Posted in Book Review

Secrets in Sicily- Penny Feeny-Blog Tour 4* Review

Sicily, 1977 Ten-year-old Lily and family arrive for their annual summer holiday in Sicily. Adopted as a toddler, Lily’s childhood has been idyllic.

But a chance encounter with a local woman on the beach changes everything…. 10 years later… Ever since that fateful summer Lily’s picture-perfect life, and that of her family has been in turmoil.

The secrets of the baking hot shores of Sicily are calling her back, and Lily knows that the answers she has been so desperately seeking can only be found if she returns to her beloved island once more…

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My Thoughts…

A family drama set in iconic Sicily initially in 1977. Lily’ lives a privileged life, including an annual holiday to the same villa in Sicily. She knows she was a survivor of an earthquake in Sicily in 1968, but nothing of her birth family and that isn’t problematic until she meets a stranger on the beach, who upsets the family dynamics and changes Lily’s life forever. Lily returns to island ten years later, to find out who she is.

Family secrets are at the centre of this story, brought to life with the vivid description of its setting in Sicily. Character driven, it examines how one chance encounter can change relationships and threaten the core values of a previously happy family.  Lily’s character development is the greatest as she moves from childhood to adulthood and finally discovers her roots. It highlights that well-meant actions and decisions sometimes have unforeseen consequences.

 If you are looking for a poignant, deep holiday, read then try this perfect escape to Sicily and all its secrets.

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

Penny Feeny has lived and worked in Cambridge, London and Rome. Since settling in Liverpool many years ago, she has been an arts administrator, editor, radio presenter and advice worker. Her short fiction has been widely published and broadcast and won several awards. Her first novel, That Summer in Ischia, was one of the summer of 2011’s best selling titles.     

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: The Accusation – Zosia Wand – Extract – 5* Review

Who would you choose if you had to – your daughter or your husband?

Eve lives in the beautiful Cumbrian town of Tarnside with her husband, Neil. After years of trying, and failing, to become parents, they are in the final stages of adopting four-year-old Milly. Though she already feels like their daughter, they just have to get through the ‘settling in’ period: three months of living as a family before they can make it official.

But then Eve’s mother, Joan, comes to stay. Joan has never liked her son-in-law. He isn’t right for Eve; too controlling, too opinionated. She knows Eve has always wanted a family but is Neil the best man to build one with?

Then Joan uncovers something that could smash Eve’s family to pieces…

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Extract

‘Why don’t we see what Milly does?’

What Milly does is admirable. She asks the girl politely if she can have the swing. The girl shakes her head, but she doesn’t get on the swing herself. She stands, holding it away from Milly.

I wait for Milly to turn to us for help, already rehearsing the scenario in my head. I will walk over, smiling. I will introduce myself and Milly to the girl and ask her name. I’ll suggest they sit on the swing together.

But Milly doesn’t turn around. What Milly does is to drop her head down and charge at the girl, knocking her backwards onto the loose wood chippings that form a protective layer over the tree roots and hard ground. Neil is the one to run forward, leaving me standing, gaping and useless. It’s Neil who dusts the girl down and leads her, sobbing, back to her grandmother, with Milly dragging along beside him protesting. ‘She maked me do it! She’s nasty!’ It’s Neil who insists Milly apologise.

‘Say sorry, Milly, or we will get straight back on the ferry and go home.’ His voice is firm and carries on the breeze. And he insists she repeat her apology, sincerely, before it is accepted.

I watch all this in horror. I do not know how to do this.

What would my mother have done? I try to imagine her here. She would be confident. She wouldn’t hesitate. She wouldn’t stand here like a lemon unable to move.

I watch the grandmother reassure Neil that it isn’t a problem. I watch her question her granddaughter. She’s quite stern. Is she asking her why she stopped Milly having the swing? Is she suggesting Milly isn’t the only one who needs to apologise? I can see she’s addressing both girls and they seem to be listening. As I watch, the older girl holds out her hand, and Milly takes it. They turn and skip back towards the playground together. For them, it’s all over. Neil says something to the grandmother, and she laughs.

I stand in the playground, watching Milly on the swing with her new friend, and I feel utterly alone. The ache is sudden and fierce. A need to see my mother. To be with her. I need to talk to her about Milly, to tell her everything that’s been going on, to share these feelings, these waves of emotion I hadn’t anticipated: love, joy, gratitude, delight, but also my fear. 

Loving someone, needing them so desperately, makes you vulnerable. You could lose them suddenly, brutally. When Neil’s away, I try not to imagine car crashes, random accidents. I’m not paranoid, I don’t sit fretting the moment he’s out of my sight, but sometimes the possibility that my happiness might end crashes in front of me. He feels it too; a call out of the blue, a need to hold tight for a moment.

It’s the price of love, that fear.

But loss comes in different shapes. It isn’t always solid and sudden; sometimes it trickles in. I’ve become a mother and now, more than ever, I need to talk to my own mother. And Milly needs her. Milly needs a grandmother. But I haven’t seen my mother for more than two years. She no longer speaks to me.

Neil swings back through the gate. ‘All sorted.’

‘I didn’t know what to do.’

He laughs but stops when he sees I’m serious and takes my hand. ‘Come on.’ He points to a small coffee van parked just the other side of the low playground fence. ‘He’s got a proper espresso machine.’ The van is within clear view. I follow him through the gate, glancing back to check on Milly. She waves from the swing as her new friend pushes her towards the sky.

As I warm my hands on the hot cup and sip the froth, watching Milly swing, I ask, ‘What if I was here on my own with her?’

My Thoughts…

Chillingly authentic, this story of adoption and family conflict shows that domestic abuse manifests in many ways and sometimes so subtly the victim is unaware of it until they have lost themselves completely.

Eve describes herself as a ‘glass half full’ person but she is always waiting for her happiness to be destroyed, something has made her this insecure and being under the spotlight as the adoption process draws to a close makes her seek support from an unlikely source. Neil loves Eve and their new daughter Milly, but he has secrets and areas of his life he can’t share this makes him vulnerable. Joan appears harmless, but she is manipulative and dangerous, blinkered she only sees one version of events, hers and makes a complex, sinister antagonist, a wolf in sheep’s clothing perhaps? The social workers Shona and Helen and the extended family and friends are all believable characters that enhance the story. 

Eve is a strong, decisive person in her work life, but in her personal life, she feels inadequate, leaning first on her mother and then her husband for emotional support. Her weakness is a crucial flaw and one she cannot escape until she has someone to fight for. Her character shows the most development in this story told from her point of view. She is frustrating, many times during the story I wanted her to be stronger and assert herself but she is a wholly convincing character who grows with each setback and becomes even stronger as she fights for her daughter and her family’s happiness.

An absorbing, realistic story, which sends chills down your spine because this could happen. If you enjoy domestic thrillers with a sinister twist, this is one to read.

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

Wand_Zosia_credit Mark Harrison, courtesy of the Westmorland Gazette

Zosia Wand is an author and playwright. She was born in London and lives in Cumbria with her family. She is passionate about good coffee, cake and her adopted landscape on the edge of the Lake District. Her first novel, Trust Me, was published by Head of Zeus in 2017.

Twitter: @zosiawand  Facebook: @zosiawand

 

 

 

 

Posted in Memoir, Non-Fiction

Finding Gobi Dion Leonard 5* Review

In 2016, Dion Leonard, a seasoned ultramarathon runner, unexpectedly stumbled across a little stray dog while competing in a gruelling 155-mile race across the Gobi Desert. The lovable pup, who earned the name ‘Gobi’, proved that what she lacked in size, she more than made up for in heart, as she went step for step with Dion over the treacherous Tian Shan Mountains, managing to keep pace with him for nearly 80 miles.

As Dion witnessed the incredible determination of this small animal, he felt something change within himself. In the past, he had always focused on winning and being the best, but his goal now was simply to make sure that his new friend was safe, nourished and hydrated. Although Dion did not finish first, he felt he had won something far greater and promised to bring Gobi back to the UK for good to become a new addition to his family. This was the start of a journey neither of them would ever forget with a roller coaster ride of drama, grief, heartbreak, joy and love that changed their lives forever.

Finding Gobi is the ultimate story of hope, of resilience and of friendship, proving once again, that dogs really are ‘man’s best friend.’

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My Thoughts… 

A lovely, honest, heartfelt memoir from an ultramarathon runner. Dion shares how meeting a little dog in China during a gruelling race changed and enriched his life.

This true-life story has a happy ending, so you know from the beginning whatever happens things turn out well for Dion and his doggy friend.

Dion is a driven individual whose childhood ended abruptly with the death of the man he called dad. Much of Dion’s motivation for pushing himself beyond reasonable limits can be traced back to his childhood. The memoir flows like a novel and is full of action, conflict, grounded characters and poignant moments.

Meeting Gobi is serendipitous, and Dion is determined she will be his. The sacrifices he makes, the people he meets and the different culture he learns to live with making this an enthralling read. Gobi’s story is touching, and many times your heart is in your mouth as you wonder if she will ever make it to the UK and life with Dion.

The insight into 21st-Century China is fascinating. The real-life action is heartstopping and the bond between man and dog rewarding. So familiar to everyone who shares their life with a doggy friend.  Whether or not, China, dogs and running are part of your life you will enjoy this well-paced, action-packed, original story, I did.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins Non-Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.