Monday, 26 September 2016

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.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Secret by Kathryn Hughes

Mary has been nursing a secret.
Forty years ago, she made a choice that would change her world for ever, and alter the path of someone she holds dear.
Beth is searching for answers. She has never known the truth about her parentage, but finding out could be the lifeline her sick child so desperately needs. When Beth finds a faded newspaper cutting amongst her mother's things, she realises the key to her son's future lies in her own past. She must go back to where it all began to unlock...The Secret.

This story is about ordinary people who find themselves in an extraordinary set of circumstances and do what they think is best at the time. Later one of them discovers that she may have made the wrong choice and deeply regrets what she did.

 Beth's mother Mary has died and Beth is clearing out her house. She is hoping to find answers about who her father is as her mother was always vague about him. Beth's son is ill and she needs to find family connections to him to save his life. When she finds a letter and a cutting from a newspaper she has no idea what this could mean for her.
The other storyline is about Mary, newly married and looked forward to a life with her new husband but when he is lost in a pit disaster her life falls apart. A year later and trip to Blackpool with a mixed bunch of friends from a local pub. We hear of their lives and how they all came to be together on that day.
What happens on the trip will have a direct effect on the future and Beth and her son.

There are so many spoilers on Amazon that I beg you not to read any if you want to enjoy this book. It has a few twists and turns which some people like to spoil by complaining about them on Amazon, so keep away have been warned.
I enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. It had a lovely ending and sometimes you just need that in a book it sends you to a happy place. I loved Kathryn's last book The Letter and I loved this one equally.
Out in paperback or only 99p for kindle download. here

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart.

Meet thirtysomething dad, Alex
He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn't understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.
Meet eight-year-old Sam
Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can't solve on his own.
But when Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other . . .
Can one fragmented family put themselves back together, one piece at a time?

There is no justice in the world if this book is not made into a film.
Alex is not coping with family life. His wife Jody is so much better at handling their autistic son Sam than he is. She knows the right things to say and do to get through to Sam and Alex feels useless.
Jody decides on a trial separation as she feels Alex and her have drifted apart and hopefully some time apart will make him realize what he's missing.
Alex moves in with his friend Dan and it feels like he's reliving his youth,sleeping on a dodgy blow up bed and late night drinking sessions. Reality hits when Alex realizes that he will have to spend time with his son without Jody there to help. He has to take him to the park, cafe and on day trips and Alex just doesn't know how he'll cope.
Sam has became obsessed with a new video game Minecraft. As Alex watches him play he realises it calms him down as it sends him into a world where he is in control. Determined to be a good father Alex buys the game and countless books on Minecraft as well as autism. Is it even feasible to imagine that this game is a way to connect with his son?

As well as the relationship between Alex, Jody and Sam I liked the blokey relationship that Alex had with his friend Dan. Just when you think Dan doesn't get what's going on you find out he does. 
Alex and Sam's journey through Minecraft really brings out the best in Sam and we can see him change throughout the story. It brings across to you how much hard work it is for parents of children with Autism. The daily routine has to be strictly adhered to to make their child feel safe. Even a small timetable error can have monumental effects.

This book made me laugh and cry and I definitely can see it as a film. The ending is so joyous I wanted to shout out loud. I have never seen Minecraft played but this in no way lessened it's impact in the story. I suspect that mums or dads whose children  play the game will understand the attraction completely.
Although this is a fiction book it came about through the real life experiences of the author and his own son who has autism and how much he felt the minecraft game helped him.
A real feel good read with a child fighting to be understood right at the heart of it.

Out in hardback or kindle download. here

Thursday, 8 September 2016

No Turning Back by Tracy Buchanan

When radio presenter Anna Graves and her baby are attacked on the beach by a crazed teenager, Anna reacts instinctively to protect her daughter.
But her life falls apart when the schoolboy dies from his injuries. The police believe Anna’s story, until the autopsy results reveal something more sinister.
A frenzied media attack sends Anna into a spiral of self-doubt. Her precarious mental state is further threatened when she receives a chilling message from someone claiming to be the ‘Ophelia Killer’, responsible for a series of murders twenty years ago.
Is Anna as innocent as she claims? And is murder forgivable, if committed to save your child’s life…?

The prologue of this book will send chills through you. I actually read it and then had to put it down for a while until I felt brave enough to continue. There is a duel storyline here. In one we hear about Anna returning back to her job as a popular radio presenter just as her daughter is turning one year old. Anna is estranged from her husband but they are coping with the situation. The unforseen happens and a boy dies accidentally as a result of Anna trying to protect her baby from his knife.
The other storyline is more sinister. We hear the voices of two people talking about poisoning and killing young boys. We assume this to be the voice of the 'Ophelia Killer' and an accomplice.

My nerves were in shreds by the time I reached the end of this book. At first everyone sympathises with Anna but the tide soon turns and even her life and that of her child could be in danger.
She has the support of her grandmother who she is closest too as her mother is hard to cope with and has been very distant having never recovered from the tradedy which befell her husband.
  I thought I had guessed who the killer was twice but I was wrong. Everyone is a suspect except perhaps the one who did it.
I enjoyed this book but I have to say I found the ending slightly unrealistic but it's a fiction story so I let my imagination take over.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Summer in Tintagel by Amanda James

We all have secrets……

Ambitious journalist Rosa Fernley has been asked to fulfil her grandmother Jocelyn's dying wish. Jocelyn has also passed on a secret - in the summer of 1968, fleeing from the terror of a bullying husband, she visited the mysterious Tintagel Castle. Jocelyn wasn't seeking love, but she found it on the rugged clifftops in the shape of Jory, a local man as enigmatic and alluring as the region itself. But she was already married, and knew her husband would never let her find happiness and peace in Jory's arms.

Now as her days are nearing their end, she begs Rosa to go back to Tintagel, but is unwilling, or unable, to tell her why. Rosa is reluctant - she has a job in London, a deadline that won't wait and flights of fancy are just not in her nature. Nevertheless, she realises it might be the last thing she will do for her beloved grandmother and agrees to go.

Once in Tintagel, Rosa is challenged to confront secrets of her own, as shocking events threaten to change everything she has ever believed about herself and her family. She also meets a guide to the castle, Talan, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Jory.

Will the past remain cloaked in tragedy, sadness and the pain of unrequited love? Or can Rosa find the courage and strength to embrace the secrets of the past, and give hope to the future?

Every Amanda James book is touched by a little bit of magic and this one is no different. When Rosa's grandmother Jocelyn receives messages from a long deceased secret love she has to ask for her granddaughter's help. Rosa is very skeptical but as it is Jocelyn's dying wish Rosa leaves her London job and travels to Cornwell and Tintagel Castle where her grandmother first met Rory.
Long hidden secrets and misunderstandings, regrets and recriminations, this book has them all. There could also be a love interest for Rosa in the shape of Talon the handsome castle guide.

Do you believe in messages from beyond the grave? Is there life after death? Can our deceased loved ones ask for our help to right a wrong? I asked myself all those questions while reading this book and  I have long believed the answer is yes to those questions. Rosa has to ask them of herself too but with the help of Morganna a white witch long suppressed memories come flooding back to her.

I enjoyed this book. The characters are believable from Jocelyn on her death bed wondering if she made the right decisions in her life to Rosa who unknowingly is having her life steered in a different direction. My heart went out to the spirit or ghost of Rory and I wanted the hands of time to move
backwards and change his story.
The atmospheric descriptions of Cornwall made me determined to visit one day. It seems to be such a magical and inspirational part of the country. Amanda James brings it to life through her writing. I'm now patiently waiting for her next offering...waiting for some more magic.
Amazon for paperback or kindle 

Monday, 29 August 2016

The Secret Wife by Gill Paul

Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance – and their lives – in danger . . .
Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation makes her flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to a long-buried family secret . . .
Haunting, moving and beautifully written, The Secret Wife effortlessly crosses centuries, as past merges with present in an unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience.

 I enjoyed Gill Paul's last book,No Place For a Lady and was looking forward to this one. I have to say she didn't disappoint me.
Kitty who lives in London has been left her great grandfather's cabin in Lake Akanabee,America after a lot of searching by lawyers to find his heir. Kitty has never heard her mother speak of her great grandfather so he is a mystery to her. As she finds her husband has been cheating on her Kitty decides to book a flight and see the cabin for herself.
We then read about her great grandfather Dimitri,a Russian calvary officer in the royal army. He is injured and nursed by one of Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra's daughters Tatiana. They fall in love but the revolution takes over and shapes the rest of both of their lives.
Kitty,being a journalist tries to put together all the clues she finds of Dimitri's life story but she is not prepared for what she will discover.
I have no proper words to tell you how much I loved this book, it was so hard to put down. I have always been interested in Nicholas and Alexandra and what happened to their family ever since I saw the film of their lives when I was a young girl.
When I started reading I thought I knew what the ending would be but Gill Paul takes things to another dimension when as every good writer does she asks herself the question,"What if?" and what followed is this brilliant story and not the ending I thought it would be.
Many people do not like reading historical books but Gill Paul has the ability to mix the old with the new and make a great story.
Although this is a work of fiction all the historical facts are true and there are many I didn't know.
I was taken on such a journey with this read and I cried, of course I cried. I asked myself at the end, "Is this really fiction, maybe it could be true?"
Amazon for kindle or paperback.    If you love a good story this is the best 99p for a kindle book you will ever spend.