#BookReview: Narcissism for Beginners by Martine McDonagh @MartineM_Writer @unbounders @annecater

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About the Book

Meet Sonny Anderson as he tips headlong into adulthood. Sonny doesn’t remember his mother’s face; he was kidnapped at age five by his father, Guru Bim, and taken to live in a commune in Brazil. Since the age of ten, Sonny has lived in Redondo Beach, California, with his guardian Thomas Hardiker. Brits think he’s an American, Americans think he’s a Brit.

When he turns 21, Sonny musters the courage to travel alone to the UK in an attempt to leave a troubled past behind, reunite with his mother and finally learn the truth about his childhood. With a list of people to visit, a whole lot of attitude and five mysterious letters from his guardian, Sonny sets out to learn the truth. But is it a truth he wants to hear?

 

My Thoughts

Narcissism for Beginners has such a fab cover and a brilliant title and I’ll admit that this is what drew me to the book.  I have to say that I’m so glad I decided to give it a go because it’s such a brilliant read, I loved it!

Sonny has just turned 21 and his world has just been turned on its head. He’s living with his guardian at Redondo Beach in America but on his birthday he is given some life-changing information involving money and his past, and the past of his parents. Sonny has to find the courage to travel to the UK to try and piece together the story of how he came to be and how he ended up where he is.

I went into this book knowing very little of what it was going to be about and I fell in love with the novel very quickly. Sonny is such an interesting character – he has a quirky personality and some traits that I could really identify with but ultimately he’s a really nice guy who just wants to know where he comes from.

Sonny’s guardian Thomas has hidden five letters in his bag, which slowly unveil more truths for Sonny to get to grips with. He also has a list of people that knew his parents and he decides to visit them in the order that they were involved in his family’s lives. On top of all of this Sonny is obsessed with Shaun of the Dead and really wants to make time to visit locations from the film while he’s in England.

The whole novel is told in the form of a letter to his mother and this allows us to have real insight into what Sonny is thinking and feeling as he discovers more and more truths, some of them painful and uncomfortable, about her and his father. What I loved was how he came to connect with some of the people he meets. It initially felt like Sonny was a bit of a loner and would perhaps struggle to make friends but over time to see him form bonds with some of the people he meets was wonderful.

Narcissism for Beginners was such a balm for my soul when I read it. I could really identify with some of what Sonny was going through in the sense of trying to find a place in the world when you don’t have a traditional family as such. I was rooting for him to find where he could be himself and belong in the way that I’ve found my place in the world.

Narcissism for Beginners is such a quirky, off-beat, coming of age novel that will have you rooting for Sonny and feeling all of the feelings as you progress through his story. I will be shouting from the rooftops about this wonderful book, I highly recommend it! A massive five stars from me!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

Narcissism for Beginners is due to be published in paperback on 20th September and is available for pre-order here.

 

About the Author

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Martine McDonagh’s latest novel, Narcissism for Beginners, is longlisted for the 2018 People’s Book Prize and in 2017 for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize. It is published in Germany as Familie und andere Trostpreise (Family and other Consolation Prizes).

Her first novel, I Have Waited and You Have Come, was described as ‘cataclysmically brilliant’ by author Elizabeth Haynes, and praised in the Guardian and Red magazine. Martine had a successful career in the music industry as an artist manager and devised and ran the MA Creative Writing & Publishing at West Dean College in Sussex.

 

You can find the rest of the blog tour stops at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: The Girl in His Eyes by Jennie Ensor @Jennie_Ensor ‏@BloodhoundBook

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About the Book

Her father abused her when she was a child. For years she was too afraid to speak out. But now she suspects he’s found another victim…

Laura, a young woman struggling to deal with what her father did to her a decade ago, is horrified to realise that the girl he takes swimming might be his next victim. Emma is twelve – the age Laura was when her father took away her innocence.

Intimidated by her father’s rages, Laura has never told anyone the truth about her childhood. Now she must decide whether she has the courage to expose him and face the consequences.

Can Laura overcome her fear and save Emma before the worst happens?

 

My Thoughts

Today is publication day for The Girl in his Eyes so I’m thrilled to be sharing my review and helping promote this incredible novel!  I was drawn to The Girl in his Eyes as soon as I first heard about it and am so pleased to say that it was all that I hoped it would be.

Laura is carrying the awful secret of what her father did to her when she was younger and it’s affecting her to this day. She struggles to be in the family home and is distant from her mum and brother as a result. One day she finds out that her dad is taking a young girl for swimming lessons and she realises that she may have no choice but to confront what he did to her.

The Girl in his Eyes is told from multiple perspectives: Laura, her mother and her father. I was unsure how I was going to feel reading the dad’s point of view knowing what he did to his daughter and how his mind seemed to work. However, Jennie Ensor has dealt with the issue of abuse in such a sensitive way that I found it gave balance to the novel to know his thought process (as disturbing as it was to read).

I could really sympathise with Laura and I agonised with her over what she should do about her dad. It’s all too easy to say that victims should speak out but it’s so much more complex than that. Laura didn’t want to upset the rest of her family, particularly her mum, and worried that she wouldn’t be believed because her father gives such a convincing performance as a nice, normal family man. She is trying to hard to make a life for herself now she lives away from the family home she grew up in but her anxiety every time she goes back to visit brings it all back to the surface again; it’s a wound that isn’t allowed to heal.

Laura’s mother’s viewpoint was the one that I found affected me more than I was expecting, and this surprised me. I swung from being utterly disbelieving that she hadn’t had any inkling of what her husband was doing to their daughter, to feeling a sense of sadness for her as she tried to process and re-evaluate her marriage. There is a small moment in the novel when she sees a large spider out of her eye corner  and is terrified so immediately throws a huge book on top of it and stamps it down. She then leaves it there until someone comes home and she gets them to deal with it. This moment gave me goosebumps because that was when I really understood her and felt sorry for her. It’s such a tiny moment in the book but it showed me how her mind works when it came to dealing with things she truly can’t cope with.

The Girl in his Eyes is a very prescient novel. We are in the wake of the #metoo movement and are having our eyes opened to the abuse that goes on behind closed doors. This novel is about one woman and her father but the way the novel explores how Laura is still dealing with the trauma as an adult and the choices she makes are so important for society to understand. People who have been abused and traumatised sometimes deal with it by taking control in ways that can be hard for others to understand. I very much appreciated how Ensor explores this aspect of Laura’s life.

This isn’t always an easy book to read due to the subject matter and it feels unsettling at times but it is absolutely worth reading. I wasn’t sure how I felt about reading it to start with but I ended up reading it all in one sitting, and it did make me cry in places but I’m so glad that I read it. Ensor handles the subject of child abuse so sensitively; there is nothing graphic or gratuitous in the novel; it is much more a look at how it leaves people feeling and the affect it has on people’s lives. She has done an exceptional job to confront child abuse in such an honest and real way without it ever being too much to read.

The Girl in his Eyes is an incredible novel that will really stay with me. It’s such an important novel about the lasting damage of sexual abuse but it’s so beautifully and sensitively written that you’ll find yourself utterly absorbed in the story and won’t want to stop turning the pages. I read it in one sitting because it had me gripped from the opening chapter! This is a book that everyone should read; I highly recommend it.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

The Girl in His Eyes is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Jennie Ensor lives in London and has Irish roots. During a long trip overseas she obtained a Masters in Journalism and began her writing career as a journalist, covering topics from forced marriages to accidents in the mining industry. Her debut novel BLIND SIDE was published by Unbound in 2016. In January 2018 her short story ‘The Gift’ was placed in the Top 40 of the Words and Women national prose competition. Her poetry has appeared in many UK and overseas publications, most recently Ink Sweat and Tears. She sings in a chamber choir.

 

 

You can find the rest of the blog blitz at the following stops:

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#BookReview: How We Remember by J. M. Monaco @RedDoorBooks

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About the Book

Upon Jo’s return home after her mother’s death, she is shocked to learn of an unexpected inheritance and her mother’s diary. Jo thought she could put to rest her darker past until an entry implies the messy aftermath of an uncle’s sexual advances towards her when she was fifteen. Like the diary, Jo’s memory of events is full of gaps, but one thing is certain – she will never regain what was lost. What is the full story of what happened between Jo and her uncle? And what is the diary not telling us about Jo’s mother’s troubles with him? How We Remember traces the effects of alcoholism, mental illness and abuse on one Irish-Italian-American, working-class family. As Jo’s first-person narrative weaves together past and present stories, she creates a portrait of her family’s life and her own as she faces new decisions amidst the tragic consequences of mismanaged grief. Full of moments of light and dark, Monaco’s debut novel – set during a week that anyone would dread – provides a mesmeric narrative portraying the pain of grief, the tenuous nature of memory and the earth shattering effect that the death of the `glue’ of a family can cause.

 

My Thoughts

I have to start this review by admitting that I was initially drawn to How We Remember by the gorgeous cover! I’m happy to say that when I read the blurb it equally drew me to the novel and I was very keen to read it.

How We Remember is a novel about an Irish American family and how they deal with secrets, mental health and grief. It centres around Jo who was assaulted by her Aunty’s husband when she was fifteen and has been carrying the damage from that around with her ever since. She’s now in her 50s and her mum has died, and this has brought up a lot of memories and also discoveries about how her mum felt about the assault all those years ago.

Jo is a very successful university lecturer – she got her degree at an Ivy League college defying the odds of her working class background. I found that there were times in this book were she felt distant from me, like she wasn’t being entirely open in how she was feeling but mostly I really felt for her. I could identify with a lot of what made her who she is and was willing her on to deal with her issues and find a place of peace. Her mother’s death brings back all the pain of how her family dealt with the assault by her uncle (by marriage). No one ever knew the full story of what happened, or chose to not grasp the full story so as a result they don’t understand why it still hurts Jo so many years later.

I could really empathise with Jo over her grief for her mother. It’s so hard to be the one that has to deal with everything after a death, while everyone else does nothing under the veil of claiming not knowing how to do anything. I’ve been there and it’s hard. The family dynamics in these parts of the novel were so real for me and I really appreciated how well J. M. Monaco captured how a family can be, and how grief heightens everyone’s true personalities and feelings.  I could feel Jo’s exhaustion and despair and hoped she would come through.

I was rooting for Jo and her brother to find a way to be friends. It’s incredibly painful when you lose your parents and then the family just disintegrates. Her brother has his problems and they manifest in a different way to Jo but ultimately they’re both coming to terms with the way their lives have turned out.

How We Remember is ultimately a novel about grief for not just who we lose but for what we lose when others don’t hear and support in the appropriate way. It’s a raw and visceral novel that really gets under your skin. I highly recommend it if you love books about family dynamics.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

How We Remember is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

My writing identity is JM Monaco. Friends here in the UK tell me the surname sounds unique and somewhat exotic. Outside this little island I know this isn’t the case.

I am a fiction writer with a particular soft spot for North American fiction, probably because my formative and university years took place in the USA. While England has been my home for well over twenty years now, there’s something about the birthplace where my extended family and some friends still reside that has a strong pull. If I could, I’d spend solitary blocks of time there in a quiet lake cottage in the northeast pondering my ambiguous relationship with that landscape. I’d write up a tumultuous storm that may eventually take the shape of a draft for a novel or multiple stories, then come back to the UK where I could clean it all up in edits with my husband and children surrounding me with love and endless offers  of tea and healthy meals. As this can only happen in fantasy, here in the southwest of England, UK, is where I stay, holed up in a drafty north-facing study/writing room, often gazing out at the rain and rolling my eyes when I hear my daughter shout, ‘What’s for supper tonight?’  Reading, thinking, writing, are all interrupted with the demands of others, the good and bad, life’s routines, a bit of excitement here and there mixed with the mundane. This is where stories are born. Oh, but wouldn’t it be heaven to have that nice little place by the lake.

(Bio taken from J.M. Monaco’s blog)

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

#BookReview: Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia @MejiaWrites @QuercusBooks @ellakroftpatel

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About the Book

Ten years after a boy and his father went missing in the wilderness of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the boy – who is no longer a boy – walks back out of the forest. He is violent and uncommunicative. The authorities take him to Congdon Mental Institution in Duluth, on the edge of mighty Lake Superior.

There, language therapist Maya Stark is given the task of making a connection with this boy/man who came back from the dead. But their celebrity patient tries to escape and refuses to answer any questions about his father or the last ten years of his life. In many ways he is old far beyond his years; in others, still a child.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world – but at what cost to herself?

 

My Thoughts

I was beyond excited to be offered a chance to read and review Leave No Trace as Mindy Mejia’s previous novel The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman became one of my favourite books when I read it (you can read my review here if you’d like to).

Leave No Trace follows the story of Maya, a former patient of a psychiatric hospital, who is now a trained speech therapist working in the same hospital. One day a new patient is admitted and as he seems unable or unwilling to communicate Maya is assigned to him. The patient is Lucas who as a young boy went missing with his father and is now back as a young adult and everyone wants to know where he’s been and what’s happened to his father.

Maya is a fascinating character and I was intrigued by her from the start. She’s had a tough time of it as her mother disappeared when she was ten and ever since then Maya has been trying to understand why her mum left and what might have caused her to leave. I think it’s this sense of loss and not knowing that made Maya become so involved in Lucas’ case, she can see something in him that might lead her to understand how people can just up and leave. I’m always drawn to books about loss, I find it cathartic to read about characters that are searching for a lost loved one or dealing with grief so I was really drawn to Maya. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have a mum walk out and for a child to not know where she’s gone but I could really identify with the pain and the sense of loss. Mindy Mejia really does get to the heart of her character and explores what makes people who they are.

Mindy Mejia has such a beautiful writing style and, as with The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman, I found myself utterly absorbed in it.  It’s a slow burn and yet at the same time a fast read – I didn’t want to put it down once I picked it up and it flows so well. I was desperate to know if they’d get Luke well or find his dad, or if we’d ever know what happened to Maya’s mum but at the same time I was very much enjoying the writing and finding out more about these characters. It’s not about the twists and turns but the way the novel ended was still a huge shock to me!

Leave No Trace is ultimately a novel about friendship, about love and loss and about trying to find redemption and healing. I loved it and feel like it will be a novel that will stay with me. It’s compelling, atmospheric and near impossible to put down!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Leave No Trace is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Mindy received a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MFA from Hamline University. Apart from brief stops in Iowa City and Galway, she’s lived in the Twin Cities her entire life and held a succession of jobs from an apple orchard laborer to a global credit manager.

 

 

You can find the rest of the blog tour at the following stops:

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#BookReview: The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks @AnneCater

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About the Book

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…
Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

 

My Thoughts

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Louise Beech so I was beyond thrilled when invited to read and review The Lion Tamer Who Lost for the blog tour.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is the story of Ben. He’s dreamt of going to Africa to volunteer on a lion reserve and the book begins with him having achieved this dream. It’s clear that Ben is unhappy and troubled though and that perhaps how he came to be in Africa is not how he dreamt it.

It’s also the story of Andrew. Andrew has a wish box and he truly believes in making wishes. He feels certain that if you wish for something very specific then it will come true.

I adored this novel more than I can even say! I love novels that explore the idea of fate and destiny and the idea that perhaps there is a person out there who we’re destined to meet. That the person will keep showing up in our lives until we meet at the right time. Ben and Andrew’s paths keep crossing until one day they finally get talking and they instantly click.

I loved that this book is set both in Zimbabwe and Hull; Louise Beech has such a wonderful way of really capturing a location and making it so real for her readers. I know the parts of Hull mentioned in this book really well but I’ve never been to Zimbabwe and yet each place felt equally vivid in my mind. I could smell the lion enclosures, I could taste the mud coffee in Africa and I felt like I was there.

The real beauty in this novel is in the characters. Ben and Andrew felt like real people to me and I miss them now I’ve finished reading. I loved seeing how they met, how they got together and how they fell in love. It was so beautiful. I was hoping Ben would find a way to come out to his dad, and that somehow it would all be okay.

It was incredibly moving how we see the lions in the reserve being nurtured to health and gradually gaining more and more freedom, it contrasted with the scene of lions in the circus. I couldn’t help but feel that the different stories of the lions was mirroring the times that the LGBTQ+ community have gone through. It certainly seemed to echo the pain of love and loss, of losing yourself and slowly finding yourself again that Ben goes through in the novel.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost broke my heart on more than one occasion as I was reading. I can’t bear it when people can’t accept two people who love each other just because of their own prejudices, so that made me tearful. The novel builds and builds and goes back and forth in time through Ben and Andrew’s story until we find out what happened and the way their story turns out had me sobbing my heart out. I can’t remember the last time I cried like that reading a book.

There is so much more that I could say about this book but I don’t want to risk any spoilers; this is one of those incredibly special books that doesn’t come along very often and you need to discover it for yourself.  The comparisons to Maggie O’Farrell are entirely justified – The Lion Tamer Who lost affected me deeply in the same way that O’Farrell’s After You’d Gone did. You know you have a special book in your hands when it makes you feel all of the feelings and it never, ever lets go of you even long after you’d finished reading.

I will never forget these characters or this story and I know I will revisit this book in the future. It’s such a stunningly beautiful, heart-rending read; one that will take a piece of your heart. The Lion Tamer Who Lost is now one of my most favourite books and I will be shouting from the rooftops for everyone to read it!

I received a copy of this book from Orenda Books and Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is out now in ebook and is due to be published on 20th September and is available here.

I’ve previously reviewed two novels by Louise Beech: How to be Brave and Maria in the Moon.

About the Author

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Louise has always been haunted by the sea, even before she knew the full story of her grandfather, the man who in part inspired novel How to be Brave. She lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – where from her bedroom window she can almost see the waters of the River Humber, an estuary that inspired book, The Mountain in my Shoe.

She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism, and a one year column called Wholly Matrimony about modern marriage.

Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was released in 2015 and got to No 4 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart, and was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015. This novel came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story.

Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, was released in 2016 and was inspired by her time with children in care. It explores what family truly means, and how far we will go for those we love. It longlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize.

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at these stops:

The Lion Tamer Blog Tour Poster Final

 

 

#BookReview: Daisy Belle by Caitlin Davies @CaitlinDavies2 @Unbounders #DaisyBelle #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Summer 1867: four-year-old Daisy Belle is about to make her debut at the Lambeth Baths in London. Her father, swimming professor Jeffery Belle, is introducing his Family of Frogs – and Daisy is the star attraction. By the end of that day, she has only one ambition in life: she will be the greatest female swimmer in the world.

She will race down the Thames, float in a whale tank, and challenge a man to a 70-foot high dive. And then she will set sail for America to swim across New York Harbour.

But Victorian women weren’t supposed to swim, and Daisy Belle will have to fight every stroke of the way if she wants her dreams to come true.

Inspired by the careers of Victorian champions Agnes Beckwith and Annie Luker, Daisy Belle is a story of courage and survival and a tribute to the swimmers of yesteryear.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to read and review Daisy Belle for the blog tour as it sounded like such a wonderful novel. I’m so happy to say that I adored every single minute that I spent reading this book and it more than lived up to my expectations!

Daisy Belle is the story of Daisy who from a very young age is fascinated by her father and older brother’s swimming ability and she wants to be a part of it all. She learns to swim at age four and is soon taking part in her father’s increasingly elaborate shows. Daisy wants to be the greatest female swimmer in the world but she gets drawn to performing and diving too – all the time widening her skills and abilities.

This novel is set in the mid to late 1800s and Daisy is constrained by the societal norms of the day but she constantly pushes at her boundaries. From being a young girl through to adulthood she doesn’t accept why she has to be treated differently to men. She does get treated really badly at times in the novel by some of the men in her life and that was hard to read. She also struggles against her mother who believes that Daisy should be home with her and doing more lady-like things such as sewing. I was really rooting for Daisy to pull through the difficult times and to be happy.

I loved Daisy, she is such a great character – so ambitious and feisty but also so human and likeable. I could identify with some of her drive where swimming was concerned as I was obsessed with swimming as a child so it made me feel nostalgic for the water.

Daisy gets to do so many amazing things in this book and I could really imagine it all; the novel actually played like a film in my head and I felt like I was right there with her. The writing is so evocative; I felt myself holding my breath during the mermaid show and I was cheering her on when she finally got to attempt to make an attempt at a record for a long swim.

I found this to be a really inspiring novel in so many ways. I don’t want to spoil the novel so I’ll be vague but something happens to Daisy later in the novel and I could really identify with her and how she felt. I’ve been through something similar and seeing her keep trying in spite of what happened was so brilliant to read. It’s a good reminder of how we should never just give in and accept what life throws at us but instead keep pushing at the boundaries, whatever they may be.

I absolutely recommend this book; it’s a book I adored so much and I know I will come back to it and read it again in the future. It’s so charming and inspiring, it feels like a book that everyone will love. Daisy Belle is a real contender for my book of the year!

Many thanks to Anne at #RandomThingsTours and the publisher for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Daisy Belle is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She spent 12 years in Botswana as a teacher and journalist and many of her books are set in the Okavango Delta, including a memoir Place of Reeds, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘candid and unsentimental’.
Her novels include The Ghost of Lily Painter, a fictional account of the arrest and execution of two Edwardian baby farmers, and Family Likeness about the fate of ‘war babies’ born to African American GI fathers in England during World War Two.
Her non-fiction books include Taking the Waters: A Swim Around Hampstead Heath, a celebration of 200 years of outdoor bathing, an illustrated history of the world famous Camden Lock Market, and Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames.
Her latest non-fiction is Bad Girls, and her latest novel is Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on the lives of several Victorian aquatic stars, to be published by Unbound on September 1, 2018.
She is also a teacher and journalist, and was a regular feature writer for The Independent’s education and careers supplement. From 2014-17 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design.

Her website is http://www.caitlindavies.co.uk/

Twitter: @CaitlinDavies2

Daisy Belle Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DaisyBelleSwimmingChampionoftheWorld/

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at these blog stops:

Daisy Belle Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Overkill by Vanda Symon @vandasymon @OrendaBooks #NewZealandNoir

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About the Book

When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.
Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.
To find the murderer … and clear her name.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for Overkill as it sounded like such an intriguing novel. I do love a crime novel with a great lead character investigating the crime and I’m so happy to say that I loved this book.

Overkill opens with one of the most shocking and devastating prologues that I think I’ve ever read. Gabby is home with her baby girl when a man calls round to supposedly repair the phone line. He very soon makes it clear that Gabby is not going to get out of this situation alive but if she co-operates he will spare her daughter. We then follow Constable Sam Shephard as she investigates what is at first believed to be Gabby’s suicide but suspicions are quickly aroused that she may have been murdered.

I had goosebumps reading the opening of this book and I knew it was going to be a novel that I wouldn’t be able to put down. This is the first novel that I’ve read in a really long time that made me feel proper fear and horror at the situation a character was in; it’s such great writing that can make you have such a reaction to words on a page. For all the brutality of the prologue I needed to keep reading because the beautiful writing had me hooked.  I ended up reading this book in two sittings (and the only reason it wasn’t one sitting was because somewhere around 1am I fell asleep with my kindle in my hand!).

I love Sam Shephard! She is such a great, feisty character – she is a local woman and everyone knows her and likes her but she has her flaws. She’s passionate about her job in the police and can’t let it go when she is sure of the lead she’s following. Her emotions get the better of her at times during this novel but I could always understand why she was upset or angry and so kept on rooting for her. I believe this book is the first in a series and so I’m already very keen to see what Sam does next! I feel like Sam Shepherd could be just the character to fill the Kinsey Millhone shaped hole in my life!

There is a great sense of place in this novel. I’ve never been to New Zealand but Overkill gives such a sense of the place and I could visualise all the locations in the book. There are some great characters in this book but also a real claustrophobic feel to how everyone knows each other and nothing seems to be private. The locals are quick to close ranks but there is a warmth among them too. The moments of humour really balance the darker aspects in this novel and I very much appreciated that. Life is full of dark and light and a book that captures that is a wonderful thing to find!

I had no idea whodunnit until Sam was on the killer’s trail, it felt all the way through the book like I was along with her as she tried to put all the pieces together. I love that it kept me in suspense with all its twists and turns, and the red herrings along the way. This is such a compelling and readable book.

Overkill is fast-paced, twisty and impossible to put down! I think this might be one of my favourite crime novels of the year and I’m sure it’s a book that will stay with me. I’ve definitely found a new favourite character in Sam! This is absolutely a five star read and I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from Random Things Tours & Orenda Books. All thoughts are my own.

Overkill is out now in ebook and can be pre-ordered in paperback here.

 

About the Author

Vanda’s first novel Overkill, was written while juggling the demands of a 6 month old baby and a two year old. She suspects the prologue to Overkill was written in a state of sleep deprivation induced paranoia brought about by middle of the night feeds and imagining every awful thing that could possibly happen to her family. None of them ever did. Reading that prologue still makes her cry.

A little time has elapsed and the six-month old and two-year old are now teenagers. As well as trying to raise two wonderful human beings, she has added three more Detective Sam Shephard novels to the series and written the stand alone psychological thriller The Faceless.

As well as being a crime writer, she hosts a monthly radio show on Dunedin’s Otago Access Radio called Write On, where she interviews local writers, and catches the odd international super-star if they’re in town.

And just to prove that she is a tiger for punishment, she has recently completed a PhD at the University of Otago looking at the communication of science through crime fiction – the perfect subject for a science loving crime writer. She has an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy and enjoyed a career as a community pharmacist and palliative care pharmacist before concentrating on her writing career.

Vanda has been involved with the New Zealand Society of Authors for many years, having been chair of the Otago Southland Branch. She is currently the Otago Southland regional delegate on the NZSA Board. Vanda was also the Chair of Copyright Licensing New Zealand.

When she isn’t writing, Vanda can be found digging around in her garden in Dunedin, or on the business end of a fencing foil. She has fenced since high school and still competes in national and international competitions. As well as competing she coaches, and because she likes to get involved, boots and all, is the president of Fencing South and on the board of Fencing New Zealand.

Vanda is a founding member of the Dunedin Crime Writers Association, whose raison d’etre is for its members to drink beer or wine and talk crime writing at their favourite pub.

(Author bio taken from: VandaSymon.com)

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at these stops:

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#BookReview: The Psychology of Time Travel by @KateMascarenhas @HoZ_Books

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About the Book

1967.

Four female scientists invent a time travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…

2017.

Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future – a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…

2018.

When Odette discovered the body she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, that strong reek of sulphur. But when the inquest fails to find any answers, she is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

My thoughts

I was first drawn to the stunning cover of The Psychology of Time Travel, it has to be one of my favourite book covers of the year, and then I read the blurb and knew this was a book I had to read! I was then thrilled when the publisher offered me a copy of the book to review and I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

The Psychology of Time Travel is a novel told from the multiple perspectives of the women who are either time travellers or are somehow affected by the time travelling that is happening around them. I loved this book. It starts off with the four female pioneers of time travel in 1967 and then things spread out from there. There is a real mix of characters in these women and it’s possible to see in the early days traits that will come into play later on. The one who becomes obsessed, the narcissistic one, the one who just wants to travel through time. It’s a female led book and it explores all the different facets of personality, and how power, or perceived power, affects different people in different ways.

We see one of the pioneers suffer a breakdown, and then the look into how time travel might affect a person’s mental health. It’s disturbing to see how mental illness was dealt with in the 1960s but we do get a sense of things having improved in the treatment of people in the present day. In a much later time line of 2018 we see a young woman be treated for PTSD and that fascinated me. I’ve suffered with PTSD and one of my worst symptoms was absences. I would be in a room and time would pass with me having no concept of anything in reality – I would be back in the situation that caused the trauma; it could be an hour or so at times that I lost. It was very frightening. To read about Odette experiencing this alongside reading the stories of time travel was such a great juxtaposition and a real sense of how the two situations are possibly not that far apart.

The novel was much more moving than I was expecting too and I did shed a few tears whilst reading. The idea of being able to visit people in the past who are no longer alive in the present is incredibly moving. There is a phone call later in the book that had me sobbing because I knew it was coming but I hadn’t known how it would come, and I knew how the character was feeling because there have been moments in my life where I would have given just about anything for a call like that. The exploration of how death of loved ones is for those who can just time travel back and see their loved one again in an earlier time was really interesting. Some of the time travellers become quite blasé about the death of others but some find such comfort in knowing they can go back. There is real heart in these parts of the novel.

I adored the way this book kept on rewarding the reader; it circles around in time and things you see earlier from one side, you see later from another and suddenly the puzzle fits together. It’s so clever, incredible and wonderful! This is a novel that will make you think, it will make you question your morals; at times it is a little disturbing but mostly it’s just an utterly brilliant read!

This book is so different to anything that I’ve read in a really long time and it’s definitely going to be a firm favourite of mine; I know I will re-read it. It’s enthralling and beautiful and just absolute perfection! I feel sure that this will be on my best books of 2018 come the end of the year. I highly recommend this book!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

The Psychology of Time Travel is out now and available here.

About the Author

Kate Mascarenhas is a writer of speculative fiction.

Born in 1980, she is of mixed heritage (white Irish father, brown British mother) and has family in Ireland and the Republic of Seychelles.

She studied English at Oxford and Applied Psychology at Derby. Her PhD, in literary studies and psychology, was completed at Worcester.

Over the years she has worked as an advertising copywriter, bookbinder, doll’s house maker, and social researcher. Currently she lives in the English midlands with her partner.

(Bio taken from: amheath.com)

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#BookReview: No Place Like Home by @RebeccaMuddiman @BloodhoundBook

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About the Book

What would you do if you came home to find someone in your house?
This is the predicament Polly Cooke faces when she returns to her new home.The first weeks in the house had been idyllic, but soon Jacob, a local man, is watching her.
What does he want and why is he so obsessed with Polly?
In a situation where nothing is what it seems, you might end up regretting letting some people in.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for No Place Like Home as I’ve loved Rebecca Muddiman’s previous novels and so was certain that I would love this one. I’m so happy to say that this was a great read and I was gripped!

No Place Like Home is the story of Polly who has recently moved in to her new home and she is so excited to have a place that is all hers where she can feel cosy and safe. She has quite a dull life working an office job and keeping herself to herself but she’s also coping with her mum being recently moved to a nursing home due to a stroke. She visits her regularly and finds the situation really stressful and tough. On top of this she soon notices that a man keeps standing outside her house and staring in at all hours of the day and she is increasingly annoyed and then unnerved by him. Polly isn’t sure how to handle the situation but then things begin to escalate and she has to do something!

This novel is so twisted! It starts off like I expected it to as we get to know Polly and see how her life is and how she deals with Jacob watching her but as the situation escalates the novel becomes increasingly thrilling. The way this novel goes back and forth in time really heightens the tension as we begin to form a picture of how Polly ended up with Jacob obsessively watching her. I became more and more unnerved as the book went on but I could not put it down! It drew me in and kept me reading until the small hours of the morning because it reached a point where I couldn’t sleep until I knew how this book was going to end.

This is a hard book to review because you’re best going into it not knowing much more than it says in the blurb so I’m keeping this vague on purpose. The main thing you need to know is that this is a brilliant psychological thriller that will keep you on your toes all the way through. It’s a novel that will have you wondering how far you, or someone you might know, would go for what they want! I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

No Place Like Home is out today and available here.

 

About the Author

Rebecca Muddiman is from Redcar and has lived there all her life except for time working in Holland where she lived on a canal boat, and in London, where she lived six feet away from Brixton prison. She has a very boring day job, a degree in Film and Media and an MA in Creative Writing. In 2010 she won a Northern Writers’ Time to Write Award and the Northern Crime Competition in 2012. She is the author of two previous novels: STOLEN and GONE. She lives with her boyfriend, Stephen, and dog, Cotton, in a semi-detached house which they have christened ‘Murder Cottage’.

 

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B L O G B L I T Z (4)

#BookReview: Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly @PaulaDalyAuthor ‏@TransworldBooks #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Haven’t we all wanted to pretend everything is fine?

Jane doesn’t like confrontation. Given the choice, she’d prefer to focus on what’s going well, the good things in life.

But when her husband, Leon, is brutally attacked in the driveway of their home, in front of their two young children, Jane has to face reality. As he lies in a coma, Jane must open her eyes to the problems in her life, and the secrets that have been kept from her, if she’s to find out who hurt her husband – and why.

Maybe it’s time to face up to it all. Who knows what you might find . . .

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Paula Daly so I jumped at the chance to take part in this blog tour for her new novel, Open Your Eyes!

Open Your Eyes begins with Jane and her husband Leon bickering about having to go to his mother’s house on his birthday; one of those silly rows that we’ve all had at one point or another. Their neighbour, who they have a long-running mild dispute with, comes over to moan about something and Jane goes in the house to get the beer they’ve forgotten. What happens next is utterly shocking – something happens to Leon and this family’s world is turned upside down.

Jane suddenly finds herself having to pick up the pieces of what’s happened while also trying to keep her children’s routine as normal, but at the same time dealing with the aftermath and coping with the fear she’s left with. Some of her decisions were odd to me but I know how your mind is thrown into utter disarray when something so shocking happens to someone in your family.

I loved all the references to writing in this book. Leon is a successful traditionally published author while Jane is a writer who is still looking for a publishing deal. She feels a bit belittled by her husband’s success but is determined to keep going. There is an element of her feeling diminished as a writer due to her husband’s success and I felt like this spread out into other parts of their life together. This all plays such a brilliant and unexpected part in this novel and I loved that element of it. Jane isn’t a confident woman and she hates confrontations of any kind but as the novel goes on she finds her voice and her ability to face up to the situations grows.

There are so many people to suspect in this book so it keeps you on your toes as you’re reading. As the book progresses and Jane and the police dig deeper into Leon and his history there are more and more potential reasons for what happened to him and more people who may have wished him harm. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t work out what had happened and I loved that I was in suspense until all was revealed. This book has such a brilliant ending; it’s definitely one that I’ll remember!

I raced through Open Your Eyes; it’s a compulsive read that will keep you up at night thinking ‘just one more chapter…’ until you turn the final page at 2am because you will get so drawn on that you simply won’t be able to rest until you know whodunnit and whydunnit! I loved this book and I highly, highly recommend it!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Open Your Eyes is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Paula Daly is the critically acclaimed author of five novels. Her work has been sold in fifteen countries, shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year award, and her books are currently being developed for television. She was born in Lancashire and lives in the Lake District with her husband, three children, and whippet Skippy.

 

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#BookReview: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena @sharilapena @ThomasssHill

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About the Book

We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

 

My Thoughts

I love Shari Lapena’s writing so I was thrilled to be invited to take part in this blog tour for her brand new novel, An Unwanted Guest! And I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

An Unwanted Guest is such a thrilling read! It begins with various people arriving through a bad snowstorm to Mitchell’s Inn, a beautiful hotel in a very remote location. As the guests begin to settle in for a relaxing weekend away the weather really begins to close in. Then what appears to be a fatal accident occurs and suddenly the guests are trapped and there’s a killer among them!

I’m going to start by saying that I read this novel in one sitting over an afternoon during this glorious hot weather and the writing was so good that I could sense the snow and I could feel the icy cold weather emanating from the pages. I was gripped from the beginning and got completely lost in the book. It really took me back to my early teenage years when I devoured Agatha Christie’s novels, usually reading one in an afternoon curled up in a corner hoping not to be disturbed by anyone.

An Unwanted Guest is an Agatha Christie-type locked room (or hotel in this case) mystery and it is so well done. From the minute the guests drove up to the Inn I was mulling over their character and wondering who was going to be in peril and who the killer might be. I did think I’d worked out who the killer was and although I was on the right lines I was never absolutely sure who it was and I didn’t see the ending coming at all!

This is such a compelling and gripping thriller; to have such a confined setting and a small group of characters but still to keep the excitement and the reader guessing all the way through is no mean feat. The tension builds from the start and as the book progresses I found myself increasingly on the edge of my seat wondering if anyone was going to get out of the situation alive!

An Unwanted Guest is so gripping, thrilling and completely unputdownable: I loved it so much! I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago now and I still keep thinking of it, I think it’s going to be hard to be beat for one of my favourite reads of the year come December!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

An Unwanted Guest is out now in ebook and hardback and available here.

 

About the Author

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House, has been a Sunday Times and New York Timesbestseller. Her third book, An Unwanted Guest, is out in 2018.

 

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#BookReview: Do No Harm by L. V. Hay @LucyVHayAuthor @OrendaBooks

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About the Book

Till death do us part…

After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong…
Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives…

 

My Thoughts

I read Lucy Hay’s previous thriller, The Other Twin, last year and loved it (you can read my review here if you’d like to) so I was excited to be invited to read Do No Harm for the blog tour and immediately said yes!

This book is so gripping! I picked it up and it grabbed me from the start. It starts with Lily’s wedding day; she’s marrying Sebastian who seems to be a lovely man and the total opposite to Lily’s ex-husband Maxwell. There is a sense from the start that there is someone around the couple who has horrible intentions but you don’t know who or why. The obvious suspect to begin with is Maxwell but the book takes you on such a twisty journey and you’ll be constantly re-assessing who you suspect and who you can trust!

The chapters alternate between Lily and Sebastian’s perspectives, and in between there are short sections from someone who seems to have malicious intentions but creepily we don’t know who it is. This is such a great way of building tension and it had me suspecting nearly everyone in this novel and my thoughts on who was doing all the horrible stuff to Lily and Sebastian changed so many times. Ultimately, I did stick with suspecting one person and I was right but I didn’t work out how or why they did what they did. I’m sure I only worked it out in the end because a long time ago I had someone in my life who did something that this person did so my gut was screaming at me that the character was not to be trusted.

This book is a really compelling read. It’s such a great psychological thriller but it’s also such a well-written and well-researched book about the lengths and the ways that people will go to to manipulate and harm others. It’s very prescient with the gaslighting; the making people doubt their own thoughts and memories of things, and it gave me chills at times. The tension builds and builds as the novel progresses and at one point I was literally on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen!

Lucy Hay is a brilliant writer; The Other Twin was the first novel I read by her and it was so good but Do No Harm is even better so I’m already excited to see what Lucy writes next! Do No Harm is a sophisticated, disturbing and an utterly unputdownable psychological thriller! I urge you to grab a copy and read it right away!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Do No Harm is out now and available in ebook and paperback here.

 

About the Author

Lucy Hay author photo

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama ScreenplaysShe lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.

 

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#BookReview: The Afterlife of Walter Augustus by Hannah M. Lynn @HMLynnauthor #WalterandLetty

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About the book

Walter Augustus is dead. His current state of existence has become a monotony of sweet tea and lonely strolls and after decades stuck in the Interim — a posthumous waiting room for those still remembered on Earth — he is ready to move on. Only when he is forgotten by every living person will he be able to pass over and join his family in the next stage of the afterlife. At last the end is tantalizingly close, but bad luck and a few rash decisions may see him trapped in the Interim for all eternity.

Letty Ferguson is not dead. Letty Ferguson is a middle-aged shoe saleswoman who leads a pleasant and wholly unextraordinary life, barring the secret fortune she seems unable to tell her husband about. However, when she takes possession of an unassuming poetry anthology, life takes on a rather more extraordinary dimension.

 

My Thoughts

Today I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Hannah Lynn’s The Afterlife of Walter Augustus.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Afterlife of Walter Augustus as it sounded like a book that is different to my usual reads. I’m so happy that I got the chance to read it though because I adored it.

The Afterlife of Walter Augustus follows two characters – Walter and Letty. Walter died a long, long time ago but he’s stuck in the interim part of the afterlife, which is where the deceased stay for as long as someone on earth remembers them. Walter just wants to be forgotten so that he can move on to the afterlife to be with his wife again. Letty is very much alive. She works hard, and lives a frugal existence with her husband. Letty is keeping a big secret though, and on top of that she one day acquires a poetry collection and this leads to her becoming a problem for Walter.

This book is wonderful: it had moments that made me smile and moments that took my breath away. There is a part of this book where two people meet in the athenaeum and I had to put the book down because I was crying so much. They were cathartic tears though. I really loved Hannah’s take on the interim afterlife and what it might be like for people who have passed on. I waiver on what I believe but I’d never really considered an interim and it really made me think. I often think of my lovely mum, and sometimes I can smell her perfume and for a brief moment it’s as if she is right there. It was weird to contemplate the idea of someone being stuck somewhere because they are remembered on earth but as I got further into the novel and met other characters I got great comfort from that. Walter is almost the exception in the interim – he is remembered many, many years after death because of a quirk of fate that made him a published author in his lifetime.

The Afterlife of Walter Augustus is a perfect blend of beautifully moving and very amusing. It is witty and charming, and a wonderfully heartwarming read. I highly recommend this book; it’s a five star read!

The Afterlife of Walter Augustus is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Hannah Lynn was born in 1984 and grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction. Her first novel, Amendments, was published in 2015, her latest novel, The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, is out July 2018. Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

You can find Hannah on the following platforms:

Twitter: @HMLynnauthor

Facebook: HannahLynnAuthor

Goodreads: Hannah_M_Lynn

 

Hannah Lynn is running a fabulous giveaway at the moment (until 31st July) where you can enter to win a Kindle Paperweight and a copy of The Afterlife of Walter Augustus! Find the giveaway here!

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

 

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#BookReview: A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward @sarahward1 @FaberBooks #APatientFury

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About the Book

When Detective Constable Connie Childs is dragged from her bed to the fire-wrecked property on Cross Farm Lane she knows as she steps from the car that this house contains death.

Three bodies discovered – a family obliterated – their deaths all seem to point to one conclusion: One mother, one murderer.

But D.C. Childs, determined as ever to discover the truth behind the tragedy, realises it is the fourth body – the one they cannot find – that holds the key to the mystery at Cross Farm Lane.

What Connie Childs fails to spot is that her determination to unmask the real murderer might cost her more than her health – this time she could lose the thing she cares about most: her career.

 

My Thoughts

I read and loved the first book in the DC Connie Childs series when it was first published and knew it would be a series I continued with. A Patient Fury is the third book in the series and I found it near impossible to put down once I started reading.

A Patient Fury begins a few months after the events of A Deadly Thaw with Connie back at work and a sense of the team being a little disjointed as the dust settles. I have read all three books in the series and would recommend doing the same but A Patient Fury could be read as a standalone as the main story is self-contained within the novel. In this book the team are called to a suspicious house fire where three people, Peter Winson, his wife Francesca and young son Charlie have died. The novel is predominantly told from Connie’s perspective but we do also get chapters from Julia, the adult daughter of the Peter. It also covers the present day and there are a few chapters from the past set around a mysterious disappearance.

I love Sarah Ward’s writing. I suspected who was behind the fire very early on but then there are twists and turns throughout the novel and I kept questioning myself. I felt like I was along with Connie as she doubted the working assumptions in the investigation that were made by the rest of the team. The main suspect in the story where the police are concerned made for an interesting story, but it was Connie’s suspicion that I was believing in. She isn’t convinced that it’s a murder suicide and thinks that someone else is involved but it’s proving it that is the problem. I was willing her on not to give up it because I was sure she was on to something but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it either. I loved the way I felt so involved in the novel, it’s a brilliant writer that can do that to this degree.

I really enjoyed seeing the development of Connie’s character in A Patient Fury, and to see how what she’s been through has affected her. It really does enhance the reading of the novel to know her back story and to be rooting for her. She’s a flawed character but she is so fiercely determined that you can’t help but be on her side.

The title of this novel is so perfect and fitting; the way the secrets and lies are uncovered as the plot moves along and we see how people are reacting in the present day – the undercurrent of bitterness and anger which all builds and builds somewhat patiently to fury.

A Patient Fury has quite a few red herrings, and just when you think you have the case solved, there is a reveal that has you questioning yet again in the most brilliant way. Each twist in this book is believable, and  the novel just builds and builds to the brilliantly chilling ending. I finished reading this book a week ago and I still keep thinking about it. I highly recommend this novel (and the series as a whole!).

My thanks to Emma Welton of damppebbles tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

A Patient Fury is out now and available in paperback and ebook from here.

 

About the Author

Sarah Ward

Sarah Ward is the author of three DC Childs novels, In Bitter Chill, A Deadly Thaw and A Patient Fury set in the Derbyshire Peak District where she lives. The fourth in the series, The Shrouded Path, is out in September. On her website, Crimepieces (www.crimepieces.com), she reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. Sarah was a 2015 Amazon Rising Star and A Patient Fury was The Observer’s Thriller of the Month in 2017.

Find Sarah on the following links:

Twitter:https://twitter.com/sarahrward1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SarahWardCrime/

Sign up to Sarah’s newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bHNGHX

 

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Author Kate Vane shares her thoughts on memory in today’s post! #BrandNewFriend @k8vane

 

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Kate Vane, author of Brand New Friend, to my blog. Kate is sharing a fascinating post about memory and how easily things can become mixed up in our heads.

 

Messing with my memories

One of the genres I love to read, but would hate to write, is historical fiction. I love the way that the best authors make the world of the past come alive, saving me the trouble of doing all the reading and research and weighing up the merits of the various sources.

However, I thought I would have no difficulty in setting the flashbacks in Brand New Friend in eighties Leeds. After all, I was there. But drawing on your memories is not as straightforward as it first seems. 

We mix things up. Each time we retrieve a memory, we potentially corrupt it, throwing in new details, erasing others, while being convinced by the veracity of what we recall. I found this when I came to fact-check my own head. A song that I thought was part of the soundtrack of my student days in Leeds was actually released a couple of years later. Conversely, I had forgotten that pound coins came out a couple of years earlier. 

I had one scene where two of my characters each go to the bar with their own pound note. When I checked, both notes and coins were in circulation at that time so I decided not to change it. I thought it was a nice image – and it showed the characters didn’t want to be stuck with each other after they had bought their drinks! 

Facts can be verified but it’s more tricky to regain the mindset of 30 years ago. What was it like when we didn’t have mobile phones? Most of us didn’t even have landlines in our student houses. You went to a pay phone if you had to call someone. Your friends lived close by so you mostly just went round to see them, and probably stayed for the afternoon or the evening. Money was scarce but time seemed limitless.

If you arranged to meet someone in a pub and they didn’t turn up, you just went home. You didn’t have that exhausting process where people send you texts every five minutes to make minor refinements to the arrangement (or even more absurdly, to tell you that they are progressing towards your agreed rendezvous exactly as planned). 

You only owned a few albums and played them to death, because they were relatively expensive, and you taped them and swapped tapes with people. If you really liked someone you made a compilation. If you knocked out the small squares on the top of the cassette it stopped you recording over it, but if you changed your mind, you could put tape over the holes. 

Although the characters and the story are fictional, I did draw on certain locations. For example the shared house where Paolo lives has the same layout as one of the houses I lived in. Like the characters in the book we spent a lot of time in the living room listening to music, and some of our friends were musicians and used to bring their instruments round and play. 

Now, when I try to picture how we were back then, the room seems really crowded. There are the people who were actually there, whose features have faded over time, and there are figures of characters from the story, who are newer and therefore more vivid. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two. 

Beware of drawing on your memories because, like one of those home tapes, you are in danger of overwriting them!

 

About Brand New Friend

Brand New Friend by Kate Vane

Friend. Liar. Killer?

BBC foreign correspondent Paolo Bennett is exiled to a London desk – and the Breakfast sofa – when he gets a call from Mark, a friend from university in eighties Leeds. Paolo knew Mark as a dedicated animal rights activist but now a news blog has exposed him as an undercover police officer. Then Mark’s former police handler is murdered.

Paolo was never a committed campaigner. He was more interested in women, bands and dreaming of a life abroad. Now he wonders if Mark’s exposure and his handler’s murder might be linked to an unexplained death on campus back when they were friends. What did he miss?

Paolo wants the truth – and the story. He chases up new leads and old friends. From benefit gigs and peace protests, to Whatsapp groups and mocktail bars, the world has changed, but Mark still seems the same. 

Is Mark the spy who never went back – who liked his undercover life better than his own? Or is he lying now? Is Paolo’s friend a murderer?

Buy from Amazon: https://mybook.to/brandnewfriend

 

 

About Kate Vane

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Kate Vane writes (mostly) crime fiction. Brand New Friend is her fourth novel.

She has written for BBC drama Doctors and has had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday.

She lived in Leeds for a number of years where she worked as a probation officer. She now lives on the Devon coast.

You can find Kate at the links below:

Website: https://katevane.com

Twitter: @k8vane

Facebook: /k8vane

 

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#BookReview: Let Me Be Like Water by S. K. Perry @_sarah_perry @melvillehouse

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About the Book

Holly moved to Brighton to escape her grief over the death of her boyfriend, Sam. But now she is here, sitting on a bench, listening to the sea sway… what is supposed to happen next?

The solitude she had so craved leaves her feeling wrecked. Stranded. But after she meets Frank, the tide begins to shift. Frank, a retired magician who has experienced his own loss but manages to be there for everyone else. Gradually, as he introduces Holly to a circle of new friends, young and old, all with their own stories of love and grief to share, she begins to learn to live again.

 

My Thoughts

This book… oh, this book! I’m going to say right now that my words in this review can’t do justice to this book but I’ll do my very best…

Let Me Be Like Water is a beautiful and moving novel about a young woman, Holly, who moves to Brighton after her boyfriend’s death. She is clearly struggling and lost but then she meets Frank, an older man who is full of magic; he takes Holly under his wing and introduces her into his circle of friends.

I love the way the novel is told in vignettes and they alternate between the present and the past. In one moment we’re seeing Holly’s memories of her life with Sam, and then we see how she is now and what is happening in her life.

The parts of this book about Holly’s relationship with Sam leading up to what happened were heartbreakingly moving. How one moment we get to see their sheer joy and happiness, and another we see Holly’s utter heartbreak and pain. It reminded me of After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell in the way a single sentence has the power to take your breath away, or to make you stop reading for a minute because you can’t see through your tears. In my experience it’s rare to find a novel that really shows how grief is in all it’s visceral rawness, and without it ever being mawkish but Let Me Be Like Water really does get it.

‘What I want to know, Sam, is will I ever run out of things I wish I could tell you? Things that sit in my fingertips that you’ll never get to read there. What about the things you know would make me laugh? Are they really just gone?’

I really appreciated how this book follows the seasons, starting in Autumn, and takes the reader through the journey of grief: from those initial weeks when you can barely function to the point when you start to feel human again but are missing your loved one so much that it hurts. There is such delicacy in the way this novel is written, and such power in that delicacy.

‘I’m starting to miss you in a new way that feels like I’m being ripped into little pieces and hurled hard in your direction, only for the wind to pick up all the bits of me and fling them the opposite way.’

The sea is a character in its own right in this novel; the ebb and flow of the tides, the fierceness and the calm, mimics grief in many ways. Holly is drawn to the sea as she tries to work through her pain, and attempts to find a way to live without Sam. Sometimes she wants to curl up inside the sea, other times she throws stones and shouts but the sea is that permanent thing that is always there. A bit like grief: you learn to live without someone but you never stop missing them.

There is a real warmth and heart in this book too. Each of the people that Holly gets to know in Brighton is wonderful, they’re all unique and each of them helps to hold Holly up, as she helps them too. This side of the novel really felt so soothing and healing; to see that Holly was grieving but still accepted and loved by her new friends was wonderful. I especially adored Frank. I loved his magic tricks, but also how his very being seemed magical. He had had his share of pain in life and managed to channel it into reaching out to others who need someone.

‘I often see people sitting in their cars just watching the water,’ Frank said. ‘It makes me want to climb in there with them. I’m sure most of them are fine, but I always wonder if they’re sitting there because they’ve got no one to be outside with. I don’t think people should be alone by the sea’.

There is so much of life in this book. We see honest explorations of relationships, and of the things that make each of us human, each of the characters’ pain and insecurities. There are amusing moments, alongside the sadness, and we see the full spectrum of life in all it’s idiosyncrasies. Perry really does capture how life is in this novel. Let Me Be Like Water leaves the reader with some hope but it doesn’t magically fix everyone’s problems, and I adored it even more for that.

This novel broke my heart, but it also gave me joy: It’s a very poignant novel, and it was cathartic to read. It is so beautifully written that I read it all in one go, even as I had tears streaming down my face. The writing is poetic and stunning; I really don’t have the words to explain how much I adored this novel. This is my favourite book of the year so far and, to be honest, I don’t think anything will knock it from the top spot. Let Me Be Like Water has taken a piece of my heart; it is absolutely a five star read for me and I simply don’t have enough superlatives to describe it! Just go buy it and read it, you honestly won’t regret it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Let Me Be Like Water is out now and available in hardback and ebook here!

 

About the Author

SK Perry © Naomi Woddis copy

S. K. Perry is a fiction writer and poet from Croydon.  In 2013 she was long-listed for London’s Young Poet Laureate and was Cityread Young Writer in Residence in Soho in 2014. Her writing has taken her all around the world leading creative writing workshops that develop emotional literacy, and explore mental health, memory, and healing from violence. She qualified on the Spoken Word Education Programme in 2015 with a distinction in the Goldsmiths Writer/Teacher MA, and is involved in mentoring young poets’ collectives in Hackney, Glasgow, and Tegucigalpa. She lives in London

Her first novel, Let Me Be Like Water, was shortlisted for the Mslexia Award and will be published by Melville House.

(Author bio taken from here)

 

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#BookReview: Tubing by K. A. McKeagney @RedDoorBooks @kamckeagney

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About the Book

Polly, 28, lives in London with her ‘perfect-on-paper’ boyfriend. She works a dead end job on a free London paper… life as she knows it is dull. But her banal existence is turned upside down late one drunken night on her way home, after a chance encounter with a man on a packed tube train. The chemistry between them is electric and on impulse, they kiss, giving in to their carnal desires. But it’s over in an instant, and Polly is left shell-shocked as he walks away without even telling her his name.

Now obsessed with this beautiful stranger, Polly begins a frantic online search, and finally discovers more about tubing , an underground phenomenon in which total strangers set up illicit, silent, sexual meetings on busy commuter tube trains. In the process, she manages to track him down and he slowly lures her into his murky world, setting up encounters with different men via Twitter.

At first she thinks she can keep it separate from the rest of her life, but things soon spiral out of control.

By chance she spots him on a packed tube train with a young, pretty blonde. Seething with jealousy, she watches them together. But something isn’t right and a horrific turn of events make Polly realise not only how foolish she has been, but how much danger she is in…

Can she get out before it’s too late?

 

My Thoughts

Tubing is about Polly, who one night has a random and unplanned sexual encounter with a stranger on a tube and this leads her into an initially thrilling but ultimately dark world. This is a thriller but it’s different to anything else I’ve read.

Polly is already a damaged soul and the world she gets into initially forms an escape for her. She is in a settled relationship but feels stifled by her partner and his close relationship with his sister, and she can’t seem to find the thing that would make her feel whole. She has a decent job but begins to let things slide as she becomes quite obsessed with finding the man she encountered on the tube. Polly does make some silly decisions and she was hard to like a lot of the time but there was something intriguing about her, and about why she becomes so fascinated by the world of tubing that made it impossible to not read on.

As Polly’s fixation with the man from the tube grows she finds herself in an increasingly scary situation. One day she witnesses something that is terrifying and soon finds herself spiralling into paranoia and anxiety. The book really ramps up the tension from this point on as you feel really unsure how much of her how she feels is just paranoia, or whether she really is in danger or if it’s even a mix of the two.

For the first half of this book I felt it was more focused on the erotic aspects and I was wondering if this is a book that I would classify as a thriller but the second half of the book was so fast-paced, intense and disturbing that it most definitely is a thriller. It got to a point where I just couldn’t put this book down as I just had to know how it was all going to end. The denouement of this novel was not what I was expecting, which I really appreciated. I do love it when a thriller surprises me!

Tubing is a book I’d recommend to anyone who is looking to read a dark, disturbing thriller with a sexy side to it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Tubing is out now and available here!

 

About the Author

K.A. McKeagney studied psychology in Bristol before completing a Masters degree in creative writing at Brunel. She won the Curtis Brown prize for her dissertation, which formed the basis of her first novel Tubing. She has worked in London as a health editor writing consumer information as well as for medical journals. Her writing has been commended by the British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards.

She is currently working on her second novel.

 


 

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#BookReview: The Man on the Middle Floor by Elizabeth S. Moore @LizzyMoore19 #RedDoorBooks #TMOTMF

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About the Book

Despite living in the same three-flat house in the suburbs of London, the residents are strangers to one another. The bottom floor is home to Tam, a recent ex-cop who spends his days drowning his sorrows in whisky. On the middle floor is Nick, a young man with Asperger’s who likes to stick to his schedules and routines. The top floor belongs to Karen, a doctor and researcher who has spent her life trying to understand the rising rates of autism. They have lived their lives separately, until now, when an unsolved murder and the man on the middle floor connect them all together. Told from three points of view, The Man on the Middle Floor is about disconnection in all its forms; sexual, physical, parental and emotional. It questions whether society is meeting the needs of the fast growing autistic section of society, or exacerbating it.

 

My Thoughts

Well, I went into reading this book expecting it to be a fairly straightforward novel about a murder in a block of flats but I was wrong. The Man on the Middle Floor is so much more than that; it’s very hard to categorise the book but it is definitely a page turner!

Nick lives alone on the middle floor. He has Asperger’s Syndrome and is trying to maintain an independent life, he’s always looking for ways to add things to his routine without it becoming overwhelming. Tam lives on the ground floor and has recently lost his job in the police force so is struggling to find his place in the world. Karen lives on the top floor. She is a woman who is so engrossed in her research work on autism that she filters out everything else around her, including her own children. The lives of of the three people become intertwined as the novel goes on and it took a much more macabre turn than I was expecting!

Whilst this book is about a murder, it is also just as much about people and how we all have our ways of dealing with what life has thrown at us. There is a real feeling that Elizabeth Moore feels passionately about autism and that this was the catalyst for the novel. She deftly explores what makes us ‘normal’ and how easily people can become derailed from the acceptable norms of behaviour in society. We get to see the murder and what led to it happening but we also see how people turn to each other for comfort when it’s not how they’ve previously behaved. The focus seemed to centre on Nick as I was reading but it’s actually Karen that has stayed in my head more since I finished reading. She seemed to be so cold to her own children and in the way she sacrificed everything and everyone for her career but then couldn’t see the wood for the trees. I can’t condone her behaviour but at the same time part of me wonders how she is now (even though I know she’s not real).

Nick is the character that stands out the most whilst reading this novel though and the plot centres around him, the man on the middle floor. I don’t know a huge amount about autism, although I have read books about it in the past, but it seemed clear to me that Nick had a lot of problems in his life and that these contributed a lot to his obsessive behaviour rather than it seeming that all of his actions were just down to his autism. I could see where his need for order and calm came from, and had an understanding of that as someone who has had mental health issues in the past.

I really liked the way the book isn’t just about a character with autism and that is focused on three very different people who just happened to live in the same building but perhaps had more in common than they would realise. Karen has all but abandoned her children for her career, something which society still frowns upon and finds hard to accept. Tam is a man who is a bit lost and who seems to be looking for companionship and perhaps a family, which can often be portrayed as something that stereotypically more woman want than men. And Nick just wants order and calm, and to be allowed to just be without outside intrusion which is again something that others can find hard to understand. This novel really shows how we all have our problems and that whatever it is that makes one person’s life difficult may not actually be that dissimilar to what someone else experiences, albeit perhaps in a different way.

From the opening chapter of this novel I really wasn’t sure what I was reading but The Man on the Middle Floor certainly had me hooked from start to finish and I read it in just two sittings!  The novel really does hold a mirror up to the reader’s perceptions and leaves you really thinking about how we determine what normal is. If you like novels that are a bit different, that make you think and defy genre then this is the book for you; I certainly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

The Man on the Middle Floor is out now and available in ebook and paperback from here!

 

About the Author

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Elizabeth S. Moore has worked as a journalist since she won the Decanter Young Wine Writer of the Year at seventeen. She has written columns and articles on restaurants, politics, South Africa and all things foodie. She comes from a family that has given her a lot of writing material and is currently finishing her second book, having written the first after completing the Faber Write a Novel course and being approached by fourteen agents after reading an excerpt of her novel to industry professionals. Elizabeth lives in London with her South African husband and has three daughters and a son as well as two lazy Labradors.

(Bio taken from: ElizabethMoore.com)

 

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#BookReview: Wheelchairs, Perjury & The London Marathon by Tim Marshall @AuthorightUKPR ‏@Authoright

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About the Book

The top wheelchair athletes of today enjoy the same high-profile exposure and admiration as their able-bodied counterparts. This has come about partly through wheelchair participation in mass fun-running events such as the Great North Run.

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon charts disability sports pioneer Tim Marshall MBE’s journey from the rock-climbing accident which left him paralysed, to becoming a trailblazer for wheelchair racing.

The fun-runs of the 1980s enabled wheelchair road-racing to flourish, and Marshall took part in marathons and half-marathons where wheelchairs were welcome to compete. This did not, however, include The London Marathon, from which wheelchairs were banned for the first two years. This is the story of how this prohibition was overturned, told from the competitor’s point of view. Tim and many others campaigned for the inclusion of wheelchairs in The London Marathon in the face of huge opposition from the organisers.

Finally, in 1983 the efforts of sportsmen and women, the press, the Greater London Council and members of parliament resulted in a breakthrough just ten days before the 1983 marathon, which at last agreed to wheelchair participation.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to read and review Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon for the blog tour as it’s a subject that is really close to my heart. I’m partially paralysed from a spinal cord injury in my neck and whilst the nature of my injury means I can’t self-propel in a wheelchair I’m always inspired by people who have pushed society to accept wheelchair users.

Tim Marshall suffered a spinal cord injury whilst rock climbing as a young man but he never lost his passion for life and taking part in sport. After his initial recovery period he undertook a research trip in America to look at how sports for wheelchair users was being approached and this led him to attempt to set up more opportunities for wheelchair users in the UK. This ultimately led to him pushing for there to be a wheelchair race within the London Marathon. The opposition that he faced is utterly staggering, I had to put the book down at a couple of points just in sheer shock at some of the responses he got from the event organisers.

Even though Marshall’s fight for a wheelchair race within the London Marathon is over thirty years ago now it was still shocking to read that one of the reasons for refusing him entry is because they didn’t want it to turn into a ‘multi-purpose jamboree’! I was gobsmacked reading this because the London Marathon allows fun runners in all their glorious outfits and yet it was the thought of serious athletes who happened to be wheelchair-bound that would throw the race into some kind of disrepute. I’m still reeling from this now. The organisers continued to give Marshall different reasons as to why wheelchair racers couldn’t be included each time he contacted them; all of them utterly unfounded.

The book also covers things like how wheelchair athletes came to have the more sporty wheelchairs that we’re used to seeing today as initially they were racing in their ordinary, every day chairs which were not dissimilar to the self-propelled wheelchairs you see people using today (although a lot heavier than we have now). I’d never really thoughts about how hard it would be to race in a chair like that with the wheels being straight and the high chance of your hand getting caught between your wheel and the wheel of the chair alongside you, or the lack of support for your body. I found it so interesting to read how sporting wheelchairs came to be and how the adaptations slowly came to be accepted by the racing associations.

Marshall’s passion to gain parity for disabled athletes and his determination to tell his story in the most accurate way possible really comes through in this book. I enjoyed the level of detail in the sharing of what remained of his correspondence with people relevant to his struggle, and to see how wheelchair racers were eventually accepted as part of the London Marathon.

I am so grateful for people like Tim Marshall because it is through them that society begins to shift its standpoint on how it views disabled people. Seeing the response in recent years to the paralympics, for example, and how nations have got behind their disabled athletes has been incredible. I will be watching the London Marathon this year with renewed appreciation of just how much perseverance it took to get wheelchair athletes racing alongside everyone else.

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon is such an interesting read. It encompasses how Marshall discovered wheelchair sport, then onto how he, along with others, fought, and won, the right to race in the London Marathon. This is a fascinating, inspiring and important book. I really enjoyed reading it and it’s one I definitely recommend.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon is out now in paperback and ebook from here!

About the Author

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Tim Marshall was born in 1946 and gained an M.Sc in Statistics from the London School of Economics, working at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris before taking up a position at Birmingham University. His lectureship in the Medical School followed by his appointment as Associate Professor in Epidemiology and Public Health ended with his retirement in 2006. He has enjoyed a lifelong love of sport including wheelchair racing, skiing and sailing.

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#BookReview: Her Mother’s Daughter by Alice Fitzgerald @AliceFitzWrites @AllenAndUnwinUK

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About the Book

1980: Josephine flees her home in Ireland, hoping never to return. She starts a new, exciting life in London, but as much as she tries, she can’t quite leave the trauma of her childhood behind.

Seventeen years and two children later, Josephine gets a call from her sister to tell her that their mother is dying and wants to see her – a summons she can’t refuse.

1997: Ten-year-old Clare is counting down to the summer holidays, when she is going to meet her grandparents in Ireland for the first time. She hopes this trip will put an end to her mum’s dark moods – and drinking.

But family secrets can’t stay buried forever and following revelations in Ireland, everything starts to unravel. Have Josephine and her daughter passed the point of no return?

My Thoughts

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Her Mother’s Daughter as I  very much enjoyed reading this novel.

Her Mother’s Daughter opens in 1997 with ten year old Clare excitedly awaiting going to visit her mum’s family in Ireland. She crosses off the days on her calendar as each day passes and is increasingly curious about meeting her grandparents. The timeline then goes back to 1980 and focuses on Josephine, Clare’s mum, as she leaves Ireland and her family behind. She moves away out of desperation to escape something and to try and create a better life for herself. Through the two timelines we get to see what has made Josephine the way she is, and also the impact it has on her daughter.

I’m often drawn to novels about mother and daughter relationships and always find them emotional so I was expecting this to be a novel that I would get engrossed in and would enjoy reading but I didn’t expect it have such a big impact on me. Alice Fitzgerald really shows the way that the things we do or say around children, or things that were done or said around ourselves as children, can cause such damage without us really being aware.  Clare is such a sweet girl but the way she takes on board her mother’s obsession with food and repeats the things she says without really fully understanding what her mother meant was shocking to me. It made me want to weep for her when each time she got to eat treat food she was constantly thinking of her hips and whether her thighs were chubby. There is also occasional use of a particular swear word that was really jolting because it’s the way Fitzgerald uses the word in the novel that made it so shocking and so sad at the same time. Out of the mouths of babes as they say.

The thing really broke my heart in this novel was the way that Clare so badly wants to make her mum happy, and Josephine so badly wants her daughter to love and adore her and yet they miss the mark somehow. Josephine is so damaged by her own childhood that she feels the need to be perfect and yet can’t seem to attain it, it’s always out of her reach and she can’t let herself settle for good enough. She also wants to compensate by helping her daughter be perfect but Clare is a child and children can’t be moulded to that degree – and in trying to make her perfect it has potential cause more harm. Clare actually becomes the mother to Josephine, and is also constantly moderating her behaviour to try and prevent her mum losing her temper or getting upset. It’s so sad to see a child so young already having to live on such a knife edge.

Josephine was hard to like when reading things from Clare’s viewpoint but as Josephine’s background and the reason for the pain she carries is revealed it felt impossible not to have sympathy for her. It doesn’t excuse how she treated her children but I still had compassion for her. The writing in this book really conveys the way that people can harm their children without realising purely because they are so damaged themselves, yet Fitzgerald also gives a real sense of hope that the chain can be broken. I very much appreciated this because it’s all too easy for us to blame who we are on who brought us up but we can break free of that and we don’t have to keep making the mistakes that were made by others before us.

Her Mother’s Daughter is beautifully written; it really draws you in and keeps you engrossed all the way through. I actually read it in one sitting because I just got so absorbed in it. It’s a heartbreaking novel but it does leave you with a real feeling of hope. I definitely recommend this book!

Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and Allen and Unwin for sending me a copy of the book and inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author

Alice Fitzgerald

Alice Fitzgerald has worked as a journalist for six years. She has been published in literary journals, online at Refinery29 and Hello Giggles and in magazines including Hello!. Her Mother’s Daughter is her debut novel. Born in London to Irish parents, she now lives in Madrid.

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#BookReview: The Long Forgotten by David Whitehouse @d_whitehouse @EmmaFinnigan @PicadorBooks

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About the Book

When the black box flight recorder of a plane that went missing 30 years ago is found at the bottom of the sea, a young man named Dove begins to remember a past that isn’t his. The memories belong to a rare flower hunter in 1980s New York, whose search led him around the world and ended in tragedy.

Restless and lonely in present-day London, Dove is quickly consumed by the memories, which might just hold the key to the mystery of his own identity and what happened to the passengers on that doomed flight, The Long Forgotten.

 

My Thoughts

I’m going to start my review by saying how beautiful the cover of The Long Forgotten is, it really is gorgeous. Initially I saw the flowers and was drawn to looking at it some more and then I noticed the white whale that comes to play a small but also huge part in the story. It feels like a work of art and the more you look at it the more you notice, and it all connects so beautifully with the novel you’re about to read.

This novel itself is incredible! I picked it up early in the evening and I read from start to finish without taking a break because I simply couldn’t tear myself away from it. Everything about this book is incredible – the writing, the plot, the characters and it’s one that I know will stay with me.

The Long Forgotten is a novel about memories but it is also a quirky, mystery novel that will have you completely and utterly engrossed. The novel is told in two time strands. In one there is Dove who is a lonely man who one day starts remembering things that he knows never happened to him. This leads him to try and find out where these memories are from. In the other there is Peter who also seems lonely until one day he finds a love letter in a botany book at the library and it leads him on a quest to travel and find the flowers mentioned.

The Long Forgotten found me at just the right time. I’ve been having a big clear out in my home and have been pondering whether if I get rid of certain items I might end up forgetting the memories attached to them. So a novel all about memories and how we remember, how things become fixed in our memory really captured my imagination. This book explores the fallibility of memory too. When Dove firsts experiences the strange memories he seems to just know that they’re not his memories, but how? It’s as if somewhere in us we know when something is not our memory but at the same time are so prone to forgetting events from our own lives. Where do the lost memories go? Is someone else remembering them, or their own version of them? It felt at times that even though the plane crash that this book is hinged on was real within the novel that it was also a metaphor for how memories can just disappear and seemingly be gone forever.

I knew I would love the story around memory as soon as I read the synopsis for this book but I didn’t expect to love the exploration around the flowers and plants as much as I did. It was fascinating to read about these extremely rare plants, most of which I’d never heard of before, and to be with Peter on his journey to locate them all and to see them in the flesh. His story had echoes of Dove’s where Peter’s friend Hens, who encourages him to go find the plants, ends up stealing stories from him in order to attract women. This left me wondering about how some people do steal stories from others in order to make themselves seem more interesting, but how sometimes things we think about can become blurred in our own minds to the point that it’s possible to not immediately remember that a story isn’t yours, that it actually happened to someone else. I’ve been on the receiving end of someone telling a story of mine to me and genuinely thinking it was theirs and it was such a weird situation. I definitely felt an echo of this within The Long Forgotten.

This novel is full of strange connections and unexpected coincidences, which make it very quirky, yet it always felt believable. At times it was almost surreal in how the dots joined together but there was such heart throughout the novel that it was wonderful to turn the final page and see how it was all so skilfully woven together (even though getting to the end of the book did leave me feeling bereft at finishing it).

The Long Forgotten is a very quirky, incredibly moving and stunningly beautiful novel that will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished reading it. I know it’s one I won’t forget and even though it’s only March I feel absolutely certain that this will be in my top books of 2018! I urge you to go buy a copy and read it right away, you absolutely won’t regret it!

My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, Emma Finnigan and Picador for sending me a copy of this book and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Long Forgotten is out now and available in hardback and ebook from here.

 

About the Author

David Whitehouse Author Picture

I have written three novels. The first, BED, was published in 2011 by Canongate in the UK and Scribner in the US.  It won The Betty Trask Prize 2012. The movie rights were optioned by Duck Soup and Film 4.

The second, MOBILE LIBRARY, was published in January 2015 by Picador in the UK and Scribner in the US. It won the Jerwood Fiction Prize 2015 and the TV rights were optioned by Duck Soup and Channel 4.

The third, THE LONG FORGOTTEN, will be published by Picador in March 2018.

I currently have a number of TV projects in development.

I have written for lots of newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, Esquire, The Times, The Observer Magazine, Sunday Times Style and many more. I’ve won awards for journalism from The Times, The Evening Standard, the PPA and the PTC. I am the Editor-at-Large of ShortList magazine.

(Bio taken from: DavidWhitehouse.com)

 

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#BookReview: We Were The Salt Of The Sea by Roxanne Bouchard @RBouchard72 @OrendaBooks @givemeawave #saltofthesea

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About the Book

As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky…

My Thoughts

I’m going to be honest here and say that it was the stunning cover that first drew me to We Were The Salt of The Sea and after reading the blurb I knew I had to get my hands on the book as soon as I possibly could. I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to take part in the blog tour and I’m very happy to say that the novel more than lives up to the cover design.

This is a novel that straddles genres and that made it such a refreshing and gripping read for me. It’s in large part a crime novel; a woman, Marie Garant, is found dead in the ocean and the new detective Morales is pulled in to investigate. It’s also a mystery novel with an outsider, Catherine Day, turning up looking for her birth mother and trying to find herself in the process. It can even be described as a love letter to the sea, it’s clear that the author has a love of the ocean herself and it comes through so beautifully in her writing. I swear I could smell the ocean and the fishing boats as I was reading, I could hear the sea waxing and waning throughout the novel – the sea is as much a character in this novel as the people are.

You go to sea because it’s the only door that opens when you knock, because it keeps you awake at night. Every time you step ashore and into the crowd, you feel how different you are. You feel like a stranger. You go to sea because you’re a drifter among others and you only feel at home in the silence of the wind.

There is a real insular feel to Gaspé, the locals pull together and seem bemused by the outsiders that come to make a home there. There are some real characters in the village and I loved how they spoke. There are two people in particular that have a quirk of speech – one says the same word every time he speaks and the other uses a sentence whenever he is wound up about something. This brought the book to life because this is how real people speak, we all have our little quirks in our speech and it’s one of the things that makes getting to know new people so fascinating. I loved the way that I was new to this place and these people just as detective Morales was so I felt I was there with him trying to figure out how to get through the barriers to the real people. It felt like it was hard work for Morales at times but I was willing him to persevere because it seemed to me like he would find a way to be accepted given time.

It did feel like some of the characters in this book, particularly the women, were eluding me. We hear various people’s stories about Marie but everyone seems to remember her differently, and Catherine is enigmatic from the start. We know why she is in Gaspé but we never really get to know her; her and Marie are the essence of the story but they are impossible to grasp. I didn’t fully get a handle on who they really were but it was clearly how it was meant to be and it’s as if these two strong women were born of the sea and were always destined to go back there. Maybe they were part of the sea in some ways and as such were not meant to be really truly known, perhaps just like the salt of the sea itself.

Cyrille said that all truths were ever-flowing and elusive. Those who went to sea knew that anything atop the waves was forever breaking up and reforming. Differently. He said that the wind, the current and the ocean swell were insatiable; that you could never be too careful, even on a glassy sea. What was true in the here and now would make a liar of you not ten minutes later. He said the only reason we exist was the every-shifting lie that is life.

I didn’t expect this book to move me as much as it did. Novels that have mothers and daughters always get me but there was more than that in this book that brought a lump to my throat. I came to adore Cyrille and found his wisdom and his courage in facing what had to be faced really moving. I find that I’m still thinking of the novel and the people days after finishing it and even though I know these were characters in a book and not real people I can’t help hoping that Cyrille and Catherine both found peace in their very different ways after the end of the story.

This didn’t ever feel like a novel in translation for me, the story just flowed and was never jarring so I have to mention how wonderfully David Warriner has translated this book into English. I marked so many paragraphs that stood out to me as utterly beautiful and I know I’ll want to go back and read them from time to time.

I very much enjoyed We Were The Salt of the Sea; it is mysterious and lyrical and utterly stunning. I can’t wait to read more by Roxanne Bouchard. I highly, highly recommend We Were The Salt of The Sea.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a copy of the book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

We Were The Salt of the Sea is out now in ebook and is due to be released in paperback on 30th March!

About the Author

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Roxanne Bouchard reads a lot, but she laughs even more. Her first novel, Whisky et Paraboles, garnered an array of prestigious awards in Quebec and caught the attention of British researcher, Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani, of the University of Westminster, who saw for herself how Roxanne weaves poetry and geography together to delve into her characters’ intimate worlds.

About the Translator

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David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

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#BookReview: All Her Starry Fates by Lady Grey @starryfates #starryfates

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About the Book

In all her starry fates, grey explores how the otherworldly relates to the everyday— with poems about love, loss, memory, inheritance, and belonging.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve always enjoyed reading poetry but have got out of the habit of picking up poetry collections in more recent years so I was thrilled when Anne Cater of Random Things Tours offered me the chance to read and review All Her Starry Fates for the blog tour.

I was expecting to enjoy reading this collection, and I really, really did,  but I wasn’t expecting it to speak to me in the way it did. I found part one of the collection really connected with me and I found I had to stop and really think about each poem before I moved on to the next one. There is one poem in particular that I haven’t stopped thinking about: ‘was i too hard on myself / or / not heart enough / – question’. I love the play on the sound of hard and heart and how they seem similar, but also how it makes you think about how hard you are on yourself and whether there was any heart there. There is a real theme of isolation and loneliness, and of trying to find the courage to seek your place in the world and it seemed to reflect so many of my own emotions at the time I was reading. It brought me a lot of solace.

I really enjoyed how for the most part the poems were free flowing without a set structure. Most of the poems don’t have a title at the top of the page but a lot of them do seem to have a short title, which also becomes a small conclusion, at the end of a poem. Some of the later poems do have titles at the top of the page, which made it feel like the characters throughout the poems were showing themselves more, were becoming more confident and I loved that.

Parts one and two seem to be more an exploration of feelings whereas the poems in the third part seem to be telling more of a story which encapsulate the emotion from the earlier poems. It felt to me like the people expressing their thoughts in the early poems could be the people whose stories where being told in the later poems. The following two parts are a mix of story and emotion, which brings the whole collection together. There is a real cohesion through the parts of this poetry collection: it feels like the collection as a whole is a musing on the things in between that matter to us and about finding where we belong. The themes of finding a place where you fit definitely runs throughout. There were poems that felt they were about a lover, others about a child; some were musings on life in general – the happy and the sad. All seem to be about being who you are: finding the courage to be yourself and not letting others bring you down or affect you.

All Her Starry Fates is a poetry collection that I would recommend to everyone as it’s very accessible but also has a real depth to it that can be enjoyed on many levels. I adored this collection and am so pleased that I had the chance to read it; it’s a book that will really stay with me and I know I will return again and again to these beautiful poems. I highly, highly recommend this collection.

 

All Her Starry Fates is out now in ebook and print and available here.

This blog tour was organised by Anne Cater at Random Things Tours. I received a free copy of the ebook. All thoughts are my own.

 


 

 

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#BookReview: Meeting Lydia by Linda MacDonald @LindaMac1 #blogtour

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About the Book

When Marianne comes home from work one day to find her husband talking to a glamorous woman in the kitchen, insecurities resurface from a time when she was bullied at school. Jealousy rears its head and her marriage begins to fall apart. Desperate for a solution, she finds herself trying to track down her first schoolgirl crush: Edward Harvey. Even thinking his name made her tingle with half-remembered childlike giddiness. Edward Harvey, the only one from Brocklebank to whom she might write if she found him.

 

My Thoughts

I really enjoy listening to audio books, it means I can still read when my body doesn’t allow me to hold a print book or my kindle, so when Anne Cater from Random Things Tours offered me the chance to listen and review Meeting Lydia I jumped at it! I was drawn to the gorgeous cover and was intrigued by the premise of the book.

Meeting Lydia is about a woman in her mid forties, who is sent into a tailspin when she finds her husband talking to a younger, attractive woman. This coincides with Marianne suspecting she may be starting the menopause, and with her daughter about to go off to university so she begins to feel that she is unravelling.

I’ll be honest and say that I did find it a little difficult to get into this book as I couldn’t initially place the timeline, possibly because I was listening to an audiobook and couldn’t easily flick back the pages to figure it out. Once it dawned on me that this is set in the early 2000s I was fine from there on in. Marianne, encouraged by her daughter, decides to join Friends Reunited so see if anyone from school is on there. She becomes quite fixated on finding Edward, a boy she didn’t know well at school but that she had felt an affinity with. When she finds him they begin an online friendship reminiscing about school days and slowly building up a picture of their lives now. I loved the book as it got further into this relationship because it felt like I was in Marianne’s head and could really understand her better. She seemed to fantasise about what she would say to Edward and things became a little blurry as to what she had actually emailed to him and what she had only thought about saying to him. She almost has a fantasy life in her mind and I could really understand how this gave her escapism from her own mundane life.

The novel explores how Marianne feels about her school days. She was bullied at school but never spoke about it to anyone, and yet now she is going through a confidence crisis it seems like how she felt as a child is now haunting her. All the insecurities that came from not feeling good enough as a child are an echo of how she feels now as she reaches mid-life. This really connected with me, it’s easy to dismiss what happens when we’re children but sometimes the things that we couldn’t talk about then can re-emerge at vulnerable points in our adult lives.

Marianne wasn’t easy to like in the beginning of this book, she seemed quite unable to express her feelings to her husband and yet somehow holds this against him. There is also the way she is a bit hypocritical in being annoyed about his friendship with a woman and yet she has stared an online flirtation with a man. I feel like the book really did explore her thoughts and feelings as it went on and I grew to really have sympathy and a much better understanding of her. As I got further into the book I began to wonder if Edward really existed in the present day or if the whole thing was just a fantasy that she needed to escape the way she felt her life becoming undone. I think there is an element of this being left to the reader’s interpretation and I really liked that. I think we’ve all wondered about people from school and in the days before Facebook it was much harder to reconnect and to find out what had happened to old friends so you could only wonder what became of them.

I ended up really rooting for Marianne, and for her to open up to her husband and for them to try and fix their marriage. I believed Johnny when he said he wasn’t having an affair, it really did feel like Marianne’s insecurities about her changing body and her feeling older had built things up to be more than they were. I can sympathise but always believed that an honest conversation with her husband would go a long way to her finding happiness with him again.

I really enjoyed this audio book and have to mention the narrator, Harriet Carmichael, who really enhanced the experience of listening to this book – she really brings Marianne to life in a way that feels exactly right.

Meeting Lydia is a really interesting exploration of what it is to reach middle age and to wonder what might have been, to wonder if what you have is all there is; it’s a book about the insecurities that can hit at various points in life but especially as you begin to see yourself getting that bit older. Linda MacDonald writes with sensitivity and a delicate hand, yet is unafraid to tackle the issues of middle age. I recommend this audio book!

I received a copy of this book from Audible via Anne Cater at Random Things Tours. All views are my own.

Meeting Lydia is out now as an audio book, ebook and paperback!

 

About the Author

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Linda MacDonald

Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught in a secondary school in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write and paint. In 1990 she returned to teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’. She has now given up teaching to focus fully on writing.

Her four published novels Meeting Lydia, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternativeand The Man in the Needlecord Jacket can each be read independently but are also a series. A fifth part is at the embryonic stage.

 

About the Narrator

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Harriet Carmichael

I’ve always loved doing voices.  I grew up with Radio 4 being on constantly in the background. Somehow the voices and accents broadcast over the years soaked in. And now I do voices. Or if you ask my agent, I’m a “voice artist”.

For the last seven years I’ve spent most of my days in front of a microphone: as myself; as seven-year-old boys; talking baboons; angsty teenagers (usually American); androgynous talking cats; Glaswegian Grannies; the cast of The Archers

After university I trained at The Oxford School of Drama and then acted mainly with touring theatre companies – some brilliant, some not so… I had a lot of fun, but once I started doing voiceovers in warm studios with good coffee, being on the road lost some of its appeal.

And the voice can do much more than people think. Tone, timing, pitch and accent can all vary depending on the job. From commercials and corporates to cartoons, computer games and audiobooks, it’s a brilliant job and, really, I owe it all to Radio 4.

 

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#BookReview: An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth @Wildfirebks @colettemcbeth #blogtour

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About the Book

MOTHER. WIFE. POLITICIAN. LIAR.

THEN: How far did she go to conceal the truth?

Politician Linda Moscow sacrificed everything to protect her son: her beliefs,
her career, her marriage. All she wanted was to keep him safe.

NOW: What will she risk to expose the lies?

When the voices she silenced come back to haunt her, Linda is faced with
another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line…

An Act of Silence is about the abuse of power, the devastating effects of keeping the truth buried, and the lengths a mother will go to save her child.

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Colette McBeth so when I heard about An Act of Silence I knew it was a book that I had to read and I’m really pleased to say that it more than lived up to my expectations.

An Act of Silence is told from the viewpoint of quite a few characters, which I found really interesting: the way their stories go back and forth in time and are layered on top of each other made the unravelling of the story utterly fascinating and near impossible to put down. Linda is a former MP who resigned in disgrace a few years previously and is now writing a book. Her son Gabriel is a famous comedian who has been accused of murder and just wants his mother to believe that he’s innocent.

I’ll be honest and say that I thought this book was going to be about how a mother tried to cover up what her adult son had done but it is so much more more than I even expected. Seeing the story through both Linda and Gabriel’s eyes really gave such an insight into why they are the way they are with each other. I felt sorry for Gabriel at times for the way his mum just didn’t seem to show she cared but then we’d see her point of view and I could understand more. This novel goes on to be a wider look at child abuse and it makes for difficult reading at times; there are moments that really got to me but I never felt that I needed to stop reading and I put that down to how well written and how well researched this book is.

This is a book that explores what good and bad are, and whether both traits can exist in one person. It explores power and the people who abuse it. The real heart of the book though is in each act of silence. The perpetrators in this book kept quiet because it meant they got away with it, but the interest for me was in the victims and how they kept silent because they thought they wouldn’t be believed. Then later they just didn’t want to have to cope with the fall out of speaking out. Seeing the story from multiple perspectives really gives you pause for thought in this book, and it really made me think.

An Act of Silence is a tense, atmospheric thriller that will really get under your skin. It builds and builds and reaches a point where you feel like you can’t breathe, and you just simply have to know what the outcome is going to be. It’s a very powerful novel that will give you pause for thought, and it’s one that will really stay with me. I highly, highly recommend this book!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.

An Act of Silence is out now in paperback and ebook!

 

About the Author

Colette McBeth Author Pic

Colette McBeth is the critically acclaimed author of psychological thrillers, Precious Thing and The Life I Left Behind. Her new book, An Act of Silence, about a mother faced with an impossible choice to save her son, is now available in paperback.

Colette was a BBC TV News television correspondent for ten years during which time she covered many major crime stories and worked out of Westminster as a political reporter. Prior to that, she was a news editor for Sky News.

Colette is a member of Killer Women, the female collective of crime writers.

(Author bio taken from: colettemcbeth.co.uk)

 

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#BookReview: Trust Me by @ZosiaWand ‏@HoZ_Books #blogtour


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About the Book

Who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself?

Twenty-seven-year-old Lizzie has a great relationship with her teenage stepson, Sam, even though they could pass for brother and sister.

When Sam becomes sullen and withdrawn, Lizzie starts to suspect that something sinister is going on at school. But no one believes her and then suspicion falls on Lizzie herself…

Trust Me is an absorbing, suspenseful and thought-provoking thriller tat asks if you can ever really trust anybody, including yourself.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when the publicist for this book contacted me to ask if I’d like a copy to review as it sounded like such an interesting book, and also it’s set in a part of the country I know well so that caught my attention too! I’m so pleased to say that this book lived up to all of my expectations and was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down!

Trust Me is Lizzie’s story; she’s a 27 year old woman who has moved to Cumbria for a job and ends up staying when she gets into a relationship with an older man. He has two teenage children, who end up moving in with them a short notice without Lizzie ever having met them before. The novel starts a while later when Sam, who is 17, is still living with them. He and Lizzie have always had a good relationship but Sam’s behaviour begins to change and only Lizzie really notices how much he’s changed.

I found this book really engrossing from the start because I had the sense early on that something was a little off about Lizzie’s relationship with Sam. She is only ten years older than him, so closer in age to him than his father who she is in a relationship with. Lizzie wants to look out for Sam and she wants to feel like they’re friends but as a result of this she occasionally behaves in ways that made me want to grab her and pull her out of the situation – she definitely has wobbly judgement at times.  Lizzie does seem to side with Sam over her partner on occasion and I found that a little odd but at the same time I can see how she just wanted to keep the peace in her home, and also to let Sam know he was welcome there. It did feel sometimes like she was trying to gain the attention of Sam but then mostly she was so kind and wanting to help him that I figured she was just naive.

From the blurb I did wonder if this book might end up being a little predictable in the way the relationships would go but it wasn’t at all. I really enjoyed how this book slowly unfolded and the way it made me think as I was reading.  The lines are blurry in a few of the relationships in this book and that was my favourite aspect of reading it. In the age we live in now with blended families it’s common for people to live with their partner and children from an earlier marriage and that makes this book very prescient. I can see how it could be hard to know how to deal with someone else’s children when you’re not trying to replace their mother, you’re too young to be their step-mother and too old to be their sister. Lizzie just wants a happy home for all the family.

Lizzie is quite naive in other aspects of her life too. She meets a new friend and immediately has too much to drink, even though she doesn’t like alcohol or being drunk, and she confides way too much when it’s someone she’s only just met. The woman seems to be looking to make a friend and Lizzie, who spends most of her time with her husband and his friends who are all a lot older than her or with Sam, is over the moon to have a friend closer to her own age. I was suspicious of this new friendship quite early on but couldn’t put my finger on why – I swung from thinking it was about showing how silly Lizzie was to behave in the way she was with Sam, to thinking the new friend was not to be trusted. I’m naturally quite a wary person so this book had my suspicion levels up high!

I also have to mention that the writing in this book is beautiful, it just flows so wonderfully. The way the Lake District is written about is excellent too, you get a real sense of the setting and it feels like a place you have been to and know. It’s not often that a novel really captures the essence of a place and I very much appreciated that in this book.

This book really explores the boundaries that society thinks we should have and also our own personal belief about what our boundaries should be and I found that fascinating. It’s so easy to see how one person thinks they are genuinely just being warm and friendly and another person can believe that you are flirting with them and wanting more from the relationship you have.

Trust Me is a family drama with a psychological thriller element and it felt really refreshingly different to anything I’ve read in this genre for a while. I enjoyed it so much! I was hooked from start to finish and actually read it in one sitting, staying up way past my bedtime, because I simply had to know how it was all going to turn out in the end! I highly recommend this book and I’m already eagerly anticipating whatever Zosia Wand writes next!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Trust Me is out now!

 

About the Author

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Zosia Wand is an author and playwright. She was born in London and lives in Cumbria with her family. She is passionate about good coffee, cake and her adopted landscape on the edge of the Lake District. This is her first novel.




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#BlogTour: Bad Sister by Sam Carrington #Extract @AvonBooksUK @sam_carrington1 @sabah_k

 

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Sam Carrington’s brand new novel, Bad Sister and I have an extract from the book to share with you all!

 

Extract from Bad Sister

Connie sat back, forcing her shoulders down into their natural position. ‘So, now he’s dead?’

‘Yes, that’s right. Three days following his escape. His body was dumped outside the prison gatehouse this morning.’

‘Well, that’s unfortunate for him, I guess. So what’s any of this got to do with me? Why are you here?’

‘Well, that’s the interesting part.’

Nothing about the case so far was in the slightest bit interesting as far as Connie was concerned. She didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Her upper body slumped. What the hell was coming next?

‘Eric Hargreaves’ body has been mutilated, the type and detail is not being disclosed for obvious reasons, but let’s just say it’s been done in a . . . particular way—’

‘And you think I can help establish the type of person who would do this, give you some clues as to their motive?’

DI Wade scrunched her face a little and gently shook her head. ‘I’m sure you could help with that, yes, but we’re calling on you for a different reason at present.’

Connie’s stomach dropped. ‘Oh?’

‘You see . . .’ DS Mack took over. ‘On closer inspection it was noted he had something written on his hand.’ He paused, a smile playing at the edges of his mouth. He was enjoying dragging out the details; making Connie squirm. She rubbed at the raised red mark that was still on her wrist. It was stinging. She closed her eyes to block out DS Mack’s smug face. Although she couldn’t remember where she’d seen him before, she hoped after this that she’d never see his face again.

‘Am I meant to guess?’ Her tone sharp.

DS Mack shifted sideways slightly in his seat; his feet kicked the corner of her desk. He reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a see-through evidence bag containing a photograph. He held it out towards Connie between the thumb and forefinger of each hand.

She blinked rapidly a few times, then frowned.

She stared at the words: ‘CONNIE MOORE’ written in black on the palm of the bloody, grey-tinged hand.

Connie’s face tightened.

‘It’s a conundrum for us, too,’ DI Wade said. ‘But we’re hoping you’ll be able to shed some light on it?’

 

About the Book

 

Then

When flames rip through their family home, only teenager Stephanie and her younger brother escape unhurt. Brett always liked to play with fire, but now their dad is dead and someone has to pay the price.

Now

Psychologist Connie Summers wants to help Stephanie rebuild her life. She has a new name, a young son and everything to live for. But when Stephanie receives a letter from someone she’d hoped would never find her, Connie is forced to question what really happened that night. But some truths are better left alone . . .

Gripping, tense and impossible to put down, Bad Sister will have fans of Sue Fortin, B.A. Paris and Linda Green hooked until the final page.

 

About the Author

SamCarrington

 

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband and three children. She worked for the NHS for 15 years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a Psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist.

 

 

 

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#BlogTour: Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke @serpentstail

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Attica Locke’s new novel Bluebird Bluebird and I have an extract from the book to share with you.

 

Extract from Chapter 3 of Bluebird Bluebird

He went by his mother’s first, ’cause he’d been promising her he would. She knew he was staying in Camilla, only a few minutes’ drive from her place, and she knew he was staying scarce. Bell Callis lived on the eastern edge of San Jacinto County, down a red dirt road lined with loblolly pines and Carolina basswood, their branches licking the sides of Darren’s truck. Through the trees, he could make out the black tar roofs of his mother’s neighbours, the small lean-tos and shotgun shacks in the weeds. Nearby, somebody was burning trash, the sour smoke from which wafted across the front end of Darren’s truck, a familiar scent of hard living. Past a bend in the road, Darren nodded at his mother’s landlord, a white man in his eighties named Puck, who let Bell rent a snatch of land around back of his place. He gave Darren a wave from his front porch, then went back to staring at the trees, which is how he spent most of his days. Darren made a left turn onto the property, then followed the twin tire tracks in the dirt and wild grass that led to his mother’s trailer.

She was sitting on the concrete steps in front of the mobile home, smoking a Newport and picking nail polish off her big toe. She had a beer at her feet, but Darren knew better. The real shit was in the house. She looked up and saw the silver truck carrying her only son, but there was nothing in her drably indifferent expression to suggest that she’d been calling him nonstop for the past four days.

“You look skinny,” she said when he climbed out of the truck.

“Right back at you,” he said.

She was only sixteen years older than he was, and they shared the same length of bone in their arms and legs—they were lanky, whippet-thin but for the muscle Darren had built up in his torso and legs and the pad of fat around her hips Bell had managed to hold on to when every other inch of her seemed to have shrivelled in retreat, bested by time. He’d never met his father. But his dad’s older brothers, William and Clayton, were barely five feet eight inches tall.

In flesh, at least, Darren was all Callis.

“When was the last time you went to the store, Mama?”

Mama never failed to soften her.

They hadn’t met until Darren was eight years old, before which his curiosity about his birth parents had been limited to stories about his father, the more swashbuckling the better—even though Darren “Duke” Mathews hadn’t done much in his nineteen years besides knock up a country girl he’d fooled around with once or twice and then die in a helicopter accident in the last doleful days of Vietnam. His mother had been a curiosity that felt as removed from his real life as the distant Caddo Indian in the Mathews bloodline. She was Miss Callis for the first few years, then Bell when he got to high school and college. But sometime after he hit forty, the word Mama shot out as if it were a stubborn seed lodged in his teeth all these years that had finally popped free.

“I got some sausage and beans on the stove in there right now,” she said, picking up the can of Pearl lager; you could still buy single cans of it at the bait-and-tackle shop next to the resort cabins on Lake Livingston, where Bell worked as a cleaning lady three days a week. “You hungry? Want me to fix you a plate?”

“I can’t stay, Mama.”

“Course you can’t.”

She stood on her bare feet then, waving off the chivalrous reach of his hand. She downed the beer and turned for the screen door to her trailer. “But you’ll stay for a drink, I know that much.” She wobbled a little on the top step before opening the screen door and disappearing inside. Darren followed, entering the two-room trailer, the floors of which were covered in matted putty-brown wall-to-wall carpeting.

“How many you in for today?” Darren said, glancing at his watch.

If it was more than eight drinks before noon, he’d have to take her car keys and walk them down to Puck’s place for safekeeping, a move that both mother and son would resent, albeit for different reasons. “I’m enjoying myself ” was all she said, sinking into the thin cushion resting on top of the L-shaped banquette that lined part of the living room and kitchenette. She was a fifty-seven-year-old woman who’d been an alcoholic most of her adult life, a fact

that had confused Darren as a teenager and scared the shit out of him as an adult. Bell lifted a little bullet-shaped bottle of Cutty Sark and sucked on it like a nipple. They sold the little airplane size bottles for fifty cents at the bait-and-tackle shop, and Bell had them lined up on the window ledge like a loaded clip of rifle shells.

 

About the Book

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When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. But when his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders—a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman—have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt. A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD, is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.

 

About the Author

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Attica Locke’s Pleasantville was the 2016 winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. It was also long-listed for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction, and made numerous “Best of 2015” lists. Her first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was short-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her second book, The Cutting Season, is a national bestseller and the winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. A former fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmaker’s Lab, Locke has worked as a screenwriter as well. Most recently, she was a writer and producer on the Fox drama, Empire. She serves on the board of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

(Bio taken from: AtticaLocke.com)

 

#BookReview: Snow Sisters by @CarolLovekin @Honno #BlogTour

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About the Book

Two sisters, their grandmother’s old house and Angharad… the girl who cannot leave.

Meredith discovers a dusty sewing box in a disused attic. Once open the box releases the ghost of Angharad, a Victorian child-woman with a horrific secret she must share. Angharad slowly reveals her story to Meredith who fails to convince her more pragmatic sister of the visitations until Verity sees Angharad for herself on the eve of an unseasonal April snowstorm.

Forced by her flighty mother to abandon Gull House for London, Meredith struggles to settle, still haunted by Angharad and her little red flannel hearts. This time, Verity is not sure she will be able to save her…

Two parallel coming of age stories – one tragic, the other holding out the hope of salvation.

 

My Thoughts

I read Carol Lovekin’s novel Ghostbird last year and it now has a very special place in my heart. It was my favourite book of 2016 and is now my go-to book when I’m in need of solace so you can probably imagine just how much I’ve been looking forward to Snow Sisters. I was thrilled beyond words when I was invited to read an advance copy for the blog tour and I’m so happy to say that it exceeded all my (very high) expectations!

Snow Sisters is the story of Verity and Meredith Pryce. Verity is the elder sister and seems to be more grounded and more sure of how her future might look whereas Meredith is much more whimsical. She can’t seem to see a future beyond where she is now at her beloved Gull House surrounded by magic and fae.  Slowly Meredith realises she is being visited by the ghost of Angharad, a girl who lived in the house a hundred years ago.

This novel is so breathtakingly beautiful. Carol Lovekin has such a wonderful way of writing that draws you right in and makes you feel like you’re right inside the story she is weaving. From the very beginning of this book it felt like magic had been cast on me and I was living this life with these girls. The novel is very ethereal and otherworldly at times with the presence of Angharad and the sense of magic around Gull House, and at it’s heart it’s also a gorgeous and moving story about the bond between two sisters.

She was made from air and impulse and she hung a fishing net outside her bedroom window to catch falling stars.

This is very much a novel about spirited women and girls who are trying to find their way in life, and also the ways in which so many women can find themselves sidelined in their own lives and made invisible like a ghostly presence. I loved that we saw flashes of spirit in Angharad in 1879 but then heartbreakingly life beats her down to a point where she can no longer find a way back, but those earlier moments of spirit really made me think of Meredith, and Allegra to a degree. Allegra is very single-minded and when she decides on a path in life she follows it at all cost regardless of the people around her. She is a mass of contradictions – she mocks Verity’s growing interest in feminism and yet will have a go at her because she is too passive in life. Meredith seemed like such an emotionally fragile girl in the early part of this book and it seemed that when Angharad first appeared to her that her spirit might overtake Meredith and overshadow her completely as Meredith seems to retreat into herself and begins to fade away. In the end it felt like the two girls, one hundred years apart, seemed somehow destined to come together, to converge, to try and make things right.

She leaned on her handlebars afraid she might cry. It isn’t that children don’t understand adult feelings or motives. They understand them only too well. It’s because children don’t have the words their powerless. I want my mother to be superior to us, the way mothers are supposed to be.

This novel is also very much about mothers and daughters and the relationships that run through the generations. Angharad’s mother seemed to believe what her daughter told her in the words she couldn’t say and yet she was unable to stop what would happen to her. She was a prisoner of her time, of her situation and of the men around her. Allegra Pryce appears to be really cold-hearted towards her oldest daughter, perhaps because she reminds her so much of the girls’ father who left her, but as the novel went on I found myself more intrigued by her. I think she was a damaged soul who just couldn’t find the solace that others could, she was a lost spirit herself and seemed to always be looking for a home, just like the ghost of Angharad. It felt like Allegra had spent her adult like searching for a man who could give her the love and adoration her father had given her up until his death, as once he died she just floundered and has been floundering ever since. Even as an adult she seeks to blame her mother for leaving her, and the anger seems too much for her to cope with but she’s like a small child looking for someone to notice her, to notice her pain. I just wanted her to step up and not hurt her children irreparably due to her being so blindsided by her own needs but I could understand that she was possibly just too broken.

Whilst I felt sympathy for Allegra, I couldn’t help but be angry at the way her inability to deal with her emotions wrought damage on her daughters, and her selfish nature hurt them both very badly. I adored the relationship Verity and Meredith had with their Grandmother though – she was more a mum to them and was the person who did the nurturing they both needed. All the magic that is woven around the garden at Gull House also felt like it was literally there but was also a metaphor of love and security that Nain had invested in the girls. It reminded me of how safe I always felt with my lovely Nan.

The bond between Verity and Meredith was wonderful to read. I loved the way that Verity was more grounded in reality but was happy to being the person her sister needed her to be. She allowed herself to be open to the idea of Angharad because her sister was so adamant that she was real and needed their help. It was also lovely to see how Meredith loved her sister just as much and while knew that she was her mother’s favourite she never once used that against Verity. These two girls have such a strong bond and it felt like they would get through anything together. It gave me such a sense of hope that things might just work out okay in the end, in the future long after this novel has ended. This quote brought such a lump to my throat because it says everything you need to know about Verity’s love for Meredith:

My sister never doubted the presence of magic and when she was five years old she told me she could grow flowers from her fingertips. Her solemn conviction was such, I half believed her.

This is a novel that almost defies genre – it’s part mystery, part ghost story and part family drama; it’s a novel about people trying to find their place in the world and it’s magical and lyrical and heartbreakingly beautiful. Snow Sisters is a novel to savour; it’s a story to really take your time with and to give yourself the chance to really appreciate what an incredible story it is. I turned the final page of this novel feeling like my life had been enriched in so many ways.

Snow Sisters is a stunningly beautiful novel that will weave it’s magic around you and it will hold you in its spell until long after you’ve finished reading it. I don’t think this book is going to let me go for a very long time, and I really don’t want it too. I want to stay held in the magic of that special garden in Gull House. I know that this will be a novel, like Ghostbird, that I return to time and time again and I can already say for certain that Snow Sisters will be on my top books of the year list! Go buy a copy right now, I promise you won’t regret it.

I received a copy of Snow Sisters from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Snow Sisters is out now!

 

About the Author

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My name is Carol Lovekin. I’m a writer of stories, a feminist & a flâneuse. I’m published by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press. My first novel, Ghostbird was published in March 2016. It was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2016 and in the same year was longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize.

Snow Sisters, my second novel, was published on 21 September 2017. It has been chosen by the Welsh Books Council as their October Book of the Month (for independent shops.)

My stories concern the nature of magic and how it threads through the fabric of our lives. I explore possibilities: the fine line between the everyday and the world of enchantment. They are also firmly rooted in reality. I write about family relationships: how people, women in particular, respond to loss and how they survive. My books are set in Wales, where I’ve lived for decades: a place whose legends and landscapes inform my writing.

I write because I can’t tap-dance on a tightrope. Or juggle. And because I’d like to leave something attached to whatever exists after I’m gone. And where publishing is concerned, I’m the living proof that it’s never too late. If you have written a story you feel passionate about, one you believe in, persevere and don’t give up.

 

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#BookReview: Lost in the Lake by A.J. Waines @AJWaines ‏

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for A.J. Waines new novel, Lost in the Lake!

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About the Book

She came at first for answers…now she’s back for you

Amateur viola player Rosie Chandler is the sole survivor of a crash which sends members of a string quartet plunging into a lake. Convinced the ‘accident’ was deliberate, but unable to recall what happened, she is determined to recover her lost memories and seeks out clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby.

But Rosie is hiding something…

Sam is immediately drawn to the tragic Rosie and as she helps her piece the fragments together, the police find disturbing new evidence which raises further questions. Why is Rosie so desperate to recover her worthless viola? And what happened to the violin lost in the crash, worth over £2m?

When Rosie insists they return to the lake to relive the fatal incident, the truth about Rosie finally creeps up on Sam – but by now, she’s seriously out of her depth…

A stand alone novel (and the second book in the Dr Samantha Willerby series), Lost in the Lake is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat Psychological Thriller that will leave you glancing over your shoulder.

My Thoughts

I was drawn to Lost in the Lake from the moment I saw the atmospheric cover and I’m happy to say the novel itself more than lives up to it!

Lost in the Lake is the second in the Dr Samantha Willerby series but can be read as a standalone, which is how I read it. Sam is a fascinating character – she clearly cares about her work and her patients but struggles to balance this with keeping the right distance. Rosie is a woman who had a very traumatic childhood and has recently been in an accident and has come to Sam wanting help to recover lost memories of the crash. What builds from here is an edge of your seat, very fast-paced novel!

Sam is still coming to terms with the loss of one of her previous patients in difficult circumstances and is also trying hard to build a relationship with her sister, who is recovering from mental health issues. I felt for Sam throughout this book – she’s clearly a a bit lost in her personal life and seemed very lonely. She has good friends but they all seem to be moving on with their lives while she’s stil trying to figure out what she even wants. She feels for Rosie and wants to help her but it’s quickly clear to the reader that all might not be as it seems with Rosie.

I loved the way that as this novel builds there is a sense of Sam becoming undone as Rosie’s manipulative side begins to show itself. I found it fascinating how Sam starts to worry about her own state of mind and you really get a sense of how fine a line it can be between good mental health and mental illness. It made me feel really on edge and yet compelled to keep reading as I wasn’t sure how this was all going to end for Sam.

The work Sam does with Rosie to try and help recover her memories was really interesting. I’m always intrigued by books that cover topics like this, having suffered with PTSD myself, and Lost in the Lake was particularly fascinating in the way it makes you think about memory and the way we remember things – Rosie had a traumatic childhood and she feels abandoned but you get the sense that perhaps she wasn’t left behind in the way she thought she was, yet it has already become enmeshed in her and made her the person she is now. It leaves you wondering about whether there was a possibility that if Rosie had had the right support when she was younger if she might have turned out differently as an adult.

I also loved the central mystery in the book about what caused the crash and what the past might have to do with it. Knowing about Rosie’s past, and seeing her manipulative side from the very beginning of the book, I was immediately distrustful of her story of what she claims to remember about the accident but I couldn’t foresee how it was all going to turn out. It had me racing through the book keen to find out, and I wasn’t disappointed!

Lost in the Lake was my first A.J. Waines read but it absolutely won’t be my last! I’ve already bought her previous novels and will be reading them very soon. I highly recommend this one!

Lost in the Lake is out now!

I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

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AJ Waines has sold over 400,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and USA (audiobooks).

Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website, blog, on Twitter, Facebook or sign up for her Newsletter.

 

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#BookReview: Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks #BlogTour

 

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech!

About the Book

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Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’ Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

My Thoughts

I read Louise Beech’s first novel, How to be Brave, last year and it was my top book of the year. I still find myself thinking about the characters and the story. So you can imagine how much I’ve been anticipating Maria in the Moon and I’m so happy to say that this completely exceeded my high expectations!

Maria in the Moon is so beautiful and incredibly moving. There are two strands to Maria in the Moon – the book is predominantly set in the aftermath of the horrendous floods that hit Hull in 2007 and focuses on Catherine. On being interviewed for the Flood Crisis helpline Catherine realises that she can’t remember a single thing from the year she was nine. This sets her mind in a spin as she begins to think back over points in her childhood to try and remember anything from that year. Catherine has had a difficult life – her father died when she was young, as did her Nanny Eve and she doesn’t have an easy relationship with her Mother which makes it all the more difficult for her to find out about her past.

I adored this novel; it is simply stunning and so powerful! I found I could really identify with Catherine. There are parts of her story that were really hard for me to read, coming a bit too close to my own experiences, but the writing is so beautiful that I had to keep reading through my tears. I was willing Catherine to remember what happened and for her to be able to come to terms with all aspects of her childhood. As Catherine begins to have strange fleeting flashes of what she thinks might be her memories there is a sense that you know what it coming before she does and the tension that builds in the novel from there is palpable.

‘When you’re nine,’ he’d insisted. When you’re nine. He died when I was eight.’

I sympathised such a lot with Catherine over the losses she’d experienced in her life. It’s such a difficult thing to not only to lose a parent but to lose how your life may have been if they had lived longer. The death of a parent changes how people see you, and how you see them, and it breaks some things in a way that they can’t be mended. Sometimes you get lucky and find a new normal with people and sometimes you just lose. I was willing Catherine on to find a new normal with the people left in her life to the point that I wanted to reach through the pages and tell the people around her to listen to her more. Louise Beech captured this so well, with such compassion and empathy in Maria in the Moon.

‘The image made my throat ache. He was perhaps the age my father would have been if he’d lived; I felt a pang of affection.

The part of the novel that focuses on the floods was so vivid and realistic. I lived in Hull during the floods that this novel centres around and whilst my home wasn’t affected, quite a few friends of mine were badly flooded. It was an horrendous time for people and Hull seemed to get forgotten about during that time and the city was left to fend for itself. Louise captures this so incredibly well, there were moments reading this that just took me right back there. All the skips in the street, all the ruined furniture, the people not knowing what to say to each other – it was heartbreaking. It genuinely feels that for anyone who hasn’t seen the devastation of flooding with their own eyes will really have a sense of how it feels after reading this book.

I have to just mention that I loved the references to places in Hull that I remember going to back in the day – the Christmas night out in Sharkeys in the novel brought back some fond memories for me. It’s so nostalgic reading a novel that is set in a time and place you have lived, and it gave me that weird sense of maybe having passed Catherine around there somewhere. Maybe in another time.

‘Without strong foundations, no external beauty can survive. Paint can only hide so much before the memories crawl out of the woodwork.’

Louise Beech has such an incredible way with words – she constructs sentences that really get you in your gut. There were many moments when I was reading this novel that I had to stop and take a breath but then I was compelled to get back to it. I loved the way Louise weaved the grief Catherine feels for her father in with the loss she feels about her home being so damaged in the floods. There is a part where she talks about her dad’s coat being like a cape to keep her safe but someone got rid of it after he died, and how she looked for that safe feeling but could never find it. It’s how she feels now about her water-logged home – that sense of her home being the cape that her dad allowed her to buy, to keep her safe, and now it’s broken and she can’t live there for a while. She doesn’t know if she will ever feel safe, and it’s clear she’s displaced and lost and grief-stricken all over again. We bought our house with the inheritance from my mum and because of that our home has taken on so much more meaning, so I really felt for Catherine.

Forgiveness and acceptance play such a big role in this novel – the issues are very sensitively dealt with and you can see all of the ways we all try to make sense of the things that have happened to us. For Catherine there was the way she had to deal with her childhood and the way she had to deal with her present and while they seem very different they are actually very similar. She chose to try and fix the brokenness by volunteering for the flood crisis helpline and actually this becomes the thing that breaks her down but leads to a sense of possibility.

This is a novel that is still lingering in my mind days after I finished reading it – it’s one that I actually don’t think will ever leave me and to be honest I don’t want it to. This is one of those very rare and very special novels that will make you feel all of the feelings, it will take hold of you and it won’t let you go. It’s an absolutely stunning novel and I highly, highly recommend Maria in the Moon!

Maria in the Moon is out now!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Louise has always been haunted by the sea, even before she knew the full story of her grandfather, the man who in part inspired novel How to be Brave. She lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – where from her bedroom window she can almost see the waters of the River Humber, an estuary that inspired book, The Mountain in my Shoe.

She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism, and a one year column called Wholly Matrimony about modern marriage.

Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was released in 2015 and got to No 4 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart, and was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015. This novel came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story.

Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, was released in 2016 and was inspired by her time with children in care. It explores what family truly means, and how far we will go for those we love. It longlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize.

Maria in the Moon is out now.

(Bio taken from: LouiseBeech.co.uk)

 

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#BookReview: The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin @emmdib ‏@HoZ_Books ‏#blogtour

 

 

Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin and am sharing my review!

 

About the Book

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When Caitlin moved from London to New York, she thought she had left her problems behind: her alcoholic father, her dead mother, the pressure to succeed. But now, down to her last dollar in a foreign city, she is desperately lonely.

Then she meets Jake. Handsome, smart, slightly damaged Jake. He lives off-grid, in a lakeside commune whose members practise regular exercise and frequent group therapy. Before long, Caitlin has settled into her idyllic new home.

It looks like she has found the fresh start she longed for. But, as the commune tightens its grip on her freedom and her sanity, Caitlin realizes too late that she might become lost forever…

 

My Thoughts

I can never resist books about cults, there is something about them that intrigues me and terrifies me in equal measure so I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to read and review The Room by the Lake. I had high hopes for this novel from the moment I first saw the stunning cover and I’m so happy to say that it didn’t disappoint!

Caitlin lost her mum to cancer a year ago and has struggled to come to terms with the complicated relationship they had had due to her mother’s schizophrenia. She’s also now struggling with her dad’s alcoholism and just feels like she has nowhere to turn. One night it comes to a head with her dad and she finds herself running away, getting on a plane and being in New York. I know that summarising this it may seem a bit far-fetched but in reading you really do feel for Caitlin. I remember when my mum died of cancer and I was just so lost. I didn’t want to be where I was and I had nowhere else to go. I was lucky in that fate seemed to intervene in a good way in my life and I met my husband later that year and life began to get better. Reading this novel made me blood run cold at times because I wanted to run away in those initial months and it’s scary to think how easily vulnerable young people can get manipulated by monstrous people who seem kind.
I knew from the synopsis of this book that life was going to take a scary turn for Caitlin but when she meets Josh at a party I couldn’t help but hope he would be a force for good in her life. I wanted him to help her. Instead Caitlin is manipulated and taken to a house in the middle of nowhere, which on face value seems like a beautiful location to relax and recover from what she has been through. The place where Caitlin ends up is a cult but as with all cults she had no idea what was happening and very soon she finds that this lifestyle works for her. Until things begin to take a darker turn.

The people at the house Caitlin is taken to all seem very enmeshed in the running of things. They’re polite but distant to Caitlin at first but soon things begin to close in on her. The way the group eat and exercise seems to Caitlin as like a boot camp that may help her but it’s really a means of control. Something is a bit off about this place and it’s only when Caitlin begins therapy that the sinister atmosphere really begins to ramp up. It’s scary how quickly people can gain control over others by starting with small things and preying on our fears.

I thought The Room by the Lake was really cleverly done in the way that it is about a cult, which is fascinating, but it felt to me that it was more about Caitlin’s fear of her mother’s mental illness, and even more so her deepest darkest fear that the same thing could happen to her. I know from personal experience how terrifying it is when you think you’re losing your grip on reality so to have grown up with a parent who had a mental illness must heighten that to another level. The cult played on her fears and heightens them in such a cruel way. I honestly felt that Caitlin was healthy prior to ending up in the cult, she was grieving for her mum and she was so lonely. She just needed a good friend who she could trust who would make time to support her and to let her talk about her fears, and this is how she was pulled  into the cult. These people were the only people that she felt would listen to her. There are moments in the early part of the novel that could possibly be interpreted as the beginnings of Caitlin being mentally unwell but I felt it was grief. I think when grief is complex it is harder to work through and it seemed to me that Caitlin was just utterly mired in darkness – she’d hit her limit of what she could cope with and couldn’t take anymore. I could identify with how lost she felt, and how alone, and scarily for me I can see why she got caught up in the cult. This book gave me chills at times as I could see some of my younger self in Caitlin. 

I did begin to feel really unnerved by the various methods the cult used to exert control over Caitlin, it made me wonder if she would ever recover or if this might, ironically, end up being the thing that triggered mental illness in her. I keep finding myself wondering about her ever since I finished reading the book, she feels like a real person to me even though I know this is a work of fiction. Emma Dibdin’s writing really does get under your skin (in the best possible way!).

This is a novel that builds and builds all the way through. I read this in two sittings (and that’s only because I started reading late at night and I had to get some sleep but I picked it back up again in the morning!) as the writing just drew me in from the first page and it held me to the very end and beyond.

The Room by the Lake is a fascinating, intense psychological suspense novel that I highly recommend. It’s one of those books that really gets under your skin and haunts your thoughts. This will be a book that stays with me for a long time to come, I’m so glad I had the chance to read it and I’m already eagerly antipating whatever Emma Dibdin writes next!

The Room by the Lake is out now in Hardback, Audio and eBook.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Emma Dibdin is a journalist who writes about television and the arts.  She has been an editor at Hearst for four years, and her work has appeared in EsquireMarie ClaireHarper’s BazaarCosmopolitanTotal Film, and Indiewire.  Born and raised in Oxford, she currently lives in New York City.

(Bio taken from unitedagents.co.uk)

 

 

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#BookReview: The Way Back to Us by @kaylangdale @HodderFiction @JazminaMarsh

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Kay Langdale’s brand new novel, The Way Back to Us!

 

About the Book

Cover Since their youngest son, Teddy, was diagnosed with a life-defining illness, Anna has been fighting: against the friends who don’t know how to help; against the team assigned to Teddy’s care who constantly watch over Anna’s parenting; and against the impulse to put Teddy above all else – including his older brother, the watchful, sensitive Isaac.

And now Anna can’t seem to stop fighting against her husband, the one person who should be able to understand, but who somehow manages to carry on when Anna feels like she is suffocating under the weight of all the things that Teddy will never be able to do.

As Anna helplessly pushes Tom away, he can’t help but feel the absence of the simple familiarity that should come so easily, and must face the question: is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage, or leave?

 

My Thoughts

I’m going to start by saying that I’m a huge fan of Kay Langdale’s novels – the first one I ever read was Her Giant Octopus Moment and I adored it. I can say, with absolute honesty, that The Way Back to Us is her best yet! I read this in one sitting, I just didn’t want to put it down for a minute.

The Way Back to Us is a novel about a family of four who are still coming to terms with the fact that the youngest child, Teddy, has SMA – a rare genetic disorder that has changed all of their lives.

Anna, Teddy’s mum, gave up her career the very second Teddy got his diagnosis. There is a moment where she shares how she felt at that time and I felt so emotional as I was reading it. I don’t have children but I have lived through that horrendous life-defining moment where you know your world has moved on its axis and your life is forever changed. Anna becomes fiercely protective over Teddy – she’s become obsessive about cleaning and keeping him safe from germs but she’s utterly devoted to him and fights so hard for his right to attend a normal school. I could totally identify with her desire to stop germs coming into the house – I was the same when I was a carer to my mum as she went through chemo as part of the palliative care. It’s partly a need to protect your loved one but it’s also a way of having some control over the desperate circumstances you find yourself in. I felt such empathy for Anna, I wanted to reach through the pages and hug her.

Tom is Teddy’s dad and he is now the sole bread winner for the family and so is very focused on his work. When he gets home he rushes to his children to greet them but Anna is often distant with him and he doesn’t understand why. As a reader you have an all-seeing eye and can spot what is happening but these characters are mired in the situation and can’t see the wood for the trees. Tom clearly loves his children, and his wife, but when Anna seems to always be snapping at him to be careful with Teddy it’s easy to see why a work colleague starts to catch Tom’s eye. The situation they’re in is not an excuse to think about cheating but it’s so apparent that Tom loves his family – he just feels redundant as Anna is so focused on what needs to be done, and Tom is focused on work that there never seems to be time for them to sit and just talk about how they feel.

Isaac is Teddy’s older brother and he is such a wonderful child. Kay Langdale has the writing so spot on in that Isaac always comes across as a child but he is so perceptive, he can’t always understand what is going on with his parents but he picks up on the mood and the atmosphere. He is so caring towards his mum, he is really tuned in to her feelings and wants to do anything he can to help her. He tries to soothe her at times by trying to look on the bright side, and he takes care of himself to take some of the responsibility off her shoulders. The thing I loved most about Isaac though was his relationship with Teddy. He is so careful not to hurt him but at the same time is determined to help him try to do normal, fun things. There is a moment when Isaac tries to help Teddy learn to hop, which is impossible as Teddy can’t even stand unaided, but the amount of pure love and joy in both boys in that moment radiates from the page. I adored that moment and it makes me smile every time I think of it.

The novel is set in the present but we get the back story as the characters, particularly Anna, mulls over how she got here. As we learn about how Teddy was diagnosed  the language Anna uses in her own thoughts is so telling – there is a moment when the doctor explains how her genes and Tom’s led to Teddy having SMA and Anna ponders about other men she had relationships with and how their genes might have mixed differently but then she thinks of Tom ‘who carried it undetected towards me’. She doesn’t really blame Tom but it’s an undercurrent, a thing that can’t be said in their marriage – it shows her anger and her sadness that this has happened to them, to their child.

The clever way the story is built on in each chapter, with more layers and depth as we see other points of view ,is brilliant. Kay Langdale deftly shows how each person feels and what they think but how they often just can’t say it because their own pain holds them back, and they fear making things worse. It feels so real as you read this novel – the missed chances between Anna and Tom took my breath away at times, I was willing them to find a way to really communicate with each other. My heart broke when Tom tried to recreate old times with Anna  by fantasising on what they could spend his bonus on, he was trying so hard and I loved him for it, but Anna’s first words are how they could use the money to help Teddy, which is totally understandable, but it broke the spell of the moment. My heart was breaking for them both at this point.

I won’t give any spoilers but there is an incident with a kite in this novel and it’s in the aftermath of that where we really come to understand why each member of the family is the way they are. The mix of sheer joy from one, sheer terror from another, the misplaced fear and the worry from the other two is palpable. We learn so much in this part of the novel and it’s the point when it felt like make or break for this family and I was really hoping they would find a way to move toward each other again once the pain and anger subsided.

The Way Back to Us is at its heart a novel about how people cope when life throws a massive curveball at them. It’s a look at relationships – between a married couple, between parents and their children, and between siblings – that is so raw and honest that at times you need to pause and take a breath. The plot of this novel is very moving but it’s more a look at the characters, and they are such well thought out characters. The way Kay Langdale makes you feel sympathy for everyone in this family is so cleverly done – it would be easy to make Anna the good guy and Tom the bad guy in the marriage but that never happens. Instead, through the layering of the perspectives we just see the reality of their lives in its raw and honest state. There is heartbreak in this novel, and honestly I shed quite a few tears whilst reading, but there is beauty and joy too.

This novel is incredible and so beautifully written. I can’t stop thinking about these characters – they feel like real people to me. This is such an emotional novel – at times it’s heartbreaking but it really is such a stunning read. Kay Langdale is a master of crafting novels that feel so true and real, she really gets under the skin of her characters and makes them feel like people you know – I’m sure that these characters will have a hold on me for a long while to come. This is absolutely Kay Langdale’s best work to date and I am certain that The Way Back to Us will be one of my top books of this year – I’ll be recommending it to everyone! Go buy a copy now, you won’t regret it!

The Way Back to Us is out now.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

I was very lucky that I got to interview Kay Langdale when her previous novel, The Comfort of Others, was published so you can read more about her here if you’d like to.

 

About the Author

Kay Langdale © John Cairns

Kay Langdale was born in Coventry, England.

From a young age she loved to read and to write.

She attended Bedford College, London University, graduating with a first class degree in English Literature and then went to Oxford University where she completed a doctorate on Samuel Beckett’s prose fiction. She briefly taught twentieth century literature at St Edmund Hall, Oxford before beginning work as an account handler and copywriter at a brand consultancy.

She is married to a South African entrepreneur, with whom she has four children who are now mostly grown. Kay divides her time between their homes in Oxfordshire and Devon.

Now writing her eighth novel, Kay also works as an editor for the charity The Children’s Radio Foundation which trains young broadcasters in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

When not writing Kay enjoys running, ballet barre, yoga, swimming, coastal walking, learning Italian, cooking and reading. Always reading.

(Bio taken from: KayLangdale.com)

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

TWBTU Blog tour

 

#BookReview: Her Deadly Secret- @Christi_Curran #WhatsHerSecret? @KillerReads @HarperCollinsUK

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Christ Curran’s brand new novel, Her Deadly Secret!

About the Book

Her Deadly Secret by Chris Curran

A FAMILY BUILT ON LIES…
A dark and twisty psychological thriller, in which a young girl is abducted and her family is confronted with a horror from deep in their past.
A young girl has been taken. Abducted, never to be seen again.
Joe and Hannah, her traumatized parents, are consumed by grief. But all is not as it seems behind the curtains of their suburban home.
Loretta, the Family Liaison Officer, is sure Hannah is hiding something – a dark and twisted secret from deep in her past.
This terrible memory could be the key to the murder of another girl fifteen years ago. And as links between the two victims emerge, Joe and Hannah learn that in a family built on lies, the truth can destroy everything…

 

My Thoughts

I read and enjoyed Chris Curran’s previous novels so I was thrilled when I was invited to be a part of the blog tour for her new book, Her Deadly Secret. I was expecting great things and I’m so happy to say that it lived up to my expectations!

Her Deadly Secret is told from the viewpoint of two families. Joe and Hannah have just found out that their missing teenage daughter Lily has been murdered and are trying to find a way to cope whilst also being under the police spotlight. Rosie is happily married to Oliver but she still struggles to copy with the loss of her older sister many years ago. From the beginning I was suspecting a link between these two families but as the revelations start coming I was stunned!

I was very quickly invested in these characters, especially Joe, who is trying so hard to hold everything together as his wife falls apart. I also felt for Rosie as she dealt with the minefield of her father being back in her life after many years, and her mother’s acceptance of him. As much as I liked these two characters and generally was on their side, this novel does get so twisty that there were moment when I questioned my judgement of them.

This is a novel filled with secrets and lies, and eventually the house of cards starts to collapse as the truth begins to come out. I loved how some people were outright lying in their own selfish interests to cover their tracks but others were keeping secrets in order to try and protect others from the hurt of what they had believed at the time. This novel really does show the harm that can be done when people keep quiet in order to try to prevent loved ones from being hurt, even if it’s done with the best of intentions.

I raced through this novel in one sitting as it just grabbed me from the first chapter and kept me gripped, and needing answers right to the very last chapter! I thought I had it all figured out on more than one occasion but I have to admit that the final piece of the puzzle was just out of my grasp, which I loved as it’s nice to have a shock that you didn’t see coming in a thriller!

Her Deadly Secret is engrossing, twisty and when you think you’ve got it all figured out the rug will be pulled from under you all over again! I definitely recommend this novel!

I received a copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

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Chris Curran lives in St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex. Her first two psychological thrillers, Mindsight and Her Turn To Cry, were both Amazon bestsellers. She also writes short stories one of which was recently shortlisted for the 2017 CWA Margery Allingham award. Her latest novel, Her Deadly Secret, is published as an ebook on July 21 st 2017 and a paperback in August.

 

 

 

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: The Other Twin by L. V. Hay @OrendaBooks @LucyVHayAuthor #TheOtherTwin

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About the Book

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its well-heeled families, The Other Twin is a startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth.

My Thoughts

I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Other Twin for weeks now and I’m so pleased that when I finally got to read it that it exceeded my expectations!

This is a psychological thriller but it is also so much more than that. It has twists and turns running throughout the book that will keep you on your toes until the very end when all is revealed, but it also is a very prescient look at very relevant issues in society at this moment. There is a lot about grief, about mental health and about the struggles facing the LGBTQ+ community. It’s also a look at the way we live our lives versus the way we present ourselves online – the novel takes India’s blog, and to a lesser extent the comments she receives on her posts, and shows how she was trying to explain her life to others while still concealing the reality and depth of what she was going through. I think so many people will relate to this in a variety of ways.

The novel is told predominantly from Poppy’s viewpoint but we also get a few chapters interspersed that are obviously important to the plot but we don’t know who the people are in the early part of the novel. This really helps to build tension and such a sense of uneasiness as you wonder how this will fit in to what happened to India. I was guessing for most of the book and whilst I did work it out before the reveal, I was still so on edge because by that point I was anxious that something really awful might be about to happen.

I didn’t really like any characters in this book (not that this matters at all because the story is so good) as most people seem to be focused on their own lives and there wasn’t a lot of warmth in any of them. Having said that, I did find Poppy’s grief and concern for what might have led up to her sister’s death palpable at times. It does lead her to make some strange, and sometimes downright stupid decisions that could potentially put her in danger, as she digs deeper into her sister’s life but I found her actions believable because of her grief and shock and that desperate need to know. I really felt for her because being estranged from a family member who then dies before any kind of reconciliation can happen must be so hard to come to terms with. Poppy did grow on me as the novel progressed and as she began to see what had been happening in the lives of the people around her, and as the tension really begins to ramp up, I was on the edge of my seat hoping that she would get through this unscathed.

I thought it was great that this book is set within a place that is generally known to be accepting of the LGBTQ+ community but that it also really explores what it is to have a family that doesn’t accept who you are. It must cause such a pain and conflict within to not be allowed to be who you are with the people who are supposed to love and accept you. The repercussions of this within the novel are enormous and it made me so angry  and so sad. I do love when a novel makes me feel such strong emotions for the characters and The Other Twin certainly does that.

I also love the title of this novel. When I read the synopsis for this book and saw that two of the characters are twins I assumed that the novel would predominantly be about them, and much of the novel does pivot on the these two and the way they see things and the way they behave but there seems to be so much else to this title. By the end of the novel it had me wondering if the title was also actually a play on the way people have two sides to them, which also ties into the idea of our real self and the self that we feel we have to, or are able to, present to the world. The cover design also played into this for me as when you wipe away steam on glass you may see the person standing on the other side or you may see a reflection of yourself.

This is a dark, disturbing and twisty suspense thriller, which also explores real and current issues in our society in a very honest, intelligent way. It grabbed me from the opening chapter and I’m not sure that it’s really let me go even now, days after I finished reading it. It’s hard to believe that this is a debut because it’s such an accomplished novel. I highly recommend The Other Twin! Already I can’t wait to see what Lucy V Hay writes next – I know I’ll be first in line to buy it though!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin (2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. She lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.

 

You can follow the rest of this fabulous blog tour at the following stops:

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#BookReview: Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf @hgudenkauf @HQstories #blogtour

 

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf and am sharing my review!

About the Book

‘I’m going to die tonight. But I won’t go quietly.’

Amelia Winn has a lot of regrets. She regrets the first drink after she lost her hearing. She regrets destroying her family as she spiralled into depression. Mostly, she regrets not calling Gwen Locke back.

Because now Gwen is dead. And as Amelia begins to unearth the terrible secrets that led to Gwen’s naked body being dumped in the freezing water, she realises that she might be next.

But how do you catch a killer when you can’t hear him coming?

 

My Thoughts

I’ve read and enjoyed Heather Gudenkauf’s novels in the past so I was looking forward to reading Not A Sound and I’m so happy to say that it lived up to my expectations.

Amelia Winn is a really interesting character and I got really engrossed in her journey throughout the book. Her life was torn apart when she was injured in a hit and run accident that left her profoundly deaf. This caused her life to spiral into depression and a problem with alcohol as she tried to cope, which led to her marriage breaking down. I had such sympathy for Amelia and was very invested in this novel and wanting her to be okay.

Amelia has dealt with what happened to her by cutting herself off from her old life, she no longer speaks to her old friends and spends most of her time alone with her hearing dog Stitch. They enjoy going paddle boarding together but one day this turns into a nightmare when Amelia discovers the body of an old friend of hers in the water. This sets in motion a train of events that will put Amelia’s life and sanity on the line all over again.

I liked that Amelia responds to what happened to her friend by immediately wanting to find out what happened to her. It gives Amelia a focus that is much needed in her life and whilst it comes from sad circumstances it does give Amelia a new direction.

This novel had me on the edge of my seat at times as Amelia begins to dig deeper into who might have killed Gwen. The fact that she is deaf really heightened the emotion in this book because I felt like I could hear things that she couldn’t, even though I was just reading words on a page – this is how invested I became in her story! It really does give such an insight into how life is for someone who is deaf – the difficulty Amelia has with phone calls for example and whilst her phone transcribes speech into text you can’t get the subtleties of meaning from a written translation of speech. There are times when Amelia doesn’t know if someone is being sarcastic, or sad or angry and it added to the story to be put in the shoes of someone who experiences the world differently to me. I’m disabled and know what it is to be paralysed and to have part of my body no longer feel like it is a part of me so I felt like I had some understanding of Amelia’s struggles, but even so I have no idea what it must be like to be unable to hear and I felt like this novel really gave me an insight.

This is a lighter thriller but still absolutely a novel that will keep you hooked all the way through to the end. I read it in just two sittings as I simply had to know how it was going to end. On more than one occasion I was sure that I had it all worked out but I never managed to completely put it all together and I like that it kept me guessing.

I loved Amelia and Stitch and really believe that there is potential for this novel to be turned into a series – I would be first in queue to buy the next novel if that happened!

This is Heather Gudenkauf’s best novel to date and I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

About the Author

Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf is the Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden and Not A Sound.

Heather was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing loss (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father’s students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.

Heather Gudenkauf graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages and continues to work in education as a Title I Reading Coordinator.

Heather lives in Iowa with her family and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading and hiking. She is currently working on her next novel.

(Bio taken from: www.heathergudenkauf.com)

 

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Find out what @EmilyBenet’s ideal hen party would be! #TheHenParty #BlogTour

Today I’m thrilled to welcome the wonderful Emily Benet back to my blog! Emily’s brand new novel, The Hen Party is out now and to celebrate Emily has told me all about her perfect hen party!

My Ideal Hen Party

Call me a party pooper but in my ideal hen party there are no rubber willies. Not dangling around my neck, not shooting up like a rocket from a hair band and not fixed to the end of my straw. I’m not that bothered about a sash either! Forget the L plates, at 33 years old I’ve only just learned to drive. The last thing I want to be reminded of while I’m trying to have a good time is my fear of driving alone!

In my book, the hens win a one-week holiday in Mallorca and are filmed for The Hen Party reality TV series. It sounds pretty great but the director has her own agenda and the hens themselves are keeping secrets from each other. I definitely wouldn’t want my hen party broadcast on national television and I’d only want my best friends around me.

In my ideal hen party the schedule would be very relaxed. I’d escape to an alpine cabin in the mountains and the day would begin with a swim and a picnic at the nearby river. Yep, I know it sounds a bit Enid Blyton, but hey, I love ginger beer… especially when mixed with rum. Although, I think cava suits the scene better. In proper glasses too. There would be a delicious spread. A lot of cheese. That bits important. A LOT OF CHEESE. And olives. I love olives.

It has to be sunny. We’ll go for a wander through the forest and all the wildlife will come out to meet us like in Snow White. Rabbits, hedgehogs, deer, maybe even a friendly bear. I love wildlife documentaries but would never have the patience to wait days on end for the perfect snap.

Back at our cabin, we’d have an Argentine-style barbeque with lots of red wine. The barbeque would turn into our bonfire which we’d inevitably end up dancing around to all our favourite tunes, because miraculously the signal will work perfectly for Spotify.

When the fire has gone out, we’ll lie on our backs and look up at the stars. I won’t have to pretend to see a shooting star like I did when I was little, because there will be so many. We’ll reminisce about the good times and have a good laugh at ourselves.

In short, my ideal hen party would be drama-free, unlike my book, The Hen Party!

 

 

I’ve previously interviewed Emily (you can read that here) and reviewed her last novel #PleaseRetweet, which I loved and highly recommend (you can read that here).

About the Book

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Film Director, Kate Miller, is in serious trouble. The entire cast and crew of the reality TV show The Hen Party has gone missing while filming in Mallorca. To make matters worse, the network boss has just flown in and will be arriving any minute to check up on her production.

Kate thinks it’s all her fault. She hasn’t exactly been following the guidelines.

But if she is to blame, why were the hens arguing among themselves? And why is the groom-to-be calling her in tears?

Kate doesn’t know the half of it. The hens have their own secrets and it’s only matter of time before they all come tumbling out.

A party of eight arrive on the island, but not everyone’s going home.

 

About the Author

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Emily is an author and award-winning blogger. Her debut book, Shop Girl Diaries, began as a blog. Her second, Spray Painted Bananas, racked up a million hits on the online platform Wattpad and  led to a 2 book deal with Harper Collins which led to social media comedy #PleaseRetweet. Her latest book, The Hen Party, is set in Mallorca where she lives with her husband and writes for abc mallorca magazine.

 

Universal Link:  https://books2read.com/u/b5Oyq7

My website: www.emilybenet.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/EmilyBenetAuthor

Twitter: @EmilyBenet

 

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

Hen Party-Summer Blog Tour

#BookReview: The Things We Thought We Knew by @MahsudaSnaith @ThomasssHill @doubledayuk

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About the Book

Ravine and Marianne were best friends. They practised handstands together, raced slugs and went into the woods to play.

But now everything has changed.

Ten years later, Ravine lies in a bed plagued by chronic pain syndrome. And her best friend Marianne is gone.

How did their last adventure go so wrong? Who is to blame? And where is Marianne?

 

My Thoughts

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of The Things We Thought We Knew for a little while now so I was thrilled when the publisher offered me an ARC to review recently. I’m so happy to say that this book was even more incredible than I was hoping it would be and I loved every minute that I was reading it.

I initially wanted to read The Things We Thought We Knew because I was fascinated to read a novel where the main character suffers from chronic pain, as it’s not something that is often found in novels. Mahsuda Snaith examines, in such a sensitive way, the complexities of pain – the way that pain can be physical and very real, and yet have roots to it that are emotional. I suffer with severe pain due to my spinal cord injury so am really drawn to books that explore pain in any way. In this book the character does recover early in the story but it’s the exploration of the reasons for her pain that moved me deeply. It takes a gentle hand to explore this without patronising people, like me, whose pain is unlikely to ever be better, and I really admire that in this book. Ravine ends up pretending about her physical pain but because I could see the other pain she was in I genuinely always felt sympathy for her – the physical pain that was real at one stage in her life became the only way she could block out the pain of her friend being gone.

‘There isn’t a constellation for pain, but if there were it would sweep over half the sky and be connected by a hundred stars.’

I was immediately drawn into the intrigue as to where Ravine’s best friend Marianne had gone. The novel opens in the present day and Marianne and her family have been gone from next door for a long time. Yet Ravine is in a state of limbo wondering where her best friend has gone. The picture of the childhood friendship of these two girls is gradually built up and I very much enjoyed reading this part of the book. It’s heartbreaking knowing that something pulled the two girls apart – the mystery of this had me hooked but it was more the way Ravine wrote about Marianne, a friend she clearly adored. These two girls had such a bond and Ravine lost herself when Marianne went away, and this affected me so deeply. This quote actually made me cry, it’s so poignant:

‘Even as a child I knew my life was rooted in yours. How am I meant to carry on when the roots have been pulled out?’

This is a coming-of-age novel about finding your place in the world, and about coming to an understanding of why people are the way they are. I really enjoyed reading about Ravine’s childhood as an asian girl growing up on a council estate in Leicester. The way it’s a multi-cultural city and yet a child can still stand out as being different because of the way her family express their beliefs, for Ravine it’s the way her mother dresses, and the way she has her dress. Ravine compares herself in childhood to her best friend Marianne, whose family is also asian but they dress in jeans and t-shirts and so fit in better. There are many memorable characters who live near Ravine, who are all so richly-drawn – even the ones we only hear about, such as the old lady across the landing from Ravine’s family. There is a real sense that everyone has their own problems to deal with and gradually through the book we get to see this. Ravine as a child, and then as a teenager stuck in her bedroom, doesn’t get to see the subtitles of why people are the way they are but we, the reader, really see the pain in what some people have to live through.

Ultimately though, this is a novel about memories; it’s a look at how we can, through no fault of our own, remember things differently than they were; it’s a look at how sometimes we choose to delude ourselves because the truth is just too painful to bear. It’s a novel about how we  protect ourselves from the most painful parts of life, it’s about how we survive when the worst thing we can imagine happens. It’s also a look at whether redemption ever comes, whether someone should suffer for what they’re perceived to have done or whether the pain they feel inside is enough punishment. Ravine’s pain is very, very real – some of it is physical and some of it emotional but all of it is real and she has spent a more than half of her life hurting. I was rooting for Ravine all the way through this novel, and she’s someone I absolutely won’t forget any time soon.

‘Memories pretend to leave you but they’re always there. Always ready to catch you off guard, to remind you that life is never as simple as what you happen to be dealing with at the time.

There is always the past, waiting to pounce.’

This novel is stunningly beautiful for so many reasons – the gorgeous writing and the wonderful turns of phrase, the brilliant and complex characters, and for the most heartbreaking descriptions of pain, in all its forms, that I’ve read in a long time. Very occasionally, if you’re really lucky, a book will come into your life at exactly the right moment and it will break your heart but then it will mend it again and make you feel so much better; this is that book for me. I am sure that this novel will be in my top books for this year, it’s definitely one I will remember and think about for a long time to come.

The Things We Thought We Knew is out now and I highly recommend you grab a copy as soon as you can!

I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

mahsuda snaith

Mahsuda Snaith was born in Luton and brought up on a Leicester council estate.  She is a writer of novels, short stories and plays, and is the winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2014, Bristol Short Story Prize 2014 as well as a finalist for the Mslexia Novel Competition 2013.  Mahsuda leads creative writing workshops at De Montfort University, has performed her work at literary festivals and has been anthologised by The Asian Writer, Words with Jam and Closure: Contemporary Black British Stories.

Mahsuda’s first novel is The Things We Thought We Knew. It will be published by Transworld in 2017 in the UK.

(Bio taken from: http://www.watsonlittle.com/client/mahsuda-snaith. Author photo taken from twitter.)

 

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Paul E. Hardisty on Claymore Stryker | Reconciliation of the Dead #blogtour @OrendaBooks

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the Orenda blog tour for Reconciliation of the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty. Paul has written a brilliant guest post about the evolution of Claymore Stryker for my stop.

 

The Evolution of Claymore Stryker

In the opening scene of my new novel, Reconciliation for the Dead, the lead character, Claymore Straker, is in Maputo, Mozambique, considering his future. It is 1997, and he is on the run, again. The events of the last few years (described in the first book of the series, the CWA Creasy New Blood Dagger shortlisted The Abrupt Physics of Dying, set in Yemen during the 1994 civil war; and the second book, The Evolution of Fear, set largely in Cyprus and Istanbul in 1995) are behind him now, but still raw in his memory.

He has just finished testifying to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, having returned to South Africa for the first time since being dishonourably discharged from the army and sent into exile over fifteen years earlier. Over three days of testimony, Clay takes us on a journey into the darkest chapter of his country’s history, revealing the horrifying events that led to him abandoning everything he was raised to believe in. It is 1980, Clay is a young paratrooper, fighting on the front lines in South Africa’s war against the communist insurgency in Angola. On a patrol deep behind enemy lines, Clay is confronted by an act of the most shocking brutality. It will change him forever. Wounded in battle, struggling to make sense of what he has witnessed, Clay tries to uncover the dark secret behind those events, and what lies hidden in apartheid’s murky core.

For fourteen years, Clay tries to forget the past, buries it deep. But as the years go by, his post-traumatic stress worsens. Then, working for an oil company in Yemen, everything starts to unravel, and the horrors of war come flooding back. As civil war erupts, he meets Rania LaTour, a French journalist. She becomes the dominant influence in his life. In the face of the terrible injustice he witnesses, he must decide whether to act, or turn away and abandon his friends. Later, in Cyprus, increasingly beguiled and influenced by Rania, he recognises his need for absolution, and realises that he must go back and tell the truth about what happened all those years ago in South Africa. Only then, he believes, will he find a measure of peace, and perhaps become the man Rania deserves.

As the series continues into its fourth, and quite possibly final, instalment (The Debased and the Faithful, due out in 2018), Clay continues to evolve as a person. In a way, I consider the series more a fictional biography in four parts, than a traditional crime series. The situations into which he is thrust, into which he drives himself, are the direct consequence of the events and the people that have shaped him. Each exerts its own unique influence, and together, combine to make him the person he is destined to become.  How it will all end, I don’t quite know yet. All I know is that Clay’s journey is not over, and is about to get a whole lot more difficult. Rania’s too.

 

About the Book

reconciliation-for-the-dead

Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier.

It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed.

Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.

About the Author

Paul Hardisty

Canadian by birth, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia with his family.

You can find Paul on twitter: @Hardisty_Paul

(Bio taken from Orenda Books website)

 

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#BookReview: Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson #BlogTour @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks

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About the Book

Evil remembers…

Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina.
Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s.
Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again.

Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?

Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French truecrime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to take part in the blog tour for Block 46 as I’d already heard about it and was really keen to read it.

This book was far more harrowing than I was expecting, and it was definitely more brutal and graphic in some of its descriptions and yet it was impossible to put down. I wanted to know what was going to happen, whether the case was going to be resolved and what all of the present-day murders had to do with the Buchenwald death camp.

I loved that this story is told predominantly through the eyes of a criminal profiler, Emily Roy, and a true crime investigative writer, Alexis Castells, who is also caught up in the murder of her friend Linnea. It gave a different slant to a crime novel than if it were told from a detective’s perspective and I found it really refreshing and different.

Emily is a fascinating character, I was intrigued by her all the way through the book. She has a very focused manner at times that leads her off into her own world and yet she deals with suspects so well and so cleverly. I also liked Alexis – she has a great way of being able to step back and see the bigger picture and complements Emily so well. They both have a tragedy in their pasts, which was touched on in this book so I’m interested to know more about that, along with how it’s affected them and made them who they are. I’m so pleased that there is to be a second book as I definitely want to spend more time with these two characters.

The scenes at Buchenwald were the hardest to read – it is so stark and unflinching, and I wasn’t expecting to read about the brutalities to the degree they were described. I could feel the sheer terror emanating through the pages. There were moments were I had to stop reading to just take a breath, but then the writing was so good that I was drawn to pick the book back up almost straight away.

Block 46 kept me guessing right until the very end – I genuinely couldn’t figure out who the murderer was. I thought I was onto something with a link to Buchenwald but I still picked the wrong strand to follow. I love when a book has me guessing and suspecting nearly everyone but not able to work it out; it doesn’t happen often but this book got me! I was honestly holding my breath as this novel gathered pace and I couldn’t read the words fast enough – I simply had to know who, what and where! The end, when it came, made sense but it left me reeling. I was honestly incapable of doing anything for quite a while after turning the last page, my mind wouldn’t stop turning over what I’d read. I was disturbed and unsettled by it but you’re meant to be, the writing is so brilliant.

Block 46 is harrowing, unflinching and brutal; it’s also brilliant, gripping and completely and utterly unputdownable! I highly recommend ordering a copy of this incredible crime thriller right away! I can’t wait to see what Johana Gustawsson writes next, I’ll certainly be first in line to buy it.

Block 46 was translated by Maxim Jakubowski.
Block 46 is due to be published on 15th May and can be pre-ordered now.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

Johana Photo

Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

 

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#BookReview: The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull #blogtour @rebeccamascull @HodderBooks

The wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

About the Book

In Edwardian England, aeroplanes are a new, magical invention, while female pilots are rare indeed.

When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother’s aunt, her life changes forever. Great Auntie Betty has come home from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della develops a burning ambition to fly and Betty is determined to help her.

But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything – and everyone – Della loves.

Uplifting and page-turning, THE WILD AIR is a story about love, loss and following your dreams against all odds.

My Thoughts

The Wild Air is a wonderful novel, it drew me in from the prologue and had me captivated right through to the final page. This is the story of Cordelia (Della) Dobbs who knows that her place in life is to help her mother until such a time that she marries and has children of her own to raise. Della loves cycling and mending her bike and is fascinated by how things work. So when her Great-Auntie Betty arrives from America and introduces Della to kite flying and later aeroplanes it seems her life might be about to change beyond all recognition.

This book is so much about female ambition and determination and I loved that: from feisty, no-nonsense Great-Auntie Betty to her niece Della whose quiet desire to fly planes slowly becomes a real possibility. I so enjoyed seeing Della’s confidence slowly grow – it was lovely to see her find her voice, to begin to tentatively step forward and ask for what she wanted, to stand her ground. Even Della’s mum quietly admits to a long ago desire to achieve in a man’s world but it was something that she just couldn’t push ahead with. It means she has a real understanding of her daughter’s desire to achieve her dream though and she’s always very supportive of Della.

I’ve always been interested in the history around women pilots – I grew up near Hull so was always fascinated by Amy Johnson. Della felt like a real person to me, I absolutely believed in her – her sheer joy of flying planes just shines throughout this book and I was rooting for her all the way. It’s hard to imagine just how difficult it must have been for women in the Edwardian era to find a way into such a male-dominated arena. Della is referred to by one newspaper man as ‘little Della Dobbs’, which is so demeaning for an adult woman who is accomplishing so much in her field. It was also totally believable but still really quite shocking that some of the women who came to see Della were less than impressed with her achievements and were more interested in ‘the arrangements for [her] undercarriage’ – i.e. whether she still wore a corset! I really enjoyed reading about this obviously very well-researched time in history and about the women who paved the way for women pilots like Amy Johnson.

I have to mention one of the male characters in this book too. I loved Dud, he is such a great man and I loved his gentle nature and his enthusiasm for Della’s ambition to be a pilot. He believed in her from the day he saw her flying a kite and he never waivered in his belief in her. It was hard to read about what happened to him during the war, but again this was so beautifully and sensitively written – it really moved me.

The writing in this book is so beautiful and very evocative. My heart was in my mouth as Della gets her first taste of flying – I swear I could hear the propellers and could taste the engine oil. I was holding my breath as I willed her to get it right, to show the men on the ground exactly what she was made of. The moment she feels the wind in her hair for the first time, I could have been up there with her. The sheer magical joy just emanates from the page, it’s fabulous!

Rebecca Mascull really evokes what it was like to live in an era where flying was new and scary and exciting. This novel brought to life the way it must have felt to people to see these flying machines for the first time, and then for people to see female pilots in a time when women were expected to marry and raise a family, and not to have ambitions to have a career in any way equal to a man. The Wild Air is a beautiful, captivating novel and I highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from Hodder via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Wild Air is due to be published on 4th May by Hodder & Stoughton and can be pre-ordered now.

About the Author

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Photo taken by Lisa Warrener

 

Rebecca Mascull is the author of THE VISITORS and SONG OF THE SEA MAID. She has previously worked in education, has a Masters in Writing and lives by the sea in the east of England.

(Bio taken from: Hodder)

 

 

 

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#BookReview: The Cows by Dawn O’Porter #DontFollowTheHerd @HotPatooties @fictionpubteam

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About the Book

COW n.
/ka?/

A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.

Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype.

THE COWS is a powerful novel about three women. In all the noise of modern life, each needs to find their own voice.

It’s about friendship and being female.
It’s bold and brilliant.
It’s searingly perceptive.
It’s about never following the herd.

And everyone is going to be talking about it.

My Thoughts

I have to start this review by saying that I completely and utterly adored The Cows! It’s a brilliant novel and it was exactly what I needed to be reading at the moment I read it.

This is a novel that really shows what it is to be a woman – the way we’re judged, the way we judge each other, the way we’re all trying to live up to an ideal that none of us can attain. The Cows is told through three narratives. Each of the three characters is so well-written that they feel like real people, and each voice is so distinct that you never lose track of who it is that you’re reading about.Tara is a single mother, who never told the father of her child that she was pregnant, and she feels she has to be a success at work and at home, to be everything to everybody. Cam is a very successful blogger who doesn’t want children but this ends up becoming the very thing that she is judged on and defined by even though it’s only one small part of who she is.  Then there’s Stella who is alone in the world – her twin sister, and her mum are both dead; her relationship is on the rocks and she desperately wants a baby. She feels such anger at the cards life has dealt her and yet is powerless to change what has happened.

I felt such a mix of emotions whilst reading this book – I was giggling at one point and tearful at another. The contrast between the women, but also the small similarities, really gave this novel depth and warmth. I’m very happily married but don’t have children. I never felt a huge longing for a baby but now life has made sure that I will never have children and that’s a strange thing to contemplate sometimes. I can understand Stella’s hopes and fears but I found it very hard to sympathise with the desperate lengths she went to. Ultimately though, she deserved understanding and care because she was driven to the point of madness by her need for a child, and also by her loneliness. Perhaps she would have behaved differently if she’d had a supportive friend who she could talk to and confide in. Cam is a fiercely independent woman and I admired her attitude to life, she’s the kind of woman I would love to be friends with. She is who she is and she never apologises for that, yet she remains such a lovely person. Cam’s relationship with her dad made me tearful – the way she let him help her with things because she knew it made him feel better made her all the more fab. I think she became my favourite character. What Tara did was shocking but what happened to her as a result was horrifying, and it echoed many of the stories we hear about women who do something and are caught on camera and then are judged for it forevermore. I felt so sorry for her with all the horrible attention and judgment that were thrown at her. The humiliation she felt was palpable, and the way other people, but women in particular, judged her generally but then with the infamy on top was awful but sadly all too recognisable

The society we live in now with social media being what it is is scary. Anything that we do is captured and there forever and no one is ever allowed to make a mistake, and so often we sit in judgment of others. I love social media because for one thing I wouldn’t have met my husband without it (we met on twitter) but also because I’m now housebound through disability and twitter and Facebook make me feel less alone, but there is a dark side to social media and it’s horrible to see and must be terrifying to experience.

The Cows is one of those novels that really shows the way that social media affects us – how it can ruin your life, or rather the trolls on social media can. It shows that you can be really well liked on social media and have lots of followers who hang on your every word but one opinion that the general public disagree with and the tide can turn against you. But it also shows the way that social media can bring friends our way that prove more loyal and kind in a crisis than the people we thought were our friends. The Cows also shows the power of standing up to what people say about you, about holding your head high regardless,and about the way there are still good people out there who will have your back.

The great thing that I took away from that book was the way it made me see that I don’t have to apologise for who I am. It reinforced for me that I can be who I am and I don’t have to say sorry for not being who others want me to be. It left me with a real sense of empowerment at a time when I was feeling like society had thrown me on the scrapheap. I honestly can’t put into words just how much I loved this book, it’s such an incredible read and I fully expect it will make my top ten books of 2017.

Dawn O’Porter tackles issues facing women head on in this book, she doesn’t shy away from any topic and it’s so refreshing to read. The Cows will make you laugh, it will make you cry; it will make you nod your head in recognition and it may well make you cringe at times but it’s a book that you want to keep reading and don’t want to end. This is a novel of our times and it’s one that I will read again and again. I highly recommend that you go buy a copy right now!

I received a copy of The Cows from HarperCollins via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

DOP photo 5 david loftus

Photograph by David Loftus


Dawn O’Porter is a broadcaster and print journalist who lives in London with her husband Chris, cat Lilu and dog Potato. She has made thirteen documentaries about all sorts of things, including polygamy, childbirth, geishas, body image, breast cancer and even the movie DIRTY DANCING.

Dawn has written for various UK newspapers and magazines including GRAZIA and STYLIST. She is also a highly prolific Tweeter and blogger of The Dawn Report. Although Dawn lives in London she spends a lot of time in LA and travels a lot. You may have seen her dragging two huge pink suitcases with broken wheels and a Siamese cat (Lilu) in a box through international airports. At some point she plans to get new suitcases – the cat, however, has a few years left in her yet.

 


 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the lovely blogs below:

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#BookReview: Good as Gone by Amy Gentry @unlandedgentry @HQStories #BlogTour

good as gone

About the Book

Eight years ago, thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night.

In the years since, her family have papered over the cracks of their grief – while hoping against hope that Julie is still alive.

And then, one night, the doorbell rings.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered a copy of Good as Gone to review for the blog tour as it sounded like such a gripping read, and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed. I read this in one sitting as I just got lost in the novel for an entire afternoon!

I’m always intrigued by novels where someone has gone missing and then seemingly returns years later. It’s one of those things that you can barely even imagine and yet it has happened in real life too. In this novel I was immediately curious as to where Julie had been, and if this even really was Julie that had come back. I would imagine that if your child had been missing for all those years and someone who looked just like her came to your door you wouldn’t immediately question if it really was her because you would so badly want it to be. In Good as Gone it felt believable to me that the family accepted Julie back so quickly and didn’t question the situation, but as a reader I was quickly wondering if this really was going to be a happy ending for the family and it really made the book a gripping, rollercoaster of a read that I was so unsure and unsettled by Julie.

As we begin to learn more about Julie and where she might have been in the intervening years and what might have happened to her I found I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages, I simply had to know how it was all going to turn out.

My favourite thing about this book was the chapters by all the different people and how each chapter gives a clue and gradually a picture is built up about what has happened. It was great how the reader has much more information than the family and we are there in each setting and trying to understand whether this person was Julie or if that person was, but we also see the family trying to come to terms with what has happened, and they start uncovering secrets that have been held in the intervening years and have to deal with the fallout from that. I found I was trying to put the pieces together from the start and some things I got wrong and others I got right, it was very cleverly written.

I definitely recommend this book – it’s a gripping, absorbing rollercoaster of a thriller that will keep you turning the pages long into the night. Go buy a copy now, you won’t regret it!

I received a copy of this book from HQ Stories in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Exclusive content from Amy Gentry:

What was your inspiration for writing the book? How has working in women’s shelters influenced Julie’s story?

For about a year, I volunteered as an on-call emergency room advocate for victims of sexual assault. When assault victims turned up in the emergency room requesting a forensic exam (aka rape kit), I would dispatch to the hospital to provide in-room advocacy and resources from the shelter. Thus I spent lots of time, often in the middle of the night, with survivors of sexual trauma in the immediate aftermath of their assaults. I was asked by women to sit in the room with them during the forensic exam, even hold their hands. I sat in hospital rooms with students, strippers, mothers, grandmothers, homeless prostitutes, veterans, political campaigners, athletes, you name it. The stories of abused and assaulted women were very real and vivid to me as I wrote the parts of my story that dealt with those topics. I became especially alert to the ways in which victims of these crimes struggle to protect themselves in the wake of trauma, often making choices which might seem to an outsider to be the wrong ones because they may hurt others or lead to the victim herself being retraumatized. Yet I came to understand how important that sense of choice can be for helping victims preserve a sense of agency and personhood that has been violated during the assault. Demanding that victims look or act a certain way, either before or after their assault, is one way we discredit victims and perpetuate rape culture. I also talked to many police and other first responders, and came to understand how flawed and human these professionals are in their own, often biased, responses to sexual assault victims. There is no such thing as a perfect victim, because people behave erratically in the wake of severe trauma; but for some reason we seem to demand perfection of sexual assault victims. This is really the underlying theme I wanted to explore with Good as Gone.

 

About the Author

AVT_Amy-Gentry_4494

Amy Gentry lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two cats. After graduating in 2011 with a PhD in English from the University of Chicago, she began a freelance writing career, writing book reviews, cultural criticism, and, for one strange and wonderful year, a fashion column. She frequently reviews fiction for the Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Journal, and her writing has appeared in Salon.com, xoJane, The Rumpus, the Austin Chronicle, the Texas ObserverLA Review of BooksGastronomica, and the Best Food Writing of 2014GOOD AS GONE, her first thriller, is set in her hometown of Houston, Texas.

Bio taken from the author’s website: amygentryauthor.com 

 

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#BookReview: Loving the Life Less Lived by @GailMitchell42 #blogtour @RedDoorBooks

9781910453261

About the Book

An essential companion for anyone dealing with mental illness.
Like many people, Gail Marie Mitchell battled with anxiety and depression for many years, finding it exhausting, stressful and demoralising at times.

Realising that this approach to her condition was futile, Gail chose a different approach: acceptance.

Taking control in this way removed some of the pressure and enabled Gail to focus on developing coping strategies, creating the tips and tools that are included in this empathetic and practical book.

Gail focuses on the positive aspects of her condition, showing how a person living with mental illness is so much more than the label that society puts on them. She found acceptance empowering, enabling her to live her life to the full. Perhaps not the life she had planned, but one that is happy and fulfilling and that she loves. She is Loving the Life Less Lived.

By sharing her experiences and describing what she learnt from them as well as the resulting coping strategies, Gail has created an essential companion for anyone dealing with mental illness and their family and friends.

My Thoughts

When I was offered the chance to read and review this book for the blog tour I agreed for two reasons. The first being that I want to read more non-fiction this year and it was nice to be offered a non-fiction book for review. The second and main reason though was because I have suffered with PTSD in the fairly recent past, and I had clinical depression many years ago so always feel like I can offer an insight into books about this illness.

Loving the Life Less Lived has two elements to it weaved together throughout the book.  The parts of the book that I enjoyed the most were the Toolbox ideas. Gail has compiled, in bitesize chunks, all the things that have helped her through her depression and anxiety over the years. Some are rooted in CBT and structured to help in recovering, others are hints and tips that will help sufferers who just need help to get through that day, or moment. I would recommend the toolbox sections to anyone who is suffering at the moment, and also to anyone who has a loved one who is going through depression and anxiety for ideas on how you can help support them.

The other part of the book is more of a memoir detailing Gail’s journey through her depression. This was harder to read, possibly because I’ve been through it and it reminded me of those dark days, but it does show the reality of what living with depression is like. Gail is incredibly honest throughout this book and I applaud that. She doesn’t sugarcoat how she felt in the situations life has thrown at her and I think it’s important to be open when writing a book like this.

Gail talks about the seemingly insurmountable goal her mum set her in giving her a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Her mum told her that she would one day get herself better and to see the bridge in person, and this was at a time when Gail could barely leave her own house, but whilst that goal was too big to even contemplate Gail was able to work on much smaller steps that were on the way to potentially reaching the big goal. She talks about the gradual recovery from depression and then the relapses that followed but ultimately Gail does regain a level of mental health. So whilst this book doesn’t shy away from the dark depths of depression it does give a sense of hope. It’s important that books of this nature do paint a realistic picture but also that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

As I wrote earlier, I would recommend this book to anyone who is going through depression and/or anxiety, or to anyone living with someone who has depression and/or anxiety, in particular for all of the Toolbox ideas.

Thank you to Red Door Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Loving the Life Less Lived is due to be published on 26 January and can be pre-order here

 

About the Author

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I’m a writer and I live with mental illness. Those two facts are the main motivation behind this website but they are only a small part of who I am and what my life is about.

I say I live with mental illness, I don’t suffer from it, I don’t battle with it (although for many years I did until I learnt the futility of the fight). I was first diagnosed with depression twenty five years ago and have been variously diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and depression ever since.  At times I manage my condition well using a toolboxof resources that I have discovered and developed over my lifetime. At other times I crash and burn, I have left upwards of ten jobs due to my mental health issues and spent many months and years on and off of benefits, hiding in my house unable to face the world or complete even the most simple tasks.

I have always been a writer, maybe not published, maybe not successful, but since the earliest age I have written poems, stories and articles in an attempt to make sense of this confused and broken world we live in. This led me to write Loving the Life Less Lived.

That’s not all about me – I qualified as a Chartered Accountant, I have worked as a Secondary School Teacher, I am a member of Mensa I have travelled around Europe, the Middle East and North America. I have taught in the favelas of Brazil, I am married, I am a fairy Godmother I am so much more than a medical label given by psychiatrists and GPs. I am not cured – but I am at present relatively stable. I work as a bookkeeper/accountant, write in my spare time and enjoy life to the full. It isn’t the life I planned, it is The Life Less Lived and it is immeasurably more than I could ever have asked for or imagined. 

(Bio taken from the author’s website: lovingthelifelesslived.com

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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Interview with author Clare Morrall & #BookReview of #WhenTheFloodsCame

 

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Today I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for When The Floods Came and was lucky enough to interview Clare Morrall! I also have my review of this wonderful book to share with you so please keep reading to the end of this post.

 

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself, and also briefly what When The Floods Came is about.

I was born in Devon, but I’ve been living in Birmingham since I was 18, when I came up to study music at the University.  I teach violin, piano and music theory at a school for children between 5 and 11, and I also have a few older private pupils.  I have two grown up daughters.

When the Floods Came is my seventh published novel.  It is set about 50 years in the future, in an almost empty Britain, but rooted in the world as we know it now.  The majority of the population has died in a virus, and most survivors are infertile.  City centres have been sealed off and the country has been quarantined. The novel is about the Polanski family, who live in a deserted tower block on the edge of Birmingham.  There are Popi and Moth, Roza and Boris in their early twenties, Delphine in her teens and Lucia, who is eight.  They manage well, even though they’re so isolated, scavenging in the empty flats around them for spare parts.  They’re also supplied with essentials by drone drops from the Brighton-based government, the contents of which have become increasingly unpredictable. Then one day a stranger, Aashay, appears, who charms and alarms them in equal measure.  No one can decide whether to trust him or not, but they are all mesmerised by him.  He interrupts their organised life and leads them to a fair, cycling along motorways, through Spaghetti Junction, to an overgrown football stadium.  The book is about the strength of family relationships, their ability to survive once they discover that the most precious commodity in the country is children, and the precariousness of the life that we have created around us.

 

How did you first come to be a writer?

I have always preferred the world of fiction to the world of reality, so as soon as I was able to read, I was writing.  I was forever embarking on Enid Blyton adventures, Biggles stories, novels about boarding schools, all of them entirely unoriginal and none of them ever finished.  I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my thirties.  It was hard to find enough time, but once a week, for a couple of hours, I would go to a friend’s house and write.   It took another twenty years before I was published.  I still have four unpublished novels in a cupboard, and several folders full of encouraging letters from publishers and agents, none of which brought me any closer to publication.   My first published novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour, was actually my fifth completed one and it took five years to complete.  It was published in 2003 by a tiny Birmingham publisher and then unexpectedly went on to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize.  It took me by surprise.  I didn’t even know the book had been entered.

 

What is your writing routine?

After the good fortune of the Booker Prize, I was able to cut down on some of my teaching hours and allow myself the luxury of time to write.  So now I don’t go into school until midday.  When I was squeezing small amounts of time out of an impossibly busy schedule, I had to be disciplined.  I couldn’t afford to waste the time – although I did occasionally go to sleep. So I’ve learnt how to get going without resorting to delaying tactics.  I now start work early and rarely struggle with lack of motivation.

 

I love how When The Floods Came is a dystopian novel but it feels so close to the world we’re living in now and is scarily believable. Was there a specific trigger that sparked your inspiration to write this novel? 

I’ve long had the desire to place people on bicycles, cycling along a motorway.  The idea has been at the back of my mind for ages, but I couldn’t decide on a way to make it happen.  Setting a novel in the future seemed to be the only reasonable way to achieve this.  Sadly, if the cars do eventually go, I’ll be far too old to attempt the actual cycling myself.

 

I think the thing I’m enjoying most about the book is that, whilst the dystopian landscape is terrifying and fascinating, it seems, at heart to be a novel about how people cope with what life throws at them. Do the characters come to you first or is it the general idea of a storyline?

I like unusual settings – I’ve written novels about a man in a lighthouse, a man who lives on a roundabout, a family who grow up in a crumbling country house.  So it’s often the atmosphere that inspires me and I then create characters to inhabit this world.  They grow and develop during the novel, as I never know where they’re going to go, so I usually have to go back to the beginning to check they are the same people I end up with.  I’m interested in strange people, the kind of people who are very isolated, on the outside looking in.  It was inevitable that I would eventually write a novel set in the future – in an empty landscape, a crumbling, decaying world.

 

I’ve been a fan of your writing ever since reading Astonishing Splashes of Colour when it was first released. What has your journey to publication been like and has it altered as each book has been published? 

It took a long, long time to get published in the first place.  Each time I completed a novel, I would send it off and forget it while I got on with the next one.  There were always so many interesting new ideas.  When the novels were returned, I would just send them out again, working my way down the lists in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.  Life has become much easier since then, as all my other novels have been published by Sceptre, who have always been very supportive.  I send the completed novel to them, my editor goes through it, we discuss any plot uncertainties or character inconsistencies, then I rework it, which usually takes a few months.  Then it gets read by a copy editor, who picks out more details.  It’s a long and satisfying process, and in between the rewriting, I start my next novel.  The entire process takes about two years in total.

 

What are you reading at the moment?

His Bloody Project  by Graeme Macrae Burnet, shortlisted for this year’s Booker. It’s very skilful, although a bit – er – bloody, I fear.

 

If you were to be stranded on a desert island and could choose just one author’s books to read, who would you pick and why?

John le Carre, I think.  His books are so much more than spy stories – although I do like the shadowy world of spying.  He is a wonderful writer – very clever, literary, and perceptive about human nature.  He penetrates so deeply, understands the complexity of character and the nature of love,  and still manages to produce plots that take your breath away.

 

Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? What’s your answer to that question?

I’ve struggled with this one.  I’m afraid nothing springs to mind.  I usually tell people what I want to tell them anyway.  Nobody notices if you don’t answer the question correctly.  Or if they do, they never mention it.

 

 How can people connect with you on social media?

Another failure.  I don’t use social media.  I don’t have enough spare time – I struggle to keep up with my friends – and when I do have spare time I prefer to read or write rather than communicate.  I like space and silence  – I live on my own now and I love it.  I would be perfectly comfortable in an isolated tower block in an empty world.

 


 

My Review

I was thrilled when I received a surprise copy of When the Floods Came in the post as I’m a big fan of Clare Morrall’s novels. Her first novel Astonishing Splashes of Colour is one I still remember reading now and I read that when it was first published. This latest novel is just as brilliant.

When I first started reading this I was immediately drawn by what had happened to Britain. The descriptions of this dystopian future were quite chilling at times because the virus that wiped out the majority of the population in Britain, and the floods that followed seem absolutely believable given all that is happening in the world. I don’t know Birmingham very well but I could easily picture all that Morrall described.

Soon though I was drawn in to the Polanski family that have survived all that has happened and who are living in a high rise apartment block. They are obviously a very close family but they’re very insular and have never explored the possibility of meeting others who have also survived. Then one day an interloper appears and they are immediately fearful but also very drawn to him. Aashay is an enigmatic character, he’s exciting to the children of the family but the parents are wary. It’s impossible to put the genie back in the bottle though and once Aashay tells of the fairs where other survivors gather together it’s something the children simply cannot resist. What happens at the fair and afterwards makes this novel one that was very hard for me to put down!

I felt there was a bit of mystery in the novel too. The Polinski’s eldest daughter Roza’s fiance, Hector, who she met online through work, is a bit of an enigma. He appears to be quite perfect and is planning to visit soon so that they can get married. I was unsure whether he was real for a while, and I was also suspicious of whether he had any connection to Aastay – it added another dimension to the novel that kept me hooked as I wanted to know if there was a link.

This novel is a brilliant mix of a dystopian future and a study of the dynamics within a close-knit family.  I was utterly enthralled throughout and would highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 


About the Book

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A taut, gripping novel set in the future, when the lives of a family existing on the margins of a dramatically changed society are upset by a mysterious stranger.

In a world prone to violent flooding, Britain, ravaged 20 years earlier by a deadly virus, has been largely cut off from the rest of the world. Survivors are few and far between, most of them infertile. Children, the only hope for the future, are a rare commodity.

For 22-year-old Roza Polanski, life with her family in their isolated tower block is relatively comfortable. She’s safe, happy enough. But when a stranger called Aashay Kent arrives, everything changes. At first he’s a welcome addition, his magnetism drawing the Polanskis out of their shells, promising an alternative to a lonely existence. But Roza can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to Aashay than he’s letting on. Is there more to life beyond their isolated bubble? Is it true that children are being kidnapped? And what will it cost to find out?

Clare Morrall, author of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Astonishing Splashes of Colour, creates a startling vision of the future in a world not so very far from our own, and a thrilling story of suspense.

 


About the Author

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c. Howard Walker

Clare Morrall was born in 1952 and grew up in Exeter.

She moved to Birmingham to study music and still lives there, working in the Blue Coat school as a piano and violin teacher. Her first published novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour (2003), tells the story of a childless woman who kidnaps a baby.  It reflects her interest in synaesthesia – a condition in which emotions are seen as colours.  The Daily Mail describe it as “An extremely good first novel: deceptively simple, subtly observed, with a plot that drags you forward like a strong current.” It was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

(Bio taken from https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/clare-morrall)

 


 

You can follow the rest of this fabulous blog tour at the following blogs:

 

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Miranda Dickinson’s Top 5 Songs and Searching for a Silver Lining! #BlogTour

Today I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Miranda Dickinson to my blog! Miranda has shared five of her favourite songs from the 1950s and explained what they mean to her and how they fit in to her gorgeous new novel Searching for a Silver Lining!

My Favourite Fifties’ Songs by Miranda Dickinson

Music plays a huge part in my book, Searching for a Silver Lining. I first came up with the idea in a café that plays fabulous 1950s music – which in turn gave me the idea to have a running playlist through the chapter headings of the books.

There’s something wonderfully evocative and positive about Fifties’ music. It captures a time when young people were finally finding a voice and an identity and had high hopes for their own future. This is the world that the five young singers of The Silver Five inhabited – and their hopes and dreams form a central part of the story.

Trying to pick my favourites was hard work, but here are my top five 1950s songs:

1.Ain’t That a Shame by Fats Domino (1955)

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The moment you hear the opening bars of this song you can imagine yourself in the 1950s. It’s a classic that never fails to make me smile. In my book it’s the title of the opening chapter, where we first meet Mattie Bell as she comes to terms with losing her beloved Grandpa Joe – and battles regret about the argument that stole her last precious months with him.

2.That’s All Right by Elvis Presley with Scotty and Bill (1954)

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I’ve developed a bit of a thing for Elvis lately (you may have seen my Lego Elvis posts on Twitter and Instagram!) and this is the man himself at the very beginning of his career. I love the confidence and exuberance of his performance.

3.Memories are Made of This by Dean Martin (1955)

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You have to love Dean Martin! It’s a cute, catchy tune with Martin’s trademark smooth crooning – pure Fifties’ magic. In Searching for a Silver Lining it’s the title of the chapter where we see Mattie’s shop with all its retro treasures and the invitation to share them at a local retirement home’s memory day that will change Mattie’s life forever…

4.The Story of My Life by Michael Holliday (1958)

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Only in a 1950s tune can whistling work! It’s two minutes, twelve seconds of pure joy and I love it. In my book this is the title song for the chapter where former Fifties’ singing star Reenie Silver begins to share her memories with Mattie.

5.You Send Me by Sam Cooke (1957)

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I just adore this song. It’s romantic, sweet and Sam Cooke’s wonderful voice gives me shivers. It’s very special now because it’s the title of the very last chapter in Searching for a Silver Lining. I’m not giving anything away, but this chapter is my favourite in the entire book.

I’ve also written and recorded the song that appears in the book as The Silver Five’s biggest hit. Keep watching my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channel to find out how you can download it…

Thanks so much for reading this blog exclusive! For more, follow my Searching for a Silver Lining blog tour. I really hope you enjoy reading the story!

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Huge thank you to Miranda for writing this fabulous post for my blog. I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading it as much as I did.

 

About the book:

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It began with a promise . . . 

Matilda Bell is left heartbroken when she falls out with her beloved grandfather just before he dies. Haunted by regret, she makes a promise that will soon change everything . . .

When spirited former singing star Reenie Silver enters her life, Mattie seizes the opportunity to make amends. Together, Mattie and Reenie embark on an incredible journey that will find lost friends, uncover secrets from the glamorous 1950s and put right a sixty-year wrong.

Touchingly funny, warm and life-affirming, this is a sparkling story of second chances. Perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern, Searching for a Silver Lining will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.

About the author:

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Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. From an early age she dreamed of writing a book that would make the heady heights of Kingswinford Library and today she is a bestselling author. She began to write in earnest when a friend gave her The World’s Slowest PC, and has subsequently written the bestselling novelsFairytale of New YorkWelcome to My WorldIt Started With a KissWhen I Fall in LoveTake A Look At Me Now,I’ll Take New York and A Parcel for Anna Browne. Miranda lives with her husband Bob and daughter Flo in Dudley.

To find out more about Miranda visit www.miranda-dickinson.com and find her on Twitter @wurdsmyth.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Tour | Q&A with Wendy Walker, author of All is Not Forgotten

 

Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker and I have a brilliant interview with the author to share today.

 

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself.

My name is Wendy Walker and I live in Connecticut, which is just northeast of New York City. I went to college at Brown University and law school at Georgetown University. I spent one year at the London School of Economics and I got to travel all around Europe. I have had many jobs from waitressing to investment banking at Goldman Sachs, to commercial litigation and now family law. I have three teenage sons and a large extended family.

How did you first come to be a writer?

After I had my first son eighteen years ago, I decided to stay home to raise my children until they were all in school. I felt lucky to be able to do that and so I took the job very seriously! But after about a year, I started to feel unfulfilled so I started to write whenever I had free time (which was not very often!). I had two more children in five years and all the while I kept writing. I even wrote in the back of my minivan while waiting for them at pre-school! It was a long road and 17 years getting to the writing and publication of All Is Not Forgotten. During that time, I published other novels, edited, and eventually went back to work as a lawyer (after 14 years away from the field). The work I found was in the area of family law and it was a wonderful fit for my life experience. I practiced for five years, eventually opening up my own practice, which focuses on consulting. But I never gave up the dream of making a career as a writer. I used to tell my boys that it was important to always have a dream, but to also be responsible. I kept on writing whenever and wherever I could. I am so glad that my children may get to see my dream come true (fingers crossed) so that they will believe what I told them about having dreams and never giving up.
What is your book about?

All Is Not Forgotten is about a teenage girl whose memory of a violent assault is erased with a controversial drug. In the aftermath, her family and the small town where she lives struggle with the inability to find her attacker and also with the emotional memory that still rages inside her.
I’ve suffered with PTSD so I was fascinated by the treatment concept in your novel – where did your inspiration for this come from? 

I read an article years ago about the emerging theories in memory science and the treatment of PTSD with drugs that can lessen the emotional impact of a trauma memory. I thought at the time that this could lead to significant moral, ethical and legal questions if such techniques were offered to victims of crime. When I decided to write a psychological thriller in 2015, I thought this concept would offer readers a great deal of substance and a real world issue that would be a talking point beyond the plot of the book itself. I started to do research and discovered that this area of memory science had just exploded and that drugs were now being developed with the hope of mitigating, reconsolidating and even erasing trauma memories. I developed the characters and plot in a way that I hoped would explore this fascinating topic.

What is your writing routine?

When my kids are in school, I start writing as soon as they are out of the house and I try not to stop until I have to pick them up! Sometimes, life gets in the way, especially because I work from home. But I have learned to be very disciplined about my time and I can write for 6 hours straight before I start to go a little stir crazy! I do not entertain writers block, and will always try to get something onto the page even if it doesn’t feel great at the time. I like to keep moving the plot forward and then revise as needed to flesh things out or improve the narrative.

For All Is Not Forgotten, I wanted to create a totally unique structure for the narrative. I designed it to move in different directions, backwards and forwards and sideways, but in a fluid, conversational way. It was my goal to grab the reader, make him or her stop everything else, put away computers and phones and televisions, and focus on the characters and the story and emotions they contain. So I used coloured notecards for each of the characters and their plot lines and then layered them carefully into each chapter so they would move forward but at points in the story where they fit organically. All Is Not Forgotten attempts to create that feeling of total escape by telling the story in a way that is new, but that feels as seamless as an engrossing conversation with a friend.

What has your journey to publication been like?

It has been wonderful and busy and everything you can imagine after 17 years of writing! Certainly, there have been BIG moments, like signing a film option with Warner Brothers and speaking with Reese Witherspoon about producing the movie. But mostly, I am working as hard as I can to write another engaging thriller, and to connect with readers about All Is Not Forgotten.

What are you reading at the moment?

Nothing but the draft of my new novel which is in the revision stage! I find that I cannot read while I am writing because I get the tone and cadence of the other book in my head and it’s hard to get it out! But I have a pile of books waiting for a short vacation in August. Can’t wait!

If you were to be stranded on a desert island and could choose just one author’s books to read, who would you pick and why?

Right now, I am loving Mary Kubica’s work which is dark and suspenseful but also full of complex characters and family dynamics.

Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? What’s your answer to that question?

I am rarely asked what it feels like to be a writer after spending most of my life in more traditional jobs. I have some amazing author friends who also came to this world later in life and who manage children and homes and a writing career. And we laugh about the reality of our lives compared to the perceptions we sometimes come across. It is not at all glamorous and at times can be incredibly stressful! The thing about writing is that you do need blocks of time and rest and some stillness in your mind, and these things are very hard to find when you have children and work at home. It is also a lonely occupation filled with tremendous self-doubt each and every day. To sit in a room, alone, pulling thoughts from your mind and then turning them into words on a blank page, hoping they will be of interest to other people, is a very strange process! Being an attorney, you develop a certain amount of confidence that you know what you’re doing and that you are doing a good job. Writing does not afford that luxury. I don’t think I will ever stop worrying about whether my story is good, whether it will resonate with readers, whether it will find its audience. And yet, I would not want to be doing anything else!

How can people connect with you on social media?

I have an email which can be found via my website: wendywalkerbooks.com

Twitter handle is @Wendy_Walker

Facebook is: Facebook.com/WendyWalkerAuthor

Instagram is: Instagram.com/wendygwalker

 


 

I’ve read All is Not Forgotten and it’s a brilliant novel – I highly recommend it! My review will be posted soon on my blog. The novel is out now and is available from all good book retailers.

You can find the rest of the stops on this blog tour on the poster below:

 

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Blog Tour | Book Review: The Museum of You by Carys Bray #MuseumOfYou

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Today is my stop on The Museum of You blog tour and I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of this wonderful book along with an excerpt from the the book.

About the Book

Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.

Darren has done his best. He’s studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want – everything he can think of, at least – to be happy.

What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother’s belongings. Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.

But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.

My Review

I’m a huge fan of Carys Bray – I adored her first novel A Song of Issy Bradley so was beyond excited when Carys offered me the chance to read and review The Museum of You.

The Museum of You is a quiet novel but it is so beautifully moving. It’s told in alternating chapters between Clover and her dad, Darren, and then between the chapter breaks there is a page about an item that Clover is planning to show in her museum. These pages, and her innocence, were some of the most stunning moments in the novel. Things like the way Clover envisages her mum collection holiday brochures because she must have loved holidays broke me because reading this through adult eyes, it seemed that really Clover’s mum probably was just desperate for escape. It’s a cleverly written novel because we don’t know at the beginning what happened to Clover’s mum but as the novel goes on we learn bits and pieces and a picture emerges but Clover, as a child, fits the pieces together in a much more naive way. It’s so beautiful and is a real tear jerker.

I adored Clover throughout this novel. She’s such a big-hearted and intelligent girl. She loves museums and finding out about things and so when she discovers that all of her mum’s things are still stashed in her bedroom Clover forms an idea to make a museum of her mum. It’s such a gorgeous idea and so heartbreaking at the same time. I cried so much as Clover carefully put on gloves and started to carefully, and strategically work through her mum’s belongings – all done when her dad was out so that he wouldn’t know about it and get upset. I know it’s a slightly different thing but I remember having to sort out my mum’s possessions after she died and having the longing to keep everything as it was left but knowing I had to let most of it go, and I was an adult at the time. For a child to not really know about her mum, or really understand what happened to her, to then approach her mum’s things on her own is really sad. I loved how pr0-active Clover was though, she knew that she couldn’t ask anyone about her mum as the best she got was a slow drip feed of information from her neighbour Mrs Mackerel and so she decided to become an archivist and figure it all out herself. I love how matter of fact Clover is – she’s a real thinker but she gets on with things. She doesn’t dwell on how her life has ended up, she just keeps moving forward. I think we all need a Clover in our lives!

I cried quite a few times whilst reading as there are sentences in this novel that just make your heart break for Clover. A line that got me, which is in the excerpt below was ‘When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories.’ – I had to pause for a few minutes after reading that because it is just utterly heartbreaking. For a young child to know that their childhood is so linked in with the saddest part of her mum and dad’s life together is just so hard to think about, but also it made my heart break for her dad who has had to live with the happiest and saddest times in his life overlapping in such a tough way.

Darren is doing the absolute best he can to raise his daughter, it’s so evident that he loves her more than anything and is trying to give her a good life but it feels that as Clover is growing up, he is burying his head in the sand a little. It must be so hard for men to deal with raising a daughter alone, especially as they reach puberty and there is no female role model in their life. He knows there are things Clover will want to know beyond the basic lessons he can teach her and he’s really floundering as to how he will get her through the teenage years and beyond. He knows Clover needs her mum, and needs to know about her mum but you can feel his hesitation and his need to skate around it for his own wellbeing. He seems like such a lovely man who is simply left so lost after his partner died. I felt the longing that he had to not let his partner’s memory go but also his desire to form a stable home life for Clover. It is apparent very early on in the novel that Darren is something of a hoarder – it really felt like he was someone who was just desperately trying to cling on, to keep things right for Clover and to be a good dad. It felt to me like Clover was very much like her dad in wanting to keep things but Clover is much more organised, hence her museum idea. Reading about when Darren was younger and seeing how simple his life was, with two parents who were still together and who obviously loved him very much and did their best by him, it is obvious that he is badly wanting this for his daughter too – ‘life [back then] was ordinary, unremarkable and occasionally boring. It was, looking back, wonderful’.

This novel builds as it goes along – the more you read the more you put the pieces together and the more you get a sense of heartbreak for what this family have been through. I had such sympathy with just about all of the characters in this novel, they had all had tough times in their lives and were all muddling through as best they can. It is apparent that the thing that defined them all and kept them connected was their love for Clover, and as the novel headed towards the end, I was hoping there would be some sort of happy ending for them all. Life isn’t perfect and bad things happen to lovely people but this novel gives us such a great reminder that life goes on and things will get better with time and openness.

It’s such a wonderfully profound novel. I rated it 5 out of 5 and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s one of those quiet novels that packs such a punch emotionally; it’s so beautiful and is one that will stay with me for a long time to come. Simply wonderful!

Excerpt of the novel

When she got home from the museum Dad was kneeling in the hall. He’d unscrewed the radiator and his thumb was pressed over an unfastened pipe as water gushed around it. The books and clothes and newspapers that used to line the hall had been arranged in small piles on the stairs. Beside him, on the damp carpet, was a metal scraper he’d been using to scuff the paper off the wall.

‘Just in time!’ he said. ‘Fetch a bowl. A small one, so it’ll fit.’

She fetched two and spent the next fifteen minutes running back and forth to the kitchen emptying one bowl as the other filled, Dad calling, ‘Faster! Faster! Keep it up, Speedy Gonzalez!’ His trousers were soaked and his knuckles grazed, but he wasn’t bothered. ‘Occupational hazard,’ he said, as if it wasn’t his day off and plumbing and stripping walls was his actual job.

Once the pipe had emptied he stood up and hopped about for a bit while the feeling came back into his feet. ‘I helped Colin out with something this morning,’ he said. ‘The people whose house we were at had this dado rail thing – it sounds posh, but it’s just a bit of wood, really – right about here.’ He brushed his hand against the wall beside his hip. ‘Underneath it they had stripy wallpaper, but above it they had a different, plain kind. It was dead nice and I thought, we could do that.’

Dad found a scraper for her. The paint came off in flakes, followed by tufts of the thick, textured wallpaper. Underneath, was a layer of soft, brown, backing-paper which Dad sprayed with water from a squirty bottle. When the water had soaked in, they made long scrapes down the wall, top to bottom, leaving the backing paper flopped over the skirting boards like ribbons of skin. It felt like they were undressing the house.

The bare walls weren’t smooth. They were gritty, crumbly in places. As they worked, a dusty smell wafted out of them. It took more than an hour to get from the front door to the wall beside the bottom stair. That’s where Dad uncovered the heart. It was about as big as Clover’s hand, etched on the wall in black, permanent marker, in Dad’s handwriting: Darren + Becky 4ever.

‘I’d forgotten,’ he murmured. And then he pulled his everything face. The face he pulls when Uncle Jim is drunk. The face he pulls when they go shopping in March and the person at the till tries to be helpful by reminding them about Mother’s Day. The face which reminds her that a lot of the time his expression is like a plate of leftovers.

She didn’t say anything, and although she wanted to, she didn’t trace the heart with her fingertips. Instead, she went up to the bathroom and sat on the boxed, pre-lit Christmas tree dad bought in the January sales. When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories. That’s not to say it’s always sad – there are happy things, too. When she was a baby Dad had a tattoo of her name drawn on his arm in curly, blue writing, and underneath he had a green, four-leaf clover. She has such a brilliant name, chosen by her mother because it has the word LOVE in the middle. That’s not the sort of thing you go around telling people, but it is something you can remember if you need a little boost; an instant access, happiness top-up card – it even works when Luke Barton calls her Margey-rine. Clover thought of her name and counted to 300.

When she went downstairs Dad had recovered his empty face and she couldn’t help asking a question, just a small one.

‘Is there any more writing under the paper?’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘She didn’t do a heart as well?’

‘Help me with this, will you?’

They pulled the soggy ribbons of paper away from the skirting and put them in a bin bag. The house smelled different afterwards. As if some old sadness had leaked out of the walls.

About the Author

Author Carys Bray, photographed near her home in Southport, Lancashire.

Carys Bray’s debut collection Sweet Home won the Scott prize and selected stories were broadcast on BBC Radio Four Extra. Her first novel A Song for Issy Bradley was serialised on BBC Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime and was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, the Association of Mormon Letters Awards, the Waverton Good Read Award, the 15 Bytes Book Awards and the Desmond Elliott Prize. It won the Utah Book Award and the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was selected for the 2015 Richard and Judy Summer Book Club.

Carys has a BA in Literature from The Open University and an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from Edge Hill University. Her second novel The Museum of You will be published in June 2016. She is working on a third novel.

 

You can follow the rest of The Museum of You blog tour at the dates and blogs below:

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The Girl Who Lied Blog Tour | Guest Post by Sue Fortin

The Girl Who Lied Blog Tour Copy

Today I’m thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin. The novel is published today so I’d like to take the opportunity to wish Sue a very happy publication day and every success with this book!

Sue has written a lovely guest post for my blog all about making something happen in your novel and I’m happy to share that with you all now.

 


 

Make Something Happen in Your Novel

Probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received concerning my writing was to ‘make something happen’.

I was first given this advice by Margaret James, author and tutor at the London School of Journalism where I was completing an on-line Writing Romance course. The process went that I would submit the opening to my romance novel on a monthly chapter by chapter basis. Margaret would read the assignment/chapter and return it each month with her thoughts and observations. I think all in all, we covered about 30k words over the length of the course.

It was at this point when Margaret was summarizing what I had done so far, she said that it was all very nice and the tension was building but not much had actually happened. Margaret is very polite but I’m sure that really translated to, it’s a bit boring. And she was right. When I looked at it objectively, nothing much had happened. So, my challenge was to make something happen.

Well, it took four years and the writing of two full length novels in between before I could actually work out what to do. I did go back to the manuscript several times, but I was at a bit of a brick wall as to what to do with it. Maybe, leaving it and gaining more experience was the key to solving this ‘make something happen’ issue. Last year, when I had another look at those 30k words, something suddenly clicked. I had a literary epiphany and knew what I needed to do.

The end result was quite a different story to the one I started with, yet the essence remained. There’s romance in The Girl Who Lied but it also looks at the family unit, secrets and how we might not always do the right thing, but what we do is driven by love.

About the Book

The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin

The truth hurts…

Erin and Roisin were once friends until a fatal accident ruined both their lives. Now, Roisin has discovered a secret—one Erin has kept for over a decade—and she’s determined to make Erin pay for her lies.

Erin wants nothing to do with Roisin. She has a new life in London and no intention of going back home. Yet when her father is mysteriously and critically injured, Erin has no choice but to return and face Roisin—and her past. Erin knows if the secret of what she gave up got out, the consequences could be devastating.

When Roisin suddenly disappears, suspicion soon lands on Erin. She would do anything to protect her family, but just how far is she willing to go when time is running out…?

A must read for fans of CL Taylor and BA Paris.

About the Author

Sue Fortin

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Harper Impulse, Sue Fortin writes romance, mystery and suspense.

Her originally self-published debut novel was awarded the INDIE Brag Medallion and later when published by HarperImpulse was short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award (2014). Sue was also short-listed for the Festival of Romance, New Talent Award (2013). Her second novel, Closing In, reached number one in the Romantic Suspense Kobo chart at the end of 2014. Sue blogs regularly with the on-line writing group The Romaniacs (www.theromaniacs.co.uk).

Lover of cake, Dragonflies and France. Hater of calories, maths and snakes. Sue was born in Hertfordshire but had a nomadic childhood, moving often with her family, before eventually settling in West Sussex.

Sue is married with four children, all of whom patiently give her time to write but, when not behind the keyboard, she likes to spend her time with them, enjoying both the coast and the South Downs, between which they are nestled.

Sue is represented by Kate Nash Literary Agency.

You can catch up with Sue at

Facebook Sue Fortin Author

Twitter @suefortin1

Website & Blog www.suefortin.com

HarperImpulse Author Page

Amazon Author Page

Blog Tour | Review: The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

 

trachery of trains tour

Today I’m on the blog tour for Sylvia Ashby’s brilliant novel, The Treachery of Trains and am sharing my review.

Sky has made an abominable mistake at work. Something so awful she doesn’t dare stay in the HR office of XIM Technics for fear of being lynched by her colleagues.

So she gets on a train…

What happens when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year?

Sky Candy is about to find out.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a little while so when I was offered a place on the blog tour I jumped at the chance!

Sky is an ordinary young woman trying to get on as best as she can but life hasn’t been easy. Sky was very close to her mum so when she died Sky’s life began to unravel. Instead of making rational decisions to deal with her mum’s affairs she tries to keep everything as it was. To compound the loss, her best friend who is also her flatmate and work colleague decides to leave all of a sudden and Sky doesn’t really know where she’s gone or why. Sky is left feeling completely alone and lost.

I really liked Sky, I have to admit that I did find some of the things she did a bit over the top but it was all in keeping with her character. She is quick to react to situations but doesn’t always react in a rational way. She seems to be someone who always wants to do her best though and that made her easy for me to identify with. I also felt sorry for her that she was in such a sad place after losing her mum and I was rooting for her to get a happy ending.

The mystery of what happened to Vanessa became quite central to the plot and that kept me turning the pages as I wanted to know what had made her leave so suddenly. I was never sure of her character from the way she was described in the early part of the novel, it felt like Sky was seeing her through rose-tinted glasses because she was lonely after her mum died. I couldn’t wait to find out whether my judgment was correct and the novel then became quite the page turner.

There was some funny and light-hearted moments in the novel. I loved when Sky and Diederik were searching for Mouse in the cellar, it made me laugh. The potential romance element with Diederik was gorgeous too, I so wanted things to work out for them.

The title of this book added to my intrigue about where things were going to end up for Sky as I couldn’t see what this book had to do with trains being treacherous (or how trains can even be treacherous), but when I got to the part of the book with the photo of Sky’s mum it all began to make sense. I’d never head of the treachery of an image before but I loved the way it was used and described in this novel. It all then began to make some sense of the title too – the way Sky got the wrong train, a train that wasn’t what it appeared to be, and ended up in a place that she hadn’t mean to go to, that also wasn’t what it seemed to be and yet it ultimately led her to end up where she was destined to be.

I really enjoyed this novel, it was light-hearted but with a real warmth and depth to it – a mix of women’s fiction and mystery, which worked very well together and kept me hooked. I would definitely recommend it. It’s something a bit different and is very easy to get completely engrossed in. I rated it 5 out of 5.

The Treachery of Trains is out now and available to buy from Amazon.

About the Author

Sylvia Ashby

 

Sylvia Ashby‘s first book, Pot Love, is about food and love.
Her second, The Treachery of Trains, is about finding love in unlikely places.
She lives in Belgium with her family.

You can connect with Sylvia via twitter at: @bysylvia_a

 


 

The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby