Blog Tour: One Day in December by Josie Silver

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.

Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?

What I Thought:
It seems perhaps a little early in the year to be on a blog tour for a christmas book but, rest assured, although Josie Silver’s debut novel is called One Day in December, there are lots of other days of the year to choose from, leaving December as the anchor point in a clever way to increase the span of this book to ten years.

This book is being billed as a book for fans of Love, Actually and I’d agree that it does have the same kind of feel and, in fact, even references that movie in the first few chapters but while that perennial christmas classic interweaves the lives of a number of couples over one christmas, this book focuses on Laurie, Jack and Sarah – the three sides of a heart-warming and heart-breaking love triangle over a ten year period.

Having the book set over such a long period of time and fitting into a realistic number of pages is a herculean feat that Josie Silver does really well, skimming over months at a time, but still dropping in on our main characters at crucial times in their lives. Despite them being scattered all over the world there is a genuine, deep and loving relationship between them all, aside from any romantic entanglements, and real love for the characters from the author definitely shows through.

There are moments of joy and moments of tragedy in this book, but it is quite uplifting in this supposedly cold, modern world and even an old cynic like me couldn’t help but adore the ending!

Save until christmas if you must, but One Day in December is – at the time of writing – only 99p on Kindle, so it would be criminal not to grab it!

One Day in December is published by Penguin. To find out more about the book and author Josie Silver, you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of the ongoing blog tour to celebrate the release of One Day in December, so do check out some of the reviews, extracts and guest posts at the blogs below.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Liar’s Room by Simon Lelic

ONE ROOM. TWO LIARS. NO WAY OUT…

Susanna Fenton has a secret. Fourteen years ago she left her identity behind, reinventing herself as a counsellor and starting a new life. It was the only way to keep her daughter safe.

But everything changes when Adam Geraghty walks into her office. She’s never met this young man before – so why does she feel like she knows him?

Then Adam starts to tell her about a girl. A girl he wants to hurt.

And Susanna realises she was wrong.
She doesn’t know him.
BUT HE KNOWS HER.
AND THE GIRL HE PLANS TO HURT IS HER DAUGHTER…

What I Thought:
My summer holiday reading last year began with Simon Lelic’s The House which I just loved, so what better way to start this year’s summer reading, than with his latest novel The Liar’s Room which, I can assure you, is just as good?

The first thing that recommends this book is that it is a masterclass in plotting and pacing. Starting slowly as Susanna welcomes her new client, Adam, with no reservations until she gets the feeling that she knows him from somewhere, it gradually peels away the layers of Susanna’s new life and revelas to us why she has run away and the horrific events that led to just two people in a room with the highest stakes imaginable.

Then, just as the tension looks fit to break, we also hear from Emily, Susanna’s daughter, in journal entries that advance the story from her perspective. In some ways these give us a break from what is going on in that office, but we also learn that life with Susanna and Emily is not all about the truth.

Very tense and with an unimaginable conclusion (which should, really, come with a trigger warning), this book will be a treat for thriller fans. The feeling of claustrophobia built between only two people in a closed room is expertly done and it was so easy to read large chunks of this book in one sitting. So clever and very twisty, it kept me guessing and wondering right to the end.

What fascinated me most though, was that while one of the players in the book definitely had bad intentions, there was never a clear side. Both of the main characters had flaws and deserved blame, both of them were victims of circumstance and it was easy to see how their lives came to where they found themselves.

The Liar’s Room is definitely one to check out if you like a tense and articulate read.

This book is published by Penguin. At the time of writing, the Kindle version of this book is available at only 99p, so definitely one to grab!

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate The Liar’s Room and it is ongoing on the blogs below. Do check them out for more reviews and exclusive content.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: She Persisted Around the World by Chelsea Clinton ill. Alexandra Boiger

Women around the world have long dreamed big, even when they’ve been told their dreams didn’t matter. They’ve spoken out, risen up and fought for what’s right, even when they’ve been told to be quiet. Whether in science, the arts, sports or activism, women and girls throughout history have been determined to break barriers and change the status quo. They haven’t let anyone get in their way and have helped us better understand our world and what’s possible. In this book, Chelsea Clinton introduces readers to a group of thirteen incredible women who have shaped history all across the globe.

What I Thought:
It’s rare as hens’ teeth to find me reviewing a picture book, but I was really keen to get my hand on this one, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. She Persisted Around the World is a follow up to 2017’s She Persisted – a look at 13 amazing American women who pioneered, explored, invented and much more. This book takes that worldwide, showing 13 incredible women from a range of countries who wrote, invented, discovered and refused to be silenced.

From J. K. Rowling to Malala Yousafzai in the present, to Viola Desmond and Marie Curie this delight of a book tells their empowering stories, showing how these women were determined in their different ways and giving a strong message to young children that it’s important to follow your star. It’s also beautifully illustrated with details that will make children come back time and again.

In the current climate, it’s so important for books like this to show girls that they can achieve all they can dream, but also to show young boys that reading a book with a female lead character is not something bad – a view that definitely should be encouraged.

As a book nerd, I was drawn to J. K. Rowling’s story, which I’ve included the illustration for here, but the stories included are so diverse that there will be at least one takeaway for everyone who reads this book. In many ways it’s even inspiring for me, even though I am clearly NOT the target market!

I was delighted to donate my review copy to my local Junior School library, as I hope it will be well-used, borrowed and read for years to come.

If you count yourself as a feminist, and you have young children in your life, buy this book. Share this book with them and encourage them to find their own heroic women to idolise – there are so many of them there, usually standing in the background…

She Persisted Around the World is published in the UK by Penguin Young Readers. You can find out more about Chelsea Clinton on her Twitter profile and you can check out Alexandra Boiger’s website, where she has posted some of the other brilliant illustrations from She Persisted Around the World.

Please note: I was sent this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: A Mother’s Grace by Rosie Goodwin

Tuesday’s child is full of grace…

Warwickshire, 1910.

Pious young Grace Kettle escapes the world of her unsavoury and bullying father to train to be a nun. But when she meets the dashing and devout Father Luke her world is turned upside down. Her faith is tested and she is driven to make a scandalous and life-changing choice – one she may well spend the rest of her days seeking forgiveness for…

What I Thought:
Thanks mainly to the dearth of what we would now call YA books, in my formative years, I tended to read a lot of sagas – borrowed from the library ‘for my mum’, I read a lot of Catherine Cookson, Barbara Taylor Bradford and their like. I’ve not really picked up what I would term as a ‘saga’ for quite a while now, so I thought I would give A Mother’s Grace a go.

Rosie Goodwin’s novel is the third in a series of standalone novels connected by the theme of the old rhyme ‘Monday’s Child is Fair of Face…’. I’ve not read any of the other books in the series but, although some secondary characters appear in all three novels, I’ve been told that you don’t have to read the others to enjoy this book, and they’re fine to be read out of order.

On the whole, this was an enjoyable read. Much like those sagas of old, the heroine, Grace, is likeable and puts up with her hardships with stoicism and a can-do attitude. When she finally decides to become a nun, she commits to it wholeheartedly and doesn’t shirk hard work and the deprivations that her choice entails – until loves comes into the picture!

There is a definite formula to these types of novels, but that certainly isn’t to say that the story that Rosie Goodwin has written is predictable and there were lots of elements in Grace’s story that came as a surprise. When I hear this book spoken about it is described as ‘heart-warming’ and it certainly succeeds in that as, you know however Grace suffers, it will work out ok in the end…

While I am happy to recommend the book, there were a couple of things that tested my patience as I was reading. You know those stock phrases that authors use to describe fainting, or someone turning pale with shock? There are lots of ways to describe those things but I found that Rosie Goodwin used the same stock phrases repeatedly – ‘the colour drained from his face’, ‘the ground rose up to meet her’. I know that this will not bother many, many people, but the repetition drew me out of the story and I wondered that an editor didn’t pick it up and recommend alternatives. This is a small, nit-picky point, but one I feel that needs to be considered as it affected my experience of reading the book.

Despite that very minor point, I would be happy to read Rosie Goodwin’s books in future and, considering that she has a quite extensive back catalogue, there is plenty to choose from.

A Mother’s Grace is published by Bonnier Zaffre. To find out more about Rosie Goodwin, you can check out her website where you can also find out about Memory Lane, a community for those who read and write historical sagas.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Welcome to real life 2.0. Are you ready to play?

There are no screens. There are no controls. You don’t just see and hear it – you taste, smell, and touch it too. In this new reality there are no rules to follow, no laws to break. You can live your best life.

It’s a game so addictive you’ll never want it to end. Until you realize that you’re the one being played.

Step into Otherworld. Leave your body behind.

What I Thought:
I was thrilled to get hold of an early copy of Otherworld at YALC 2017 and, considering how much I enjoyed it, it mystifies me why it’s taken me so long to review it!

Having said that I enjoyed it, I’ve read around quite a few reviews that hated it – and I can see why other reviewers might say that as the book was not without fault, but my overriding feeling was that I loved Simon, the abrasive main character, and I wanted to read more.

There is a bit of the set up of the novel that is a bit sketchy – Simon’s motivations in entering Otherworld to save Kat, the damsel in distress, does make you roll your eyes a bit, but once in the game itself, The White City and the attached game levels are beautifully written and described with a vast array of characters and the main characters find themselves in some dangerous and sickening situations.

I really liked the delineation between Simon and his group and some of the other players who think they are just in any other RPG and don’t realise that Otherworld really can mean life or death.

As I said, Simon can be quite abrasive and in the real world this has done him no favours, but in Otherworld it really helps him butt up against players and NPCs and come through. I’m interested to see whether he is like this in the next novel, or whether his experiences have changed him at all.

Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller have written together before for a Middle Grade audience and it’s really important to note that this is most definitely a YA book as some of the scenes are NOT for younger children.

So for a book that has evoked such a wide range of opinions from reviewers, it’s actually one I really enjoyed and I’m hugely excited for book 2, Other Earth, which comes out in October 2018.

Otherworld is published by Rock the Boat. To find out more about Kirsten Miller, you can check out her website. You can also find out what Jason Segel is up to on Twitter.

Please note: I obtained a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Lost Boy by Christina Henry

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth.

Once I loved a boy called Peter Pan. Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. He wants always to be that shining sun that we all revolve around. He’ll do anything to be that sun. Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever. Peter will say I’m a villain, that I wronged him, that I never was his friend. Peter Lies.

What I Thought:
I find retellings fascinating, and I think it’s a real talent to be able to take a previously published work and make it something completely new.

A while ago now, I was pleased to host a piece by Christina Henry, looking at how she took J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and moulded it into her novel, Lost Boy, a novel that gives entirely new meaning to Peter Pan. It takes Peter, the hero of the original novel, and shows that he is not all that he seems and reveals exactly why Captain Hook and Peter hate each other.

The narrator of the novel is Jamie – he was the first of the Lost Boys that Peter brought from ‘the other place’ to a much darker Neverland than you will have previously read and, as more boys are brought into the gang, Peter continues to do whatever he feels, while Jamie starts to become the parent figure of the group, taking care of the smaller boys and reining Peter in where necessary. This Neverland is very much more like Lord of the Flies, with Peter suggesting games that are played to the death and raiding the pirates resulting in death all round – that’s when Peter flies off to find new boys…

As I’ve said, the Neverland in Lost Boy is dark, and not the playground it is depicted as in the original novel. It’s a place where young children are drawn into very adult games, with adult consequences and led by Peter who seemingly can never die, and must always be right so nothing touches him emotionally – unlike Jamie who feels the death of the boys in his care and begins to realise that someday everyone has to grow up.

I loved this book as Jamie’s voice is so strong and yet so sad. His transformation from worshipping Peter, to realising that his way is not necessarily the right way is done so gradually and still, even when he fully embraces the fact that Peter only cares about himself, it’s done with such sadness and regret. When we eventually discover Jamie’s fate it’s a lightbulb moment and it turns the original novel completely on its head – it’s very, very clever…

Lost Boy is most definitely highly recommended and, having read more of Christina Henry’s books since, I love her writing style and the unique voice she gives to her characters. I’ve recently read her latest book, The Mermaid, and I’ll be reviewing that very soon…

Lost Boy is published by Titan Books. To find out more about Christina Henry and her other novels, do check out her website, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Dreaming of Florence by T. A. Williams

When Debbie Waterson’s bicycle crashes into handsome doctor Pierluigi, she wonders if her luck has changed. Determinedly single after ending a long relationship, at last, a man worth bumping into!

Inspired to visit Florence, she soon runs headlong into that old foe: reality. But is Pierluigi the man of her dreams? Then there’s her booze obsessed boss, his forbidding secretary and her noisy inconsiderate neighbours. But could her luck be about to change? Will she find love after all?

What I Thought:
I always have time for a new T. A. Williams novel as all the titles I’ve read are an absolute delight. Womens’ fiction gets a bad rep, but who on earth would not appreciate escapism and wish fulfilment – especially in the current climate??

Dreaming of Florence is part of of Trevor’s ‘Dreaming of…’ series, which takes us on a multi-stop trip around Italy and France and introduces us to a group of women who need a little more direction and excitement in their lives. And dare I say it? Love too…

Aside from Debbie’s story, Dreaming of Florence also gives us a fairly detailed depiction of Florence, which is evocative and – from what I remember of my one visit to Florence – fairly accurate. It’s clear that Trevor’s done his research (whether from experience or t’internet) and he writes the setting beautifully into his plot. I can almost see an Italian country villa, desperate to be renovated…

The ultimate driving force of the novel is, of course, to get Debbie all she dreams of and a love affair to boot, but knowing this doesn’t make the journey any more predictable as her path does not run smooth and she is such a likeable character that we feel her ups and downs keenly.

If I was to make a list of summer reads, just right for poolside reading, then this book would definitely be on it. It was, and is, a pleasure to read Trevor’s work and I can’t wait to move on to his next in the series, Dreaming of St Tropez.

Dreaming of Florence is published by Canelo. you can find out more about T. A. Williams on his website, or you can connect with him on Twitter.

Please note: I received a review copy of this book via Netgalley. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: In The Dark by Cara Hunter

A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive.

No one knows who they are – the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile. The elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before.

The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock. How could this happen right under their noses? But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible.

And that no one is as innocent as they seem…

What I Thought:
Having read and enjoyed Cara Hunter’s Close to Home earlier this year, I was delighted to pick up In The Dark, the second DI Adam Fawley thriller. Despite being second in a series, In The Dark works just as well as a standalone thriller, but I would definitely advise you to grab Close to Home if you can.

It’s really difficult to give an in depth review of this book without revealing some of the details of the riveting and twist-filled plot, but I shall definitely try as it really is a masterclass in keeping the reader guessing.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the police procedural format had nowhere else to go, as it has be used so many times but Cara Hunter is able to inject a freshness into it with engaging characters led by a flawed DI whose personal issues occasionally bubble to the surface. There is a diverse cross-section of officers and detectives, which is in keeping with a modern police force, and it’s great to see glimpses of their personal lives too as they work together – sometimes with a lot of friction – to find out what happened to the girl and the child.

The plot itself is really clever, leading you to assume many things about what is going on before peeling each of your assumptions away to get to the truth of the case and I guarantee you, your jaw will drop come the end of the book.

The style of the book is definitely to my taste, using news reports, transcripts of police interviews and Twitter comments to provide background on the case – the Twitter comments I feel act like a Greek chorus in a way, attempting to sway the reader into a certain way of thinking. It’s a clever device to use and is in keeping with our social media age.

As I said before, I enjoyed Close to Home, and am looking forward to picking up book 3 in the series soon – Cara Hunter is definitely an author to watch and I’m excited to see more twisty plots from her!

In The Dark is published by Penguin. To find out more about Cara Hunter, you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the release of In The Dark – why not check out some of the other reviews and exclusive content on the blogs listed below?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Blitz: The Second Cup by Sarah Marie Graye + giveaway

Would your life unravel if someone you knew committed suicide? Theirs did.

Faye knows her heart still belongs to her first love, Jack. She also knows he might have moved on, but when she decides to track him down, nothing prepares her for the news that he’s taken his own life.

Faye is left wondering how to move forward – and whether or not Jack’s best friend Ethan will let her down again. And the news of Jack’s death ripples through the lives of her friends too.

Abbie finds herself questioning her marriage, and wondering if she was right to leave her first love behind. Poor Olivia is juggling her job and her boyfriend and trying to deal with a death of her own. And Jack’s death has hit Beth the hardest, even though she never knew him.

Is Beth about to take her own life too?

What I Thought:
I do like a book with an interesting premise and the strapline on The Second Cup – ‘Can Someone Else Steal Your Suicide’ – definitely got me interested.

What struck me first about the book is that it focuses on a group of women – obviously men play a large part in their stories, but the voices are theirs and the relationships among the group are those which any woman with a small circle of friends will recognise. Each member of the group fulfills a unique role – be it caregiver, or the one who needs extra handling, but the dynamics are interesting throughout and it’s revelatory to see just how each responds in a time of crisis.

For a book with that strapline, it’s clear that there is a spotlight on the mental health of the characters but, most likely due to the author’s own diagnosis of depression, it is handled with sensitivity and a great level of understanding. Never mawkish or sensationalised, depression is addressed as a part of life and never put into the terms we very often hear of it being a battle to be won or lost.

Although a tragic events weave through the story, I look on this book very much more as a character-led piece – it is the characters’ reactions to situations that provide the drama, rather than the events themselves and as the book progresses and we see positive change among the group, it’s really heartening.

I always say that ‘enjoy’ is the wrong word when reading books that address important subjects but, while there are some sections that are hard to read, there is much to enjoy in the book. Beth’s character for instance was a great character to read and proof in a way that we can never really know what is going on inside a person’s head.

I would definitely recommend The Second Cup as, as I have said, you will struggle to find a book with such a strong group of women that so sensitively addresses mental health issues.

The Second Cup is published by Pict Publishing. You can find out more about the book and Sarah Marie Graye by connecting with her on Twitter.

Read on to find some more blogs featuring content about The Second Cup this week, and keep on scrolling for a chance to win a copy of the book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Ts&Cs
Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  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 I reserve 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 I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

‘There exists in all of us a song waiting to be sung which is as heart-stopping and vertiginous as the peak of the cathedral. That is the meaning of this quiet city, where the spire soars into the blue, where rivers and stories weave into one another, where lives intertwine.’

One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide – a flower seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard, a widower – all facing their own personal disasters. As one of those lives hangs in the balance, the stories of all five unwind, drawn together by connection and coincidence into a web of love, grief, disenchantment and hope that perfectly represents the joys and tragedies of small town life.

What I Thought:
As someone who, at various stages, has thought ‘I might like to write a novel’, reading a book like Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain is very likely to make me never think that thought again, as how could anything I could ever write possibly compare to the beauty in this book? I don’t say that in a self-pitying way, but rather to completely praise Barney Norris for writing what, at times, is a breathtakingly beautiful book. It’s a measure of his talent as a writer that, considering he is better known for writing plays, his prose is spare and powerful and paints such vivid mental pictures.

Not so surprisingly, considering the drama background, the five characters that form the interlocking frame of the novel are fully imagined and each has such a unique and personal voice that it would be easy to believe that more than one writer had contributed to the book.

I think the story that spoke to me most was the first – that of Rita the flower seller. Her’s is a story of lack of opportunity, missed chances and dreams shattered and is particularly poignant given the arc of her story through the novel.

My big takeaway from this book was that, as we pass through life, we never truly know how we connect with people, how our paths cross and how our actions affect others, even in the smallest of ways. Barney Norris manages to interweave his five characters in a natural and seemingly coincidental way until the moment that their paths collide in a tragic way one summer evening.

As I’ve said, this book is worth picking up for the wonderful prose alone, but it is also something of a confessional from each character, as they look back at things they regret, and attempt to move forward with meaning – in essence, being hugely relatable as are we not all just trying to do that?? A somewhat melancholy read, perfect for a summer’s day.

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain is published by Black Swan. To find out more about Barney Norris, you can connect with him on Twitter. As an aside, he is also appearing at Salisbury Literary Festival this year, so do check out their events pages…

Please note: I received a review copy of this book courtesy of Gullivers Bookshop. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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