Thanks to Jaye Marie and Anita Dawes for this great review of my suspense story ‘A House Without Windows’.
Dr Beth Nichols thinks she has been held captive by Edwin Evans for about 8 or 9 years now. Amidst her grief she often looks back and thinks about her fiancé Liam. She lies awake at night staring at the one light bulb that is never switched off, and prays that Liam is still out there somewhere searching for her.
This is an incredibly sad yet powerful, well written story.
One that will shred your nerves and try repeatedly to break your heart.
Most of us couldn’t begin to imagine what happens to Beth, or how she manages to cope with it all and remain sane.
I don’t think I would have, for simply reading this story has left scars on my emotions. You keep telling yourself it is fiction and didn’t really happen, but we know only too well that it does. This story is probably far…
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Rejection is not new, as John Keats, had he lived today, could verify. Stung by harsh criticism of his work during his short lifetime of only 25 years, the following words (not even his name) are etched on his tombstone in Rome’s Protestant cemetery:
‘This grave contains all that was mortal of a young English poet, who on his deathbed in the bitterness of his heart at the malicious power of his enemies, desired these words to be engraven on his tombstone: Here lies one whose name was writ in water. February 24th 1821.’
I only discovered this whilst reading Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’, which are essays containing the speeches she gave to students at Girton College, Cambridge in the 1920s. The main subject matter of these essays is Women and Fiction, but as you can see she does deviate somewhat…
Virginia Woolf stated that for a woman to be able to write fiction, she must have a room of her own and £500 per year, which of course was a lot of money in her time. Her aunt had left her this selfsame legacy and she had a room of her own, but she bewailed the fate of females from a lesser social class. These women were poor and controlled by men, reduced to being mere servants and childminders and had no time whatsoever to themselves and no chance of ever writing a poem, let alone a novel.
The middle classes fared rather better, although Jane Austen had no room of her own and had to hide the manuscript of Pride and Prejudice under a blotter for fear of being ridiculed. Charlotte Bronte complained of having to mend stockings when she wanted to travel all over the world. Female authors such as these met much criticism in their lifetimes and the Bronte sisters even had to publish their work using male pseudonyms to have their writing taken seriously.
Noblewomen had the time and money to write poetry, but even Lady Winchilsea was not happy writing poetry, controlled by men stopping her from doing what she wanted to do, and knowing she would be laughed at and satirised as a ‘blue-stocking’ if her poetry came to light. Noblewomen were expected just to write letters, not novels.
The essays are quite fascinating, and the book, a classic, was actually free on Amazon. The lives of women have improved now to the extent where many female authors do have their writing taken seriously, but still many are passed off as lightweight for writing about what they know… family sagas, relationships and romance.
I would agree with Ms Woolf that women do need a good income and a space for them to write in peace, ideally without domestic interruptions. Wordsworth was notorious for entering his house by the back door to avoid ‘domestic issues’. Quite often these days women, like myself, earn an income by working and writing novels in their spare time. However, women today will write whatever their circumstances if the urge takes them. Yes, many might be rejected by agents and publishers, but at least they have the strength of mind to carry on regardless.
Did a room of her own and an income of £500 per year make Virginia Woolf happy? No it didn’t; she drowned herself in 1941 after suffering another bout of mental illness. However, she left a wonderful body of work that will be read for decades to come. Do have a read of her Girton essays if you have some peace in a room of your own! A recommended 5 star read.
They say that every now and then it’s a good idea to get out of your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done before. Dawne Archer certainly did this, when she and an old school friend decided to sign up for a trek across the Sahara Desert to raise funds for Thrombosis UK. Dawne has Factor V Leiden, which means she is more susceptible to blood clots/ deep vein thrombosis, having inherited the gene from both parents (her father died from a blood clot to the lung). She had already suffered a life-threatening thrombosis in her twenties, but now in her fifties she also has other health issues that made her wonder whether in reality she would be able to complete the trek.
With the health problems Dawne had at the time, I would never have even contemplated such an arduous task, but this lady had true grit and a grim determination not to let down her sponsors (all proceeds of the book’s sale go to Thrombosis UK). She and her friend set off with a support team and other more experienced trekkers to discover just what it’s like to walk across the shifting sands of the Sahara Desert in broiling heat. Whether or not she completed the trek you will have to find out for yourself, but the writing is such that you can imagine yourself actually there in amongst the heat, sand, scorpions, blisters, and the endless desert vista stretching for mile after sandy mile.
A recommended 5 star read. Kudos to Ms Archer for having the guts to do something as strenuous as this!
It’s nice to read about a rock star who is down-to-earth, kind, shy and generous. Mick Ronson, guitarist extraordinaire, was all of these things according to his friends and family – just a northern boy from Hull who happened to have a great talent and was in the right place at the right time.
Weird and Gilly took 5 years to interview Mick’s family, friends and ex band members. The book is a bit tedious in places with copious details about band break-ups and gigs performed, and I’d rather have read more about Mick’s life as a son, father, husband and brother. However, there were a few funny stories, especially the time when Mick, sunburnt and sore, decided to go for a swim in a chlorine-filled pool. He’d just dyed his hair platinum blond, but the chlorine reacted with the dye and turned his hair green. That coupled with his red sunburnt body caused must have caused many strange looks at the time!
The common denominator to all these successful musicians is obviously an exceptional talent, and much motivation and desire to make music their chosen career. Mick’s mother noticed his talent even at the age of 2, but as with many families his strict father wanted him to get a ‘proper job’, causing much bad feeling between them. Having raised two sons myself, I realised some time ago that we have to let our children seek their own paths in life. Mick tried his hand at being a mobile grocer and also a gardener to try and please his father, but it was inevitably to music that he would eventually turn.
I never did get to see Mick play live with David Bowie, and he died too early from liver cancer in 1993 at the age of only 46. However, friends and family paid tribute to his positive outlook, lack of complaining, and his certainty that he would beat the illness. His wife is also writing a book about him, and I look forward to reading it.
I’ve given this book 3 stars.
I always enjoy Jim’s farming stories, as he has a way of telling a tale that is entertaining but informative at the same time. I’ve learned a lot about sheep, cattle and working dogs while reading this book, and always wondered how on earth a sheepdog learns to do what it does – but I know now that a new dog will learn from an old one as well as from his master.
There were a few chuckles too, particularly at how Jim dealt with unwanted salespeople. There were a couple of shocks regarding how the price of cattle has decreased over the years, and also sadly how the number of UK dairy farms has dropped from 196,000 in 1950 to about 10,000 now.
Jim has spent his whole life farming and has acquired a wealth of knowledge, some of which he shares in this delightful book. I have given it 5 stars. Do check it out the free preview below:
Dr Theodore Dalrymple is a very witty man, averse to committees, legal jargon, social workers, prisoners, and tattoos. To earn his living he meters out advice and prescriptions in inner-city London to Britain’s uneducated and tattooed underclass, of which he has a healthy disdain for. This blackly humorous book could be viewed by some as depressing, but in my opinion it shouldn’t be read in public because it could cause sudden outbursts of laughter, the kind that makes you the unwelcome object of attention on a train for instance.
This doctor is rather world-weary. He’s seen it all and nothing surprises him. Here’s a little taster from Amazon:
“One day a man came to consult me.
He was extremely large – what failed dieters call ‘big-boned’ – and very fat. He lost no time in telling me he was diabetic.
‘Do you smoke?’ I asked.
‘Like a chimney,’ he replied.
He was completely unrepentant, so refreshingly different from all those snivelling wheedlers with hangdog expressions who give you a long story about how they nearly gave up but then their budgerigar died. I got the picture at once.
‘And of course, you drink like a fish,’ I said.
‘Like a fish,’ he replied.
‘Dieting is out of the question?’ I continued, with mounting admiration.
‘Completely, I love butter and cream, and meat with fat on it, and rich sauces.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’m sure you know the risks better than I, so I’m not going to lecture you. But if you invite me to dinner, I shall come.’
5 stars from me, and thoroughly recommended for those who enjoy darkly humorous books. These stories are true too, which in my opinion makes it even better!
Just as I like to read true stories, I also enjoy watching films about events that have actually happened. Yesterday I watched such a film – ‘Edie‘. Edie was filmed in 2016 and starred the then 83 year old Sheila Hancock, who played the inspirational Edith Moore, a lady who tackled the hardest mountain to climb in Scotland (731 metres) – Mount Suilven, when she was 83 years old.
Edie, a recent widow, had spent years caring for her controlling husband George, and to relieve her humdrum life she often harked back to climbing adventures she’d had with her father. After Edie’s daughter began to make care home investigations, Edie decided to have one last fling and climb Mount Suilven as a tribute to her father.
It’s a truly inspirational film, and Edie is a very determined lady. However, she needs help with equipment and finding a route. Help comes in the form of a young local, Jonny. Their relationship gets off on the wrong foot at first, and he is sure that Edie is too old to make the climb. When he sees how determined Edie is to climb the mountain, his opinion of her as a silly old woman begins to change.
Edie does try to climb the mountain, and in attempting such an ordeal finds out just how much she can endure. To find out if she succeeds, you’ll have to watch the film!
Sheila Hancock gained my admiration too, as filming must have been a very physical effort for her.
The other inspirational film I watched over the weekend was ‘Adrift’, another true story of the resilience of the human spirit. True life sailors Tami Oldham (played by Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (played by Sam Claiflin) take on the paid job of sailing a friend’s boat back to the USA, but on the way the boat is damaged beyond repair by a hurricane. In the aftermath of the storm, Tami and Richard are badly injured, and the boat is adrift without communication in open seas that have no shipping lanes.
Forty one days later the boat is still adrift. Stocks of food and water have almost run out, and survival is now the name of the game. However, there is one hell of a surprise ending that I really didn’t see coming.
Both films kept my interest throughout. The human spirit is really quite remarkable!
I was interested to read Karen Ingalls’ story, as I am a cancer survivor myself, and also my dear aunt succumbed to ovarian cancer back in 2012, the year when Karen wrote her story.
Although obviously initially traumatised at her diagnosis, it is Karen’s optimism and positive attitude which outshines her cancer in this book. Only about 50% of patients survive the Stage II cancer that she had, but instead of the usual ‘why me?’ questions, Karen learns that acceptance of her condition is the beginning of the healing process. Karen tells us that ‘cancer cannot invade the soul’, and she is right. She had the good fortune, as I did (and still do), to have support from a loving husband and family. She also found strength to carry on through her faith in God.
Ovarian cancer is sometimes called the ‘silent killer’ because for some there are next to no symptoms initially until the cancer has advanced. Karen underwent radical surgery , just as I did, the effects of which are lifelong. She also endured chemotherapy. Cancer is not an easy foe to slay, but she is still here to tell her tale, just as I am.
The check-ups and scans are nail-biting. Every day we have to live with the possibility of the cancer returning, but in the meantime… life is for living! It’s the only way to cope with such a debilitating disease.
5 stars for Karen Ingalls’ inspirational writing!
You can read an excerpt from Karen’s book below:
Thanks to Sally Cronin for the shout-out, and to Robbie Cheadle for the great review of ‘A House Without Windows’.