Category Archives: Harper Collins
The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap
There was something about The Rules of Seeing the debut novel by Joe Heap that just attracted me even before a copy had arrived and I am so pleased a copy did arrive. One of the best debut novels I have read this year. Just sometimes a book will come along and give you a jolt and this is that book.
They say never judge a book by its cover and this is one, I thought I was going to have a good idea of how this was going to play out. I was wrong. In the end I loved it more.
Nova is blind, in fact she has been blind since birth. But that has not stopped Nova from fulfilling her life. She accepted being blind and got on with life. Then there is Kate, but she is suffering in a very different way at the hands of her abusive husband Tony. One day both Nova and Kate unintentionally meet at the hospital. Nova has surgery that is giving her something that she thought she would never have. Sight. Kate is at the hospital but in complete denial. She is hurt but of course it was nothing to do with Tony.
Two people’s lives are now connected as Nova is an interpreter for the Police and of course she knows Kate’s husband. The first part of the book is told by both Nova and Kate as the story starts to build from halfway. This is an incredible story of two women whose lives have suffered in one way or another.
The Rules of Seeing is a story so full of emotion. The characters of Nova and Kate are strong and yet Tony who is the ultimate of two faced character representing the law and the thug at home. The horrific abuse Kate has to suffer is shocking.
I loved this book for many reasons it is thought provoking. I have not come across a story of one person who is blind and then able to see after pioneering surgery. It made me think. One woman blind from birth but another woman blind to the horrors she faced daily at home.
I remember that tingling feeling when I have read an extremely great debut novel. I had that very same tingling feeling after I finished reading The Rules of Seeing. Congratulations Joe Heap.
Thank you to Felicity Denham at Harper Collins for the review copy of The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap.
The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap is published by Harper Collins and published today 9th August 2018 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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The 2018 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize
I was delighted to have been invited to the 2018 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize announcement which took place at the beautiful surroundings of Blenheim Palace and the BBC TV’s Countryfilelive event. The day was just perfect with the event bathed in hot sunshine all day.
This year Countryfile’s Ellie Harrison made the announcement with Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove also giving a speech about nature and the environment in front of a packed audience.
With all the authors and illustrators present and in turn each giving a little talk about their book. You could almost feel the tension rise as the moment for the announcement came.
BBC TV’s Countryfile present Ellie Harrison announces the 2018 winning author and book.
And so the winner of the 2018 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize went to:
The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson (William Collins)
Originally published in Hardback in June 2017 The Seabird’s Cry (William Collins, Harper Collins) is an incredible book dedicated to the lives of seabird’s. A strong environmental message comes out of this book that I said long before it won the Wainwright Book Prize that it was a natural history classic.
There are ten chapters each dedicated to a specific seabird. From Fulmar’s to Puffin’s Adam Nicolson follows their lives from the coastlines and islands of the UK to Norway, Iceland and the coastline of America. What Adam sees are numbers crashing. Seabirds that are majestic on the sea and in the air travel hundreds of thousands of miles each year to breed and then to spend winters travelling the sea’s.
Were once the numbers where in many thousands they are now at a shocking level that one day soon could be lost forever and we will be left remembering the mass of seabird colonies in the spring. This is not a threat it really is happening.
A superbly researched and beautifully written book with illustrations by Kate Boxer. The Seabird Cry now joins the illustrious previous winners of the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.
Adam Nicolson collects his prize as winning author for The Seabird’s Cry.
Congratulations to Adam Nicolson but also to all the authors and illustrators who made the longlist and shortlist. This almost certainly was a tough decision to choose a winner and that is a testament to the sheer quality and resurgence of nature writing in the UK today.
My thanks go to Laura Creyke and everyone at Mark Hutchinson Management and also to Alastair Giles and the team at Agile Ideas for all their help and support.
The Wainwright Book Prize is named after the Lakelands much loved Alfred Wainwright, and is supported by White Lion Publishing (publisher of the world famous Wainwright Guides), Wainwright Golden Beer, the Wainwright Estate and in Partnership with The National Trust. The winner receives a cheque for £5,000.
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Entanglement by Katy Mahood
Entanglement is the brilliant debut novel from Katy Mahood that begins on a train platform at London Paddington station in 2007 and three people’s lives cross and yet there is something about these three people and how they become linked. Primarily this is a novel about the choices people make and the encounters along life’s journey and just how they can all become connected.
The three people at the centre of this novel are Stella, Charlie and John. Is there a connection between the three people? Now this is where the novel now takes a backward step of thirty years and the lives of two couples during the 1970’s.
This is a story of people’s lives of marriages that upset parents and shattered dreams and the horror of a London pub bombing and the carnage and aftermath that this brings. For Stella she has dreams of an academic career and all this is brought to an end as she faces up to becoming a young mum and the father John, how does he take to the idea of being a father so soon?
Then there is Charlie and Beth just an ordinary couple and the everyday struggles of life. These two couples are just ordinary people leading ordinary lives yet somehow inexorable linked. A story of connections over the course of decades and most of all as the story reaches its end a story of hope. At the end of the day hope is what we all cling onto in our everyday life and Katy Mahood weaves a captivating debut novel of chance encounters. Wonderful characters and so beautifully written.
Thank you to Ann Bissell (Harper Collins) for the advanced review copy of Entanglement
Entanglement by Katy Mahood is published by Borough Press and was published on 22nd March 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine
This is the story of a woman who is not happy at just being no-one and this woman wants to be something more. This is the story of Amber Patterson who is that woman. In The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine we see a woman who wants a share of the lifestyle of the wealthy. Amber Patterson is manipulative and wicked. But she does not care she wants the lifestyle that she craves and she has a plan.
Amber Patterson has set her sights on the wealthy lifestyle of a couple Daphne and Jackson Parrish and her desires on Jackson to get the life she believes she deserves. So now Amber’s plan to worm her way into the lives of this couple be befriending Daphne all seem to be going according to plan.
For Daphne Parrish and her husband, theirs is the life that is just perfect. She is beautiful and the perfect life with her wealthy husband Jackson and their two children. Now all Amber has to do is just set about catching the eye of Jackson and let everything fall into place or so she thinks. The problem with Amber is that she has a past, the skeleton in the closet and this is about to wreck her plans.
This is a novel is narrated by the main characters Amber and Daphne and at first we see how Amber sets about her plan that is just set out so perfectly even though you detest this character already. This woman is set about to destroy a family for her own insatiable greed.
In the second part we hear from Daphne, and then in the final part we come to the gripping finale. It would be so easy for me to go into detail here but this is a novel that many will enjoy. The characters are so well created and you may hate Amber who is the perfect jealous greedy woman who wants Daphne’s role in the family. But saying that what about the golden couple themselves, they too have their own secrets hiding away just waiting to be told.
A story with a few twists that will throw you off course The Last Mrs Parrish is a dark and thrilling suspense filled rollercoaster that many will enjoy. A superb psychological debut.
Thank you to Felicity Denham at Harper Collins for the review copy of The Last Mrs Parrish.
The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine is published by Harper Collins and was published on 28th December 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops
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Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
First Review of 2018.
I have to admit to being a bit of a fan of Joanna Cannon’s writing and loved her debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, one of those books that left an indelible mark on me. I lost count of how many copies I ended giving away to family, friends and also prize giveaways on my blog.
Joanna Cannon returns with her second novel Three Things About Elsie which is officially released into bookshops on the 11th January (The Borough Press). The first thing that will strike you when you go and buy a copy is the fabulous Battenberg themed cover. It is one of the most striking of covers. A cake themed cover. This could really catch on.
I am deeply humbled to have been mentioned in the Acknowledgements. I never thought that when I started talking about books that one day I would end up seeing my name in print. Thank you Joanna.
There are books that come into your life and move you in a way that makes you look at life in a new way some books make you appreciate not only yourself but others around you. I felt this in Joanna’s debut novel but in Three Things About Elsie this is much more evident. Joanna Cannon has a way with words that when she writes she writes from the heart and is telling YOU the reader a story with a message contained within that she would like you to connect with. This story is tender, warm and humane. I personally think it is better than The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and I never thought I would say that.
The story opens with Florence Claybourne lying on the floor after a fall at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. There Florence lies waiting to be found. Imagine for a moment an elderly person falling and lying just waiting and hoping to be found. What goes through their minds during this time? Scared and frightened and alone. For Florence as she lies on the floor of her flat she is thinking of recent days and trying to make sense of her memories. How has the past returned is it at all possible?
Florence has a best friend and her name is Elsie and it is Elsie who helps Florence remember things. They have known each other for sixty years. But Flo has a secret from the past. Literally a ghost has appeared at Cherry Tree in the form of a man who died all those years ago. What is going on? So now it is down to Florence and her best Friend Elsie to solve the mystery. How I really enjoyed reading how they go about proving something they believe is not right. At times I laughed at what they got up to. Thanks to Joanna’s wonderful vivid writing you are there with them.
There is a problem though for Florence the manager at the home thinks that Florence is causing problems at the home and is threatening to move Florence to Greenbank. This she believes is where you go to die and she does not want to be sent there. ‘You can’t make me’ she exclaims early into the book.
Elsie is always there for Florence as she always has been through the last sixty years. Now more than ever and this is the true meaning of friendship. There are so many wonderful characters there is Handy Simon and Miss Bissell and of course Miss Ambrose. Characters make novels and the people you meet here in Three Things About Elsie are real and they help make this such a wonderful humane book and really enjoyed meeting them.
Over recent weeks I have spoken a lot about hope and here Joanna Cannon gives us all hope. The real hope of friendship, tolerance and understanding of the things we hold dear and of course love. This is a book of sheer tenderness and an understanding of age and how memory can play tricks with us as the years move on. There are books that are like a warm duvet on a cold winters night. Three Things About Elsie is that duvet. As we enter a New Year full of hope this is a novel that acts as a beacon of humanity and so many facets of this book that I just loved. Heart-warming and sympathetic.
When I first left School I worked in care home for the elderly I was the Handyman (John) and shared some moments that were funny but also those that are tender and humane. Let us not forget the people who live there are real people with lives and still are living.
Grab some Battenberg and settle down with a book that you will read and then read again. A book to be loved and shared. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
My thanks to Ann Bissell (Harper Collins) for the Advanced Review Copy of Three Things About Elsie.
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon is published by The Borough Press and is published on 11th January 2018 and is available to Pre-order through Waterstones, also Amazon and all good bookshops.
Many who love the writing of Joanna Cannon have been very excited over recent days with the news of her second book Three Things About Elsie due for release in early January 2018. The first copies of the proofs were issued late last week and the early news is that this is going to be a much loved book and will touch all who read it. It will be one of the books of next year that is without doubt.
Joanna’s debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep went on to become a bestseller and today is still selling extremely well and was even selected to be on the Richard and Judy Book Club for WH Smith. It is a remarkable debut novel about two ten-year-old girls Grace and Tilly who set about trying to solve a mystery. Mrs Creasy is missing and there are whispers. A beautiful written novel about secrets behind every front door but it is more than just that.
It came to my attention that there are still some (yes hard to believe) that have not yet discovered The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and as Joanna’s forthcoming second novel is already talk of social media with a cover that is just pure Battenberg, I thought it would be a good time to a competition to win not just one copy but I have two to give away. But that is not all. These editions are the special copies produced in the yellow paperback cover as issued by Sainsbury’s to celebrate Summer as this wonderful novel is set in a long hot Summer that some of us still recall. Sadly, I am not offering free Battenberg as I am keeping that for myself. Sorry!
To enter the competition all you have to do is head over to my Twitter page The Last Word 1962 and answer one simple question:
In what year is the novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep based in. Then follow and RT the main pinned Tweet and you are in with a chance. There I told it was easy. It is easy honest.
Just to recap:
- In what year is the novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep based?
- Follow and Re-Tweet the pinned Tweet
The completion will close at 7pm on Thursday 17th August 2018 and two lucky winners will be selected at random on Friday morning. The Winners will receive a Direct Message from me on Twitter that morning. All being well prizes will be sent out within a few days. Good luck.
To Kill the President by Sam Bourne
Many will know how much I enjoy reading and writing about thrillers so it will come as a surprise that I have not read any of Sam Bourne’s thrillers before now and what a way to start. Just imagine the United States elects to power a President that is disliked by the majority of the world and whom they see as impulsive to say the least. Well in Sam Bourne’s latest blockbuster To Kill the President that is exactly what has happened.
Many who pick up this thriller will very quickly come to the idea that this is really a novel based on the current ‘real’ Commander in Chief and it is not difficult to understand why. Here in this fast paced thriller the President of the United States is in a war of words with the North Korean regime and the world is plunged into fear that the President will launch a nuclear attack on North Korea. The world is on a knife edge and at any moment the world could be plunged into WWIII. What’s more this tyrannical president is backed by his chief strategist Crawford McNamara.
He we have a president that feels he can do anything he wants and is liable to react without thinking through the consequences for the world. Something must be done to stop him. Enter Maggie Costello she served the previous president and she is wise and soon discovers that there is a plot to assassinate the President. Now here is the dilemma. She serves the president so does she do something to raise the alarm or bearing in mind the lunatic in the oval office does she keep quiet and hope the plot succeeds.
I soon realised after just a few pages just how close to reality this novel is based. The world has held its breath a number of times with Donald Trump as president and here in To Kill the President a novel that is just a little to scarily real. The characters are believable and have egos to match their inflated personalities. Gripping thriller that lasts from the first page through to the last and will keep the ardent thriller fan entertained. A thumping good read with a little twist and if you are following the current ‘real’ Commander in Chief’ then you may want to read this sinister page turner.
Thank you to Emilie Chambeyron for the advanced review copy of To Kill the President.
To Kill the President by Sam Bourne is published by Harper Collins and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke
I Know My Name (Harper) is the debut psychological thriller from the pen of C.J. Cooke. This is a thriller with more than just the usual twists and turns. It could well be described as dark and disturbing. Just what goes on in the minds of some people. If you like your thrillers like this, then you are in for a treat.
A woman wakes up on a Greek Island she does not know how she got there, she does not recall anything. Luckily there are a group of people on the island that want to help her. But who is this woman? Meanwhile in London Lochlan’ wife Eloise has just vanished without trace and no-one knows where she is her two young children have been left without their mother.
So now we see the story told from both Eloise and Lochlan. The real stories lie behind each character, Eloise is just desperate to find out who she is and how and what is she doing on a Greek Island. She wants to know were home is and to return. Imagine waking up on a strange island not knowing even what your name is and not recalling anything. Frightening thought. Meanwhile for Lochlan he too is looking for answers what has happened to his wife, why did she just walk out on her two young children while they slept with no warning.
Now you have to try and get inside the minds of some of the characters and try and find out who they really are and also what they are really like. Cooke really plays with the reader throughout the book as she tries to play on the suspicions of people and then keeps them guessing and this moves the story along at great pace. With each new chapter you are not sure of anyone.
A deeply thought provoking story I know My Name is a page turner of a thriller being compulsive and compelling.
Thank you to Harper Collins for the advanced review copy.
I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke is published by Harper Collins and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I am going to say this now the debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Harper Collins) is a leading contender for book of the year 2017. That is quite a statement. But read on and you will have a taste of why this is THE book of the year.
Be prepared for a rollercoaster of emotions through this novel but there is a message of hope written through the pages and this will resonate to every reader. Meet Eleanor Oliphant she is a real character; she lives each day at a time, never straying too far and avoiding straying from a carefully straight line that each day brings. She will wear the same clothes to work, even eats the same lunch every day. Then there are the crosswords every lunchtime. Eleanor believes she has everything in her life she needs, but actually when you get to know Eleanor everything seems to be missing.
Every weekend it is the same two bottles of vodka, no-one comes to call at her home and her phone never rings. At first you may not like Eleanor that much, but I promise you one thing that by the time you come towards the end, you are going to care a lot about her. Some may think that Eleanor Oliphant is a lost soul, but there is much more to this story and the journey you are going to take with her. Prepare to live in her world and the rollercoaster will take you to places that at times is very funny to just utter heartbreak. Eleanor Oliphant lives a life of isolation.
The story of Eleanor evolves throughout the story, and it just takes a moment an act of pure simple kindness to change Eleanor’s perfect world. There is so much in the story it would be wrong of me to give it away but there is a crush on a singer that does not go well, which leads to a whole series of events that in turn lead us to getting to know Eleanor’s life and how she got to where she is at the present. There is so much emotion throughout the story, yet it is a real joy to read. There are so many twists that at times you just never knew what or where it was leading you to. But that is one of the beauties of this story. There are some moments in the story that will make you laugh out loud so if you are going to read this on a journey be prepared.
If I could buy one novel this year for everyone I know it would be Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is it just staggeringly brilliant in every aspect from the storyline to the writing which flows easily and captures the reader from page one to the ending. One book that will stay with me for a long time to come. This is one book that I am delighted to HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Thank you to Jaime Frost for the advanced review copy of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is published today 18th May by Harper Collins and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Fragile Lives by Stephen Westaby
The balance between life and death is so fine, something we take for granted as we go about our busy lives every day. Professor Stephen Westaby a Heart Surgeon has dedicated his life in the pursuit of saving people’s lives. This is his life story in his own words a truly remarkable memoir of an outstanding career. When I was approached my Harper Collins if I would review Fragile Lives I have to admit to being concerned as I have been through heart surgery over recent years and the concern and worry this has brought not only to my but family and friends.
Stephen Westaby is not just a renowned heart surgeon but he is a pioneer of new heart surgery techniques that have saved many lives. He is a no-nonsense surgeon and this really comes through in his own words through the pages of Fragile Lives. For Stephen Westaby this is his story in his own words on how ‘the back-street boy’ from Scunthorpe decided he wanted to be a Cardiac surgeon all this at the very young age of 7 years.
This is a no-holds barred memoir that tells it straight it life and death. Sadly, it really is as simple as that. My emotions were shot by the time I finished reading, every life is precious as he describes some of the cases he has treated and not just in the UK either. At times I found my emotions just got to me having been through heart surgery and knowing what was involved. Fragile Lives may not be for everyone as it can be quite graphic in detail at times but it really gives an insight to the inner workings of the heart and also at the same time the strain that Stephen Westaby was under. Every life matters. Sadly, not all make it through. There is also a price to be paid for a life devoted to saving others and Westaby’s own private life especially with his first wife and children suffered as a direct consequence.
It is incredible the amount of progress that has been made since the 1960’s when so many died from a heart attack now so many are saved and this is because of the dedication of Cardiac surgeons like Stephen Westaby and he is also a flag waver for the NHS and is not afraid of taking a swing at those running the NHS as he clearly states ‘The rise and fall of the NHS’ We owe so much to surgeons like Westaby and many owe their lives to them that is why we must do everything in our power from allowing The Grim Reaper to take the NHS. It must survive for future generations.
Fragile Lives is an outstanding memoir from an outstanding man who we should all be extremely grateful to. There is humility mixed with some dry humour. Life and Death in their hands it is but one book that should not be missed. I for one will always be more grateful than I can put into words for Cardiac Surgeons like Professor Stephen Westaby. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Caroline Saramowicz for the advanced review copy.
Fragile Lives by Professor Stephen Westaby is published by Harper Collins and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.