Thursday, 25 February 2021

Call Me Mummy - Tina Baker

About the book… 

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want... except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim—heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop—she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But little foul-mouthed Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

Meanwhile Kim is demonised by the media as a 'scummy mummy', who deserved to lose Tonya and ought to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media's rules, she begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle.

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About the author… 

Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.

Call Me Mummy is Tina's first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she's not stolen a child - so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

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My thoughts…

Where do I even begin! Call me Mummy is a debut novel by Tina Baker and she has knocked the ball right out of the park with this one!

Call Me Mummy begins when harassed, heavily pregnant mother Kim is out shopping with her children, daughter Tonya and son Daryl.  She’s clearly a little rough around the edges, the way she speaks to them and her utter disregard for their care and safety seems apparent.  Tonya wanders off whilst mum is on the phone and by the time Kim realises she’s missing Tonya has been walked out of the store by ‘Mummy’ a person we find is from a privileged background, that has everything except the one thing she really wants - a child.  She watches Kim and sees Tonya as a gift, a child she sees as needing to be rescued from her awful mother! As mothers they appear to be polar opposites.  How little she knew at this point - Tonya doesn’t live up to ‘mummy’s’ expectations of how a child should behave at all.

There was so much to absorb in this story, it was utterly compelling from the start, the characters were obviously flawed and complex.  I desperately wanted to find out what made them tick, what was their back story? From almost the beginning it was clear that ‘Mummy’ was struggling with some sort of mental psychosis.  She was damaged in some way and definitely had no experience of caring for a  child. Her ideal of how a five year old should behave was so far from the mark it was ridiculous and Kim’s hard nut shell that she’s created for herself is clearly a protection of sorts - she lives up to the image people see to protect herself from her past.

The narrative flicks back and forth with chapters told from both Kim and Mummy’s prospective,  both now and back to their childhoods interspersed with thoughts and outpouring from Tonya.  It made for incredibly difficult reading. Neither woman would be up for a mother of the year award, what had happened in their past to make them the people they were today was a question I asked over and over again throughout the whole book and as the author dropped snippets of information the pictures that developed made hard reading.  The children we were, become the adults we are, sprang to mind, life really does perpetuate and it’s difficult to break out of a mould. 

The author painted pictures with words so vivid I could have been hovering above the characters as the story played out before my eyes, such were the descriptions, it was at times like living inside a never ending nightmare. Some sections were so difficult to read I kept having to put the book down, all the while muttering and cursing under my breath.  The tension and anxiety in reading Call Me Mummy was almost too much to bear! The pictures conjured in my mind couldn’t be cleared even when I closed my eyes.

Tonya it seemed really had dropped straight out of the frying pan into the fire.  What are the chances of two mummy’s both baring horrific scars from their childhood? Both with deep rooted emotional and physical issues, thank goodness for Tonya spark - her little flashes of temper and her resilience was testament to the upbringing she’d had in her short five years. 

Call Me Mummy was a gripping, intense, dark, bitter, twisted and emotional read. I felt sick to the stomach and at times found myself reading quicker and quicker to try and end the nightmare for all three main characters - Kim, Tonya and Mummy.  I transitioned through every emotion as I read and at times the lump in my throat was so large it was painful.  The emotional, physical and mental damage of all the characters was immense and difficult in parts to read.  I felt utter despair and my anxiety was through the roof and yet at times it’s difficult to believe there were light frivolous moments that lifted the mood and were at total odds with the situations. This was a story that no matter what the ending was going to have consequences for all the characters.

All in all this was an exceptional read that will stay with me for a long time to come.  A book I will recommend forever and a day!

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Safe and Sound - Philippa East

About the book… 

Home can be the most dangerous place…

In a small London bedsit, a radio is playing. A small dining table is set for three, and curled up on the sofa is a body…

Jenn is the one who discovers the woman, along with the bailiffs. All indications suggest that the tenant – Sarah Jones – was pretty, charismatic and full of life.

So how is it possible that her body has lain undiscovered for ten whole months?

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About the author… 

Philippa East grew up in Scotland before moving to Oxford and then London to train as a Clinical Psychologist.
A few years ago, Philippa left the NHS to set up her own part-time practice and dedicate more hours to writing. The result was her debut novel LITTLE WHITE LIES, published by HQ/HarperCollins in 2020.

Philippa now lives in the beautiful Lincolnshire countryside with her husband and cat. She loves reading (of course!) and long country walks, and she also performs in a local folk duo called The Miracle Cure. Alongside her writing, Philippa continues to work as a psychologist and therapist.

Contact Links: 

Twitter: @philippa_east

My thoughts…

I read Philippa East’s debut novel Little White Lies with our book club last year and was bowled over, it was a desperately sad, yet a compelling read that was shocking and at times, an uncomfortable read that gripped from the start.  As soon as I heard she had a second novel coming out I was desperate to get my hands on a copy and read.

Safe and Sound didn’t let me down, I was intrigued and compelled to read from the very first pages.  The story centres around Jenn who is clearly a devoted mum to son Charlie and is efficient and organised in her job at a housing association. Or is she as together as she’s trying to portray?! Something is ‘off’’ about her from the very beginning and on finding a tenant dead in a flat she was responsible for we see Jenn begin to un-ravel.  

The tenant Sarah Jones is dead and has been for some time, Jenn is clearly distressed, the anguish drips from the page - an awful scenario to be in but intensified because she believes she is partly to blame, she missed a routine flat inspection..... !

A chance email sends Jenn on a journey that will push her to the edge of reason as she begins an unhealthy obsession with finding out Sarah's past! She also appears to have an obsessional relationship with her son and a distant relationship with her parents - the author alludes to something that’s happened In the past but what.....?  Every page I turned created questions, and then I was sent backwards in time to read about a family who have a daughter Prinn whose cousin comes to stay with them for the Summer - not an usual occurrence for them and with no explanation as to why now. A situation that felt odd from the start.  Safe and Sound tracks back and forth between then and now with no clear correlation about why we are being told the story from the past - my brain was bombarded with questions, second guessing what I thought might be going on.  The more I read the more anxious I felt - more than one of the characters was clearly suffering with mental health issues and there was huge amounts of un-written story that just felt off! I felt in a permanent state nervousness and anxiety, finding myself second guessing every single characters reasons and motives.  

With Safe and Sound there is no time to absorb the story, my head was a whirl as the author dropped details like grenades one after the other onto the pages - reading it was like unravelling the worst ball of string you’ve ever come across.  It took me up blind allies, second guessing and making assumptions, my heart pounding with fear and anxiety that when the strands were laid flat and the facts slotted into place I had to take a moment.

Such a cleverly plotted narrative that sensitively dealt with the reality and fragility of mental health, the obsessive behaviour and blindness to reality.  The inability to see, to share and divulge, the inner voice and paranoia that walked a fine line between ‘make-believe’ and ‘reality, for both Jenn and Sarah.  The need to see and listen on a deeper level.  If something feels off it probably is, not to just accept everything at face value, sometimes it’s good to question.  This really was an outstanding read that delivered everything I hoped for and more.  Tense, dark, gripping and original another book I’ll be recommending to everyone I know. 

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Thursday, 11 February 2021

Spacehopper - Helen Fisher

About the book… 

This is a story about taking a leap of faith
And believing the unbelievable

They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect.

I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight.
And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.

Right now, you probably think I’m going mad. 
Let me explain…

Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?

Space Hopper is an original and poignant story about mothers, memories and moments that shape life

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About the author… 

Helen Fisher spent her early life in America but grew up mainly in Suffolk, England, where she now lives with her two children. She studied psychology at Westminster University and ergonomics at University College London, and worked as a senior evaluator in research at the Royal National Institute of Blind People. Faye, Faraway is her first novel.

Contact Links: 

Twitter: @HFisherAuthor

My thoughts…

Space hopper is one of the most moving, books about motherhood, love, family, memories and relationships I’ve read in a long time.   Faye, is a mother of two girls and is married to husband Eddie who is training to be a vicar. They have a close relationship and a happy life but Faye is quietly worrying about her future role as a vicars wife, will she be good enough, can she meet the expectations of what will mean a new role for her too?   Maybe it’s this that has unsettled her but finding a photograph of herself, transports her back 30 years, opening up a Pandora’s box of emotions. She lost her mother when she was only eight years old and has no recollection of her father, as an adult so many questions for her mother. 

Faye finds a picture of her as a childhood sitting beside a Spacehopper box in front of a Christmas tree.  She still has the box from the picture, and it’s this that is pivotal in the story, she clings onto it as her link to the past which inadvertently does just that - transporting her back to her childhood taking me with her!  The story made me suspend belief, though it wasn’t a conscious thought at the time, I just did, probably because it’s such a nostalgic read that evoked so many memories of my own childhood - the descriptions, could have been Polaroid’s of my own childhood. 

Faye was just eight years old, when her mother suddenly died, leaving a hole in her life that she’d found impossible to fill - she had so many questions she wished she knew the answers to. When she unexpectedly finds herself in the 70’s as an adult observing her own childhood she’s thrown off balance.  The story was disconcerting, scary, yet exciting and intriguing at the same time. When Faye is returned back to ‘real life’ the pain, heartbreak and the emotion Faye was feeling was palpable - it poured from the pages. The grief genuine and raw.

All kinds of thoughts rattled round my head as I read, was Faye dreaming, having lucid dreams or was she Time Travelling? Is it even possible I don’t know, but at the time of reading I didn’t question it.  Helen Fisher’s skill as a writer to present something so out of the ordinary and have me suspend belief, accept the theory and jump with Faye was just something else.  

The pull of her life as a wife and mother and that of herself as an adult remembering her childhood, lost in the present, needing her mother was utterly heart breaking to read. To watch her torn between the past and the present, the deep aching love of her husband and children and that of her own need to know her mother was difficult to bear.  The dilemma and inner turmoil of being a mother but wanting to know more of her own mother, ruminating on the past but not able to settle in the present made the story edgy, sad and utterly heart breaking to read. 

Faye wants to talk to Eddie about what is happening but can’t bear to add to his burden, he’s too close, emotionally attached and she knows - her face is an open book, she can’t hide her turmoil, she aware he is worried about her, but doesn’t know how to explain so Faye confides and leans on blind friend and colleague Louis, trusting him with her innermost thoughts. An independent person with no emotional attachment.  She trusts him to guide her, his blindness making him ultra sensitive, able to listen on a deeper level. They formulate a plan that culminates in one of the most emotionally charged endings to a book I’ve read.  Spacehopper was beautifully written, sensitive and is a story that raised so many questions, I want to read the story again with fresh eyes.  I loved this book, it was captivating, beautiful and emotive and have already recommended it to so many friends.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

All in Her Head - Nikki Smith

About the book… 

Alison is more alone than she's ever been. She is convinced that her ex-husband Jack is following her. She is certain she recognizes the strange woman who keeps approaching her in the canteen.

She knows she has a good reason to be afraid. She just can't remember why.

Then the mention of one name turns her life upside down.

Alison feels like she's losing her mind . . . but it could just lead her to the truth.

Buy Links....

About the author… 

Nikki Smith studied English Literature at Birmingham University, before pursuing a career in finance. Following a ‘now or never’ moment, she applied for a Curtis Brown Creative course where she started writing this book. She lives near Guildford with her family and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. All In Her Head is her first novel.

Contact Links: 

Twitter: mrssmithmunday

My thoughts....  

What a book, Nikki Smith has written in such a way that the agitation and unease lifted itself off the page as I read this amazing book. From the prologue right to the last pages I was gripped. I can’t tell you why but I had a strange feeling of Deja Vue and I was only 5% in!

All in Her Head is a story told in three parts, it switches back and forth in time, with chapters ping ponging between Ali and Jack - husband and wife. set in present and the past - estranged but why?

I had so many questions as I read - what’s going on, why, where is Ali, why are they apart. Nothing was clear, so many scenarios tumbled round my mind - I couldn’t pin point and focus on anything other than the edgy Sick feeling of unease. The more I read, the stronger the sickening dread of anxiety hung from the pages, drenching my very thoughts!! That feeling of my heart beating in my mouth was so intense I didn’t want to turn the pages but the feeling I had too was stronger.

All in Her Head was a book that spoke a dual narrative in my head throughout, at first I couldn’t rationalise my thoughts, couldn’t second guess what was happening and the story was nearing completion before the jigsaw pieces started slotting into place. There were moments I was sat, mouth open, shook to the core astounded at what I’d just read, wanting to close the pages to un-read the words but the need to read on was stronger.

I can’t recommend this book enough, it was a compelling, dark, emotional read that gripped from start to finish, I’ve found myself a go to author without a doubt

Friday, 5 February 2021

Shadow of a Doubt - Michelle Davies

About the book….

Twenty-six years ago my brother was murdered in my family home.

I was sent to a psychiatric unit for killing him.

The truth is, I didn't do it.

The whole world believed eight-year-old Cara killed her younger brother on that fateful night. But she blamed it on a paranormal entity she swears was haunting her house. No one believed her and after two years of treatment in a psychiatric unit for delusional disorder, Cara was shunned by her remaining family and put into foster care. Now she's being forced to return to the family home for the first time since her brother's death, but what if she's about to re-discover the evil that was lurking inside its walls?

‘Pure suspense, where past and present collide with chilling results. On every page, there's a sense that anything could happen.’ Erin Kelly

‘Suspenseful, chilling, with an underlying story that's tragic on many levels. Shadow Of A Doubt is an expertly crafted psychological thriller which grips from page one. Loved it.’ Amanda Jennings
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About the author… 

Michelle Davies was born in Middlesex in 1972, raised in Buckinghamshire and now lives in north London.

Her debut crime novel, Gone Astray, was published in 2016 and features Family Liaison Officer DC Maggie Neville as its central police character. Gone Astray was part of a two-book deal with Pan Macmillan and the follow-up, Wrong Place, also featuring Maggie, is out now. Her third in the series, False Witness, is due out in July next year while a fourth will follow in 2019.

When she's not turning her hand to crime, Michelle writes as a freelance journalist for women's magazines including Marie Claire, YOU and Stylist. Her last staff job before going freelance was as Editor-at-Large at Grazia and she was previously Features Editor at heat. She began her career straight from school at 18, working as a trainee reporter on her home-town newspaper, the Bucks Free Press

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…

Shadow of a Doubt is a psychological thriller by Michelle Davies.   From the prologue until the very last chapter a fog like heaviness sat on my shoulders, a weight that I couldn’t lift.  Throughout the book there were brief moments where I thought the fog was lifting only for it to push down harder, Intensifying the sick like feeling in the pit of my stomach, the nervous tension stayed with me throughout.  

At the heart of Shadow of a Doubt is a family whose lives were torn apart after eight year old Cara is torn from the family home accused of killing her younger brother - something that twenty five years later she still vehemently denies - it wasn’t her it was “Limey-Stan” a well known local from the past!

The story is told in three parts centred around Cara’s life as a child and today when the bottom falls out of her world again, summoned from the life she has made for herself back to the family home she hasn’t seen in twenty five years.  It is told from from two angles, that of Cara and her mother Anita.  Understandably the summons back to her childhood home sends her into turmoil and blind panic, her anxiety levels palpably lift off the pages and hover in the air around me as I read.  Her extended family, a family that cut her out of their lives aren’t happy either that Anita, Cara’s mother has insisted she returns and make their feelings on the subject crystal clear.  

The layers of Cara’s life are lifted and presented to the reader through various mediums, memories, real life, newspaper articles and medical reports.  To say the journey back to Heldean was a difficult one for Cara would be an understatement.  The author has created a character in Cara that is difficult to warm to despite everything she had gone through, the rejection by her family, brought up in a foster home albeit with love and kindness, what we know of her life as both a child and an adult.  Understandably, her experience made her build walls around her that are difficult to penetrate or has she always been like that?  Cara’s character got under my skin, she isn’t a person that I am drawn to, she has spikey edges as an adult that are clear to see, she keeps people at arms length and the insight into her mothers life in Part 2 of the book makes me question is it nature or circumstances that have shaped her character so much - not everything is quite what it seems, her world was spun on its axis

Throughout the telling of her story I felt utter despair, fear and anguish for her, pity even. The lines of reality and imagination constantly blurred and as the story progressed I was compelled to read quicker and quicker, the need to shake the uneasiness and dread I felt, the turmoil inside was at times almost unbearable. The questions going round my head, the second guessing was continuous. 

Michelle Davies’ writing style is something else, the story possessed my feelings from start to finish, chilling me to the bone, I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book to everyone, it is one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read and I’m going to be drumming my fingers waiting for her next.  Thank you to Orion for the early read.

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