Review By Lou of The Way From Here By Jane Turner @jane_turner9 @orionbooks @RandomTTours #BookReview #ContemporaryFiction #BlogTour #ReadingCommunity

The Way From Here
By Jane Turner

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Today is my turn on the blog tour with my review for The Way From Here, a book of parenthood, life’s transitions and friendship. Find out more in the blurb and my thoughts in my review below.
Thanks to Random T Tours and the publisher Orion for inviting me to review and for a copy of the book.

F The Way From Here Cover

Blurb

Four friends. A lifetime of choices. What comes next?

Kate had been so busy making a place in the world for her daughters, she had somehow forgotten to take care of herself. The life she’d ended up with was not the life she’d planned. Everything was…a compromise.

When Kate’s younger daughter Ella goes off to university, she realises her life has become consumed by the minutiae of family life. In her ’empty nest’, Kate starts to wonder: what now?

Decades after abandoning her university hobby of rowing, Kate gingerly joins a local ladies rowing team and rediscovers her passion for the pleasing rhythmic sensation of paddle slicing through water.

More than anything, though, Kate finds that the team of strong women bring new adventures and unlikely friendships she hadn’t even realised she missed having…

A life-affirming, uplifting story about eight fifty-something women who are all asking the same question about what is next in life for them – and starting to discover the answer together.

Review

The Way From here is told primarily from Kate and Beth’s perspectives, with interjections from Lesley. It begins with Kate taking her daughter, Ella to university. It has all the ingredients in the story that so many parents would be able to relate to when their children get to a certain stage and age in life.

The book quickly gets into the next stage, with Kate getting into a rowing club. The book gets right into the details of rowing, quite cinematically and for the uninitated in rowing, the author has thoughtfully written brief descriptions outwith the main body of the story, of rowing techniques.
This isn’t soley about rowing, so it’s still okay if that isn’t your thing. This is also about reaching a certain stage and age in life and being overlooked. It also shows how groups, even such as a rowing group, has its cliques. On the flipside, it is also about friendship and rediscovering what seemed lost and truly living again and navigating through the maze of another stage of life.
Readers are let into Kate’s psyche, moods and mental health state, really well in a way that you can totally sympathise with her and perhaps even empathise with her if you’re a reader of a similar sort of age. You really get into her head and her thoughts about her life and how she is feeling.
Kate, especially, is a character that truly pops off the page.
All in all though, readers can follow friends through ups and downs of a new phase of life as their nests become empty and they need to work out how to fill the void and find their place in the world again.

It’s a book, perhaps really aimed at an audience slightly older than I, but it is important to read books with strong characters who are that bit older, giving inspiration and a story of how life can be as we enter different stages in life. It’s told well and is both compelling and absorbing. It provides physical energy through the rowing and also through the pathways of life, that you go through with the characters, leading to a very realistic, mature and satisfying ending.

#BookReview By Lou of The Summer Fair By Heidi Swain @Heidi_Swain @simonschusterUK @harriett_col @BookMinxSJV #TeamBATC #FeelGoodFiction #ContemporaryFiction #RomanticFiction #TheSummerFair #BlogTour

The Summer Fair
By Heidi Swain

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Summer Fair is a pleasure to read and it’s great to return to Nightengale Square with it’s charm, warmth, romance and challenges to overcome.
Check out more in the blurb and my thoughts in my review below.
Firstly, thanks to the publisher – Simon and Schuster for inviting me on the blog tour to review and for gifting me a book and a cake mix to bake (still to be baked but I think it may be a sweet bit of deliciousness. Time will tell. Pics will come on Twitter in all good time).
*Please note, that my review does not reflect these gifts, lovely as they are, my review remains based on the book alone and without bias.

The Summer Fair cover

Blurb

Join Sunday Times best seller Heidi Swain back in Nightingale Square for a sunshine and celebration filled summer….

Beth loves her job working in a care home, looking after its elderly residents, but she doesn’t love the cramped and dirty house-share she currently lives in. So, when she gets the opportunity to move to Nightingale Square, sharing a house with the lovely Eli, she jumps at the chance.

The community at Nightingale Square welcomes Beth with open arms, and when she needs help to organise a fundraiser for the care home they rally round. Then she discovers The Arches, a local creative arts centre, has closed and the venture to replace it needs their help, too—but this opens old wounds and past secrets for Beth.

Music was always an important part of her life, but now she has closed the door on all that. Will her friends at the care home and the people of Nightingale Square help her find a way to learn to love it once more?

Review

It is such a delight to return to the people in the Nightengale Square community and to meet some new people along the way.

There is warmth, community spirit from people who like to help when services closedown. There is also heartache, otherwise buried by enthusiasm that not everyone gets to see. The reader however does in this book as what was secreted away comes to light.

It sounds whimsically idyllic from the title, but this book has substance and depth when you get to know the people who have experiences and feelings like anyone in the real world and not just on the written page.

Beth works for the Edith Cavell Care Home and life has been tough, with her mum dying after a stroke. The book is so eloquently written from the beginning of reminisces of music that has now also died with her…. The readers are then taken on a journey into Nightengale Square, its residents, the workplaces and Beth’s life.

Beth is a popular carer at the home and loves her job, but behind all that is sorrow and denial of the things she loved before the death of her mum, realised even more when she goes with Harold to the community garden, but she does have a houseplant called Aretha, named after Aretha Franklin as it is strong. There is a point to this plant and its character that is clever in tying in with part of Beth’s personality, which shows thoughtfulness and writing with great creativity. 

Beth is house sharing with a few people and not altogether satisfied at this position that she has found herself in, but fortunes change as she has the opportunity to move to Nightengale Square, a place which is so idyllic that I am sure many readers can imagine living there, with its caring, supportive community and Winter Gardens, featured in a previous book, but mentioned in this. This time, instead of Winterfest, the community want to host a summer fair.

This is about community coming together to create something good and inclusive, with the backdrop of people’s personal lives and stuff they’ve kept to themselves for so long, but like for Beth, certain things have impact and open old memories, widening past wounds. It’s pure escapism and romance, all with a bit of grit, showing that not everything is always idyllic as it may first seem in everyone’s lives and tumultuous moments between people; that’s what gives it a good grounding and saves it being whimsical. It’s enjoyable from start to end with hearfelt warmth.

I highly recommend The Summer Fair for a gorgeous summer read, whether you’re on holiday or in your garden, soaking up the rays of the sun and the atmosphere of the book.

The Summer Fair Blog Tour (1)

#BookReview by Lou A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris @Joannechocolat @alexxlayt @orionbooks #JoanneHarris #Thriller #Fiction #BookRecommendation

A Narrow Door
By Joanne Harris

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There are huge changes at St. Oswalds and I am priveleged to be able to read and review it. There’s the anticipation of reading it, but also wondering, after reading so many books by her, even pre-blog, would I like it? Would I think other readers would like it? It’s a resounding yes from me. Even after however long it has been since the last book in this series – A Different Class, it is great to be back at St. Oswalds to see how this thriller continues in this latest book –
A Narrow Door
.
Thanks very much to Alex Layt at Orion Books for allowing me to review and for gifting me a proof copy and a bag of Liquorice Allsorts.
Please find out more in the blurb and the rest of my review below…
*My review is unbiased.

A Narrow Door

Blurb

Now I’m in charge, the gates are my gates. The rules are my rules.

It’s an incendiary moment for St Oswald’s school. For the first time in its history, a headmistress is in power, the gates opening to girls.

Rebecca Buckfast has spilled blood to reach this position. Barely forty, she is just starting to reap the harvest of her ambition. As the new regime takes on the old guard, the ground shifts. And with it, the remains of a body are discovered.

But Rebecca is here to make her mark. She’ll bury the past so deep it will evade even her own memory, just like she has done before. After all…

You can’t keep a good woman down.

Review

A Narrow DoorStep through A Narrow Door with all its symbolism and connotations, and a lot awaits…
The book is split into 8 parts, plus a preface and epilogue. Each part is named after something in Greek Mythology and written in English underneath. It’s eyecatching, as you’d think it is, but even more so because of this as it’s different. The narrative here and throughout is strong and compulsive. Hours disappeared into the midst of time whilst reading this book.

No longer is St. Oswalds an all boys grammar school. It is now an academy with a female headmaster at the helm and females can now enter and be educated there with the boys.

This is an absolutely powerful book, even from the preface. Mr Straitley is still around as are a few other staff as are some of the group of boys known as “Brodie Boys”.
The future and the past merges together with old school ties and her new start and then a body is discovered adding an air of mystery to the changes in the school life with the rise of a Rebecca Buckfast.
Merged into the story, that has its mystery, there are also themes of strong females, how they are perceived and some of the myths. It does this very quickly and starkly in the preface, especially. It is written in the most fantastic, mature and knowledgeable way and also leads very well into the rest of, what turns out to be a twisty and compelling, involving complex thriller.

The writing; the air that it brings is powerful and absolutely all encompassing. It demands and captures attention from the beginning. It doesn’t let go. It seeps into your mind and all your senses in one way or another. It puts readers right back to the heart of St. Oswalds, an all boys school that exudes a certain stature and power, but one that wasn’t without its issues. Now the school is changing, catching up with the times.

This is absolutely marvellous writing throughout and the book is pretty hard to put down.
The years go between 1989 and 2006, showing what became tradition and what the school’s future holds as co-education begins as an academy with a female headmaster – Rebecca Buckfast (yes, headmaster and not headmistress. This isn’t a typo), at the helm and she is not to be underestimated. There’s a determination, a resilience in the school and the new headmaster is on a mission! Roy Straitley has a strong view on women and she is set to try and change that. She doesn’t want to let anything get in her way, not even the matter of a body.

Rebecca Buckfast isn’t, however, without her own personal things to deal with. Conrad, her brother, went missing years ago, there’s also the heartbreak and the hope of her parents that she still needs to contend with. There’s some great twists and turns where Conrad is concerned. He had gone to King Henry’s Grammar School for Boys, not St. Oswalds. So, now Rebecca has ties with both and a fight on her hands with both schools.
Roy Straitley has also further troubles with a past friendship involving Eric Scoones.

There are also licquorice Allsorts. Those of you who have read the other books in this series will know what I am talking about. They are now all duly eaten. They aren’t just a sweet, according to the story, they are a way to tell people’s personalities. Aside from that, and including this, it is a very thought-provoking right to the fantastic and very fitting end.

I highly recommend A Narrow Door.

 

#Review By Lou of Meet The Grubblers By Sarah Louise, Illustrated By Amy Ashworth @sarahlouise_novels @thegrubblers @Random T Tours #BlogTour #ChildrensBooks #MeetTheGrubblers

Meet The Grubblers
By Sarah Louise
Illustrated By Amy Ashworth 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Meet The Grubblers Cover

 

Meet the Grubblers has cake, creatures and a magical world to explore in this positive adventure. 
Discover more in the blurb and my review below.
Thanks to Random T. Tours for inviting me to review as part of the blog tour.

Meet The Grubblers Back Cover

Review

Meet the Grubblers 3D ImageMeet the Grubblers is set against the pandemic, but also delves into a fantastic adventure. Emily is fed up of Ipad’s and calls over the internet and opens her curtains one day and is magically whisked on an adventure with a mysterious girl called Lucy, who in turn introduces her to The Grubblers, who are up to all sorts of antics… They are curious characters who bring humour and take readers further into a fantastical land, which is brilliant for escapism. Amongst the humour and cake, that features in the book, is mild trepidation as someone has captured Ada and it is up to Emily and Lucy, in this different land, to find her.
This is a positive story with an excellent ending.

You may never open your curtains in the same way after reading this story… There are perhaps more adventures than meets the eye for the imaginative readers…

On, perhaps an even more serious note, I think this is great, considering at the time of writing, Covid-19 has not totally disappeared and for the future as things move onwards, it’s an important reminder of its existence. The book, although set in a magical world for the most part, is also very relatable for children for what had happened in the world, as well as managing to be highly entertaining.

I highly recommend this very fun, entertaining book.

Meet The Grubblers BT Poster

#Interview By Lou With #RobertGraham of The Former Boy Wonder @LendalPress @kenyon_isabelle #TheFormerBoyWonder #Readers #ReadingCommunity #MusicInBooks

Robert GrahamI am delighted to present an interview I conducted with Robert Graham
author of The Former Boy Wonder.
Robert Graham has published novels and short stories as well as having a play performed by Contact. He also teaches creative writing in Liverpool.

The Former Boy Wonder coverThe Former Boy Wonder is a compelling book that covers first love, mid-life crisis and the challenges of the relationship between fathers and sons. It also features lots of music as the main protagonist was a music editor.

I have 4 questions about the book itself, covering  the eras it goes through, the father/son relationship, the fascinating inspiration and of course the music.
Thank you to Robert Graham for agreeing to be interviewed and thank you to Isabelle Kenyon for being instrumental in setting it up.
Now onto the interview…

the-former-boy-wonder-front

What inspired you to set your novel in the 1970s, 1980s and 2010s?

The novel has two narrative strands, one of which takes place in the early 2010s, when the protagonist, Peter Duffy, is about to turn 50. This landmark birthday makes him look at the dying of the light and wonder if his life – which in any case is falling apart – is as good as it gets. He’s contemplating his own mortality. I chose the early 2010s simply because I began writing the novel in 2012 and looking around me for details of the place and time was all I had to do to make the setting convincing to the reader. The second narrative strand is set when Peter’s a student. If he turns 50 in 2012, that will mean that his student days will have been the early ’80s. Even though I’m a few years older than Peter, setting that strand then meant I was familiar with all the cultural references, the signifiers of the era. Given these dates, he would have been a teenager in the 70s, which I was, too. All of which is to say, I didn’t have to research any of the eras in which the book takes place. This was helpful, as I did have to research quite a few other things, including being an Art student at Manchester Poly (I studied American Literature in Norwich), working in television in the ’70s (Peter’s father is a TV star at that time) and London, specifically Notting Hill, in the ’80s.

You have a very informative website about your writing and inspirations. You talk about studying a handful of novels but it sounds like you particularly studied The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier. Why these authors in particular and what impact did this have on your writing in The Former Boy Wonder?

Because of the crisis Peter is experiencing as he approaches his 50th birthday, he begins to remember his student days and long for his first love, Sanchia Page. I studied The Great Gatsby and Le Grand Meaulnes because both share this theme with TFBW: lost love. Both feature a romanticised account of a young man falling in love for the first time and both hang on an older man longing for that first love.

In Le Grand Meaulnes, the debut of Yvonne de Galais, the woman the hero of the book falls in love with, is delayed. To help me give Sanchia’s entrance maximum effect, I studied the build-up to her first appearance. The journey that will eventually bring us to Meaulnes’ coup de foudre is stretched out over twenty-two pages, when it could easily have been covered in two. Fournier withholds the key moment of the novel’s first act for as long as he does to generate tension, engage readers and, with specific details at the party, prime them for the arrival of a magical creature. Details such as a treasure chest of children’s trinkets, a Pierrot, coloured lights, and plangent music give the party a fairy tale quality. With this steadily delayed entrance, we have the sense that Meaulnes is passing through a dream-like setting and being drawn inexorably towards something mysterious. When Isabelle finally appears, Meaulnes’ great moment arrives, and he falls headlong in love.

In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway, the narrator, meets Gatsby at a party where, although it isn’t phrased in that way, he falls in love with him. The dramatic beginning of this love story is equally delayed, as Fitzgerald takes his time building up to Gatsby’s first appearance and keeps him offstage long enough to intensify the reader’s desire to meet this romantic character. Just as Fournier delays Meaulnes’ first encounter with Yvonne for twenty-two pages, Fitzgerald builds up to the arrival of Gatsby over the course of forty pages.

I tried to apply what I had learned from Fournier and Fitzgerald about delaying the debut of the object of affection. The first suggestion of Sanchia Page is on p 13 of TFBW. She’s next mentioned on p 27 and then on p 46 and doesn’t make her first appearance until p 51. At the end of their first scene together, she introduces herself: “My name’s Sanchia.” This is a direct steal from Fitzgerald’s novel, where, when Nick meets him, the eponymous hero says, ‘I’m Gatsby’. In my defence, I would quote the novelist John Updike who said, “My purpose in reading has ever secretly been not to come and judge but to come and steal.” I steal and I almost always have. I’ve learned that all artists do – and that it isn’t cheating. Halfway through the writing of TFBW, an article by the novelist Julian Barnes appeared in The Guardian. In it, he said evidence had emerged that, while writing The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald had carefully studied Le Grand Meaulnes. The article then went on to examine some of the ways in which he used Fournier’s novel as a model for his own – which encouraged me to keep on doing what writers have always done: steal.

What inspired you to write about the relationship between a father and son?

I particularly wanted to write about my experience of losing my father when I was a child. My father passed on when I was 8. In the novel, Peter’s father abandons the family to go to London and seek his fortune when Peter is 9. I wanted to write about the experience of growing up without a father and longing for the one I lost. Freud said that a 16-yar-old boy’s desire to be affirmed by his father is stronger than his sex drive. So, I knew I had a subject matter with dramatic potential. I wrote about the experience of being a father of a teenaged son because I have a son and he once was a teenager – and the experience of being a father is one of the most important relationships of your life. With Peter’s relationship with Jack, his son, I mainly wanted to get a few laughs, so any time Jack appears, my aim was to make the things he says to his Dad funny.

Lastly, for a bit of fun and because music is huge in The Former Boy Wonder: What music do you like and why and do you remember the first piece of music you bought?

~ۓ

As you say, music looms large in this novel, but I always tried to avoid Peter having an opinion about any of it. I don’t think a novelist’s opinions about music are of much interest to a reader. (In fact, a novelist’s opinions about anything aren’t of much interest to a reader.) On Spotify, there’s a TFBW playlist and it gives an indication of my tastes. Some of the tracks on it I played to get me in the mood to write a particular scene (Roxy Music’s “All I Want Is You”, for instance); some are there because their theme coincided with one in the book (for example, Leonard Cohen’s “I Can’t Forget”); and some because they had a particular function in the book: the morning after he loses his virginity, Peter puts on Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge”.

It’d be great to able to say that that the first record I ever bought was the Velvet Underground’s first album or The Fall’s only hit single, but the truth is it was Sandie Shaw’s “Monsieur Dupont”. Not so cool.

#Review by Lou of Blood Lines By Lin Le Versha @linleversha @HobeckBooks #TeamHobeck #CrimeFiction #BookRecommendation #BlogTour #BloodLines #Thriller #ReadingCommunity #Blogger

Blood Lines
By Lin Le Versha

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Today I am on the blog tour for the compelling and thought-provoking crime fiction thriller – Blood Lines By Lin Le Versha, which I most certainly recommend. Thanks to Hobeck Books for inviting me onto the blog tour and for a copy of the book.
Discover more about it in the blurb and my review below.

Bloodlines cover

Blurb

Set within the mysterious beauty of coastal Suffolk, this gripping new crime series is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end when the final shocking twist is revealed. Lin Le Versha is not to be missed, the brilliant new talent on the British crime writing scene.

Eighteen year-old Darcy Woodard appears to have it all – intelligence, good looks and artistic gifts. His teachers adore him, as does former policewoman Steph Grant, who is now the receptionist at Darcy’s college.

But beneath the surface – all is not as it seems.

Darcy is convinced he doesn’t fit in with his peers and tries to ignore their online taunts.

There’s Darcy’s dysfunctional mother Esther who is trapped in a literary time warp.

Then there’s his sister Marianne, who Darcy desperately wants to protect from the dark forces that surround her.

Then tragedy rocks Darcy’s life when a drugs gang forces its way into his life and all the people he cares for.

What can Steph and her former boss DI Hale do to protect the local community? And can they really trust Darcy to help them defeat the county lines gang?

Blood Lines is the second thrilling book in the Steph Grant murder mystery series by the brilliant Lin Le Versha.

Review

Set in scenic surrounds with elegant Edwardian houses becomes a twisty, involving read as deep, dark crimes ensue that former police woman Steph Grant and DI Hale have to crack.

There are drugs around the college campus and online bullying, questioning the accountability of social media and its users. There is however, more to it than first meets the eye, which really sets the beautiful scenery at a juxtoposition of what is really going on.
It gets deeper when it is discovered there are drugs gangs, part of County Lines. It holds a lot of intrigue as Darcy gets caught up in it all as he wants somewhere to fit in. His his sister, Marianne wants to do is protect him. It’s compelling as the consequences unfold.

Esther and Mike’s story adds another layer to the book, adding even more to the family battling with  MND (Motor Neurone Disease). Esther is also stuck in a bit of a world of her own when it comes to literary works. Ingeniously, woven into their life story, classic literary references are plentiful.

It’s a fast-paced read, right up to an unexpected, intriguing ending.

All in all, I very much recommend this book.