#BlogTour #BookReview – The Woman I Was Before by Kerry Fisher ( @Bookouture @KerryFSwayne )

A new home can be a happy ending. Or a fresh start. Or a hiding place…

Of all the emotions single mother Kate Jones feels as she walks into her brand new house on Parkview Road, hope is the most unexpected. She has changed her name and her daughter’s, and moved across the country to escape the single mistake that destroyed their lives.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the street starting afresh. Warm, whirlwind Gisela with her busy life and confident children, and sharp, composed Sally, with her spontaneous marriage and high-flying career, are the first new friends Kate has allowed herself in years. While she can’t help but envy their seemingly perfect lives, their friendship might help her leave her guilt behind.

Until one day, everything changes. Kate is called to the scene of a devastating car accident, the consequences of which will test everything the women thought they knew about each other, and themselves.

Can Kate stop her own secrets from unravelling, or was her hope for a new life in vain?

From the bestselling author of The Silent Wife, The Woman I Was Before is a book about the things we hide from those closest to us – and the terrible consequences that keeping those secrets can have. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain. 

Published 22nd March 2019 by Bookoutre 

~ Review ~

I seem to be making a habit of reading new to me authors recently and so far not one has been a disappointment. In fact I loved this book so much, Kerry Fisher has gone straight onto my must read authors list.

The Woman I Was Before tells the story of three different women, who all move into a new housing developement around the same time. Kate is a single mother to teen Daisy, and running from her past. Sally has an extremely successful career , but feels something is missing in her marriage. Gisele seems to have the perfect life – a happy marriage, two teenagers with promising futures and enough money to fund her taste for luxurious shopping – but behind the perfect family image she portrays on social media things are unraveling.

What I absolutely loved about the this book was that despite the three women all being very different, from each other and myself, I found them so utterly relatable.  This is a very honest depiction of family life from three different view points, referencing the image we portray on social media and the truth behind that image. I know I’m not alone to have felt jealousy and inadequacy when looking at posts on facebook – and I’m guilty myself of presenting the one photo where everyone is smiling between the arguments and general drudgery of daily life. Who hasn’t? Kerry Fisher expertly uses this obsession we have with perfection and self doubt created by social media to tell the story of these women.

Each has a secret they’re hiding, and all were fascinating, relevant and believable. I was drawn to Kate the most, whose secret remains a mystery for most of the book. I desperately wanted to know what she was running from, what she had done that was so bad. Her story is the most heartbreaking, yet hopeful and inspiring and I loved seeing how she developed throughout the book.

I also really enjoyed the fact that the woman where all a similar age to myself (between late thirties and early forties) meaning that their problems, feelings and insecurities where ones I also recognised. Again, the author captured this perfectly and by the end of the book I felt these characters where people I knew, could be living on my own street – even seeing myself once or twice.

There’s some heavy themes in this book, which Kerry Fisher deals with sensitively, but there’s also dashes of wit and humour at times which I really enjoyed. I had absolutely no expectations when I went into this book, but after spending a few hours in the company of her characters, I know I’ll be looking out for more from this author in the future. Written with empathy, warmth and searing honesty, The Woman I Read Before is a fantastic book which will make you cry and smile in equal measures. Perfect.

I read an advance ebook courtesy of the publisher and netgalley

TWIWB BT

#BookReview – Absolutely Smashing It by Kathryn Wallace

“SAM! AVA! Get downstairs, NOW. Have you done your TEETH? HAIR? SHOES? Come on, come on, come on, we’re going to be bastarding late again. No, I haven’t seen Lego Optimus Prime, and nor do I give a shit about his whereabouts. Sam, will you stop winding your sister up and take this model of the Shard that I painstakingly sat up and created for you last night so that I wouldn’t be in trouble with your teacher. I mean, so that you wouldn’t be in trouble with your teacher. No, it doesn’t smell of ‘dirty wine’. Well, maybe it does a little bit. Look, Sam, I haven’t got time to argue. Just hold your nose and get in the car, okay? AVA! TEETH! HAIR! SHOES!”

Gemma is only just holding it together – she’s a single parent, she’s turning 40 and her seven-year-old daughter has drawn a cruelly accurate picture which locates Gemma’s boobs somewhere around her knees. So when her new next-door neighbour, Becky, suggests that Gemma should start dating again, it takes a lot of self-control not to laugh in her face.

But Becky is very persuasive and before long Gemma finds herself juggling a full-time job, the increasingly insane demands of the school mums’ Facebook group and the tricky etiquette of a new dating world. Not only that, but Gemma has to manage her attraction to her daughter’s teacher, Tom, who has swapped his life in the City for teaching thirty six to seven year olds spelling, grammar, basic fractions – and why it’s not ok to call your classmate a stinky poo-bum…

It’s going to be a long year – and one in which Gemma and Becky will learn a really crucial lesson: that in the end, being a good parent is just about being good enough. 

Published 7 March 2019 by Sphere (UK) 

~ Review ~ 

I’ve read some emotional and heartbreaking books recently, loving every single word of them, but definitely ready for something a bit lighter. So Absolutely Smashing It was a timely read for me, being one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time.

I’m well known for loving a good old sob, and to be honest, it doesn’t take much to make me cry. But laughing is another matter – maybe I’m just waaaay too serious, but it’s rare for a book that promises to have me laughing out loud to actually achieve that. But Kathryn Wallace’s debut did just that within the first few pages. Warm, witty and genuinely comedic (while being scarily true!), her depictions of the chaos in the life of working single mum, Gemma’s, less than perfect life were at once funny and scarily recognisable!

I connected with this lovable, scatty character immediately, having been a single parent to two myself for a good few years. The book begins with Gemma preparing for back to school after the summer holidays, having left everything until the last minute. YES! this is me, despite my best intentions, somehow six weeks rush by in the blink of an eye. Last year we had the great school skirt disaster, where there was literally nothing that would be in anyway decent left ANYWHERE. I was also giggling in recognition at a sleepless night spent constructing the model set as homework while a forgetful child slept peacefully.

i also loved the relationship between Gemma and Becky, which devolpes when Becky moves in next door. Where Gemma is struggling to balance work and raise a family, Becky is finding life as a stay at home mum and wife difficult and is desperate to get back to work. The two characters bounce of each other, and despite the humour, the author manages to capture the challenges and pressures of raising children and being a mother whether you work or stay home, or whether you’re a single or married.

Kathryn Wallace has created some very endearing characters, and I defy anyone not to fall in love with Gemma’s crazy and unique daughter Ava or wish for a Mr Jones as their own child’s teacher. Absolutely Smashing It is a fun, thoroughly enjoyable book, effortless to read and perfect for those times when you just want sheer entertainment and a book to make you laugh out loud.  I absolutely LOVED it.

(I read an advance proof copy courtesy of the publisher)

 

#BookReview – The Flight Of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliot Wright

What has happened to Cornelia Blackwood?
She has a loving marriage. But she has no friends.
Everyone knows her name. But no one will speak to her now.
Cornelia Blackwood has unravelled once before. Can she stop it from happening again?
 
From a supremely talented storyteller, The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood is a powerful novel of motherhood, loss and loneliness and how we can make damaging choices when pushed to our emotional edge. A paperback bestseller with her debut novel, The Things We Never Said, and nominated for an RNA Award in 2014, Susan Elliot Wright has written a truly important novel that explores the dark depths of psychosis with honesty and sensitivity. 

Published February 2019 by Simon and Schuster UK 

~ Review ~ 

Sometimes you just know, after only a couple of sentences, that you are reading something special that’s going to stay with you a long time. The Flight Of Cornelia Blackwood was one such book, and by the end of the first page I was in love with Susan Elliot Wright’s writing and emotionally entangled in the life of it’s lead character, Leah (Cornelia)

It begins with a scene of a broken woman, shunned by neighbours and her local community and struggling with obvious physical health complaints and hints at a deeper psychological trauma. It then shifts to a few years previous where Leah’s life is very different – she’s young, in love and about to embark on creating the family she and her soulmate husband so desire. I was immediately drawn in – what had happened to Leah to make her the person she was now and what had she done to ostracise herself from the people around her?  As chapters switch from Then and Now, we learn the tragic story of Leah’s recent past while watching her car crash present lead to unavoidable catastrophe.

This is a dark tale, and Leah is a tragic character whose story is truely heartbreaking. Yet the compassion and empathy she is written with is so acute, that the reader is with her every step of the way, sympathising and understanding her, crying for her and hoping for her. Even when her choices are bad and clearly doomed, I got it. Leah really did get right under my skin.

Postpartum psychosis is a topic that isn’t really talked about. I’ve had two children myself, yet can’t remember ever hearing about it during anti or pre-natal care. In The Flight Of Cornelia Blackwood, the author tackles the subject with sensitivity and care, while drawing attention to a little discussed condition that could effect any woman who gives birth. The same level of care and dignity is afforded to Leah’s tragic losses and grief.  This is an incredibly emotional and moving book, I defy anyone not to be moved to tears.

Yet there are some outstandingly beautiful and uplifting moments in this book – in Leah’s early days with her husband, in her love for a small child she befriends. it’s pure and tender and written so eloquently, I could feel Leah’s joy at those moments. This is a book that will make you feel many, many emotions. I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it and once I’d finished it stayed in my mind for days after. It is, without doubt, up there among one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years and I’ll be reading more from this author very soon. I can’t recommend this book enough.

I read an early proof copy courtesy of the publisher.

 

#BookReview – The Wife’s Shadow by Cath Weeks

From one of Elle magazine’s ‘authors to watch’ comes a twisty, suspenseful and emotionally fraught novel about how little we really know the person we marry. For fans of The Affair and Dr Foster.

Every woman has a secret…

Everyone admires Suzy and her doll’s house life. She has a gorgeous family, a beautiful home and a successful business. But Suzy hasn’t always been in control. In her past lies a shadowy tale of fear and instability – a life that she once ran away from, and has hidden from ever since.

When Suzy starts being followed, she fears that her past may finally be catching up on her. And when she finds herself unable to do what to her is the most important thing – keep her loved ones safe – she has to decide how far she’d be willing to go to win everything back.

Even if it means sacrificing everything she knows and loves..

Published in Ebook – September 2018/ Paperback- March 2019 by Little Brown (UK)

~ Review ~  

When I was invited to read The Wife’s Shadow on Netgalley I’ll admit to not knowing all that much about it. I was swayed by the gorgeous cover though and the premise of a perfect life being not quite as it seems. And actually, I was very pleasantly surprised, because The Wife’s Shadow ended up being quite different to how I expected it, but in a good way.

The book begins when Suzy starts to notice strange things linking to her childhood in a town many miles away – a packet of red cigarette papers, a leaflet for a local event and an old toy. All of them pretty mundane but incredibly significant to Suzy. Convinced someone is following her and trying to scare her, she sets off to find out what really happened all those years ago. But knowing the truth doesn’t bring Suzy peace of mind as she starts to feel she is loosing control of her life and sanity. Is it the ghosts of the past who are haunting Suzy or is there something more sinister at play in her present.

Right from the beginning, I was gripped by this book. I loved how an uneasy feeling was built as Suzy becomes increasingly confused by what’s happening. The decline of Suzy’s apparent mental stability is expertly done, as she transforms from  strong, controlled and assured to weak, anxious and uncertain. It’s all very subtle and leaves the reader wondering what’s really going on or is it all in Suzy’s mind?

I thought the flashbacks to her past were very good, slowly building a picture of a troubled childhood and an impending sense of doom that something awful is going to happen. Cath Weeks tackles the difficult topic of domestic violence, and the impact on children who witness it, sensitively. The glimpses of her childhood also allow the reader to understand Suzy’s actions and behavior in the present, making her easy to sympathise with, even while doubting her reliability.

The cover and the synopsis scream psychological thriller, and yes there is a strong element of suspense. But this book isn’t just about the big twists, it’s is also a strong character study, of a woman who’s suffered childhood trauma, manipulation, betrayal and is struggling to let go of her past. Suzy was a character I was really rooting for by the end. There’s a lot packed into this book, and I wondered how all the threads were going to tie together and I wasn’t disappointed when they did. If you like a more subtle psychological read with a strong lead character and complex layers, then I would recommend THE WIFE’S SHADOW without hesitation.

(I read an advance ebook edition courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley)

 

#BookReview – If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

Published  21st February 2019 by Orion Books (UK) 

~ Review ~ 

Oh wow. I don’t even know where to start with this review. It’s taken me all morning just to get started and I’ve deleted and started again a zillion times. So forgive me but I’m going to gush. THIS BOOK IS BEAUTIFUL! From the cover (I mean, Look at it!) to the gorgeously tender, heartbreaking and touching story inside – BEAUTIFUL.

I was lucky enough to discover Hannah Beckerman five years ago when I was sent a signed copy of her debut novel The Dead Wife’s Handbook (Which I reviewed HERE) and so was eager to read her long awaited second novel. And I was not disappointed.

If Only I Could Tell You is a story of a fractured family, a decades old rift and secrets that have never been shared. Audrey’s daughters Jess and Lily haven’t spoken since childhood and now thirty years later, with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Audrey is determined she will bring them together before she dies.

I love Hannah’s incredibly honest and raw writing, she captures the very essence of humans. In If Only I Could Tell You, fear of the truth and a desire to shield and protect leads to half truths and misunderstandings. How often do we make presumptions without fully understanding the truth? How easy is it to let weeks, months, years slip by, the longer that passes, the harder it is to reconnect. How many of us have looked back and thought “if only”?  I could relate to so many of the emotions and questions raised in this book, as I’m sure most people will.

The book is told in chapters from all three women – Audrey as she faces the end of her life, reflects on the past and yearns to reunite her daughters. Lily, who appears to have it all – success, poise and a need to be very much in control.  And Jess, who refuses to tell Audrey just why she can’t forgive her sister. The reader really feels as if they get know each woman and understands what drives them.

Interspersed are flashbacks to the past  and a slowly revealed secret that will both shock and break your heart. I was so unprepared for the truth, it took my breath away, had tears streaming down my face and my daughter asking if I was ok with great concern. This book tackles subjects of such sadness and grief, yet it is so beautifully and thoughtfully written, it truly is breathtaking at times. And despite the sadness, there comes an uplifting air and I ended it with a smile through the tears and a sigh of hope.

I read If Only I Could Tell You over an afternoon, where I had so many other things I should’ve been doing but could not bare to tear myself away. I was fully immersed in the three women’s lives and mesmorised as the tragic and touching story unfolded.  I genuinely can not recommend this book enough and already know it’s going to feature highly on my books of 2019 list.

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

 

 

 

Book Review: The Last Piece Of My Heart by Paige Toon

Meet Bridget, a successful travel journalist with ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog into a novel. But, after numerous rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition: Nicole Dupre died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel, and the family need someone to finish it. Bridget is just thankful to have her foot in the publishing door. But as she gets to know Nicole’s grieving family, and the woman behind the writing, Bridget’s priorities begin to change …  

Published 18th May by Simon & Schuster (UK)  

This book was absolutely perfect for me as I read it. I’ve had a rubbish week and I just wanted something warm, something to get involved in and make me smile. With a cast of characters to fall in love with, stunning settings and a romance to melt your heart, I got everything I wished for. Definitely a seven second hug – this book hit every spot.

Thirty something travel writer Bridget has had an eventful love life up to now as she easily falls in love time and time again. When she comes up with the idea of catching up with her ex-boyfriends and asking for the pieces of her heart she gave them, while blogging about her journey, she hopes to convince her agent that this will make a great novel. What she’s not expecting is to be offered a job as a ghostwriter, to finish the sequel of popular novelist Nicole Dupre. But the job comes with decisions – Nicole’s grieving husband insists she must move to Cornwall to fully immerse herself in Nicole’s ideas and inspiration. As Bridget finds herself living in her Dad’s camper van and tiptoeing about Nicole’s home and bereaved family, she’s not convinced she made the right decision at first. But she’s about to discover she still has a piece of her heart left to give away – and she couldn’t be more surprised by the person who eventually takes it.

I LOVED Bridget. She’s fun, witty, and slightly bonkers with a huge heart filled with compassion. I’d love to have a friend like Bridget – I don’t think you’d ever be bored in her company and she’s completely endearing without being overbearingly sweet. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, and can laugh at herself and her mistakes which gives her an added charm. I was rooting for this character all the way.

I guessed where The Last Piece Of My Heart was going pretty early on, but this didn’t make the journey there any less enjoyable. The developing romance and relationship in this book is beautifully observed, so that the reader feels the increasing tension as it happens. It’s a building romance, which develops slowly and is entirely believable given the difficult circumstances surrounding it. Awkward and messy combined with touching and tender ensures that you can’t help but get behind it. There’s some difficult themes of grief, loss and moving on covered, and I felt Paige Toon did so sensitively and thoughtfully.  I also lost a little piece of my heart reading this book, courtesy of a very special little character!

 I was bowled over by the heartfelt and honest writing which drew me in and connected me to these characters, becoming as invested in their lives as if I knew them myself … that’s how real and credible they were. As for the setting, well it couldn’t have been anymore perfect, and had me yearning to visit Cornwall. With Bridget’s intriguingly quirky blog writing research lending lighter, laugh out loud moments, The Last Piece Of My Heart lead me on a roller-coaster of emotions, ending with one huge, soppy smile. I absolutely loved this warm, gorgeous, feel-good book and can’t fault a thing.

(I read an advanced proof courtesy of the publisher)

Book Review: The Many Colours Of Us by Rachel Burton

My dearest daughter
This will be the last letter I write to you. I hope she will let you read this one. I hope she will let you ask questions and hear the story you need to hear. The story of you. And if she doesn’t I hope that one day you will get curious, wonder where you came from and come and find me.

Called to a lawyers office to be informed of an inheritance, Julia Simmonds, discovers she’s the secret love-child of the late, great artist Bruce Baldwin. With temperamental seventies supermodel Philadelphia Simmonds as a mother, Julia is used to drama, but is completely unprepared for the way her life is about to irrevocably change.

Bruce not only left Julia his house, but as she discovers, her father wrote to her. One letter every year of her life, urging Julia to learn from his mistakes.

It is finally time for Julia to dig deep into her mysterious past and take control of her future, but as more secrets and lies are uncovered, she must find the courage to follow her dreams… 
Published by HQ Digital 26th April 2017 

I make no secret of the fact that I’m an emotional reader, drawn to books that are likely to result in a lump in my throat and a quiet sniffle into a tissue (while my 12 year old exclaims “are you crying again?”) and that’s what attracted me to The Many Colours Of Us in the first place. It sounded like an emotional read, with letters from the past revealing a life changing secret. Just my cup of tea.

The story centers on main character, Julie. A woman in her early thirties and somewhat adrift having dated the same guy for a decade, without taking the next step of living together, working an office job she hates and renting the spare bedroom in her friends dilapidated house. But Julia’s life is about to change – she’s just discovered her father was a successful and respected artist and she’s the sole heir of his entire estate.

So girl stuck in a rut, finds riches and all is well – right? Well, yes but not exactly, because The Many Colours Of Us has more depth than that, and the added touch of letters, wrote annually on Julia’s birthday draw a more complex and human story of mistakes, regret and an innate fear of rejection. Her father’s absence in her childhood is a case of leaving something so long, it’s becomes almost impossible to know how to dare to change things. Bruce’s letters provoked mixed feelings in me – anger, frustration and yet, some sympathy too.  Similarly, Julia’s mum has acted in a credibly human way by being both selfish and selfless. There’s blame on both sides and I couldn’t help feel that someone at some point in the past just needed to bang the two of their heads together. Both being celebrities and famous though, I felt the people around them had probably pandered to them rather than been honest with them.

I really liked the character of Julia though, she’s far nicer than I ever would’ve been – a genuinely warm, understanding and thoughtful person and it was easy to root for her. There’s a real feeling of self discovery from this character, as she not only finds out about her father, but gains confidence in herself having been overshadowed by her glamorous mother. I also enjoyed the slowly simmering romance between herself and solicitor Edwin, which was tender rather than passionate.

With some more lighthearted moments – usually from Julia’s mother, Philadelphia (who quite frankly wouldn’t have looked out of place on the set of Ab Fab) and exuberant Italian cafe owner, Marco, The Many Colours Of Us was a delight to read. I read it on a lazy Sunday morning and it would be perfect for those times when all you want is a relaxing book to while away some hours peacefully. It had emotion, entertainment and romance with an interesting cast of characters and a plot that allowed the right amount of intrigue to keep me reading. I really enjoyed the time spent in Julia’s world and left it feeling satisfied and hopeful for her future, and with a big smile on my face.

(I read an advance Ebook edition courtesy of Netgalley)