Monday 31 August 2015

Broken Promise (Promise Falls #1) - Linwood Barclay

The morning it all started, newspaper reporter David Harwood had plenty to worry about. A single parent with no job, forced to return with his young son to the small town of Promise Falls to live with his parents, the future wasn't looking too rosy. So when his mother asked him to look in on his cousin Marla, who was still not quite right after losing her baby, it was almost a relief to put the disaster his own life had become to one side.

The relief wouldn't last long.

When he gets to Marla's house he's disturbed to find a smear of blood on the front door. He's even more disturbed to find Marla nursing a baby, a baby she claims was delivered to her 'by an angel.' And when, soon after, a woman's body is discovered across town, stabbed to death, with her own baby missing, it looks as if Marla has done something truly terrible.

But while the evidence seems overwhelming, David just can't believe that his cousin is a murderer. In which case, who did kill Rosemary Gaynor? And why did they then take her baby and give it to Marla? With the police convinced they have an open and shut case, it's up to David to find out what really happened, but he soon discovers that the truth could be even more disturbing...

What did I think?

This was exactly what I would have expected from a Linwood Barclay novel - a fast paced, page turning, twisty thriller.  I was really enjoying it until I got to the end and emitted a loud "ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH".  I'm all for books being part of a series but there were so many loose ends in this one that I felt a bit cheated and I'll probably have to read it again when the next one in the series is published.

There are an awful lot of characters in the book and I did get a teeny bit confused a few times.  I think the book tried to do too much in one go - it would have been better concentrating on the Marla story and introducing a few characters relevant to the story.  Having said that, the story of the Pickens' and Harwoods was riveting and I did literally gasp out loud when I found out who was pulling the strings.

I've given this book 5 stars as I did really enjoy it as evidenced by my huge disappointment that it had ended!  I hope the next one in the series comes out shortly so I can visit the weird little town of Promise Falls again and satisfy my piqued curiosity.

I received this e-book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

The Other Me - Saskia Sarginson

Eliza Bennet has the life she's always dreamed of. She's who she wants to be, and she's with the man she loves.
But Eliza is living a lie. Her real name is Klaudia Myer. And Klaudia is on the run. She's escaping her old life, and a terrible secret buried at the heart of her family.
This is the story of Eliza and Klaudia - one girl, two lives and a lie they cannot hide from.

What did I think?

I found this really interesting and it's no wonder that Klaudia is so mixed up with all of the secrets hidden within her family!

I enjoyed the story of Otto and Ernst Meyer - two German brothers who didn't know their parents and immediately sign up for the Hitler Youth in order to feel accepted and part of a family.  As their stories unfold we see how deeply the actions of ancestors can affect their descendants.  Klaudia feels more guilt for their actions than her Dad and Uncle do - mainly due to the fact that nobody spoke about their actions, so Klaudia thought the worst and thought it was something to be ashamed of.

It is due to this buried guilt that Klaudia reinvents herself as Eliza Bennet.  She has so many issues that my head was spinning unlike Eliza on stage - she is a ballet dancer who suffers from stagefright.  Her problems really multiply when she meets and falls in love with Cosmo - his grandmother is a holocaust survivor and Eliza feels she has no alternative but to end things with Cosmo.  Despite the silly name, I was rooting for him!

A really interesting book about family secrets with some disturbing final scenes.  A great psychological read examining the effect of the sins of the father.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Little Brown, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

The Sunrise - Victoria Hislop

In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple open the island's most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Özkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city's façade of glamour and success, tension is building.
When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.

What did I think?

I wasn't sure I was going to like this when I started it, but I am pleased to say how wrong I was!  I thought I would never remember who was who with the unfamiliar sounding Greek and Turkish names, but the book drew me in so much that I felt almost a part of each family.

Having looked through the wall into Famagusta on a family holiday to Cyprus in 1992, it was a sight that has stayed with me for so many years.  The abandoned city described in this book was not just a glimpse through the wall but a walk down the desolate streets.

This is a story of those who left Famagusta and those who stayed behind.  Both are equally disturbing and heartfelt; Aphroditi whose husband had ploughed all their money into hotels and now has nothing but her parents' apartment in Nicosia; the Georgious and the Özkans who refused to leave Famagusta so their loved ones could find them when they returned from fighting.  Markos Georgiou is the character I loved to hate!  He runs the nightclub in The Sunrise for Aphroditi's husband, Savvas.  Aphroditi always felt suspicious of him but as they grow closer will she find out that first impressions are often right?

I was really moved by this story.  The two families surviving together, looking out for each other and creating links that can never be severed, when they were in effect on opposite sides of the conflict.  I loved the message that they are Cypriots first and foremost - whether Greek or Turkish is irrelevant.

I received this book from the publisher, Headline, via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

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The Last Waltz: The Story of the Strauss Dynasty and Vienna - John Suchet

The tale of two Waltz Kings: how the Strauss family took Europe by storm during the nineteenth century.

The Strauss family name is forever intertwined with Vienna - as is their music. Two generations of this remarkable family transformed and popularised the waltz, delighting all of Viennese society with their prolific compositions. But behind the melody lay a darker discord, as the Strausses tore themselves apart while Vienna itself struggled to secure its place in a rapidly changing world.

In The Last Waltz John Suchet skilfully portrays this gripping story, capturing the family dramas, the tensions, triumphs and disasters, all set against the turbulent backdrop of Austria in the nineteenth century, from revolution to regicide.

Discover the truth behind Vienna's extraordinary musical dynasty.

What did I think?

Ever since watching the Sound of Music as a youngster, I've loved the sound of the waltz and the beauty of Austria.  There's no greater composer of the waltz than The Waltz King himself, Johann Strauss.  On picking up this book, I was immediately enchanted with the gaiety and exuberance of the Viennese way of life.  By interspersing Strauss history with Austrian history it kept my interest throughout, as one would expect from the wonderful John Suchet.

From the introduction of coffee to Vienna following the attempted Turkish siege to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that triggered World War I, this is a book that will fascinate anyone with a love of history.  The Strauss family history is no less turbulent.  I had absolutely no idea that composers such as Strauss went on tour.  I was amazed to read that Johann Strauss senior toured Europe and the UK, even playing for Queen Victoria before she was crowned.

It is clear that John Suchet has a love of Strauss.  The way some of the pieces are described meant that I could almost hear them in my head whilst I was reading.  Some people new to classical music might think that they don't know any of the compositions of Strauss but as soon as you hear them they become instantly recognisable - see the youtube video below.  Strauss does indeed make you happy and you can't help but hum or whistle along, tap your feet and feel the smile light up your face when you listen to Strauss.

Beautifully written with fascinating photographs throughout, this is a must read for anyone with a love of classical music or an interest in the Habsburg empire.

I received this book from the publisher, Elliott & Thompson, in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Saturday 29 August 2015

BLOG TOUR: The Waiting Game - Jessica Thompson

Nessa Bruce waits for her husband to come through the double doors. She'd waited for him to return home from Afghanistan for what felt like forever, and now the moment was finally here. But Jake isn't... Jake Bruce hasn't come home, and it looks like he never will.

Nessa's life - and that of her daughter Poppy - is turned upside down in an instant. What has happened to the elusive man at the centre of their world? They hold onto the hope that he is still out there somewhere, alive... but as time passes by, Nessa is forced to look at her life, at the decisions she has made and the secrets she has kept. For maybe somewhere within it all lies the answer to the question she's desperate to answer - where is the man she loves?

If you like the sound of The Waiting Game from the blurb, then read on for an exclusive extract followed by my review.  Thanks to Rebecca Mundy from Hodder for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for this amazing book.


The Waiting Game by Jessica Thompson: Exclusive Extract
The darkness enveloped them beyond the trees like a thick, impenetrable blanket. A small glow was emitted by the fire, which was now burning down to its embers. Nessa lay reluctantly in Jake’s arms inside the sleeping bag, beneath the roof of his makeshift shelter. He held her close, but her body language was cold.
‘Do you have any idea how angry I am with you Jake, how hurt I am?’ Nessa whispered, burrowing herself further down in the sleeping bag to stop the cooler evening breeze making her neck cold and ruining the toasty environs they’d created.
Jake said nothing, his gentle breathing the only sound coming from him.
‘Poppy and I . . . we basically held a funeral for you. Do you even realise that? We had to cope with losing the person we love more than anything in the world. Do you not get that?’ Nessa cried.
‘Of course I do,’ Jake said, softly.
‘We had to try and adapt to life without you. And your mum, your poor mum . . . It’s been horrendous Jake, losing you. I simply can’t believe you put us through it,’ she cried, starting to weep as she spoke. Nessa considered scrabbling out of the sleeping bag and getting away from him, but something was keeping her there.
‘I’m so sorry . . . I’ve been thinking about you all the time, seriously, every second of my day. I knew it would be tough, of course I did, but it was all I could do. I had no other choice,’ Jake said, resolutely, stroking Nessa’s hair with his free hand, his touch warming her body.
‘No other choice? Are you fucking insane?’ Nessa asked, half-sitting up now and staring at him.
‘And all this good deed bullshit you’ve been doing. What the fuck were you thinking?’ Nessa asked, pausing and scanning her surroundings, gathering her thoughts so that she could work out what to say next.
Jake flinched as she spoke, as if experiencing pain with each word that tumbled from her lips.
‘Oh my god . . . Hold on a minute,’ Nessa said, thinking aloud. ‘Poppy, that night she got drunk . . . Was it? Was it you that carried her home that night?’ Nessa asked, a look of horror upon her face.
Jake nodded, shame etched across his face.
‘Brilliant. Absolutely bloody brilliant. So we’ve all been telling her that she’s having psychotic delusions for no reason at all! Well that’s just fucking fantastic,’ Nessa spat, trembling with rage.
‘Yes . . . that was me,’ Jake whispered. ‘I was in the area doing some things for you guys, stuff to help you out, and I actually saw her by pure chance, staggering around outside the bowling alley and then collapsing on the floor. She was ridiculously drunk and all her friends had just pissed off.

What else was I supposed to do? Leave her there? She’s my little girl for god’s sake!’ Jake cried.


My review
This was an absolute pleasure to read, although with such a heart-breaking storyline that I admit to shedding tears from about half way through right to the very end. The storyline is completely believable and delved into highly emotional subjects such as depression and suicide.

Writing a book about a character returning from a tour in Afghanistan was always going to be emotional. The torment that Jake is going through is also experienced by too many of the brave men and women of our armed forces. Jake may be broken but the real Jake is still inside of him and the love he has for his family shines through every page.

I loved the close friendship between Nessa and Will, something that could have been more than friendship on several occasions if the stars had aligned. It was lovely that Nessa had Will in her life when she was going through the difficult period following Jake’s disappearance.

Jake’s parents, Betsy and Mick, were really endearing characters and Mick’s Alzheimer’s was portrayed with such realism that my heart went out to them. His moments of clarity were becoming rarer and there’s a moment of clarity that isn’t recognised as such, which was an absolutely beautiful touch.

Nessa and Jake’s teenage daughter, Poppy, was portrayed both understandably angry and vulnerable and I alternated between wanting to slap her and hug her. It was sometimes shocking the way that she treated Nessa but it’s so realistic as we always lash out at those closest to us.

I can’t write any more without spoiling the book for others, but this is an excellent book and one that will mean so much to anyone linked with the armed forces.  I have already passed my copy on to my cousin who also did a tour of Afghanistan and I'm sure The Waiting Game will do its own tour within her regiment.

It’s a love story and a sad story; a story of family, love and loss that will appeal to all readers and I will definitely be adding more of Jessica Thompson's books to my reading pile.

I received this book from the publisher, Coronet, via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Friday 28 August 2015

Dark Hours - Ryan David Jahn

Private Investigator Damien Lamb: a man hardened by life and seeking justice against those who have wronged society. When the vulnerable Abigail walks into his office asking Lamb to retrieve her daughter from the confines of infamous cult, the Children of God, Lamb can't help but fall for her story. And so begins a breath-taking and dangerous journey as Lamb attempts to rescue Abigail's daughter, Lily, and bring down the charming yet heinous leader of the cult, Rhett Mosley. But Abigail's motivations might not be as clear as they first seem and Lamb finds himself in more danger than he could ever have imagined . . .

What did I think?

I really enjoyed this book, although there were some parts that were a bit gruesome.  At times I was reading whilst my eyes were trying to squeeze shut so they didn't have to experience the events on the page!

It took me a little while to get into it as there are no speech marks around conversations, so I wasn't sure if my anal-brain would be able to cope with it.  I'm so glad that I persevered as I hardly noticed they were missing in the end.

Damien seemed a bit of a typical seedy PI at first, but I very soon realised that he cares enough about his client to do whatever it takes. I just never imagined to what extent he would have to go to get Lily back.  The scenes in the feed-shed will stay with me for quite some time and if this book is ever made into a film, I will have to hide behind the sofa during that part.

The female characters of Abigail and Lily were given an interesting history.  Due to her history, it wasn't surprisingly that Abigail found herself in the cult.  She was lucky to break free but I did wonder about her motivations for trying to get Lily back - was she more interested in the money or her daughter?  I felt really sorry for Lily, as all she had ever known was the cult but it was interesting that a part of her realised that the things Rhett Mosley did weren't right.

Mosley was a great character - a supposed man of God with the characteristics of a devil.  He was ultimately motivated by greed and I wondered what he planned to do with his piles of cash in the end.  Perhaps slip all of his "children" a suicide pill, then head off to Vegas for a weekend of debauchery before setting up a new cult.  To find out what does actually happen to him, you'll just have to read the book!

This a really fast-paced thriller that gets under your skin and is written so vividly that there were many grimaces and gasps of horror.

I received this book from the publisher, Pan Macmillan, in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah

I am thrilled to be able to share an exclusive extract from the wonderful thought-provoking The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah as part of the Blog Tour.  Thanks to Becky Hunter from Transworld for inviting me to be part of the event.

I know exactly what you’d be saying to me now.
       You’d be telling me that I have to try.
       To try to try.
       But I want to give up. I want to just lie here, in this bed, in this room, with nothing to look at but the wall and the window, the magnolia tree beyond.
       A little robin’s flitting in and out of the branches. That’s enough for me. Away she goes. She’ll be back.
       So now – familiar thoughts start to build up. They never leave me alone. What have I got to keep them down? You? If I could sit here and think of you, I would.
      No, no. I can’t go there.
      Sheila understands. She knows there’s a problem. But what answers does she have for me? The same old ideas. Stupid mental exercises like the A to Z game.
      Maybe the older patients are content to keep themselves occupied with parlour games. But I don’t want any of it. I’m forty. My mind’s too active. I need it deadening.
      I want to ease the mental churn. The foam. I want it all to stop.
      You have to try. You have to keep going forward.
      You never let me get away with anything.
      You’re better than this.

Adam’s Apple

ADAM’S APPLE MEANS the Reverend Cecil Alexander.
      Adam’s apple means me coming out of church, down the stone steps, trailing in the wake of my mum. We leave the chapel every Sunday, and take our turn in line to bid thankses and goodbyes and see-you-next-Sundays to the Reverend Alexander. I’m a kid. Short trousers, short legs. I’m actually scared by his enormous Adam’s Apple. It’s the biggest I’ve ever seen. It leaps and bounces around, like an angular elbow fighting to free itself from his throat. It makes me feel sick even looking at it. I just think, how doesn’t the man choke? What if he got punched right in it?
      I know it might not be the right thing to do, to point it out. But you know me.
      ‘What’s that in your throat?’
      The kind of questions a minister must have to deal with on the hoof.
      If there’s a God, why must he allow the suffering of children?
      Got your shirt on back-to-front then, eh?
      So, what about the dinosaurs, then, mate? Explain that. See, you can’t, can you?
      Frank says you said he could do the flowers next week, but you told me last week I could do them. Did you say that to Frank?
      ‘What’s that in your throat?’
      He must have been asked this question a lot. Despite the embarrassed gasp and laughter of my mum, and a censorious hand swashed about my face, he is quick with his answer.
      ‘Oh, that’s a piece of apple.’
      I frown at it very hard.
      ‘Why don’t you swallow it?’
      He’s a great one for thinking on his feet. Part of the job description.
      ‘I can’t. Do you remember the story of the Garden of Eden?  Well, it’s put there as a reminder of the moment that Adam was discovered eating the apple that Eve had given him. It stuck in his throat, see?’
      ‘My dad’s got one of them.’
      ‘Well, yes, of course. All men have them.’
      ‘I haven’t.’
      ‘Ah, no. No, no. Not yet.’
      He smiles as he says this, with the air of a chess player goodnaturedly checkmating an opponent.
      I’m very fond of Adam’s apples for that reason. I was totally satisfied with it as an explanation. And it didn’t put me off apples. But it was years before I understood all the repercussions that were echoing around his head as he said those words.
      ‘Ah, no. No, no. Not yet.’
      You’ll fall, he was saying.
     You’ll fall.


‘Morning, Ivo!’
      It’s Jef. Jef the chef.
      ‘Any ideas what you fancy for breakfast this morning?’
      Jefrey with a single ‘f’. Since school he must have had one career in mind. Except in the end they called him a catering manager.
      ‘Can I get you some eggs? Scrambled eggs? A bit of toast?’
     They make him wear the black-and-white-chequered trousers and everything. Is that health and safety? In case his trousers fall in the soup, so he can ladle them out more easily?
      ‘You didn’t have any of your porridge yesterday, so I’m guessing you don’t want porridge today?’
      He’s hiding behind his clipboard a little bit, lingering respectfully in my doorway. Half in, half out. He should have a black leather notepad, like a proper waiter.
      I have never been less hungry. Not full, just not—
      ‘Hallo, Jef.’ It’s Sheila.
      ‘All right, Sheila, you still here?’
      ‘Yeah, I’ve got another hour and a half yet. You just got in?’
      ‘I’ve been in about twenty minutes. I thought I’d get these breakfasts sorted before the workmen arrive. Do you know what they’re doing?’
      ‘It’s nothing major, is it?’
      ‘I don’t know.’
      ‘I thought it was only going to be looking at the security lights outside.  They can only get to them from the inside or something. Are they still on?’
      Jef ducks to look out of the window.
      ‘No,’ he says, ‘they’ve gone off.’
      ‘God, isn’t that always the way, that it fixes itself before the workmen arrive?’
      ‘Sod’s law.’
      Sheila looks down at me. ‘How are you supposed to sleep with a big security light on the whole time?’
      I shrug inside, but I don’t know if it reaches my limbs.
      ‘I reckon it’s the hedgehogs on the lawn,’ says Jef. ‘These sensors are really over-sensitive.’
      ‘Safety from attack by hedgehog. That’s worth three thousand pounds of anyone’s money, isn’t it?’
      ‘Three grand, eh?’ Jef tuts and raps his clipboard with his pen.
      ‘Well, I suppose you’d better get a move on anyway, hadn’t you?’
      ‘That’s what I’m trying to do here, but we can’t make our mind up.’  He turns to me. ‘Scrambled eggs? Toast? I’ll do you some porridge, if you want it. Whatever you want. Try me.’
      I don’t want anything. I shake my head.
      ‘I tell you what,’ says Sheila to me, ‘how about if we get you something simple, and you can see how you feel when it gets here? I’d like you to eat something this morning, even if it’s only a couple of bites. How about something soft and easy, like scrambled egg?’
      I can’t answer. I don’t want anything.
      ‘Yeah? Scrambled egg?’ Jef is looking at me, brightly.
      ‘How about that?’ says Sheila. ‘Or poached? Or fried?’
      ‘I don’t do fried,’ says Jef.
      ‘Oh no, course! Well, scrambled then? Or poached?’
      I can’t answer this.
      ‘I’d like you to have something. It’ll get your strength up, and maybe everything won’t look so gloomy, will it?’
      They’re waiting.
      I nod.
      ‘Right you are, poached.’ Jef notes it down. He stabs an over-zealous full stop on to his clipboard and sighs. ‘You have to choose the one that’s hardest to get right, don’t you?’ Not without humour. He disappears through my doorway, and his footsteps drop down the corridor, cut off by the suck of the big double doors.
      He could so easily have said, ‘That wasn’t hard, was it?’ That would have made me angry.
      Sheila stays behind, gazing thoughtfully at the space in the doorway Jef has just vacated. She half-blinks as she comes to, straightens the bedsheets, looking at me and squeezing out an eye-smile as she does so.
      I like Sheila. Everyone does. She’s got that way about her – bright and sparky. But I like her hardness. She’s a bit brusque, not fluffy. Mischievous, I’d say, when she wants to be. And it’s as if she’s got twentysix hours in the day. Always unhurried in her conversations with me or Jef or Jackie the relief nurse. And I’ve seen it: people light up when they see her.
      She checks my drinking water’s fresh, making contact with everything, fully and firmly – one palm now flat against the reeded side of the water-jug, the other patting the white plastic lid, her chunky gold rings rapping out her reassurance that it’s secure.
      There’s something more deliberate about her as she carries out her ritual hardware-bothering this morning. I can sense it. She seems to want to stick around. Is she sizing me up? She thinks there’s something the matter.
      I’m having none of it. I fix my eyes on the wall opposite. I could look out of the window. I could look at the magnolia tree; the robin has returned. But I’ll look at the wall. The wall that has seen it all. I’m staring it out. It’s staring me back.
      It’s winning.
      It pretty much always wins.
      Sheila’s moved on to the towels, using the entire front of her body to assist in the folding of a new clean one, stroking it liberally with her hands, before dropping it in half and bringing it round into a quarter. She gives it a final stroke and pat for good measure as she slips it neatly into the space beneath my bedside cabinet.
      I wonder when was this hospice opened. It looks like the 1990s, going by the precision brickwork with 45-degree corners, bricks looking less like stone, more like solidified Ready Brek, every course the exact same colour, laid as if by a computer, not a brickie. And green plasticky-looking metal girders with friendly curves.
      So that’s a quarter of a century this wall has watched people on their deathbeds. A quarter of a century of hysteria and tears and pain and misery.
      I shouldn’t be here.
      I don’t want to be here.
      I’ve been here almost a week and – nothing. No better, no worse. Are they disappointed or something? Such an effort to get here in the first place.
      What was it – Dr Sood said they’d sort out my symptoms, and then maybe they’d let me home for a bit if things got better. But he could say that whenever, couldn’t he? Even if I found myself coffined up and rolling along the conveyor belt to the furnace, old Dr Sood could say, ‘We’ll let you out if you start to show signs of improvement.’
      I’m not ill enough for this. I don’t feel like I should be waited on by these people, using up their time when they should be tending to properly dying patients. Mopping up all these charity donations by the old biddies and the shattered and bereaved.
      ‘Are you comfortable there?’ asks Sheila, finally bringing her fussing to a conclusion. I nod automatically. ‘Well, you let me know if there’s anything you need, OK? Or let Jackie know when she comes in.’
      ‘You all right?’
      She weighs me up with a look, her jet-black eyes just as intent and penetrating as my mum’s used to be, but with many more smile lines sunnying them up at the edges. ‘Don’t you want the telly on?’
      ‘No. Thanks.’
      ‘You sure? You won’t get bored?’
      I do a smile. ‘I’ll look at the wall.’
      ‘Oh yeah? Look you in the eye, does it?’
      I nod. ‘It’s seen a lot of us.’
      ‘Oh, I dare say it’d have a tale or two to tell.’
      ‘But there’s a lot of wrong things people would presume about these walls. They’ve seen a lot of love and pleasure, you know.’ She gives me a gentle smile. ‘How are you doing upstairs?’ She taps her temple. ‘Staying sane? I’m still a bit worried about you, you know. I don’t want you going bananas on me, all right?’
      ‘I’m not going bananas.’
      ‘How’s your game going?’
      ‘What game?’
      Of course I know what game she means. I just want to pretend I don’t know what she’s talking about. ‘You remember I told you about that game the other day? The A to Z? Keep the old brain cells ticking over a bit. So what you could do is try to think of a part of your body, all right? A part of your body for each letter of the alphabet—’
      I nod – yes, yes – I want her to know I remember now.
      ‘—and what you do—’
      Yes, yes.
      ‘—is tell a little story about each part.’
      ‘I’ve done one. I started doing it, actually. Today.’
      ‘Oh yeah? See, well, that’s trying, isn’t it? How far have you got?’
      She laughs. ‘Well, it’s good to take your time over it.’
      ‘Adam’s apple.’
      ‘Oh, great, I’ve had a few people say Adam’s apple when I get them to have a go at this.’
      ‘Do women have Adam’s apples?’
      ‘Yeah! Yeah, I think so.’
      ‘I thought they didn’t.’
      ‘It’s the larynx, isn’t it? They don’t have the sticking-out bit so much, because they’re smaller than men’s. It’s why they have the high voices.’
      ‘Is it?’
      ‘Yeah.’ She lifts her chin thoughtfully, and circles her forefinger on her throat. ‘Larynx. Anyway, you’re not a woman, are you, so don’t be so picky.’
      ‘The vicar when I was little said it was the apple sticking in Adam’s throat. Adam out of Adam and Eve.’
      ‘D’you know, I’ve never once thought of it like that, but it makes sense, doesn’t it? How funny. Well, that means you’ve already got a story then, haven’t you? Sometimes I think we should collect everyone’s little stories about their Adam’s apples. We could put them up on the wall in the day room.’
      ‘What do you do when you get to X? Or Q?’
      ‘Well, that’s where you’ve got to get your thinking cap on, isn’t it?  You’ve got to be a bit creative.’
      What would I do for Q?
      Oh, there it is. It’s my sister Laura, isn’t it, taking the mick out of me, just to look good in front of her new best friend Becca.
      Doesn’t he know what a quim is? Aw, bless
      Becca’s tongue pushing between her pristine white teeth, hissing with laughter, leaning in to Laura and bonding against me.
      We aren’t born with all the information we’re supposed to magically know.
      Becca’s hissing laugh echoes down the years.
      I’m Queen Quim!
      Nope. Enough. Snuff it out.
      I look up at Sheila.
      ‘You could end up with an alphabet of all the rude bits,’ I say.
      ‘Well, you have to have rules. You’ve got to use the right name for a body part, or near enough, like. No slang. No rude words.’
      ‘Yes, but “larynx” would never have turned up the story about “Adam’s apple”, would it?’
      ‘No, true,’ she says, thoughtfully. ‘But rules are there to be bent, aren’t they? It’s only a game.’

Anus, I write.
      I straighten the photocopied handout on the school desk in front of me, and adjust my grip on my fountain pen. A potent blob of black ink spreads across my knuckle, working into the tiny lines and creases of my skin and cuticle. I wipe it on my trousers.
      Black trousers, black ink, no worries.
      There are two outlines of human bodies on the class handout, with straight lines pointing to various parts.


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Thursday 27 August 2015

Out of the Darkness - Katy Hogan

Out of the Darkness is a haunting, sometimes heart-breaking, contemporary novel with a supernatural twist. A tale of friendship and redemption, of love and loss, and life after death. Set in the lively coastal town of Brighton, Out of the Darkness tells the moving story of three women, complete strangers, each burdened by their own secrets, fears and emotional baggage. Their lives are changed irrevocably when they are brought together by one remarkable connection: someone who wants to help them.....from beyond the grave.

What did I think?

Oh wow this book is stunning!  I was not just emotional at the end of it, I was emotion-full and absolutely speechless.  It is written so beautifully that I was immediately absorbed and felt that I was floating above watching the events unfold.

Jessica feels so lost and empty after the loss of her mother so she really wasn’t in the mood to go to a New Year’s Eve party.  Fate has a way of weaving its magic spell and she meets Finn, after her hilarious encounter with his friend, Mark.  Finn did seem too good to be true and Jessica’s brief moment of happiness is cut short when she doesn’t hear from him again.

It is on a day when Jessica faints after leaving grief counselling that she meets Alex and Hannah.  Alex lives next door to the grief counsellor and rushed to help Jessica when she fainted, as did Hannah, who was also attending the session.  Each of these women are weighed down with secrets and trying to keep their emotions buried and it is only through finding each other that they will eventually be unburdened.

I loved all three ladies' stories and I was continually surprised and moved as their individual stories were revealed.  It is only through the revealing of their stories that we realise how very closely these women are linked.  Everything is meant to be, just as they were meant to meet in the way that they did and become a part of each other's lives.  I can't say any more about the book or I will spoil it, so you will have to read it for yourself.

Whether you believe in life-after-death or not, this is a beautiful book that will resonate with so many people.  I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, although we may not understand why at the time.  This book left a warm glow around me and I believe I was meant to read it so that I could defrost a little bit of my heart!

This is an absolutely amazing, life-changing book that I will recommend again and again, for many years to come.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you so much, Katy!

My rating:
An absolutely massive