View from the bridge

Black holes, fast cars
I walk off the edge of the platform
Chasing neon lights, the London
Eye swirling as it plays witness,
All-knowing, ever-present
There are potholes in my mind
I am filling them with gravel from
Streets I’ve forgotten the names of
Subway station debris, this
lit-up nighttime metropolis
Bursting at its seams.

Book review: ‘Panther’ by David Owen (guest post)

Review written by Hannah Froggatt

‘Panther’ by David Owen is a coming of age YA novel focusing on the relationship between the teenage protagonist, Derrick, and his older sister Charlotte. Ever since Charlotte was diagnosed with major depression, her illness has been tearing the family apart. The stress has led Derrick to develop a compulsive eating disorder. However when he hears that a Panther has recently escaped from a local zoo, Derrick thinks that maybe capturing it can be his salvation, that maybe stopping the beast in it’s physical form will be enough to save his sister too.

When you first pick up Panther, you’re struck by its veracity. The characterisation is masterful. Derrick, our protagonist, is a perfect blend of naïvety and worldliness: perceptive enough to see his family is falling apart but ill-equipped to help them. Charlotte’s barbed interactions with Derrick are the best parts of the book, managing to be both sardonic and tender whilst digging right to the heart of Panther’s central theme of understanding — and accepting what we can’t understand. Despite some slightly self-conscious discussion of social media, Owen’s grasp of teenage world-views is sterling.

So is the depiction of mental health disorders. Few writers manage to depict such illnesses this dispassionately, but more impressive is Owen’s understanding of the three-dimensional presence of issues like depression. Derrick’s bewilderment at Charlotte’s behaviour — and his own — is completely genuine, and an excellent standpoint from which to explore how it affects those nearest sufferer and how it disrupts the narratives of our lives.

The only thing that doesn’t work is, unfortunately, the central metaphor. Derrick’s obsession with the escaped panther supposedly roaming his neighbourhood feels jarring and childish for the character’s years. The panther is meant to represent the depression that preys on Derrick’s family, but this clumsy attempt at magical realism clashes horribly with the blunt naturalism that makes the rest of the story so powerful.

Panther aside, it’s still worth a read. The beautiful character-craft and unblinking exploration of mental health make it thoroughly worth your time.

The Harry Potter tag

tag from: sarahschaedler

1) Favourite book?

Order of the Phoenix – it was the one book that I thought really showed both Harry’s flaw as a character and his maturation into the hero he has to become to defeat Voldemort. Also, I loved meeting the order and seeing the family dynamic they shared with Harry.

2) Least Favourite book?

Half Blood Prince – not sure why exactly, I just didn’t love it quite as much as the others.

3) Least Favourite movie?

Deathly Hallows part 1 – I thought it moved a bit slowly compared to the others. It was also very dark and I missed some of the more light-hearted humour we found in Half Blood Prince.

4) Favourite movie?

Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s also one of my fave books – basically because I loved learning more about the marauders and it sparked my obsession with Sirius Black. Also, the cinematograph in this film is just beautiful. The soundtrack, the nostalgic shots of the landscape…it’s a work of art.

5) Favourite quote?

“We all have both light and dark inside us, Harry. It’s the part we choose to act on that makes us who we are.” – Sirius Black. As someone who is very aware of her own flaws, I just fell in love with this quote. It acknowledges the good and bad of human nature, but also reminds us that who we become is not determined by fate or environment. It’s a sentiment echoed by the Sorting Hat at the beginning of the novels and a running theme throughout it – Harry isn’t born a hero, he chooses to take on the responsibility and he becomes one during the series. Sirius was born into a dark family, but he chose to defy them and fight for the light.

6) Favourite Weasley?

Fred and George. I know that’s two but..you can’t really separate them, can you? That’d be cruel (looking at you here, J.K)

7) Favourite female character?

Hm…it’s a toss up between Hermione and Prof McGonagall.

8) Favourite villain?

Bellatrix – because I love her fashion sense and how crazily deranged she is :p

9) Favourite male character?

Sirius Black, by a huge margin. He’s my favourite character of the entire series, and I could write an essay about my love for him, but I won’t bore you. It essentially boils down to my obsession with the marauders and my admiration for Sirius rebelling against his dark family.

10) Favourite professor?

Remus Lupin, when he was teaching. Again, I’m marauders-obsessed.

11) Would you rather A) wash Snape’s hair or B) spend a day listening to Lockhart rant about himself?

Definitely B, that sounds pretty funny.

12) Would you rather duel A) an elated Bellatrix or B) an angry Molly?

Bellatrix

13) Would you rather travel to Hogwarts via A) Hogwarts Express or B) Flying Car?

Hogwarts Express. I find driving a normal car stressful enough as it is. Also, the train has the food cart!

14) Would you rather A) kiss Voldemort or B) give Umbridge a bubble bath?

kiss Voldy.

15) Would you rather A) ride a Hippogriff or B) ride a Firebolt?

Hippogriff.

16) Is there a character you felt differently about in the movies?

Dumbledore – definitely more likeable in the books.

17) Is there a movie you preferred to the book?

No

18) Richard Harris or Michael Gambon as Dumbledore?

Richard Harris

19) Your top thing (person or event) that wasn’t in the movie that you wanted there the most?

Sirius sneaking into Hogsmeade as Padfoot and Harry going up to visit him in the cave. Basically just more Sirius screen time.

20) If you could remake any of the Harry Potter movies which would it be?

Fourth.

21) Which house was your first gut feeling you’d be a part of?

Ravenclaw.

22) Which house were you actually sorted into on Pottermore?

Gryffindor, then Slytherin, then Gryffindor again. So let’s stick with Gryffindor.

23) Which class would be your favourite?

Defense against the dark arts – I love the idea of dueling and I think I’d want to be an auror in the wizard world

24) Which spell do you think would be most useful to learn?

‘Finite Incantantem’.

25) Which character do you think you’d instantly become friends with?

Probably Cho Chang because we’d bond over being asian. Hermione too as I’m also quite a bookworm/nerd. I think I really wouldn’t get on with Ginny.

26) If you could own one of the three Hallows, which would it be?

Invisibility cloak.

27) Is there any aspect of the books you’d want to change?

More marauders backstory!

28) Favourite Marauder?

Sirius Black (bet you didn’t see that one coming).

29) If you could bring one character back to life, which would it be?

see above

30) Hallows or Horcruxes?

Hallows – way cooler and I already have a little necklace with the hallows symbol on it.

Okay, that’s it! I’d like to encourage every other Harry Potter fan out there to do this tag if you haven’t done so already. It’s super fun and I’d love to read your answers, so please tag me if you do. Any other marauders junkies out there? Would love to hear from you!

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

‘In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer’ – Albert Camus

In 1939, The Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Thousands of citizens considered to be ‘anti-soviet’ were murdered, sent to prison or deported into slavery in Siberia. Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel ‘Between shades of gray’ is the harrowing story of these deportees, told from the perspective of Lina, a 15 year old girl whose family are taken in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers and sent to a Siberian work camp.

I first heard about this book on goodreads. I usually don’t read historical fiction, but it had such a high rating that I had to see what the hype was about. And believe me, that rating is well deserved. Haunting in its simplicity and brutally honest, this book tells the story of one of WWII’s hidden tragedies. While the horrors the Nazis committed and the holocaust are general knowledge, the invasion of the Baltic states is virtually ignored in history lessons, which is why I think reading this book is so important. It gives a voice to a silenced generation of people, uncovers a trauma narrative that has woven its way to the very heart of the nation.

Sepetys prose is not flowery or elaborate. It’s stark, cold and sometimes detached, reflecting the bleak reality of the protagonists lives. However this doesn’t mean that it’s unemotional; on the contrary emotion seeps into every part of the narrative, from Lina’s flashbacks to the happier times in her past, to her overflowing love for her family. Despite being subjected to hostile conditions, abuse and trauma at the hands of the Russian soldiers, Lina remains strong and determined to escape, to reunite her family and return to her homeland with them.

One of the things I loved about this novel is the characterisation. Lina, her younger brother Jonas, their mother and Andrius (Lina’s love interest) are all unique, three-dimensional characters with their own passions, their own dreams, but also sharing the same dream: to return home. Lina’s observations of the other deportees in their group are morbidly humorous, quirky and insightful. It’s a beautiful depiction of how adversity can bond people together and the strength of the human survival instinct.

I can’t say it was an easy book to read. There were times when I had to take a break and pull myself out of it because it was sending me into a downward spiral of ‘how can people be so cruel? What’s wrong with humanity?’ Saying this though, it was a necessary book to read. Based on true events, this novel is an education as well as a lesson in empathy. It’s heart-breaking and harrowing, but at the same time incredibly inspiring. While it showcases the worst side of humanity, it also showcases the best: how, in Ruta Sepetys’s words, ‘love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.’

Have you read this book, or others by Ruta Sepetys? Let me know your thoughts! 

Inheritance Books: Annmarie McQueen

My guest post on fellow author Rhoda Baxter’s blog 🙂

Rhoda Baxter

This week’s Inheritance Books come from blogger and YA author Annmarie McQueen. Take a seat, Annmarie. While I put the kettle on, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself. 

H20161013_201557i, I’m Annmarie. I’m a 22 year old writer, blogger and photographer living in London. I enjoy instagramming food, taking selfies with dogs I meet and being that annoying friend who always has a camera to hand. I currently work in event marketing. I’m a graduate of Warwick University with a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in cultural policy. I also really love tea. I currently have 18 different types of tea in my room and I’m immensely proud of this fact.

Yay, tea! Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?

The book that I’ve inherited that I would like to shine a spotlight on today is ‘Northern Lights’ by…

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BOOK LAUNCH: This Really Happened

It’s BOOK LAUNCH day! It’s March 1st and to celebrate the start of spring, my New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ is now available on Amazon worldwide!

I can’t say how excited I am. This book has been years in the making. I started it during my first year at University, when I was studying a creative writing degree. It was the best year of my life and I was desperate to immortalise it somehow, so I decided to write about it.

While the events and characters in ‘This Really Happened’ are purely fictional (luckily my university experiences were nowhere near this traumatic), the emotion behind it is very real. The excitement, the scary and liberating idea of independence, the confusion, the loneliness, the forging of strong friendships that will last a lifetime. University is a rollercoaster; for many it’s their first time leaving home, which can be both a positive and negative thing. It’s a chance to take responsibility for your own life, to live by your own rules and discover new sides to yourself that you didn’t even know existed. It’s intense, and tiring, but also life-affirming and life-changing in so many ways.

I don’t see enough books about University out there. The literary narrative for young people nowadays seems to stop as soon as they reach 18, at which point they’re deemed ‘adults’. But life doesn’t work that way and age can’t be defined by a number or the ability to legally buy alcohol. Leaving home and trying to forge your own path in life is only the beginning. I think, more than anything, age is defined by experiences. So at the heart of it, ‘This Really Happened’ is a coming-of-age story. It’s a story about a group of young people learning to be responsible adults and dealing with all the obstacles that life throws at them.

You can buy ‘This Really Happened’ online here: 

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Follow me on Facebook

I’m also looking to give away a limited number of review copies – if this is something you would be interested in, please get in contact

 

 

This Really Happened: Excerpt

This really happened
POSTED ON FEBRUARY 24, 2014 / BY ERIN T / LEAVE A COMMENT / FACEBOOK

When I was nine and my sister Naomi was eleven, our parents took us to the Natural History museum in London for the first time. Like any child I was fascinated by the dinosaur displays, the buttons and interactive games.

But the thing I remember most clearly about that day are the whale bones.

The skeleton of the blue whale took up the entire room, hanging ominously from the ceiling like a phantom observing the mortals passing below it. The bones were a dull bronze, as if they’d been white once but had been left out past their expiry date.

I remember running the length of the ribs, trying to count the steps. It hurt my head to imagine that such a ghastly, claw-like structure also existed within my own tiny chest, holding my organs captive like the bars of a prison cell. I couldn’t imagine sharing anything in common with the relic that hung above us, silent, a mere shell of the impressive mammal it had once been.

Naomi did not share my fascination.

“It’s not even real,” she said, barely glancing at it, more interested in the new pink flip-phone she’d gotten last month.

“What? It so is.” I glared at her, offended that she didn’t seem to care.
“It’s obviously fake. Come on, can’t you tell?” she rolled her eyes, in that patronising way big sisters do when they’re trying to assert themselves as the older, more mature one.

I looked helplessly up at my father, hoping for reassurance. His familiar smile, thin lips and a high forehead, wise grey eyes set in a face lined with age. “Is she right, daddy?” I asked. “Is it really fake?”

He put his hand on my shoulder and said: “We all have our own truths, Erin. Sometimes they’re the same, sometimes they’re not.”

I peered up at the skeleton again. In the cavities of the skull, the spaces between each rib, I saw glimpses of the sea, flashes of something that had once existed, now saturated with the past.

That day, I decided that the bones were real, no matter what Naomi or anyone else said. They were real to me, anyway, and that was enough.

This is an excerpt from my New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ which is now available on the Amazon Kindle store! Read the blurb on my books page and share this post on social media!