The prose poems in I Can See The Lights are earthy and raw, but also incredibly sensitive. It’s pretty much guaranteed that more than one of them will bring you to tears. Characters are vividly brought to life, and stark but warm environments evoked in a down to earth, yet almost painterly manner by Russ Litten’s uncompromising voice.
Tales of home, of un-belonging, of strife at sea – of a northern city’s beating heart. Told in a mesmeric, stripped-down tone, this collection is a work of genius.
I received a copy of this book from WildPressed in return for an honest review
Edgy, eloquent and emotional, the poetry in ‘I Can See The Lights, shows the darker side of life, the things people prefer to forget or turn away from. It showcases the human fear of being alone and vulnerable. The forgotten groups in society who are becoming too numerous to ignore.
It’s a collection of feelings and thoughts. Showcasing the world’s cruelty, the way we fool ourselves, the inherent human need to search for the light and something good to hold onto.
The writing is emotional, honest and poignant. It makes you think and saddens you. It’s not all darkness, as you read you can see the good, the happiness and the light, and it’s worth looking for.
This is a collection of poetry and stories you can read again, and see something different. When it ends you wonder what happens next, or what if.
If you enjoy poetry that reflects today’s world, this is for you.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK- Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A heartwarming, serendipitous story, about Charlotte’s life and loves. At twenty-two, she meets the one, but there’s someone else in Tom’s life, and the love remains unrequited. The story continues with chance meetings, but life events force them apart.
Music is a recurrent theme in this story, reflecting life events and changes in emotions.
The romance is chequered, but Charlotte faces family tragedies and difficult decisions that shape her as a person. The impact of mental health issues on families is explored with sensitivity. The idea that our lives could be different if we’d made another choice is also a theme of this emotional story. As Charlotte matures and changes, as life events occur.
There is a strong sense of place in this story that grounds it, adds interest and give it authenticity. The characters are realistic and draw you into their world.
Shakespeare’s sonnets are among the great achievements in world literature. Alas, the immortal Bard never used his command of iambic pentameter to explore such themes as porn, Snapchat and Austin Powers.
#Sonnets is a collection of hilarious and inappropriate poems complete with illustrations of Elizabethan RoboCop and Snoop Dogg in tights. Musing on everything from Donald Trump to Tinder, comedy writer Lucien Young offers a Shakespearean take on the absurdity of modern life.
Sadly, I didn’t have time to read and review this, so instead,I have an extract from this book of verses to share.
Extracts from #Sonnets- Lucien Young
Lucien Young is a comedy writer who has worked on various TV programmes, including BBC Three’s Siblings and Murder in Successville. He was born in Newcastle in 1988 and read English at the University of Cambridge, where he was a member of the world-famous Footlights Club.
June 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Judy Garland’s death
August 2019 is the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz
October 4th the motion picture JUDY starring Renee Zellwegger and Jessie Buckley is released in the UK
An irresistible mixture
of memoir, biography, cultural analysis, experiment and hero-worship about one
person’s enduring fascination. This is for anyone who has ever nursed an
obsession or held a candle to a star.
Judy Garland has been an important figure in Susie Boyt’s world since she was three years old; comforting, inspiring and, at times, disturbing her. In this unique book, Boyt travels deep into the underworld of hero-worship, reviewing through the prism of Judy our understanding of rescue, consolation, love, grief and fame.
Layering key episodes from Garland’s life with defining moments from her own, Boyt demands with insight and humour, what it means, exactly, to adore someone you don’t know. Need hero-worship be a pursuit that’s low in status or can it be performed with pride and style? Are there similarities that lie at the heart of all fans? nd what is the proper husbandry of a twenty-first-century obsession, anyway?
I received a copy of this book from Virago Books in return for an honest review.
I didn’t know quite what to expect when I picked up this book. A biography of Judy Garland, whose films I have always liked, or a memoir of the author, whose life is somehow entangled with the iconic star? In truth, it is both of these, and something more, an insight into celebrity and obsession in the twenty-first-century.
Honestly written, with no filter, this is an intense book, the author truly believes that her love of Judy, someone who she never met, has and does have a profound effect on her life. Many of us have obsessions, some of us with celebrities, I love the Osmonds. I grew out of my blinkered obsession in my mid-teens, but I still like their music, and listen to it today. Few of us are so affected, but this makes riveting reading.
Aside from the biography, illustrated with wonderful images. there is the memoir, which is very readable sometimes amusing and poignant. The author also highlights obsession as an entity and explores through her experience, whether this is a positive or negative force.
Worth reading for the intrinsic interest value alone. It is thought-provoking and resonates.
‘When Judy sang to me as I grew older she seemed to confirm things that I’d all my life held to be true:’
* Things that are hard have more of life at their heart than things that are easy.
* All feelings, however painful, are to be prized.
* Glamour is a moral stance.
* The world is crueller and more wonderful than anyone ever says.
* Loss, its memory and its anticipation, lies at the heart of human experience.
* Any human situation, however deadly, can be changed, turned round and improved beyond recognition on any given day, in one minute, in one hour.
* You must try to prepare for the moment that you’re needed for the call could come at any time.
* There are worse things in life than being taken for a ride.
* If you have a thin skin all aspects of life cost more and have more value.
* Loyalty to one other is preferable to any other kind of human system.
* Grief is no real match for the human heart, which is an infinitely resourceful organ.
Susie Boyt was born in London and educated at Camden
School for Girls and Oxford University.
After a nerve-racking stint in a lingerie boutique and an alarming spell
working in PR for Red Stripe lager and the Brixton Academy, she settled down to
writing and is the author of six acclaimed novels including The Last Hope of Girls, which was short-listed for the John Llewellyn Rhys
Prize, and Only Human, which was short-listed for the Mind Award. Of her last
novel, Love & Fame The Sunday Times said ‘she writes with such precision and wisdom about
the human heart under duress that the novel is hard to resist.’
Susie wrote a much-loved weekly column about life and art for the Financial TimesWeekend for fourteen years and still contributes regularly to their books and fashion pages. Last year she edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories for Penguin Classics. Susie is also a director at the Hampstead Theatre in London and works part-time for Cruse Bereavement Care.
She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She is the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud and the great grand-daughter of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.
My Judy Garland Life was Book of the Week on Radio 4, shortlisted for the Pen Ackerley Prize, extracted in U.S Vogue and staged at The Nottingham Playhouse in 2014.
‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’
For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK in return for an honest review.
There are so many facets and layers to this absorbing and inspiring story, it’s breathtaking. Family, friendship, abuse, religion, politics, corruption, culture, custom, mysticism, prejudice, history and equality are the ones that resonate. The idea that even when the body dies, the mind lives on, recalling memories, sensory experiences and emotions, is lovely. It forms the basis for a literary and political adventure, instilled with humanity, faith, poignancy and humour.
Leila is dead, but her mind refuses to die and in the 10 minutes and 38 seconds it has it recalls her early life, her friendships, choices, tragedies and eventual demise. Even though her life was hard, it was vital and enriched by friendships. Her five true friends have all faced their own battles, but together they survive and it is this connectivity that allows Leila, freedom in death that was never hers in life.
The fluidity of Istanbul is at the heart of this story, its gateway to both the east and west and its vibrant and violent historic past, makes it unique and this storyteller knows it in intimate details, which is fascinating.
The pacing is perfect, the characters engaging and believable, you hate the injustice they encounter, and cheer on their seemingly insignificant victories because they matter to you. The writing is full of vivid imagery, sometimes uncomfortably so, but this story holds your interest and is an addictive read.
An emotional, vibrant story that makes you think.
Extract from 10 Minutes 38 Seconds This Strange World – Elif Shafak
Her name was Leila.
Tequila Leila, as she was known to her friends and her
clients. Tequila Leila as she was called at home and at work, in that rosewood-coloured
house on a cobblestoned cul-de-sac down by the wharf, nestled between a church
and a synagogue, among lamp shops and kebab shops – the street that harboured
the oldest licensed brothels in Istanbul.
Still, if she were to hear you put it like that, she might
take offence and playfully hurl a shoe – one of her high-heeled stilettos.
‘Is, darling not was . . . My name is Tequila Leila.’
Never in a thousand years would she agree to be spoken of in
the past tense. The very thought of it would make her feel small and defeated,
and the last thing she wanted in this world was to feel that way. No, she would
insist on the present tense – even though she now realized with a sinking
feeling that her heart had just stopped beating, and her breathing had abruptly
ceased, and whichever way she looked at her situation there was no denying that
she was dead.
None of her friends knew it yet. This early in the morning
they would be fast asleep, each trying to find the way out of their own labyrinth
of dreams. Leila wished she were at home too, enveloped in the warmth of bed
covers with her cat curled at her feet, purring in drowsy contentment. Her cat
was stone deaf and black – except for a patch of snow on one paw. She had named
him Mr Chaplin, after Charlie Chaplin, for, just like the heroes of early
cinema, he lived in a silent world of his own.
Tequila Leila would have given anything to be in her apartment now. Instead, she was here, somewhere on the outskirts of Istanbul, across from a dark, damp football field, inside a metal rubbish bin with rusty handles and flaking paint. It was a wheelie bin; at least four feet high and half as wide. Leila herself was five foot seven – plus the eight inches of her purple slingback stilettos, still on her feet.
There was so much she wanted to know. In her mind she kept replaying
the last moments of her life, asking herself where things had gone wrong – a
futile exercise since time could not be unravelled as though it were a ball of
yarn. Her skin was already turning greyish-white, even though her cells were
still abuzz with activity.
She could not help but notice that there was a great deal
happening inside her organs and limbs. People always assumed that a corpse was
no more alive than a fallen tree or a hollow stump, devoid of consciousness.
But given half a chance, Leila would have testified that, on the contrary, a
corpse was brimming with life.
She could not believe that her mortal existence was over and
done with. Only the day before she had crossed the neighbourhood of Pera, her
shadow gliding along streets named after military leaders and national heroes,
streets named after men. Just that week her laughter had echoed in the
low-ceilinged taverns of Galata and Kurtulush, and the small, stuffy dens of
Tophane, none of which ever appeared in travel guides or on tourist maps. The
Istanbul that Leila had known was not the Istanbul that the Ministry of Tourism
would have wanted foreigners to see.
Last night she had left her fingerprints on a whisky glass,
and a trace of her perfume – Paloma Picasso, a birthday present from her
friends – on the silk scarf she had tossed aside on the bed of a stranger, in
the top-floor suite of a luxury hotel. In the sky high above, a sliver of
yesterday’s moon was visible, bright and unreachable, like the vestige of a
happy memory. She was still part of this world, and there was still life inside
her, so how could she be gone? How could she be no more, as though she were a
dream that fades at the first hint of daylight? Only a few hours ago she was
singing, smoking, swearing, thinking . . . well, even now she was thinking.
It was remarkable that her mind was working at full tilt – though who knew for how long. She wished she could go back and tell everyone that the dead did not die instantly, that they could, in fact, continue to reflect on things, including their own demise. People would be scared if they learned this, she reckoned. She certainly would have been when she was alive. But she felt it was important that they knew.
Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty languages. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. She is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED Global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation. Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. She has judged numerous literary prizes and is chairing the Wellcome Prize 2019.
It’s been seven years since Holly Kennedy’s husband died – six since she read his final letter, urging Holly to find the courage to forge a new life.
She’s proud of all the ways in which she has grown and evolved. But when a group inspired by Gerry’s letters, calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, approaches Holly asking for help, she finds herself drawn back into a world that she worked so hard to leave behind.
Reluctantly, Holly beings a relationship with the club, even as their friendship threatens to destroy the peace she believes she has achieved. As each of these people calls upon Holly to help them leave something meaningful behind for their loved ones, Holly will embark on a remarkable journey – one that will challenge her to ask whether embracing the future means betraying the past, and what it means to love someone forever…
I received an ARC Sample of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The arc sample for Postscript draws you back into Holly’s world as if you never left. It is now seven years after Gerry’s death and Holly is feeling more confident that life can go on as Holly, and maybe even Holly and Gerald. It is in this mindset that she agrees to her sister’s request, to take part in a podcast sharing her grief experience, and particularly Gerry’s letters, and what they meant for her.
Facing her grief again, even seven years on is difficult and you feel her pain and the real fear that she may slip back into the dark abyss if she examines her grief journey too closely. Nevertheless, she delivers and the response is positive, but someone seems too involved and Holly’s reaction is avoidance, and this has consequences, but I need the rest of the book to find out what they are.
And one big life lesson: never be ashamed to ask for more . . .
After a major life upheaval on the eve of her 40th birthday, a reluctant Kate Parker finds herself volunteering at Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 97-year-old Cecily Finn. Cecily’s tongue is as sharp as her mind but she has lost her spark, simply resigning herself to the Imminent End.
Having no patience with Kate’s plight, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book with a difference – it’s a 1957 cookery manual, featuring menus for anything life can throw at ‘the easily dismayed’. Will Kate find a menu to help her recover from her broken heart? If Kate moves forward, might Cecily too?
The cookbook holds the secrets of Cecily’s own remarkable past, and the story of the love of her life. It will certainly teach Kate a thing or two.
So begins an unlikely friendship between two lonely and stubborn souls – one at the end of her life, one stuck in the middle – who come to show each other that food is for feasting, life is for living and the way to a man’s heart is . . . irrelevant!
I received a copy of this book from Bonnier Zaffre via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The story of a lovely, yet unusual friendship between two women, one at the latter years of her life, the other at a crossroads, both are lonely, vulnerable and unhappy. Cecily the feisty ninety-seven years old deals with her unhappiness by withdrawing or criticising those around her, just for a reaction. Kate blames her own supposed inadequacies on herself, and accommodates the needs of others, at the expense of her own wellbeing.
Kate is dreading being forty. When Kate’s carefully nurtured, relationship with Nick and her job are threatened she falls apart spectacularly, blaming herself, and living on a diet of cigarettes, coffee and social alcohol to get her through the day. Volunteering brings her into Cecily’s realm, they are so different yet both at a time of their lives where nothing is as they want it. Kate’s dilemma gives Cecily a purpose.
Cecily gives Kate a cookery book, with pertinent life messages, it becomes the focus of their relationship, and the start of positive change for both of them.
The first few chapters of this story are so negative, you want to shake Kate out of her self-destructive cycle. I almost stopped reading, but when she meets Cecily the story’s positivity explodes and you are glad you persevered.
Well- written honest characters, a varied plot, especially with the flashbacks to Cecily’s life and a lovely balance of humour, poignancy and wit, making this a lovely reading experience.