A Year and a Day by Isabelle Broom published 17 November 2016

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Prague in December is a beautiful, romantic place to be, and offers three different women an opportunity of romance. Megan is there with her best friend Ollie. Megan is there to get inspiration and take photographs for an upcoming exhibition in London and she doesn’t want any distractions so keeps Ollie at arms length. Ollie is a teacher and getting information for a class project on Prague, and he is also in love with Megan.
Hope has been brought to Prague by her new partner Charlie. She should be enjoying the romance of the city but is distracted by her daughter back home who doesn’t want to speak her after the break up of Hope’s marriage.
For Sophie, Prague is a magical city full of happy memories; it is where she met her boyfriend Robin. When she arrives she is on her own, waiting for Robin to arrive in a couple of days. She spends her time visiting all the places that have special memories for them.
In this magical city their lives intertwine and friendships are formed as they tread the uncertain and complex path of love.

This a beautiful book, there is a lot detailed description of Prague, bringing the history and magic of the city to life. The characters are all very different, but well developed with a good back story to how they ended up in Prague. The thing they all have in common is that they are at a crossroads in their lives where they need to consider not only their future but also the past and decide what they want from life. All the characters are realistic and endearing to the reader.
This is an enchanting read, that will transport you to beautiful Prague and take you an emotional journey with the characters; a great read.

Guest blog: Colette McCormick, author of Things I Should Have Said and Done.

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Today I am lucky to have a guest blog by author Colette McCormick, author of Things I Should Have Said and Done. She gives me an insight into the book and the simple comment that gave her the idea for the storyline. Things I Should Have Said and Done is available to buy now.

Not the End

On a work trip involving an overnight stay I started to think about the family I’d left at home. I’d spoken to my husband and asked him if he’d fed the kids and he announced that, yes he had and “We don’t need you.” His joke made me laugh because the truth is that if I was away from home for any length of time he would have to expand his culinary repertoire pretty quickly or he and our sons would suffer from carbohydrate overload. The comment started me thinking though. I was only going to be away for one night but what if I never went home. How does a family cope when one of them is ripped away suddenly? These are the questions that I wanted to explore in “Things I Should Have Said and Done,” and it wasn’t food that I was thinking about.
It’s often said that a sudden death is the best way to go, but is it? What about the things that you haven’t said? What about the things that you haven’t done? One minute life’s fine and the next minute its over. In a heartbeat and without any warning everything changes.
That’s the dilemma that Ellen faces. It’s an ordinary day, she has picked her daughter up from school then a split second later she’d dead and she’s understandably confused and annoyed. She doesn’t want to be dead. She isn’t prepared to be dead.
Naomi, Ellen’s daughter is also confused and annoyed. She was in the car when her mother dies and too young to really understand what death means, feels that he mummy has deserted her.
Marc, Ellen’s husband is left to raise their daughter alone and he has no idea how to do even the simplest of things like make spaghetti hoops taste the way his wife did. Who knew you could add cheese to them?
Ellen’s parents have lost their only child and they are devastated.
All of them, including Ellen, have things that they would have said and done if only they had known that she was going to die but now it’s too late.
Or is it?
George has been sent from “the other side” to help Ellen deal with the issues that her untimely death has left unresolved but he is new to the job and has issues of his own. George shows Ellen a way of communicating with those that she has left behind and in the months following her death she helps her family move on without her which in turn will allow her to move on beyond the limbo that she finds herself in.
I tried to put myself into the heads of my characters and imagine how I would feel if I were in their position. To be honest, not a lot of planning went into this book. I created a world in my head, put the characters I had created in that world and basically let them get on with it. It was their story; I was just the one telling it.
I didn’t set out to let Ellen and George fall in love, they just did. To be honest, I am a little bit in love with George myself so Ellen never really stood a chance.

Colette McCormick was born and raised in Sheffield but has made the North East her home for over 30 years. Writing is her love but her job is as a charity shop manager for a leading children’s charity. She has a husband, two sons and a daft dog.

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The Easy Way Out by Steven Amsterdam published 3 November 2016

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The premise for this novel is that a law has been passed that enables terminally ill patients to be euthanised if they wish. The programme is still in its early days, but at the Mercy Hospital Evan is one of the nurses who assist in these suicides. Evan’s childhood was touched by the suicide of his father and a mother who moved them around a lot so they didn’t get attached to places or people, attributes that make Evan the ideal nurse for this job. However, Evan gets frustrated with the limitations of his job, not being able to do more and breaks the rules. The book follows Evan and how the job effects his life and the lives of those he helps and ultimately can he help his mother die when her health deteriorates.
The author, Steven Amsterdam, is a palliative care nurse and has first hand experience of end of life care. The subject of this book is very emotive and divisive and the author deals with it with honesty, compassion and humanity. The book shows not only how euthanasia effects the patient, but also their family and friends, and the nurses who assist them. Evan has relationship issues, probably due to his childhood and his mother keeping him at arms length. He doesn’t like getting too close to people; he has an unconventional love life being the third person in a relationship with another gay couple. This means he can keep his distance, and he dooesn’t tell them what he does for a living.
This novel is not all doom and gloom, there is a lot of dark humour and a feeling of positivity to some of the stories. It makes the reader consider the meaning of life and our freedom to make choices at the end of our lives. This would be a good book for a book club as there are many topics for discussion.

Christmas on Primrose Hill by Karen Swan published December 2015

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Nettie Watson becomes an internet sensation by accident whilst working at a charity event. #Bluebunnygirl goes viral and attracts the world’s media and pop star Jamie Westlake. Bluebunnygirl and her exploits are far removed from the life of Nettie who still lives at home with her dad after a devestating family event. Christmas for her and her dad is a time to remember what they have lost rather than a time of celebration and no one can give her the present she would really like. But as bluebunnygirl and her challenges grow in popularity she grows closer to Jamie Westlake and she may have a chance of a happy ending if she can move on from the past and look towards the future.
For the past few years I have read one of Karen Swan’s Christmas novels every Christmas. This is last years publication which for some reason I didn’t get round to reading. I know when I pick up one of her novels that I am going to enjoy the story and the writing and this book didn’t dissapoint. It was well written and as well as being a funny, romantic Christmas read it also dealt with more serious issues such as testicular cancer and the distress caused by a missing family member, both dealt with empathy. The story line is very contemporary in its dealings with social media and how it can make someone famous in the click of the button, and also forget about them as fast.
I loved the characters, especially Nettie with her vulnerability and loyalty to her dad even if that means not moving out or following her heart.
This is a great Christmas read full of fun and romance that will keep your attention from the beginning to the end. If you haven’t read any of Karen Swan’s books before I highly recommend them. In a couple of weeks I will review this years Christmas read, Christmas Under the Stars.

The Wangs Vs the World by Jade Chang published 2 November 2016

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Charles Wang has lost his business, his house, his cars and his luxurious Bel Air lifestyle. He decides to take his wife, Barbara, son Andrew and daughter Grace, on a road trip across America to stay with his eldest daughter, Sania, in New York. After that he intends to fly to China to reclaim his families land that was confiscated when China became a Communist country. Along the way Andrew tries his hand at stand-up comedy, Barbara considers leaving after spending too many nights in cheap motels and Grace is concerned about her fashion blog and what being poor will mean to it. It is a road trip that makes them all look at their lives in a different way.
I thought this was well written, and combined both comedy and more serious issues, like cultural history, the American dream, death and relationships, in balance. The Wangs, as a family, are very likeable in their own way. Charles is a loving father and proud of the business he built as well as his Chinese heritage. Barbara came from Taiwan with the sole intention of marrying Charles after the death of his first wife. As a step-mother she is very distant from the children, but the trip makes her look closer at this. Andrew, is at college but fancies himself as a comendian, he is finding his way in the world, and Grace is a typical 16 year old girl who is interested in fashion and beauty. Sania, the eldest is an artist but is hiding from the art world after bad reviews and a failed engagement. Through the course of the novel it is interesting to see how they begin to see life differently.
My only complaint about this book is the philosophical musings of the characters. I’m not averse to political or cultural philosophical debate but it just goes on too long and really detracts from the plot. I found myself not wanting to pick up this book at times, it bored me slightly. It is an ambitious novel with a great story but too many distractions to keep my interest.

The Other Wives Club by Shari Low published 1 November 2016

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It’s Drew Gold’s fiftieth birthday and he wants to celebrate it with his family on a Mediterranean Cruise. Along with his wife Tess, he invites his first wife Sarah, mother to his children John and Eliza. Sarah, who lives in denim skirts and fleece tops decides to come out of hibernation, improve her wardrobe and embrace the experience. John is also coming along with his wife and their twins, as is his teenage sister Eliza. Also invited is Mona, Drew’s second wife and her husband Piers and his son Max. Mona is high a high maintenance fashion editor who Drew left Sarah for. She also has an ulterior motive, she wants Drew back at any cost.
Ten days on the high seas, three Mrs Gold’s, what could possibly go wrong?
This is an entertaining, lighthearted read. The characters are endearing, apart from Mona. There is lots of scope for relationships among the varied cast, and the dynamics change during the book. I really enjoyed the relationship between Sarah and Tess, the first and third wife. Their friendship was endearing, they had a lot in common in their relationship with Drew and in their dislike of the ever glamorous and schemeing Mona. I loved this book it has a great plot with plenty of funny moments and drama and a lovely cast of character; an enjoyable read.

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict published 18 October 2016

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Mileva Maric overcomes adversity and prejudice to study physics at Zurich Polytechnic in 1896. She is the only female on the course, and after a difficult start is befriended by fellow student Albert Einstein. The friendship develops into a romantic relationship, where Albert sees Mileva as an equal partner in their educaton and lives together, very progressive in a time where women were seen as homemakers. After marriage they work together on several projects and papers, but after having children their relationship begins to change and he shuts her out of his academic work. The premis of this book is just how influential Mileva was in Einstein’s early work, especially on his 1905 paper on the Theory of Relativity, that later got nominated for a Nobel Prize.
This is a well written, engaging novel, full of historical detail. Mileva was a strong women who faced not only the prejudice of being an intelligent woman in a male dominated society but she also had to overcome discrimination due to her Serbian heritage and the fact she had a limp due to a hip defect. However, in the end she did sacrifice some of her ideals to become a mother and wife but later continued with her studies.
I do like a historical novel where I learn something new, and this book certainly gave me that. I had never heard of Mileva Maric, and it seems her light was hidden under a bushel so to speak. This is a work of fiction but it is based on fact and evidence from letters between Mileva and Albert, and she is discussed in the scientific world. I really enjoyed the story and how the realatonship of Albert and Mileva developed then imploded later down the line.
A great read, an interesting look into how women were viewed in the academic world and also a love story.
Please read below a post by Marie Benedict on what drew her to the story of Mileva Maric.
BOOKLITERATI BLOG POST

​I am always seeking out the hidden voices of the past to use in my novels, like THE OTHER EINSTEIN. The voices of the under-represented, the voices of the minority, the voices of the marginalized, and especially, the voices of the women (who are sometimes all of those things). To properly hear those voices, I need to access them directly. Not second, third or fourth-hand through the filter of a historian or a commentator who brings to the telling their own perspective. This is why I search for original source material, when I can get my hands on it.
​It was original source material that drew me to Mileva Maric, the main character in THE OTHER EINSTEIN, who is based upon Albert Einstein’s real-life first wife and fellow physics student at university alongside him and who may have contributed to his theories. When I first became intrigued by Mileva, the initial research I obtained — secondary source material focused on Albert — frustrated me. But when I came across the original source material of Mileva’s letters to Albert, her friends, and her family, I became entranced by Mileva.
​Reading Mileva’s own words, I saw her for the brilliant, tenacious young woman that she must have been, and began to understand how she made the amazing climb from the remote reaches of the Austro-Hungarian empire where it was illegal for girls to attend high school to a Swiss university where she became one of the first female physics students. Yet, her words also revealed her emotional naiveté, not surprising in light of her relative ostracism from youthful friends and romantic involvements due to her unusual academic interests and her isolating hip defect, a quality that made her vulnerable to Albert’s mercurial nature. Without her letters, I could have never really heard Mileva Maric’s voice — and I would never been able to write THE OTHER EINSTEIN, the story of Albert Einstein’s first wife and the contribution she may have made to his theories.

Liar Liar by M J Arlidge published 2015

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December in Southampton should be a time of festivities but there is a menace in the air. Three arson attacks in different areas of the city stretch the fire services to the brink, and its not a coincidence. Over the next couple of nights the killer continues the arson attacks and murder spree. Can DCI Helen Grace and her team discover who the killer is and why these particular houses before more lives are lost.
This is the fourth book in the DCI Helen Grace and had a lot to live up to as the previous three were brilliant. Pardon the pun, but this was an explosive novel, full of drama, and full of twists and turns; just when you think you know who the killer is the plot turns around to baffle you. This book continues to develop the main characters, Charlie Brooks is now a mum which gives her a different perspective on police work. Helen Grace is a fantastic heroine, with a troubled past and trust issues. We do see a slightly softer side to her in this book. She is godmother to Charlie’s daughter and has developed her relationship with Charlie and her partner Steve.
As with the other books this is well written, the short chapters keep your interest, you keep thinking just one more chapter and then realise two hours have passed. I can’t praise this book enough, I loved it. I would suggest that if you haven’t read the previous three books; Eeny Meeny, Pop Goes The Weasle and Doll’s House, I suggest you do so before reading this book as it gives a lot of background and understanding of the characters. I am really looking forward to reading the next instalments, Little Boy Blue, which is on one of my many book shelves, and Hide and Seek which I have on pre order due in December.