Posted in Book Review, Literary Fiction

They Call Me The Cat Lady – 4* #Review – Amy Miller @bookouture @AmyBratley1 #LiteraryFiction #FridayReads

You’ve seen me on the street. You’ve walked past my house, and pointed, and wondered. The cat lady. All on my own, with only my five cats to keep me company. Did no-one ever tell you that you can’t judge a book by its cover?

Everyone in town knows Nancy Jones. She loves her cats. She loves her tumbledown house by the sea. She loves her job in the local school where she tries to help the children who need help the most. Nancy tries hard not to think about her past loves and where those led her…

Nancy never shares her secrets – because some doors are better kept locked. But one day she accepts a cat-sitting request from a local woman, and at the woman’s house, Nancy sees a photograph, in a bright-red frame. A photograph that opens the door to her painful past…

Soon Nancy doesn’t know what frightens her the most: letting her story out or letting the rest of the world in. It’s impossible to find companionship without the risk of losing it. But can Nancy take that risk again?

A heart-wrenching and heart-warming story of love lost and found, and of second chances.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

People who seem to prefer animals to humans are often seen as eccentric. Nancy looks after cats and names them after people she has loved. She volunteers and is always there to help out in the community, but still many see only what she chooses to show and so she’s ‘the cat lady’.

This is not the first time a story has been told about a woman with secrets, whose past has made her introverted, and trusts animals more than people who judge and are intrusive. This story is notable because of its sensitive treatment of Nancy and her broken life. It sees her grow and learn to trust and have the courage to face heartbreak again.

This journey of self-development is hopeful and Nancy realises that she deserves to feel happiness and love again. She is courageous and easy to empathise and this gentle story is worth reading to escape for a little while.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Extract, Psychological Thriller

The Liars – Naomi Joy – 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @naomijoyauthor #BlogTour #PsychologicalThriller #Office #Politics #Extract #AuthorInterview

Two women. One deadly secret. A rivalry that could destroy them.

 Ava Wells is perfect. She has the boyfriend, the career, the looks. One night changes everything and her life isn’t so seamless anymore.

Jade Fernleigh is ambitious. She’s worked hard to get where she is. And she’s not about to let Ava take the job she rightly deserves.

Both women share a secret that could destroy them, but who will crumble first?

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I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I’ve worked in offices for a significant part of my working life and whilst I never experienced or witnessed anything as extreme as explored in ‘ The Liars’. There are elements which I recognise, albeit in a less extreme form.

This story has an ordinary setting, but the plot is dark exploring the themes of betrayal and revenge. The characters are driven and verging on immoral, their ambition and the need to succeed and claim what they believe is there due, push out any empathy, kindness and compassion, leaving only the baser human emotions. They are ruthless, revengeful and relentless, willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to achieve their chosen goal.

Even though the protagonists are not likeable, they are interesting and you wonder what they will do next. They have no filters and whilst you wouldn’t want them as friends or work colleagues, they are believable and fascinating characters and make this an enthralling story to read.

If you like your book to tell a story this style of writing may disappoint. If you prefer a contemporary writing style that makes the reader spend most of their time in the uncomfortable reality of the protagonists’ heads rather like watching reality TV, this will be a satisfying read.

Q&A: Naomi Joy – The Liars Blog Tour

Your novel ‘The Liars’ is based around a dangerous secret between two rivals. What inspired you to write this story?

I started writing The Liars in the run-up to Christmas 2016. I was seeking a new challenge having worked in PR for six years, ready to move on from working full-time in the industry that had been equal parts glamorous (think red carpet world-premieres) and not-so-glamorous (think behind-the-scenes tours of cheese factories, hair stuffed in a net). I’d been vaguely cataloguing the various incidents I’d experienced over the years but in 2016 I finally put pen to paper.

The Liars was most keenly inspired by the phenomenon known as the Sisterhood Ceiling: the idea that women in competitive environments hold one another back from progressing. I experienced, and witnessed, it in PR and believe it has to do with the following facts: the industry is dominated by women—66% to 34%—but, at the top end, this figure flips. Of the women in the industry, just 20% hold senior roles. Add to this a brutal gender pay-gap of 23.5% (the U.K. average is 18%) meaning that a woman in PR earns, on average, £12,000+ a year less than her male counterpart, and you can start to see why such a ruthless and competitive environment exists, and why it’s a rich breeding-ground for fiction!

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

For’The Liars’ the main plot of the story came first. Two women are competing for a promotion at work, their relationship pulled to breaking point as they one-up each other to get ahead. But they share a deadly secret, one they know will ruin them both if it gets out. With so much at stake, can either trust the other not to talk? That was my initial idea and, though the book has been through a number of edits and rewrites, the core idea remained.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? Is there any of you in your characters?

I quite like to take characters from real life then bend and twist them out of shape so that they are completely unrecognisable. I think there’s always a bit of ‘you’ in the characters too, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s you behind them! But no one character I’ve written has been based on a realistic version of me, or anyone I’ve known. Even in The Liars, which was inspired by something I experienced, the characters and situations are pure fiction: amalgamations of people I’ve known, people I’ve heard about, people on TV, and entirely imagined traits and quirks the characters developed as I wrote them.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I adore psychological thrillers. They’re what I love to write and what I love to read. I also enjoy crime fiction, and will always read books out of my usual tastes if they come highly recommended.

When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

I started writing seriously in 2016 but, prior to that, I’d always written in some form. I studied English at Durham University and there’s a lot of writing involved in PR.

The best thing about being a writer is creating a world that’s completely your own. There’s nothing quite like it.

The worst is the uncertainty, not knowing how your work will be received and hoping that people will like it!

What are you currently writing?

I’ll be editing my second psychological thriller shortly, and I’ve just started work on the third.

Thank you so much for having me; I hope you enjoy The Liars!

Extract from ‘The Liars’ – Naomi Joy

‘What’s David Stein want with Ava?’ George whispered, turning towards me for just a moment. ‘You think this is ‘cos of the inquest?’

I shrugged, lost for words, and watched as Ava motioned for him to come in, then greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. Well, well, well. Although we were all reeling, Ava didn’t look surprised to see him at all. Had they arranged a meeting? Without me?

My green eyes flashed for the second time in as many minutes – first Josh and now David. My body felt like one of those lightning receptors on top of the Shard or the Empire State Building, just after one billion angry God-like volts had struck. Except I couldn’t survive it. Strike after strike of jealousy coursed through my veins, splitting them open until I was nothing but a heap of clothes on the floor, smoke pouring out of them. ‘Where did she go?’ they’d ask. Would anyone care?

In that moment I made a rash decision: I had to act, I couldn’t just stand on the outside looking in. Ava didn’t own the rights to Olivia’s death, and it wasn’t fair she was using Olivia’s passing to get ahead. Not if I couldn’t use it, too.

I got up from my desk, ignoring Georgette’s bleats – Jade, no, Jade, what are you doing, Jade, come back here! – and pushed forward to her office.

 I hated that she had an office. I’d been at the company for eight years and all David Stein had rewarded me with was an area a few metres apart from the communal bullpen, opposite a woman who dressed like a toddler and painted her face like a clown.

I knocked twice at Ava’s closed door, my angry breath forming furious bullseyes of condensation against the glass, and watched as her face fell when she saw it was me. In that moment, the resentment I had for her swelled and I could scarcely believe what I once saw in her as a friend. We used to have lunch together, talk about the ways we could change the company for the better. We’d been a sisterhood at one point. A unit. A team. But ever since Olivia had died and David had taken Ava under his bony wing, favouring her over me in almost every conceivable way despite her vastly inferior experience, the barriers between us had started to stack up and, rather than help me, she relished in every opportunity to kick me back. To make matters worse, David had put us both up for the same job, a glittering promotion which I deserved tenfold over her: Team Head.

So, here I was. Fighting for my career.

I didn’t wait for her to beckon me in.

‘Is everything OK?’ I asked, pushing my way into their clandestine one-to-one. ‘The news about the inquest was pretty tough reading yesterday,’ I said matter-of-factly, closing the door behind me. ‘Olivia would have hated everything being so public.’

‘Jade, could you give us a moment?’ Ava asked curtly, brushing me off.

There she went again, acting as if there was no way I could possibly have been affected by Olivia’s death. It was like she didn’t even remember what we went through together.

‘It’s just—’

‘We’re fine, thank you Jade,’ she repeated, raising her voice.

Before I could speak again, David spat out a rhetorical question aimed at me.

‘Jade – do you mind?’

His words hit like a punch to the gut and my cheeks blazed. Embarrassment opened its mouth and swallowed me whole. I hadn’t expected David to be so rude. Had Ava been busy poisoning him against me? Nevertheless, I didn’t need telling twice and I left in a hurry, floored once again by how Ava had managed to turn an inquest into a way to get ahead at work. I skulked, defeated, back to my desk.

‘Jade, what were you thinki—’

I cut Georgette off. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

I sat down, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular, unblinking, thinking. I was supposed to be Team Head this year. That was the plan. That had always been the plan. But since Ava had turned up it was as though my years of loyal servitude to this company had all been for nothing: not now a blonde-haired damsel-in-distress with less experience than a toilet brush and the constitution of a ferret had entered the fray. No, I couldn’t let it happen. I had to do something, I had to stop this situation running away from me, I had to reverse the trend, put myself back into the ring. Play dirty, just the way Ava was with me.

Naomi Joy is a pen name of a young PR professional who was formerly an account director at prestigious Storm Communications. Writing from experience, she draws the reader in the darker side of the uptown and glamorous, presenting realism that is life or death, unreliable and thrilling to page-turn.

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Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Bridesmaids – Zara Stoneley – 5* #Review @ZaraStoneley @HarperImpulse #Romance #RomCom #Bridesmaids #Friends #PublicationDay #FridayFeeling #FridayReads

Meet Rachel, the beautiful bride with BIG plans for the perfect day! The venue is a castle and the dress is designer.  It’s just a shame her husband is a rat.

Maddie and Sally have only one thing in common – they both love the same man!
 
Beth is a newly single mum with a mystery baby daddy.  Surely the father isn’t someone the girls all know?
 
And then there’s Jane, the glue holding them all together, but being dumped doesn’t make her the happiest bridesmaid…especially with gorgeous flatmate Freddie complicating things.

Will, the bride say, ‘I Do!’?  Or will her bridesmaids save the day…and find love along the way?    

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

Jane feels like she’s failing on every level. Dumped at her hen night, working for a diva, and keeping secrets from her two best friends, can her life get any more complicated? Yes, it can.

The story is divided into three acts. The first introduces the characters and conflicts that arise when Rachel’s wedding is announced and the Bridesmaids assemble. The second focuses on The Hen Party and the final act is The Big day itself.

Jane, the main protagonist who I love, is kind, quirky, lacking in self-esteem, and willing to do whatever it takes to make her best friend’s hen night and wedding a success, even if she has doubts about it. Jane is the keeper of secrets, others and her own, and this makes for many complications in her life. Some lead to humorous situations that will have you laughing out loud. Others are poignant, and make you think.

The Bridesmaids are now women in their thirties, they should have left the schoolyard behind, but old rivalries and secrets cause tensions amongst them, which make compelling reading. The dynamics of the group are believable. The writing is rich in visual imagery, so you can easily imagine, both the characters and their interactions.

Jane faces internal conflicts too, as she tries to understand her feelings for her flatmate, who is so lovely, he’s almost too good to be true, the perfect rom-com hero.

‘Bridesmaids’ is easy to read, an uplifting story, with complex, realistic characters and the perfect balance of romance and humour. There is also an insightful look at friendships and social situations, where people who would never normally choose to meet are thrown together, which gives this book a depth of interest not often found in this genre.

A gentle, humorous journey through one of life’s iconic events, and there are kittens too, what more could you ask?