Drinking Custard Diary Of A Confused Mum By Lucy Beaumont (With interruptions from Jon Richardson) Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for Drinking Custard Diary Of A Confused Mum (Published 30/9/21) By Lucy Beaumont. A big thank you to the publishers Monoray for sending me a copy to read and review. Also the wonderful Anne for the invite, always a pleasure.

Drinking Custard Diary Of A Confused Mum BLucy Beaumont (With interruptions from Jon Richardson)

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Known for her sharp, witty and surreal view on everyday life, Lucy shares the unpredictable craziness of being a mum in this brilliant and laugh-out-loud ‘mumoir’. Mums everywhere will recognise the madness of it all. From when Lucy was hospitalised with indigestion in her third trimester (blame the burrito), to when she was *this close* to slapping her hypnobirthing instructor, to finding herself drinking a whole pint of custard in one sitting. Drinking Custard also captures Lucy’s marriage to comedian Jon, as they navigate Lucy’s raging pregnancy hormones and balk at pram prices together.

About The Author

Lucy Beaumont is a talented stand-up, comedy actress and writer. She is the writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s To Hull and Back, writer of Channel 4’s Hullraisers and cowriter of Dave’s Meet The Richardsons which returns for a second series this year. Lucy is a well-known daughter of Hull and is passionate about her hometown. She has appeared on numerous entertainment shows; Artsnight (BBC2), Jon Richardson: Ultimate Worrier (Dave), Alan Davies’ As Yet Untitled (Dave), QI (BBC2), Drunk History (Comedy Central), Jonathan Ross Show (ITV), The One Show (BBC1), Cats Does Countdown (C4), What’s Going to Kill Us (C5), Live At The Electric (BBC Three) and featured in a Maltesers advertising campaign.

My Review

If you are looking for tips on how to be a great, amazing, perfect parent then dear reader this book is not for you. This is Lucy’s diary of what it’s honestly like to be a mum. She writes the truth and not the hyped up social media lie we have all been led to believe that is instagrammable. Told in seven parts Lucy and her husband Jon embark on the adventure of parenthood with their adorable but terrifying toddler Elsie.

What I adored most about this book is Beaumont’s pure honesty about being a mother. It’s confusing, stressful and so so so tiring. As a mother to four boys (NO MORE) I can strongly relate to those long 9 months of pregnancy, the unexpected change of the birthing plan and the endless night feeds. Now that Elsie is at school and life has calmed down Beaumont has had the time to look at her diary and work out what actually happened over the last five years. And WOW dear reader, it is certainly like nothing I have ever read before. My face ached from smiling and giggling at how beautifully embarrassing and real life can be. I loved the interruptions by Jon in the footnotes, together they made this book a joy to read.

Beaumont tells the reader about how she met Jon at The Fighting Cocks ( Yes dear reader, this is a real pub, one I went to a few times when I was at Kingston Uni) and how she longed for a baby, to be like the mum in the Fairy Liquid advert. Then the reality of actually being a mother was a shock. A BIG shock. I giggled when I read her list of Why I Want A Child as unless you have children you don’t grasp the reality of actually having children, messy, loud and a constant lack of sleep. You imagine it’s all white carpets with a happy baby crawling about your mess free home. HAHAHAHA 

Beaumont lived with Jon in Surbiton and became a tad obsessed with how she appeared to the other women. The ones in their floaty dresses and perfect hair. She calls herself a snob and prides herself on it, wanting a Bugaboo (£869!) to shop in Waitrose and to have the approval from the Laura Ashley Mums at the baby groups. She admits that she only brought a mud kitchen because there’s a Scandinavian idea that if your child plays with mud and has a connection to nature they won’t get depressed when they are older. She still wants to be working class as her and Jon came from humble beginnings but also wants to be in one of those interior design magazines that no one buys. She doesn’t want to be put into a box and wants to be accepted but hasn’t forgotten her roots. She admits that she knows she’s being silly and wants her baby to be grounded, to enjoy avocados but also go to greasy spoon cafes.

The tales Beaumont tells will leave you with tears in your eyes, happy joyous tears. The Mother and Baby Massage class, I strongly agree with her, it should be a class where the mothers get a lovely relaxing massage. I could not stop laughing when during her pregnancy her boobs started to leak and it looked yellow. She freaked and thought she was leaking custard because she had been addicted to drinking the stuff. The midwife reassured her that yes, that can happen. Just thinking about it now is making me chuckle. 

Beaumont also talks about her relationship with her own mother. She reflects back on her childhood and how she was surrounded by love with her family. Her mother used to turn up at her school and pretend to be the queen and once hid in a bush to check she was ok. She grew up wanting different things from her mother and always admired Laura Ashley. But she is proud of her roots, her home, her mother. She admires how being a single parent must be tough and feels extremely lucky that she has Jon. Parenting as a team is tough but parenting solo…that is a brave and admirable thing indeed.

Beaumont is extremely relatable and I felt like I was chatting with a much loved friend. A friend who completely understands the Jekyll and Hyde that is motherhood. Someone I can be honest and open with about how tough this parenting gig is. I don’t blame her for wanting to look after a pet bull when she saw an advert on Facebook during her pregnancy and wanted to bring him home to cuddle and have parties with his bull friends. I would be exactly the same. Hormones, it’s always the hormones that mess with your emotions.

I give Drinking Custard Diary Of A Confused Mum BLucy Beaumont (With interruptions from Jon Richardson) a Five out of Five paw rating.

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These stories are amusing, embarrassing and just pure brilliant.

I had SO MUCH FUN reading this book. I use caps because OH MY GOD IT’S BRILLIANT. Sorry to shout but it is. Where was this book 8 years ago when I first had my eldest, I would have killed to have something like this then. Every mum, new and old, even dads should read this. It’s highly relatable to how parenthood is terrifying as all hell but also a wonderful experience. 

I am curious as to how she preferred to drink custard: Hot or cold? And I am sorely tempted to try it at some point. It sounds most delicious, I do love custard. And also I do hope Beaumont buys a bunny outfit one day. Do it! 

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy.

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Born Of No Woman By Franck Bouysse Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for Born Of No Woman (Published  21 October 2021) By Franck Bouysse (translated from the French by Lara Vernaud) A big thank you to the publishers Weidenfeld & Nicolson for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the lovely Anne for the invite and who makes being a part of this community truly an honour.       

Born Of No Woman

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Before he is called to bless the body of a woman at the nearby asylum, Father Gabriel receives a strange, troubling confession: hidden under the woman’s dress he will find the notebooks in which she confided the abuses she suffered and the twisted motivations behind them.

And so Rose’s terrible story comes to light: sold as a teenage girl to a rich man, hidden away in a old manor house deep in the woods and caught in a perverse web, manipulated by those society considers her betters.

A girl whose only escape is to capture her life – in all its devastation and hope – in the pages of her diary…

About The Author

Franck Bouysse is a French author. His novels Grossir le ciel in 2014, Plateau in 2016 and Glaise in 2017 have met with wide success and won a vast array of literary awards. Previously a teacher of biology and horticulture, Bouysse lives in the south-west of France.

BORN OF NO WOMAN has won every prize awarded by readers in France, including the GRAND PRIX DES LECTRICES ELLE, one of the most important prizes in France. It has also won THE PRIX DES LIBRAIRES (given by booksellers), PRIX PSYCHOLOGIES MAGAZINE and the PRIX BABELIO.

My Review

Father Gabriel is told in confession that he will soon be called to the nearby asylum to bless the body of a deceased woman. Under her dress he will find hidden notebooks which contain a most disturbing account of events that will shock and sicken you. In the notebooks Rose finally tells of the years of abuse she suffered and the perverted motivation behind it all. Father Gabriel blesses the body and takes the two notebooks with him, concealing them as he leaves. The notebooks are numbered 1 and 2, he reads them front to back and is traumatised by Rose’s story.

Rose has spent years waiting for this moment, every day she readied herself to put things in order, to sort out her ideas and write her story down on actual paper. The friendly nurse Génie who works in the asylum has given her two notebooks so now she can tell her story. She doubts that anyone will likely ever read them but that’s not important. What matters is for once she will get to the end without anyone stopping her, she refuses to back down. She’s thought a lot about what to write first, which part to start at. She decides on the moment she understood that she was leaving one world for another without anyone asking her. She has just turned 14 when her father sells her to the blacksmith, a fat sweaty mess of a man who takes her to his manor house, Les Forges where he lives with his mother, the Old Lady. Rose describes the manor house like a castle and begins to imagine all manner of things that would happen but it’s never as bad as what she actually has to endure. The fat man tells her to call him Master and she is to obey everything ‘We’ say. At the time Rose doesn’t understand the ‘We’ reference but quickly sees it relates to the Old Lady. The Old Lady tells Rose that she is under the blacksmith’s roof now, that he owns Les Forges and she belongs to him. She is told what is expected of her, she is to become their maid. They warn her they won’t tolerate any dereliction of duty and she will be punished if she steps out of line. Rose works to the best of her ability but no matter what, the Old Lady always finds fault with something. Rose also learns that the Master’s wife is ill and is kept locked away upstairs in her room which she is forbidden to ever enter.

On her first day Rose meets Edmond in the kitchen who is the gardener and horse groomer among other things. Rose describes him as not old or young but between the two. There’s something that fascinates her about him, she begins to feel urges and a desire to be held in his big strong arms. However Edmond is not all he seems to be and is hiding his own dark secrets that will literally leave you with your jaw on the floor. I never suspected it dear reader and was completely, utterly stunned when I learned the truth. Trust me, you don’t see it coming.

No matter how hard Rose works she is constantly shouted at by the Old Lady calling her incompetent, an insolent brat. The Master watches her and makes her feel uncomfortable with his leers. Little does she know what the pair have planned for her. When I read that harrowing scene, I felt physically sick and cried for Rose. She is a young girl and yet she is subjected to such horrific abuse that no human should ever have to suffer. It makes you angry and you find yourself grabbing the book in frustration, wanting Rose to escape and gain her freedom.

Rose is a strong, remarkable character. You keep forgetting at times that she is only 14 as she acts more mature for her age. She tells people she is 16 in hopes they won’t see or treat her like a child. She tells herself to stop crying, that the life she had before on the farm with her family has stopped. She will never again shed a tear for anything or anyone. She doesn’t want to die of despair so young and needs to destroy the 14 year old girl she was if she is to survive her captors. She refuses to let it end this way and promises to fight. It breaks your heart to read of a young girl’s youth being stolen from her and forced into a life of pain and misery. You hold on to the hope, the same hope that Rose has that somehow she will be free again.

I give Born Of No Woman By Franck Bouysse a Five out of Five paw rating.

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Twisted and brutal I had to finish what I started. Bouysse pulled me into a dark haunted world where the only sign of hope was in the form of a young 14 year old girl. A girl who was forced to become a woman in order to survive all manner of horror that was inflicted upon her. A girl who refused to give up, or give in to evil. A girl who will always be a fighter and a remarkable woman.

There are a lot of uncomfortable and unspeakable scenes in this book with themes of rape and abuse that may be triggering for some. There are times you want to look away and can’t believe what you are reading but you feel compelled by Rose’s strength to continue with her. To find out if she gets her freedom and escapes. I HAD to know, I owed it to her. Trust me dear reader, you need to learn of Rose’s story, it will open your eyes in more ways than one.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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The Restoration By J.H. Moncrieff Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for The Restoration (Published 26 Oct. 2021) By J.H. Moncrieff. A big thank you to the publishers Flame Tree Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also a big thank you to the wonderful Anne for the invite to take part in the tour, you are amazing as always.                        

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The Restoration

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Inspired by the author’s overnight stay in a historical haunted house, The Restoration is a thrilling tale of intrigue, murder, and family secrets that refuse to stay buried.

It was the perfect opportunity…or so she thought. When Terri Foxworth is hired to spend a year restoring a crumbling manor house, she believes she’s hit the jackpot. She moves in with her young daughter and high hopes for the project’s success. As the restoration begins to go terribly wrong, she realises dark forces won’t let her leave the house until its horrible secrets are revealed.

This job could very well be the death of her.

 

About The Author

J.H. Moncrieff’s City of Ghosts won the 2018 Kindle Book Review Award for best Horror/Suspense.

Reviewers have described her work as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure. She won Harlequin’s search for “the next Gillian Flynn” in 2016. Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

When not writing, she loves exploring the world’s most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class. 

 

My Review

Terri Foxworth is hired by Miss Vandermere to spend a year restoring the daunting but intriguing manor house, Glenvale House. Curious why the job has remained available for a while Terri can’t help but feel sightly unsettled. She has a paranoid mind but the money is too good to pass up. She needs this job and is desperate enough to ignore the ghost stories that surround the house and the twitch in the curtains she swears she saw. Miss Vandermere warns about not letting her imagination run away with her as old houses make noises…drafts and such. Terri has high hopes of success for the house and plans to reestablish her relationship with her 10 year old daughter Dallas who will be moving into the house while she works. Terri is in love with the house and can’t wait to get started. Ignoring all her natural gut instincts to turn and run like everyone else has, Terri is determined to do her job. There is no one else in the house apart from Terri and Dallas. So why does she get the chilling feeling that they are not alone. And just who is Dallas talking to? Who is Nile and why is he dressed so…old fashioned. It quickly becomes clear that the house is hiding an horrific secret, one that will cost Terri everything, her job, her daughter and her life. 

Terri has big plans for the house and her daughter during their stay. However when things begin to take a sinister turn in the form of Nile she becomes frustrated. She is concerned for her daughter and takes an instant dislike to the room she has chosen to sleep in. There is a lot of conflict and tension between the two throughout the book. Along with the eerie atmosphere of the house it adds to the tension and puts you on edge. It consumes you until the very end.

I enjoyed the variety of characters that Moncrieff has created. A real miss-matched bunch of people that are forced together under strange circumstances. You can relate to Terri’s determination and being protective over her daughter.  She prides herself on being a positive person with a can-do attitude and isn’t a quitter. Dallas is an intelligent young girl and her mother’s daughter. She too has fallen in love with the house and has a great talent for finding unique details throughout its vast rooms. Miss Vandermere is the last living descendant of her wealthy family and has a stern stiff presence that makes you uncomfortable. She is the embodiment of money and will cut you in a second. She is extremely dismissive to Terri’s concerns about the house, making you wonder what she’s hiding. Nile is something else entirely and makes you feel uneasy from the moment you meet him. Is he a victim or a dangerous predator.

The whole time I was reading I felt as if I was being watched. The house is intimidating yet it also pulls you in. There’s something mysterious and unnerving about it. I also enjoyed the contrast of the weather outside to how it feels in the house. The sun is shining and you can feel it’s warmth as you sit in the garden. The minute you step inside the house it’s freezing and you skin starts to tingle. It was a haunting experience, one I would gladly take again dear reader.   

I was addicted to this book, I could not put it down until I knew what secrets were buried in the house. When I learned the truth my blood ran cold, I was shocked. Just when you think you know everything there is to uncover, Moncrieff jumps out of nowhere, causing you to stumble back blindly into the dark. Heart-pounding and anxious you feel compelled to continue on, to find out the truth of what happened to Nile and his family. There are so many twists and turns that are deeply disturbing. The speaking tube gave me chills. I was fascinated by the concept of the device but could also feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up at the low moans that echoed from it.

I give The Restoration By J.H. Moncrieff a Five out of Five paw rating

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Absolutely fantastic! My fingers were gripping onto the pages, desperate for more scars, more twists, more ghosts, and boy I was not disappointed. I couldn’t get enough and was saddened when my time at Glenvale House came to an end. However I was left with a small pinch of hope that maybe this isn’t the end, but only the beginning.

This story will give you goosebumps dear reader. I highly recommend it to everyone. You won’t want to put it down until you know the truth. And the truth dear reader, will haunt you…

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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History of Forgetfulness By Shahé Mankerian (Review)

Today dear readers I am reviewing History of Forgetfulness (Published 22nd Oct 2021) By Shahé Mankerian. Happy Publication Day! A big thank you to the publishers Fly On The Wall Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.      

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History of Forgetfulness

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Shahé Mankerian releases his critically-acclaimed debut collection, taking readers back to 1975 Beirut, where an un-civil war is brewing. Mankerian asks, “Who said war didn’t love / the children?” setting the tone for a darkly humorous collection in which memories of love, religion and childhood are entangled amongst street snipers and the confusion of misguided bombings.

About The Author

Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Hovsepian School and the director of mentorship at the International Armenian Literary Alliance (IALA). This debut collection has been a finalist at the Bibby First Book Competition, the Crab Orchard Poetry Open Competition, the Quercus Review Press Poetry Book Award, and the White Pine Press Poetry Prize.

My Review

In Mankerian’s debut collection he takes the readers back to 1975 in Beirut where an un-civil war taints every surface. The sound of bombs, gun fire and fear is thick in the air. This collection holds memories of Mankerian’s childhood; his innocence, along with religion, family and love. Told in two parts, these poems will open your eyes to what life was like growing up in a war zone. Prepare to witness some distressing, visceral scenes dear reader.

In the first poem Educating the Son the reader is greeted with just a small pinch of what is to come. The poem talks about how Mankerian got a job at the morgue in the summer as a young boy. His mother thought it would keep him off the streets and he jokes how death is a booming business as a civil war is brewing. This humorous approach at dark, distressing topics appears in most of his poems and makes you wonder if it is a self-defence technique. When life seems to be crumbling around you, the only thing to do to keep sane is laugh, to make light of it. We often find that if we make a joke about what scares us, it’s not as threatening. He writes in the poem that he would often smile when he encountered death because he didn’t know how to react to the shock of it. While Mankerian worked at the morgue he was in charge of clipping nails and making sure the bodies were pristine. The imagery used paints a vivid and bleak reality of a young boy cleaning dried blood from children with no legs. It sends shivers down your spine at the dark truth of how cruel and disturbing life can be. Mankerian would eat feta cheese on mouldy bread as he watched wives identify faceless men and mothers crying on the bodies of their sons. He wonders if his own mother would look for him when evening came. The poem leaves you with a powerful message of how Mankerian witnessed death before he could live. It’s a strong, powerful poem to open the collection with and sets the tone perfectly. The innocence of youth and the cloaked figure of death working alongside each other is striking and concerning, you feel as if you should look away but it’s also hypnotic to watch.   

These poems are extremely personal and reveal to the reader the pain and absence of a father that Mankerian experienced growing up. In Baker’s Son he describes his father as Godzilla and how he would give him goosebumps whenever he was near. His father only wanted to speak with his belt and Mankerian wishes he would read him bedtime stories instead. He writes of how his father bakes bread with no flavour, it’s like pottery. The bread doesn’t rise and whenever he smells burnt bread he feels sick. To have such a violent reaction to a smell shows the reader how much of an impact his father had on him. As children we want only love and the safety of our parents arms holding us close. Unfortunately we can’t pick our family much like we can’t pick our childhood. Not only was a war going on around Mankerian but his home became a mine field the moment his father appeared. But it’s not all doom and gloom at home dear reader as his mother offers love and healing cooking, a chance of some sort of normality around the horrific scenes of war that surround them. There is still a little ray of hope amongst the dust and bullets. 

The reality of how normal war seemed as it surrounded children and stole their childhoods is shocking to read. In Books a bomb was found ticking near the cafeteria so they didn’t go to school that day. They went wild with freedom, set fire to textbooks and kicked the belly of a cat. What caught me as I was reading this poem was how similar it felt to a snow day, or just a day off from school. No sense of fear or worry. It is as if war was a friend, one that popped in now and then to stir up trouble. This way of life is what the children knew, what they grew up thinking was normal. It’s deeply heartbreaking to read as you realise this happened to hundreds upon thousands of people and was their life.    

I give History of Forgetfulness By Shahé Mankerian a Five out of Five paw rating.

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Strong, absorbing, vivid imagery that hooks you from the moment you begin reading.

Blood, death and gunfire surrounds you at every turn, there’s little escape from the reality of war. It follows you like a bad smell, reluctant to disappear. Images of starving bellies that skip merrily to school as the blood overflows into the street and the sound of gunfire rings in the distance will pull you into the brutally honesty truth of war, of life. Mankerian captures it all. Life, war, childhood, religion, family, love, it will never be forgotten. It is hard to forget the honest reality of the world we live in. Cruel and beautiful. A constant conundrum in orbit that will cease to exist when the darkness consumes us all.

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How To Bring Him Back By Claire HM Review (Fly On The Wall Blog Tour)  

Today dear reader I am the first stop on the blog tour for How To Bring Him Back (Published Paperback – 8th October 2021) By Claire HM. Happy Publication Day! A big thank you to the publishers Fly On The Wall Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. 

This short story is a part of The Fly on the Wall shorts season. Every two months for a year starting from February 26th 2021 they are publishing a short story with a social message to be found in each one. Find out more details here.

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How To Bring Him Back

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If I was going to cast a spell tonight, this night of a full arse moon as stark and crunchy as a ten-day crust of snow, I’d start by telling the earth to spin in the opposite direction. By what power? By the power of my pen. It’s 90s Birmingham and post-university, but Cait’s aspirations haven’t taken her far from her council estate beginnings. Living in a bedsit and working in a bar, she’s caught between two best friends: Stadd, who’s stable, funny, compatible as a friend, and her compulsive sexual attraction with Rik. Present day Cait picks up her pen, on her yearly writing retreat to the sea, and discovers she’s finally ready to conjure an absent Stadd with an apology based on the lessons she has learnt from her chaotic past.

About The Author

Claire HM is a fiction writer, poet and teacher based in (and writing about) her home city of Birmingham. In 2018 she had an essay published in the anthology, I Wrote it Anyway, about her experience of accessing university and the long journey of finding the confidence to write as a woman in her forties from a working-class background. Her work is now published in a growing number of literary publications, including Tears in the Fence, Magma, The Rialto, streetcake, Coven Journal and in Cape Magazine.

She most likes to write about identity within ‘othered’ perspectives, desire and consent, reclamation of femmes and sorceresses from Classical texts, and the politics and privilege of class and language. Most of all, she delights in exploring taboo subjects.

Claire channels her creativity through writing as an act of healing, and as an invitation for others to create the stories they need to access healing too

My Review

In this short story the reader is taken back to the 90’s in Birmingham where Cait is living in a bedsit and working in The Queen of Bohemia pub. She is lacking in aspirations since she left university and is struggling; not only financially, but physically and mentally. Caught in a love triangle between best friends Stadd and Rik she is constantly at conflict with her emotions. Cait feels safe and looked after when she’s with Stadd but there isn’t the heat like she has with Rik. Cait and Rik have a fire between them, she has a craving for him to look, touch and be next to her. Stadd has complicated things and she sees him as a best mate. To say it’s a bit of a mess would be an understatement dear reader. It’s complete chaos. 

The narrative switches from 2018 to the 90’s. In 2018 Cait narrates in first person as she writes her apology to Stadd. In the 90’s the story continues in third person as the reader witnesses the events that unfold between Cait, Stadd and Rik. This was an interesting experience as the reader not only gets caught up in the chaos that unfolds but also gains a small insight into Cait’s mind. The change of narrative adds to the unstableness that Cait feels throughout. It brings a sense of a disjointed reality, watching from the outside, then being straight into the midst of all these feelings and thoughts.  

Cait is a fascinatingly complex character to read in both the third and first person. In the 90’s we watch her spiral into a pit of despair as she fights her demons with drink and sex. In 2018 we begin to understand her a little better as her thoughts flow openly onto the page; writing has become a form of therapy for her. She allows her walls to very slowly fall away and we see her vulnerability as she talks about how she’s gained a relationship with food and her roots are darker than they should be. In the 90’s Cait drinks her worries away, spending most nights drunk and staggering to work the next morning hungover. She doesn’t eat and has a burning pain in her stomach. She sees herself as a sealed-up box marked ‘fragile: contents unknown’. Broken in such a way that she doesn’t think she can put herself back together, so she doesn’t attempt to.  She makes bad choices and drowns her sorrows, falling farther and farther into a darkness she can’t seem to crawl out off.

Cait has an on/off relationship with Rik and ends up kissing Stadd one night. This evolves into a relationship, yet she is unsure of how she feels honestly towards him. Stadd is a good, stable, caring guy who looks out for Cait and doesn’t try to get rid of her in the mornings unlike Rik. Rik is the opposite and has a temper that often leads to bloody knuckles. Cait sees in Stadd a chance to leave Rik, to pull herself together and say goodbye to the chasing and lying. Cait notices how Stadd acts differently in front of Rik and knows he’s not the only one that does. Rik appears annoyed as he learns Cait are Stadd are together but tries to appear as if it doesn’t bother him. The setup between these three very different characters is tense. You can see that at any given moment Rik could explode, causing major damage to anyone nearby. The secrets and the lies build and create a friction that make you become nervous whenever all three are together. It’s a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. The anticipation hooks you in and you can’t look away.

Cait talks about the power of the pen in 2018 as she writes to Stadd. She wants to cast a spell, to apologise. She feels bad for how she treated him all those years ago. She writes about how she feels like she missed a truth about him that would tell her something she needs to find out about herself. Cait has unfinished business and compares this to ghosts who still have haunting to do, calling herself a Dybbuk. Her unfinished business is to apologise to Stadd, but it means nothing without the whole story. When we learn the whole story we are left wondering if Cait will continue to make amends in her calmer way of life or will the chaos that seems to stalk her find its way back in? Can people really change? 

I give How To Bring Him Back By Claire HM a Four out of Five paw rating.

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Sex, drink and regret, you will be left desperately wanting more.

HM has succeeded in creating a gritty and grim atmosphere that is constantly drowning not only Cait in the 90’s, but also the reader in the present. You can’t escape the reality of the exposed rawness of life’s burdens that pull us down. The darkness we all contend with on a daily basis is always there, telling us we are no good and that we’re failures. But…how we choose to respond speaks louder than any words.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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Links

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The Whisker Twitchers By Kathy Tallentire (Rachel’s Random Resources Blog Tour)

The Whisker Twitchers

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for The Whisker Twitchers (Published by Comma Books 10 Jun. 2021) By Kathy Tallentire. A big thank you to the author for sending me a copy to review, always appreciated.           

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The Whisker Twitchers

The Whisker Twitch Cover

Grandad is up to something.

When Bella wakes up to find him gone, she heads to the surface to look for him – but the world looks different.

Can Bella conquer her hear of the unknown to find out what is going on? And where is Grandad?

For bunny lovers everywhere.

About The Author

Writing is a relatively new part of my life. When I go to schools and am introduced as an author it is still a bit of a surprise to me! 

It was the birth of my daughter (in 2016) that changed everything. I had spent many years building up my career in accountancy, accumulating business qualifications and generally working hard in that one field. 

Spending time with my little girl and reading hundreds of different children’s stories really inspired me. My first book, Nana Duck, was published in 2017. It did well and I found that I enjoyed visiting schools and nurseries. There is nothing like reading your story and getting great reactions from a class full of eager little children.

Now, I’m having ideas all of the time. I’m so looking forward to bringing more stories into the world, to seeing my characters come to life through the talented illustrators that I work with, and inspiring more children in my local area and beyond.

My Review

This adorable children’s picture book tells the tale of a young rabbit named Bella and her Grandad. Bella suspects her Grandad is up to something, something is different and he is acting strangely. But Bella doesn’t know why. He keeps twitching his whiskers. When Bella asks he tells her to have patience. But Bella doesn’t feel patient and is determined to find out why. When she wakes up one morning she discovers that Grandad is gone. Scared and alone Bella heads to the surface. Everything is white! She doesn’t understand what this strange cold stuff is and wants nothing more than to hurry back inside the safety of her warm burrow. But Bella is too curious, she wants to find her Grandad. She spots his hat and scarf and hears his voice calling her. But will Bella conquer her fear and hop out in the unknown to find out what is happening and where her grandad is?

I loved this story, it was such a delight to read. My boys loved it too, especially the snowball fight. Bella is relatable to younger children as she has that vulnerability about the unknown, but also a curious fascination of finding out. It helps children see that it’s ok to be scared, to be wary of what they don’t know.

The rabbits are adorable and beautifully illustrated along with Tallentire’s words it made me feel all cosy and excited for winter. We live in the Highlands so snow will no doubt make its appearance soon. I can’t wait to make our very own snow rabbits and have snow fights. They are a lot colder than they appear dear reader, trust me.

I give The Whisker Twitchers By Kathy Tallentire a Five out of Five paw rating.

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Cosy magical fun for bunny lovers everywhere.

A charming story for younger children about overcoming your fears and exploring the beautiful outdoors. Bonus snowball fights are included! This has become a bedtime favourite, known in our house as “the bunny book”! I fully intend on reading more of Tallentire’s future works.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour, information below, enjoy!

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Elle’s A to Z of Love By Claire Huston (Review)  

Today dear readers I am reviewing Elle’s A To Z of Love (Published Goldcrest Books International Ltd 6 July 2021) By Claire Huston. A big thank you to the author for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. I have also reviewed Huston’s first novel which you can read here, enjoy.   

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Elle’s A to Z of Love

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Elle’s A to Z of Love: a feel-good, modern love story about friends, family and home.

Haileybrook, a beautiful village in the peaceful Cotswolds countryside, is most people’s idea of heaven on earth. Born and raised in this small slice of paradise, Elle Bea can’t wait to leave. It should be easy, but every time she packs her bags for exotic adventures, old loves and loyalties pull her back.

Will Elle be forced to forget her dreams of far-flung places and epic romance, or can she grab one last chance to have it all?

An uplifting, romantic story about friends, family and the relationships that make a place a home.

About The Author

Claire Huston lives in Warwickshire, UK, with her husband and two children. She writes uplifting modern love stories about characters who are meant for each other but sometimes need a little help to realise it.

A keen amateur baker, she enjoys making cakes, biscuits and brownies almost as much as eating them. You can find recipes for all the cakes mentioned in Art and Soul at www.clairehuston.co.uk along with over 100 other recipes. This is also where she talks about and reviews books.

My Review

Told in five parts from the years 2015 to 2019 the story follows Elle around her birthday each year. The reader first meet her the day after she has celebrated her 23rd birthday. She is at university studying journalism and is dreaming of traveling the world as she’s never left the country. While she’s reading in the library one of her favourite books A Room With A View she is startled when a guy falls from a shelf that he climbed to reach a book. After a brief awkward exchange to see if he is ok, she learns he is studying Computer Science and he invites her to his friend’s party. However later that day one of her oldest friends, Toby from home rings her and tells her that The Cooper Curse has stuck again. His father, George Cooper is in hospital. The next thing she knows Elle is heading back to Haileybrook with her friend Serena. She has no way of contacting Mr. Computer Science guy and wonders if he only invited her because she’s friends with Serena who is popular on campus. But she has little time to worry as once she returns home she is faced with old memories and feelings she hoped would have faded with time. Once she wanted nothing more than to leave Haileybrook, pack her bags and explore the world. However things begin to get complicated in the form of Adam Fletcher. An old crush that still makes Elle go weak at the knees. Elle is faced with many difficult choices on her return, she is left standing at a crossroads, wary of which way to turn. Will she stay and be dutiful, putting her life and dreams on hold? Or will she take the risk, go for it and do what she’s always planned on doing? Be prepared dear reader for plenty of heartache and intense, emotional scenes. Tissues at the ready!

I fell in love with the pure beauty and charm of Haileybrook from the moment I stepped foot in the quaint, quiet village. The postcard views surrounded by fields of greens and yellow to the friendly residents offering advice and looking out for one another. It was a blissful escape and I was sad to leave. Huston writes rich, absorbing imagery that wraps you up and leaves you feeling all warm and cosy.

You can’t help but take a liking to Elle, she’s the kind, caring friend everyone needs in their life. Always thinking and putting others before herself, you want to give her a massive hug while gently pushing her on to a flight. She has dreams of traveling the world but every time the opportunity arises, something happens that stops her. You find yourself screaming at the page for her to go, run, be free as you want nothing more than the best for her. I came to think of her as a good friend by the end, a friend that needed that extra push but will always have your back.

I give Elle’s A to Z of Love By Claire Huston a Five out of Five paw rating

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A picturesque, delightful and charming read, you will have your heart broken more than once during your stay at Haileybrook. I couldn’t get enough. It was a heavenly stay and I greedily wanted more.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a hopeless romantic (guilty) and needs to escape for a few hours. It’s a story about finding out what you honestly want in life and what really matters, family, friends and love. Oops forgot cake! Always cake dear readers. And maybe KitKats.

Links

Website
https://clairehuston.co.uk/

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The Passing Of The Forms That We Have Loved By Christopher Boon (Review)

Today on the blog dear readers I am reviewing The Passing Of The Forms That We Have Loved (Published By Epoque Press 16 Sept. 2021) By Christopher Boon. A big thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.    

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The Passing Of The Forms That We Have Loved

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A young man, dealing with his father’s terminal cancer, retreats into introspection on relationships both old and new as a past mired with failure comes back to haunt him, consuming his present and threatening to derail his future. Exploring themes of loss and repentance, The Passing Of The Forms That We Have Loved questions whether formative acts of indecisiveness can have far reaching repercussions in later years.

About The Author

Christopher Boon spent his formative years in a small village in rural Hertfordshire. He studied English at Manchester University and, upon graduating, worked for three years as an English teacher in Ogaki City, Japan. He now works as a teacher in southern France. The Passing of the Forms That We Have Loved is Christopher’s debut novel. He started working on it after his father died of oesophageal cancer in 2008 and whilst writing it his mother also succumbed to cancer. These experiences helped shape the novel. Christopher has also written a trilogy of screenplays based on loss and is currently working on his next novel.

My Review

This story is told in three parts, Death, Disintegration and Dismemberment. The narrative follows a young man who is unnamed, he speaks in first person and tells his story of how it all began. It was after his grandmother’s funeral that he met Bea (Short for Beatrice) who begins working as the assistant manager in the wine shop he works at. The narrator has not long since moved to the area and is still finding his way around. He learns that Bea is from the North of France and finds himself watching and admiring her from afar. The more he looks at her the more he feels that he recognises her in some way, like he has known her for a long time. Not long after, his father is sick and he watches the slow decline in his health. He envisions himself in a few years wheeling boxes of stuff out of the house and into a van, packing away or donating belongings that were once important and now serve no purpose. It is while watching his father slowly die that the narrator begins to question his life. The point of working, what’s it all for in the end? He begins a relationship with Bea but is often thinking of his old childhood friend, Emily. He soon reunites with her after the tragic events in his family and becomes once again addicted to her, thinking of a life they could have together.

The echoes of the narrator’s past and his memories stalk him constantly throughout the book. The narrative switches from these memories to the present and also to visions of what he imagines as his future. It is absorbing to read as you feel present in each and every moment. You get pulled in and find yourself up at 3 a.m. desperate to discover how the story will end. You become addicted.

Boon has created an interesting character in the narrator. He is complex and is unsure of what he wants. He has an idea of how things should be, that him and Emily are fated to be and rests his hopes on them being together when he is already in a loving relationship with Bea. There is also the conflict in the character’s mind of wishing his father to die, for him to no longer be suffering and living in pain. He details the raw reality of watching a relative whither away to nothing. It’s heartbreaking to read and difficult at times as the father’s illness is extremely detailed, bringing that honest, blunt imagery of  Boon’s real experiences to the page. You find yourself with tears running down your face as the narrator thinks back on better days, days before the cancer began to eat away at his father. The time ticks away slowly as you find yourself just waiting for inevitable. There is a great sadness to him and yet also a lack of emotion at times as he finds himself unable to find any real attachment to reality. He is fascinating to read as you want to understand him, why he feels this need to fill an empty void when it appears he is already full. You want to understand why he feels the way he does, is barely satisfied with life and has a hopeless approach to living it.  It’s thought-provoking and keeps you hooked. 

There is an eerie silence that follows the narrator throughout the book. The silence when his father dies, the silence in his home, the empty nights he finds himself staring at the night sky. It sent shivers down my spine as the anticipation of death lingers in the doorway. You know it’s coming; you just never know when.

I give The Passing Of The Forms That We Have Loved By Christopher Boon a Five out of Five paw rating.

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A captivatingly raw vision of life, love and death.

Boon is a master at capturing the moment, allowing the reader to soak up the atmosphere. I could hear the drizzle of the rain outside on the window, feel the sand beneath my toes on the beach, getting completely lost and caught up in his visions was not only a delight to read but also enjoyable. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it will break you. 

Links

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On A Distant Ridgeline By Sam Reese (Review)  

Today dear readers I am reviewing On A Distant Ridgeline (Published 14 Sept. 2021 By Platypus Press) By Sam Reese. A big thank you to Isabelle from Fly On The Wall Press who gave me the wonderful opportunity to read and review this book, always appreciated.    

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On A Distant Ridgeline

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In his second collection, On A Distant Ridgeline, Sam Reese creates twelve vivid and tenderly drawn tales with moments and memories that linger just out of reach. Between the past and present and potential reconciliations —and with a keen eye on the subtle balance of human connection—relationships and their fractured qualities are central to this new gathering of stories.

About The Author

Hailing from New Zealand, Sam Reese is an award winning writer and critic. He was the recipient of the Arthur Miller Centre First Book Prize, Lazuli Literary Prize, and the Brittle Star Short Fiction Contest, and a finalist for the Glimmer Train New Writer award.

He teaches Creative Writing at York St John University.

My Review

In this collection of twelve short stories Reese explores the themes of memories, relationships and human connection as you hear the gentle lapping of the waves in the distance. 

Each story presents layered and intriguing characters for the reader to explore. Each one even more captivating than the last. You find yourself placed in various situations, where every story has a purpose, a desire to show the reader how these characters dream of a different life or remember a distant memory. How they wish to find themselves, explore new horizons and wonder how they became so lost. They feel an emptiness, that something is missing and find ways to be reborn,  take new paths in life. It’s relatable to the reader as it shows our vulnerabilities, how short life is and that it is what we make of it. Do we live in the past, looking back at faded memories or do we look ahead at the bright unknown, never knowing what may come next? Do we dare take the risk or do we stay in the comfort of what we know, never adventuring to distant shores.   

Reese’s writing is as tranquil as the sea. It can calm you, drift you away from the shore to be left stranded in open water. Yet he will surprise you with a runaway wave that tries to pull you under, leaving you struggling for air and wondering how it managed to sneak up on you. For example the ending of An Experience sent chills down my spine. I was NOT expecting that.

My favourite story of the collection is Small Homes. I soaked up the atmosphere of sitting in a cafe, the smell of clay lingering in the air and the sense of endless possibilities. To rediscover and find your form. These stories will not only take you places but inspire you to reflect upon your own relationships, your own path in life.

I give On A Distant Ridgeline By Sam Reese a Four out of Five paw rating.

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Reese paints an atmosphere thick with colour and sound. The presence of water is constant throughout, trickling in the background.

These short stories will take you on a journey of discovery and re-enlightenment as you observe the characters and their relationships with life.

Links

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Russian Doll By Teika Marija Smits Review

Today dear reader I am reviewing Russian Doll (Published By Indigo Dreams Publishing 25 Mar. 2021) By Teika Marija Smits. A big thank you to the author for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.    

Russian Doll

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The poems of Russian Doll tell a story of metamorphosis and becoming. Charting the ever-shifting terrain of selfhood, they speak of the joys and challenges of being both daughter and mother; schoolgirl and middle-aged woman; and detail the many ways in which the stories of our lives are as multicoloured and multilayered as a Russian doll.

About the Author

Teika Marija Smits is a writer, freelance editor and mother-of-two. Her poems have been widely published. Teika was formerly the managing editor of Mother’s Milk Books and is now an Editor-at-Large at Valley Press alongside running The Book Stewards – a writers’ support site that she manages with her husband. In her spare moments she likes to doodle, draw and paint. 

My Review

When we think of a Russian Doll we always picture those beautifully painted wooden dolls all standing in a line that fit neatly inside of each other. This book is exactly that, in poetry form.

There are two sections in this book, Daughter-doll Doll-daughter and Mother-doll Doll-mother. By splitting into two the reader can slowly collect the dolls from smallest to biggest. Smallest being the author’s childhood, Daughter-doll Doll-daughter while the biggest explores adulthood, Mother-doll Doll-mother.

I adore the metaphor that Smits has used of this delicate image of a Russian Doll. It is present throughout all the poems and is a strong, empowering symbol of learning and growth. It is a fascinating image, what may appear as one doll quickly becomes two and then three, getting smaller as you uncover the next one until you can go no farther and are left with a line of various sized Russian Dolls.

These poems are personal and all from the memories of the author. She shares with the reader her first memory in First memories with her escaping her cot and surprising her parents in bed. Smits’ poetry also shows growth and how her body was developing as she got older. In Ten Ton she gets her period. In Matryoshka she writes how she is an adult within a child, she is in the wrong sized body. She shows the confusion that we all face when placed in adult situations as a child. We feel as if we should be acting older but are still encased in our childlike bodies. 

Smits shares with the reader the little things that made her happy during her childhood. I was drooling at the mouth as I read Mint Choc Chip, desperate for an ice cream. Bliss. Probably one of my favourite poems out of the collection dear reader as it took me back to my childhood. 

As well as sparks of joy and happiness there are also poems with heartbreaking reality. In The Pulmonary Embolism Smits writes about the day the world stops as her father goes to the shops, falls and sadly dies. I was in tears, there was so much emotion that it broke me. These poems are real and extremely raw. 

There is a strong theme of family in these poems as the reader not only reads about Smits’ family but they also learn about the family she creates when she is an adult. In Shades of Red, the reader learns how her mother was once an actress and knew how to make an entrance. She would arrive late to her school performances, calling her name and wave which made Smits embarrassed. She wished to turn into the smallest Russian doll. In the poem Changeling, Smits gives birth and becomes a mother. It goes full circle and is breathtaking to read. 

I give Russian Doll By Teika Marija Smits a Four out of Five paw rating.

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An emotional, colourful journey of growth and love. These poems will have you smiling, giggling and also weeping at the hardships we all face in life. 

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