Wednesday, 28 April 2021

The Car Share - Zoe Brisby

About the book… 

A ninety-year-old woman with Alzheimer's and a heartbroken young man end up sharing a ride to Brussels that changes their lives forever.

When Alex pulls up to meet "Max", he expects everything but a ninety-year-old lady who has her heart set on getting to Brussels by carpool.

As for 'Max', who is actually called Maxine, she could not be more ill at ease when settling into the seat next to this young man with bloodshot eyes. God help her if he turned out to be a drug addict who hasn't slept in days!

When it becomes clear that Maxine is suffering from Alzheimer's and wants to take matters in her own hands while she still can, and that Alex battles severe depression, a wonderful friendship starts to form between the unlikely pair. Before long, their travel plans take an unexpected turn...

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About the author… 

Zoe Brisby won the Mazarine Book Day literary contest with her novel 'The Car Share'. She worked as an art historian before dedicating herself to writing.

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…

The Car Share follows the journey of Maxine and Alex, both of whom are headed to Brussels and find themselves as unlikely travelling companions. They are two strangers, two very unlikely travelling companions both with a purpose, both choosing to carpool but for very different reasons. One wanting to end it all whilst they still could make the decision for themselves and one running from the embarrassment of unrequited love. From the get go I loved their interactions, blunt talking and gentle humour. Max aka Maxine, a 90 year old lady with the vigour of a 20 year old continually gives her driver and travelling companion Alex the what for - he really does wonder what he’s let himself in for. I found myself sitting smiling as I read, my grin getting bigger and bigger. I could tell this book was going to be full of fun and I came to expect the unexpected - it was perfect reading for the sunny Easter Sunday afternoon where i had curled up on the sofa with my kindle.

The Car Share turned out to be an absolute tonic of a book, there are serious undertones but the humour is infectious, I choked laughing on more occasions than i could count. Alex and Max - aka Thelma and Louise as i dubbed them were hilarious - I don’t know who I loved more. Their verbal interactions and inner conversations were a joy to read.

The ripple effect of Alex and Max’s journey together is felt far and wide. With stereotypical descriptions of “themselves, character and situation” bandied about and distorted out of context and reality. I loved the direct observations - delivered frankly and without thought, the laugh out loud turns of phrase and out there characteristics of a person who has settled into, and is comfortable in their self. A totally uplifting, fun, at times hysterical, and at others somber read.

I’m glad I suspended belief and went going along for the ride, feeling part of the numerous, hilarious encounters, the heartfelt memories shared and the sad reality of why they were each taking the journey. And boy it was one hell of a ride, bumpy, filled with nostalgia and the unexpected. Alex and Max proved to be Yin and Yang to each other, bonding without realising and as a reader I came to expect the unexpected from them, particularly from Max.

Their closeness and exhilaration inspired by the journey was infectious, the simplicity of experiences shared bonding them and me together, sitting on the periphery of their life was heart warming - it really was such a wonderful book to read that totally hit the spot - feel good, uplifting and just simply delightful

The Wild Girls - Phoebe Morgan

About the book… 

In a luxury lodge on Botswana’s sun-soaked plains, four friends reunite for a birthday celebration…

Has it all, but chose love over her friends…

Feels the walls of her flat and classroom closing in…

Loves her baby, but desperately needs a break…

Yearns for adventure after suffering for too long…

Arriving at the safari lodge, a feeling of unease settles over them. There’s no sign of the party that was promised. There’s no phone signal. They’re alone, in the wild.


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About the author… 

Phoebe Morgan is a bestselling author and editor. She studied English at Leeds University after growing up in the Suffolk countryside. She has previously worked as a journalist and now edits commercial fiction for a publishing house during the day, and writes her own books in the books have sold over 150,000 copies and been translated into 10 languages including French, Italian, Norwegian, Polish and Croatian. Her new thriller The Wild Girls will be published by William Morrow in the US. Her books are also on sale in Canada and Australia. Phoebe has also contributed short stories to Afraid of the Light, a 2020 crime writing anthology with proceeds going to the Samaritans, Noir from the Bar, a crime collection with proceeds going to the NHS, and Afraid of the Christmas Lights, with all profits going to domestic abuse charities. Her four thrillers can be read in any order.

Contact Links: 

Twitter @Phoebe_A_Morgan
Instagram @phoebeannmorgan
Facebook @PhoebeMorganAuthor 

My thoughts…

The Wild Girls is the nickname of four friends, Alice, Grace, Hannah and Felicity - friends since school, but they’d drifted apart for reasons unknown to the reader. The girls hadn't spoken for two years, each has gone their separate ways but why? Then one morning an invite to an all inclusive, luxury retreat lands on their doormats. Felicity has invited the girls to celebrate her birthday in Botswana of all places. Each of them are shocked yet intrigued to receive the invite and begin to ponder whether they’ve all been invited and ponder the rational. 

The author gives an insight into the lives each are living now and hints back to a friendship and shared past that was a little bit dark, very intense and ever so slightly toxic, much like the relationships each of them seem to have now. Yet the invite is like a carrot tantalisingly dangled that its difficult to ignore - each sees the invite as a way to not only reconnect, but to escape the treadmills they’re on and to find a way back to when they were friends. An uneasy tension sat on my shoulder as I read the introductory chapters.

From the moment that the girls each decide to accept Felicity’s invitation a nervous tension hung over the pages, privy to their thoughts my mind whizzed with so many questions - multiple threads tangled together just out of reach and it was clear memories weren’t the same for all! When they reconnect in the airport to fly out to Botswana its more than clear to the reader that there was a definite imbalance in the friendship. And when the girls arrive to an empty resort with no sign of Felicity or a party the tension and unease was palpable - I had that nauseous feeling of anxiety and dread - second guessing what might be to come.

Phoebe Morgan has carefully crafted the art of using half sentences, intrigue, smoke and mirrors. Fuelled more by the unspoken words than anything else. Being privy to each of the girls inner thoughts I couldn’t quieten my mind long enough to think rationally, I was beyond clueless - questions & theories about the situation and what might happen when Felicity did appear ricocheting round my brain, not slowing down enough to be coherent.

The atmosphere is tense & oppressive throughout the whole of this book, reading was like mental torture, I thought the friends needed to stick together like glue but the thread that binds them appeared too loose! Whilst reading I felt like a tightly coiled spring - as on edge as if I were in the lodge too and as the book progressed and I edged closer to finding out what happened back then and how that has been used to orchestrate what’s happening now in Botswana I felt sick with dread. At 70% into the story I was still utterly clueless. The atmosphere was like reading in a pressure cooker - I’ve rarely read a book that me ripping my hair out with anxiety like I did with The Wild Girls.

There are so many twists and turns in this book, every time I thought the gaps were being plugged and I was edging closer to finally having all the facts on the table Phoebe Morgan kept dropping more and more snippets like incendiaries - my nerves were in shreds! It really was an incredibly gripping, dark, twisted, addictive, read that had me hooked right up until the last sentence when I thought it was all over, only to find myself sat with my mouth open uttering oh no!!!

I’ve recommended The Wild Girls to so many friends already and each has felt the same as me - utterly brilliant.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Lost Property - Helen Fields

About the book… 
Dot Watson has lost her way.

Twelve years ago her life veered off course, and the guilt over what happened still haunts her. Before then she was living in Paris, forging an exciting career; now her time is spent visiting her mother's care home, fielding interfering calls from her sister and working at the London Transport Lost Property office, diligently cataloguing items as misplaced as herself.

But when elderly Mr Appleby arrives in search of his late wife's purse, his grief stirs something in Dot. Determined to help, she sets off on a mission - one that could start to heal Dot's own loss and let her find where she belongs once more...

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About the author… 

Helen Paris worked in the performing arts for two decades, touring internationally with her London-based theatre company Curious. After several years living in San Francisco and working as a theatre professor at Stanford University, she returned to the UK to focus on writing fiction. As part of her research for a performance called 'Lost & Found', Paris shadowed employees in the Baker Street Lost Property office for a week, an experience that sparked her imagination and inspired this novel.

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My thoughts…

Oh my goodness Dot Watson has lost her way - but I’m so glad I found her.  Lost Property has got to be one of the most beautiful, heartfelt books I’ve read.   The central character Dot is working in the Transport for London Lost property department.

I had an instant affinity with her, she likes to be organised, she’s meticulous and has a passion for stationery - who can’t fail to love someone who loves a good pen?  She’s quick witted and funny and I found myself laughing and smiling in the first half of the book - more than I expected, a lot of it down to the analogies the author uses - you can’t help but sit back, take stock and think about what you’ve just read.

The author, Helen Paris has a way with prose that had my internal camera snapping away, her descriptive style of writing is just wonderful.  The images in my mind we’re as clear as any photograph.  

Although the central character is Dot, it really is a story about her life, her family and the life lessons and experiences that have shaped them all.  Her father is deceased, her mother has dementia and her sister Phillippa has a lot to say for herself.  In the same way as I had an instant affinity and felt an emotional attachment to Dot, the opposite was the case with Phillippa, she was or appeared to be, as my grandma would say “all top show” - caring more about appearances and other people’s opinions. The sisters are often at odds with each other on what they think their mother needs and Phillippa seems to know what Dot needs too but doesn’t seem to actually see her.

Dot takes an enquiry from a an elderly gentleman who has misplaced a hold-all, amongst the contents is a purse that belonged to his late wife - it’s this that is the catalyst for a journey we travel with Dot and her sister, gaining an understanding into their characters, the lives they’ve led and why they are who they are.  Dot being the biggest piece of Lost Property herself.

This was an incredible read, I feel privileged to have read it and loved being part of the emotional journey that Dot took - even if it did break me at times. Lost Property is a beautiful, intricately woven story and the closer I got to the end the more I wanted to read slower so it didn’t end. It is a very special book, that I will definitely savour and read again.  Lost property taught so many valuable lessons. As we traverse through life we hit crossroads and sometimes we don’t think we have a choice but all roads lead somewhere and when the time is right we can choose to change direction and head for a different place.

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Sunday, 18 April 2021

The Therapist - B A Paris

About the book… 

When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…

As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating, grisly secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.

Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbours are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem…

The million-copy Sunday Times bestselling author B A Paris returns to her heartland of gripping psychological suspense in this powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.

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About the author… 

B A Paris is the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown and Bring Me Back. Having sold over one million copies in the UK alone, she is a New York Times bestseller as well as a number one bestseller on Amazon and iBooks. Her books have sold in 37 territories around the world. Having lived in France for many years, she recently moved back to the UK. She has five daughters.

Contact Links: 

Twitter - @BAParisAuthor
Goodreads - B A Paris Author

My thoughts…

B A Paris writes books that within pages consume you and The Therapist is on another level all together. The ball has been knocked right out of the park with this one, it lived up to all the hype and then some. It gripped, it enthralled, it captured my imagination and played with my sanity. As I read I questioned myself and was consumed with self doubt, I frightened myself half to death on more than one occasion, my heart beating inside my mouth, I couldn’t breathe with fear. Reading The Therapist with the lights off, curled up in bed perhaps wasn’t my best idea, it certainly helped to ramp up the tension - I really should have known better!

Oh my goodness, imagine you’ve been conducting a long distance relationship only able to see your partner on the weekend because of work arrangements and then deciding to take the plunge, to make a commitment, move your life, lock stock and barrel from the countryside to London to move in with your partner - that’s what Alice did! She and Leo move into a house he had bought after selling his London flat. The house is in The Circle. It’s a gated street, secured with pin code entry, with each of the exclusive houses circled around pretty, communal gardens. Perfection, Alice couldn’t be happier and is so excited. She can’t wait to make friends with all the neighbours and make a home with Leo.

Alice works from home as a translator and is going to be home alone during the week for the first few weeks as Leo is working away. As she tries to settle down to work, she finds herself distracted, glimpsing various neighbours throughout the week as they go about their business. She’s desperate to make friends whereas Leo wants to take things slower, settle in first and get used to living together. But, against Leo’s wishes she organises a house warming for when he’s due home at the weekend and has invited all the neighbours, not telling him til the invitations are issued. Most of which accept straightaway - at this point alarm bells were ringing for me, why was Leo so reticent?

Following what was a very enjoyable evening, with the house teeming with neighbours Alice gets a visitor - it’s the second time she’s met him, he was at their house-warming. She’s surprised to find out he’s not who she thought he was - that fact and what he tells her totally floors her. She’s seriously rattled. Her new home, relationship and life is shook to its very foundations. She doesn’t know what to think, nor who to trust and what secrets does her new home hold?

I had that sick nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach which intensified the more I read. B A Paris completely messed with my mind in the same way she did with that of Alice. Imagine being told something so awful that centred around the previous occupant of your new home and to find out your partner knew and hadn’t told you why? The whole book felt like a game of cat and mouse throughout, and I was seriously rattled. The author used all of the senses to heighten the intensity of the narrative - she really did play with my mind way beyond the written word or any imagined situation making it incredibly difficult to think clearly.

As Alice started to obsessively research the previous occupants of the house I found my my anxiety levels rising. A shocking discovery had sent Alice into sleuth mode. With every page I turned I found myself absorbed further into Alices life and those of her fledgling new friendships. At times I lost complete sight of reality, I was anxious and afraid, there was a visceral reality of the words I read - I trusted no-one and constantly sat back to try and take stock, there were so many questions rattling round my brain, so many things that didn’t quite stack up - who should Alice trust, what secrets were being kept? What did the neighbours know that they weren’t telling? There were so many secrets. The Therapist is totally engaging the clues led me on a merry dance, it was difficult to differentiate between real and imagined occurrences. I never even came close to fully unravelling the plot - and even now it has ended the story is still spinning around inside my head, I’m shocked, shook to the core.

This was a totally outstanding read, the intensity was almost too much to bear - culminating in an ending that was incredibly difficult to read. I was in that macabre situation where you’re desperate to read on because you know it’ll be over and your heart rate can slow, yet at the same time wanting to close the book and not read the words that couldn’t then be un-read. Another outstanding read, B A Paris gets better and better with every book.

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Saturday, 17 April 2021

The Wife Who Got A Life - Tracy Bloom

About the book...


THE WIFE WHO GOT A LIFE perfectly captures the joyous chaos of family life and is the story of Cathy Collins, who’s come up with a list to help her nail the business of getting older.

After initially feeling annoyed by her sister’s gift of a ‘Motivational Journal’, she develops a list of monthly goals she believes will set her up for tackling the coming of middle age.

JANUARY - Write the list!

FEBRUARY - Ditch Periods

MARCH - Ditch Cooking

APRIL- Get a Life Outside the Family, preferably with ‘Young’ People

MAY - Secure My Son’s Future – i.e. Put a Rocket Up His Arse

JUNE - Teach My Daughter How to Not Get Screwed Over by Relationships

JULY - Reduce My Carbohydrate Footprint

AUGUST - Agree Who Will Clean Mum and Dad’s Toilet

SEPTEMBER - Make the Necessary Announcements about the Menopause

OCTOBER - Have the Really, Really Important Chat with My Husband

NOVEMBER - Fall in Love Again

DECEMBER - Dance with Hugh Jackman

But Cathy isn’t the only one in her family with a midlife bombshell to drop and when her husband throws his grenade into the mix, bossing the list doesn’t look quite so easy… and as everyone knows, a year can seem like a VERY long time…


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About the author… 

Tracy started writing when her cruel, heartless husband ripped her away from her dream job shopping for rollercoasters for the UK's leading theme parks, to live in America with a brand-new baby and no mates. In a cunning plan to avoid domestic duties and people who didn't understand her Derbyshire accent, she wrote her romantic comedy, NO ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY, which has sold three quarters of a million copies to date.

Contact Links: 

Twitter: @TracyBBloom

My thoughts…

The Wife Who Got a Life is the perfect book to pick up right now.  We’re all living a different life than the ones we usually live and for some this new life will be better and for others it’ll be a lot worse.  

The story centres around Cathy, she’s a, mum, a wife, the middle sister.  She’s in her mid forties trying to juggle everyone else’s life - that of her husband, children, mother and feeling more than a little put upon.   Things come to a head when her elder gives her a motivational diary for Christmas - it gets Cathy thinking is she happy with her lot - probably not, she actually feels a bit inadequate, invisible and more than a bit put upon when she thinks about it. She thinks everyone else is acing at life and she’s not.  Her family run rings round her whilst I have to say, she lets them.

Cathy is so not the type to write a motivational list and rather than incur the wrath of her sister who incidentally is living a life of perfection in LA she secretly, tongue in cheek writes a year long list of things she’s going to stop doing - like who besides her is going to start to clean her parents toilet. And just when she decides to talk to Mike her husband about everything she’s hit by the news that he’s wanting to change his life and career and isn’t that good news that she’s wanting to change hers too, she can step up whilst he steps back even more - another such example of being taken for granted, her thoughts not considered and she’s just about had enough.

Tracy Bloom takes us the reader on a journey of ups and downs as we travel along with Cathy whilst she navigates the next twelve months through a series of diary like entries and Whattsapp messages as she gradually takes back control of her life -  family dynamics thoughts and feelings come to the for and like is often the case, the face that is portrayed to the world is not always authentic more like a mask for what’s being hid beneath - each and everyone one of them are focused on what they need to do for themselves and not noticing the impact on others.  I loved watching Cathy get a back bone and speak up, standing up for herself and sharing her opinion, even if it was unwelcome most of the time.  She managed to rial pretty much everyone with her blunt but direct words that actually made me smile and giggle. 

This is a read that isn’t all laughs and giggles but as you’d expect takes you on a journey to a feel good ending.  I particularly loved the Whattsapp messages they were hilarious even when they weren’t supposed to be, how messages can be interpreted differently depending on your state of mind when you read them, slights and unintended insults abound - they were intrusive at times and then supporting at others, but nothing beats face to face talking.  Cathy had found herself a platform to stick up for herself and be straight with her family and by doing this they in turn became receptive and looked to themselves a little closer.   The book depicts certain aspects of hectic family life and highlights that people treat us as we allow them to treat us and only we as individuals can change that at the end of the day.  Sometimes it’s ok to state the truth and say no and for Cathy this was a good thing, the world didn’t fall apart, she levelled her life and gained respect for it.

All in all a lovely light hearted read that left me smiling.

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Monday, 12 April 2021

Amber - Heather Burnside

About the book… 


With a mother unfit for purpose and a brother who despises her, working girl Amber can rely on no one but herself – until the meanest pimp in Manchester, Kev Pike, offers her his protection. Unfortunately, this attracts the fury of Cora, a prostitute no one wants to get on the wrong side of...


When Cora is found strangled to death, the late-night city streets feel increasingly exposed with a killer on the loose. And as Amber grows closer to Kev, she realises his security comes at a price she might not be willing to pay...


Amber is frozen in fear, knowing one wrong move will risk her life. But then she discovers a horrifying secret that forces her to choose: stay or run?

Heather Burnside is back with this breath-taking, heart-racing series, perfect for all fans of Kimberley Chambers and Martina Cole.

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About the author… 

Heather Burnside grew up in Gorton, a working-class area of Manchester famed as the original location for the TV series, Shameless. She moved from Gorton to a new housing development and spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester.

During the 1990s the estate became the headquarters for one of Manchester’s predominant gangs. It regularly featured in the local press due to shootings and drug-related problems. Heather draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels.

After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. During that time she had many articles published in well-known magazines and went on to run a writing services business before focusing on her novels.

Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester which she shares with her two grown-up children

Contact Links: 

My thoughts ...

Amber is book four in the Working Girls series written by Heather Burnside.  The story centres around Amber a prostitute and begins in 2015 as she meets up with a regular client, he likes her to dress up for him.  She tries to detach herself, and remove herself virtually from the room but finds herself slowly weeping as she is transported back to her childhood, a time of hardship and trauma that no child should endure.  She had friends and was - living a life far removed from the life she’s living now, living a life as Amy, happy with her friends, loved by her grandparents until her mothers debts and lifestyle forced their move to a life that would forever haunt her.

I began reading this book and found I couldn’t concentrate, the story and content was edgy, blunt and in your face and to say I found it difficult reading would be an understatement.  It didn’t matter how quickly I read I couldn’t escape the horrific details spilling from the pages at the heart of the story.  Don’t get me wrong the skill of the author is testament to how reading the book made me feel uncomfortable and pushed me way outside of my comfort zone, this wasn’t a wishy washy water colour it was a full blown oil painting in all it’s colourful glory.  The story switches back and forth between Amy’s childhood and Ambers life, setting the scene as to how and why Amy became Amber.  The more I read the more I desperately wanted to escape the imagery conjured by the words until I couldn’t cope anymore.  

This is my first read of Heather Burnside and it’s clear that this book is more than words on paper, she depicts the characters and scenarios with a clarity that is raw and unfiltered. I found it difficult to compartmentalise fact from fiction, such is Heathers skill and style of writing. Every word is like a true account totally mesmerising and compelling. Every word is like a true account totally mesmerising and compelling and the research it must have took to craft such a book is evident.  

It’s going to take a lot to push this novel from my memory and think I need to read something uplifting and light as an antidote, I recommend this book to all readers who love crime thrillers that are a bit too real for comfort.

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Saturday, 10 April 2021

Dog Days - Ericka Waller

About the book… 

'DOG DAYS is a Russian doll of a book that twists and tugs each outer husk, revealing delicate and poignant inner layers. Irascible old bastard George, with the soft core of a Scotch egg; Dan, a shy counsellor who keeps his jazz hands firmly lowered; Lizzie, a fragile, fact-loving mother weighed down by scars and secrets. It's a soulful, lyrical tale that brings them - and their dogs - together in a satisfying whole. Such a treat.' - BETH MORREY, author of SAVING MISSY

George is very angry. His wife has upped and died on him, and all he wants to do is sit in his underpants and shout at the cricket. The last thing he needs is his cake-baking neighbour Betty trying to rescue him. And then there's the dog, a dachshund puppy called Poppy. George doesn't want a dog - he wants a fight.

Dan is a counsellor with OCD who is great at helping other people - if only he were better at helping himself. His most meaningful relationship so far is with his labrador Fitz. But then comes a therapy session that will change his life.

Lizzie is living in a women's refuge with her son Lenny. Her body is covered in scars and she has shut herself off from everyone around her. But when she is forced to walk the refuge's fat terrier, Maud, a new life beckons - if she can keep her secret just a while longer...

Dog Days is a novel about those small but life-changing moments that only come when we pause to let the light in. It is about three people learning to make connections and find joy in living life off the leash.

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About the author… 

Ericka Waller is 38 and lives in Brighton with three daughters, too many pets and a husband.

She is an award winning blogger and columnist.

When not writing she can be found walking her dogs, reading in the bath or buying stuff off eBay. Dog Days is her first book.

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…

Dog days evolves around the lives of three central, but very different characters, each accompanied by a furry friend.  There’s George a relic of years gone by, suddenly widowed just eight days previous, left alone with only Poppy the puppy his wife Ellen brought home against his will just before she passed. Dan a singleton, he’s never had a relationship, suffering with severe anxiety and OCD, he works as a counsellor, yet lacks confidence in himself and lives alone with Fritz his faithful friend. Lastly there’s Lizzie, we meet her just after she arrived at a women’s refuge with son Lenny. She’s befriended by Maud, the rather rotund Jack Russell who resides at the refuge.

At first read it was difficult to see what linked each of the characters, on the face of it they were three very different people, at different times of their lives and with very different stories to tell. But, actually as their stories unfolded they were very similar.  Each had difficulty expressing themselves, each was troubled in some way and internalised their pain, hurt and anguish, whilst externally wearing a mask and cloak, projecting images they thought would protect them and deflect attention from themselves. 

Ericka Waller takes the reader on a journey as she delved into the lives of each of the characters.   The characterisations were insightful, at times very raw and emotional.  George was on the surface a belligerent, rude, ungrateful old man, none more so when head of the Neighbourhood watch, Betty literally barges in and tries to take control - pulling him back into life kicking and screaming - he’s not a bit grateful and makes his feelings known.  Dan’s life was ticking along quite nicely, that is until new client  Atticus walks in, his life from that point on tilts on an axis - he’s torn between ethics and the enticement of wanting to know more about him.  Then there’s Lizzie, she’s almost mute, not sharing her story, not letting anyone in or engaging until by chance she encounters Luke and his dog Wolfie when she had been forced out to walk Maud the refuge centres dog. In Dog Days the author didn’t hold back - the characters lives were entwined in some hard hitting scenarios and situations - the intense pain, hurt and anguish of grief, miscarriage, abuse and self harm, relationships, and the anxieties and complexities of a coming out to family as gay. It’s fair to say as the novel progressed all the characters were driven out of their comfort zone. 

At the same time the author got the pacing of the book absolutely spot on. I loved the ebb and flow of all the characters as they gained strength, faced their fears head on and crept forward with life. Analogies and dry wit tempering the difficult words delivered at just the right moment. The more I read, the more questions I had rattling round my head, as the characters led my emotions on a merry dance. There are some incredibly funny, laugh out loud moments that made me smile whilst reading, that tempered with some incredibly moving and absolutely beautiful yet heart breaking scenes too. There are characters that were larger than life such as Betty who made me smile just by reading her name. She was a tonic and when I got to read her back story my heart broke in two. 

This is such a beautifully written book, the descriptions evoked such vivid images, it would be incredible if it was made into a film. I read Dog Days over a ten day period and seriously believe to have whistled through it would not have been good.  Time was needed to think and absorb each of their stories, not to have would have meant skirting round the issues and that wouldn’t have been fair.  The words out of reach, beyond the pages were equally as important to take the time to consider. In case you haven’t guessed I absolutely loved this book which is one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to get my thoughts down on paper, I wanted to do it justice and hope it inspires others to pick up a copy too.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Look What You Made Me Do - Nikki Smith

About the book… 

Two people can keep a secret . . . if one of them is dead.

Sisters Jo and Caroline are used to hiding things from each other. They've never been close - taking it in turns to feel on the outside of their family unit, playing an endless game of favourites.

Jo envies Caroline's life - things have always come so easy to her. Then a family inheritance falls entirely to Jo, and suddenly now Caroline wants what Jo has. Needs it, even.

But just how far will she go to get it?

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: 

My thoughts…

Look What You Made Me Do is Nikki Smith’s second novel, her first All In Her Head, I read as part of an on-line book club back in January and it was in fact my first read of 2021. It was a read that totally floored me and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her Nikki’s second novel.

This is a book that equally sucked me in and spat me out. The emotions I felt whilst reading were intense and I found myself giving little head shakes and cursing ‘oh no’ on more occasions than I can count. I can only describe the author as pure evil (obviously in a good way, I know she’s not really), the emotions evoked whilst reading Look What You Made Me Do were vast, when I closed my eyes, the images were imprinted on the inside of my eyelids. Time and again I wanted to rip the virtual film out of my minds camera to wipe out the imagery conjured - but of course, I couldn’t!

The narrative centres around two sisters, Jo and Caroline and their respective families, both of which have an outward persona that we find out doesn’t actually resemble reality. There’s more than a bit of sisterly rivalry and jealousy, it’s not helped when Jo is left the larger share of a family inheritance.

I think that Nikki nailed the ‘keeping up appearances’ aspect of this story by a country mile - as the story progresses cracks start to appear within the family dynamics, the sisters talked less and less - not wanting the other to know what was going on in their lives. With the narrative told from both sisters and their husbands perspective, we as a reader are privy to and have a birds eye view of a range of emotions and scenarios - the jealousy, trust, abuse both mental and physical was at times sickening to read. If a book could hear it would be deaf with the shouting of advise I constantly gave.

Nikki Smith dangled clues on threads, just out of reach - keeping me guessing until the last chapters on the full reality of this emotionally charged and at times quite dark read. As when reading All In Her Head I couldn’t shift that sickening feeling of unease and dread as I turned the pages, wanting my imagination to shut up - it didn’t and again when I finished reading I could only mouth wow, that was brilliant - such an incredibly layered tale that was never going to end well for everyone. As with the first novel I’ve been shouting about this one to everyone I know and most members of our book club have downloaded it to read too.

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