Tag Archives: book reviews

Book review: Not the Only Sky by Alyssa Warren

27 Apr

not only the sky‘Wait. Patient. Now. Not long. Good girl. Wait here. Brave girl. Think of it as a vacation.’ ‘Back in a jiffy.’

Big Bend, population 500, South Dakota, 1988. Eight-year-old Tiny Mite lives in a ramshackle farmhouse next to her grandfather’s crashed airplane and the pine tree where she trains as a spy. Goddamn is her favourite word. Taking pictures with her camera made of aluminium foil and a tin can is her new big thing. She lives with Bee, her apocalypse-obsessed grandmother and Luvie, her hard-drinking great-aunt. And then there’s her mother Velvet, beautiful and desperate, still in love with her high school boyfriend who she left to have a brief fling with Tiny Mite’s absent father.

One night, Tiny Mite hears a cry, but it’s not what she imagines. And nothing will ever be the same. Six years later, Clea won’t let anyone call her Tiny Mite anymore. Luvie has fallen in love with a pastor, and Bee’s health is failing. Velvet is gone, and nobody except Bee, who can’t bring herself to turn her back on her daughter, will even mention her name.

Containing a wonderfully engaging and eccentric cast of characters who live long in the memory, this is the story of mothers and daughters, people bound by blood and geography, moments captured and lifetimes lost, and things never quite turning out as expected.

Not the Only Sky was a wonderful surprise to read; I’d expected a quirky read, something a little different, but what I found was not just quirky, but beautiful and heartfelt with characters that jumped off the page and will stay with me. Together with the thread of mystery that runs through the story, this all added up to a really excellent read.

Starting in 1988 and told in three parts over a decade, Not the Only Sky is the story of Tiny Mite/Clea and her family. In the first part of the novel we meet Tiny Mite and her family.  Tiny lives with her Mum, Velvet, her grandmother Bee and Her great aunt Luvvie in an old farmhouse deep in rural South Dakota. The town she lives in is small in a huge state and Big Bend is very much a forgotten corner of the world with run down shops, a dwindling population and a fair amount of poverty.

I love stories like this that tell of small town life and are populated by quirky but usually lovable and strong female characters. Tiny and the women that surround her certainly fit the bill; all are eccentric in different ways, slightly broken but still fighting and finding a way forward. Eight year old Tiny’s inner dialogue is just brilliant – I could have read her thoughts all day and in the tradition of Scout Finch and Swan Lake, Tiny has a a wonderfully unique take on the world.

So too does Tiny’s grandma Bee; deeply religious with a basement full of food stored for the apocalypse and a conspiracy theory for everything, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her character. Bee in particular has a complex line to tread, trying to keep her family together despite their individual difficulties. Not the Only Sky is very much a novel about the complexities of human relationships, particularly those of mothers and daughters and Alyssa Warren does a brilliant job of showing that there is often disparity between our thoughts and feelings and our actions and this gave me a lot of empathy for all of the charcters.

The story pivots around a day in 1988 that brings about huge change in the life of the family and is constructed in a very clever way so as to keep the reader guessing what happened to Tiny and Velvet that day. As the narrative jumps to 1994 then 1998 and moves between Velvet’s and Tiny’s (now known as Clea) stories, I was gripped!

I’m a big fan of books that follow a character through a number of years of their lives and I loved reading as Clea grew up and wishing wholeheartedly for a good outcome for her. With a timeless mix of old and new, heartbreak and hope, family ties and new beginnings, wise words and eccentric philosophies, Not the Only Sky is an excellent debut from Alyssa Warren and I’m very pleased to have discovered a wonderful new author.

5/5

Not the Only Sky is released today in paperback and ebook formats by Black and White Publishing.

Find out more about Alyssa Warren and her writing at: http://www.alyssa-warren.com/book/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

18 Apr

paper hearts cover

Christie Chapman is a single working mother who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn.

It can be tough just getting through the day but Christie has always found comfort in her love of crafting and any spare time she has is spent in her parents’ summerhouse working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed birthday cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking. 

All of a sudden Christie sees a different future for her and Finn – one full of hope and possibility, and if the handsome Max Alexander is to be believed, one full of love too. It’s all there for the taking.
And then, all of sudden, Christie’s world is turned upside down.

Christie knows that something has to give, but what will she choose? Will she give up her dreams and the chance of real love? What price will she pay for doing the right thing? Can Christie find her happy ending in . . . Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I’ve read a number of Carole Matthews’ books over the years and they are always lovely, heartwarming reads but Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is, for me, Carole’s best book yet. It has all the characteristics that I love in a good story; realistic characters that I could root for, a leading lady that I could identify with, lovely family relationships, emotional ups and downs and of course, a little romance. Not to mention the crafting – I loved learning about paper craft from Christie’s story and crafting fans will definitely enjoy this book.

Christie endeared herself to me straight away and I liked her more the more I read. She’s a single mum to fifteen year old Finn and the pair have a very close bond which was a joy to read. I loved that Christie is around the same age as me and as she did the dreaded commute into London each day, there was a lot that I could identify with. Christie has a great sense of humour as she tries to keep on top of holding down a full time job at a city law firm and caring for Finn who has been having some health problems and I admired her determination. Carole has based the character on her real life friend ‘Christine’ and her love and admiration for her and her son shines through on the pages.

Christie’s support network is wonderful and she has a brilliant relationship with her parents who live nearby. It was so lovely to read a story with such a positive emphasis on family – I wanted to move in with Christie’s Mum and Dad as I read! As Christie gets the opportunity to take her craft hobby to the next level by working with an American company, her family and friends rally round to support her – her law firm boss Robyn is another brilliantly written character who got a big thumbs up from me.

But just as things begin to look up, there’s more bad news on the way and this book certainly played with my emotions – it was only too easy to put myself in Christie’s shoes and to think how I’d feel if one of my sons was in Finn’s situation. I was on the edge of my seat rooting for both Finn and Christie to have the happy ending they deserved.

In addition to the family drama, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses has a wonderful romantic thread to it too as Christie meets handsome American CEO Max and her fellow commuter Henry and they both show an interest in her. I loved Christie for staying true to herself as both men vied for her attention and Carole conjures up some seriously romantic ‘dates’ in very glamorous locations whilst keeping the reader guessing!

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is a fab and inspiring read about weathering the many ups and downs that life can throw at us – a lovely uplifting read that left me with a smile on my face.

5/5

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Sphere.

Check out Carole’s fab website for more information on her books and the background to this story: http://www.carolematthews.com/

Please do check out the other stops on the blog tour and stop by here again later today for the chance to win a copy of this lovely book!

Book review: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

12 Apr

all grown upAndrea is a single, childless 39-year-old woman who tries to navigate family, sexuality, friendships and a career she never wanted, but battles with thoughts and desires that few people would want to face up to.

Told in gut-wrenchingly honest language that shimmers with rage and intimacy, All Grown Up poses such questions as:
- What if I don’t want to hold your baby?
- Can I date you without ever hearing about your divorce?
- What can I demand of my mother now that I am an adult?
- Is therapy pointless?
- At what point does drinking a lot become a drinking problem?
- Why does everyone keep asking me why I am not married?

Powerfully intelligent and wickedly funny, All Grown Up delves into the psyche of a flawed but mesmerising character. Readers will recognise themselves in Jami Attenberg’s truthful account of what it means to be a 21st century woman, though they might not always want to admit it.

All Grown Up is an interesting and thought provoking read. For me, it wasn’t the most comfortable of reads at times but I did enjoy it. The novel tells the story of Andrea – a complex character if ever there was one. I felt like I’d been through the wringer after spending time in Andrea’s head and, a week after finishing reading, I’m still not sure what my feelings are for her! The readers reaction to Andrea is a key premise of the book. There are scenes that might shock, her language and narration of events is no holds barred blunt and she presents a version of the truth that begs for discussion and analysis.

My feelings for Angela veered from admiration to dislike and from empathy to pity. Andrea is happy on her own but through her narrative in All Grown Up  shows how she feels that society conspires to tell her that she’s taken a wrong path, that her choices aren’t right and that she should feel bad about them. For a large part of the story, Andrea does feel bad; about her relationships, her art, her family and friends. Even her apartment conspires against her! 

My initial reaction to Andrea was to be sympathetic – I could understand the pressures and frustrations that come with parents and friends thinking that you should be doing particular things with your life at certain points and I have strong feelings that a woman should be able to be single and childless if she wants. I found myself getting a little annoyed with Andrea because she didn’t seem to know what she wanted really and her choices seemed to be making her so unhappy.

The story is put together in chapters that jump around in time to slowly reveal the big picture of Andrea and those close to her. Two threads in this picture really interested me; Andrea’s relationship with her Mother and with her friend Imogen. Andrea’s mum was actually my favourite character – I thought she was strong, independent and willing to stand by her choices and fight for her family. 

But it was the relationship between Andrea and Imogen that intrigued me most. Not so long ago, I was on the Imogen side of this relationship having just had my first son and trying very hard to maintain a friendship with a friend who actively disliked children and had a very physical revulsion to motherhood in general. Andrea’s reaction to Imogen helped me to take another perspective on this particular friendship dilemma – I love how books can do that!

At the heart of All Grown Up is the big question ‘what makes us adults?’ and I think Andrea represents a lot of the questions that we ask ourselves as we try to be grown ups. Andrea doesn’t necessarily have the answers but in reading this book I’m sure many will recognise situations and mindsets that are familiar – a great novel to debate with friends.

4/5

All Grown Up is out now in hardback and ebook formats from Sepent’s Tail.

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

Guest book review: When My Ship Comes in by Sue Wilsher

5 Apr

My lovely Mum is back today and she’s been reading Sue Wilsher’s debut novel, When My Ship Comes In.

shipKeep the family together, that’s what her old mum always said. Put up and shut up. And that’s what everyone else did around there.

Essex, 1959. Flo earns her money as a scrubber, cleaning the cruise ships and dreaming of a day when she might sail away from her life in the Dwellings, the squalid tenements of Tilbury docks. Then the Blundell family are evicted from their home.

Fred, Flo’s husband, finds work at Monday’s, a utopian factory town. Suddenly, it seems like everything is on the up for Flo Blundell and her children. Even Jeanie, Flo’s sulking teenage daughter, seems to be thawing a little in her shiny new surroundings.

But when Flo’s abusive husband Fred starts drinking again, he jeopardises the family’s chance to escape poverty for good.

Flo is faced with a terrible decision. Must she fight to keep her family together? Or could she strive for the life of her dreams – the kind of life she could have when her ship comes in?

GRIPPING! From the first page!

Sue Wilsher has an amazing ability with words – hauling the reader into this book, warts and all! No feeling is spared just true and real descriptions that have you on the edge of your seat – not because this is a story with an amazing adventure thread or a deceptive dark secret – but because this story is REAL! You live the minute, every minute!

Flo Blundell has awful and desperate decisions to make from the outset of the story, based around Tilbury docks and set in 1959, when folk were still feeling the scars of war but light was beginning to dawn on a better future for some.Flo is very loyal to her family, eight year old Mikey, fifteen year old twins Jeanie and Bab’s and her dear elderly ailing mother who lives in the tenement next door.

Although her husband is a drunkard and treats her aggressively – when he is at home, Flo remains the loyal wife, for she relates to her husband’s dark secrets of the past, and excuses him because, “He can’t help it.” Flo has a secret plan of her own; the Oxo tin in the larder helping to hide her dreams of a better life across the sea, but that is dashed when the contents are needed to deal with a very imminent and demanding problem, which can’t wait.

Cleverly the book switches from the third person to the first person – at first I found this a bit odd and had to do a double take to decide who was relaying events – but then I realised this was a very good tactic, because the person describing events was actually the character who chose to say very little – this was a wonderful way of getting inside someone’s thoughts and actually helping the reader to understand their way of thinking.

One dilemma leads to another and poor Flo has to deal with many dramas and heartbreaks all because of Fred’s inability to control his temper!  Amazingly life seems to turn a corner at this point, but cleverly Sue still has the reader with heart in mouth expecting the worst and then just when you start to relax – Wham! Everything turns upside down again!

Sue’s descriptions are so real that you can smell the smog, taste the grime and feel every punch and kick launched at Flo. Thankfully there are some saviours in this traumatic world and Flo finds friendship and support in the least expected quarters. She never gives up on herself or her family and latterly makes a very brave decision.

Jeanie is the quiet moody twin who seems angry with the world, no matter what – she has her own plans and ambitions and although she has an affinity with her twin, when the time comes to face one of the cruellest decisions, she does so alone. Sue Wilshire has obviously researched her facts and because of my age I could relate to many things that happened, hearing similar stories when growing up and remember well the tin bath in front of the fire!

This isn’t a ‘Happy ever after story’ but it is a heart wrenching and heart-warming story of life in the late fifties and early sixties, for the working classes. A lovely read and I look forward to other volumes from Sue.

5/5

When My Ship Comes In is released in paperback and ebook formats on 6th April by Sphere.

Find out more about Sue Wilsher and her writing at: https://historicalwriters.org/writer/sue-wilsher/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book.

Book review: The Little Teashop of Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley

15 Mar

litte teashopAlice Rose is a foundling, discovered on the Yorkshire moors above Haworth as a baby. Adopted but then later rejected again by a horrid step-mother, Alice struggles to find a place where she belongs. Only baking – the scent of cinnamon and citrus and the feel of butter and flour between her fingers – brings a comforting sense of home.

So it seems natural that when she finally decides to return to Haworth, Alice turns to baking again, taking over a run-down little teashop and working to set up an afternoon tea emporium.

Luckily she soon makes friends, including a Grecian god-like neighbour, who help her both set up home and try to solve the mystery of who she is. There are one or two last twists in the dark fairytale of Alice’s life to come . . . but can she find her happily ever after?

I’ve been a fan of Trisha Ashley’s books for a long time and I love the stories that she creates, but with this new book I think she’s created my favourite yet! The Little Teashop of Lost and Found had so many elements that I love that it’s hard to know where to start with this review. Set mainly in my favourite county of Yorkshire, not only did Trisha win me over with a fab location but then she threw in a teashop, some dark fairy tales and a leading man who looks like a Greek god – what’s not to love?

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found is the story of Alice Rose. Alice is in her mid-thirties and has had a pretty raw deal in life to this point. The first chapters of the book tell Alice’s story to the point where she decides to make a new start following the death of her fiance, Dan. Alice is a fab character and I liked her straight away; not least for her ability to pick herself up and keep going despite the ups and downs that life has thrown at her.

Baking and writing keep Alice sane when things get tough and I loved how Trisha included both throughout the story. I’m a big fan of dark fairy-tales and fairy-tale retellings so as soon as I saw that Alice is an author of dark fairytales with a twist, I was very happy. Alice’s latest novel is woven into the book and I was just as hooked on it as I was by the main storyline (Trisha – please write a dark fairytale novella in future!)

I love the idea of stories within stories and The Little Teashop of Lost and Found has not one but two stories within it as each chapter is preceded with parts of an account of events that have a major impact on Alice. The mystery of who Alice’s parents are, combined with the fairy-tale metaphors that Alice is fond of, create a gripping edge to the book and I had to keep reading to find out exactly what happened on the night that Alice was abandoned.

As Alice moves to Haworth, famed for it’s Bronte connections,  to see if she can solve the mystery of her birth by being close to the moors that she was abandoned on, she gets a lot more than she bargained for! The teashop that she’s bought needs a huge amount of work and the accompanying flat is uninhabitable. Thankfully, Alice is ‘rescued’ by her handsome neighbour Nile who’s Mum has guest rooms that she rents out.

As Alice meets Niles’s family, we’re introduced to a wonderful cast of characters who help her in more ways than she could ever have imagined. Nile’s sister Bel and sister in law, Geeta were favourites of mine and I won’t forget the wonderful Yorkshire women that Alice hires as her waitresses; the delightfully blunt Tilda and Nell. There’s even an update on Eleri from the short story Finding Mr Rochester. 

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found  is a charming tale with heaps of Trisha magic and more than a few surprises in it and I loved it so much that I’ve just ordered another copy for my Mum for Mother’s Day!

5/5

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats from Bantam Press.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Trisha and her writing at: www.trishaashley.com

 

Book review: The Song of the Stork by Stephan Collishaw

14 Mar

song of the storkFifteen-year-old Yael is on the run. The Jewish girl seeks shelter from the Germans on the farm of the village outcast. Aleksei is mute and solitary, but as the brutal winter advances, he reluctantly takes her in and a delicate relationship develops.

As her feelings towards Aleksei change, the war intrudes and Yael is forced to join a Jewish partisan group fighting in the woods.

Torn apart and fighting for her life, The Song of the Stork is Yael’s story of love, hope and survival. It is the story of one woman finding a voice as the voices around her are extinguished.

Having read The Song of the Stork, I can easily see why Stephan Collishaw was selected by the British Council in 2004 as one of the best young British novelists. I found Stephan’s writing beautiful to read even though the events that he describes are horrifying.  At just over two hundred and sixty pages, The Song of the Stork is a short novel but one that had a huge impact on me as I read and a book that I won’t forget easily.

Yael is a fifteen year old Jewish girl on the run from the Nazi soldiers who destroyed her village, separated her from her family and continue to present a very real threat to her life. As war rages around her, Yael does all she can to survive, clinging to the hope that one day she will reunite with her family. Collishaw writes with a readable and honest style that shows all that Yael has to endure.

As a student of history, I studied Nazi Germany in quite a lot of detail and I’m well aware of the horrors of the Holocaust. The Song of the Stork brings those horrors starkly to life yet shows just how strong the human spirit can be. Collishaw has clearly done his research but more than just knowing the historical details of the period, he gets under the skin of his characters and brings them fully to life on the page.

Yael seeks shelter at the farmstead of a local mute boy, Aleksei. I was absolutely captivated as Yael very slowly won Aleksei over and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way Stephan has written a love story without words between the two main characters showing that even in the darkest of times and most difficult of circumstances, love can grow and hope can flourish.

What struck me particularly whilst reading was how despite the acknowledged horrors of persecution and war, that both still continue. The tension of the story is continually high and the bleakness of Yael’s future broke my heart but despite all of this, I finished the book hopeful. There are many beautiful moments in the story, acts of kindness and small mercies that show human nature at its best.

The Song of the Stork is a surprising and moving historical love story and I’ll definitely be adding Stephan’s previous book to my reading pile. I look forward to reading more from him in future.

5/5

The Song of the Stork is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Legend Press.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

 

 

Book review: Secrets of A Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly

12 Mar

secrets of a happyBess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess’s stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won’t replace the one she’s been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn’t unnerved by anything – apart from facing the man who left her at the altar, and he’s on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since – but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage . . . But will they find out before it’s too late?

In Secrets of a Happy Marriage, Cathy Kelly has created the wonderfully complicated Brannigan clan and charts the ups and downs of their lives as they prepare for patriarch Edward Brannigan’s 70th Birthday. I loved the huge variety of characters and storylines in this book. It’s like a wonderful Irish soap opera with just about every family and relationship scenario covered from infertility to career issues, affairs, new love and difficult parents! 

As the title would hint, marriage is also a key focus, from a tricky second marriage to being jilted at the alter and how marriages cope when they are put under pressure. Each chapter of the book starts with a quote or a tip on the secrets of a happy marriage and there are many wise words both in the quotes and the book itself.

My overwhelming feeling whilst reading the book was what a wonderfully strong set of women Cathy has created in this story. I was immediately drawn into the story by Faenia, who opens the novel  with a prologue set in San Francisco. Faenia ended up being one of my favourite characters and I was intrigued from beginning to end by her story and I didn’t want to stop reading until I found out what had happened to her. She’s in her sixties and is a highly regarded stylist at a big department store and very glamorous but also very wise and I loved her attitude – I think I could have read a whole book just about Faenia and her life!

My other favourite character was Cari. Cari works for a publishing house and is a top editor with a high profile writer who is very unfairly taken away from her. How these women deal with life when it deals them a bad hand makes for great reading and I admired their strength. As an avid fan of all things bookish I loved the insights into the publishing world that I got from the parts that involved Cari. I especially liked the bit about how important bloggers are ;-)

As well as strong independent women there are some lovely men in the story too and my heart went out to Jo-Jo’s husband Hugh, Edward and Conal who have some difficult situations to deal with the women in their lives. This story shows well that none of us can do everything alone. With plenty of sharp wit and humour as well as an abundance of emotion and advice from Nora, the unofficial family therapist and wise woman this is a great book to curl up and get lost in this Spring.

4/5

Secrets of a Happy Marriage is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats from Orion.

Find out more about Cathy and her writing at: http://www.cathykelly.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde

2 Mar

a secret gardenLorna is a talented gardener and Philly is a plantswoman. Together they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds

They enjoy their jobs and are surrounded by family and friends.

But for them both the door to true love remains resolutely closed.

So when Lorna is introduced to Jack at a dinner party and Lucien catches Philly’s eye at the local farmers market, it seems that dreams really can come true and happy endings lie just around the corner.

But do they?

Troublesome parents, the unexpected arrival of someone from Lorna’s past, and the discovery of an old and secret garden mean their lives are about to become a lot more complicated…

Katie Fforde has long been a favourite author of mine and I have nothing but admiration for the way that she keeps coming up with new stories and lovely new novels that are a joy to escape with. In A Secret Garden we find ourselves in a Cotswold village.  In this idyllic setting we meet a lovely and quirky cast of characters who I really didn’t want to leave as I finished the book.

Lorna is a gardener tasked with bringing the gardens of her long-time friend Peter’s stately home back to life. Lorna lives in a lovely little cottage on the estate and as we meet her she’s harbouring a secret love for her old friend. I liked Lorna immediately, particularly for the way she dealt with Peter and his new girlfriend Kirsty. As Peter drops the bombshell that he’s’ met ‘the one’ and invites Lorna to meet her at a dinner party, he starts a chain of events that result in many changes for his unsuspecting guests. A Secret Garden is a gentle romantic comedy that kept me guessing right to the end; if Jane Austen was writing now, I imagine her novels would be something like this.

Two of my favourite characters in the book were Philly and her Grandfather (known as Grand) who have run away from their Irish home to grasp their freedom and launch their own business. I absolutely loved the idea of grandfather and granddaughter running away together and starting a new life and I loved the relationship that the two have throughout the book. Philly has up to now had a very strict Irish upbringing so I enjoyed watching her take her first independent steps and admired her work ethic as she nurtures her plant nursery. The romantic element of Philly’s story is absolutely charming as she meets chef Lucien.

This is a book about finding love at any age and how wonderful but also how daunting that can be. It was refreshing to read a story that had romance for the majority of characters and I think Katie makes a lovely point with this story that love really does know no boundaries (but we often put our own up just to give it a challenge!)

Gardeners and garden fans will of course love this novel and Katie has clearly done her research. I’m not really a gardener but the descriptions in the book even made me want to have a go! Katie also sheds a fascinating light on sculpture and stone masonry through the character of Jack and as a fan of big old houses I really enjoyed the settings that Katie has created. I felt like I’d had a lovely escape to the country as I read this book and I think this would make an ideal Mother’s Day Gift if you’re looking for ideas!

4/5

A Secret Garden is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Katie and her writing at:  http://www.katiefforde.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

Book review: Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

27 Feb

wing jonesWith a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

I can’t look at the UK paperback of Wing Jones without smiling – it’s just soooo pretty. With packaging that good, it’s got to be an excellent read right? And it is – I never thought I’d enjoy a book about running so much but of course it’s about so much more than running!

Wing and her family live in Atlanta and her brother, Marcus, is the star quarterback for their school football team. While Marcus is top of the popularity list, Wing is somewhere at the bottom. Wing’s has a wonderful mix of Ghanian and Chinese heritage, personified in her two feisty grandmothers who I loved, but while the mix has worked in her brother’s favour, it has cast Wing on the outside.  Wing Jones shows that ‘different’ can have both highs and lows and the book addresses so many important themes around fitting in, being a teenager, love and acceptance (of yourself an d by others) and I’m sure many readers will identify with Wing in many ways.

I’m a massive fan of American football and I love the series Friday Night Lights; Wing Jones very much reminded me of it both in setting and in some of the storylines; it’s as much about the stories of the characters and families off the pitch or track as it is about the events taking place on it. It’s also a story about belonging and I liked the message that came across loud and clear that sometimes it takes time to find your niche.

Wing finds herself thrown into the spotlight by her brother’s actions and the effects are both positive and negative but ultimately Wing discovers that she can run. The descriptions of running in the book are brilliant – I felt like I was flying along with Wing as I read and I can absolutely see now how running is an escape and a release for her. As Wing’s family struggle she finds herself changing and rising to new challenges and I absolutely loved the way her character developed through the book.

Wing’s voice in the story is just brilliant –I sometimes find that YA authors miss the mark when pitching their protagonist’s voice (often sounding too young or too old) but Katherine Webber has got it absolutely spot on with Wing and I could have read about her all day. With a slow burning romantic element to the story, wing learns that she can fly out of her brother’s shadow. Wing Jones is a great, uplifting, positive read and a brilliant debut – a YA highlight for 2017.

5/5

Wing Jones is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Walker Books.

Find out more about Katherine Webber and her writing at: http://www.kwebberwrites.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

 

Book review: Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows

21 Feb

ambulance girls bpbOn duty during London’s Blitz…

As death and destruction fall from the skies day after day in the London Blitz, Australian ambulance driver Lily Brennan confronts the horror with bravery, intelligence, common sense and humour.

Although she must rely upon her colleagues to carry out her dangerous duties, Lily begins to suspect that someone at her Ambulance Station may be giving assistance to the enemy by disclosing secret information. Then her best friend, Jewish ambulance attendant David Levy, disappears in suspicious circumstances. Aided – and sometimes hindered – by David’s school friend, a mysterious and attractive RAF pilot, Lily has to draw on all of her resources to find David, and negotiate the dangers that come from falling in love in a country far from home in a time of war…

Ambulance Girls is the first book in a new historical saga series from Deborah Burrows and will appeal to fans of wartime sagas such as Daisy Styles’ The Bomb Girls and Donna Douglas’ nursing series’. I do love a good historical saga and particularly those that shed a light on the important work done by women during war. Set in London in 1939, Ambulance Girls starts with a brave rescue and is an excellent tribute to the men and women who put their lives on the line to rescue others during the second world war and particularly during the Blitz.

Deborah clearly knows her history and has done her research; I live and work in London and I was fascinated by the details that Deborah put into this story; it certainly made for thought provoking reading as I read about places and landmarks that I visit regularly and the devastation that the bombing raids wreaked.

We meet Lily Brennan who is fairly new to England and working as an ambulance driver. This novel stood out from other sagas to me for having an Australian female lead which gave a very different perspective on the war and I enjoyed seeing London through her eyes and also learning about the country that she called home. Having read several books about the nursing profession during the war, I enjoyed getting another perspective on the work that so many women volunteered to do.

Lily is an excellent lead; she’s bright, strong and has an innate sense of what is right that she is willing to fight to defend. I admired her bravery as she pushed herself to the limits to help others and her tenacity in fighting for what she believes is right. Lily’s partner in the ambulance is David; a handsome and educated Jewish man who Lily has formed a close bond with. I enjoyed their banter and I felt that their relationship was very well written.

I was also struck by the way that this novel quickly showed that David is considered an outsider. There’s a sad and sobering theme to Ambulance Girls that highlights clearly that anti-semitism wasn’t the preserve of Hitler and the Nazis but also prevalent in England during the war. I always find it fascinating to think about what people knew at the time, what attitudes were accepted and how this played out in day-to-day life in England. We hear a lot about the camaraderie and fighting spirit of the war years but in Ambulance Girls we also see the other side of the story with characters who take advantage of others’ misfortune and show prejudice to others.

As David goes missing, Lily teams up with an old school friend of his to try to find him. David’s RAF pilot friend, Jim was one of my favourite characters in the book and I loved reading as his relationship with Lily developed. Their story brings the romance element to the story but certainly not in a conventional way and I enjoyed how this story line kept me guessing.

I’m so pleased that there are going to be more books in this series. The next, Ambulance Girls Under Fire is due for release in October and will focus on Celia Ashwin, another ambulance driver that we meet in this book. I can’t wait to read more about the characters that Deborah has introduced here and find out what happens to them next.

4/5

Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows is published by Ebury Press, in paperback on 23rd February.

Find out more about Deborah and her writing at: http://deborahburrows.com.au/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.