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

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“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

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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…

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

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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.

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“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

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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

 

The Magic of Ramblings by Kate Field #BookReview (@katehaswords) @AccentPress

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“Running away can be the answer if you run to the right place…

When Cassie accepts a job as companion to an old lady in a remote Lancashire village, she hopes for a quiet life where she can forget herself, her past and most especially men. The last thing she wants is to be drawn into saving a community that seems determined to take her to its heart – and to resuscitate hers…

Frances has lived a reclusive life at Ramblings, a Victorian Gothic mansion, for over thirty years and now Barney is hiding away there, forging a new life after his medical career ended in scandal. He doesn’t trust the mysterious woman who comes to live with his rich aunt, especially when she starts to steal Frances’ affection – and maybe his own too…”

This might be a very short review today because all I want to say about this book is….I absolutely loved it, and I mean I really loved it, it may be one of my favourite reads of 2017. I started reading it on Thursday evening and had to stay up until I finished it on Friday – I just couldn’t wait to finish it, whilst at the same time not wanting it to end.

It is initially very hard to describe what is so compelling about this book because, on the face of it, the plot seems like a fairly straight-forward premise for a romance novel, nothing startlingly out of the ordinary. If you read the blurb or looked at the cover, it might not jump out at you as anything special. Oh, but how you would be missing out if you over-looked it.

This book, its setting and, most importantly of all, the characters just stole my heart. They have stayed with me and had me thinking about them since I turned the last page; sure sign of a book that has had a meaningful impact on me. Again, I can’t really tell you why, the story-telling is so subtle and insidious that it grabs you without your really noticing. the writing is really so beautiful and clever.

The setting and the cast of characters are extremely warm and charming, you immediately feel right at home in the big house at Ramblings and the charming village of Ribblesmill. Frances is a woman that you cannot help feeling compassion for (although you know she would hate to think you feel sorry for her!) and the relationship she has with Cassie unfolds beautifully as two people who understand and care for each other, and have found each other just at the right time. Barney is a suitably attractive love interest, but really it is the relationship between Frances and Cassie that for me was at the heart of this novel and I think the reason I loved it so much. It made is so much more than the usual ‘boy meets girl’ romance scenario.

Frances’ children are suitably villainous without descending to caricature and I loved the characters of Mel and Akram and Ethel who brought some light relief, again without descending to pantomime. The whole book is just perfectly balanced and it is actually astonishing to me that this is a debut novel, the writing is so cleverly done.

If I had to make a tiny criticism, I would say that the plot involving Barney leaving the medical profession and the situation with his ex-wife was a little confusing and not very clearly explained and seemed a bit of an after-thought that was not fully developed but this is a totally minor issue and did not detract from the enjoyment of this book one bit.

I feel like I haven’t adequately explained quite why I adore this book as much as I do and why you really must go out and read it immediately and I think that is actually the genius behind it. It isn’t big and flashy and brash, it doesn’t flaunt its charms and trumpet its themes. It is quiet, and clever and sweet and brilliant and it gets under your skin with its warmth. It explores its issues thoughtfully and subtly and balances the ending between melancholy and uplifting perfectly. It is just a joy and I know it is a book I will come back to again and again.

The Magic of Ramblings is out now and you can buy a copy here and I can’t wait to see what is next from this author.

About the Author

Kate Field lives in Lancashire and writes contemporary romance with a touch of Northern grit. The Magic of Ramblings was the winner of the RNA’s prestigious Joan Hessayon Award 2017 for new writers.