#BlogTour The Way From Here – Jane Turner

Four friends. A lifetime of choices. What comes next?

Kate had been so busy making a place in the world for her daughters, she had somehow forgotten to take care of herself.
The life she’d ended up with was not the life she’d planned. Everything was…a compromise.

When Kate’s younger daughter Ella goes off to university, she realises her life has become consumed by the minutiae of family life. In her ’empty nest’, Kate starts to wonder: what now? Decades after abandoning her university hobby of rowing, Kate gingerly joins a local ladies rowing team and rediscovers her passion for the pleasing rhythmic sensation of paddle slicing through water.

More than anything, though, Kate finds that the team of strong women bring new adventures and unlikely friendships she hadn’t even realised she missed having… A life-affirming, uplifting story about eight fifty-something women who are all asking the same question about what is next in life for them – and starting to discover the answer together.

I am delighted to be taking part in the #blogtour for The Way From Here. This story features many women who have, in some senses, lost their way in life with age. We begin by meeting Kate. Her girls have grown up and left home and suddenly she finds that there is a lot of emptiness in the house and in her life in general. Inspired by a chance sighting of a crew rowing along the River Wear, Kate is inspired to try her hand at rowing again. After all she used to enjoy it and it’s a great way to exercise and get outdoors. Her local rowing club aren’t necessarily completely unfriendly but Kate is much older than many of the women she rows with and so isn’t entirely welcomed with open arms. She finds her renewed enthusiasm dampened until she meets Beth. It’s a running joke, or perhaps irritation, that Beth is never on time, but as the cox, the ladies can’t really do much without her. She sees something in Kate and the two develop a close friendship. In time they decide to try and reach out and encourage other ex-rowers to rejoin the boat club and remind themselves of what they loved about the sport and the camaraderie. This is easier said than done and obstacles come in many different guises, some anticipated and some disappointingly from those who should be encouraging them.

The Way From Here is an uplifting read despite some slightly darker moments. I’m a little younger than the main characters but I found it brought me a real sense of nostalgia as I read. I used to row at university and I really miss the fun, and even the hard work from training, as well as the peace and contemplative time whilst out on the river. The first few chapters feature a fair amount of technical detail about rowing but don’t be put off by this if you aren’t necessarily a fan of the sport in itself. I think it is helpful as if you’ve never been part of a crew then some of the terms might be a bit confusing otherwise. I liked how Jane highlights different terms and uses them as chapter headers with a brief description. I think little touches like these make a book stand out from others. I have mentioned a lot about rowing and obviously the story does centre around this as an activity. However, the themes of growing older and maintaining identify as well as agism, misogyny and mental health all feature strongly. Arguably the book could feature women doing any team sport and these themes could still shine through. It gave me a lot to think about as a woman with a young child. The time races past before you see it going and striking the balance between being a mum, a doctor, a wife, a friend and just a person without a label is so tricky. I think the storyline will resonate most with readers with a bit of life experience behind them. I am very much not suggesting old despite the previous sentence looking very much like a euphemism! What I mean is that you need to have lived a little to really be able to look at how life is panning out compared to what you thought it might as a child or young adult.

I think The Way From Here is very nicely written and brings to life some lovely characters who might not get a look in in other novels. It addresses some difficult topics but is never too heavy; there is enough to give you something to ponder on but I felt happy and somewhat inspired when I finished.

About Jane Turner: Jane Turner was once an international business woman. These days when she isn’t writing, Jane is to be found playing tennis or attempting to train her springer spaniel. She lives in Somerset.

#BlogTour The Daughter – Liz Webb

Hannah Davidson has a dementia-stricken father, an estranged TV star brother, and a
mother whose death opened up hidden fault lines beneath the surface of their ordinary family life.

At 37 years old, Hannah is losing her grip on both her drinking and a cache of shameful secrets. Now the spitting image of her mother Jen Davidson, and the same age she was when she died, Hannah is determined to uncover exactly what happened to her mum, but soon the boundaries between Hannah and her mother become fatally blurred.

An intriguing leading character, a unique dark quirky voice and a tense twisty plot that keeps you guessing, make this an absorbing and compulsive read. A dark, quirky thriller perfect for fans of Elizabeth is Missing and The Woman in the Window.

I have thoroughly enjoyed The Daughter, the debut novel from Liz Webb. Families are seldom straightforward and there are generally lots of private issues hidden carefully behind closed doors, locked to stop peeping eyes seeing. The Davidson’s may have a more colourful and traumatic past than most but I think we can all relate to the themes around secrets and complex relationships, directly or otherwise.

Hannah is our main character and she is tricky but very interesting woman. We meet her in the hospital visiting after her dad has been admitted. His dementia makes his lucidity fluctuating. Early on we discover that all may not be well within their family history. Hannah’s mum was found dead when she was only 37 and that has torn their family apart, splitting loyalties between her and her brother. As a result they haven’t been close for half a lifetime but given her fathers declining heath she wants things to change. Reece has gone ahead and made a successful career for herself whereas Hannah isn’t really going anywhere with hers. She has returned home with mixed intent – on the surface she presents herself as a good and caring daughter who is taking up the role of carer. But there’s always a lot more hidden if you scratch the surface even a little. Hannah wants to get to the bottom of her mothers death; at any cost!

Hannah is a really complex character. She has had a lot of difficult and traumatic events to deal with and I think it’s quite understandable that she struggles at times as an adult. I liked how we got a chance to see how these events affected her and Reece and how they continue to do so decades later. Hannah makes some unusual and perhaps alarming decisions and she is most definitely an interesting person to follow. I couldn’t help but like her and feel invested in her journey despite her flaws and unusual behaviours at times.

The Daughter is a great read which will keep your mind working and keep you guessing as you read. The cast is small which lets you get to know them and whilst you wouldn’t perhaps want to befriend them they definitely make for good, page turning, reading. A brilliant debut and I look forward to seeing what Liz writes next!

About Liz Webb: Liz Webb originally trained as a classical ballet dancer but had to give up following a back injury. She then worked as a secretary at the British Library whilst going to night school at the City Lit to get into Oxford University age 23. After graduating, she worked as a stationery shop manager, an art model, a cocktail waitress, stand-up comic, voice-over artist, script-editor, and radio drama producer before becoming a novelist.

Liz Webb was a stand-up comic for ten years performing at clubs across the UK and
at festivals in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leicester and Cardiff. At the same time, she
worked as a voice-over artist voicing many TV ad campaigns including The Times,
Kellogg’s Just Right cereal and Organics hair products. She also worked for fourteen years as a prolific radio drama producer for the BBC and independent radio production companies.

Liz lives in North London with her husband, son and serial killer cat Freddie. Follow
Liz on Twitter @lizwebbauthor

#BlogTour May God Forgive – Alan Parks

Glasgow is a city in mourning. An arson attack on a Royston hairdresser’s has left five women and children dead, and a community reeling. People, more used to turning a blind eye to criminality, erupt now with rage.

When three youths are charged with the crime, an angry mob gathers outside the courthouse, the prisoners are snatched from a police van and disappear. Days later the body of one is found with a note attached to his mutilated body – ‘One down, two to go’.

Detective Harry McCoy comes from these streets; his feral childhood battling to survive on them still haunts him years on. But it also gives him an insight into the soul of Royston and the people who control it. Time is ticking, and Harry must confront his own past and figures that haunt him still to prevent another body being found on its mean streets.

Every year I look forward to the next instalment in the Harry McCoy series of books. I love this character, he manages to walk a line between being on the side of the ‘good guys’ yet being able to relate to and engage with those who find themselves on the other side of the law. After the elation of the latest story then there is the sobering thought that another year needs to pass before we find out what’s next!

If you haven’t yet read any Alan Parks but you enjoy crime writing with plenty of wit and some dry humour then this may well be the author for you. Go back and start at Bloody January and throw yourself into 1970s Glasgow. If you don’t want to go all the way to the beginning, May God Forgive can definitely be enjoyed as a stand alone story so don’t let that put you off at all.

Harry McCoy is a detective who doesn’t necessarily work ‘by the book’ but finds his own way of getting things done and unpicking puzzles in a less conventional manner than other officers might. He has a past and this allows him to get information and move cases forward in ways that others would definitely struggle to achieve. He is funny and can be cutting when required. He is loyal but his respect needs to be earned and won’t be bestowed on someone just because of their rank or title. I think he is great!

May God Forgive starts with a bang and invites the reader into an usual and tragic case where arson leads to loss of live of innocent women and children. Something doesn’t seem quite right but almost before this can be considered, a chain of events begin which keeps the police on their toes and gives Harry a headache to mull over. There are plenty of old favourites from previous stories and whilst it is a thriller, there is something very comforting about checking in with Wattie, Mary and Cooper amongst others. A brilliant fifth instalment – please can we have the next one very soon!?

About Alan Parks: Alan Parks captures the dark beating heart of 70s Glasgow in his highly acclaimed Harry McCoy series. Parks has spent most of his working life dealing with the production of images for Musical Artists, as Creative Director at London Records in the mid 1990’s then at Warner Music. From cover artwork to videos to photo sessions, he created ground-breaking, impactful campaigns for a wide range of artists including All Saints, New Order, The Streets, Gnarls Barclay and Cee Lo Green. He was also Managing Director of 679 Recordings, a joint venture with Warner Music. For the past few years he has worked as an independent visual and marketing consultant.

Alan was born in Scotland and attended The University of Glasgow where he was awarded a M.A. in Moral Philosophy. He still lives and works in the city as well as spending time in London.

#BlogTour After Dark – Jayne Cowie

WELCOME TO A WORLD WHERE WOMEN HOLD THE POWER.

They dominate workplaces, public spaces and government. They are no longer afraid to cross a dark car park, catch the last train, or walk home alone.


With the Curfew law in place, all men are electronically tagged and must stay at home after 7pm. It changed things for the better. Until now.


A woman is murdered late at night and evidence suggests she knew her attacker. It couldn’t have been a man because a Curfew tag is a solid alibi … Isn’t it?

I think After Dark is an inspired novel! It taps into current events and weaves an engaging and incredibly thought provoking story. This is most definitely a book that I NEED to talk to others about because there are just so many threads which could and should be discussed. The story is told through the eyes of Sarah, Cass and Pamela. They live in an era where men are now subjected to a curfew and must be indoors overnight and are tagged to ensure compliance. Sarah works as a ‘tagger’ and is passionate about her job having lived an ordeal with her ex-husband who is now in jail for breaking curfew. Cass is her daughter and is a passionate opponent against the curfew laws. She is devastated that her dad was jailed and her relationship with Sarah is under significant strain. Pamela is a long standing police woman who is approaching retirement. She has to deal with a gruesome murder which forces her to make choices between doing what is right or what is seen to be right. Having multiple perspectives really allows you to build a three dimensional idea of what life for these women is like.

Cass comes across as quite immature and naive in her thinking. Although, in saying that, I think her questioning and open mind is a positive attribute and I feel like I judge her harshly without being able to fully put myself in the position of a teenage girl who has had recent familial disruption. I can identify with her feelings of loyalty to her dad and in some respects with her clashing with her mum over seemingly unimportant matters. Sarah is a difficult character – I wanted to like her more than I did and I very much empathised with her struggles as a parent. She is navigating a lot of new roles: single mother, new job, divorce – all of which are stressful! I don’t think her choices are always great but I respected that she makes the best ones for her at the time. Pamela was probably my favourite character. We see her in the present day whereas we look further back through Sarah and Cass’ chapters.

It’s a little tricky to review certain aspects of After Dark as part of the joy of reading this book will be in not knowing what is coming. There are aspects which are quite intense and it is definitely a book I struggled to put down. This book really made me question some of my own beliefs and opinions and I’m still not certain that I have reached a conclusion about what I really think. I will be pondering on this for some time! There will be a lot for book groups to mull over and debate so I think this would be a brilliant choice for groups wanting something potentially controversial which will hook them in from the beginning. I highly recommend – well worth a read!

About Jayne Cowie: An avid reader and life-long writer, Jayne Cowie also enjoys
digging in her garden and makes an excellent devil’s food cake. She lives near London with her family. You can find her on Instagram as @CowieJayne

#BlogTour Sister Stardust – Jane Green

In her first novel inspired by a true story, New York Times bestselling author Jane Green re- imagines the glamorous and tragic life of fashion icon and socialite Talitha Getty, for fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid and Paula McClain.

Claire grew up in a small town, far from the glitz and glamour of London. Ridiculed by her stepmother Linda, and harboring a painful crush on her brother’s best friend, she has begun to outgrow the life laid out before her.

On the cusp of adulthood in the late 1960s,
Claire yearns for the adventure and independence of a counter-culture taking root across the world. One day a chance encounter leads to an unexpected opportunity. Whispers of a palace in Morocco. A getaway where famous artists, models, fashion designers and musicians–even the Rolling Stones– have been known to visit.

When Claire arrives in Marrakesh, she’s swept up in a heady world of music, drugs and communal living. But one magnetic young woman seems to hold sway over the entire scene. Talitha Getty, socialite wife of the famous oil heir, has pulled everyone from Yves Saint Laurent to Marianne Faithfull into her orbit. Yet when she meets Claire, the pair instantly connect. As they grow closer, and the inner circle tightens, the realities of Talitha’s precarious life set off a chain of dangerous events that could alter Claire’s life forever.

Bestselling author Jane Green’s first work of biographical fiction breathes new life into a complicated fashion icon and the tumultuous world she inhabited. Page-turning, lush and luminously drawn, Sister Stardust is a transporting journey through a forgotten chapter of the swinging 60s by a beloved writer at the top of her game.

I really like Jane Green and have previously enjoyed her work so was very keen to read Sister Stardust her latest novel. I have always been amused by the expression “if you remember the 60s then you weren’t there” as if neatly encapsulates an era where anything went, there was a lot more room for self expression and exploration and people who lived it seem to have endless stories of a seemingly happier time. Of course this doesn’t at all reflect the experience of all but it is a decade which has a lot of sparkle attached. I think Jane really brings out the almost magical qualities of the era and whilst there are certainly aspects which are not positive, the overall

Sister Stardust tells the story of Talitha Getty and brings the reader into her world of glamour, glitz and non stop parties. Claire finds herself in this world after a difficult time in England, clashing with her stepmother and having the heartache of unrequited love to contend with. I loved the merging of reality with some fiction, it made the story really stand out from others in a similar time period. I think this will give the book a fairly broad appeal and would be a good bet for a gift for a bookish friend who wants something a little different.

Sister Stardust is described as a read for fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid and I wholeheartedly agree. The style of writing and structure of the storyline really appealed to me – it’s a delicious way to spend an afternoon (or indeed any time of day) reading and made me feel totally immersed.

#BlogTour The Patient – Jane Shemilt

She is his doctor.

He will be her downfall.

When Rachel meets Luc, the attraction is instant. But she is a doctor, and he is her patient.

She gives him the drugs he needs – but in doing so, risks everything. And when a secret is exposed, they’re both in the firing line.
Not all patients are telling the truth.

The Patient is a thriller which eases the reader in gently then starts to increase in intensity, building right until the very end. Rachel is our main character. She’s a GP with an adult daughter and a safe but slightly repetitive marriage. Her relationship with her daughter has been strained by many years of having to put her career first at her families expense. Much as Rachel would like them to be close, Lizzie keeps her at arms length. Nathan is slowly working towards a promotion – he is a teacher and takes his job seriously. Over the years their relationship has become more functional than exciting and this frustrates Rachel in many ways. Work keeps her very busy and a chance return to her practice leads her to meet Luc, a young man struggling and who needs to see a doctor urgently. Despite the late hour, Rachel does her duty and sets the ball rolling towards an inappropriately close relationship.

I liked The Patient a lot as it kept me guessing and took some turns which I wasn’t expecting. I thought Rachel was a good character – she highlights some of the issues faced by women, particularly when travelling alone or in darker areas. Her decisions weren’t always wise and perhaps she should have paused and thought a little more but her lapses in judgment made her a human rather than an overworked robot. I could empathise with her for her workload and never ending list of tasks to do which interferes with family life. It was quite sobering reading about her relationship, or lack there of, with her grown up daughter. I hope that I’ll be able to avoid some of these pitfalls or at least be more aware of them. I liked that we saw her as a working woman who was doing her best but not always succeeding.

The Patient would be a great choice for a relatively short but quite addictive read. The chapters are short and, after the initial scene setting, the story moves at a decent pace. It’s definitely a book that can be read in one or two sittings but will give you a puzzle to solve as you read, making setting it down a struggle!

About Jane Shemilt: Jane Shemilt is an internationally acclaimed, bestselling author of psychological suspense novels. As a medical student studying psychiatry, Jane would hang around in the ward for hours listening to patients and their stories. Later, as a GP, she was struck by the number of her patients who faced mental illness and felt stigmatised by their experience. These conversations form the backdrop for The Patient.


The character of Rachel was born from Jane’s frustration with the limits placed on older women. She envisioned a character who decides to sidestep her responsibilities and prioritise her own desires. Given the opportunity, how many of us would dare to seize it?


Jane’s first novel, Daughter, was selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, shortlisted for the Edgar Award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and went on to become the bestselling debut novel of 2014.

#BlogTour What Eden Did Next – Sheila O’Flanagan

The heart-breaking, life-affirming and unforgettable new novel from the author of number one bestsellers including The Women Who Ran Away and The Missing Wife. Eden’s ready for a new start, putting the past behind her. But others have their own ideas of
what’s best for her…

Five years after the death of her firefighter husband, Eden knows better than anyone that life can change in an instant. Now, instead of the future she had planned with Andy, she has Lila – the daughter he never got the chance to meet. And instead of Andy, she has his family.
Then Eden meets someone. Someone she knew before Andy, before Lila, before the tragedy. Someone who reminds her of how she used to be. But Andy’s mother has other plans. And Eden is facing an impossible choice. One that could tear a family apart.

Honest and emotionally gripping, What Eden Did Next is a heart-warming, sometimes heart- breaking, yet ultimately joyful novel of love, loss – and finding your own way to happiness.

I love a Sheila O’Flanagan book – you know you’re going to get a very thoughtful and beautifully written story with characters you can believe are real people. What Eden Did Next is no exception to this. It is a really lovely book which I fell into immediately and felt very warmly towards the cast of characters. Eden is a lady who had been incredibly unlucky in many ways. I won’t go into it beyond what you’ve read in the blurb but she has suffered more than her fair share of personal tragedy and that she still gets up and functions is remarkable. She has a lovely daughter and supportive family and these help in some way to keeping her going. She works hard as a carer but has a talent for calligraphy and dabbles in this on the side. Her days are busy but she remains positive even when things are hard.

One of the patients that Eden looks after lives on a small housing development and this forms one of the centres of the novel. There are a few houses with a range of single folk and families and they are fairly close in some respects (neighbourhood WhatsApp groups and parties) and we get to meet quite a few of them at different parts. Sheila has included a little map at the beginning which is a nice detail to remind you who is who and get your bearings.

A new arrival opposite Elizabeth’s house gets one of the WhatsApp groups in a bit of a frenzy – a new man and his daughter have moved in. Everyone is desperate to know his story and perhaps get to know a little better than just surface chitchat! It turns out that Eden knows this man from childhood and it’s nice for her to rekindle and old friendship, particularly as their girls are similar in age. This sets the WhatsApp group on full gossip mode as people try to work out what the nature of their relationship is. I quite liked the glimpses into the neighbourly discussions that pop in and out of the main story!

What Eden Did Next is a brilliant read. It mixes a lot of relatable themes such as dealing with bereavement, moving on, parental guilt and imposter syndrome within a beautiful story which captured my heart. In some ways it’s not too taxing a read but there are some serious undertones which left me pondering on how I respond to situations. I think you can take from it as much or as little as you wish, probably depending on your own life circumstances. As a daughter brought up by a lone dad for many years of my life it certainly resonated with me and made me reflect upon my childhood!

About Sheila O’Flanagan: Sheila O’Flanagan is the author of nearly 30 bestselling novels including Three Weddings and a Proposal, The Women Who Ran Away, Her Husband’s Mistake, The Hideaway, The Missing Wife and All For You (winner of the Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book of the Year Award). She lives in Dublin with her husband. You can find more about her online http://www.sheilaoflanagan.com | @sheilaoflanagan Facebook.com/sheilabooks

#Extract Little Drummer – Kjell Ola Dahl

When a woman is found dead in her car in a Norwegian parking garage, everyone suspects an overdose … until a forensics report indicates that she was murdered. Oslo Detectives Frølich and Gunnarstranda discover that the victim’s Kenyan scientist boyfriend has disappeared, and their investigations soon lead them into the shady world of international pharmaceutical deals.

While Gunnarstranda closes in on the killers in Norway, Frølich and Lise, his new journalist ally, travel to Africa, where they make a series of shocking discoveries about exploitation and corruption in the distribution of foreign aid and essential HIV medications.

When tragedy unexpectedly strikes, all three investigators face incalculable danger, spanning two continents. And not everyone will make it out alive…

Exploding the confines of the Nordic Noir genre, Little Drummer is a sophisticated, fast-paced, international thriller with a searingly relevant, shocking premise that will keep you glued to the page.

It gives me great pleasure to be able to share with you an extract from Little Drummer by the fabulous Kjell Ola Dahl. The blurb sounds excellent and this little taster gives a little flavour of the story! Have a little read and see what you think…

TRANSFIXED

There were some situations Lise Fagernes hated: entering unfamiliar, enclosed spaces was one of them. It rekindled a feeling she had first experienced when she was eight years old. The children in her street had dug a cave in the huge pile of snow left by the ploughs. It was a long, narrow tunnel, so cramped that the snow pressed against your body as you wriggled through and out the other side. When it was her turn, some boys wanted to have a bit of fun. They had lain on their backs by the opening and kicked it full of compacted snow. That was all she could remember. Just the sense of heart-pounding panic. So, she always went to great lengths to control this panic, to keep it at bay. But fighting panic had become something she loathed. It made her feel weak and pathetic. It made her dread driving down into underground car parks. However, now, as she reached the building, she took a deep breath and braced herself. She came to a halt in front of the barrier, rolled down the window and took the ticket from the machine. She clung to the steering wheel as the barrier opened, and, feeling the sweat break out on her forehead, drove in with the window open, even though she could smell the stale air coming into the car. She breathed through her mouth and automatically switched off the radio when it lost the signal. Only when she had driven down to the lower floor and checked in the mirror that no one was behind her did she make the effort to wind up the window again. It was slow work because all her muscles were tense. She looked up. The digital signs on the ceiling flashed in orange to tell her this level was full and pointed downward.

Where are all the people? There wasn’t a living soul around, only tightly parked rows of empty cars. After manoeuvring her way around the third bend, she slowed down. Please don’t make me drive all the way down. Let there be a space here, right here. But there wasn’t. The arrows continued to flash downward. She was forced to continue, forced to pass car bonnet after car bonnet – another bend, the last, down to the lowest, emptiest level. She depressed the clutch pedal and let the car roll around the bend and down until it stopped on its own. Here, at the back of the dimly lit bottom level there were spaces. For a fraction of a second her mind was blocked: she wanted to turn around, drive back up, into the open air and away. She repressed her desperation and stared out: water was dripping from a vent in the ceiling; immense drops were hitting the windscreen, dissolving and running down to the wiper, obscuring her view with a blur. A flickering neon tube was sending blue and yellow light across the car roofs. The dashboard clock showed 09:52. She had eight minutes to make it to the interview. She reached back to take her mobile from her bag. Ring them and say you’re delayed. No. That would anger the man. A disgruntled interviewee makes for a bad feature. And all because you’re afraid to get out of your car in an empty car park. But why is there no one else here? She rammed the car into gear and manoeuvred her way into the nearest space.

Looking right, into the next car, she was startled to see a woman. The sight gave her such a shock it took her breath away, and she placed a hand on her chest. Relax, it’s only someone sitting in a car. Take it easy. She switched off the engine, turned round and grabbed her bag from the back seat. Fumbled inside until she found her lipstick. She took it out and craned her neck to see her reflection in the mirror, but stiffened when she saw the darkness behind her. What am I expecting to see?

Lise Fagernes breathed in, painted her lips red, checked the result and pressed her lips together as she opened the door and pushed it – a little too far. It hit the other vehicle. She squeezed out and closed the door. The echo resounded around the enormous lower floor. Relax. Once you’re around the bend you’ll see other people. You’ll meet all the others going to the shops or important meetings or …

About Kjell Ola Dahl: One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published thirteen novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

#BlogTour The Wildwater Women – Ellie Wood

Sometimes the best things in life happen when you dare to get out of your depth.

Abby lives and works in the heart of the Lake District. She splits her time between bringing up her daughter, working in the Plum Pie Bakery – and dreaming of the time before her husband, Ben, left.

Lori is on holiday from the States, hoping to find her way to the lake that she’s looked at for years in a picture on her wall back home.

Rebecca is contemplating taking the plunge too. Despite her immaculate appearance Rebecca is keeping quiet about a childhood trauma which has left her scared of the water.

Clarissa is the founder of The Wildwater Women. An all-year-round open-water swimming veteran, and with a fearsome manner, she knows the lakes like no one else and her boundless energy defies her years.

Four women, all from very different lives, all with reason to step into the water and wash away their past. But will the friendship they build be enough to keep them afloat when they each must face their fears?

The Wildwater Women is a lovely read set in the beautiful Lake District and focused on the lives of four women. As you’ll see from the blurb we have Abby, Lori, Rebecca and Clarissa as our central characters. You wouldn’t necessarily put them together as a group at a first glance. They are all quite different in background, character and life circumstances. There’s an element of mystery surrounding each one. There are hints and suggestions about what’s really going on under the surface they present but until we really get into the story, it isn’t spelled out for the reader. What brings these characters together is the joy of wild swimming. I must fess up that I really am not a particularly strong swimmer and whilst I do enjoy a few lengths up and down the pool or a dip in the sea on holiday, I’ve never ventured to attempt proper outdoor swimming. A few friends from work and uni do and it looks amazing, but I’ve always been wary. After reading this book I definitely want to give it a try! I just need to find my tribe to go with!

I would describe this story as a gentle read with a big heart. There are times that you can anticipate what direction it will move in but I don’t see this as a negative quality. There are some very emotive topics and issues that the characters face in their day to day lives, many of which will be relatable to readers, and I found that they were covered in a considerate way. Without spoiling the story, one of the characters, Abby, is raising her daughter as a single mum. She goes through periods of mum guilt, battles to make work and childcare function and loss of individual identity. I am not a single mum but I could very much related to many of her struggles. I definitely felt that I warmed to these ladies because their issues could so easily be mine or those of a friend or family member. They felt real and I wanted them to be happy and move past the challenges holding them back. It’s a really heartwarming read which I enjoyed from start to finish. Beware though, you may find yourself googling the Lake District for your next holiday and having a little hunt for your closest wild swimming group!

#BlogTour The Former Boy Wonder – Robert Graham

It’s a rainy August in Manchester and music writer Peter Duffy’s life is falling apart. He’s knocking on fifty, his career is flatlining, his marriage is failing, and his teenage son barely speaks to him.

And then a friend from university days invites him to a party at the manor house where he met his first love, the dazzling Sanchia Page. All the old gang are going to be there, and although it’s a long shot, maybe she will, too, which wouldn’t be helpful. Or would it?

The Former Boy Wonder really made an impression on me in so many ways. Firstly the lead character is from Northern Ireland, not too far from where I grew up, so I had an instant connection. It is set “before my time” but the descriptions of life in Belfast made me smile and weirdly feel a little homesick and nostalgic for my childhood. The biggest thing for me was how much I really loved how the story was told. We see Peter as a child when his parents separate and we get a small glimpse at the impact this has at the time. We then get to look in at various points in his life from his early university days through to his current, unsatisfying life with his ailing marriage and difficult relationship with his son. We move back and forth through time and focus on some key moments. Peter is middle aged, much to his dismay, and it just feels like nothing has gone as he had expected. His career as a music journalist was amazing and he flew high and now it’s all but over, he is no longer sought after for fabulous trips writing about big stars. Work is coming in but not with the same prestige or remuneration. He has a teenage son who just doesn’t click with him and sees him as an embarrassment and seems to try to avoid saying a word to or spending any time together. This is made all the more infuriating by the easy way his wife communicates with their son. The relationship isn’t strained at all and they seem to enjoy each other’s company. A party invitation from an old friend sends Peter on a trip through his past to evaluate his choices and the trajectory his life has taken.

Although my personal circumstances are very different from Peter’s, this story tapped into a lot of themes which meant something to me. I love being a parent and my relationship with my child is easy and lovely now because she’s small. I fear the potential breakdown of this as teenage years approach and spending time with your parents isn’t going to be high on her priority list. I’ve grown up in a home where one parent left and over time the visits became less often and postponed and eventually stopped and I feel like I could relate to Peter in some ways. I wouldn’t consider myself to be middle aged at all but I can appreciate how time just marches on and suddenly what feels like yesterday was a decade ago and you sort of wonder where the time went. I worry about the future. Peter’s story delves into a lot of feelings that I have even though each individual situation is different. This possibly sounds a little maudlin and I don’t mean it to – there is a lot of humour throughout the book but perhaps today I am reflecting on the poignant moments a little more.

I think this book is brilliant and I urge anyone who wants a good character focused story to get a copy and give it a go.