A thought-provoking and fascinating non-fiction book that’s quite possibly my favourite read of 2021 (and this is really saying something, as I’ve read a sizeable number of truly excellent books to get me through an epically challenging time).
Neil Ansell catalogues his visits throughout the year to the New Forest, with its flourishing plant and birdlife; a forest that’s almost unchanged from its original, planted at the time of William the Conqueror who particularly liked to hunt game.
There are hints of sadness to the book as the author reflects upon the drastic diminishment of birdlife in England during the last few decades, plus the loss of habitat in general for wildlife. He also talks of how the Gypsies dwelt in the New Forest for centuries, living in harmony with the environment, but were then expelled to cities by those who thought they knew better.
Ansell manages to travel quite seamlessly backwards and forwards in time, weaving history, childhood memoir, the present, and the long-term ecological impact of failing to care for the environment.
About the author: Neil Ansell has been an award-winning television journalist with the BBC and a long-standing writer in newpaper journalism.
Geoffrey Gudgion’s second novel Draca is as excellent as his first novel Saxon’s Bane, which reached No. 1 in Kindle’s ‘Ghost’ category. To quote General Sir Peter Wall, President of Combat Stress, Draca is ‘A really cracking read about a soldier who attacks his battlefield demons through his passion for sailing – and sadly still needs help’.
I love the way the author manages to weave Viking mythology, history, and the paranormal into a thoroughly contemporary story. He’s so good at in-depth characterisation, without ever slowing down the pace and forward momentum of his writing.
The story is told from three viewpoints: the main protagonist PTSD-sufferer Jack, his father Harry with whom Jack has a fractured relationship, and love-interest Georgia (George) Fenton who works at the boatyard and is psychic. Interspersed between these chapters are excerpts from the diary of Jack’s deceased grandfather Edvard Ahlquist (Old Eddie), who has bequeathed his entire estate to his grandson, and excerpts from the 9th Century Viking Saga of King Guthrum. The estate includes Draca, a cutter (circa 1905), whose figurehead is a Viking dragon which George believes is possessed by an evil entity that latterly drove Old Eddie mad, and now means to drive Jack mad.
In places, this story really made my spine tingle, and I was right behind George in wanting to knock sense into Jack before it was too late.
This novel is a highly recommended read that will have you sitting at the edge of your seat. Even if you don’t know much about boats and sailing at the beginning of this novel, you’ll end up learning a great deal about the subject. But one word of advice – if you decide to take it up as a sport, don’t ever be tempted to adorn it with a Viking figurehead!
Please note that all author royalties earned through sales of Draca will be shared equally with the veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress.
About the author: Geoffrey Gudgion served for over 10 years in the armed forces, and made his first attempts at writing fiction during quiet moments on deployment. He later stepped off the corporate ladder, in the midst of a career in marketing and general management, specifically to release time to write.
Draca is available to buy via the following links:
This weekend I’m in the mood to give away yet another freebie to entertain people during lockdown. This follows on my free eBook deal three weeks ago. Many thanks for all those lovelies who downloaded Noah Padgett and the Dog-People onto their Kindles, and also to those who decided to buy the paperback version instead 🙂
The Kindle free offer for my novel Desiccation is for today and tomorrow (June 6-7) worldwide on Amazon. Here’s my Booklinker url that should work for most of you (myBook.to/QuirkyLit). If not, just go and type the book title and my name into the Amazon search bar.
Desiccation (published in 2015) is a mix of science fiction and urban fantasy suitable for anyone over the age of thirteen. As with my Noah Padgett novel, I suspect that most of my readers have been adults, despite it being listed as a young adult novel.
See below my blurb for Desiccation, as shown on my Amazon product page…
ST TRINIAN’S meets INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
In 1967, mayhem erupts at an elite English boarding school.
The head girl Samantha is a sociopath, determined to exploit every loophole in the system. After her venture to set up a nocturnal brothel in the gymnasium proves a flop, she invites a disgruntled customer – mod gang-leader, Joe – to a midnight séance in the library. But she hasn’t bargained on his becoming the conduit for a powerful malign force bent upon the destruction of worlds.
The teachers and pupils soon undergo extreme personality changes and develop a hive mentality, determined to ensnare everyone into its collective conscience. When science scholarship girl Janet fights back, she becomes the despised outsider, shunned by the hive but stalked by the head girl, who no longer speaks in her own voice but that of the delinquent mod Janet has seen hanging around the school.
In mortal terror and with her credulity already stretched to the limit, can she throw her trust upon the hippie pixie that lives in a gargantuan psychedelic toadstool behind the school swimming pool and who claims he’s an expert in repairing interdimensional rifts?
I can’t believe that four years have passed since I published this novel, and I admit to not having done much to promote it for the latter three years. Despite its wonderful reviews and popularity in the beginning, I admit to being terrible at promotion!
But now I have a good reason to mention its existence, as I would like to give people in the UK and the US a freebie to download onto their Kindles (or Kindle apps) during Lockdown. My apologies to anyone living outside of these countries, but Amazon doesn’t allow me to extend this offer to other locations.
Noah Padgett and the Dog-People is a fun, multi-layered read for anyone aged 9-100+. The story is a quirky fantasy adventure starring a 12-year-old boy and his chocolate Labrador puppy, who, by a series of mishaps, end up in another dimension where the predominate species is Canis sapiens.
The novel is also available as an audiobook on Audible (narrated by the fabulous actress Mil Nicholson). If you want to sync the two versions to switch between reading and listening, I have some free promo tokens. To request one, just ask via a “comment” on this post, and I will reply with your code.
There is also a paperback version, but I’m afraid that isn’t availabe for free.
Fourteen years ago or so, before he was a published and well-loved author of fiction, Matt Haig stood at the edge of a clifftop in an idyllic location on a beautiful sunny day, and almost jumped to his death. But he didn’t and this non-fiction book tells you why, with an honesty and humour I found most touching. Also he tells you how he overcame the worst of his anxiety and depression and decided living was the better option. Nowadays, if he sees the signs of an attack coming on, he knows how to recognise and counter it before it turns into a full-blown attack, and without the help or hindrance of any type of medication. He tried valium right at the beginning and it didn’t work, its failure only adding to his anxiety.
Having worked in psychiatry in the past, I would agree with with Rev. Richard Coles when he suggested in a review that Reasons to Stay Alive should be on prescription. On a personal level, it helped me identify the triggers to some negative thought patterns and anxiety of my own that had began to interfere with my enjoyment and engagement with life.
Whether you suffer from anxiety or depression yourself, or if you live with someone who does do so, I would highly recommend reading this hugely accessible and life-changing book.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Notes on a Nervous Planet is Matt Haigh’s follow-up book to his bestseller Reasons to Stay Alive, both of which I read back-to-back and have found tremendously transformative in my life. Sometimes people stumble across a book or, in my case, two books at exacly the right time. I’d only just finished reading two of his novels, when I heard him being interviewed on a BBC Radio programme one evening to coincide with his release of Notes on a Nervous Planet and I thought, Wow! I can so identify with what he’s saying here and I already love his fiction, so why not try his non-fiction, too?
The book starts out by recapping some of Reasons to Stay Alive, which is all about how and why he didn’t commit suicide and learned survival strategies to beat his depression and anxiety. Then it goes on to explore in depth the impact of various aspects of modern life upon our nerves such as obsessing about The News, over-engagement with smart phones, obsessing with and measuring our worth over how many “likes” we’ve achieved or not achieved on social networks or our blogs etc. He’s never preachy about any of this but only sharing with you things that he has experienced as anxiety triggers. I’m not usually into lists but some of his lists, at the very least, gave me some real ah-hah moments and, at the most, made me laugh out loud.
As with his previous book, I want to give Matt Haigh a big virtual hug and send him a huge thank you for stopping me self-destructing with anxiety and permanently slipping into the slough of despond. I’m no longer spending as long online (sorry fellows, as much as I love you all) and I’m reconnecting with people in real life instead of being an utter recluse for much of the time, plus I’m being more self-disciplined about working on my own creative projects.
Both Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet are highly recommended and accessible reads for sanity’s sake.
Just a little Post Script to this post, this is my first attempt to publish a post using the new Gutenberg editor on WordPress. It has been a most exhausting experience that has raised my anxiety levels. Some deep breaths required…
Does anyone know how to disable the featured image at the top of the post and stop it duplicating the image that you’ve used as a header to your first paragraph? This is a bug that needs fixing, pronto. I had to delete my paragraph header and leave the featured image be, which means it doesn’t line up with my next paragraph header image. Grrrr…