Review of The Other Side by Terry Tyler

I've already read several novels by Terry Tyler
and know to expect something good. 

And The Other Side really is very good.

It's a story about making choices and the impact one decision can have on all the rest of life. And subsequent choices and their impact and so on.
But what makes the novel so interesting is that the tale is told in reverse chronological order.
So as the story goes back in time, the reader is already aware of the consequences of earlier decisions made by the main characters.
And then new, earlier choices are introduced which sometimes turn the story upside-down prompting a complete re-appraisal of what has already happened.

Consequently the novel is most satisfyingly complex. 

But it's made even more complex as there are four main characters each with their own story. Each of the characters' lives are profoundly impacted by the choices made but in unexpected ways.

The construction of the novel is very clever 

and the conclusion, which brings the stories up to date, is most surprising.
The more you get to know the characters the more their stories resonate with real life. Katya, Cathie, Alexa and Sandie really come to life along with their boyfriends and lovers, husbands and in-laws, children, friends and workmates. Although at first there are aspects of the main characters that are rather unlikeable, by the end of the novel, when all is revealed, they have become the reader's firm friends.

The Other Side is highly readable with a lovely, intimate narrator's voice 

that draws you in and keeps you totally engaged from start to finish.

It's such an entertaining novel and one that really makes you think. 

Highly recommended.

Links

Terry Tyler's Amazon author page

The Other Side

Follow Terry Tyler on Twitter


Review of Is It Her? by Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton

I've read just about everything that has been published by authors Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton. 

When I saw on-line that they were collaborating on a new book I had high expectations that it would be good and, of course, I wasn't disappointed.

The two authors have taken a beautifully detailed painting 

by talented artist Rod Buckingham as the starting point for their latest work. They've each written a novella which explores their separate response to this one painting.

The painting is rich in narrative potential 

and I defy anyone not to start making up their own story as they study the image.
However, apart from the shared starting point and a setting in the years around the Second World War, the novellas are very different.

Jonathan Hill 

has again demonstrated his ability to create dark, intense atmosphere as he explores intimate secrets between a quartet of disparate yet closely linked individuals. The storyline reflects the strains and stresses of the war-time era. However, the personal conflicts and tragedies that develop are the focus for this first 'Is it Her?' novella.

Kath Middleton 

presents a sweeping overview of the same period in history which incorporates one of the most awful tales of war-time betrayal that I've ever read. The perspective of younger people is explored with sensitivity and insight in the context of a war-time romance which has a warm and unexpected conclusion.

Both novellas are a pleasure to read. 

Each author demonstrates an expertise in writing on the smaller scale with depth and complexity. It was fascinating to observe how they both used the painting to stimulate their writing in such different ways.

Highly recommended.

Links

Jonathan Hill's author page at Amazon

Kath Middleton's author page at Amazon

Is it Her?

Rod Buckingham on-line

Follow Jonathan Hill on Twitter

Follow Kath Middleton on Twitter

You might also like this guest review of 'Is It Her?'


Review of 500+ Truly Useful Cooking Tips & Techniques: No Silly Hacks! by Suzy Bowler

'500+ Truly Useful Cooking Tips & Techniques: No Silly Hacks!' 

is the new version of '219 Cooking Tips and Techniques you might find useful' which I got as a free download last year.

You can read my original review here 

but when I noticed this new, extended version of the book I couldn't pass it by.
In order to download the new version I had to delete the original which caused a few technical glitches with the download. But the customer service at Amazon was 100% brilliant in sorting it out and now I've got the full 500+ version of the book.

I have loads of cooking books in my kitchen 

but what I really like about Suzy Bowler's books are that you can actually read them through from start to finish for the sheer enjoyment of her writing style and the amusing way in which she teaches the reader to cook.

Some of the tips will be familiar 

but I found useful and timely reminders amongst them. Many of the tips are new (to me anyway) and although I'm not entirely certain I'll use them all, they're worth knowing.

The photos in the book are lovely 

and even work ok on an early generation Kindle but they look really good on an iPad.

Suzy Bowler writes the Sudden Lunch Blog 

where she shares generously from her knowledge and publications.
You can get a good idea of her style from the website and, of course, read free samples of all her books at Amazon.

Links


Suzy Bowler Amazon author page

500+ Truly Useful Cooking Tips & Techniques: No Silly Hacks!

Sudden Lunch Blog

Follow Suzy Bowler on Twitter


Review of Death in a Scarlet Gown by Lexie Conyngham

Death in a Scarlet Gown is the first book in the Murray of Letho series. 

It's an historical, crime mystery and I was looking forward to finding out about my literary namesake.

Charles Murray is a student at a Scottish university which is unexpectedly wracked by murder. 

Not one but three corpses are discovered and Charles gets involved in unravelling the plot.

I'm saying nothing more about the plot 

knowing how easy it is to give something away and ruin the suspense except that it is unusual and intriguing. This is because of the historical context for the novel. Not only is the novel set in an ancient, traditional, long established university town the action takes place at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The author creates a beautifully detailed sense of university life in the era. 

The formalities and rituals; the arcane language; the eccentricities of the professors; and the relations between the townspeople and the university are some of the elements that are explored and described so well. And the author has taken the time to let the picture build up gradually so that
when the first murder occurs it comes as a complete shock.

Although Charles Murray is the pivotal character, 

there is a large supporting cast with whom he interacts as the novel evolves. Charles' brother and father, his professors and student friends are all well-developed along with their daughters, wives and sweethearts.

I particularly enjoyed the verbal skirmishes 

between some of the characters of which these examples give a wonderful flavour:
"The blackyirtly, ill-deedit, meschantly, gallow-breid"
"You contemptible gileynour".
The Kindle on-board dictionary has no explanation for some of these words but you easily get the sense. The use of this type of language contributes greatly to the sense of time and place that is created so brilliantly in this book.

I enjoyed reading Death in a Scarlet Gown 

and look forward to reading some more of the Murray of Letho series when time allows.

Full details of this and all her other books can be found on the author's Amazon page here.


Guest Review of Is it Her? by Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton

Michael and I share a KindleUnlimited subscription and if we both want to read the same book at the same time it causes a bit of a muddle each time one of us synchronises the pages. But it doesn't cause too much of a problem because we rarely want to read the same book at the same time. Until Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton released their new book 'Is it Her?'

And then we both wanted to read it ....

But Michael got in first so he's written the review.


I'm pleased to share Michael Murray's review of 'Is it Her?' by Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton


Drama teachers are aware of a technique which involves presenting a photograph or painting to a group of students and asking them to improvise the circumstances leading up to the moment the image frozen in the frame occurs. The students can also be invited to improvise the development of the action beyond the frozen image and project the characters into the future: a 'What Happened Next?' exercise.

As a drama teacher I was rarely satisfied with this technique because it often resulted in superficial outcomes and working in a busy drama department there was rarely the time for the students to explore the technique in depth or layer in ever greater complexity.

However, Kath Middleton and Jonathan Hill have shown that the technique provides a wonderful stimulus for writers, not least because they obviously have had the time and motivation to develop the necessary complexities and create stories of depth and significance which resonate far beyond the original frozen image.

'Is it Her?', an intriguing picture by artist Rod Buckingham, is the visual stimulus chosen by the writers for their independent novellas both of which have been written without collusion. The painting depicts a bend in a cobbled road somewhere in a town or village. Terraced houses with red doors line up on either side of the bend but are separated by a gap. Linking the houses across this gap is a set of curved, iron railings. The houses and railings appear to be on a hill or a rise, overlooking a hidden landscape, possibly a plain or sea; perhaps a pond. The sky is overcast and filled with dense banks of louring cloud which extend all the way to the barely visible horizon. The cobbled road glistens beneath the pouring rain. A woman in an arresting red coat or dress stands at the railings holding aloft an opened and equally arresting bright red umbrella. The woman's back is to us as she looks out across the sea or plain towards the horizon. In the foreground of the picture an Austin Seven is parked, its bonnet towards us. The engine is running and puffs of smoke issue from the exhaust. The driver has just got out of the car and has started walking towards the woman in red. His back is also to us. In the road, to the driver's right, is another figure, possibly an old man. He carries a stick and is walking his dog. His back is to us as well. The period could be any time in the 1930s or 1940s. The scene is dismal but conveys a strong impression of mystery: there is a quality of suspense, as though something tumultuous is about to happen.

The gap between the terraced houses implies dissolution, fracture, separation yet the railings linking the two sets of houses like fragile black hairs suggest that a tenuous connection is retained and not all hope is lost. The setting is grey and bleak yet on the doors and on the woman's dress and umbrella the strongly contrasting presence of the colour red, the colour of blood, life and animation, provides a vivid contrast with the drab, prosaic setting and suggests survival, continuance, and the triumph of life over death. The principal figures in the painting are both engaged in some kind of search yet there is distance between all three which implies alienation. What intense yearning or longing motivates the woman to wait patiently in the pouring rain searching the horizon? Or is she merely waiting for a lift into town? Is there a complex relationship between the motorist and the woman or has he simply stopped to ask directions? What is the significance of the man with the dog?

The picture's semiotics are perfectly incorporated within the novellas it inspires. I will not commit the sin of divulging the plot of either. However, in both novellas the Second World War is a vital catalyst: transforming lives and sending them spinning off in totally different directions, creating unforeseen and unexpected character arcs. Kath Middleton's 'Is it Her?' is the more epic. It begins with a pre-war romance in which only one of the parties truly appreciates the threat the coming conflict presents to the future happiness of ordinary lives. Exceptionally well researched, it follows the characters for the period of the war and with many realistic and authentic details chronicles their anxieties, terrors and tragedies. On the way it beautifully evokes the tenor of those times: the enforced cheerfulness, infectious camaraderie, blind faith, daily hardships and disappointments. Yet the work also surprises us by finding altruism in unexpected places and by confounding clich├ęs and stereotypes. It reveals the best in people and the worst in people. I particularly admired the skill with which Kath Middleton presents this wonderful, great sweep of a story within the limited canvas of a novella and tells it from the points of view of different characters; also her metaphorical use of the colour red which beautifully acts as a leitmotif throughout. The story ends at the frozen moment in the artist's frame but, like Keats' Grecian Urn, the uncompleted act tantalisingly suspends us between present and future. We savour the irony of knowing so much more than the characters and can only speculate on the shock, sadness, relief, amazement and delight with which the extraordinary information they have to impart to each other will be received. We ask whether they can ever be what they once were to each other again. The best stories do not end with the final word but continue resonating in the minds of their readers encouraging them to supply what has been deliberately omitted.

The events of 'Is it Her?' by Jonathan Hill principally occupy one night in which two men are preparing to leave their loved ones and set off for the war. Jonathan Hill creates with a sure economy the atmosphere of apprehension, dread, anger and reflectiveness that one would naturally associate with such circumstances. The novella is written in the present tense which is a masterly choice because it gives the piece compelling immediacy, but Jonathan Hill also uses it with great technical skill to suggest that, although the wartime situation is understandably tense, the hidden secrets of certain characters are generating an additional subtext which imbues their most innocuous acts or words with social danger and a threat of impending dissolution and chaos. This creates an electric atmosphere of tension and suspense and produces powerful drama. Jonathan Hill also cleverly uses the frustrating restrictions and limitations imposed by the wartime blackout to unbearably ratchet up the frustration and create even more tension. When the moment of awful revelation comes, the superb quality of the writing ensures that it is traumatic for all concerned, including the reader. The revelation also provides us with a delicious sense of that dramatic irony that can only be appreciated in retrospect when the assistance of elapsed time affords us the opportunity at the end of the story to look back and see the powerful subtext suffusing the work. Using a most ingenious point of view, Jonathan Hill takes us up to and beyond the moment frozen in the artist's frame, provides yet more tragedy and projects us into the future. Finally, he supplies a poignantly moving coda which incorporates regeneration and hope and affords us a glimpse of the better world that will arise from the ashes.

The two novellas in their different ways are superbly inventive and their resolutions poignant and moving. They provide very different interpretations of the painting but both reflect the consequences of war, the profound revelations those consequences produce and the dramatic ironies they create for the reader. In Jonathan Hill's case the ironies are strongly foregrounded; in Kath Middleton's they are more oblique yet, ultimately, in both cases, the ironies are brought about by the retrospective enlightenment afforded by historical perspective. None of the principal characters in either novella are untouched by death, yet both stories illustrate that when much is lost, out of the ruins something may also be gained. Therefore, despite everything, their resolutions are positive. Both novellas are complex works in miniature and they are highly recommended.

Sample and download Is it Her? at 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Jonathan-Hill-ebook/dp/B01DGVOGOA