co-writer behind Steven, the feature-length Morrissey biopic currently in development. Lingua Franca is his second novel.

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Book Review: Armadillos, by P.K. Lynch #Legend100

Publisher:  Legend Press   |   Publication date: 1st April 2016

Armadillos My Review

Armadillos Book CoverPoignant, emotionally charged, and with many a dark corner, Armadillos shows how life can fail just about anyone given the right, but mainly wrong, chance set of circumstances.

Born into a Texan farming family who practise immorally abusive entertainment at the expense of the subservient members of their unit makes for an uncomfortable reading experience, and yet it was a book I read straight through in one day – it would appear that fifteen year old Aggie grabbed hold of me with both hands and I couldn’t bring myself to let her go.

This first person narrative in a regional dialect offers a personal account of this young girl’s life, who is quite accepting of her current dire circumstances, until one day she walks out the door, passed the landlocked boat that rots a little more each year, and she just kept on walking.

With only the clothes on her back, Aggie uses her limited wily ways to entice rides from the unsuspecting public to place as much distance between her and the farm as she can, and yet she has no idea where she’s going, only a desire to not return home. Her implanted memories of past events are recalled on route until the impression of the life she has been fed over time dissipates onto the harsh reality on the street.

Constantly looking over her shoulder, running from one disastrous situation to the next, she slowly engages in a steep learning curve to not have to rely on others to further her progression. No matter how small her goal, until she can confront her past, present, and what the future holds, she will never take hold life’s reigns to arrive at the place she needs to be.

Her temporary survival technique sees her befriending a catalogue of fascinating and troubled characters, each having their own terrors to keep them company. I grew especially fond of Marj (initially known as The Beast Lady), whose aggression is a force of its own, but whose dream is to manufacture and sell her hand crafted souvenirs to tourists to raise much needed funds. She believes the little Crucifixes and Armadillos she creates from blown out tyres is her trip out of this hellhole of a life. And then there’s the road kill she lovingly places in the back of her car until she can find a suitable place to lay them to rest. She’s goes out of her way to look out for the little creatures, even if no one else does.

The majority of Aggie’s acquaintances are also burdened by common fear; they hide behind the only protective armour they have, which is retreating into their own shells to prevent the disclosure of any potential weak spot. One by one these lone survivors unwittingly fill the void in Aggie’s young life, even if they choose to move on, disappoint her, or threaten to rock the boat at some point.

Despite its desperate nature, Armadillos is an encouraging story of hope, even if it is tormentingly evasive at times.  This is a hard hitting novel, and one that will stay with you for some time.

Everybody knows that life don’t give a sh!t who you are. Life throws you a curve ball any old time it feels like it, no matter your size, colour or creed…

Rating: 4/5

(Huge thanks, as ever, to Legend Press for providing a paperback proof copy of this title, as part of the Legend 100 Club. So far, every read has been quite unique and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next!)

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Armaldillo book summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Aggie is fifteen, a ‘sub’ from a ‘sub’ family, one of Texas’ downtrodden. Her father and brother enact that ‘sub’-ness on her, week in, week out. She has only the vaguest notion that there is something wrong with the abuse she endures and instead dreams of the outside world.

And then one day, Aggie walks out, and like the armadillos that flourish in Texas’ barren landscape, she is a survivor…

In her escape, she gravitates to those who are just as maltreated as her. They offer Aggie the sense of family, albeit a thoroughly dysfunctional one, that she’s been searching for. But when she gets embroiled in a crisis involving stolen money, Aggie soon realises there are some problems you can’t run away from.

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Armaldillo author profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Pauline trained as an actor and her first professional job was playing Lizzie in the film of Irvine Welsh’s novel, Trainspotting. After having a baby, Pauline completed her first stage play, Promise. Her second play, King of the Gypsies, played at the Edinburgh fringe, and then toured. She then enrolled on the MLitt Creative Writing programme at Glasgow University where Armadillos was awarded the Sceptre Prize for Fiction.

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Book Review: When We Were Alive, by C J Fisher #Legend100

Publisher:  Legend Press   |   Publication date: 1st March 2016

When We Were Alive My Review

When We Were Alive by C J Fisher - coverThe darkly perceptive When We Were Alive is punctuated by an acute, quick-witted observation of three generations, spanning from the 1930’s until the present day.

Through shifting decades, the individual stories of Bobby, William, and Myles set the scenes of history with clarity and originality. The picture conjured from these words is more akin to looking through a personal photo album than holding a book in your hands. As their fate intertwined through the magnificence of time I was utterly spellbound.

In the present, Myles’ reactions to everyday situations is left to run like a tap until his thoughts overflow. His twenty-two year old randomness takes shape in letter form addressed to a mother he never knew. The letters show how he expresses inappropriate emotional responses to those close to him. But his humorous candidness throws light on the shade that marks his life.

William orchestrates personally damaging events in order to experience ‘something’, rather than prolonged nothingness. While he’s intoxicated by alcohol he meets a young woman called Dawn in a corridor of a hotel in Vegas, and subsequently discovers he’s not wearing any trousers. It’s the 1970’s when their story begins. Life may be a struggle, but there’s every possibility it could be bearable.

Bobby is a twelve year old avid magician, practicing illusions, even though he’s crippled with embarrassment when performing for an audience. His lack of confidence leaves him alone, with just the oddity of his parents to keep him company by indulging his pastime. That is until chance meeting with Rose brings him the ‘willing assistant’ he didn’t even know he needed until they met. We follow their uniqueness through the Second World War, and beyond.

Every new chapter sees their personalities grow, as they fail, love, leave, and live. The unpredictable game of life reveals they are shells of people until they can find that elusive something to fulfil them. Even then, it may never be enough.

When We Were Alive is insightful, page-turning perfection. Its incredible vision is one you will want to discover for yourself.

Rating: 5/5

(My eternal gratitude to Legend Press and Tom Chalmers for providing a paperback copy of this book for review, as part of the Legend 100 Club.)

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When We Were Alive Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

When we first meet Bobby, he is a shy, 12-year-old magician who falls in love with his best friend. William is consumed with self-hate and drinks to escape the memories of his father’s sadness and his mother’s death. Myles is writing letters to a mother he has never met. Three different people from three different times each explore the dark side of relationships, search for beauty in sadness and try to bear the burden of guilt from living in a world we are powerless to fix.

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When We Were Alive Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

C.J Fisher has a Master’s Degree in Film from Exeter University, since graduating she has worked as a video editor, movie critic, social media manager, and creative content producer, as well as presenting talks on new media to charities and brands. In her free time she is an avid writer, illustrator and online content creator. C.J vlogs as Ophelia Dagger, with over 30,000 subscribers on YouTube. Her first novel, When We Were Alive, was inspired by events in her own life. For all the latest news, thoughts and announcements, visit C.J s website: oldhotradio.com or Twitter: @opheliadagger

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Book Review: Fractured, by Clar Ni Chonghaile

Publisher:  Legend Press    |    Publication date:  1st February 2016

Fractured My Review

Fractured

Fractured is bold and intense, as hopeful as it is bleak. Every word from its heart is perfectly attuned to capture the shifting mood throughout, and it doesn’t miss a beat.

A story-hungry journalist, his estranged mother, and a Somali teenager. These individuals will endure many challenges presented by a country where the struggle for control takes centre stage, and the consequences are greater than they could ever imagine.

The opening scenes evoke a sense of hopelessness for Peter Maguire, a journalist held captive in a squalid cell by his merciless kidnappers. He is lost, both geographically and mentally, craving his past lives; one built with his girlfriend in France, the other in Liberia, which includes a son he has never seen.

Peter’s basic needs are left in the hands of a young and puzzling character. Abdi has experienced many unkind events in his sketchy life. There are not many options for this lad’s future, other than to face recruitment by a terrorist group wreaking havoc. His duties include bringing food to the prisoner, whose fate he knows to be sealed, but in quieter moment he also exchanges a few words, albeit briefly.

Peter’s current circumstances were more akin to a living tomb. He is waiting for the day the door would open and this half-life would finally be over. But until that happens he exists in hours of darkness and allows regret to consume him, as he would miss the opportunity to right his wrongs.

On his current path, Abdi realises his life is an infinite nothingness. The skinny, unsmiling lad is trying to ignore an invite to join the militants fighting for power while privately questioning the motives behind the kidnapping. His spontaneous decision to aid Peter’s escape arrives with little preparation. Without shoes, or a definitive direction, they flee into the night. As they are evading capture an odd, unspoken friendship ensues.

Peter’s mother, Nina, is restless waiting for news in Paris. Once a journalist herself, she is unable to sit and do nothing, so she jets off to Somalia hoping to make amends for a secret she held back in Peter’s youth. While she is there she will endeavour to chase away the ghosts of her past and try to contribute what ever skills she can collect along the way.

Told in the first person, the haunted trio offer their fragmented stories in turn by voicing their fears, their inner turmoil, and their experiences within this hostile environment, past and present. As they reflect on their lives it is clear they are all imprisoned in one way or another. Are they prepared to accept this fate, or can they leave their torment behind them?

That conclusion can only be reached by immersing yourself in the stunning passages, and often solitary sentences, that were so perfectly formed I personally stopped to re-read them. I’ll leave you with one such poignant moment that creates a powerful impact in a mere few words:

At first, her face didn’t change, and then it was as if someone had stuck a pin into her neck, letting the air hiss out. She shrank, her shoulders sagging. She stopped fingering the wooden bangle that Peter had brought her on his last trip to Africa. Her hands fell into her lap, like shot birds from the sky.

Rating: 5/5

(With thanks to Tom Chambers and Legend Press for arranging a paperback review copy of this title, as part of the Legend 100 Club.)

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(Courtesy of Legend Press)

Peter Maguire has been kidnapped in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. He does not know where he is or what is going to happen to him. The journalist is filled with fear and, as the days go by, this dread of the unknown is shot through with remorse for the mistakes of his past.

Peter’s mother Nina comes to Somalia to wait for her son’s release. His plight forces her to relive another trauma – the fatal shooting in Liberia of Shaun Ridge, a young photographer she once loved, and Peter’s real father.

Abdi, a Somali teenager working with Peter’s captors strikes a tenuous friendship with the prisoner based on a shared feeling of captivity. He decides to help Peter escape. Together and they set off into the barren vastness of a land filled with danger.

Three people must journey into one of the world’s most dangerous places, the human mind, to answer the question: are we ever truly free?

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 (Courtesy of Legend Press)

Clar Ni Chonghaile Author PicClar Ni Chonghaile is the author of Fractured, due February 2016.

Clár grew up in the West of Ireland, the eldest of seven children. She left Ireland aged 19 to work as a graduate trainee journalist at Reuters in London. Clár has worked as a journalist for over 20 years and has lived in Madrid, Paris, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Kenya.

Whilst in Nairobi, she freelanced for the Guardian and travelled to Somalia to cover the African Union’s battle against al Shabaab and the plight of thousands of displaced people.

Clár returned to London in Summer 2014, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

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