Book Review

The First Time I Saw You – Emma Cooper

August was dedicated to getting ahead on my blog tour reading when I suddenly realised just how many books I had committed to reviewing in September, so there is no book jar update this month. I did however find myself with a gap in my reading schedule at a point when I was away from home and without access to the jar. Well, this just seemed like the perfect opportunity to dive in to the latest book by Emma Cooper (to be honest, I had been waiting for an excuse to bump this one to the top of my reading list since the day it released. Her debut, The Songs of Us made my top ten reads of 2018, so I had very high hopes for this one. Read on to find out if it lived up to my expectations.

BLURB:

From the author of The Songs of Us. Fans of Jojo Moyes and Lucy Dillon will love The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper.

Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin. 
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes. 
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey. 
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be. 
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back. 
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways 
than they could have predicted…

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REVIEW:

So, did Emma’s second book live up to her first? Of course it did! I never doubted it. Once again she has created a cast of characters that are so real and relatable that you just take them straight into your heart. After bawling my eyes out while reading The Songs of Us, I was expecting something of a bumpy ride, and sure enough after reading for just a short while, I felt the first crack in my heart. After fetching the biggest box of tissues I could find, I settled down to continue reading.

Although most of us don’t have the same devastating history as Sophie, I am sure every woman reading this will be able to relate to the way she views her clothes and make up as an armour to protect her from the world. Her pain at what she had been through was almost palpable at times and made me want to just sweep her up in a big hug. Samuel’s family life comes as a massive contrast to Sophie’s and it was impossible not to fall in love with the chaotic McLaughlin family. I think that is a family that anyone would want to be a part of.

The First Time I Saw You is filled with beautiful moments and periods of absolute devastation in equal measure. I ricocheted between laughing out loud and fighting to hold back tears throughout. The little nod to The Songs of Us was just perfect and brought a lump to my throat. Throughout the book, I was put in mind of the film, Serendipity, which is one of my favourites – if you enjoyed that, you will love this book.

Just a warning to the unsuspecting reader – you might think that by the time you get to the epilogue you are home and dry. You are not! Keep those tissues close by until the very last page.

You can find out more about this book and about Emma over on Goodreads.

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Book Review

The Family – Louise Jensen

I am a huge fan of Louise’s writing, so when I saw her latest book pop up on NetGalley I requested it instantly and that sat somewhat impatiently with everything crossed waiting to see if I would be approved. I was so excited when the email popped through – thank you so much to Louise and to her publisher, HQ, for approving my request.

BLURB:

ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.
 
But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.
 
Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…

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REVIEW:

As I said at the top of this post, I was thrilled to be approved for an advanced copy of this book, and even more excited when I found out that quite a few of my friends from The Fiction Cafe had also been approved. We decided that we would set up a read along for the book and so we now have a little chat in Facebook Messenger where we can swap our thoughts. I have never taken part in a read along before, but it was so much fun that I can’t wait to do another one.

The Family is a significantly darker book than Louise’s previous work and it felt a lot more emotionally charged than your average psychological thriller. From page one I was teetering on a knife’s edge between controlling myself or letting the tears flow. The grief and desperation in the opening chapters is almost painful to read and my heart hurt for Laura and Tilly.

I can see the appeal of the Oak Leaf Organics way of life – shut off from technology, the constant pressure from social media, accepted for who you are and not what has happened in your past. On the one hand, it felt idyllic, but on the other my head was screaming that Laura should run far and run fast! Although everything seemed so innocent and welcoming, I couldn’t shake the sinister feeling that hung over me.

I actually finished reading this book a little over a week ago and it has taken until now for me to get my thoughts in order sufficiently to write the review that it deserves. By the time the full story unfolded my head was in a spin, not knowing who to trust, what the truth really was. It was exhausting, but at the same time completely brilliant.

Every time I read a book by Louise Jensen, my first thought is always that there is no way she can top the previous book and every time I am proven wrong. The Family is no exception to this, and I honestly think this is her best book yet.

The Family isn’t released until 17th October, but you can pre-order your copy here.

For more information about Louise and her books, head on over to Goodreads.

Book Review

How Not To Write Female Characters – Lucy V Hay

Today’s book is perfect for any of you who, like me, are taking part in July’s Camp NaNo. The timing for this blog blitz couldn’t be better. Many thanks to Lucy, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

Female characters. When fifty per cent of your potential target audience is female, if you’re not writing them in your screenplay or novel? You’re making a BIG mistake!

But how should you approach your female characters? That’s the million-dollar question … After all, women in real life are complex, varied and flawed. Knowing where to start in creating three dimensional female characters for your story is extremely difficult.

So … perhaps it’s easier to figure out how NOT to write female characters?

Script editor, novelist and owner of the UK’s top screenwriting blog http://www.bang2write.com, Lucy V Hay has spent the last fifteen years reading the slush pile. She has learned to spot the patterns, pitfalls and general mistakes writers make when writing female characters – and why.

In How Not To Write Female Characters, Lucy outlines:

•WHO your character is & how to avoid “classic” traps and pitfalls
•WHAT mistakes writers typically make with female characters
•WHERE you can find great female characters in produced and published content
•WHEN to let go of gender politics and agendas
•WHY female characters are more important than ever

Lucy is on a mission to improve your writing, as well as enable diverse voices and characters to rise to the top of the spec pile.

How Not To Write Female Characters by Lucy V. Hay

REVIEW:

As someone starting out on their own writing journey, I am extremely aware that at present my characters are hollow cliches who need a lot of development, especially the female ones! While some writing books are a bit daunting for the novice writer, this is the perfect bite-size read (I read it through in about 30 minutes) and is filled with great tips. I will be making sure that this book is by my side when I next sit down to work on my characters, and I will also be downloading Lucy’s other books.

The writing style of the book is easy to read, almost conversational, and I could definitely picture it being delivered as a lecture to a crowd of eager creative writing students. At times, the writing felt a little angry, but I can imagine in lecture format, this would come across more as passion than anger and would leave everybody feeling really fired up about developing their characters.

I am so happy to have discovered Lucy, and I know I will be turning to her books for advice time and time again as I work on my own novel.

REVIEWS FOR LUCY V’S WRITING ADVICE:

‘A timely guide to creating original characters and reinvigorating tired storylines. ‘
– Debbie Moon, creator and showrunner, Wolfblood (BBC)

‘Lucy V. Hay nails it’
– Stephen Volk, BAFTA-winning screenwriter: Ghostwatch, Afterlife, The Awakening

‘Packed with practical and inspirational insights’
– Karol Griffiths, development consultant and script editor, clients include ITV, BBC, Warner Brothers

‘A top-notch, cutting-edge guide to writing and selling, not just practical but inspirational. Lucy’s distinctive voice infuses the entire journey. Quite brilliant. Here’s the woman who’ll help you make things happen.’
– Barbara Machin, award-winning writer & creator of Waking the Dead

‘Delivers the stirring call to arms that writers must not only write, but take their work to the next level themselves, making sacrifices and taking risks if they want to see their stories on screen.’
– Chris Jones, Filmmaker, Screenwriter & Creative Director at the London Screenwriters Festival

‘Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays is a must-read for any writer, producer or director looking to create (or in the process of creating) a thriller production. It could also be immensely useful for those generally curious about the genre or looking to learn more.’ – Film Doctor

‘Lucy V Hay explains what a script reader and editor’s role in filmmaking, tells you to work on your concepts and that dialogue is the last thing to work on in her new book.’ – Brit Flicks

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

How Not - hands in the air, looking upLucy V. Hay is an author, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. Lucy is the producer of two Brit Thrillers, DEVIATION (2012) and ASSASSIN (2015), as well as the script editor and advisor on numerous other features and shorts.  Lucy’s also the author of  WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS for Kamera Books’ “Creative Essentials” range, as well as its follow ups on DRAMA SCREENPLAYS and DIVERSE CHARACTERS.

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Book Review

Wunderkids: Wakefield Manor – Jacqueline Sylvester

Back in August last year, I was lucky enough to discover the first book in the Wunderkids series and I loved it. You can read my review here. Now, I am excited to be telling you all about the book’s sequel.

BLURB:

No peace for the mad.
No glue for the broken.
No shelter for the hunted.

Nikka Mason may have escaped the clutches of Wildwood Academy, but she now finds herself in Mexico, entangled in a more grand, and far more dangerous, web. 

Imprisoned in his childhood home, Izaya Wakefield is forced to face his demons and family secrets. Secrets that hold the key to destroying Wildwood Academy. Secrets that might also destroy him.

As the pair try to make their way back to each other, the decisions they make will determine not just their fate but each others future too. 

In the sensational second book in the Wunderkids series and follow-up to acclaimed Wildwood Academy, Wakefield Manor will take both Nikka and Izaya to the brink, where gilded lies and uncovered truths make their paths more twisted than ever . 

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PURCHASE LINKS:

You can find out more about this book, and purchase a copy here.

REVIEW:

Picking up almost instantly from the conclusion of Wildwood Academy, I found that I was instantly gripped by the events of Wakfield Manor. Where Wildwood Academy was a slow burning, scene setting start to the series to a certain extent, there is none of that with Wakefield Manor, and you are thrown straight in to the action and the new dangers that Nikka and her friends now find themselves in.

Wakefield Manor follows a split story line with chapters being split between Nikka and Izaya. Although Nikka’s story was the more action packed, I found myself drawn more to Izaya’s story, trapped in Wakefield Manor with his sinister uncle. The two different storylines balance each other well though, as you are thrown from the instant threat of danger to the underlying feeling of menace and back again.

Alongside the action and intrigue, Wakefield Manor is also laced with heartbreaking betrayals from every angle, and the the changing dynamics between the characters as more and more lies and deception come to light is fascinating.

I am already itching to get my hands on book three, to find out just what else these poor teens will have to deal with!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

16599005Jacqueline has had a colourful and dual life thus far; she’s lived in a refugee camp in Sweden, a castle in France, a village in Germany, and spent her formative years in between Los Angeles, London and New York. As a result, she speaks four languages. In 4th grade she won her school’s poetry contest and she has not stopped writing since. She has written in many forms ranging from poetry to screenwriting, from prose to copywriting, and on one occasion a viral jingle.

Jacqueline has a Bachelors in English Literature from the University Of Massachusetts, and a Masters in Screenwriting from Royal Holloway, University Of London. After graduating she wrote her first novel and began writing (and selling) cartoon screenplays. The two years she spent in an arts boarding school in the woods have inspired the particular world described in debut novel Wunderkids. She lives in London with her husband, her excessive YA collection and a hyper husky named Laika.

 

Book Review

The Sentinel’s Reign – Suzanne Rogerson

It is time for part two of the blog tour bonanza for Suzanne Rogerson’s Silent Seas Chronicles, and today I can tell you all about book two of the series, The Sentinel’s Reign. Thanks again to Suzanne and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

The Sentinel’s reign is doomed to failure unless Tei can prevent the Kalayan people from plunging into war.

With the new Sentinel initiated and the magic restored on Kalaya, life is flourishing for Tei and the exiles. But Rathnor’s plans for war soon escalate and thwart any chance of peace.

Brogan’s position on the Assembly is uncertain as rumours circulate that he is an exile spy.

After an attempt on his life, Farrell is more determined than ever to build a home for his people on Stone Haven. But the council have their sights set on Kalaya and Farrell struggles to steer them from war.

As trouble brews within and outside forces gather against them, can the exiles keep their hold on the magic, or will this spell the end of Kalaya and its people?

The Sentinel's Reign ebook complete

PURCHASE LINK:

Purchase here

REVIEW:

I want to write this review without repeating too much of what I said about The Lost Sentinel, but I do have to make mention of Suzanne’s beautiful world building and character development again. Her vivid descriptions make me wish I could pay a visit to the Silent Sea and meet the inhabitants of Kalaya and Stone Haven in person.

I enjoyed getting to know the characters better this time around, and really understanding what made some of them tick, finding out why they acted the way they did. For more than one this meant a major change of opinion about them, and my favourite characters were constantly changing. I found my emotions wildly bouncing from joy, to heartbreak, to triumph and everything in between as the story unfolded around them, and lives were changed forever.

Throughout this book, the tension continually builds and builds before reaching a dramatic conclusion, and just when you think a resolution has been reached, Suzanne unleashes a huge cliffhanger that sent me scurrying for book three (more on that in a few days).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

author photo 2018 (2)

Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England with her hugely encouraging husband and two children.

She wrote her first novel at the age of twelve. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave her the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.

Suzanne loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden, and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.

She collects books, loves going for walks and picnics with the children and sharing with them her love of nature and photography.

Suzanne is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles. But most of all she likes to escape with a great film, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.

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For more information on this, and the first book in the series, make sure you pay a visit to the other blogs taking part in the tour.

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Book Review

Birdie and Jude – Phyllis H Moore

Today’s review is for the bittersweet Birdie and Jude by Phyllis H Moore. My thanks go to Phyllis, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

A moving novel of loss, regret, denial, and discovery on Galveston Island, from the author of Opal’s Story and The Ember Months.

Birdie has lived to regret many of her decisions, but she doesn’t regret offering a stranger, Jude, shelter from an approaching hurricane. Their serendipitous meeting will form a bond that will change their lives forever.

In a character driven story with memories of the protests and inequalities plaguing the 1960’s, Birdie’s reached middle age and questions her life. Jude is striking out on her own, but has been derailed by a fatal accident claiming her only friend. Although their backgrounds and lived are vastly different, they recognise something in the other that forges a friendship.

As their relationship solidifies, they share glimpses of their pasts. Birdie is a product of the’60’s, an aging hippie, with a series of resentments. She had a sheltered childhood in an upper class family. Her parents longed to see her make the Texas Dip at the Mardi Gras ball. Jude, however, entered foster care as an infant. Her parents, victims of a murder/suicide, left her and her siblings orphaned and separated.

There is something about their connection that strikes Birdie as familiar. Can souls know each other in different lives? Birdie struggles with the awareness that she has had regrets and hasn’t lived an authentic life, while Judd faces an uncomfortable truth about her own.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

REVIEW:

I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to take in much of what is written in book dedications, especially the longer ones, because I am usually far too eager to start reading the book. That said, something about the dedication in this book caught my eye, and I am so glad that I read it. I was really touched by the author’s words, and it made me curious about what was to come.

Straight off the bat, it felt like there was more to both Birdie and Jude than met the eye. While Birdie seemed feisty and full of life, despite the struggles of old age, you could feel a darkness, a sadness, to her character. In contrast, Jude is quiet and self-conscious, a troubled soul with more than her fair share of secrets. Alongside Birdie and Jude, comes Ollie, Birdie’s faithful canine companion. I absolutely adored the fact that he comes with a fully developed, almost human character himself.

This book has the feel of a coming of age story, as both women come to terms with their pasts and learn to accept their futures. There is a beauty in the gentle friendship that develops between them as they help each other in more ways than either of them realise when they first meet.

What I expected to be a sweet, simple story of friendship touched my heart in ways that I never imagined it would.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Phyllis H. Moore wants to live life experiences more than once: doing it, writing about it, and reading about it. The atmosphere of the south draws her in and repels her. The characters are rich with dysfunction and redemption, real. She’s had two careers and two retirements. Both careers gave her inspiration for her novels.

The Sabine Series, Sabine, Billy’s Story, Josephine’s Journals, and Secrets of Dunn House, Opal’s Story, Tangled – A Southern Gothic Yarn, and The Bright Shawl, Colours of Tender Whispers, The Ember Months, Birdie & Jude, and an anthology of spooky short stories inspired by real places and events, The Bridge on Jackson Road.

In 2018, she also released a new genre for her, A Dickens of a Crime – A Meg Miller Cosy Mystery. She has authored one non-fiction book, Retirement, Now What? Phyllis has been published by Caffeinated Press in the anthology, Brewed Awakenings 2, Fifteen Tales to Jolt Your Mind Awake. She blogs on her website, http://www.phyllishmoore.com

Phyllis is a retired social worker and former owner/operator of a small bed and breakfast. She’s lived in the rural areas and cities of south Texas. She currently lives on Galveston Island with her husband, Richard.

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Book Review

The Curse of Ragman’s Hollow – Rhys A Jones

I seem to be experiencing a little flurry of books for the younger audience at the moment and I am loving it. Today sees my stop on the blog tour for The Curse of Ragman’s Hollow by Rhys A Jones. Many thanks to Rhys, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for enabling me to be a part of the tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

Just a walk in the countryside. What could possibly go wrong

Sam Jones’s grandmother is training him to be one of the Cunning Folk, like her, and exams are looming.

But Sam’s mother has holiday plans and drags him off to a remote cottage in the middle of nowhere for some country air.  No mobile phone, nettle soup and long walks are the rule. One such walk takes them to Ragman’s Hollow, a place the locals avoid with good reason.

It’s a place where people and animals go missing, never to be found. 

That’s just superstitious nonsense, according to Sam’s mother. But there is no smoke without fire and Sam soon finds himself up against an old, very spiteful, and very tricky enemy.

He’s going to need every ounce of his cunning to stop the Ragman. But can he do it alone?

The Curse of Ragmans Hollow Cover

PURCHASE LINKS:

Purchase here

REVIEW:

Getting involve with the blog tour for this book was perfectly timed for me, because I now know what to get my friend’s little boy for his next birthday. This book is the third in the series, and although it works perfectly well as a standalone, I just know that the little boy I have in mind would love the whole series. It is a fast paced story with plenty of excitement, and a hint of humour thrown in to the situation that Sam finds himself in, and even with my limited knowledge of children it just feels like the kind of adventure story that little boys would love.

Sam’s holiday companions, the horrible Hollinghursts  just sound like the stuff of nightmares – they are rude and obnoxious, and even as an adult I would balk at the strict no burgers, no phones, no computer games, must wear shorts holiday rules. They were exactly the sort of character that people love to hate.

Sam is an endearing character who I think a lot of children could relate to, or learn things from. He is conscious of how his actions affect other people, and of how much hurt careless name calling can cause. He sets such a good example to the target audience, but at the same time, he has enough spirit to come off as too good to be true.

There is one scene that I just have to mention because it really amused me. Fairly early on, Sam’s mum puts her shoes on the table to wind up Gran, and it reminded me so much of my own Nan. She would have gone absolutely nuts about shoes on the table. She wasn’t overly superstitious other than this (oh and green cars and number plates that added up to thirteen), and it really put a smile on my face to see that other people share her beliefs about it.

I love Arthurian legend and Welsh folklore, so my eyes lit up at the mention of Merlin, and the connection of Merlin to Sam’s own family history. I want to read the rest of the series now to see what other Merlin related stories come to light.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Version 2Rhys A Jones was born in 1955 and grew up in a mining village in South Wales with his nose in a book and his head in the clouds. He managed to subdue his imagination long enough to carve out a career in medicine, writing whenever the chance arose.

The Merryweathers mysteries feature a boy and his more-than-meets-the-eye Granny Merryweather. The Curse of Wihtlea Barrows (previously the Dreables) and The Curse of Borage Doone have just been released as paperbacks with new covers and a new publisher (Wyrmwood). The third in the series entitled The Curse of Ragman’s Hollow is now available at last

Rhys is currently writing The Artefact Quintet featuring eleven-year-old Oz Chambers whose family inherits a ‘haunted’ house. His mother wants to leave, but Oz wants to unlock the house’s mysteries and uncovers a secret that will change his life forever.

Rhys also writes for adults as DC Farmer and Dylan Young

He has three grownup children who have emerged remarkably unscathed into adulthood. When not writing, he practices medicine and lives in darkest West Wales with his understanding (very) wife and dog.

Oh, and the Rhys is pronounced Reece–as in the actor Rhys Ifans of Mr Lovegood (Harry Potter) and The Lizard (The Amazing Spiderman) fame. Or perhaps it’s easier if you just think of Reece Witherspoon, though she is a lady.

FROM WIKI:
 Rhys /ˈriːs/[1] is

a Welsh given name (usually male), famous in Welsh history
a surname of Welsh origin that means “Dragon“, “fervour”, “passion”, “ultimate strength”, “king” or “zeal”

It was also my dad’s name!
The name is also anglicised as Rice, Rees, Reese and Reece

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Win a signed copy of the Merryweathers Mysteries series (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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