Review of Three Books by Samantha Turner

Samantha Turner – My Heart on Your Sleeve, The Rhymes in My Mind and The Devil You Know

I recently got hold of three books by Wigan writer, Samantha Turner, and they are three glossy-covered and slim volumes that speak from the heart. Indeed, the back cover of ‘My Heart on Your Sleeve’ describes its contents as “An evocative collection of raw emotion and gritty realism”. I get that.

And yes, the “heart felt, confused, rambling and often dark poetry” is, at times, raw.

“You have a mental illness, He said.”

These are words from the poem, ‘Mental’ that can be taken in many ways. My first reading took me to a relationship with a controlling narcissist, my second to a doctor’s office, and my third to a voice inside the protagonist’s head.

This is the way things are with many of Samantha Turner’s writings. Subtle hidden depths.

Here’s another example, this time from her book, ‘The Rhymes in My Mind’.

“For one magical moment, I know, I know everything, Then it is gone”.

Of the two books of poetry, my personal preference is for the quirkiness and everyday observation of ‘The Rhymes in My Mind’, not because of any lack of skill in ‘My Heart on Your Sleeve’, but because I prefer reading about massive knickers and ‘This Little Piggy’ and really appreciate the local references and the glimpses into the everyday life of another writer. ‘My Heart…’ is far more conceptual and spiritual, and I tend to appreciate writing of this sort more when hearing it out loud, accompanied by music, rather than reading it on the page.

Personal preferences aside, I believe that many women will be able to identify with the sentiments of many of Samantha Turner’s poems, particularly ‘Men’, and I am sure a man somewhere has written a similar piece of work about women.

The final poem of ‘My Heart…’ is just 15 words long, but still, it gave me goosebumps. As did many of Samantha’s other works. The key is to give them time. What seems simple on first read will suddenly click and you’ll understand what the writer is saying on a whole different level.

Samantha Turner writes poems of relationships, pain and subtle joy. They are easily understood, but not simplistic, and will speak to most of us who are thoughtful about our existences.

Both books are slim volumes at 32 pages long, and at times I wondered if they might work even better as a single book with all the poems combined. However, this is basically a result of wishing for more, rather than dissatisfaction with what there is.

And this leads me to mention Samantha’s novelette (or long short story, or brief novel) ‘The Devil You Know’. This is a thriller about Lizzie Holland, who may or may not be having a midlife crisis, and the book is labelled as ‘The Lizzie Holland Stories Book One’.

Lizzie gives up her job at the doombox pharmacy, and Roy, the keyboard warrior, masquerades as Leanne Parker and arranges an appointment with Lizzie who agrees to visit Leanne’s remote home and do her nails. But this is not what happens… Everything goes wrong for Lizzie. Will Lizzie’s husband and sister find her in time? And what are Roy’s real motives?

This is a relaxing, yet also surprisingly compelling short novel from Samantha Turner. I say surprisingly compelling as I’m puzzled how relaxing and compelling worked simultaneously for me. Layout-wise, this book could do with a few paragraph splits in the first two pages but I will offer little in the way of further criticism. The main characters are well defined and relatable, the action begins early and the suspense is maintained right till the end when the reader discovers the unexpected motives behind Roy’s actions.

This was an immensely enjoyable short read, and it’s clear that longer works suit Samantha’s writing style. OK, so the story was short-ish, and as a result, wasn’t intense in the way that a longer novel would be. But I can just imagine it as a full length novel in which the writer could get into excruciating detail of what was inside Lizzie’s head, and perhaps even see whole chapters from inside Roy’s head. It’s clear from reading ‘The Devil You Know’ that Samantha Turner has the insight and style to write very successful longer psychological and spiritual works. I hope she does so, and I hope I get to read them.

It goes without saying that all three books are definitely recommended.

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