I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story may not appeal to everyone. You have to be willing to accept the concept of parallel lives that exist but only come to your notice, if you act in a certain way. Lauren Paling as a young girl, sees snapshots of her other possible lives, she learns not to share these insights with others who don’t understand, but then she dies and the emotional rollercoaster journey begins.
In each life she is different, and although surrounded by those who love her, they may relate to her, in different ways. The stories explore, love friendship, relationships loss and grief in a poignant way.
Lauren is searching for a mystery man in each life, without knowing his significance to her, if any. This is a story that can be read more than once, and perhaps needs to be, to fully grasp everything it is about, but that might just be me?
The historical scene-setting is well done, I grew up in this time frame, and I enjoyed the mid to late 20th Century references. Each life has subtle differences to authenticate it to Lauren, as part of her struggles to accept her new present and forget what has gone before.
The plot is detailed and the characters are likeable and believable, despite the extraordinariness of the storyline. This has a uniqueness, because of its emotional content and characterisation, even though the parallel lives concept is often used in science- fiction literature.
If you enjoy variety in your reading and enjoy a lovely, out worldly story this is for you.
I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘A Nearly Normal Family’, has all the atmosphere, detail and intrigue of a Nordic Thriller, but the pace, moral questions and twists of an excellent courtroom and family drama. The protagonists are pushed to their limits, making them unreliable, so that even when you think you know, you probably don’t, giving this story the edge and mystery of a psychological thriller.
Told from three points of view, the father (a Pastor), the mother( a Lawyer), and the daughter (a clever, rebellious teenager). The events surrounding the murder are revealed, through each character’s point of view
The father is severely tested, his control of the family threatened and his moral beliefs challenged. What will he do for his daughter who he believes in totally? The daughter uses her intelligence to fuel her rebellion against her parents and their beliefs. She has secrets, one of which has damaged her, but is she capable of murder? The mother’s point of view is left until the end and reveals an unexpected twist. All lie and have secrets, making them unreliable protagonists.
The pace of this story is good, even though it is detailed, it doesn’t sacrifice ease of reading for content and this makes it addictive. The characters are believable, and their actions and motives realistic. You are forced to consider how you would act in similar circumstances.
The daughter has considerable insight, and this makes you question whether does she have severe mental health issues, or is manipulative and uses her personality to achieve her aims.
The final scenes reveal an uncomfortable truth that makes you question what has come before. The perfect ending to this atmospheric, crime based twisty thriller.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Book UK – Michael Joseph Publishing in return for an honest review.
A complex and insightful exploration of the modern family.
Grace, Patrick, Lilly and Mia are on the surface an ideal, nuclear family. As the story progresses, the layers are peeled away, and the controlling behaviour, emotional damage, lies and secrets are revealed, and the family implodes.
This stories most poignant message is that children need protection, sometimes even from their parents, to ensure negative behaviours, unrequited ambitions and hopes, are not instilled into them.
Mia’s chance discovery during a family barbeque has a devastating effect. Not, only the revelation, but the chain of events it catalyses, and the secrets it forces to the surface.
The characters are multi-layered and realistic, Mia is the antithesis of Lilly, the ‘golden child’. They are both intelligent but influenced by their mother’s attitude towards them.
The story is suspenseful, with an underlying layer of menace. You are constantly waiting for something bad to happen, and this makes it riveting and unnerving to read. The authenticity of the setting, and characters adds to this.
I like the ending, it brings together everything that has gone before, through nail-biting action scenes and a poignant, yet hopeful final end.
Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people, though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she’s invisible.
All of that changes when a mysterious book arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her grandmother Zelda, who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda’s past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review
Martha feels like a lot of us do, invisible to those around her, despite all her well-meaning efforts to be helpful, always putting others first. She is comfortable in the library, feels safe there. Books are easier to understand than people. The library setting is one that will appeal to most book lovers, it offers endless possibilities, just by opening the cover of one of the books.
Receiving a mysterious gift from her much loved, deceased grandmother Zelda, Martha is confused, but intrigued. Is there perhaps some mistake about Zelda’s death? She puts her fears aside and sets out to solve the mystery of the book, whose stories trigger memories of the past.
The story moves from present to past, illuminating Zelda’s life and Martha’s childhood. Martha journey to find the truth is emotional and empowering, she discovers a devastating family secret, but also learns that she is can do anything, as long as she believes in herself.
With vivid characters and a female lead who is easy to care about, this story enthrals and shows that there is a little magic, even in the ordinary. A lovely read for those who love to dream.
When Maisie Meadows finds herself single
and jobless on New Year’s Day, she resolves that this will be the year she
focuses on bringing her scattered family back together. Romance is all very
well, but it’s the people you grew up with that matter the most.
But a new job working at an auction house
puts her in the path of Theo, a gorgeous but unattainable man who she can’t
help but be distracted by. As their bond begins to grow, Maisie finds herself
struggling to fulfil the promise she made to herself – but the universe has
other ideas, and it’s not long before the Meadows family are thrown back
together in the most unlikely of circumstances…
Can dealing with other people’s treasures help Maisie to let go of the past, and teach her who she ought to treasure the most?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
What a lovely story. Maisie the youngest child in a dysfunctional family is the star of this gently paced, characterful story. Her attempts to recreate the ‘perfect family’, are spectacularly unsuccessful, as she is let down by her latest lover and loses her job as well.
The auction house job is a new start, and it feels right, but the serendipitous change in circumstances and career, and the part tea set she uncovers have a profound effect on her life and those close to her.
Maisie is a realistically flawed but easy to empathise character, her motivation for good is strong, but her foundations are rocky. Was life really as ‘rosy’ as she remembers? Is having a tidy house, the only way she can live her life, which seems so out of control. Is her secret, a true reflection of who she really is?
There are so many levels to this story, a potential romance, that is fraught with misunderstanding. A little magic, that Maisie hopes to use to bring her family together. The outcome is not what she expects, but is believable and hopeful. A multi-generational theme, that adds depth to the story and shows how the present reflects the past, and the lessons to be learnt.
It’s easy to lose yourself in this book. Character-driven, it makes you believe in the story, and want the best for Maisie and her friends. The setting is authentic, and relatable and gives the book its unique twist.
Gentle romance, quirky characters and a wealth of emotion and regret, all make this story a lovely interlude in everyday life.
Guest Post – Jenni Keer
Love for Auctions
Thank you for inviting me over, Jane, to talk about the fascinating backdrop to my latest novel The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows, which is set at Gildersleeve’s – a fictional auction house in north Suffolk.
When I was playing about with ideas for my second book, I started thinking about environments I already had a good knowledge of (partly because I had a deadline for this book and was a bit panicky about how much research time I would have). Amongst other things, auction houses sprang to mind. My husband has an antique furniture business and we have been attending auctions at T. W. Gaze in the picturesque market town of Diss, Norfolk, for over twenty years. Over this time, I have seen the auction evolve and grow, and it has always been one of my favourite places to visit. It seemed the perfect setting for a story and much of the plot grew from this seed.
The highly knowledgeable Elizabeth Talbot (you may have seen her on the TV) was very generous with her time and I had several visits behind the scenes and the opportunity to quiz her about various aspects of the business – all of it was fascinating but only a fraction made it into the book. James Bassam, the modern design expert, also gave me his time and expertise, and this helped me to make Theo a much more rounded character. I learned a lot about Scandinavian furniture, studio pottery and post-war glass – so Theo now knows all those things, too.
If you have never been to an auction, I would encourage you to go. I hope I manage to get across some of the tension and excitement of bidding in a busy saleroom, but much of the fun is to be had in wandering around on viewing days and looking at the myriad of items coming up in the weekly sale. You truly never know what you are going to come across. I asked Elizabeth about the most bizarre objects they’d had pass through their hands and she said if it’s legal to sell it, they’ve probably had it – including a coffin (which gets a mention in the book).
Going back a couple of hundred years, most towns held regular auctions and they would have been a thing for all. Sadly, by the middle of the twentieth century, they were not so commonplace and had become the preserve of the dealers – who bought items at auction and sold them on to the general public. But more recently, largely thanks to the TV and the internet, auction rooms have become more accessible again and, although I appreciate they remain intimidating places to some, I hope those who read Maisie Meadows might be tempted to give them a go. Even Maisie had never been to an auction until she started working at Gildersleeve’s, yet instantly falls in love with the variety and energy her new workplace affords.
I suspect if my husband’s profession hadn’t taken us to the auctions, I would never have discovered the thrill that is a live auction, but it’s often the highlight of my week. Much of the furniture in my house has come from Gaze’s over the years, when we’ve been looking for stock but “accidentally” purchased things we fell in love with. This is the downside – you stumble across things you never knew you needed until you see them. Consequently, we have pieces of unusual glass, dinner services (that’s my bad – I can’t resist pretty china), too many bicycles, pieces of art, garden furniture, Scalextric, ceramic clock faces, and a box of 500 old keys… to name but a few of our impulse purchases.
All of my experiences fed into my plot and I loved writing about Gildersleeve’s and its eclectic staff. I knew I wanted the plot to centre around a very unusual tea set that had been separated, so an auction house was the perfect place to start Maisie’s journey. Early on in her new job, she stumbles across a teapot that she recognises from her past – so much so that it sends prickles up her arm. Why has it ended up an auction? And is there more to this curious teapot than meets the eye?
I hope you have fun following Maisie as she tries to reunite both the tea set and her own scattered family. Thank you for having me over, and for the delicious cup of virtual coffee.
Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house, it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.
The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker was published in January 2019.
The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows is out in July 2019.
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Faye Townsend has planned the perfect summer trip for her family. But returning to the small seaside town her husband grew up in does not go to plan, the rain pours and the long days become stifling. And then the unthinkable happens…
Her husband Jake and her six-year-old son Dylan go for an early morning walk along the beautiful, windswept clifftops. They don’t come back.
As the hours tick by, Dylan’s red baseball cap is found on the beach and Faye finds herself being questioned by the police. They want to know everything about the man she married – is Faye ready to face her husband’s dark past? Or will she have to confront her own secrets first?
And just how far will a mother go to save her only child?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The suspense builds quietly, from the first line and ends abruptly, leaving you wanting more, what happens next? Then you’re in the midst of a family holiday, a surprise that seems to be missing the mark?
The family scene that the author describes, from Faye’s point of view, seems familiar, ordinary, even relatable, but the house is creepy, and everyone is tense, and Faye sees someone outside. You are on tenterhooks waiting for something to happen.When it does, it seems straightforward, but it isn’t, and then you’re gripped, and it’s impossible to put down.
The characters are complex, they have so many layers, They all have secrets. There is an unidentified male point of view, that draws your thoughts in one direction, but then the plot twists, and you’re no longer sure.
The twists are subtle but believable, it’s like walking in a maze. I loved how the plot gradually revealed salient details, using flashbacks to Lainey and Jake’s past, but is the point of view reliable?
What you suppose is the final twist, poses a moral dilemma, but from my point of view is satisfying, but then there is a further revelation that ends this riveting story in an unforgettable way.
I’m wondering how many more f*cking ‘phases’ I have to endure before my children become civilised and functioning members of society? It seems like people have been telling me ‘it’s just a phase!’ for the last fifteen bloody years. Not sleeping through the night is ‘just a phase.’ Potty training and the associated accidents ‘is just a phase’. The tantrums of the terrible twos are ‘just a phase’. The picky eating, the backchat, the obsessions. The toddler refusals to nap, the teenage inability to leave their beds before 1pm without a rocket being put up their arse. The endless singing of Frozen songs, the dabbing, the weeks were apparently making them wear pants was akin to child torture. All ‘just phases!’ When do the ‘phases’ end though? WHEN?
Mummy dreams of a quirky rural cottage with roses around the door and chatty chickens in the garden. Life, as ever, is not going quite as she planned. Paxo, Oxo and Bisto turn out to be highly rambunctious, rather than merely chatty, and the roses have jaggy thorns. Her precious moppets are now giant teenagers, and instead of wittering at her about who would win in a fight – a dragon badger or a ninja horse – they are Snapchatting the night away, stropping around the tiny cottage and communicating mainly in grunts – except when they are demanding Ellen provides taxi services in the small hours. And there is never, but never, any milk in the house. At least the one thing they can all agree on is that rescued Barry the Wolfdog may indeed be The Ugliest Dog in the World, but he is also the loveliest.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins Non Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
There are so many of this type of book around at the present time, but this series remains dominant. As soon as you start reading, it grabs you and you’re laughing out loud, or digging into the depths of family memories when a similar incident happened to you, or someone you know.
This time Ellen’s marriage is beyond help, and she faces life as a single mum. There are compensations, getting to buy the ‘house of your dreams’, well very nearly, but Peter and Jane are teenagers now and dealing with their attitude, eating habits and apathy alone, on a daily basis, means that if Ellen had a swear box it would be overflowing with cash.
The honesty, and talent for encapsulating the humour of parenting teenagers, an ex-husband, and learning how to date again, make this a lovely book to escape with. You can read a chapter or two, and then come back, and it’s easy to get into, but it is addictive reading, and why not laughter is good for you.
The relationships are so believable, the conversations with ‘Mother’, hilarious and oddly poignant, the best friend who so supportive but facing challenges she never thought she would, and the ex-husband who undermines at every opportunity and wonders why things have turned out the way they have???
There is so much to enjoy in this, humour, often satirical and self-deprecating, poignant moments of guilt, that every mother experiences, as they struggle to find themselves in their ‘mummy’ role and a keen observant exploration of parenting that most will relate to.