The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

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About the Book

The greatest love story is the one you least expect . . .

Alice is stifled, bored, and misunderstood.

So when she meets wealthy and handsome American, Bennett Van Cleve, she is quickly swept off her feet.

Marrying him and moving to America seems like a great adventure – but life as a newlywed in stuffy Baileyville, Kentucky, is not at all what she hoped for.

Until, that is, she responds to a call for volunteers to start a travelling library, surprising herself by saying yes, before her husband can say no . . .

Led by feisty and rebellious Margery O’Hare, this unlikely group of women travel far and wide on their mission to bring books and reading to those that need it, and Alice finally finds the freedom, friendship and love that she’s been looking for.

But not everyone approves of what they are doing, especially her new father-in-law. And when the town turns against them, will their belief in each other and their work be enough?

 

My Thoughts

The Giver of Stars is the perfect book for people who love reading! This is such a stunning novel following five women who were all leading very different lives and all get brought together to become part of a travelling library! It’s set in depression-era Kentucky and it does immediately transport you to this time and I got swept up in it right from the very start.

I have to admit that I’ve found some Jojo Moyes books just okay but others I have loved. My favourite up to reading this one was The Last Letter To Your Lover but The Giver of Stars has beaten it for me. I got completely swept up in the story of these women and I can’t stop thinking about them and the lives they led. I want to know more about the women who really did do this work and I loved when a book sparks off an interest in me.

The novel is all about this small group of women and we see the bonds that gradually form between them. It really feels like such an empowering book, I adored it. The travelling library is based in a township but the patrons all live out in the most rural of areas so the women go out on horses to deliver books to these families. They go out in all weathers all year round each on their own route and I found it so inspiring.

The Giver of Stars predominantly follows Alice who is newly married and expects to learn about life with her new husband but things aren’t right with him from the start. She looks for ways to make it work and to make things better but nothing seems to help so she throws herself increasingly into her work at the library trying to at least find satisfaction in her own life. I loved Alice, I was rooting for her the whole way through the novel.

I was thrilled to be approved for an ARC of this book from NetGalley but I decided to buy a copy of the audio book from Audible so that I could part-read and part-listen and this really worked well for this book. The audio is wonderful and really brought the book to life even more for me so I recommend it.

I so often say that historical fiction isn’t my favourite genre but then I read a book like this that I fall in love with and immediately want to re-read and it reminds me that there are books out there for everyone in all genres, we just have to find the right ones for us. I highly recommend this book!

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

The Giver of Stars is out now and available here.

WWW Wednesdays (20 Nov 2019)! What are you reading this week?

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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: 

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

This book is so good! The amount of research that the author must have had to do in order to give such a full picture of each of these women’s life is so impressive. I’m in awe of her. This is a book that I want to both savour and devour, it’s brilliant. I have no doubt that this will be one of my standout books of the year.

Constellations by Sinead Gleason

This is also a brilliant read and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been dipping in and out of it but I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to put it down, it’s so good.

Bowie’s Bookshelf by John O’Connell

I only started this book last night so I’m not very far into it but I know I’m going to to enjoy it. I think it might be one I dip in and out of over the next week or two.

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

In my quest to catch up with my NetGalley ARCS as much as I can before the year is out this book is the next on my list. I’ve only read the opening chapter so far but it feels like a very lovely, magical book.

 

What I recently finished reading:

Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman

This is such a lovely, romantic book and I really enjoyed it. I’ll be reviewing it next week for the blog tour so please look out for my thoughts then.

The School Friend by Alison James

This is an ARC that has been on my NetGalley shelf for a while so I finally read it this week and it was an enjoyable read.

How to be Human by Ruby Wax

This was one of my Non-Fiction November picks and I’m glad I finally read it. It’s a good overview of how to deal with emotions around certain things and has a decent guide to easy mindfulness exercises in the back. My full review is here.

Logical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin

I listened to the audio book of this and really enjoyed it. Armistead Maupin narrates it himself which really added to my enjoyment of his memoir. It’s made me want to start reading Tales of the City all over again so I may do that in the new year!

Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly by Jim Rogatis

I borrowed this book from the library audio books app on a whim and I’m really glad I got to listen to this one. It’s written by a journalist who has been looking into the revelations about R. Kelly since the 90s so it’s a really interesting and insightful book. I recommend it.

James Baldwin and the 1980s by Joseph Vogel

I’d almost finished this book when I wrote my post last week and I’m really pleased that I stuck with this one as it turned out to be such a fascinating book. It’s sparked my interest to want to read all of James Baldwin’s writing (I’ve only read a couple of his books before). My thoughts on it are here if you’d like to know more.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I listened to this on audio and I’m so glad I did. There’s nothing like a memoir that’s read by the author and this book was such a treat. I adored this book and I highly recommend it.

 

What I plan on reading next:

One Christmas Night by Hayley Webster

This is my next planned Christmas read and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve got an ARC from NetGalley but I think I’m going to get the audio book so I can listen to it as I read.

When Stars Will Shine by Emma Mitchell

This is a Christmas short story collection and I’ve been so keen to start reading it so I think I’m going to dip in and out of this one over the next week or two.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

This is the next book I want to read from my Non-Fiction November TBR. I’ve heard such good things about this and I can’t wait to start it.

Lost Connections by Johann Hari

This is also on my Non-Fiction November TBR and I think this is the one I’ll pick up after Three Women as I’m keen to read this one before the end of the month.

 


 

What have you been reading this week? I’d love to hear. And if you take part in WWW Wednesdays or This Week in Books please feel free to leave your link below and I’ll make sure to visit and comment on your post. 🙂

So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter

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About the Book

IS ANYONE’S LIFE . . .

Beth shows that women really can have it all.
Ruby lives life by her own rules.
And then there’s Lauren, living the dream.

AS PERFECT AS IT LOOKS?

Beth hasn’t had sex in a year.
Ruby feels like she’s failing.
Lauren’s happiness is fake news.

And it just takes one shocking event to make the truth come tumbling out…

 

My Thoughts

I’ve loved all of Dawn O’Porter’s novels to date, especially The Cows, and So Lucky is another brilliant read!

So Lucky follows three women: Beth who has a new baby but is very unhappy in her marriage, Ruby who feels she needs to keep her entire body covered at all times, and Lauren who we mainly see through her Instagram posts and seems to have a perfect sparkly life.

I read So Lucky in one sitting as once I started reading it I just didn’t want to put it down. Dawn O’Porter is so good at capturing what it is to be a woman in the modern age and the pressure we all feel to conform to society’s norms. There is a sense that women should be perfect – we should remove all of our body hair and be smiley and happy at all times. Life just isn’t like that!

Beth is besotted with her young baby but she also loves her career so she’s back at working planning Lauren’s wedding but she’s also pumping breast milk and trying to be a good wife. Her husband has had no interest in sex ever since she got pregnant and Beth just wants to feel desired. She’s also having to deal with her interfering mother-in-law who her husband seems to always defer to. I felt really sorry for Beth, it’s so difficult to be in a relationship where your partner won’t discuss issues. My ex was awful for sweeping everything under the carpet and pretending nothing was wrong, it makes for such stress in the home.

Ruby is separated from her husband but she’s cordial with him because they have a three year old daughter, Bonnie. I really felt for Ruby, she had a difficult time as a child and she can’t seem to relate to her own child now. She also has a secret that means she feels she has to keep her body covered at all times. Her attempting to get a wax with her child in the room was so tense and I wanted to climb through the pages and help Ruby.

It was brilliant to read a novel like this where the women are close to my own age. I still have so many insecurities as a 40 year old but it’s not always represented in novels as much as it is for younger women. It felt like Beth represented the not being allowed to be who you are and to talk openly about what you want in life, and Ruby represented all the body issues that women have. They were both such real women to me though and I could see myself, and women I know, in both of them.

Lauren is a younger woman on the verge of marrying the man of her dreams. We get to know her through her instagram posts that are full of inspirational hashtags and often sponsored. She seems to have a perfect life. As the novel progresses we find out that Beth is Lauren’s wedding planner, and Ruby is going to work on the wedding photos so through them we get to meet Lauren in real life, and it seems all is not quite as glossy as it seems on her Instagram. She has an over-bearing mother and fears that her fiance might be attracted to other women. It really showed how social media allows us to give the impression that our lives are so perfect but the reality is that everyone has their insecurities and their problems but we forget that sometimes and think we’re the only one.

I love how real all three women felt in this novel, and how we gradually get to know why they are the way they are and we see how they try to accommodate for what they see as their inadequacies. There are some utterly mortifying moments in the novel, which were toe-curling in the embarrassment factor but I loved that because life is like this. Things often aren’t as we might imagine them to be!

Ultimately, I found this a really relatable, moving novel that also saw the funny side of things too. I very much enjoyed this book and I already can’t wait to read Dawn O’Porter’s next book! I highly recommend this one!

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

So Lucky is out now and available here.

If You Like That, You’ll Love This! #Fiction #NonFiction #BookPairings

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It’s week 2 of Non-Fiction November and this week’s prompt is over on Sarah’s Book Shelves and it is all about pairing up non-fiction books with fiction.

I thought this was going to be really difficult but once I took a few minutes to think about it, and to scroll through my Goodreads account, I came up with a few!

Firstly I have a couple of nonfiction books to recommended.. If you loved one then I think you’ll love the other too!

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer + Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar

I read both of these books in 2019 and they are both such fascinating reads. Each features explorations of very cold, inhospitable places and reflections on what happened along with some history. Dead Mountain is looking at a mysterious case from the 1950s where a group of experienced explorers all died in very strange circumstances. Into Thin Air is about a group who climb Everest in the 1990s but something goes wrong near the summit and people died. Afterwards there was a lot of discussion about the truth of what happened that day. I think if you enjoyed one of these books you would also enjoy the other.

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink + Past Caring by Audrey Jenkinson

I read these books quite a long time ago but it’s testament to them that I still remember them so clearly. The Last Act of Love is an incredibly moving book about the aftermath of an accident that seriously injured Cathy’s brother. She and her family looked after him from then on until his death. Past Caring is a book that I discovered in the months after my mum died and it was a huge help to me. It’s all about how it feels, and how to cope, when you have been a carer for a loved one who has since died. It’s hard to suddenly not be a carer anymore, to not be needed when it’s been your life for so long. I recommend both of these books – the first is a book for everyone and the second is more for if you have been caring for someone, it really is an excellent resource.

 

Then I have some fiction books that I’ve read and enjoyed so have paired them with some non-fiction titles that are linked in some way.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett + How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS by David France AND And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Schilts

I just finished reading Full Disclosure at the weekend so I haven’t yet written my review. As soon as I started writing this post though I knew I had to include it. It’s about a teenage girl who is HIV Positive (which she contracted from her birth mother). She lives with her two dads and lives a very normal life. The book is a brilliant portrayal of what it is to live with HIV in the present day and I recommend it. I wanted to pair it with two books that both give such an excellent overview of the history of HIV and AIDS. Randy Schilts book is an older book so it doesn’t cover more recent developments but it is still a very good read. David France’s book is very recent and I found it fascinating. Both non-fiction books are well-researched but they’re written in a very accessible way and I would recommend them to anyone wanting to know more.

The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith + It’s All in Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan

The Things We Thought We Knew is a brilliant novel following a teenager who is bedbound with chronic pain. Through the novel we learn that her childhood best friend went missing and she has struggled to cope with the loss. Her situation is complex and I felt such sympathy for her. I adored the novel and am keen to re-read it. The non-fiction I recommend after reading the novel is It’s All in Your Head. I read this book whilst recovering from neurosurgery and I got engrossed in it. It’s a book by a doctor who is exploring illnesses where there is no apparent physical cause. She never says it’s all in your mind in a dismissive way, it’s more a fascinating look at how our minds can cause symptoms to present in the body. These symptoms need treating just as much as actual physical illness but O’Sullivan shows how patients and doctors need to be open to exploring other avenues such as psychotherapy. I loved the book and highly recommend it.

Carry You by Beth Thomas + Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman

I read Carry You about five years ago and it’s a book that’s really stayed with me. It’s a contemporary novel and the main character is trying to re-build her life after the death of her mum. I loved the book and want to re-read it soon. I’m pairing it with Motherless Daughters, which is a book I discovered in the months after my mum died. It was the book I needed in those months and I recommend it to anyone who has lost their mother. I liked how Hope tells her own story but the book also contains lots of other women’s stories too so it really is a book for any woman whose mother has died. It’s perhaps not a book if you haven’t experienced that loss but it’s one to make a note of, I have since gifted copies to friends who are grieving the loss of their own mother.

Still Lives by Maria Hummell + After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry 

I read Still Lives very recently and found it a really interesting read. It features an art exhibition by a female artist who has painted herself into the murder scene of women who became infamous after their deaths (such as Nicole Brown-Simpson). It’s a crime thriller but what stood out to me was the exploration of how society either fetishises murdered women, or it ignores them completely to focus on the killer. I’m pairing this with After the Eclipse, which is one of my favourite non-fiction books that I’ve read this year. In this book Sarah Perry writes about the murder of her mum when she was a young teenager. Sarah explores her own emotions from the time but also looks back on the time through her adult eyes. She really made me think about how in our fascination with true crime documentaries we often almost forget that the murdered woman was a person, she had a family and friends. This is a book I recommend to everyone.

The First Time Lauren Pailing by Alyson Rudd + I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

I read The First Time Lauren Pailing Died a few weeks ago and enjoyed it. It’s about Lauren Pailing and she has a fairly ordinary life but when she’s a teen she dies in an accident. At this point we see the aftermath of her death and how it affected her loved ones but we also see Lauren survive the accident and go on with her life. She later dies again and the splits occur once more and you follow all the timelines. It’s such a good read, and even though it sounds confusing I found it easy to follow. I think if you enjoyed this book you should read I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. I’m the biggest fan of her writing so was eager to read her first non-fiction writing and it’s a brilliant book. Maggie looks back on her life through each of the times that she had a brush with death. This book really resonated with me and I’m definitely going to re-read it next year. If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend it.

Histories by Sam Guglani + Breaking and Mending by Joanna Cannon

Histories is an interlinked short story collection that I found really powerful. You see the hospital through the eyes of different people who are there – doctors, nurses, cleaners, admin staff and patients and each story adds depth to another story in the book. It’s a great read and really stays with you. Breaking and Mending is Joanna Cannon’s reflections on her time as a junior doctor and it’s an incredibly powerful book. I found it breathtaking in how she shows the realities of working in the NHS and it’s made such an impression on me. This is a book I recommend to everyone.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech + Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride – 30 Years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is one of my favourite novels so I recommend it if you haven’t already read it. It follows Ben who is working at a lion reserve in Africa, which he’s always dreamt of doing but he’s not happy. Over the novel we find out about Ben’s relationship with Andrew and it’s such a stunning read. It made me cry when I read it but now when I think of it I remember the beauty and hope in the early days of Ben and Andrew as they fall in love. I’m pairing this with Good As You, which is a book looking back at 30 years of what it is to be gay in Britain. It’s one of those non-fiction books that you learn things from but it’s written in such a way that you fly through it. I was picking it up every chance I had, just like I do with fiction. Both books have heartbreak and hope and I recommend them.

Accidental Emeralds by Vivienne Tuffnell + The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt

Accidental Emeralds is a poetry collection that I read around the time I started reviewing books on my blog. It’s a beautiful collection that looks at longing and love through the changing of the seasons. I loved the collection and plan to re-read it but I was very apprehensive about reviewing it because I never feel like I’m clever enough to fully understand how to write about poetry. Earlier this year I read The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt which is a brilliant book that looks at a selection of poems and explores them in a way that makes poetry feel so accessible. The book even made me re-read a poem that I detested while studying at school and I ended up finding I really enjoyed it. The Point of Poetry is for everyone and I recommend it to anyone who has ever felt intimidated to read poetry or to write about it.

The Evidence Against You by Gillian McAllister + Stand Against Injustice by Michelle Diskin Bates

This pairing was a late edition to this post but I wanted to include it anyway. The Evidence Against You is a crime thriller that follows a young woman as her father is about to be released from prison. He was convicted of killing her mother but now he’s  protesting his innocence. She doesn’t know what to believe but she decides to try and find out what the truth is. A couple of weeks ago I read Stand Against Injustice which is about a terrible miscarriage of justice. Barry George was wrongfully convicted of murdering TV presenter Jill Dando and this book, written by Barry’s sister, explores what the family have been through over the last twenty years. It really gives an insight into what it is having a loved one in prison, and how much it takes to fight for justice. I highly recommend this one.

 

 

Book reviews: Platform Seven | The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr | The Music Shop | Trying

 

 

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Today I’m sharing some more mini reviews of books I’ve read recently!

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Platform Seven by Louise Doughty

I did receive an ARC of this from NetGalley but I ended up listening to the audio book version from my local library. I absolutely loved this book, I was listening to it at every chance I got. The novel opens with the spirit of a woman lingering in a train station watching people and noticing the ones who seems drawn to Platform Seven – she feels a connection to them. As the novel goes on we go back in time and we see Lisa in the period before her death and find out what happened to her and why she is still haunting the station. I found this book so beautiful, it is stunningly written and I was completely invested in Lisa’s story. It took me to places that I wasn’t expecting and it explores some very prescient issues in our society today. I think this is my favourite of the books I’ve read by Louise Doughty to date and I highly recommend it.

 

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The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

I love Rachel Joyce’s writing so I’m ashamed that The Music Shop languished on my shelf for so long before I picked it up. However, I am delighted to say that when I did pick it up I adored it! It opens in the 1980s and we meet Frank who runs a record shop. He has a gift for finding his customers the exact record they need even if it’s not the one they were initially looking for. Records are being ousted by CDs though and Frank refuses to sell them in his shop. One day a woman faints outside his shop and he assists her. Later she returns wanting him to teach her about music. There is a real connection between the two but each of them fight it. We gradually learn why over the course of the novel. This book is beautiful, it has its really sad moments but overall it made me feel so happy. I think this is a book that I will re-read in the future when I’m in need of a feel-good read. I recommend it!

 

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The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard

This is another lovely book! Elvira is in her 20s and lives with her mother. She lives by strict rules and routines and everything is fine if she can stick to them. One day her mum collapses and is hospitalised and Elvira suddenly has to cope with huge changes and upheaval. I loved Elvira! She struggles to understand some of society’s norms but she learns how to use a computer and begins to seek out some new rules. Things don’t always go to plan and she makes mistakes but her heart is always in the right place. There is sadness and loneliness running through the novel but there is also so much good. I loved seeing the world through Elvira’s eyes and I was rooting for her to be okay on her own. This is such an uplifting novel and I recommend it.

 

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Trying by Emily Phillips

I was drawn to this book by the stunning cover – I love the colours and the floral design, and how it’s only when you look again that you see the female reproductive system in there! Unfortunately, I have quite mixed feelings about the novel. The book follows Olivia and her husband Felix as they try to have a baby together. They have been trying for a while and now sex is mechanical and they aren’t as close as they used to be. There are some very funny moments in this novel, the very beginning had my cringing and giggling in equal measure! I empathised with Olivia about the seemingly endless baby-related posts all over social media, it feels overwhelming at times. I don’t know why this book didn’t fully click with me, it just didn’t. I still recommend it though if you like humorous reads with some emotional moments about modern life!

The Christmas Wish List by Heidi Swain | @Heidi_Swain @TeamBATC #TheChristmasWishList

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About the Book

After being let go from her job in a swanky hotel just weeks before Christmas, Hattie is feeling lost. Even more so when her high-flying boyfriend announces he’s landed his dream job in Abu Dhabi and asks her to move with him. Luckily, Hattie’s long-time friend Dolly is on hand to help and invites Hattie to spend one last holiday in the small, festive town of Wynbridge, determined to give her a Christmas to remember . . .

Upon Hattie’s arrival, holiday preparations are in full swing. But for Hattie, whose Christmas cheer has long since run out, it’ll take more than mince pies and mistletoe to open her heart to the season once more. Relishing the task of reigniting Hattie’s Christmas spirit, Dolly suggests they create a wish list of all the things the season can offer, and with the helpful hands of Wynbridge’s resident handyman, Beamish, Hattie finds her frosty exterior is starting to thaw.

As Wynbridge prepares for its most spectacular Christmas yet, will Hattie leave snowy England behind for life in a sunnier clime, or will she in fact realise that her heart’s desire lies much closer to home?

 

My Thoughts

I was so excited to find that I’d recently won a copy of The Christmas Wish List in a giveaway and I just knew it had to be my first festive read of the year. I’m really happy that this is how I kicked off my festive reading because this book is simply gorgeous!

We follow Hattie as she is unexpectedly made redundant from her job at a swanky hotel, she wasn’t expecting it. And then her boyfriend announces that he has just been offered his dream job in Abu Dhabi and wants her to go with him! This all seems like perfect timing and the chance for a brand new start for Hattie but she’s just feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed with all that’s happening. So she decides to take up her old friend Dolly’s invitation to stay with her in the gorgeous village Wynbridge.

As soon as Hattie arrives in Wynbridge she begins to relax, and I could feel the weight falling from my own shoulders as I felt I was right there with her. Dolly is such a wonderful character – she’s shrewd and she can see Hattie isn’t happy but she doesn’t push her to talk about it. Instead she suggests that the two of them make a Christmas wish list of all the things they want to do in the run up to the festive season. Hattie isn’t all that bothered about Christmas ever since she fell out with her parents a few years earlier but she feels she should join in for Dolly’s sake. Dolly enlists Beamish, a very handsome school caretaker, to help with some of the items on the wish list and there is a definite attraction between him and Hattie!

This book is full of love and joy as we get nearer to Christmas but it’s not all smooth-sailing for Hattie. She inevitably has to work out how she really feels about Beamish, and more importantly how she feels about her boyfriend. She begins to realise that she perhaps wasn’t as happy as she thought she was and that things need to change.

There are some really heartfelt moments in this novel and they did make me cry a little bit. They brought back memories of things in my own life from years past but it was lovely as it made me recall some of the happiest of memories.

I adored this book! It’s the perfect novel to curl up with in the period leading up to Christmas as this is the time spanned in the book. As the residents of Wynbridge begin their Christmas preparations, it starts to feel a little magical and then you find yourself completely swept away in all the wonderful, heart-warming things that Hattie and Dolly, and Beamish, are ticking off their wish list. Before you know it your heart is bursting with festive feelings and you’ll be wanting to put your Christmas decorations up (even though it’s only October)!

The Christmas Wish List is a very special festive book, one that has stolen a piece of my heart. It is firmly going on my shelf of treasured Christmas books that I try to read every year. I highly recommend this one – it’s truly gorgeous!

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for my copy of this book and for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Christmas Wish List is out now and available here.

 

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

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#BookReviews: The Carer | How It Was | Still Lives | The Water Cure

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Here are some more reviews of books that I’ve read recently:

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How It Was by Janet Ellis

I read and really enjoyed Janet Ellis’ debut novel The Butcher’s Hook so I was very keen to read her new book. It’s different to her first book but I still very much enjoyed it. It follows Marian, who is sitting in hospital next to her dying husband. She reads him old cards that she’s found and slowly falls into recollections of their lives together. The novel meanders and it can be a little hard to follow at times as you try to work out what point you are at in Marian’s life but I realised that I had to let myself just go where it was taking me and it became easier to follow the timeline then. Marion has had such heartbreak in her life, and the way she had to hide her intense grief for someone earlier in her life was stunningly written. I felt like I was right there with Marion and could feel all of her emotions. Later as she has to deal with her teenage daughter and all the complex emotions that this entails again gave me such empathy for her. She’s a flawed person but it’s impossible not to feel for her. I enjoyed this book but it’s only now that a little time has passed and I find myself still thinking about it that I can see just how good a book it is. I definitely recommend this one!

 

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Still Lives by Maria Hummell

This is a novel that I really wanted to read and yet didn’t pick up for ages after I got it. I think maybe on some level I knew I had to be in the exact right mood for it, and I’m so glad I waited because when I finally picked it up I read it in just two sittings! It follows Maggie who works for an art gallery and is working on the opening of a huge show of work by the new girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend. Kim Lord, the artist, has created a series of pictures where she has controversially painted her own image into the infamous murder scenes of women like Nicole Brown Simpson. Kim disappears on opening night and this leads to people analysing her paintings looking for a deeper message about where she might be. Maggie who already carries a lot of pain and regret becomes further melancholy and reflective about what might have happened. I adored this book – the message running through it about how murdered women are fetishised by the media is really well done and really makes you think. There is so much in this book alongside the mystery element and I really enjoyed it. I already want to read this book again so I definitely recommend it!

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The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

This novel follows three sisters who are brought up in an abusive, claustrophobic situation on an isolated island. We hear from each of them as well as their joint voice as they describe their world. It’s clearly a really difficult life but it’s never really explained where they are or why they’re there. I wasn’t sure if this was a dystopian novel or a post-apocalyptic one, or if the whole thing was a metaphor. It’s a feminist novel but it felt quite surface level to me and I was always kept at quite a distance so couldn’t connect with the characters. I have to say though that the writing is beautiful and it is this that kept me reading to the end. Overall I’m still not really sure what I think about this novel but I did enjoy the writing enough to want to read more by the author.

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The Carer by Deborah Moggach

I’m a big fan of this author’s novels so was thrilled to finally get a copy of The Carer and I’m really happy to say that I loved it. It follows two adult children – Phoebe and Robert – as they deal with their father James’ growing care needs and his relationship with his new carer Mandy. Phoebe seems to bear the brunt of organising their dad’s care and she resents how little Robert does. Robert feels very put upon in life generally and wishes the world would leave him alone so he can write his novel in peace. Mandy is jolly and fun and brings out a lighter side of James which increasingly concerns Phoebe and Robert but they can’t openly complain because this is what Mandy is there for. The family dynamics explored in this novel are so spot on for how life is that I kept smiling, or nodding my head as I recognised people in my own life in the characters at various points in the novel. This is such an engaging read that I keep thinking about ever since I finished reading. I will definitely re-read this book in the future. The Carer is a novel that I’m sure will resonate with a lot of people and I whole-heartedly recommend it!

#BookReview: Fiona and the Whale by Hannah Lynn | @HMLynnauthor @rararesources

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About the Book 

With her personal life on the rocks, it’s going to take a whale sized miracle to keep her afloat.

 Event planner Fiona Reeves did not have her husband’s sudden departure on her schedule. However, she’s certain that it’s only a hiccup and he’ll be back in no time, begging for forgiveness. Fortunately there’s a distraction of mammoth proportions swimming in the River Thames. 

 Absorbed by the story of Martha the sperm whale, Fiona attempts to carry on life as usual as she awaits her husband’s return. However, nothing can prepare her for the dramatic turn of events that throws her life into ever greater turmoil. The road ahead has many paths and for Fiona it’s time to sink or swim.

 Fiona and the Whale is a poignant and often hilarious contemporary fiction novel. If you enjoy topical tales, second chances and a little bit of romance, you’ll love this new book from the Kindle Storyteller Award Winner, Hannah Lynn.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve previously read one of Hannah Lynn’s other novels (The Afterlife of Walter Augustus) and adored it so I was delighted to get the chance to read her newest book Fiona and the Whale.

Fiona and the Whale is about a 40-something woman whose husband leaves her on the very day they wave their only son off to University. Fiona is convinced it’s all just a blip and that her husband will be back. In the days following she is struggling to fill her days and leaves the TV on 24/7, which is where she hears about a sperm whale that has got stranded in the Thames. Fiona becomes fixated on Martha the whale’s plight and this leads to many new paths opening up that Fiona couldn’t even have imagined beforehand!

I loved this book – from the opening pages I just knew this was going to be a ‘me’ book and it absolutely was! Fiona is a great character, she is so believable from the start and although some of the things she did annoyed me it never stopped me rooting for her because she was so real.

The plight of Martha was heart-breaking to read about but I really appreciated how Hannah Lynn used the story of the whale to highlight the issues of what we’re doing to our oceans and our planet with our use of plastics. This novel really made me pause for thought on more than one occasion but Lynn manages to really make a powerful point without it ever feeling like you’re being preached to. She kept me in the story and on Fiona’s side the entire time, which is a real skill when you’re showing the reality of these issues. I will think of Martha the whale next time I pick something up that’s wrapped in plastic when it doesn’t need to be and I’m sure this will help me to make better choices where I can.

I also loved the issues with food waste was tackled too. I’ve been guilty of going by use-by dates even on things like vegetables in the past because I didn’t trust my own judgement to know when things were past using. Now I know better and I do better. I could totally understand Fiona’s attitude to The Dumpster Dive cafe at first, although I’d have been a little more tactful! I loved how she learnt about what leads to food being thrown away by supermarkets, and as a result I learnt some things I didn’t know either.

Along with the issues being tackled in the novel we see how Fiona deals with her husband leaving her, and how she gradually becomes more reliant on herself and starts to find happiness on her own terms. It doesn’t happen overnight but you see her slowly starting to shine again. I adored her tenacity and spirit as she began fighting for what she believed in instead of being stuck in what she had lost. I also really enjoyed her relationship with her best friend and the way they are with each other. It was so refreshing to see such a real and honest portrayal of female friendship with the ups and downs that can come with one person making big life changes out of the blue.

Fiona and the Whale is a gorgeous quirky novel, one that really feels like it’s grounded in reality but with that little bit of Hannah Lynn magic sprinkled through it. I was really moved by some of the turns this story took, and also genuinely laughing out loud at other parts of it. I completely and utterly loved this book and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Fiona and the Whale is out now and available here.

 

About the author

Fiona and the Wale Hannah Lynn

Hannah Lynn is an award-winning novelist. Publishing her first book, Amendments – a dark, dystopian speculative fiction novel, in 2015, she has since gone on to write The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, a contemporary fiction novel with a supernatural twist – which won the 2018 Kindle Storyteller Award and the Gold Medal for Best Adult Fiction ebook at this year’s IPPY Awards – and the delightfully funny and poignant Peas and Carrots series.

While she freely moves between genres, her novels are recognisable for their character driven stories and wonderfully vivid description.

She is currently working on a YA Vampire series and a reimaging of a classic Greek myth.

Born in 1984, Hannah grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

For up-to-date news and access to exclusive promotions follow her on

Facebook: HannahLynnAuthor

Twitter @HMLynnauthor

Goodreads: Hannah_M_Lynn

Bookbub: hannah-lynn

 

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

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#BookReviews: Then She Vanishes | Miracle Creek | Clear My Name | The Poison Garden

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Here is another selection of reviews of the books I’ve been reading over the summer!

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Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas

I’m such a big fan of Claire Douglas’ novels and so was really looking forward to this one – I can honestly say that it’s her best yet! Heather and Jess were best friends as teenagers until the night Heather’s sister Flora disappeared. Now Jess is accused of murder and Heather has come back to find out what has happened. This book has such great and believable characters, plus a plot that has you reading just one more chapter (and then one more and one more) until you turn the final page. It’s such an in-depth book that you want to know more about the characters but the storyline is so twisty that you find you can’t stop reading until you know how it’s all going to turn out. I loved this book and keep finding myself thinking about it and wondering how the characters are now. I definitely recommend this one!

 

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Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

This is a book that I picked up on a whim and I’m so glad I did as it’s such an excellent novel. This is a book that hinges around an horrific incident at the Miracle Submarine (a pressurised chamber that allegedly helps treat autism and infertility). It’s partly a courtroom drama but it’s also a character study following multiple people in the lead up to and fallout from the accident. You really get into the mindset of everyone and why they have done the things they did, and how they feel in the aftermath. I found this such an engrossing novel – one that I wanted to read slowly… but also quickly to know what happened. The writing it stunning and I can’t wait to read more from this author in the future! This is a book that has really stayed with me and I think it’s one that I will re-read.

 

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Clear My Name by Paula Daly

I’m such a fan of Paula Daly and have loved all her books to date and this new one is no exception! The novel follows Tess who works for Innocence UK as she looks into the possible wrongful conviction of Carrie – a woman convicted of killing her husband’s mistress. Carrie says she didn’t do it and Tess is determined to find the truth. This book really tense at times and is a definite page turner! I went back and forth over whether I thought Carrie was innocent, and I was suspicious of other people who perhaps had a motive for murder but I was never sure. This is a thought-provoking novel and one that you’ll be thinking about long after you’ve turned the last page! Clear My Name is a novel that kept me on my toes and I very much enjoyed it!

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The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood

Alex Marwood is another of my favourite authors so this book was one of my most anticipated for this year. I was thrilled when I finally got hold of a copy and am happy to say that it lived up to all my expectations! The way this book opens is so disturbing and visceral but it really sets up the story that is to follow in such a way that you don’t want to stop reading. The novel follows multiple characters and goes back and forth in time gradually building up a picture of what led to the novel’s opening but also what happened afterwards. It’s a slower-paced thriller which works perfectly as you find that you want to get to know these characters and how they became who they are. Alex Marwood’s novels always unsettle me and leave me pondering on things and this book is no different, I love how she keeps me enthralled even when I want to look the other way. Her writing is so dark and brilliant, I love it! I highly recommend this book!

Fiction #BookReviews: If Only I Could Tell You | Matilda | Daisy Jones and the Six | The Flatshare

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Today I’m sharing a few more reviews of books that I’ve read and loved over the summer months!

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Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley but after reading reviews of the book I decided I wanted to listen to the audio book as I read so I bought the audio. This is such a brilliant novel and I loved it! It’s the story of a band called The Six in the 1970s and all the ups and downs that comes with making it big. Things become even more complicated for the band when Daisy Jones joins them. The dynamics between the band members is fascinating and it all felt so real! I loved how the book is told in snippets from interviews, which meant that we see each person’s view point and how memories differ from each perspective. Some people want to be seen in the best light, to be the hero and this shows through. Others play down the part they played, seemingly wanting to be a little more distant. This book was so good that by the end it felt like I’d read about a real band and I wanted to look up their music and to listen to it! It’s the mark of a great novel when you completely forget that this isn’t a true story. I highly recommend this book, I am sure it will be in my favourite books of the year list!

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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

This is another wonderful novel that I very much enjoyed. The story is told from the viewpoints of both Tiffy and Leon – they flat share but they’ve never met! This premise sold me on the book and I’m so pleased to say that the novel lived up to that premise. I love how these two people communicated through a chain of post it notes, and how they gradually came to know each other so well before they ever met. There is more depth to this novel than I was expecting, and some difficult issues are dealt with. It made it all feel more real to me though and I appreciated that. This is such a gorgeous novel and it’s another one that I highly recommend.

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If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

I was eagerly anticipating this novel as I adored the author’s debut and I’m so happy to say that this was everything I hoped it would be. It’s the story of Audrey and her two adult daughters. Something happened when the two sisters were on the cusp of being teenagers and it’s completely pulled the family apart. Jess can’t forgive Lily and as a result won’t let her daughter see Lily’s daughter, and Audrey never gets to have all of her family together in one place. As the secrets of the past are slowly revealed I was just so sad that this family had allowed the inability to speak openly at the time had caused such a long rift. I can understand it though because when you fall out with a family member, the longer it goes on the harder it is to ever get things back. I thought this was such a beautiful novel and it did make me cry – they were cathartic tears though and ultimately this book gave me hope. I adored it and recommend it!

 

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Matilda by Roald Dahl

I was a little too old for this book when it first came out but I had loved other Roald Dahl books as I was growing up (Danny the Champion of the World was my favourite back then!). So when my baby brother was old enough to have this read to him, there was no way anyone else was getting the chance but me (this was almost 30 years ago now)! I’m so glad I made time to re-read it recently as I loved it as much as I ever did. Matilda is such a brilliant character, one you root for all the way through the book. I remember getting absorbed in my very own copy of Oliver Twist when I was 9 and while I was nowhere near as precocious as Matilda I could identify with the way adults didn’t believe I could read at that level on my own. I loved the humour in this book, Roald Dahl had such a talent for capturing children’s imaginations but also making his books fun for adults to (re-)read too. I adore this book and now want to re-read my whole Roald Dahl collection!

 

 

Fiction Mini Reviews: Louis and Louise, Something To Tell You, The BookShop of the Broken Hearted, and Ghost Wall!

MINI REVIEWS 5

Today I’m sharing yet more mini reviews of books I’ve read over the summer months.

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Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen

This is such an incredible book and I loved every single minute that I spent reading it. In the book a baby is born to a couple but in one chapter the baby is a boy – Louis, and in the other chapter the baby is a girl – Louise. We then see each of their lives alternating through the novel and it’s fascinating to see how similar their lives would have been a times, and how vastly different at other times. There is one chapter part-way through the novel where the male and female versions of this person merge and it is so incredibly moving. I loved the exploration of what it is to be female or male, the different things that are expected and the different way men and women see and feel things. I also adored the idea of fate that runs through the novel, the way that some things are perhaps pre-ordained for us no matter our gender or sexuality. I adored this book, and even though it’s now weeks since I read it I still find myself thinking about. I think this will be one of my books of the year so I highly recommend it!

 

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Something To Tell You by Lucy Diamond

I do love Lucy Diamond novels and this one was such a gorgeous read! Frankie’s mum recently died and she left behind a letter for her daughter. On reading it Frankie discovers the truth about her birth and who her father is. She decides to go and see him and walks right into the middle of a Mortimer family gathering. From there we follow Frankie as she tries to make a connection with her father and other family members. We also hear from other Mortimers and see how their lives are and how they feel about Frankie. Things aren’t always plain-sailing and there are some real heart-rending moments in this book but on the whole it’s a feel-good read and I very much enjoyed it!

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The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman

This is a beautiful, slow-burn novel following Tom Hope. His wife Trudy has left him taking her son Peter with her. Peter isn’t Tom’s biological son but he’s raised him and he thinks of him as his own and so is devastated to lose him. Meanwhile there’s a newcomer to the town, Hannah and she is opening a book shop. The locals are intrigued, and Tom can’t resist stopping by. He and Hannah form a bond and slowly we learn each of their histories and what has made them the way they are. Hannah’s story is incredibly moving, I wasn’t expecting it but it really did make me feel emotional. This is one of those books that slowly gets under your skin, and after you finish reading it you’ll find you can’t stop thinking abouit. I really did love this one!

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Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

This is a stunning novella, and one that I still keep thinking about. It follows Silvie who is staying at an Iron Age reconstruction in the middle of nowhere with her mum and anthropologist father. There are moments where we see what happened to an iron age girl that are visceral and heart-breaking. We then see that whilst Silvie doesn’t face the same savage life as that girl, the pain and lack of understanding that teenagers go through perhaps is such as it ever was. The writing in this book is beautiful, there is so much said in so few words. It’s a book that still goes through my mind and it’s weeks since I read it. I think it’s a book that I will re-read in the future. I recommend it!

Review: Reunion by R. V. Biggs | @RVBiggs @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

One random, violent act is enough to change Sarah Macintyre’s life forever.

Left unsettled, and yearning for a new beginning, Sarah is unsure of what to do with her life. But one day she discovers an anonymous letter hidden amidst a pile of unopened mail.

The note, however, contains nothing more than a confusing riddle.

Intrigued and excited, Sarah’s hunger for a new life compels her to search for the author to understand the puzzle and solve the mystery.

Embarking on a journey that will shape the rest of her life and that of her family, Sarah uncovers a past of which she had no knowledge, a present she must find a path through, and a future filled with intense grief and utmost joy.

 

My Thoughts

Earlier this year I read and fell in love with Song of the Robin, the first book in the Sarah McIntyre series, so I was delighted to be offered the chance to read the follow up book. Song of the Robin is one of those really special books that has made its mark on me and I’m so happy to say that I also completely and utterly adored Reunion!

Reunion picks up right after the end of Song of the Robin. Sarah is still struggling with the assault that happened in the previous book, she feels fear about it but she’s also still having strange symptoms. She feels anxious and worried but can’t seem to express to her loved ones what exactly is happening to her. Then one day she receives a strange letter in the post and this leads to Sarah uncovering some secrets and some answers!

I loved this novel, I was under its spell from the opening page until after I turned the final page. Sarah is such a great character and I constantly root for her to be well and to be happy again. I had such a connection to Song of the Robin because of the way grief is explored, it really struck a chord with me, and whilst Reunion moves on from that story the way lost loved ones are spoke of in this book was so wonderful.

This novel follows Sarah and her family for the most part but it also has short chapters from a time in the 1700s as we follow a young woman trying to survive and avenge the trauma that has been inflicted on her family. It’s not clear initially what this has to do with the main plot but it soon begins to come clear and I loved the way we get to put it all together. The atmosphere in this book is wonderful, there is such a sense of time and place, and the people are all so real and believable.

I loved seeing more of Sarah’s friendship with Rachel, they are two women who clearly have such a strong bond. Their relationship is so true to life – the way that sometimes you can’t even tell the people closest to you how you’re feeling and they can sense you holding back but you can’t break through the walls. You get to see more of Rachel in this book and to understand why she is the way she is. I wasn’t expecting the cause of her pain to be what it was but it was so believable and my heart broke for her.

There is loss and pain in this book, things that moved me to tears at times but the overriding feel is one of healing – both physically and emotionally, but it’s also about the act of healing and this is so beautiful.

I love the way the author explores fate and destiny in this book, I’m really drawn to stories about these things. I never used to believe in fate but in my own life, a few years ago, over the course of five months the very worst thing happened to me and then the very best thing happened to me. So many people have said that perhaps it was my late mum who made sure my husband arrived in my life when he did and I take so much comfort from the thought of that. Reunion looks at how the past continues to run through us and it explores how those we’ve lost are never really gone.

There is a mystery running through this book that had me utterly fascinated. I was trying to figure out what was going on along with Sarah and her family, and was utterly gripped by the way the story unfolds in this book. It’s such a great story, and told so brilliantly.

I don’t want to say too much more because future readers should read this book as I did, without knowing too much about it going into it so you get to experience the stunning journey these characters go on for yourself.

I don’t really have the words to describe how much I loved this book (and the previous one). It’s one of those times where I connected with it so much and it now means such a lot to me and I just can’t do it any kind of justice. The first book in the series made my top books of 2019 so far list back at the end of June and I can say for sure that Reunion will be on my favourite books list at the end of the year! Song of the Robin was cathartic and comforting for me, and Reunion was incredibly moving and healing. R. V. Biggs writes such stunning and special novels – I can’t wait to read whatever he publishes next. I highly recommend this series of books, they really are so different and so beautiful.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Reunion is out now and available here.

I’ve previously reviewed the first book in this series, Song of the Robinhere.

 

About the Author

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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.

Twitter @RVBiggs

 

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

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Review: Horizontal Collaboration by Carole Maurel and Navie | @rolcamaurel @KoreroPress #GraphicNovel @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

“Horizontal Collaboration” is a term used to describe the sexual and romantic relationships that some French women had with members of the occupying German forces during World War II. In this poignant, female-centered graphic novel created by writer/artist duo Carole Maurel and Mademoiselle Navie, the taboo of “sleeping with the enemy” is explored through the story of a passionate, and forbidden, affair. In June 1942, married Rose (whose husband is a prisoner of war) intervenes in the detainment of her Jewish friend and then accidentally embarks on a secret relationship with the investigating German officer, Mark. There is only one step between heroism and treason, and it’s often a dangerous one. Inside an apartment building on Paris’s 11th arrondissement, little escapes the notice of the blind husband of the concierge. Through his sightless but all-knowing eyes, we learn of Rose and Mark’s hidden relationship, and also of the intertwined stories and problems of the other tenants, largely women and children, who face such complex issues as domestic violence, incest, and prostitution. This fascinating graphic novel tackles the still-sensitive topic of who it is acceptable to love, and how, and the story’s drama is brought vividly to life by intimate and atmospheric illustrations.

 

My Thoughts

Horizontal Collaboration is a stunning graphic novel telling the story of women in World War 2. The book opens with Virginie and her grandmother Rose in the present day talking about love, and this leads to Rose reflecting back on the man she truly loved (not the man she married). We then discover the stories of three women whose lives overlap during the war, and get to understand things from each of their perspectives.

The novel is set in an apartment building and we get to see inside each of the inhabitants’ lives and how they all intertwine.

Rose is married to Raymond, who is away at war, and she is raising their young son Lucien. Over the course of the memoir we see her relationship with a German soldier, which she desperately needs to be kept secret but she has fallen in love with him and can’t stop seeing him. This is such a dangerous situation for Rose, but I couldn’t help but feel for her.

Josephine is another young woman who works at a cabaret club but is also working as an escort as its the only way she can make ends meet. I really liked her and felt so anxious that things weren’t going to work out for her. She seemed so lonely and sad, never giving her full self to anyone.

Then there is Madam Flament. She was something of an enigma to begin with. She seems to be quite scatty; she’s obsessed with her cats in the basement and seems to care more about them than the people living in her building. But there’s something that made me think she was watching and taking in everything that was happening, and this made me nervous about what this might lead to.

I will say that when I initially started reading this book I found it a little confusing as the story does jump from character to character. I soon realised that I needed to take my time with this novel and read it slowly, to properly appreciate the story being told and to enjoy the beautiful illustrations. Once I did this I became fully immersed in this book and I was captivated by what I was reading and seeing.

The illustrations throughout this novel are stunning. The colour palette is predominantly sepia toned but there is colour, and the way things like the way candles light up a room are captured so beautifully. The images capture the mood; the happy and the heartbreaking in such a way that I so many times had to pause for a few moments just to take in an image before moving on to the next part.

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Camile is one of the only men in this book and I found that his story was the thread that pulled the others together. He is a kindly, older man that the other people in the building seem to gravitate towards. Camile is blind and it’s fascinating that for all the atmosphere of the time made people suspicious of each other and jump to conclusions; it is the one who is blind that really saw the full picture. He heard all the things that weren’t been said, he put the pieces together but he also keeps his counsel.

It felt to me all the way through this book that it was going to have a tragic ending. I think it’s partly the time the book is set in but also there is a feeling of pressure building inside the individual characters in this book and you can feeling it simmering but you know some part of it is going to give way. The tension is palpable at times, and I spent a lot of the time I was reading this book holding my breath.

This novel really captures the fear of living through a war, and also the way that people had to find happiness where they could and to survive however they could. I really felt that this book showed how nothing is ever black and white, and that in war there are so many more shades of grey than you could ever imagine.

Horizontal Collaborations is a beautiful novel is every way. The story is incredibly written and so moving, and the illustrations are stunning. I’d recommend this book to everyone, and if you’ve never read a graphic novel before I urge you to give this one a try. This is such a poignant book that has imprinted itself on my heart and I won’t forget it!

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Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Horizontal Collaboration is out now and available here.

 

About the Authors

Navie and Carol Maurel Author pic

Carole Maurel cut her teeth on animated films before devoting herself to illustration, in particular, graphic novels. Her 2017 book The Apocalypse According to Magda was awarded the Artémisia Avenir award, which celebrates women in comics.

Navie is a screenwriter for press, cinema and television. She has a degree in history from The Sorbonne in Paris, where she specialized in the history of fascism – making Horizontal Collaboration an excellent fit for her first graphic novel.

Twitter @rolcamaurel

 

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

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Book Review: Death and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor | @melaniecantor @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has a terminal blood disease. She has three months to live — ninety days to say goodbye to friends and family and put her affairs in order. Trying to focus on the positives (at least she’ll never lose her teeth) Jennifer realises she has one overriding regret: the words she’s left unsaid.
Rather than pursuing a frantic bucket list, she chooses to stay put, and write letters to three significant people in her life: her overbearing, selfish sister, her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend finally telling them the things she’s always wanted to say but never dared.
At first, Jennifer feels cleansed by her catharsis. Liberated, even. But once you start telling the truth, it’s hard to stop. And, as she soon discovers, the truth isn’t always as straightforward as it seems, and death has a way of surprising you ..

 

My Thoughts

Death and Other Happy Endings follows Jennifer who has been feeling exhausted recently and after undergoing blood tests at the doctors is told she has a terminal illness and has three months left to live. She buys a calendar and starts counting the days, trying to work out what she should do with her final days. She decides to write letters to her sister, her ex-husband and her ex-boyfriend telling them all the things she wanted to say but never dared to!

I have to start by saying that the way I’ve described this book may make it seem a bit depressing but I swear to you that it’s absolutely not! It’s funny and moving, and it has you cheering Jennifer on. On hearing that she’s going to die soon she goes off for a walk and ends up doing something she never, ever would have done before she got the news. I knew then that this novel was going to be life-affirming and it was.

I loved that Jennifer wrote the letters that she did to her self-centred sister, her horrible ex-husband and her smarmy ex-boyfriend. She found it so cathartic, and it made me think of the kind of letters I might have written at points in my life to people who have treated me badly. It was satisfying to see her get it all out of her system. When my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer she got an urge to shred her wedding dress (she was long divorced but had kept her dress), I told her to just do it if it helped so she did. She felt so much better afterwards and wished she’d done it long ago. So I was thinking of her at times as I was reading Jennifer’s story and how she reacted to the diagnosis she received.

I also lost my best friend to cancer when I was in my early 20s and the last weeks I spent with her were full of laughter, and at times there were tears, but we were both so focused on wanting to live and have fun while we could. So I found it very moving when Jennifer and her best friend were talking about the wedding that Jennifer would likely not live to attend. It brought a lump to my throat but also happiness that at least Jennifer knew about the wedding and could help with the plans and choosing the dress.

This isn’t in any way a heavy-going book despite the subject matter but by the same token there is a believability in how Jennifer deals with the news she’s been given, and the way she grieves for the life she won’t get to have and the things she won’t get to do. Melanie Cantor has such a deft touch in the way she has written this book, it’s remarkable to deal with such a hard topic and never down play it whilst also retaining humour and lightness. It’s an utterly incredible novel.

Death and Other Happy Endings is a book that reminds you to live your life, to make time for the people that matter and to walk away from those that don’t. We all need a reminder of this from time to time and this book was the reminder I needed. I also felt like this novel gave me my best friend back for a little while as after I finished reading this I my mind was flooded with memories of her and that’s been wonderful for me.

There is so much life and joy in this book, it really is life-affirming. It’s a novel about friendships, about coming to terms with the past and finding a way forward when life has other plans for us. I adored this book – it made me cry, it made me laugh and I just felt a sense of the joy that can be found during even the hardest times. This book was solace for me and I will treasure it, it’s definitely going to be on my books of the year list! I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this book and reading it as soon as you possibly can!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Death and Other Happy Endings is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Melanie Cantor Author Picture

Melanie Cantor was a celebrity agent and publicist for over thirty years. Her clients included Ulrika Jonsson, Melinda Messenger and Melanie Sykes.

In 2004, she hosted a makeover show on Channel 4 called Making Space and in 2017 having just turned 60 she was scouted on Kings Cross station, subsequently appearing as a ‘real model’ in the most recent Dove campaign.

She turned her hand to writing in 2008. Death and other Happy Endings is her first published novel.

Twitter @melaniecantor

 

 

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Book Review: The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw | @claidlawauthor @AccentPress @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

 

My Thoughts

The Space Between Time follows Emma from being a young girl to her becoming an adult. Her father is a really famous actor, and her grandfather is an obscure astrophysicist. As her father’s fame grows, her mother’s mental health seems to decline and Emma struggles to understand what is happening, while at the same time being deeply affected by it.

I really connected with Emma throughout this novel, there are so many things that she experiences that I could identify with. She goes through loss in different ways and her pain really radiated off the page. The way she feels grief was so palpable; the quote below is exactly how grief is.

Once, at a party, I smelled her perfume and came close to tears. I still feel that she’s close to by, almost within touching distance, her hand not quite on my shoulder, her lips not quite about to kiss the top of my head: not quite, and just out of sight. It’s as if she’s in another room, close by: her cremated particles reaching out, decaying on the breeze, becoming smaller, and smaller, and smaller.

I loved the parts of the book where Emma describes a photo of herself with her mum and dad at a film premiere but later we get another perspective on the photo as she works through her feelings about her father as he gets older. This made me cry, it so resonated with my own life and I felt I was right there with Emma. It captured grief and the slow acceptance of loss, but also the way we come to see things differently as we age. We perhaps understand more of our parents that we couldn’t possibly have grasped when we were younger and hadn’t got the reference points that being an adult ourselves brings. It’s also the acceptance that comes with getting older of taking people as they are, and that perhaps we expected more of them than they could give to us.

I came to love the fact that this book didn’t feel grounded in a particular time. There are references to things so you do know when it’s set but there is a real timeless feel to the novel. This is where the astrophysics comes into play – the idea of what is here now, and what was here before and what might be in the future. The whole novel seems to play with these ideas and Emma becomes interested in her grandfather’s work as she seeks solace from the loss in her life and it brings her comfort.

We all live in permanent chaos, however ordered our lives seem, with every innocuous action having lots of little consequences that are completely unpredictable.

There are some brilliant moments of humour sprinkled throughout too that made me properly laugh. The part of the book where Emma ends up at protest march with a man she slept with once is so perfectly written. Their argument ends up echoing the different banners around them and it’s utterly brilliant!

This is a novel that requires concentration and time so it took me a little while to get into it but there was a moment where this book just clicked for me and from then on I just couldn’t put it down. I fell in love with this story, it’s stunning!

The Space Between Time is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read and I’m so happy that I got the chance to read it.  This is a book to savour – I recommend reading it slowly and taking your time with it. There is so much of life – the beauty and the pain – contained within its pages and it’s a book where you won’t want to miss a thing. I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Accent Press for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to be on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Space Between Time is due out on 20 June and can be pre-ordered here.

 

 

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Book Review: Between the Regions of Kindness by Alice Jolly |@JollyAlice @Unbounders @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Coventry, 1941. The morning after one of the worst nights of the Blitz. Twenty-two-year-old Rose enters the remains of a bombed house to find her best friend dead. Shocked and confused, she makes a split-second decision that will reverberate for generations to come.

More than fifty years later, in modern-day Brighton, Rose’s granddaughter Lara waits for the return of her eighteen-year-old son Jay. Reckless and idealistic, he has gone to Iraq to stand on a conflict line as an unarmed witness to peace.

Lara holds her parents, Mollie and Rufus, partly responsible for Jay’s departure. But in her attempts to explain their thwarted passions, she finds all her assumptions about her own life are called into question.

Then into this damaged family come two strangers – Oliver, a former faith healer, and Jemmy, a young woman devastated by the loss of a baby. Together they help to establish a partial peace – but at what cost?

 

My Thoughts

Between the Regions of Kindness is a novel that follows several characters, and is set in two timelines – 1941 during the Blitz and 2003 in the run up to the beginning of the Iraq war. The novel opens in Coventry in 1941 and in the aftermath of a bombing Rose goes to her friend’s house and shockingly finds her dead. Here Rose makes a decision that has ramifications throughout the years that follow. In 2003 we follow Lara, Rose’s Grand-daughter as she tries to come to terms with her son’s decision to go to Iraq on a peace mission.

The novel really explores the experience of being a mother – some of the women to their grown children and another woman to her unborn baby. Jay is a troubled young man and we first know of him through his mother Lara’s perspective and as she goes into his bedroom it becomes increasingly clear that she is at a loss. She doesn’t understand why her son has gone off on a peace mission, and she didn’t have any idea that he was even planning to do this. She is stunned and gradually, over the course of the novel, she comes to know more about why her son was doing what he was doing. She only really gets to know her son in his absence and through very sporadic communications with him while he’s away. This contrasts so stunningly with the young Rose and the decision she made in 1941 when her and her daughter Mollie were living through the Blitz.

I was most affected by Jemmy, a young woman who has recently lost a baby and is now pregnant again. The loss of her first baby was heart-breaking to read about – I know what this loss feels like and the way it is explored in this novel was so honest and real. Soon after we meet Jemmy we learn that she’s pregnant again but she’s unable to feel the joy she felt before, there is just so much fear eating away at her. Her increasing desperation to keep this baby safe was palpable and I was hoping along with her that she would get a happy ending this time.

There is also an exploration of the stories that run through a family and how each generation hears parts of them and tries to understand how they came to be. Rose’s daughter Mollie (Lara’s mother) had a troubled youth and it impacted who she came to be as grew older. There are many tales that she tells such as the time she fell off a roof and throughout the novel it seems to Lara that these are embellished or possibly not even true. We do get to find out the truth of the stories, but also about what made Mollie who she is.

Then there is Oliver, a man who used to be a faith healer but after life has dealt him some blows he’s not sure he has any power to heal anymore. There are things that happen around him that made me wonder if he could heal but for me his real power came in the muddling along of his budding friendship with Lara. Sometimes it’s not in an actual healing that someone begins to be mended but it’s the having someone who will listen and be there, no matter what you throw at them that starts to heal someone.

Between the Regions of Kindness is ultimately a novel about resilience, about how we have to find a way to pick ourselves back up when the worst has happened. It’s about how people have to be vulnerable, have to let others in so that they can help us find the way through our pain, and conversely people have to let us see the person underneath the brave face so that we can help them. The exploration of grief is palpable at times but Alice Jolly’s writing is so beautiful that you just have to keep reading.

I adore the cover of Between the Regions of Kindness, it just immediately shows that even in the darkest moments new things will grow. Flowers will appear, and kindness will be shown (sometimes from the most unlikely sources but it will be there). It really is a wonderful cover and is so perfect for this stunning novel.

I loved Between the Regions of Kindness! It’s quite a chunky book but I still read it over the course of two afternoons, it just pulls you in from the opening chapter and keeps you under its spell until long after you’ve finished reading. It’s impossible for me to do any kind of justice to this novel in my review but if you take away one thing from reading my rambling thoughts it’s that this is a book not to be missed. I would recommend this to everyone. It’s rare to find a book that has so much depth and beauty while at the same time never shying away from the really harrowing parts of life. It’s a stunning book, one I am so glad I had the chance to read.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book and my invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Between the Regions of Kindness is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Alice Jolly is a novelist and playwright. She has published two novels with Simon and Schuster and has been commissioned four times by the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. She has also written for Paines Plough and her work has been performed at The Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden and The Space, East London. In 2014 one of her short stories won The Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize. Her memoir Dead Babies and Seaside Towns was published by Unbound in July 2015, and won the PEN Ackerley Prize 2016. She teaches creative writing on the Mst at Oxford University.

 

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Baxter’s Requiem by Matthew Crow | @mattthewcrow @CorsairBooks #BaxtersRequiem @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Mr Baxter is ninety-four years old when he falls down his staircase and finds himself resident at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home.

Baxter is many things – raconteur, retired music teacher, rabble-rouser, bon viveur; but ‘good patient’ he is not. Indeed, Melrose Gardens is his worst nightmare. Then he meets Gregory.

Greg is just nineteen years old, but he has already suffered a loss so heavy that he is in danger of giving up on life before he even gets going. Seeing the boy’s pain, Baxter decides to take him under his wing.

Together they embark on a spirited journey to the war graves of Northern France, for Baxter to pay tribute to the love of his life; the man he waved off to fight in a senseless war; the man who never returned.

As Baxter shares his memories, Gregory starts to see that life need not be a matter of mere endurance; that the world is huge and beautiful; that kindness is strength; and that the only way to honour the dead, is to live every last second we have while we’re here.

 

My Thoughts

Mr Baxter is 94 years old and not happy to be a resident at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home. Greg is 19 and ends up working at the care home where he meets Baxter. Initially it doesn’t seem possible that a directionless young adult and forthright Baxter would get along but somehow they forge a connection.

I started reading this after lunch one day and I literally didn’t put it down until I’d turned the last page later on that afternoon. I was pulled into this story from the opening pages and I just had to keep reading.

I had a soft spot for Baxter from the start, he gives off a grumpy vibe but you can see very quickly that he has a great sense of humour. There is a moment very early on in the book when Baxter has a chat with his doctor about music and I properly laughed when I read it. My husband loves jazz and I can’t bear it so me and Baxter were like kindred spirits from the off!

‘”Are you fond of music?”

“I like jazz.”

“So that’s a no then […] If you can’t carry a tune then learn a f*cking trade”.

Baxter also has a real caring side for those who are struggling, he doesn’t show it all the time but you can sense it’s there. Greg made my heart ache; it’s so awful to read about a young person who is carrying so much on his shoulders. He has been through the most awful loss and he has no one in his life that he can talk to. His dad has shut down and won’t face up to things and so Greg is on his own with his grief. He ends up working at the retirement home and Baxter immediately realises that Greg isn’t just a sullen young man but is actually in such pain and torment.

‘[Greg] felt like there was a lifetime of conversation inside him, somewhere, and hoped that one day he’d find a companion who would encourage it to emerge.’

The friendship that grows between Greg and Baxter is heartwarming, I absolutely adored seeing them getting to know each other. It’s never mawkish despite the heartbreak that each of them has gone through – Matthew Crow hits the most perfect tone in the way these two men get to know more about each other. Baxter begins to bring Greg out of himself a bit more, and Greg seems to brighten Baxter’s days without even realising he’s doing it. Alongside this present day story we get to hear Baxter’s back story and I was enthralled. He found the great love of his life as quite a young man and for a while they lived in a cocoon in Baxter’s house. They were hopeful that one day they could go out as a couple but for that moment in time they were just so happy to have found each other. But then the war broke out and Thomas is called up. I shed tears when this happened, and again when he actually left. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to see your soul mate go off to war not knowing if you’ll ever get them back home with you again.

“When she passed […] it blew through me like a f*cking hurricane. Nobody understood, you see. Nobody had lost what I had lost. We’d all suffered, granted. But grief, it’s a different shape for everyone”.

“It’s a different size, too.”

Over the course of the novel we learn more about Greg’s story and, for me, it just began to feel like Greg and Baxter were destined to meet. Their paths crossed at a time when they both had a growing need for closure, for someone who would make time for them and they forged a beautiful friendship. I loved how Baxter helped Greg gain a bit more confidence to make friends with people around the home. It was wonderful to meet Winnifred – I want to be her when I grow up!

I almost didn’t sign up to read this book for the blog tour because I find it really upsetting to read about men lost in the war. My late Nan lost her first husband in the Second World War and finding the ‘missing presumed dead’ telegram about him after she died was one of the most heartbreaking moments in my life. It still makes me want to weep when I think about it all these years later. I’m so glad that I did pick Baxter’s Requiem up though because the tears I cried whilst reading it were cathartic and healing, and ultimately this book has a lot of joy radiating from its pages too.

I read this book a few weeks ago now and I still keep thinking about Baxter and Greg. They are two wonderful characters that I won’t ever forget! Baxter’s Requiem is one of those really special books that steal a piece of your heart, it’s now firmly on my favourites shelf and it will be a book that I re-read. It’s beautiful and moving, heartbreaking but also life-affirming… there just aren’t enough superlatives to do it justice, I just urge you to please go read it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Corsair for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Baxter’s Requiem is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Matthew was born and raised in Newcastle and began freelancing for newspapers and magazines whilst still at school, writing about the arts and pop culture.

He has written four novels, Ashes and My Dearest Jonah – the second of which was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize for Literature – and one book for young adults, In Bloom, which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and the North East Teen Book Award, and listed in the Telegraph’s Best YA of 2014 List.

His fourth book, Another Place, is also be for young adults and was published by Atom in August 2017.

Matthew’s most recent novel, Baxter’s Requiem, was published in September 2018 by Corsair.

 

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Book Review: Amazing Grace by Kim Nash | @KimTheBookworm @HeraBooks @rararesources

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About the Book

She’s taking her life back, one step at a time…

Grace thought she had it all. Living in the beautiful village of Little Ollington, along with head teacher husband Mark and gorgeous son, Archie, she devoted herself to being the perfect mum and the perfect wife, her little family giving her everything she ever wanted.

Until that fateful day when she walked in on Mark kissing his secretary – and her perfect life fell apart.

Now she’s a single mum to Archie, trying to find her way in life and keep things together for his sake. Saturday nights consist of a Chinese takeaway eaten in front of the TV clad in greying pyjamas, and she can’t remember the last time she had a kiss from anyone aside from her dog, Becks

Grace’s life needs a shake up – fast. So when gorgeous gardener Vinnie turns up on her doorstep, his twinkling eyes suggesting that he might be interested in more than just her conifers, she might just have found the answer to her prayers. But as Grace falls deeper for Vinnie, ten-year-old Archie fears that his mum finding love means she’ll never reconcile with the dad he loves.

So when ex-husband Mark begs her for another chance, telling her he’s changed from the man that broke her heart, Grace finds herself with an impossible dilemma. Should she take back Mark and reunite the family that Archie loves? Or risk it all for a new chance of happiness?

 

My Thoughts

Amazing Grace is the story of Grace who is separated from her husband and is trying to re-build her life along with her ten-year-old son Archie and dog Becks. She’s ambling along in life – she has a nice house and a job she enjoys but she’s not feeling very fulfilled and her life is lacking some sparkle. Then one day Vinnie arrives and it might just be that Grace is going to get a chance at happiness.

I loved Grace from the minute I started reading this book. She’s so easy to identify with and I was rooting for her to get her happy ending from the start. She’s such a warm person and someone who wants to do right by the people she loves but she ends up spreading herself a little thin at times. I also adored her friend Monica who decides to help Grace makeover her life with a new wardrobe and some matchmaking!

Grace’s ex-husband Mark is such an arrogant, smarmy man and Grace is left agonising over whether she should forgive his affair and give him another chance because in doing so she’d no longer have to share custody of their son and she could be with Archie all the time. I was hoping she would give herself time to think about this became Grace is clearly way too good for Mark. I’m not a violent person but he really made me want to slap him at times in this book!

Vinnie on the other hand is a wonderful man who seems to just want the best for Grace.  I have to admit that I was a little suspicious of him for a while as he seemed almost too good to be true. I soon decided that he was genuine and I was rooting for him and Grace to get together. I loved seeing Grace getting to know him though and finding her feet on the dating scene again. It’s not easy putting yourself out there after a long-term relationship and Monica’s ‘help’ wasn’t always the most useful (although some of the dates did make me giggle!).

Amazing Grace has some really moving, heartfelt moments throughout as Grace is still very much missing her mum who died a few years previously. I really felt for her as she so badly wanted to hear her mum’s voice or to ask for some advice. There is one moment in particular with Grace and her mum that made me sob when I read it but it was healing, happy tears. I really could identify with Grace, I still miss my mum so much and Kim Nash captures the loss of a mother so beautifully and poignantly. Amazing Grace retains its lightness throughout – Kim has such a deft way of writing heartache that shows the reality of it without it ever feeling heavy.

Kim has a huge talent for writing characters that feel so real – everyone in this book feels like someone I might bump in to. It takes real care to make even the more peripheral characters memorable but Kim does it brilliantly! The older couple that she met in the park for example are so vivid in my mind even now, and they were only in the book for a few pages.

Amazing Grace is one of those really special books that I will treasure. It made me snort with laughter, and it made me shed a few tears but most of all it made me feel happy, smiley and comforted – I adored every single second that I spent reading it. It’s an amazing book, one I would recommend to absolutely everyone. Amazing Grace is one of my favourite books of the year and I now can’t wait to read whatever Kim writes next!

Many thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources and Hera Books for my copy of the book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Amazing Grace is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Amazin Grace - Kim Nash author photo

Kim Nash lives in Staffordshire with son Ollie and English Setter Roni, is PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture and is a book blogger at www.kimthebookworm.co.uk.

Kim won the Romantic Novelists Association’s Media Star of the Year in 2016, which she still can’t quite believe. She is now quite delighted to be a member of the RNA.

When she’s not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog, reading, standing on the sidelines of a football pitch cheering on Ollie and binge watching box sets on the TV. She’s also quite partial to a spa day and a gin and tonic (not at the same time!) Kim also runs a book club in Cannock, Staffs.

Amazing Grace is her debut novel with Hera Books and will be out on 10th April 2019

Connect with Kim on Social Media here:
Twitter: (@KimTheBookworm) https://twitter.com/KimTheBookworm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimTheBookWorm/
Instagram: @Kim_the_bookworm

 

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#BookReview: Three Things about Elsie by @JoannaCannon @BoroughPress @BissCakes #ThreeThings

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About the Book

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

My Thoughts

Firstly I have to apologise for the fact that I read and wrote my review for Three Things about Elsie way back in January and I was absolutely certain that I’d published it on my blog. In doing some sorting out this week I discovered that it had gone back into my drafts folder. January is a tough month for me due to it being the anniversary of my mum’s death and I just hadn’t realised that WordPress had messed up. Anyway, here (finally) is my review for the wonderful Three Things about Elsie!

I’m a huge fan of Joanna Cannon’s writing so when the publicist for Three Things about Elsie offered to send me a copy I immediately said yes! I didn’t read it straight away because it felt like a book to be saved for the right moment, and I was right. It’s been near impossible to write this review for two reasons: the first being that I loved it so much and I just don’t have enough superlatives to use, and the second is that I feel like the novel is now interwoven with my own emotions.

The novel opens with Florence having had a fall in her flat within the care home that she lives and she’s waiting for someone to come and help her. As she’s waiting she begins to think about her friend Elsie, and a new resident to the home and her mind goes back and forth in time as she mulls over what might be going on. Florence has started to be a bit more forgetful and the past and present begin to merge in her mind so she has to try and untangle the mystery and to work out if there is danger to be feared from the new resident. Florence is such a great character; she is so real and I was absorbed in her story from the very beginning.

I started reading Three Things about Elsie at the weekend and I fell in love with the novel in the first chapter. A few chapters in and I’d already had a little cry. I knew this book was going to be special. I deliberately read it slowly because Joanna Cannon has a wonderful ability to perfectly capture the essence of people, to make you feel like you’re reading about real people. The way she gets turns of phrase so exactly right warms my heart.

Monday was the anniversary of my mum’s death and I knew that combined with Florence’s story that this novel might be too much, and yet I was drawn to continue reading. I sobbed through the final few chapters of this book, it completely and utterly broke my heart. And yet as I turned the very last page it was all the beauty in the book that came to the fore in my mind, it was all the paragraphs that made me smile and remember. It feels like this book climbed inside my heart and it gave me real solace over a weekend full of such sad memories.

Florence is a wonderful character, I’m sure that anyone reading this book will see elements of their own loved ones in her. There were moments where she reminded me of my lovely nan, who died before old age took anything away from her. The idea of Florence lying on the floor after falling made me think of my Grandma, whose memory is beginning to get a little muddled and who has had a couple of horrible falls. The way Florence holds the people she can remember so dear to her made me think of my mum, who when her cancer spread to her brain began to speak as if she were still in her childhood home with her mum and sisters. More than these things though it spoke to me because whilst I’m not elderly I am disabled and I have had horrendous falls and been stuck on the floor until someone could come and help me. I try to keep my phone on me at all times so that I can ring my husband but occasionally I’ve forgotten it and I can’t express how frightening it is to be lying on the floor unable to get up. Joanna Cannon captures this fear, and later the resignation so perfectly that at times it was like she was expressing my own thoughts.

There is a sense of loneliness in this novel that I wasn’t expecting. It hovers around the edge of the story but it’s definitely there. Older people like Florence, and vulnerable people, and people like me can so easily disappear to the edges of our own lives, and to the very, very edge of other people’s lives. There can be people around but many of them no longer see you as who you feel you still are. The outside of you might look older, or more disabled, but the inside is still the same. I felt such an affinity with this aspect of the book, and it makes me want to cry now writing about it and yet the sensitivity of the writing makes this a book that I know I will go back to time and again when I need to be reminded of the Handy Simons of this world.

Three Things about Elsie is an incredible novel; it will break your heart but it will also heal it. It will give you solace and smiles; and it will make you hold your loved ones, the people who still see you, a bit tighter. Without a shadow of a doubt this book will be in my favourite books of 2018 and I urge you to go buy a copy now, you won’t regret it!

I was sent a copy of this book by the publicist. All thoughts are my own.

Three Things about Elsie is out now and available here.

About the Author

Joanna Cannon is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, which has sold over 250,000 copies in the UK alone and has been published in 15 countries. The novel was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, shortlisted for The Bookseller Industry Awards 2017 and won the 2016 BAMB Reader Award. Joanna has been interviewed in The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Times, and Good Housekeepingmagazine, and her writing has appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail, and the Guardian, amongst others. She has appeared on BBC Breakfast, BBC News Channel’s Meet the Author, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5, and is a regular at literary festivals across the country including Edinburgh and Cheltenham. Joanna left school at fifteen with one O-level and worked her way through many different jobs – barmaid, kennel maid, pizza delivery expert – before returning to school in her thirties and qualifying as a doctor. Her work as a psychiatrist and interest in people on the fringes of society continue to inspire her writing, and Joanna currently volunteers for Arts for Health, an organisation bringing creative arts to NHS staff and patients. Joanna Cannon’s second novel Three Things About Elsie is published in January 2018 and explores memory, friendship and old age. She lives in the Peak District with her family and her dog.

#BookReview: The Break by Marian Keyes @MichaelJBooks @MarianKeyes #TheBreak

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About the Book

Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her. He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . . However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge. For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . .

 

My Thoughts

I love Marian Keyes – she’s always my go to author when I need a book that I know I’m going to get completely engrossed in. I’m so happy to say that The Break lived up to my hopes for it.

I’ll admit that it took me a couple of attempts to get into this book. The first time I picked it up I just wasn’t feeling it and I ended up putting it down. However, I picked it up again a few weeks later and found myself completely swept away by the story and the characters. I ended up really, really loving this novel and am so glad that I gave it another chance.

Marian Keyes is so good at exploring what makes people tick, and for always writing well-rounded, believable characters. I love the way I started off thinking Hugh was completely selfish and that Amy should have just told him that if he wanted to go then he should go and not come back. Over the course of the novel though we get to see more of Amy’s back story, and also come to see how the death of Hugh’s father has impacted him and it comes to feel really balanced. These two characters felt very real to me and I was curious to see whether their marriage would survive everything that had happened, not just while they were on a break but all of the things they’d faced in the years since they first got together.

Amy is feisty, and the part of her that feels downtrodden at times gets through because of her rise-above attitude. I felt that I could identify with a lot of her traits and was willing her on throughout the novel to grasp what made her happy. As the novel progressed I came to understand Hugh too, I don’t condone his running away and having a break from his marriage but I know how intense grief can make you feel the need to completely re-evaluate your life, and to explore what happiness is and whether the life you’re living is the best life you could have.

The issues of separation, and grief are dealt with so sensitively but also with the characteristic humour that you expect from Marian Keyes. She captures the reality of life so brilliantly. The Break was an emotional read at times, and I did shed a few tears but ultimately it’s a wonderful exploration of relationships in all their forms and I adored it! I highly recommend this book!

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

The Break is out now

 

About the Author

Marian Keyes’ international bestselling novels include Rachel’s Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels, The Other Side of the Story, Anybody Out There?, This Charming Man, The Brightest Star in the Sky, The Mystery of Mercy Close and The Woman Who Stole My Life. Two collections of her journalism, Under the Duvet and Further Under the Duvet, are also available from Penguin. Marian lives in Dublin with her husband

My TBR for the 20 Books of Summer Challenge!

20-books of summer

I’ve decided, at the last minute, that I’m going to take part in the 20 books of summer challenge again set up by Cathy at 746 Books. Last year I did read 20 books over the summer but most of them weren’t books on my planned TBR and, due to life getting in the way, I don’t think I reviewed any of them.

This year I’ve chosen twenty physical books off my TBR that I definitely want to read soon. I do read a lot of ebooks and some audio books but it’s the physical books that are taking over my house so I’m going to try and only count physical books for this challenge!

So, without further ado here are my 20 books of summer…

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

This is a non-fiction book that feels like it’s going to be a heavy read; it’s also quite a long book but I do really want to get to this soon as I’ve seen really good reviews of it.

How To Be Human by Ruby Wax

I was sent this for review and it’s a book that was already on my radar as a book I must read so I definitely want to get to this. It sounds like a fascinating look at what makes us human!

Not That Kind of Love by Clare Wise and Greg Wise

I won an advance copy of this book last year and I really wanted to read it… but somehow it’s still on my TBR! It jumped out at me when I was sorting through my books recently so I’m hoping to get to it in the coming weeks.

Our House by Louise Candlish

I also won a signed copy of this a little while ago and as I’m a huge fan of Louise Candlish I want to read it very, very soon! It sounds like a really fast-paced, thrilling read so I’m looking forward to it.

Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell

This book has been on my TBR for ages and I’ve been really keen to read it but somehow haven’t picked it up yet. I’m hoping this summer will be the time!

The Second Sister by Claire Kendall

I treated myself to this last year and it’s another book that I wanted to read asap… I’m sure I’ll get to it this summer though now I’ve put it on my TBR.

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

My husband bought me this book as an Easter gift and I so badly want to read it so I’m going to make time for it in the coming weeks.

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

This is a review book that I was sent recently and I can’t wait to read it. It feels like it could be a book to read in summer so I’m adding it to this TBR.

Tell Me Lies by Rebecca Muddiman

I realise that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but this is another book that I’ve had on my TBR for ages. I don’t know why I keep doing this when it’s books that I really want to read.

The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave

This is a recent acquisition but it’s one that I want to get to while I’m still excited to read it so that it doesn’t end up languishing on the TBR mountain!

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

My husband bought me this book to cheer me up after an appointment and it feels like it’ll be perfect to read over the summer. I do love Zadie Smith’s writing to this should be a treat.

Sister Golden Hair by Darcey Steinke

I read a review of this book a few weeks ago and immediately ordered a copy of the book. This is definitely a book to read in the warm, summer months and I can’t wait!

The Lido by Libby Page

I was sent a copy of this book for review and it simply has to be in my summer TBR as I’m keen to read it as soon as I can. It sounds like a gorgeous read and one that I will love.

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

I was sent a surprise copy of this from the publisher and I kept it because it has a stunning cover and it sounds like a real me read. I’m hoping I get to this one soon as I’ve heard good things about it.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

I love Rachel Joyce’s writing so much (especially Harold Fry) so I don’t know why I haven’t read this one yet (I think it’s possibly that need to always have a book left to read by a favourite author!). I’m sure I’m going to love this book!

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

I received a copy of this in the post recently and it was a lovely surprise. I adored Ruth Hogan’s previous novel and so am really looking forward to reading this book.

You, Me and Everything by Jill Mansell

This is yet another novel that has been on my bookcase for ages. I’ve kept putting this one off because I think it might be a book that makes me cry but now it’s calling to me so it’s going on my summer TBR.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

I’ve had this book a while and I’ve not stopped being keen to read it and yet I haven’t got to it yet. I will make time to sit down with this over the summer.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

I found this book on my bookcase during my recent sort out and I can’t think where it came from. I don’t remember buying it but when I read the blurb it sounded like a prescient book and one I felt I must read soon.

An Account of the Great Auk According to One Who Saw It by Jessie Greengrass

This is a short story collection that I’ve had for a while now and it really jumped out at me when I was sorting my bookcases so I’m determined to get to it this summer.

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So that’s my 20 books! I’m really excited to get to all of them so I have high hopes for actually completing this challenge this year! I feel like I’ve picked a good selection with a mix of crime & thriller, non-fiction, young adult, general fiction and a short story collection so hopefully I’ll get to read them all over the next few months!

Have you read any of these books? Are there any that you recommend I get to soon? What are you planning on reading over the coming months? Here’s to a summer filled with good books!

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

LMBLW quote LOW RES

About the Book

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

SK Perry © Naomi Woddis copy

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

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

(Author bio taken from here)

 

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


LMBLW blog tour

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

Meeting Lydia Audio -1

About the Book

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

Linda - Author Photo

Linda MacDonald

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

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

 

About the Narrator

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Harriet Carmichael

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

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

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

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

 

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

Meeting Lydia Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Last Light by CJ Lyons @cjlyonswriter @canelo_co

Last Light by C. J. Lyons

About the book:

A brutally murdered family… a wronged man in prison 

1987: Lily Martin is horrifically murdered along with her young child in Texas.

Today: Life should be easy after leaving the FBI –  but not if you’re detective Lucy Guardino. Lucy has always seen herself as a normal mum who happened to have a job chasing the worst of the worst. But after a violent predator targets her family and she’s injured, Lucy sacrifices her career at the Bureau.

She joins the Beacon Group, a firm that specializes in cold cases. Lucy fears she’s traded the elite for shepherding a team of amateurs.

She is sent to rural Texas to investigate a case that’s already been closed with the killers behind bars for twenty-nine years.

But who really killed Lily Martin and her infant daughter? Why was an entire family targeted for annihilation? What price will Lucy pay when she fights to expose a truth people will kill to keep buried?

My thoughts:

I very much enjoyed reading this novel. I especially loved that there were two really strong female characters in this novel and both were interesting. Lucy has a warm personality but is a very steely investigator. On a personal note, it was interesting to read about her AFO – I wear a similar leg brace (although my disability is very different) so I had real sympathy when she had no nice shoes to wear with her new work outfit. I have to wear men’s velcro trainers two sizes too big with mine as nothing else will go over it! TK is also a character that I’m looking forward to learning more about as this series progresses – she’s a former marine that has obviously had a very traumatic time whilst serving but her record is classified so not much is known. She’s fascinating though as she’s very good at aspects of her new job but is also slightly hot-headed at times so is far from being perfect.

I did find this to be a novel of two halves in a way – the first half was really interesting as we learn about the team of investigators, and find out more about the crime and the man who was convicted of the murders. It almost felt like it could be a real life murder case. I felt that in the second half I had to suspend my disbelief a little bit as it did feel like some things were ramped up in a way that was great to read and it was still well written and so fast-paced. I couldn’t put the book down and read this half of the book in a couple of hours, I was so keen to find out if the suspect was really the killer and if they would be caught and punished.

This is the first in a new series – the Beacon Falls series – but I believe Lucy’s career in the FBI was another series in its own right so I’m tempted to go back and read all of those now too as I enjoyed this novel so much. Last Light had me engrossed from the prologue all the way through to the end. It’s a fast-paced and tense read that you’ll find very hard to put down once you’ve started reading!

This is a brilliant start to a new crime thriller series and I can’t wait to read the next book!

I received a copy of Last Light from Canelo via Ed PR in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author:

cj-lyons-pic

CJ Lyons has lived most of her life on the edge. New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).

She has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy. She has worked in numerous trauma centers, on the Navajo reservation, as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, as well as a flight physician for Life Flight and Stat Medevac.

A story-teller all her life, CJ has always created stories about people discovering the courage to make a difference. This led her to coin the term: Thrillers with Heart.

Her novels have won the International Thriller Writers prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Golden Gateway, Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

(Biography details and photo taken from CJ Lyons’ website)

Author Interview with Cat Hogan #TheyAllFallDown

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing an interview with Cat Hogan to share with you today. Cat’s new novel They All Fall Down is out now!

 

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself

My name is Cat and I love books! When I’m not writing them, my nose is constantly stuck in one. I’ve just released They All Fall Down- it’s my first novel and so far, so good. It has sprouted wings and has been spotted all over Europe lazing on beach towels.

When I’m not writing (content by day and madmen by night) I am Mam to two little mischief makers- Joey (11) and Baby Arthur (3).

We live in beautiful Wexford on the South East coast of Ireland.

 

How did you first come to be a writer?

I’ve always written- short stories, poetry, diaries, letters- you name it. My first serious dive into the world of writing was when I set up my own business as a content writer for businesses. I have an honours degree in Law, and a degree in Business Studies- so it made sense to me to do this. That kind of writing is very structured and very formal. I had They All Fall Down in my head for a while before I got down to actually writing it. Once I began in earnest, I couldn’t stop- I had the first draft written in about six months.

 

What is your book about?

They All Fall Down is a dark psychological thriller exploring the depths of flawed human nature, the thin line between love and obsession and the destructive nature of addiction. They story revolves around six characters- their lives, their motivations and the consequences of each of their own actions on each other. It’s set in Ireland in a fictional fishing village.

 

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

Music plays a huge role in my life. It always has done. My partner is a musician- originally from Newcastle Upon Tyne. He came to Ireland with his band to tour, I spotted him at his first gig and I guess the rest is history- he came for the music and stayed for love! We listen to a lot of music in our house and I find inspiration for lots of stories through lyrics.

Being close to the sea is a constant source of inspiration to me. We are blessed to live so close to the beach and the countryside. Just getting out for a walk to clear the noise out of my head is good- I carry a notebook everywhere and even write down snippets of conversations I eaves drop on!

I’m a people watcher. There’s nothing I love more than sitting outside my local coffee shop and just watching. (In a non-creepy way of course)

 

What is your writing routine?

The reality is, I’d love to have a writing routine but I don’t. I work from my kitchen table at home- we live in a small house and since Baby Art has gone into his own little room, my office is the kitchen table. I usually write at night when the boys have gone to bed. I have tried getting up at stupid o clock in the morning when they are all asleep- it doesn’t work for me. I’m a night owl, always have been. I would love a little space ( a she-shed would do) that’s just mine, with no distractions. That said, the library and the beach are good spots for writing- I do all my original drafts, ideas and notes long hand.

 

What has your journey to publication been like?

Swift! I was published less than a year after I first got my agent. I finished They All Fall Down in June 2015. In August, I signed with my agent, and by November, I had a two book deal with Poolbeg Press. They All Fall Down was published on July 1st and I was delighted to hit the Irish Times Best seller list a couple of weeks later. It’s been an absolute whirlwind and now the real pressure is on to promote the first book and get the second written to the September deadline- I love every minute of the madness!

 

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished reading ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus and I’m about to start ‘The Panda Theory’ by Pascal Garnier. Stephen King is never too far out of reach. My TBR pile is getting out of hand and I have a weakness for book shops- I just can’t stop buying them. I also have a habit of doing an Amazon blitz here and there.

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

I’ve been thinking about this question for about an hour- it’s a good one! I have finally decided on Stephen King. He has a huge volume of work and all of his characters are so diverse- from possessed cars, to vampires. You would never be bored- you might be terrified out of your mind- but entertained. His book ‘On Writing’ is an absolute must read for any aspiring authors.

 

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

One question rarely asked in interviews is about how nerve wrecking it is to publish a book and put your baby on a shelf for all the world to see. The answer is: it’s absolutely petrifying.

 

How can people connect with you on social media?

I’m a Twitter and Facebook lass. I think I have Instagram and Snapchat accounts but I rarely use them. Come find me for the chats on Twitter @kittycathogan and over on Facebook @catherinahoganwordsmith.

I love both platforms and am always there ready to chat!

 


About the Author

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Cat Hogan was born into a home of bookworms and within spitting distance of the sea. Her father, Pat, a lightship man, instilled in her a love of the sea and the stars. Her mother, Mag, taught her how to read before she could walk.
Writing, storytelling and a wild imagination is part of her DNA.

The beautiful County Wexford, Ireland is home to Cat, her musician partner Dave, two beautiful sons Joey and Arthur, and her tomcat Jim Hawkins. There they live a life of storytelling, song and adventure. The other love of Cat’s life is food. A self-professed foodie, there is nothing she loves more than feeding a houseful of friends round her kitchen table.

When she is not conjuring up imaginary friends, she can be found supporting local musicians and writers of which there is an abundance in her home town. One of her first endorsements for her novel is also her favourite and comes from fellow Wexfordian of Artemis Fowl fame.

‘If the Gone Girl met the Girl on the Train, they would have come up with They All Fall Down’ -Eoin Colfer.

They All Fall Down is Cat’s debut novel and two weeks within publication, it powered it’s way onto the best seller list.


 

Cat has recently been featured in the Irish Times, which you can read here:
She has also featured on a radio podcast which can be listen to here:
Cat is also appearing on other blogs throughout August and you can follow those posts here:
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Book Review: All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker #NotForgotten

 

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You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime.

Jenny’s wounds have healed.
An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack.
She is moving on with her life.

That was the plan. Except it’s not working out.
Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching.
And she’s getting worse.
Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial.

It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack.

I was beyond thrilled when I was offered the chance to read and review this novel. I had heard a few things about it on social media and was so keen to read it.

All is Not Forgotten is an unflinching look at a very traumatic attack on a teenage girl and the aftermath of that. Wendy Walker is a great writer and doesn’t shy away from anything in this novel and that makes it feel very real, I felt like I was in amongst the characters in this book and even though I finished reading it weeks ago, it is still very much with me.

My main reason for wanting to read this book was when I heard it was about erasing memories after trauma. The idea of a treatment to remove traumatic memories has always been fascinating to me. I’ve suffered with PTSD in the past and whilst I consider myself recovered after many years of counselling and CBT etc I do still remember what happened to me and I still have to be on my guard in certain situations in order to keep anxiety at bay. I do believe, based on my own experience, that people can move on from trauma and have perfectly normal, happy lives but it takes a lot of work. I love the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where people can have memories of failed relationships removed but All is Not Forgotten is even more interesting because it is focused on trauma. I liked how this treatment was groundbreaking and yet it had its flaws, the fact that Jenny is left with a ghost of a memory of what happened to her – like an itch that she can’t reach to scratch. It’s not a complete cure and she is then left in a horrible position of having to decide how she can put right the treatment that she had – it isn’t an easy thing to reverse as she will have to have intense therapy to help her remember what happened to her.

I was drawn into all aspects of this novel though, it is about so much more than a treatment to erase memories – it’s actually about the way people act to protect themselves and their families. The way that jumping to a conclusion about someone can lead to so many unforeseen consequences, the way that people don’t always try to help you for the right reasons and can sometimes have an agenda of their own. So many people end up caught up in the aftermath of the attack on Jenny and it’s horrifyingly fascinating to see it all unravel.

I loved how this novel was narrated; at first I wasn’t sure who was narrating and then as I realised and saw how the person narrating was also like a conductor in an orchestra and it was so brilliant to read. Sometimes the reader is ahead of the narrater and can work out what comes next so you think you’ve got it worked out but then it all moves in a different way and the rug is pulled from under you again.

I loved this book, it is an incredible read! It was edgy and twisty and just utterly fascinating to watch the unravelling and revealing of all the hidden memories – not just Jenny’s! I will be recommending to everyone I know and I’m sure it will be a huge bestseller.

All is Not Forgotten is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Thank you to Cara at Harlequin for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


 

I was recently very lucky to have the opportunity to interview Wendy Walker as part of the blog tour for All is Not Forgotten and you can read that here if you’d like to.

 


About the Author

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Wendy Walker is a practicing divorce attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten.

 

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

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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

 

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

 

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

 

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself.

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

How did you first come to be a writer?

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

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

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

What has your journey to publication been like?

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

What are you reading at the moment?

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

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

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

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

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

How can people connect with you on social media?

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

Twitter handle is @Wendy_Walker

Facebook is: Facebook.com/WendyWalkerAuthor

Instagram is: Instagram.com/wendygwalker

 


 

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

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

 

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt of the novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Is there any more writing under the paper?’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘She didn’t do a heart as well?’

‘Help me with this, will you?’

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

About the Author

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

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

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

 

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

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Blog Tour | Review: My Girl by Jack Jordan

MY GIRL BOOK COVER

Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man. 

She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house. 

Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death? 

Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets. 

But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me. 

I started reading My Girl without really knowing much about it but it immediately hooked me in. I read the whole novel in one sitting because I simply had to know what was going on!

This novel is about Paige Dawson whose daughter was murdered and her husband has recently committed suicide as he just couldn’t cope anymore. Paige is in a really bad way – she is drinking heavily and taken a lot of medication to try and numb her devastation but it’s not keeping the emotions at bay. She is desperate to get more pills and will do anything to get them. This part of the book was quite shocking at times as we read what lengths Paige goes to but it’s more shocking how she is treated by others. People take advantage of the mess she is in and use her in awful ways. It was really difficult to read at times but at the same time I wanted to know where the story was going. Paige does have people in her life who want to help her but no one seems able to pull her back from the brink. She is just a very broken woman who can’t get over the loss of her child. She clings on to the past because it’s all she feels she has left. It’s very well written because I my heart was breaking for her as if she were a real person.

This novel is chilling at times, for more than one reason, and even though it was a tough read, it is a novel that I couldn’t put down. If I’m to be completely honest the only slight criticism I have is that I wish the second half of the novel had been longer. The first half is paced really well and gives such a sense of Paige’s despair but the second half lacked just a little of the character development of the first half. I just wanted to know more and for it to be expanded a little but this is only a minor point. It still works very well though and it wouldn’t stop me recommending this book.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Jack Jordan but I’ll definitely be buying his other novel Anything for Her and will be looking out for whatever he writes next.

I rated this novel 4 out of 5.

My Girl is due to be published on 4th July worldwide and is available for pre-order now.

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

Here is the blog tour poster so you can visit the other blogs on the tour:

MY GIRL BLOG TOUR POSTER

Blog Tour | The #JoyceGirl and Mental Health by Annabel Abbs #GuestPost

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Today I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Joyce Girl. I have a brilliant guest post to share, which Annabel Abbs has written for me about mental health issues. It’s such an important and relevant piece so please read and share it.

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The Joyce Girl tells the mostly-true story of Lucia Joyce, a talented dancer and the daughter of James Joyce.  Set in 1920s Paris, the novel explores Lucia’s affairs with a young Samuel Beckett and a young Alexander Calder, and her subsequent descent into what was then termed ‘madness’.

When I decided to write about Lucia, I knew she ended her days in a mental asylum, friendless and forgotten. But what I didn’t know was how many other women in 1920s Paris had followed suit.  As my research deepened, I came across more and more ‘bright young flappers’ who, like Lucia, were certified as insane and put into mental asylums.  In The Joyce Girl alone, three of the six female characters (all based on real people) went into asylums – all certified as schizophrenic. These included Lucia’s sister-in-law, and a fellow dancer -Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. One of the characters who inhabited earlier versions of the novel (the sister of Lucia’s first love interest and the French translator of Joyce’s Dubliners) also went into an asylum. Sadly she was lost from the novel when I cut the cast to a more manageable size.

In those days, any adult male family member could have a female family member certified. And once you were certified you lost all your legal rights.  Lucia was subjected to a catalogue of often bizarre and sometimes inhuman treatments.  She was regularly straitjacketed and locked up.  In an age when there was no specific medication for mental health disorders, and when mental asylums were full of drunks, drug addicts and syphilitics, her experience must have been terrifying.  And Lucia loathed being restrained.  After being a dancer who expressed herself through her body, being forced into a straitjacket was a particularly cruel and violent act.

This was also an era when ‘madness’ was often viewed as shameful.  Although Lucia’s father stood by her to the very end, her mother and brother were only too ready to cast her off, seeing her not only as a taint on the family’s reputation but as a drain on the family finances.  In my Historical Note, I quote from a letter in which they are united as saying Lucia should be ‘shut in and left to sink or swim there.’

Fortunately huge progress has been made in the area of mental health. But while I was writing The Joyce Girl, I became increasingly aware of a surge in mental health issues at the schools of my three daughters.  This was reflected in newspaper reports and professional surveys showing the surge went far beyond my daughters’ schools.  Take these facts, for instance (source: YoungMinds and Beat):

  • In the last ten years the number of young people admitted to hospital because of self harm has increased by 68% .
  • The number of children and young people who have presented to A&E with a psychiatric condition have more than doubled since 2009.
  • Since 2005-06, there has been a 34% increase in hospital admissions due to anorexia (predominantly female).

The more I researched jazz-age Paris, the more I saw parallels between the 1920s and the 2015s, as new generations (particularly, but not exclusively, female) struggled to adapt to new values, to new ways of behaving, to new ways of being viewed by others and by themselves.

The flappers of that era were ‘victims’ of the rapid change sweeping through the developed world. The 1920s were a time of huge change – cars, cameras, cinemas, telephones and radios were becoming ubiquitous and altering the lives of everyone. In Paris, hems were up and stockings were down as young women embraced change and all it promised. Suddenly cameras were everywhere, the paparazzi was born, and glossy magazines began to feature ‘celebrities’, making icons of the new Hollywood stars.  In Paris Josephine Baker made naked dancing acceptable – no longer something confined to brothels. But beneath the glamour and glitter lay a dark underbelly, as many of these women succumbed to depression and mental illness.  The mostly-male doctors were untrained in mental health. Psychoanalysis (the ‘talking cure’) was in its infancy and there was still a tendency to write off these women as neurotics or hysterics.

Today, technology and social media have revolutionised our world and yet beneath the glossy technicolour of Instagram and Facebook lurks a similarly dark underbelly, with soaring rates of anorexia, bulimia and self-harm among the young, and particularly (but by no means exclusively) young women and girls.

In memory of Lucia, I decided to give my first year profits to a charity called YoungMinds who work with those needing help. We’ve come a long way since the 1920s – but there’s still a long way to go. No one should ever be left to languish in an asylum as Lucia was.

 

About the Author

Annabel Abbs

 

Annabel grew up in Bristol, Wales, Herefordshire and East Sussex – the daughter of two writers. She studied English Literature and History at the University of East Anglia and then completed a Masters in Marketing and Statistics at Kingston University. She started her career as a copy writer in an advertising agency then co-founded a marketing agency which she left after fifteen years to spend time with her four young children and to write. She currently blogs at http://www.kaleandcocoa.com and writes short stories and novels.

 

About the Book

Final front cover

 

Paris 1928. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of James Joyce, is making a name for herself as a dancer, training with many famous dancers of her day and moving in social circles which throw her into contact with Samuel Beckett. Convinced she has clairvoyant powers, she believes her destiny is to marry Beckett, but the overbearing shadow of her father threatens this vision. Caught between her own ambitions and desires, and her parents’ demands, Lucia faces both emotional and psychological struggles that attract the attention of pioneer psychoanalyst Dr Jung.


 

The Joyce Girl is due to be published tomorrow in the UK and can be pre-ordered now. I reviewed The Joyce Girl last week and you can read my review here.


 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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Review: In the Light of What We See by Sarah Painter

In The Light Of What We See by Sarah Painter

Brighton, 1938: Grace Kemp is pushed away by the family she has shamed. Rejected and afraid, she begins a new life as a nurse. But danger stalks the hospital too, and she’ll need to be on her guard to avoid falling into familiar traps. And then there are the things she sees…Strange portents that have a way of becoming real.

Eighty years later, Mina Morgan is brought to the same hospital after a near-fatal car crash. She is in terrible pain but recalls nothing. She’s not even sure whom to trust. Mina too sees things that others cannot, but now, in hospital, her visions are clearer than ever…

Two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by a shared space and a common need to salvage their lives.

I was sent this book to review a couple of months ago but had other books I needed to read first but it’s felt quite serendipitous that I picked it up yesterday as it ended up being the perfect read for me and I just didn’t want to put it down. I read it in just two sittings as it drew me in and held me there from start to finish.

I loved the friendship between Grace and Evie. Grace had had a difficult time at home and was so nervous when she began her nursing career but Evie, who seemed so opposite brought out the lighter side of Grace and it was wonderful to read. It was lovely how as the novel went along we had small insights into Evie’s character too, and she ended up being such a great friend to Grace.

Mina was an interesting character from the start. She seemed very cold and distant from people but after her accident, when she was so vulnerable and had to rely on others, she found a softer side. I really liked how she didn’t change over night but it just gradually became apparent that she had always had this other side but she’d buried it under pain and guilt.

There are small elements of mystery running through the novel as Mina tries to piece together the tiny fragments of memory that are slowly coming back to her after the accident. I had such a feeling of dread about Geraint but was never quite sure what the story was with him until it is revealed.

I loved the connection through time between Grace and Mina, it was so fleeting and yet felt so important to the book. I was convinced all the way through the novel that there these two characters would turn out to be related to each other or that they would meet at some point – I’m not going to post any spoilers at all but the continuous connection between them throughout the novel and the way it ended was perfect and beautiful. It could so easily have become forced or even twee but it never, ever did.

The idea of ghost birds that have flitted in and out of Mina’s life is fascinating. The way they were there to protect her and to warn her about things that may be about to happen. This was another connection to Grace in a way in that Grace saw shadows on people that often foretold something bad about to happen. I think this was how the two characters became connected within the hospital – that ability to see something other, the openness to channels that most people are closed off to.

 

I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

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

Review: The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (audiobook)

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one. 

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. 

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound, and dumped in water around London. 

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding? 

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika. 

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong…resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again? 

A pause-resisting thriller packed with suspense. If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, and Karin Slaughter, discover Rob Bryndza’s new series today.

I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review the audio version of this novel. I listen to a lot of audio books but I don’t usually review them, this is the first! I find it easy to follow audio books but have to admit that I’ve never listened to a crime/thriller novel before as I worried it would be harder to keep track of the characters.

I loved listening to this novel. The narrater, Jan Cramer, has done a brilliant job of bringing great characters to life. She does a different voice for each character and this made the novel so easy to follow, I soon knew which voice belonged to which character and could relax and enjoy listening to the novel.

The novel as a whole is great – it kept me engrossed and I found that when I stopped listening for the day I was couldn’t wait to get back to it. I found Erika Foster really interesting as a character and although she falls into the trope of troubled detective to a degree, it didn’t feel like a stereotype. Her character, and what she had been through, felt completely believable and the way she was coping felt very realistic and that was a refreshing change from a lot of crime/detective novels.

I found the whodunnit element very good too – I only worked out who the killer was shortly before it was revealed and I think that was the point the reader is supposed to realise. I loved that I hadn’t been able to work out who it was earlier – I had my suspicions at various points in the book but I wasn’t sure.

The novel itself is a brilliant start to a new series and I’ll absolutely by buying the next book. I’ll also definitely look out for audio books narrated by Jan Cramer in the future.

If anyone reading this review has never listened to an audio book before or, like me, was put off listening to a crime novel in case it’s harder to follow as an audio book then please consider this one. The characters are so well written that you can tell them apart plus Jan Cramer’s narration is such that all the voices sound different from each other so you very quickly know who’s speaking. It’s a brilliant audio book all round.

I rated this audio book 4.5 out of 5 and I’m very much looking forward to reading, or listening to, the next book in the series.

I received a complementary copy of this audiobook from Audible via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the Ice is published by Bookouture. It’s out now and available in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats.

Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

With Malice by Eileen Cook

A teenage girl wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend–only what if the accident wasn’t an accident?

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

I saw this book mentioned in a blog post recently and I liked the sound of it so much that I immediately requested it on Net Galley! I’m so glad I did as it’s a really good read.

I was drawn into this novel very quickly – the opening lines are really gripping (see my Book Beginnings post for more about the first few lines) and it becomes impossible to just read a little bit of this book. The novel is narrated by Jill, who has no memory of the accident, which makes her very unreliable and I do love an unreliable narrator! I was curious about her from the start; she seemed like an ordinary, hard-working student who got caught up in a horrible accident through no fault of her own. As the novel progresses though a web begins to be woven and you find yourself  questioning things about Jill. Throughout the book there are snippets from social media and blogs, and transcripts from some of the police interviews, which really lead you to wonder how much Jill can be trusted – just as in real cases like this, we get swayed one way by one news report and then a different way entirely by another.

There are clear echoes in this novel of the murder of Meredith Kercher and the trial of Amanda Knox. In particular I could see how the author had taken the way the media presented that case and fictionalised it in this novel.

I think there are other novels about female friendship gone awry that are perhaps more deeply developed than this one but this is a real page turner – it’s a really enjoyable read and one that is very hard to put down. I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it.

I received With Malice from HotKey Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

With Malice is due to be published on 9th June in the UK.

Review: The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs

 

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Paris 1928. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of James Joyce, is making a name for herself as a dancer, training with many famous dancers of her day and moving in social circles which throw her into contact with Samuel Beckett. Convinced she has clairvoyant powers, she believes her destiny is to marry Beckett, but the overbearing shadow of her father threatens this vision. Caught between her own ambitions and desires, and her parents’ demands, Lucia faces both emotional and psychological struggles that attract the attention of pioneer psychoanalyst Dr Jung.

The Joyce Girl is an incredible novel about the daughter of James Joyce: a fictionalised exploration of the life of Lucia Joyce. She is a young woman obsessed with dance – she has an obvious talent and initially seems destined for great success. However, she is also her father’s muse and he likes her to dance for him in a particular way, thus keeping her trapped when she needs to spread her wings.

Lucia becomes quite fixated with the idea of marriage after hearing it said that marriage is how women become free. This leads to her to become easily infatuated with men who show even remote interest in her – Lucia would quickly begin fantasising about their wedding, her future life with her suitor, and it becomes so real to her that she sadly doesn’t really see the reality of what some of these men want from her. Samuel Beckett is a fascinating character in this novel but his attraction to Lucia causes him to lead her on somewhat when he isn’t certain of his intentions towards her.

Lucia is taken advantage of by men throughout her life – some men more so than others – but she never really has a normal, stable man in her life at any point. From the moment she was born she was her father’s muse and had to mould herself into whatever he wanted her to be; her brother is a vile man who does whatever he wants with Lucia to suit his own ends. Even as an adult Lucia identifies herself as the daughter of a genius, she never really sees herself in her own right.

The theme of identity runs throughout this novel; the idea that you’re not only who you feel yourself to be but can become moulded, or even forced, to be what the people around you want you to be, or what they already assume you to be. Lucia is pulled in numerous directions and it’s quite apparent that in the end something would have to give. Heartbreakingly for Lucia as her mental health begins to crack under the strain yet another man in her life is able to take full advantage and get rid of her so that he can then shine. 

It is obvious throughout this book that James Joyce loved his daughter, that he wanted what was best for her and he did stick by her. However, it’s also quite apparent that his obsession with writing and needing Lucia to dance for him in order to inspire him was unhealthy for her. It became a tragic situation.

This novel got under my skin far more than I expected it to. I found that once I started reading I didn’t want to put the book down. Lucia Joyce is such a fascinating person and it was great to learn more about her. It saddened me to see how she was never going to escape her father’s name and her brother’s control – between them they seemed to keep her trapped as a child, never to be allowed to be her own person and inevitably this drove her to a kind of madness. Her obsession with dance and wanting to be perfect led to some of her issues but her home life seemed to have a far greater impact. It’s heartbreaking to read of the way men just discarded her as if she were nothing, even though her more manic moments must have been difficult for a man to cope with at that time, it’s still really tough to read.

It shocked me how many women in this novel end up being locked away in asylums because they went mad, or were diagnosed schizophrenic. A poignant moment that I’ve already referred to when Zelda Fitzgerald tells Lucia about her freedom to dance as a married woman and then soon after we learn that Zelda has been committed. These women didn’t really have freedom at all. Their love of dance led to them being somewhat obsessed with it but the way that their husbands / fathers / brothers wanted to keep them on a tight rein led to the women being torn in two different directions. There is no wonder their mental health began to decline. I would imagine that being locked in an asylum and unable to dance would have been the final thing that broke their spirit in the end.

The Joyce Girl is a breathtakingly beautiful novel; it will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished reading.  I rated this novel 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

The Joyce Girl is due to be published on 16th June in the UK and can be pre-ordered now.

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

 

I’m the blog tour for The Joyce Girl and have a brilliant guest post about mental health by Annabel Abbs to share with you on 15th June so please look out for that.

Blog Tour | Review: The Safe Word by Karen Long

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There are rules that every player of every game must abide by, no matter how dangerous the sport.

Toronto has become the backdrop to a macabre set of artistic installations: women kidnapped, tortured and horrifically displayed by a killer with a vision. 
Only someone capable of understanding the killer’s creative desire will be able to stop the murders and D I Eleanor Raven is uniquely qualified. Driven by a complex personality she pursues only the facts, only the things she can see, but never casts a judgement. 

But she also has a dark and dangerous secret – one that will threaten her very survival.

I’ve heard quite a lot about this book so when I got the chance to sign up for the blog tour I couldn’t type quick enough to say yes!

I really enjoyed this novel, it’s unusual for me to be engrossed in a crime novel from the first page but this one grabbed me straight away and I didn’t want to put it down.

I found it really refreshing to read a detective novel where the lead character doesn’t seem to have relationship or alcohol problems, as seems to be par for the course in many novels like this. I really liked Detective Eleanor Raven – she is who she is and she doesn’t apologise for it. She seemed like a strong female who doesn’t yield when she know she’s right, she also seems really interesting and I want to know more about her.

I enjoyed seeing how Eleanor interacted with a new partner after her long-standing colleague was off on sick leave. I get the feeling that she will warm to Laurence as time goes on but I loved the dynamic between them – she didn’t make things easy for him but at the same time it felt like deep down she was giving him a chance to prove himself.

The murder scenes in this book are sinister and gruesome but are so intriguing that I couldn’t stop reading as I wanted to find out who was killing these people and what their motivation was. It was a fascinating crime story.

I rated this novel 4 out of 5 and am happy to discover that this is the first book in a series and am now very much looking forward to reading the second book.

I received this book through Brook Cottage Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review.

The Safe Word is out now and available from:

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

B & N

About the Author

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Karen Long was born and raised in the English midlands, educated at Bangor University and taught English and Drama for fifteen years. During her teaching years she studied biology and neurology with the Open University and this interest in medicine, forensics and forensic psychology is reflected in her writing. She is an enthusiastic traveller and has spent time in Toronto, which became the backdrop and inspiration for The Safe Word.

She is a keen amateur naturalist with a deep and abiding love for the crow family. She has dedicated time, love and several fingers in an effort to rehabilitate crows, magpies, rooks and ravens.

Karen is happy to correspond with readers and can be contacted through her website KarenLongWriter.com, where she posts regular blogs.

The Safe Word is Karen’s first novel and was an Amazon bestseller, soon to be joined by the second in the Eleanor Raven series, The Vault. Karen is working on the third novel in the series.

AUTHOR LINKS

FACEBOOK

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All author or review enquires please contact Karen Long’s Personal Assistant J.B. Johnston – brookbooks@hotmail.co.uk

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Check out Book 2The Vaulthttp://amzn.to/1WSnlDn

 

Exorcising the Furniture by Virginia King #QuirkyGuestPostTour

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Today I’m delighted to welcome author Virginia King to my blog as part of the Quirky Guest Post Marathon. Virginia has written a brilliant guest post about exorcising the furniture, I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Exorcising the Furniture by Virginia King

A fiction writer can sometimes be pulled into strange territory. A character can say something unexpected or an event can turn up, making the dialogue or the book career off in a new direction. These serendipitous detours can generate bursts of research and create new layers in the story.

The Face in the Mirror

In the first chapter of my psychological mystery The First Lie, the main character Selkie Moon encounters the face of a strange woman in her bathroom mirror. She’s just moved to Hawaii, a place full of paranormal happenings. Seriously spooked, Selkie googles the sighting, after the strange event had sent me there ahead of her. She found accounts of other people’s encounters with the spirit world:

Someone describes levitating off her bed and almost being sucked into a mirror. She was just able to resist, and afterwards a team of ghost-busters rid her apartment of evil spirits hiding in the sculptures and statues.

Research like this is a gift to the mystery writer who enjoys a foray into the psychic and the surreal.  Was the face in the mirror trying to lure Selkie … to the other side? Or was it some kind of vision? But Selkie’s a stranger in town so what’s it got to do with her?

Suspect Ornaments

 

Selkie shares a flat with art student Wanda, and this snippet about sculptures and statues inspired me to fill the place with quirky ornaments. Selkie says …

My eyes scan the walls and dozens of eyes stare back. Wanda’s artworks, fashioned from dead fish. In garish colours with painted lips … A naked shop dummy sits on a chair at the end of Wanda’s bed, her plastic legs akimbo. Doris. For the first few weeks I kept jumping out of my skin every time I caught sight of her …

The room is a tribute to Wanda’s eye for other people’s trash, and my few belongings barely make an impression on the menagerie. A large Buddha head with four faces forever contemplating his split personality. Two fairies shadow-dancing on an art-deco tray. A parrot made from nuts and bolts poised on his own perch.

Soon Selkie is running for her life. After one shocking incident, she and I both remembered the woman with the statues. As Selkie wonders if one of Wanda’s ornaments might be harbouring something, deeper layers appeared in the mystery.

Back to the Bathroom Mirror

Spooky Mirror

After an hour on Google I’m on a feng shui site: Don’t put a mirror opposite the bed in case you get trapped in the in-between state between sleeping and waking.

This little gem gave me further permission to play with the mystical properties of mirrors. Hawaiian folklore has lots of stories: faces appearing in grandma’s mirror, causing doors to slam and cups to rattle; the ritual of turning the mirror to the wall before going to bed …

After Selkie sees the face, Wanda tells her the mirror belonged to her grandmother, Tutu:

“Tutu was a kahuna,” Wanda says. “That’s where I get my Hawaiian blood, from her. She saw things. In her mind. And in the mirror.”

“Things?”

“You know. The future. Predictions. Visions.” She stops. “Now you’ve seen one.”

“I saw a face, that’s all. A face that . . . stared at me.” But the hairs on my neck are standing up.

There’s talk about what to do with the mirror:

“What do you want me to do,” Wanda asks, “call in an exorcist?”

“Hell, no. Just move the bloody thing.” Into a dumpster on the other side of the island.

“You can move it. Turn the mirror to the wall and it loses its power.”

“No way,” I say. “And I’m stuck outside in my bathrobe. How am I going to get to work?”

Jewellery with Attitude

Cowry with Attitude

Google tells me that in Victorian times precious stones were thought to have ‘magical’ properties: for example rubies symbolised passion and seed pearls depicted tears. But Selkie is living in modern Hawaii, where I was once given a necklace made from … a cowry shell.

Hermit crabs live in empty shells, and a shell held to the ear whispers about the sea. A Google search discovers lots of mystical powers attributed to cowry shells around the world. How might a cowry contribute to Selkie’s journey? It’s another opportunity to ‘exorcise the furniture’.


A Free Ghost Story

Laying Ghosts

Get a taste for the Selkie Moon mystery series with Laying Ghosts, a modern 24-page haunted house story inspired by a Russian folktale and tangled up in a murder ballad dating back to the 1700s. It’s a standalone story but also a prequel to the series and explains the chilling reason for Selkie Moon leaving Sydney to start a new life in Hawaii. Download your free copy http://www.selkiemoon.com/#popup


The First Lie by Virginia King

The First Lie ebook 300 KB

Someone is trying to kill you.

When Selkie Moon flees Sydney to start over in Hawaii, it’s to live life on her own terms. But Life has other plans.

Though she tries to dismiss the warning as just another nightmare, it soon becomes apparent that someone, or something, is stalking her. Attacked by frightening visions and mysterious compulsions, she must piece together the fragmented clues before time runs out.

Virginia King effortlessly blends funky creativity and deep spirituality – with a dash of Celtic folklore – to craft a story of one woman’s fight for truth, and her discovery that the lies we tell ourselves are the most dangerous of all.

 

Special Sale Price: The First Lie for .99 GBP!

For a very short time you can buy The First Lie – winner of a BRAG Medallion – for the special discounted price of .99 GBP:

Amazon UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/First-Lie-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01FY8AQYM/

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-first-lie/id1114891804

Other retail sites: http://www.selkiemoon.com/buy-the-books/

Links:

Website: http://www.selkiemoon.com/

Blog: http://www.selkiemoon.com/la-bloguette/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/selkiemoonbooks

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8186550.Virginia_King

 

Giveaway of The First Lie

The First Lie ebook 300 KB

 

You could be one of ten lucky winners who will choose either a signed paperback or an audio book of The First Lie plus a $15 Amazon gift code. One grand prize winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift code.

Enter here: http://www.selkiemoon.com/win-a-signed-copy/

 

 


 

About the Author

Virginia King Portrait by Amanda Thorson 200 KB

When a voice wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you to write a mystery series what’s a writer to do? That’s how Virginia King came to create Selkie Moon, after a massage from a strange woman with gifted hands was followed by this nocturnal message. Virginia sat down at the keyboard until Selkie Moon turned up. All she had to do was jump, the first sentence said. Soon Virginia was hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.

Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia had been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.

 


 

You can follow the rest of the Quirky Guest Post Blog Tour at the following blogs…

 

Book Beginnings: With Malice by Eileen Cook

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning

With Malice by Eileen Cook

With Malice by Eileen Cook

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep

I’m not a morning person. Understatement. My hand couldn’t seem to muster the energy to turn off the alarm. It picked at the covers. The blanket felt wrong.

Scratchy. Thin.

This isn’t my bed.

I recently requested this book on NetGalley after reading a review that had me intrigued by it. I haven’t read the synopsis as I like the idea of reading novels without knowing too much about them in advance. I have to say that the opening lines of this novel have me wanting to read more immediately! This opening has a real sinister feel to it and it straight away feels like something bad has happened to the protagonist. There is also the possibility that the narrator has just crashed for the night somewhere and had momentarily forgotten so there is a lot of scope for what might happen next. I don’t think this book will be on my TBR for very much longer!

*Please note that this quote is taken from an ARC of the novel

What do you think of the opening? Does it make you want to read further?

Review: My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

Anna has had a miserable year. Everything feels wrong with her life. And rather than stay and face the mess, she steals a credit card and books herself a seat on the first flight out of town to Los Angeles, to crash with her sister. But soon after she lands, cold reality soon dawns on her: Hollywood isn’t the escape she needs. She is trapped in a town full of lost souls and wannabes, with no friends, no cash and no return ticket.

When she’s offered a job researching the murderous Manson girls for a dubious film, she reluctantly accepts – she needs the money. But soon enough, among the fake smiles and glitter-fuelled parties, things turn from strange, to dark, to dangerous . . .

This is not going to be the summer Anna had in mind. 

My Favourite Manson Girl is a chilling story about being young, lost and female. This is a story about how girls disappear.

Anna is a fifteen year old girl who is really struggling to deal with her family situation and so she stole $500 from her mum and got on a plane to LA to visit her older sister. She’s definitely at a point in life where she feels like an adult but doesn’t yet have any rights to do what she wants so she acts out. Her home life hasn’t been easy and once I got to know more about that I felt quite sorry for her – she is definitely someone who is lost and who needs someone to pay attention to her otherwise she may well go properly off the rails.

I have to be honest and say that some of the initial sections about Charles Manson felt like an information dump and I wish it had been better incorporated into the novel. Once I was passed this part though all the references to some of the Manson girls were better because they were written from the perspective of how Anna identified with them. The idea of a teenage girl being fascinated by the Manson girls and wondering how they ended up where they did was really interesting to me. I read my mum’s copy of Helter Skelter when I was 15 and it scared me so much, I still shiver when I think of that book, but the murder of Sharon Tate was the thing that particularly got to me. So Anna’s fixation with these girls and the murder of a movie star made some sense to me; I think I was far more horrified and much  less understanding of what they did than Anna but I could understand why she got so drawn into the lives of these women and how they ended up as murderers. It’s apparent that Anna can identify with how a couple to the girls were before they got involved with Manson,  which leads to a compulsion to learn more but also terrifies her to an even greater degree.

Anna doesn’t feel like she really fits in but she so badly wants to – it’s the age old struggle for teenagers. She makes silly choices and isn’t good at seeing the consequences of her actions but she’s not a bad person. Ultimately, she worries for her sister and tries to make sure that she is ok. The side story of Delia having a sort of stalker was interesting and fitted well with what Anna was learning about the Manson family. It seemed quite apparent to me why Delia wasn’t overly concerned about the stalker but I could see why Anna, paranoid from reading books on Charles Manson, was really worried that something sinister was going on.

I really liked Dex in this book, the way he took Anna under his wing and looked out for her a little. It felt like she really needed that from someone so it was good he was there over the summer. Roger was seriously weird, he was hard to get the measure of but I know that he gave me the creeps.

It was sweet that there is a small element of summer romance in this book too but it was very refreshing that it didn’t come to dominate the story. I think the romance, and who it was with, was the thing that showed that Anna grew up over the summer. I felt that she came to understand that nothing is forever and that she needs to make amends with some people on her life.

This was an interesting novel about the many ways in which girls can be lost. The Manson girls were lost in the most extreme way – drawn into a murderous cult that trapped them, whereas Anna was lost in the way that many of us were at that age – she wanted to be seen by the people around her but they were all so focused on their own lives that she felt she had to do something drastic in order to get attention. In reality, the adults in her life had a lot of problems and needed Anna to just be ok but the lack of proper communication and understanding led to her running away.

Los Angeles felt like a character in its own right in this book and I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel. There was a real sense of the heat and the claustrophobic world of celebrity, and wannabe celebrity. The feeling that once you put a foot wrong you’d be cast our forever, which Olivia was teetering on the brink of and desperate to cling on. There were points when it felt quite dream-like – as if the haze of smog and sun and heat  were so oppressive that it was as if the summer wasn’t real. I think Anna had a sense of this as she went through this summer, like it was almost as if she weren’t there either.

This novel wasn’t what I was expecting it to be – I thought it would be a darker novel but having said that it is aimed at a younger audience than me and so for its target market it is a dark read. It’s still a  good read for all ages though. I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it.

My Favourite Manson Girl is due to be published on 7th June in the UK and can be pre-ordered now.

I received a copy of this book from Atom/Little Brown via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: This Secret We’re Keeping by Rebecca Done

This Secret We're Keeping by Rebecca Done

A pupil and a teacher. Is it ever right to break the rules? Jessica Hart has never forgotten Matthew Landley. After all, he was her first love when she was fifteen years old. But he was also her school maths teacher, and their forbidden affair ended in scandal with his arrest and imprisonment. Now, seventeen years later, Matthew returns to Norfolk, with a new identity and a long-term girlfriend and a young daughter, who know nothing of what happened before. Yet when he runs into Jessica, neither of them can ignore the emotional ties that bind them together. With so many secrets to keep hidden, how long can Jessica and Matthew avoid the dark mistakes of their past imploding in the present? From debut author Rebecca Done, This Secret We’re Keeping is a powerful and provocative novel about the ties which can keep us together – or tear us apart.

This novel is told over two time frames, which gives it an interesting dynamic. We get to see Matthew, or Will as he’s now known, and Jess in the present day but we also get to read Matthew’s viewpoint of what happened when he and Jess has their affair.

This was an interesting novel. It’s a controversial subject anyway, the idea of a grown man dating a 15 year old girl but when he is her teacher it adds to the seriousness of the situation. It initially seems very clear in this novel that Jess does a lot of the running but Matthew doesn’t do much to resist her, and the issue is that even if she did pursue him she is a child in the eyes of the law and it is up to him to tell her no. It’s easy to forget this over the course of the novel and to feel like this is a grand love story, and then when you’re reminded that what he did was a crime it’s feels unfair and shocking.

Matthew did end up going to prison for the relationship he had with Jess and she appears to have moved on with her life. The novel begins in the present day when Jess spots Matthew and runs after him and he ends up accidentally knocking her down with his car whilst his wife and child are with him. This leads to them seemingly irresistibly being drawn back to each other.

I actually felt really uncomfortable about their relationship most of the way through the novel, but weirdly, and I’m not sure if it’s just because we got a more rounded view of the present day, it bothered me more in the present day. There were little things that Matthew said or implied and it would bring me up short, it felt to me that he was obsessed with Jess and always had been, which then leads to me questioning whether he was intentionally grooming her when she was a schoolgirl. The fact that we only see their illegal relationship through his eyes means we never really know the truth about it, because he is only going to tell it in a way that makes him seem as innocent of a crime as possible. Jess’s side of the story, that we learn in retrospect is almost irrelevant because if he had been grooming her, it would make sense that she did believe she was in love with him – she wouldn’t have known any difference at the time and it would have blinkered her judgment as she got older.

I liked the way the novel ended, it fitted the way the book had been up until that point. I’m not going to give any spoilers but I know a lot of readers may well find the ending a little open and dissatisfying but I did feel it worked with the way the novel had been throughout.

I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it. I found it be a novel that really made me think and yet managed to remain an enjoyable read – there is a great balance between treating this issue seriously but without making readers feel bogged down at any point. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rebecca Done writes next!

I received this book from Michael Joseph/Penguin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This Secret We’re Keeping is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Q&A with Sylvia Ashby, author of The Treachery of Trains

The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

Today, I’m delighted to share an interview I did with Sylvia Ashby a little while ago. I recently read The Treachery of Trains, and reviewed it on my blog last week (you can read my review here if you’d like to) so it’s lovely to get to know more about Sylvia.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a mum, a wife, a thirsty traveller (for wine, mainly) and a very reluctant sailor. I’m bilingual, but I don’t live in the countries I speak the languages of. So I’m learning a couple of more languages. C’est la vie.

How did you first come to be a writer?

When I was fifteen, I wanted to become a journalist, but my father opposed to the idea. He would sit me down in front of the television every evening to watch the news. When a bunch of reporters surrounded a politician or a government official for questioning, he’d point at them and demand to know: “Is that what you want to do for the rest of your life?”

At the time, I had no idea there was a difference between a reporter and a journalist, so I gave up on my dream. I became a graphic designer instead for a number of years; then I owned four shops selling and designing women’s clothing. That went on for a decade and I loved it, but when the economy crashed in 2008 I needed to get out.

I looked at what I wanted to do next and writing was, literary, the first thought that went through my mind. So I became a journalist (not a reporter!) and a writer at the ripe age of thirty-five. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

What is your book about?

The Treachery of Trains is about a girl that’s lost. To begin with, she’s only lost metaphorically – Sky’s mum has died three years ago and her best friend has left London without as much as a backward glance. Sky feels abandoned by everyone dear to her heart. Then she gets lost literally. That’s when the fun really starts.

I can’t say more because I’d spoil the plot, but I could tell you that on her first day in a new city Sky rings the doorbell of a stranger who gets the door dripping wet and in a skimpy towel. Then both of them get locked out of their respective flats.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

People, ideas, observation, imagination.

I was standing at a busy bus stop once (by Selfridge’s on Oxford Street) observing a beautiful Japanese woman struggling to get her child’s pram off the bus. She managed to get to the pavement safely only for the bus to close its doors preventing her husband from getting out. The woman panicked. She had gotten separated from her partner and was terrified. A well-meaning stranger told her that the bus would take the corner of the crossroad and stop again. She could meet her husband there.

The woman vanished in the crowd. As soon as I lost her from my sight I thought: what if they never meet again?

What if twenty years later there is this diminutive, aging Japanese man standing alone at a busy bus stop in London, hoping to find out what happened to his wife and child?

That’s a whole crime novel right there.

What is your writing routine?

I never got the hang of procrastination (the guilt is killing me!) so I have a fairly regular routine. I get children and husband out of the door in the morning, make myself a pot of tea and I start writing. I keep it up (with various success) until 4 pm when the kids get home. Then I cook. We have dinner. We do family stuff. That’s pretty much every weekday.

I don’t go out of the house much, which has knocked back my social skills by decades. I feel like a teenager again, awkward and terribly self-conscious around strangers.

What’s your favourite book that you’ve read this year?

I started the year chuckling and shaking my head at Very British Problems and I can’t seem to stop. They are so keenly observed I see them all around. It’s hilarious.

What are you reading at the moment? 

I’m plotting my next novel, so I’m reading Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them by John Yorke. It’s written about the structure of drama on television, but I’m amazed how helpful it is for plotting books as well. It’s given me heaps of insight into what works in a story and how to master cliff-hangers and punchlines.

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

Question: What talent would you like to possess?

Answer: To be able to slow down time.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, which three things would you want to have with you and why?

A goat, so I can have milk and cheese. A book about making cheese. My husband, so we can discuss at length the merits of having your own goat and making your own cheese.

How can people connect with you on social media?

I use Twitter excessively (according to my husband; I think I’m totally fine). Talk to me on @bysylvia_a

I also have a writer’s platform where I write book reviews, recipes, and other random stuff. Visit me at seawriting.wordpress.com

About the Author

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

About the Book

The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

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

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

Sky Candy is about to find out.

Review: The Boy with the Board by Katey Lovell

The Boy with the Board (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

When her beloved mum dies suddenly, Helena escapes to sunny California. Determined to live for the moment, she puts aside her fears and signs up for the surfing lessons she’s always dreamed of – with the added distraction of hunky instructor Ashton.

As regular readers of my blog will all know, I have adored all of the Meet Cute series of stories to date and I have to say it’s no exception with this new one! In fact, this might even be my new favourite out of all of them!

Helena has recently lost her mum and is feeling lost. Her mum had always told her that she must live her life well so when she gets her share of the inherence from the sale of her mum’s house Helena decides to have an adventure.

I could really identify with Helena, I remember the way I felt when my mum died – I suddenly didn’t want the life I’d had before. I had a heightened awareness of just how short life could be and I wanted to find what made me happy. I didn’t travel the world but I did start saying yes to more things and it led to me meeting the man who is now my husband and moving right across the country to start a new life with him. Helena seemed to react in a similar way, she wanted to see what life had to offer and to discover who she really was.

I love that she decided to learn to surf and found the confidence to wear a wetsuit even though it exposed her body that she was self-conscious about. It seemed that once Helena was in the water and having fun, all her cares seemed to float away for a while. I loved the way she and Aston met while surfing and I really felt like he could make such a difference to the break that Helena was having. I so hope they got a happy ever after!

This story was so summery and so full of hopes and dreams that it’s impossible not to fall in love with it.

I rated it  5 out of 5 and highly recommend it to everyone, but especially to anyone who is in real need of a mood boost because this story cannot fail to make you smile and feel better for a little while.

The Boy with the Board is out now and available from Amazon.

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

Book Beginnings: The Trap by Melanie Raabe

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

I am not of this world.

At least, that’s what people say. As if there were only on world.

I am standing in the big, empty dining room I never eat in, looking out the large window. It’s on the ground floor. You look onto the meadow behind the house, and the edge of the woods. Sometimes you see deer or foxes.

It is autumn, and as I stand here gazing out, I have the feeling I’m looking in a mirror.

I am really intrigued by the opening paragraph of this book and already I want to just keep reading to find out more. There isn’t a lot of information given in the opener – we don’t know if this character is male or female or why they feel so out of place – but at the same time I feel like we’re being given a real insight into their state of mind. It seems to be someone who feels very outside of their own life. They describe looking out but then tell us what *you* see and not what *I* see, which is very interesting.

I treated myself to this book yesterday and I don’t think it’ll be on my TBR for long!

 


 

What do you think of this opening paragraph? What do you think is happening? Does it make you want to read on?

 

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

The Girl Who Lied Blog Tour Copy

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

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

 


 

Make Something Happen in Your Novel

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book

The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin

The truth hurts…

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

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

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

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

About the Author

Sue Fortin

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

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

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

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

Sue is represented by Kate Nash Literary Agency.

You can catch up with Sue at

Facebook Sue Fortin Author

Twitter @suefortin1

Website & Blog www.suefortin.com

HarperImpulse Author Page

Amazon Author Page

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

 

trachery of trains tour

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

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

So she gets on a train…

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

Sky Candy is about to find out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

Sylvia Ashby

 

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

You can connect with Sylvia via twitter at: @bysylvia_a

 


 

The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

3 Quotes Challenge & a Bookish Memory | Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This is my second day of the 3 Quotes Challenge, I was nominated for this challenge by A House of Books blog. As with yesterday’s post, I’m also using this as a chance to continue my Bookish Memories series that I started when I first began blogging.

Today my quote comes from another favourite book of mine – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

 

Fahrenheit 451 © 2016 Paul Carlyle

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

Many years ago I was a member of Bookcrossing and as part of a UK email group people used to lend each other books. One day I saw a book being talked about called Fahrenheit 451 and initially it didn’t interest me as it’s classed as sci-fi and it’s not one of my most favourite genres. A fellow bookcrosser persuaded me to give it a go when she explained it’s about a dystopian society where books are banned! I’m so glad I gave it a go as after one reading I knew it was going to become a real favourite of mine.

The Government of the day has banned books, and fire fighters exist to burn any books that are found – hence the title as paper burns at 451 degrees fahrenheit. Montag is a firefighter who one day cannot resist the lure of books and he ends up in serious trouble. He goes on the run and ends up in a place where books are being saved, perhaps not in their current form but still saved nonetheless.

Even though this book was originally published in 1953, it relates so well to the modern world. The thought that big brother is always watching and monitoring us through TVs or computers, the fear that ebooks will kill print books when really it’s the words in the books that matter not the medium in which they’re read. I would encourage all book lovers to grab a copy of this book and read it as soon as possible!

The quote I picked stands out to me in this book because it’s so beautiful and true. It’s a quote I often think about because it’s both a comfort when you’ve lost loved ones but also a reminder that if you do anything with a passion then you are making a difference. There are many other wonderful quotes that I could have picked from the book but this one is my favourite.

I bought a battered second-hand copy of Fahrenheit 451 soon after I sent the borrowed copy back to its owner. I’ve read it so many times that it was falling to pieces and being held together with tape! For my birthday a few years ago my husband bought me this beautiful clothbound hardback copy which I love! I think I would go as far as to say it’s my favourite edition of all of my books.

I have to give credit to my husband for taking the fab photo of my copy of the books used in this post, I love the way ha got the effect of flame around the book – it’s so fitting to that the novel is about. Please note that no flames were actually used and the book is safe! 🙂

Please feel free to join in with the 3 Quotes Challenge. The challenge is just to post one quote every day for three days – the rest of this post is just what I chose to add.

3 Quotes Challenge & a Bookish Memory | After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

To take part in the 3 Quotes Challenge all you have to do is thank the person who nominated you and link back to their post. Post a quote on your blog every day for three days. Nominate three other bloggers each day.

I was nominated to join in with this a really long time ago by the lovely ahouseofbooks and I just never got around to doing it. I keep seeing the tag around and really want to join in so thought I’d do it now.


I want to link my 3 Quotes Challenge to a series I started called Bookish Memories that I started when I first began my blog but have neglected for ages.

My first quote is from After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

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“What are you supposed to do with all the love you have for somebody if that person is no longer there? What happens to all that leftover love? Do you suppress it? Do you ignore it? Are you supposed to give it to someone else?” 

I lost my best friend in 2000 and I was heartbroken. I had gone through bereavement before but it was nothing like how this felt. We were only a few months apart in age and the idea of someone my own age and so full of life dying at the age of 20 was beyond my comprehension. I couldn’t focus on anything, I couldn’t read and I was in a really bad place.

One day I was flicking through a magazine my mum had given me and I saw a tiny review for a book called After You’d Gone. I’d never heard of the novel or the author but in the review was the above quote and it just made me want this book like I’d never wanted to get hold of a book before! I just felt that this book would help me, the quote just got to me so much because those were the questions I needed answers to.

I immediately rang my local book shop to ask if they had it in stock but they told me it wasn’t released for another few days. So, I pre-ordered a copy and on release day I waited outside the shop for it to open. The very second I got the book I started reading – I literally walked to the bus stop while reading, I carried on reading on the bus journey home (even though reading on moving vehicles makes me feel very sick). I finished the book in three hours and in that time I cried and cried but by the end I felt soothed. Even though the loss in After You’d Gone is a different loss to the one I was going through, the emotions and reactions were so similar and I connected with this book so strongly.

I started reading After You’d Gone again that night but this time around I read it slowly, I savoured it and I had a pack of post-it notes next to me so I could mark all my favourite paragraphs (there were a lot!). It’s honestly not overstating to say that After You’d Gone saved me.

I’ve treasured my copy of this book for all these years since and it’s one of very few books that I re-read every couple of years. It’s my go-to book when I need to be consoled and comforted.

I’ve pre-ordered every single Maggie O’Farrell book since then, I never need to read the synopsis because I trust her – I know that her writing will never let me down and it never, ever has. Just last week I read her latest book, and it’s a masterpiece (my review is here if you’d like to read it. I love all of her books – particularly The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and her new one, This Must Be The Place – Maggie O’Farrell started off her career as a novellist with an incredible book and then somehow has got better with every book that follows but I will always say that After You’d Gone is my favourite book by her because of my strong emotional attachment to it.

About the Book

The groundbreaking debut novel from Maggie O’Farrell, After You’d Goneis a stunning, best-selling story of wrenching love and grief.

A distraught young woman boards a train at King’s Cross to return to her family in Scotland. Six hours later, she catches sight of something so terrible in a mirror at Waverley Station that she gets on the next train back to London.

After You’d Gone follows Alice’s mental journey through her own past, after a traffic accident has left her in a coma. A love story that is also a story of absence, and of how our choices can reverberate through the generations, it slowly draws us closer to a dark secret at a family’s heart.

 


Do you have a strong emotional attachment to a book? Please tell me your story in the comments, I’d love to hear.


 

I nominate any who’d like to take part in this challenge. Please note that the challenge it just to share a favourite quote every day for three days, everything else in this post was just what I chose to add.

 

 

Review: Tapestry by Elle Turner

Tapestry

In hope, in pain,
we lose, we gain,
but always and forever
the human heart braves life
in light and in shade.

A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love.

I’ve had Tapestry on my Kindle for a while and have been very much looking forward to reading it.

This collection of short stories is excellent. I’m not someone who reads a lot of short stories, as I’ve always preferred a longer read but I’m starting to really enjoy and appreciate collections like this one that are a bit more interlinked.

I enjoyed all the stories in the collection but if I had to pick a favourite it would be the first story, Never-Ending. It just really got to me and it’s stayed in my head after I’ve finished reading.

The thing I loved most about this collection was the way each story ended. They all end with a sentence or two that really sums up the story and gives you something to think about. Elle Turner really makes you think about what words mean and what other words that are similar could have been used but the one she picked is subtly implying something else. The idea that something isn’t ‘forever, it’s just never-ending’ really got to me. The subtly of the words and the massive difference between wanting to be somewhere and feeling trapped and suffocated there. It made the stories quite poetic and added that something extra to them.

The title of the collection really gives a sense of cohesion – these stories are individual but they interweave. Some of the stories are happy, some are sad and some are somewhere in between but they all come together. Some characters re-appear in other stories, others only appear in the the one story but there is a sense of how life would go on for each person.

I very much enjoyed this collection and highly recommend it, even if, like me, you think short stories aren’t really for you, give this book a go because it might surprise you. I rated this book 4.5 out of 5.

Tapestry is out now and available from Amazon.

I featured Elle Turner on my blog a while ago, she wrote a brilliant guest post all about the books that have influenced her and you can read that here if you’d like to.

Review: The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

 

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity—that she, in fact, is Lydia—their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past—what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

I have avoided buying The Ice Twins for so long because I was convinced it was going to be too scary for me (I openly admit that I’m a complete and utter wimp!) but I’ve continued to be intrigued by it so when I saw it in a recent Kindle book sale I decided to buy it.

I started reading it straight away just to see what it was like and I literally didn’t put it down again until I’d finished reading! This book is so fast-paced and has so many twists and turns that there really isn’t a good place to stop, and to be honest nor did I really want a stopping place as I was desperate to know the truth about which twin had died!

I found this book intriguing from the start; the idea of giving birth to two completely identical twins and there being no way at all to tell them apart is such a great basis for this novel. Sarah was encouraged by a nurse to have one of the twins subtly tattooed with a small dot just so they would always know which one was which but Sarah and Angus, understandably, didn’t want to mark either of their perfect daughters in any way. So, they decided to always dress them in at least one item of clothing of a particular colour – so one twin always had a yellow item and the other always had a blue item. The sense of foreboding from this early point on in the book was great though because it is quite obvious that as soon as the twins were old enough they would love playing tricks on people and swapping clothes etc, which is what they had begun to do during the summer in the year that Lydia died.

This book does require the reader to suspend disbelief a little because when you have two young children who have enjoyed swapping identities and one of them dies, it seems very odd to me that you would take the word of the surviving twin about who had died. Children are unable to fully comprehend death or the idea of forever so cannot be trusted in a situation like this because to them it could all be a game. I was happy to suspend disbelief though as I wanted to see where the novel went from here.

The family decide to move to a very remote island that Angus has recently inherited. It’s a very bleak, atmospheric place that needs a lot of work doing to it, and works perfectly for this novel. The sense of isolation and despair mirrors perfectly the grief and conflicted emotions that Angus and Sarah, and Kirstie were feeling at this point in time.

It’s hard to review this book without giving any spoilers but what I loved was the way all the characters played their part in the confusion about which twin died so as the layers of the story were gradually pulled back I was never sure who to believe. It seemed plausible that these parents had actually buried the wrong child but it seem equally likely that Kirstie was just continuing on with her childhood game and didn’t understand the terror she was causing in her parents.

I loved the psychological elements of this book, the idea of identity and how it isn’t necessarily a fixed thing. It was great how the family were being haunted by Lydia, or Kirstie, whichever one of them was  actually dead, but it was written in such a way that this could have been a ghost story, or it could have been sheer hysteria that they got swept up in, or it could have been a mix of the two. At times it was a little like a modern day Turn of the Screw – the way that someone could be being haunted, or they could be mad or, and this is perhaps the most scary idea, they could be experiencing both. Just because someone is paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not right about the strange, seemingly unexplained things that are happening around them.

It was brilliant how, as the novel began building towards the climax, I began to question absolutely everything, I was so wrapped up in it that I felt I was right there with the characters and unsure what was real and what was not. The interchanging personality of the surviving twin, be it Kirstie or Lydia, just heightened it. The ending of the novel was brilliant, it’s one of those endings that will stay with me for a really long time.

The Ice Twins is a very creepy, unnerving novel and once it has you in its clasps it won’t let go until long after you’ve finished reading! I rated this novel 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

The Ice Twins is available to buy from all good book shops.

Review: The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

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As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel–the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author’s own experiences as a ship’s officer and a lawyer.

I’ve been interested by stories of the Titanic ever since I was a young child. I think my fascination grew from an afternoon spent with my Great-Grandad, who was a young boy when the Titanic sank and he remembered it happening. Not only that but he had kept a couple of newspaper cuttings from the time and he showed them to me. My interest in the Titanic has never gone away – I’ve read a lot of books about it, both fiction and non-fiction, and have seen the movies and quite a few documentaries over the years.

I first read about David Dyer’s new novel on Carrie’s Book Reviews blog a few weeks ago and immediately pre-ordered it. Dyer has taken a look at the Titanic story from a different angle; the focus of this novel is on the actions of the nearest ship to Titanic when she hit the iceberg, the Californian. I’d heard about this before reading the novel but Dyer’s meticulous research mixed with his educated interpretations of what might have taken place that nice, add an extra dimension for me. It put a much more human face on the men who were working the midnight watch that fateful night. I was surprised to find I had some sympathy for the Second Officer, as he panicked and was scared to disturb the Captain but then when he eventually did, he was sent away.

A fictional journalist, Steadman, who has made a name for himself chasing bodies at disaster sites, misses out on the first bodies being brought back from the sight of the Titanic but he realises there is a much bigger story to be uncovered. He then refuses to let go in his quest to discover what happened on the Californian. He shows such tenacity and drive to get to the truth.

The journalist also gets to hear about some of the third class passengers who perished on the Titanic and is determined to not let these victims be forgotten. The novel covers the events on the Californian, the resulting investigation and inquest, and finally we get to read the story Steadman wrote. It is focused on a large family, who really did perish on the Titanic and he writes the story of what he thought may have happened to them that night, based on stories their neighbours had told him about them all. It’s an incredibly moving story, and one that made me shed a few tears on finishing the book.

There is so much detail in this book but it never becomes too much; Dyer has struck a perfect balance of fact and fiction. It felt like a really fresh look at the Titanic narrative  too, the way it was done from another angle that hasn’t been covered in any of the fiction I’ve read to date. The way Dyer fictionalised real people and a real event but blended it so seamlessly meant it really gave the book such an authentic voice, which made it all the more powerful and all the more devastating. The idea that a human being could ignore the distress signals of a ship at sea leaves me speechless, it’s such a shocking dereliction of duty. Dyer doesn’t make a quick judgement in his novel though, it is left for the reader to interpret Lord’s behaviour as Steadman tries to put the strands of the story together from the accounts he’s heard. I was astounded at the arrogance of Captain Lord and there is no excusing what he did; the bit that I found hardest to grasp was how blasé he appeared to be about what happened that night. The Midnight Watch deftly explores the fallibility of witness testimony and memory, particularly memories of a traumatic night – a night that led to the death of 1500 people. It certainly felt that some people may genuinely have mis-remembered but others were complicit in keeping to the story they knew they should tell, even though it was at the expense of the truth.

It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel, it’s such an accomplished book.  It had me utterly enthralled from the first page until long after I read the final page; I know it’ll be a novel that stays with me for a long time to come. I rated it 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

The Midnight Watch is out now and available from all good bookshops.