#Review by Lou – What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson @coryanderwrites @penguinrandom @WriteReadsTours @WriteReads #BookReview #YA #Thriller

What Beauty There Is
By Cory Anderson

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Today I have a dark thriller for young adults/older teenagers that has characters to root for twists and turns that grip on the backdrop of a harsh environment. 

I thank The Write Reads for inviting me to review and for Penguin for gifting me a copy of the book.

Read further for the blurb and full review of the book.

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Blurb

Winter. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.

What Beauty There IsJack Morton has nothing left. Except for his younger brother, Matty, who he’d do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money.

Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.

Choices. They come at a price.

Review

Set to be a big thriller for YA/teenage readers, What Beauty Is, is dark and full of twists that would capture and engage older teens. It’s subject matters of loss and hard times growing up are stark. Jack’s mother had committed suicide when he was younger and his father is in prison. This book shows his and Atlas’s resilience.Later Jack meets Ava, who is another main character and she too has had a hard life, witnessing her mother having to leave the family home and Barden being central to this.

There’s also drugs involved as that’s why their father is in prison, and the money has to be found. There is also a real concern as social care services are contacted and Jack is worried about being separated from his brother and put into foster care. There’s quite an intensity to the book that is sure to grip and readers may well be rooting for the young characters as they try and find their way through their tough upbringing, with the hope they can and will survive. It shows cause and effect of this type of life and the emotions and how the teens react to it all.

So, as you can see, there’s a lot going on, much of which will grip the teenage population and have them talking as the subject matters are huge and also not unknown by them. It is also written in a way that makes it entirely suitable for teens, there isn’t anything that is too adult within them, it is written well with them in mind and is sure to engage.

What Beauty There Is

#Review by Lou of Notebook by Tom Cox @cox_tom @unbounders @RandomTTours #NonFiction #Notebook

Notebook
by Tom Cox

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I am absolutely delighted and excited to be on the blog tour for Notebook by Tom Cox. It is humorous, moving and highly engaging. I read it all in one sitting! 

Thanks to Random Things Tours for inviting me to review and to Unbound for sending me such a beautiful copy.

About the Author

Notebook Tom Cox Author Pic (1)Tom Cox lives in Norfolk. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Good, The Bad and The Furry and the William Hill Sports Book longlisted Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia. 21st-Century Yokel was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize, and the titular story of Help the Witch won a Shirley Jackson Award.Tom Cox has 75k followers on Twitter and 25k on Instagram. He is also the man behind the enormously popular Why My Cat is Sad account, which has 250k followers.
@cox_tom

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Blurb

Sure, sex is great, but have you ever cracked open a new notebook and written something on the first page with a really nice pen?
The story behind Notebook starts with a minor crime: the theft of Tom Cox’s rucksack from a Bristol pub in 2018. In that rucksack was a journal containing ten months worth of notes, one of the many Tom has used to record his thoughts and observations over the past twelve years. It wasn’t the best he had ever kept – his handwriting was messier than in his previous notebook, his entries more sporadic – but he still grieved for every one of the hundred or so lost pages.
This incident made Tom appreciate how much notebook-keeping means to him: the act of putting pen to paper has always led him to write with an unvarnished, spur-of-the-moment honesty that he wouldn’t achieve on-screen.
Here, Tom has assembled his favourite stories, fragments, moments and ideas from those notebooks, ranging from memories of his childhood to the revelation that ‘There are two types of people in the world. People who fucking love maps, and people who don’t.’
The result is a book redolent of the real stuff of life, shot through with Cox’s
trademark warmth and wit.

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Review

Firstly, got to feel very sorry for the theft of his rucksack on all this writing, but this is a marvellous book that has come from experiencing such a terrible crime.The writing is absolutely exquisite, from the humour to the descriptions. It is such a pleasure to read about these seemingly random things and yet to put the observations into a book in such a way that is the complete opposite of mundane that brings such joy is wonderful and no mean feat, it shows skill as he tells anecdotes that are both moving and such fun. There’s an honest about his recollections and Tom Cox writes as though you could be right beside him or as though you’ve unlocked some written treasures. It has the air of intimacy about it as he tells of many places and days. It makes me smile that he talks of Mansfield and around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire places I know well (and no I don’t live there). He also talks candidly about Norwich and its churches and a ghost walk, before moving onto Norfolk and Somerset and what can be found there. He takes notes on the countryside and nature that can be found in the places he has been to.
The anecdotes throughout the book are humorous and really bring the book to life in the way they are written, whether its about a place, the people, the nature or writing.

There’s so much of life (and death) in the book and so much that is also moving, but it is also incredibly uplifting and is sure to capture people’s humorous side of life and give them a chuckle. As in the style of any notebook, nothing is dwelled on too much and it is jam-packed full of all sorts of curiosities that make it engaging and would defy not to draw any reader in.

The strings of ideas, points of views and observations and thoughts are expertly woven together and yet in the air of a very well-kept notebook, yet raw, honest, no airs or graces and all scribbled down as he sees and thinks things, which is quite a delight for the senses. 

 

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#BookReview by Lou of One Thousand Days and A Cup of Tea by Vanessa Moore @Scribblingpsych @Kyle_Books @Octopus_Books @RandomTTours #Memoir #NonFiction

One Thousand Days and A Cup of Tea
By Vanessa Moore
Rated: 4 stars ****

Heart-rendering and emotional to the max; truthful with a surge of hope, no matter how hard things get, is depicted with searing honesty that is all affecting to the core.

Grief, it strikes all of us at some point or another, including the people you would least suspect, in this case, a clinical psychologist. This is her Vanessa Moore’s memoir. At the end of my review are a few interesting facts about grief. 

I thank Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to review. I thank the publishers Octopus Books and Kyle Books for providing me with a copy.

Meander down to find out more about the author, the blurb, my review, some facts and I’ve included a couple of links you may find useful.

About the Author

Vanessa Moore Author pIcVanessa Moore is a clinical psychologist. She studied Psychology at the University of Bristol, gained her PhD in Experimental Psychology from University College London and trained as a clinical psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry. She has had a long career in the NHS working in clinical, teaching, research and senior management roles. She specialised in working with children and families early in her career and she has published extensively in academic journals, mainly in the field of child psychology. She is a specialist magistrate in the family courts and she lives in Hampshire.

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Blurb

Vanessa’s husband Paul dies suddenly and tragically on their regular Sunday morning swim.
How will she cope with her dilapidated house, her teenage children, the patients who depend on her? Will therapy help? Why do mysterious white feathers start appearing in unexpected places?

As a clinical psychologist, Vanessa Moore is used to providing therapy and guidance for her patients. But as she tries to work out how to survive the trauma that has derailed her life, she begins to understand her profession from the other side. Like her, many of her patients were faced with life events they hadn’t been expecting – a child born with a disability or life-limiting illness, a sudden bereavement, divorce, failure – and it is their struggles and stories of resilience and bravery that begin to help her process her own
personal loss.

Taking us through her journey towards recovery as she navigates the world of dating and tries to seek the right therapy, Vanessa uses her professional skills to explore the many questions posed by unanticipated death and find a way forwards. Beautifully written and honestly relayed, One Thousand Days and One Cup of
Tea is a heartbreaking grief memoir of the process of healing experienced as both a bereaved wife and clinical psychologist.

“This book is about a period of great loss in my life, a time when the tables were completely turned on me. I was a qualified therapist who suddenly found myself needing psychological therapy. I was a trained researcher who became my own research subject, as I tried to make sense of what was happening to me. I was an experienced manager who now struggled to manage the events taking place in my own life. Yet, throughout all this turmoil, my patients were always there, in the background, reminding me that there
are many different ways to deal with loss and trauma and search for a way forwards.”
Vanessa Moore

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Review

Grief, it’s always around people. We live, we die and most people know someone who has died and most have experienced grief. The book is an honest account from Vannessa Moore who is a clinical psychologist, who needed assistance from psychological therapy herself to move past her own grief and turning her research onto herself as she became her own research subject. It’s a brave move to have made and even more so to write about in such a judgemental world. I will say, grief is experienced differently by everyone and that’s okay. This is very much Vanessa Moore’s account of it, but she has been through a huge gambit of emotions that somewhere, people will be able to relate to some part or all of it. It’s a searing look at each stage of grief as it is lived through.

The book starts off sedately with just how normal life can be trundling along, until the next moment, it isn’t like that anymore and it changes because of a sudden and most unexpected death. It has emotion and the racing thoughts of who you need to instantly call and what to tell the children and the lead-up to the funeral. She talks of desires of unburdening onto complete strangers. People may find this relatable, if they’ve unburdened onto someone else or someone has onto them. She talks candidly about how she feels when she sees Jennifer – a Psychotherapist, who listens and sometimes shows some concern. This is certainly her accuracy and account. I cannot say if this is true for everyone, but it is for Vanessa Moore and her experiences are very interesting.

It’s a surprisingly pacy book. I half expected to be trudging through it and was glad that this isn’t the case at all. It is however a book that can be dipped in and out of and is perhaps wise in some ways to do this, depending on how you’re feeling yourself, but it is a worthwhile read as it isn’t a “poor me” story, it goes beyond that. Something terribly sad happened, but it has a truth of warts and all about it, but is just about matter-of-fact too, with some of the pragmatic.
It also seems not to hide anything that she experienced in her grief, from being so low that she found solace and comfort in talking about it, to being enraged to finding a psychosymatic calmness in white feathers and imagining they are a symbol. She seems to have experienced it all. The book does move on from her counselling sessions and onto some of her work and clients and more into her own personal life, such as the quandry as to whether to date or not and into some pretty dark corners, but also, for her, and maybe for others reading this, brings some hope for a brighter future.

There is also an interesting snapshot into how things are changing in the NHS and her views on this. It also gives interesting illumination into psychotherapists. The attitudes and more…It comes to a great and very truthful conclusion, that many readers, I’m sure will find agreeable, she also manages to give a bit of hope for everyone now as she ends on a hopeful note about the pandemic, which everyone can relate to, no matter how you’ve lived through it.

What I do think would be perhaps wonderfully helpful in books that tackle such emotive and universal subjects such as these, is a list of just a few websites and contact numbers to charities who specialise in the book’s topic, in case there is anyone who would like to reach out. That aside, this is such a worthwhile book to read. I of course, also wish 

Facts:

  • Some 800,000 women lose their spouses each year in the UK. Statistically, women are far more likely to be widowed and far less likely to remarry than men.
  • A study done by Amerispeak found that 57% of Americans are grieving the loss of
    someone close to them over the last three years.
  • According to Child Bereavement UK, a parent of children under 18 dies every 22
    minutes in the UK; around 23,600 a year. This equates to around 111 children being
    bereaved of a parent every day.
  • 1 in 29 5-16 year olds has been bereaved of a parent or sibling – that’s a child in every
    average class.

Useful, Confidential Links

ChildBereavementUK                    Samaritans

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#BookReview by Lou of My Sister Is A Monster, My Brother Is A Monster by Natalie Reeves Billing @BillingReeves @RandomTTours #MonstrousMe #ChildrensBook

My Sister Is A Monster, My Brother Is A Monster
by Natalie Reeves Billing
Rated: 5 stars *****

I am absolutely delighted to be sharing with you the next installment of this wonderful series. Each book is complete within themselves and are worth collecting them all for the complete family of them. It is a split-perspective story, so you see both the sister and brother’s point of view. First one and then flip the book over to see the next, in whatever order you like, so it’s a bit like 2 stories for the price of 1 and with all the same excellent characters in both. It’s fun and it encourages a sense of self and empathy. Find out more about the author, the blurb and my full review of this excellent book as you meander down the page. Discover a link to activities that accompany the book after my review.
Thanks to Random Things Tours for inviting me to review. Thanks to the author Natalie Reeves Billing for sending me the book.

About the Author

Natalie Reeves Billing. Author Pic (5)Natalie Reeves Billing is a Liverpool lass with a dark sense of humour, which often spills onto the page. She loves to write spooky, fantastical stories for young audiences, and dabbles in poetry, contemporary fiction.
Natalie spent most of her early career in the music industry as a performer and professional songwriter. This lead, almost inevitably, to storytelling.

Natalie is an Arvon Foundation friend and is a student of the Golden Egg Academy. She is mentored under the Lloyds Bank SSE program, with her Bubs Literacy project. She is published in several anthologies with her poetry and flash fiction, including the Writing on the Wall, Read Now, Write Now, and is involved in several collaborations with fellow writers across poetry, song, and scriptwriting.
Her new book, My Mummy is a Monster (part of the Monstrous Me collection) will be available in March 2020 and Carry Love in June 2020
Connect with Natalie on Twitter @BillingReeves.

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Blurb

Two Books in 1! The Monstrous Me Collection are split perspective books looking at situations from other points of view, helping children develop a sense of balance, roundedness and wellbeing. Readers can literally and figuratively, turn the story on its head, and look at the very same situations from different angles. In this book, a brother and sister are convinced the other is a monster. But, are they really? When we look at the story from the other side, we see a very different story.

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Review

This is again, another terrific book that flips 2-ways to tell 2 stories. This time it focuses on the brother and the sister. It, like other books in this collection, has interactive elements of trying to find the Monstrometer as you go along. It adds an extra layer of fun and it is great that there are activities on her Lollipop Lodge website, which you can find just after the review.
Half the book is My Brother Is A Monster and then you flip it over to find My Sister is a Monster, or indeed, vice-versa, which is also fun and quite different.

The story starts at breakfast time, moving onto school and back home again before heading to bed. It tells of how the brother has the worst eating habits, bully’s his sister at school and then at home, won’t let her play with his toys and messes up the rules and the house. Then at the end, it demonstrates how he does love his sister really and does something courageous for her.
On the flipside, her brother sees his sister as being a monster as she is fussy at breakfast and has rules and then come school, won’t join in any games she thinks she will lose. At home she won’t leave her brother alone and tidies up rather prematurely. After all that, she then gives her brother a lovely homemade gift and shows she does love him after all.

The book is well-rounded and encourages empathy and understanding as children will be able to see through the eyes of both characters and work out how things really are and what is percieved. I has wonderful humour, rhythm and illustrations throughout will easily engage children.
This is a book that is part of a great collection that will be sure to delight children throughout at home and in the classroom. It can be used for both reading for pleasure and in a nursery and young classroom school setting, such as Reception or Primary 1, for fun and for stimulating conversation. 

Link to Activities

www.lollipoplodge.com

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#BookReview by Lou of Dangerous Women by Hope Adams @adelegeras @MichaelJBooks @GabyYoung

Dangerous Women
By Hope Adams
Rated: 5 stars *****

Captivating and original, Dangerous Women expertly tells a tale of fiction and reality, that not everyone may already know about. It weaves, like the threads in the tapestry that inspired this book, words of fiction and real life together to create an epic adventure, laced with crime from the outset that grips and keeps you guessing, as it takes readers on a great advenuture with crime, based on a true-story.
Thank you so much to Gaby Young at Penguin Michael Joseph publishers for adding me to the blog tour and for sending me a book, which has a terrific cover.
Follow onto the blurb and my review.

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Blurb

London, 1841.
The Rajah sails for Australia.
Aboard:
180 convicted women convicted of petty crimes.
Daughters, sisters, mothers –
they’ll never see their family again.
Despised and damned, they only have one another
Until the murder.
As the fearful hunt for a killer begins,
everyone on board is a suspect.
Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous women is a tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.

Dangerous Women

Review

The book invites willing travellers to hop aboard onto a boat to sail with women branded as dangerous in this story which, even before the book is opened, sounds thrilling on the cover. Then just inside the cover, take note of your fellow travelling companions on the “Register of Convicts.” It will tell you what you need to know of what they’ve been convicted of…

The book takes place between April and July 1841 and what’s interesting about it, is that this isn’t just any historical thriller, this has been inspired by real-life events. It’s inspired by the real life voyage of the Rajah, which set sail in 1841, with 23 year old Kezia Hayter on board as Matron, who features in this book. This gives this book quite some providence and enters a part of history, that, at least in the UK, not everyone may know anything about. It is however a fictional novel too and that’s worth bearing in mind as you travel along on this voyage, but gives inspiration to look into the true facts behind the story afterwards. It may have been nice if there was a bit added at the back about this as I’ve seen it in some other books, but that doesn’t take focus away from what a rip-roaring book this is and there is an interesting Bibliography, which would be a good place to do your own research from, if the mood is upon anyone, who wishes to do this.

Panic fills the book from the beginning and indeed, who has a knife?
There’s a real sense of what it is like onboard of the Rajah and to get a sense of Kezia and why she is onboard is fascinating! The case starts almost immediately and you can almost smell the sea and there’s almost a claustrophobic atmosphere as women grapple with their innocence and yet someone has been murdered and the gallows await whoever has committed such huge crime. Trust has clearly been broken, even amongst these thieves and panic and darkness sweeps across the women in the boat and enters their every waking and sleeping moment. The research that’s then created into story-telling is exquisite and all-consuming as it swallows any fellow voyager/reader whole in a magnificent read.

The pace, you would expect to be a bit slower for such a period piece, but this is quite the opposite and has not too disimilar pacing to a modern day crime fiction book.

As well as the crimes, there is a human interest story weaving throughout, where readers get to know the convicts, their life of crime and their backstory and how some were respectable at certain points in their lives, like Hattie and it is these stories that may well tug at the heart-strings. It tugs at strands of curiosity throughout, including when the convicts meet at Newgate Prison for the first time.

Surprisingly, there’s a bit of glamour and oppoulence that fans of period pieces have come to know and love, injected in the form of stories from the women’s lives before they were onboard the Rajah, especially in Kezia’s life. There’s also sadness, especially in Clara’s life when she was young.

There’s some lightness in atmosphere and a bit of humour, that cuts through, when the women are sewing and there’s a sense of the patchwork being created and building up.

There’s all the supposition adding to the intrigue as to who the murderer is and if the guilty one will be sent to the gallows.

It is absolutely fascinating to read what became of the women and reading the historical note at the end. There is also a comprehensive bibliography for further reading and demonstrates that this has been well researched, so that this work of fiction does have a backdrop of realism to it.

#BookReview by Lou of Kissing Lying Down by Kate Tough @LoveBooksGroup #Fiction #KateTough

Kissing Lying Down
By Kate Tough
Rated: 3 stars ***

Today I am delighted to be on the blog tour for Kissing Lying Down. It is a book that takes relationships to their most gritty edges.
Thanks to Love Books Tours for inviting me to review and providing the book.

Kissing Lying Down

Blurb

Gordon knows what Gabby wants but he hates to do what he’s told; Chrissy stalks the internet to find what her fiance wouldn’t give her; three friends reunite during a heatwave and their evening gets better and better, until it doesn’t.

In these relationship tales, many are burned by their pasts while scanning their horizons… A woman wonders if passing strangers have a better sex-face than her boyfriend; a birthday meal goes sour at the offer of no-strings dessert.

Navigating the on and offline worlds of pairing up, this spiky collection of short stories delves deep, with dark humour, into what it takes to strap on a smile through thirty-something failure and make human connections in the modern age.

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Review

Six short stories all consisting of relationships. They aren’t all happy relationships and some have a gritty realism of what can really go on behind closed doors. They take readers into all different stages of love, such as dating to weighing up whether to stay together or not, to that one word of “no” being ignored. At first glance you’d think it’s a book women to read, this is true, but a second thought crossed my mind, what if men were to read it and then think more about their behaviour too, as this is one of the things the stories focus on. It doesn’t feel vindictive against men, it just bravely takes readers away from the complete loved up romance, to something that is also real and dark, but with some uplifting elements scattered here and there too. It shows how romance isn’t all black and white and nor is it as innocent as it sounds…

The first consists of the tangled world of dating and how complicated it can be and just browsing through all those men, weeding out the unsuitable ones is hard enough, but then the story brings out the complexities the internet chats and questioning to find out more about each other to actually meeting.
The writing is all encompassing and paints a pretty accurate picture.

In the second, there’s what Janie calls “Mills & Boon moment” in  cafe, a glance, a wink here and there… the casualness of it all… and if she wants something to actually happen, she’s going to have to be the one to do it, and sounds pretty fed up of how men do this to women and shows how men don’t always do the courting anymore and shy away sometimes from it and how men can be pretty disappointing in how they say stuff, but don’t always mean it. It should perhaps be a story for men to read too.

In the third story it shows how a bit of romance can go just too far and dominant males don’t always pay attention to the word “No!” There’s the emotion and terror of the struggle as she tries to fight the assailant. It’s an important story that shows that men aren’t always strangers who sexually assault and even if in a romantic liason, this can still happen. It’s quite a vital story.

The fourth tale is about a woman who isn’t into commitment, she wants a man but not a husband. It’s about a different sort of love and terms of relationship, but love none-the-less.

The penultimate story takes place in bustling Sauchiehall Street – Glasgow on a fairly drunken night out. It swiftly moves onto the relationship between Sheridan and Ross and how they live, at least some of it by spreadsheet, but then sometimes he can be protective. The relationship also sounds on the brink. Read further to find out if they can find enough reasons to stay with each other or not…

The final story tells of a couple who met, lived a life and how it all came to an end, which isn’t quite how you might imagine it to be.

About the Author

Kate Tough is a fiction writer and visual poet.

Her novel, Keep Walking, Rhona Beech (Abacus, 2019) is available from all usual outlets. It’s the retitled second edition of, Head for the Edge, Keep Walking (Cargo) which has had five stars on Amazon since 2014. The book is a funny and moving account of how a thirty-something office worker in Glasgow, with a clumsy tendency to speak her mind, puts her life back together after it spectacularly falls apart.

Readers have noted that the novel reminds them of a book about someone called Eleanor Oliphant, although Kate’s novel appeared prior to that one, in 2014, when it got good attention in the Scottish media. It’s great that readers can enjoy both books and a bonus that people who like one character have an opportunity to discover the other one.

Kate’s poetry pamphlet, tilt-shift, was Runner Up in the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award, 2017 and her piece, ‘People Made Glasgow’, was selected as a Best Scottish Poem 2016. Recently, her work was included in Makar/Unmakar: Twelve Contemporary Poets in Scotland and she’s an invited poet at STANZA in 2021. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow.

Last year Kate adopted a cat with very long tail who shares his name with the Prime Minister of Britain – the rescue centre gave him that name – but now that she knows him better (the cat, not the Prime Minister) she’d have chosen the name Rocket, because of the way he shoots from underneath furniture at unbelievable speeds.

Kate understands that life isn’t an easy ride and she lives in perpetual awe of her fellow humans; getting out of bed each day and getting involved. On a general basis, if she sees the sun rising and swims lengths in a tide pool, then its not a bad day.

For occasional updates from the author about new work, writing tips and audio clips, subscribe via the button on Kate’s website at www.katetough.com