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.

#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.

#BookReview By Lou of The Shadow Child By Rachel Hancox #TheShadowChild #RachelHancox @centurybooksuk @PenguinUKBooks @RandomTTours #ContemporaryFiction #LiteraryFiction #readingcommunity #Readers #Bloggers #BookTwitter

The Shadow Child
By Rachel Hancox

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Shadow Graphic 1

The Shadow Child is a compelling, thought-provoking contemporary fiction/literary fictiondebut novel full of secrets and the ‘human condition’. Find out more in the blurb and my review and then a bit about the author. First, thanks to Random T. Tours for the invite onto the blog tour.

Blurb

Shadow Graphic 3Eighteen-year-old Emma has loving parents and a promising future ahead of her. So why, one morning, does she leave home without a trace?

Her parents, Cath and Jim, are devastated. They have no idea why Emma left, where she is –
or even whether she is still alive. A year later, Cath and Jim are still tormented by the
unanswered questions Emma left behind and clinging desperately to the hope of finding
her.

Meanwhile, tantalisingly close to home, Emma is also struggling with her new existence –
and with the trauma that shattered her life.

For all of them, reconciliation seems an impossible dream. Does the way forward lie in
facing up to the secrets of the past – secrets that have been hidden for years? Secrets that
have the power to heal them, or to destroy their family forever …

The Shadow Child is a book of hope and reconciliation, of coming to terms with trauma and
learning to love again. Most of all, it’s about how you can never quite escape from the
shadows of your past – especially when one of those shadows is a child …

Review

The prologue sweeps by fast, with its talk about shadows, that is written in a way that you would expect from a child, but knowing the blurb, it takes on a bit of an eerie slant, thereafter it is a bit of a slow-burn of curiosity that seeks to grasp you and succeeds. The family is fairly normal, Cath is a teacher and Jim is a newspaper photographer and was practically love at first sight. They then had 2 children, but one died and the other is now mysteriously missing, seemingly without a trace. The family, of what’s left, use many coping strategies to get through these dark days and you can feel the emotion and see the strength of character that they keep going, even though they feel guilt and bewilderment that their daughter went missing and despair and helplessness that they have no answers. They also cling hard onto hope so they keep going in life.

It’s interesting and, perhaps more powerful for it, the way that Emma (the missing child) has her own narrative to tell readers why she disappeared. It’s a good way to get into her psyche and infact all of the main characters have their own present story and backstory to tell about their lives.

Jim and Cath also have a cottage that they inherited, so take on tenants – Lara and Nick. Then all the characters become even more intrinisically linked and it becomes apparent that there are so many secrets being harboured in the pages, that keeps the book engaging, as well as the fact that there’s a need to discover how it could possibly all end and whether certain things will work out well or not.

There’s quite a philisophical bent at times, that creates for some rather elegant thought-provoking moments, through its sometimes nuanced approach and natural human thoughts. The book is essentially about relationships, how they interconnect to other people’s lives, the impacts secrets can have, the upbringing that occurs at childhood and how that feeds into adulthood. How to attempt to reshape life and cope with incredibly traumatic situations.
Overall it is quite a compelling, complex book about the twisting paths of life, loss and hope.

About the Author

RACHEL HANCOX read Medicine and Social and Political Science at Cambridge, qualified as a doctor three months after getting married, and has juggled her family, her career and a passion for writing ever since.
She worked in Paediatrics and Public Health for twenty years, writing short stories alongside NHS policy reports, and drafting novels during successive bouts of maternity leave. Rachel has five children, three dogs and a cat. She lives in Oxford with her husband and youngest children.

Shadow Child BT Poster

#BookReview By Lou of – The Former Boy Wonder By Robert Graham #RobertGraham @LendalPress @kenyon_isabelle #Music #Fiction #TheFormerBoyWonder #Midlife #Readers #ReadingCommunity

The Former Boy Wonder
By Robert Graham

Rating: 4 out of 5.

One for the music fans! One for those interested in father/son relationships. One for those interested in a story with a midlife crisis within it. Check The Former Boy Wonder out the blurb and my review of The Former Boy below.
Thanks to Isabelle Kenyon and Lendal Press for inviting me to review on the closing spot for the blog tour and for a copy of the book.

Blurb

The Former Boy Wonder coverA bittersweet comedy that takes a sidelong look at first love, mid-life crisis and the
challenges of the relationship between fathers and sons.
With his 50th birthday approaching and his career in tatters, Peter Duffy is hard at work trying to
repair his marriage when an invitation arrives in the post. Caitlin, one of his university friends, is
having a party at the country house where he met his first love, the exotic Sanchia Page. If all his old friends are going to be there, there’s a slim chance that – just maybe – she will, too. Faced with this possibility, re-living his time with Sanchia threatens to turn his head and ruin all his good intentions.
Set in the new Manchester of the 21st century and the old Manchester of 25 years before,
The Former Boy Wonder takes a wry look at mid-life men and the women who have to live with them.

Review

Take a pinch of nostalgia from the 1970’s and 1980’s, mixed with more closer to present times – the twenty-teens and you have the timeline for The Former Boy Wonder, with the toys, the sweets and the music. The fun of the eras is intertwined with hardship. From near the start, there is a big pang of sadness, that immediately makes you sympathise and empathise with life situations, along with a more cool vibe of celebrities of the time and fashion magazines, such as Vogue.

The Former Boy Wonder cover 2Peter Duffy is 49 years old and his career as a music journalist is flat-lining, from its once hugely successful years of being around the big bands and A-list stars. He’s reached a certain age and having a bit of a mid-life crisis and the work that used to come his way, isn’t the same and no-longer is he seen as the young hot-shot journalist he once was.
The music scenes are entertaining with so many bands and artists, but also shows an interesting contrast of how it was in Belfast, Northern Ireland compared to Manchester, England. The enthusiasm really shines through. 

Life and love and fatherhood is complicated, bringing more drama and sometimes humour and warmth. One of the big, powerful themes is that of a father-son relationship and readers can see this develop and will be able to totally relate to the teenage attitude.

The Former Boy Wonder keenly observes all aspects of life throughout the decades and how things change, how people are percieved, change when they age up. It’s very much like looking into someone else’s world with a full, unobstructed view, with everything documented and emotions drawn.

About the Author

Robert Graham is the author of the novel Holy Joe; the short story collections The Only Living Boy and When You Were a Mod, I Was A Rocker; and the novella A Man Walks Into A Kitchen. His play about fans of The Smiths, If You Have Five Seconds To Spare, was staged by Contact Theatre, Manchester. He is co-author, with Keith Baty, of Elvis – The Novel, a spoof biography; and, with Julie Armstrong, Heather Leach, Helen Newall et al, of The Road To Somewhere: A Creative Writing Companion; Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Creative Writing; and How To Write A Short Story (And Think About It). He grew up in Northern Ireland and for most of his adult life has lived in Manchester. He teaches Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University. For more information please see http://www.robertgraham.life and follow Robert on Instagram @robert55graham

 

#Review By Lou – With This Kiss By Carrie Hope Fletcher @CarrieHFletcher @HQstories #WithThisKiss

With This Kiss
By Carrie Hope Fletcher

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

With This Kiss With This Kiss

I am delighted to share with you my review of With This Kiss By Carrie Hope Fletcher. She is currently starring in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, but has also written a few very successful books, this being her latest. Thanks to HQ Stories/Harper Collins, I have been gifted a proof in exchange of an honest review. Find out more about this enchanting story with a difference in the blurb and my thoughts in my review below…

With This Kiss

Blurb

If you knew how your love story ends, would you dare to begin?

From the outside, Lorelai is an ordinary young woman with a normal life. She loves reading, she works at the local cinema and she adores living with her best friend. But she carries a painful burden, something she’s kept hidden for years; whenever she kisses someone on the lips, she sees how they are going to die.

Lorelai has never known if she’s seeing what was always meant to be, or if her kiss is the thing that decides their destiny. And so, she hasn’t kissed anyone since she was eighteen.

Then she meets Grayson. Sweet, clever, funny Grayson. And for the first time in years she yearns for a man’s kiss. But she can’t…or can she? And if she does, should she try to intervene and change what she sees?

Review

With This Kiss is an enchanting romance, but one that is somewhere between that fairytale whimsicalness and some grounded reactions and emotions.

Lorelai is the main protagonist and happy with life and being friends and can sometimes be a bit defensive when it comes to men because of what romantic entanglements lead to. Lorelai has best friend Joanie, there, pushing her along and trying to see things in a more positive light.

The fact that everytime Lorelai discovers that she has the power to know how someone is going to die after kissing them is what really grabbed my attention to this book. It is a highly intriguing and different concept. The opening pages are fantastic and really drew me in. They have an glow of mystique and and air of intrigue. I felt that the aftermath of finding out how someone was going to die, could have had a bit more depth to it. There is some decent humour, when it presents itself, just perhaps not quite enough. There’s a bit too much procrastination, which is a pity as loses a bit of pace, which becomes a bit frustrating at times, although of course given the situation Lorelai finds herself in, it is absolutely understandable that there would be. Anyone in this situation surely would have this affliction, with such power as she wonders what to do about Grayson, who she is properly falling in love with, whom she meets at a bookclub. The bookclub meet is a lovely place to meet, it is also nice that the club isn’t the crux of the whole story as that doesn’t seem to be what the story is about. It seems more about romance and how to deal with the hand you’ve been given and what to do with magical powers. It has a theatrical sense to it all in a way. There is a love and respect for cinema, books and theatre and everyone involved in these art forms cascades throughout the story very well.

It’s more a darker take on a fairytale for adults than rom-com as such and it is the fairytale like quality that has parts that almost sweeps you along, some parts more than others.

It is all in all, fairly fun. Don’t go into this thinking there is some greater meaning or a massive amount of depth in the power that Lorelea has, or you may find yourself feeling disappointed. If you go into it with a view of that fairytale magic that has a bit of darkness and an open mind, then it is a pleasant read that has a different take on romance.
This was so close to being 4 stars.

WithThisKiss_BTBammended

#BookReview By Lou of Remember Me By Charity Norman @CharityNorman1 @AllenAndUnwin @RandomTTours #RememberMe #CrimeFiction #Thriller

Remember Me
By Charity Norman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Remember Me Graphic 1

Remember Me is another gripping thriller from Charity Norman. It gives me great pleasure to close the blog tour with a review today, thanks to Random Things Tours and publisher – Allen and Unwin for inviting me and for a copy of the book. Discover more in the blurb and my review, as well as a little about this author.

Remember Me Graphic 4

Blurb

They never found Leah Parata. Not a boot, not a backpack, not a turquoise beanie. After she left me that day, she vanished off the face of the earth. A close-knit community is ripped apart by disturbing revelations that cast new light on a young woman’s disappearance twenty-five years ago.

After years of living overseas, Emily returns to New Zealand to care for her father who has dementia. As his memory fades and his guard slips, she begins to understand him for the first time – and to glimpse shattering truths about his past.

Are some secrets best left buried?

Another page-turning, emotive suspense novel from the Richard & Judy bestselling author of After the Fall and Radio 2 Book Club pick, 2020’s The Secrets of Strangers – ideal reading-group fiction, perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult and Clare Mackintosh.

 

Review

After really liking Secrets of Strangers, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to reviewRemember Me Graphic 2 Remember Me. When reviewing Secrets of Strangers, I reckoned this was an author to watch. I wasn’t wrong. Remember Me is absolutely just as gripping and addictive to read as the layers build up to discover what happened to Leah when she mysteriously disappeared.

Emily Kirkland is a children’s illustrator in the UK, who then makes the sort of difficult decision to upsticks and leave what and where she loves, to go and care for her ailing father, Felix, who was perhaps not one of the better paternal figures there’s ever been, to care for him in his advancing years. She does have 2 siblings, Eddie and Carmen, who don’t want make any changes in their lives and reckons he should just go into a carehome so they can continue their lives with no disruption, which in a way forces Emily’s hand to go cross half the world to do something. It also turns into a journey that was more than she expected as she discovers more about him, what makes him tick and what secrets he has been concealing for so long, that have huge consequences.

The secrets that emerge that keep those pages turning as it goes between 2019 with the investigation and people in the village in their current states and 1994 when they were all shaken up with Leah Parata going missing. As time moves on, characters have aged and as well as getting to know the scenery and the inner community, the characters have also naturally aged and all are not well. Alzheimers features and is written well by Norman. She has clearly either put in the research or had experience of someone with this disease, creating an additional heart-rendering element that so many people will sadly be able to relate to, as well as someone being missing for so many years, without trace, also I am sure, relatable to those with family and those who perhaps have experienced this.

Close-knit communities is what Charity Norman seems to do well and writes with aplomb. In Remember Me, you really get to know the people in the community and the inner, anguished secrets that have been kept, creating intensity.

This is a book I highly recommend.

About The Author

Charity Norman was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years’ travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law. In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. REMEMBER ME is her seventh novel.

Remember Me BT Poster (1)