Dot Scribbles


Book Review: Before I Go by CoLleen Oakley

Her time is running out.
How can Daisy ensure that Jack will live happily ever after?
On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant 'Cancerversay' with her husband Jack to celebrate three years of good health, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it's terminal.
Death is a frightening prospect- but not because she's afraid for herself. Terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but charmingly helpless husband when she's no longer there to take care of him, she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife.
With a singular determination, Daisy searches for Jack's perfect match. But as the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy is forced to decide what's more important in the short amount of time she has left, her husband's happiness or her own?

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 320

This book is heartbreaking but such an interesting read. I have read a few books where the main character is dying from Cancer but I think this one is the most honest.
Daisy is due to celebrate being clear of cancer for three years when her oncologist delivers the awful news that her cancer has returned and it is terminal. Her life expectancy has been reduced to months and there is nothing she can do. Daisy focuses on her husband Jack and what will happen to him once she has gone. She decides that she needs to find him a new wife so that he won't be on his own. But is she really strong enough to find her own replacement and what if Jack ends up loving someone more than her?
I really like Daisy and she goes through so, so much in this book. As you would expect, her emotions are all over the place; anger, sadness, relief, jealousy are just a few that are explored. There were times that I wanted to shout at her to just enjoy the time that she has left instead of looking for Jack's new wife. But then I had to think how I would react in that situation, knowing you only have a few months left to cram in as much as you can.
I couldn't dislike Jack as he was sc
arily like my own husband. I think it's a shame in a way that we only get the one chapter from Jack's perspective as it would have been interesting to read more about his reactions to Daisy's behaviour and illness.
Colleen Oakley doesn't hold back too much on the physical effects of Daisy's cancer and it's obvious that this book has been meticulously researched. She does not bog you down with detail but instead shows you the procedures and medications that Daisy has to endure and how they affect her.
This book is obviously incredibly sad but I have to say that I was very impressed by the level of humour that the author included in the book. The funny moments mainly occurred between Daisy and Jack but they were entirely believable and much needed.
Before I Go is a book that will make you think about how you would behave in such a situation. But more importantly it makes you take stock of how lucky you are and how that can be taken away so quickly.
Colleen Oakley has written a very interesting, highly emotive debut novel and I was very impressed.

Many thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending me a review copy, Before I Go is out now! 


Book Review: Love at First Flight by Tess Woods

Looking back at it now, I can see it was instant.
The second we locked eyes. Boom. Just like that.
The Me I had spent a lifetime perfecting began its disintegration from that moment. And despite the carnage it brought to all our lives, I still don't regret it.
What would you risk to be with the love of your life? And what if your soul mate is the one who will destroy you?
Mel is living the dream. She's a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, she meets Matt and her picture-perfect Stepford life unravels as she falls in love for the first time ever.
What begins as a flirty conversation between strangers quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with disastrous consequences neither Mel nor Matt could have seen coming. Mel's dream life turns into her worst nightmare. 

Publisher: Aus Impulse
Pages: 283

Tess Woods has written a very entertaining, sexy and thought-provoking debut in Love at First Flight. Mel is a happily married mother of two, working part-time as a GP. She is married to a very successful doctor and life couldn't be more perfect. That is until she meets Matt on board a flight to a weekend away with her best friend. They have an inst
ant connection and this leads her to question how happy she really is. When did her husband last pay her a compliment? When did they last have amazing sex? Matt is also taken, engaged and planning his wedding but he feels like his world has been turned upside down when he meets Mel, he can't get her out of his head.
It's pretty obvious form the blurb that Matt and Mel go on to have an affair. This is not a hearts and flowers ending though; the consequences of their actions are devastating. This, I wasn't expecting; when I started the book, I thought it might be a little predictable and I would be reading about them skipping off into the sunshine. Instead Tess Woods presents a very honest account of how individuals and families are affected by infidelity. I felt that she dealt with the situation very well, she doesn't set out wanting you to love her characters etc, she is just showing you how it is.
If I have one criticism of this book then it would be the front cover. In my opinion it looks a little whimsical which is why I was taken aback by the serious undertones in the book. You shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I think some may overlook this book as being a girlie, romantic read when in reality it is so much more.
Tess Woods is a new author to look out for and Love at First Flight is only £1.99 on Kindle at the moment so give her a go!

I read this book via NetGalley


Book Review: Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

1943, in the ruins of Blitzed London...
Stella Thorne and Dan Rosinski meet by chance and fall in love by accident. Theirs is a reluctant, unstoppable affair in which all the odds are stacked against them: she is newly married, and he is an American bomber pilot whose chance of survival is just one in five.
He promised to love her forever...
Sixty years later Dan makes one final attempt to find the girl he has never forgotten, and sends a letter to the house where they shared a brief yet perfect happiness. But Stella has gone, and the letter is opened by Jess, a young girl hiding from problems of her own. And as Jess reads Dan's words she is captivated by the story of a love affair that burned so bright and dimmed too soon. Can she help Dan find Stella before it's too late?

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 546

You have to read this book! With a job, stressed husband and a demanding three year old, it is rare nowadays that I stay up until the early hours reading but I simply had to with this book as it was impossible to put down.
I kept on seeing Letters to the Lost popping up on blogs and in magazines and nobody had a bad word to say about it. I remembered that I had a review copy so decided to see what all the fuss was about.
Iona Grey has written a completely brilliant, beautiful, sweeping love story. The book flits between the early 1940s and 2011 and I loved both time periods.
Stella Thorne married Reverend Charles Thorne in 1942. She had been working as his housekeeper which was a huge opportunity after leaving the Poor School. It soon becomes apparent to Stella that their marriage is not to be full of the love and contentment that she had imagined. Charles only wants to spend time with his friend Peter and their wedding night is a disaster. Days after marrying, Charles reveals that he has signed up for the war and before she knows it, Stella's new husband has gone.
Stella, like many women during the war, struggles on and tries to make the most of it. On a trip to London with her friend Nancy, Stella meets American bomber Dan Rosinski and their attraction is instant. Stella falls in love with him and Dan promises that he will wait for her, no matter what happens in the war and her marriage to Charles.
In 2011, Jess Moran is squatting in a deserted house, hiding from her abusive boyfriend. A letter is delivered from Dan Rosinski  saying that he does not have long left and that he is desperate to find Stella; he has been waiting for her for over 60 years. Jess is intrigued and finds many more letters in the house between Stella and Dan; she is intrigued by their beautiful love story and determined to find out what happened to Stella, why didn't she wait for Dan? Jess is soon helped by Will Holt; he works for a firm placing heirs with lost estates and he comes across Jess when he is searching for Nancy Price who he believed was the owner of the house that Jess is squatting in. Will too becomes determined to find Stella and along the way he realises that he wants to help Jess too. He can see how hard her life has been and he wants more than anything to make her happy. As the story goes back and forth we learn more about Stella and Dan's relationship during the war and the circumstances which led to their estrangement.
Letters to the Lost is a book that will stay with me for a long time and I know that it is one I will re-read. The characters are just perfect; two believable and interesting female leads and two very genuine and lovable male characters.
So much is explored in this book; it was particularly interesting to read more about the position of women during the 1940's. Stella and Dan's relationship would have been very different if carried out now. I loved the mirroring of Will and Jess's relationship and I enjoyed reading about them as much as I did about Stella and Dan.
This book really is fabulous, the writing is beautiful and the plot expertly executed. Iona Grey has delivered an excellent debut and is very clearly one to watch out for.

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy. 


Book Review: The Girl Who Wouldn't Die by Marnie Riches

When a bomb explodes at the University of Amsterdam, aspiring criminologist Georgina McKenzie is asked by the police to help flush out the killer.
But the bomb is part of a much bigger, more sinister plot that will have the entire city quaking in fear.
And the killer has a very special part for George to play...
A thrilling race against time with a heroine you'll be rooting for, this book will keep you up all night!

Publisher: Maze
Pages: 326

I haven't read a lot of 'Euro Crime' but I think that Marnie Riches is definitely a new talent to look our for in this genre.
George McKenzie is on an exchange programme from Cambridge University when a bomb blows up the library at the university in Amsterdam where she is studying. The police, Detective Van Den Bergen in particular asks for George's help to find the killer. As a student of criminology she is fascinated by the case but as she delves further it becomes clear that the killer intended George to become involved from the very beginning.
The Girl Who Wouldn't Die packs a real punch; the pace is fast and the story lines gritty and realistic. I did like George's character, not that she's perfect but there's enough to like in order to find her believable. The relationship between her and Van Den Bergen is really interesting. You can feel the connection between the two characters but you do wander what each of them wants from the other one?
Marnie Riches does not shy away from the gory details; she very much tells it like it is. I did enjoy the occasional humorous parts of the book; they didn't feel forced and they took the edge off the tension occasionally.
I believe that there are two more books to follo
w this one; we learn a lot about George McKenzie in the first instalment but I would say there is much more about her that we don't know yet.
I thought Marnie Riches kept the momentum up throughout the book. There were a couple of occasions when I thought I had it all worked out, only to have my theory quashed by some new development in the plot. If you are looking for a refreshing read in this genre then check out Marnie Riches, I'm already excited about her next one.

Many thanks to the author for allowing me to review this book via Netgalley.


Book Review: The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell

Highgate Cemetery December 1907
In the chill confines of a Victorian family tomb, a group of men crane their necks to peer inside a rank smelling coffin...
What it's lead-lined interior revealed would solve a riddle that had gripped the British public for a decade, calling into question the very identity of one of the most respected peers of the realm.
In 1897, a widow named Anna Maria Druce had applied for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, Thomas Charles Druce. Behind her application lay a sensational claim that Druce, a furniture dealer, had been the alter-ego of the eccentric 5th Duke of Portland; and that the Duke had, in 1864, faked the death of his middle-class doppelgänger. When opened, Mrs Druce contended, her father-in-laws coffin would be found to be empty. And her fortunate children would be heirs to the Portland millions.
The 'Druce-Portland case' proved to be one of the most drawn out and tangled legal sagas of the era. And its eventual outcome- reached only after multiple court hearings and a cats cradle of police and private investigations- revealed a dark underbelly of lies and secrets beneath the gentle facade of late Victorian England. 

Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 336

I haven't read any non-fiction for ages so this book made a refreshing change and I found it fascinating. It is very much a historical mystery and I don't want to give the game away so I won't include too many spoilers in this review.
Piu Marie Eatwell's account of the Portland-Druce case is brilliant, at points you cannot believe that it actually happened. Some of the events that take place are truly shocking and I liked how the author put everything in context of the time period. She explains how the legal system worked at the time, monetary values, commonly held beliefs and so much more. All of this gives you a greater understanding of the case but it also gives you a great insight into Victorian England.
So many notable people pop up in this book which made it even more interesting. I loved the anecdotes about Charles Dickens in particular.
This book had me gripped throughout, although non-fiction, Piu Marie Eatwell maintains a fast pace, the chapters do not become bogged down in irrelevant detail but instead keep you wanting to read more.
If you like a good mystery then I highly recommend this brilliantly researched book. Eatwell brings the facts to life and the mystery of the dead Duke is not one to miss.


The Two of Us Blog Tour

I am very excited today to welcome the fabulous Andy Jones to my blog. Andy has written The Two of Us and signed a two book deal with Simon and Schuster. I reviewed this book a while ago and I thought it was brilliant, you can read my review here. Andy has kindly written a guest post about his normal writing day and after reading it you will see that he is a very busy man! 

Mondays, I write.  In my day job, I’m a freelance copywriter, and since landing a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster, I’m trying to keep one day a week free to pretend I’m a famous author. That involves taking the kids to school, doing some laundry or whatever other chore Mrs Jones allocates and then writing until 6.30.
Tuesday-Friday I do do the day job. And if I have the energy, I try and fit in one or two short writing sessions of maybe 2 hours in the evening.

And then on Sundays, I do a good half day at my desk.
Except it never quite works out that way.
Last week for example, I had to work at the day job on Monday because I was taking off a day and a half at the back end of the week. I had my very first book signing, you see. It was an amazing experience, I travelled up to Liverpool on Thursday afternoon, answered questions in Waterstones with the adorable Jane Costello and Iona Grey, and then (slightly hung over) travelled back to London on Friday morning. I’d planned on writing on Friday afternoon, but the edits had come in for the U.S. translation (Zucchini, Eggplant, ‘What’s a Womble?’) of The Two of Us. So instead of progressing Book 2, I found myself once again editing Book 1.
And I didn’t get any work done in the week because I was practising my reading for Liverpool. But I’d make up for lost time on Sunday, right?
What’s that, Mrs Jones? … We’re visiting your folks this weekend? … You never told me? Oh, did you? … Sorry.
Luckily, the in-laws and their daughter are very accommodating and understanding, so I took my laptop up to Coventry and snuck in a few hours after all. Not as many as I’d hoped because I had to spend a couple of those hours finishing off the U.S. edit (serial commas, small caps, ‘Does “Hank Marvin” mean Starvin’?). But I wrote a scene that – I think – worked out quite well.
Monday was a bank holiday, we drove back from Coventry to London, my youngest vomited in the back seat, and then I had to fix the eldest’s bicycle. Life, they call it.
It’s all wonderful stuff – book signings, foreign editions, blog tours – and I do have to stop now and then to remind myself to enjoy it. But it’s also quite stressful. I have been given a tremendous opportunity, and whist all the stuff around Book 1 is great fun, I can’t neglect Book 2. I have a deadline and – as they tend to – it’s getting closer.
It’s the official launch party for The Two of Us on Wednesday, so there will be no ‘work’ done that night. And the paperback goes on sale the following day, forget about getting anything productive done on Thursday. To make up for lost time, I slept in the spare room last night and set the alarm for Horribly Early a.m. so I could fit in a couple of hours writing before the ‘day job’. I was slap bang in the middle of an anxiety dream when the bastard went off, and it felt as if someone had pulled my brains out via the nose and stuffed my skull with wood filler. For the first 40 minutes I just stared at the computer, eating a banana and sipping my coffee. But then I got my fingers working and picked up the scene I left on Sunday. It was slow going. And just when I thought I was beginning to make progress, I realised I’d written myself into something of a narrative cul-de-sac. I felt like I’d trapped my characters in an argument that I hadn’t intended – and I didn’t know how I was going to resolve the situation and get the scene back on track. If I’d had another hour, maybe, I could have found a way out. But it was 8.00 and I needed to jump in the shower, kiss the cats, feed the wife, and tickle the kids behind the ears before running out of the door. Chaos.
I left the house feeling more than a little grumpy. I was exhausted, and all for what – 700 words that I was probably going to have to delete. But then, as my train (crowded, obviously) pulled into the platform, it came to me. I knew the line that would fix my scene. And the funny thing is, I doubt I’d have come up with it if I’d stayed sitting in front of the computer. I’d have come up with something, but not this particular line, which – if I’m allowed – I feel pretty happy with. For now, at least. I’ll drop it in tonight, after we’ve put the girl’s to bed.
All I need to do now is find time to write a blog post…

 Many thanks to Andy and Simon and Schuster!  



I am so sorry that it's taken me so long to pick the winner of The Cake Shop in the Garden  by Carole Matthews but life has been a little hectic!! I finally managed to pick a name out of the hat though and the winner is:

Congratulations lovely, let me know your address and I can pop it in the post for you!

Thanks to everyone who entered!


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