Countdown to Christmas 🎄Top blog post for December is…..Everything But The Truth @GillianMAuthor

As I’m hoping to have a little bit of a break now until after Christmas I thought I would share my top blog post for December a little bit earlier than planned! I have loved doing this countdown of my top blog posts this year and this book is also in my top 20 books of the year. I can’t wait for everyone else to be able to read it so I can hear what they think as well! So without further ado here is my review again for Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister

About this book…

It all started with the email.

It came through to her boyfriend’s iPad in the middle of the night. Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack, and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him. But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment, or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

My review…

Wow! Just….Wow! Shall I just leave it there? A review summed up in just one word? If I could I would but I need to tell you all why I have been blown away by this beautifully written debut by Gillian McAllister. She has written an intriguing and intelligent psychological suspense that has been perfectly plotted to make yourself ask “what would I have done?”

Have you ever picked up a book and had that weird feeling that it was written especially for you? That the author has somehow been stalking your social media as there is so much in their book that you can relate to your own life? Well, that was how I felt here! From mentioning my favourite drink in Starbucks, a medical story that brought back some funny (painful!) memories and a “game” that I often play with my family and friends, Everything But the Truth felt personally tailored to our current obsession with social media and its involvement in our everyday lives. At one point Jack says “It was of its time” and that pretty much sums up the whole rounded experience of reading this book. There was just so much fascinating information regarding current issues in it that I often stopped to Google things so I could investigate further!

I loved the authors writing style and settled into her unique storytelling “voice” almost immediately as I was drawn into the lives of Rachel and Jack. One of the things I especially liked was the use of shorter sentences structures which quickly evoked a feeling of time and place. I thought all the characters were well rounded but not over exposed and I could actually feel the authors affection for some of them radiating out from the page, mainly for Rachel’s Dad whom I definitely had a soft spot for! I did get incredibly frustrated by Rachel at times though as the author teased us with snippets throughout before revealing the full facts behind Jacks mysterious past and the email that sparked off Rachel’s quest for the truth at any cost. But I also felt a strong motherly connection to her as well where I wanted her to have the “happy ever after” that she so desperately desired.

Gillian McAllister is a real find for me and I predict HUGE success for her in 2017. Everything But the Truth is a strikingly brilliant debut with a moral dilemma that has stayed with me since I finished the perfectly executed last few pages. Put it on your 2017 wishlist right now. It’s OUTSTANDING!
Everything but the Truth will be published by Penguin UK Michael Joseph on March 9th 2017 and it available to pre-order now at Amazon UK

Meet the Author…

Gillian McAllister lives in Birmingham with her boyfriend and her cat. She enjoys reading books in bed while it rains outside and that moment where you think ‘what if…’ and a novel idea is born.

Countdown to Christmas 🎄 Top blog post for November 2016 is….A Suitable Lie!

So we are nearly caught up with all the top blog posts of the year. Just December to go now which I will share next week! In November I had a huge response to this review so I’m really happy to share it again today.

A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone #BookReview @OrendaBooks

About this book…

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match… And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. A brave, deeply moving psychological thriller which marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s top crime writers.

My review…

So, after being told by so many readers and reviewers that this was their top book of 2016 and that I HAD to read it, I finally gave in. But I was worried that this book and its author now had an awful lot to live up to. So did it? Absolutely 100% yes!!

Domestic violence is always going to be a tricky subject to write about, there is typically going to be half of a partnership that you are going to detest for their abusive nature. So to be able to evoke feelings of sympathy for both parties is a pretty impressive feat. But that’s exactly what the author has managed to do here. When we meet Andy he is about to have a rare night out with his brother Jim. Andy has been a widow since his wife died giving birth to their son but that night he meets Anna, a beautiful young woman who is about to bring love and joy back to his life. But on their wedding night, Andy sees a side to Anna that shocks him. Now, Andy is a big, burly Scotsman and Anna a petite 7 stone so it’s understandable that Andy feels embarrassed and unable to admit to his family what is really behind his cuts and bruises. And all the signs that scream “domestic abuse” for a woman (withdrawing from their family, lying about injuries, making excuses for their partner) well, they aren’t so easy to spot when it’s a male victim. Society still seems to see it as a bit of a joke unfortunately, long after those sketch shows of the 1970s, with their scenes featuring the woman of the house chasing her husband with a rolling pin, were consigned to the depths of social history.

For me the highlight of this book was how much I loved the character of Andy. Right from the start I found myself thinking “he is going to make one lucky girl very happy!” He was close to his family and was a nice young man, one who was brought up to respect women and his peers. So it was no surprise that he reacted as he did when Anna started to show her true colours. No matter how close you are to you family, there is still a sense of shame hanging over you if you have to admit what is happening to the people who love you the most.

This is a hard hitting book, one that is difficult to read at times but utterly compelling. From start to finish I found it hard to tear myself away from the horror of what was happening. I wanted to close my eyes to chase away the images being conjured up by the wonderfully descriptive prose but with so many emotions running around my head there was no escape. I experienced fear for Andy and his family, loathing for Anna but also a huge sympathy for them all-how different their lives could have been. My heart just ached for them all in a situation where there were never going to be any winners, just survivors.

A Suitable Lie is a book that will stay with its reader for a long time after finishing it. Be prepared to run through a full range of emotions, and see which one stays with you at the end. Mine was sadness that I had finished reading such a powerful book but tinged with hope that it may have, somewhere or somehow, changed one person’s life.

Highly recommended by me and many thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy of A Suitable Lie.

A Suitable Lie was published by Orenda books on 15th September 2016 and is available to buy here.

About the Author…

 

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers.Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; and Beyond the Rage. His poetry includes: In The Raw, Running Threads and Lip Synch. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Countdown to Christmas Top Blog post from September @fionnualatweets

We are getting closer to Christmas now with my top blog post for September 2016 and its another of my top reads of the year The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney!

 

The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney

About this book…

THE DAY I LOST YOU WAS THE DAY I DISCOVERED I NEVER REALLY KNEW YOU

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 . . .

THE DAY I LOST YOU WAS THE DAY YOU TORE OUR FAMILY APART

My review…

This was my status update that I wrote on Good read as soon as I finished The Day I Lost You. I’ve kept it in as Kaisha Holloway at The Writing Garner thought it summed up a lot of how I felt.

“Ok so review will follow tomorrow for this one as I need some time to gather my thoughts so that I can do it justice (which I know already I won’t be able to!!) And also because I’ve sobbed so much my eyes are sore and I’ve had to remove my glasses and I can’t read a thing without them…..till tomorrow!!”

So that was how I felt the moment I put down The Day I Lost You which is DEFINITELY in my top 10 books of 2016. It is utterly heartbreaking and totally compelling and I couldn’t bear to put it down until I had devoured every single word written. In fact even when I had finished it I couldn’t part with it-it is still sitting beside me awaiting the bookcase. I loved this book so much I want to shrink it and wear it in a locket around my neck! Yes, I know I sound emotional but right from the very first few pages this book touched me very deeply. The author has such a way with words that it’s like she’s is slowly hypnotising you with her story, she’s such a natural storyteller. The images she created for me were so vivid, the themes of loss, grief, family and friendship running through it were totally on point and she handled the tragic circumstances perfectly. I am pretty much unable to convey in words the emotions that ran through me as I read.

I think it helped (or hindered!!) me that I felt a very strong connection to Jess. Her reactions to situations were very similar to the way I react to things so her journey made perfect sense to me. Her way of seeing the world in black and white with no shades in between meant that her actions were very much inevitable from the start. And I also loved her reaction to ginger, as it is something that I have in common with her and made me smile, a lighter moment to relieve some of the building tension.

I cried intermittently throughout and sobbed for the last few pages. No apologies, no excuses about menopausal emotions from a grandmother-I embraced the feelings that it gave me. This book surprised me constantly throughout, it didn’t follow the path I was expecting and I loved it even more for that.

Highly recommended by me but please have tissues ready! You have been warned!

Thanks to Book Connectors and the author for organising my paperback review copy.

The Day I Lost You: A heartfelt, emotion-packed, twist-filled read is available in e-book now from Amazon UK and is released in paperback on 22nd September 2016

About the author…

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Fionnuala Kearney lives in Ascot with her husband. They have two grown-up daughters (both with deliberately simple monosyllabic names). One of seven children, Fionnuala likes to write about the nuances and subtle layers of human relationships, peeling them away to see what’s really going on beneath. This her second novel, her first was the Top Ten Irish Times bestselling You, Me and Other People.

Countdown to Christmas Top Blog post for July 2016

July was a very exciting month for me. Not only did I go to Harrogate for the first time to attend the Theakstons Crime Festival, I was asked to read and review a book by one of my very favourite authors Amanda Prowse! And that review was my most viewed for the month of July so here it is.

About this book…

Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings.

She goes to sit on her favourite bench on the north Devon cliffs, and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy.

But then her husband unexpectedly leaves her for another woman and takes the children. Now she must ask the question: what is left in her life? Can Rosie find the strength to rebuild herself? More importantly, does she even want to?

My review…

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, does domestic drama like Amanda Prowse and with My Husband’s Wife she has given us an emotional but life affirming journey into the aftermath of a collapsed marriage.

Rosie could be anyone that you know-your sister, your friend or your neighbour. She is married, she’s a mum, she’s happy. Yes things can be difficult but that’s just life isn’t it? She knows that sometimes couples are too tired for sex and we all have money problems sometimes, don’t we? But Rosie’s world and all her quiet contentment is about to come crashing down on her when her husband reveals he is leaving her for another woman. And I just want to say that I loved the way that Rosie handled this because it was real!! She cried, she begged, she promised she would change (she didn’t need to we all know that!!!) She did what any one of us would do, she went to pieces and then all those little pieces collapsed around her when one by one she starts to lose everything and everyone else that she hold dear as well….but surely not her girls?!

I just hoovered up every single word of this wonderfully tense and heartbreaking journey for Rosie. I just wanted to be there for her, to be that mother that she didn’t have and never even knew. In fact, I spent most of this book in a high state of indignant rage, how dare they all treat Rosie like that! I felt utterly helpless!

Every character is well drawn here and the whole scenario well written and thought through. Amanda Prowse really does understand what real people do and feel. Her insights into family life are just so on point that I actually felt as if I was reading about a real family. There are just little phrases and sayings dotted about in there that are brilliantly descriptive in their very normality, like trying to cheer someone up at Christmas by letting them have first pick in the Quality Street tin! And everyone laughs when my girls and I describe people’s hair as “bouffy” so I’m glad to see I’m not alone in using that description!

I have always loved Amanda’s books but this one really did speak to me more than others, probably as I AM Rosie, or the Rosie at the start of the book at least. And I think most women will find something here that plays a personal chord within them too. Hopefully, like me, they will also find My Husband’s Wife a thought-provoking, insightful look into modern day extended family relationships brilliantly written and ultimately uplifting. I physically couldn’t put it down!

Many thanks to Simeon Prowse for providing an advanced review copy of My Husband’s Wife in return for an unbiased review.

My Husband’s Wife (No Greater Courage) is published on 14th July 2016 and is available to buy at Amazon UK

About Amanda Prowse…

61FHH7kmR+L._SY100_Amanda has always obsessively crafted short stories and scribbled notes for potential books. Six years ago, she quit her job as a management consultant and began writing full time. Her first book, Poppy Day is a contemporary novel following an army wife whose incredible love for her husband gives her the courage to set out to rescue him after he was taken hostage in Afghanistan. Originally self-published in October 2011, Poppy Day quickly became a bestseller and Amanda joined the prestigious Head of Zeus publishing house.

The second in the No Greater Love series, ‘What Have I Done?’ was an eBook sensation where women worldwide identified with the theme of domestic abuse in middle class households and it was subsequently voted a ‘Best Book of 2013’ by Amazon Kindle. Amanda followed this by joining the team of the ITV This Morning show as their resident author in 2013.All of Amanda’s books in the No Greater Love series share one common theme – the main characters are ordinary women who find themselves in extraordinary situations where their strength, resourcefulness and determination is tested to their very limits.Amanda’s ambition is to create stories that keep people from turning the bedside lamp off at night, great characters that ensure you take every step with them and tales that fill your head so you can’t possibly read another book until the memory fades…

Follow Amanda on Twitter @MrsAmandaProwse, or become friends with Amanda on Facebook. For more information on Amanda’s books seehttp://www.amandaprowse.com

Countdown to Christmas Top Blog post for June 2016

So back in June I reviewed a book that went on to be a bit of a Marmite book for lots of reviewers. But The Couple Next Door proved to be one of my most viewed blog pages this year and I absolutely blooming loved it!

About this book…

You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

My review…

Just…wow!!! I have just finished this debut novel and its one of the twistiest twisty plots I have read for a very long time! After taking a little time to get used to the way it was written, I physically couldn’t put this book down. The premise of a stolen child isn’t a new one but this book brought a fresh approach to what can be an overused storyline these days. There were several gasp out loud moment and I feel like I have been through the washing machine and then the drier and I am still spinning!

There has been a lot of hype around about this book and I also think it is one of those books you will either love or hate mainly due to most of the characters being the most awful, unsympathetic narcissists you are ever likely to come across and that’s really unusual in a missing child story where you are normally totally empathetic with the family left behind! But in a market full of “missing child” books this will certainly be remembered by me and that takes something pretty special. So love it or hate it, it’s one you won’t forget in a hurry!

I received a copy of this book via netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

Publication date 16th July 2016

The Couple Next Door is available to buy at Amazon UK

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. TheCouple Next Door is her debut thriller.

It’s Friday! Countdown to Christmas (Top blog post for May 2016)

Today it’s the turn of my top blog post for May and I’m absolutely delighted to be able to share one of my top books of 2016 with you all again! It’s The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish. Just adored this book so I’m very happy to revisit my review for anyone who missed it first time around.

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About this book…

‘I can’t take my eyes off the water. Can you?’
It’s summer when Elm Hill lido opens, having stood empty for years. For Natalie Steele – wife, mother, teacher – it offers freedom from the tightly controlled routines of work and family. Especially when it leads her to Lara Channing, a charismatic former actress with a lavish bohemian lifestyle, who seems all too happy to invite Natalie into her elite circle.
Soon Natalie is spending long days at the pool, socializing with new friends and basking in a popularity she didn’t know she’d been missing. Real life, and the person she used to be, begins to feel very far away.
But is such a change in fortunes too good to be true? Why are dark memories of a summer long ago now threatening to surface? And, without realizing, could Natalie have been swept dangerously out of her depth?

My review…

I had never read any Louise Candlish books until last year when I picked up the wonderful The Sudden Departure of the Fraser’s after a recommendation. Now though, after reading The Swimming Pool I can confidently add her to the list of authors that I trust impeccably. Enough so that I will pre order her next book without even reading the blurb! I loved this book! It had to be a 5* review, not only was it a fabulous read for me but it also contained possibly my favourite line in any book I have read so far this year! I’m still chucking to myself about it now!

Based in a leafy London suburb, The Swimming Pool has at its centre the opening of a new lido at the start of the school summer holidays. Ed and Natalie, both teachers, live close by with their daughter Molly, who unfortunately suffers from aquaphobia. Soon after the opening of the lido Natalie meets the enigmatic Lara, ex actress, model and competitive swimmer, and quickly falls under her spell. The charismatic Lara introduces Nat into her inner circle of rich and glamourous friends. But is the long hot summer of parties and lazing about drinking champagne by the Lido about to end in a massive storm when tensions and dark secrets eventually come together?
This book was so wonderfully layered from the start that I enjoyed every minute of it. The build up commences right from the prologue where you cringe as the author describes a fear that so many of us have, happening to an unnamed character. You realise that something terrible is going to happen right from reading chapter one but not exactly what. But the thing is, with a Louise Candlish book that it isn’t totally about the “big secret” it’s actually the journey up to it that’s as enjoyable if not more so! She builds up the layers of the plot slowly and carefully, wracking up the tension and making you want to devour and savour every single word. I adore a domestic noir with dark tormented characters like Natalie, who is hiding her secrets from the past but still having to live with them everyday.
Told in three time frames, this novel twists them all together like making a big stick of rock until all the pieces come together in a climax crackling with tension and you then are left with that strange calm following a storm. I would certainly recommend reading this on your summer holidays this year. I can imagine it would feel even more atmospheric stretched out by a swimming pool, cocktail in hand but failing that out in the garden, grabbing that British summertime as and when it appears!!
Highly recommended from me and if you want to know what my favourite line was….then you will just have to read the book! I will only say that whenever I look at a cockapoo in the future, I will always remember Lara’s description of Inky! So for that alone, a huge thank you to Louise Candlish! I’ve added a pic of my own little “Inky” just for fun!

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The Swimming Pool was published by Penguin on 5th May 2016 and is available now at Amazon UK

It’s Friday! Countdown to Christmas (Top Blog Post for April!)

I am counting down the weeks to Christmas by sharing my top blog posts for the year. Today I’m sharing my most viewed blog post for April. 

Top Blog Post for April is…

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The Disappearance by Annabel Kantaria

About this book..

In a family built on lies, who can you trust?

Audrey Bailey will never forget the moment she met Ralph Templeton in the sweltering heat of a Bombay café. Her lonely life over, she was soon married with two small children. But things in the Templeton household were never quite what they seemed.

Now approaching 70, and increasingly a burden on the children she’s never felt close to, Audrey plans a once-in-a-lifetime cruise around the Greek isles. Forcing twins Lexi and John along for the ride, the Templetons set sail as a party of three – but only two will return.

On the night of her birthday, Audrey goes missing…hours after she breaks the news that the twins stand to inherit a fortune after her death. As the search of the ship widens, so does the list of suspects – and with dark clues emerging about Audrey’s early life, the twins begin to question if they can even trust one another…

My review..

Well well well…..this has been an unexpected pleasure! A “couldn’t put it down” book! Having picked it up earlier to read a few chapters I can honestly say that apart from a few necessity breaks, I did not let go of this beautifully written story of family secrets and betrayals set in 1970s India and present day Cornwall, oh and with a few Greek Islands thrown in for good measure!

The opening of this book is quite a shocker as we are told that the captain of a cruise ship is abandoning the search for a passenger who has been lost overboard. That passenger is Audrey Templeton who was on a cruise of the Greek Islands with her adult twin children to celebrate her 70th birthday. We then go back in time to 1970 to meet Audrey who, having lost both of her parents within a short space of time, is on board a boat bound for India where her parents were married and her friend Janet now lives. Once there she meets a dark and mysterious man, a gorgeous stranger, in a coffee bar and within 6 months they are married. Their new life together in India is changed forever by an horrific incident and they return to London.

This is the authors 2nd book and she has certainly upped her game this time! I loved Audrey, I really felt an emotional connection to this young woman living in a foreign country with a controlling husband and twins that she struggled to make a connection with. You could see how their upbringing had made the twins the adults they became by the authors skilfully plotted insights and with Peter, their detached but controlling father, very much a figure in the background but pulling all the strings. I loved the relationship Audrey had with Lexi but her connection with John was much more interesting in terms of seeing how family secrets affect those we love. And again it makes us think about the old “nurture versus nature” argument, surely twins will have the same morals if they have been brought up together exactly the same? I do so love a dysfunctional family drama and involving twins (an intriguing subject for me that I am always drawn to!) certainly took this to another level of enjoyment.

The plot was very easy to follow due to the use of chapters with dates and times or before/after headings which worked well and kept up the tension on a countdown to “the disappearance”. As I said before, once you start reading the chapters seem to fly by! One of the reasons I read books like this is that I love to be surprised and I am constantly searching for that next OMG moment. I thought I had got it all worked out here but one part of the plot came with a bit of a “lightbulb” moment that I hadn’t expected and the book then went on to a perfectly handled conclusion. This is now an author I will actively seek out in the future as she has certainly proved she can write an intriguing travel inspired suspense with believable characters. Loved it.

I received a copy of this book via netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

Publication date 21st April 2016

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Available to pre order here

It’s Friday! Countdown to Christmas (Top Blog post For March)

Last week I shared my top blog post for February 2016 which was my first month of blogging. Amazingly more people found my blog in March and this top post got 60 views, a slight improvement on the 4 of the month before! And I have to say that this is a review for one of my favourite books of 2016 so I’m absolutely delighted to share it again with you all today!

Top Blog Post for March 2016 is…

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Sewing the Shadows Together by Allison Baillie

About this book..

Can you ever get over the death of your sister? Or of your best friend?
More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah.

“Shona had been gone for so long but the memories still came unexpectedly, sometimes like a video from the past, sometimes distorted dreams, but she was always there.”

When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears. Dark secrets from the past are uncovered, and there is another death, before the identity of the real killer is finally revealed…

Set in Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and South Africa, Sewing the Shadows Together is a thoroughly modern murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing to the end. Filled with characters who could easily be friends, family or people we work with, it asks the question:

Do we ever really know the people closest to us?

My review..

Wow-I feel like I have been on the proverbial emotional rollercoaster! This is probably one of the best books I have read this year so far and is looking likely to be in my top 10 reads of 2016. I downloaded a sample of this yesterday and after 6 pages bought it straight away and just continued to read-yes it was that engaging that I couldn’t put it down and totally ignored the other two books I had on the go….I NEVER do that!

Sarah is very typical of women her (my!) age. She is married to Rory, a famous tv journalist and they have twins who are now making lives of their own with their partners. Sarah also keeps an eye on her widowed mother Flora and every Sunday, Sarah cooks dinner for all the family. But Sarah is haunted by the murder of Shona, her best friend, when they were 13. Shona had an elder brother Tom who emigrated to South Africa after her death but he is back in Portobello to spread his mother’s ashes. His return also coincides with a school reunion and the release of Logan Baird, who has served time for Shona’s murder but it looks like he was innocent all along.

As I’ve said before, I adored this book from word one! It’s rare to find that book that really speaks to you and I am very lucky to have found one here. I empathise totally with Sarah and loved her. I especially liked the way each part of the story started with Sarah’s dreams entwined with her flashbacks. It set the tone and provided clues of what was to come. Her relationship with Tom developed slowly but deeply and I found it very believable. The setting of Edinburgh and its surroundings is one that I know quite well and that certainly added to my enjoyment as I felt I was back there, it was so vividly described! The mystery of Shona’s murder was only part of this book as it covered friendship, loss and how well do we really know those closest to us.

This is a wonderful debut from Alison Baillie and I can’t wait to read more from her. I just loved this book so much I didn’t want it to end!

A well deserved 5* from me!

Available to buy here

It’s Friday! Countdown to Christmas (February’s top blog post!)

So I thought I’d do a weekly countdown to Christmas and share the top blog posts of the year every Friday. As I only started on the 26th February the one I’m sharing today only had 4 views but that made it my top blog post of February 2016 and here it is! Next week I will share the top blog post for March.

Top Blog post for February 2016 is…

Penance by Kate O’Riordan

About this book..

‘You know I did a terrible thing. What you cannot know is that there exists an extreme irony, in that, but for one unforgivable sin – far more terrible things might have transpired.’

The lives of Rosalie Douglas and her teenage daughter, Maddie, are changed forever when they meet Jed, a beautiful, charismatic young man at Bereavement Counselling. Inexplicably and self-destructively, Maddie holds herself accountable for her brother’s drowning accident in Thailand.

Jed moves into their lives and their home. Calming the tensions between mother and daughter. He understands the twisted wilderness of grief. Lover and confidante to a besotted Maddie, gentle surrogate son to a grateful Rosalie – on the surface their lives are transformed. But underneath a deadly and morally corrupt triangle is taking shape…

Rosalie commits an unspeakable act which forces her to unravel the truth behind the beautiful stranger in their midst. The truth behind the death of her son. And the true extent of just how far she’s prepared to go – to save what remains of her family.

My thoughts..

I have to start by admitting that I thought I had read and enjoyed previous books by this author but it turns out I had read Kate Riordan and NOT Kate O’Riordan! Having played detective, it seems they are different people (but if I am mistaken then please feel free to correct me!!) But that didn’t stop me really enjoying this taut, character driven, psychological thriller.

At the start of the book we meet Rosalie after a terrible accident in Thailand has claimed the life of her son Rob. Her husband Luke is also devastated and although he and Rosalie have recently separated due to his affair, they come together as a family to support each other. Their daughter Maddie seems to have taken it much harder than expected and seems to inexplicably blame herself. When Rosalie and Maddie attend a grievance counselling group they meet the charismatic and strikingly attractive Jed, who is about to chance their lives forever.

This was a beautifully written book about a family’s grief and the feelings of guilt that surrounded them, which they struggle to overcome. It is a slow burner to start with until Jed enters the picture and weaves himself into the family. We know that he is probably too good to be true but are never quite sure of his true intentions until much later in the book when the pace increases, the tension cranking up to an almost unbearable level. I totally empathised with Rosalie, her maternal instincts were true to life and I understood why she acted the way she did even though her extreme Catholic guilt seemed to cloud her judgment at times. I found Maddie to be a bit more complex, but the author found the perfect balance of bratty teenage girl who thinks she knows it all but who really just needs her mum to love and accept her no matter what. The theme of obsession played across many different levels of the storyline in the clever and, at times, emotional journey of a family looking for the truth.

A recommended 4* read for me and a new author discovered which is always a bonus!

Many thanks to netgalley and to Little Brown Books for the opportunity to read an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Available to buy on 1st March

About the author..

Kate O’Riordan was brought up in the west of Ireland. She is the award-winning author of five novels, and has also written for stage and screen and most recently has been writing scripts for MR SELFRIDGE. She lives in Twickenham.

 

 

Local author interview with Toni Mackenzie #SelfHelp #Cheshire #fridayreads @MsToniMackenzie @SianElinFF

Earlier in the year I had the pleasure of meeting Toni Mackenzie at The Knutsford Literary Society where she talked about her book Your Flight to Happiness: A 7 step Journey to Emotional Freedom. Being a closet Bridget Jones for self help manuals I was lucky enough to get a copy to review and you can read that review Your flight to happiness here.

Author Interview…

Welcome Toni!

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You’ve had some interesting jobs in your life, tell me a little about them…

I started off working for an advertising agency but although I enjoyed aspects of my work, it didn’t really match my expectations. After a few years, I left that 9-5 job to work as a hostess at a very high class revolving restaurant, situated at the top of a very high tower building, and really enjoyed working varied hours and meeting different people every day in sumptuous surroundings.

Because I worked different shifts, I also managed to fit in some photographic modelling, mainly for magazine ads and fashion catalogues as well as a few TV ads. I knew than that I’d never be a 9-5 girl again and after I’d enjoyed a few years working at the restaurant, when I found myself ready to move on from being a restaurant-hostess, I decided to apply to an airline to work at a much higher altitude as an air-hostess!

Again, I really enjoyed the varied hours, working with and meeting such a wide variety of people, and travelling to so many different destinations. After a short time I was promoted to the more senior position of line-training stewardess, which involved interviewing and training cabin crew as well as continuing to carry out in-flight duties. I loved my job and stayed with the airline for around ten years before giving up my career to get married and start a family.

Why did you write your book when you did and how would you like it to help others?

Since my metaphorical ‘plane-crash’ (which is detailed in the first chapter of my book) I’ve learned so much about the power of the mind and how to take control of my life and create happiness for myself. I feel it’s so sad that everyone isn’t taught how they can do that at an early age and consequently so many people go through life feeling unnecessarily negative, fearful and unhappy.

Over the years, while working as a therapist with hundreds of clients on a one to one basis, I found myself thinking more and more that I really wanted to let as many people as possible know that happiness is an ‘inside job’ and share with them the lessons I’d learned over the years. I decided that the best way I could do this would be to write a book, encapsulating those lessons into just 7-steps containing ‘flying lessons’ which would teach people how to grow their wings and learn to fly, and in a much shorter period of time than it took me to do so!
You are a full-time counsellor, hypnotherapist, psychotherapist and mindset coach, how did you fit in your writing with running your own business?

Fortunately, the hours I work in my role as a therapist and mindset coach are very flexible so I was able to find time to write around my client sessions and get a lot written in a short space of time! All the information I wanted to share was already in my head, it was just a matter of being creative in the way I put it together.

Rather than writing a lengthy text-heavy manual, I knew that I wanted my book to be visually attractive with colour illustrations, well designed and easy to follow, and provide readers not just with information, but also with highly effective practical tools they could use to quickly change their lives for the better. From all the wonderful 5* reviews I’ve had on Amazon, where my book, ‘Your Flight to Happiness: A 7-Step Journey to Emotional Freedom’ has been in the bestseller list since being published in May this year, it appears that this is something I’m managing to do!

 

Thank you so much Toni for sharing your background and reasons for writing your book.

Your Flight to Happiness: A 7-Step Journey to Emotional Freedom is available to buy now at Amazon UK