Tag Archives: Family

Book review: The Forever House by Veronica Henry

19 May

forever coverWould you know your forever house if you found it?

Hunter’s Moon is the ultimate ‘forever’ house. Nestled by a river in the Peasebrook valley, it has been the Willoughbys’ home for over fifty years, and now estate agent Belinda Baxter is determined to find the perfect family to live there. But the sale of the house unlocks decades of family secrets – and brings Belinda face to face with her own troubled past.

The Forever House is another absolute treat from Veronica Henry. Whether set by the sea or in the beautiful Cotswold countryside as this book is, Veronica’s books always offer a perfect reading escape. In this book we get to visit the charming village of Peasebrook and a beautiful house called Hunter’s Moon, the home of the Willoughby family. Hunter’s Moon is so beautifully described and I loved how Veronica wove the history of the house into the history of the family giving their home its own character.

The story moves between the present where estate agent Belinda Baxter has been commissioned to sell the Willoughby’s beloved home and the late 1960’s when a young girl called Sally visits Hunter’s Moon for the first time and becomes housekeeper for the family. I loved the dual timeline storylines for this book as difficult events in the present force the sale of the house and prompt its residents to reflect on the past and how the house became the home it is today.

Veronica evokes a wonderfully glamerous and spontaneous history for Hunter’s Moon with the eccentric bestselling romance author Margot Willoughby, her daughter Phoebe who creates fabulous fashion designs from the dining table and handsome son Alexander who is very much the dashing man about town. These parts of the story had a brilliant ‘Mad Men’ feel to them and I loved the contrast between the chaotic Willoghbys and Sally who just wants to put everything in order and create a homely atmosphere following the heartbreaks of her own past.

In the present Belinda is also coming to terms with past events that have left her heart bruised. I loved her dedication to her career and the boutique business that she has built from scratch and I was in heaven with all of the wonderful decor and design details of the houses that Belinda sells and her attention to detail – I only wish she was real and could find me my dream home!

Veronica Henry builds this story beautifully with events in the past and present bringing dramatic surprises and keeping me as a reader on my toes! Both parts of the story have excellent pace and plenty of to keep the reader thinking and each time the narrative moved between past and present I was left eager to find out what happened next so I flew through this book – I didn’t want it to end but I couldn’t put it down!

Belinda’s story runs perfectly alongside the story of Hunter’s Moon and Sally’s story in the past and I loved how the two stories came together as the book concluded. The characters are believable and interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them, especially Belinda and Sally. The Forever House is an entertaining, heartening read about family and the special places that we call home and I highly recommend adding it to your bookshelves!

5/5

The Forever House is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Orion.

Find out more about Veronica Henry and her writing at: http://www.veronicahenry.co.uk/

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

Book review: The Real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey

3 May

9781848548343Liddy James is forty-four, fit, and fabulous. A top divorce attorney, a bestselling author, and a mother of two, she glides effortlessly through the courtrooms and salons of Manhattan. Despite her own devastating divorce from her first love Peter, Liddy has formed a modern family with him and his new partner, Rose, to raise a truculent teen and Liddy’s adorable, if fatherless, six-year-old. With her impoverished childhood far behind her, to the outside world Liddy’s life is perfect.

Until it isn’t.

When a series of domestic and professional glitches send her carefully-tended world spinning towards meltdown, Liddy decides it’s time she and the boys retrace her family’s history and take some time off in Ireland. But marooned in the Celtic countryside things still aren’t what they seem, and Liddy will have to negotiate some surprising turns in the road before she’s willing to admit that even she might have forgotten just how to be The Real Liddy James.

The Real Liddy James is such a good read! As regular readers of my reviews will know, I love New York and I’m always fascinated and intrigued by the lifestyles of rich New Yorkers. The Real Liddy James gives us a fly on the wall look at Liddy and her life. If you’re a fan of Lauren Weisberger, Candace Bushnell and Allison Pearson’s  I Don’t Know How She Does It then you’ll love this book!

Liddy is a top divorce lawyer; a partner in a boutique firm specializing in making sure marriages and their break ups are legally sound. This is a world of muliti-million dollar deals, second and third houses and Liddy is a celebrity in her own right with a ‘ superwoman’ brand, a book and television appearances.

I found Liddy as a character fascinating and was surprised how my feelings for her changed as the book went on. Liddy is divorced and mother to two sons; the teen Matty and six year old Cal. Liddy’s is a complex life and the charm of this book is that we get to delve into all of her secrets and thoughts. As she tries to maintain her perfect façade there are many poignant and reflective moments as well as a lot that are just funny – I loved the dark humour in this story and the fact that Liddy isn’t afraid to laugh at herself.

Liddy maintains her life with an impressive list of lifestyle coaches, town cars, personal shoppers, housekeepers, a Manny and on top of this manages to maintain a good relationship with her ex husband and his new partner Rose. I thought Rose was a great character too, initially showing a much softer and nurturing side in stark contract to Liddy but as the story progressed, like Liddy, developing into a much fuller and complex character. I enjoyed both characters because there was a lot that I could empathise with in their experiences of relationships and motherhood despite our very different lifestyles!

As a series of events conspires to tip the balance of Liddy’s existence into the not quite so calm and controlled zone, Liddy begins to take a long look at herself and who she has become. Told in sections that take a past, present and into the future look at Liddy’s life, we begin to get an insight into what makes her tick and how she came to be the women she is today. What I found interesting was that my initial assumptions about all of the characters were challenged as the story played out and it wasn’t only Liddy who got to review who she really was.

Between Rose and Liddy, Anne- Marie Casey makes observations that felt spot on and perceptive about love, motherhood, relationships and work and how to juggle them all. A thought provoking, funny and entertaining read.

4/5

The Real Liddy James is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Hodder.

Find out more about Anne-Marie Casey at: http://www.annemariecasey.com/

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

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: 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.

Book review: This Love by Dani Atkins

29 Mar

this loveSophie stopped believing in happy endings a long time ago, but could this love change all of that?
 
Sophie Winter lives in a self-imposed cocoon – she’s a single, 31-year-old translator who works from home in her one-bedroom flat. This isn’t really the life she dreamed of, but then Sophie stopped believing in dreams when she was a teenager and tragedy struck her family.
 
So, to be safe, she keeps everyone at arm’s length. Sophie understands she has a problem, but recognising it and knowing how to fix it are two entirely different things.

One night a serious fire breaks out in the flat below hers. Sophie is trapped in the burning building until a passer-by, Ben, sees her and rescues her.
 
Suddenly her cocoon is shattered – what will be the consequences of this second life-changing event?

I thought when I read Our Song last year that Dani Atkins had written one of the most emotional and heartbreaking books that I’ve ever read … that was until I read This Love. Readers, Dani has done it again! She’s written a beautiful story that took me through every imaginable emotion and packaged it all up into a wonderful novel that left me sad, happy, hopeful and thankful at the end – tissues will be needed but I promise you it’s all worth it!

This Love starts with Sophie and it’s a very dramatic opening to the novel as the house where Sophie lives in the top flat catches fire when the people living below have a house party. To say I was gripped by the opening is a bit of an understatement – I actually forgot to tell my son to turn his light off and go to sleep because I was so caught up in Sophie’s predicament and even though I knew she’d escape and survive, I still found myself holding my breath as I read.

Sophie is quite literally saved by Ben, a man who spots that she is trapped and puts his own life on the line to help her escape. Needless to say, the two form a connection that is unique and special but both have reasons for not wanting a relationship and learning what’s underneath their thoughts and actions is a key thread to the novel as they both try to deal with heartbreaking situations of their own.

I’m being very cautious what I say in this review as the magic of the story lies in the discoveries that the characters make about each other as the book unfolds. Suffice to say that Dani had me absolutely hooked again and yet again managed to surprise me as I read, even when I thought I’d got it all worked out!

This Love is a novel that tackles some of our darkest fears and emotions (loss, grief, death, loneliness) head on but does so in such a sensitive and positive way that I can only admire Dani’s talent as a writer and I loved the way that she brought so many sub stories into the main story through Ben and his friends. My personal favourite of all the characters was Alice – a sweet little old lady who does a very brave thing and had me cheering for her from my reading chair!

If you’re already a fan of Dani’s novels then you have another absolute treat in store with This Love. if you haven’t discovered Dani’s books yet, I can’t recommend them highly enough – start with this one and then read them all!

5/5

This Love is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Simon and Schuster.

Find out more about Dani and her writing at: https://www.facebook.com/DaniAtkinsAuthor/

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 Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

20 Jan

a boy made of blocksA father who rediscovers love

Alex loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. He needs a reason to grab his future with both hands.

A son who shows him how to live

Meet eight-year-old Sam: beautiful, surprising – and different. To him the world is a frightening mystery. But as his imagination comes to life, his family will be changed . . . for good.

A Boy Made of Blocks is Keith Stuart’s debut novel; a story inspired by Keith’s own experiences of having an autistic son. It’s a novel of love, frustration, heartbreak, humour  and hope charting dad Alex’s relationship with his wife Jody and eight year old son, Sam.

As a mum to 5 and 8 year old boys there was a lot that I could empathise with in the story; I love my sons to bits but there are days when everything seems like a struggle and I can’t do right for doing wrong! Stuart clearly shows how those days and incidents are many and constant with a child who is autistic. My heart went out to Jody as she explained the constant worry about a simple day at school. What surprised me about this book was how much I disliked Alex initially. I really felt annoyed by his lack of ability to cope with the situations he found himself in and for much of the first third of the story I wanted to give him a good talking to!

In contrast to my feelings for Alex, I loved Sam and thought he was beautifully, believably and sensitively written. When Sam discovers the game Minecraft it literally opens a new world to him and provides the mechanism for Alex to begin to understand his son and build a relationship with him. These parts of the book had me thoroughly captivated and I enjoyed reading as Sam’s world opened up.

In addition to the serious themes of this stoyr; relationship breakdown, the pressures of being a parent, dealing with grief, there’s a lot of humour in A Boy Made of Blocks; some of it dark but I did find it funny and I loved the description of Sam’s responses to the world around him as ‘not being given the rule-book’ which does make for some very blunt and honest statements from Sam that had me smiling. It’s safe to say I went through the whole spectrum of emotions as I read and I did cry at the end – the final chapters weren’t at all what I was expecting but were just perfect.

4/5

A Boy Made of Blocks is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sphere.

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

 

Book review: Relativity by Antonia Hayes

16 Jan

relativityEthan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

I’ve been very lucky to start 2017 by reading a series of excellent new books and discovering some wonderful new authors. Antonia Hayes is an author who has jumped straight onto my ‘must read their books’ list; Relativity  is her debut and is a cleverly and beautifully written novel that tugged on my heart strings, made me hug my sons a little closer and left me feeling inspired and hopeful.

This is the story of twelve year old Ethan and his parents. Ethan is astonishingly bright for his age and loves physics and astronomy. Events when Ethan was just four months old have left him and his mum to pick up the pieces. Claire, Ethan’s mum has done all she can to protect him from the truth about what happened and the novel follows their story as events conspire to bring Ethan’s Dad Mark back into their lives at the same time as Ethan is becoming more curious about his Father and why he isn’t in their lives.

Hayes takes a shocking event and plays it forward to examine the impacts both physical and emotional on all parties over a decade later. I liked the fact that the book doesn’t focus too much on what actually happened to Ethan (the actual facts of which are hazy for the majority of the story) and focuses on the after effects. Each chapter of the story has a physics-based title and I loved how Antonia combined physics with the feelings and relationships of Claire, Ethan and Mark to make the scientific emotional and in many ways, magical.

Relativity gets to the heart of the mother-child bond perfectly – I had such empathy for Claire. But interestingly, I also felt sympathy for Mark as the book progressed and I liked that Antonia Hayes let me as a reader make judgements on both parents and their actions. This book raises interesting questions about family bonds, forgiveness and the nature of love and I liked that it made me consider that even situations that seem clear cut, often aren’t.

I’ll end my review with a mention for Ethan’s friend Alison who he meets while he’s in hospital – she was one of my favourite characters in the book and although her role is supporting, I loved the way she is written and how she gives Ethan perspective as well as assisting his grand schemes! I sped through Relativity – it has excellent pace and such an engaging story with characters that I could picture and believe in and I highly recommend adding Antonia Hayes to your reading list!

5/5

Relativity is out now in ebook format and is released in paperback on 19th January by Corsair.

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

Find out more about Antonia and her writing at: http://antoniahayes.com/

Guest post: National Adoption Awareness Month by Carmel Harrington

30 Nov

My lovely guest today on One More Page is bestselling author Carmel Harrington. Welcome Carmel!

November is known for many things, but one thing that is near and dear to many people’s hearts is the fact that November is Adoption Awareness Month. In her newest book Every Time a Bell Rings, Carmel Harrington explores many different types of love and hardship, and many of them involve the foster care system, which most of the main characters are a part of in one way or another. So as Adoption Awareness Month wraps up, let’s take a moment to hear from Carmel about what it meant to her to explore such a special kind of love and family.

Carmel HarringtonDear Readers,

I’ve always been interested in different family dynamics. I’ve learned that they come in different shapes and sizes, and isn’t that wonderful? Children may be biological or adopted or fostered. Some have a house full of siblings, others none. And more often than not now half siblings or step-siblings can be in the fray, as is the case in my own house.

I have a step-daughter whom I adore and love like my own, so I understand that you do not need to be a blood relative to love someone. I love exploring these different types of families in all my books and the subject of foster care is one of the central themes in Every Time a Bell Rings.

Belle Bailey is a foster child herself, taken from her mother for her own safety at four years old. Her life in foster care is quite chequered at first, as she struggles to find the right forever family. But when veteran foster caregiver Tess comes into her life, she finally begins to understand what it’s like to be loved and to love.

Belle meets Jim Looney whilst in Tess’s care. Unlike Belle, he is a temporary placement and eventually he returns to his mother. But during their time together in Tess’s, they form an unbreakable bond.

Belle goes on to become a foster parent herself, and that journey from child in care to caregiver herself was a joy to write. During my research, I had the pleasure of interviewing several foster children and caregivers. I learned that placing the right child with the right family can change lives. I also learned that these caregivers who take children into their homes and their hearts are walking angels. I am in awe of them and salute every single one.

Every Time a Bell Rings has many moments that are romantic, festive, magical, happy and heartwarming. But life can be dark and cruel at 27y4d4ntimes, and I had to explore these aspects in my story too. Writing the scenes that revolve around Belle as a young child with her mother, Dolores, were incredibly difficult. They have the power to still make me weep, as I ponder a world where children are mistreated.

But then I think of all the real life Tess, Belle and Jim’s of this world, the walking angels and I smile. Because I know that right now, there are selfless people who are changing the lives of children all over the world. Isn’t that pretty amazing?

Wishing every single one of you the most wonderful Christmas.

Carmel x

Every Time a Bell Rings is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Carmel and her writing at: http://carmelharrington.com/

Author Interview: Lucy Atkins

23 Jun

I’m delighted to welcome Lucy Atkins to One More Page today as part of the blog tour for her new novel, The Other Child. Lucy is an award-winning feature journalist and author, as well as a Sunday Times book critic. She has written for many newspapers, including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, and the Telegraph, as well as magazines such as Psychologies, Red, Woman and Home and Grazia. She lives in Oxford. Welcome Lucy!

Lucy Atkins, photographed by Charlie Hopkinson © 2013.Your new novel, The Other Child has just been released; please could you tell me a little about it and the inspiration behind it?

In 2010 my husband was offered a job in the States and so we relocated, with our three children, then aged 12,10 and 7, plus the family dog, to a rental house in a leafy Boston suburb. I hadn’t realised how hard it would be to settle everybody in, and we had this long, hot, slightly traumatic summer (boston summers are sweltering!). Then, when my children did start school, I found myself alone during the day in this silent street, friendless, and spookily isolated, with only the mailman and peoples’ gardeners for company. Things improved dramatically for us all, and in the end we loved it in Boston, but it’s those early feelings of spooky solitude that stuck with me.  And I knew I had to write a book set in that house, and that street.  Poor Tess has a much worse time than me, thank goodness.

Lead character Tess is a photographer; why did you choose to give her this particular profession?

I was really interested in the idea of how a photographer can see behind the mask people put on – and also how it is possible to be invisible, in a sense, behind a camera. I wanted Tess to have that access to Greg from the moment they met – to see something in his eyes that nobody else saw, and that he has masked so well. Tess is also a reserved, shy person, and it felt exactly right for her to be behind the camera, observing people, in a creative way.

 If you had to sum Tess up in five words what would they be?

Strong, protective, shy, loyal, independent.

Tess meets Greg and relocates to America; I noticed on your website that you have lived in both England and America; how did your own experiences come to bear when writing The Other Child?

I’ve spent three periods of my life living in The States (Philadelphia, Seattle, and Boston) and it’s those early ex-pat feelings of aloneness, homesickness, isolation that are really important to the feel of The Other Child. There is also a sense, when you move to a new place, of both enormous hope – this amazing new beginning – combined with moments of acute homesickness and longing. It’s an intense experience – especially when you have children, and are worried about their happiness. I also wanted Tess to be far, far away from the familiarity of home, and her best friend Nell. That makes everything feel so much more precarious and alarming.

The Other Child is your second psychological thriller; what drew you to this genre?

I honestly have no idea! It wasn’t a conscious decision at all. When I started writing The Missing One, I knew it was going to be about mother-daughter relationships, and I became obsessed by killer whales and the Pacific Northwest, but I don’t plan out a novel, and the terrifying events just sort of unfolded, mainly when I began to create the character of Susannah, the older woman. The Missing One did really well, and I realised that I actually love the tension, and having enormous and important things at stake, so it felt natural to stick to emotional suspense. I recently found a poem I’d written at school when I was 11, about being lost in a cave and hearing echoing footsteps. It’s totally psychological suspense, and seeing it made me realise this is probably just who I am (creatively at least: I lead a delightfully safe and dull life otherwise).

When you’re not writing, what types of books do you like to read?getimage

I read widely – partly because I’m a book critic, and I get paid to read things (!) and partly because I like to read  books that people I trust recommend. My idea of heaven is a beautifully written, thoughtful, fairly literary book with a good story, where the pages keep turning. Something like Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, or Sarah Water’s The Paying Guests.

And finally … what can we expect next from Lucy Atkins?

I am just at the very early stages of thinking about another book, and for some reason I seem to find myself getting interested in female scientists, ladybirds and dung beetles….who knows!?

Thanks Lucy.

The Other Child is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Quercus.

You can find out more about Lucy and her writing at: http://www.lucyatkins.com/

Please do check out the other stops on Lucy’s blog tour for more interviews, reviews and features on The Other Child.