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Vicky Had One Eye Open
Vicky Had One Eye Open
by Darryl Samaraweera
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.93

5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive and touching, 6 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Vicky Had One Eye Open (Paperback)
A sensitive and touching meditation on the heartache, confusion, and retreat into the self that are prompted by the serious illness of a loved one. Normal routines are shattered and we are forced into a contemplation of our relationship with the ailing individual and with our own life, not just by facing the fact of mortality but also by being thrown into a different routine that removes us from all the daily distractions that constitute our lives. Having been through this myself a number of times, I can attest to its reality.

This book captures this disruption and fracturing of life in the quiet, unpretentious and undemonstrative way that most of us experience (no soap opera dramatics here). The everyday and the upheaval of the everyday force us to adopt different perspectives on life as we wander the temporary encampments of hospital waiting rooms and travel different routes at unusual times of day in a world where time moves at a different pace. Within this bubble, the outside world seems distorted and unreal and we cope with emotional intensity through behaviours that anchor us to the normal yet which seem out of place in our new existence, all the time wondering if we shouldn’t be on our knees weeping at the bedside instead of eating a stale sandwich in an over lit canteen.

As a reflection of that, the opening of the book feels difficult and dislocated. We are not quite sure what is going on. Normal narratives are not there to carry us through. But this is true of any life that is disrupted. We have to look for new rhythms. And we have to do that with this book. They are there, and once you find them, the book draws you back in to its own pace and logic – one that relies on what Dorothy Richardson termed a ‘sea of consciousness’ with its great depths and many currents (rather than the later term ‘stream of consciousness’ which underplays the complexity of our inner lives).

The style and language are simple yet convey an intimate and universal substance with precision and depth (unlike a lot of modern writing that is brash pomposity masking the absence of substance). The several narratives are intertwined with great skill and the inner world of Vicky is grounded in the real world whilst growing ever more magical and beautiful until the book reaches its end, managing to be both devastatingly sad and uplifting at the same time.

There is, of course, a great deal more to this book than a simple evocation of people dealing with a dying parent. It is about growing up (as children and as adults); it is about the experiences of a Sri Lankan family in London, and much more. Ad it manages this without taking the obvious route at any point. For this alone it is to be praised, but the honesty of the book and the way in which it handles everything with such simplicity and certainty make it, for me, a book I will treasure and return to.


Pagan Portals - Dancing with Nemetona: A Druid's exploration of sanctuary and sacred space
Pagan Portals - Dancing with Nemetona: A Druid's exploration of sanctuary and sacred space
by Joanna van der Hoeven
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sacred space, 15 May 2014
This is an incisive and insightful work that explores the notion of sacred space and its relation to spiritual practice and the everyday world. As such, it also considers the often overlooked ever-changing boundaries and borderlands that exist between the self and world. A thought provoking read that can be returned to over and again.


Shaman Pathways - Web of Life: Guidance for your life journey
Shaman Pathways - Web of Life: Guidance for your life journey
by Yvonne Ryves
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent little book., 6 Jan 2014
People often assume that a big book is going to be more informative than a little book. Whilst the potential is there for this to be true, it is often the case that a short book has made the author think all the more about their subject and how to present the essence with clarity. This is certainly the case here. And not only do we get good information, but we also get good guidance.

For me, the best thing about the book is that whilst offering information, ideas, and help, it is encouraging the reader to become aware of the worlds in which they live and take control of their own being within them.

Even more impressive is the way in which the guidance offered works a template for whatever your spiritual path might be.

An excellent little book.


A Dangerous Place
A Dangerous Place
Price: £3.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and erudite, 17 Dec 2013
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This review is from: A Dangerous Place (Kindle Edition)
An enjoyable collection of interlinked short stories. They are all based in the same location, each in a different period of history. The central premiss is that a place can affect the behaviour of those who live there and accummulate, over the centuries, both a reputation and an increasing influence. Whilst that sounds heavy, and some of the stories are gruesome, this is a well-written and well observed work. The historical notes and introductory essay create an extra depth, but the stories work well in their own right. Each one accurately reflects the period in which it is set (along with the mores of the time and its superstitions and knowledge), but plays with the conventions of different types of murder mystery. An interesting read that holds you all the way through and which offers a garnish of fact that enhances rather than detracts from the main course.


Eduardo Paolozzi - At New Worlds. Science Fiction And Art In The Sixties
Eduardo Paolozzi - At New Worlds. Science Fiction And Art In The Sixties
by David Brittain
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.33

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime, 16 Dec 2013
I read 'New Worlds' in my younger days (still have quite a few copies left) and it was a joy, reading this, to see that what for me was seminal in my development as a writer is being given the treatment it deserves by serious critics. David Brittain is to be commended for a text that is clear, well-written, and erudite. It wears its scholarship lightly and provides an interesting perspective on the shape of the magazine and the way in which text and artwork were essential one to the other. He also manages to capture something of the excitement and energy of the project. Too often dismissed and as often neglected (if ever heard of at all these days), 'New Worlds' was an extraordinarily dynamic publication that for a few years did what no literary magazine had done before (and which few have come close to since). It took language apart and examined it with a forensic minuteness born of a passion for words and they way in which they interact with art.

For the years it was published there was a brief hope that literature would step forward into a new era. Sadly the inertia of the mass of the literary canon smothered the experiments and the literary world, for the most part, lumbers along as if 'New Worlds' and its companion magazines had never been.

This being a book from Savoy, it is not just the text that is first class. The book itself is an object of beauty. John Coulthard has worked his usual magic of design, the reproduction of artwork is excellent, and there are, just as in the work of Paolozzi and the magazine itself, many layers to be investigated and snippets tucked away.

Anyone who is serious about art and how vital it was in the late 60s and early 70s and anyone who is serious about writing and the nova-like flare of the so-called 'new wave' really should treat themselves to this wonderful book.


Hopeless, Maine Volume 2: Inheritance
Hopeless, Maine Volume 2: Inheritance
by Nimue Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy successor, 30 Nov 2013
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One always approaches a second volume with some trepidation. Will it be as good as the first? Will the authors/artist maintain the integrity of the vision? Will it excite as much? And a thousand other questions large and small.

I need not have worried. It is true that the story and the characters have moved on. The story is picked up a few years on. And what we are given is a natural development - one that is consistent with the first story but which presents the world anew. The world itself has grown (although it is still the same claustrophobic, shadowed setting), but so has the perspective of the characters. This move forward has been handled well. Themes from the first book are brought forward and developed whilst introducing new elements.

The artwork is as superb as ever with pictures that invite you to study them in detail whilst the story line and dialogue has become appropriately more sophisticated.

If you haven't taken the time to look at these books, I really do urge you to get them. The production equals the content and they are books that you will treasure.


Man and Myth
Man and Myth
Price: £15.79

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still on form, 24 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Man and Myth (Audio CD)
Even if he had never released another album, his work would have to stand as a unique contribution to music. Yet we got another another album and, hat's off, the wait was worth it.

This is a Roy Harper album. It could be by no one else. All the familiar elements are there. The extraordinary voice (still strong and still able to deliver a whole range of emotion), the superb guitar playing, the wonderful arrangements - the love, the anger, the wonder.

Yet this album has taken the familiar elements and used them to brew something new and wonderful. It is, indeed, a full flowering of the maturity hinted at by The Green Man. Rich and evocative this is an album that I know I will play over and over, as I have played every other album he has released. It is the work of a master. Note perfect. Word perfect. And delivered with a deceptive ease that is a thrill to listen to.


LIVING WITH GHOSTS (VINYL 7") (2008)
LIVING WITH GHOSTS (VINYL 7") (2008)

5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime, 8 Aug 2013
It is a rare talent that can take a well-established genre of music, learn it inside out, and then produce something new. This is what the Smoke Fairies have done with this sublime song. Its parentage is not in any doubt. Yet this is a child that has its own view of the world. And such a view. Haunting, lyrical, melancholy, and so self-assured it is quite frightening in one so young; as are the Smoke Fairies themselves. They have come a long way in a short time and will doubtless go so much further (and the evidence of their two following albums supports this).


Intelligent Designing for Amateurs
Intelligent Designing for Amateurs
by Nimue Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.18

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spiffing!, 3 Jun 2013
Trouble comes to Bromstone. It hasn't been there before as far as anyone can remember so it has a thorough look round and starts to make up for lost time. It doesn't launch an all-out spectacular; rather it drops little pebbles here and there into the calm pool of life and watches as the ripples spread and cross and build into confused and confusing patterns.

A new tenant on Barker Street unwittingly brings part of the trouble, and her neighbour also unwittingly makes her own contribution. And before long the dead are making biscuits, the circus comes to town, druids arrive in a traction engine, and young Temperance finds herself in the centre of the Chaos. Not forgetting the mice. Which you won't be. For a long time.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure full of thrills, written with warmth and confidence, and imbued with humour. The various strands of the story are neatly woven together; the characters are well realised; and the style is perfectly suited to the subject. For a work of fiction it has a goodly portion of truth waving cheerily out from the outrageous confection, a bit like a Victoria sponge have whole raspberries hidden away in the cream and jam filling. Indeed, the book is best consumed in a comfy chair in a quiet parlour with tea and cake to hand, because you won't want to put it down. And I sincerely hope there are second (and third and fourth) helpings.


The Drowning of Arthur Braxton
The Drowning of Arthur Braxton
by Caroline Smailes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!, 16 April 2013
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I don't take to much in the way of contemporary writing. It is often bland (even if full of pretty sentences), pre-occupied with middle-class, first world concerns, and largely a waste of even the tiny amount of intellect required to read it. This book had none of that. It was captivating from the first and clearly had things to say and ideas to explore. What is more, it was evident that it was going to say and explore those things in an interesting way.

Arthur Braxton is one of those kids that feral packs feed on. Consequently, he is one of those kids found lurking in out of the way places, exploring (whether willingly or not) the borderlands - between sanity and insanity, the upward climb and the downward fall, the outside world and the strange places inside their heads. Mostly, life grinds the poor sods down. Sometimes they shine. On rare occasions they escape into places we can barely dream of. Where Arthur goes, you will have to find out for yourself, because his journey is the story and to start talking about that would be to give things away, save to say, one of the places in which the borders exist is where water meets the land. It is along that strand that Arthur's journey proceeds.

So far I have perhaps made this sound like a YA fantasy book of some kind. Well, there are elements of that and it could, no doubt, be read on that level. You'd be missing 99% of the book if you tried it that way. Because there are many other such elements running through the book, nods to this and that. Yet it never becomes any one of those because it is unique. It is its own story acknowledging popular culture along the way (it would take someone who hadn't been near a television in the last few years not to hear the echoes of the final words) without ever being trapped by any of it. That is down to two things, in the end. The first is a strong story. The second is a strong writer.

It is not just popular culture that feeds the book. Indeed, much more important is myth. Certain myths featuring water. They are common to all myth cycles. Water is such a fundamental part of our existence, and clean water so fundamental to our survival and the fertility of the land, that it is no wonder every tribe and every nation has stories about the origins of streams, wells, springs, and pools; has stories about the guardians of such places, of the beings that inhabit them, of the curative qualities, of the terrible consequences of misusing them. Our native mythology is replete with such references, none more so than the Arthurian stories. Ladies in the Lake, swords appearing from and disappearing into water, battles fought at the water's edge, water as a source of healing and wisdom, and key to the Arthurian stories, the rape of the guardians of the wells that led to the wasteland and the quest to restore fertility to the land. As someone who has studied these tales for decades, it was a genuine thrill to see them explored so thoroughly in such a vibrant way that whilst paying all due respect to the source of such tales, made its own statement.

It should not be taken from this that we have some kind of dull thesis, some rewriting of ancient myths. They are the source and the story drinks deeply of them in a way that displays a deep understanding of the archetypes. But what emerges as a result is a new story, a new myth for today, sung with a voice every bit as mesmerising as the bards of old. And if you still can't quite figure what kind of book this is, the film should be made by Terry Gilliam or by Jeunet and Caro.

You can probably gather I like this book. I have a jaded opinion of modern writing, but this has restored my faith. Because for all that stuff about mythology, for all the fact that author here is doing for myth what Angela Carter did for fairy tales, at the heart of it all is a solid and heartbreaking story about ordinary folk and the truly awful lives some of them lead. A story told with eloquence and sympathy. Buy it. The author deserves your support.


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