You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood

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Synopsis

The trial is nearly over and its time of the closing statements, but this is a trial with a difference.  The defendant sacks his lawyer and decides to make the closing statement himself.  Over two weeks the defendant stands before the Judge and Jury telling the events that led up to the shooting of  twenty year old young man, Jamil.  He feels he was advised wrongly by his lawyer, told to miss details out, but he thinks these details are important to his defence.  What has he got to lose, he is looking at a life sentence if found guilty. There are eight pieces of evidence, and as he talks through them one by one, his life is in the Jury’s hands, will they find him guilty or not guilty?

 

Review

You Don’t Know Me is a wonderfully original read.  Told completely by the defendant, it is only his voice we hear throughout the book, it is almost like a soliloquy.  Fitting the defendant, a black young man from London, his speech to the Jury and to us the reader is in an accent and slang terms used in the rougher areas of London where he is from.  I thought this added authenticity to both the defendant and his story.

You may I have noticed that we are never given the name of the defendant, this makes it less  personal in some ways, I found his story could be the story of any other young black man from his area of London, caught up with the gangs that run each area.  The other characters in the book are the defendant’s mother and sister, friend Curtis and girlfriend Ki, the other two main protagonists in the killing of Jamil.  All characters I found very believable and their story, although shocking to many of us, is a life that many young people lead on council estates.  My eyes were really opened to how some young people have to live, and what challenges they face on a daily basis.

You Don’t Know Me is a powerful and compelling novel, a lone man’s tale of the gang culture prevalent in today’s society.  It is very dark in places but ultimately it is a story of a young man who doesn’t want to follow the crowd and be in a gang, a young man who is very protective of those he loves and it is that protective nature that. has out him in the court room.  This is a truly original novel, that will engage and capture your attention from the first page, until the brilliantly, unexpected final page.

 

 

 

 

 

A Life in Books with Collette McCormick

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This evening I welcome author Collette McCormick to Bookliterati, to talk about A Life in Books.

 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Sheffield but moved to County Durham in 1982.I have written for pleasure all of my life and as a child dreamt of earning my living writing books. Thirty odd years of marriage and two children later I finally got the book deal I’d dreamt of for so long when I signed a three book deal with Accent Press. My first novel, ‘Things I Should Have Said and Done,’ was published in November 2016. My second book, ‘Ribbons in Her Hair,’ will be published in autumn 2017 and a third book which is currently a work in progress should be published in 2018. I don’t earn my living from writing though I live in hope and to pay the bills I am a retail manager for one of the country’s leading charities. In 2013 I suffered acute kidney failure but after eighteen months of dialysis my kidneys woke up and I now treasure every day,

 

 

1. What was you favourite book from childhood?
‘The Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton. Being a city girl, picnics in the woods were the things of dreams and, although we had trees to climb none of them had exciting lands at the top of them. To be fair I wasn’t much of a tree climber and the only time I tried it I ended up in A&E.

 

511CYH2Y1BL2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I read Anya Seton a lot. I remember the librarian recommending them as something that she read when she was my age.

 

 

 

3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Without a doubt that would be ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles.’ I loved it then and I love it now.
Tess is loyal to a fault and badly used by those who are supposed to love her and I was rooting for her all the way to the end. Wish she could have had a happier ending though but that’s Hardy for you.

 

4. What is your favourite classic book?41osj5Inq8L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

I think I would have to say ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ I love Austen and this was the book that made me fall in love with her.

 

 

5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

‘The Miniaturist’ by Jessie Burton. It was so much more than it said on the tin.

 

7120KPcj8uL6. What book do you think you should read but never get round to?
‘Lord of the Rings.’ Everyone who had read it tells me how good it is but I really don’t think it’s my cup of tea.

 

 

 

7. What do you consider to be your favourite book?

Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

I missed out the last twenty pages or so of ‘The Wreck of the Titan,’ because for me the story had finished and it felt like they were dragging it out. I don’t know if that qualifies as not finishing a book. If I’m struggling with a story I tend to set it aside for a while and go back to it later.

 

9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have 51vJKCkP-FLwith you?
‘Dombey and Son,’ by Charles Dickens so that I re-read it and hopefully finally ‘get it.’ I’m not sure I did when I studied it at school.
‘Persuasion,’ by Jane Austen because I would never tire of reading it.

10. Kindle or Book?

Book would be my first choice though I do have a Kindle and that comes in handy if I can’t sleep and don’t want to get up and turn the light on.

 

417P-0dVU+LEllen never knew what hit her. But when a drunk driver runs a red light her life is over in an instant. Her small daughter survives – and Ellen, hovering in the borderland between life and the afterlife, can only watch as her loved ones try to pick up the pieces without her. Her husband Marc, struggling with being a single parent. Naomi, her little girl, blaming her mother for leaving her. And Ellen’s mother, full of guilt, slowly falling apart. Ellen isn’t ready to let go. She doesn’t want to say goodbye. She is confused, angry and hurting for her family and herself. And that’s where George comes in. He is her guide through her confusion as she witnesses the devastation among the living. With George at her side Ellen learns that even though she is dead she is not helpless. There are things that she can do from beyond the grave to influence what happens in the world she left behind. But George is new to his ‘job’, and has issues of his own. A working arrangement starts to become something neither of them expects. It is only after death that life can be fully understood.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

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Synopsis

For Franny and Jim leaving New York behind for a family holiday in Mallorca was meant to be perfect, a chance to spend time together, with their family.  Bobby, their eldest is coming from Florida with his personal trainer girlfriend Carmen.  Their daughter Sylvia is due to leave home after the Summer to go to college and start a new life.  Also coming along is Franny’s longterm friend Charles and his husband Lawrence.  But perfect it isn’t going to be; Jim has retired and has had an affair, Bobby has problems of his own both with money and Carmen, Sylvia just wants the summer to be over so she can leave for college, but her interest is sparked by a Spanish teacher her mother hires for her.

Franny’s perfect holiday begins to unravel, resentments begin to bubble and boil over, secrets and lies are exposed.

 

Review

The Vacationers is a very witty look at love, marriage, friendship and infidelity and how different people deal with them.  The Post family have to be one of the most dysfunctional I have read about, their misdeeds and secrets are a plenty and the results are both emotional but written with a sense of dark humour.

Emma Straub writing and plotting is excellent, having all the protagonists contained within the confines of a villa is like having food in a pot, slowly heating up before bubbling over.  What was interesting that all the characters had encountered infidelity, and all deal with it in very different ways.

The characterisation is just brilliant, all are well educated, intelligent, slightly spoiled, high achievers.  I would say that Franny  is the central character, she takes on the role of mother and tries to bring everyone together with food, as if it will help cover the cracks.  She has  a wonderful job as a travel writer, so is away a lot travelling.  Jim  is also a writer bur he has been forced to take retirement so still has to find his place, preferably out of Franny’s way and maybe even out of her life.  The relationship that drew my attention though is the one between Franny and longterm friend artist Charles.  They have a long history, she used to model for him when she was in her twenties.  Their friendship is so comfortable, they are so at ease with each other, so much so that she takes a bath with him sitting in the bathroom with her, there are no inhibitions.  I found it interesting that she is more comfort with Charles than with her own husband.

The group dynamics is central to this book.  It is voyeuristic as we watch them deal with their problems, old and new, as well as their interactions between each other; Charles is angry with Jim for cheating on Franny, and the way the whole Post family dislike Bobby’s girlfriend Carmen, whom they see as being too old for him and not the right sort of girlfriend they had hoped for.  There are so many possibilities and variables that captivate and entertain the reader.

The only complaint I have about this book is that I did find it hard to get into at first.  The first few chapters didn’t really grab me, I seriously thought about giving up.  I didn’t see where it was going, it seemed hurried and I felt it a bit disjointed.  However,  I am glad that I stuck with it.

The Vacationers is a quirky, witty and entertaining read.  It has a colourful cast of characters that captivate your attention and draw you in to the plot. Ultimately this is a novel about marriage, love, friendships, and secrets.  A perfect summer read that will make you grateful that you are not spending your holiday with the Post family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Life in Books with Nelly Clare

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This evening I a joined by fellow blogger Nelly Clare.  You can follow her blog at

www.battyaboutbooks@wordpress.com

 

1. What was you favourite book from childhood?61ti8Mbb+sL

So many that I loved but is a close call between The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton and any of the Adventure series by Willard Price.

 

 

2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

Obviously taste had moved on abit by then as I was tending to flavour Jilly Cooper, Shirley Conrad, Jackie Collins – esp the Lucky books but also Catherine Cookson and Lena Kennedy.

 

3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Of Mice and Men was the only book I think from school that remotely held my interest

 

4. What is your favourite classic book?

918qGoUSeJLEmm tough one,as not really a lover of the classics so probably go with Treasure Island or The Wind in the Willows.

 

 

 

 

5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

That is nearly impossible to answer as have so many best books..but Death Stalks Kettle Street by John Bowen is a tremulously good read and also The Opticians Wife by Betsy Reavley will always stick in my mind as will Bloq by Alan Jones

 

6. What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

War and Peace maybe when my TBR is reduced enough.

 

7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?81kh0yMXrTL
Perfect People by Peter James but with many many more snapping at its heels.

 

8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?
Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult, which is really strange as normally really like her books,

 

9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have 51YV4XegrvL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_with you
Bear Grylis World Adventure Survival camp and maybe War and Peace as be ideal time to read it.

 

 

 

10. Kindle or Book?
For speed Kindle but for the sheer enjoyment of having a signed book or seeing my name in the acknowledgements then it has to be a paper book all the way.

 

 

Great questions really enjoyed doing this thanks.

 

 

 

A Life in Books with Noelle Holten

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Today on A Life in Books I am joined by fellow blogger Noelle Holten whose blog is www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk

 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

My name is Noelle and I am in my mid-40’s. I am an avid reader and by that I mean I am never without a book! By day I am a Senior Probation Officer and by night I read all things crime!! My fascination for books started at a young age and I truly feel withdrawal symptoms if I am unable to read for a few days hence the name #crimebookjunkie! I am interested in many genres, my faves being Crime thrillers, Grit Lit, psychological thrillers and all things murder. I do enjoy Police Procedurals and legal/action thrillers as well. I tend to keep away from Chick Lit and Erotica…however, if forced at gun point I may give just about anything a read. A dream-come-true opportunity happened and I currently do freelance publicity work for BOOKOUTURE! OMG!!! I am also doing some freelance work with David & Kelly McCaffrey for Britain’s Next Best Seller! OMG again!!!! To say I am excited would be an understatement! Depending how things go in this up coming year (2017) I hope to get Thick As Thieves Publicity & Promo off the ground, too! But with a FT job, freelance and blogging, for the time being….I am busy enough! Plus, I have my other live to look after: a big, scrumptious chocolate labrador named Buster!

 

 

1. What was you favourite book from childhood?51yfLYGx46L._SX305_BO1,204,203,200_

I absolutely adored the Narnia series and had a boxset given to me by my dad that I have never forgot about. I also was a huge fan of the Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys series. I loved the idea of a secret world and would often look in wardrobes and cupboards for a hidden door…I might still do that! And I loved solving mysteries so both series of books offered me exactly what I was looking for!

 

2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

In my teenage years, I moved to the dark and macabre of horror and true crime stories. I still have a big fascination for both and have a massive true crime collection. Serial Killers fascinate me – always have.

 

3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Oh, great question! For English Lit we studied the works of Edgar Allen Poe and I absolutely loved it! Again, I still do! Books, once under your skin, tend to leave a lasting impression!

 

51jiM0V+KRL4. What is your favourite classic book?

I have two – Rebecca and Jane Eyre. Loved the stories, have seen plays, films both old and modern and have read both these books numerous times. The suspense and tension within the pages – even now, still gets me!

 

 

5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?
You really are not making this easy, are you!? I have read so many and for a variety of reason, they could all be considered the best! Hmmmm…..Ok, I am going to cheat as I think both these books deserve a mention! AJ Waines: No Longer Safe as that book just blew my mind! I still cannot get that story out of my head! And Michael J Malone’s A Suitable Lie as the story is unique, real and something that is not talked about much- but should be!

 

6. What book to you think you should read but never get round to?
There are far too many of these to mention – in fact, I have 2 bookcases full of books that I should read (and WILL read) plus countless on my kindle – but life and work and other things mean I only have so many hours in the day! But I can never say, “I have nothing to read” – and that is a wonderful feeling!

 

7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment – I love this book because it combines two things that I studied in Uni and have a passion for: Crime and Philosophy; the storyline is one that people face (albeit on different levels) on a daily basis. Not necessarily – can you get away with murder and is it ever justified, but the idea that our actions have consequences and are the decisions we make really for the greater good or for our own means…..I do love a moral dilemma!

 

8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?
Not yet, though I have come close when given a review request. I am very selective now in what I choose to review for my blog – if I don’t think it is something I will love and can shout out about, I am just not going to read it.

 

9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have71STjGFSxML with you
Paul Grzegorzek’s But For The Grace Of God because it is my #BookSoulMate ❣️ – I have read this book over 8 times (if not more) in various versions and each time, I fall in love again with the story and the characters. Graham Smith’s Snatched From Home – although I think I Know Your Secret is the best in the series so far, I have also read Snatched from Home 6-8 times. I love the characters and the story and the pace of this book. And I absolutely love the cover! #Covergasm

 

10. Kindle or Book?

I love both! I have a huge collection of paperback and hardbacks. I love feeling the cover of a book – no idea why…I just do! But my kindle is amazing for commutes and travel as I can bring as many books as I want with me without taking up too much space!

 

Friends and Liars by Kaela Coble

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Synopsis

It has been ten years since Ruby left her hometown behind.  Since then she’s built a life away from her recovering alcoholic mother and her first love, Murphy.  But when Danny, one of her estranged friends from childhood, commits suicide, guilt draws Ruby back into the tumultuous world she escaped all those years ago.

She’s dreading the funeral – and with good reason.  Danny has left a series of envelopes addresses to his former friends.  Inside each envelope is a secret about every person in the group.  Ruby’s secret is so explosive, she will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it hidden from those she she once loved so deeply, even if that means risking everything……..

 

Review

Friends and Liars is a very accomplished first novel from Kaela Coble.  The plot mainly centres around Ruby coming back to Chatwick after a ten year self imposed absence.  She has to deal with the fall out after Danny’s death and also reconnecting with ‘the crew’, her  group of childhood friends who she completely cut off without giving a reason.  We see Ruby and her friends negotiate their way after Danny’s death and how they handle the idea that their darkest secrets maybe revealed.  The narrative also goes back to their teenage years where we are I’ve an insight into their lives and we learn the reason Ruby walked away and never came back.

 

The characters have a real sense of verisimilitude; they could be any  group of friends, maybe a group that you know, Danny is the fun one but uses fun to cover problems at home; Emmett is the serious and sensible one, Ally the organiser and mother figure, Murphy, the sporty one and Ruby who dreams of moving away to escape her alcoholic mother. Kaela Cobie gives a detailed account of their back history which adds to our understanding of where they are now in their lives;  the awkwardness of the teenage years still present in their adult lives, insecurities and grudges are still apparent between them.  I thought the interaction between the characters was well written and in parts gave a touch of humour.  At the centre is the relationship between Ruby and Murphy, best friends and lovers since teenage years.  Old flames are relit as are old resentments, they have that relationship where you can’t be together but also struggle apart.   The friends relationship is both heartbreaking and heart warming at the same time.

To give the narrative a sense of balance there are also chapters by Ally, Ruby’s best female friend and Steph, girlfriend of ‘crew’ member Emmett.  Steph, gives an unbiased view as she wasn’t part of the group when they were younger; she has the advantage of seeing all this from the outside.

The plot deals with some very difficult and dark themes; abuse, drugs, abortion and suicide.  All are dealt with empathy and understanding, no glamourising or exaggeration.        They are simply problems that face many people and Kaela Corble deals with the consequences that effect both the person who us involved and those around them.

The suspense about the secrets is kept throughout the book, we are drip fed clues throughout, and we only know that each secret is damaging enough that neither wants the others to know.  This leads to what I see as the main theme; we all keep a part of ourselves secret from those we love even if we pretend to have no secrets from them.  It also shows that no-one is perfect, everyone has secrets that we done want others to know and most of all that we can’t make judgements of others as we don’t always know their circumstances.  Forgiveness and understanding are also important, as the friends finally come to terms with the past and the present.

Friends and Liars is an engaging read, full of suspense, humour and emotion that you will want to read in one sitting.  Beautifully written with amazing characters, this is a brilliant first novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

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Synopsis

Amadeo Esposito started life as a foundling, taken care of by nuns in Florence.  As he grows up he admires the doctor who visits the children and, when adopted by the doctor he is given the chance to train as a doctor himself.  Finding it hard to get a job he applies for the position of doctor to the Island of Castellamare, a tiny island of the coast of Sicily.

He arrives on the day the festival of Sant Agata, the island full of celebration, and an auspicious day to start a new job and a new life on an island that is cut off from the rest of Italy.  The residents are a close community still ruled over by Le Conte, and Saint Agata, a community where tales of folklore and myth are important and capture the heart of Amadeo.

The House at the Edge of Night is a building locals believe to be cursed, with walls the weep in sadness.  Amadeo decides to refurbish the house and open it as a bar where the locals can gather for coffee, limoncello, rice balls and pastries; a centre for the community.  It is also the place that he will raise his family, a house full of love, sadness, tragedy and hope.  Over the course of a century changes on the island and in the world bring change to Amadeo, his family and the residents of Castellamare, and with change comes arguments, new challenges and new opportunities.

 

Review

The House at the Edge of Night is an enchanting read of an almost ethereal Island, where walls weep and folklore is central. The prose is beautifully written, with attention to detail in the description of Castellamare and its residents.

There is a colourful cast of characters; Il Conte still rules the Island like the old feudal landlord to whom all citizens defer; the local fishermen who mend their nets and tell local tales of myth; all the girls named Agata, with their profession distinguish them, Agata the fisherwoman, Agata the baker’s daughter, after the Saint; and the blind midwife.  Amadeo and his family take centre stage.  I really enjoyed following his story from foundling in Florence to becoming a doctor and being embraced by the residents of Castellamare and becoming part of the Islands extended family.  Through the generations we see his family expand and face different problems over the century but the one thing that ties them together is Castellamare, it has a pull that brings them back even when they leave.

The other aspect I really enjoyed was the inclusion of the local folktales.  Italians have a history of being great story tellers,  and these tales demonstrate the their importance in Italian culture;  all have a moral tone or give a warning and have been passed down through the generations, where small changes obviously happen, and are enjoyed by all.

Castellamare seems part of folklore itself, almost any enchanted Island.  Catherine Banner really brings the Island to life with her descriptive writing.  The reader can see the caves with their weeping walls an bones; feel the heat of the sun and the dry ground that causes red dust to settle; smell the beautiful bougainvillea that grows in abundance.

The House at the Edge of Night is a captivating family saga, that will capture your heart from the first page and make you want to visit the beautiful Island of Castellamare (yes, it really does exist).  The House itself is a theatre for the main characters where their lives play out in front of our eyes, we feel their happiness, sadness but most of all love for each other and the Island.  A magical and escapist read, perfect for the summer.

 

 

 

 

The Lighterman by Simon Michael

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I have recently been very lucky to be interviewed live on MKFM by Nancy Stevens, an award-winning radio journalist, on her Arts programme, and one of the questions she asked me was why I thought Charles Holborne, the hero of my 1960s London noir series, was so attractive to women (she actually use the word “sexy”!). I wasn’t able to answer the question very well and I wasn’t even sure she was right. However afterwards I looked through some of the Amazon reviews and realised that she had picked up on something. This is a small selection of reviews posted by women:
“I loved Charles.”
“I think I’m a bit in love with Charles and can’t wait to find out when the next book comes out.”
“Loving Charles Holborne’s character.”
“The tragic relationship between the main character and his wife is beautifully drawn.”
“Despite myself I’m rooting for Charles Holborne, the flawed hero.”
“I do like and admire Charles.”
“I adore Charles Holborne for all of his nuances, although I think I would have a few words to say to him.”
Then I thought back to the Twitter and Facebook competition I ran in the run-up to the publication of The Lighterman, which invited people to vote for the actor they thought should play Charles on screen. The competition produced a far greater response than any other social media outreach I have ever undertaken and 99% of the responders were women. In case you’re interested, this was the selection from which they could choose and Matthew McFadyen (No 5) won by a significant margin, despite a late surge orchestrated by the Robert Pattinson Fan Club. (I confess, in my head Charles was more like Aiden Turner with his shirt off, but everyone has their fantasies, right?)

 

 

So, what is it with Charles Holborne, ne Charlie Horowitz, ex-criminal, amateur boxer, built like the proverbial brick s***house, and now out of place barrister? Truthfully, I’m not really sure, but here are a few thoughts. I based Charles loosely on me but, as every author will tell you, that’s just the outline, the initial line-drawing for a character. Characters grow from that to the point where they are unrecognisable from the person who was their inspiration. So, Charles has become something that I am not. He’s bigger, stronger, and sexier for a start; he’s a real East End boy who grew up with criminals; he gets off on the adrenaline rush both in court and in the ring; and there’s a streak of violence in his personality which even he doesn’t understand. None of that is me at all. I was a safe, law-abiding, middle class lad – albeit from a family with little money. While I had to work as a council labourer, hedge-cutter, car-washer and kitchen hand during vacations to pay for my next term at Uni, and I very nearly missed out on pupillage because I couldn’t afford the pupillage fees, wig and gown, I never engaged in a spot of robbery as a teenager to make ends meet.
On the other hand it is true that, like mine, Charles’s early family life was difficult and his demanding, mean-spirited mother made him feel useless and unlovable. That set him up to be driven to succeed but on the other hand it left scars which are evident in his personal relationships, especially with the women in his life. At the same time Charles knows he is flawed, and he tries his best with his limited emotional responses to be a good person. He is always trying to “do the right thing”, which makes him kind and thoughtful to the world at large, even if he struggles with those close to him.
As a result people say that he is a more complex and nuanced human being than the protagonists in most crime thrillers. He wants to be a hero – and he usually succeeds – but he’s a hero who keeps on making mistakes in his private life. More than one woman reviewer has commented that they love Charles but at times they just want to slap him. Spot on.
Although these books are thrillers – all with the legal slant to be expected with a barrister anti-hero rather than a policeman or detective – and I try to make them as accurate as humanly possible both as to the police and legal procedures and the social mores of the 1960s, I think what appeals to women most is that Charles is real. Add to that the fact that he’s a perennial underdog who just won’t lie down and take the kicking, and perhaps that’s why he gets such a good press from women readers, many of whom like him but also want to take him in hand and teach him a good lesson.
So those are my thoughts, but coming from a bloke I might have got it completely wrong. I’d welcome comments from women readers as to why they like/don’t like Charles; what is it about him, if anything, that makes him lovable or, at least, makes you root for him?
If anyone would like to listen to Nancy’s interview and some pretty good music you can find both here: www.mkfm.com/on-air/listen-again/sunday/. My blethering starts at about 5 minutes in.
I would like to record my thanks to Juliet for the opportunity to ramble on about my favourite fictional creation, and wish her a speedy recovery. I am well aware that busy, successful bloggers can be put under enormous pressure by the size of the TBR pile (and thoughtless demanding authors!) and what should be enjoyable can become a stressful chore, especially when one is not at 100%. So I am hugely appreciative of the space given to bloggers to emerging writers like myself, without whom we would have little chance of getting off the ground at all. Thank you.

 

Reading and Blogging as Therapy: My Story

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Today I thought I would write a slightly different blog.  There are many readers and bloggers out there who take reading and reviewing a book for granted and probably can’t imagine a time when they cannot read or blog.  Unfortunately for me this is an everyday hurdle that I have to overcome, so today I am going to write about how reading and blogging are part of my therapy, and in a way save my life.  This is my story.

Ten years ago I was half way through my Open University Degree in Art History, and working for Newcastle Council in payroll and volunteering at the Laing Art Gallery.  Over the space of a year my life completely changed.  I was always a very independent woman with goals set for the future, my husband and I were going to move to Alnwick in Northumberland and after my degree I was going to do my MA and then a Phd.  I was also looking at working part time in one of the galleries in Edinburgh or cataloguing art works, and was going to spend a month in Florence doing an extra Art History Course and learning Italian.  Over the space of a eighteen months these aims were shattered.

I had always had a slight pain in my neck which I put down to working at a desk during the day and studying at my desk at home in the evenings and weekends.  On New Year’s Eve 2007 I woke up in terrible pain, unable to move my neck and head and this was the beginning of my health problems.  I won’t go into detail of the diagnosis and treatments over the years, just to say I was diagnosed with spondylosis in the cervical spine had every treatment available, and it has deteriorated over the years and now I also have arthritis of the spine.   I was lucky enough to finish my degree as the OU were very helpful and bought me a new laptop with voice recognition software and other aids to help me through my final three years.  I got a first class honours but was not able to do my MA and we were not able to move house.  I also had to give up my job.

My spondylosis and arthritis leave me with pain in my neck, upper and lower back, arms   and hands and severe headaches.  I also have chronic IBS which means I have to be very careful what I eat, nausea, and aching limbs and chronic depression.  My doctor is now considering whether I have fibromyalgia with all the symptoms combined.  What this means for my life is that I am in pain everyday, in varying degrees, I can’t do any housework, which may sound great but believe me its not, I have to go to bed in an afternoon to help with the pain, and the medication also takes its toll as I am on opiates which leave me with brain fog.  My headaches restrict my reading and the pain in hands, neck and back restrict the time I spend on my iPad and MacBook.  Now I am practically housebound, if I do go out I am very unwell for the next three to four days.  I really miss going out with my daughter and husband. I now also have chronic depression which is awful when it hits, which is frequently, I have had help but with it being linked to the pain it is hard to address.

So, you may think how can reading and blogging be a therapy?  I have always been a bookworm and reading is the only hobby I have left from before I became ill; I used to run, go out a lot with friends, go away to Italy at least one a year.  On the days I can read it is an escape, I can get lost in another world, someone else life even someone else problems.  It also helps pass the time, I can’t tell you how many books I have read over the past ten years in consultant’s waiting rooms.  I still prefer a paperback but on days I cannot hold a book I have my Kindle, but there are still days where I cannot even look at a book due to the headaches.

I started blogging a year ago, I had often thought about it but wasn’t sure it was for me.  A lot of bloggers blog everyday and seem to read about four books a week at least, I knew I couldn’t do this with my pain levels and if I’m honest I knew I would find it hard to stick to deadlines with my condition varying day by day.  The depression is very hard to fight, and I thought that maybe having a bit of structure and purpose to my life would help, so I decided to bite the bullet and go for it. It was one of the best decisions I have made, I love sharing my reviews with others and I have met so many lovely people on Facebook along the way.  I don’t have as many followers as most and I can only blog a couple of times a week but this is something I do for me.

Reading and Blogging give me a sense of normality, a chance to connect with other human beings, day to day I just see my husband David, daughter Briony, my dad twice a week and my lovely dogs who help me feel loved.  It can be lonely but as an only child I am very used to my own company and quite like being on my own with just the dogs and my books for company.

The reason for writing this was that I wanted to share my experiences and show how important a book and a blog can be to someone’s life.  So many take these things for granted, I did, but when you are in my position it is the small things that make the difference, that make you want to live and fight the suicidal thoughts that encroach on your life (death would take away the pain, and Briony and David could have more of a life). Thoughts like this do go through your mind, but books and my blog are my therapy.

Thank you to those who read this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Life in Books with Chrisoula Panagoulia

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Today I am joined by Chrisoula Panagoulia who is editing her first novel and busy writing her second.

 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

 

To begin with, I was brought up in Sydney, Australia and lived there till the age of 11. Then I was brought to Greece and have been living in Athens since 1981. I am a teacher of English and in my free time I love to read English novels. I’ve always wanted to write stories or novels but never really got into it but five years ago I gave it a go. I still haven’t published my first novel, as I am editing it and its taking me a lot of time.

 

 

1. What was you favourite book from childhood?51OOQajlK2L._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_

My favourite book was (I’ve still got it in my bookcase) The Dennis Bones Mystery Book by Jim and Mary Razzi. I loved this book because of the simple way it was written and because it compelled me to find the solution to the ‘crime’.

 

2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

As a teenager I read Greek romance books ( the Arlekins as we call them here in Greece). The reason for that was because I wanted to identify with the heroines and feel loved, something which I desperately needed in my future life. (Don’t ask me if I found it…)

 

3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

There are no such classes here in Greece!!!

 

418uOZKwBSL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_4. What is your favourite classic book?

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens because the plot was fast-paced.

 

 

 

5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

The Island by Victoria Hislop. She knows how to get you involved in the story.

 

6. What book to you think you should read but never get round to?51Z0nLAfLmL

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelo. I’ve read Brida by the same author and found it incomprehensible so because I am biased I refuse/hesitate to read The Alchemist.

 

7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?

Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell. The way she gets you hooked into the story is an asset for an author I believe. Though I haven’t read all of her books the ones that I have read are really captivating.

 

8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

No. Never. Though I have read a couple of books which were really ‘awful’ and ‘incomprehensible’ I carried on reading them because I wanted to see where the author was getting, and whether I would get hooked at least after half of the book. But I never got hooked and the story dragged and dragged and dragged on…

 

51DkRjnhXhL._SX303_BO1,204,203,200_9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you
Definitely An offer you cant refuse by Jill Mansell and The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop

 

10. Kindle or Book? BOOK. BOOK. BOOK. Only books!