Non-Fiction Mini Reviews: Forgiveness is Really Strange, Hard Pushed, Ask Me His Name, How To Treat People, and What Dementia Teaches Us About Love!

MINI REVIEWS 24 SEP.png

Today I’m continuing with my series of mini reviews and am sharing my thoughts on a selection of non-fiction books that I’ve read over the summer.

 

31702463

Forgiveness is Really Strange by Masi Noor and Marina Cantacuzino (Illustrated by Sophie Standing)

This is a short graphic non-fiction book that is such an incredible read. I’ve read it twice now and each time it has given me something that I needed from it. It explores the idea of forgiveness in a way I haven’t seen before – I think the short paragraphs and the beautiful illustrations really made me think and ponder. It left me with a sense that forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving others. I recommend this book to everyone but in particular for people who have experience trauma at the hands of another and needs an easy to grasp book that can help with understanding the nature of forgiveness.

 

43310767

Hard Pushed by Leah Hazard

This is a book by a midwife about being a midwife in an NHS hospital and it was such an interesting and insightful read. You get such a real sense of how it is to work in hospitals, how much is expected and how short-staffed they are. What I loved about this book is the way Leah Hazard really made me feel like I was seeing her work life through her eyes. Midwives are often present for a part of someone’s story but never get to see how it turned out, and so some of the stories in this book don’t have a patient’s full story. I thought this might be frustrating but it wasn’t, I was just so in the moment with the midwife. This is a really good read and I recommend it.

40890924._SY475_

Ask Me His Name by Elle Wright

This book is incredibly moving. Elle Wright has written so openly and honestly about her experience of being pregnant and then giving birth to her beautiful baby boy, Teddy, who only lived for three days. Initially I wasn’t sure this book was for me as the writing style was very chatty but once I got into the first chapter I was engrossed in Elle’s story. I can’t even imagine what it is to go through what she has. I’ve experienced miscarriage and knowing I won’t ever have a child but that is incomparable to what Elle and her husband have been through. I loved how honest she is about how she felt along the way and also how she gives such straightforward advice on what to say if someone you love is going through the loss of a baby. I also love the way she honours Teddy and continues to encourage others to speak to her about him. I have such admiration for her. This is such a moving book to read but I’m glad I read it and I recommend it.

 

44904234._SY475_

How To Treat People by Molly Case

This book is different to what I was expecting – it’s part memoir and part science. Molly Case talks about her own life, and her work life as a nurse but interspersed with those chapters are more scientific chapters about particular medical issues or the history of a condition. I have to be honest and say that while I appreciated this book it just wasn’t fully for me. I do recommend it though because it is well written and very interesting.

cover161815-medium

What Dementia Teaches Us About Love by Nicci Gerrard

This book is such a stunning and heart-breaking read but one that everyone should pick up and read. Nicci Gerrard takes us through the stages of her father’s dementia – from the early stages right through to death. She is so honest about his symptoms and how it affected her and the rest of their family. We need to talk about about these things and this book is such a brilliant opening to starting this discussion with your own family.  I lost my mum to cancer but part of that was a brain tumour that caused her to lose who she was and who I was so I have some sense of what it must be like to have a loved one with dementia. It’s so hard to lose someone in slow motion. I remember as a child my mum had an elderly aunt who had dementia and how distressed she found it every time she visited. This was in a time when no one really talked about it and that just always makes it worse when you can’t talk and don’t know anyone else who’s experienced it. This is why we need books like this. There are facts and figures about dementia throughout the book, as well as stories from other sufferers and their families. It’s all woven together in such a way that even though it’s harrowing to think about you just don’t want to put the book down. I highly recommend this one.

Mini Book Reviews: Love, Fate, Loss and Possession!

MINI REVIEW COVER

Today I’m sharing some more of my mini book reviews! I seem to be reading way faster than I can review at the moment so this seems a good way to get a few reviews posted before the pile grows any higher!

 

cover127790-medium

The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal

I actually read this book late last year but I struggled to get my thoughts down into a coherent review. This is the first novel I’ve read by the author but it definitely won’t be the last. It follows Mona in two timelines: in the present she runs a business selling weighted dolls to help women deal with the loss of their babies, and in the past we see what made Mona the woman she is in the present. There is a lot of heartache in this novel but it’s the resilience that shone through for me. I’ve suffered a miscarriage myself and while I got over it as much as anyone can I still know how old my child would be now. I didn’t talk about it much at the time, I just picked myself up and got on with it. It feels like every woman going through such a loss needs a Mona in their lives. She knows pain too but she channels it into easing other women’s pain. I cried quite a lot reading this book but it was cathartic tears. This novel is such a special book, one I won’t ever forget. If you haven’t already read this novel then I urge you to, it’s beautiful and unforgettable!

39215026

Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce

This is a gorgeous novel and I enjoyed every minute that I spent reading it. Emmy applies for a job on a newspaper but is shocked to find on her first day that she isn’t going to be a war correspondent but an assistant to the resident agony aunt. She overcomes her disappointment and finds that she wants to help the women who write in. The novel is set during WW2 so there are some sad moments but the novel on the whole is heartwarming and is such a comforting read. If you haven’t already read this then I recommend you grab a copy and read it asap!

35997400

Ivy and Abe by Elizabeth Enfield

I completely and utterly fell in love with this book. I knew from the blurb that it was my kind of book as I have a fascination with the possibility of fate and whether there is a person that we’re destined to meet. Ivy and Abe follows the two protagonists throughout there lives but it’s presented in disconnected chapters where their meeting and the way things pan out for them has a different outcome. The wonderful thing though is that throughout the novel there is a thread that keeps coming up and you see in each story how it might have been different if only something had or hadn’t happened. It’s a beautiful novel and even though I read it right at the beginning of January, it’s still staying with me and I often find myself thinking about Ivy and Abe and wondering how they are, as if they were real people. I adored this novel and I highly recommend it!

Woman wearing a red hoodie by a river

Someone Like Me by M. R. Carey

I have to start by saying that I don’t think describing this book as a thriller helped in my enjoyment of it as I was expecting a thriller – I hadn’t read anything by the author before so I believed I was getting what I told I was getting. However, this book is a thriller with supernatural, borderline-horror elements at times, which is not a genre I like to read. I will say that once I got to understand what I was reading I did come to enjoy it, it definitely had me gripped and it was hard to put down so on reflection I’m glad I (albeit somewhat unwittingly) gave this a go. Liz is struggling as she lives with her abusive husband and is trying to protect her children from seeing the worst of his behaviour. I did love the way Liz and Fran’s life became so entwined and blended, and the way one dominated the other’s personality was fascinating. I was engrossed and this kept me turning the pages as I just couldn’t see how the situation was going to be resolved. The ending was hugely satisfying and I would read more books by this author.

 

#BookReview | Waco: A Survivor’s Story by David Thibodeau (with Leon Whiteson and Aviva Layton)

51Vb719IZHL

About the Book

Twenty-five years ago, the FBI staged a deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Texas. David Thibodeau survived to tell the story.
When he first met the man who called himself David Koresh, David Thibodeau was a drummer in a local a rock band. Though he had never been religious in the slightest, Thibodeau gradually became a follower and moved to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. He remained there until April 19, 1993, when the compound was stormed and burned to the ground after a 51-day standoff with government authorities.

In this compelling account–now with an updated epilogue that revisits remaining survivors–Thibodeau explores why so many people came to believe that Koresh was divinely inspired. We meet the men, women, and children of Mt. Carmel. We get inside the day-to-day life of the community. We also understand Thibodeau’s brutally honest assessment of the United States government’s actions. The result is a memoir that reads like a thriller, with each page taking us closer to the eventual inferno.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted when the publicist for Waco: A Survivor’s Story contacted me to ask if I’d like to read this book as I’m fascinated by cults but didn’t know a huge amount about Waco.

Thidobeau is very honest in this book, which I appreciated but it does make for uncomfortable reading at times. The issue of Waco’s leader David Koresh abusing underage girls and the people around him being okay with this at the time is shocking. Thidobeau does explore his own feelings about this later on in the book though and I felt that this was a great insight into how a person can have power over others while they feel they are completely free thinking.

This is a memoir and as such we get the viewpoint of the person writing it so as I don’t know a huge amount about Waco it was hard for me to know how much of what Thidobeau said was absolute fact and how much was what he believed to be true. I know this is the case with all memoirs but I felt it more with this one. Having said that the way the authorities approached dealing with Waco was very shocking to read, it’s beyond me to understand how anyone would think it was okay to approach ending the siege in the way they did especially knowing there were still children inside the buildings.

I really liked that we get Thidobeau’s thoughts on the aftermath of Waco too. He tells of the arrests that were made of the people who survived and what happened to those people, and he talks of his own experiences. I can’t imagine what it must be like to begin to come to terms with what happened within a cult, that was a place that he had really believed in, and to start to re-build a new life.

Overall this book does give a really good insight into how people are drawn into cults like this one, and how they become convinced that what is happening within the the cult is okay and normal. I did find it a really interesting read, and feel I have a better understanding of what happened at Waco.

This is a gripping memoir and one that whilst obviously non-fiction it reads at the pace of a thriller. I read it in two sittings and it was a book I was thinking about in the time when I wasn’t reading it.

All in all I’m really glad that I read this book, and as with all good non-fiction it has made me want to go and read more about Waco in the future.

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

Waco: A Survivor’s Story is out now and available here.

Mini Crime and Thriller Book Reviews! #bookreview

I didn’t quite catch up on reviewing the books that I read in 2018 before the end of the year so here is another mini book review post 🙂

 

IMG_2161 (1)

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay

I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of Barclay’s previous novels but A Noise Downstairs is by far my favourite of his to date. It was creepy and unnerving, and even when I was on the edge of my seat I simply couldn’t put this book down because I had to know how it was going to end. I do enjoy books where the premise could be that there is someone setting someone up to think they’re going mad, or the person could actually be losing their grip on reality and this book does this so well.  I did find I had to suspend disbelief with some aspects of this novel but it didn’t make it any less enjoyable, and the end when it comes is shocking and disturbing. I definitely recommend it!

 

38448673

The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

This is the first of Sophie Hannah’s takes on Agatha Christie that I’ve read and I did really enjoy it. My favourite thing about Christie is the puzzle element, her novels don’t always feel grounded in reality for me but the puzzle is always brilliant and I think Hannah did a good job with this. This book’s mystery was one that I managed to figure out elements of but not the whole thing, something that’s rare for me with Poirot but I liked feeling like I had a chance of solving the crime. I’ll definitely be picking up more of Sophie Hannah’s Poirot books and I’m really looking forward to reading them.

 

35436009

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

This is a stunning novel about the aftermath of a college shooting. It follows three characters as they are forced to face up to what has happened in their community. One is the mother of the shooter, then there is the mother of the first girl to be shot, and the third is the detective in charge of the investigation. The novel actually starts the day before and the build up is so tense because you know what’s going to happen but you’re not sure how or when. The three viewpoints make this such a heartbreaking read as we learn more about these women and their lives, and how the devastation has affected them. I highly recommend this novel.

 

IMG_0038

Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke

This is a beautifully written but also devastating novel looking at a community dealing with the aftermath of two apparent murders – one of a black man and the other of a white woman. The racial tensions within the town play a large part in how each person views everyone else. It felt quite claustrophobic at times, like I was right there in the town and seeing this situation unfold with my own eyes. I found this book so unsettling, and yet really hard to put down. This is an excellent, prescient and really important read. I definitely need to read more of Attica Locke’s work this year.

My Top Non-Fiction Reads 2018!

My Favourite Books 0f 2018!-2

Today I’m sharing my non-fiction reads from 2018! I read 290 books last year and 79 of those were non-fiction so I’ve picked my top 12. Yesterday I shared my favourite fiction reads of the year and you can find that here if you’d like to read it.

Illusion of Justice by Jerome Buting

I was late getting to Making a Murderer but I finally watched season one earlier this year  and immediately looked to see if there were any books on the case. This is written by one of Steven Avery’s lawyers and was a really fascinating read. I watched season 2 as soon as it was on Netflix and see that there’s a possibility that these lawyers could have done more but at the time of reading it felt like a really good insight into the case and that they’d done all they could within the restraints they had.

My Life in Football by Kevin Keegan

I listened to this on audio and really enjoyed it. It was a hard listen at times being a Newcastle United fan and hearing in Keegan’s own words how badly he was treated at the club. It was interesting to learn more about Keegan’s life though and I found this book near impossible to stop listening to.

How Not to be a Boy by Robert Webb

I got this for Christmas in 2017 and it’d been calling to me from my TBR all year so I was glad to finally read it. It’s such an open and honest memoir and I found it such an interesting read.

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

This is a really in-depth book about what led to 9/11. It’s obviously not always an easy subject to read about in terms of what happened but the way this book is written makes it one you don’t want to put down. It gave me a much better understanding of what happened in the years preceding 9/11. It’s such an important book and one I definitely recommend.

Knowing the Score by Judy Murray

I very much enjoyed this book having been a fan of Judy Murray for a while now. It gave such insight into her character and her strength and I was so inspired by just how much she’s done for female tennis players over the years. I have a full review of this book so if you’d like to know more click the title above.

Life to the Limit by Jenson Button

I listened to this as an audio book after buying it in an Audible sale a few weeks ago. I used to be such big F1 fan so was keen to know more behind the scenes of Button’s career. There is much of that but this is also a love letter to his late father, John and I found is so much more moving than I expected.

So Here It Is by Dave Hill

I initially wanted to read this because I grew up hearing Slade as my late mum was a huge fan. The book is so well-written and is so full of honesty and openness that I enjoyed it on its own merits. I have a full review of this so if you’d like to know more about what I thought click the title above.

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan

This book was sheer joy to read! I love books about books anyway but this one really grabbed me as I’m assuming Mangan is a similar age to me as we read many of the same books in childhood. It was a real nostalgic read and led to me buying copies of childhood books that I loved but had sadly long since lost. I recommend this to all bookworms!

The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare

This is a beautiful, lyrical journal about the changing of the season into winter. It’s a mediation on all the changes that occur as winter hits. This book struck such a chord with me and gave me such comfort and solace at a time of year that I needed it most. This is a book I will return to again and again.

This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This was another Christmas gift from 2017, which I read fairly early on in 2018 but it’s stayed with me ever since. It’s a funny book, and a sad book but mostly it’s just an honest diary of a junior doctor’s experience of working in the NHS.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I bought this as soon as it came out as I can’t resist well written true crime. This was a fascinating account of one woman’s growing obsession with the Golden State Killer and her feeling that she had his name almost within her grasp. The author sadly died before she finished this book so there is a real poignancy in the reading experience because of that. It’s a brilliant book though.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (and Spark Joy) by Marie Kondo

This had to be my number one non-fiction book of the year because it has changed my life. Spark Joy I read for the first time in 2018, whereas The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was a re-read (although the first time I read it, I didn’t grasp the good bits as I was too focused on what felt odd in her methods). I read these books at the start of the year and immediately wanted to follow her method properly as my house was over-run with stuff. It really worked for me this time and I’ve spent months going through every single item that I own and have finally got rid of all the clutter. I naturally want to hoard things but I’m now so much better at just getting rid of things that I don’t love. I’ve never had so much space in my own home before and it feels wonderful. I’ve definitely got the decluttering bug now as every time I’m dusting I immediately put in the charity box anything that doesn’t make me happy.

 


 

So that’s my favourite non-fiction that I read in 2018. Did you read any good non-fiction last year? I’d love to know what your favourite book (or books!) was. Don’t forget you can find my favourite novels in yesterday’s post here if you’d like to see my fiction book picks of the year.

My Favourite Novels of 2018!

My Favourite Books 0f 2018!

Firstly, happy new year to you all! I hope 2019 brings you good health, peace and happiness!

2018 has been an amazing reading year for me. I read 290 books, which is the most I’ve read in one year since I started keeping track of my reading! Of the 290, 211 were fiction so that has made it so hard to pick a top 10 or even a top 20 so in the end I made a list of the books that have stayed with me the most and 27 novels have made my list! (My non-fiction picks will be in a separate post tomorrow).

Some of these books have stayed with me because they were well-written, some were impossible to put down and others brought out such an emotional reaction in me that they simply had to be on this list.

So without further ado, here are my favourite books of 2018 (click the title if you’d like to read my full review on each of these books)…

 

In reverse order: 

27. Dead in Venice by Fiona Leitch

This is one of the best audio books I listened to this year and had to be on my list as it’s really stick with me.

26. The Lingering by SJI Holliday

This was an unsettling, creepy novel that I couldn’t put down!

25. You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke

I love Lucy Clarke’s writing and this has joined The Sea Sisters as my favourite books by her!

24. The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

This was such a different read for me and I utterly adored it.

23. Perfect Bones by AJ Waines

This is a crime fiction novel that haunted me in the times when I wasn’t reading it, it definitely earned its place on my list.

22. The Date by Louise Jensen

I love Louise Jensen’s writing and this book was another brilliant read by her. It gave me an insight into a condition I knew nothing much about and the ending of the book gave me chills!

21. An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

I read this book in one sitting on a boiling hot day but the writing was so good that I could feel the snowy cold and the oppressive atmosphere of those trapped in the hotel with a murderer on the loose!

20. Odette by Jessica Duchen

This is such a beautiful book and it really resonated with me so it had to be on this list!

19. Attend by West Camel

This is a recent read but I keep finding myself thinking about the characters and it’s staying in my mind so I had to have this in my top books.

18. Daisy Belle by Caitlin Davies

This is a wonderful story about a young girl who wants to make it as a champion swimmer in a time when it’s not the done thing for females. It’s inspiring and beautiful and I knew it would make my top books of the year as soon as I finished reading it.

17. The Afterlife of Walter Augustus by Hannah M. Lynn

This is a bit different from my usual reads but it’s so beautiful and very moving in places and I still think about it.

16. Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

This was such a brilliant novel, and is another book that really has stayed with me.

 

15. The Girl in His Eyes by Jennie Ensor

This was a very prescient and moving novel, and while it was hard to read at times for me personally the writing is so sensitive and honest that I couldn’t put it down.

14. Fukushima Dreams by Zelda Rhiando

I wasn’t expecting to love this book as much as I did but it’s so stunningly written and the story is still swirling in my mind. It was an unforgettable read for me and deserves its place on my list.

13. Narcissism for Beginners by Martine McDonagh

This is another book that was a bit different to my usual read but I devoured it. It’s funny and emotional and I adored it.

12. Good Samaritans by Will Carver

This is such a brilliant read, one I’ve been recommending to people ever since I finished reading it.

11. Overkill by Vanda Symon

This is my new favourite crime thriller series and I’m desperate to get my hands on the second book as soon as it’s out!

10. Him by Clare Empson

I got this book on a whim from NetGalley and I’m so glad I did. This really got under my skin and I couldn’t put it down until I’d read all the way to the end.

9. Miss Marley by Vanessa LaFaye with Rebecca Mascull

This is the only book on this list that I haven’t managed to review but I highly recommend it. It’s gorgeous and moving and just brilliant. It honours A Christmas Carol so beautifully whilst also standing on its own as a novella. The final couple of chapters were incredibly moving. I know this will be a book that I read every Christmas from now on so it absolutely deserves to be on this list.

8. Roar by Cecelia Ahern

This short story collection is brilliant. I loved every story and enjoyed finding the ones that resonated with me. It’s fabulous!

7. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

This is such a magical and lyrical novel, it’s another book that is staying with me and I know I’ll want to read it again in the future.

6. The Long Forgotten by David Whitehouse 

I was looking forward to reading this novel but I wasn’t expecting it to get to me in the way it did. It’s very moving and so fascinating, and the writing is stunning.

5. Snap by Belinda Bauer

This was my favourite crime thriller of the year, I loved it. I don’t think I’ve read a crime novel before that has made me cry in the way this did. It’s such a brilliant novel.

4. Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

This novel really connected with me in so many ways and my review ended up being very personal as the story got so entwined with my emotions at the time I was reading. It’s a beautiful novel and I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.

 

 

Love and Fame Cover

3. Love and Fame by Susie Boyt

This book is why I love blog tours – I was offered a copy of Love and Fame, a book I hadn’t heard of before and decided to give it a go. It’s such a witty, funny and moving novel about grief and loss in various forms. I absolutely fell in love with this book and it’s one I consider to be a firm favourite. I’m so glad this book found me!

 

 

And the next two books are jointly my favourite books of the year because I just couldn’t pick between them…

 

 

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

I adore Louise Beech’s writing anyway but The Lion Tamer Who Lost stole my heart in a way that no other book has done in 2018. I keep thinking of the characters and wondering how they are, I keep thinking of how cruel life can be but how a novel like this does ultimately remind you why you need to keep going. I cried buckets reading parts of this book but I fell in love with it and it absolutely deserves this number one spot!

 

Let Me Be Like Water by S. K. Perry

I hadn’t heard of this book before a copy got sent to me for review but it was serendipity that it came into my life at the perfect moment. This is such a beautiful, lyrical novel that had me sobbing one moment and feeling consoled the next. The characters are wonderful and the depiction of grief is so real, as is the way we find a way to start living with grief. A stunning book that I will treasure forever and ever!

 


Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my Top Non-Fiction books of the year so look out for that then. In the meantime what were your favourite books of 2018? If you have a blog post please feel free to leave the link below. Happy New Year! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

#BookReview: Attend by West Camel | @west_camel @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #Attend

IMG_2527

About the Book

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, an exquisite history of hidden Deptford and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.

 

My Thoughts

Attend follows three characters – Deborah, Anne and Sam. Deborah is very old and is invisible to most people these days. Her story is told is mostly told in chapters about her younger years but she also tells her stories to those who listen. Anne is a recovering drug addict and is struggling to find where she fits in her life now she’s no longer using drugs. Sam is looking for something or someone, he also seems a bit lost.

Attend is a hard book to describe, it was such a different read for me but I can assure you that it’s a beautiful novel. Deborah’s story was fascinating; she has really been through a lot in her life and she just wants it to come to an end now. I felt sorry for Anne as she struggled to fit with her mother and daughter, it seems like now she’s clean no one has any faith in her that she will stay clean. I felt like this fed into Anne’s insecurities and it was as if she then didn’t have any faith or confidence in herself. Sam had a tragedy in his past and he’s not yet come to terms with what happened. He looks to hook up with men to try and ease his uneasiness but really he’s looking for someone to love him, to believe in him.

The cover of this book is so utterly perfect as this novel really is a story about how the threads of a person’s life become part of the tapestry of someone else’s life. Deborah is fixated on the fabric that she’s carried with her all of her life as it carries her story, the story of how she came to be. She shares these stories with Anne and with Sam and gradually you can see that those threads, those stories are seeping into them. They believe in Deborah and she keeps talking to them because they need these stories. They don’t know that they need them but they do, it’s these stories that will help heal them. It also made me think about the way our lives are interwoven with others, how we cross paths with people who mean nothing to us but somewhere down the line we end up connected to their life in some way.

I didn’t expect this to be a book that moved me but I actually shed tears at the end. This book defies genre in many ways but if a book can make you feel things then genre doesn’t matter because emotion is the mark of a wonderful novel. I don’t have the words to describe Attend other than to say it’s beautiful, incredible and unforgettable. I can’t wait to read whatever West Camel writes next!

Many thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Attend is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

img_0607-e1543665589915

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing.  He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch.  He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Rivetermagazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

 

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

46704837_10157410500993974_3528124000813187072_n

 

#BookReview: The Present by Charlotte Phillips

36355949

About the Book

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me … one romantic Christmas you won’t forget.

When helping to clear out her beloved grandmother’s home, Lucy Jackson discovers twelve beautiful Christmas decorations hidden in the loft. As she discovers their heartbreaking story, a touching romance develops with the handsome gardener next door.

My Thoughts

The Present is about Lucy, who is in the middle of trying to clear her beloved Grandmother Olive’s house to ready it for sale. Olive has had a fall and is in hospital so Lucy wants to move her in with her and her partner. It’s close to Christmas and Lucy is busy with planning for the holidays and really struggling with going through Olive’s belongings as it’s bringing up so many memories of her own childhood.

This novel is everything I want in a Christmas story, it really is a beautiful read. I felt so moved by Lucy having to sort her Gran’s things out, and not having support from her partner. I know what it’s like to have to clear out a loved one’s home and it’s so hard to let their things go. The antique Christmas ornaments that she finds in a dark corner of the attic are described in such a way that I could really envisage them and was excited to follow Lucy’s journey to work out what meaning they held for her Gran.

Olive’s handyman Jack is busy fixing up the house and he ends up helping Lucy empty the attic and gets drawn into the mystery of the ornaments. It was so lovely that Lucy found someone who wanted to help her and took an interest in what she’d found as her boyfriend just seemed so cold and disinterested. I was rooting for Lucy to find happiness throughout this novel and really hoping she would find a way to hold on to her Gran’s house.

Both Jack and Lucy begin to feel more reflective about their own lives as they discover more about Olive’s past. They each carry sadness about the people they’ve lost and gradually seem to help each other by sharing memories as the novel goes on. I loved this aspect of the novel because it is how grief is, it catches up with you eventually and when you find someone who really understands it eventually helps ease some of the pain you carry. There is a real message in this book about remembering and finding a way to carry lost loved ones with you, it’s so beautiful.

This is a gorgeous novel is set in the lead up to Christmas and all the nostalgia of the ornaments and then the back story of Olive’s life makes for a lovely, heart-warming read at this time of year. I definitely recommend this book!

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

The Present is out now and available here.

About the Author

Writer of funny, sassy, sexy stories for Harlequin KISS/Mills & BOON ModernTempted and HarperImpulse.

Also mum to three kids and a mad dachshund and terrible housewife to a heroic husband who doesn’t notice he is living in a hovel. Loves her sofa, her SkyPlus, her Apple TV and her pyjamas.

#BookReview: No One Cancels Christmas by Zara Stoneley

40496936

About the Book

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling holly!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince gorgeous but Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be…

 

My Thoughts

No One Cancels Christmas is about travel agent Sarah who is sad to see complaints about her favourite Christmas holiday resort – The Shooting Star Mountain Resort and resolves to do something about it. The new owner, Will, seems to be be unwilling to listen to Sarah so she decides she has to do something herself to turn it around.

This book opens with Sarah sending a series of stroppy emails to Will, one by accident, and this was very amusing. I was keen to see what would happen when Sarah decides to go to the resort to confront Will in person.

This novel wasn’t as full-on festive as I was hoping it would be but there are Christmas things sprinkled throughout. Initially the resort is really sad and tired, there is no sign of Christmas being near but Sarah throws herself into bringing the holiday season to Shooting Star and as she begins to work her magic the Christmas spirit begins to shine through the pages.

I liked that there was more depth to this novel than it just being a Christmas romance. Sarah was abandoned by her parents at Shooting Star resort as a young child and ended up living with her aunt so she has unresolved pain to work through. Will has his demons too and gradually we find out exactly what happened to each of them.

All in all this was a lovely novel to read near Christmas and I would recommend it. It’s definitely fun and romantic, and there’s lots of snow!

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

No One Cancels Christmas is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Author Zara Stoneley has been writing stories for just about as long as she’s been reading them. She sold her first erotic novel in 2012. Her stories have featured on romance and erotic bestseller lists in the US and UK. Zara divides her time between a country cottage in the UK and a Barcelona apartment.

#BookReview: Odette by Jessica Duchen | @JessicaDuchen @Unbound_Digital @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #Odette

41I7pvvvUML

About the Book

When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. At sunset, though, it becomes a human being.

This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, in danger and adrift in 21st-century Britain, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, woman by night, with no way to go home to Russia, she remains convinced that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell.

Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled…

A contemporary twist on Swan LakeOdette asks – in the best tradition of fairy tales – whether against all the odds, hope, empathy and humanity can win the day.

 

My Thoughts

I loved reading fairytales as a child – I still have my huge works of Hans Christian Anderson and Brothers Grimm from childhood and I still love finding adaptations of my favourite fairytales so I was delighted to get the chance to read Odette by Jessica Duchen for the blog tour. I’m really pleased to say that I adored this novel!

Odette is the story of Mitzi, who one day during a storm has a swan fly in through her living room window. Mitzi seeks help for the swan and is determined to nurse it back to health but the next morning she discovers a young woman, Odette, in place of the swan. Odette is a swan princess trapped in this life of being a swan during the night and a woman during the day until she finds true love. Mitzi decides to let Odette live with her and is determined to help her.

I felt a connection to Mitzi very quickly in this novel. I know how it feels to be facing Christmas after losing a parent, and it’s hard. She misses her father terribly and doesn’t know how to even begin to work through her grief and to come to terms with him being gone. She is looking for something or someone to fill the void in her life and Odette seems to appear at just the right moment.

Odette and Mitzi help each other throughout this novel. Mitzi shows Odette what a normal life in the 21st century is like, and Odette gives some comfort and solace to a lonely Mitzi. The friendship that grows between them isn’t always straightforward but it’s believable and genuine and I wanted somehow for this to be enough for Odette to be able to stay.

Of course, this being based on the fairytale means there is a romantic interest or two, and there is also the bad guy that wants to stop Odette from finding love. I really enjoyed seeing Odette dating and learning about modern men. I have to be honest that I got so wrapped up in Odette’s new-found happiness with her friend and potential lover that I forgot to look out for the bad guy so when the reveal comes I wasn’t expecting to be who it was. It’s not often that I don’t spot things coming in a novel so this is testament to the wonderful writing!

This is a take on a fairytale but it’s also a very modern novel. Odette experiences trying to get a job and not understanding how things work because of the language barrier, and this is how it must be for refugees and newcomers to a country. I also loved the way that it looks at whether love between friends can be as fulfilling as romantic love. It really is a novel that can be taken in different ways and I really appreciated that.

Odette is a beautiful novel and is one that I think will make my top books of the year as I adored it. It’s been on my mind ever since I finished reading it and I know I will read it again in the future. I definitely recommend this book.

Odette is a beautiful, magical and moving novel, I loved it!

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

Odette is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Jessica Duchen Author Picture

Jessica Duchen is an acclaimed author and journalist, specialising in words for, with and about music. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous magazines around the world. Her first five novels have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Music plays a vital role in her books, and she frequently narrates concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dancesand Ghost Variations.

Jessica is the librettist for the opera Silver Birchby Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for a 2018 International Opera Award. Current projects include the libretto for a youth opera with composer Paul Fincham for Garsington 2019 (an updating of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale) and two large-scale choral works with Roxanna Panufnik.

She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and held editorial posts on several music magazines before going freelance to concentrate on writing. She edited a piano magazine for five years and was then classical music and ballet correspondent for The Independent from 2004-2016. Her output also includes plays, poetry, biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (published by Phaidon) and her popular classical music blog, JDCMB. She lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys playing the piano, cookery, long walks and obscure books about music.

 

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

Odette Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton | @BrethertonWords @Unbounders @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #BoneLines

IMG_2542

About the Book

A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life. A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bone Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of two extraordinary characters. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no prior or special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to have the chance to read and review Bone Lines for the blog tour as it’s a book I’d seen and was curious about. I’m really pleased to say that I very much enjoyed it.

Bone Lines is set in two time lines. Eloise is geneticist in present day London and is going to be working on a skull that has been found, it’s a major archeological find and she knows this is going to be such important work. The novel also follows a woman 74,000 years ago. We see her give birth out in the open and then her struggles to keep herself and her child alive and well. The skull that Eloise is working with is named Sarah, and it’s apparent that this is the woman from the past.

I’ll be honest and say that initially I did find this novel a little hard to get into, I wasn’t sure where it was going and it’s so different from anything else that I’ve read in quite a while. A few chapters in though I felt it all began to make sense to me and I could see parallels between modern woman and the woman 74,000 years ago. At this point this book became compelling for me and I struggled to put it down.

Sarah clearly has a very difficult life, she is separated from her family and is unsure where exactly she is and whether she will ever encounter people she can join with again. She is terrified of anything happening to her child and is very protective. I felt such an emotional connection to Sarah. The way she honours the dead from her family, and the way she remembers her mother and longs for her after her child is born was incredibly moving. It really got to me in a way that I wasn’t expecting, I ignorantly assumed I wouldn’t really understand a woman who lived so long ago but this novel really made me think about how longing for our mothers, needing their support and protection at various times in our lives is such a universal human emotion. The book leaves you wondering if this innate feeling is genetic, or if it’s entirely just an emotional connection to the past.

Eloise is struggling with the issues that come with being a professional woman – ideas around having children, not having a husband etc that people often want to know about. She’s also working hard to discover if there’s a genetic link to suicide. She looks for answers about everything within science and is sure there are answers to be found. When she’s really finding it tough she starts writing letters to Charles Darwin, and while this might sound like a gimmick it actually really works within the book. It gave more insight into how Eloise thinks and feels and shows her ambition and why she strives in the way she does.

The further you get into the novel the more you see the parallels between the two women. The way they are both searching for a place to belong, a place where they fit in and feel safe. Sarah ponders on finding another group she can settle with, and Eloise seems to be looking for something that’s missing in her own life. It really opened my eyes to the universality of what humans are seeking, in spite of the circumstances of their life.

This is a beautifully written novel that explores science, evolution and emotion. It’s such an enjoyable read whilst also giving you something to think about. I’m so glad that I got the chance to read this, it feels like a book that will really stay with me. It’s made me want to read more about the period that Sarah was living and to understand how we got from there to here. I’m delighted to see that while this book stands on its own that a sequel is planned, I will definitely pre-order this book when it’s available!

A powerful, moving and fascinating novel!

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

Bone Lines is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Stephanie Bretherton Author Pic

 

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

 

Website: http://www.stephaniebretherton.com/

Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

 

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

Bone Lines 2 Blog Tour Poster

Mini Crime and Thriller Book reviews! #bookreview

I’ve got some more mini reviews to share today! Hope you enjoy them.

 

36098733

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

I love Sarah Pinborough’s writing so was thrilled when I won a hardback copy of her latest book earlier this year. I finally got to read it a few weeks ago and enjoyed it. This is the story of Lisa, who is mum to a teenage daughter Ava. She’s very protective of her daughter and worries constantly about where she is and what she’s doing. The novel slowly ramps up the tension to the reveal as to why she’s so protective and then we see the past and present slowly begin to catch up to each other as the novel hurtles to its conclusion! This was a really good read but it’s not my favourite Pinborough novel. I loved Behind Her Eyes so much and this just didn’t quite live up to it. It’s still a great read about how the past catches up with us, and the lengths people will go to when they feel betrayed.

 

36315374

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

This is a brilliant thriller about a young woman, Geo. When Geo was 16 her best friend Angela disappeared without trace, and Geo knows something about that night but she’ll never tell. Calvin, Geo’s first love, has been revealed to be a serial killer, he’s escaped custody and is now on the run and more women are being murdered! This novel is so dark and twisty and I found it near impossible to put down. It’s fast-paced and kept me on my toes throughout.

 

38314254

Toxic by Nicci Cloke

This is such a good novel about Hope who is excited to be going on holiday with some of her best mates – she’s been given honorary ‘lad’ status and couldn’t be happier. The first couple of days are everything she wishes for but then things take a darker turn at a party. Hope tries to kiss her ex and he rejects her, she then gets very drunk and the next thing she knows she’s waking up on a beach the following morning. The novel is told in three sections, each with a different narrator. The first is really fun and summery as we follow this group of friends on holiday. The second is when dealing with the fall out of what happened to each of them on the night of the big party. The final section looks at the aftermath and really deals with some tough issues. The novel as a whole is really good. It’s about mental health, toxic masculinity and how tough it is to be a teen. I recommend this one.

37750826-2

Believe Me by JP Delaney

This is a novel about Claire, a British actress trying to make it in New York and ends up working as a honey trap to make ends meet. She then gets drawn into a plot to try and trap a man who is suspected of killing his wife. This book sounded so good and I was really looking forward to reading it but I struggled to get in to it. I ended up buying the audio book and while it worked better for me as on audio I did find the whole plot was just too over the top for me. It was a fun enough read but it’s not a book that will stay with me. I think that maybe this author just isn’t for me as I know others have really enjoyed it.

 

38116895

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

This is a really gripping read about a couple – Erin is a documentary filmmaker and Mark who is a banker – they’re about to be married but Mark has started being really moody. It turns out he’s in financial difficulties, while at the same time Erin’s career is going well as she’s gained access to a notorious gangster in prison and is going to be making a film about him. The couple tweak their wedding plans and manage to afford to still go on their dream honeymoon and that’s when life gets really complicated. This is a novel about moral dilemmas, and about trust. You do need to suspend disbelief at times but that doesn’t take away from the novel at all. This is such a gripping, fast-paced read, and one that I couldn’t stop thinking about whenever I wasn’t reading it. I’ll definitely be looking out for more books by this author!

 

#BookReview: Fukushima Dreams by Zelda Rhiando | @badzelda @unbound_digital @annecater #RandomThingsTours

38660138

About the Book

Sachiko and her husband Harry live in a village on the North-east coast of Japan. They are both struggling to adapt to life as new parents to their infant son Tashi. In the aftermath of the tsunami, Sachiko wakes alone. Her family is missing. She begins a desperate search until radiation fallout from the Fukushima power plant forces her to leave the area. She moves to Tokyo, and a different life. Harry has fled to a refuge on an isolated mountain, abandoning his family. He lives there, haunted by guilt and hovering on the edge of sanity. Will they find each other and confront the question of their missing son?

 

My Thoughts

I’d not heard of Fukushima Dreams before I was offered a chance to read and review it for this blog tour but I am so very glad that it found its way to me. This is one of those really special novels that works its way into your heart and doesn’t leave, even after you’ve finished reading it.

Sachiko is caught up in a tsunami and when she wakes she is struggling to understand what has happened to her and where her husband and baby son are. She has survived and is alone in a crowded make-shift shelter. Unknown to her, her husband Harry fled their home during the initial earthquake and is sheltering in a hut on a mountain in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve struggled to write this review because Fukushima Dreams was so much more than I was expecting it to be and it’s taken hold of my thoughts and won’t let them go. This is such a beautiful, lyrical and almost dream-like novel. It’s a quiet story in many ways but it’s so powerful at the same time. It’s written in a way that you feel like you are right there with Sachiko as she struggles to comprehend what on earth has happened her and to her home.

The tsunami and the devastation it left in its wake are a large part of this novel but there is so much more to it too. We slowly come to find out that Sachiko is a new mum and has been struggling to bond with her baby. Her husband Harry was trying to write and was being driven to distraction by the baby’s constant crying and this young couple’s marriage was starting to fall apart. As a reader it’s clear that Sachiko has post-natal depression or something similar but within the novel they don’t seek medical help for her and she’s left feeling increasingly depressed and is isolating herself from the world. I felt such sympathy for her and was hoping that Harry would do something to help her but it seemed like he retreated into himself in order to work. I don’t think he understood that Sachiko couldn’t just snap out of it, and that she needed support.

As I was reading it felt like the tsunami, while clearly really happening, was also a metaphor for what happened to Sachiko when she had her baby. The fear, the confusion, the not knowing what to do or where to go, and finally the sheer overwhelming despair of ever finding normal again. And I also found that the way Harry deals with the earthquake by running away from his family and becoming so isolated on the mountain was like he was experiencing what Sachiko went through in her post-natal depression. The haze, the inability to think clearly and the sense of being so completely alone. There is real symmetry in the internal thought processes of the two characters and what is happening in the place they live. Everything has been in a state of chaos for a while and the tsunami compounds it all.

I was rooting for Sachiko to find out what happened to her husband and son, I can’t imagine what it must be like to experience a disaster on this scale and not know where your family are and if they survived. I wanted her to find some happiness. Seeing her journey as she begins to think about life again was so moving. The ending of this book is one that really makes you stop in your tracks though. I don’t want to say too much about what happens later in the novel because this really is a book to not know too much about before you read it. You need to pick it up and fall into the pages and experience this beautiful and heart-breaking novel yourself.

I finished reading Fukushima Dreams a few weeks ago now and I’ve since re-written this review quite a few times because I just can’t do it justice. It’s a simply incredible novel and I won’t ever forget it. Please just go get a copy and read it, it really is stunning!

A moving, lyrical novel about how people cope when the worst happens to them.

Many thanks to Unbound and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Fukushima Dreams is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

zelda_400x400

Zelda Rhiando was born in Dublin and read English Literature at Cambridge. She lives in South London with her husband, two daughters and four cats, and is one of the founders of the Brixton BookJam. She is the author of two novels, Caposcripti and Fukushima Dreams.

 

Website: http://www.badzelda.com/

Twitter : @badzelda

 

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

Fukushima blog Tour poster

#BookReview: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield @DianeSetterfie1 #PassTheStoryOn #OnceUponaRiver @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

IMG_2509

About the Book

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

 

My Thoughts

I was beyond delighted when I was contacted about reading Once Upon A River as I read The Thirteenth Tale when it was first published and I adored it and I’ve been eagerly anticipating this new one from Diane Setterfield. I’m so happy to say that I fell in love with this novel!

Once Upon A River is a beautiful novel set along the river Thames. One night in The Swan Inn the storytellers are gathered when a mysterious man bursts in carrying what appears to be a puppet or a doll. It turns out to be a young girl and she is deemed to be dead from drowning. Later when the local nurse, Rita, checks on her she begins to breathe, which baffles everyone. The issue then becomes the need to find out who this girl is and where her parents are.

The mystery of the girl quickly spreads along the Thames and more than one family claim she belongs to them. She also becomes the subject of the storytellers and different versions of what might have happened her begin to be told.

My favourite character was Rita, the nurse and midwife, who looked after everyone within the community. I loved how she was so scientifically minded in a time when so many things weren’t understood and she didn’t have access to education. I also loved Daunt, the photographer. It was wonderful to read the process of taking photos in this time period and I felt I was right there looking over his shoulder.

Once Upon A River has a vast cast of characters, each one fully realised and becomes absolutely real as you’re reading. I loved the slower pace of this novel, it meanders like the river and the best way to read this book is to go at the pace it sets. I’m naturally quite a fast reader but this book was one I had to read slowly, I wanted to stay in this world for as long as I possibly could and I never wanted it to end. The writing is beautiful, the setting is so vivid and the characters felt like real people to me.

This is an epic novel and every single sentence is relevant to the plot so it’s a book to be savoured. The book moves between characters and gradually you see how each of their stories links to another’s story and the picture begins to come to life. Some of the people in this book are storytellers but it also felt like the novel itself is storytelling along with the story of the storytellers and it’s so beautiful.

It’s impossible for me to  do any kind of justice to this novel in my review but trust me, it’s a stunning book and I defy anyone not to enjoy it. I adored it and it’s absolutely going to be in my favourite books of this year, I can’t stop thinking about it and that’s always the mark of a wonderful book when it lingers in your mind long after you’ve finished reading it. It’s atmospheric, captivating and utterly beautiful!

Once Upon A River is out now in ebook and available to pre-order in hardback from here.

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

About the Author

diane-setterfield-author-picture

Diane Setterfield’s bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale was published in 38 countries, sold more than three million copies, and was made into a television drama scripted by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave.

Her second novel was Bellman & Black, and her new novel is Once Upon a River. Born in rural Berkshire, she now lives near Oxford, by the Thames.

 

 

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

final-once-upon-a-river-bt-poster

 

#BookReview: The Christmas Spirit by Susan Buchanan @Susan_Buchanan @rararesources

19039373

About the Book

Christmas is coming, but not everyone is looking forward to it.

Rebecca has just been dumped and the prospect of spending the holiday period with her parents is less than appealing.

Eighty- two year old Stanley lost his beloved wife, Edie, to cancer. How will he cope with his first Christmas without her?

Jacob’s university degree hasn’t helped him get a job, and it looks like he’ll still be signing on come New Year.

Workaholic Meredith would rather spend December 25th at home alone with a ready meal and a DVD box set. Can anything make her embrace the spirit of the season?

The enigmatic Natalie Hope takes over the reins at the Sugar and Spice bakery and café in an attempt to spread some festive cheer and restore Christmas spirit, but will she succeed?

My Thoughts

The Christmas Spirit is a gorgeous festive novella. We meet Natalie who has come to run the local cake shop for the weeks leading up to Christmas, and there is definitely something magical and sparkly about her. In the town there are a handful of people who need Natalie’s help and she’s determined to sort their lives out.

Stanley was my favourite character in the book. He’s a lonely widower who’s lost without his wife. I was so hoping that he would find a purpose and some happiness. There is also Rebecca who is a meek character that can’t seem to stand up for herself. She works for Meredith who seems like an awful, uncaring woman. Then there’s Jacob, a recent graduate who can’t find a job even though he’s trying so hard.

Natalie is a fabulous character. She hits the ground running at the cake shop and is a whirlwind at baking. All the new cakes sounded amazing and my mouth was watering every time one was described! She quickly brings real warmth and heart to the cafe and makes time for all the customers. I feel like she worked her magic on everyone in the town, not just the four people she was there to help. 

The Christmas Spirit is set from the 1st December right up until Christmas so it’s full of festivity and sparkle. I loved this novella, it warmed my heart! I definitely recommend picking this up in the run up to Christmas!

I received a copy of this book from Rachel at Rara Resourses. All thoughts are my own.

The Christmas Spirit is out now and available here.

About the Author

TCS - twitterpic

Susan Buchanan lives in Scotland with her husband and their two children. She is the author of four novels: Return of the Christmas Spirit, The Christmas Spirit, The Dating Game, and Sign of the Times. She is currently working on books five and six: The Proposal and Just One Day.

Susan is also a proofreader, editor and translator, and when not working, writing, or caring for her two delightful cherubs, loves reading, the theatre, quiz shows and eating out – not necessarily in that order!

Social Media Links

Facebook – www.facebook.com/susan.buchanan.author

Twitter – susan_buchanan

Blog – Sooz’s journal – www.susancbuchanan.blogspot.co.uk

Mini Thriller, Crime and Christmas #BookReviews

Today I’m sharing four more mini reviews as I continue on my quest to catch up before the end of the year!

 

cover120826-medium

This is How It Ends by Eva Dolan

This was such a good read, and one of those books that really stays with you. It’s told from two perspectives and is told in such a unique way. It opens with a party and leads to a dead body in an empty flat. Molly and Ella are left trying to work out what to do. The novel is then told from Molly’s perspective going forwards to see what happens in the aftermath, and Ella’s story begins at this point and starts going backwards in time so we slowly get to find out how she came to be here. I was hooked on this really clever novel and I can’t recommend it highly enough! I actually finished reading it a while ago now but it’s still really fresh in my mind, which is always the mark of a fab novel!

 

39856154

You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke

I’ve been a huge fan of Lucy Clarke ever since her first novel came out and I’m so pleased to say that You Let Me In lived up to my very high expectations! Elle is feeling increasingly unsettled in her home ever since she rented it out when she was away. She can’t put her finger on what’s wrong but something just doesn’t feel right. The tension in this book keeps ratcheting up to the point where you can’t be sure if Elle is having a breakdown, or if she is right to be worried and that someone is out to get her. There are a few people who may have it in for her and so you’re kept on your toes all the way through this novel. I was sure I had it all worked out but I was wrong and the reveal when it comes is shocking! I definitely recommend this one!

 

36178394

The Present by DS Devlin

I do love a crime thriller set over Christmas time so I couldn’t resist grabbing this one recently. It starts off so well when Anna, a journalist, receives a gruesome gift at her home in the days following the murder of a man and kidnap of his wife. It’s believed to be the work of the serial killer dubbed Santa Killer who has been killing people at Christmas for a few years. After a kill he leaves ‘gifts’ for twelve days of Christmas at which point the kidnap victim is usually found dead. The first part of this book had me gripped and I couldn’t put it down but it did all fall away a bit as the book went on. The problem for me is that there was only really two suspects in the book so it soon became obvious who the killer is and I just got increasingly frustrated with how Anna couldn’t work it out. I did finish the book though and I would be interested to read what the author writes next.

 

41570984

The Secrets You Hide by Kate Helm

This was a really good read too. Georgia is a courtroom artist who feels like she can see evil in people. She suffered a terrible trauma in her childhood and this has impacted her as an adult. She is forced to re-look at a conviction from early in her career and begins to question whether she might have helped put an innocent person in prison. The really fascinating thing about this thriller for me was the way it made me think about how I might look at a person and judge them. The novel really makes you question how often judgements are made when the person in question could be completely innocent. This is a thrilling novel that will keep you guessing right until the end, it’s such an engaging read and I recommend it!

#BookReview: It Started With Christmas by Jenny Hale

42120961

About the Book

Holly McAdams loves spending the Christmas holidays at her family’s cozy cabin, with its little red door and twinkling lights, tucked in the snowy hills outside Nashville. But this year will be different. Someone unexpected is joining them…

After Holly and her beloved Nana struggle through a snow storm to reach the cabin, they discover gorgeous and wealthy Joseph Barnes, who has been renting the cabin for the last few weeks, is now snowed in. And it looks like he’ll be staying for the holidays.

Determined to make the best of the surprise situation, Holly tries to bring everyone together by baking delicious treats and decorating the cabin with plenty of festive sparkle. She finds herself growing close to handsome Joseph, who is unlike anyone she’s ever met before, even if Nana isn’t so keen on the dashing stranger with the mysterious past.

But charming and irresistible musician Rhett Burton is also back in town. Thrown into close proximity with the person who used to be her best friend and the man who broke her heart, Holly realizes it’s time to face her feelings and figure out what she really wants from her life. But to complicate things, both Joseph and Rhett have secrets to reveal…

Will Holly be able to find herself and the love she’s always dreamed of this Christmas?

 

My Thoughts

Holly is spending Christmas at her family’s cabin with her lovely Nana. This is the first Christmas they’ve spent there since Holly’s Papa died so it’s a difficult time for them and then when they arrive they discover a man there! Joe has been renting the cabin and due to the snow has had to stay on a bit longer. Holly and Joe are attracted to each other and the Holly’s old friend, the singer Rhett turns up and declares he still had feelings for her!

I’m going to be honest and say that this novel wasn’t as festive as I was hoping it would be. There is a build up to Christmas but then it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. Having said that the beautiful romantic treasure hunt on Christmas morning was so gorgeous and really epitomised the festive spirit. Nana was a wonderful character and seeing her find her way through her grief to re-connect with the happy memories she has of her late husband was so moving.

I found the potential romance between Holly and Joe was really endearing. I really felt their connection and felt sad for Holly when it seemed it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t warm to Rhett at all though and was hoping Holly wasn’t going to end up with him. It was in the balance for most of the novel how things would work out for her and I did enjoy the uncertainty around her romantic life.

All in all this was a sweet and romantic novel with hints of Christmas running through it. I do love Jenny Hale’s writing and will definitely look out for her Christmas novels in the future.

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

It Started with Christmas is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

When she graduated college, one of Jenny’s friends said “Look out for this one; she’s going to be an author one day”. Despite being an avid reader and a natural storyteller, it wasn’t until that very moment that the idea of writing novels occurred to her.

Sometimes our friends can see the things that we can’t. Whilst she didn’t start straight away, that comment sowed a seed and several years, two children and hundreds of thousands of words later, Jenny finished her first novel, Coming Home for Christmas, which became an instant bestseller.

#BookReview: In Bloom by C. J. Skuse @HQStories #InBloom

38739384

About the Book

Darkly comic crime sequel to Sweetpea, following girl-next-door serial killer Rhiannon as she’s now caught between the urge to kill and her unborn baby stopping her.

If only they knew the real truth. It should be my face on those front pages. My headlines. I did those things, not him. I just want to stand on that doorstep and scream it: IT WAS ME. ME. ME. ME. ME!

Rhiannon Lewis has successfully fooled the world and framed her cheating fiancé Craig for the depraved and bloody killing spree she committed. She should be ecstatic that she’s free.

Except for one small problem. She’s pregnant with her ex lover’s child. The ex-lover she only recently chopped up and buried in her in-laws garden. And as much as Rhiannon wants to continue making her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop.

But can a killer’s urges ever really be curbed?

My Thoughts

In Bloom has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 as I loved the first book in this series, SweetPea (you can read my review of Sweet Pea here if you’d like to). I’m so happy to say that In Bloom absolutely lived up to my high expectations and I loved being back in Rhiannon’s world.

In Bloom picks up where SweetPea left off and it’s so good! Rhiannon has a body to deal with and is worried that the police might be at her door. She’s pregnant and her unborn baby seems to want to interfere with her urges to kill!

When I finished reading SweetPea I was so hoping that there would be more books about Rhiannon so I was thrilled when I found out about In Bloom. Rhiannon is such a brilliant, sarcastic character who doesn’t take any rubbish from anyone. I love that she still makes lists of all the things that annoy her, it makes it easy to identify with her and makes you feel like you could be friends with her… which really brings you up short when you remember that she’s a psychopathic serial killer! That is the beauty of this book though!

In this book Rhiannon is back in the media as the girlfriend of a serial killer (only we know that he’s been framed by her). She’s also living with his parents, who are looking forward to their grandchild arriving but there are secrets there too. Rhiannon can’t resist the urge to kill again and life is just really complicated for her. She always finds a way to deal with her problems though, albeit not a healthy or sane way but it works for her. There’s something so likeable about Rhiannon – it makes me feel so conflicted to say that but she is such a brilliant character!

In Bloom is definitely best read after Sweet Pea as you get so much more idea about her and what makes her tick. There are references to things that happened in Sweet Pea and it feels like this book is a definite continuation of Rhiannon’s story. Plus why would you want to miss out on the fun of knowing Rhiannon from the start?!

I loved In Bloom: It’s funny, dark and utterly brilliant – I definitely recommend it!

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

In Bloom is out now and available here.

About the Author

C.J. SKUSE is the author of the Young Adult novels PRETTY BAD THINGS, ROCKOHOLIC and DEAD ROMANTIC (Chicken House), MONSTER and THE DEVIANTS (Mira Ink). She was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels lectures in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University.

C.J. loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and murder sites. She hates carnivals, hard-boiled eggs and coughing. The movies Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Ruby Sparks were all probably based on her ideas; she just didn’t get to write them down in time. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Ryan Gosling present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

You can find C.J. Skuse on Facebook or on Twitter CeejaytheAuthor

#BookReview: The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson @millyjohnson @simonschusterUK #ChristmasReads

40265611

About the Book

Eve Glace – co-owner of the theme park Winterworld – is having a baby and her due date is a perfectly timed 25th December. And she’s decided that she and her husband Jacques should renew their wedding vows with all the pomp that was missing the first time. But growing problems at Winterworld keep distracting them …

Annie Pandoro and her husband Joe own a small Christmas cracker factory, and are well set up and happy together despite life never blessing them with a much-wanted child. But when Annie finds that the changes happening to her body aren’t typical of the menopause but pregnancy, her joy is uncontainable.

Palma Collins has agreed to act as a surrogate, hoping the money will get her out of the gutter in which she finds herself. But when the couple she is helping split up, is she going to be left carrying a baby she never intended to keep?

Annie, Palma and Eve all meet at the ‘Christmas Pudding Club’, a new directive started by a forward-thinking young doctor to help mums-to-be mingle and share their pregnancy journeys. Will this group help each other to find love, contentment and peace as Christmas approaches?

 

My Thoughts

I’m fully immersed in my Christmas reading now and my most recent festive read was The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson!

This is a lovely novel following three women. Palma has agreed to act as a surrogate for a couple as she desperately needs money. She’s such a sweet young woman and all through the novel I was wanting life to work out for her. Annie runs a Christmas cracker factory with her husband. She’s in her late 40s and is living with the sadness that comes with having been unable to have a child and now seems to be starting the menopause. Eve owns Winterland, a Christmas theme park and finds herself pregnant and planning her vow renewal service for the festive season!

All three women were such great characters and I enjoyed reading about all of them. The peripheral characters were all so brilliant too – I especially loved Iris! Milly Johnson is so good at writing really believable characters, all of the people in this book felt real and that gave it such warmth.

This book isn’t set entirely at Christmas, it’s more the few months leading up to it but it does still feature a reasonable amount of the holiday period and Christmas planning. There are such gorgeous friendships formed in this book that it felt like it really embodied the Christmas spirit and I loved it!

This is a light-hearted read but it has some real heart-felt moments in it too. The sad moments are handled so sensitively and the real Yorkshire spirit that comes from some of the characters helps bring the novel back to being light, without ever dismissing the harder times. This is my new favourite Milly Johnson book, I very much enjoyed it! I definitely recommend this one!

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

The Mother of All Christmases is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

25445_2

Milly Johnson was born in Barnsley, raised in Barnsley and still lives in Barnsley – although she did study in Exeter for four years and emigrate to Haworth in West Yorkshire in the 1980s. She trained as an actress, teacher, an accountant, a Customer Services and Suggestion Scheme Manager as well as working in a variety of administrative posts for companies dealing with anything from antique furniture to plastic injection moulded poop scoops. Eventually she found a happy existence writing poems and jokes for the greetings card world – helping to kick off the hugely successful Purple Ronnie project – which she still does on a part time basis whilst penning her novels.

#BookReview: Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel by Karen King @karen_king @bookouture #ChristmasRead

41140755

About the Book

Snowy rooftops, mulled wine, and a hot single dad. Not the Christmas Saffy wished for… but maybe the one she needs?

Twenty-nine year old Saffron Baxter knew her holiday plans didn’t stand a chance the moment her sister called to say she was stuck abroad with no hope of being home before Christmas. Saffy would just have to abandon thoughts of wild festive parties in the city and head down to remote Cornwall.

Because every year her sister hosts a huge Christmas meal for all the single parents in her village. And Saffy knows it’d break her heart to let them down.

Arriving as snow starts to fall over the thatched cottages of the little harbour town of Port Breok, she meets Logan – the tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed, devoted single dad who lives next door, with his adorable daughter Chloe. At first she thinks he might help her make Christmas Day extra-memorable, but he just seems convinced she’ll never manage – that she’s just a party girl who doesn’t care about Christmas, or anyone’s feelings.

Maybe he’s right. After all – she doesn’t want to settle down, she’s only there for a few days… But she’s still determined to do her sister proud with gorgeous decorations, the most beautiful real tree – complete with extra twinkly lights, and delicious mince pies. To make it a Christmas everyone will remember, especially little Chloe. Even if, when the mistletoe comes down, she knows she’ll probably never see Logan again…

 

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist the fabulously festive cover of Snowy Hearts at the Lonely Hearts Hotel and I’m really happy to say that the novel more than lives up to the cover!

Saffy is an independent woman who enjoys her career and her social life and doesn’t have much spare time for family but when her sister Hannah calls to say she’s stuck abroad and needs Saffy to help her out, Saffy feels she can’t say no.  Hannah runs a big Christmas party for all the single parent families in her neighbourhood every year and now Saffy has to organise the whole thing!

Soon after arriving Saffy meets her sister’s neighbour Logan and his young daughter Chloe. There is a clear spark between Saffy and Logan but the path to true love never runs smoothly and these two keep missing the mark with each other. Saffy is determined to focus on the party planning and to show her sister that she is capable and can do it.

I very much enjoyed this book. It’s set pretty much entirely over the Christmas period so is really festive! It’s got snow and party planning, romance and misunderstandings and lots and lots of holiday fun. It’s gorgeous – just the absolute perfect book to curl up with on a cold, wintery day! I highly recommend adding this book to your Christmas reading plans!

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

Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Karen-King.jpg

 

Karen King is a multi-published, award-winning author of romantic novels and children’s fiction. She has had four romance novels published to date, with another one due out next April, 120 children’s books, and several short stories in women’s magazines. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women  Writers and Journalists.

Non-Fiction November Wrap-Up! #NonFictionNovember2018

NonFictionNovember!

I always enjoy joining in with Non-Fiction November but the month always goes by so fast! This year I had quite a lot of fiction to read and review so couldn’t focus entirely on non-fiction but I still read more of it than I thought I would… sixteen non-fiction books in total!

Of my planned non-fiction TBR I managed to read:

Waco by David Thibodeau

This is a memoir of a man who survived the Waco siege. It’s a really interesting read and I recommend it.

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 by Tina Brown

I enjoyed reading this book and have actually already reviewed it so you can read what I thought here if you’d like to.

The Upstarts by Brad Stone

I listened to the audiobook of this and I have to be honest and say that I found it a little disappointing. It just wasn’t as engaging as I’d hoped it was going to be, although it was still interesting to read how companies like AirBnB and Uber got started.

Mercury and Me by Jim Hutton

Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White

Even though I am now finally winning the battle with clutter (ever since I did the KonMari method earlier this year my house is staying clutter-free) I still can’t resist reading books about it. There were some useful ideas in this book and I definitely recommend it.

Three Things You Need to Know about Rockets by Jessica Fox

I’d had this book on my TBR for years as I was saving it for the right time. Unfortunately though I just didn’t enjoy it all that much. It wasn’t what it felt like it was going to be and was lacking in something for me. It has had lots of good reviews though so it may well be that it just wasn’t for me.

 

I then completely deviated from my planned non-fiction reads and picked up these books too:

The Diary of Two Nobodies by Mary Killen and Giles Wood

I love watching Giles and Mary on Gogglebox so was really looking forward to reading this book by them and I’m so happy to say that I enjoyed it. They’re just how they are on TV and it was a joy to read this.

I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors

This was a fascinating read about a woman who looks into the life of her rapist. She had buried her emotions for many years and then goes on a journey to know more about the man who attacked her. It wasn’t as emotional read as I was expecting but it was still very interesting and gripping.

I’ll Be There For You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller

I listened to the audio book of this and it was such a fun, nostalgic read. I recommend it to all Friends fans!

No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980s by Andy McSmith

This is another book that I’ve had on my TBR for such a long time but I’m so glad I picked it up because it was such a good read. It was really accessible non-fiction but it helps puts some things in context from the 80s with regards politics and what was happening at the time.

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale

I’d forgotten I owned this audio book so when I spotted it in my Audible app during November I immediately started listening. I love Kate Summerscale’s writing and this book lived up to my expectations, it was so interesting.

How Not to be a Boy by Robert Webb

I got this book for Christmas last year and have been so badly wanting to read it so I’m glad to have read it in November. I really, really enjoyed this, it was even better than I thought it was going to be.

Life to the Limit: My Autobiography by Jenson Button

I was a huge F1 fan for many years and followed Jenson Button’s career in the sport. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages so when it was in a recent sale on Audible I snapped it up. I very much enjoyed this book. It’s a really open and honest look at his career, and also a love letter to his late father.

Under the Wig: A Lawyer’s Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence by William Clegg QC

I downloaded this from NetGalley on a whim recently and I’m so glad I did as it was such a good read. I actually managed to review this straight away so you can read more of my thoughts here if you’d like to.

My Life in Football: The Autobiography by Kevin Keegan

I’ve been umming and ahhing about whether I wanted to read this book at the moment. I’m a Newcastle United supporter and the way the club treated Kevin Keegan, and the way the current owner is running the club makes it not fun at all. Anyway, I saw the audio book in a recent sale and decided to give it a go. It was such a good read, I’m glad I read it but it did make me so angry all over again at how he was treated. I definitely recommend the book though.

Mother of a Suicide: The Battle for the Truth Behind a Mental Health Cover-up by Joanna Lane

This book often pops up on recommendations for me in Goodreads so I finally picked it up just the other day. I don’t know what to say about this one. I feel for Joanna, and I admire her determination to find answers and her fight to get the medical profession to listen but the book felt like it needed editing. I also wish it’d had more of a sense of her emotion rather than just the facts of what was happening.

 

 

Did you take part in Non-Fiction November? Or have you read any good non-fiction recently? I’d love to know if you’ve read any of the books in my post, or if you have any non-fiction you can recommend to me. I’m always on the look out for new books. 🙂

 

 

 

Mini Crime and Thriller #BookReviews!

I’m still trying to catch up with reviews so am going to continue on with my occasional series of mini book reviews. It’s stressing me out to know I’ve read these books a while ago but haven’t managed to review them so I just want to get caught up and then hopefully I can start keeping up from that point on! (Here’s hoping…!)

 

cover128111-medium

Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan

I was eagerly anticipating Claire Allan’s first thriller novel and I wasn’t disappointed! This is a book about Emily, who lets a stranger step out in front of her and the woman gets hits by a car and she dies. Emily can’t help but want to know more about Rose and begins looking her up on social media. She finds out that Rose had an amazing, perfect life and she begins to embed herself into the lives of those Rose left behind. The novel explores how the life people present to the outside IS not always the one they are really living. I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading Claire’s next thriller!

36589926

The Reunion by Samantha Hayes

I’ve read and enjoyed previous novels by this author so was really looking forward to The Reunion and I’m pleased to say that it was a great read. The novel is set in past and present, which I always enjoy. Claire’s little sister went missing when she was in charge of her and now in the present the family is facing up to having to sell the family farm and are having a reunion of everyone who was there when Eleanor went missing. I was suspicious of everyone in this book. This group of people all have secrets and things they’re hiding – some more serious than others and so it makes for a great read as you wonder who it is that has the biggest secret of all! Ultimately, I did work out what had happened before the reveal comes but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.

 

37545217

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

The premise of this novel grabbed me right away. I know what it is to fear leaving the house and to therefore become a prisoner in your own home so I felt sure I was going to love this book. Anna has many issues and as such comes across as an unreliable narrator so when she sees something in the house opposite you can’t be sure if everything was as she said it was. The tension ratches up from this point on and you find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering how things are going to to turn out for Anna. This was a good read. I did work out what was going on quite early in the book so some of the suspense was then lacking for me but having said that there were still reveals to come that had my mind spinning. This was a good read and I’m looking forward to reading whatever the author publishes next!

 

cover133400-medium

The Liar’s Room by Simon Lelic

This was such an interesting premise for a thriller as it’s set in one room between a therapist and her patient. I was intrigued from the start and was keen to see what was going to happen, and how. It started off really well as you get the sense there is more to this appointment than we know at first and the tension just builds and builds from there.  It’s a novel that really makes you think about the nature of right and wrong, and how nothing is ever black and white. It really makes you question your thoughts about each of the characters. It’s a good read and I recommend it!

 

#BookReview – Under the Wig: A Lawyer’s Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence by William Clegg QC @CanburyPress

41222439

About the Book

How can you speak up for someone accused of a savage murder? Or sway a jury? Or get a judge to drop a case?

In this memoir, murder case lawyer William Clegg revisits his most intriguing trials, from the acquittal of Colin Stagg to the shooting of Jill Dando, to the man given life because of an earprint.

All the while he lays bare the secrets of his profession, from the rivalry among barristers to the nervous moments before a verdict comes back, and how our right to a fair trial is now at risk.

Under the Wig is for anyone who wants to know the reality of a murder trial.

My Thoughts

I really enjoy reading books about the law so when I spotted Under the Wig in the Read Now section of NetGalley recently I immediately downloaded it.

Under the Wig is the memoir of William Clegg QC and makes for a fascinating read. The book is told in alternating chapters where one chapter is about a famous case he has worked on and the other gradually tells his story of how he came to be a barrister.

William Clegg has worked on some very high profile cases and it was really interesting to hear about them from a defence barrister’s perspective. He gives his opinion on the outcome of each particular case in the course of a chapter and I really appreciated that. He covers cases such as the murder of Jill Dando, where he worked on Barry George’s appeal. We also get to see how it is for a barrister to work for a man who has confessed to manslaughter such as in the case of Vincent Tabak (who was convicted of murdering Joanna Yeates at Christmas 2010).

I was particularly interested in the chapter about legal aid. I was well aware of cuts in legal aid as it’s often been in the news but I didn’t know the impact it was having in real terms. It’s shocking to see how much funding has been cut and the potential this has for preventing people from accessing a good defence team.

I’ve definitely come away from this book with a little more understanding of some aspects of the law than I had before. It makes more sense to me now how some points of a case get dropped early on, and how different points are argued during a trial.

This is a gripping book – one that once you start reading you just don’t want to put down. The writing flows and it reads like a fiction book in the sense that it’s very accessible and holds your interest from start to finish. I really enjoyed Under the Wig and definitely recommend it!

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

Under the Wig is out now and available here.

#BookReview: Snowday by B R Maycock @BRMaycock #Snowday

42791243

About the Book

Sometimes hot cocoa just isn’t enough to keep you warm in the snow…

Eloise is too busy juggling the chaos of three kids, an ever present ex-husband and a demanding boss to even remember the last time dating crossed her mind.

But as soft snow falls silently all around, romance twinkles with the flakes.

After being single for so long, Eloise suddenly has a lot of choices. Too many choices. Will anyone be worthy of melting the guard around her heart to let love in?

My Thoughts

At this time of year I can’t resist books with gorgeous snowy covers and Snowday definitely caught my eye with its festive cover! I’m so pleased to say that the novel itself totally lives up to the cover and I loved this book.

Eloise is recently separated from her husband and is struggling to juggle their three children and a full-time job. Her estranged husband loves the children but turns up randomly to see them making Eloise’s life even more stressful. He’s also in a new relationship and she’s not sure how she feels about that.

Over the course of the book we see the love Eloise has for her children and what a great mum she is. She clearly loves her family but just wishes her life was a little less hectic. Things become more interesting when she finds herself with two potential love interests and a neighbour across the road who seems to blow very hot and cold with his attitude towards her.

Eloise spends a lot of her time feeling utterly frazzled, trying to be everything to everyone. Her attempts at dating were very amusing. I don’t have children but I remember what it was like to be going on dates again after coming out of a long term relationship and I felt for her. She’s such a genuine and relatable character and I was rooting for her to find some happiness for herself.

I loved how as the novel heads towards Christmas, and Eloise is gradually making peace with the way her life has turned out, there is another surprise in store for her. This is a book that’s full of honesty about family life and break-ups and yet packed with humour and joy too.

Snowday is a really engaging, fun read that shows the reality of life but with a fab dose of humour too. It’s such a gorgeous, wintery read and I absolutely loved it! I highly recommend adding this to your festive reading lists.

Many thanks to Bernadette Maycock for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Snowday is out now and available here.

About the Author

Brmaycock

When Bernadette Maycock isn’t dreaming up vibrant leads for romantic comedies, she’s ingesting books for her blog (https://brmaycock.wordpress.com/), in particular chick lit (her first love!) books, romantic comedies and thrillers. She can also be found playing footie or watching Marvel, DC or Star Wars movies and cartoons in Co. Westmeath, Ireland with her brilliantly out there husband, Keith, and their four epic little men.

Her debut ‘It Started With A Snub’ and Christmas romantic comedy ‘Snowday’ are available now on Amazon, and Bernadette is currently working on a three part series about AbbeyGlen Village, whose luck is about to change …

#BookReview: The List That Changed My Life by Olivia Beirne @Olivia_Beirne @headlinepg #RandomThingsTours @annecater

40901450

About the Book

Georgia loves wine, reality TV and sitting on the sofa after work. She does not love heights, looking at her bank account, going on dates, or activities that involve a sports bra. And she will never, ever take a risk.

That is, until her braver, bolder, big sister finds out that she won’t be able to tick off the things she wanted to do before turning thirty, and turns to Georgia to help her finish her list.

With the birthday just months away, Georgia suddenly has a deadline to learn to grab life with both hands. Could she be brave enough to take the leap, for her sister?

And how might her own life change if she did?

 

My Thoughts

I jumped at the chance to read The List That Changed My Life because it sounded like a real feel-good read – and it really is that but it’s so much more as well. I adored this book!

This book was so much more moving than I was expecting. I found the opening chapter of the book with Georgia’s sister Amy so heartbreaking. I’ve been through the battery of tests that she would have had to go through and it’s not fun. I don’t have the same illness but my condition causes very similar symptoms so I could really empathise with what she is going through. The relationship between the two sisters was gorgeous. I love how close they were, even when they were snapping at each other you could see it was out of love.

The list that changes Georgia’s life is written for her by Amy and initially it seems like Amy wants to inflict maximum panic on her sister as the list has some things on it that most people who aren’t daring would absolutely not want to do. Over the course of the novel it becomes apparent why Amy is challenging Georgia and I adored that she was doing this for her. My best friend, who sadly died when we were 20, used to push me out of my comfort zone all the time and I loved her for it. Even now, nearly twenty years on I can still hear her voice pushing me on when I have the fear and wonder whether I’m doing the right thing. The really lovely thing was that even though it was Georgia completing the list, it was helping Amy too. These two women are most definitely a team.

I really enjoyed the love interest in this book and how Georgia came to meet him. It was funny and believable and I was so hoping that things would work out for these two.

The List That Changed My Life is a beautiful read but it’s also a big reminder of how we should all push ourselves out of our comfort zones from time to time. It’s good to test our limits and to see what the big wide world can offer. This is a gorgeous life-affirming read that will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately will leave you feeling like making your own list to change your life! I loved this book and feel sure I’ll be re-reading it in the future so I definitely recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The List That Changed My Life is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Olivia Beirne

Olivia Beirne is a 26 year old writer, who previously worked in casting. She lives in Tulse Hill, London with her friends and their resident mouse and grew up in Buckinghamshire. This novel is a standalone debut and she is currently working on her second novel.

 

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

FINAL Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler @KarenSchaler @PiatkusBooks #ChristmasCamp

42267622

About the Book

Haley ‘the Grinch’ Hanson’s idea of the perfect Christmas is escaping into work and avoiding all the traditional distractions. Over the years, she’s sacrificed her personal life to climb the ladder at a prestigious advertising agency. Now she just needs to land a coveted Christmas toy company account to make partner. But first, her boss thinks she needs a holiday attitude adjustment, so he ships her off to Christmas Camp – a mountainside retreat promising to revitalise even the most determined Scrooge’s festive spirit.

Arriving reluctantly at the snowy inn, Haley meets the owner’s handsome son, Jeff, and feels an instant spark. Yet despite the attraction, she’s determined to ‘graduate’ camp as fast as possible so she can get back to work.

But it’s impossible to resist the charm of the season and soon even Haley starts to live in the moment, growing ever closer to Jeff. Although when he discovers she’s been conspiring with his dad to defeat Jeff’s plans for the future, it will take all the magic of Christmas to bring these two hearts together . . .

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist looking at the Christmas novels on NetGalley recently and found myself downloading a few. Christmas Camp was the one that called to me the most due to the gorgeous, snowy cover and I’m so happy to say that the novel is every bit as fabulous as it looks!

Haley is a workaholic and is something of a grinch, she has zero Christmas spirit but is vying for a partnership in her firm and this means winning a lucrative toy campaign requiring lots of Christmas joy. Her boss decides that the things she needs is a week at Christmas Camp to find her Christmas spirit and Haley has no option but to go.

I loved this novel so much! It’s set in the week before Christmas and is full of festive spirit. I get so disappointed when a novel is marketed as a Christmas read but you really only get Christmas at the very end of the book but I’m so delighted that Christmas camp has all the Christmas you could possibly want from start to finish!

Haley is determined to get through the activities as quickly as possible each day so that she can return to her room to get on with her presentation but the adorable Max the dog has other ideas! He latches on to Haley right away and is determined to get her involved. I loved Max so much, he’s made me want to get a dog. He really is a character!

The Camp activities include things like making cookies, going sledging, cutting down a Christmas tree – everything you can think of that relates to celebrating Christmas. I’ve always adored the festive period and still I want to go to this Camp, it just sounds so magical and wonderful!

There is a potential romance in this book between Haley and the owner’s son but the path of true love doesn’t run smoothly for these two and I was never quite sure if they’d ever manage to get things worked out so they could be together. I enjoyed these parts of the novel but especially the way that it was more about Haley working out her own life and what she wanted rather than her bending her will to be what a man wanted her to be.

There is real heart in this book; it explores so many of the complicated emotions that always come with the festive time of year and does it in a way that is really genuine but also always uplifting. I shed a few tears reading this book but ultimately I finished it with a great big happy smile on my face!

Christmas Camp is a really festive, feel-good novel and I highly recommend it. This is going on my list of books that I’ll read again in future at this time of year!

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

Christmas Camp is out now and available here.

About the Author

Karen Schaler is a three-time Emmy Award–winning storyteller, author, screenwriter, journalist and national TV host. She has written original screenplays for Netflix and Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. Her travels to more than sixty-five countries as the creator and host of Travel Therapy TV inspired Christmas Camp. All of Karen’s stories are uplifting, filled with heart and hope.

#BookReview: The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 by Tina Brown

cover127577-medium

About the Book

The Vanity Fair Diaries is the story of an Englishwoman barely out of her twenties who arrives in Manhattan on a mission. Summoned from London in hopes that she can save Condé Nast’s troubled new flagship Vanity Fair, Tina Brown is immediately plunged into the maelstrom of the competitive New York media world and the backstabbing rivalries at the court of the planet’s slickest, most glamour-focused magazine company. She survives the politics, the intrigue and the attempts to derail her by a simple stratagem: succeeding. In the face of rampant scepticism, she triumphantly reinvents a failing magazine.

Here are the inside stories of Vanity Fair scoops and covers that sold millions: the Reagan kiss, the meltdown of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles, the sensational Annie Leibovitz cover of a gloriously pregnant, naked Demi Moore. In the diary’s cinematic pages, the drama, comedy and struggle of running an ‘it’ magazine come to life. Brown’s Vanity Fair Diaries is also a woman’s journey, of making a home in a new country and of the deep bonds with her husband, their prematurely born son and their daughter.

My Thoughts

I grabbed The Vanity Fair Diaries from NetGalley when it was on read now almost a year ago but somehow I haven’t got around to reading it until now. I picked it up for non-fiction November  last week and it was an enjoyable read.

The book is Tina Brown’s personal diaries from 1983 when she got the job as editor of Vanity Fair magazine until she moved on in 1992.

There are parts of this book that I really enjoyed. I loved finding out more about what it’s like to edit a magazine and how difficult it can be getting the right cover image that represents the pieces inside the magazine.

Tina Brown movingly captures what it must have been like living in New York in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis. She doesn’t write at length about it but the frequent mentions of people she knows who have been diagnosed, or who have died is really shocking. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have lost so many people to one disease and in such a short amount of time.

The references to Donald Trump made for rueful reading, to know how he was thought of at various points during the 80s and now he’s president of the United States makes for interesting reading. There are other political figures referenced within the book that also make for interesting asides.

I also really enjoyed finding out more about how Brown juggled her work and her home life after she had her first child. She genuinely struggled to find balance and you can see her being pulled in two directions during her son’s early years. There is real honesty in these moments and it gave some balance to a book that is heavy on the celebrities and the gossip.

I think where I struggled a little with my enjoyment of the book is that, particularly in the earlier parts of the diary, I didn’t know who half of the people mentioned were. I kept putting the book down to look them up online. Once the book got to the later 80s and early 90s it was more my era and I knew who most of the people were and it became a much more fascinating read. This is down to my age though and not a fault of the book.

Overall I found this a really interesting and enjoyable book to dip in and out of and I do recommend it.

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

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 is out now and available here.

This Week in Books (21 Nov 2018)! What are you reading at the moment? #TWiB

icon2

Today I’m taking in part in This Week in Books, which was started by Lipsyy Lost and Found! If you want to join in you just need to share what you’re reading now, what you’ve read over the last week, and what you hope to read next.

 

I’ve had a brilliant week of reading so I’m hoping the week ahead will bring more of the same!

Now

The Christmas Spirit by Susan Buchanan

This is my latest festive read and I’m really enjoying it.

Fukushima Dreams by Zelda Rhiando

I started reading this last night and it’s such a beautifully written book. It’s set in the aftermath of the horrendous tsunami in Japan a few years ago and follows a man and woman who have become separated from each other. It’s very dream-like and so good.

Twenty-Six Seconds by Alexandra Zapruder

This is another one of my picks for non-fiction November and I’m so glad I was able to pick it up this week. I started reading this yesterday and I’m three chapters in. It’s such a fascinating read, I had no idea what it was like for the Zapruder family living with the burden of the footage taken of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The Upstarts by Brad Stone

This is also on my non-fiction November TBR as my audio book choice. It’s an interesting book to listen to and I’m enjoying finding out more about how Air BnB and Uber came to be.

 

Then 

Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler

This is a gorgeous festive read and I really enjoyed it. I do love when a Christmas book is full of the joys of the season so this was a lovely read. I’ll be reviewing it soon.

Bouncing Back with a Bang by Geraldine Ward

This is a powerful and moving poetry collection that I very much enjoyed. I reviewed it yesterday so you can read more of my thoughts on it here if you’d like to.

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983 – 1992 by Tina Brown

This was a non-fiction November pick and I’m really glad to have got it read this month as it’d been on my TBR for almost a year. It was enjoyable in places but particularly in the early part of the diary there were so many people that I had no idea about that it was a bit over my head. I’m in the middle of writing a review so my full thoughts will be posted soon.

No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980s by Andy McSmith

This is a non-fiction book about the 80s and I very much enjoyed it. A lot of things I already knew but this book helps put things into context that gave me new insight into some of the things that happened in the 80s. It’s a really accessible book and I recommend it.

The Present by DS Devlin

This is a crime fiction novel set near Christmas and while I really enjoyed the opening chapters, it did all fall a little flat for me after that. It was a fast read but it was missing something for me. I’ll be reviewing this at some point.

The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

I had an ARC of this on my TBR but spotted the audio book on my audio subscription service so I half read and half listened to this. It’s the first Poirot novel that I’ve read by Sophie Hannah and I enjoyed it so I’ll definitely be looking out for the previous ones by her. I hope to get my review of this posted soon too.

I’ll Be There For You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller

I was looking for something light to listen to this week and this book caught my eye. I loved Friends back in the day and I’m now enjoying watching the repeats on Channel 5. This was a fun listen and I found out some things I didn’t know, and it was nice to think back over favourite episodes. I recommend this if you’re a Friends fan.

The List That Changed My life by Olivia Beirne

I loved this book. It was heart-warming and life-affirming and it was just a gorgeous book. I’ll be reviewing this for the blog tour next week so look out for that on Tuesday.

 

Next

Snowday by B R Maycock

I’m so looking forward to reading this winter read. It sounds like a gorgeous book to curl up with on a cold snowy afternoon so this is the week for this one!

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

I was so excited when a proof copy of this arrived recently and I can’t wait any longer to start reading it! It feels like another perfect book for curling up in the chair with on a cold wintery day.

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

I’ve had this on my TBR since it was published earlier this year and I’m just in the mood to read it so hopefully I’ll get to this one in the coming week.

Mansfield and Me by Sarah Laing

This book is on my non-fiction November TBR and I’d really like to read it soon. It’s been a while since I read a graphic novel so this should be a lovely change.

 

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

#BookReview: Bouncing Back with a Bang by Geraldine Ward @GWardAuthor @annecater #RandomThingsTours

IMG_2453

About the Book

“Life is full of twists and turns, stops and starts. Living on a bizarre rollercoaster, Geraldine Ward is now bouncing back with a Bang.”

In a poetry collection that aims to to rock the senses and fill the reader with powerful imagery and heartfelt truth, Geraldine Ward’s mixture of critical and realistic social observation and humorous asides, will fully involve you in her journey of self discovery and take you on the ride of your life.

“Geraldine Ward’s poems take a slanted look at this world. They skilfully shine a light on those things we wish were different, the abuse we suffer or inflict.” – Reuben Woolley, Editor of “I am not a silent poet.”

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be offered the chance to read and review Bouncing Back With A Bang as I’m trying to get back into reading poetry and it’s wonderful to find new poems to explore.

Bouncing Back With A Bang is a lovely collection of poems that cover a wide variety of topics. Some are more whimsical, some require reading through a couple of times to give you time to ponder the meaning. Some are straightforward and easy to understand but none-the-less pack an emotional punch. It’s a collection about bouncing back after difficult times and so there’s something for everyone.

I adored Flower Fairy, it was whimsical and it really took me back to those days in childhood when anything seems possible.

‘A pocketful of promises in her heart.’

The poem that really got to me though was Taken, which is about the aftermath of a miscarriage. I’ve sadly been through it myself and though it was many years ago now I still know how old that child would be, and which milestones they’d be reaching. This poem captures so well and so poignantly those feelings of a child that never got to be.

I read this collection before reading about the author and all through the poems in the book I was thinking of how brilliant they would be read aloud, performed. I’ve now discovered that Geraldine Ward is a performance poet and I would love to see her live one day. I actually finished reading this book and then went back and read it again out loud and it really gave me a different take on the poems, it brought out more emotions in me with some of the writing than it had when I read in my head the first time around so I definitely recommend doing that.

Bouncing Back With A Bang is a powerful and emotional read, I highly recommend it.

Many thanks to Anne from Random Things Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Bouncing Back with a Bang is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Geraldine Ward Author Picture

Geraldine Ward is an author, mother and performance poet. Her publishing credits include children’s poetry and fiction, most recently ‘Mark’s Magic Farmyard and Other Stories’, a novella about mental health called ‘Caring for the Carer’ and ‘Now’ poetry to name but a few.

She has had individual poems published in literary magazines including ‘The Blue Nib’ edited by Shirley Bell, ‘I am not a silent poet’ edited by Reuben Woolley and ‘Writers Cafe Magazine’ edited by Marie Lightman.

In November 2017 she was one of only three poets appearing on a pre recorded podcast for BBC Radio 4 Front Row, describing her writing process for National Write a Novel Month.

Geraldine’s hobbies include playing piano, song writing and singing and learning the ukulele.

Website: http://www.geraldineward.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @GWardAuthor

 

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

Bouncing Back BT Poster

#BookReview: Good Samaritans by Will Carver @Will_Carver @OrendaBooks @annecater #SixBottlesOfBleach

 

 

About the Book

One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach.

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans
But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…
And someone is watching…

 

My Thoughts

I was thrilled to be offered a copy of Good Samaritans as based purely on the cover I knew this was a book that I simply had to get my hands on. I then read the blurb and knew this was going to be a brilliant read – I was so right!

Good Samaritans is told from multiple perspectives in short chapters and gradually you get a picture of what makes each of these characters tick. Hadley is suicidal and doesn’t know how to make her feelings stop. Seth can’t sleep and just wants someone to talk to (even though his wife is upstairs, he want someone else someone random to listen). One night a crossed wire leads these two characters into each other’s lives. We also get to know Ant, who actually works for the Samaritans. He began volunteering after a friend of his hanged himself while they were on holiday together. He’s clearly not coping in his own life and is desperately trying to help others in order to make himself feel better. 

Alongside this two bodies are found in separate locations in Warwickshire and Detective Sergeant Pace is desperately trying to solve the murders. He can’t see how they can be connected but at the same time both bodies have been bleached and wrapped in plastic in the exact same way. His perspective through the book was brilliant. I’m really hoping that he will show up in another novel because I found him fascinating and I’d love to know more about his past.

From the premise it initially seems like one or two of these characters are going to be good samaritans and help someone but clearly with two bodies turning up someone is not all that they seem! I was so intrigued by this and I kept changing my mind about each character and wondering whether any of them could actually be trusted. It’s such a twisted book! Its very dark at time but there are elements of humour in there, there is also a fair bit of sex but it all makes for such a brilliant thriller!

I knew from the first couple of pages of this novel that I was going to love it and I wasn’t wrong! It’s a book that grabs you from the start and it honestly doesn’t let you go until after you’ve finished reading it. There are real shocks in this book – when one character gets murdered I was so not expecting it and it actually made me gasp in surprise! It’s impossible to work out the twists and turns of this book so I suggest you sit back and just enjoy the ride! I had my suspicions about one of the characters and I was sort of right but had no idea about anything else so the end was a shock!

Good Samaritans is so dark and twisty, and it’s utterly brilliant! This is definitely going on my favourite books of 2018 list and I’m already keen to read whatever Will Carver writes next but in the meantime I highly recommend this book!

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

Good Samaritans is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

 

Will Carver lives in Reading, though his younger years were spent in various parts of West Germany. He is the author of four books in the JANUARY DAVID thriller series – GIRL 4 (UK: Arrow, 2011), THE TWO (UK: Arrow, 2012), DEAD SET (UK: Arrow, 2013) and THE KILLER INSIDE (UK: Arrow, 2013).

Carver likes to work his body as much as his mind and runs his own fitness and nutrition company, though he prefers to talk about his writing more than how he consumes adequate protein as a vegan. 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

#BookReview: Supernova Hangover by Emma Jones @MsEmma_Jones @Unbound_Digital @Unbounders @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

Supernova Hangover Cover

About the Book

Two girls meet on a train with a shared mission to have it all…

Toots Silver, a young, local news reporter from the North West, lands in London with little more than her ambition. Against the odds, she talks her way into a dream job at a celebrity magazine, riding high on a new craving for showbiz gossip.

The shimmering nightlife of Cool Britannia lures her into an exhilarating, twilight world – and an explosive affair with an A-list interviewee. But the comedown forces her to confront the soulless desires of her generation.

In New York, she’s on the trail of the defining exclusive of her age. But conflict erupts between personal integrity and journalistic ruthlessness – which might jeopardise the success that will secure her position in a looming post-millennial world.
Can you live the high-life, without it getting you down?

 

My Thoughts

I’ll admit that I was drawn to this book by the fact that Emma Jones was the editor of Smash Hits magazine – this was a must-read for me in my early teen years! I’m really pleased to say that I very much enjoyed Supernova Hangover!

Supernova Hangover is about Toots Silver, a local news reporter in Manchester who manages to blag her dream job editing a brand new magazine in London. The novel is set against the backdrop of the 90s and Cool Britannia, and Toots falls into the lifestyle of the rich and famous. She loves the life she has made for herself but soon reality begins to bite when she starts to question the integrity of what she’s doing. The novel opens with her leaving a funeral and finding all the paparazzi cameras pointing at her. It’s such a great opening because immediately I wanted to know who Toots was and why the media were so interested in her when there were clearly famous people at this funeral.

I did find Supernova Hangover a little difficult to get into at first but once I got into it I found I didn’t want to put it down. I got completely engrossed in Toots’ life and in her affair with the A-list star, and I wanted to know how it was all going to turn out for her.

Toots isn’t always a likeable character but she’s human and real and believable. She makes silly mistakes, she shows poor judgement at times and she’s not always the friend she should be to her best friend Rachel but we’ve all, albeit perhaps to a different extent, been there when we were younger. Life suddenly becomes exciting so reason and loyalty can go out of the window for a while. Toots is seduced by her new lifestyle and getting to mix with the rich and famous – I feel like I would have lost myself a bit if that had happened to me when I was her age. I loved reading about Toots even when I didn’t always like her and that’s the mark of a great character for me.

The other characters in this book can seem a little over the top at times but this is part of the joy of this book because some people really were like this in the 90s – everyone seemed to be image-obsessed and wanting to be one of the cool ones. People were riding high living a hedonistic lifestyle and believing they were invincible. Roddy, who gives Toots her big break, seems quite unreal for most of the book but at the same time I could see him as a real person. We’ve all seen people in the media who appear just like him.

I loved seeing how Toots grew as the novel progressed. She begins to find her feet and to find her voice, she wants to do more to help her family and then faces a real dilemma over whether to break someone’s trust. I enjoyed seeing her relationship with Clay throughout the novel and seeing how she grew in confidence in dealing with him. There were some really beautiful moments between them, that made me love them as a couple but then the spell would break again. Their relationship was kind of representative of the late 90s and early 00s in the end – it was amazing until it wasn’t.

I very much enjoyed Supernova Hangover – it was a nostalgia trip back to the 90s but also a really great read about fascinating characters. It captures the highs, the comedowns and is an all-round fabulous read! I loved it and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Unbound and Anne at Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Supernova Hangover is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Emma JOnes

Emma Jones is a former editor of Smash Hits magazine. As a news and showbusiness reporter, she worked for the Sunday Mirror, Mail on Sunday and the Sun. Emma became the youngest ever Fleet Street columnist whilst at the Sun. Television work includes live presenting for Channel Four and ITV. Emma’s Radio contributions range from Woman’s Hour to the Today programme. Her career has seen her interview stars including Britney Spears, George Clooney, the Rollings Stones, and Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor. Her writing also appears regularly in the New European newspaper and on Byline. She has four children and lives in London.

Supernova Hangover is her first novel.

 

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

Supernova Hangover BT Poster

 

 

 

#BookReview: The Lingering by S.J.I Holliday @SJIHolliday @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #TheLingering

IMG_2462 (1)

About the Book

Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…
At once an unnerving locked-room mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.

My Thoughts

The Lingering is a novel about Jack and Ali, who are moving to a commune that has been set up in an old psychiatric hospital. I felt that there was something a bit off about Jack and Ali as soon as I started reading this novel but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Neither of them were particularly likeable from the start but I loved finding out more about who they are and why they are at the commune. Ali is abrasive; she seems to want to fit in but at the same time doesn’t seem to want to make any effort to get on with people. Jack seems to want to make things work at the commune but he struggles with it.

The novel is told in two timelines: in the present day with Jack and Ali and the other members of the commune, and in 1955 through diary entries by a doctor who was investigating the way patients were being treated at the asylum. This makes for a fascinating read, seeing things in both timelines and wondering if one time strand connects to anything happening in the present.

I really loved the way this novel was written. There are members of the commune who firmly believe the house is haunted and one resident, Angela, is on a mission to find proof of the ghosts. I was apprehensive reading this book because I’ve lived in what seemed be a haunted house when I was younger and there were some really odd things that happened there that seemed to be without logical explanation. The clever thing about The Lingering is that it can be seen as a ghost story but it can also be seen as a novel about people who are under a lot of stress and beginning to lose their sense of reality. Some things can be explained either way and other things are so unsettling as your brain begins to mull over which it can possible be. It’s the way that ghosts can be considered a supernatural element doomed to forever be in the old psychiatric hospital, or they could be the mind’s manifestation of what people expect to experience to be in a building such as this. Perhaps the building has just absorbed all the lingering pain and sadness from an earlier time.

There is a real look at coercion and control throughout The Lingering and this was fascinating. I loved the psychological elements and discovering how a character has been coerced and why, but away from this storyline it also fitted in to how what we believe can have such an impact on how we view a situation.

There was so much more in this novel than I was expecting and I loved that it genuinely shocked me when the reveals start to come. It’s not often that I don’t see what’s coming in a novel but this one had me reeling on more than one occasion! I have to be honest and say that I don’t usually like reading scary books but The Lingering is so compelling that even when I was feeling really unnerved I just had to keep reading, I simply had to know what was going on! That’s the mark of a great book – when it keeps you hooked even when you want to hide behind the sofa!

The Lingering is a brilliant novel that has so many levels to it. There are twists and turns, and it is creepy at times but at its heart it’s a look at the psychology of what makes us think the way we do and how easily, and unwittingly, we can be drawn into someone else’s twisted web. I loved this book and I keep finding myself thinking about it even thought it’s now weeks since I read it. The Lingering is creepy, disturbing and utterly brilliant! I highly recommend it!

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

The Lingering is out now and available here.

About the Author

Susi author photo

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night. Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story ‘Home from Home’, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly) featuring the much loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and the festive serial killer thriller The Deaths of December. Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, inspired by her fascination and fear of ghosts. You can follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday or visit her website: sjiholliday.com.

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

Lingering blog poster 2018 (1) (1)

#BookReview: Perfect Bones by A. J. Waines @AJWaines @BloodhoundBook

A.J. Waines - Perfect Bones_cover

About the Book

Is the killer on the loose…or standing right beside you?

When art student, Aiden Blake, witnesses a gruesome attack on a London towpath, the police need him to identify the assailant without delay. But there’s a problem: refusing to leave his canal boat and traumatised by the shock, Aiden is rendered mute by the horror of the event and can’t speak to anyone.

In a desperate bid to gain vital information before Aiden’s memories fade, The Met call in Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, Dr Samantha Willerby, giving her only seven days to get a result. When Aiden finally starts to communicate through his art, however, the images he produces are not what anyone expects and before Sam can make sense of them, another murder takes place.

With her professional skills stretched to the limit and the clock ticking, Sam strives to track down a killer who is as clever as she is – someone who always manages to stay one step ahead.

The third book in the Samantha Willerby series, Perfect Bones is a tense and creepy psychological thriller that will send your pulse racing. It can easily be read as a stand-alone novel and will appeal to fans of authors like Nicci French, Mark Edwards and Lisa Gardner.

 

My Thoughts

Firstly, I want to wish AJ Waines a very happy publication day! Perfect Bones is out today and I’m delighted to be sharing my review.

Perfect Bones is the third book in the Samantha Willerby series but it can be read as a standalone. This time Samantha is called in to help art student Aiden who is so traumatised by a crime he has seen that he’s now mute. The police need his eye witness testimony so Samantha is desperately trying to help Aiden communicate before the killer strikes again.

Perfect Bones is told in the present as Samantha works with Aiden to try and recover what memories he has of the attack, but it is interspersed with seemingly unconnected chapters of women going to mysterious meetings. It’s initially unclear how these might be connected to the main story but it keeps you hooked to find out.

I know what PTSD is like but I was fascinated to see how a psychologist works with a patient who is rendered mute from the trauma. It was so interesting to see the various ways people can be encouraged to communicate what they’ve been through. AJ Waines clearly knows this area very well and it comes through so authentically. The police aren’t so sympathetic to Aiden, in part because they are desperate to catch the killer before anyone else is harmed but it felt like there was a lack of understanding that it wasn’t Aiden being difficult when he doesn’t communicate. This all felt very believable and realistic and gave a rounded picture of how mental illness is viewed.

Samantha is such a strong character but she’s also very human. She’s sometimes a bit rash, and she occasionally goes beyond what she’s required to do for a patient and I love this about her. She’s so believable and feels like a real person to me. I loved catching up with her and I already can’t wait for the next book to see what she’s up to next!

The tension in this novel is there from the start and it ramps up as the book goes along. It was a book I didn’t want to put down once I started reading, and I kept thinking about it when I wasn’t reading. So much so that I even had a dream relating to the gruesome assault after reading this right before bed and that’s never, ever happened to me before! My brain was whirring away as I tried to work out whodunnit but I didn’t manage to figure it out so AJ Waines I salute you in keeping me guessing right to the end – it doesn’t happen very often in a book but this had me stumped!

Perfect Bones is one of my favourite crime/psychological thrillers of the year; it’s a fast-paced, engrossing novel that will keep you hooked from start to finish. I definitely recommend picking up novel (and indeed the whole series)!

Many thanks to Emma at Bloodhound Books for my copy of Perfect Bones. All thoughts are my own.

Perfect Bones is out now and available here.

I’ve previously reviewed Lost in the Lake by AJ Waines, which you can read here if you’d like to.

 

About the Author

WainesAJ6medium

AJ Waines is a number one bestselling author, topping the entire UK and Australian Kindle Charts in two consecutive years, with Girl on a Train.

Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, the author now writes psychological thrillers and murder mysteries full-time, with publishing deals in UK, France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and Canada (audio books). In December 2017, she signed a UK two-book deal with Bloodhound Books.

AJ Waines has has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and been ranked a Top 10 UK Author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

The author lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband.

 

 

 

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

Perfect Bones Blog Tour banner

#BookReview: Roar by Cecelia Ahern @Cecelia_Ahern @FictionPubTeam #HearUsRoar #Roar

ROAR Jacket High res

About the Book

I am woman. Hear me roar.

Have you ever imagined a different life?
Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided?
Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

The women in these startlingly original stories are all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Was Kept on the Shelf and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Cecelia Ahern so I squealed with joy when a copy of Roar arrived at my house, along with an invitation to be part of the blog tour. I’m so happy to say that Roar exceeded all of my expectations and I completely and utterly adored it!

Roar is a collection of thirty inspiring, quirky and powerful short stories; all are written from the viewpoint of unnamed women and each examines a different facet of female experience.

I loved how the protagonist in each of the stories remains unnamed as it really allowed me to get engrossed in the story and to either remember what it was like to be in a similar situation to the woman, or to imagine how she must feel.

I think this might be the first time I’ve ever read a short story collection and loved every single story. Some affected me more than others but each one stands distinct and on its own; each story is memorable and none have become muddled in my head since I finished reading.

It’s near impossible to pick a favourite story but I think if I was pushed to choose one it would be The Woman Who Was Pigeonholed. It just really spoke to me how all the women were put in neatly labelled boxes and despite having many other elements to how they were, they were mostly judged on one trait. The ending of this story made me smile, and I could so identify with it because I have pushed from being seen as weak and disabled to being seen as tenacious and determined.

I also loved The Woman Who Was Swallowed Up By The Floor And Who Met Lots Of Other Women Down There Too. We’ve all been in that situation where we’ve done something embarrassing and just want the ground to open up and swallow us, and this story explores that. I love how we get to see what has embarrassed other women and how it makes you see that your own embarrassment isn’t that bad, and that it can be got through.

The Woman Who Walked In Her Husband’s Shoes was also incredibly powerful and is definitely food for thought. I kept thinking about this story for ages after I read it, it’s one I think everyone should read.

Each story in this collection is brilliant, and the joy of the book is that everyone who reads it will connect to something different in it depending on their own life or their emotions at the time. There is real power in this collection as a whole, but also in each individual story. It’s a wonderful book that can make you read one story and connect so closely with the character, and then the next story you perhaps haven’t had the experience but you feel like you’re standing with that woman and that you can better understand the women in your life that have had the particular experience. It feels like a book to treasure, and I know that I will read this book again and again. Perhaps when I need a boost I will return to a particular story and remind myself that I am woman, hear me roar!

I’ve already sent a copy of this book to my oldest friend and I know I will be buying copies for other people for Christmas this year. I urge you to grab a copy and read it, it really is an incredible collection!

Roar is a thought-provoking, empowering and beautifully written book and I adored every single minute that I spent reading it.

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

Roar is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

CECELIA PIC to use

Photo credit: Matthew Thompson

Cecelia Ahern is one of the biggest selling authors to emerge in the past fifteen years. Her novels have been translated into thirty languages and have sold more than twenty-five million copies in over forty countries.Two of her books have been adapted as major films and she has created several TV series in the US and Germany.  She and her books have won numerous awards, including the Irish Book Award for Popular Fiction for The Year I Met Youin 2014. PS I Love Youwas awarded two Platinum Awards at the 2018 Specsavers Bestsellers Awards, for UK and Ireland.

Cecelia lives in Dublin with her family.

 

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

Roar blog tour banner

#BookReview: Christmas Spirit by Nicola May @nicolamay1 @rararesources

Christmas Spirit

About the Book

It’s two days before Christmas – and Evie Harris finds herself both manless and jobless. After a chance encounter with handsome Greg (and egged on by her toy-boy-eating friend, Bea) she agrees to work at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day.
Striking up an unlikely friendship with homeless Yves, Evie begins an unwitting journey of spiritual awakening, all set against the sparkling winter backdrop of London landmarks.
A New Year’s Eve revelation is on its way . . . but will it leave Evie with a happy heart, or will she allow the pre-Christmas past to dictate her future?

 

My Thoughts

I’m delighted to be helping out on the blog tour for Christmas Spirit today and sharing my review of this gorgeous novella!

Christmas Spirit is about Evie. It’s almost Christmas and she’s utterly fed up having just split up with her boyfriend. On a night out with a friend a man asks her to help out at the homeless shelter over the festive period and Evie is persuaded to say yes; this decision changes her life!

I adored this book! First off I was utterly delighted to find that Christmas Spirit is set entirely between Christmas and New Year! I can’t help but be disappointed when there isn’t much mention of the holidays in a supposedly festive book so I can assure readers who feel like me that Christmas Spirit has all the festive feelings you could want in a novella!

I really felt for Evie throughout this book, especially around her sadness at having lost her beloved mum. I know how much harder everything feels when you no longer have a mum to turn to so I was rooting for her from the start. Breaking up with a boyfriend and not being able to call your mum makes it really tough. I was glad that Evie had such a good friend in Bea, she is such a great character and I knew she would make sure Evie was okay.

I was intrigued when Evie first met Yves; it seemed very apparent that there was something special about him but it wasn’t what I was expecting. He opens Evie’s eyes to all the beauty that is still around her, despite her loneliness and her recent break up. The way we get to see London throughout this novella is just magical.

The very end of this Christmas Spirit had me sobbing, it was so perfect and so beautiful and it just made this book really special for me. It’s made this a novella that I won’t ever forget and it will be on my list of Christmas books to re-read in the years to come.

Christmas Spirit is a beautiful, romantic and heart-warming novella and I highly recommend you grab a copy to read over Christmas!

My thanks to Rachel of Rachels Random Resources for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Christmas Spirit is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

LowRes_DSC6798

Nicola May lives near the famous Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.  Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks – and, naturally, enjoying a flutter on the horses.

Nicola likes to write about love, life and friendship in a realistic way, describing her novels as ‘chicklit with a kick’.

She has written eight novels, with Christmas Spirit being her first novella.

 

Follow Nicola May

Website – www.nicolamay.com

Facebook –https://www.facebook.com/NicolaMayAuthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/nicolamay1

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/author_nicola/

 

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

Christmas Spirit Full Tour Banner

#BookReview: The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare @HoratioClare @EmmaFinnigan @EandTBooks #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

IMG_2338

About the Book

As November stubs out the glow of autumn and the days tighten into shorter hours, winter’s occupation begins. Preparing for winter has its own rhythms, as old as our exchanges with the land. Of all the seasons, it draws us together. But winter can be tough.

It is a time of introspection, of looking inwards. Seasonal sadness; winter blues; depression – such feelings are widespread in the darker months. But by looking outwards, by being in and observing nature, we can appreciate its rhythms. Mountains make sense in any weather. The voices of a wood always speak consolation. A brush of frost; subtle colours; days as bright as a magpie’s cackle. We can learn to see and celebrate winter in all its shadows and lights.

In this moving and lyrical evocation of a British winter and the feelings it inspires, Horatio Clare raises a torch against the darkness, illuminating the blackest corners of the season, and delving into memory and myth to explore the powerful hold that winter has on us. By learning to see, we can find the magic, the light that burns bright at the heart of winter: spring will come again.

 

My Thoughts

I was drawn to The Light in the Dark as soon as I was offered a copy for review, it felt like serendipity and now I’ve read it I can say it really was the perfect book at the exact moment I needed to read it.

The Light in the Dark is a diary of the slow journey into winter – beginning with autumn and the months leading up to Christmas arriving, which brings some lighter moments, before the long, dark months that are January and February.

I used to love this time of year as the nights draw in and you can enjoy all the cosiness of closing the curtains and lighting a scented candle etc but ten years ago a very traumatic thing happened in my life and ever since then the darker nights and colder weather make me feel very down. Clare writes of an awful thing that happened on his mother’s farm at a similar time of year and while it’s completely different to my own story, it felt like it mirrored a lot of my own emotions about this time of year. The way that life is a struggle anyway for many of us as the days get shorter and then to have something terrible happen in these months somehow makes it all feel even worse. Clare captures this all so well, it brings a lump to the throat.

There’s real beauty in this book even when the subject matter is more melancholy. I loved the way you can feel the change into winter through the writing, with the break in the depressive feelings as Christmas arrives. Then there’s the long, seemingly never-ending January days, where the memories of how oppressive that month can feel at times really comes through on the page.

‘This loathsome ball of negativity, clamped to my ankle by a chain of self-loathing, follows me around. It is like being stalked by a ghoul. Turn your gaze outwards, I keep telling myself. You do not matter, other people matter, the land matters, the sky and the world. If only you would get out of the way of your own view!’

I really appreciated how open and honest Clare is about his own feelings of depression and how his work environment, and the never getting to see much daylight in the winter months, make his emotions so much harder to cope with. I could identify with so many of his thoughts at this time of year, and it helps to know you’re not the only one. This book is never depressing or maudlin though; it’s stunningly written and Clare has such a lyrical way of writing that this lifts the book through the darker moments. This book brought me such solace and it made me feel less alone in my winter melancholy.

There are so many beautiful passages in this book that evoke such wonderful imagery; Clare really does have such a brilliant turn of phrase. I highlighted quite a few paragraphs, and also found myself reading some aloud to my husband which I’ve never felt compelled to do before. This line was one of my favourites –  it says so much in so few words:

‘A solar panel farm gazes darkly at the clouds, its feet in water.’

The Light in the Dark is a beautiful, moving and poignant meditation on the changing of the seasons. It gave me solace as the nights draw in ever faster and left me with a sense of hope for the spring to come. I adored reading this book and I know it will be one I read again in the years to come. I’ll definitely be buying copies for friends and I’ll be recommending it every chance I get. It’s a beautiful book and one I won’t forget!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

The Light in the Dark is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Horatio Clare Author Picture

Horatio Clare is a writer, radio producer and journalist. Born in London, he and his brother Alexander grew up on a hill farm in the Black Mountains of south Wales. Clare describes the experience in his first book Running for the Hills (John Murray 2006) in which he sets out to trace the course and causes of his parents divorce, and recalls the eccentric, romantic and often harsh conditions of his childhood. The book was widely and favourably reviewed in the UK, where it became a bestseller, as in the US.

Running for the Hills was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award and shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Horatio has written about Ethiopia, Namibia and Morocco, and now divides his time between South Wales, Lancashire and London. He was awarded a Somerset Maugham Award for the writing of A Single Swallow (Chatto and Windus, 2009).

 

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

FINAL FINAL Light in the Dark BT Poster

#BookReview: Love & Fame by Susie Boyt @SusieBoyt @ViragoBooks @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #Loveandfame

IMG_2327

About the Book

Susie Boyt’s sixth novel is the story of the first year of a marriage. Eve a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. Could it work? Should it work? Must the show always go on? This is a highly-strung comedy about love, fame, grief, showbusiness and the depths of the gutter press. Its witty and sincere tone – familiar to fans of Susie’s newspaper column – will delight and unnerve in equal measure.

 

My Thoughts

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t really know what this book was about when I was offered a copy, but actually I’m quite glad that I didn’t. I try and avoid books about grief and loss at this time of year but reading Love & Fame recently and finding it such a brilliant and cathartic novel has taught me that I need to be more open-minded.

Love & Fame follows people from two different families. The first is Eve, a very highly-strung actress who is struggling to find her place in the world. The second follows twin sisters Beatrice and Rebecca, who are very different from each other but also very dependent on each other.

The opening of this book sees Eve packing for her honeymoon and the way her anxiety is presented on the page was so true to how anxiety really is that it had my own heart racing at the amount of thoughts running through her head. I’ve suffered very badly with anxiety in my life and this is the first time that I’ve read a novel that truly conveys what it feels like. There is a moment later in the book that struck such a chord with me that I had to briefly stop reading, it really brought it home to me that not everyone feels like this. I could really identify with Eve’s anxiety – the way sometimes something causes it and other times it’s just lingering there waiting to catch you out when you think you’re doing okay.

‘What made you think of that?’ he would say. ‘I don’t know.’ she would smile. ‘You know how I’m always thinking about everything.’ ‘How do you mean?’ ‘Well, all the things I’ve ever said, all the things that have ever been said to me and everything I’ve seen and thought and felt in my life and it all sort of whirls around in my head all day long, and often through the night and it’s constantly going. It’s probably the same for everybody.’ ‘Maybe,’ he said.

Eve has married a man who is writing a book about anxiety and this a huge source of panic to Eve. There is black humour in her panic but I could really identify with her and found myself giggling at how ridiculous it all can be, and how aware of the ridiculousness one can be, and yet still the anxious thoughts won’t stop. While on honeymoon Eve gets the devastating news that her beloved father has died, and this sends her into such a tailspin. Grief and anxiety make for a really messed up time.

‘I suppose in a way you are in the loss adjustment business,’ Rebecca said. ‘A listening loss lessener.’

Alongside this we meet Beatrice and Rebecca. They lost their mum twenty years ago when they were young children and have dealt with it in very different ways. Beatrice has become a therapist specialising in treating grieving children, but Rebecca has remained stuck in her grief. It’s manifested in control over her eating and she cannot bring herself to even try and move through the grief, she wears it like a jumper. In some ways neither of the women have fully allowed themselves to heal from the grief, it lingers in the background of their relationship.

‘People wanted you to be upset when bad things happened in life, but if you got too upset they couldn’t take it, she thought. You’re a failure. You’re disgusting. Sometimes the window of what was acceptable, when it came to mourning, was so small.’

Love & Fame is a real slice of life. Eve attempting to follow in the footsteps of her successful acting father but her then becoming so paralysed by anxiety that she can’t do it is so believable. It’s the essence of being human that we want to be perfect at what we do, especially when people know what our dreams are and are wanting us to succeed but sometimes that becomes a pressure and the cracks begin to form. Losing a parent that you’re close to is something that changes you so completely and makes you see everything in a different light. As heartbreaking as it is it can be the catalyst for you to re-evaluate life and to find the thing that makes you happy. Eve seemed to be slowly finding her way towards this path and I was rooting for her to get there all the way through this novel.

Boyt has captured the essence of grief so well. She manages to show the pain of it in such an honest way, while also showing how it is broken up by moments of humour in the way others behave towards you. My mum died right before my 30th birthday and one of the most painful things on the day was the birthday cards that had a PS saying ‘sorry for your loss’. It astounded me at the time that people would be so utterly insensitive but now I can see the humourous side – I can just imagine people worrying about what to write and then getting it so wrong! We often don’t handle grief or grieving people very well but harm is generally not meant and Love & Fame captured this so perfectly for me. I highlighted so many passages in this novel, which is something I rarely do and I know this will be a book I go back to again and again.

Love & Fame made me cry, and it made me laugh. I found paragraphs that I had to stop and read again before continuing reading because it is so beautifully written. It’s a quirky, funny novel about anxiety, loss and grief and I absolutely loved it! I will be shouting from the rooftops about this fabulous book; I know this will be in my favourite books of the year so I’m highly recommending it!

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

Love & Fame is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

BoytSusie1

 

 

Susie Boyt is the author of five other acclaimed novels and the much-loved memoir My Judy Garland Life which was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize, staged at the Nottingham Playhouse and serialised on BBC Radio 4. She has written about art, life and fashion for the Financial Times for the past fourteen years and has recently edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories by Henry James. She is also a director at the Hampstead Theatre.
She lives in London with her family.

 

 

 

 

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

Final Love and Fame Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Isolation Junction by Jennifer Gilmour @JenLGilmour @rararesources @gilbster1000

IJ - NEW COVER Isolation Junction-4

About the Book

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?

Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

 

My Thoughts

Isolation Junction is the story of Rose; a young woman who fell in love but is now trapped in a marriage with an abusive husband. She has two young children with him and feels utterly helpless and doesn’t know how she can ever escape the situation she’s in.

Isolation Junction isn’t quite what I was expecting, but that’s in a good way. I thought it might be focused on the abusive relationship in ways that would be very difficult for me to read, and while there is some focus on violent elements it’s done in a very sensitive way. The novel shows enough for the reader to understand why Rose needs to leave but it mainly focuses on why it’s so hard for a victim of abuse to leave. Gilmour makes sure that the reader understands the situation but without ever making it too hard to stomach.

Isolation Junction felt quite a didactic read to me: the reader is kept at a distance from the characters but it felt like this was a deliberate choice, as if Gilmour has chosen to give a true insight into an abusive relationship rather than trying to make the reader feel what it might be like to be a Rose. I got the feeling that Rose, and possibly the other characters in this book too, were amalgamations of real people rather than Rose been meant to feel completely real to the reader in and of herself. It allows the novel to show the reader what it’s like to be trapped in an abusive relationship in clear language without ever embellishing for the sake of drama. The book moves back and forth in time; some parts are in third person and others are first person from Rose’s perspective. This is clever because at times it allows the reader to be outside looking in but unable to help, and then at other times we’re inside Rose’s head and can feel all her conflicting emotions and pain.

I think it’s very hard for people who haven’t been in Rose’s shoes to understand why people don’t just leave but Gilmour really shows in this book why it’s so hard. People want to leave but they’re too scared of what might happen, they’re scared of losing their children or that they or their children may be harmed. Some people have nowhere else to go having being completely isolated from their family or friends. There are so many reasons and Gilmour highlights this so brilliantly. It’s almost as if a person isn’t choosing to stay so much as they feel there is too much risk if they attempt to leave.

If I’m to be completely honest there is part of me that wanted Rose to make a life for herself without the help of another man, but I can see why the book was written the way it has been. It really shows that there is life after an abusive relationship, that people can go on to form a new relationship and can break free from the cycle of abuse. Gilmour definitely leaves the reader with a sense of hope, and I think that is incredibly important for this book.

Isolation Junction isn’t always an easy book to read but it is an important book and one that I think everyone should read. It’s very honest, it’s heart-wrenching at times and is definitely a book that will stick with you! I recommend it.

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

Isolation Junction is out now and available in print and ebook from here.

 

About the Author

W81GGoK9

Born in Yorkshire in the UK, I am a young, married mum with three children.  I am an entrepreneur, running a family business from my home-base and I have a large readership of other young mums in business for my blog posts.

From an early age I have had a passion for writing and have been gathering ideas and plot lines from my teenage years.  A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, I have amalgamated and fictionalised other survivors experiences alongside my own to write my first novel detailing the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again.  I hope that in reading my first publication- Isolation Junction, I will raise awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships to seek help for themselves and find the confidence to change their lives.

(Author bio taken from: JenniferGilmour.com)

 

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

Isolation Junction Full Tour Banner

#BookReview: The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet @TransworldBooks @RebeccaLFleet

cover133503-medium

About the Book

No one lives this way unless they want to hide something.’

When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.

On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.

But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget . . .

 

My Thoughts

I was keen to get my hands on this book from the moment I first heard about it so I was thrilled when I was approved to read it from NetGalley.

The House Swap is a novel about a woman who on a whim posts her home on a house swap site and then months later she gets an alert that someone wants to swap for a week. She decides to do it and her husband are soon spending the week in Chiswick while someone spends a week in their flat in Leeds. Caroline and Francis are trying to rebuild their marriage after a rough few years but things aren’t all as they seem with the house swap.

I was expecting this novel to be darker than it was but even so it was definitely thrilling. I ended up reading it in one sitting over the course of an afternoon and I didn’t want to put it down in that time.

The characters in The House Swap aren’t particularly likeable, they all have issues and it makes them quite self-centred but I liked the book all the more for this. I was keen to find out what made them the way they were and if they were going to have any kind of redemption by the end of the novel.

There are twisty elements in this book, and I did work most of them out, but it was still quite the ride as I was reading it. It was deeply unsettling to think of a stranger in your home, while you’re in theirs, only you’ve left more of who you are in your home and they can find out all your dark secrets. I’ve always shuddered at the thought of house swaps. I know they’re increasingly popular but the idea of it is very unnerving to me (even more so after reading this novel)!

I found The House Swap to be a fast-paced read and I really enjoyed it. I’d recommend it if you like domestic novels with some thriller elements.

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

The House Swap is out now and available in hardback and ebook formats from here!

 

About the Author

Rebecca Fleet lives and works in London. The House Swap is her first thriller.

#BookReview: So Here It Is by Dave Hill @Unbounders @SladeNews #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

IMG_2459

About the Book

‘No Slade = No Oasis. It’s as devastating and as simple as that’ Noel Gallagher

Slade’s music and style dominated and defined the 1970s. With six consecutive number one singles they were the UK’s number one group and sold millions of records all over the world. At their peak, Slade enjoyed success and adulation not seen since The Beatles. Now, for the first time, the man whose outlandish costumes, glittering make-up and unmistakable hairstyle made Slade the definitive act of Glam Rock tells his story.

Growing up in a council house in 1950s Wolverhampton, Dave always knew he wanted to be a musician and in the mid-sixties, with Don Powell, founded the band that in 1970 would settle on the name Slade. Their powerful guitar-driven anthems formed the soundtrack for a whole generation, and their Top of the Pops performances, led by their flamboyant, ever-smiling lead guitarist, became legendary.

But So Here It Is reveals that there’s much more to Dave’s life than Top of the Pops and good times. Packed with previously unseen personal photos, the book uncovers surprising family secrets, tells the inside story of the original band’s painful break-up, explores Dave’s battles with depression, his decision to reform Slade and go back on the road and his recovery from the stroke that threatened to cut short his career.

 

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read and review So Here It Is for the blog tour as I grew up hearing Slade all the time as my Mum was a huge fan. Obviously I love Merry Christmas Everyone, and that song has been a part of Christmas ever since I was a young child, but my Mum loved everything they ever did so I feel like I know their music fairly well. I was also a huge Oasis fan back in the day so to hear Noel Gallagher say that without Slade there would be no Oasis made this book an absolute must-read for me. I’m so pleased to say that I loved it.

It was fascinating to read about Dave Hill’s early years growing up on a council estate. I was impressed that his dad was ultimately so agreeable to him joining a band and throwing everything into it. I really enjoyed reading about how Slade got together and how they became famous. It’s funny to get your head around the fact that they had songs in the charts and had appeared on Top of the Pops but Dave Hill was still living with his parents. It’s also hard to comprehend the fact that they were still doing gigs up and down the country, perfecting their craft and growing their fan base after they were deemed to be breaking through in the music industry. It clearly took a lot of very hard work to reach a level of success in the industry back then but it obviously paid off for Slade.

I really loved discovering snippets of info and interesting facts about Slade, and other bands and people they came into contact with over the years that I hadn’t heard before. It made me smile every time they bumped into someone who was either famous then, or about to be famous. It never ever felt like name dropping though, it’s written in such a way as it’s just who they happened to meet at any given time. It’s also fascinating to pick up on just how many bands have said that Slade had influence on them.

Slade had their tough times too. Dave Hill writes about the horrific accident that seriously injured drummer Don Powell and that killed Powell’s girlfriend. I knew about the accident but I didn’t realise the impact it had on Powell and how the band had to adapt to the issues it left him with. I also hadn’t realised that Slade had such a tough time trying to break America and the effect it had on their fan base in the UK while they were off in the USA. Dave Hill is very open about how difficult it was for him when Noddy Holder decided enough was enough as far as Slade was concerned. It clearly left Hill at quite a crossroads and unsure what to do next. Thankfully, he was given some good advice and he took it, and Slade continues to this today!

Dave Hill is very candid in this book. I didn’t know that his mum had struggled so much with mental illness and to read about the effect this had on him was very moving. His love for his mum really comes through, it’s obvious her illness had a profound affect on him but also that she loved him and he loved her. Hill is also very open about his own struggles with depression later on in his own life, and how he worked to get himself healthy again.

So Here It Is is a warm, candid and all-round brilliant memoir and I highly recommend it! It’d be a perfect read for Slade fans, music fans in general and actually for anyone who enjoys reading fascinating memoirs! Just go read it, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

I received a copy of this book from Unbound via Random Thing Tours. All thoughts are my own.

So Here It Is is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

DAve Hill Author pic

Dave Hill was born in a castle in Devon, the son of a mechanic, and moved back with his parents to Wolverhampton when he was a year old. He bought his first guitar from a mail order catalogue and received a few lessons from a local teacher before teaching himself to play. Although he is left-handed, he has always played right-handed. He worked in an office for Tarmac Limited for over two years before becoming a full-time professional musician.

He originally played with drummer Don Powell in a band called The Vendors, which became the The N’ Betweens. When Jim Lea and singer Noddy Holder later joined, the band renamed itself Slade.

In the 1970s, Slade were the biggest band in the UK, and went on to have 23 Top 20 hits and six number one singles. Three of these singles entered the chart at number one (an achievement that even eluded the Beatles). Released in 1973, Merry Xmas Everybody went on to sell a million copies and has charted every year since. Slade’s film Flame is still cited to this day as one of the all-time great music films. Dave’s outlandish costumes, hair styles, shoes and make up, also made Slade one of the visually defining groups of the Glam era.

After the break-up of the original band, Dave Hill has helped and supported local and national charities and eventually reformed Slade with Don Powell. Twenty-five years later, they are still regularly touring the world, playing to hundreds of thousands of fans. In 2010 during a concert in Germany, Dave suffered a stroke, from which he made a fully recovery.

Dave married his wife Jan in 1973, and they have three children and four grandchildren. They still live in Wolverhampton. In 2016, Dave turned 70, and it also marked the 50th anniversary of Slade forming.

 

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

So Here It Is Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Snap by Belinda Bauer @BelindaBauer ‏@TransworldBooks @BeckyShort1 #snap #ManBooker #longlist

IMG_1811

About the Book

SNAP DECISIONS CAN BE DANGEROUS . . .

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she said. I won’t be long.

But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, Jack, now fourteen, is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. . .

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was sent a copy of Snap as it’s a book that I’d already been eagerly anticipating and I’m so pleased to say that it more than lived up to all my expectations.

Snap is a crime thriller and is predominantly the story of Jack. The novel opens when he’s ten years old, his mother has gone missing and from that moment on he has had to grow up and look after his two younger sisters. Time the moves on and we’re back with Jack when he’s fourteen and still doing all he can to keep his family together and to stop the authorise discovering how difficult his home life is.

The opening of this novel was really quite chilling. The idea of a heavily pregnant mother having to leave her children in the broken down car at the side of a motorway while she walks to the nearest phone to seek help, is alarming. Then the reader realising that the children have been left for quite a long time and are starting to get worried – you just immediately have the horrible sensation that something terrible has happened but you don’t know what. When Jack decides they should all go look for their mum I had the most awful feeling of dread at what they might find. The combination of how young the children are,  the hot weather and knowing that their mum had possibly come to harm at the side of the road is disturbing. I knew from this opening chapter that this was going to be a novel that I couldn’t put down and I was right!

I was expecting Snap to be a well-written crime thriller with a real mystery at its heart, and it absolutely is, but it’s also so much more besides. There are moments in this book that took my breath away; the pain and grief these children felt at the loss of their mother was intense and so moving. There is a moment with a purse that was really brief and yet so powerful – I absolutely knew what the character was feeling in that moment and I sobbed reading that paragraph.

Jack is a wonderful character; he definitely won a place in my heart and is someone I hope might pop up in another book some time. He’s one of those characters where you can’t condone his actions but you can absolutely understand them; he was forced to be a parent whilst still a child himself and he was just doing the best he could. I was rooting for him all the way through the novel and hoping that he would be okay, that he would find some kind of peace with all that had happened to his mum.

I read Snap in just two sittings (and the only reason it wasn’t one was because I needed sleep) and haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished reading. It’s a compelling crime novel with a perfect mix of mystery and bittersweet, moving moments. I highly recommend that you grab a copy of this book!

Snap is my favourite crime thriller of the year so far, it’s brilliant!

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

Snap is out now in hardback and ebook and available here.

About the Author

Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa. She has worked as a journalist and screenwriter, and her script THE LOCKER ROOM earned her the Carl Foreman/Bafta Award for Young British Screenwriters, an award that was presented to her by Sidney Poitier. She was a runner-up in the Rhys Davies Short Story Competition for “Mysterious Ways,” about a girl stranded on a desert island with 30,000 Bibles. Belinda now lives in Wales.

#BookReview: Dead in Venice by Fiona Leitch (Narrated by Deryn Edwards) @fkleitch #audiobook @audibleuk @annecater ‏#RandomThingsTours

Dead In Venice Cover

About the Book

Bella Tyson is a famous 40-something crime writer suffering from writer’s block ever since a bitter divorce two years before. When a fan offers her the use of an apartment in Venice, Bella jumps at it, hoping a change of scene will have her writing again. Once there, she soon meets Will, a charming Englishman, who shows her around the city.

Enchanted by both Will and her new surroundings, Bella decides to write a supernatural murder mystery and begins researching local legends and the city’s more sinister side, including an illicit visit to the island of Poveglia, spooky former home of Venice’s asylum. Soon Bella uncovers more than she has bargained for and finds herself enmeshed in a series of gruesome real-life murders that uncannily mirror the legends she is researching.

As she and Will join forces to investigate, real life and local lore merge disconcertingly – for nothing in Venice turns out to be what seems, including Will….

My Thoughts

I jumped at the chance to be on this blog tour as I very much enjoy listening to audio books and I loved the sound of Dead in Venice, it sounded like it might be something a bit different for me. I’m so glad that I did because the audiobook more than lived up to my expectations!

Dead in Venice is about Bella, a crime writer who has terrible writer’s block and is desperate to come up with an idea for her next novel. When she gets offered an apartment in Venice she jumps at the chance and is immediately excited at the possibilities for it to spark a new idea for a novel. Soon after her arrival she meets Will and it seems as though things might be looking up for her…

I must start be saying that the narrator, Deryn Edwards, is brilliant. She really captures the mood of the novel perfectly and it very much felt like she inhabited the characters, especially that of Bella. I’ll definitely be looking out for more audio books narrated by her.

I loved how we got to see Bella’s false starts when she was attempting to come up with an opening to her novel at the beginning of this book. The way she put herself into her book and then goes off on tangents is brilliant. It brought real humour to a novel that I wasn’t expecting and I adored that.

Once Bella gets to Venice she finds herself caught up in a real life murder and this finds its way into her writing. The whole novel that Bella is writing gets swept along by the increasingly bizarre murders she finds herself in the vicinity of. It was utterly engrossing and a really different take on the thriller genre. I didn’t work out whodunnit or why but I did find myself suspicious of each of the characters as the novel progressed. I even wondered at one stage, in the same way I’ve always wondered about Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, whether it could actually be Bella committing the murders that she then fictionalises!

The murders in Dead in Venice are quite gruesome and supernatural but the novel is written in such a way, with the reader seeing it through Bella the novelist’s eyes, that it never feels too much. The fictional novelist is fictionalising it further for the reader, and I found this really clever and interesting. It is a bit creepy at times as the murders Bella encounters seem to be mirroring a book that she is reading for research but hearing how Bella reacts to the situations she finds herself in just has you desperate to keep listening to find out what might happen next. I don’t particularly like being scared or feeling creeped out but I honestly just couldn’t put this audio book down!

Dead in Venice is so brilliantly written and fully immerses the reader in the novel. I’ve never been to Venice but Fiona Leitch brought it to life in this book. As I was listening to the audio I could completely envisage the setting as if I was right there with Bella. I could hear all the sounds and smell all the smells as I was listening and I felt as if I was right there in Venice with Bella.

Dead in Venice is such a quirky, fascinating novel. I got completely and utterly lost in the novel, it was brilliant escapism for me on a day when I wasn’t feeling too well. It’s a novel full of mystery and intrigue mixed with a hint of the supernatural and a dash of humour. I listened to the whole book in one afternoon and I absolutely loved it! I’m already eagerly anticipating whatever Fiona Leitch writes next but in the meantime I highly recommend this audio book! It’s one of my favourite audiobooks of the year!

I received a copy of the audio book from the author via Anne at Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

Dead in Venice is out now and available here.

About the Author

Fiona Leitch Author Picture

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London, Cornwall and New Zealand she’s finally (for the moment) settled on the sunny South Coast of England, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Her Westminster-set romantic comedy, ‘Parliamentary Affairs’, was recently optioned by an up and coming LA producer, and her action comedy ‘Lost in Berlin’ was a finalist in New York’s Athena IRIS Screenwriting Lab 2017. She’s also been shortlisted for the BBC Writers Room. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ has just been shortlisted for the Audible New Writing Grant, while her short horror story ‘Tinder’ was selected for the Twisted 50 Volume 2 anthology, published Spring 2018.

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

Dead in Venice Blog Tour poster

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

IMG_0338

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: Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner @Ronnie__Turner @HQDigitalUK #WhereIsBonnie? #LiesBetweenUs

51ZJAzdewoL

About the Book

Will they ever learn the truth?

Three people, leading very different lives, are about to be brought together – with devastating consequences . . .

John has a perfect life, until the day his daughter goes missing.

Maisie cares for her patients, but hides her own traumatic past.

Miller should be an innocent child, but is obsessed with something he can’t have.

They all have something in common, though none of them know it – and the truth won’t stay hidden for long . . .

My Thoughts

I’ve been eagerly anticipating Ronnie Turner’s debut novel Lies Between Us and I’m so happy to say that I absolutely loved it. I’m delighted to be sharing my review today for the blog tour.

Lies Between Us follows three characters: John, Miller and Maisie. John is a married father whose young daughter has gone missing and he’s desperate to find her. Miller is utterly creepy, the things we learn about his childhood behaviour were disturbing to read at times. Maisie is an ICU nurse who is caring for a man in a coma who’s been viciously assaulted. Something is linking these characters, but what is it?

This novel goes between the three main characters, and in three different timelines so it can seem a teeny bit confusing in the beginning but trust me if you go with it it has such a rewarding pay off! The tension is there from the beginning of the book, with John’s daughter going missing and it just continues to ramp up and up as you get further through the novel.

Miller was the most fascinating character for me, I was utterly unnerved by him and yet I wanted to know more about him. He is one of the creepiest characters I’ve read about in a novel and really got under my skin. It takes a deft hand to write a character as creepy as Miller and still have him be complex and believable throughout the entire novel so I applaud that. John was interesting to me too because he was so devoted to his daughter and desperately wanting to get her home safe, and yet I was never quite sure of him. I kept wondering if he was just too good to be true. I ended up being suspicious of just about everyone, and it felt like that came in a very natural way as Turner has written characters that felt so real to me. Maisie was the character that I connected with the least initially but as we get more of her back story I came to understand her a lot more.

I loved this novel, it’s very rare for me to be surprised by the reveals in a book but Ronnie Turner had me questioning everything that I thought I knew! I reached the stage of putting the book down for a minute just to try and work it all out, and I thought I had it and then something else happened and I was back to questioning it all. The moment where all begins to be revealed had my head spinning as suddenly it all began to slot into place. I loved that Turner kept me on my toes from start to finish!

Lies Between Us is a complex and compelling novel about obsession: it’s dark and twisty and impossible to put down! I already can’t wait to see what Ronnie Turner writes next! In the meantime I highly recommend Lies Between Us.

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

Lies Between Us is out now in ebook and available here.

About the Author

Author Photo 2.jpg

Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature and dreamed of being a published author. Ronnie now lives in Dorset with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she reviews books on her blog and enjoys long walks on the coast. She is currently working on her second novel.

Twitter:@Ronnie_ _Turner

Facebook: @RonnieTurnerAuthor

Instagram: @ronnieturner8702

Website: www.ronnieturner.wordpress.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/RonnieTurner

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

#BookReview: The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre @classicpenguins #giveaway

IMG_2449

About the Book

Tessa Quayle has been horribly murdered on the shores of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya, the birthplace of mankind. Her putative African lover, a doctor with one of the aid agencies, has disappeared.

Her husband, Justin, a career diplomat and amateur gardener at the British High Commission in Nairobi, sets out on a personal odyssey in pursuit of the killers and their motive. His quest takes him to the Foreign Office in London, across Europe and Canada and back to Africa, to the depths of South Sudan, and finally to the very spot where Tessa died.

On his way Justin meets terror, violence, laughter, conspiracy and knowledge. But his greatest discovery is the woman he barely had time to love.

 


 

On 27 September 2018, Penguin completed its nine-year project to publish twenty-one of John Le Carré’s novels as Penguin Modern Classics, making him the living author with the greatest number of works awarded this classics status. The last book to be published as part of this project is The Little Drummer Girl, which is also soon to be shown in a brand new BBC TV adaptation! To celebrate this wonderful project I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour to showcase this series of books. Today I’m reviewing The Constant Gardener and am also going to be running a giveaway where one lucky reader will win a brand new copy of this novel!

 

My Thoughts 

The Constant Gardener is one of those novels that I’ve known about, and wanted to read for such a long time so I’m delighted to have had the chance to read it for this blog tour. I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner though because I loved it; I devoured it and have been thinking about it ever since I finished reading it.

The Constant Gardener is a novel about the murder of Tessa Quayle and her companion, and the quest to discover what exactly happened to them and how it came to happen. As her husband Justin delves further into the story we find that it’s all linked to terribly unethical pharmaceutical companies and what they’re doing in Africa. It is dark and twisted, and so engrossing that you just can’t stop reading.

This is a novel that keeps the reader on their toes; it’s twisty and you find that you’re not always sure who you can trust. I kept thinking I had it all worked out and then there would be another strand of the story that got woven in and I was suddenly unsure again. It’s like a giant puzzle where the pieces gradually start fitting together and you being to see the whole picture. At times I felt like I was so caught up in the story that I was there with Justin in the heat and feeling his confusion and his thought processes as he strove to discover the truth of what had happened to his wife.

I was expecting this novel to be thrilling (and it most definitely was), I was also expecting it become a tangled web (and it did) but I wasn’t expecting it to bring up so many emotions in me as I was reading. I really came to care about Tessa and wanted to know what had happened to her, and even though we know from the start that she is dead I still wanted a different outcome for her as we learn more and more about her in the flashbacks and through things left behind. It definitely left me with the feeling that we don’t always know as much as we think we do about the people we love but that doesn’t necessarily make them, or us, a bad person.

I’ll be honest and say that while I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time, it’s been the main le Carre book that appealed to me. I think it’s partly because novels about espionage haven’t really jumped out at me before. However, after reading The Constant Gardener and absolutely loving his writing style I definitely have the le Carre bug and want to read all of his work. I have a copy of The Little Drummer Girl here and plan on reading that before the new adaptation hits the screen, and then I think I’ll go back to the beginning and read my way through all of le Carre’s work!

The Constant Gardener is gripping, stunningly written and will have you engrossed from start to finish (and beyond)!

I received a copy of The Constant Gardener from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

 

About the Author

John le Carré was born in 1931 and attended the universities of Bern and Oxford. He taught at Eton and served briefly in British Intelligence during the Cold War. For more than fifty years he has lived by his pen. He divides his time between London and Cornwall.

 

 

Giveaway!

 

IMG_2448

This gorgeous new paperback edition of The Constant Gardener by Penguin Modern Classics is out now and can be ordered here. Penguin Modern Classics have very kindly given me an extra copy of the novel to be given away to one of you so if you’d like the chance to win, please enter by leaving a comment below telling me why you’d like to read the book.

Terms and Conditions

The giveaway is open in the UK only and will close on 15th October at 23.59 (UK time). I will put all the entrants’ names in a hat and ask my husband to randomly pick a winner. I will contact the winner after the giveaway has ended and must receive a reply back within one week or I reserve the right to pick another winner. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties. After the book is sent to the winner I will delete the data I hold. I’m not responsible for any loss or delay of the prize within the postal system.

 

 

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

John le Carre - Blog Tour Card.jpg

 

#BookReview: Perfect Liars by Rebecca Reid @RebeccaCNReid @TransworldBooks @BeckyShort1 #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

IMG_2295

About the Book

They have it all. And they’ll do anything to keep it that way.

Sixteen years ago, at an elite boarding school secluded in the English countryside, best friends Nancy, Georgia and Lila did something unspeakable.

Their secret forged an unbreakable bond between them, a bond of silence. But now, in their thirties, one of them wants to talk.

One word and everything could be ruined: their lives, their careers, their relationships. It’s up to Georgia to call a crisis dinner. – she knows there’s nothing that can’t be resolved by three courses in her immaculate kitchen.

But the evening does not go as planned.

Three women walk in to the dinner, but only two will leave.

Murder isn’t so difficult the second time around…

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when a copy of Perfect Liars arrived through my letterbox as it sounded like exactly my kind of read. I’m so pleased to say that I loved this book and so was absolutely delighted to then be invited to review it for the blog tour!

Perfect Liars is a story of toxic friendship. It’s a dual timeline set in the past when Georgia, Nancy and Lila were at boarding school together, and in the present where they come together again at a dinner party organised in an attempt to smooth over the cracks.  The three women are jointly carrying a secret from their school days and are desperately trying to keep the past hidden whatever the cost.

I was drawn to Perfect Liars as soon as I first heard about it because female friendships fascinate me and reading about them always makes for an engrossing novel. There is something about the way teenage girls bond, often united in their dislike of something others are doing and how this can keep them bonded long after they’ve really stopped liking each other all that much. Negotiating relationships with women within a circle of friends can be really quite complex at times and can be a bit like treading on eggshells , and that’s without the drama that has gone on with the three women in this novel! Rebecca Reid takes the female friendships in her novel to extreme lengths but the roots of the friendship and the underlying dislike of each other was so believable and really quite true to life in many cases.

None of the characters in this book were hugely likeable but they all had complexities that meant I couldn’t entirely dislike them all of the time. I had times where I felt sympathy and understanding for aspects of their lives and at other times I wanted to scream at them to do the sensible thing. I do enjoy a novel where the characters are a real mix of complicated and infuriating at times and sympathetic at others so Perfect Liars really hit the spot for me!

I honestly couldn’t put Perfect Liars down once I started reading it. It had me hooked from the opening pages and it’s stayed in my mind in the weeks since I finished reading it. It’s such a great novel about female friendships, about the bonds that hold people together and the desperate levels people are taken to when they feel like a ‘friend’ may be about to betray them! I highly recommend Perfect Liars and I’m already excited to see what Rebecca Reid writes next!

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

Perfect Liars is out now in ebook and is due to be published in paperback in February 2019. It can be ordered here.

About the Author

rebecca-reid-2 1

Rebecca is a freelance journalist. She has a column for the Telegraph Women’s section, works for Metro Online and has written for Marie Claire, the Independent, the iPaper, The Guardian, Indy100, LOOK and the New Statesman among others.

Rebecca is a regular contributor to Sky News and ITV’s This Morning as well as appearing on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, LBC, BBC News 24 and the BBC World Service to discuss her work.

She graduated from the University of Bristol with a BA in English & Drama in 2013 and from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA in 2015. She lives in Kentish Town with her husband.

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

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

IMG_2294

About the Book

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

Martine McDonagh Author Pic

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

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

 

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

Narcissim for Beginners Blog Tour poster

 

 

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

41E8X3ul3VL

About the Book

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

Jennie+Ensor

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

 

 

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

B L O G B L I T Z (4)-1

 

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

IMG_2209

About the Book

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How We Remember is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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

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

(Bio taken from J.M. Monaco’s blog)

 

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

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

IMG_2340

About the Book

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave No Trace is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

328x328

 

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

 

 

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

Leave No Trace blog tour poster updated.jpg