Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Romance

The Single Mums Move On – Janet Hoggarth – 5* #Review @Aria_Fiction @Janethauthor #Romance #Friendship #SingleMum #SelfDiscovery #BlogTour #GuestPost

Can neighbours become more than good friends…

After her husband left her, Ali and her daughter Grace enjoyed living in what became known as ‘the Single Mums’ Mansion’. However, with her best friends Amanda and Jacqui moving on, it’s time for Ali and Grace to make their own way. Thankfully, a chance conversation leads to them moving into the infamous South London gated community known only as ‘The Mews’.

In ‘The Mews’ everyone lives in each other’s pockets and curtain-twitching is an Olympic sport. The neighbours are an eclectic bunch – from Nick the alleged spy, Carl the gorgeous but clearly troubled Idris Elba lookalike, to Debbie who is about to face the hardest fight of her life, and TV agent Samantha who is not as in control as she likes to pretend.

Each day brings another drama, but along with the tears, real friendships grow. And her neighbours’ problems might unlock the key to something Ali has yearned for all along…

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

My Thoughts…

I enjoyed the first book in the single mums series, but for me, this one is even better. This is Ali’s story, although Amanda and Jacqui are featured. Ali is stumbling out of, yet another terrible relationship, Amanda suggests, there is a pattern to this self-destruction, and maybe she needs to be single for a while, to find out who she is, and what she wants out of life.

When it looks like Ali and Grace may have to take refuge with Amanda, a lifeline from an unexpected source, brings them to ‘The Mews’, an enigmatic gated community in South London. The characters that live there are beautifully flawed and realistic and their lives make Ali realise that she’s not the only one with problems.

The friendships that follow, are full of love, laughter and sadness. Ali finds a way forward and romance in an unexpected place, The story flows well, and the ethos of the community, is addictive, making me read this story in one sitting.

Guest Post – Janet Hoggarth – The Single Mums Move on

The Single Mums Move On is my difficult second album after the popular Single Mums’ Mansion. Because the first book was based on my life, taking the reader on a bumpy ride traversing heartache and divorce through to a satisfyingly redemptive ending, I was nervous about trying to repeat that. Especially when what happened to me afterwards (a genuine happy ever after) wasn’t as page-turning as living in a mommune (sorry husband)! So I decided to write the next branch of the story from Ali’s point of view. It has its roots planted in the truth, but there are a handful of fictional characters with some of the situations sprouting from my imagination.

            The book opens a few years after Ali has left the mommune and is in a supposed stable relationship. However, on closer inspection there are so many cracks, it’s a surprise it’s not yet imploded. When the inevitable does happen, Ali finds herself alone again with Grace, her daughter, in her scabby flat with mould on the walls, wishing she was back in the mommune. After a chance encounter with a shaman in the local health food shop, Ali is given the opportunity to move into the notorious south London gated community named the Mews (this is a real place!). Ali decides to finally swear off men, and with the guidance of her mommune pals, Amanda and Jacqui, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

Behind the Mews gates, Ali encounters the eclectic bunch of residents who mostly make her feel welcome, but it soon becomes obvious that things aren’t as perfect as they first seem. There’s the photographer with an out of control addiction; the nosy neighbour with a tragic past; the college professor navigating a nasty divorce about to face an even bigger struggle; the mysterious man nick-named the Spy who might be involved in illegal activities; the wise shaman who heals everyone else but can’t heed her own advice; the talent agent who needs a best-selling act to save her from going under; the posh older divorcee who is sick of institutionalised men and desperate for some excitement; and the undisputed boss of the mews who tries to save the world, but continually cocks up her own love life. The Mews is like the Single Mums’ Mansion but with more players and as Ali gets sucked into the tangled lives of everyone there, she realises that other people’s drama could lead her down the path to happiness.

Janet Hoggarth has worked on a chicken farm, as a bookseller, children’s book editor and DJ with her best friend (under the name of Whitney and Britney). She has published several children’s books, the most recent ones written under the pseudonym of Jess Bright. Her first adult novel The Single Mums’ Mansion, a huge bestseller, was based on her experiences of living communally as a single parent.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Romance, Romantic Comedy

How to Make Time for Me – Fiona Perrin @Aria_Fiction @fionaperrin #Family Drama #Romance #Humour #SingleMum #RomCom #Carers #Relationships #Friendships #BlogTour #Guest Post 5*#Review

No-one said being a single mum would be easy…

Everyone knows that being a single mother means having no time to yourself. But for CallieBrown, it’s more exhausting than most. She’s juggling the needs of three teenage children, two live-in parents, a raffish ex-husband, and a dog who never stops eating.

The last thing Callie needs is anything more on her plate. So when she bumps (quite literally) into a handsome, age-appropriate cyclist, she’s quick to dismiss him from her life. After all, if she doesn’t have time to brush her hair in the morning, she certainly doesn’t have time to fall in love…

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

My Thoughts…

I love the easy to read writing style of this novel. The themes are familiar to everyone who parents or has parented teenagers or looked after elderly parents. There’s a glossary of teenage vocabulary at the end of the story for the uninitiated. It is the story that most of us have thought of writing at some time, but this author has actually done it and with great results.

Callie is a single mum, with twin girls and a son from her previous relationship who she has been a mother to for eight years, her ex is frankly abysmal, and her ageing parents are a further emotional and physical drain on her already depleted resources. Getting run over by a takeaway delivery bike, is the final straw, she’s invisible and surely something has to change?

Modern family stories are particularly popular and relevant at this moment. This story has many laugh-out-loud moments mixed in with strong emotional poignant scenes, especially concerning Wilf. It is a story of family, friends, self- worth and love, in all its forms.

An absorbing, yet quick read, I read it today in a couple of hours. Its charm is in its relatability and believable characters. A lovely, emotional humorous read.

Guest Post: All about time for you… Fiona Perrin

HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME was inspired by all the women I know who (in the words of the old ad campaign) juggle their lives. I was particularly interested in writing about those who find themselves part of the ‘sandwich generation’ – looking after children as well as ageing parents, mostly while holding down a job (but probably also still making the sandwiches).

It struck me that ‘having it all’ as we say, frequently means having no time to yourself. We have children to bring up, extended families to support and it can be just at the time that careers develop and grow difficult. Callie, the heroine of my novel, is also a single mother with a complicated, modern and messy family, full of happiness but also pretty challenging. How does she get any time for herself let alone the opportunity to fall in love?

I’m not a single mother now, but I was for a few years and I remember the chaos fondly, but also a constant feeling of exhaustion. Luckily, I found time to meet Alan and fall in love and now, we have just about waved all four of our kids off to Uni and careers.

But with them as teenagers, our house was hectic – demanding but also, fun. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME heavily features teenagers and shows the pressures they are up against – as well as taking the mickey out them. It has footnotes to explain teenager-speak for example – they have a whole lingo of their own. While it’s great to have time to ourselves, I really miss the madness of those teenage years, and the kids and their friends all hanging around the house, doing not much. But they all seem to come home quite often too, mostly with huge bags of washing and to eat their way through the fridge.

I’m really lucky in that my Mum is about the most active, healthy, supportive parent you can imagine. However, she is also a carer for my older stepfather, while in her seventies – he can no longer walk – so I have some understanding of being responsible for the older generation too. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME features two loopy parents that Callie adores but also add to the demands on her day. I have dedicated this book to my Mum just so she knows they were in no way based on her.

I would love it if readers took a little time out for themselves to read my novel. They might also enjoy Callie’s struggle to stop feeling ‘invisible’ just as she is knocked off her feet quite literally by a rather attractive neighbour. She immediately feels that there is no way she will have time to fall in love with him, but sometimes life has other ideas.

Thanks so much for this opportunity to appear on your brilliant blog.

Fiona Perrin was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us. Fiona grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire, and now writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the end of The Lizard peninsula.

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Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Non-Fiction, Parenting and Famlies

Why Mummy Doesn’t Give A – Gill Sims @HarperCollinsUK @HarperNonFic @whymummydrinks #Parenting #Family #Relationships – 5* #Review

Family begins with a capital eff.

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.

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

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Janet Hoggarth Guest Post and 4* Review – The Single Mums’ Mansion

Amanda Wilkie unexpectedly finds herself alone with three children under five in a rambling Victorian house in London, after her husband walks leaves them claiming he’s just ‘lost the love’, like one, might carelessly lose a glove.

A few months later, Amanda’s heavily pregnant friend, Ali, crashes into her kitchen announcing her partner is also about to abscond. Once Ali’s baby Grace is born, Amanda encourages them to move in. When Jacqui, a long-lost friend and fellow single mum, starts dropping by daily, the household is complete.

Getting divorced is no walk in the park, but the three friends refuse to be defined by it. And, as they slowly emerge out of the wreckage like a trio of sequin-clad Gloria Gaynors singing ‘I Will Survive’, they realise that anything is possible. Even loving again…

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Guest Post 

When one door shuts, another one opens

Janet Hoggarth

For eighteen years I had written children’s books as a jobbing author. For various reasons I was asked to change my name to Jess Bright by my last publisher, so they could relaunch me as a new, box-fresh, younger, cooler Jacqueline Wilson-type for tweenage girls. As with a lot of gambles, it didn’t really pay off because I wasn’t able to be myself, I was pretending to be a big sister to my readers when in fact I was old enough to be their mum. I submitted my last book to them in 2016, it was a story about bullying told from the bully’s point of view, how she became a bully and her journey to redemption when she loses everything. She wasn’t a ‘nice’ character, but she wasn’t meant to be, I wanted her to feel genuine.

At the same time as submitting my book, I slipped disc in my back leading to crippling back pain, morphine patches, and eventually an epidural injection to relieve the pressure on my spinal cord so I could come off the painkillers. On the drive back from the hospital after the procedure, I received an email from my agent telling me the publishers had rejected my book because of the Marmite plotline and the amount of work it needed, and in doing so, didn’t want to carry on the partnership with my brand of Jess Bright. To say I was gutted was an understatement. I think I cried solidly for twenty-four hours. I know it’s only work, no one died, but for me, it was so much more.

Writing had saved me during my darkest hour years previously when I had been left holding three kids under five after my husband had walked out. I had taken a career break, writing the odd book between babies, but essentially remained a stay at home mum. Then overnight I was a single parent and the buck stopped here – this filled me so much fear, doubt, grief, instability, I was a crazy hot mess of emotions and never knew how I was going to be feeling from one minute to the next. One thing I could do, however, was restart my career. I had never had an agent, so I set out to find one knowing this was one journey I couldn’t undertake alone. I remember sitting in Charlie’s office, telling him about my situation, bursting into tears, and him promptly offering to represent me! It was Charlie who encouraged me to write Gaby’s Angel, the first book Oxford University Press bought as part of my working relationship with them.

So when I received the news my collaboration with them had been terminated, I felt the same kind of rejection I’d experienced when my marriage ended. I was facing a real career crossroads. Charlie tentatively suggested writing adult fiction because he knew it had always been a pipe dream of mine. I sent him a secret blog I had written during a time when I lived communally with my friend, Vicky, her baby and my three kids in my house that we jokingly called The Single Mums’ Mansion. He leapt on it immediately and said that it had to be my next book.

The story is set during this tumultuous yet uplifting time in the single mum commune. Another friend, Nicola, was also going through a divorce with her two kids and she practically moved in, spending whole weekends with us, 6 children all squashed in together. We went on holidays, celebrated Christmases as a patchwork family, held wild parties, helped each other through heart-breaking situations when the ex-husbands got remarried and started new families. I can honestly say I do not know how I would have coped with it all had I not had those other two women to stand next to and gather strength from. The Single Mums’ Mansion is my love letter to my two friends, not sparing any visceral details and certainly not sugar-coating the life of a single mum. Here’s to us, ladies, and all those other single parents, bossing the hell out of life and making the best out of a difficult situation!

My Thoughts…

The first thing that strikes me about this story is its authenticity and honesty. Numerous comic moments provide much-needed light relief amidst the despair and sadness these single mum’s experience at the destruction of their perfect family dreams.

The inspiration for this story is the author’s blog, and the story reads like a journal of her feelings and experiences, as the main character Amanda, comes to terms with life after her husband walks out and leaves her with three kids under five.

Realistic, flawed characters underpin a fast-paced, intricate plot, which shares Amanda. Ali and Jacqui’s experiences of being a single mum. What stands out is the camaraderie between the three women. Despite the sad events this story has many laugh-out-loud moments which make it a worthwhile read.

The language is uncensored, but it isn’t gratuitous, merely an illustration of the characters’ personality and stress experienced. There are also episodes of drunkenness and drug taking, which I didn’t like, especially when the children were present. Again it gives the story authenticity, but the casual attitude took the edge off the enjoyment of the story.

If you enjoy your stories with no filters, crammed full of laughter and poignancy, this is the book for you.

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

 

Janet Hoggarth has worked on a chicken farm, as a bookseller, children’s book editor and DJ with her best friend (under the name of Whitney and Britney). She has published several children’s books, the most recent ones written under the pseudonym of Jess Bright. Her first adult novel, The Single Mums’ Mansion is based on her experiences of living communally as a single parent.

Twitter: @janethauthor

Facebook: @JanetHoggarthAuthor