The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker by Jenni Keer #BookReview #BlogTour (@JenniKeer) @AvonBooksUK @RaRaResources @RNATweets #Giveaway #RachelsRandomResources #NetGalley #TheHopesAndDreamsOfLucyBaker

the hopes and dreams of lucy baker

I am delighted that it is finally my turn on the blog tour for this debut novel by my fellow RNA member, the lovely Jenni Keer. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker and to Avon Books for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Make sure you read down to the end of the post for details of a fabulous giveaway.

the hopes and dreams final cover

Meet Lucy, aged 25, and Brenda, aged 79. Neighbours and unlikely friends.

Lucy Baker is not your usual 25-year-old. She is more at home reading and knitting in her cluttered little flat than going out partying and socialising.

79-year-old Brenda is full of wise and wonderful advice, but when she’s diagnosed with dementia her life begins to change. Before her memories slip away for ever, Brenda is desperate to fulfil one last wish – to see Lucy happy.

Gifting Lucy the locket that helped Brenda find her own true love, she hopes to push her reticent neighbour in the right direction. But is Lucy Baker ready for the opportunities and heartbreaks of the real world? It’s about time she put her knitting needles aside and found out…

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker will be the most charming, heart-warming and feel-good novel you will read this year, perfect for fans of Ruth Hogan and Gail Honeyman.

2019 has got off to a stellar start with the quality of the books I have read so far, and I guess it is a streak that has to end some time… but not with this book because this is a novel which has maintained the very high standard of reads with which I’ve started the year. It is a book which has wrapped me in a cashmere blanket of happiness and given me a long, warm hug, leaving me feeling tingly, moved and with a big smile on my face and a small tear in my eye. Quite a feat.

The central story in this book is the unlikely friendship between Lucy and Brenda, which spans easily the decades that divide them age-wise. In most ways, age doesn’t matter because Lucy is mature and wise beyond her years and Brenda is young at heart, but in other ways the age difference is telling, because of the effect it is having on Brenda’s body and mind. Jenni displays the closeness between the two, but also this physical deterioration of the human body with such tenderness and pathos that the book can’t fail to grab hold of the stoniest of hearts and squeeze it until it feels something (a bit too much in my case, since I’m a big softy and blub at the slightest provocation).

I was totally in love with both Brenda and Lucy. They felt very real and alive to me and their friendship was completely believable and genuine and just a delight to behold. They both really care about the other and want what is best for them, and they bring out the best in each other. They really understand each other and have so much in common, despite the age difference, which is the basis for a true and enduring friendship and it is just gorgeous.

I really enjoyed watching Lucy come to life and blossom and expose more of her personality throughout the book. I felt like a proud parent watching her grow in confidence and stature across the pages. There were times when I wanted to reach into the pages and shake her, or warn her not to trust someone, that they were not what they seemed to be, and that it is the hallmark of a truly enthralling book, where the people are so real to you that you are completely engrossed in the story as if you are another character yourself involved in their lives. I was rooting for her all the way through, sharing her joys and triumphs and sadness and, when the book ended, I felt like I was leaving behind a good friend. Luckily, she will still be waiting there between the pages of the book next time I want to meet up with her.

The other story arc is a fairly simple boy meets girl, but is elevated beyond the mundane by the charm of the characters, a good dose of humour and a touch of magical realism. It is a winning recipe for a memorable story that you will be sorry ends and you will definitely want to return to. Added to this is the warmth and ease of Jenni’s writing, which I just loved. One of my favourite lines popped up early on in the book:

But the night-black cat had vanished completely into the cat-black night.’

This is one of those lines that, as a writer, you mentally high-five yourself for writing and I gave the author a little cheer of congratulation as I read. It is also one of those ‘kill your darlings’ lines that you are always told you should cut (although the premise that you should cut any line you think is great always baffles me – you should just leave yourself with all the lines you aren’t happy with? Odd idea!) and I am SO glad that Jenni’s editor didn’t make her cut this one! From here on, I knew I was going to enjoy every word and there were numerous other bits I highlighted to go back to.

What more do I need to say? I absolutely loved every word of this book and can’t wait to grab the paperback for my collection so I can come back to it next time I want a book that will just make me happy. Go and buy it and give yourself a treat.

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker is out now as an ebook and the paperback, which will be released on 21 March, is available for pre-order. You can get them both here.

Giveaway

the hopes and dreams giveaway prize

Please enter the giveaway to win The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker goodies (UK Only) by clicking the Rafflecopter link below. Prize contains – Thornton’s fudge, a Nu notebook, a Hopes and Dreams bookmark and a set of five “Scratbag” blank greetings cards designed by Jenni Keer.

Rafflecopter

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

To follow the rest of the tour for this book and get some comparable reviews, check the details of the other blogs taking part on the poster below:

the hopes and dreams of lucy baker full tour banner

About the Author

the hopes and dreams jk mono 2

Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.

She is very tall and also carries around a knitted version of Poldark, so is easy to identify in a crowd!

img_20180920_124217_993

Connect with Jenni:

Website: https://jennikeer.co.uk

Facebook: Jenni Keer

Twitter: @JenniKeer

Instagram: @jennikeer

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman #BookReview (@GailHoneyman) @HarperCollinsUK @PamelaDormanBks #EleanorOliphant

51PRW8F0CFL._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

So, now I am sure I have achieved my goal of being the last English-speaking person in the western world to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I thought it was about time I got round to it and posted a review. The only problem is, since every other book blogger on the face of the planet has already read and reviewed this book, ad infinitum, what could I possibly have to say that hasn’t been said already?

I have to admit I was little concerned going in, as the book has had such hype that I didn’t believe it could possibly live up to my expectations. At the same time, I have read more and more reviews recently by people who have abandoned the book at an early stage, having been unable to get on with the main character at all. This included my own mother, although she and I have very different tastes and opinions on most things anyway.

I needn’t have worried. I absolutely loved every page of this book. I thought the character of Eleanor was unique and intelligent and really insightful and the whole story so well-drawn from beginning to end that I could not help but get drawn in to her world and life. What a sad and touching and lonely life she has had, until her friendship with Raymond changes everything for her. My heart is bruised from how much this story pummelled it with wave after wave of emotional wrenching. It has been a long time since it has had such a workout.

I guess I can understand how some people can find Eleanor jarring, she does not represent the social norm, but that is the entire point. This is the reason she is so isolated and uncomfortable with her peers. The discomfort that the reader might feel is illustration of why people like Eleanor become so socially isolated and lonely, but if we, as the reader and as people in society, push past this, we find the real person underneath who just longs to belong and is well worth knowing and Raymond is the model of what we should be. Warm, tolerant and understanding, I just loved him, although he himself might not be seen by society on first glance as the perfect specimen.

When I am reading, I tend to make little notes of pages where a particular line or paragraph has caught my eye as something that has touched or spoken to me or is worth remembering. I don’t think I have made as many notes on a book of parts I wanted to revisit as I did on this book. It was like the author was speaking directly to me, or even speaking my own thoughts at times. The final paragraph of Chapter 8. Halfway down page 106. The penultimate paragraph of page 174. The third paragraph of page 195. The top of page 238. A small phrase three-quarters of the way down page 286. The phrase on page 305, “Yellow tights did not, I noticed, flatter a sporty calf.’ All of these held small phrases or images that were joyful or moving or resonant or delightful to me. You will all have your own favourites, I’m sure. Some of it made me cry. Some of squeezed my chest so tight I grew short of breath. Some of it was just too painfully….truthful.

This book is marvellous. It, and Eleanor, are truly worthy of every minute you invest in reading it, and re-reading it will I am sure be equally beneficial. Anyone who does not persevere and try to find some bond with the character is missing out. A profoundly honest book that feels like it was written just for me.

If there is any chance at all that you haven’t got a copy of this book, you can buy it here.

About the Author

CKSMZh5P_400x400

Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, won the Costa First Novel Award 2017, and has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize.

As a work in progress, it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. Since publication, translation rights have sold to over thirty territories worldwide, Reese Witherspoon has optioned it for film and it was chosen as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the Year for 2017. Gail was also awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award in 2014, and has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

Gail lives in Glasgow.

Connect with Gail:

Twitter: @GailHoneyman

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper #BookReview #BlogTour (@ItsEmmaCooper) @headlinepg @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheSongsOfUs #UpLit

Emma Cooper Banner

So very happy to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper as I absolutely love this book, and the person who wrote it. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on to the tour so I get another chance to rave again about this wonderful book ahead of its paperback publication tomorrow. I reviewed this book originally back in March so, when you read the review below that I am reposting today, you may recognise one of the lines from it quoted above. Yes, that’s me, on a poster! Fame at last..kind of.

The Songs of Us Cover

“If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.”

So, I have just got off a seven-and-a-half hour trans-Atlantic flight where I had planned on watching ‘Darkest Hour’ and grabbing a few hours sleep. Instead, I sat up all night and devoured Emma Cooper’s new novel from cover to cover in one sitting and I don’t regret a single second of lost sleep.

This book is, quite frankly, astonishing. It manages to be funny and heart-wrenching at the same time, and explores some huge themes of love, loss, personal struggle and family, deeply but without being the least bit heavy-going or preachy.

It starts off with a hilarious scene in a supermarket which launches us straight into the complicated and mad world of the main character of Melody King who, following an unfortunate accident, has the embarrassing habit of launching into song at times of stress and anxiety, which leads to some extremely toe-curling but funny moments. Her two children, Flynn and Rose, both in those awkward teenage years and struggling with complicated issues of their own, tend to find this less amusing. I absolutely love the way Emma has chosen the perfect appropriately inappropriate song for Melody to sing at any given moment.

The book is written in the first person from the points of view of four main characters, Melody, Flynn, Rose and Dev, Melody’s missing husband. Each has a distinct voice, totally fitting their character and the personal stresses they are under and Emma has done this so well that we are right inside each of their individual heads, seeing the situation from four totally different points of view with the tint that their specific outlooks gives to the situation. It is so cleverly and perfectly done that we have a complete emotional insight into the whole perspective of the situation they are in, you can’t help getting sucked right into the drama.

And, oh, how much did I love these characters. Emabattled, troubled, sullen but warm-hearted Flynn. My heart broke for him and I was willing him to conquer his demons and become the amazing person you can see under the surface. Brilliant but confused Rose, fragile but not, having to grow up faster than she perhaps can cope with and trying to take control in dangerous ways. I just wanted to fold her in my arms and take care of her. And Melody. I don’t really know what to say about Melody except she is so perfectly imperfect, so valiant. She has stolen into my heart and taken firm root.

This book is a rollercoaster that takes you to unexpected places emotionally and has left me bruised, battered but ultimately uplifted. It is such a brilliant portrayal of how flawed and struggling people can be, but how love and family will hold us up and help us overcome if we have each other. I know I will go back and re-read this book soon, and I will feel exactly the same way about it again. It made me laugh and cry and I didn’t want it to end, to let go of these characters that took such firm hold of me in such a short space of time. This book is something really special, I might even venture to say, perfect.

Just don’t finish it on a jumbo jet full of hundreds of curious people as it comes in to land whilst wearing non-waterproof mascara.

(Blogger note: I love this book so much I have made my two best friends wait until now for their birthday presents just so that I can give them a copy each.)

The Songs of Us is out now on Kindle and in paperback tomorrow and you can (or I should say, must) get a copy here.

To see if my fellow bloggers are as effusive about this book as I am, follow the tour below:

The Songs of Us Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

Emma Cooper Author Picture

Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire, with her partner and four children. Her spare time consists of writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day.

Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since her childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations.

The Songs of Us was inspired by Emma’s love of music and her ability to almost always embarrass herself, and her children, in the most mundane of situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two, that she began to write Melody’s story. Working full-time with a large family meant that Emma had to steal snippets of ‘spare’ time from her already chaotic and disorganised life; the majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office. She never expected to fall so deeply in love with the King family and is overwhelmed that others feel the same.

Connect with Emma:

Facebook: Emma Cooper

Twitter: @ItsEmmaCooper

Random ThingsTours FB Header

I Give You My Heart by Sarahjane Ford #BookReview #BlogTour (@sjfordauthor) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #IGiveYouMyHeart

I Give You My Heart

I’m delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for I Give You My Heart by Sarahjane Ford, a really emotional read. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you enter the giveaway below the review.

I Give You My Heart Cover

“𝗔 𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗱𝗶𝗮𝗴𝗻𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘀. 𝗔 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲-𝘀𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘀𝗮𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗲. 𝗔 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝗹𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘄𝗿𝗶𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗻 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘁.

Alice Richards looked forward to watching the seeds of love she and her husband planted bloom and grow well into their old age. But her plans for the future shrivel up and die when she learns she has an inoperable brain tumour.

Determined that she won’t die in vain, she decides to become an organ donor. With a few precious months left, Alice begins documenting her fairytale romance—from their first meeting to the children they dreamed of having. She’ll pass on every detail to her heart’s next owner… along with careful instructions to send her husband reminders of her undying love. Before her time runs out, Alice must find the perfect candidate to guide her husband through unimaginable grief and hold the memory of their love in her heart.

I Give You My Heart is an emotional romantic fiction novel with an uplifting message. If you like strong-willed women, undying love stories, and honest portrayals of coping with a terminal illness, then you’ll love SarahJane Ford’s heart-warming epic.

An unmissable love story full of warmth, beauty and with a huge, beating heart. Perfect for fans of Cecilia Ahern’s ‘P.S. I Love You’ and Jojo Moyes’ ‘Me Before You’.”

This is a really tough book to review because there are some things I loved about it and some things I didn’t like so much.

This book was never going to be an easy read, dealing as it does with terminal illness and organ donation so, before you pick it up, be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster and get the tissues to hand. Regardless of any flaws I might have found in the book, it is definitely heart breaking and you would need to have a heart of stone not to be affected by it. It might be too much for people with a sensitivity to the topics covered to deal with because it delves fully into the topics and does not skirt the tough issues faced by people in these situations.

One of the main premises of the book is the subject of Cellular Memory and whether organs passed on from donor to recipient carry part of the donor’s personality or spirit with them into the new body. This is quite a controversial subject for some people and can raise strong opinions and reactions on both sides. If you are deeply opposed to this theory, this book will definitely trigger you and, if you are skeptical, you will need to be prepared to suspend your misgivings in order for the plot to carry you with it fully. This may be where I had my first issue with the book; to be frank, it is not an idea I can get my head around at all, although it is an interesting theory to contemplate and discuss.

Th writing in this book is beautiful. This is its biggest strength. I absolutely loved the author’s voice and she is extremely skilled in painting a beautiful scene and drawing out the emotion of the plot. The part I enjoyed most about the book was the writing, language and imagery and I really believe the author is very gifted writer. I think the book is well plotted  and I really enjoyed the mechanism of Alice writing the ‘Manual’ as a way of telling the story of her and Alex’s relationship, it worked very well and was very moving. The book definitely sucked me in and had me in tears in places so I was invested…but

I hate to have to put in a but because I really, really wanted to love this book unconditionally. PS. I Love You and My Sister’s Keeper and The Time Traveller’s Wife are some of my favourite books so I am not remotely put off by books with difficult subject matters or that make me cry. That aspect was not the issue here, and my reservations about the Cellular Memory subject were also not the reason I could not completely give my heart to this book. I had a two major issues with the book that spoilt it for me a little. Firstly, the characters were just too perfect. All of them. There was nary a negative character trait nor a cross word amongst them and, for me, this just made them unrealistic and I could not get fully engaged. People and relationships are just not that perfect in real life. Alice, in particular, came across as saintly and, since I’ve never met anyone that good, she just did not come to life completely for me which is a problem with the central character for a book.

The other problem was Alice’s reaction to her diagnosis. Again, it did not feel authentic. I don’t want to give too much away, but she settled on her course of action in response to hearing her illness was terminal too quickly without any disbelief, rage or despair, I just could not see that as a natural reaction to what she was told at the age of 26. Following on from this is the Manual. Would she really have wanted Two to do what she asked her? For her to relive those moments with Alex, given how Alice felt about him? This comes back to her saintliness again, I suppose. I just didn’t believe it, I’m afraid. I realise that this is not likely to be a popular opinion and maybe the failure is mine in being old and cynical and being unable to suspend my disbelief enough to invest in the story without these niggling thoughts, but I couldn’t. My reactions are very likely coloured by certain experiences I have had in my own life, but isn’t that true of all of us and every book we read? We all come to a novel with our own slant on the world.

I really think this is a book everyone should read. It is a beautiful story for sure. It is well-written and plotted and covers some very emotive and relevant topics. Everyone will have a different reaction to it and most of the reviews I have read so far seem to be wholly positive so I think my issues may be peculiar to me. You need to read the book and make up your own minds, it may end up being your favourite book of the year.

I Give You My Heart is out now and you can purchase a copy here.

Giveaway

If you would like the chance to win a signed hardback copy of the book with a personalised message, click the Rafflecopter link below:

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494128/?

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

To get a different perspective on the book, make sure you check out the rest of the blogs on the tour:

I Give You My Heart Full Banner

About the Author

author-photo-1

SarahJane is the debut author of ‘I Give You My Heart’ which is due to be published on September 1st 2018.

SarahJane was born in Scotland but grew up in the Cheshire countryside, which is home to her. After a few years living in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, where she went to secondary school, she has now settled back in Cheshire in a quirky flat surrounded by trees, birds and rolling fields.

A marketing professional since finishing her formal education SarahJane is delighted to be following her writing dream. She still works part-time as a Marketing Manager, whilst furiously penning her second novel.

Harbouring an adventurous spirit, SarahJane loves to travel, be surrounded by the wilderness or be riding Cornish waves.

SarahJane loves to read (ideally by the sea!). She was raised on the greatest love stories, which is where her romantic soul comes from. She is in love with love…Mr Darcy’s brooding looks in Pride and Prejudice; Julia Roberts and Richard Gere’s arresting chemistry in Runaway Bride; the intensely emotional Titanic; going weak at the knees for Danny Zuko in Grease; Cecilia Ahern’s heartbreaking P.S. I Love You and Patrick Swayze’s mega moves in Dirty Dancing.

Connect with Sarahjane:

Website: https://www.sarahjaneford.co.uk

Facebook: Sarahjane Ford Author

Twitter: @sjfordauthor

The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway by Rhys Thomas #BookReview #PublicationDay (@rhysthomashello) @headlinepg @NetGalley #TheUnlikelyHeroicsOfSamHolloway #NetGalley

cover134024-medium

“This is no ordinary love story and Sam is no typical hero…but he is a hero.

Sam Holloway has survived the worst that life can throw at you. But he’s not really living. His meticulous routines keep everything nice and safe – with just one exception…

Three nights a week, Sam dons his superhero costume and patrols the streets. It makes him feel invincible – but his unlikely heroics are getting him into some sticky, and increasingly dangerous, situations.

Then a girl comes into his life, and his ordered world is thrown into chaos … and now Sam needs to decide whether he can be brave enough to finally take off the mask.

Both hilarious and heart-warming, this is a story about love, loneliness, grief, and the life-changing power of kindness.”

It is publication day for this book, so happy Publication Day, Rhys, and thank you for the opportunity to read your book.

When one of the lines in the book you are reading is ‘Tonight was handkerchief-ironing night.’, you know you are not reading about an ordinary man, and the titular character in The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway is very far from ordinary. Even when he was a child, Sam was not ordinary. He was one of the socially awkward, uninspiring, wallpaper kids at school – too unattractive and uncool to be popular, but not different enough to be a stand-out in that way either. He always had few friends and was lonely and the passing of years and the occurrence of The Event have only exacerbated the problem.

Sam is an incredibly lonely, lost and unhappy person and it has been a long time since I have felt so acutely the simple pain of living from day to day for any character in a novel. The author does an amazing job of painting Sam and his desperate attempts to manage his life in the face of the gaping voids in his existence in such a way that the small slights and disappointments of his every day existence slice through you in exactly the same way as they do through him. He tries so hard to be a good person in a world where nobody cares, he is so unimportant, and it is excruciating to read.

Sam has managed to find a way to get through every day by way of an extremely ordered and routine life and he is unprepared for anything the upsets this routine. He mostly hides away in his house with his comics and movies, only venturing out occasionally with his very few friends who are as much misfits as he is, the only reason he believes they became friends. And on three nights a week, Sam dons a costume and mask and goes out onto the dark streets of his home town to fight crimes as The Phantasm. Then a girl comes into his life and threatens to turn everything upside down.

The plot sounds outlandish but the book is written in such a way that it is completely understandable as to why Sam is doing what he does and my heart broke for him all the way through because his pain and loneliness and feelings of impotence leapt off the page and made me totally sympathise with his actions. Any one who has ever struggled with any kind of anxiety or depression will recognise the need to try and impose some kind of control over their world, and also find means of escape. This passage particularly resonated with me – “He’d never read them all, but it didn’t matter. Just the sheer volume of stories made him feel safe.” He is talking about his collection of comic books but I feel exactly the same way about my huge library and my compulsive book buying. A lot of people will recognise elements of themselves in Sam if they really think about it.

All the way through the book I was willing things to work out for Sam but truly feeling that they wouldn’t, mostly because he isn’t even sure he wants them to, he is so afraid of stepping out of the comfortable cocoon he has hid himself in and he has a huge capacity for self-sabotage. There are even times where I disliked him slightly, because he acts in a way that is cruel, but it is all done through self-protection and fear. He is a really complex character and I was totally invested in the story from beginning to end, despite how uncomfortable I found parts of it to read.

I really enjoyed the chapters which were written as The Phantasm and the author does it very cleverly in a comic book style, it was easy to follow when he was in character and when he wasn’t.

This book is entertaining, heart-breakingly sad but ultimately uplifting and is one of then most worthwhile books I have read this year. They have described it as hilarious, I didn’t find it so, although it was amusing in places, but what it I did find it to be was a beautiful, moving and very truthful portrayal of loss, loneliness, awkwardness, second chances and the redeeming power of love, friendship and the kindness of people who refuse to give up on you, no matter what. It will stay with me for a long while.

The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway is out today and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley and Headline for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

nCZeD7OL_400x400

Hi, I’m Rhys and it’s nice to meet you. I’m a writer from Wales and have to date published three novels. My most recent is The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway – a story about a boy called Sam, his superhero alter ego The Phantasm, and a girl called Sarah.

My other two books are The Suicide Club, which is a coming of age story set in 2004, and On The Third Day, an apocalyptic adventure story that imagines a disease that dissolves hope – a kind of old school,  Old Testament kind of apocalypse that exists beyond science.

I live in a city called Cardiff with my partner Amy (who is a much more successful writer than I am) and my three cats, Henry, Sheldon and Aniseed.

In the day time I work at Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, helping the incredible researchers there get the word out about what they’re doing. They inspire me every single day.

Connect with Rhys:

Facebook: Rhys Thomas

Twitter: @rhysthomashello

Goodreads: Rhys Thomas

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper #BookReview (@ItsEmmacooper) @headlinepg #NetGalley #TheSongsofUs

It’s publication day for ‘The Songs of Us’ so I thought I would re-share my review of this fantastic book. Best news of all, it is available for only 99p today to celebrate the launch so grab your copy now. Happy Publication Day, Emma Cooper. Xxx

A Little Book Problem

9686551E-21DD-47AB-B47B-833582F895F0“If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.”

So, I have just got off a seven-and-a-half hour trans-Atlantic flight where I had planned on watching ‘Darkest Hour’ and grabbing a few hours…

View original post 726 more words

Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind by Elizabeth McGivern #BookReview #BlogTour (@MayhemBeyond) @RaRaResources #AmyColeHasLostHerMind #bookbloggers

Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind Blog Tour Banner

Today is publication day for Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind by Elizabeth McGivern and I am delighted to be taking part in her blog tour on publication day. Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

Amy Cole - Final Cover

“Amy Cole is a stay-at-home mum and a woman on the edge.
After a very public breakdown and failed suicide attempt, Amy finds herself trying to make it through her everyday life as a high-functioning zombie.
Elle De Bruyn is a force of nature ready to shake Amy back to life whether she likes it or not.
After a fortuitous meeting, the two embark on a journey together which will change them both and help them find out exactly what they’re capable of when rock bottom is just the beginning.”

Amy Cole is a woman suffering from depression following a traumatic event in her life. We meet her at a point where she has got so low she has attempted suicide and is now trying to climb back up and find some equilibrium. After all, she had a loving husband and two small boys depending on her. But as anyone who has struggled with depression knows, this is a difficult thing to wrestle with. Enter Elle De Bruyn, a brash, bossy, bullshit-free new best friend who is going to help Amy out of her hole, come hell or high water. However, Elle is struggling with issues or her own, can Amy find the strength to help her friend out in return?

This book is a fascinating mix of really serious issues and absolutely outrageous and hilarious incidents that combine to create a book that approaches its tough subject matter in an original and approachable way. Parts of this book had me howling with laughter – the trampolining exercise class, the speed dating, the life drawing to name but a few. My absolute favourite laugh out loud moment though was the sexting section, I had tears rolling down my face.

There were also lots of relatable moments, especially as a mum. The horror of the mother and baby group filled with competitive, smug mums. The ex-colleague who is constantly shoving her success in your face and making you feel inadequate. The inability to tell the makeover lady at the cosmetics counter that you hare the clown face she has pasted on you and you don’t want to buy any of her products. Elizabeth McGivern has drawn on experiences that women everywhere will be able to connect with.

I adored all the characters in this book, they were all really well rounded and authentic. Amy is a woman that you will recognise as yourself or someone you know. She was very down to earth and honest and I liked her from the start, she feels very real to me. Elle is the best friend we wish we all had, or could be. Amy’s children were a delight and brought back so many memories of my own kids at that age. She has a real knack for observing people.

Underlying all this, as previously mentioned, are some serious issues and I think the author handles these very sensitively and well. Experience of depression is different for everybody, and everybody who suffers will have a different reaction but I think the way the author deals with it feels true to someone’s experience, if not the reader’s. It is good to see a book dealing with this subject, as it is something often swept under the carpet or including in an insensitive way and this book tackles in head on.

I really liked this book, I think it is balanced very well between humour and candour and I would definitely recommend it as a worthwhile read.

Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind is out today and you can buy a copy here.

To see what other readers think of the book, follow the tour:

Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind Full Banner

About the Author

Amy Cole - liz-9

Elizabeth McGivern is a former journalist turned hostage-in-her-own-home surrounded by three men and a horrible dog named Dougal.

In an effort to keep her sanity she decided to write a parenting blog after the birth of her first son so she can pinpoint the exact moment she failed as a mother.

In an unexpected turn of events, the blog helped her to find a voice and connect with parents in similar situations; namely those who were struggling with mental health issues and parenting. It was because of this encouragement – and wanting to avoid her children as much as possible – her debut novel, Amy Cole has lost her mind, was born.

Elizabeth lives in Northern Ireland although wishes she could relocate to Iceland on a daily basis. To witness her regular failings as a parent you can find her on: www.mayhemandbeyond.com 

Connect with Elizabeth:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mayhemandbeyond

Twitter: @MayhemBeyond

Instagram: @mayhemandbeyond