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A Curious History of Sex by Kate Lister (Review)

Greetings and salutations! Yesterday was valentines and we all know adults tend to bonk, but what’s it like now compared in history? Well, I was curious to read about it, and so I was very pleased to be offered the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour! A Curious History of Sex by Kate Lister was released on February 6th 2020 in Hardback and will be available on February 20th 2020 in eBook format. I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes.

I used to always think history was boring. Friends from other cultures helped me realise maybe that wasn’t the case. A friend with a pretty great history podcast made me realise one of the reasons I thought it was boring in the past was because of the way it was presented to me. Now, I’ve enjoyed the tid-bits from the Whores of Yore twitter account for a while. Witty yet informative, so I figured, without the character limit, in a book? That should be very interesting indeed. Plus it’s sex. The topic of sex always manages to induce some winks and giggles so I was pretty confident that this book would entertain, inform and be enjoyable.

Fannies, weenies, butts, boobies, a really dodgy looking oyster and some torturous looking objects, A Curious History of Sex comes with many historical photographs and illustrations to have a giggle at. I find myself feeling thankful for modern technology, but ultimately, our ancestors were just like we are currently in modern society. One thing hasn’t changed though it seems – people STILL shove random phallic shaped objects in places they’re not meant to go in search of the big O.

Yet, there were condom-type devices found, spanning back through history, even one in Tutankhamun’s tomb. It’s surprising that these very obvious and uncomfortable looking devices were used and yet people today seem reluctant to use them as they “affect sex” when they’re thinner than ever and made of much better materials. If men in history could wear sheaths made of intestines and other things, I can’t fathom why someone can’t cope with a condom that has been specifically design for the phallus. Just one of the many thought provoking things I came across while reading this book! Don’t get me started on their “pleasure devices”.. some look entirely terrifying!

I like to think I’m pretty “woke” on things these days, (woke, that’s the word the kids are using, right?) but looking back to how they were for our ancestors is amusing, entertaining and informative and gives me gratitude and insight for the modern day.

I’m pleased to say, A Curious History of Sex ticked all the right boxes. Innuendo unintended. Or was it? Engaging, witty and not a droll moment throughout. Of course, some parts interested me more than others, but it’s been a wholly fascinating experience. I think there is something that will interest anyone in this book, while also amusing. This is probably my favourite non-fiction read. Or it’s very high up there to say the least. I’ve read some great non-fiction books but I don’t think any top the balance of this one.

I absolutely love the way the information is put across and I wish all books on historical topics could be this entertaining. I mean, the topic being a (curious) history of sex can be considered entertaining in itself because “lols sex” but I think the author could make any topic as equally entertaining and interesting with her engaging writing and witty way of framing the content.

A fascinating read for sure, one that I would highly recommend.

About the Book

This is not a comprehensive study of every sexual quirk, kink and ritual across all
cultures throughout time, as that would entail writing an encyclopaedia.
Rather, this is a drop in the ocean, a paddle in the shallow end of sex
history, but I hope you will get pleasantly wet nonetheless.

The act of sex has not changed since people first worked out what went where, but the
ways in which society dictates how sex is culturally understood and performed
have varied significantly through the ages. Humans are the only creatures that
stigmatise particular sexual practices, and sex remains a deeply divisive issue
around the world. Attitudes will change and grow – hopefully for the better –
but sex will never be free of stigma or shame unless we acknowledge where it
has come from.

Drawing upon extensive research from Dr Kate Lister’s Whores
of Yore website and written with her distinctive humour and wit, A Curious
History of Sex
covers topics ranging from twentieth-century testicle thefts
to Victorian doctors massaging the pelvises of their female patients, from smutty
bread innuendos dating back to AD 79, to the new and controversial sex doll
brothels. It is peppered with surprising and informative historical slang and
illustrated by eye-opening, toe-curling and hilarious images.

In this fascinating book, Lister deftly debunks myths and stereotypes and gives unusual
sexual practices an historical framework, as she provides valuable context for
issues facing people today, including gender, sexual shame, beauty and
language.

About the Author

Dr Kate Lister is a lecturer at Leeds Trinity University, where she researches the history of sexuality and curates the online research project Whores of Yore. Kate is also a columnist for iNews, Vice and the Wellcome Trust where she writes about the history of sex. Kate won a Sexual Freedom Award for Publicist of the Year in 2017. She runs the popular @WhoresOfYore twitter account.

book reviews · Bookish

Smoke in her Eyes by Anna Belfrage (Review)

Happy Thursday! Today I am on the blog tour for Smoke in her Eyes by Anna Belfrage which is out now in both Kindle and Paperback editions. It is also available as part of Kindle Unlimited! I received a copy of this book for my participation in the tour.

First, can I just take a second to say how absolutely beautiful the cover is for this book? It’s absolutely stunning. Though I admittedly have a thing about moons… but yeah. b e a u t i f u l.

Smoke in her Eyes is the second book in The Wanderer Series by Anna Belfrange. It’s a tale of a guy who has been searching for his beloved for 50 life times and his lover, Helle. Helle can’t see her past lives, she just sees snippets and glimpses of them, however, her partner Jason, he remembers everything, including the pain of searching for her for so many lifetimes. Finally they are together! But will they live happily ever after? Not if Sam Woolf has anything to say about it.

Sam Woolf is this books bad guy, and he is a right rotten sort. He wants to destroy Jason and make Helle his own. He’s entitled and jealous and just generally horrid. Himself and Jason have some paranormal abilities, special abilities he has no qualms about using to meet his own ends. He’s also written so incredibly well. It’s easy to hate him.

Then there is Juliet. Jason’s lover from a past life. Someone he still cares deeply about. Juliet is putting a huge strain on Jason and Helle’s relationship, after a horrible accident, she’s in the hospital and Jason wants to be by her side because she has no one else. I really feel for Jason here. It’s understandably tough. Will he and Helle make it through? Will Sam Woolf get his way? You’ll have to read it and find out.

Smoke in her Eyes is a beautifully written book about lovers who have finally gotten together after actual lifetimes with some spicy, steamy scenes that are tastefully written. Anna Belfrage has created an incredibly immersive world and intriguing characters. Her world building lead me to feeling like they were almost part of MY world. The only thing I’d say is while this can be read on its own, I think you should read the first book in the series prior for a better understanding of what brought the characters to this point and their own world.

About the Book

Six months ago, Helle Madsen would have described herself as normal. Now she no longer knows if that terms applies, not after her entire life has been turned upside down by the reappearance of not one, but two, men from her very, very distant past.

Helle Madsen never believed in mumbo-jumbo stuff like reincarnation—until she came face to face with Jason Morris, a man who purportedly had spent fifty lives looking for her. Coping with being reunited with the lover from her ancient past was one thing. Having Sam Woolf, her vindictive nemesis from that same ancient past join the party was a bit too much. Suddenly, Helle finds herself the reluctant heroine of a far-flung, time-transcending epic story, one in which pain and loss seem to play a very big part.

This time round, Jason and Helle are determined to make it to the happily ever after. Unfortunately, Sam Woolf will stop at nothing to crush them. That ride into the golden sunset seems awfully far away at times…

About the Author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours. 

Her first series, The Graham Saga, is set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland. It tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of time-travel, romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters. There are eight books in the series so far, but Anna is considering adding one or two more…

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Fortune never stops rolling. 

If you want to know more about Anna, why not visit her website, http://www.annabelfrage.com/

Twitter @abelfrageauthor

Author page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor/

book reviews · Bookish

Turbulent Wake by Paul E. Hardisty (Review)

Happy Sunday! Today I am on a Random Things tour for Turbulent Wake by Paul E. Hardisty and have a review for you. Please take a gander at the other tour stops if you’re interested too! I received a copy of this book for free as part of the tour.

Ethan has returned to his place of birth; his old man has passed away and his life is in disarray. While sorting out his fathers belongings, he discovers some manuscripts, but feels conflicted about them. In between his own life falling apart, he commits to reading them, seeking answers for questions he’s been wondering about for many years. It feels a bit weird outlining the book as it feels like I’m re-hashing the blurb. It’s a very good blurb.

This book takes you to many areas of the world. Some of the events seem crazy but not unauthentic. The author draws upon his own experiences and expertise to write a really great character and rich environments. I really felt for both Ethan and his father in this book and the people in their lives. Nothing ever seemed simple for them, for any of them. The title is incredibly apt.

I enjoyed this journey with Ethan, as he starts to find closure to things in his life. Why his father was the way he was? What happened to his little brother? Why did his mother leave? It feels like the book comes full circle and the ending I found to be satisfying. This is a wonderful piece of literary fiction that captivated me all the way through. I would highly recommend that you pick this one up.

About the Book

Ethan Scofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father. Hidden in one of the upstairs rooms of the old man’s house he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of stories that seems to cover the whole of his father’s turbulent life.

As his own life starts to unravel, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, trying to find answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him?

And why, in the end, when there was no one else left, did his own father push him away?

Swinging from the coral cays of the Caribbean to the dangerous deserts of Yemen and the wild rivers of Africa, Turbulent Wake is a bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love and loss … of the indelible damage we do to those closest to us and, ultimately, of the power of redemption in a time of change.

book reviews · Bookish

A Patient Man by S. Lynn Scott (Review)

It’s almost the weekend! How about something to cosy up with? (Darn you, sunshine, come back!) A Patient Man by S. Lynn Scott is out now in Kindle and Paperback editions. I’m pleased to be on the Random Things tour, bring you a review! I received a copy of this book as part of the tour.

Mikey is 8 years old and lives on Canvey Island, which isn’t really an island, according to him. What was meant to be just another summer was quite eventful for little Mikey when he decided to be nosey and stumbled across something entirely unexpected. The book is written from the perspective of Mikey in the future, looking back on the events of that summer.

The local neighbours won the lottery. Mikey was sure he saw them leave in the early hours of the morning and went to their house with his friend to see if they had left anything good behind. Instead of an empty house, they discovered their neighbour, Mr Freeman, tied up and his wife, Peggy had been kidnapped. Keen to play junior detective, Mikey had taken items from the crime scene and pocketed them.

From a problematic family and an area full of nosey curtain-twitchers, typical toerag Mikey enjoys all the attention that came from his discovery, until his mums friend, Vi decides to try and squeeze information out of him. He knows she’s bad news and he avoids her; even his mum has started to avoid her, so what is Vi’s agenda? Who kidnapped Peggy and tied up Mr Freeman? Eyes are all on Mikey’s father and troublesome brother, Gary but are they to blame?

It’s a well paced, tense and suspenseful coming of age story, knitted with a crime and a “whodunnit” with engaging writing and brilliantly written characters. I would definitely recommend “A Patient Man”.

About the Book

It is 1976 and Mikey, eight-years-old and street-wise beyond his years, is looking forward to a summer of freedom, roaming the creeks and the mud-flats of Canvey Island. But violent emotions are rumbling beneath the surface, about to destroy all that he thought he knew.

When Mikey’s neighbours, the Freemans, win a great deal of money, the old couple become the targets of a criminal act that leaves Peggy Freeman dead and her husband, Bert thirsting for revenge. Believing that young Mikey’s family is responsible, Bert devises a highly unusual but devastatingly effective form of reprisal. But where does the guilt really lie, and will there be punishment or redemption?

Told from Mikey’s viewpoint with light touches of humour, A Patient Man is a gripping crime novel peopled with believable characters who are drawn inexorably in to a story that explores the effects of greed, money and the human need for retribution.

Told from Mikey’s viewpoint with light touches of humour, A Patient Man is a gripping crime novel peopled with believable characters who are drawn inexorably in to a story that explores the effects of greed, money and the human need for retribution.

About the Author

S. Lynn Scott is the author of Elizabeth, William… and Me, described by reviewers as `hugely entertaining’ (Books Monthly). A Patient Man is her second novel and she is now working on her third, a modern-day fantasy. She has been involved in theatre all her life and lives in Leicestershire.

book reviews · Bookish

Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald (Review)

Happy Tuesday! Today I am on the tour for Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald, available from the 16th May in Paperback, Kindle and Audio-book editions. I received this book for free as part of the tour. More info after the jump. Please check out the other tour stops too!

Mary Shields is a menopausal, alcoholic, probation officer, who’s tired, fed up and ready to pack it in. She’s got a foul mouth and a bad attitude, but an obligation to help people due to her job. It appears Mary is not a bad person, but she does have a whole bunch of problems which results in things becoming chaotic to the detriment of those under her care/supervision.

The book doesn’t focus on Mary’s alcoholism, and this isn’t made super crystal clear during the book, in my opinion, but the presence of alcohol is firmly there and Mary clearly has quite a relationship with it. There’s no obvious sneaky flask, or vodka in water bottles, it’s more nuanced than that. I quite appreciated that. Many people have issues but they’re not always glaringly obvious or displayed in the usual means.

Mary has a tricky new charge to deal with – Liam Macdowall; murderer of his wife, author of the book “Cuck”, filled with letters to his dead wife and now hailed a hero and poster boy for mens rights activists with an ego far too large for his former prison cell.

Mary has a son, and he seems far more level headed than her. Macdowall has a daughter named Holly. The two of them become friends and Mary is really unhappy about the situation, but it appears the pair of them have far better wits about them than their parents do. Liam is bad at following the rules of his life license. Mary is bad at managing Liam. Perhaps things would be different if she wasn’t so self absorbed.

Worst Case Scenario is pretty funny, tense at times and a whirlwind of chaos. Mary just seems to break things more and more. I really enjoyed her character despite her serious issues. I was looking forward to seeing where her smart-mouth would land her! I’m honestly unsure how I feel about the ending though. I wanted more. What next? But not all books have happy endings and everything wrapped up neatly in a bow. This book is one of them. You – the reader, can come up with your own theories and ideas about what happens next. I feel like this book would be a good book-club read as there are many points for readers to discuss. Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. Mary and her dark humour were quite entertaining!

About the Book

Mary Shields is a moody, acerbic probation offer, dealing with some of Glasgow’s worst cases, and her job is on the line. Liam Macdowall was imprisoned for murdering his wife, and he’s published a series of letters to the dead woman, in a book that makes him an unlikely hero – and a poster boy for Men’s Rights activists.

Liam is released on licence into Mary’s care, but things are far from simple. Mary develops a poisonous obsession with Liam and his world, and when her son and Liam’s daughter form a relationship, Mary will stop at nothing to impose her own brand of justice … with devastating consequences.

A heart-pounding, relentless and chilling psychological thriller, rich with deliciously dark and unapologetic humour, Worst Case Scenario is also a perceptive, tragic and hugely relevant book by one of the most exciting names in crime fiction.

About the Author

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of Dead Lovely (2007) and nine other adult and young adult thrillers, including My Last Confession (2009), The Donor (2011) and most recently The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Helen has worked as a criminal justice social worker for over ten years. She is one of thirteen children and grew up in Victoria, Australia. She now lives in Glasgow with her husband and two children.

book reviews · Bookish

Nowhere Girls by Teuta Metra (Review)

Today, I am on the blog tour for Nowhere Girls by Teuta Metra, out now on Kindle and coming soon in Hardback Edition on 8th March 2019 for International Womens Day!

Nowhere Girls is a dramatic, gripping tale of a woman named Sara, who just wants a better life, even if it means leaving everything she’s ever known behind her, and her friend Alba, who took a much different path. It’s an intense read and I’d highly recommend it.

Sara lives in Albania, poverty is rife, sexism is the norm, and corruption is inescapable. She has two best friends, Alba, who seems to glide through life by greasing palms, and Ina, a tragic soul with a life in disarray. Working as a journalist, she is mocked, underpaid and generally treated like rubbish, when all the while, it strains her family relationships with her husband and son. Meanwhile, Alba is working her way in to the upper classes, a taste for the “finer things” and everyone else is a means to and end.

This book really pulled at my heart with the way the author wrote about the struggles and hardships endured. I was constantly rooting for Sarah, hoping things would work out, that she would get a break and the respect she deserved. This book is no fairy-tale. It feels incredibly realistic in the sense that things aren’t magically okay. The characters have to work for their lives and for some, things turn out better than others.

Fed up, Sara decides that the family should to go to her cousin in Antwerp. Scared, but convinced this would be better for her and her family. Her cousin assures her that it can be her home. Having applied for a visa, the plan was set in motion, but her son was denied travel and needed to stay being in Albania. What Sara didn’t realise, was that she would have to endure the lengthy process of seeking asylum and whether she would be granted residency, whether she would see her son again, whether things would work out, or not.

I felt so many emotions while reading this tale, and Sara’s tension radiated through the pages. I shared her anxiety, her grief, her joy. It felt incredibly fast paced at times and a lot of things occurred. Admittedly, I know very little about Albania, but my heart aches for anyone who has to endure such hardship, but I also commend any woman who works so hard to deal best with the cards she’s been dealt. It also makes me extraordinarily grateful that I don’t have to deal with these levels of such toxicity, and I hope one day, no woman will have to endure what these women have had to go through.

About The Book

Friends Alba and Sara could not be more different. While Alba is forcing her way into the upper echelons of Albanian’s richest and most powerful, Sara is working more than one job as a struggling journalist. Both desperate to escape their corrupt country, they’re quickly dragged into a sordid world of politics and lies. 

When tragedy strikes their friend Ina, the two women must come together to save her little boy. Can they put away their troubles and secure a better future for the child? Or will their past catch up with them?

NOWHERE GIRLS is a thrilling tale of love, lies and the lengths a woman will go to for freedom.

About The Author

Now a fiction writer, Teuta Metra’s experience as an Albanian journalist has made her an expert on the struggles of women from her country.

Author, journalist and teacher, Teuta now lives in The Netherlands with her husband and two sons. 

Bookish · Uncategorized

Too Close by Natalie Daniels (Excerpt)

Today, I am sharing an excerpt as part of the Random Things Blog Tour for Too Close by Natalie Daniels, out now in both Kindle and Paperback formats and also available as an audiobook. Be sure to check out the other tour spots to find out more!

Excerpt

It’s odd because everyone always calls her beautiful. Her beauty has become a fact; it has been said enough times for any doubt to have been forgotten. But the first time I saw her in the park all those years ago, I have to say she didn’t strike me that way; her beauty took a while to floor me. She was small with wispy blonde hair and pale blue veins that ran down her temples. She had dark bags under her dark eyes – which I know is just called parenting – and from a certain angle her freckled nose looked like someone had given her a good punch. She had a peculiar way of looking at you from the corners of those big dark brown eyes. And she blinked too much. All in all, she struck me as an anxious sort of person. No, I wouldn’t have called her beautiful at all. Not then.

I’d been late picking Annie up from nursery and had found my daughter sitting alone on the bench underneath the empty coat hooks, holding a wooden lollipop stick with a scrunched- up piece of red tissue bodged on to the end.
‘Darling, sorry I’m late,’ I said sitting down next to her, glad to get my breath back. ‘What have you made?’ I asked, looking at the lolly stick in her hand. Karl was better at this sort of thing than me; every shite offering they brought home from school he marvelled at as if the kids were little Leonardos. Left to his own devices, the house would look like one of those hoarder’s places you see on TV, full of clay rubbish and splodges of paint on crinkledpaper.
‘It’s a poppy.’

Of course it was. Remembrance Day was coming up and Annie’s nursery never missed a chance to get creative.

‘That’s lovely! Do you know why you’ve made it? Who is it for?’ I might be late, forget carol concerts and barbecue days, but my God, I do a bit of educating when I can.

She looked up at me and passed me the lolly stick. ‘For you?’
‘No,’ I said, ‘I mean, why have you made it? Who is it for ?’

‘It’s for remembering,’ she said.
‘That’s right.’ She was a genius, my child. ‘Remembering who?’

She had no idea. She shook her head, her cherubic curls bouncing this way and that. Not for the first time I marvelled that such a sweet being came from me.
‘It’s for all the soldiers who died in the war,’ I said, sounding incongruously cheerful about it. She looked up at me, eyes wide with wonder, lips opening in surprise as the mini cogs in her brain whirred. She frowned and turned slowly to examine the wall behind her, reaching out her little fingers to gingerly touch the bumps of roughly applied plaster beneath the clothes pegs.

‘In this wall?’ she asked.
Sometimes she was so adorable I could eat her. ‘Let’s get some sweeties and go to the park!’ I said.

So Annie had scooted ahead, cheeks full of Smarties. She was a kamikaze kind of child. By the time I caught up she was at the top of the slide, bottom lip out, face brimming with misery, staring down at the brightly coloured trail of Smarties bouncing off the ladder and on to the spongy tarmac. Another little girl was standing at the bottom of the ladder picking up the Smarties and popping them into her mouth as fast as she could.

‘No! No! No!’ Annie cried, furious at the nasty little opportunist below her. The mother was oblivious to the scene; she was busy making something on the bench with an older girl. I started picking up the Smarties and was shortly joined by the mother, who was looking down at her fat-cheeked child and making the right remonstrating noises.

‘Naughty, Polly. They are not yours.’
I’ll tell you something peculiar: I remember there was something about her voice that put me on alert; it wasn’t her tone, which was low and calm, or what she said, which was nothing unusual. It was a more intangible feeling: there was something about it that I found deeply comforting yet deeply disturbing at the same time. Church bells do that for me too. I’m not making any sense, am I?

For many years, I would remember that day as a fine example of how we must not trust our first impressions, how foxing they are. Because the truth was, just at the very beginning of it all, I felt an inexplicable and powerful aversion to her, like a tug from the wings, as if I were receiving a warning signal from the great puppet master.
We made polite child-soothing conversation for a while and were then forced to sit together on the bench as the three girls struck up an immediate kinship and went off to look for snails, dropping their grievances with that enviable childhood ease.

‘Do you live nearby?’ I asked.
‘Just beyond the swimming pool,’ she said, nodding vaguely in the direction. ‘We’ve just moved in.’

‘Oh! Which street?’
‘Buxton Road.’
‘Really? Which end?’
And so we discovered that we were neighbours. Shelived just around the corner from us – only four doors away. In fact, I could see her house from the back windows of my own. Our conversation shifted then, as it became evident our lives would be impacting on each other’s – screaming children, rows in the garden, perhaps noisy once- in- a- blue-moon lovemaking on a hot summer night. Why do we women feel impelled to forge intimacies? Two men probably wouldn’t have struck up a conversation at all.
I’d opened Annie’s snack box by now and was picking at some soggy strawberries as our talk moved smoothly from our surroundings and our progeny to ourselves.

‘What do you do?’ she asked me.
‘I write,’ I said.
And without a pause or a further question she said, ‘I write too!’ Something about the way she said it, so rapid a response, seemed rather competitive – I got that tug again.
‘What do you write?’ I asked, offering her a sweating strawberry which she declined.
‘Poetry.’ I looked at her afresh. That was interesting; no one admits to writing poetry. ‘When inspiration strikes,’ she added.

Well, excuse me for being a snob but that is not a writer. That is a dabbler. A writer doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration; a writer plods on regardless, a writer takes the gamble, lives in penury, gives every- thing up to be a slave to her art. I didn’t let my feelings show, but I suppose in my own way I went straight for the jugular.
‘Do you make a living from it?’
‘No, no.’
Precisely my point: she was not a writer. (We writers have to do any writing we can to fund the writing we want – I ghost-write, I interview, I copy-edit, in order to
afford the time to write books that no one wants to publish.)
‘I’m—Or rather, I used to run galleries. You’ve got some . . .’ She gestured that I had some strawberry juice on my chin. I wiped it. She shook her head and gestured again so I wiped it again.

And then – perhaps you’ll disagree, perhaps you’ll think this is what any mother does – she did something that seemed strangely intimate to me: she licked her finger and gently started to rub my chin with it. And as she did so – it was a stubborn stain – I couldn’t help but take her in: the freckles, the contrast of the blonde hair with those dark eyes. I was just going to ask her about this gallery business when she said, ‘You smell really good. What perfume are you wearing?’

Again, oddly intimate, no? But I’m a sucker for a compliment and I must have visibly brightened.

‘Thank you! It’s Jo Malone: Lime Basil and Mandarin.’
She smiled. She had good teeth, neat and white, like an advert mouth. ‘It’s gorgeous.’
I thought so too but it was very nice to have it pointed out. Looking back, it was probably the compliments that blinkered me to those palpable warning signs. How
pathetic is that?
‘What does your partner do?’ she asked me.
‘He’s a consultant in communications,’ I said, which never fails to shut people up.
‘What about your husband?’ I asked, after the pause.
‘Wife, actually. She works in TV.’
Well, that shut me up. She was a lesbian. How refreshing. This neighbourhood needed a bit of diversity wherever itcould find it; the school had got whiter and blonder with each passing year, the parents more homogeneous – a growing number of men in salmon cords with hearty laughs and women with salon-shiny hair being walked by dogs that didn’t moult. I immediately wanted to ask her about the girls: who was the biological mother? Who was the father? What do they call you? All those obvious questions that no one likes to ask but everyone wants to know. Then all the unobvious questions I wanted to ask, like how she knew she was gay. I was intrigued. I’d always been straight as a die. The idea of making love to a woman had never held any allure for me. I loved men. I loved their bodies, I loved their differences, I loved their masculinity. But I didn’t ask her anything, of course; I tried to give the impression of being cool.
‘I like your hair . . . your fringe,’ she said. ‘You’ll have to tell me where a good hairdresser’s is around here . . . I don’t know the area at all.’ She was patting her wispy locks, looking at me in that sideways way. I have to say, I’d only just had my hair cut and was feeling rather self- conscious about it. Potentially I looked a bit 1974 – and not in a good way. The hairdresser had been somewhat gung- ho and on leaving the salon, I’d caught a glimpse of myself from the side with what looked like a well-groomed guinea pig perching on my forehead.

‘Sure! There’s a good place up by the library,’ I said, leaning over to get a better view of Annie, who was roaming about in a way that made me suspicious – she
had been known to squat down for a crap in the bushes. She’s too feral, that child of mine.
‘I’m Ness, by the way!’ she said, holding out her hand.
‘I’m Connie,’ I replied, shaking hers.

And so the bond was made.
This all seems a very long time ago now. Six long years ago; like a different lifetime, back in the days when I would pass homeless people in the street curled up in urine-drenched corners and carelessly think how on earth did your life go so wrong? Well, now I know. The answer is:
quite easily, as it turns out. You’d think it might be a slow process of deterioration but the truth is it can turn in a moment, maybe even on a stranger’s whim – with a neighbour accepting an offer on a house in Buxton Road, for example.

Blurb

How close is too close?
Connie and Ness met in the park while their children played. As they talked, they realised they were neighbours. Perhaps it was only natural that they and their families would become entirely inseparable.

But when Ness’s marriage ends in a bitter divorce, she is suddenly at Connie’s house all the time. Connie doesn’t have a moment to herself, no time alone with her husband, not a second to chat to her kids.

It’s all too much. Something has to give.

Connie has woken up in a psychiatric hospital. They say she committed a terrible crime but she says she can’t remember a thing.

Author Info

Natalie Daniels is the pseudonym for screenwriter, author and actress Clara
Salaman who you may recognise as DS Claire Stanton from The Bill.

She lives in London and in Northern Spain.

Twitter: @natdaniels2018

book reviews · Bookish · Uncategorized

Think Yourself Lucky by Ramsey Campbell (Review)

Today, I’m on the Random Things blog tour for Think Yourself Lucky by Ramsey Campbell and I’ve got a review for you! The books is available in Paperback, Hardback and Kindle edition.

Think Yourself Lucky Blog Tour poster

Categorised as a horror novel, I wasn’t sure how this book would go. I’m not majorly familiar with horror as a genre and the works I am familiar with are more “classic”, so I was pleasantly surprised that Think Yourself Lucky was something totally different, and a new experience for me. Instead of a traditional horror, this book is very psychological and sardonic; it’s not what I was expecting at all.

At first, the book opens up with someone else – we later find out his name is Lucky. He’s aggressive and clearly hates people. We are almost instantly presented with his own monologue about his neighbours and how irritating he finds them. I thought, ha! Yeah, we all think like this sometimes when people are irritating, but then things took a dark turn. I wasn’t sure if these instances were meant to be humorous or just aggressive and shocking. I didn’t find them funny, it felt a little tedious and hard to read, but this dude clearly isn’t a good guy, so I just put this down to the character himself. In this sort of book, I figured there would be characters I wouldn’t like. I found myself feeling rather uncomfortable and weirded out through the book, which I guess is good considering it’s genre!

The main character, David, is bored with his life, working at a travel agency. The point is made – repeatedly – that he absolutely is not a writer. Accosted in the street, he ended up going to a writers meeting where he mentioned a “title” for a book. He then finds out that somebody “took the name” and created a blog with it – a rather grim, sardonic blog at that. Though he doesn’t care the name was taken, because he isn’t a writer.

The events in the blog seem to somehow coincide with his life, weirding David out and clearly affecting his mind. How did it line up with him like that? Did he have some sort of influence on things? Did he have a stalker? We do find out, but it’s not made explicitly clear what happened. I felt because of this, the book didn’t really conclude very well. I found myself reaching the last pages and wondering where the ending was going to be.

The book didn’t flow well for me. Some parts were really engaging and had me going, other bits I just couldn’t wait to get past for the next thing to happen. It was quite a strange read but I definitely enjoyed the experience as it was totally new to me. The premise itself I found pretty interesting and I’m sure people who are fans of the genre would enjoy it more than I did; but personally, this one wasn’t for me.

Think Yourself Lucky Cover

BLURB: David Botham just wants a quiet ordinary life―his job at the travel agency, his
relationship with his girlfriend Stephanie. The online blog that uses a title he once thought up has nothing to do with him. He has no idea who is writing it or where they get their information about a series of violent deaths in Liverpool. If they’re murders, how can the killer go unseen even by security cameras? Perhaps David won’t know until they come too close to him―until he can’t ignore the figure from his past that is catching up with him…

Ramsey CampbellABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ramsey Campbell is a British writer considered by a number of
critics to be one of the great masters of horror fiction. T. E. D. Klein has written that “Campbell reigns supreme in the field today,” while S. T. Joshi has said that “future generations will regard him as the leading horror writer of our generation, every bit the equal of Lovecraft or Blackwood.”

book reviews · Bookish · Uncategorized

Hard Return by Rosie Claverton (Review)

Hard Return BT Poster

Hey guys, today I’m bringing you a review as part of the blog tour for Hard Return by Rose Claverton which is available now in both Kindle and Paperback formats and is also available as part of Kindle Unlimited.

BLURB: 12 men locked in a compound.
12 men watching their every move.
1 man murdered.

When Jason’s friend Lewis is trapped in a secret prison compound with a murderer, Jason must go back behind bars – but Amy won’t let him go in alone. Hiding their intentions from both the convicts and their watchers, they work together to find justice for the murdered man while keeping their cover. As the danger mounts, Jason, Amy, and Lewis find there might be no escape for any of them – except in death.

Hard Return Cover Image

Hard Return is the fifth installment in Rosie Claverton’s Amy Lane Mysteries. I admittedly hadn’t heard of the author or this series prior to the invitation to the tour, but I now realise what a shame that was and look forward to Rosie’s future works. So you can gather, this was my first venture in to the series and while it worked totally fine on its own, I do wish I had read the previous installments to know more about the characters and what brought them up to the events of this book as you get caught up and swept along with no idea how they got to this point,  but it also makes you want to know WHY and HOW they got to this point. In my opinion, that isn’t a bad thing. *Glances at her ever growing TBR pile*

The characters I found to be excellent. I ended up feeling invested in them, fascinated and they carried me through the story – one I found myself unable to put down. I didn’t expect to enjoy the book as much as I did. It was fairly fast but well paced throughout and I honestly feel like the blurb doesn’t do the book justice – however to say much more would be spoilers and nobody likes spoilers. Or maybe they do. I’m sure someone out there does, but the majority of us don’t. It’s honestly hard to write this review without spoilers.

Hard Return is a wild ride from start to finish. While the characters live in a world that is nothing like my own, I found myself really connecting with them – not just Amy, our fantastic female protaganist; who is actually human and demonstrates anxiety (in an actual realistic manner to boot) in the situations she’s put in, rather than appearing cold and superhuman, but also the secondary character, Jason, who I gather was previously locked up for something he didn’t do and also their watcher and former friend (another thing that makes me want to read previous installments – I’m wondering what the heck happened there!) Owain. I felt really immersed in their journey and the author really kept me on my toes. When I thought something – something fairly obvious and cliche was about to happen, she went the other way and I found myself surprised by the turns things took.

The book ends with some questions. I can’t specify details without spoilers, but there is certainly a “what next” which has me looking forward to the next installment in the series and seriously needing to go and read the previous installments. I love when a book does that. When a book works as a standalone, but it’s so good and really grabs you that you find yourself needing to consume more tales of the characters and go back to previous installments while you await the next. That, to me, is a sign of an excellent book. I’d highly recommend picking this one up. You can buy it here via Amazon.

rosie Claverton

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Claverton is a novelist, screenwriter, and junior psychiatrist.She grew up in Devon, daughter to a Sri Lankan father and a Norfolk mother, surrounded by folk mythology and surly sheep. She moved to Cardiff to study Medicine and adopted Wales as her home. She then moved to London to specialise in psychiatry.

Her first short film Dragon Chasers aired on BBC Wales in Autumn 2012. She co-wrote the ground-breaking series of short films The Underwater Realm. Her Cardiff-based crime series The Amy Lane Mysteries is published by Crime Scene Books.

Between writing and medicine, she blogs about psychiatry and psychology for writers in her Freudian Script series, advocating for accurate and sensitive portrayals of people with mental health problems in fiction.

Recently returned to Cardiff, she lives with her journalist husband and their nearly new daughter.