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Tag Archives: Contemporary Fiction

Book Review – Lily Love by Maggi Myers

This story managed to simultaneously break my heart and repair it. The author approached this subject matter beautifully and managed to do justice to a situation that no parent wants to contemplate yet many live every single day.

Caroline used to have it all: she was madly in love with her husband, Peter, and they worshiped their beautiful baby girl. But as Lily grows into a toddler, Caroline notices that her daughter seems to live and act with a disconnect, and soon the perfect future Caroline had envisioned, along with her marriage, begin to crumble. Now she and Peter are no longer lovers, they’re plaintiffs in the throes of divorce while still struggling to care for Lily. After years of blame and overwhelming despair, Caroline’s chance encounter with a stranger at University Hospital opens her eyes to the prospect of accepting new support, new loves, and new dreams.

From the acclaimed author of “The Final Piece” comes a story of a family broken and unable to cope with a daughter’s disability. And a mother who finds that letting go of the life she imagined may be the only way to get to the life she was meant for.

This story follows Caroline as she wrangles her relationships with the people closest to her and learns slowly, to let herself live just a little. Caroline is the recently separated mother of a little girl named lily. Lily was a very longed for baby for Caroline and her husband Pete but unfortunately no matter how much something is wished for sometimes life just doesn’t go to plan. This is a fact that all of the characters in this book have to face in their own way, it is an universal truth, and possibly one of the things that rung so true to me with this story is that life really does just carry on. Whether you’ve just received terrible news about your child, or separated from your partner, or faced a death of a loved one. Life just continues to march on, at the end of the day you either march on with it or are left to drift about while being swallowed by circumstances that are never ever fair.

I’ve seen a bit of talk from people reviewing this book that they felt that Caroline’s reaction to Lily’s issues was an overreaction. That they couldn’t understand how 3 years down the track she was still such a wreck about it. However I disagree. I felt like her reaction, and continued reaction is definitely in the realms of normal. There is no guide book on how to deal with situations like what Caroline and Lily face. Unless you’re a parent of a child that has ever received news similar you would never ever be able to comprehend what that feeling would be, and even then, every single person is so unique. People grieve differently, and that essentially is what Caroline is doing. Grieving the life she believed her daughter would have. Coming to terms with a new reality. Realizing that this is her life now, that there is no changing it. So to me the portrayal of Caroline was authentic, no matter how uncomfortable it was at times to witness.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that things always have a way of working themselves out and that happily ever after is within our reach, if we just work hard enough. The truth is that none of us are immune to tragedy. No matter how hard you work, no matter how good you are, life isn’t obligated to give you a fairy-tale ending.

I also felt like this book detailed separation and divorce in a very real way. As much as sometimes it’s hard to grasp, there doesn’t always have to be some huge catastrophic event that breaks a marriage apart. Sometimes people just have so much difficulty with their own stuff that they can’t possibly maintain a relationship with another and this essentially is what Caroline and Pete went through. They were seemingly victims of their circumstances. The demise of their marriage a powerful warning of what happens when you stop communicating. You can tell that it was inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any easier to digest especially since Pete is not a terrible person,e’s just doing his best just as Caroline is doing hers. Seeing all of this just made me want to scream some sense into them, which I think is the point. Once again, reality bites and this is a very realistic depiction of the casualties of life.

I feel like I’ve made this story sound all doom and gloom! I promise it’s not. Yes, it is a heavy read. It had me close to tears more than a few times, sometimes out of frustration, sometimes out of sadness. But it’s also a story of living. And very slowly you get to see Caroline develop into more than a distraught mother, when she meets her ‘stranger’ you suddenly see a flash of possibility, that maybe life can take an unexpected turn for the better once in a while. I LOVED the storyline between Caroline and Tate. I loved that it stayed true to the tone of the book, that it was painted in the realism of life, that he wasn’t ‘perfect and rich and super happy with model like looks and suddenly all issues were solved.’ No, he had his own baggage. He couldn’t always be available, he had life to attend to just as she did. Together they helped each other. Life isn’t always tidy and perfect and romantic but that doesn’t make it any less special, I loved this book… Sometimes we just all need to know that there’s hope in even the seemingly worst of times…


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Book Review – Kings & Queens by Terry Tyler

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This book was received from the Author in return for an honest review

Terry Tyler’s seventh novel is a romantic drama spanning the years 1971 – 2007, with an unusual echo from history …

“KINGS AND QUEENS” tells of the life and loves of charismatic Harry Lanchester, which just happen to mirror the story of Henry VIII and his six wives. All the passion and suspense of the Tudor court, but set in modern times.

Harry’s realm is his South of England property developing company, Lanchester Estates, while his ‘wives’ are the twentieth century sisters of their historic counterparts: Anne Boleyn is reincarnated as the equally intriguing Annette Hever, and Henry VIII’s fifth wife with the risqué past, Catherine Howard, lives again in 1999 as Keira Howard, a former lap dancer.

The saga is narrated by each of the six women, in turn, interspersed with short chapters from the point of view of Harry’s lifelong friend, Will Brandon.

Don’t worry if you know nothing of this period in history – “Kings and Queens” can be enjoyed as a contemporary family drama, very much in the vein of Ms Tyler’s previous novels. Readers with an interest in the Tudors, though, will pick up on many similarities, references and metaphors, some quite amusing. For those non-Tudor fanatics who would like a brief look at the life of Henry VIII before reading, the author has included, in the Kindle book, a link to a mini-biography on her blog.

A sequel, following the lives of Harry’s three children, is already planned.

There was the promise that this novel would be something different. That it would entwine the story of Henry VIII and our (by comparison) very modern current day world. I knew that if it was done well I was going to absolutely be absorbed by it. I also knew that if Terry Tyler wrote the characters in this book nearly as well as she had done in the past books of hers that I’ve read then I would be well and truly enamoured. I’m very happy to report that my expectations were more than met on both counts.

I loved how the book was broken down. Having the women in Harry’s life tell the story kept the pace up and most importantly it kept it fresh. Because Terry Tyler is so great at really giving her characters their own ‘voice’ and making them as individual as you and I are, you really got a clear picture of each woman, of how people and their personalities and idiosyncrasies really can make everything so completely different from what it was and what it will be. It’s so true that some people bring out the best in each other and some bring out the worst.

Along with the ‘wives’ each recounting their time with Harry we also hear regularly from Will, who is Harry’s best friend. His chapters are integral to the story as he fills in gaps and fleshes out parts of the storyline that you just know there is more to tell…. (Obviously the wives don’t witness everything about their husband’s life!) I definitely did have my favourites from the six women in Harry’s life, but Will had to trump them all. Possibly because he had been a constant in Harry’s life since they were both children and he was the kind of friend that stuck by Harry even when he didn’t agree with him, the romantic minded soul in me loves the idea of that length of friendship, or possibly because he seemed to be one of the kindest characters in the book, or possibly because he always came through with the extra details to whatever scandal was going on at the time. Whatever the reason I love how sometimes a character can sneak up on you like that and become someone that you are very attached to.

It’s so true that you don’t need really any knowledge at all of the Tudors to enjoy this book. You absolutely could pick it up and read it for what it is and be very entertained, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. But like I said at the beginning of this review I LOVE that there is more to it than that if you want there to be, that you can draw parallels between the stories of Harry and Henry VIII. That this take on the Tudor history has you dying to know more, even though really you do know the path the story takes… but trust me, even though you know the direction of this story you will not sit there checking off the boxes. There is so much going on that you’ll just HAVE to know whats coming next.

Terry Tyler has cleverly written a mini history on the Tudors on her blog so that those who want to know all about the people and story that this modern day fiction is based on then they can, I popped on and had a quick read as a refresher (I had a basic knowledge but certainly nothing in-depth enough to think I knew this story.) Personally I’m really glad that I did this, I definitely felt like knowing the history that the book is based on really added to the complete package of this story, I could appreciate the links that wouldn’t have been so obvious if I hadn’t schooled myself on the subject first. It really did illustrate how much thought and skill has gone into writing this very absorbing, very entertaining re-imagining of the tales of Henry VIII and his six wives. I have to say, that this is my favourite Terry Tyler read so far.

Kings And Queens

By Terry Tyler

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Book Review – Remember the Moon by Abigail Carter

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The Lovely Bones meets Ghost, Remember The Moon is a poignant story of an everlasting love that reaches far beyond the grave. Jay is a successful businessman, husband, and father. His sudden death leaves his wife, Maya, hollow and angry, and their seven-year-old son, Calder, spins destructively out of control. With help from a spirited afterlife therapist, Jay revisits his past, discovering hard truths about himself and the world he left behind. He attempts to comfort Maya and Calder in their grief while discovering his true “spirit” self. Then, when Maya hires a psychic to communicate with him, Jay learns her darkest secret and in his shock, inadvertently sends her on a path of ill-fated romance. Confronted with the decision to either follow his mortal instincts or help his wife find love, Jay must learn to transcend everything he ever was.

The blurb had me intrigued from the first sentence so I one-clicked and sat down to read, I finished it in an evening. I literally could not put it down. This book was a beautiful read, a journey through the story of grief and loss in both human and spirit. I loved how the author managed to weave the two stories together so beautifully, how human became intermixed with spirit and vice-versa.

I guess I’m like a lot of people, curious about any potential ‘afterlife’. It’s natural as a human to wonder if there’s anything for us after death, or before birth, natural to hope that our loved ones have gone somewhere and natural to hope that they could be watching over us, so close but unseen. The premise of this book exploring an idea of what could possibly be out there definitely appealed to my sense of curiosity. The ideas this author used to create this ‘afterworld’ were beautiful and sometimes unexpected, but always made sense for the story and characters. I have to say, if there is indeed something out there for us after death I wouldn’t mind at all if what was in this book was our reality.

Watching myself die, I felt no pain, no emotion, no fear.

As for the human aspect of the story, it was beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. Calder (the son) had my heart breaking again and again. Following both Maya and Calder through all of the hurt, pain, loneliness and anger. All of the attempts at moving forward, of adapting to the new reality of mother and son only, of learning to live with the fact that life is changed and to some extent will always be different, the fact that you can never go back to how it used to be. It was written as it should be, all encompassing. Like a giant blanket of fog had been pulled over this family and they were trying to work their way through it. I can’t ever imagine what the reality of losing your husband/parent would be like, but I am sure that this story does a very good job at creating the reality of such a horrible loss.

Death taught me that luck or unluck is merely an illusion of the human mind, a story we tell ourselves so we can blame our failures on bad luck rather than face our messy, true selves.

This isn’t my go-to genre but this is up there with some of my favorites from when I do read it from time to time. It was so heartfelt and poignant and it completely captured me. It’s definitely a must-read, a very worthwhile story that was very deserving of being told.

Remember the Moon: A Novel

By Abigail Carter

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Book Review – Full Circle by Terry Tyler

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This book was received from the Author in return for an honest review

Full Circle

By Terry Tyler

Two years have passed since we left Dave, Ariel, Janice and Shane at the end of DREAM ON.
ARIEL thought her hard work and perseverance had been rewarded when she met record producer Theo Perlmutter ~ then a tragic event turned her dreams to dust.
Newly married JANICE was happier than she’d ever been ~ but the honeymoon ended when born again alcoholic husband Max careered off the wagon and into the nearest bar.
Being forced onto The Jeremy Kyle Show in DREAM ON was not enough to make ladies’ man SHANE learn his lesson – will his philandering ways eventually catch up with him?
Rock band THOR has risen from the ashes…
… but DAVE is unhappy, trapped in a domestic situation not of his choosing.
Will there be a happy ever after ending for any of them?

I was excited to start this book; I really really enjoyed Dream On, which is the predecessor to this one. You can find my review for that HERE. In Full Circle we find ourselves reunited with the gang a few years down the track… Life has been ticking along as it does, bringing with it a new set of hurdles for everyone.

It was funny how things worked out, wasn’t it? Fucking hilarious, really.

As soon as I started reading I felt this warm fuzzy familiarity, it was just like visiting old friends. I was glad to find that my favourite characters were just as I remembered them. I could recognize them, even though parts of their lives had changed, they were still the people I got to know in the first book. This really, is why I think you should read the first book before you start on this one. You don’t HAVE to, but the character journey will be so much more fulfilling if you do! I also want to point out; if you’ve read the first book then you would be CRAZY to not read this sequel.

 A good sequel doesn’t spend its time re-hashing the previous book, but it does help refresh your memory with what had happened, it needs a good flow to link the two books together, and this most certainly does that. I loved that there were some long running storylines that ran throughout both books, but also this book had a few new characters and stories that were fresh and substantial.

There is a lot going on in this book, plenty to keep you turning the pages, plenty to keep you wanting to jump in and give a few characters a bit of sound advice. For me Janice was one of these characters. Her storyline with her alcoholic husband made me feel exactly how I’d expect a friend to someone in that situation to feel, frustrated and heartbroken. I spent her chapters alternating between wanting to hug her and wanting to shake some sense into her. In fact, I think I spent many chapters with most of the characters feeling like this (Could’ve seriously throttled Shane sometimes! The male psyche baffles me) this just goes to show how real this book is, how real the characters are. These are feelings I would have if my friends were going through these situations. I empathised, I rolled my eyes, and I was hopeful, crushed and excited. Just like the last book, the characters all have their own voice, their own journey.

Terry Tyler really makes the most of using this sequel to tie up lots of loose ends, it’s very satisfying to follow the story through so many twists and turns and have that feeling that the story really has been told. Fans of a good HEA won’t be disappointed… I loved the way this ended in every single way possible. Oh, and I absolutely LOVE how just as the title is Full Circle, at a few points in the book I was thinking to myself… yep, that just came full circle… because that is well and truly life!

She’d come full circle; right back to the beginning

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Book Review – Shoveling Snow By Brett Sills

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This book was received from the Author in return for an honest review

Ben and Caroline barely recognize each other any more. Their once solid relationship now broken and beaten by unfathomable events, leaving only a shell of past promise. When pressure cracks the last vestiges of their bond, Ben hastily leaves their Southern California home, pointing the car east to what he hopes is the edge of the Earth. After driving until he can no further, he settles in the small, coastal town of Swintonport, Maine to lose himself in quiet and anonymity, renting the quaint guesthouse of Maggie and her ten-year-old daughter, Smoof. But when tragedy strikes his landlord’s family, Ben is confronted with a sobering truth reminiscent of the one he left behind.

Firstly can I say how utterly obsessed I am with the character Smoof in this book. She is all of ten years old and possibly one of the most startling and intriguing child characters I’ve come across in a while. She absolutely made this book for me. Her clever one liners, her bristly attitude, the absolute sorrow that surrounds her life, her deep down gentle thoughtful interior.  She really was beautifully written.

What struck me with the adult characters in this book was how well the intricacies of human shortcomings were portrayed. How decisions made, right or wrong can impact lives, how not communicating, or being afraid or unable to communicate can create divides in relationships that are sometimes unable to be repaired. How people, no matter their age, profession or lives can end up in a place that they never in a million years thought that they’d be (in this case for Ben at least, this is literal as well as figurative) How sometimes life is just not fair, and people don’t always bounce back. These characters sometimes had me hating them, they definitely did not all redeem themselves 100% by the end of the book. That was how it was supposed to be though, the realness of it. Life doesn’t ever just get resolved and end up in a tidy package; just like characters don’t always learn every lesson they need to and become better people from it.

The story kept up a good pace, the only parts I felt myself slowing down a bit were the chapters where the history of the town Swintonport was being explored. It forced my mind to change gears and it felt like I was delving into a different story. I don’t think that this was necessarily a ‘bad’ move as far as the flow of the book went, I just think I was so invested in the main characters that I wanted to get back to it. A positive aspect of these historical chapters were by the time I had finished the book I almost felt like I was a ‘local’. I had most certainly been schooled on the subject and it made the place so much more than just a canvas for the characters to play out their stories on.

Before I finish this review I have to mention the prologue in this book. I loved it. In fact I’ve read it again since finishing the book. It was the perfect way to begin the story and it really captured me from the first few sentences…

“…And, oh yeah, your mother can be a real asshole,” Ben’s father said, like he forgot to put it on a grocery list. A simple aside. Just like that.

 By the end of this book I had resolution in most areas, yet a million questions in others, the book was finished but I hadn’t quite come to terms with it. If I was a cat, curiosity would’ve killed me. But I know this wasn’t an over the top HEA type of book, and I actually don’t mind that fact…that’s life! Like I said, not everything ends up in a tidy package.

Shoveling Snow

By Brett Sills

Book Review – The Memory Child By Steena Holmes

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When Brian finds out that his wife, Diane, is pregnant, he is elated. He’s been patiently waiting for twelve years to become a father. But Diane has always been nervous about having children because of her family’s dark past. The timing of the pregnancy also isn’t ideal—Diane has just been promoted, and Brian is being called away to open a new London office for his company.

Fast-forward one year: being a mother has brought Diane a sense of joy that she’d never imagined and she’s head over heels for her new baby, Grace. But things are far from perfect: Brian has still not returned from London, and Diane fears leaving the baby for even a moment. As unsettling changes in those around Diane began to emerge, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems.

A woman’s dark past collides head-on with her mysterious present in this surreal and gripping family drama

Women are made of steel. This was my first thought once I finished this book. My second thought was, wowsers…think I’ll need a few days to let that story sink in and settle! And I have. I actually finished this book last week. I started reading it after lunch and by bedtime that same night I was finished. I could not put it down. Sometimes I really didn’t want to keep reading. Didn’t want the words to drag me down the path I knew they were taking me….but yet I did at the same time.

I felt like I was in the twilight zone, where everyone was speaking a language only I couldn’t understand.

The writing flicks between Brian’s POV in the year previous and Diane’s POV in the current day. I found this such an interesting way to approach the book. It made for stark definition in the story being told and I don’t think the story could’ve been as dramatic if it had just been from her point of view for the entire book. Having Brian speaking really allowed Steena Holmes to emphasise things about Diane and situations that maybe wouldn’t have come up otherwise. Complimenting this was the introduction of the other supporting characters. Their actions and discussions, no matter how subtle, all were instrumental in building the story and unravelling the mystery of what had happened and what was happening.

I did kind of have an idea of what was going on in this book beneath the surface, not a complete picture, but enough to build myself a kind of hypothesis as I was reading. I think generally most people would get the gist of what the inevitable end was going to be. But I think in this instance, the journey to the end, not the end itself was intended to make the biggest (heartbreaking) impression. So I didn’t feel short changed at all, I think if I did then I would’ve been missing the point to the story, which was watching a woman battling to make sense of her world, make sense of her feelings and thoughts and find her reality amongst her chaos.

Except, no matter how many promises someone made to me, I always ended up alone. Always.

This book is not for those of you who want rainbows and happy endings for your next read. But if you can put the rainbows on hold for half a day you should definitely sit down and give it a go. I just recommend that you make yourself a comforting cup of tea and maybe have a block of chocolate handy, because you’re going to need it.

The Memory Child

By Steena Holmes

Book Review – Dream On By Terry Tyler

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Before I start, here’s the blurb…

Dave Bentley was born to be a rock star.

He’s a reincarnated Viking warrior, too…

When Dave forms his new band, Thor, there are plenty of sleepless nights for Janice, his on-off girlfriend and mother of his son. Not only must she deal with the thrills and spills of life as a hardworking single mum, but also the imminent return of singer-songwriter Ariel Swan, Dave’s one true love.

Poor Janice. Dave is still the love of her life.

Ariel Swan returns to small town life – and Dave’s heart.

She and her friend Melodie (whose ambition is to be “a celebrity”) enter a TV talent competition, so Dave and the rest of Thor decide to make the most of the opportunity for possible fame and fortune, too. This adventure brings about big changes in the lives of all of them – none of which Dave could have anticipated.

One member of Thor even ends up on The Jeremy Kyle Show..

I’m a rock chick at heart…Ask BBH, she knows my deal. So I’ve read a few ‘rock’ inspired books. Various storylines and characters. Contemporary fiction type reads. I enjoyed most of them. And I really enjoyed this one. Dream On intertwines (British) rock music, romance and the normal everyday trials and tribulations we all could face. It was the (very well thought-out) inclusion of ‘everyday life’ that made this book feel really ‘human’ to me. The earnest face of trying to make it in todays world, with the term ‘making it’ having very different meanings to the various characters. But don’t for a second that the ‘everyday’ setting makes it boring, because it really doesn’t.  So, firstly let me set the scene with this excerpt from band mate Ritchie…

“I’ve said it before, I know, and I’ll say it again; one minute you’re sauntering along, happy as Larry; you’ve got a gig that night, money in your wallet and some little darling in the audience who’s only got eyes for you, and the next day you wake up next to a woman you don’t recognise who’s put on five stone, wears pyjamas to bed so you won’t get any ideas, thinks more of the kids than she does of you, and wants you to pack in your music and get some shit boring job so that you can pay for her to sit on her arse and watch Jeremy Kyle all day. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.”

This had me cracking up! You gotta love it!

One aspect that kept the book flowing was that we had a few main characters heading up their various stories and parts in the overall story. I loved that these characters didn’t just sound like they had the same voice with a different name. They all had substance. They all were real. They all had quirks, mannerisms and back stories that really came across when it was their turn to be focused on. By doing this, Terry Tyler manages to cover a lot of ground but it doesn’t get confusing or jumpy. It makes the reader feel like we are part of their world, part of their gang, that we are drinking at the pub and living it with them.

My BBH and I do read the odd entertainment blog, so we get the concept of ‘celebrity’ so I really enjoyed reading a book that touched on today’s obsession with people getting their ‘15’ minutes of fame and how the entertainment industry works the way it does. About how music shows aren’t purely about musical talent. That ‘looks’ do matter.  That the role of social media can’t be underestimated. That to the world, entertainment value is everything. That there are a lot of people in competition for an opportunity. I thought this book captured all of this really well, giving you a peek into what you can imagine it would be like for contestants behind the 1 hour televised contest show installment some people watch on Sunday nights.

I don’t want to give too much away about this book; I want you to read it for yourself. If you like a good contemporary fiction read you’ll really enjoy this; I guess the theme that keeps coming through in this review is that it’s relatable. It’s real and engaging. You can hear the music, smell the beer and feel the emotions. It was a cool read and I’ll be reading the follow up, Full Circle, for sure because I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to these guys!

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