Books From The Pantry: The Burning Circus by Mark Sheeky

Mark Sheeky (b. 1972) is a contemporary artist and renaissance man. His childhood passion was computer game design, producing music on software of his own design. In 2004 he began oil painting and decided to devote his life to art. His oeuvre is typically fantastical or surrealistic, and has painted over 600 works, produced and published 30 albums, and has authored four books of poetry and prose since his first novella, The Many Beautiful Worlds of Death (2012) while illustrating and contributing to many more. An occasional performance pianist, he is part of poetry and music duo Fall in Green.

Mark Sheeky: The Burning Circus (2020) is my second poetry anthology, my first was ten years ago, and I’ve certainly changed a lot as an artist and writer since. It’s a collection of poems about circus characters: a clown, a juggler, a tattooed man, a lion tamer etc. I thought this would be a rich pool of ideas and characters to choose from, perhaps, I thought, characters with interesting and distinct personalities that can represent different parts of all of us. Art must always tread the line between the personal and the universal. I think poems, especially, work best when people can identify with them, see something of themselves in them. I wanted to add a mix of feelings and stories and situations that we could all sympathise with.

For The Burning Circus I wanted to add an overall structure or narrative, to create more than a simple collection of poems. I think a book is an artwork in itself, and should be structured, contain a sense of unity and overall neatness. Poetry itself is about structure and order in writing, after all. Here, I added a few poems to the start and end that hint at something more, an indication that these characters are parts of a whole psyche.

In each poem I’ve tried to represent something of both the circus performer and their act. The Juggler, for example, spaces the words like hoops tossed into the air, and I often focus on how the different circus characters might feel, or their origins. The Lion Tamer compares the immigrant lion tamer with the lion, an animal captured and shipped from war-torn Africa. The Dwarf paints images of a life of a man looked down on, metaphorically, as well as physically.

I always wanted to illustrate the book, too; the visual beauty of the book is as important as the aesthetics of the words. I wanted to make something pretty, a book that people would love to own, so I spent some time drawing in pen and ink for each poem and put a lot of work into the cover and overall graphic design – I think this is a vital part of the art of creating a book. I love pen and ink for illustration, it’s so expressive; every mark, every hand movement, captures the exact feeling of that moment in time.

John Lindley, former Cheshire Poet Laureate:
Divided into three linked sections, Mark Sheeky’s astonishing new collection takes us on a journey, via a ‘fragile caravan of dreams’, in which the passing scenery is seen as if through a distorting mirror; a journey whose twists, turns and destination are wholly unexpected. In images so tactile you half expect the greasepaint to come off on your fingers, this is language, from one of our finest poets, that dazzles without attempting to disguise the grit of sawdust beneath the sparkle.

Clown Face

Crushed into beetles’ petals, for my lips
I can feel their sun, encased in the austere lacquer
and made into a paste for laughter.

Something like my father’s face, romanced
with a rim of lightbulbs, and tears of his hope
walks a well-worn script.

Where Aztecs ruled, a child-hand curtseys,
and a tent of insects applaud the basket,
their bloody farewell crying a smile
to the Northern rain in my heart.

The glitter thrown to the wind falls to the dust of saws.
Stars to ashes, heaven’s applause.

Skin

I make a canvas of my chest
each ink-prick a penitent step
towards an unknown light,
explored like a crow explores night.

The roses decay with my flesh
in organ lament for each love,
oak-carved in solemn phrase
to bleed their scent beneath strangers’ gaze.

As years roll, each Sisyphean scar
etched across virgin skin becomes art,
my heart pushed out from in
to weep, more like Narcissus’ kin.

Now I am a museum,
artefacts of sad youth on show, blue-black.
My menagerie keeps me warm from without,
prayers back on track

towards God again
and my solitary pain.

Amazon Link UK
Amazon Link US
Amazon Author Page
Mark Sheeky’s Website

Books From The Pantry: The Never Ending Life by Anum Abdullah: Reviewed by Isha Crowe

I was given The Never Ending Life to review for Ink Pantry. I didn’t know what to expect, and after having read it, I still don’t know what to make of it. Is it an autobiography? Is it a self-help or motivational book? Is it a fictional story? It appears to be a mix of all three.

The author, Anum Abdullah, is a young woman who tells the reader about events in the life of a young woman. Or several young women; it isn’t clear. Some parts are written in third person, others in first person, but it is not clear why this is.

I veer towards the assumption that the author is actually writing about events from her own life.

She also tells stories that at first seem to be (auto) biographical, but after reading a few lines it becomes obvious that they are not. They are fantasies of what might have been – of how she would’ve liked things to be. They are daydreams put on paper.

It took a bit of getting used to, but after a few chapters, I started to like this concept. Because don’t we all do that: fantasize of how things could’ve been if only…? Abdullah just took these mind-wanderings to paper (or screen) and published them. Her writing style is poetic, dream-like and sweet; her sentences are a joy to read.

A negative is that she refers to the same events over and over – specifically to a break-up with a romantic partner. It is as if she wrote this book for her own catharsis, and that, indeed, would involve re-visiting the same upsetting events many times over. But for a reader this soon becomes repetitive and dull. Had the book been a quarter of the length it is now, it could’ve covered the same points far more poignantly.

Abdullah’s experiences and feelings are recognisable; most potential readers will have been through similar experiences, and certainly through similar emotions and fantasies. That characteristic is both a strength and a weakness.

To young people it might be nice to learn that they aren’t alone in feeling what they feel; that someone who appears to be quite successful in life has coped with the same problems and challenges as the reader. For them, The Never Ending Life might be a reassuring read.

Hence, I would recommend this book to people in their late teens or early twenties, who could do with a bit of emotional backing-up.

Because of Abdullah’s poetic writing style, lovers of poetry might also appreciate this book as something to dip in and out when the mood is right.

The Never Ending Life

Books From The Pantry: The Heartsick Diaspora and other stories by Elaine Chiew: Reviewed by Yang Ming

In her remarkable debut short story collection, The Heartsick Diaspora and other stories, Singapore-based writer Elaine Chiew takes us into an intimate world of the Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese diasporas.

This collection, comprising of fourteen stories, is set in different cities around the world and each of them shines a light on people who are often torn between cultures and juggling divided selves. Chiew compiles her stories based on a ten-year time frame with her initial story, Face, which won first prize in the Bridport International Short Story Competition 2008 and through The Heartsick Diaspora, which won second prize in the same competition in 2010.

In Face, it tells the story of an elderly woman, Yun, who suffers from urine incontinence and her strained relationship with her American-born Chinese daughter in-law, Karen. She lives with her son, Qiang, and his family in London. Her granddaughter, Lulu, feels uncomfortable around her, as ‘she smells like wee’. Now, Yun decides to return to her hometown in Malaysia, which baffles Karen and Qiang as both of them are able to provide care for her, unlike back home, she has no-one.

The depiction of her racist encounter with a group of drunken youths on the London tube and her reluctance to talk about this is an honest take on some of the struggles faced by South East Asian diasporas who find living abroad daunting. On one hand, she wants to be a good grandmother, but on the other, that fateful encounter cripples her.

A Thoroughly Modern Ghost of Other Origin feels like an Asian version of the critically acclaimed film, The Sixth Sense. The protagonist in this story is a teenager who has the ability to see and communicate with dead people (yikes!). One evening at a laundromat, he encounters a girl-ghoul, Boo. The thing is, she has an insatiable appetite. Slowly, an unlikely friendship is formed between them. Things get complicated when she keeps asking for more food, and he has to come up with various ways to appease this confused and lost spirit, other than feeding her with joss paper food, which the Chinese burn during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Written from the first person perspective, this piece explores the theme of identity. What kind of ghost is Boo? Does she belong to the conventional race categories in Singapore – Chinese, Malay, Indian and others? In fact, does this even exist after death? Chiew cleverly weaves in the fact about the Malay ghost, Pontianak, and Chinese ghost, egui, at the beginning of the story to set the tone right.

In the title story, The Heartsick Diaspora, four writers find their cultural bond of friendship tested when a handsome young Asian writer, Wei, joins their group.

Interestingly, the narrative is written in a play format with sub-headings such as Introduction of Characters, Acts and Scenes. The writers are a motley group and when everyone gathers at the weekly writers’ sessions, their different personalities inevitably clash with one another. The palpable tension between the strong-willed Chandra and the soon-to-be divorced Phoebe towards the end of the story is expected. Yet it’s necessary to resolve the ambiguous relationship between Wei and Chandra.

Ultimately, The Heartsick Diaspora and other stories is laced with wry humour, intricate details and multi-layered characters. Chiew possesses a talent in writing lyrical prose that oscillates between humour and seriousness. She has a knack of injecting subtle humour that allows the reader to laugh and cry for the characters at the same time.

For instance, the opening paragraph of Face set me guffawing:

“‘Why should Lulu know how to roll spaghetti with a fork? We’re not Italian.’ Karen bangs the saucepan on the stove because this is how some Chinese people take out their frustrations – by abusing their cookware.”

Similarly, there’s a paragraph in A Thoroughly Modern Ghost of Other Origin which I couldn’t stop laughing at:

My other sister, Bee Khing, sleepwalks and has, more than once, scared the urine out of our neighbours by showing up in her long white nightdress at the void deck very early in the morning while old men are doing tai chi.’

Chiew doesn’t compromise the use of Chinese vernacular, which adds a distinctive flavour to her stories. She writes such vivid descriptions of the places inhabited by the characters that I feel like I have been transported to Belgravia, Singapore and New York. But what distinguishes this collection from the rest is that Chiew highlights the displacement and identity of the Chinese migrant communities. As an Asian writer straddling between cultures (the UK and Singapore), I identify with the pertinent question of belonging. Who am I in this globalised world? She’s definitely a writer to watch out for in the years to come. At the beginning, reading the book was a slow-burning process. But as each story progresses, it grows on you. And you will want to read it again.

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Books From The Pantry: The Coal Miner’s Son by Patricia M. Osborne

After tragedy hits the small coal mining village of Wintermore, nine-year-old miner’s son, George, is sent to Granville Hall to live with his titled grandparents.

Caught up in a web of treachery and deceit, George grows up believing his mother sold him. He’s determined to make her pay, but at what cost? Is he strong enough to rebel?

Will George ever learn to forgive?

Step back into the ’60s and follow George as he struggles with bereavement, rejection and a kidnapping that changes his life forever. Resistance is George’s only hope.

Thank you Deborah for inviting me over to Ink Pantry to share my news about The Coal Miner’s Son, Book 2 in the family saga, House of Grace trilogy. All books may be read as a trilogy or stand-alones.

It seems quite fitting I return to Ink Pantry, considering that is where my writing career kicked off with my first poem ‘How to give birth to an Alien’ published in Ink Pantry’s anthology, Fields of Words.

We have all come a long way since our Open University days and when Ink Pantry was first set up with ex-students as elves. At that time I had never considered publishing more than the odd short story or poem, never mind a novel, and now I have two novels published and am over halfway through with the third, which I aim for a March 2021 publication.

Before House of Grace, my first novel, I struggled to write a short story with more than two thousand words, yet now all my short stories want to become novels.

Monday 9th March 2020 is not only the launch date for The Coal Miner’s Son but the third anniversary of publication for House of Grace.

Both novels are available on Amazon Kindle and paperbacks may be ordered via Amazon, good bookstores, or your local library. Signed paperbacks are available by contacting me via my website.

Patricia M. Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool but now lives in West Sussex. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (University of Brighton).

Patricia writes novels, poetry and short fiction, and has been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her first poetry pamphlet ‘Taxus Baccata’ is to be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in Spring 2020.

She has a successful blog where she features other writers and poets. When Patricia isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers, and as an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau.

The Coal Miner’s Son is the second book in the House of Grace trilogy.

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Contact: Via website or email: patricia.m.osbornewriter@gmail.com

Where to buy books

House of Grace

The Coal Miner’s Son

Signed paperbacks (for further details)

Books From The Pantry: Poems for a World Gone to Sh*t reviewed by Claire Faulkner

I bought this book on a dark and rainy day in Birmingham last year, and although I’ve dipped in and out of it during that time, now seems like an ideal time to share my thoughts and review it.

Published by Quercus, Poems for a World Gone to Sh*t, is a lovely anthology containing classic and contemporary poems. Each remind the reader that whatever they may be going through, however difficult or dark life might seem, that they are not alone, and things will get better.

It’s a collection which you can easily pick up and read depending on your mood. Some of the poems you may already know. Some maybe completely new to you. You can read one at a time, go through each chapter, or if you felt like it, attack the entire book in one go.

I like the mix of writers this the collection offers. Included are verses from; Lemn Sissay, Margaret Atwood, D.H. Lawrence, Rudyard Kipling and Hollie McNish.

Subjects are varied. Some more relatable than others. In ‘Soup Kitchens’, Hollie McNish expresses her anger and frustration at politicians who decide policy about charitable aid. “…I’ve had enough.” She says, “…I can’t even be arsed / to rhyme if these people are leading the country.”

Some of the poems are enthusiastic and many are inspirational. The positivity in Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’ always lifts my spirits. As does this extract from ‘Little Things’, a poem about acts of kindness by Julia Carney. “Little deeds of kindness, / Little words of love, / Help to make earth happy / Like the Heaven above.”

I liked the poems about nature. ‘The Moment’ by Margaret Atwood is a beautiful and thought-provoking piece about the environment reclaiming itself from humanity.

I found ‘Tall Nettles’ by Edward Thomas positive and uplifting. Most people hate nettles, but Thomas admires their strength and beauty. They survive and grow to cover everything else. “This corner of the farmyard I like most: / As well as any bloom upon a flower / I like the dust on nettles, never lost / Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.”

I enjoyed reading this collection. Some of the poems made me laugh, some made me reflect, and others made me want to shout out in agreement. There is something for everyone in this book.

On the back of this book, the blurb says “Discover the amazing power of poetry to make even the most f**ked up times feel better.” It’s a good sales pitch for a good book. Poetry is powerful, and sometimes the world does feel like it’s gone to sh*t. So what better way to pick yourself, take a breath and read this anthology.

Books From The Pantry: Poetry Wonderland by Young Writers edited by Machaela Gavaghan reviewed by Claire Faulkner

Knowing that I enjoy reading poetry my Mum mentioned a book of poems written by children from schools in the local area. ‘Would you like to read it?’ she said, ‘I can get you a copy.’ I agreed, and a few weeks later, as I was leaving my parent’s house following Sunday dinner, Mum handed me the book. ‘It’s very good’ she said, I’ve enjoyed reading it.’


Poetry Wonderland is an anthology edited by Machaela Gavaghan. The book was published and organised by Young Writers, a group who run competitions and work with schools up and down the country.


For this competition and publication, Poetry Wonderland invited primary schools from Cheshire and Staffordshire to create wild and wonderful poems on any topic they liked, the only limit was the limit of their imagination.


In an age where funding of the arts in schools is decreasing it’s a real joy to see children in primary schools being encouraged to use their imagination and enjoy the experience of writing poetry.


On a personal level, I find that there’s something very honest in poetry written by children. It’s expressive, truthful and open, Poetry Wonderland had some great example of this. There is a full range of poems in this book, a mixture of styles and structures, some rhyming and some following a set pattern.


If I Had Hope is by Lily-Mai Jackson aged 9 from Wistaston Academy in Crewe and describes hope through each of the senses. It opens with:

If I had hope
I would touch the falling hearts that are far away
and fill them with magical tears…

This beautifully written poem finishes on a dream:

…If I had hope
I would dream of smiles and perfume for
Christmas

The freedom of imagination in these poems also makes me smile. The Picnic On The Moon by Millar Anderson aged 11, from The Ryleys School in Alderley Edge, is just brilliant in its approach and explains what might go wrong if you decide to go to the moon:


The picnic on the moon,
It was a nightmare…

The tea was cold,
The drinks floated off,
The aliens ate all the sandwiches…

Determination and positivity also come through in many of the poems. One example of this is, I’m Walking On A Rainbow by Poppy-Jane Powell aged 8 from Burton Manor Primary School in Stafford:

Imagine if you could walk on a rainbow,
Who said you can’t?
W is for walk
A is for another rainbow
L is for learn to walk on the rainbow…

Creative writing also gives a platform for freedom of expression, and I think we can all relate to Tired by Grace Ivell, aged 9 from Broadbent Fold Primary School in Dunkinfield:

My neighbours alarm clock is loud…
…they need to get a new one
A bit quieter, I think.

To me, anthologies like this show how important it is to develop interest in the arts for younger children. Hopefully all those involved in this project will have had fun and this will encourage them to read and write more poetry in the future.


My Mum was right. I have enjoyed reading this book. It’s reminded me to have fun with my own creative writing, be more open with ideas and to read more children’s poetry.
For more information on Young Writers and Twitter

Books From The Pantry: Planet in Peril: An Anthology For Our Time edited by Isabelle Kenyon of Fly On The Wall Press

A new metaphor is as useful in the climate fight as a new solar panel design. We need poets engaged in this battle, and this volume is proof that in fact they’re in the vanguard!

Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and leader of the anti-carbon campaign group 350.org.

Editor Isabelle Kenyon speaks about brand-new anthology of eco-poetry, photography and art: Planet in Peril.

“Fly on the Wall as a Press aims to talk about the most pressing issues of our time, and I knew that there is possibly nothing more urgent than our current fight against the rising temperature of our planet. Anthology “Planet in Peril” is founded upon the belief that words have the power to change and I have been extremely heartened and emboldened by the passion and heart of the creatives featured, aged 8 to 80. I believe that no book can ever come close to describing the devastation which climate change is currently causing and will continue to cause to many ecosystems. However, in my humble opinion, this anthology certainly comes close. Divided into sections of vital ecosystems and continents, the artists weave the world as they see it: the beauty, the intricacy, the devastation and the vulnerability. Some imagine a dystopian future, or perhaps what is now becoming a reality, for our future generations.

For this project we will be fundraising for WWF and The Climate Coalition. Dr Michelle Cain (Oxford University), has kindly written a foreword which really brings home what this book aims to do: interweave scientific research with artistic disciplines. The former Derbyshire Poet Laureate, Helen Mort, and Brazilian based wildlife photographer, Emily Gellard have been commissioned and really bring a sparkle to the book.

This project will extend beyond print media, however. Our children and our children’s children will have to live with the potentially irreversible effects of climate change. Consequently, I have decided to run several initiatives intended to involve and educate children of all ages in this project. First, the anthology showcases a section for twenty poems submitted by writers under the age of 18. Two poetry workshops have taken place and so far, three school visit are planned, designed to engage them in poetry writing and art inspired by the book and its themes.”

Further details can be found at Fly On The Wall Press. Enquiries should be addressed to IsabelleKenyon@hotmail.co.uk

Pre-order your copy of Planet in Peril. Special discount code to Inksters:
INKPANTRY10 (valid until the 4th of August 2019).

Extract from Kittiwakes by Sue Proffit

Bursting from the cliff-face
in an urgency of light,
catherine wheel of wings
flinging its spirals seawards

over glittering water,
they pocket the cliff
in hairs-breadth nests
where chicks stick, smudge-eyed –

the growing silence
is sucking them out
of rock, water, rapturous air,
leaves me bereft –

so few of you left.

Extract from ‘where she once danced’ by Anne Casey

she is drowning in a sea awash with cobalt
deadly metals fill the channels where she breathes

her lovely limbs are shackled down with plastics
her lungs are laced with deadly manganese
a crown of thorns to pierce her pretty head
a bed of sludge to lull her in her dreams

Books From The Pantry: The Green Man Awakes: Legends Past, Present and Future edited by Rose Drew: Reviewed by Claire Faulkner

The ancient story of The Green Man has always fascinated me. Whenever I visit a new church or woodland, I always look for his face. When I recently found him in Manchester, on the cover of a poetry book in the middle of a stall at a publisher’s fair, I knew I wouldn’t be leaving him behind.

The Green Man Awakes: Legends Past, Present and Future is a wonderful collection of verse published by Stairwell Books. Edited by Rose Drew, the collection covers the myth, symbols and stories associated with the ancient pagan forest deity.

There are some beautiful poems in this anthology. I enjoyed how each poet expressed their own vision and interpretation on the myth. Some investigate old Norse rituals or ancient belief; some offer a more recent interpretation. The Green Man by Andy Humphrey is one of my favourites in the collection. A present-day setting for the ancient god.

Each evening, his labours at an end,
the green man
catches the number ten bus
and makes his silent way
through the glistening, lamplit streets.

I like how this poem sets the Green Man living in the now, and I love how the poet describes looking at him.

I sneak a glance
when he’s not looking, try to make out
stray twigs poking
from under the cap, the stubble-fuzz of lichen
on his jowls, the weatherbeaten
crags of brows.

Some poems relate to a darker, deeper presence. Green Man by Pauline Kirk, describes the still powerful god trapped, not only in stone, but also in our collective memory.

You barely glance upwards
but your ancestors knew me,
changed me to new faith, and into stone…

Kirk encourages the reader to keep searching for the lost in order to rediscover forgotten knowledge.

Look up! towards arch
and ceiling boss. Find me,
and I will show you what lingers still,
deep in the groves of your mind.

Another of my favourites in this collection is The Green Man by Dave Gough. In it the god speaks directly to us. And he’s waiting. His world was cleared for stone buildings. ‘Let them come,’ he says, because he knows the power he holds over people, and that one day he will return.

I moved the hand that carved my face…
..The great forest will return
with the seasons and the stars
the sun and moon and rain.

Poems about superstition and forgotten history also weave through this collection. Midsummers Eve, 1840 by Tanya Nightingale is a magical poem, with beautiful descriptions of friendship and youth.

It describes two young girls walking through a graveyard to perform a ritual to help them find husbands.

Suddenly they are both circling, spinning,
Throwing fern and hempseed
And saying words
They don’t believe in and have always heard.

Boxing Day by John Gilham examines how we perceive and remember ancient earthworks. Although we can never truly understand the true meaning of such monuments, Gilham concludes that we should accept

that the gift of God is the land and the people
and the voices whispering through the last leaves.

If you enjoy reading about myth and legends, and have a passion for poetry, then this collection is definitely for you.

The Green Man Awakes. Legends, Past, Present and Future is published by Stairwell Books.

Books From The Pantry: Unmasked by T.L. Dyer (The final book in the Hidden Sanctuary urban dystopia series)

In this last book of the Hidden Sanctuary series, the Tribe face their greatest threat yet. With Prosperity intent on expanding their city of excellence footprint into every corner of Brumont, the mass clearing of the abandoned industrial units begins; part of a regeneration that will leave no place for the Tribe left to hide. More than that, Prosperity’s methods of eviction are swift and brutal, meaning hiding has become a deadly option, one with only time as its protector – and that is fast running out. Just as Jacob was beginning to fit into his role as mentor, it falls to him to ensure the survival of those he’s been entrusted to take care of. The only options left are to leave Brumont City behind altogether, or return to their old lives in the city under Prosperity’s watchful eye. Either way, it will mean going their separate ways, and the abrupt end of their once peaceful existence.

Themes of mental health run through this final book as they have done throughout the series. In Unmasked, we see one of our characters descend into depression while another tries to fight their way out of it. Also depicted are issues resulting from PTSD such as panic disorder and anxiety.

“There’s another option… We go back.”

The city closes in on Jacob and the tribe he has sworn to protect.

With nowhere left to run, will they be forced back to the lives they had once escaped?

As the city grows ever more unstable, those living on its outskirts fear their once peaceful existence is almost at an end. In the shadow of this fear the members of the tribe connect on a level they haven’t before, defying the doctrine to share stories of their past. But for Jacob the time is drawing close when he must decide to put their safety above all else, a move that would see them go their separate ways and bring about the end of the tribe for good.

Sada has returned to her old life in the city to stay near her daughter. But its grip on her is as suffocating as it ever was. Yearning to be free from the glass confines of her husband’s penthouse, she seeks out reasons to meet with Jacob and the tribe. Even though doing so puts all their lives at risk.

UNMASKED is the third and final book in the Hidden Sanctuary urban dystopia series. Check out T.L. Dyer’s website.

Books From The Pantry: The Last Thing She Told Me by Linda Green: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

There are babies.” I looked up. I hadn’t expected to hear another word out of her. I took her hand again. Her eyelids flickered open. “Babies? Where?” I asked. “At bottom of garden.” I frowned at her. Maybe this was a sign that she as at the end now. “No, Grandma. Fairies.” I said. “You’ve got fairy statues at the bottom of the garden. The ones I used to dance around when I was little.” There wasn’t a pause on her part. “Not fairies, babies,” she said firmly. “Look after my babies for me.”

I always get a huge thrill out of reading books that perhaps initially I have glanced at and thought to myself ‘Oh no, this isn’t going to be my thing at all’. Followed, three minutes later, by being completely awed by the author’s writing and, by page two, knowing for certain that I’m reading something very special. Linda Green’s book, The Last Thing She Told Me, is such a treasure.

Linda’s plot weaves a superlative trail across the pages of her novel. Written from a first person perspective, we follow Nicola, a wife and mother to two girls. Initially, we meet Nicola as she gently cares for her grandmother, Betty, who is experiencing her final moments of earthly life. Before her grandmother slips away, she tells Nicola that there are babies buried at the bottom of the garden. From that mind-blowing revelation, Nicola’s world is turned upside down, as she investigates her grandmother’s bizarre claims.

This is my first experience of meeting Linda Green and it’s very clear from the opening page that she is an excellent writer. Her carefully chosen words weave everything together very tightly and the fast pace of the action keeps readers on their toes, or at the very edges of their seats. The sense of mystery is maintained right through to the concluding chapters; again a firm testament to the author’s literary talents. The balance between ‘show and tell’ is absolutely on the mark, meaning that all characters, and their wide range of expressions & actions, are very memorable; living on in our minds beyond the final page. Each character’s voice is strong and depicted with utter believability. Furthermore, each chapter is separated with a thread that goes back to wartime Britain in 1944. Over time, this thread becomes a vital part of the overall plot and helps the reader to gain further insights into the actions of the characters.

He had woven a web and I was trapped in it. It was my stupid fault for getting caught in the first place. When the knock came, I walked to the door, opened it and let him in. He wasn’t carrying flowers this time. There was no need for pretence. We both knew what he had come for. “Best get the kettle on, lass” he said. He drank his tea, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Right then.” he said. “Better go upstairs, unless you want world and his wife watching.”

Linda’s ability to portray realistic voices is another testament to her impressive writing ‘toolbox’, with characters ranging from small children to much older facing the end of their days. The secrets that many characters clutch painfully to their hearts is a vital aspect of the story, as Nicola turns detective and seeks to uncover many skeletons; both metaphorically and literally. The links and connections between all characters are made clear and the reader is left in no doubt as to who is who and what is happening; again a display of fine talent for a story line that bobs and weaves at a steady pace throughout the novel.

It’s very clear that Linda has researched this novel extremely well. It’s also a nice touch to have a short explanation from the author at the end of the book, describing her initial reasons behind writing it.

Because Linda has achieved a fine balance in the action and portrayal of characters, the pages turn very quickly and, for me, it is a literal definition of a ‘page turner’. We care about the characters because Linda makes them important to us, ranging from the background characters to the main protagonist who is relaying the story to our eager eyes.

This is a brilliant read across all three hundred and sixty-five pages and I thoroughly recommend it. I would also dare you to put it down, once it has utterly gripped your literary mind.

Linda’s Website

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