#BlogTour The Half-Life of Snails by Philippa Holloway

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Half-Life of Snails by Philippa Holloway.

About the Author

Philippa Holloway is a writer and senior lecturer at Staffordshire University, living in England but with her heart still at home in Wales. Her short fiction is published on four continents. 

She has won prizes in literary awards including the Fish Publishing Prize, The Scythe Prize, and the Writers & Artists Working Class Writer’s Prize. She is co-editor of the collection 100 Words of Solitude: Global Voices in Lockdown 2020 (Rare Swan Press). Follow @thejackdawspen on Twitter

About the book

Two sisters, two nuclear power stations, one child caught in the middle… When Helen, a self-taught prepper and single mother, leaves her young son Jack with her sister for a few days so she can visit Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone, they both know the situation will be tense. Helen opposes plans for a new power station on the coast of Anglesey that will take over the family’s farmland, and Jennifer works for the nuclear industry and welcomes the plans for the good of the economy. But blood is thicker than heavy water, and both want to reconnect somehow, with Jack perhaps the key to a new understanding of one another.

Yet while Helen is forced to face up to childhood traumas, and her worst fears regarding nuclear disaster, during a trip that sees her caught up in political violence and trapped in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone during the 2014 Euromaidan revolution, Jennifer too must discover that even the smallest decision can have catastrophic and long-lasting effects, both within the nuclear industry, and within the home.

And Jack isn’t like other five-year olds… as they will both discover with devastating consequences.

Review

Living on the perimeter of a nuclear power station has driven the mindset of young mother Helen. It has made her more aware of her surroundings and of the repercussions and dangers in regard to said station. One could say her need to be safe and prepared for all situations has become an obsession. The kind of obsession that makes a trip to a disaster scene seem normal – to her at least. Leaving her son in the capable hands of her family.

The bond between Helen and her son is strong, tight to the point of suffocation. A mother who sees danger in every corner and has taught her young boy accordingly. A bond that becomes strained and anxieties are heightened, when the worst case scenario happens whilst the two are separated for the first time.

I don’t think this one will leave me, the type of read that exists in the back of your mind – a warning and a stark reminder. A reminder that mankind will never learn their lesson, that greed always supersedes common sense and the safety of those directly in the line of fire. 

Helen’s approach to raising her son as a prepper, thereby also causing segregation, isolation and a very insulated view of his surroundings – it’s contentious and neglectful. He is emotionally stunted and wary of anyone other than his mother, which makes him vulnerable. Or is Helen one step closer to the future than others, thereby creating a child able to survive under the direst of situations and circumstances.

This is the kind of book that resonates in the here and now, and equally has its place in history. It’s also one, I am sure, that will divide readers at times. More importantly it will generate conversations – hopefully. It’s a cracking and captivating read. 

Buy The Half-Life of Snails at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Parthian Books pub date 4 May 2022. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Parthian Books.

#BlogTour How to Carry Fire by Christina Thatcher

Today it’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour How to Carry Fire by Christina Thatcher.

About the Author

Shortlisted for the Bare Fiction Debut Poetry  Collection Competition in 2015 and a winner in the Terry Hetherington Award for Young Writers in 2016, Christina Thatcher’s poetry and short stories have featured in over 40 publications including The London Magazine, Planet Magazine, And Other Poems, Acumen and The Interpreter’s House. Her first collection, More than you were, was published by Parthian Books in 2017.

Follow @writetoempower @parthianbooks on Twitter, on Goodreads, Visit christinathatcher.comBuy How to Carry Fire

About the book

How to Carry Fire was born from the ashes of family addiction. Beginning with the burning down of her childhood home, Thatcher explores how fire can both destroy and cleanse. Her work recognises embers everywhere: in farmhouses, heroin needles, poisonous salamanders.

Thatcher reveals how fire is internalised and disclosed through anxiety, addiction, passion and love. Underneath and among the flames runs the American and Welsh landscapes – locations which, like fire itself, offer up experiences which mesmerise, burn and purify. This poignant second collection reminds us of how the most dangerous and volatile fires can forge us – even long after the flames have died down.

Review

Poetry is very much a form of art – written art. It is also, when you leave aside structure, an absolutely subjective experience, regardless of whether it is performed for you or read by oneself. The base reaction to words, phrases and even sound is an experience each person owns, which is why I am highly sceptical of third parties evaluating an interpretation of a poem. I mean this more in an academic sense.

You can evaluate if I have recognised stanza, line length or other technical things – what you can’t do is decide what I should be experiencing or how I interpret a poem. Although the author owns their own emotions, truth and their words, even they don’t know how your own frame of references will experience their words.

This book contains over sixty poems. Word-art that speaks to the pain, the trauma, the fear and disappointment felt over decades. Words thrust upon paper in an attempt to understand, confront and eventually heal.

Arson – what does happen when life infuses you with fire? The kind you can’t control as it controls every part of you. You feel, breathe and live it. An anonymous silent partner feeding your internal turmoil.

Most Days – almost an ode to a specific type of body dysmorphia linked to flashbacks. Severe trauma causing an out of body experience. Injuries heal, but scars are constant travelling companions in our lives.

Thatcher takes a sharp knife, draws it slowly down her arm and opens her vein to show her readers her fire, her pain that lives just below the surface and the demons she has tried to silence during her lifetime. Her poetry is a release, a reminder and hopefully also a rescue.

Buy How to Carry Fire at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Parthian Books; pub date 1 April 2020 Paperback / Poetry – £9.00. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Brando’s Bride by Sarah Broughton

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Brando’s Bride by Sarah Broughton.

About the Author

Sarah Broughton was born in London, lives in Cardiff and is the Creative Director of Martha Stone Productions.

She has written a novel, ‘Other Useful Numbers’, and a non-fiction book about the mysterious first wife of Marlon Brando, ‘Brando’s Bride’. Both are published by Parthian Books.

She can be found on twitter @sjbroughton124Buy Brando’s BrideAbout the book

In October 1957 Marlon Brando married a young studio actress called Anna Kashfi. He was thirty-three and at the pinnacle of his beautiful fame having recently won an Oscar for On the Waterfront. The wedding was front-page news around the world. His new bride was twenty-three, claimed to be an Indian princess and was pregnant. The day after the wedding a factory worker living in Wales, William O’Callaghan, revealed that Brando’s bride was in fact his daughter, Joan O’Callaghan and had been a butcher’s assistant from Cardiff. This book sets out to discover who was telling the truth and who was lying – and, perhaps more importantly, why?

Review

I think if this happened in the 21st century there would be a better understanding of why Anna, her parents and Marlon reacted the way they did. In general there is more information and clarification about the stigma and racism, which is why Anna’s story imploded the way it did.

Her parents were eager to hide behind their initial lies, because they didn’t want to be rejected by society. That rejection must have appeared to be a far worse fate than the disowning their daughter. The same could be said for Anna of course, who was left to her own devices after the studio helped her to build a story around her Anna Kashfi Anglo-Indian persona.

Then there is Marlon Brando – a man already convinced and consumed by his massive aura and ego. The fact his feeling of embarrassment was more important than his relationship with Anna frankly says a lot more about him than he probably would like people to know.

I think it is fair to say he was enamoured by the idea that the world knew Brando the great had an exotic woman on his arm. In a way his choices in women were more than just being attracted to a certain type of woman. It was about cementing his image as an activist in the civil rights and for the Native American movements.

Anna came from a world and a time in history when reinventing yourself by becoming bog standard white, English and Anglican was a choice made to protect, as opposed to trying to deceive.

It’s a well-researched biography, which Broughton approaches with empathy and respect. She gives Anna a voice – a voice she needed many decades ago. Not a piece written by those willing to feed the readers hungry for gossip and wanting to disparage someone. A voice speaking for the women who were used by the film industry as examples of exotic beauty, and then cast aside when they became too troublesome or threatened to bring scandals to their doors.

Buy Brando’s Bride at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Parthian Books; pub date 1 Jun. 2019. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Parthian Books.

#Blogtour The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond

It’s my turn on the BlogTour The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond. It’s a fascinating literary thriller. Keep your eye on this author!About the Author

Gary Raymond is a novelist, critic, editor and broadcaster. He is the presenter of BBC Radio Wales’, The Review Show, and is one of the founding editors of Wales Arts Review. He is the author of two novels, The Golden Orphans (Parthian, 2018) and For Those Who Come After (Parthian, 2015). He is a widely published critic and cultural commentator.

Follow @GaryRaymond_ @ParthianBooks on Twitter, Amazon Author page

Buy The Golden Orphans

About the book

Within the dark heart of an abandoned city, on an island once torn by betrayal and war, lies a terrible secret…

Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he’s created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illy Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illy has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder…

Review

Fascinating.

The narrator is a young artist, who has been invited to the funeral of his old mentor Francis. What begins as a goodbye to an old friend quickly becomes like something out of a bizarre parallel universe, where Rapunzel is replaced by a less than willing tower dweller.

Raymond writes with the skill of an old master. He creates this unusual atmosphere which has nothing to do with the surroundings per se and everything to do with the characters. He incorporates the complex and volatile history of Cyprus with the simmering unease of the present day situation.

The characters are strong and memorable, and yet simultaneously remain elusive and shallow. As a reader you think the author is about to reveal more about them, and bang a door closes in your face.

I was intrigued by the relationship between Illy, his painters and the paintings he craves. It made me wonder whether his request is physically possible or if it is something akin to chasing the Holy Grail.

Although this is a literary thriller I think this also had the potential to simply be a literary piece of fiction. The whole spiel between Illy, Francis, the narrator, and the painting would have made for a spectacular and fascinating read. It didn’t need the added layer of a thriller.

There is something about Raymond’s writing that will definitely have me looking out for more. He weaves and it flows with such a natural ease, it’s as if an old friend has invited you in for a comfortable chinwag and decides to confront you with an unexpected proposition.

It’s a mixture of literary hobnobbery and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Russian gangster vibe. What’s not to like?

Buy The Golden Orphans at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Buy The Golden Orphans at Amazon com at Waterstones Book Depository Barnes & Noble Kobo

Published by Parthian Books on 30th June 2018