Radzy Writes Review

Thank you so much to Em (Radzy) for this lovely review. Em is also an author, and with a review like this, I think it’s easy to see why!

REVIEW

We Are Animals is the story of Jan, who is looking for a woman who stole his heart (and passport) in 1978. Back then, fate kept bringing them together, but after returning to Goa five years ago to find her again, fate’s been awfully quiet, and hasn’t crossed their paths once more.

Written in 3rd person, with Jan as our narrator, the novel is a blend of morose atmosphere with enough comedy to keep emotion steady, in a way that reminded me of people who crack jokes when they’re uneasy. It’s a surprisingly sad story, featuring a man who gave up his life to find someone, but also in many ways, unbeknownst to him, find himself, as it felt as if he wasn’t sure who he was after experiencing the passport thief. While the turns of the tale take us on an adventure, I never quite got over that initial loneliness in the opening chapters, grounding me with a character who felt lost amongst a world he never quite fit into. A part of me wonders if this was even meant to be a sad story, or if something resonated within me so I couldn’t see beyond it, but if I say nothing else about this author, it’s that he writes complex characters, full of real, heartfelt emotion, impeccably well. Again, I don’t think this was meant to be sad, and as the story moved on, and Jan grew as a character, that initial emotion lifted, but I never quite got over it… I suppose as is true in real life too. I definitely related to Jan in ways I didn’t expect, and for a narrator, I truly enjoyed how fragile he could be, as well as stubborn and closed off. All this occurred mostly in his thoughts, and between the lines, but it spoke to a similar part of my psyche, which, while unexpected, I loved.

Pacing wise, this was surprisingly slow at the start, meandering, and a touch confusing. Now, as an author I could see why it was the way it is – we don’t want to give too much away at the start, and heavy exposition is the easy way out, but frowned upon. The author decided, rightfully so in my opinion, to show us instead, and tell the story in little bursts of monologue blended with dialogue, and while it took a little while for me to get what was going on, I can’t do more than applaud the author for choosing the more technical route. It paid off, and I wouldn’t change the emotion at the start for anything, but it did take a little while for me to fully grasp the point, and dive into the storytelling. I think later on down the road I’ll be seeing if this is turned into an audiobook, as I feel the opening would work better for me spoken aloud, but as it is, once I settled into the author’s voice, I adored it. This takes its time and flows in a way it wants to. This isn’t going to be for those who need snappy novels, nor will it work for someone who wants a book to take a single afternoon, but if you want something to leisurely enjoy, and feel something toward, this is that novel.

As far as the plot itself goes, as I’ve said, this is exceptionally character driven, and I enjoyed the way the author let the cast speak for themselves, without cheap action. There’s the absurd, of course, but overall, this is Jan’s story, and he tells it, unapologetically, and truthfully. It’s somehow grounded in reality and while it is slice of life, and literary, it reminded me a lot of David Sedaris’s work. A little absurd, a little sad, a little hopeful, and overall heart breaking in its acceptance. I think if you like Sedaris, you’ll enjoy We Are Animals, but equally, if you like character driven work with flawed narrators, this is excellent.

Something else that really worked for me were the different points of time the novel takes place in, giving us a wider look at the world, without that exposition I talked about earlier. The scenes set in the past were my favourite, as younger Jan was untouched by harsh reality, and I enjoyed his youthfulness. It was like seeing an old, broken mirror brand new, but knowing it’d be broken one day. I keep saying things that make out this is the saddest thing you’ll ever read, and trust me, it’s not, but it’s emotion laden, and I feel comes from a truthful place, so that atmosphere simply comes out. Either way, young Jan was my favourite. Jan isn’t my most favourite main character, and honestly I can’t say any are my absolute favourites, but their honesty won me in ways few characters can claim.

Did anything not work for me? Well I mentioned the pacing, but surprisingly something else I’d make mention of is the chunks of thought between dialogue. At times this works wonderfully, flawlessly, and did what I needed it to, but other times I just wanted a conversation, and felt we were diving too far away from it. It’s a delicate balance, and overall, I wasn’t mad, but I definitely have been spoiled recently by fast action. If I had to critique, I’d simply say have a look at mixing leisurely dialogue with punchy conversations only dotted by tags, and shake things up more, just to create movement.

All in all, this novel made me feel, as I’m sure is obvious. I didn’t expect to, nor am I actually over it, but sometimes the greatest pieces of fiction moves us, makes us a little uncomfortable, and forces us to confront ourselves. This did that for me, and truthfully, while I have no doubt it was intentional, it was beautiful, and I’ll be absolutely keeping an eye on this author. This is a novel I’d recommend for before bed, and for when you can sit and be with it, as this is definitely a story that needs immediacy.

Fany Goes English Review

Review by Fany Van Hemelen
What a original humorous warm book

This is a book you have to read if you want something special. With his debut Tim Ewins has written a heart-breaking and lovely story about love, hope and destiny.
The book is told by a moustache, who has the experience and knowledge and a vest who has the vibe. I loved the way the author compares people with animals. It is refreshing to read such a profound book and I just warn you. When you start reading this novel you go on a trip of life and you can’t put this down because you will be touched by the beautiful characters.
It is a story of finding love, friendship and new dreams.

I can’t tell you more because it will ruin your reading pleasure but if you’re in for a different book with lots of sarcasm, a story about following your dream and finding your true love this one is for you.

After this debut I hope to read more ingenious crafted novels by this author.
***** 5 stars

Jessica Belmont Review

Thank you to Jess for a lovely 5 star review which you can read here.

Okay, so I kind of just took a leap with We Are Animals and I’m glad I did. What a funny, heartfelt, and entertaining story!

I absolutely loved each of the characters, but Jan really took me on his journey. I laughed and cried with these characters and it takes a bit to get me emotional during a book.

Really loved everything about this book. It’s about small moments and ordinary people, which makes it just so compelling to read. I love the mix of emotions and absolutely loved the characters too.

Highly recommended!

Rating:

5/5☆

Q and A with Jazzy Book Reviews

Thanks for having me Jazzy Book Reviews! You can read the whole Q and A here.

 Tell me something about yourself.

I love dogs, particularly dopey fluffy ones, and I’m a big reader. I’ve recently found myself delving into the kid’s sections of bookshops with my son who, so far, seems to share my love of reading.

My dog doesn’t share my love of reading, but we do both like lying down, so we have that in common.

Do you have a writing routine?

I’ve spoken with a lot of writers over the last few years, and I’ve enjoyed learning about the different routines that people have. I’m slightly envious of those people who have a desk facing out of a window that overlooks the countryside. I used to have an hour lunch break and I’m a fast eater, so I got into the habit of booking out a meeting room at work and trying to write on my old broken iPad. Most of We Are Animals was written this way, and as a result, it took me four years.

I’ve allowed myself a little luxury whilst I’ve been writing my second novel, occasionally working on it in the evenings after my son’s gone to bed, with relaxing music and a glass of wine. This time around, the first draft has taken me around a year, so maybe this is the way forward for me (although it could also be the first step towards convincing myself that I should drink wine every night…)

Your second novel…will there be a We Are Animals 2?

The one I’ve been working on isn’t a follow up to We Are Animals, but there are hints towards some of the characters being in both books. We Are Animals is set over a long period of time, so I enjoyed creating sub-plots and background characters (some of them actual animals) that start, say, in the fifties, and then we find out what’s going on with them again later, in the nineties, for example. As a reader, I like finding little links like that, so as I writer I enjoy putting them in. It would make me so happy if someone was to notice one of them one day!

Do you have general themes you like to explore in your writing?

I enjoy writing about age. I like creating a sense of nostalgia, but also appreciate the innocence of youth and finding the common ground between generations. I find that there is always the common theme of long-lasting love in my writing too, with all the human flaws and the withstanding passion that can come with that.

Going away from writing now, tell me about yourself as a reader. What genres do you like reading?

I used to read mainly best-sellers of pretty much any genre, although my favourite is probably historical fiction. My theory was that there are so many books in the world, why not read the ones that have been vetted by the masses. However, We Are Animals is being published by an indie publisher (Lightning Books) and I’ve since learnt that best-sellers are vetted by the few large publishing houses, and then the press, before they manage to get to the masses.

I’ve recently found that reading independently published books has broadened the scope of what I read massively. I’m finding that when people ask me for a book recommendation now, it always tends to be an indie.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way of writing (although it’s probably quite hard to write underwater), so I think my advice would be to do what feels right to you. I’ve heard lots of writers feeling down as a result of writer’s block or having the feeling that what they’ve written isn’t good enough. I would suggest just stopping for a bit if this happens. Writing is an enjoyable pastime, and if it ceases to be so, give yourself a break. You’ll probably find yourself longing to come back to it.

And don’t write underwater.

Review from K T Robson

Thank you for this review K T, which you can read in full here.

Review

I loved how well this story weaved together – What starts off as a tale of lost love soon turns much deeper, showing how fate and chance can cause our paths to cross at just the right moment. Not just with the two Jans, but all the supporting characters, too. No matter how large the world may be, everyone in this story seemed to fall together in the right place, the right time. All the interwoven segments of the various animals just seemed to fit so well with the story, too. My heart still breaks for the little quail.

Coming from an area where a lot of my school mates took off on the infamous ‘Gap Year’, Jans blunt descriptions of the ‘vests’ he encounters on his travels did make me chuckle. Young, naive travellers all convinced they’re going to find their true selves on some tropical beach as they hand out night club flyers.

Reading through this as Jan and his various companions travel all over the world, it only strengthened my own passion for travel. It came across as such a realistic portrayal of travelling; all the characters you can meet, some nice and some not so much, the highs and lows of exploring but being away from home. It wasn’t some fairytale perfect holiday, which made it all the more enjoyable to read. Things go wrong, people get in trouble, relationships fall apart and fall together again.

Amongst all the little side stories within this novel, my favourite had to be the tale of Ebba and Olivia. I won’t spoil it here, but I will say it was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I can’t wait to see more from Tim Ewins and see what he writes next!

Books Over Everything Review

Thanks Monica, for this review of We Are Animals, which you can read hereWAA on floorboards.

Initial Thoughts

If you are an avid reader of this blog, you already know that I don’t read much contemporary fiction. I usually prefer fantasy or magical realism in my books but something about the description of this book caught my attention. I’m not big into travel so it wasn’t that element that got me but I think the fact that a chunk of the book is set in India did it for me. I am half Indian and hanging out with the OG Monika (my grandma from India) is one of my favorite pastimes. I think this book reminded me of the way she tells stories.

Some Things I Liked

  • Seinfeld vibes. This is a weird comparison, I know, but hear me out. I loved the way the main character puts people into categories or buckets and he draws these interesting conclusions about them. For example, I loved the socks and detergent categories. Similarly, I loved the wacky situations that Manjan found himself in because of misunderstandings. His antics reminded me of any good episode of Seinfeld.
  • A story of coincidences. I liked that the entire story revolved around coincidence. Characters would tell other characters stories and as the reader, you’d think, “that sounds familiar”, and it was familiar. Everyone seemed to know each other at one point or another in life. Some of the relationships were explained and other were left unaddressed. Overall, the story was about the way fate works in mysterious ways and I thought that was an interesting metaphor for life.
  • Animals as characters. Another aspect of the story that I hadn’t really seen before was the use of animals as characters. I liked that they were personified as humans but there was no science fiction element to them.

One Thing I Wasn’t Crazy About

  • While I liked the writing style of this book, I’ll be honest and say it had a slow start. It took me a while to really understand some of the colloquialisms used by the narrator. Terms like “vest” and “mustache” are used freely in the beginning of the story and it took me a little while to fully grasp the meaning behind them.

Series Value

I liked this book and I think there is potential for sequel or spin-off stories here. The ending is open-ended and there were numerous stories that were alluded to but not explained that could make fun short stories or side stories if the author wanted to expand on them.

Final Thoughts

This book was out of my comfort zone. I rarely read contemporary YA fiction and less often still, contemporary adult fiction but this was a welcome change. I found the characters engaging and I wanted to know more about them.

Babydolls and Razorblades Review

Thank you to Babydolls and Razorblades for this lovely review (which you can read in full here.

Review

What a wonderfully humorous read that certainly did not lack originality. There was a good mixture of humour and pull at the heart strings moments. It was a story full of love and hope. It was a spectacular journey to be on, all the characters were well presented. It was well paced and kept me intrigued throughout.  This was a well crafted debut novel that I absolutely enjoyed reading and highly recommend. I look forward to reading more from Tim in the future.

5/5

Purchase here

Blog for B for Bookreview

Guest blog for B for Bookreview is here

and copied and pasted here. This blog is about Love Island, guns and wine…

 

Guest Post

Fate and travel – the inspiration for We Are Animals

It was recently pointed out to me that the word ‘fate’ is used 27 times in We Are Animals. After that sentence, I now know that I’ve written that word at least 28 times, probably more. In the book, Manjan, the protagonist, waits on a beach, certain that fate will bring an old flame back to him (29 times, but I’ll stop counting now). As the author though, I’m not even sure I believe in fate.

I met my wife (Gemma) on my first day of university and, although I’m not a fan of ‘insta-love’ in literature, I knew that I loved her from the first moment I spoke to her. The feeling never left me during the next five years of friendship, and on the day that I eventually told Gemma how I felt, she told me that she had felt the exact same way since the first day we met too. She even remembered the first thing I’d said to her (it was something about the colour green, honestly, it wasn’t worth remembering).

I’m not saying it was fate but it was something, and I would like to think that if Gemma and I were to lose each other, that same something would bring us back together again. Having said that, Love Island is about to start and I have no idea where she is.

This idea of some kind of invisible force loosely formed the basic plot for We Are Animals, and the ideology of Manjan, who could, I suppose, be described as a lovestruck idiot. Manjan and his partner (um… Ladyjan) in We Are Animals repeatedly lose each other over the course of fifty-four years, and something (if Manjan is to be believed, fate) keeps bringing them back together. It happens no matter which country they happen to be in at the time. Coincidence? Well, no, fiction, but roll with me here.

So, fate, or the lack thereof, is one of the main themes in We Are Animals. Another is travel. The novel is set in ten countries and there are sub-plots and scenes that were influenced by my own travels. An obvious example for me is a scene where Manjan and his group of travellers try to ask a group of people in a small town in Russia for a car pump. They can’t speak Russian so Manjan mimes using a pump.

When Gemma and I were in Cambodia, we found ourselves in a field several miles outside of Kampot on a single motorbike with two flat tyres. Sadly, neither Gemma nor I speak Khmer, so we happily mimed a pump to someone who appeared to live alone in an isolated hut. He retreated back into the hut and it only then occurred to us that he may well be fetching the shotgun that we’d just acted out. It probably hadn’t helped that we also made the universal noises for a pump (which, unfortunately, are also the universal noises for a shotgun).

I hate to ruin the suspense here, but the man mended our bike and was generally very helpful. It didn’t end the same for Manjan’s group, although that’s all I’ll say about that here… of course, the book will say more 😊 I do wish that we hadn’t air-threatened that lovely man though.

Manjan never focuses on these sketchy moments when he’s deciding if fate exists or not, in fact, he regularly finds himself in pretty dire circumstances and only pays attention to the moments that he and Ladyjan are reunited. I won’t tell you if they meet again after the last time they part, whether his belief in fate is justified or not, but hopefully the ending will take some people by surprise.

The adverts are on. Gemma’s missed the first part of Love Island. This isn’t like her at all. Although, I can hear a noise in the kitchen… the fridge, a corkscrew, glug glug glug. Oh, here she is, with two glasses of wine. See, I told you if I lost her that something would bring us together again. That’s fate.

Or wine.

Thank you, Tim Ewins and Rachel’s Random Resources

 

 

Bookshine and Readbows review

Thank you to Bookshine and Readbows for this lovely review!

 

We Are Animals is an extraordinary story about some very ordinary people.

The story begins, and ends, on a beach (different beaches).  Jan is a ‘moustache’ (older man, firmly entrenched in his opinions and resistant to change) and Sharkey is a ‘vest’ (young, full of spirit and spirits, and looking for himself at beach discos).  Gradually the older man’s prickly disdain and the younger man’s gormless curiosity settle into a kind of holding pattern, and Jan begins to tell his life story, the story of his love for – and loss of – a girl (also called Jan).

Manjan’s story (to differentiate him from Ladyjan, his lady-love) is told in flashes back and forth.  He starts with his very ordinary childhood in Fishton, England, and from there he recounts how he ended up travelling the world with a variety of very different companions, and how time after time Fate threw him directly into the path of Ladyjan, or she into his.

Nor was that the only coincidence that Fate had up her sleeve.  Manjan’s whole story is in intricate web of unlikely coincidences, that see him travelling from England to Sweden, Russia, Poland, India, Goa (then round again) and yet keep bumping in to the same small number of people.  It reminded me a little of Forrest Gump, only instead of innocently influencing world events, Manjan obliviously influences the lives of the ordinary people around him, often without even being aware that he has.

So far, so unlikely plotwise.  What makes this story special, is the emotional pull it carries.  Each ‘ordinary’ person that Manjan – and therefore we – meets has their hopes and dreams, sorrows and disappointments, and we find ourselves caring about them, even as they pass swiftly by.  At one point I found myself crying over a small, nameless quail!

We Are Animals is a beautifully repeating pattern of small moments of happiness and sadness, mixed with plenty of humour, pathos and an unbelievable number of coincidences.  It is also the story of how we touch each others lives, unknowing, as we move around the planet focused intently on our own priorities, like a cow intent on grass who finds herself on a beach, a cockroach banging up against the same wall repeatedly, or a quail who can’t stop thinking about her eggs.

Both amusing and profound, this book stands out from the crowd, and will stay with you long after the sounds of the silent disco fade.

 

Manjan now adopted a strict ‘no vest’ policy when it came to his story, but he had warmed somewhat to this particular vest.  There was a chance that Shakey would listen.  Manjan supposed that Shakey might laugh, but he doubted that he would wander off.  In fact, he was beginning to doubt that Shakey would ever leave.
‘Sorry, can you start again?  I wasn’t listening,’ Shakey said.
‘I hadn’t begun,’ Manjan replied.
‘Perfect.’
There was a severe lack of intelligence in Shakey, but there certainly wasn’t a lack of honesty.
Manjan sipped his wine and looked out to sea.
‘For the purposes of the story,’ he started, ‘let’s just assume that Ladyjan was fit.’

– Time Ewins, We Are Animals

Blog Tour: We Are Animals – Tim Ewins

Thank you so much for this review Bookshine and Readbows!

Bookshine And Readbows

We Are Animals

*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author and Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

Blurb:   A cow looks out to sea, dreaming of a life that involves grass.

Jan is also looking out to sea. He’s in Goa, dreaming of the passport-thief who stole his heart (and his passport) forty-six years ago. Back then, fate kept bringing them together, but lately it seems to have given up.

We Are Animals CoverJan has not. In his long search he has accidentally held a whole town at imaginary gunpoint in Soviet Russia, stalked the proprietors of an international illegal lamp-trafficking scam and done his very best to avoid any kind of work involving the packing of fish. Now he thinks if he just waits, if he just does nothing at all, maybe fate will find it easier…

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