#Blogtour She, You, I by Sally Keeble

 It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour She, You, I by Sally Keeble

About the Author

Sally writes about the things she’s passionate about—the triumphs and tragedies of people’s everyday lives. It’s what originally took her into journalism and then politics, and keeps her active there still.

Growing up in a diplomatic family, she spent much of her early years in the USA, Switzerland and Australia, returning home to the UK after working as a journalist in South Africa. She made the switch from journalism to politics, first as a South London council leader during the turbulent 1980s and then as one of the big intake of Labour women MPs who changed the face of British politics in 1997. She became a minister in local government and then international development.

Itchy feet don’t stand still. After losing her seat, she set up an international development agency for the Anglican Communion, and travelled widely, especially in Africa and South Asia. She’s written nonfiction previously, especially on women’s issues and social policy, but “She, You, I” is her first novel. To learn about creative writing, she did courses with City Lit and Jericho Writers, and has had pieces of flash fiction shortlisted in competitions. 

Some of the storylines in “She, You, I” draw from insights gained from her personal and political life. Sally splits her time between Northampton, where she was MP, and Bawdsey, a village in coastal Suffolk close to her family roots. She and her husband Andrew have two adult children. Follow @Sally_Keeble on Twitter

About the book

When Skye Stanhope returns to her grandmother’s childhood home, she’s looking for the roots of her life story. Why her tough-minded granny Maisie ran away to war. And why her brilliant mother Isla died. Her search for the truth stretches across almost a century of conflict, peace, boomtime and bust, into the uneasy calm of post pandemic Britain.

“She, You, I” is the debut novel of Sally Keeble, a former journalist and MP. She has written non-fiction previously, focussing on social and feminist issues, and many of these themes run through her novel.

For Maisie, signing up to fight in the second world war provides a way to escape poverty and violence at home. But she finds herself caught up in new tragedy, and her unresolved grief is played out in the lives of her own daughters. It’s only in the third generation that her granddaughter Skye is able to heal the wounds. Woven through the women’s lives is Hsiao Ling, a seamstress whose ancestor disappeared in wartime France.

It’s an emotional journey, from a Scottish tenement to an airbase in wartime Suffolk, through London’s fashion and finance industries, to a coffee cart by the south coast. Through each woman’s story, “She, You, I” holds up a mirror to the complexity of family relationships and answers the question, How many generations does it take to recover from abuse.

For the author, “She, You, I” is a chance to explore in fiction some of the issues that she campaigned on during her time in politics. It shows how women’s lives have changed, and the challenges we’ve faced. It also tells a story of hope and reconciliation that aims to make readers laugh as well as cry.

Review

I have to admit it wasn’t what I expected or presumed it would be, which was a story about women, their loves, their children and grandchildren. A Catherine Cookson with plenty of upheaval and a fulfilling ending to the heartbreak and sorrow. Not that it wouldn’t have been a good read, but this is so much more.

The author picks apart the generational trauma that simmers quietly underneath and becomes evident in different ways, as the torch is passed through the decades and the changes in the world. How the love between mother and daughter can be both an unbreakable twine that defines their relationship, and simultaneously be a precarious string burdened by guilt, anger and disbelief. 

Also the way these emotions and trauma are passed on via the relationships, despite younger generations being unaware of said burden. The experiences of a child with their parent/s define the person they become and how they navigate their own lives, expectations and relationships moving forward.

I enjoyed the lack of drama, the way each era and daughter is written as their own scene and story almost. A staccato experience of chapters – Kodak moments of personalities and key moments or events. The author has captured the nuances and complexities with a brusque accuracy and also the often forgotten element of six degrees of separation. 

I really enjoyed it. I think it spoke to me because it didn’t focus on the reason for the destruction and cause of the trauma, but rather on the denial, coping mechanisms, and the way women have been taught to make do with the cards we are dealt. You made your bed, now you must lay in it. As the women in the family move beyond that mentality the strength and determination lets them create their intended path. Blood and family doesn’t mean loyalty and blind acceptance, especially if doing so means your own downfall.

Buy She, You, I at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Eleanor Press, pub date 11 Jan. 2023. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour After Dad by Claire Shiells

It’s my turn on the Blogtour After Dad by Claire Shiells.

After the Author

Claire Shiells grew up in rural Northern Ireland during the Troubles where she had the best of times and the worst of times. She calls herself Northern Irish except on St Patrick’s Day when she is inexplicably full on Top-Of-The-Morning-To-You Irish. Claire now lives in London and in her last life (before the longest maternity leave ever) was a journalist and magazine editor. After Dad is inspired by a true event and is her first novel. Follow @claireshiells on Twitter

About the book

A bittersweet love story exploring why good people sometimes do bad things… – Millie Malone, a spirited, thirty-something journalist returns home to Northern Ireland after a life-changing decision leaves her London life in ruins.

A family reunion soon unravels, opening old wounds and igniting new grievances regarding the murder of her father by the IRA decades earlier. Retreating to the family cottage in Donegal, Millie soon meets Finn McFall, a fisherman originally from west Belfast, who loves to paint and recite Irish poetry.

In the new modern Ireland, Millie believes religion is no longer a barrier for love. But she soon finds home is a place still struggling with a fragile peace and simmering sectarianism.

As events unfold, Millie is forced to decide between love and loyalty, eventually having to ask herself the ultimate question: can love really conquer all?

Review

If anything, this story lays bare the fragile hold on the anger, resentment, passion and in general the multitude of complex emotions framed in a tumultuous history, that exists even now in 21st century Ireland. I think in that sense Millie is overly optimistic. Old grievances die hard and there is such a thing as generational trauma.

The trauma she herself has experienced is a little bit like a bomb thrown into the midst of a family, and the shockwaves reverberate decades after. Violent death always leaves scars and living under the umbrella of constant threat of harm or death influences people in a way that is personal to them. No one experience is the same.

In a way I also think the ending of this book speaks to exactly that fragility, and the fact some people are unable to move beyond what they prioritise as more important than more menial things, such as relationships and family. Recognising that is a coming-of-age moment and includes the ability to move as one, as opposed to moving as an entity of a greater idea, ideology or even sense of identity.

I want to give credit to the sub-plot, which in the grand scheme of the story may appear minor but is poignant in its own way. Perhaps because the author addresses a controversial issue, and for a moment there I thought it was going to go a bit right field, in a way that shines a light on how difficult it is for women to make certain decisions and how the world gaslights them by saying it is a lightweight and inconsequential one made out of convenience. Just want to point out that the why is irrelevant, as is the way each individual feels about said choice. None of your business or my business for that matter.

This is a poignant and heartfelt read; I hope to read more by this author in the future.

Buy After Dad at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: ‎The Book Guild; pub date 28 Sept. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

Blogtour The Halfways by Nilopar Uddin

It’s my turn on the BlogTour The Halfways by Nilopar Uddin.

About the Author

Nilopar Uddin was born in Shropshire to Syleti parents, who like the fictional family in The Halfways owned and ran an Indian restaurant in Wales. Every summer her family would travel for their holidays to Bangladesh to visit extended family, and this affection for the country has continued into adulthood; in 2009 she spent some months in Dhaka volunteering for BRAC, one of the largest NGOs in the world.

About the book

Nasrin and Sabrina are two sisters, who on the face of things live successful and enviable lives in London and New York. When their father, Shamsur suddenly dies, they rush to be with their mother at the family home and restaurant in Wales, and reluctantly step back into the stifling world of their childhood.

When Shamsur’s will is read, a devastating secret is revealed that challenges all that people thought and loved about him. It also profoundly changes the lives and identities of the sisters, and creates an irreparable family rift…

Review

The death of a loved one can often mean you get a glimpse into all of their secrets after their death. The kind they sit on and then let you deal with, because they no longer have to and in death you can’t hear the reactions. When Shamsur dies his daughters, Nasrin and Sabrina, are confronted with decades old secrets and the intricate cover-up, which has left terrible scars and caused emotional turmoil. The face of their family will never look the same again.

Personally I thought the choice to include a lot of the words and phrases in the story in the origin language was both a bold choice, there are plenty of readers who find things like that a stumbling block, and one that lent an essence of atmosphere to the story. An air of authenticity, which pulls the reader into the very important cultural aspect of this family saga. Glossary at the front will probably solve any grumbles.

Towards the end in the last few chapters the author manages to create this very visceral connection to the vulnerability of one of the characters – a connection that is a common denominator in all cultures. The small gestures of reassurance, the internal fear of abandonment, but above all the invisible woven emotional web of familial ties.

The difficulty of balancing dual nationalities, cultures and identities is really driven home in this story. The Western values clash with the heritage and culture, old and new generations try to bridge these gaps in different ways or not at all. Often this happens in countries where colonialism is the foundation upon which society has been built.

It’s a nuanced read, and the author tells the tale through multiple narrators in a way that brings empathy, passion and the cold hard truth of the aftermath of decisions made in the echo chamber of restricted and power hungry societies. Looking forward to more by this author.

The Halfways at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎HQ pub date 7 July 2022. Buy at Amazon comBuy via Harper Collins.

#BlogTour Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

 It’s my turn on the BlogTour Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb. Three cities. Two sisters. One chance to correct the past.

About the Authors

Hazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of When We Were Young & Brave, A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 Romantic Novelists’ Association Historical Romantic Novel of the Year award. Her third novel, The Girl from The Savoy, was an Irish Times and Globe and Mail bestseller, and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. 

In 2017, she published The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris (co-written with Heather Webb). Both novels hit bestseller lists, and Last Christmas in Paris won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award. Hazel’s novel, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, hit the Irish Times bestseller list for five consecutive weeks. Hazel was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. Her work has been translated into fourteen languages and is published in twenty-one countries worldwide. She lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. Join Hazel’s Book Club Newsletter Follow @HazelGaynor on Twitter, Visit hazelgaynor.com,

Heather Webb is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of The Next Ship Home, Rodin’s Lover, Becoming Josephine, and The Phantom’s Apprentice, as well as two novels co-written with Hazel, Last Christmas in Paris , which won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award, and Meet Me in Monaco, a finalist in the 2020 RNA Awards as well as the 2019 Digital Book World Fiction awards. 

To date, Heather’s works have been translated into fifteen languages worldwide. She is also passionate about helping writers find their voice as a professional freelance editor, speaker, and adjunct in the MFA in Writing program at Drexeul University. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty bunny. Join Heather’s newsletter Follow @msheatherwebb on Twitter, Visit heatherwebbauthor.com

About the book

Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb have reunited for the third time with another unforgettable historical novel following their award-winning bestseller Meet Me in Monaco. In Three Words for Goodbye, estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Sommers take a journey across Europe inspired by Nellie Bly, one of the first investigative journalists, who set out to circumnavigate the globe in less than eighty days. This inspired co-written novel is already earning top praise from Kristin Harmel, who said: “I loved being swept away to 1930s Paris, Venice and Vienna” while Gill Paul compares the novel to “reclining in a comfortable beach chair with warm sun on your skin and a glass of champagne at your elbow.”

New York, 1937: When estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Sommers learn their grandmother is dying, they agree to fulfil her last wish: to travel across Europe—together. They are to deliver three letters, in which Violet will say goodbye to those she hasn’t seen since traveling to Europe forty years earlier; a journey inspired by famed reporter, Nellie Bly.

Clara, ever-dutiful, sees the trip as an inconvenient detour before her wedding to millionaire Charles Hancock, but it’s also a chance to embrace her love of art. Budding journalist Madeleine relishes the opportunity to develop her ambitions to report on the growing threat of Hitler’s Nazi party and Mussolini’s control in Italy.

Constantly at odds with each other as they explore the luxurious Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the sights of Paris and Venice, Clara and Madeleine wonder if they can fulfil Violet’s wish, until a shocking truth about their family brings them closer together. But as they reach Vienna to deliver the final letter, old grudges threaten their reconciliation again. As political tensions rise, and Europe feels increasingly volatile, the pair are glad to head home on the Hindenburg, where fate will play its hand in the final stage of their journey.

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Kate Quinn, Gaynor and Webb have written a meticulously researched narrative filled with colourful scenes of Europe and a stunning sense of the period. This unstoppable historical fiction author duo will have readers enthralled as the sisters explore the luxurious Queen Mary and ride the long-haul rail to take in the sights of Paris and Venice.

Review

Violet is coming to the end of a very privileged and content life, but it is also one full of secrets. The kind of secrets that could make the wonderful family façade she has built crumble to dust. Instead Violet hopes that her granddaughters will retrace her steps and plead forgiveness in her stead.

From the exceptional majesty of a ship the Queen Mary, the mystery of the Orient Express, the history making cities on the way to the amazing feat of engineering that was the Hindenburg. Each step pulls the fighting sisters closer together, as they uncover the secrets Violet left for them to discover, and in doing so build a new relationship with each other.

Gaynor and Webb capture the beauty of the adventure and possibilities of the pre World War 2 era seen through the eyes of two young women willing to embrace each new experience. The message and words of Nellie Bly are echoed in these pages and mirrored via Clara and Madeleine.

It’s a dynamic family saga, and yet also historical fiction, whilst the relationship between two sisters serves as the platform to deliver a compelling and often quite emotional story. This author duo knows how to pull readers in with characters they can relate to and moments in history that cement the story.

Buy Three Words for Goodbye at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: William Morrow; pub date 2nd September 2021 / Paperback / £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Fishing for Maui by Isa Pearl Ritchie

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Fishing in Maui by Isa Pearl Ritchie. It’s a story about family and the way we can be sat next to each other, and yet a thousand miles away from each other at the same time.

About the Author

Isa Ritchie is a Wellington-based writer. She grew up as a Pākehā child in a bicultural family and Māori was her first written language. She has completed a PhD on food sovereignty in Aotearoa. She is passionate about food, wellbeing and social justice.

Follow @IsaPearlRitchie on Twitter, on Facebook on Instagram, Visit isaritchie.com

Buy Fishing for Maui

About the book

A novel about food, whānau, and mental illness.

Valerie reads George Eliot to get to sleep – just to take her mind off worries over her patients, her children, their father and the next family dinner. Elena is so obsessed with health, traditional food, her pregnancy and her blog she doesn’t notice that her partner, Malcolm the ethicist, is getting himself into a moral dilemma of his own making. Evie wants to save the world one chicken at a time. Meanwhile her boyfriend, Michael is on a quest to reconnect with his Māori heritage and discover his own identity. Rosa is eight years old and lost in her own fantasy world, but she’s the only one who can tell something’s not right. Crisis has the power to bring this family together, but will it be too late?Review

I’m not sure whether the point of this story was to present each character, to give them a voice and opinion on a multitude of topics, in an attempt to show the reader how different we can be, even in the confines of our own family structure or just to have the opportunity to voice an opinion.

An opinion on everything you can think of, from religion, faith, abortion, abnormal cervical cell treatment, health systems in foreign countries, culture, myths, identity, mental health, veganism, mass animal farming, bullying, morality, sexuality, racism, colorism or shadeism, vegetarianism and many more. It’s a lot, it eclipses any intention of a story, especially about Michael and his mental health issues.

I would like to have seen more depth when it came to Michael, the why, the tailspin and the recovery. There are primary causes of psychotic symptoms, but psychosis can also be secondary to other disorders and diseases (Psychiatric disorders, neurological illnesses and mental health disorders), including B12 deficiency. Everyone is still circling their own orbit, which is indicative of how the family members deal with each other, and the reason they miss it when other family members need support.

Elena’s blog plays a huge role in her life and the story. It is her way of having a voice in the world and maintaining independence, whereas her husband believes it is the way the little wife escapes the real world. Among her blog-posts and reader commentary are topics such as prenatal healthcare and testing which are deemed ‘invasive testing on the off-chance I’d abort an ‘imperfect’ child’ and is part of the anti-abortion thought process of one character for instance. The same one who sees anti-stretch mark oils (petrochemicals) as bad news, so it’s advantageous that the character has included a recipe and instructions on how to make homemade lavender skin balm.

Is it a story or is it a way to tell readers your opinion in an attempt to engage in a narrative or change they way the perceive certain situations? If it’s the latter then there is no need for a fictional family.

Evie’s story is about having to deal with the diagnosis of abnormal cervical cells (CIN3) and natural regression after lifestyle changes, such as diet and eliminating smoking. I think it is fair to say that adapting a healthier lifestyle will be beneficial to anyone who chooses to do so, and in doing so a person can strengthen their immune system and reduce the risk of many diseases. There is a growing voice for the more holistic approach in this area, but here is the thing, regardless of a wake-up call and lifestyle changes not all CIN2 or CIN3 lesions will progress to cervical cancer, which means there may be some misconception about what causes the regression or if the results remain the same after a period of waiting.

I would bear that in mind before recommending that women of all ages think about waiting for treatment, refusing standard health practices, because one of them might just be one of the percentage that falls into ‘the evolves into cancer cell’ categories. Do your own research, get advice from an medical expert and get a second, third or fourth opinion before making a decision based alternative methods. Saying that, living a more healthy and yet balanced lifestyle is never a bad choice for your body in the long run.

Lastly there is the home-birthing and Elena, the cuckolded wife and avid blogger. Let me just say that I think every woman should give birth in the way that makes them feel most comfortable and is safe for both baby and mother. In the book the opinion gives off an air of borderline birth-shaming, which is probably due to personal experiences and own frame of reference. Not every woman can deal with birth with just a hot wet towel on their back. Some women experience little or no pain, others experience unimaginable pain. Each woman has a different pain threshold and has a different body with individual health issues. Also, while there might be a correlation between mode of delivery and subsequent post-partum depression there are also things like the mother’s age, number of delivery, acceptance, sex, education, maternal depression and previous medical history of depression which have to be taken into consideration.

Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth – 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. (WHO) Across the U.S., infant mortality rates for full-term babies were 50 percent to 200 percent higher than in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, the study found. Birth defects, or congenital malformations, accounted for 31 percent of U.S. infant deaths during the study. So-called perinatal complications, or medical problems babies developed shortly before or after birth, accounted for another 13 percent of fatalities. (Reuters)

Those are just a few statistics I would offer up as a reason to take all options into consideration, even giving birth at home if mother and baby are healthy. There are plenty of birthing houses that sway away from the sterile medical birth, and the majority of hospitals have birthing pools and special birthing rooms that try look and feel like a home environment.

I think Ritchie has a lot to say and so do her characters, in this case it’s to the detriment of a storyline that never quite gets to unfold, because everyone is trying to tell the reader something. If you took all the characters out of Fishing for Maui and just let the person who wants to engage with the world have a dialogue with the reader throughout the book – you would have a completely different read. A non-fictional one, but a book readers would still want to engage with, regardless of whether it is to agree or disagree with the opinions and information Ritchie brings to the table.

If a book creates a reaction in a reader then the author has done their job. Mine may be different to others, but it is a reaction nonetheless. It’s a story about family and the way we can be sat next to each other, and yet a thousand miles away from each other at the same time.

Buy Fishing for Maui at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher: Te Rā Aroha Press (4 July 2018)

Buy Fishing for Maui at Amazon com

Buy at Smashwords

#BlogTour One Small Thing by Erin Watt

It’s my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for One Small Thing by Erin Watt today. It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride filled with strong characters, right-fighters, and with a young girl at war with the world and herself at the midst of it all.

About the Author

Erin Watt is the brainchild of two bestselling authors linked together through their love of great books and an addiction to writing. They share one creative imagination. Their greatest love (after their families and pets, of course)? Coming up with fun–and sometimes crazy–ideas. Their greatest fear? Breaking up.

Follow @authorerinwatt (brainchild of authors: @JenSFred and @ElleKennedy)

Follow @HQStories and @HarlequinTEEN

Buy One Small Thing

About the book

Their secret could tear everything apart…

Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Trapped at home by her over-bearing parents Beth needs to get out. So when she sneaks out to a party and meets the boy everyone’s been talking about she’s shocked by their instant connection, and the part he played in her sister’s death.

A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings become. Beth has a choice to make – follow the rules, or risk ruining what she cares about most.

Review

Grief plays a major role in this story, and the different ways people deal with it or don’t deal with it, as is the case with Beth. Her inability to accept any kind of emotional reaction about her losing her sister becomes the active volcano in the midst of the emotional minefield surrounding her. She has to deal with her parents obsessive need to protect her and their refusal to let Rachel go, the killer and his need to be punished indefinitely for her death, and the community and friends who all have an opinion on how she should react to the tragic event.

Watt makes it easy to understand both sides of the coin, when it comes to Beth and her parents. As a parent you are terrified another child will be taken from you, so your reactions don’t seem over the top or extreme. You can justify any action or rule that will keep your kid safe, right? Simultaneously you have Beth reacting and rebelling against the restrictions, the oppression and the panic that oozes from their every pore. Normal teenage shenanigans become more dangerous and risky, when seen through the lens of the frightened and angry parent.

Everything takes on a more explosive and destructive element when Beth hooks up with a handsome mysterious young man at a party, who later turns out to be the person charged and sentenced for the death of her sister. Beth struggles to satisfy her instinctual attraction to him, whilst pretending to hate him for what he has done to her family. She finds it difficult to juggle what she knows of him with what she experiences when she spends time with Chase.

This author duo certainly knows how to tug on the heartstrings and make the reader feel the intensity of the emotional upheaval the characters go through. The sign of good YA romance is being able to communicate the confusion, passion, anger, sadness and joy of a young person, which is usually all over the place, in a way that makes the reader connect with the characters and the story.

At the same time Watt also subtly weaves important topics like abuse, peer pressure, isolation and child-parent conflicts, into this tapestry of grief and pain. It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride filled with strong characters, right-fighters, and with a young girl at war with the world and herself in the midst of it all.

Pre-order/Buy One Small Thing at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Published by HQ on 28th June 2018 Paperback £7.99 /

eBook £2.99 pub date 26th June 2018

pub date 26 June 2018 Audio 12.99


About HQ

At HQ we love writers and readers. We publish books we believe will bring pleasure and satisfaction regardless of genre or classification. Our aim is simple. To combine the classic values of readability and quality with a focus on reaching readers directly, while giving writers the support they deserve. HQ is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

#BlogTour Ask Me To Dance by Sylvia Colley

ask me to dance final.png

Today it is my turn on the BlogTour for Ask Me To Dance by Sylvia Colley. It is a heartfelt tale of healing, forgiveness and understanding. When someone deals with personal grief and anger without airing it in any way they can become an emotional ticking time-bomb.

About the Author

Sylvia Colley was born in Romsey, Hampshire. She became a teacher and spent many years as Head of English at the Purcell School in North London.

She has published a book of poetry, It’s Not What I Wanted Though, and a novel, Lights on Dark Water. Her work has been read on BBC Radio 4. She lives in Pinner, Middlesex.

About the book

Rose Gregory has suffered a devastating blow, a double bereavement from which months later she is still reeling. Sanctuary and rest are prescribed by her doctor. But when she arrives at her refuge, a dank and decaying Monastery, she finds it is not the haven promised. Despite the veneer of calm contemplation, the Monastery turns out to be a hotbed of intrigue and disharmony. Rose witnesses bullying and cruelty and ultimately in defence of the vulnerable turns to violence herself. Sylvia Colley’s extraordinary understanding of a woman’s struggle to deal with grief, the denial, the anger, the loneliness, is described without sentimentality. A beautifully written and moving story.

Review

‘I woke to a dead soul housed inside a live body’

Rose spends a lot of time trying to escape her grief and her emotions. She is distraught on the inside and yet on the outside she appears to be cold and in control. There is only so much a body can hide until it starts to react to such an incredible strain. It takes a while for the crumbling to start, and when it does she is guided towards a place where she can find some peace.

Her most poignant moment was admitting she was frightened that her faith wouldn’t move mountains at all and that she was frightened of putting God to the test, which of course equates to her doubting her faith in general. The realisation that no matter how much you pray there usually isn’t a miracle waiting around the next corner. Sometimes there is no explanation or reason.

It takes Rose a while to understand that she is not just dealing with anger, she is also dealing with guilt. What if she had been there? What if she hadn’t been ill that day? Did she make the right choices after the accident, and most importantly how could she forget the dead in favour of the living.

In a way I think Rose believes her loss is a punishment and the confirmation of the lack of love and understanding she also encountered as a child. You are not good enough to be loved, hence being punished by such an immense loss. The anger about her past has always smouldered deep inside her, but the loss of her loved ones is the striking of the match, and the events in the retreat are fuel which ignites and unleashes the fierce storm of anger within her.

Ask Me To Dance is a story about grief, faith and pain. It is about questioning each moment in our lives that somehow forms our personality and the choices we make in our lives. When something or someone destroys the imagined foundations of our existence, some of us rebuild the structure, but some people give up completely.

Colley keeps it simple and relatable. This could happen to any person at any given time. She approaches the topic of faith without being preachy, bullying without crass incidents and healing without sudden heavenly revelations. It is an endearing tale written with a lot of compassion, and yet very down-to-earth.

Buy Ask Me To Dance at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher Muswell Press

Days of Wonder by Keith Stuart

days of wonderI absolutely adored A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart and I have recommended his work quite often, because it is a great read, but also for its emotional and educational value in regards to the topic of autism and a father seeking a connection to his son.

I was genuinely interested to see of he could bring the same kind of emotional inner turmoil and tug-of-war to the table with Days of Wonder.

The answer to that is yes, but in a completely different way. The focus in Days of Wonder is on the relationship between Tom and his daughter Hannah, however the difference is the connection between them is already there. Instead the author explores the difficulty between father and daughter as she comes of age, with the added tragic factor of a future she may never be part of.

The topic of a child with heart disease is one I found easy to relate to. Being told that your child has joined the inner sanctum and group of children suffering from or affected by a terribly frightening disease, especially when it comes out of the blue, is devastating and incredibly traumatic.

Luckily for my child, who was a guinea pig for a new procedure nearly 25 years ago, the medical world had a solution and she is now a healthy young woman. For Tom and Hannah the reality is a lot more dire. They both know that their time together is limited and on a timer.

Tom decided a long time ago to make every birthday Hannah manages to celebrate an event to remember, and there is no limit to his imagination. I loved the ideas he prepared for his child, especially the fairy parade. What a wonderful memory and experience to give to your child. This is the kind of parent Tom is, but he is also a typical father who has trouble letting his beautiful caged bird fly and experience the world for herself.

Days of Wonder is an ode to the relationships between fathers and daughters. The majority of stories focus on mother and daughter bonds or dysfunctional family relationships, which makes this a refreshing change of tempo and a smorgasbord of emotions.

Stuart manages to change a tragedy into a warm, heartfelt coming-of-age story. He portrays the father as a man willing to go to any length to ensure his daughter experiences each moment to the fullest, even when she decides it is time to cut the cord between them. Kudos to the author for giving Days of Wonder the ending it deserved, and not falling prey to the scenario some readers may want to see, as opposed to the brutal reality it needed.

Keith Stuart offers up his heart, mind and part of his soul, which is part of his style and it’s what makes his books so memorable. He invites the reader to sit down at the table with his characters and become part of the family. At the end of Days of Wonder you may just see the fairies dancing in your garden at night too, and that is the magic Stuart creates.

Buy Days of Wonder at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Published by Little Brown Books Uk 7th June 2018

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

little firesHands down Izzy wins best rebel move by a teenager.

I think this book will generate a lot of opinions and conversations, and I can guarantee the opinions will differ on a lot of the core issues raised in this book. In fact this is probably a little Molotov cocktail in the guise of an innocent little book.

When is a mother a mother and when is she not? I think it is fair to say that giving birth makes you a mother in the technical sense of the word and from a biological point of view, however not every bio mother or father is a parent.

This book wades into the murky, emotional and difficult waters of adoption, surrogacy and abortion. Ng also puts motherhood and relationships between mothers and daughters under close scrutiny.

It is a book full of controversial topics, however the author approaches all of them in a subtle non-controversial manner. There is no attempt to sway the reader one way or the other, both sides of the argument are presented in each situation. When I say both sides this includes uncomfortable facts like a rich white family creating a diverse environment and not raising a child of a transracial adoption in a colour-blind environment.

Also the presumption that financial stability is better for a child than a genetic connection or how a traumatic event can spiral into anxiety can end up voicing itself as a lifetime of criticism and dislike.

Again, I have to say that aside from the controversial topics, I also really enjoyed the way Ng didn’t flavour the soup in any way. She lets the reader pick the seasoning and the way they decide to imbibe the topics. I think the result will be an interesting variety of opinions.

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#BlogTour The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the BlogTour for The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald. I admire her tenacity and audacity when it comes to the topics she has approached in this book.

About the Author

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

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

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Buy The Man in the Needlecord Jacket

About the Book

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the story of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership. Felicity is reluctant to detach from her estranged archaeologist husband and, after being banished from the family home, she sets out to test the stability of his relationship with his new love, Marianne.

When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a thought-provoking book, written from the perspectives of Sarah and Felicity. The reader is in the privileged position of knowing what’s going on for both of the women, while each of them is being kept in the dark about a very important issue.

Inspired by the work of Margaret Atwood and Fay Weldon, Linda explores the issue of mental abuse in partnerships and the grey area of an infidelity that is emotional, not physical. The book will appeal to readers interested in the psychology of relationships, as well as fans of Linda’s ‘Lydia’ series.

Review

First and foremost I have to congratulate the author on her characters, to be more specific the age range she picked for her characters. There is a tendency in all fiction to choose the handsome young man and the young nubile woman, perhaps more so the latter. MacDonald has chosen two middle-aged women, Felicity and Sarah, and their prospective partners for this particularly realistic venture into women’s fiction.

The reader follows the lives of both Felicity and Sarah as they become linked via a charming man called Coll. Sarah is Coll’s girlfriend and Felicity is his new obsession.

This story is about the way women of a certain age are perceived by society, and the way they feel about it. Their youth is a fond memory of forbidden pleasures, spontaneity and a time when middle-age was merely a blip on the future horizon.

There is a general misconception about age changing the wants, needs and desires of people. This misconception is shared and believed by younger generations. They are often horrified, sometimes amused, by the fact both women and men still want physical intimacy when they hit middle-age or pension-age. The real question is, why shouldn’t they want that?

Sarah and Coll have a relationship, which I would deem on the abusive side. Anyone who insults you, degrades you and makes you feel insecure, and invalid on a regular basis, is guilty of verbal and emotional abuse. Coll is a classic manipulator. He likes to control the narrative, especially when it comes to his own needs. His own insecurities are projected onto Sarah in a way that makes it appear as if she is to blame. Again this is a classic scenario of control. Over lengthy periods of time abuse victims begin to believe the false narrative and live up to it, which is a typical self-fulfilling prophecy setting. The victim often doesn’t identify this behaviour as abuse.

One of the elements of this story I was really interested in was the use, lack of or withdrawal of intimacy as a tool of power and manipulation. The reader can actually see how Sarah rationalizes his actions as the story unfolds.

Felicity is actually more self-aware, however she is still suffering the consequences of her mid-life crisis. Yes, women have them too. She is honest about what she needs and what her body needs. Her attempt to re-establish her old life creates discord between her children and her soon to be ex-husband. Felicity wants her old life back and yet at the same time she wants to walk upon a different path entirely.

MacDonald strips away any kind of illusion or semblance of hope that the middle stage of life gets any easier when it comes to love, relationships and life in general. It is probably just a tad more difficult, because physical appearance and health tends to decline.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a subtle reminder that women should champion other women instead of breaking them down. It is also a strong statement about the emotional destruction an abusive relationship can cause, especially when the abuse is often a non-visible one, as opposed to a visible physical one. The book also takes the bull called infidelity by the horns and treats it to a violent ride of culpability. The kind of ride you don’t want to miss.

Buy The Man in the Needlecord Jacket at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.