Dining and Driving with Cats – Alice Unplugged by Pat Paterson tells the story of Patterson and his wife, Alice, driving from the Mexican border to Atlanta, Georgia, with their two cats, Munchie and Tuffy. Along the way they use the opportunity to sample as much as they can from their pre-researched food-stops. The book will take you on a journey as they try countless dishes, meet unexpected people and attempt to tame their two beloved cats – who, there is no doubt, are definitely in charge.
While reading the book, Pat and Alice’s Honda Fit feels somewhat like home – you can almost feel yourself squished into the back with the two cats roaming around, as the two of them drive to their next destination. The tone is always kept light, making this an easy read and giving the reader a sense of comfort. While there are many descriptions of the food they eat and the antics of their two cats, the real theme in this novel is storytelling.
Patterson’s goal is to use their long trek to Georgia to tell stories along the way. The stories of the people they meet are interesting to a point, but you do find yourself feeling slightly removed as there is no real tie to them.
The best stories told are the ones about Pat and Alice; how they met and eventually fell in love. Not only does this insight make the reader feel more connected to them, but the stories themselves are sweet and witty and good enough material to be made into a Hollywood romance.
The best thing about the whole book is definitely Alice. I almost want to call her a ‘character’ of the book because that’s what she feels like. Her smarts and determination, coupled with her calm composure and uncanny ability to cajole the cats to bend to her will, makes her seem almost too good to be true. She seems the type of person who, if you were married to them, you would want to write about.
The only down side to the novel is the actual travel aspects. While mildly interesting to start with, it becomes slightly mundane, and all the descriptions of the food they eat becomes repetitive – it can’t all be as delicious as described, surely? However, this may just be because the Alice and Pat stories are so good that it leaves you craving more. The food is unimportant; you just want to hear about Alice and Pat!
Overall this is an enjoyable read, and the way the stories of the couple are intertwined with them visiting familiar places, is expertly done. The cats are sweet and their antics add an entertaining element. This is a great book for storytelling and memories, and will leave you feeling sentimental and warm and fuzzy inside.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B06XD7XGGH
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Physical follows two women, Fatima who has given birth to twins in London and Kiki who finds herself stuck and alone in Northern Italy after her boyfriend leaves her for an ‘upgrade’. What was the inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
This novel was inspired by a wine-fueled conversation between two close female friends discussing the past five years of their lives. Like in the book, one had given birth not too long ago, and the other one had recently been ditched by a long-term boyfriend. Both were distraught at the sharp decline of their self-esteem and loss of their identity in a matter of months. They exchanged passionate words of rage and desperation which grew more caustic the more they drunk. Just before collapsing from alcohol intoxication, they homed on actionable lessons from their almost opposite yet very similar experiences: desire was still ablaze inside them; sex continued to matter; and whatever else slightly alien seemed to be hijacking their lives, they deserved to seek physical fulfillment. The rest, is fiction.
Emotions run high in this book and you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. What were some themes you used when developing your characters?
On the side of Kiki, I was eager to explore ways in which a middle-aged female could cope with rejection including the weight of factors such as aging, the yearn for children, and the clash with societal pressures and surrounding family and friends. Of course, I also wanted to look at the role of sexuality and how it changes with age, and whether physical desire can remain determining even as mature life becomes more complicated.
On the side of Fatima, I focused on the potential result of taking away freedom and independence from a successful middle-aged woman, trapping her in a new ‘silent’ world. I wanted to push Fatima to the edge and see where she would run to re-find herself, and how much she would risk to regain happiness. I toyed with betrayal and whether it could be therapeutic and serve a purpose, as well as with a mother’s/wife’s guilt for her own selfishness versus her right to want fulfilment of all kinds including physical. I wanted Fatima to consider whether love means total trust and what trust actually means.
I felt that Kiki was sabotaging herself a lot through the story. Do you think this is reflective of her character as a whole or is this just a phase she’s going through?
Kiki is a woman of a different time. Full of ideas and ideals. Passionate and righteous but who has never been allowed to believe in herself too much. She would like to leave Italy but doesn’t find the courage. She would like to step out of her parents’ influence but loves them too much. She knows she’s very different from her friends but not sure she could do without them. She’s deep down uncertain of what she wants from men, but at times feels pressured she should follow every female’s ideal of marriage. She’s a strong doubter with a good heart for whom things finally work out. We need more Kikis in the world, for sure.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Morte a Pisa: LIPS, LIGHT & LYRE will be out in June. It is a thin book with a trio of reflective short-stories around female death following a weekend in Pisa. The next full-length novel will be Caro M, where a lover misses her beloved Caro M after being abandoned; a wife is steered through her divorce from husband Caro M by her sweetheart psychiatrist; and a young girl has landed a fairy tale wedding to groom Caro M that soon becomes a nightmare her cousin wants to help fix. Naturally, someone somewhere will be the end of Caro M…
In a small town in northern Italy, Kiki feels worthless and angry when her longtime partner finds a new cool girl to ride on another decade of easy existence. Meanwhile in trendy London, Fátima, the wife of Kiki’s best friend, is losing her selfhood after giving birth to twins and being made redundant. Both heroines are determined to rebuild the passion and impunity of their youth, vitalising desires that will bring them to risk everything…
Themes covered in the novel include rejection, identity, betrayal, freedom and the right to happiness. The tone is humorous on the face of distress, often rejoicing in the terror of lives out of control.”
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Physical: The catastrophe of desire by Mari Reiza is a wild ride of a read. For both main characters, two middle aged women, Kiki and Fatima, it is indeed a catastrophe, but of their own making. Kiki is virtually strapped in a small town in Northern Italy and finds herself alone after her longtime boyfriend leaves for an “upgrade”. Fatima finds herself in a crisis of identity after having twins and struggles to find purpose in her enlarged family. Yet, both women feel pulled along by their baser desires to rekindle the energy and passion they had in their youth.
Overall, the book reads very fast pace, which for a shorter book is expected and I would say enjoyed it. There are moments where the book reads as if Reiza is experimenting with stream of conscious, but then it breaks away from that to continue in a more traditional narrative pattern. The change can occur on the same page or even within the same paragraph, which may be disconcerting to the careful reader.
The characters themselves are a varied mix of character strengths and flaws that can keeps the reader engaged. Kiki has a mouth like a sailor and clearly has a drive and motivation to make something of herself if she can overcome her very physical, base needs. There were times it was hard to follow her storyline given that she self-sabotages to a large degree. Fatima on the other hand seems to be the polar opposite, in the sense that she is in a steady marital relationship with children, something Kiki is allergic to. Fatima is no prude though and is as explicit as Kiki is about sex and the like. Both women seem driven to try and enliven their lives in any way they can no matter the cost, even if it dramatically disrupts their lives.
The story is told through both women point of view in alternating chapters and some heavy style choice make the narrative more “telling” than “showing”. But these are easy to push past as you get drawn into the struggle of Kiki and Fatima. The strongest point of Reiza’s writing is that you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. They are clearly tired and bored of their current lifestyle and need to do something to shake it up. It truly appeals to the deepest core beliefs that individuals can have when they have reached a “rock bottom” or stagnant part of life.
Overall, it is a classic contemporary fiction story. Of two women trying as best they can to beat back the overshadowing struggle of age and day to day responsibilities. Passion isn’t only reserved for the youth; it can always be rekindled later with a little help.
Pages: 143 | ASIN: B01N9ZU9XL
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The Husband Who Refused to Die follows Carrie as she deals with the loss of her husband and his decision to be cryogenically frozen. The novel is a thoughtful review of grief, love and family. What was the inspiration for this story?
The idea came to me after reading an article in a women’s magazine a few years ago about a young couple, in their 20s, who’d both signed up to have their bodies frozen when they die.
They’d paid a large sum of money to be cryonically preserved, in the hope they can be revived and come back to life at a later date – when science has moved on.
I was intrigued by their story and the motivations and implications of such a radical – and unusual – choice. I’d been searching for an original premise for my debut novel, and I knew this was it.
I’m often drawn to stories in which the extraordinary happens in ordinary lives, and relished the prospect of learning about something outside my own – and most other people’s – experience, yet, at the same time, exploring grief, an emotion that we all face at some point.
I discovered that several hundred people are signed up to be preserved after death and was very excited to learn that, although cryonics has been given the sci-fi treatment in books and films, it’s never been the hook in realistic, contemporary women’s fiction. Dare I say it’s a first?!
My head was spinning with ‘what ifs’ when it came to contemplating cryonics: What if someone I loved passed away and wanted to be frozen? What if there was no funeral? What if I felt I couldn’t grieve in the normal way? What if I thought it was creepy and confusing? What if I couldn’t find closure?
It’s these questions that led me to create Carrie and Dan’s story.
On top of her current troubles, Carrie must also try to deal with her ornery teenager. I felt that their relationship had depth that is rarely seen in novels. How did you approach writing about their relationship and what did you want to accomplish with it?
I have a son who was a similar age to Carrie’s daughter, Eleanor, at the time I was writing the first draft, as well as many friends with teenage children. So my starting point was my own experience and observations of life with a young person going through this turbulent time. I then tried to imagine the extra strain and pressure the mum and daughter relationship would be put under when faced with the difficult and distressing situation Carrie and Eleanor find themselves in.
What kind of research did you do on cryonics for this novel and do you see it as a viable option today for people?
After some initial research on the internet and in the media, I interviewed several people who have signed up to be cryonically preserved to gain a deeper understanding and some first-hand insights.
I was particularly fascinated to hear about how others had responded to their decisions: family, friends, strangers, and the media. It’s an emotive topic and some have endured a lot of negativity.
I also attended a weekend training course with Cryonics UK, a group of volunteers who carry out emergency procedures to prepare bodies for preservation in the UK before they are shipped out to one of the storage facilities in American or Russia.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding cryonics, particularly here in the UK following the recent heartbreaking case of the terminally ill teenager who had to fight in the High Court for her wish to be frozen after death to be granted.
Many experts believe there’s little or no chance of bringing a frozen corpse back to life, now or in the foreseeable future, but cryonicists would argue that things declared scientifically impossible a few decades ago, like IVF and organ transplants, are now possible, so it’s worth a punt. Either way, I believe that it’s a personal choice.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I’m working on another contemporary women’s fiction novel, which I hope will be published next year.
“Carrie’s no ordinary widow. Husband Dan has died unexpectedly and left behind an extraordinary wish – to be frozen. He believes his life’s simply been ‘suspended’, that he can come back … one day … when science has moved on. He’d hoped his wife would want to do the same. But she doesn’t.
Two years on and Carrie, mum to increasingly truculent teenage daughter Eleanor, tentatively reconnects with an old boyfriend, whose dramatic exit from her life has always been a painful mystery. But their romance is hampered by Carrie’s never-ending personal problems, not least her interfering sister-in-law Sunny, a reflexologist with a soft voice, loud clothes and a bag full of natural remedies. Sunny’s intent on keeping her brother’s memory alive and ensuring Carrie honours his request.
After Dan’s story is resurrected in the news headlines, some distressing secrets from the past are revealed, and Carrie is taunted by someone with a serious grudge.
But are the secrets true? Will she discover who’s behind the malicious acts – and why?
Told with warmth and wit, The Husband Who Refused to Die is a pacy novel with an original premise that casts an unusual light on a story about love, loss, family and friendship.”
Posted in Interviews
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The novel Modern Day Cowboy: The Making of a Gunfighter depicts the life of Mattie, a young woman living in the middle of nowhere, Canada. Mattie struggles to recover from a painful incident which took the life of a mentally disabled boy that she cared for, and as a result, Mattie takes up employment at the local gun shop in town. It isn’t long before the owner senses Mattie’s need for revenge, and sends her to a boot camp in Arizona to train to become a gunfighter. She quickly becomes proficient at her newly acquired trade. But being rising talent comes with many disadvantages, as other female gunfighters come out to challenge Mattie. When she’s not off to a fight, she is conflicted with feelings for her contract and love interest, David. When his safety is threatened, unlikely friends come to Mattie’s defense, and old histories begin to reveal themselves.
What’s most interesting about this story is the idea of real life gun-fighting. The concept is very unique and Nathaniel Sheft really brings this hobby to life with his novel. The possibility of the organization, a multi-billion-dollar underground business, where women are trained for months at a time to go out and kill each other in a few brief seconds is fascinating. It’s even more empowering that the novel focuses on the sport as it is played by women. Sheft really challenges gender roles and introduces us to some of the most conniving, evil, clever, and entertaining female characters throughout this book, and it’s nice to read through a novel where the protagonist is a strong female character. Mattie’s transformation from depressed, isolated girl, to confident a, in your face, woman is what gives the story it’s flavor. She shows readers that you don’t have to be drop down beautiful or have any sort of history in etiquette. As long as you’re determined to accomplish your goals, you’ll be alright in the end.
The drawbacks to this novel however was that the writing style fluctuates between being great and just okay, especially when it came to dialogue or the inner monologue of characters. When any of the characters were joking or angry, their dialogue came through as more aggressive, however, the language was more colloquial – some slang words here, mispronunciations there, which is fine. However, it was unbelievable for every character to speak in that manner when they were angry. Also, throughout the book, we get a lot of David and Mattie’s inner monologues. These are so elegant, almost philosophical, especially with David. It’s such a strong contrast to the average, or less than polite language found throughout the rest of the novel. It seems that many characters in the novel have the same sort of inner monologue, so it doesn’t leave room for much originality in the words and thoughts of the characters. The language used to describe a scene was jumbled or vague at times which made it difficult to figure out the setting, who was talking, what action was going on, and what point in time the story was actually taking place.
Overall, the idea behind Modern Day Cowboy is intriguing and leads to fascinating possibilities.
Pages: 487 | ASIN: B01LXC2GTL
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In a whirlwind of emotions and laced with tragedy, the lives of two women are laid out in Pamela Blake’s Eden’s Apple. Both of their lives are fraught with heartbreak, circumstance and secrets. Between drugs, sex and violence these women barely eek out an existence. Both are tainted, both are damaged. One of them will recover, the other will not. Rose and Lucy; our two heroines who are connected to each other by the special bond mother’s and daughter’s share will lose themselves for the sake of love and at the hands of love. Barely out of childhood Rose finds herself forced to endure her father’s expression of love that ends up changing her life forever. Lucy, a product of that illicit union is damaged not because of who her parents were, but because of the loss of love that she should have been entitled too. One woman will break from her burdens and the other will fracture almost irreparably.
The books opens with a scene of violence: Rose is being raped by her father. While readers won’t be aware of who the man is until chapter 2, Blake handles the violation with a strange sense of delicacy. It is through Rose that the reader will understand how damaging to her mind the act is. Set in early 1930’s in England Rose faces more discrimination and humiliating isolation than a modern woman would hopefully need to bear. The regret and self-loathing her father goes on to feel throughout the book seems a bit unrealistic, but it lends to the story.
Rose is damaged by this act of love; an act that is supposed to bring two people together. She bears her incestuous child, only to leave little Lucy with her parents and attempt to live a life that a girl of her age is entitled to. Blake does a good job of showing the delicate state of Rose’s mind as she struggles to understand what happened to her and what she needs to do to regain her sense of self. This is a dangerous path for writers to tread: too much realism can make a reader uneasy. However, not lending an air of reality to how a character handles such critical moments can be damaging to the novel as well. Blake teeters on the edge of this line. As we move forward through Lucy’s life and her experimentation of drugs and sex, the lack of consequences seems unfathomable. While one of her children does suffer from illness later in life, the fact that she gave birth to two healthy children while being addicted to opiates and other drugs steals some credibility from the tale.
The story itself is a captivating read. While Rose certainly had her life altered against her will at such a young age Eden’s Apple is more about Lucy and her struggle to find the love she should have received as a child. She struggles with loving too much and desperately needing confirmation of love in return. Pamela Blake tells this story of two women scorned by fate who struggle to overcome the cards that have been dealt to them. Eden’s Apple is a devastating tale of desperate love, true love and the agony laced between.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B01C4F5QCU
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