Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Saga

Good Girls Amanda Brookfield 5*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @ABrookfield1 #BlogTour #Author #Interview #Extract #FamilyDrama #ComingofAge #Sisters #Secrets #Romance #Saga

GOOD GIRLS NEVER TELL TALES…

Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.

Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.

This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings.  Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally, Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.

Good Girls is a love story, a coming-of-age story, a mystery and a tear-jerker. But most of all it’s a reminder of who to keep close and who to trust with your darkest secrets. 

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#boldwoodblogtours

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

My Thoughts…

Two sisters, once close, but who have become estranged as they grew older. Eleanor, the older has her own reasons, but she’s never understood her sister Kat’s. Drawn together again, by a cruel stroke of fate, is it too late to reconnect?

This is an excellent family drama, with dark family secrets that devastate the once close sisterly bond. The story begins with Eleanor rushing to be with her sister, and them drifts back in time to the mid-1980s when they were young girls, and then the early 1990s, when Eleanor left for university.

The historical events slowly illuminate the present discord and misunderstanding, but all is not revealed until it is in some ways, too late to make amends. Serendipity plays a part in this story, as it often does in reality, and Eleanor gradually comes to terms with her past and the possibility of a hopeful future.

The cast of characters resonate, they all play a part in Eleanor’s life but have their own motivations and flaws, which makes them real. The story is realistically peppered with laughter, sadness, anger and despair. It is a poignant reminder that you cannot sometimes trust those closest to you, and of the rollercoaster nature of life.

An emotional family drama, with a realistic plot and memorable characters.

Author Interview – Amanda Brookfield – Good Girls

What inspired you to write ‘Good Girls’?

My original idea was to write about two sisters who are driven apart and then re-connected by the same man, deciding to get in touch by email after twenty years.  But then the story took off in a hundred other directions, as stories do!

What interests you about family drama? Why are stories about sisters so absorbing?

We all come from families of one kind or another – our upbringings forge us, whether we like it or not – and I love looking at the myriad ways we try to deal with that.  Sisters are a prime and rich example (I have two of my own!), being a relationship that is full of rivalries and ups and downs.  But there are also, always, the ties of love and loyalty that continue to bind us as siblings, long after we have gone our separate ways in the adult world.  This is a fascinating seam to explore as a novelist.

Dialogue is very important in a family drama story.  How do you make your dialogue realistic?

You can have the most gripping plot, but if the voices of the characters do no ring true then it will fall flat.  The way I work is to hear my characters speak inside my head.  In fact, often snatches of dialogue – of how my characters would communicate – arrive at unexpected moments when I am away from my desk, driving the car say, or walking the dog.  I have learnt to trust these snatches and write them down – it is my imagination working overtime, and 9 times out of 10 it is absolutely right.  I guess it is like being an actor, trying to get inside the psyche of a protagonist.

How do you create your characters?  What makes them believable and real?

Constructing a character is a bit like doing a jigsaw.  You decide what they look like, and where they live; what age they are and what they do for a living.  You give them hopes, hobbies and fears.  Then you throw events at them and see what they do!  If there is enough substance to your creations, enough humanity, the the way they behave under pressure will feel real and credible for the reader.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read as widely as possible – mostly fiction, but also memoir, travel and some history.  I love being surprised by what I find on the page and always have my antennae up to learn new things, both creatively and factually.  If someone recommends a book to me passionately enough, then I will always give it a go!  I also try to avoid reading books that I think might be similar to whatever I am working on – I hate the idea of being influenced or feeling that someone has already gone where I am trying to go.

What are you currently writing?

I am halfway through a novel about a woman plucking the courage to leave her abusive husband – one of those subtle monsters that no one else knows about.  I am writing the story from my heroine’s point of view, so it has an intensity that feels new and exciting.  It is important for me to feel that each new writing project is stretching the boundaries of what I have done before.

Extract from ‘Good Girls’ – Amanda Brookfield
CHAPTER ONE
January 2013

Eleanor decided to take a taxi from the station, even though she knew it would cost ten precious pounds and mean a wait. Being so rural, only a handful of cars served the area, but she didn’t want to be a bother to Howard, her brother-in-law. She texted both him and Kat to say she would be there within the hour and stayed as warm as she could in the small arched station entrance. It was a cold, dank morning, not raining for once but with air like icy metal against her skin.

The taxi driver who pulled up some twenty minutes later exuded an attitude of reluctance that made Eleanor disinclined to make conversation. When they hit a tail-back, thanks to a loop round the old Roman bridge, still not fixed from the heavy flooding over the New Year, he thumped his steering wheel. ‘A bloody joke. We can land men on the moon and still it takes three weeks to fix a few old stones.’ Eleanor murmured agreement but found that she didn’t mind much. The fields on either side of the road were still visibly waterlogged. After the grimy mêlée of south London, it was a visual feast – ethereal, shimmering silver bands engraved with the black reflections of leafless trees and smudgy January clouds.

The usual criss-cross of feelings was stirring at being back in such proximity to the landscape of her childhood. Just twenty miles away, her father was a resident in a small care home called The Bressingham, which he had once included in his rounds as a parish priest, days long since lost to him through the fog of dementia. Howard and Kat’s substantial Georgian house was ten miles in the opposite direction, on the fringes of a town called Fairfield. They had moved from Holland Park seven years before, a year after the birth of their third child, Evie. At the time, Eleanor had been surprised to get the change of address card. She had always regarded her little sister and husband as life-long townies, Kat with her posh quirky dress-making commissions to private clients and Howard with his big-banker job. It was because they saw the house in a magazine and fell in love with it, Kat had explained at one of their rare subsequent encounters, in the manner of one long used to plucking things she wanted out of life, like fruits off a tree.

But recently life had not been so cooperative. A small tumour had been removed from Kat’s bowel and she was in bed recovering. Howard had reported the event earlier in the week, by email, and when Eleanor had got on the phone, as he must have known she would, he had said that the operation had gone well and that Kat was adamant that she didn’t need sisterly visits. No further treatment was required. She would be up and about in a matter of days. Their regular babysitter, Hannah, was increasing her hours to plug gaps with the children and he was taking a week off from his daily commute into the City. ‘But I am her sister,’ Eleanor had insisted, hurt, in spite of knowing better. ‘I’d just like to see her. Surely she can understand that.’ Howard had said he would get back to her, but then Kat had phoned back herself, saying why didn’t Eleanor pop down on Saturday afternoon.

‘Nice,’ said the driver, following Eleanor’s instructions to turn between the laburnums that masked the handsome red-brick walls and gleaming white sash windows and pulling up behind the two family cars, both black, one a tank-sized station wagon, the other an estate. He fiddled with his satnav while Eleanor dug into her purse for the right money. I am not the rich one, she wanted to cry, seeing the visible sag of disappointment on his sheeny unshaven face at the sight of her twenty-pence tip; I am merely the visiting elder sister who rents a flat by a Clapham railway line, who tutors slow or lazy kids to pay her bills and who has recently agreed to write an old actor’s memoirs for a sum that will barely see off her overdraft.

Howard answered the door, taking long enough to compound Eleanor’s apprehensions about having pushed for the visit. He was in a Barbour and carrying three brightly coloured backpacks, clearly on the way out of the house. ‘Good of you to come.’ Brandishing the backpacks, he kissed her perfunctorily on both cheeks. ‘Brownies, go-carting and a riding lesson – pick-ups in that order. Then two birthday parties and a bowling alley. God help me. See you later maybe. She’s upstairs,’ he added, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘

‘The Big Sister arrives,’ Kat called out before Eleanor had even crossed the landing. ‘Could you tug that curtain wider?’ she added as Eleanor entered the bedroom. ‘I want as much light as possible.’

‘So, how are you?’ Eleanor asked, adjusting the offending drape en route to kissing Kat’s cheek, knowing it was no moment to take offence at the Big Sister thing, in spite of the reflex of deep, instinctive certainty that Kat had said it to annoy. At thirty-eight she was the big sister, by three years. She was also almost six-foot, with the heavy-limbed, dark-haired, brown-eyed features that were such echoes of their father, while Kat, as had been pointed out as far back as either of them could remember, had inherited an uncanny replication of their mother’s striking looks, from the lithe elfin frame and flinty-blue feline eyes to the extraordinary eye-catching tumble of white-blonde curls. ‘You look so well,’ Eleanor exclaimed, happiness at the truth of this observation making her voice bounce, while inwardly she marvelled at her sibling’s insouciant beauty, utterly undiminished by the recent surgery. Her skin was like porcelain, faintly freckled; her hair in flames across the pillow.

‘Well, thank you, and thank goodness, because I feel extremely well,’ Kat retorted. ‘So please don’t start telling me off again for not having kept you better informed. As I said on the phone, the fucking thing was small and isolated. They have removed it – snip-snip,’ she merrily scissored two fingers in the air. ‘So I am not going to need any further treatment, which is a relief frankly since I would hate to lose this lot.’ She yanked at one of the flames. ‘Shallow, I know, but there it is.’

‘It’s not shallow,’ Eleanor assured her quietly, experiencing one of the sharp twists of longing for the distant days when they had been little enough and innocent enough to take each other’s affections for granted. They had been like strangers for years now in comparison, shouting across an invisible abyss.

#AmandaBrookfield

Amanda Brookfield is the bestselling author of 15 novels including Relative Love and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel.  She lives in London and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Univ College Oxford. Her first book with Boldwood, Good Girls, will be published on 8th October 2019.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Humour, New Adult Romance, Romance, Travel

Intimate Strangers Lasairiona E. McMaster 4*Review @QueenofFireLas @rararesources #NewAdult #ContemporaryRomance #InternetRomance #ComingofAge #BookReview #BlogTour

#IntimateStrangers

Is there such a thing as too perfect?

Lisa Millar wasn’t supposed to fall in love with a guy on the Internet. But she did.

Other than living over five thousand miles away in America, AJ Williams is seemingly her perfect match. Strikingly handsome, musically talented, plays hockey and has a typical college-guy life.

In a moment of carpe diem, Lisa flies from Ireland to Alabama to surprise her internet-beau and finds herself face to face with an inconceivable reality that she couldn’t possibly have prepared for.

How well can you truly know someone you meet online?

Will true love win out, or will AJ’s secret life be too much for Lisa to bear? 

Paperback Amazon Amazon Kindle Amazon UK Kindle Paperback UK

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The blurb for this book attracted me, even though I don’t usually read new adult romance, anymore. I need to think back thirty-nine years, to recognise how I would react in these circumstances, and whether I would risk everything for love, on the strength of an internet acquaintance.

There wasn’t internet in the 1980s, but I still changed the course of my life for love, after a short acquaintance, and so, the main character Lisa’s motivations are something I can relate to.

This contemporary romance is well-written, with an easy to read, style. The youth of the characters and the initial decisions they make are often immature, reading this now, but perfectly in keeping with their age group and intended audience.

Honest and relatable, this story does present our internet lovers with plenty of conflicts, which test their feelings and motivations. The twisty plot tells an engaging story, and the characters are authentic.

The first in the Lisa Millar series, it will be interesting to see what happens next.

Lasairiona McMaster grew up dreaming of an exciting life abroad, and, after graduating from Queens University, Belfast, that is exactly what she did – with her then-boyfriend, now husband of almost ten years. Having recently repatriated to Northern Ireland after a decade abroad spanned over two countries (seven and a half years in America and eighteen months in India), she now finds herself ‘home’, with itchy feet and dreams of her next expatriation. With a penchant for both travelling, and writing, she started a blog during her first relocation to Houston, Texas and, since repatriating to Northern Ireland, has decided to do as everyone has been telling her to do for years, and finally pen a book (or two) and get published while she tries to adjust to the people and place she left ten years ago, where nothing looks the same as it did when she left.

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Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Romance

The Things We Left Unsaid- Emma Kennedy 4*#Review @PenguinUKBooks @EmmaKennedy @arrowpublishing #FamilyDrama #BookReview #comingofage #1960s #relationships #HistoricalFiction #mothers #daughters #Contemporaryfiction #bookbloggers #Secrets

Rachel’s relationship with her mother, Eleanor, has always been far from perfect. Eleanor is a renowned artist born from the swinging sixties, and Rachel has forever lived in the shadow of her success.

When Rachel is left by her fiancé on the morning of their wedding she has no choice but to move back into her family home and spend an unbearably hot summer with a mother she feels distant from – in the presence of many painful memories.

It will take another turn of events before Rachel realises that sometimes the past holds exactly the comfort we need. And that behind the words left unsaid are untold stories that have the power to define us.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK – Cornerstone- Century in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

An emotional. vibrant coming of age story, highlighting the relationship between a mother Eleanor, and her daughter, Rachel. Still reeling from the loss of Charlie, her father, she is jilted at the altar and has to return home to heal, and decide what to do next, Her complex relationship with Eleanor makes this emotional and difficult, and despite Eleanor’s efforts, they remain estranged.

With secrets untold, Rachel faces her third life-altering event and begins to realise what she has lost. She begins to look back into her mother’s life and discovers, she suffered her own pain and setbacks despite her glamorous persona. Told from dual points of view we revisit Eleanor’s life, coming of age, in the swinging sixties and Rachel solves a family secret that gives her hope for the future, whilst she comes to terms with her present, with the help of family and new friends.

The characters are complex and easily draw you into their lives. The snapshot of life in the sixties highlights the decadence, but also the prejudices that still need to be overcome. There are many poignant episodes in this story, which has an authentic ethos.

The plot is simple, and I have read similar stories, but this doesn’t detract from the excellent storytelling.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction

Boy Swallows Universe Trent Dalton 4* #Review @TrentDalton @BoroughPress @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK #LiteraryFiction #Comingof Age #FamilyDrama #Friendship #Romance #Magic #Crime #UrbanFiction #Australia #Brisbane

Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious criminal for a babysitter. It’s not as if Eli’s life isn’t complicated enough already.

But Eli’s life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He’s about to fall in love. And he has to break into prison on Christmas Day, to save his mum.

A story of brotherhood, true love and the most unlikely of friendships, Boy Swallows Universe will be the most heartbreaking, joyous and exhilarating novel you will read all year.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I’m always a little wary of critically acclaimed, and over-hyped books, often they are not as good as they are reputed to be. So I started this one with trepidation. Initial impressions are that is honest, raw, and full of experiences of urban life in Brisbane that do not make easy reading.

Eli and August, are brothers, their carers’ lives are driven by drugs, and the boys have to constantly battle adversity to keep the family together. Despite the family’s dysfunctionality, the love the boys feel for their mother and each other dominates this story and puts into perspective many of the bizarre and often frightening experiences they endure.

At the end of this lengthy book, there is a note from the author, about how the story came into being, what it means to him and the story’s themes. It is, on reading this that you appreciate, it is more of a memoir than fiction, although seen through a young child’s and then young boys eyes. I wish I’d read this note first because it grounds this complex story, and makes it more relatable.

There is a great deal of imagination in this story, magic if you like, which I attributed to a young boy’s need to escape from the harshness of his life, and give himself the power to overcome some its more sordid aspects.

I’m still not sure if I liked it, but the writing is engaging and authentic, the story moves forward in an understandable way, and it gives an insider view of Australian life, particularly life in Brisbane and Queensland, through a young person’s viewpoint.

The characters are the lifeblood of this story, and the author indicates that they are based on people he knows or a medley of them, in his personal and journalistic life. Many are not likeable, and the danger the children are exposed to is disturbing, but they are real, and the reality of this story is what stays with you.

An unusual tale of growing up and surviving life in a gritty urban setting. With a cast of characters, covering the spectrum of humanity, and the humour, love and magic required to reach adulthood.

Posted in Book Review, Memoir, Non-Fiction

The Honey Bus – Meredith May – 4*#Review #Memoir #Family #ComingofAge #Nature @MeredithMaySF @HQStories #TuesdayBookBlog #TuesdayThoughts

‘The bee is more frightened than you,’ he said.

‘Can you imagine how scary it is to be this small in a world that is so big?’

He was right.

When she was five years old, Meredith May was abandoned by both parents. Her father left for the other side of the country. Her mother disappeared into herself.

But when Meredith discovered the rusted old bus where her grandpa kept bees, her world changed forever.

Family duty. Compassion and sacrifice. Unconditional love. The life of a honeybee displays it all. As her grandpa showed her the sacrifices bees make for their colony and the bonds they form with their keeper, Meredith discovered what family really means.

A rich and lyrical coming-of-age story, combined with spellbinding nature writing, The Honey Bus is the extraordinary story of a girl who journeyed into the hive – and found herself.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Some of the events recorded in this memoir are so sad and shocking that it’s hard to believe you are reading non-fiction, as its content has much in common with a literary fiction story about a dysfunctional American Family. However, this is a woman’s recollection of her childhood, some of it depressing, but mostly uplifting because she finds someone prepared to show her the beauty of nature and how its lessons can help anyone escape to a better life.

Meredith May’s childhood growing up in 1970s North America is interesting from a historical point of view, especially for people who grew up in the same time period. The insight into how honey bees live, what makes them work as a family, and how their experiences can help humans live better lives, is what makes this book remarkable.

It highlights the importance of honey bees to the ecosystem and draws realistic parallels between honey bee and human families and society.

Meredith’s relationship with her younger brother is selfless. It highlights the inadequacy of her mother and grandmother’s maternal skills because of mental health issues and their inherent lack of insight into the needs of young children.

Her Grandpa, although unconventional, understands what she needs, and provides her with security, time and most of all an understanding of life and its mysteries through his love of honey bees and beekeeping.

A complex, poignant journey through the eyes of a young girl faced with life’s misery and wonders, as she learns with her grandpa’s and the honey bees’ help, how to find a life worth living.

Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Impulse Book Club, Literary Humour, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Don’t You Forget About Me – 4* #Review -Mhairi McFarlane – @MhairiMcF @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK

It began with four words.

‘I love your laugh. x’

But that was twelve years ago. It really began the day Georgina was fired from The Worst Restaurant in Sheffield (© Tripadvisor) and found The Worst Boyfriend in the World (© Georgina’s best friends) in bed with someone else.

So when her new boss, Lucas McCarthy, turns out to be the boy who wrote those words to her all that time ago, it feels like the start of something.

The only problem? He doesn’t seem to remember Georgina – at all…

I received an electronic advanced reader copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Believable characters, realistic humour and poignant moments are all to be found in this likeable story set in Sheffield. Georgina’s life has not followed her teenage plan, but then whose does?

However, there’s more to her story than is first apparent, and although I did find this book, dragged a little in parts, I enjoyed it and appreciated the important issues it raises. Particularly, how a young person’s life can be irreparably damaged, by a single action or event.

The story is romantic and humorous, but it goes deeper than a romcom usually does. The humour is often dark or double-edged, and the romance is there, but not in the voluminous quantities the reader would expect from romantic comedy fiction.

Georgina’s family seem to treat her as the ‘joke’, the one who never grew up, but this is her perception and not necessarily their intention. Families are made up of individuals, drawn together by birth and blood, there is always likely to be a generational difference of opinion, which comes across well in this story, as does Georgina’s reactions and thoughts about their opinions on her life choices.

The romance of the story hinges on whether Lucas remembers Georgina, I think he does. His actions are not blameless, but they are understandable, given what he believes, how he feels about her, and what has subsequently occurred in his life.

The sibling relationship in this story is one of its strengths; competitiveness, bossiness and a hierarchy are evident, but the sister bond is unbreakable when threatened by outside forces.

The last quarter of this story has the most impact. Especially, when Georgina finally faces up to and shares what changed her young life. It is heartbreaking to read, but there will probably be parts of it that you can relate to, from your teenage life.  The difficulty Georgina has in verbalising her painful experience is relatable and makes her character memorable.

Well- written, topical and varied this is worth reading, but it’s not a quick, easy read.

Posted in Book Review

If You Go Down To The Woods – Seth C Adams – 3* Review

We were so young when it all happened. Just 13-years-old, making the most of the long, hot, lazy days of summer, thinking we had the world at our feet. That was us – me, Fat Bobby, Jim and Tara – the four members of the Outsiders’ Club.

The day we found a burnt-out car in the woods was the day everything changed. Cold, hard cash in the front seat and a body in the trunk… it started out as a mystery we were desperate to solve.

Then, the Collector arrived. He knew we had found his secret. And suddenly, our summer of innocence turned into the stuff of nightmares. 

Nothing would ever be the same again…

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

 As a man’s recollections of a life-changing summer when he was thirteen, this story works. The authentic young teen fears, language and obsessions draw you into the mind of a thirteen-year-old. The naivety of the gang of ‘Outsiders’ is evidenced throughout the story as they encounter bullying, extreme racial and sexual prejudice and violence. Joey’s belief that his father can overcome anything is touching and in character but his actions in the face of the strange and dangerous people and events he encounters seem far more mature than his years.

The setting and characters are almost stereotypical, but again they fit with this genre of novel. So from a technical point of view, this story works, but I didn’t get invested with the characters, except in Joey’s connection with his dog Bandit which is vivid and genuine. The story’s pacing is good but everything is seen from a pre-teen point of view, and so the story didn’t enthral me.  The target audience for this book is a more young adult than thriller reader, but as a debut, it is worth reading.

I received a copy of this book from Killer Reads  Harper Collins via NetGalley in return for an honest review.