Blog Tour: Lucky Jack by S. Bavey

“One of the perils of being a sniper during the First World War was the likelihood of a grenade going off right next to you and burying you alive”.

Meet Jack Rogers. Born in 1894, he once locked eyes with Queen Victoria and was one of the first travellers on London’s ‘Tube’. An early car owner, he had many escapades on his days out to Brighton, including a time when his brakes failed and he had to drive through central London without them!

His skills as an entertainer earned him popularity throughout his life, and kept him out of the deadly mines while a prisoner during the First World War. At the tender age of 103 Jack earned the title of ‘The World’s Oldest Columnist’ as he began dictating his life’s exploits to a reporter from the local newspaper.

What I Thought:

It’s a rare trip into biography for me today with Lucky Jack, the remarkable story of an ordinary man.

His story begins like that of many, many others, born into a working class family in the 19th Century, but living through the 20th Century is where this story of one man and his family shows just how the world changed in 100 years.

‘Lucky Jack’ is certainly well-named, as Jack survived as a child when infant mortality was still incredibly high, and he then went on to dodge death through two world wars and the advent of the motor car!

In the book, he always claims that he has been lucky and while I agree, I think a lot of your luck in life comes from your attitude towards it. In the book you get a real sense that Jack was a positive and warm person, with a realistic but positive view of life. He was able to work his way up to care for his family and build a good life for them and his descendants.

The tone throughout the book is quite matter of fact – you get the idea that Jack Rogers never saw himself as anything other than ordinary, despite the huge events and social changes he experienced throughout his life.

It’s a fascinating snapshot of one man’s experiences in a time of changes in class, work and wealth and these types of biographies, those of ordinary people are a treasure trove for social historians.

About the Author:

Sue Bavey is an English Mum of two, living in Massachussetts since 2003 with her husband, kids, a cat named Midnight, a bunny named Nutmeg, a leopard gecko named Ziggy Stardust and occasional frogs and salamanders. Lucky Jack is her grandfather, Henry John Rogers’ biography.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate publication of Lucky Jack. Check out some of the other reviews and exclusive content on the blogs below:

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

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Blog Tour: A Wedding at Sandy Cove by Bella Osborne

Escape to Sandy Cove, where the scent of summer and the sound of wedding bells are in the air!

Ella makes brides’ dreams come true – there’s no dress she can’t make perfect with her sewing skills and some sparkle. But Ella’s own love life is no fairy tale. Recently dumped, surrounded by fussy brides and with the prospect of wearing a hideous brown bridesmaids dress to her friend’s wedding, Ella feels more alone than ever so agrees to go on a blind date.

A mix up on the night introduces her to Kit

Kit is definitely not the man she was supposed to meet, but he could end up changing her life in ways she never thought possible…

What I Thought:

As we’re all gearing up for summer holiday season, the time is right for romance! In this case, I’m talking about A Wedding at Sandy Cove by Bella Osborne, a light and romantic holiday read that is chock-full of drama, laughter and – of course – oodles of brides!

I really like Ella as a character, and it was great to see her go on a real journey from not being able to stand up for herself to being a strong, determined woman who has plans and places to go.

Her relationship with Kit, which came about through a total mistake, is great to read, although – as with all my favourite romantic couples – they really need their heads banging together at a few points!

There is also an additional storyline with Ella’s friend Lucy, and I thought she was a great character – a woman who knows what she wants, but who has been affected by her early life more than she knows. When she is embroiled in the affairs of a family in breakdown, she has to face some of her fears.

As I said, lots of drama, loads of laughter and a really appealing set of characters – this is my first Bella Osborne book, but certainly not my last!

A Wedding at Sandy Cove is published by HarperCollins.

About the Author:

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. Since then she’s written a number of best-selling romantic comedies and book club reads and won the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year Award 2022.

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. She lives in The Midlands, UK with her husband, daughter and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. When not writing Bella is usually eating custard creams and planning holidays.

For more about Bella, visit her website at www.bellaosborne.com or follow her on social media.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of A Wedding at Sandy Cove. For more reviews and exclusive content, check out the other fantastic participating blogs below:

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

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Blog Tour: Blue Hour by Sarah Schmidt

She thinks of blue mountain, her favourite place. ‘We’re going somewhere where we can be safe.  We never have to come back here.’  

As the rest of the world lies sleeping, Eleanor straps her infant daughter, Amy, into the back of her car. This is the moment she knew must come, when they will walk out on her husband Leon and a marriage in ruins since his return from Vietnam. Together, she and Amy will journey to blue mountain, a place of enchantment and refuge that lit up Eleanor’s childhood.

As the car eats up the miles, so Eleanor’s mind dives back into her fractured relationship with her mother, Kitty. Kitty who asked for so much from life, from love, from family. Kitty who had battled so hard to prise her husband George out of the grip of war. Kitty, whose disapproving voice rings so loud in Eleanor’s head.

What I Thought:

I’ll state upfront that Blue Hour is a challenging read, but purely because Sarah Schmidt is able to vividly create a family where disappointment, tragedy and violence are everyday.

We meet Eleanor as she flees her home with her infant daughter, constantly alert for the sight of headlights following her. She’s headed to her place of childhood safety and, as she drives, she examines her life with her mother, Kitty.

When we meet Kitty, she is young, about to start her life as a nurse and away from her overtly religious parents, but is a life full of excitement and adventure on the cards for Kitty?

As we read, we discover that, while Eleanor and Kitty have a combative relationship, there are many parallels between their lives. Eleanor has set out in life determined not to become like her mother, but in her marriage to a man adversely affected by the Vietnam war, she has become exactly like her mother whose husband suffered periods of poor mental health due to his service in WW2.

There should definitely be content warnings on the sections dealing with PTSD and domestic violence, as they really pull no punches, but having said this, it is a must-read as, while the male characters and their trauma come to the fore, the women and their much quieter trauma are there, simmering in the background.

My overall view of this book was that it brilliantly conveys the good and the bad in each of the characters. Kitty is quite likeable in some ways, but is an absolute tyrant in others. Although she has gone through things to make her this way, she does have to face up to the fact that it is mainly her own decisions that have put her where she is. Similarly, Eleanor’s life is guided by her need to make her mother love her – it’s not until too late that she realises that the decisions she has made because of this have set her life on an inevitable path.

It’s been hard to review this book as it’s something that really has to be experienced – there’s a sickening feeling towards the end at some of the reveals that you just can’t know unless you read it. It’s definitely a book that you should go back and read more than once, as what is revealed will give you a whole new impression of the book.

As I said, it’s a complex and challenging read, but all the more rewarding for that.

Blue Hour is published by Tinder Press.

About the Author:

Sarah Schmidt is the acclaimed author of See What I Have Done, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and won the AIBA Literary Fiction of the Year 2018. She lives in Melbourne where she works as a librarian.

You can follow her at https://sarahschmidt.org/ and on Twitter @ikillnovel.

This post is part of a blog tour, celebrating the publication of Blue Hour. For more reviews and exclusive content, check out the other fantastic bloggers taking part below:

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

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Blog Tour: The Daves Next Door by Will Carver

A disillusioned nurse suddenly learns how to care.

An injured young sportsman wakes up find that he can see only in black and white.

A desperate old widower takes too many pills and believes that two angels have arrived to usher him through purgatory.

Two agoraphobic men called Dave share the symptoms of a brain tumour, and frequently waken their neighbour with their ongoing rows.

Separate lives, running in parallel, destined to collide and then explode.

Like the suicide bomber, riding the Circle Line, day after day, waiting for the right time to detonate, waiting for answers to his questions: Am I God? Am I dead? Will I blow up this train?

What I Thought:

How ironic that the cover of Will Carver’s latest novel is black and white, when nothing in The Daves Next Door is black and white AT ALL!

This book is really like nothing else I’ve read this year and I am struggling to accurately describe it – we learn quite early on that a terrorist incident has happened in London in the near future, but as we meet each of the main characters it’s unclear how each of them fits into the puzzle of this event.

Each character has a definite voice, but the narrator in particular is compelling as his sections are more like a stream of consciousness. He’s asking readers for answers that we just don’t have, but he’s also not telling us everything. Is he a god-like figure? Or has he been programmed to feel that way? Will Carver lets us discover this on our own, but his timing is impeccable, revealing all at just the right time.

The narrative is tangential, shooting off to seemingly unrelated things, but we’re drawn back by the narrator to question our judgements on what we’ve just read – have we made assumptions based on our societal conditioning? Have we automatically assumed that the terrorist is Muslim? Is he? Is he even a he?

Will Carver asks so many questions about the modern world, but what struck me the most was that all of the stories can be boiled down to dealing with the disconnection of families. I’d be interested to know whether this was influenced by life during the pandemic, as there is a real sense that a lot of what was happening in the book could have been avoided if there was more connection between Saul and his son, Vashti and her brother and one of the Daves and his children.

This book is intriguing, frustrating and upsetting, but I think that’s the point. It’s confrontational, unapologetic and will have you thinking long after the last page.

The Daves Next Door is published by Orenda Books.

About the Author:

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. His previous title Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize, while Nothing Important Happened Today was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating publication of The Daves Next Door. Check out some of the other fab bloggers taking part below:

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

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Book Review: The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir by Lesley Allen

Biddy Weir is a quirky girl.

Abandoned by her mother as a baby, and with a father who’s not quite equipped for the challenges of modern parenting, Biddy lives in her own little world, happy to pass her time painting by the sea and watching the birds go by. That is, until she meets Alison Flemming.

Because there are a few things about Biddy that aren’t normal, you see. And Alison isn’t afraid to point them out to the world.

All of a sudden, Biddy’s quiet life is thrown into turmoil. If only there was someone to convince her that, actually, everyone’s a little bit weird…

A story of abuse and survival, of falling down and of starting again, and of one woman’s battle to learn to love herself for who she is.

What I Thought:

I’ll start this review with a warning – this book deals with some pretty harsh incidents of bullying and self-harm, so if this is something that you have experienced, it may be best to approach this book with caution.

That being said, The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is a beautiful book which shows the harsh reality of being ‘a bit different’, but also gives Biddy a chance to speak up and pay back years of anguish – and that part of the book is absolutely delicious!

It is a tough read, as Biddy goes through some horrible stuff, and it’s just not fair – you can see she is a little girl whose circumstances are not her fault, but because she refuses to be awed by the most popular girl in school, she has to suffer for it. It’s a hard life for her as a child of an older, single parent, and yet she finds many things of beauty in the everyday, even if that’s splatters of bird poo. But, of course, for this difference she must be punished, and it goes way beyond what you would expect by saying ‘kids can be cruel’. What Biddy suffers is years of abuse and shame, which she comes to think is thoroughly deserved.

After one such episode, Biddy makes a tragic decision that affects the rest of her life, but in her later years she steps out of everything she has known and starts to make a friend, who is able to help her look at her past and take away the shame she has always felt about it.

It really is a lovely book if you’re looking for a story of an oppressed girl finding her feet and acheiving things she thought she didn’t deserve, thanks to her experiences as a child, but it is really tough to read those sections that deal with the bullying.

Very much recommended.

The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is published by Bonnier Zaffre.

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

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