Women's Fiction

After the End by Clare Mackintosh

Publisher:           Sphere

Published:           25th June 2019

Reviewed:           19th July 2019

Blurb

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. Only now they’re facing the most important decision of their lives – and they don’t agree.

As the consequences of an impossible choice threaten to devastate them both, nothing will ever be the same again.

But anything can happen after the end . . .

My Review

I knew this book was different to the author’s usual genre, and after reading the author’s note (I always read these before the book) I also realised it would be a heart-wrenching story. What I wasn’t prepared for was putting everything on hold as I found myself gripped for hours on end as the characters worked their way into my heart.

Split into two parts, part one has a triple narrative that draws the reader into the shoes of Pip, Max, and Leila. Pip and Max are a happily married couple whose lives are turned upside down when their two-year-old son, Dylan, is diagnosed with a brain tumour; Leila is Dylan’s paediatric neurologist. As the main bread earner, Max juggles his demanding career (and unforgiving wanker of a boss), whilst Pip gives up her job to spend every waking moment at Dylan’s bedside. Geographically the couple are miles apart for the best part of the week, but the bond between them is stronger than ever as they hold each other together, willing their boy to get well. As well as Pip and Max both having their own voice through first-person narratives, we also see how they are perceived from the outside world through the limited third-person perspective of Leila. Leila is a well-drawn out character where we also see how the everyday strain of working as a doctor for the NHS impacts on her life and relationships as a young woman.

But when Dylan’s condition takes a turn for the worse, Pip and Max’s relationship is put to the test when they have different ideas of what the best treatment options are for their son, and when the couple aren’t able to agree, the hospital steps in and takes the case to court. With Pip, Max, and Leila, each having individual voices through their own designated chapters, this allows the reader to empathise with their different perspectives: what it is like to be them and how they reach the decision they have regarding what is best for Dylan. Part one of the narrative ends as the judge gives his verdict.

With the world and his wife having a view on what the right decision should be, part two of the story is where the author really ups her game. Although a bit confusing at first, this part of the narrative has a sliding doors structure where the different outcome scenarios of the court-case are played out. It is these kind of stories where I do prefer a real book rather than an e-book, so I can flick back and work out what’s going on. Anyway, once I’d figured out that this was actually a sliding-doors structure, and that I wasn’t going mad, this made the story all the more compelling. During this part of the story, chapters alternate between the perspectives of Pip and Max, and there are different time periods as the cleverly structured plot, addresses the question as to whether one decision is any better than the other. It also makes you consider whether fate is a factor: no matter what route you take will you end up in the same place?

The story also explores the theme of unconditional love. Not just the love between Pip, Max, and Dylan; but maternal love between Max and his mother, Pip and her mother, Leila and her mother, Blair (no spoilers as to who she is!) and her children.

One of the first things I was taught as part of my English Literature and Creative Writing degree was to ‘write what you know’ in a fictionalised way, adding elements of ‘what if’. After the End by Clare Mackintosh is an absolute masterclass in this, and should be considered essential reading material for every serious creative writing student. I’ve long admired the work of Clare Mackintosh, her first book I Let You go, in particular, is one that years later has still stayed with me; After the End will be no exception.

As I said earlier, After the End is very different to the author’s usual style of writing, and this beautifully written narrative reminded me of Carol Mason, Kit de Waal, and Emma Cooper.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

With over 2 million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.
Both Clare’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. All three of her books were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and together have been translated into over thirty-five languages.
Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

https://www.waterstones.com/book/after-the-end/clare-mackintosh/9780751564945

Women's Fiction

THE PRINTED LETTER BOOKSHOP by Katherine Reay

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Published: 14th May 2019 (e-book)

13th June 2019 (paperback)

Reviewed: 11th June 2019

Blurb

One of Madeline’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt-and the now struggling bookshop left in her care. While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late.

My Review

I haven’t read within this genre for a while but as a book-lover I was drawn not only to the title of this novel but also to its gorgeous cover. Admittedly, I did find it to be a bit of a slow starter, but it wasn’t long before the characters had grown on me and I wanted to find out more about them.

With three different perspectives, Madeline, Janet, and Claire, are all at different stages in their lives: Madeline is a single high-flying career woman; Claire is married with two teenage children; and Janet is divorced with two grown-up children. Madeline is the protagonist and has inherited The Printed Letter Bookshop from her estranged Aunt Maddie. The plot had a bit of a Sophie Kinsella’s Domesticated Goddess feel about it at the beginning: when Madeline is turned down for promotion, she jacks in her job as lawyer and runs away to the small town of Eagle Valley for a more simple life. Madeline has every intention of selling her aunt’s bookshop at the earliest opportunity, but as Madeline gets to know the residents of Eagle Valley, she realises just how wrong she was about what happened in the past between her parents and her aunt.

To confuse things even more for Madeline, is Janet and Claire who work at the bookshop. Janet and Claire also both have first-person narratives so the reader gets closely drawn in to their worlds, as well as Madeline’s. As well as the prospect that they will shortly be losing their jobs, both characters have their own sets of problems. Claire is married with two teenage children, and it is the problem with her daughter that troubles Claire. Janet is divorced with two grown up children; but her children have disowned her, blaming her for splitting up with their father. At first Claire and Janet resent Madeline, but there was more to old Aunt Maddie than the women bargained for, and the individual Printed Letters that she left each of them gradually bring the three women together as friends. But this isn’t just about friendship, there’s also a sprinkling of romance – but is grumpy gardener Chris really that grumpy, and is he really a gardener?

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

https://katherinereay.com/

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-printed-letter-bookshop/katherine-reay/9780785222002

Women's Fiction

No Sweat by Rosy Fenwicke #womensfiction #amreading #twisty

Publisher: Wonderful World

Published: 18th February 2019

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Date of Review: 21st April 2019

Blurb

Never Back Down. She’s never backed down from a challenge but being a middle-aged woman with superpowers is more difficult than Euphemia Sage anticipated. Tracked by a pesky journalist, opportunities for developing her powers are scarce. Her family and friends are mystified, and she can’t explain. Book Two of the Euphemia Sage Chronicles follows the fast-paced twists and turns we have come to expect from our favourite post-menopausal super heroine to reach an action-packed and satisfying conclusion.

My Review

After thoroughly enjoying Hot Flush the first story in the Euphemia Sage chronicles, I couldn’t wait to catch up with Euphemia in this second book.

I would categorise this novel as Women’s Fiction because Euphemia is such a strong woman – in every sense of the word – and faces the situation she is in because she is a woman. The stage in life where women everywhere are at a disadvantage, often left in an exhausted and sweaty heap, imprisoned by their own bodies, is ‘switched’ around here. When Euphemia reached the menopause she inherited super-powers passed down through her maternal bloodline: the eldest daughter of the eldest daughter. This fantastical storyline combined with a cleverly twisted plot also has elements of a fast-paced psychological thriller, but Euphemia’s super-powers can turn these edge-of -the-seat scenes into something quite comedic. Think Marvel. Euphemia would make an amazing addition to the Marvel team!

With a scientist after her blood, and a journalist determined to out her super-powers, both Euphemia and her eldest daughter are at risk. I won’t say who the scientist is or how he is linked to Euphemia’s ex-receptionist who is now in prison, as that is all part of the storyline in Hot Flush, but this sense of threat gives this utterly unique storyline several spine-tingling moments that will have readers turning those pages faster than Euphemia when she’s out on one of her runs!

The plot is fast-paced and the narrative is well-written, which has resulted in yet another un-putdownable read by Rosy Fenwicke. Whilst the story is a stand-alone, the narrative does touch on the happenings of the first book in the series, so I would definitely recommend reading Hot Flush first. After reading Hot Flush myself, I was left feeling I really wanted to hear more about the adventures of Euphemia Sage. Has this book satisfied my curiosity? Yes, but I still want more! I just love Euphemia. She is such an utterly brilliant character and the storyline is completely unique. I can see a whole series of these books. I certainly hope there will be!

Thank you to the author

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

http://www.rosyfenwickeauthor.com/

https://amzn.to/2DmFW5s Amazon UK

https://amzn.to/2VVbYN0 Amazon US

Women's Fiction

THE SHADOW BETWEEN US

by Carol Mason

#TheShadowBetweenUs #WomensFiction #NewRelease #LakeUnionAuthors

Publisher: Lake Union

Date of Publication: 21st March 2019

Date of Review: 19th March 2019

Blurb

What is it about the coast that attracts people running from their past?

Maybe there’s something in a sea breeze that blows away your problems. Maybe when you look out at the ocean you can see the future; forget the secrets and pain holding you back.

Or at least you can forget them for a time.

When Olivia moves to Port Townsend, her marriage is floundering, and her life is in pieces. She doesn’t know if things with her husband Mark are truly over, or quite why the phone call she longs for on her daughter’s birthday will never come.

Joining a letter-writing club seems like a harmless decision. But when she meets Ned, an ex-soldier badly wounded in Afghanistan, this unlooked-for friendship revives unexpected emotions and memories she’d rather forget.

Can Olivia find the courage to confront what she’s hiding from and finally begin to heal the wounds that have torn her life apart? From the bestselling author of After You Left comes a story about finding hope in second chances.

My Review

A heartrending story with a shocking twist that will leave you feeling giddy and bewildered…

One of the things I like best in a good story is how seemingly inconsequential things scattered throughout the book all link together, resulting in a reeling final twist that is totally unexpected but so very plausible. Carol Mason has executed this to perfection.

The Shadow Between Us is quite different to the author’s usual genre: more Female Noir than Women’s Fiction. It is clear from the outset the protagonist is running away from something. Olivia is unstable and flawed but also kind and generous; and whilst true to genre the protagonist is an unreliable first-person narrator, these personality traits also make her identifiable and easy to empathise with.

Whilst The Shadow Between Us, is different in genre to Carol’s other books, her unique narrative voice and style still shines through. When people ask what the difference is between Women’s Fiction and Chick-Lit, I always tell them to read After You Left. That is my definition of Women’s Fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I am far from a Chick-Lit snob, quite the opposite in-fact, but I do believe there is a difference between Chick-Lit and Women’s Fiction and this is largely to do with the narrative voice. This same narrative voice is present in The Shadow Between Us but coupled with a darker plotline this places the genre closer to Female Noir.

As with all Carol’s novels, The Shadow Between Us is very character driven, giving almost a literary feel. The story is all about Olivia: she is the protagonist but her own fear of what happened in her past is also the antagonistic force. This makes for one hell of a read and I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Go reserve your copy NOW!!

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

http://www.carolmasonbooks.com/

https://amzn.to/2Fp5TCZ

https://amzn.to/2uffy8z

Women's Fiction

Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel

by Ruth Hogan

Publisher: Two Roads

Date of Publication: 7th Feb 2019

Date of Review: 20th Feb 2019

Blurb

Tilly was a bright, outgoing little girl who liked playing with ghosts and matches. She loved fizzy drinks, swear words, fish fingers and Catholic churches, but most of all she loved living in Brighton in Queenie Malone’s magnificent Paradise Hotel with its endearing and loving family of misfits – staff and guests alike. But Tilly’s childhood was shattered when her mother sent her away from the only home she’d ever loved to boarding school with little explanation and no warning.

Many years later, Tilda has grown into an independent woman still damaged by her mother’s unaccountable cruelty. Wary of people, her only friend is her dog, Eli. But when her mother dies, Tilda goes back to Brighton and with the help of her beloved Queenie sets about unravelling the mystery of her exile from The Paradise Hotel, only to discover that her mother was not the woman she thought she knew at all …

Mothers and daughters … their story can be complicated … but it can also turn out to have a happy ending.

My Review

Ruth Hogan has a unique voice that captures the very essence of the contemporary ‘Uplit’ genre. Rich in imagery, from both Hogan’s unparalleled language to Tilda’s metaphorical black dog that has been her companion since childhood, this enchanting narrative will have you hooked. The story is structured around a past and present timeline: with grown-up ‘Tilda’ narrating the present storyline in first-person; and the past timeline told from the third-person limited perspective of ‘Tilly’ the child.

This dual perspective works really well. The first-person narrative gives a sense of here and now as to what is happening in Tilda’s life as an adult, but even though it is Tilda’s story and places the reader in her shoes, there is still an element of doubt as to her reliability as a first-person narrator. To Tilda, Eli is an ordinary dog; her faithful companion. But not everybody can see him. This questions just how reliable is her opinion of her mother? Was she really that terrible? Or has Tilda got it wrong? This question drives the narrative forward: just what is the real truth?

The past time-line is cleverly interwoven through a combination of backflash and epistolary. When Tilda discovers her mother’s old diaries, this not only gradually reveals her mother’s perspective but also triggers memories of specific events in the eyes of ‘Tilly’ the child.

Hogan’s observation of life through a child’s eyes is wonderfully perceptive and Tilly’s childlike voice shines through, making what is essentially a heart-breaking story into what, at times, is a belly-roaring laugh out loud narrative.

Thank you to the publisher

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

http://ruthhogan.co.uk/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queenie-Malones-Paradise-Hotel-author/dp/1473669065/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550616018&sr=8-1&keywords=queenie+malones+paradise+hotel

https://www.waterstones.com/book/queenie-malones-paradise-hotel/ruth-hogan/9781473669062

Women's Fiction

Christmas at the Little Cottage on the Hill By Emma Davies

Publisher: Bookouture

Date of Publication: 26th Oct 2018

Date of Review: 24th Dec 2018

One twinkling winter’s night, Ruby wakes her sleeping children and escapes for a new life in the countryside. It’s a choice that will change her life beyond all recognition…

Arriving at the cosy little rental cottage as the first snow begins to fall, Ruby doesn’t regret leaving her bully of a husband for a moment, but she does feel guilty about uprooting her kids so close to Christmas. She can only wish that one day soon her son will forgive her.

It’s not long before the family are settled in and drinking hot chocolate by the fire, the flames kept roaring by a neighbouring woodsman called Angus. As big as a tree, but as gentle as a dormouse, all Ruby’s instincts tell her to be wary of letting this gorgeous stranger get too close. Is that the first tingle of festive magic Ruby can feel? Or might it even be hope?

As Christmas day approaches and a blizzard sparks a power cut across the entire village, Ruby must force herself to believe in Christmas miracles again. Was she right to put her trust in Angus? With only flickering candles to guide her through the darkness, will she ever find her way back to the light?

My Review

Christmas at the Little Cottage on the Hill is a perfect read for a cold wintery day that will make you want to snuggle up with a warm blanket and a hot chocolate. Just what you need to fill you with Christmas -spirit. It is the fourth book in the series but the first one I’ve read. The sub-plot ties in with what has gone on before and the first few chapters introduces these previous characters. This is cleverly crafted and woven into the main story so this book can be easily read as a stand-alone novel.

The main storyline for this fourth book doesn’t start until chapter three but when it did, it captivated me right from the start. Ruby has uprooted herself and her two children and escaped to an idyllic new home in the countryside. But her son, Jem, isn’t happy about moving and this conflict is what keeps the pages turning.

Filled with relatable characters, as the story reaches its climax there are some real tear-jerker moments, so you might want to make sure you ask Santa for a big box of tissues in your stocking this year!

A great Christmas read for fans of Jill Mansell, Carole Matthews, or Phillipa Ashley.

Under Literature Love’s rating scheme, this book has been awarded 4 out of 5 stars.

This means:

I really enjoyed this book. This book is highly recommended.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an Advance Review Copy of this book.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Little-Cottage-Hill-unputdownable-ebook/dp/B07G2GPNTL/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1545633937&sr=8-1&keywords=christmas+at+the+little+cottage+on+the+hill

Women's Fiction

While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins

Publisher:                   Simon & Schuster UK

Date of Publication:    23rd August 2018

Date of Review:           20th August 2018

Synopsis

What if someone else was living your happy ever after?

When Maddie wakes up in a hospital bed, she can’t remember anything about what happened to her or what has changed.

She just remembers she was about to be married and had everything to look forward to.

But it seems life has become a lot more complicated while she has been asleep …

My Review

Maddie has everything to live for: loving parents, a gorgeous fiancé who adores her, and a baby on the way. The icing on the cake is her fairy tale wedding which is just a few days away. But when she believes she is being followed she makes a decision that has devastating consequences and when she wakes from a coma nothing is as she remembers.

In contrast, with no family of her own, Chloe leads a solitary life. The only thing she has to look forward to is her job at the library and the volunteer work she does at the local hospital.

This is the first novel I’ve read by this author and had an open mind as to its genre. I knew love was a theme running through the story but with its initial fast paced narrative which sees Maddie trying to escape from somebody she believes to be stalking her, I visualised the narrative going down the domestic noir route. But I was wrong.

The novel is structured around a dual first-person narrative from both Maddie and Chloe’s perspectives. When Maddie wakes from a coma the plot twists come thick and fast and foreshadows the grief and anguish to follow.  However, as the story progresses, the pacing slows down and moves to a more literary style. Although not a lot happens during this part, I was still hooked by the author’s all-consuming style of writing. The story picks up when Chloe takes over as the narrator. Prior to this, Chloe had been cast as the antagonist; but with her own sad story to tell it’s easier to empathise with her. Although to be honest, my loyalty as a reader was with Maddie throughout.

As the lives of these two women intertwine their lives become more and more complicated.  But whilst Maddie and Chloe should be enemies, this is an uplifting story of compassion and friendship where jealousy and insecurities are forced to one side as they work together to overcome adversity for the sake of the person who they both love more than anything in the world.

This book has been awarded 5 out of 5 stars for its genre.

I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

I recommend you stop what you’re doing and go and buy this book now!

Thank you to Simon & Schuster UK for an Advance Review Copy of this book.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/While-Was-Sleeping-Dani-Atkins/dp/1471165930/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=