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.

 

#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

 

#BookReview By Lou of A Wedding In Provence By Katie Fford @KatieFford @centurybooksuk #AWeddingInProvence

A Wedding In Provence
By Katie Fford

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Make time for you

A Wedding In Provence whisks readers off into France for some pure entertainment and escapism. Take a look below at the Blurb and Review and a little about the author, what you’ll find is certainly interesting. Thanks to Century Publishing UK/Penguin Randomhouse for allowing me to review.

A Wedding In Provence cover

Blurb

Late summer, 1963

Fresh from London and a recent cookery course, Alexandra has always loved a challenge.

Which is why she now finds herself standing outside an imposing chateau in Provence.

Waiting for her inside is three silent, rather hostile children who are to be her charges for the next month.

They will soon be more friendly, she tells herself. All they need is some fun, good food and an English education.

Far more of a challenge though is their father – an impossibly good looking French count with whom she is rapidly falling in love . . .

Review

A Wedding in ProvenceA Wedding in Provence oozes romance and spells a time to chill out with a book, in the garden with a glass of wine.

It all begins in autumn, 1963 in Paris, where you meet Alexandra, who is only there for a day before heading to finishing school in Switzerland. There is an air of adventure and possibilities on a day that Alexandra has without her guardians deciding what or where she should go next. When reading about this, you can’t help but feel a little excited for Alexandra, to have this time of freedom. She then comes across Donna, who isn’t feeling her best. Alexandra’s personality then starts to really reveal itself and it is easy to warm to her.

The book is a rather fun and relaxed read as Donna (who is married to Bob), and Alexandra get to know each other. There’s a bit of humour, perhaps also in places it isn’t meant to be, such as some gorgeous guy having a job, just as Alexandra doesn’t want to leave France. As far-fetched as that sounds, it really just adds to the entertainment and pure escapism that continues to shine through and that is just part of the catalyst of what unfolds, making for an enjoyable read and where more of the story unfolds, as she arrives at a chateau and meets the family living there, to start work with them, taking care of the children. It isn’t all plain-sailing, plus they need educating. It’s interesting reading about different schools and the opinions of adults with what to choose for their children.

Amongst her work and the grandeur of the chateau is also food galore that all seem to jump off the page and there’s romance brewing between the count and Alexandra.

A Wedding in Provence

Everything is romantic, right from the setting to the premise. It’s enjoyable escapism!

About The Author

I live in the beautiful Cotswold countryside with my family, and I’m a country girl at heart.

I first started writing when my mother gave me a writing kit for Christmas, and once I started I just couldn’t stop. Living Dangerously was my first novel and since then, I haven’t looked back.

Ideas for books are everywhere, and I’m constantly inspired by the people and places around me. From watching TV (yes, it is research) to overhearing conversations, I love how my writing gives me the chance to taste other people’s lives and try all the jobs I’ve never had.

Each of my books explores a different profession or background and my research has helped me bring these to life. I’ve been a porter in an auction house, tried my hand at pottery, refurbished furniture, delved behind the scenes of a dating website, and I’ve even been on a Ray Mears survival course.

I love being a writer; to me there isn’t a more satisfying and pleasing thing to do. I particularly enjoy writing love stories. I believe falling in love is the best thing in the world, and I want all my characters to experience it, and my readers to share their stories.

I love hearing from all my readers on Twitter @KatieFforde or on Facebook at facebook.com/KatieFforde