#BlogTour Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard.

About the Author

Joyce Maynard is the author of nine previous novels and five books of nonfiction, as well as the syndicated column, “Domestic Affairs.”

Her bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into sixteen languages. Her novels To Die For and Labor Day were both adapted for film. Maynard currently makes her home in New Haven, Connecticut. Follow @joycemaynard on Twitter, Visit joycemaynard.com

About the book

In her most ambitious novel to date, New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard returns to the themes that are the hallmarks of her most acclaimed work in a mesmerizing story of a family—from the hopeful early days of young marriage to parenthood, divorce, and the costly aftermath that ripples through all their lives Eleanor and Cam meet at a crafts fair in Vermont in the early 1970s. 

She’s an artist and writer, he makes wooden bowls. Within four years they are parents to three children, two daughters and a redheaded son who fills his pockets with rocks, plays the violin and talks to God. To Eleanor, their New Hampshire farm provides everything she always wanted—summer nights watching Cam’s softball games, snow days by the fire and the annual tradition of making paper boats and cork people to launch in the brook every spring. If Eleanor and Cam don’t make love as often as they used to, they have something that matters more. Their family.

Then comes a terrible accident, caused by Cam’s negligence. Unable to forgive him, Eleanor is consumed by bitterness, losing herself in her life as a mother, while Cam finds solace with a new young partner.

Over the decades that follow, the five members of this fractured family make surprising discoveries and decisions that occasionally bring them together, and often tear them apart. Tracing the course of their lives—through the gender transition of one child and another’s choice to completely break with her mother—Joyce Maynard captures a family forced to confront essential, painful truths of its past, and find redemption in its darkest hours.

A story of holding on and learning to let go, Count the Ways is an achingly beautiful, poignant, and deeply compassionate novel of home, parenthood, love, and forgiveness.

Review

I can imagine this story will resonate in a completely different way with readers, some will experience this as a tale of the complexities of love, relationships and family dynamics. To others it will be the autopsy of a marriage and of family life.

For me it didn’t evoke feelings of love, nostalgia or understanding, but rather very much the opposite. When a relationship has borne the fruits of many years of intimacy, friendship, love, laughter and birth, slowly disintegrates into ashes made up of resentment and disillusionment – the result can be a harrowing picture. Often that picture is lopsided and misinformed, as it is here.

By protecting her children from the truth of their father, which is the correct, therapeutic and socially acceptable thing to do, you run the risk of being at the short end of the stick. History is then written to report of the angry, scorned woman. The woman who left without reason, and the woman who abandoned the status quo. the woman who causes all discontent and problems in the children of said divorce. How utterly unforgivable, which is mirrored in the way her friends and children treat her. I was angry for her. I know women like her who have sat on the truth for decades to protect the emotions of their children, only to be treated with contempt, whilst the husband and father is lifted up on a pedestal. She has a right to own her anger.

Perhaps the clearest image to emerge is the fact that once you have suckled, pampered, taught and raised your children into adulthood and they decide to treat you with disdain for whatever imagined or real ailment they might have or problem they encounter, then perhaps you have served your obligation to them. Indeed there seems to be a 21st century wave of parental blame that encompasses everything a person may feel or do. 

I really enjoyed it. I thought Maynard had her finger on the pulse of family, especially when it is redefined involuntarily. She paints an accurate picture of the gender inequality when it comes to being a parent, in situations of divorce and in romantic or sexual relationships as one veers beyond the younger years. It’s an excellent read by an observant and skilled writer.  

Buy Count the Ways at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎William Morrow pub date 13 July 2021. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Come Back to Me by Daniela Sacerdoti

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Come Back to Me by Daniela Sacerdoti. It’s a contemporary read with elements of magical realism combined with the concept of what family is for each of us. It’s a lovely read.About the Author

Daniela Sacerdoti is a phenomenon. Over one million copies of her novels have been sold in eBook, her debut novel Watch Over me was the 8th bestselling Kindle book of all time in 2015 and she was also ranked as the 11th top-selling Kindle author. Daniela writes beautiful, haunting and bestselling fiction for adults (the Glen Avich series), young adults (the Sarah Midnight trilogy) and children. Her novels have been translated in twelve languages. Daniela was born and raised in Italy. She studied Classics, then lived in Scotland for fourteen years, where she married and taught in a primary school.

Daniela’s children’s book Really Weird Removals.Com was shortlisted for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards. She has also written for the BBC. Daniela, her husband and their two sons make their home in a tiny village in the Alps.

To discover more about Daniela and her world, visit www.danielasacerdoti.com.

Follow Daniela on Facebook, on Amazon, on Goodreads,

Buy Come Back to Me

About the book

Three separate lives. Three broken hearts.

Haunted by his wife’s death, Matt arrives on Seal Island determined to be alone and unable to escape his grief.

In the island’s hospital, a young woman named Rose lies in a coma, trapped by the memories of events leading up to her accident.

Grace, the island’s doctor, is at the heart of the community. Only she knows how much she regrets turning down the chance of love and a family years ago.

For these three people hope seems gone. But life is about to offer an unexpected new beginning…

Review

There are many types of reading experiences; the ones that leave you feeling happy, sad or angry. Now and again you get a book that reaches from the pages and takes a piece of you, even if just for a moment.

It may give you a sense of peace, a few seconds of indignation or fill you with rage. It doesn’t really matter what emotion or thoughts linger, but if they do then the author has done their job by extending a hand to invite you inside and you entering their house of words, staying for a while and leaving with some of their powerful words imprinted in your memory forever.

Sacerdoti evokes that kind of magic with her story. It is a perfect fictional exploration of grief, forgiveness, accepting life and the obstacles it throws in your way, and finding your own type of happiness.

This is the third book in the Seal Island series and the focus is on multiple characters who become connected through the island. Matthew is still riddled with guilt after the death of his wife. He welcomes the isolation of and on the island. Grace keeps herself busy to avoid thinking about her all her regrets, about the life and family she should have had. Then there is Fergus and the strained relationship with his teenage daughter, a young girl who feels abandoned and neglected by both parents.

The story of Rose runs alongside the others, but takes place in the past, as we see her navigate the complicated oppressive relationship between herself and her brother.

On the surface that may seem like a normal contemporary story about family, relationships and love, but the author makes it stand out from the crowd by adding a layer of magical realism to the story. It falls over a certain character like a soft, soothing and healing blanket.

It’s a contemporary read with elements of magical realism combined with the concept of what family is for each of us. It’s a lovely read.

Buy Come Back to Me at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Headline in eBook on 1st May and available in paperback original on 25th July. Buy at Amazon com.

#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.

Follow @LindaMac1 on Twitter #Needlecordjacket #RandomThingsTours or @LindaMacDonaldAuthor on Facebook

Follow @matadorbooks

Visit troubadorbooks.co.uk

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.

The A to Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson

A to ZIf my mother did this my sister and me, then I would conjure up her spirit to tell her what a fool she is. My sister and I would both find this process a complete waste of time, and one that would probably end with one or the other in jail. (Makes note not to buy this book for my mother)

I would however do this for my daughters if I felt they needed to reconnect and be there for each other after my death. Not that I would ever let things become so bad that I wasn’t speaking to my children on a regular basis.

Blood is thicker than water, however blood doesn’t mean you automatically have to be friends. In fact the reality is that many take a step back from family members because they are related but don’t like them.

Andrea has planned everything in fine detail. She wants Rose and Poppy to reunite and become the friends they once were. She wants them to support each other and get over the problems that keep them apart.

Poppy and Rose used to be as thick as thieves until something ripped them apart. Now they are like strangers, and Poppy doesn’t even know her nephew.

Rose is just as guilty as Poppy, as far as I am concerned. It takes two to tango and yet Rose places all the blame on Poppy. Of course it is more of a betrayal if it is your sister, but come on now blaming one person is ludicrous.

The idea itself is quite an interesting one. You don’t know what you’ve lost until it is gone forever. It is all about taking people for granted and letting relationships get to the point of no return. Both women have to learn to put the past behind them and to move forward with a clean slate. It is an emotional and honest read, possibly because it is a realistic scenario.

Buy The A to Z of Everything at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @Debbiemjohnson@HarperImpulse or @HarperCollinsUk

The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons

choirThis is a story of support and friendship, and how the smallest of lights can become a beacon of hope in the darkest of times. The members of the group are as different as can be, and yet they all have at least one thing in common.

The Choir brings them all together, and although the main reason is to save the hall, they really enjoy being a group. It’s like a home away from home.

Two women strike up the unlikeliest of friendships, even if it is more of a tenuous one at first. Both of them are struggling to cope with problems in their private lives, whilst trying hard to maintain their composure and the outside façade.

Natalie finds her supposedly perfect life in sudden disarray when her husband suddenly decides to change the parameters of their relationship. Caroline is struggling to connect with her mother, with whom she has always had a strained relationship. Dementia is a cruel companion, an illness that takes no prisoners and leaves no family member unaffected.

Lyons knows exactly how to portray the reality of relationships, which is especially evident in the ‘thought bubbles’ of the characters. You can say one thing, but think an entirely different one. The relationship between the two women is like a tug-of-war of emotional support. They are both frightened to admit that they need someone in their corner.

As always it is a story readers can relate to. Nearly everyone tries to remain strong in difficult situations. Admitting that you need a friend or support can be tantamount to a sign of weakness for some. The truth is everyone needs help now and again. Maybe everyone needs a song too.

Buy The Choir on Hope Street at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @1AnnieLyons or @HQStories visit annielyons.com or connect with Annie on Facebbook

Read The Happiness ListLife or Something Like it or Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons.

The Santiago Sisters by Victoria Fox

santiagoThe bond between sisters is supposed to be strong, so the bond between twin sisters should be unbreakable, right? The truth is that the sisterly bond can also cause the kind of powerful emotions that can make or break a relationship.

Calida and Tess are close and yet at the same time they are worlds apart. Tess is like a wild caged bird trying to break free from the restraints of her environment and her upbringing.

Calida is the exact opposite, she is happy in her environment barring the fact her mother acts as if she doesn’t exist, but at least her father thinks she can walk on water. She feels second best to the absolutely stunning Tess, whereas she is merely just pretty.

The supposed inequality between the two of them leads to a parting of ways and years of built-up resentment.

The sisters make their separate ways into the world of the rich and famous. One of them behind the scenes and the other in the spotlight. Jealousy, anger and spite drives the two of them, which keeps them from building lasting and meaningful relationships. Whether they know it or not they miss each other and their special bond.

Fox writes with the same panache, glitz and glam of Jackie Collins. She also likes to mix up family and Hollywood dramas with more than a pinch of sensual spice. Her characters are not exactly coy.

If you’re looking for a read that caters for readers that like their books heavy on the drama, with a hefty portion of the horizontal tango and interwoven with strong emotions, then this is the type of book I would recommend.

Buy The Santiago Sisters at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

charmsThe style of the story is reminiscent of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and the subsequent Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

Arthur is grieving for his wife. His story is about processing the grief and coming to terms with the woman she was with him and the woman she was before he come into her life.

Isn’t that true for all of us or at least the majority of us? There is always an element of ourselves and our lives we keep hidden from our spouses and/or life partners. The life, friends, adventures and experiences before you settle down, and sometimes even after you’ve settled down. Secret lives and the unknown facets of the person you love.

This is exactly what happens to Arthur. He finds an expensive charm bracelet in a small box hidden in a shoe in his wife’s cupboard. A trinket he has never seen before and knows nothing about.

The charms end up leading him on a lifetime of adventures. He discovers so many new things about Miriam, things he couldn’t have imagined her ever doing. Ex-lovers, trips to exotic places and even living in India for a while. It makes him doubt the life they had together and the love they had for each other.

In the end this is a story of how Arthur emerges from the darkness and the depths of his grief. How he reconnects with life and in a way with the Miriam he used to know and most importantly the Miriam he knows now.

It’s a lovely tale of sorrow, loneliness and despair, which is replaced by curiosity, happiness and a zest for life.

Buy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

dictionayI absolutely loved this book. It has been long-listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, and I have to say it not only deserves to be listed, but also to win. I admit the last few pages made me cry. Tends to be my reaction to things or works of art of great beauty. Music, art and yes, even great and beautiful fiction.

Some authors write well and others are just natural storytellers, the combination of the two can make for a spectacular read. Copleton does both really well. In fact if I didn’t know any better I would swear Amaterasu was not a fictional person at all, and wrote this story herself, that’s how realistic it is.

The title doesn’t really do the story any justice, however I do believe it emulates the subtlety of the tale. Within the subtle weaving of emotional turmoil is the fragile spider-web of family dynamics. Those elements are off-set and enhanced by the intricate details of the bombing of Nagasaki.

I also really enjoyed the passages at the beginning of each chapter. The information about Japanese traditions, phrases and etiquette gave an extra level of understanding to the story.

The main focus is on the relationship between Amaterasu and her daughter Yuko. The way Amaterasu interferes to change and determine Yuko’s path in life, how she deals with her guilt, and how her past casts a long shadow over her entire life.

Simultaneously Amaterasu has to deal with the possibility that her grandchild may not have been killed at all. When the alleged grandson turns up at her door after many decades, everything she has resigned herself to for so many years is torn apart by doubt. Her resistance to the possible truth is fascinating. as if the burden of guilt is bigger than the joy at being wrong all those years.

Irrespective of the actual ending or the truth, I think Hideo’s true identity becomes irrelevant at some point. He is merely another victim of an unnecessary tragedy and atrocity. Does it really matter whether he is Hideo or not?

As for Amaterasu, I understand the meddling and the manipulation. She is a mother and only wants what is best for her child. Unlike Yuko she has the full picture and all the information, perhaps if she had been honest Yuko may have made different choices in regards to Sato.

This story is captivating and emotionally moving. It is literary fiction at its finest. Copleton manages to capture the horror and the aftermath of Nagasaki in a way that makes the reader feel as if they are right there. The family dynamics and relationships fit snugly around the pikadon. Family and man-made atrocity go hand in hand to create a truly wonderful read.

Buy A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

sleeplessThis is the first part of Sarah Morgan’s new trilogy From Manhattan with Love featuring the friends Paige, Skylar and Frankie. If you have read the Puffin Island books you may recognise some of the characters or places mentioned in Sleepless in Manhattan.

This story is about Jake and Paige, and their love-hate-squabble relationship. Jake has been trying to avoid his attraction to Paige for years. Her brother is his best friend, so technically she is off-limits. The fact that Jake is a known lothario doesn’t help matters much. He is a different woman every type of guy, so not exactly someone you would want as a son-law or boyfriend.

At first Paige sees Jake as more of an annoyance, a friend with good intentions, but with a terrible way of delivering advice. It isn’t until they are unintentionally thrown together in an awkward situation that Paige understands just how much she is attracted to him.

The focal point is the friendships between the girls and their love lives or lack of. You can already see where the next potential book in the trilogy will be headed. The story is also about Paige and the way she and her family deal with her past medical issues. They are reluctant to let her out of the cocoon they have built around her, which makes it difficult for Paige to live her life as an adult.

Sarah Morgan knows how to create the perfect trifecta of love, sexual tension and desire. The combination readers look for in a romantic read. Her characters are always well developed and make the reader want to return to them to find out how they are doing. Her name is always on the tip of my tongue when I am asked for recommendations in this particular genre.

Buy Sleepless in Manhattan at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

You can connect with Sarah online at her website: www.sarahmorgan.com on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahMorgan or on Twitter @SarahMorgan_

Read The Christmas SistersMoonlight over Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #6),  Holiday in the Hamptons (From ManHattan with Love #5), New York Actually (From Manhattan with Love #4)Miracle on 5th Avenue (From Manhattan With Love #3)Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love #2)Christmas Ever AfterFirst Time in ForeverMaybe This Christmas, Sleighbells in the SnowSuddenly Last Summer or The Notting Hill Diaries, all by Sarah Morgan.

Follow @SarahMorgan_@HQStories and @HarperCollinsUK

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

spoolThe title couldn’t be more apt, the story certainly unravels like a spool of thread. Isn’t that the way life is and why it often appears as if just a moment has passed when in reality is actually days, months and years.

For me this story was about the inevitability of old age. Almost a rite of passage.

The reader meets Abby and Red in the here and now and also gets to follow their story from the past to the present. The story of how they met and built their life, home and family together. Central to the story is the house they live in and their children.

Abby and Red have gotten to an age where they need some assistance and care. Their children wander between falling over themselves to help and trying to avoid the obvious issues.

This causes a lot of friction between certain members of the family. Old jealousy and rivalry surfaces and creates even bigger cracks within the family.

Isn’t there a Denny in nearly every family? The sibling who lives disconnected from everyone else by choice, and yet still manages to blame the entire family for his lack of connection. I found his character quite intriguing, especially when he started to try and call out the cuckoo in the nest. His jealousy and sudden interest in asserting his authority and place in the family causes a lot of turmoil in the family.

Reading this is like standing outside, peering in through the kitchen window and watching a family from the outside. It isn’t written with any dramatic soap opera like surprises or deep dark secrets. It’s just like any old family with petty arguments, responsibilities and complicated relationships.

Buy A Spool of Blue Thread at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.