Saturday, 9 June 2018

Everything About You by Heather Child: Review

For Freya, a young woman in her early twenties living in a near-future London, life isn’t going that well - her flatmate/ex-boyfriend has all but disappeared into an alarming world of virtual porn, and her job at a furniture store has been largely replaced by a hologram. And she’s still haunted by the disappearance - and presumed death - eight years earlier of her foster sister, Ruby.

When Freya acquires a smartface - a virtual assistant which can take on the personality of a real person, using their freely available data - she is shocked to find it “becoming” her lost sister. But as the smartface seems to know things about Ruby which it really shouldn’t, Freya becomes convinced her sister is still alive somewhere.

Freya’s search for Ruby - or at least some answers about what has happened to her - takes her deep into a frightening virtual world, then off grid entirely...

Where Everything About You really triumphs is in its careful depiction of a fully realised near-future world where smart tech pervades every aspect of life and everyone’s data is constantly mined - often by those with their own agendas. It really doesn’t seem far away at all,  does it? It’s impressively detailed, down to the small things (haptic suits, digital wallpaper and pizza delivery drones).

The date isn’t given, though there are clues (Prince George is apparently at Cambridge - so it’s likely about fifteen years in our future).

I loved this book, which is inventive, exciting and alarmingly plausible. Highly recommended!

Saturday, 26 May 2018

BLOG TOUR! Raving About Rhys by Jessica Redland

The book...

Bubbly Callie Derbyshire loves her job as a carer, and can't believe she's finally landed herself a decent boyfriend - older man Tony - who's lasted way longer than the usual disastrous three months. Tony's exactly what she's always dreamed of ... or at least he would be if he ever took her out instead of just taking her to bed. And work would be perfect too if she wasn't constantly in trouble with her boss, The She-Devil Denise.

When the new gardener, Mikey, discovers her in a rather compromising position at work, Callie knows that her days at Bay View Care Home could be numbered. Can she trust him not to tell Denise? If she's issued with her marching orders, who'll look out for her favourite client, Ruby, whose grandson, Rhys, seems to constantly let her down? What does Ruby know about Tony? And what is Denise hiding?

Surrounded by secrets and lies, is there anyone left who Callie can trust? 

Purchase on Amazon UK

The review...

Callie has a refreshingly normal job as a care assistant at Bay View Care Home, in the seaside town of Whitsborough Bay - in fact it was this aspect of the book which first appealed to me, as my professional background is in social care and I rarely see care homes accurately depicted in fiction. (On TV at least, they seem to be mainly portrayed as elegantly dressed elderly people attending tea dances, which isn’t really that representative of reality). Anyway, Bay View is better than many, and Callie clearly loves her job, even if certain of her antics are less than appropriate...

Callie’s in a relationship (sort of) with older man Tony, but the new gardener at the home is setting the cat among the pigeons. Meanwhile her favourite resident, the colourful Ruby, is forever raving on about Rhys, the invisible grandson who never seems to turn up when he says he will. And there’s also the strange behaviour of “She-Devil” Denise, the care home manager, to contend with...

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say Tony is an obvious bad lot, since it’s apparent from the start to everyone but Callie (and even she has the odd suspicion). It’s a bit frustrating that she doesn’t see through him at an earlier stage, but then she’s only twenty-one, so can be forgiven for a bit of naïveté!

Raving About Rhys is a fun and light-hearted novella which, while touching on some darker issues at times, does so with a delicate touch. Callie is an engaging and down to earth heroine whose judgement may be a bit suspect at times (!) but is able to step up when it counts, and thoroughly deserves a happy ending.

A note from the author explains her plan to write a short story, which became a novella - this one - set in the same place and featuring some of the same characters as the trilogy which begins with Searching for Steven. I enjoyed reading Raving About Rhys a lot and will definitely look out for Jessica's other work.

Many thanks to Jessica Redland and Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to read and review as part of the blog tour!

The author...

Jessica had never considered writing as a career until a former manager kept telling her that her business reports read more like stories and she should write a book. She loved writing but had no plot ideas. Then something happened to her that prompted the premise for her debut novel, Searching for Steven. She put fingers to keyboard and soon realised she had a trilogy and a novella!

She lives on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast – the inspiration for the settings in her books – with her husband, daughter, cat, Sprocker Spaniel, and an ever-growing collection of collectible teddy bears. Although if the dog has her way, the collection will be reduced to a pile of stuffing and chewed limbs!

Jessica tries to balance her time – usually unsuccessfully – between being an HR tutor and writing.

Social Media Links –  Twitter:  @JessicaRedland 

Website and blog:

Friday, 18 May 2018

Darling by Rachel Edwards: Review

Darling is billed as a “reading group thriller”, which sounded a bit strange. (What *is* a reading group thriller? If I don’t have a reading group, am I still allowed to read it?) I think it just means there’s a lot of food for discussion in this book, which I suppose is true. I can certainly imagine a few debates, possibly heated, being sparked.

It’s also dubbed a “Brexit thriller”, which sounded kind of appealing and also kind of not, because if I never had to hear the word Brexit again I would be more than happy (I know, not gonna happen), but still... Brexit thriller, intriguing concept.

Anyway... Darling (who is black) and Thomas (who is white) meet by chance on the day of the Brexit result and fall in love - and marry - very quickly. There’s a major fly in the ointment, though, in the shape of Thomas’s sixteen year old daughter Lola, who doesn’t really want a new stepmother, particularly not a black one. Lola’s at pains to tell us she’s not racist (though she really kind of is - but that’s only one of many ways in which Lola is dangerously screwed up).

Lola needs to take back control. Lola needs rid of Darling.

But Darling is a nurse, a caregiver - single parent to a disabled son, the adorable Stevie - and she’s sure she can win Lola over with enough lovingly prepared meals and patience.

Then again, Darling has her secrets, too.

Narrated alternately by Darling and through Lola’s notebooks, the voices of both characters are compelling and the tension builds throughout.

I’m not sure about “Brexit thriller”, but the book certainly does evoke the landscape of post-referendum Britain and its newly emboldened racists - here, a toxic far-right group of idiots calling itself Bright New Britain (the BNP, basically, with a dollop of UKIP and the EDL thrown in for bad measure), with whom Lola gets somewhat embroiled. All of this is sadly only too believable.

Darling is a superbly crafted story which immediately drew me in, and never felt predictable - whenever I thought I knew where the plot was going, I was invariably wrong, and the end is surprising. Rachel Edwards deftly led me down several wrong turns in the process.

A very, very impressive debut which I would highly recommend.

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey: Review

"Whistle in the Dark" begins with an ending, of sorts. Lana, a depressed fifteen-year-old who has been missing for four days, having disappeared from a holiday in the Peak District, has returned safely, much to the relief of her frantic parents. But Lana won't say where she's been, only repeating rather unhelpfully that she "got lost". The story follows Lana's distraught mother Jen as she struggles, mainly unsuccessfully, to communicate with her daughter and unravel the alarming mystery of what's happened to her during those four days, 

I loved this book, Emma Healey's second after the highly successful Elizabeth is Missing. "Whistle in the Dark" is a very different but, for me, an equally compelling read. It's a difficult story to categorise - not a psychological thriller, not a family drama although there are elements of both, along with a definite dash of the dark and sinister. It seems everyone has their own ideas, some very bizarre, about where Lana's been. Where does the truth lie, and what has the effect on Lana been?

There's a hint of the unreliable narrator about Jen, who admits to having apparently hallucinated people and conversations in the past. Random appearances of a cat they don't own, overheard conversations in Lana's room - what's real and what's imaginary?

Ultimately Jen's distress and frustration at her strained relationship and failure to communicate with Lana are very believable - the situation she's in is awful and it's no wonder her imagination runs riot at times. Some reviewers have complained of finding Lana unlikeable - I don't think she's meant to be all that likeable for much of the story, as she certainly doesn't act in likeable ways, even if we can sympathise with her mental distress. But maybe that's the point because love never falters, even when constantly challenged.

The story is written in quite a fragmented way with lots of little interludes and ruminations on various things, and I really enjoyed this style of storytelling. All in all, a great read which I found very satisfying,

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

BLOG TOUR! Everybody Works in Sales by Niraj Kapur: Review

The book...

We all work in sales. If you work for somebody, you earn a living by selling their product or service.

If you are self-employed, you earn a living by selling your product or service.

When you buy from Amazon, they always recommend other products similar to the ones you are purchasing or have already purchased - that’s selling.

When you download a song, movie or TV show from iTunes, they always recommend more similar products. That’s selling.

When you register for most websites, they sell their products or services to you through a regular email.  

When you attend an exhibition at the NEC, London ExCel, Olympia, Manchester or even a local market, everyone is trying to sell you their product.

We all work in sales, yet few people know how to sell. Until now.

Containing 27 valuable lessons, plus 17 interviews with experts, Everybody Works in Sales combines unique storytelling and personal development to ensure you have the tools you need to do better in your career.

Purchase from Amazon:

The review....

The title of this book immediately intrigued me and drew me in. I have never worked "in sales" as such – my career is in the public sector – but as Niraj Kapur points out in this book, we’re all selling something, be that a product, a service or our own skills and experience to an employer.

Niraj takes a very personal and anecdotal approach which makes for an easy and entertaining read as he recounts his professional and personal ups and downs, and what he has learnt as a result.

The book is structured around 27 "lessons", starting with "Learn your craft and keep on learning every day". (Can’t argue with that.) Many others had me nodding in agreement as I read. The book then concludes with a series of interviews with "people who sell every day but aren’t in sales" (including his wife, who owns a successful beauty salon!), and these are an interesting read and a further source of many useful tips and insights.

It’s refreshing to find that in terms of selling, the focus is on operating with integrity and building relationships rather than beating potential customers around the head until they give in out of sheer exhaustion. (I’m sure we’ve all been on the receiving end of this tactic at some point, and it doesn’t leave you feeling good.) There is no space here for the "Always Be Closing" mantra or similar.

Most importantly for me, he operates from a strong ethical base which accords with my own. I’ve always believed you get far more out of people by treating them with respect and kindness – in addition to that just being the right thing to do. It sounds self-evident but unfortunately not everyone operates in this way, and there are still many managers out there who believe intimidation and fear are the most effective tools when dealing with people.

Niraj is clearly a great list maker and there is an effective use of numerous bullet pointed lists which helps to break up the text and get the points across with minimum fuss.

Each chapter ends with a brief recap of the key points covered therein and one or two relevant and inspirational quotes – I really liked many of these. At one point Niraj also provides a brief reading list of some of his favourite business and personal development related books, and I will definitely seek out some of these.

While the book is written in a very readable style, the edition I read did have a number of typographical or grammatical errors and would have benefited from more proofreading. However this did not interfere too much with my reading experience.

All in all it was a very interesting and engaging read which left me feeling inspired! Many thanks to the author and Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to be part of the blog tour.

The author...

Award-winning executive, Niraj Kapur, has worked in corporate London for 23 years.

From small businesses to a national newspaper to FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, he’s experienced it all and shares his insight, knowledge, big wins and horrible failures.

Containing 27 valuable lessons, plus 17 interviews with experts, Everybody Works in Sales combines unique storytelling and personal development to ensure you have the tools you need to do better in your career.

Niraj has also had several screenplays optioned, sitcoms commissioned, kids' shows on Channel 5’s Milkshake and CBBC. His movie, Naachle London, was released in select cinemas across the UK.

He’s working on his next book while advising companies and coaching individuals on how to improve their sales.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Day of the Doctor (Target novelisation) by Steven Moffat: Review

Watching The Day of the Doctor in the cinema (that’s movie theater, transatlantic readers!) with my then six-year-old daughter, complete with sonic screwdriver, definitely ranks among my best Doctor Who-related memories. In fact, it’s pretty high up there among my best anything-related memories. Along with many others we laughed, gasped and sat on the edge of our seats throughout (Doctors! Zygons! Eyebrows! John Hurt!! Tom Baker!!!), and joined in the spontaneous round of applause from the audience at the end. It was quite an experience. I’ve watched it numerous times since, but needless to say nothing will ever match that first time.

So there was no way in the universe that I could possibly resist the Target novelisation, especially when written by – who else? – Steven Moffat himself

In true Moffaty style, this is far from a straight re-telling of the story. From the beginning (The Night of the Doctor) onwards, there’s lots added, some noticeable changes, a lot of timey-wimey-ness ("as an idiot once wrote" – his words, not mine), plenty of similar little writerly asides, an intriguing narrative voice (who’s telling the story?) and a fair bit of Osgood. Or Petronella, as no-one will ever call her. Oh, and a pretty good running joke involving the Silence.

We get plenty of background – how the Doctor’s relationship with Elizabeth came about, for instance. And there are lots of other additions - lines one suspects Steven previously either hadn’t thought of or more likely had to cut for reasons of time. ("Queen Elizabeth the only. She didn’t like being numbered, and I sympathise entirely.")

On that note the author, probably wisely, avoids the whole numbering business, referring to them all as the Doctor (that’s who they are, after all), and deftly navigates the obvious potential pitfalls.

We see a lot here from the Doctor’s point of view and the War Doctor, in particular, gets a lot of time. As is only right

The on-screen scene where all the Doctors team up to save Gallifrey never fails to bring a tear to my eye (don’t judge me). The version here is a bit different – expanded – but equally if not even more emotive. Like various other elements of the story it takes full advantage of the written word’s ability to describe what would be difficult to put on screen. There’s no "Oh for God’s sake – Gallifrey stands!" moment, though.

You can’t improve on perfection… but this book adds a lot to the story and is an utter delight from start (the cover!) to finish (a lovely nod to the future).

On a final note: "Osgood lives – and so long as the fangirls stand guard on the gates of humanity, so will we." Can’t argue with that!

Monday, 9 April 2018

The Man on the Middle Floor by Elizabeth S Moore: Review

There have been a number of recent-ish novels with non-neurotypical main characters, but I don’t think you will have read one quite like this before...

The plot centres around three people who inhabit, separately, the same London house. On the top floor, Karen, a doctor working on what she hopes will be ground-breaking research into how people with autism can lead fulfilling and productive lives. On the ground floor, Tam, a policeman, previously injured in the line of duty, who now finds there is no place for him in a modern police force, or at least no place he wants to inhabit. And the man on the middle floor: Nick.

It’s an interesting, unsettling read with some unusual and often challenging themes. We get inside the head of Nick, a troubled young man with Asperger’s, and it’s not a comfortable place to be.  

Karen is obsessed by her work and able to think of little else; she’s incapable of remembering to perform basic functions of everyday life (putting petrol in her car, picking up her children at an agreed time.) Separated from her husband and children, the visits from the children feel like an imposition and she counts the minutes till they leave and she can get back to work. Since Karen seems to have  always been pretty much like this, why she chose to have three children in the first place is a mystery. She’s certainly an appalling mother and a disaster for her children, but I do wonder if as a woman, she’s judged more harshly for her behaviour and attitude than a man would be.

Karen herself seems somewhat disconnected from the usual emotions and it makes a kind of sense that she’s chosen to work in the field of autism.

The blokey Tam, dealing with the loss of his career through booze and sex, is the most obviously “normal” and to me, at least initially, perhaps the least interesting of the three. However Tam definitely goes on a journey over the course of the story and by the end is, if not a different person, one who has broadened his horizons and outlook.

And then... there’s Nick.  His sections of the story are written in first person, and it’s hard reading at times. Life is a struggle for Nick; not only because of his Asperger’s, but there is clearly something dark in his family history , particularly in his relationship with his grandfather. He is a very troubled and damaged young man, failed by those around him and beset by feelings he cannot understand or deal with about sexuality, violence and death. He clings to his routines and when these are disrupted, all hell breaks loose - almost literally.

The Man on the Middle Floor is a very well written and thought provoking debut. The author clearly has a lot to say on certain subjects and does so in a very effective way. Some dreadful things happen in this book (it’s very dark and disturbing at times) and it’s clear there can be no easy resolutions for the characters - Nick, in particular - but the ending is quite satisfying, though can feel a little heavy on the exposition at times as the author fills in the gaps. There’s a great courtroom scene too. 

While reading I wasn’t always sure that I liked the book - like I said, it’s hard reading at times in terms of the subject matter - but I was always interested and challenged.

I was intrigued to learn more about the author after finishing the book, and found this interesting post on her website in which she discusses the book and some of the reactions to it - worth checking out.

Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall: Review

Mike loves his ex-girlfriend Verity - and he’s one hundred per cent certain that she still loves him, even though she has not only left him but is now getting married to someone else. 

But that’s all  just a more elaborate, extreme version of their private game - isn’t it? A sexual game they called the Crave, in which they would go out separately-but-together, Verity would wait for a man to make a move on her, and at a prearranged signal Mike would step in to send him on his way.  Apparently, this would give them both a thrill. A bit strange, yes, but basically fairly harmless.

Mike’s confident that whatever Verity says, her marriage to the eligible Angus is all a part of the game - a new version of the Crave. He just needs to understand the rules and figure out what Verity expects him to do next.

This story is narrated by Mike, once a bitterly neglected child taken into care at the age of ten, who has grown into a very successful adult with a highly paid job in the City and a beautiful house (in which he fully expects Verity soon to be living with him). Because he knows her better than anybody, and he knows that however often she says she doesn’t want to be with him, she doesn’t really mean it. Her signals and coded messages prove that. Mike and Verity are different from other people, their love is more important than anything else and it’s worth any sacrifice.

It often feels like Mike’s running only on obsession and barely suppressed violence. And inevitably, it’s going to erupt at some point.

Our Kind of Cruelty is a fascinating read, as we inhabit the mind of Mike, who’s frequently terrifying, but not a bad person; he is motivated entirely by love. He’s flawed - but so is his beloved Verity, his idealised woman. And he’s deeply vulnerable.

As the story progresses it becomes a courtroom drama and a trial by media; suddenly, other people are privy to the details of Mike and Verity’s relationship -  and standing in judgement. And not only on Mike. (I loved, if that’s the right word, the feature from what was obviously the Daily Mail, with its unhealthy obsessions with how much people earn, what their houses are worth, and the numerous ways in which women fail to live up to arbitrary standards.)

How complicit is Verity in what has happened? Where does guilt lie - and how is that decided?

Really putting the psychological into psychological thriller, this was a brilliant read which is highly recommended.

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce: Review

London, 1940: Emmeline Lake spends her days working as a secretary for Strawman’s Solicitors and her nights as a volunteer telephone operator for the Auxiliary Fire Service, but dreams of a future as a Lady War Correspondent. Her dreams seem one step closer to coming true when she spots a job advertisement for an Office Junior at Launceston Press, publishers of the London Evening Chronicle. 

Emmy imagines herself in a busy newsroom, learning the business of reporting from the ground up. Reality proves rather different though, and via an unfortunate failure to listen properly at her interview, Emmy accidentally finds herself instead at Woman’s Friend magazine typing up problem page letters for the ferocious Mrs Bird, whose list of Unacceptable Topics doesn’t leave much she’s willing to answer.

But there are a lot of women out there who need help and guidance, even on Unacceptable Topics. If Mrs Bird refuses to provide it, maybe Emmy should?

I knew from the first page I was going to love this book, and love it I did. Emmy is an incredibly engaging heroine - intelligent, funny, brave and loyal, but far from perfect. I should think it’s impossible not to warm to her and to root for her throughout, even when she makes somewhat rash choices. The other characters are similarly lovable (well.... maybe not Mrs Bird) and well drawn.

The frightening reality of life in blitz-torn London is not played down, and my tears were flowing freely at points as the effects of war came horribly close to home for Emmy.

If I have any complaint at all it’s that the ending was perhaps a little abrupt, although that could just be because I really didn’t want it to end!

A delightful read which I’m sure is destined to be very successful.

Review has also been posted on NetGalley and on Amazon.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Exhibit Alexandra by Natasha Bell: Review

Thirty-seven-year-old Alexandra Southwood – wife of Marc, mother of Lizzie and Charlotte, part-time lecturer in art – has disappeared. The usual things proceed to happen: the police investigate, her family and friends go mad with worry. Unusually, though, these events are recounted by Alex herself. But of course, Alex isn’t actually there to observe them... because she’s disappeared, and there’s some evidence that she has done so under violent circumstances (her bloodied clothes are soon found by a river).

Writing that just then made me think of The Lovely Bones, where the story is narrated from beyond the grave by a murder victim. But that is not the scenario we have here - Alex is definitely very much alive, and we are given snippets of what she is currently experiencing - apparently held captive somewhere by an unnamed man -  along with her account of the reactions of others to her disappearance.

Alongside this narrative are letters gathered over the years from Alex’s old friend Amelia Heldt, a New York-based, relentlessly boundary-pushing conceptual artist who, it seems, can’t quite comprehend her friend’s apparent retreat into marriage, motherhood and academia.

As Marc deals with the loss of his wife, there is increasing evidence that Alex was not, perhaps, all she seemed – or all he believed her to be.

So far, so intriguing.

The promotion for Exhibit Alexandra describes it as “unlike any other thriller you’ve read”, and that’s probably true – the central concept is certainly original.

I did start to get a fairly vague inkling quite early on of what might be happening – and a slightly more developed one a bit later – but although I kind of got the basics I certainly couldn’t fill in the details until much later... and some things were a complete surprise. 

I did ponder whether Alex could be described as an unreliable narrator - certainly she does not tell the whole story, but on the whole I think she plays fair with the reader.

The digressions into the often challenging work of certain artists are fascinating – I hadn’t heard of most of them and had to look them up to confirm whether they were in fact real people (they are – mostly). 

Exhibit Alexandra both tells a compelling story and poses some intriguing and endlessly debatable questions about art and life, identity and ethics. A fascinating read.

Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter: Review

Cows don’t need to follow the herd...

Dawn O’Porter’s highly entertaining novel follows the lives of three women facing some very pertinent issues.

TV exec and single mother Tara finds her life unexpectedly in tatters after a video of an ill-judged “private” moment on a train goes viral, resulting in massive public humiliation.

Cam, the author of a wildly successful (and lucrative) straight-talking blog, accidentally becomes “The Face of Childfree Women” after blogging about her choice not to have children, and faces a backlash as a result. (Incidentally this is something I will never understand. I do have children and am very happy about it, but why on earth anyone should be criticised for not having or wanting them is beyond me. Seems to me not wanting children is an excellent reason for not having any - pressurising anybody into doing so seems deeply misguided.)

And finally Stella, who works as PA to Jason, a successful photographer, is grieving the loss of her mother and twin sister, and dealing with her own terrifyingly high risk of developing the cancer that took their lives. Stella does want a baby, but with both health and relationship difficulties staring her in the face, how on earth is she going to achieve that? It's time to take control...

The Cows is a hugely enjoyable read which deals with some very topical issues facing women. It’s not the first story I’ve read recently in which a woman is publicly shamed for her sexuality, but it’s very well done. What happens to Tara is appalling but also quite believable, at least in terms of the public response, in which she is both delightedly mocked and widely condemned - not only for the incident but for her other life choices too, once they come to light. It’s horrific.

Cam is also a great character who is determined to live her life the way she wants, and largely succeeds, even though others (her mother, for one) don't always understand why she is the way she is. Her blogs seek to inspire and empower women, and usually do, though she misses the mark at times (it shouldn’t take a huge amount of sensitivity to notice that a statement like “My womb is what makes me a woman” might not go down well in some quarters.... women who've had hysterectomies, just as a for instance).

And Stella - well, Stella goes off the deep end to a point where the story does become a bit absurd, as she goes to some extreme lengths to achieve her goal.

There are some brilliant set pieces here (Tara’s dad’s birthday dinner, during which the mostly elderly attendees start recounting their own al fresco sexual experiences, was a delight). And some very spot-on observations about current society. Towards the end, something shocking and unexpected happens, and this threw me off balance a bit - I wasn’t quite sure why it was necessary in terms of the story and kind of wished it hadn’t happened...

Overall a fantastic read, highly recommended.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Far Cry From the Turquoise Room by Kate Rigby: Review

The book....

Told from both daughter and father's perspectives, Far Cry From The Turquoise Room is a coming-of-age, riches-to-rags tale of loss, resilience, and self-discovery, set just before the millennium. It is also about the passage of childhood into puberty.

Leila is the eight-year-old daughter of Hassan Nassiri, a wealthy Iranian property owner, and younger sister to the adored Fayruz, her father's favourite daughter. 

But a holiday narrowboat tragedy has far-reaching consequences for the surviving family. Hassan withdraws into reclusive grief, when he’s not escaping into work, or high jinks with his men friends at his second home in Hampstead, leaving Leila to fend for herself in a lonely world of nannies, chess and star-gazing.

Leila eventually runs away from home and joins a family of travellers in Sussex, and so follows a tale of adventure, danger and romance – and further anguish for her surviving family. But how will she fare at such a young age and will her family ever find her?

My thoughts...

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to read it in time for the one day blog blitz on 7th March (sometimes life and work interferes with my reading time, which is simply unacceptable), but I have now and I really enjoyed it. It’s a short novel but an absorbing and unusual one.

Hassan, a wealthy Iranian businessman living in London, is husband to Samira and father to his two little princesses - Fayruz and Leila - though Fayruz is the acknowledged favourite. When Fayruz is killed in an accident when Leila is eight years old, everything changes.

Leila’s parents are lost in their grief and there is no time or thought for Leila.  (Even Fayruz’s cat - a painful reminder for her parents but a comfort for Leila - is given away.) When boarding school is suggested, what is Leila, by now nearly eleven, to do but run away?

The story is told alternately by Leila and Hassan - although the Leila sections are longer. I loved her voice, which is very engaging. Feisty, funny and at times heartbreaking. While I enjoyed the first part of the book it wasn’t unputdownable, but it really picked up pace for me when Leila ran away and from that point I was riveted. 

Leila is brave and resourceful but has no idea how vulnerable she really is. She is fortunate to fall in immediately with people who are kind to her, but as she moves on dangers are all around and come terrifyingly close at times. As the mother of an eleven year old girl, it made alarming reading. Leila’s new life is far from the privileged bubble she has hitherto inhabited - far from the beautiful rooms of her home. Will she ever return, and how changed will she be? Meanwhile her father Hassan is on his own journey...

Kate Rigby skilfully inhabits the minds of both characters and has delivered an entrancing read.

Purchase Links...


Barnes & Noble



The author.... 

Kate Rigby was born near Liverpool and now lives in the south west of England. She’s been writing for nearly forty years, with a few small successes along the way, although she has long term health conditions. Having been traditionally published, small press published and she is now indie published.

She realized her unhip credentials were mounting so she decided to write about it. Little Guide to Unhip was first published in 2010 and it has since been updated.

However, she’s not completely unhip. Her punk novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus was published by Allison & Busby (1990) and by Villard (American hardback 1990). Skrev Press published her novels Seaview Terrace (2003) Sucka!(2004) and Break Point (2006) and other shorter work has appeared in Skrev’s avant garde magazine Texts’ Bones.

Thalidomide Kid was published by Bewrite Books (2007).

She has had other short stories published and shortlisted including Hard Workers and Headboards, first published in The Diva Book of Short Stories and as part of the Dancing In The Dark erotic anthology, Pfoxmoor Publishing (2011). Hard Workers is to republished for a third time - in an anthology called ‘Condoms & Hot Tubs Don’t Mix’ - an anthology of Sexcapades - which is due to be published by Beating Windward Press in the US in February 2018.  It is her shortest ever story and yet the most popular in that sense!  All proceeds will go towards planned parenthood.

She also received a Southern Arts bursary for her novel Where A Shadow Played (now re-Kindled as Did You Whisper Back?).

More information can be found at her website::

Or her occasional blog:

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