Book Review: Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane; Narrated by Madeline Gould #AudiobookReview

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You always remember your first love. Don’t you?

It began with four words.

I love your laugh. x

But that was 12 years ago. It really began the day Georgina was fired from The Worst Restaurant in Sheffield (TripAdvisor) and found The Worst Boyfriend in the World (Georgina’s best friends) in bed with someone else.

So when her new boss, Lucas McCarthy, turns out to be the boy who wrote those words to her all that time ago, it feels like the start of something.

The only problem? He doesn’t seem to remember Georgina at all.

This was my first Mhairi McFarlane book and I chose it because I have seen a lot of bloggers enthusing about her writing and I thought I had better see what I was missing out on. Having listened to this book, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed her work and will definitely be seeking out more.

I was intrigued by the premise of the book, how could someone who had been your first teenage love not remember you at all, and how would you deal with that? It seemed like it might be a hard idea to carry through convincingly, but Mhairi manages it, and the book was both funny and very moving. The story she has put together goes far beyond the basic comedic value of the premise and touches on much deeper and more serious issues. Combining the quite troubling aspects of the story with the funny element in a way that is not jarring is a difficult skill, but one Mhiari manages effortlessly. (I’m sure it wasn’t effortless but it certainly looks it in the finished novel.)

Georgina is a great character, hapless and unfocused, but full of chutzpah and I really liked her – an important characteristic for the protagonist in a romantic comedy! Mhairi also gives us an odious ex, plenty of mad family members with internal frictions to enjoy, and a dark, brooding Irishman as the love interest. Most of you will know how much I love a dark, brooding Irishman, in my fiction as well as in real life, so I was pretty much sold from the get go, but the execution of the promise in no way disappointed.

Being from South Yorkshire myself and having worked in Sheffield for a few years, I enjoyed the familiar setting of the book, and Mhairi’s set up of having Georgina as a waitress in a not-very-good Italian restaurant at the beginning gave scope for lots of comedy, not to mention the shenanigans with the odious boyfriend. This book made me laugh out loud as I was walking my dog along the canal bank; probably just as well that it  was usually quite deserted.

I really enjoyed the way the truth about what happened the night of the leavers’ party gradually unfurled and we finally find out what happened between Lucas and Georgina the first time around. The fact that it was so gradual kept me listening avidly; sometimes the pace of a book fails to translate from page to audio version, because the latter takes much longer to get through, but this book definitely did not suffer from any pacing problems in translation. In fact, the audio version of the book is wonderful, I really loved the narrator and even the accents were great (and I’ve heard a few dodgy Irish accents done in the past.) I would not hesitate to pick up another audiobook featuring this narrator again.

Overall, this was a funny, moving, bittersweet story with appealing characters and a fresh premise that the author carried through with aplomb. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to reading much more of her writing. Highly recommended.

You can buy a copy of Don’t You Forget About Me now in all formats here.

About the Author

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Sunday Times bestselling author Mhairi McFarlane was born in Scotland in 1976 and her unnecessarily confusing name is pronounced Vah-Ree.

After some efforts at journalism, she started writing novels and her first book, You Had Me At Hello, was an instant success. She’s now written six books and she lives in Nottingham with a man and a cat.

Connect with Mhairi:

Facebook: Mhairi McFarlane Author

Twitter: @MhairiMcF

 

Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert; Narrated by the author #AudiobookReview

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Listeners of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process and showing us all just how easy it can be.

By sharing stories from her own life as well as from her friends and the people who have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear.

Whether you long to write a book, create art, cope with challenges at work, embark on a long-held dream, or simply to make your everyday life more vivid and rewarding, Big Magic will take you on a journey of exploration filled with wonder and unexpected joys.

Anyone poking around my Goodreads profile might observe that I have read this book twice this year already, once via audiobook and one reading of my paper copy. One might rightly, assume, therefore, that this is a book which means a lot to me.

As someone who, cautiously, describes themselves as a writer and has ambitions to get her writing published one day but with no confidence that this is achievable, I am exactly the person that Elizabeth Gilbert is aiming this book at. A creative person who allows fear to hold them back in their endeavours and this is why I love this book so much. It feels like she wrote it just for me and, having someone so successful and whose writing I love, understand me, tell me that she has felt the same and that my feelings are understandable and manageable in a source of such comfort at times when I am struggling.

This is not really a practical ‘how to write’ book. It is a why to write book, and how to overcome the mental blocks that prevent us doing so. In this book, the author talks about all the things that hold us back from fully embracing and engaging in our creative impulses – not just writing but anything at all, painting, pottery, ice skating, anything you do for reasons not of pure practicality – and tries to reassure us that our fears and reservations are normal, universal and conquerable. I defy anyone who has ever wanted to do something creative but has felt embarrassed about it, fraudulent, foolish or afraid about doing so, to read this book and not see themselves mirrored back.

So, for me, this book is reassuring because it makes me feel less alone, and this is important because, as Elizabeth points out, creativity can be a lonely business and we tend to spend a lot of time in our own heads, fretting over our inadequacies and assuming no one else has these struggles. To hear that even the most successful of authors share these moments of angst and self-doubt can help to make use believe that persistence may not be futile and, if we just stick it out, maybe we can make it too.

Look, this book is not going to be for everyone. There is no getting away from the fact that some of her ideas about creativity are a little ‘out there,’ and she admits this herself. She talks about ideas and inspiration as actual living things with will and motivation and that there is real magic involved in the process of creation. Some people will find this hard to swallow and it may put them off but, even if you find these theories too wild to be credible, there is a lot in this book that will be relatable and useful.

She talks about fear and how it can cripple your creativity and this is the most personal of her comments to me. “…we all know that when courage dies, creativity dies with it. We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.’ She is writing my soul here. I have spent far too many hours being literally (and I do mean literally) paralysed with fear into an inability to write. To feel so understood, and also have someone tell me they can help me deal with it is of immense comfort.

“Perfectionists often decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don’t even bother trying to be creative in the first place.” She’s talking about me again! Perfectionism has been the biggest debilitating factor of my life. It has caused me more anguish, stopped me doing more things, prevented me taking pride in any achievements than anything else in my life. It is absolutely not a virtue, it is a curse and, as Elizabeth says, it is ‘just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat.” Did I mention that her imagery and turn of phrase are also one of the things that make this book such a delight?

She deals with so many topics in this book. How to live with your fear (because there is no getting rid of it), what success can look like and how defining it can help you get over your fear, how to give yourself permission to write, how to trust yourself and the process. Whatever your particular hurdles are that hinder you from creating freely, I’m sure you will find something in here to help you, give you a crumb of comfort and the impetus to keep going. Certainly, for me, this is a book I keep on hand to dip in and out of whenever I need it. To keep the doubts at bay. I am not a person who dogears their books, but my copy of Big Magic has many pages with the corners turned down so I can find a favourite line or paragraph when I need a little boost.

This book tells me it is okay to be afraid. It is okay to fail. It is okay to feel like a fraud. It is okay to call myself a writer even though I have no qualifications in this area. It is okay to be a writer and never get published. Success for me is mine to define and not for others to decide. Time spent doing something you love is never wasted, even if it has no commercial value.

It’s okay to be the skinny lobster in spandex tights.

Big Magic is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Elizabeth Gilbert was born in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1969, and grew up on a small family Christmas tree farm. She attended New York University, where she studied political science by day and worked on her short stories by night. After college, she spent several years traveling around the country, working in bars, diners and ranches, collecting experiences to transform into fiction.

These explorations eventually formed the basis of her first book – a short story collection called PILGRIMS, which was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award, and which moved Annie Proulx to call her “a young writer of incandescent talent”.

During these early years in New York, she also worked as a journalist for such publications as Spin, GQ and The New York Times Magazine. She was a three-time finalist for The National Magazine Award, and an article she wrote in GQ about her experiences bartending on the Lower East Side eventually became the basis for the movie COYOTE UGLY.

In 2000, Elizabeth published her first novel, STERN MEN (a story of brutal territory wars between two remote fishing islands off the coast of Maine) which was a New York Times Notable Book. In 2002, Elizabeth published THE LAST AMERICAN MAN – the true story of the modern day woodsman Eustace Conway. This book, her first work of non-fiction, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Elizabeth is best known, however for her 2006 memoir EAT PRAY LOVE, which chronicled her journey alone around the world, looking for solace after a difficult divorce. The book was an international bestseller, translated into over thirty languages, with over 12 million copies sold worldwide. In 2010, EAT PRAY LOVE was made into a film starring Julia Roberts. The book became so popular that Time Magazine named Elizabeth as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

In 2010, Elizabeth published a follow-up to EAT PRAY LOVE called COMMITTED—a memoir which explored her ambivalent feelings about the institution of marriage. The book immediately became a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and was also received with warm critical praise. As Newsweek wrote, COMMITTED “retains plenty of Gilbert’s comic ruefulness and wide-eyed wonder”, and NPR called the book “a rich brew of newfound insight and wisdom.”

Her 2013 novel THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is a sprawling tale of 19th century botanical exploration. O Magazine named it “the novel of a lifetime”, and the Wall Street Journal called it “the most ambitious and purely-imagined work of (Gilbert’s) twenty-year career.” THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS was a New York Times Bestseller, and Janet Maslin called it “engrossing…vibrant and hot-blooded.” The novel was named a Best Book of 2013 by The New York Times, O Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The New Yorker.”

In 2015, she published BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR—a book that encapsulates the joyful spirit of adventure and permission that Elizabeth has always brought to her work and to her life.

Her latest novel is CITY OF GIRLS — a rollicking, sexy tale of the New York City theater world during the 1940s. It will be published in June of 2019.

Elizabeth divides her time between New York City, rural New Jersey, and everywhere else.

Connect with Elizabeth:

Website: https://www.elizabethgilbert.com

Facebook: Liz Gilbert

Twitter: @GilbertLiz

Instagram: @elizabeth_gilbert_writer

Desert Island Books: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham; Narrated by Graeme Malcolm

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David Strorm’s father doesn’t approve of Angus Morton’s unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realise that his own son, and his son’s cousin Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret abberation which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery, or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands. . .

The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear apocalypse story of genetic mutation in a devastated world and explores the lengths the intolerant will go to keep themselves pure.

I don’t know whether you are someone who likes to read dystopian fiction, especially in this current time of pandemic, but if you are, then John Wyndham is a writer you should know about and this novel is, in my humble opinion, his best. I have read all of his books and, although he is better know for The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos (which was made into a film called The Village of the Damned which did not in any way do the book justice), none of his other books have the emotional impact of The Chrysalids.

I was first introduced to the works of John Wyndham in my early teens by my excellent high school librarian. Along with Dorothy L. Sayers (one of whose novels will be featured as a Desert Island Book later in the year), John Wyndham was an author I would never have picked up without her encouragement, but who has since become a lifelong favourite. The first of his books I read was Chocky, and it (excuse my language) scared the crap out of me, but it was this book that really made me think and which continues to linger in my mind long after I finish reading it, even after multiple re-reads.

The book is set in a post-apocalyptic corner of Canada. The Earth has been blighted by a tragedy that the reader assumes is nuclear war, but this is never confirmed because the people living at this time don’t actually know what happened to make their world the way it is. Their reality is that vast tracts of the planet are uninhabitable, and the earth is so ravaged by radiation fallout that large proportions of everything are deformed and distorted from what they perceive to be the ‘true’ image. For comfort, the population have grasped on to religion with fervour to control their lives and they ruthlessly pursue what they consider to be gospel as regards how man should look and behave, to the extent that they destroy crops and animals they consider deformed or ‘Offences’ against God and inflict unspeakable horrors on humans that do not conform to their belief of the True Image of God, whom they label as Blasphemies.

The story follows the life of David Strorm, the son of one of the most rigid leaders of their  community, and his group of fellow telepaths, who have managed to say hidden from people as they are physically ‘normal’, but who fear persecution because their telepathic ability is not shared by the majority of people (the Norms).

This is basically a book about bigotry. About fear of people who do not look or act exactly the same as the majority, and who are persecuted for their differences, despite the fact they do not hurt anybody. When I listened to this book a few weeks ago to prepare for this piece, I had no idea just how relevant the story was going to feel when I came to post it.

The Audible version of this book is extremely well narrated and very easy to listen to and, as someone who loves and has read the book many times, I can attest that the story loses none of its impact when consumed as an audiobook.

You can buy a copy of The Chrysalids here.

About the Author

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John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Benyon Harris was born in 1903, the son of a barrister. He tried a number of careers including farming, law, commercial art and advertising, and started writing short stories, intended for sale, in 1925. From 1930 to 1939 he wrote stories of various kinds under different names, almost exclusively for American publications, while also writing detective novels. During the war he was in the Civil Service and then the Army.

In 1946 he went back to writing stories for publication in the USA and decided to try a modified form of science fiction, a form he called ‘logical fantasy’. As John Wyndham he wrote The Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes (both widely translated), The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as Village of the Damned), The Seeds of Time, Trouble with Lichen, The Outward Urge (with Lucas Parkes) and Chocky. He died in March 1969.

Desert Island Books: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; Narrated by Stephen Fry

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It’s an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace express route, and his best friend has just announced that he’s an alien. At this moment, they’re hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed, in large friendly letters, with the words: DON’T PANIC.

The weekend has only just begun . . .

Is there anyone who needs me to tell them why I would want to take Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a trilogy in five parts (Yes, I’m having all five books, I’ve got them in a version that is just one volume so it totally isn’t cheating) to my desert island with me? Presumably only someone who has never read it, because noone who has ever picked up these books could fail to fall in love with them.

Look, I know that science fiction isn’t a genre that appeals to everyone; indeed, I myself am not a huge reader of sci-fi, but these books are so, so much more than a simple sci-fi series. They are hilarious and clever and astute and a damning commentary on the ridiculousness of human beings and the futility of existence and a celebration of those very same things. There has never, in my opinion, been anything quite like it before or since and the phenomenal popularity of the series (they’ve been translated into more than 30 languages) bears witness to this. They were a no brainer as an addition to my Desert Island books.

The basic story follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a rather boring man who is whisked away from Earth by his best friend, Ford Prefect,  moments before our planet is demolished by the Vogon constructor fleet to make way for a hyper-space bypass. It turns out Ford is not an out-of-work actor, as Arthur believed, but an alien from the plant Betelguise who is a field researcher for a kind of inter-planetary Lonely Planet handbook called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Arthur then accompanies Ford around the Universe, discovering all kinds of extraordinary things.

This sounds far from extraordinary, but the summary does not do justice to the wit and sharpness with which Adams imbues the text and the deft comedy and piercing observations that pepper the book. True fans absorb the comedic prose into their very beings and you will often find in-jokes from the books creeping in to all kinds of discussions and debates. A bunch of EU law experts were referencing the book (and in particular, the virtues, or lack thereof, of Vogon poetry) during a Twitter debate about Brexit last autumn and it made my soul sing. In fact, one of the category headings of my blog is a direct nod to the title of the third book in the series; this is how deeply the novel is woven in to my psyche.

I have recently inducted my fourteen-year-old daughter in to the joys of the book and was delighted to hear her laughing out loud during the same audio version I have just listened to. I must have been around the same age when I first discovered it, and I have been in love with the books ever since, and I will never get tired of them. They make me laugh, and their comedy fills me with joy. They are the perfect eternal companion on my desert island.

The audio version (of the reading of the book, not the original radio shows) is very well done. Stephen Fry is always a delight to listen to, although he is forever associated in my mind with Harry Potter now when I listen to him. I have only made it through the first audiobook so far, but I have The Restaurant at the End of the Universe ready to go and plan to get through them all again this year. These books make my heart happy, what more can I say?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Douglas Adams created all the various and contradictory manifestations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: radio, novels, TV, computer game, stage adaptations, comic book and bath towel. He lectured and broadcast around the world and was a patron of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and Save the Rhino International. Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge, UK and lived with his wife and daughter in Islington, London, before moving to Santa Barbara, California, where he died suddenly in 2001. After Douglas died the movie of Hitchhiker moved out of development hell into the clear uplands of production, using much of Douglas’ original script and ideas. Douglas shares the writing credit for the movie with Karey Kirkpatrick.

Book Review: The Cactus by Sarah Haywood Narrated by Katherine Manners #AudiobookReview

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It’s never too late to bloom.

People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green – family and colleagues find her prickly and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs. At 45, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward – a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic, and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other more intimate benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control. When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.

I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to get round to reviewing this book, I listening to it ages ago. I think maybe I have been afraid that I wouldn’t do the book justice, I loved it so much.

This book is the story of a very unusual woman, and her character is so perfectly formed and then tested by the author that I defy anyone not to be entranced by the story. Susan is a woman whose life is perfectly ordered. She knows exactly who she is, what she is doing, how she wants things to be, and she has it all arranged perfectly, from her flat, to her job, to her relationship of convenience with Richard, who seems to think exactly as she does. Which is a miracle, because nobody sees the world exactly as Susan does. The best thing about her, for me, is her absolute belief that she is always right, her way of approaching things is obviously correct and pretty much everyone else in the world is an idiot that needs to be tolerated at best. Her disdain for most of humanity as irredeemably stupid drips off the page and it is delightful.

You might think a woman like this would be hard to relate to as a character, but it isn’t so. I think because the author sets her up so early on with problems that we, the reader, can see are going to force her to adjust her view, because when we meet her family we can possibly understand that a great deal of her spiky ways have developed as armour against the tribulations of her early life and her dysfunctional family, and because other characters who are more likeable in the book see her as a redeemable character, so we do too. The writing is so clever in this regard, I have to tip my hat to the author.

This book is incredibly warm and funny. The situation that Sarah puts Susan in, finding herself pregnant in her forties, would be ripe for comedy in any situation but, given how ordered and uptight Susan is, the chaos of pregnancy and childbirth is magnified tenfold. There were parts of the book that had me absolutely howling with laughter. The part where she and Richard meet to discuss how they are going to handle the parenting of this unexpected child was delightful in its naivety for anyone who has children. Then the incident with the Bananagrams towards the end of the book made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. I read someone else’s review of this book that claimed it was not as funny as Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I would beg to differ, I found this much funnier.

As I have now brought up Eleanor Oliphant, I want to say that anyone who loved that book will really enjoy this one. It is a similar social misfit tale, but a completely different story. Sarah obviously has so much love for the character of Susan, it shines from the page and makes the reader fall in love with her too. I listened to this book as an audiobook in the end, even though I originally got the book via NetGalley, but when I had finished it, I immediately went and bought a hardback copy for my shelves because I know I will want to return to it again and again.

I just wanted to say a word about the audio version of this book. I think listening to it via audio gave Susan a really strong voice for me. She is from the West Midlands, and the narrator has the accent down perfectly throughout. I am not sure about you but, when I read text, even if the author places the cast in a particular location, I never read with an accent in my head. Listening to someone read with the accent really cemented Susan as alive and kicking for me, and her tone and pacing was also perfect for the character. I think this is one of those stories where the audio really enhances the story and I would highly recommend it (although it did take me several days to get the Birmingham accent out of my head after finishing the book!). The narrator was perfect and I don’t have high enough praise for her performance, as the narration makes or breaks an audiobook.

The Cactus is already on the shortlist for being one of my Top Ten books of the year. I cannot express how much I adored it. It is no surprise to me that it was chosen by Reese Witherspoon for her book club and everyone who hasn’t read it should get a copy now. It is the perfect antidote to the dark days we are currently living through and you could do a lot worse that share your isolation with Susan Green.

The Cactus is out now in all formats and you can get yourself a copy here.

About the Author

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Sarah Haywood was born in Birmingham. After studying Law, she worked in London and Birkenhead as a solicitor, in Toxteth as an advice worker, and in Manchester as an investigator of complaints about lawyers. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and lives in Liverpool with her husband, two sons and two ginger cats.

Connect with Sarah:

Website: https://www.sarahhaywoodauthor.com

Facebook: Sarah Haywood Author

Twitter: @SarahxHaywood

Instagram: @sarahjhaywood

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher #BookReview (@CharlieFletch_r) @orbitbooks @TheFictionCafe @dstackedshelves #FictionCafeBookClub #FictionCafeReadingChallenge2020 #challenges #readingrecommendations #TemptedBy #YoungAdult #ABoyAndHisDogAtTheEndOfTheWorld

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My name’s Griz. I’ve never been to school, I’ve never had friends, in my whole life I’ve not met enough people to play a game of football. My parents told me how crowded the world used to be, before all the people went away, but we were never lonely on our remote island. We had each other, and our dogs.  

Then the thief came.  

He told stories of the deserted towns and cities beyond our horizons. I liked him – until I woke to find he had stolen my dog. So I chased him out into the ruins of the world. 

I just want to get my dog back, but I found more than I ever imagined was possible. More about how the world ended. More about what my family’s real story is. More about what really matters.  

Book four for the 2020 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club is in the category ‘A book with an animal on the cover’ Well, I see a dog so I think this counts!

This post also represents a special edition of my Tempted by … feature, as I bought this book after reading this fabulous review by my friend Jill over at Double Stacked Shelves. Make sure you pop over and check out her blog.

This book lived up to all Jill promised. Although it is a young adult book, readers of all ages will take away something from it, and you’d need to be some kind of curmudgeon not to enjoy it just because the writing style is pitched at a young adult reader. This is a dystopian story, a tale of adventure, an exploration of human nature and frailty, a morality tale, and a treatise on the love than humans have for their pets, all rolled in to one great book.

We meet Griz & his family at the end of days, when the human population has all but died out and the few people who are left are scattered far and wide across a barren landscape. Everyone is living a hand to mouth existence, which makes them suspicious of strangers and protective of the things they have. So when a visitor to their remote home steals Griz’s dog, he sets off in pursuit. The rest of the book then follows Griz’s journey as he travels across an unknown land to find his lost companion.

The story is gripping from the first page as we try to understand what has happened to the world and what kind of devastation humans have wreaked on themselves and the planet. It is fascinating to look through the author’s imagination to see what someone who has never experienced life as we currently live it makes of our world through the decaying remnants left behind. What kind of things are still of value to humans on the edge of existence, and what has become worthless.

The book is full of emotion, as the bonds of family are tested, and the importance of relationships, trust, understanding, empathy and kindness are explored through Griz’s journey and the challenges he meets along the way. The book explores how we can change and grow in the face of adversity, confirming the old adage, ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger.’

I have been a huge fan of dystopian fiction since my old school librarian introduced me to the books of John Wyndham as a teenager, but I don’t remember there being any books like this specifically aimed at my age group. This book brought back echoes of those books to me, along with a sniff of Treasure Island for some reason. I was thoroughly invested in the story, and found it moving, melancholy and uplifting, all at the same time. I am also happy that I have found a book I can share with my teenage daughters and discuss and enjoy with them. A book to be passed along between generations, which makes it a great find.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Charlie’s a screenwriter and a novelist and he lives on the edge of Edinburgh. He’s been lots of other things too – temperamentally unsuitable bar staff (grumpy, not talkative), temporary laundry manager in a big London hotel, detail-shop car-wash jockey in Reno, Nevada, despatch runner for a film company in Soho,  food critic (not a very good one, basically never met a meal he didn’t like. Or at least eat too much of), national newspaper columnist (Scotland’s a nation, right?) and a film editor at the BBC. He studied Literature at St Andrews University, and later took a grad degree in Screenwriting at USC.

He swims a lot, keeps thinking of taking up cycling, likes forgotten books, summers on the Outer Hebrides, terriers, his wife and his children – not necessarily in that order.

Connect with Charlie:

Website: http://www.charliefletcher.com

Twitter: @CharlieFletch_r

The Secret by K. L. Slater Narrated by Lucy Price-Lewis #BookReview #audiobook (@KimLSlater) @bookouture @audibleuk #freereading #TheSecret

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You think you can trust the ones you love most.

But what if one secret could make you question everything?

Every day, a woman like Louise passes you in the street: elegant, confident, determined. But underneath, she’s struggling.

She doesn’t know her sister, Alice, has been scared of leaving the house since their mother died.

She doesn’t know when Alice babysits her little boy, Archie, he sometimes sees things he shouldn’t.

She doesn’t know Archie has a secret.

A secret that could send cracks through the heart of Louise’s carefully constructed life…

I think the blurb to this book is a tiny bit misleading because it makes it sound as though the main character in the book is Louise, when in actual fact the majority of the book comes from the point of view of Alice. We actually hear the voice of three different narrators at times, Alice, Louise and, very briefly at the beginning and the end, Archie. But whose voice can you actually trust?

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook, and the further I got in to it, the more it gripped me. This was another one where, by the end, I actually just sat down and listened to the last 45 minutes because I just needed to find out where it was going, even though I did not have any of the chores to do that I am normally doing when I listen to audiobooks.

This book took me all around the houses trying to guess what was going on, who I could trust and who was an unreliable narrator and I had not got close to guessing what was actually going on when it was revealed. There was even a twist upon the twist that totally took me by surprise and it was so cleverly done, I had no idea it was coming. Gripping stuff.

There were a couple of times when I was inwardly shouting at the characters for some of their behaviour. ‘That’s not how sisters are!’ I found myself yelling internally, speaking from the experience of being the eldest of four girls myself and having five daughters/step-daughters, but then I had to remind myself that not all families are as well-adjusted and as close as mine and decided to suspend my disbelief that this is how siblings relate to one another to enjoy the story. I truly hope the author was pushing the boundaries of fiction to draw these relationships!

The narrator was a huge part of what made this book a successful listen for me, her voice work brought the characters to life and really held my attention. This was a gripping and surprising thriller, enhanced by wonderful narration and it held me in its thrall until the very end. Well worth an Audible credit.

The Secret is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Kim is the million-copy bestselling author of nine standalone psychological crime thrillers. SINGLE, her new thriller, is published November 2019.

Her titles are published in eBook by Bookouture and in paperback by Sphere (UK) and Grand Central (USA).

For many years, Kim sent her work out to literary agents and collected an impressive stack of rejection slips. At the age of 40 she went back to Nottingham Trent University and now has an MA in Creative Writing.

Before graduating in 2012, she gained literary agent representation and a book deal. As Kim says, ‘it was a fairytale … at the end of a very long road!’

Kim is a full-time writer. She has one daughter, two stepsons and lives with her husband in Nottingham.

Connect with Kim:

Website: https://klslaterauthor.com

Facebook: Kim L Slater Author

Twitter: @KimLSlater

Instagram: @klslaterauthor

The Lido by Libby Page Narrated by Clare Corbett #BookReview #audiobook (@LibbyPageWrites) @LitRedCorvette @OrionBooks @audibleuk #freereading #TheLido

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Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…. 

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life. But now everything she knows is changing – the library where she used to work has closed, the family fruit and veg shop has become a trendy bar, and her beloved husband, George, is gone. Kate has just moved and feels alone in a city that is too big for her. She’s at the bottom rung of her career as a journalist on a local paper and is determined to make something of it. So when the local lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. 

And Rosemary knows it is the end of everything for her. Together they are determined to make a stand, to show that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community. Together they will show the importance of friendship, the value of community and how ordinary people can protect the things they love. 

What a beautiful story this is. A story about an unlikely friendship between a young, anxious and lonely girl starting a new life in a city where she knows no one and an elderly woman who has lived in the same place all her life, but who has discovered that you still need new friends, however old you get. It is a story about community and what that means in a city that faces all the changes that modern life brings. It is a story about the things that are perceived as important versus the things that actually really matter. And it is a beautiful love story that spans half a century.

I loved everything about this book. The gentle storytelling. The genuine heart of the characters and their honest and down-to-earth friendships. The vivid descriptions of a lively neighbourhood and the changes that it sees over the decades. The ordinary and yet extraordinary love story between two people who were always meant to be together and who were each other’s everything. It’s about friendship and love and neighbourliness and old age and grief and loneliness and family and how a community lido represents all of this.

The book really moved me throughout. The characters really spoke to me, and made me care about them and the fate of the Lido. I was gently gripped by their individual plights, and what was affecting them as a community. It represented the very best of the way people can be, something we need more of in the current climate where everyone seems to be at loggerheads all the time. This is uplit at a time when we all need it.

Loved it, every minute.

The Lido is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Libby Page is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lido and The 24-Hour Café.

Before writing The Lido Libby worked as a campaigner for fairer internships, a journalist at the Guardian and a Brand Executive at a retailer and then a charity. She also shares her swimming adventures with her sister Alex at @theswimmingsisters.

Connect with Libby:

Website: https://libbypage.co.uk

Facebook: Libby Page Writes

Twitter: @LibbyPageWrites

Instagram: @libbypagewrites

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan Narrated by Jane Collingwood and Sandra Duncan #BookReview #audiobook (@ruthmariehogan) @TwoRoadsBooks @JaneCollingwoo1 @audibleuk #freereading #KeeperOfLostThings

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Meet the Keeper of Lost Things….

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters….

At the risk of being accused of hyperbole, I am going to tell you that this may be the most perfect book I have read in a long while. It has absolutely everything I love in a good work of fiction, novelty of plot, sympathetic characters, romance, comedy, pathos, a hint of the supernatural and a fabulous ending. I adored every single minute I spent listening to it and I did not want it to end.

What a fantastic premise for a book, somebody picking up random items that have been lost in public and trying to get them reunited with their missing owners. I loved all the little stories that were attached to the missing items, the snippets of insight into everyday lives they gave -many of which took the most unexpected turn.

The characters in this book were just a delight, every single one of them, even the dreadful Portia who produced some of my favourite parts of the book – but more about that later. Anyone who reads this book could not help but fall in love with Rose, and wish her to get her happy ending, the marvellous and insightful Sunshine, gentle and generous Anthony and his heartbreaking story, Bomber and Eunice and their dogs… Everyone of them a beautiful and lovingly drawn portrait of a person that is essential to the story and will tug on the heartstrings of the reader, making them care very much about what happens to them, and the odd assortment of detritus that becomes so essential to their happiness. The way the characters and their stories and the objects were intertwined is so beautifully and cleverly done, reading it was just a joy.

This book made me feel everything. It was hilariously funny in places. I found myself actually laughing out loud at the parts where the plots of Portia’s novels were read out, proper big belly laughs. There were parts of the book that had my eyes pricking with tears – particularly the story of Eunice and Bomber, which was so gorgeous and real and sensitively drawn, they are characters and a story that will stay with me a good long while. And the ending, oh the ending had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, and I mean that literally. I know it has taken me a long while to get to this book after its initial publication and the excitement surrounding that, but maybe this book was just waiting for the right time for me to find it. Maybe it was just what I needed right now and I would not have loved it as much if I had read it at another time. Whatever, all I know is that it has moved me and made me profoundly happy now that I have discovered it.

I think you can tell, I absolutely love this book. It definitely has a place on my forever shelf and I know I will come back to it again and again. The audio version is wonderful, the performances captured the characters beautifully but I look forward to reading it again soon in the physical version to see if I have a different reaction, if there are nuances to be found that I’ve missed. In any event, one of my favourite books of recent years, a definite keeper.

The Keeper of Lost Things is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford. My sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me.

As a child, I loved the Brownies but hated the Guides, was obsessed with ponies and read everything I could lay my hands on.  Luckily, my mum worked in a bookshop.  My favourite reads were The Moomintrolls, A Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets, and gravestones.

I passed enough O and A levels to get a place at Goldsmiths College, University of Londonto study English and Drama.  It was brilliant and I loved it.

And then I got a proper job.

I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (Human Resources – Recruitment, Diversity and Training). I was a square peg in round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage.

In my early thirties I had a car accident which left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously.  I got a part-time job as an osteopath’s receptionist and spent all my spare time writing.  It was all going well, but then in 2012 I got Cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing, and the eventual result was THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS.

I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering husband.  I spend all my free time writing or thinking about it and have notebooks in every room so that I can write down any ideas before I forget them.  I am a magpie; always collecting treasures (or ‘junk’ depending on your point of view) and a huge John Betjeman fan.  My favourite word is antimacassar and I still like reading gravestones.

Connect with Ruth:

Website: http://ruthhogan.co.uk

Facebook: Ruth Hogan

Twitter: @ruthmariehogan

Instagram: @ruthmariehogan

Silent Child by Sarah A. Denzil Narrated by Joanne Froggatt #BookReview #audiobook (@sarahdenzil) @JoFroggatt @audibleuk #freereading #SilentChild

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In the summer of 2006, Emma Price watched helplessly as her six-year-old son’s red coat was fished out of the River Ouse. It was the tragic story of the year – a little boy, Aiden, wandered away from school during a terrible flood, fell into the river, and drowned.

His body was never recovered.

Ten years later, Emma has finally rediscovered the joy in life. She’s married, pregnant, and in control again…

… until Aiden returns.

Too traumatized to speak, he raises endless questions and answers none. Only his body tells the story of his decade-long disappearance. The historic broken bones and injuries cast a mere glimpse into the horrors Aiden has experienced. Aiden never drowned. Aiden was taken.

As Emma attempts to reconnect with her now teenage son, she must unmask the monster who took him away from her. But who, in their tiny village, could be capable of such a crime?

It’s Aiden who has the answers, but he cannot tell her the unspeakable.

Wow, what a ride this audiobook turned out to be! I was absolutely blown away by this book because, unlike most of the titles I read these days which I have picked up on recommendation from someone, I plucked this one out of the blue in a 2-for-1 Audible promotion last year. I chose it based purely on the blurb, I had heard nothing about it, went in to it with no expectations at all and I absolutely loved it.

This is the story of Emma, a teenage mum whose small child is presumed drowned after he goes missing from school on the day of a biblical-scale flood. His traumatised mother eventually manages to pull herself together and move on with her life when, a decade later, he turns up out of the blue, so mentally scarred by his ordeal that he is mute. The rest of the story follows Emma as she tries to reconnect with her son, now a teenager, absorb him into her new life and find out what happened to him and where he has been all this time.

As a parent myself, it was only too easy to identify with Emma and her absolute despair at her child’s disappearance. I tried to imagine how I would feel, and I think the author did a truly fantastic job of portraying the range of emotions and reactions that Emma has to this unbelievable situation. It felt very authentic to me and cemented Emma as a relatable character in my mind and someone who could carry the story for me and make me suffer the ups and downs with her.

Aside from the character study and the examination of what I might do and feel in this position, this was also a totally gripping psychological thriller and, by that, I mean I was finding reasons to do things that meant I could listen to my audiobook so I could progress the story – I REALLY needed to know what was going to happen. In the end, I just sat and listened to the last hour of the book on the sofa, something I never normally do with an audiobook, they are always accompaniment to some task or other, because I just had to finish it. I went backwards and forwards as to who had done what, and who was the main suspect and, although I had suspicions, the author confounded me with what actually happened – I did not see it coming at all.

The narration of the audio version of this book is superb, Joanne Froggatt was perfect to bring Emma to life and she imbued her voice with every emotion Emma was going through. I really felt it all, and was totally hooked from beginning to end. It was one of those books where the narration actually enhances the story. A perfect synchronisation of story and performance. Wonderful stuff, worth a full Audible credit and a massive bargain for me.

Silent Child is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Sarah A. Denzil is a British suspense writer from Derbyshire. Her books include SILENT CHILD, which has topped the kindle charts in the UK, US, and Australia. SAVING APRIL and THE BROKEN ONES are both top thirty bestsellers in the US and UK Amazon charts.

Combined, her self-published and published books, along with audiobooks and foreign translations, have sold over one million copies worldwide.

Her latest thriller ONLY DAUGHTER, published by Bookouture is released in March 2019, about a mother desperately trying to find out why her seventeen-year-old daughter died after falling into a quarry.

Sarah lives in Yorkshire with her husband, enjoying the scenic countryside and rather unpredictable weather. She loves to write moody, psychological books with plenty of twists and turns.

Connect with Sarah:

Website: https://www.sarahdenzil.com

Facebook: Sarah A Denzil

Twitter: @sarahdenzil