Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Book Review: The Faithful

The Faithful
By Juliet West
Published by Mantle
Available in hardback

Juliet West's second novel, The Faithful, is a coming of age story in England, a country on the brink of World War II. Communities are divided, generations have drifted apart. Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts are causing trouble on the streets. This is a fascinating story about families and friendships formed and also broken based on each other's beliefs.

Hazel, sixteen, lives on the Sussex coast, and her summer is dragging. She feels alienated from her family, her friends have gone for the summer and she feels isolated from the outside world. She is bored with life and the routines she has fallen into.

Her life changes when the Blackshirts, a far-right political group arrive for the summer. Hazel can see people helping each other, a community with the same values, a sense of belonging - everything she has been craving. She befriends Lucia, an upper class girl who is devoted to the cause and also Tom, a working class boy who is cynical to the Blackshirt's principles. Hazel's life becomes entangled with both her friends, leading her away from a life she was meant to have - get married and have children.

This is a novel about love and deception as Hazel runs away to London with a life changing secret. She tries to escape society's expectations for a girl her age. Her life steers Hazel away from society's acceptable behaviour.  West shows the reader how dangerous extreme political groups can be - they way they promise a sense of belonging, safety and security, manipulating their members with extreme views.

The Faithful is a interesting read not just to see a young girl battle against society's expectations but for the social history during this period. West combines the personal and political into a great novel where the reader can draw parallels with today's' society. You can buy The Faithful from your favourite bookshop.


I was sent a copy via the publisher.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

May's Reading Adventures


There wasn't much time for reading in May but I squeezed in three books... don't worry I've started to read in the park at lunchtime so I'm hoping to read more than 3 books this month.

Most of my time was spent rewriting chapter 37 not once but twice but I'm definitely happier and I've moved onto the next chapter...only two left and then this draft will be done. I've started to research agents and creating a synopsis...maybe after 4 years it'll be time to send this novel out into the wild.


So here are the books I read in May:

The Faithful - Juliet West
England is moving slowly towards war. Oswald Mosley's blackshirts are causing trouble on the streets. Hazel, a 16 year old girl is pulled into the clutches of this organisation one summer. Falling in love, forming new friendships and broken families push Hazel's life into an unexpected journey. This is a novel about loyalty, loss and guilt. I really enjoyed this novel, and you can read my review soon.

Anything is Possible - Elizabeth Strout
I'm one of those people who has only just jumped on the Elizabeth Strout bandwagon after reading My Name is Lucy Barton and Olive Kitteridge last year. Anything is Possible is a spin off of last year's My Name is Lucy Barton and tells the story of the inhabitants of rural Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton. Each chapter tells the story of a person who either directly knows Lucy or knows of her. The stories are rich, complex, and beautifully written. Looking forward to reading more Elizabeth Strout.

The Storyteller - Kate Armstrong
Kate Armstrong's novel, The Storyteller, is a story of coming of age, depression, isolation and relationships. You can read my review here.

So what did you read in May?

Monday, 5 June 2017

Book Review: The Storyteller by Kate Armstrong

The Storyteller
By Kate Armstrong
Published by Holland House

Kate Armstrong's novel, The Storyteller, is a story of coming of age, depression, isolation and relationships.

In a psychiatric ward, Iris an elderly writer, insists on writing Rachel's biography, a young girl, recently admitted to the ward. Rachel can not resist this tempting offer - to be fictionalised, her life captured.

Rachel has lost her sense of self after being discharged from the hospital and finds herself drifting from one experience to another, isolated from society, unable to cling to reality or relationships. Armstrong captures the feelings of being lost, emptiness and fear of mental health, showing Rachel directionless with no support. The writing style pulls the reader into Rachel's emotional state - the world around the characters and the reader is claustrophobic.

Rachel is disconnected from society and herself. She wanders through her life detached, observing other people's behaviour, trying hard to relate within the romantic and friendship relationships she has but finds herself drifting away. She looks for physical relationships, and uses these to anchor herself with reality.

The reader is always left wondering if this reality of Rachel is the one that she is actually living. The story is being told by Iris so the reader is left wondering, much like Rachel wonders, if we are in the correct reality. Armstrong builds up the claustrophobia with each narrative - Rachel's story is layered with Iris's version of rachel's story and then Iris own story is plastered across the top.

This is an intense coming of age story with sharp observations around mental health issues. If you're looking for something a bit different this summer then pick up The Storyteller as you won't be disappointed. You can order The Storyteller from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via the publisher.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Book Review: The Other Half of Happiness

The Other Half of Happiness
By Ayisha Malik
Published by Zaffre
Available in paperback and ebook

Sofia Khan is back, and she's ready to fight for happiness no matter the cost. Eloping isn't all it's cracked up to be once her mother finds out. A 'real' wedding must be arranged... but this wedding is going to need a groom and Connell has gone into meltdown.

Ayisha Malik's second novel follows on with Sofia's adventures through life with funny moments as she battles with her Muslim family's traditional values and the way she wants to live her life. Last time, in Sofia Khan is not Obliged, Sofia fell in love with her next door neighbour, Conall who definitely did not meet her family's expectations - Irish and white not a good Muslim man that they were hoping for!

In The Other Half of Happiness Sofia has eloped with Conall and now they live Karachi while he makes a documentary but something is niggling away at Sofia - her happy ending just doesn't seem right. She's missing her family, her friends and London and Conall is distant, fully absorbed with his work leaving her in their shared house on her own. There are secrets bubbling on the surface - pride and principles battle, forcing Sofia and her love for Conall to the brink.

Secrets, deception and lies wreak havoc with Sofia's life. Coming back to London not only means dealing with her family but it means trying to find a place to fit within her family and social circle now that she's a married woman. Not only does she need to still deal with her family's high and demanding expectations but she needs to take back control of her own life, career and happiness. Ayisha has written a romantic comedy with a feisty modern narrator with many touching moments and laugh out loud segments. Sofia is a honest, down to earth character and everyone can relate to her naive wisdom.

Funny and smart, this book will have you wanting to hug Sofia as she soon realises that there might not be such a thing as a 'happy ending'. I'm really hoping for a third installment because I feel like Sofia's story isn't complete.

The Other Half of Happiness is available from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy by the publisher.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

April's Book Adventures

Talk about let the side down in April - I only managed to read three books but one of those was a doorstopper of a book so that counts as two - can we can agree on that so I can feel better about only reading three.

Well... I have a really great excuse! I've been distracted with painting my kitchen. I normally stick to neutral colours but this time I went for a eggshell blue and I don't want to blow my own trumpet too much but the kitchen feels fresher. At the moment I don't want to rip out the cupboards so I've cleaned them down and the kitchen doesn't look as dull as it used too. I did rip a hole in the lino so I need to find some time to replace it or even investigate what's underneath.

I did finish redrafting one of my chapters, and now I only have three left! Three! But this current one is a complete mess and if I'm honest, I need to start from scratch. So the end is in sight but it's complicated...

Right, so what three books did I read? Some great ones! Oh, you want more details... well, here you go!



Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch
This is the second installment of the Rivers of London series. DC Grant is still investigating strange occurrences in London's back streets. He finds himself tangled up with mystical creatures and going head to head with evil. This is a fun novel, and Ben Aaronovitch really is the next Neil Gaiman.

The Other Half of Happiness - Ayisha Malik
This is a hilarious book as Sofia Khan continues her journey for happiness. In the previous book Sofia fell in love with the guy next door much to the disappointment of her Muslim family. Here, we see her battle for a happy ever after. Sofia is the Muslim version of Bridget Jones. I'm hoping for a third installment! A fuller review will be on my blog soon.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair - Joel Dicker
Sometimes you want a long, long read which pulls you into a complex story, and this book delivers this. This thriller follows Marcus as he tries to prove his old professor is innocent of murder as well struggle with writer's block and the demands of fame. There are so many twists and turns in this story, and the writing is sharp and addictive. I really liked the way writing is compared to boxing and it wasn't something I considered before (I thought boxing was punch, punch, punch and then the opponent falls over - don't roll your eyes - I know differently now - we all have wrong impressions about professions - how many of us think writers just write, write, write and then get published).

"Writing a book is like loving someone. It can be very painful."

"You should prepare for you writing as you prepare for a boxing match... In the days leading up to the fight, you should be training at only seventy per cent so the rage that explodes on the day of the match has been allowed to slowly simmer and rise within you."