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review 2017-01-13 12:31
An Aching Kind of Growing- Brittany Rowland

    This is a really engaging piece of social drama that takes us deep into the life of a marginalised and abused teenaged girl. Most of the book appears as profoundly real as any dramatic fiction I’ve been privileged to read. Sadly, I know the story is an accurate reflection on too many young lives. Natalie comes from a theoretically ‘middle-class’ home, in a middle-class street, in a normal enough town, yet her young life is for the main part anything but comfortable.

    Natalie is a bright girl who is blighted by having a physically abusive father, and an emotional detached mother. She is the constant scapegoat for every wrong, for every misfortune, for every failure in her family, while being personally deprived of all but the necessities for life. No wonder then, that she ends up on the streets and as the victim of further abuses. Thankfully the author stood clear of introducing sexual abuse as well. Perhaps that on top of everything else wouldn’t have only detracted from credibility. The main thrust of the story is that Natalie is let down by the care system as much as by those close to her. That is a woefully familiar story, as cash strapped social programmes fail in almost every corner of the world.

     The story is very well written from a technical point of view, and very well crafted as a story. This appears to be this author’s first real leap into fiction writing, from a non-fiction writing background. I hope there is far more of her penetrating fiction to come. This is the sort of book that encourages all right-minded people to be generous towards those that are struggling; especially the young, routinely down on their luck and short of consistent support. Natalies exist in every towns’ shadows, marginalised by systems that just about support the luckiest, but which seem only to make the lives of the emotionally and physically deprived comparatively and inexcusably more intolerable.

     I recommend this book to all those with less than solidly frozen hearts, as a reminder that most street kids, usually driven by desperation to petty crime, or worse, don’t volunteer for their roles; even when that sometimes appears to be the case. This is powerful writing that, as others have said, makes this book hard to put down.


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review 2016-10-21 13:00
Book Tour Review that I am Involved with.
The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman: A Novel - Brady Stefani


Blog Tour Schedule: http://yaboundbooktours.blogspot.com/2016/08/blog-tour-sign-up-alienation-of.html *** The Alienation of Courtney Hoffmanby Brady StefaniGenre: YA Psychological Thriller/ScifiRelease Date: June 7th 2016
SparkPressSummary from Goodreads:Fifteen year old Courtney wants to be normal like her friends. But there’s something frighteningly different about her—and it’s not just the mysterious tattoo her conspiracy-obsessed grandfather marked her with before he disappeared. She's being visited in her bedroom at night by aliens claiming to have shared an alliance with her grandfather. And imaginary or not, they're starting to to take over her mind. “Mental illness is a slippery slope,” her mother warns her. The last thing Courtney wants to do is end up crazy and dead like her grandfather did. But what about the tattoo? And the aliens trying to recruit her? With her new alien-savvy friend Agatha and her apocalyptic visions, Courtney begins connecting the dots between the past, present and future—of her bloodline, and the ancient history that surrounds it. Is she going insane, like her family claims her grandfather did, or is she actually a "chosen one" with ancestral connections to another world? Either way, Courtney has a mission: untangle her past, discover the truth, and stop the apocalypse before it's too late for everyone.   
 Buy Links:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound
The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman was featured in Redbook Mag! Check it out HERE!
Advance Praise: A must read sci-fi book.” - Hypable, Hypable.com fandom reviews     “A wild ride through portals to other worlds… This debut novel fuses a serious issue—the stigma of mental illness—with sci-fi to chronicle a girl’s unusual coming of age.” - Kirkus Review     “This novel has a breakneck pace and Stefani’s writing is fluid and perfectly suited to this most extraordinary tale that blends coming of age, adventure, science fiction, and post-apocalyptic genres— and it all works beautifully.” - Readers' Favorite, Five Stars     “As the father of two teenage girls, I can tell you that Brady Stefani must have some sort of supernatural helmet that helps him think and write in their language. But The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman is much more than a novel for teens. This fast-paced adventure kept my attention, blazing back-and-forth from reality to an alter-world so close by that it’s creepy. Here’s a page-turner that captures a lot about childhood struggles through an imaginative story filled with surprises.” -Jim Schaefer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer for the Detroit Free Press     “Stefani’s The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman is a thought-provoking and emotional journey through a young girl’s mind as she struggles to understand who she is, where she came from, and who she is supposed to be—all while deciphering between reality and the tricks our minds can sometimes play on us. Stefani beautifully demonstrates how difficult life can be for anyone who thinks or acts a little differently, and reminds us that, more often than not, the things that terrify us the most are the things trying to save us.” -Jessica Stevens, author of Within Reach About the Author
Brady G. Stefani has a bachelor's degree in creative writing, and a graduate degree in law. During law school, he spent time as an involuntary commitment caseworker for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, where he interacted with patients suffering from severe thought disorders, including numerous patients presenting with subjectively real memories of being visited and abducted by alien beings (commonly referred to as alien abduction phenomenon). It was through his study of these patients, along with his own struggles with anxiety and cognition, that Stefani became aware of just how deceiving, mysterious, and powerfully resilient, the human mind can be.In an effort to provide awareness of mental suffering, and spread hope to all those touched by it, Stefani is focused on writing YA novels that explore the experience of being different and the other-worldly places our boundary-less imaginations can take us. Alienation is his first novel. But with two works currently in progress, the journey has just begun. 
Author Links: Website│Goodreads│Twitter│Facebook
: a Rafflecopter giveaway Blog Tour Organized by: YA Bound Book Tours
Lightning ripped across the northern California sky, then splintered down through the rain and disappeared behind our neighbor’s house. Letting the door slam shut behind me, I ran away from the warmth of our porch light into the darkness of our backyard. My mom would’ve killed me if she’d caught me outside that late at night. Especially in a thunderstorm, and on the night before my fifteenth birthday, with the big party she had planned for tomorrow. But I had to get out of the house before I fell asleep and they came for me. And they were coming!
A gust of wind blew my hair against my face. I swiped it out of my eyes just in time to see a plastic lawn chair tumbling through the air. I covered my head with both arms, but a leg of the chair smashed against my elbow. Ouch!
I dropped onto the wet grass, pulled my knees into my chest, and rocked nervously back and forth. Water soaked up through my nightgown and my underwear, making me shiver.
None of these things mattered, though. Because something far worse was happening inside my head. A memory of me as a little girl, on the night my grandpa Dahlen disappeared from his cottage, was trying to claw its way into my consciousness.
And I didn’t want to think about that night. Ever.
Still, I couldn’t stop it, which didn’t make sense. I was awake, and outside, where I was supposed to be safe, yet the aliens from my dreams were somehow messing with my thoughts, rearranging things, trying to make me think about that night! But how?
And why? It happened eight years ago, and my grandpa was dead now.
Although, before he disappeared, he’d— No! Stop, Courtney! I yelled at myself.
I bit my fingernail and took a deep breath, hoping to calm down.
No luck. I was remembering the musty old-books smell from my grandpa’s bookcase. Butterflies rushed into my stomach and I sprang to my feet.
“All right. Is that what you want me to do?” I shouted into the rainy darkness. “Remember my grandpa? What happened that night? If I do that, then will you leave me alone?”
I wiped the rain from my eyes, and suddenly it was like I was right there, in the cottage. His notebook sat on the plaid couch, opened to a map he’d drawn of the ancient wormholes linking the alien world to our own.
My review

I thought it was not the best book I read but not the worst either. I liked the character of Courtney. I don't know what I would do if I thought I might be crazy. And also I don't know what I would do if I thought someone I loved so much tried to kill me. 
I feel really bad for Courtney with having the mother she had. Her mother is just so not a very nice person and she shouldn't have any kids. She does treat her other daughter better but I am sure if she thought she was like Courtney she would treat her the same. Courtney's mothers boyfriend the "DR" is such a creep and the mother and DR. deserves one another.
I thought the plot was pretty interesting and I liked the ending of the book. I think the reason I only gave it 3 1/2 stars instead of something higher is first it took me so long to get into the story. And I only really liked Courtney and her friend Agatha. Plus I wish her mother wasn't such a witch to her daughter. I liked that there wasn't any romance in this book, I loved that the book was about the plot and not about romance. 
I would definitely love to read more on the adventures that Courtney is going to be involved in. 













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review 2015-04-10 15:11
An illegal immigrant Forest Gump
Fisch aus Gold - J.M.G. Le Clézio,Uli Wittmann

Poisson d'Or / Fisch aus Gold I thought, was a rags to riches story, but it turned out to be a more grim illegal immigrant version of Forest Gump. In this book the protagonist Laïla tells her life story as a 1st person narrative: From when she was kidnapped as a young child in Morocco, snatched away from her parents permanently. All the way up to when she's around 20, when -- I won't spoil it, let's just say things end on a positive note!


The title refers to a poem about a golden fish that should watch out for predators, it's a metaphor for Laïla who has to deal with quite a lot of predatory people - sadly. So it's neither as funny as Forest Gump nor mixed with historic moments. But this book also tells the life story of an innocent person, with the occasional tear-jerker moment. Fortunately it's not too sad or depressive.


The book is well-written and easy to read, and keeps the reader interested most of the time. The blurb of this book seemed a bit pretentious "This book is about blah blah, the most political Le Clézio has written". But after finishing it I must admit that it made me think about things, which is good I suppose. A good 4+ out of 5 score! PS. The writer's fan club has a useful list of available translations.

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review 2014-01-26 13:14
It's Just Lola- Dixiane Hallaj

Dixiane Hallaj is a particular good writer of social/historically placed, politically pointed, drama, both in her creative fiction and as in this case in the writing of Biography augmented with fictional reality. In fact, most biographies contain some invented content, and/or augmented interpretation. There are going to be gaps to fill in any knowledge that reports anything deeper than the bare historic/factual bones.
Hallaj writes, very-broadly speaking, women’s literature, in that central female figures and through them family, are her bread and butter. That shouldn’t deter any but the most misogynistic of male readers. There is plenty of the gritty content and adventure to balance the childcare and dressmaking. This is a lot on female, and male, sensitivities, but certainly very little sentimental. Lola had as psychologically tough a life as most male heroes, and survived an extraordinarily mixed bunch of husbands and other male figures. I may have lost count, but she had certainly buried at least two husbands and saw off another by the time she was thirty. Well, to be accurate, the exes were never conventionally buried.
Hallaj has preserved for history a very informative piece of family/social history. She literally saved important social history from a death bed. This is the history of a very ordinary daughter of gentry, turned extraordinary by the turmoil that swirled through and around her life. Lola saw plenty of the poverties and hardships as well as at least spells of grandeur living. We learn a very great deal about the life experiences of people in Latin America and further afield, between the end of the 19th century and the start of the Great Depression. We leave Lola’s life when she was still hardly middle-aged, by which time she had as much life experience as a half dozen others might achieve in half a dozen centuries. Hallaj has blended biography and real life fiction to create a wonderful memory of her grandmother from her mother’s own words.
The writing is of a very high quality, the script is captivating, and we learn as much about Lola’s times as we would from the very best of historical documentary. What is more, Hallaj seems to be able to paint incredibly detailed pictures without ever seeming to use more than the fewest of words to do so.


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url 2013-09-30 07:07
Another Space in Time



     One is commonly considered to have had a fortunate end if one dies unexpectedly and quietly in one’s sleep. Certainly this seems a rational enough view as this means skipping over the most terrifying, and often most painful, of life’s transitions. Except, of course, that in the after-life—if one accepts the premise—and provided memory carries forward into a new beginning at least fleetingly, then one may well feel very bothered about being torn away without having had time to emotionally pack. Of course the negative aspect for those left behind by a sudden death is as obvious as a high wall.


     Most of us need a god during these inevitable periods, when a death means that any love for the departed is paid for. During these times we struggle to find some hope, some relief, from the finality of death. For this reason even most atheists guard at least a little agnosticism, often finding a prayer or two to ease their terrors. Most of us cling to the idea that their god might show them and the departed some benevolence. I was born to one of the religions of the apparently vindictive god of Abraham, who, in most ages and sects, reportedly casts all but the most pious to eternal hell. This lack of a positive outlook for any typically sinful human often strikes me as being rather worse than having no god at all, though this is, I accept, somewhat of a cynical and personal view. In my defence, I must point out that no atheist dies as pained as the pious sinner who feels that he might have strayed beyond his god’s powers of forgiveness. The atheist’s imagination grasps an illusion of a quiet oblivion to come, which has to be better than a cruel existence burning in the agonising fires in the pit of damnation.


     I had always been especially keen to imagine I could avoid the demonic fires without having to achieve the usual requirement of becoming impossibly perfect, but never felt happy to accept the useless finality of atheism. Of course there are all sorts of versions of religion that set the goal posts of Nirvana low enough even for me. Clapping one’s hands a lot and giving all one’s money to some disciple seems to be currently popular. Personally speaking, I find it too ridiculous to believe for many minutes in any of these alternatives, however attractive they might at first appear. In the end they all seem as unacceptable in their own ways as demonic terror or oblivion.


     I know that I am not alone in struggling with the big questions of life; indeed, doesn’t everyone at some time? Imagine, then, my interest in being given this unique insight into second life. One can say that I have inherited this story, if one is prepared to stretch the meaning of inheritance.


     You will probably conclude that this is just one more ridiculous, speculative vision of the future. No matter, you probably just suffer from sanity. All I ask is that you try to enjoy the story, which was dreamt-up, or just possibly lived, by Rodwell Richards. He was a most ordinary fellow with an extraordinary tale.


      On his violent death his body became the property of organ donor services. Thus I, Arthur Fieldman, avoided my scheduled end by being rebuilt by surgeons, not just with the heart of Rodwell, but also with what I can only believe were his memories. The story, or vision if you prefer, was there in me when I awoke with his gifted heart. Perhaps it was just Rodwell’s last dream, enjoyed by him as he lay comatose on a hospital bed, or even later as he lay for many years in cryogenic suspension. He had a long wait to be a good tissue match and so give me a second chance. The acquired memories that have become a part of me are, I believe, far more than a dream, though to enjoy the story one has no need to see them as anything other than a fantasy.


    However, a little is required to make sense of Rodwell’s story. One has to temporarily accept a couple of assumptions, which go as follows. Firstly, humans enjoy multiple lives on a long journey of enlightenment. Secondly, one has to at least hold a candle to the idea that Einstein really did open up for us more than just an equation or two about the possibilities of space and time. Thirdly, one has to embrace the idea that God might well run a part of space and time in a way that makes sense of Rodwell’s memories.


     If I still have any readers with me, I now state most emphatically that this is not some nutty, quasi-religious diatribe. Whoops! I’ve just lost another! Have a good day, sir! Rather, this is my account of another man’s voyage to another world. As with all apparent fantasy—fairy-tales, if you prefer—one is required to temporarily suspend mainstream belief and plunge oneself into the fringes of speculative science.


     Inside this part of the tale, one will see how Rodwell Kenneth Richards coped with a newly imposed start away from his familiar life in the east of England. Like all perfect memories, this story flicks before my eyes as though I’m in real time. I will narrate the vision in the first person present, as it appears in my mind. Naturally, irrelevant sections of mundaneness will generally be excluded. Even I could not be so cruel as to subject you to every slow flicker.


     Before I actually get going, I will give you a little of my speculative theory about how events unfolded that night here on Earth when it all began. I have interviewed doctors, nurses, coroners, policemen, and best of all Veronica Richards, in order to piece together Rodwell’s tragic death.







    The two-bit town in which this story begins was until an hour ago completely unknown to the lone man who checks the address of the street in which he parks his car. He has no problems to solve that can raise even weak concern. The job is routine: simpler than most, in fact, as there is no security around the ‘mark’. An estate agent has provided an on-line floor plan of an identical house to the one to be visited, which now happens to be only three doors away from this assassin’s quiet footfalls.


     The target’s house is helpfully signposted by its very prominent, crudely-painted ‘Rabbits for Sale’ board. A quick glance at the assassin’s watch confirms for him the time as two in the morning. It is as quiet as this little quiet town ever gets, the only noise coming briefly from a distant fight between feral tomcats. Their terrible wauls hang in the chilled air like brassy funeral notes.


     The visitor doesn’t hang about, or even glance back, as he walks up the unfenced drive. A quick look-up to check that the curtains are still and the lights extinguished, is all that is apparently necessary as he steps quickly around the garage towards the rear of the house. The patio door between the interior and exterior of this neat little family home isn’t even locked; not that that would have delayed the future by many seconds.


     This is a wonderful setup for a stealthy intrusion, with every floor covered in sound-deadening, fitted carpets. The open-plan uncluttered interior is a joy to behold. Nothing to trip over, nothing to conceal an alert occupier, and not even the crudest of electronic alarms stand to delay the inevitable. Nothing is going to wake this sleeping household. The assassin knows there is not even a dog to be put down. The organisation has done its research well. This is easy money for the figure that glides up the stairs towards the master bedroom. A glance to the left and the subdued glow of a lava lamp reveals a naked shoulder and the legs of an adolescent girl. Tempting, but orders are orders.


     He keeps going, and slides in through the door, conveniently ajar, into the target’s bedroom. The handgun’s silencer is pressed close in to the right side of the male head. Thup! The mark is dead, with just one quick spasm that fails to make the woman do more than shuffle in her sleep. It is lucky for her that her dispatch is not necessary. Now the assassin has already departed. He is almost at the patio door before the oozing blood starts to seep into the sheets. Even if Veronica Richards should now wake to notice her husband is as quiet as death, and is not too stunned to instantly raise the alarm, it is too late to hinder the assassin.

It is far too late for Rodwell Richards.







     On the night of Wednesday the 8th of November, I went to bed a little too late, wondering why I had, as per usual, stayed up to watch such a dull football game. It was not even as though I didn’t know the result. I mean, when do the Reds ever lose at home? I had crept into bed as quietly as possible so as not to wake Veronica, and was more or less asleep as my head touched the pillow. The very next thing I notice should be my routine morning, and the usual mixture of alarm jingles, grunts and nudges that punctuate those first familiar bleary minutes.


     Unusually, I awake feeling anything other than cosy. There is a chilly dampness around me as though, initially over-hot and sweaty, my skin has now cooled. As for my pillow! I prod about. It seems to have fallen to the floor, except that I cannot feel the edge from which it could have dropped. I am increasingly aware of an earthiness in my nostrils, and the noise of what I now unbelievably see is a munching cow. Somewhat alarmed, I am sitting up and staring at surroundings that are absolutely not our bedroom. The scene before me seems benign, even normal, but being so totally unexpected is overwhelmingly frightening.



     It is some ten minutes later and here I still am, staring into a misty, pastoral vista. My heart is in a slowing rhythm as initial panic eases. My mind, in contrast, is working ever faster, rushing in ever-tightening circles of confusion. Bewilderment is taking over from fear as I consider my situation, for after all, a lush green field with a relaxed cow is essentially benign and calming. I have tried closing my eyes and thinking new thoughts, but when I open them again I am still very much in the same place, beside a quietly munching bovine.


     I had no mind-altering drug of any sort last night, except a routine glass of wine, so exactly why, or even how, I have conducted myself to this field I cannot imagine. My son sleepwalks, on rare occasions, but I, never. The last time I woke up in such a space was thirty-something years ago, as a student, after a long night on happy juice. Even if I have forgotten an excess of yesterday evening, I wouldn’t expect to be sitting in a field wearing only my night-attire, namely my birthday suit. At least there is no human onlooker to be sickened by my nudity, which is somewhat of a relief. Nevertheless, the very possibility of involuntarily shocking those going about their daily business deters me from wandering. I shouldn’t really worry as in truth there is absolutely no one else to be seen or heard in this pastoral vista, not even a herdsman. Shouldn’t it be inevitable that there is someone about to ensure my, and I assume their, embarrassment? After all, Merry England is hardly short of people!



     Later; I am becoming very agitated by my new-found surroundings, and feel a growing need to go looking for reassurance in the form of, for example, my home. I stand and slowly turn through 360 degrees, seeing nothing to draw my attention in any particular direction. There is absolutely nothing familiar about this space. So, for no other reason than for leaving the cow without further disturbance, I head off in a random direction, into the featureless landscape with its bland grey carpet of a sky. At least if I cannot see far, then probably nor can anyone else, so keeping me reassuringly invisible.


     Ok, so being astigmatic, distant objects are blurred without optical aids, but they are nevertheless visible. So I would be surprised if anyone is looking at me, without my seeing at least a colour-smeared outline of them in return. I touch my hand to my head, just to confirm that I’m not wearing my glasses.


     The dew-laden grass softens my tread and tickles between my toes as I gingerly walk on. My surroundings seem so real that I struggle to understand how I could be walking through a simple dream. Such dreamtime experiences as I remember have never felt quite as solidly real as this. I guess it is theoretically possible that visions are just as strong in the deepest folds of sleep, but these aren’t ones the awake-me has ever recalled. This is all so much like a normal waking, still slightly fuggy-minded, but no different from on any other day. It is just happening in the wrong place.


     I know I am being rather over-dramatic, but I have a nagging sense that something far larger is going on, almost as though something is not quite right with the Earth. My present sense of the space around me is somewhere ‘a million miles’ outside my usual expectations. One hardly expects to apparently awake quite so dislocated from where sleep was engaged, however ordinary-looking the new location might be.


     Does, just perhaps, the air smell vaguely unfamiliar, or is it that I, myself, carry a strange odour? Surely logic demands that there is a big blank space in my memory? How on this Earth did I fall asleep besides Veronica, and wake to find her replaced by a beast of the field?


     Strangely, I don’t feel cold, as one might expect to, walking around naked on this November morning in the east of England. Well, I do feel a slight chill in my gut, but that is surely a function of bewilderment rather than temperature. The grass is certainly not uncomfortably cold to my dew-soaked feet. I have already walked some distance but have not met anything even as alarming as another cow. Turning, I stare back along my route. Nothing is visible except green grass and grey air. After only a few minutes of my brave journey I feel even more lost and bewildered than I did at the start.


     What is happening? Perhaps I really am asleep and will shortly wake, or I am heavily drugged, or even I am badly concussed and so have lost my recent memories. Then again, perhaps I have just gone plain bonkers—I rather suspect the latter. If I have lost my marbles then I should feel grateful not to be in a padded cell enveloped in a strait-jacket. Then again, could I be in a padded cell and mentally inhabiting a fantasy world? A cup of coffee would be nice, and a smoke. Funny, because it is ten years since I last really craved for tobacco. A bit of clothing would be even more welcome.


     If this is Thursday I should be going to the dentist first thing. Too bad, I must be late. Actually, that is a point—where is my watch? I only ever take it off for a shower. How Veronica teases me for wearing it at night. I can almost hear her saying, ‘You don’t need to see the time when you’re dreaming, dear.’ Well, now I do!


    I plod on, growing increasingly certain that I can actually smell coffee—yes, and even hear the crackle of a fire. Perhaps I am after all in a dream I can direct.


     A few steps later and the greyness is thinning, allowing me to see this fire flickering on a hearth of assembled boulders. The warm glow is very inviting. On a flat stone protruding from the heat is an old-fashioned tin coffee pot of a kind that might grace any cow-herders bivouac in any recent century. There is no sight or sound of the creator of this little island of activity. I shout, “Is anyone about?” without getting a reply. Perhaps it would be polite to move on, but the will isn’t there to easily abandon even this small comfort. I sit enjoying the reassuring fire and wait.


     By and by I notice a tin cup and begin to consider helping myself to a drink. No sooner has the idea of stealing a little refreshment crossed my mind than I hear someone approaching. I’m glad I had resisted temptation until this moment. Within a blink of the eye I am joined by an old man and a young boy, who I guess to be around seventy and ten years respectively. They don’t seem to be the slightest bit disturbed by my uninvited and naked presence, which frankly strikes me as odd.


     “Welcome, sir,” says the boy as he sits beside me on a rock and stares into the fire. The old man offers up his hand, which I feel obliged to shake, though the movement leaves me further exposed.


     “I be Dan and the boy be Smudge.”


     “I am Rodwell Richards. I must apologise for settling by your fire.”


  “No apology needed—we were expecting you. The pot is kept hot for your convenience as well as for ours.”


     “I shouldn’t know you, should I? I have no notion of even where I am, let alone the reason why.”


     “I don’t know you any the more, sir, not the particular person you are. I should say we were expecting company, as we always are. I have been a keeper here for many cycles, and my grandson Smudge often comes out here with me since his mother, my daughter-in-law, passed away. I enjoy spending my time here on the Meridional Land, not being the townie kind. Smudge brings up most of what I need. Meeting Arrivals keeps life interesting and busy, and there are plenty of keepers to step in if ever I have a need for a bit of time amongst the crowd.”


     I am finding our chat quite disturbing. I don’t know what sort of nutter this Dan character is with his rural accent and rather strange conversation. He is being very hospitable, and the coffee is good, so I should just do my best to be very grateful. Anyway he can’t possibly be any more unconventional than the naked ape huddled close to what could be a prehistoric fire.


     “I am enjoying your company very much, Dan. You are far more reasonable about a nudist sitting at your campfire than I would be. I need to be getting along, though, and I’m sure you have things to do that I have disturbed you from. Which way should I go to find civilisation—once I have taken the last mouthful of this very good coffee, that is?”


     “Keep straight on the way you’ve been faring. That will do well enough. You must head toward the woods and once there find the track. Smudge will show you if you go now, but I wouldn’t wonder if you don’t find you need a nap first. Arrivals always seem to be afflicted the same—first the adrenaline rush, but then once they settle the shutters suddenly come down. I would be surprised if you were any different,” replied Dan.


     I have to admit that I’m finding it increasingly hard to concentrate. My head feels very woolly. Everything seems to be drifting in and out of focus. I’m quite unable to fathom anything out. This whole place feels so surreal. The warm coffee is doing little for my alertness; in fact if anything it is achieving quite the opposite. I really must move on! Whereabouts is my house?


     “Is Foxton roughly in the direction I’ll be going?”


     “I haven’t got the foggiest, but it seems right unlikely as I never heard of it. I say you had best make for somewhere more local. Just follow the forest road through Sherwood.”


     “I went to bed at home last night as per normal, and now I am here drinking your coffee and wondering when I am going to wake from a dream. I think something very traumatic must have happened to wipe out my short-term memory. Something more than a skinful of beer is involved, that’s for certain.”


     “Exactly,” said Dan, and then after a pause he starts on what I feel is a somewhat over-rehearsed monologue. “You are bewildered by being here, unable to grasp what is happening. This will likely be more so if you are ‘town-kin’, so many of whom seem to be frightened by the wide spaces of the countryside. Sometimes brand-new Arrivals are fair shook up, especially when they have been through a lot of physical pain. Most often they remember little for hours, or even days. What I tell you is that life is good here, and that over time you will come to terms with this different space you find yourself in. The best you can do, when you’ve had a rest, is to walk on over yonder. Take your time. Believe what you see, for this is no dreamtime. Above all, try to trust in those that come to your aid . . .”


     Dan jabbers on, but I am finding it increasingly hard to take on board what he is talking about. Whenever he falls silent we just sit gazing into the dancing flames. I’m so tired that just keeping my eyes focused is becoming a heavy chore. I know it is rude to yawn so much in front of my hosts, but I can’t stop myself. There must have been a sleeping draught in that coffee. After a long stretch of monologue I must have dozed, chin on hands, on knees, on a stone seat, in the middle of this big grey sky.

* * *


     When I again become aware of my surroundings I am alone, lying in the sunshine by the now dying fire, with no more sense of where I might be than I had before I met Dan and Smudge. What a strange name for a boy. I think my parents once had a cat called Smudge. To me it is a name that seems to fit a grey cat very well, but perhaps not a ten-year-old boy. I have been covered by a blanket, and I see next to me a pile of clothes, which I work out can only have been left for my use. It makes me ponder the fact that I was hardly aware of my nudity after a minute or so of our initial introductions. Clearly Dan and Smudge had not been quite so indifferent as to my state of nature. They must have felt sorry for me and nipped home to find some old clothes. I am very lucky to have stumbled upon such generous people. Most would have given me a wide berth, and then quite possibly called the police.


     I find that all the garments fit well enough, especially a pair of leather sandals that could have been made for me. I haven’t been provided with a coat, so perhaps we really are enjoying an Indian summer. It’s just so weird because the weather yesterday was anything but unseasonably warm. Have I somehow moved a thousand miles south? Or even, have I blanked out six months of time, so that it is now a pleasant summer? What is going on? There is no sign of my hosts, so for the sake of doing something I decide to walk on. Dan did after all make it clear that I should, and even indicated the direction in which to go. As a gesture to the kindness shown to me I write “THANK YOU” in the dirt around the fireplace. I can think of no other way to demonstrate my appreciation. Now I go for a stroll into the great unknown.

     Reaching what I at first thought was just a small wood, I now see that I am on the edge of an extensive deciduous forest. From where I stand I am looking down over a vista of trees that appears to extend to the horizon. Many of those nearest me are of considerable girth, which strikes me as strange, as extensive old stands of anything but conifers have been rare in England for hundreds of years. This single scene is sufficient to make it almost impossible for me to believe that I am still in the east of England. So where the bloody hell am I? Now I really am scared. My legs go to jelly, forcing me to collapse down onto the ground in only a vaguely controlled manner before they give way altogether.


     I sit for some time in a sort of state of cataclysmic shock, staring into a rapidly brightening sky. The land seems to fall away for ever over this huge arboreal sea. This massive vista of tree tops, without a single significant gap, reminds me of film footage of virgin Amazonian forest. But where on Earth am I? What the hell am I doing in this unfamiliar Arcadia?


   I think about the once mighty forest of Sherwood that I remember as being represented by Robin Hood’s great tree. It stood, supported by a giant scaffolding of strategically placed timbers, amongst modest sapwoods a tiny fraction of its age and bearing. Yet here I can see across millions of trees stretching away into far horizons with nothing to obstruct the views. This is no vista of post-industrial England. Here the trees are majestic and plentiful, with leaves of every hue of green forming a huge shield across the rolling land. Where are the hard-worked fields and sprawling towns, the mesh of roads full of grunting vehicles, not to mention the familiarity of my small town, in this tapestry? I am certain that either I’m on some powerful drugs or else somewhere far from merry England . . . how did Sherwood enter my thoughts? Well yes, of course, didn’t Dan mention it? How could all this be? Am I going mad?


     As I sit vacantly staring across this green sea my fear becomes tinged with anger, an anger born of frustration at my lack of comprehension. If this is a vista generated by drugs, then perhaps I can form it into something better? Why not? For mentally stretching what is already visibly inconceivable has a sort of ridiculous logic. I have long been a theoretical tree-hugger, though never an active defender of the threatened forests. Any utopian world I conjured up would certainly have a sea of trees, pastures with contented cows, and cheerful hospitality from a colourful band of happy souls. So what should I try to bring to mind next? I love cheddar cheese, warm bread, Australian Shiraz, all enjoyed in a warm outdoors. This can be improved by the right company, especially by any woman who is kind enough to at least pretend an interest in me. So why should I settle for just food and wine, for surely only the scope of my imagination can limit my dream. What else could this be than fantasy?

* * *


     Sometime later I build the resolve to walk on and see what transpires. Just try acting as though this was a completely normal day . . . if only that was even half true. Dreams are just not like this, are they? What is happening in the grey matter between my ears? Finally I rise from the ground, encouraged to move by what I take to be an eager ant’s bite, and start down into the forest. The sharp nip to my thigh seems to have helped lift my thoughts out of a turgid sludge. Every second now seems to be raising harsh concerns, and a cold tingle has started in my spine. Deepening feelings of panic are forming a backdrop to my immediate scatty thoughts. From being just confused and agitated a few minutes ago, I now seem to be heading into a deep black mental storm. This is far more than an experience in the shadows of sleep.


     The reason for my panic is simple, but overwhelming. It is that what could have been, at a stretch, an ephemeral and surrealistic dream, is seemingly growing into a totally undeniable reality. This experience has grown from blurry beginnings into something so profoundly overwhelming and solid that I can’t pretend any longer to be in sleep’s phantasmagorical embrace. I just have to be awake, don’t I?


     This place can’t possibly be generated by my sleepy mind. This forest, despite all my attempts to rationalise it away, is a very solid, physical reality. I close my eyes and think of what I need to be doing today, imagining I’m just leaving my front-door; but when I look again my familiar neighbourhood is still not here. What did that Dan character say? Something about coming to recognise a different space . . . no, that can’t be right! Drugs of some kind, recreational or possibly medical, could be circulating through my body. Perhaps an accident of some sort, or a heart attack in my sleep, has landed me in hospital. Some sort of trauma could easily have destroyed recent memories. I could have wandered off, lost to kith and kin. Such things may have been just vague feelings some time ago: not any longer. For now I will keep going, in the direction Dan indicated, following the very obvious leafy lane that runs down the slope into the forest. Well, I have no better idea, and if there is the remotest possibility that I am still in my familiar bed, I expect I will shortly awake to my alarm clock, and all this strangeness will be almost instantly forgotten.


     If, though, I really am absent from home, what then? Is my disappearance causing stress to Veronica and the kids? One hears about all sorts of drug-induced states and out-of-body experiences, but can I really be going through anything so mundane? What has put me in this strange place? I pick up a perfect-looking stick, which just happens to be at my feet, to aid my walk. As I straighten, a new thought bolts into my head. My back doesn’t ache. There isn’t even a twinge from bending down to the ground. This is not possible unless I haven’t really moved at all. Isn’t this proof-perfect that this is all just a dream? I have been suffering for six months from some over-physical gardening that I am told resulted in a slipped disc. There isn’t even the associated twinge of pain down my right leg, which has become a constant niggle of my wakeful hours. So, I don’t need the habitually-grasped walking prop at all, but it is comforting in my grip with its qualities as a defence against physical attack. Even in this very unthreatening landscape there are bound to be those who wish to do harm. If this is just a dream, then a stressful ending is likely, and perhaps even necessary, before I can stir from my slumber. In my experience, sleep’s deeper illusions never conclude without some anxious moments struggling with some fiend or other.


     Come to think of it, something else is totally abnormal. It is amazing how well I can see! I’m most certainly not wearing my glasses, or the contact lenses that I occasionally use. My eyesight has to be proof-perfect that this is all a hallucination of some kind. Glasses are just so much part of me that I simply can’t envisage waking without immediately grabbing for them. After putting on, or in, eyewear every single day for forty-five years, one doesn’t simply forget! So, then, how in anything but a fantasy could I have been wandering around without missing my specs?


     As I follow the leaf-strewn route which slowly drifts to the left through the trees, I see a tent. Drawing ever nearer I notice it as the sort of camouflage, green canvas contraption that could inhabit any adventure story of the 19th or 20th centuries. I quite expect to see a boy scout, or some military character, at any moment. But I don’t see anyone as I arrive at, and peer into, the green glow under the canvas.


     I feel that I need some guidance from someone more in tune with the world than Dan, so staying close to this camp to wait for its occupier seems to make some sort of sense. Hopefully someone will turn up before very long. I decide to sit and wait. To be honest, I’m about shattered. I am really not sure that I’m up to going much further. Why the hell do I feel so exhausted? I can’t have gone more than a couple of miles.



     I have dozed off for an indeterminate time, but nobody has turned up. Everything is as quiet as it was before I fell asleep. How long have I been out? I haven’t the least idea, but that is the second time today that I have nodded off.


     Marginally more awake than asleep, I begin to study my surroundings. It is so still that a sound of babbling water attracts my attention and leads me to investigate. A mild gradient brings me to a little stream by which I stoop and insert cupped hands. This really seems to be a restful, and even an almost magical place, such that if displacement wasn’t in itself so bewildering, I could be well-contented. Unfortunately, my mental state is so fragile that even this gentle stream is doing little to relieve my stress.


     The vivid shock of my first view over the forest has mellowed. Now my foremost thoughts revolve around my feeling of detachment from the visual landscape. It is as though I have been tranquilised with a syringe of mild anaesthetic which holds me in a foggy grip. Even the cool waters of the stream haven’t enlivened my tepid sludge of thoughts.


     I wander around in my turmoil of indecision, sometimes along the stream, and sometimes some distance off, into the darker woods, but never straying far from the encampment. What am I doing out here? Is this all some sort of test? Have I been kidnapped and then abandoned? I meander back to the tent, and sensing the approach of dusk in the darkening sky I once more start to feel exhaustion winning its struggle with confusion. How can night be falling? Where has the day gone? I can’t make sense of so many things.


      In no condition to resist sleep, I risk the owner’s wrath by entering the tent. As soon as I am comfortable on a thick cushion of dry leaves and moss that make up the groundsheet, raindrops begin a gentle patter on the tent’s flanks. The sound soothes my rapidly melting thoughts as I drift, once more, into sleep. I believe I dream of home.


I hope that you have enjoyed this extract. 

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this far. If you would like to read the rest of the book it can be found in many ebook markets and is available in print on demand from many major book retailers.

The Amazon.com link is



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