Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey



Review for Silver Rain by Jan Ruth

Yesterday we had Jan Ruth on the blog, talking about her indie journey of snakes and ladders; today you can read my review of Silver Rain – the book that prompted me to contact Jan and invite her to share her story with you. Thanks to Rosie Amber and Jan for providing me with a copy to review.

Silver Rain

Blurb: “Alastair Black has revealed a secret to his wife in a last ditch attempt to save his marriage. A return to his childhood family home at Chathill Farm is his only respite, although he is far from welcomed back by brother George. Kate, recently widowed and increasingly put upon by her daughter, sister, and mother, feels her life is over at fifty – until she meets Alastair. He’s everything she isn’t, but he’s a troubled soul with a dark past. When his famous mother leaves an unexpected inheritance, Kate is caught up in the unravelling of his life as Al comes to terms with who he really is.”

My review: I picked up Silver Rain primarily because I know Jan Ruth is a talented author, but I have to confess I hadn’t read the above blurb before I started reading. And now, having read the book, I’m not sure it does it justice. This is an absolutely stunning read. And that is a level of praise I reserve for only the very best books.

First of all you have the main characters, Al and Kate, both of whom positively jump off the page and grab you by the hand, demanding you come along with them on their respective journeys. The writing is beautiful and evocative, but never dull; the plot is tight and paced just right; the dialogue is so believable you almost forget you are reading fiction and not merely listening to conversations. I loved Al, he is a flawed character – flawed in all the right ways, the interesting ways – and from the outset I was rooting for him. Kate is so identifiable, complex and conflicted – the perfect foil for Al.

The story – gripping and satisfying all the way – plays out against the backdrop of a beautiful but unforgiving landscape, one that is always present but never takes over from the characters. What is so outstanding about Jan Ruth’s writing, however, is the depth of emotion contained within these pages. Every single character, even walk-on parts, seemed real to me. Every twist and turn of events, while surprising, felt natural and right for the story. As an author myself I felt humbled reading this book, and also glad that Jan has so many other books for me to get my hands on. Highly recommended – 5 stars. (If I could give it 6 stars I would!)

Buying links:

5 out of 5 stars

Member of Rosie Amber’s book review team


Review for Holding Back by Helen Pollard

Recently I was lucky enough to join Rosie Amber’s review team – such a lovely bunch of people, and Rosie does so much to promote authors I wanted to help out and find out about more great books. Here is my first review for the team, watch out for a review of Jan Ruth’s Silver Rain coming soon 🙂

Holding Back

Holding Back is a light romance, beautifully written, with characters that engage you from the first page. Told from two points of view, Laura and Daniel deal with the kinds of misunderstandings you might expect on the road to true love – and a few you might not expect! I found the characters believable, the storyline interesting, and the addition of the sumptuous setting of Portugal lifted the book out of the ordinary. I would have liked to have seen the ‘voices’ of the characters a little better differentiated, and the nature of the two viewpoint narrative did occasionally have you going over the same event twice, albeit seen through a different character’s eyes. But the writing carries you through, and the author clearly has a talent for bringing romance alive on the page. One small niggle was the formatting of the Kindle version I read – each paragraph was separated by a line break, usually reserved for section breaks, which made the experience of reading a little irritating until you got used to it. All in all, however, a good read for romance lovers, and an author on top of her game.

4 out of 5 stars

Member of Rosie Amber’s book review team


If You Cut Me, I Will Bleed! Why Authors Are Sensitive Creatures – and Why This Is A Good Thing

So, I released a new book last week. I reached the part in the creative process where my characters and the world I created from my imagination and research hit the virtual shelves of the Amazon bookstore, ready to be enjoyed by readers. And I think at this stage all authors – whether traditionally published or self-published, whether they’ve had massive editorial input or thrashed out all the issues on their own – close their eyes and cross their fingers and hope for the best. You have control over the story; you have no control over what people will say about it. And, as we know, reviewers can be cruel.

Which is their right, apparently, in this era of product review culture, where literary criticism is reduced to the same importance as the build quality of a flat-pack wardrobe or the longevity of a child’s toy. But I’m not here to talk about that today – I’ve done that before on the blog, and it’s not something that interests me much anymore. What I want to share are my thoughts about why and how authors need to be sensitive, and why we should develop this so-called essential thick skin at our peril.


Emotions and conflict and feeling things deeply

Yes, I am sensitive, and possibly I take things to heart to much. As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend I am lucky to be surrounded by people who are intelligent and kind and thoughtful of others. As a writer, I have to live and work in the real world, and often the real world is a slightly scary place. There seems to be a movement lately towards cutting remarks being used as humour; towards the clever quip at the expense of others being seen as a sign of wit. Hmm …. I’m unconvinced. Even on my own Facebook Page recently – and bear in mind this is a feed no one needs to see unless they have expressly ‘Liked’ it, and therefore asked to engage with me and my writing – someone made a snide, pointlessly nasty comment about the blurb for A Date With Death. And this is common. This is, presumably, what writers are expected to ‘suck up’ now that we have social media, and have to be accessible and open, and to moan about it, as I’m doing shamelessly here (on my own blog, no less, where I can clearly say whatever the hell I like), is to open up the floodgates of criticism. Which is just plain crazy! Writers need to be sensitive, we need to feel things more deeply than other people, to see the world in technicolour emotions and experience the full force of pain and hurt, along with love and approval. If we don’t, how can we bring these things to the page with any degree of authenticity?

It’s not just reviewers, oh no!

Sometimes the worst offenders are other writers, or other industry professionals. Manners and care seem to have flown out of the window lately. Even in the closed Alliance of Indepentant Authors forum, which is supposed to be populated by professional writers, insults abound, swearing is defended and turned into some kind of debate about ‘creative freedom’ – and I’m talking about proper swearing here, in a context which doesn’t call for it, not the odd word like bloody or shit. When I started my writing journey, the writers I connected with were supportive of each other, not snide and trying put people down or score points off each other by being clever and witty. If you speak up against it you are accused of being precious, and basically laughed at. It’s a shame.

It’s a tough world, for sure

The whole industry is set up to reject and depress authors, let’s face it, but that’s never been a problem before. Writers develop thick skins when it comes to agents and publishers; they learn to master their craft by sifting out useful feedback and criticism. That’s all how it should be. But couldn’t we just try to be a little nicer to each other? Or, at the very least, stop punishing writers for being sensitive. Because if we weren’t a sensitive bunch, we couldn’t write at all. And then where would you be?


We’re all still children inside

My new motto is going to be to remember that we’re all still frightened, sensitive children inside – even those who are the most thoughtless and cruel. Maybe they’re the most frightened. I think of little Jo, above, and about all her hopes and dreams as she grew up, and I wonder what she’d have said at age 7 or so if someone had told her that one day she would knock herself out trying to write engaging, entertaining books for readers to enjoy, and trying to help and support other authors and bloggers, only to find that at least half of the time people are either indifferent or downright rude.

I think she’d have said: Sod that, I’m going to be a politician. That has to be easier, surely … 😉

Cauldstane – An Instant Classic

Linda Gillard became one of my favourite authors when I read her bestselling novel, House of Silence, in 2012. Last week Linda published her latest novel, Cauldstane, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that this was my most highly anticipated book ever! Linda wrote it while recovering from cancer, and she shared her journey with her fans every agonizing step of the way. But it’s not only Linda’s incredible willingness to share that makes her so special – it’s also her skill as a writer. Here is an author in complete control of her material, and in complete control of the reader. As a writer myself, I can’t help but analyse how another author is producing certain responses in me, the reader, when I’m reading a book, and Linda knows exactly when and how to crank it up until I’m either dissolving into tears or whooping with joy. When I figure out how she does it, I know I’ll be a better writer 😉

So, Cauldstane could not come more highly recommended, and here is the link if you want to go right ahead and download it now. Or, read on for my review …

Awesome cover too!
Awesome cover too!

An Instant Classic!

This book is described as ‘A Gothic novel in the romantic suspense tradition of Daphne du Maurier and Victoria Holt.’ To my shame, I’ve never read Victoria Holt, but I am a du Maurier fan, and I think this description is spot on. Jenny Ryan is a ghostwriter, who travels to Scotland to stay in a castle and write the memoirs of its laird, Sholto MacNab. There is a great cast of characters, all beautifully drawn, and the castle itself almost becomes a character in its own right, so richly is it described and imagined. What I love about Linda Gillard’s writing is her ability to subtly manipulate the emotions of the reader – there are laughs, tears and nail-biting tension, all set within a brilliant plot and against a beautiful and haunting setting. Prior to reading this, my favourite Linda Gillard novel was House of Silence (which I also recommend) but now I’m not sure – I think it’s a tie. Cauldstane is an instant classic, and I’m looking forward to the paperback version coming out so I have a good excuse to read it again.

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