Riley and Jen have been best friends since they were children, and they thought their bond was unbreakable. It never mattered to them that Riley is black and Jen is white. And then Jen’s husband, a Philadelphia police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager and everything changes in an instant.
This one act could destroy more than just Riley and Jen’s friendship. As their community takes sides, so must Jen and Riley, and for the first time in their lives the lifelong friends find themselves on opposing sides.
But can anyone win a fight like this?
We Are Not Like Them is about friendship and love. It’s about prejudice and betrayal. It’s about standing up for what you believe in, no matter the cost.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
This story explores injustice, prejudice and race in an insightful way from the perspective of an interracial friendship. The beginning is poignant and fills the reader with anger at the injustice of the indiscriminate shooting of a young black male. Immediately the question, would the victim be lying there dying if he was white, is at the forefront of the reader’s mind.
Then the two female protagonists are introduced, Jen is a homemaker, Riley, a successful broadcast journalist, Jen is white, Riley is black, and they have been friends since childhood. The repercussions of the shooting are delivered to them independently, but as Jen runs and leaves Riley questioning, both sense this the end of something.
Their friendship has survived the years by avoidance of potentially divisive issues which the shooting and its fallout bring to the fore. Inequalities exist in Jen and Riley’s relationship. Riley is the giver, Jen is the taker, and this is significant for what follows.
The story explores contemporary issues. It strives to present everyone’s viewpoints whether this is successful is open for debate. Well written, and eloquent it engages the reader and provokes thinking.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return of an honest review.
The dramatic beginning sets the pace and scene for a twisty tale of betrayal and deception. The reader is given an omnipotent view of events, and the author’s use of dramatic irony is good. The main protagonists are unreliable, leading to unexpected twists to intensify the suspense and keep the reader guessing.
The author’s original perspective on the child abduction theme works well and delivers a poignant and suspenseful read.
Gemma Rogers was inspired to write gritty thrillers by a traumatic event in her own life nearly twenty years ago. Her debut novel Stalker was published in September 2019 and marked the beginning of a new writing career. Gemma lives in West Sussex with her husband, two daughters.
Late for work and dodging traffic, Eliza’s still reeling from the latest row with her husband Paddy. Twenty-something years ago their eyes met over the class divide in oh-so-cool Britpop London, but these days their eyes only meet to bicker over the three-seat sofa.
Paddy seems content filling his downtime with canal boats and cricket, but Eliza craves the freedom and excitement of her youth. Being fifty feels far too close to pensionable, their three teenage children are growing up fast, and even the dog has upped and died. Something is going to have to change—menopause be damned!
Woman of a Certain Rage is a smart and funny novel for all the women who won’t be told it’s too late to shake things up, and Eliza is a heroine many will recognise. She may sweat a lot and need a wee all the time, but she has something to prove.
I received a copy of this book from ‘Head of Zeus’ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story captures the essence of what it’s like for most women growing older, with a wealth of experience and knowledge but not to be seen. Eliza’s story immerses the reader in a myriad of emotions, there are many hilarious moments, but these are tempered by the fear, poignancy and the sense of loss.
Eliza is menopausal and suffering. Her body is unrecognisable, life’s pleasures seem a distant memory, and everyone appears to be getting on with their lives without her. This is an entertaining read written in an engaging but relatable way. It explores many issues that women at this stage of their life face.
It’s an easy read and will appeal to many women of a certain age.
With an air of faded splendour, Willoughby Manor was an idyllic childhood home to Ruben De Lacy. Gazing at it now, decades later, the memories are flooding back, and not all of them are welcome…
In a tumbledown cottage in Willoughby’s grounds, Dolly and Olive King lived with their eccentric explorer father. One of the last things he did was to lay a treasure hunt before he died, but when events took an unexpected turn, Dolly and Olive left Willoughby for good, never to complete it.
But when Ruben uncovers a secret message, hidden for decades, he knows he needs Olive and Dolly’s help. Can the three of them solve the treasure hunt, and will piecing together the clues help them understand what happened to their families that summer, all those years ago?
A glorious summer read with a delightful cast of characters from the bestselling author of The Summer We Ran Away.
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A crumbling house full of faded glory and painful memories is what greets Ruben when he returns to his childhood home the last time before he sells it. He’s a father, but this is not something he excels at, so forgetting he is looking after his daughter for two weeks is nothing new. When they discover the first clue to a treasure hunt, his childhood and teenage memories come flooding back and make him contact Dolly and Olive, his two fellow treasure hunters.
Olive has settled for comfort and doesn’t realise it until her lover leaves her for someone else. Ruben’s request stirs up old memories but is she brave enough to face them. Dolly is driven and dangerous. When she’s suspended from the job she loves with her annoying partner, an invitation back to her childhood is the best on offer.
This is an emotional and entertaining story. The soul-searching, acceptance and forgiveness unfold in a heartwarming way. It examines relationships, family, first love and friendships. There is gentle romance for the two couples and the building of a daughter and father bond. The characters are easy to empathise with, even Ruben, as his past is revealed. There is mystery, secrets and tragedy revealed in a story full of sensory imagery and believable emotions.
Two women raised as sisters. Bound by a secret that could tear them apart . . .
Since childhood, Jen and South African-born Kemi have lived like sisters in the McFadden family home in Edinburgh, brought together by a shared family history which stretches back generations. The ties that bind them are strong and complicated.
Solam Rhoyi is from South Africa’s black political elite. Handsome and charismatic, he meets both Kemi and Jen on a trip to London and sweeps them off their feet. Kemi, captivated by Solam and wanting to discover more about her past, travels to South Africa for the first time. Jen, seeking an escape from her father’s overbearing presence, decides to go with her.
In Johannesburg, it becomes clear that Solam is looking for the perfect wife to facilitate his soaring political ambitions. And as the real story behind Jen and Kemi’s connection threatens to emerge, Solam’s choice will have devastating consequences for them both…
I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a compelling and complex, mainly historical saga that spans continents and cultures. At its core is the sisterly bond between two women who grew up together despite having different birthplaces, cultural identities and families. The story begins in Southern Rhodesia in 1921 and concludes in 2010 in Cape Town. Short chapters and parts propel the reader through family history and political change until we reach the time when the sisterly bond is tested and family secrets revealed.
Well researched historical details and realistically crafted characters make this an absorbing read. It does move through time quickly, but the story’s focus is on the sisters and how their bond is tested. Solam is a pivotal character who represents South Africa’s changing political climate. His political ambition makes him manipulative and ruthless, especially in his interactions with the soul sisters.
This book takes the reader on an emotional journey filled with betrayal, love and secrets. It explores culture, family, identity and political change with rich sensory imagery and believable characters that bring the story to vibrant life.
Lesley Lokko is a Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic and novelist, formerly Dean of Architecture at City College of New York, who has lived and worked on four continents. Lesley’s bestselling novels include Soul Sisters, Sundowners, Rich Girl, Poor Girl and A Private Affair. Her novels have been translated into sixteen languages and are captivating stories about powerful people, exploring themes of racial and cultural identity.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The reader is instantly drawn to Liv, the main protagonist in this heartwarming story of love, life and second chances. Returning to her hometown, Liv finds the sense of community and completeness she’s missed. Family secrets, friendship rekindled, and romance are woven into the plot making it an engaging read. It’s about finding what makes you happy and being brave enough to follow your dreams.
The setting is intrinsic to the story. It’s described with powerful sensory imagery that draws the reader into the world. If you enjoy heartbreak, happiness and soul searching, this story delivers them all beautifully.
Extract from Life’s What You Make It – Sian O’Gorman
I really should buy my ex-boyfriend and his ex-girlfriend a drink or a posh box of chocolates to say thank you for getting back together, even if it was just for one night. And I should say an even bigger thank you to her for telling me about it. Because if Jeremy and Cassandra hadn’t met up at one of his friend’s weddings, there is the very real possibility that he and I might have carried on and then everything that did happen wouldn’t have happened and my life would have remained exactly as it was.
I was an Irish girl transplanted to London for a decade, swapping the seaside and village of Sandycove – with its little shops and the beach, the people, the way the clouds skidded in for a storm, the rainbows that blossomed afterwards – for the bright lights, the traffic and the incessant noise of London. My visits home had become sporadic to the point of paltry. There was never enough time for a long trip and so my visits were only ever two nights long. Even last Christmas I’d flown in on Christmas Eve and was gone the 27th. I’d barely seen Mum or my best friend Bronagh and when Mum drove me to the airport and hugged me goodbye, I had the feeling that we were losing each other, as though we were becoming strangers.
London had become a slog, working twelve-hour days for my toxic boss, Maribelle, who drank vodka from her water bottle and didn’t believe in bank holidays. Or weekends. Or going home for the evening. Or eating. Or, frankly, anything that made life worth living. If it wasn’t for my flatmate, Roberto, my London life would have been utterly miserable. Looking back now, I think the reason why I kept going out with Jeremy for six months, even though we were entirely unsuited, was because at least it was something. And if I’ve learned anything about life over the last year, it’s that you should do something, but never the least of it.
‘Olivia O’Neill,’ Roberto would say on a loop. ‘Liv, you need to raise your game.’ He wasn’t a fan of Jeremy, whom I’d been seeing for six months. ‘Leave Jeremy and dump Maribelle and make your own life.’
But how do you do that when you have forgotten what your own life is? How on earth do you find it again when you are the grand old age of thirty-two? I couldn’t start again. But then the universe works in mysterious ways. If you don’t get off your arse and make changes, then it gets fed up and starts making them for you. But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself… let’s zip back to before it all began… before I discovered what really made me happy, took charge of my life and found my crown.
* * *
It was Friday, the last day of May, and I was at Liverpool Street Station. Mum normally called at this time, knowing my route to work and that, by 7.32 a.m., I was always on the escalator, rising up from the underground, before the thirteen-minute trot to my office.
‘Hi, Mum,how are you? Everything okay?’
‘I am…’ She hesitated.
‘I am…’ She stopped again. ‘I am fine… absolutely fine. It’s just we’ve been in A & E all evening… we got home back at midnight…’
‘A & E?’ I was so worried that I didn’t ask who the ‘we’ was.
‘It happened the other night in Pilates,’ she said. ‘I reached down to pick up the ball and I felt my knee go.’
My speed walk through the station stopped mid-concourse, making a man in pinstripes swerve and swear at me under his breath. It didn’t make sense. My mother was fitter than me, this walk from tube to desk was the only exercise I did. She was fifty-seven and power walked her way up and down the seafront every evening, as well as the twice-weekly Pilates classes. ‘But you are brilliant at Pilates,’ I said. ‘Didn’t your teacher say you have the body of a twenty-five-year-old?’ I’d moved myself to the side of the newsagents’ kiosk, where I would buy my Irish Times to keep when I was feeling homesick – which was increasingly more frequent these days.
Mum gave a laugh. ‘She said my hips were the hips of a younger woman,’ she explained. ‘I don’t think she said twenty-five-year-old. My hip flexors have stopped flexing and I’m on crutches. It’s not the worst in the world and within a few weeks, with enough rest, I should be back on my feet. The only thing is the shop…’
Mum ran her own boutique in Sandycove, the eponymously named Nell’s. She’d opened it when I was just a toddler and had weathered two recessions and a handful of downturns, but was just as successful as ever. And even when a rival boutique, Nouveau You, opened ten years ago, Nell’s was definitely the more popular.
‘Jessica can’t manage the shop on her own,’ Mum continued. ‘I’ll have to try and find someone for the four weeks. I’ll call the agency later.’
‘Oh, Mum.’ I couldn’t imagine Mum on crutches – this was the woman who had only ever been a blur when I was growing up, coming home from the shop to make dinner for her second shift and all the business admin she had to do. I used to imagine she slept standing up, like a horse. I tried to think how I could help, stuck here hundreds of miles away in London. ‘What about your Saturday girl?’
‘Cara? She’s got her Leaving Cert in a week’s time. I can’t ask her. So… it’s just a bit of a hassle, that’s all.’
I really wished I was there to look after her. Maybe I could fly in this weekend? Just for Saturday night.
‘Please don’t worry,’ said Mum. ‘It’s only four weeks on crutches, and I’ve been ordered to rest, leg up… read a few books. Watch daytime television, said the doctor.’ Mum gave another laugh. ‘He said I could take up crochet or knitting. Told me it was very popular these days. So I told him that I was only fifty-seven and the day I start knitting is the day I stop dyeing my hair.’
‘But you’ll go mad,’ I said. ‘Four weeks of daytime television. Who will look after you?’
‘I can hobble around,’ she said. ‘Enough to make cups of tea, and I can get things delivered and, anyway, I have Henry.’ She paused for emphasis. ‘He was with me in the hospital and has volunteered to help.’
Mum had never had a boyfriend that I’d known of. She’d always said she was too busy with me and the shop. ‘And Henry is…?’
‘Henry is my very good friend,’ she said. ‘We’ve become very close. He’s really looking forward to meeting you.’ She paused again for dramatic effect. ‘We’ve been seeing each other since Christmas and… well, it’s going very well indeed.’
‘That’s lovely,’ I said. ‘Tell him I’m looking forward to meeting him. Very much. Who is he, what does he do?’ I really would have to fly over to vet him… maybe Maribelle might be in a good mood today and I could leave early next Friday?
‘Henry took over the hardware shop from Mr Abrahamson. Henry’s retired from engineering and needed something to do. He’s like that, always busy. He’s been a bit of an inspiration, actually,’ she went on, ‘taking on a business when he’s never run one before. And he’s trying to grow Ireland’s largest onion.’ She laughed. ‘Not that he’s ever even grown a normal-sized one before, but he’s read a book from the library on what you need, gallons of horse manure apparently, and he wants to win a prize at the Dún Laoghaire show in September.’
If anyone deserved a bit of love Mum did and considering I would not win any awards for daughter of the year with my generally neglectful behaviour, I was happy she had someone. And surely anyone who grew outsized vegetables could only be a good person.
But I felt that longing for home, that wish to be there. Even if she had Henry and his onions, I wanted to be there too. I restarted my speed walk to the office. Being late for Maribelle was never a good start to the day.
‘So you’re sure you’re all right?’ I said, knowing that going over probably wouldn’t happen this weekend, not with the presentation I had to help Maribelle prepare for on Monday. I passed the only tree I saw on my morning commute, a large and beautiful cherry tree, it was in the middle of the square outside the station and blossomed luxuriantly in the spring and now, in late May, all the beautiful leaves which I’d seen grow from unfurled bud to acid green were in full, fresh leaf. Apart from my morning coffee, it was the only organic thing I saw all day. If that tree was still going in all that smog and fumes and indifference from the other commuters, I used to tell myself, then so could I.
‘I’m fine,’ Mum said. ‘Don’t worry… Brushing my teeth this morning took a little longer than normal, but it’s only a few weeks… I’m getting the hang of the crutches. I’ve been practising all morning. Anyway, how is Jeremy?’ She and Jeremy were yet to meet.
‘Jeremy is…’ How was Jeremy? Just the night before, Roberto had described him as a ‘wounded boy, shrouded in a Barbour jacket of privilege’. But I felt a little sorry for him, especially after meeting his family last New Year’s Eve and seeing how he was treated. I hadn’t actually seen him for a week as he’d been at a wedding the previous weekend and we’d both been busy with work. ‘Jeremy is fine,’ I said. ‘I think. Sends his love.’
Jeremy wasn’t the type to send his love, but Mum didn’t know that. ‘Well, isn’t that lovely,’ she said. ‘Say we’re all really looking forward to welcoming him to Ireland.’
I really couldn’t imagine Jeremy in his camel chinos striding around Sandycove’s main street and speaking in his rather loud, bossy, posh voice. He’d stand out like a sore thumb.
‘And you’ll have to bring that dote Roberto as well,’ said Mum. ‘He probably needs a bit of time off as well, the little pet.’
‘I don’t think we’ll get him over,’ I replied. ‘You know how he says he can’t breathe in Ireland and starts to feel light-headed as though he’s having a panic attack. He says he’s done with Ireland.’
Mum laughed, as she always did when I told her something Roberto had said. The two of them were as thick as thieves every time she came to London, walking arm in arm around Covent Garden together, Roberto showing her all his favourite shops and deciding what West End show we would go to. ‘He’s a ticket, that one. Anyway, there’s the doorbell. It’ll be Henry with some supplies. I’ll call you later.’
‘Okay…’ I had reached my building. If you dislocated your neck and looked skywards, straight up the gleaming glass, my office was up there somewhere on the seventeenth floor. I had to go in, any later and it would put Maribelle in a bad mood and that wasn’t good for anyone.
In the lift, among the jostle of the other PAs, behind some of the other equity managers who, like Maribelle, were overpaid and overindulged, we ascended to our offices where we would spend the next twelve hours.
I thought of Mum at home in Sandycove. The end of May, the most beautiful month in Ireland, and I remembered the way the sun sprinkled itself on the sea, the harbour full of walkers and swimmers all day long, people in the sea as the sun retreated for the day, or the village itself with its small, bright, colourful shops and the hanging baskets and cherry trees, and Mum’s boutique right in the middle. I wished I was there, even just for a few hours, to hug Mum, and go for a walk with Bronagh. To just be home.
The doors opened on the seventeenth floor. It was 7.45 a.m. exactly and dreams of Sandycove would have to be put on hold as I had to get on with surviving Maribelle. I hung up my coat and sat down at my desk and switched on my computer. My screen saver was a selfie of me and Bronagh, taken last summer sitting on the harbour wall at the little beach in Sandycove. Every time I looked at that picture of the sun shining, the two of us laughing, arms around each other, seagulls flying above us, the pang for home got worse. I should change it, I thought. Replace it with something that doesn’t make me homesick, something that doesn’t make me think of all the things I am missing and missing out on. I clicked on my screen and up came the standard image of a scorched red-earth mountain, as far from Sandycove as you could get.
Sian O’Gorman was born in Galway on the West Coast of Ireland, grew up in the lovely city of Cardiff, and has found her way back to Ireland and now lives on the east of the country, in the village of Dalkey, just along the coast from Dublin. She works as a radio producer for RTE.
Running from a wedding… … to a whole new future! Bree Allenby’s first stop on her road trip across Australia is to attend the society wedding of her brother’s best friend. When Noah Fitzgerald is dramatically jilted, he needs a quick getaway—so Bree suggests he come with her! Spending her days with a billionaire is not what she was expecting… Not only is their spark of attraction completely new, but it has them both rethinking where they’re going in life!
I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A well-written friend to lover romance where Bree and newly jilted Noah go on a life-changing road trip. Bree’s original reason for the road trip leads to some poignant, thought-provoking moments. The road trip setting is a bonus with great descriptions.
Bree and Noah are likeable characters with emotional baggage, which they open and discard as the journey progresses. A sweet romance about friendship, parenting, and taking a chance on love.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
A Tiger named Lee is brightly illustrated and written in a rhyming style. It teaches young children that friends may look different from you. It also shows that everyone is scared sometimes, and that’s okay. Lee’s adventure in the jungle lets children see that being brave and stepping out of your small world can lead to a bigger, exciting world.
An engaging fantasy story about courage, fear and friendship. Child-friendly characters are brought to life with vibrant illustrations and easy to read text.
Sinéad Murphy is an Irish author, television Director, and filmmaker. ‘A Tiger named Lee’ is Sinéad’s debut picture book, published in 2021 by Tiny Tree Children’s Books. Sinéad wrote ‘A Tiger Named Lee,’ for her young daughter to show her that it’s normal to have fears and worries and that help is always there if you ask for it.
Poppy the porcupine has always wanted to make a friend, but her defensive nature prevents her. When a young tiger cub stumbles upon her one day in the rainforest, she reacts badly and scares him away.
Determined to change her ways, she sets out to find him, but little does she know that the tiger cub is about to have a problem of his own. In the face of danger, will Poppy find a way to save the day?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
A vibrantly illustrated children’s picture book about learning to trust, even when others have let you down. Poppy, the Porcupine is as prickly as her appearance, but with good reason. She wants to make friends but is frightened of being hurt. Her first meeting with Rory, the tiger cub, doesn’t go well. She perseveres and eventually makes a friend.
The problem of animal poaching is explored understandably, and the conclusion shows the importance of learning to trust and friendship positively. Parents and carers may need to remind their children of the dangers of traffic.
Overall this a colourfully illustrated story with good messages and likeable characters that should appeal to young children.
Emma Sandford is a Liverpool-born author and businesswoman based in Cheshire. For many years, she has wanted to write a children’s book that draws on her own experiences and helps young children overcome personal issues. One day, inspiration hit her: she realised that a porcupine has a very obvious defence mechanism where it shows its quills, stamps its feet and chatters with its teeth when feeling threatened.
Unfortunately, due to traumatic events in her life, Emma has also been defensive in situations where she didn’t need to be, and was frightened to let people get close to her. The Problem With Poppy is a fun way of teaching kids that while everybody has a natural defence mechanism, there is a time and a place to use it. By the end of the story, Poppy has learnt this valuable lesson and she makes a lifelong friend in the process.
Emma is planning on writing more books in the future that have similar important messages for youngsters. Watch this space!
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is a lovely story about a much loved teddy bear. It teaches children that it’s okay to keep old things if they hold special memories. It also shows how with a little care old things can be made as new. These are valuable lessons for young children delivered in an engaging story format with colourful and relatable illustrations. It will make most parents and grandparents a little sentimental about their childhood toys too.
Sue Wicksteadis a teacher and an author and writes children’s picture books with a bus theme. She has also written a photographic history book about the real bus, which is where her story writing began.
Sue once worked with a playbus charity based in Crawley. This led her to write the photographic history book about the project. The ‘Bewbush Playbus’ book was published in 2012.
Sue then began to write a fictional tale about the bus. ‘Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus’, his number plate JJK261 gave him his name and has now been followed by more picture books (ten to date) which all indeed have a bus connection as well as links to her teaching journey.
Gloria is the most recent bus book and is based on the summer play-schemes which operated during the school holidays providing a safe place to play and to meet other children. (published 2020)
‘Barty Barton; the bear that was loved too much’ was also published in 2020. Barty was written for both her son and grandson.
Some of Sue’s books have been entered and shortlisted in ‘The Wishing Shelf Book Awards’, her book ‘A Spooky Tale’ was a silver medal winner in 2019. It is a story written with her class in school and is aimed at the younger reader.
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