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Posts tagged ‘novel’

URBANE PUBLICATIONS – The Life Assistance Agency by Thomas Hocknell

Today is my second book review for the 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge, and this time the publisher is:

 

 

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Urbane Publications!

 

 

About Urbane Publications:

Are you always searching for that next great book, the joy of discovering a new author, a new plot, thrilling new worlds and characters, or simply enjoying the printed and digital page?

We are. So much so that we decided to start sharing our love of words with you. Urbane Publications is a new and exciting independent publisher dedicated to developing and producing the books you want to read – hip, contemporary, groundbreaking  fiction and non-fiction designed to entertain, excite, and engage.

Our team has been involved in the publishing industry for over 20 years, as booksellers, publishers and even authors. It seemed a natural step to bring all that experience to bear in an exciting new venture to introduce you to the best new creative ventures and valuable content out there.

Words always have the power and potential to excite, involve, inspire – and we live them at Urbane Publications. This is a journey of discovery, finding new voices, defining new genres, and most importantly creating the words you want read.

Urbane Publications is a proud member of the Independent Publishers Guild.

Learn more about Urbane Publications on their website here.

The Book I’m Reviewing From Urbane Publications is…

 

life-assistance

 

Do you want to live forever? is THE question facing anyone pursuing immortality. But what happens when eternal life is disappointing, and everyone around you keeps dying?

Ben Ferguson-Cripps, a struggling writer with a surname that gets more attention than his creative endeavours, sets aside his literary ambitions to join the mysterious Life Assistance Agency. Their first case is to trace a missing person with links to the Elizabethan angel-caller Dr John Dee.

Pursued by a shadowy organisation – and the ghosts of Ben’s past – the trail leads through Europe into the historic streets of Prague, where the long-buried secrets of Dr Dee’s achievements are finally revealed, and Ben discovers there is far more to life than simply living…

This book is fab! It’s so rich in culture and magic and intrigue and mystery. The contrast between the mundanity of Ben’s life against the strange world of alchemy and scrying and angels works really well in this book.

I felt a lot of sympathy for Ben throughout the story. He is a bit lost after experiencing a failure after a short-lived rise to fame, and then becomes even more completely out of his depth when he joins the Life Assistance Agency as a staff member and finds himself in danger. He isn’t perfect and makes a fair few mistakes, but he’s still likeable throughout. I would have liked to learn a bit more about Scott, Ben’s co-worker, but the rest of the characters in the book (Dr Dee, his accomplices, Mr Foxe and others) are very well developed.

The narrative is broken up throughout with diary entries from Dr Dee’s wife, written back in the 1500s. This keeps the story varied and intriguing, with a good balance between modern day and the past. The book also has plenty of action and dialogue and lots of varying scenes and settings, which helped to keep it moving forwards.

You are kept in the dark quite a lot throughout the story, despite one or two moments of explanation and clarity, but that only adds to the mysteriousness element. Why is Foxe following the steps of a man who lived centuries ago? Why does he want to scry and communicate with angels? What is he trying to achieve by becoming a modern day alchemist?

There are some very interesting twists at the end of the book that I just didn’t see coming (and one that I kind of did, but only right before it happened) and really breathes a new lease of life into the story. Some are subtly done; some are serious and dramatic. The twists are what stayed in my head long after I finished reading.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s quite unique and breaks the mould. I would certainly recommend it if you’re after reading something a bit different from the norm.

All I will say is that the book really is in need of another round  of proofreading (this probably won’t bother a lot of readers and a lot of readers would probably be unlikely to notice all the missed mistakes that I did. But I’m a freelance proof reader and in-house editor by trade, so it affected my reading) which is really the only reason I’m giving it three and a half stars. This doesn’t discredit the story itself though: once its issues are tidied up on the next print run, it’s definitely a four-starrer for me.

 

three-and-a-half-stars

 

 

 

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SNOW BOOKS – You Don’t Belong Here by Tim Major

Sooo, it’s about time I started reviewing the books in my 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge!

First up is:

snow-books

 

Snow Books!

 

 

About Snow Books:

“IT’S MORE THAN TEN YEARS SINCE OUR FIRST BOOKS WERE PUBLISHED IN 2004.

Snowbooks started in a spare room in Hackney in April 2003 and soon moved to a couple of rented desks in a business incubator on Old Street — before it was cool. We hired staff, signed up authors and our first books hit the shelves in 2004. Waterstone’s — with a possessive apostrophe back then — were our first and most supportive customer and with their backing our first books sold several tens of thousands of copies.

We’ve always been very interested in the business side of publishing — about being more efficient and canny than others. Early on, it pretty soon gave us a high profile. We won a Nibbie, then another one, then an IPA award too. Later, our books started to win prizes too: The Red Men got shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award and Mark Hodder won the Philip K Dick award with Spring Heeled Jack. You can find reviews of our books everywhere, from The Telegraph and The Sun to SFX Magazine and The Guardian and on all shapes and sizes of blog.

Our efficiency has been made possible by our technological skill. We are publishers-turned-Ruby on Rails developers, specializing in web application development and database management. With the benefit of a sizeable Arts Council grant we launched a sister company, General Products Ltd, in 2012. Through it we licence the software we’ve written to other publishers, in the expectation that it’ll help them as much as it helps Snowbooks. Our main product is Bibliocloud.com, an enterprise-level publishing management system. The website you’re reading right now was populated with data and images from Bibliocloud’s API in a single click. The combination of sleek technological efficiency and solid creative excellence is, for us, as potent and heady a combination as it’s ever been. And in 2013, Bibliocloud won us the Futurebook Best Technology Innovation award.

So here’s to the next ten years. Let’s hope it’s as fun as the first.”

Find out more about Snow Books and check out the rest of their titles here.

 

The book I’m reviewing from Snow Books is….

 

ydbh

You Don’t Belong Here by Tim Major.

 

Daniel Faint is on the run with a stolen time machine. As the house-sitter of a remote Cumbrian mansion, he hopes to hide and experiment with the machine. But is the Manor being watched by locals, his twin brother or even himself? Daniel is terrified about what the future may hold but, as he discovers, there can be no going back.

I loved this book! It really is unusual in a fascinating way. Despite the fact that the book is about time travel, it really didn’t feel too science-fiction-y to me, which I was quite happy with. It made the subject matter feel accessible. Daniel isn’t a scientist. He isn’t a great mind. He’s just a troubled man with a guilt-ridden past, looking for something to give his life a bit of meaning and excitement again.

After a little bit of a slow start, the book quickly picked up its pace. Daniel finds himself with a stolen time machine that he’s taken from a research facility, deep in the rural countryside of Cumbria. There the paranoia kicks in almost immediately. Who is watching him? Who can he trust? How can he hide this rather huge secret? How can he master the capabilities of the machine?

I particularly enjoyed the easy-to-read narrative which is studded with poetic writing and scenes of time-travel (and the subsequent confusion it creates). The time travel element unsurprisingly adds to the deep sense of mystery and allows the reader to really experience the feeling of detachment that Daniel suffers. Is he doing the right thing? How can he make the time machine take him to a time and place of his choosing?

Daniel’s obsession with his twin brother William is particularly fascinating throughout the book. You get the sense, after a little while, that Daniel feels uneasy or guilty about something to do with his brother. This guilt is there under the surface of the narrative throughout the story, humming away as  background noise until it emerges at some point in the book and hits you like a punch in the stomach.

There are some really strong characters in the book, giving the story a real richness and realistic feel. The women are strong and defiant, at the same time as showing real vulnerability when things get hard or terrifying. The male characters provide a real rainbow of seriously interesting personalities, including a rogue hunter, a shady figure from Daniel’s past, an untrusting gardener and a loving, dedicated brother.

There is also an unrelated twist at the end which was brilliant, and something I really didn’t see coming. Of course I won’t give away any spoilers, but it’s really worth reading for this aspect of the story alone.

All in all, this book deserves a massive FOUR stars. Really well done to the author, Tim Major, and to the independent publishing house Snow Books.

four-stars

 

 

 

Introducing Crime Author Michael Knaggs

As explained in this book review, I met Michael Knaggs at Waterstones in Hull, where he impressed me with his willingness to engage with the general reading public without ‘hard-selling’ his book. I have since got to know him more and he is an enthusiastic and charming author. His third book in the Hotel St Kilda trilogy is about to be published and I seriously enjoyed Catalyst, the first book in the series. Find out more about this Hull-born author in the interview below, in which he demonstrates that there is more than just one way to become a successful author…

michael knaggs picture

 

Please introduce yourself and give us a bit of background to your life and career.

I was born in Hull in 1944 and lived there until just after my 22nd birthday. During that time I attended Hull Grammar School where I wrote a short story for a school magazine which, 55 years later, turned up again as the opening scene in my first book!

After attaining a Higher National Diploma in Chemistry at Hull Technical College, I moved to Thurso, Caithness, in 1967 to work as an Experimental Officer at Dounreay Atomic Power Station, and relocated to Salford to complete a degree in Chemistry two years later. There at the University, in addition to getting my degree, I got a wife as well – Carol, who worked in the laboratory there.

From there up to my retirement in 2005, I worked for Kellogg Company – the global breakfast cereal manufacturers – latterly as HR Director with responsibility for Pay and Benefit policy across the Company’s European area operation.

I live in Prestwich, Manchester, with Carol, my bride of 45 years! Our great passion is hill-walking and we do at least one long distance walk each year. This year we are undertaking the West Highland Way for the second time and later in the year will be tackling the Wolds Way in East Yorkshire – close to my home. We have two children and two grand-children, all of whom live close to us.

How long have you been writing, and why did you decide to publish a novel?

I began writing after I retired at the end of 2005. But long before then I had the story very clearly formed in my mind and the first thing I did before starting on the manuscript was to set it out in full in abbreviated form. And although I had never written a book before I must have produced the equivalent in length of about ten or fifteen over the years in the form of reports, employee policy documents and communications, presentations, talks, speeches, training courses, etc. So at least the process of stringing words together was a natural one for me.

It was never my intension to write a trilogy. I simply had a story I wanted to tell which was too long for a single book, so I ended up with an accidental trilogy!

catalyst

My copy of Catalyst – as illustrated by Michael Knagg’s wife Carol

Tell us a little bit about Catalyst- ‘sell’ your book to our readers!

Catalyst is a crime/political thriller dealing with street crime and, more specifically, how to tackle it in the context of the wider issue of law and justice.

When three brothers, leaders of a brutal street gang, are lured to an isolated cul-de-sac and shot dead by a mysterious stranger, the subsequent euphoria on the estate where they lived is picked up by the national press. Tom Brown, a Member of Parliament for the Opposition Party, whose constituency includes the estate, seizes the opportunity to exploit the story by leading a crusade to implement a New Justice Regime which would include uncompromising methods for tackling street gangs.

The book follows Tom’s efforts to win support – assisted by a local campaigner, George Holland, and a freelance reporter, Tony Dobson – along with the parallel story of the hunt for the killer. When the killer is eventually caught and sentenced, the two storylines come together in dramatic fashion. At the same time the gang sets out for revenge, targeting George and descending in large numbers on the quiet village where he lives, armed and ready to kill.

Meanwhile, Tom’s Party leader, Andrew Donald, is pursuing his own agenda….

I believe the book will appeal to a wide variety of readers of all ages. It features heroic characters of all types and vintages who I hope people will readily identify with.

What research did you undertake for the book? How did you manage the capture the voice and tone of the various environments within the story – the gang culture, the political and policing environments, the court room?

Researching the book was one of the most fulfilling parts of the whole experience – and in some ways, it was very easy. Through Wikipedia and Google you can find out every bit of information that has ever been discovered, recorded, collected, hypothesised or anything. This created a temptation for me to include a mass of technical, factual data which added nothing to the story, but made me sound very smart and knowledgeable. I’ve learned my lesson, though, and only the essential bits go in to the stories now!

I also met with a number of people – political representatives, lawyers and members of the police – who helped me a great deal and to whom I shall be ever grateful for their time and interest, as well as the great incites into their areas of work – and without the attendant extraneous information I’d got from other sources.

I see that your wife is also the book’s illustrator – it captures the book perfectly. What was your experience working together creatively? Was there much trial and error?

Carol is a water-colour artist whose preferred subject matter is pastoral landscapes and pet portraits, so the cover images were well outside her normal comfort zone. Working together on the cover designs was really great and all credit to Carol for producing exactly what I had envisaged for both books. It must be difficult enough for an artist getting onto paper or canvas what is in their own mind. It’s a step beyond that producing what is in someone else’s mind. Yes, there was a lot of trial and error – though perhaps ‘error’ isn’t the right word. And with the second book – Heaven’s Door – after we had seemingly wrapped up the artwork, I realised the image was the wrong way round to how I had described it in the book – so Carol re-drafted it, with – I have to admit – amazing patience and calm!

You clearly love crime writing – so, why this genre?

Up to when I retired I didn’t read much at all, but what I did enjoy mostly was crime fiction. But the main reason is the nature of the story itself which had been growing in my mind for a couple of decades, stemming from the short story I wrote at grammar school and expanding into this substantial saga. That story was about street crime so that’s the genre where it fitted. I didn’t choose to become a crime writer, as such; it just happened that’s where the story fitted.

I met you at a book signing in Waterstones – why do you think it’s important to engage with readers face-to-face, and what do you enjoy about marketing your work? Is there anything you feel that authors need to do more of?

Because of my virtual anonymity in a genre which is saturated with books, authors, and manuscripts waiting to become books, I have to get to people as best I can to persuade them to try my work. Meeting them in book shops is the best opportunity to do that. In fact, I sell the majority of my books at the sort of event where we met in Hull. If I had an agent and full PR behind me out in the market place, then I would not need to reach out to potential readers in this way. And whereas it would be nice to have someone out there promoting my work – I’d certainly relish that situation – I would miss out on one of the things I like most. That is the opportunity to share with people the journey that has brought me face to face with them in Waterstones or WH Smiths, or wherever. (Incidentally, I am exceptionally grateful to the store managers at all the branches of those stores where I have been given the opportunity to raise the profile of my books)

In so far as what authors should do more of, I’m not sure I can answer that for the whole spectrum of practitioners, but I would certainly encourage new authors to try what I do. It’s amazing how interested the reading public are in hearing about the process that turns an idea for a tale in someone’s head into a finished book or e-document. And also how prepared they are to try someone new.

Anything you feel that you’d like to learn more about?

 I guess the simple answer is anything that will help me reach a wider readership. And I’m finding out more about that all the time through meeting people like you who are kind enough to take an interest and help me move forward.

Why did you choose to self-publish your work, and why did you choose to go through a self-publishing imprint of a traditional publisher? How did you come across them, and what have been the benefits of taking this route? How have they supported you?

In this genre and increasingly in others, publishers will not accept manuscripts directly from authors, only from literary agents. So to get ‘traditionally’ published an author needs to persuade an agent to represent them, and the agent must be engaged enough to feel they can persuade a publisher to take it forward.

The decision is based on risk – ‘will the book sell?’ – and not on quality, although obviously there is a quality threshold. I was advised from the beginning that I would have very little chance of getting an agent – who is someone looking for a career writer with whom to establish a long-term relationship which would need a lot of work at the start to raise the author’s profile. An old guy writing recreationally in retirement is not a good bet.

So self publishing was the only way forward if I wanted to fulfil my ambition. I chose Matador because they are the self-publishing arm of Troubador who are mainstream publishers, and also because they are recommended regularly by independent sources on self-publishing, e.g. the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book. I have never regretted the decision and they have provided excellent support and advice throughout the production of the three books.

Why did you decide to tackle a controversial political subject in your book?

I’m afraid there’s a lot of me in the New Justice Regime and its provisions for dealing with people who set out to make other people’s lives a misery for no other reason than the fact that they are easy targets. I guess I’m into my Grumpy Old Man stage, but it goes further than that. I firmly believe that more should be more done to protect the victims and potential victims of street crime and less to understand and embrace the motives of the perpetrators. (This is where I could go on for several pages) Suffice to say, it could have been me making the speeches at the Old Bailey and the 3AF meeting.

Which characters do you particularly love in your books, and why?

That’s easy – my favourite characters are the two police colleagues, DCI David Gerrard and DS Jo Cottrell. They are close colleagues oozing respect for each other but also share a deep mutual affection. They are great vehicles for me to include all the light quips and comments that true friends will share and they serve to provide a lighter side to the darkness of the overall plot. I enjoy writing dialogue – which my editor thinks is my main strength – and have always thoroughly enjoyed putting together their exchanges.

What’s next for you and your books?

I promised both myself and Carol that I would retire again after completing the third book, which takes my original story to its conclusion. However, during the course of my writing I have had an idea for a fourth book – a sequel to the trilogy – which includes what I believe is a great twist and would provide a very satisfying conclusion to the whole saga. Whether I do this or not will depend on the reaction to my third book – which I, and my editor, believe is, by some margin, the best of all – and how I settle back to life without writing.

In so far as the three completed books are concerned, then I expect much of the same – introducing and promoting my work through book signings and through the numerous talks I have been invited to give to reading groups, creative writing groups and other organisations. Something else I enjoy very much.

We’ll see. But whatever happens, I have enjoyed the whole experience immensely and am quite proud of what I have achieved at a time in my life when I could have been excused for taking things easy!

Find out more about Michael Knaggs here.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

Wow, after the most hectic start to a year ever, in which I got myself a brand new job in trade children’s publishing, and moving yet again to a whole new town, I’ve finally found the time to write out a book review. It’s good to be back.me before you

Today I’m reviewing Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You.

There’s a reason there’s a lot of hype around this book. The characters are so distinct and interesting, the story incredibly compelling and emotional. I haven’t had a book pull me in so completely like this for a long time. So often people will say “this book had me laughing out loud and crying at the same time”, so much so that it becomes a reviewing cliché. In all honesty I rarely cry and don’t tend to laugh out loud when reading, but I found myself having to read this book alone in another room for fear of someone seeing my reactions. Turns out, JoJo Moyes is a storytelling genuis. She had me in the palm of her hand.

Lou Clark knows lots of things.

 She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

 What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

 Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now, and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

 What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

The big mistake would be to stumble across this book and automatically think it’s another simple love story, or a chick lit tale that you might have heard over and over again. It is unlike anything else I’ve read before, and tackles a topical and very challenging subject. Will is a paraplegic, paralysed after a horrific car accident. Lou is a colourful twenty-something girl who is hired to be carer. Will used to live life to its fullest, going on wild holidays and adventures, sleeping with beautiful women, being ruthless in business and earning a lot of money. Suddenly, he finds life unbearable when it’s all torn away from him and just can’t understand why Lou doesn’t make the most of her life while she’s young. Lou sees nothing wrong with how she spends her time – until Will opens her eyes to the possibilities of life.

Each and every character within the novel is so distinct and you will probably see at least some of your own philosophies or family dynamics reflected within the story. The sibling rivalry between Lou and her very intelligent sister is all too relatable, her feeling of being trapped in a loveless relationship will probably chime with a few readers as well. I loved her parents, although felt it a bit unfortunate for Lou that their financial stability rested on her.

Me Before You is so fascinating because it’s an exploration of how differently people live their lives and how differently people see the world. It’s also a brilliant demonstration of how events in life can change a person completely – both physically but also mentally. Most importantly, it is gripping because it makes you fall in love with the characters and the way they influence each other is incredibly moving. It is both life-affirming and utterly heart-breaking.

This is an absolutely beautiful novel. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt

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I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying they’re tired of hearing about books with ‘girl’ and ‘gone’ in the title – but ignore them. This book is powerful and breathtaking and you’d be missing out on something very special if you didn’t pick it up due to its title!

A baby goes missing. But does her mother want her back?

When Estelle’s baby daughter is taken from her cot, she doesn’t report her missing. Days later, Estelle is found in a wrecked car, with a wound to her head and no memory.

Estelle knows she holds the key to what happened that night – but what she doesn’t know is whether she was responsible…

Little Girl Gone is another one of those books where I completely forgot to make my usual notes as I go along because I was just far, far too engrossed in the plot line and the story. It is a harrowing tale of a woman who suffers badly with post-partum depression and it sends her spiralling into a pit of despair and desperation. Somebody has taken her baby, quite possibly murdered or hurt her, and even Estelle knows that there is a distinct likelihood that she has done it.

Waking up from a horrific car accident and finding out that her baby has gone missing, Estelle doesn’t remember a single thing about the whole episode. All she knows is that there is no sign of Mia anywhere and very few clues as to what might have happened. As a result, she is admitted into a psychiatric ward and must probe into the depths of her psyche, with the help of her counsellor Dr Ari, to figure out what happened and if she is responsible for her baby’s disappearance, or whether there is someone else involved.

Delving deeper into the labyrinth of Estelle’s mind is an emotional roller coaster and just endlessly fascinating and intriguing. This book encapsulates perfectly just how complicated and mysterious and fragile the human mind can be, especially when that person is going through depression or an incredibly difficult time. It explores the different psychological mechanisms and afflictions that are associated with trauma and actually teaches the reader a lot about the human condition.

I’ve known and heard about people who have had such massive traumas in their lives that their minds have just completely wiped their memories of them in order to cope. But what this book does is show us how and why that process happens. In the book, we have no idea what to believe and whether or not to trust Estelle’s version of events. She can’t even trust herself.

My heart bled for Estelle with every syllable of this book that I read. She hasn’t got a clue what is up or down any more. She feels like she wants to hurt her baby, but we know that it is just the depression getting to her and she’s aware that these thoughts are horrifying and wrong. She can’t trust anybody around her and she can’t trust herself. The author has done an amazing job on conveying what it is like inside her head: you can almost feel the despair weighing on your own shoulders and wrapping itself around your heart as you read through the book.

Estelle’s husband Jack is a difficult man to weigh up: he most definitely has his faults in that he can be controlling and condescending, and throughout the book he does often come across as a real jerk. But I did also feel a strong degree of sympathy for him. Though he handles it utterly appallingly, he does also suffer when Estelle’s depression hits and, having dealt with family depression in the past, I know only too well how upsetting it is. It is not always within the family member’s power to get everything right: they are suffering too. For that reason, I did understand Jack more than I really wanted to. After all, it is also his baby daughter that has gone missing and his instinctive inclination to blame Estelle can’t be entirely blamed.

I won’t give away what actually happens to Mia, but my god, the story is just mind-blowing. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole thing. There are few books where I have wanted to skip to the ending as much, although I did restrain myself.

You will adore this book, especially if you are a mystery or crime fiction fan. Little Girl Gone is action-packed, tense, and leaves an impression on you long after you finish reading. It is a stunning book.

Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix

Thank you to Kim Nash of Bookouture for providing me with a kindle copy of this book. I very much appreciate it!

This is a beautiful historical fiction novel, and one which I enjoyed a lot.

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Loosely based on real historical people, the novel features two love triangles – one set in Pisa in 1171 between Berta di Bernardo, a rich merchant’s wife, her young lover Gerardo di Gerardo, and her maid and Gerardo’s secret love, Aurelia. The other occurs in the 1990s, between Sam, who is a married mother, her ailing husband Michael and an Italian man named Dario who helps her with a project on the Tower of Pisa.

They are not just merely fluffy love triangles, however – their stories affect and reflect the deeply important work that the individuals are undertaking. Berta falls deeply in love with Gerardo, a young man who strives to follow in his architect grandfather’s footsteps, and the fiery, dominant woman manages to get him his dream job helping to build a magnificent campanile – The Leaning Tower of Pisa. But although Gerardo loves Berta in a way, he is deeply in love with Aurelia and yet cannot find a way out of his predicament: Berta essentially commissioned the Tower project and if he can’t keep her happy he will lose his dream job.

In the present day, Michael is working on a documentary about the history of the tower and the story of its construction, but when he flies out to Italy after confessing to having had an affair, he has a stroke which renders his work incomplete. Having worked in film and TV in a previous life, Sam steps up to the plate and takes over the project, and with the help of Dario whom she meets in Italy she begins to uncover the truth behind the amazing building: the mysterious BB who funded the project and the men around her who received the credit.

I loved Sam’s character and her strength despite being under severe stress and having been heartbroken by her husband. She shows determination and it is mostly borne out of her craving an identity and profession that she lost when she had children. This contrasts nicely with Berta’s story – a woman living in an age when a woman couldn’t realistically have a career and is also unable to have children. How can both women influence what is going on around them? And why is the Tower so vitally important to both of them and the men in their lives?

Berta is an interesting character. For the most part I found her bratty and unlikeable, but I can’t deny that she is impressive in her power and her determination. She also shows a compassionate side which peaks out every now and again and takes you by surprise. Aurelia I found to be charming but a bit whiny, but this just accurately reflects her age and the situation she finds herself in.

The novel is written beautifully, with such vivid imagery that makes you feel like you’re really in Pisa in 1171, and also in the 1990s. The contrast in time periods works really well. This book is a great read!

Nothing Ever Happens in Wentbridge by Janet Watson

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I love how unique this book is; how completely honest and open Janet is about her past and her feelings. I think everyone who feels nostalgia for days gone by would very much enjoy this novel.

June 1981: That night. The night we made love in desperation. So much emotion, so much need. But now I’m sure of one thing. It’s rapid cell division rather than stress that has been messing with my biology.

Dallas is on the telly, Abba are number one, Starsky and Hutch are on her bedroom wall – and Janet is falling in love for the first time. In the warm glow of the local pub, with cider, Tetley’s and a close-knit gang of friends, life for Janet and Mark couldn’t be better. Then, one morning, her mother’s worst fears for Janet are realised and a decision is made that will change everything.

Nothing Ever Happens in Wentbridge is a true story from the emotional front line of a first love. This beautiful and vivid account of Mark and Janet, their lives, love and loss, shows how the mind has an uncanny ability to ignore what it doesn’t want to acknowledge. Until it has to.

We’ve all been there: finding ourselves at a critical point in our lives which makes us look back on our childhood, school and college life and wonder what would have been different if only a different decision had been made. We’ve all definitely had a first love before too.

In this true story, we travel back in time with Janet to look at how the past shaped her future and how her psyche managed to hide itself from her for all of these years. All of the stress and negative things that happen to her are tamped down and stifled, and Janet soldiers on through upset, heartbreak and trauma, completely unaware of the real impact it has on her. As we go through the chain of events that made up her childhood and adolescent years, it is fascinating to see how things that were seemingly small at the time actually had a huge impact on the adult. It opens up the reader’s eyes to the damage that can be caused if you don’t face and deal with those real problems in life – both psychological and physical.

The book is written from the point of view of Janet – teenaged Janet gives us her voice through a series of diary entries throughout the book. Adult Janet interjects these passages with a narrative of her own and it gives a real intriguing angle to the story. We can see throughout the book how each of these events that happen to young Janet – and all of the decisions she makes – affect Janet’s adult life and outlook on the world around her.

The novel takes us through the years of Janet’s relationship with her first true love, Mark; it highlights the often oppressive nature of her parents, and her struggle in finding the right career and finding somewhere that truly feels like home. The book is genuinely funny but unbelievably touching. It is relatable and very approachable. It explores the beauty and incredible complexity of human love, in all its forms and incarnations. It shows that love and life isn’t just black and white. It does all of this while taking us on one woman’s fascinating journey through early life.

Janet is originally from my home town of Hull and moved around England throughout her life. There are a few parallels in her life to mine: I’ve lived in some of the places that she’s lived in and had to make similar decisions regarding my career. It shows that a lot of people’s struggles and triumphs are universal and this book will speak to so many of you.

Ultimately what it showed me is that nothing is perfect, nothing is easy, but things can be fun along the way and when they aren’t, you can learn from it. This book was both fun and heartbreaking and really, really worth a read. It made me want to read more true life stories.

A big thank you to Janet Watson and Route Publishing for supplying the book. Much appreciated!

 

 

 

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