An Unexpected Turn- T J Fox

Well this story truly did provide an unexpected turn! This is a unique storyline and one which has the reader gripped early on. It tells the story of Teri, a woman looking for love, whose life is one day turned upside down in a way she would never have imagined.

This is a love story but most definitely an unconventional one. It is full of conflicting emotions, heartache, healing and real, unconditional love. A must-read!

Review: Conversations with Stacey Dooley, Cardiff

Fresh from her stint hosting the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour, popular journalist Stacey Dooley has undertaken a tour of her own, hosting a series of ‘Conversations With’ across the country.

Last Friday, she arrived at St David’s Hall in Cardiff with close friend and singer Jessie Ware on hand to ask the all important questions.

Appearing on stage to the Spice Girls track ‘Spice Up Your Life’, as the evening unfolded, it soon became apparent that Stacey has certainly got plenty of incredible stories to share.

Coupled with short video clips from her earliest ventures into broadcasting (which she now admits make her cringe) through to her most recent work spending time exploring mental health issues on a psychiatric ward at Springfield Hospital in London, the evening provided a fascinating insight into not only her career, but the wide range of people she has encountered when making her shows.

It is interesting to hear that far from being a polished professional, Stacey’s journalistic career started when she spotted an advert as a teenager. Her first foray into documentary making came when she was whisked away from her job selling perfume at Luton airport to film inside an Indian clothes factory where she uncovered illegal child labour. But it was her refreshing reporting style and the fact that she didn’t conform to the normal ideals that persuaded the BBC Three producers to offer her further projects.

Fast forward ten years and Stacey has established herself as one of Britain’s most celebrated broadcasters. Addressing challenging issues and placing herself at the heart of conflicts around the world, Stacey offers a human perspective on the topics she tackles.

During the evening, she recalls with fondness the strong bonds she made with some of the subjects of her films. One in particular, clearly left a lasting impression as she reveals that Shireen, who was kidnapped and imprisoned in Mosul and who later, alongside Stacey confronted a captured ISIS commander, still keeps in contact via text message. It was through this communication that Stacey learnt that some time after the documentary was aired, Shireen and her sister, were reunited.

It is these human moments that set Stacey apart. On stage, she chats easily and freely, cup of tea in hand. There are no airs and graces, everything comes naturally. At the start of the show, Jessie announces that they will try their best not to swear but the resolution lasts only a matter of minutes. Yet it is not gratuitous, it is simply her style and the evening flows as naturally as if we were all friends sitting around reminiscing on the sofa at home.

After the interval, it was the audience’s turn to ask the questions via the #askstacey hashtag on Twitter. This revealed some more lighthearted moments, with a couple of cute references to boyfriend Kevin Clifton, who she met during her time on Strictly, thrown in for good measure.

As the show finished, Stacey announced she would be signing copies of her book, ‘On the Front Line With the Women Who Fight Back’ in the foyer. Such is the extent of her popularity, the queue snaked around the building, so much so that an hour later, she was still autographing books and posing for photographs, thanking everyone in turn for coming to see the show.

This is the Dooley effect. Natural, down to earth and brilliant at her craft. An evening that will live long in the memory.

Watch Stacey’s latest documentary about mental health via BBC iPlayer here:

Venice in Lock-down over Coronavirus Threat

Venice, affectionately nicknamed ‘La Serenissima’ (the most serene), has announced emergency procedures following concerns around an outbreak of Coronavirus.

With the Italian city in the throes of their annual ‘carnevale’, new rules have been imposed which see the celebrations cut short by two days. With confirmed reports of a 3rd death from the virus within the region, the governor of Veneto, Luca Zaia has declared that festivities should be brought to a halt.

Two Venetian patients have tested positive for the virus and are currently in intensive care at the local hospital, resulting in increased precautions within the city.

The north of the country has felt the impact of a breakout, with more than 130 cases reported since last Friday.

As well as the early end to the carnival, Venice and the surrounding area will be subject to stringent restrictions to try to prevent the spread of the virus, with schools and public gatherings forced into a lockdown situation:

“”We have to adopt drastic measures,” Veneto President Zaia told reporters. “As of this evening there will be a ban on the Venice Carnival as well as on all events, sporting as well, until March 1 inclusive,” he said. “All private and public gatherings” must be avoided, Zaia said, adding that all schools will also be closed until the end of the month.

The ban is also thought to extend to a wider Italian circle, with Barcelona players reportedly set to undergo additional checks on arrival at Naples ahead of their Champions League tie on Tuesday.

Any players found to have an elevated temperature and showing any signs of illness will be transported immediately to hospital on arrival.

While the cause of the initial outbreak still remains a mystery, with ‘patient zero’ apparently having no connection to China or having had any contact with anyone from the region, everything necessary is being put in place to stop the disease spreading further.

Further restrictions have also been put in place in Milan, where there will be limited access to the annual Fashion Week.

The Lady of the Ravens- Joanne Hickson

There is a plethora of books to choose from about the Tudor era at the moment, detailing the lives of those involved in the court of Henry VIII, so it was refreshing to stumble upon this novel which provides a different perspective; this time centred during the reign of King Henry VII.

“When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive.”

The story of the beginning of the Tudor period is told through the eyes of Giovanna, known as Joan, who is lady-in-waiting to Henry’s wife Elizabeth. Through her story, the reader is allowed glimpses into court life, whilst seeing her own relationships with her family develop.

Joan is an extremely likeable character and highly thought of by both Elizabeth and King Henry. Desperate for the new sovereign to prosper, Joan puts great faith in the adage that while the ravens protect the Tower of London, the monarchy will be safe.

The ravens provide a consistent thread throughout the novel; a constant reminder of the links between each of the principal characters while the relationship between Joan and Sim, a young boy who she takes into her care who shares her love of the birds, is a heartwarming element of the story.

Equally compelling is the developing bond between Joan and Richard Guildford, a man whom she at first holds in contempt, but who later becomes her husband due to the necessities of court expectations.

Hickson writes with an accessible style but one which is clearly well researched and based on historical fact. A fascinating read!