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.
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 TheHeartsick 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.
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.
instance, the opening paragraph of Face set me guffawing:
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
there’s a paragraph in A Thoroughly Modern Ghost of Other Origin
which I couldn’t stop laughing at:
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.
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
Will George ever learn to
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
liked the poems about nature. ‘The Moment’ by Margaret Atwood is a
beautiful and thought-provoking piece about the environment
reclaiming itself from humanity.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
A reluctant leader, Jacob fights to remain loyal to the tribe’s doctrine.
But in an unpredictable city, how far should they go to bend the rules?
With their mentor gone, Jacob promises to care for the Tribe – its members and its values. But as new threats dog the city backstreets, the men are open to flexing the doctrine to serve the fallout as well as to meet their own needs. Fearing he is losing control of the tribe entrusted to him, Jacob is pushed toward despair and the person he used to be.
In the city, Alex bears the scars of rebelling against their corporate-run government and can’t afford to step out of line again. Jobless, paranoid and alone, he considers leaving the city behind altogether. But then he meets Alice, a new reason to stay, even when in the weeks that follow he’s drawn closer to danger than ever before.
In this second book in the series, protagonist Jacob has been passed the role of Tribe mentor. Not a natural leader – or at least not perceiving himself to be – this is not a position he wants, but is obligated to carry out as their previous mentor’s dying wish. To make matters worse, life in the city is becoming more dangerous for those who don’t comply or fit the mould, and in response the men of the Tribe start to challenge their own doctrine and the values they govern their lives by. For Jacob, such challenges are dishonourable to the man who established this alternative and supposedly pressure-free lifestyle for them all, and what follows is a battle of wills that he struggles to win. Torn between loyalty to his former mentor and maintaining the trust of the other men, Jacob sinks further into despair, one exacerbated by his own perceived inadequacies and prediction of inevitable failure. In this second book, Jacob retreats to a state of mind he hasn’t visited since before the Tribe, but which he slides back into easily and which leads him down the path to self-destruction.
Like the first book, Hidden, this one carries themes of mental health – such as anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, panic disorder and paranoia. It also depicts addiction and drug use.