Monday, 31 March 2014

How My Life Became Chaos - Victoria J Brown

About the book...
Kat is pregnant after only being with Max for 6 months. Running her own beauty salon, dealing with her depressed alcoholic father, fighting battles with Max’s mother and facing ex-girlfriends, Kat isn’t sure if having a baby is the right thing to do. Her life feels like one big mess, whatever decision she makes will change her life for ever.
50% of the profits go to the Hope for Holly Charity.

Amazon UK

About the author...

Victoria J. Brown is a chick-lit author. While studying for her MA in Creative Writing she won a short story competition judged by Adele Parks. Although, Victoria holds a MA, she sees herself as a storyteller not a literary writer.
She is passionate about people following their dreams. She has written Annual Inspirational Books which provide daily motivational messages. Also being a qualified wedding planner and Managing Director of Calm Weddings, she has written 3 weddings books. 
Author Links

twitter: @victoriajbrown

My thoughts...
I received an ecopy of the first book in The Chaos Series in exchange for an honest review as part of the Blog Tour organised by Fiction Addiction.

The prologue to this book really sets the scene, a close knit happy family, loving life together, until it all alters with a fatal trip to the fish and chip shop for supper.

My first thoughts was that on the surface of it this was going to be the usual sort of chick lit book with a happy ever after ending. Wrong! Yes, it was an easy, quick read for me but it touched many emotions. I smiled and laughed and felt sad and close to tears at times.

The characters were so well written they were believable from Kat and her clients at her salon right down to her dad, Maureen his friend/carer and Libby her sister.

Emotions run high throughout this book just as they can in real live when you're dealing with births and deaths! Sometimes help and support comes from the unlikeliest places but above all communication, a good pair of ears and a shoulder to cry on is all it takes for Kat to look at the reasoning behind some of her thoughts and actions.

This book delivers a big lesson - sometimes you have to scratch the veneer to get to it but situations and circumstances often dictate how we react and behave when life throws us a curve ball.  What you see isn't always what you get and often behaviour is a mask to disguise true emotions and feelings.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was genuinely gutted when it ended, thank goodness I still have books 2 and 3 to read.  Highly recommend this book to anybody who loves chick lit that goes a bit deeper.

I gave this book 5/5 stars

If You Only Knew - Zanna Mackenzie

About the book...
Faith owns The Coffee Pot in the outdoor adventure sports mecca of Derbyshire’s Peak District. She hasn’t had a man in her life for a while, as she’s been too busy serving cakes to weary rock climbers and mountain bikers to find time for the complications of a relationship with the male of the species.
At least, that’s what she tells herself. The truth is that since she got her heart broken she’s had problems trusting men. 
When she meets Zane, one of the new owners at the Carrdale Extreme Sports Centre, Faith finds herself enjoying his company even though part of her can’t help wondering why he’s so reluctant to talk about himself.
Then the past comes back to haunt her in the shape of Zane’s business partner Matt, who just happens to be the guy who broke Faith’s heart all those years ago. 
With Matt out to cause trouble and Zane keeping secrets Faith’s life is about to get very complicated indeed…

Main buy links for book:
About the author...
Zanna Mackenzie lives on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border with her husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read. 
Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on. She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!
If You Only Knew is Zanna’s third novel; her previous books The Love Programme, and How Do You Spell Love? were both published in 2013.

Author Links
My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book as part of the Fiction Addiction Blog Tour for Zanna Mackenzie's If You Only Knew in exchange for an honest review.

This book wasn't fast paced by any stretch of the imagination but peaked and troughs in all the right places along with the emotion and action.  I was aware of every page for the first couple of chapters but the next time I looked I was a third of the way through the book. The more I read, the more I wanted to read and I did acquire a real empathy for each of the characters.

The story revolves mainly around two characters - Faith, owner of the Coffee Pot cafe who is just so lovely, sweet, kind and caring but at the same time you sense her vulnerability and Zane who comes into her life sparking an instant connection - he's a bloke, he's fit, good looking and the outdoorsy type - arriving in town to open an outdoor pursuit centre. That's all good but he's way too similar to Aaron an ex that hurt Faith badly so she thinks she should really give him a wide berth.

The characters are so well written you can feel the connection but Faith keeps telling herself to pull back - she doesn't want to get her fingers burnt again.  At the same time Zane clearly likes Faith but keeps telling himself to back off as he has a business to set up and run - no time for a relationship.

Enter Matt, Zane's friend and business partner - everything begins to unravel, as an unexpected past connection with Faith emerges - let the battle commence! It is fair to say emotions run high, for all three and events and relationships in their past need facing before any of them can move on and form new, lasting relationships for the future.

This really was a good story that emphasises the need for loyalty, honesty, truth and forgiveness to enable a happy future.  Zanna had me firstly rooting for Faith and Zane. I didn't want to like Matt but I did end up wanting a happy ending for him too.  This was  a real feel good book, the many situations and conversations felt true to life, nothing is ever as simple as it seems on the surface.  As for The Coffee Pot Cafe - how I wish it was real, I could virtually smell the coffee, feel the warmth and friendliness and taste the moist, cake - a job well done there Zanna - I'm drooling again just writing this!

Zanna Mackenzie is an author I've not read before but I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

I gave this book 4/5 stars

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Keep Your Friends Close - Paula Daly

About the author...
Paula Daly was born in Lancashire. Before beginning her first novel JUST WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU? She was a self-employed physiotherapist. She lives in the Lake District with her husband, three children and whippet Skippy. Keep Your Friends Close is her second novel.

About the book...

Natty and Sean Wainwright are happily married. Rock solid in fact. So when Natty's oldest friend, Eve Dalladay, appears - just as their daughter collapses on a school trip in France - Natty has no qualms about leaving Eve with Sean to help out at home.

Two weeks later and Natty finds Eve has slotted into family life too well. Natty's husband has fallen in love with Eve. He's sorry, he tells her, but their marriage is over.

With no option but to put a brave face on things for the sake of the children, Natty embarks on building a new life for herself.

And then she receives the note.

Eve has done this before, more than once, and with fatal consequences...

My thoughts...
I was sent a copy of this novel by Alison Barrow, publicist for Transworld in exchange for an honest review as part of Paula Daly's Blog Tour.

Where do I begin wow!! I truly loved this book it was gripping from almost the first page, so much so that I felt bereft when it had finished. I took this book away with me for the weekend and found it difficult to put down. I hadn't read Paula's first novel but now have it on my kindle ready to devour when I know I have a free afternoon.  If it's anything like this book an odd hour here and there would not suffice - I'd have to read it in one sitting.

Natty and Sean have a good life, happy home and family - everything seems just perfect, except it's not! It's easy to take your eye off the ball in a relationship when you are comfortable with each other and Sean is feeling a bit neglected - something g Natty is completely oblivious to.

When Natty has to run to the bedside of her youngest daughter who's on a school trip to France she thinks nothing of leaving her husband and eldest daughter home with her best friend Eve from Uni - big mistake.

This is a superb psychological thriller that takes us on a journey of love, hurt, anger, manipulation, trust and respect to name just a few of the emotions on display.  Each of the characters were portrayed perfectly and I was fully engaged with them - I don't think I've felt such strong emotions for fictional characters in a long time.

I wanted to slap Eve, shake Sean and sit in a corner rocking with Natty.  Paula's portrayal of each of them was just right - I really felt an emotional attachment to Natty and watching her shrink from being a strong, organised person with clear direction to a gibbering wreck who couldn't think beyond the next five minutes and was being so cleverly manipulated was heart breaking to read.  I just wanted to take her by the shoulders and shock her into calming down so she could think clearly.  I pitied Sean - how weak was he? I disliked him almost as much as I disliked Eve.  As for her -  'bitch'! I really hated her! Hate isn't a good feeling and it really isn't a strong enough emotion for the way I felt about her. 

This book was gripping and made for compulsive reading - I read faster and faster, always a sign of a good book.  I lost myself totally in this book and the fact it was set in a location I know well added extra depth and vision to the book for me - it really brought it alive.  It also made me look closely at my own relationships - do I take my husband and family for granted - probably!  Don't we all! Would I leave my husband home alone with my long standing friend?  Yes, I would without hesitation.  

I would highly recommend this book and have done so already - thank you Paula for hooking me in so well, I've definitely found a new author whose work I shall follow closely.

I gave this book 5/5 stars

Order your copy from Amazon in hardback or for kindle now!

How Not To be Starstruck - Portia Macintosh

Blog Tour
I am so pleased to be part of the GGBooktours tour for Portia Macintosh's full length novel How Not To Be Starstruck and I got the chance to ask Portia a few questions too!  Read on to see what she had to say.

About the book...
Nicole Wilde’s life is one of sell-out gigs, bunking on tour buses, trashing hotels and partying with the band all night long. But she’s not in the band. She is a music journalist, paid to be the world’s greatest groupie– and she loves it! 

Nicole has the party lifestyle — and the hangovers to prove it — but no one stops her in the supermarket on a bad hair day. Until she is papped in an incriminating position with recently married mega-star Dylan King of The Burnouts and the tabloids start hounding her. This isn’t so fun. Especially when her make-up is a mess and she hasn’t yet had a chance to clean her teeth. 

Dylan accuses her of ruining his marriage. His handsome PR agent, Charles, calls her a tart. She has to take gorgeous Luke from Two For the Road to hospital after a drug incident. And she’s dropped her mobile phone in the bath! Too much celebrity lifestyle for one week? Time to slow down and take stock? Maybe for somebody else. But Nicole Wilde is going to come out fighting!

About the author...
When she was fifteen-years-old, Portia MacIntosh fell in with a bad crowd… rockstars.

After disappearing on tour and living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for a few years, Portia landed a job in the music industry  but only so that she didn’t have to join the real world just yet.

Now in her twenties, Portia is ready to spill the beans on the things she has witnessed over the years. Well, kind of. If her famous friends knew that she was borrowing their lives to inspire her fiction, they would stop inviting her on tour and banish her from the inner circle. Then she really would have to rejoin the real world, and she’s still not ready.

Portia only started writing novels to share her secrets, but then she realised she actually quite liked writing  maybe even more than she likes living on a bus with a bunch of smelly boys  and has since tried her hand at writing about other things.

Links to Portia: 

Questions I asked Portia...

You say you got in with a bad crowd-'rockstars’ aged 15 and went on the road for several years — do you regret it at all and if you was 15 yrs old now would you do the same again?

My gut reaction is to say that I would absolutely do it again. I love being around bands and I've had so much fun. But... it has had its side effects. I'm not amazing at real life.

How did your parents cope with your ‘wild’ lifestyle? Did they try to bribe you to conform?

My parents are amazing  especially my mum. They've always been very supportive. It might be my job now, but when I started out it was little more than a hobby. They would pick me up from gigs and TV studios that were miles away from home and one time, after hitching a ride home on a tour bus, my mum made breakfast for everyone  she was so cool. I'm sure there are maybe a few older members of my family who probably think I should be married with kids now I'm heading for my late twenties... 

Describe a typical day on tour with a ‘rockstar’.

Days on tour are always different, but the routine is always the same. You get up when you get up, depending on the night before, and travel through the day. Then you arrive at the venue, do what you need to, go out and explore where you are if you can, then back for sound checks and stuff. After the gig you can guarantee there's going to be a party, whether it's at the venue or a club. Then it's back to hotel or the bus to sleep, and you do it all again the next day.

Who is the most famous ‘rockstar’ you’ve spent time with on tour?

I don't really want to give any names away because I worry people will thing I'm writing about the people I know in real life. I mostly spend time with pop stars and rock bands, it's a good mixture. 

You’re off to a deserted island, which three ‘rockstars’ would you take with you?

Jared Leto, Jon Bon Jovi and Gabe Saporta. Can we make this happen please?

Your new novel is actually the first one you wrote, How Not to be Starstruck was actually written before Between a Rockstar and a Hard Place, so why did you have them published in a different order?

Well, I wrote the prequel to promote my full-length novel, but it doesn't really matter what order you read them in. My publishers wanted to release the prequel first, to get people in the mood for How Not to be Starstruck.

Apart from your experiences on the road, what or who else has inspired you to keep writing?

Whenever I watch or read a story that I love, it makes me want to write. When I started out I just wanted to get my tour stories out there but now I have the urge to write because I love it.

You’re got to take three books to that desert island, which would you take and why?

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath because it's my favourite. Closer by Patrick Marber (if I'm allowed the book of a play) because I love it and A Compromising Position by Carole Matthews, for something that isn't entirely depressing. 

Do you still keep the same hours as a ‘rockstar’ — writing into the wee small hours or do you get up early to write?

I do. I'm still very much in the thick of it, like a double agent. I'm nocturnal.

And finally, which do you prefer — working in the music or literary field?

The music industry is brilliant fun, but the more I write, the more I love it. Music isn't just a job, though. It's a lifestyle. 

Hopefully you've enjoyed reading Portia's answers as much as I have and now you can read her book too!

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Right Side of Mr Wrong - Jane Linfoot

About the book...
One-off, moving on sex wasn’t meant to be this hot…
When determined singleton Shea Summers is persuaded to become the “wife” of the Lord of Edgerton Manor, the last thing she wants to do is play house with a stranger.

Brooding playboy Brando Marshall, is far from happy when Shea turns up at his sprawling estate with production crew in tow. Surely she’s just another woman after his wallet? And if she’s looking for Mr Right, she’s definitely hitting on the wrong guy. Then again, after catching an unscheduled glimpse of her knickers, perhaps Brando needs to teach this “gold-digger” a lesson!

She’s seizing the moment, he’s breaking the rules, and when bad boys can be so much fun, who can resist getting on the right side of Mr. Wrong...

About the author...

I’m Jane Linfoot, and I write fun, flirty fiction, with feisty heroines and a bit of an edge. I live in a mountain kingdom in Derbyshire, England, where my family and pets are kind enough to ignore the domestic chaos – happily, we’re in walking distance of a supermarket. For me, writing romance is cool because I get to wear pretty shoes instead of wellies. I love hearts, flowers, happy endings, all things vintage, most things french. When I’m not on Facebook  and can’t find an excuse for shopping, I’ll be walking, or gardening. On days when I want to be really scared, I ride a tandem.

Connect with Jane Linfoot...

Author Page Facebook:
Twitter: @janelinfoot  

My thoughts...
I was given an ecopy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review which I am more than happy to give.  I loved the sound of the book and the cover is just fabulous, those shoes are to die for - I know a secret about them too, which has stopped me trawling the net for hours looking for them, thank you for sharing Jane.

The main characters Brando and Shea are thrown together by Brando's sister and Shea's friends as part of a tv competition to find Brando a wife! Neither one wants to be there and both are just going through the motions to please everybody until they can both go back to their lives. 

This was one of those books that from the start had me laughing out loud, muttering to myself and blushing - you wouldn't want your mother in law reading over your shoulder - thank god mine's almost blind! Lets just say the lust was evident from their first meeting although both try their best to brush it off.  

Both Brando and Shea had past history that was affecting their behaviour and Jane slowly revealed this as the characters developed. It was lovely reading and watching the characters develop and grow.  But, at times I wanted to shake them both - they couldn't or wouldn't see what was under their noses. Just being around each other they found themselves moving outside their comfort zones doing things and saying things that they hadn't intended.

It was a light, fast paced read for me which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The characters were likeable and real and I found myself caring what happened to them, particularly Brando and willing things to happen before they did - always a good sign!  I'd recommend this to anyone wanting an easy read that delivers a bit of everything, humour, emotion and romance.  Oh and don't forget the 'eye candy'!!

I gave this book 5/5 stars

Buy on kindle now from Amazon

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn - Tilly Tennant

Guest Post  - Blog Tour
I am delighted to welcome Tilly Tennant to my blog as part of  the GGBook Tour for Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn. 

About the author...
Tilly Tennant was born in Dorset but now lives in Staffordshire with her slightly nutty family.  Tilly is married to Mr Tennant (not that one, though a girl can dream). She likes nothing better than curling up in a quiet corner with a glass of wine watching the world go by, but can more usually be found taxiing her daughters to parties or taking them on emergency shopping trips. After a huge list of dismal and disastrous jobs over the years, including paper plate stacking, shop girl, newspaper promotions and waitressing, she began working as a temporary secretary in a hospital to boost her income whilst doing a degree in English and creative writing. This job lasted nine years. Not terribly temporary. But it does mean that she knows just what it’s like to make monumental admin cock-ups, spend the month’s wages in the hospital coffee shop and fall in love with all the doctors. As she’s a smug married, however, it’s fortunate that the doctors in question don’t usually feel the same way.
Tilly is represented by the wonderful, gorgeous Peta Nightingale at LAW.
About the book...
There’s only one man for Bonnie, and that’s Holden Finn. 

The problem is that Holden Finn is a twenty-three-year-old pop megastar with his boy band, Every Which Way, who doesn’t even know she exists. Not only that, but half the women of the world want to be Mrs Finn, including Bonnie’s teenage daughter, Paige. But the real men in Bonnie’s life only let her down, and a man that you can never have can never let you down… right?  

Then Paige wins a radio competition to meet Holden and the band, and Bonnie’s carefully constructed world starts to unravel. She is about to find out that you should be very, very careful what you wish for…

What if your crush crushed back?

Like many teenage girls during the brief but brilliant chart reign of Norwegian popsters, A-ha, I wondered what it would be like to date lead singer, Morten Harket.  Eyes like the crystal clear waters of the fjords, cheekbones cut from Nordic glaciers and hair that seemed to defy gravity, from the moment he reached out of that comic book during the video to Take on Me, I was lost. The first concert I ever went to see was A-ha at the BIC in Bournemouth. My dear old Granddad patiently waited outside in his car the whole time, refusing to leave the venue until he had got me safe back with him.  I can still remember leaving at the end of the night, feeling like something very important had happened on that stage, and that I would never be the same girl again. I certainly learned a lot of new swearwords and some interesting views on sex from the conversations taking place in the crowd around me! 

It was these events (and other many celebrity crushes since) that sparked the idea for Hopelessly Devoted. What if you had this crazy, debilitating crush now, as a much older woman with a normal job and a family to raise?  And what if you didn’t just have a crush on your pop idol, what if you met him? What if he actually liked you too? Where could it go?  Bonnie, the heroine of Hopelessly Devoted, is just that: an ordinary thirty-something woman with a teenage daughter and a mundane shop job who finds herself slap bang in the middle of a very strange turn of events when her daughter, Paige, wins a radio contest to meet the members of the boy band, Every Which Way. Paige has a huge crush on one of the members, Holden. The trouble is, so does Bonnie.  

Follow Tilly Tennant on Twitter @TillyTenWriter or visit her Website Tilly Tennant

Order now from Amazon in either paperback or as an ebook

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Return of Mrs Jones - Jessica Gilmore

Cover Reveal UK & US

I can't tell you how pleased I am to be part of the 'Cover Reveal' organised by Fiction Addiction for both the US and UK version of The Return of Mrs Jones by Jessica Gilmore. I just love them, both speak volumes and I can't wait to read the book. There's a fantastic giveaway with this posting too, read on to find out how you can win a copy of this book.


About the book...
The woman he never forgot…
Of all the places, Lawrie didn't expect to be celebrating her thirtieth birthday in the seaside town where she grew up. And she certainly didn't expect to be celebrating it with her estranged husband, Jonas Jones…. But life is full of surprises. His devastating smile and edgy good looks still have the power to send her heart racing!
Seeing Lawrie again intrigues Jonas—while he hasn't forgiven her, he can't say he's forgotten her, either. And while they may not be teenagers anymore, there's no denying the sparks that still fly between them….
Buy the book from Amazon UK or Harlequin US

About the author...
After learning to read aged just two, Jessica spent every childhood party hiding in bedrooms in case the birthday girl had a book or two she hadn’t read yet. Discovering Mills and Boon on a family holiday Jessica realised that romance writing was her true vocation and proceeded to spend her maths lessons practising her art, creating Dynasty inspired series starring herself and Morton Harket’s cheekbones. Writing for Mills and Boon really is a dream come true!
An ex au pair, bookseller, marketing manager and Scarborough seafront trader selling rock from under a sign that said ‘Cheapest on the Front,'  Jessica now works as a Membership Manager for a regional  environmental charity. Sadly she spends most of her time chained to her desk wrestling with databases but likes to sneak out to one of their beautiful reserves whenever she gets a chance. Married to an extremely patient man, Jessica lives in the beautiful and historic city of York with one daughter, one very fluffy dog, two dog-loathing cats and a goldfish called Bob.
On the rare occasions that she is not writing, working, taking her daughter to activities or tweeting, Jessica likes to plan holidays – and uses her favourite locations in her books. She writes deeply emotional romance with a hint of humour, a splash of sunshine and usually a great deal of delicious food – and equally delicious heroes.
Author Links... Visit her Website or follow her on Twitter @yrosered

To enter the giveaway of a paperback copy of The Return of Mrs Jones, follow Jessica Gilmore on Twitter @yrosered and let her know in the comments below where your ideal place is for a summer romance.  Don’t forget to leave your Twitter name in your comment too!

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Wedding Cake Tree - Melanie Hudson

About the author...
Melanie Hudson was born in Yorkshire in 1971. Her earliest memory is of standing with her sullen brother on the street corner selling her dad's surplus vegetables (imagine The Good Life in Barnsley and you're more or less there). After running away to join the British armed forces in 1994, she experienced a career that took her around the world on some exciting adventures. In 2010 when she returned to civilian life to look after her young son, on a whim, she moved to Dubai where she found the time to write women's fiction. She now lives on a nature reserve in Devon with her quirky son and mad dog. Melanie has an irrational fear of butterflies.

Follow Melanie Hudson on twitter @Melanie_Hudson_ or visit her Website
About the book...
Can a mother’s secret past provide the answers for a daughter’s future?  

When failed opera singer turned style photographer, Grace Buchanan, is ordered by her hippy-chick mother, Rosamund, to drop everything for two weeks and travel the British Isles with a mysterious stranger – war-weary Royal Marine Officer, Alasdair Finn - she is more than a little surprised; after all, her mother has been dead for six months…   

At the reading of the will, Grace discovers that Rosamund kept the life she lived before Grace was born a secret. That secret is now to be revealed to Grace in the form of seven letters, written by her mother, just before she died. Entranced by the British landscape and caught in a brief but perfect moment in time, Grace and Alasdair travel to four enchanting locations, walk in Rosamund’s footsteps, scatter her ashes, and read a letter at each one.       

What follows is an emotional, fun-filled, and adventurous journey of a lifetime, on which Grace slowly uncovers the truth about Rosamund’s incredible life story, leading both Grace and Alasdair to question their futures and address their own secret demons from the past. 

But can Rosamund’s puppeteering from the grave alter life’s course for Grace, or will things take an unexpected turn?

My thoughts....
I had an e-copy of this book from in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give. 

I started this book intending to read a little bit with a coffee and literally didn't stop until I'd finished it! It is so beautifully written and I was compelled to keep reading, wanting to know what happened next but at the same time not wanting it to end. It's one of the few books I've read recently that left me bereft when I turned the last page, a story that will stay with me for a long time if not forever.

Grace attends the reading of her mums will and is completely thrown to find out that before she is eligible to inherit she must go on a journey of discovery. Her mum has written a series of letters beginning with one which she has to read in the solicitors office.  This was totally unexpected and heart breaking for her. I had tears in my eyes and the book had only just begun. Imagine discovering the mother you knew and loved has led a life before you were born that you know absolutely nothing about! Add to that the Marine her mum has lined up to accompany her and we were in for an adventure.

This book pulled at my heart strings, I think I felt every emotion possible reading it and what made it particularly special was the journey itself.  Melanie's descriptions were so vivid I could have been on the journey with Grace and Alasdair. Only realising just how accurate the place descriptions were when they travelled to Scotland.  I've spent several holidays around the west coast of Scotland, it is one of my favourite places to go and I knew most of the places they visited, I could vividly see myself standing in the same spots - and I have had hot chocolate at the top of the Cairngorms in the Ptarmigan restaurant!!

I'd say nobody knows a person better than their mother and Rosamund's understanding of Grace was just beautiful to read - she succeeded in death to achieve what she failed at in life, pushing Grace gently into doing things she knew would ultimately make her a stronger person.  Sending Alasdair along supposedly to keep an eye out for Grace - not totally untrue but she was pulling his strings too!  Rosamund perhaps took the cowards way out, writing a series of letters instead of telling the her story to Grace whilst she was alive. 

The Wedding Cake Tree succeeded in making me see, life is too short, we should grab our chances whilst we can and make the most of every day.   It's far too easy to get caught up in the day to day drudge, forgetting to make time for the people and things we love - lives not just about working and paying the bills.

One of the wonderful things about this book was it was full of surprises, it was difficult to predict what was coming next and the story twisted and turned evoking different emotions with each chapter, keeping me hooked right to the final page

This was a beautiful book, one I've already recommended to several friends and I've discovered the Wedding Cake Tree is a real tree, not just a lovely description given to a pretend tree. A truly lovely idea to plant a tree at significant times and watch it grow as your relationships/children grow too.

I gave this book 5/5 stars

The Deadwife's Handbook - Book Club Questions, answered.

WDG Reads comments on the questions at the back of The Dead Wife's Handbook

I am a member of a book group called WDG Reads - it’s a spin off from our local drama group, which I’m also a member of, set up by Amanda who is a professional librarian.  We have approx 15 members and there are usually between 8 and 12 of us at each meeting.

I had been speaking to Hannah Beckerman on twitter and had been fortunate enough to win a signed copy of her debut novel The Dead Wife’s Handbook so when the book group was looking for something to read for the March meeting I had no hesitation in recommending this book.

The evening of our meeting arrived and for various reasons we only had seven members present, four had read the book, three hadn’t, but that didn’t stop them joining in. The subject matter ensured it was a lively meeting.

After a general chat about the cover, subject matter and who had/hadn’t read it we decided to structure the meeting by focusing on the book club questions at the back of the book.

Unanimously, we all agreed that the book wouldn’t have had the same impact, emotionally or structurally if the book had been told by someone other than Rachel.  We all felt that our emotional involvement in the book was enhanced as a result of Rachel’s limbo state, her coming and going at various points with no control to influence, comfort or in fact, at times fight her own corner. Had the tale been told for example by Max, there wouldn’t have been a story that hadn’t been done before, many times.  Rachel was more believable by the very fact that we didn’t have to suspend belief. Her inability to influence people or situations was more believable.

We thought that Max was in a lose, lose position with Ellie and Eve. Although Max was ready to move on he didn’t really give a lot of thought to what effect his new relationship would have on Ellie.  He assumed that because he’d decided Eve was a nice person everything would be all right.  He was definitely putting himself first, forgetting a child has different emotional attachments and needs. One member felt quite strongly that as a head-teacher Eve should have been more responsible in the park - she shouldn’t have and in fact because of her job role wouldn’t have taken her eyes off Ellie even though she wasn’t really her responsibility.  Others commented that a job role doesn’t stop you being human and even if Ellie had been her daughter accidents happen.

For a book set in the present day we all felt that the reaction of Eve’s parents was wrong.  We’re not saying it wouldn’t be possible for them to react the way they did because we’ve all read enough news to know that sadly this happens all too frequently.  Families, close ranks and shut down rather than face problems head on - we suspect they reacted the way they did as a form of survival - a bit ostrich like really, if we bury our heads it’s not really happening. It didn’t really make any of us feel more sympathetic towards her, although all we did discuss in detail how traumatic it must have been for her and the impact on her adult life.

Harriets reaction was totally un-called for we thought.  It was almost like she was nodding in the right place to begin with.  Encouraging Max to get back out in the real world and start living again but when he did she didn’t like it!  On reflection we agreed she probably did think he should start living his life again, it was just the speed his new relationship travelled at, Eve we thought did move into Max’s home too quickly and Rachel’s family and friends were unprepared to find her installed where Rachel should have been.  Celia’s reaction was totally justified we thought.  How can a mother cope losing a daughter - incomprehensible, add to that she had already had to learn to live again without her husband after he’d died in the same way.  For Celia in particular turning up to Ellie’s birthday party and finding Eve there (playing mum, cake and all) with no prior warning - wow, what was you thinking Hannah - it was truly awful and heart breaking to read.

As a group, on the whole we were rooting for Eve and Max’s relationship to be a success.  They both deserved happiness having suffered in different ways and for Max we felt his life shouldn’t have to be put on hold forever. However, we did feel it all went a bit too fast and Max in particular was a bit blinkered and oblivious to the little things and the effects they had on Ellie and Celia, Rachel’s mother.  By trying to cope with life without Rachel we felt he pushed Celia out.  She’d already lost a husband and now her daughter.  The only thing left holding her together was Ellie and she needed her - we felt although Max didn’t act un-naturally he should have tried to think about her and her feelings more.  Rachel was their link and without her it was difficult for both of them.

I’ve always thought and said - if I was to die I’d want my husband and family to be happy and if that meant moving on and a new relationship - go for it.  I stand by my beliefs but….I’d previously thought it might be nice to look down and give a wave to my family, just so I know they’re all right - NO WAY absolutely not. I want to be GONE when I’m gone - no glimpsing for me, I couldn’t cope. The rest of the group felt pretty much the same way.  One friend has always said she wanted her husband to be happy but, if he came home with a Thai bride she’d haunt him forever! (many years ago, there seemed to be a spate of people in our local pub on becoming a widower or were already single acquiring themselves a new bride from Thailand)

We were unanimous in saying we thought Eve would make a good step-mother.  She appeared loving and caring without being pushy.  We felt she was a steady, sensible person who seemed to be in for the long haul and was happy with the complete package, not just wanting Max and tolerating Ellie. There didn’t appear to be any jealousy of Rachel at all.  There was an acceptance that she was and always will play a (virtual) big part in Max and Ellie’s lives.

There wasn’t much discussion around this question but yes, on the whole everyone agreed that Harriet and Connor would make a good couple but it perhaps wouldn’t be an easy ride. Both were quite strong characters but both were fully committed to Ellie, Connor in particular was a fantastic Uncle.

Again, we all agreed that the use of the seven stages of grief to structure the book was perfect.  It was very true to real life and gave the book and Rachel’s non-existence a reason to be, change and let go.  This question in particular evoked a long discussion as two of the people who had read the book had been involved in marriage break-downs and found aspects of the book traumatic for different reasons.  One felt exactly like Rachel and suffered in exactly the same way watching her husband move on in a new relationship, hearing and being told things about him and his new lady, the impact on the rest of the family, both immediate and extended. Her life literally fell apart, she did greave for all she’d lost and for her future - thankfully now she’s in a good place - life does go on! The other lady, read this book much slower than any other book she’d read - each chapter was like re-living her marriage breakdown.  She moved into a new relationship with her children and the book made her question the impact this had had on them.  At the time they were not much older than Ellie.  She said she spent many evenings just staring at the ceiling after reading this book, it provoked many questions that she wanted answers to and on many occasions very nearly rang her daughter at Uni to ask her what it was like for her during them difficult years - what impact had it had upon her?  She’s thankful now she didn’t ring in an emotional state at midnight but had decided she’s going to give the book to her daughter and see if any questions arise from doing so.

Rachel, through the grieving process was able to move on by the end of the book and this is ultimately what we wanted for her.  If she was dead we didn’t want her to suffer anymore.  We’d always thought it was the people who get left behind that suffer but now we’re not so sure-is something else or not?  It doesn’t seem fair somehow that if you die you suffer twice in theory.  Once because you’re dead — it can’t get any worse than that and then again because you have to watch your family suffer and then move on.

We all absolutely agreed, who we are and how we live our lives, the impact we have upon those around us, in particular family and friends is far more important than any physical achievement.  To think that the values and standards we instil in our children stays with them forever whether we live or die has got to be the most powerful thing. Rachel watching Ellie once again become the happy, relaxed child at ease with herself has got to be more comforting than seeing the heartbreak and suffering that she endured in the early days.

What a fantastic novel this was Hannah, despite our small numbers at our last meeting we talked more and for longer about this book than we have for many months.  There’s not many books that provoke such discussions that come from the heart but this one made each and every one of us think and look at our lives and I know that The Dead Wife’s Handbook will come up in discussion again and again as the members who couldn’t attend the last meeting turn up to other meetings and share their thoughts.

I look forward to reading your next novel and want to say what an absolute pleasure it has been talking to you about your book, other books and life in general.  You really are inspirational and you, yourself have a truly generous heart.

Dawn x x

Read my review here!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Dead Wife's Handbook - Hannah Beckerman

About the author....
Hannah Beckerman lives in London with her husband and their incredibly lively toddler. She is a former TV and film producer who spent fifteen years producing and commissioning documentaries about the Arts, History and Science before turning her hand to writing.

Other than reading and sleeping (both rare but much-cherished pleasures) she's a big fan of great TV drama, films, long country walks and travel. She currently spends far too much time on social media but would, of course, deny the fact if anyone pointed it out. 

The Dead Wife's Handbook is Hannah's first novel. She sincerely hopes it won't be her last.

Contact Hannah
Hannah's website:

About the book...
The Dead Wife's Handbook is the stunning emotional debut from author Hannah Beckerman.

'Today is my death anniversary. A year ago today I was still alive.

Rachel, Max and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life - until the night Rachel's heart stopped beating.

Now Max and Ellie are doing their best to adapt to life without Rachel, and just as her family can't forget her, Rachel can't quite let go of them either. Caught in a place between worlds, Rachel watches helplessly as she begins to fade from their lives. And when Max is persuaded by family and friends to start dating again, Rachel starts to understand that dying was just the beginning of her problems.

As Rachel grieves for the life she's lost and the life she'll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for

My thoughts...
I won a signed copy of this novel in a competition and couldn’t wait to read it and post a review for Hannah who I got know a bit about after spending time chatting with her on twitter.  I went on to choose this as the March read for the book group I’m a member of which is why I didn’t want to post my review until after the meeting.

The first thing that drew me in was the gorgeous cover - the colours are so vibrant and stunning - I just wanted to pick it up and run my hands repeatedly over it.  The synopsis also hooked me as it hinted at an unusual story that piqued my interest - I’d always thought I’d like to be able to check on the family if I was to go first!!

The book revolves around Rachel, who dies suddenly, without warning and that of her husband Max and  daughter Ellie, along with their family and friends who are trying to help them build a new life for themselves without Rachel.  Rachel is able to glimpse snippets of her former life through a cloud like haze and the story is told through her.

I knew this book would be an emotional one - who wouldn’t be moved by the grief of a family struggling to rebuild their lives after the mother is snatched from them? What I wasn’t prepared for was the range of emotions I felt.  This book was of a size that I’d normally devour in the course of a week-end but it took me almost a week to read as I had to keep stopping to gather my thoughts. 

Hannah’s descriptions were so vivid - I cried, I laughed and I had arguments inside my head and willed things to happen or not!  Whoever thought it might be nice to peak at ‘your’ life after you’ve gone is an idiot, it felt like such an act of cruelty.  The total opposite of what I thought would be quite nice.  If you couldn’t be with your loved ones any longer, at least you’d still feel part of their lives by watching in - absolutely not!!  Watching them suffer, and not being able to comfort and then the pain of watching them move on would be horrendous. I physically felt Rachel’s pain - only able to observe, not scoop up her daughter and kiss her better.  Max, how could you let your friends, mother and brother tell you to get ‘out there’ after only a year? 

For me this book was very thought provoking, I’ve discussed it not just at book group but with other friends too.  I’ve recommended it to everyone who’ll listen to me - it’s really made me search my soul. I have decided though, when I’m gone, I’m gone!  I don’t want to be able look down and suffer because I can’t touch or hold my family and friends when they need me most, instead I’ll try to show and tell them now whilst I’m here.

I can only imagine the tears Hannah must have shed whilst writing this book. The emotions I felt were raw and quite real. I love a book that makes me think and question life and situations and two weeks after finishing this book I’m still doing just that. Grief affects us all differently and the fact that Rachel, Max, Ellie and their friends and family were at different stages made it all the more difficult.  My heart literally broke in particular for Rachel and Ellie - you can’t replace a mother/daughter relationship but in Eve, Hannah I think you gave us the next best thing.

This is a truly amazing book which I have gladly recommended to all of my friends.

I gave it 5/5 stars