Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Wonder - Emma Donoghue - stark and compelling

My thoughts

The Wonder – Emma Donoghue:

Nurse Libby has served under the great Florence Nightingale and experienced all the dreadful horrors that caring for injured soldiers under terrible conditions in the Crimea entailed.

Now working in a boring and unchallenging role as a nurse in a hospital, when she is offered a two week stint working in a family home in Ireland observing a young girl who will not eat and is reputed to have not eaten for 4 months, it seems like a cushy little number by comparison.

Employed to watch over the girl and ascertain whether she is hiding food and eating secretly, or discover if she is truly a wonder, a genuine miracle child. Lib is convinced the girl must be deceiving everyone somehow and feels she’ll uncover the fraud quickly and expects to find a deceitful and cunning child, but soon she grows to like her charge 11 year old Anna who nevertheless is harbouring a secret or two.

She gets to know a newspaper journalist staying in the small Irish town to cover the story and though they clash at first, they discover they both want the same outcome – to protect and help this child. As a protestant she is unable to accept the girls families unshakeable religious fervour and catholic beliefs which border on maniacal to an outsider.

The story is slow and insidious and got under my skin gradually. I really liked Lib and was rooting for her all the way. What I love about this author, is her huge diversity and versatility, she never writes the same kind of book twice and you never know quite what to expect, apart from being pretty certain you’re in for a rare old treat.

Several of her books are historical and I’m certain I’m not the only one who is waiting with bated breath for her to pen another Slammerkin. 

This new novel draws on the same historical research skills and ability to take you to another time and place and make you feel you live there. At first I felt a touch aggrieved that this lacked the bawdy lustiness of Slammerkin and the horrifying tension of Room, until I realised I was enjoying every word just as much as both these past titles and in Anna was a juvenile voice just as compelling as that of young Jack the narrator of Room.

How dreadful it must be to be as accomplished and revered an author as Emma Donoghue – bearing the load of responsibility and anticipation of your loyal readers. Well she has no need to worry, yet again she has created a masterpiece from a stark setting and peopled this world with wonderful characters and left me in awe of her talent and sobbing quietly in the corner.

Masterful and compelling this story bears its feet in historical facts, fasting girls who survived without eating, martyring themselves for the sake of a religion that has done them no favours in their short lives.

The Blurb

In Emma Donoghue's latest masterpiece, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child's life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Trysting Tree - Linda Gillard - dual time mystery romance

My Review

The Trysting tree – Linda Gillard

The Trysting tree is a very emotional dual time romance combined with an intriguing family mystery which spans 100 years.

Modern day – divorcee Ann moves into her parents old house to care for her ailing, infirm and seemingly uncaring, artist mother Phoebe, and begins to restore the ancient garden with the help of aspiring landscape enthusiast and amateur genealogist Connor. This modern day story explores the difficulty of strained relationships between mother and daughter, and how the past can never really be put behind us. Ann and Connor find an affinity and share similar pasts, and the irascible Phoebes interest is sparked by the story of Connors family history, linked to the womens home and which he is keen to unravel especially since his grandma Ivy died trying to conceal something, there are hints at the nature of the mystery but not at all the heartache and tragedy which we watch unfold.

When an ancient tree is felled and releases a cache of hidden seed packets each holding a hidden secret the past begins to catch up with the present in a series of parallels and coincidences.

Last century - Hester is betrothed to the dull Walter but her interest in nature and gardens ignites an unlikely and forbidden friendship with the gardener at her family home.

I loved the parts of this story set in the past, even more than the present day events. I found Ann a rather difficult character to warm to at first, whereas as soon as Hester was introduced the book livened up and I felt an affinity with this young woman struggling to be what society expects of her yet follow her own instincts too. Her story becomes more poignant with the outbreak of world war one and the painful legacy this dreadful war bequeaths this family. Ann grew on me gradually like a seed germinating in the murky soil of secrets and concealment.

The author has her own unique style which I first discovered in the wonderful Star Gazing, she creates an unlikely heroine of mature years with a pretty ordinary life and a few flaws and weaves a fascinating and gripping story around her. She undoubtedly draws on her own life experiences, I’m not telling tales out of school if I mention the authors own experiences, fighting and winning, then recovering from cancer, which are skilfully woven into the fabric of this book.

This is just one of several dark and deep themes this novel explores, Linda Gillard isn’t frightened to write about difficult subjects with ease and authority, yet a thread of humour and lightness lifts the mood. A lovely read for new and existing fans of Ms Gillard and afficionados of the dual time romance.

It's the perfect balance of light and dark, romance and mystery to enthrall even the most demanding reader and you will need a little supply of tissues tucked up your sleeve when you settle down beneath The Trysting tree.

The Blurb (from Goodreads)

THE TRYSTING TREE - a heartbreaking story of love and loss by Linda Gillard, author of HOUSE OF SILENCE.

A century of secrets...
Four women live in the shadow of the Trysting Tree.
All have something to hide.

A man without a memory walks away from the Somme battlefield, while a young woman grieves beneath the tree that will guard her secret for a hundred years.

Ann de Freitas doesn’t remember what she witnessed when she was five. The truth lies buried in the beech wood, forgotten for forty years. Can love unlock Ann’s heart and mind?

Connor Grenville is restoring the walled garden where his grandmother, Ivy used to play. Before her death, she tried to destroy the family archive. Who was Ivy trying to protect? And why?

When a storm fells the Trysting Tree, revealing a century-old love hidden in its hollow heart, Ann and Connor begin to sift through the past in search of answers. What they discover changes everything.

“The story doesn’t start here. I need to go back. Back to a time when the beech tree still stood, when I didn’t know the truth about my family and Connor didn’t know the truth about his. Right back to a time when the twentieth century was young and the beech still kept its secrets…”

Friday, 16 September 2016

Blog Tour - The Devil's Work - Mark Edwards - chilling

BLOG TOUR and my Review

The Devil’s Work – Mark Edwards

My Review:

Having read and loved books by this author before I was excited to be asked to take part in the blog tour for his latest psychological thriller The Devils Work, not least because it meant I got to read a copy in advance of publication, Yayyy.

If you read to the end of my review you’ll find there’s a chance to win your very own copy of The Devils work, in fact one of 2 copies being kindly provided by the publisher.

The Devils Work reminded me what a very clever writer this guy is: Firstly he blows away my usual personal preference of reading books written by women – he writes from a female perspective intensely believably. Secondly he can write red herrings and twists into a story like nobody’s business, and in this book he ramps up the tension and pace so I was gnawing my nails down to the skin.

This book hooked me in instantly with the main protagonist young Mum Sophie getting her dream job with a major publishing house (Err my dream job, almost any avid readers job, so this is going to hook in a lot of readers) But it turns out to be the stuff nightmares are made of.

To begin with it’s difficult for Sophie juggling home life with a demanding job but it’s what she’s always wanted so she’s prepared to make a few sacrifices, but little does she realise quite how much is at stake.

Firstly things begin to go wrong which put the pressure on her, her husband becomes unwittingly involved in a scandal which threatens his job, the office politics at her new firm are difficult to get to grips with, someone seems to be causing trouble but who and why? We are treated to a series of flashbacks to Sophie’s days at university and as her past is revealed things begin to make sense, then they don’t as we are led along false pathways only to trip unwittingly over a sheer drop at the end into yet another nightmarish scenario.

Is someone deliberately targeting Sophie? Are the dead mice pinned to her front door left there to warn her or aimed at her husband? Is someone following her?

It’s a wonderfully tense read, which builds to manic proportions. Every time you think things can’t get any worse they do. There are scares and surprises galore and there are a couple of real OMG moments where everything is turned on its head and you have to re-think everything you thought you’d worked out.

Terrifically entertaining and immensely terrifying The Devils work is a thriller you don’t want to miss by talented author Mark Edwards.


Don’t miss your chance to sup with the Devil and WIN a lovely brand new paperback copy of this tantalising new book.

To be in with a chance to win just add a reply to this post, telling me what your dream job would be, there must be a way for me to contact the winner, so please sign in to Blogger, or add your Twitter handle or Google plus id so I can message the 2 lucky winners when the prize is drawn on the 27th September.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Saving Sophie - Sam Carrington - gripping psychological crime thriller

My Review - Saving Sophie – Sam Carrington

When I began reading this psychological crime thriller, I soon realised how cleverly written it is, constructed with so many twists and turns you just can’t put it down and the pace builds brilliantly with the author ending every single chapter on a cliff hanger, so you keep thinking, just one more, then end up galloping through it to a cunning and Eek filled conclusion.

Sophie is the 17 year old daughter of Karen and Mike, one Saturday night she goes out with her usual group of friends and is brought home by the police in the early hours, rolling drunk, incoherent and with no memory of how she even got home. Par for the course for a lot of teens.

That’s a pretty bad situation, but things rapidly deteriorate further. The next day when she tries to remember what happened and piece things together it becomes apparent that her friend Amy never returned home and Sophie may have been the last person to see her, so why can’t she remember a thing?

Sophie’s Mum Karen has agoraphobia which throws its own problems into the mix, her best friend is Amy’s Mum and when a body is discovered which turns out to be Sophie’s pal Karen is unable to leave the house to offer comfort to her friend. She never leaves the house at all, following an incident repeatedly referred rather vaguely to as her “attack” some years earlier, about which the details are pretty sketchy.

Even when you possess irrational phobias yourself it doesn’t automatically make you sympathetic to those of other people. Where I might have had empathy with Karen and sided with her, her continual shaking and quaking, nausea and retching at the thought of going outdoors and rapid breathing into a paper bag just exasperated and annoyed me and I really wanted to give her a good slap, especially when it transpires that the attack which triggered this phobia whilst unpleasant doesn’t seem particularly bad.

In fact that’s a bit of an irritation for me with this book, it’s far too sanitised for a gritty psychological thriller. All sexual content is so glossed over I’m never even sure if any has taken place. The group of 7 or 8 lively youngsters barely seem to swear and have conversations like a group of 40 something Mums at a knitting bee. Personally I’d have liked it to be a little more explicit thus creating a touch more realism. But don't let this put you off, it's a really great read.

The story however is gripping, I found it intriguing enough to overlook this niggle, there are lots of diversionary tactics and curve balls to throw you off the scent and send you happily meandering down a cul de sac into a brick wall !

Essentially, following the discovery of young Amy’s body Karen and the police continue their own efforts to unravel the truth behind what happened to Amy and Karen begins to fear that Sophie too is at risk and is determined to save Sophie. Is this another of her unfounded phobic anxieties? Sophie meanwhile tries to piece together what happened that fateful night and worries that her subconscious may hold clues she isn’t sure she really wants to reveal.

One thing is clear – there is a sadistic and twisted mind at work, and a very real threat. One teenager dead, we don’t know why or at the hands of whom and other people at risk. Tantalisingly electrifying with a good dose of “Noooo don’t do that’s” followed by “Ok so you’ve done it, now let’s see you get out of that one”

I received my copy via Netgalley. It's recently been published and you can buy a copy now.

The Blurb

A teenage girl is missing. Is your daughter involved, or is she next?

Your daughter is in danger. But can you trust her?

When Karen Finch’s seventeen-year-old daughter Sophie arrives home after a night out, drunk and accompanied by police officers, no one is smiling the morning after. But Sophie remembers nothing about how she got into such a state.

Twelve hours later, Sophie’s friend Amy has still not returned home. Then the body of a young woman is found.

Karen is sure that Sophie knows more than she is letting on. But Karen has her own demons to fight. She struggles to go beyond her own door without a panic attack.

As she becomes convinced that Sophie is not only involved but also in danger, Karen must confront her own anxieties to stop whoever killed one young girl moving on to another – Sophie.

Follow the publisher @AvonBooksUK on Twitter to join in the buzz that involves #SavingSophie 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Glass Houses - Jackie Buxton - moral dilemmas

My Review

Glass houses by Jackie Buxton is a tantalising literary moral dilemma novel about an accident with far reaching consequences.

The main protagonist 51 year old Toris (Victoria) is a complex and difficult character. The book starts with her in her car in a motorway pile up badly injured. That the accident was her fault is not in dispute, she selfishly texted her husband moments before the crash.

With her, trying to help is Etta, giving a little first aid and comfort until the paramedics arrive.

We next meet Tori in hospital, with no memory of the accident she has been badly injured, it looks as though her life and her families, will never be the same again. Sadly neither will the lives of others caught up in this avoidable tragedy. Deaths have occurred and as Tori gradually begins her slow recovery it becomes apparent that publicity means she has become a reviled character, synonymous with the evils of using a mobile phone whilst driving. Even whilst she lies at deaths door it’s her family members reactions to her involvement and public opinion and outcry which begin to shape the days to come.

But she has grit and determination and despite her injuries and public opinion begins to try and make amends. This is a story of human feelings and reactions and I must admit I was very aware throughout that this was fiction as I found it very difficult to reconcile quite a few peoples reactions to different situations faced in this book.

Etta's life is coming apart at the seams, but does this lie at Tori's door too? She's being blamed for the woes' of the world but what exactly is going on behind Etta's panic attacks and inability to cope with everyday life?

I found this human interest story to be a gripping read, despite not really warming to the lead characters, I find their motives are hard for me personally to understand. But nobody does behave exactly as one would expect in situations, so what makes it hard to believe in some ways also makes it seem more authentic, if you get my gist.

However it’s a real page turner which kept me wondering what was going to happen next as we follow the story of the two women Tori and Etta in the aftermath, both have hidden agendas and neither is finding life simple. This is a book which proves the old adage that women are like tea bags you never know how strong they are until you immerse them in hot water.

There are lots of well rounded secondary characters whose lives become enmeshed, there’s Steve the determined paparazzo who spends his time lurking behind a bush in Tori’s garden waiting for his big break and Tori’s stepfather who provides a little light relief with his serial relationships with unsuitable women, his comb over and dyed hair and terror of growing old.

In fact what sounds as though it could be a thoroughly gloomy book, albeit tackling some gritty and dark subject matter is dealt with using a stroke of human interest humour here and there which reprieves the harshness.

It’s a clever and thought provoking book which entertains and makes you think without being too preachy. Oh, but the ending was a bit of a kick up the butt and really not what I was expecting at all, and I can say no more for fear of spoiling your enjoyment.

I received my copy from the publisher Urbane Publications to review.

The Blurb

Fifty-one-year old Tori Williams' life implodes when she sends a text while driving  and allegedly causes the horrific crash in which three people die. Public and press are baying for her blood, but Tori is no wallflower and refuses to buckle under their pressure and be a pariah. 

Etta, another driver involved in the fatal accident, saved Tori's life at the scene. She's a hero, so why is her life falling apart? Perhaps by saving Etta using any means, Tori can save herself—and in doing so, protect her own future and the future of those she loves. 

This incredibly topical and contemporary morality tale appeals across generations and will find favor with fans of authors such as Liane Moriarty, Marian Keyes, and Kathryn Croft.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Cover Reveal - Inside the Whispers - the new book from A J Waines

Just a quick cover reveal and to let you know you can now purchase for your kindle the new book  Inside the Whispers by the great mistress of the twisty tale A J Waines.

Doesn't it look and sound terrifying? It's the first in an exciting new series

Where the most Dangerous place – is inside your own head…

Following a London Tube disaster, three traumatised survivors turn to clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby, for help – but she’s mystified when their stories don’t add up. Her confusion turns to horror when one by one, instead of recovering, they start committing suicide.

When her partner, Conrad, begins to suffer the same terrifying flashbacks, Sam is desperate to find out what is causing them and a mysterious and chilling crime begins to unravel.

Then the flashbacks begin for Sam…

The first book in the Dr Samantha Willerby Series, INSIDE THE WHISPERS is a tense, haunting Psychological Thriller that will leave your nerves in shreds.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Orphans of the carnival - Carol Birch - a frank look at life in a freak show

My review

I think everyone who reads this book should go into it knowing that it’s a novel with its feet firmly based on facts. I did, and it gave me a huge empathy with the main character Julia Pastrana, a woman who really existed, the notorious ape woman of Mexico who toured the world with Victorian freak shows. Just Google her name and you’ll find the original playbills for the carnivals she starred in and her photograph which haunted me throughout the book.

Oh my Gosh, did people really ostracise and revere “freaks” of nature, people with deformities and disabilities to such an extent that they became the celebrities of the day? Pointed at, poked and prodded and oohed and ahhed over, screamed and shrieked at for their horrifying appearance and all the time making a living the only way available to them by making a public display of their otherness, their difference? Yes, you better believe it, they did!

Julia was born in a small mountain village, brought up by friends and relatives after the mother she barely remembers, dies and leaves her orphaned and alone. Bad enough to live in poverty and be orphaned but Julia is an oddity, an ugly ape like countenance, covered almost entirely in fur or hair, with an extended jaw. But she is also a lively child, quick to learn, she is an accomplished dressmaker and eager to please others, she masters the art of languages, singing and dancing to keep people entertained.

A teenager she dances at a local wedding when she is spotted by a showman who offers her the chance of escape and soon she veils her face (the only way she can go out in public without creating a furore) and sets off by train to join a carnival troupe.

The people she meets, fellow freaks and monsters accept her for what she is, there are the armless and legless girls, a rubber man, an enormously fat lady and not least, Cato a pinhead, with a tiny egg shaped skull, a huge wide grin, little bent legs that make him always remain childlike, an irrepressible boundless energy and the inability to speak but to constantly vocalise his feelings in loud shrieks. Between little Cato and Julia grows a firm bond, and she mothers him to the extent that she feels a deep affection for him like a sibling or the son she longs for.

She soon becomes well known and is approached by Theo, an enterprising and ambitious young man who nevertheless proves to be feckless and impulsive. She allows herself to be coerced by him into allowing him to manage her and he takes her off on a whirlwind tour of first the US, then Europe, Russia and worldwide.

This book follows her life, as in the spotlight as a life can possibly be yet she can never walk alone outdoors for fear of exposure and ridicule and the one time she sets off to have a little adventure ends dreadfully in discovery and disaster. The medical profession long to examine her origins but are unable to concur why or how she is quite so very different to the norm.

All Julia wants is a normal family life, loving friends who aren’t using her and she daren’t even voice the thought that she longs for a loving relationship with a man., as she knows this is as unlikely as the hope that one day she will wake up and have a smooth fair skin with no coarse hair covering it.

I followed her life and relationships in this book as intimately as if I was there, I felt hurt on her behalf when she is used and abused by others, It is brutal, honest and frank, I found parts disturbing and some of the practises, so distasteful I balked.

Meanwhile there is a modern thread running alongside Julia’s story. We are introduced to Rose in the 1980’s she is a modern woman and seemingly completely unconnected to Julia’s story in any way at all. Rose is a hoarder of junk, she is hard to warm to, she has an erratic lifestyle, various failed relationships and in her own way is as much of a misfit to society as Julia was. There seems no point to this thread, at times wondering why has the author included it? But that does become clear and provides a poignant and harrowing finale.

There is an island of broken dolls which Rose dreams of visiting and amongst her hoarded junk is a broken and ugly damaged doll she rescues from a skip. She calls it Tattoo and won’t be parted from it. When I discovered the secret of Tattoo, it broke my heart and I urge anyone reading it to remember that this is also based around fact.

Crikey, parts of this book did upset me, I cried bucketloads and am shedding a tear now as I write my review. I have used terms which are anathema to me, freak and monster, as they are used in the book as they were used to Julia’s face in real life, but don’t think this comes easy to me – it really doesn’t because what Julia is, is NOT a monster but a charming, astute and lonely young woman crying out to be loved and I just wanted to give her a big hug and tell her the one thing that nobody ever seemed capable of doing during her life “You’re not a monster, you’re lovely”

I have read a few books by Carol Birch, the wonderful Jamrach’s menagerie, the compelling Scapegallows and more. She has the knack of searching out the unusual, embroidering it with her own unique style, embellishing fact by turning it into fiction and peopling it with larger than life rumbustious characters so you are sucked into a world which is far removed from everyday life yet ethereally authentic and satisfying.

Orphans of the Carnival is a wonderful, yet harrowing, atmospheric read, portraying what it’s like to be truly different and chronicling a life spent making the best of what you’ve got.

I received my advance copy from Netgalley for review and my thanks go to the author Canongate books for making it available.

The Blurb

A life in the spotlight will keep anyone hidden

Julia Pastrana is the singing and dancing marvel from Mexico, heralded on tours across nineteenth-century Europe as much for her talent as for her rather unusual appearance. Yet few can see past the thick hair that covers her: she is both the fascinating toast of a Governor's ball and the shunned, revolting, unnatural beast, to be hidden from children and pregnant women. 

But what is her wonderful and terrible link to Rose, collector of lost treasures in an attic room in modern-day south London? 

In this haunting tale of identity, love and independence, these two lives will connect in unforgettable ways.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Local Girl Missing - Claire Douglas - secrets by the sea

My Review

The cover drew me to this book, isn't it great? It really sums the brooding and secretive feel of this dark thriller about secrets from your past coming back to haunt you.

Local Girl Missing is a title that sounds like a newspaper headline and that's what it was, when 18 years ago Teenager Sophie leaves a nightclub in a small seaside town and disappears leaving no trace but a trainer at the end of the pier she becomes the notorious "Local girl - missing" that nobody ever forgets about years later.

Her childhood friend Francesca, now known as Frankie and living in London successfully working in boutique hotels, receives an unexpected phone call from the past, Sophie's brother Daniel is calling to say at last Sophie's body has been washed up and begs her to return to Somerset to help him find out once and for all just what did happen that night on the pier and help him lay Sophie's ghost to rest.

The book captures the claustrophobic atmosphere of small town living, it has a spooky feel and there are lots of unanswered questions. The story is told in alternating time lines of now when Frankie is back in Oldcliffe-on-sea and back in the past when the girls were teenagers and harks back to even earlier which is narrated by Sophie. It's clear there are a lot of people who might have been involved in her disappearance and lots of red herrings to beguile us and lead us up the wrong track.

Its also apparent that Frankie is covering something up and soon we discover that she's been keeping Mum about what happened earlier in the 2 girls lives to a mutual friend called Jason. She is proven to be good at keeping secrets has she been hiding something else? She keeps seeing and feeling strange things, are they real or is she losing her sanity, or is someone deliberately taunting her and why?

The storyline is full of teenage jealousies and desires, friendship and betrayal. The setting is ominous and unsettling and there are lots of twists and turns, yet for all theres lots going on it can feel sluggish and morose but sucks you in nevertheless.

If you liked Broadchurch this has a similar brooding, insular feel and as many characters you will mistrust and dislike. I did feel the characters lacked a certain depth which stopped me investing a great deal of emotion into the book, yet its a riveting and nostalgic thriller with a rather tense and shadowy feel and an intriguing finale.

My thanks go to Netgalley for my advance copy.

The Blurb


Twenty years ago 21-year-old Sophie Collier vanishes one night. She leaves nothing behind but a trainer on the old pier - and a hole in the heart of her best friend Francesca. Now A body's been found. And Francesca's drawn back to the seaside town she's tried to forget. 
Perhaps the truth of what happened to Sophie will finally come out. 
Yet Francesca is beginning to wish she hadn't returned. Everywhere she turns are ghosts from her past. 
The same old faces and familiar haunts of her youth. But if someone knows what really happened to Sophie that night then now's the time to find out - isn't it? 
Except sometimes discovering the truth can cost you everything you hold dear - your family, your sanity and even your life . . .

Monday, 1 August 2016

Nina is NOT ok by Shappi Khorsandi - raw and shocking

My Review

Oh My Goodness! This is one very powerful and thought provoking book which had me gripped by the throat all the way through. It left me reeling.

I find it difficult to believe this is a work of fiction and feel the author must have some personal experiences to draw on which made this no holds barred story of teenage alcoholism so damn realistic.

It hits hard, way below the belt and is shocking, brutal and very sad. It paints a very realistic story of what it’s like to be a teenage girl in thrall to drink, using it as a prop, knowing time after time the lure of getting drunk is going to suck you in and spit you out vomiting and shame filled.

Nina is a 17 year old student, her late Dad was an alcoholic whose death was drink related. She has some good friends, a loving Mum and an adorable little sister Katie whom she loves to bits, she gets good grades at college and she likes to party. But when she parties, boy does she let rip, when the drinks in the wit’s out so they say and she gets into some truly awful situations because she’s just far too blotto to be sensible.

The first true love of her life has recently dumped her and she’s in bits. But its ok ‘cause she can go out and get drunk and have a good time and forget all about Jamie. Trouble is she forgets all about common sense, safe sex and what’s appropriate and what’s not and she ends up blind drunk getting thrown out of a nightclub for giving a total stranger a blow job in public. A few hours late she finds herself half-conscious in the back of a taxi, her knickers in her hand, vomit all over herself and spunk in her hair. She has practically no recollection of what happened after leaving the club. The next day overwhelmed by shame and remorse she swears she’ll never drink again ….. but of course she does!

There are some graphic sex scenes, lots of swearing and its down and dirty and shocking and I think it should be essential reading for any young person who’s ever drunk so much they can’t remember the night before, or who is likely to.

That’s probably more than you’d think! I’m a 50 something woman who, horrifyingly, can relate far too closely to some of the awful things that take place in this book and I could relate to Nina so well I felt 17 again reading it, though not always in a good way. It took me right back to my teenage years when alcohol was my prop, and I felt every bit of shame and embarrassment that Nina felt, in fact it took me back to a very dark place I thought was far behind me and brought some deeply buried memories to the fore.

Believe me you never forget stuff like this and you don’t want to carry it around with you all your life you really don’t, This is a trip down memory lane it would be far better to never have to take. So please don’t let yourself get in this situation. I was crying when I read parts of this book and I’m saying please Nina, please don’t. But she did, I knew she would, she’s an alcoholic just like her Dad and really she just can’t say no.

If you’re in your teens or 20s and like a drink, read this book. If it helps save one single young person from getting in a similar situation it will be great, if it doesn’t stop them perhaps it will give a few good pointers as to how they can break this terrible cycle of self destruction. Oh and it’s a blindngly brilliant read too. There are some laugh out loud funny bits, even in the midst of all the drama and vomit spattered sex scenes and the characters are all so wonderfully real.

My thanks go to the publishers Random House (Ebury Publishing) for my free copy in exchange for a review via Netgalley.

The Blurb
Nina does not have a drinking problem. She likes a drink, sure. But what 17-year-old doesn’t?

Nina’s mum isn’t so sure. But she’s busy with her new husband and five year old Katie. And Nina’s almost an adult after all.

And if Nina sometimes wakes up with little memory of what happened the night before , then her friends are all too happy to fill in the blanks. Nina’s drunken exploits are the stuff of college legend.

But then one dark Sunday morning, even her friends can’t help piece together Saturday night. All Nina feels is a deep sense of shame, that something very bad has happened to her…

A dark and sometimes shocking - coming of age novel from one of the UK’s leading comedians. NINA IS NOT O.K. will appeal to fans of Caitlin Moran and Louise O'Neill.

Friday, 29 July 2016

I See You - Clare Mackintosh - Review - clever and scary

I see You by Clare Mackintosh

My Thoughts

There's only one phrase to adequately describe this book - OMG !! Clare Mackintosh is THE cognoscente of the OMG moment!

Following up a book like I let you go, which achieved rapid and powerful acclaim as the book everyone talked about, with the biggest imaginable twist in the middle, was never going to be a doddle. But Clare has managed it masterfully with her superb new title I see you, which has just completely blown me away with its twisty cunningness and unique take on the nasty side of the phenomenon of internet dating sites.

We meet and get to know Zoe and her family, her partner Simon, 2 teenage kids Katie a budding actress, all drama queen and naivety and Jason a typical "lad" with a bit of a dodgy past but getting himself on track with a steady job courtesy of Zoe's best friend and neighbour Melissa. We also meet Zoe's Ex husband Matt, loads of other characters and then theres a parallel and deeply linked storyline of Kelly a British transport police officer who has a knack for buggering things up for herself by dint of her own caring nature and tenacity which could be her saving grace or her downfall.

It's Zoe who first spots a photo of herself or someone who looks so like her that she is taken aback to see a newspaper advert for some kind of on-line dating site featuring an advert. her initial curiosity turns swiftly to indignation, then fear, as she begins to feel watched and under some kind of threat.

And that's all I'm going to say about the plot, because to enjoy this thriller, the less you know about it the more you'll enjoy it.

Clare's characters are absolutely amazing, punchy, believable and real. I go on a lot about books with great characters that you feel you've met and really know, well the ones in this book are just like that. However the author is so clever she plants little doubts in your mind and I suspected every single person of something nefarious, at some point, then chuckling at myself discarded my doubts and fears, only to pick them back up again.

Clare craftily and deliberately throws so many big fat juicy red herrings in to the pond I was paddling in, which is this book that I couldn't see my feet for them thrashing about and every single one made me go OH!

But the delectable, shuddery OMG moments are nearer the end of this book and (yes I did describe them in plural)

Inevitable comparisons will surely be made with Girl on the train which seems to be the go-to benchmark by which most new psychological thrillers are measured. This one surely deserves such a comparison, it's not just the setting which is a tad familiar being based around women who have a daily commute. The storyline is equally as devious and innovative.

Have I whet your appetite yet? Go on you know you want to read this book, don't let me stop you ... But may I suggest you think twice before reading it on your morning commute, after all maybe just maybe someone's watching you.

I received my advance copy Via Netgalley from the great publishers Little Brown Books and my thanks go to them. It's out NOW - don't miss your copy.


You know exactly where you're going.

You're not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

I See You is an edge-of-your-seat, page-turning psychological thriller from one of the most exciting and successful British debut talents of 2015.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Watching Edie - Blog tour, review and competition to win a copy of the book

Watching Edie

I'm delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Watching Edlie the fab psychological thriller from Camilla Way.

Firstly you can read my review: Which was originally published on my blog here

Then scroll down to enter my free prize draw to win one of TWO copies of this fab book.

UPDATE - Competition now closed:

The 2 lucky winners of a copy are Victoria Prince and Miriam Smith - Congratulations I hope you both enjoy your book.

I will contact you for your details and the prizes will be sent directly by the publisher.

My Review

This is a completely engrossing read. I did what I seldom do – received this, opened it, began reading immediately and continued until I’d read it, virtually at one sitting.

That’s not to say it’s a lightweight read either, although it’s easy enough to follow. It just grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

It’s the story of Edie and Heather, who were friends at school, Edie was loud and confident, she’s the first one to try things, make-up, boys, drinking. Shy, plump Heather is the quieter one, she doesn’t make friends well, is a little bit of a misfit, the one people snigger at behind their hands for her non-coolness. Neither completely fit in, this pair need the closeness of a best mate. The 2 girls gravitate together. Both with fractured and difficult family lives they seem as needy as each other, but Heather perhaps more than most. Together with a couple more girls they form their own little clique which Heather sometimes feels on the outskirts of.

But when Edie meets the devastatingly handsome but wild and unpredictable atypical bad lad, Connor and falls head over heels in a doomed love affair with him Heather gets her nose pushed out. She loves Edie and doesn’t want to see her hurt so vows to try and stick around to protect her. This has repercussions which haunt the girls in later life.

I could relate to so much of the teenage angst both girls experience. Insecurities, longings and failings make them seem so human, that by the time I emerged from my reading fest I was not just shaken and shocked, I was confused - Had I been there with them? Were these real girls I’ve known?

Fast forward 16 years. We don’t know what happened to drive these 2 girls apart. We do know that Edie hasn’t made a complete success of her life, living in a poky flat she is single and pregnant and has been working as a waitress. She is also pretty isolated, has no friends to speak of, has lost touch with her family and frankly she’s daunted by the prospect of single motherhood.

Then there’s a knock on her door, and Heather shows up. Her face is the last one Edie expected to see and despite offering friendship and help she seems more scared than pleased to see her old best friend. But Heather’s made contact and isn’t about to let go easily.

What follows is a portrait of doomed friendships, obsession, secrets and guilt. Both parties are deeply flawed, events from the past unfold insidiously and ominously revealing a doomed friendship tainted by bad decisions and misplaced loyalties, between 2 girls neither of whom are the most stable of characters but both are really likeable.

My sympathy veered wildly from one girl to the other. In fact both girls gained my empathy so what could have just been a tense nail biter became also a haunting emotional expedition between past and present. Damaged girls become damaged women and its inevitable that their early years have had a huge impact on their lives, but is it just the after effects of coming from shattered backgrounds and mixing with the wrong people, or is there much more behind the girls story? Oh I think you know already there must be!

Although each girl is at times painted in varying shades of black I actually liked both of them and was rooting for first one then the other and finally for both, you can never quite decide who did what to whom, until the stunning climax, which made the final twist of the knife all the more shocking and agonising. This book left me reeling I felt as though I’d been punched in the gut and I recommend it unreservedly if you like people based, emotional stories with plenty of twists and turns. An awesome read.

I received my copy from Shelley and Louise, the Lovereading book review team, on behalf of the publisher, the excellent Harper Collins in exchange for my review.

Thanks Girls you picked a Good’un.

The Blurb ....

Beautiful, creative, a little wild - Edie caused a stir when she walked into Heather’s life. Back when they both had dreams for the future. Before it all went horribly, terrifyingly wrong…

Years later Edie is pregnant and alone, desperately trying to rebuild her life. But someone’s been watching her, waiting for the chance to prove what a perfect friend she can be.

It’s no coincidence that Heather shows up just when Edie needs her the most.

A dark secret lies between them and Edie’s about to learn that those who have hurt us deeply—or who we have hurt—never let us go…


Here's how to win:

Entries from UK and Ireland only please.

Post a comment at the end of this post telling me who you'd least like to bump into from your school days and why. 
You must also provide a way for me to contact you, via your blog link, email or Twitter ID.

The draw will take place on Monday 8th August and will be drawn the traditional way. All names will be placed in a box and two winners drawn out by my partner.

Prizes will be sent directly from the Publisher Harper Collins. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Falling suns - Julie-Ann Corrigan - Author guest spot and review

Falling Suns Author Q&A

I'm pleased to welcome new author Julie-Ann Corrigan to Beadyjans books today. Celebrating the launch of her debut novel Falling Suns, you can read my review here today too.

I held a fascinating Question and Answer session with Julie-Ann, which I hope you enjoy.

Here's a picture of her so you can see who we are chatting to:

Hello Julie-Ann. It’s great to have you here on my blog, thank you for popping along to answer some questions about your writing.

Q: Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?

A: Thank you so much for having me over on your blog.

I’m married, with one teenage daughter, and 18 months ago we welcomed a very cute cockapoo into our household. We think he was the runt of the litter, which makes us love him even more!
I’m a qualified physiotherapist but at the moment writing full-time. I am very lucky.

Here's that adorable cockapoo now tell me isn't he just gorgeous!

Q: How did you get the idea for your book Falling Suns?

A: First came the idea of a distraught mother and a missing boy, and then at the same time I was thinking about this idea I read few articles online about psychiatric institutions, and decided I wanted to write about both.
Great Idea to combine the 2

Q: What was the most difficult part when writing your book?

A: Definitely writing Rachel. Getting inside the head of a distraught mother whose child is missing and later found dead was not a good place to be. Writing Michael Hemmings was difficult too, but more because I wasn’t sure how far to push and delve into his character.
I admire your tenacity I don't think I would be able to put myself in that position, which is probabaly why I'm not an author!

Q: When you're not writing, what do you like to read?

A: I do like non-fiction and when writing a first draft that’s what you will find me reading!
I love reading psych thrillers, obviously, but like to read in other genres too. I like historical fiction, and I do love a good literary read. I like espionage thrillers too.
We share a love of historical as well as the psychologically thrilling.

Q: As your book is part of a blog tour, do you review books after you've read them and where do you post your own reviews?

A: I have to confess I’m not good at writing and posting reviews, but now I’m a writer myself, I am trying to do more of them. I normally post on Amazon. 
I think twice only have I emailed an author to tell them how much I loved their work. That was DM Thomas for The White Hotel, and Khaled Hosseini for A Thousand Splendid Suns. Mr Thomas did reply!
Early on in my writing ‘career’ I enjoyed very much interviewing authors for a local online Arts and Culture magazine.
I hope to start a blog on my own website soon, and there I will review other authors’ novels.
Can't wait to read your new review blog, you've said it publicly now, so you have to do it!

Q: Are you active on Social Media and how important a part do you feel it is to authors today?

A: I’m a chatterbox on Facebook! I’m not so into twitter, but attempting to be.
I think that for newbie authors, being on social media is imperative for their ‘presence,’ if you like. Also, writing is a lonely business so it’s good to be able to connect with people without having to leave the house!
So true, Social Media is the best way to connect with like minded people whilst still in your pj's!

Q: Finally is there one more question you’d have liked to be asked – and what would your answer have been? .....

 ......Is all the hard work of writing, editing and publishing a novel, and often intermittent disappointment, worth it?

A: On my publication day it definitely is, and I can’t thank my publisher, my writing friends, and agent, enough for having faith in the book. 

Great question and fab final answer. and I'll add MY thanks, to you, for coming along today and giving some of your time to take part in my blog.

Julie-Ann's new thriller Falling Suns has just been released and is available now in paperback or ebook

My Review

Imagine you’re a Mother who is no longer a Mother. Your only child has been abducted and murdered and you no longer trust those closest to you.

The convicted murderer of your young son Joe, has links to your family and is responsible for not just the brutal ending of your son’s life but of your own life as you knew it. Your child is dead, your family are hiding secrets, you can no longer do the job you love effectively and your husband has had an affair and left you, and all of this has happened since the day your 7 year old boy didn’t come home. Wouldn’t you want revenge?

Grieving Mum Rachel is in a better position than most to exact her revenge, she is an ex detective Inspector with in depth knowledge of the criminal side of life, and has the knowledge and contacts to dig deep beneath the surface and reveal what lies beneath. Coupled with this she’s a strong and determined woman – cue mayhem!

The story begins as Rachel is still hoping Joe might come home, but its soon obvious this isn’t going to happen. We witness a harrowing trial and conviction and begin to discover distasteful truths about Rachels own family, but its only when we fast forward a few years to discover the convicted paedophile and murderer is in a secure hospital and may soon be transferred to a less secure unit, that we begin to discover nothing is quite what it seemed at first.

It’s dark and dramatic and covers some very unpleasant topics, but it’s very cleverly constructed with a rather unreliable narrator and some unsavoury twists to leave even the most die-hard thriller aficionado reeling. There are some truly despicable characters and some just not very nice ones but most have their own dirty little secrets for the reader to discover.

Not for the faint hearted, a disturbing thriller to keep you on the edge of your seat and squirming with dislike and distaste filled with characters you'll love to hate, and a few you'll end up sympathising with.

The Blurb

Ex-DI Rachel’s small son is missing. Then his body is discovered. Her cousin Michael is found guilty of his murder and incarcerated in a secure psychiatric unit.

Four years later, now divorced and back in the police force, Rachel discovers that Michael is being released to a less secure step-down unit, with his freedom a likely eventuality. Unable to cope with this, she decides upon revenge, assuming a new identity to hunt him down and kill him. However, as she closes in on her target, her friend Jonathan, a journalist, uncovers some unnerving information about her mother and others in her family and begins to suspect that Rachel’s perception of the truth might not be as accurate as she thinks – that she might be about to murder the wrong man…

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

My Husbands wife - Amanda Prowse - Emotional

My Review

There’s no doubt about it, author Amanda Prowse has a very specific talent for creating the most utterly believable characters. She introduces you to people that you cannot help but feel an affinity and kinship with and in this her latest book in creating Rosie Tipcott she has really excelled herself…

Rosie is your typical everyday happily married Mum of 2 very lively daughters Leona and Naomi. Her life is great, she has everything she ever wanted – a cosy home, husband Phil whom she adores, a great best mate Mel, even her in-laws are wonderful. Who can boast a loving mother in law who completely fills the gap of not even having known your own Mum. OK her job cleaning caravans isn’t the exciting life of a travel agent she once dreamt of, but her boss is fair, her best mate works there too and she certainly isn’t unhappy in her work.

Living by the seaside in Woolacombe we are invited along to sit with her on her favourite bench overlooking the sea where she goes when she needs a little “me time” time to think, and I swear I sat beside her on that bench and felt the sea breeze caress my face as I joined Rosie inhaling the faint aroma of apples which to her signify that the Mother she never knew is close by.

Wouldn’t we be fortunate if we could claim such contentment and completeness?

Wouldn’t we crumble if it were all ripped away from us?

Well it is, and she does!

I’m not giving away any spoilers here when I reveal that Rosie’s comfortable and satisfying life is about to be blown to smithereens by a totally selfish and unbelievably callous act, when her lovely caring husband suddenly announces that he’s off, leaving Rosie, the girls and the family home for another woman.

I don’t think I’ll be alone when I say that from this point on I went through the emotional wringer with Rosie. Really, I mean honestly, I experienced such a gamut of emotions I was quite exhausted by the time I’d finished the book! Because when things go wrong they go from bad to worse – I’m welling up here even writing this because Rosie was REAL, I loved her, I wanted to be her friend and BOY did she need one. When people all around her let her down, and hurt her and frankly treated her like shit, I went from deep indignation to feeling incandescent with rage I was SO angry.

I had to keep putting the book down and having a break from reading it as I became so emotionally involved the storyline kept inducing near panic attacks in me. I genuinely had palpitations and began to shake. I won’t say any more about what and how many things go wrong and what horrible spineless creatures some characters turn out to be you can find all that out when you read My Husband’s wife.

This is a FANTASTIC book, but don’t go into it expecting a light and fluffy chick lit romance. It’s a deeply emotive and pretty dark look at a woman’s descent into despair and eventual breakdown and it’s NOT easy to watch. It’s about family and friends and never really knowing what goes on in other people’s minds and how fickle and feckless some folk can be. It is enlivened by the girls who are wonderfully refreshing and their antics brought many a smile to my face. They are completely innocently caught up in the backwash of this breakdown of a marriage and I was saddened by their involvement.

The Blurb

She thought she was a wife and mother. Then her husband and children left home. Who is she now? The new bestseller from Amanda Prowse.

Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings.

She goes to sit on her favourite bench on the north Devon cliffs, and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy.

But then her husband unexpectedly leaves her for another woman and takes the children. Now she must ask the question: what is left in her life? Can Rosie find the strength to rebuild herself? More importantly, does she even want to?

Advance Praise

"Prowse handles her explosive subject with delicate skill... Deeply moving and inspiring." DAILY MAIL
"Captivating, heartbreaking, superb." CLOSER
"An emotional, unputdownable read." RED MAGAZINE

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Sandlands - Rosy Thornton - a fascinating short story collection

Author Guest spot - Rosy Thornton

I'm delighted to welcome to my blog today author Rosy Thorton.

An established author of several highly acclaimed books including The Tapestry of love and the wonderful Ninepins, find my review here Rosy has used her love and knowledge of the Suffolk countryside to write a new short story collection in which wildlife and nature play a large part.

I'm thrilled to participate in helping promote her work which is always delightfully different and intriguing. If you already love Rosy's writing you'll no doubt be queueing already for her book which comes out in paperback on 21st July and you can order yours here If you've not yet sampled her lovely atmospheric writing this beautiful collection of short stories is the perfect way to start and they will make the ideal travel companion for your summer holidays.

Here's a lovely article Rosy has written especially for Beadyjans books, which gives you a flavour of her writing and the kind of stories contained in Sandlands:

Something about owls

Have you ever had that creeping feeling you’re being watched?

Idling one morning in the woods near my Suffolk home, while my spaniel investigated some unapproved smell among the fallen leaves, I became convinced that someone was watching me.

Someone was – or maybe that should be something. Paradoxically, I think it was its lack of movement which made me notice it: funny how, among all the constant slight motion of a wood on a breezy day, attention is drawn to the one thing that’s entirely still. In this case it was an owl, staring out at me from the branch of a dead tree.

There’s something about owls, isn’t there? The stillness, yes, and the fact they never seem to blink. But I wonder if it’s also the shape of their face. Most small birds will cock their head and fix you with a single, berry eye, but an owl observes you with both eyes at once, giving it an oddly human gaze.

After that first encounter, when out with the dog I began to look out for the owl on the dead tree, and it was very often there, perched on the same truncated branch. It set me thinking about the mythology of owls, and reading up about them.

The Lenape peoples of the Delaware and Hudson rivers apparently believed that if they dreamed of an owl it would become their guardian and the protector of their soul. And if owls are guards and night watchmen, they are also, in folklore, clairvoyants. I suspect it’s their keen nocturnal vision that has led people over the centuries to endow the owl with the power of inner sight. The bird became the totem of prophets and seers, a messenger between the hidden world of death and shadow and the world of light. The one who hears what is not spoken and sees what is unseen. The knower of secrets; the watcher of souls.  

And that was it – the title for a short story. And very soon its subject-matter, too, because I felt as if the owl on my woodland walks was guarding something there beneath his dead tree, a hidden something. Buried treasure, forgotten secrets, an unknown grave? Or (of course – I had it!) letters: a cache of long-lost letters which would tell a story of their own.

‘The Watcher of Souls’ became, if not the title story of my collection, Sandlands, then at least the story which gave the book its cover. The designer chosen by my wonderful publishers, the Scottish independent Sandstone Press, came up with this striking and enigmatic image – gold on black, with the quirkily horizontal owl, and his glittering, unreadable gaze.     

Even on the spine, when the book is safely away on the shelf, he is still glaring hard at you with that penetrating, amber eye.

‘I can still see you,’ he seems to say.  ‘Ignore me at your peril. You know you can’t walk past: you’ve got to take me down and read me!’

Book blurb:

Sandlands (Sandstone Press, release date 21st July 2016)

From the white doe appearing through the dark wood to the blue-winged butterflies rising in a cloud as a poignant symbol of happier times, the creatures of the Suffolk landscape move through Rosy Thornton’s delicate and magical collection of stories. The enigmatic Mr Napier is feeding a fox rescued from the floods; an owl has been guarding a cache of long lost letters; a nightingale’s song echoes the sound of a loved voice; spiralling rooks recall the dogfights of wartime Spitfire pilot. Through the landscape and its creatures, the past is linked to the present, and generations of lives are intertwined.

Author bio:

Rosy Thornton is a Fellow and Tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and a lecturer in Law at the University of Cambridge. She has published five novels (including Ninepins which won the East Anglian Book Awards prize for fiction in 2012), and Sandlands is her first short story collection. She divides her time between Cambridge and the Suffolk sandlings.

Her books to date are as follows:

More Than Love Letters (Headline, 2007)
Hearts and Minds (Headline Review, 2008)
Crossed Wires (Headline Review, 2009)
The Tapestry of Love (Headline Review, 2010)
Ninepins (Sandstone Press, 2012)
Sandlands (Sandstone Press, 2016)


Find Rosy's author website here:

She is also on Facebook here:

Monday, 18 July 2016

Owl Song at Dawn - Emma Claire Sweeney - BLOG TOUR and review

Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney:

To celebrate the launch of the new book by Emma Claire Sweeney I'm delighted to reveal my review of this delightful heart warming book ....

My Review

Oh wow! This book is just so much MORE than I was expecting. It’s hugely emotional with gentle threads of wry humour, the odd burst of unexpected hilarity and haunting scenes of great tenderness and harrowing moments of despair woven together to form a robust fabric of shimmering silken beauty.

In Owl Song at Dawn, the author pulls NO punches. This is a work of fiction with its feet undoubtedly based firmly on experience. It’s about the lives of a collection of people with disabilities getting on with their lives yet often facing prejudice at every turn. Parts made me weep with frustration and others made me roar with injustice, yet some particularly those set in the quite recent past made me feel a creeping unease and shame.

The main protagonist is Maeve, now in her 80’s she still works hard in the seaside resort of Morecambe running a traditional sea-side Bed and breakfast to which she has devoted most of her adult life.

Maeve was born a twin, her sister Edie the pivot around which Maeve’s life turned, as youngsters they were inseparable. Edie was the chalk to Maeve’s cheese and that Maeve loved her twin with an all consuming devotion is never in any doubt. Edie is quite severely disabled, she can talk but not fully communicate with anyone apart from her beloved twin who has an almost psychic empathy with her, sometimes she just quotes poetry which Maeve has read to her, she loves to sing and play her mouth organ (or Gob-tin) and against all advice from the medical profession (who speak cruelly and bluntly about their mentally subnormal daughter) the girls parents decide not to have Edie institutionalised but bring her up at home alongside her twin. Despite her obvious adoration and devotion to her sibling this undoubtedly causes some restraints to Maeves social life and we see her relationships flounder.

Now, many years after the death of Edie, Maeve is elderly, cantankerous and steeped in loneliness, filling her life with folk who need her as much as once Edie did. We are introduced to a budding romance between 2 wonderful disabled characters Steph and Len and when suddenly a face from Maeve’s past turns up unexpectedly, her surprise and confusion is apparent.

The characters are all wonderfully larger than life and yet extremely authentic and sincere. From Dot the terminally ill cancer sufferer to Ukrainian hotel Manager Zenka with her tottering high heels, lycra mini skirts and heart of pure gold. There are new neighbours to contend with and regular hotel guests – a barber shop band called, of all things – Aspy fella A capella, every single member with Aspergers, autism or Downs syndrome.

Oh hell, this is one book I’m going to have to stop waffling on about and just firmly INSIST you get hold of a copy and READ it right now … It’s blown my mind – why should you get away with yours intact?

Whether you’ve had any contact with people with learning difficulties and disabilities or not, I think you’ll just love the extraordinary characters in this wonderful, uplifting yet unbearably sad book.

I have spent several weeks doing volunteer work in a holiday respite centre for disabled guests and their carers and the parallels with Sea View Lodge made me feel instantly at home in this genteelly crumbling, once majestic sea side holiday abode.

This is a superb summer read with a uniqueness and harmony all it’s own. Just make sure you’ve got your sunglasses at hand to hide those red rimmed eyes behind and celebrate being different with the wonderful residents of Sea View lodge.

The Blurb

'Fresh, poignant and unlike anything else' -- Jill Dawson, Whitbread and Orange Prize-shortlisted author 

'Tender and unflinching, a beautifully observed novel.' -- Carys Bray, Costa Prize-shortlisted author 

'It crept under my skin and will stay there for a long time' -- Emma Henderson, Orange Prize-shortlisted author 

'Amazing: fierce, intelligent, compassionate and deeply moving' -- Edward Hogan, Desmond Elliot Prize-winning author 

Funny, heartbreaking and truly remarkable' -- Susan Barker, New York Times bestselling author 

Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with. 

Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe's 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness. 

Until, that is, Vincent shows up. Vincent is the last person Maeve wants to see. He is the only man alive to have known her twin sister, Edie. The nightingale to Maeve's crow, the dawn to Maeve's dusk, Edie would have set her sights on the stage all things being equal. But, from birth, things never were. 

If only Maeve could confront the secret past she shares with Vincent, she might finally see what it means to love and be loved a lesson that her exuberant yet inexplicable twin may have been trying to teach her all along.

Friday, 15 July 2016

The Penny Heart - Martine Bailey - historical fiction paperback launch

To celebrate the launch of this wonderful historical book which I adored, I'm re-posting my review for anyone who missed it and a few new details.

The blurb

A historical novel of suspense, seasoned with recipes and remedies, THE PENNY HEART summer read that draws on age-old themes of cooking, trickery and revenge.

Sentenced to death for a simple confidence trick, Mary Jebb escapes the gallows … but her reprieve is harsh: seven years in the unforgiving penal colony of Botany Bay. Yet Mary is determined not to be forgotten, sending two pennies, engraved with a promise, to the two men who sealed her fate.

Timid artist Grace Moore jumps at the opportunity to marry handsome gentleman Michael Croxon – happy if only to get away from her drunken father.

But when Grace takes on a new cook, the two penny heart love tokens reveal she is tied to a world she didn’t know existed … A world of deceit, double-crossing, revenge and murder.

A historical novel of suspense, seasoned with recipes and remedies, THE PENNY HEART draws on age-old themes of cooking, trickery and revenge.

Praise for The Penny Heart

‘An ingenious exercise in pastiche gothic, this is a richly rewarding read.’ The Sunday Times

‘A compelling and haunting story, brimming with malice and darkness, and powerfully alive to the harsh realities of 18th century life’ Lancashire Evening Post

‘I really can't recommend this novel highly enough. I loved it from start to finish.’ S D Sykes

The Author
Inspired by eighteenth-century household books of recipes, writing historical fiction has allowed Martine to indulge in her obsessions with food, history and travel.

As an amateur cook, Martine won the Merchant Gourmet Recipe Challenge and was a former UK Dessert Champion, cooking at Le Meurice in Paris. In pursuit of authenticity she has studied with food historian Ivan Day and experienced Georgian food and fashion at first-hand with an historic re-enactment society.

Martine now lives in Cheshire, England, after spending 20 months house-swapping and researching in New Zealand and Australia. She is married with one son. THE PENNY HEART is her second novel.

My Review

I KNEW I was going to love this one, from the enticing description to the delicious cover - I was captivated from the first sentence, and entranced throughout.

I'm a sucker for a very particular kind of historical novel, it must have a ring of authenticity, a strong female protagonist or two and a quirky, thrilling storyline. What it mustn't be is a bodice ripper, fluffy and feminine, an insipid romance.

The Penny heart ticked all my boxes, seized me by the wrist and dragged me back in time to the late 18th century where it beguiled me throughout. I was introduced to not one substantial female but two and immersed in the decaying grandeur of a crumbling mansion, presented with mystery upon mystery and whisked back and forth between here, and Botany Bay penal colony.

The two fascinating females are Mary Jebb, a cunning and enterprising orphan with skill at impersonating her betters and conning people. Her immersion into the criminal underworld of Manchester leads to her downfall when she is caught mid scam and punished with a death sentence from which a last minute reprieve sees her instead transported to Australia. Life here is cruel, brutal and unforgiving, so it's hardly surprising that she carries with her a desire for vengeance which gives her the strength to seek it out.

Meanwhile gentle, innocent, Grace Croxon, a dreamy artistic girl whose only burning desire is to escape the life of drudgery she endures at the hands of her spiteful alcoholic father who constantly belittles her every attempt to make something of herself. Salvation is offered in the guise of marriage to one Micheal Croxon and although they have barely met, she is relieved when he turns out to be handsome and debonair, that she feels an instant attraction to him seems to be the icing on her cake - or will it be her downfall?

In the faded grandeur of neglected, semi derelict mansion DeLaFosse Hall the two womens lives evenually cross paths and we begin to unravel a mystery which keeps us guessing throughout the book.

Each chapter is preceded by a recipe which features in the following chapter and as they become increasingly more bizarre I found it fun to try and guess just how and where this particular "receipt" would appear in the storyline.

The mystery is cleverly written and I went from being gently guided along and thinking maybe really nothing much was happening, to whoah, hold on, I wasn't expecting this!

The beauty lies in two admirably created characters and a strong sense of place and authenticity. I loved the book and felt quite bereft on finishing it. May I give my hearfelt thanks to the author Martine Bailey for very kindly providing me with a copy to review and for entertaining and enthralling me with her delicious storytelling skill.