My Review of Violet by Leslie Tate, the third book in his Lavender Blues: Three Shades of Love trilogy

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They picked at the contents, one by one. The nuts came in all sizes; they were whole, lightly roasted and unsalted. Dipping and munching, they shared what they had.

When fifty-year-old café owner Beth Jarvis, divorced and with children, finds herself on a blind date, she wonders what it is she’s doing. Due to her nervousness she’s arrived at the restaurant far too early and now can only watch and wait while other diners arrive,  staring at the door, wondering when—and if—James will show up. Biding her time, Beth sips her wine as she sifts through the letters he’s sent her. Will the real-life version of James be as good-natured and charming?

After James arrives, they share stories over a platter of Indian food. Later that night, Beth is, quite literally, swept off her feet as they dance.  Not wanting the evening to end, they draw it out for as long as possible. When it finally comes time for them to part, they promise to meet again, and soon.

As Beth and James are getting to know each other, they realise that they share very different pasts. James was raised in Chester-le-Street, in Durham, to working class parents. His father worked on the railways and considered himself a revolutionary, of sorts. Later James moved to London, where he married and had children. He works as a gardener and prides himself on seeing the beauty in life. Beth, on the other hand, had an almost idyllic rural childhood, and later married a minister with whom she has two daughters. Her gentle, caring nature means she follows her heart. While this tendency has led her into James’ arms, it’s also meant that she’s sometimes been taken unawares in life. How Beth and James come together as a couple is the focus of the story.

Violet is an empathetic and skilfully crafted exploration of modern day love. It is also a study in character, and the ways in which a character changes, and is changed by, their experience of relationships. The story is written in a non-linear fashion, moving backward and forward through time, showing Beth from different angles and points in her personal history. The narrative is experimental in style, with some sections written in text-speak and including the letters James and Beth shared. This challenged my perceptions, making me pay closer attention to the writing.  Tate’s in-depth exploration of Beth’s character allowed me to draw my own conclusions about her past and present. This made for an enjoyable and refreshing reading experience.

Violet is the third in Tate’s Lavender Blues trilogy, exploring three generations of the Lavender family and their experiences of love in its many forms. The novel stands alone—indeed, I have yet to read the first two books. The first two books are Purple and Blue. You can read about them here: https://leslietate.com/lavender-blues-three-shades-of-love/

Violet is available to purchase from Leslie Tate’s website: https://leslietate.com/shop/violet/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Violet-Lavender-Blues-Three-Shades-ebook/dp/B07BNR37XK/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Violet-Lavender-Blues-Three-Shades-ebook/dp/B07BNR37XK/

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My Review of The Adventures of Shifting Jack: New Friends, by Denise Ersalahi Erguler

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…the prophecy began ringing in Militis’ ears: the most gifted will rule next, one to guard and protect, one to rule, both bound by blood. None shall stand in their way, they will suffer great injustices, great grievance. But they shall rise in times of peril. Shifters will unite.

Jack and Lily Legend live in North Cyprus, with their mother, Linda, and their father, Militis. On the surface, they look like any other family, but beneath their ordinary veneer, they are avian shapeshifters with a mission to help protect animals and the environment.

When Jack and Lily decide to take a boat ride one afternoon with their teacher, Mr Gardener, Lily discovers dead fish floating on the surface of the sea. Hoping to practice her magical, healing powers, Lily leans in for a closer look. Just as she does, the boat rocks, knocking her overboard. Lily gasps for breath and tries to reach the surface of the water but becomes entangled with a giant squid. Unable to free herself, a friendly dolphin comes to her assistance. What Lily discovers next will come as a huge surprise.

A richly imaginative fantasy adventure for children, The Adventures of Shifting Jack: New Friends features the familiar Jack and Lily Legend from book 1 in the series, The Adventures of Shifting Jack: A New Home. This is a delightful story underpinned by an educational message about the importance of taking care of nature and each other. Children will enjoy getting to know Jack and Lily Legend and all their friends, both old and new. Adults will also enjoy this tale of bravery, determination and camaraderie between adults and children set in the unique location of North Cyprus.

The Adventures of Shifting Jack: New Friends is the second, and final, book in the Shifting Jack series. Although the books would, ideally, be read in order, each can equally be enjoyed on its own. For more about The Adventures of Shifting Jack: A New Home, see my interview with Denise about the book, published last year. At the end of the interview, you’ll find my review of book 1.

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For those that read that interview, you’ll know that at the time of writing The Adventures of Shifting Jack: New Friends, Denise was battling a rare form of brain cancer. Sadly, she lost that fight in January of this year.

The Adventures of Shifting Jack: New Friends is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adventures-Shifting-Jack-New-Friends-ebook/dp/B0771N81BF/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Shifting-Jack-New-Friends-ebook/dp/B0771N81BF/

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About the Author

The Adventures of Shifting Jack: New Friends has been published posthumously. Author Denise Ersalahi Erguler fought a courageous battle with a rare form of brain cancer for 13 months. This, the second in the series of Shifting Jack books, was written after Denise was diagnosed in December 2015 and bears testament to her courage, determination and great story-telling ability. Denise leaves behind a husband, Olkan, and two young children, who inspired her to write her children’s books.

Denise Ersalahi Erguler was born and raised in Hackney, London and moved to North Cyprus in 1994 with her family where she studied Interior Design at a local university for four years. She then pursued a career in this field in London working for various designer companies at the peak of the industry. In 2005 setup her own interior design company.

In 2007, Denise left her successful business in London behind and moved back to North Cyprus to help grow her family business, Mermaid Fabrics of London in Kyrenia. This decision was made upon the belief that she would be closer to home and family for support in bringing up her child in a safe environment.

Denise began writing in 2010. In her stories, she used real life characters and stories evolving around her to build her fantasy world giving us the opportunity to share her dream world.

Also by Denise:

The Adventure of Shifting Jack: A New Home, which won the Children’s book award at the Radio WORKS Author Awards, London, December 2016.

The Essence, an adult Sci-fi novel.

 

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

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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.

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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/