Eva Jordan reviews… Fifty Years of Fear by Ross Greenwood

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Fifty Years Of Fear is one of three novels in the Dark Minds Series written by Ross Greenwood, all of which are set in or around Peterborough. Sad but thought-provoking, this is a story about families, lies and secrets, brothers, loss and regret, and missed opportunities. It is also a reminder that we should never be too quick to judge others and cautionary tale that shows how a simple act of kindness can literally change your life – forever.

The opening of the book tells us that Vincent Roach was born in 1966, the same year as England won the World Cup – “When I look back, it sometimes feels as though it was downhill after that.” Chapter one begins fourteen years later. It’s 1980 and Vinnie, unlike his older brother Frank, who comes across as a bit of a thug, is both quiet and unassuming. Both brothers live with their parents and their father has just had a stroke. A bit of a book lover, bullied at school until Frank steps in, Vinnie is, for all intents and purposes, quite unremarkable. We are also made aware that a childhood accident at the age of seven has left Vinnie without much memory of his life prior to then. Chapter by chapter, we then follow Vinnie’s life for the next thirty-six years.

Through a series of flashbacks, Vinnie starts to remember his early childhood, although it will take years for him to understand that things are not always as they first appear. Vinnie matures into a young man. Happy for a while we see him get his first taste of independence and a holiday to Cromer where he falls in love. Then comes the loss of his father, followed a couple of years later by the death of his mother. Vinnie marries a girl he meets at work. He’s happy for a while but it’s short-lived. When the newlyweds move into a new home of their own, with new neighbours, life slowly descends in the wrong direction for Vinnie. However, although at times sporadic, and despite Vinnie’s concerns that trouble and violence appear to follow him around like a bad smell, it is older brother Frank that remains a strong presence in Vinnie’s life, a much valued constant. Which proves especially true when Vinnie finds himself behind bars. Is Vincent really guilty of the crime he is accused of?

Fifty Years Of Fear is a gripping tale about misfortune and redemption and a reminder of just how easily things can go wrong in life, despite our best intentions. It is also a story about self-discovery, that people are not always as they first appear, including how we think we come across to others. Vinnie, written in the first person, is the main protagonist and storyteller throughout and, like all the characters we are introduced to, is both extremely well drawn with plenty of emotional depth. The author has a distinctive writing style and covers some upsetting issues with great sensitivity. Despite being quite an emotional read at times it is also well paced with a few moments of humour. There is even a mention of the infamous ‘Crown to Town’ pub-crawl – if anyone reading this lived in Peterborough and is old enough to remember! A remarkable story, one I highly recommend and one that will stay with me for a very long time.

 

 

 

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#Writing – it’s not a life, it’s an adventure!

I’m over on WE Heart Writing today talking about my journey to publication!

On 19th October my second novel, All The Colours In Between, was released followed a week later by the book launch at Waterstones. And, in several weeks time, I will also be celebrating a … ahem … certain milestone birthday. I’ve always wanted to be a writer but for various reasons it just never seemed to be the right time to knuckle down and get on with it, however, with two books now bagged before my 50th birthday it just goes to show that old saying is true – it’s never too late! ♥

 

Eva Jordan book launch, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, on October 26, 2017.

Now, pop over to We Heart Writing to read the full article.

@BeTeenUs – Stepmum or Stepmonster? How to bring up teenagers in a stepfamily!

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I’m over on BeTeenUs today talking about parenting, stepparenting and moody teenagers!

It’s not easy being a parent, especially a parent of teenagers but if you are embarking on such a journey as a stepparent then I’d say you’re in for an interesting, and at times, bumpy ride. I know because as a parent and stepparent myself, I speak from the voice of experience.

It is just such experiences, along with all those associated with modern day family life, that inspired me to write both my debut novel, 183 Times A Year, and my recently released second novel, All The Colours In Between. Based on a fictional extended family, both novels explore the amusing and sometimes fraught relationship between parents and their teenage children, set amongst the thorny realities of today’s divided and extended families.

I’ve learned a lot over the years, both as a parent and stepparent. I’ve also carried out in-depth research into better trying to understand the Facebook, tweeting, selfie-taking, music and mobile phone obsessed universal enigma, otherwise known as the teenager. I’m not an expert, nor do I proclaim to be. I’ve definitely made a few mistakes along the way, both as a parent and stepparent. Now pop over to BeTeenUs to see a few of my survival guide tips.

Eva Jordan reviews… Shtum by Jem Lester

Book Review

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Publisher – Orion

Shtum is definitely a book I will not be keeping shtum about. At times heartbreakingly sad, at others wonderfully witty, although the humour would be best described as dark, this is a candid tale about three generations of the Jewell family and what it really means to live with, and care for, an extremely autistic child.

Married couple, Ben and Emma, agree to do whatever it takes to give their autistic son, Jonah, the opportunity of a better life. Jonah is offered a place at a specialist residential school but Ben and Emma have a fight on their hands with the local authority. To strengthen their case, Ben and Emma pretend to split up, after all, it’s difficult enough to care for a severely autistic child without the added problem of single parenting. Ben and Jonah move out and take up residence with Georg, Ben’s father and Jonah’s grandfather.

The three main protagonists throughout are Jonah, Ben and Georg, and all three are brilliantly drawn and flawed. Ben is immature and never really wants to take responsibility for anything, using alcohol to anesthetise himself. Georg, who clearly adores Jonah, is, at times, overly harsh and judgemental of Ben. However, it is ten-year-old Jonah, who sometimes kicks and bites that I really fell in love with. Unable to talk, Jonah is central to the storyline and, as the blurb says, “lives in a world of his own. He likes colours and feathers and the feel of fresh air on his skin. He dislikes sudden loud noises and any change to his daily routine.”

Be warned though, this is not a sugar coated tale of triumph over adversity, or of amazing parents coping with superhuman qualities. This is a story of heartbreak, pity, and self-blame. However, it is also a story about love, of family and secrets, and a story about fathers and sons, and forgiveness. It is tragically real but also warm, insightful and full of compassion. And, as the story unfolds, what becomes painfully obvious and wonderfully ironic is that, although he has no voice, Jonah speaks much louder and more eloquently than either his father or his grandfather.

Clearly based on the author’s own experience, Shtum is a remarkable story that shines a “no holes barred” light on the everyday reality and struggles some families of autistic children experience. Gritty, funny and poignant, it is a marvellous portrayal of ordinary people managing extraordinary difficulties during day-to-day life, and, one that will stay with me for a very long time.

 

Bowled Over!

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I never fail to be thrilled to bits by wonderful reviews that connect with my work and I’m absolutely bowled over by this recent 5-star review of my debut novel.

183 Times A Year is a wonderful debut novel from Eva Jordan. It is a believable and relatable book about the fraught relationship between a mother and her teenage kids. I love how the story is told from a parent/adult and a teenage aspect. The dialogue flits between the two main characters, and the impact is remarkably funny. It definitely connects with a ‘typical’ family and the ups and downs of everyday life. I was deeply surprised by an unexpected heart wrenching twist to the story that proves, that no matter what conflict exists between parents and teens, they really do love and care for each other. I certainly recommend 183 Times A Year for a good light-hearted read.

Thank you, Alison Waterfield!

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©Photo copyright Eva Jordan 2016

Eva Jordan reviews… Beautiful by Katie Piper

 

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Publisher – Ebury Press

Several months ago, I had the great honour and pleasure of meeting the writer and TV presenter, Katie Piper. The victim of a horrific acid attack, mostly to her face, neck and upper body, Katie is a shining example of triumph over adversity. Friendly and approachable, Katie, who smiled constantly, proved to be genuinely warm and extremely generous with her time. So, this month’s book review is a work of non-fiction by Katie Piper.

Katie’s autobiography, Beautiful, explains how she was attacked, her life beforehand and the events leading up to that terrible, fateful day. Age twenty-four, living in London, Katie was a beautiful, successful, and ambitious young woman when she was brutally raped by her then-boyfriend, whom she had met on Facebook weeks earlier. Several weeks later she then had acid thrown in her face, also initiated by the same said boyfriend. “I heard a horrible screaming sound, like an animal being slaughtered … then I realised it was me.” However, if Katie’s perpetrator thought she was going to crawl away and hide her injuries from the rest of the world, he was sorely mistaken. He clearly hadn’t bargained for such a courageous and gutsy young woman. Through the love and support of wonderful family and good friends, not to mention an iron will powered by true determination and courage, Katie completely turned her life around. To many, she is both an inspiration and a role model. She is also, I think it is safe to say, still beautiful, incredibly successful and rightly ambitious – despite one man’s attempts to sabotage such qualities.

Some of you may recognise Katie from TV shows like Bodyshockers and Face to Face and like me, you may have read about her terrible ordeal back in 2008, but also like me, you may not have realised the full extent of her injuries, and the pain and suffering she endured, both mentally and physically. “It was just a normal mirror, a round sheet of glass encased in a white plastic frame, but as I reached for it, my hand trembled. ‘Take your time, Katie,’ my psychologist Lisa said gently…But I didn’t do things by halves – I never had…All of a sudden, that normal little mirror became a window into hell.” Katie has had and continues to have, countless operations and skin grafts, she is blind in one eye and because she swallowed some of the acid that permanently scarred her face, neck and arm, she also suffered internal damage, resulting in a great deal of scar tissue around her oesophagus. This left Katie unable to eat and swallow food properly, which again resulted in yet more surgery. Katie makes no attempt to hide the fact she struggled after her attack, describing some very ‘dark’ times, however, this is also a story of hope and inspiration.

Well composed, Beautiful is easy to read but not an easy read. Nonetheless, it is also written with great warmth, humour and aplomb. One woman’s triumph over evil and living proof that life does go on despite, at times, unimaginable difficulties and suffering.

Katie Piper