By Kelsey Ward 05 Apr, 2019

What unites Katherine Mansfield, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Rilke, Beethoven, Brexit, the present, the past, the north, the south, the east, the west, a man mourning lost times, a woman trapped in modern times?

Spring. The great connective.

With an eye to the migrancy of story over time, and riffing on Pericles, one of Shakespeare's most resistant and rollicking works, Ali Smith tells the impossible tale of an impossible time. In a time of walls and lockdown Smith opens the door.

The time we're living in is changing nature. Will it change the nature of story?

Hope springs eternal.

Smith is an iconic storyteller. Her mastery of language and imagery continues in the third of her Seasonal Quartet. A long reaching tale with evocative characters and realistic relationships.

A deeply important work of fiction for the heated and troubled times we live in, and yet Smith imbues this story with hope for the future.   

Ground Breaking. If ever a book deserved the title of masterpiece Spring is just such a book. 

By Kelsey Ward 05 Apr, 2019

Spring is nature's season of rebirth and rejuvenation. Earth's northern hemisphere tilts towards the sun, winter yields to intensifying light and warmth, and a wild, elemental beauty transforms the Highland landscape and a repertoire of islands from Colonsay to Lindisfarne. Jim Crumley chronicles the wonder, tumult and spectacle of that transformation, but he shows too that it is no Wordsworthian idyll that unfolds.

Climate chaos brings unwanted drama to the lives of badger and fox, seal and seabird and raptor, pine marten and sand martin. Jim lays bare the impact of global warming and urges us all towards a more daring conservation vision that embraces everything from the mountain treeline to a second spring for the wolf.

The Nature of Spring continues Crumley’s seasonal writing series. Just like Autumn and winter, Spring is beautiful and extraordinary. There is a softness to the cover, with bluebells in the undergrowth. Ye

Crumley reminds us that nature is not the cheery, purple petunia, yellow fluffy Easter duckling we have come to think it as. It can be harsh, jarring, with the sudden thaw of winter snow. Or the hungry hibernators emerging from their dens. He reminds us how temporary it is and the realities of human habitation and global warming.

Nature is both personal and global. The intimate approach to the animals and environments he comes across result in almost tactile prose.

In the end, I found it hopeful. The Nature of Spring is an excellent addition to the world, worth every moment of your time and enjoyment.

By Kelsey Ward 26 Mar, 2019
In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.

Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.

Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. A spy novel, which takes apart the very genre. Atkinson's sense of humor still remains very much present without losing a sense of pacing. 

It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of this country's most exceptional writers.
By Kelsey Ward 26 Mar, 2019

London, 1941. Amid the falling bombs Emmeline Lake dreams of becoming a fearless Lady War Correspondent. Unfortunately, Emmy instead finds herself employed as a typist for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt at Woman's Friend magazine.

Mrs Bird refuses to read, let alone answer, letters containing any form of Unpleasantness, and definitely not those from the lovelorn, grief-stricken or morally conflicted. But the thought of these desperate women waiting for an answer at this most desperate of times becomes impossible for Emmy to ignore. She decides she simply must help and secretly starts to write back - after all, what harm could that possibly do?

A joyous read. Absolutely uplifting, with one of those lovely sorts of characters that grows from frustrating to beautiful. There are many charming and funny moments,

Pearce gives genuine insight and emotional gravity to the London Blitz, capturing the spirit of the times, as well as the emotional gravitas. A good comfort read.

By Kelsey Ward 26 Mar, 2019

 Alina’s brother-in-law defects to the West. The couple become persons of interest to the secret service and both of their careers come to a grinding halt.

 Under the strain, Alina turns to her aunt – wife of a communist leader, and a secret practitioner of the old ways.

 Set in Communist Romania, Bottled Goods sets out to explore the impact of government and control over the individual. Alina’s choices are hard, harder still because she is a woman at a time of social oppression and yet transition.

 It was a fantastic, unexpected work of fiction, combining quality writing with the exhilarating Cold War drama. Can’t recommend enough!

 Published by Fairlight Books, Bottled Goods is Long Listed for Women's Prize for Fiction 2019.

By Kelsey Ward 23 Mar, 2019

In quiet Berkley Cove, North Carolina, a young man is found dead. The  illusive ‘Marsh Girl’, Kya Clark, is the  suspected murderer.

But what starts as a bayou-style murder mystery quickly unfolds, revealing itself to be a deeper story of family, survival and coming-of-age against tremendous odds.

Kya is an abandoned child, nurtured by the  brutal lessons and magnificent beauty of the  natural world all the  while remaining an authentic, endearing individual. Her very real desire to be loved, both by the  family she has lost, and her eventual male suitors’ heart is the  emotional driving force of the  novel.

Still the  looming specter of Chase Andrew’s death hangs, driving the  plot through Kya’s complicated life. Owens has taken great care in maintaining illusion and mystery, resulting in pages that could not turn fast enough, and an utterly unexpected ending.

This is her first work of fiction after many years of being an accomplished nature writer and it is evident she has done her research on character, plot, and place. Her style is evocative of Barbara Kingsolver all the  while remaining firmly steeped in her natural roots. Tender descriptions of the marshlands are outstanding, so rich you can almost smell the  salted ocean or hear the  gulls cry. Like Kya, Owens loves the  marshes, they are a part of her.

From the  outset, I was enraptured. Owen’s gripping pace and talent for deep emotional characters against the  backdrop of the  lush swamplands left me engrossed and inspired.

By Susan Fletcher 02 Mar, 2019
Witch Light, by Susan Fletcher is a compelling historical fiction set amidst the green hills and bloody events of the Glen Coe Massacre.

Wild, young Corag sits in a jail cell, condemned to burn as both witch and traitor for her hand in warning the MacDonald’s of their doom, and allowing some to escape over the mountains. She is our heroin, bewitching as the hills themselves.

Charles Lesley is sent by the King to gather Corag’s testimony of the events, to which she gives so long as he listens to the years of her life leading up to her incarceration. Her darkest moments are heart breaking. Dutifully, Lesley listens to the filthy girl in the dank cell until eventually he warms, leaving him to wonder of the justice in her condemnation.

The contrast of the character’s perspective, both in nature and stylistically, proves to be as compelling as it is complimentary. Corag’s voice is uniquely fluid, verging on stream of conscious, while Lesley is to the point, and solely told through letters to his wife.

Fletcher’s prose through her heroin’s voice are equal parts beautiful as they are haunting. The landscape becomes as lush as the characters, making mighty mountains loom in the mind's eye of the reader. She equally encapsulates the Highlander culture through close attention to detail cementing historical immersion. History is alive and the blood feels fresh upon the land.

A heart wrenching story of young woman in the midst of a historical tragedy who’s echoes can still be heard today.

This book holds a fond place on my book shelf, both for the story’s extraordinary young woman and of a tragic event made more than just a glossy placard, adding rich substance to an already brooding landscape.

A book both surprising and compelling especially for those who crave good historical fiction set in Scotland.

Reviewed by Kelsey Ward
By Kelsey Ward 02 Mar, 2019

If Cats Disappeared from the World

By Genki Kawamura

Reviewed by Kelsey Ward


Our narrator's days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage for company, he was unprepared for the doctor's diagnosis that he has only months to live.

But then the Devil appears with a special offer: in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day of life. And thus, begins a very bizarre week and an extraordinary book.

This is a steady, emotive story, with an easy rhythm and a modest ensemble, Cabbage included. The Devil is beguiling and yet it is the mortal characters who give the story its depth and power. Kawamura has a tender approach to these few people (and cat) resulting in realistic, heartfelt relationships.

Plenty of authors have written novels five and six times the length of this yet fail to achieve the emotional gravity Kawamura has woven into these few pages. His writing is as generous as it is precise. While not without flourish and a pinch of humour (fortunately not lost in translation) so much is said with so little. The dead weight and unessential baggage of the rest of the world fall away, allowing an authentic understanding of humans and humanity to rise in its stead.

It is easy to see why it has sold over a million copies in Japan. Easier still to see why it has been, rather skillfully, translated into English. If Cats Disappeared from the World is a universal story of love, understanding and what it means to be a family.

To say I read it in its entirety with dry eyes would be a lie. I’ve already turned to read it again, pleased to gain so much from such an unassuming book, worthy of every inch of praise and acclaim.

By Highland Bookshop 17 Feb, 2019
An affair is struck between the 19-year-old Paul with 48-year-old Susan. Thus begins a powerful and deeply emotional love story told over a lifetime, leaving the reader to ponder the answer to the opening sentence, “Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less and suffer the less?”

A beautifully told and deeply meditative story. Barnes is master of storytelling, his style and skill rising and illuminating both character and plot.

One of the most eagerly anticipated paperpacks of the year.  

By Highland Bookshop 17 Feb, 2019
Anyone can make one:
For better or worse, anyone can write a blog post about anything they want. Everyone has a voice and the best voices will rise to the top.

The writer can show their personality:
In blog posts, the writer has more leeway to add in their voice and personality than other types of writing.

Blogs are a great form of mass communication:
You can help people, learn new things, entertain your audience—the possibilities are endless and amazing. Blogging opens up all of these to a very wide audience.

You can make money:

Get the right blog going and you can make a lot of money through advertising and sponsored posts.

It allows people to craft better thoughts:
Instead of reading haphazard, uneducated Facebook statuses, it’s much better to see people’s thought process in a well-written blog post.

You can establish a community:
Blogging allows you to connect with other individuals who share the same interests. Sharing ideas and opinions within your community helps establish yourself as a thought leader.

Good for SEO:
Keeping content on your site fresh and relevant, you can use your blog to boost the search engine ranking (SEO) of your site and your business.

It brings people back to your site:

If your blog is strong enough and updated regularly, people will come back looking for more and bring traffic back to your site as well.

It’s free:
It costs you a grand total of zero dollars to post to the blog, so if you have something to say, there’s nothing to stop you.

You can establish yourself as a thought leader:

A blog is a great place for your original thoughts, and it can be a wonderful way to show off your individuality. If people like your ideas, you can become a thought leader in your industry!

What else do you love about blogs? Let me know!
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