Reviews of Taking Liberties

Here’s a selection of reviews of the short story anthology Taking Liberties, which includes my little tale, ‘On The Brushes’. It’s great to see what readers, writers and book bloggers make of these stories by twelve established authors.

Longer versions of what they have to say may be found on Amazon or Goodreads, or by following the link indicated. You are most welcome!

‘An excellent collection of short stories about freedom from twelve authors. I was very impressed by how differently each author interpreted the topic and all of these literary offerings are well-written with thought-provoking ideas. There were perhaps three stories I didn’t really connect with, but I enjoyed all of the others. My favourites were ‘Human Error’ by Stephanie Bretherton, which has a sci-fi element; ‘Snuffr – Or How Britain Became A Nicer Place’ by Paul Waters which is dark and wickedly humorous; and ‘On the Brushes’ by Sue Clark which is quite gentle yet compelling.’

NS Ford, writer, reader and blogger.

‘When you don’t know what you fancy until you try it as you dive into a box of chocolates, so Taking Liberties, with its range of different genres, delights the tastebuds in every way. There’s something to suit whatever mood you’re in and all delicious in their different ways. It’s a great introduction to the work of the authors and perfect holiday reading in that you can dip in and out and when you’re home again, buy the novels of your favourite authors who feature. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new passion?

judefowl, reader

‘Taking Liberties is a wonderfully eclectic collection of short stories from an equally eclectic collection of authors.
Having read novels by the majority, if not all of the collective I knew the standard of writing would be high and I wasn’t wrong.’

MarkieVee, reader

‘Lots of different styles and voices here, but all of a high quality. At times gripping, at times funny, at times moving, at times thought provoking. Enjoyed the overall theme. Will dip back in from time to time. Great public transport reading. Well worth it!’

Kindle customer

Three stories in and I just love this collection. If you like off beat short stories, you’ll enjoy Taking Liberties!

Miles Hudson, reader

Why Review?

Why review the books you read? I can think of five gold star reasons.

  1. Reviews matter. They really do. Studies have shown that 95% of consumers read reviews before deciding on a purchase. I’m willing to bet that figure is even higher for books. Think about it. How many times have you bought a book without checking the reviews first?
  2. Reviews increase visibility. They are how readers discover new authors and make sure their favourites are up to scratch. Authors benefit from honest reader feedback. And yes, most of us do read reviews – the good, the bad and the occasional ugly – despite what some writers say.
  3. Success breeds success. I’m talking algorithms here. Not that I pretend to understand this dark art. But it seems common sense to me that reviews influence them. The higher a book’s ranking, the greater the number of reviews (and stars) it has, the more likely it is that readers will find it via the algorithms. And being found by new readers is what turns an unknown work into a chart-topper.
  4. Reviewing is good manners. It seems to me, if you’ve read a book, especially one you enjoyed, it’s only polite to let the author know what you thought about it and spread the word to other readers. Reviews don’t have to be long, editorial analyses – though they are welcome too! A few lines saying what you liked or disliked about a book are fine.
  5. It’s good to take a moment. I review every book I read – with the possible exception of the blockbusters that can manage fine without me. I find it therapeutic to sit and think about what I’ve read, and articulate my response to it while it’s fresh in my mind. It’s like when you’ve watched a film and just have to talk to someone about it. The experience isn’t complete without that pause for reflection. Reviews give you that space.

Obviously, here I’m thinking about my own books: Note to Boy and the anthology Taking Liberties. But not only them. Once you’ve read a book, do please share the experience with other readers on Amazon, Goodreads, booksellers’ websites, or wherever you read and write about books.  

Thank you.

Two new names to remember – reviews

Do you review the books you read? I don’t mean the blockbusters whose names crop up with predictable regularity. They are managing quite well without our help, thank you very much.

I mean, if you discover a new name among the bookshelves, take a chance on their book and find you thoroughly enjoy it. Do you then take the time to write a review, even just a few lines? You should because reading what other people think is how undiscovered writers are, well, discovered.

If a novel’s already got a gazillion ratings and reviews, I don’t usually trouble myself. But if I read a book and I think it’s great and only a handful of others have reviewed it, then I always write a quick comment. I used to think I had to take ages penning a long treatise, impressing with my literary knowledge. I soon put a stop to that. These days I go for an honest reaction, shortly after finishing reading and leave the PhD theses to the erudite book bloggers and academics.

One other thing, call me a softie, but if I don’t get on with a book, I don’t waste my time penning a one-star review and breaking some writer’s heart. I know how much courage and stickability it takes to write a book, any book. It might not be to my taste but it probably will be to someone’s.

This preamble is to introduce my reviews of two books I enjoyed recently by novelists I’ve never come across before. Indeed, I believe they’re both debut authors. Domestic Bliss and Other Disasters by Jane Ions is hilarious and very well observed. A new comic voice on the block. A Spell in France by M C Clary is a well-constructed thriller, set partly in Nice, featuring an unsettlingly distant older husband and his naive, much younger wife. I thought I was heading for Manderley, then it all went in a different direction.

Maybe give them a try. Oh, and please review afterwards!

Domestic Bliss and Other Disasters by Jane Ions

To write a comic novel with lovable, relatable characters, a gripping plot and lines that are actually laugh-out-loud funny is no mean feat; to achieve this as a debut novelist is nothing short of a miracle. But Jane Ions has cracked it. The voice of Sally Forth (I know!) is hilarious and appealing from the off. There is so much to enjoy: Sally’s teenage son and his troop of oddball girlfriends; the lean-to constructed from rubbish at the side of the house: a running gag about the tabloids’ love of labelling all older women ‘Grans’, and Sally’s long-suffering husband Bill, an MP and – unusually in these strange political times – the only proper grown-up in the household. If you like the Nina Stibbe style of well-observed comedy with a heart, you’ll love this. A very worthy CWIP short-lister. I look forward to reading the next Jane Ions novel. 

A Spell in France by M C Clary

Shades of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca in this thriller, set mostly in Nice. Sylvie, a new and rather naïve bride, is on holiday with her much older, rather distant, husband Trevor when he collapses in the street and is taken off to hospital. Confusion surrounds what takes place next. We follow Sylvie over several years as she attempts to unpick what really happened to her husband. The Cote D’Azure and the art world in which Sylvie finds herself working are nicely recreated, as is the character of Sylvie herself, our narrator for a good part of the book. All in all, a satisfying thriller.

Reviews of Note to Boy

Here’s a selection of reviews of Note to Boy. It’s great to see what readers, writers and bookbloggers make of Eloise and Bradley, and wonderful to know they’ve brought some laughter into people’s lives – as well as a few tears and the odd cringe!

Longer versions of what they have to say may be found on Amazon or Goodreads, or by following the link indicated. You are most welcome!

‘What a unique and entertaining little novel. The volatile, yet affectionate relationship between the two main characters will be one that will stick in my memory for some time … Bradley was a fabulous character. I cheered Bradley on throughout the story. Humorous and poignant in equal measure … charmed me with its delightful characters.’


Note to Boy is a charming, hilarious story about an unlikely friendship that develops between two generations … The book itself is exceptionally well written … perfect for your afternoon on the beach … I highly recommend this clever book to anybody this summer – I’m sure you’ll love it!’Joel Francis, The Gibraltar Magazine

“Clark is a remarkable ventriloquist, alternating from the working-class vernacular of Bradley to the posh theatricality of Eloise with each chapter … The characters are richly drawn, and readers will quickly become invested in the odd couple, as individuals and as friends. The story is a pleasure all the way through. A funny, immersive portrait of an unusual working relationship.” – Kirkus Reviews

“This rib-tickling novel is skilfully written with the lightest touch, which in turn lends its hidden depths even greater poignancy … skip-along pacing and the perfectly-pitched timing of its punchlines, both humorous and moving… in the person of Eloise Slaughter, Sue Clark has created a truly memorable character who, despite considerable flaws, one cannot help warming to … Anyone with an interest in fashion or the swinging 60s will find much to love here but this is also a book that anyone can enjoy …this comes highly recommended, especially for anyone determined to age very badly indeed. So, if you’re looking for something unusual and entertaining while also being both thought-provoking and uplifting why not give this hidden gem a go?”Kindle Customer SB

“A heart-warming, darkly comedic book about friendship in the most unusual of places … I really loved reading Note To Boy, the dialogue between Eloise and Bradley, really did have me laughing to myself and at other times cringing … Characters like Trip, Dazzle, Bruno, Howie and her long running feud with Kristina Krabtree all gave life to the person Eloise was in her youth … As we are coming out of lockdown this book is a perfect reminder that we all need companionship, we all need someone to talk to and share experiences with, that sometimes those friendships are found in the most unlikely of friendships and that sometimes maybe all we need is to answer that advert in your local newsagents.”The Literary Addict, bookblogger.

Note to Boy, this is a book that once you have started you will have to finish.
Nice one Sue Clark! My mum also enjoyed it.
NSS944, a reader

Note to Boy is a cleverly written first novel and explores the developing relationship between two unlikely characters. The first person narrative of each reveals a young man with a troubled background and an ageing former doyen of the superficial cut and thrust of the fashion world. Although written as a comedy it is at the same time a sensitive, convincing and thought provoking exploration of societal issues at opposite ends of the scale. Great fun to read – and there’s no indication of how things pan out until the last page! I look forward to more from Sue Clark!Dr Barry, a reader

The adventures of this ill-assorted pair begin when Bradley realises that Eloise’s stories are something more than the ramblings of a dotty old lady. She has a past, and what a past! Although Bradley has never heard the word ‘amanuensis’, and Eloise cannot remember it, that is what he becomes. His efforts to find out the truth about his employer result in happier times for them both, and along the way, there is plenty of humour, and multiple reveals for the reader to enjoy.Paterson Loarn, blogger

In her beautifully written debut novel, Sue Clark tells a story that will make you laugh a lot and cry a little. She has created two convincing, realistic characters, each of whom is on the point of succumbing to an impossible situation. By introducing Eloise and Bradley, and making them bounce hilariously off each other, she not only saves them both, but also gives them hope for the future. I recommend Note to Boy to book clubs, not only because of its high entertainment value, but also because it bridges the generation gap and presents decades of social history, in a style as light and digestible as a macaroon; or, as Eloise would call it, a ‘Cameroon’.C J Limb, reader and author

This is a gorgeous funny book with brilliant characters. Highly recommended.Zena, reader and author

This comic novel is ideal for chasing away the current COVID blues. At its heart is an odd couple duo who offer a rather striking contrast. Despite the diverging tone of both characters, they both come off as realistic and not caricaturist, and both of them experience an extremely satisfying arc. Although comedy novels can come off as relatively gentle compared to thrillers for example, Note To Boy central mystery steadily raises the stakes, both in the present and in the past. This book provides some ideal real world escapism, and is already being lapped up by the people I have recommended it to. What more can I say than that?Jamie Chipperfield, reader and author

This delightful romp by comedy writer Sue Clark is an engaging, funny, and poignant read. It brings together two unlikely characters in the form of the theatrical and slightly cantankerous old dear, Eloise Slaughter, and the 17-year-old Bradley McCreedy. Note to Boy reminded me a little of Harold and Maud, only in that the two characters are of similar age. But here the comparison ends. With Note to Boy, the dialogue is far funnier and the narrative has a great deal more depth. And as with all great comedy, there is a tenderness and poignancy to both of these well-drawn characters. Sue Clark’s debut is a little gem and will appeal to anyone who enjoys the joy of language – particularly when it has been dragged through a hedge backwards by the book’s elderly protagonist. It would, dare I say it, make a wonderful stage play.Alex Pearl, reader and author

The story is just great, the writer is really skilled! Would be nice to see it as a movie as well! Loved it and looking forward to read more from Sue Clark!BB, a reader

This is a witty, intelligent novel with some laugh out loud, snorting moments as Eloise recounts her life’s misadventures to the rather reluctant ears of Bradley, her assistant/cleaner/life coach. She’s led a colourful life, the toast of Swinging London, at least according to her! This was tremendous fun, and had a hugely redemptive and satisfying ending. – ramblingmads, blogger

I loved this book so much. It was funny, but heartwarming and a lovely tale of two outcasts, one old and one young, finding themselves together and both becoming better people because of it. I thought the style of writing was genius – written exactly how the characters would have written it. The use and misuse of language was very clever and what I thought would be an easy and quick read, quickly drew me in and became compelling reading. Mrs & Mr R Robinson, readers

What could a teenager with an attitude and an elderly woman who is incapable of looking after herself have in common? It doesn’t seem like a lot. Bradley wants the job because he is on a long road to nowhere and helping Eloise could lead to an opportunity. Helping her to write an autobiography of sorts gives him a chance to get to know the woman behind the mood swings, the erratic behaviour and he then sees the eccentric fashion icon with entirely different eyes. I have to say that I didn’t experience this as a read full of comedic moments, but rather one full of poignant realistic moments. However I can absolutely picture this on the screen, and I hope someone sees the potential in this – The Lady in the Van kind of eccentricity coupled with a young man trying to grip the one possible straw that might take him out of his set-in-stone future of violence and deprivation. I really enjoyed this story, perhaps because it was easy to picture both main characters so well.Cheryl M-M’s Book Blog

‘Clark is a remarkable ventriloquist’ says Kirkus Reviews

Wonderful news! Kirkus Reviews, the prestigious American book review magazine, having taken a gander at Note to Boy, liked what it found. Putting authorly modesty aside for a moment, here are a few extracts. Or you can read the full review here.

“A funny, immersive portrait” – Kirkus Reviews

Summing up the story as ‘A teenager becomes the scribe of a former fashion icon’, Kirkus Reviews goes on to say ‘Clark is a remarkable ventriloquist, alternating from the working-class vernacular of Bradley to the posh theatricality of Eloise with each chapter.’ Never been called a ventriloquist before, but I have to say I like it!

“A pleasure all the way through” – Kirkus Reviews

Later on, the reviewer comments, ‘The characters are richly drawn and readers will quickly become invested in the odd couple, as individuals and as friends.’ And ends with, ‘The story is a pleasure all the way through. A funny, immersive portrait of an unusual working relationship.’

What’s especially pleasing to me is that the anonymous reviewer is, I presume, American. I’m never sure how well British humour – especially mine – travels. Judging by this review from an organisation with such a respected name in the international publishing business, it seems readers both sides of the Atlantic find something to laugh at in the adventures of Bradley and Eloise.

Thank you Kirkus Reviews reviewer, whoever and wherever you are.

Note to Boy is available from this website,, amazon, and lovely independent bookshops up and down the country.

Waiting for that stinker

Writers’ paranoia is part and parcel of the job of being a novelist, I’ve come to understand. Never more so than when your book is launched into the world, like a helpless but very cute baby. People peer into your buggy, chuck the newcomer under the chin, smile then pass judgement.

When you’re writing a book, paranoia whispers constantly in your ear, but you tell it to ‘do one’ and soldier on. Eventually – with a little bit of luck, a lot of patience, and a Jewson’s lorryload of grit – you have an actual book you can hold in your hands and kiss. And yes, I did kiss mine. Many times.

Your book baby is born. It is available online and in the shops. People tweet about it. They – and this somehow comes as a shock – read it. Now the big question becomes, what do other people – who aren’t related to you or otherwise blackmailable – make of it?

Big? It’s monumental. Reviews, as I have said elsewhere, are the lifeblood of new writing. They are how readers come to discover – and champion – fresh voices. Consequently, a bad review – a one-star stinker (as we in the business call them) – can be a paranoid-inducing downer.

It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I sent Note to Boy off on a blog tour and waited for the reviews to come rolling in. Like an anxious parent, I worried if the reviewers would love my offspring as I do. Would they find the story engaging? Would they be won over by the, admittedly, oddball charms of Eloise and Bradley? And, most of all, would they laugh?

I’m happy to say, they did, as the excerpts below indicate. So thank you, book bloggers*, for your kind and perceptive words.

Though I’m still expecting that stinker!

‘In her beautifully written debut novel, Sue Clark tells a story that will make you laugh a lot and cry a little.’

‘This is a witty, intelligent novel with some laugh out loud, snorting moments … tremendous fun, and had a hugely redemptive and satisfying ending.’

‘I fell in love with both Bradley and Eloise. This is a very sad book but full of life and love as well.’

‘… hits exactly the right notes when it comes to the complex relationship between Bradley and Eloise … This is an excellent social commentary.’

‘This is a fab story of two unlikely people coming together to form a team who go on to take on some unscrupulous people in a funny yet at times sad and poignant landscape.’

‘… a warmhearted and funny story that flows at lovely pace. Filled with attitude, nostalgia and fashion, ‘Note To Boy’ is a trip down memory lane and shows that unlikely friendships can blossom from any situation.’

* And thanks to Anne Cater of for organising the Note to Boy blog tour.