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After The Fall by Julie Cohen

afterthefall

Length: 390 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: From the author who brought you Dear Thing, Julie Cohen, comes After the Fall–a poignant, beautifully heartbreaking novel about what it means to be family, the ties that bind us, and the secrets that threaten to tear us apart.

When an unfortunate accident forces Honor back into the lives of her widowed daughter-in-law, Jo, and her only granddaughter, Lydia, she cannot wait to be well enough to get back to her own home. However, the longer she stays with Jo and Lydia, the more they start to feel like a real family. But each of the three women is keeping secrets from the others that threaten to destroy the lives they’ve come to know.

Honor’s secret threatens to rob her of the independence she’s guarded ferociously for eighty years.

Jo’s secret could destroy the “normal” family life she’s fought so hard to build and maintain.

Lydia’s secret could bring her love–or the loss of everything that matters most to her.

One summer’s day, grandmother, mother and daughter’s secrets will be forced out in the open in a single dramatic moment that leaves them all asking: is there such a thing as second chances?

The Review: Funnily enough I had actually seen the opening line for this book on a weekly meme where the blogger in question (I’m so sure I know who posted, but I’ve been searching and searching and I honestly cannot find the post. It’s driving me loco so if anyone can help I’d beyond appreciate it and will update this post) puts the opening line of a book out there to see if people would find it enough of a hook to reel them in and make them read. My answer was a resounding ‘yes!’ (exclamation mark very much necessary)

‘The last stage of Honor Levinson’s life began at the top of the stairs in her home in North London.’

Honor, or ‘Doctor Levinson,’ as she prefers to be known, is a strong, feisty, independent eighty year old, who detests shows of emotion or weakness of any kind and so does not take kindly to playing the part of elderly patient after a fall from the top of the stairs (brilliantly done) in her home. Honor was an excellent character, who had me from the start, pointing out the realities of getting old, where you feel exactly how you did when you were younger, but those around you treat you as they would a child, or worse than. This was skillfully backed up by a trip back in time, and some old letters, where we found out Honor’s tragic backstory.

We were treated to numerous point of views, all in third person, always a plus for me; that of Honor of course, then Jo, her daughter in law, who’s putting a brave face on the absence of two father’s for her children, one passed (we are put on tenter hooks to find out how), one who has run off with the twenty one year old au pair. Jo learned from her mother, who had MS, that one should always grasp onto the silver linings for dear life, and the result is a positivity of magnanimous proportions, and some ‘mom-lit’ type incidences which provided respite in a book that erred on the slightly greyer side at times. Jo has two young children from her second marriage, and also the lovely Lydia, who tells her story with the accompaniment of a diary that shares how difficult a time she is having as a teenager having not yet come out. Her thoughts, insights and actions really made me feel for her, they were beautiful and heartbreaking and I worried.

After The Fall is the story of a family that was collapsing in on itself, where each woman (or girl), was an island, struggling to find their place, not realizing who they need to help them. I enjoyed it and looked forward to seeing what would happen when secrets were revealed and everyone had to face up to their issues. I especially enjoyed the second half of the book, where things evened out for me, not even in terms of becoming more positive, but just where there seemed to be a little more action, although I have no doubt some people will disagree. I know this is probably an odd review, but it’s a difficult book in that respect, as I enjoyed it as I read, and looked forward to what was going to happen, but found it difficult to place, possibly as I read so many out and out romantic comedies. As well as this it didn’t leave a lasting impression after I finished, which surprised me. It will, however, be a real treat for some out there, with excellent characters, tangible descriptiveness and a storyline that carries you with it. Thanks to St Martin’s press and Netgalley for the book in return for an honest review.

 Rating: 4/5

 

Beneath these Stars by Hannah Ellis

beneaththesestarsLength: 385 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Perfect couple Lucy and Adam have it all: a home in the picturesque village of Havendon, budding careers and a sparkling future. Life is exactly as it should be.
But when tragedy strikes and Adam becomes the guardian to his two young nieces, their idyllic life is turned upside down. Suddenly, they face an entirely different future.
Grief-stricken and disoriented, the four of them battle to build a new life together.
Can Adam and Lucy’s relationship survive being pushed to the limit? And can a devastated family find a way to get through such testing times?

Although this is the second book in the Lucy Mitchell series, it can also be read as a standalone.

The Review: You’ll know by now that I’m a big fan of Hannah Ellis’, that her books generally make me smile, swoon and nod along, and within a few pages I’m hooked, and loathe to put the book down until its gorgeous conclusion. I could leave it at that, but, well that’d definitely be short changing you, because this book has aspects that are a little bit different.
The book starts out by telling us that Lucy who we met in Beyond The Lens, book 1 of The Lucy Mitchell Series, review here), has only recently moved in with her boyfriend Adam in the little village of Havendon. The prologue sets up the current day with a nice reminder of the backstory, which I would have read in but is by no means required and then leaving us with a sense of intrigue
“We had no idea that our relaxed day in the sun would be the last time we were all together as a family.”

We’re thrown straight in at the deep end in chapter 1 on finding out that Lucy has taken on the role of substitute mother to Emily, Adam’s niece, whose parents have died. There’s a lovely mom lit feel to this as we see the role of a mother where irrational irritations get in on you and begin to drive you nuts and boy could I relate. It was a tribute to the author that although she had these issues to deal with, I still didn’t find her to be a negative character. Actually as always I jumped at so many characters in the book, there were a number I remembered and others I warmed to straight away. I got chills at part of the book when I began to realise why our lead was disappearing at night and my eyes misted up at other parts. It was quite the book for stirring emotions actually, as at times both Adam and his mum made me angry on her behalf as they reminded her that although she was charged with looking after Emily and Hayley, she had no rights in terms of decision making for them. All in all a light and innocent yet tough read (emotionally) with the trademark Ms. Ellis warmth, fun and romance, peppered with suspense and sadness. Thanks so much to the author for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5

Previously on this blog:

Friends Like These (Friends Like These Series book 1 review here)

My Kind of Perfect (Friends Like These Series book 3 review here and extract here)

About the author

Hannahellis

Hannah Ellis is originally from Sheffield, England, and spent time living in America, Australia and Ireland before finally settling in Munich, Germany, where she now lives with her husband and two little boys. She self published her first novel ‘Friends Like These’ in 2015 and then went on to write two more books in the series: ‘Christmas with Friends’ and ‘My Kind of Perfect’. Hannah can often be found tapping away on her laptop, trying to ignore the two small children swinging on her hair as she attempts to write more books!

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Author page on Amazon

Rise by Cara Brookins

 

riseLength: 320 pages

Buy Links (Powell’s, Kobo, iBooks, Bam, Indie Bound, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com)

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: If you were inspired by Wild and Eat, Pray, Love, you’ll love this extraordinary true story of a woman taking the greatest risk of her life in order to heal from the unthinkable.

After escaping an abusive marriage, Cara Brookins had four children to provide for and no one to turn to but herself. In desperate need of a home but without the means to buy one, she did something incredible.

Equipped only with YouTube instructional videos, a small bank loan and a mile-wide stubborn streak, Cara built her own house from the foundation up with a work crew made up of her four children.

It would be the hardest thing she had ever done. With no experience nailing together anything bigger than a bookshelf, she and her kids poured concrete, framed the walls and laid bricks for their two story, five bedroom house. She had convinced herself that if they could build a house, they could rebuild their broken family.

This must-read memoir traces one family’s rise from battered victims to stronger, better versions of themselves, all through one extraordinary do-it-yourself project.

The Review: This was, as you have probably guessed, a story about the building of a house. The house, of course, symbolises the rebuilding of a life, the making of a home, a sanctuary, somewhere the family in question can breathe and feel safe.

It is the tale of a family who was constantly running, constantly looking over their shoulders in fear of their past, part of that being a man, Adam, who descended into insanity via schizophrenia. The book was divided into two parts:the rise and fall, the dreamy hopeful journey of a family intent on not being victims vs the darkness of past and present. We saw the lead’s dealings with domestic violence, then having to contend with life with or without a man who was neither in control of himself or his actions. We got enough backstory to see how chilling life had been, while acknowledging of course how life was for both him and his family. I found the toughest of this story come towards the end of the book and wished I could have got it that little bit sooner so that I really knew why the family were so on the edge. Saying that even before I knew the true depths of the horror they had to endure there were a few moments that sent actual chills.

I felt nervous as to whether Adam was looking for them, as you could never tell whether she was (justifiably) being paranoid or whether it was Adam straightening things around the house or looking in the window. The building of the house had a lot of detail to it, which I think many people will enjoy. I will admit it wasn’t always my cup of tea (I’m the sort of person who watches Grand Designs for the people story, finished product and the issues that arise, the nuts and bolts of the building process go over my head!) I suppose that the analogy to Eat, Pray, Love is acceptable, although like said book, I found some of it to be just the slightest bit repetitive in terms of the reminders of what they had to lose, what they had achieved and what the house symbolised but mix that with more darkness and a scene that I think some people will find a little tough in terms of the picture it paints. This was a book that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, especially when I read the final chapter, which brought home the fact that this was a true story and really made me appreciate the journey. By the way I also have to direct you to her blog and website, which I really enjoyed. Thanks so much to the author and St Martin’s Press for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5

About the author: For this I’ll send you to the author’s homepage which tells you herself! (here)

carabrookins

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Blog Tour: The Choir On Hope Street by Annie Lyons

TheChoirOnHopeStreet

Note: As always the cover image leads to a universal buy link for the book

What they say:

The best things in life happen when you least expect them

Nat’s husband has just said the six words no one wants to hear – ‘I don’t love you any more’.

Picture-perfect Caroline has to welcome her estranged mother into her house after she was forced out of an exclusive nursing home.

Living on the same street these two women couldn’t be more different. Until the local community centre is threatened, galvanising Caroline and the people of Hope Street into action. But when the only way to save the centre is to form a community choir – no one, least of all Nat, expects the results…

This spring, hope is coming!

This is ‘Calendar Girls’ meets ‘Pitch Perfect’! A moving and funny story that delves into the truth of moving on, marriage and finding friendship in the most unlikely of places. Perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond, Carole Matthews and Jill Mansell, this story will make you laugh and cry.

‘It is just the most adorable, consuming read you’ll read all year!’

Guilt Free Twenty-Something

The Review: I think one of the best parts of being a book blogger is when you review a book from an author that you know you enjoy (as you can see from my review of the brilliant Life or Something Like it which you can find here ), so to be part of the blog tour for said author is something very special indeed.

The book began simply but with a bang.

“‘I don’t love you any more.’ That was it. Six words delivered so simply, as if he were reading the news.”

From these few lines on I felt for Natalie Garfield, who had just been delivered the life shattering lines. Natalie isn’t quite sure where it all went wrong, they were the solid couple, the couple that would never be in trouble and yet here she is. Natalie was one heck of a character. A children’s book writer (yay!), she was understandably a bit of a mess, trying to muddle through for the sake of her child Woody (who was just so so gorgeous). What was so excellant was that even as she muddled through, even as she was down and falling apart, we could still see her character shine through, you could still see how much fun she was, how thoughtful and how out there she was and this made me want to read her story. There was another story going on at the same time, and what a tribute to Ms Lyons that I wanted to hear this one as much as that of the amazing Natalie.

Caroline, said other voice in the book, was right before my eyes from the second I began to read her- an always smiling, always in control, never a hair out of place, need to look good for the husband to keep the marriage alive type of mother who was just perfection.

“I don’t mean to sound judgemental but I despair of playground mothers sometimes. Where is their self respect? We’re all pushed for time in the mornings – the least we can do is apply a little eyeliner and make ourselves presentable. We’re supposed to be role models for the next generation, after all.”

I adored her too and couldn’t wait to see how the two characters would work/ clash with each other when they both decided to work towards keeping open the community centre on Hope Street by setting up a choir and competing to gain some coverage of the centre’s plight, aided by Natalie’s noteriety as a writer and Caroline’s can-do, must-do attitude.

When I tell you that the two characters were both amazing in their own way, the journey they go through together is something special as they try to understand each other (including parenting styles), getting Caroline to face up to some very harsh realities, including her relationship with her mother which was both shocking and so so moving (yes, I did cry). Natalie and Caroline were a very special coupling, and it’s difficult to stop talking about them, but I have to, to remind you that this is a book about the setting up of a choir, with, again, brilliantly written, genius personalities, and magnificent descriptions of locations, buildings, songs and harmonies. I’ll be honest, I could gush about this book all day,  a fun, funny, beautiful, gripping, fantastic story that just cements Annie Lyons in my authors to remember list (yes, I do have one of these!) and tells me I have to get back to her excellent backlog (see them here). A must read. Thanks so much to Harpercollins and Ms. Lyons for this lovely book in return for an honest review.

The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons, published by HQ (HarperCollins), will be published on the 6th April 2017 in e-book and paperback.

 

ChoirOnHopeStreet_Booktour

About The Author:

annielyons

Do you know sometimes you can’t beat the words from the author themself? Read a detailed, absolutely lovely description of Ms Lyons’ Works and brilliant achievements here

Her books (again lifted from her lovely website!)

Amazon Author Page

Witness by Caroline Mitchell

witness

Length: 338 pages

Note: As always the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: To Rebecca it was a brave decision that led to her freedom from domestic abuse. To Solomon it was the ultimate betrayal.

It’s been ten years since Rebecca’s testimony saw Solomon locked away. Enough time for the nightmares to recede, the nerves to relax; enough time to rebuild her life and put the past behind her.

Then one day a phone rings in her bedroom—but it’s not her phone. Solomon has been in her home, and has a very simple message for her: for each of the ten years he has spent in jail, Rebecca must witness a crime. And, to make matters worse, she has to choose the victims.

Fail to respond and you get hurt. Talk to police and you die. Ready to play? You have sixty seconds to decide…

As the crimes grow more severe, the victims closer to home, Rebecca is forced to confront a past she had hoped was gone forever.

The Review:  You’ll remember I read The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell (read review here) and loved it, saying I had to get onto her other books. I’m afraid that didn’t go to plan, but this book has only cemented that I’m going to be reading her amazing thrillers for some time to come!

Now before I start I need to make sure you’ve read the blurb above. Impressed? Excited? Ready? Okay-let’s go!!!

We begin this tale in 2005 where a girl, Rebecca, is cradling a severely injured man on her lap. When the police say they’re there to help, she says they can’t, because the attacker’s father is one of them (jumps around the place excitedly!)  …

The book moves between diary extracts from ten years ago to a non diary narrative of modern day in a small Welsh town of Ponty Ferry where Rebecca is now married with a young child. The diary extracts contained some beautiful details about Rebecca and her mother and we were introduced to Solomon, her ex boyfriend. Back to modern day and Rebecca receives a message saying she has to nominate a person for a crime, and then witness it. This will happen a further nine times …
The story revolves around the ex, Solomon, and what a character he is! If I’m honest the only other character of this nature that remains as memorable to me is ‘Oliver’ from ‘Unraveling Oliver’ by Liz Nugent. Solomon has a back story that stays in your mind and makes you realise the impact a lack of parental love can have on someone. His thought processes are horrendous but pure genius, as is his revenge.

I highlight as I read, and make notes too, and as I went through this book I highlighted line after line, passage after passage, totally engrossed in every single detail but then, as soon after the crimes that Rebecca is forced to witness began,  I stopped as I was too engrossed.

The storyline was a great experiment on what someone will do to keep themselves and their family alive, although I have to admit there were so many things I’d have done differently(!) The drama builds and builds, the pages turn, and the numbers on the chapters, which I found to be deliciously short, climbed. There was also the nice touch that at times the diary extracts interrupted you, you had been notified as to who the person and the crime was, and just as you were ready to ‘see’ the crime, you got the diary extract with an equally important and riveting backstory. Saying all of this I have to warn you that although it’s not the toughest out there there is violence and a theme of domestic abuse. And, well that’s all I’m going to tell you except Id be shocked if this wasn’t in my top ten books at the end 2017.

Excellent plot, pacing and characters, a mesmerising book that has got me ready to work my way through all of Caroline Mitchell’s books.
Rating:5/5

Queen of Blogging by Therese Loreskar

 

thequeenofbloggingLength: 145 pages

Note as always the cover image leads to a buy link for the book

What they say: The Queen of blogging is a fast paced, entertaining story about making ends meet when you have toddlers, a husband that works too much and showing off your life on a blog for the outside world to see.

Kajsa runs Sweden’s largest Health and Fitness blog. There’s only one small problem; it’s all a big lie. Between her blog entries on healthy nutritious porridge and flashy running shoes, she lies on the sofa watching TV and eating sweets. Her only exercise is using the remote control.

Her life seems perfect: A beautiful house in an attractive suburb of Stockholm, three children, a loving husband and loads of money.

However, things start to crumble when she accidently writes on her blog that she is best friends with a famous Hollywood personal trainer. The problem is he’s never met, let alone heard of her.

An ambitious journalist, who doesn’t believe Kajsa has been honest about her blog or her friendship with the personal trainer, sets out to destroy her. 

Besides having to handle the annoying journalist, she must also deal with Peter, “the blog following hunk”, and a bizarre and outrageous priest who keeps spreading Kajsa’s secrets all over town! 

Bestselling Swedish author Therese Loreskar writes with a never-ending sense of humour and energy.

The Queen of Blogging is for anyone who enjoys a comic read that also explores the downside of our generation’s constant use of social media.

The Review:  I bought this on sight on a bus going to Dublin sure that it was going to be a quick, easy, ‘ have to tell everyone you know about’ read, and started into it straight away.  I was rewarded for this with a prologue that made me nod along as I read:

‘Blogging. For some people, it’s a hobby. For me, Kajsa, it’s a way of life. I live in Sweden, with my husband, three children, and a dog, in a very nice suburban neighbourhood.’

The prologue goes on to tell us about a lie that leads to ‘the biggest mistake of my life’ and boom! I’m sitting back and ready to go. You’ll guess by now that I’m either going to gush or rant, and while I’ll try not to go on too much, I’m afraid it will not be the former. The story is told in first person, which can be good in chick lit, and which I like. The only thing was, when we meet Kajsa, I didn’t like HER almost straight away. The constant ‘it’s so hard having three children and a dog’ was the first thing to get to me, followed by the ‘it’s so tough keeping my blog going, people expect a lot when you’re getting paid for it,’ which wasn’t done in such a way that you knew deep down she didn’t mean it, and while I laughed out loud and really enjoyed some parts, I cringed or furrowed my brow disapprovingly at more (the husband has a secret that made my head hurt). I’m afraid there were some editing issues, and an ending that was just beyond surreal. So in general I liked the concept, but there was a bit too much suspending reality for me.
Rating: 2.5/5

It’s good to be back!

So by now you may or may not know that we live in the country in Ireland, in a place that is beautiful and a dream by day (our kids get home from school and just scatter!) and a thriller writer’s dream by night, being cold and drafty with odd sounds coming from a neighbouring farm, plenty of big trees hiding who knows what, animals prowling about (it’s my first time coming anywhere near a mink!) and a darkness that attacks both your eyes and your senses when the stars aren’t visible (we do have the most stellar display of stars by night, and are lucky to get to stand and appreciate them with the kids!) As an aside, all four of my children have not slept through a whole night since we moved it here, this could be anything, but we blame the house!

Now with all of this comes the big problem in Ireland that is debated regularly- that of rural internet.The Irish government are investing in broadband and aim to have every house equipped with fibre high speed broadband in the next four years. We live so far into the sticks that I do appreciate it must be difficult having to lay lines to places where there may only be one or two houses, and the cost must be shocking too!

When we moved in here there weren’t even phone lines about and the internet we received straight after they were set up was of a hit and miss variety, some days on, some days not. Obviously I blog and my husband is in computers and the absence of internet, while amusing at first, started to get to us. We contacted our provider and was told there was fifty per cent chance we could receive ANY internet at any time of the day. We got a dongle and soon it stopped working and we were told there was no internet in our vicinity at all. My kids love looking at minecraft videos on YouTube and soon we began to fight (not in a savage, ‘Lord of The Flies’ way), just bickering, over my husband’s phone, which has unlimited internet which wasn’t always so fast anyhoo. My Kindle stopped downloading books (I’d sometimes go to family houses or into shops and wait around just so I could get their internet). I gave up on looking up blogs and my own blog was left by the wayside.

Now I don’t want to tempt fate, but yesterday we moved to Three. When I was setting up they were dubious about our speed, and to be fair it’s not the same as it would be in Dublin, something I always took for granted, but I just watched while my Kindle began to download three books I haven’t been able to get to for some time and practically started screaming down the phone at the poor guy.

I’m writing this post to let you know  that hopefully I’m back. This morning I began to read blogs, I spent last night on writing.ie for writing tips (my writing, well editing, has gone south too lately due to kiddies being sick or just waking up) and now my blog is open again and I’m heading straight over to my my writing group on Facebook and the chick lit group I’m on too. I’m so happy. I can’t wait to share all the books I’ve read over the past month with you, and to see what you’ve all been up to as well. It’s good to be back (now hopefully I haven’t set anything bad in motion!) Happy 2017 everyone, and hope your reading, blogging, writing or studying is going just great-remember January isn’t over yet and it’s never ever ever too late to get going on those goals!:)

Big hug,

Bernadette (or Berni) xxxxx