Book Review: The Housing Lark by Sam Selvon

Set in London in the 1960’s, when the UK encouraged its Commonwealth citizens to emigrate as a result of the post-war labor shortage, The Housing Lark explores the Caribbean migrant experience in the “Mother Country” by following a group of friends as they attempt to buy a home together. Despite encountering a racist and predatory rental market, the friends scheme, often comically, to find a literal and figurative place of their own. Will these motley folks, male and female, Black and Indian, from Trinidad and Jamaica, dreamers, hustlers, and artists, be able to achieve this milestone of upward mobility? Unique and wonderful, comic and serious, cynical and tenderhearted, The Housing Lark poses the question of whether their “lark,” or quixotic idea of finding a home, can ever become a reality.

What I Thought:

I first came across Sam Selvon a couple of years ago, when the TV show The Novels That Shaped Our World increased my TBR by many, many volumes! I really like these types of programmes and book lists as, although they are based on the opinions of others, they do lead to exposure to some wonderful books which could otherwise never come to my attention.

The Housing Lark is an incredibly hard-hitting novel that hides its social commentary very cleverly beneath a layer of comedy. Battersby and friends make the decision to club together to buy their own house, and their failure to put any money away to do so – as so many young people often do – is hilarious, but the reasons why they want to dream big are always bubbling away underneath. Lack of decent accommodation and exorbitant rents and a pall of racism over the rental market are all taken in stride by this resourceful group.

This book is very much a character study and as we learn about each member of the group – Harry Banjo who is put in prison in place of someone else and Jean who works as a prostitute at Hyde Park, for instance – and their hopes and dreams, whether they get the house in the end is neither here nor there. It’s more about viewing these characters as representatives of those Commonwealth citizens who came to the UK after WW2 and have been grossly exploited and let down ever since.

It’s great to see books such as The Housing Lark back in print, and making it onto these lists of must-read novels as they are usually so full of what have traditionally been ‘the classics’. Books like this have so much to say in the present day, particularly with today’s generation of young people struggling themselves with the rental market.

The Housing Lark is published by Penguin Classics.

For more information on Sam Selvon, there’s a great profile on The British Library website.

Please note: I received a copy of this book for review via Netgalley, All opinions are, as ever, my own.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Blog Tour: Shooting Stars Over Bluebell Cliff by Della Galton

There’s someone out there for everyone… you just need to know where to look…

Unlucky in love Poppy Allen is the producer of a brand-new TV show, ‘Date for a Day’ – think ‘Take Me Out’ meets ‘It’s a Knockout’!

Lovelorn contestants must perform a series of seaside challenges to win the hand of the starring lady and a ‘Date for a Day’.

Left heartbroken when Stephen, her childhood sweetheart eloped with her best friend on her hen night – Poppy has no plans to risk her own heart again. Besides, she’s far too busy filming contestants against the backdrop of the beautiful Bluebell Cliff Hotel and the stunning Jurassic Dorset coastline.

However, when sabotage on set threatens to stop shooting, Poppy discovers soulmates can be found in the most unexpected places…

What I Thought:

A little while ago, I reviewed Della Galton’s Moonlight Over Studland Bay, and said then that I was thrilled to find an excellent romance novel that was set in my local area. Well now I’m thoroughly spoiled as Shooting Stars Over Bluebell Cliff is another one!

This time, we’re focused on the Bluebell Cliff of the title – a hotel in Dorset where dreams come true – and the filming of a brand new reality dating show, Date for a Day. At the helm is local girl Poppy Allen who has been unlucky in love, but will making her own dating show lead to success for her in the dating stakes?

The concept of this book is really great, allowing a whistle-stop tour of the best parts of Dorset, while touching on a subject that (whether you like it or not!) is a huge part of our culture. Regardless of your views of dating shows, Poppy and the crew are a great cast of characters which leads to some really funny moments.

Poppy’s family also play a huge part in the book, being a close-knit blended family that have each others’ backs. They seemed like a really lovely lot and their trials and tribulations gave a sometimes quite emotional turn to the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Bluebell Cliff, as everything resolved to my satisfaction! What luck for me, then that I picked up Della Galton’s first book about the hotel – Sunshine Over Bluebell Cliff – to read next…

Shooting Stars Over Bluebell Cliff is published by Boldwood Books.

Della Galton is a Dorset-based author, and you can catch up with her on Twitter, or why not sign up to her newsletter to be among the first to know about her latest books?

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of Shooting Stars Over Bluebell Cliff. Why not check out the blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Blog Tour: The Lynmouth Stories by L. V. Hay

Beautiful places hide dark secrets … 

Devon’s very own crime writer L.V Hay (The Other Twin, Do No Harm) brings forth three new short stories from her dark mind and poison pen:

– For kidnapped Meg and her young son Danny, In Plain Sight, the remote headland above Lynmouth is not a haven, but hell.

– A summer of fun for Catherine in Killing Me Softly becomes a winter of discontent … and death.

– In Hell And High Water, a last minute holiday for Naomi and baby Tommy  becomes a survival situation … But that’s before the village floods.

All taking place out of season when the majority of tourists have gone home, L.V Hay uses her local knowledge to bring forth dark and claustrophic noir she has come to be known for.

What I Thought:

For such a slim volume (only 35 pages) The Lynmouth Stories sure does pack a punch, with the three stories within showing the darker side of a popular and seemingly innocent holiday location. We all know that seaside resorts are different places out of season, but in this book Lynmouth is a very dark place!

I’ve visited Lynmouth in the summer and it’s a lovely place, awash with tourists and sunshine, so the Lynmouth that L. V. Hay presents is almost like ‘The Upside Down’ in Stranger Things – recognisable to visitors, but with a touch of menace. It’s superbly done and also manages to touch upon the tragic history of the town, all as part of the story.

I think my favourite of the stories was Hell and High Water – it was packed with details of the town’s history, but it is still tense and offers an incredibly satisfying ending.

I can’t go into much more detail without spoilers, but I’ll finish by saying that this volume is a great introduction to a beautiful part of the world, and to L. V. Hay’s writing – I’ll definitely be looking for more from her.

To find out more from L. V. Hay, you can check out her website, where you can obtain The Lynmouth Stories for free by signing up to her newsletter. Alternatively, you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour – why not check out the other blogs taking part below?

Please note: Although this review is part of a blog tour, on this occasion, I purchased the book myself.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Dreaming of Rome by T. A. Williams

Jo has had enough of handsome men. After a painful break-up, she’s decided she doesn’t believe in love.

Then, while on a professional trip to the magical city of Rome, she meets Corrado, a scientist and her brother-in-law to be, who doesn’t believe in love either. To him, it’s just a biochemical reaction. So what’s the problem?

Well, he’s gorgeous for a start, as well as charming, generous, intelligent and attentive, and she feels herself immediately falling for him, despite her new outlook.

The majesty of the Eternal City brings them ever closer together. But is their relationship doomed, or will love conquer all?

What I Thought:

And with that, I have completed the set!

I make no secret of the fact that I love the ‘Dreaming Of…’ series by T. A. Williams but, up until now, I have read all but one. I corrected that this week by reading Dreaming of Rome.

Once again we travel to gorgeous Italy and are treated to a warm, romantic story and descriptions of the country that will make you wish we were still able to travel at the moment!

I don’t know how he does it, but T. A. Williams is a master at packing his books full of historical information, Italian culture, science and – on this occasion – lepidopterology but it never overwhelms the central story. In this case, in fact, it only proves that that couple in question are made for each other if only they could see it as clearly as we can.

I find myself more and more drawn to nice, romantic stories at the moment, and the ‘Dreaming Of…’ books are among the best around. I’ve already embarked on the first two of T. A. Williams’ next series (Escape to Tuscany) and I can’t wait to see which star-crossed couple he comes up with next!

Dreaming of Rome is published by Canelo.

You can catch up with T. A. Williams on his website, or why not follow him on Twitter?

Please note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Books On The Hill – April 2021 Kickstarter Project

Something very different from me today, but news of a really worthwhile project that has launched on Kickstarter this month.

BOTH Press from Books on the Hill aims to widen the range of available mass market fiction available in a Dyslexia-friendly format, and has launched a Kickstarter this month to fund the first eight titles.

It is, quite frankly, ridiculous that dyslexia-friendly formats are not more widely available – everyone deserves to discover a book they love, so I hope that you’ll consider supporting this important project.

All of the info is below and there is a whole host of rewards, the Kickstarter runs throughout April.

Books on the Hill is passionate about helping people who have dyslexia, or have any difficulty with reading, to access the joy of good fiction. There are great books out now for children with dyslexia, with specialist publishers like Barrington Stokes and mainstream publishers such as Bloomsbury doing their part. However, there are sadly very few books for adults with Dyslexia in traditional mass market publishing.

Dyslexia is a learning difference that primarily affects reading and writing skills. The NHS estimates that up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK have some form of dyslexia, while other dyslexic organisations believe 1 in 5 and more than 2 million people in the UK are severely affected.

Dyslexia does not stop someone from achieving. There are many individuals who are successful and are dyslexic. Famous actors, such as Orlando Bloom; Entrepreneurs like Theo Paphitis, and many, many more, including myself. All of who believe dyslexia has helped them to be where they are now. Dyslexia, though, as I can attest to, does not go away. You don’t grow out of it, and so we are acknowledging that and trying to without being patronising, create a selection of books that will be friendly to people who deal with dyslexia every day.

Since we started the project in 2019, Books on the Hill have had many adults customers with dyslexia come in shop the asking for something accessible to read. For example, one customer asked if we stocked well known novels in a dyslexic friendly format. Unfortunately we had to say no, as they just don’t exist. We explained what we are trying to achieve by printing our own and she replied:

“I have been reading [children dyslexic] books but they are a bit childish so am really happy I have found your company!! Thanks so much again and thank you for making such a helpful and inclusive brand – it means a lot. “

This response is not isolated. We have had many adults come in to the shop with dyslexia, who do not read or struggle to read and they they believe dyslexic friendly books would have real impact on their reading for pleasure.

How to get Involved

We are launching a Kickstarter beginning in April 2nd 2021 for 30 days, with the focus on paying for the printing of our books and giving us starting capital to continue to print more titles.

There will be many ways you can be involved in this. You can contribute on the Kickstarter website itself. There will be a number of different options of donating money, in which you will receive rewards, such as ebooks of a title or a paperback of one or more of the titles to be published. In addition a unique reward from authors who are contributing to the project.

You can still contribute outside the kickstarter. We are happy to receive your help in the shop, where we will have a donation box available.

You can follow Books on the Hill on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment