And this is why I write!

MaryH reviewed Lovers in Their Fashion on, and I’m so delighted. This is what she wrote. Thank you, Mary!

This is the kind of book I became a reviewer for, July 29, 2013      

This review is from: Lovers in Their Fashion (Kindle Edition)      

I wrote this review for Manic Reviewers, for whom I write three or four reviews each month. I’m reproducing it here because I loved this book more than almost any and I wanted to give it as wide an audience as possible. When I first became a Manic Reviewer, I saw myself finding unknown gems on the Web and bringing them to a wider public. I know now that I was mistaken. Like unusual vegetables, unknown books are mostly unknown for a reason–they’re not very good. After two reviews with so few stars I didn’t want them published for fear of hurting the writers’ feelings, and having taken myself off the reviewer list for what turned out to be the worst book I had ever read, I adopted a different approach. Now, I look for the authors who have shown they can write good English and the publishers who (a) exercise some kind of selection over what they publish and (b) make sure the book is properly edited before it reaches the public. Lovers in Their Fashion is the second Mandrill Press book I have reviewed, and the second book by S F Hopkins. I’m not sorry I chose to review it because I’m giving it the full five stars–something I almost never do.
This is not an erotic book–there is some sex in it and it’s very satisfying sex, but primarily this is a contemporary romance between two people who come fully to life in Hopkins’s hands. Alice Springer started out with not very much but by the age of 30, through her own talent and hard work, is the retail director of high fashion company House of Pharaoh. John Pagan is about to become chief operating officer of a multi-national company. As it happens, I am PA to the chief operating officer of a multi-national, which may be why Lovers in Their Fashion and I connected so well, and I can say with certainty the world he moves in is extremely well portrayed–it’s authentic. Of the other characters, Alice’s American friend Merrill and the villainous Martin Planer are also very well drawn. When reading a story like this there is a natural assumption that the central two characters will go through a few ups and downs before getting to the inevitable happy ending. I was astonished by the size of the wall S F Hopkins throws up between them and the apparent impossibility that they could climb over it. My heart was in my mouth till the last page–but, my word, I was rooting for them. I don’t expect to read many books this good this year.

I was pleased with this

Manic Readers reviewed my book, The BindingThe Binding Cover:

“The Binding by SF Hopkins is an enjoyable read. In the beginning I felt just Rodney and Melissa’s story. It had more substance. However, as the story went on I came around to Caroline and James. Still Rodney and Melissa were my favorites in this book. I like how the past and present intertwined with each other. There was good balance between the past and present. Readers who like historical romance stories with a happy ending and don’t mind some spice should check out this book.”

I like it! Thank you, Manic Readers

Zoë Ferraris

I read Zoë Ferraris in the “wrong” order—I started with her third book, Kingdom of Strangers, realised what I’d done and read Finding Nouf (also published as The Night Of The Mi’raj) and now I’m about to start on the middle one of the three—City of Veils.

Two months ago, I hadn’t heard of Zoë Ferraris. Now she’s in that small group of writers where I know I’m going to be watching for the next book and I know I’m going to buy it. She got into that group because she writes good, well constructed thrillers and because her characters are human and believable and she makes you care what happens to them. The added attraction, though, is that she writes about Jeddah. I spend a lot of time in Jeddah and Zoë Ferraris describes both the place and the society extremely well. She’s qualified to do so—she’s American, born in in Oklahoma in fact, but she was married to a Bedu from Jeddah who she met in the States and who took her back to Jeddah when their daughter was born.

I’ve seen comments by Arabs that she doesn’t really understand Jeddah society. Oh, yes, she does. She understands the basic decency of so many of the ordinary people and she understands how thoroughly they are supressed by the rich, the powerful and the devout. If you read her books, you’ll understand, too—and you’ll have a really enjoyable read into the bargain.

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

You can tell a good painting because the eyes follow you round the room. (If you’re not familiar with this piece of art theory, learn more about it here). Whatever your view of that idea, you can tell a good book by the way the characters come into your life as real people and won’t leave. Anais Hendricks, protagonist of The Panopticon, held me from the moment I opened the book and she never let go. When I was half way through and going to bed, I dreamed about her. When I was thinking about how to deal with something, I found myself wondering what Anais would do. This is a wonderful book, and for a first novel it’s one in a million. Anais is as unreliable a narrator as narrators get: she didn’t put the woman PC in a coma (or did she?); the blood on her clothes is from a squirrel (or is it?); she has no idea who her birth mother was (or does she?) Fagan is in complete control of her material from the first page to the last sentence. The ending had me in tears. I’m not going to say what the ending is, or whether the tears were happy or sad, because I don’t want to spoil the book for you when you read it. But read it you must.

Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

How do you compete with Charles Frazier? Nightwoods is a wonderful book—one of those rare novels that you’re glad you’ve read; wish you hadn’t so you could have that first-time delight again; and that have changed the way you look at the world in ways that cannot be undone. How does he make such bizarre characters not only believable but convincing? Real? I don’t know. What I do know is that, if you haven’t read Nightwoods yet, you must.

Into the Woods by John Yorke


I’m reading Into the Woods, A Five Act Journey into Story by John Yorke. Yorke is Managing Director of a UK independent film producer (Wolf Hall among others). He’s been Head of Drama at Channel Four and Controller of Drama Production at the BBC. This is a man who understands Story.


So far I’m up to page 3 in the Introduction, and already I’m excited.

The quest to detect a universal story structure is not a new one. From the Prague School and the Russian Formalists of the early twentieth century, via Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism to Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots, many have set themselves the task of trying to understand how stories work. In my own field it’s a veritable industry – there are hundreds of books about screenwriting (though almost nothing sensible about television). I’ve read most of them, but the more I read the more two issues nag away: Most of them posit completely different systems, all of which claim to be the sole and only way to write stories. How can they all possibly claim to be right? None of them ask ‘Why?’

Why? I’ve never seen that question addressed before. I’m reading on, and I’ll be reporting here.

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