When Laura’s marriage falls apart she needs to find a home for her and her daughter. And quickly.
Welcome to The Close, a beautiful street of mansions, where Laura rents a tiny studio above a garage, and gorgeous Stella is the indisputable Queen Bee – who soon suspects Laura of having designs on her fiancé.
But when Laura unearths the ghastly secret he is hiding, it threatens Stella’s perfectly curated world as well as Laura’s career.
Hatching an elaborate plan to beat him at his own game, these former enemies are now best friends.
But has Laura forgotten that revenge always comes with a sting in the tail?
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK -Michael Joseph in return for an honest review.
There’s excellent escapism in this story whose characters are just on the right side of stereotypical. Laura finds herself in an upmarket area of London when she needs a bolt hole at the end of her marriage. Finding a nanny annexe in the exclusive close seems serendipitous until she meets the locals.
Think ‘Gossip Girl’ but older and you’ll appreciate the hierarchy among the female residents. Stella ‘Queen Bee’ sees Laura as a rival and sets out to cold-shoulder her from the group. Al Stella’s fiancé is the cause of the discord. Laura is determined to uncover his secrets. This leads to a strange alliance with Stella, as they plot revenge.
This amusing, often satirical observation of ‘The Close’s’ residents is easy to read. The shallowness and lack of self-worth evident, in some of the women, is poignant and adds another layer to this absorbing story.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
An interesting novel. Set predominately in Australia, in the 1970s, it traces the lives of a young couple who emigrated from England to Australia in 1970. Prejudice and social injustice are explored, on their voyage to their new home. The details of life as a migrant in Australia, build the world Anna and Joe find themselves in. Anna loves her new country but when her circumstances change the rose coloured glasses cloud a little.
Told in the third person, it reads like a memoir. Anna’s emotional struggles are believable, and her escape into literature is relatable. A flawed, pioneering woman, Anna highlights the forgotten in society insightfully.
This historically based novel is intrinsically interesting and thought-provoking.
Originally from England, Sue worked in university libraries until taking early retirement in 2008 to concentrate on creative writing. Since then she has written short stories, articles, poetry, a short TV drama script and six novels:
Sannah and the Pilgrim, first in a trilogy of a future dystopian Australia focusing on climate change and the harsh treatment of refugees from drowned Pacific islands. Odyssey Books, 2014. Commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award, 2014.
Pia and the Skyman, Odyssey Books, 2016. Commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award, 2016.
The Sky-Lines Alliance, Odyssey Books, 2016.
Chrysalis, the story of a perceptive girl growing up in a Quaker family in swinging sixties’ Britain. Morning Star Press, 2017
Re-Navigation recounts a life turned upside down when forty-year-old Julia journeys from the sanctuary of middle-class Australian suburbia to undertake a retreat at a college located on an isolated Welsh island. Creativia Publishing, 2019.
Feed Thy Enemy, based on her father’s experiences, is an account of courage and compassion in the face of trauma as a British airman embarks on a plan that risks all to feed a starving, war-stricken family. Creativia Publishing, 2019.
A Question of Country explores the migrant experience through the protagonist’s lifelong search for meaningful identity. Next Chapter (formerly Creativia Publishing), 2020.
Sue’s current project, working title: Twenty-eight Days, first in The Doorkeeper series,isset in Southern Australia in 2100. It deals with overpopulation and extended life expectancy in an increasingly climate-challenged world and the inhumane solutions adopted by a government determined to rid Australia of unproductive citizens.
Passionate about peace and social justice issues, Sue’s goal as a fiction writer is to continue writing novels that address topics such as climate change, the effects of war, the treatment of refugees, feminism and racism. Sue intends to keep on writing for as long as possible, believing the extensive life experiences of older writers can be employed to engage readers of all ages.
Between tending to the whims of her seven-year-old and the demands of her boss, Viv barely gets a moment to herself. It’s not quite the life she wanted, but she hasn’t run screaming for the hills yet.
But then Viv’s husband Andy makes his mid-life crisis her problem. He’s having an affair with his (infuriatingly age-appropriate) colleague, a woman who – unlike Viv – doesn’t put on weight when she so much as glances at a cream cake.
Viv suddenly finds herself single, with zero desire to mingle. Should she be mourning the end of life as she knows it, or could this be the perfect chance to put herself first?
When life gives you lemons, lemonade just won’t cut it. Bring on the gin!
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK in return for an honest review.
Viv is a lovely realistic character, so easy to like. When she finds out her husband is having an affair, it forces her to look at her life. Heartbroken, struggling to cope with her understandable anger, her dissatisfaction with life, and the menopause, she turns to her friends. Gradually Viv finds the courage to rediscover, the woman she is, and the life she wants.
Full of authentic family life moments, humour, poignancy and an unexpected dash of romance, this book is an easy, engaging read that makes you alternatively, empathise, and laugh out loud. The characters are vibrant and realistic, and the situations relatable. The well-paced plot keeps you entertained and the ending is hopeful.
A compelling memoir of post-war Britain. Jackie Skingley grew up with limited career choices but joining the Women’s Royal Army Corps offered her a different life, living and working in a military world, against the backdrop of the Cold War. Packed full of stories reflecting the changing sexual attitudes prior to the arrival of the pill and the sexual revolution of the mid-60s, Skingley’s memoir denotes a shift in the political and social fabric of the era. Follow her relationships with the men in her life from finding her first true love, which through a cruel act of fate was denied her, to embarking on a path of recovery.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
I love reading memoirs, they inevitably contain so much drama and emotion and resonate because they are real-life not fiction. This memoir is a perfect example, detailing the life of a woman growing up in the post-war period in Britain, and finding a way of life that allowed her to experience a multitude of experiences, people and places.
Honest, interesting and original.There are many sad and shocking moments in this story, but also humour, happiness and romance. The writing style is easy to read, it’s like reading a novel. An absorbing and entertaining insight, into a remarkable women’s life.
For Jackie Skingley, adventure has been her quest since childhood. Life with the British army allowed Jackie to live all over the world and gain a huge appreciation for different cultures and customs. Since 1999, Jackie and her husband have lived in the Charente region of South West France where Reiki, jewellery making, painting and mosaics, as well as writing keep her fully occupied. Member of the Charente Creative Writing Group, mother and grandmother.
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A loving husband, Patrick. Two adorable children. A comfortable home.
So when PC Becca Holt arrives to break the news that Patrick has been killed in an accident, she thinks Louise’s perfect world is about to collapse around her.
But Louise doesn’t react in the way Becca would expect her to on hearing of her husband’s death. And there are only three plates set out for dinner as if Louise already knew Patrick wouldn’t be home that night…
The more Becca digs, the more secrets she uncovers in the Bridges’ marriage – and the more she wonders just how far Louise would go to get what she wants…
Is Louise a loving wife – or a cold-hearted killer?
I received a copy of this book from HQ Digital UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A curious mix of psychological suspense and family drama, this story will appeal to those who like psychological orientated suspense. This plot doesn’t have the impact common to most thrillers but does use the unreliable protagonist technique well. There are two, in this story, Louise, the perfect widow and Becca the policewoman who sets out to investigate her, based on one brief observation.
Primarily a story of obsession, emotional damage, resulting from poor nurturing in childhood and control The plot handles the psychological theme competently. The introduction of a crusading police constable, who sees beneath the image Louise portrays isn’t convincing. Becca, in many ways, is a superfluous character, except perhaps in her obsessive similarities to Louise?
The plot lacks real-time action, everything is retold either in the past or present by Louise or Becca. this slows the pace and leaves you in the characters heads for too long, making some the twists not as suspenseful as they could be, if written less passively.
A story for the psychological fiction devotees, who like to see how the mind works, given a certain set of stimuli, rather than those who like a combination of jaw-dropping twists and a twisted unexpected ending,
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The rape scene in this story is brutal, the violation and loss of control implicit in every word. This description is harrowing. Given the inspiration for this story, the attack is realistic and sets the scene for what follows. This an adult story. One that will upset most people, but it doesn’t detract from it, or the message it is sending.
Eve’s attack and subsequent action is the main storyline, but running alongside her need for retribution is the need for closure to heal, and the need to stop this happening to anyone else. Eve is complex, but she is easy to empathise. You want her to have justice.
Including the friend and lodger characters, may seem incidental to the story, but they are important. Eve’s reaction to them shows how emotionally scarred and traumatised she is, and why she does what she does. They are an important focus for her mental state.
The plot is chilling and suspenseful, and whether or not you agree with the outcome, or what happens before, the ending is well thought out and believable. A fusion of the psychological thriller and crime genres, with authentic emotion and a menacing antagonist, and an ending that leaves you with a moral dilemma. Perfect.
Author Interview – Gemma Rogers – Stalker
What are the inspirations behind your book – Stalker? Is it a standalone or part of a series?
The inspiration for Stalker came from an indecent assault that happened to me back in 2001. I found writing about it extremely cathartic. In terms of the story, I wanted to explore the feelings that can be left behind as a result of such a traumatic event. How far someone would go for justice? It’s a standalone novel that follows Eve from the incident to her resolution.
How did you create your main protagonist Eve? Is she based on someone you know, an imaginative creation, or a little of both?
Eve isn’t based on anyone I know, she’s a creation, although very much a part of me. How she feels after her attack, mirrors how I felt almost twenty years ago. She’s a complex character, struggling to understand the emotions she’s forced to deal with; the anger, self-loathing and guilt.
How do you make your characters believable?
I people watch and try to absorb as much as I can when I’m out and about. It’s great to watch and see how people react in certain situations. I also draw from my own experiences too, use those to try and flesh my characters out, make them three dimensional. I hope I’ve managed that with Stalker.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
For me, generally, it’s the plot. I’ll come up with an idea first and it will grow from there. I’m not sure why the idea will plant itself and get bigger until I can’t think of anything else. That’s when I know it’s a good one. However, with Stalker, the setting was equally as important. Where the assault takes place in the novel, is where I grew up. Close to where it actually happened.
What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?
I’ve always written, from a very young age. I’d create stories with my brother, and turn them into little illustrated books, the pages tied together with string. I wrote some fan fiction in my teens but it’s only the past five years I’ve pushed myself to write a book, and actually finish it! I like this genre very much, I’m a lover of horror films and books, dark thrillers seemed right for me. I think the genre chose me rather than the other way around.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I mostly read thrillers; psychological, gritty thrillers, the darker the better. I fell in love with The Birdman by Mo Hayder and was hooked from there. My favourite authors are Alex Marwood, John Marrs, Mark Edwards, and CJ Tudor. However, when I fancy something a bit lighter I always head to Jane Fallon. I’m a massive fan of her writing.
What are you currently writing?
I’m currently in the process of writing Book 3 which I believe will be out at some point in 2020, so that is keeping me busy. Book 2 is due for release in January, so not long to wait.
Gemma Rogers was inspired to write gritty thrillers by a traumatic event in her own life nearly twenty years ago. Stalker is her debut novel which Boldwood will publish in September 2019 and marks the beginning of a new writing career. Gemma lives in West Sussex with her husband, two daughters and bulldog Buster.
Chapter One Saturday 27 January 2018 I’ve never been in trouble before. Not the sort of trouble that brought me here. Freshly painted, stark white walls surround me; their toxic scent lingers in the air. A fluorescent glow from strip lights so dazzling they must be there to desensitise the occupants. Everything is white or chrome-like I’m on the set of a futuristic movie. I swing my legs, which dangle over the edge of the bed, not quite reaching the floor. I do this for a minute to keep warm. Despite the blanket around my shoulders, I can’t help but shiver. It’s late and they didn’t bring my jacket. I guess it’s been taken away as evidence. The woman in front of me is standing too close, hot breath on my arm. It makes me squirm and I fight the urge to yank my hand away from her grip. She’s holding it like I’m a china doll, fragile and easily broken. I dislike the invasion of my personal space. It’s something I’ve learnt to tolerate over the years. I was never a big fan of being touched, shrinking away if someone brushed past me or stood too close on public transport. I’m not a hugger either – no one was in the house where I grew up. After tonight, I can’t imagine I’ll let anyone touch me again. Her name is Doctor Joyce Hargreaves, she told me as we entered the victim examination room. Her job, she said, was to collect evidence from me, which is why she was wearing a paper suit, so there wouldn’t be any cross-contamination. She hasn’t picked up on my anxiety, the tremor in my fingers; she’s too busy. Brows furrowed, eyes focused as she peels the plastic bag away from my bloodied hand to collect scrapings from my skin and beneath my fingernails. The tool she uses makes me nervous. ‘Is that a scalpel?’ my voice barely a whisper. ‘No, it’s a scraper. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt. This is just so I can make sure we collect any skin cells that may be buried underneath the tips of your nails. I’m afraid I’ll have to give them a trim in a minute too.’ She wields the scraper with care and it’s true, it doesn’t hurt. Physically I’m okay, except my throat is on fire and the ringing in my ears is deafening, timed perfectly with the throbbing of my face. I have a feeling I might feel worse once the adrenaline leaves my system. When she finishes with my hands, she pulls the fallen blanket back over my shoulders and offers a kind smile as she pushes her glasses up her nose. I can see strands of greying hair trying to escape by her ear, exposed beneath the coverall hat. She wears no jewellery and her face is free of make-up. Was she on duty or has she been called out of her bed to attend to me? Would we recognise each other in different circumstances? Probably not, I must be one of many people that pass through this room every day. Joyce delicately inserts each of the specimens into small tubes before labelling them to be sent for analysis. I don’t know why? I’ve told them what happened. Soon she’ll want to examine me thoroughly. Internally. Until there are no more swabs left to be taken. She glances at me, knowing what is coming, what she must ask me to do. Her eyes are full of pity. I must look a mess. Dried blood on my face and chest is beginning to flake away, like charred skin falling into my lap. My cheek is puffy and the vision poor on my left side. I wish I could stop shivering. They said it’s shock and provided me with a mug of hot, sweet tea after the ambulance checked me over. They wanted to make sure the blood I am doused in isn’t mine. It isn’t.
Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn’t be more different.
Amanda seems to have it all, absolute perfection. She projects all the accoutrements of a lady who lunches. Sadly, the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart.
By comparison, in the basement flat, unwanted tenant Tess has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.
It takes a bossy doctor, a handsome gardener, a pushy teenager and an abandoned cat to show these two women that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.
Two women are uneasy neighbours. On the surface, they have very little in common except for the hostility between them. New Year’s Eve starts a chain of events that draws their paths together in ways they would never imagine. This is classic Irish storytelling, which spans three time periods. Each foray into the past builds a picture of why Amanda and Tess are the people they are. Neither character is immediately likeable but they are believable and as the story unfolds, so do their true personalities. The revelations make their past choices and present situations easier to understand and Amanda and Tessa easier to empathise.
Amanda’s life is cosmetically perfect but underneath the surface, there are too many cracks, and she realises she is existing not living.
Tess’ accidents make her take stock of her life and vow to make something of the time she has left. It is this realisation, coupled with a teenage girl who wants to help and a cat who wants a warm welcome that makes her start to trust again and value herself.
The story is well-paced, and the ending ties up everything and gives hope for a happier future.
A poignant, sometimes comical, enjoyable story.
Guest Post – The Magic of Friendship- Faith Hogan
The Girl I Used To Know has been described as Uplit, feel good, grown-up, women’s fiction. It certainly falls into all of those brackets, but in writing it, I wanted it to be a manifesto for women’s friendship. Friends are the lifelong anchor for many of us to keep us who we are and what we’re striving to become. Friends are the common denominator that we can choose and if we’re wise, we choose them carefully.
The reality is, that we can make friends at any stage in life, often the best of friends are found the last place you expect and sometimes, they are right under your nose if you just take the time to really look at the person before you. The Girl I Used To Know is about seeing past the façade that we so often build up around ourselves and looking at the person underneath. Very often, it’s surprising to find that ultimately, we are all the same – we all want the same things, to be happy – to be loved.
Tess Cuffe, a curmudgeonly woman (who is not nearly as old
as she imagines herself to be) has long since given up any desire to make
friends, certainly not with the snooty Amanda King. The thing about Tess is
that above anyone, she probably needs a good friend the most, but of course,
like so often in life, she’s the only one who can’t see this. Her ability to
get along with others has long since been buried in her own bitterness and
Once, Tess had been full of promise, life had stretched out before her, she had been happy; she had been loved.
A simple act of kindness opens things up for Tess and like a
complicated set of dominoes, opening her heart to one small creature is enough
to create a fissure to allow a sliver of something better through.
Tess has spent twenty years living her life to spite her neighbours, but it’s a funny thing when she realises that Amanda King’s life is not so perfect as she imagined she doesn’t get quite the same pleasure out of it that she might have imagined. It is too late to luxuriate in the misery of her nemesis – it seems to Tess that somewhere, somehow, she is forced to chose a side and going against all that has propelled her for so long, she chooses Amanda.
Amanda King has lived a life of her own choosing, or at
least that’s what she believes, but when her world comes crashing down, she’s
forced to admit that she’s become someone that she hardly recognises anymore.
Once, Amanda had been full of promise, life had stretched out before her, she had been happy; she had been loved.
This is a story of two women who realise that in spite of the fact that on the outside, they appear to be very different, it turns out they have more in common than they realised. Friendship may not be the answer to their problems, but it certainly makes life better in ways they could never have imagined, if only they can meet halfway.
Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
At eighteen, Somlata married into the Mitras: a once noble Bengali household whose descendants have taken to pawning off the family gold to keep up appearances.
When Pishima, the embittered matriarch, dies, Somlata is the first to discover her aunt-in-law’s body – and her sharp-tongued ghost.
First demanding that Somlata hide her gold from the family’s prying hands, Pishima’s ghost continues to wreak havoc on the Mitras. Secrets spilt, cooking spoilt, Somlata finds herself at the centre of the chaos. And as the family teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, it looks like it’s up to her to fix it.
The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is a frenetic, funny and fresh novel about three generations of Mitra women, a jewellery box, and the rickety family they hold together.
I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The description attracted me to this book, it was first published in 1993.
Somlata marries into an aristocratic, but cash poor Bengali family, who still have noble aspirations and therefore do not understand the concept of earning a living. To live, they sell off their assets, but even this income source is now in jeopardy. The family lives traditionally in a large house, according to hierarchy. When the matriarch dies, something has to change.
Somlata discovers Roshomoyee’s body, and also her ghost, and a quirky tale of strange occurrences, superstition and change begin. Somlata is effectively the conduit for the ghost’s wishes, and this empowers her and makes her a feared by some members of her new family. Her actions directed by the deceased Aunt bring the family to its lowest ebb, but her sense of empowerment grows and she becomes the key to their survival.
Three generations of women are featured; Roshomoyee, the aunt by marriage who was married and widowed very young, and feels she has been robbed of her rightful life, Somlata, who is bright and brave, and with a little ghostly help, changes all their lives for the better. Boshon is Somlata’s daughter, who believes in herself and her rights, and is not afraid to push against the family’s patriarch model. Interestingly Roshomoyee’s ghost diminishes when Somlata has her daughter?
The story is short but packed with detail, cultural references and family drama, it is humorous in parts and poignant in others. The style takes a little getting used to but it is an interesting story of tradition and female empowerment.
What happens when pregnancy and the first few weeks of a baby’s life don’t go as planned? How have advances in modern medicine and perinatal genetics redefined our perceptions of what is possible?
The First Breath by Olivia Gordon is a powerful medical memoir about the extraordinary fetal and neonatal medicine bringing today’s babies into the world. Unveiling the intense patient-doctor relationship at work with every birth, this book reflects on the cutting-edge medicine that has saved a generation of babies, the combination of love and fear a parent feels for a child they haven’t yet met and what can happen before a baby’s first breath.
Olivia Gordon was twenty-nine weeks pregnant when a scan found that her baby was critically ill. Thanks to a risky operation in utero and five months in neonatal care, her son survived.
The First Breath is the first popular science book to tell the story of the fast developing fields of fetal and neonatal medicine. It explores motherhood and the female experience of medicine through Olivia’s personal story and sensitive, intimate case histories of other mothers’ high-risk births.
The First Breath asks what it means to become the mother of a child who would not have survived birth only a generation ago, showing how doctors and nurses save the most vulnerable lives and how medicine has developed to make it possible for these lives to even begin.
I received a copy of this from Pan Macmillan – Bluebird via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The story, this book tells is amazing, the sheer scope of the medical advancement, over the last twenty years is well documented here. It’s not just about the science, and the pioneering doctors, there is also the unashamedly human side to this story. The personal experiences of the author, and the mothers, fathers, doctors and nurses interviewed by her.
The balance of facts and case studies is good. The science is complex and will not suit everyone, but it is written, in an easy to understand way, and illuminated by personal experience. The ethical side of this medical advancement isn’t ignored, as the reader is presented with both the facts and the human outcomes.
The experiences of the parents, particularly the mothers, is the best part of the book for me. They are courageous, honest and inspiring.
Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night: trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges, as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.
In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine – a pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for “dives”, used as an alternative therapy for conditions including autism and infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder and Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A tragic event at an alternative medicine site leaves two dead, and others severely injured. This story is about the court case that follows over a year later, through the testimonies and thoughts of the people involved at the time, the story explores what really happened and whether the person in the dock is truly guilty.
The courtroom scenes are detailed and enthralling, seen through multi-points-of-view they illuminate the actions, emotions and motivations of the people at the time of the accident and before. All have secrets, tell lies and many have a motive, but are they guilty? The perception is whilst their lies may be insignificant in abstract, they may form part of a conspiracy against justice and the truth.
The people undergoing treatment are vulnerable and deserve protection. The crime is shocking, as are the revelations that follow. It is not easy reading, but there is nothing gratuitous, everything is a piece in the puzzle or an insight into a character’s personality.
Parenting a child with a disability, maintaining your personal identity, as an immigrant, the role of women in society, abuse, culture clashes, society’s expectations and norms, and alternative medical treatments are themes of this complex, well-researched story. They interweave with a pacy, twisty, sometimes controversial plot. Making this story an addictive mix of courtroom drama, family secrets and psychological thriller.
The ending has a final twist, not unexpected, but still shocking. The sense that the guilt should be shared is paramount and is the perfect end for this thought-provoking novel.
The story is original and complex, the characters are well thought out and believable, The courtroom scenes are realistic, but did I enjoy reading it?
The overriding ethos is dark, and almost lacking in hope, showing the worst side of humanity. Also, there is a level of repetition because events are examined from multi-points- of-view. So, the jury’s still out for me. It’s down to personal preference. If you like a mix of courtroom drama and psychological thriller, you should give this a try.