Cotton Wool Kids

Loud noises and falling, they’re born with just two.
The natural fears, but what can we do?
Shield their ears and before they can waddle
Pull them in close with a blanket we swaddle

Next comes the dark and the monsters that lurk
The learned  fears are upon us, it’s really hard work
Don’t worry, you’ve an aid to soothe all that guilt
Tuck them up safe in their soft, warm quilt

Bumps and trips and scuffed raw knees
The solution to this is really a breeze
Nothing in this world could ever be solved faster
than with a kiss and a squeeze and a big sticking plaster

The first day at school, now this can be tough
The parenting seas are rarely as rough
They take it all in their stride with the smallest of shrugs
Wrap them tight in your arms for the longest of hugs

Stop, Look, Listen.  It really is easy
Cars racing by, making you queasy
Crossing the road, of fears you are full?
Problem solved, wrap them up in white cotton wool

They fly through the air those insidious germs
Powerless against them, we parents learn
Unless of course, as a mode of combat
We swamp them in a coat, gloves, scarf and a hat

We come unstuck against natural disasters
Famine, Fire, Flood, they’re really the masters
Fear not fellow parents, we really can hack it
What harm in the wearing of a sturdy life jacket?

Worst of all comes the evil of which you’re aware
In crowds, public spaces, in fact everywhere
Nothing protects them from this heinous sin
aside from keeping them safely caged in

But things that are caged live a small sheltered life
Extra layers we provide won’t save them from strife
We need them to be safe, we really do try
But we can’t clip their wings if they just want to fly…

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A Reading Wrap Up #6


I’ve been very lazy with the reviewing of the books I’ve read recently…….actually no scrap that.  I’ve just been busy and had other things on my mind, so as much as I’m still flying through books at a rate of knots, I’m just not getting round to writing about them.

Apologies for that but such is life, I have shizz to do (sometimes that shizz is just lying down but it’s important to me ya know?)…. So for this wrap up I’m cramming 6 books together instead of the usual 4. The reasons for this are twofold:

  • It’ll be quicker to catch up and I won’t feel so much like a useless lazy beast

And

  • The frame app on my phone will only fit 6 pictures in without them looking squashed so……yeah.

Lets crack on!

First up:

Seas Of Snow – Karensa Jennings


I’d heard this one reviewed on YouTube and knew in advance that it dealt with child abuse and domestic abuse and was quite hard hitting.  Now I’m not a sensitive soul and consider myself quite used to reading dark and gritty fiction and non-fiction, memoirs and such like that deal with subjects like this. however I found this book a very uncomfortable read. It tells the story of Gracie and her mother.  Its set in the 1950’s and flits to the present day.  Gracie’s mum is a single parent raising Gracie on her own, however her brother Joe comes into their lives and that is when the abuse starts.  Firstly with Gracie’s mum and then it’s not long before Uncle Joe turns his evil attentions to Gracie.  This obviously is the uncomfortable part.  The abuse scenes go into quite graphic detail, which for a fictional novel felt quite strange to me.  I’ve read a few non-fiction biographical accounts including child abuse or sexual/domestic abuse in some way and when these books included detail I’ve been able to stomach reading it because it actually happened.  You almost feel you owe it to the person it happened to to see what they went through.  But as a lot of the abuse scenes were told from the perspective of Uncle Joe and how he feels about Gracie and her body etc it was almost too much to read.  I found it difficult to wrap my head around the fact that this was a fictional account, it didn’t sit right with me.  That’s not to say it would have been ok if it had been real….it’s just that this account was dreamt up in someone’s head and well……I was disconcerted by it.

This story also had a strange timeline which I was scared would turn out to be a massive continuity error of sorts, I only carried on reading to see whether it was an actual glaring error or whether there was a twist at the end.  I was relieved when the twist did eventually come.

I would say give this book a go if you have a strong stomach for these things but will also say it has massive triggers for child abuse, so if you’re not up to that steer well clear!

 

The Girl In The Red Coat – Kate Hamer


I recently read Kate Hamer’s The Doll Funeral which I reviewed here and absolutely loved.  This one is Kate’s debut novel I think so I had to give this one a go too.  I knew that the premise of this was of a little girl who gets abducted on a day out with her mother.  Carmel disappears from a literary festival and we follow both her story and her mothers story in the aftermath of this.  I enjoyed the fact that this wasn’t your typical child abduction story.  There was no violence or girls trapped in cellars and all that lark.  It had a very different way of panning out and this was the bit that kept me reading.  It wasn’t a quickly solved case, the characters developed well and the ending was ok, there were unanswered questions but I was satisfied overall.  I would say this book for me wasn’t nearly as gripping or well written as The Doll Funeral but I’m glad I’ve ticked it off my list.

 

The Unseeing – Anna Mazzola


This is a murder mystery story set in Victorian London, we all know I’m a sucker for anything set in Victorian London right?  This is the story of Sarah Gale who has been incarcerated in Newgate Prison for the murder of another woman Hannah Gale.  She is petitioning her innocence with the assistance of lawyer Edmund Fleetwood.  The basic premise is a did she?/did she? one.  I enjoyed this purely for the Victorian detail or prison life at the time but other than that Sarah Waters does it better in my opinion.  I felt a bit let down by this one.  I wanted to love it but just didn’t.  Sorry!

 

The Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss


I’ve read Night Waking by Sarah Moss and loved it.  The Tidal Zone has more than done the booktube rounds and with its eye-catching cover it’s hard to pass it up.  It tells the story of Adam a stay at home Dad who is simultaneously looking after his teenage daughter Miriam and her sister Rose whilst researching and writing about the WW2 bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral.  One day Adam’s life changes when he receives a phonecall to say that Miriam has collapsed at school and stopped breathing.  She gets resuscitated and taken to hospital whereupon the hospital staff have to try and find out the cause of Miriam’s collapse and the likelihood of it happening again.  This book explores how a family copes with circumstances like these, how Adam himself feels helpless in protecting his daughters from something which may or may not happen again at any time.  I love Sarah Moss’s writing style, and like the way she intersperses the main thread of the story with almost a sidestory, in this case the bombing of the cathedral.  Although I must admit that I preferred the main story to the cathedral chapters.  People have complained in reviews that this book is dull and aside from the main medical incident at the start nothing  happens.  I disagree, I love stories which go into quite minute detail of everyday life and books for me don’t have to be fast-paced plot twist thrillers.  I’m quite happy for a story to show how characters develop rather what is actually happening plot wise.

I would recommend this book, I really enjoyed it.


 

Grief Is The Thing With Feathers – Max Porter


I picked this up from the library based on the fact that I’d seen it on display in Waterstones window and the title had stuck in my head.  Also I reckoned as it was such a short book I could rattle through it and it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t like it.  Luckily I did.  I devoured it in the bath one night.  I had some misgivings about this after reading the first few pages as it is so beyond the realms of reality that I didn’t know if I would enjoy it.  I’m all for a bit of magical realism every now and again but this book is just so out there.  So…..let me try and attempt to explain the idea of this story.  It centres around a family who have lost their mother.  A man and his two young sons are grieving for the loss of their Mum/wife and struggling to come to terms with it.  One night there’s a knock at the door and the man opens it to a huge black crow….yes I know….bear with it….

The crow settles himself into their lives and helps them through their grief, not always in a nice way.  The story is told in alternate short paragraphs almost, which are headed Dad, Crow and Boys.  There were times when I thought perhaps I wasn’t clever enough to be understanding all the meaning behind this story.  I kind of want to say that the crow is a metaphor for the families grief but I may have got that wrong.   Apparently this has links to Ted Hughes poetry collection ‘Crow’ and indeed the father is a Ted Hughes scholar but never having read any Ted Hughes I’m not sure how far the links stretch.  I just enjoyed this book for what it was, beautifully written and unusual.  And if you enjoy something does it really matter if you consider yourself not clever enough to read it?……

 


This Sweet Sickness – Patricia Highsmith

I’d never read any Highsmith before but had heard her talked about on booktube.  She wrote The Talented Mr Ripley and Strangers On A Train which I hadn’t been aware of.  I got online and browsed the titles they had at my local library and decided on This Sweet Sickness and Deep Water.  Both of which were stored in the library basement so some poor library employee no doubt had to go on a mission to find them.

I started with This Sweet Sickness which tells the story of a man who is somewhat obsessed with a woman called Annabelle.  Annabelle was a previous girlfriend who is now married to someone else and our protagonist cannot let her go, which ultimately is the undoing of himself and others along the way.  This is one of those stories told by an unreliable narrator which I absolutely love.  You’re hearing the things he’s telling you but not believing a word of it and seeing it from other peoples perspectives as it truly is.  He is a character who functions normally in everyday life, flies under the radar until tragedy strikes and he begins to unravel.  The pacing of this story is perfect, a slow build.  I definitely enjoyed it due to it’s dark nature and I’m looking forward to reading more Patricia Highsmith.

So there we have it.  As always, let me know if you’ve read any of these or if you’re planning to.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on them.

 

See you soon.

 

 

 

Mand xxx

 

A Reading Wrap Up #5


I am really rattling through the books at the moment! so much so that I just haven’t got time to keep up with reviewing them.

I’ve reviewed four books I read a couple of weeks or so ago, but since then I’ve read 3 more and am part way through my fourth.

I don’t want to get into a situation where I think ‘oh balls to it’ because I’m that far behind so i’ll continue to review in the order I’ve read them when I’ve got the time and the brain space! Sometimes life gets in the way…

Anyway, lets crack on!…

 

First Love – Gwendoline Riley


I can only describe this as a strange little book.  At 176 pages its not quite a novel and not quite a novella but it came on my radar as it was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize For Fiction and I’d heard some good reviews on booktube.

This book tells the story of a married couple called Neve and Edwyn, she is younger than him and they have what I can only describe as a very toxic relationship.  We flit back and forth in time from Neve’s perspective to gain information about her relationships with her terrible parents (an abusive Father and a self-involved Mother) and her own romantic relationships prior to her marriage to Edwyn.  There are elements of affection and tenderness in their relationship but for the most part Edwyn is utterly vile to Neve, she treads on eggshells waiting for his next ‘blow up’.  He is mostly verbally abusive but has also been physically abusive to Neve.

This exchange perfectly captures just how vile Edwyn is.  Here he rants at Neve about a time she got drunk with her friends and he had to put her to bed:

‘My voice got dull. I spoke like a machine that was running down while he seemed only to gain energy.

“You offered to pay for the drink” I said, “I told you I’d pay you back when I could and I will”.

He frowned.

“Don’t be ridiculous.  I don’t want your money.  And don’t get me wrong, I was happy to pay of course.  You can’t have a party with no wine”.

“I was happy not have a party if you remember”.

“Sure.  But the fact is that you drank until you were sick.  And your friends got drunk. On my money.”

“Right”

There was a pause.  Again I smiled, stupidly, pleadingly.

“Is that a northern thing, do you think?” he said.

“Is what a northern thing?”

“Well you enjoy being sick on yourself, don’t you? I’ve never known anyone else who enjoys being sick on themselves”.

“No”.

“So it’s a reasonable question, then, isn’t it?  Is that what people in the north do? Is that something you find acceptable, or civilized, or fun? Perhaps it is.  I wouldn’t know.”

This book was a quick read although odd.  I enjoyed reading it however it did leave a lot of unanswered questions.

 

Rattle – Fiona Cummins


I am recommending this book to everyone who enjoys a good creepy psychological thriller with a gory twisted edge.  I’ll start by saying I absolutely loved this book, a proper five star read for me.

It tells the story of Erdman and Lilleth Frith who have a 6 year old son Jakey who was born with a bone deformity which means that any slight knock or fall can cause new bone to grow over old bone which essentially means he’s growing a second skeleton and becoming trapped in his own body.  This is apparently known as ‘Stone Man Syndrome’.  Running parallel to this is the story of a young girl called Clara who has been abducted by a man from right outside her school gates.  Clara too has an interesting bone deformity in that the middle three fingers on both hands are missing and she has ‘cleft hands’.

She has been abducted by a man who has a macabre museum of skeleton specimens which are deformed or medically interesting in some way.  He researches people afflicted with interesting deformities and trys to procure skeletons for his collection, which has been in his family for years and which he took over from his own father.

I think you can guess the link between Jakey, Clara and The Bone Collector.  Jakey is the ultimate specimen and the Bone Collector has set his sights on having him on display in the museum.

This book is so dark and creepy and builds tension so well.  Its not a bit like any other typical child abduction story, not in any way at all.  The Bone Collector is dubbed as ‘A psychopath more frightening than Hanibal Lecter’ and I don’t think that’s far short of the mark! I think this is due in part to the fact that he lives a quiet life and draws no attention to himself, moving amongst the public and holding down a job like you or me, and yet he is ultimately riddled with evil.  Rotten to the core.

‘Yes, mostly he prefers to wait until they’re dead before setting to work with his knife.  But sometimes it cannot be helped. Sometimes he cannot make himself wait.

Take the girl for instance, she promises so much.  And there is much to admire in a specimen such as her, much to discover.  He yearns to experiment.  To peel back the layers of her skin and look upon the bone.  To display an exhibit that still moves and breathes….’

I enjoyed the fact that this story is told from multiple perspectives, Clara, the girl who has been abducted, The Bone Collector, Jakey, Erdman and Lilleth and Etta Fitzroy, the policewoman tasked with cracking the case.  All well fleshed out characters and I didn’t enjoy one persons perspective over another.

This story has so much more depth than just a bog standard abduction story as I’ve said, it’s so sinister and dark.  My heart was pounding at times.

The ending of this was amazing.  One of those endings that makes you close the book slowly, look up and immediately want to tell someone about it. It surely paves the way for a sequel, it has to! I’m waiting with baited breath for it!.

 

The Stopped Heart – Julie Myerson


Now this book I will be recommending left right and centre!  I love Julie Myerson as an author anyway, so when I saw her latest book The Stopped Heart on the shelf at the library, I snapped it up.

This has all the elements of a perfect 5 star read for me.  Dual narrative *tick*, dual narrative split between two time periods. *double tick*, supernatural elements *massive big tick*.

So as I’ve said, this story is split between the present day and around 120 years prior to this in a cottage on farmland.  It starts in the past with the sudden and dramatic arrival of a mysterious red haired man called James who gets trapped under a fallen tree in the garden of the cottage during a storm.  The family living in the cottage consists of 6 children and their mother and father.  The mysterious James is taken in by the family and starts helping them out on the farm.  It soon becomes apparent that James has a very dark past indeed. This part of the story is told from the perspective of the older child Eliza who I think is around 13 years old.  One of the other children Lottie, acts strangely and tells tales of seeing a lady, or ‘the girls’ or tales of her life before she ‘died’.  The rest of the family write theses tales off as the makings of a wild and vivid childish imagination but are they?..

We skip forward in time to the present day, still in the same cottage where a new couple Mary and Graham Coles have just moved in following a family tragedy.  You are quickly made aware that they have lost both of their young daughters in terrible circumstances and its not long before you find out how. (I won’t do any spoilers here though!)

Mary starts to feel unsettled in the cottage and sometimes catches glimpses of a red haired man in the lane when she is looking out of the window, or hears the sound of children laughing in the garden.  Meanwhile a century earlier, little Lottie claims she can see ‘The Lady who cries a lot’…..

“lottie! I cried.  Whatever are you doing? Why aren’t you in bed?”.

She was gazing up at me with hot eyes,  Her cheeks were bright and her breath smelled sickly and of fever.  She licked her lips.

I don’t like it she said.

“What? What don’t you like?”

The lady.

“what?”

She keeps coming – Lottie looked around the room and then back at me.  She held up her hands.  I said to her to go away, I said: You must go away right now or I’ll bite you! But every time I say it, she just stays and stays-

But Lottie-

I watched as she plucked at her nightgown and stomped her bare feet and gazed all around the room again.  I saw that she was on the verge of tears.

Make her go away Eliza.  Please make her.

Make who go away?

The lady!

She’s in here? you mean in this room?

Yes.

And are the little girls in here too?

Lottie let out a wail

Not them! The little girls are dead!……

I absolutely loved the overlap of time periods and the supernatural thread that ran through this book.  I loved seeing the character of Eliza develop and how her relationship with the mysterious James evolved and ultimately consumed her.  The story of Mary and Grahams tragedy was dealt with amazingly well, even though the subject matter was difficult to imagine.

Parts of this story are unsettling and disturbing, especially when it came to Lottie and her ‘visions’.  There are also lots of emotional, upsetting parts, especially towards the end of the book.  This book I know I could read over again, and that isn’t something I commit to lightly as I’m usually a one read only kinda gal!

If you get the chance to pick this one up then do, and let me know what you think.

 

Hide – Matthew Griffin


This was an ‘on a whim’ library pick up, mainly because I liked the cover….shallow I know.  It wasn’t a very long read so I rattled through it fairly quickly.  It was such a sweet story…..I say sweet, it was actually pretty heartbreaking at times.

It tells the story of Wendell and Frank an old couple living in a small town in America.  They’ve been together since they were fairly young and are now in their 80’s.  They have successfully kept their relationship a secret over the years, isolating themselves from the world, going shopping separately, never being seen out together, telling people they are brothers etc.  Life hasn’t always been easy for them but they get by just fine in their own little bubble.  That is until Frank has a stroke whilst out gardening one afternoon and Wendell is pretty much left to be his carer on his own and deal with watching the love of his life deteriorate both mentally and physically before his eyes.

The story often flits back in time to tell the story of how they met and the various struggles they’ve had along the way.  I enjoyed this part because it was good to have the perspective of a young Frank as he is portrayed as strong and hardy, totally dependable, which is of course in complete contrast to the Frank after his stroke.  It was heartwarming to see the depth of love and respect in their relationship without it being overly sickly sweet.  In fact it was often quite darkly humourous.  Overall I really enjoyed it. I tweeted the author to tell him how much I enjoyed it and of course he tweeted me back because I’m like totally down with the authors these days kids!……

So that’s me, not quite up to date but I’m doing the best I can at the moment.

 

As always, if you’ve read any of these please let me know your thoughts.

 

Peace out!

 

 

Mand

 

xxxx