BOOK REVIEW: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

On a windswept English beach in the early 19th Century, two women make discoveries that change the world. And in so doing find friendship, pride and trouble.
From the moment she’s struck by lightning as a baby,  it is clear that Mary Anning is different. Her discovery of strange fossilised creatures in the cliffs of Lyme Regis sets the world alight. But Mary must face powerful prejudice from a male scientific establishment, not to mention vicious  gossip and the heartbreak of forbidden love. Then- in prickly clever Elizabeth Philpot, a fossil-obsessed middle-class spinster- she finds a champion, and a rival. Despite their differences in class and age, Mary and Elizabeth’s loyalty and passion for the truth must win out…
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 343

My six-year-old daughter is obsessed with fossils so I was so excited to learn about Mary Anning recently. I was even more excited when a friend got in touch to tell me about Tracy Chevalier’s book which is focused on this marvellous woman. Chevalier often takes a historical truth and weaves her wonderful stories around them. In this case, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot are real, as is the setting of Lyme Regis where they made several of their discoveries.
This book was fascinating and so many people have told me how much they loved it too. Mary Anning in particular, was so courageous for a woman with her lowly social position. Yet she was passionate and driven. Mary was confident in her knowledge and skills; her discoveries were so important to understanding evolution and the natural world.
Tracy Chevalier uses both Elizabeth and Mary to explore the limitations faced by women at the time. It took a long time for Mary and Elizabeth to gain any recognition for their tireless work and in part, Elizabeth had to fight for Mary which she was only able to do because she was middle-class rather than working-class.
I loved how Chevalier described Mary’s passion and wonderment at what she found, especially as I witness the same awe in my own child.
Remarkable Creatures is so well written, Chevalier’s descriptions are beautiful and I could easily picture the fossils that Mary discovers. The author always leaves you wanting more; she seems to have a knack of leaving the reader with a need for more knowledge. I will definitely be following up with more reading about Mary and Elizabeth, both remarkable creatures in their own right.


BOOK REVIEW: How to be Happy by Eva Woods

It’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference…
Annie has been sad for so long that she’s forgotten how to be any other way. She’s trudging miserably through every day, sheer determination keeping her going. Until she meets Polly. Polly is everything that Annie is not. She’s colourful, joyful, happy. And Polly is facing the greatest challenge of her life: how to die well.
Polly has one hundred days to help Annie find happiness. Annie’s convinced it is impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey, Annie begins to realise that maybe, just maybe, there’s still colour to be found in the world.
But then it becomes clear that Polly’s about to need her new friend more than ever… and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk  worth taking.
Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 376

How to be Happy is an incredibly uplifting read. Annie has been sad for such a long time that it has just become normal; that is until she meets Polly. Polly is dying from cancer and she’s determined to make the most of the little time she has left. Their paths cross and Polly decides that she has the next 100 days to help Annie find happiness. It is an unlikely basis for a friendship but maybe they are just what each other needs.
I very much enjoyed Eva Wood’s writing style, the characters, Annie and Polly in particular, are vivid and believable. Both women are dealing with their fair share of tragedy in entirely different ways. Polly knows that she must make Annie see the beauty in life again; the small things that can bring true happiness and joy.
Cancer is never an easy subject to deal with in a book and I felt that Eva Wood’s portrayal was very honest and believable. It was clear to see that she had researched Polly’s illness and she showed the many stages that Polly has to endure.
How to be Happy is a lovely book, it is sad at times but it is also uplifting. It made me take stock and appreciate what I have in life and it’s always good to do that isn’t it?


BLOG TOUR: The Wrong Man by Kate White

I am very excited to be on the blog tour today for the fantastic new book, The Wrong Man, written by Kate White, the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. I think this tense thriller will be a big hit with readers, here's the synopsis:

Kit Finn meets handsome sculptor Matt Healy on a business trip and the two share a night of passion. They arrange a second date, but when Kit arrives at Matt's apartment she is greeted by a stranger claiming he is the real Matt and that his identity was stolen.
Shortly after, the police ask her to identify a man killed in a hit and run, carrying only her business card, and she is shocked to find the dead man is the person she knows as the genuine Matt Healy.
Kit fears she has become unintentionally embroiled in a sinister web of deceit. With no real evidence to take to the police, Kit resolves to unravel the mystery herself. But can she do so before more lives, including her own, are put in danger?

Sounds good doesn't it! Read on for an extract from the book, then go and buy it!! 

For a moment she couldn’t process what he’d just said. Instead, as she stared at the man’s unfamiliar features, other phrases kept tumbling through her brain: wrong apartment, wrong building, wrong street, wrong day, wrong something.
But then, finally, his words computed: “I’m Matt Healy.
So where was the other Matt Healy? The one who was supposed to be serving her chili or stir-fry or whatever guys whipped up when they invited you for dinner? It felt as if she’d accidentally exited a building from a different door than the one she’d entered and was on the wrong street now, momentarily discombobulated.
“I—I don’t understand,” Kit stammered. “Is this some kind of joke?”
He smiled. Pleasant seeming, not acting at all cagey. For the first time, she really took in his appearance. Nice enough looking. Strawberry-blond hair. Blue eyes. He was dressed casually, in an untucked, long-sleeved dress shirt and a pair of brown cords, but he exuded a buttoned-up vibe. Lawyer/banker type.
“Well, not a joke I’m playing,” he said. “Why exactly are you here?”
“To see a man I know named Matt Healy. We had plans.”
He shrugged. “Like I said, I’m Healy and I don’t believe we’ve ever met.”
“But the doorman,” she said, really flummoxed now. “He—he told me to go right up.”
“Yeah, I know. He rang to say someone named Kit was on the way up. I said I wasn’t expecting anyone but by that time you’d hopped on the elevator. I figured he got the name wrong, and it was probably a friend of mine dropping by to say hi.”
Instinctively, she bit her lip, trying to think, trying to make sense of the rabbit hole she seemed to have fallen down. Maybe, by a freakish chance, there were two guys named Matt Healy in the building. But this was the apartment number Matt had given her. A revelation fought its way across a threshold in her mind. Had she been played? Tricked for some reason she didn’t understand?
“Look,” the guy said, “maybe there’s an explanation. Do you want to come in for a minute and we’ll try to sort it out?”
Down the long hall, the drone of a TV leaked beneath the door of another apartment but that was the only sound. No, she certainly didn’t want to come in.
Shaking her head, she wondered what to do next. Her confusion began to morph into anger. If the man she’d had dinner with hadn’t wanted to see her again, why set up this whole charade tonight?
The guy flipped over a hand in a kind of “I’m-as-stumped-as-you-are” gesture.
“I’m sure this isn’t any fun for you,” he said, “but let me at least help. I bet there’s more than one Matt Healy in New York. How did you get the address?”
“From him. We met in Florida a few days ago and he invited me for dinner.”
He took a slow breath and brought his hands to his mouth steeple style, holding them there. She wondered if he might be amused by her predicament, but his expression was intense and a couple of seconds later he raised an eyebrow in alarm.
“Oh God, I think I know what’s going on,” he said. “A week or so ago, someone robbed me. I mean, they stole my wallet. I cancelled my credit cards but the thief would still have my license, which of course has my address on it.”
It felt as if someone had kicked her legs out from under her. Did this mean that the man she’d slept with was a thief? She could see him clearly in her mind’s eye. Confident, self-possessed, a bit mysterious. But no way had there been a hint of anything criminal.
“I really should go,” she said. She wanted to get as far away as possible from apartment 18C.
“No, wait.” The guy’s voice was almost pleading. “I can understand why you don’t want to come in. For all you know I’ve got the real Matt Healy hogtied in here. But I don’t and I really need to hear more details from you. This guy may have stolen my identity. Would you be willing to go someplace public with me? There’s a little bar a few doors down from the building.”
“Okay,” she said finally. Though the idea had nada appeal for her, it seemed unfair not to help him.
“Let me just grab my jacket,” he said.
“I’ll meet you in the lobby,” she told him. She needed a minute alone and a chance to think.
In the elevator, she flopped back against the wall and groaned. Maybe there was an explanation. Somewhere the real Matt Healy had to be waiting for her, maybe right this minute popping a cork from a bottle of wine or stirring a stew pot in anticipation of her arrival.
She checked her phone, where she’d programmed Matt’s info when he’d called on her way to the airport. She groaned again as she saw that she was definitely at that address. There was a chance, of course, that she’d taken down the details incorrectly. But it was too huge a coincidence that a building she ended up in erroneously would have an occupant with the same name in the very same apartment.
What if the guy in the apartment really wasn’t who he claimed to be? An imposter. But about a minute later, when he hurried around the corner from the elevator bank into the lobby, the concierge nodded at him and called out, “Evening, Mr. Healy.”
There seemed little room for doubt now. She’d been hoodwinked.
They stepped outside and Healy—yeah, she had to start thinking of him that way now—gestured toward a building a couple of doors down. As they reached the entrance she saw that it was an Italian restaurant, one of those faux rustic ones with yellow and white checked tablecloths and chairs with woven twine backs. The kind of spot you’d pick for a second date, not where you’d debrief a person about a con artist. There was a small bar, though, and Healy suggested they grab stools there rather than a table.
The bartender greeted him by name, just as the concierge had. Kit realized glumly that unless she was part of some massive Bourne movie kind of conspiracy, the guy sitting next to her was who he claimed to be. And the man she’d met five days ago wasn’t. When she’d first encountered him shopping in Islamorada, she’d thought of him as Mr. X, and now he was no more than X again.
Healy asked what she wanted to drink and she told him a cappuccino. She’d briefly considered a glass of wine, just to take the edge off, but she needed a clear head to come to grips with what had happened. He ordered a scotch and water himself and took a quick swig as soon as it arrived.
Healy had seemed unruffled when she’d first shown up on his doorstep, but she could sense his tension now—in the stiffness of his body, the way he jiggled the plastic straw that had been in his drink.
“I appreciate this,” Healy said. “When I lost my wallet I thought cancelling six credit cards and ordering a new license was the worst of it, but the situation is clearly more complicated. What did this guy tell you he did for a living?”
“That he’d run a tech business but had recently sold it. Is that what you do?”
“No, I’m a portfolio manager at a hedge fund. You said you were in Florida when you met this guy. Where exactly?”
“Islamorada. He was staying at the same hotel I was.”
“And he told you he was headed back here? Did he say when?”
“Today—and he promised to make me dinner.” Of course, the missing meal was hardly the issue. She’d slept with a man, formed a connection with him, and had been hoping for more. And it had all been a sham.
Healy’s body seemed to tense even more.
“Sounds like he might actually still be there, in Islamorada.”
“He said he was going to Miami,” Kit said. “But I guess that might have been a lie, too.”
Yes, maybe it all had been a lie. Certainly if he was busy pickpocketing people, he hadn’t recently cashed in on a tech company. But what about the drive south, being a sculptor, the Boho sister in Miami, the girlfriend who’d moved back to Melbourne? It stood to reason that every detail had been make-believe, part of a devious scheme to sound enchanting and lure her into bed.
Healy ran his finger around the ri

m of the glass, saying nothing for a moment. She was sure he was wondering if she had slept with the guy in Florida and was smarting now from being stood up and made a fool of. Well, she was smarting. She felt humiliated.

Many thanks to Ellie at Canelo for inviting me to be part of the blog tour, The Wrong Man is out now! 


BLOG TOUR: The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May

I'm very pleased to be on the blog tour for Nicola May's latest book which is out now!  
Rosa Larkin is down on her luck in London, so when she inherits a near-derelict corner shop in a quaint Devon village, her first thought is to sell it for cash and sort out her life. But nothing is straightforward about this legacy. While the identity of her benefactor remains a mystery, he- or she- has left one important legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it.
Rosa makes up her mind to give it a go: to put everything she has into getting the shop up and running again in the small seaside community of Cockleberry Bay. But can she do it all on her own?
And if not, who will help her succeed- and who among the following will work secretly to see her fail?
There is a handsome rugby player, a sexy plumber, a charlatan reporter and a selection of meddling locals. Add in a hit and run accident and the disappearance of a valuable engraved necklace- and what you get is a journey of self-discovery and unpredictable events.
With surprising and heartfelt results, Rosa, accompanied at all times by her little sausage dog Hot, will slowly unravel the shadowy secrets of the inheritance and also bring her own, long-hidden heritage into the light.
The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay is Nicola May’s ninth book and it’s a lovely read. I’ve read several of Nicola’s books so I was more than happy to review her latest one.
Rosa is our main character, she has had a very tough start in life and spent most of her childhood in the care system, being passed from pillar to post. Unexpectedly she is left a shop in Cockleberry Bay which is in Devon. She has no idea who her benefactor is but she has been told that she is not allowed to sell the shop; she can only pass it on to someone who deserves it in the future. So Rosa leaves her life in London and heads for her new start. She has no idea about running a shop and some of the locals aren’t too welcoming but she’s determined to make the most of it.
Nicola May packs so much into this story,  and inadvertently becomes implicated in a mysterious hit and run accident. The chapters were short and snappy and each one left me wanting more.We go along as Rosa moves to her new home; has a new love interest; realises an old friend may be something more; sets up a new business
I think Cockleberry Bay is the perfect setting for this book. Rosa has her work cut out as an outsider and there are plenty of colourful characters to entertain the reader.
The book follows Rosa as she gets the shop ready to open; I’m hoping that Nicola might write a sequel as I think that there could be a lot more fun in store now that the shop is up and running.
If you are looking for a feel-good read with a bit of romance and mystery then I would recommend The Corner Shop at Cockleberry Bay and Nicola’s other books are well worth a look too!


BOOK REVIEW: All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

How far would you go to protect your daughter? Since the night she was attacked, Jenny Kramer hasn’t been able to recall what happened.
Her parents and the doctors saw to that.
Her mother couldn’t prevent the terror in the woods, but she’s done all she can to stop it ruining Jenny’s life. The only thing that now bothers Jenny is the scar carved into her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching.
But if Jenny can’t remember her attacker, he can’t be caught. He could be standing next to her right now, the one who has just caught her eye. And he hasn’t forgotten anything…
Publisher: HQ
Pages: 380

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker is a pretty twisted read. The author takes us straight into the thick of it with a very graphic description of the rape suffered by teenager Jenny Kramer. Wendy Walker does not hold back and some of the details make for very uncomfortable reading.
The book is narrated by Jenny’s psychologist; we are reliant on his version of events. He details his meeting with Jenny and her family plus other people involved with the case. Jenny was given a treatment to make her forget the attack but she has now decided she wants to remember so that she can help find her attacker and bring him to justice. We don’t get to know Jenny particularly well and whilst you can obviously empathise with the ordeal she has endured; I didn’t feel that I knew her any better by the end of the book. The book focuses a lot on Jenny’s mother Charlotte and the psychologist himself, both characters are used to explore how far we will go to protect our own children and to some extent; how our childhood experiences can have a huge effect on our adult lives.
All is Not Forgotten takes a few chapters to get into but it is worth it. Once Wendy Walker has drawn you in, she takes you on a roller coaster of emotions. I was very impressed with this book and it would make a fantastic TV series.


BOOK REVIEW: According to Yes by Dawn French

Manhattan’s wealthy Upper East Side has it’s own rigid code of behaviour. One strictly adhered to by the Wilder-Bingham family.
Emotional displays- unacceptable.
Unruly behaviour- definitely not welcome.
Fun- no thanks.
So when Rosie Kitto, an eccentric primary school teacher from England bounces into this fortress of restraint with a heart as big as the city, the family quickly discovers that she hasn’t read the rule book.
After a life-time of saying no, what happens when everyone starts saying …yes?
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 376

I have a huge girl crush on Dawn French and I loved her autobiography Dear Fatty so I thought I would try one of her fiction books. According to Yes is a beautiful book, there is really no end to this woman’s talents!

Rosie Kitto leaves her life in Cornwall where she is a primary school teacher and boards a flight to Manhattan. She is running away from her current life and she has decided that going forward she is going to live according to Yes, she is going to take more risks.
The Wilder-Bingham family have no idea of Rosie’s life plan; they have employed her to care for the two younger members of the family, Red and Three. Glenn Wilder-Bingham is the matriarch and she runs a tight-ship; she is in no way ready for this eccentric English lady who is going to turn all their lives upside down.
This book is such a mix, there is a great deal of comedy but so much warmth and poignancy too. Dawn French creates characters that you feel greatly for, even some of the unlikable ones. I was surprised by how much I deeply cared for them all by the end of the book.
Rosie Kitto is a magnificent creation, she is fierce, eccentric, kind-hearted and incredibly brave. She does a few things in the book that will undoubtedly raise a few eyebrows but overall I decided by the end of the story that I needed to be more like Rosie. To appreciate joy in the small things and the beautiful world we live in  and most importantly, to search for and celebrate the good in people- however small that may be.
According to Yes by Dawn French is an emotional and comforting read. I loved it!


BOOK REVIEW: The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd

You love him. You trust him. So why are you so scared?
Her obsession started eighteen years after the first documentary… As the story unfolded on screen everything else started to fade away. At the heart of it the boy, too young for the suit he wore in court, blue eyes blinking, confused at the camera, alone and afraid. It hurt her to look at him…barely eighteen years old, alone on Death Row.
You’re in love with a man serving time for a brutal murder on Florida’s Death Row. He’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up  a frenzy online.
You’re convinced he’s innocent, and you’re determined to prove it. You leave your old life behind.
Now you’re married to him. And he’s free, his conviction overturned. But is he so innocent after all?
How do you confront your husband when you don’t want to know the truth?
Publisher: Century
Pages: 377

The Innocent Wife is Amy Lloyd’s debut novel; she was the winner out of 5000 entries for a national novel writing competition. The Innocent Wife shows Amy’s talent and she will clearly be an interesting new voice in this genre.   
Sam first hears about the case of Dennis Danson from her now ex-boyfriend Mark. He shows her a true-crime documentary showing how Dennis was sentenced to the death penalty for the brutal murder of one teenage girl and the disappearance of several others. Just eighteen at the time, Dennis has spent many years on Death Row protesting his innocence and highlighting how little evidence there was. Sam becomes obsessed with Dennis; she begins writing him letters and then leaves her life behind to travel to Florida to meet him in person. Everything moves very quickly, suddenly they are married and Dennis is free which is exactly what Sam wanted but what if your husband doesn’t seem as innocent anymore? What happens if you have made a huge mistake?
If you are a fan of shows such as Making a Murderer then this book is for you. We have all read true-life accounts of women who have married men on death row. Completely sure of their innocence and determined to be part of their life. Amy Lloyd explores this through her character of Sam; she’s very normal, works as a teacher, nothing too extraordinary in her past yet she pursues Dennis and gives up everything for him.
I really enjoyed the way Amy Lloyd interspersed the story-telling with transcripts from interviews, police statements and newspaper articles. It gave the book a realistic edge and provides the reader with a chance to build up their own gradual picture of events. I felt there was a small lull about half way through but I’m so glad that I stuck with it as Amy Lloyd ramps up the pace in the final third of the book, throwing in several plot twists to keep you guessing.

I think The Innocent Wife is an assured and thrilling debut, Amy Lloyd is one to watch out for.

BOOK REVIEW: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

On a windswept English beach in the early 19 th Century, two women make discoveries that change the world. And in so doing find friendshi...