My review of Don’t Close Your Eyes, by Holly Seddon

Dont-Close-Your-Eyes_cover-208x300

For those of you who follow this blog, you may remember having read my review of Holly’s first novel, Try Not to Breathe, back in January 2016. As with her first novel, Don’t Close Your Eyes is a fast-paced, gripping psychological thriller filled with surprises you won’t see coming, but which make perfect sense in light of the story and characters.

Though twins, Robin and Sarah had very little in common growing up in the small village of Birch End, near Reading. Robin was outspoken, rowdy and wild while Sarah was eager to please and the picture of propriety. Still, almost despite themselves, the sisters were close. Then, one day, a new boy shows up at their school—Callum Granger. Sarah immediately gets a crush on him and before long Callum is fast friends with both Robin and Sarah. Shortly thereafter, their parents meet, and also become good friends. Before the kids know it they’re spending all their weekends together at one or the other of their houses. From there events spiral in a way that no one could have foreseen.

Now adults, Robin and Sarah live very different lives, in separate parts of the country. Robin, an ex-musician, lives alone in a flat in Manchester while Sarah lives with her partner and daughter in a house in Godalming, Surrey. But neither of their lives is going well. Robin suffers from severe agoraphobia, making it almost impossible for her to leave her home. Meanwhile, Sarah is facing an almost unbelievable turn of events in her relationship—her partner, Jim, has declared her unfit to look after their child and is taking their daughter away to be cared for by his parents. Powerless, Sarah leaves her home and checks into a B & B, hoping to somehow come up with a plan to regain custody of her daughter.

The story is told alternately between the adult and child versions of Robin and Sarah. This generally works well to both speed the story along and to give a full picture of their lives.  However, there were a few places where it felt like the author was flitting between them and it would have been nice to settle in just a bit more with each character before moving on. Of course, upon reflection, this unsettling effect is likely what Holly Seddon was aiming for when she chose to structure and pace her novel in this way.

Don’t Close your Eyes is an insightful and thoroughly disquieting read from a masterful storyteller.

On-Sale-1-940x940

Don’t Close Your Eyes is published by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books and is available from Amazon and all good bookstores.

You can follow Holly on Twitter at: @HollySeddon

Like her page on Facebook: Facebook/HollySeddonAuthor

Or visit her website: http://hollyseddon.com/

 

 

Where She Will Shine by Sylvia Anderson

Today I’m featuring Fiona Maclean who writes under the pen name of Sylvia Anderson. Her first novel, Where She Will Shine, was self-published in April. Here’s the blurb:

Where She Will Shine is a contemporary literary work of fiction which concerns the life of a student, Mary MacDonald, in 1960s Scotland. It is a vibrant tale full of contrasts, colour and excitement. When Mary leaves the croft for the “big city” of Glasgow she meets individuals who will change her life forever. Her life is lonely and raw at the start until she meets David Cochrane, who has a life hidden from his mother, but Mary falls in love with him – her first “real love”. 

In the late sixties, the Beatles were in full swing and dance halls were popular as meeting places for young people. It was the generation of full employment and the post war “baby boomers” had a satisfying life. The characters in the book, however, battle with issues which were as topical then as they are now – coming of age, student life, parenthood, rape and homosexuality.

Fiona has written a lovely post about her inspiration for writing Where She Will Shine and, also, her characters. So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Fiona.

IMG_2762

“My inspiration for my work, Where She Will Shine, came from a visit to a First World War Monument in Perth, Scotland.  The brave war heroes remembered, sacrificed their lives so that the youth of today could shine and make the world a better place.

I enjoyed my student years, for it was a world that my parents had not had the chance to experience.  I’m a ‘Baby Boomer’ and echoes of the war years were still around whilst I grew up – poor housing; austerity; rationing.  I wrote the novel for folk in a similar position, who cherished the chance to ‘shine’ and for others to see inside the emotional head of a first-year student in 1968.

Life could be tough for my eighteen-year-old protagonist, Mary, but it is never as hard as the life of Alice, the waif she befriends in Glasgow and whom she helps to move on and make her life a success.

Mary was an only child – when I think about it, my best friend when I was growing up was an only child and I did envy her having her parents all to herself – I was one of five.  She had a totally different life to mine with extremely caring parents who catered to her every need – be it the beautiful food she ate; her immaculate school uniforms and shoes (mine were hand me downs) or lovely skating dresses (we met at the local ice rink).

I have met poor teenagers like Alice in my work as an Occupational Therapist and always felt pity.  Despite Alice’s brave and gauche front, she longs to be looked after by ‘proper’ parents like Ruaridh and Mhairi.  In the end, this happens to her and she has a good life after a deprived and unsupported beginning.

I have never lived on the west coast of Scotland but have had many holidays there.  It is my favourite place in the whole of Scotland.  Breathtakingly beautiful white beaches and mountains covered with beautiful flowers, make it a place to relax and enjoy nature.  Mary belonged to such a place and it gave her, ‘an ache in her heart’ when she thought of it.  One can imagine the change in her lifestyle when she arrived in Glasgow in 1968 into a student world of riot; the end of the Vietnam War; an intolerance of everything ‘old’ and conmen and women (Jimmy and Yvonne) on every street corner. 

Where She Will Shine is my first novel. I enjoyed writing it and was greatly motivated by ‘The Writing Classes,’ which I joined when I moved to Kuala Lumpur in 2014.  My tutor, Anne Hamilton, was particularly inspiring.  This was a great experience for the other writers commented on everything one wrote and I looked forward to every Monday, for a new exercise.  Kuala Lumpur is a city of very poor and very rich, like most cities in Asia.  I communicated largely with other ex-patriot wives who had gone out there with their partners to support them.  In the sunshine, every day we would walk and talk in the KLCC Park under the Petronas Towers.  It was a magical time and amongst the ex-pat women (forty-four of them), I had understanding, tolerant friends.  I miss them!”

Many thanks for that, Fiona. It’s always delightful to hear about the success of new writers, especially fellow alumni of writingclasses. I’m looking forward to reading Where She Will Shine!

512fepN6X5L

Where She Will Shine is available as an ebook from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Where-Will-Shine-Sylvia-Anderson-ebook/dp/B06Y98WTQ4

 

My review of Dogged Optimism: Lessons in Joy from a Disaster Prone Dog, a memoir, by Belinda Pollard

Dogged Optimism book cover

I say to Mum, “What do you think? It’s not as if I’m going to buy a puppy today. But you can cuddle one, I’ll buy you some coffee and cake, and then you can come back home for a nap.” She smiles. A glance passes between her and Dad.

When Belinda decided to adopt her first dog, she had no idea what she was in for. Killarney Karinya, named by Belinda for two special places she visited as a child, was an old-fashioned Australian terrier and the runt of her litter. While Belinda had grown up with dogs, she had never raised a puppy of her own. In this delightful memoir, Belinda recounts the difficult but happy years they shared together and how her time with Killarney changed her outlook on life.

Belinda relates several experiences which any pet owner may be familiar with, such as when she worried about Killarney’s health, her concerns about Killarney’s behaviour and training, and the many unexpected messes she suddenly found herself responsible for cleaning up. She also relates several incidents which won’t be familiar to most pet owners as they were unique to her life in Brisbane, Australia–an area known for its deadly reptiles and amphibians. Belinda talks about chasing poisonous cane toads around her yard, in an effort to keep them from getting near her beloved Killarney, who liked to chew on them, and calling the vet on numerous occasions due to Killarney’s being bitten by poisonous snakes. Of course, over time, Belinda learned to strike just the right balance between keeping Killarney safe and letting her learn her own lessons. And Belinda and Killarney had a lot of fun together too, spending time with family, making new friends and having new life experiences. Along the way, Belinda learned to accept the eccentricities of Killarney and the unpredictable nature of life itself.

Belinda’s memoir is heartfelt, funny and, occasionally, sad but it’s ultimately uplifting. Dogged Optimism will resonate with pet owners everywhere, regardless of species.

You can purchase Dogged Optimism as an ebook or in paperback from Amazon.

In the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dogged-Optimism-Lessons-Joy-Disaster-Prone-ebook/dp/B018VVJ7KS/

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/Dogged-Optimism-Lessons-Joy-Disaster-Prone-ebook/dp/B018VVJ7KS/

Follow Belinda on Twitter: 

Check out her website: http://www.belindapollard.com/

The Third Note by Virginia King

Being a big fan of the Selkie Moon Mystery series, I was delighted when Virginia offered to let me be involved with the editing of book 3, The Third Note. Of course, I said I’d love to. One of the great pleasures of editing is being able to appreciate a book on a deeper level. Watching the story develop and take flight was a privilege. Getting to read it again later, as a regular reader would, only enhanced the experience.

The Third Note Cover Final Art 01

My Review

There’s a pattern here—the losing and the finding take me on incredible journeys of discovery. Things I need to know about myself. It’s what happened when I lost my memory and had to travel across the world to get it back. I mustn’t forget what I discovered then: that the answers are in my own heart.

Virginia King weaves a mystical web of suspense, psychic intuition and self-discovery in The Third Note. With Selkie now attempting to settle in Hawaii, her great-grandmother Bridie’s much delayed parcel comes as a huge surprise to her.  Why did Bridie wait until 35 years after her death to send it to her, and what is the significance of her mysterious gift? While Selkie knows that Bridie was Irish, she doesn’t know why she left Ireland nor why she chose Selkie as the recipient.

When Selkie meets up with her old friend Davina, she asks Selkie to accompany her on a trip to Ireland—Davina’s birthplace. Davina has secrets of her own which need investigating. Selkie figures it’s the perfect opportunity to do some research into her own family history.  What she finds will both shock her and have far reaching repercussions.

Exploring the idea that our past affects our present far more than we realise, The Third Note is a chilling, yet thoughtful, page turner with a good dose of humour thrown in to lighten things up.

If you enjoyed the first two books in the Selkie Moon Mystery series, then you’ll love The Third Note. In fact, even if you didn’t read the first two books in the series, chances are you’ll be fascinated enough by book 3 that you’ll want to go back and read them too. Oh yes, and, did I mention there’s a free prequel available on Virginia’s website?

The Third Note is available from Amazon.

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XT31XD3/

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XT31XD3/

You can purchase the first two novels in the Selkie Moon Mystery series from Amazon.

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Virginia-King/e/B00K2N9AGK/

US: https://www.amazon.com/Virginia-King/e/B00K2N9AGK/

Download Laying Ghosts, the free prequel to the Selkie Moon Mystery series here: http://www.selkiemoon.com/laying-ghosts/

Check out Virginia’s website to learn more about the series and Virginia’s writing: http://www.selkiemoon.com/

Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selkiemoonmysteries/

Follow her on Twitter: @selkiemoonbooks

 

My Review of Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: Extraordinary Journeys into the Human Brain by Allan Ropper & B.D. Burrell

41GViXvrBoL

“A confused person behaves in a way so foreign to common experience that it can be unnerving, even for professionals. It is an alternate state of being.”

Allan Ropper explores these many various states of being in his fascinating memoir of his days as an eminent neurologist at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. From investigating the effects of transient global amnesia—a dramatic, temporary memory loss—to differing treatments for Lou Gehrig’s disease and Parkinson’s, to the extreme and unpredictable results of various forms of brain surgery and everything in between, this is an absorbing exploration of an underappreciated area of medicine.

Ropper focuses on the patients he meets, as well as his quirky co-workers. These come across almost as characters in a good novel. There’s patient Godfrey, a 55-year-old man who drives all the way from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Boston, Massachusetts before getting stuck on a rotary (roundabout) for nearly an hour before being pulled over by a traffic officer and sent to the emergency room. Then there’s Gordon, a 67-year-old bowling alley manager who loses his job due to increasing periods of confusion, one of which leads him to forget to turn up at work.  When Gordon discovers that his boss has fired him, he decides to take a walk to blow off steam. Having lived in the same small town his entire life, he’s shocked to find the streets becoming unfamiliar. Assisting Ropper in his diagnoses is his ever-capable senior resident, Hannah and the intensely knowledgeable (and very facetious) neurologist Elliot.

Reminiscent of Oliver Sacks’s captivating The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Allan Ropper is remarkable in that he learned about neurological disorders and disease not from utilising state-of-the-art technology—which, of course, is crucial in diagnosing and treating neurological conditions–but from watching and listening to his patients, even when many around him were convinced that those patients were speaking nonsense. It is precisely because Ropper listened to his patients that he was able to write this book.

Although some of the stories in the book are sad, just as many are hopeful and have happy endings, of sorts. Through his study of the brain, Ropper investigates the basis of who we are and what makes us human. What is frightening is how close we all are to falling down our own personal rabbit holes.

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: Extraordinary Journeys into the Human Brain is available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reaching-Down-Rabbit-Hole-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B00LRHW99U/

My review of The Flower Angel by Katrina Hart

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! To celebrate, I’m featuring my review of Katrina Hart’s latest romance novella, The Flower Angel. Some of you may remember that her book featured on my blog a couple of months ago. If you missed it, you can view that post here: https://kendraolson.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/the-flower-angel-by-katrina-hart/

3d_-3-final-cover

“Have you ever made a choice in a moment of complete panic and lived every day since praying you could go back and make it right? But you know you can’t, even when the present blurs with the past in your mind?”

The Flower Angel is a heartwarming story of love and forgiveness which is perfect for cuddling up with on a cold winter’s day.

When Chris checks into the charmingly quaint Forget-Me-Not-Inn for the weekend, he’s doubtful he’ll find love, even though the inn’s brochure promises he will. His well-meaning friends convinced him to take a much-needed break and see if he couldn’t find time for a little romance in his life. Since his girlfriend broke up with him and he found himself at the centre of a distressing car accident, he’s been plagued by nightmares and constant anxiety. All he remembers of the accident is seeing a young woman lying in the road, the blue forget-me-not-flowers he’d been bringing to his girlfriend now strewn across this stranger’s chest.

Meanwhile, Lara has also checked into Forget-Me-Not-Inn, hoping to forget the trauma of her car accident and the devastation it’s inflicted on her life. After her accident she’d spent several weeks in a coma and had to move back into her parents’ house as she couldn’t manage on her own. Lara can’t understand why the man who knocked her down couldn’t so much as apologise to her—she knows he all but disappeared afterward and his seeming indifference to her suffering infuriates her.

Of course, soon after checking in, Chris and Lara discover each other and begin to fall in love. But when Lara discovers that it was Chris who hurt her so badly, she is conflicted and finds it difficult to forgive him. Will the magic of Forget-Me-Not-Inn prevail?

Besides the lovely romance in the story, I enjoyed watching Chris and Lara learn to conquer their fears and come to terms with the events of their past. Featuring characters who suffer from anxiety and the  after-effects of traumatic brain injury, The Flower Angel presents a refreshing, fantasy-filled twist on the age-old notion of finding one’s soul mate in the most unlikely of places.

The Flower Angel is available as an ebook and a paperback. You can obtain the paperback from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrina-Hart/dp/1540629341/

The ebook is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

To check out more of Katrina Hart’s novels and novellas, visit her Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Katrina-Hart/e/B013KPPUGK/

A new home for my Developmental Editing Service

Some of you may have noticed that my Developmental Editing Service page has now moved. I’ve decided to give it a home of its own and to keep this blog as a space dedicated to my writing and book reviewing.

You can visit my new website at: https://kendraolsoneditorial.com/

Besides my own editing service, I’ve listed a few other services I recommend for new authors. I’d love it if you visited  and let me know your thoughts. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’d better get back to my book reviewing–it’s been awhile!