Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Prodigal by Nicky Black

I would like to thank the author for my copy of this book in return for an honest review.

The Blurb:
Exiled from his beloved Newcastle sixteen years ago, Detective Sergeant Lee Jamieson is returning home in search of the teenage daughter he’s never met. With a good promotion under his belt and his parents gone, he’s ready to return to his roots and the warm Geordie spirit he has missed so much.

Much to his surprise, his first assignment is in Valley Park, a forgotten sink estate and home to some of the worst social deprivation in the country – the estate where he grew up, and where Nicola Kelly, the wife of a renowned local villain, calls home.

As Lee and Nicola’s lives become entwined through a series of dramatic events, they fall in love and embark on a dangerous affair that will change both of their lives forever. Nicola’s husband, Micky, has few scruples, and, as he feels her slipping away, tightens his grip on her affections.

In order for Lee and Nicola to be together, Micky Kelly has to go. 

My Review:

Set in Newcastle, The Prodigal tells the story of Detective Sergeant Lee Jamieson. Having been kicked out of his home after a fight with his father at the age of sixteen, Lee has now returned to the place where he grew up, only to find that, Valley Park, is now home to some of the worse socially deprived people in the United Kingdom. But, there is another reason, Lee has decoded to return to Valley Park, he is in search of his sixteen year old daughter, whom he has never met before. Then Lee falls for the wife of neighbourhood bad boy, Micky Kelly. As Lee and Nicola's lives get more and more entwined, Micky tightens his grip on Nicola.

I wasn't surprised to find out that this was originally written as a television script, because it would make excellent television. It is fast paced and thoroughly gripping. The Prodigal deals with issues such a drugs and domestic violence, which I think was written perfectly. It really shows the issues that can be found in any neighbourhood if you look closely enough, very well. The book is gritty and gets into the heart of Newcastle's organised crime gangs. 

The characters in The Prodigal are all very well written, but Micky is one of the best written characters I have ever read. He is a character that you will truly hate from the very beginning, but because of him, you won't be able to put this book down. He is gritty and dirty and you can really see him in your minds eye while reading the book. I loved how the character of Nicola was such a stark contrast to that of her husband. I liked Nicola's character from the very first page, but I feel that she really developed into a great character throughout the book. She is caring and admirable and you want nothing but the best for her. Lee is also a great character. He is the good guy of this story and I liked that he was trying to right the wrongs that he had made in his past, and trying to form a relationship with his daughter. 

In the past year, I've started reading crime fiction, but only very little, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much  I enjoyed The Prodigal. It isn't my usual type of book, but from now on I will be keeping an open mind when I comes to crime fiction and that is all down to this book. It grabs you from the very first page and keeps your attention throughout. It's gritty, yet entertaining, with an ending that you will not see coming. I will be recommending this book to anyone who'll listen to me. 

4/5 stars

Monday, 24 August 2015

My Everything by Katie Marsh

Published in paperback by Hodder on 27 August 2015.

I would like to thank the publisher for my copy of this book in return for an honest review. 

Hannah and Tom have been married for five years. On paper their lives are perfect, Tom is a high flying solicitor and Hannah is an English teacher. But in reality they are about as far from perfect as you can get, their marriage is on the rocks and Hannah can no longer put up with Tom's mood swings and she is sick of him putting her down all the time. Hannah realises that in order to find happiness again she has to leave Tom. But on the morning Hannah is about to end her marriage, Tom suffers a stroke and both of their lives are turned upside down. Hannah knows that she can't leave Tom when he needs her the most, so Hannah puts her dreams on hold to nurse Tom back to health. Tom is only thirty two but he now needs to learn how to walk and dress himself again. Is the stroke the rude awakening Tom needs to realise that he is about to lose his wife. 

I don't know if this is a book I would have picked up myself, but I am so glad I got the chance to read it. I am astounded that this is a debut, it is so beautifully written and executed. Emotion flows off of every page and it is obvious that the author put her heart and soul into writing this novel, and the result is fantastic.

The characters in this novel came alive while I was reading this book. Each character is so well developed and extremely likeable. From the very first page I fell in love with Hannah. She is such a string independent character and I wanted nothing but the best for her. Watching her put her dreams on hold to look after the man that she has fallen out of love with is heartbreaking, but watching her fall back in love with him is thoroughly uplifting. She is likeable from the word go and she develops beautifully throughout the novel. We are told that Tom has treated Hannah badly in the past, but we don't see this while reading the book and because of that Tom quickly became my favourite character. The way he handles the stroke with such dignity is beautifully to read and is so well written. I loved watching him develop from the man that treated Hannah so badly that she wanted to leave him, into the man he is in the book. I also loved Nick and Julie. They really added something special to this book. They are such likeable characters. 

This book sparkles from beginning to end. It is so beautifully written. It is heartbreaking, but it has it's funny moments and this really adds to the story. It is such a wonderfully uplifting story that is beautifully written. Everything about this book is great, from the gorgeous cover to the stunning story inside. I shed a few tears while reading this, but all in all it left me with a huge smile on my face and I loved every minute of it. 

A stunning debut from a very talented author. I can't recommend this book enough. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Blog Tour: The Waiting Game by Jessica Thompson

Today I am delighted to have an extract from The Waiting Game by Jessica Thompson as part of the Blog Tour.

Extract from The Waiting Game by Jessica Thomspon

Mick was sitting in a large chair in the living room by the window, watching the arrow of time surge forwards. A cigarette dangled between the nicotine stained fingers of his right hand, a trail of brown smoke curling into the air.

‘He’s not so good today,’ Betsy whispered, gazing at him lovingly. The three ladies stood at the door frame in the semi-darkness. He liked it that way: dark. It was sad. Nessa silently put her arm around Betsy’s bony shoulder and pulled her close. Sometimes, she wished she could click her fingers and make it all OK.

The gentle sound of a ticking clock was strangely intrusive. The atmosphere was electric because you never knew what Mick was about to do next. He watched silently as cars sped by, flashes of yellow, blue and gunmetal grey. The women stared at him from a distance. His bony hands were clasped together in front of his stomach, shard-like knuckles protruded from them, his veins like cables. Even from a few metres away, it was obvious that this was a man lost within his own mind. He looked confused. Betsy gestured silently towards the kitchen and they walked away from the room quietly.

He had been a fine man, Mick Bruce, really one of the very best: a true gentleman with a big heart. Betsy and Mick had met at a mutual friend’s twenty-first birthday party in a village hall in Ide Hill, Kent. The possibilities of life had seemed endless then. They had their whole lives ahead of them. But it had gone so fast! Mick had spotted 19-year-old Betsy across the room, holding a glass of flat cola and staring at her pale, sandalled feet. She was wearing a baby blue midi dress, and was the only girl at the party with her ample breasts tucked away and her legs mostly covered. Her hair was shoulder length, and curled up at the edges. A friend had drawn on some eyeliner in the toilets just an hour before. The flicks were almost perfectly executed, if you could ignore the fact that the left one was noticeably higher than the right.

‘Who’s that?’ Mick had asked a friend, unable to stop looking at her. He had torn his glance away momentarily, to brush a few large beads of beer froth from his checked shirt.

‘Oh god, that’s Betsy. She’s a square . . . She’s so boring, I’m surprised she’s even here,’ his friend Padstow had replied, rolling his eyes and passing Mick another beer.

‘Ha, yeah, she looks kinda dull,’ Mick had said, laughing, but unable to shake his instant obsession towards this slender, blonde stranger, who seemed to be totally detached from the world around her. Why was she even at the party, he wondered. She looked as if it was the last place she wanted to be. Eventually, a red cheeked and smiley friend had prised the object of Mick’s affections away from the wall, and eased her towards the dance floor. Mick, locked in fascination, had watched her through the crowds. A soft smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he took an occasional sip of cold beer and felt something slip and slide within him, to be lost forever. Betsy Taylor was the most awkwardly beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

My Review:

Published by Coronet in paperback on August 13th 2015.

I would like to thank the publishers for my copy of this book via Bookbridgr, in return for an honest review and for taking part in the blog tour.

Nessa Bruce has the perfect life on paper, but in reality, her life is far from perfect. After finding herself pregnant at seventeen, Nessa gave up her dream of becoming a midwife to raise her daughter, Poppy. However, Poppy now thinks that her mother is failure, because she is the manager of a small library, instead of following her dreams to become the midwife she has always wanted to be. Nessa's husband Jake is the man of her dreams, but Nessa wishes more than anything that he would give up his job in the army and stay at home with his family. Poppy is finding it hard to cope, not having her father around and is starting to rebel, which sees her shoplifting and turning into a typical rebellious teen. All Nessa and Poppy can hope for is that Jake will be able to bring things back to normal when he returns home after a tour in Afghanistan. But Jake doesn't return home, turning Nessa and Poppy's lives upside down in the process. Never giving up hope that Jake is out there somewhere waiting to get home, the two try to get their life back on tack. But as time moves on and there is still no sign of Jake, Nessa is forced to try to move on with her life as best she can, and keep hoping beyond hope that the man she loves will come back into her life eventually.

I really can't find the words to praise this book enough! Everything about it is beautiful, from the gorgeous striking cover, to the wonderfully written, heartbreaking story inside. I have read a lot of books, but none with as much emotion as this one. I laughed and cried, and I didn't even need to turn the page to do both. I can't think of any one character that I have read before, that I have loved and cared for as much as Nessa. I found her story utterly heartbreaking, yet wonderfully uplifting. Jessica Thompson's talent truly shines throughout the book and it is obvious she has but her heart and soul into writing this wonderful book.

As I have already mentioned, the characters in this novel are superbly written and beautifully developed. Nessa is one of the best characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. She has gone through so much in her life, yet she continues to pick herself up again and again. She is so strong and independent and is such an admirable character. I adored her. From the very first page of this novel, I developed a soft spot for Will, Nessa's best friend. He too is wonderfully written and gives the book a certain sparkle. The friendship he shares with Nessa is just fantastic and one of the most beautiful relationships I have ever read. Poppy is a character that I really feel sorry for. She is clearly struggling with not having her father around and finding out that he isn't coming home, makes her go off the rails even more. Although Jake, is a character that we only hear about, I absolutely loved him. He is such a charismatic and likable character and I spent the duration of the book, on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out what had happened to Jake.

Mick and Betsy, Jake's parents also caused me some heartbreak while I was reading this novel. Mick is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and is unable to remember any of his family members. His wife, Betsy, is doing her best and to care for him, but is finding it tougher and tougher with every passing day. This adds a real depth to the story and brought more than one tear to my eye!

This book has gone straight in as one of my all time top ten favourites. I am so looking forward to discovering Jessica Thompson's previous books. This book will make you, laugh, cry and smile. It is devestatingly beautiful and impossible to put down. The characters will stay with you long after you have read the final pages. You will not read another book as beautifully written or heartbreaking this year!

Five stars

Friday, 14 August 2015

Review of The Betrayal and Author Interview with Laura Elliot


My Review: 

I would like to thank Bookouture for my copy of this book via Netgalley in return for my honest review. 

Nadine is not so happily married to Jake. When an unexpected teenage pregnancy forced the couple to get married, it changed both their lives for the worse. Now that their four children have grown up and flown the nest, all Nadine and Jake are left with is a failing business and a huge house they can no longer afford. The couple soon decide that the only way for them to be truly happy is to divorce, so each one can follow their dreams. But they are in the middle of a recession and find themselves sharing a house which is split into two apartments. When living under the same roof becomes too much to handle, Nadine travels to Alaska, while Jake dreams of reuniting the band that made him famous before he got married. Jake meets Karin Moylan and begins a steamy affair, but he is unaware of the dark past Karin shares with Nadine. Karin coming back into their lives soon releases skeletons from the closet, and they find themselves reliving memories they would sooner forget.  

The Betrayal is told from the point of view of both Nadine and Jake. Told in several parts, the story goes back and forward through time. At the beginning of the book, we are told that something bad has happened to Nadine in the past, so going back in time helped to develop this story and really gave it legs. It also shows us the relationships Nadine and Karin had when they were teenagers. The story moves forward in  time at a great pace and really holds your attention. It cover all bases with both characters and I loved how it changed between the point of view of Nadine and Jake. I adored being able to hear the story from both viewpoints and if anything it helped me to like these two characters even more.  

There is an air of mystery to this book, which made it all the more enjoyable. Although this book keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat, there is a deep emotional side it also. My heart broke for Nadine and Jake when they decided to separate, because it was very evident that they still loved and cared for each a lot. The thing I loved most about this book was the striking contrast between darkness and light. You are fully aware at all times that something terrible has happened in the past, yet you can't help but warm to the story. The characters of Nadine and Jake are so likable, that I nearly didn’t want to find out what happened. Laura Elliot has a great talent for being able to write this contrast so beautifully.  

Nadine is by far my favorite character in this book I loved how strong and independent she was throughout the book. After everything she has been through she continues to pick herself up and dust herself off time and time again, She handles herself and her divorce with grace and dignity and she is definitely a character to be admired. I also loved the character of Jake. I almost felt sorry for him, because at times it felt like he was losing everything. Being able to see the story from his point of view, definitely made me warm to him more and more as the story progressed. Karin is the character that everyone will love to hate. She really is wonderfully written, and her confidence seems to just ooze off the page.   

Bookouture, in my opinion, are the best publishers around at the moment. The continue to produce great books by great authors and I think that The Betrayal and Laura Elliot are at the top of that list. I was astounded at how the book ended! Not many books make me say wow at the end, but this one has me repeating it. It is an ending that you won't see coming in a million years. The Betrayal is utterly compelling and gripping. It will get into your head and you will become immersed in the story from the very first page. A wonderfully written page turner. A must read.  

Interview with Laura Elliot 

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book, The Betrayal? 
The Betrayal began life as a rom-com. I imagined writing it quickly and enjoying the experience. However, it changed direction and the more I progressed with it the edgier it became. It was turning into something of a hybrid – a mix of dark and light – and, somehow, the two strands were not working together. After months of work I had to go back to the drawing board and decide – rom-com or psychological thriller? I opted for the latter. 

What is your typical writing day like? Do you have set hours or do you just write when you get the chance? 
 I try to keep to an ordered routine and work most days, starting early in the morning and working until about four in the afternoon. Sometimes – when I’m working well, I’ll do a few hours at night but I’m a lark by nature and the morning is my best time. 

Where did you get the inspiration for The Betrayal?  
As I mentioned earlier – the story evolved from one genre to another – and the inspiration, came during Ireland’s economic crash when many couples - whose marriages were not working - wanted to separate. But the property market was in tatters and I heard about a number of couples who divided their house into two separate units and tried to live apart. The tensions that must have been involved in this arrangement intrigued me and I decided to explore what it could be like. 

Did you know how the book was going to end before you started writing, or did you let the story develop as you wrote it?  
Definitely the story developed as I wrote. I knew that something dramatic was going to happen to the couple, Nadine and Jake, at the end – but I’d absolutely no idea what that would be until I was about three-quarters way through the story. 

Did you always want to write tense psychological thriller type books?  
I didn’t set out to do so – but all my books tend to go in that direction. I like the challenge of creating a challenging situation and weaving a story around it. 

The Betrayal is filled with very interesting characters. Which was your favorite to write?  
I felt differently about all of them. I liked Nadine the best, enjoyed Eleanor, was challenged by Karin and had a soft spot for the hapless Jake. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft?  
Too long. I’d constant interruptions, including a commission to ghost write a book, just when I was getting into my stride. And the fact that I went back to the drawing board also delayed me. I’d say it took about eighteen months before I had the first draft completed to my satisfaction. Then the redrafting began and I’ve been working non-stop since the new year to finish it. 

What can we expect from you in the future? Are you currently working on book number 4? 
I’m toying with ideas but have not started anything yet. I’m going on a holiday and will probably begin a new book when I return. 

How are you going to celebrate on Publication Day? 
I’m heading off on holidays early on Saturday morning so I’ll be going easy on the champagne. I’ll probably have a few drinks in my local with my husband – and a nice meal afterwards. I’m also looking forward to interacting with readers and reviewers on social media. 
Thanks so much, Kelly, for featuring me on your blog. For those interested in reading my blog on The Betrayal the link is 

Thank you to Laura Elliot for taking the time to answer my questions and to Kim at Bookouture for arranging the interview. 

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