An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘book review’

ACCENT PRESS – THE DEEPEST CUT BY NATALIE FLYNN

Time for book review number 6 for my 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge. Today’s publisher is…

 

shortlogo

Accent Press!

Accent Press is a feisty, independent publishing company.

 Founded by Hazel Cushion in 2003, Accent Press is an award-winning independent publisher which has become a major name for dynamic trade publishing. The company publishes a range of fiction and non-fiction titles across four imprints.  Accent Press was named Specialist Publisher of the Year and was shortlisted for Independent Publisher of the Year at the IPG Awards.  

The company is divided into four imprints:

  • Accent Press – The mainstream publishing imprint provides a wide range of fiction and non-fiction titles.
  • Xcite Books – This erotic imprint was started in 2007, becoming the UK’s largest erotic publisher and winning multiple ETO Awards.
  • Cariad – mainstream romance publishing sexy, contemporary women’s fiction.
  • Accent YA – There’s a new YA publisher in town. This exciting new list aimed at young adults launches in Spring 2016.

Find out more about accent press here.

 

And the book I’m reviewing is…

 

20170323_133113

 

‘You haven’t said a single word since you’ve been here. Is it on purpose?’ I tried to answer David but I couldn’t … my brain wanted to speak but my throat wouldn’t cooperate…

Adam blames himself for his best friend’s death. After attempting suicide, he is put in the care of a local mental health facility. There, too traumatized to speak, he begins to write notebooks detailing the events leading up to Jake’s murder, trying to understand who is really responsible and cope with how needless it was as a petty argument spiralled out of control and peer pressure took hold.

Sad but unsentimental, this is a moving story of friendship and the aftermath of its destruction.

I’ve been so lucky so far in that I’ve really loved every book I’ve read so far this year for my reading challenge. All but two of them have been independent publishers. What does that tell you? Yep, that indies pack a punch and are producing some of the best literature we have out there today.

The Deepest Cut is a young adult novel. No matter how old you are, I really think it’s enriching to read young adult novels. They really are something special, and with the huge popularity it has enjoyed over the last few years, it’s only getting better.

This book is sad, yes, and it made me bawl my eyes out on more than one occasion. It’s about a boy who lost his best friend to knife crime, after all. But it’s not just about the sadness. It’s about deep, undying male platonic love. It’s about the strength of friendship and about how no human being is infallible. It’s about grief and support and mental illness, specifically Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s about peer pressure and the fragility of teenager friendships. It’s about confusion and not really knowing who you are as a kid. It’s about craving acceptance and yearning for what once was. It’s about the difficulties of dealing with change.

What I especially love is that Natalie Flynn has managed to capture the voice of a teenage boy, a troubled teenage boy, so accurately and convincingly. I was a teenager only ten years ago, and I remember having some of the same worries and thoughts and feelings that the kids do in this book, and so it felt really authentic. Equally, his mental anguish felt very authentic too. It was particularly effective because for much of the narrative the focus is on simple teenager issues, and is then contrasted with very unusual ones, which deals an emotional blow.

The sheer contrast between the Adam before Jake’s murder and the Adam after his murder makes for quite heartbreaking reading. He just suddenly cares about nothing, except Jake. Life doesn’t matter to him anymore. He’s angry and resentful at his father for not caring about him and betraying him. He’s upset and terrified of people finding out how and why he’s complicit in Jake’s murder. He’s angry at people for not understanding him. And he’s angry at everyone who won’t just let him end his own life.

The story of Jake’s murder is told over a series of diary entries which Adam is writing for his psychotherapist to read in the mental hospital. These are interspersed with current-day narratives about Adam’s life in the present, post-murder and post- Adam’s mental breakdown. This kept me absolutely hooked as a reader, desperate to know who murdered Jake and why.

The most effective aspect of Flynn’s writing, for me, was how she brought Adam and Jake’s friendship to life. Their love for each other just radiates off the page. It makes the whole tragedy even more powerful to read about. It’s very good writing.

I think it would be especially important for teenagers to read this book as it highlights, very dramatically and colourfully, how important seemingly unimportant things are, at that age. It demonstrates the danger that can befall absolutely anyone. And it emphasises the seriousness of fighting and knife crime, which is often underestimated by young teens who sometimes feel invincible.

This book is a fantastic read for people of any age. Definitely one for your shelf. Well done Natalie Flynn and Accent press. I’ll be returning for more!

 

five stars

 

 

HEADLINE PUBLISHING – Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

Time for book review number 5 for my 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge. Today’s publisher is not an indie, but a biggie. It’s…

Headline_newlogo[1]

About Headline Publishing Group:

PASSION, VISION, AMBITION

We have the virtues of an independent with the clout of a publishing giant: physically, digitally, globally.

Relationships are our business: we are passionate in our drive to deliver bestseller success and the whole team believes they can make a difference to an author’s career.

Our unique focus allows us to see the maverick potential that delivers the bestseller success others miss.

Headline’s non-fiction team has a highly commercial focus across a range of genres, including: biography, and autobiography, cookery, lifestyle, diet and fitness, popular science, sport, history and military, gift and humour, media tie-in and business. Our 2015 bestsellers include THE WRONG KNICKERS by Bryony Gordon, THE ROAD BENEATH MY FEET by Frank Turner, THE END OF AN EARRING by Pam St Clement, THE GLAM GUIDE by Fleur De Force and KEW ON A PLATE WITH RAYMOND BLANC by Kew Gardens.

Learn more about Headline here.

 

The book I’m reviewing today, from Headline, is…

 

51NzMiKbYkL._SY346_

 

Bryony Gordon has OCD.

It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.

A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

I actually picked up and read this book back in January while on holiday in Tenerife. I knew that when I came back to England I was going to start a brand new job as a copy editor for a mental health non-fiction publishing company, aiming to publish easy-to-read self-help books and inspirational stories from mental illness survivors. So, it was a no-brainer! (No pun intended.)

I can’t emphasise how much books like these are needed in today’s society. In this book Bryony is brutally honest about her OCD. She opens up about her fear of being a danger to young children, her drug dependency, and the other mental illnesses that her OCD has caused over the years. She debunks myths along the way and points a bright shining spotlight on the stigma still surrounding the subject today. She gives quite harrowing and stark accounts of some of the most grim times in her life, including fighting with bulimia and going through horrific mental breakdowns.

Most importantly, this book shows you the real, true reality of OCD. Not the theories, and general conceptions or misconceptions of OCD, but the real-life impact of it. So many people today think they know what OCD is, and what it involves. Bryony shows you that there is so much more to it than what we know.

What’s refreshing is that she manages to do all this while still being hilariously funny. Even the most distressing times are depicted in a way that both captures her distress perfectly and provides comic relief at the same time. She is warm and compassionate to the reader. She knows she’s talking about a sensitive subject. She knows she’s going to come up against people who don’t understand, and is helping to educate them anyway. She’s offering support to those readers who feel lost by telling them they’re not alone, and they don’t have to suffer in silence.

Bryony was incredibly brave in telling this story. In her first book, The Wrong Knickers, she admits to taking cocaine, being a party girl, and all manner of other things. But she didn’t mention her OCD at all. In this book, she decides to bare all to show the world that being mentally ill is nothing to be afraid of. Just by writing this book, she has made a huge step forward but also made a huge statement to society: do not be ashamed.

Most importantly, this book gives the reader inspiration and motivation. If Bryony Gordon can go through all of this horrific stuff, why can’t you? You can, and will, get through it.

This book is so illuminating, so funny, so enjoyable and so eye-opening. As a mental health advocate, I implore you to give it a read. You won’t regret it.

This is a definite 5 out of 5 for me.

five stars

DODO INK – Dodge and Burn by Seraphina Madsen

Hi guys. Slowly trying to catch up with reviewing for my 52 books by 52 publishers reading challenge. Here’s number 4, and the publisher is:

 

 

dodo ink.jpg

 

Dodo Ink is an independent publishing company based in the UK. Founded by author Sam Mills (The Quiddity of Will Self, Corsair, 2012), digital publishing and marketing specialist Alex Spears, and reviewer Thom Cuell, Dodo Ink will publish original fiction, with a focus on risk-taking, imaginative novels. We are looking for books which don’t fall into easy marketing categories and don’t compromise their intelligence or style to fit in with trends. We are passionate readers, and we believe that there are many more who share our appetite for bold, original and ‘difficult’ fiction. We want to provide a home for great writing which isn’t being picked up by the mainstream.

Find out more about them here.

 

The book I’m reviewing is…

20170317_131442

 

We were told that our mother’s life was terminated by killer bees while vacationing in San Marcos, Mexico with Dr Vargas at his family home.

 After her mother dies in bizarre circumstances, heiress Eugenie Lund is abducted by Dr Vargas, a charismatic Svengali-like figure who educates her according to his own philosophy, an esoteric blend of anthropology and psychiatry. Isolated from outside influences, Eugenie’s life is spent on the run across North America and Europe, existing on the fringes of society, always trying to keep one step ahead of her past. 
Taking in Mexico, Las Vegas, and the underground rave scene, Dodge and Burn is a psychedelic road trip recounted in beautifully crafted prose that pulses with frenetic energy.

Inspired by the likes of Carlos Castaneda and Hunter S Thompson, this is an exciting, iconoclastic debut novel from a remarkable new voice. 

Well. Where do I start with this one? It is quite frankly nothing like I’ve ever, ever read before!

When it says ‘psychedelic’ in the blurb, they’re really not kidding. This story is all about one girl’s mission to find her missing sister and to make sense of the universe around her, and is written as a series of notebook/diary entries interspersed with the narrative and point of view of an outside character who is trying to track her down. Eugenie’s universe is quite different to many other people’s: she relies on heavy psychedelic drug use, Wiccan rituals, tribal practices, meditation and all manner of other things to make sense of her own world and access modes and forms of perception and existence that are completely alien to most of us. It leaves you wondering, quite often, what is real and what Eugenie is imagining or hallucinating. Often you’re left to decide that for yourself. For this reason the writing is lyrical, poetic, surreal, and quite ground-breaking. It is truly a reading ‘experience’ and quite unique.

This doesn’t mean it’s hard to read. On the contrary, I read in Seraphina’s essay on the writing of Dodge and Burn and she stated that she wanted Eugenie’s voice to sound “scholarly, yet popular in a generally even tone” and she’s achieved that perfectly. I did have to read a few passages a couple of times over, but that’s not because of the writing style, it’s because the concepts that were being described were so new to me that I had to try to understand them as much as I could in order to understand Eugenie. You get a real sense of who Eugenie is under the surface and you yearn for her missing sister along with her; you are endlessly curious about the world and alternative ways of living, just like she is. She pulls you into her bizarre reality along with her, and it’s a lot of fun.

I loved Ben, Eugenie’s husband. He is calm and collected most of the time, and only really aggressive if he perceives a threat towards Eugenie. You can feel the love between the couple radiate off the page. The way he doesn’t altogether understand Eugenie and what she talks about, but humours her and supports her and goes along with her rituals and things anyway, is truly adorable and lovely. He isn’t perfect and he has a fairly dark, criminal past, but Ben’s sole purpose before meeting Eugenie is to travel the world and take part in dance raves, and afterwards it seems to be protecting Eugenie to the best of his ability. And I like him for that. He is not averse to violence but doesn’t indulge in it for the sake of things.

Dr Vargas, Eugenie and her sister’s captor, reminded me a little bit of Count Olaf from a Series of Unfortunate Events. I guess this is probably an annoying comment for the author to read as obviously Count Olaf has never had any bearing or influence on this character, and in fact Seraphina’s own stepfather was the influence there. But just to give you an idea of what it’s like if you haven’t read the book, the circumstances are similar in that he makes the children’s lives miserable by kidnapping them and exercising his sheer dominance and power over them in an almost magical way to keep them under his thumb for years and years. He is dangerous and evil and conniving and greedy and, quite unlike Count Olaf, he should be taken very seriously indeed. He really is quite an unpleasant character.

The mystery of Eugenie’s sister Camille and where she’s disappeared to is truly fascinating. The ending of the book just utterly took my breath away; I did not for one second expect it to happen and yet it makes so much sense. Then, of course, you have to decide if you believe the twist to be real. I personally do believe it, but that’s up for you to figure out for yourself. I’d love to hear your interpretations of this book.

Books like these are the reason I love indie publishing companies: Penguin Random House or Hachette probably wouldn’t have looked at this twice and that is a massive, massive loss for them. Read it! Four big shiny stars from me.

four stars

 

 

 

FREIGHT BOOKS – Head for the Edge, Keep Walking by Kate Tough

Here is a third book review for my 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge!

Today’s publisher is…

 

freight-books-logo-large

About Freight Books:

Freight Books is an award-winning UK-based independent publisher founded in September 2011 in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. With a focus on publishing high quality literary fiction, we also publish humour, general illustrated and narrative non-fiction and poetry. At the heart of all our projects is a commitment to compelling narratives, scrupulous editing, high quality production and imaginative marketing, supported by a strong and identifiable brand. Most importantly we want to bring our talented authors to as wide an audience as possible.

Freight Books was voted Scottish Publisher of the Year in December 2015 and recently won three Scottish Design Awards, including the coveted Grand Prix, for one of its titles.

Freight Books is a sister company of Freight Design, founded in 2001, one of Scotland’s leading design and marketing agencies. It grew out of Freight Design’s pleasure in creating award-winning publications and its commitment to literature. In 2009 Freight founded Gutter, which quickly established itself as the leading literary magazine of new writing in Scotland. Gutter has won multiple design awards and founded one of the best literary networks in the country.

Learn more about them here.

 

head for the edge

Jill Beech’s nine year relationship is over. She covers the sadness with madness, going dancing with her off-beat friends and attempting a series of hilariously bad internet dates. Then life is flipped on its head again by some shocking news. Adrift in her mid-thirties, no-one does lost quite like Jill.

Wry, witty, resilient but bewildered, she is left asking, what does it take to stay sane in this life? and why does it look easier for everyone else? While her friends are preoccupied with pregnancy, Jill looks elsewhere for meaning. Will she find happiness with a kitten called Cyril? A job she can finally believe in? Or a charming ex-snowboard champion who wants to settle down? Events force Jill to head for the edge – will she fall headlong or turn things around and keep walking?

I really, really, liked this book. It’s my favourite in this reading challenge so far. I think this is because it reflects so much for me: the anxiety caused by people expecting certain things from you as a woman coming up to a particular age; the mortality of the human race and how fragile life is; the difficulty of understanding what you want from life, and the ever-prominent subject of mental illness.

The writing is so very funny. It also has a really distinctive narrative voice. You get to know Jill almost right away. She isn’t perfect and neither is her life falling apart around her. She’s just trying to make sense of what it means to be her. Faced with a scary illness, romantic conquests, the challenges of a new job, a strained friendship and a ticking biological clock, Jill ticks all the boxes of your typical chick lit heroine.

But she is so much more than that. Because she makes decisions you don’t expect her to. She makes decisions she didn’t expect to make. The whole book takes you in what you think is one direction, and then soon you realise you’re actually going in a completely different one. It doesn’t make itself conform to the expected standard of following a particular narrative arc or structure. It doesn’t end how you expect it to end, but this makes it feel SO much more authentic. It’s not a bad ending; far from it. But when I finished it I thought, “You see now, that’s a lot more convincing in terms of true life.”

The book features some of the most unique and strongly developed characters I’ve seen in a while, which is great. Jill’s best friends are both hilarious and tragic. Each one is a mix of these things, so there are no one-dimensional characters, only interesting people that you love to get to know.

The story is matter-of-fact and true to life, but throughout the story is a series of really beautiful, poetic pieces of prose, peppered into the everyday-life narrative, that really gets to the heart of Jill as a vulnerable character. I also love that the book is told through a number of different formats, including postcards, letters, dream sequences, email and normal chronological prose.

Read this book: you REALLY won’t regret it.

five stars

 

 

URBANE PUBLICATIONS – The Life Assistance Agency by Thomas Hocknell

Today is my second book review for the 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge, and this time the publisher is:

 

 

urbane_publications_logo

Urbane Publications!

 

 

About Urbane Publications:

Are you always searching for that next great book, the joy of discovering a new author, a new plot, thrilling new worlds and characters, or simply enjoying the printed and digital page?

We are. So much so that we decided to start sharing our love of words with you. Urbane Publications is a new and exciting independent publisher dedicated to developing and producing the books you want to read – hip, contemporary, groundbreaking  fiction and non-fiction designed to entertain, excite, and engage.

Our team has been involved in the publishing industry for over 20 years, as booksellers, publishers and even authors. It seemed a natural step to bring all that experience to bear in an exciting new venture to introduce you to the best new creative ventures and valuable content out there.

Words always have the power and potential to excite, involve, inspire – and we live them at Urbane Publications. This is a journey of discovery, finding new voices, defining new genres, and most importantly creating the words you want read.

Urbane Publications is a proud member of the Independent Publishers Guild.

Learn more about Urbane Publications on their website here.

The Book I’m Reviewing From Urbane Publications is…

 

life-assistance

 

Do you want to live forever? is THE question facing anyone pursuing immortality. But what happens when eternal life is disappointing, and everyone around you keeps dying?

Ben Ferguson-Cripps, a struggling writer with a surname that gets more attention than his creative endeavours, sets aside his literary ambitions to join the mysterious Life Assistance Agency. Their first case is to trace a missing person with links to the Elizabethan angel-caller Dr John Dee.

Pursued by a shadowy organisation – and the ghosts of Ben’s past – the trail leads through Europe into the historic streets of Prague, where the long-buried secrets of Dr Dee’s achievements are finally revealed, and Ben discovers there is far more to life than simply living…

This book is fab! It’s so rich in culture and magic and intrigue and mystery. The contrast between the mundanity of Ben’s life against the strange world of alchemy and scrying and angels works really well in this book.

I felt a lot of sympathy for Ben throughout the story. He is a bit lost after experiencing a failure after a short-lived rise to fame, and then becomes even more completely out of his depth when he joins the Life Assistance Agency as a staff member and finds himself in danger. He isn’t perfect and makes a fair few mistakes, but he’s still likeable throughout. I would have liked to learn a bit more about Scott, Ben’s co-worker, but the rest of the characters in the book (Dr Dee, his accomplices, Mr Foxe and others) are very well developed.

The narrative is broken up throughout with diary entries from Dr Dee’s wife, written back in the 1500s. This keeps the story varied and intriguing, with a good balance between modern day and the past. The book also has plenty of action and dialogue and lots of varying scenes and settings, which helped to keep it moving forwards.

You are kept in the dark quite a lot throughout the story, despite one or two moments of explanation and clarity, but that only adds to the mysteriousness element. Why is Foxe following the steps of a man who lived centuries ago? Why does he want to scry and communicate with angels? What is he trying to achieve by becoming a modern day alchemist?

There are some very interesting twists at the end of the book that I just didn’t see coming (and one that I kind of did, but only right before it happened) and really breathes a new lease of life into the story. Some are subtly done; some are serious and dramatic. The twists are what stayed in my head long after I finished reading.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s quite unique and breaks the mould. I would certainly recommend it if you’re after reading something a bit different from the norm.

All I will say is that the book really is in need of another round  of proofreading (this probably won’t bother a lot of readers and a lot of readers would probably be unlikely to notice all the missed mistakes that I did. But I’m a freelance proof reader and in-house editor by trade, so it affected my reading) which is really the only reason I’m giving it three and a half stars. This doesn’t discredit the story itself though: once its issues are tidied up on the next print run, it’s definitely a four-starrer for me.

 

three-and-a-half-stars

 

 

 

SNOW BOOKS – You Don’t Belong Here by Tim Major

Sooo, it’s about time I started reviewing the books in my 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge!

First up is:

snow-books

 

Snow Books!

 

 

About Snow Books:

“IT’S MORE THAN TEN YEARS SINCE OUR FIRST BOOKS WERE PUBLISHED IN 2004.

Snowbooks started in a spare room in Hackney in April 2003 and soon moved to a couple of rented desks in a business incubator on Old Street — before it was cool. We hired staff, signed up authors and our first books hit the shelves in 2004. Waterstone’s — with a possessive apostrophe back then — were our first and most supportive customer and with their backing our first books sold several tens of thousands of copies.

We’ve always been very interested in the business side of publishing — about being more efficient and canny than others. Early on, it pretty soon gave us a high profile. We won a Nibbie, then another one, then an IPA award too. Later, our books started to win prizes too: The Red Men got shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award and Mark Hodder won the Philip K Dick award with Spring Heeled Jack. You can find reviews of our books everywhere, from The Telegraph and The Sun to SFX Magazine and The Guardian and on all shapes and sizes of blog.

Our efficiency has been made possible by our technological skill. We are publishers-turned-Ruby on Rails developers, specializing in web application development and database management. With the benefit of a sizeable Arts Council grant we launched a sister company, General Products Ltd, in 2012. Through it we licence the software we’ve written to other publishers, in the expectation that it’ll help them as much as it helps Snowbooks. Our main product is Bibliocloud.com, an enterprise-level publishing management system. The website you’re reading right now was populated with data and images from Bibliocloud’s API in a single click. The combination of sleek technological efficiency and solid creative excellence is, for us, as potent and heady a combination as it’s ever been. And in 2013, Bibliocloud won us the Futurebook Best Technology Innovation award.

So here’s to the next ten years. Let’s hope it’s as fun as the first.”

Find out more about Snow Books and check out the rest of their titles here.

 

The book I’m reviewing from Snow Books is….

 

ydbh

You Don’t Belong Here by Tim Major.

 

Daniel Faint is on the run with a stolen time machine. As the house-sitter of a remote Cumbrian mansion, he hopes to hide and experiment with the machine. But is the Manor being watched by locals, his twin brother or even himself? Daniel is terrified about what the future may hold but, as he discovers, there can be no going back.

I loved this book! It really is unusual in a fascinating way. Despite the fact that the book is about time travel, it really didn’t feel too science-fiction-y to me, which I was quite happy with. It made the subject matter feel accessible. Daniel isn’t a scientist. He isn’t a great mind. He’s just a troubled man with a guilt-ridden past, looking for something to give his life a bit of meaning and excitement again.

After a little bit of a slow start, the book quickly picked up its pace. Daniel finds himself with a stolen time machine that he’s taken from a research facility, deep in the rural countryside of Cumbria. There the paranoia kicks in almost immediately. Who is watching him? Who can he trust? How can he hide this rather huge secret? How can he master the capabilities of the machine?

I particularly enjoyed the easy-to-read narrative which is studded with poetic writing and scenes of time-travel (and the subsequent confusion it creates). The time travel element unsurprisingly adds to the deep sense of mystery and allows the reader to really experience the feeling of detachment that Daniel suffers. Is he doing the right thing? How can he make the time machine take him to a time and place of his choosing?

Daniel’s obsession with his twin brother William is particularly fascinating throughout the book. You get the sense, after a little while, that Daniel feels uneasy or guilty about something to do with his brother. This guilt is there under the surface of the narrative throughout the story, humming away as  background noise until it emerges at some point in the book and hits you like a punch in the stomach.

There are some really strong characters in the book, giving the story a real richness and realistic feel. The women are strong and defiant, at the same time as showing real vulnerability when things get hard or terrifying. The male characters provide a real rainbow of seriously interesting personalities, including a rogue hunter, a shady figure from Daniel’s past, an untrusting gardener and a loving, dedicated brother.

There is also an unrelated twist at the end which was brilliant, and something I really didn’t see coming. Of course I won’t give away any spoilers, but it’s really worth reading for this aspect of the story alone.

All in all, this book deserves a massive FOUR stars. Really well done to the author, Tim Major, and to the independent publishing house Snow Books.

four-stars

 

 

 

*BLOG TOUR STOP* THE WACKY MAN BY LYN G. FARRELL

9781785079566

My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’ It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone…

Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised.

As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

Ever wondered what it would feel like to be punched in the gut, hard, by a poet?

No, me neither, but once I’d finished reading The Wacky Man, I knew exactly how it would feel.

Wow! No book has ever quite had such an emotional impact on me whilst reading it. This novel was not only incredibly moving and powerful to read, but it made me re-evaluate a lot of things I thought I knew. It moved me to tears a lot, but also made me gasp with the beauty of it.

I don’t know how Lyn G. Farrell does it, but in The Wacky Man she manages to shape brutal, terrible subject matters – domestic violence, insanity, social unrest, fear – using the most stunningly beautiful language. When she writes, she doesn’t try too hard to make the reader understand what’s happening: she just writes what is and as a result, it feels like you’re living the story rather than reading it. She doesn’t tell the story, she shows it. For that reason, it spoke to me on so many levels.

She screams, an astonishing noise that explodes into the silence to send the night things rattling away and then hangs in the sky like a flare. The scream unpins Amanda’s frozen limbs like a magic spell and she scrabbles down the lumpy ground through high grown weeds that knot around her ankles like snares.

For me, the front cover perfectly reflects that of the writing inside: truly gorgeous artistry, with an upsetting but important subject matter within.

Seamus and Barbara are a young couple about to get married. Seamus comes from a big Irish family, Barbara from a quiet English background. Unrest and violence at the hands of the IRA are a growing problem, and Irish/English relations are at breaking point. Seamus seems to be kind, funny, friendly soul to the outside world, but behind closed doors hides a monster and the consequences of his actions will reverberate throughout both his and his children’s lives. Barbara does her best to protect their twin boys, Tommo and Jamie, and their daughter Amanda from his terrifying rages, but slowly the violence and fear begin to take their toll. The Wacky Man explores the consequences of such traumatic experiences on the lives of those who are domestically abused.

The story moves along in two narrative strands: the first is written in Amanda’s voice, talking in the present and sharing her childhood memories and her current predicament. She has locked herself in her bedroom and her sanity is slowly unravelling. The second narrative explores the past: both the early days of her parents’ marriage, and Amanda and her brothers’ harrowing childhoods. This is so effective because the book answers questions as it raises them without being overly transparent. It allows the reader to understand Barbara’s story, as well as Amanda’s. It keeps you invested in the family’s story and keeps you moving through the book, all the while hoping that things get better for them and they find a way to escape this hell.

What I loved most about the book is its authenticity. I don’t know if any of the things that happen in the book ever happened to Lyn, but I tell you, if they didn’t, she got her research spot on. What resonated with me in particular were Amanda’s experiences of being bullied and overlooked in school. When I was reading, I became Amanda while being simultaneously transported back to the old me, a desperately unhappy girl who is bullied and afraid. Having been that bullied girl, I can tell you right now that Farrell gets it absolutely spot on. All of the emotions; the erratic thoughts, the feeling of losing control and losing self-esteem: it’s all so expertly written.

For me, this isn’t a book you can afford to miss. So, it’s not the happiest of topics: but that’s what makes it work so well. It is honest, it is raw, but it is beautiful, and a truly magnificent read.

 

About the author:

Lyn2

Lyn G. Farrell is the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary and The Wacky Man is her debut novel.

Lyn grew up in Lancashire where she would have gone to school if life had been different. She spent most of her teenage years reading anything she could get her hands on.
She studied Psychology at the University of Leeds and now works in the School of Education at Leeds Beckett University.

Follow Lyn on Twitter @FarrellWrites

Follow the publisher Legend Press @legend_press

Buy a copy of the book here.

 

Tag Cloud