Monday, 29 February 2016

The Blogger and The Independent Press by The Mole

On Friday 26th February we attended an event at Nottingham Writers' Studio entitled "The Only Way Is Indie". After coming away I started to digest everything we heard and felt that I, as a blogger, had a small voice to be heard in all of this.

The event was attended by various writers (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoirs etc) and small independent presses of various genres, ages, and sizes - the idea being for independent presses to put their case for submission of work to them.

One of the benefits of it has to be that the small independent is prepared to take a risk if they think that the book is really worthwhile as against the big five publishers who want "safe bets".

As reviewers we have no aspirations to writing and we do it because reading is one of the things we enjoy doing and it's from that, neutral, perspective that I am trying to express myself.

I want to address writers here as much as anything because we see a lot of books from authors of all types:- self and vanity publishing, small independent presses as well as the big five.

So you have a story, you've written it up and you've had friends and family read it and give you an honest opinion... or have you? Does your partner really believe in you and when they say "Well, it needs more work" are they really frightened that if they let you believe it's fantastic, should it fail they don't want to have that failure held against them? And the inverse of that - they tell you it's great but every publisher sends a rejection? And that goes for friends and other family members. Can you really get an HONEST opinion from them?

We receive many review requests from authors and the first thing we check is who has published it. Is it self published? Now that in itself is not a reason to reject a book - we have read quite a few self published books that were very good. Brilliant? Rarely, but maybe with work they could have been better. And proof editing... this is a subject that I find can stop me reading a book and self published books can be terrible for it. I read one for which I prepared a list of about 30 common errors - not a definitive list - and sent it the author who was very nice about it but went quiet for a while. They then came back to me and told me that he had found a product on the web that he submitted his manuscript to and it found all of mine plus more - yet he thought it was proof read. Essentially it had been a good book unlike others that were never finished and polite emails were sent explaining that "we couldn't get on with it". We are now wary about self published but we still consider them when time allows.

When you submit your manuscript to a small indie and it's taken up they are putting their money and their reputation on the line and so will work hard with you to make it as good as they can. They will have read it with an independent eye and will believe in its potential at the very start but be prepared to listen and be involved in the necessary edits and suggested changes that they raise - don't be prissy for the sake of it.

When a request comes in to us as reviewers and is published by an independent press the first thing we do is check whether we have read anything from that press before - and did we like it? And this is another point that was made at the event:- read some things from the indie that you plan on submitting to and see if (a) you like what they print and (b) if what you've written is in the same genre. If you are convinced that they are right for you then READ their submissions policy and follow it. These small presses generally have day jobs and really don't want their time wasting - and yes they generally are just one or two people.

We know quite a few indies who we like to think of as friends and I'm sure that their published authors do too. It's a great relationship for everyone BUT at the end of the day that indie, that PERSON, is putting their money into your book so please respect that. But friends or not we will always endeavour to publish an HONEST review - recently I suggested an author take the main character out for a drink and get to know them better.

Now our relationship to indies... we support indies wherever possible but we don't blanket accept books from them. We don't just accept books from anyone. We do get books delivered that we didn't agree to and if neither of us want to read it then it won't make the TBR pile but rarely will we turn round and ask for a book if it's not offered first. We both read a wide range of genres from very young children's through to literary fiction and reading the catalogue of a few presses would limit that. BUT if an indie press would like us to review one or two of theirs (even if we've reviewed some in the past) we are happy to consider it and if we say no then that doesn't mean we won't say yes to others. And we may well accept more in the future.

Getting published with an indie is certainly a start for your work, you may get rich (which the indie will appreciate as they are generally breaking even on books!), you may not, but you will learn a great deal about the industry, make some great friends and it may just lead to a contract with one of the big five somewhere down the line. But go on... make an indie rich.. for me?

The Independent Presses represented were:-
Ross Bradshaw from Five Leaves Publications Jane & Claire from Bird's Nest Books CIC Jacqueline & Martin from Stonewood Press Tracey and Phil from Wild Pressed Books Sara-Jayne Slack from Inspired Quill (Event Organiser) Dr Teika Bellamy from Mother's Milk Books (Event Organiser) Kate from Three Drops Press Emma Wright from The Emma Press Georgina from Mud Press Ashley Stokes from Unthank Books Anne McDonnell from Pewter Rose Press Stephen Holland from Page 45

Friday, 26 February 2016

Random Dingoes by Ira Nayman

Review by The Mole

A new drug is in town, Joy Joy, that causes the user to see their lives in other multiverses - at the same time! Noomi and Crash (see "Welcome To The Multiverse") are sent to track the dealer down but along the way another, more important, case comes up so they team up with Radames Trafshanian, a Time Agency agent, to find the user of an unlicensed time machine that threatens the fabric of the multiverse.

Nayman's work is always funny and quirky but here, more so than in the other books I have read by him, the plotting is deeper, more consistent and the story is stronger. It's almost a more serious novel except that it's not - it's still hugely entertaining making you smile on most every page - if not laugh out loud.

The study questions, at the end of each chapter are something not to be taken seriously (obviously, when you read them) but add to the humour - in case you are taking things too seriously.

Sci-Fi fans may not take Nayman seriously but here, in this novel, he approaches that hot potato of time travel that no-one gets 100% right and does a remarkably good job of trying. Come on Sci-Fi fans,stop taking it so seriously and take a trip aboard the Transdimensional Delorean - you may just enjoy yourselves.

Genre - Adult Humour, Sci-Fi
Publisher - Elsewhen Press

Thursday, 25 February 2016

At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

Here's where it all ends: a long, straight road between fields. Four-thirty on a May morning: the black fading to blue, dawn gathering somewhere below the treeline in the east. 

This is how Melissa Harrison's Costa Shortlisted novel At Hawthorn Time opens; from there the story moves back to the month before, as Spring comes to the countryside around the village of Lodeshill, and four people set out on courses which lead to this moment early one May morning.

I loved At Hawthorn Time when I first read it last year, and revisiting it before paperback publication I felt just the same.


Here's the full review - At Hawthorn Time -  and my summing up from it
 "At Hawthorn Time is a lovely, compelling read. While it doesn't share the brutality of Cynan Jones' The Dig, it has the same quality of depicting rural life intimately and seeing it clearly, without blinkers; of showing that it's not glossy and chocolate box pretty but a place of dirt, and that without it being a place of work it will become empty and sterile. 
There's also a little touch of the thriller about it. As the story brings us closer to discovering who was involved in the accident and why, it will have you turning the pages faster or wanting to sneakily check the ending - I'm not sure I'd advise it as, like the motorist whizzing along a country lane, you'll miss so much in the details."

Maryom's review - 5 stars 
Publisher - Bloomsbury Publishing
 
Genre - adult literary fiction

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Look At Me by Sarah Duguid


review by Maryom


Searching her father's desk for a telephone number, Lizzy stumbles across a letter; with its pink envelope and hint of scent, it immediately attracts her attention. Inside is something waiting to overturn Lizzy's comfortable world - the news that she has a younger half-sister, Eunice. Her father Julian thinks the matter should be dropped; his wife Margaret (who died two years ago) was fully aware of his other daughter, and 'cool' about the situation. Her brother, Ig, agrees; nothing can be gained by further contact. But Lizzy feels something more is needed, and gets in touch with Eunice. At first they meet for lunch but gradually Eunice works her way into their lives .... and then how do they get rid of her?

For Lizzy and Ig life so far has been pleasant and sheltered; living in studio-flats built in the garden, and sharing their parents' arty, hippy life-style, they seem to float through life unconcerned with practicalities, and despite being in their late twenties feel no need to grow up and move on. The death of their mother has added another barrier between them and the real world with their house becoming almost a shrine to their mother's memory - a place where time has stopped and everything is preserved as it was before Margaret died; all her clothes are kept, her jewellery and ornaments are just as she left them, nothing must be moved.
Into this atmosphere Eunice brings the  'everyday' world of dead end jobs and mortgages, and a huge dose of practicality. Cuckoo-like, she reorganizes, orders and moves things around to make space for herself, unwittingly trampling over memories and emotions as she does.

I really loved this debut novel; so much that it's hard to enumerate everything that delighted me. Certainly I loved the over-all feel of the laid-back bohemian lifestyle of Lizzy and family - where money seems to present no hindrance to following one's artistic life; wouldn't we all like to live like that? Then there's Lizzy's impulsive good nature which rapidly changes as she realises the trouble she's let into their lives. Or the way the author lets us in on the intimate details that make up a family, the way their lives slot together, and the way the dynamic changes with Eunice there, forcing her way in, altering things to suit her, while everyone seems paralysed to stop her.

To say 'psychological drama' too easily infers a thriller with death and destruction by the end, but this isn't that nature of drama. Instead it's a look at the under-currents of family life, the history and secrets they share, and the disruption one outsider can cause to a stable family group - with its light touch and occasional comic moments, particularly in regard to Lizzy's relationship with her director/lover, it reminded me of an Ayckbourn drama.
It's a wonderful first novel from Sarah Duguid and I hope there'll be many more.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - 
 Tinder Press
Genre
- Adult fiction, literary, family drama




Monday, 22 February 2016

Thomas and Mary by Tim Parks



review by Maryom

Thomas and Mary have been married for thirty years - and drifting out of love for almost the same length of  time. Now the children have grown, there doesn't seem any point in staying together. Tom embarks on a string of affairs. Mary gets a dog. Neither are happy with their lives but don't seem ready to give up on their relationship.
Thomas and Mary seems a rather bleak look at love - almost the opposite to a happy-ever-after rom-com - as over the years we see their once happy relationship crumble away. The story unfolds mainly from Tom's point of view, as he stumbles through life, trying his best to cope with the demands of both wife and girlfriends, his mother's terminal illness, or the problems of his teenage son. Tom, of course, justifies himself at every turn, but chapters narrated by others, such as an old friend, change the reader's perspective of events.

Although this is a close intimate view of Tom and Mary's world, it just didn't 'click' with me - I think because I didn't really engage with any of the characters. Tom comes over as incredibly indecisive and selfish, not merely in regard to his relationship with Mary, but with his girlfriends, mother and children too. Mary on the other hand was too easy going - seeming far too happy about Tom's affairs and always complacently confident that he'd return to her.
I've seen this book described as darkly humorous but it didn't really strike me that way, just as a rather sad tale of two people who'd be happier going their separate ways but finding themselves tied together by life and commitments.



Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher -
Harvill Secker
Genre -
adult,

Friday, 19 February 2016

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin


review by Maryom

 Noah is  a troubled four year old who knows things other kids his age don't - all about Harry Potter or guns or how to score baseball for example. At night he's plagued by dreams of drowning, and cries for his mama to rescue him, but when his mother, Janie, tries to comfort him, he insists she isn't his real mama - that he lives somewhere else, with another family. Growing increasingly worried, Janie consults various doctors but the best they can suggest is that Noah must be schizophrenic, so in desperation she approaches Dr Anderson, a scientist who believes he's encountered such cases before and that they are attributable to reincarnation, and the remembering of a previous life. Janie is clutching at straws, and Anderson's interest is solely in writing up Noah as a case-study, but together they decide to track down this other family that Noah talks about in the hope that meeting them will end his nightmares.

A young child remembers a previous life, details of his 'other' family, his pets, his old house and the way in which he died. To settle his nightmares, somehow this past life must be confronted and someone presumably brought to justice for his murder. It's the sort of plot-line that you could imagine Mulder and Scully working on in the X-files, one willing to believe in any supernatural happening, the other looking for scientific evidence to support the theory - and in that sort of setting, this whole story would have sat more comfortably for me. Here though, there were such a lot of personal side-issues that I found distracting from the main story-line, so while some parts had me intrigued and wanting to know what would happen, others left me cold.

I'm not sure whether this should be classified as a 'crime' novel or not - there is a certain element of murder mystery about it, but it doesn't really pan out into anything complex or gritty and is quickly and easily solved.
There's a little of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones about it all, and if you liked that book (I didn't) this may appeal to you - just as you don't need to believe in ghosts for one, you don't need to believe in reincarnation for the other.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher -
Mantle (Panmacmillan)

Genre - adu
lt fiction, supernatural, crime 


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Slade House by David Mitchell



review by Maryom

" Turn down Slade Alley - narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you're looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn't quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies."

This strange building, Slade House, lies at the heart of David Mitchell's latest novel like an evil witch's hovel in some ghostly horror tale - and every nine years someone is enticed within its walls and never seen again! In 1979, a mother and son are invited to a musical garden party; nine years later, Detective Inspector Edmonds is following up a lead to their disappearance; another nine years, and a group of students investigating paranormal activities find their way to Slade House; in 2006 the journalist sister of one of those students comes seeking further information; and in 2015 a Canadian psychiatrist with an interest in abduction psychoses finds her way into the mysterious garden of Slade House. With each section the tension builds, a little bit more of the House's origins are revealed, and the horror that lies at its heart grows....

 I've been longing to read this book since I heard David Mitchell read the opening section at Hay Festival last May, but as always there seemed to be something else that needed to be read first so it's taken me quite a while to get round to it. That taster definitely set the tone for the book with that 'read if you dare' feel of a good ghost or horror story, which terrifies you but encourages you to carry on reading; you know that no matter how scary, you are NOT going to put this book down till the end!
 I've fairly recently read The Bone Clocks for my book club, and while I enjoyed it, it was a slow drawn-out read; Slade House is the opposite. Possibly because at 230 or so pages it's a lot shorter than other David Mitchell books, possibly because of the way the story falls into five almost self-contained parts, possibly because each section lures the reader towards both its own climax and then the next 'episode', I raced through it.
 With the book splitting into five self-contained sections, you might expect a slight skimping on character development, but no, with the skill of a short-story teller, Mitchell develops each and all of them, relating the stories in first person to make the reader privy to their thoughts and attitudes. We're introduced to an autistic boy struggling to quite 'fit', a world-weary policeman still gullible enough to be seduced by an attractive woman, students with their mix of attitude and cool, a journalist plagued by guilt, - every one a believable 'real' person.
 Slade House inhabits the same 'world' as The Bone Clocks, and makes several passing references to events and characters from it, but stands alone, so there's no real need to have read one to enjoy the other. I actually think if you've heard of David Mitchell, and been intending reading his novels but been put off by the length, Slade House is a brilliant place to start.



Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher -  Sceptre
Genre - ghost/horror stories,

Monday, 15 February 2016

Penance by Theresa Talbot



 review by Maryom

TV journalist Oonagh O'Neil is on the trail of a story about the scandal of the Catholic Church's Magdalene Institutions, particularly one in Glasgow, but her investigations are thrown off course by the sudden death of a potential informant Father Kennedy. Her private life is in turmoil as well, as her married lover doesn't seem to accept that their affair is over .....and, when the police begin to think there may be a link between him and Father Kennedy's death, things are going to get even worse for Oonagh...

With a considerable cast of characters, and events unfolding in both 2000 and in flashback to the 1950s, I found this a little difficult to get into at first. Once people and events were straight in my mind though, I could hardly read fast enough! I really wanted to leap to the last chapter, or even the last page, to find out whodunnit without having to go through all the twists and turns and red herrings. As you might guess from that, the plot is far from simple - a different culprit presents themselves almost every chapter - and keeping track of everyone  - Oonagh, her lover Jack, her friend Catholic priest Tom Findlay, sleazy journalist Charlie Antonio, DI Alex Davies in charge of the investigation plus other supporting cast - remembering what they know, where they've been, who they've seen and talked to - is enough to leave your head buzzing.

Oonagh is the sort of female character who gets labelled as 'feisty', sometimes too feisty for her own good I rather thought, but, like any good journalist, once she's given a lead she won't put it down until she's followed it to the end, no matter how bitter.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Strident
Genre -adult crime


Friday, 12 February 2016

Exposure by Helen Dunmore


review by Maryom


Simon Callington is an minor bureaucrat at the Admiralty, working with sensitive 'official secrets' documents though not at the 'top secret' level. He plods along as anyone might at any old office job, but then an old friend is hospitalised and calls on Simon to do him a favour....  which will land him in far more trouble than he can imagine. For, unknown to Simon, that old friend Giles has been passing secrets to the Russians, and the favour involves returning a 'top secret' file that should never have left the Admiralty offices. Before long Simone finds himself arrested on a charge of spying, and his wife Lily is left with three children to look after, the press hounding them and in fear of what may happen next.

Set in London in 1960, Exposure is an unusual spy-thriller - almost, I'd say, one for readers who don't normally like the genre. It's not about cloak and dagger secrecy, dead-letter boxes and coded messages but the human cost particularly to people who innocently get caught up in events. Giles' unfortunate accident behaves like a pebble thrown into a pond, though not only sending ripples out across it but raking up all the mud from the bottom too. For all three have secrets they've kept well-hidden; obviously Giles' espionage activities, but also Simon's relationship with him, dating back to university days, which if exposed could cause at least as much trouble for both of them; and for Lily, it's her secret struggle as a Jewish refugee from Germany, trying to fit in and become as English as possible but still holding a fear of authority and a gut feeling that the only person you can rely on to protect you, is yourself. Of the three, Lily turns out to be the strong one.
Giles is essentially a risk-taker and gambler, both professionally and personally, maybe even thriving on danger - but he's become sloppy over time and his past is about to catch up with him.
Simon is the sort of man who drifts through life and has things happen TO him, rather than make them happen. He drifts into an illicit love affair with Giles, drifts again into marriage and fatherhood, and now he's drifted unthinkingly into the middle of a spying scandal.
Lily though, following her mother's example, believes in taking things into her own hands. She isn't prepared to just rely on Simon's upper-class family to come to her aid but puts measures in place herself - and (without spoiling the ending I hope), it's fair to say that it's Lily's actions which save her, Simon and their family.

As an unusual twist on a familiar scenario, I really enjoyed this, and would definitely recommend to readers who normally shun the 'spy' genre.





 Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher -
Hutchinson
Genre - adult, spy thriller, psychological thriller,

Monday, 8 February 2016

Journey to Death by Leigh Russell

Review by The Mole

When Lucy Hall is taken on a holiday to the Seychelles by her parents, after a break up with her boyfriend, events unfold that threaten the lives of both Lucy and her mother.

Lucy's mother goes missing very early in their holiday and neither Lucy or her father are convinced the authorities are taking her disappearance seriously enough.

Then events unfold that seem to be threatening Lucy's life but both her father and Adrian, someone she meets in the hotel they are staying at, try to convince her that the heat is making her hallucinate.

This book was certainly compelling and I enjoyed it immensely BUT... Yes, that is a big but. This is Lucy's first "outing" and Russell's other lead characters are both detectives. Detectives are allowed detective type thoughts and reasoning but Lucy is an innocent member of the public and I feel that Russell has yet to understand Lucy fully. At times naive to the point of an airhead, at others as strong as any character can be, at times using logical conclusions and at other times off in some fairy tale land somewhere Lucy has some maturing to do - and she will be a great character when she achieves it.

A new approach to thrillers for Russell and when it comes right it will be another great series but I say again - I did find it compelling and I did enjoy it immensely. Leigh and Lucy just need to go out for a few drinks together and get to know each other better.

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer Publishing
Genre: Crime Thriller

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Ballroom by Anna Hope


review by Maryom



For the patients at Sharston asylum, Friday evenings are special. The men and women, so carefully segregated the rest of the week, are allowed to meet in the fabulous ballroom at the heart of the building, to listen to music, to dance, to meet and behave as 'normal' people. In this unlikely setting, John and Ella meet, and fall in love. But participation is a treat reserved for the 'well-behaved', permission is given and withdrawn on the whim of the doctors, and not all of Ella's efforts to 'be good' can avoid the couple being parted.

For this her second novel, Anna Hope goes back to 1911, to a remote asylum on the edge of the Yorkshire moors, for a story about finding love in the most unlikely place, a story in which human feelings clash with science and ambition.
The story unfolds from three points of view - those of John, Ella and Dr Charles Fuller. The reader is introduced to the asylum through Ella's eyes as she is first admitted - the reason for her incarceration is a fit of temper or despair at the mindless,monotonous drudgery of life at the mill where she works. In her frustration she breaks a window, and fights viciously with the men who try to restrain her, but while she expects to be arrested for her act, finding herself in a mental asylum comes as a shock. She soon realises that the only possibility of leaving lies through following her mother's advice 'be good'.
John is melancholy and depressed, but Ella opens up new possibilities for him, of love, freedom and hope.
Initially the regime at Sharston asylum seems progressive and comparatively enlightened - there's none of the electric shock treatment or cold plunge baths that I've read of elsewhere; perhaps those forms of treatment are reserved for the chronically ill who disappear to their own wing of the building unlikely to ever emerge. For those deemed 'acute' and therefore curable, rehabilitation consists mainly of a combination of strenuous physical work in the mornings and quiet reflective times in the afternoons when one of the younger doctors, Charles Fuller, has introduced the concept of playing the piano to calm his patients' anxieties. But the lives of the patients still depend entirely on the whims of the staff and doctors  - and as Fuller begins to feel these enlightened ideas leading him down what he sees as a slippery slope to depravity, he reacts by adopting a hostile, repressive attitude. Oddly, perhaps, as I felt no sympathy for him, Charles' character development was the most interesting of the three; from seeing his patients as people in need of solicitude and encouragement, he becomes eager to oppress them whenever possible, turning his feeling of self-hatred on to them.


I found Anna Hope's debut Wake moving and engrossing, and the Ballroom is too - but even better! The slow reveal of character, the balancing of a love story against the building of tension between John and Charles, the growing dread that in his role as doctor, Charles has the opportunity to enact revenge in the name of science and progress, all add up to a wonderful read. As with so many novels that I love, it can be read at various 'depths' - take it at its surface as a compelling read or seek out the underlying issues, both scientific and personal. I loved it, and I think it will be one of this year's 'must reads'.





Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Doubleday
Genre - adult historical fiction,

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

review by Maryom 


A 30-something childless Japanese couple live quietly in the former guest-house to a large mansion-like property, till one day their life is intruded upon by a cat belonging to one of the neighbours. The cat, like all felines, has no sense of boundaries and belonging, and is happy to share its time between the two houses, eating, sleeping and generally making itself at home in both. Both husband and wife become quietly obsessed by the cat, watching her comings and goings, playing with her, and gradually it comes to fill a void that they didn't realise existed.

This was one of my book club reads, probably one I wouldn't have chosen for myself but reading is all about exploring new things as well as sticking to the familiar. I don't quite know what I was expecting - possibly a cross between Tom Cox's cat books, Talk To The Tail or Under The Paw, and John Grogan's Marley And Me - but this small volume wasn't at all like either of them.
 Narrated by the husband, the story tells how the cat turned up, how, despite not really being pet-lovers, they became enchanted by its ways, but as I read, I was unsure whether this considered itself as a novel or a memoir - it certainly reads very like the latter! - and somehow I just felt something was lacking. I often criticise stories that I feel are too much 'tell', and not enough 'show', and I think that was a big problem here; I could see how the cat came to feel like part of the couple's life, but I didn't feel for any of the characters. In part this may have been due to the translation, to American English, not British; some words jarred, and some of the phrasing and expressions seemed odd - so much so that at times I felt that I couldn't engage with the story. At other points, I wondered if the author had intended to be funny, but humour doesn't translate well, and I wasn't sure. 
It's an award-winner in Japan, and a best-seller in France and the US, so I think somehow, somewhere, I missed something. It just didn't grab me but I'm going to pass it on to my cat-loving neighbour and see how she feels.

Maryom's review - 2 stars
Publisher - Picador
Genre -adult, cats




Monday, 1 February 2016

Used to Be by Elizabeth Baines

Review by The Mole

This anthology of short stories is split into 2 - "What Was, What Is" and "What May Be".

The first collection is very much about the past: a car journey that is fraught with tension as a nervous passenger is bombarded with stories by a driver who may, or may not, be paying enough attention to the road; revisiting places of youth and trying to find things that were landmarks; infatuations of youth that are not what they seem; the death of a stranger that means nothing; the story of extended family and the tugs of love and resentment with in it; and a ghost story - or is it?

The second part  is about possibilities: an incident that causes a train to be late and some of the people affected by it; a woman reflects on a summer when she had to choose between safe boyfriend or risky artist; someone meets a person whose language she can't speak and questions what they want from them; what happens when someone starts falling over; when your career and life is going nowhere and there are choices to be made; a visit to the sea that leads to reflection on the future.

I found myself wondering where I had read stories so like a few of these before that it was distracting. Fortunately the acknowledgements in the back revealed all - Unthologys! That, in itself, says a great deal for the quality of the stories and writing in this collection. I am a huge fan of the Unthology collections and anyone who is part of any of those collections has to be worthy of a further read.

Each and everyone of these stories will give you cause to pause and think - and the last story is one of those "why did the author stop there leaving me to chose 'what next'" stories (possibly the worst way to end a book? Discuss).

A really great collection that you will enjoy, identify with, wish that worm hadn't got into your head - and each of these in equal measure.

Publisher - Salt Publishing
Genre - Adult fiction, short stories