NICE DAY FOR AN ICE CREAM

Kevin, the Fallen Angel, 2017

Heaven, Saturday morning 

Angel number 4501 is summoned to His Presence, or HP, as he likes to be called.
“I have an important job for you, 4501. There’s a music festival tomorrow in Everyman’s Park.”
HP’s magnificent voice rolls out, setting clouds, cherubim and seraphim a-tremble. A few feathers shiver and fall off 4501’s wings.
“I was very upset at the amount of sin that went on at the last one – drugs, blasphemy and …” HP lowers his voice and the Heavens still. “… you know, s-e-x that went on.”
4501’s heart leapt in anticipation.
The celestial voice rumbles on. “It will be your mission to point out the error of their ways to these young people, put their feet on a new and better path.”
OK. So it’s Mission Impossible, but I’m going to a music festival.
“Of course, HP. An honour to be chosen. In what guise shall I descend?”
A rock star? A Hell’s Angel? Oh please, not a groupie.
“You will temporarily take over the body of an ice cream salesman called Kevin.”
HP taps his foot and watches as 4501 plummets to earth, his heavenly raiment already changing to jeans and a Nirvana tee-shirt.

Hell, Saturday morning

His Satanic Highness kneels on the backs of two recently arrived politicians, his backside bare and pulsating with inner evil. A ring of hellfire encircles them, holding back a legion of imps and fiends with singed hair and blistered skin.
“Kiss my arse!” roars HSH. “A day back on earth for whoever braves the flames and kisses my royal arse.”
None are brave enough to risk self imolation until Black Bart steps forward. Seven feet tall, once a grave robber and now an upper level demon, he’s been a thorn in HSH’s side ever since he fell into an open grave and drowned in the seepage.
One almighty leap and he’s through the hellfire, skin smouldering and bubbling, smoke seeping from all his orifices.
Bending at the knee, he kisses the putrefying buttocks before him. 
Beelzebub, as he likes to be called when dealing with the Damned, rears up and points upwards, searing a hole through the charcoal-blackened vaults. 
“Go, Lulu, enjoy your day.”
Black Bart only has time to say, “Lulu? What the f–” before he vanishes in a swirl of silk and Chanel No 5.

Saturday afternoon

His Presence watches the materialisation of the ravishing young woman, her modesty barely covered in wisps of green silk.
“You’ve outdone yourself this week, Lucifer.” He prefers the old names to all this high-falutin’ Royal Highness stuff.
The Devil laughs. “Kevin the ice cream seller won’t stand a chance. Shall I make the first move?”
The two deities settle down to their weekly game of Celestial Chess. 
Lulu basks under the hot sun and a thought pops into her mind.
I’d kill for an ice cream.

 

 

I’

RAPID EYE MOVEMENT

RAPID EYE MOVEMENT
AMANDA SHERIDAN
AMAZON KDP 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Jennifer and her husband, Ilan, are fleeing for their lives through the night in Cyprus. A high speed car crash leaves her critically injured with a head wound.
Lucy steps in a rabbit hole on a hillside in Yorkshire, whilst out photographing landscapes and acquires a head injury that sees her lapse into a coma.
And so begins a very tightly plotted story, centred round the lives of the two women and their husbands.
The early part of the book sets up the events immediately before the accidents.
The section dealing with Jennifer has a sharpness and clarity suited to the hectic drive through dark roads. At times, the sentences are almost staccato. Yet Sheridan manages to feed in enough information to give us an idea of Jennifer’s character, particularly her coolness under stress, even though consumed with fear.
Leaving Jennifer’s story just after the point of impact (and there is a great bit of foreshadowing there for the discerning reader), attention turns to Lucy, her husband Charlie and their two daughters. The writing style changes almost imperceptibly here to a softer, more gentle tempo as we gather details of Lucy’s domestic life and her

burgeoning career as a photographer.
The book now becomes a series of dream sequences where the two women’s lives unfold, so vivid that at times they almost feel as if they were a part of the other’s life. It’s not a long book and some of the chapters are quite short, but I was always aware of which woman’s story I was in. The two characters are very distinctively drawn.
Although this book is promoted as Romance combined with Mystery, it’s more than that. There is Romance, certainly. Ilan and Charlie are both charismatic figures in their own way and we’re treated to a few intimate moments, which are sensitively done. The mystery element is very strong; some parts reminded me of a cosy mystery, especially the excellent descriptive passages but, by the time I passed the halfway mark, I felt the plot was heading into thriller territory at times.
When Sheridan begins to tighten the strands of this book, she does it so subtly that the “OMG! I get it!” moment really is a revelation. Suffice to say, this is no ordinary tale and I guarantee you won’t see the end coming until the author chooses to reveal it. One of the very few books that will go on to my To Be Read Again list.

A LITTLE BIT OF BALLET

BEGINNERS PLEASE

After listening to Boris on the television tonight I think it’s time for a little light relief and these pictures have always brought a smile to my face.

PAS DE DEUX

It was very much a family affair which meant everyone was relaxed. Martyn (left) is Hannah’s dad and Mason (right) is Hannah’s partner.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
D I HILL
PUBLISHED BY DAVID HILLS

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Unintended Consequences is a dark, twisty, innovative thriller. It’s Ben Smith’s story, told in the first person and directly addressed to the reader. He’s not a hero. He’s not even an anti-hero. His conscience gave up on him a long time ago and briefly surfaces, only to disappear again under the weight of his immoral choices.
D.I.Hills has created a memorable character in Smith, a man who has waited seven long years before beginning his attempt at revenge and retribution. The reason for this is teased out slowly over the opening chapters and, although Hill’s conversational tone may not be to everyone’s taste, I was pulled in straight away and never felt his style to be intrusive or detrimental to the plot.
He has a rich cast of secondary characters, fully fleshed out but seen only through Smith’s somewhat distorted viewpoint which only serves to heighten the interest in them – for as long as Hill allows them to live. Because the strapline pointing out that this is a dark thriller doesn’t lie. There is a high body count, some of them in flashback. I laughed out loud, felt deep compassion and was rendered queasy at Hill/Smith’s recounting of how the characters were dispatched.
I was continually reassessing Smith’s character as I read. As soon as I thought I knew him, another layer was revealed which cast him in a completely different light.

He is one of the most complicated characters I have read in contemporary thrillers.
Interesting and engaging as the plot and characters were, I was repeatedly pulled out of the story by long discursions on a variety of subjects. These were very well written and a massive amount of research must have gone into the creation of them but they smacked of pop psychology or pseudo philosophy. Sometimes they worked but at other times just went on a little too long and verged on the preachy. Another reader may appreciate this device.
There is a very good twist near the end that I didn’t see coming and caused quite a sharp intake of breath. The ending itself disappointed me because I thought it was out of character for the Smith that had been revealed to me during the course of the novel. 
As a storyteller, Hill pulls the reader into Smith’s story with a mixture of cynicism and black humour. He is a master of the twisty turn and of revealing barbarous details in the most matter of fact way, thereby enhancing the underlying horror. 
I admit to skipping some of the long seemingly unrelated pages, but I will remember Ben Smith’s story for a long time and will investigate more of D.I.Hill’s work
Thank you to REEDSY DISCOVERY for an ARC in return for an honest review.

FADED DREAMS

Over the Christmas and New Year period, we watched a lot of old films on television, including Sunset Boulevard, starring the wonderful Gloria Swanson. It’s one of my all-time favourites and I had it firmly in mind while making the photograph below. The model, who I only ever knew as Peaches, was perfect for what I wanted and this somewhat unconventional portrait – Faded Dreams – became one of my favourites.

WHEN I WAS TEN

WHEN I WAS TEN
FIONA CUMMINS
PAN McMILLAN
PUB DATE: APRIL 2021

Rating: 2 out of 5.

It took me a little while to settle into When I Was Ten and, for a few chapters, I didn’t realise there were three girls involved because there wasn’t a clear separation between the varying points of view. The basic premise was that one of two sisters had killed their cruel parents with some sort of tenuous involvement from their friend. The author spent a fair amount of time chronicling the cruelty of the parents to justify their demise. It was all a bit over the top with a young girl locked in a shed with multiple spiders crawling over her and children made to eat scraps while their parents dined on the finest of foods. More Dickensian than 2020. The sister who actually did the killing was never fully fleshed out or her motives examined.
The title of the story refers to one of the sisters whose story was told in the third person while the friend’s account is in the first person. Added to this is an interwoven account from a third anonymous person told in italics, which does not make sense until quite a way through the book.
The book is well written grammatically and there are descriptive passages which held my interest.

It was difficult, however, to maintain belief in the plot. I never quite got past the fact that a young girl was able to/had the strength to stab an adult man multiple times with a pair of scissors without waking his wife who was sleeping next to him. Not only that but she then went on to stab the woman many times, as well.
As others have noted, a side story involving a caricature of a senior politician bore no relevance to the main story. If the author had meant to use it as an illustration of how child killers are perceived by those in power, she wasted her opportunity by concentrating on his pomposity and philandering, instead.
The middle section of the book flows along at a steady pace as threads are drawn together and pieces begin to fall into place.
Sadly, the ending is drawn in too sketchily with everything explained in a way that just wouldn’t have happened in real life,
The final twist was unnecessary. the plot was complicated enough already.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’M A ZOOMER (I THINK)

After resisting the whole concept of ZOOM ever since Covid-19 reared its ugly head, I now find myself on the brink of my first virtual meeting. This is all thanks to an invitation to join the Nottingham & Notts Phorographic Society, an offer I just couldn’t refuse as I’ve been missing photography for quite a long time now.
I have registered for my first meeting, got a bright blue link in anticipation and, on Tuesday evening, I’ll settle down with a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc and wait to see what happens. Fingers crossed for me.

SHE HAS A BROKEN THING WHERE HER HEART SHOULD BE

She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be
J D Barker

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After the loss of his parents, young Jack Thatch first met Stella as a child—this cryptic little girl of eight with dark hair and darker eyes, sitting alone on a bench in the cemetery clutching her favorite book. Gone moments later, the brief encounter would spark an obsession. She’d creep into his thoughts, his every waking moment, until he finally finds her again exactly one year later, sitting upon the same bench, only to disappear again soon after.
The body of a man found in an alley, every inch of his flesh horribly burned, yet his clothing completely untouched. For Detective Faustino Brier, this wasn’t the first, and he knew it wouldn’t be the last. It was no different from the others. He’d find another just like it one year from today. August 9, to be exact.
Isolated and locked away from the world in a shadowy lab, a little boy known only as Subject “D” waits, grows, learns. He’s permitted to speak to no one. He has never known the touch of another. Harboring a power so horrific, those in control will never allow him beyond their walls.
All of them linked in ways unimaginable.
I was drawn to this novel for a couple of reasons. One, because I had read and loved the

Fourth Monkey series and, secondly, because I immediately picked up a King/Koontz vibe from the synopsis. These two things practically ensured this would become one of my favourite books.
Upon beginning the book, I pretty soon realised that it was very loosely worked around a classic novel. I won’t say which one because it’s a great moment when the penny drops. Needless to say, what Barker had done lifts it into another realm and dimension.It’s a slow build, but not boring – everything comes back later with massive relevance.
I was surprised more than once at how events crept up on me and I thought, “Of course, I should have seen that coming.” But you won’t.
A small criticism relates to the villains of the piece. The structure and reasoning behind the set-up is impeccable but the portrayal of the ‘foot soldiers’ strained my credulity a little. It didn’t detract from the story but did cause a slight stutter.I read this on a free download from Kindle Unlimited but have now ordered a hard copy, because I will read it again one day – after I have read the classic that inspired it. I’m sure I will see it with new eyes and enjoy it even more.

THE RED DRESS

Back in the days when we could go out and about without a care in the world, I had a three hour studio session booked with Hannah, my favourite model (and also my grand-daughter). I had quite a few different scenarios in my mind and decided to buy a dress off eBay for some of them. My eyes lit on this beautiful red dress with multi-frills on the skirt, a nipped in waist and a sprinkling of sparkles. Perfect! I just knew it would look fantastic on Hannah (I was right) and ordered it. Imagine my horror when it arrived in an A4 envelope, the material was nearly as thin as tissue paper and the whole thing was crushed beyond recognition.
When I tell you that I haven’t used an iron in over thirty years, you can understand why my first impulse was to throw it in the bin and put it down to experience. However, I set the ironing board up (well, Jan set it up. I didn’t know how to do it.) and spent a whole afternoon pressing the creases out of it. On the way to the studio, the dress had two seats all to itself as I was paranoid about it getting creased again.
Anyway, it photographed beautifully and I was delighted with the results. I still have quite a few frames from the day to work on so, hopefully, if my photographic mojo ever comes back I’ll revisit them.
The dress? I left it at the studio for another model to wear on another day. And I haven’t touched an iron since.

Left: Don’t Look Back. Right: The Party’s Over.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

We had planned to have a drive out today, secure in our in-car bubble, to see what birds we could spot. The first rain spots hit the windscreen as we drove off and, while never progressing to heavy rain, persisted enough to spoil any chance of decent photographs. We confined ourselves to a local tootle and managed to see a little egret, a few magpies and crows, a handful of sparrows and a small flock of black-headed gulls. So, I have rooted through the archives to show you what might have been.

I forgot the male pheasant we saw in a field near Holme Pierrepont, so he gets a frame all to himself. I think he deserves it as he’s very handsome.

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