This site is aptly described as: “The Book Blog For Lovers Of The Written Word…A place to discover fabulous storytellers plus book reviews, author interviews, articles and humour.” It is written and curated by a funny, passionate, and—yes—wise woman named Ali (or “Bodicia” for those on Twitter), who says of herself:, “I am a mother, a grandmother and a woman with years of life experience. On my blog you will find reviews of books which have been a pleasure to read as well as author interviews, guest blogs, and articles.”
Ali accepts no money for reviews and maintains a very constructive, considerate philosophy about the process:
“I only review books which I would give a four or five star review to as I don’t feel it is necessary to slate a book so if it is on my blog then I genuinely found it a pleasure to read.
“I have a particular interest in Indie authors and giving attention to those books which deserve to be seen by more people. I have always had a love of books and appreciate how hard it is to get your book seen and ‘out there’. I decided I would use my blog to review books in my free time and I have discovered some fabulous authors whose work really does deserve more recognition in my opinion.”
I am always delighted by and appreciative of writers whose respect for authors and their work inspires a philosophy such as hers! Thank you, Ali, for your sharp, succinct review of my story. You cut to the core of it:
At the time he was in the midst of reading my short story, “She Tumbled Down,” and promised to get to my novel, After The Sucker Punch, as soon as he was able. Which was delightfully soon, considering how busy this guy is. I say “delightfully” because Mark did that thing every writer loves when someone’s reading their book: he sent emails during and throughout his read, exclaiming over bits he liked, sharing thoughts on various characters and plot twists, assuring me that, when he was done, he would write a proper review. He and I did share some thoughts about the review conundrum (bracingly discussed in OK, Let’s Discuss This Whole Book Review Thing… Please), and I made him swear on a stack of indie novels that whatever he wrote, it would be his authentic opinion, good, bad, or in-between (I made the pact in return, given his status as a fellow author whose books I’ll read).
Of course, this sort of promise is always a dicey thing, something every reader of indie novels (and even some traditional novels) knows. You pick up the book of someone you’ve met in a writer’s group, a book club, online, or at a convention, and you do so with a certain gnawing fear that you’ll discover, sentences into the thing, that writing a review is either going to be a painful process or something you’ll eschew all together for the sake of the friendship. So when you make that pact with someone directly, well… there’s no turning back, is there?
So when I got the news today that Mark’s review had posted, I approached it with bracing fortitude, hoping for the best but, mostly, wanting Mark to have felt comfortable enough to stay true to his word, no matter how the reading experience transpired. And I couldn’t have been more thrilled, pleased, delighted, honored, and really touched by what he had to say.
I’m leaving the whole review here, because I loved the depth with which he analyzed the narrative and shared his perspective. However, I have left the links to his sites above and below, so you can check them from time-to-time for his ongoing reviews and updates about his own work.
Thank you, Mark Barry, for being such an unabashed supporter of the literary arts… and those of us who love painting our creative pictures with them!
After The Sucker Punch: A Review
After The Sucker Punch (ATSP) is a fantastic novel.
I’m writing this because I know most of my readers are always on the lookout for a good book – and ATSP is a very, very good book.
I met the novel’s author, Lorraine Devon Wilke, two weeks ago through a lovely friend of mine, Orange County’s Brenda Perlin. A resident of LA, Lorraine came around the interview Cauldron to widen her exposure to a UK audience.
Out of respect, Lorraine made a gift to me of both her novel and short story “She Tumbled Down” and while I loved the short story, the novel is something else entirely.
An Indie novel, it is definitely in the top ten of the books (Trad or Indie), I have read (which is a fair number) since I started Green Wizard.
After reading twelve chapters on Kindle, I immediately logged on to Amazon and like some literary Victor Kiam, I bought the paperback.
I am glad I did. It is a magnificent paperback indeed.
I teach the odd hour of Creative Writing and Self Publishing, and last night, I took the paperback of ATSP to our latest group to demonstrate how to structure dialogue.
The group I teach are professionals, experienced diarists, bloggers, report writers who wish to learn about e-publishing and between them, they read 100-200 books a year.
Not one of them could tell that this was a self-published book.
Printed by Createspace and professionally edited, it is a beautiful piece of work to hold in your hand. ATSP would not be out of place in Waterstones (and, without getting political, it makes a total nonsense of the idea that self-published work is somehow inferior. Saying so would be an insult to this novel and its creative team).
ATSP is a family saga. Tessa, a dreamy, thirty-something, sometime artist/writer/drifter with aspirations to something better than her current humdrum life, attends the funeral of her father, Leo.
After the Wake, and while staying at her mother’s house, she reads one of his many journals.
What Leo wrote is so shocking, it changes Tessa’s life and the lives of everyone in her extended family.
Four factors mark Lorraine’s brilliant debut as something special.
Firstly, her characters. Each so individual, so distinctive and so well defined, you can tell who is talking without the character being named. That’s no mean feat. Secondly, the dialogue is crisp, sassy and real, patter so realistic, you can hear it taking place. Thirdly, the way Lorraine links and merges the historical comments Tessa reads in the journal into the real time narrative is shrewd and repays rereading.
Then, finally, there is Tessa herself, the novel’s protagonist. You may not like her – two days after completing the novel, I am completely ambivalent about her * – but she is real and you can follow her train of reasoning at all times.
None of her behaviour is extranormal and you can imagine doing the same things she does (and that’s not a necessarily recommendation).
You watch her progress and change. You understand her one minute, then you can’t comprehend what she’s up to the next. Then immediately after, you want to reach into the pages of the book and wag your finger at her. You live her deliberations and you can feel her confusion on your fingertips as you turn the page.
At no time does Tessa lapse into stereotype. She constantly surprises you and – whether you like her or not, you cannot stop following her trials and tribulations for a second.
The supporting cast is excellent. Her family, particularly the harassed Micheala, and the alcoholic brother, Ronnie, are similarly absorbing. Tessa’s long suffering boyfriend, the corporate sportswear schill David, struggles manfully to accommodate Tessa’s whys and wherefores before being completely overwhelmed by them in some of the novel’s saddest scenes.
Her relationship with best friends Katie and Ruby would satisfy any fan of chicklit, (and I quite fancied the hapless, heartbroken Ruby, in a Sir Lancelot kind of way), but it is Aunt Joanne who steals the show.
The Catholic Nun-cum-Therapist helps Tessa deal with the aftermath of the revelations unleashed by Leo’s journal and becomes by far the strongest foil for her increasingly self-destructive angst.
You long for her to reappear in the narrative – perhaps because she is the only person strong enough – and brave enough – to confront Tessa, whose self-absorption is relentless.
Like the best contemporary fiction, nothing extraordinary happens.
People talk on the telephone (which happens a lot in this novel). Conversations take place in cars, in coffee bars, around the water cooler, on sofas, in the still life of the marital bed, the post-coital cigarette smoke still swirling between the blades of the fan rotating overhead.
There is virtually no action – just like real life.
The sheer joy of the ATSP is its very ordinariness. These are ordinary people going about their business, all of them affected to one degree or another by the portentous, unhinged rantings of Leo Curzio.
The richness of the everyday needs no explosions, because the revelations are the explosions.
A Christmas Conclusion
If you like contemporary work, I strongly recommend After The Sucker Punch.
Forget the e-book for once: Treat yourself to an early Christmas present and buy the paperback for seven quid or so. It is lustrous, with its cream pages, one and a half line spacing and comforting, airport-shelf heft.
It is a book which is written for paperback and meant to be read in bed; absorbed, over time, savoured by lamplight.
In the always adventurous world of indie publishing, the assignment to unearth and implement as many new and innovative ways to market and promote your books is ever at the forefront of your thoughts:
You maintain a small library in the backseat of your car in case you run into someone to whom you’d like to gift a copy; you seek out indie bookstores and eclectic gift shops that might prop up one or two at the cash register or on a “local authors” bookshelf; you even chat up friends in certain writing circles hoping for fair ways to exchange creative services. It’s a tap-dance like no other and you soon discover you must not only believe in your book, but must equally enjoy the art (challenge?) of marketing and promotion if you want to keep your literary baby’s head above water until it goes viral… or at least gets in a good swim!
Then, every once in a while, a serendipitous connection leads to an unexpected opportunity. Sometimes someone introduces you to someone else who happens to be a person with their own foothold in the indie book world, and who also happens to be an enthusiastic and prolific book blogger excited to write about and promote the work of authors he likes. In my version of that scenario, the introducer would be the unflagging and always generous Brenda Perlin, e-troducing me to the very creative UK author/blogger, Mark Barry, who goes by the name Wiz Green and has a blog, The Wizard’s Cauldron, focused on books, writers, and all things literary.
The Wizard’s Cauldron is described in its headline as a Dedicated Author Interview Blog from Green Wizard Publishing of Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Publishers of the fiction of Mark Barry.
In it, you’ll find concise, witty, well-written reviews, features on books and authors, promos on Mark Barry’s prodigious library of books, and, as mentioned, interviews with authors. After meeting Wiz via Brenda, I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in one of those interview. Given that I am always happy to chatter about my books, and the fact that Wiz asked a lot of great questions, it was fun to converse across the pond about my creative journey, indie publishing in general, my books in particular; even who I’d invite to my favorite dinner and what would be on the menu (no hints… go read!).
As an author, it’s incredibly gratifying when someone discovers your work and gets excited about it. When that someone is an author himself, knows well the journey we all take, and makes it his business to shout-out about writers and books he likes, that gratitude is multiplied.
California’s Lorraine Devon Wilke has packed an awful lot into her life and she shows no signs of stopping
The third-eldest sibling of eleven, she packed her bags and hit the road as a travelling rock singer in the big-haired eighties, carrying her camera with her, before settling down to marriage, motherhood and a life of popular bloggery, including her current stint working for the Huffington Post.
Her list of past achievements and current work is quite staggering – and she’s a delightful person too!
Lorraine is now a novelist writing (in Indie terms), that quiet, shy and vulnerable industry step-child Literary Fiction.
The genre the 101 blogs tell you to avoid like the plague and yet, it’s the one area where a reader can find really, really decent writing if you look for it. And Lorraine is a really, really decent writer.
I was introduced to her by Brenda Perlin and received both her short story and novel. The former is a cracking read, but the latter – I am twelve chapters in and I am engrossed is possibly a great book. I had to buy it in paperback.
It’s a sweeping, sassy, cynical, redeeming, tricky “Terms of Endearment” type family saga – remember those? – with dialogue so acute you can experience it, a real sense of place, and characters you can see and hear as if they were next to you, the novel deserves a wider audience.
I picked up the Wizphone and interrupted Lorraine while she tapped out her latest blog on a sunkissed veranda overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Here’s what she had to say: