‘The Sound Mirror spans three generations and thousands of miles. It is an examination of class, war, violence, family and shame from the rich details of ordinary lives and intimately rendered characters.’
Sometimes you can tell instantly when an author has put their heart and soul into writing a book. It’s more to them than simply their book or their story. It becomes a venting tool, a diary, a place to allow inner feelings to emerge. A therapy of sorts.
Has this book won an award? I couldn’t find anything that says it has and I find it very hard to believe that it hasn’t.
Heidi’s story telling is phenomenal. The creativity is outstanding. How can writing with such a spiritual calm incorporate the brutality of life and truths without becoming a confusing conflict?
I had to concentrate hard with the three different characters and the joint narrative that told this story. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it. I needed silence and zero distraction. I wanted to hang onto every word, allowing myself time to digest and ponder this journey. There was no reason to rush.
The Sound Mirror is an education. It’s astonishing how much connection I felt with the characters and how their lives affected me directly and indirectly.
I can’t say much more other than I love Heidi’s writing, I read Wounding last year and that left one hell of an impression. You can read my review here.
Anyway, may I suggest you get yourself a copy and quietly settle into Heidi’s world, she writes for listeners, for thinkers, for ponderers and above all, she writes for herself.
The Sound Mirror by Heidi James is published by Bluemoose Books and you can order your copy direct from them here.
How do I even start trying to talk about this book? I’ll do my best because today is my turn to shout about it on the blog tour!
Ok, so, I knew it was going to be dark, uncomfortable and immersive, I’d read a fair bit of ‘wow, this book though’ reaction on social media. Little did I know just how much this story was going to get under my skin.
‘Family history, written in our genes is handed down the generations. From Mother to daughter. The good and the bad. We cannot choose what we inherit. We cannot decide what we are. Sometimes we get to be angels.
And sometimes monsters…’
I have a beautiful grown up daughter and I’ll forever be my mothers daughter even though she’s passed. The Push took me down the memory lane of my own childhood and motherhood.
Being a Mum or a Dad to a son or a daughter will magnify the intensity of Audrains story tenfold. I felt such strangeness in my stomach reading this book. I had to put it down and gather myself numerous times.
When I first finished, I was almost 100% sure I wouldn’t be able to review it. It kind of hurt. I laid in bed that night mulling over it’s content, my emotions were muddled.
Did I enjoy it? Was I prepared enough to get through it? Did it dig up some personal stuff?
Not sure. No, I don’t think I was. And categorically yes, it did.
This is a story about society’s expectations of motherhood. How a woman is supposed to have some kind of pre-installed knowledge of how to do things right. Feel things right. To naturally nurture. And perhaps use your own childhood as a template to do a great job and bring up a perfectly rounded, delightful human being.
But what if your childhood was horrific? What do you pass on then? Knowingly or unknowingly. It’s a chilling thought.
So your feelings aren’t quite right. The sleep deprivation is blamed. It’s just your hormones, it’ll pass. The adjustment period gently mentioned by those who ‘do it right’.
But what about paranoia? IS IT paranoia? Darkness. Guilt. Self-loathing. Confusion. Distrust. I could reel off a load.
Come on, be a doting Mummy, it’s such a precious gift. Love every minute of it, they grow up so quickly.
I have to keep too many secrets about Blythe and Fox. Violet and Sam. I’m not giving much away about the story itself or the three generations of women that hold this story together in the worst way possible. It would spoil it.
I am astonished by how this story made me feel. I was hooked the minute I started it. It felt so raw, so real. This may well be psychologically thrilling, but, oh the HORROR.
The Push is absorbing, I was enthralled by how Audrain intertwined the generations with each other. I struggle with multiple timelines usually but I had no difficulty here.
The characters are believable, expertly created and emotionally complex yet so easy to relate to, to have an opinion about.
It’s hard to say I enjoyed reading The Push, how can you possibly enjoy something that makes the hairs on your neck stand up when you’ve read a paragraph that forces you to put the book down.
I could of been reading a true story, and that’s what stunned me most of all.
As I come to the end of talking about one of the THE hardest books I’ve read this year, I’ll say this; that perfect family over there, you know the one, nice home, all smiley, living their idyllic life, Sunday morning football, ballet class, home baking, whatever. If you look hard enough, you might just spot a psychopath beginning to emerge.
An unforgettable five star read.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
A strange little yellow book full of strange scenarios that every single one of us can relate to in some way.
Ya Mum is short vignette style stories that give a sense of art and deeper thought to everyday occurrences that are always seen but often ignored.
From dumped shopping trolleys to a lonesome shoe. Social distancing in Morrisons to an unpleasant discovery in a pub toilet.
Armed with the perils of hangovers and dubiously stained mattresses, author Ben Tallon sees our world a little differently. He sees beyond the basics, he turns the arse-end of British life into something story-worthy.
I see this book as a ‘loo book’ or stocking filler. A book that you find yourself reading out of morbid curiosity, nodding in agreement and surprise at just how relevant it is.
It’s a strange little yellow book, and I recommend it for shits and giggles. It offers a perspective of this crappy world with its crappy people that’s nothing quite like yours.
About the author:
Ben Tallon is a writer, illustrator and host of Arrest All Mimics podcast. He grew up laughing at farts in Keighley, West Yorkshire and is fascinated by the dirty underbelly of British culture.
Thank you to author Ben Tallon for sending me a signed copy.
‘In this dark and toothsome collection, Anna Vaught enters a strange world of apocryphal feasts and disturbing banquets.’
25g of dried madness
300ml of warmed passion, diced erratically
A generous cupful of foul thoughts (check the back of your pantry)
400g of delicious words
1 or 2 tsps of mixed emotions
50g of old musty dictionary pages (‘W,T or F pages are probably most suitable)
For the glaze: A wash of quiet darkness
Preparation is recommended on an empty stomach.
Mix the wet ingredients together in a bowl. Do this in a careful manner, creating a revolting soup-like consistency that can easily travel through ones veins.
Next, gently combine the dry ingredients together into an old urn or suchlike. There’s bound to be one lurking on the mantelpiece somewhere. Stir with a gnarled and boney finger until it resembles an odd, dusty, cement-like mixture.
Mix both wet and dry ingredients together and divide into 17 unequal portions. You are now ready to create your worst food nightmares.
HOW DOES IT TASTE?
Comparable to a Cindy Lauper album, Famished has got to be the most magical, colourful, intelligent, bonkers, grotesque mix of stories I’ve ever had the (dis)pleasure to read. For reasons unknown, it just reminded me of how fascinated I am by Cindy Lauper in that you can’t help but find it entertaining, albeit very weirdly so.
Anna Vaught is a novelist, poet, essayist, reviewer and editor. She is also a secondary English teacher, and that shows spectacularly throughout the entire book. I spent a great deal of time looking up so many words in the dictionary, I felt like I was back in school. (Would I get an A* Ms Vaught, if you’re reading this?!)
Famished was a learning curve, a strange experience, a delight.
Famished was also heartfelt, relatable and revolting. Did it whet my appetite? It certainly did. But it didn’t make me hungry. Did it ruin my dinner? No! Funnily enough, it took me back to dinner times at home with my parents in the 80’s. Tinned mandarin segments with condensed milk for pudding was supposed to be a treat!
I must have quite a strong stomach because out of all the darn right disgusting things in this book, there was only one thing that really turned me over.
These four words – ‘…sea-foam milky tea…’ 🤢
I’ve only really started reading short story collections in the last couple of years, so I’ve got quite a list to get through. Many classics and a few contemporary, but I don’t think I’ll come across anything quite like Famished again.
Although…and I’m saying this with great relish; there’s hints of SHIRLEY JACKSON in Vaughts writing. YES, that’s what I said. I’ve compared a modern author to JACKSON, the QUEEN OF MACABRE.
Famished is staying on my forever shelf, and Ms Vaughts’ vulgar little tales are living beside Shirley Jackson. They can be like ‘two sisters, secreted in the deeper recesses of darkness…’
‘We call them Bunnies because that is what they call each other. Seriously. Bunny.’
I’m a bit all over the place with this book. I’d call it a ‘yo-yo read’. It’s sickly sweet, ugly pretty, cutely foul and oddly addictive. I was up and down throughout, with awkward ‘do I even like this’ moments. On numerous occasions I was indeed loving it in all its twisted hilarity.
Samantha Heather Mackey is an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at Warren University. In fact, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort – a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other ‘Bunny’.
But then the Bunnies issue her with an invitation and Samantha finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door, across the threshold, and down their rabbit hole.
Bunny was an unusual choice for me as it’s got Young Adult/Fantasy genre written all over it – not my usual choice. But this book feels like it not only blends genres, but bends them too. Into very uncomfortable positions.
It’s as funny as hell in places and has a fair few horrific scenes. On Goodreads someone described it as ‘one of the most demented books I’ve ever read’. I dig a bit of weirdness in my books, so my FOMO got the better of me!
I’m a member of The Ladies of Horror Fiction Group on Goodreads and there was a choice of books for September to vote for. Bunny won, so I thought, oh why not, let’s do it! I’m glad I did, but I’m still not sure I even liked it much!
I’m in the UK and the story is American, so I found certain things that I didn’t connect with. The education system in the USA is something I know nothing about. Also certain pop culture went over my head, so perhaps things were a bit lost on me.
The quirky characters were cracking, the humour was dark and dry, it was shockingly funny on countless occasions. It was written in such a way that is felt ‘chatty’ and flowed from page to brain* very easily.
*whilst mashing it up repeatedly.
The Sunday Independent quotes it as ‘Mean Girls with added menace’ and I completely agree.
At three quarters through I felt it was just playing with me. My feelings went from ‘this is weird’ to this is ‘REALLY effing weird’. Then ‘it’s so hilarious but still weird.’ Then ‘uh-oh, I’m getting a bit bored of the repetitive bits in the middle here.’ And the final part was just ‘whaaat??? – I’m not sure I even ‘get it!’
Talk about rollercoaster! It’s like nothing I’ve read before ever. But I think I liked it.
Would I read it again? No. Would I recommend it? I would, yes. But it’s definitely not for everyone. Maybe it would sit better with an American reader, and certainly would be more appreciated by someone twenty years younger than myself.
Apparently the rights are sold to AMC for a possible TV-film adaptation. I think it would be better on screen, I’d watch it, but only because I’ve read it.
It comes across as a weird, fantastical teen/YA story, with elements of horror that is cleverly put together. I enjoyed the characters and their strange behaviours, the writing was extremely good but overall I’d say it is an above average ‘Bunny Tail’ deserving of 3/5 bunnies.
I’ll leave you with a couple of lines which made me pull a right dodgy face;
‘A pause so pregnant it delivers, consumes its own spawn, then grows big with child again.’
‘She looks at us all in her probing, intensely gynaecological way.’