Book Review: The Stone in My Pocket

Mysterious goings-on are filtered through this coming of age novel with unique twists and turns.


“Why would I want to read about the paranormal when I was living it?”

Overview

In the dead of night, Nathan Love suddenly hears a strange voice in his garden, accompanied by a shadowed figure watching over him. Immediately, his world is tinted with a sense of strangeness, that he cannot quite work out. 

After a visit to his local bookshop, Nathan soon ends up with a Saturday job there and finds himself apart of a spiritual circle group, led by the owner of the bookshop, Iris.

Nathan hopes that in joining this group, he will be able to uncover the mystery of the shadowed figure he saw in this bedroom. All of this, he keeps from his parents. After all, his mother is a devout Catholic and his father has always turned a nose up to his strange stories. 

Through a mixture of messages, spirits and realisations, Nathan is led to believe that the shadowed figure was a reincarnation of his Grandfather who recently passed away, and Nathan believes that he is trying to convey a message to the family.

Strange goings-on, struggles at school and difficulties with making friends make the experience of adolescence one that is fraught with difficulties. Nathan is not close with his parents and finds solace in his job at the bookshop and the friendships made within the circle group. But sooner rather than later, the strangeness and questions in his life will be uncovered.

Please note, a copy of this book was kindly gifted to me by the author, in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author

Matthew Keeley is the author of two novels, A Stone in My Pocket being the most recent, due to Covid related delays, this is now due to be published in early 2021 by The Conrad Press. His debut novel, Turning the Hourglass, was published in 2019. 

Whilst being a full-time author and writer, Matthew also teaches English to secondary school pupils. He likes to write within the realms of speculative fiction, magic realism and literary fiction.

You can find out more information about Matthew and the expected release of A Stone in My Pocket, via his website.


My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

First and foremost, what I loved about this book was the immediate hook. The mysterious figure seen in Nathan’s garden is enough to keep anyone reading. 

Immediately the reader has all sorts of questions “who is the figure?” “what is it doing here?” “what does this mean for Nathan and his family?” are just a few that crossed my mind in the first few pages. Being gripping from the start is always a good thing, but the result of the story was told in such a fast-paced and well-structured manner, that the remainder of the novel was never a disappointment.

Due to the initial hook — the rest of the story is spent trying to explain the mysterious happenings that occurred in Nathan’s garden and what this could mean. Nathan, the protagonist, aims to finds answers to this by joining a spiritual circle, where he truly immerses himself in the medium world.

Everything about the story contains an element of strangeness, from the eerie small-town setting to the use of a protagonist who never quite fits in -  this is a coming of age novel with unique twists and turns.

Nathan spends a considerable amount of time working in the bookshop where he also attends his circle meetings, which naturally appealed to me, as someone who also loves bookshops. There’s something special about a novel that heavily features all things bookish. 

Image via Uplash

The range of characters presented and how they are woven throughout the story to unravel the mysterious goings-on is impressive. 

Nathan as the protagonist is naturally flawed and a confused adolescent who has never really fit in with his peers or family. He is trying to navigate through his life and struggles with school as his mind is preoccupied with solving the strange goings-on that happened outside his bedroom window. I valued his perspective, and it was nice to delve into the mindset of a quirky adolescent — for once.

Iris, the owner of the bookshop, is also a fabulously crafted character who symbolises the sense of strangeness carried throughout the book. She is presented as almost a mother or grandmother figure to Nathan, who finds himself more and more detached from his parents as he tries to keep his activities within the circle group a secret.

The premise is alluring, and the delivery was very sophisticated with the crafting of interesting characters and a suspenseful plot. It had an explosive ending, which I shall not reveal, but all of Nathan’s secrets are suddenly exposed to his parents and everything unravels before his eyes. 

I found the ending to be quite abrupt, which I was slightly disappointed with, given the suspense carried throughout the story. In this way, the story could have benefited from tying up some loose ends. 

Overall, I enjoyed this novel despite it not being a story I would not normally turn to. I am not a massive lover of the supernatural, especially in fiction, but I was pleasantly surprised by this novel and ended up enjoying it. I liked the characters, premise, setting and sense of unrelenting strangeness that filtered throughout the story.


A coming of age novel with a sense of eerie strangeness. For lovers of the supernatural, magic realism and character-driven stories — this is a brilliant read from start to finish.

Many thanks to the author, Matthew Keeley for providing me with a free copy of this book


Originally published on Medium in Write and Review, [insert date]

A Return to the Status Quo is What America Needs

Please excuse my absence on this blog, I’ve had a busy few weeks. Some of you will be here for the book content, so ignore this if politics isn’t your thing, but it’s one of my passions that I simply can’t help writing about. Ahead of the US Election Result, in this piece, I make the case that despite his many faults, Joe Biden is what America needs right now. If you’re an American reading this and you haven’t already – vote, and vote sensibly.


There was never going to be anything radical, or life-changing about Joe Biden, but rather that is the point.

After 4 rollercoaster years in power, Donald Trump has exhausted, not reignited, the American people. From denying climate change to inciting a war over words with the leader of North Korea, to the more recent trivialisation of a deadly disease that has come to define our lives, the time has come for a bit of normalcy in American politics.

And it seems that American voters are now recognising that too.

In the key battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin to name a few, Biden is on track for some leads which will be essential for him to dominate the Electoral College, and securing the magic number of 270 needed to win the presidency. The mood has shifted since what seems like a lifetime ago back in 2015 when Trump was given the keys to the White House.

The pandemic has caused the world to wake up in many ways. During national shutdowns, international travel was halted, and the stay at home order for many meant that towns and cities across the world, for the first time in years, became silent. The sound of rush hour traffic became a distant memory. This gave the planet a temporary rebate from impending climate disaster, but has since, made the issue even more imperative for us to solve.  

Regardless of who wins the election, the US is on track to leave the Paris Climate Change agreement, thanks to Trump. However, if he gains power, Biden has insisted he will make sure the US is added straight back in. His policies on climate change, including his commitment to a gradual transfer from oil to renewable energy, may have kicked up a storm, created by his rival, but at the heart of it – is a man who cares about the planet. Though seen as radical in some American circles, a Biden presidency would put the US back on track to meeting their climate change targets.

Biden’s Green New Deal directly draws the connection between the economy and the environment, something Trump has labelled this as socialist and clownlike due to the requirement of $3trn required to completely overhaul the US economy. If Biden gets back into power, the US can get back to business and focus efforts on combating the biggest threat to all our futures, instead of ignoring its very existence.

Furthermore, Trump’s branding of this election and his rival candidate as being part of “a choice between a socialist nightmare and the American dream” is deliberately intended as a divisive, political tactic, but it doesn’t work. Trump is drawing on the historic fearmongering tactics to paint anyone who veers against Republicanism with the same brush. We saw it in the 1950s with Communism – and it has been used again to add fuel to Trump’s own fiery, Red wave. By Britain’s political standards at least, Biden could not be further from the left – he is the middle ground candidate who is essential for getting America back on track, getting out of the pandemic and moving beyond.

Biden’s dullness, and the feeling one gets of wanting to snooze doing one of his speeches, is problematic for many reasons, but it is what is needed in American politics right now. During his bid for President in 1988, Biden fought against Ronald Reagan and stated in a series of BBC interviews that the thing he hated the most about this president, was how he divided the American people. Over thirty years on, he is fighting on the same grounds, but it might just be enough this time around. His deliberate reincarnation of the unity candidate is what America needs, and it feels like this has managed to convince voters too.

American’s are fed up. They have had their lives turned upside during this pandemic, the lines of racial, social and gender division are now bolder than ever before. The land of the free is in turmoil – and what does it need? A return to normalcy and the status quo. Only then and after – will it be able to make way for the pathway towards radical change.

Book Review: Togwotee Passage

For deep thinkers, lovers of the great outdoors and readers who value a character-driven story, this is an ideal read.


The world is facing many reckonings at the moment, but the one that unites all countries, cultures and continents across the world, is the real threat of climate change and human extinction. And this threat is something we have manufactured ourselves, through the repetitive cycle of human greed, overconsumption and the incessant materialist culture that is perpetuated by the capitalist framework.

Togwotee Passage has a very unique feeling and sense of unease carried with it, but always reminds the reader of the beauty of nature and how it’s relationship to us, as human beings, is more than essential. 

It tackles some of the greatest issues of our times, through the exploration of climate change, inequality, and materialism. It is a stark critique of the Western world and our mindset, told through the life and perspective of Calan, living in Wyoming in the 1940s, but feels very close to the present day.

Please note, a copy of this book was kindly gifted to me by the author, in exchange for an honest review.


About the Book

Literary Eco-Fiction, published in 2019. 

Calan flees his family life early on due to the upsets caused by growing up within a dysfunctional family, his father was a drunk and Calan was regularly exposed to his mistreatment of his mother. Due to this, he finds great solace in the outdoors and befriends Derek, a boy who lives on the Shoshone land.

Their friendship blossoms through a shared appreciation of the outdoors and their conversations reveal a deep and philosophical battle centred on the human relationship with nature and our problematic image as the dominant species. Together, they engage in important conversations centred on these issues, which causes readers to think about the world around us.

This book is character-driven, but the plot follows the course of Calan’s life over the years and his reckonings with the world as influenced by many conversations he had with his best friend. 

All of this is intertwined with beautiful descriptions of the natural world and Native American mythology. Through Calan’s relationship and time spent with Derek, the Shoshone Indian culture is revealed and paralleled with his traditional American upbringing. The reader learns about this Native American tribe, which is made up of around 8,000 people living in the Eastern Shoshone in Wyoming, and the many opposites and pitfalls of consumerist, American culture that they oppose.

It’s a book about nature, human selfishness, destruction and relationships all rolled into one. It causes the reader to think, re-assess and re-evaluate the power of the natural world.


About the Author

L. G Cullens is an author born and raised in western Wyoming, the United States. After beginning a career in civil engineering and computer sciences, in his fifties, he decided to pursue woodworking and has since taken up writing.

Cullens is passionate about the natural world and aims to spread awareness of it, which shines through in his book, Togwotee Passage.

To find more information about the author, or contact L.G Cullens, you can visit his website.


My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As soon as I started reading this book I knew two things from the offset. I knew I would like it, and I knew it would be different from anything I have read. 

As a committed fan of literary fiction, the character-driven plot, executed by the protagonist, Calan, already appealed to me.

The story tracks the life of Calan as he navigates the great outdoors and forms a close friendship with Derek, a boy who lives on the Shoshone reservation. Through countless conversations, he learns about the pitfalls of the Western world and the dangers of an excessive materialist mindset and what this can do to our planet.

Through these conversations, and the raising of many philosophical questions to do with climate change, inequality, materialism and the purpose of humanity itself, Cullens exposes the many faults and imperfections at the heart of human life itself. It’s a sharp portrayal of the faults of our species and how our actions damage nature.

Intertwined throughout, are beautiful and charming descriptions of the outdoors, as Calan and Derek go on their many hikes and explore the mountains littered throughout the Wyoming landscape. 

As a lover of the outdoors myself, I couldn’t help but feel enchanted by these descriptions. I found these parts calming to read and Cullen’s words paint a picture of the Wyoming scenery that I am yet to be fortunate enough to explore.

Above all, this book is a deep exploration of someone’s inner thoughts and how they perceive the world around them. It is a plea to look back at nature and treat it with the respect it deserves, but also, a plea to divert from our current mindset and way of life, which is only self-destructing. The destruction of nature is a result of ongoing human selfishness which is at the heart of the story, explored through conversations between Calan and Derek.

Reading this was a pleasurable experience in itself, due to the stunning prose and character-driven plot, but it also caused me to think a great deal. This book reflects on the threat of climate change through the human path of greed, exploitation and capitalism which can overthrow the nature and beautify of the outdoors that we all know and love.

The only aspect of this book I struggled to contend with, was the ending. After documenting the course of Calan’s life thoroughly through the decades, I found the final few chapters confusing and felt like there was no definitive endpoint. I got a bit lost and struggled to see how Calan’s story ended, however, this is a very minor point and may have been missed by my misinterpretation.

You can purchase a copy of the book here


Final Thoughts

For deep thinkers, lovers of the great outdoors and readers who value a character-driven story, this is an ideal read and one I enjoyed immensely. My many thanks go to L.G Cullens for providing me with a copy of this book.

“I ask you who’s the more primitive, a culture that believes in respectful coexistence with the natural world that sustains us all, or a culture that is rife with selfish, material greed to the point of trashing this little blue canoe our children will need to get by in?” 

L.G Cullens, 36.

Originally published on Medium in Write and Review, 22 October, 2020.

Lots of Words and Heavy Rain

From the moment I woke up, until well into the evening, the rain has been constant and unrelenting.

But I don’t mind, I’ve always been someone who finds great comfort in the gentle pattering of raindrops on the windows. It makes me feel cosy, I can wear a jumper and indulge in hot drinks without breaking a sweat.

When the alarm went off this morning, I thought it must be a joke because it looked like the dead of the night. The sky was a dark blue and the only glimmer of light came from a flickering lamppost in the distance. Reluctantly, I dragged myself out of bed and went to make some coffee.

Today I’ve felt sleepy and a little demotivated, but I still managed to get my words done and have ended up writing over 3,000 in total.

I’ve started to do a morning ritual exercise called “Morning pages” that I’ve only just learned about. Instead of doing it by hand, I’m using a website called 750 words. The idea is that more or less as soon as you wake up you just write about what comes into your head straight away. It’s a bit like stream of consciousness journaling, I’m quite enjoying it and find that it gets the cogs turning before I settle down to do anything else.

I chose to exercise from home today, as Covid-19 cases are dramatically increasing in recent days and we were put into Tier 2 last week. The gym does feel safe, but from now on I’m going to limit my access more. And as today was rainy, I didn’t particularly want to go out and walk to the gym in it as I’d be soaked before I got there.

If all goes to plan, I should be back to work by November so I’m trying to get as much written as I can, so I have things to post alongside working. Although I expect to be working fewer hours than I was on previously, and if Boris orders a circuit breaker, then I guess the whole return would be halted.

If you’re in the UK and feeling a sense of dread due to the handling of this crisis, I can truly emphasize. But we must stay positive. I hope this finds readers optimistic, despite the hardship and difficulty that living through this time is.

Violet 🍂 

When Writing Goes Well It’s Great

It seems rather self explanatory, no?

I had a dry patch earlier on in the month and I couldn’t for the life of me stomach the courage to write. Well – write what I wanted to at least. This came at a time when I got my first batch of copywriting work on a freelance basis, and all my energy was going into that, so I guess it makes sense.

After having a terrible Sunday where I didn’t accomplish anything – today I’m back in the saddle and have written over 2,000 words AND done some more copywriting work. It’s funny how the days go, isn’t it? Sometimes you have a day where all you want to do is work, and then other’s, you don’t want to get out of bed. Well, that’s what I find anyway.

Two article’s I wrote on Medium were accepted into publications today and published too, which makes me happy. One of them is about my journey with reading and where it all started, and the other is about what writers can do when they have a day where they don’t feel like writing. Hey, maybe I should be taking some of my advice…


How I Became a Reader ~ The Personal Essayist

What Can You Do on a Non-writing Day? ~ Writer’s Blokke


Today has been a good day and reminded me of what I can achieve when I put my mind to it. I’ve had some meaningful conversations with other writers, done some exercise and felt positive overall. Additionally, I haven’t been lured in by the false promises of my phone and social media – which is always a plus.

Last week I took a whole week off social media, completely cold turkey, and it caused me to think about a lot of things. In that time away from it, I realised I wasn’t gaining anything from being on Instagram and following the lives of strangers, who I didn’t care about. So I deleted my account altogether, and now only have my writing one where I follow bookstagram accounts and read other reviews.

If social media is making you come away feeling more negative than before you went in, I’d recommend taking some time away to reflect on how it makes you feel when it’s not there. I’ll be writing an article about my experience shortly, so watch this space.

I guess it always feels good to start a new week off on a positive note. I hope everyone has had a good day and achieved all they wanted to. And if they didn’t, then that’s okay too. Tomorrow is a new day.

Goodnight,

Violet ✨


Do tell me if you like these journal style blog posts, I love writing them (and reading other people’s) so let me know what you think.