Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Love song of Miss Queenie Hennessey - Rachel Joyce

From the publishers blurb Via Goodreads

From the author of the 2 million+ copy, worldwide bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, an exquisite, funny and heartrending parallel story.

When Queenie Hennessy discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, and all she has to do is wait, she is shocked. Her note to him had explained she was dying from cancer. How can she wait?

A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write a second letter; only this time she must tell Harold the truth. Composing this letter, the volunteer promises, will ensure Queenie hangs on. It will also atone for the secrets of the past. As the volunteer points out, ‘It isn’t Harold who is saving you. It is you, saving Harold Fry.’

This is that letter. A letter that was never sent.

Told in simple, emotionally-honest prose, with a mischievous bite, this is a novella about a woman who falls in love but chooses not to claim it. It is about friendship and kindness as well as the small victories that pass unrecorded. It is about the truth and the significance - the gentle heroism - of a life lived alone.

Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was just the beginning...

My Thoughts

Finished this delightful book last week on my holiday, shed a tear or two over this sweet, emotional story.

For anyone who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry this is a companion novel the author has written to portray the life of Queenie the woman who is waiting in a hospice for Harold, whilst he undertakes his epic walk.

Of course, the hospice setting gives you a hint that it's going to be quite poignant and I did blub somewhat. It's quite a sad little tale in many ways but is told with the same deft lightness of touch and a wry humour, which I so enjoyed in Harold Frys story.

Queenie is dying and her final days in a hospice have been shaken somewhat by the news that an old friend and colleague is walking the length of the UK to see her and she must wait until he gets there, she has already waited a long time to see him again but there is something she feels a burning need to tell him. To fill in the long hours of waiting, between medication, pain and impossible meals with fellow residents, she accepts the advice and help of an newly arrived and understanding Nun, Sister Mary Inconnu, to write everything down in a letter to Harold and this book is the result of her thoughts and confessions.

In it, we learn about Queenies life, her friendship with Harold, her later years creating a wonderful sea garden and discover what it is she is unable to forgive herself for, what she was unable to speak of and as we journey towards her final days we watch her find an inner peace through her reminiscences and remembering.

There are some really heart wrenching moments and I heartily recommend this lovely read and defy anyone not to give a little sob filled gasp near the end when certain facts are revealed, as did I. 

It's a charming and beautiful emotional read and I don't want to give too much away, so my lips are sealed until you read it yourself. My thanks to the publisher Transworldbooks for my lovely advance copy.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Long Fall - Julia Crouch - Mind twisting

From the publisher ...

How far would you go to protect your secrets?

Greece, 1980

Emma takes part in a shattering, violent event. An event to which she is anything but an innocent bystander.
She is only eighteen, but this marks her fall from innocence.
It will haunt her for the rest of her life.

London, now

Kate has the perfect existence: a glossy image, a glamorous home, a perfect family.
But there are cracks.
All is not what it seems.

And now the two worlds are about to collide.
Somebody's out for revenge.
Someone who has been waiting thirty years...

MY thoughts ....

Exciting very twisty dual time psychological mind bender. Provided for me by in exchange for sharing my thoughts.

The dual time layers are headed before and after and are set in 1980 and 2013. The story begins back in 1980 when young Emma sets off travelling despite being quite a nervy, neurotic individual she is determined to find her way around alone. Brought up in Ripon she finds suddenly being alone in France leads her to make a few ill advised decisions which have truly catastrophic results. Heading off to Greece doesn't make her feel much better. She's not used to coping alone. She has had what little confidence she was developing shattered beyond repair and when salvation comes along in the form of slightly older Jake and then Beattie, she clings to the security of the lifeline this budding friendship promises.

In 2013 we are allowed a glimpse into the privileged life of Kate. Middle aged, wealthy and apparently successful Kate would seem to have it all, but her life is blighted by past events, not least of which was the devastating loss of her youngest daughter Martha. But she has managed to turn this around by throwing herself into founding a charity, Marthas wish, dedicated to her late daughters memory she fundraises for a cause close to Marthas heart and this is what has kept her from toppling over the edge into despair. Despite a deep unwillingness to be seen in public, Kate faces some of her many phobias and allows her photograph to be published in a publicity campaign for the charity and despite her reluctance taked part in a tv interview which is about to cause her well hidden past to re-emerge and shatter her well ordered life.

And then .... things become .... FRANTIC

We hop back and forth in time, watching events unfold over which we have no control. The main characters are all deeply flawed, some of the narratives can't be taken at face value and there are many, many hidden secrets, some of which emerge slowly like a trickle of water running down your back and some which burst forth shrieking at you like a banshee to leave your mouth dry and your heart pounding.

I found it difficult to like any of the characters at all, I had some sympathy for Emma, who is shaped almost entirely by circumstance, yet I found her too needy and neurotic to admire. 

I needed to suspend belief a little when events finally reached their rather inevitable climax, but this didn't spoil the fun one bit, after all ghastly and implausible things do happen and people can be as completely abhorrent as one particular individual turns out to be.

A terrifically exciting and mind blowing book which proceeds at breathless pace throughout. My sincere thanks to  the fabulous author and the publisher for this scintillating read.

Round the bend - Alistair McGuiness

Today I'm delighted to be taking part in the virtual book tour for the new travel book - Round the bend - by Alistair McGuiness. I was invited to take part by the lovely Dorothy Thompson at Pump up your book and when I received my free ebook copy I curled up with it to become the armchair traveller this book's perfect for.

Here's what the publisher says about the book:

From the Amazon to the Andes and Kilimanjaro to Cape Town
This adventure story captures the reality and exhilaration of leaving home to undertake Gap Year travel in South America, Africa, Fiji and Australia.
Three things happened simultaneously. The lioness charged, Alistair fled across the parched savannah and his wife screamed for him to run faster. Stuffed deep inside his tattered rucksack was a guidebook containing advice on what to do in wildlife emergencies, which he planned to read if he survived the next thirty seconds. Future plans to climb Kilimanjaro, teach English in the Amazon and live in Australia were temporarily forgotten as he turned to face the pouncing lioness, thinking back to the words of advice from his mother-in-law. "Don't do anything silly, and look after Francine." 

From deep underground in a remote Bolivian mine to the scorched Australian outback, Round the Bend is an adventure travel story. It explores the turbulence of redundancy, the excitement of travel, the anguish of leaving home and the challenges of starting a new life in Australia

My thoughts:

I’m taking part in the virtual book tour for this exciting travel journal, I’d rather be actually taking part in some of the adventures this couple have but being an armchair traveller and reading about it is the next best thing and as so many of the events are MISadventures perhaps it's safer to just sit and read it in the comfort of my own home.

Alistair and his wife Fran are a middle aged couple taking a gap year. Following the shock of redundancy they decide they’d quite like to emigrate to the other side of the world, but to satisfy their longing to see more of the world they have a year visiting places many of us only dream about.

Their journey takes them to South America, then the heart of Africa before finally making it Down Under. The author has a keen sense of humour and a great descriptive turn of phrase which paints a really good picture of the places he’s been and the people he met.

From the humble beginnings trying and failing to learn a foreign language to help him on his travels, to his misadventures and near misses with rhino, lions, etc on safari it’s obvious his self-deprecating style has good reason, he’s one of those haphazard travelers to whom you instantly sense things are going to go awry for – and as other peoples mishaps are fun to read about this makes for a very entertaining read, it had me laughing out loud in many places. I'm glad I didn't go travelling with him, I think I'd have lost patience, he just won't be told!! But if he'd sat quietly in the back of the bus all the way he wouldn't have come back with such great tales.

If you love listening to other peoples travel adventures, pull up a comfy armchair, settle back and head off on safari with Alistair. 

For More Information

  • Round the Bend: From Luton to Peru to Ningaloo, a Search for Life After Redundancy is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
About the Author

Alistair McGuiness grew up in the UK in a town called Luton, which lies 30 miles north of London. Family holidays were spent in County Donegal, Ireland, staying with his Grandmother in their large family home where she had once raised fifteen children.
It was these annual trips that made Alistair realise his Great Uncles were SeanachaĆ­s (Irish story tellers). After a few pints of Guinness in the family bar, brothers Barney and Francis would entertain the evening crowds with their recitations of life in rural Ireland. As their rustic voices carried across the crowded room, Alistair would watch and listen as the animated tales mesmorised the overseas visitors.
44 countries and four decades later, Alistair now calls Australia home and in the tradition of Great Uncles Barney and Francis, loves to recite stories. He lives between the beach and the forest with his wife, two young boys and a fun puppy called Peppi. After decades of adventurous escapades Alistair is calming down and has decided to write more and bungee jump less!
He works as a Business Improvement Specialist and has just spent three years as a fly in fly out employee at a remote iron ore mine site in Western Australia. As a trainer and facilitator, he has worked in Europe and Australia and is passionate about helping people and organisations to become successful.
A fun family day for Alistair would be fishing from the local jetty with his boys, taking the puppy for a walk along the beach at sunset and cooking a scrumptious curry in the evening with his wife.
An ideal adventurous day for Alistair would be a days walking and scrambling in the Lake District with friends, followed by a visit to a village pub nestled deep in the English countryside.
For More Information

Monday, 8 September 2014

Louise Millar Blog Tour - the Hidden Girl and GIVEAWAY

Blog Tour - and book giveaway ...

I'm delighted to be taking part in the Louise Millar Blog tour for her latest book as I'm a massive fan of her work. I was honoured to be able to read "the hidden girl" back in April in advance of publication, and here's a reminder of my review.

Please scroll to the bottom of this post after reading it, to find out how easy it is to WIN a brand new copy for yourself. There are 3 copies to be won.

The review

From the publishers blurb ...

Hannah Riley and her musician husband, Will, hope that a move to the Suffolk countryside will promise a fresh start. Hannah, a human rights worker, is desperate for a child and she hopes that this new life will realise her dream. Yet when the snow comes, Will is working in London and Hannah is cut off in their remote village. 

Life in Tornley turns out to be far from idyllic, who are the threatening figures who lurk near their property at night? And why is her neighbour so keen to see them leave? Plus Will's behaviour is severely testing the bonds of trust. Hannah has spent her professional life doing the right thing for other people. 

But as she starts to unbury a terrible crime, she realises she can no longer do that without putting everything she's ever wanted at risk. But if she does nothing, the next victim could be her...

My thoughts

Louise Millar - author of the brilliant The Playdate is back on top form after her second book didn't quite live up to my expectations, a stunning debut is often hard to follow. Well, its third time lucky with this unusual twisty, psychological, mystery thriller set between bustling London and the quiet rural backwaters of Suffolk. I received my copy from Netgalley so I could review it in advance.

Hannah and Will are a young married couple whose happiness depends on them overcoming past problems and Hannah is convinced their only route to this state is to complete their family with a child for which adoption is the only route left open to the former aid worker and her music producer husband.

The start of the book sees them moving to an old house in the countryside, mistakenly believing that quiet rural life in a rambling old Country Pile will be beneficial to their application to adopt.

For a chapter or two this seems like pretty standard fare, young couple buy spooky old house and things begin to go bump in the night .... But it's no ghost which haunts Tornley Hall. The descriptions are great, I felt as if I was there with her working to a tight deadline to get the house ready for a very important visitor and I shared her anguish when things started to go wrong.

As Will commutes back to London Hannah is left in the isolated spot to mull over their decision and as snow begins to fall, the house proves to be in much worse repair than anticipated and the locals prove unfriendly and some downright sinister she struggled to cope with her usual efficiency and calm. As secrets are uncovered and cracks begin to appear not just in her new home, but in her marriage Hannah battles to hang on to her sanity. 

At first you are led to think there's not really that much going on in the story, it seems almost gentle but don't be lulled into relaxing, the tension is gradually cranked up until you realise that what seemed like minor annoyances are in fact something much more sinister, and as the alarm bells begin to sound, like Hannah you've got far too involved in what's going on in Tornley to back away, deep in the countryside no-one can hear you scream.

This is a sinister and creepy psychological tour de force with so many little twists it really keeps you turning the pages until late in the night and makes you want to check the doors are firmly locked before you do lay your head down to sleep - don't you just love a book which does that?

When the mystery is finally revealed in a crescendo of brutal intensity it really wasn't what I was expecting and made me peer back at some of the things which had happened and see them in a different light. The loose ends are neatly tied up in a satisfactory climactic ending.

Louise has returned to revealing the hidden nastiness which lies beneath seemingly ordinary domestic life and shows that you never really know which of your neighbours you can trust. 

If you liked Louise Millars first book you'll love this ....

Which leads me to my GIVEAWAY for UK entrants only please

To win one of three copies of the hidden girl email with the title "Beadyjans giveaway - the Hidden girl" and name the Title of Louise's first novel and you could be a winner. I'd also love it if you add a comment to this post though it's not necessary to win a copy. The closing date is Monday 29th September. Good luck everyone.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Her - Harriet Lane - a creeping cliffhanger

The Blurb:

Would you be friends with her?

Two different women; two different worlds. Nina is sophisticated, moneyed and damaged. Emma is a struggling young mother who has put her life on hold. After Nina meets Emma by chance, she begins to draw Emma into her privileged world.

But this isn't the first time the women have crossed paths. Nina remembers Emma and she remembers what Emma did. But what did Emma do? How far will Nina go to punish her? And when will Emma realise that her new friend is a disturbing face from the past?

My thoughts ...

I finished this book last night, and when I finished I made a noise  out loud, halfway between a shriek and a groan and my husband came running into the room thinking I'd seen a spider (Yeah I'm a big girl now, but those nasties terrify and disgust me)

It was the sound of, "nooo, don't leave me here", It was a noise of "OMG" and it was a signal of smug satisfaction, of "I kind of knew something like that was coming" and best of all it could be described as "WHAT THE FUCK??"

I was given my copy by a friend, Anne of the great book blog "Being Anne" whose review had me saying “I must read that” and who thought I'd enjoy it. It was totally my cup of tea.

A story of 2 women, Emma the hassled, busy Mother battling with motherhood and always feeling she never quite makes the mark, Nina, successful, mother of a teenager, much more well off, older husband well organised nice home, both women seem a little lonely, neither are particularly likeable but I could easily relate to both of them and their frustrations.

Nina enters Emmas life in the guise of saviour, more than once coming to the rescue at just the right time. Emma is only too pleased to have someone show an interest in her and her chaotic life, and her gratitude and relief are palpable. It’s that easy for Nina to worm her way into Emma’s world and gain her trust, for Nina does it on purpose, she remembers Emma from a long time ago yet Emma has no recollection of this. Nina has an ulterior motive – one which is not purely based on friendship – Oh my goodness no!

We soon begin to see Nina in a different light, she is calculating and cold, has a dark and sinister side, and grows increasingly more evil throughout the book. Yet of the two women I actually admired her the most. She made my blood run cold yes, but I kind of admired her determination to right a perceived wrong she has let fester in her mind over the years until it has consumed her.

It builds quite gently from a story of friendship and everyday life, with a creeping sense of unease into a scene of “Domestic Noir” and we know we are hurtling towards a clifftop and can’t stop!

Reminiscent of Louise Millars excellent “The Playdate” this book explores the theme of female friendship, grudges and secrets and reminds us that we shouldn’t always take everyone at face value. Do you really trust your friends?

Monday, 1 September 2014

Louise Millar Blog tour

I'm thrilled to be taking part in the Louise Millar Blog Tour.
Watch this space on Monday 8th September for a reminder how much I loved her latest book - The Hidden girl
and a great giveaway too!

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour Hello blog readers and book lovers. Today I am joining in t...