Saturday 30 April 2016

Reviewed: The Flood by Steven Scaffardi

TITLE: The Flood
AUTHOR: Steven Scaffardi
PUBLICATION DATE: April 30, 2016

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One bet, four girls, eight weeks, multiple dates. What could possibly go wrong?

Following his traumatic eight month dry spell, Dan Hilles is back in the driving seat and ready to put his dating disasters behind him.

But if only it were that simple.

After a drunken afternoon in the pub, fuelled by the confidence of alcohol, Dan makes a bet with his three best pals that will complicate his love-life more than ever when he brazenly declares that he could juggle multiple women all at the same time.

With just eight weeks to prove his point, Dan is about to find out how hard it is to date a flood of women without them all finding out about each other, especially when they come in the shape of an ex-girlfriend, a stalker, the office ice queen and the one that got away.

It’s been a long time since a book has made my jaw ache and my sides hurt from laughter as much as The Flood did. I don’t even know where to begin in describing this book. The plot is a frenzy of crazy people, one liners and dating (in the loosest sense of the word) disasters. From the opening page right until the end, The Flood hilariously details every aspect you think could go wrong whilst attempting to date four women at the same time and I’ll just warn you that there are many, many more disastrous and laugh-out-loud outcomes you haven’t even thought of. This book covers it all.

There are not going to be many, if any, emotional attachments you feel towards this book and its storyline. But you will laugh to the level that you really don’t care. Seriously painful laughter. Despite this, I did love the group of male friends – Dan, Jack, Rob and Ollie, as well as their tag-along Ieuan, and Dan’s flatmate Tuna (yep) and his workmate Steph and several other characters who were fun to read about. Rob’s the one who always pulls. Ollie is the one who is very very dim. Jack is, to be kind, a complete idiot and Dan is coming to the end of a long dry spell and drunkenly agrees to a bet meaning he has to date multiple women at the same time without them finding out.

The book begins with lots of “lad humour” – you know the sort – but then quite quickly it transpires that the author has plenty of things in store to make both male and female readers laugh a hell of a lot. You don’t get a moment to breathe within this book – it’s fast-paced and complete carnage with the group of friends (but mostly Dan) getting involved in car-crash situations again and again and again. Arguments, fights, sex, hangovers, unfortunate train situations, stalkers, giants, dogs, silly bets, even sillier bettors (Ollie…) are just a few of the several chaotic things that happen in The Flood and I found it difficult to make it through even a page without laughing.

It’s hard for me to review much else other than the humour in The Flood, mostly because I’ve just finished reading it and all I’m doing is thinking about the millions of moments in the book that made me laugh (probably about two or three on every page…). But one aspect I did like was that in amongst all the lies and deceit that Dan was very guilty of, his voice and the way he told the story to the readers was completely the opposite – it was honest. He’s blunt and forthright – to the reader, at least – and strangely enough you can relate to some of his feelings and the scenarios he finds himself in. Maybe not to the extreme lengths Dan went to but who hasn’t found themselves “accidentally” stalking someone on Facebook, obsessively scrolling through their photos without even realising you’re doing it? Or made up silly excuses to get out of doing something only for them all to come back to bite you?

The Flood is frenetic entertainment all the way through and it’s the perfect slice of light relief and distraction from any mundane real life. Dan, Jack, Ollie and Rob are likeable characters and it’s fun to follow them through all their bad choices and dating disasters, laughing whilst at the same time being grateful for those extra brain cells you possess (sorry guys) which means you won’t screw up quite as much as they do. I can’t wait to read more from these characters and am looking forward to going back and reading the The Drought, which is the first book in the series.

Friday 29 April 2016

Reviewed: My Husband's Wives by Faith Hogan

TITLE: My Husband's Wives
AUTHOR: Faith Hogan


Amazon - Goodreads

Better to have loved and lost, than never loved.

Paul Starr, Irelands leading cardiologist dies in a car crash with a pregnant young women by his side.

United in their grief and the love of one man, four women are thrown together in an attempt to come to terms with life after Paul. They soon realise they never really knew him at all.

The love they shared for Paul in his life and which incensed a feeling of mistrust and dislike for each other, in his death turns into the very thing that bonds them and their children to each other forever.

As they begin to form unlikely friendships, Paul's death proves to be the catalyst that enables them to become the people they always wanted to be.

My Husband’s Wives tells a really compelling story of four women connected in the most difficult of circumstances. Intricately weaved together, the lives of Grace, Evie, Annalise and Kasia change forever when Paul Starr is killed in a car crash. Paul was once married to Evie, but then later married Grace who gave birth to his daughter, Delilah, but their relationship soured and he had two children with Annalise. As for Kasia, nobody knows quite what her ties with Paul involved but she has only the best words to say about him. In what starts as a complicated mass of lies, secrets and mistrust between the four women, unlikely friendships are soon formed in this emotional and moving novel and as we get to connect with each of them, grow to like and feel for them, My Husband’s Wives becomes quite the page-turner.

Faith Hogan has written a really touching story of grief and how it affects everyone differently. We see each woman attempt to come to terms with their loss in different ways whilst at the same time, they try to rebuild their own lives and look after themselves. It was both sad and heart-warming to see the influence Paul had had on each of them as we discover that now he’s no longer alive, they’re all a little bit lost and to some extents, living without a real purpose.

Kasia was my favourite of the four women. I found her to be a lovely, warm character who on surface always had good words to say about people but you could tell that deep-down she wasn’t naïve and she knew who was and was not to be trusted. She was sweet and protective of these other women from the start, despite never meeting them or knowing a lot about them, which in turn made them want to protect and look after her. I found it endearing how she really didn’t know her own strength and yet admired all these women without realising they all respected her for this courage she didn’t even know she possessed.

Annalise was the character I struggled with the most early on. I think she kept her emotions quite hidden and it was difficult to really understand her and relate to her, though that changed later on in the novel.

Grace and Evie were the most intricately linked as Evie was the woman Paul left for Grace and Grace had built up her own opinion on Evie throughout the years whilst feeling a little guilty at the deceit of being Paul’s ‘mistress’ when he was married to Evie. I found the development of both of these characters to be interesting and at times, surprising, especially with Evie who I wasn’t quite sure how to take at the beginning but really enjoyed getting to know as the book went on.

By the end of My Husband’s Wives, I had become fond of all the main characters. As the narrative switched to focus on each character, that insight into their lives and emotions was beautifully crafted and even when dipping in and out of this book, their voices remained and it was easy to tell which character we were back with.

My Husband’s Wives was a truly heartfelt novel, written in an engaging style with emotional twists and turns and drama throughout. It showed a realistic outlook on grief in its many forms without being a grim book – instead it was far more uplifting and motivating to see the growing friendship between Grace, Evie, Kasia and Annalise, and how the sadness of one person’s death could be the thing that actually spurred each woman on to a happier, more fulfilling future. One of the characters in the book summed it up best by saying the best part of Paul was what he left behind. I really enjoyed reading this book and loved getting to know all the people that formed the pieces of Paul’s life – completely invested in how things would work out for them all come the end. The ending itself was perfectly done, and I’m going to miss these characters now it’s over!

Q&A with Faith Hogan, author of My Husband's Wives

TITLE: My Husband's Wives
AUTHOR: Faith Hogan


Amazon - Goodreads

Better to have loved and lost, than never loved.

Paul Starr, Irelands leading cardiologist dies in a car crash with a pregnant young women by his side.

United in their grief and the love of one man, four women are thrown together in an attempt to come to terms with life after Paul. They soon realise they never really knew him at all.

The love they shared for Paul in his life and which incensed a feeling of mistrust and dislike for each other, in his death turns into the very thing that bonds them and their children to each other forever.

As they begin to form unlikely friendships, Paul's death proves to be the catalyst that enables them to become the people they always wanted to be.

Hi Faith!

Hi Sophie, it’s lovely to be here at Reviewed the Book, you have a great selection of reviews and authors interviews, so I’m delighted to be joining such lovely company on your interview list!!

Tell us about your debut novel:

The book is called ‘My Husband’s Wives,’ and it is a story of love and jealousy and ultimately of four women who manage to overcome the things that have been holding them back. It is an uplifting story, with a couple of turns along the way. It is one of hope and courage and it centres on how four women deal with each other and eventually help each other after they lose the man who has connected them, however unwillingly, to each other for better or worse!

Where did the idea for the book come from?

The book began with the idea of life turning on the opening of your front door and how events in one person’s life can knock on and reverberate across the lives of many. The characters arrived very clearly with distinct voices that demanded to be told, so they were going to arrive on the page either way, it was the vehicle in which they would travel that really surprised me.

What can you tell us about the next book?

The next book is already drafted. It’s well on its way and currently with my agent. I signed a three-book deal with Aria, so there are a few deadlines to be met this year. It is my busiest year ever! The next story centres around a seaside village, the story is one which moves between the present and the past. It’s a tale of the many kinds of love and I hope it makes us think about what it means to have real love…

Who was your favourite character to write?

In my book it has to be Annalise! She is the perfect blend of ditzy and emotionally savvy. She writes herself and with her, I feel I cut so much in the editing; I probably have a novella just sitting on my office floor. She is funny, or at least she made me laugh as I wrote her, I hope she does the same for my readers.

What can readers take from My Husband’s Wives?

If it is anything it is this:

Sometimes the things that hold us back the most, are the things we are afraid to let go of…

I think, that’s true of all of us, it’s just too often, we can’t see it.

What has been your biggest highlight of publishing so far?

This is a tough one.

It’s hard to beat that first time you hear that you have a book deal… but that’s a whole other story!

Since that, it’s been the reaction of people around me. People that I’ve known for years are so genuinely delighted and the number of people who have contacted me to say they’ve bought the book already… well, it is very touching.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

This is an easy one. There are so many great things about writing and I say that to cover the many people who are out there scribbling silently away at home. It is an escape, let’s face it, I can have killed four people by breakfast and be best buds with them by the eleven o’clock tea break. Anyone for a jaffa cake? Better than any gym workout for the stress levels, let me tell you…

How many books do you read a year?

Not nearly as many as I’d like to. There was a time when… well, life is busier these days, and I’m lucky to get through a book a month. But then, I do tend to read two to three at a time, so it’s actually quite hard to say!

Can you name a book that you’ve read that you’d love to have written yourself?

There are many other books, but for the sheer fun of the writing experience, it has to be ‘Death Comes to Pemberly,’ can you imagine immersing yourself for a whole year in the world of Mr D’arcy?

Tell us about your writing process:

I tend to write long and wide to start. Most of my books are going to end up somewhere around the 90,000 words, but my first draft is always 120k at least, then I take out my scissors and start to cut maybe down to the 60 or 70k mark. I’ll lose a character, maybe two. But, one always has to go. I like to write the first draft from a few viewpoints, any less seems too claustrophobic somehow.

Are you doing anything to celebrate publication?

I really should, shouldn’t I?

I suppose I just hadn’t planned, and now, it seems the publication date is almost upon us. But then, you can never have too many pairs of shoes, so perhaps a little retail therapy and a nice dinner out with my nearest and dearest…

My Husband's Wives will be published on May 1, 2016.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Reviewed: Summer at the Comfort Food Café by Debbie Johnson

TITLE: Summer at the Comfort Food Café
AUTHOR: Debbie Johnson
PUBLISHER: HarperImpulse

PUBLICATION DATE: April 29, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

The Comfort Food Cafe is perched on a windswept clifftop at what feels like the edge of the world, serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.

For widowed mum-of-two Laura Walker, the decision to uproot her teenaged children and make the trek from Manchester to Dorset for the summer isn’t one she takes lightly, and it’s certainly not winning her any awards from her kids, Nate and Lizzie. Even her own parents think she’s gone mad.

But following the death of her beloved husband David two years earlier, Laura knows that it’s time to move on. To find a way to live without him, instead of just surviving. To find her new place in the world, and to fill the gap that he’s left in all their lives.

Her new job at the cafe, and the hilarious people she meets there, give Laura the chance she needs to make new friends; to learn to be herself again, and – just possibly – to learn to love again as well.

For her, the Comfort Food Cafe doesn’t just serve food – it serves a second chance to live her life to the full…

I want to spend my summer at the Comfort Food Café!

I’m a real fan of Debbie Johnson’s books but Summer at the Comfort Food Café is for me, by far her best book to-date. It’s wholesome, full of heart and emotion, laughter and a beautiful blossoming romance. It has all the components of a glorious summer read – one to devour in one sitting on the beach or to snuggle up with on a true British summer’s day, at home as the rain pours outside.

The book starts off in a clever way, as we get to learn main character Laura’s story straight away in the form of a rambly and emotional job application letter. Laura is a really loveable character who I kind of just wanted to hug and protect from page one. Having had her life turned upside down two years ago by the death of her husband David, the only things stopping her from shutting life down and understandably wallowing in a mass of grief and loneliness are her children, Lizzie and Nate, and their old dog. But when the chance arises to leave Manchester and head to Dorset for the summer, job and accommodation provided, Laura snaps it up.

I loved Laura’s character. She was portrayed very realistically, from her emotions to her family relations and everything in between. She was a characteristically brave and strong character and you can root for her right from the very start of this book because of that. Laura is also a really funny character and the humour in this book is evident right away and I giggled my way through the entire story. What I really liked about how Laura’s character was written is that, although you do of course sympathise with her because of everything she’s been through, she is not defined by her grief. She has a whole bubbly character and personality about her and I think like many people who have experienced grief would like, it’s easy to see her as Laura and not as the woman whose husband died.

There were many other delightful characters in Summer at the Comfort Food Café. Cherie Moon, the larger than life lady who was employing Laura for the summer, was a really warm character and completely batty and entertaining. Nate and Lizzie were both strong characters too and I loved seeing how they developed and felt throughout this sort-of holiday they weren’t exactly excited about. The various customers of the Comfort Food Café and their funny nicknames also added an emotional depth to this story along with masses of light relief. And then there was Matt, the vet who had me melting at his every word, appearance or just the mere mention of his name. Ahhh…

Of course I can’t review this book without mentioning the Comfort Food Café itself which is practically heaven on earth. With a delicious menu and a huge serving of comfort for every individual customer every day they visited, it’s just a shame it’s purely fictional! I loved the thought put into creating the café – from the menu created by Cherie that has things catered for regulars’ needs, like burnt bacon sandwiches for Frank just like his wife used to make for him. Or from how Cherie and Laura always took the time to sit down and chat with the customers, hearing out their problems only if they wanted to discuss them. It was such an uplifting setting.

Debbie Johnson has this refreshing writing style which is fast-paced, bold, funny and purely entertaining from start to finish. The chapters were short but sweet, and along with the teasers as to what was to come throughout each week for Laura, it was only fair of me to of course read on and sneak in as many chapters as possible throughout the day. Heart-warming and optimistic, Summer at the Comfort Food Café is a genuinely gorgeous novel, a book of hope and solidarity, friendship and humour and the belief that everything might just turn out okay after all.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Reviewed: After the Lie by Kerry Fisher

TITLE: After the Lie
AUTHOR: Kerry Fisher
PUBLISHER: Bookouture

PUBLICATION DATE: April 29, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

Sometimes a lie can split your life in two. There is “before”, and there is “after”. Try as you might – you can never go back.

When Lydia was a teenager, she made a decision that ruined her family’s life. They’ve spent the last thirty years living with the consequences and doing their best to pretend it never happened.

Lydia’s husband, the gorgeous and reliable Mark, and her two teenage children know nothing about that summer back in 1982. And that’s the way Lydia wants it to stay. The opportunity to come clean is long gone and now it’s not the lie that matters, it’s the betrayal of hiding the truth for so long.

When someone from the past turns up as a parent at the school gates, Lydia feels the life she has worked so hard to build slipping through her fingers. The more desperate she becomes to safeguard her family, the more erratic her behaviour becomes. But when the happiness of her own teenage son, Jamie, hangs in the balance, Lydia is forced to make some impossible decisions. Can she protect him and still keep her own secret – and if she doesn’t, will her marriage and family survive?

I’m a big fan of Kerry Fisher’s writing and I’ve loved both her previous books, The School Gate Survival Guide and The Island Escape, but her Bookouture debut After the Lie is by far Kerry’s best book to date. Each of Kerry’s books have that similar style of thought-provoking stories portraying realistic and often flawed characters with a great dose of humour mixed in, yet what I love most about reading a Kerry Fisher book is that I know each one will offer something entirely different but completely fascinating. I’m always hooked and drawn into the lives of her unforgettable characters.

After the Lie is the story of Lydia. Lydia is carrying a secret, has been for over thirty years, but for the most part her life can carry on perfectly fine without the danger of the secret being discovered. Her husband Mark doesn’t know. Her children Jamie and Izzy don’t know. Lydia and her parents have been living the lie fairly comfortably until a familiar face appears and poses the threat that will destroy everything. I was dying to know the secret right from the moment I turned the first page.

I loved the pacing of this book. It was so suspenseful. I wasn’t sure when we would find out Lydia’s secret and how shocking it was going to be. Once I did learn Lydia’s secret, I was then eager and completely consumed with finding out what was to come next. From the start, Lydia’s voice and the way she is telling us this story completely dragged me in. She was a very engaging character to read from and her voice stood strong so every time I picked this book up, I could slot right back into the story and the chaos that was poor Lydia’s life. Admittedly I didn’t put this book down often because it was an extremely addictive read, with a darker edge to it than previous novels from the author which I think suited her style of writing perfectly.

The characterisation in this book was fantastic and it was made easy to see each one as a true person rather than simply a name in a book. Even the dog was characterised to perfection, and in fact contributed to some of my favourite moments in the story.

I was completely invested in this book’s characters, not just Lydia but all the supporting characters too. They were “proper” people, imperfect and believable. They made choices, some right and many others wrong, and they battled with their own consciences. Kerry’s writing sharply observes a character and what truly makes them as a person – all the little things that build up inside and take a hold of someone, controlling their lives on a daily basis. Lydia in particular, because through keeping this one secret for decades, she’s had to cover up with little white lies for years on end which gradually built up to become something unbearable and life-changing. This book, with its use of lie after lie, really well represents the ease of a lie and the desperation of trying to cling onto a life without the truth being discovered.

After the Lie explores real human emotions and family ties. I loved the outlook on the role of a mother, from Lydia’s relationship with her own mother to her relationship, as the mother, to her children, especially Jamie. It’s a role where you can try your best to protect someone and still get nothing right. Lydia and her mum were very different but also had some stark similarities which neither of them would probably appreciate me pointing out. I also found it really interesting how Jamie’s story kind of echoed the past of his mum and I loved following how Lydia responded to his choices and mistakes. At the same time, this book possessed a lot of humour which accurately conveyed how as people we always find humour at the most difficult of times.

I loved this book. I seriously didn’t want it to end and as much as I liked Lydia’s character, I would have been quite happy to have her life spiral out of control for another thirty years so long as Kerry would have kept the story going so I could read all about it.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Reviewed: The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe

TITLE: The People We Were Before
AUTHOR: Annabelle Thorpe

PUBLICATION DATE: April 21, 2016


Yugoslavia, summer 1979. A new village. A new life. But eight-year-old Miro knows the real reason why his family moved from the inland city of Knin to the sunkissed village of Ljeta on the Dalmatian Coast, a tragedy he tries desperately to forget.

The Ljeta years are happy ones, though, and when he marries his childhood sweetheart, and they have a baby daughter, it seems as though life is perfect. However, storm clouds are gathering above Yugoslavia.

War breaks out, and one split-second decision destroys the life Miro has managed to build. Driven by anger and grief, he flees to Dubrovnik, plunging himself into the hard-bitten world of international war reporters.

There begins a journey that will take him ever deeper into danger: from Dubrovnik, to Sarajevo, to the worst atrocities of war-torn Bosnia, Miro realises that even if he survives, there can be no way back to his earlier life. The war will change him, and everyone he loves, forever.

Wow – what a beautiful story.

The People We Were Before is Annabelle Thorpe’s debut novel and it is a stunning read, with powerfully observed emotions and storytelling that is both brutally honest and incredibly moving. It tells the story of Miro, right from childhood to adulthood, where his love and devotion to his family, to his wife and their young daughter, to his friends Tara, Pavle and Josip, is torn apart by the brutalities of war.

Miro’s character is one I connected with right from the beginning of this novel and though I cared for his character, you know there is no protecting him from the harsh realities of life and death to come in Yugoslavia in the late twentieth century. Early on, the close bond he shares with his older brother Goran is evident and I loved reading their relationship and seeing how much love they had for each other come shining through. However, in a time destroyed by so much war and segregation, the moment Goran deplores his brother for not paying attention to the papers, not paying attention to the “ethnic cleansing” that is happening all around them, shocks Miro and changes his life forever.

It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of this novel because Annabelle’s writing is so honest and authentic. The storyline is fast-moving and with that my emotions were up and down constantly, following the direction the narrative takes the reader in with vivid descriptions of the settings and events and bold detail of the war itself, pulling no punches with the harshness and severity of conflict.

This book is blessed with so many memorable characters, each one real and believable, with depth to their personalities making both them and their choices anything but obvious. They possessed real flaws and realistically nothing was easy for any of them and as a reader, you might not always believe that the characters are making the best of choices but you’re drawn in to the level that rooting for them is a must.

Though I found this book at times almost overwhelmingly emotional, it was an utterly compelling read throughout and every time I put it down, a few minutes later I’d realise I’d been thinking of nothing else but the story within the pages and I’d pick the book up again, finishing it over the course of a day. It was a truly fascinating novel and the quick pace contributed to how unputdownable the book was because there was never a lull in the writing – there was always something new happening to move you, anger you, sadden you or just fully engross you in a wonderfully told story.

One of the aspects that truly moved me when reading The People We Were Before is how each character, regardless of what front they put up, were somehow affected by guilt, regret, trauma, grief and loss all caused by horrific events they try so hard to forget. Miro gets his first experience of that as a child and it is something that shapes him as a person, something that defined his character and though things were only going to get worse for him, the event from his youth was something unforgettable that plagued him throughout the novel. As the reader discovers later on in the book, Miro is not the only character stricken by something from their past and I found it touching to see how each character coped, having to live with an overbearing, emotional event from the past.

The People We Were Before is a brave and beautiful novel and one that will stay with me. It has depth in its emotions and with this, Annabelle makes you believe in every word she has written and whether the dynamics are romantic, war-ridden or otherwise, you feel every single emotion for the characters and come the end I was just a wreck because I felt like as the reader, I’d gone through every single moment with these characters who were faced with living a life set in an horrendous time. It’s an extraordinarily powerful debut and I’m looking forward to more to come from the author.

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