Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn and Other Stories by David John Griffin




About Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn

Dogs are reported for their constant barking ...and so begins one of the strangest stories you will ever read. Audrey Ackerman, sent to visit the dogs at a 17th century coach house, is unsettled by paranormal sightings. Stella Bridgeport - manager at The Animal Welfare Union - communicates with Audrey via emails. And those Stella receives are as startling as they are incredible: descriptions of extraordinary events concerning a science fiction writer's journal; giant swans; bizarre android receptionist; a ghost dog. Insanity or fantasy? Fact or fiction? The only given is, it all starts and ends with two dogs at The One Dog Inn...and other stories: 12 short stories with aspects of the macabre, the surreal or the strangeness of magical realism to entertain and delight you.


My review of Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn

After reading the wonderful short story collection, 'Sweet Home', by Carys Bray,  I made a promise to myself to read more short story collections. Therefore, when the opportunity arose for me to read and review, Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn and Other Stories, I jumped at the chance. This novella and short story collection was an absolute treat to read.

Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn, takes up around 40 percent of the entire book. This story focusses upon two women, two friends,  Audrey and Stella. Stella runs the local animal rescue centre and Audrey works there. The two women have been friends for a long rime. We learn of their relationship and the events surrounding the tale of the two dogs at the One Dog Inn, via a series of email conversations. I liked the fact that I learned about these two women in such an interesting way, as reading their personal thoughts from a first parson perspective really helped to make them seem more 'real' and what they had to say seemed more credible.

So Stella and Audrey have an argument prior to the book's beginning. We learn of this at the beginning of the story. Audrey is upset because Stella did not believe her account of what happened at the One Dog Inn, when she was called there to investigate a report of loud, barking dogs. As Audrey begins to tell Stella of what she saw while at the Inn, we learn what she saw at the same time, and it is up to us, the reader, to choose whether to believe her or not.  Stella obviously does  not believe her,  and why would she? She suggests that Audrey is suffering from stress, ear infections, anything but what she is suggesting.

I of course believed every word, as this is fiction  so I had to go with it and embrace the supernatural, abnormal and fantastical goings on. We read of secret tunnels, hounds and robots, it is obvious that the author had a lot of fun writing this novel and this sense of enthusiasm rubbed off on me, as I found myself being immersed into this very different world and thoroughly enjoyed this fantastical quirky, tale of the paranormal.

The remaining book is made up of 12 short stories, each of differing lengths, but all equally fascinating. One in particular stood out to me, Return to the Sea, a melancholy tale about lost love, the past and the future. What all of these stories share in common, is that they offer something a little different, an alternative view of the world that that is quite refreshing.

Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn and Other Stories is a refreshing, quirky and enjoyable read. If you are looking for something that is a little different, that is well written by a talented storyteller, then this is the book for you.

Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn and Other Stories is published on the 26 Jan by Urbane Publications. It is available to buy from Amazon here.

With thanks to the publoisher for a review copy.


About the author



David John Griffin is a writer, graphic designer and app designer, and lives in a small town by the Thames in Kent, UK with his wife Susan and two dogs called Bullseye and Jimbo. He is currently working on the first draft of a third novel. His first novel published by Urbane Publications in October 2015 is called The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb. The second is a literary/psychological novel, entitled Infinite Rooms. His novella and collection of short stories called Two Dogs At The One Dog Inn And Other Stories will be published in January 2017 by Urbane Publications. One of his short stories was shortlisted for The HG Wells Short Story competition 2012 and published in an anthology.

Friday, 24 February 2017

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

 
 
About the One Memory of Flora Banks
 
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO TRUST WHEN YOU CAN'T EVEN TRUST YOURSELF?
I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can't remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.

Then she kisses someone she shouldn't, and the next day she remembers it. It's the first time she's remembered anything since she was ten.

But the boy is gone. She thinks he's moved to the Arctic.
Will following him be the key to unlocking her memory? Who can she trust?
 
 
My review of The One Memory of Flora Banks
 
The One Memory of Flora Banks has been on my 'to be read pile' for a long time, and so I was very glad when I eventually had the opportunity to read it. I absolutely adored this book. It was such a treat to read.
 
The story revolves around Flora Banks, a seventeen-year-old girl who has anterograde amnesia. This means that she can only retain information for a few hours, so she has to be constantly reminded of who she is, what she has done and what she needs to do next. Her life is a series of notes, reminders and she cannot live without her notebook, which is where her whole life is documented. On her hand thee is a tattooed message that states, 'Be Brave' and Flora lives her life by this mantra. She is brave, she is exceptional.
 
Although YA, it is not the typical young girl falls in love with boy YA story, it is different, believe me, you have to stick with the story until the very end. This is not about teenage love, this is a book about self discovery, it is a book about how Flora finds herself. When Flora remembers kissing Drake one night on the beach, who is also her best friend's boyfriend, her whole world begins to unravel and changes forever. Although the novel begins as one of teenage love and of new love, this novel is so much more.
 
Flora takes the bold decision to travel to Svalbard, in the Arctic, so as to find Drake. This part of the book I absolutely loved. I could see, smell and taste the Arctic with the author's vivid descriptions. This young girl, with no memory, managed to get herself there, living up to her motto, Be Brave. Flora does indeed manage to get herself safely to Svalbard and she finds that she is loved by many of the inhabitants there, namely those of Toby and Agi, who are fantastic characters, that we meet through Flora's viewpoint.
 
I will just mention that this novel is repetitive, we read many times that Flora 'kissed a boy' for example, but this repetition is needed. It is Flora telling the story, and through the use of repetition I felt like I was able to creep inside her head and live her life throughout the pages of he novel. Without this constant reputation, I really do feel that a vital part of Flora would have been lost to me. I needed to understand how her amnesia impacted upon her life, and the narrative repetitions helped me to do so.
 
The main themes running throughout this novel are those of, Who is telling the truth? and, Who can Flora trust? Throughout the novel I just knew that something was amiss, I just couldn't put my finger on it, so the ending came as a complete surprise.
 
The One Memory of Flora Banks is an exceptional novel for any age. It is a story of self discovery, adventure and of never giving up on life. The One Memory of Flora Banks was published by Penguin on 12 December 2016 and can be found on Amazon here.
 
 
  
About the author
 
Emily Barr worked as a journalist in London but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. She went travelling for a year, which gave her an idea for a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became BACKPACK, an adult thriller which won the WH Smith New Talent Award, and she has since written eleven more adult novels published in the UK and around the world. THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS is her first novel for young adults. She lives in Cornwall with her partner and their children. Visit her website at www.emilybarr.com
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Blog Tour - #RagdollBook by @Daniel_P_Cole


 
About Ragdoll

The nation is gripped by the infamous 'Ragdoll Killer'
Every news bulletin and headline is obsessed with this story.

Your friends, your family and your neighbours are all talking about it.

Believe the hype. Sold in over 32 countries and counting, RAGDOLL is the standout thriller of the year.

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the 'ragdoll'.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William 'Wolf' Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The 'Ragdoll Killer' taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move



My Review of Ragdoll

Oh My Word!!! Where do I start other than saying that this book was brilliant in every single way imaginable.

I can't stop thinking about this book, I have a severe book hangover, I just loved everything about it. As the blurb says, this book focuses upon a serial killer who has killed 6 people. However, all the  police have to go on are the six body parts that have been found stitched together, so as to form the grotesque 'Ragdoll'. Then the killer releases a list of six future victims to the media, one of whom is Detective William 'Wolf' Fawkes, along with the dates in which they will die. The race then begins to find the killer.

From the very beginning I just knew that I would love this book. It is sharp, brutally violent, yet really, really funny, which seems strange when talking about a book that is incredibly violent and focuses upon a serial killer... but it is... very funny. This may be due to the fact that Daniel Cole is a former paramedic, and so has that natural ability to underhand and write black humour. As a former nurse, I totally get where he is coming from.  But that is not to shy away from the fact that this book is dark, disturbing and incredibly violent, so if you are at all squeamish or easily offended, then this is possibly not the book for you.

Having said that, not much offends me and I do enjoy black humour and grizzly crime thrillers,  so this book was right up my street. It very much reminded me of the film Seven, but with added humour.

I can't talk abut the actual plot as even sharing a little bit of what happened will spoil the excitement of reading the story for the very first time, and I don't want to do that,  so I'll talk about my favourite characters. So, to Wolf. What ca I say? He is witty, clever, handsome and flawed, but I could not help but love him. He is what glues this book together and, I found him absolutely fascinating. Just as fascinating was the character of Detective Emily Baxter, I just loved her bluntness and she created so many laugh out loud moments.

Now, back to plot. There are just so many twists, turns, dead ends and surprising moments, that you will find yourself momentarily putting the book down while you get to grips with what just happened, before taking a deep and shaky breath and carrying on, this happened a lot. I was so torn while reading this book, I wanted to whizz through the pages, to find out what would happen next, but at the same time I wanted to savour every word, as I did not want the book to end, and I was so very sad when it did, as I felt I had said goodbye to a long, lost friend.

So yes, I adore this book. If there is only one book that you buy in 2017, it has to be this one, you won't be disappointed.... and if it isn't made into a feature film, then I will eat my beanie hat.

Ragdoll is published by the Orion Publishing Group, Trapeze, on Feb 23rd 2017.

With many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an Advanced Reader Copy.

Ragdoll can be found on Amazon here

About Daniel Cole

At 33 years old, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing.

He currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing book two instead.


Monday, 20 February 2017

All The Places I've Ever Lived by David Gaffney


About All The Places I've Ever Lived

Part murder ballad, part ghost story, part true crime, All The Places I've Ever Lived takes you on a gripping journey from the small-town murder of a teenage girl in the 1970s to the recent real-life shootings in Whitehaven, West Cumbria. Are the crimes linked? Fifteen-year-old Barry Dyer may have the answers, but when events impact so horrifically on a town and its people, it always pays to tread carefully when revealing the truth…

Quirky, disturbing, and haunting, All The Places I've Ever Lived is a moving and tender exploration of a teenage outsider in a small community, as well as being a finely wrought portrayal of West  Cumbria, where nuclear plants, thermometer factories and chemical works contrast vividly with the desolate beauty of the Lake District.

David Peace meets Murakami in award-winning writer David Gaffney's compelling mash up of Twin Peaks weirdness and peri-urban noir.


My review of All The Places I've Ever Lived

Wow! Well this book is incredibly weird, dark, fantastical and extraordinarily twisted! I loved it.

All The Places I've Ever Lived is a part teenage coming of age story, a murder mystery quedt and a time travelling at the seat of your pants journey - all rolled into one. It's genre busting, and I think that is one of the reasons that I devoured this book in only a few sittings.

The book centres around Barry Dyer, a fifteen-year-old living in Cumbria, during the 1970s. He plays guitar, wants to be a folk singer and is trying to find his identity, as all teenagers do. On the outside he is a normal boy, but he is harbouring a secret that only he knows. He wakes on the morning after an assault on local teenager, Philomena May, to find that his body is covered in small metal discs that only he can see.  From this moment on,  the book takes on a quirky and urban noir edge.

The plot is a complex one, in that we are the observers to two stories. One is in the present day of the novel, during the 1970s and focussed upon the search for Philomenas's attacker. The second is set in the year 2010 (remember this is also a time travelling tale), but the two stories, and two worlds, are linked by Pholomena, one girl who is real, the other a ghost.

Although this is a hugely fantastical story,  it is grounded in reality. Themes such as those of seeking justice, morality, finding your identity and purpose in life, are all entwined into the narrative. This is predominantly a story about a teenage boy, who is on the brink of adulthood and who wants to do the right thing. He wants to be the son that his parents are proud of, he wants to succeed in his music and he wants to find love.

I adored this book, every single inch of it. You simply have to go with it, trust the author in where he wishes to take you. I think that the story, for all of its other worldly and ghostly features, works because of the utterly believable characters. We believe in Barry, and because of this we can time travel with him and take part in his adventure and into the realm of adulthood.

All The Places I've Ever Lived is a refreshing read. It's funny at times, while at others it is deeply poignant. Don't be fooled by the time travelling/ghost/ murder mystery hook, into thinking that this is a light throw away read. Because it isn't. This book makes you think. It makes you think of how you interact with people, how you live your life and about what is truly important. It is absurd, surreal, yet spine chillingly real. I loved every page.

All The Places I've Ever Lived Is published on February 23 by Urbane Publications.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an Advanced Reader Copy.

All The Places I've Ever Lived is available to buy from Amazon here.


About the author 

David Gaffney comes from Cleator Moor in West Cumbria and now lives in Manchester. He is the author of Sawn-off Tales (2006), Aromabingo (2007), Never Never (2008), The Half-life of Songs (2010) and his latest collection of short stories, More Sawn-Off Tales ( 2013). He has also written Buildings Crying Out, a story using lost cat posters (Lancaster LitFest 2009); 23 Stops To Hull, a set of stories about every junction on the M62 (Humber Mouth Literature Festival 2009); Sawn-off Opera, a set of operas with composer Ailis Ni Riain (BBC Radio 3, RNCM, Liverpool Philharmonic and Tete a Tete festival London 2010); Destroy PowerPoint, stories in PowerPoint format for Edinburgh Festival 2009; The Poole Confessions, stories told in a mobile confessional box (Poole Literature Festival 2010); Station Stories, in which six writers linked to the audience with wireless headphones performed short stories in Manchester Piccadilly railway station (Manchester Literature Festival 2011); Boy You Turn Me, a sound installation (Birmingham Book Festival 2011); guerrilla writing project Errata Slips (Cornerhouse Manchester 2011), Preston 3twenty (2012-2032), a twenty-year arts and literature project, Men Who Like Women Who Smell of Their Jobs, (Manchester Literature Festival 2014) a visual art exhibition with painter Alison Erika Forde, and The Three Rooms In Valerie's Head, a graphic novel with illustrator Dan Berry (2015-2016) David has written articles for the Guardian, Sunday Times, Financial Times and Prospect magazine , was a judge for the 2015 Bridport prize and is currently a visiting fellow with the University of Manchester.



Saturday, 18 February 2017

Into the Shadows by Marie Jones





About Into the Shadows

Arriving home from a short holiday in Dingle, Lily Crossways makes a staggering discovery – on one of her photos taken on 'Inch' beach, a woman's desperate face is staring directly at her. Yet Lily knows she was alone that day on the beach.

Who is she, is she even real, and why has she appeared to Lily?

Unable to let the woman go, Lily makes the uncharacteristic decision to leave behind her safe world in England and return to Dingle to try and find her. Her search eventually leads her to cafe owner David Carson, this woman's brother, who hasn't seen his 'missing' sister in five years.

Lily must now convince him to trust in her, taking bold steps to prove herself to him, and together track down his sister before it’s too late.

Yet are either prepared for the hidden secrets they are about to uncover in their earnest desire to find her, and the impact it will have on those they love?


My review of Into the Shadows


Into the Shadows is centred around Lily, a young woman who has an ordered life, and knows exactly where she is headed in life. Her life is run on routine and, if she was being completely honest with herself, somewhat dull. But, she is happy, or is she? It is only when she returns home from her holiday in Dingle, Ireland, that her life begins to get exciting. When looking at photos that she took while on Inch beach, she sees the face of a woman staring back at her. The only problem is that the beach was empty, so who  is the woman? This is where the story really begins to get interesting, as Lily returns to Dingle to find the woman from the photograph.

This book is a fascinating read and one which I found hugely enjoyable. I won't spoil the plot by telling you how the story unfolds, other than to say that she meets the woman's brother, David, who tells her that his sister has been missing for the past five years. It is then that their journey to find his sister begins.

The story is told through Lily's point of view and I loved her inner dialogue, that gave much needed insight into her character. We need to identify with her, and understand her needs and motives for this book to work, and the author achieves this with great skill. I really identified with Lily. In many ways I am very much like her, that need to be in control. I liked her a lot.

This is a novel of many layers. We have the beautiful and lyrical descriptions of the Dingle area, and I found myself smelling the sea air and running my hands through the sandy beaches. I also wanted to taste one of David's cappuccinos. I have never been to Ireland, but while I read this book, I was there in spirit. 

We also have a beautiful love story told between Lily and David, but also in the undercurrents of the story about siblings and mother and daughter. Then of course we have the mystery element, in the woman who was seen in the photograph. All of these elements fuse beautifully together and create an interesting story which is fast paced and has you flipping the pages, in your need to find out what happens.

This is a novel of self discovery, of the realisation that we need to change and move on with our lives. The Lily that we meet at the beginning of the novel, is not the same woman at the end of the story. But this change is gradual and natural, and we go through this self realisation with her.

Into the Shadows is a romantic read with a mystery edge, it's a different kind of romantic read and if you love your romance novels to be a little bit different, then this is perfect escapism.

With thanks to the author who provided the book for review purposes.

Into the Shadows is available to buy from Amazon on the following link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Into-Shadows-NUMBER-1-BOOK-ebook/dp/B019QNR4PA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487351890&sr=8-1&keywords=into+the+shadows



About the author



Her first novel, 'Into The Shadows', has been published and is available now on Amazon.  The novel was recently awarded a special 5* Review on Readersfavorite.com

The busy mother of two has a strong creative streak and enjoys photography, drawing, as well as writing.

'Into The Shadows' is a romantic suspense, woven with mystery and family dra a.

Marie was inspired to write the novel whilst visiting a stunning part of Ireland.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

*Blog Tour* Isolation Junction by Jennifer Gilmour



About Isolation Junction

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’. She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business. It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival. After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it? Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

My review of Isolation Junction
 
 

Rose is a young mum to two children, and she is stuck in an emotional and physically abusive relationship. She has 100 reasons to stay, but another 100 reasons to leave. What should she do? That is the premise for this book, which although is fiction, is based upon the author's own personal experiences of living in an abusive relationship. It is the author's voice that rings out strongly from this book, making the story believable.

When reading Isolation Junction, we get two stories. We read of Rose's past where she suffered abuse at the hands of her ex husband, Darren, as well as the present day Rose who is in a relationship with her new partner, Tim. One account is told in third person, the other the first person narrative, and this helps to clearly define the 'two Roses,'

I believe that this book is helpful for women who are currently in an abusive relationship. It is hard hitting, as it tells the facts, and it is obvious that Jennifer is writing from real life experiences. This is why I think that women who are living in an abusive relationship, and who manage to read this book, will be given hope that there is life after deistic abuse. This book is incredibly optimistic and it tells the reader that there is life after domestic violence, as Rose starts a new life with Tim, who welcomes her children and creates a new family unit.

Isolation Junction is a short read, which I feel is just the right length to get Rose's story across. It's not an easy read because of the subject matter, but having said that, it brings to light the issues surrounding domestic abuse in an easy to understand manner, as we are learning from the mouth of Rose. We think and feel what she has been through.

Isolation Junction is an emotive read that is hugely empowering. I thoroughly recommend it to all women and health care professionals.

Isolation Junction is available to buy from Amazon here.

About the author

 

Born in the North East, I am a young, married mum with three children. I am an entrepreneur, running a family business from my home-base and I have a large readership of other young mums in business for my blog posts.

From an early age I have had a passion for writing and have been gathering ideas and plot lines from my teenage years. A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, I have amalgamated and fictionalised other survivors experiences alongside my own to write my first novel detailing the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again. I hope that in reading my debut novel, I will raise awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships to seek help for themselves and find the confidence to change their lives.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

*Blog Tour* Dare to Remember by Susanna Beard

 
About Dare to Remember
 
Reeling from a brutal attack that leaves her best friend dead and her badly injured, Lisa Fulbrook flees to the countryside to recuperate. With only vague memories of the event, she isolates herself from her friends and family, content to spend her days wandering the hills with her dog, Riley.
However, Lisa is soon plagued, not only by vivid flashbacks, but questions, too: how did their assailant know them? Why were they attacked? And what really happened that night?

As she desperately tries to piece together the memories, Lisa realises that there's another truth still hidden to her, a truth she can't escape from. A truth that may have been right in front of her all along.
 
 
My review of Dare to Remember
 
Dare to Remember is described as a psychological crime drama, and that is exactly what this book is, a gripping psychological read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. From the very first page I knew that I would just love this book. It is a psychological drama, rather than a thriller, in that this is a gentler read, with in-depth characterisation that explores deep psychological issues. There are wonderful insights along the way, but we share this journey with the protagonist, Lisa. There were no gasp out loud shocks for me, but I liked this aspect very much. I wanted to learn the truth at the same time as Lisa. It is a clever, and thought provoking read about the human condition.
 
Lisa and Ali shared a flat, and had done so for many years. They were happy, carefree and loving life. They were young women with their whole life ahead of them. All of this changed one night when they were attacked in their own home by a man. Lisa was savagely attacked and left traumatised, while her friend died. But what Lisa cannot remember is the attack itself, nor the events leading up to the attack. Everything is a complete blur. The book therefore revolves around Lisa and how she coped following the attack, with her believing that the only way she can live a normal live  is by retreating to the countryside, away from people she knows and where life is simpler and quieter. I loved the descriptions of life in this sleepy village, such as the everyday tasks that she did, like walking the dog, as she desperately tried to gain some sort of normality.
 
Throughout the book we realise that Lisa is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, as the result of being a victim to such a violent attack. She has flashbacks that allow her to slowly piece together what happened. She receives therapy, and this aspect of the book I found completely believable. It was very obvious that the author had done her research and clearly knew what she was talking about. The emphasis is very much that of Lisa being on a personal journey, where she must live through the trauma in order to pass through it.
 
Dare to Remember deals with some hard hitting issues, such as violent crime, control and misogyny. But on the flip side it also deals with the issues of friendship and trust. There is balance to this book, and the message is that of hope. It is a hugely enjoyable read with interesting and captivating characters, but ultimately it works, as we live and breathe Lisa's life through the duration of the story.
 
This is a slow burner of a book, with much attention to detail. If you love to read psychological dramas, that give great insight into human psychology and have thought provoking themes running throughout them, then Dare to Remember is the book for you. It's also a cracking good story.
 
Dare to Remember is published on 1st Feb by Legend Press and can be found on Amazon here
 
With thanks to Legend Press for an Advanced Reader Copy.
 
 
Follow the blog tour below.
 
  
 
 
 
About the Author
 
 
 
 
 
Originally a linguist, I've always loved words and writing. My career to date both demands and celebrates writing. 
 
"I discovered that the slope of writing to order is a slippery one, and that the descent is in fact pleasurable." Elena Ferrante. 
 
Writing fiction is new and joyous for me. It offers a freedom from constraint which is refreshing and full of wonder.
 
I like dark, contemplative stories with a twist. I'm fascinated by the psychology of relationships and the impact of insignificant events on people's lives.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes



About The Gift Maker

'Gifts ought to be free, but they never are. They tie you to the wishes of others. To your own sad expectations. To the penitentiary of your dreams.'

Late one night, Thomas Ruder receives a strange package: a small blue box. Another such item is delivered to his friend Liselotte Hauptmann. These 'gifts' will change their lives forever. In the far-off border town of Grenze, a play is to be performed at the Sheol Theatre. Reynard the impresario expects a very special audience. Thomas and Liselotte, together with their friend Johann, are drawn into Reynard's seductive web, as Daumen, the gift maker, must decide who his master really is. The Gift Maker is a story about identity, about fulfilling your dreams and becoming the person you always were ... at whatever cost.


My Review of The Gift Maker

The Gift Maker is a magical fantasy novel like no other, and I loved it. To try and define the genre that this book fits into is incredibly difficult. It is a fantasy novel, but it is also a magical fairy tale alongside a story of good and evil and of creation. It's an exceptionally clever novel, that uses poetic language, in a world so unlike our own.  This is a world where reality sits alongside magic. 

And just look at the cover. It is so beautiful.

The Gift Maker is other worldly, it remnded me of when I read Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake many years ago, and for some reason the film Dogville, popped into my mind while I was reading (which I loved).  The writing style is very different to the contemporary fiction of today, but I soon relaxed into the melodic dialogue and found myself immersed in this beautiful literary world. 

So, the story begins when Thomas is woken in the middle of the night by his landlady, who has a small box to give him. This has been hand delivered by a mysterious man with large hairy hands. Thomas is afraid of what is inside the box and so shuts it away in his bedside drawer. He tells nobody about this gift, not even his closest friend, Johann. He then finds out that a friend of his, Liselotte, whom he cares deeply about, has also received a strange box. She confides in him one evening about what is inside the box. Thomas is unsupportive of Liselotte's revelation, and as a result she dismisses him. He is despondent as he really wanted to be more than just friends. It is the following day that Liselotte disappears, leaving a note behind, simply telling Thomas that she has gone to Grenze. It is from this moment on that the book takes a dramatic turn, and the lives of these three friends is never the same again.

I can't really disclose any more about what happens after this, as it would give the entire plot away, and I really don't want to do that. All I will say is that the three friends go on their own separate journeys of self discovery, defined by the gifts that they receive.

What I loved about this book was the description of the faraway ghost town of Grenze. This is a place that I would never wish to travel to. For me, this tiny village represented the end of the world.

The Gift Maker is not an easy read, in the sense that it makes you think, it is a philosophical read with multiple interpretations available to the reader, depending upon their personal viewpoints and past experiences. This book can be interpreted in many different ways. For me, this book was about good and evil, how the world began and of that all consuming first love. This book is predominantly about self discovery and it asks the question:

Would you really do anything, no matter the cost, to fulfill your wildest dreams?

The Gift Maker is a breathtaking read of self discovery. It is a magical tale of love, morality and of doing the right thing. And as for the ending...well, it was completely unexpected but brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

The Gift Maker is published by Urbane Publications on February 23rd, and is available to buy from Amazon here.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy.



About the author

Before becoming a writer, Mark trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He subsequently worked in theatre and television for several years, both in the UK and abroad. He has worked variously as a cleaner, care-worker and carer, salesman, barman, medical transcriptionist, warehouse worker, and administrator.

Mark has published numerous stories and poems in magazines and anthologies in the UK, Eire, and Italy, and in particular has had several stories published in (or accepted for) the celebrated Unthology series (Unthank Books). His work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. He has been shortlisted for literary prizes, including the prestigious Bridport Prize.

In 2009, Mark graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in English (Creative Writing and Critical Practice) from Ruskin College, Oxford.

Currently living in South Wales, Mark is also a musician and songwriter, and some of his songs may be found here: HTTPS://SOUNDCLOUD.COM/PUMPSTREETSONGS

Among his favourite writers are: Jean Rhys, Franz Kafka, Anton Chekhov, and Christopher Priest.

The Gift Maker is his d├ębut novel and will publish spring 2017.