Every Secret Thing – Rachel Crowther *BOOK TOUR*

I have a treat in store today, A question and answers session with Rachel Crowther, author of Every Secret Thing!

Summarize each character

The central characters are a close knit group who all sing together in a choir at university.

Marmion is described by one of the other characters as the group’s ‘moral compass’. She’s a Quaker, a very talented musician, fresh-faced and optimistic about life. She’s perhaps a little naïve and unwordly but she sees the good in everyone and is unstintingly kind.

Judith is the only daughter of two doctors from Bristol, strikingly beautiful and ferociously strong-minded. She describes herself as a ‘Jewish Hindu atheist’ and likes to think she doesn’t care about other people’s opinions or conventional morality.

Cressida comes from a wealthy family, the product of a famous girls’ boarding school who’d grown up with horses and brothers in the Home Counties. She is very clever and highly ambitious and dreams of becoming an academic at Cambridge, but she’s also spiky and full of self-doubt.

Bill comes from Birmingham, where his parents run a small hotel. Ginger-haired, bluff and self-deprecating, he’s the choir’s star tenor, a natural musician who is determined to escape from the confines of his family.

Stephen is perhaps the most complicated of the group: he’s tall and gangling and a little awkward, reluctant to talk about his family – his adoptive parents and disabled brother. He’s also the most ambitious of them, destined for a glittering career in international commerce.

Fay is the group’s shadowy benefactress, an older woman who takes them under her wing and gives them treats: dinners, concerts, and then a weekend in her cottage in the Lake District.

Explain who is your strongest character, in your eyes, and why? Who do you believe to be the most influential of the group? 

Judith is probably the one the others see as most powerful, because she’s very self-assured and outspoken and rather unconventional. They’re all a bit on awe of her. But Marmion has the most inner strength, and the others recognise that too. In fact they all have a lot of respect and admiration for each other, and in different ways they are all strong characters: Bill is a natural leader, Cressida is incredibly well-read and erudite, and Stephen’s sights are set well beyond the others’ horizons.

Why is the friendship so important?

The five characters have had a very close bond during three intense years at university, when singing in the choir together has been the most important thing in all their lives. To quote Marmion: ‘the thrill of singing with this group of people would never leave her. Making

something together, she thought in a moment of startling clarity, in the same way as sex, and with the same effect of rendering you completely alive.’

Later, the drama that overtakes them that summer in the Lake District overshadows all their lives, and although they go their separate ways for twenty years, those events and the destruction of their friendship is something that never quite leaves them, and in different ways holds them all back.

 
In a sentence explain how each character has changed with age. 

I don’t want to give too many spoilers here, so I’ll be cautious…! The short answer is that although they have all been more or less successful in life, they are all essentially unfulfilled at forty-ish. None of them have children, and none of them have very successful relationships. They are all drawn back to the cottage they visited with Fay that summer in 1995 because they are looking for resolution and redemption, and hoping for something better from the future.


What does ‘Every Secret Thing’ mean to you?

The setting – both the Cambridge choir and the Lake District – are drawn from my own life, and both are really important to me, so the novel was very enjoyable (and rather nostalgic) to write. But all the characters, and what happens to them, are entirely fictional, so it was also exciting to find out what became of them all as the novel took shape, and I became very fond of them all.

I guess the question of fresh starts and new possibilities in mid life is also close to my heart: I was about the age of these characters when I started writing and began to move away from medicine, and I do believe strongly that people can take stock, rethink what they want and remake their lives at forty or fifty or even sixty.

Eveyln After – Victoria Helen Stone

Evelyn Tester is sleepwalking through her suburban life—until a late-night phone call startles her awake. Her husband, a prestigious psychiatrist, has been in an accident. And he isn’t alone.

Suddenly Evelyn’s world isn’t as tidy as she thought. And in the midst of it all is Juliette, not only her husband’s secret lover but also his patient. If news of the affair were to get out, it would ruin more than just Evelyn’s marriage. Although it’s a bitter pill for Evelyn to swallow, protecting her family means staying silent—even if, as she begins to discover, the night of the accident has consequences far more dangerous than the unmasking of an affair.

But the more Evelyn learns about Juliette’s picture-perfect life—complete with a handsome, unsuspecting husband—the more she yearns for revenge…and satisfaction. Her growing obsession fuels her rage, burning away her complacency. What will be left of her after it flames out?

I REALLY enjoyed this book. I loved the journey Stone took the reader on, full of intrigue, betrayal and passion.

I found myself completely enthralled and drawn into the story.

The prose, the writing and storyline were magnificent, how we heard a before and after point of view really strengthen the story and kept the reader engaged. I was constantly rooting for Evelyn, even when she was in the wrong. I cheer on Evelyn even in her wrong doings which throughout all she had been reborn and found a newer more confident version of herself loving and appreciating her womanly drive once again, albeit from the wrong situation but regardless she is on fire and thriving. It is so easy to become lost and insignificant as the years drift by.

My favourite character was most certainly Evelyn but I must say I adored Noah.

The connection between the two is delicious and the antics they got up to even more so, I wanted a happy ending, I desperately wanted them to be. Noah is the man Gary can never be and would never even try to be. Evelyn deserved Noah and they both deserved happiness.

What I found the most interesting aspect is that the control her husband held was crippling yet Evelyn had no idea how much so until her world was shattered by his betrayal. Her journey begins with the night when she is jolted from sleep to come to the rescue and from there how he lies to cover his tracks. Evelyn has a lot to discover.

I also very much appreciated the artistic aspect of the story, giving it an extra depth and providing a further connection.

Evelyn After for me was a brilliant story, and originally presented with an air of suspense where the reader has no idea how things will end up. It discusses long-standing relationships, marriage, aging insecurities and the relationships with children. It leaves bare that not everyone is as happy as they portray to be to the outside world.

 

An Off-Piste Christmas – Julie Houston


The last thing Harriet Westmoreland wants is Christmas away from home, particularly when skiing, snow, heights and freezing her backside off are on the menu. While her own family, together with her best friend Grace’s, are soon whizzing down ridiculously high and scary mountains in the fashionable Italian resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Harriet is stuck in the remedial class on the nursery slopes unable, it seems, to remain vertical.

Tired of trying to stay upright in the dunces’ class, Harriet decides to overcome her fear of heights and take her bruised body off to explore the refugios in the magnificent Dolomites above Cortina. And maybe catch a glance of George Clooney, rumoured to be in town… But what happens next triggers a totally unexpected avalanche of events which proves that, for friends Harriet and Grace and all their families, Christmas really is a time for little miracles…

This was the first Christmas read of the season for me and not my usual genre either.

I absolutely adored this grab your attention festive novella and giggled my way through from one page to the next!

I loved the lighthearted way it was written especially about subjects not very lighthearted and maybe even close to home for some. The humour that rolled off the pages, softening the reality of heartfelt situations was very well-played and added that extra joviality to the storyline bringing the characters to life.

This was the first story I have read by Houston with this being the first introduction to the characters but how they shone, bold and bright from the pages.

Very well-developed and loveable, with those who were not so loveable being realistic and dramatic, over the top if you will, yet you can sympathise and laugh hoping you never find yourself in one of those situations and certainly not with those people. At some point in our lives it is inevitable we will!

There were very real aspects of the story that struck a chord with me. The mother – daughter relationship and the spilling of home truths, the feelings about the marriage of Nick and Harriet and the standing up to the overbearing mother and saying your piece! that I especially enjoyed.

The very best thing for me was that this Christmas story was a realistic read, not a soppy rom com affair with a fairytale ending

It felt real and relatable, crazy, manic and a little off the wall but all in such a great way. Thoroughly enjoyable and a superb little read to get you ready for Christmas.

Moondance – Diane Chandler *BOOK TOUR*

Today is my turn for hosting the book tour for Moondance by Diane Chandler. I am delighted to feature her here.

IVF could create a baby but could it also destroy a marriage?

Cat has always been in control of her life. Happily married to Dom, but flying high as a political lobbyist, she dismisses his desire to start a family … until she herself is ready.

But what if it is then too late?


Complex and selfish, intelligent and open, if she is to succeed in having that elusive child, Cat must battle through gruelling fertility treatment and the emotional strain it places on her marriage. By her side, Dom, easygoing and ever the optimist, finds that he too risks being run ragged by their journey.

Both are forced to come to terms with their longing for a baby against the blitz on a relationship tested like never before.

Bittersweet, at times funny, and always emotionally raw, this is by far the most moving and honest novel you’ll ever read about IVF and its impact on a marriage.

This book is utterly beautiful. Raw, honest and totally open. We feel the emotional journey that Cat is on, we feel every disappointment, suffer her pain and cry along with her.

Cat is a remarkable woman with an iron drive who has so much love for the elusive baby she so desperately wants to create.

Reading Moondance made me reflect on my own pregnancies, making me cherish how lucky I was to naturally conceive, which sometimes I think can be taken for granted, It also a very and honest and open insight to the whole procedure of IVF and what couples really do go through from start to finish showing the complexity and heartbreak of the journey behind closed doors.

The journey itself is an emotional bind with so much to do in preparation and so much waiting and hoping for a positive outcome. Cat was a very resilient character indeed.

I was especially interested in how the IVF process affected her husband. It was very interesting to hear from the male perspective and learn about his discomforts and feelings within the journey too. He played a strong character and even though he didn’t behave as the reader would naturally expect he was still a likeable soul.

Moondance is a wonderful, yet emotional, read with a ‘real’ plotline and an excellent storyline.

The characters feel real and together tell their amazing story. I congratulate Chandler on such an excellent read.

The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir – Lesley Allen *BOOK TOUR*

A stark but uplifting story of bullying and redemption, for anyone who’s ever been a weirdo.

Almost too terrified to grip the phone, Biddy Weir calls a daytime television show.

The subject is bullying, and Biddy has a story to tell.

Abandoned by her mother as a baby, Biddy lives in her own little world, happy to pass her time watching the birds – until Alison Fleming joins her school.

Popular and beautiful, but with a dangerous, malevolent streak, Alison quickly secures the admiration of her fellow students. All except one. And Alison doesn’t take kindly to people who don’t fit her mould . . .

A story of abuse and survival, of falling down and of starting again, and of one woman’s battle to learn to love herself for who she is, The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is Lesley Allen’s startlingly honest debut novel, perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman and Julie Cohen.

The most frightening revelation of this novel is that for someone to describe so accurately the deep-rooted level of such harsh bullying must have endured it themselves.

Lesley Allen has written a heart breaking emotive novel, with such talented writing you engage with and react to, the tales so horrific you cry for Biddy as you witness her misunderstanding and confusion around her situation and feel her pain she consumes on a daily basis.

Before Alison Flemming Biddy lived in her own existence ignorant to being different and so very unique.

The experiences bestowed upon Biddy are harsh with the naivety and vulnerability of Biddy being abused.  Her innocence is overwhelming and the reality of it is that the situation she finds herself trapped within is none of her own doing.

During parts of the story I got angry, throwing the book down and shouting outloud ‘how could they’ at my family, I was incensed that the people who could help turned a blind eye and those who tried became penalised for wanting to make a difference. Alison Flemming needed her comeuppance years before it was finally received.

I had an Alison Flemming in my childhood, my Alison came in many types and different forms and at times, even now, still raises her ugly head. Confidence is a brittle thing, something so easy to shatter instantly, after taking the slow journey years upon years to construct and build a strong place, only to be destroyed by some bitter individual with a harsh tongue and jealous approach.

Why are the Alison Flemming of the worlds be allowed to exist, what can they offer other than cruel destruction, misery, pain and fear?

I understood Biddy’s pain, I cried her hot tears and felt that lump in her throat she so desperately wanted to swallow. I know what it feels like to be stood invisible in a room surrounded by Alison Flemming clones and cronies and for those of authority to turn away, close their eyes or join the parade. All those times hearing the same repetitive drivel of ‘they are only jealous’ or ‘they feel threatened’ yet they break you to the point of worthlessness and fail to understand how someone could be jealous of the insignificant husk of a person you have now become after being brainwashed over decades of you pathetic existence.

Yes I understand Biddy all too well and nobody deserves to be treated in such a way.

The anger I felt was real, that old enemy of frustration reared his ugly head once again, never doing me any favours, and tying me in knots as I read page upon page of relentless bullying from some nasty piece of work who deserved a very hard smack.

Biddy’s life is not always so lonely, we are introduced to Terri, who is the guardian angel that Biddy needs.

The relationship slowly developes and grows over time, fragmented and disjointed but worthy of the invested time spent in the end. Terri is Biddy’s saviour, the one to teach her how to appreciate herself, believe in herself and undo the many years of brainwashing she had so frequently received.

The final chapter had me in tears, covered in goosebumps and with every hair standing on end.

I made a disgrace of myself on public transport but for Biddy it was worth it. She became my hero.

This is an excellent book, a very poignant story and very real. It is emotive and thought-provoking and uncomfortable at times but very worthy of your interest. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

From the Author; Living with the Character

My novel is about a girl who is mercilessly bullied from the age of ten until a catastrophic event removes her from the grip of her bullies five years later. Biddy is a loner. She gazes at the world from the outside in, observing life from a distance, but not actively participating in it. Her mother abandoned her, her father is a social recluse, she has no friends, and she lives in fear of Alison Flemming, the girl who bullies her on a daily basis.

I, on the other hand, have an amazing family, a wealth of wonderful friends, and live a busy, active, full-on life. And I have never been bullied, at least not in the way that Biddy is. Not even close. Oh, over the years, I’ve encountered many an Alison-type character, experienced intimidation in the workplace, and was frequently teased as a child because of my curly hair. But that’s the height of it.

Many people who read the book ask if Biddy is me. She isn’t. In fact, our curly hair is the only thing we have in common. But sometimes I feel that I know Biddy better than I know myself. I’ve lived with her inside my head for many years now, ever since she popped up in a short story and quietly, but firmly, demanded my attention. It took me a long time to tease her story out, but that’s how Biddy is.

We’ve been through a lot together: financial pressures, two house moves, the death of my father, the on-going fall-out from the breakup of my marriage, and, most notably for Biddy, a publication false-start when a deal I received for the book eight years ago fell through at the eleventh hour. She tolerated my apathy during the times when, poleaxed by grief after losing my dad and floored by the collapse of the first publishing deal, I thought I would never write again. She didn’t complain when I set her aside and began to slowly write some other material, and she welcomed me with open arms when I decided to tweak her story, and try again. And when I was at the lowest point in my life following my marriage breakup, she gave me back my dream of publication, just when I needed it most.

Since the day we heard that Twenty7 Books were going to publish the book, Biddy has been a permanent feature in my life. I talk about her daily, I write about her, I even find myself talking to her sometimes! She has changed my life, and I’m elated that this time, the publication ending has been a happy one. The day I held the book in my hand for the first time was the second best day of my life – the first belongs to my 18-year-old baby girl. And now my book baby has taken flight. Biddy’s story is finally out there for the readers of the world to make of what they will. It’s a nerve wrecking time! I hope they like her. Actually, I hope they love her just as much as I do.

 

 

Don’t You Cry – Mary Kubica

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.  

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under Pearl’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.

I adore the work of Mary Kubica, my favourite was always Good Girl, for being so different yet this, Don’t You Cry won hands down!

Just before starting this book I read a review that stated not much had happened yet the story was keeping him hooked. It was the writing, I totally agreed because even though there wasn’t a fast pace hanging on the edge of your seat beginning there was something so very hypnotic and seductive in the writing that held me captive and left me hanging onto every word.

I was enthralled by Dont You Cry with time standing still as I read page by page becoming deeper submerged under its spell

The characters made this story for me. Two stories of two different lives all joined together. Even those who only play the minor parts, the sub characters if you will, are strong and meaningful within the story. Alex Gallo appealed to me more than anyone. His heart warm and nature caring and such a beautiful boy. His relationship with Ingrid is so heart warming and how without the knowledge of doing so they continue to support each other, look out for each other and understand what it feels like to be lonely.

This soothing tale wraps itself around you joining you on the journey to find Esther whilst at the same time treads carefully along the eggshells of the life that Alex leads and his mysterious companion the lady he nicknames Pearl. As thought patterns are pulled this way and that the story changes yet again and just as you think you have worked it all out…you realise you were wrong all along.

This isn’t a book of red herrings, it doesn’t lead you to suspect individuals it sends you on a journey of companionship, friendship, self discovery and the powerful emotion of unconditional love and what you would do to protect that love.

Certainly a ‘keeper’ a ‘must read’ and a definite ‘recommend’ read this book and allow it to seep into your pores, absorb into your blood stream and savour the story thereafter.

A beautifully written novel with an excellent, unforeseen conclusion and a cast of perfectly developed characters.

This book certainly makes my top ten for 2016. Such a remarkable one that it is.

The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain

Heroic bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street. There’s nothing in the bag to indicate who it belongs to, although there’s all sorts of other things in it. Laurent feels a strong impulse to find the owner and tries to puzzle together who she might be from the contents of the bag. Especially a red notebook with her jottings, which really makes him want to meet her. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?

 

Oh this book was incredibly beautiful and such an addictive story so much so I devoured it in a few hours.

Laurain takes us on a journey of one man trying to find his soul mate without even realizing he is looking. He happened upon a handbag and in the knowledge that it seems out of place he decides to do the best thing and return it to the rightful owner and so his journey begins…

Laurent is the main character of this story, he is portrayed as such a wonderful man and clearly a romantic at heart, if the people of the world possessed just a tiny amount of his personality a happier place it would certainly be.

Laure is the owner of the mulberry coloured expensive handbag enclosing her worldly possessions encased inside, the unfortunate woman who has her bag stolen which results in a stay away from home minus the bag and belongings.

As the story unfolds I found myself silently willing a happy ending, I’m a big believer in fate and these characters needed to be together but as their journey progresses events and circumstances shift and change and I began to lose hope!

A beautifully written love story with a sense of doing the right thing and setting high standards and loyal friendship. Loved this delicious tale from start to finish and really pleased to hear that the film rights have been bought.

I will certainly look out for further works by Antoine Laurain.