Sunday, 13 April 2014

Public Battles, Private Wars by Laura Wilkinson

"What lines would you cross for the ones you love? 

Yorkshire 1983. 

Miner’s wife Mandy is stuck in a rut. At twenty-three, and trapped by domesticity, her future looks set and she wants more from life. Husband Rob is a good-looking drinker, content to spend his days in the small town where they’ve always lived – where Mandy can’t do anything other than bake cakes and raise her children. 

When Mandy’s childhood friend – beautiful, clever Ruth – and Ruth’s Falklands war hero husband, Dan, return to town, their homecoming is shrouded in mystery. Like in their schooldays, Mandy looks to Ruth for inspiration – but Ruth isn’t all she appears. 

As conflict with the Coal Board turns into war, the men come out on strike. The community and its whole way of life is threatened. Mandy abandons her dreams of liberation from the kitchen sink and joins a support group. As the strike rumbles on, relationships are pushed to the brink, and Mandy finds out just who she is – and who her true friends are."

I read (and enjoyed) Laura's first book a few years ago, and so thank you to Laura for offering me the chance to review her latest novel which was released by Accent Press on 9 March 2014.  

As the name suggests, the book follows Mandy as her family and friends struggle to cope during the miners' strike of 1984 to 1985.  Mass walk-outs and strikes took place following Thatcher's long term plan of mine closures was announced.  However, the book also focuses on Mandy's private battle - as a mother of four young children, with a husband who drinks heavily, she turns to her best friend who has just returned to the village.  

Wilkinson really captures the sense of community that existed during those difficult times, and the story follows Mandy as her confidence grows as she becomes more heavily involved in the public protests against the government. However, this puts a different kind of strain on her private life, and it's only a matter of time before things begin to unravel in a way Mandy never imagined.

Whilst the miners' strikes sets the background for Mandy's story, it isn't overwhelming and allows the characters to shine.  

Told thirty years on, Public Battles, Private Wars captures the unstable time from the miners' wives perspective and illustrates the impetus for change which radically altered so many people's lives.

If you'd like to read more about the women of the miners' strike, a recent article in the guardian describes some of the moments that you will see captured by Wilkinson in her latest book - you can read the Guardian article here.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Dancing in the Rain by Amanda James

This book had a different feel to it than what I would class as the "usual ChocLit book" - yes, it's got romance in it, but somehow it is more inevitable and it really is more about the storyline here.

The first chapter sets the scene, and the next few chapters let you get to know Jacob.  However, once Jacob's job takes him abroad, the book takes on a totally different feel.  The descriptions are outstanding, and conjure up the images in your mind incredibly well.

I loved the visions, and how they worked to bring the storyline to a close.  I also adored it when Jacob met the woman of his dreams, literally.  The descriptions here by Amanda are amazing, and make my soul yearn as it is a little envious as it is still searching for the one.....

The romance between Jacob and Rosenya is sort of a given, and Dancing in the Rain is more about the role that Jacob discovers he must play in order to prevent a disaster from happening....

A fun and gripping roller coaster, which is highly recommended by me.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

I'd read the back of this book at the airport some time last year, and decided instantly that I wanted to read it (if I'm honest, the cover alone made me want to read it).

As I was off on my holidays in March, I decided to download it to my kindle.  I must admit, I was expecting to be a little more gripped to the storyline than I was.  However, saying that, it was a perfectly enjoyable book!

At the outset, I did have to keep going back in my mind to try and ensure I remembered who was who.  But I soon adapted.  I thought the story alternated between chapters very well, switching between the different threads of the story until ultimately they become interwoven and one.

The "secret" wasn't totally unpredictable.  I personally didn't really try to guess it and was just happily reading on my sunbed to pass the time, but I think most reader's would guess fairly quickly if you actually thought about it.

Maybe not the best book for a suspense storyline, however, an interesting dilemma.....what would you do with your husband's secret??

The Soft Whisper of Dreams by Christina Courtenay

I adored The Secret Kiss of Darkness and (most of) the characters and I hadn't appreciated, until I started reading, that The Soft Whisper of Dreams revisits Marcombe Hall, Kayla and Wes.  One of the things I hate most about finishing a book is the not knowing what happens after you turn the last page, and so I absolutely loved being able to jump forward in time and see how Kayla and Wes are getting on. (I should say that you absolutely don't need to have read The Secret Kiss of Darkness first - they are very much standalone books if you want them to be!)

Aside from that, the fresh and new storyline involving Maddie and Alex (who was familiar from the previous book) was equally as gripping.  There is more danger for the characters in The Soft Whisper of Dreams and it was all consuming.  Christina's writing draws you in, and has you living the danger, the sadness and the joy alongside the characters.  

Once again, I loved the characters, I loved the story and I loved it!!

I cannot wait for more from Christina in the future!!

Truly Madly Deeply - various authors, edited by Sue Moorcroft

Truly Madly Deeply is a collection of 24 stories from star authors from the Romantic Novelists' Association, including international bestsellers Adele Parks, Katie Fofrd, Carole Matthews, Miranda Dickinson and many more, and is edited by Sue Moorcroft.  

This book includes some of my absolute favourite romantic fiction authors.  It totally amazes me how some of the authors can draw you in so rapidly, so that you're hooked on every word, despite the story only being a few pages long.

I don't like to pick favourites but I particularly enjoyed A rose by any other name would smell as sweet by Adele Parks - short, sweet, to the point, leaves you wanting more.  If only life were that simple.

I personally think I prefer a full novel to get stuck into, the drawn out romance that has you totally hooked, but I really enjoyed the short stories in this book.  I read most of it on the train, commuting to work - and I think a longer book is better for that situation as it allows you to immerse yourself in another world for the whole duration of the journey, rather than fragmented immersing.  

However, I think this would be ideal for a little story before bed, whilst you're waiting for the kettle to boil, that kind of thing.  Some truly gorgeous stories, and a lovely mix of different types of story.  If the writers are capable of this in just a few pages, think what they can do with a whole book.....