The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse #review @mrsamandaprowse

The Idea of You by [Prowse, Amanda]

Whenever I settle down to read an Amanda Prowse book I know that I am going to be absorbed in a wonderful, emotional story for the next few days. As expected, I have spent the weekend completely caught up with the lives of the characters in The Idea of You.

Lucy is an almost forty year old who has very recently met and married the man of her dreams, the rather wonderful Jonah Carpenter. With the biological clock ticking, they decide to try for a family but things don’t go as they had hoped and they suffer disappointment after disappointment in their quest to become parents. To add to everything Lucy is trying to cope with, she has to deal with Jonah’s teenage daughter from his first marriage coming to stay for the school summer holidays.

Amanda Prowse has a real talent for creating characters who you can completely identify with. She writes about ordinary people in situations so many people will have experienced. As is made clear throughout the book, many women will experience the heartache of not being able to conceive or will suffer miscarriage. There is often no reason and this can be so hard to deal with.  My heart went out to Lucy as it seemed everywhere she went she was surrounded by women with children, women expecting children or shops full of baby things. Added to that, all the comments made thoughtlessly, insensitively or inadvertently by friends and family made her feel so awful and yet unable to talk about it.

I was particularly moved by the poignant heartfelt letters Lucy writes to the child she hopes is yet to come. I was especially touched by one letter when she thinks of the things she will miss if she doesn’t have a child: their graduation, their marriage, soothing them if they are upset, becoming a grandparent. She longs not just for her own child but for all the possibilities that child could bring.

The Idea of You is a wonderfully warm read. There is heartbreak but it is beautifully balanced with hope and happiness. Amanda Prowse has once again written a most touching and uplifting book and I loved it.

My grateful thanks to Amanda and Simeon Prowse for offering me a copy of this book. The Idea of You is published by Lake Union Publishing today. You can order a copy online here: The Idea of You

From the back of the book

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter dares to hope that she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But the reality of becoming parents proves much harder than Lucy and Jonah imagined. Jonah’s love and support is unquestioning, but as Lucy struggles with work and her own failing dreams, the strain on their marriage increases. Suddenly it feels like Lucy is close to losing everything…

Heart-wrenching and poignant, this latest work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: what does it mean to be a mother in today’s hectic world? And what if it’s asking too much to want it all?

The Song of the Stork by Stephan Collishaw #review @scollishaw @legend_press #legend100

The Song of the Stork by [Collishaw, Stephan]

The Song of the Stork is a relatively short but very powerful story of survival against all odds during World War Two. Yael is a 15 year old Jewish girl in Lithuania who has been forced to flee for her life when the Germans raided her village. Finding herself alone, she seeks refuge with Aleksei who is mute and very much distrusted by his community. Together these two outsiders grow closer and support each other through a harsh winter until once more the Germans come and Yael is forced to find another place of safety, this time with a Jewish partisan group sheltering in the forest.

This book is beautifully, hauntingly written as the devastation of the villages and the landscapes as well as personal devastation is evocatively described. I found it took me a while to get involved with the story but once I was emotionally invested in the well-being of Yael, I couldn’t put it down. For me the strongest part of the book was when Yael was living with the partisans in the forest and in the face of danger began to find hidden strengths that she didn’t know she had.

The author has vividly described the random cruelty and savagery of war. He brings home strongly the immense courage of those who did help and shelter Jewish people during the war at tremendous personal risk. I cannot imagine the fear and the bravery which must have been felt by both those being sheltered and those who were helping. It made me question whether I would have been brave enough to stand up for what was right and I suspect, like many, the answer is probably not.

Without giving away the ending, I felt there was much unresolved. However, I suspect this reflects the truth that for many Jewish refugees, there were many questions after the war and that they just didn’t know what had happened to so many people.  I found Yael’s thoughts particularly poignant: “…all the absences fell upon her. All the worlds that had been taken. All the lives that had gone……The towns unpeopled. Histories unwritten.” And yet, it is not a completely desolate ending as she realises “It hasn’t gone…..they did not manage to completely destroy our world.”

Haunting, moving and harrowing, The Song of the Stork shows both the worst and the best of humanity in this powerful novel.

My thanks to Lucy Chamberlain of Legend Press to for welcoming me to the #Legend100 Club and sending me a copy of this book. The Song of the Stork was published on 1st March in paperback and as an e-book. You can order a copy online here: The Song of the Stork

From the back of the book

Fifteen-year-old Yael is on the run. The Jewish girl seeks shelter from the Germans on the farm of the village outcast. Aleksei is mute and solitary, but as the brutal winter advances, he reluctantly takes her in and a delicate relationship develops.

As her feelings towards Aleksei change, the war intrudes and Yael is forced to join a Jewish partisan group fighting in the woods.

Torn apart and fighting for her life, The Song of the Stork is Yael’s story of love, hope and survival. It is the story of one woman finding a voice as the voices around her are extinguished.

#CoverReveal Just For The Holidays by @SueMoorcroft @AvonBooksUK

You know how I said a couple of weeks ago that I don’t very often do cover reveals? Well, here is another I couldn’t resist being part of, because I have loved all of this author’s books! Just For The Holidays by Sue Moorcroft will be published by Avon in e-book and in paperback on 18th May. You can already pre-order it and the Kindle pre-order price is just £1.99. As you can see below it’s such a pretty cover, featuring an idyllic looking scene in France but for Leah, her holiday is anything but idyllic! More about the book is below and I can’t wait to read it!

Just for the Holidays

 

The #1 bestselling author returns for summer! Grab your sun hat, a cool glass of wine, and the only book you need on holiday…

 

In theory, nothing could be better than a summer spent basking in the French sun. That is, until you add in three teenagers, two love interests, one divorcing couple, and a very unexpected pregnancy.

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly the relaxing holiday Leah Beaumont was hoping for – but it’s the one she’s got. With her sister Michele’s family falling apart at the seams, it’s up to Leah to pick up the pieces and try to hold them all together.

But with a handsome helicopter pilot staying next door, Leah can’t help but think she might have a few distractions of her own to deal with…

A glorious summer read, for you to devour in one sitting – perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

 

Kelly Lacey #BloggerInTheSpotlight @lovebooksgroup

Kelly

For the first time in ages I have a Blogger in the Spotlight, the lovely Kelly from Love Books Group. Thanks for agreeing to be part of my Blogger in the Spotlight feature Kelly. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?

I am Kelly and I am 37, I have had a very varied life. I have lived in America, Northern Ireland and Scotland.  I have three little fur-babies. I am currently back at home looking after my mum who had three strokes.  I love learning from books. Even if it’s a chick-lit easy read. I still think we can learn from every book. 

I have run a Facebook Book group for 2 years. As from January this year I decided to make it a priority and also started my blog LoveBooksGroup and Twitter @Lovebooksgroup

What books/authors did you enjoy as a child?

Judy Blume and Laura Ingalls Wilder were  huge influences.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

I love being able to talk about books and set my thoughts free.

Tell me about your blog – sell yourself!

With my blog you get an honest heartfelt review.  I love learning about the person behind the book, just as much as I enjoy the book.  I like connecting with readers and offering them wonderful prizes to win in my raffles. My Blog is my everything at the moment and it’s very important to me.

What’s your favourite book you’ve reviewed in the past year? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose.

What are you reading just now? 

The Joyce Girl by [Abbs, Annabel]

If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

I didn’t know what that was, so I googled – LOL!   A Prayer For Owen Meany

A Prayer For Owen Meany by [Irving, John]

Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?

I would like to see The  Confessions Of Stella Moon By Shelley Day. I am stumped by the dream cast because in my head Stella is so specific.

The Confession of Stella Moon by [Day, Shelley]

How can people follow your blog or connect with you on social media?

LoveBooksGroup Blog

@Lovebooksgroup

Also my FB Blog Page – https://www.facebook.com/LoveBooksGrp/

And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?

I think it would have to be somebody fun, maybe Hermione from Harry Potter then I get to meet Dobby The House Elf .

Lion by @SarooBrierley #review @MichaelJBooks

Lion: A Long Way Home by [Brierley, Saroo]

At the age of just five, Saroo Brierley  fell asleep on a train and woke up hundreds of miles away in Calcutta. Unable to find help, he survived for some time on the streets of Calcutta before being taken to an orphanage and soon after adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty five years later, with the help of Google Earth, he managed to finally find where he came from and travelled back to India to try to find his family.

Lion was originally published as A Long Way Home and of course recently has been adapted into an award winning film starring Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. I haven’t seen the film – I usually prefer to read a book first – but based on the book, I can imagine it will be quite an emotional rollercoaster.

It’s hard to imagine how a small child could go missing and that nobody would help him. I was horrified to read that even today there are an estimated hundred thousand homeless children in Calcutta. When we think of a child going missing, I think we imagine just one wandering around easy to spot, while adults frantically try to find them. But Saroo was clearly just one more child among many. It was also hard to believe that a five year old would go missing for more than a week before his family would report him missing. India, however, has a very different culture to ours and the author explained that it was not unusual for children to be in and out of other people’s houses and not see their parents for some time. 

I was very moved to read about the author’s adoptive parents who seemed like very special people. His mother had always felt she would adopt an orphaned child rather than have her own and was so loving and supportive towards her new son. It was a touching moment when the author describes his adoptive mother and birth mother meeting for the first time “My mothers  – who had given me not one life but two – embracing with tears in their eyes.”

Lion is a fascinating book and a very readable account of the author’s experiences. I was particularly interested in reading about his tale of survival on the streets, the way that new technology helped him identify where he was from and finally his return home. It seems strange to say that I enjoyed the book, given that it was about such a frightening experience for a small boy, but the story of what happened to him afterwards and how he reconnected with his birth family is one which is really amazing to read. It was a real eye-opener making me think about the kind of poverty people live in in India even today. A heart-warming and uplifting memoir.

My thanks to Laura Nicol at Michael Joseph Books for my copy of the book. Lion was published by Penguin in January 2017. You can order a copy online here: Lion

From the back of the book

As a five-year old in India, I got lost on a train. Twenty-five years later, I crossed the world to find my way back home.

Five-year-old Saroo lived in a poor village in India, in a one-room hut with his mother and three siblings… until the day he boarded a train alone and got lost. For twenty-five years.

This is the story of what happened to Saroo in those twenty-five years. How he ended up on the streets of Calcutta. And survived. How he then ended up in Tasmania, living the life of an upper-middle-class Aussie. And how, at thirty years old, with some dogged determination, a heap of good luck and the power of Google Earth, he found his way back home.

Lion is a triumphant true story of survival against all odds and a shining example of the extraordinary feats we can achieve when hope endures.

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I’d Published by Jo Blakeley @theblissexpert

Jo Blakeley

I’m pleased to welcome debut author Jo Blakeley to the blog today. She has kindly written a very entertaining and interesting post about things she wished she know before publishing her book. Jo is the author of Blokes, Beers & Burritos, a book which heralds the beginning of a new genre of self-help fiction, combining erotica, travel, fiction and self-help. 

Blokes, Beers & Burritos by [Blakeley, Jo]

5 Things I wish I’d known before I published a book!

I never meant to write a book; it just happened and before I knew it, I’d written 86,000 words, a well-known publisher had signed me up, translated it into several languages, marketed it around the world and sold millions of copies worldwide.

Lesson One: Unless you’re Patricia Cornwell, this is not going to happen.

In my world – and most other people’s I suspect – the picture is very different. It took me four years from first putting pen to paper to self-publishing and getting my book on Amazon. According to literary agents, that’s the easy bit! And boy are they right. Trying to spread the word about a book written by an unknown author in a crowded market, while juggling a successful career travelling the world training people in empowerment and fulfilment, is as easy as bagging a ticket on a tourist trip to the moon.   

Lesson Two: Write about what you know.

I am getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back to the beginning. Four years ago, my son was nine months old and I was delivering corporate training courses around the UK while picking myself up after a business venture had just collapsed.

Perhaps to fill the void (but more probably to stop myself from moping around), I decided it was time to turn my many travel stories into a book. While my son was napping, I’d spend my time writing, which I found strangely therapeutic. My husband read the first few pages of my scribble and encouraged me to continue. Then I typed up my scribble and gave it to a friend (who I knew wouldn’t be quite so keen to please) who said it was interesting. Upon reflection, perhaps I should have investigated further what she’d actually meant by interesting. I (mis)took it for meaning that it was worth pursuing, and so I did.

It was at this point that it occurred to me that I didn’t want to write just a story about a backpacker’s adventures, I wanted to help readers learn about something too. I had already created some steps to empowerment for a course I’d written, and so I wondered about writing a self-help book instead, but I didn’t want to write just a self-help book either.

This sparked off an idea: why not write the self-help steps into the pages of what I’d already written? And so I began integrating the two.

A year and 120,000 words later, I needed professional help. So I asked an editor I’d sourced online to help.

Lesson Three: Don’t source an editor off the internet.

With hindsight, I can say that what I’d written (at that point) was awful. Okay, perhaps I’m being harsh on myself, but it was amateurish at best. I was such a novice at writing that I’d put ‘said’, ‘whispered’ or ‘responded’ after every character had said something. While the editor highlighted this to me, he should have also told me to attend a writing course to learn basic things like how to describe rather than tell, how to decide whether to write in the first or third person, how to convey a character’s thoughts, and how to end chapters with hooks to draw the reader in.

I told you I was a novice. The editor – to whom I had paid a lot of money – corrected my grammar and spelling mistakes, but he should have pointed out that his efforts were as effective as polishing a turd. 

Luckily I didn’t self-publish at this point and persevered instead. Fast forward two years and my book is in a more acceptable state, but I still had one more thing to do: I needed to be more succinct.

Lesson Four: Less is more.

I had to be ruthless and take out anything that didn’t add to the story, including a lot of unnecessary, filler words. I thoroughly enjoyed cruelly slashing entire paragraphs. I mean, I enjoyed slashing paragraphs. This exercise reduced the word count from 120,000 to 86,000 and made the read more enjoyable (if I do say so myself).

Lesson Five: Know when to stop.

I could still be making changes now but there has to come a time when enough is enough. I think a book is a bit like a human being. No one is perfect. In fact, it’s our imperfections that make us perfect. So my book might not be perfect but it’s imperfectly perfect (if I do say so myself).

I hope you enjoy reading Blokes, Beers & Burritos (while learning the steps to a blissful life).

Blokes, Beers and Burritos is available from Amazon – Paperback £9.99, Kindle £2.84

 For details of Jo Blakeley’s online and face-to-face and online courses that help women achieve empowered, happy, healthy and successful lives, visit www.TheBlissExpert.com. The first module of the “Ten steps to Bliss” is free.

www.TheBlissExpert.com

Twitter: @TheBlissExpert

Facebook: The Bliss Expert

 

 

 

Being Mrs Smith by Cheryl Smith #review @BeingMrsSmith

Being Mrs Smith is a rather extraordinary memoir of love, courage and healing. It follows Mr and Mrs Smith over the course of a couple of years as Mr Smith is diagnosed with cancer and they face up to the decisions they need to make regarding his treatment. As they look to the future and what may happen in the long term, they need to confront the possibility that “There may not be a long term. Or even a medium term.” Theirs is a journey that takes them from treatment in Scotland, to Germany and ultimately to Peru.

From the very beginning the strength of the love between Mr and Mrs Smith shone through. I had a lump in my throat as I read that when considering if Ewan McGregor should play him in a film version of their story Mrs Smith couldn’t ” think of anyone who’s anywhere near handsome enough to play my Mr Smith.” This is a couple who know what true love is and the author writes so eloquently about how they feel about each other. Mr and Mrs Smith know that what matters is being together and supporting each other. Cheryl’s writing about their love seems very intimate, is elegant and so obviously heartfelt.

Their decision to research and seek out alternative treatments is perhaps a decision that not many would make. I did feel uncomfortable reading about how the medical staff seemed to reject out of hand their queries about alternatives. Like most people, I have many friends and family who have gone through cancer treatment and usually they have nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses. Looking at modern alternatives and ancient traditions was something Mr and Mrs Smith felt very strongly about though and I could completely understand their need for quality of life over quantity. It was not a decision they made lightly.

I was moved so many times as I read this short though captivating book. Cheryl Smith’s writing is beautifully lyrical as she conveys so well all the times the couple’s hopes were raised and dashed and raised again, the importance of the love and support of their friends and the Peruvian community but above all the love shared between Mr and Mrs Smith. It is a very honest, poignant account of a courageous couple finding peace and their own version of a happy ending. I know I have mentioned love a lot in this review but it really is at the heart of the book and shines from every page.

My thanks to the author for offering me a copy of her book. Being Mrs Smith was published by O-Books on 1 June 2016 in both paperback and ebook formats. You can order a copy online here. At the time of writing the Kindle edition is only £2.79.

From the back of the book

Being Mrs Smith always did mean embracing the unexpected, but even Mrs Smith didn’t expect an Amazonian adventure. When the horror of cancer touched the Smiths, they embarked on a journey to ultimate healing and peace. This is the story of their journey. Faced with heart-rending decisions, they accept unmissable opportunities with a courageousness they never knew they had. In the deepest jungle regions, they encounter charlatans and shamans and learn to distinguish between them. Surrendering to the path that is theirs to take, they embrace ancient teachings and strange medicines, and grasp the opportunity to dance with the spirits of sacred plants, including that of Ayahuasca. Far from home, the Smiths learn the true value of family and community as they place their trust in the wisdom of the indigenous elders, in themselves and in each other, and ultimately in Nature herself. Here is a rare story of healing that tells of the melding of souls as Mr and Mrs Smith walk each other home.