The Storyteller Speaks – Annika Perry

My warmest thanks to Charley for this wonderful review of my debut book ‘The Storyteller Speaks’.

A passionate and learned English teacher, Charley’s unique approach to her review offers an insightful and in-depth analysis of two of my short stories as well as an overall comment of the book. Reading her thoughts I had to shake myself to the reality she was writing about my book, my stories … it was disconcerting and exciting in the most positive way!

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Hello lovelies!

Sorry for the absence but we are in the thick of exam season and I’ve not been very well. My apologies. I do hope you’re all well and enjoying May. Time really is running away with us! It’s lovely to have such light evenings though.

Today I want to share with you a special book. My fellow blogger and friend Annika Perry published her first book, The Storyteller Speaks, and I’ve recently had the joy of reading it. I absolutely had to share it with you.

What’s it all about?

The Storyteller Speaks is a collection of short stories and poetry covering a wide range of such as love, loss and new beginnings. If you’re familiar with my reviews you’d know that I would review the whole plot. However, this being a collection of short stories has given me an opportunity to focus on my two favourites, the…

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BENEATH A BURNING SKY

Beneath A Burning Sky

This was just the perfect book for a cold and wintry Easter holiday! Set in the warmth of Egypt towards the end of the 19th-century, I soon found myself basking in the heat of the rich descriptions of Alexandria of 1891 as the city was brought vividly to life. Quickly I found myself immersed in not only the wonderfully exotic locations, which are lavishly described but I also found myself wrapped up in the lives and drama of the characters.

The first of these is a new arrival to Alexandria. Although born in the city, Olivia left fifteen years earlier following the tragic death of her parents. Her paternal grandmother, who always resented her mother, sought revenge by abandoning her youngest granddaughter in a lonely and uncaring convent school in England, whilst raising Olivia’s sister, Clara herself.

At last the two sisters are reunited in their beloved city; both married to two men linked through their business. Olivia has effectively been coerced into a marriage with Alistair Sheldon, despite her misgivings … fears soon to be proved all too real. Generally disliked by those around him, few would believe the depth of Alistair’s cruel and violent nature. In contrast Clara’s marriage to Jeremy is happier, safer with two young sons, however she is distracted and distraught.

Secrets abound within the idyllic city and within all the relationships and soon Olivia too has to hide her close friendship to a certain Captain Edward Bertram (Teddy) who lodges in their house. The attraction between the two is palpable and intense although Olivia will not allow herself to act on her feelings.

The pivotal moment in the book is the sudden disappearance of Clara. As the book counts up the days thereafter, the intrigue only deepens and embroils everyone – apart from Olivia who desperately wants to find her sister. Ostensibly the novel is told through the third-person point of view, but obliquely from Olivia’s, thereby ensuring the reader feels her pain, confusion, fear. Just as Olivia attempts to unravel the mystery with the investigative help of Teddy, her friends and the police, so the reader seeks comprehension of the myriad of events.

Olivia’s strong spirit and determination grows as the dramatic and heart-wrenching story unfurls with secrets overflowing and for some reason seems to revolve around the ‘accidental’ death of a local mother. Everything seems to be connected but how?

Furthermore, the undercurrent of revolution permeates throughout the book and the historical elements are skilfully interwoven with the fictional.

The final tense chapters are spell-binding and relentless. I highly recommend this superb novel.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.img_0621

Rating:        4 out of 5 stars

Publisher:  Sphere (Imprint of Little, Brown)

Price:        Amazon US  $ 13.99 (paperback) $ 4.05 (Kindle)

                 Amazon UK  £ 7.26 (paperback)  £ 2.99 (Kindle)

LOST // FOUND

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The air crackled with a chill that September afternoon, the first trace of damp etched into the atmosphere. 

Emma saw her first, then the rest of the children turned towards the woods at the edge of the park. Like an apparition, the woman stumbled out from amongst the trees and undergrowth resplendent in her cerise woollen coat.  A coat peppered with a menagerie of coloured notes, all pinned on at angles. 

Her mutterings at first were only audible to the sparrows in the trees, to the skittish robin, to the strident magpies marching across the tired grass. The ground was churned up by football boots, dried into uneven lumps of decay. 

‘Where is it, where is it?’ she mumbled gruffly. Erratically the woman spun around, her eyes cast down eagerly on the ground, with a keenness of a child looking out for Father Christmas. Her eyes bristled with expectation, joy then with a sudden turn, angry filthy swear words spewed across the park. 

Appalled Emma careered backwards, right into her friends and the cascade of children toppled like dominos, silent in shock. Righting themselves, the disheveled group at first failed to notice the approach of the woman; concern engraved on her face, bewilderment fluttering in her eyes. 

‘Have you seen it? My child?’

Agog, they barely listened, their attention held fast on the woman’s coat and the pinned notes.

I’m sorry. Appeared many times. I’m lost. Please help. My name is Emma. 

‘Please help me,’ she said. ‘I must find it.’

The children fanned out across the park, not sure what they were searching for, occasionally shouting out a find to Emma the older. Emma their friend remained with her namesake. Ahead of them a note tossed like an autumn leaf across the terrain, swirling in the strengthening breeze.

‘Stop it!’ shouted the woman. ‘There it is!’

Emma dashed over, picked up the dusty note, glancing at the elegant handwriting. 

Mum, you’re lost. Not I. Come home. Address is on the back. Love, Mark xx

Emma the child handed over the piece of paper. 

‘Mark! I found Mark!’ The woman’s primeval screech of elation echoed into the billowing dusk; a joy swallowed by her very next words, tiny as pinpricks, thin as slivers of silk.

‘Who am I?’

© Annika Perry, May 2018

The above piece of writing was inspired by a prompt from my writing group for our work to be ‘set in a park, in any period, in any location with any number of people involved, you or your character/s have lost or found something.’ Owing to burgeoning numbers of keen writers in the group our homework is now restricted in length.

THE 3 DAY QUOTE CHALLENGE #3

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Welcome to the final day of my 3 Day Quote Challenge which I’m thrilled to take part in following the kind nomination by Laura at laurabrunolilly.com .

To the challenge…The rules are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day

As a writer, I wanted to finish this challenge with a quotation about the craft. The elegant and eloquent truth of the following quote struck me like an epiphany when I came across it a couple of years ago and I am sure it will resonate with most poets and writers. Having read her words I instantly noted it down in my journal and it is one I often come back.

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img_2650The writer of the quotation is fellow writer and blogger Adrienne Rich who blogs at middlemaybooks.com. Adrienne is a writer of historical family sagas about the Weldon and Crenshaw families of Gilded Age Englewood, New Jersey and she ‘first fell in love with family sagas watching family drama at the many funerals’ of her youth. Her blog is  ‘to celebrate who we all are, past and present, flawed and sublime.’

My 3 nominees for day # of this challenge are:

 

THE 3 DAY QUOTE CHALLENGE #2

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Welcome to the 2nd day of my 3 Day Quote Challenge which I’m thrilled to take part in following the kind nomination by Laura at laurabrunolilly.com .

To the challenge…The rules are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

aviciiA week ago a star in the music world passed away at the far too young age of 28 and upon learning the news of Avicii’s passing a wave of sorrow was felt around the world. Tributes poured in from the famous to the young, all touched by his music and lyrics; poetic lyrics which became part of so many people’s lives, my son’s (and mine) included.

Below is a quote from ‘Wake Me Up’ as well as a video of the entire song with all the lyrics.Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 14.27.45

My son wanted to honour Avicii’s memory in his own personal way and put together a piano medley covering some of the songs. I”m proud to include Sammy Perry’s video; first his introduction to the music.

‘This is a piano tribute to one of my favourite electronic artists, Avicii, who unfortunately passed away a few days ago. He has inspired me and countless others to make music and he will be missed by millions. This is a piano mix of some of my favourite songs by him and I hope you enjoy listening to it.’ Sammy Perry

My 3 nominees for day # of this challenge are:

THE 3 DAY QUOTE CHALLENGE #1

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Sometimes a challenge arrives at the perfect time and this one – The 3 Day Quote Challenge – caught me when I find myself surrounded by quotes, absorbed in collecting them, reading through old ones, finding new ones.

For the next three days, I will be posting a quote and explaining why it’s made an impression on me.

To the challenge…The rules are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

Many thanks to Laura at laurabrunolilly.com for nominating me.

Rules and I don’t always mix well; so my quotes may be a bit longer and my first foray into the challenge begins with a ‘Blessing of Solitude’.

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The above is an authentic Celtic blessing found in a book written by John O’Donohue called ‘anam cara’ (soul-friend) and sub-titled ‘Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World’.

This book resides on my bedside table and one I dip into now and again. Its pearls of wisdom, gems of inner-understanding ensures it’s a book that not only has meant a lot to me but continues to do so. In recent weeks some of my friends are going through hardships and I found myself seeking solace and clarity within the pages.

My 3 nominees for day #1 of this challenge are:

Quick Aside

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I’m stunned and very honoured to have been nominated in the Best Pal category of the Bloggers Bash Awards! There are only a few more days to vote until the virtual box closes at midnight on April 30th (BST) so head over to the ballot – there will be lots of familiar names there in a whole host of categories … and towards the end is the Best Pal nominations. Press HERE to vote.

BEST PAL: Which blogger do you want to go to the pub with? Or maybe have dinner with? Who never fails to reply to comments, and has thoughtful things to say? Maybe they encourage the community through weekly challenges or blog parties. A blogger who makes the blog-o-sphere a better place is what makes the Best Pal. (This description courtesy of Bloggers Bash Awards)

SUNSHINE BLOSSOM

Two weeks ago only the daffodils braved the grey chill that clung all around. Trees barely seemed to be in bud and the occasional bulb peeked above the sodden ground, seeming to retreat as soon as they appeared.

What a difference a week makes with the welcome arrival of glorious Spring weather! As we basked under exceptional warm temperatures, the flowers in the garden woke with a blaze of colour. I cannot help but study them in awe and wonder, often whilst swinging on the wooden seat with hushed joy.

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Some of you I know still have a little (or a lot) of the ‘white stuff’, some are in Autumn, so I want to share just a few photos of the Spring flowers in my garden. As it is National Poetry Month, I’ve included part of a Spring poem to accompany the images.

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‘A sensitive plant in a garden grew,
And the young winds fed it with silver dew,
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light,
And closed them beneath the kisses of night.

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‘And the spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

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‘The snowdrop, and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,
And their breath was mixed with fresh odor, sent
From the turf, like the voice and the instrument.’

img_0719The above are a few stanzas from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem entitled ‘The Sensitive Plant’  (published 1820).

DAYS OF WONDER: A BOOK REVIEW

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As a huge fan of Keith Stuart’s debut book ‘A Boy made of Blocks’ I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity by the publisher to read and review a pre-release copy of his latest novel. As always on such occasions when I eagerly look forward to a new publication, I hesitated for a fraction before plunging in to read … I just hoped the book would not disappoint. I need never have feared – it is truly a gem! 

From the first couple of paragraphs into ‘Days of Wonder’ I knew I was in for a treat and settled back to enjoy, savouring the story, becoming engrossed with the characters and their lives. By the end my emotions had been on a rollercoaster ride, ending in tears, at times laughing out loud, all the time moved and touched to the core.

Keith Stuart’s first book was based on his own life experience as a father with an autistic son, ‘Days of Wonder’, his first fiction novel, also centers on the relationship between a father and his child; in this case a 15-year-old daughter, Hannah and her father Tom. Not only is Hannah seeking her natural independence, experiencing first-love, fretting about A-level options, she also has to contend with an uncertain future – and perhaps none at all. Since being diagnosed with a life-threatening heart-condition cardiomyopathy, her whole life has been under its shadow. 

The disease has brought father and daughter wonderfully close together, their bond inseparable since her mother left whilst Hannah was still young. Tom has raised Hannah on his own, with the support of his eclectic theatre group which he manages. The members are close-knit and effectively a second, albeit quirky, surrogate family to Hannah, caring and understanding.

Since the initial diagnosis at the age of five, Tom has sought to bring magic into her life and a professionally produced birthday play at the theatre has been key to this … a tradition Tom is desperate to continue, one that Hannah feels less keen on in the cusp of adulthood… an adulthood that may never exist for her. 

Starting the book my one fear was that the disease would dominate the book, that it could become mawkish and moribund. Not at all! The disease is a backdrop to so many stories within the book; the uncertain future of the theatre, how it has saved so many people. It’s about lives, relationships, friendships, love. Of living and dying. I became totally absorbed into not only Tom and Hannah’s lives but that of Ted, Angela, Margaret, Callum, Sally to name a few. Their fears, frustrations, courage and perseverance were uplifting and soulful.  

 Throughout feisty gutsy Hannah is insightful and wise beyond her years, whilst loving and worrying about her father as she desperately seeks to find him a date. Furthermore, she finds and becomes supportive of her first boyfriend; a young man equally crippled with a very different illness.

The book is effectively and skilfully told through the two-viewpoints of Tom and Hannah. With the latter, it is as if overhearing a private conversation, immediate, at times raw, at times swinging perfectly into modern jargon. As with Tom and the other characters, the sense of humour is impeccably narrated, the put-downs perfectly timed. Through Hannah’s words we learn about her best friends, including a very special 81-year-old lady, the dramas of school, relationships.

Tom’s narrative is personal, emotional, realistic … comically sardonic at times, other moments relating such humorous dating escapades I cried with laughter! As a reader, I couldn’t help but warm to him and feel for his predicament- caring and being over-protective and struggling to let go of his daughter. All the time, unaware his daughter is trying hard to protect her father from the future and for the future. His gentle, confessional tones mingled with the comic and drama persona whilst the ghost of his ex-wife lingered in the background, the possibility that they might yet be a family.

For both of them, there will never be a normal life … and as the novel develops they learn to embrace their predicament; their love and bond growing stronger as a result. 

An interesting additional narrative format is the occasional letters in the book … deeply revealing about past events in Hannah’s life and written by her, it is only towards the end the reader becomes aware for whom they were written. This is yet one more poignant and emotional revelation in a novel which has heart-wrenching moments cascading throughout. 

The descriptive detail by the author is superb, he is wonderfully visual in creating settings, presenting plays, and I became engrossed in them all and felt as if I’d been watching a film. 

‘Days of Wonder’ is ultimately, and perhaps unexpectedly, a powerful, life-affirming and inspirational book. I was hooked from the very beginning and did not want to put it down for any breaks. It’s one of those books that I just had to read one more chapter until I sadly had to say goodbye to my new friends!

 
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I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.
 
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Publication Date: 7th June 2018
Price:  Amazon UK:    £ 12. 99 Hardback.      £ 6.99 Kindle    
             Amazon US:  $ 9.82  Kindle
Publisher:  Sphere (Imprint of Little, Brown)

ETT HEM #3

The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. “The strokes come like speech.

“The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech.” Vincent Van Gogh

Welcome to my third and final instalment about Carl Larsson and his watercolours of the beloved family home; a place where he ‘experienced an indescribable delightful feeling of seclusions from the hustle and bustle of the world’.

Carl Larsson (1853-1919) was heavily influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement in the UK and over the years Karin and Carl transformed their humble abode and in the process created a lasting legacy for interior design in Scandinavia and beyond. Their charming, evocative and distinctive style in furnishings is still highly influential and inspiring homemakers today.

“If light is in your heart you will always find your way home.” Rumi

Whilst Carl, with some help from carpenters, made the furniture, carved the doors and cupboards, Karin was responsible for the textiles and tapestries at ‘Little Hyttnäs’ as well as the rugs.

The idea to paint pictures of the home was first suggested to Carl by Karin during a rainy summer in 1894 when she feared her husband would fall into depression. Inspired, he continued to paint all aspects of their house and lives within and outside it.

“A picture is a poem without words.” Horace

Following Carl’s acceptance of an invitation from the publisher Bonnier to print some of his watercolours, twenty-four of the paintings were reproduced in the now famous ‘Ett Hem’ book. Initially sales were slow in Sweden until a German version became an instant bestseller in Germany, selling 40,000 copies in three months.

Carl and Karin Larsson were said to have been overwhelmed by its success however Carl always felt that the pictures of his family and home ‘became the most immediate and lasting part of my life’s work. For these pictures are of course, a very genuine expression of my personality, of my deepest feelings, of all my limitless love for my wife and children.’

‘Ett Hem’ has never been out of print and has had over 40 print runs. Today the family home is owned by their descendants and open to tourists during the summer.

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Winston Churchill

NB. I look forward to reading your thoughts about the posts in this series and I will respond upon my return to the UK later in the month.

ETT HEM #2

Before marriage and settling down, Carl Larsson started his artistic career when a teacher spotted his talent early on and encouraged him to apply for the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. Although he had difficulty settling in, within a few years he was able to earn enough money to support his parents through drawings and cartoons sold to various papers.

A move to Paris in 1877 was equally challenging although he finally found peace and inspiration in Grez-sur-Loing … and here he met Karin Bergöö, his future wife. At last, he moved away from oils and painted some of his prominent paintings with watercolours.

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Breakfast under the big birch 1896

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Nameday at the storage house 1898

“No one is able to enjoy such feast than the one who throws a party in his own mind.” Selma Lagerlöf

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Brita as Iduna

“If I have managed to brighten up even one gloomy childhood – then I’m satisfied.” Astrid Lindgren

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Self-portrait 1906

“I want someone to remember I existed. I want someone to know I was here.” Frederik Backman

NB. This is the second in a series of three posts based around the famous Swedish artist Carl Larsson and his successful book of watercolours called ‘Ett Hem’/’A Home’ centred on his family home. As I’m still on an Easter break in Sweden and disconnected from most technology, comments are turned off for this post but will be on for the next and final one in the series.