Author, Book Publishing, Book Review, Creative, Crime Writing, Fiction, Mystery, Reading, Uncategorized

A Book Review: Where Are You Now?

Welcome to my ‘Dannika Writes… A Book Review‘ series! 🙂

As a writer, I have a natural affinity with words. So, it makes sense that I enjoy reading the literary creations of others, too. I began writing book reviews many moons ago; I was in a book club and it was suggested to me by a kind person there that I share my reviews online, as they believed others would appreciate my honest approach to reviewing reads both great and not-so-great.

Being a published author myself, I also realise how awesome it is knowing someone has taken the time to appreciate your efforts to entertain and/or enlighten them, then gone above and beyond to tell others about it as well. Reviews are vital to the success of every book in every genre; and that isn’t necessarily tied to positive reviews and recommendations. From an author’s perspective, constructive criticism plays an essential role in the development of one’s writing, and ultimately, it becomes something every writer appreciates (even if they don’t realise it at the time!).

I only read paperbacks, by the way – which is the reason I include links to the paperback copies of books I’ve reviewed. While I know eBooks are amazing – and that maybe, one day, I’ll get into reading them too – I’m afraid that, for me, nothing beats the delectable scent of a fresh, new paperback or that sensation of being able to actually hold a literary masterpiece #literarynerd (I advise against falling asleep whilst reading though; being thumped on the head by a book is not so fun…). However, should you feel that fellow readers would appreciate a link to the eBook version of a book, please include it in the comments below.

Before you delve into this blog post, I believe it’s worth mentioning that I do not apply ratings to my reviews. In my opinion, every writer is an individual and, to be honest, I don’t believe it’s fair to compare their works – how would one even rate the work of mystery writer in comparison to a romance novelist, or a sci-fi aficionado in comparison to a non-fiction biographer? If you’re happy to place a rating value on a particular book, however, please feel free to include that in the comment section of this blog post 🙂

(Please note that I will be adding a brand new Book Review page to The Emet. Review website, for those of you who have emetophobia.)

In this post, I will be reviewing Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark…

Description:

“How far would you go to keep a secret?

It has been ten years since 21-year-old Mack went missing. A Columbia University senior, he walked out of his room and has not been seen since. Every year he calls his mother on her birthday, on his birthday, and on Mother’s Day. He assures her he is fine, refuses to answer her frenzied questions, then hangs up. Even the death of his father on 9/11 does not bring him home.

Mack’s sister, Caroline, has now endured two family tragedies. Determined to solve the mystery surrounding her brother’s disappearance, she sets out to discover the truth. But with it comes a secret that someone will do anything to protect, leading her to a deadly confrontation with an unexpected enemy…

A fast paced thriller perfect for Mary Higgins Clark many fans.

My Review:

Mary Higgins Clark (a.k.a. “MHC”) is referred to as the “Queen of Suspense” and she has been the favourite author of my Gran’ma for as long as I can remember. Gran’ma had bought several MHC novels for me as birthday presents over the years, yet I never seemed to have time to read them. Luckily, one rainy winter night, I discovered a collection of MHC novels on my shelf and decided to read one. Where Are You Now? is a fantastic, page-turning read that captured my attention and introduced me to one of the best thriller writers of all time.

Every character was masterfully painted, and MHC’s artistry with words illustrated their unique motives; some pivotal to the plot, others turned out to be red herrings. The characters seemed real, which I understand is a well-known skill of MHC.

The story moves along at an exciting pace, never offering opportunity to tire of the plot – which keeps you guessing, right to the end! However, if you prefer the perspective of a novel to remain consistent, this book will disappoint you. The narrative point of view flips from first-person to third-person, which did take a couple of chapters to get used to.

To conclude, I recommend this book if you enjoy mystery, thriller, and crime writing. It’s a great read that has it all; suspense, mystery, and excellent characterisation.

Author, Book Publishing, Book Review, Creative, Crime Writing, Fiction, Mystery, Reading

A Book Review: Art in the Blood

Welcome to my ‘Dannika Writes… A Book Review‘ series! 🙂

As a writer, I have a natural affinity with words. So, it makes sense that I enjoy reading the literary creations of others, too. I began writing book reviews many moons ago; I was in a book club and it was suggested to me by a kind person there that I share my reviews online, as they believed others would appreciate my honest approach to reviewing reads both great and not-so-great.

Being a published author myself, I also realise how awesome it is knowing someone has taken the time to appreciate your efforts to entertain and/or enlighten them, then gone above and beyond to tell others about it as well. Reviews are vital to the success of every book in every genre; and that isn’t necessarily tied to positive reviews and recommendations. From an author’s perspective, constructive criticism plays an essential role in the development of one’s writing, and ultimately, it becomes something every writer appreciates (even if they don’t realise it at the time!).

I only read paperbacks, by the way – which is the reason I include links to the paperback copies of books I’ve reviewed. While I know eBooks are amazing – and that maybe, one day, I’ll get into reading them too – I’m afraid that, for me, nothing beats the delectable scent of a fresh, new paperback or that sensation of being able to actually hold a literary masterpiece #literarynerd (I advise against falling asleep whilst reading though; being thumped on the head by a book is not so fun…). However, should you feel that fellow readers would appreciate a link to the eBook version of a book, please include it in the comments below.

Before you delve into this blog post, I believe it’s worth mentioning that I do not apply ratings to my reviews. In my opinion, every writer is an individual and, to be honest, I don’t believe it’s fair to compare their works – how would one even rate the work of mystery writer in comparison to a romance novelist, or a sci-fi aficionado in comparison to a non-fiction biographer? If you’re happy to place a rating value on a particular book, however, please feel free to include that in the comment section of this blog post 🙂

(Please note that I will be adding a brand new Book Review page to The Emet. Review website, for those of you who have emetophobia.)

In this post, I will be reviewing Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird…

Description:

London. A snowy December, 1888. Sherlock Holmes, 34, is languishing and back on cocaine after a disastrous Ripper investigation. Watson can neither comfort nor rouse his friend – until a strangely encoded letter arrives from Paris.

Mlle La Victoire, a beautiful French cabaret star writes that her illegitimate son by an English lord has disappeared, and she has been attacked in the streets of Montmartre.

Racing to Paris with Watson at his side, Holmes discovers the missing child is only the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem. The most valuable statue since the Winged Victory has been violently stolen in Marseilles, and several children from a silk mill in Lancashire have been found murdered. The clues in all three cases point to a single, untouchable man.

Will Holmes recover in time to find the missing boy and stop a rising tide of murders? To do so he must stay one step ahead of a dangerous French rival and the threatening interference of his own brother, Mycroft.

This latest adventure, in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, sends the iconic duo from London to Paris and the icy wilds of Lancashire in a case which tests Watson’s friendship and the fragility and gifts of Sherlock Holmes’ own artistic nature to the limits.”

My Review:

Around six years ago, when this book was newly published, I bought the hardback copy and read it whilst on holiday. After lending the book to a fellow Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, it was never returned – so, I bought the paperback version to replace it and thoroughly enjoyed reading this story for the second time!

I’ve enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle since I was in high school, so the discovery of a series of Sherlock Holmes novels by a female writer was exciting.

Despite the miniscule aspects of Americanisation in a few of the descriptions (I can’t recall exact quotations, but I remember noticing them as I was reading), the portrayal of Holmes and Watson in Art in the Blood would’ve made Sir Arthur Conan Doyle proud. For those inconsistencies of description or characterisation, I appreciated the thought MacBird attributed to creating a Preface which added a satisfying depth to her story:

Over time, perhaps from moisture and fading, a number of passages have become unreadable, and I have endeavoured to reconstruct what seemed to be missing from them. If there are any mistakes of style or historical inaccuracies, please ascribe these to my inability to fill in places where the writing had become indecipherable.”

My favourite character in this novel has to be Watson, the narrator himself, because MacBird illustrated a character that was both believable and endearing. Alongside Watson, the development of Holmes’ character in possession of various afflictions associated with genius was exercised intelligently, without damaging the sanctity of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I found the other characters in the novel to be brilliantly written, with unexpected twists and turns that kept me from prematurely guessing their motives, behaviours, and ultimately, their fate.

The storyline was diligently plotted, which allowed little room for inconsistency – something that can ruin an otherwise great read. I am definitely a fan of Bonnie MacBird’s writing, thanks to Art in the Blood, and I look forward to reading the other Sherlock Holmes novels in this series.

Whilst there were aspects of the story that were both disturbing and devastating, MacBird handled the difficult subject matter tactfully, with a literary flare obviously sparked by the inspiration of her muse, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. To be able to elicit such reaction through her words is proof enough that MacBird is a talented author, yet I also believe the way she wove descriptive detail into dialogue made Art in the Blood such a page-turner!

Whether or not you relish novels based on protagonist Sherlock Holmes, if mystery and crime writing are your genres of choice, you’re likely to find this book a gripping read. If you’re already an avid reader of the adventures of Holmes and Watson, you won’t be disappointed by Art in the Blood – thanks to MacBird’s sympathetic storytelling skills, you’ll find yourself immersed in a familiarly mystical world originally envisaged by a literary legend.

Author, Creative, Fiction, Reading, Short Story, Writing

Short Story Series – The Interview

Welcome to my ‘Short Story Series’ 🙂

I frequently ghostwrite short stories, and I write short stories for university assignments as well as for my own amusement. I’ve decided to share some short stories with you, in hope that you’ll enjoy them – and if you’d like to share with me your opinion of these short stories, I’d be grateful!

© D.E. Kendall

The Interview

What the hell am I doing?

Daisy Miller pulled into the overpriced city car park and plonked her forehead onto the sun-stained steering wheel of her vintage Nissan Micra. Though she still had ten minutes, Daisy couldn’t help but wonder why she was doing this to herself. She couldn’t stop her legs trembling, her palms were clammy, and she wished she’d remembered a drink because she was certain she had the worst case of cottonmouth ever.

Stretching up to examine her teeth for traces of red lipstick in the windscreen mirror, Daisy noticed a pimple rumbling beneath the surface of her nose. Unwilling to allow the thing to erupt and ruin that all-important first impression, the thirty-six-year-old fumbled with her only ‘decent’ handbag in search of concealer. An old tin of cherry lip balm flew out of the tightly packed bag and fell into the abyss of used coffee cups and heaps of takeaway wrappers in her passenger footwell.

A cacophony of expletives accompanied wrapper rustling in search of that tiny tin, until Daisy triumphantly lifted the grubby little pot out of the mess and held it up to the light, recalling fond memories while appreciating how its scratched surface glistened in mid-morning sunshine.

In a moment of panic, Daisy feared that search had made her late to the interview. After wiping grease from her hand along the cloth driver’s seat, a swift check of her battered silver watch revealed Daisy’s fears as unfounded.

Seven minutes.

Leaning back, Daisy nestled into the familiar, time-worn seat and closed her eyes. Although prepared to practise relaxation techniques she’d found online, Daisy quickly gave up on that endeavour and unwisely allowed her mind to wander instead.

After twenty-one years in hospitality, Daisy usually felt she could face any situation; not today. Reciting monologues covering valuable experiences gained working her way to a managerial role, after beginning her journey as a waitress in her grandmother’s café at fifteen, realisation suddenly struck that interviewers may ask about interests outside work. Unfortunately, working every evening, weekend, and bank holiday allowed Daisy little time to pursue anything she might be passionate about.

Flicking through imaginary scenarios, Daisy pondered how plausible it was to claim she worked with rescue animals (after all, she found Tinker and Mittens dumped by the bins at the back of the pub a few years ago and tended to them like children ever since) – then again, she had no free time to volunteer for animal charities, so had no references to support such a claim. Then, Daisy considered how intellectual she’d seem if she claimed to be an avid reader (she spent break times scrolling through social media, reading about the interesting lives of her school friends), but found a plot hole when she imagined them asking about her favourite read; if she confessed her favourite book was Matilda, she’d be laughed out of the room. Finally, Daisy decided to tell them she was interested in film and television, a major asset in advertising; however, she realised that wouldn’t work either – she was constantly catching up months after the initial hype, as she was always working late.

Two minutes.

The hands of her watch ticked closer to her fate, and Daisy could procrastinate no longer. Once she’d awkwardly fought through the broken seatbelt of her cramped eighties car, Daisy clambered out into the chill of that bracing autumn morning in an uncomfortably figure-hugging skirt she’d never worn (yet regretted, despite skipping breakfast). In wrapping the only nice coat she had (that wasn’t covered in cat hair) tightly around herself, Daisy accidentally dropped her keys. Slamming the rusty mustard door shut with a grunt, Daisy bent down to retrieve the collection of fluffy trinkets attached to her flat and car keys, when a heart-stopping rip resounded. Feeling her cheeks heat like coals on a barbeque, Daisy contorted herself every which way to see what had ripped and where. Much to her dismay, those tights she’d found balled up in the corner of her underwear drawer failed in their duty to conceal her muscular thighs; an indiscreet ladder spread across her upper left leg like wildfire. Daisy regretted her choice of skirt a little less when she realised it just about covered her dignity.

Pausing for a moment to take a deep, smog-filled breath, Daisy mustered the courage to march purposefully towards Linx-Sky Advertising; an architectural beast overshadowing the pebble-dash buildings surrounding it.

Here goes nothing.

Trying her utmost not to be intimidated by a receptionist who could’ve moonlighted as a model stationed at an enormous front desk, Daisy asked for directions. She thanked the tall receptionist, then squeaked her new shoes all the way to the lifts.

Daisy gazed around in wonder at the lift, marvelling at the marble walls, golden safety rails, and twinkling spotlights peppered above her like a constellation. During her observations, Daisy didn’t notice the lift fill with three other people and was snapped from her reverie by the melodic tones of a handsome suit, ‘You have to select a floor number if you want the lift to move.’

Feeling her cheeks glow red, Daisy half-smiled at the handsome suit, avoiding eye contact as she selected the eleventh floor. Daisy spent the first four floors fiddling with her fingernails, wishing she’d enough time to re-paint them as flakes of damaged blue nail polish moulted onto her skirt. There was a high-pitched ‘ding’ as the lift doors trundled open, inviting into the mix a rotund gentleman in suit trousers and an untucked paisley shirt, complete with crescent patches. As the lift doors trundled shut again, a powerful hue of body odour hit Daisy and she instinctively stepped backwards to escape it.

‘Alright there?’ The handsome suit, whose Australian accent Daisy noticed for the first time, had been caught up in her clumsiness as she accidentally stepped on his immaculate black shoes.

‘Sorry!’ Daisy’s cheeks lit up like brake lights, again.

‘No worries, happens all the time.’

Braving a brief glance up at the face atop the handsome suit, Daisy discovered enchanting mahogany eyes and tousled dark hair that perfectly complemented his olive skin and chiselled features.

Yes, I imagine women constantly fall over you.

‘What brings you here?’

‘Uh,’ Daisy was shocked by the sudden spark of conversation, ‘the eleventh floor, an interview.’ She averted her eyes, pretending her handbag zip required inspection.

‘I see. Name’s Adam,’ he presented his hand to Daisy.

‘Daisy. Daisy Millam… I mean, Miller.’ Daisy looked up and returned the gesture, her usually chubby fingers feeling delicately feminine as her hand slipped into his.

‘Nice to meet you, Daisy Miller.’

There was a satisfying ‘ding’ as the lift doors trundled open once more, drawing the sweaty zeppelin’s cloud of stench onto the ninth floor, as well as stealing Adam away. Daisy remained in the lift with one other passenger. Despite wrestling with the will to begin a conversation, Daisy didn’t have long to endure awkward silence, as the pointy-toed woman vacated the lift on the tenth floor.

Finally, Daisy reached her destination. Within seconds of stepping off the lift, a glamourous secretary greeted her. The Naomi-Campbell-lookalike led Daisy along a disorientating corridor that had an impossibly slippery floor and enormous canvases of ‘modern art’ clinging to its dull, grey walls.

Upon reaching the waiting room, Naomi disappeared into the executive office. Daisy was left to contend with the geometric carpet, lines of lime green chairs, and floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of a sprawling cityscape (as well as the dizzying visual of ant-sized people going about their lives eleven storeys below).

Not going to stand by the window.

Avoiding eye contact with those she presumed were fellow candidates spread around the room, Daisy clocked a water cooler neighbouring the closed office door. She longed for a cup of water to calm her nerves, though the cooler was occupied by a trembling middle-aged woman dressed for a fifties summer picnic.

Hope this isn’t a group interview; I prefer private humiliation.

To distract herself from nervousness, Daisy stole a glance at the candidates sat around her so she could imagine backstories for them. First, she noted the woman sat directly opposite her staring intently at a smartphone. The bleached-blonde bob cut, smart skirt suit and inappropriately high salmon heels suggested to Daisy that this woman was confident, sophisticated, and knew exactly what she wanted. Daisy decided the powerful-looking woman had to have an embarrassing floral name like hers, such as ‘Violet’ or ‘Hyacinth’, because she’d like to believe that woman had also been born to a single, teenaged mother.

Sarah Smith!’ Naomi’s voice bellowed from deep within the executive office.

‘Hyacinth’ stood up, dropped her smartphone into her vast handbag, then forced a smile en route to the office from which Naomi had beckoned.

Stupid woman with her normal, business-appropriate name.

Refusing to allow jealousy to worsen her anxiety, Daisy shifted her concentration to the male candidate three seats from ‘Hyacinth’. Upon noting his fresh-faced complexion and loose-fitted suit, Daisy was annoyed that a boy (who couldn’t have been more than eighteen) dare be interviewed for the same job she had dreamed of for the last decade. The poor boy’s anxious fidgeting wasn’t enough to appease Daisy; she resigned herself to the belief she’d lost the job to a millennial.

Devon Parker-Moore!

Off he went. Daisy took a subtle side-glance to her right, hoping to find a new backstory in the candidate two seats over from her. Unfortunately, Daisy’s subtle side-glance became a glare of disgust, as a balding candidate with nineties glasses and a pencil moustache draped his elongated arm over the back of the chair beside her. It was his creepy wink that sent Daisy scrambling out of her seat, handbag clutched tightly to her side, as she rushed to the safety of the water cooler where Nervous Nelly still stood. Daisy wondered whether Nelly was nervous because of the creep, or if it was the long wait for an interview that had her shaking so violently the contents of her cup resembled thrashing, stormy seas.

Chuck Bates!

Although she had to endure his passing perverted stare, Daisy was relieved Creepy Creeperson had vacated the waiting room. Little Devon, on the other hand, appeared less than relieved; he stepped out of the office and froze like a rabbit in headlights.

‘What happened, sweetheart?’ Nervous Nelly placed her full cup of water on top of the cooler and wrapped a comforting arm around little Devon’s shoulders, walking him out through the narrow, disorientating corridor as if guiding a toddler.

Wow.

Daisy felt the need for a stiff drink, though had to settle for water. As she bent over to reach for a fresh cup, her hairspray-hardened top bun tipped the cup on top of the cooler, splashing its entire contents over her skirt. The limited space in her handbag meant Daisy decided against squeezing a packet of tissues into it earlier that morning, and there was nobody around to ask where the toilets were.

Awesome.

‘Everything alright?’ In a cruel twist of fate, handsome Adam emerged from the office and Daisy wished the geometric carpet would swallow her whole.

‘Wow, what happened here?’ Adam stifled a laugh as Daisy noticed him attempt to avert his eyes from her sodden skirt.

Naomi sent Creepy Creeperson away with the icy threat of security, before flipping her demeanour and warmly inviting Daisy to begin her interview.

In contrast to the uninviting waiting room outside, Adam’s executive office had extravagant wooden floors with a backdrop of book-laden shelving, and a stylish white desk in the centre surrounded by luxurious turquoise chairs. Adam and his secretary sat across the desk from Daisy, in front of the wall of books. Daisy felt her fears fade as Adam introduced Naomi as Talia, and the interview began.

‘You two know each other?’ Daisy didn’t appreciate the subconscious look of revulsion that accompanied Talia’s question.

‘Sort of,’ Adam shot a sneaky smile at Daisy, ‘I want to know why you want this job. What made you apply?’

I’ve got this.

‘Well,’ Daisy had prepared for this question, ‘I feel it time for a change. Although I’m a creative person, I get little opportunity to be creative in my current role.’

‘I see,’ Adam rubbed the styled stubble of his chin as Talia tapped notes onto a tablet, ‘and what makes you suited for a career in advertising?’

Yes!

‘I have ample experience on the front line of hospitality, so I know what makes consumers tick and can design successful marketing campaigns around that,’ Daisy hoped her answer didn’t sound recited, parrot-fashion.

‘Fantastic,’ Adam placed both his forearms onto the desk and leaned forward, ‘our biggest clients are high-street fashion and cosmetics brands. What is it about fashion you’re most passionate about?’

Uh oh.

‘I, uh, could I get a glass of water, please?’ Daisy stalled, hoping to think of something to say that wouldn’t declare she’d failed to research the company’s clientele.

‘Talia, water please.’ Adam clicked his fingers at Talia, who immediately jumped out of her seat to do as commanded.

Daisy couldn’t believe what she’d just witnessed. In fact, she was so gobsmacked that she couldn’t assemble an answer to the fashion question.

‘Thanks,’ Daisy’s nail polish flaked again as she took the cup of water from Talia’s perfectly manicured hands.

‘What about cosmetics, have you ever undergone a cosmetic procedure?’ Adam eyed Daisy knowingly, as if he already assumed what her answer would be.

I’ll show them.

‘Actually, I haven’t.’ Daisy forced her words through the sweetest smile she could muster, ‘Unless tattoos count?’

‘You have a tattoo?’ The question, laced with disdain, slipped out before Talia could stop herself.

‘I have three.’

‘We have a strict policy on-’ Adam was obviously uncomfortable as he leaned back and shifted awkwardly in his chair.

‘Oh, don’t worry,’ Daisy looked Adam straight in the eye, ‘my tattoos are only visible when I’m wearing a bathing suit, or less.’

Look at them both, writhing in awkwardness; this’ll tip ‘em over the edge…

‘Though it’s not a problem. I mean, it’s not like you’re ever going to hire me as your first size sixteen underwear model, is it?’ Daisy let out the falsest laugh imaginable.

‘I think that’s all the questions we have. Talia?’ Adam stood up, avoiding all eye contact with Daisy as he rushed around the desk to open the office door.

‘No more questions.’ Daisy could see Talia was desperate to usher her out, stood behind her like a collie herding sheep.

‘You’ll hear from us by the end of the week.’ Adam reluctantly offered his hand to Daisy, who had to wipe his clamminess on her skirt as she walked out the door.

Upon returning to her beloved car, Daisy plonked her head onto the sun-stained steering wheel. She sat there in silence, mulling over the day’s events, wondering whether a career in advertising was worth the condescension.

What the hell was I thinking?

Author, Creative, Fiction, Reading, Short Story, Writing

Short Story Series – The Stolen Book

Welcome to my ‘Short Story Series’ 🙂

I frequently ghostwrite short stories, and I write short stories for university assignments as well as for my own amusement. I’ve decided to share some short stories with you, in hope that you’ll enjoy them – and if you’d like to share with me your opinion of these short stories, I’d be grateful!

© D.E. Kendall

The Stolen Book

Lana stole a look at the bar over the pages of Affinity, her latest literary purchase. The bar’s cluttered appearance somehow added to its charm, with rustic cask ale pull taps, mirrored shelves laden with dusty spirit bottles, and her.

‘Good book, luv?’

Snapped unexpectedly from her reverie, Lana dropped her book and accidentally dipped a sleeve of her designer blouse in her latte as she fumbled to catch the paperback.

‘Sorry, luv, didn’t mean to scare ya.’

Rory slapped the back of the ancient wooden chair Lana was sitting on. She scowled at the woodworm-infested oak table her coffee-soaked arm was resting upon before turning to face the enemy. ‘It’s alright.’

Lana was as unnerved by his yellow-toothed, gappy smile as she was by the light bouncing off his balding, middle-aged head. As far as leering men were concerned, Lana was thankful that this one was at the less threatening end of the spectrum.

‘New book?’ Rory almost sloshed his half-a-pint of flat, amber liquid on Lana’s shoulder as he leaned over her to ogle her cleavage under the pretence that he cared what she was reading.

‘Um, yes,’ Lana shifted uncomfortably as the letch’s foul breath lingered, cutting through her personal space. ‘Tt’s by Sarah Waters, have you heard of her?’

Assuming that Rory didn’t read – he may not have been able to for all she knew – Lana hoped that’d be enough to get rid of him.

‘Can’t say I ‘ave, no…’ he seemed briefly contemplative. ‘Say, luv, why ain’t a nice girl like you home with the mister? You gotta ‘ave better things to do on a Monday night.’

‘I like the coffee here, I like the atmosphere,’ Lana vividly recalled having almost the exact same conversation with the man last week, ‘and it’s on my way home from work.’

‘Speakin’ of drinks, can I buy ya one?’

Smooth, she concluded.

‘Need a top-up there, Smythe?’ Alys’ melodic tones were enough to send Lana’s heart thundering, and turn her ears red.

‘Aye, luv!’

Lana felt an increasing sense of relief each step Rory took away from her as he made his unsteady journey towards the bar.

Alys collected a few stray glasses from a neighbouring table. Lana couldn’t help but turn to the source of clinking and clashing, gazing unnoticed while subconsciously tucking her hair behind her ears – as if it’d help her see more clearly, and cool her crimson complexion. Captivated by the cheerful barmaid, everything about Alys lifted Lana’s spirits: those flowy, patterned, knee-length dresses she always wore, even in winter; her brightly-coloured tights; her heavy, deep-soled, shiny black shoes; her half-shaven, half-pixie-cut hairstyle that was currently dyed blue; her shimmering red lips forming the trademark smile that never failed to brighten Lana’s day; and that nose ring Lana wanted for herself but never had the courage to get. The confidence Alys exuded opposed all that society had taught Lana to be – she often wondered whether her conventional fashion sense, tall, slim frame, and high heels ever inspired such a glance from Alys. A moment spent beyond those dark brown eyes and thick, winged eyeliner would make putting up with a thousand leering men worthwhile, Lana frequently thought.

Catching her by surprise, Alys asked Lana if she was enjoying her coffee and whether she wanted anything else. A flustered ‘No thanks,’ followed by an escape to the Ladies’ allowed Lana to avoid any awkwardness and take a minute to compose herself.

Thankful that the bar wasn’t too busy, Lana returned to her seat, only to discover her book was missing. Oddly, if someone had stolen her book for profit, they had completely ignored her expensive, lightweight jacket with her nearly new smartphone in the pocket.

Scanning the area, all she noted was Alys serving Rory another pint from behind the bar as he hunched over in an attempt to invade her personal space. The sizeable stone pillar in the centre of the pub, separating the bar from the tiny restaurant area, blocked her view beyond the small collection of tables dotted around the faded ruby and gold flecked carpet. All Lana could see was a pair of suit-clad businessmen huddled over a hefty-looking laptop.

Just in case the perp might be hiding there, Lana amused herself by checking the imposing fireplace to the right of her table. If the summer weather wasn’t enough to give away the fact, Lana ascertained that the fireplace hadn’t been lit for quite some time – owing to the scent of aged ash it emitted.

Smiling to herself as she enjoyed playing detective for a minute, Lana decided that despite her reservations regarding the floor’s hygiene – and the concern about creasing her palazzo trousers – she had to get down on all fours to clamber under the table in search of her missing book.

‘Everything okay?’

‘Ouch!’

‘Sorry, didn’t mean for that to happen,’ one of those suited businessmen stood beside the table, ‘I saw you dive under the table and wanted to check everything was alright.’

‘I’m fine, thank you.’

He offered a helping hand to Lana, which she didn’t accept, opting instead for the assistance of the nearest chair to pull herself to her feet.

‘I lost the book I was reading, that’s all,’ she smiled politely, avoiding eye contact as she pretended to be checking the floor for any sign of her book.

‘I’m Devon, by the way,’ he reached out a hand once again, ‘Devon Charles.’

‘Lana Myers.’

Subtlety didn’t work, so Lana decided to go for the blunt approach instead. Rarely did men like Devon continue on their path of intrusion if they met with such resistance.

‘I work in the city, here on business.’

Shooting a swift half-smile at Devon, Lana’s eyes darted about the pub as she panned for the best escape route. However, her lack of response only spurred Devon on.

‘I’m staying here for a couple of nights with my colleague, Alan,’ Alan reacted to Devon’s gesturing toward him with a wave, ‘we like the coastal setting. Nice views. So, do you come here often?’

‘Yes.’

If it weren’t mid-summer, icicles would have offered a softer response. Lana started shuffling items around in her handbag as if searching for car keys.

‘Hello, Mr. Mayhew!’

Saved by the belle, thought Lana.

‘Oh, I’m not Mayhew, I’m Devon Charles.’

‘Terribly sorry.’ Alys shot a cheeky smile at Lana, whose knees weakened to such an extent that she slunk into the battered, old chair beneath her. ‘I need to check something; it’s to do with your room. Would you mind popping over to the bar with me a sec?’

Visibly disappointed that his attempt at courtship had been thwarted, Devon reluctantly bid Lana farewell before following Alys to the bar.

Taking a deep, cleansing breath, grateful that she no longer had to share her personal space with a man, Lana engaged in an internal debate as to whether she should buy another latte to drink in the beer garden – away from the testosterone floating around the bar. The search for her purse was disturbed, however, by a familiar voice.

‘I hear you’ve lost a book?’

Turning to take in a rotund figure with a friendly face, Lana was pleased she wasn’t being harassed by yet another middle-aged man.

‘Hi, Cathy! How are you?’

They shared a hug before Cathy continued the interrogation.

‘Never mind that. Can’t have one of my finest patrons losing their stuff on my watch, in my pub. Even if she never buys alcohol…’

‘You know I can’t, Cathy.’ Lana knew Cathy was speaking in jest, though couldn’t prevent that pang of sadness that accompanied any thought of her late father.

‘I know, I know. I’m just messin’ with you,’ Cathy placed a comforting hand on Lana’s shoulder, ‘Now Missy, when did you last see that book of yours?’

Within ten minutes, there was a full-blown, pub-wide investigation into the case of the missing book. Lana couldn’t help but feel embarrassed by the fuss her oldest family friend was making, but then, Cathy was somewhat of a motherly figure to her since Lana’s mother disowned her when Lana was just twenty-one. Sometimes, Lana considered telling Cathy her secret, though the thought of losing her friendship was too devastating to contemplate. Of course, the alternative was Cathy trying to set Lana up with her niece, but Lana had never been much of a gambler.

‘I sha-haw her re-heeding it yonder,’ Rory slurred in response to Cathy’s questioning.

‘I noticed the young lady almost dropping the book in her tea when he startled her.’ Alan answered, with an accusatory finger pointing directly at Rory.

‘Don’t ya go pointin’ those manucurried digeds at me!’ Rory flopped off of the barstool and wobbled to his feet, swaying slightly as he tried his utmost to point a finger at Alan – failing miserably on account of beer-induced double-vision.

‘How dare you threaten my business partner like that?!’ Devon attempted to demonstrate his masculinity by standing up for his slightly shorter colleague.

‘Come on ‘en!’ Rory’s chubby fingers suddenly clasped into fists as he stumbled forward with the effort of his threat.

‘Let’s calm it down, fellas,’ Cathy’s authoritative tone was usually enough to suspend alcohol-addled spats, ‘I just need to know what happened to this young lady’s new book. Now, what did anyone else see?’

As Lana and Cathy turned to talk to an elderly bystander – who didn’t know what happened to the book but wanted to hear the day’s specials – a kerfuffle broke out between Rory, Devon, and Alan.

A chef who had been minding the bar rushed over in attempt to prise the drunken brawlers apart. Cathy got stuck in too, as soon as one of her beloved antique bar stools got knocked over.

‘Where the hell is Alys?!’ Cathy shouted, tactfully dodging an errant hand.

‘She… she…’ Maurice the chef struggled to answer as he almost took a shoe to the face, ‘she went to ch… change a barrel, then she went on b… break. Whoa man, watch it!’

Lana didn’t know what to do. The closest she ever came to such a scene was having to deal with a situation during last year’s Black Friday Sales at the department store she worked at involving two women who fought over the last pair of high-end, bargain-price hair straighteners.

Kicking, hitting, and elbow-jabbing intensified as thudding sounds resounded about the pub, drawing an audience to the scene. Since it resembled something out of an old American western movie, Lana channelled inspiration from that and took the first action that sprung to mind; she grabbed a pitcher of iced water from the bar and threw it over the assailants, accidentally splashing Cathy and Maurice in the process.

Expletives flew about the once quaint pub as all five adults reacted irritably to Lana’s snap-decision.

‘Sorry,’ Lana’s cheeks resembled mini beetroots, ‘I didn’t know what to do and was afraid someone would get hurt.’

The atmosphere calmed as the crowd of spectators dispersed, and those remaining on the scene guffawed.

‘Look, Cathy,’ Lana stepped aside out of earshot of the others, indicating for Cathy to join her, ‘I’m sorry things got so out of hand. It’s just a book; honestly, it’s no big deal. Please let the issue go.’

‘Alright love,’ Cathy put an arm around the shoulders of her unofficial daughter, ‘you get home, and I’ll get this all cleaned up. Seems these gentlemen can’t control themselves around you.’

Very funny.’

Cathy always knew how to put Lana at ease.

‘Thank you.’

‘No worries,’ Cathy started the clean-up operation as she lifted the fallen bar stool, ‘now get gone, before I have you barred from my pub!’

After a final, fleeting hug with Cathy, Lana collected her remaining belongings. Rushing out of the door, Lana refused to cave into the curiosity daring her to look back at the carnage she was leaving behind.

Stepping outside into the refreshingly salty air, Lana admired her surroundings for a moment. Beams of light from the day’s sunset glinted off the calm, kinetic peaks of the sea. Small fishing boats creaked in the harbour as gentle waves lapped against the harbour wall. A solitary seagull cawed overhead as it flew by. Then, Lana lost all sense of her surroundings as she tripped over something left in the middle of the pathway.

Swiftly scrabbling to her feet, brushing remnants of sand from her once pristine clothing, Lana’s embarrassment faded the second she saw what she’d tripped over – Affinity.

Collecting her book from the ground, Lana was puzzled. How on earth did my book get here?

Upon opening the book, Lana discovered an inscription: 06222100723 – Alys <3

Awestruck, Lana shook her head as if to reset her brain, in case what was happening was a dream. Yet to her delight, the inscription was real. Lana turned back to look through a window of The Coastside Inn. There, framed by blossoming clematis climbing the pub walls, stood behind the bar, was Alys – beaming back at her.

Author, Creative, Fiction, Short Story, Writing

Short Story Series – The Keys

Welcome to my ‘Short Story Series’ 🙂

I frequently ghostwrite short stories, and I write short stories for university assignments as well as for my own amusement. I’ve decided to share some short stories with you, in hope that you’ll enjoy them – and if you’d like to share with me your opinion of these short stories, I’d be grateful!

© D.E. Kendall

The Keys

There, on the forest path, lay a bunch of keys. Their metal glinted in sunlight as it broke through the canopy of trees above. I halted my horse, dismounted, then bent down to pick them up.

Suddenly, an inexplicable wave of anticipation overcame me – my horse must have felt it too, as she spooked. Holding tightly to her reins, I comforted her, placed a hand gently on her shoulder so she knew everything was ok. Her muscles stopped tensing, and within moments she’d returned to nudging the pocket of my fluorescent riding jacket in hope of a treat. As she snuffled expectantly at my hand, the keys jangled. I assumed they belonged to someone who’d been hiking or cycling – these were not car keys, they most definitely opened doors of some description.

Judging by how clean the keys were, I assumed they hadn’t been on the forestry floor for more than a few minutes. Though I would have a look around for their owner, first I thought I’d better take photograph in case I’d need to hand the keys over to the police and launch a social media search for the keys’ owner. However, when I got my smartphone out to take a photo, the battery had died. Strange, since it had been on 76% just before we set off twenty minutes ago.

Moments before leaving, I’d reassured my boyfriend I’d charged my smartphone. After getting lost for hours on a ride a few weeks previously, when my smartphone battery ran out and left me without maps or means to contact anyone, he was worried.

I didn’t dwell on the fact my three-month-old smartphone had stopped working and stuffed the keys into one of my jacket pockets, not forgetting to give my noble steed a treat before zipping up the pocket and mounting once more. We trotted quietly along the path in search of the keys’ owner. The footfall in that section of the forest was usually substantial, since the area was as accessible as it was beautiful. I expected it to be busy on a gloriously crisp autumn morning as that one was; however, all was silent. No crowds, no birdsong, no breeze rustling the canopy of browning leaves. Odd.

We increased our speed to a canter as I hoped to find someone near the entrance-exit point of the forestry car park a small incline away. As Belle and I emerged over the brow of the hill, we were perplexed to find nobody there either. I slowed Belle to a walk, and she relished the opportunity to snack on brambles laden with blackberries as I looked around in attempt to find someone.

I managed to direct my horse away from the blackberries, stifling a giggle as I noticed her muzzle was covered in dark purple splodges. Suddenly, something stole her attention. Her every muscle tensed in response to whatever she could sense. As I leant down to pat her neck, I could feel how rigid her muscles had become – something must have really frightened her. Soothing my panic-stricken horse as I best I could with my voice, I tried to urge Belle onwards. Even scratching her favourite itchy spot beneath her flaxen mane didn’t snap her out of it.


‘What’s the matter, girl?’ I asked, hoping for some sort of positive reaction.


The second I sat upright, Belle snorted, spooked, and took off at a flat-out gallop – completely out-of-character for her. My attempts to deter Belle from her determined dash away from whatever upset her were in vain. With knuckles as white as my complexion must’ve been, I held onto the reins more tightly than I ever had before.

Adrenaline coursed through her veins as Belle thrashed her way along paths we’d never encountered. She seemed lacking in her usual sure-footedness, slipping and tripping now and again – almost flinging me from the saddle twice.

Belle’s thundering hooves tore through muddy forest bridleways and crunched orangey-brown carpets of fallen leaves. I ducked instinctively, barely escaping low-hanging branches that came at my head faster than I could think.

We reached a brand-new bridlepath accompanied by the sounds of rushing water – in all the years I’d ridden Belle around the forestry, I’d never come across a river. Fear rose exponentially within me as we galloped onto a terrifyingly narrow pathway with a sheer drop to the left and vertical rock slope to the right. I kept trying to stop Belle, which made the situation worse as she stumbled a few times, almost unseating me. Belle never normally stumbled.

I made the mistake of looking down into the chasm below. Watching water gush alongside us as we continued our uncontrollable charge was like staring death right in the face. That’s the moment I decided to say, ‘Not today.’

Taking deep, cleansing breaths, I chose not to let fear control my actions any longer. I lightened my hold on Belle’s reins and stopped panicking, giving myself time to remember that my horse was initially trained using voice commands.

As if by magic, Belle slowed to a trot, then gradually calmed to a walk. Leaning over to check how sweaty she’d become, it was quite the shock to discover that Belle hadn’t broken a sweat whatsoever.

At that moment, a wind-chime-like sound jingled from my pocket. I rummaged for the keys, and as they emerged, I noted there was one missing – though it couldn’t have slipped from my pocket. So, I inspected the remaining keys more closely.

There was a word engraved on each key; Adversity, Comparison, Doubt. And on the pristine white keyring binding those keys was text that read, ‘For happiness to your life fulfil, inner-conflict you must kill.’ Beneath was a list containing each word engraved on the keys, along with the word Fear – which had a strikethrough.

Uncategorized

A Revival of Reviews

Hi Fellow Readers 🙂

I hope you are staying safe and well!

Having just re-discovered a book review site I set up after having major hand surgery early 2018 – when I was confined indoors – and had joined a book club, I felt it might be interesting to share those reviews here. As a disclaimer, I will explain that when I wrote these reviews I hadn’t yet worked for a publishing company, nor had I started any editorial/proofreading training. I didn’t start my BA (Hons) English Literature and Creative Writing until much later that year too, so my apologies if the writing style isn’t what you’re used to from me…

Life with the Lid Off by Nicola Hodgkinson

Back of the Book:

‘When single mother Nicola Hodgkinson decided to follow her rural dream, it involved transporting her young family – three rowdy children, her beloved horse, a wilful donkey and two single-minded bantams – to a ramshackle cottage in an idyllic seaside village. The family soon attracts the horrified attention of nosey neighbours, and annoys motorists by hogging country lanes with a horse-drawn caravan.

But amid the chaos, the magic of family life shines through, peppered with humour; love, moments of high drama and nostalgia.’

Firstly, I have to mention how shocking the amount of interests I have in common with the author of this book are – not only am I passionate about horses, my favourite book is Black Beauty, and I thoroughly enjoy everything nature/wildlife related, but I also love to write stories that are emotive; stories that I hope invoke laughter, relatability, and deep thought.

I quite literally laughed out loud on so many occasions whilst reading this book – I thoroughly enjoyed the style in which it was written, which kept me so gripped that I stole every spare moment I could and finished reading it in less than a day!

Nicola Hodgkinson’s sense of humour shines through, regardless of how embarrassing or ridiculous the situations seemed – however, this humour was laced with a darkness that, just as happens with us all, did seem to preside over certain moments. Despite the darkness faced, on ploughed the story – to weave a wonderful tapestry of what country life is really like.

Although surprising, I felt the story’s end offered the chance of a new beginning – something so many people fail to believe is possible as their age progresses. It’s truly refreshing to read a story written by an older author whose view on life is so appreciative and positive, regardless of the relentless struggles she had to deal with. And the fact she couldn’t fathom the writings of Virginia Woolf only made me like her more (apologies to any Virginia Woolf fans!).

I applaud the honesty of life’s revelations as Nicola Hodgkinson portrays them, though I also admire her way with words. Some of her descriptions offered such magical scenery, that it genuinely inspired me to strive to try writing such lovely imagery myself.

I definitely give this book 10/10 – and although aimed at the adult market, I’m sure it’d do no harm for a YA audience to delve into this story too 🙂

I recommend this read wholeheartedly, and am probably going to purchase a copy of my own to read (the copy I read was owned by the Book Club I’m part of) during difficult times as a comfort of sorts; if in no other way than to relate to equine based hilarity!

Thank you for reading <3

Regulus by Aaron Ozee

Book Description:

‘King among the mice and eater of all the cheese. Regulus, the lord of all squeaking feuds within the wall, is betrayed by those closest to him for the ego he holds so high. Struggles between the just and wicked come to pass in this paramount tale of the darkest and brightest sights in our lives.’

A story, although entertaining for children, fueled by the underlying importance of being appreciative instead of greedy. Children won’t only find this book funny, but it’ll also teach them about treating others as equals – showing that differences are to be celebrated, not to be utilised for self gain.

This is something we don’t often find nowadays, books that offer children a sense that their moral compass is their responsibility to wield and control.

Choosing the subject of a rat has proven popular for series such as Wind in the Willows etc. It seems to be a suitable character choice here too! The illustrations are just lovely, so children of all ages would enjoy them.

On the topics of learning and illustration, some of the wording may seem a little advanced for young children – however, given the cleverness and clarity of the illustrations, it enables children to widen their own vocabulary by using the images to give definition to words they may not have encountered before. As well as this, the style of poetry is not the general ballad type, in which every last word of every or every other line rhymes. There are a variety of sentence structures, allowing children to explore a diverse range of writing style which they may not find in other children’s books.

I think it unfair to give a score to children’s books, since I am not their intended audience and so my mind may not appreciate the book in the same way a child would. Therefore, I suggest this book is suitable for children of all ages, whether read by parents or children themselves.

Thanks for reading <3

Small Truths by Josanne Wilson

Book Description:

‘Following the lives of Isabella and Estafano Celestino, there are so many changes as their family enter the early 1900s. Business is booming, and the married couple utilize their wealth to improve the lives of those less fortunate – as well as to take care of their employees. As they tussle with the challenges of balancing family and work-life, can Isabella and Estafano’s love survive such turmoil, or will their love find them lost amidst the temptations their wealth unveils?’

About the Author: ‘Josanne Wilson’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy and she always wanted to build a story around their journeys. Wilson is married with five children and one granddaughter. She enjoys reading, writing, crocheting, and making crafts. She lives in Jamestown, New York.’

Talented author Josanne Wilson tells the tale of Isabella and Estafano.

Continuing on from the Cobbler’s Daughter, Small Truths entails a series of unexpected twists in the storyline. Laced with romance, drama, tragedy and happiness, this book would be an ideal summer holiday read.

It’s so easy to become entrapped in the fascinating descriptions of a world we wouldn’t know now, with the rise of technology and social media.

If you enjoy historical or romance novels, you will certainly enjoy reading Small Truths – which will entertain until the very last sentence.

I rate this book 8/10, and recommend you keep an eye on Josanne Wilson’s Author Page for its official release: https://www.facebook.com/josannewilsonromancenovels/

Thank you for reading <3

The Cobbler’s Daughter by Josanne Wilson

Book Description:

‘In search of a better life, young travelers make the journey from Italy to America in the late 1800s. Not only do Guiseppe and Josephine find that better life – they also find each other. What begins as a few stolen glances on the ship soon becomes a clandestine affair. When Josephine realizes she’s pregnant, they both worry about how her abusive husband will react. Enjoy reading the story of how they each make a home in their new homeland, how each endure hardships but find prosperity through hope, love, and a belief in God. Understand that life is short and it’s important to follow your heart.’

About the Author: ‘Josanne Wilson’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy and she always wanted to build a story around their journeys. Wilson is married with five children and one granddaughter. She enjoys reading, writing, crocheting, and making crafts. She lives in Jamestown, New York.’

Following the hazardous journey from Italy to America in the late 1800s, the Cobbler’s Daughter depicts the detriments and fortunes of two families pulled together through tragedies – held together by the strength of family.

As the story unravels, it reveals not only interesting historical descriptions of the time, but also the awakening of a multitude of emotions and feelings of every character.

Delving into the intertwined connections of the characters, this story won’t cease to keep you turning the page – to follow each of the shocking revelations around every corner of the narrative.

Recommended to readers of romance and historical novels.

I would give this book 7/10, simply because there were not chapters to break up the story’s sections – though that is just personal opinion.

Thanks for reading <3

Together by Julie Cohen

Book Description:

‘Robbie and Emily they have been together for decades. Now, their joints are creaking and their eyesight is failing – but their love for each other is as fresh and fierce as the day they first met. They have had children and grandchildren, lived full and happy and intimate lives. But they have been keeping a secret since the day they met, when their lives changed forever. Over the years, the sacrifices and choices they made have sealed their fates together.’

(Borrowed from a local Library, on recommendation of a relative who’d enjoyed it…) This book is structured reading events backward from 2016 to 1962. As you progress through the pages, history is revealed and secrets are slowly but surely unraveled.

The reader is kept guessing throughout!

It’s difficult to understand why the book is structured the way it is, until the story begins to take shape. I actually found the unusual setup interesting, and I believe it matched the subject of this story well.

The settings and situations read fluidly, with lovely descriptions of the environment – as well as characters that really draw you in. You’re made to feel for the characters’ circumstances, which definitely brings them to life.

I particularly loved how the characters’ pet dogs were described! Although a secondary detail of the story, I felt realistic canine characters added a sense of depth.

I was grateful the story wasn’t left on a cliff-hanger! Though the conclusion was shocking…

Found the style of writing so ‘readable’, that I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

It kept you wanting to find out what might happen next; which I liken to getting hooked on binge-watching a new television series!

My review mark for this book is 8/10. I enjoyed the read, but felt there were a few small details that were left unexplained (which I imagine is largely due to the backward structure of the story-line) – and the ending was such a surprise, that it took away a little from the sense of affection you might have developed for some of the characters; whilst leaving you wondering what happened to other characters.

I’d recommend as a Book Club read, as ‘Together’ offers much opportunity for the discussion of a variety of topics.

Thank you for reading this review <3

A Sorry Affair by Kirsten Nairn

Back of the Book:

‘Jen and Mack are the perfect couple; meeting at university, moving in together and engaged to be married. Then, one day, Abbi turns up on their doorstep and throws a huge spanner in the works of their seemingly well-oiled relationship. On that day, Mack’s life is turned upside down and it seems there’s no way back. Resigned to the fact that the relationship is over and Jen is selling the house, Mack is forced to go back home and live with his parents. He comes to blows with his father, who was close friends with Jen’s father, and emotions run high when past hurts are revisited. Despite several letters from Mack, years pass without any word from Jen.

The reader is left in suspense, always wanting more and wondering if it really is the end for Jen and Mack.’

The story follows a unique perspective of three people affected by an affair.

Although at first difficult to get to grips with, the original style and setting of the story became intriguing – I found myself enthralled by the story, and couldn’t stop turning the pages!

I particularly liked the way Kirsten Nairn built up the image of each character through their own perspective in each chapter. It really gave the characters a great sense of depth, to the point the characters felt as though they were real people who could be anyone, anywhere – neighbours, acquaintances, colleagues etc. It just goes to show that you can never know what’s going on in another’s life, behind closed doors!

I don’t normally read many romance novels, though I’d definitely recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys romance, or would like a steady introduction to reading romance genre for the first time. I believe it would be suitable for adult readers, especially if you enjoy a little suspense.

There was a balance of emotions, which never left me feeling too disheartened or overly ecstatic for the characters. Although there are times that make you truly feel for the characters’ situations, the surprising twist at the end of the story almost consoles you for all that.

It genuinely leaves you wanting to find out how the characters’ lives turn out – which is definitely the mark of a good writer.

Personally I believe I would give this novel a score of 7/10, because I feel the script could have read with more fluidity to begin with – given that the style of writing is so original. However, once I understood the layout of the chapters, the book was a thoroughly enjoyable read that I struggled to put down!

Thank you for reading <3

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

My first ever ‘Book Club Read’ – for the first Book Club meeting I attended, 20th February 2018 🙂

Back of the Book:

‘It’s 1928. Freddie Watson is still grieving for his brother, lost in the Great War. Driving through the foothills of the French Pyrenees, his car spins off the road in a snowstorm. Freddie takes refuge in an isolated village and there meets a beautiful, captivating woman. They spend the night talking of love and loss and war. But by daybreak, Fabrissa has vanished and Freddie realises he holds the key to an ancient mystery that leads him deep into the mountains, to a cave that has concealed an appalling secret for 700 years…’

A grieving Englishman seeks solace for his mental health in France. Whilst there, he happens across a ghostly, mystifying lady, who helps him talk about his grief; and step foot on the road to recovery after many years. Losing her suddenly, he fights all odds to find her. When he does, his discovery is haunting…

I really like the way the book is set out. The way the story is told enables your imagination to become immersed within it. The author’s descriptive style of writing makes the book exceedingly difficult to put down!

If ever you’ve, or someone you know has, suffered mental health issues, the protagonist Freddie is not only relatable, but the author genuinely makes you feel for his character – willing positivity to shine upon his life’s darkness.

Scenes of revelation are written so very well, that your imagination is gifted vivid images that could so easily be reality somehow – I believe this book could be transformed into a fantastic film! I felt the length of the story, and indeed the book itself, was just right. Not so long as to make you lose interest, yet suspenseful throughout its 239 pages.

I like how much background information and research are included after the story; the author was very gracious in her acknowledgements too. I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘The Winter Ghosts’ by Kate Mosse, and look forward to discovering more of her work.

I rate this book 10/10.

Thank you for reading <3

I also included a selection of brief reviews of equestrian-themed books I grew up reading…

For readers who love all things equestrian, this list comprises of works I believe are essential equestrian reads 🙂

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

About the Author:

“Anna Sewell was born in 1820 in Norfolk, England. After an unfortunate accident, Anna seriously injured her ankle – for the rest of her life she couldn’t walk for any length of time and needed a crutch. This led to her travelling by horse-drawn carriage, which contributed to her love of horses and concern for their welfare. Although she passed away in 1878 – so sadly didn’t see the popularity of Black Beauty after its publication in 1877 – Anna Sewell’s work resulted in the use of bearing reins – which are particularly painful for a horse – falling out of favour. There is also an Anna Sewell memorial fountain and horse trough outside the public library in Ansonia, Connecticut, in the United States of America.

Black Beauty, having sold an estimated 50 million copies, is one of the top ten best selling novels for children.”

Book Description:

“Black Beauty is a well-bred horse with a fine black coat, who beautifully narrates the story of his life. The story tells of his idyllic upbringing, followed by the hardship and cruelty he suffers at the hand of unscrupulous owners, before finding security and happiness in a new home. Being one of the most popular children’s novels ever written, Black Beauty’s story was successful in inspiring more humane treatment of horses in Victorian Britain; anti-cruelty impact of this novel is still recognised today.”

My Review:

“Powerfully thought-provoking, Black Beauty is still one of my most favourite novels of all time. (It has even inspired my writing!) The way Black Beauty makes you truly feel what horses at that time were experiencing is beyond enchanting. Whether you’re a child who’s pony-mad, or an adult experienced equestrian, Black Beauty is sure to make you laugh, cry, and long to cwtch the nearest horse/pony!”

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

About the Author:

“After meeting a World War I veteran, who had been in the Devon Yeomanry working with horses, Michael Morpurgo began to think of telling the story of the universal suffering of the Great War through a horse’s viewpoint. He also met another villager who had been in the cavalry in the Great War – and a third villager who remembered the Army coming to the village to buy horses. Michael thanks these men in the dedication of the book. Another event inspiring the writing of War Horse was when Michael encountered a young boy with a stammer who was terrified if spoken to by another person, was able to speak freely to a horse – the trusting relationship that child had with the horse amazed many.

With his wife, Michael Morpurgo founded ‘Farms for City Children’, a charity that allows inner city children to experience spending time on rural farms.”

Book Description:

“Told through the eyes of Joey, War Horse follows Joey’s journey during World War I. Originally a working farm horse, Joey was sold by the farmer to become a cavalry horse – which saddened his young owner Albert. Having been captured by Germans, then finding himself in the care of young Emilie. Joey and his companion enjoy farm life for a short while, before being taken away again to pull an artillery wagon.

After many trials Joey finds himself alone in no-man’s-land, wounded by barbed wire. Eventually ending up in veterinary hospital, where he reunites with an old friend.

A children’s novel that teaches not only of the horse’s role, but also of the devastation experienced during war.”

My Review:

“It’s impossible not to fall in love with honest, hard-working horse Joey. His willing nature and integrity highlight how much of an impact wartime had on horses, as well as people. Through brilliant storytelling, War Horse carries you through every emotion – drawing you in with each page turn. I originally read this novel whilst in school, and would choose it as reference whenever wartime was the topic in class. I felt it so very important to show the truth of war through the eyes of a horse, whose involvement in it wasn’t through choice – if future generations continue to read War Horse and relate with Joey’s experience, I honestly believe it holds the power to prevent war ever happening again.”

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

About the Author:

“The Horse Whisperer was the debut novel by English author Nicholas Evans. Selling over 15 million copies, with The Horse Whisperer Nicholas experienced much success – especially in the United States of America. The story is said to be inspired by a real-life horse whisperer from America.”

Book Description:

“Beginning with teenager Grace and her horse Pilgrim going out riding with Grace’s friend Judith on her horse Gulliver, The Horse Whisperer follows the journey of Grace and Pilgrim after an horrific accident in which Judith and Gulliver lose their lives. Desperate to help her daughter through the trauma of losing a leg, her friend and the trust of her horse, Grace’s mother Annie seeks the help of a horse whisperer. Taking the reader on an emotional roller coaster, The Horse Whisperer follows Grace and Pilgrim’s expedition to recovery together – along with the short-lived affair Annie has with Tom, the horse whisperer himself.”

My Review:

“I read The Horse Whisperer for an English Literature project whilst at school. Having watched the film beforehand, I believed I was prepared for what I was about to read. I wasn’t. There was so much depth in the writing, that it became impossible to stop turning the pages. Found myself staying up until the early hours – even on a school night! – to ‘finish one more chapter’. A gripping tale I found fascinating – since equine behaviour is a subject close to my heart anyway – not only does The Horse Whisperer travel through coping with post traumatic stress experienced by horses and people, but also enlightens to the effects a traumatic event has on those indirectly involved in the resulting impact of an accident.”

Heartland Series by Lauren Brooke

About the Author:

“Lauren Brooke is one of the pen names of British writer Linda Chapman. As well as writing the Heartland series with Beth Chambers, she has written around 200 books – most of which are fantasy series for younger children.”

Book Description:

“25-book series about young Amy Fleming who lives on a horse ranch in Virginia called Heartland. Amy, along with her family and friends, rescue and rehabilitate mistreated horses. Amy prefers treating horses with natural remedies and therapies, over traditional methods. Having experienced trauma resulting in psychological issues herself, the series follows Amy’s story as she overcomes her own issues whilst working tirelessly to help horses. Heartland has a target readership 8-14 year olds.”

My Review:

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading every book in the Heartland series. I’ve forever been interested in equine behaviour and welfare, so reading these heart-warming and uplifting stories became a lovely past-time for me whilst in school. I even encouraged my friends to start reading Heartland! I would definitely recommend this series to any child who loves horses. However, regardless of the fact this series was written for children, I am certain adults would enjoy this series just as much – especially if they hold interest in the field of equine behaviour and alternative remedies.”

The Silver Brumby Series by Elyne Mitchell

About the Author:

“Australian author Sybil Elyne Keith Mitchell was a keen horsewoman, famous for her series of children’s novels. Elyne Mitchell won many awards for her writing.”

Book Description:

“The Silver Brumby series follows the adventures of creamy-silver stallion Thowra and his herd of wild horses. The reason Thowra is known as ‘The Silver Brumby’ is because during winter Thowra’s cream coat becomes much paler, having an almost silver shine. In combination with his silvery mane and tail, Thowra’s pale winter coat blends into his native snowy landscape. A rarity for a brumby, since their coats are usually black, bay, grey or chestnut.”

My Review:

“Wonderful stories following the adventures of wild brumbies in Australia. I read these stories as a child, and believed them fantastic! Usually finding stories originating from Britain or America, to learn about the Australian landscape through these magical stories offered a lovely reading experience I believe children today would also thoroughly enjoy.”

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

About the Author:

“American author who primarily wrote horse stories for children, Walter Farley’s most famous book was ‘The Black Stallion’ published in 1941.”

Book Description:

“Following the story of a wild stallion known as ‘the Black’ or ‘Shêtân’ who encountered young boy Alec Ramsay, and ended up stranded on an island with him. They form the strongest bond. When they’re eventually rescued, the Black and Alec are found to be a formidable racing partnership – and are trained by retired racehorse trainer Henry Dailey. Due to the fact his breeding isn’t documented, the Black races as a mystery stallion, enabling young Alec to remain his jockey.”

My Review:

“I’ve never been a fan of horse racing. Though The Black Stallion wasn’t purely about racing. It told the tale of the unique bond between a horse and his boy, brought together under unique circumstances. The Black Stallion novel is full of descriptions depicting the time in which it was written, providing an outlook that may have otherwise been lost to future generations.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this time capsule of book reviews 🙂

Take care <3

Best wishes,

Dannika

Uncategorized

Guest Post – Laura Sherman, Ghostwriter

Laura Sherman, also known as the Friendly Ghostwriter, has been an independent ghostwriter for twenty years. She mostly writes memoirs, but also helps clients with business books and fiction.

Interview with a Ghostwriter: What to Expect

Have you decided that this is the year to write your book? If so, allow me to congratulate you. That is a wonderful goal! If you’re similar to many other busy successful people, you may need a little help. If so, you may find you learn a lot just from a simple interview with a ghostwriter.

The initial interview with a ghostwriter

Naturally there are questions you want to ask to determine whether a particular ghostwriter might be qualified to take on your project. I cover this topic extensively in my article, Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter.

However, while you are interviewing her, she is also gathering information which will help her decide if she is the best ghost for you. Through this initial interview with a ghostwriter you will take the first step toward understanding what will be required to complete your book.

The genre of your book

The three most popular book requests I receive are: fiction, business nonfiction, and memoir. Within those classifications, there are many subcategories. For instance, if you’re writing a fictional story, you have various choices of genre: drama, science fiction, fantasy and young adult, to name a few.

If you’re writing business nonfiction, there are a wide variety of subjects as well as a few choices of styles of presentation of the facts and information. Some authors prefer text only, while others opt to include many photos. When I wrote Chess Is Child’s Play, we included many fun text boxes with tips and anecdotes for the reader to enjoy.

Memoirs are pretty straightforward. They are typically written in the first person and look and feel like a novel (even though they are true stories). However, some are presented as a diary or journal.

Keep in mind, there is some cross-over, too. For instance, you can have a memoir that is only loosely based on fact but is primarily a novel. Or a novel that feels like memoir but is actually completely fictional. In addition, many entrepreneurs who have important lessons to impart will write a nonfiction how-to book and sprinkle many humorous anecdotes throughout. Another option is to write a memoir and include many tips and tricks of the trade to educate the readers.

When you interview with a ghostwriter, make sure to know your book’s genre so you can hire the best ghost for the job; most writers specialize in certain genres.

Readership

One of the biggest errors a new author can make is to try to write his book for “everyone.” While some books are very popular with a lot of people, you always want to direct your creative energies to a certain demographic.

For instance, a how-to book giving practical parenting advice for single parents will be written very differently than a science fiction novel aimed at the young adult market. The voice and style will vary depending on the readers you wish to entertain or educate.

During your interview with a ghostwriter work to determine the right readership for your book and make sure your ghost can capture the style and voice required to resonate with them.

Subsequent Interviews

After you complete your initial interview with a ghostwriter, you will probably immediately know if this writer will be your ghost. A rapport and bond should form quickly. If you have to “think about it,” the answer is probably no. Interview another writer.

Once you sign the contract and send the down payment, the next step will be to send all the written information you might have to your new ghostwriter. For me, one of the best sources of research is in written form. This gives me a great foundation to start learning what I need to know to write your book.

Some clients have a first draft that needs a complete overhaul, while others have a lot of detailed notes. Some provide journal entries or articles, while some have notes or documents written on cocktail napkins. Gather up all these pieces so you can send them to your ghostwriter. These written samples are invaluable, as they will help your ghostwriter capture your voice.

After your ghostwriter has reviewed all your written material, she will need to continue to interview you. Please know that these ongoing interviews are vital. They help your ghostwriter get the detailed information she needs to fully and accurately capture your style and written voice.

Getting personal with a memoir

If you want your writer to accurately portray you to your reader, it’s important that you participate in each interview with a ghostwriter fully.

That means if you’re writing a memoir, you must share your most personal experiences, thoughts and feelings sincerely and honestly. While you don’t need to include everything in your book, you can’t hide from all the negative events that happened.

Don’t try to make out that your life is wonderful all the time. You need to show your flaws and share your errors. Readers need to be able to identify with you. They need to see that you’re human. If you portray yourself as perfect, the reader will know that you’re lying.

And your book will be boring.

Just like life, a good story must have conflict to be interesting. So, you must be willing to open up to your readers. That begins with your ghostwriter. Your ghostwriter will help you by asking broad questions. If the questions spark an idea, feel free to elaborate. It’s fine to go off-topic for a bit because that may open the door to more ideas and even bring up interesting incidents which might have been a bit buried. Most of my clients remember many details when they interview with me, their friendly ghostwriter.

One word of warning: if you’re thinking of speaking ill of someone, be aware that he or she may read your book. Consider carefully if you are willing to face the consequences. After all, anything you put in writing is permanent.

Helpful material for a ghostwriter

My clients usually wish to write their book with me. I always embrace this partnership and strive to teach them about the process every step of the way, if that’s what they desire. However, some authors prefer a more hands-off approach. In those cases, I simply write pages and submit them on a regular basis.

There are various key research elements a client can provide that make my job a lot easier.

Biographies of characters

No matter what the genre, it is always helpful to collect biographies of the people mentioned in the book (whether they be fictional or not). If I’m writing a memoir for a client, I like to know the following information so that I can write a truly three-dimensional character:

  • Full name
  • Birthdate (month and year)
  • Birthplace and residences
  • Hair and eye color
  • Body description
  • General mood
  • Hobbies or interests

This is a good starting point, but, really, there is a lot more that can be added to this list. Consider all the things that make this person truly unique.

A detailed list of incidents

Any fiction book or memoir is really comprised of a series of incidents. It’s a timeline of the events that happen to your characters.

In order to get started on your outline, I need to know what happened. This list doesn’t have to include a lot of information. In fact, when you’re just starting out, it can just be a list of key words that triggers the right concept for you. Then, during your interview, your ghostwriter will pull out the relevant details to understand the scene as well as you do.

For instance, if you’re writing your memoir, you might jot down:

  • The time I got food poisoning in LA
  • The first horror movie I attended with a boy
  • The time I flew to Paris to meet my sister

Once you make a giant list of all these incidents, you can even delve in a little further and add a few more pertinent facts:

  • Who was involved?
  • Where did it take place?
  • When did it happen?
  • What was the significance for you?

Enjoy each interview with a ghostwriter. You’ll learn a lot and, through the process, you and your ghost will create an excellent book.