Personal Review: Always With Love

I read Giovanna Fletcher’s fantastic book Always With Love in just two days. If the book charts are anything to go by, you should read it too. Because it’s sweet, fun and flat out adorable.

This is a personal blog, so I’m going to write a personal review. There’s really no denying Giovanna is a brilliant writer, with her books storming the charts always landing at No. 1 and huge queues for book signings that lead straight out the doors. She’s a lovely lady and it shows in her blog posts, Youtube videos and social media. I kind of love her and everything she does.

But, for me, this book was too much. Far too much.

Reading it from my point of view, about a young couple buckling under the weight of a long distance relationship, was hard. Really hard. Because I’ve experienced it and we failed.

As much as I was taken in by the characters and the dreamy chiclit settings, I found myself comparing – and, I admit, painfully recognising – the scenarios that happened to the characters in each chapter and I didn’t see it going well.

From the sweet long distance phone calls between Billy and Sophie right down to the disappointment they felt when they finally saw each other again, only to find it’s not the same as it used to be. Things changed. I recognised it all.

Reading over those same situations, the same scenarios and even the same damn conversations between Sophie and Billy, was heartbreaking. Because they all mimicked my own.

So, okay, my first love wasn’t a huge movie star but he might as well have been. He shone whenever he walked into a room and he never failed to catch people’s attention. Like Sophie, I always felt plain, shy and boring in comparison standing next to him. He shined so bright. I found comfort in my hometown, my family and the places where I grew up, which I never wanted to leave. He had far more ambition and gradually taught me to have some too.

I want to be honest, because I feel like I haven’t been in a really long time and I miss it.

While Giovanna’s book ended as you’d expect in a romance – all happy and giddy with the promise of a future together, and in love – I was left disappointed. Because I recognised all those signs of impending doom throughout the book and neither of the characters acknowledged them.

I felt like, even if they realised deep down that they weren’t meant to be together, they wouldn’t admit it straight away because they were holding onto each other until the next hurdle came along. And it will.

Because they were different people, world’s apart and wanting different things. I guess pretty much everyone can relate to that.

I guess I was expecting them to split up, but this is fiction and, at that, it’s romantic fiction. I imagine Gi would’ve left many fans disappointed if the story ended there, unhappy and broken apart.

Me, on the other hand, I’m still here, trying to recover after a dazzling and heartbreaking read.

alone, beautiful, and black and white image

 

Book Review: Red Witch

I wrote a book review for Cornish Story recently. You can view the website here (psst.. we are always looking for new submissions!) so I thought I would share here.

Mostly because I am so looking forward to meeting Anna McKerrow again (the author) at the Porthleven Lit Fest next month, but also because I forgot to post this when I actually wrote it.

Red Witch by Anna McKerrow

Last year, Anna McKerrow released her debut novel Crow Moon which tells the story of the wayward sixteen year old Danny Prentice, a witch, who cares more about chasing girls than being loyal to his magical covenstead. The exciting debut saw Danny thwarting his own demons and gradually learning to accept responsibility to protect his homeland known throughout the series as Greenworld.

Now, with the release of McKerrow’s second book, Red Witch, readers get to hear the story of Demelza Hawthorne, who flees Cornwall at the end of the last book in search of refuge and tranquility after discovering that the boy she loves has died on the fields of battle.

The Young Adult author came to Cornwall last year on the release of Crow Moon and chatted to visitors in Waterstones, where she held a book signing with other writers. Though she lives in London, the author has a deep love for Cornwall and its unrelenting mysticism. These factors alone give the author an abundance of stories focusing on paganism, magic and witch stories which she focuses on throughout her books.

Although the first book is initially set in Cornwall, the narrative of the second book takes place in Glastonbury, somewhere which has close links to pagan rituals and magic,  an echo of the Cornish landscape. For protagonist Demelza, a life on the run constitutes leaving Cornwall, escaping Greenworld and crossing over into the Redworld, a landscape similar to ours which McKerrow describes as ‘a crime and corruption-riddled Britain’.

Set in 2046, the Redworld is a land where fossil fuels are running out and political unrest is at large with the working class and the poor. For Demelza, her journey is a cathartic one and one that leads her towards Bran, a handsome and intriguing individual whose attraction is undeniable.

The pair embark upon a dangerous romance, meandering through the different avenues and pathways that the Redworld has to offer to a young witch escaping heartbreak. However, as the story unfolds, she begins to question whether she can really trust this handsome Bran, and has to face the possibility that she might not belong there after all.

At the end of the novel, the inclusion of the traditional Cornish folk song,The White Rose, shows a certain sensitivity and gratifying nod towards Cornish culture while simultaneously keeping it well within the theme of the Celtic, witches, spirituality and the dazzling realm of Greenworld.

The book is an exhilarating sequel to the first, a book which is full of passion, adventure and, above all, forces of magic! Read this book and you will fall in love with the story, the characters and the dire struggle for a Greener way of living as opposed to the harsh, chemical Redworld. It is a book not only for teenagers but, as stated on the back of the book by Irish author Louise O’Neill, ‘a terrifying cautionary tale for our times’.

Alongside working on arts projects for the famous reading charity Book Trust, Anna McKerrow is currently writing the final book of the Crow Moon trilogy, which will be published in March 2017.

Red Witch was released on the 10th March 2016.

You can find Anna McKerrow on Twitter and view her website here.

Originally published on Cornish Story Magazine.

Gone With The Wind

Gone With The Wind. It’s the story of the dramatic upheaval of the American Civil War and the constant feuding romance between that of determined Scarlett O’ Hara and the taunting ‘soldier of fortune’ Rhett Butler. From this epic novel comes one of the most famous lines of dialogue in movie history:

‘Frankly, my dear, I couldn’t give a damn.’

I remember the first time I read this pinnacle of a book, bracing myself at almost every page turned, looking for the words that had become so famously recited from the star studded movie screen of 1939. It wasn’t until finishing the book that I realised I had to wait until almost the very end of the brick of a novel, yet when the moment finally came I was deeply and movingly satisfied.

I cannot begin to describe what this novel means to me. I can only try. But it is a novel I hope to read every summer – for the rest of my life – and it is a novel I would urge you to read as well. It’s just that good.

With an affirming love of the Deep South and anything to do with the land of Dixie, I found in this novel a sense of place and a sense of oneness. And above all, I found a story I could get lost in and find the past; a past I have never known or  experienced but nonetheless a past I hold a passionate interest in.

I have an internal attachment to it. I can’t help it. I know it might sound ingratiatingly schmaltzy, but it’s true.

I think, no matter what, everybody has that one book in their lives that means something incredible to them; that stirs something within their soul, that makes them feel something. It does not necessarily have to be a book. Perhaps it could be a film, a movie score or even just one plain and simple song. Anything at all.

We all need something to convey meaning in our lives and, sometimes, things like this can be it. We crave something that it gives us, whether we realise it or not. It’s a special thing and it works like magic.

Gone With The Wind is an historical epic; one story told and delivered through the generations.

Scarlett O’ Hara can be mean and spirited, yes; yet she is also a woman who knows what she wants and, when paired with Rhett Butler, she is no longer a wiley female temptress with glinting green eyes and a curving upward smile. He sees her for what she is and, knowing this, he plays on her vulnerabilities.

He is, to be sure, a cad, no less. But I love to see their relationship unfurl; how one minute she wishes to see him dead and the next she is wishing for him to take her in his arms and kiss her, like a girl wants to be kissed.

Far from a healthy relationship, they play against each other like animals and, throughout it all, I am devouring every page.

There can be no book like Gone With The Wind which matches up to its strength and entirety. It is, without a doubt, a book I will keep on my shelf for the rest of my life and, even if I don’t read it every single year, I will be happy, at least, just to know it is there.

‘Since its first publication in 1936, Gone With The Wind has endured as a story for all our times.’

This is, quite simply, how much I love it.