#Bookreview – The Baby Shower by @SELynesAuthour Published by @bookouture

“The truth will out in the end.” ––William Shakespeare

Released in March this year, The Baby Shower is a taut, multi-layered psychological thriller exploring the themes of friendship (good and bad), infidelity, gaslighting, infertility, broken families and, rather interestingly, male consent.   

Set in present day Wimbham, a fictional, once scruffy South London suburb, but now a gentrified smart London village, this is the story of thirty-somethings Jane and Frankie Reece who, although not particularly wealthy, each run their own successful businesses; Jane, as the owner of an independent coffee shop, and Frankie, who has his own plumbing company. Like most married couples, they’ve had their share of problems, but overall, they are happy. Jane’s friendship circle – Sophie, Hils and Kath – is small but close, and, coming from a broken home, one that Jane puts great value on. However, when Sophie introduces someone new to the group, Jane’s world is turned upside down. Lexie, with her glossy hair and flawless skin, who looks like she’s just stepped out of a magazine, doesn’t like Jane, which is obvious from the outset, but only to Jane, because Lexie is a master manipulator, which often sees Jane confused and questioning herself, wondering if she’s being oversensitive, or imagining things until, within a week of Lexie’s arrival, she has an uncomfortable sense of no longer belonging.  

Easy to read but brilliantly written with well-drawn, realistically flawed, believable characters, The Baby Shower is a suspenseful, pacy page turner that delves into the murky world of toxic friends and relationships. The author writes with great compassion and sensitivity about fertility and pregnancy, and I particularly enjoyed some of her witty social observations, which, despite being a psychological thriller, had me laughing out loud at times. I suspected the outcome quite early on, but it did nothing to spoil my enjoyment of this fabulous book.

If you’d like to know more about the author you can read my interview with her here.

Eva Jordan in conversation with author @LauraPAuthor #Author #writer #writerslife

Earlier this month I reviewed the debut novel, Missing Pieces, written by the lovely Laura Pearson; a heartbreakingly haunting story about motherhood, loss, love, and hope.

Here, Laura chats to me about writing, and her experience as a cancer survivor.

Hi Laura, welcome, and thanks for chatting to me. Can you please tell everyone a bit about yourself?

Hello, and thanks for asking me to chat! I’m the author of three novels, I live in Leicestershire with my husband and our son and daughter, and I can mostly be found (when not writing or herding my kids) reading and eating chocolate. Being a writer is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.

Having previously worked as a copywriter and editor for QVC, Expedia, and The Ministry of Justice, to name a few, what skills did you develop that have helped you as novelist?

I think I learned to just write as well as I could rather than waiting for inspiration. When you have to write web copy and features in an office for a day job, you can’t have an off day or get blocked. You just must write. So that’s what I do now I’m at home writing novels. Some days the words come easy, some days they don’t. But I write them anyway. There are always (many, many) edits. Also, to write tight.

You’ve been very open and public about your experience of breast cancer, which has undoubtedly helped others. Have you ever considered writing a memoir about your journey?

Yes, I’ve thought about it a lot and I’m glad I blogged throughout the whole experience as I have a record of everything. It’s definitely something I’d like to do one day, but one thing that holds me back is that my sister had a devastating health crisis at the same time and it’s hard to write about one without the other, and hard to know how much of it is my story to tell, if that makes sense.

And finally, my favourite question, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a writer?

If you’re in it for the fame and fortune, I’d probably advise a rethink! But if you love telling stories, getting under people’s skin, and working out what motivates them, and are happy to spend a lot of time working on your own, go for it. There’s a lot of waiting involved, and a lot of rejection, so you need to have a pretty thick skin. But there’s absolutely nothing like holding your book in your hands for the first time. Also, finding a writing tribe who’ll cheer you on and pick you up is invaluable. Writers are the loveliest, most supportive crew you could imagine.

If you’d like to know more about Laura’s writing and her breast cancer journey, you’ll find her blog at https://www.laurapearsonauthor.com/bcab

#Bookreview – Missing Pieces by @LauraPAuthor Published by @AgoraBooksLDN

“How fragile our lives are anyway. How quickly things can change.” –Nancy E. Turner

Missing Pieces is the beautifully crafted debut novel by Laura Pearson. It is also the first book I’ve read by this author and although heart-wrenchingly sad, I’m pleased to say it is also a story about love, hope and healing.

Written in the third person, this is a family-based drama that explores the ripple effect that one devastating moment can bring to a family. Composed of two parts, each chapter title is a date, with a sub-heading stating the number of ‘days after’. The opening chapter, ‘5th August 1985’, ‘21 Days After’, is incredibly sad. “The coffin was too small. Too small to contain what it did…” and it quickly becomes apparent that Linda and Tom Sadler, who have befallen some sort of tragedy, are burying their three-year-old daughter, Phoebe. Phoebe’s older sister, Esme, is also present, but the circumstances concerning the family’s misfortune are not revealed until much later in the story. What is clear, though, is how the grief of each character differs, but nonetheless sees them all struggling to communicate honestly with one another, which undoubtedly affects all their lives, both as individuals and collectively as a family.

Part Two introduces us to Bea, Esme, and Phoebe’s younger sister. It is 2011 ‘9610 Days After’ and Bea, estranged from her family, is living in London. However, a life-changing decision sees her moving back to the family home. But it’s not a decision she makes lightly, not after a childhood where loneliness was more acute when she was with her family than when she wasn’t.

Written with great sympathy and empathy, Missing Pieces is a story about motherhood, family, and the heart-breaking grief that follows the loss of a young child. However, it is also a redemptive tale that reminds us how healing forgiveness is, and how powerful love is.

Book Review – Reputation By @SVaughanAuthor Published by @simonschusterUK

“It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.” –Will Rogers

Well, what can I say! This, the fifth novel and third thriller by Sarah Vaughan, which was released on Thursday 3rd March, is, I’m pleased to say, another superb pulse-racing legal drama. Like the author’s first thriller, Anatomy Of A Scandal; a Sunday Times top five bestseller and soon to be released major Netflix series (which I loved), Reputation takes us back to the to the courtroom and the Houses of Parliament. Suffice to say, my expectations were high, and I’m delighted to say I wasn’t disappointed. 

Set-in present-day London and Portsmouth, this is the story of Emma Webster; a high-profile Labour MP who wants to make a difference. The honourable member for Portsmouth South––also a devoted single mother to her teenage daughter, Flora––helps launch a campaign to protect women from the effects of online bullying after it comes to light that one of her constituents, a young woman who was the victim of revenge porn, has taken her own life. Ironically though, her involvement in the campaign only adds to her own online abuse, including veiled and open threats of rape and attack which, although deeply disturbing, she handles like a true professional. “Keyboard warriors, they called themselves. Such a pathetic term. Laughing at them, even if the laughter was hollow, helped a little – though it did nothing to unpick the knot in my stomach”. Inwardly, however, it is obvious Emma is struggling, despite outwardly putting on a brave face suggesting otherwise. At least, that is, until her teenage daughter’s reputation is threatened, which, unfortunately, fuelled by fear, leads to disastrous consequences culminating in accusations of murder.

Reputation is a gripping read with wonderfully written prose that is succinctly, yet beautifully descriptive. A clever, timely, courtroom drama that helps shine a light on violence and misogamy towards women with an important message about the treatment of women in the public eye.

Book Review – Senbazuru: Small Steps To Hope, Healing And Happiness by Michael James Wong Published by @MichaelJBooks

“Mindfulness is the art of living in the moment, the willingness to slow down and become completely present, on purpose, without judgement, as each moment unfolds.” ––Michael James Wong

If you’re looking for gift ideas for Valentine’s Day, you won’t go far wrong with this. In fact, as we continue to navigate these still very uncertain times, this practical but beautifully illustrated book would make a great addition to anyone’s bookshelf. Written by Michael James Wong: speaker, author, yoga, and meditation teacher, Senbazuru: Small Steps to Hope, Healing and Happiness is best described as a contemplative guide to mindful living. However, as well as a collection of short stories and traditional proverbs accompanied by beautiful hand-painted illustrations, this wonderful compendium also teaches the reader, in twelve straightforward steps, the practice of orizuru.

Orizuru is the art of folding Japanese paper cranes, a bird that symbolises peace, hope, and healing, which, according to Japanese tradition, if you were to fold a thousand of in a single year, would grant you a single wish that could bring good fortune, eternal luck, long life, and happiness. The tradition of folding one thousand paper cranes is called Senbazuru (“sen” meaning “one thousand” and “orizuru” meaning “paper crane”), hence the book title. It’s not easy either. Folding paper requires patience and intention and shouldn’t be rushed, which is, of course, the intention of this book. “In our haste for complexity, we can easily be tempted to move too fast and look beyond the present moment,” says Wong. 

At a little over 250 pages long, this beautiful hardback, including proverbs, anecdotes, and gentle words of wisdom, interspersed with enchanting drawings, can be read sequentially or randomly. And, although it is a book that teaches the reader an ancient art form, at its heart the message is clear, namely slow down and be present… right here, right now.

If you’d like to know more about the author, check out his website or follow him on Instagram:

Website: https://www.michaeljameswong.com/

Instagram: @michaeljameswong

Eva Jordan in conversation with writer and investigator @DavidVidecette

Recently on my blog I reviewed Finding Suzy, which delves into the real-life crime and investigation case of 25 year old Suzy Lamplugh, an estate agent who went missing in July 1986 and has never been seen since. Written by David Videcette, it is a thought provoking, compelling read and you can read my thoughts about it here.

Today, David is my guest. Welcome David, thanks for chatting to me today. Can you please tell everyone a bit about yourself?

I’m an investigator, security consultant and writer. My background is in criminal investigation, having spent decades in the police, the majority fighting organised-crime and terrorism as a Scotland Yard detective.

It’s clear the Suzy Lamplugh case meant a lot to you as does the need to resolve it. When you’ve experienced the worst sides of human nature, is it hard to see the good in people?

We’ve probably all heard the phrase ‘humans are inherently good’? Yet many philosophers have struggled to understand why we humans inflict the most unspeakable acts on each other.

I believe most people are born ‘good’. If someone collapses in front of your eyes in your local high street, it’s a natural reaction to rush to their aid. But what of those who use the occasion for criminal gain? What motivates those people who see it as an opportunity to steal a bag from someone in obvious distress?  And what of those who look the other way?

It’s these questions that have always fascinated me in any crime I’ve investigated, including the case of missing estate agent, Suzy Lamplugh.

Most people can live together in large scale societies, even when they strongly disagree. But whereas bees and ants may instinctively cooperate and work together for the common good, humans are often self-interested. First and foremost we will look out for our own safety. After that come motivations to maintain reputation, social standing, and material wealth. Underpinning all of that will be animalistic desires and drives, placing us in direct conflict with others.

I can’t counteract human nature. Untangling people’s real motivations in any interaction is what makes investigation so fascinating and cold cases so challenging to solve.

As a writer, how does writing fiction compare to writing to non-fiction?

Although all of my books are rooted in real cases, I am bound by the Official Secrets Act, which barred me from writing factual books about my time in the police. Instead, I began by writing crime fiction as a cathartic exercise. My first two books are thrillers: The Theseus Paradox focuses on the London 7/7 bombings and The Detriment unravels the Glasgow Airport attacks.

I write using my memories of experiences, so you get the pure raw emotion and intensity on the page. All of my books put the reader front and centre. You experience the action in real time, as I did.

My third book, Finding Suzy, documents my real-time hunt for answers in a true crime case I’ve worked on since returning to civilian life. I’ve spent five years reinvestigating the mysterious disappearance of missing estate agent Suzy Lamplugh. Because people don’t just disappear…

And finally, the question I love to ask all writers! For anyone thinking of becoming a writer, what advice would you offer?

Writing is just like anything else we do – the more you do it, the better you become. Never give up.

If you’d like to know more about David, you can find him at the links below:

The DI Jake Flannagan crime thrillers based on real events (in order):

The Theseus Paradox (ebook): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B015UDFYQ6

The Theseus Paradox (paperback): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/099342631X

The Detriment (ebook): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07227XS4G

The Detriment (paperback): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0993426336

True crime investigation/non-fiction:

Finding Suzy (hardback): www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0993426387

Finding Suzy (paperback): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0993426379

Finding Suzy (ebook): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0999M1FJ4

Amazon author page UK: www.amazon.co.uk/David-Videcette/e/B015UNLEN8

Website: www.davidvidecette.com

Book Review – Finding Suzy by @DavidVidecette Published by Videcette Limited

“Absence from whom we love is worse than death, and frustrates hope severer than despair.” ―William Cowper

My first book review for the New Year is Finding Suzy by writer, investigator, and former Scotland Yard detective, David Videcette. As well as having a wealth of investigative experience behind him, including several high-profile cases like the July 2005 London bombings, David is also the author of the fictional DI Jake Flannagan crime thriller series. However, it is this, the author’s own private investigation into the real-life missing person case of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, that really piqued my interest.

Suzy Lamplugh went missing in July 1986 and has never been seen since. Her mother, Diana Lamplugh, said, “There has not been a single trace of her. Nothing. Just as though she had been erased by a rubber”. It was (and still is) a case that drew a lot of media attention, but the generally accepted narrative is that Suzy left the Fulham office she worked at, showing a house by appointment to a “Mr Kipper” who it’s then believed, abducted, and killed her. However, her body has never been found and 16 years later, following a second investigation, John Cannan, jailed for abducting, and killing Shirley Banks, is believed to be the illusive “Mr Kipper”. However, as David’s thorough investigation shows, any links made to Cannan and this case are dubious to say the least. So, the author did what any good investigator would and he began the investigation again, from scratch.

Easy to read, thought provoking and compelling, Finding Suzy is a gripping read that shines a light on how missed opportunities, politics, and even the grief of Suzy’s family have perhaps hindered the discovery of her whereabouts. David makes a good argument about where she might be and surely, if only to give her family some closure, the police owe it to them to follow this up.

To get your copy of Finding Suzy click here.

Book Review – Coming Home by @pbadixon published by @bloodhoundbook

“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”–George Santayana

I absolutely adored this book. Set in the present day with flashbacks to the past, Coming Home is a beautifully written festive family drama full of secrets and lies, intrigue and deceit, but above all else, love and hope. The story opens on Christmas Eve 1969, where we meet six-year-old Carmen Appleton.

“A child is seated at the kitchen table, that’s me. My mother, Sylvia, with her blonde beehive and candy-pink lipstick is opposite. She’s beautiful… A sound distracts me… Dad. He’s home… my wonderful most perfect dad… All I have to do is close my eyes and go to sleep and it will be Christmas morning, the Christmas it should have been before the knock on the door that ruin[ed] everything.”

Fast-forward to the present day, 2021, and we meet Carmen as she is now, a mother, grandmother, and successful businesswoman and owner of Appleton Farm. Christmas is always a bittersweet time for Carmen, not least because of that fateful night during her childhood, but she loves her family and has always done her best to make it a special time. This year, though, everyone is coming home for Christmas and Carmen is determined to make it the best one ever, plus, she has an announcement to make, a secret to share. However, little does Carmen know, her three adult daughters, Rosina, Violetta, and Leonora, are all harbouring their own secrets. Secrets that are weighing them down but are too afraid to share for fear of ruining their beloved mother’s merry plans.

The characters of this festive tale are well-rounded, wonderfully human individuals with Granny Sylvia, in particular, providing some delightful moments of comic relief. Written with humour, pathos, and depth, Coming Home has all the ‘feels’ of a typical Christmas story with all the ‘chills’ of a compelling family drama.

A well deserved 5 stars from me!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

To grab your copy of this wonderful festive read click here

Book Review – Killing Time in Cambridge by Philip Cumberland

“AI is likely to be either the best or worst thing to happen to humanity”­­––Stephen Hawking

This month I interviewed local author (to me) Philip Cumberland (see here), who is also one of the coordinators and founding members of a local U3A Writing Group, Whittlesey Wordsmiths. As well as a contributing author of several anthologies written by the group, Philip has also recently published his debut novel, Killing Time in Cambridge, and this is my review.

The story opens with an axe wielding knight of old, dressed in full body armour, clanking down the corridor of a software company, who then hacks down the office door of the managing director, demanding to know who the ‘master’ is. The poor MD then has a heart attack, the knight disappears, and a short time later the building is besieged by medieval catapults. At this juncture, we are introduced to the main protagonist of the story, Detective Chief Inspector Cyril Lane, better known to everyone as Arnold, a self-effacing individual who likes his food and has a keen, pragmatic approach to his work. It’s Arnold’s job, and that of his colleagues, to figure out what is going on. However, as the story unravels and the plot thickens, it quickly becomes apparent that time travel plays a huge role in this quirky tale, which also includes several eccentric secondary characters including the quick-witted Sylvia, who provides some fine moments of comic relief, not to mention Marvin, the mind reading AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Set in the present day (with glimpses through time) in the beautiful historic city of Cambridge and the surrounding fens (including Ely, Hunstanton, Heacham, and Ramsey) Killing Time in Cambridge is a good old whodunnit (think Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders, and Inspector George Gently) featuring a mix of light-hearted whimsey and dark humour and, rather unexpectedly, time travel and AI.

Killing Time in Cambridge is available at Parker’s newsagents, on Amazon, from Niche Comics and Books Huntingdon, Waterstones and whittleseywordsmiths.com.

Book Review – The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton By Edith Wharton Published by Wordsworth Editions

“One can remain alive … if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity interested in big things and happy in small ways” ––Edith Wharton

The nights are drawing in, there’s a nip in the air and with Halloween just around the corner, it feels like the perfect time to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and a good ghost story or two. So, this month I’m reviewing The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton; a collection of well-paced, atmospheric, spooky short stories.

Wharton (1862–1937), Pulitzer Prize winner for her novel The Age of Innocence, claimed she didn’t believe in ghosts whilst paradoxically admitting she was frightened of them. Her interest in the paranormal began during her childhood and continued into her adult life with writers like M. R. James and Walter de la Mare some of her favourite authors in the field.  The writing style of this beautifully written compilation is comparable to Henry James including the speech and dialect that is very much of its time, which some readers may find a little dated but I feel only adds to the intrigue and suspense of each brilliantly crafted story. With fifteen separate stories in total, set in or around the period they were penned, the reader is also given a window into the social history of the time, which, although not that long ago, almost feels other worldly itself. Be warned though, if you’re looking for horror stories, or out-and-out tales of terror, this is not the book for you. 

Wharton’s style of writing is both subtle and sublime, weaving a sense of foreboding, menace, and mystery into her stories rather than outright revelation, cleverly building a sense of dread before leaving the reader hauntingly intrigued. And, with fifteen tales to choose from, The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton is the perfect ghostly companion for those whose reading time is limited.