Book Review: Where The Light Gets In.

where the light“You know those cracks in your heart, Lorna, where things didn’t work out, but you picked yourself up and carried on? That’s where the fear gets out. And where the light gets in.”

By the time of this quote, I was already in love with Lucy Dillon’s Where The Light Gets In – and my Kindle tells me it’s only about the 2% mark.

This wonderfully written, incredibly emotional and thought-provoking book was hard to put down.

It tackles some big, tough subjects – relationships, growing up and dying to name a few – but it is still a very readable and enjoyable story.

Here’s the blurb:

It was Betty, defiant to the end, who sent Lorna back to Longhampton. If Lorna’s learned one thing from Betty it’s that courage is something you paint on like red lipstick, even when you’re panicking inside. And right now, with the keys to the town’s gallery in her hand, Lorna feels about as courageous as Betty’s anxious little dachshund, trembling beside her.

Lorna’s come home to Longhampton to fulfil a long-held dream, but she knows, deep down, there are ghosts she needs to lay to rest first. This is where her tight-knit family shattered into silent pieces. It’s where her unspoken fears about herself took root and where her own secret, complicated love began. It’s not exactly a fresh start.

But as Lorna – and the little dog – tentatively open their cracked hearts to old friends and new ones, facing hard truths and fresh promises, something surprisingly beautiful begins to grow around the gallery, something so inspirational even Lorna couldn’t have predicted the light it lets into her world…

All of the characters felt so well developed, especially Lorna, but it is artist, Joyce, who stole the show for me. Her feisty personality was perfectly pitched and I really enjoyed learning her story and seeing her relationship with Lorna, centred around their shared passion for art but about so much more than that, develop. She felt very real to me.

There should also be a special mention for the dogs, Rudy and Bernard. Lucy captures the relationship between human and animal perfectly.

There’s plenty of drama, which helped keep things moving, and means you don’t dwell too much on the hard parts.

I cried at the beginning and near the end of this book – although it was more a sniffle at the start whereas near the end it was full on ugly crying (thankfully I was on my own at the time). Don’t let that put you off though because, while is an emotional tale, it is also genuinely uplifting.

Lucy Dillon is another author I’ll be adding to my must read list.

Format: Kindle (released April 19th).

Price: £7.99.

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Random House UK (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Last Laugh.

thelastlaugh“What’s your book about?” Mark asked.

“A woman diagnosed with a terminal illness on the same day she finds out her husband is cheating on her.”

Mark looked horrified: “Why on earth would you want to read that?”

“It’s really good, honestly.”

He didn’t look convinced but maybe I didn’t sell it very well?

Although a new author to me, if Tracy Bloom’s other books are like The Last Laugh she definitely has a new fan.

Yes, on the surface it doesn’t seem like a novel about dying and infidelity would be especially enjoyable but it really is – plus it’s about so much more than that.

Tracy writes with a sort of gallows humour that I really like but also with so much emotion, I felt instantly connected to the main character, Jenny, like I was part of her life.

It helped also that there is a massive hit of nostalgia for the year 1996 in this book, which was not only a particularly good year for Jenny but also for me (I was still at uni having the time of my life). Some of her memories brought a huge smile to my face.

Anyway, here’s the blurb:

‘I’ve googled it, how to die,’ Jenny says to Maureen. ‘It was full of climbing this mountain, swimming that sea, becoming a marathon runner and raising millions for charity.’

‘Sounds like bloody hard work. You can make it more fun than that surely?’

Jenny discovers her days are numbered at the same time she discovers her husband is having an affair…

Frankly, her life was tough enough already. Two tricky teenagers, her mother’s constant complaints, friends who aren’t up to the job and a career which has been spiralling downwards since she won ‘Sunseeker Tour Rep of the Season’ twenty years ago.

And now this: a cheating husband and a death sentence.

Enough is enough. Jenny vows to keep both catastrophes a secret. She takes her life – and death – into her own hands and decides to live as she did when she was happiest… in 1996. She plans a spectacular 1990’s themed party in place of a wake that she herself will attend. But will she be able to keep her secrets for long enough to have the party of a lifetime?

While death is obviously a lingering theme, family and friendships play a huge part in this book – especially as Jenny attempts to get everything in order (I’ll warn you now, I shed some tears).

The fact that she’s only a couple of years older than me certainly hit home and, after I had finished, I definitely felt thankful to have my health but it also inspired to try and make the most of the life I have.

If there is one small criticism it would be that I felt like some fairly big issues were resolved a little too easily – such her husband’s infidelity but also her son’s clinically diagnosed anxiety. Although, it was only a couple of hours after I had finished that I really thought about that. At the time I was just happy that it ended the way it did. It certainly didn’t put me off from immediately going in search of her other books – of which, I am happy to say, there are several.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99 (via Amazon).

My rating: Four and a half stars.

With thanks to Bookouture (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for my honest opinion.

A Look Behind The Book With Lynsey James.

me in jumperA school careers adviser once told Lynsey James that writing wasn’t a “good option”.

Six books later, I suspect she has something to say about that – and she’s still only in her 20s.

Her latest novel, A Winter’s Wish Come True, is a follow up to A Season Of Hopes And Dreams, which I was delighted about, as it marks a return of one of my favourite heroines of the year.

I was excited when Lynsey agreed to talk to me for my final Behind The Book post of 2017 as it was a chance to find out more about Cleo Jones and the inspiration behind her.

What a cracker to end on, as I hope you’ll agree.

Despite what the careers adviser told you, here you are a full time writer (yay!). Where did the confidence to follow your dreams come from? Has it been as you imagined?

Wow, what a brilliant first question to kick things off with. I think support from my family has definitely contributed to my confidence to follow my dreams. They’ve always believed I could do it, even when I didn’t. Apart from that, I genuinely couldn’t imagine loving anything as much as I love writing. It’s like oxygen to me. It’s been different to how I imagined, but in a good way. I’ve learned so much and made lots of amazing friends along the way.

What does your day look like? Do you treat it as a 9-5pm job? You’re still in your 20s, can you imagine doing anything else?

I get up, have breakfast, watch a bit of telly and then crack on with my writing. I don’t treat it as a 9-5 job as such, but I do structure my writing time and do some writing every day. If I don’t, things don’t feel right! I can’t imagine doing anything else, if I’m honest. Writing has always felt like the most natural thing in the world to me; I love it and I’ll do it forever if I can.

Can you talk about your path to publication? Did you submit your first book to agents or publishers? Was it an immediate hit?

I submitted my first book to agents first of all, and was lucky enough to get some amazing constructive feedback. Although they said no, I used the feedback to improve my draft and sent it off to Carina UK (now HQ Digital). A couple of weeks later, I got that wonderful email saying they’d like to publish me! It really was a dream come true. I signed with my awesome agent Sarah a year or so later. She’s a dynamo and truly the best in the business.

 

You now have an amazing SIX books under your belt, is there anything you know now that you wish you had known with your first novel? Are you ever tempted to go back and change something?

Wow, I know! Six books feels absolutely insane to think about. That’s a difficult question to answer because on the one hand, there are things I’d change if I was writing my first book now but on the other hand, I’m proud of how it turned out. And it’s kind of fun to see how my writing’s changed from book one to six.

I became a fan of your work after reading A Season Of Hopes And Dreams. I loved that your heroine had real struggles that she was still in the thick of. How much research did you do on the sensitive issues you tackle? What made you write her as still in the midst of them rather than having had them in the past?

A lot of the research actually came from my own experiences with body dysmorphia. It’s been in my life since I was teenager, but it got really bad a couple of years ago when I was trying to lose a significant amount of weight. I felt like I couldn’t trust my own self-perception and it really affected my confidence. It’s less severe now, but it really informed my decision to write Cleo as being in the midst of her struggles with it. I thought the journey would be an interesting one to write, and hoped it might help people going through similar things in their own lives. Body dysmorphia isn’t something I’ve seen a lot of in books, so to me it felt important to tell the story and to show how things can and do get better.

Your most recent book follows Cleo again. Can you talk about why you chose to continue her story (I’m thrilled you did).

In all honesty, I absolutely love Cleo. She’s one of my favourite characters I’ve ever written and I didn’t feel ready to say goodbye to her. I was talking to A L Michael, one of my best friends, and she told me to go for it and write a second part to Cleo’s story. I’m really glad I did!

I’m interested in the books you read – from your blog reviews you seem to have eclectic taste. Will there be a switch in writing genre for you in the future?

Never say never! I love to read a whole mix of books, so I’m really open to trying new things. As long as I’m creating stories for people to hopefully enjoy, I’m happy.

Did you ever consider using a pen name?

I haven’t so far, but if I decide to switch genres then I would.

Are you able to share what you working on at the moment?

I wish I could! All I’ll say is it’s top-secret and will be out next year. Watch this space for more announcements…

Do you have any writing tips you can pass on?

Read as many different books as you can. Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment.

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Thank you very much to Lynsey for answering my questions so honestly, I really appreciate her opening up about her own struggles – and I have no doubt that Cleo Jones is an inspiration to many people, myself included.

You can find out more about Lynsey via her website, on Twitter or buy her books via her Amazon page here. Her latest, A Winter’s Wish Come True, is currently £1.99.

I’m looking forward to posting some more Behind The Book interviews in the New Year but, just in case you have missed any, you can find the archive here.