Best Wishes for 2014

I've been writing this book blog for nearly two years and in that time I've read some fantastic indie books. 

In 2013 the highlights were: 

Travels in Elysium by William Azuski: "what a masterly trick the author plays with time and how cleverly he uses it to take the reader into other worlds with complete conviction and credibility".

My Grandfather's Eyes B.A.Spicer: "a novel of the very highest quality and well deserving of five stars or more".

600 Miles - A Post-Apocalyptic Adventure: " full of unexpected developments and at times tense, exciting and shocking".

Beyond Eclectic by Jonathan Hill: "sometimes amusing even laugh aloud funny, sometimes macabre and sinister, sometimes poignant and sad: another great collection of short stories"

Make a Joyful Noise by Jenny Worstall: "an ideal holiday book .... pleasant and easy to read".

A big thank you to
  • All the authors who wrote such great material especially the ones that were offered for free.
  • Everyone who has written a review for one of our books.
  • All the visitors to my Blog especially the ones who left a comment. 

Very best wishes for 2014.


Happy Christmas!

Hope you like the new layout for Indie Bookworm Blog. If you don't - try a different one from the menu to the left of the Home Page.

Since I've been writing this Blog I've read some fantastic indie books and I hope you've got time to check out some of my reviews and take a look at the books on the Amazon Kindle store.

Thanks for reading my Blog and hope you have a very happy Christmas.

Best wishes,


Spurwing ebooks

Writing a Family History

Goodness, Grace and Me by Julie Houston

I was contacted by author Julie Houston some weeks ago introducing her book Goodness, Grace and Me. Following my usual practice, I read the free sample on the Amazon site and enjoyed it so much I bought the book.

Then I visited Julie's Blog and really enjoyed her account of looking for readers outside Waterstones in Leeds. Really, don't miss it - it's very funny.

The book has been in my Waiting To Be Read Folder for quite a while as I haven't been doing so much reading recently as we've been busy publishing Learning Lines? A Practical Guide for Drama Students and Aspiring Actors by Michael Murray. Check out our website for more details if you're interested.

Anyway things have settled down a bit now and Goodness, Grace and Me was at the top of my list for what to read next. I finished it a couple of days ago and have really enjoyed reading it. It's a light-hearted, amusing, romantic, well-written story about a couple of life-long best friends and it explores their lives, families and loves in an interesting setting and context.

I really like Julie Houston's writing style: it's crisp and clear and quickly draws you into the lives of her main character, Harriet, her best friend Grace and their family and friends. The story unfolds at a good steady pace and the author has taken the time to let all her characters fully evolve as the plot develops.

Harriet is the narrator and you can really hear her talking to you as you read the book. She shares her thoughts and feelings which are at times quite poignant and at other times hilariously funny. Like author Julie Houston, Harriet is a primary school teacher although this is back-grounded until near the end of the book when you join her at school for one of the funniest descriptions of classroom life I've ever read. The "green ticks" anecdote is brilliant! I should think anyone who knows and loves British primary schools will really enjoy this aspect of the book.

The book is a complex web of relationships which leads to a shed-load of mis-understandings, complications, failures to communicate, humorous incidents and unexpected explanations. It's an ideal book to curl up with on cold, winter nights and would make a great read for the Christmas holidays. 

You can find out more about Julie Houston and her writing on her website and get a copy of Goodness, Grace and Me at the Amazon Kindle Store. The book has received lots of very well deserved five star reviews and that's what I've given it too.

Conversations in the Abyss by Michael Brookes

Conversations in the Abyss is the second part of a trilogy and although you could read it as a standalone book I would recommend that you read volume one, The Cult of Me, first. That’s what I did (review here) and I was so intrigued by that story I couldn’t resist getting the second volume. This is not my usual sort of reading matter and I think that if I’d started straight off with Conversations I wouldn’t have finished it; but other readers who reviewed the book just read it alone and thought it was great.

So, having got that out of the way: this book is amazing. If you like devils and demons there’s something for you; if you like to be horrified there’s something for you too; if you like a good old political thriller there’s plenty for you; if anticipating the apocalyptic is to your taste then there’s plenty for you as well. And it really is a page-turner; when I finished Cult I bought Conversations straightaway but I’ve kept holding back from reading it as I suspected that once started I wouldn’t be able to put it down. Funnily enough it didn’t quite work out like that; I read roughly the first third over three night’s reading……. and then I couldn’t put it down and everything else was on hold until I’d finished it.

So, what’s it about? I think the book is best summed up by the narrator when he asks Venet, one of the characters he’s in conversation with, what he has to do and Venet tells him in reply that he has to stop the Apocalypse. That’s all right then. In the first book the narrator ended up in let’s say a difficult place and much of the start of the second book is him talking with a few visitors and over a period of time (an hour, a day, a week, a month, who knows?) he explores his situation. Meanwhile, back in the other place things are hotting up and clearly a crisis is looming. Bringing all the strands of the book together is really well handled and despite the huge element of fantasy it’s entirely plausible.

Once again there is a clear, direct writing style and I think my only criticism is that sometimes the sentence structure is a bit staccato without any apparent purpose. However that is a minor complaint when taken in the context of some of the wonderful poetic, descriptive passages and evocative turns of phrase of which this is typical: “The obsidian exuded cruel menace, a coldness which sliced through my will as if it were a wind of razors.” Stunning: what a fantastic image.

The author explores a whole range of ‘where do we all come from’ and ‘what is god’ and ‘where is heaven’ sort of questions starting with the beginning and ending on the edge of doom. Although I don’t normally seek out that sort of writing I really enjoyed the way the logic of the argument was sustained right through; and although it has religious overtones it isn’t in any way a proselytising tract.

There’s a kind of Dan Brown aspect to the politicians, priests and pagans thread in the novel which works really well and the projected route to Armageddon is, I think, entirely feasible.

The ending is completely unexpected but brings the book to a great conclusion even though you are left stunned because the rest of the tale, of course, is in part three which doesn’t appear to have been written yet. Please get on with it Mr Brookes! I really want to know what happens next!

You can get links to all Michael Brookes books 
on his Amazon author pages UK and USA and on his Blog.

Travels in Elysium by William Azuski

I was invited to read Travels in Elysium by the publisher and so I went to the Kindle Store to check out the free sample. Judging by the size of the sample the book was clearly substantial and yes, it turned out to be 540 Kindle pages which by my reckoning is a good 200,000 words. I haven’t read a really long novel for ages apart from my unfinished efforts to read War and Peace (996 Kindle pages actually) so I downloaded the free sample and began to read Travels in Elysium. After a few introductory descriptive pages of an earthquake / volcanic eruption, the protagonist Nick Pedrosa is introduced and you are straightaway drawn into his story. He has a background in Classics and has landed a job as a sort of Personal Assistant / Apprentice to renowned archaeologist Marcus Huxley at a massive excavation on a small Greek island.

Under Huxley’s leadership, a team of archaeologists and students are involved in finding and revealing the site of an ancient city submerged beneath thousands of tons of volcanic ash. Unfortunately, Nick joins the team at the same time as his predecessor is being buried in an unconventional manner with a lot of unanswered questions about his death. By this point in the free sample I was engaged with the story; intrigued by where it might be going; fascinated by the details about the island and Greek culture and absorbed by the emerging characterisation. So I paid the full price of £6+ and downloaded the whole book. Please note, I don’t usually pay anywhere near this amount for Kindle books so I had high expectations that this book was going to be worth the outlay!

Although in the course of the book you learn a lot about archaeology, Time Team this is not! At one point Nicolas notes that you are as likely to find a gun in an archaeologist’s bag as a brush and chisel. (Or something like that anyway.) One of the strengths of the book is the characterisation of the Team: bullying Marcus, druggy Sam, lovestruck Anna, grumpy Hadrian and ever obliging Nestor are all fully developed characters along with a supporting cast of local island dignitaries, archaeology groupies and ancient philosophers. You also learn a lot about Greek culture ancient and modern; well, modern up to the era of the military Junta in the late sixties - early seventies anyway. And you also learn a considerable amount about Greek philosophers and their influence on more recent thinking and the concept of mystical isles and journeys to the “other side”.

The storyline of the novel is fairly straightforward: Nick lands his new job; he travels to the island; he gets to know the boss and his new colleagues; he starts to understand what’s going on in the excavation and in the process he starts to know himself. However, this is one of the most complex, interesting, challenging and thought provoking books I’ve read for a long time and I thought it was brilliant. Author William Azuski has taken the long route to explore his story and given himself the time to let the story build up slowly to its amazing denouement. That’s not to say that the novel is in any way boring: to the contrary in parts it races forwards with an almost frenzied need to get to the answers. Which brings me to possibly the most interesting aspect of the novel: the way the author has handled time.  It wasn’t until I’d got right to the end of the novel that I realised how cleverly this had been done; while reading it, there were places where I thought some tough editing was needed and as everything else was so good couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been done. But at the end I realised what a masterly trick the author plays with time and how cleverly he uses it to take the reader into other worlds with complete conviction and credibility.

This novel isn't a quick, easy read; it explores some fundamental questions about life and death and the meaning of truth. As a reader you have to concentrate and at times work quite hard to follow the plot and understand the significance of events but it is well worth the effort. The writing in places is beautifully poetic and the descriptive passages conjure up vivid and original images. I don't regret spending (in terms of both cash and time) much more than usual on the book and I'm pleased it was brought to my attention; it really is a wonderful novel and I hope it receives the critical acclaim it deserves.

Get more details about Travels in Elysium on William Azuski's Author page at Amazon UK or Amazon USA.

My Grandfather’s Eyes by B.A. Spicer

The first thing to say about My Grandfather’s Eyes is that it’s a most unusual and original novel. The second thing is once you start reading it you can’t stop. It’s a fascinating and intriguing story that explores some of the less attractive aspects of human nature. The protagonist is Alex Crane who must surely be a contender for one of the most selfish, self-centred and egotistical characters of twenty first century fiction so far. The remarkable thing is that even though she is such an unpleasant character her story is completely riveting and you become totally absorbed in her life. You learn early on about her ‘nevi’ and speculate constantly as to the role they have played in the development of her personality.

It is difficult to comment about the plot without giving something away that will spoil the surprises, of which there are many. The twists and turns as the story develops are complex and even when you correctly guess where the plot is going something unpredictable happens which throws you off balance.

The author handles time really well. The novel starts at the present and goes back to various times in Alex’s life which she re-lives or rehearses again but the juxtaposition of various parts of her past with other parts of her past and also with the present gives the novel its drive and energy.

When Alex is in her childhood the writing style reflects her immaturity and it gradually changes as she gets older. Consequently you feel as though you know her really well and as the novel moves towards its denouement you understand what she is feeling.

The ending is shockingly revelatory as you think you have got to the end before you find there is actually a bit more. The novel is cleverly constructed. The contrasting episodes from different parts of Alex’s life inform the reader’s understanding of her relationships with family, husband, extended family, colleagues and her special friend.

Essentially My Grandfather’s Eyes is a love story but not of the conventional kind. There is so much in this novel with a variety of sub-plots all of which interlink with the unfolding story of Alex’s life.

If you’ve read any of Bev (B.A.) Spicer’s other books you will know what a good writer she is. (Check out my reviews of Bunny on a Bike and Angels earlier in the blog). 

My Grandfather’s Eyes affirms every opinion I have about the excellence of her writing. Apart from a few editorial glitches in one part of the book this a novel of the very highest quality and well deserving of five stars or more.

Get details of all B.A. (Bev) Spicer's books on her author page at Amazon UK or US.

600 Miles – A Post Apocalyptic Adventure by G.P.Grewal

American author G.P. Grewal has a Blog and it was while reading this I realised his fourth novel was due for publication with the intriguing introduction “The Road meets The Road Warrior meets…a Western?”

I’d enjoyed reading his earlier novels (see a previous blogpost) and wasted no time in downloading 600 Miles as soon as it was released.

Post Apocalyptic fiction isn’t my first choice for reading matter. Probably H.G.Wells’ War of the Worlds and Neville Shute’s On the Beach were my only sorties into the genre until recently. Since I’ve been on my indie book journey I’ve read more of the genre: I Know You Will Find Me by David Harris Wilson, 2032 by A.S. Anand and Sleeps with the Fishes by Nigel Bird might, arguably, all fit into the category; and I read The Time Machine a few weeks ago too.

Actually, I was a bit confused by the terminology so did some research (well, looked on Wikipedia) to sort out the apocalyptic (the world is crumbling) from the post-apocalyptic (the world has crumbled and how the characters cope with it) from the dystopian (the future world appears to be perfect but in fact is just the opposite) …… and decided that it doesn’t really matter what the label is so long as it’s well written, engaging, page-turning, thought provoking, entertaining and utterly convincing. Which is what 600 Miles– A Post Apocalyptic Adventure is.

Elgin is the narrator in 600 Miles and he is on a journey from Arizona to California hoping to take in the city of Los Angeles in the process and his main problem is that he is walking there because the story is set several decades into the future in a world of complete chaos. The cause of the apocalypse is hinted at and appears to have been all out war between the state and the people but this all happened years ago; Elgin only knows a hand to mouth existence in a world which has sunk to basest depravity and his frequent dispassionate observations of “skellies” tells you how bad things are.

The story is Elgin’s life over the several months of his journey; the places he passes through; the people he meets. It is a love story in the most unlikely of circumstances and an exploration of Elgin’s personality as he tries to cope with the tribulations and challenges of survival. The story is full of unexpected developments and at times is tense, exciting and shocking. It is a well written novel but what I thought was exceptionally good was the way Elgin’s voice comes through with a slow deliberation resonant of a time much earlier than the Armageddon.

There are several really interesting characters in addition to Elgin particularly Gitty and Roy who make up Elgin’s eternal triangle and are his companions for much of his journey.

I thought 600 Miles was really good. It’s been interesting to watch G.P.Grewal’s writing style change as you read through each of the other books and 600 Miles takes him off in a new and unusual direction. The writing is still literary but firmly placed within the specific genre. As a consequence it makes the reader question real world pre-conceptions to speculate as to the likely probability of our own experience ending up like Elgin’s.

The ending of the book is, I suspect, deliberately vague and lends itself to a sequel which I for one would be quick to download.

Get details of 600 Miles – A Post Apocalyptic Adventure and G.P. Grewal’s other books on his Amazon Author Page USA, Amazon Author Page UK, or his Blog.

Peacock and Dragon by Jenny Worstall

I’ve already read a collection of short stories by Jenny Worstall (Infant Barbarian) and her romantic comedy novel (Make A Joyful Noise) so I was expecting to find some more light, charming writing about family relationships in Peacock and Dragon, her new collection of short stories. Certainly the stories are about family relationships and they are light, easy-to-read stories written in her same clear, direct style but these stories have slightly darker overtones with hints of the paranormal and I think they are her best yet.

At the start of Peacock and Dragon the author has written “With apologies to William Morris”. This sent me on a Google search and now I know a lot more about Morris’ designs than I did a few days ago; the titles are not all references to his designs though. The Morris theme threads through the stories and inspires much of the descriptive writing as well as the titles.

In Strawberry Thief there is a picture of domestic bliss and harmony until something shocking and unexpected happens. The story line is fairly predictable but it gets an unusual twist and is made much more interesting by the hint of the “ghost story” which permeates it.

Peacock and Dragon has a set of parents with an unusually old fashioned approach to a teenage pregnancy in the twenty first century. Fortunately Jasmine has a good friend with a sensible head on her shoulders who is able to stand by her and all ends happily ever after. The twist is in the advice of a maternity nurse who has seen it all before and her contribution to the story lifts it to another level of interest.

Love is Enough is about a failure to trust and communicate which leads to devastating consequences when drama reflects life and life reflects drama. At first I thought this story was funny but as it evolved it became rather tragic and the ending was blunt and final.

The opening chapters of Make a Joyful Noise are included at the end of the collection and there is enough there to help you decide if you want to read the whole thing which I would certainly recommend.

Peacock and Dragon is a very readable collection of short stories. It’s a good introduction to Jenny Worstall’s writing and if you’re already familiar with her work you'll find an interesting development in her skills as a short story writer.

You can find details of all Jenny Worstall’s books on her author page at Amazon UK or Amazon USA.

Sleeps with the Fishes | Mr Suit | by Nigel Bird

I read In Loco Parentis by Nigel Bird several months ago (review of In Loco Parentis here if you’d like to check it out) and downloaded these two books when he was offering them as freebies several months ago as well.

Now this is the big problem with Kindle indie ebooks: so many writers are willing to offer their work at no charge in order to build their audience that as a reader when you see something free by a writer you’ve already tried and know to be good you grab it with both hands like the archetypical kid in a sweet shop and then it sits in your WTBR folder for weeks; moral of story – stop being greedy!

Sleeps with the Fishes

If you haven’t tried anything written by Nigel Bird this is a quick read that will give you a taster of what a good writer he is. Written as a memoir of life in a dystopian future where a fascist regime has taken charge employing extreme scapegoating tactics and brutality, the protagonist is in hiding awaiting discovery. When the end comes you have a complete picture of the story so far and are as anxious yourself as he is.

The writing is economical and every word gives its full weight to the story. Amazingly the author manages to include some amusing and pithy lines into a dark and sombre tale. This is an extremely well written short story and is well worth a look.

Mr Suit

After reading Sleeps with the Fishes, I realised I’d read Mr Suit but never got round to writing a review of it. I try to write a review for every book I’ve had as a free book because it only seems courteous if someone has given you a gift to acknowledge it. So apologies to Mr Nigel Bird for not posting a review of Mr Suit sooner. Anyway, I read Mr Suit again and thoroughly enjoyed reading it a second time.

Mr Suit is a long short story, probably of novella length, in Nigel Bird’s Killer Kindle series.

Archie is a gangster who has taken a bullet in the head and can no longer do anything except blink: which he does repeatedly to communicate with his wife Lisa. Lisa has had enough and goes to ask Mr Suit, Archie’s old boss, to put him out of his misery.

You can get that part of the story from the free sample but the rest you’ll have to download and read for yourself: which is well worth doing because this book is extremely funny, well written and entertaining.

The characters are larger than life but not stereotypes and in a relatively few pages you get a story which would make a really good full length film.

There is nothing predictable about this book and at times it is so funny you laugh out loud. The ending – brilliant!!!

The writing is sharp, economical and dazzlingly clear; dialogue is crisp and not a word is wasted.

It’s difficult to write comments about this book without giving away some of the plot and I’m not going to do that; I just hope you’ll get a copy and read it for yourself.

You can get more info about these and Nigel Bird’s other titles on his Amazon book page.

Beyond Eclectic by Jonathan Hill

I enjoyed reading this collection of short stories by Jonathan Hill. I’m familiar with his writing having read and reviewed his earlier collection of short stories (Eclectic: Ten Very Different Tales) and his two “Maureen” novellas. (Maureen goes to Venice and A Letter for Maureen.)

The author has already demonstrated that he has a talent for writing short stories: he has a remarkable ability to focus on small details which come together to create a disproportionately larger picture; his writing is economical and every word meticulously weighed for the contribution it will make to the whole; his acute observations of human nature and behaviour make his writing vivid and real; a dry sense of humour is revealed with subtlety; difficult issues are dealt with sensitively. The writing style in Beyond Eclectic lives up to the high standards already demonstrated by Mr Hill and confirms my opinion that he is a really good writer of short stories.

This new collection moves into new territory and explores some of the darker sides of life and I think that most of the stories work really well.

First of all The Robin; I thought this was one of the best stories. We’ve already met George in the earlier collection but now time has moved on and he is a widower living alone with only his memories and his garden for company. The story is poignant but not remotely sentimental and the writer has demonstrated wonderful empathy for his character. I thought this story was beautifully written with simplicity, clarity and attention to small details that evoked the past and prepared the reader for George’s future.

Mr Owen is one of those teachers we’ve probably all encountered: really nice, strong in subject knowledge, useless as a teacher. His life in the classroom is a misery and you can see which way One Unread Message is going quite early on; and then at the end the surprise intervention of a character from the earlier collection causes Mr Owen to re-assess the situation and the reader to re-think their views of Mr Owen.

The Night Visitor starts the collection and a macabre plot evolves which leads to a very satisfying conclusion. On first reading I didn’t really like this story; I didn’t think it worked. As I began writing these comments I couldn’t think why I had that memory so I read it again. Second time round I was much more impressed; I particularly liked the way the author hinted at the reality of the relationship between Claire and Ian and drip fed the involvement of Trevor. If I say any more it will spoil the story so…….

There are three very dark stories featuring children in this collection. The Lollipop Man is a rather sinister take on the “imaginary friend” idea with elements of a horror story which leaves you feeling uneasy about where reality ends and the other world begins. The Box in the Wardrobe also features an “imaginary friend” and although a rather sad tale it also has an unsettling blurring of the real world and the other world. In Mary’s Paintings, Mary is the daughter in a macabre tale of jealousy and resentment. When her mother gets involved in a new relationship, Mary is none too pleased but what happens next is not what you expect.

An Eye for an Eye was the only story in the collection that I didn’t really enjoy. There are two parallel stories that come together in a spectacular manner which works well enough but I didn’t engage with the characters so wasn’t really very bothered about what happened to them in the end.

Unlike Joyce and Dennis who I thought were a-maz-ing. They live very humdrum lives Behind Closed Doors and the twist in the tale at the end is unexpected and very, very funny. The descriptions of how they live together are exaggerated for comic effect but work so well; a really excellent short story.

“Barry was just your average window cleaner,” is how The Secrets of Primrose Avenue begins. Oh really? I’ve noticed there seems to be more and more people offering window cleaning services but had just put it down to the recession. Now I know different and shall be very wary when Gary my window cleaner calls round next month; a very funny short story.

If you’ve never encountered the ubiquitous Maureen you’re very lucky. In this story she is at a book signing for her favourite author and she is at her brilliant worst.  Another great Maureen story with a most unexpected ending.

I follow Maureen on Twitter and I’d better make my meaning clear: if you haven’t encountered Maureen you’re very lucky because you’ve not only got this story and her visit to the Art Exhibition in the previous collection to look forward to but also the two novellas about her as well. O.K. Maureen? No offense meant!

Sometimes amusing even laugh aloud funny, sometimes macabre and sinister, sometimes poignant and sad: another great collection of short stories from Jonathan Hill which you can download at the Amazon Kindle Store and get more details on his Amazon author page.

Make a Joyful Noise by Jenny Worstall

I enjoyed reading a couple of short stories by Jenny Worstall a few weeks ago so I downloaded her romantic novel Make a Joyful Noise.

This is an ideal holiday book and I read most of it sitting in the garden in the sunshine enjoying the sound of the bees in the honeysuckle and a glass or two of chilled white wine.

Lucy is a newly qualified secondary school music teacher who is struggling with her classes; she is also struggling to establish her social life in a new town. She has been introduced to the local choral society and has fallen for ageing Lothario, Tristan, the choir conductor. Meanwhile fellow choir member and history teacher, Steve, has fallen for her. A typical love story triangle which is developed to a fairly predictable ending.

What makes the book different and interesting is its background in the choir. They are working on a special piece for the Christmas concert: Belshazzar’s Feast by William Walton. The author has cleverly used lines from the text of the piece (mainly The Book of Daniel and Psalm 137 put together by Osbert Sitwell) to head up the chapters of the book. I hadn’t listened to Belshazzar’s Feast for years and downloaded it from iTunes; I’d forgotten what splendid music it is. It was very fashionable back in the seventies to use some of it for “inspiration” in school drama classes and with justification. In places it is loud, rumbustious and raucous but thoroughly enjoyable. It has a complicated score and poor Miss Greymitt, the choir’s rehearsal accompanist, understandably struggles with it.

I read on her Author page that Jenny Worstall is a teacher and this shows in her understanding of poor Lucy’s struggles in the classroom. However I’m not sure that these days there would be so much understanding of her difficulties by senior management; Lucy’s department head is kind, considerate and supportive and constantly making allowances for her poor performance. But this “niceness” epitomises the book and makes it a charming read. If you’re fed up with the current trend to place young women into sexually submissive, sado-masochistic, fetish fantasy scenarios you’ll really enjoy Make a Joyful Noise. Lucy is actually shocked when Tristan says “damn” and gives her a full frontal peck on the cheek and the worst insult she comes up with is to call her rival for Tristan’s affection, Miss Custard Cream.

As well as Miss Greymitt there’s a full cast of supporting characters ranging from Lucy’s absentee mother, her bossy older sister and cute ballet dancing nieces to slightly acerbic flatmate and staffroom soulmate Julia.

I enjoyed reading Make a Joyful Noise; it’s pleasant and easy to read and if it happens to be more typical British summer weather and you want something to take your mind off cold, wet and miserable then this book would be just fine.

Check out Jenny Worrstall's author page for details of all her books.

I Woke Up This Morning by Stuart Ayris

I'd already read the first two books in the FRUGALITY trilogy, although in the wrong order, and was really looking forward to reading this final part.

You can read I Woke Up This Morning as a stand-alone novel but I think it would be better to read the other two books first and finish with this one because the author brings in characters from the previous two novels to bring the trilogy to its conclusion; you’ll probably get more out of the novel by knowing the background and the back-story.

I loved both the earlier books; (you can read my reviews of Tollesbury Time Forever and The Bird That Nobody Sees earlier on the blog if you’re interested.) I Woke Up This Morning doesn't disappoint: in fact, I think if anything it is even better than the other two.

I Woke Up This Morning is beautifully written with an imaginative and creative use of language. Mr Ayris’ style is often poetical and lyrical. The vocabulary at times is stunning with the use of obscure and arcane words and words that have been invented by the author; at times you don’t know which and need to check the dictionary.

The novel has a clever structure and the author takes the bold step of writing himself into it. The placing of the author himself right at the centre of the novel at first seemed somewhat self-indulgent but it worked really well in the end. Previously he has got into the heads of others and now he’s inside his own; or is he? What is so interesting is the way the novel becomes autobiographical and yet it is a fiction. Using his own name, seemingly personal details and sharing some deep personal angst is at times very uncomfortable and you have to remind yourself you’re reading a novel; you shy away from the “Stuart” character in the way that you tend to shy away from anyone who exhibits mental health issues. The novel goes through an episode where it becomes rambling and almost incoherent as it explores the anguish and torment of a mental breakdown although you could construe it as an exploration of an alternative way of seeing and being.

The author has used this device of personalisation to take the reader into such dark, depressed and lonely places; the intimate details of the collapsing of a life and relationships in the context of an addictive personality is painful to share and is incredibly sad to read. It made me want to cry in places and the only book I've read recently that had that effect was “Jude The Obscure” when the children died.

The essence of FRUGALITY permeates the book with an emphasis on forgiveness; forgiveness of self here more than anything else. The FRUGALITY concept is the unifying theme throughout the trilogy although it is developed differently in each novel. It’s a sort of easy to remember “Desiderata” and encapsulates a sense of optimism about life as much as pointing the way to the good life. Maybe readers who've appreciated this aspect of the books should wear an “F” badge in the way that Christians sport a fish emblem.

Although it is a thought-provoking, challenging and disturbing novel, I Woke Up This Morning is beautiful and inspirational. I don’t know if the author planned the whole trilogy in advance or if it evolved from one book to the next; it doesn't matter really either way: the novel and the trilogy are superb and the writer has an amazing talent. He makes reference in passing to self-published writers and the frustrations of trying to place a literary novel with agents and publishers; I wouldn't bother: conventional types would rip the guts out of this book and tidy up the extraordinary language. I hope that if the book ever does go mainstream the author will insist that not one word is changed.

Go to Stuart Ayris' author page on Amazon UK or Amazon USA for details of all his books.

Playground Cool by Jamie Sinclair

After reading The 24 Hour Jazz Café by Jamie Sinclair (see previous post) I downloaded Playground Cool and it’s been sitting in my WTBR folder for several months. I’ve started it once or twice before and couldn’t get into it but this time I did and really enjoyed reading it.

Playground Cool is a book about relationships and what happens when people stop talking to each other.

Three young women are in relationships: the first is over but she wants it back; the second is over and she can’t get it back; the third hasn’t got one and adamantly thinks she neither wants nor needs one.

Three young men are in those relationships: one is over and he wishes it wasn’t; one is over and he thinks he’s glad but he isn’t; one is determined to have a relationship.

Complicated? Well yes, at first, but as you get to know the characters things fall into place. Complicated? Well yes because there’s another young woman who wants a relationship with one of the men; and another young man who wants a relationship with one of the women. Complicated? Er…. Yes because some of the characters know each other and some don’t know each other at all.

However author Jamie Sinclair is firmly in control of the whole situation and leads all his characters to a very satisfying conclusion and everything works out even though one of the young men ends up with metaphorical egg on his face.

Playground Cool hasn’t got the dark political angle of The 24 Hour Jazz Café but it shares the clear, direct writing style that worked so well in that novel. It’s very funny in places and highly entertaining throughout particularly related to the detailed observation that comes with some of the scene setting and context creation. 

It would make great holiday reading and is well worth a look.

You can find details of all Jamie Sinclair’s books on his author page at Amazon UK or Amazon USA.

Short Stories: Infant Barbarian by Jenny Worstall; Angels by B.A. Spicer

I’ve downloaded several short stories recently and particularly enjoyed reading these two books which explore very different aspects of family relationships.
This is a collection of two short stories which are thematically connected within family conflict situations and their resolutions. I say conflict but this is very genteel, middle-class conflict so the surface remains polite and the tensions are suppressed. The resolutions are connected but it would spoil the stories if I said any more.
And that would be a pity because these are two very well written short stories. They don't take long to read and they are light, easy reading but they remain with you afterwards and contain some interesting in-sights into parenting and grand-parenting.
In "Old School" a new granny / interfering mother-in-law has plenty of opinions about child rearing but not a great deal of practical application; the effects of her contributions are unhelpful in the extreme until she has an unexpected reality check.
The "Infant Barbarian" of the title is a handful and everybody knows it except his mum. Unfortunately (or in the long run, hopefully, fortunately) in this story she finds out.
Thoroughly enjoyable and ideal for reading when you just want something gentle and not too taxing: well worth a look.
Jenny Worstall is the author of several short stories and a full length novel “Make a Joyful Noise” which, judging by what I’ve read so far, is proving to be an entertaining love story in an unusual context.
“When a mother loses her daughter to bullying at school, she decides to take revenge”
The blurb for this rather remarkable short story says it all and within its well-crafted pages a whole life is played out.
The mother in this story decides to take matters into her own hands and deal with the perpetrator herself. Her response is extreme but understandable and anyone who knows the victim of bullying at school, or anywhere else for that matter, will sympathise with her actions.
The story is sad and poignant with an unexpected ending; the characterisation is explored well and there is an almost poetic quality to some of the scene setting.
The author uses an interesting device of paralleling this present incident with one from the past: consequently, the emotional tension is raised considerably through the insights gained into the character of the daughter and the decisions made by the mother as the story moves to its climax.
I’ve already read “Bunny on a Bike” by Bev Spicer (see previous review) and had every expectation that “Angels” would be well written. As an introduction to her writing “Angels” is well worth the read and it has prompted me to remember to download “My Grandfather’s Eyes” which looks set to be an intriguing murder mystery.
You can find details of all the books by these two authors on their Amazon author pages.
Jenny Worstall’s author page: Amazon UK or Amazon USA

Bev Spicer; B.A. Spicer’s author page: Amazon UK or Amazon USA  

From Trincomalee to Portsea: The Diary of Eliza Blunt 1818 - 1822 transcribed and explained by Mary Hope Monnery

Mary Hope Monnery has done a fantastic job in bringing the old diary of one of her ancestors into the public domain. It must have been incredibly hard work to transcribe it but very rewarding at the same time. It has little or no punctuation and Ms. Monnery has published it deliberately as written and it is amazing that once you get used to the writing style the lack of punctuation doesn't affect your understanding of the text at all.

It is however quite difficult to read because of all the gaps in this record of the past; Eliza Blunt wasn't writing for us: she was writing for herself and possibly for her lover. Consequently you have to use your imagination at times to try and make sense of developments and here Ms. Monnery comes to our aid with lots of helpful annotations at the end of each chapter.

The diary contains a wealth of fascinating detail about daily life in the early nineteenth century. The range of Eliza's purchases and the prices she pays is remarkable; the amount of time it took to sail from Trincomalee to Portsea (5 months!) and the quantity of fresh livestock carried on the ship and butchered regularly truly amazing; the huge significance of washing day and the  hard work it entailed is back-breaking; and the relationship between Eliza and the Royal Navy on whom she was dependent for her pension is as relevant to-day as it was then.

Eliza actually records a visit to the theatre to see Edmund Keane in Richard III!

In addition the diary records a love story that is passionate and turbulent. Eliza was marrried when she went to Trincomalee (in present day Sri Lanka) but her husband died shortly after their arrival. While waiting to return to England with her family she meets and falls in love with another man and the feeling is mutual. She manages to sustain her love for many months without any contact at all with the man of her affections and  pours out her feelings in an extrordinary stream of consciousness style to her diary. You wonder if you're going to find out what happens:  and you do but I'm not going to tell you. A wonderful romance!

This is a most unusual book: fascinating, intriguing, packed with information. For anyone who enjoys family history it's a real gem.

You can sample and download "From Trincomalee to Portsea: The Diary of Eliza Blunt 1818 - 1822" at Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

Review | A Memory of Grief | Dale Phillips

Don't let the very long preamble to A Memory of Grief by Dale Phillips put you off this book. The legal stuff, testimonials, dedication, acknowledgements and an author's forward all have to be read before you get to the novel: and I must confess I almost gave up. I prefer novels that start straightaway with a minimum of distractions. So when I arrived at the novel I wasn't in the best frame of mind for reading it and I almost stopped.

But I'm glad I didn't.

It was Maureen who made me change my mind. She is the ex-wife of Ben who is the best friend of Zack or rather was the best friend of Zack because Ben is dead. Maureen is pitiful: abused, down-trodden, working all hours God sends to keep her current boyfriend in a good mood. She sends Zack a letter about Ben's death which starts off a train of events that take you with Zack on a determined journey to find out the truth of Ben's death.

Zack is tough and uncompromising and nothing is going to stop him getting to the truth -or is it?

I'm not going to give away anymore of the plot except to say that I thought this plot was very well executed and I kept turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. The construction of the novel is complicated but everything stacks up and author Dale Phillips has done a good job in writing a convincing tale with some unusual twists.

The protagonist is Zack Taylor and he is a fully rounded character and as well as his tough exterior you get to know his more sensitive side too. The supporting cast are well drawn and in addition to Maureen there's a host of additional players from a variety of backgrounds including some seriously unpleasant characters that you wouldn't want to meet on a dark night in November.

I thought a great strength of the novel was its dialogue: it's sharp and real and provides much of the forward drive of the story. There are some scenes of violence in the book but not gratuitous. In fact some of the details of the fight scenes are quite fascinating and I guess that the author either engages in some form of "karate" sports or has done a lot of research. When characters get hurt they bleed although Zack demonstrates almost super-human powers of recovery.

The book is priced quite highly at £3.12p and there is something odd with the lay-out of the dialogue in places which is indented for no apparent reason. This doesn't spoil the story in any way but it takes a bit of getting used to.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Memory of Grief and I liked Zack Taylor sufficiently to want to read the sequel too. You get the first chapter of the sequel, A Fall from Grace, at the end of the book and it looks as though it will be a good read as well.

Update: June 22nd 2013

While browsing in the Kindle Store I noticed that Memory of Grief has a new price in UK: just £2.03p.
Well worth checking out at Amazon UK.

'The Cult of Me' by Michael Brookes

I enjoyed reading a collection of four short stories by Michael Brookes entitled 'An Odd Quartet' particularly 'The Yellow Lady' which was a ghost story with an unusual twist. I liked the writing style in 'Forced Entry' which gave a fairly predictable story-line a strong sense of urgency and unease. 'The Reluctant Demon' was really good with a great twist at the end and some very funny contrasts between the young demon and its parent. I thought 'This Empty Place' was the least successful of the four stories and it didn't really work for me. I don't usually read ghosts and demons but I liked the way Michael Brookes writes: clear, direct, slightly tongue-in-cheek and I was interested to see what else he could write so after checking out the sample I downloaded 'The Cult of Me'.
I haven't read anything like this novel for a very long time: a person who can get inside other people's heads and control their minds is much more fantastical than anything I usually read these days. What I found quite remarkable about the book was the way in which the author gets you to buy into this remarkable mind shifting ability of the main character. He introduces the idea very early on and does so in such a down-to-earth manner just as part of his scene-setting in the prison cell where the story starts that you don't quite realise what's happening. All the other details about the scene are very mundane and matter-of-fact and his introduction of this mind-travelling ability by the main character gets in under the radar. Once you've bought into this ability as a matter of reality you just go along with it for the rest of the book.
I'm not quite sure where to place this novel. It's certainly in the fantasy / paranormal zone because of the extraordinary abilities of the main character. It's also a thriller and you are kept on the edge of your seat in the later stages when the novel reaches its climax. In addition it contains elements of the philosophical and religious and it's a story with murders, crimes and a bit of social commentary. It's a really interesting mix of ideas and keeps you engaged from beginning to end.
The story-line has many original and creative twists and turns and you get some big surprises and changes of direction.
The writing style is economical with occasional flights of fantasy resulting in some almost poetic descriptions at times. The structure of the novel works well with a generous helping of flashbacks to bring you up to speed with the protagonist's situation at the start of the book.
I really enjoyed reading 'The Cult of Me'. The ending is a shocking cliff-hanger and I've downloaded the sequel 'Conversations in the Abyss' because I really want to know what happens next.
Sample and download 'An Odd Quartet' Amazon UK Amazon USA 
Sample and download 'The Cult of Me' Amazon UK Amazon USA 

Visit the author's Blog at 

A Letter for Maureen by Jonathan Hill

Author Jonathan Hill has created in "Maureen" a character who is slightly larger than life and prone to social gaffs to the extent that “Hapless Maureen” has become the default position. 
I'd already been with Maureen on her visit to Venice and to an Art Exhibition and was looking forward to reading about her exploits at her local Book Club in “A Letter for Maureen”. There's much more to the book than just the Book Club and I was certainly not disappointed; in fact I think this is the best story Jonathan Hill has written about Maureen so far.
A Letter for Maureen” is much deeper than the other book and tackles some difficult issues relating to illness, ageing and death. That's not to suggest that the book is dark or depressing; it's not. It's very funny in places; it's unusual and original and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it; it just had a bit more substance than the other 'Maureen' stories and benefited from that.
The characterisation is really good and all the supporting cast are well developed, engaging and interesting. In a relatively short book (18,000 words) you meet and remember the customers in the bakery, Maureen's neighbours, the Book Club members, Nigel the librarian, the residents of a nursing home and their carers, a theatre fan, a theatre audience and performers as well as Beryl and Roy the two other main characters. Each character gets a pen portrait that has been written with economy, style and wit.
This same economy of style is used for scene setting: just enough details to get you into the right place and then on with the story. Consequently you engage really well with the book and I read it straight through in one sitting. I've read it a second time actually and enjoyed it just as much so well done Mr Hill.

You can read more about author Jonathan Hill at his web-site   and sample and download “A Letter for Maureen” at Amazon UK or Amazon USA.

The Crew | Dougie Brimson

I'm not sure if The Crew is an indie published book but it always seems to be free on Kindle so I thought I would give it a go. I wasn't sure if a book about football hooligans was really my thing but an average of four stars from 295 reviewers is impressive. 

Anyway I loved it. 

This is straight-forward good cops v. bad guys and the leader of the good cops, Paul Jarvis, is totally credible, engaging and real. The bad guys are The Crew: violence-loving, foul-mouthed football supporters lead by Billy Evans. Top man Billy is an authentic and believable thug, villain and cop-killer. 

This book moves at a ferocious pace and is a real page turner. 

Amazingly, as the story unfolds you find some sympathy for some of the football supporting hooligans and even more for the out-witted cops. 

Sharp, spare writing moves the action along fast and at the end of the book there's only one thing you want to do and that's to download the sequel Top Dog which isn't free but hopefully will be as good as The Crew.

Everything is Free | Adele Ward

If you were looking for a free book to download for your Kindle and you saw a title like this you'd be bound to stop and take a second look wouldn't you?

I read the whole of the sample of Everything is Free on the Amazon site; downloaded it straight away and continued reading for the next hour.

What a marvellous novel. It's superbly well crafted; challenging and thought provoking; and with a story so engaging you really have to force yourself to stop reading and go and do other things.

Nineteen year old Mel is homeless and looking for somewhere to stay. She goes to the Greenvale Shopping Centre and what happens next is a truly amazing story.

You get to know Mel and the characters that congregate at the Greenvale for work, leisure and shopping; each is beautifully drawn and you feel that you know them personally. The entire world is here in microcosm; I think there must be one of nearly every type of person who exists. Well maybe not quite but this character list is full, varied, vivid and real.

I don't know if the Greenvale actually exists; probably not but you'll have been to somewhere very similar. The scenes that take place away from the shopping centre are equally convincing and described with photographic clarity. You get such a good sense of where you are in every aspect of this novel.

I thought Everything is Free was exceptionally good: interesting, unusual and very well written. The book tackles some difficult issues as well as the homelessness that you're told about in the blurb but it isn't preachy or heavy handed. I shall give it five stars on the Amazon site, would give it more if I could and highly recommend it.

The Most Boring Book Ever Written by Daniel Pitts and Rudolf Kerkhoven

I came across The Most Boring Book Ever Written when I was contributing to the Amazon "Meet the Authors" forum whilst promoting Julia's Room a number of weeks ago and couldn't resist downloading it to see if it lived up to its title. Well, it does and it doesn't.

It does because the content of the book is tedious in the extreme: for example the first section of the book leads to the decision whether to turn off the alarm clock or hit the snooze button and stay in bed a little bit longer and subsequent decisions are of a similar nature. However the construction of the book and the fact that it is the reader making the decisions makes it interesting. The book uses the internet to make it interactive and when I got to the end I went back to the beginning and made different decisions to see what would happen; but then I got bored with it and didn't follow through for the second time.

In places the book is very funny and at times you just laugh out loud at the sheer banality of life. Unusual, amusing, not really boring and worth a look especially if it's free (which mine wasn't).

Book details
Kindle Store UK
Kindle Store USA

The Keeper by Tom Bruno

Tom Bruno tells us that Farrell's Island is only a myth, something that the old salts of Cape Ann whisper about in hushed tones after one too many drinks at the bar. When two unlucky fishermen set out in search of the island their obsession is going to catch them more than they'd bargained for.
This short story has a very authentic setting in the lives of two ardent fishermen.
It is well written with a good balance of narrative and dialogue.
The development of the story was not to my personal taste but that is in no way to detract from the skill of the writer.
I would be interested to read something of greater substance by this author.

Visit the author's page on Amazon UK or Amazon USA

Tales of Johan by David Harris Wilson

I found that Tales of Johan by David Harris Wilson was one of those novels you can't put down. 

The protagonist is Iain Broderick who comes from Inverdaig, a remote village on the west coast of Scotland and you go with him as he learns about his own family history and that of an old Scandinavian man who has lived in Iain's village for many years. The old man is Johan and he is an amazing story teller; Iain's narrative is interspersed with Johan's stories which are lyrical, magical and enthralling. 

Author David Harris Wilson skilfully draws you into Iain's life and you become fascinated by Inverdaig, its people, history and customs. The stories that Johan tells have the authentic voice of true folk tales and you feel the cultural links between Scandinavia, Brittany and Scotland as you listen to them; and that is what is good about this writing: you really feel you are in the room as Johan tells his tales. 

There is a large cast of characters and whether their part in the story is large or small each one is rounded and interesting. There is some very good descriptive writing of various aspects of nature notably the sea which is poetic and creates evocative images as you read; however this doesn't slow the pace of the novel which is a page-turner right through to the end. 

Tales of Johan is a well written novel with a strong sense of place and culture, an interesting and unusual story line and excellent characterisation. It's a lovely story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Visit the author's page on Amazon UK or Amazon USA

Review | Bunny on a Bike (humorous memoir of a Playboy croupier) | Bev Spicer

When I saw the title of this book for the first time I really laughed aloud; the image that it conjured up of a Playboy Bunny Girl riding a bicycle was hilarious. When I was growing up in the Swinging Sixties the Bunny Girl was the epitome of glamour and sophistication. This book certainly blows the lid off that idea!

I thought it would be an amusing book to read and it certainly was. But it's more than just a 'fun' read. Author Bev Spicer has created a wonderfully detailed picture of the Playboy world of the 1980s; but Bunny on a Bike is also a charming evocation of that time in life when you think you can do anything you want and get away with it.

Carol and Bev are starting out and have no idea what they want to do to earn a living until they stumble into a job opportunity to train as croupiers for the international Playboy empire. The story of their initiation into that world is fascinating and often hilarious but at times you share their frustration and gathering unwillingness to participate further.

The era is the 1980s which is explored in many aspects throughout the book. The efforts by the two girls to find somewhere reasonable to live takes you into the dark and seamy side of unregulated private landlords and you feel positively relieved when they escape and get somewhere decent.

There are some interesting supporting characters in this memoir that hopefully don't all recognise themselves. They help to create the sense of the era as well as providing back-up for the two protagonists as they work their way through the demands of their training and some extremely unhealthy life style choices.

Bunny on a Bike is a light-hearted and easy book to read. The writing style is clear and direct and conveys the sense that the writer is talking to you directly really well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and look forward to reading other books by this author.

Link to Bunny on a Bike Amazon UK Amazon USA

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Review | The Government's Top Salesman Tells All | John Problem

The blurb for this novel is short and to the point.

I was looking for a free download and it was the blurb that caught my attention and made me decide to read the sample on the Amazon site.

I was sceptical and doubtful about downloading The Government's Top Salesman Tells All even though it was a freebie.

But I was wrong.

As soon as I started reading I was engaged by the hero of the nation, Jason Bryggs. I thought he was going to be just another city slicker looking to make a killing for himself (which he is) but the cleverness of this piece of writing is that you like Jason, sympathise with him and want things to work out.

Author John Problem has a healthily irreverent attitude to the government and a very funny way of writing about "The Prime Minister and Nick". The opening of the book explains what Jason Bryggs' new job is. So, I'm giving away no secrets by telling you that it is to sell off whatever national assets he can in order to reduce the National Debt.

And Jason sets about his task with gusto as there's no shortage of rich buyers out there looking for the chance to buy Britain's heritage. Of course the plot derives considerable plausibility from the big sell-off by the Thatcher government in the 1980s of British oil, gas, electricity, telephones, water companies, coal and steel. It's not such a big step to what Jason Bryggs is commissioned to do to-day.

Some of the characters are a bit far-fetched but usually very amusing; at times this book is laugh aloud funny. The writing style is sharp and pithy and moves along at a cracking pace. I read it in a couple of sittings and thoroughly enjoyed it. Light hearted and entertaining but with overtones of seriousness, The Government's Top Salesman Tells All is well worth a look.

Interview | GP Grewal author of Machine Wash Warm, Tumble Dry

GP Grewal was one of the first writers I met via free Kindle downloads when I read his novel Nihilist 5.0. I went on to read both his other novels Machine Wash Warm, Tumble Dry and Half-Breed. I found all three books to be well written, challenging and thought provoking. I was delighted when GP Grewal agreed to an interview for Indie Bookworm.

Why did you write Machine Wash Warm, Tumble Dry?

I wrote Machine Wash Warm, Tumble Dry for the same reason I wrote my other literary novels. It was something I needed to get off my chest. The loneliness, the apathy, the idiocy of our modern day, consumer-oriented society: I don’t know who decided we should be living like this, but it really sucks.

Other than that, I’ll admit I wrote it because I couldn’t find a publisher or agent for my fantasy novel and so I decided to have a go at writing about the “real world”, which is too bad because the real world is not something I like.

What kind of reader would enjoy Machine Wash Warm, Tumble Dry?

I’d say anyone under thirty who is open-minded and understands how silly most of the things we believe in are.

How did you develop your characters?

The main characters are composites of former friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. I’ve known all of them at one point or another, and so they were easy to write about. Leonard in particular I’ve known from some of the nerdier types I’ve hung out with, and having spent at least a couple of years around actors, I was pretty familiar with Mark Gold.

Why did you decide to publish Machine Wash Warm, Tumble Dry yourself?

Despite a couple of near hits, I wasn’t having any luck with literary agents and the dozens of boilerplate rejections were getting old. The few agents who did show genuine interest made me wait for weeks or months before deciding they didn’t like it enough or that it would be too hard to sell. Then I heard about people publishing their manuscripts as e-books on Amazon and decided to give it a go.

Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

After Machine Wash, Nihilist, and especially Half-Breed I’m pretty burnt out on writing literary novels and so I’ve decided to put that aside for now. I have a feeling my next book might be another fantasy. Then again, maybe not. I’ve started a couple of new stories but nothing I’m too crazy about. I guess I’m waiting to see where the wind takes me. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a writer who feels compelled to keep churning out novels for either monetary reasons or just to show how hard he’s working. I find that very crass.

GP Grewal is the author of Nihilist 5.0, Machine Wash Warm, Tumble Dry and Half-Breed. Check out his Amazon author page for links to all his books:

Links to my reviews of each of these books:

Interview | Jonathan Hill author of Maureen goes to Venice

I really enjoyed reading Maureen goes to Venice by Jonathan Hill and was delighted when he agreed to an interview for Indie Bookworm.

Why did you write Maureen goes to Venice?

Maureen is a comic character from my debut book of short stories.  I had no intention of writing more about her but she proved to be popular with readers of that first book.  So I decided to send her to Venice and see what happened!  Why Venice?  Well I had holidayed there myself recently and felt able to convey the enchanting atmosphere of the place on paper.

What kind of reader would enjoy Maureen goes to Venice?

The book is essentially a comedy in which Maureen finds herself in all manner of scrapes.  She is a disaster magnet!  Anyone who enjoys humorous fiction should enjoy Maureen’s adventure.  When Maureen’s around, a laugh is never far way, even though it’s usually at her expense!  It’s not all funny, though.  There’s the odd moment of poignancy and darkness too.

How did you develop your characters?

When writing about Maureen, I never actually plan how she will develop.  I tend to create situations for her and ‘see’ how she will respond to them.  In Maureen goes to Venice, I started to introduce little snippets of Maureen’s past and, in the subsequent book, A Letter for Maureen, her past plays a much greater role.  It shows that Maureen is a flawed character, and one with real feelings.  I think providing a back story is so important for allowing readers to get to know a character.

Maureen has been described as being like Keeping Up Appearances’ Hyacinth Bucket (“It’s Bouquet!”).  There are certainly similarities, but Hyacinth is usually solely a source of humour, whereas Maureen also gains readers’ sympathy.  Yes, readers laugh at her and cringe at her behaviour, but they also realise she hurts beneath the surface.  I try to keep readers on their toes.  One minute you may be laughing out loud at Maureen’s expense, but the next you may feel guilty for doing so.  She is a figure of farce but she still has real emotions.

Why did you decide to publish Maureen goes to Venice yourself?

There is a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained by writing and publishing your own work.  Self-publishing on Amazon has been an amazing step forward for authors and it delights me every time someone downloads a copy of my work.

Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

I have quite a few unreleased short stories which I want to publish in a sequel to my first book of shorts, ECLECTIC: Ten Very Different Tales.  That has taken a back seat to Maureen at the moment, though; she is one demanding lady!  I have been overwhelmed and humbled by readers’ reactions to my disaster-prone character, and as long as readers keep clamouring for more Maureen, I will write it!  At the end of A Letter for Maureen, my latest book, Maureen’s life changed dramatically.  A new life lies ahead for her and that is what I’m working on at the moment!

Visit Jonathan Hill's author page on Amazon for details of all his books.

Read my review of Maureen goes to Venice

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Review | Maureen Goes to Venice | Jonathan Hill

I first met Maureen when she was visiting an Art Exhibition in Jonathan Hill's collection of short stories Eclectic. There she was a rather charming but hapless lady of mature years who was endearing although slightly ridiculous. On her trip to Venice her less endearing characteristics come to the fore and her egotistical behaviour is more developed.

That said, Maureen Goes to Venice is a very funny book and some of the predicaments she finds herself in verge on farce; although her final encounter with William takes a more serious turn. Maureen's trip to Venice is of short duration and the book whizzes along at a good pace trying to keep up with Maureen as she attempts to enjoy her holiday.

The book presents a fascinating picture of Venice that is portrayed both on and off the tourist track. The author must know Venice very well or has done some good research. There are several short descriptive passages which show the writer's ability to evoke scenes and atmospheres.

The book is peopled with a cast of minor characters who are given personalities by the author's eye for quirky details and succinct comments. I won't say anything about William, not wishing to reveal anything about the plot, other than he is so obnoxious you feel sorry for Maureen.

There are some scenes which make you laugh aloud most notably the cat and fish episode; although even while you're laughing you still feel sorry for poor Maureen. The author makes fun of Maureen without being cruel; he writes about her eccentricities without caricature; and he takes the reader into the deeper and darker aspects of Maureen's personality with a deft, light touch.

Jonathan Hill has written another book about Maureen: A Letter for Maureen. I have downloaded it and am looking forward to seeing how the character develops and how she behaves on her home ground. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, I was impressed when I read Eclectic and if you haven't read any of Jonathan Hill's writing that's a good place to start. But if you want a good, humorous, enjoyable read then just go with Maureen to Venice; I'm sure you will enjoy the trip.

Link to Maureen Goes To Venice amazon uk amazon usa

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Review | Whole Lotta Love | David Harris Wilson

The blurb of Whole Lotta Love tells you that the novel is a contemporary re-imagining of a Dickens novel which has been re-set in the 1980s of Margaret Thatcher's Britain.

The protagonist is Brian Sinclair who is drawn from his dull, monotonous life of beer, leather jackets and 'Metal' into the world of organised crime. His motivation - to try and impress a girl he hardly knows.

As you read the novel, which we are told is Brian's attempt at catharsis, you are drawn with him into a world of underclass morals and behaviours. You first get to know his unappealing and slobbish circle of friends which he re-places as the novel goes on with another circle of equally unappealing but increasingly dangerous friends.

In some ways, the narrative stretches credulity but the structure of the novel gives it a plausible grounding which makes you want to read on. As Brian explains in the opening pages he is going to write it all down to get it out of his head. He also has a set of cassette tapes that are going to help him do just that which are transcribed intermittently throughout the novel. This device works well to move the story on and to offer alternative perspectives to what's going on.

There are several aspects of the 1980s which are explored in the novel. These include the gentrification of run-down areas, boy-racers, police corruption and governmental attitudes towards society. This creates a well developed sense of where and when the novel is taking place and contributes to building up the characters that feature in the book.

I particularly enjoyed the boy-racer aspects of Whole Lotta Love. I'm sure the details are accurate; they feel very authentic anyway and make Brian into a much more interesting character who may well have got into the difficulties he does because of his need for excitement.

Once again, author David Harris Wilson has told a good yarn with some unusual aspects and details. I've already read his other novels and am impressed that each one is so different from the others. I still think Tales of Johan is his best novel but Whole Lotta Love is well worth a look.

Some while ago Mr Harris Wilson contributed an author interview to my blog and said that he was working on his next novel The Plain of Jars. Well, I hope he's making good progress because I for one am looking forward to reading it.

LINK to David Harris Wilson's author page on Amazon

Indie Bookworm interview with David Harris Wilson

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