Monday, 26 June 2017

Her Last Breath by Tracy Buchanan

Food writer Estelle Forster has the perfect life. And with her first book on the way, it’s about to get even better.
When Estelle hears about Poppy O’Farrell’s disappearance, she assumes the girl has simply run away. But Estelle’s world crumbles when she’s sent a photo of Poppy, along with a terrifying note: I’m watching you. I know everything about you.
Estelle has no idea who’s threatening her, or how she’s connected to the missing teen, but she thinks the answers lie in the coastal town she once called home, and the past she hoped was long behind her.
Estelle knows she must do everything to find Poppy. But how far will she go to hide the truth – that her
perfect life was the perfect lie?

Estelle seems to have it all, a successful husband,her own apartment and a cookery book just about to be launched. After surviving a horribly deprived childhood she has finally made good. She lives a "pure life" which is what her pure cookbook is all about but is she kidding herself or her public?

When a teenage girl,Poppy O'Farrell disappears and Estelle is sent a Polaroid photo of her along with threatening notes she has no idea what this has to do with her. To find out she will have to re visit her past,a past she thought she had left behind forever, she will have to go back to Lillysands.

This is a real who done it story. Who is sending threats to Estelle and why? Everyone I read about seemed guilty and I changed my mind many times throughout the story. There was a twist that I didn't see coming which added to the suspense. 
There are so many spoilers on Amazon that I urge you to just read the book without reading them.
Tracy Buchanan never fails to produce a good read and I eagerly await her next one.

Her Last Breath out for kindle and paperback.

Friday, 23 June 2017

The Law of Attraction by Roxie Cooper.

Amanda Bentley has always dreamed of being a barrister…
But as a platinum blonde bombshell from the wrong side of town, with a perfect tan and sleek high heels, she doesn’t exactly look the part – or fit in with the brash public school boys and cold posh girls of Newcastle Crown Court’s robing room. Amanda’s never been one to back down from a challenge, and so when she wins a prestigious pupillage following law school, she’s determined to make the most of her chance – and make all her dreams come true.
Only three things stand in her way: Sid Ryder – the sexy, irresistible barrister who she absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, sleep with. At all. Marty Gregg – her smarmy law school nemesis, who she's in direct competition with for the top job. And her big, dark secret that could jeopardise everything she's worked so hard for.
Who said that following the laws of attraction was going to be easy…

I'm so delighted to be reviewing this book which is published today on kindle. I have been following Roxie on Twitter (@toodletinkbaby) for a long time now. Whenever there was a courtroom scene in a soap or tv drama we could always ask Roxie if it was portrayed accurately or taken with a pinch of salt. Roxie is a barrister,yes really! So there is no one more qualified to write about a young girl's experiences during her last year before qualifying for the bar. 
Roxie did say she was writing a book but I had no idea what it was about I remember wondering how she managed to find the time to write a book with such a demanding job. 
When I heard she had not only finished her book but found a publisher I was so happy for her, so look out writers there's a new kid on the block and she's good.

At first glance  you would expect this book to be Chick Lit, and I suppose it is. It's an easy read mainly because you are eager to find out what happens. 

Amanda's childhood has not been one any one of us would wish to have. As a result of this she made a decision when she was fifteen years old. She was sure she had made the right one but other people had to suffer he consequences of this decision and that prayed on her mind even years later. 

Nine years on and Amanada has to obtain a pupilage at a law firm to complete her final year in order to become a barrister. She has entered a very competitive profession where it's every man and woman for themselves.
The characters in this book are very well drawn. Marty, who wants to be the one the law firm keeps on is a smarmy vile individual who you just want to see falling flat on his face throughout the book. 
Heidi, Amanda's best friend is supportive and is the one person she can trust with the secrets of her past. Sid is, well ...swoon...he's lovely! 

As we follow Amanda through her final year we learn that bullying happens everywhere and that if you can hold your head high and stand up to them it makes them weak. 
Amanda is overwhelmed at first by her fellow workers who have been brought up in a privileged background where money talks, where it matters how well known your family is and where you come from. She cannot compete with that but she has came through too much in her life to let those people stop her from reaching her goal.

I enjoyed this book so much. I don't want to go into too much of the story as I'm sure it would spoil your enjoyment. It's always good to find new authors and I hear that Roxie is writing her second novel right now. She has also written a post for you to read. 

If anyone reading this has ever thought they would love to write a book,Roxie gives us really good advice here, it's well worth reading.
Thank you for the post Roxie.

The Law of Attraction

Losing The B-Plot…

Back in 2009 when I first started writing my debut novel, The Law of Attraction, I had absolutely no idea how to write a book.  I had a great idea for one, involving a working-class blonde bombshell becoming a barrister, but no idea about story arcs, characterisation, sub-plots or any of that.  I wrote the first three chapters of this book and didn’t do anything else on it until 2014.

In that time, I researched how to write novels.  I made some absolutely amazing author friends on Twitter who gave me advice, guidance and lots of laughs (usually involving Grease 2 gifs, but we don’t need to go there).  If it wasn’t for them, this book wouldn’t be getting published, I can tell you that right now.  It took me years, and lots of brightly coloured, intricately planned diagrams of how my book would be plotted before I started writing it again.  

Amanda Bentley, the protagonist, goes on ‘a journey’ over the course of the novel, which spans 12 months.  She’s a different person at the end of the novel to who she was at the beginning. She goes from A to B.  Yep, got all that.  Brilliant.  That’s how all novels go, right?  Well, yes…but it was all justa bit, you know…2D.  

I’d already planted a bit of a foundation for a B-story, or sub-plot, in the first draft of the novel, but not fully committed to it.  “Oh, well that’s a bit interesting,” I thought.  “But it’s maybe a bit too dark to explore further and I’m too scared to develop it.”  Even when I finished the novel and submitted to agents, I felt confident about the book, but the sub-plot issue niggled at me.  It just wasn’t quite right.  When my dream agent, Sarah Manning, requested the full manuscript after a few hours of sending the first three chapters to her, I was beside myself with excitement – even more so when she read the entire thing after two days and said she wanted to speak to me on the phone.

She LOVED the book (LOTS of OMGs).  However, she said in order to represent me, I’d need to develop the sub-plot, confirming the gut feeling I’d felt all along.  She completely ‘got’ the novel and what needed to be done with it.  Over the next six weeks I shed the fears I had about the B-story and revised the entire thing.  Thankfully, Sarah loved it and said I’d “worked magic” on it.
I learned a valuable lesson.  It’s all well and good getting a character from A to B, but if you don’t have a vehicle to get them there, it’s all a bit pointless…and that vehicle is usually the B-story/sub-plot.  A relevant B-story connects the character to the action and provides a link to their journey.  It turns a story from 2D into 3D; from black and white into full-blown technicolor.  Whether it’s a love story, backstory, something which exposes or brings out the motivation or insecurity of the main character – it makes the story real.

In my case, the sub-plot fleshed out Amanda’s character and explained her motivations and why she was the way she was.  Without that, it was just a story about a girl becoming a barrister.  Fun, yes – but you root for her as a character much more when you understand what her background is.  My agent gave me the courage to develop my sub-plot, and I’m so glad she did.   The book is much better for it.  The foundations were there, screaming to jump out and be explored.  

When I started planning my second novel, the sub-plot was one of the first things I thought about.  When I read other novels, it’s one of the first things I look out for.  I immediately start thinking ‘what will the main character get from this?’, ‘what is relevant here?’ and ‘what does the author want us to see?’.  In a novel I read recently, I actually found the sub-plot more fascinating than the main plot.  The character’s background and motivations were so interesting, I found myself more interested in that than the action in the novel.

We all have stories behind us, making us the way we are.  Characters in novels are no exception.  They are complex, real, messy and flawed.  That’s what makes them fascinating and real.  I really enjoyed creating the character of Amanda Bentley; she made me laugh, cry and cringe, for all these reasons.  In Latin, ‘Amanda’ means ‘this girl must be loved’ and by the end of the book, I’d like to think that she is.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

Hot breath on Grace's face. Claire is screaming, and Grace is on her feet. As she lifts her daughter, a wall of fire fills the window. Perhaps a quarter of a mile back, if even that. Where's Gene? Didn't he come home?
1947. Fires are racing along the coast of Maine after a summer-long drought, ravaging thousands of acres, causing unprecedented confusion and fear. 
Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her difficult and unpredictable husband Gene joins the volunteers fighting to bring the fire under control. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, the women watch in horror as their houses go up in flames, then walk into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically trying to save their children. When dawn comes, they have miraculously survived, but their lives are forever changed: homeless, penniless, and left to face an uncertain future.
As Grace awaits news of her husband's fate, she is thrust into a new world in which she must make a life on her own, beginning with absolutely nothing; she must find work, a home, a way to provide for her children. In the midst of devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms - joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain - and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens, and Grace's bravery is tested as never before.

The background to this story is true. There was a great fire in Maime in 1947, 1,100 homes were burned down.

This book held my attention the whole way through. Grace with two young children finds herself pregnant again just when her husband Gene is becoming harder to understand and live with. When the fires come  Grace Is left alone  with her children as Gene helps to fire fight. Rosie too is alone with her children and the two friends try to help each other.

This part of the story was so frightening reading about people fleeing their homes, unsure at times if it was best to stay and fight the fire or leave. My heart was in my mouth at what lengths Grace and Rosie have to go to to save themselves and their children.

Rosie's life has changed forever and just as she's picking up the threads she receives a shock which is set to change her life once more.

Oh my heart went out to Grace. I loved how she just got on with things and dealt with the hand she was given. The book had good ending but I thought that Gene's story was tied up too easily and perhaps a bit unbelievable considering what kind of man he was.

Out now for kindle and hardback and paperback. Although this is a good read and I really enjoyed it I think it's a bit pricey for kindle and paperback.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Behind The Lie by Amanda James

Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.
Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.
Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.

I love Amanda Jame's books. This one will keep you on the end of your seat hoping that good will prevail over evil. One of Holly's much long for twins has died. Her husband,a surgeon had already told her that one of them was so small that this might happen. She never saw her son,she was given a photograph of him instead. Holly feels her baby is alive,call it a mother's instinct but who will believe her?

This story definitely took me on a journey. I believed Holly completely, but how would she get from where she was to finding her son without the people close to her thinking she was going mad.

Who can Holly trust? Who is telling the truth and who is lying? 
The final 15% of this book was so fast paced I couldn't put it down. At times I thought Holly would never survive to the end and there was no chance of her finding and re-claiming her son.  Did she? You'll have to read it to find out.
Another great read from Amanda James.

Out right now for kindle

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Faring to France on a Shoe by Valerie Poore

A travellogue about a dream come true. After seven years of owning their barge, Hennie-Ha, seven years involving catastrophe and crisis, Val and her partner finally go 'faring' to France for the first time. This travelogue is about the places they visit and the people they meet along the canals on their route from the Netherlands, through Belgium and into northern France. It tells a gentle story about how they experience their life on board during the four weeks they spend cruising. Written as a journal, the reader joins them on their travels through rain and shine and reveals how day by day, Val learns to cast aside the stresses and demands of the real world and to appreciate life's simplest of pleasures to the full. 

I love it when Valerie Poore publishes a new book of her travels. What a change it makes from reading fiction. I read this book at a time when I received some bad news. I had to escape from it but every book I picked up was either sad or complicated. This one fitted the bill.

From previous books I feel as if I know Val and her partner Koos well. They make a great team.
Koos spent his childhood as the son of a bargie so he lived on a working barge. Val, although she has lived on a barge for many years now still seems to be in awe of the lifestyle and you can feel her excitement on every page.

This is a holiday ( they call it going faring) Val has always wanted to take. Koos wasn't too keen as he's probably done this route many times but Val persuaded him and he enjoyed it.
Sailing through the Netherlands, Belguim and France, the names of the towns and villages the  Hennie Ha passed through didn't mean much to me but that didn't matter. Every place was different with different challenges. I'm thinking of one day in particular when Val set off in her little folding bike to find somewhere to purchase some food. She ended up on a busy dual carriageway which was also uphill all the way. Sensibly she dumped her bike and walked although not before falling into stinging nettles. She never found a food shop!
 There was also her daily battle to have a hot shower with a special bag of water heated by solar power,but what happens when the sun doesn't shine? 

I was impressed at the way Val handled the locks they had to pass through. Some were easy and they certainly got easier the further into their journey as she learns from her mistakes but the sheer strength and courage it took to handle some of them made Val a hero of mine.

The book is peppered with Val's sense of humour. If you've read any of her other books including her fiction ones you will understand what I mean. Val's humour is accidental, she doesn't set out to be funny she just gets herself into so many scrapes that you can't help laughing. 
I enjoyed reading about their long summer nights sitting on the deck of the barge sipping wine and reading or talking,my kind of night. 
They met lots of people on their journey,some were old friends, some they have passed by and waved hello to in the past and some strangers who they still had a good chinwag with.

Val and Koos bought the Hennie Ha because of her size and their desire to sail her through the waterways to Poland. That will be a story I'm looking forward to reading too. I'm hoping they might make that journey this summer.
And why does the title say they sailed on "a shoe" ? You'll have to read the book to find out ! 

Out on Amazon for kindle or paperback. 
Kindle copy is less than the price of a fancy coffee. In fact you could buy the download and read it with a fancy coffee and still have change from a fiver! 

This is the link to Val's Amazon page where you can find links to all her books.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Before the Rains by Dinah Jeffries

1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband's death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza's only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she's determined to make a name for herself.
But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince's handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families - and society - think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what's expected, or following their hearts. . .

I always enjoy Dinah Jefferie's books. The sights and sounds of India are brought into your front room through her words. 
Eliza had witnessed the death of father when she was living in India as a child. He was killed during a protest when a bomb was thrown into a procession he was part of. Eliza and her mother returned to England but now as an adult and after the death of her husband she is offered the chance to return to India to work as a photographer taking photos of the Indian royal family. 

No one seems to really want her there as she is working for the British government and they feel she could also be spying on them. 
Eliza has no thoughts of falling in love as she likes being on her own with no one telling her what to do. 
A forbidden love in a foreign country is not the best way to ingratiate herself with her hosts but Eliza can't help how she feels.

As always there is much more to this story than just a love affair. We see the poverty of the people and the unfairness of the British ruling a country which is not their own.
I enjoyed the book  but I must admit that I did find the conclusion a bit Hollywood movie drama and doubt that it could ever happen in real life but I'm willing to be proved wrong.
Looking forward to Dinah's next book.