Category: Guest Blogger

Review of Gail Honeyman’s ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’

by Guest Reviewer, and author of ‘Helios Sphere‘, Eleanor Duvivier

It has been a long time since I’ve felt compelled to write down my thoughts about a book.

Eleanor and I (also called Eleanor) connected.  We went on an adventure together through the ink and the turn of the page.  I should have known, it’s not often you come across a heroine called Eleanor.  Eleanor is not a conventional heroine and at times it’s hard to see her as a heroine at all.  In fact, at first I felt sure that she would be revealed as a psychopath.  This balance on the line of character profiles is truly intriguing.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is about a woman who thinks she is fine and is quite happy plodding along in that bubble until events start happening at her which makes her realise that she really isn’t fine at all.  For those, like me, with mental health issues that would worry about reading due to the last bit please don’t worry.  The author is empathetic and it isn’t used as a plot twist and moved on without proper appreciation and treatment.  Eleanor’s moving on is given such care and attention that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

Gail Honeyman, author (image from Goodreads)

Despite the book being about Eleanor there is a network of solid characters in this novel.  Eleanor learns to converse with people, make friends and care for others as well as herself.  It is a story about how Eleanor loves herself to love others.  This in itself is unconventional. It isn’t necessarily a story about Eleanor falling in love with a specific person although one could be fooled to think that at first.  When you struggle you know the first step is self-love and acceptance.  We can’t give from an empty cup after all.

What resonated with me was that Eleanor has scars on the same side of her face as I do mine due to a fire.  I shan’t say why Eleanor’s fire started.  When I was in primary school camping with Mum we got caught up in a tent fire and the end result was we were hospitalised with scars that we would share for life.  My flowery dress got caught upon the tent pole and my Mum had to tear melting tent apart with her hand to free me. 

For years I was bullied for surviving and called all manner of things for having scars.  Early on the scars were rigid and pink like mountains across my dark skin, in time they have paled.  It is small reactions that Eleanor does: showing the best side of her face, fearing the hairdresser, fearing the wielder of the makeup brush, not feeling perfect and being afraid of perfection.  These truly resonate with me.  There is a way that you act when you have scars that you hope no one notices.

It was the first book in a long time that I have laughed, cried, contemplated my own life, stayed up late to finish, oo’d, ahh’d and genuinely annoyed the other people around me about whilst reading.  I will read it again once I have time, just so that I can digest it all.

£20 note!

Since I started post-Uni summer I’ve been catching up with my reading list.  I’ve got books from three Christmases ago that I need to get round to.  This treat was the first on the list and in it I found a twenty pound note from my Mum – thanks Mum!  That’s what I get for taking so long to get round to a book, eh?  A little surprise in the pages. 

When you’ve been reading extracts of books and Uni reading for what feels like forever getting stuck into a book for pleasure was a real gift.  It was difficult to avoid spoilers during my Creative Writing MA as everyone was starting threads about it and was reading it that winter.  I can see why they were so obsessed.  This book was a gift in itself, had a gift in it, and was given as a gift. 

#eleanorduvivier, #heliossphere, #eleanoroliphant, #scottmartinproductions, #lesleyatherton, #review, #bookreview

Review of Short Stories – Snapshots of Life, Morality and the Complex Human Landscape of Emotion

by Guest Blogger, Rebecca Wilson

Throughout my life in education so far, I have received the same message – that ‘high quality’ literature lies exclusively within the academically compiled lists of ‘classics’ which frequently feature lengthy pagination and fairly distant publication dates.

The majority of these ‘classics’ consist of reams and reams of plot, description and deeper meaning. However, the sheer length of many of these ‘classics’ has (arguably) rather ironically led some of them to fall into the trap many writers face – maintaining balance.

Although I am by no means advocating that all longer stories lack balance, as you lengthen a story, the danger of this pitfall increases, and the deeper meanings in works can sometimes be swamped by excessive description or other forms of irrelevant minor detail.

This is where short stories have a unique advantage over longer stories. This trap is often much easier to avoid.

So why do short stories not have the same claim to the literary spotlight?

Don’t be deceived by their length, these works can offer a lot more than you may initially think…

Punchy, Powerful Messages…
With Clarity!

When reading short stories, readers are arguably less inclined to rake through dozens of pages before uncovering any implicit messages. The power of these messages is thus less likely to be sacrificed or difficult to extract, as is the case with some of history’s most hailed literary classics. A key example of this in my opinion would be Tolkien’s famous Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although a classic story, and one which I adore, the important messages it carries such as those of the value of friendship, loyalty and teamwork are often lost amongst the endless description of the vast landscape and history of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Although I can admire Tolkien’s expansive imagination, in his ability to build a world in such minute detail, the level of this detail included in the story can sometimes make reading the trilogy an arduous and lengthy task, rather than a singular source of enjoyable fantasy escapism.

Quality not Quantity
(of Pages and Profit!)

It’s no hidden secret that many classic novels, such as Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles often owe their length to the practice of serialisation and being ‘paid by the letter’. Here, the creativity vs commerce debate begins to flare up again, although it is often difficult to judge whether novels entirely owe their length to this cause or not. The endless sub plots and lengthy descriptions evident in classics such as DickensGreat Expectations can most certainly frame many classics as guilty of this in many respects, whereas shorter stories can often pack unique punches some longer stories can find, owing to their length, much harder to achieve.

Travelling and mental exhaustion

We’ve all experienced this. We’ve all been on a holiday, or a long journey, or simply sat at home ‘relaxing’, picked up a book and after a certain amount of time been more focused on getting to a numerical target rather than reading the text itself. Just picking up a book that has 400+ pages can be a bit daunting, with your brain telling you “this is going to take forever”, and thus, in this mindset, it does. And then you procrastinate from reading it, and alas, five months later, you’re only 200 pages into reading Vanity Fair (and yes, I am speaking from personal experience here). The book is abandoned, you grumble something about time wasting, and move on to a different book (not a classic this time, seeing as you’re holding a grudge for a bit). This is why shorter stories are simply perfect for the weary traveller who just wants something interesting to dip into for a short while, and why short stories can often maintain reader interest for a longer amount of time.

Skill of the Writer in World and Character Building – in Such a Short Space of Time!

This is a skill that is very difficult to master. Longer stories enable writers to gradually build up characters and thus have the safety net of future events in the story to fall back on should the development of a certain aspect be sparse in one section of the novel. Short story writers do not have this safety net, and so their ability to craft worlds and characters in such short spaces of time, that are interesting and sufficiently developed to keep readers engaged should be celebrated as a true indication of artistic talent.

Exploration of Ideas Not Suitable for Longer Work

Some ideas that are captured in short stories, such as singular emotions or experiences, can be very high intensity or simply not suitable to be explored in a feature length novel. To shorten a story can often be an efficient way of ensuring intensity remains high, concentration is less likely to fade and allows unique ideas to be explored in isolation, rather than being mentioned briefly amongst a tangled web of plot, description and characterisation. To cite an example, in Lesley Atherton’s collection of short stories Can’t Sleep Won’t Sleep Vol.1, there is a fascinating short story titled ‘Conflict’. This is my favourite of the collection, because it explores one singular emotion in such great depth, and just makes you, well, think!

And that’s simply to name a few unique benefits reading shorter stories can offer you. So why not read some yourself and see these ideas in action? Lesley Atherton’s series of short stories titled Can’t Sleep Won’t Sleep currently has five volumes for you to delve into, and the series most certainly embodies the ideas listed above surrounding the unfairly marginalised value short stories possess within an ever-expanding modern literary landscape.

#lesleyfridayreads, #can’tsleepwon’tsleep, #scottmartinproductions, #rebeccawilson, #lesleyatherton, #shortstory, #shortstories

Read This Book: NO MATTER WHAT! ***** FIVE STARS

Read this book ‘No Matter What‘ by Lesley Atherton

Review by Guest Blogger, Lauren O’Neill

No Matter What‘ is a short tale told from the point of view of Jayne Smith, a ghost writer who loves her job. She enjoyed the challenge of trying to write a book, autobiography or memoir in a way that it would seem her clients had written the books themselves. That is, until a certain supermodel named Hawk was sent her way, bringing not only stress and trouble along with him but also a past that Jayne had long since left behind.

Image: Pngtree

Lesley Atherton does a really good job of drawing you in and keeping you there and interested until the very end. Usually for me, short stories are just something to read to pass the time but with ‘No Matter What‘, I found myself enthralled with every word.

Even for a short story, each chapter flowed easily from one to another, I never found it difficult to get to the next page, never got stuck on a paragraph and never struggled to find the motivation to continue.

Jayne Smith, the protagonist of the story, is a woman who doesn’t find the need to impress or be a different person just to appease her peers and clients. Throughout ‘No Matter What’, I noticed how I didn’t agree with everything she believed but I still wanted her to come out victorious, be it ignoring the “supermodel version of Christopher Ecclestone” that was Hawk or being able to one day get the recognition she truly deserved for her hard work.

Without giving too much away, I saw myself mentally making note of every word she wrote, putting it away for later. This may just be a short fiction story but within it, you’ll find many things you could put to use in your life. As I started reading, I had somewhat of an idea in my head on what ‘No Matter What‘ was going to be about. Boy was I wrong!

For a 64 page story, there were so many twists and turns that kept me guessing and I have to admit, I never would have predicted what was going to happen and I think that’s quite a feat.

Illustration – quick sketch by a young Morrigan Atherton-Forshaw

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘No Matter What’: the story was interesting, gripping and even quite helpful in some places. It kept me intrigued and excited to keep on reading to find out what happened to Jayne and if Hawk had caused any more trouble for the poor woman.

I would definitely recommend ‘No Matter What‘ to you if you enjoy a quick little fix of humour, excitement, mysterious supermodels and a ghost writer with more to her than she lets on, if you enjoy all that, then this is the story for you.

5/5 stars

#lesleyfridayreads, #lesleyatherton, #scottmartinproductions, #laurenoneill, #nomatterwhat, #shortnovel

K-Pop – It Isn’t Just Music!

K-Pop‘ is a genre of music which originated in South Korea, and now seems to have taken over the world – much like The Beatles did in the 60’s.

by Guest Blogger, Lauren O’Neill

But will it stand the test of time like the Liverpudlian rock band has?

To some people, K-Pop is just some new thing that the female youth of this world have started to obsess over, and something that with time we’ll grow out of and find something new to fall in love with for a while.

But it’s quite the opposite in this case as K-Pop fans can vary in gender, colour, sexuality, age and location.

BTS at Wembley, 2019

This type of music is like any other genre – the only thing different is that they’re singing/rapping mainly in Korean. It is difficult to understand why so many people who don’t speak or know the language would listen to and pay money to see Korean groups and soloists.

But, a lot of the time the lyrics, when translated, mean a lot more to the fans than some stereotypical love songs do. For example, here are some K-Pop songs that bring light to more serious topics:

  • ‘My Pace’ by Stray Kids. Stray Kids are a 9 member boy group from the Korean Entertainment company JYP. This song talks about how you shouldn’t compare yourself to others and that just because someone is further ahead of you, doesn’t mean they’ll finish first. ‘Don’t compare, it’s alright to go slowly. Go your own path, my lane’.
  • ‘Answer: Love Myself’ by BTS. BTS are a 7 member boy group from the Korean Entertainment company BigHit. ‘Love Myself’ is all about… well, loving yourself and how important it is to love yourself and to treat yourself with kindness and respect. The 7 members also use this song to thank their fans, who they call ‘army’ for helping them reach this conclusion: ‘The me of yesterday, the me of today, the me of tomorrow (I’m learning how to love myself). With no exceptions, it’s all me’.
  • ‘I’ by Taeyeon. Taeyeon is a singer from SM Entertainment, as well as a member of the girl group ‘Girls Generation’. She sings about how even if you feel like the world is against you and being cruel, you must stay true to who you are and who you want to become and then maybe they’ll see you for who you truly are. ‘People don’t know, they don’t see your wings. A new world you’ve met could be cruel, but strong girl you were born to fly.’

Of course, there are the love songs out there in the K-Pop music industry that are all about a girl and a boy falling in love, and that’s okay! But that’s not all there is. Just like the songs I mention above, there are songs that could help you, make you feel better or just reassure you that you’re not alone and you’re doing okay.

BTS at Wembley, 2019 – two shows sold out in just ninety minutes!

K-Pop is an inclusive family that brings together people from all over the world. Many of them make friends for life through the connection they have – thanks to the music and the groups that brought them together.

K-Pop can also open the eyes of millions of people to different issues that are affecting the world today. BTS, for instance, has teamed up with UNICEF to help put a stop to child violence. A portion of their album sales and 100% of the profits from the sale of goods connected to the campaign goes towards many social programmes that will hopefully make a difference in someone’s life. So far BTS have raised over 2.4 Billion won as of April 2019.

Blackpink at Manchester
Blackpink at Manchester

K-Pop isn’t just music, it’s a community of people of all shapes and sizes who are finding themselves, finding their purpose or just finding a group/soloist that makes them happy. It may not be your kind of thing, which is perfectly fine but who knows, maybe you’ll find something you like!

#kpop, #k-pop. #thebeatles, #southkorea, #laurenoneill, #lesleyatherton, #scottmartinproductions, #bts, #unicef, #Taeyeon, #GirlsGeneration, #smentertainment, #bighit, #straykids, #jyp, #blackpink

Crime drama: The Thief of Time (and Bookshelf Space)

by Guest Blogger, Rebecca Wilson.
by Guest Blogger, Rebecca Wilson.

If you were to walk into any bookshop or library, and run your hand across the shelves before randomly stopping, the likelihood of you selecting a book belonging to the crime drama genre would be exceptionally high. We live in a society that just loves a good murder (no matter how oxymoronic that sounds). And this popularity has gradually led to the construction of an elaborate and complex labyrinth of sub genres, archetypes and plots that is still expanding to this day. I’m guilty (pun intended) of reading an abundance of literature in this genre too, having read many novels that trace lone wolves, dynamic duos and loyal teams in their quest to bring justice to the wronged. †

So why, exactly, do we love crime drama?

This question has been a hotbed for critical debate for years, and the reasons appear to be endless.

After a little bit of personal reflection, I’ve pinpointed four ideas which I believe to be some of the most inherent components of the successful formula that is literary crime drama:

Places of Experimentation with Literary Style, Genre and Narrative Structure

From Victorian novels such as Wilkie CollinsThe Moonstone, with its innovative narrative structure (being one of the first to be written in the format of first person letters, journal entries and  transcripts) to the creation of modern day sub-sub genres such as the controversial Nordic noir genre (expanding the [spider’s] web even further) , crime drama has always been, as its themes suggest, an area where boundaries are pushed and waters are tested – and it appears to have worked so far!

Catharsis (Bakhtin and the Carnivalesque – a Really Interesting Concept!)

This one is a psychological theory, traditionally associated with the purpose of tragic plays (which, depending on your reading, can be seen to have close parallels with the themes and characters of crime dramas). In short, the theory suggests that reading texts where ‘socially unacceptable’ activities are played out enables audiences to purge subconscious emotions such as those of pity and fear within a safe environment. Reading and writing is a lot more than just a way of passing the time!

Places of Experimentation with Characterisation, Gender Roles and Identity

The literary crime drama landscape is saturated with iconic characters, from Conan Doyle’s world-famous super sleuth Sherlock Holmes to Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the genre isn’t short of complex, morally flawed heroes and villains. Opportunities for writers to explore issues of identity, including those of gender, race and sexuality are thrown wide open within this genre, so if you’re considering writing a crime drama novel yourself, don’t hesitate to go all out. Sherlock Holmes was the world’s first (and ‘only’) consulting detective remember, with supernatural powers of deduction, sociopathic tendencies and a chronic opium addiction. There aren’t many, if any routes that are closed off to you!

A Reflection of Our Times

Security has always been something mankind has sought, and in an era where threats of terrorism, climate change, and political upheaval are becoming increasingly inherent (at least, social media appears to be telling us this), reading texts where the heroes aren’t perfect, but where justice is restored (usually), a perfect source of illusory comfort can be argued to be provided here.

There are many crime dramas to sink your teeth into out there, including David J Grunter’s novel I’m a Killer that is available to purchase via the Scott Martin Productions web store. If you’re looking for a morally flawed, highly controversial character, with twists and turns galore to reignite your love of the genre, then you needn’t look much further than this.

#guestblogger, #rebeccawilson, #davidjgrunter, #imakiller, #crimefiction,

Sentiment: Man’s Golden Hamartia

By Guest Blogger, Rebecca Wilson

Sentiment: Man’s Golden Hamartia

No strings
they say,
Love will only tear you apart,
but let’s be honest,
how many people can say
they really listened to that advice,
they told you
from the start?

Sentiment: Man’s Golden Hamartia

A stage of lights,
we dim them when it gets hard.
Because no one
wants to play the lead part,
when inside,
you feel yourself
crumbling,
Shards of glass sticking
in your chest.

Sentiment: Man’s Golden hamartia.

With each day you love someone,
a new string finds itself
wrapping around your heart, loosely at first
So you don’t know how vulnerable you really are.
A few times maybe, you’ll feel a harsh tug,
a warning, a reminder
of the blood that’s to come.

And then one day,
when Time decides that the web
Is complete,
all those strings will pull tight,
and you’ll feel your whole body constrict.
Love, love, blood and loss,
since when did I let myself become a play thing for Grief?

A strange desire,
to feel numb, cold,
knowing that you’ll remain trapped inside the warmth of attachment,
even if you try to throw open
all the windows.

And then
In an ironic twist of fate,
Grand old Time,
Love’s initial thief
Will walk in and decide to give you
at least some form of relief

He doesn’t cut the strings,
or allow them to dissolve
Instead he covers them,
in liquid gold,
to set and shine in your chest as


He slackens the grip of the strings still clinging to your heart,
letting the blood flow stop,
at least in part.

His work of art
comes to life in your chest,
a gradual sculpture of forged golden acceptance,
That to do this day,
is still shining with
the memories, the laughter, the tears

And never once forgetting the ones who made up all those years.

An absence of love, Man’s real Hamartia.
And sentiment, the Golden one,
punished and scorned, for the ruthless Truth
its voice cries out.

And
In spite of our attempts
to vainly silence him,
He will speak, he will speak.
He will be heard, there will be light.

And now his voice
Will echo all the way through,
The longest and darkest
of all our nights.

#rebeccawilson