Books

Hush Little Baby – Joanna Barnard

From the blurb on the back of the book we know that baby Oliver has broken his arm. What we don’t know is how, why and who?

And so these page turning book begins as you see a family slowly disintegrating.

Sally, Oliver’s mother, is devastated that her baby has been taken away from her, it must have been an accident. He is all she had, the only person on her side.

Sally was out all night, the discovery of the broken arm happened when she returned home.

Richard, Oliver’s father, cannot understand what is happening, but he cannot see what is going on under his nose. He knows of course how to bring up children, he already has one with his first wife.

Richard was in all night, but discovered the broken arm.

Martha, Oliver’s stepsister, is lost. No one is paying her any attention, it is all about Oliver and she needs to find a release. Will her choices, drive the family further apart or will it bring them together.

Martha, might have been there all night, but was she paying attention?

One of them knows the truth, the rest is all lies. Told from the these three characters perspective we watch as the disintegration becomes deep, distressing and disturbing.

The book is rather unsettling to read, there is so many topics covered; postpartum depression, self harm, drug abuse, bullying, infidelity, but there’s something voyeuristic in watching what happens as you turn the pages. It made me feel uncomfortable with what was happening but I had to keep reading.

A gripping novel, that does not perhaps fit nicely into the thriller category because of the topic but certainly morbidly fascinating in wanting to know the truth as the plot twists to perhaps the obvious conclusion? Will we have any answers when we get to the end of the novel?

An interesting second novel and for me much better than the first, something that can be difficult to achieve. An author to look out for, as I think the books are going to get better and better.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Hush Little Baby is out now

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Books

May Roundup

I have to say that May has been the month of the kindle only two of the eight have been actual books I can hold in my hand. The rest have been ebooks downloaded from netgalley to get ahead of the reviewing game and enjoy some really good books.

So as well catching up with netgalley requests, I found myself going back to something familiar and picked up the next book I have not read in the Agatha Raisin series, M.C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison. I am still a few behind in this series, so I know I have some back up reading whenever I need it.

I also caught up with Fern Britton – A Good Catch, which was different from her more community focused novel as this was very much about getting the right man at whatever cost.

I have to confess to reading a lot of women’s fiction this month, but felt I needed a bit more of a thrill and that is why I picked up the current B.A. Paris – The Breakdown. A second novel which was as gripping and thought-provoking as the first. What would you do?

Sometimes it is nice to know the author that you are reading, not necessarily personally but the familiarity of the writing. although in this case I have seen the author speak. Emylia Hall – The Thousand Lights Hotel is her latest novel and takes you away to Italy, to another life and what you are searching for. Beautiful!

I have finally finished the Willow Cottage series of books, which was released initially in four parts. Bella Osborne – Summer Delights: Willow Cottage, publishing series of books seems to be very popular I do much prefer reading the whole novel. That way I can really absorb myself in the book.

Finishing a series of books is always good,because all the loose ends and unknowns are cleared up and there is enough unknowns left for you to know that their stories will go on long after the author has stopped writing and we have stopped reading them. Therefore I was excited to return to Penwith and Phillipa Ashley – Confetti at the Cornish Cafe. The final part of the trilogy does all the things I have mentioned and it was great to catch up with all the characters.

Quite a lot of my reading seems to be books that are set in Cornwall and that was no different with Liz Eeles – Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea. A debut novel which managed to give you a character you could love to hate. I look forward to seeing what else this author writes.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I do take part in many crafts, one of the most popular is paper crafting which is something I have never really got into, but I know many that have. Despite that I was drawn to the new novel, Carole Matthews – Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses which had so much packed into it, it was another novel which I couldn’t be torn away from.

How was your May? I hope you enjoyed what you were reading, is it moving towards a more summery feel?

Books

The Breakdown – B. A. Paris

Driving down a road in the middle of the storm is what Cass promised she would never do, but she will get home quicker that way.

That is until she sees a car at the side of the road. A woman is in the car.

What does Cass do? Stop and make sure she is okay? Drive by?

What if your actions, the choice you make, the guilt, then haunt you.

It is this catalyst which the rest of the story is based on and has us as readers launched head first into Cass thoughts and feelings as she begins to break down from what she knows is reality.

Strange phone calls, objects not in the right place, parcels arriving, all point Cass towards dementia, she might be too young but her mother died of it and she has never told her husband this. Her husband even starts to question her sanity. It seems Cass is very much on her own with this guilt, this belief.

As Cass life begins to unravel slowly, ironically the pace of the book picks up. It is a page turner, because whilst you feel so much sympathy for Cass, I did reach a couple of points where I thought she really did have dementia. The author could have taken the plot any number of ways and it was this that kept me reading.

The niggles about the story never went away for me and I guessed fairly early on who had to be behind it but the writing was so good that I even began to doubt the author was going to take us in that direction. Could you breakdown all actions separately and see them as isolated events, or were they all part of a very cleverly weaved plot. The only way to know was to keep on reading.

An excellent thriller, certainly nothing like her debut novel and if this is the quality of writing and work for that notorious ‘second’ novel then I cannot wait for what the author writes next.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Breakdown is out now.

 

 

 

Books · Jottings

January Roundup

First month of 2107 gone. Done, dusted, put away. Surely it can only get better, brighter and warmer!

An average sort of month for reading, behind on my goodreads challenge already. which made me panic unnecessarily, because it is only the first month. However, I have throughly enjoyed all that I have read in January.

I caught up with Emma Burstall – The Cornish Guest House, I am a big fan of Emma’s work and probably should have read this when it first came out. Trouble is with authors I really like I tend to not want to read their books immedieatly as when you have done, you are bereft. I feel much the same about reading a Lucinda Riley novel.

Caught up in the hype of the new BBC Drama adaptation of Louise Doughty – Apple Tree Yard and having heard the beautiful Emily Watson be interviewed more than once, I had to read the book before it started on television. Gripping and so far the television is very much in the vision of the book I had when I read it.

What also was brought to life for me was Deborah Burrows – Ambulance Girls. A new author to me and I was asked whether I wanted to partake in the blog tour for the book. The setting is London in the Second World War, and the focus is on those that stayed behind and risked their lives while the bombs were reigning down. However there was a lot more depth to this book and I am looking forward to more in the series.

If you want comfort, easy reading then I normally turn to an author I know will provide that. Which is why I picked up Debbie Macomber – A Girl’s Guide to Moving On. It was one of a series which I did not realise, but it did not detract from the story. The book fulfilled what I wanted it to, but if you asked me to tell you what it was about I probably would struggle.

I have been rather request happy on netgalley in the last month, which is why I was suddenly at the recommended 80% feedback and now I am not. Like a child in a sweetshop looking at all the bright colours I was hooked by so many, and I think some might be of a similar ilk. However I started with Karen Clarke – The Beachside Sweet Shop. If the rest are as good as this, it will be great and I get my feedback percentage back up.

I have also picked up a book from my shelf that has been hanging around for a while which has been in complete contrast to everything else I have read this month Essie Fox – The Somnambulist. I am late to the Essie Fox party but that must mean I have a few to catch up on and enjoy.

So that was January – and I finish it reading another one of my requests from netgalley, which I can feel is going to be a stand out book.

 

 

Books

Paula Daly – Top Tips for Budding Writers

 

My latest review was the latest book from Paula Daly – The Trophy Child. Whilst I have participated in the blog tour for this, I was a bit remiss in not publishing the fact but the lovely people at Penguin Random House and of course Paula herself has sent me some ‘tips for budding writers’ to support my review which was published on this blog on the 27 January.

Without further ado, I hand over to Paula:

Full disclosure: I could not have found the time to write when I had a full time job and a young family. Some people do. I am not one of them. I’ve read accounts of people getting up at four in the morning, writing a thousand words before work, to pursue their dreams of becoming a published author, but when my kids were small the best I could do was get a meal on the table each evening, and make sure they had clean uniforms to wear.

I started writing when, after a move to France, I was able to work part time when I returned to the UK. I have three children and my youngest would have been around three at the time. For me, the key to getting the words down on paper was carving out a decent amount of time in which to write. Say, an hour or so. So I got super-organised with everything else that needed doing around the house. Everything that could be done outside of that hour I did fast and efficiently, to protect the writing time. Then I would pick my youngest up from nursery, put him in front of the TV with some toys, jigsaws and a drink, and I would write in the next room for as long as I was able to.

Now that my kids are teenagers everything is easier. And now that I’m a fulltime novelist I no longer have to slot writing in around a day job. But I do employ a number of tricks to maximise my writing time. Here are my five top tips:

1)                          Plan your meals weekly and shop for groceries online. This whole process takes me twenty minutes per week using the Tesco app. I used to find grocery shopping for five frustrating and a colossal drain of my energy. Now I can have it delivered to my kitchen towards the end of my writing day. So I get the word count done and all I have to do is put the stuff away.

2)                          Don’t answer the phone. My extended family know that I don’t answer the phone if I’m working. I screen calls and if it’s not one of the kids, or their school calling, I don’t pick up. Relatives don’t think writing is a proper job and think you can stop and have a chat whenever you like. You can’t. Call them back when you’ve finished. Or else better still, call them and put them speakerphone when you’re doing something mindless like folding washing. Two birds etc.

3)                          Have a notepad handy. When I first started writing, I was bursting with ideas but I couldn’t get these ideas down on paper until my allotted ‘writing time’. So I would write notes all day: when the vegetables were boiling, when the kids were in the bath, when I was outside school waiting for them to come out. What I found was, when I did finally get down to writing, it felt more like I was taking dictation, as I had all of my ideas already formed.

4)                          Lose the guilt. To make a real go of this you’re probably going to have to put your writing before your kids a little more. And what I mean by that is, you may have to get rid of some of the extra-curricular activities. My youngest quite liked football and wanted to join a team…but we refused. I didn’t want to spend my weekends, rising early, driving thirty miles to stand in the freezing rain, when I could have been reading a book in bed instead. Because to be a writer you must read a lot. And you need the time to do it.

5)                          Once the kids are of an age when they can be left to play alone, tell them you’re writing and you’re not to be disturbed. They won’t care. Really, they won’t. And they won’t become damaged by your not spending ‘quality time’ with them either. Most kids don’t actually like quality time and would much rather be pleasing themselves than doing an activity that you deem to be a good use of their time.

Thanks to Paula, I hope it has inspired some people out there. If it hasn’t then remember all that hard work of Paula’s has gone into creating some cracking good reads – do check out The Trophy Child.

Books

The Trophy Child – Paula Daly

Meet the Bloom’s. Noel is a GP, with a daughter Verity from his first marriage. His second wife Karen brought to the marriage a son Ewan. Both Ewan and Verity are teenagers and not exactly what Karen would call perfect children. But Bronte is 10 years old and is the daughter of Karen and Noel  and she will be the perfect child. She does every extra curricular activity possible, additional languages, music and her time is constantly taken up improving her education. Karen’s whole life is consumed in ensuring that Bronte is the best.

Bronte is being pushed to the limit.

Verity has tried to strangle Karen and is now receiving counselling.

Ewan is achieving nothing other than familiarising himself with drugs.

Noel is spending more time at his job and in hotel bars. He seems to be struggling with the situation he finds himself in.

Karen isn’t aware of anything other than her and Bronte.

This family is disintegrating in front of our eyes.

Then something happens, something perhaps expected but nonetheless frightening and the family disintegrates further.

However it is what happens next……

There is a uncertianty to this book, which adds to the plot and the pace of the novel, which are both excellent.

All of the characters are fully formed and within a shot space of time, I managed to feel sympathy and empathy as well as sheer loathing for them all. Their actions are played out in such a way as to lift right off the page. This is what kept me captivated as the book progressed.

I recommend this book as a good strong example of Paula Daly’s work.

The Trophy Child is published on 26 January. 

Books

The Silence Between Breaths – Cath Staincliffe

Like any other morning at a busy city centre train station. Passengers wait to board a train at Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston. They are starting holidays, new employment and escaping from the past as well as the future.

Imagine taking off the top of the train and picking on a few random people to find out about. Who are they and why are they on that train and what are they bound for on their journey

Holly has landed a job in the capital and she wants to make the most of it and her life, she is excited about going.

Jeff has never had a proper job and is going for his first interview. Understandably nervous he wants to make sure he doesn’t fail.

Naz is dreaming of when he owns and runs his own restaurant. In the meantime, he will continue to clean the carriage of its detritus left behind by the passengers and carry on dreaming.

Nick and Lisa, with their children Eddie and baby Evie are often to a family wedding. Nick doesn’t want to be on the train, in fact I don’t think Nick even wants to be with his family.

Meg is going on holiday with her partner, Diana but they are both keeping secrets from each other.

Rhona really does not want to be on the train with her work colleagues when she has left her daughter poorly at home, but still making her go to school.

Caroline, is constantly answering her phone from her mother, whose dementia seems to be getting worse with every call.

Saheel is sat on the train with a rucksack…….

Kulsooom is not on the train but she goes to use her brother’s computer and she discovers something which is going to change her life forever.

If you can imagine the rhythm and motion of a train on the tracks as you go on a journey, no matter how long or short, you can pick up the flow of this story. You have prior knowledge early on you know what is going to happen and you cannot do anything to stop the momentum. All of this builds for the climax of the story but perhaps it is not as you think it all will be.

This is very much a story of today, of the news items we watch day in day out, of the threats that have been carried out and the ones that have been adverted. What it does differently which made it stand out for me was that you saw the other side of the story, you saw how it affected those left behind. You saw the choices some people made so they could live or save others. You also saw with heartbreaking reality the choices made when they were going to die.

You don’t enjoy this book as there seems something wrong in saying you enjoy a book which is very much like reading a news report in the paper or watching the equivalent on the television. You have to know what happens, which is one I had to keep reading, it took me no time to read it. It pulled me right in and more and I started to ask questions, to stop and pause and look around as I read it.

You just do not know what is going on in anyones life and Cath Staincliffe has glimpsed a moment, a moment that will change everyone.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me an opportunity to read this book. 

The Silence Between Breaths is out now.