A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Rating: 4/5 stars

A Skinful of ShadowsBlurb:

When a creature dies, its spirit can go looking for somewhere to hide.

Some people have space inside them, perfect for hiding.

Makepeace, a courageous girl with a mysterious past, defends herself nightly from the ghosts which try to possess her. Then a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard for a moment.

And now there’s a ghost inside her.

The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, but it may be her only defence in a time of dark suspicion and fear. As the English Civil War erupts, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.

Review:

‘She felt the queasy tickle of their nearness, like spider-feet against her mind.’

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, mostly due to the beautiful writing style, but partly because I love ghost stories. This ghost story felt fresh and original with the family history and Makepeace’s possession by Bear. I loved the relationship between Makepeace and Bear and how they had a lot in common despite being different species; both being lost and used by the people around them. Makepeace herself was a likeable character, strong and resilient. However, I think my favourite character was Mother, her cold-heartedness and the mystery surrounding Makepeace’s beginnings make her interesting. The opening conversation between the two is striking;

‘Conversations became riddles with traps in them, and your answers had consequences.’

It is quite a long book but this gives us plenty of time to get to know the characters. Although, I did feel like more time could have been spent getting to know James, as Makepeace’s motivation is to save him but their relationship seemed to be lacking something and I wasn’t rooting for him the way I perhaps should have been.

The story is told against the backdrop of a civil war which Makepeace finds herself involved in but doesn’t really care about it, she cares about the safety of all ordinary people, but it does serve to move the plot forward and gives us some great action.

I would give the story 3 stars but the beautiful prose bumps it up to 4.

Half Done

You insist on doing the button of your polo shirt yourself. It takes long seconds and I am impatient. Come on, I have to get to work.

Wait, Mummy, wait.

I bundle you out the door, the button half done. A quick kiss at the school gates. Mummy loves you.

The train station is heaving with bodies. The click-click of power heels, suits rushing past – ‘scuse me, ‘scuse me.

A firecracker sounds, everybody drops. I stand confused, wishing I’d let you fix your button.

FF - 08.06.18 - train station
PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

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I only managed 84 words this week, and I’m a bit late to the party but better late than never.

This piece was written for the Friday Fictioneers hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields – Addicted to Purple.

Each week a photo prompt is given and the challenge is write a flash fiction piece of no more than one hundred words.

Find other Friday Fictioneer stories here.

Preppers

‘People are gonna want what we have. It’s inevitable. Look at this here water, no one else will have a supply of clean water like this.’

The water looks dirty to me, but Grandpa keeps digging, huffing and puffing.

‘But Johnny Peters whispered the word “prepper” to Maggie Griggs and I didn’t like that. I didn’t like that at all.’

‘Little Johnny Peters is a snot-rag, and that good-for-nothing father of his will be the first one banging down our door. They’ll be laughin’ on the other side of their faces when the shit hits the fan. Mark my words.’

FF - 30.05.18 - Prepper
PHOTO PROMPT © Connie Gayer

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This piece was written for the Friday Fictioneers hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields – Addicted to Purple.

Each week a photo prompt is given and the challenge is write a flash fiction piece of no more than one hundred words.

Find other Friday Fictioneer stories here.

Seance

There are twelve of us sat around table which dominates the small wood-panelled room. It is covered in a thick red velvet cloth. Heavy curtains block the watery twilight. At the centre, a huge crystal bowl holds our belongings – a watch, a wedding band, a pendant …

Why is it always jewellery?

‘Hold hands.’

I clasp the strangers hands next to me. One a huge, sweating palm, the other a thin, liver-spotted claw, like dried out paper.

I concentrate hard on the military medal I have offered, wishing with all my bones that he will speak to me.

FF - 25.05.18 - Crystal bowl
PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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I have really missed taking part in the Friday Fictioneers the past few weeks but life got in the way. It’s good to be back.

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This piece was written for the Friday Fictioneers hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields – Addicted to Purple.

Each week a photo prompt is given and the challenge is write a flash fiction piece of no more than one hundred words.

Find other Friday Fictioneer stories here.

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper

Rating 5/5

Release date:

Ebook: 31st May 2018

Paperback: 20th September 2018

Blurb:

The Songs of UsIf Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her
sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered
the love of his life’s heart’

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.

Review:

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night to finish this book. I just couldn’t put it down.

The characters Cooper creates jump off the page at you. They are complex, each dealing with their own issues and struggles, and they are loveable. Melody’s condition of singing when she is anxious or stressed creates some laugh-out-loud moments, a lot of the time involving embarrassing her children, like being wrestled off a train whilst singing her own version of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. But they find a way to deal with it and even use it to their advantage at times, creating comedy moments;

I try to put a mentally unstable expression on my face, then realise after my tribute to Prince, it’s not really necessary.

But there are also some truly heart-wrenching moments, involving Sinéad O’Connor and Kate Bush (I love Kate Bush). You will need a box tissues when reading!

Cooper’s writing style is so descriptive and there are moments of pure beauty, capturing not only the setting but the deep feelings of the character. A balloon-ride scene sticks in my mind:

Above us, the patchwork sky is wakening and as we finally climb into the basket, the sun gas arched its back.One of my favourite things about the book is the relationship between Melody and her children. They argue and get on each other’s nerves but their bond is fiercely strong. They would do anything for each other.

Above all, this book is about family and how precious our loved ones are. Melody, Flynn, Rose and Tom will stay with me for a very long time.

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Pre-order The Songs of Us here.

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Rating: 5/5

Blurb:

Eleanor OliphantEleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

An astonishing story that powerfully depicts the loneliness of life and the simple power of a little kindness

Review:

I am so sad that I’ve just finished Eleanor, it was amazing from start to finish.

Firstly, Eleanor Oliphant herself is a wonderful, complex character whom you can’t help but love. She clearly suffers from mental illness and is extremely socially awkward resulting in some hilarious moments, like being baffled by her colleagues making fun of her wearing one white cotton glove for her eczema.

The writing is beautiful and I love that it is in 1st person so we get to stay inside Eleanor’s head the whole time, and her extensive vocabulary is impressive. I read with my pencil to hand, how could I resist underlining sentences like this; These days loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way.

This is a heart-breaking read – one of loneliness, self-hatred and dealing with PTSD. But also uplifting, with themes of self-discovery, change, taking chances and allowing positivity into your life.   

I’d recommend to all!

To find out more about Gail Honeyman click here.

To buy Eleanor Oliphant click here.

Hindsight is a Wonderful Thing

The eyes are windows to the soul  – that’s what Mum always said.

I should have listened.

Your violet irises flashed, beckoned me closer, swept me up in endless nights.

But in time those come-to-bed eyes proved what they really were – a distraction – a decorative facade fronting nothing but empty rooms.

I should have known when you lied about your job.

I should have known when you stayed out all night.

I should have known when you laughed as I cried.

I should have known when other women came calling.

I should have known.

FF - 11.04.18 - Hindsight
PHOTO PROMPT © Yarnspinnerr

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This piece was written for the Friday Fictioneers hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields – Addicted to Purple.

Each week a photo prompt is given and the challenge is write a flash fiction piece of no more than one hundred words.

Find other Friday Fictioneer stories here.

First Date

‘What does it mean?’

‘It means that if you go round that corner you’re gonna die.’

‘Don’t be crazy.’

‘It’s called Witches Lane. See that mountain? See the pointy top? That’s Witch Hat Mountain. The legend goes that if you turn the corner your flesh melts from your bones and you’re thrown into a bottomless pit, never to be seen again.’

‘How can anyone know that?’

‘What?’

‘That the flesh melts from your bones if your body is never found?’

‘It’s a legend. People just know. Shall I test it out?’

‘Please don’t. I don’t know the way home.’

FF - Mountains
PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg

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This piece was written for the Friday Fictioneers hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields – Addicted to Purple.

Each week a photo prompt is given and the challenge is write a flash fiction piece of no more than one hundred words.

Find other Friday Fictioneer stories here.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Rating: 5/5

Blurb:

The Silent Companions

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…

 

Review:

Laura Purcell weaves a web of intrigue in this novel. Yes, it spooked me to high heaven but there is a deeper story here, presented through Elsie Bainbridge. Hints throughout the novel suggest that Elsie has had a difficult past and this calls into question her reliability as the story teller. It is expertly done.

Elsie is not your typical lady, having been brought up in and running a match factory and you can’t help but notice the arrogance of her new position:

Of all people, Elsie found the servants the most judgemental.

She is also not overly kind to or fond of her new family member, Sarah, who is nothing but helpful and polite. But as with any good story, Elsie learns a few things about herself and those around her.

The three time zones in the novel keep you on the edge and you desperately want to know what happens next in each setting. The language is beautiful, with a sinister tone throughout. Dark imagery sets every scene:

Her past laid out, exposed, like a body on the slab at a mortuary.

When she awoke, the room was as black as weeping veil.

The text is littered with these gems.

But above all, this is a ghost story, and what a ghost story! I was afraid to read at night alone. The companions become more sinister with each chapter leading to shocking consequences. The characters are driven mad with fear and so they would be!

A well-deserved five stars!

Buy a copy of The Silent Companions here.

Find out more about Laura Purcell here.

Serendipity

There was just enough room for them both at the end of the jetty.

The boy had popped into existence, occupying the space beside her. She hadn’t realised how empty it was until he was there, filling it all up. It was almost enough to make her forget that her feet were submerged in the murky lake. Almost.

‘Now lay back,’ he said. Faith didn’t protest. What else would he convince her to do? Maybe he wasn’t even real, maybe he was a wizard holding some magic power over her, maybe he was here to tell her she’d been accepted to Hogwarts.

FF - 07.03.18 - Serendipity
PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

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I may have cheated slightly this week. This beautiful photo reminded me so much of my work-in-progress that I adapted a section of it. I just couldn’t get it out of my head!

This piece was written for the Friday Fictioneers hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields – Addicted to Purple.

Each week a photo prompt is given and the challenge is write a flash fiction piece of no more than one hundred words.

Find other Friday Fictioneer stories here.