Sunday, 29 May 2016

Book Review: The Night That Changed Everything

The Night That Changed Everything
By Laura Tait & Jimmy Rice
Published by Corgi
Available in paperback & ebook

Rebecca and Ben are the perfect couple - all their friends envy them, they just click and seem solid - this is a couple you think will be one of those magical ones and be together forever.  Rebecca is happy to live in chaos with a messy flat and no desire to cook while Ben is happy to pick up discarded socks, and cook restaurant-style meals in their kitchen.

Yet, a throwaway comment shatters their life together, rips apart their possible future and also questions their past. Will Rebecca and Ben be able to survive this bump in the road or will it take more than a proposal and a 'sorry' to heal the wounds?

Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice's second novel, The Night That Changed Everything reminds me of an interesting, less sugary rom-com film but I don't want to give the wrong impression or put you off - this is about dealing with break ups including the soggy tissues, staring aimlessly at the television, the fear of loneliness rather than the falling in love full of sweet kisses in the park and making plans for the future. If you're looking for a book with realistic characters dealing with breakups then this is the book for you. Although, it's not all misery - you'll be laughing too.

This book breaks out of the rom-com genre with the way it gives a honest account of the end of relationships with characters who you both want to hug and also slap at the same time. Alternative chapters offer glimpses into the life of both Rebecca and Ben as they try to cope with their new reality. Both characters are taken to the brink and pushed into rethinking their futures. The Night That Changed Everything also looks at the impact of break ups on mutual friends, family and at work.

It is also refreshing to read a book where people find happiness after a relationship ends not with a different person but from within and with them self.

The Night That Changed Everything is a funny, feel good story, and addictive. It's one of those books you read in the bath, and keep reading until the water is cold, and you'll need a hot shower to recover. The Night That Changed Everything is available from your favourite bookshop.

I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Book Review: Despite the Falling Snow

By Shamim Sarif
Published by John Blake Publishing
Available in paperback and ebook

Despite the Falling Snow, written by award winning novelist, Shamim Sarif, is a compelling and intriguing espionage thriller set in Soviet Russia. Where betrayal of your own country and falling in love can rip a hole in your heart and not even time can heal.

Katya is the model communist in 1950s Moscow, she is good at her job, nice to her fellow workers, never steps out of line. Yet she has a secret life, after the murder of her parents by the government, she secretly spies for the Americans. Her mission is to steal government documents from Alexander but as she becomes more entangled with his life, she realises that she is in love with him.

She must decide if betraying her country is stronger and more powerful than the love she feels. Friendships are betrayed, lives are shattered yet love blossoms in this cold, depressing city. Shamim creates characters who you care about, and want desperately for them to make the right decision.

Intertwined with the story of love and betrayal Soviet Russia, is a story set decades later in 1990s Boston. Alexander is now in the process of selling his catering business but the pull of the past is holding him back from letting go. But Estelle enters his life, and makes him question his past and his future. The need to find out the truth brings conflict for Alexander as he must reassess his past, one his has constructed, through rose-tinted glasses to protect himself from the real pain.

This is a novel about finding the ways to let go, and move on with your life after a big tragedy. I particularly enjoyed the sections of the novel set in Russia, and the way Katya’s internal conflicts between finding justice for her dead parents against her own personal happiness are explored. This internal conflict is also explored with Alexander, many years down the line, where he must deal with the rose-tinted version of events against the guilt he has felt. Both characters are pushed to the point where they must face up to reality, and face their fears.

This is a good thriller with plenty of suspense, intrigue and romance. Despite the Falling Snow was recently adapted into a film, directed by the author, and I’m now looking forward to seeing the film to compare them both.

You can buy Despite the Falling Snow from your favourite bookshop.

Shamim took part in the Imaginary Bookshop and you can read her responses here.

I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

April Roundup

April, where'd you go? 

Looks like May is heading in the same direction at top notch speed. We're all going to be old and wrinkly if time carries on at this speed.

I say that the month passed really quick - that's what happens when you're going to book events on the rooftop of a trendy publishing house, and floating around the Natural History Museum while drunk on bubbles - but in other ways it was a dragging month for my writing. Progress has been s-l-o-w not that I'm complaining as stories will be done when their done. Another chapter, redrafted. A short story, taking shape.

Anyway, I managed to read a few books too....

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper - Phaedra Patrick 
Fans of 100 Year Old Man, and A Man Called Ove will love this book. It is a sweet and charming novel about Arthur Pepper who sets out on a journey to find out more about his wife but ends up discovering more about himself. You can read my review herePhaedra also stopped by and took part in the Imaginary Bookshop series

The Versions of Us - Laura Barnett
I'm a big fan of the 'what if' question and could spend too long imagining different timelines for different people. This book reminded me of One Day as we following the lives of couple and their possible futures. This book is enjoyable, and gripping.

The Art of Creative Thinking - Rod Judkins
This is a great book if you're in need of some creative thinking and I think people who believe they are not creative would also benefit from this book too (I believe that everyone has a bit of creativity in them). Turn that soggy idea into a great one!

The Mirror World of Melody Black - Gavin Extence
This is a gripping book about the struggles people face when suffering from mental health conditions. This is an insightful novel with lots of humour. You can read my review here.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

And so my confession begins like this...

It has been one of those weeks where you want to stand on a large rock, and point at people, events and things, and shout fuck off, fuck off fuck off and fuck off. Anyway, it has resulted in my being awake way too early (even for a weekday) because there are too many things on my mind and one of those things is this blog.

And so my confession begins like this...

... I have been thinking about giving up blogging.

Not because I don't enjoy it anymore or because all the cool kids use Instagram (I do that too) but because I have been thinking about my online presence.

Before the internet, it was easy to hide yourself and make it easier to forget people but the internet has made it harder to hide away. After last year all I have wanted to do is fade away, be anonymous, try as hard as possible to completely forget events and certain people. You can't hide away when you have a blog - having a blog is the opposite - you're standing up on the rock, saying look I'm over here and this is the version of me that you can all hear about... because in real life do I always bang on about books... oh, wait, yes I do! So maybe this blog is a slice of my real life rather than a different version.

With the internet it is easy to portray a life that doesn't reflect reality. Crop, delete, purge plus the opposite if you require - add a little detail here, beef up this fact, pretend to be someone you're not. The internet has a way of making you a good person but it also has a way of making you feel inadequate, paranoid and worthless - I don't like the way that some information in a computer can have that power (and I don't like the way people have this control over other people as well). I took some steps to remove the way the internet can have a negative impact on life.

I have been removing people from my Facebook friends who I am no longer related to or friends - I'm talking about the type of friends who leave an aggressive message on your answer phone the same week your sister is in hospital having a major operation or the ones who want the latest gossip so they can report back to other friends. I have locked down my account or as much as you can until 'the big man upstairs' starts to change privacy settings. But then, I got a message from a stranger telling me how they had dated an ex along with a few other things.  I didn't respond because I'm not sure what I would have said, and also why do people do that?

Since then I have really wanted to remove myself completely from the internet - there were either two ways to do this - move to a cave or tidying up my online presence. I have been deleting my profiles from sites I no longer use (I can't bring myself to delete my Goodreads, Twitter and Instagram accounts because I enjoy using those sites) because I was hoping that by having a smaller presence I could make people forget me, and shrink away from memory (ha - just read that back and I definitely sound like I need a good night's sleep). Obviously deleting, cropping and chopping doesn't remove that twinge in your heart.

I deleted my Linkedin account too because I'm not too sure why I set it up - maybe because I like being told about jobs in far away countries and that all I need to do to get the job is hand over my bank account details - what, you mean those aren't real?

The blog was one of the last things on my list.

And then I realised that this is one of the things I enjoy in my life, and why should I give it up. I have given up and lost so many other things in the past year that this shouldn't be another casualty.

This is why I haven't been blogging as much recently.

So, what I'm trying to say is that the post about my April reading adventures is on its way.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Book Review: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
By Phaedra Patrick
Published by Harlequin
Available in hardback & ebook
Paperback -forthcoming

Fans of A Man Called Ove and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared will love Phaedra Patrick's debut novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.

Arthur's wife has died, and his home is a shrine to her - nothing has been moved, and he maintains it the way she did when alive. He hides from his neighbours who only want to help. But things need to change because he can't carry on like this.

On the first anniversary of his wife's death, Arthur decides it is time to clear out her wardrobe. Hiding in a boot, at the back of the wardrobe, is a charm bracelet, which he doesn't not recognise. One of the charms, a elephant has a phone number engraved on the back... and so Arthur rings, and finds himself discovering that his wife was not only just his 'wife' or 'mother' but someone who had adventures.

Arthur's quest to discover more about his wife takes him to stately homes where tigers roam free, phone calls to India, posing naked for a life drawing class, a trip to Paris, and visiting eccentric writers. This is a heartwarming book about discovering yourself no matter your age.

This book reminded of a Nora Ephron quote, "That very few people end up knowing who you are." This is true in Arthur's case with regards to his wife. I think that sometimes we forget when in all types of relationships (ranging from the sexual, marriage to platonic) that the person(s) next to us has had a life before you met and how easy it is to forget this, and think life began when you both met and indeed that life can end when the relationship finishes. We get so wrapped up in personal bubbles that we forget to ask questions about each other.

On his adventure to discover more about this wife, Arthur ends up going on a journey of discovery about himself and realises that there is life beyond the routine of waking up, and hiding from his neighbours. He no longer needs a strict  routine, ditches the same outfits he always wears, and finds himself more open and wake to the world around him. He has always been defined as a 'husband' or 'father', and this adventure makes him realise that there is more to life than the defined roles.

This is a story about the way relationships can help us through tough times - Arthur becomes closer to his adult children as well as his neighbours, and discovering new friends on his adventures. He has lived a sheltered life from reality but now he is able to see beyond his garden, and embrace these changes.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is packed with humour and wit, and is a great book to read while sitting out in the sun (Pimms optional). You can buy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper at your favourite bookshop.

The publisher kindly sent me a copy.

Monday, 2 May 2016

First Gear Dilemmas - New Published Story

From Google, the car looked similar to this but was much more shabbier.
Top Gear presenters watch out...I'm after your job. Not only have learnt to change fuses in my car, but I've been fixing electrical issues, and topping up those levels and making sure the tyre pressure is correct on a regular basis but I also have a driving related piece of prose out in the real world.

Today a short piece, mostly based on reality has been published at Silver Birch Press. My story is about the first time I got behind the wheel of a car, and is part of Silver Birch Press's learning to drive series.

You can read First Gear Dilemmas by clicking this link > First Gear Dilemmas.

First Gear Dilemmas was originally written a few years ago as a much large piece, alongside other car stories based on Ebay adventures and driving mishaps, and were going to be part of a book sized project meant for only one person - that has now gone on the back burner but as soon as I saw the submissions call from Silver Birch Press I knew I needed to pluck up the courage and delve into the 6k worth of words which I had written.

The original person who I wrote this story for will probably not read it but at least the one or two readers of this blog will. I hope you enjoy reading about my first time driving a car.