Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Connectedness by Sandra Danby

Today I’m reviewing Sandra Danby’s second novel, Connectedness. 
Sandra will be here on Troutie McFish Tales on 12th July, talking about Connectedness, and how she writes evocatively about scents and smells in the novel. But first, a little more about the book, and a little more about my own experience of the book's theme.
Danby’s novels are about adoption, which is a subject of great personal interest as I was adopted myself. Therefore, before I review the book, I'd like to share my own story.
I was taken home by my adoptive parents when I was just ten days’ old, and they told me I was adopted as soon as they thought I could understand.
I actually feel uncomfortable using the term ‘adoptive parents’, as my parents were my parents, full stop, and using the word ‘adoptive’ seems to imply some kind of impermanence or substitution. I believe that your parents are the people who bring you up, who lavish you with love and time, and who make sacrifices for you. I'm very proud and thankful to have had the wonderful parents I did.
However, happy childhood or not, most people have a curiosity about where they came from - to find out who they are, to see a face that has similarities to their own. I'm no exception, and when I was a stroppy teenager, I fantasised about the different life I might have led if I'd been brought up by my birth parents!
My birth mother, who I'll call Carly, was fifteen when I was born, and I have never blamed her for giving me up. I traced her fairly easily when I was in my early thirties, but I didn't tell my mother and father, as I didn't want to upset them by making them feel that they somehow weren't enough. Carly and I met twice, and then lost touch – it was a little awkward as she lived a long way from me, and her husband still doesn’t know of my existence. However she now lives in a different town - somewhere I visit regularly - and we do see each other quite often. I think my biggest fear when I was looking for her was that I’d find out I was the product of a one night stand – or worse. But my birth father – who I met once before he died – was Carly's first love. For some reason that was very important to me.
Life is complicated, and so are people. Carly and I get on well, and we are similar in many ways - but different in many others. We do tell each other we love each other, and I find myself feeling automatically protective of her, yet I don’t think of her as my ‘mother’ in any proper sense. She was there for me when my mother died, and offered much needed practical support at a very difficult time, and I hope she knows she could rely on me for help too.


Connectedness is the second novel by Sandra Danby in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, yet it can easily be read as a standalone novel. The books in the series all feature Rose Haldane, who helps to reunite adopted children and their birth families, and who was adopted herself. Connectedness centres around the artist, Justine King, whose life is a tangle of lies and secrets.
I really enjoyed Danby’s first book, Ignoring Gravity, and so I was looking forward to reading Connectedness. It certainly didn’t disappoint. I found this novel more engaging than the last – as Hope Sloper said, ‘Sandra Danby does it again, only this time I felt she did it better.’

This is a beautifully written novel, exploring themes of love and regret, betrayal and impossible choices, grief and loss, and of course, adoption. It is a compelling and believable story, and the characters are well-defined, sympathetic and rounded. Danby brings the settings to life, and carries you there with the characters, using all the senses to evoke the vivid sounds, scents and sights of Spain, Yorkshire and London.
The book is well-researched, and art plays a huge part in the story. I really enjoyed the close and fascinating detail about the art world, and the way that Justine’s art is woven into her very being, the way she subconsciously and consciously uses it to express her hopes, fears, pain, and vulnerability.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Last Day of My Blog Tour!

I just have to share the final review for Separated From the Sea on Jan's Book Buzz. It made me cry!
"Huggins has an almost hypnotic style of writing that kept me mesmerised. Whereas some might some might find a book of short stories easy to put on the back burner, keeping it as something to return to in between other books, or something to skim through, choosing which stories to read, and which to skip, I found that as I finished each story, I couldn’t wait to get to the next one to see what secrets would be revealed! It was as if each one was an oyster and I was anxious to open it and reveal the precious pearl within!
Most of the stories are much shorter than more conventional short stories, but rather than finding this to be a deterrent I found it to be advantageous. Huggins’ writing is beautiful and her stories vary from ones of poignant loss, yearning and longing, to those of hope and optimism. The thread running through most of them is the theme of the sea or a nearness to it, and a love of it; a desire to return to it and an appreciation for the role it plays in the lives of the protagonists.

Huggins shows a deep understanding of human frailty and failing and of our desperation to find favour with those who we admire and wish to please, whether they deserve it or not. I loved this collection and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I believe that everyone will find a little bit of themselves here."

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The First Week!

It's almost a week since the launch of Separated From the Sea, and the official blog tour is gathering momentum.

I've had some wonderful reviews from a variety of book bloggers, and on Amazon and Goodreads too - I'll return to those later. 


Receiving feedback from readers is very special. If someone likes your work - or better still, if someone loves your work! - then that's the best reward of all. I was overwhelmed by the response to my flash collection, Brightly Coloured Horses, but that didn't stop me being terrified that no one would enjoy Separated From the Sea!

I'm truly grateful to everyone who has bought (or who is intending to buy ;-) ) a copy of either of my books. I'm lucky to know a supportive bunch of people, and I'm very thankful for my online writing 'friends', and my core team of real-life friends - both writers and non-writers. 

Marketing is hard work, and often thankless. I recently shared an article by Tom McAllister, from his blog,

It perfectly sums up the post-publication journey, when you start to realise that the majority of your friends and family - the very people you thought would buy your book come what may - are just not interested at all. Sadly, no one is as excited by your book as you are yourself and, to be fair, people just don't have the time to read every book that is paraded in front of them. We all promise to read books that we never get around to buying.

Yet Tom's blog post is positive too - here are a couple of my favourite parts:

"Many people close to you will disappoint you. But there are people who will come through, and they will keep coming through, and sometimes you’ll be surprised who falls into which category. I’ve learned to cherish those friends and family members who are always there, or even sometimes there. It takes real sacrifice on their part to support this weird thing I do. It takes money and time for them to seek the book out, to ask their local shops and libraries to carry it, to share it on social media."

"People will read your book. Almost certainly not as many people as you wish. But sometimes a friend from high school or a former teacher will surprise you by showing up to a reading, or posting a review online. Sometimes a stranger will email you out of the blue and say they loved it, and in those moments it will feel like you’ve accomplished something impossible. It will feel better than you ever thought it could."

Before I go, I'd like to say a big thank you to all the bloggers and reviewers that have taken time to post something about Separated From the Sea. Here's a selection of my favourite bits:

"...a book to be treasured. ...these stories may not be long but they are powerful."

Linda Green

"There are many destinations that I felt transported to and it did give me a longing to get out of the city. I like that the book features some of the same characters in other stories, gives the stories more of a connection and makes it feel more considered.
It’s quite difficult to narrow down to just a few favourites because there are so many gems in this collection but if pressed I would have to say Enough, Sea Glass, The Last Of Michiko and Michael Secker’s Last Day. 

It was a pleasure to read this collection and I would definitely pick up another book by Amanda Huggins."

Kate Avery

"Overall this is a brilliant collection of stories, which I highly recommend."
Simon J Leonard
"Separated From the Sea is a collection of short stories, some are short and sweet, others are slightly longer but all are written in Amanda’s gentle almost poetic writing style.
Sometimes melancholy but always thought provoking and deep.A beautiful collection of stories to dip in and out of at leisure."
@Bookaddiction / Wrong Side of Forty
"It takes a truly great writer to make you fall in love with a character in such a small amount of words! Thoroughly recommended!"
Amazon Review
"Having previously read and enjoyed Amanda Huggins’ flash fiction collection ‘Brightly Coloured Horses’, I was anticipating her new collection of short stories, ‘Separated From the Sea’, published by Retreat West, with the relish you bring to a gourmet meal. I was not disappointed.
Each story is a brilliant jewel, superbly crafted by a word smith who plies her trade and is at the top of her game.
Each story delicately draws the reader in, spinning its web of word magic, evoking emotions and pinning down the crucial moments of change. There is a world within each tale and each is complete in itself.
They all can be and should be reread, for it takes more than one reading to unpeel the layers of emotion and revelations. The last lines often ring like a bell, remaining in your memory and making you think beyond the story’s conclusion."
Amazon Review - Aly Rhodes

"Amanda Huggins writing has an endearing style which draws you into each story and whether or not you desire it, includes you in the plot. She takes the reader around the world although never far from the sea or its influences. Whilst describing settings she leaves some space for you to react to her characters...She delivers endings which will not go away, leaving either a smile or a shiver.
I read a lot of short fiction and am prepared to swear that this is amongst the three best that I have read in many years.This is a collection to be bought, and treasured, to be read now and in ten years time."
Amazon Review

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Launch Day!

It was a great day at the Northern Short Story Festival in Leeds! I sold a few books, and spent the day in great company, with illustrator Si Smith, and Jamie from Valley Press. Spent my book takings on MORE BOOKS - of course!

Friday, 1 June 2018

Launch Day for Separated From the Sea

Well it's here - or it will be tomorrow! The launch of Separated From the Sea! I'll be sat behind a table at the Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds, signing and selling books (I hope!) as part of the Northern Short Story Festival.

There's lots of great workshops and events - Read more here!

I attended a fringe event last week for the launch of May You, the Walter Swan Prize Anthology, in which my story, Already Formed, appears. We had a lovely evening!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The Walter Swan Prize Anthology

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I'm delighted to have a story in this gorgeous looking anthology published by Valley Press. There's a launch party on Tuesday 22nd May at Leeds Library. It's a free event, but if anyone would like to attend - there'll be readings and wine! - then please register with Leeds Big Bookend HERE

My first review for Separated From The Sea!

 So excited to receive such a lovely first review for Separated From The Sea - check it out on Goodreads! Just over two weeks now to release day!


Review of Brightly Coloured Horses

A lovely review of Brightly Coloured Horses today from the talented writer, Sandra Danby.

"This is Huggins’ first anthology, but these are not the stories of a beginner. She is a talented writer of the human state of mind who chooses every single word with care, and makes every single word work hard to convey its meaning. It has to in a flash fiction story; there is no space for indulgence on the part of the writer."

Sandra's second novel, Connectedness, has just been released, and is already in my shopping basket. It's the next novel in the 'Identity Detective' series - check out feedback for her first novel, Ignoring Gravity, below.


IGNORING GRAVITY, the debut novel by Yorkshire author Sandra Danby, is a compelling story about an ordinary family with a secret. Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it. The day she finds her mother’s hidden diary is the day she starts to search for who she really is.

A story about identity, adoption, family mystery and ultimately of love, IGNORING GRAVITY connects two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. As Rose untangles the truth from the lies, she begins to understand why she has always felt so different from her sister Lily.

This is what some readers are saying:

“Drama? Check. Suspense? Check. Romance? Check. Will-they-won’t-they? Check. Great twists? Check, check, check! I am pleased to say this story has them all and then some.”

IGNORING GRAVITY is just the book to take with you to the beach this summer. It has everything you need: romance, family drama, humour – and some moments guaranteed to make you tearful.”

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

My lovely book is here!

Thrilled to get my hands on the advance copies of 
Separated From the Sea! 
If anyone is around in Leeds on June 2nd, I'll be signing my book at the Northern Short Story Festival.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Separated From the Sea is now available to pre-order on Amazon!

So excited to announce that Separated From the Sea is already available to pre-order for Kindle from Amazon! 

Separated From the Sea is the debut short story collection from award-winning author, Amanda Huggins.

Crossing oceans from Japan to New York and from England to Havana, these stories are filled with a sense of yearning, of loss, of not quite belonging, of not being sure that things are what you thought they were. They are stories imbued with pathos and irony, humour and hope.

Evie meets a past love but he's not the person she thinks he is; a visit to the most romantic city in the world reveals the truth about an affair; Satseko discovers an attentive neighbour is much more than that; Eleanor’s journey on the London Underground doesn't take her where she thought it would.

"This is a writer who knows her craft. Never a word out place, poignant, sometimes sad, sometimes startling, these stories fit worlds into small spaces. A long awaited debut." Angela Readman, author of Don't Try This At Home

Connectedness by Sandra Danby

Today I’m reviewing Sandra Danby’s second novel, Connectedness.  Sandra will be here on Troutie McFish Tales on 12th July, talking ab...