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Thursday, 30 June 2016

Guest post from Andrew Joyce.

I'm thrilled to host Andrew Joyce for a guest post on my blog. I received an email from Andrew all about his new novel and it sounded so fantastic I wanted to hear more! As well as providing an exciting preview of his new novel, Andrew has kindly written a wonderful guest post for you all to enjoy, so without further ado, you can read about Andrew and his work below.


Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He
wouldn’t return from his journey until decades later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has
written four books, including a two-volume collection of one hundred and forty short stories
comprised of his hitching adventures called BEDTIME STORIES FOR GROWN-UPS (as yet
unpublished), and his latest novel, RESOLUTION. He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale,
Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, YELLOW HAIR.

It is 1896 in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The largest gold strike in the annals of human history
has just been made; however, word of the discovery will not reach the outside world for another
By happenstance, a fifty-nine- year-old Huck Finn and his lady friend, Molly Lee, are on hand,
but they are not interested in gold. They have come to that neck of the woods seeking adventure.
Someone should have warned them, “Be careful what you wish for.”
When disaster strikes, they volunteer to save the day by making an arduous six hundred mile
journey by dog sled in the depths of a Yukon winter. They race against time, nature, and man.
With the temperature hovering around seventy degrees below zero, they must fight every day if
they are to live to see the next.
On the frozen trail, they are put upon by murderers, hungry wolves, and hostile Indians, but those
adversaries have nothing over the weather. At seventy below, your spit freezes a foot from your
face. Your cheeks burn—your skin turns purple and black as it dies from the cold. You are in
constant danger of losing fingers and toes to frostbite.
It is into this world that Huck and Molly race.
They cannot stop. They cannot turn back. They can only go on. Lives hang in the
balance—including theirs.


My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Becky has been kind enough to allow
me a little space on her blog to promote my new novel RESOLUTION: Huck Finn’s Greatest
Adventure. I think it’s a good book, but what do I know? Anyway, I’m kinda shy about tooting my
own horn. So I think I’ll turn things over to my dog, Danny, to toot it for me. He always has an
attitude and usually does not speak highly of me. But please understand that we co-exist as the
old Soviet Union and the United States once co-existed. We tolerate each other. So without
further ado, here’s Danny the Dog.

Andrew took me away from watching reruns of Lassie to help him out here. For a person who
works with words for a living, he has very little to say in real life. He wants me to tout his book
for him, but I don’t think I will. Instead, I think I’ll tell you about our latest adventure. We’re
always having adventures. I like to write about them and what I write is 100% true.
Hello dog fans, it is I, Danny the Dog! I’ve been helping Andrew look after three Labrador
retrievers. What a nightmare! There is Chloe, who is fourteen months old, and then there is Beau
and Hank. They are both four months old and they are holy terrors. They live on a boat down at
the end of the dock. (We live on a boat also.) Their human was going out of town and he asked
my human to look after them and Andrew, being the idiot that he is, said yes.

First of all, I want to say to Jeff, the human that lives with the three monsters, don’t ever leave
them in Andrew’s care again. I wouldn’t trust him to look after a taco, much less three dogs.
The trouble started right away. Jeff had two crates (humans call them crates; I call them cages)
for Beau and Hank because, as I’ve said, they are holy terrors. Andrew went over to take them
for their first walk after Jeff left, and of course, he has to take me along to help out. Anyway,
Andrew gets them out of the crates and is getting them off the boat when clumsy Hank falls into
the water.

Let me paint the picture for you. It was nighttime. It was dark. The water was dark and Hank is
black. Andrew and I could see nothing of Hank. We could only hear him splashing around. The
dock is about five feet above the water so Andrew couldn’t get him out by standing on the dock.
Being the genius that he is (just kidding), Andrew got on the swim platform, which—for you
landlubbers—is attached to the back of a boat and is only a foot above the water.
Now this is where Andrew’s “genius” comes into play. He took off his glasses and placed them
on the transom so they wouldn’t slip off while he was bending over to pull Hank out of the
water. He called to Hank. Hank swam over and Andrew got him onto the boat. Then Andrew
went to get his glasses and they were not there or anywhere else on the boat. It looked as though
Beau knocked them into the water because he had his paws up in that general vicinity while he
was watching Andrew rescue his brother (they’re twins). All this in the first five minutes of
Andrew looking after the monsters. And it only got better, and by better, I mean worse. I had a
ball watching Andrew trying to cope for four days.

On to the next disaster, but first a side note. For some reason Beau is enthralled with me. The
damn dog wouldn’t leave me alone. He put his snoot in my face, ran around me, bounced around
me; he was a royal pain in my rear end. Finally, I had to growl at him and give him a little nip on
his snoot to get some peace.

Now back to Andrew’s genius. We got the dogs back on the boat without further mishaps.
Andrew fed them and all was well. But then Andrew decided not to put Hank and Beau in their
crates. He felt sorry for them being cooped up like that. Big mistake!
The next morning when we went to get them, there was poop everywhere. The whole floor was
covered in it. The babies had gotten into the dog food bag, ripped it open and ate it all. Then they
pooped everywhere and walked in it. They got it on the couch, on the sliding glass doors, on
everything. I think even on the ceiling. Needless to say, after spending two hours cleaning it all
up, Andrew changed his mind about the crates.

Last night we were hanging out. Andrew was staring into space because he did not have his
glasses and could not read a book or see the computer screen. I was on the computer starting this
story when Chloe came onto our boat. She’s always coming here and stealing my water bowl! To
date, she has taken five. But she should have been locked up on her own boat! Andrew got up,
looked out, saw Jeff, and said, “Thank God! Thank God!” I barked the same thing. Our days of
taking care of the monsters were over. Thank God!

P.S. This morning Jeff came over with Andrew’s glasses. Beau had taken them and hidden them
in his stash place
That’s about it for now. If I hurry, I might be able to catch that old Rin Tin Tin movie on TCM.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot—check out Andrew’s new book on Amazon and make the old guy’s

This is Andrew again. On behalf of Danny and myself, I would like to thank Becky for having us
over. It’s been a real pleasure.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Review: All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr.

This felt like a really timely read in the lead up to tomorrow's EU referendum which will, in one sense, be an exercise in how the British see themselves - as part of a wider European collective, or its own entity, not least in the way we regard 'foreigners'.

Told in short chapters that are, at their longest, three pages long, All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of World War Two from the primary points of view of two characters; Marie-Laure, a Parisian who becomes blind at a young age; and Werner, an orphan whose skills with a radio change the course of his life.

To say this book is a page-turner doesn't really do it justice. Usual 'page-turners', though entertaining, are usually fast paced novels with some element of action, thrill, or insurmountable odds to overcome. This book contains all three of those, but the substance is much richer. From its beautiful and vivid descriptions of Paris, Saint-Malo, Berlin,  to the gritty and bleak reality of the orphanage and the specialist Nazi schools, to the insight of the human condition and how we can be swayed - or not - by the turning of the tide, it has human empathy and diversity of experience at its core.

It also offers a lot of 'what-ifs' to the reader to make you think about how the course of these characters' lives would have changed under different circumstances. What if Werner had never learned to fix a radio? Would he have succumbed to the mines like his father? What if Marie-Laure's father had not worked at the museum? Would that have meant they stayed in Paris? Or, if they had still left, headed to Saint Malo?

What if the Nazis had not had the power of the radio at their disposal? Would young German boys and girls have grown up without such a grim and harsh nationalism? What would have happened to their propaganda, then?

Ultimately, as the end of this novel shows, time and time again human compassion wins over darkness - in this form, the 'otherness' of the opposing side. To paraphrase the late MP Jo Cox, there is far more than unites us than divides us. In light of the current political climate, I think it is such an important book to read that will show you in the end, a call to extreme nationalism and  emphasis on borders will be nothing short of toxic and ruinous. We can and should be united by the fact that we are all human and we all want to live, not merely survive.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Tom Franklin

A sense of barrenness and loneliness hits the reader from the very off as you peruse the home and land of Larry Ott, a supposed loner in his rural corner of Mississippi. He very quickly is made to pay for the crime - or crimes - he supposedly by a man in a monster mask.

The man who heads up the investigation is a man called Silas, more commonly nicknamed 32, Flashbacks tell us that the two of them - Silas and Larry - were uneasy friends, though one wouldn't know it at school. Larry is quite often victimised, despite his being the white boy and Silas being black. Larry does his best to fit in and become friends with people, and thinks he comes close to it on Halloween, but further humiliated. It is to his great surprise, then, when a neighbour, Cindy Walker, asks him on a date. This, however, also turns out to be more than it seems and through an unfortunate turn of events, Cindy Walker's disappearance leads to Larry's ostracism.

Though its overarching plot makes it lean towards a crime novel, it could easily be a story about a man overcoming loneliness; a man dealing with racial barriers; or even a story about dysfunctional families and the desire to both please and escape. The desire and cost of friendship is also brought into play, and what happens when one party considers your relationship to be a friendship, but the other party easily forgets and escapes, out of ignorance, cowardice, or carelessness.

Heavy themes are treated deftly; nothing bogs you down too much that you don't want to go on with the story, and it's not until you are a fair way into learning about Larry's backgrounds and few acquaintances that you have any notion of 'whodunnit'. Indeed, it comes as quite a surprise until you remember all you have learned about Larry and the few people he came into contact with.

Overall opinion: it's a bit of everything, really. A great crime plot with elements of racial politics and the importance - and cost - of friendship. Definitely recommended.