Monday 26 January 2015

My review of ‘Echoes of Narcissus in the Gardens of Delight’ by Jo Robinson

This is the story of a woman who finally sees a chink of light after thirty years of marriage. As the shutters fall from her eyes, blazing sunshine floods in and she can see how she has suffered at the hands of her husband Marco, a control freak – a narcissist.
Donna is a fifty five year old woman who believed her life was as it was meant to be.  Her only refuge was her garden, filled with exotic and rare plants. She tended it lovingly and treated the plants as her only friends while she herself was treated as a downtrodden simpleton, an imbecile, somebody not worth giving the time of the day.
A chance encounter at the moment of realisation changes her life, she finds someone who wants to be a friend. The new friend sees things that weren’t at first obvious to the reticent Donna, but with her gentle encouragement Donna finally breaks from her shell and begins to blossom, finding more new friends along the way.
Life for Donna will never be the same again, but can she do what she needs to do? Escape is her only option, but with a narcissistic husband that is not as easy as it sounds. Can she achieve the impossible with the help of her new friends?
Jo Robinson has produced a wonderful novel here. I love the easy style and the way the characters leap of the page. You get to know them intimately and with Donna you find yourself urging her on, a lifelong loser who can finally cast her shackles aside to run forward and win.
This is quite a thought provoking book.
There is an obvious appeal to female readers, but I think that this crosses the gender barrier and male readers will enjoy it too.
The subject matter brings to light something that is hidden in many lives, but if this work of fiction resonates with just one reader in the future then the author has done more than just putting pen to paper.


Ambulance memoir.
  • I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I’ve changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
  • Swearing happens. I have used, and will use, some words that some people may find offensive.
The question ‘You Millared yet?’ came up quite a bit. To be “Millared” was to become qualified. This was usually done after spending a year on the road having been mentored by a qualified ambulance person. I was coming up to my first year on the road and the question was continually asked by my colleagues from other stations.
When the fateful day did arrive I was on an early shift, seven to three, a Tuesday and working with Matt.
The instructor from HQ arrived early; it was Joe, one of my instructors from my induction course.
‘Nothing to worry about Clive,’ he said. ‘We’ll get the exam out of the way first and then I’ll ride out with you to see what you’ve learnt.’
I nodded. Made him a cup of tea and let him sit in the comfy chair.
Despite everyone telling me this was just a formality, I was nervous. The last couple of weeks I had my nose buried in my books, trying to get everything to stick in my mind. I was sick and tired of reading about the nervous system, the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, the skeletal system, and every other bloody system that makes up the squidgy bits of humans. Then there were all the signs and symptoms of various illnesses and injuries as well as their treatments. All in all it was pretty much everything I had supposedly learnt. My mind was swimming in facts and figures.
Matt and Joe started yacking as I was dismissed to the office to do the exam. I sat at the desk and began to read through the questions. I was relieved; there was nothing there that I hadn’t read and learnt. I scribbled away, ticked boxes, and twice answered the phone.
The first time it rang:
‘Just checking,’ said control. ‘You doing your Millar today?’
‘Yes, I’m doing it now. I’m half way through the paper.’
‘You stuck on anything? Just ask if you are.’
‘No, I’m fine ta.’
‘Good. Speak to you later. Good luck.’
I carried on until the phone rang a second time.
‘You still doing the exam?’
‘Yes I am.’
‘Oh, that’s a shame. Got an RTA (Road Traffic Accident) but if you’re still writing then I’ll give it to another crew.’
‘Okay, thanks,’ I replied in relief. I had no wish to do an RTA on my Millar day anyway; too much could go wrong with one of them.
I finished the exam a short while later and handed the paper to Joe to mark. He did it there in front of me, slurping his tea and chortling away to himself as his pen flicked and ticked. Occasionally he raised his eyebrows. I kept my eyes fixed on the pen and on him as he worked. He looked up, grinned, and then went back to the marking. Neither me nor Matt said a word.
‘Well,’ said Joe in the end, as he lay my exam paper down. A serious look crossed his face. ‘I have to say….. I’m actually sad to say…..’
His hesitation was just that little bit too long; then he grinned. ‘Congratulations Clive, part one now down. You got ninety five per cent.’
Matt clapped his hands and cheered.
‘Bastard,’ said I. ‘You had me worried there.’
‘All part of the service; got to keep you on your toes.  Let’s hope we get a job quickly now. I’ll have a word with control. Next one is ours.’
It was a strange day; very quiet. Three hours later we hadn’t moved. No jobs….anywhere. Joe was back onto control. ‘Anything will do, anything!’ I heard him say.
An hour later the phone rang. I picked it up. ‘Will an Urgent do you?’
I called through to Joe. ‘They have an Urgent, is that okay?’
‘Yes, thank fuck for that. Anything. I just need to see you with a patient.’
The job was a routine doctor’s admission. I fussed about a bit and did everything I should have done, plus a bit more for emphasis. Joe looked on as Matt and I carted the man out of his house on a chair and made him comfortable in the back of the ambulance. It was then a quick trip to hospital and then back to station.
‘You’ve passed,’ he said on the way back. ‘You can now call yourself an ambulanceman. You might not thank me for it in the end though.’
I felt pleased as punch. More money and a Millar badge on my arm, a laurel wreath, the mark of a qualified ambulanceman!
As soon as we got back to station Joe left. It had been a weird day as there were very few jobs in our area. I watched the clock on the wall, an eight hour shift and most of it spent sitting on my arse waiting for the phone to ring. At half past two, just thirty minutes before the end of my shift the phone rang.
‘RTA, A41, Bourne End. Believed one person trapped. Police and fire informed. You passed now?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, adrenaline already starting to pump.
‘Congratulations,’ replied control. ‘Shame you didn’t get this one earlier.’
Thank fuck I didn’t, I thought as I put the phone down.

Please feel free to leave a comment or thought.

Friday 23 January 2015

Rip-roaring mystery

The opening chapter of this thriller grips like barnacle. Jack Lockwood’s half-brother is accused of rape and murder, but as Jack tries to talk him down from a crane he professes his innocence and states that he thinks there is an agenda among some high profile and influential people to frame him for the rapes and murders.
What follows is a roller-coaster of a ride as Jack looks into the truth of the matter.
Jack Lockwood is one of the unluckiest characters in fiction. It’s not necessarily his fault, but he always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and upsets the wrong people. The women in his life seem to come with baggage that would perhaps be best described as interesting. Although you get the feeling that Jack would like his pipe and slippers in front of a roaring fire as he puts his feet up of an evening, you know that that will never happen.
The story moves like an express train which has had the brakes taken off. There is no stopping it once it gets going, and go it certainly does.
The writing is crisp and allows you to take the journey along with the author. The characters are well rounded and believable. The plot and sub-plot are nicely woven together and leaves you wondering which strand Jack has got hold of as he is thrown unceremoniously from pillar to post.
This is a stand-alone novel, and one that works well, but reading the first two books in the series will help with understanding of Jack and his motives.
Congratulations to Geoffrey West for producing another rip-roaring mystery/suspense novel.

Thursday 15 January 2015

To review or not to review: that is the question.

Originally posted on :
It’s important not to tarnish your brand when you’re in the public eye – or to invite others to tarnish it for you. No matter how small a fish you might think you are. As an Indie author you really do have to be reading books by other Indies as well your traditionally published favourites, and leaving reviews for our peers is absolutely necessary for the good of the whole tribe. I will ask you one question though – how many times have Dan Brown or J K Rowling publicly published a bad review of their peers? They don’t, because there are reviewers out there who get to do those things, and they probably don’t want to get into barnies with other scribblers either. If you have set yourself up as a book reviewer as well as an Indie author that’s fair enough, as long as you’re prepared to take…
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Tuesday 13 January 2015

Review of ‘The Quest for the Holy Something or Other’ by Kylie Betzner

This is the story of Pig, a young girl plucked from the obscurity of shovelling out the cess-pit beneath the walls of Camelot, who for a joke becomes page to Sir Kay.
What follows is a pythonesque romp through the myth of the Arthurian legend. The table becomes a pineapple and the knights far from equal. There must be a quest and sure enough Merlin finds one; though for the reluctant Sir Kay, his is slightly different.
The main driving force throughout the book is the relationship between Sir Kay and Pig. Other characters come and go, but as the story evolves, so do they. I liked the dynamic between them and how they slowly become more reliant on each other as things evolve. You can empathise with them, which is all down to the characterisation of the author.
There is a gentle humour running throughout the book with clich├ęs aplenty, which is as it should be with a parody, and some moments of slapstick. There are good few modern day references to put things into perspective too. The author hasn’t gone solely for cheap laughs; there is a subtlety and innocence to the humour which will appeal both to the YA market as well as to adults.
Kylie Betzner should be congratulated on finding her own voice where she could quite easily have copied another’s. As a debut, this bodes well for the future.

Monday 12 January 2015

Ambulance memoir: Little old lady.

Ambulance memoir.
  • I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and privacy I’ve changed the names of individuals and sometimes places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics, so the people described do not necessarily reflect the actual person or persons involved. Incidents and situations are as I recall.
  • Swearing happens. I have used, and will use, some words that some people may find offensive.

I was working with Matt when the call came through; it was a Section under the mental health act. This meant that the patient had to go to hospital whether they wanted to or not; forcibly if necessary.
We trundled down the road with Matt driving. The address was over on the other side of town in a row of neat terrace cottages. It was just a doctor’s admission, so there was no need to rush.
The little cottage loomed into view, ivy clad with a pretty front garden. You could tell it was well looked after by the owner.
We got out and I banged on the door. It was answered by a harassed looking woman who thrust a piece of paper at me.
‘I’m the social worker and this is the order, the doctor has just left. She’s all yours now, and good luck. She’s driving me up the wall.’
Matt and I entered the house and followed the woman through to the kitchen where we met our patient. Florence was in her eighties, a tiny thin woman with gnarled looking hands, showing a lifetime of hard physical work. She wore a pinny over a skirt and blouse.  She looked up as we entered and then dismissed us and carried on washing up. She was talking to herself all the time. She placed the cups and plates on the draining board and then turned and wiped her hands. She then turned around, re-filled the bowl and began to wash everything again. Apparently this had been going on for quite a while.
Matt stepped forward and touched Florence on the arm. ‘Come on love, we have to take you to hospital,’ he said gently.
Florence turned her head towards him and let out a blood-curdling scream, right in his face. The shock made him take a quick step back and he banged straight into me, treading on my toes. She then turned around again to do the washing up as if nothing had happened. Matt shook himself and then turned towards me.
‘I think we may have a bit of a problem here.’
‘She does that every time someone touches her,’ informed the social worker, now standing at the door.
Matt looked at her. ‘Thanks, you could have told us that before I touched her!’
‘It’s all right, at least we know now.’ He stepped towards Florence again. ‘Come on love, put that down and come with us, the doctor wants you to go to hospital. The quicker we get there the quicker you’ll get back.’
The scream rent the air again, this time of a higher pitch that set the eardrums jangling.
‘I think we’ll be here all day at this rate,’ said Matt, with a sigh. ‘The best thing to do is for each of us to grab an arm and frogmarch her out. Go and open the back of the motor so we can get her in quick.’
Even though I was attendant I was still fairly new at this lark, so Matt was taking charge. I did as he said and came back into the house, to be greeted with yet another scream. Matt was getting exasperated now.
‘Everything ready?’ he asked me.
I nodded.
‘Let’s go for it then,’ he said.
We each grabbed an arm and lifted her up. As of before she let out a scream, but this time she turned her head to scream into each of our ears one after another, and she carried on screaming as we took her out. What the neighbours thought was happening I just did not know and at that point I didn’t really care. My ears were being assaulted by a banshee!
As soon as we got her in the motor Matt jumped out and shut the door. I sat her down and put the seat belt around her, and as if flicking a switch, she shut up. She just looked around at her new surroundings and then looked at me as I sat opposite her on the stretcher. If looks could kill I’d be six foot under.
Matt jumped in the driving seat and off we went. We had a few miles to go because the hospital was in St Albans, an old Victorian edifice which served as the mental hospital for the area.
The journey was fairly calm to start with, considering the amount of screeching and screaming that had begun it. The only problem was that Florence kept undoing the seat belt and I had to keep doing it back up. This went on for quite a while and each time I re-attached it she let out another scream. She undid it yet again, and again I performed my task; silence this time, she just gave me the evil look, stared at me as if I was the devil incarnate. I noticed her hand reaching for the buckle and she flicked it open, at the same time I noticed her other hand reaching into the pocket of her pinny. The next few moments went into slow motion for me. Her hand came out of the pocket holding onto to something that I couldn’t quite see; she then looked at me as if gauging the distance. I started to bend forwards to re-do the seat belt when suddenly she lunged at me, screaming, the object in her hand now obvious to me. It was a pair of long, very sharp pointy scissors. They were about seven inches long and shaped like a stiletto and they were heading, point first towards my stomach! Somehow I managed to get my arm up in time and deflect her hand, but then her other hand came up and she tried to scratch at my eyes. I felt the motor brake suddenly as I held onto the arm holding the scissors and trying to get my head away from her claws. Eventually I managed to hold onto to both her arms and pin them back just as Matt jumped through from the driving seat.
‘You all right?’ he asked in a slightly panicky voice. ‘Shit, I wasn’t expecting her to do that!’
‘Neither was I!’ I replied, the terror evident in my eyes apparently.
The rest of the journey was spent with me leant forward and pinning her arms back, and when we got to hospital, needless to say I was grateful to get rid of her. Never again would I look on a little old lady as just a harmless little old lady!

Saturday 10 January 2015

Clive MullisHello to you all, I’m Clive, and first off, thanks to Chris for this opportunity to grace his famed and wondrous site.
Who am I? What am I? Now there’s a good question.
I live in the UK in the county of Bedfordshire in a small market town with my wife, son and dog. I have many interests that keep me from going totally insane; I love sports in general but mainly football (I follow Watford), and archery in particular. Sadly I no longer attend football matches but I am a regular at my archery club, shooting compound for those who wish to know.
Anybody who’s come across me in their meanderings through the ether of cyberspace might have come upon references to my former profession. I spent thirty years as a paramedic during which time I saw life, and death, as few people ever do.
The emergency services are…
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Monday 5 January 2015

Review of 'The Truth Will Out' by Jane Isaac

This is the second helping of DCI Helen Lavery, and like the first, I enjoyed it immensely.
The story begins with two friends on skype, but for one of them, violence and death ensues while the other watches on.
Enter Helen Lavery and her team as they try to follow the scant leads provided. Before too long though, Lavery is usurped by a former lover as he is shoe-horned in above her head to lead the investigation. Lavery is torn. Her interest in her former lover is piqued, but she isn’t happy that the investigation has been taken out of her hands – and even unhappier when he comes to a conclusion that she doesn’t agree with.
The writing is crisp and the plot doesn’t dawdle. The characters are well drawn and the author gives the protagonist a human side. Lavery juggles the two parts of her life, her job and her family, which gives the story a realism which the reader can easily identify with. I liked the antagonists too, they set up a nice creepy element to the story and the whole combines to give a satisfying read.
Hopefully we will hear more of this detective in the future.