Book #Review of Anything You Do Say by @GillianMAuthor ‏

 

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Book Review – Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

Published by Penguin

Cleverly written, Anything You Do Say is the first Gillian McAllister book I’ve read, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Described as a Sliding Doors psychological thriller, the story starts with Joanna, the main protagonist, committing a criminal offence, albeit accidentally, at which point the story splits into two; one called Reveal, the other, Conceal.

Set during the present day, both stories, told in the first person, centre on Joanna Oliva, a young woman living in London with her husband, Reuben. The story begins with Joanna on a night out with best friend Laura. They are in a bar and leave when a man, who has been harassing Joanna, unsettles them. Once outside, and away from the bar, Joanna and Laura call it a night, say their respective goodbyes and head home in different directions. Joanna hears someone walking behind her. Too afraid to look she is convinced she is being followed. She spots a flash of red at the top of a set of stairs on a towpath, which confirms her suspicions. Her pursuer is wearing the same red trainers worn by the man who earlier, in the bar, had been harassing her. In her panic, Joanna spins round and pushes “his body, firmly, squarely, the hardest I’ve ever pushed anything in my life” down the concrete stairs, and this is where the story splits. We then follow Joanna’s journey where in one story she reveals what has happened, and in the other she conceals what she has done. As expected, both choices have huge ramifications, which impact on both her life and that of friends and loved ones. Joanna is one of life’s procrastinators, who, unlike her husband Reuben, prefers to avoid her problems—“He’s (Reuben) never done denial. Not like I have… He confronts issues head on… Calmly, not hysterically, not the way I eventually tackle things I’ve been avoiding for years.” However, due to her actions, Joanne is forced to face up to herself and what she has done—in both stories.

Gripping, pacy, and well written, Anything You Do Say glides easily between the two parallel timeframes with no awkward repetition. I was totally invested in the characters and particularly enjoyed the exploration of the ‘what ifs ’ in each story, as well as the diverse responses and differing attitudes to Joanna’s behaviour by those closest to her. Well worth a read, and one I really recommend. 

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Book #Review of The Silent Christmas by @WriterMJLee

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My Book Review of – The Silent Christmas by M J Lee

Independently published

 

Thanks to a cousin who has been researching our family tree, I recently discovered I had a Great-Great uncle who served in the trenches during WWl. He joined at the start of the war as a volunteer in 1914, and just one year later, aged twenty-one, he was dead, killed in action, his body never recovered but is commemorated on the Menin Wall in Ypres, Belgium. How apt then, I should stumble upon Martin Lee’s recently released novella, The Silent Christmas, the fifth in the Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery series, which can also be read as a stand-alone.

Set in both the present day and the WWI trenches, the story centres on the informal football match believed to have taken place between the English and German soldiers during a brief truce on Christmas Day 1914. The first chapter takes us straight to the trenches on December 21st in Belgium, capturing the conditions and possible mind-set of some soldiers, ‘He lay on his back on the hard ground and dreamt of England; picnicking on the grass in front of the bandstand, straw hat tipped over his eyes to shield them from the sun… A shadow crossed his face and he felt a tap against his foot. ‘Time to get up, Tom, we’re moving forward… The men began packing up… As they did so, a solitary shell from a German whizz-bang whistled overhead, landing one hundred yards past the farm. None of the men moved or even ducked; each one carried on preparing to move forward as if nothing had happened.’ We then move forward to the present day and discover Jayne Sinclair, a genealogical investigator, asked, just days before Christmas, if she can help shed light on the mystery of several items, namely a label, a silver button and a lump of leather, found in a chest in the attic of her client. Ms Sinclair, who says, ‘Our role as genealogists is to use our research to bring these lost people, the vanished people of our family, back to life,’ agrees, and the mystery begins to unravel.

Written in the third person throughout, The Silent Christmas is a fictional tale exploring the actual events that took place during December 1914, later called the ‘Christmas Truce.’ A real “feel good” story handled with great care and respect, full of hope and love, that is both well written and researched. And, as 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of Armistice it is also particularly poignant.

You can find The Silent Christmas on Amazon.co.uk here and Amazon.com here

 

Writer Martin Lee

 

M J Lee can be contacted at http://www.writermjlee.com, on Facebook at writermjlee and on twitter at @writermjlee. 

Book #Review of Before The Fall by @JulietWest14 @panmacmillan

A great war.
A powerful love.
An impossible choice.

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My Book Review of – Before The Fall by Juliet West

Published by Pan; Main Market Ed. edition

A tale of forbidden love, Before The Fall is beautiful, poignant and heartbreakingly sad. Set in London’s East End during the First World War, this is a fictional tale based on true events.

Hannah Loxwood is the struggling young mother of two children, namely 4-year-old Alice and 2-year-old Teddy. Her husband, George, one of many young men who has voluntarily enlisted to fight in the Great War, is across the channel, fighting. To help make ends meet, Hannah and her children move into the home of her older sister, Jen, and brother in law, Alec, and to help pay her way Hannah takes a job offer in a local café. There, she meets Mr Blake, Daniel, a welder. “This man, he’s not like your average docker. He’s well built all right, strong like you have to be, but there’s something unusual about him. A word comes to my mind – elegant – and I tell myself not to be so daft. It isn’t a word I’ve thought of before, let alone said.” Hannah quickly realises she is drawn to the quietly intriguing Daniel in a way she neither expected nor anticipated. The feeling, as it turns out, is mutual. “All the single girls in London and he has to fall for a soldiers wife … beautiful, odd, vulnerable.” Nonetheless, Hannah is a married woman; social norms must be observed at all times. Hence Hannah and Daniel must do their level best to suppress any thoughts or feelings that go beyond friendship. However, as the war rages on, Hannah finds herself wondering if her husband will ever return home again – and if indeed she actually wants him to.

Well researched, full of fascinating historical details, including police statements, newspaper reports and witness statements, Before The Fall is a brilliantly crafted, superbly written novel. The characters are well rounded and believable, especially Hannah, written in the first person – whom I became highly invested in – and Daniel, written in the third person. The author’s prose is wonderfully captivating and highly evocative – I could see the smog, smell the river, feel the hunger, and sense the desperation. However, although set amongst the fear and uncertainty of war torn London, this is not a war story but rather a mesmerising, realistic, and haunting tale of love. It is also a story about the plight of women, their sad indictment and the difficulties they faced if caught challenging a ruthless wartime society. A sensitive, powerful, must read.

 

Author Q&A with Fenland author @Heidi_Swain @simonschusterUK

Last month you may remember I read and reviewed Heidi Swain’s lovely Christmas story, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at The Christmas Fair, set in Wynbridge, a remote, fictional town in the Fens. So for my column in this month’s edition of The Fens it seemed very fitting to interview the author who sets most of her novels in the Fens.

Heidi, can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself? How long have you been writing and did you always want to be a writer?

Originally from the Fens, I have lived in East Anglia for most of my life. I have been a Norfolk resident for around 16 years now and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Yes, I always dreamt of being a writer and have the stack of notebooks dating back to the eighties to prove it! However, it took a long time to pluck up the courage to take my writing seriously. I’ve been ‘writing with purpose’ for over six years now and by next summer will have had six novels published in three years.

I really enjoyed Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair but I must admit it is the first of your novels I’ve read, mainly because I’m a writer myself and my reading time is limited. However, from what I can gather, most of your novels are set in the Fens, can you tell us why? What is it about the Fens that inspires you?

Yes, the fictitious town of Wynbridge is entirely my own creation but very much inspired by my childhood. My family have farmed the flat Fenland landscape for generations and even though I moved away in my early twenties, when I began looking for the perfect setting my thoughts travelled back to the dramatic skies and far off horizon. I find the no frills, raw beauty of the Fens both soothing and uncomplicated.

And finally, for any would be writers out there, before they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, what one piece of advice would you offer them?

That’s simple – If you want to be a writer, write. If you put it off until you ‘have more time’ you’ll never put pen to paper. Stop procrastinating and make a start. You won’t regret it!

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Many thanks to Heidi for taking part in my Author Q&A and if you’d like some more information about the lovely lady herself, links to her are as follows:

Website: http://www.heidiswain.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Heidi_Swain

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterHeidiJoSwain?ref=hl

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heidi-Swain/e/B00YNN3LDI/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1483439180&sr=8-2-ent

 

 

#Review – Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by @Heidi_Swain @simonschusterUK

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Book Review – Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain

Published by Simon & Schuster UK

I met author Heidi Swain earlier this year, albeit very briefly, at an author/blogger meet up. Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair is the first of Heidi’s novels I’ve read and like the lady herself, it is absolutely charming. Whether you’re looking for something jovially celebratory to read in the run up to Christmas, or something to curl up to with a mince pie and glass of your favourite tipple over the holidays, I can thoroughly recommend this festive, feel good tale. 

Set in the fictional Fenland town of Wynbridge (with it’s very own Market Place not unlike my own home town) this is the story of Anna, who, for reasons not at first obvious, isn’t particularly fond of Christmas. A bit of a nomad, she pulls out all the stops to make sure she works every Christmas, preferably in a position that will keep her both busy, and as far away from the holiday festivities as possible. Anna spots and applies for what appears to be the perfect occupation, as companion to Catherine Connolly, convalescing after an operation. Catherine, along with her husband Angus, is owner of the somewhat isolated Wynthorpe Hall, situated on the outskirts of Wynbridge, a remote town in the Fens, which sounds ideal to Anna. “Hunkering down in the barren and frosty Fenland landscape, without so much as a carol singer in sight, would be a much appreciated soothing balm to my troubled soul and I mulled it over with relish”. Only, as is often the case with most things in life, things are not quite as they seem.

When the Connolly’s youngest son, Jamie, arrives home just before Christmas, after spending time abroad, he finds himself faced with some difficult decisions. Ones that will no doubt affect his future and that of Wynthorpe Hall. Disillusioned with the family home, can Anna help Jamie fall in love with it again, and, more importantly, can Jamie help Anna, after years of refusing to celebrate it, help her fall in love with Christmas again?

Easy to read, the story is well paced, and, as one who lives in the Fens, the setting feels heart-warmingly familiar. The characters are well rounded and believable, although it is the rather eccentric, not to mention slightly mischievous, Angus, who really captured my heart. Full of festive cheer, love, laughter and hope, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair is a pure joy to read, providing some light relief and escapism from, what at times, feels like a very troubled world at the moment. Definitely one I’d recommend.

@BeTeenUs – Stepmum or Stepmonster? How to bring up teenagers in a stepfamily!

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I’m over on BeTeenUs today talking about parenting, stepparenting and moody teenagers!

It’s not easy being a parent, especially a parent of teenagers but if you are embarking on such a journey as a stepparent then I’d say you’re in for an interesting, and at times, bumpy ride. I know because as a parent and stepparent myself, I speak from the voice of experience.

It is just such experiences, along with all those associated with modern day family life, that inspired me to write both my debut novel, 183 Times A Year, and my recently released second novel, All The Colours In Between. Based on a fictional extended family, both novels explore the amusing and sometimes fraught relationship between parents and their teenage children, set amongst the thorny realities of today’s divided and extended families.

I’ve learned a lot over the years, both as a parent and stepparent. I’ve also carried out in-depth research into better trying to understand the Facebook, tweeting, selfie-taking, music and mobile phone obsessed universal enigma, otherwise known as the teenager. I’m not an expert, nor do I proclaim to be. I’ve definitely made a few mistakes along the way, both as a parent and stepparent. Now pop over to BeTeenUs to see a few of my survival guide tips.

All The Colours In Between — bytheletter bookreviews @sarahhardy681 @urbanebooks

The lovely Sarah Hardy is on the All The Colours In Between Blog Tour today with her wonderful review, and a rather emotional story of her own to boot!

Today I am delighted to be on the blog tour for All The Colours In Between by the lovely Eva Jordan. Before you scroll down to the book and my review, I just wanted to share something that happened a few days after reading it. Once you’ve read the book itself you will realise for yourself how wonderful it is and why it brought back my relationship with my own Grandad very much to life. A few days after reading the book, my husband was having a clear out in the garage and came across a wooden box which I kept all my pen pal letters in, I haven’t written a letter to a pen friend for an awful lot of years and had totally forgotten about it. My family has always been wide spread and sadly we didn’t live near my Grand parents so didn’t get to see them anywhere near as often as I would have liked. In my teens, my Grandad and I used to write to each other. He loved gardening and I used to cut images of lawn mowers or flower pots and used to send them to him. I have to admit it was quite emotional discovering the letters as he has sadly not been around for the last seventeen years and I miss him a lot. I haven’t felt emotionally able to read them yet, but I will. I’m a big believer in fate and I know it was my Grandad’s way of letting me know that he is still around in his own way. Anyway sorry for rambling but just wanted to share it with you.

 

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Book Description:

Eva Jordan’s much-anticipated follow up to the bestselling ‘183 Times a Year’.

It’s not a life, it’s an adventure!

My Thoughts:

All The Colours In Between is the follow up to the fabulous 183 Times A Year, so I strongly recommend reading the books in order to get full enjoyment from these great books.

I absolutely loved the mother daughter relationship between Lizzie and Cassie in the first book and I couldn’t wait to catch up with them again. Even though the story mainly flicks between these two characters still, this time we also get to see things from Connor, the sons, point of view.

Things have moved on a bit since we were last with the family and as I have come to expect from this author, there was plenty of drama to keep me hooked throughout. It’s a bit like sitting down to your favourite soap opera as the author really focuses on all aspects of family life whilst keeping it all very real.

There really is so much I could write about this book and even then I don’t think I could do it justice. It feels like the author has opened up her heart and soul whilst allowing the reader to be one with the story. There was one part in particular that was so close to home for me that I had tears pouring down my face. As much as I tried to carry on, I just couldn’t see through the vast amount of tears and had to go back to it the next day. I was so overwhelmed by the emotions that I was feeling which truly has to be the sign of a great writer when their words touch you so deeply.

An emotive and beautifully written story of family life. One of the most powerful books I’ve read this year.

My thanks to the author and Urbane Publications for an advanced readers copy of this book. All opinions are my own and not biased in anyway.

Goodreads rating 5/5 stars.

via All The Colours In Between by Eva Jordan @EvaJordanWriter @urbanebooks — bytheletter bookreviews