Saturday 25 June 2016

Swaying - Lucinda Blanchard

Swaying is the moving story of one woman's fixation to have a baby girl.

Charlotte (Char) is pregnant and is desperately hoping for a little girl, so when baby Luke makes his entrance into the world she's secretly devastated. When she finds an online support group for other mothers who are disappointed with the gender of their babies it opens up a whole new world for her to explore. Topics such as gender disappointment, swaying, diets and what can only be described as diy science experiments quickly become a huge part of Char's day to day life and it's through the forums that she meets Bella, a mum to two boys, who also longs for a daughter.

When her husband Ian agrees to another baby Char's hopes are raised and she manages to convince him to try some of the methods she's researched so that she can hopefully realise her dream of holding Verity-May in her arms.

At first her new friend Bella is someone who Char can depend on for support but gradually it seems that there's something about her that doesn't quite add up and Char is disturbed by the lengths that Bella will go to to ensure that her next baby is a girl. Spending all her time concentrating on how she can fulfil her dream, Char appears to be overlooking the here and now and she finds herself in a situation she never thought possible.

Swaying is a superbly written book about a highly controversial and taboo subject. Lucinda Blanchard has obviously done a lot of research into the subject of swaying and in doing so she's introduced me to a subject that I was totally unaware of. The facts are cleverly combined within the story so that as a reader I was able to fully understand the pressure some woman are prepared to put themselves under to try and guarantee the chosen sex of their unborn child. This was a captivating story with characters that are very easy to relate to, a subject matter that is dealt with sensitively and topped off with a light sprinkling of humour. I was genuinely engrossed by the storyline and I would definitely recommend this thought-provoking read regardless of whether or not you have children and I can't wait to see what's next from this very talented author.

Sunday 19 June 2016

Dear Amy - Helen Callaghan

Dear Amy is the agony aunt at The Cambridge Examiner newspaper but in real life Amy is Margot Lewis,  a classics teacher at the local school.

When Margot picks up her post from the Examiners' offices she's disturbed to find a letter from a girl claiming to be Bethan Avery, a young girl who went missing several years ago and is now presumed dead, begging for help as she is still being held captive in a cellar at an unknown location. Margot is deeply troubled by the letter and when Katie, a student at St Hilda's, where she works goes missing, Margot decides to take the letter she received from Bethan to the police. When the police don't believe her Margot decides to take matters into her own hands and try and find the author of the letter herself, then she receives another letter but this one contains information that was never released by the police.

A crime professor called Martin Forrester gets wind of the letters and is keen to help Margot trace the person behind them, are they genuine or is it a sick hoax? Margot is about to embark on a journey that will change her life forever.

After reading the synopsis I was desperate to get my hands on a copy so I was delighted to be accepted for a review copy. Sadly my excitement was short lived, as by the time I was halfway through my interest was starting to fade.  It wasn't the writing that was the problem but the story itself, seemingly little things were bugging me, if the letters were from a girl who was being held captive how was she managing to get a letter to an agony aunt and why wouldn't she write one to the police instead who would obviously be in a better position to help her. I think my problem lies with other psychological thrillers that I've read recently, there have been so many of them and their stories have blindsided me on more than one occasion, whereas this one seemed to lose it's way and become improbable. That said, it was an interesting book and one that I was happy to read until the end.

Helen Callaghan is clearly a proficient writer and I would still recommend this book to fans of this genre as just because it didn't float my boat it doesn't mean that it won't float yours!

With kind thanks to publishers Penguin UK and NetGalley for the review copy.

Saturday 18 June 2016

Guest review & author interview - The Girl From The Sea - Shalini Boland

I'm delighted to have my friend Sarah back as a guest reviewer on my blog today. Not only has she written a review she also has an interview with the author to share with us.

Welcome back to my blog Sarah 😉

Well I’m honoured to have been asked back for another guest blog by The Haphazardous Hippo.
Today I have a brand new book that came out on the 9th of June called The Girl From The Sea by Shalini Boland. 

As an additional extra I’ve even managed to get an interview with the author to add at the bottom of my book review.
So what can I tell you about The Girl from the Sea?

Apart from the captivating book cover, I was intrigued by the general book blurb…..

“Washed up on the beach, she can't remember who she is. She can't even remember her name. Turns out, she has a perfect life - friends and family eager to fill in the blanks. But why are they lying to her? What don't they want her to remember?

When you don't even know who you are, how do you know who to trust?

As with most pre-ordered books dumped onto my kindle at midnight of publication day I just couldn't resist dipping in for a taster chapter (or two). An hour later I had to force myself to put it down for some sleep (being a school night I had two children to get up the following morning). As soon as the school run had been done the following morning I was on the couch back to continue reading it.

The story begins with a woman washed up on a beach with all the description you need to put you there with her smelling the sea air and tasting the remnants of salt water. What continues is a compelling story full of mysteries and suspense to keep you turning the pages until they run out (I finished this the same day I started it).

The woman is taken to hospital and told she is suffering from retrograde amnesia, from there she must piece together her life with the help of friends and family drip feeding her information of her life that she can't recall. But is she getting the full information? What aren’t her friends and family telling her? Who can she trust?

This book certainly left me thinking about what it would be like to suddenly wake up with no memories of your life and how it would feel to have to trust people who say they know you but that you feel no connection to. How it would feel to look in the mirror and not know your own face. With all that going on we then add the mystery of how this woman ended up washed up on a beach. The twists and turns, creepy fragmented memories returning and various character developments will have you itching for more.

I couldn’t possibly tell you any more without adding in spoilers so I will just urge you to go and spend the best £1.99 ever and read it for yourself.

But before you go here is an insight into the lovely lady that wrote the book….

I see from your various biography posts online that you are a wife and mother of two (like myself) so my first thought has to be how do you find the time to write? Do you schedule slots diary fashion or just grab time as and when? What's the writing / home-life balance like?

I used to write in the evenings, but now both boys are at school it's a lot easier to plan my day. I do the school run, come home and catch up on admin and housework. Then, by 10 am, I'll be writing. I'll try to write 2,000 - 3,000 words each day. If I don't hit my target in the morning, I'll catch up in the evening. I have to be disciplined, or the book won't get written. I also run a book promo company, so I have to fit that it, too! I spend most of the weekend with my family, with the odd dash upstairs to make notes if inspiration strikes.

You come from a music industry background, do you still write songs or has fiction taken over?

My singing and song writing days are gone. After kids, I found it too hard to keep going up to London. Writing fiction is the perfect balance - I get to be creative, but I also get to stay at home with my kids. My youngest son is music-obsessed, though, so he's constantly singing, rapping, dancing etc.

You already have a variety of YA novels with the Post Apocalyptic Outside Series and the Vampire Marchwood Series, why the change to adult Psychological Thrillers and which have you enjoyed writing most?

I've been writing YA for years, and I still love it. But I always wanted to try my hand at adult fiction. It gives you a little more freedom to push the boundaries and write exactly as you want without considering age restrictions. Not that my writing is particularly X-rated! I had the inspiration for The Girl from the Sea, and knew I had to write it as an adult thriller - it wouldn't work as YA.

My YA fiction is epic, adventurous and romantic. My adult fiction is more taut and realistic, but all my books, no matter the genre, tend to be dark, with ominous overtones. I guess I'm just creepy like that. Oh, and everything I write has twists. I do love a good jaw-dropping twist.

With the new novel The Girl from the Sea where did the plot idea come from? It's based in your neighbourhood did that help?

My eldest son took up rowing in Christchurch a couple of years ago. It's so pretty down there by the river. The town is this picture-perfect place. I spend a lot of time walking along the quay while he has his coaching sessions, and one day I thought, what a perfect place to set a novel. The title and the plot came to me in a flash, complete with the image of the cover.

I know you are working on the next novel another psychological thriller The Best Friend, can you tell us anymore?

It's all plotted out and I'm writing it at the moment. My plan is to get the first draft finished before the kids break up for the summer - but time seems to be whizzing past too quickly! It's set in my home county of Dorset again and has a similar vibe to The Girl from the Sea, with more chills and twists. Here’s the blurb...

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Wrong.

Louisa Sullivan has a seemingly idyllic life, with a great job, a gorgeous husband and a young son at private school. But when she becomes envious of her new best friend’s wealthier lifestyle, events take a chilling turn . . .

If you could send a message to your readers what would it be?

The words ‘thank you’ seems inadequate, but, it’s what I would want to say. To those who write encouraging emails or message me on social media, thank you. To readers who write positive reviews, you have to know that after I read them, I dance around the room like a lunatic. To those who write negative reviews, your feedback challenges me to try and improve my writing (after the initial sobbing and gnashing of teeth, of course). To those who forward on my books to friends, relatives, and neighbours, your recommendation means so much. To readers who follow my blog, friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, I'm hugely grateful for our connection. To every single person who’s ever read my books, thank you!

Thank you again for allowing me the chance to ask questions, can't wait for next book 

Thanks, Sarah. It's been wonderful chatting to you today!

I have this on my own TBR mountain and I can't wait to read it now! I'd just like to say a big thank you to my guest reviewer Sarah Mackins and author Shalini Boland for stopping by my blog, it's been a pleasure to have you lovely ladies join me today.