Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas Blogging Break and my Book of the Year - Owl Song at Dawn


Hello! Since I began blogging back in September 2016, I have reviewed 48 books, and I have loved every single one. I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single author and all of the publishers, who have kindly allowed me to read their wonderful books.

Unlike so many bloggers, I feel that I cannot do a '10 best books of the year' post, as I have only been blogging for a few months. However...one book in particular really spoke to me on a personal level. Therefore Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney is my Book of the Year.

Thank you to all the authors and fellow book bloggers who have supported my new blogging adventure. Have a wonderful Christmas. I'll be back on January 9th with an extract and giveaway for the fantastic The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

Jo

Below, you can read my review of Owl Song at Dawn that I read back in September.

 


Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with. Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe's 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness.

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

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



My review of Owl Song At Dawn

*My Book of the Year...*



As I started to type this review, a huge lump formed in my throat as I thought about all of the emotions that this book conjured up within me. It moved me on so many levels. So I will try my best to explain what this book means to me, and why I feel that everyone should read it.

Owl Song At Dawn is set in Morecambe, which is only down the road from where I live. As a northern novel there are many iconic landmarks and references that I could easily associate with, such as The Midland Hotel where I only recently had afternoon tea, Brucciani's that do wonderful coffees and ice creams, the Eric Morecambe statue and Marine Promenade. All of these made me feel as if I were visiting an old friend. It welcomed me in from the very first page... and I was hooked. 

The book centres around the main character of Maeve, who is now nearly in her eighties. The story is from Maeve 's point of view and we are told a story from her past that encroaches on her life today. The present day story takes place in Sea View Lodge, which is where Maeve runs a guest house, mainly catering for individuals with a disability and their carers. Along the way we are introduced to many colourful characters, but my heart was very much drawn to Len, who is employed as a gardener and who just happens to have Down's syndrome. 

Maeve is a force to be reckoned with. Throughout the book we learn that she is a strong woman who is intelligent, witty, speaks her mind, but who ultimately is a caring and loving woman. I love her.

It is through Maeve's flashbacks of her time living at Sea View Lodge, as a child and then young woman, that we are told about her life with her twin sister, Edie, who has a learning disability, severe physical disability and autism. We read letters from medical professionals and beautiful lyrical poems that encompass the true essence of her sister. It is the medical reports and correspondence though that very much upset me. The language that was used in the 50's to describe a young child, and then young woman, with a disability are quite frankly disturbing, disrespectful and show that they had very little understanding of how such terminology affected both the individual and carer.

Words and phrases such as suffering, sub normal and burden are commonplace. These individuals were seen as being less, as being different. The author though completely redresses the balance, in her depiction of Edie, who is a bright, loving and happy individual. It makes you as a reader question your own happiness and what is truly important in life. Indeed, what does make us happy? 

The scenes where a young Maeve and Edie are together, are what really touched me. The strong bond clearly evident between them on the page. Maeve did not see all of her sister's so called imperfections, which is what the professionals and system focussed upon, but rather Maeve saw her perfect sister, who loved to laugh, dance, sing and had beautiful curly hair. 

This book touched me deeply. I have never read a book quite like it. I was initially drawn to it because of the subject matter. The author herself has a sister with cerebral palsy and autism, and used this as inspiration for the story and for the colourful and enigmatic character of Edie. I myself have a young autistic son, and worked for many years as a nurse, and I was curious to see how the author would portray disability through her writing, as so many get it wrong. But this book tackles the subject with the upmost respect, dignity, empathy and oodles of humour. In particular the issues surrounding individuals with a learning disability and sexuality, is poignantly told, again with openness and humour. This is something that is often brushed under the carpet, a taboo, we shouldn't talk about it, but this author does, and it is so very refreshing. 

What I feel readers will gain by reading this book is that every life matters. That to have a disability does  not make you less. That those who care for an individual with a disability do not see someone who is broken or needs fixing, they just see someone who they love. This book is a raw, funny and honest read.

Most importantly, I now feel less alone. 


About Emma Claire Sweeney (taken from Amazon)
 
 
Emma Claire Sweeney is a multi-award-winning author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, who currently teaches on City University’s Novel Studio and at New York University in London.

Emma was brought up in the North West of England, the elder sibling of twins, and OWL SONG AT DAWN is inspired by her autistic sister.

With her writer friend and colleague, Emily Midorikawa, she runs the website Something Rhymed, which shines a light on the forgotten friendships of the world’s most famous female authors.

Emma writes literary features, reviews, and pieces on disability for broadsheets and magazines.

Owl Song At Dawn was published by Legend Press on July 1st 2016. It is available to buy from Amazon here.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Best Seller by Terry Tyler



About Best Seller

Three women, one dream: to become a successful author.

Eden Taylor has made it—big time. A twenty-three year old with model girl looks and a book deal with a major publisher, she's outselling the established names in her field and is fast becoming the darling of the media.

Becky Hunter has money problems. Can she earn enough from her light-hearted romance novels to counteract boyfriend Alex's extravagant spending habits, before their rocky world collapses?

Hard up factory worker Jan Chilver sees writing as an escape from her troubled, lonely life. She is offered a lifeline—but fails to read the small print...

In the competitive world of publishing, success can be merely a matter of who you know—and how ruthless you are prepared to be to get to the top.

BEST SELLER is a novella of 40k words (roughly half as long as an average length novel), a slightly dark, slightly edgy drama with a twist or three in the tale.
 
My Review of Best Seller
 
Well, wow, where do I start? I loved this book. From the very beginning to the final word, I couldn't put it down. Luckily enough it was a relatively short read at 40,000 words, although it had great depth and made me feel as if I was reading a much longer novel. This book is based upon friendship, deceit, hubris and greed. It has it all.
 
Best Seller centres around three central characters, all women, all writers. We have Becky, the librarian who is living with her boyfriend, who believes that money is for spending and not for saving. Although in his thirties, he still believes that he is living the youthful and carefree life of his twenties. Becky is a happy self-published author. She does not write for money, nor for fame, she simply lives to write, and sells a comfortable amount of books via Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon. She is happy. Or is she?
 
Then we have Eden, who I had trouble getting to grips with a the beginning of the novel. This was a young woman who wanted the limelight and who archived her dream. But does she deserve this? Is she a better writer simply because she has a book publishing deal with a top publishing house?
 
Finally we have Jan, whom I loved. Here is a woman who has natural talent, enjoys writing but has no idea how to promote herself. Here we are remanded that writing is not just about writing, it is about the whole package. How a book looks and how you can tell people about it. Without publicity, and knowing the right people, getting your book noticed is incredibly difficult.
 
All three women go through a huge transformation, some are for the better, other decidedly not so. But it was this transformation and how the characters dealt with the prospect of fame and recognition for their writing, that truly gripped me. Would we really do anything to get that much sought after book publishing deal?  Who knows? That's the reality. I can't say much more without giving the plot away. But this book cleverly explores the book publishing industry, and the fact that sometimes who you know, is just as important as what you write.
 
This book is incredibly witty yet heartbreaking at the same time. It is the perfect weekend read. And as for the ending... well, you'll just have to read it for yourself.  
 
With thanks to the author who provided a digital review copy.

You can buy Best Seller from Amazon here.
 
 

 
 
About the author
 
 
 
 
Terry Tyler's first Amazon publication, 'You Wish', won Best Women's Fiction in the eFestival of Words 2013, while short story collection 'Nine Lives', family dramas 'Last Child' and 'The House of York', and psychological drama/thriller 'The Devil You Know' have won other small online awards or been named on book bloggers' 'Best Books of the Year' posts.

Terry is fascinated by the psychology behind relationships, and this forms the background of all her books. From the 'is my husband/friend/son a serial killer?' fears of the characters in 'The Devil You Know', to the dark and complex emotional tangles of 'The House of York', to the aspirations of several writers in 'Best Seller, it's all about the characters. And the plot twists...

Terry has a blog on which she writes around many topics (social networking, writing, nostalgia, TV and film). The link: http://www.terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk/ . She also has a book review blog, on which you can find her own reading choices and those she reads as part of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team. She loves Twitter (TerryTyler4) and can also be found on Goodreads and Facebook.

Terry lives in the north east of England with her husband.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Love Connection by Camilla Isley



Above Love Connection
 
Gemma's at the airport, staring at two plane tickets to two different cities. Two different weddings. Two different futures. She's at a crossroads.

Be maid of honor at her best friend's wedding or crash her ex's?

Gemma's decision, unknown to her, hinges on a delayed flight and a chance meeting. Now her life is about to go down two parallel tracks--will Gemma fly toward a life with her first love or a future with a man she's not even met yet?

In concurrent storylines, Gemma lives out the consequences of each journey. Different stories unravel with unpredictable outcomes for Gemma and her loved ones. As the alternative realities run their course, humor and romance intertwine raising questions about fate and chance. Will these parallel universes converge? Is true love meant to be? Is everyone destined to have a soul mate? Or are one's cards just a choice away from reshuffling?


Love Connection is a romantic comedy about one woman, life's infinite possibilities, and the destiny that lies beyond two different choices. First Comes Love is a series of interconnected romantic novels. However, each book in the series can be read as a standalone novel.
 
My review of Love Connection
 
Love Connection is a romantic story with a very distinctive voice. So, at the beginning of the book we meet Gemma who is sat at the airport bar, clutching two plane tickets. One will take her to her best friend's wedding, as she is the Maid of Honour, and the second will take her to her ex's wedding. As she sits and contemplates which direction she should go in, I sat and wondered what decision she should make, not knowing which was the right one.  Should she follow her heart or give up on her dreams? So, I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to follow her on both journeys.
 
I am a hopeless romantic at heart, and I do believe in fate and serendipity. I also believe in soul males, and that we all have that special someone who has been made just for us. Therefore this was my perfect novel. It very much reminded me of Sliding Doors, with the two parallel lives, but that is really where the similarly ended. This was such a clever device to use, as I wondered throughout the entire novel what the ending would be for each Gemma in her alternative universe. I wasn't disappointed.
 
What completely amazed me in this story, is that I did not become confused with the two storylines. They are told in alternating chapters, so Maid of Honour Gemma, and then ex boyfriend Gemma. The two storylines are very easy to keep track of with this structure, and I never found myself thinking, which Gemma am I reading about now? More importantly though, the two stories were almost stand alone reads. It really did feel like I was reading two very different novels. I must also write a little bit about how much I loved Gemma. Yes, this is a romantic read, but this is not a story about a weak willed woman. She is a strong and independent woman who is also highly educated. As a lawyer, she is not afraid to speak her mind and fight for what she believes in, and I really admired this trait in her.
 
This novel is very hard to review without giving away major plot spoilers, and I don't want to do that. All I will say is that this book is hugely romantic and that if you love your romance novels and handsome leading men, then you won't be disappointed. I highly recommend Love Connection as a fun and entertaining read that will tug at your heart strings.
 

With thanks to the author who provided a digital review copy of the book.  
 
You can buy Love Connection from Amazon here
 
 
About the author
 
Camilla was born in 1984. She's an engineer who has always had a vivid imagination and a more creative approach to life. After working in a corporate job for some years, she left everything to follow her husband around the world in a new adventure. Upon finding herself with loads of free time for the first time in a long while, she decided to begin pouring some of her fantasies into words...




Saturday, 17 December 2016

*Blog Blitz* In the Wake of Death by Billy McLaughlin




About In the Wake of Death

“This book does have a fantastically unexpected twist that left me breathless!” – Emma Mitchell, The Little Book Worm.
Sometimes waking up is only the beginning…

He was left for dead on the side of the road. Now Marc Adams is awake and he can barely remember anything about his life before. All he knows is that his meddling sister has returned to his life, whilst his partner Joel is gone.

Marc is convinced that something has happened to Joel. Why won’t anybody believe him?
As he is pulled further into the pit of his subconscious, Marc begins to remember exactly what happened on the night of his accident.

Soon, he’ll be wishing he hadn’t woken up at all.

Here is my review of In the Wake of Death





In the Wake of Death is a dark, psychological thriller with a twist that will leave you breathless. The story begins with Marc suffering a terrible accident, when he is left stranded at the side of the road. He cannot remember what happened to him, or how he ended up, lying in the road, left for dead. All he does know, is that his boyfriend, Joel, is missing and that nobody believes him. Although this book is based upon a tried and tested formula, that of memory loss and a storyline that slowly lets the reader know what happened to the protagonist,  this book takes this clever plot narrative to an entirely new and different level. It really is a refreshing read.

Marc, really is an enigma for me. I wasn't sure whether to believe him or not. I knew that he had suffered a head injury, so could I really trust what he was telling me? That is the big question in this novel. Can we trust Marc? Surprisingly, I did not like him. I found him to be rude, unsympathetic and untrustworthy, but, having said all of that, I found him interesting and I needed to find out what had happened to him.

One character that I did really like, and admired, was Margo, Marc's sister. I truly empathised with her, in the fact that she wanted to do her absolute best for her brother, while dealing with an elderly and poorly mother. She has the weight of the world  on her shoulders, but has the time to take care of her brother, even though they have been estranged for many years. I liked this aspect of the book. the fact that blood is thicker than water, and that in times of crisis, families really do pull together to help each other.

The book is actually two stories that initially, appear to be unconnected. We have Marc's story and how he begins his search for his missing boyfriend, while trying to piece  together what happened on that fateful night. But we also have the story of Nathan Sykes, and how he is searching for his missing boyfriend, Dean. It soon becomes apparent, that the two stories are somehow connected. But the author is very clever, as it isn't until near the end of the novel, that the connection is made.

 In the Wake of Death, is a dark, captivating and thoroughly enjoyable read that will have you on the edge of your seat. The ending really does have an unexpected twist, and it completely shook me up. If you like novels that are dark, brooding and offer something a little different, then In the Wake of Death is just for you. I loved it, and I can't wait to read Billy's next book.

With thanks to the author for a digital review copy of the book.

To win a copy of, In the Wake of Death, enter a Rafflecopter giveaway. Good luck!
 
 
About the author
 
 
Billy McLaughlin is a Glasgow born author whose first three books are based in and around the area of Glasgow. His first novelette "Invisible" was a precursor to his first mystery novel "Lost Girl" which was released in May 2016. He then followed up with "In The Wake Of Death" which saw its release date of August 2016. Both novels have received praise for their dark and pacey tone, and for their strong relatable characters. Work on the next novel has already begun, with a view to a late 2016 / early 2017 release.

Keep your eyes peeled for future releases and news which can also be located via twitter (@bilbob20) and his Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/BillyMcLaughlinBooks/
 
 
 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Gift by Louise Jensen @Fab_fiction




About The Gift

The perfect daughter. The perfect girlfriend. The perfect murder?

Jenna is given another shot at life when she receives a donor heart from a girl called Callie. Eternally grateful to Callie and her family, Jenna gets closer to them, but she soon discovers that Callie’s perfect family is hiding some very dark secrets …

Callie’s parents are grieving, yet Jenna knows they’re only telling her half the story. Where is Callie’s sister Sophie? She’s been ‘abroad’ since her sister’s death but something about her absence doesn’t add up. And when Jenna meets Callie’s boyfriend Nathan, she makes a shocking discovery.

Jenna knows that Callie didn’t die in an accident. But how did she die? Jenna is determined to discover the truth but it could cost her everything; her loved ones, her sanity, even her life.

A compelling, gripping psychological thriller with a killer twist from the author of the Number One bestseller The Sister.

'Hells Bells! The Gift by Louise Jensen is an absolute cracker of a read it's tense, gripping and thrilling. I literally devoured this book in one sitting, I love it when you read a book and the opening chapter grabs you by the throat ...Louise Jensen has written a belter of a book that will keep even the most hardened psychological thriller lover glued to their kindle/book' The Book Review Café


My review of The Gift

I'll start off by saying that I loved this book. Very often when I hear the phrase, psychological thriller, the book very rarely lives up to this name, but The Gift most certainly does. I'll admit that I was hooked from the opining page.

The premise to this story is that Jenna and her boyfriend, Sam, become very ill with the flu, but for Jenna, the infection penetrates her myocardium and as a direct result she suffers viral myocarditis, a life threatening condition. Her only hope is to have a heart transplant. She is incredibly fortunate and receives a transplant, just when her parents, and Sam, think that time has run out. You would think that this would be the end of the story, but for Jenna, it is just the beginning. The book hinges on the issue of cellular memory (CM), a relatively controversial and new field of research, that believes the heart can hold memories and feelings. Therefore, when the heart is transplanted, those memories and emotions, are evoked in the transplant recipient. This is what happens to Jenna, as she begins to feel memories that are not her own, but are those of Callie, her donor. I found this concept extremely fascinating, and a thoroughly new and original idea on which to hinge a psychological thriller.

I read this book quickly, as I needed to find out what would happen to Jenna. I also needed to find out what had happened to Callie, the young woman who had died, and the secrets that she had buried. The plot is an intricate one, weaving details from the past, into the present day, and it is as we read that we slowly learn the events that led up to Callie's death. To say that the ending was unexpected, would be a huge understatement. I really was surprised and was frantically reading on the edge of my seat at breakneck speed.

This book also has so many wonderful characters. Jenna, of course. is hugely interesting, but more importantly is likeable. I wanted to know why she was suffering in the way that she did. I wanted her to be at peace with herself, as this is what she deserves. For me though, my favourite character by far was that of Sam, Jenna's ex boyfriend, and best friend. The archetypal boy next door. I completely emphasised with him, and felt very sorry for him. It is obvious that he loves Jenna, and that he loves her unconditionally, but she cannot bring herself to be with him, as she feels that she is a burden and will not make him happy, due to her restricted life expectancy. Her new heart, the gift, is therefore of a mixed blessing.

The Gift is a clever novel, that focuses upon the themes of love, memory, and the importance of family ties and responsibility.  Overall for me, the novel was very much about unconditional love and that we need to live for every minute.

The Gift is published by Bookouture on December 16th. With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an Advanced Reader Copy


About the author

Louise Jensen is a USA Today Bestselling Author, and lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, children, madcap spaniel and a rather naughty cat.

The Sister is Louise's debut novel and it reached No.1 on the Amazon Kindle chart in both the UK and Canada and No.1 on iBooks. Louise's second book, The Gift, will be published on 16th December 2016.

Louise loves to hear from readers and writers and can be found at www.louisejensen.co.ukwww.louisejensen.co.uk, where she regularly blogs flash fiction.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Dr. Barry M. Prizant





About Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism

Essential reading for any parent, teacher, therapist, or caregiver of a person with autism: a groundbreaking book on autism, by one of the world's leading experts, who portrays autism not as a tragic disability, but as a unique way of being human. Autism is usually portrayed as a checklist of deficits, including difficulties interacting socially, problems in communicating, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. This perspective leads to therapies focused on ridding individuals of "autistic" symptoms. Now Dr. Barry M. Prizant, an internationally renowned autism expert, offers a new and compelling paradigm: the most successful approaches to autism don't aim at fixing a person by eliminating symptoms, but rather seeking to understand the individual's experience and what underlies the behavior. In "Uniquely Human," Dr. Prizant suggests a major shift in understanding autism: Instead of classifying "autistic" behaviors as signs of pathology, he sees them as part of a range of strategies to cope with a world that feels chaotic and overwhelming. Rather than curb these behaviors, it's better to enhance abilities, build on strengths, and offer supports that will naturally lead to more desirable behavior and a better quality of life. In fact, argues Dr. Prizant, attempts to eliminate "autistic" behaviors may actually interfere with important developmental processes. While it never discounts the difficulties of living with autism, "Uniquely Human" offers inspiring stories, and practical advice drawn from Dr. Prizant's four-decade career working in universities, schools, hospitals, and in private practice. It conveys a deep respect for people with autism and the qualities that make them special. Filled with humanity and wisdom, "Uniquely Human" offers a compassionate and insightful perspective that parents, professionals, and family members will find uplifting and hopeful.

My Review of Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism
 
 


I have read a lot of books on the subject of autism, some good... some not so good. My youngest son, who is eight-years-old, has Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and I like to read a mixture of both parenting and professional books on the subject matter. This is not to seek a cure, or to change my son, but to help me gain insight into his world. Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism is a book based upon the experiences and professional knowledge of Dr. Barry M. Prizant, an internationally renowned expert on autism, who has worked in the field for over 40 years.

This book is refreshing, uplifting, empathetic and, I loved it.

At last, I have found a book that has a humanistic approach to autism. Just as Steve Silberman's book Neurotribes was hugely informative and focused upon the strengths of autistic people, rather than trying to find a cure, this book is equally as powerful and uplifting. I will just make it clear though, that the author does not shy away from the daily challenges that parents face in raising a child with autism. But the focus is very much upon that of empowering the child by understanding their behaviours, not by seeking a cure. This book contains many examples of case studies from Dr. Prizant's career. Some are funny, some are heart-breaking, and while reading them I found myself thinking: my son acts that way; maybe that is why he acts in that manner. There were so many lightbulb moments in this book, that it made me question how I do certain things and that perhaps I should try to do them differently. That's the thing with raising an autistic child. You are forever learning, trying new strategies, gaining new ideas... and this book has many ideas and insights that are extremely helpful.
 
This book helps to explain how behaviours are seen as a way of reacting to the world, they are a way of coping, that can be seen as antisocial and unacceptable, especially when the child is in full meltdown. Oh, I have had those strafes that scream; I am an unfit mother raising a naughty child. In fact, I have been told this by an unsympathetic stranger when my son was much younger while having a full-blown meltdown on the bus. The message within this book,  is that we have to try and understand why the child is acting in this way, and that by understanding, we can help them. What are the reasons behind their behaviour?  I have read so many books that strive to find a cure for autism and I want to cry. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder, there is no cure, and I don't want to find a cure. I just want to better help my child, What I need as a parent is help, to enable my child to cope with daily stressors, sensory issues and ideas or strategies that can help him.
 
What Dr. Prizant does, is  to succinctly highlight the daily issues that families face, while offering helpful, practical advice and insight into behaviour. I particularly liked that he introduced the importance and the impact of sensory difficulties. Very often this topic is not discussed, although this greatly impacts upon the individual and how they cope with the world around them. My son has Sensory Modulation Dysfunction, and thankfully has strategies at both home and school, along with a sensory diet, that can help him. Many families do not have this support, nor understand that sensory issues exist, so this part of the book I found both insightful and vital for parents, professionals and caregivers.

We are in a good place at the moment. My son attends a specualsit school for children with autism. He was diagnosed early at the age of 3.5 years, and I had a lot of support during those early preschool years. As a family, we were extremely fortunate, therefore I approached this book from a very different viewpoint, than say that of a family who are receiving no support and who are struggling for a diagnosis. Therefore, I can only give my opinion based upon my own circumstances. But I do feel that this book is hugely powerful, in giving parents information and a voice to speak up. That it is ok to voice your concerns and to ask for help.
 
Everyone should read this book to gain a better understanding of autism. It is easy to read, insightful and gives power to the child and the family unit. It is a wonderful book.
 
With thanks to Souvenir Press who provided a hardback copy of the book.

 
Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism  is published by Souvenir Press and can be found on Amazon here.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

*BLOG TOUR* Review - Don't Mean a Thing by Renee Conoulty

 

 
 
Today I am very excited to be part of the blog tour for Renee Conoulty's debut novel, with my review of  
Don't Mean a Thing.
 
 
About Don't Mean a Thing
 
 
What if you finally took the lead, but life refused to follow?

Thirty-year-old introvert, Macie Harman, has finally found a career she is passionate about, and after months of training, she’s begun her new job in the Royal Australian Air Force. Leaving behind her family, friends, and the life she knew, Macie has travelled to the other side of the country where the only person she knows is Rachael, the extroverted girl she went through basic training with. Everywhere Macie goes, Rachael is there too.

While looking for a way to widen her circle of friends in her new town, Macie discovers a local swing dancing class. The jazz music captures her heart, and Matt, the sexy swing dancer, sweeps her off her feet. Matt has claimed the tropical Northern Territory as home and has no plans to leave. He loves his teaching career with its predictable routine and has a great bunch of friends. All he wants now is the right girl to make his house a home.

Military life is tougher than Macie expected, and not everyone can deal with the inevitable separations and last minute changes. Is this exciting but unpredictable life something Macie wants to fight for, or could she give it up and put down roots with Matt?

 



My Review of Don't Mean a Thing
 
Don't Mean a Thing is a light, romantic, and at times, very funny novel. The emphasis is very much placed upon romaine and love,  rather than that of sex, and I liked this approach. Sometimes you just need a gentle, romantic read to slowly soothe all of your troubles away, and this novel does just that. It's perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon, curled up with a cup of coffee.
 
I really enjoyed this debut novel. I liked the fact that the central character, Macie, was a woman working in the RAAF. The evocative descriptions of the  airfield base, really helped to set the scene. I also know very little abut the military life and have never been to Australia, so the descriptions of the area and way of life there, I found to be hugely interesting.
 
The real action of this story takes place on the dance floor, when Macie joins a  local swing dance class and falls into the arms of the rather lovely Matt. The scenes when she is dancing with him are just magical. They reminded me very much of the classic old time musicals featuring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, as the scenes between these two simmered with romantic energy. The novel works so well because we believe that they should be together, both on and off the dance floor.
 
I loved Macie, who is a strong and independent woman. She knows her own mind and vehemently believes that she will never be put on,  or ridiculed by another man, ever again. Her previous boyfriend made her feel worthless, and she now realiss that she no longer needs a man in her life. However, all of that changes when she meets Matt. He is handsome (of coarse, this is a romantic novel), but he is so much more than  a great dancer and a handsome face. He is a kind, caring and a true gentleman. How could she possibly resist his charms?
 
But although Macie is a very strong character, we stull see those insecurities that every woman has when comparing herself to other women, and I liked this side to her character. It made her appear more human and more importantly, likeable.
 
Don't Mean a Thing is a romantic and gentle read this will appeal to all ages. If you love romantic tales of old, where love is found on the dancefloor, then you will love this book. I most certainly did.
 
 

Don’t Mean a Thing is published by Kindred Ink Press
 
It is available to buy from
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
About Renee Conoulty
 



Renee Conoulty is an Australian Air Force wife and mother of two. Her debut chick lit novel, Don’t Mean a Thing, is now available through Kindred Ink Press.
 
When she’s not devouring books, reviewing and blogging on HeySaidRenee, or writing her own stories, Renee can be found swing dancing. Or possibly napping. She tweets about reading and reviewing @HeySaidRenee and about writing, military life and dancing @ReneeConoulty, but hasn’t created a handle for nap talk yet.
 
Sign up for Renee’s monthly newsletter for her highlights on blogging, reading, writing and life. http://eepurl.com/bPay5r

 

 


Thursday, 8 December 2016

Sweet Home by Carys Bray



About Sweet Home
 
Meet the little boy who believes in miracles.

Meet the mother who loves to bring babies home from the newborn aisle of her supermarket.

Meet the husband who carves a longed-for baby out of ice as a gift for his wife.

Meet the widow who is reminded of romance whilst standing at the kitchen sink.

In this prize-winning short story collection, Carys Bray weaves together moments of joy, heartache, sadness and unwavering love as told through seventeen very different notions of home.
 
My review of Sweet Home
 
*I listened to the Audible version of this book*
 
Sweet Home is a collection of 17 short stories that all revolve around the central theme of love. But to describe these stories in such a simplistic way does not do them justice. These stories are about the heartache that parents face, those nagging doubts that plague our every day rituals and those dark, dark secrets that none of us ever want to tell. This collection of short stories is honest, fresh and makes you stop and think about life.
 
I love listening to audio books, they keep me company while I am ironing, walking into town and when hovering up copious amounts of Cheerios. But with this book, I could not do anything else. I simply had to sit, sip my coffee and listen. I needed to absorb the words, to fully understand what the narrator was telling me. This book had my undivided attention.
 
These stories speak to the soul. We hear from a boy who is coping with the death of his sister, the woman who buys babies from the supermarket, the woman who yearns for  a baby after a miscarriage and the old woman who builds a house out of sweets and shortbread. All of these stories are very different, all with their own unique tale to tell, but all revolve around love. The love for a son, a daughter, mother, father. The central theme is that of unconditional love.
 
I loved each and every single story, but a few really stood out to me, I think because they spoke to me on some unconscious personal level. It was while I was sat in Sainsbury's café, sipping coffee before I needed to hop on the bus home, that I listened to the story about the mother of a child with Asperger's syndrome. I had to stop drinking my coffee so that I could fully immerse myself in the words. My youngest son has autism, and so from the very beginning of the story I knew that her son was autistic, before even being told. I listened to how she felt, her struggle to make
her son feel accepted and her fight for others to accept him as he was. One scene in particular, where she describes a note pinned to the classroom wall had me choking back tears. A picture of her little boy had been pinned up, while underneath it said that he had Asperger's syndrome. I understood why the mother thought this was so very cruel and rejoiced when she made the teacher in question, take it down.
 
I also felt emotional when listening to the story about the dad who was trying to bring his son back from the depths of drug addiction. His vivid descriptions of the little boy that his son used to be nearly broke my heart. Images of my two little boys flooded my mind.  Who knows how our children will end up?
 
What I don't want to convey is the feeling that these stores are somehow depressing, because they aren't. Although many deal with loss and the insecurities that all parents feel, in listening to these thoughts and feelings, you actually bond with the person who is telling the story. You realise that the thoughts and feelings that you have yourself, are actually ok, that they are human. You realise that it is ok to talk about these feelings, and this is the main point that I want to get across. This book is hugely uplifting. It restores hope. There are also many funny parts in these stories, especially in the descriptions of the children and what children get up to. I was remanded of my own childhood growing up in the north of England, and fond memories came flooding back to me.
 
Sweet Home really is a treat of a book.  I highly recommend it. It gest a whopping 5 stars from me.
 
Sweet Home is available on Audible and Amazon.
 
 
About Carys Bray
 
Carys Bray's debut collection SWEET HOME won the Scott prize and selected stories were broadcast on BBC Radio Four Extra. Her first novel A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY was serialised on BBC Radio Four's Book at Bedtime and was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards and the Desmond Elliott Prize. It won the Utah Book Award and the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award. Her second novel THE MUSEUM OF YOU was published in June 2016.

Carys has a BA in Literature from The Open University and an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from Edge Hill University. Her story 'Codas' will be published in HOW MUCH THE HEART CAN HOLD: SEVEN STORIES ABOUT LOVE in November 2016. She is working on a third novel.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Wrong Number by Carys Jones

 
About Wrong Number
 
Read with caution - you may never want to answer your phone again...
 
Will and Amanda Thorne are living the dream until, one day, their phone rings. Within 24 hours, Will is missing and Amanda’s world is shattered.

Who was on the phone? Where has Will gone?
 
Amanda is determined to find her husband and is drawn into a world of drug dealers, criminal masterminds and broken promises.
 
As the truth becomes clearer, she has to face the terrible possibility that she may never have known her husband at all...
 
My Review of Wrong Number
 
Wrong Number is the debut novel from Carys Jones, and is a fast paced psychological thriller that held my attention throughout the entire novel. The story begins when Amanda receives a phone call and what she believes is a wrong number. Although she finds the conversation strange, she puts it to the back of mind. The next day, she wakes early to find that her husband, Will, has already left for work without kissing her goodbye, something that he always does. She finds this strange, coupled with the fact that he has left no note, but it is only when she tries to contact him and there is no response. that she finally realises that he is missing. What happens next is a journey to find out what has happened to Will, and Amanda's life is put in danger.
 
When I first read the blurb for this book, I was instantly drawn to the idea that one phone call could quite literally change your entire life, that it could tip it upside down, and I wanted to see how the author would deal with this scenario. I have to say that the story that blossomed from this idea is an enjoyable and plausible one. While reading we question how well we know our husband, our wife? Do we ever truly know someone, and if something did happen to them... well, how far would we go to protect that person and make them safe?

I really did enjoy this novel and in particular the character of Amanda. While reading I wasn't sure if the author had meant for her to have Asperger's syndrome,  but her characteristics most definitely fall on the autistic spectrum. I liked this character, a lot. The way that she was fiercely independent and not intimidated by others, especially men. Will, for me, was very much an enigma, but of course that was how he should be. As a reader, we really don't get to know him or why he acts the way in which he does. The one character who truly stood out for me though, was Amanda's ex boyfriend, now a police detective, who joins her in her search for her missing husband. In a world where she doesn't know who she can trust, she knows that she can trust him, and I particularly liked their chemistry and dialogue.


Wrong Number, I found was hugely addictive and incredibly hard to put down. The only negative I have is that the ending seemed to be rushed and ended somewhat abruptly. This was soon made obvious by turning the last page, as there is going to be a second book, but I still would have preferred a slightly more rounded finish, perhaps with an epilogue. However, having said this, Wrong Number is an enjoyable read that will keep you gripped and entertained until the very end.
 
Wrong Number was published on December 1st by Aria and can be purchased from Amazon here. With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy.
 
 
About the author
 


Carys Jones loves nothing more than to write and create stories which ignite the reader's imagination. Based in Shropshire, England, Carys lives with her husband, two guinea pigs and her adored canine companion, Rollo.

When she's not writing, Carys likes to indulge her inner geek by watching science- fiction films or playing video games.

She lists John Green, Jodi Picoult and Virginia Andrews as her favorite authors and draws inspiration for her own work from anything and everything.

To Carys, there is no greater feeling than when you lose yourself in a great story and it is that feeling of ultimate escapism which she tries to bring to her books.

For more information about Carys please visit www.carys-jones.com or follow her on Twitter; @tiny_dancer85

 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Good Enough Mother by Anoushka Beazley




About The Good Enough Mother

Gatlin - a leafy affluent town; Chelsea tractors and ladies who lunch. However, all is not as it seems. Drea, a most unnatural mother, struggles to find private school fees for her step-daughter Ava after her boyfriend leaves her for another woman. Watching the yummy mummies she becomes inspired, hatching a daring and criminal plan...unleashing all hell in the quiet town of Gatlin. Can Drea survive the fallout and the wrath of the PTA? A satirical and hilarious black comedy about love, motherhood and the human condition.
 
 
My Review of The Good Enough  Mother

Oh where do I start? Other than to say that I absolutely loved this book! I can honestly say that I have never read a book quite like it. It is shocking, hilarious and heart wrenching, all at the same time. I'll do my best to try and explain why I love this book so much.
 
Firstly, this is not your average feel good book about being a mother. It is not to be used as a parenting manual or some kind of self help guide to make you feel good. This book is very different, and is very obviously different  from the first page. This is an honest, tell it like it is story, of a woman who becomes a mother, after her boyfriend leaves her, and she does her  absolute best to fulfill that role. The book is dark, with lots of black comedy, so if you do not enjoy black humour, or swearing, )there is a lot of swearing mixed into many laugh out loud moments), I laughed an awful lot, then this book is probably not for you. But having said that, this book was definitely for me. It was the much needed antidote to all of those feel good mother books, that do nothing to make you feel good about yourself, in fact they make you feel worse. This book is very much about real life issues and a real life mother, who I felt was good enough.
 
So, we have Drea, the woman who has motherhood thrust upon her. Ava is not her biological daughter, but she has helped to raise her from the age of four, when her biological mother wanted nothing to do with her. This tells you everything you need to know about Drea's character. No matter what else happens in the book, with all of the dark dealings that she gets up to, (there are a lot), she is a caring and considerate mother who loves her daughter. In fact, everything that she gets up to is because of that unconditional love, and isn't that what motherhood is all about? Unconditional love? It is only because her boyfriend leaves her, and refuses to pay Ava's extortionate private school fees, that Drea has to resort to drastic measures in order to find the money. But this is only one side of her character. She is deeply funny, and I knew from reading the book that I would want her as a friend. She would always tell the absolute truth, but also, she would always be there for me.
 
This book is very funny. I love the descriptions of the yummy mummies, oh we all know them, who rock up on the school run in their Landrovers and of road monstrosities. Those mothers with the perfectly applied make up. Drea is not one of them and nor does she strive to be one. She is a loner, a woman who smokes joints, and has whisky with her breakfast hot chocolate. But she is not shameful of this fact. Nor does she hide it. But the real reason I loved this character was because of the many layers that were revealed throughout the novel. She is who she is, partly because of a traumatic event in her childhood, which is the reason  why she always caries around in her handbag a lethal dose of paracetemol. She is ready to die. This subject I felt, was tackled with both respect, empathy and understanding. The author does not make light of this aspect of the character, but instead explains why Drea feels this way. It is not done for comedic affect or to shock,  but is simply a part of who she is. This is a subject matter that is often portrayed incorrectly and with little respect in literature, but this author gets the balance just right, and this is often difficult to achieve.
 
The Good Enough Mother, is indeed about the human condition. It is about how we live in a community, how we interact in that community and the decisions that we make in life. Life is after all, one huge journey. It is also about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, with that one question forever in the back of my mind; Am I good enough? Isn't that a question that all parents ask? This book will make you laugh and sob uncontrollably. I have no shame in admitting that. This is a stunning debut novel that will leave you with an empty and hollow feeling in the pit of your chest, long after you have read the last page.
 
It's that good.
 
The Good Enough Mother is available to buy from most bookshops and can be bought from Amazon here.
 
 
About the author


Anoushka Beazley has a film degree, an acting diploma and a masters in creative writing. She is a full time novelist, lives in North London with three little witches, a lawyer and a Maine Coon. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come (St Nicholas Bay Novella) by Jo Bartlett @J_B_Writer @AccentPress



About The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come

Surrounded by friends she has had since childhood, with a job she loves, as a special-needs teacher at the primary school in beautiful St Nicholas Bay, Kate Harris has it all … well, almost. As Christmas rolls round once again, she longs for a child of her own to share it with.

In a town where Christmas is big business all year round, it turns out Santa Claus isn’t the only one with mysterious powers. When a psychic reveals that the answer to her future will come in red and white, Kate follows this sign. It leads her to disastrous dating agencies and demoralising dead-ends until, finally, the answer seems to be revealed.

Her search for the missing piece of her family might end happily but has it made her blind to another kind of love?


My review of The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come
 
I read the first book in the St Nicholas Bay series back in September, my review of Somebody Else's Boy can be read here. This was a book that I very much loved, and so when I was offered the opportunity to read The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come, I jumped at the chance, knowing that I would love it... and I did.
 
The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come is a novella, so a quick read, perfect for this busy time of year. The story focusses upon Kate, a special needs teacher at the local primary school and her close knit bunch of friends, who have all known each other since their early school days together. Now in her early thirties, and single, Kate begins to question her role in life and her need to become a mother. I liked Kate from the moment I met her, and my heart ached for the fact that she so desperately wanted a child of her own. I won't say any more about this, as I don't want to spoil the plot, but all I will say is that you will be rooting for Kate and for her to be happy.
 
The other characters in the book are also well written and huge fun. Her friend, Meg, I particularly loved with her quick wit and blunt way of sharing her feelings. You'd want her as your own friend. For me though, my heart was well and truly with Will, Kate's oldest friend and the man she could truly rely on in life. The fact he could calm her by simply singing a song from her childhood, melted my heart.
 
The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come is a delicious bite sized chunk of a book, that is a perfect Christmas read. It makes you feel happy and that all is well with the world. I do hope that we revisit these wonderful characters and learn more about what they get up to in book 2 of the St Nicholas Bay series. I really do love this wonderful and charming world that the author has created.
 
The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come  is published by Accent Press and is available to buy from Amazon here.


About the author

 

I’ve made up stories for as long as I can remember, but never really took it any further. Concentrating on my career and family, writing went on the back burner until a catalyst called cancer gave me a major kick up the proverbial.  I decided I was going to write that novel after all.

In 2015 my debut 'Among A Thousand Stars' was published by So Vain Books, which at one point appeared in the top ten of three Kindle charts on the same day.  I also had two pocket novels published by DC Thomson in 2015, which fulfilled my childhood dream of walking into WHSmiths and buying something with my name on it. 

I write mainly contemporary women’s fiction, when I’m not knee deep in assignments in my day job as a university tutor. 'Somebody Else's Boy', the first of the four-book St Nicholas Bay series was published by Accent Press in August 2016. This series is set by the sea in Kent, where I live with my own family – so close to the edge of the Channel that we’re practically French.

My ambition is to drink tea and make stuff up on a full time basis, and, if you follow me on Twitter @J_B_Writer, I might even say something interesting one of these days… although I wouldn’t hold your breath.