Thursday 31 March 2022

Review: When We Were Birds, by Ayanna Gillian Lloyd

When We Were BirdsWhen We Were Birds by Ayanna Gillian Lloyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another bookclub read, and a book I wouldn't have naturally chosen. It was very much a 'literary' book in that it was written in the West Indian cadence, not just in the dialogue but in the narration as well. It took a while to get used to, but gave it a rhythm and enabled the reader to completely absorb the culture and feel of the West Indian island setting through all mediums, alongside sight, sound and colours.

The book is told through the eyes of two characters: Darwin and Yejide. The chapters flick between the two, each following on from the previous chapter timeline but through the other character's eyes. It was easy to follow.

Darwin's character and story was clearly written, but Yejide's was more complicated and at the beginning unclear, making it more difficult to get into and fully understand the relationships and background between her and her family.

It's a book that encompasses the theme of death. Darwin's character's conflict of being Rastafarian, which means he isn't allowed near dead people, and taking up a job in a cemetary is pivitol in the story. Yejide comes from a line of women who are psychic and when they die they pass the gift on to their daughters. She had a disconnected relationship with her mother which makes it difficult when her mother dies, because she doesn't understand fully how she is meant to use her gift. When the two characters come together they support each other, while there is an external storyline of their relationships with others, as well as getting involved in situations that are out of their depth.

It is a moody, complicated, in some places vague, story, focusing on the difficult and painful relationships in life. It was an interesting read.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 244

This week's picture prompt was created by artists, Iluviar (as Belarus artist called Marina). The picture is called Final Destination. Unfortunately they suggest going to their Deviant Art page to find it, but it is no longer there; they only have 8 pieces on there, so I have linked to their blogspot website where you see how they created it.  

A potential prequel to Tricky's stories. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

A drawn image of the back of a woman with long red hair down her back, wearing a silver ball gown and holding an oil lamp walking in what looks likes a rocky wasteland towards a dark shrouded house in the distance. Created by Iluviar Artist (Marina from Belarus))


When she crawled out of the bunker she’d been living in, it was growing dark and she was grateful for the oil lamp she brought with her. At least she thought it was sunset, it could in fact be any time of day; there was no knowing whether this was the new normal.

The wasteland around her was covered in a thick ash, no doubt from the eruptions that had taken place when the tectonic plates had shifted. The air smelt fresh, but there could be unknown toxins in it. Angela knew radiation had no scent but she’d waited below long enough. The land had stopped shaking more than two years ago, and there’d been no sign of tremors for months; it was time to see what remained.

She shuffled along in her ball gown, her only clothing. When the world around them had begun its collapse it was what she had been wearing. There’d been no time to go home and change. Below ground she could move around in just her underwear or naked, but up here she had to at least protect herself from the elements.

Was that really a building up there? The outline of a large house could be seen on a jutting piece of rock. Maybe it had been elevated by the bedrock when it had been pushed up, leaving the property untouched. It was possible – it seemed anything was now.

Angela moved towards the building. Could there be people in there? She didn’t know. But for now her guides were telling her it was safe and she trusted them, something she’d learned in her isolation, after failing to heed their warnings before the ground had shifted beneath her feet.

She’d been one of the lucky ones, having been at an event with the rich family she’d worked for, and rushed to safety with them to hidden underground bunkers. Although the bunkers hadn’t been as safe as expected, hers having split off from the rest during one of the tumultuous shakes and eruptions from several hundred feet below. She’d been in the kitchen at the time, resulting in all the food and supplies going with her, enabling her survival. The others hadn’t, which they’d reached out from the other side and confirmed.

And now the world was new and cleansed, the planet having rid itself of the parasite that had become too greedy – or at least given it a heavy cull. She’d been forewarned about this day since her youth, but like all the other parasites, she’d chosen to ignore it. Every day she was thankful she’d survived and would be able to be a part of the new world. They had to guard against repeating it, but she was confident, assuming there were other survivors, they could. Everyone knew how this had happened, and everything that had led up to it for decades. This time they would be learning from history – if the planet let them.

It was a large house. She was close enough to see it now. She had to climb up to it however and that might take some effort. She considered staying here at the bottom for the night, which it had definitely become with the dusk having turned to an inky black and the stars coming out. She would save her strength for the climb until morning.

But then a light appeared in one of the windows. There was someone living there.

She didn’t want to waste time wondering who they were, she wanted to meet them. She’d been alone for too long. The adrenaline and renewed sense of purpose spurred her on, as she picked up the skirt of her dress and began the ascent.

Thursday 24 March 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 243

This week's picture prompt is by British artist Pauline Jones. She call's it 'With a soft thud'. She has some really interesting art. Worth checking out. 

I wasn't sure where this one was going, but it went all Sci-fi

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

An artistic image of a glowing moon crescent lying on a beach with trees on the left and ocean on the right. Created by Pauline Jones. She calls it With a Soft Thud


Phila hadn’t seen anything like it. The sonic boom had been heard across the island, but the glow had frightened them more. When they crept out of the trees to see what it was they discovered a piece of the moon.

How could it fall from the sky and why did it still glow? They’d been taught the sun was what lit the moon. Or were they mistaking it for the moon because of its shape?

Phila had been the first to walk up to it. She knew she would be leader one day and showing her strength now during this moment of crisis was important. She felt the power of the light on her skin. It seeped into her and lifted her mood. She reached out her fingers and they disappeared into the light, eventually resting on something solid. She could feel the light strumming through every sinew of her body.

She heard gasps from the tribe and looked round to find them on the ground below. She was up in the air, held in a moonbeam. But she didn’t panic; she felt totally calm.

Then she realised she was higher still as she could see their entire island and even the ring of reef that protected them from the high seas. Then she saw the curve of the ocean and the stars above as she ascended. She still felt no fear, sure that she would be okay.

She could still breathe even though the planet was reducing in size below her. Where was she going to?

She turned her body round, turning her back on her home and there it was: the moon. They’d lived their lives by its cycles and prayed to it for generations and here it was growing larger and larger.

It glowed too, like the slither that had landed on the beach. Under the surface light emanated. As the planet filled Phila’s vision, clusters of lights became visible and structures. There was life here.

She drew closer and closer, taking in the landmasses, until she was over just one, an island like her own. She began to see the tops of trees and people gathered on a shoreline of a sparkling sea. They looked up at her in awe as she began to descend towards them. When she landed they moved towards her encircling her. She smiled at them, and then recognised they were her tribe. How could that be?

She looked around and saw the crescent of rock that had landed next to her, but it no longer glowed. Instead she did. Her body gave off the light she had been consumed by moments ago. People were reaching out to touch her, and when they did they fell to their feet and bowed.

What had happened? Had she become a God?

The moment the thought occurred, her mind was filled with all she had to know and do. She saw their future in her mind’s eye and it wasn’t this place. In fact they needed to leave their home here on this island and on this planet to find a safe haven above. It was the only way they would survive what was coming as their planet fought to regain its health and purge itself of its parasitical infection.

Phila knew the destination and the means. She called to them to gather everyone. They needed to leave immediately.

The frenzy that took place as her people put their trust in her filled her with love, which in turn expanded the light emanating from her. Once they were gathered she reached out her hand to the one closest and told them to all link hands together so they were one unit reaching back into the woods behind the beach.

She turned and placed her other hand on the rock, and as before she was lifted up and taken away from their island, except this time she was not alone, they were all with her. And this time when she arrived in the moon’s periphery she saw the world she’d glimpsed earlier, but as she descended it no longer resembled her own.

The structures she had seen opened up to an underground world, hidden from view, yet all aglow like herself, as were the people – their people, the rest of their tribe, one they had once been a part of but had splintered off and fallen to earth like the crescent that had fallen to fetch them. They were home and safe.

Wednesday 16 March 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 242

This week's picture prompt is a photo taken by me! This is looking up into the stairwell of my house from the hallway up to the loft bedroom. I just love the view.   

A writer friend of mine once said that when are you not sure how to end something or feel it's not very interesting, try and turn it on its head. It worked for this tale. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

An image of looking up into a stairwell in a two storey house. Cream walls and metal white painted banisters with a black hand rail.


She pushed her back up against the wall, craning her neck round to see up into the stairwell, and held her breath while she listened. She wasn’t hearing things; there was definitely someone moving about up there.

A shadow flickered across the ceiling at the very top. She took in a sharp breath, adrenaline shooting through her, causing her legs to feel jelly like and her stomach to do a flip. How long had they been moving about up there? She heard a scraping sound. That was a drawer opening.

She could hear more drawers opening and decided she had to go up there and confront them. She clutched the baseball bat that she’d left in the corner of the hallway and crept round to the bottom of the stairs and started to ascend, keeping close to the wall and treading into the edges of each step to minimise creaking.

At the first landing she stepped round a squeaky piece of laminate and tiptoed to the bottom of the stairs to the top landing. They were opening closets now too. The possibility of having misheard was gone. That was enough for her to muster the courage to climb the last staircase.

The door was ajar at the top. She could see the shadow of a person moving around the room. They seemed to systematically be going through all the cupboards as though looking for something.

She jumped forward, and kicked the door open fully, making the person inside jump, holding the bat up, ready to attack. The man and woman inside the room froze and put their hands up.

There was an open suitcase on the bed and they were busy filling it. They must be going on holiday, which would explain why they were up at three o’clock in the morning rather than sleeping soundly, like they were supposed to be doing.

She immediately regretted her decision to come upstairs and confront them rather than leave. She couldn’t take on two of them. The only upside was that with her bulky clothing and mask, it disguised how big she was or what sex – plus they weren’t a young couple, so they were less likely to challenge her anyway.

‘Get on the floor!’ she shouted in a low gruff voice. ‘Faces down.’

They did as she demanded.

She glanced round the room, and spotted some jewellery on the dressing table. She grabbed it and stuffed it in her pockets, making it look like that was what she was here for. It wasn’t, she was just covering for her shock and delaying her retreat as she thought through how she was going to do it.

She could grab the bag of stolen stuff she’d put in the hallway as she went out the front door. Lenny was in the car outside ready to go, although if they saw them drive away they might be able to trace them. She needed to be fast.  

She didn’t waste any more time stalling, and after one last brandish making sure they were still face down on the floor, she took the stairs two at a time. But as she rounded the first landing, she caught her foot on a loose piece of flooring and went head first down the final flight of stairs, cracking her head on the wall as she fell, and giving her neck a fatal twist on the last step at the bottom.

She lay sprawled on the hallway floor, one hand on the bag of loot as though making one last grab for it, dead.

It looked like Lenny would be driving home alone. 

Thursday 10 March 2022

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 241

This week's picture prompt was taken by Thomas Pluck, the author of The Boy from County Hell. Thomas said this image was taken in Winslow, New Jersey, across the road from the blue hole where the Jersey Devil was purportedly seen bathing. (Folklore)

Another picture that lends itself to Tricky's endeavours. The last one was just last week, on Week 240

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

An image of a abandoned road with an open drain hole in the ground with weeds growing out of it. Take by Thomas Pluck,

Going Underground

Tricky considered the hole. It had to lead down to the underground bunkers, where else would it go? But it didn’t look like the others; there was no door on it, and there were plants growing out of it. Although plants grew out of everything that had been left to ruin – and a lot had been left to ruin since the shift. But plants weren’t fussy. If there was light and water they had all they needed. They didn’t fuss about locations or safety; they weren’t as fragile as humans. They were flexible and persistent.

Tricky reached out her energy and felt the faint, delicate strands of the plants. They weren’t strong here; there wasn’t that much sustenance down below. That would suggest tunnels.

Tricky had to stop dallying and get her prissy little resistant arse down into it and find out if it was what she sought. She secretly hoped it might be an old sewer – not that she liked the idea of being in the stench of decaying shit, but it meant she could procrastinate a while longer if it wasn’t to the underground tunnels that housed Stanislav’s network. She wanted to orientate herself before coming face to face with any of them. You had to work out where the backdoor was before you went in the front door.

She took a breath and gripped the jade in her pocket. She felt the brilliant green energy engulf her and sighed her relief. At least she had some kind of warning system in place.

She sat down on the edge of the hole and swung her legs in. She couldn’t see the bottom for the plants, but trusted it wouldn’t be far. She gently lowered herself in and found the bottom at just under shoulder height. She squatted down and rummaged in her skirts, looking for the torch she had tucked away.

They might have lost some things from before the shift, but making batteries wasn’t one of them – or processing power in general. Solar and wind were abundant on the landmass, and they’d developed interesting and cheap ways to harness it. Batteries were cruder than they used to be, but were still sealed and able to be used in the small portable devices that housed the tiny, bright LED lights. All the parts were still made, but not in mass quantities. It wasn’t necessary to make more than was needed, that was just wasteful.

She flashed it up both ways and saw nothing but a narrow tunnel. She crouched low and travelled to her right, until the light reflected a wall of rubble; a cave in. She went back on herself and kept on going. Her back was starting to ache bending in such a way, when it came to an end and opened out into some kind of junction. Tricky stood looking at the three tunnels leading off the one she had come along. This would be the quickest way to get lost, especially if there were more of these junctions.

Tricky wasn’t claustrophobic by nature, but the thought of being stuck down here in the darkness made her shiver. There were no trees or plants here strong enough to lend her support; she only had her own energy to rely on and it could run out in these concrete chambers. She could leave a trail of gemstones though; she had plenty of those with her. She took out a garnet, placing it on the ground at the entrance of the tunnel she had come down. She slowly went round each of the other entrances and stood listening, not just with her ears but with her very being. And that’s when she heard it. It was travelling down the tunnel opposite the one she had arrived through, a vibration she had experienced before, the night of her mother’s death.

A glow appeared, cutting through the torch light, but it wasn’t coming from the vibration, it was coming from her skirt pocket. Tricky pulled out the jade and the green light it gave off lit her surroundings, lending it an eerie gleam that did nothing to calm her.

Her mother’s energy was responding to that vibration, but was it a warning, or should she investigate further? Would this tunnel lead to the nerve centre she sought? Tricky hesitated, hating her uncertainty which was born of reluctance – although she’d never pretended to be brave and courageous, oh no, Tricky didn’t go in for any of that guff. There was nothing wrong with running the other way, sometimes it was the sensible thing to do. But in this case it wouldn’t get her anywhere, and she needed to get somewhere – she needed to get to their lair, hopefully by hidden means. She took a deep breath and started up the tunnel.

Thursday 3 March 2022

My Top 5 Horror Book Recommendations

There's a new website for readers that is building it's catalogue of books and authors, called Shepherd.

I was asked to provide my Top 5 recommendations in my favourite genre: Horror, and add a little bit about myself and why I like this genre. Take a look and see what I said. 

(click on the picture below)