Friday, 21 October 2016

Finding Libby by Deanna Lynn Sletten

Poring over a dusty hatbox of photographs in her grandmother's closet, Emily Prentice is shocked to discover her father was married to his high school sweetheart before meeting her mother.
In the summer of 1968, Jack and Libbie fall in love under the spell of their small town, untouched by the chaos of the late sixties. Though Libbie's well-to-do parents disapprove of Jack's humble family and his aspiration to become a mechanic, she marries Jack a year after they graduate high school. But soon their happiness crumbles as Libbie's mental state unravels and she is drawn to alcohol and drugs. Despite his efforts to help her, Jack loses the woman he loves and is forced to move on with his life.
Now that Emily's mother has passed away, Jack is alone again, and Emily grows obsessed with the beautiful woman who had given her father such joy. Determined to find Libbie, Emily pieces together the couple's fragmented past. But is it too late for happy endings?

While helping her grandmother pack up her house Emily discovers secrets from her father's past. She finds out that he had once been married to Libbie his childhood sweetheart. Emily's mother has not long passed away and Jack and her had a long and happy marriage but Libbie  is curious about what happened to his first love, is she still alive?
What follows is a happy and heartbreaking love story,one you would have thought would never end.

Libbie was the girl from the rich, posh family and Jack was the boy who wanted to be a car mechanic from a poorer family. They fell in love in opposition from Libbie's patents. Jack did his best but Libbie had a fragile mental state and things went from bad to worse,her family intervened and Jack was left alone unable to make things better.

I shouted at this book a few times. I shouted at Libbie to pull herself together and I shouted at her parents and at Jack but to no avail. They went on and did their own thing and made me shed tears...again...and again.
My only hope was that many years later Jack's daughter would make everything better. Did she? You'll have to read the book for yourself to find out but I promise you won't be disappointed.

Forgotten Women by Freda Lightfoot.

It is 1936 and Spain is on the brink of civil war. Across Europe, young men are enlisting in the International Brigade to free their Spanish brethren from the grip of fascism, leaving sisters and lovers at home.
But not all women are content to be left behind. In Britain, Charlotte McBain and Libby Forbes, friends from opposite sides of the class divide, are determined to do what they can; in Spain, Rosita García Díaz, fiercely loyal to her family and country, cannot stand by and watch. Three brave women, inspired by patriotism, idealism, love and even revenge, dare to go into battle against tradition and oppression.
Tying them all together is Jo, Libby’s granddaughter. Five decades later she travels to Spain hoping to make sense of a troubling letter hidden among her grandmother’s possessions. What she learns will change all of their lives forever.
Deceit, heartbreak and a longstanding fear of reprisals must all be overcome if the deeds of the forgotten women are to be properly honoured.

The book begins with a heartbreaking letter from a woman sent from Ventas prison in Spain and dated 1936 and it sounds very much like the writer did not survive.
Forward to 1986 in an art gallery in Scotland where Jo is exhibiting a painting which came from her grandmother's attic as part of an exhibition commemorating the year when Scots joined the International Brigade at the start of the Spanish civil war.
She is interrupted by a very curt Spanish man who tells her that the painting is not genuine. Jo is shocked and so is her grandmother who is standing nearby. The man, Anton invites them both to meet his grandmother in Spain who he says has the original painting.
Jo goes to Spain and we hear the story of three woman who in 1936 joined in the civil war in Spain,one Spanish woman and two Scottish.

I adored this book. I wanted it to go on and on. It brought home to me how the civil war affected families and friends and how horrific it was for ordinary people. I didn't know before I read this just how many young people went from Scotland to help the cause whether it be to fight or nurse or hand out food and supplies. There is a lot more I'd like to share with you about this story, I could tell you about Charlotte from Scotland who went to Spain to escape her domineering step father, or Libby who joined the international brigade to find her young brother Nick or Rosita who was fighting for her family's survival. You will enjoy the book better if you find out all those things for yourself.
The parts of the book which were set during the war had me on the edge of my seat and scared to turn to a new page, I was so afraid of what might befall the women.
I only have one negative thing to say about this book and it's very small. I didn't like the two women speaking in Scottish tongue. I'm Scottish myself but I found those parts a bit off putting and think the story would have flowed better without it, but this is just my opinion I still loved the book and I'm sure you will too.

For kindle or paperback.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Who We Were Before by Leah Mercer

It really wasn't her fault. Of course it wasn’t. But if she’d just grasped harder, run faster, lunged quicker, she might have saved him. And Edward doesn’t really blame her, though his bitter words at the time still haunt her, and he can no more take them back than she can halt the car that killed their son.

Two years on, every day is a tragedy. Edward knows they should take healing steps together, but he’s tired of being shut out. For Zoe, it just seems easier to let grief lead the way.

A weekend in Paris might be their last hope for reconciliation, but mischance sees them separated before they’ve even left Gare du Nord. Lost and alone, Edward and Zoe must try to find their way back to each other—and find their way back to the people they were before. But is that even possible?

 It's been nearly two years since Zoe and Edward's son Milo died in a tragic accident. Zoe blames herself and Edward blames her too. They don't know how to grieve together so they lose each other and a trip to Paris gifted by Zoe's parents seems like their last chance.

Nothing goes smoothly in Paris and Zoe finds herself lost with no money and no phone and no idea what hotel they are staying at. Edward thinks Zoe has abandoned him and returned home to London so he decides to move his life forward without her.

At first I wasn't sure about reading this book as it's about the death of a child. Although the book is sad we are taken on a journey back to when Zoe and Edward first meet and learn the story of their love. This gives us hope that things will be okay for them,surely if they were so in love they can be again?

I think this book would make a lovely film. I can visualise Zoe and Edward on the streets of Paris trying to find each other.

This is a debut novel published today by Leah Mercer who also writes as Talli Roland. I usually don't understand why authors have different pen names but this time I can see the difference between this book and the Talli Roland ones. 

Leah has taken a seriously subject and handled it well. I could definitely understand why Zoe acted as she did and why Edward did the same in his own way. 

It's a love story, it's sad, it's happy and you won't want to put it down.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Falling by Julie Cohen

Can you imagine keeping a secret so devastating, you couldn’t even tell the people you love?

Honor’s secret threatens to rob her of the independence she’s guarded ferociously for eighty years.

Jo’s secret could smash apart the ‘normal’ family life she’s fought so hard to build.

Lydia’s could bring her love - or the loss of everything that matters to her.

Grandmother, mother and daughter – three women whose lives are falling apart. But one summer’s day, a single dramatic moment will force their secrets into the open.

Can they save each other from falling?

We first meet Jo as she's struggling with two toddlers and a buggy and a bus. She is coming to terms to being a single mum of three the eldest being a teenager. Jo's first husband Stephen died ten years ago and Jo has since married and had another two children. Unfortunately her husband ran off with their au pair and has set up house with her.
In the middle of the chaos that two young children bring,Jo receives a phone call from the hospital informing her that Honour her first husband Stephen's mother has injured herself in a fall and she is her next of kin.
Jo is such a lovely woman that she persuades Honor to come and stay with her until she recovers. Honor has never liked Jo and has made that perfectly clear. She is grumpy and ungrateful and determined not to like anyone.
Avil,the teenage daughter has fallen in love but it's a love she feels she can tell no one about especially the person she is in love with. Nothing can remain a secret for long and when Avril's school friends gang up against her she can't cope anymore.

This was an enjoyable read. Following those three women through an important time of each of their lives and seeing how those events changed them kept me glued to the pages.
Jo is a saint to put up with Honor and even finding the time to be nice to her ex au pair who stole her husband. I found Honor very interesting. She is dealing with a big change too, something that threatens her independence. I liked the interaction between Honor and Avril, they seemed to just get each other.
There are some very funny parts in the book but I'll leave you to find them on your own. There is also a heart stopping moment before we find a happy ending.
Worth a read!
On Amazon in paperback or kindle. Here

Monday, 26 September 2016

The Jeweller's Wife by Judith Lennox

1938. As England awaits the outbreak of war, Juliet Winterton journeys from the Mediterranean to the Essex countryside to begin her life as the beautiful young wife of a London jeweller.
But beneath her husband's intelligence and ambition, lies a cruel and ruthless man. And when dashing politician Gillis Sinclair comes to stay at Marsh Court, Juliet is drawn to his irresistible charm.
So begins a passionate affair that will have consequences far beyond anything Juliet imagines. For Gillis Sinclair is hiding a dark secret and, as the next generation of Wintertons grows up, Juliet fears that they, too, will be tainted by the past...

The book spans the years from 1938 to the sixties. Juliet, left penniless when her father dies in Egypt attempts to sell her pearls and instead marries Jeweller Henry Winterton. Juliet loves their home at Marsh Court and settles for a loveless marriage. The couple have two children,Piers and Charlotte and we are taken through their lives and those of their cousins and friends.
It took me a while to get into this book. There are a lot of characters and families far too many to mention them all but there's a page at the front of the book you can refer to if you get confused.
Horrid Henry, as I came to call him was so rude and opinionated that even his own young son couldn't please him. Divorce just wasn't something that was done in those days or I expect Juliet would have been the first in the queue so instead of divorce she has an affair with Henry's best friend Gillis.
I found I grew tired of what was going on between them all and I became interested again when the children were grown up and started having their own problems.
Henry eventually causes the biggest problem which affects his son badly. I really wanted to shout at him at that point. 
I found Juliet to be too passive and really wanted her to grow a backbone but maybe that was just a sign of those times when the husband was ruler in his home.
Worth a read if you're a Judith Lennox fan and halfway through I started to enjoy it more.

The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney

When Jess’s daughter, Anna, is reported lost in an avalanche, everything changes.
Jess’s first instinct is to protect Rose, Anna’s five-year-old daughter. But then she starts to uncover Anna’s other life - unearthing a secret that alters their whole world irrevocably . . .

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for The Day I lost you. The author Fionnula Kearney has very kindly written a piece about being a writer for me to share with you all, but first I'll tell you what I thought of the book.

My emotions have been put through the wringer reading this book. It is a very moving story of  family,of secrets and unconditional love. Jess's daughter Anna is reported missing after being caught in an avalanche while skiing . Several members of her party have already been found dead.
Jess is divorced from her husband Doug who is now re-married with a new family. He is very supportive of Jess as they wait for news of their missing daughter.
 Anna and her five year old daughter Rose lived with Jess and Rose is the only thing that is keeping Jess from crumbling. As time passes Jess discovers that Anna was not the person she thought she was. Anna had secrets and when her online blog is found those secrets begin to unravel.

Theo is Jess's best friend and work collegue. He has to adjust to life as a single father when his wife Harriot leaves him for another man.
The trust between Jess and Theo is blown apart by revelations and Jess is finding it difficult to know who to trust.
I found this to be a real page turner. It was heartbreaking following Jess through her stages of grief. As each secret was revealed Jess wondered if she really knew her daughter and with each secret her grief intensified. This is a story of betrayal and asks the question, "Is unconditional love really unconditional?"
  What would it take for you to say, "I don't forgive you"
The story had a good ending and said a lot about the strength of a loving family and what they can achieve together.
I haven't read the author's first book You,Me & Other People but after reading this one I think I have to.
Out now in paperback or kindle download here

And here it is. Written by Fionnuala Kearney. A glimpse into the life of a writer.

                                                       The Why and How.
I’m often asked what my working day actually looks like; how full time a writer’s lot is and how do I actually write a novel? I think most people realise why I do it – it is apparently one of the most popular ‘jobs’ out there; the role of an author being the one that came highest in a recent poll taken of ‘dream jobs.’
It is. It’s a dream job and one I tried to succeed in for many years before securing an agent and a three book deal with HarperCollins. The ‘how’ I got here was a seven year ‘apprenticeship’ writing and learning - before the fourth novel I wrote during that time was the one which seemed to hit the spot and ended out being my published debut ‘You, Me & Other People’.
And the how I write a novel? Well, although I’m lucky enough to have the shortest commute possible (across the landing) and my uniform varies between pyjamas and loose sweat-clothes – I still try to treat my writing day as a full day’s work. Mornings are spent on the work-in-progress novel, which can mean the early writing of the first draft or subsequent edits and revisions. I spend a couple of hours a day on emails and social media stuff and then again a few hours later in the day on the WIP again. It took just over a year to write my second novel ‘The Day I Lost You’ and by the end of that time, I could almost recite pages of the narrative!
When starting to write a new book, I usually begin with several characters I know will appear in the story and they just start gassing away in my ear! When I’ve figured out who they are, I have to try and establish why they’re there and what story they’re trying to tell. I work out a plot (the skeletal bones) and first draft is always about putting meat on them. I use a visual planner in the form of an enormous white board that hangs on my office wall to help me picture the journey. Within a few months I have the first draft of the story and to be honest – that’s only the beginning!
With my own personal creative process, I really need to write another draft before the story I want to tell; the story these characters want to lead me to, becomes as clear as it needs to be. Alas, despite my use of the word ‘plot’ here, this process actually makes me a classic ‘pantser’! I probably make my life really difficult by not having the whole thing mapped out totally in advance first – chapter by chapter - but for me, I love the freedom of writing a looser first draft. The final book is usually about revision six so it’s a constantly evolving thing.
Having had a previous career in property, I sometimes pinch myself, wonder if I really am a novelist/author/writer (title depends on the day I’m asked) now. It still seems a little surreal that I am actually doing that job that I dreamt of doing when I talked to my boyfriend back in 1980. ‘I want to write books,’ I told him. I subsequently married the man and had two children and life was such that the dream had to wait a bit but the thing is – it did come true. I think if you want something bad enough, with hard work, perseverance, the hide of a rhino and a little lucky fairy dust, you can dream it into being.
And I’m with that poll result: Easy, it’s not, but it truly is the best job in the world…

Thank you Fionnuala it really does sound like the perfect job.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but the outbreak of war takes everything from her: Teddy, the man she loves – and her hopes of a better life.
When she secures employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly’s proximity to the dazzling guests makes her yearn for a life beyond the grey drudgery she was born into. Her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to an unusual newspaper advert and finds herself thrust into the heady atmosphere of London’s glittering theatre scene and into the sphere of the celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry.
All three are searching for something, yet the aftermath of war has cast a dark shadow over them all. A brighter future is tantalisingly close – but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for The Girl From The Savoy.
I immersed myself in this story and loved every page of it.
Dolly is seeing her sweetheart Teddy off to war the same way hundreds of other girls did in the first world war. While Teddy is feeling upbeat about getting the job done and returning Dolly feels that everything will change once he's gone.

Seven years later and Dolly's life is about to change as she leaves her job as Maid of all work in a big house to working as a maid at the Savoy hotel. Dolly really longs to be a dancer on the stage and she feels that the Savoy can at least bring her in touch with the people who already have what she wants.
On a wet day Dolly bumps into Perry and he drops manuscripts that she takes back to the hotel to dry out. Here begins their friendship.

Dolly doesn't know that Perry's sister is the famous theatre star Loretta May and at the moment she bumps into him his sister is waiting for him in Claridges for their Wednesday ritual of afternoon tea. Loretta has a secret, in fact a few and one of them is she wants to make someone else a star to take her place. Could Dolly fit the bill?
 Dolly is told at the Savoy that she has to be invisible She is never to be seen at the front lobby of the hotel by any residents. This doesn't sit well with her as she wants to be noticed by everyone.

I loved the writing in this book. The descriptions of the Savoy and of the theatre, on stage and behind. I could hear the gallery girls (of which Dolly was one) shouting and clapping and rushing to get a space to watch the show.
 There is another storyline concerning Teddy and what happened in the war but I'm telling you no more than that as it would spoil your read.
Loretta May is a lovely character and I warmed to her from the start. Perry is like a lost boy who needs some guidance. Dolly is a girl with a goal and that is to be on the stage and I wanted her to get there.
This book is a real treat for anyone who misses the TV series of Mr Selfridge. Its not set in a department store but the different classes of people are the same and when I read about Loretta May I immediately thought of Lady May from the show. I cried buckets at the end.

Paperback or kindle download here

  Hazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME and A MEMORY OF VIOLETS. Her latest novel THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY hit the Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestsellers. Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and received the 2015 RNA Historical Romantic Novel of the Year award for THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME. As features writer for national Irish writing website she has interviewed Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Kate Mosse and Cheryl Strayed, among others. Hazel lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.