My big news…

It has been quiet on the blog for a very long time now…

Back at the beginning of the year I made the decision to take an extended break from reviewing. The reason for this was because I wanted to concentrate on my own writing.

I had committed to completing a first draft of my novel and I had a completed flash collection that I really wanted to tidy up and find a home for. Working full time meant that writing time was scarce and the blog was taking up a chunk of that. So a pause was necessary.

And I am delighted to announce that it seems to have paid off!

My flash fiction collection ‘Oh I Do Like To Be’ has been accepted for publication by Alien Buddha Press and is now available to order on Amazon. You can find the link here

Oh I Do Like To Be… is collection that first came about by accident. It was born as I felt my way back to writing after a break of many years. It was the product of the fact that I finally stopped worrying what to write about and just started to listen to the words. 

Allowing myself to start with the phrases, with the words and ideas that popped into and the floated through my mind. I learnt how to catch them, hold them without judgement; let them settle and let them grow. 

I started to trust in the things that found, the ideas my brain churned out when I was falling asleep. I started to trust once again in me.

After a while I had a bank of writing and when I looked closely there were two dominant threads running through its core. 

The lives of women and the touch of the sea. 

Over the past year these stories and their characters have formed a village in my mind. Some of the stories are linked, some stand completely alone; but whatever their form is time to let them go and let them have maybe just a short while to breathe.

Thank you for listening and thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy Oh I Do Like To Be.

Rachel x

Early reviews for Oh I Do Like To Be

Like the sea these stories are set beside, Rachel Canwell’s writing sparkles like sunshine on waves. The flash and micro pieces that make up her debut collection, Oh, I Do Like to Be, are sometimes full of hope, like that first breath of sea air; other times they are dark or laced with despair, but they are all powerful – the strong undercurrent pulling you into their depths. This is a fabulous collection from a new voice in short fiction writing.

Laura Besley, author of (Un)Natural Elements

Rachel Canwell’s “Oh, I Do Like to Be” is a stand-out debut flash fiction collection from an accomplished and masterful writer. Unfolding against the evocatively rendered backdrop of a seaside town, these stories are daring, often magical, at times humorous, and utterly compelling. Canwell grapples with themes of motherhood, disability, and women coming into their own, among others, with skill and precision. “Oh, I Do Like to Be” showcases the very best of what flash can be – exquisite, powerful, rule-breaking, breath-taking – and I absolutely loved it.

Kristen Loesch, author of The Porcelain Doll (Allison & Busby, 2022)

A wonderful set of flash fiction where the author skilfully carries the reader from shock to laughter to empathy for her cast of characters by the seaside. From the fantastic originality of Cold Hard Cash to the humour of Stone Tales 2, I really enjoyed this collection.


Orla Owen, author of ‘Pah’ and ‘The Lost Thumb.

Clever, insightful and laugh out loud funny. Rachel Canwell will have you flipping through the pages of her flash fiction faster than a seagull can crap on the promenade. If you’re like me, you will revel in the compelling and poignant tales of the seaside dwellers and visitors, sipping your tea and feeling grateful the worries and torments of these folk are not the same as yours. Then you’ll find yourself grinning at their antics. By the end, Rachel will have you zipping back to the beginning to enjoy it once again, maybe this time at a more leisurely pace.


Sidra Ansari, author of Finding Peace Through Prayer and Love

In this fantastic collection, Canwell captures the tiny details and inner workings of a range of women living by the sea with succinctness, tenderness and intrigue. She takes us through many emotions and situations in few words, with skilful story telling that keeps you turning the pages. While, sometimes she also throws in a twist that takes you in a completely different direction.


Nikki Dudley, Strreetcake editor, author and poet.

#BlogTourReview: The Gifts by Liz Hyder

What the blurb says…

For fans of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock and The Doll Factory, The Gifts is a Victorian-esque epic novel that tells of the pitfalls of ambition and the beauty and struggles of womanhood. It is a gripping and ambitious book told through five different perspectives and set against the luminous backdrop of nineteenth century London. It explores science, nature and religion, enlightenment, the role of women in society and the dark danger of ambition. In a society that dictates how women should live, what happens when they start to break out of the mould created for them…

 

October 1840. A young woman staggers alone through a forest in Shropshire as a huge pair of impossible wings rip themselves from her shoulders. Meanwhile, when rumours of a ‘fallen angel’ cause a frenzy across London, a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune finds himself in the grips of a dangerous obsession, one that will place the women he seeks in the most terrible danger . .

What do I say

I knew from the minute this blog tour invite landed in my inbox I wanted to get eyes on these words. So much of the blurb spoke to me and let me tell you I wasn’t disappointed!

The Gifts is a celebration of womanhood. It is set in a time when power and the perception of power rests entirely with men. Each of these key female protagonists are strong, emotionally intelligent and talented in their own right. But in society’s eyes these women are defined by their relationships to and with men. Be that marriage, sex or family bonds, they are held in their places by unseen but unstoppable forces.

This story tells what happens when something extraordinary appears. When a force unexpected and unseen steps into the world and redistributes the balance of power, unleashes wonder and turns the accepted norms of society on their heads.

From the beginning to the transfixing end, this is a story of beauty, of strength and magical feeling. Yet despite the uncanny being right at it’s heart, nothing about this story that feels unbelievable, nothing feels contrived or out of place.

It is a story of empowerment and solidarity; a story to inspire and make the spirit soar.

A story that will fly!

Rachel x

And there is more…

For more reviews and reactions check out the rest of the blog tour below…

Book Review: The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn

What the blurb says…

Based on the real history of an English village during the Great Plague, The Hemlock Cure is an utterly beguiling tale of fear and ambition, betrayal, self-sacrifice and the unbreakable bond between two women.

Isabel Frith, the village midwife, walks a dangerous line with her herbs and remedies. There are men in the village who speak of witchcraft, and Isabel has a past to hide. So she tells nobody her fears about Wulfric, the pious, reclusive

Mae, Wulfric’s youngest daughter, dreads her fathers rage if he discovers what she keeps from him. Like her feelings for Rafe Isabel’s ward or the fact that she studies from Wulfric’s books at night.

But others have secrets too. Secrets darker than any of them could have imagined.

When Mae makes a horrifying discovery, Isabel is the only person she can turn to. But helping Mae Will place them both in unimaginable peril.

And meanwhile another danger is on its way from London. One that threatens to engulf them all…

What I say…

The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn is published 10th February by Sphere. Thank you to Millie Seaward for my gifted copy.

The story of Eyam and the sacrifice of the villagers when faced with the plague outbreak is well documented. And it is a story that has taken on even greater resonance in light of the past two years.

Within The Hemlock Cure Joanne Burn returns to this familiar tale but looks at it with eyes anew. With skill and empathy she looks beyond the contagion itself and focuses on the lives of people who lives there; particularly the lives of the women. Lives that are beautifully drawn and brought to life. From the very first pages the reader connects with their story and motivations and the reader wants to understand their pain.

This is a story which looks at the unusual, the overlooked and the unseen. It gives the skilled women of the village their credit and their voice. In the face of religious oppression and twisted logic, we see the bonds of female voices whispering softly to each other, providing support and helping each other through.

This is a story of reshaping the hand you have been given and working within the boundaries of what is possible to find another way. It is a lesson in how to hide the forbidden in plan sight and to find understanding and empathy in the most unexpected way.

Beautifully plotted and cleverly told The Hemlock Cure is essential historical reading this spring.

Rachel x

Book review: Jane’s Country Year by Malcolm Saville

What the blurb says…

Malcolm Saville’s classic novel from 1946 is about eleven-year old Jane’s discovery of nature and country life during a year spent convalescing on her uncle’s farm, after having been ill in post-war London. Moor End Farm is based on a farm in Wheathamstead, Herts, where Saville had lived.

This deeply-felt novel was written while Saville was extending his range as a writer, alongside his very successful Lone Pine adventure series, and nature anthologies for children. Inspired by the experiences of Saville’s own god-daughter, this marvellous novel is full of the wonder of discovery, as well the happiness of regaining health, making friends, and learning to love the natural world.

What do I say…

This is a book of gentle proportions. A book that calms frayed nerves and soothes the soul.

It is a book without edges; a book with rounded corners and the most beautiful soul.

The story of Jane and her year of discovery, is the balm I needed in this dark end of the year. Each chapter spans a month. Each chapter is like peeling back a window on nature, each turning page a new discovery.

This book might be written for children but it’s appeal is universal. It takes the reader by the hand, throws you your wellies and says come with me. It is a feast for the senses and a gentle rest for the brain.

It’s think therapy on the page.

Rachel x

Book Review: The Porcelain Doll by Kristen Loesch

What the blurb says…

In a faraway kingdom, in a long-ago land …

… Rosie lived peacefully in Moscow and her mother told her fairy tales. One summer night, all that came abruptly to an end when her father and sister were gunned down. Now, Rosie’s only inheritance from her reclusive mother is a notebook full of eerie, handwritten tales, but there is another story lurking between the lines.

Currently studying at Oxford University, Rosie has a fiance who knows nothing of her former life. Desperate for answers to the questions that have tormented her, Rosie returns to her homeland and uncovers a devastating family history which spans the 1917 Revolution, the siege of Leningrad, Stalin’s purges and beyond. At the heart of those answers stands a young noblewoman, Tonya, as pretty as a porcelain doll, whose actions reverberate across the century …

What do I say?

Historical fiction is an obsession of mine. The ability to travel into the past and peer into the windows of those who walked before us. To breathe the same air and taste their food. To hear their stories and sing their songs. The sensory details within this novel are plentiful and perfectly placed, transporting the reader to Russia in all her many guises.

The Porcelain Doll is an example of historical fiction at its very best. The stories of Rosie and Tonya guide the reader through some of the most turbulent and fascinating times in modern history. The enormity of change and it’s far reaching consequences are told through pitch perfect prose, run through with empathy and understanding.

And The Porcelain Doll embodies the concept of history in its very truest sense. The narrative of both women, the weaving of their tales and the symbolism used, all conspire to illustrate how history is both around and within us.

Each twist, each turn, each layer of the novel demonstrates how the stories of the past lie at our core. How they wait to be discovered, retold and shape identities far into the future.

This novel is a triumph, waiting to be discovered. Published by Allison & Busby on 17th February, it is a must read for 2022.

Rachel x

Book Review : The Queen’s Lady by Joanna Hickson.

What the blurb says…

Raven-haired and fiercely independent, Joan Guildford has always remained true to herself.

As lady-in-waiting and confidante to Queen Elizabeth, wife of Henry VII, Joan understands royal patronage is vital if she and her husband, Sir Richard, are to thrive in the volatile atmosphere of court life.

But Tudor England is in mourning following the death of the Prince of Wales, and within a year, the queen herself. With Prince Henry now heir to the throne, the court murmurs with the sound of conspiracy. Is the entire Tudor project now at stake or can young Henry secure the dynasty?

Drawn into the heart of the crisis, Joan’s own life is in turmoil, and her future fat from secure. She faces a stark choice – be true to her heart and risk everything, or play the dutiful servant and watch her dreams wither and die. From Joan, and for Henry’s kingdom, everything is at stake…

What I say…

It is no surprise when I say I love historical fiction set in the Tudor era. I have said it before and no doubt I will say it again!

The story of Joan Guildford which spans the reign of two great Tudor kings is a classic tale of intrigue and power.With skill, attention to detail Joanna Hickson weaves a saga of womanhood throughout the years.

The character of Joan Guildford leaps from the page. It is hard not to be drawn into her story, and to root for a woman of such intelligence and strength. Time and fortune are not always kind to Joan but her story is full of colour, full of heart and full of truth.

If you want a trip back in time then The Queen’s Lady by Joanna Hickson could just be the ticket you need.

The Queen’s Lady by Joanna Hickson is published by Harper Collins on 20th January 2022.

Rachel x

#BlogTour Review : Foolish Heroines by June Wentland

It is my pleasure to be taking my turn on the Blog Tour for this unique book Foolish Heroines by June Wentland, published by Valley Press.

What the blurb says…

Janina Reston is a language expert, translating fiendishly tricky Arabic and Asian mathematical and scientific texts. Words are her world. But she can’t find any to share with her husband Owen. Instead, she confides in a spider named Gladys (who may or may not be her deceased grandmother).

She lives in an ordinary city suburb where extraordinary things happen. Lily’s husband dies in a strange accident with a milk bottle, while Fatima writes biographies of unknown people living seemingly inconsequential lives, and Zosia – whose most daring adventure thus far has been replacing jelly and ice cream with lemon meringue pie – runs off to Delhi with an Asian Women’s Sewing Group.

But forget dull domesticity. This is a suburb where dense jungle leaves creep through the patio door when you’re putting the kettle on, where porcelain shepherdesses have evil intent, and where a seven-legged arachnid can be a wise companion for a woman at the end of her tether.

What do I say…

Foolish Heroines is a book of surprises. A book where the ordinary and the unexpected come together in a way that challenges, comforts and ultimately extends.

The lives of these women are bizarre and vivid and yet they also feel completely tangible and surprisingly within everyday reach.

This is a story of empowerment, of finding a purpose in places in you never thought to look and finding friends you didn’t know you might need. The humour that runs through the book is quirky and vibrant; not many pages go by without words raising a smirk, a smile or making you laugh out loud.

Valley Press have found a book which champions the cause of women, of creativity and of friends.

Rachel x

And there is more…

For more reviews and reactions check out the rest of the blog tour below…

And even more…

A quick message from Valley Press ! They are having a January sale which would apply to ‘Foolish Heroines’ – 22% off!!

Readers just need to enter code JAN22 when shopping on https://www.valleypressuk.com at the basket stage and the discount will be applied.

Book reviews – Catching up or three for the price of one!

Since contracting Covid last month I have been struggling to keep up with life. Reading, working, parenting, blogging, writing – just generally living(!) seem to have taken up more time than usual!

However, I have been reading and some of the words have encountered have been nothing short of amazing!!

So in a bid to catch up on this blogging life I am hoping you will forgive me this 3 for 1 post. And indulge me in this celebration of three cracking titles that have kept me company on these dark Autumn days.

First up is one of my favourite all time poets who I have been reading in a very different form. Huge thanks to Clara Diaz from Fleet for sending this bang up to date adaption of Antigone by Hollie McNish my way.

Anyone who has encounters Hollie’s poetry will know that she isn’t a woman to mince her words and that her finger is firmly on the pulse of women’s rights. And Antigone continues in the same inspired vein. This reimagined Greek tale is littered with references and parallels to modern society and politics. It is witty, accessible and sometimes downright shocking. Having been performed at Storyhouse Chester in late October, I can only hope there will be another chance to catch this one soon.

Amazing read number two is the latest collection of flash fiction by Laura Besley. Published by Irish Indie publisher Beir Bua Press (Un) Natural Elements is ready and waiting to blow your literary socks off!

Each of these stories has it’s origins in the daily Twitter writing prompt #vss365 – Very Short Stories 365. Having followed and interacted with Laura on Twitter for a while now I can tell you she is the absolute master of these tiny tales!

In this latest collection Laura brings together her work and divides them into their written themes. Each is unique and each has the Besley sting in it’s tale. Humour, grief and wry aside wait around every corner; these stories might be short but man! Can they pack a punch!

And last but by no means least is the wonderful collection of short stories Safely Gathered In by Sarah Schofield. Published by Comma Press this is a collection of stories that will haunt you in all the right ways.

Each tale probes at the heart of what it is to be human and examines the things that make it’s protagonist tick. Sometimes heart breaking and sometimes surreal, each is a story that will stop you in your tracks and make you think.

As an added bonus I was lucky enough to chat to Sarah about her work as part of The Northern Connection Podcast’s Northember series. This episode is coming soon and is one not to be missed!

So thank you fellow bookworms for allowing me this catch up and for forgiving a girl when life gets in the way!!!

Until the next time …

Rachel x

#BookReview – Chouette by Claire Oshetsky

Ever read a book that stops you in your tracks? A book that takes a situation that millions of people all over the world are experiencing and looks at it through an entirely different lens. If fact through a lens so magical that it takes your breath away?

That’s exactly what happened when I read Chouette, beautifully crafted by Claire Oshetsky and released this week by Virago . A huge thank you goes to GraceVincent

for my gifted copy.

Chouette is the story of Tiny and her child Chouette. Chouette is not a typical child. According to her mother Chouette is an Owl Baby; a child beautiful, individual and complex, a child with her own very specific needs.

Tiny is tune with her daughter. She understands her needs, is prepared to shape family live to fit in with her child and feels no need to change her. Chouette’s father on the other hand longs for a normal child, refusing to accept her into the wider family until she has been ‘fixed’.

But fixing Chouette is a thankless and cruel task. The world into which she is born isn’t made for Owl Babies and the interventions and treatments her Father insists upon grow more extreme and cruel as time goes by.

This story is a unique parable about the joys and challenges of raising a child that does not conform to the norms of society. It is about the power of a mother’s love; love that will bend in every way to accommodate a child’s needs. But it is also about isolation; about the fear that builds when things go wrong repeatedly and the rest of the world turns away.

This is a lyrical and beautifully woven story charting the experiences of thousands of families raising children with complex needs. It is about the incredible highs and lows, the unbreakable bonds they forge, but also the fracturing of relationships that occurs everyday.

This novel shines a ghostly light on things we sometimes refuse to see. In parts tender, in parts brutal, it is a fable for all those unique and special families who we too often leave behind.

Rachel x

#Bookreview: Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

I am aware that I sound like a broken record but once again I apologise for taking longer than I would have like to review this captivating book. Huge thanks to Kate Burton for my early copy of Burntcoat by Sarah Hall.

Given what we have all been through these past two years there is going to be an inevitable rise in ‘Pandemic Stories’. It is inescapable and unrealistic to expect that artists of all kinds won’t want to record and respond to these world changing events. We are after all, living through history.

But as you would expected from established and talented Cumbrian author Sarah Hall her approach to this telling is unique, heartbreaking and painfully beautiful.

Hers is the story of Edith, talented sculptor and her lover Halit. Immediately but newly connected when the first lockdown begins, the pair hide from the world in her huge studio, Burntcoat. Their world is one of fear but also of love, of discovering each other and building a new and strengthening relationship.

This part of the novel captures beautifully the intensity and unreality of those initial lockdown days. The writing is sensual, vital and pulls at the edges of a collective experience.

Edith’s story is largely told in retrospect. When we meet her she is preparing for her death. Her work, waiting in the studio below is her testament, but it is her love for Halit and the short time of their togetherness that she returns to again and again.

Sarah Hall is unique in her story telling. Her boundaries are wide but her edges are sharp. This story cuts through experience and turns the collective experience of the pandemic on it’s head.

This one is going down in history.

Rachel x