Blog Tour- Extract and Review: Close To Me by Amanda Reynolds

Today I am thrilled to host a stop on Amanda Reynolds blog tour to celebrate her debut novel, Close To Me.
Close To Me is a gripping debut psychological drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling The Husband’s Secret, Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, and Linda Green’s While My Eyes Were Closed.

She can’t remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she’s lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can’t remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.  
Published by Headline – eBook 31st March / Paperback 27th July 2017

First of all, here’s an extract to give you a taste of this fantastic book!

The barn feels bigger, the silence echoing around us, between us, from us. I leave Rob to bring in the emptied boxes and suitcases and go upstairs to change, pausing outside Fin’s room. The tidiness within is unsettling. ‘He hasn’t died,’ Sash had said when I’d rung her from the car. ‘He’s just gone to university.’ 

I pull the duvet from its cover, strip the sheet from the mattress and the pillowcases from the pillows, and although I’d intended to throw the washing straight in the laundry basket, I sit down on the empty bed, gathering the musty bedding around me to inhale Fin’s scent. 

‘He hasn’t died, Jo,’ Rob says, finding me there. He’s carrying a suitcase, now lightened of its load, just a few hours ago filled with the shirts and jeans I’d ironed. 

‘That was Sash’s line,’ I say, sitting up. ‘You two are so alike.’  

Rob lays a hand on my shoulder, the fingers reaching my collar bone, gently pressing in. I stand and hold him for a moment, his long arms wrapping around me, his head resting on top of mine. ‘Come on,’ he says. ‘We’re both tired.’ 

We make love, the day edging away as we comfort one another. Afterwards, Rob rolls away from me and I know he will fall asleep immediately so I nudge his back. He turns over to face me, but I can see little of his expression; the bedroom almost entirely devoid of light, just the green glow of the numbers on his alarm clock telling me it’s almost midnight. ‘What is it?’ he asks.  

‘Do you remember how we used to play that silly word game, before the kids were born?’ 

‘What game?’ he replies, his words slurred with impending sleep. 

‘If you had a super power what would it be?’ I say through the darkness. ‘Or if you were
going to kill me how would you do it?’ 

‘And you’ve thought about this already?’ he asks, the moonlight seeping around the corners of the blind to pick out his creased eyes, a faint smile. 

I tell him my super power would be time travel and he says he has no idea what his would be, although he’s clearly enjoying the game.  

‘And you’ve decided how you’re going to kill me?’ he asks, his interest piqued. 

‘I’d stab you.’ I laugh, reaching out to him, laying my hand on his bare chest. ‘With a kitchen knife.’ 

‘Yes, that’s good.’ He laughs too and squeezes my stabbing hand. ‘Hopefully death would be instantaneous, and we already have a knife block, so no preparation required.’ 

‘How would you kill me?’ I ask, leaning up on one elbow to wait for his response. 

He hesitates, then says, ‘I guess I’d strangle you with my bare hands.’ Then he grabs me and pulls me to him, both of us laughing.

Review  

Warning! Make sure you have a clear few hours when you begin this book. I don’t know about other readers but I do this thing, between all the other stuff I need to do, where I’ll say “I’ll read 50 pages then I’ll hoover the bedroom” or “30 pages then I’ll make dinner”. I wouldn’t get anything else done otherwise if I didn’t set these limits.

So, when starting Close To Me a few days ago, while having a break from attempting to tame my overgrown garden, I gave myself 50 pages. Well, when I checked to see how I was doing I was stunned to find I’d just devoured almost 100! Seriously, this book’s pages turn themselves. Amanda Reynolds’ writing just flows in a gripping and compelling stream, making for a very, very readable story.

The book is told in alternating chapters of the days following Jo’s accident and the year leading up to it. It works so well, as the reader discovers what led to the breakdown of her family at the same time as Jo. You get to know Jo almost as she gets to know herself and I found I really connected to her and could relate to some of what she is experiencing in the early days before her fall. Jo is going through a time of change, her youngest child has just left home for university and she needs to redefine herself and purpose – something familiar to me as both my children begin to move on. But unlike myself, Jo is surrounded by manipulating people, taken advantage of by her husband, her kids and then others who sense her vulnerability. I loved the subtle development of her character right through the book, and by the end felt satisfied that this now strong and purposeful woman was going to be ok.

The subtle tension created in this book holds right through, with clever twists revealed at just the right moments, keeping me intrigued. Jo’s memory loss ensures that the reader is kept guessing about what really lead to the night of the accident along with Jo herself, with clues and suggestions coming in flashbacks. But with sketchy memories and some confusion, how much can we believe of Jo herself? Is her husband Rob trying to protect her or manipulate her? I couldn’t stop reading and had to know what was going on, frantically turning pages to fit in just a little bit more and ended up finishing it within a day.

Close To Me is not a heart pumping, edge of your seat thriller. The tension and twists are far more subtle than that. This is a dark story of a marriage and family gone stale, emotional abuse, manipulation and mistrust from those nearest. It’s the story of a woman loosing herself even before she looses her memory and a journey of rediscovery and redefining as she finds the strength to gain control of her life . It is compulsive, one-more-chapter reading and I highly recommend it.

(I read an advance proof copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program)



About The Author

Amanda Reynolds teaches Creative Writing in Cheltenham, where she lives with her family.

Her past jobs have included selling clothes online and writing murder mystery games.

Close To Me is her debut novel.

Follow Amanda on Twitter: @amandareynoldsj


Book Review: The Night Before Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

All Lydia’s ever wanted is a perfect Christmas… 

So when her oldest friends invite her to spend the holidays with them, it seems like a dream come true. She’s been promised log fires, roasted chestnuts, her own weight in mince pies – all in a setting that looks like something out of a Christmas card. 

But her winter wonderland is ruined when she finds herself snowed in with her current boyfriend, her old flame and a hunky stranger. Well, three (wise) men is traditional at this time of year… (From Goodreads.com)



A few weeks ago I found myself making a nightmare journey by train all in the name of childcare. Four times. On one of my bad tempered treks across the country I realised I’d forgotten to pack a book, and considering I had 3 hours to pass without a child panic set in. With Tesco being the nearest and only open shop that sold books that’s where I headed. It’s only a small shop though and had a limited selection of books but this one appealed with it’s stunningly pretty cover and festive synopsis. 


My forgetfulness turned into a blessing though as I thoroughly enjoyed Scarlet Bailey’s debut novel from beginning to end. This is chick lit at it’s best and ticks every single box. A likable and relatable heroine, an awkward situation with hilarious and cringeworthy moments and not one but three potential love interests. Throw into the mix three interesting and different girl friends, an emotional birth and CHRISTMAS and this is a winner. If you’re a fan of chick lit then you’ll love this one. 


One thing which pleasantly surprised me was the setting of Keswick in the Lake District. I spent a couple of the best years of my life living there and now live just half an hours drive away, but never have I come across a book set in this part of the world. I loved how Scarlett Incorporated the area into the story, bringing it to life with genuine passion and even throwing in a bit of local dialect which made me chuckle. I do have one issue though. Why in all the time I’ve spent here have I failed to find myself a Will Dacre (whose surname even lends itself nicely to the area)? *Swoon indeed!* Moody, broody and earthy, I LOVED him. 


I also loved the fact that the book is set over a few days of Christmas. Often a *Christmassy* looking book like this only features the season briefly but this is full on festive right the way through. All the tensions, romance and humour of Christmas are captured beautifully and I went from laughing to sympathising to feeling all warm and fuzzy throughout. The story moves at a fast pace and I couldn’t put it down and after my train journey stayed up into the small hours just devouring it. 


The Night Before Christmas absolutely hits the spot if you’re looking for a lighthearted romantic festive comedy. Despite being Scarlett Bailey’s debut I found the pacing, writing and character development accomplished and confident. It was a joy of a read which left me feeling happy and cosy, delivering everything I wanted…with tinsel. I’ll certainly be looking out for more from this author in the future and recommend you treat yourself this book to curl up with over Christmas. You won’t be disappointed.







Published by Ebury Press October 2011



Book Review: Ashes by Ilsa J Bick

It could happen tomorrow . . . An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP. For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human. Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling novel about a world that could be ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation. (from Goodreads.com)

Ashes is one of those books that arrived without any great fanfare and I didn’t know much about. It looked interesting, but until I read Liz from My Favourite Books proclaiming it’s awesome on Twitter, I hadn’t given it that much thought. Intrigued by such high praise I moved it up my ‘tbr’ pile and as soon as I started I could see what she meant. I was hooked right away.

What sets Ashes apart from the many dystopian novels about at the minute is how it’s not set in some time in the future, it’s right here and now and the threat is very real. Alex is going about her life, in a somewhat state of despair, when pow. It all changes. As said in the blurb, this world really could be ours at any moment and the book drives home how precarious life is.

Ilsa J Bick portrays a stark and brave account of survival. Alex is in a position where she believes her life is pretty much over already, yet still the instinct to survive kicks in and she’s a fantastically sympathetic heroine. I love how Bick makes her strong, determined, resourceful and compassionate character, yet still has flaws. She isn’t always likable, but she is always real and you’re able to understand her easily. Sometimes she comes across as harsh, particularly in the beginning with eight year old Ellie, but this just gives her an honesty and humanness. I’m sure under the circumstances I’d be pretty irritated at times too.

I adored the relationship between Alex, Ellie and Tom and how together they made a unit. If i had one complaint about the book it would be that I’d have liked to have seen more development of it. There seemed to be a big jump of several weeks at one point which may have affected the intensity of Alex and Tom’s bond a little for me, but that is just a minor complaint.

Ashes is an edge of your seat horror, with threats around every corner for it’s main characters. People were either spared, killed or changed in the electromagnetic pulse, and those who changed now want to eat those who survived. I’ve never really found zombies believable before, but Ilsa J Bick makes them so. They’re like feral, wild animals rather than lumbering brainless lumps of dead meat. Terrifying. But even more frightening is that the other threat comes from those who survive, as it becomes every person for themselves. I also thought the society of Rule, were Alex finds refuge from the outside world, was genius and sinister. There really is so many dynamics to this story it’s a roller coaster from beginning to end.


Not everything is explained in Ashes, in fact I’d say it throws up more questions than answers and leaves on a huge cliffhanger that left me desperate for the next book in the trilogy. This is one I’ll certainly be following, there is so much more to discover and I can’t wait to see what happens for Alex next.




Published by Quercus UK September 2011
Thanks to publishers for providing a copy for review.