Tag Archives: love

Book review: The A-Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson

1 Jul

a-zP is for Paris where it all began. J is for Jealousy where it all came undone. But the most important letter is F. F is for Forgiveness, the hardest of all.

Sisters Poppy and Rose used to be as close as two sisters could be, but it’s been over a decade since they last spoke. Until they both receive a call that tells them their mother has gone – without ever having the chance to see her daughters reunited.

Andrea, though, wasn’t the kind of woman to let a little thing like death stand in the way of her plans. Knowing her daughters better than they know themselves, she has left behind one very special last gift –the A-Z of Everything.

Debbie Johnson is making quite a habit of making me cry with her books! The A-Z of Everything is an emotional read but there was also plenty of laughter with the poignant moments, in fact I think the laughter and humour that Debbie puts into her writing makes it even more poignant and she expertly shows in this book that there is a blurry line between sadness and happiness.

Poppy and Rose are sisters who grew up with just their Mum, Angela to look after them. The three were a tight knit unit until Poppy and Rose grew up and apart. As the novel opens, Angela is dying and still trying ot find a way to reunite her beloved daughters. So Angela creates The A-Z of everything; a very personal set of letters, videos, tape recordings and other items for Poppy and Rose to work their way through as they try to fulfill their Mother’s last wish. I loved the premise for this book. It’s a little different from Debbie’s previous books but I absolutely loved The Comfort Food Cafe and I can see how themes in that story have developed into this book so although this is different, Debbie’s fans will still love it and recognise the wonderful warmth of her writing.

The story moves perfectly between past and present building up a picture of Rose and Poppy’s lives and their childhoods. I felt really nostalgic reading The A-Z of Everything as Poppy and Rose are a similar age to me so lots of the things mentioned in their childhoods and as they grew up rang true with me. Rose had my sympathy from the start of the book and I found myself hoping that she could get her life back on track as I read. It took me a little longer to warm to Poppy but I did. Both ladies are excellent characters; well rounded and complex and I enjoyed learning about them as they reacted to the different letters of the A-Z.

The A-Z format gives the book excellent pace and I couldn’t wait to see what would be next and to find out if Poppy and Rose would grant their mum’s dying wish by the end of the story. Johnson explores what happens when loved ones fall out and this is a book that will make you want to hold your loved ones closer and will prompt you to think about what’s really important in life. I loved the adventure that Angela took Poppy and Rose on. This is a novel filled with warmth, wit and wise words – another excellent book from Debbie!

4/5

The A-Z of Everything is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

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

Find out more about Debbie and her writing at: http://www.debbiejohnsonauthor.com/

 

 

 

Book review: Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

27 May

leopard at the doorStepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.

But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.

Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

Leopard at the Door is Jennifer McVeigh’s second novel but the first that I’ve read. Her debut, The Fever Tree was chosen for the Richard and Judy book. I love discovering authors that are new to me and I’m so pleased to have been given the opportunity to read an early copy of this book – it is everything that I look for in an historical fiction read; beautifully described, evocative of another time and place, with a gripping storyline and a strong and interesting female lead.

McVeigh’s descriptions of place in Leopard at the Door are amazing; sights, smells, dress and people are all captured with such richness that I felt transported as I read. I’ve never been to Africa but the excellent scene setting in this novel meant that I didn’t have to work to imagine it and I particularly loved the vistas that McVeigh creates featuring wildlife.

Against this natural beauty, McVeigh sets a story of love, war and division that contrasts sharply. With her lead character Rachel we are given an observer’s insight into events and I loved the way that Rachel’s character was used to give perspective and also represented the divides in the story – it made for gripping reading. The story is shockingly violent in places yet there are also wonderful scenes of gentleness, compassion and love which makes it all the more heartbreaking to read.

As Rachel returns to her father’s farm in Kenya after a six year absence she is also trying to find her place in the world. Sent to England at just 12 following the death of her beloved mother, Rachel is just eighteen when she returns and is still trying to make sense of her fathers’ actions and find her place in the family. But the farm that she returns to is subtly changed from the idyll of her childhood memories and immediately there are tensions in the house.

Charting the violence and horrors of the early 1950s and British Imperialism in Kenya, McVeigh shines a spotlight on a part of history that I know little about making this book much more than just an excellent read. McVeigh brings history alive and I was completely swept up in this story; it’s a must read for fans of Dinah Jefferies and readers who love historical fiction coupled with dramatic settings and love against the odds.

5/5

Leopard at the Door is out now in ebook and audio formats from Penguin. It will be released in paperback on 13th July.

Find out more about Jennifer and her writing at: http://www.jennifermcveigh.com/

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

Exclusive Extract: Making Space by Sarah Tierney

26 May

It’s my stop on the Making Space blog tour today and I have an extract from the book to share with you. Making Space is Sarah Tierney’s debut novel. Sarah is a graduate of the MA in Novel Writing at Manchester University, and her short story, ‘Five Miles Out’, was made into a short film by the acclaimed director Andrew Haigh. Sarah has worked as a journalist, editor and copywriter. She lives in Derbyshire with her husband and daughter.

making spaceWhy do we hold onto things we don’t need? And let go of the things we do? Miriam is twenty-nine: temping, living with a flatmate who is no longer a friend, and still trying to find her place in life. She falls in love with Erik after he employs her to clear out his paper-packed home. They are worlds apart: he is forty-five, a successful photographer and artist and an obsessive hoarder still haunted by the end of his marriage. Miriam has an unsuccessful love life and has just got rid of most of her belongings. Somehow, they must find a way to reach each other.

Extract

There was a time when I wore t-shirts with band names on them and patterned dresses with big boots. At some point, though, this style had become no good. It was too teenage, too studenty so I’d replaced it with the Next jumpers and the boot cut jeans, and these work clothes; silk-lined suits, stiff ironed shirts, plain black trousers, which felt like a costume every time I put them on: Now I’m going to dress like someone with an office job. And thinking about it, so did the other two sections of my wardrobe. Now I’m going to dress like a girl desperate for attention. Now like a girl desperate to be ignored.

I put them all in the corner marked ‘charity’. Then I started on my books. I had a lot. They filled two bookcases and were stacked in piles against the wall. Some were from university. TV criticism, film scripts, biographies of directors and actors. Others dated back to my late teens Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, Lolita, On the Road, and so on. Over the years, my tastes had become less literary. Many of my more recent purchases featured vampires. My DVDs followed a similar pattern. At uni I’d chosen films by director. Now I preferred to watch HBO box sets. You could wipe out an entire weekend with a twelve–episode series, emerging on Monday morning with no hangover, just a vague sense of dislocation in the world.

I put a few in the corner named ‘sell’ and the rest in ‘charity’. Then I moved the sell ones to charity as well. I didn’t want them hanging around for months while I waited for someone to buy them off Amazon.

I worked my way through the whole room like that, sorting through my shoes, my make-up, my knick-knacks. There was a box under my bed full of old letters, birthday cards, and photographs. I pulled it out and took off the lid, then suddenly lost heart. I called my sister Susie then, to ask if she’d give me a lift to a charity shop tomorrow. Most of my belongings were in that corner, and the one labelled ‘bin’. Almost all, in fact.

By the time I’d finished, Jessica and Gareth had gone out. It was a Friday night. I ate a bowl of cold curry in the kitchen then got ready for bed.

I didn’t have any pyjamas to change into and taking them out of the bin bag felt wrong, like I’d broken a promise. I left them where they were and got under the covers naked. I never did that if I was on my own.

The next morning Susie arrived at just past nine, the only gap she had in her Saturday schedule. She had her phone in one hand, car keys in the other, but still managed to grab my arm when she saw all my stuff packed up in my room. ‘I thought you meant just a few bags. Are you finally moving out of this student flat?’

‘“Young professionals”. Neither of us are students.’

‘Sorry. “Young professionals”. So, where are you going?’

‘Nowhere. I’m having a clear-out.’

‘Of everything you own?’

I gave her a bin bag of clothes to take down to her car. Susie was three years older than me but it always felt like more. She had married Tom when she was nineteen. They’d had two children by the time she was twenty-four. She’d never been to uni and done the living with friends thing or the staying in bed till 1 pm on a Tuesday thing. As a result, she looked at my life like it was something quirky and strange and not quite serious. As if it was a fanciful project I was involved in, rather than an actual adult existence.

She once asked me why I hadn’t settled down with a decent man, as if decent men came along all the time and offered to set up home with me, and I was just giggling and batting them away. Both my sister and my mum veered between treating me like a child and getting annoyed that I wasn’t more grown-up. Today, for example, Susie would happily take over the whole charity shop operation, then later tell me to get my driver’s licence so I didn’t have to rely on her to help out. It was confusing to be mollycoddled one minute then told to sharpen up the next.

Making Space is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sandtone Press.

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: If Not For You by Debbie Macomber

8 Mar

if not for youSometimes, just one person can change your whole world…

If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth might never have taken charge of her life.

If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney – a tattooed mechanic who is her conservative parents’ worst nightmare.

And if not for Sam – who witnessed a terrible accident and rushed to her aid – Beth might have never survived and fallen in love.

Yet there are skeletons in Sam’s closet that prevent him from ever trusting a woman again. Will he be able to overcome his past and fight for love?

I’m a big fan of Debbie Macomber’s books and always look forward to her new releases. If Not For You  is her latest stand alone novel and it certainly didn’t disappoint – it’s part of the New Beginnings series but don’t worry if you haven’t read the first two books in the collection as they do stand alone and can be read in any order but are united by the theme of new beginnings.

If Not For You is a beautifully romantic story about love against the odds, being true to ourselves and having the courage to move on from difficult situations and not close ourselves off. I always find Debbie’s books therapeutic to read and ultimately uplifting and this story is filled with Debbie’s trademark warmth, empathy and understanding.

I very much enjoyed meeting Sam and Beth and reading as their relationship developed. Beth is twenty five and has recently moved to Portland from Chicago to escape the clutches of her overbearing mother and find her own new beginning by setting out on her own for the first time. I was shocked how much Beth’s mother had tried to control her life, particularly her love life and I immediately had a lot of sympathy for Beth as she grasped at her first taste of freedom.

Beth’s new teaching colleague Nicole invites Beth to dinner and tries to set her up with Sam, best friend to Nicole’s husband Rocco. Sam and Beth couldn’t be more different and the initial meeting is certainly not a case of opposite’s attracting! As Beth and Sam leave the dinner, Beth is involved in a bad car accident and Sam is the witness and the person first to help Beth at the scene. Debbie cleverly uses the accident as a catalyst to develop a relationship between Sam and Beth where it has seemed very unlikely that one would flourish and I loved the way that Debbie moved the story along but kept me guessing as both Sam and Beth and their pasts throw up obstacles.

I thought the characters in If Not For You were very well drawn and believable. Sam is rough around the edges but charming. Rocco and Nicole have a great relationship and I loved Beth’s aunt Sunshine – isn’t that just a brilliant name?! Sunshine’s sub story had me gripped as she also has to revisit her past to be able to move forward.

If Not For You is a positive. heartwarming read just perfect for Spring!

4/5

If Not For You is released on 9th March in paperback and ebook formats from Arrow.

Find out more about Debbie Macomber and her novels at: https://debbiemacomber.com/

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

Author interview: Jo Platt

9 Nov

Please join me in welcoming author Jo Platt to One More Page today on the latest stop of her It Was You blog tour. Jo was born in Liverpool and has lived in Wiltshire, London, Seattle and St Albans, before settling in Bristol with her husband and two children. She studied English at King’s College London and worked in the City for 10 years before becoming a pre-school teacher in the US and then a mother and secretary. Her debut novel Reading Upside Down was self-published in 2013, selling over 15,000 copies and has since sold to publishers internationally. Jo Kindly let me ask her some questions about her new novel. Welcome Jo!

Jo_PlattYour new novel, It Was You has just been released. Please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

It Was You is a romantic comedy focusing on 32 year-old Alice Waites and her friendships, in particular within The Short Book Group.  Alice has been happily, or perhaps apathetically, single for almost two years, but when her book group friends question her reluctance to meet a man, even for a no-strings coffee, she decides it’s time to start dating again.  Along the way, she uncovers secrets kept hidden by friends and family, and also learns something quite devastating about herself.  It’s a story which made me both laugh out loud and shed a few tears as I wrote it and I hope readers will find it equally funny and touching.

There were so many real-life inspirations for the story that it’s difficult to pick just one.  But obviously, my membership of a very lovely book group hugely influence my decision to make a book group central to the plot.  My Bristol group is, in fact, almost three times the size of Alice’s in It Was You but the group’s friendship, warmth and pathological fear of any novel over two inches thick, is exactly the same.

The story focuses on Alice and her friendships and relationships. What would her Twitter bio say?

Interior designer, daughter and friend.  Doing my best and, fingers crossed, very little harm.

Which character did you find hardest to write and which was your favourite?

Ooh… That’s tricky because I want to say that Stephen was the most difficult to write, but I don’t want to spoil anything for the reader by explaining why.  I think I’ll just have to let everyone draw their own conclusions as to why that was, once they’ve read the book!

As to my favourite character, It Was You is very much an ensemble piece, so I have huge affection for all the characters – even the dreaded Eleanor.  David and Sophie were probably my favourite to write as a pair and if you twisted my arm to pick just one, I’d probably plump for David.  He was written with one of my earliest bosses in mind and he was a man of enormous intelligence, kindness and diffidence.

How do you feel your own experiences fed into the story and what would you like readers to take away from It Was You?

I am blessed with a wonderful family and wonderful friendships and I think It Was You is a celebration of both of those things.  I’d like readers to come away feeling entertained and uplifted, with a sense that there are more good things and good people in the world than bad.  All of the characters in It Was You are flawed, and a few are deceitful and disreputable, but only one gives no hint of having any redeeming qualities whatsoever.  And it’s important to remember that that kind of person is, in my experience at least, very much the exception.

We see Alice venture into dating again during the book; what’s the strangest date you’ve been on? Cover

I once went on a date with my trousers on back to front and no opportunity to sort that out for the first hour or so.  I had a huge bulge of fabric at the front, which made me look pregnant, and every time I tried to sit or bend down, I suffered dreadful workman’s bum at the back.  Not the best start to things, but the evening improved and we’ve now been married for twenty-four years.

It Was You features a book group; what are your top three tips for setting one up?

I have no doubt that our Bristol book group breaks all the rules. But the following approach has worked for us.

  1. Try to have a mix of personalities and backgrounds.  It’s great to have something in common (in our case, we each had a child in Year 6 when we established the group), but don’t feel you have to share the same outlook, or sense of humour.  An eclectic mix of people results in an eclectic choice of books and a broadened reading experience.
  2. As far as practically possible, don’t turn people away.  There are seventeen of us in our book group.  It is, admittedly, a bit of an unwieldy number, but we average about twelve at each meeting and the sense of inclusion is great.
  1. Insist that everybody does their best to read the book, but don’t make it a stipulation for coming along.  I have one friend who is too terrified to attend her book group meetings if she hasn’t read the book.  That isn’t the case in our group and, actually, we have had a meeting where only one person had read the entire book.  The evening therefore consisted of that person telling the story to the rest of us, while we all sat quietly, sipping wine and looking thoroughly ashamed of ourselves.  To be fair, we did all pull our socks up a bit after that.  A very little bit.

And finally … what can we expect next from Jo Platt?

Well, I am currently making myself laugh over Book 3 and hope to have the first draft of that finished by Christmas.  It’s about a tortured, and highly confused, author whose longsuffering agent gives her a good shake and tells her to pull herself together.  And before you ask, it’s not at all based on anyone I know…

It Was You was published by Canelo on 31st October priced £1.99 as an ebook. 

Find out more at: http://www.canelo.co/books/it-was-you/

 

Author interview: Jemma Wayne

5 Jun

Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to Jemma Wayne on One More Page today. Jemma comes from a creative family, where her father is the composer Jeff Wayne who wrote the musical ‘The War of the Worlds’, based on the HG Wells novel, her brother Zeb Wayne is an acclaimed DJ and her sister is the actress Anna-Marie Wayne.  Jemma’s first novel, After Before, was published by Legend Press in 2014. It was long-listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, theGuardian’s Not the Booker Prize and was short-listed for the Waverton Good Read Award. Jemma’s writing is regularly featured in the Evening Standard, Independent on Sunday, Jewish Chronicle and she is a columnist for The Jewish News and a regularly featured blogger at The Huffington Post. Jemma lives in North London with her husband and two small children. Jemma’s new novel, Chains of Sand is out now and she kindly agreed to answer my questions about it. Welcome Jemma!

jemma 2Chains of Sand is out now, please could you tell us a little about it and why you decided to write this book.

Chains of Sand is about identity and truth. It asks not what is the truth, but is there a truth, and whose truth is it? Set against the backdrop of Israel’s war with Hamas in the summer of 2014, it traces the parallel stories of two men: Udi, a 26-year-old veteran of the Israeli army who wants to leave Israel for London; and Daniel, a similarly aged British Jew desperate to emigrate to Tel Aviv. There are very different pushes and pulls driving their journeys, but both men share a sense of their destiny not being in their own hands. When the conflict breaks out, it is amidst chaos in Israel and antisemitism in London that they attempt to unpack their identities and make tough decisions. Alongside this is a tale of forbidden love, set in Jerusalem a decade earlier, between a Jewish girl and an Arabic man, the consequences of which are far-reaching and touch some of the characters even in the present day.

The book explores ideas I’ve been playing with for a number of years. But the real trigger was the war in 2014. Conflict in this region is always polarising, but in 2014 I began to see a new kind of triumphalism from people on both ‘sides’. Horrendous antisemitism. And also some Jewish friends responding to tragedy in Gaza not with compassion, but with justification about why Israel was right. This black and white framework – in which we lose all empathy, all ability to acknowledge the narrative of an Other – is a dangerous place to be, so in Chains of Sand I wanted to explore the grey. Because the grey contains the grief and longing, the hope and fear, the humanity, and a whole lot of colliding ‘truths’.

The book is set in London and Israel; how did you go about your research for it?

I live in North West London where much of the book is set, so I was able to draw on an intimate knowledge of the place and the communities for this section of the novel. I have also spent a lot of time in Israel, but because I was exploring places and peoples that I didn’t know as well, I did a lot more research here. The most helpful element for me was the interviews I conducted with Israelis from all walks of life, particularly soldiers who gave me such illuminating insights into life in the border regions, where I haven’t been, and in the IDF.

Did anything surprise you as you developed the story?  

Yes. And those are my favourite moments when writing – when a character or a part of the plot suddenly takes on a life of its own and somehow suggests something I hadn’t thought of in my planning stages. Often that something feels so real, or truthful, or crucial to the story that it’s later hard to believe it wasn’t a core part of the original plan. In the very first draft of Chains of Sand for example, there only existed two strands of what is now a three-stranded story. But the third strand, now, is absolutely critical to everything else.

How do you think your own experiences influenced your writing?

No matter how objective we attempt to be, I think that writers always create through the filter of their own experiences. I have felt the heaviness of antisemitism, I have felt defensive about Israel. But I have also felt uncomfortable about Israel’s policies, and ashamed of the way we are sometimes blinkered to them. I have felt restrained or repressed by religious directives, and I have felt the desire to speak out, as some of the characters, particularly the women in the book, often do. I am sure that these experiences have coloured the way I’ve approached parts of the writing; but one of the underlying themes of Chains of Sand is the importance of empathy, the need to listen to and acknowledge other voices, other experiences. So I hope that this is something I’ve been able to do

Chains of Sand explores religion, racism, love, family and feminism; what would you like readers to take away from the book?

Love is so important to this story. It is when we are most open to trying to understand the way that somebody else lives and behaves and feels. And as we align our identity with another’s, there is often revealing unpacking of our own. I hope that in reading this book, through such stories of love, readers may find themselves considering ideas they thought they were sure about from another point of view.

And finally … What can we expect next from Jemma Wayne? 

Who knows! I am in the very beginning stages of thinking about a third novel, but it’s much too early to tell!

Chains of Sand by Jemma Wayne is out now in paperback (Legend Press, £9.99)

 

Find out more about Jemma and her writing at: http://www.jemmawayne.com/

Chains of Sand final cover-SmHe has always been good at tracking down things that are hidden, like cockroaches in his mother’s kitchen cupboard, or tunnels in Gaza.

At 26, Udi is a veteran of the Israeli army and has killed five men. He wants a new life in a new place. He has a cousin in England.

Daniel is 29, a Londoner, an investment banker and a Jew. He wants for nothing, yet he too is unable to escape an intangible yearning for something more. And for less. He looks to Israel for the answer.

But as the war with Hamas breaks out, Daniel cannot know that the star-crossed love of a Jewish girl and an Arabic man in Jerusalem a decade earlier, will soon complicate all that he thinks has become clear.

Book review: The Love Detective by Alexandra Potter

27 Jan

‘In a way, I’m a bit of a love detective. Because what’s a greater mystery than love?’

Meet Ruby Miller. A writer who makes happy-ever-afters happen. Until she discovers her fiance is a lying cheat and loses her faith in love. So when her sister invites her on a beach holiday to Goa to forget about him, Ruby jumps on a plane . . . and into an extraordinary adventure.

Stolen bags, a runaway sister and a handsome American stranger sweep Ruby into a magical mystery tour across India. Amid fortresses and fortune tellers, and a whirlwind of weddings, she uncovers fascinating stories of love, lost and found.

But as the mysteries deepen, secrets are revealed that turn Ruby’s life upside down. And what started as a journey to find her sister, becomes a journey to find herself – and love – again.

Readers, this book is something special; it’s real, funny and magical, taking you on a whirlwind adventure through India and is the perfect pick me up for a cold wet January. I should warn you though; the story really set off my wanderlust and it will have you longing to book your next holiday.

The Love Detective of the title is Ruby who is actually an author who creates romantic happy ever afters for her readers. But having hit rock bottom in her own romantic life and suffering from writers block, Ruby is encouraged by her editor to get out of her rut and take a holiday. Ruby is the organised responsible one in her family; big sister to the flighty and impulsive Amy who has been travelling the world and is about to return home. Seizing the moment, Ruby decides to join Amy in India for the end of her trip.

The banter between Ruby and Amy is fab and I loved that their relationship wasn’t perfect but that they were there for each other when it mattered. As Amy disappears just as she’s due to return to England with Ruby, Ruby makes her first impulsive decision to try to track her down! This is where the adventure really takes off and from the point that Ruby boarded the train to Delhi I could not put this book down. I loved the fact that I couldn’t predict where the story or Ruby was going to go next and the ups and downs of her adventure were a wonderful surprise.

Alexandra Potter has created a varied and intriguing cast of supporting characters too from handsome American Jack who turns from annoying fellow traveller to hero in disguise, driver Rocky who I loved and leads Ruby and Jack on a whirlwind tour of the sights and sounds of India to cafe owner Billy who shows Ruby the real India. Each character has a perfectly formed role to play in the bigger story and I loved all the little linkages.

The descriptions of India are amazing; Alexandra Potter should work for the Indian tourist board! I’ll admit that when I started reading, India wasn’t at the top of my ‘must visit’ list but having read this book, I immediately moved it up the list! I defy anyone to read The Love Detective and not want to visit the beautiful places Alexandra describes. From yoga retreats in Goa to wedding season in Udaipur, Alexandra has clearly done her research and her love of travel and experiencing new places really comes through in the story. I’m so pleased that this is the first in a new series as I can’t wait to discover more fab destinations with Ruby.

I loved seeing Ruby change through her trip; it’s a subtle change and cleverly done by Alexandra as Ruby loses her way, her possessions and finally her inhibitions whilst discovering a host of wonderful love stories along the way.  And it’s not just romantic love that she uncovers but all kinds of relationships. This is such a warm feel-good read and just what I needed to boost my spirits when the January blues hit! It would also make the perfect holiday read at any time of the year and I predict this will be a huge hit for summer 2014 – put it on your packing list now ;-)

5/5

The Love Detective is out in paperback and ebook formats now.

Find out more about Alexandra Potter and her writing at: http://www.alexandrapotter.com/

I’d like to thank Emma at Hodder for sending me a review copy of this book.