Tag Archives: Family

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.

Book review: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

14 Jun

thelastdaysofrabbithayesannamcpartlinHere is a truth that can’t be escaped: for Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes, life is coming to an end . . .

Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it.

She loves her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colourful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye.

But it turns out the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she’s OK with that. Because she has plans for the world too, and only a handful of days left to make them happen.

Here is a truth that won’t be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life’s surprises and finding the joy in every moment.

I read this excellent book earlier in the year and have been very remiss by not reviewing it until now. Anna McPartlin’s story of Rabbit, her wonderful family, her loves and ultimately, her death is a beautifully written, poignant and yet darkly funny read that made me laugh and cry (sometimes at the same time!) It’s no surprise to me that it was chosen to be one of the Richard and Judy Book Club titles for Spring 2015 and I know this book has many fans.

The story focuses on Mia Hayes (known to all as ‘Rabbit’), her family and friends as she enters a hospice as the end of her battle with cancer draws near. Told over just nine days, the novel moves quickly between past and present to build up a picture of Rabbit’s life and history whilst charting the reactions and actions of her nearest and dearest as her life draws to a close. I loved Rabbit’s flash backs to her past and getting to know her as a young girl.

The episodes set in the past give a strong sense of time and place and also introduce a key storyline in the book which is the love story between Rabbit and Johnny. To say that The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is an unconventional love story would be true but I found it to tell a beautiful romance with characters that jumped off the page and lingered with me long after I finished reading. Rabbit and Johnny’s story is marred by heartbreak and tragedy but is also a simple story of a girl falling for one of her brother’s mates.

Rabbit is quite the character as are many of her family members. My personal favourites in this book were Rabbit’s Mum Molly who is the personification of a no-nonsense, strong Irish Mammy and her brother Davey whose life has taken him in many directions but who finds a wonderful bond with Rabbit’s daughter Juliet. Between them Rabbit and Molly are responsible for a lot of the humour in the book, proving that even at the darkest times there can be laughter and making their relationship all the more poignant.

Anna McPartlin doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of a life-ending illness as she explores the ways that families deal with loss and grief and although painful to read at times, the ways in which Rabbit’s family and friends face up to the impending loss of a loved one felt very believable and really did encompass the whole myriad of reactions and emotions.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is a touching novel that reminded me to take pleasure in the small things and enjoy each day as it comes. This is the first of Anna’s books that I’ve read and I now look forward to catching up on her backlist whilst I wait for her next release later this year.

5/5

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Anna McPartlin at: http://annamcpartlin.com/

 

Book Review: That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay

27 Jan

THAT PART WAS TRUE JACKET (1)When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food. As their letters criss-cross the ocean that lies between them, friendship and then romance blossoms despite Jackson’s colourful love life and Eve’s tense relationship with her soon-to-be-married daughter. Little by little, Eve and Jack begin to believe that they may have a chance to change their lives and possibly get a second chance at happiness. They just need to actually meet…

That Part Was True is a thoughtful and captivating story of friendship, family, love and loss. The story is set in the UK and US and I enjoyed reading about the very different lives of the lead characters, Eve and Jack. This is a novel that grew on me quickly as I read and although fairly slow paced, is an intriguing look at the lives of two people who make a connection through their love of food and cooking.

Narrated in the third person, this That Part Was True is really two separate stories linked by the letters and notes that the main characters send each other and I was carried along by the way that their relationship developed against the backdrop of all that was going on in their separate lives.

Author Jackson (Jack) Cooper  lives in The  Hamptons and is facing something of a mid-life crisis. His wife recently left him and he is questioning everything, including his career as a best-selling popular fiction author as a result. I loved the subtle glamour of Jack’s lifestyle and the contrast between his life and that of Eve Petworth, who is focussed on living a quiet life in the English countryside.

Eve writes to Jack to praise his latest novel and Jack responds. Little by little, their friendship develops through their correspondence. As this develops Deborah McKinlay begins to fill in the detail and history of their lives for the reader. From Eve’s domineering mother, her fraught relationship with her daughter and anxiety attacks to Jack’s attempts at romance and concerns over his career; what makes this book are the lead characters’ insecurities and the complexity of their emotions.

I’ll admit that I didn’t particularly warm to either as I started the book and actually disliked Jack in the beginning, but as their experiences come to the fore I began to see them as the fully rounded characters that they are and felt sympathy for Eve in particular and admired her bravery and determination to overcome her anxiety attacks.

The concept of romance developing through a series of letters is a lovely one and gives Eve and Jack’s relationship a timeless quality that marks this book as different. But That Part Was True is more than a love story; it’s also an inspiring novel about second chances, not just in love but in family relationships too as Eve helps her daughter plan her wedding and the pair try to negotiate their difficult relationship.

The ending to this book was a wonderful surprise and not what I’d expected but left me with a feeling of satisfaction; That Part Was True is a compelling read with honestly flawed characters who will find a place in your heart.

That Part Was True is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

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

Find out more about Deborah McKinlay and her writing at:http://www.deborahmckinlay.com/