ITS A RED-EYE FOR HOLLIDAY’S FIRST CLASS THRILLER, RATHER THAN A SLEEPER

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Violet JacketI never had a gap year. Where I grew up, if you were lucky enough and smart enough you went from college to university, or like me, directly to a job with an apprenticeship and a professional  qualification at the end. The rest of my year went on the ‘dole’ or into youth employment schemes. I suppose it was the era before gap years really became trendy. I can certainly see the benefits of a little worldly experience before you settle down to work and study.

I now work with final year university students in my job. Its unsettling how childlike and unprepared for the world some of them are. Super smart but lacking in the most basic common sense and life skills in the worst cases. Whilst a gap year, travelling, working and visiting the more far flung areas of the world is an educational experience, recent widely publicised accidental deaths and murders of young people travelling alone, make me wonder how I would have fared. I like to recall myself as a fairly savvy and streetwise youngster. I know we get increasing more risk averse as we get older and see potential dangers more clearly but the places visited and activities undertaken, as reported by the media in those recent deaths have made me wonder what possessed them to think it was a good idea?

My sense of anxiety was in no way alleviated by reading this month’s third book review, its Violet by SJI Holliday and published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk) on the 14th November.

 

The titular character is a young woman travelling alone due to the fact that she has broken up with her boyfriend. She wants to travel on the Trans Siberian express to Moscow. In the process of trying to get a ticket for the train, she meets another single woman, Carrie. Carrie is on her own after her friend and planned travelling companion, broke her leg just before they were due to depart. She offers her friend’s ticket to Violet and the pair unite to make the journey Carrie has planned, stopping in Mongolia and again in Russia, before reaching Moscow.

We hear the story through the voice of Violet and from emails between Carrie and her missing friend Laura. The book starts with a traumatic event which involves one of the two women, but we don’t know who. Throughout the book we are given insights into Violet’s thoughts, feelings and motivations. There is a sense of impending doom and you are just waiting for something terrible to happen to one or both girls. Violet isn’t who she at first appears to be but there are a few moments which make you wonder about Carrie too. What is her true story? What is she hiding?

The sense of something bad coming your way as a reader was an unpleasant sensation. I had a few anxiety dreams during the days I as reading this, something I’d not experienced since reading Stephen King novels many years ago. I would have actually preferred not to have read the revealing prologue and had the events unfold without pre knowledge. The whole story was a series of ‘this is not going to end well’ moments. Hearing Violets thoughts and motivations expressed gave a steady trickle of bad feelings and allowed the tension to continually build. I thought the twists and turns at the end were a great way to round of the story.

Susi Holliday

Susi Holliday (Daily Record)

This is Scottish author S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday’s (www.susiholliday.com) 6th book, her previous five include the “Banktoun Trilogy” made up of Blackwood (2012), Willow Walk 2016) and The Damsenfly (2017), along with her festive thriller Deaths Of December (2017) and her gothic thriller The Lingering (2018). Inspiration for Violet comes from her love of travel and a journey along the infamous Trans-Siberian, she took ten years ago. S.J.I. currently divides her time between Edinburgh and London.

It’s a very modern thriller. I liked the email segments and the reference to social media. What can be learned about you from your devices and social media accounts is truly scary. The risks taken by both women in relation to alcohol, drugs, sex and personal safety seemed fantastic to me. Were they just symptoms of the personalities involved or the norm for young people in far flung places?

So take the train to your local book store or download a copy (both are green options), but be warned, this is not a book I’d recommend to anyone who’s daughter is about to jet off on their gap year, but a great read for anyone wanting to live dangerously, from the safety of their armchair of course! Just prepare for a few sleepless nights!

 

Reviewed by:  Georgina Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit it their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy of the book, come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

violet 2019

AN UNDER DEVELOPED START HAS ME DROPPING SCOTT’S MORTAR SHELL SIZED BOOK

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the-photographer-of-the-lost-9781471186394_lgWhile reading an article the other day on the topic of golf course etiquette, and when it might be okay to walk off a course, the author claimed we have all been taught the same thing; and that is to always finish what you started. They went on to provide certain examples such as a DIY project, a sandwich…. (probably depends on who made it) and finally a book you are reading.

Well not in my experience! There are times when the old adage applies; that life is too short to drink bad wine or continue reading a book that you are not enjoying. This happened with this month’s second book review, which is sad, seeing as it was published at the end of October and this review is going up the day before Remembrance Sunday, when across the world we mark those who lost their lives in both world wars and all conflicts since.

The book is The Photographer of the lost by Caroline Scott and published by Simon & Schuster (www.simonandschuster.co.uk) on the 31st of October.

Its 1921 and families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she beings to search.

Harry, Francis’ brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph grave-sites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers,

Then as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth.

I got as far as the eighty fifth page of this four hundred and ninety-five-page tome, most books get fifty pages to get me hooked, but it’s all relative when you have this many pages to read.

The two main characters seemed to be endlessly meandering back and fourth across rain sodden and mortar scarred battle fields looking for their loved ones, I found it hard to want pick it up and continue to read it, let alone overlook the inconvenience of lugging it around on my daily commute. Yes, if you have an e-reader its ok, but I don’t because I’m a traditionalist.

Casroline Scott

Caroline Scott

This is English born Author Caroline Scott’s (@cscottbooks) first book and was inspired while completing a PhD in History at Durham University. While there, she developed an interest in the impact the first world war had on the landscapes of Belgium and France and in particular the experience of women during the conflict. She was allowed to indulge her passion while working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Originally from Lancashire, she now lives in Southwest France.

I always feel upset at not finishing a book, especially when its for book group and the others tell me how great it was after the sixty fifth page. This book is not in my opinion an ideal book group read, as trying to read a book like this in a month or less would be a struggle, unless you only read one book a month and have nothing else occupying your life.

I wish Caroline well with this book and look forward to reading her future works and to those we’ll remember over the next couple of days….

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

(The Fallen, L. Binyon)

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

This book is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the others thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you go off and read the book, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d love the feedback.

Photographer of the Lost 2 BT Poster

 

RINGROSE SCORES A CLEAR ROUND AND NO FAULTS WITH MEMOIR OF HIS FATHER

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BillyRingroseCvrAs a child, I was horse mad. I lived and breathed horses and riding. I knew all about their care, their tack and their ailments. My greatest wish was for a horse of my own. Growing up on an inner city council estate, I was regularly brought back down to earth with the pronouncement that you can’t keep a horse in a green house. However, I was indulged to the point of having riding lessons during my early teenage years. The school I went to was very good. It instilled a full education on horsemanship and horse care. None of this turning up to have your tacked pony brought out for you, Oh no, we had to catch them or  get them up, brush them down, check their hooves and tack them up ourselves. No mean feat for 12 year olds dealing with the most savvy, sly and workshy school ponies ever. But we loved it.

My heroes at the time were the british show jumpers David Broome and Nick Skelton. Harvey Smith was flying high at the time too but was frowned upon by my family for his bullish attitude, rude gestures and, what we perceived to be, rough handling of his horses. He was also not forgiven for always being on the programme at our local show, where each year there was a Tannoy announcement saying he’d broken down enroute (and then we’d arrive home to see him busy jumping at Hickstead). The poor man was probably oblivious to his eagerly anticipated arrival at a local county show in Nottingham!

I was always fascinated by the military outfits and no hard hats of the Irish team at international events. Such glamour! So, I was  both intrigued and delighted to be given an opportunity to  read and review a book  of the story of William (Billy) Ringrose and the growth of Irish success at showjumping on the international circuit from its beginnings to recent times.

The book, simply titled, Billy Ringrose, a memoir of my father is written and self published by his third son, Fergal. The history is built from interviews with Billy and his wife Joan, along with insights from colleagues and friends and from research in the archives held by the Army Equitation School and from press coverage at the time. Billy comes across as a reserved, self-effacing man, who saw the great triumphs of his career as just doing his job. They were spectacular wins. In 1961, he was presented with the Grand Prix de Monaco by Princess Grace and the Grand Prix de Roma by Queen Elizabeth II. He is the only man to have won the Aga Khan Cupas a rider, as the Irish Chef D’Equipe and then as President of the RDS. What could be said to be most amazing is that Billy had never had a riding lesson before he joined the Army!

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Col. Billy RingRose with Capt. Geoff Curran in 2016 (Irish Field)

 

 

This is also a history of the development of the Army Equitation School. It was realised that Ireland needed a way to advertise its equine bloodstock trade internationally and the best way was to compete and win showjumping events at international level. Cadets were recruited based on athleticism in other sports, rather than coming up via the ranks of pony club and local shows like in Britain, where the team wasn’t army based, and for a while all cadets made their way through the school in an effort to identify those with the correct combination of fearlessness and skills. At the same time the supply of horses was limited and variable depending on political goodwill, so the Irish army spent a lot of time competing with inferior horses to other nations such as the Germans who dominated the sport. The Irish had a different tactic in selection and training of riders. Which gradually paid off.

Billy was an inspiration to younger riders. He is well regarded by his colleagues. It was interesting to read of politics at work and his sideways move to a department he knew nothing about and how others were promoted without doing the necessary training depending rather on who they knew. Nothing much changes! Billy did get returned to the post of CO of the equitation school. On retirement from this position he went on the horse purchase board and the RDS horse show committee before being elected President of the RDS.

This is Irish Author Fergal Ringrose’s (@fergalwilliam) first book. After gaining a BA from

Fergal Ringrose

Fergal Ringrose

Dublin City University and an MA from California State University both in Communication Studies he has worked as an editor and journalist in Business publishing for the television broadcast production sector.

This is a very detailed account of a full and interesting career. Interesting, not only from the point of Billy’s personal achievements but also the advances and success achieved by the Army equitation school, during Billy’s tenure.

It is a book which would appeal to those interested in Irish history, as well as those with an interest in equestrian matters. The photographs are a lovely addition and the press reports give a real sense of the time. This is at times, a very moving and personal account of the life of a man who should really be more famous here and abroad. He’d probably be surprised to hear me say that as he appears to be modest to the point of denial! I would love to hear an abridged version of this memoir on audiobook, maybe with some of the actual voices. It would also make an ideal project for RTE Radio’s Documentary on One around Dublin Horse Show time.

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy