The Sound Mirror by Heidi James

‘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.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

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.

Famished by Anna Vaught ~ A Recipe Blogpost Review

‘In this dark and toothsome collection, Anna Vaught enters a strange world of apocryphal feasts and disturbing banquets.’

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

METHOD

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.

‘…the tripe blinked at her and writhed in its nasty pool of white sauce…’

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.

‘Will you gently suck, or will you shovel up with the liquorice, drunk on the acid-carbonate reaction with your own saliva?’

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…’

Famished is going on my Best of 2020 Goodreads shelf

WWW: Wednesday 9th September 2020 What are you reading at the moment?

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading!

Current Read:

A Village Affair by Joanna Trollope

It’s a slow ol’ read, and I’m a bit disappointed as it’s my first Trollope book, and I had hoped for something more…

Recently read:

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

My 5 star book of the year!

Sliver by Ira Levin

Another disappointing one, I usually LOVE Levins’ books, but this was too full of waffle!

Next Read: Bunny by Mona Awad

I’m joining in with the Ladies of Horror Fiction Group on Goodreads with this one! It’s been described as ‘demented’ so I’m REALLY looking forward to starting it!

The Hoarder by Jess Kidd

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The Hoarder is the mesmerising second novel from Jess Kidd. It is a dark, comical tale of haunting and hoarding.

 

‘Time wavers and retreats at Bridlemere, coughing and shambling. Here is history mutely putrefying and elegance politely withering’.

Two weeks it took me to read The Hoarder by Jess Kidd. Two weeks of beautiful, poetic writing, which ambled along at a pace slower than I normally would like. That said, the speed at which this story unfolds was exactly how it should be. I devoured every sentence, re-read many paragraphs, I wasn’t itching for a conclusion or big reveal, I was deep in the moment, sucked in by incredible writing.

I loved everything about the story, the writing style, the characters, the humour, the sadness and poignancy. Whilst reading, I felt as though I was transported to Bridlemere, the aromas of a once grand mansion seeped into my senses, the quirky characters had my undivided attention, and the paranormal elements added an unusual and often amusing twist.

‘Sometimes the wind dropped down and hid behind the dunes, sometimes it sent playful handfuls of sand skipping. Sometimes it raised colossal storms to scour your arse all along the strand’.

I’m not entirely sure whether I’ve read anything with Irish protagonists before, if I have, it’s gone unnoticed or forgotten. The sometimes slightly crass dialogue brought smirks and smiles, just breaking up the flow enough to give it an edge, perfectly placed, no profanity for the sake of it.

The Hoarder is faultless, I am finding it difficult to review in all its perfection. I didn’t read too much about it prior to starting it, and went in blind. I just had a funny feeling it would blow me away. And it did just that.

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About the Author

Jess Kidd was brought up in London as part of a large family from County Mayo. Her first novel, Himself, was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in 2016 and she was the winner of the Costa Short Story Award in the same year. In 2017, Himself was shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and longlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. Her second novel, The Hoarder, was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award in association with Listowel Writers’ Week’. Both books were BBC Radio 2 Book Club picks.
@JessKiddHerself | jesskidd.com