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Victoria Field "fal" (Canterbury, Kent, UK)
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Writing in the House of Dreams: Creative Adventures for Dreamers and Writers
Writing in the House of Dreams: Creative Adventures for Dreamers and Writers
Price: £3.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich, personal and passionate reminder of the importance of our inner lives, 17 Dec 2014
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An unusual blend of autobiography, psychology and insights into the creative process centring around the gifts offered by our dreams. I found it fascinating and informative from beginning to end.


Dylan Thomas: A New Life
Dylan Thomas: A New Life
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyed this - a page turner, 20 Nov 2014
Really enjoyed this - a page turner, vivid descriptions, interesting insights into Dylan Thomas's poetry and clearly thoroughly researched. It's painful to read near the end and the author works hard not to judge too harshly but ultimately it's very sad.


Sightlines
Sightlines
by Kathleen Jamie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - Kathleen Jamie does it again, 8 Sep 2014
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
Exquisitely beautiful prose and the whole book is an exercise in mindful looking and then a fearless paring back so that what is shared with the reader is considered and worked. I will be using some of this in therapeutic writing settings and it's partly KJ's total control over the material that makes it so useful. The chapter on the Whale Hall I found literally breath-taking in its metaphorical possibilities. Genius.


Dear Robert, Dear Spike: The Graves-Milligan Correspondence
Dear Robert, Dear Spike: The Graves-Milligan Correspondence
by Pauline Scudamore
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iluminating and touching correspondence, 6 Jan 2014
Such an enjoyable read - two men who superficially seem very different but who became instant friends. Both struggling with health and love whilst creating a vast output of work. The letters are frank and tender - and towards the end, sad, when Robert Graves gives up writing at age 80 but lives another ten years in poor health. Some interesting insights on war, depression and artistic satisfaction.


What Happy People Know: You're Only 6 Steps Away From Happiness
What Happy People Know: You're Only 6 Steps Away From Happiness
by Dr. Dan Baker
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful reminders, 30 Dec 2013
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I have just added this to the reading list for my poetry therapy trainees - it's a reminder of how thinking has an impact on mood and the various stages 'stuck' people go through.

It's a bit cheesy at times and I have a real problem with any book that mentions Seligman's learned helplessness experiments for which I think he should be serving a prison sentence. There's also no index nor references for some sweeping statements.

But it's an easy read and a useful checklist that can be applied in different circumstances.


Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality
Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality
by Philip J. Newell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A good account of the history of Celtic Christianity, 30 Dec 2013
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This book was recommended by a friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt measured and authoritative with good references. My only caveat was some of the earlier chapters were heavy on historical detail and various legislative incidents in the church hierarchy. The later chapters were very readable and gave an excellent framework for embracing different traditions, whilst honoring love and human potential.

I wish, though, I hadn't googled the author - it seems that the 'heartbeat' title of his book has become a 'brand' and it's all depressingly slick and packaged, complete with a 'donate' button and tanned, smiling faces,similar to many TV evangelists who possibly use the same marketing strategies. There feels something at odds with an earth-based spirituality that involves dividing one's time between Scotland and New Mexico and leading pilgrimages from the US to Iona. I love Iona but felt the island was in danger too, of becoming a brand. The earth is the earth we're standing on, here, now.

Don't let my reaction to that though put you off an excellent and readable book.


Instructions for a Heatwave
Instructions for a Heatwave
Price: £3.66

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 30 Dec 2013
I don't generally review books unless I can heartily recommend them but this one had such raves in the broadsheets, I felt there needed to be some balance for potential readers. It starts promisingly by introducing members of a family. The matriarch with her annoying habits, a bit of an Irish stereotype, who it's suggested at the beginning is a bit batty, has had her husband - apparently an orderly banker (the couple seem unlikely)- walk out - hence the children returning home to help her. The siblings are interestingly realized with their specific marital and other issues although the descriptions of the dyslexia of the youngest one is rather labored.

It's a sweltering summer - my own memories of that summer are that people enjoyed the heat - and from time to time, characters refer to the heat or complain. The 'instructions' of the title I think refer to rules about water management in the drought but it's not clear how they relate to the novel. It is the hot weather that brings out the worst - or the 'unguarded' behavior of the characters but as we don't know them before, it's difficult to feel this. (In contrast say to 'The Go-Between' where the rising temperature parallels the action).

After the first few chapters, I was engaged and ready to enjoy the novel but half-way through became bored. The minor characters such as Evelyn, Gabe, Claire, Jenny, Peter - all impacted on the major ones but the reader never has enough information to be able to understand quite how. That siblings have endless tensions between them isn't a story - although I read on Maggie O'Farrell's website, she and her sisters don't - so perhaps there's a degree of repression / catharsis in writing this book - certainly one reason I felt I didn't want to continue, was a nastiness exemplified by both the characters and those around them. That marriages and re-marriages involve infidelity, lost dreams and difficult step-children is also not new. The episode though with Monica and the cat, was brilliantly conceived and realized.

Back-story kept being added, at times feeling like an after-thought.

The 'reveal' is a bit of shrug and the ending is ambiguous - which I don't mind - but the journey seemed to be that the three siblings, who were moderately unhappy and discontented, may or may not continue to be so.

There is some very lovely prose here and the novel had such promise at the beginning, I'll take the advice of some other reviewers to try Maggie O'Farrell's other novels.


The Burning Ground
The Burning Ground
by Roselle Angwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and thought-provoking - highly recommended, 23 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Burning Ground (Paperback)
The novel opens and closes with tragedies and there's a sense of foreboding throughout the book.

The plot unfolds inexorably and some of characters have second sight too, predicting the worst. Death is a constant theme throughout - after the accident at the beginning, the protagonist loses people close to her and there are almost-deaths by drowning and suffocation in the first half of the book. The second half is set against the horror of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001. For those of us living in the area at the time, the sadness that overtook everyone and the stench of burning pyres of farm animals is unforgettable and this is the first treatment of it, I think, in a novel.

Roselle is immensely skilled at realizing the realities of farming life and refusing to sentimentalize them as she takes us into the daily life of sheep and cattle farmers on Dartmoor. There's a neat contrast between the France section, centred around a holiday complex, with its beauty and summeriness where Tamar (named for the river dividing Devon and Cornwall) grows herbs and salad, and drifts in pretty summery clothes and the gloom of Devon winters with the need for jumpers and willies. There is lots of local detail and colour which will be enjoyable for readers from the West Country.

The novel presents powerful moral dilemmas. I don't want to give any spoilers but ultimately, it's a number of secrets that lead to the dreadful events at the end. Tamar is old-fashioned in seeing 'true love' as the answer to fulfillment and classically falls for a bad boy - it's not clear what his redeeming features are but he's sexy and persistent, rides a motor bike and has a cave-man quality, calling her 'his woman'. Her good husband has become a bit dull and not surprisingly, is battered by the consequences of foot and mouth, and inability, it seems, to father a child.

There are other primitive forces motivating the main characters at the end which raises the dilemma of when or whether the truth should out. One main question that the novel poses but cleverly doesn't answer is whether these things were pre-destined or a result of the bad choices of Tamar - she herself talks about karma but is still unable it seems to stop herself doing things that she knows won't come to good, or being duplicitous. The question of responsibility is paramount. Tamar's close woman friend Louise is a kind of foil and I would have liked more of her to balance the inner voice of the main protagonist who is an unreliable narrator at times.

Could say a lot more but suggest you read it! I should declare that I know Roselle and have benefited from her excellent courses but this, like all my Amazon reviews, is genuine and unsolicited - am saying so as I've been approached recently by authors I don't know asking me to write reviews for them! I write Amazon reviews for books I like as a way of keeping a reading diary that may be useful to others.


The Gift of Honey
The Gift of Honey
by R.Rushforth Morley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.97

4.0 out of 5 stars evocative and tender, 12 Dec 2013
This review is from: The Gift of Honey (Paperback)
This is a book full of texture and detail about nineteenth century Cornwall told through letters from, mostly, Parson Mudge. We have smugglers, dark arts, beekeeping, a cholera outbreak, dubious paternity, lives of the colourful Celtic saints and detailed descriptions of houses and landscapes that took me back to a wonderful corner of the world. It captures the mystery and beauty of what was then a remote corner of the world.

My small caveats are that the cast of characters was rather large and I would have preferred real place names for the pleasure of recognizing the geography - I can imagine where Portscado might be but some of the others puzzled me.

R. Rushforth Morley writes beautifully - I enjoyed the cadences of his sentences and Mudge was a fully realized rounded character.


Playwhites
Playwhites
by Rodney Parker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.81

4.0 out of 5 stars Phew!, 12 Nov 2013
This review is from: Playwhites (Paperback)
Clearly based on the author's own experience - Playwhites is full of vivid detail, authentic touches and love, lust and violence. A graphic journey into the world of segregation, race and Africa through events surrounding the protagonist's life. I heard bits of this on a peaceful Aegean island in the mid-90s and congratulations Mr Parker in bringing it to a wider audience!


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