Book Review – Time to Say Goodbye by S D Robertson

Time to Say Goodbye

 

A heart-rending story about the unique bond between a father and his daughter, for fans of JOJO MOYES and JOHN GREEN

HOW DO YOU LEAVE THE PERSON YOU LOVE THE MOST?

Will Curtis’s six-year-old daughter, Ella, knows her father will never leave her. After all, he promised her so when her mother died. And he’s going to do everything he can to keep his word.

What Will doesn’t know is that the promise he made to his little girl might be harder to keep than he imagined. When he’s faced with an impossible decision, Will finds that the most obvious choice might not be the right one.

But the future is full of unexpected surprises. And father and daughter are about to embark on an unforgettable journey together . . .

Thank you to Avon and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

If you had the chance to say goodbye to someone you love, would you actually be able to do it?

I’m very emotional this time of year anyway, and I should have guessed from the above description that I may be in need of several boxes of Kleenex. I wasn’t wrong.

By the time I got to the end of the first chapter, I was a wreck. I could hardly see the words through my tears. ‘Oh Lordy’, I thought. Can I really put myself through reading the rest? Do I really need to torture myself with the idea of dying, and not wanting to leave your child alone?

Of course I did.

This book proves that men are entirely capable of writing about emotional subjects (Andy Jones is another writer whose work I adore). It is beautifully written, with well-drawn characters with their own complexities, from the protagonist Will and his sweet daughter Ella, to Will’s parents.

The concept of grief is handled sensitively, and with much needed humour at times. I could picture Will throwing himself against a wall over and over again in an attempt to pass through it.

It makes the reader think about life beyond death, and what would happen to those left behind should we be able to hang around to watch. The frustrations in not being able to get through to our loved ones, to the helplessness and fear that we are not doing the best thing for them if we do.

It is also a story of the unique bond between father and daughter, as Will has brought Ella up as a single parent after Ella’s mother died some years before. It is both heart-rending and heart-warming as we see how a father can influence his daughter’s life.

Fantastic story. Even for soppy people like me.

 

 

 

Book Review – Fractured by Clar Ni Chonghaile

Fractured

Peter Maguire has been kidnapped in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. He does not know where he is or what is going to happen to him. The journalist is filled with fear and, as the days go by, this dread of the unknown is shot through with remorse for the mistakes of his past. Peter’s mother Nina comes to Somalia to wait for her son’s release. His plight forces her to relive another trauma—the fatal shooting in Liberia of Shaun Ridge, a young photographer she once loved, and Peter’s real father. Abdi, a Somali teenager working with Peter’s captors strikes a tenuous friendship with the prisoner based on a shared feeling of captivity. He decides to help Peter escape. Together they set off into the barren vastness of a land filled with danger. Three people must journey into one of the world’s most dangerous places, the human mind, to answer the question: are we ever truly free?

I received an ARC from the published Legend Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This book is not my usual genre of chick lit or women’s fiction. But it appealed to me because it is so relevant today, in this sad world of extremism and violence. And I have to confess to loving TV series such as 24 and Strike Back.

The story is told from three points of view – Peter, the hostage, his mother, Nina and Abdi, torn by his beliefs. Each of them goes through their own personal hell, whether physical or mental, and we learn how dire circumstances can lead to change for the better.

The descriptive language is beautiful, immersing the reader in the claustrophobic terror of Peter’s kidnapping and his ‘fear that someone, somewhere, has a pair of scissors poised over the fabric of my existence’. We learn of his flaws, his inability to commit fully to a woman and accept anything but monetary responsibility for his own son.

We learn about Nina, and her sadness at having pushed her son away for so many years because of his father, and her determination to get him back.

And finally Abdi, the Somali teen who has his own personal tragedies to deal with, who risks his own life to assist the journalist.

The story is full of peril and observations of life in war-torn Africa, descriptions of its people, both the innocent and the fundamentalists. There is a climatic scene which had me holding my breath, my eyes open wide with fear and excitement. If this doesn’t make it to either the small screen or cinema, I’ll be very surprised.

Fractured is an intense, emotional gut-wrencher of a novel which delves beneath the physical struggles at its heart.

Fractured is published by Legend Press on February 1st 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Snowed in For Christmas by Claire Sandy

Snowed in For Christmas

Asta’s plane touches down in Ireland as the first flakes of snow begin to settle. As the weather worsens, it turns what should be a flying visit into a snowed-in Yuletide with her chaotic family.

Asta fled her childhood village years ago, with a secret hidden deep within her. That secret is now a feisty sixteen-year-old – Kitty – who’s keen to meet her long-lost relatives. It seems there are many family mysteries waiting to be unwrapped, along with the presents under the tree…

Missing the man she left behind in London, yet drawn to a man she meets in Ireland, Asta is caught in an emotional snowstorm.

Maybe this Christmas Asta will find a cure for her long-broken heart?

I’m not known for my generous Christmas Spirit… unless it’s found in a bottle of Gin (I’m not really an alcoholic. I’m not.). The mass commercialisation of the ‘holiday’ season (ugh how I hate the Americanism – it’s bloody Christmas!) saddens me, articles screaming about the perfect Christmas Dinner (which I’ll cook without all the palaver of making my own Pigs in Blankets); the perfect presents to buy (if you have got an endless budget) and the happy family get-togethers (it’s always us who does the hosting). I’m not a total Grinch. I even dressed up as Mother Christmas at work (‘Ho bloody Ho!’) for the Secret Santa rigmarole.

So I’ve never been particularly drawn to reading Christmas novels, fearing that reading them would send my blood glucose levels soaring to dangerous levels, but when one of my newly-discovered favourite authors published hers, I was (begrudgingly) enticed…

Argh and I’m so glad I read Snowed in at Christmas, so I am! Heart-warming without being sickly sweet, there’s a bite to the story that prevents it from being slush (pun intended). I was so fully immersed in the Looney family I started going round talking with an Oirish accent (which really annoyed my Irish friend) and made me really really want to go and live in a pub in a tiny Irish village.

I loved the feisty Asta, who travels home reluctantly for a story for her boss, who she is in love with. Secrets unfold as we get to know the aptly-named Looney family. It’s full of colourful characters, from the hard-working Mammy of the family, to the smooth brother-in-law, and a very sexy priest. Not to mention the mysterious outsider who threatens to wreak havoc with Asta’s emotions…

OK Claire, you won me over!

 

Waiting for You by Catherine Miller

Waiting for YouWaiting for You is an emotional and gripping debut novel you won’t be able to put down…

You’d never guess that Fliss Chapron doesn’t have it all

All Fliss wants is to see two blue lines telling her she is pregnant with her much longed for second baby. But as the negative tests stack up, dreams of completing her perfect family feel more hopeless every day.

After years of disappointment, Fliss’s husband Ben is spending more time at the office than in their marital bed, and Fliss finds herself wondering who could be responsible for their inability to conceive another child. Yet, where do you lay the blame when it comes to having a child – and can anyone really be at fault…

As Ben becomes increasingly distant, Fliss begins to question whether her desire for a baby is just a sticking plaster to save her marriage. Because in the end, how well can you ever know another person…even the man you’re married to?

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Waiting for You will be published on ebook on 10th March 2016. You can pre-order it from Amazon (other retailers may be available…).

I started reading this with some trepidation, as my baby-making days are most definitely over (four is plenty thank you very much!), and I felt I had kind of moved on from stories about pregnancy etc. And to start with, I sighed thinking it was going to be the story of a woman’s desperation to have another baby. Which believe me, I can sympathise with, having been in that situation myself, but as I said, I was over it.

But Waiting for You is so much more.

Yes, Fliss wants another baby, and at the beginning, that is the only thing that will make her happy. But her husband (who is a selfish prick) doesn’t share her hopes and dreams, for reasons revealed later on (don’t worry, I don’t do spoilers.)

I soon warmed to Fliss’s character, learning there was so much more to her than her desperation. I loved the way she is plagued by guilt over feelings she knows she shouldn’t be having, but despite this going against the grain for some romance novelists, it is handled with delicacy.

The secondary characters are very well written; the lovely Ange, who is in a similar predicament to Fliss, the lovely Leon (is it normal to want to rip a fictional book character’s clothes off??) and the husband Ben. (Husbands tend not to fare well in fiction, do they? Poor Ben. The W*nker). Oh and the despicable, thoroughly dislikeable Carrie.

The interaction between the characters is believable and engaging. Only a few pages in, and I couldn’t stop reading, having found myself involved in Fliss’s story and eager to find out what happened next. And that was despite having to read it on my phone (my poor, poor Kindle died recently). That’s how good it is.

 

 

 

 

These Days of Ours by Juliet Ashton

These Days of Ours

A novel about love. Raw important love. Small, beautiful love. And what happens when the person you love cannot be yours… Perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman, Jane Green and David Nicholls.

Kate and Becca are cousins and best friends. They have grown up together and shared all the most important milestones in their lives: childhood birthday parties, eighteenth birthdays, and now a wedding day as they each marry their childhood sweethearts, Charlie and Julian.

Kate has always loved Charlie – they were meant to be. Then she discovers that life never turns out quite how you expect it to. And love doesn’t always follow the journey it should.

But best friends are forever, and true love will find a way, won’t it…?

Look at this cover. It’s so pretty! It gives me hope that Spring is just around the corner, and we can leave this miserable month behind…

I was lucky enough to receive a signed ARC from the publisher (thank you, SJ, you wonderful woman, you!) in exchange for an honest review. (though obviously I never do dishonest reviews – that would miss the point ha ha!).

Their story is told through milestone events, and we learn how true love sometimes can be so frustratingly out of synch, keeping apart two people who should so be together. They’d never make good musicians; their timing is so off!

The characters are drawn perfectly. I loved Kate, with her passion for her job and her desire to be the perfect wife, and her relationship with her father. Becca, I found for the most part to be infuriating and narcissistic, but underneath her breezy facade beats a heart of gold, even if her intents are misguided at times. And Charlie… oh how I am in love with Charlie! Though I did want to slap him at times…

I can’t wait to read more by Juliet Ashton. I was drawn in from the beginning, and laughed and cried with the characters. There’s great storytelling in this book, and the scene with the unconventional dinner table is just simply hysterical. I loved it!

The fact that Kate and Charlie have managed to stay friends throughout their lives is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. It just goes to show, sometimes true love does work itself out.

These Days of Ours is due for publication on Kindle on 1st March 2016 and paperback 7th April 2016, but for anyone desperate to get their hands on it before then there is a giveaway on Goodreads. I highly recommend it!

7th January

 

So it’s the 7th January. Again. And it’s grey and miserable outside, and I am grey and miserable inside. Actually that’s not quite true.  Inside me there is a storm of massive proportions taking place, my emotions battling the elements in a maelstrom of grief, loss and anger.

It’s 17 years ago today that my sister was ripped from our lives. She was 18. Next year, she will have been dead as long as she lived. That seems inconceivable to me.

(We lie, you know. We lie to save your feelings. We lie to comfort you; we tell you ‘Time heals’. Well it fucking doesn’t).

Please excuse my melodrama. I am not trying to elicit sympathy from you. Just an acknowledgement that anger is a part of grief. And whilst grief does lessen to a certain extent over time, there is always the danger that it can erupt at any time. After being fairly dormant over the last few years, last night my personal volcano erupted, spewing forth hot lava of bitterness and loss. Anger that she’s gone. That we never got to wave her off to university, or see her excelling in a career. That I will never have nieces or nephews; that my children will never have the cousins they so envy their friends for. That yet again I feel that my sister’s death is such a huge defining part of who I am.

I know I am being self-indulgent. I am not the only one to lose someone. It happens all the time.

But I am so fucking angry.

I don’t know what has caused this particular reaction this year. Perhaps it was the loss of an old family friend last week, or the long walk down a hospital corridor yesterday with a friend, but I don’t think so. The volcano of grief can erupt at any time, or be set off by the smallest spark.

My husband is brilliant; supporting me and comforting me as he does, despite his own volcano which could itself erupt (it’s his mum’s anniversary next week). My kids are either unaware of the significance of today’s date or they are tiptoeing around me (sadly they never got to meet their aunt).  So I ask them to bear with me, as I ask you to. Just let me have my tantrum, kicking and screaming, tearfully raging about the unfairness of it all.

I’ll be ok tomorrow.

Broken china

The China Cup

So I have just completed my online writing course, Start Writing Fiction, run by FutureLearn and the Open University. I highly recommend it – they’re running it again in January – and it’s free! ( I did pay for the certificate of Participation at the end, but it isn’t obligatory). Here’s the link if you’re interested.

Over the last 8 weeks, I have learned about characterisation, how a plot can be born from a character, and how to edit. Something I have always hated doing. ‘Tighten it up’, I’ve been told, and haven’t had a clue how. The course culminated in a short story, and we were given no more than 1000 words. By some miracle, I hit that 1000 word limit exactly (after a couple of edits).

Due to the constraints of the limit, I couldn’t delve into Mary’s character too deeply, or her past, or her relationship with her husband. Or indeed what was used in the end. But I think enough is said.

I hope you enjoy reading it – any constructive criticism is welcome!

 

THE CHINA CUP by Vicki Bowles

Mary picks up the broken remains of her cup, careful not to cut herself on the shards of fine china. She tries to match up a piece to the pattern, but there are tiny slivers missing from the letter ‘U’, painted on with such love and care. She smiles wanly, remembering her daughter Megs’s little face, watching as she had unwrapped it from the purple tissue paper, pride and love shining in her enormous green eyes. Mary had drunk from this cup ever since. But now it lies useless in her hands, broken beyond repair. A flash of anger flares in the pit of her stomach, and she carefully wraps the pieces in yesterday’s newspaper and places the package in the bin.
        As she turns away, she catches her reflection in the kitchen window. The darkness outside amplifies the hollows in her cheeks, and casts a shadow across her temple where the latest bruise has already begun to flourish. She picks at a dried trail of blood from her forehead where the mug had smashed into it. She pulls at her greying fringe in an attempt to hide the wound.
        She gazes at the shadow of a woman looking back at her, and a feeling of disgust rises like bile inside her. Anger twists itself insidiously around her gut, branching out and spreading its fingers around her organs. With this anger comes a growing sense of resolve.
        She hears the toilet flush in the bathroom above her, and the heavy footsteps thud against her heart. She steels herself for the sound on the stairs, but it doesn’t come. Instead she hears the rumbling of the shower pump overhead, and she slowly releases the breath she realises she has been holding.
       It’s now or never.
       Mary has had enough of him now. Enough of his continuous eroding of her spirit. She is tired of him taking out his frustrations on her. All these years, he made her think she was worthless. That it was all her fault. That she deserved all he gave her.
      Mary knows now.
      She was not worthless to her daughter, or to her son-in-law and their children – her beloved grandchildren. They have given her purpose in life again. She has a job, where she is valued. Her colleagues enjoy her company, and she theirs; particularly David, the head librarian. She owes him so much. She looks forward to the four hours she spends in the small town library two days a week. She looks forward to the human interaction.
     The children love her reading to them at Story Time. Her help and recommendations are welcomed and appreciated. They plead with her on a weekly basis to do more hours, but Mary smiles and tells them she has other commitments.
     It’s a lie really. She only has one – a great big large lump of a commitment, who gets jealous of her spending time anywhere else than at home, where she should be concentrating on his needs. He doesn’t know about those eight hours.
     But next week she can go into the library and she can tell them she can do more.
     She loves the company, but also of course the books. She loves being surrounded by so many stories, but she has found the doorway to a different life. Since David kindly showed her how to use the library computers and set her up with an internet account, it has changed her. Or rather, it is allowing her to take control of her own life. There is so much information out there; one can learn how to do absolutely anything.   And Mary has.
       After his shower, when he is ensconced in his chair with his laptop, she hands him his mug, which he takes without a word. She waits for him to take a sip, but as he puts the mug to his lips, it stays there, hovering. But Mary remains calm because she knows the inevitable will happen, he will drink eventually.
      And he does. For once the sound of his slurping as he sucks the liquid into his mouth doesn’t bother her, for she knows that she will never hear it again.  He doesn’t notice her regarding him, his eyes fixed on the screen, his pride and joy, his fat fingers clicking incessantly on the mouse beside him. But the click-click-click no longer bothers her.
     Not much longer now.
    She stands in the doorway as he starts to splutter. The spluttering turns into a harsh cough, and his pudgy face turns a violent red as he tries to catch his breath. His rheumy eyes widen as he sees her watching him.
    ‘What have … you done, you …’ He cannot get the words out.
    ‘I’m sorry, Michael. Is your tea too hot?’ she asks.
    The laptop falls to the floor and the mug in his hand shakes, spilling the liquid death onto the carpet.
    ‘Oh now, Michael, don’t you worry about that. The carpet’s due a clean, I have them coming in tomorrow morning. That stain will be gone. Not that you will have to see it, of course.’
     He drops the mug and clutches at his throat, a horrible wheezing sound coming from his foaming mouth.  His lips are puffing up, his whole face inflating. He bangs his hand on the table beside him, wildly gesticulating to his brief-case.
     ‘Ah – your Epi-Pen? Oh I’m sorry dear. Your brief case is locked. I don’t know the combination. You always keep it locked so I don’t find out your secrets.
    His eyes widen in horror, as Mary watches him fighting against the anaphylaxis coursing through his body.
She shakes her head sadly. ‘And I forgot to pick up your spare from the chemists.’
    She kneels on the floor in front of him, and takes his hands in hers. ‘I’m sorry Michael. I’ve just had enough. You are not going to hurt me ever again.’
   And so as his life ends, now hers can begin.

 

 

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