Still Water

A beautifully written atmospheric story of trauma, grief and redemption, Still Water is a debut from a bright new voice in literary fiction.

When Jane Douglas returns to the Shetland Islands, she thinks she has escaped the dark shadows of her childhood. She carves out a simple life on the bleak, windswept island, working at the salmon fishery and spending quiet evenings at home. And for the first time in her life, she’s happy.

Then the body of Jane’s long-missing mother is found in a flooded quarry. Her mother disappeared when Jane was a teenager, following the death of Jane’s baby brother. Jane has spent her life running from her past, living in fear that she has inherited her mother’s demons. Now, Jane must face what actually happened on that fateful, tragic day twenty years ago…

In Still Water, debut author Rebecca Pert shows an extraordinary gift for touching your heart by making you connect with all the tiny things that form our memories and help us understand both who we were and who we’ve become. She is that rare writer who is able to bring her characters wholly to life, by reminding us of the pain, the sadness and the difficulties that often come through human connections. Reviewing this book today on the cusp of my summer holidays has given me the time and space to really reflect on this read and I’m so happy to be part of this Random Things blog tour and delighted to have the opportunity to share such an original, moving and beautifully written story about grief, loss and coming home – whether that’s literally or metaphorically…

It’s a privilege to be on today’s Blog Tour of #StillWater. It’s wonderful to be curled up with a great book after a windy walk. I love being able to shout loudly about great reads through blog tours and am really grateful to Anne Cater for continually keeping my spirits and my #TBR high, through her diverse array of blog tours.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s a moving and original read that will genuinely draw you into its world and draw you right into Jane’s extraordinary emotional journey, as you join in with her on her journey back into her childhood as she tries to navigate a pathway to be able to face the harrowing losses that make up her family history.

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Jane is a character that you can totally believe in. When I was reading about her arrival back in her former life in Shetland and watching her trying to navigate the challenges that come when trying to exist in the shadows of her own past. Watching Jane trying to deal with the discovery of her mother’s body was heartbreaking and it was difficult at times to remember that this was a fictional tale as I got so caught up in her story and felt like I could connect with the feeling of being so connected to the past, whilst refusing to let yourself be defined by it.

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Jane’s determination to try to work through the horrors of her past and all the difficulties that unfold as a result of it coming back to confront her is one of the best things about this book. The fact that the book has a dual perspective through her mother’s diaries adds real depth to the narrative and gives us an insight into Sylvia’s life and some of the challenges that she had to endure in an absolutely heartbreaking way. There is no denying that this makes for difficult subject matter, yet it is dealt with so sensitively that you will be heartbroken reading about everything that she had to go through – this balances out Jane’s feelings about her mum’s choices as you get to see things from the opposite end of the timeline and increases your rising empathy for both of them, for very different reasons.

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Since this is set in a place that I love, I absolutely connected with this read and was able to imagine myself there and turning the pages of Sylvia’s diary for myself. There were loads of moments in this book that will absolutely break your heart and it truly shows the impact of intergenerational trauma in a way that rings true and feels very authentic. The fact that we have to wait until the final pages of the novel to get to the heart of the matter makes for a compelling read and is so impressive for a debut author. I know so many of my bookish friends who would love this book and I think that I’ll be recommending it to my Wine Library book club as one of our monthly choices.

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Rebecca Pert might be a debut author, but she has crafted one of my favourite reads of the year in Still Water.  It presents a picture of a journey to find yourself through the prism of your past in the most challenging of circumstances and captures the Shetland Islands’ desolate beauty so perfectly as well. I would absolutely love to see this on our screens in the future. If this review hasn’t made you want to read this book immediately, then follow the blogtour to see what these other booklovers are saying – and you should definitely consider taking the leap and buying yourself a copy.

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It’s one of the most poignant, moving and thought-provoking books I’ve read so far this year, and I’ll definitely be buying it as a gift for a few people as it’s one of those books that makes you want to talk about it with someone else who’s read it – and hope that they loved it just as much as you.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me onto the blogtour. Another fantastic reading experience for 2022

Writer On The Shelf

Rebecca Pert was born in 1990, the youngest of four siblings. She grew up in a small town in Devon before attending Cardiff University, where she received an MA in Creative Writing. She now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, son and dog. Still Water is her first novel.

Tasting Sunlight

Teenager Sally has just run away from a clinic where she to be treated for anorexia. She’s furious with everything and everyone, and wants to be left in peace.

Liss is in her forties, living alone on a large farm that she runs single-handedly. She has little contact with the outside world, and no need for other people.

From their first meeting, Sally realises that Liss isn’t like other adults; she expects nothing of Sally and simply accepts who she is, offering her a bed for the night with no questions asked.

That night becomes weeks and then months, as an unlikely friendship develops and these two damaged women slowly open up – connecting to each other, reconnecting with themselves, and facing the darkness in their pasts  through their shared work on the land.

Tasting Sunlight is a story of friendship across generations, of love and acceptance, of the power of nature to heal and transform, and the goodness that surrounds us, if only we take time to see it…

I absolutely love Orenda books and find there is no one better at introducing me to a wide range of translated fiction as well as having an uncanny knack at making sure that I’m reading amazing debut fiction that really keeps me on my reading toes – so when Anne Cater from Random Things Tours asked me if I’d like to take part in the blog tour for Tasting Sunlight I absolutely bit her hand off. I find that introducing a steady flow of translated fiction to my TBR really can be a palate cleanser and I love being introduced to writers I might never have discovered through her blog tours!

green tree under cloudy sky

Although I was totally absorbed in the story in Tasting Sunlight , it is undoubtedly the beauty of Ewald Arenz’s writing that makes it such a treat to read, particularly in the way he brings the natural world to life through his pages.  The story of Sallly and Liss  is so perfectly realised that it was hard at times to remember that they are fictional characters rather than real people whose lives had become entwined with mine.

Liss is one of those rare characters that you connect with utterly as the story unfolds, despite the fact that she seems so ‘closed’ at the beginning of the book. The fact that she has had to endure her own struggles mean that she does not trust easily, so she’s not an easy character to get to know. The setting of Liss’ farm was painted so poetically that I could imagine myself there, and see these two characters start to open up to each other and let their barriers down, despite everything they’ve had to endure. They really came alive for me and my heart broke for them both, due to all of the things that they’ve had to put up with and the impact of these traumatic experiences on their ability to open up and trust another human being.

Sally is never presented as just the sum of her experiences either, I think that it’s a testament to the strength of the writing that we connect so strongly with her across the novel, despite the fact that she can be so black and white about life, because of everything she’s had to overcome. Her relationship with Liss is convincingly and movingly depicted and full of tiny human interactions that definitely makes it feel like you are getting an insight into a very real relationship. Liss’s quiet sense of decency and protective side are really brought out through the way that she provides a stable and calm space for Sally that gives them both a chance to consider that humanity might be a lot less grim than they have both been accustomed to believing.

What I loved about this book was that we get to see that wise words don’t always come from the most talkative and outgoing people and that justice isn’t always even-handed in the way that it provides for people – what they deserve and what they get is sometimes farther apart than we could ever imagine. Be warned – at several places this book is definitely going to break your heart. It deals with difficult subject matter in a highly sensitive and nuanced way and even though it raises matters such as eating disorders, abuse, and coercive control, it does so in a sensitive and emotionally intelligent way that gives you the space to navigate through these difficult experiences and see the hope that begins to emerge for both of their futures.

You will definitely find it hard to put this book down once you get immersed in it as you’ll be so wrapped up in Sally and Liss’s lives you’ll need to keep reading and find out how their relationship allows them both to change. Needless to say, I was not disappointed and I’m desperate to hear from my friends that I’ve recommended Tasting Sunlight to, as they are definitely in for an absolute treat.

I  recommend this beautifully translated and emotionally resonant novel to people who really like to get their teeth into a story that makes you live alongside these characters and see the impact of their life experiences in vivid technicolour. I loved the deft characterisation as much as I enjoyed the plot and I will definitely be recommending it to friends of mine who I know will adore this amazing debut. I know that it’s only June but this incredible read is a guaranteed contender for my ‘Best of 2022’ list already.

You need to buy this book, that is my Summer reading advice for you – use these longer nights profitably and treat yourself to an absolutely amazing read that shows how redemption can come in very unexpected ways when we least expect it. Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and also to the wonderful translation from Rachel Ward, which brought this story to life beautifully, All I can do now is count down to Ewald Arenz’s next book, but I know one thing, Tasting Sunlight will take some beating, that much is for sure…

Praise for this stunning debut

‘Written with beautiful simplicity, this sensitive and profound story examines how we heal and help each other, delivered with deep insight and huge heart’ Doug Johnstone

‘A truly special book. Powerful, lyrical and profoundly affecting, Ewald Arenz spins a tale of friendship, restoration and possibility, with utmost heart and care. I loved it!’ Miranda Dickinson

‘An exquisitely written, heart-warming story … the smells, tastes, sounds and rhythms of nature are described with sensuous clarity, so you feel as if you are there, picking potatoes from the earth, tending the bees, and tasting the pears. Just beautiful!’ Gill Paul

‘Told with honesty and a clear-sighted understanding of human nature … I loved it’ Michael J. Malone

‘The simple minutiae of everyday life becomes intricate and essential: rituals that connect one woman to the land and her heritage, and show a lost, younger one a different truth. Moving and heart-wrenching, but ultimately uplifting’ Carol Lovekin

‘Breathtakingly beautiful’ Louise Beech

‘A simply wonderful, heartwarming read…’ Fiona Sharp, Bookseller

Writer On The Shelf

Ewald Arenz, born in Nürnberg in 1965, studied English and American literature and history.
He is a teacher at a secondary school in Nürnberg.
His novels and plays have received many awards.
Ewald lives near Fürth with his family.

Translator

Rachel Ward is a freelance translator of literary and creative texts from German and French to English. Having always been an avid reader and enjoyed word games and puzzles, she discovered a flair for languages at school and went on to study modern languages at the University of East Anglia.
She spent the third year working as a language assistant at two grammar schools in Saaebrücken, Germany. During her final year, she realised that she wanted to put these skills and passions to use professionally and applied for UEA’s MA in Literary Translation, which she completed in 2002.
Her published translations include Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang and Red Rage by Brigitte Blobel, and she is a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires, and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good.

There is fourteen-year-old Jael, who nurses a crush on the preacher’s wife; the mother who bakes a sublime peach cobbler every Monday for her date with the married Pastor; and Eula and Caroletta, single childhood friends who seek solace in each other’s arms every New Year’s Eve.

With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be – and as free as they deserve to be.

‘It’s impossible to pick a standout from this collection… a tender and rich look at all the complexities and layers of female sexuality.’ – Red magazine

This no holds barred short story collection is like nothing I’ve ever read before and it will definitely keep you turning the pages if you love dipping into shorter sliv=ces of fiction and might even go a long way to converting you even if it’s not a genre you’re usually drawn to. This collection has something for everyone and brings its characters to life in a fresh and original way that doesn’t pull any punches. I love the fact that it contains bite-size stories from so many different women’s experiences and allows you to see that you shouldn’t judge these ‘church ladies’ by the sheen on their bibles and that there is a lot more going on in the secret lives of the righteous than you might ever have imagined…

I also loved the fact that the ‘theme’ of this anthology was sexuality and femininity ’ which meant that you could be exploring marital relationships in one story and then thinking about living outside the rules in the very next one. My favourite one was Instruction for Married Christian Husbands and I’m not going to give out any spoilers, but I’m sure you will love it just as much as I did and I bet you will not be able to finish it without laughing! It’s perfect for that late night ‘Just one more chapter…’ feeling that you get when you are really enjoying a book and the fact that the stories are so diverse really means that there’s something here for everyone.

There are so many different kinds of short stories here – dark and lighthearted, lengthy and shorter more Instamatic pieces and lengthier insights into some of these characters too. I think this is a perfect Summer holiday read as you can dip in and out of it and you will certainly feel the temperature rise between the pages as well as on your lounger.

Thanks so much to Tara McEvoy From Pushkin Press or sending me a copy and asking me to take part on the Blog Tour. What I’m not thanking her so much for are the several new books I’ve added to my wishlist after checking out Pushkin’s other books this summer – That #TBR is rising and rising 

If you loved the sound of this book, you can buy it here  and also check out the rest of the Orenda Bookshelf if you’re looking for a fantastic summer holiday read!

Writer On The Shelf

Deesha Philyaw’s collection of short stories about Black women, sex, and the Black church, THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES is forthcoming from West Virginia University Press in September 2020. Her work has been listed as Notable in the Best American Essays series, and her writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Brevity, dead housekeeping, Apogee Journal, Catapult, Cheat River Review, TueNight, ESPN’s The Undefeated and The Baltimore Review; Essence, Ebony, and Bitch magazines; and various anthologies. Deesha is a Fellow at the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction and a past Pushcart Prize nominee for essay writing in Full Grown People. Deesha is also the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband.

Learn more about Deesha’s work at deeshaphilyaw.com.

The Poet


I believe every word you say. That was always my mistake.

Bright, promising Emma is entangled in a toxic romance with her old professor – and she’s losing control.

Cruel, charming Tom is idolized by his students and peers – confident he holds all the cards.

In their small Oxford home, he manipulates and undermines her every thought and act. Soon, he will push her to the limit and she must decide: to remain quiet and submit, or to take her revenge.

Written in verse and charged with passion and anger, The Poet is a portrait of a deeply dysfunctional relationship, exploring coercive control, class and privilege. It is also a page-turning tale of female solidarity and survival.

When Anne Cater let me know about the Blog Tour, for The Poet, I bit her hand off. I so intrigued by the premise and the fact that it was going to be realised in verse – I actually read it in full the day I received it, my anticipation had really reached fever pitch and I couldn’t wait any longer. Let me just tell you that The Poet definitely did not disappoint.

The cover is absolutely stunning and hints at the beauty and fragility within the heart of this story and Emma’s beauty and fragiity as she blossoms and blooms through these pages – if you are a fan of top-quality writing, you’ll discover much to admire here and I feel that it will be a real palate cleanser for those of you looking like something really different to make you think, feel and respond to

I love a book where things are not quite as they seem and I’d have to say that once I was 15 minutes into this fascinating and original read I was absolutely invested and could not stop reading. It is rare to be able to dedicate a whole day to reading at this time of the year if you are a teacher – never mind in the middle of exams But this book had me hooked and I just could not stop once I joined Emma and got an insight into her unforgettable story, in such a unique way. I really want to chat with someone else who’s read it now as I am keen to see if their thoughts aligned with mine as the story unfolded. It is an absolutely wonderful read and I promise you that you won’t be able to stop thinking about this situation, these people and Louise Reed’s wonderful narrative voice as you immerse yourself in this tale

The diversity of books being published at the moment means that nowadays writers have to think outside the box if they want their readers to be genuinely captivated – and Louis Reed manages this with skill and originality. I was captivated by these characters and their circumstances and thought that this fresh treatment of coercive control and dysfunctional relationships is one that a diverse range of readers could meet in their own way and get a lot out of – it would make an amazing book group read and its unique construction will definitely be a talking point as well as its very topical subject matter

I absolutely love a book where we are challenged as well as captivated and without a doubt, you soon become aware that there’s more to this unfolding narrative than meets the eye. The way that the relationship is evoked in such a cleverly layered way made for compelling reading that ensures that you take nothing for granted– something else that sets her aside from other more run-of-the-mill writers. The story that is uncovered is all the more affecting as we care about the people it’s happening to. Emma’s situation and everything that starts to be revealed about the truth about the unraveling situation is much more effective because we actually feel that we’ve got to know her as a real person and see her real response to everything about the situation she finds herself so irrevocably caught up in.

As I said, I read this in a single day, being utterly loath to drag myself away from the beauty of the writing and the situation that we are drawn into. I love books that are even better than the one you’ve been anticipating and I have to say that this was definitely my read of the month – it was just so unique. This book really takes you on a journey alongside Emma – you know that there’s more going on below the surface as soon as you start reading and can’t look away as the story takes you with her to a really challenging place that will have you cheering her on as she decides to turn the tables in a way you cannot look away from

Buy yourself a copy here and experience its splendour for yourself!

Don’t just take my word for it either – check out these reviews

This is the book I have always needed, it is F*****G BRILLIANT and everyone should read it. ― Nikita Gill

A beautiful, biting page-turner… is it any different for young women, these days? Reid’s novel provides — as the best fiction does — a nuanced, thought provoking answer to this question. ― Irish Times

Brisk, disturbing and very satisfying ― Daily Mail

Brilliant and beautifully written. It’ll have you raging and rejoicing till the very last page. ― Manjeet Mann, winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2021

I devoured it both as a breath-taking, page-turning novel on betrayal and a series of startling poems, chiselled from bone. The Poet is going to e x p l o d e into 2022 and leave us all spilt and shuddering! Astounding book.― Helen Paris

A novel in verse about poetry, female desire and achievement, gender politics and revenge, it weeps, rages and triumphs in words as exquisite as emotion. Loved it. ― Julie Cohen

A thunderstorm of female power with nods to the greatest poets of all time. Drop everything and read. ― Ericka Waller

Writer On The Shelf

Louisa Reid has lived in Cambridge, London and Zurich, and now lives near Manchester. She graduated with a degree in English from Oxford before training as an English teacher at Cambridge University and she continues to work as a teacher. Louisa is the author of four novels for young adults: Black Heart Blue and Gloves Off were both nominated  for the CILIP Carnegie Medal.

Just for Today

Engrossing…a powerful book with characters that will stay with you‘ **** Heat

‘What a yearning, tenderly bruising beauty of a book. Generous, gorgeous and funny’ Rhik Samadder

‘Unputdownable. Totally wonderful’ Daisy Goodwin


The party has to end sometime

It all starts on New Year’s Eve. A night that has to be a success, whatever the cost. For Joni and her friends, it’ll be a party that promises all the high stakes and glamour of any other, but by sunrise they’ll be dealing with something darker than the usual post-party comedown.

Not that they let this stand in their way. For this is their year to revel in all that the playground of London has to offer: sneaking into places they shouldn’t, breaking every rule, falling in love with the wrong people. All the while avoiding one undeniable truth: it’s not if the party ends, it’s how.

JUST FOR TODAY is a bittersweet evocation of the end of innocence, and an exhilarating celebration of having nothing to lose – until suddenly, you do.

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This is a book that will make you think hard, make you laugh and wince and reflect on things you might never have contemplated in quite that way before or almost forgotten you once thought – and make you come back to it to re-read certain parts so you can drink in the elixir of youth, whilst at the same time be shocked and affected by some of its troubling and darker passages and glad that your own nights of all-night revelry and unwise decisions are firmly behind you…

Just For Today tells the story of Joni who is navigating her way through life in her 20s though the good times and bad and experiencing the highs and lows of life in the capital – where feeling free and feeling trapped are not always a million miles from one another –It’s all the more compelling for feeling remarkably like real life, despite some of the more difficult and dark aspects of their hedonistic lifestyle choices that we are faced with through its pages. Its vividly realised lives are so convincingly drawn that the characters spring to life right before our eyes. We get a no holds barred insight into the fallout of this particular evening, allowing us to see the truth behind the glitter and the emptiness at the bottle of the last bottle of champagne

This memorable book – for memorable it most definitely is, despite its sometimes difficult subject matter – is so much more than a story about intersecting lives  – it’s a story about connections and the small intertwining threads that make up the tapestry of life; a story about darkness transfigured into light and most of all a story about how human beings connect and relate to one another even if it is only in tiny and fleeting ways – and how choices and decisions can reverberate in ways we might never have imagined…

The book gives a real insight into Joni’s run-up to New Year’s Eve and then looks at the way that this longed-for night becomes something that none of them could ever have anticipated – I found it truly engrossing and it would be difficult for me to choose one part that I preferred over the others – different parts of the novel were all absolutely compelling in their own right. I absolutely adored its blending of the personal with the idea of a coming-of-age novel where the darkness and bleak aspects contrast with the sense of youth and connection and we get to sense the small moments of pleasure and hope amongst darkness, sorrow and pain.

This book might be quite emotionally challenging for some people, owing to the nature of its content, but please be reassured that although it does not skirt around the darkness or diminish the impact of NYE – The story itself looks at life afterwards through the prism of these experiences and the aftermath too. There is much to think about here and its blending of the hopeful and the painful is deftly done, leading to a reading experience that is very hard to put into words – the closest I can come to is that this book distils the joy and pain of youth into an intoxicating mixture that will compel you as you think about how you yourself might have reacted and suspend judgement of others as they navigate the aftermath in their own way.

Just For Today  is a book that you won’t forget easily. A beautifully written novel that contains within it the fizz and stir of youth even as it looks back on the hurt and pain that was caused. It is an intelligent and original read that will leave you feeling like you see the world around you with new eyes and a read that will keep coming back to you at the quieter moments of the days as your thoughts drift, some of the moments of this book will come to mind and make you appreciate the small moments in your day, the positive relationships that you have and the power of a moment or a choice to change things forever. Please just go out and buy yourself a copy now and I have no doubt that you’ll fall for it as hard as I did.

‘What a yearning, tenderly bruising beauty of a book. Generous, gorgeous and funny, it’s a brilliant portrayal of friendship in the roaring noughties. When I finished, I was so bereft and impressed that I turned straight back to the beginning and started again’ — Rhik Samadder

‘Unputdownable. Totally wonderful’ ― Daisy Goodwin

Writer On The Shelf

Nell Hudson grew up on a farm in Worcestershire. She graduated from the Oxford School of Drama in 2012 and has been working as a professional actor ever since. Just For Today is her first novel.