Friday, 23 June 2017

Blog Tour Review & Extract: The Mother's of Lovely Lane by Nadine Dorries


The Mothers of Lovely Lane by Nadine Dorries
Published: 15th June 2017
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 400
Available in Hardback or on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Blurb
Noleen Delaney is one of an army of night cleaners at St Angelus Hospital. Son Bryan has a good job as one of the hospital's porters' boys, but Finn has done something unheard-of and passed his Eleven Plus exam. How on earth will they pay for his books, his grammar school uniform and shoes?
Bronia Ryan has battled depression since her husband died. Even in that poor neighbourhood her house is a byword for chaotic squalor. And now one son is in prison. Her youngest, Lorcan, wants no part of a life of crime, but how can he ever escape? Or protect his mother from her vicious eldest son?
As usual, St Angelus is at the heart of things. Life and death, love and loss, jealousies, rivalries and betrayals are woven into a rich tapestry – the latest instalment in Nadine's great series about poverty, sacrifice and community spirit in post-war Liverpool and the early days of the NHS.

Extract
Did your man nd his other leg, Noleen?’ Biddy Kennedy shouted across to the opposite side of Arthur Street, without any apparent consideration for those still asleep at that early hour of the morning.
Noleen Delaney failed to reply. She was lost in her own deep and tired thoughts as she hurried along in the half light towards St Chad’s. Her head was set against the wet early- morning breeze which ew up from the Mersey and whistled down Arthur Street, slipping into the bedrooms and kitchens of the blackened red-brick houses along the way. Noleen’s thin, cold hands were thrust deep into her pockets, her mind busy with the tasks of the day ahead. The soles of her shoes were so worn that she felt every chip of stone and discarded cigarette butt she trod on; they dug into her painful, corn- covered feet as she scurried along.
The night was reluctant to release its grip on the dockside streets. Morning fought to throw the rst shaft of light and pierce the gloom, and the cobbled roads glistened beneath the street lamps, freshly washed from the heavy rain that had fallen during the night. The clear plastic cover that Noleen had tied over her headscarf to protect herself from the rain as she left her night shift at St Angelus had now slipped down and hung like a hammock across the shoulders of her thin coat. It apped in protest as it strained at the damp string ties, cha ng her neck. She had resettled the cover on her hair twice already and there was no point bothering again. She abandoned any attempt to return home dry. What hair the wind didn’t claim, the mist would atten against her scalp before she had laid all her sinful thoughts and deeds before God, on her knees in St Chad’s.
Biddy frowned and placed her wicker basket down on the pavement. ‘Noleen, wait up, would you.’ She hurriedly slipped her front-door key, tied to the end of a long piece of string, back through the letter box and then slammed the door shut. ‘Noleen, wait!’ she called out, but again there was no response.
The air was lled with the sound of the rst tugs of the morning blowing their horns as they made their way out to the container ships that had been bobbing at the bar over- night. The tugs would lead them, steady as she goes, through the thick grey river mist that rested in a lazy haze on the surface of the dirty water and safely into dock. By the time the rst tug had completed its journey, the klaxon would have sounded, calling the men from Arthur, George, Stanley and Vince streets to the docks. Their boots would thud across the cobbles and down the worn sandstone dockers’ steps to the stand, and there the men would wait, hoping to be chosen to help unload one of the vast, cold, lthy holds of jute, wood or our for an honest day’s pay.
Review
The Mothers of Lovely Lane is the first book by Nadine Dorries that I have read but I believe it is the fourth book in her Lovely Lane series of books. This did mean it took me a while to get into the story as there are so many characters to get to know, but once I had my head round who was who I loved this book and became totally absorbed in the world of St. Angelous and its staff.
Pammy, Victoria, Beth and Dana are all students nurses at St. Angelous and are currently splitting their time between the casualty ward and assisting the notorious Dr. Oliver Gaskell in the hospitals new operating theatre. Although we hear from each of these girls throughout the book I’d say the dominant storylines belong to Victoria who has to make difficult decisions regarding her future and Beth who is experiencing her first foray into dating.
Interwoven into the girls’ stories are those of other members of the hospital staff. Lorcan Ryan a newly appointed porter assistant is determined to make a better life for himself and his mother and not end up like his brother JT. Noleen Delaney is working herself ragged supporting her family of seven while husband Paddy mopes with his bad leg, she’s praying for a miracle.
I loved how all of the different characters each had their own unique voice but somehow they all worked together to create a thoroughly enjoyable read. I would love to have read her previous books in this series to learn more about some of the other characters but that’s purely because I enjoyed this so much.
One minor thing which bugged was I felt the ending left a lot of things unanswered with some characters, but I’m hoping that is because Nadine Dorries is planning another book in this series.  If you’re a fan of Lyn Andrews, Diney Costello or Kate Thompson you are sure to enjoy this book.
Thank you to Head of Zeus for sending me this copy to review and also for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.






Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Blog Tour Review: All the Good Things by Clare Fisher

All the Good Things

All the Good Things by Clare Fisher
Published: 1st June 2017
Publisher: Penguin Viking
Pages: 228
Available in Hardback and on Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Blurb
Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn't deserve to ever feel good again.

But her counsellor, Erika, won't give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby's head.

But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone-even a 100% bad person-deserve a chance to be good?

Review
Twenty-one year old Bethany Mitchell is in prison for doing a bad thing. She’s given up on herself but prison therapist Erika will not. She gives Beth a notebook to write down all the good things in her life, Beth initially believes there will not be any good things as the bad thing she has done has eaten away at her. But as Beth goes back over her life she finds plenty of good things and begins to realise that maybe what she did was not completely bad and that she may not be 100% to blame.
It is pretty obvious from the start what the bad thing was that Beth did but as the story unfolds and we learn more about her it’s impossible not to feel your heart break for Beth she’s not a bad person she’s just had a bad life and has reached a point where she’s so overwhelmed she snaps.
This was a very emotional read which examines the important question of does doing a “bad thing” makes us a “bad person”. As Clare Fisher has brilliantly examined in this novel events cannot be perceived in just black or white and most human experiences are covered by a grey area which can be interpreted differently depending on circumstances.
I found Beth and her story fascinating, she has been consistently let down all her life and every time she gets a glimmer of a better life it seems to be snatched away from her just as she seems to feel happy and yet she keeps going trying to do the best she can in her lonely and poor state.
Despite this being a short novel it’s full of emotion right from the start and will probably end with you in tears. It’s not all sadness though and some of my favourite parts are when Beth works at the Odeon with Chantelle and the Chuckle Sisters when we see Beth at her best as a young girl just trying to have a little fun.
Well done to Clare Fisher for a very moving and relevant debut, I look forward to seeing what she writes next.
Thank you to Penguin Viking for sending a copy of All the Good Things and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Blog Tour: guest Post: "Inspiration behind Island of Secrets" by Patricia Wilson


Island of Secrets by  Patricia Wilson
Published: 18th May 2017 (paperback)
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Available in Paperback and on Kindle

Today I have a piece from Patricia on the inspiration behind her brilliant debut novel "Islands of Secrets"

INSPIRATION BEHIND ISLAND OF SECRETS
 After taking early retirement, my husband and I found our place in the sun, Crete. However, I soon realised the idea of laying on a beach all day with nothing to do was my worst nightmare.
I found my solution was to set myself a challenge: to accomplish something new, and difficult, each New Year and to stick at it like a real job for three hours a day, through the twelve months. As time passed, amongst other things, I learned to dive, sail, paint, build, fish, classical guitar, photography.
After living in the tourist area of Crete for many years, we moved to a very old cottage that we were restoring in the remote mountain village of Amiras, on the south coast.
That first year flew by, decorating and refurbishing the property, and getting to know the local people (at that time we were the only foreigners living in the area).
The following spring, in a year dedicated to gardening, I set about organising the vegetable plot. I’d bought half a dozen strawberry plants from the local agricultural shop in the town of Viannos, three kilometres away. A place where I was in the habit of going to meet friends. My favourite kafenion in Viannos was shaded by an enormous, thousand-year-old plane tree.
As the garden of our cottage had been abandoned for more than half a century, I decided to follow Alan Titchmarsh’s advice and double dig before planting. I used the traditional Greek digging tool, a skapáni, a flat bladed pick. When I hit metal, I wondered what it could be. I’d already unearthed some weird and wonderful bits of junk: old weighing scales, and a jerrycan. This turned out to be neither. What I pulled out of the soil was a rusted machine gun.
Wow!
I took the weapon to the Amiras kafenion where the men told me many moving stories about how war effected the local community, especially in 1943. In the nearby town of Viannos, I handed the gun over to the mayor, for the local war museum.
Over the following months, the village matriarchs told me their personal stories about the day two thousand Nazis invaded the village. Some of the women told me of events that they had kept to themselves ever since that terrible day. I was both honoured and humbled that they shared these real-life accounts with me, and the more I heard, the more I realised the women’s story had to be told.
Then, I started to notice how many local Greek men had blue eyes.
I decided that my challenge for the following twelve months would be to learn how to write a novel. I was shocked to discover how exciting, and addictive, writing fiction is.
The year after that, based on the facts I had learned from the women of Amiras, Wikipedia, and the local war museum, I set about writing Island of Secrets.




About the Author
Patricia Wilson lives in the village of Amiras in Crete where the book is set. She was inspired to write when she unearthed a machine gun in her garden - one used in the events that unfolded in September 1943, and much of the novel is based on real stories told to her by the oldest women of Amiras. Woman who've never spoken of their experiences before. This is her debut novel.






Friday, 28 April 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Summer House Party by Caro Fraser


The Summer House Party by Caro Fraser
Published: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 512
Available in Hardcover or on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Blurb
In the gloriously hot summer of 1936, a group of people meet at a country house party. Within three years, England will be at war, but for now, time stands still.
Dan Ranscombe is clever and good-looking, but he resents the wealth and easy savoir faire of fellow guest, Paul Latimer. Surely a shrewd girl like Meg Slater would see through that, wouldn't she? And what about Diana, Paul's beautiful sister, Charles Asher, the Jewish outsider, Madeleine, restless and dissatisfied with her role as children's nanny? And artist Henry Haddon, their host, no longer young, but secure in his power as a practised seducer.
As these guests gather, none has any inkling the choices they make will have fateful consequences, lasting through the war and beyond. Or that the first unforeseen event will be a shocking death.

Review

Caro Fraser is not an author I’ve come across before but The Summer House Party sounded like a book I would enjoy as its promises secrets and mysteries hidden among the lives of this small group of people.

It’s 1936 and a group of friends have gathered together at Woodbourne House for a week long summer party full of fun and flirting. As the week draws to a close there is a shocking death for one member of the party.  As the friends depart they are yet unaware of how the events of that week will shape their lives over the next few years.

This book is huge, at 512 pages it’s definitely a book which will take some time to read and it’s not the easiest of books to snuggle down in bed with, don’t let this put you off as this is a cracking read and I feel best enjoyed out in the sunshine in a comfy deckchair, which is what I did.

This book for me would be best described as a slow burner. I initially found it hard to get into and connect with the characters but once there were a couple of sparks of interest I was hooked and very intrigued by what happened to this group of characters.

I don’t really want to say anything much about the characters or what happens to them as I feel this is a book where the less you know initially the more enjoyment you will have. I will say it’s beautifully written and has a real sense of place to the writing. It’s a book full of mystery, romance and learning to live with the decisions you make.

It’s one of those books where you just want to keep reading and it too never end. When it did I was a bit lost as I had become so involved in the story I wanted more. Hopefully Caro Fraser will write something similar in the future which I look forward to enjoying.

Thank you so much to Head of Zeus for inviting me on this blog tur and for sending a review copy, which is something I will treasure for a long time.

Caro Fraser is not an author I’ve come across before but The Summer House Party sounded like a book I would enjoy as its promises secrets and mysteries hidden among the lives of this small group of people.

It’s 1936 and a group of friends have gathered together at Woodbourne House for a week long summer party full of fun and flirting. As the week draws to a close there is a shocking death for one member of the party.  As the friends depart they are yet unaware of how the events of that week will shape their lives over the next few years.

This book is huge, at 512 pages it’s definitely a book which will take some time to read and it’s not the easiest of books to snuggle down in bed with, don’t let this put you off as this is a cracking read and I feel best enjoyed out in the sunshine in a comfy deckchair, which is what I did.

This book for me would be best described as a slow burner. I initially found it hard to get into and connect with the characters but once there were a couple of sparks of interest I was hooked and very intrigued by what happened to this group of characters.

I don’t really want to say anything much about the characters or what happens to them as I feel this is a book where the less you know initially the more enjoyment you will have. I will say it’s beautifully written and has a real sense of place to the writing. It’s a book full of mystery, romance and learning to live with the decisions you make.

It’s one of those books where you just want to keep reading and it too never end. When it did I was a bit lost as I had become so involved in the story I wanted more. Hopefully Caro Fraser will write something similar in the future which I look forward to enjoying.

Thank you so much to Head of Zeus for inviting me on this blog tur and for sending a review copy, which is something I will treasure for a long time.


Monday, 24 April 2017

Blog Tour: The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson


The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson
Published: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages:434
Available in Hardcover and on Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Blurb
January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett, a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside cottage. Only her dog returns. 
Twenty-nine years later, her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a private detective, and her side-kick Jack Harmon, to find out what happened all those years ago.
But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold...

Review

The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson is the latest book in the Detectives Daughter series featuring Stella and Jack. This time Stella and Jack have been called to a row of terrace houses set along the Thames. Firstly they are called by Natasha Latimer the recent owner of number 1 who has renovated her basement and is now hearing strange noises she believes belong to the ghost of the long missing Helen Honeysett. Jack agrees to housesit and rid the house of its ghosts. Meanwhile Stella meets Adam Honeysett who is still searching for answers surrounding the disappearance of his wife over twenty years ago. Stella agrees to look into the case and soon it’s clear that everyone living in this small terrace along the river has something to hide. Will Stella and Jack manage to find out what happened to young Helen all those years ago or will they reach a dead end.

This is the first novel by Lesley Thomson that I’ve read and it was a book which was fairly easy to get lost in. There were a couple of times when I felt I missed something by not reading the previous books but overall this book works well as a standalone novel.

I liked the initial few chapters where we get flashbacks to 1987 before and after Helen Honeysett went missing as this gave a great insight into all the residents’ characters and how they reacted to the news Helen was missing. This was great to contrast with their characters later on in the novel when Stella and Jack meet them.

The things which struck me the most about Lesley Thomson was how good she is at creating an atmosphere. Almost instantly the little cottages by the Thames had a creepy almost sinister feel about them and I can imagine just how scary the towpath along the river could feel. This creepy atmosphere was definitely heightened when there were scenes at night, which there seemed to be a lot of.

I wasn’t overly keen on the ghost hunting aspect of this novel which Jack seems a big believer in but I guess it did add to the sinister feeling of the book and gives it a unique angle.

Stella herself is almost fifty, this was something I really struggled with. With so many mentions of her father and being around her mother so much I felt she was younger and every time her age was mentioned it threw me a little. 

Overall I found this book and enjoyable read with an engaging storyline which had a few little twists to keep me guessing. I loved the detail of all the characters and the setting which eerily brought this book to life. I’m now intrigued by the relationship of Stella and Jack I hope there is another book in the series to follow.




About the Author
Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People's Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective's Daughter, was a #1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies.     


Thank you to Head of Zeus for sending me a copy to review and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Blog Tour : Invisible Women by Sarah Long


Invisible Women by Sarah Long
Published: 20th April 2017
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Available on Kindle

Blurb
Isn't it about time we talked about YOU?

Tessa, Sandra and Harriet have been best friends through first crushes, careers, marriage and the trials of motherhood. After twenty years of taking care of everyone else's every need, they've found themselves hitting the big 5-0 and suddenly asking themselves: 'what about me?!'

Sandra has a sordid secret, and Harriet is landed with her ailing mother-in-law. Tessa is looking for something to fill the gaping hole left by her youngest daughter's departure for uni, where it seems she's now engaged in all sorts of unsavoury activities, if Tessa's obsessive late-night Facebook stalking is anything to go by.

When Tessa impulsively responds to an online message from an old flame, she soon finds herself waiting at Heathrow Airport for The One That Got Away.

But what will the plane from New York bring her? The man of her dreams, or a whole heap of trouble?

And could this be the long-awaited moment for Tessa to seize her life, for herself, with both hands?


Today I'd like to give a warm welcome to Sarah Long who is going to talk about the invisibility of middle-aged women, whom characters in her new book Invisible Women are based. So over to Sarah:




The Invisibility of Middle-Aged Women

That moment when you walk past a building site and nobody wolf-whistles at you. Young women will say, I should hope not, Neanderthal sexual harassment. Older women may say, with a twinge of regret, oh yes, I remember that. When the polite nod replaced the hungry stare. You’d reached a certain age and turned into their mother, you were no longer an object of lust.

Nobody laments the demise of the caveman, but most women will say they miss the attention when they morph into middle age. The loudest complaints come from TV presenters and actors. Their success depends on their looks - unlike their male counterparts who are not obliged to look cute or hot -  and so they are quietly sidelined in favour of younger models. 

The heroines of my novel INVISIBLE WOMEN  are not actors or TV presenters. They are examples of a rather outdated breed, the well-to-do housewife. In fact they refer to themselves as members of the dinosaur club, well aware that it is no longer quite the thing for an educated woman to live off her husband. The lack of a role outside the home reinforces their sense of not being noticed as they grow older, of not counting in a world that increasingly applauds the shouty ones, the sexy ones, the ones with beach-ready bodies.

You’ve only got to read the style advice meted out to middle aged women to get the underlying message. There’s a lot of talk about ‘appropriate’ styles: you can wear mini skirts but only with thick tights; cream is kinder than white against older skin, don’t be a ‘cougar’, don’t wear ‘mum jeans’, whatever the hell they are.   In other words, you’ve had it, you’re ridiculous unless you melt quietly into the background and let the young ones take centre stage.

Bollocks to that. I think we should take our lead from earlier role models. Great old operatic divas with heaving bosoms spilling out of their bodices. Terrifying matriarchs striking fear into whoever crossed their path. Margaret Thatcher would have hand-bagged anyone who told her not to wear those pussycat bows, Bette Davis ruling the roost in All About Eve. The more inappropriate, the better, in my opinion.  

The women in my novel are all emerging from their domestic cocoon to realise it is time to be noticed. Two of them are being particularly noticed by men who are not their husbands. It’s not quite the wolf whistles from the building site – we have moved on, after all – but it’s the kind of attention that forces them out of the shadows and on to the centre stage of their own lives.

INVISIBLE WOMEN by Sarah Long is published by Bonnier Zaffre



Sunday, 16 April 2017

Blog Tour Review : The Married Girls by Diney Costello


The Married Girls by Diney Costello
Published: 4th May 2017 (Hardback)
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 380
Available in Hardback and on Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Blurb
The war is over, but trouble is brewing...
Wynsdown, 1949. In the small Somerset village of Wynsdown, Charlotte Shepherd is happily married to farmer Billy. She arrived from Germany on the Kindertransport as a child during the war and now feels settled in her adopted home.
Meanwhile, the squire's fighter pilot son, Felix, has returned to the village with a fiancée in tow. Daphne is beautiful, charming... and harbouring secrets. After meeting during the war, Felix knows some of Daphne's past, but she has worked hard to conceal that which could unravel her carefully built life.
For Charlotte, too, a dangerous past is coming back in the shape of fellow refugee, bad boy Harry Black. Forever bound by their childhoods, Charlotte will always care for him, but Harry's return disrupts the village quiet and it's not long before gossip spreads.
The war may have ended, but for these girls, trouble is only just beginning.

Review

One of my favourite things about book blogging is the discovery of a new author who I know I’m going to love, Diney Costello for me is a real gem of a find.  The Married Girls is a sequel to one of her early books The Girl with No Name, having not read this book I can say The Married Girls can be read completely as a standalone novel without losing any enjoyment, I thought it was a wonderful book.

The book centres on the lives of Charlotte Shepheard and Daphne Higgins. Charlotte Shepheard was a German refugee from the war who came to London and later was living in the village of Wynsdown where she met and married Billy. Charlotte I believe is the main character in a The Girl with No Name so if you want to read about her early life before Billy you can. She’s happily married now with two children Johnny and Edie. Everything is perfect for Charlotte until her old friend Harry Black appears and the gossip mill starts running and Billy starts to question her love.

Daphne Higgins is the other main character. Born in the east-end of London she’s looking for a way to better herself and when she accidentally meets Felix Bellinger in an air-raid her plans are made.  Becoming an aircraft mechanic put Daphne in the right place to bump into Felix again and her stunning good looks ensured it wasn’t long before she was Mrs Felix Bellinger, but Daphne’s past hides some secrets which need to stay hidden no matter the cost.

Charlotte was lovely character who was kind, caring and resilient to all the setbacks she faced in life. She had fully embraced village life and made herself loved by many. Daphne on the other hand I didn’t really like. She was sneaky, selfish and spoilt and portrayed herself as better than everyone else in the village.

I couldn’t really work out the significance of the Harry Black storyline as it didn’t really add anything to Charlotte or Daphne’s lives in Wynsdown, perhaps this storyline links back to the first book.

I enjoyed this book a great deal as it was full of surprising twists which kept my interest and the storytelling style was descriptive but not drowning in details.  I was a little disappointed with the drama at the end, I felt it could have blown up a bit more. I just felt the book came to an end a bit too quickly.

Thank you to Head of Zeus for sending me a copy to review and inviting me to be part of the blog tour.