Bright, Precious Days – Jay McInerney

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Bright, Precious Days – Jay McInerney

The Last Word Review

 Back in the mid 1980’s I stumbled across Bright Lights, Big City an account the drug fuelled time in New York, a book that has stood the test of time and read many times and still sits on my bookcase. Jay McInerney struggled to find his voice as an author following this incredible book. Then some years later came the first in what was to be a trilogy that follows the lives of Russell and Corrine Calloway.

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The first book in the trilogy Brightness Falls (1992) we find the young married couple in October 1987 at the very brink of the stock market crash and the effects it has on their lives. In The Good Life (2006) we see the two characters whose lives have moved on and Corrine now embarking on an affair. This is just at the time of 9/11 and how the people of New York reacted. It makes for compelling reading.  Now in Bright, Precious Days the setting is 2008 and the couple are now in their middle age and for Russell he now runs his own publishing house and Corrine works in the food distribution business. New York being the home to many publishing houses large and small it is the place to be if you want to be in publishing. So much in the literary world seems to have happened here So why not. A world away from Brightness Falls and stock markets. Now the couple with 12 year-old twins seem to spend time looking at their friends and how they seem to have prospered while they seem to have stood still. With each of their own indiscretions now more or less forgiven you would think that they would be happily settled together but one has the sense that their marriage just teeters along and creaking under pressure and expectation.

Then out of the blue comes Luke who had an affair with Corrine when this ended Luke ran away to Africa to forget her, but now he is back but with a stunning wife. Luke now sees what he has missed and starts to try and win her affections once again. Russell weighed down with his publishing business is struggling to find that ultimate fiction bestseller. Though there just may be something coming up for Russell but it is not fiction it is non-fiction and this is a gamble.

Bright, Precious Days is exquisite and looks at relationships and tells of New York at a time when a Presidential battle between Clinton and Obama is taking place that will change America. It is about the frailties of people and how we adapt to ever changing lives. Beautiful and at times moving this is a story so brilliantly told and will in years to come be appreciated my many looking back at a time and a place and people.

Please Jay McInerney let there be a fourth instalment.

Both Brightness Falls and The Good Life have just been re-issued by Bloomsbury.

Thank you to Joseph Thomas at Bloomsbury Publishing for the advanced review copy.

Bright, Precious Days is published was published by Bloomsbury Publishing on 8 September and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

The Outrun – Amy Liptrot

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The Outrun – Amy Liptrot

The Last Word Review

For Amy Liptrot a life that seemed to be on the very edge of life. Struggling with addiction to alcohol, life seemed to be overtaking her and really taking her to some very dark places The Outrun is the 2016 Wainwright Prize winning memoir and also shortlisted for the 2016 Wellcome Prize. An evocative account of her own life mixed with brilliant nature writing.

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How many of us when we were young want the bright lights of London and seek the fame and fortune that went with it. For Amy Liptrot a life growing up on Orkney she yearned for the bright lights of London that seemed a lifetime away. She wanted it all and most of all to leave the Island life. Growing up on Orkney was difficult not just the isolation but for Amy is was trouble at home with her father suffering mental health problems and a deeply religious mother leaned Amy away from all things religion. London was calling her.

London though as many young people find is full of temptations, and for Amy for the coming years it was living life with all its extremes of drink, drugs and sex. Life was a never ending rollercoaster of everything that could be wrong for her. Amy was going downhill and quickly. To be able to admit to yourself that you are in trouble is brave then to be determined to want to do something about it is braver still for this brave young woman she was determined not to become another statistic and so she sought help. She entered rehab to try and rid herself of the poison that was destroying her young life and would eventually kill her.

Amy returns home to Orkney and this is her story of how nature is a great healer but she also has her own demons to cope with as she comes to terms with dealing with the problems of her young life. Growing up on a remote sheep farm on Orkney is not an easy life mix that with family problems and the yearning to escape is easy to understand. Life in London is much faster than the quiet and peaceful life of the remote island of Orkney. Now home Amy visits the sheep farm where she grew up. Being home among its wildlife and the extremes of the weather helps Amy recover from the effects of alcohol as she looks back on her life and the decisions she made and how it got her to where she is today.

This really is not just a memoir this is a piece of incredible nature writing at its very best. For someone like me who loves nature and nature writing this is exceptional. Reading Amy’s account of her troubled life and how she rebuilds it back among the wildlife and weather and the natural history of these Scottish Islands has left a lasting mark. As you read her accounts of swimming in the sea watching the changing season and its wildlife as well as she talks of the lands that make up the islands you can almost smell the sea and feel the wind blowing in your face.

The Outrun is deeply moving at times and the quality of Amy’s writing is just outstanding. As you read you become immersed in Amy’s life and you become worried for the brave author as she struggles to overcome the temptations of life that can destroy you. It is both affecting and sad but also restorative and nature does that as it lends its helping hand to help heal a troubled soul.

A book that in itself will help anyone troubled and one I am both happy and delighted to recommend.

I can only hope that is is not the only book from Amy Liptrot as her writing qualities and there to be seen by many. I look forward to reading more from this award winning writer in the years to come.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot is published by Canongate and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

The Sense of Paper – Wendy Holden

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The Sense of Paper – Wendy Holden

The Last Word Review

 I had one major problem with The Sense of Paper by Wendy Holden in that it is truly compelling that when I started I had real difficulty in putting it down. It is truly compelling and I was struck at just how beautiful Wendy Holden’s writing really is as a novel.

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A story that explores the many facets of humanity to its lowest points anyone can reach. If I said that The Sense of Paper is a work of art I really would actually mean it is just that in many ways. Art plays a major role in this story of War, obsession and love as well as the history of art. Anyone like me who loves the work of the artist of JMW Turner will also enjoy this book.

Charlotte Hudson (Charlie) a reporter who has spent years covering one conflict after another, but now Charlie has been home in London for some time and after a shocking ordeal while covering the conflict in war torn Kosovo she is left with not just the physical wounds but also the emotional wounds that have gone with it. The scars have taken their toll on Charlie and she is left at the lowest point anyone can reach. At times alcohol became her best friend.  Sometimes the only way to seek any form of solace after an ordeal like that is to share your experiences and Charlies book covering her time there as a journalist receives acclaim for her writing. But the flashbacks and the nightmares continue.

To seek some form of solace and keep her mind off the ordeals Charlie now turns her attention on her second book based on her grandfather’s love of the artist JMW Turner and visits an arts store and looks at the various quality of paper artists would use. It is here she meets the expert on Turner’s work Sir Alan Matheson soon they are talking over coffee and Matheson encourages Charlie’s passion in her writing project and the qualities of paper that Turner would use. Soon Charlie falls in love with Matheson but here is a journalist that has been left broken by the horrors that Charlie went through and Matheson is at the top of his game in the world of art but there is darkness in both their lives.

Charlie now must seek the truth about Sir Alan’s past is this a way that can heal some of her own demons and will love find a way in the end for them both. Trust is something that Charlie has lost in the years since returning home. She wants to trust Matheson but may be the journalist in Charlie want to know the truth surrounding him and so a mystery story now plays out.

The backdrop of this story one of art and the sense of history as well as paper play a key role but the characters are truly outstanding and the heroine in Charlie is simply incredible, a modern day love story set to the backdrop of art that reads like a literary classic. This is a must read and its themes will appeal to many. Do not miss this book. It will linger with you for some-time to come.

Thank you to Wendy Holden for the review copy of The Sense of Paper.

The Sense of Paper by Wendy Holden is published by Renaissance Literary & Talent and is available as a Kindle download from Amazon.co.uk

The Sense of Paper – Wendy Holden

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The Sense of Paper – Wendy Holden

The Last Word Review

I had one major problem with The Sense of Paper by Wendy Holden in that it is truly compelling that when I started I had real difficulty in putting it down. It is truly compelling and I was struck at just how beautiful Wendy Holden’s writing really is as a novel.

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A story that explores the many facets of humanity to its lowest points anyone can reach. If I said that The Sense of Paper is a work of art I really would actually mean it is just that in many ways. Art plays a major role in this story of War, obsession and love as well as the history of art. Anyone like me who loves the work of the artist of JMW Turner will also enjoy this book.

Charlotte Hudson (Charlie) a reporter who has spent years covering one conflict after another, but now Charlie has been home in London for some time and after a shocking ordeal while covering the conflict in war torn Kosovo she is left with not just the physical wounds but also the emotional wounds that have gone with it. The scars have taken their toll on Charlie and she is left at the lowest point anyone can reach. At times alcohol became her best friend.  Sometimes the only way to seek any form of solace after an ordeal like that is to share your experiences and Charlies book covering her time there as a journalist receives acclaim for her writing. But the flashbacks and the nightmares continue.

To seek some form of solace and keep her mind off the ordeals Charlie now turns her attention on her second book based on her grandfather’s love of the artist JMW Turner and visits an arts store and looks at the various quality of paper artists would use. It is here she meets the expert on Turner’s work Sir Alan Matheson soon they are talking over coffee and Matheson encourages Charlie’s passion in her writing project and the qualities of paper that Turner would use. Soon Charlie falls in love with Matheson but here is a journalist that has been left broken by the horrors that Charlie went through and Matheson is at the top of his game in the world of art but there is darkness in both their lives.

Charlie now must seek the truth about Sir Alan’s past is this a way that can heal some of her own demons and will love find a way in the end for them both. Trust is something that Charlie has lost in the years since returning home. She wants to trust Matheson but may be the journalist in Charlie want to know the truth surrounding him and so a mystery story now plays out.

The backdrop of this story one of art and the sense of history as well as paper play a key role but the characters are truly outstanding and the heroine in Charlie is simply incredible, a modern day love story set to the backdrop of art that reads like a literary classic. This is a must read and its themes will appeal to many. Do not miss this book. It will linger with you for some-time to come.

Thank you to Wendy Holden for the review copy of The Sense of Paper.

The Sense of Paper by Wendy Holden is published by Renaissance Literary & Talent and is available as a Kindle download from Amazon.co.uk

The Countenance Divine – Michael Hughes

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The Countenance Divine – Michael Hughes

The Last Word Review

For a debut novel The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes can only be described as ambitious. This is a novel that will sweep you through four centuries and through a number of different voices. At times a complex but also some real humour added.

The story moves from one century to another we are in the year 1666 the Plague and The Great Fire of London ravage the city and the impoverished John Milton is trying to complete his epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ despite the fact he was blind. It is 1777 and William Blake who is of course best known for writing ‘Jerusalem’ now becomes inspired by Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and now adds visions to the poem are these visions spiritual? We then move to 1888 and a more sinister individual in Jack the Ripper and his descriptions of some of his brutal murders are a little gruesome to read some may find this aspect difficult.

In 1999 and Chris a computer programmer was trying to make sure that the dreaded millennium bug never struck to bring chaos to the world akin to the end of days. Chris has an assistant called Lucy with whom he holds a torch for, though Lucy is a somewhat struck by the meltdown that could be about to happen seems constantly to have a cigarette constantly on the go. I actually got a real liking to both characters though each was different with Chris’s lack of confidence it was a case of hoping it would come off for them both.

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Each time period has its own unique voice that tells of that time and as it shifts from one time to another it keeps the reader guessing and they must keep up with an ever shifting complex tale. As you try and figure out for yourself as to where the story is heading. It will test the reader for commitment but I for one feel that this is a story well worth a read during the autumn as the nights draw in. You really become absorbed into a plot that makes you think. It is cleverly stitched together novel from a writer with ambition and for a debut novel this is making a statement and one to keep an eye on for the future.

Thank you to John Murray publishers for the advanced review copy.

The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes is published by John Murray and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

Glass Houses – Jackie Buxton

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Glass Houses – Jackie Buxton

The Last Word Review

Sometimes we act without thinking through the consequences, after all it will not happen to me it will always be someone else it will happen too. In her debut novel, Glass Houses Jackie Buxton has written a well-researched novel about what happens when one person’s actions have grave consequences for others around them.

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The story follows Tori Williams as she comes to terms with the tragic consequences of her actions while sending a text message as she drove her car, the resulting crash caused the deaths of three people. People’s lives are forever changed. In a deeply thought provoking novel we see the immediate aftermath of the crash and how Etta one of the leading characters looks after Tori until the emergency services arrive and then the story begins to unfold as a number of other characters come into the story and how it has affected those families who strain as you can imagine. This at times is a moving and deeply effecting debut novel novel that is so well researched. Tori tries to rebuild her life despite the pressure she is under just think of the role of the media who place her under siege and the effect this has on everyone around her. The blame game is played out to the public and how the public perceive Tori and her role in the crash.

There are many themes that come into play in a novel such as Glass Houses, guilt, blame and recovery are seen through what I can only think of is a camera lens. There are many twist and turns that make this a well-structured novel that you will not want to put down in any great hurry. The one great aspect I found with Jackie’s writing is that she deliberately made each chapter short so in a book covering just under 500 pages there are many chapters which makes this an ideal commuter read. Because of the story line and the many themes, it covers I believe this would be perfect for any book group.

There is an ending to this story that I will not giveaway here, this is something you the reader should discover for yourself. I have to admit to really enjoying Glass Houses and its characters and their flaws which make them as normal as you and me. As I said at the beginning of this review, this could happen to anyone of us it is that real.

Thank you to Urbane Publications for the review copy.

Glass Houses by Jackie Buxton and published by Urbane Publications. Available through Amazon and through Waterstones and all good bookshops

Diary of an Oxygen Thief – Anonymous

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Diary of an Oxygen Thief – Anonymous

The Last Word Review

 

Some may say that is it a good job that Diary of an Oxygen Thief was written by an Anonymous writer because who would dare put their name to this book. Personally I think this is a brutal but a frank and honest account. This is the book the world seems to have been talking about for some time and the views differ from one extreme to another. It was originally a self-published novel that sold over 14,000 copies in three weeks. It clearly found a niche.

This is a book that exudes raw open honesty which comes from a history of abuse in its purest form, mix this with neglect. People who are damaged in this way can and more often than not damage others. The opening line in this book “I liked hurting girls” that is one hell of a hook to catch the reader’s attention. This is not a book that many will enjoy, some will find this difficult to read and I can understand that.

The story is of Holden Caulfield Irishman travelling parts of America from London, and this is his story. He is an alcoholic and what’s more he is deeply prejudiced against women. He is in a relationship with Lolita but clearly he has had enough of Lolita now and it is time to move on to the next girl. This is openly raw at times but laced with incredible humour and wit. When we are hurt sometimes we hurt the nearest person to us and for Caulfield he finds the women in his life face the brunt of his hurt. ‘First he steals the oxygen from you, then spits it right back in your face’

We have all been hurt at some point in our lives and this story sometimes is a bit too close to the truth at times that for some will be difficult reading. “Hurt people hurt people” there is not getting away from it. At 151 pages this will be consumed in one sitting and this really is a deeply emotional read at times.

The books raw open honesty is like riding a roller-coaster with not seat belts to hold you in at times you will want to throw yourself out of the book and get angry with the writer. Its honesty cause many to question the book. I don’t think I have ever read a book like this before and may never again read another. Many will love the book and some will never want to see its cover again. Love it or hate it Diary of an Oxygen Thief is here and it will divide opinion and it is controversial of that there is no doubt. Read it for yourself and judge for yourself.

Thank you to Poppy Stimpson for the advanced review copy.

Diary of an Oxygen Thief by Anonymous is published by Corsair and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

The Unseeing – Anna Mazzola

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The Unseeing – Anna Mazzola

The Last Word Review

As debut novels go this is something rather special. Anna Mazzola with The Unseeing has managed to create a story which is based on an actual true story. From the moment you pick this book up with its eerie eye in the centre of the cover you know it is going to be something outstanding and believe me The Unseeing captures the reader’s attention from the opening page.

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The setting is London 1837 and Sarah Gale has been sentenced to hang for her involvement in the brutal murder of Hannah Brown. Edmund Fleetwood has been charged with investigating the case of the murder after Sarah files for mercy. But something is not right, Sarah is not forthcoming with any information that will help her case, why? If the investigation fail’s Sarah will surely hang. So why is she not helping Edmund?

There is something very unique about the way Anna Mazzola has written The Unseeing you get a real feel for the time and the place, at times dark and foreboding the tension is palpable as we the day for Sarah’s execution getting ever closer but still she refuses to pass on information that could save her life. Just about the only statement she gives throughout is that she played no part in the murder of Hannah Brown. Taking into account that she is imprisoned awaiting her fate, she is also a mother and her child faces a bleak future is she hangs. For Edmund he is rather keen to make his mark and impression on this investigation and this is testing him. The public have already condemned Sarah and want to see her on the end of the rope for her part. This indeed is both a complex and challenging investigation. The interviews between Edmund and Sarah are incredibly revealing. This is a story with many twists and turns before we find out what happens to Sarah. Some of the answers to my own questions were not as I thought. The research carried out by Mazzola on an actual crime that took place in the nineteenth century must have been difficult and painstaking trying to piece together actual facts and create a gripping debut novel that is worthy of many plaudits.

Throughout the story I was not sure of Sarah a character that one minute you believed then you were unsure of what she was hiding. I warmed to Edmund as he went about trying to put a case together that would save her life. He came across in the end as a genuine man.

The Unseeing is a book a highly recommend, the perfect read for the autumn as the days grow shorter.

Thank you to Tinder Press and Bookbridgr for the review copy.

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola is published by Tinder Press in hardback and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

Urbane Publications Book Prize Draw

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PRIZE DRAW TO WIN A SET OF FOUR BOOKS FROM URBANE PUBLICATIONS

On Bank Holiday Monday I showcased the writers and their books published through Urbane Publications. Thanks to the incredible generosity of Matthew the founder and owner of Urbane Books here is your chance to win not one but four great titles from their catalogue. 

Since its founding in 2012 Urbane Publications have published some exciting and outstanding books covering both Fiction and non-fiction. To find out more about Urbane Publications click on the link: Here

Included in the book prize draw are the following titles.

 

 1, Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes by Simon Wan

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2, Threat by Hugh Fraser

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3, Glass Houses by Jackie Buxton

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4, Infinite Rooms by David John Griffin

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All four books have been getting 5 star reviews on Amazon. To enter the prize draw all you have to do to stand a chance of winning all four books is head over to my Twitter feed @thelastword1962 and follow and re-tweet the Pinned message. Off course I would much appreciate it if you could also head over to @urbanebooks and follow a friendly publisher who publishes rather good books.

Now the not so exciting bit….

The Terms and Conditions are as follows:

*The draw is open to UK only and runs from Tuesday 30 August to 7pm Thursday 1 September any entrants entering after this time will not be entered. Only one entry will be allowed. Multiple entries will not be entered.  The four book prize is offered by Urbane Books. The winner will be selected at random and will be notified via a DM on Twitter. The winning books will be sent out by Urbane Books direct to the winner.

The Summer That Melted Everything – Tiffany McDaniel

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The Summer That Melted Everything – Tiffany McDaniel

The Last Word Review

There are times as a book reviewer when a book lands on your desk and you are holding the book and you have no real idea what the book is about then you read the enclosed press release and suddenly your mind and imagination are captured written by Tiffany McDaniel The Summer That Melted Everything is yet another outstanding debut novel as if 2016 has not already provided its fair share of memorable debuts. This is one book that I will remember for many a day.

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It is 1984 and the setting is Breathed, Ohio the heatwave has scorched the landscape and the devil has come to Breathed but not in the shape or form that you imagine. For Fielding Bliss and his family this will be year that they will never forget.

The devil does not take the shape of the devil you imagine him to be, but he takes the form of a young African American boy by the name of Sal who arrives looking battered and bruised and wants ice cream. Now you may think that there is nothing sinister here accept there is something else, Sal claims he is the devil and that he has answered an invitation from the local paper. For Fielding Bliss he too is a Thirteen-year-old boy and thinks there is nothing so strange with Sal. The Bliss family take him in and from here on life that year will never be the same again. This is the summer that REALLY melted everything and very soon it becomes apparent that the townsfolk start to blame Sal for everything that goes wrong. A young black African American boy arrives into town proclaims he is the devil and now everyone starts to believe everything that he is. So this is 1984 there some connotations within the story that make us think of another time and another book of that year.

The writing of Tiffany McDaniel is one of an author who has written many books she creates a vision with her words and this creates in the reader’s mind’s eye a picture of what life is really like and then you start to ask the question about Hell and if it is really here living among us now. It is a startling novel at times I felt totally claustrophobic with the story of the town called Breathed and its inhabitants and their thoughts and beliefs. The Summer That Melted Everything is a story everyone should read for what lies between the covers is a story of our fears racism and homophobia in society.

This is a story that will rip your heart to shreds and will leave you questioning so much about the world we live in today. McDaniel’s prose is unlike anything I have read this year and I have said that so many times from debut writers during 2016 this is up there with the very best. I implore you to get a copy and see for yourself why I make this one of my books of 2016. Totally unforgettable. Sometimes in life there is no happy endings and reading this you will see why. Life can be really cruel at times this book captures the very essence of who we are. For some readers this may be difficult to read as you will want to scream at times. But it is a book that is crying out to be read. And it must.

Thank you to Scribe UK for the advanced review copy.

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel is published by Scribe UK and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

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