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Author: Jodi Picoult

Published: 22 November 2016
Reviewed: 23 November 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Hodder and Stoughton in return for an honest review

 

Description:

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

It is about opening your eyes.

My Thoughts & Review:

Initially when I first heard about this book it had no note of the author or the title, it was titled “Can you #ReadWithoutPrejudice?” and the description was as equally ambiguous….

There are two points in life when we are all equal: at the moment of birth and at the moment of death. It is how we live in between that defines us.
Delicately balanced.
Perfectly crafted.
Beautifully written.
We want you to immerse yourself in this dazzling novel, free from any preconceptions that a cover, title or author can bring.
We ask you simply to #readwithoutprejudice.

A clever way to market the book to early readers, instantly the reader is intrigued and wondering what the significance of the vague title and description are, why the cover is black and white and most importantly, why there is the need to #readwithoutprejudice.

It turns out that Small Great Things is the title of this book and the story follows Ruth who is a well respected and much liked midwife.  But one day, a couple in the hospital forbid Ruth to touch their child, they are white supremacists and Ruth is black.  Unfortunately the baby is in severe distress and Ruth cannot ignore her training or her instincts, doing the right thing would risk everything, but to ignore the child would be doing the wrong thing.  The baby dies and Ruth is held accountable.  The family blame her, the hospital fearing repercussions cut all ties with Ruth, offering no support and leaving her jobless.
Aid comes in the form of a public defender, Kennedy takes on Ruth’s case.

Certain aspects of this story were dumbfounding to read, the depths of the racism and the white supremacy in this were very hard to read, and even more shocking was the willingness of the hospital to accept this.  This definitely falls into the category of heart wrenching reads that audiences have come to know and love from Picoult.  Very powerful stuff, it gives the reader pause to consider how far society has come, but also to make the reader realise that there is still a long way to go when it comes to racial prejudice.

The writing itself is good, Picoult has done some impressive research that flows through the narrative.  This is a book that will stay with you days, if not weeks after you’ve read it.

You can pre order a copy of Small Great Things here.

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Published: 17 March 2016
Reviewed: 15 May 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Urbane Publications

 

Description:

The genteel façade of London’s Hampstead is shattered by a series of terrifying murders, and the ensuing police hunt is threatened by internal politics, and a burgeoning love triangle within the investigative team. Pressurised by senior officers desperate for a result a new initiative is clearly needed, but what?

Intellectual analysis and police procedure vie with the gut instinct of ‘copper’s nose’, and help appears to offer itself from a very unlikely source – a famous fictional detective. A psychological profile of the murderer allows the police to narrow down their search, but will Scotland Yard lose patience with the team before they can crack the case?
Praised by fellow authors and readers alike, this is a truly original crime story, speaking to a contemporary audience yet harking back to the Golden Age of detective fiction. Intelligent, quirky and mannered, it has been described as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’. Above it all hovers Hampstead, a magical village evoking the elegance of an earlier time, and the spirit of mystery-solving detectives.

My Thoughts & Review:

I’ve had notes written down about this book for months, but can’t believe that I’ve never actually moved this review from more than draft stage *bad reviewer*

Death in Profile encapsulates the feel of classic crime and is a wonderful change of pace from the modern day gritty (and sometimes gory) crime novels.
Written as a more intellectual crime novel as opposed to an action thriller, the story focuses on the investigation into the deaths of 5 women in Hampstead in London.

The characters in this are absolutely great, they are engaging and interesting, the author takes great care to ensure that they are portrayed well throughout the book.  I especially liked the dynamic between the “old school” detective and the “new school” detective, their differing techniques and approached to investigating were very well detailed and interesting to read.

The mystery in the story is superbly created, red herrings and twists aplenty to keep the reader guessing throughout.  My smug feeling that I had worked out “whodunnit” was short lived when turned the page – foiled!  There are clues scattered throughout the narrative, and it is possible to work out the culprit, it’s quite nice to feel that that you are piecing the clues together along with the detectives, trying to work it all out.

I appreciate that some people may not like this book, it may be too “cozy” for some, there is no gratuitous violence, it’s not dark and gritty.  Think Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers, back to the Golden Age of detective stories and you will be on the right track for this book, it’s a lovely change of pace from a gruesome and dark thriller.

I  don’t usually comment on the cover of books, purely because I am bad for being attracted by an interesting cover….yes I admit it, I sometimes only pick a book when my eye is caught by a cover….
But in this instance, I will make mention of the lovely cover.  The blood spatter over the artwork is brilliant, I absolutely love it!  It gives a hint towards what lies inside the book, there’s almost an eerie feeling emanating from it which adds to the intrigue.

I eagerly look forward to the next book from Guy Fraser-Sampson.

You can buy a copy of Death in Profile here.

 

About the Author:

Guy Fraser-Sampson is an established writer, having published not only fiction but also books on a diverse range of subjects including finance, investment, economics and cricket. His darkly disturbing economic history The Mess We’re In was nominated for the Orwell Prize. His Mapp & Lucia novels have all been optioned by BBC TV, and have won high praise from other authors including Alexander McCall Smith, Gyles Brandreth and Tom Holt. The second was featured in an exclusive interview with Mariella Forstrup on Radio 4, and Guy’s entertaining talks on the series have been heard at a number of literary events including the Sunday Times Festival in Oxford and the Daily Telegraph Festival in Dartington. With Death in Profile he begins a new series entitled The Hampstead Murders. Set in and around the iconic North London village, the first book in the series sees a team of detectives pursuing a serial sex killer while internal politics and a love triangle threaten to destabilise the enquiry. Harking back (sometimes explicitly) to the Golden Age of detective writing, Death in Profile introduces us to a group of likeable central characters whose loves, eccentricities and career ups and downs will be developed throughout the series. Very different from the contemporary model of detective novel, Guy’s innovative style and approach has been endorsed by leading crime writers such as Christopher Brookmyre and Ruth Dugdall.

 

 


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Author: Lynsey James

Published: 1 August 2016
Reviewed: 24 September 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Carina UK in return for an honest review

 

Description:

The perfect summer romance for a sunny afternoon and a picnic in the park
Emily Reed is having a bad day. Her mother has just dropped a devastating bombshell—the dad she’s known and loved for twenty-five years isn’t her biological father!

Desperately in need of answers, Emily heads to Luna Bay covering her personal quest up as a work trip to Sunflower Cottage B&B.

Setting up the ‘Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club’ should be a great way to meet the locals and maybe even find out who her father is. The only problem is brooding and insanely gorgeous, Noah, who is determined to make Emily’s stay perfectly uncomfortable.

Discovering the truth after all these years was never going to be simple, but Emily will stop at nothing to uncover her past… even if her heart is getting in the way!

Don’t miss a single book in the Luna Bay series:
Book 1 – The Broken Hearts Book Club
Book 2 – The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club
Book 3 – Coming soon

My Thoughts & Review:

The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club sees a much awaited return to Luna Bay, Lynsey James is one of those authors on my list to keep an eye out for after having read the first book in the series The Broken Hearts Book Club.  I should note that this can be read as a standalone book if you don’t want to follow the Luna Bay series and just fancy reading this one.

Here we meet Emily Reed, who has recently been passed over for a promotion at work, in favour of someone who was closely acquainted with the boss.  Understandably she is angry and frustrated, but the revelations that she finds when she goes for dinner with her parents are enough to make a bad day worse – the man she thought of as her father is not her biological father.

Confused and distraught, Emily goes in search of her biological father, her mother thinks he still lives in Luna Bay so logically that’s the first place to start looking.  When her boss hears of her plan, he turns it to his advantage, there is a B&B there that he would like her to work on getting signed over to their hotel chain.
What then follows is a lovely heartwarming tale filled with mishaps, humour and community spirit.

The characters in this are great, very realistic and engaging.  The descriptions of the settings are vivid and give the reader wonderful mental images of Luna Bay.  The mentions of food from the breakfast club sounded so delicious.

The writing is warm and the book reads like catching up with old friends, despite these being new characters in the series.  If I’m honest, I preferred this book to the first one, perhaps it was just something about the story, or perhaps I preferred Emily’s character as opposed to the protagonist in the first book.  This is a great book to read if you want to take a break from things, just the right amount of romance and emotion to make this a feel good story, it’s the sort of book you can curl up with and happily lose a few hours.

 

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Author: Helen Pollard

Published: 28 April 2016
Reviewed: 23 September 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Bookouture in return for an honest review

 

Description:

Sun, croissants and fine wine. Nothing can spoil the perfect holiday. Or can it?

When Emmy Jamieson arrives at La Cour des Roses, a beautiful guesthouse in the French countryside, she can’t wait to spend two weeks relaxing with boyfriend Nathan. Their relationship needs a little TLC and Emmy is certain this holiday will do the trick. But they’ve barely unpacked before he scarpers with Gloria, the guesthouse owner’s cougar wife.

Rupert, the ailing guesthouse owner, is shell-shocked. Feeling somewhat responsible, and rather generous after a bottle (or so) of wine, heartbroken Emmy offers to help. Changing sheets in the gîtes will help keep her mind off her misery.

Thrust into the heart of the local community, Emmy suddenly finds herself surrounded by new friends. And with sizzling hot gardener Ryan and the infuriating (if gorgeous) accountant Alain providing welcome distractions, Nathan is fast becoming a distant memory.

Fresh coffee and croissants for breakfast, feeding the hens in the warm evening light; Emmy starts to feel quite at home. But it would be madness to walk away from her friends, family, and everything she’s ever worked for, to take a chance on a place she fell for on holiday – wouldn’t it?

My Thoughts & Review:

The Little French Guesthouse is the first book in the series by Helen Pollard.  Set in the beautiful French countryside, the reader is instantly immersed in drama when Emmy rushes find Gloria after Rupert has a heart attack and finds Gloria and her boyfriend in a compromising position.  Emmy is devastated at the discovery, and soon Nathan breaks her heart completely by leaving with Gloria.  Ever the kind soul, Emmy offers to help Rupert running the business, and soon finds herself so busy she has no time to dwell on what happened with Nathan.

The descriptiveness of the narrative is utterly superb, Pollard conveys such a rich image of the French countryside, the châteaux, the gîtes and the market come alive through her writing.  The characters are interesting and for the most part likeable, Emmy is one of those characters that many readers will instantly connect with and be rooting for.   The subsequent friendship that forms between Emmy and Rupert is a delight to read.

The book itself is an easy and enjoyable read, the writing flows well and readers can easily become immersed in the story and the picturesque settings.  A perfect read for a quiet Sunday afternoon!

I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book Return to the Little French Guesthouse

You can buy a copy of The Little French Guesthouse here.

 

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Author: Leslie W P Garland

Published: 2 December 2015
Reviewed: 18 September 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by the author in return for an honest review

 

Description:

Comprising four intriguing novella length contemporary stories, which contain mystery, a hint of the supernatural or paranormal, together with a passing nod towards philosophy and religion – though in these modern fairy or folk tales the fantastic doesn’t happen in some remote fantasy world, but right here in this one, in very ordinary, almost everyday circumstances!

The tales are:-

The Little Dog

And I saw an angel standing in the sun”

Is told by Bill, a retired forester, and takes the form of most of the stories in our lives, namely, that we have no idea that we are living a story until later when previous events suddenly seem to fall into place and make some kind of sense. Bill recounts a week in his early working life when, paired with an older, unsavoury and unpopular colleague, they find a little dog sitting beside the forest haul-road way out in a remote part of the forest. What is the little dog doing there? As the week progresses Bill finds himself becoming emotionally attached to it while also becoming increasingly concerned about just who is his objectionable workmate, and when he notices that the little dog is no longer present at its usual spot his concerns heighten, as he cannot help but feel that his workmate has something to do with the dog’s disappearance. Although a troubled Bill has a conversation with his local priest and learns of the nature of sin and evil, he remains blind to that which is right in front of him. However the very next day events suddenly take an unexpected turn and the young naive Bill starts to learn some awful truths.

A story of good and evil, and retribution.

The Crow

“Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.”

This story, which centres on our almost desperate desire to leave something to mark our lives upon this earth, is told as a history recounted by Dave, of the time when he, as a child, was taken by his mother to a hospice where he met a dying and embittered old Irish priest known as Mad Father Patrick, who told him about the school days and subsequent rise of a local councillor, Reginald Monday, and of his (Monday’s) involvement in the construction of a dam which flooded a valley. Father Patrick’s increasingly mad tale is told with a blend of biblical quotations, philosophical musings and wild fantasy, but how does it end and just why is he so bitter?

A sad, poignant story of misunderstanding, bitterness and blame.

The Golden Tup

“But whom sent I to judge them?”

Can evil be in a place? The tale opens with Verity, a farmer’s wife, recalling how a young couple were arrested a few years previously for killing their new born baby. How could such a nice young couple have done such a dreadful thing? Through a series of flashbacks we learn how they had created their rural idyll, how an enigmatic man had come into their lives and how their idyll and relationship had gradually fallen apart – how, with references to Milton’s Paradise Lost, their paradise was lost. Gradually the young wife reveals a dreadful past, but Verity realises that she is holding something back, but what? What is the terrible truth that caused her and her husband to kill their baby?

A dreadful tale of a young couple’s paradise being cruelly taken from them by latent evil.

The White Hart

“Not everyone who is enlightened by an angel knows that he is enlightened by him.”

Told by a likeable male chauvinist, bachelor and keen fell-runner, Pete Montague recalls three strange incidents which he initially thought were unconnected. The first is his encounter with a little albino deer which he found in the forest when he was out for a jog. The second is that of a chance meeting with a beautiful, young but somewhat enigmatic girl in a remote chapel, and of their conversation in which she told him of the tragic story of the daughter of the family which built it. And the third incident ……

A happy ghost story, if there can be such a thing!

My Thoughts & Review:

This is an interesting collection of tales, novellas if you will that are similar thematically, each contains a mystery of sorts and has links to good and evil.  This was a step away from my usual crime thrillers or contemporary fiction,  but something I am very grateful for having had  the chance to read.

With beautiful descriptiveness in each story the reader is transported to the settings, whether it’s being able to envision the logging scenes in The Little Dog, or the forest in The White Hart.  The detail in these tales is truly wonderful, and really adds an authenticity to each one.
The dialogue used in the tales is also wonderful, I especially liked where a local dialect  was used and the author took a moment to add parenthesis, I felt that this added to my enjoyment of reading the tales, particularly where I felt that I had learned something new.  With detail about accents I felt I could hear the narrators voice, a very lovely touch.  However there were a couple of occasions where I did lose track of which voice I was hearing but I think that was perhaps more down to reader error than anything to do with the writing.

A very enchanting read, and very much a book to read as a break from day to day life.  Extremely well written, the stories are well thought out, an excellent cast of characters that are multidimensional and interesting – even the flawed characters are enticingly interesting!

The idea behind the tales being stories recounted by friends in the local pub is one that really appeals to me, reminds me of listening to family friends at a gathering or sitting listening to folk tales that my grandfather told me as a youngster.  The ease at which the writer recounts these tales makes for an enjoyable and captivating read.

You can buy a copy of The Red Grouse Tales here.

About the Author:
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Leslie Garland was born in 1949, qualified as a Chartered Civil Engineer and worked for several years on projects in the UK, the Far East and Africa. During this period he won the Institution of Civil Engineers “Miller Prize” for a paper on tunnelling. Changing times resulted in a change in direction and after qualifying as an Associate Member of both the British Institute of Professional Photography and the Royal Photographic Society he started his own stock photograph library and wrote for the trade press. An unexpected break in his Internet connection fortuitously presented the time to make a start on a long cherished project of a series of short stories, and the first two of “The Red Grouse Tales” were drafted. Two more have followed and he is now working on a second batch of tales. He lives with his wife in Northumberland.

More information is available on www.lesliegarland.co.uk 

I would recommend reading the “Inside Info” on the author’s website about each of the tales, it provides wonderful background as to his ideas behind each tale but also gives great food for thought.

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Author: P.I. Paris

Published: 15 September 2016
Reviewed: 16 September 2016

5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Black and White Publishing in return for an honest review

 

Description:

When the residents of a Highland care home discover that the new owners are about to substantially put up the fees, they know that dramatic action is called for. But what can a group of senior citizens possibly do against a big organisation? For Dorothy, the situation is serious. If she can’t raise money she’ll have to leave all her friends, like dear Miss Ross. 

In protest, the residents barricade themselves into the lounge. However, their rebellion fails, so worldly-wise Joan suggests a most unusual way to cover the rise – a very naughty chat line for men who want to talk to older women ‘in a particular way’! As their lives take a series of unexpected turns, things get increasingly out of control …

Casting Off is a hilarious, poignant tale of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice – and how it’s never too late to try something new.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Casting Off combines two great loves of mine, books and knitting (surely the name of the blog part of that away?).  So when Laura at Black and White Publishing got in touch to offer me this book for review I immediately jumped at the chance – the description had me chuckling instantly.

Set in a Highland care home, we encounter a variety of different characters that you instantly adopt as friends,  Miss Ross a retired head mistress, Dorothy delightfully innocent and humorous, Mrs O’Reilly the mischievous one and Joan who seems to know something about most things – including saucy chatlines.

Each character in this is wonderful in their own way, Miss Ross who may seem prim and set in her ways has an enormously large heart and cares deeply about her friends, enough to take action when this whole scandal sets in motion.  Dorothy, bless her, so innocent to the ways of the world but incredibly funny with it.  Mrs O’Reilly, well she’s a wee trickster and a half, reminds me somewhat of my own grandmother and in all honesty, she’s the sort of old person I want to be – keeping the young uns on their toes and still sharp as a tack.  Joan, well her initial appearance causes some ripples for Miss Ross, but her heart is is the right place, she’s a hoot!  She brings life to the home, her jovial manner shines brightly from the pages and the reader cannot help but smile when she suggests the plan of the chatline – it seems such a normal thing for her to say!

The serious issues that are addressed in this book are handled with sensitivity but at the same time do not sugar coat reality.  With the advancements in technology and social media the dangers have also increased, so it was good to see topics such as grooming and sexting handled to raise awareness of how prevalent they are in society.  The way that they were explained to the older generation was very well done, I hope that mini plays like the one in the book are used in schools to illustrate the point to the younger generation.
Seeing the “older” perspective of some of these issues was also quite interesting, not something I would have really given much thought to, but their attitudes were refreshing, not all  of the characters reacted as I would have imagined to certain things, I guess we write people off once they reach a certain age, forgetting they were once young and so may have faced similar situations, a hat tip to the author for reminding us that everyone is entitled to a life, a past and a future.

The humour in this book was superbly written.  I know I chuckled out loud several times reading this, my poor husband continuously looking up from his DIY to check I wasn’t laughing at him or his efforts.  There’s something so lovely about the innocent humour of Dorothy – the callers to the chatline are expecting something…..well different from what they get when Dorothy answers their calls.  Her innocence makes certain parts of the narrative exceedingly hilarious, you’ll know the section when you get to it….

The diary passages written by Miss Ross interspersed between the chapters are touching to read.  This is a character that publicly is quite reserved, not one for telling her innermost thoughts and worries, and so to see them written down gives a greater insight to this character and means the reader is able to connect more with her.

This book is perfectly described on the front cover “A hilarious, poignant story of knitting, friendship, sacrifice and saucy chatlines”.  It’s a great book to curl up with in an afternoon and enjoy some quiet time.  The short chapters make it a quick and enjoyable read, but they’re sneaky as they hook you in and keep you reading on!  I love the idea that you’re never too old to try something new, and the ladies and gents in this definitely proved that.  I won’t lie, there were many emotions reading this book, the skill of the author evoking sadness, delight and frustration shows how well written this is.

Having enjoyed this book I am keen to read other books by this author, his book The Italian Chapel set in Orkney will definitely be added to my ever groaning reading list!

You can buy a copy of Casting Off directly from the publisher or from a variety of different retailers.

About the Author:

Author, playwright and journalist P I Paris lives in the Highlands of Scotland and is best known for the historical fiction and non-fiction books he wrote about the Italian chapel, built during WW2 by Italian POWs in Orkney. His contemporary novel, Men Cry Alone, broke new ground in raising the profile of domestic abuse against men.

His stage play, Casting Off, played to sell-out audiences in the autumn of 2015. The hilarious storyline is taken to new heights in this latest novel by the same name.

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When the residents of a Highland care home receive letters informing them that the new owners are about to substantially increase fees, their quiet days of knitting, chatting and trips to the local garden centre are threatened. Dorothy faces the prospect of having to move out, something her good friend former headmistress Miss Ross refuses to accept. But what can a group of elderly people do against a big organisation? The arrival of worldly-wise, three-times married Joan soon galvanises the residents into action, stirring long-dormant passions to fight against injustice. After a protest march goes badly wrong, the residents get national news coverage when they barricade themselves into the lounge. However, their brief flurry of fame has little impact.

As the new fees eat dangerously into dwindling savings, they need to make money fast or Dorothy will have to leave. When the irrepressible Joan suggests they set up a sex line for men who want to talk to older women ‘in a particular way’, their lives take a turn they could never have expected, with consequences that soon get out of control.

 

I am very excited to welcome you to the blog today as I have a fantastic treat for us all.  I am thrilled to share a fantastic guest post with you by the author of Casting Off, P.I. Paris on how a play became a novel, knitting and humour.

Without further ado, let me hand over to our revered guest…..

Knit

Early in 2015 I began writing a stage play about three elderly women in a Highland care home who have to devise a way to raise money when new owners substantially increase the fees, the high cost of residential care being in the news a lot at the time. My characters were often knitting and this pastime subsequently became an integral part of the storyline. The title seemed obvious … Casting Off.

The play toured in the Highlands during the autumn and the response took everyone by surprise, particularly me! The idea seemed to catch people’s imagination and even on the first night, innocent Dorothy, prim Miss Ross and worldly-wise Joan played to a sell-out audience. However, as far as I was concerned that was the end of it. I had also produced Casting Off and it had dominated my life for six months.

It was an email, which I so nearly didn’t send, that changed everything. Just before the tour started I told the managing director of Black & White Publishing in Edinburgh about the play. He sent me his best wishes along with that never to be forgotten observation … great idea for a novel. A NOVEL! I hadn’t considered this but as soon as I read his reply I knew this was what I had to do.

My target was 75,000 words and the stage script was a little over 10,000, so the book was a totally different proposition. I needed to carry out further research and create many more characters, subplots, surprises and secrets!

It’s amazing how tiny incidents in life can form the basis for a scene. A couple of years ago my wife and I went into a large wool shop. Catherine wanted to knit an Aran jumper for me. But the shop had no wool. To be accurate, it didn’t sell anything with more than twenty per cent wool content.

I couldn’t help feeling I had walked on to the set of the Monty Python cheese shop sketch. We didn’t buy anything. But the incident came back to me when writing a chapter where Dorothy and some of the other care home residents are having tea at the local garden centre.

‘You can actually buy quite a good selection of wool here,’ said Dorothy, ‘in the craft section. The last time I went into a wool shop they didn’t have any.’

‘No wool?’ queried Walter in disbelief.

‘Their balls only had twenty per cent content at most. I was quite cross.’

‘Steady on, Dorothy,’ he said. ‘I hope it didn’t lead to violence.’

‘I went up to the desk. “You tell me, young man,” I said, “how you can look me in the eye and say that your balls have come from a sheep.”’

A lot of the humour in the book comes from Dorothy’s innocence, but this also proves to be one of her greatest strengths, protecting her when, desperate to raise money, the three friends set up a sex line for men who want to speak to a mature woman ‘in a particular way’.

Although the play and novel are essentially comedies they both examine loneliness, friendship and sacrifice plus how reaching out to strangers can completely change our lives. The book takes these ‘serious’ themes further, including storylines on prostitution, grooming and sexting.

Producing Casting Off proved to be a huge learning curve and a scary amount of commitment, but it was tremendous fun and I have made many new friends because of reading a newspaper article about care home fees all those months ago.

You can buy a copy of Casting Off directly from the publisher or from a variety of different retailers and don’t forget to check out the other blogs on the tour!

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Author: Katie Marsh

Published: 14 July 2016
Reviewed: 9 September 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Hodder and Stoughton in return for an honest review

 

Description:

Can you ever outrun the past?

It’s Zoe’s wedding day. She’s about to marry Jamie, the love of her life. Then a phone call comes out of the blue, with the news that her mum Gina has been arrested. Zoe must make an impossible decision: should she leave her own wedding to help?

Zoe hasn’t seen Gina for years, blaming her for the secret that she’s been running from ever since she was sixteen. Now, Gina is back in her life, but she’s very different to the mum Zoe remembers. Slowly but surely, Gina is losing her memory.

As she struggles to cope with Gina’s illness, can Zoe face up to the terrible events of years ago and find her way back to the people she loves?

A Life Without You is a stirring and poignant novel about the power of the past – and the possibilities of the future.

My Thoughts & Review:

A Life Without You is the second novel written by Marsh and is just as wonderful as her début My Everything.
It is a book with two stories in one in a way, we have the story of Zoe preparing to marry the love of her life and what happens next but also the story of Zoe’s life retold through letters written by her mother Gina over the years.

The unexpected phone call on the morning of her wedding forces Zoe to make a life changing decision, she either marries her soul mate or rushes to the police station to help her mother who has been arrested for shoplifting.
The odd thing is that Zoe and her mother have been estranged for the past 10 years, in fact her mother didn’t even get an invite for the wedding but nevertheless Zoe makes the decision to go to her mother.  Once there, she softens slightly when she realises something is not right with Gina, but she cannot forget the past either.
When Gina is diagnosed with early onset dementia, she moves in with Zoe, thus ensuring when she begins to decline that she is safe and that Zoe can support her.

It’s quite hard to review this without spoilers, there are so many moments I would love to share but no, this is a book you really need to read.  At it’s very core it’s about love, hope, forgiveness and family.

Written with great sensitivity, Marsh recounts the struggles families face when a loved one is diagnosed with an illness such as dementia, but all the while does not shy away from the harsh realities of it which makes this a very moving story to read.  I definitely felt some of heartache that Zoe encountered, and reading some passages I had a lump in my throat and found I was blinking to hold back tears but similarly, there are wonderful parts that make you laugh heartily.

An evocative story of hope and sadness, it gives the reader pause to consider what really matters.  It’s hard not to be affected by emotion when reading this, and quite honestly it made want to give my mum a phone just to remind her that I love her and appreciate her.

You can buy a copy of A Life Without You here.

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Author: Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Published: 22 October 2015
Reviewed: 7 September 2016

3.5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Hodder and Stoughton in return for an honest review

 

Description:

The light spilling in from the corridor would have to do. Though weak, it was sufficient to show Aldís a boy sitting in the gloom at the furthest table. He had his back to her, so she couldn’t see who it was, but could tell that he was one of the youngest. A chill ran down her spine when he spoke again, without turning, as if he had eyes in the back of his head. ‘Go away. Leave me alone.’

‘Come on. You shouldn’t be here.’ Aldís spoke gently, fairly sure now that the boy must be delirious. Confused, rather than dangerous.

He turned, slowly and deliberately, and she glimpsed black eyes in a pale face. ‘I wasn’t talking to you.’

Aldis is working in a juvenile detention centre in rural Iceland. She witnesses something deeply disturbing in the middle of the night; soon afterwards, two of the boys at the centre are dead.

Decades later, single father Odinn is looking into alleged abuse at the centre following the unexplained death of the colleague who was previously running the investigation. The more he finds out, though, the more it seems the odd events of the 1970s are linked to the accident that killed his ex-wife. Was her death something more sinister?

My Thoughts & Review:

The Undesired is the first book by this author that I have read, I went in to it not knowing what to expect.

The story in this book begins with an ending of sorts, a man and his young daughter are trapped in a car slowly asphyxiating.  By doing this, the author has ensured that the audience are captive, instantly hooked by wondering who these people are, why there are there, what has lead to this monumental moment.  There are two strands of story in this book, the first following Odinn and the second following Aldis.

Following the death of his ex-wife, Odinn, now a single parent grapples with raising his daughter alone.  She is traumatised by the death of her mother and he struggles to support her.    Was her death accidental?  Why is she haunting Odinn and his daughter?
This is not all that Odinn has to contend with, he has taken over  investigations at work into alleged abuse at a care home for male young offenders, a home that shut down in the 1970s but certain questions remain unanswered.

Back in 1974 Aldi was a cleaner at the care home for the delinquent boys, she provides an eyewitness account of the happenings at the home.   Her relationship with one of the older boys and the the owner’s of the home having deep secrets really add an extra layer to the back story.
Weaving together Odinn’s investigation and the lead up to the closure of the home following the death of two boys, the author provides answers for the questions the reader has from the beginning of the book.

Characterisation is great, the details about the home feel authentic .  The plot is intriguing,  but I wonder if it might work better if billed as a psychological thriller as opposed to horror which the blurb implies.  Overall a good read, but I just felt that the “spooky” aspects took something away from the story.

You can buy a copy of The Undesired here.

 

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Author: Angela Marsons

Published: 11 July 2016
Reviewed: 6 September 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Bookouture in return for an honest review

 

Description:

Three sisters. Three childhoods ruined. One chance to heal the scars of the past.

After their death of their cruel and abusive mother, estranged sisters Alex, Catherine and Beth reunite once again.

Alex, the youngest, is a bitter, unhappy woman who refuses to face the horrors of her childhood. Finding solace in a bottle, her life is spiralling dangerously out of control.

Eldest child, Catherine, has strived for success, despite her difficult upbringing. But behind the carefully constructed façade lies a secret that could shatter her world forever.

Beth, the middle child, bore the greatest burden. But having blocked out the cruelty they suffered, she remained with their mother until her death. Now she must confront the devastating reality of the past.

Brought together as strangers, the sisters embark on a painful journey to heal themselves and each other. Can they finally put their terrible childhoods to rest and start over?

My Thoughts & Review:

Angela Marsons is a name I am familiar with for crime novels, so when I heard that she was writing in a different genre I was immediately curious.

The subject of this book touches on something that many readers will be uncomfortable with, child abuse and how it’s effects are long reaching.  I would urge caution to some readers who may find the subject matter difficult to read, this is an emotional read and one that some may feel is “too much”.  Each instance is handled well by Marsons, kept short to focus the reader on the characters in the present rather than in the past.

This book sympathetically follows the tale of three sisters Alex, Catherine and Beth, recounting the abuse inflicted on them and the subsequent damage caused by it.  The abuse suffered by each sister differed and so too does their coping mechanisms.

Following the death of their mother, the three women are reunited after years of estrangement from each other.
Catherine, the eldest has succeeded in ways her mother never did but something still isn’t right, things are falling apart in her life despite having a wonderful husband who loves her, twin daughters, a lovely home and a job that she is good at.  She has kept her childhood deeply buried from those around her, her husband knows nothing of her harrowing upbringing.
Beth, the middle child remained with their mother, acting as her carer towards the end having never found the opportune time to leave.  Her tale is perhaps the most painful to read, she suffered the brunt of the abuse from their mother and her way of coping with it seems to be blocking it out and forgetting that it happened.
Alex, the youngest has severe issues with alcohol and found it was easier to turn to alcohol than the woman she loved and lose herself in a bottle.

The fact that none of these women ever sought professional help to deal with their abusive childhood makes this such a compelling and harrowing read.  Each of them has been moulded by what they endured at the hands of their mother, a woman who should have loved, cared for and cherished these girls.
Perhaps because I am a mother I read this book and cried, feeling utter desolation that someone could inflict this upon children.  Perhaps I cried because the details of the book are so compulsive to read and despite wanting to put down this book and not touch it, I felt driven to read on to find out if the sisters would eventually find closure and be able to find eventual happiness.

Marsons shows incredible skill, writing such a delicate subject in such a careful and sympathetic manner and takes the reader on an emotionally haunting journey.

Dear Mother was previously published as The Middle Child.

You can buy a copy of Dear Mother here.

About the Author

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Author Image & Information courtesy of Amazon

Angela Marsons is the author of Amazon #1 Bestseller SILENT SCREAM.

She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their bouncy Labrador and a swearing parrot.

She first discovered her love of writing at Junior School when actual lessons came second to watching other people and quietly making up her own stories about them. Her report card invariably read “Angela would do well if she minded her own business as well as she minds other people’s”.

After years of writing relationship based stories (My Name Is and The Middle Child) Angela turned to Crime, fictionally speaking of course, and developed a character that refused to go away.

She is signed to Bookouture.com for a total of 8 books. The second, third and fourth books in the Kim Stone series, EVIL GAMES, LOST GIRLS and PLAY DEAD are also now available.

For more information about Angela Marsons and her books go to her website http://angelamarsons-books.com or follow her on Twitter @WriteAngie

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