A cow looks out to sea, dreaming of a life that involves grass.
Jan is also looking out to sea. He’s in Goa, dreaming of the passport-thief who stole his heart (and, indeed, his passport) forty-six years ago. Back then, fate kept bringing them together, but lately it seems to have given up.
Jan has not. In his long search, he has accidentally held a whole town at imaginary gunpoint in Soviet Russia, stalked the proprietors of an international illegal lamp-trafficking scam and done his very best to avoid any kind of work involving the packing of fish. Now he thinks if he just waits, if he just does nothing at all, maybe fate will find it easier to reunite them.
His story spans fifty-four years, ten countries, two imperfect criminals (and one rather perfect one), twenty-two different animals and an annoying teenager who just…
But maybe an annoying teenager is exactly what Jan needs to help him find the missing thief?
Featuring a menagerie of creatures, each with its own story to tell, We Are Animals is a quirky, heartwarming tale of lost love, unlikely friendships and the certainty of fate (or lack thereof).
For the first time in her life the cow noticed the sun setting, and it was glorious.
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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
The imagery in this book is clever and enhances the everyday occurrences, making them something special. The description of the beach and its users seen through Manjan’s eyes is the first example of this. The people and the cow, all have an opinion and a purpose, as they share events from their lives. The animals’ actions and thoughts mirror the people throughout the book.
Manjan’s story is poignant and serendipitous. The author makes many of his astute observations through the man who has spent much of his life waiting. There is a balance of humour and sadness, which lets the reader appreciate the emotion and comical aspects of the story. Retrospectively, you learn how Jan ends up the beach in Goa. The people he meets along the way are diverse, and all add to his life journey. The characters are well written, they are authentic and relatable, and make this character-driven tale interesting.
Even if like me, you haven’t visited the places in the book, or didn’t live through the late twentieth century, which I did. the immersive story lets you experience each place and time, through its animal and human characters, and vivid imagery.
The hopeful ending encompasses the quirky nature of the story, whilst achieving a sense of completeness.
Tim Ewins has enjoyed an eight-year stand-up career alongside his accidental career in finance.
He has previously written for DNA Mumbai, had two short stories highly commended and published in Michael Terence Short Story Anthologies, and enjoyed a very brief acting stint (he’s in the film Bronson, somewhere in the background). He lives with his wife, son and dog in Bristol. We Are Animals is his first novel.
Leningrad, Russia, 1968. Alexander Karpenko is no ordinary child, and from an early age, it is clear he is destined to lead his countrymen. But when his father is assassinated by the KGB for defying the state, he and his mother will have to escape from Russia if they hope to survive. At the docks, they are confronted with an irreversible choice: should they board a container ship bound for America or Great Britain? Alexander leaves that choice to the toss of a coin . . .
In a single moment, a double twist decides Alexander’s future.
During an epic tale of fate and fortune, spanning two continents and thirty years, we follow his triumphs and defeats as he struggles as an immigrant to conquer his new world. As this unique story unfolds, Alexander comes to realize where his destiny lies and accepts that he must face the past he left behind in Russia.
If you enjoy political sagas with a twist, you’re in for a treat with this book. The storytelling and characters are believable and polished. The serendipitous storyline adds an interesting twist to a well researched, historically based political thriller.
Alexander a young man in the USSR in the late 1960’s is clever but his father isn’t a party member and wishes for a less totalitarian state. His father’s ‘accident’, and the circumstances that follow mean Alexander and his mother need to leave to survive. Escaping in a crate on a merchant ship is risky, but when there is a choice of two, fate takes over and the story splits into a ‘what if ‘scenario as Alexander’s life is explored with two possible outcomes.
Both stories are engaging, with strong characters and many plot twists, once you accept how the story will progress it is an enjoyable read, the ending has its surprises, but I did guess the main one. The moral of this being, I think whatever path you take the outcome is already decided.
An enjoyable read for those who enjoy political thrillers and family sagas with a twist of fate.
I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
London, 1936. Inside the spectacular Grand Ballroom of the exclusive Buckingham Hotel the rich and powerful, politicians, film stars, even royalty, rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers from all around the world, who must enchant them, captivate them, and sweep away their cares.
Accustomed to waltzing with the highest of society, Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear.
Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, finds hotel life a struggle after leaving her small hometown. She dreams of joining the dancers on the ballroom floor as she watches, unseen, from behind plush curtains and hidden doorways. She soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham – guests and staff alike – has something to hide…
The storm clouds of war are gathering, and beneath the glitz and glamour of the ballroom lurks an irresistible world of scandal and secrets.
Let’s dance . . .
A delicious, detailed, dance orientated novel, which unfolds against a background of class division, an unprecedented threat to the monarchy and a cosmopolitan hotel whose outward glamour hides a web of secrets.
The characters are believable and vividly depicted, they draw the reader into the story and engender empathy and dislike according to their behaviour. The setting epitomises polite London society in the 1930s. The ballroom’s importance, as a place to see and be seen, is a core theme of this story and is the focal point for the action and dialogue between the main characters.
Like ‘Upstairs Downstairs ‘ and ‘Downtown Abbey’, society’s class division is marked. The ‘lower class’ characters’lives are difficult and provide a thought-provoking reminder of poverty and hardship.
The political unrest in Europe and England make living life the limit a given, for those able to do so. When secrets unfold and people’s livelihood and reputations are in danger, the true heroes and villains emerge.
I received a copy of this book from Zaffre via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Returning to the heart of her beloved Cornwall, Kate Ryder weaves another deliciously irresistible tale of desire, jealousy and the search for understanding, set against the stunning backdrop of the glorious Lizard Peninsula.
Globally renowned actor Oliver Foxley has made the most difficult decision of all and set the love of his life free, in order to try and bring his family back together. But there’s a magnetic pull back to both Cara and Cornwall that Oliver can neither deny nor resist…
Heartbroken for a second time in her short life, single mother Cara knows she has no choice but to pick up the pieces yet again and carry on. Perhaps a complete change of scenery would help her, and her young family? Yet her mind, spirit and heart yearn for the windswept shores of her Cornish Cove…
Cara and Oliver face the agonising choice between following expectations or following their hearts. How will their story end…?
Guest Post – Kate Ryder: My experiences as a writer
I have been a keen reader since childhood and during my early teens, this evolved into writing poetry and short stories for my own pleasure. In fact, a friend and I – horse mad teenagers at the time – wrote alternate chapters to complete our first novel (surprisingly, never published!). The hero, then, was always a dark, brooding, magnificent stallion…
At school, English Literature was one of the subjects that naturally received my undivided attention. I remember an appointment with a careers advice officer as keenly as if it were yesterday. When asked what I’d like to do when I left school, I replied that I wanted to be an author or a journalist. The careers advisor’s response was to ask me if I’d ever considered becoming a florist! So, my dream of becoming an author was crushed before it ever had a chance to have life breathed into it. I did not follow his advice into floristry but, instead, chose to study acting. However, it soon became apparent that my passion lay more in crafting words than interpreting someone else’s.
Over the years I have enjoyed a variety of careers, mainly within travel, publishing and property. Writing has featured strongly. I have worked in PR and marketing (all those press releases!) and in editorial as a proof-reader, copy editor, assistant editor and writer. It was during a period of employment with a specialist newspaper that I decided to escape news-speak and flex my creative writing muscles by joining a local writers’ group with the intention of writing short stories. However, one particular exercise turned out to be a little longer than intended and I soon had 85,000 words and the semblance of a novel. I self-published that short-story-turned-novel and was thrilled if a little shocked when it was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s 2016 Search for a Star and honoured with a Chill with a Book Book of the Month.
I am a member of the Society of Authors and a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Cottage on a Cornish Cliff is the second of my books published by UK-based digital publisher Aria Fiction, an imprint of award-winning Head of Zeus. It is the sequel to Summer in a Cornish Cove, which saw me shortlisted for the RNA’s prestigious Joan Hessayon award.
Being traditionally published is a dream come true! Thank you, Aria, for taking a punt on me.
I love the first book in this series and although the ending is poignant there is hope for Oliver and Cara’s future. The sequel sees Cara and Oliver living their lives, Cara with another child to love and Oliver trying to help his youngest son and see if there is anything of his marriage to save apart from staying together for the sake of the children.
Cara is emotionally strong and her family give her a reason to live, even though her heart is broken for the second time. Her artistic talent draws the attention of a New York art critic but are his motives as magnanimous as he portrays them? Or does he have a sinister motive for showcasing Cara’s art to the world? He offers security and success but is the sacrifice Cara will have to make worth it?
Exacerbated by his failing marriage and loss of Cara, Oliver’s depression deepens. Is doing the right thing for his family worth sacrificing his emotional happiness?
This is an intensely romantic, emotional story with two leading characters you can’t help but empathise with. The conflicts are frequent and convincing and the ending is worthy of any romantic film. The writing style is easy to read, full of authentic characters and a breathtaking setting.
Definitely one of my favourite romantic series of the year.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Here you go,’ says Janine, placing two mugs of coffee and plates filled with generous portions of chocolate cake on the table. ‘Enjoy!’
Cara picks up a fork. Slicing off a mouthful of cake, she pops it into her mouth. ‘Mmmm… that’s delicious.’
‘My mother’s recipe,’ says Janine. ‘She was a tremendous cook. That’s why all her children have grown to the size we have!’
‘Sorry to interrupt.’ A man’s strong Cornish accent makes them both jump. ‘I’ve come to fix the sign.’ Janine pushes back her chair and rushes over to him.
Toby, who had been falling asleep with his mouth slack around Cara’s right nipple, wakes suddenly and energetically sucks. Cara winces. She looks across at the man who, although talking to Janine, watches her.
‘Well, isn’t that a lovely sight?’ he says, scratching his head. ‘Fair made my day, that has!’
Janine glances over her shoulder at Cara. ‘Probably won’t make your day if you hang around for the nappy-changing part, Jim.’ She bustles the man out of the café.
Toby closes his eyes. Cara carefully removes him from her breast and pulls her sweatshirt down. Her son has incredibly thick black eyelashes and she wonders if Oliver had at that age too. NO! She has to stop doing this. Oliver Foxley does not exist. He is a world and a lifetime away…
‘Sorry about that,’ Janine says, returning to the table.
‘No worries, Janine. Breastfeeding’s only natural.’
‘Yes, but you don’t want any old Tom, Dick or Harry watching you while you do it,’ Janine says.
Janine laughs. ‘He’s a good guy. I’ve known him for years. He’s got eight grandchildren, so I guess he’s used to it. How’s the latte?’
‘Scrumptious. If I get into the habit of this indulgence I’ll have to start running again.’
‘I should take up running as well,’ comments Janine. ‘I don’t suppose customers want to be served by a large, sweaty lump of a woman.’
‘Oh, Janine! Your weight’s perfectly fine for your height.’
‘Yeah, guess so. Anyway, hubby never complains when he’s home from the rigs. Puts slighter men off though,’ Janine says with a laugh, ‘like that American friend of yours. When I first met him he actually cowered!’
Cara raises her eyebrows. She thinks back to the day when Greg visited her at The Lookout and Janine brought Beth and Sky home after school. It’s true! He backed off in Janine’s presence. However, Cara suspects it was not so much to do with her friend’s size and powerful charisma but more to do with keeping himself at a distance from the locals.
‘Why poor?’ Janine asks, loading her fork with cake. ‘When I look at him the word “poor” doesn’t spring to mind!’
‘His wife’s just died. She had cancer. That’s why they visited the cove in the first place, for her recuperation… or so they’d hoped.’
‘Oh, that’s tough.’ Janine pops the cake into her mouth.
‘I wonder what he’ll do now,’ Cara says quietly, a small frown settling on her brow.
Janine considers her neighbour. She witnessed the devastating effect Christo’s tragic death had on her dear friend, and then the all-consuming love affair with Oliver that ended so suddenly, followed by the birth of their love child without the actor being there. She also knows Greg would find any excuse to hang around Cara whenever he was in the cove.
‘He is very attractive, in an older man sort of way,’ she says cautiously.
Cara nods her head.
‘And he has plenty of money.’
Cara gives her friend a questioning look. ‘What exactly are you suggesting, Janine?’
‘Nothing really,’ Janine says airily, ‘just… Well, you know, life’s short and he inhabits the same world as you. He could provide you and your family with a wonderful life.’
‘Janine! He’s only just lost his wife!’ Cara scolds.
‘I know. I’m just saying.’ Janine gives a small smile before adding, ‘You know he’s really keen on you.’
‘I do not!’ Cara exclaims.
‘Oh, I think you do, Cara Penhaligon. The fuss he’s made of you ever since he first discovered your talent, and the way he guided you through all the press nonsense surrounding that prize you won. He wouldn’t let you out of his sight!’
Cara frowns again.
‘And, let’s face it, Cara. Most men would run a mile from a woman who had a baby by another man, but Toby doesn’t seem to have made a bit of difference.’
Cara considers Janine’s words. She’s right. Having supported her through the excitement of winning the Threadneedle Prize, Greg kept in touch throughout her pregnancy and beyond. His attention never waned. She remembers the first day she saw him, walking a dog on the beach in the most atrocious weather. He clocked her watching him from her studio window and acknowledged her. Her first impressions were that he was not only attractive – in an older man, Richard Gere sort of way – but also sophisticated and a league away. However, through their professional relationship, the distance between them has lessened. He has pointed her in the right direction and introduced her to influential people in the art world, and she now considers him a true mentor.
‘What are you thinking?’ asks Janine.
‘Nothing of importance,’ Cara says a little too quickly.
‘Well, I think nothing of importance could grow into something very much of importance if that’s what you want,’ says Janine, rising from her chair as the entrance door opens.
Jim walks in. ‘I’m ready to hang those signs now,’ he says, looking over at Cara and Toby, asleep in her lap. He smiles.
‘Here they are,’ says Janine, picking up the signs off a neighbouring table. ‘I’ll hold the ladder for you.’
As Janine disappears with Jim, Cara contemplates what her friend has said. She’s never really considered Greg in that light. Oh, yes, he kisses her at every given opportunity, but it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s just his way. But now, after Janine’s comments, she wonders if there is something to the way Greg handles her. And then she remembers the way he looked at her – in this very café – the first time they officially met. So much has happened since she had forgotten the look that suggested a different time and place.
Cara’s face flushes and her frown deepens.’
After pursuing a career in publishing and acting, Kate found her passion in writing. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. Her self-published debut novel received a Chill with a Book, “Book of the Month” Award. She currently lives with her husband in the Tamar Valley in a renovated 200-year-old Cornish sawmill. She finds the Cornish landscape a great source of inspiration. When she is not writing she enjoys reading, art, theatre and travel. Facebook Twitter Website
A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.
Three women. A whole world of judgement.
Tara, Cam and Stella are very different women. Yet in a society that sets the agenda, there’s something about being a woman that ties invisible bonds between us.
When one extraordinary event rockets Tara to online infamy, their three worlds collide in ways, they could never imagine – and they discover that one woman’s catastrophe might just be another’s inspiration.
Through friendship and conflict, difference and likeness, they’ll learn to find their own voices.
Because sometimes it’s OK not to follow the herd.
I often shy away from books that everyone loves, not that I’m afraid to offer a dissenting opinion. It’s just that some high profile books are successful because of celebrity rather than skill. Thankfully, this isn’t the case here.
‘The Cows’ ‘Don’t Follow the Herd’ is a sizeable read, but it maintains its momentum to the end, with a stunning twist and a satisfying, hopeful ending.
Told through the exploits and daily lives of three women.
Cam is the cuckoo in her family’s nest. She goes her own way successfully and is happy with who she is. Her family love her but don’t understand her, and this makes for some humorous and poignant episodes in her life as a lifestyle blogger.
Tara works successfully in TV and continually battles against sexist remarks at work. A single mum, she wants to be a positive role model for her daughter, but her life goes awry after a freak chain of events with dire consequences for Tara and her family.
Stella is a ticking time bomb, and this threatens her mental health, it hard to imagine how you would deal with what she faces and even though her story is extreme, it is feasible, given her circumstances.
The women’s stories showcase elements of life in contemporary society. The power of the internet, the fallout of being brave enough to voice your opinion in the public forum and the importance of having someone in your corner no matter what happens.
Although the three women are of a similar age, other age groups opinions and experiences feature in their lives. Powerful, vividly drawn characters, complement a decent plot, they are ‘larger than life’, but they aren’t cliched.
The story is addictive, easy reading, it has points to make, but they don’t detract from the story’s fluency. I empathised with the three women and their families and wanted to know what happened to them. I put myself in the women’s lives and wondered how I would react.
The Cows is an enjoyable, thought-provoking read.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Twelve years ago Finn’s girlfriend disappeared.
He told the police the truth about that night.
Just not quite the whole truth.
Now Finn has moved on.
But his past won’t stay buried…
Fast-paced, totally addictive suspense fiction that draws you in from the first lie until the final terrifying twist. Written from Finn and his missing girlfriend’s point of view, you learn their past and current thoughts, without slowing down the story.
Finn is troubled he has a shady past that occasionally resurfaces with devasting results, his obsessive love of Layla his missing girlfriend makes him an obvious suspect in her disappearance but his well-placed lies and excellent legal advice leave him free to rebuild his life. Twelve years later, Finn has moved on, but random events collide to make him believe the past hasn’t done with him yet.
Focusing on Finn, his current girlfriend, a longtime friend and ex-girlfriend, the cast of this sinister thriller is small. As the menace escalates, Finn cannot trust anyone, and this sense of isolation builds his anger to boiling point.
The gripping final chapters reveal an unexpected twist, with horrific consequences for the story’s major players. I guessed this before the end, but even then, the ultimate revelation is not quite as I envisaged. For me, part of the enjoyment is trying to foresee the outcome before the story’s end.
The tagline #forgetsleep is true. I read this book through the night yesterday.
I received a copy of this book from HQ books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
30 July 2018:- P.S. There is another ending to this story, which will please the romantics amongst us,
but the first ending wins for dramatic impact.