Everything Happens For A Reason by Katie Allen | @OrendaBooks @KtAllenWriting

About the Book

Armed with one broken heart and a (borrowed) sausage dog, Rachel is on a mission to find out why her baby was born sleeping.

Because Everything Happens for a Reason…

Doesn’t it?

Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss.

When a misguided well-wisher tells her that ‘everything happens for a reason’, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she’s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son.

Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results…

Both a heart-wrenching portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reason is a bittersweet, life-affirming read and, quite simply, unforgettable.

My Thoughts

Everything Happens for a Reason follows Rachel as she tries to make sense of the loss of her baby. The novel takes the form of emails that she writes to an initially unnamed person. This was sparked by someone saying to her that everything happens for a reason and Rachel fixates on wanting to know what the reason was. She remembers that on the day she found out she was pregnant that she saved a man who was about to jump in front of a train and she decides to find him and see if he is the reason.

I knew I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it but I will admit that I was apprehensive about the subject matter – baby loss is not an easy subject to read about but this book is so beautifully written. Katie Allen writes with such honesty and sensitivity, she deftly balances humour and heartbreak. I’m so glad I picked this book up.

Rachel’s baby was stillborn and she is now understandably lost. She is on maternity leave but she has no baby. Her decision to search for the man whose life she saved gives her some purpose and fills her time. In the process of finding him she meets some other people who become so important in her life and I loved seeing their relationship build, it really was so lovely to read. I also enjoyed reading about the time Rachel spends with Ben, the man from the train, as she goes on his regular dog walks with him.

Nothing fully fills Rachel’s days as all she wants is her baby. She and her husband aren’t able to connect and communicate how they’re feeling to each other. There are times when it’s so apparent how much they still love each other but they can’t seem to find a way to show it. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing a baby, I have suffered a miscarriage at 12 weeks and I know that is in no way the same thing although it was incredible painful as it turned out to be my only ever chance of being a mum. I know how it feels to lose loved ones and how it rips your life apart and you are never the same afterwards. Katie Allen captures the feeling of being lost, of being unable to communicate your pain and grief to others, and of feeling so alone in such a heartrending way. I felt heartbroken for Rachel as I read her story.

There are lighter moments throughout this novel which balance Rachel’s pain. I loved reading about the dogs she gets to know through Ben’s work – they all felt so real to me and now I want a pet dog! Also the bonds that form between some of the people Rachel meets are really lovely – Lola and her fabulous daughter. The friendships are gorgeous and life-affirming.

I was curious how this novel would end and was hoping Rachel would find some peace and happiness again that would be long-lasting. I loved the way she found reasons to live and ways to enjoy life, even when she wasn’t looking to find this. Healing can take many forms and often comes from the things we least expect it to.

Everything Happens for a Reason is such a beautiful and moving novel, one that really resonated with me. I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.About the Author

About the Author

Everything Happens for a Reason is Katie’s first novel. She used to be a journalist and columnist at the Guardian and Observer, and started her career as a Reuters correspondent in Berlin and London. The events in Everything Happens for a Reason are fiction, but the premise is loosely autobiographical. Katie’s son, Finn, was stillborn in 2010, and her character’s experience of grief and being on maternity leave without a baby is based on her own. And yes, someone did say to her ‘Everything happens for a reason’.

Katie grew up in Warwickshire and now lives in South London with her husband, children, dog, cat and stick insects. When she’s not writing or walking children and dogs, Katie loves baking, playing the piano, reading news and wishing she had written other people’s brilliant novels.

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

Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness by Allison Alexander | @allisonexander

About the Book

Superheroes aren’t sick. 

They certainly don’t have chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, or diarrhea. After all, spandex suits and sudden bowel movements don’t mix. Do they? 

With raw sincerity and tongue-in-cheek humour, Alexander holds nothing back while discussing how to navigate doctors, dating, sex, friendships, faith, and embarrassing symptoms. Part memoir, part research, part pop culture analysis, Super Sick offers a friendly hand to anyone with chronic illness, a reminder that they aren’t alone and have much to offer the world.

With a new foreword, updated information, and bonus materials, this is a must-read for anyone who has—or knows someone who has—a chronic illness.

My Thoughts

Super Sick is a non-fiction book by chronic illness sufferer Allison Alexander. As soon as I heard about this book I knew I had to read it as I love the idea of a book about chronic illness being told through the lens of superheroes. I’m so glad I read this book because it really is excellent.

Each chapter starts with the story of a different hero and then that leads Allison to relate this to her own experiences of chronic illness. There is a real honesty in this book, Allison doesn’t hold back on what her life is like at times and how her illness affects her, but there is also a lot of humour and positivity. The balance is incredibly well done.

I suffer from chronic illness and pain, and I’m disabled so I was intrigued by this book and I found myself nodding my head in solidarity with Allison for some of her horrible experiences that I have also been through. I also found myself smiling wryly, also in solidarity, for the humour you have to find in the awkward experiences and also in the dealing with people who say the most inappropriate things. Like Allison, I have had to smile sweetly of often when someone suggests a new miracle cure (like they think I haven’t tried everything there is to try).

I love the way Allison explores the different issues that come up when a person is chronically ill. From the relief of diagnosis but then the comedown when you realise you can’t be easily fixed (if at all) and then have to find a way to live with what’s happened. In one chapter she looks at the three types of suffering as seen in buddhism and this was fascinating, it really spoke to how I am and made me think. She also explores the way women are so often dismissed when it comes to pain, and how we’re often expected to put up with more – this is also my experience. There is so much relief that comes when someone believes you but so much distress when you’re not taken seriously.

I highlighted quite a few passages as I was reading this book but my favourite is this one:

‘Suffering people can find meaning in life just the same. We lose again and again. And again. Forever. But we still choose to fight. If I consider myself this way, I am a superhero instead of a character relegated to the sidelines, even if I don’t feel very mighty.’

This is a brilliant book if you have a chronic illness yourself or if you have someone in your life who has. It’s also an excellent, informative book for everyone to read – it’s accessible and easy to read and it really gives a great insight into what it is like to live with a chronic illness. I highly recommend this book!

This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech | @OrendaBooks @LouiseWriter @RandomTTours

About the Book

When the mother of an autistic young man hires a call girl to make him happy, three lives collide in unexpected and moving ways … changing everything. A devastatingly beautiful, rich and thought-provoking novel that will warm your heart.

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely. Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.

Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.

When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.

A topical and moving drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family … to survive … This Is How We Are Human is a searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with a emotional core that will warm and break your heart.

My Thoughts

This is How We Are Human was one of my most highly anticipated books of this year and I’m so happy to say that I completely and utterly adored it!

Sebastian is twenty years, six months and two days old, he’s autistic and he just wants to meet a woman and have sex. His mum Veronica is struggling with how best to support him, she just wants him to be happy and accepted. Violetta is an escort who is only doing this work to pay for her nursing degree and her father’s care.

This book is incredible! Louise Beech has this wonderful ability to put the reader in everyone’s shoes and to allow you to see a situation from all sides – we get to really understand and care about all three of these characters and to want them all to be happy. There is such sensitivity and beauty in this novel and Louise has taken such a delicate subject matter and handled it so deftly.

I really felt for all three characters. I could see how difficult it was for Sebastian, it broke my heart at times reading about his advances towards women and the reactions he got. I could see how great a mum Veronica is and how she just desperately wants to do the right thing for her son. She wants him to meet a nice girl and to be happy in his life but she knows that in the short term at least a sex worker might be the answer. She agonises over the morality of what she’s considering and then one day the answer seems to be right in front of her. Violetta is the character I most felt for, she is in a job that she doesn’t enjoy but she sees it as a means to an end. There is only her and she needs her dad to be properly looked after and his care is specialist and expensive. My heart was in my mouth at times reading about the situations she had to go through when at work and I just felt so sad for her.

This is a very thought-provoking novel, it explores so well the issues around different people’s needs and how best to meet those needs. There is also so much love and care and compassion running right through this novel, it’s such a moving story but it’s also funny and real and gives you hope.

The storytelling in this book is so beautiful and delicate. I loved seeing Violetta and Sebastian’s connection and how they built a friendship, I adored how Violetta did her best to show the real her and to not let this just be a transaction.

This Is How We Are Human is one of the most stunning books I’ve ever read – very real and heartbreaking at times but it’s funny and heartwarming and more than anything it is full of love. It’s such a beautiful novel that really does explore how we are human. I miss Sebastian, Veronica and Violetta so much, I keep thinking about them and wondering how they are. They are so real to me and I already want to go back and revisit their story all over again! This will, without doubt, be in my top books of 2021 and I highly, highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

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

One Last Time by Helga Flatland | @OrendaBooks

About the Book

Anne’s life is rushing to an unexpected and untimely end. But her diagnosis of terminal cancer isn’t just a shock for her – and for her daughter Sigrid and granddaughter Mia – it shines a spotlight onto their fractured and uncomfortable relationships.

On a spur-of-the moment trip to France the three generations of women reveal harboured secrets, long-held frustrations and suppressed desires, and learn humbling and heartwarming lessons about how life should be lived when death is so close.

With all of Helga Flatland’s trademark humour, razor-sharp wit and deep empathy, One Last Time examines the great dramas that can be found in ordinary lives, asks the questions that matter to us all – and ultimately celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, in an exquisite, enchantingly beautiful novel that us to treasure and rethink … everything.

My Thoughts

Two years ago I read and reviewed A Modern Family by Helga Flatland and found a writer whose words resonated with me in such a powerful way. I knew I had to read anything of hers that I could so as soon as I heard about her new book One Last Time I immediately signed up for the blog tour and have been eagerly anticipating getting lost in Flatland’s writing all over again.

One Last Time is about three generations of women in a family told from the perspective of two of them. Anne is the matriarch who has struggled in her own life after her husband’s stroke at a young age. She wasn’t a perfect mother and her daughter Sigrid seems unable to move on from the perceived slights in her childhood. Mia is Sigrid’s daughter and while we don’t hear from her directly we see a lot of her in the novel. One Last Time opens with Anne being diagnosed with cancer and the fallout from that.

I adore the way Flatland captures the reality of family dynamics and the way she explores the fragility of memories. It’s heartbreaking at times how Sigrid reminds her mother of something not done in her childhood but then we see Anne’s viewpoint later on and realise what Sigrid doesn’t. We see behaviours echoing through the generations as Mia mirrors both Anne and Sigrid but neither sees themselves in her actions.

I did wonder if this book might be too hard for me to read as I lost my own mum to cancer a few years ago but actually Flatland has this remarkable ability to write about such a devastating topic but find a balance between the light and dark.

I found it hard to connect with Sigrid at times, she seems very detached and aloof but there are moments when you see her pain and heartbreak and your heart breaks with her. She clearly loves her mother but she wants an apology for her childhood, and yet she can’t articulate this. I remember the immediate aftermath of my mum’s terminal diagnosis and I had so much I wanted to say but it all got stuck in my throat and it was choking me. It seems like Sigrid feels a lot of that through the novel.

It was fascinating seeing Anne through Sigrid’s eyes and then hearing Anne’s perspectives but also seeing what Sigrid is like as a mother. It captures the reality of life so movingly – the way we can only see things from our own point of view and it’s near impossible to really get a sense of how it was for someone else, how hard it might have been for them. I found this aspect of the novel so poignant, and so relatable.

This is a novel that made me cry quite a few times. Flatland has captured so beautifully how women in a family relate to each other and what it is like to have the bottom fall out of your world when you learn you mother is dying. The novel is never depressing, never overwhelming – it’s just a beautiful, tender exploration of the grief that comes with approaching loss. I have to commend the translator Rosie Hedger too as this book never feels like a work in translation, it’s incredible!

One Last Time is my favourite novel of 2021 so far, I know it will be a novel that stays with me for a very long time to come. I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

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

Broken by R.V. Biggs

About the Book

Scarred by a tragic past, eleven year old Jamie Walker chooses not to speak.

Consumed with jealous rage, Jimmy Gillespie is driven to violence.

And John Macintyre awakens from a vivid nightmare convinced he is going to kill.

Living high upon the Scottish hills, John and Sarah Macintyre enjoy a serene life until a televised news bulletin sends them on a desperate search for a missing child.

After finding the child and returning him safely to his parents, the Macintyres are approached by the local press, attracting both unexpected and unwanted attention.

But the aftermath of the media coverage changes the course of their lives forever, and events are set in motion that are joyful, heart breaking – and terrifying.

My Thoughts

I read and adored the first two books in this series (Song of the Robin and Reunion) and always hoped there would be a third novel so I was thrilled to discover book three – Broken and I’m so happy to say that I loved this one too.

Broken starts a while after Reunion ended and you get to catch up with Sarah, John and Claire. They are living in Scotland now and are making a life for themselves there after all the shocks and discoveries in the previous novel. I was so pleased to see this family settled and happy but life soon has plans for them.

Early in Broken a local child goes missing – a boy from Claire’s class at school. Claire senses where he might be and the family go looking for him. This leads to a lot of media attention, which inevitably brings bad news to the family’s door. A man who believes he has a claim on the family home turns up and he’s determined to take what he thinks is rightfully his!

Alongside this the Mcintyres are given the opportunity to help two traumatised children who need help and a loving home. Joseph and Jamie are great characters and I loved reading about them and how they began to settle in. It was especially interesting to read about Jamie and how Claire seemed to have an instant connection with him. I found this so intriguing and wondered if Jamie perhaps had some kind of gift himself that she could sense.

There is a lot more exploration of fate and destiny in this novel, as with the previous books, but this time we, along with John, Sarah and Claire themselves, learn more about how they tap into each other’s spiritual powers and connections and how these can be used. I found all of this fascinating and loved reading these parts of the novel. I think we all have a deeper connection with the people closest to us but John and Sarah have an even deeper connection that allows them to sense each other’s auras and to tap into this to know what is going on.

I’m always drawn to books that look at fate and destiny as it’s something I never really thought about or believed in but then the way I met my husband so soon after losing my mum has led so many people to say to me that they believe she sent him to me. It’s a lovely way to think and I do find it a comforting thought.

Broken felt a much faster paced novel than the previous two and has thriller elements alongside spirituality but it’s very much grounded in the real world in the present day. It still has a main focus of the Macintyre family and the way they are learning to live with their gifts and abilities. I read most of the book in one sitting as it’s such a page turner and I so badly wanted to know if the Mcintyres were all going to be okay in the end.

As always with R. V. Biggs’ writing, I felt such a strong connection to these characters and I feel sad to have finished the book and to have left them behind. I keep thinking of them and wondering how they are, which is always a sign of how much I connected to a book.

I think Broken could be read as a standalone but to get the most out of this beautiful, moving story you need to start with Song of the Robin. The series as a whole explores grief and loss, healing and recovery, and the way you can find a way through the darkest of times. There is magic running through the three novels that gave me such solace and I am so grateful to have discovered them and had the chance to read them. I adore these books! Broken is a brilliant addition to a stunning series and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

About the Author

R V Biggs lives in a small ex-mining village near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife Julie, and Mags the black lab. He has four grown up children and six grandchildren.

Walking with the dog is a favorite pastime and much of the story line for his first novel was developed during these lengthy outings.

Robert worked for 35 years in telecommunications but changed career paths to a managerial supporting role within a local Mental Health NHS trust. It was during the period between these roles that the concept for Song of the Robin was born.

Robert is a firm believer that destiny and co-incidence exist hand in hand and this conviction extends to his writing. He has a passion for holistic well-being and after first-hand experience of the potential healing powers of Reiki, a form of energy therapy, took a Reiki level 1 training course to heighten his spiritual awareness. Robert’s experiences in these areas helped conceive the ideas that led to Song of the Robin and its sequel Reunion, novels with central themes of fate, love and the strength of family. His writing however is not fantasy but is set in modern times involving real people living real lives.

Mini Book Reviews: One of Them | This Party’s Dead | Perimenopause Power | West of Jim Crow #NonFiction

Today I have another selection of mini reviews to share. This time it’s four non-fiction books that I got through NetGalley. I found them all really interesting and have learnt a lot from them.

West of Jim Crow by Lynn M. Hudson

This is an incredibly eye-opening book that explores the effect of the Jim Crow laws across California predominantly in the early part of the twentieth century. It’s an academic book but still very readable. I’m so glad I picked it up and I learnt a lot from it. I know racism happens everywhere but I ignorantly believed that the worst race atrocities historically were in the southern states of America and had no real idea of what had happened in California. I found it hard to read at times, especially as a lot of my family lived in California for a long time and never have any of them talked about these issues and the idea they were blind to it is hard to rationalise. The book is set out in sections, each covering a different issue. There are the issues with segregation in schools and the local swimming pool; lynching; the Ku Klux Klan; and what happened in the town of Allenworth where black people tried to make a life for themselves. It’s also hard to read how laws that existed still didn’t offer any attempt at equality because the white people in power continued to act and interpret the law in the way they always had done. This is a book to read slowly, to really take in what you’re reading. It’s a book that I will be thinking about for a long time to come and I highly recommend it.

Perimenopause Power by Maisie Hill

I’ve been wanting to pick this book up for a while as I’m of an age where I need a better understanding of perimenopause. I’m glad I finally got around to it. The book is set out in distinct chapters which allows the reader to go straight to the section that they need information about and can go back and forth through the book. I read it from cover to cover as I wanted to see what the book was about overall but I think I would benefit from going back to certain chapters as and when I need more information. On the whole this book gave me a reasonable overview of what to expect but I felt there was a lot that I would ignore in here. There were parts that didn’t feel very grounded in science and so were a bit wishy washy and that’s not what I want in guidance, and some section felt overly long and not hugely relevant. Having said that, the sections on HRT and the different forms it comes in was very interesting. Also the advice to push with medical professionals if you don’t feel you’re being heard. I’m glad I read this one and I will refer back to some of it as and when the time comes.

This Party’s Dead by Erica Buist

This book grabbed my attention as soon as I saw the cover and the title and I’m so glad I picked it up. The author found herself unable to cope after the sudden death of her father-in-law to be; she didn’t feel she had a right to be in the depths of grief and yet couldn’t shake it off. In the end she decides to go to seven death festivals around the world to experience how other cultures deal with death to see if the way we deal (or don’t really deal) with death in Britain is hampering our ability to grieve. I found this book fascinating; I learnt so much about other cultures and it really made me think about the way we shut down talk of death in this country. I could identify with a lot of how Erica felt as I have similar fears but since my mum died I feel it’s much more important to talk openly about our wishes and what we want to happen when we’re gone. I enjoyed seeing Erica’s personal journey as she learnt new things on her travels and how she embraced all her new experiences even when they made her feel uncomfortable. This is a book that I would recommend to everyone. It’s hard to read at times but the mostly it’s inspiring and hopeful and it’s a chance to explore your own feelings around death.

One of Them by Musa Okwonga

One of Them is a fascinating memoir about what it was like as a young working class black boy to go to Eton. Okwonga is a brilliant writer and this book is so readable. It’s a very powerful book that explores racism and privilege but it’s also a personal memoir. I loved reading about what it took to get into Eton and what it was like to study there. Mostly this book was a very insightful look at race in Britain and what it feels like to be black and british. The author is a similar age to me and so it was shocking at times to read about how different his life was to mine just based on the colour of his skin. The fear he has at certain points in his life of people who he knows are looking at him as a young black man was palpable, and the way he was profiled by the police was shocking to read about. This is a book that will make you think but it’s so readable. I definitely want to read more writing by Musa Okwonga and will be going to look up his other books as soon as I’ve finished writing this post. I highly recommend this book, it’s one that I think everyone should read.

The Silent Friend by Diane Jeffrey | @dianefjeffrey @HQStories

About the Book

Tragedy brought them together. The truth will tear them apart.

It’s supposed to be Laura’s dream holiday: a trip to France with a group of friends to see their favourite band play live. But the holiday quickly turns to disaster, and Laura is left haunted by terrifying images from the worst night of her life.

When Laura finds an online support group for victims like her, she’s not convinced it will help. But then Sandrine replies to her message, and she seems to understand what Laura’s going through, in a way that no one else can.

Soon, Laura and Sandrine are sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings with each other. But one of them has a terrible secret – she isn’t who she says she is. And once the twisted truth is revealed, there’s no going back… 

My Thoughts

I’ve previously read The Guilty Mother by Diane Jeffrey and I loved it so I was highly anticipating reading her new one The Silent Friend and I’m so pleased to say that it lived up to all of my hopes for it!

I have to start by saying that this is one of those novels where it’s best to know no more than what it says in the synopsis. It does mean that as you get into the book and discover what it’s about it comes as something of a shock but it adds to the reading experience. My review will be vague so as not to spoil anything.

The novel follows two characters – Laura and Sandy – in alternating chapters; it also goes back and forth in time a little as the story builds. The novel opens with Laura struggling to come to terms with something that happened when she was on a holiday with a group of her friends. I really felt for Laura as while I haven’t experienced what she has been through I have suffered with similar feelings and emotions. Sandy has also had something terrible happen in her family and she decides to set up an online support group to try and help others who have been through similar. This is how she and Laura meet.

I felt sorry for both women, they had been through a lot and were struggling to figure out how to move on with their lives. We soon find out that one of them is not being honest about who she is though and this is where the tension really begins to heighten in the novel.

This novel has twists and turns, some I suspected were coming and others genuinely shocked me. It’s a domestic suspense novel that has thriller elements and it really keeps you on your toes. I had no idea what was coming and as I was reading it, my stomach was in a knot. The writing brings the drama to life in such a visceral way that it made me feel like I was right there along with the characters. It was hard to read at times but the writing is sensitive and that’s what made me keep turning the pages.

This is one of those books where I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. It’s not an easy read at times, and there were moments where I put the book down for a brief period before continuing but ultimately this is a really compelling read and a book that you just have to keep reading. I wanted to know how it was all going to end, I wanted to know where the characters were going to end up.

The Silent Friend is a very powerful novel that will take your breath away at times. It’s a book that will make you think and it’s one that will really stay with you. I recommend it!

Mini Book Reviews: Hungry | Space Hopper | The Weekend | Five Hundred Miles From You

Today I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews of books that I’ve read and enjoyed recently!

Hungry

I completely and utterly adored this book! Hungry is Grace Dent’s memoir and in it she details her life through with real emphasis on food. I’m just a little bit younger than Dent so a lot of her food memories are very similar to mine – the thrill of a Sara Lee Gateau as a very special treat is one such memory. I loved reading about her childhood in Carlisle, a place I know well, and her love for her family. There is so much love that shines out of these pages. Anyone who grew up in the north in the 70s and 80s will identify with this book so much. As Dent gets a little older and starts to move away from her family and to build a career for herself we see how she got into being a food critic and this was every bit as interesting as her childhood. There is sadness and worry along the way too as her dad starts to show signs of dementia and her mum suffers with ill health too but the way Dent and her siblings rally around was wonderful to read about. I can’t put into words just how much I loved this book, I enjoyed every single bit of it and I would recommend it to everyone. This will definitely be one of my top books of 2021, I’m certain of it!

The Weekend

This novel follows three older women who are returning to their friend Sylvie’s home to clear it out after her death. The four women had been friends for many years but there are secrets being kept and also the difficulties of how they’ve all changed over the years that all have to be dealt with over the course of one weekend. Jude is very self-controlled and likes everything to be just so. Wendy is more eccentric and goes with the flow so when she turns up with her elderly, incontinent dog Jude is horrified. Adele is an out of work actress who is on the brink of being homeless and can’t bring herself to tell her oldest friends of her latest plight. I loved the writing in this novel; it’s the first I’ve read by Charlotte Wood and it won’t be the last. I found it hard to warm to any of the characters at first but as the novel goes on and we see the vulnerabilities of the women I couldn’t help but feel sadness at what life had thrown at them. This is a melancholy, reflective novel but it still left me feeling hopeful. I enjoyed this novel and I recommend it!

Space Hopper

This novel follows Faye who is happily married with children but she still misses her mum who died when she was 8. One day she finds her old Space Hopper box in the attic and it transports her back to the 70s in the year or so before her mother died! There is so much I loved about this novel. I really connected with how much Faye was desperate to travel back to her mother as she missed her so much. I think anyone who has lost their parent would find it hard to resist having one more day with them, even when you realise you might sacrifice things in the present. I loved seeing Faye connect with her mum and getting to know her as an adult. It’s a novel where the time travel element doesn’t really make sense, even within the story, so I definitely had to suspend my disbelief but I was so invested in Faye and her desire to have more time with her mum that I was happy to do that. This novel was so soothing to me in the week when it should have been my mum’s 70th birthday and I’m so glad that I picked it up when I did. I recommend it.

Five Hundred Miles From You

This novel follows Lissa and Corman. Lissa lives in London and loves her job as a community nurse but when one day she witnesses a traumatic incident she struggles to cope and is offered a three-month job swap with Cormac. He lives in a remote Scottish village and loves his life as a nurse there. Over time Lissa and Cormac have to swap notes about patients and a bond starts to form. I loved reading about how each of them had to find their feet in a completely new place, and it was fun seeing their friends too and how they coped with the swap. I didn’t enjoy this as much as previous novels by the author but it was still a really fun read and I’m glad I read it. This book is the third in a series but can definitely be read a standalone. An enjoyable summer read!

#BookReview: Bound Vanda Symon | @VandaSymon @OrendaBooks #Bound #SamShephard

About the Book

The passionate, young police officer Sam Shephard returns in
a taut, atmospheric and compelling police procedural, which sees her take matters into her own hands when the official investigation into the murder of a local businessman fails to add up…

The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Vanda Symon’s writing so knew I was going to love this book and I was absolutely right! Bound is the fourth book in the Sam Shephard series and the books just keep getting better and better!

Bound opens with a shocking prologue – a home invasion where a man has been shot dead and his wife is tied up and seriously injured. The novel then follows Sam as she tries to figure out what on earth has led to this seemingly respectable businessman being killed in his own home.

I love Sam Shephard, she’s my favourite fictional detective and I adore following her as she solves crimes. In this novel we see some more of her personal life too, which I appreciated. She is much more vulnerable through parts of this novel and I found what she was going through very moving to read. Sam is good at putting on her work face though and whilst dealing with the things in her private life she continues to be focused on her job and solving this murder.

I had my suspicions about whodunnit and why but I was so wrong! I love when a crime novel wrong-foots me as it so rarely happens but this one got me and the ending was genuinely a shock to me. I’m already so keen to read book five in this series and see what happens next for Sam!

Bound is a brilliant crime novel and one that I keep finding myself thinking about. I highly recommend it (and the rest of the series if you haven’t already read the previous books)!

I received an ecopy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and has also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen

About the Book

Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago.Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Louise Jensen’s writing so a new book from her is always exciting. I was so thrilled to get my hands on her new novel The Stolen Sisters and am really happy to say that it more than lived up to my very high hopes for it.

The novel starts twenty years ago with three sisters who are taken right outside their own home. It follows older sister Carly in the past, and one of the twins Leah in the present in alternating chapters. Gradually we learn what happened when they were taken and how they are all still affected by it in the present day.

I loved the back and forth in time but wondered how suspenseful a novel could be when we already know the girls all survived. Louise Jensen is a master of this kind of novel though and there is so much tension and so much to still be revealed.

I have to praise Louise for her sensitive and accurate portrayal of OCD through this novel. I suffer from this too and it manifests in similar ways to the character in the book so I really appreciated the way it was written about. I was rooting for all three of the sisters to find a way to move on from what happened to them, but especially for Leah to overcome her OCD.

I found this novel so compelling and gripping, it was a book that I found hard to put down and given the reading slump I keep finding myself in it was going to take an excellent book to hold my attention and this is that book! I highly recommend this one!

Many thanks to Louise Jensen and HQ for my e-copy of this book and my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Stolen Sisters is due to be published on 1 October in ebook and paperback and is available to pre-order here.

A Year of Living Simply by Kate Humble | @RandomTTours

About the Book

If there is one thing that most of us aspire to, it is, simply, to be happy. And yet attaining happiness has become, it appears, anything but simple. Having stuff – The Latest, The Newest, The Best Yet – is all too often peddled as the sure fire route to happiness. So why then, in our consumer-driven society, is depression, stress and anxiety ever more common, affecting every strata of society and every age, even, worryingly, the very young? Why is it, when we have so much, that many of us still feel we are missing something and the rush of pleasure when we buy something new turns so quickly into a feeling of emptiness, or purposelessness, or guilt?

So what is the route to real, deep, long lasting happiness? Could it be that our lives have just become overly crowded, that we’ve lost sight of the things – the simple things – that give a sense of achievement, a feeling of joy or excitement? That make us happy. Do we need to take a step back, reprioritise? Do we need to make our lives more simple? 

Kate Humble’s fresh and frank exploration of a stripped-back approach to life is uplifting, engaging and inspiring – and will help us all find balance and happiness every day.

My Thoughts

A Year of Living Simply opens with Kate writing about the bereavements that she suffered quite close together and the realisation that she just need to re-connect with nature and to live a much simpler life. We follow her over a year as she meets with various people who are all living more simply and she takes inspiration and ideas from all of them.

I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the title as it just feels with all the anxiety around world events at the moment that making life as simple as it can be is the way to go. A Year of Living Simply was written before the pandemic so isn’t about that but so much of what Kate writes about could be written about what a lot of us have learnt in recent months, about the things that really matter to us.

I knew I was going to love this book when I realised that what set Kate off on her journey was the loss of her father. I immediately identified with the urge to make changes in your life when you lost a parent, I was the same when my mum died. Kate starts by attempting to declutter cupboards in her house and I loved reading about that. As you may know I finally decluttered my house a couple of years ago and it has changed my life, it’s so much easier when you have less stuff.

Through the book Kate meets with people who build and live in self-sustaining eco homes, which was fascinating. The homes sound so beautiful and I could really imagine what they must be like to live in. She also meets a woman who set up a cafe that combines grabbing a coffee with having household items repaired, or being taught to repair your own belongings. This really was interesting and I wish there were more of these cafes around the country (and the world). I hate how much we throw away simply because we don’t know how to repair things or because it’s cheaper to buy a new one.

I loved reading about Kate’s attempts to start her own vegetable garden. I really appreciated that she shared her failures as well as successes, it made this book very down to earth. I have only attempted to grow vegetables once and it was a disaster as I had no real idea what I was doing. Kate has made me see that with a bit of research and persistence that I could get there if I tried again.

The book is written in such a way that feels so inclusive – it’s one woman’s journey to discover a simpler life but she absolutely brings you along with her. I loved that about it – Kate’s writing is really lovely.

A Year of Living Simply is a gorgeous book. It’s both soothing to read and also a book that will inspire you to think about how to make your own life simpler and to focus on the things that really matter to you. This book is perfect for anyone and I will definitely be buying copies for Christmas gifts this year! I highly recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and to Anne Cater for my blog tour invitation.

A Year of Living Simply is out now and available here.

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

About the Book

On the longest day of the summer, twelve people sit cooped up with their families in a faded Scottish cabin park. The endless rain leaves them with little to do but watch the other residents.

A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a retired couple reminisce about neighbours long since moved on; a teenage boy braves the dark waters of the loch in his red kayak. Each person is wrapped in their own cares but increasingly alert to the makeshift community around them. One particular family, a mother and daughter without the right clothes or the right manners, starts to draw the attention of the others. Tensions rise and all watch on, unaware of the tragedy that lies ahead as night finally falls.

My Thoughts

I love Sarah Moss’ writing so I was delighted to get my hands on a copy of Summerwater and I can honestly say that I adored it!

Summerwater is set during the longest day of the year at a very rainy summer in a holiday cabin park in Scotland. Each chapter is told from the perspective of the people staying in one of the cabins so we get there own experiences and their views on everyone else. Then the story moves along and eventually we meet almost all the people in the cabins and see how their holidays are going. There is a real sense of building tension through this novel as it works towards it’s shocking conclusion.

This book is brilliant. I loved meeting a person in each of the cabins, it felt like I was right there with them and watching their neighbours on this wet, miserable holiday. We follow a young mum who just wants a few minutes to relax but when her husband takes the children out for an hour she doesn’t know what to do with the time. We meet a young couple who are meant to be having a romantic getaway but the boy is obsessed with working on their simultaneous orgasms and the girl who loves him dearly but is thinking about how she’d just quite like to fry some bacon. There is the family with a teenage daughter who wants to get out and meet up with a man she’s getting to know who’s camping nearby. Also we meet an older couple, the husband likes to walk on holidays but the wife is struggling. We see things through each of their eyes in two different chapters and I found their story really moving. Alongside them is a family we don’t get to meet, they are Ukranian and everyone who watches them seems to be suspicious of them. They play loud music every night and people on the holiday park are judging their every move. The tension slowly builds in the background of everyone else’s story as they each have an existing judgement about this family that they allow to be compounded by the loud music.

I loved the way the author shows us the public side of the holidaymakers but then we get to see their inside selves, how they behave with their family and the glimpses into their secret selves; the things you’d never say but you think.

There are moments in this book where I was holding my breath as various holiday makers have near misses – accidents that could have had a different outcome, childish pranks that felt sinister and dark. The ending when it comes though is still stark and shocking. The reactions of the people around was fascinating and it leaves you thinking about how you would do in that situation.

This is a claustrophobic novella; we all know what it is to be on holiday when the weather is horrendous and there’s nothing to do. I love the way it broadly explores the perspectives of all age groups, it evokes memories we likely all have of this holiday experience.

This is an incredible novella; I finished it a few weeks ago now and I still keep thinking about it. I think it might be one of my favourite books of the year so far. I loved it and I highly recommend it!

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

Summerwater is due to be published on 20th August and can be pre-ordered here.

The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke | @RandomTTours

About the Book

Arie and Diana were destined to be together.

Arie falls for Diana in a heartbeat. Their love creates a life for them, a marriage and a home. Pianist Diana wants to capture this in a song for Arie.

But that’s not where the story ends…

After Diana debuts their song to a room full of strangers, tragedy strikes and Arie never gets to hear it. 

There’s still a verse to come. 

Diana’s melody lives beyond her and the lost love song begins to find its way back home. Can it help Arie to find new hope, and a new love?

My Thoughts

I wanted to read The Lost Love Song as soon as I first heard about it as I love novels that have a music theme running through them. I’m so happy that I got a copy because this book is stunning!

The Lost Love Song follows Diana and Arie, who have been happy together for a few years now but their ability to communicate has crumbled a little. One night Diana, a world-renowned concert pianist, begins to compose a song that will tell Arie all of her feelings and emotions. This is the night before a new tour and she takes her composition book with her to finish the song on her travels. One night as Diana is finishing her song a stranger overhears her playing and is mesmerised. The next morning he finds Diana has left her book on top of the piano and as it has her address in he takes it with him intending to post it home. The novel then follows a cast of characters as this song begins its journey around the world.

The song that Diana composed is woven right through this novel as it travels from one place to another by various means and I was spellbound by it. It all felt so believable and plausible that so many people could hear this music and be so moved by it that it affected their lives from that moment on.

I think my favourite character in this novel was Evie. She’s a poet who has been travelling in the UK trying to make ends meet with various jobs, she has a sort of boyfriend who doesn’t appreciate her and she’s not happy. On the day the Diana’s love song finds her she’s feeling so despondent and unsure of what to do next, and the beauty of the song and the way it finds her makes her resolve to pack up and go back home to Australia. I love the way she decides to find her own happiness and to work through her grief so that she can try and get her life together.

This novel is such a poignant and, at times, bittersweet story but it’s ultimately a hopeful book. It’s about finding your way through the darkest moments and seeing the light at the other side, it’s about the power of love. It’s also a novel about fate and destiny, the way Diana’s song is carried around the world is so wonderful. I adored how people who heard it tried to keep it, to hold it close and yet the song kept travelling and having an impact new listeners. I know how I feel when I hear one of my late mum’s favourite songs on the radio, it feels like a message from her. This is the beauty of this novel, people are feeling the love emanating from this love song that Diana composed and it’s helping them to look forward to the future again.

This is such a beautiful novel about the power of music, and the way it can help you heal. It’s about letting go in order to find what life has in store for you. The Last Love Song cast a spell over me and I was genuinely emotional when I turned the last page, both for the characters and for the fact that this stunning novel was at an end. It’s taken me a week or two to get this review together because I simply can’t find the words to express just how much this book means to me now. I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Transworld for my ecopy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Lost Love Song is out now and available here.

The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley | @MsAmeliaHenley @HQStories

About the Book

This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.

Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.

Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences.

Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out…

My Thoughts

I’ve read and love all of Louise Jensen’s novels to date so when I heard that her new book was to be a different genre under an alter ego I was so keen to read it. I’m so pleased to say that I completely and utterly adored it!

The Life We Almost Had follows the love story of Anna and Adam. Anna was newly single when she met Adam on her honeymoon! Her fiance had dumped her two weeks before the wedding so she was on honeymoon with her best friend Nell and she absolutely wasn’t looking for a holiday romance. However, she soon meets Adam and he is everything her fiance wasn’t. He’s kind and charming and soon utterly besotted with Anna! I loved reading about the beginnings of their romance, the writing really captures that feeling of getting to know someone who you know it going to be special in your life. The novel moves on to the realities of trying to continue a holiday romance when you get back home and realise you live hours apart from each other. They try to make it work but face some really difficult times over the years.

We know from the beginning of the novel that something has torn these two apart but we don’t know what. I love that as I got absorbed in the early days of their love story that I forgot things were going to go awry and I was so upset for them when it did. The way that Adam and Anna begin to fall apart was so real. We get each of their perspectives and you really can see it from both sides. There were times when I wanted to reach into the pages and sit them down and make them talk honestly to each other. The pain they were each in stopped them being able to talk though and it was so sad to read. I was rooting for them to make it work, to find a way to talk to each other. So when Adam suggests something to Anna I was so sure it was all going to work out.

There is so much more in this novel that I can’t mention here because I wouldn’t want to spoil this book but there is something so beautiful and remarkable in what Amelia Henley does. I wanted it all to be real and possible because it’s breathtaking and incredible.

The Life We Almost Had is a novel that made me cry but it also made me smile; there is so much love running through this book, even when it seems Anna and Adam have got too far apart you can see that the love is still there between them. I adored this book and it’s one that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s a stunning novel and one that I know will stay with me. I highly recommend this one!

The Life We Almost Had is out now and available here.

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

About the Book

It is nearly midnight, and very cold. Yet in this dark place of long grass and tall trees where cats hunt and foxes shriek, a girl is waiting… When Saffyre Maddox was ten something terrible happened and she’s carried the pain of it around with her ever since. The man who she thought was going to heal her didn’t, and now she hides from him, invisible in the shadows, learning his secrets; secrets she could use to blow his safe, cosy world apart. Owen Pick is invisible too. He’s thirty-three years old and he’s never had a girlfriend, he’s never even had a friend. Nobody sees him. Nobody cares about him. But when Saffyre Maddox disappears from opposite his house on Valentine’s night, suddenly the whole world is looking at him. Accusing him. Holding him responsible. Because he’s just the type, isn’t he? A bit creepy?

My Thoughts

I love Lisa Jewell’s writing so was thrilled to be approved to read her forthcoming novel on NetGalley. I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations, it’s my new favourite novel by her!

Invisible Girl follows three characters. Saffyre is a troubled teenager who has had a terrible life so far. She’s been in therapy for quite a long time but feels unable to open up fully in her sessions. Owen is a 33 year old man who lives in a flat with his Aunt. He lives an unhappy life, unable to find love and people are quick to judge him odd and creepy. Cate lives opposite Owen with her husband and two teenagers, and she is increasingly wary of Owen. One night Saffyre goes missing and the last sighting of her was outside Owen’s home.

I loved this novel. It’s a great thriller, it builds quite slowly and the tension as you wonder what is going to happen becomes palpable. It’s brilliant how you have the space to get to know each of the characters and to understand a bit more about why they are the way they are, and then the pacing begins to ramp up.

Cate initially seems very paranoid about quite a few things, and suspicious of her husband. She seems quite a nervous person so when her daughter’s best friend claims to have been assaulted just across from their flat Cate is immediately suspicious of Owen.

As the novel progresses we get to understand why Owen finds it difficult to form relationships with women, and I began to feel sorry for him. We also learn more about Saffyre and it turns out she has a connection to the street where Owen and Cate live!

I love how this novel really makes you think about the snap judgements we make of others: how quickly the media, and people in general, can turn on the person who looks a little odd, the one who keeps to themselves even if there’s no evidence of wrongdoing. I can think of a few prominent real life cases where this has happened and it’s shocking. The novel also made me think about how slow we are to question ourselves about the people in our lives when they may have a motive.

This is a real page-turner of a novel, I read it in a couple of sittings because I was completely gripped and I needed to know how it was all going to turn out for everyone. I felt so invested in some of these character’s lives and I needed to know if they were going to be okay. I loved this book and it’s highly recommended by me!

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Invisible Girl is due to be published on 6th August and can be pre-ordered here.

Weekly Wrap-Up! (4 June)

Weekly Wrap up SQUARE copyrighted

 

This week has been one of those up and down weeks.

My medication changes are going okay, there have been some tough days but not every day has been horrendous so I’m grateful for that.

Sadly, I found out on Friday night that my great aunty has died. She was a lovely lady, and I will miss her. It’s made me doubly sad to think that she was the last member of my mum’s side of the family from a previous generation. It’s hard to think that all the memories she held are gone forever. I find these days that any loss brings back the grief of my mum’s death and it hits me harder for that. It’s left me in a reflective mood. I’m trying to lose myself in books.

This week I’ve finished reading seven books:

Be Awesome by Hadley Freeman

I’ve owned a copy of this book for ages but when I saw it on my audio subscription app I decided to listen to it. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t enjoy it very much. There were some parts that really spoke to me but most of it was just not that great. It wasn’t the book that I was expecting it to be. It was my first book of June so I’m hoping the rest of the month goes better!

How to Survive a Plague by David France

This book is incredible, I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s non-fiction and about the AIDS crisis in the 80s and early 90s. I’ve read other books about it but there was something about this book that really got to me. It made me so angry at how people were treated, at the lack of care from the system and it was made even more sad by the way some of the delays in finding a treatment happened. It’s a very powerful and moving book. I was thinking of reviewing it but I’m not sure that I could in any way do it justice.

After Anna by Alex Lake

This is another pick that has been on my TBR for ages. I found it a fast-paced, quick read but it was predictable. I did work out what had happened straight away so it was a bit disappointing. It’s an alright read though, and I would still read the author’s next book to see how I find it.

How We Met by Katy Regan

This is another pick from my older TBR and I enjoyed it. It’s contemporary fiction but had a bit of depth to it, which I appreciated. It’s not a book that I would be drawn to buying these days but it made a nice change from my usual reads.

I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke

This book is brilliant! It’s a real psychological thriller – it was near impossible to put down and it had me feeling really unnerved. I’ve already reviewed this so you can read more of what I thought of it here if you’d like to. I highly recommend reading this book though – it’s the best psychological thriller I’ve read this year so far!

Wishbones by Virginia McGregor

I spotted this on my audio book app this week and I was in the mood for listening to something a bit lighter. I really enjoyed this middle-grade book and would definitely recommend it.

Letting Go by Alex Hanscombe

This is another audio book that I finished listening to this week. It’s the memoir of Alex Hanscombe, all about how he came to terms with the murder of his mother Rachel Nickell, when he was a young child. It’s a really moving and inspiring book, I recommend it.

This week I’ve blogged six times:

Sunday: Weekly Wrap-Up Post 

Tuesday: My TBR for the #20BooksofSummer challenge

Wednesday: WWW Wednesday Post

Thursday: May Wrap-Up Post

Friday: Review of I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke

Saturday: Stacking the Shelves post

 

This is what I’m currently reading:

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

I’ve finally got around to starting this review book and although it’s not exactly what I thought it was going to be, I am really enjoying it. I’m intrigued to find out how it’s all going to end up.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

This book has been recommended to me so many times so I finally decided to buy a copy this week and I immediately started reading it. It’s a fascinating look at the Chicago World Fair, which I knew a little bit about, and the serial killer H. H. Holmes, who I’d never heard of before. I’ll be reading this book on and off for the next few weeks in between other books.

The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig

This is an engrossing character-driven novel about a couple whose marriage has broken down but they can’t afford to get divorced. It’s a really insightful look at relationships and I’m really enjoying it.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

I bought this book a few months ago on a whim and have since seen good things about it so was keen to start reading it. I’m really enjoying it. It’s a book about a family who are expecting a substantial inheritance but the mother of the family goes against what the adult children thought would happen and now the family are at loggerheads with each other.

Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan

I haven’t read much more of this book this week as it’s a book I wanted to be engrossed in but my mind has needed much easier reads. I definitely want to get back to this as soon as I can though as I’m very much enjoying it.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

I’m back reading this book this week and am gripped! It’s such a good read and so far I’m suspicious of most of the characters and am keen to know how it will all turn out in the end.

 

the-state-of-my-2

Update on my TBR: 

TBR at the start of January 2017: 1885 (see my State of the TBR post)

TBR in last week’s Wrap-Up: 1944

Additions:

Books bought/received for review/gifts: 11

Subtractions:

Books read this week: 7

TBR Books culled this week: 0

Total:

TBR now stands at: 1948

 


 

I’m linking this post up to Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s Sunday Blog Share.  It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.


 

How has your week been? What have you been reading? Please share in the comments below. If you write a wrap-up on your blog please feel free to share the link. 🙂

WWW Wednesday (24 May) What are you reading today?

WWW pic

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading! All you have to do is answer three questions and share a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog.

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

A similar meme is run by Lipsyy Lost and Found where bloggers share This Week in Books #TWiB.

What I’m reading now:

Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan

I picked this book up at the weekend but when I went to mark it as ‘currently reading’ on Goodreads I noticed a reviewer I trust mention that the book contains huge spoilers for the film The Usual Suspects, which I’d never seen. So I put the book down for a couple of days until I had a chance to watch the film (which I loved and am kicking myself for not having watched it before now). I picked the book up again last night and am really enjoying it.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

I pre-ordered this book ages ago so it arrived on my kindle on release day but I’ve been keeping it to read when I could sit and read it in big chunks. I’ve read about a third of this now and am really enjoying it, it’s swirling around in my mind during the time when I’m not reading it and that’s always the sign of a compelling book!

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

This is my latest pick from my pre-2017 TBR and I’m enjoying it. It’s not what I thought it was going to be but it’s holding my attention so I’m keeping on with it.

How to Survive a Plague by David France

I’ve not managed to read any more of this book this week but I hope to read a chunk of it over the weekend. I just feel like it’s a book that I need to read when I can really take it all in so I like to wait until the right time to pick it up.

What I recently finished reading:

Making Space by Sarah Tierney

I read this in two sittings earlier this week and I really enjoyed it. I’m on the blog tour for the book tomorrow and will be sharing my review so look out for that.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I loved this book so much, I feel quite bereft at having finished it. I was sent this for review so I’ll be reviewing this book soon but in the meantime I highly recommend you buying a copy of this, you won’t regret it.

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis

I found this to be such a gripping read, it has an increasing sense of malices the book goes on and I didn’t want to put it down. I’ve already reviewed this book on my blog so you can read that here if you’d like to.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

I adored this book, it’s such a beautiful and moving novel. I reviewed this on my blog last week so you can read my review here if you’d like to know more about my thoughts on it.

Becky by Darren Galsworthy

This is such a moving memoir by the father of Becky Watts, the teenager who was murdered by her step-brother a couple of years ago. It’s such an open and honest book, it’s heartbreaking to read.

What I plan on reading next:

The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig

I was contacted by the publicist for this book to ask if I’d like to read it for the blog tour and I immediately said yes as I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of Amanda’s previous novels. I’m really looking forward to starting this book in the next couple of days.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

I was sent a copy of this book to review a few weeks ago and am really keen to start reading it soon. I’m aiming to get to it over the weekend.

 

What are you reading at the moment? Have you finished any good books recently? Any books you’re looking forward to reading soon? Please feel free to join in with this meme and share your link below, or if you don’t have a blog please share in the comments below.

#BookReview: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo @HQstories @JillSantopolo

the light we lost.png

About the Book

Two people. One choice. What if?

Every love story has a beginning…

11th September 2001. Lucy and Gabe meet in New York on a day that will change their lives – and the world – forever. As the city burns behind them, they kiss for the very first time.

Over the next thirteen years they are torn apart, then brought back together, time and time again. It’s a journey of dreams, of desires, of jealousy, of forgiveness – and above all, love.

And as Lucy is faced with a devastating choice, she wonders whether their love is a matter of destiny or chance.

…what if this is how their story ends?

My Thoughts

The cover of The Light We Lost caught my eye first, and then when I read the synopsis I knew I had to get hold of this book. I was so happy when NetGalley approved me to read it.

The Light We Lost begins with two people, Lucy and Gabe, who meet on 11th September 2001 in New York. They experience that day together just a few miles away from where the twin towers fell, and the instant attraction they had to one another was heightened by being so close to such an horrific event. The book is then told from the viewpoint of Lucy, in short chapters as she looks over her relationship with Gabe, and all the things that have happened in their lives since that day.

‘The air was clear, the sky was blue – and everything had changed. We just didn’t know it yet’.

There is a real sense running through this book of fate and destiny. Lucy and Gabe do get together after a false start and everything in their relationship is passionate, every emotion is heightened and they fall so hard for each other. There was a sense of everything being on fast forward and it made me wonder about the nature of how we meet our partners. The idea that meeting on such a tragic and distressing day could give a real sense of needing to live in the now, of not being able to wait and see.  Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11 so clearly, it’s seared into all of our memories so it’s entirely possible to see the affect it would have on two young people who met on that day, who saw it from their rooftop.

‘There is an element of peace in believing that we’re only players on a stage, acting out stories directed by someone else.’

There was such a sense of yearning running through this book and from very early on it gave me the feeling that something awful was going to happen. The way it is told, with Lucy going back and forth in time in the way she tells her story, gives the feeling that something has already happened and we, the reader, just don’t know what it is yet. This book made me feel so many emotions – it made me feel hopeful and happy, it reminded me of that awful day in 2001, it made me cry, and it made me want to reach out through the pages to give Lucy and Gabe some advice, to make them see what is important in life.

There is so much love between Gabe and Lucy but it’s often so raw, and intense it’s still complicated and messy and not always how they want it to be. The novel explores how we have different relationships with different partners over the years, and there is a real sense of how it must be if you feel that you met the right person for you at the wrong time in your life.

This book is beautifully written, and it’s gorgeous to read. It’s one of those books that you want to read slowly and savour but at the same time you don’t want to be pulled out of this world. I felt such a connection to this novel, and I feel really quite bereft now I’ve finished reading it. I think this is a story that will stay with me, and this is one of those rare books that I’m sure I will re-read in the future.

The Light We Lost is out now!

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

About the Author

jill santopolo credit to charles grantham

Photo Credit: Charles Grantham

Jill Santopolo received a BA in English literature from Columbia University and an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s the author of three successful children’s and young-adult series and works as the editorial director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers group. An adjunct professor in The New School’s MFA program, Jill travels the world to speak about writing and storytelling. She lives in New York City.

(Bio taken from: penguinrandomhouse.com)

#BookReview: How To Be Brave by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks

How to be brave louise beech

About the Book

All the stories died that morning … until we found the one we’d always known.

When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love … and what it really means to be brave.

My Thoughts

This book has been on my TBR for a little while now; it was one of those books that I strongly felt had to be read at the right moment for me. I was so right and I’m really glad that I waited until now to read it. As a lot of you know, I’m going through a lot of medical things and this book brought such a sense of solace to me.

This is such a beautiful novel that explores the relationship between mother and daughter, who are struggling to come to terms with the daughter Rose’s diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Rose’s father is deployed overseas and isn’t allowed to come home to support them so the two are left on this journey to come to terms with their new normal. An old journal of Natalie’s late Grandfather is found by Rose and this becomes the glue that holds the two together. Natalie promises to share her Grandfather’s story with Rose during the times when Rose is having her injections.

I hadn’t expected this novel to immerse me in the worlds of these characters quite so much. I felt the love and the fear and the angst in Natalie and Rose’s relationship. I felt such sadness at how detached they were becoming from each other whilst both still longing for the old connection before everything changed. I felt the pain Natalie was going through at having to keep her daughter well by putting her through the thumb pricks and injections, that Rose was constantly fighting against. It must be awful to know that you have to do it to keep your child alive but to not have any way to make a 9 year old comprehend that her life depends on this being done. I also felt for Rose – she is such a strong-willed girl, who loves books and learning; I was willing her on to find a way to cope with the diabetes.

Alongside this is the story of Natalie’s Grandfather – the writing is incredible because I really did feel like I was in that lifeboat with those men. I could smell the decay, I could feel the horrible dry skin and the swollen, dehydrated mouths as if it were me going through it. It’s inspired writing how his battle for survival mirrored Rose’s with the thirst and the longing for the things you can’t have, and mostly with the coming to terms with what life has thrown at you. The stories are woven together so beautifully, they occasionally intermingle in a magical, and yet somehow always believable, way.

This novel is stunningly beautiful, it’s devastatingly moving at times but will leave you feeling stronger and braver by the end. I recommend this book to everyone – it’s a must-read; it really is one of the best books I’ve read this year and it’s one that I want to re-read in the future.

How to be Brave is published by Orenda Books and is out now.

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 will be released in 2017.

(Bio taken from Louise Beech’s website)

Crime series or Standalone novel? A guest post by Chris Curran #HerTurntoCry

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Chris Curran (author of Mindsight and brand new novel, Her Turn to Cry) to my blog! Chris has written this brilliant post for me all about crime series versus standalone, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

 

When I first started writing crime the received wisdom from publishing professionals was that readers wanted series detectives. So that was what agents and editors were looking for. But as someone who preferred Ruth Rendell’s psychological suspense novels (often written as Barbara Vine) to her Inspector Wexford series and whose favourite Christie was the sinister standalone, Endless Night, it was this kind of book I wanted to write.

Although it was before the Gone Girl phenomenon, Gillian Flynn had already written her first brilliant psychological thriller, Sharp Objects, which went on to win two CWA daggers.  Other wonderful writers of standalone crime, like Laura Wilson, were also having success so I knew there must be a market. In the event I had just completed my first novel, Mindsight, when psychological crime, domestic noir, grip-lit or whatever you choose to call it, became big news.

Crime series are still attracting hordes of readers of course and I love many of them myself. There’s something enormously satisfying about following a detective, professional or amateur, through a series of books. In effect you get two stories for the price of one: the immediate crime the sleuth is tasked with solving and the ongoing saga of their own, usually complex and often troubled, life.

Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody, CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake, Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway and Sarah Hilary’s DI Marnie Rome all have fascinating back stories and personal lives that become more intriguing with each book. Who doesn’t want to know everything about Jackson Brody’s lost sister or to follow each new twist in Ruth Galloway’s on-off relationship with DCI Harry Nelson?

And then there are the side-kicks and the detective’s family and friends who often have their own enthralling and messy storylines. Marnie Rome’s sergeant, Noah Jakes, Shardlake’s assistant, Barak, and Ruth Galloway’s druid friend, Cathbad, as well as her gorgeous daughter, Kate.  In fact several of these characters seem complicated and vivid enough to head their own series.

Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad novels are interesting because they straddle the divide between series and standalone as a different detective takes centre stage with each new novel. It’s a clever ploy although, like many readers, I’m still dying to know the rest of Rob Ryan’s story, which was left tantalizingly open-ended in the first novel.

So what are the virtues of the standalone? One advantage is that readers can come to each book in any order with no previous knowledge required. This means that the author doesn’t have to hold up the narrative to reveal details of the ongoing saga. And, although one of the delights of the series is following the development of recurring characters, there is a danger that these can become so enthralling that they overwhelm the criminal case featured in this particular book. Alternatively the author may withhold too much and alienate readers by refusing ever to satisfy their curiosity.

In contrast all readers of a standalone start the book knowing nothing about any of the characters. No pattern has been established in previous novels so anything could happen. Since we are not looking at events through the perceptions of a trustworthy and familiar detective it can feel as if a safety net has been removed, which adds a delicious sense of menace. Anyone could die and anyone, including the narrator, could be deceiving us. Could even be the murderer.

There is a heightened intensity to many standalones because the characters are usually ordinary people intimately involved with the crime and are often blundering around feeling terrified and helpless. Or of course they might be hiding a guilty secret or even turn out to be a manipulative psychopath.

The standalone writer is not restricted by an established location or set of procedures and is at liberty to travel in time and space both between books and within a novel. My first book, Mindsight, was set in contemporary Hastings on the south coast of England, whereas my second, Her Turn To Cry,  moves from the variety theatres of the 1950s to the heart of swinging 60s London.

In fact writers of standalones do tend to follow certain themes in their work. Flynn is obsessed with dysfunctional families and manipulative women, Cathi Unsworth explores popular music culture, and the dark underbelly the 20th century, whilst Megan Abbott’s compelling and unsettling novels often deal with hyper-competitive teenage girls.

For the reader it’s a matter of choose your poison or, like me, have it both ways. Nor must it be either/or for the writer. Like Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie, Laura Wilson began a detective series with Stratton’s War. And I have a police character in mind for my own next book – so who knows.

About Her Turn to Cry

herturntocry

London, 1965. Top model Joycie Todd lives a glittering life with photographer Marcus Blake. But her childhood tells a different story…

When she was eleven, Joycie’s mother disappeared. Run away with another man, so everyone says. But Joycie can’t forget the thumps she heard in the night, or the bloodstained rug hidden under the bed. A rug that was gone the next day.

Twelve years later, Joycie has left her past behind. But when an old friend dies, Joycie is left a letter beseeching her to find out the truth. Unable to keep the door locked any longer, Joycie sets out to discover why her mother left her – if she ever really did.

As she travels to the shabby seaside towns of her childhood, Joycie soon finds that it’s not just her mother who vanished all those years ago. Joycie knows the disappearances are connected, she just doesn’t know how. But there’s someone out there who does – and they will do anything to keep it buried.

Her Turn to Cry is out now in ebook and is due to be published in print on 8th September 2016 in the UK. Available from Amazon

About the author

Chris Curran

I was born in London but now live in St Leonards-on-Sea near Hastings, on the south coast of England, in a house groaning with books. I left school at sixteen to work in the local library – my dream job then and now – and spent an idyllic few months reading my way around the shelves. Reluctantly returning to full-time education I gained my degree from Sussex University. Since then I have worked as an actress, script writer, copy editor and teacher, all the time looking forward to the day when I would see my own books gracing those library shelves.

 

 

You can find Chris on her blog: chriscurranauthor.com

Twitter: @Christi_Curran

Facebook: Chris Curran

 


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I’m linking this post up to Talk of the Town, please check out the other posts on there and share your own. #TalkoftheTown

 

Review: Christmas at Cranberry Cottage by Talli Roland

 

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I’m a huge Talli Roland fan, I’ve read all of her novels and novellas and loved them so when I spotted she had another Christmas novella out I couldn’t resist buying it immediately! I have to say that this is more of a short story than a novella – I read it in under ten minutes but it is still a lovely, festive read.

Jess is a high-flying photographer who is currently working in New York but is looking forward to getting back to her childhood home in the UK to spend Christmas with her Gran. A phone call from her Gran with news that Cranberry Cottage is going to be demolished as part of a new high-speed rail line causes to Jess drop everything to return home to try and save it.

I loved this story but I can’t help but wish it had been longer – I think it could have made a perfect novella or even full-length novel. There are glimpses of characters that I wanted to know more about. There is a love interest that held such potential and I enjoyed what there was of the chemistry between Tom and Jess but I would have loved to hear more about the past and to see how their story might have developed further. I adored Jess’ relationship with her Gran, I just wish we could have heard more about the two of them and this gorgeous cottage.

The cover of this short story is so festive and the combined with the description of the decorations inside the cottage just made me want to go there! The descriptions of the kitsch decorations that were years old and often falling apart reminded me so much of my Nan’s home and all of her wonderful Christmas ornaments.

This short story is absolutely worth buying and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a very quick, Christmassy read. I so badly want to rate it higher because I did enjoy it but I was left wanting so to know so much more. I rate this 3.5 out of 5.

Christmas at Cranberry Cottage is out now and is available as an ebook from Amazon.

Review: Merry Mistletoe by Emma Davies

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I loved this novella, it was just the kind of gentle and heart-warming book that I want to be reading at this time of year.

Freya Sherborne runs her family mistletoe business from her childhood home, but this year is her first Christmas running it alone after the death of her beloved father. The debts are mounting up and Freya knows she’s going to have to sell up very soon.

The novella is set out as a countdown to Christmas, starting 29 days before. I loved how it was set so close to Christmas and had the build-up, it meant it really was a proper festive read and that is my favourite kind of Christmas book!

I was intrigued by Amos Fry all through this novella, he’s a great character though. He was like a cross between Mary Poppins and Father Christmas and I loved how he seemed to be magically nudging things in the right direction for Freya to find happiness again.

I loved the symbolism of the white feathers that kept appearing throughout the novella, especially the one that appeared near the robin. This novella had a lot of symbols running through it, even the mistletoe itself and it was added an extra layer to the Christmas novel that I really appreciated. Christmas is forever changed when you lose a loved one but the symbols that are around can really offer comfort. I love how Freya and her father had bought a new tree ornament every year, and that Freya decided to continue with that after losing him. The tree ornament that she was helped to find for this year was so perfect, I wanted it to be from a real shop so that I could buy one!

This is the first book I’ve read by Emma Davies but it won’t be the last, it was wonderful. I’ve already bought Letting in Light and have it waiting for me on my TBR!

I rate this novella 9 out of 10.

I received this book from Lawsome Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Merry Mistletoe is out now and available from Amazon.

Bookouture Christmas Giveaway Winners Announcement!

BC BOOKS BANNER (MINE) copy

I ran an ebook giveaway every day from 22nd – 26th October as part of Bookouture’s Christmas week on twitter.

I’m pleased to announce all of the winners:

bella's christmas bake offBella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson was won by Lindsay Hill

One Wish in ManhattanOne Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot was won by Sarah Hardy

Lilac CottageChristmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin was won by ReadingAwaytheDays

Christmas wishes and mistletoe kissesChristmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale was won by Leigh Newton

snowflakes at silver coveSnowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin was also won by Leigh Newton

Congratulations to you all! Hope you enjoy reading your lovely new ebooks!

Review: The Broken Hearts Book Club by Lynsey James

Broken Heart Book Club

I love books about book clubs so I couldn’t resist the chance to read The Broken Hearts Book Club!

Lucy grew up in the idyllic Luna Bay but something happened eight years ago which caused her to run away and she has never been back. She has managed to avoid all reasons to return but when her beloved Nana dies Lucy finally returns to her childhood home for the funeral. It is her intention to make this a quick visit but when her Nana’s Will is read and Lucy finds out she has been left her gorgeous Rose Cottage and her broken hearts book club, Lucy feels compelled to stick around for a while. After meeting the lovely, and very attractive new pub owner, Jake, Lucy suddenly finds even more reasons to stay in Luna Bay!

There is a mystery that runs through this book about why Lucy ran away all those years ago. Lucy refers to it many times but can never bring herself to tell anyone what she did. I’ll be honest there were a few times when I wanted to grab Lucy and just make her open up about it but it was true to her character that she was forever skirting around it – this is the girl who ran away for eight years rather than stay and face it after all. I felt sorry for her especially as some of the people in Luna Bay who were there eight years ago still made Lucy feel bad, even after so much time had passed.

Lucy is such a lovely character, her heart is in the right place and she just wants to make things right with those she’s done wrong by, and she wants to help make better the lives of the broken hearted in the book club. I love how she can’t always control her impulse to sing if she reads, or hears someone say a song lyric. I burst out laughing reading the very first page with the Joni Mitchell song incident! It’s the sort of thing that could happen to any of us and that’s what makes her so endearing.

I loved the setting of the book too; Luna Bay just felt like a real place and I’d really like to go there! I could picture the cottage, the pub, the cafe and the gorgeous sea front as I was reading.

I adored the book club! I love the idea of a book club for broken-hearted people especially the way it was for people who had suffered any kind of loss, all the members supported each other and no loss was made to feel less than any other. I enjoyed reading about the books they were reading too and hearing their thoughts on them. I’ve already read all of the book club reads apart from The Rosie Project and they’ve convinced me to give it a try!

The Broken Hearts Book Club is perfect for these colder, darker nights – it’s like a big warm comfort blanket in book form! It’s a feel-good read with a bit of depth to it. I rate this book 9 out of 10 and highly recommend it. This was the first book I’ve read by Lynsey James and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve already bought her debut novel Just the Way You Are and hope to read it very soon.

The Broken Hearts Book Club is published today and available on Amazon now!

I received this book from Carina UK via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.