Tuesday, 10 December 2019

No Good Deed Anthology - Review by Judy Darley


No Good Deed: Short stories raising funds for Indigo Volunteers by [Harvey, Clare, Huggins, Amanda, Pokrass, Meg , Bhattacharya, Susmita, Sheehan, Hilda, Garland, Rosie, Campbell, Joanna, Mangos, Louise]
A lovely review of No Good Deed from Judy Darley. Thrilled that she enjoyed my story, A Longing for Clouds:-
A Longing For Clouds by Amanda Huggins is redolent with aromas that weave through the passages, evoking the rich, sensual squalor of heat, from “the pungent scent of overripe mangoes” to “sandalwood on warm skin”. Huggins’ story is a masterclass in engaging the senses, as she evokes scenes vivid with jewel colours, textures and flavours, overlaid with a yearning nostalgia.
“The only sound she could hear was the faint tinkle of the tiny bells on the women’s bracelets and ankle chains. The noise reminded Maggie of the dress she wore to Deepak’s wedding; cerulean blue with bells around the hem. It conjured the warmth of the soft Jaipur dusk; the air heavy with incense and sandalwood attar, the gate adorned with flowers. Bright saris, silk scarves billowing like jewel-bright parachutes. The bride, nervous and pale, beautifully gift-wrapped in red and gold.”

Monday, 2 December 2019

Book review: Unprotected by Sophie Jonas-Hill


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What the publisher says:

“She's fighting to save everyone else, but will she have anything left to save herself?

Witty, sharp and sarcastic tattoo artist Lydia's life is imploding. Her long-term relationship has broken down after several miscarriages and she's hiding from her hurt and loss in rage. After a big night out she wakes beside a much younger man who brings complications she could really do without.

As her grief about her lost babies and failed relationships spirals out of control, she obsesses about rescuing a wayward teenage girl she watches from her window and gets more involved than she should with her charming but unstable young lover.”


My review:

Unprotected is an unflinching and powerful story of the complexities and frailties of relationships in all their guises, of family secrets, of love, heartbreak and grief, of addiction, loyalty and betrayal. Lydia is a compelling character – mixed-up, messed-up, startlingly honest, filled with anger born of grief, yet still determined to save everyone else.

The story gallops along at a unrelenting pace, keeping you hooked until the end, and even though this is far from an easy read, there is hope as well as darkness.

Jonas-Hill’s style is bold, vivid, sensitive, raw and beautiful, and Unprotected packs a real punch – I can’t wait to read more from her.


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Illustration Copyright Sophie Jonas-Hill








Thursday, 21 November 2019

COVER REVEAL TIME!

I'm so excited to share the fabulous cover for my poetry chapbook, coming soon from Maytree Press.  

Huge thanks to Alice Parker for this beautiful illustration.


Sunday, 17 November 2019

My Review of The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow

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THE NASEBY HORSES
Dominic Brownlow
(Louise Walters Books)

The Naseby Horses wraps you up inside an unsettling, disturbing, almost surreal narrative  that doesn’t let you go.

Simon is an epileptic, enigmatic and obsessive, both an unreliable narrator and a compelling and credible one - truth, time, and place are constantly shifting, and we are always conscious of the fact that the narrator knows more that he is sharing.

The story centres around the disappearance of Simon’s twin sister, Charlotte, and the bond that exists between the pair is beautifully drawn.

Moody, claustrophobic, yet filled with chilling beauty, the Fens are revealed in poetic and elegant prose, and the natural world forms a glorious backdrop to the narrative.

This is a beautifully observed and rewarding novel, measured and steady-paced, and the gorgeous prose demands close attention.

You can buy a copy here

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Poetry Review - Keepsake by Kayleigh Campbell


I've just finished reading Kayleigh Campbell's gorgeous poetry chapbook from Maytree Press, and I've dipped into Ghost Hospital by Pauline Rowe, which I will review shortly. Deryn Rees-Jones has called it 'remarkable', and I'm really looking forward to reading it from cover to cover.

KEEPSAKE by KAYLEIGH CAMPBELL Maytree Press

Kayleigh Campbell's debut poetry collection is confident, vivid and haunting. She has an emotional maturity way beyond her years, and a true understanding of the human condition. These poems are heartbreaking, utterly honest, and deeply personal. Campbell is not afraid to show vulnerabilty, and in doing so she gives us licence to do the same. She takes us on a journey through post-natal depression, through doubt and change, through love and family relationships in transition. Her work is powerful and stark, filled with the ache of loss.

These poems are beautifully crafted, they soar and plummet, and stay with you long after you close the book.

Monday, 28 October 2019

STORGY

Thrilled to see my story, Uncanny, published on the Storgy website today. Here's a taster - click on the link if you want to read more!

Uncanny by Amanda Huggins


The new waitress says he reminds her of someone. She presses a finger to her lips, frowning slightly as she looks him up and down, then shakes her head.

‘I can’t think who it is. The image is blurred, a little fuzzy around the edges. If I could sharpen you up, pull you into focus, I might be able to figure it out.’

She smiles at him, tilts her head to one side, all pout and flirt, then reaches up to adjust her hair, holding the clip between straight white teeth. He wants to lean across the counter and trace his finger down the curve of her slender neck. He can sense the pull of her, the dangerous current that would drag him under, yet he wants it all: to taste the salt of her skin, to feel the crackling static of something he’s always been too timid to take.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Book Review - Love by Hanne Orstavik






Love by Hanne Orstavik

Love is set in a small village in north Norway. It follows the story of a mother and son, Vibeke and Jon, who have only lived there a few months. It is the evening before Jon’s ninth birthday and a travelling carnival has arrived in the village. Jon goes out to sell lottery tickets for his sports club and Vibeke sets off to the library. We follow them on their separate journeys through a cold winter's night; journeys filled with the weight of unrelenting menace and foreboding.

A palpable chill runs through the icy heart of this deceptively simple story, conveyed so precisely in Orstavik's sparse yet poetic language. Love explores the distances between people, while seamlessly weaving the two viewpoints tightly together, so that we are taken from Jon’s world to Vibeke’s and back again within just a few short paragraphs.

This slender novella is compelling, powerful and dark, packed with tension and yearning; a haunting tale about loneliness and the search for love. I was captivated until the very end. 


This is a book I won't be lending to anybody in case I don't get it back. It's already on the to-be-read-again pile :-)

(Reviewed after receiving an ARC from And Other Stories in exchange for an honest review.)

Thursday, 26 September 2019

The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society

A fantastic launch event for The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society at the Marsden Walking Festival last Saturday. 
Published by Maytree Press, the collection features forty seven poems inspired by the South Pennine landscapes, towns and people. The book features poems by myself, Simon Armitage, Tom Weir, Hannah Stone, Jo Haslam, Gaia Holmes and many more. 
Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and indoor

At the Kitchen Table
The late spring snow
catches us off-guard,
drifts against the henhouse wall,
blots out the distant moors.
And here, in this borrowed house,
we watch, transfixed,
brave the blizzard
to throw scraps for the birds,
half-wishing it could always be like this.
Just you and I
at the kitchen table—
your crossword, my novel,
the weekend papers,
the last bottle of oak-aged red
waiting on the shelf.
Yet we know
the snow will thaw by morning,
and we’ll drive down the lane
for bread and logs,
ice-melt from the trees
pattering on the bonnet.
Then, too soon,
the workday grind will call us back
to the small house in the town,
where everything is a little less bright
and a little less kind.
As we leave,
the weather will change again,
the brilliant shine of it
making us smile,
and I’ll point out a newborn lamb,
his ears luminous, backlit by the sun,
as he watches us drive away.
Amanda Huggins


9781916038141

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Splash Of Ink

InkTears have published a new flash collection, Splash of Ink, containing all the winning and commended stories from ten years of their flash fiction contest. I'm proud to say I have four stories in this anthology - a feat only matched by the brilliant Ingrid Jendrzejewski! You can buy a copy here


InkTears, run by Anthony Howcroft, holds a special place in my heart, as their short story and flash contests were two of the first places I had success with my writing. I was also lucky enough to be approached by Anthony to be part of the showcase anthology, Death of a Superhero, where several of my longer stories were published in a gorgeous hardback alongside the work of Chris Fielden, Brindley Hallm Dennis and Kaya Ra Edwards. 





Thursday, 27 June 2019

Summer Reading Reviews


Three great books here from indie presses - I really enjoyed them all.

Don't Think a Single Thought by Diana Cambridge - Louise Walters Books (Published September 2019) 

Order a copy here

1960s New York, and Emma Bowden seems to have it all  a glamorous Manhattan apartment, a loving husband, and a successful writing career. But while Emma and her husband Jonathan are on vacation at the Hamptons, a child drowns in the sea, and suspicion falls on Emma. As her picture-perfect life spirals out of control, and old wounds resurface, a persistent and monotonous voice in Emma’s head threatens to destroy all that she has worked for... 

Taut, elegant and mesmerising, Don’t Think a Single Thought lays bare a marriage, and a woman, and examines the decisions – and mistakes – that shape all of our lives. 

My review:

Elegantly written, an engaging and beguiling novel centred around Emma, the most unreliable of narrators, a woman struggling with life and the effects of a complicated childhood, full of mystery and unanswered questions. Throughout the novel I felt a little distanced from Emma, yet at the same time I was totally hooked and keen to unravel her troubled past and discover the truth.

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Finer Things by David Wharton - Sandstone Press


Buy a copy here

London: 1963. The lives of a professional shoplifter, and a young art student collide. Delia needs to atone for a terrible mistake; Tess is desperate to convince herself she really is an artist.


Elsewhere in London, the Krays are on the rise and a gang war is in the offing.
 

Tess’s relationship with her gay best friend grows unexpectedly complicated, and Delia falls for a man she’s been paid to betray. At last, the two women find a resolution together – a performance that is both Delia’s goodbye to crime and Tess’s one genuine work of art.

"Vibrant, absorbing and bursting with the unexpected, Finer Things is a sideways look at 1960s London, in which art school bohemia meets the gangster underworld. It is full of spot-on observations about the subtle power play in human interaction. I was immediately drawn into its vivid world." --Catherine Simpson

"An evocative portrait of two women navigating 1960's London."--Mahsuda Snaith

"David Wharton's novel unfolds with all the style, pace and drama of a British New Wave movie. It is a very fine thing indeed." --Jonathan Taylor 


My review:

Captivating, lively, stylish, and beautifully written, full of wonderful insights into the human psyche. David Wharton has created a layered, nuanced and totally believable world, and a lovely portrait of two young women whose different worlds collide. Delia, in particular, is a fabulous character!


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The Neverlands by Damhnait Monaghan - V Press

Buy a copy here 

"The Neverlands, a virtuoso mosaic of microfictions, tells the story of Nuala, a child caught in the crossfire of her parents' troubled marriage. This is a family epic in flash form, masterfully and movingly distilled, both devastating and hopeful. A gorgeous debut." Kathy Fish 

"The Neverlands is a heart-tugger of a collection. In pitch-perfect colloquial prose, Damhnait Monaghan waltzes us through the sorrows of a poverty-stricken Irish family, who struggle to love each other well. Funny, clever, warm and sad, this is a beautiful book." Nuala O'Connor.

My review:

Such beautiful writing, so skilfully executed. This wonderful novella-in-flash is achingly sad, yet ends with hope. It deserves to be read more than once. Such a layered and complex insight into the human condition - Mammy and Nuala will stay inside my head for a long time to come.

Review of Soul Etchings by Sandra Arnold



Sandra Arnold's flash fiction collection is out today from Retreat West Books, and it's fabulous!

ABOUT SOUL ETCHINGS

Death, motherhood, the nature of reality, and the gender expectations of cultural conditioning are woven through these biting little stories in Sandra Arnold's debut flash fiction collection. Sometimes sad, surreal and sinister, they're also shot through with love and a deep understanding of humanity.


In gorgeous, spare prose that paints a very vivid picture, Sandra Arnold gives voice to characters that are often unheard. From Daisy in Fireworks Night, willing to do whatever it takes to protect her little sister; to Martha in The Girl With Green Hair who has her body in the world we live in and her mind in the one that not many people see; and Ruby in Don't Mess With Vikings who finds strength in a diagnosis of illness to stand up to bullies. With the stories in this collection, Sandra Arnold etches marks on your soul that will last.

MY REVIEW

Sandra Arnold takes us into a different world in these vivid and haunting stories. She leads us through a landscape we think we know and recognise, but it proves to be a world that is slightly off-kilter and faintly surreal. The prose is both sparse and beautiful, yet there is nothing instant here - no quick, fleeting reward. These tales don't fizz and die like fireworks, they are slow burning tapers, fires that burn through the night. They are stories that creep up on you from behind, and once they sink their teeth in they don't let go. A crowd of images remains in wait at the edge of your vision, popping up in your mind when you least expect it. Sandra Arnold has a deep understanding of the human condition and her writing gets under your skin and stays there.  


No Good Deed Anthology - Review by Judy Darley

A lovely review of No Good Deed from Judy Darley. Thrilled that she enjoyed my story, A Longing for Clouds:- A Longing For Clouds  by...