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#BookReview Surrendered Stories by Kristin Fouquet (@KristinFouquet). Whimsical, touching and atmospheric stories and photographs

Hi all:

I bring you the review of a pretty special book. If you’re looking for something a little different and love black & white photos, this is your book.

Surrendered Stories by Kristin Fouquet
Surrendered Stories by Kristin Fouquet

Surrendered Stories with photographs by Kristin Fouquet

These four surrendered stories are accompanied by twenty-four b&w photographs. In “Cocteau’s Ransom”, two dognappers believe they’ve found the solution to their financial troubles until unexpected complications arise. A lonely young woman with employment issues finds her escapism in vintage films at “The Vestige”. When the Roussels “Return to Camp Bon Temps”, their annual summer fishing camp, it’s not all good times as their daughter cannot forget the previous summer. In “Margaux’s understudy,” an inexperienced home healthcare worker uses the past in creative ways to engage her wards.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Surrendered-Stories-photographs-Kristin-Fouquet-ebook/dp/B07QJDW11V/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Surrendered-Stories-photographs-Kristin-Fouquet-ebook/dp/B07QJDW11V/

https://www.amazon.es/Surrendered-Stories-photographs-Kristin-Fouquet-ebook/dp/B07QJDW11V/

Author and photographer Kristin Fouquet

About the author:

Kristin Fouquet writes and photographs from lovely New Orleans. She is the author of for other books of short literary fiction: Twenty Stories (Ranks Stranger Press, 2009), a collection of flash fiction and longer short stories, Rampart & Toulouse (Rank Stranger Press, 2011), a novella and short stories, The Olive Stain (Le Salon Press, 2013), a chapbook of flash fiction, short stories, a novelette, and Parisian Graveyard Postcards, and Surreptitiously Yours (Le Salon Press, 2016), a novella. Her photography has been widely published in both online journals and in print: magazines, chapbook and book covers, and CDs. She enjoys constructing photo essays. Her preferences are fine art photography, street photography, street portraits, and the occasional traditional portrait. You are invited to visit her humble virtual abode, Le Salon, at the web address http://kristin.fouquet.cc

My review:

I received a paperback review copy of this book from the publisher. That has not influenced my feedback.

I was intrigued by the description of this book, by the author’s previous work, and by the fact that this volume of four of her stories includes twenty-four of her own black and white photographs, which illustrate and create an aesthetic dialogue with the content and the feel of the stories. I was also intrigued by the title and my curiosity was answered as soon as I read the opening quote in this slim but handsome volume: A piece of writing is never finished. You just surrender. (Carter Monroe). I love this quote because, as I write as well, I am familiar with the feeling that a story is never quite as good as it could be, and it is never totally finished. In my opinion, though, these stories are perfect as they are.

The four stories are very different, but the images and the writing style turn this book into a unique experience.

I’ll share a few comments about each individual story, but I’ll try to avoid spoilers.

“Cocteau’s Ransom”, written in the third person, is a story of a couple who believe they’ve found a way to make some money by kidnapping a dog, but they have made a mistake (an understandable one, for sure, but still…) A fun and humorous story (although it might upset animal lovers).

“The Vestige” has a touch of nostalgia (in fact, at first I thought it was a historical piece but I soon realised I was wrong), plenty of atmosphere, lovely characters, and it is also a sweet and gentle love (?) story that will enchant fans of the cinema experience and enthusiasts of old movies.

In “Return to Camp Bon Temps” we meet Martine, a girl who’s deeply traumatised due to something that happened last summer.  The story, which is also narrated in the third person (all three first stories are), takes place in the summer camp where the members of her extended family meet every year, and each person has its own role to play. Martin, her father, is a larger than life character who seems to always get his own way, but things are not as they seem to be, and I loved the father-daughter relationship and their moment of truth.

“Margaux’s understudy”, narrated in the first person by a young woman who lands a somewhat odd first-job, has touches of the fairy and/or gothic tale (it made me think of Bluebeard), of old movies and movie stars of the golden era (Sunset Boulevard, for example); it includes fragments of diaries and quotes from plays; it is very atmospheric (and the photographs are gorgeous), and is a fairly whimsical but also touching love story and the story of an obsession. Oh, and one of its characters is a fabulous parrot called Ayo.

As I wrote this review I realised that if I had to come up with a possible theme that links all the stories, it would have to be “appearances can be deceptive”. In these stories, both characters and readers misjudge people and situations, and the twists and surprises come when we learn the truth.

These stories, mostly set in New Orleans, are perfect for reading during short breaks; they create an immersive atmosphere without going into excessive detail, and are ideal for people looking for an engaging interlude between long and demanding reads. I look forward to following this author’s career, and I’ll be sure to visit her website and learn more about her work as a photographer. A great collection.

Thanks to the author for her stories and photographs, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep smiling!

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#TuesdayBookBlog SEAGULLS OVER WESTMINSTER by Richard Wade (@wadecomply). An amusing and fun read about UK local politics. #RBRT

Hi all.

I bring you a review I’ve completed for Rosie’s Book Review Team. I am back in one piece (I think) from my break, and it was fascinating although quite tiring as well. I hope to catch up on some of the reviews in the next couple of weeks, and I have something else planned once I’m organised.

Seagulls over Westminster by Richard Wade
Seagulls over Westminster by Richard Wade

Seagulls Over Westminster by Richard Wade.

A political thriller for our time, but with a strand of gentle humour woven through it, making this intriguing story into an entertaining page turner.

Its 2024. Popular TV chat show host, and former MP, Bradley Deakin is the man wanted by the Opposition Party of the day to lead them back to power, breaking the chain of endless hung parliaments and uninspiring political leaders. They just need to get him elected first.

Meanwhile, in Brighton, retired bank manager Harvey Britten is enjoying life with the three things he loves most – his family, the city of his birth and his beloved football team, Brighton and Hove Albion, (known locally as The Seagulls). His support for the team has led to a regular spot on the local radio breakfast show, which has turned him into something of a minor celebrity.

It proves very difficult to find Bradley a suitable by-election until one unexpectedly occurs in Brighton. But Harvey strongly objects to a big shot candidate like Deakin being parachuted into his city and is reluctantly persuaded by his family and radio listeners to stand against him as a protest candidate. But only in the knowledge that he won’t actually win!

The race is otherwise between Bradley and the Government party candidate, Alistair Buckland, a local Councillor with a big secret. But as the campaign is gradually engulfed in scandal and conspiracy theories, it throws the whole contest wide open. Can a high class call girl with a plan for revenge change the outcome? Just how far did Bradley and his team go to cause the by-election in the first place? Will Harvey’s worst nightmare come true, in that he might actually win? And how bad does it have to get for a candidate before their loyal party supporters will refuse to vote for them?

As each candidate increasingly has to defend themselves against more and more serious accusations, both they and the people they love soon realise that there’s far more at stake for them all than just who will end up winning the election.

Review of ‘SEAGULLS OVER WESTMINSTER by Dr Peter Critten

“At a time of political uncertainty, when politicians of all parties seem to have lost the public’s respect, the publication of this novel is very opportune and welcome. It revolves around the intricate relationships amongst diverse characters matched against each other as candidates in a local By Election in Brighton (which may give you a clue as to the title).

Richard Wade deftly gives us byte sized insights into each one and plays one against another on a stage of which he is in total control. One of the delights of this book is how he enables the reader to get inside the head of each character and admire or dislike each one. He has a knack of building up tension right up till the end, the night of the election. He is able to keep us guessing as to what happens next all the way through.

Nothing can take away the fact that Richard Wade is a born storyteller whose attention to detail makes the fast moving plot all the more credible.”

https://www.amazon.com/Seagulls-Over-Westminster-English-Richard-ebook/dp/B07NRQH883/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Seagulls-Over-Westminster-English-Richard-ebook/dp/B07NRQH883/

https://www.amazon.es/Seagulls-Over-Westminster-English-Richard-ebook/dp/B07NRQH883/

Author Richard Wade
Author Richard Wade

About the author:

Richard Wade grew up in Yeovil, Somerset, but has lived in London since he was 21. He retired in 2018 at the age of 60 and, having always wanted to write a book, started “Seagulls over Westminster” straight away and published it in February 2019. He now has the writing bug and is working on his next novel.
He lives in Ealing West London with his wife Trish.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Richard-Wade/e/B07NTYGGH8/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is a novel set in the near future (2024-5) in the UK, focusing on politics, although I’d say that it is the equivalent of what a cozy mystery represents for the mystery genre. It has a light and humorous undercurrent; it does not go to extremes or deals in the most serious aspects of the topic; it is unlikely to offend most readers, and it does not touch on any of the burning and most controversial UK political issues (Brexit, for example). The author explains his reasons for his choice, and you can make of them what you wish.

There is a mix of characters, some more likeable than others, involved in the political race. In my opinion, Harry is the most likeable of them all, probably because he is honest and sincere, he gets reluctantly involved in politics, and as a retired man, fond of his family and with no evident major character flaws, and it is easy to root for him. Alistair has good and bad points, but I think most readers are bound to feel bad for him, and he does not have the necessary traits to ever become a political success. Bradley is the least likeable, although at some points during the book one might wonder if he is not as bad as he seems (and he is far from some of the totally ruthless individuals we are used to reading about in hard political thrillers). There are some secondary characters that are not on stage long enough for us to get to know them well, but they give more variety to the novel and include some intriguing and even menacing elements. I don’t think an expertise on the UK political situation or institutions is necessary to read this book, although I suspect that the novel will be more enjoyable to people familiar and interested in UK politics.

This is a book of the time, and social media and media in general play a big part in the political process, seriously affecting the public’s perception, with revelations about the candidates being leaked as a way of trying to manipulate the results, secrets being revealed left, right, and centre (politically as well). But, as I said, this is a gentle book and even the revelations and the corruption that is unearthed is pretty mild compared to some recent scandals, and it is unlikely to truly shock or repel people (it is no hard-core political invective or exposé). Although some pretty dark goings-on are hinted at, it is never clear who was truly behind them and if any of the political candidates was truly involved, leaving this element of the story open to readers’ interpretations.

The book feels somewhat old-fashioned, even though it is set in the future, and although there are quite a number of female characters, most of them don’t play a central part in the story (and the one who does, and perhaps the most interesting of the characters, has doubtful motivations that stem from her relationships with a particular man), and either disappear early in the book or are part and parcel of a man’s campaign. Saying that, they come up quite well compared to most of the male protagonists, and they are often the ones pulling the strings from behind the curtains.

The story is entertaining, and having lived in Brighton and being familiar with the area, I particularly liked the local touch and the detailed background into local UK politics. I also liked the emphasis on the role of social media and media in general, Harry and his background in local radio (I love local radio and I also volunteer at a local radio station), and some of the most outrageous suggestions of future changes to politics (like the fact that rather than having names, the parties would become either the GOP or the OP, the Government Party or the Opposition Party, regardless of alliances or ideology, to ensure neutrality). It is also difficult not to read this book and think of possible candidates that would fit right into the roles, and worry that, no matter how humorous, what happens might be uncomfortably close to the truth.

The writing flows easily, creating a good sense of who the characters are, and in some cases making us feel touched and close to their experiences (I did feel pretty sorry for Alistair). The author has a light touch and is skilled at managing a fairly large cast of characters without causing confusion or overwhelming the reader.

An entertaining and gentle book that pokes fun at UK politics, unlikely to offend anybody with a sense of humour. An amusing and fun read for a day when we don’t want to take politics too seriously.

Thanks to Rosie and her team, thanks to the author for his novel, and above all, thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, liking, sharing, and please, remember to keep reading, reviewing and always smiling!

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