#BookReview by Lou of This Shining Life by Harriet Kline @HareandHarriet @tabithapelly @DoubledayUK @RandomTTours

This Shining Life
By Harriet Kline

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This Shining Life is beautifully written. It’s timely, poignant and warm. If you like Rachel Joyce’s books, you’re sure to like This Shining Life. I highly recommend it!
Discover more in the blurb and my full review and a bit about the author. That is when you can take your eyes off the gorgeous cover.
Thanks to Random Things Tours for inviting me onto the blog tour for reviewing and for them and for publisher – Double Day for gifting the physical proof of the  book.

This Shining Life Cover

Blurb

For Rich, life is golden.

He fizzes with happiness and love.

But Rich has an incurable brain tumour.

When Rich dies, he leaves behind a family without a father, a husband, a son and a best friend. His wife, Ruth, can’t imagine living without him and finds herself faced with a grief she’s not sure she can find her way through.

At the same time, their young son Ollie becomes intent on working out the meaning of life. Because everything happens for a reason. Doesn’t it?

But when they discover a mismatched collection of presents left by Rich for his loved ones, it provides a puzzle for them to solve, one that will help Ruth navigate her sorrow and help Ollie come to terms with what’s happened. Together, they will learn to lay the ghosts of the past to rest, and treasure the true gift that Rich has left them: the ability to embrace life and love every moment.

Wonderfully funny and achingly beautiful, this is a story about love in all its forms: absent, lost and, ultimately, regained.

Review

This Shining Life CoverMeet Ollie, Nessa, Angran, Rich, Ruth and Marjorie, the main characters who take a few chapters or so at a time to create this beautiful book. What hits and made me take a sharp intake of breath, was the first line of the first chapter, after the prologue. What is said is insumountable and very matter of fact. It’s a strong opening! Every so often, one line punctuates the opening to a chapter, that is stark and true and just fabulous. No beating about the bush, it tells of a life event how it is and for what it is. In this instance, I like that and it fits the book so well. You’ll have to read the book to find out what it is…

This book will tug at anyone’s heartstrings, like the saddest tune from a solo violin at the very least, and certain short, sharp sentence (I won’t say what or it will spoil it), may pierce hard through your very being and reverberate round. It’s terrific and matter of fact! The book is also full of love and the warmth that brings.

Grief is inescapable at the moment and that’s what makes this book, perhaps even more timely and poignant. It beautifully portrays grief and being surrounded by it within a family very well and truthfully. It shows how people have different ideas for what to do when someone dies and how grief isn’t the same for everyone. It’s also about the love of dead loved ones and the comfort from the living.

There is also the mismatched presents that Rich had left, which further shows his love of life and the people around him. It also keeps people busy as they try to fix them out.

The book, although emotional, is far from depressing. It has that warmth and some pockets of humour. There’s other parts of life being shown as having being lived, such as a a well stocked up picnic. The nature provides a layer of peacefulness along with the layer of  anguish of death, love and life that converges together.

The peacefulness of nature is conveyed exquisitely against the forefront of the sting and in Ruth’s case, especially, the almost suffocation, sometimes claustrophobic feeling of grief closing in and confusion of grief, that all of the characters feel in one way or another. It is all brought with tenderness, but an absolute realism, right to the very end and with the comfort and love of the supporting characters.

About the Author

HARRIET KLINE works part time registering births, deaths and marriages and writes for the rest of the week. Her story Ghost won the Hissac Short Story Competition and Chest of Drawers won The London Magazine Short Story Competition. Other short stories have been published online with LitroFor Books’ Sake, and ShortStorySunday, and on BBC Radio 4. 

 

#Review by Lou – Poems to Please by Debbie Milner #DebbieMilner #Poetry #PoemsToPlease #Nature #Humour #UpliftingPoetry #ContemporaryPoetry #Charities

Poems to Please
By Debbie Milner

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Poems to Please

Debbie Milner has written an uplifting poetry book full of humour, great observations about life and nature with proceeds going to 2 charities – The local Foodbank and Hailsham 95.9 FM, a radio station run locally by volunteers, where they call her their resident poet.
I am excited to say that I have reviewed some excellent poems that are fun, uplifting, atmospherically beautiful. First of all, find out what the author/poet says about her book and then my review and finally a bit about Debbie Milner herself.
Thanks to Debbie Milner for getting in touch directly and requesting a review.

Debbie Milner says “During this ever-changing time, in the last ten months, I have put together some Poems to Please to follow my novella last year. Some of the poems are about love and nature and I hope you will find a lot that will make you smile. Writing has been a great outlet in these challenging times. I have enjoyed doing a podcast and two radio interviews and hope to do another one soon. After being chosen for an entry to The Hailsham Festival 2020 Anthology with Coronavirus days, this gave me a real boost.”

Review

Poems to Please


The poems I have read for review – Lost My Glasses, Again – A River Flows – Pigeons Fly are just the tonic as they are uplifting and packed full of nature and everyday humour. There’s something for everyone to enjoy.
I only had time to review 3, but if these 3 are anything to go by, readers of the whole book are in for a real treat!

 

Lost My Glasses, Again has a mix of humour and an experience that many people would be able to relate to, rather in a way that Pam Ayres has in her poetry, with humour and sharp observation.

A River Flows comes complete with a beautiful photograph of the river. The poem also brings the river and its nature alive. It is wonderfully observed with its nature and dark undercurrents, bringing atmosphere, beauty and truth.

Pigeons Fly is a small poem, which is amazingly packed full of life and imagery of homing pigeons and makes you care about them, in its own beautiful way.

About the Author

 I am Debbie Milner, a modern day poet, story teller and author of Poems to Please and Grey Days in Naples, my second Novella, but now with a writing course behind me and lots of creative thinking and encouraging words. I think that having great support is very important.
Amy was my character, who in 1977 goes to be an Au-pair in a very different time from the times we live in now and the era I grew up in. I was born in 1960 and I grew up in a leafy suburb of Surrey. My favourite subject was Anthology at school, story writing and also a love of poems.

My first poem was published in a book in 1995, called Growing Up Edited by Andrew Head and called Teen Girl Blues by Deborah Milner. I mainly write love and nature poems. After my poem Coronavirus Days, was published in the Hailsham Festival Anthology in 2020, I set about writing Poems to Please, which after ten months, has just been published in 2021 on Amazon. Some are in rhyme and some are not, but I hope these modern poems including Lost my glasses,Again!, in a simple and effective way, will make you feel positive and some will make you feel joy. Poems to Please has enjoyed great promotions with ‘shout outs’ throughout the day on local radio. I have also followed this with two radio interviews about the book.
The most exciting thing has been working with a lady in America to publish my poem book on Audible next month.

Before that, I wrote a very raw Novella about being a starstruck teenager in the 1970s.

I hope everyone enjoys my Grey Days in Naples and finds something to make them smile. It just so happens that I did travel to Naples about that time too!
I write with a local group and enter poetry contests and before coronavirus, I helped with a little local news guide on my local Hailsham FM radio station.
Walking in fields by the sea with my little dog is also a love of mine along family and friends and popular music.

 

#BookReview by Lou – The Wild World Handbook – Habitats by Andrea Debbink #AndreaDebbink @quirkbooks #MiddleGrade #ChildrensNonFiction #ChildrensNature

The Wild World Handbook – Habitats
by Andrea Debbink

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great for Middlegrade with facts and STEAM activities. Thanks to Quirk Books for gifting me a copy to give an honest review on.
Follow down to the blurb and my full review of The Wild World Handbook…

The Wildhandbook

Blurb

Packed with real-life tales of adventure, breathtaking illustrations, and practical tips, this handbook is an inspiring guide for the next generation of climate activists, conservationists, and nature lovers.

 

The first book in a middle grade series for young environmental activists and nature lovers, The Wild World Handbook offers a roadmap for change and an invitation to explore the outdoors, alongside surprising facts and hands-on STEAM activities. Featuring nine habitats from around the globe, each section includes diverse biographies of outdoor adventurers, scientists, and artists who used their passion and skills to become bold allies for Earth’s natural diversity and resiliency.

Inside you will find:
   • Nine Amazing Habitats • Eighteen Inspiring Biographies • Nine Kid-Friendly DIY Activities
   • Nine Fun Field Trips • And much more!

Review

The Wild World Handbook is great for Middlegrade. It is comprehensive, without being overly complicated, but allows them to have an adventure and “meet” people, different aspects of nature and fits right into encouraging children to care for the environment and to learn about it. Children can explore:-

Mountains, Forests, Deserts, Polar Lands, Oceans, Freshwater. Cities, Rainforests, Grasslands

The WildhandbookThis book whisks children into introductions to each are of earth and takes them to  the past, present and a small bit into the future of planet earth. So, children are introduced to each of the areas mentioned above, via quick, sharp, easy to follow facts, bold and sharp.

There are interactive elements to map out their own expeditions, do some artwork, plant a tree, find the stars, make a desert biome and more…

“Meet” people from a mountaineer to a naturalist to animals to trees and other plants and more…

There are questions about what they have read, so their knowledge and understanding all tally’s up.

It also takes a nod to those (which is refreshing), who played their part in helping to do good, not just in the present, but in the past, something that isn’t talked about much these days. It’s positive as it refrains from making sweeping generalisations and shows the young, that people older than them (including their parents) did do good stuff to help the environment too. It talks about what children can do too. So, it balances understanding what is in each area with what people have done, in both destruction and to save the earth as it balances out the positives and brings pages of fun to it too.

It is better than some books out there as it does balance positivity between the negativity, lots of fun as well as the serious. 

This book could easily be used at home, as part of a school eco-group or a Girlguiding or Scouting group such as Brownies and Cubs. It has scope for a lot of activities and it shows this area of study can be positive and it can be fun.

 

#Review by Lou – Tapestries of Life – Nature is all we have by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson @annesver @HarperNonFic @RandomTTours #TapestriesofLife #NonFiction #Nature

Tapestries of Life – Nature is all we have
by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Vibrant and interesting as the threads of life are all seemlessly stitched together to create a wider picture in the vast spectrum of nature we live in and the impact on our lives in an accessible fashion, by this expert in her field. Thanks to Harper Collins for gifting me the book and for Random Things Tours for inviting me to the blog tour to review. Discover the beautiful cover that would brighten up anyone’s bookcase and the blurb and my review.

 

Blurb

The second book by the bestselling author of Extraordinary Insects.

Trees clean air and water; hoverflies and bees pollinate our crops; the kingfisher inspired the
construction of high-speed trains. In Tapestries of Life, bestselling author Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson
explains how closely we are all connected with the natural world, highlighting our indelible link with
nature’s finely knit system and our everyday lives.
In the heart of natural world is a life-support system like no other, a collective term that describes all
the goods and services we receive – food, fresh water, medicine, pollination, pollution control, carbon
sequestration, erosion prevention, recreation, spiritual health and so much more. In this utterly
captivating book, Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson sets out to explore these wonderful, supportive elements
– taking the reader on a journey through the surprising characteristics of the natural world.

 

Review

Tapestries GraphicThis isn’t as heavy as it sounds. It’s very good for the inquisitive and those who have a care for the natural world. It reads quite biographical in tone, with a mix of accessible science, and at the heart of Anne’s adventure is an abundance of the surface and what’s underneath nature and its purposes. The book will increase understanding of planet earth and all that it has to offer. It isn’t written in a way that forces people to believe in this or that, but rather in a way that may well enhance the appreciation of the natural world and all that it has to offer, from the animals right down to the water it holds.

As well as animals and plants, it goes into studying DNA, organisms and bacteria ie all the parts that can’t always be seen to the naked eye and yet are just as important to the surface of nature that we can see. It goes onto why nature is essential to earth and humans and talks about how it is used for the prescription medicines/prescription drugs that people consume. There are also great analogies to help with the understanding.

Planted like seeds, throughout the book are some poems and diagrams that makes the book brighter and easily digestible and relatable and alive, for this is a livelier and interesting book than what you may first presume. The poems also seem to serve as a reminder as to how the great outdoors, influences and inspires creatives and has done throughout the centuries.

There’s a lot to learn, in particular in the USA, about what is there and certain astonishing legislation was passed, not the what, but the when; but it all reads easy as each bit of earth is stitched together and her travels weave in and around green spaces and more…
The book also delves into what earth still has and extinction and conflicting ideas that people have about earth and 

The book is beautfully crafted as it weaves threads of a tapestry of life that only survives with nature at its heart.

About the Author

Anne Sverdrup Author Pic (1)Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson  is the bestselling author of Extraordinary Insects. A professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Ås, Norway, she is also a scientific advisor for The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research NINA. She has a Doctorate degree in conservation biology and lectures on nature management and forest
biodiversity.

Anne is an absolute expert in the subject. She has done and is still doing countless events for all the editions of her books all over the world, and festivals love her.

Tapestries of Life BT Poster

#Interview by Lou of White Eye of the Needle author/Poet – Chris Campbell @Citizen_Chris @Choir_Press @kenyon_isabelle #Poetry #ContemporaryPoet

Today I am very excited to present to you an interview with Chris Campbell, who, in contemporary poetry, explores human connections, both passing and intimate. The collection was put together in Nottingham and also includes pieces from the former journalist’s time in Bristol, London, Swansea, Glasgow and Gloucestershire, plus visits abroad including a honeymoon in Madagascar and trips to Tignes, France.
In his interview he talks about music, inspiration for writing, wildlife, his former career and more…
With greatest thanks to Chris Campbell for his time and to Isabelle Kenyon for presenting me with the opportunity to interview.

Front Cover White Eye of the Needle

  1. What and/or who inspired you to write poetry?

I wrote one of my first poems as a child in a hotel room. I suddenly thought it was Mother’s Day and that my younger brother and I had forgotten to get anything, so I wrote a poem to my mum on hotel paper. It turned out Mother’s Day wasn’t until the week after. But she still has it framed on her bedside table! I continued to write through my teens and contributed to various anthologies. I enjoyed the process of writing and editing, the downtime and being able to formulate my thoughts and reflect. This also helped me through university, when faced with a lot of life changes. I used to carry around Bob Dylan’s ‘Chronicles: Volume One’, my dad’s ‘The Essential Spike Milligan’ and enjoyed Leonard Cohen’s work. My dad also encouraged me to study the back of record sleeves – lyrics from musicians like Frank Zappa and Eric Clapton. As I got older, I enjoyed the works of Dylan Thomas, ee cummings, WH Auden, and DH Lawrence – who inspired me a lot in my latest collection.

  1. Your title – ‘White Eye of the Needle’ is intriguing, what inspired this title?

The ‘Eye of the Needle’ is a rock formation in Tignes, France. My wife and I met on a ski trip to Tignes and almost had our first kiss inside the landmark; which has a hole through the centre and we had climbed up to. It will always mean a lot to us and we went back a few years later to take more photos and, this time, have a kiss! White refers to the snow – fortunately there was a lot of it that year!

  1. Your poems focus on the natural world intertwined with human emotions, what inspired you to use these as your topics and together and was this a very conscious decision, or was it more organic than that?

Having started as a journalist in my early 20s, I’ve always enjoyed writing about people. I also find nature a wonderful thing to write about, that feeds into a lot of our feelings and actions. The poems in White Eye of the Needle cover a six-year period, and a few different locations during that time, both in terms of where I’ve lived and visited. It has been an organic process, but I often write what I see around me, and this intertwining was perhaps enhanced by lockdown. Whether it’s a walk along the canal by our home, in poem ‘Chimney snorkels’; cardboard sheets being blown across our garden, in ‘Hurdles’; or describing a garden party, in ‘Catch light’, which I wrote while I was enjoying a break in the garden. In the absence of seeing people it can be easier to attribute human emotion to nature, of which I’m lucky to have lots around me despite living in a city centre.

  1. How important is it to you that humans connect with the natural world, since the two meet quite powerfully in your poems?

Countryside
photo by Lou

One thing I noticed during lockdown is how nature seemed to be reclaiming our garden and other outdoor spaces. I’ve been appreciating the wildlife here while spending more time at home. We’ve been in Nottingham for a few years, and before lockdown I spent a lot of time commuting. I grew up near and in the countryside, so have always valued it. As well as writing about my current surroundings, White Eye of the Needle includes poems I wrote when living in other parts of the country, including Bristol, Swansea, London and Gloucestershire, as well as trips abroad. They capture certain moments, whether skiing, away for long weekends, on honeymoon, or in the garden. While I’m not an advocate for needless travel, I do feel it’s important to enjoy new experiences, forming and deepening connections with people and landscapes, whether ones you see every day or for the first time.

  1. When and how did you decide to concentrate your time to writing poetry as opposed to your journalistic career?

pen and paper picI left a national newspaper to move to Bristol with my now wife and to work as a freelance journalist, writing news stories and features mainly covering politics, business and property. I then went into PR a few years ago and still work full-time in the industry. Thanks to less commuting and more hours at home, I felt I was able to dedicate more time to my writing, including editing and putting poems together to form this collection. I was always hoping to release a second collection, but lockdown helped speed up the process. Journalism tended to involve very long hours and it could be difficult to switch off from it. I released my first collection, Bread Rolls and Dresden, in 2013, while a section editor at the Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen. PR still involves long hours, but I am now working more of a Monday to Friday job, and I’m able to write first-thing in the morning, in the evening and most weekends.

  1. In a few words, how would you describe your poetry style and your latest book?

Front Cover White Eye of the Needle

White Eye of the Needle is written in free verse and captures moments over a six-year period, both everyday and intimate. It touches on romance, marriage, the birth of a# nephew, passing of a grandad, and recent experiences through lockdown and restrictions, as it seeks to find meaning in places, at a time when we’ve all been forced to slow down and reflect.

  1. If you could pick 3 poems that you would say were your ‘must reads’, what would they be?

I’m particularly interested in Imagism and regularly read the work of DH Lawrence, who has been a big source of inspiration. But I also enjoy a range of styles and admire Dylan Thomas, ee cummings and WH Auden. Lawrence’s ‘Green’ and ‘Snake’ are among my favourite poems, I love his personal and nature pieces. Also, cummings’ ‘now is a ship’, Thomas’ ‘In My Craft or Sullen Art’ and ‘Clown in the Moon’, as well as Auden’s ‘If I Could Tell You’.

  1. Can readers expect further works from you? If so, can you tell us a bit more about this?

I’ve continued to write during lockdown and have started to focus on sonnets. I will be aiming to release a third collection in the future.

Cover White Eye of the Needle

Buy Link: Waterstones 

An Extract/Excerpt of White Eye of The Needle by Chris Campbell @Citizen_Chris @Choir_Press @kenyon_isabelle #Poetry #ContemporaryPoetryExtract

Today I am excited to present you with an extract of the latest poems by Chris Campbell.
Thanks to Isabelle Kenyon for this opportunity. I also have a bit about the author for now, but then look out tomorrow (Wednesday) for a very insightful and highly interesting interview I had with Chris Campbell.

Cover White Eye of the Needle

About the Poetry Collection

White Eye of the Needle, the second book of poems by Chris Campbell, explores human connections, both passing and intimate. The collection was put together in Nottingham and also includes pieces from the former  Journalist’s time in Bristol, London, Swansea, Glasgow and Gloucestershire, plus visits abroad including a honeymoon in Madagascar and trips to Tignes, France.

Extract/Excerpt

Dawn

When exhausted birds have flown away and tweeted their last breath
that’s when i’ll close my eyes and say there’s more to life than death.

For when they call, they call with heart through feathered chest
and as they go, they fly with hope that after song they’ll rest.

and i in bed as next day looms and dawn begins to stir,

think back before this sombre place to sunlit gardens far.

a silent bird that sings no more may have no song to make,

but as i lie in deepened thought, my bitten nails, break.

as once it sang, brought the day and closed it with a verse,

now every time i think of it, my anxiety gets worse.

Take my clothes, my pillow too and place me by the tree

where these poor birds once posed and sang and breathed relief to me.

Trainers

in fields of yellow daffodils

and grass as fine as hair,

that’s where my chest beside you once

grew under torn trainers.

like cats that toy with life,

we chance, pounce and play,

i count the years, and ‘til we stroll again,

all blue skies will feel grey.

Praise for White Eye of the Needle

‘These poems are sparkling with affection. Campbell finds beauty in the everyday, in the
connections to each other and to the land. in a world when we are feeling cut off, these poems
are like a bridge back to some sense of balance. They are celebrations of relationships, places
and of being alive. some of them feel like a home i’ve never been to.’
– David Linklater

‘At a time when the world feels a little darker, White Eye of the Needle invites the reader
to gaze upon a world where “houses rub shoulders”, “the taps of shoes are circling” and
dawn spreads its welcome light “like the oranges brightening seville”. in this tender, wistful
collection, Campbell observes humanity with a sharp eye – where the lockdown poems offer a
relatable and searingly honest depiction of our days transfixed on blinking screens, there is
always the human touch to offer relief in a lemon dress, the notes of ‘Für Elise’, tumbling
hedgerows and the tender simplicity of a shared meal with a loved one. like the flowers that
push through its city gardens, this is a collection that reminds us that it’s the human
connection and the power of the natural world that keep hope alive in a world gone dark.’
– Natalie Ann Holborow

Buy Link: Waterstones 

Front Cover White Eye of the Needle

About the Author

Chris Campbell, born in Dublin, is a former national and regional journalist who worked for newspaper titles in London, Bristol, bath, south Wales and Gloucestershire. Chris has a passion for poetry, writing and travel and has judged young writer competitions in Swansea. he graduated with an MA in Journalism from Kingston University and a BA (hons) in Economic and political Development from the University of Exeter, with a year’s study in Uppsala, Sweden. he currently lives in Nottingham.