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 Change of Direction

Long time no see! It has been a while since I’ve been posting on this blog regularly, so I thought I should get around to addressing the elephant in the room.

I started this blog a long time ago but committed myself to post on here regularly at the start of the year. This blog has offered me a lot of comfort and a way to express myself in a period of my life which has been fraught with a lot of uncertainty. Graduating in 2020, and then being hit by a global pandemic was not on the list of things I thought would happen this year, but there you go, it just goes to show we never know what’s around the corner.

I like to think I’ve grown a lot since starting this blog. I like to think that I have gotten better at writing, talking about books and of course, reading and expanding my horizons. I hope in some way I’ve managed to inspire someone to pick up a book after they’ve read one of my reviews.

During the pandemic and being out of work for 7 months, writing and reading have been my lifeline. It has been my source of distraction, escapism and labor of love during this rollercoaster period. Although I’m 23 and have nearly been a graduate for a year, I haven’t moved forwards much, and although I can’t blame the pandemic alone, it’s taken a significant toll on the kind of direction I see myself in.

Like many, I’m starting to question whether I want the big career that everyone always chases after. In recent months, I’ve preferred the idea of living a quiet life and having just enough money and savings to live comfortably and at ease.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, and feel the pressure mounting everyday. I’m 23, and still haven’t ever had a “proper job” and sometimes it can be hard to see how I’m adding to the world in a positive way – which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

All I know is that I love writing and hope that one day it can be good enough to make me a living and make an impact on someone’s life. Maybe that’s selfish and a bit pig-headed, I don’t know. But all I do know is that I love both reading and writing and hope that one day I can spend the rest of my life doing these things. What’s the point in spending a minute of your life not doing something you love?

I’ve been quiet on this blog as I’ve been swept into the minefield that is Medium. Before I started writing on there, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if my writing would get drowned out by the sheer range of amazing writers there, or if I could get more noticed than I do over here. I will stress that writing for me isn’t solely about getting noticed, but it’s nice to make an impact and be recognized for my work.

The brunt of it is, as each day passes I am growing more fond of Medium and seeing far more benefits. Not to say this doesn’t happen on WordPress from time to time, but the community of writers over there are incredibly supportive and some of the friendliest strangers I’ve ever come across. The wealth of publications and the standard of writing never fails to amaze me, and I generally feel kind of honoured to be part of it as I use it to explore and experiment into what kind of writer I want to be. In that respects, this blog is going to take a backseat now.

The reality of it is, I find Medium is easier to write on, and in two months I nearly have three times the audience over there than I do on here. I’m less into the blogging style of writing and that’s why I am attracted to the simplicity of Medium. I feel like it prioritizes the quality of writing over anything else – which appeals to me.

In many ways, this blog was the start of everything. When I felt truly alone and hopeless in my first year of university, I turned to this blog for the first time and wrote about how I felt. It was the first time I had been so honest online about my feelings and it paved the way for growing my confidence. Looking back, I like to think that I now write with greater eloquence, wit and appeal – but who knows!

This blog has also given me a lot of opportunities in recent months, as I’ve been approached by small publishers and authors to review and read books, which I never thought would happen! I’m so grateful for everyone who has ever reached out to me and feel truly humbled that I can play a small part in spreading the word for some wonderful books. I’m taking a small break from that at the moment, but I’ll be accepting review requests again soon.

In other words – from now on, I’m primarily going to be publishing over on Medium.

However, that doesn’t mean this blog is going to be deleted or that I won’t be active on here from time to time. I plan to use this platform primarily as a portfolio and a place to direct people to when looking for work, but I will still be posting book reviews. The WordPress and Medium community are very different, but I can find value in both, which is why I’m going to remain using them both.

If you are a Medium user, you can find my profile here and I’ve also started a publication over there with the same name as this blog, The Violet Review, if you would like to follow that too.

So, expect to see less content over here, as I focus more of my attention on Medium. That’s not to say I won’t be posting, but it will probably be more personal things, rants and ramblings, sandwiched between book reviews and the like.

Thank you to everyone who has followed, liked or commented on my blog posts – it means a lot to me and continues to do so. This isn’t a goodbye, but just to update you on some changes I’m making as to the direction of my writing.

Happy reading!

Violet

Sunday Post #6

In this weekly wind up, I recap what I’ve published during the week and share with you what I’m currently reading. I hope you’ve all had a great week, and continue to stay safe in these challenging times.


I’m going to be honest – I am struggling to write and I’ve been feeling like this for quite a few days. I have so many ideas for things, but when it comes down to sitting and writing, I lack the motivation and will to string words together.

This weekend I’ve been feeling very low in general, and I think that’s partly to do with my hormones and everything that goes with that – so I’m not going to be too harsh on myself, but I am disappointed as I wanted to get lots of writing done this weekend. I wouldn’t mind usually but I’ve been commissioned a lot of copywriting work to do next week which is going to take up most of my time, so I’d hoped to get some posts written that I could publish. It hasn’t happened – but I guess it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve haven’t even felt like reading these past few weeks – which is very unlike me. Every time I pick up a book I find it hard to concentrate and get absorbed in the story. As a result, I’m still reading the same book I was about three weeks ago when I updated you. It feels like a bit of a failure, but we can’t be perfect all of the time. I’m hoping I’ll get my reading mojo back soon.

The seasons have well and truly changed and we’ve had constant rain for just over a week. The leaves are beginning to fall and the nights are drawing in. I do love Autumn but this year it’s filling me with a lot of anxiety due to the uncertainty that remains. October is the last month of the furlough scheme, and after that, I have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s only a few weeks to go and yet I still don’t know what’s happening with my job. The virus is picking up rapidly, and we had over 12,000 reported cases yesterday – and it feels like it’s going to be a very bleak winter. But I’m trying to stay positive – as always, and continue to write.

This is a bit rambly to read but quite cathartic to write, I hope you don’t mind!


What’s Been Published (2 week round-up)

Book Review: Such a Fun Age

Time is All We Have: Reflections on Grief, Loss, and Living Peach Street Magazine

Is Reading Productive? Medium, An Idea

An Essential Read: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Medium, Curious

5 Reasons Why You Should Read “Such a Fun Age” (Can you tell I really liked this book?) Medium, Books Are Our Superpower


So, October was a big milestone for me in terms of writing as I made over £100 on Medium, which was up from £0.95 from my first month. I’m writing for me and because I love it, but it’s amazing to be getting recognized for my efforts and I’m starting to feel like I’m building up an audience over there. I think Medium is a fairer platform for writer’s and eventually, I’ll publish solely on there, but this blog will always be here for reviews and everything else.

As I said, I’m still reading the same books I was in my last update so I won’t repeat myself and tell you again. As always, you can always follow me over on Goodreads to stay up to date.

I’ve got a few things in the pipeline that should be published soon – including a piece for Black History month and a lifestyle piece exploring adult acne. I’m hoping that next week is going to be more positive and I can get out of this slumber!


Happy reading and keep staying safe!

Book Review: Such a Fun Age

It has been a while since I’ve posted, but after spending lots of time trying to eek this out for as long as possible, I’m back with a review of Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, which was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. It was the only book on the list that I liked the sound of – and it by far exceeded my expectations.

Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid (2019)

Coming of Age/Fiction

Synopsis (Goodreads)

“In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.”

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that feels so close to our current moment. 

Kiley Reid provides, “a beautiful tale of how we live now” (Elizabeth Day). The story is nestled in the city of Philadelphia, and draws upon the social and racial injustices at the heart of modern, American society, through the young, black protagonist, Emria.  

The story alternates between the perspective of Emira and Alix, a white middle-class blogger. They are worlds apart but are brought together by Alix’s employment of Emira as a babysitter for her daughter, Briar. This dual perspective Reid uses allows the two polar experiences of class and race to be played off against each other, which illustrates the existence of Alix’s inherent privilege and mistreatment of Emira. 

Alix struggles to see why her treatment of Emira is problematic, despite making her wear a uniform and her history of only employing black childminders. It’s almost as if she thinks by having a black babysitter, she is doing her bit. Emira is half aware of all this, and it is her boyfriend, Kelley that exposes it more blatantly. But Emira loves looking after Briar and doesn’t want to break that bond between them. And also, the job is a lifeline, in just keeping her above the water. It takes her a while to confront these microaggressions – but the best thing of all, is that she eventually triumphs. 

The novel also looks at the influence of race in relationships. Emira meets Kelley during the incident with the police and then once again on the subway, and they hit it off immediately. But there are many differences between them, and these are explored by drawing upon their relationship,

“Emira had dated one white guy before, and repeatedly hooked up with another during the summer after college. They both loved bringing her to parties, and they told her she should try wearing her hair naturally. And suddenly, in a way they hadn’t in the first few interactions, these white men had a lot to say about government-funded housing, minimum wage, and the quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.”

Reid eloquently raises the potential fetishisation of race in relationships through the perspective of Emira and her group of friends. Emira and Kelley’s relationship is topsy turvy but explored in such a human and real way, that it’s hard not to be drawn in by it. Additionally, through their relationship Reid explores the issue of microaggressions – forms of indirect or subtle forms of racism that can often go unnoticed. There’s a performative element to the type of equality Kelley tries to portray in his social standing and worldview, that doesn’t go unrecognized by Emria,

“Like… I get it, you have a weirdly large amount of black friends, you saw Kendrick Lamar in concert, and now you have a black girlfriend…great.”

Emira

As a white, privileged person, this strikes a chord and left a profound effect on the way I perceive race, and how it influences class and relationships. It is written in a way that makes it embody the current moment. It illustrates the simmering and overt racism that exists within American society, and the small acts of unintentional racism that can go unnoticed. 

Reading this made me laugh, cringe, feel angry, and annoyed all at the same time, but one thing for sure – it touched me completely. I fell in love with Emria’s ballsy personality and sense of determination. Reid provides the reader with characters who come alive through the pages and makes you feel something, and that is the greatest gift a writer can have – I can’t believe this is a debut novel and feel excited at the prospect of Reid writing more in the future. 

This is sharp, witty, well-executed and grips you right from the start – there’s simply no messing about. I would describe it as a millennial coming of age story that combines the important, intertwining messages of class, race, privilege and how to navigate this within families and relationships.


Like many others, I am still learning about the best ways to talk about race. As always, If you think I need to phrase something differently or I’ve said something out of line – please let me know. I won’t take offence but will be thankful you have pointed it out.

Sunday Post #5


In this weekly wind up, I recap what I’ve published during the week and share with you what I’m currently reading. I hope you’ve all had a great week, and continue to stay safe in these challenging times.


Things already seem incredibly different this week compared to last Sunday. The UK is seeing rising Covid cases and we’re already running out of tests before the Winter even begins. There are murmurings that something is going to be announced, but who knows what, the government are unpredictable by nature and I wouldn’t be surprised if something changed overnight.

I had a tweet blow up Friday night, and couldn’t believe some of the comments – I even had to block and report people who were saying Covid-19 was a hoax. But there you go, that’s the kind of world we live in.

I’ve been writing a lot this week and have continued my success on Medium, nearly securing 2.3K views on one post. It feels different there and I feel like people read what I have written. Yesterday I managed to write a whopping 4,000 words and I’ve still been keeping to my daily habit of writing something every day. But as always, some days it’s easier than others. This weekend I’ve written practically nothing, but figured I probably deserved some time off. 

It is starting to feel like Autumn in the mornings, as we’re getting the golden kind of sun that I know and love. It’s still fairly warm during the day but the nights are drawing in and I’m probably a bit too excited about having to wear a dressing gown in the mornings.

There’s still a lot of uncertainty about my job, as there is only one month left of the furlough scheme. It is a worrying time, but hopefully, I’ll be able to cling on.

I’ve posted relatively little this week, but I have been writing daily to try and make sure I can work to publishing something every day. Here’s what I published this week.

There are lots of things in the works for the weeks ahead, so hopefully, I can work towards establishing some kind of publishing schedule to spread things out in an organised way. If I go back to work, I’m going to need to do this to try and manage my time better.


This Week on the Blog

Book Haul #1 ~Ali Smith, Ottessa Moshfegh, Zadie Smith & More

This Week – Elsewhere

5 ‘Difficult’ Books Worth Reading, in Books Are Our Superpower

The Daily Routine of a New Writer


I’m currently reading the same books as I was last week, but I’m nearly finished with Such A Fun Age – I am enjoying it so far and I think it will be one of my favourite books this year. I’ve been dipping in and out of Quiet, as it’s quite heavy going because of its academic approach. I’m finding that I am relating to it a lot though – due to being a natural introvert. I suspect it will take me a while to read but I don’t mind that. 

Next week you can expect a review of Such A Fun Age, though I expect it will be quite a difficult one to write, as it’s a complex book.


Happy reading, and keep staying safe.