Book Delights To Start the Year
Book Delights to Start the Year
My book delights to start the year comprise my reading and writing news and a poem for Europe.
This month I started an academic course so I got down to some heavy-duty research reading. However, there was still time to enjoy these fiction book delights to start the year in style:
This is the third novel I have read by Ruta Sepetys, an author who is rightly acclaimed for her Young Adult historical fiction. Out of the Easy is a vibrant coming of age story set in 1950s New Orleans with a cast of lively characters including:
Jo – 18 years old and dreaming of going to college – spends her mornings cleaning the whorehouse where her mother works and the afternoons working in a bookshop;
Jo’s mother – feckless, untrustworthy and in the thrall of a dangerous and criminal boyfriend;
Patrick – the conflicted bookshop owner with secrets he needs to keep;
Willie – the tough, wise-cracking, all-seeing, all-knowing brothel madam;
Cokie – Willie’s loyal and good-hearted chauffeur;
Jesse – local boy, born on the wrong side of the tracks, with dreams of his own.
Written for a Young Adult readership, but can be enjoyed by older readers too.
Set against the backdrop of the London bombings on 7 July 2005, this was an original take on the serial killer genre with a sympathetic narrator. Ten-year-old Addie experiences first-hand the confusion of that terrible day and later sees blood on her father’s clothing. She thinks he’s been hurt in the attacks, but over the coming years, she notices an even more sinister pattern: every July a woman goes missing. Should she listen to her overactive imagination and fear the worst..? Excellent writing that sits on that sweet spot where literary and psychological thriller genres blend. I intend to read the author’s previous novel, The Tall Man, at my earliest opportunity.
This is the first in what promises to be a great new crime series, featuring a homeless war veteran on the streets of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Like a down and out Jackson Brodie, Jimmy can’t resist a cry for help even though the slightest stress could trigger his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has every chance of making the situation more dangerous and landing himself in serious trouble.
Jimmy has bedded down for the night near the river when he hears an argument and then a splash. Based on his experience of past disasters, he tells himself to keep out, “not my fight”, but when the photograph of a distraught young woman appears in the newspaper, begging for information about her missing father, he gets in touch. The young woman reminds him too much of the daughter he hasn’t seen for years to ignore. But doing his civic duty and reporting what he witnessed is never going to be a quick in and out for Jimmy; he and the police have previous.
Interspersed with flashbacks of Jimmy’s Falklands Campaign service in the Royal Navy and of the countless PTSD triggers he’s endured in the years since, this is a fast-paced novel that is gritty – and stomach-turningly graphic in places – but populated by characters with real heart. As well as our hero Jimmy, we meet his trusty four-legged companion Dog and his best pals, the raging alcoholic, conspiracy-theory-loving, IT-savvy Gadge and daft young junkie Deano. The women too make their mark. Carrie, the young woman searching for her father, is far from a damsel in distress and acts with determination. We are also introduced to Aoife, the kindly library assistant, and Sandra, Jimmy’s cynical and wise-cracking probation officer. And we meet the flirty Big Issue seller with her eye on Jimmy. I can’t remember her name but no doubt I’ll get to know it in book two which I hope isn’t too far round the next Tyneside corner.
Since December I have been virtually touring my new psychological thriller, The Roommates. It is set in a fictional university during freshers’ week and features four new students who find themselves sharing a flat. When one goes missing, the others must work together to find out what has happened, little realising the danger ahead.
Four students. Four secrets. One devastating lie.
Woman’s Weekly made it their Book of the Week: “Deliciously dark and twisty, this is a book that will keep you on your toes.”
The novel is aimed at psychological thriller readers of any age, but it also appeals to university students because of the setting. University newspapers and radio stations have carried reviews and interviews with me. Here is a selection of the most recent coverage:
Concrete, the student newspaper of the University of East Anglia said: “Secrets, danger, and suspense are the three things that make Rachel Sargeant’s The Roommates a special highlight of 2019.”
A reviewer for Universal, the University of Gloucestershire’s student newspaper, said: “I sincerely believe that this book has been one of my most enjoyable reads and would recommend to both students and nonstudents alike”
A reviewer for Hub Magazine at the University of West England said: “I fell in love with everyone in this story, they all have their own complex story lines which intertwined to make a book which I didn’t want to put down.”
I talked about some of the other publicity that I’m so grateful to have received in a previous blog.
Poem for Europe
Today marks the UK’s last day as a member of the European Union. I’m not a poet, but poetry seems the easiest way to express my feelings.
Anthem for the Common Clan
Not as father or as mother.
Dismiss such thoughts of hierarchy.
Rub along as squabbling brothers,
Sisters in one family.
Sibling rivals in the Chamber.
Turn our backs when Ode is played,
Free to make this protest gesture
In a Europe strong and safe.
All have faced our inner demons –
Fiscal pressures, violent threats.
Over years, despotic schemers
Waged their wars while children wept.
Now a moment in millennia,
When we relatives unite.
True friends, who agree to differ,
Act as one on human rights.
Neighbours in and near the Union,
There to watch each other’s back.
Climate change a greater burden
Than high-hoisting national flags.
Joy of life in kith-kin countries,
Free to travel, work and learn,
Is a balance finely tilted.
And a bridge to never burn.