I can’t remember the first time I went to a library; much in the same way that I can’t remember learning to read. However, both experiences have had a profound impact on the development of the person I have become.

My memories of the library I attended as a child are hazy. I went there so many times that all of them seem to blend into one. I remember the blue green lino that was permanently shiny and the tall bookshelves that housed centuries of stories. My mum went to the same library as a child and the floor was not upgraded in all the time that she or I went there. The shelves were a rich dark oak and I would spend hours upon hours perusing the shelves looking for that perfect find. It was in this library that I travelled to Amsterdam and hid in an attic with Anne Frank; I became friends with the Wakefield twins and I joined a club of babysitters. All this magic encased in a little yellow card.

The day I reached 12 and I was finally allowed to borrow books from the adult section of the library was like having the door to a whole new world opened to me. More than that I now was able to borrow 12 books instead of 6. This made me very happy.

When I started high school I was amazed to find that students could work in the school library. I made sure that I got the chance to do so. When I was told by English teacher, Head Librarian and now – more importantly – friend Shirley Donnelly that I had been selected to be a trainee librarian I was over the moon. I was fascinated by the order that books went on the shelves, the precision it took to back the books and also cataloguing them on the system. Yes, it may sound a little geeky but I was happy being where the books lived; I was home.

I have visited several libraries across my hometown of Liverpool and when I was on a recent trip to London with my boyfriend he took me to the British Library because he knew how absolutely in awe I would be of the capitals house of books; how enamoured I am by the written word. And whilst some of the libraries I have been to have blown me away – especially Liverpool Library for its absolutely gorgeous architecture and amazing Picton Reading Room – there is something special about my first library – Litherland Library.

Litherland Library unfortunately closed down a few years ago. Due to council cuts the libraries were seen as a luxury rather than a necessity. To me a library is more than just a place to borrow books; it is a social hub. It is a place where mums can go and take their children to get them excited about reading; it is a place for the elderly to socialise; for the retired person who no longer has the social aspect of a job anymore – it is a place to make friends. It is a place for those who don’t have access to computers to update their CV’s, apply for jobs, to keep in touch with friends across the globe. In my opinion, a library is central to any community.

When I think of my library memories I see a little girl  with long red pigtails sitting on blue green linoleum whose world has just fallen away as she starts to read the book before she has even had it issued to her and has already fallen in love with words on a page.

This is why I love libraries.

Title: Happy Again

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Pages: 84 Pages

The Blurb

Ellie O’Neill and Graham Larkin fell hard for each other when a misspelled email address unexpectedly brought them together. Now, over a year has passed since they said goodbye with the promise to stay in touch, and their daily emails have dwindled to nothing. Ellie is a freshman in college and has told herself to move on, and Graham has kept himself busy starring in more movies, as well as a few tabloid columns. But fate brought these two together once before–and it isn’t done with them yet.

In this sequel novella to This is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith revisits two beloved characters to tell the story of one magical night in Manhattan. When Ellie and Graham come face to face once more, can they get past the months of silence and the hurt feelings to find their happily-ever-after again?

The Review

I absolutely adored This is What Happy Looks Like. I fell in love with Ellie and Graham and I rooted for their love to last. And yes, once I had finished reading This is What Happy Looks Like I had that amazing feeling of joy; that satisfied feeling of someone who is happy and content for their characters.

So imagine my consternation when I started Happy Again and found out that Ellie and Graham didn’t make it; that their love story was over. I was gutted.

Ellie and Graham had lost contact. Their lives were too different; Graham – a massive movie star and Ellie – a quiet girl who just wants to get through college. However, a chance meeting in New York has led them both to question their feelings and what really is important. Being apart or being happy?

Ok, as much as I was dismayed at the premise of this short story I have to admit I can understand why Smith developed the story in this way. The continuation of Ellie and Graham’s story worked well in novella format and I think it would be too soon for Smith to create a full on novel about the characters just yet. However, if in a few years time she wanted to do a full length sequel, I for one would be very excited to read it.

Happy Again by Jennifer E. Smith is available now.

You can follow Jennifer E. Smith (@JenESmith) on Twitter.

Happy Again

I used to attend the theatre a lot. In part it was due to my absolute passion for musical theatre. Even now, like I did in the past, a frisson of excitement attacks my skin and makes my hair stand on end. Yet rising ticket prices and silly surplus charges (booking fee, processing fee per ticket etc) have stopped what was once a consistent hobby and activity in my life.

However, I treated my mother to tickets for her birthday to see Dirty Dancing. This wasn’t really a hardship. I wanted to see the show myself. You see I make no secret of the fact that I adore Dirty Dancing. Actually adore is probably an understatement. I don’t think there is an actual word appropriate for how I feel towards Dirty Dancing (see picture below for demonstrative proof of my adoration – there is other memorabilia but I didn’t want to “fangirl” too much). The tickets were a gift that kept on giving and I am glad I spent my hard earned money on them. The show was fabulous.

DD Fangirl

Sticking true to the classic 80s movie the production kept all the main scenes and best loved lines. However, for obvious production reasons the writers have included a few scenes which help the story make sense on stage.

One of my favourite aspects of the show was the incorporation of the whole cast. None of the main characters sang any of the songs. It was all done by the supporting cast which is something that I have never ever seen happen before. The quality of performance from the supporting cast cannot be ignored. No matter how small the role the cast made up for it in the skills of either singing or dancing or just a throwaway line.

The main cast held the story together. The problem that I feel that the main cast could have faced was that because Dirty Dancing is such a well loved movie (as could be seen by the response of the audience) is the pressure of not being able to live up to the original. Fortunately, the cast honoured the characters that we have come to know and love – in particular Baby, Johnny, Penny and the Housemans – yet they were able to put their own mark on it.

Well done to the cast and crew of Dirty Dancing. It sounds cheesy and probably has been overused but I really did have the time of my life!

 

The Blurb

‘My name is Raphael Ignatius Phoenix and I am a hundred years old – or will be in ten days’ time, in the early hours of January 1st, 2000, when I kill myself…’

Raphael Ignatius Phoenix has had enough. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, he is determined to take his own life as the old millennium ends and the new one begins. But before he ends it all, he wants to get his affairs in order and put the record straight, and that includes making sense of his own long life – a life that spanned the century. He decides to write it all down and, eschewing the more usual method of pen and paper, begins to record his story on the walls of the isolated castle that is his final home. Beginning with a fateful first adventure with Emily, the childhood friend who would become his constant companion, Raphael remembers the multitude of experiences, the myriad encounters and, of course, the ten murders he committed along the way . . .
And so begins one man’s wholly unorthodox account of the twentieth century – or certainly his own riotous, often outrageous, somewhat unreliable and undoubtedly singular interpretation of it.

The Review

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman is a fantastical tale of one man and it chronicles his 100 years of life. It does so in a very unusual fashion. The story is told in reverse and the non linear story is made up of the main character – Raphael Ignatius Phoenix’s autobiographical writings on the walls of his final home.

Raphael Ignatius Phoenix plans to kill himself throughout the book and reminds you of that fact at every juncture. He has a very precise suicide plan mapped out but before that he unburdens all his ill deeds – in the most case a plethora of murders – as a kind of cathartic experiment before he eventually offs himself.

This is a very intriguing story and could be likened to both Forrest Gump and The Life and Times of Walter Mitty in that Raphael Ignatius Phoenix’s actions have an effect on real world events or indeed are placed within real time activities – e.g. the Second World War, Hollywood Heyday etc. Overall, it is a love story that transcends time and place.

There are some very admirable things about this book. It is magical in parts along with being quirky and funny. However, I can’t help but feel that due to the book being published posthumously that the story didn’t get the full editorial benefits it would have done if Paul Sussman had been alive. Some chapters felt dragged out and a lot of the times I would struggle to maintain interest. The frustrating thing is that the story has so much potential, however, I can fully appreciate that those who released The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix wanted to maintain the integrity of the author’s work and to also celebrate his voice. Therefore, this is not something I can hold against the book.

This is an interesting story but to me it does not feel polished. I would encourage people to read it to see if they share my opinion.

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman

The final Testimony of Raphael Ignatious Phoenix

The Blurb

What can you do to make the world a better place?

Libby and her husband Jason have moved back to his hometown to turn the family B&B into a boutique hotel. They have left London behind and all the memories – good and bad – that went with it.

The injured woman Libby finds lying in the remote country road has lost her memory. She doesn’t know why she came to be there, and no one seems to be looking for her.

When Libby offers to take her in, this one small act of kindness sets in motion a chain of events that will change many people’s lives . . .

The Review

For a long time I have enjoyed the books of Lucy Dillon so when I hear that her latest novel – One Small Act of Kindness – was going to be released this year I was truly excited. I was even happier when I was sent a copy of the book to review.

I have to say that Lucy Dillon has upped her game with One Small Act of Kindness. Don’t get me wrong, her other books have been fantastic but there s something remarkable about this story. In my opinion, the reason why it is such a good read – besides the interesting story of retrograde amnesia that I will talk about in a bit – is because of its two strong leading ladies.

Libby is a grafter. She works hard and she knows what she wants. She has made the best out of a bad situation and tries her hardest to please everyone yet she is constantly facing battles; her husband’s lack of help even though it is because of him that they had to leave their life back in London; the overbearing mother-in-law who can see no wrong in her precious son; her lack of familiarity or friendship. She knows no one and it is hard to make friends as you get older.

Then comes along a mysterious lady who is knocked over just outside the hotel; Libby visits her in hospital just to make sure she is ok and an unlikely friendship is formed. The mysterious lady begins to remember certain things such as her name, it sounds like small fish but when you are suffering with temporary retrograde amnesia these small memories are huge victories. Whilst Libby works on the hotel, the injured lady works on trying to remember who she is.

One Small Act of Kindness tackles an unusual subject and it does so with sensitivity and in my opinion (although I have never met anyone with amnesia) Dillon does this with honesty. The sufferer’s frustration is palpable as she searches the crevices of her mind for any clue – any hint at all – of who she is. Libby tries her hardest to help her with an upbeat attitude but even she says things or asks questions that someone with amnesia wouldn’t be able to answer. Put in that situation I think I would probably act the same way.

The truly great thing about One Small Act of Kindness is that it reminds us that whilst we think that we are doing something little and unimportant that one little act might just change someone’s life. We could all do with showing a bit more kindness to other people.

One Small Act of Kindness by Lucy Dillon is available from the 23rd April 2015.

Follow Lucy Dillon (@lucy_dillon) on Twitter.

One Small Act of Kindness