23 September 2015
Do We Really Know Our Parents?
The old black and white photograph sits on a shelf in my writing room. It shows a young couple sitting in a field, with a rug spread beneath them and a big oak tree framing the background. They have their arms around each other and seem contained in a magical world of their own, oblivious to everything else including the photographer. It is a photograph that was taken of my parents when they were dating. It took me a long time to fully appreciate all the wonderful nuances it conveys as it blended into the furniture in my parent’s home for years, and I took it entirely for granted.
By the very egotistical nature of childhood, when we see ourselves as the centre of the universe, our parents are viewed as the solely the people who are responsible for looking after us, whose job is to nourish and protect us, clothe and feed us. That perspective can change slightly during the teenage years, as they sometimes become the people we rail against for imposing boundaries and curtailing our freedom. It’s only as we reach adulthood that we begin to realise our parents are complete individuals in their own right, and that they had lives before we came along to disrupt it all!
In A Question of Betrayal, Carrie Cassidy’s father paints a memorable picture of the special dynamic between Carrie and her parents; as a child, when her dad was helping with her maths homework and she was wrestling with Venn diagrams, he took a page of her copy book and drew a large circle, explaining that it represented Carrie’s mother and him, where no part of them existed without the other. Then he drew a smaller circle inside the big circle, explaining that this was Carrie, who was a part of them and always with them. The three musketeers, her dad often called them. The three amigos, her mother used to say. Years later, when Carrie is told that her mother had an affair with a young musician some time before she was born, it comes as a total shock to her. Even though the dates and places fit, it is impossible for Carrie to imagine her mother as a young woman with feelings and needs, and so consumed with passion that she betrayed her father. But the surprising news finally ejects Carrie out of the rut she was stuck in following her parents’ death, in order to seek out the truth.
The wheel of life comes full circle. I think it’s only when we have children of our own, and we are in the roles of parents and care givers, that we appreciate our parents as fully rounded people in their own right, with rich histories behind them of which we know little or nothing. There is a small framed photograph in my sitting room of my husband and me, which was taken when we were dating; we thought we owned the world right then, the bright young things who partied long and hard and expected to live forever, driven by dreams and passions and the sometimes foolhardy headiness of youth. Maybe it’s a good thing my children’s eyes skim unseeingly over it most of the time – and that to them it’s just an old photo of responsible Mum and Dad!
Zoë Miller writes contemporary fiction laced with intrigue and drama. She is published by Hachette Books Ireland and her latest book, A Question of Betrayal, is now out in paperback. When Zoë’s not escaping into her writing world, she juggles her time between her family and the day job. Find out more at www.zoemillerauthor.com, Facebook/zoemillerauthor, or follow Zoë on Twitter @zoemillerauthor.
A Question of Betrayal: Ever since the deaths of her adored parents, Carrie Cassidy has avoided risk and commitment, fearful of bringing something precious into her life only to lose it again. So now she finds herself working in yet another uninteresting job, and the love of her life, who wanted more than she could give, has left her. Will she ever move on?
Then, a mysterious woman visits Carrie and reveals a secret that forces her to delve into her mother's past. As Carrie learns more about the woman she thought she knew, she finds herself looking at her own life and wondering if she's living it the way her mother would have wanted her to. Meanwhile there is someone watching Carrie who would rather the past stay buried . . .
A Question of Betrayal is available in all good bookshops or online here
22 September 2015
Kate has only planned a flying visit to clear out the family home after the death of her mother. When she finds an anonymous letter, she is drawn back into her own past.
Single dad Sam is juggling his deli and two lively teenagers, so romance is the last thing on his mind. Then Cupid fires an unexpected arrow - but what will his children think?
Nathan Fisher is happy with his lot, running picnic cruises up and down the river, but kissing the widow of the richest man in Pennfleet has disastrous consequences.
Vanessa knows what she has done is unseemly for a widow, but it's the most fun she's had for years. Must she always be on her best behaviour?"
Available to buy now.
I was super excited to receive a beautiful proof copy of Veronica Henry's new book High Tide. I love the gorgeous cover, it's so evocative of what I think a town like Pennfleet would look like, and again, despite never having been to Cornwall, I have read so many books set there I feel like I have been! This book isn't a sequel as such, but it is set in the town from Veronica's 2012 book The Long Weekend. I recognised Luca, the chef from the last book, cropping up in this one, but it doesn't matter at all if you haven't read the other book, this one is perfect on its own!
Kate is back home in Penfleet, but only for a short while, thanks to the death of her mother Joy. Kate is devastated to have to return from New York, where she lives now to sort out her childhood home. But when she is sorting her mother's things, she finds a letter that just might open up a whole new can of worms for Kate. Sam, new to the area and owner of a cafe, is getting to grips with being a single dad to his teenage children, and is wondering when it might be the time to move on from his beloved wife. Finally, there's Nathan and Vanessa who meet on the day of Vanessa's husbands funeral, when Vanessa has to escape from the mourning. Nathan accompanies her to the local pub, but it's more than just the sparks of new friendship between the pair...
As you can see, there are plenty of stories going on in this book to keep you interested, and I loved how they were all woven together within the setting of Pennfleet. Right from the beginning of the book, I was drawn into the Cornish way of life, close and neighbourly to each other, there when they all really needed it, even to those like Kate who long ago left them behind. I particularly loved Kate's story, how she felt when she finally came home, and the way the community brought her back into their fold once more. I felt so sorry for her loss, the way Veronica Henry writes her grief is very heart-wrenching, I did tear up several times, really feeling her pain. It was emotional, and although it was tough to read in parts, I did enjoy the read.
The other stories are equally touching in their own ways. Nathan works hard to earn a living to keep a roof of the head of himself and his grandfather.I really liked the friendship he struck up with Vanessa, and hoped the pair would be able to work things out and be friends. The other tale involving Sam and his teenage children was equally touching, with the whole family coming together to move through their grief. I really enjoyed reading Henry's take on family life in all of its different forms. She writes the relationships between the characters so wonderfully and vividly, you really feel their emotions together with them - their grief, their excitement, their sadness and happiness, and of course hope for the future.
This was definitely a highlight of my summer reading so far, and I loved every page of this story. The town on Pennfleet sounded wonderful, everything from the cafe to Joy's house sounded and you could see why each of the characters wanted to be able to call Pennfleet home, those old and new to the town. Henry's writing is second to none, a joy to read from beginning to end and I honestly didn't want the story to end. If you are a fan of Veronica Henry, you will definitely want to read this, and if you haven't yet discovered her, you won't go far wrong from starting with this brilliant novel. I loved it.
Welcome to my stop on Veronica Henry's blog tour for her brand new book High Tide! I finished reading it last night, and it was an amazing read, just as I expect from Veronica now! I have put the amazing blog tour graphic at the top of this post - it's stunning, totally different to anything I've seen - you can click it to see a bigger view to see all that detail closer up!
Here's is Veronica's post for my tour stop - thank you to Veronica for writing the piece, and to her publishers for asking me to be on the blog tour! My review of High Tide is coming up later today!
Who hasn’t dreamed of running away and opening a deli or café by the sea? Widower Sam has plucked up the courage to do just that, giving up a stressful but prestigious job as an A and E consultant. His new life could not be more different from his old. Sam has always been a foodie, but wandering round farmers’ markets and buying artisan cheese is one thing; keeping customers happy and fed is quite another! But he rises to the challenge and is soon part of Pennfleet life – his delicious cappuccinos and tantalising cakes soon seduce the inhabitants. In this story, I wanted to explore the change from city to seaside life, and the difficulties of starting again somewhere new in midlife, as well as steering two teenagers through a big upheaval. It is a story of how he finds love again too, with a bit of a twist. I hope you love Sam as much as I do, and take him to your heart.
Here is a recipe inspired by autumn in Pennfleet - enjoy!!
Slightly tipsy sausages and mash
Cut up an apple into eighths and fry in butter until softened. Remove apple, then add a sliced onion and half a dozen sausages to the pan. Brown gently, then pour in can of cider and let it all bubble for ten minutes, until the sausages are cooked through. Remove sausages, keep warm, and add a dollop of French mustard and a spoonful of crème fraiche to the sauce. Warm through until slightly thickened and reduced, then serve the sausages with the sauce on a bed of mash, with apple garnish on the side."
15 September 2015
Double check best Instagram filter
Avoid thinking about work/Connor/five year plan!!
A four day break from her hectic life to relax in the countryside and hang out at a local festival (for free!) is just what Fiona Delaney needs. With her best friends, great tunes and a cool looking hat her Instagram shots are going to look A-Mazing!
Until suddenly glamping starts to feel a lot more like camping and Fiona’s in desperate search of a comfy chair, wi-fi and a chilled glass of wine. But when she finally makes it to the local pub she discovers this trip could be more than just a holiday, it might just change her life forever…"
Available to buy now.
Another book from Carina I have been looking forward to reading is the debut novel from author Liz Tipping. She mentions in the acknowledgements of the book that it is influenced by Enid Blyton's books, something I loved reading when I was a young girl, so I hoped this would be exactly my cup of tea. As usual with Carina, the cover is gorgeous (publishers are seeming to realise the importance of a good eBook cover!), and I was very much looking forward to getting stuck in.
The story is based on the character of Fiona, or Fi as she is known to her friends. When she's offered the chance of a four day 'glamping' trip in a yurt, she jumps at the chance, keep to get away from her job, her boyfriend and much more. But when she arrives, she isn't sure she is the glamping sort. She starts missing the luxuries of home, and finds that she is far too bored. She takes a walk and ends up at a local pub, run by a bit of a strange fellow. However, Fiona decides to give him a chance and so begins another adventure...
This was a fun read with characters that were enjoyable to read about, and a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. I did enjoy it, but found it did drag in parts, and I wanted the action to get going a bit more, and for something more to happen. I liked Fi, she was on a bit of a downer and so needed a bit of cheering up, although I'm not sure glamping was the best choice for that! The festival is a bit ridiculous, not exactly anyone's cup of tea if I'm honest, and I felt sorry for Fi having to put up with that! Her friends make sporadic appearances, but I felt I didn't get to know them well enough to care about them much if I'm honest. There's also some strange festival goers that pop up occasionally, but I found it hard to tell the difference between them all and sort of glossed over them.
The best part of the book for me was the story between Fi and the landlord of the local pub. He comes across as a bit rude and abrasive, but I was glad that she gave him a chance and got to know him. I loved reading the scenes with Fi cooking in the pub, you could sense her passion for what she was doing, and I did hope she would give it some serious thought when she got home - that she might just need a career change after all! The chemistry between the pair was well written, and I enjoyed the 'will they, won't they' scenario, Tipping wrote this part of the book really well.
This was a good read, something a bit light and fun to read on these autumn evenings, but it didn't blow me away. Perhaps my expectations were a bit too high, but I just felt it lacked a bit in the middle and lost its way, and I thought the festival was just a bit out-there for me. As I said, I did enjoy the story as it got going, and there were some really funny moments that did make me giggle, but something just didn't quite click fully for me. I did enjoy it, and it was a good read but I wasn't left wanting more as I finished the eBook, which is how I like to feel when I reach the end of the book. I'll still be looking out for Liz Tipping's next book though!
6 September 2015
Ellie is fresh back from her honeymoon and can’t wait to share her news with her best friends Katie and Jane. To everyone’s surprise, mother-of-two Jane has news of her own… The women are due a day apart, on December 25th and 26th, and Katie can’t wait to be an honorary aunt to the babies.
But it’s hard to keep your sense of humor, not to mention your self-esteem, in the face of hemorrhoids and elasticated waistbands. Add a clingy mother-in-law, a career in cardiac arrest and a sex life that makes Mother Theresa look lusty, and soon their lives are as out of control as their bodies.
As the co-founders of The Curvy Girls Club, where loving yourself is the only rule, will the friends be able to practice what they preach?"
Available to buy now.
I read and really enjoyed Michele Gorman's last novel The Curvy Girls Club, a book that made me appreciate the curves us women are lucky to have, with a story that left me with a smile on my face too. I was pleased when Michele announced there was going to be a novella sequel to that, and I was lucky enough to be sent a proof copy to review on my kindle. The cover is really cute, kind of telling us exactly what the book is about, and I was excited to catch up with these characters once more.
Ellie, Katie and Jane are back, and they have got some exciting news! Ellie's just got married, and she is back with a bump... literally! She's pregnant, and she can't wait to be a mum, even if it means her over-bearing mother-in-law is going to be around even more than normal. Then Jane drops her own bombshell - she's pregnant too, and due the day after Ellie! Katie can't wait to be auntie to both babies, and the women start enjoying their pregnancies. But as they progress, both Ellie and Jane have their own obstacles to contend with before their Christmas babies put in an appearance...
As I said, it was lovely to catch up with these women again, having enjoyed their previous story. This time around, they are a bit happier, and looking forward to their babies. I loved Ellie's excitement at being a first-time mum, and her husband Thomas was very excited too, even if he still couldn't tell his mother Millicent to butt out! This, though, becomes more of a touching story as the book goes on, and I enjoyed the twists and turns that Ellie's family story took. Jane's, too, was lovely. She's expecting her third baby, juggling her existing family life and her job on television - her bosses aren't exactly over the moon when Jane tells them her news!
I really admired Jane for standing up for herself, for trying to make her bosses realise that just because she is on telly, her appearance isn't the be all and end all, despite what they believe. She was a fantastic role model, and I loved her story very much. Katie still has her hang ups about her body that she had in the previous books - it isn't something that goes away overnight, and I felt the story was a realistic portrayal of pregnancy, body hang-ups and friendship. While it's an advantage to have read the previous story to understand these characters more, you can still just enjoy this novella on its own too, it's a fun and heart-warming read.
Gorman's writing is brilliant - capturing the humour, embarrassing parts and joy of being pregnant and having a baby. Although it concludes in the Christmas season, this is definitely a book to be enjoyed all year round, and left me with a big smile and a warm feeling inside, so happy for the characters that I have grown to love through 2 books now. Although this was only a short story (around 120 print pages), each of their stories were well-developed. and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I do hope that there will be a third outing for these ladies, if only to see them coping with motherhood! A fab read.
Available to pre-order.
"The gift of a lifetime?
Anna Browne is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life. Her day job as a receptionist in bustling London isn't exactly her dream, yet she has everything she wants. But someone thinks Anna Browne deserves more...
When a parcel addressed to Anna Browne arrives, she has no idea who has sent it. Inside she finds a beautiful gift - one that is designed to be seen. And so begins a series of incredible deliveries, each one bringing Anna further out of the shadows and encouraging her to become the woman she was destined to be. As Anna grows in confidence, others begin to notice her - and her life starts to change.
But who is sending the mysterious gifts, and why?"
5 September 2015
Available to pre-order.
"What if your first love was your only love?
When Molly is diagnosed with a life changing illness, it feels like her whole world has come crashing down. She hopes the news will make her marriage to Sam stronger. But why does Molly always call best friend Ed in a crisis?
Ed. The very same Ed that Molly fell in love with at a party when they were teenagers, underneath a star-filled sky. Then life took them in very different directions. They could only ever be friends.
Suddenly Molly starts to question every decision she’s ever made. What if they could turn back the clock? Back to the very beginning. When the only certainty they shared was each other …"
3 September 2015
Jenny wants to be able to celebrate her ruby anniversary with the man she loves, but for forty years she has kept a secret. A secret that she can't bear to hide any longer. But is it ever the right time to hurt the people closest to you?
As the entire family gather to toast the happy couple, they're expecting a day to remember. The trouble is, it's not going to be for the reasons they imagined..."
Available to buy now.
Amazingly, this is Sheila O'Flanagan's 20th novel - what a triumph! Her stories are superb, her appeal reaches across the generations and I always look forward to her latest releases. It was no different for this new book, My Mother's Secret. I was heavily anticipating reading it, and luckily, Sheila didn't let me down with this one! While I did guess the secrets as the book progressed, it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story at all, and I really enjoyed reading about this family of characters.
Steffie is unsure when her older sister Roisin decides to throw a surprise anniversary for their parents, knowing that the pair would far rather have a quiet dinner for two than the huge bash being planned for them. However, she goes along with it and the event certainly goes off with a bang. Just as the celebrations are beginning, Steffie's mother Jenny drops a big bombshell that shocks everyone at the party - least of all Steffie.
Family dramas are some of my favourite reads, so I was most definitely looking forward to finding out what Jenny's secrets were. As I said, I worked out the secrets from the hints dropped up to the big reveal, but I somehow didn't mind - I simply cared more about reading the reactions of the family to the reveal, and the fallout that was inevitably going to come from it. Sheila's writing was, as usual, brilliant and drew me in to the story, the family dramas and made me want to keep turning the pages until I reached the end. I liked how she blended the secrets with the other elements of the story - the new romance of Steffie's brother Davey, Steffie's budding romance with a local chef, as well as the past history of Jenny and Pascal.
All of the characters in this book were great to read about, and I thought they were well-fleshed out, realistic and I cared about reading more of their story. The dynamic between Roisin and Steffie was fun to read, with Roisin taking on the archetypal big sister role, stressing herself out at the pressure of party organising, and also when the rest of the family starts to fall apart. Steffie was much less responsible, struggling to make ends meet in her job as graphic designer, but still helps out her sister with the party. Their brother Davey, who lives abroad, was less present in the book but I still enjoyed reading about him and his girlfriend Camilla, it certainly added something a bit different to the book.
One of the best things about this book for me was Sheila O'Flanagan's descriptive writing. When a big storm hits the town of Wexford, she describes it so well, it feels really dramatic as you are reading. Everything from the flooding roads, to the soaked party guests were written brilliantly, and you can really feel the tension when things start to dramatically fall apart as the storm hits. The reactions and fall-out from the revelations in this book are what make it so readable, and I was left wondering if the family would ever get over what was going on! This story was brilliantly written, enjoyable to read from the start, and while it was a bit predictable at parts and I had easily guessed the secrets within, I still very much enjoyed the read. It's amazing that it is Sheila's twentieth novel, and I look forward to many more.