Wednesday 21 March 2018

Time to Reflect

Fate has a funny way of intervening just when you’d thought you would never find the time to get that second book under way.

One of my most stubborn enthusiasms has long been working out at the gym. Not that I was ever some Herculean, muscle-bound type but rather, at the age of 56, I simply refuse to grow old any faster than is absolutely necessary. I push a fair weight for an old fellow if I must say so myself and nowhere is this more true when I’m doing legs, which have always been my particular strong point.

I say always, because that rapidly changed the Wednesday before last when my right foot inexplicably slipped off the plate just as I was in the middle of my third set of calf extensions, the resultant sudden trauma to my left leg leaving me with a ruptured Achilles tendon and the prospect of spending the next five weeks in a hospital cast boot which, most irritatingly of all, I must wear even in bed.


Many things that I had intended to do must now fall by the wayside. My expedition to Snowdon, planned for two weeks’ time, is still to go ahead but if I even go near the mountain it will be with a view to catching the passenger train up to the top, and then back again to the bottom. And whilst the need to earn a living dictates that I still find myself struggling up to London on my crutches two to three times each week, most of the other things I’d planned to do which cannot be done from a horizontal position have been shelved.

So it’s on with my second book, which I’d hoped would be on its way to the publisher by now but which is alas still in the very formative stages.

I can’t give much away, but there won’t be much to compare with The Best Year Of Our Lives. It’s of an entirely different format and genre, and much less exciting but is one which nevertheless has to be written before I can hope to progress with my new-found vocation. More on this anon.

Monday 19 March 2018

The Best Year Of Our Lives: The Characters - Alison Summerfield

Alison has been described as "sweet", and she is, but she is not by any stretch of the imagination a shrinking violet. Yet her friendship with Debbie Stone, whose boldness is striking, coupled with the fact that she is one of the youngest members of the gang, a year Debbie's junior, inevitably creates a suggestion of such a contrast.

I decided not to "partner" Alison with any of her male counterparts, because there was no partnership to be had. Colin is with Beverley, Paul is by some distance too old, Jim is also too old and in any event goes out with Debbie, and Steve just isn't serious enough to have made for a convincing match with her. Alison is pretty, endearing and smart - she will find love, just not in this particular tale.


As the story develops and Alison and Debbie to a degree find themselves on opposite sides of the nebulous bridge between childhood and adolescence, it was inevitable that they would drift apart, not necessarily in terms of their friendship but in their interests and associations. That is why as Tina wanders inexorably into Debbie's orbit, so Alison identifies more closely with Beverley before introducing an entirely new acquaintance, Jackie, late into the story.

Alison and Jackie would have been an interesting pairing for any sequel, or indeed had the best year of their lives gone on to become two. Alas it wasn't to be, but more than one reader has pointed out to me how Alison grew on them, considerably, at the second reading. I don't wish to sound boastful, but that was precisely the intention.

Sunday 18 March 2018

Otherwise Perfect by Jenna L. Hughes - Review

Otherwise Perfect by Jenna L. Hughes, a Review by Phil Andrews, Author of The Best Year Of Our Lives

Written in diary format, this story is unusual in that the narrative flits between two friends as the chapters alternate, charting a period of their lives and the relationship that they have with one another.

It is often difficult when compiling a review to know how much of the plot to reveal. Too much and the story is spoiled, too little and the interest to the potential reader is negated.

But I will do my best. Jesse and Wes are two pals from a college in the US. Wes is in a relationship with a female student whilst Jesse is gay. The latter's parents are Christians, and in his father's case at least of that variety of Christian which regards being gay as a sin to the point of justifying his rejection not just of Jesse's lifestyle but indeed of Jesse himself. Unsurprisingly under the circumstances he and his father become estranged, so much so that in conversation Jesse addresses him by his forename, Patrick, rather than by any name which might suggest kinship let alone affection.


By the time we get to the meat of the story the already fractious relationship between father and son has been placed under a level of strain which Jesse struggles deeply to cope with, and the book revolves itself around his attempts to deal with the situation with the help of Wes and the wider circle in which both men move. This process is further complicated at times both by Jesse's emotional attachment to his best friend, and by the consequent reactions of Wes' girlfriend.

Any further detail would, I fear, lead me across the line that I have drawn between review and revelation. The special appeal of this book, for me, rests both in the untypical construction and presentation of unfolding events, allowing us the unique perspective of seeing them through two pairs of eyes, and the obvious empathy with which it deals with its subject. Reasonably the story could have ended in either of two ways, and the author teasingly retains our interest to the last by leaving it pretty much to the end before relieving us of our suspense.

Otherwise Perfect is a wonderful read, which kept me involved and immersed despite the fact that it isn't really of my niche. That in itself recommends it.