Monday, 24 March 2014

Review - Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff

WOW! I've always loved Isabel Wolff's writing but this book was in a class of its own.  Completely incredible!

Ghostwritten comes out on 27th March, but I was incredibly lucky and offered a copy to review a few months ago.  Here's the blurb about the book:

"She listens to everyone else’s story, but can she find her own?

Perfect for fans of Tenko and The Railway Man

A childhood mistake. A lifetime of regrets.

Jenni is a ‘ghost’: she writes the lives of other people. It’s a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.

Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara’s help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest?

Gripping, poignant and beautifully researched, Ghostwritten is a story of survival and love, of memory and hope."

So, what did I think?

As a child I occasionally stole a glance at the programme Tenko but was quite young at the time and I didn't really understand it, so it didn't really mean a lot to me.  This book completely opened up my eyes and showed me the despicable, horrendous things that happened to families that I had no idea about. Perhaps now I have a child of my own, it made it more real to me. 

I read most of the book with tears streaming down my face, feeling every single emotion of the characters than were in the book.  I was a complete emotional wreck. 

I was completely torn between not wanting to read more about the awful atrocities that these people suffered yet I was intrigued and compelled to read on to find out what was going to happen.  I loved the way that the book swapped between then and now and found Klara to be such an interesting character.  I also found myself wanting to shout at Jenni to let go of the ghosts in her life.  I got completely lost in this book and lost all sense of reality. 

Isabel's writing in all of her books has always been brilliant but this one felt different to me.  It was deeper and more emotional than I've ever known her write before.  I've adored Isabel's writing since I discovered her books and this time she has completely and utterly excelled herself. 

This was such an incredibly powerful novel.  One that will stay with me for the rest of my life and be in my heart forever.  

About the author
Born in Warwickshire, Isabel read English at Cambridge and after working in both the theatre and in advertising, she began to work at the BBC where she spent twelve very happy years at BBC World Service radio both producing and reporting in the Features department and in Current Affairs, and she also wrote freelance articles for newspapers and mags.  She was commissioned to write a column - Tiffany Trott - which along with Harper Collins developed into her first novel The Trials of Tiffany Trott, a hilariously funny book which introduced me to the world of Isabel Wolff.  I have since gone on to read all her other novels – and enjoyed every single one - have I mentioned I’m a fan?

Click here to buy Ghostwritten from Amazon. 

For more information about Isabel and her work, please take a look at her website

You can also "follow Isabel on Twitter" or "like her Facebook page" with these links. 

Friday, 14 March 2014

Review - Singles and Spice by Elaine Spires

Today, I’d like to wish author Elaine Spires not just a very happy birthday for today but also a happy publication day for her e-book Singles and Spice.
Do come and join in the fun at Elaine’s Facebook party today and you'll have chance to win one of Elaine's books at
Singles and Spice is the second in the Singles Trilogy. 
The first book Singles’ Holiday was set in Antigua and a lot of the reviews had the reviewers saying that they felt like they’d actually been on the holiday themselves.  I definitely did and I'm really pining to visit Antigua! Eve is a tour leader for a singles holiday company and Elaine’s terrific sense of humour, descriptions of glorious settings that she makes come alive and quite emotional topics covered, mixed together make for excellent reading. 
Singles and Spice is set in India and has some new faces as well as a few familiar ones and it really made me pleased to meet the characters again and meet the new ones. The way that Elaine describes the people, the places and the personalities gives you an incredible insight into the characters and I have to say made me want to ring the holiday company and book straight away! 
Elaine's books are so entertaining.  She really is a great writer.  She manages to write humour, with tons of emotion thrown in along the way. I literally put down Singles' Holiday down and picked up Singles and Spice straight away! I couldn't wait to read more about Eve, this amazing tour leader and all round lovely person, that I felt I knew so well.  Once again, I felt like I'd had a holiday and have seen the sights and sounds of India, a place that I'd not really got on my "places to visit" list until now! Now I'd love to go and experience it for myself. 
I'm missing Eve already! Elaine is one of those authors who cannot write quick enough for me and I can't wait to read the next in the trilogy.  I don't want to say the last, because I'd like to encourage her to keep on writing this series.  Singles' Holiday is being made into a play which can be seen later in the year and a pilot for TV is also being made! I cannot wait to see that! I have the cast already set in my mind!
Have a fabulous day Elaine!  You deserve every success in your writing.  Happy publication day and happy birthday too!
Singles' Holiday

Elaine Spires' second novel was Single's Holiday, set on her beloved Antigua... the Caribbean at its most luscious, its most beautiful... silver sand, cobalt sky, warm, turquoise sea... and a bunch of complete strangers who only have one thing in common: they’re single!

Some are looking for romance and some for something more... but they've all chosen to spend their holiday with people they have never met before.  Pretty soon some become great friends, some enemies and some lovers, but it is perhaps their tour leader Eve who has the biggest shock of all.

Glorious days on the beach, boozy, balmy nights and a pending tropical storm combine in a story to make you laugh and cry with just the right number of twists to keep you turning the pages as you get to know all the members of the group as they, in turn, get to know each other.

Singles and Spice

A singles' holiday to India's Golden Triangle - Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, tiger-spotting in Ranthambore, the noisy, crowded streets of Delhi - all go to make up a trip that is hot, humid and spicy.  Eve Mitchell, Travel Together's tour manager extraordinaire has a couple of familiar faces in her little group of travellers and others that she hasn't met before; sexy man-eating pensioners, a compulsive over-eater, a constant whiner, a cross-dresser, and a man with a personal problem. 
And there's a big surprise awaiting someone -and Eve - early one morning. By the end of the tour, which sees our group travelling by coach, rickshaw, train and elephant, she will know rather more about some of their innermost secrets than she'd like.  But Eve deals with all the twists and turns the trip throws at her as we try to understand what makes people travel the world with a bunch of complete strangers and tourism's latest success: the phenomenon that is a singles' holiday.

About Elaine

Elaine Spires is a diverse novelist as well as an award-winning playwright and actress.

Extensive travelling and a background in education and tourism perfected Elaine's keen eye for the quirky characteristics of people, captivating the humorous observations she now affectionately shares with the readers of her novels.

She wrote her first book What's Eating Me in 2010. It was originally a play, a one-woman show performed as a monologue with a child actor - Elena-Beth Carter playing Eileen as a child in the background and Elaine performed it on the London and Edinburgh fringes. She loved the character of loved Eileen so much that she decided to expand the story into a book.

Her second novel was Singles' Holiday, set on her beloved Antigua... the Caribbean at its most luscious, its most beautiful... silver sand, cobalt sky, warm, turquoise sea... and a bunch of complete strangers who only have one thing in common: they're single!

And her third novel Sweet Lady, again set in Antigua, will amaze you with a massive twist which goes to show that nothing is as it seems!

When Elaine is not writing her ideas into her next book or play, she enjoys going to the theatre, visiting the cinema, eating out with her friends and she also loves to read! Elaine spends her time between her homes in Hadleigh, Essex and Five Islands, Antigua (W.I.).

Author Links

You can learn more about Elaine at her website
You can “like” Elaine’s author page on Facebook
You can “follow” Elaine on Twitter

Buy Links

You can buy Singles and Spice via Amazon UK via this link.

You can buy Singles and Spice via by clicking this link. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Review - Bolder and Wiser by Sarah Dale

Hit 50 yet? Sarah Dale is about to. This impending event set her wondering about successful ageing, what life looks like for women who have been there and done that, and what adventures are to be had on the other side of 50.

In this fascinating and celebratory book, Sarah talks to 20 inspiring women who have not only made it past 50, but are happy to be there.

These open and honest conversations, punctuated by Sarah’s observations about her own journey, reflect on friendship, work, health, creativity, marriage, motherhood, money – and whether you should stop dyeing your hair.

Sarah Dale is a chartered psychologist and accredited coach. She devised the Creating Focus programme and is the author of Keeping Your Spirits Up. She was born in 1964...


On a beautiful day in August, we seek out a wild swimming spot on Dartmoor. It is an idyllic setting, an ancient grassy common on the bend of the river, overhung by lush oak and beech trees in full summer leaf. Dappled sunlight falls across wet children sleek and glossy as seals, and their shrieks bounce off the rock face as they dare each other to ever higher leaps from the bank.

I bring up the rear of our little family group, as we haul our picnic and towels from the car park. My varifocals and unsteady flip flops, as well as customary caution, result in me being slower than everyone else in making my way along the uneven riverside footpath.

I imagine, if I were living in some fictional primeval tribe, that I might soon be discarded. What do I bring to the party? Am I becoming a liability? As a woman approaching fifty, I no longer offer physical strength or child-bearing potential. If I ever was physically daring, I’m less so now. The brief appeal of dipping in the river chills as quickly as my feet when I test the temperature.

I’m no longer the quickest, strongest or the one with the loudest voice. I have fulfilled my reproductive purpose, if that is what we are here for. I won’t have more children and my daughters are growing in independence on a daily basis.

But I don’t feel ready to resign myself to the background yet. In many ways I feel that my work has barely started. Am I deluded in thinking I have some valuable contribution to make? What shape will it take? What exactly is my purpose? And does it matter?

The women I have had conversations with over the last months have a wide range of views and experiences. My initial response is relief that not one of them is invisible. Their contribution may sometimes be subtle but is often all the more powerful for that. 

It is like a dew-laden spider’s web: visible if you look for it; awe-inspiring in its construction; efficient, beautiful and very strong in its natural habitat. It is also very easily swept aside by those clumsily making their way through life without stopping to notice what is right in front of their faces. The corporations, institutions, families and generations who ignore older
women are losing far more than they realise. Society needs older women like the world needs bees.  

I have heard from women, all of whom are at least sixty years old, who hold things together. They quietly and relentlessly challenge injustice. They support and soothe and organise and nurture. They lead the way. They laugh. They struggle, and doubt themselves. They keep going, and encourage others to keep going. They see the bigger picture as well as the tiny details of life that matter. They are a curious mix of astonishing patience and exasperated energy. They care.

I have paused for a while in my middle-aged rush of busy domesticity where work and motherhood uneasily co-habit, backlit in recent years by my own uncertainties about ageing. I have stopped to listen to these ordinary, yet extra-ordinary, women. I expected interesting things.

However, I didn’t expect the project to be so immediately and intensely personal. It has confirmed or challenged my own views of what matters and what doesn’t. It has left me with clearer ideas about the kind of older woman I would like to be. It has reassured me. It has been time well spent. 

What did I think ?

This was an incredibly interesting book and Sarah seems an incredibly interesting person. I'd love to sit and chat to her for hours about the book, the people she talked with and their journeys as well as her own.  I've got a way to go yet, but I know that my sister is reaching the big 50 this year and it seems to have really influenced her life and her decisions. 

It's a book that makes you ponder, raises lots of questions of your own, certainly made me think about how my mom must have felt when she reached the ages that some of these women had reached and how I would be motivated and inspired by them.  I'm sure that after reading this book, some of my priorities will have changed.

About the Author

Sarah is a practising occupational psychologist and accredited coach. She designed the structured coaching programme, Creating Focus®, and is the author of Keeping Your Spirits Up, a guide to facing the challenges of modern life. She lives in Nottingham with her husband, two daughters and step-son. Her moments of leisure are spent Nordic walking, reading fiction and frequenting coffee shops, the more independent the better. She secretly loves a good jigsaw.

You can find out more about Sarah Dale on her website, or by following her on twitter (@creatingfocus) or on Facebook (Sarah Dale – author).

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