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Alison MacConnell (UK)

Page: 1
Price: £1.50

4.0 out of 5 stars This is a short but sweet tale of love, 23 Sept. 2015
This review is from: C90 (Kindle Edition)
It seems fair to mention at the outset that I've met James Josiah a couple of times (he has a fabulous accent). I've even eaten some of his delicious Welsh cakes (not a euphemism). But it takes more than baking to convince this reader. Not much more, admittedly, but they were very tasty.

So, to C90. This is a short but sweet tale of love, family, and adolescent life in the 90s, taking place over two parts - or 'sides' - based a few years apart. In 'Side A' Ben is an achingly realistic teen burning a candle that could fell forests for a girl who is probably way out of his league. He is on a quest to create for her the ultimate mixtape with which to declare his undying love and win the fair maiden's heart. As he makes his musical selections we're allowed access to his hopes, his dreams, and his failings. Also to cameos from his family, whom I really rather like, if I'm honest. The observations are spot on; the humour is good; the love angle is realistic and not without its moments of hope.

'Side B' picks up the story several years later. Ben is a little older, not much wiser, and stuck in a town it was inevitable he would get stuck in, like many small-town kids are. The second part of our tale takes a slightly more macabre turn as Ben uses music to express his feelings towards friendships, loss, and being a dead-ended nineteen year old who has to grow up but just isn't quite there yet. The tape is being made to set to mood for an upcoming gig and the playlist is rather more obscure as Ben finds his niche. Humour is not lost here, but it does take more of a back seat as adult life and responsibilities come to the fore.

Like Josiah's previous book, Days of Madness, the ending feels somewhat unresolved. I'm beginning to think of it as a bit of a trademark of his. That, however, is no bad thing, for it is done in such a way that it doesn't niggle or make you want to throw your book away in disgust. Rather, it's done in a way that feels wholly realistic. Life is not black and white. The story does not end when the chapter stops.

Josiah's use of music in this short book is spot on. Admittedly I was only a child in the 90s, but it's a decade I remember well musically and his choices in 'Side A' are perfect for the mood of a teenage boy in 'love' at that time. The playlist is pretty fantastic, including big names from the time along with older offerings raided from the parentals' records. 'Side B', as mentioned above, is full of lesser-known (to me, at least) offerings and reflects that tentative clasp of identity we start to have in our latter teens and early twenties. The selections are great for setting up the reluctant shift into adulthood and a barely-suppressed anger at the humdrum existence it has brought. When Ben comments on his choices in both parts of the book, I am reminded of greats such as High Fidelity and (less bizarre parts of) American Psycho, which both used music to a great effect which is mirrored here.

Overall, this was another enjoyable read from Josiah. Its brevity works for the tale it tells and is a lovely break from larger novels for avid readers. Music fans, particularly those currently in their 30s and early 40s, will love it but I truly feel it can be enjoyed even by those who are largely uninterested in the medium. Everybody remembers that awkward period of life that comes somewhere between fourteen and twenty-two and feels endless and individual regardless of how many of your peers are suffering the exact same. Read it for that part of you that still secretly feels that way from time to time, however old you get.

Shout the Call
Shout the Call
by Mrs Lucy Onions
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic fun, 18 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Shout the Call (Paperback)
When a writer/publisher friend of mine asked if I'd fancy casting my eye over a new YA novel he was going to publish, I jumped at the chance. Even more so when I realised the novel was written by Lucy Onions, an author from Walsall with whom I'd connected on Instagram through mutual friends in the writing world.

I'll be honest at the outset; it took me a long time to read this book. That is in no way a reflection of the book itself, more that there was an awful lot going on in my personal life which didn't allow me a lot of time to dedicate to proofing. I'm also very aware that, at 29 and generally a little cynical about some YA, I was hardly the target audience for the book.

However, Shout the Call turned out to be an extremely fun ride. The characters are relatable and, more importantly, likeable. The plot is busy and gripping. The humour ticks along fantastically. I don't wish to let slip any spoilers so I'm being very careful here when I say that it's an exciting, modern take on a popular genre. I know for a fact that the YA me would have lapped this stuff up as perfect escapism with more than a dash of vaguely-warped fairytale romance. The older me is a skepitcal soul who enjoyed it regardless in nostalgia of my daydreamy youth.

Also, can we all just agree that the front cover is awesome? Because the front cover is, in fact, awesome.

Dive in, fellow rÍveurs, because this is a thoroughly enjoyable, thrilling novel that will leave you wanting sequels.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 5, 2015 10:40 AM BST

Days Of Madness
Days Of Madness
Price: £1.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful full-length debut from a promising talent, 20 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Days Of Madness (Kindle Edition)
My husband and I were lucky enough to meet James Josiah, author of Days of Madness, at an authors' event recently in Walsall and at the time we were frankly blown away by some of his readings of flash fiction. For the unitiated (which I was myself until that day), flash fictions are short stories containing 500 words or fewer. Josiah has had some success with his website [The James Josiah Flash Project] where he posted his flash fiction and encouraged others to submit their own efforts. So impressed were we by these short offerings, we were eager to purchase his first full-length novel, Days of Madness.

The story is written from the viewpoint of music-passionate protagonist Ryan, a character reliant on anti-depressant medication to keep him out of hospital. I don't wish to post any big spoilers, so suffice to say we follow Ryan's days as he deals with the sometimes extreme highs and lows of mental illness and the ways in which his erratic behaviour affects those around him. With a serious subject matter such as this, there was a danger the book would come across as too full of subtextual lessons, but the overwhelming feeling I took away was its incredible authenticity. Ryan does not feel like a two-dimensional device to push some greater agenda; he feels like a living, breathing person who is telling the story of his struggle to deal with reality and his efforts to make some sense of his mixed-up world. As someone who has suffered with mental illness (albeit much less extreme) and been around others who have also, I could empathise with Ryan's mental state and some of the bizarre decisions he makes throughout this thirty-one day journey. At times the results of Ryan's depression really touched a nerve with me and it made for tough reading, but that can be a wonderful thing. It shows we're not alone; that the thoughts and feelings we have are universal and don't always make a huge amount of sense, regardless of whether or not we're firing on all cylinders.

One of this book's greatest strengths is its use of wry humour throughout. Mental illness itself is not funny, but some of the situations into which it can lead a person can be, and Josiah has used this to great affect. We're not laughing at Ryan but, rather, with him as he is often perfectly aware of how absurd some of his actions are. More than this, some of Ryan's 'rants' make an awful lot of sense. They're those niggling little opinions you don't always even notice you have until someone else points them out. In this, Josiah's observations reminded me of some comedians' routines which focus on bringing attention to the ridiculousness of the world we live in and the positions in which we find ourselves. Many times I found myself giggle-snorting while I read in an effort not to wake the house, or nodding my head in fervent agreement. The comedy aspect of the story was well-balanced and offered a reprieve from some of the more melancholy moments.

All in all, Days of Madness is a book which in many ways doesn't really go anywhere, but by its very nature it doesn't need to and that is a huge part of its appeal. Just as not every life is full of shocking twists and turns, not every story needs to be. Instead, Days of Madness is a very real depiction of the sometimes mundane, ludicrous dawdle of day-to-day life for those with a mental illness. At times it is tragic, at times hilariously funny, and always written with a passion for the subject at hand. I look forward to future offerings from James Josiah as this is an incredibly strong first release.

Dower & Hall Solid Sterling Silver Dotty Hoop Dove Grey Pearl Drop Earrings
Dower & Hall Solid Sterling Silver Dotty Hoop Dove Grey Pearl Drop Earrings

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible quality, 22 Jan. 2013
These earrings looked so gorgeous onscreen and when discounted for the Black Friday Deals it seemed too good an opportunity to miss! However, when putting them in for the first time, the bar for putting through the piercing bent and the pearl fell off from the base of the earring. It's possible I was unlucky and received a duff pair, but it does make one question the quality of the item, especially when considering the RRP.

Do not waste your money on these, no matter how cheap they are during the deals.

Valley Of Silence: Number 3 in series (Circle Trilogy)
Valley Of Silence: Number 3 in series (Circle Trilogy)
by Nora Roberts
Edition: Paperback

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy at its finest., 8 Nov. 2006
Really, I'm reviewing all three books in the Circle Trilogy here.

As a relative newcomer to fantasy, books like these ones make me want to carry on with that genre. All 3 books contain romance, action, humour, heartache and happiness. The characters are likeable and make you really feel for them.

This final book is a wonderful ending to a brilliant series and I highly recommend them all.

The Thief (Quick Read)
The Thief (Quick Read)
by Ruth Rendell
Edition: Paperback

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A huge disappointment., 29 Jun. 2006
This review is from: The Thief (Quick Read) (Paperback)
Having never read a Ruth Rendell book before, but knowing of her reputation, I thought this would be an ideal starter for her books. How disappointed I was!

While no-one can expect incredible storylines in such short books, I found this mind-numbingly boring. The plot was very repetitive and I'm amazed that a book of only 86 pages could have so many slightly differently-worded versions of the same sentence.

While I'm sure that Rendell's other books are probably superior to this one, I'd only recommend this story if you have a long journey and nothing better to do.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 2, 2010 7:45 PM BST

Lord of Misrule: The Autobiography of Christopher Lee
Lord of Misrule: The Autobiography of Christopher Lee
by Christopher Lee
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A British Institution, 24 Mar. 2006
Christopher Lee's autobiography was a hugely enjoyable read. This classic actor has a wonderful sense of humour that you don't expect, and also a mischeivious sid ethat seems even more unlikely.
The book can be a challenge at times, with a huge amount of information about his family background and days in the RAF. For people who are not familiar with the Italian hierarchy or the workings of the RAF, the first half of the book is difficult to understand, but it goes without saying that Lee has had an incredible life and this comes across in the book.
It was wonderful to read such an insightful life-story by one of the greatest living actors that Britain has.

Want to Play?
Want to Play?
by P J Tracy
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read, 24 Mar. 2006
This review is from: Want to Play? (Paperback)
Mother and Daughter team, P. J. Tracy, have produced a fantastic book here.
The plot is interesting, fast paced and suspenseful. The crime is fantastic and, full of little jokes and quips, it's also a good read from a comedic point of view.
The characters are easy to like, even the hard-shelled Grace MacBride, and the detective, Magozzi, is a brilliant character who is easy to imagine as a real person.
This book keeps you guessing till the end. I highly recommend that any crime readers give it a try.

Lady  Jane [DVD]
Lady Jane [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jane Lapotaire
Price: £4.00

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All Time Classic, 6 Feb. 2006
This review is from: Lady Jane [DVD] (DVD)
This ranks, for me, among the best of all the romantic films out there. Rarely have I seen a period piece so moving. By the end of this film I was a jibbering wreck!
The cast are excellent in their roles, most notably the two leads, Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes.
Even though this is Probably not the most accurate account of Lady Jane's fate, it is still highly enjoyable.
I strongly recommend it!

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