Tuesday, 28 February 2017

#BibliomaniacsBookClub March: #ABoyMadeofBlocks (Paperlight)

March's Bibliomania is for 

Keith Stuart's 

A Boy Made of Blocks

Published by Little, Brown January 2017 

What is it all about?

In the tradition of Nick Hornby and David Nicholls comes a warm and tender novel in which a father and his autistic son connect over the game of Minecraft.

Alex loves his family, and yet he struggles to connect with his eight-year-old autistic son, Sam. The strain has pushed his marriage to the breaking point. So Alex moves in with his merrily irresponsible best friend on the world’s most uncomfortable blow-up bed.

As Alex navigates single life, long-buried family secrets, and part-time fatherhood, his son begins playing Minecraft. Sam’s imagination blossoms and the game opens up a whole new world for father and son to share. Together, they discover that sometimes life must fall apart before you can build a better one.

Inspired by the author’s own relationship with his autistic son, A Boy Made of Blocks is a tear-jerking, funny, and, most, of all true-to-life novel about the power of difference and one very special little boy.(Goodreads)

To read my full review please click here:
Bibliomaniac's Review for A Boy Made of Blocks

WHSmith Richard & Judy Book Club have selected A Boy Made of Blocks for their 2017 Spring read, click below to see their reviews of the novel:

Richard & Judy Book Club Reviews for A Boy Made of Blocks


How authentic did you find the relationship between Alex and Sam?

How convincing did you find Stuart's portrayal of Alex and Jody's relationship? What emotional reaction do you think Stuart wants us to have towards Jody and towards their marriage?

Keith Stuart has a son who is autistic. Do you think this has helped or hindered Stuart's writing? Did it change the way you read the book knowing that Stuart has a son the same age as Sam with autism?

What observations or messages might Stuart be exploring about parenting in this novel?

How different might this novel have been if it had been narrated from Jody's point of view? 

Alex talks about the 'labels' that we give medical conditions and the quest for a diagnosis. How far do you think labels and an 'official' diagnosis help families like Alex, Jody and Sam?

What is your attitude towards computer games? Do they have a role in helping children develop empathy, understanding, skills and creativity or are they something to be viewed with caution and with monitored and restricted access?

A Boy Made of Blocks contains a lot of humour. How did you find the voice of Alex and the use of humour in the novel?

Has the book helped develop your understanding of autism or for parents and children who live with a similar condition? Is it just a book about autism or are other universal themes explored as well?

Would A Boy Made of Blocks make a good film? If it was to be made into a film, who would you cast as the lead characters? Why? What problems - if any- might the screenwriters and producers have to consider when adapting to film?

Where to hold your book group for A Boy Made of Blocks?

  • someone's lounge - with an x-box and a tv big enough for everyone to get a good view of Minecraft 
  • a selection of air beds to sit on

What could you serve?

  • Beer and fizzy drinks 
  • Sweets and Crisps 
  • Cubed fruit - preferably apple in 1cm squared chunks 

What props could you use to start a conversation about A Boy Made of Blocks?

  • mine craft game rules / comics / handbooks / toys
  • a video from StampyCat via You Tube as he takes you on a tour of his 'world'
  • squared paper and pens - draw your own mine craft village
  • fruit, a ruler, a knife and a plate 
  • an information leaflet about autism

Quotes to start a conversation with:

  • Labels don't "help you sleep, stop you from getting angry and frustrated".
  • "Jody had to restrain me from picking Sam up, handing him over to the concerned woman on the deckchair next to us and saying. 'Here, honestly, you take him.'"
  • "Video games get a bad rap; we often think of them as things we need to control and limit- by they can also be a permissive space where people learn and share and create, without judgement or confinement."
  • "Life puts up so many barriers to people who are different. Any tool that helps us to appreciate those people - whoever they are, however they differ from us- is a precious thing. This is what I learned and what this book is about."

If you liked this book and want to read similar novels try:

ShtumThe Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1)One Plus OneLove AnthonyRelativityUsAbout a Boy


Keith Stuart
In 2012 one of KEITH STUART's two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together - especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel.

You can follow Keith Stuart on Twitter @keefstuart 

You can follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) 

To find out more about Bibliomaniac's Book Club click here:

Bibliomaniac's Book Club Reads 2017

To read about Bibliomaniac's March PaperWeight read click here: 
bibliomaniacsbookclub march paperweight

#BibliomaniacsBookClub March Read (PaperWeight)

March's Paperweight Bibliomania is for not just one, but FOUR authors! 

Graham Minett, Chris Whitaker, Simon Booker, Alex Caan

Lie in WaitTall OaksWithout TraceCut To The Bone

This month Bibliomaniac's Book Club is hosting Dazzling Debuts - a live event featuring four authors so the Paperweight read for March will be slightly different this time as we encourage you to read one of these titles. Tune into Bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com throughout March for guest posts and a review of the evening which takes place on the 22nd (2017). 

Bibliomaniac Book Club questions will be available at the end of March on Bibliomaniac's blog.

Tall Oaks


For fans of Twin Peaks and The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, this brilliant debut is dark yet hilarious, suspenseful and sad.

Everyone has a secret in Tall Oaks . . .

When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.

Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.

Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.

Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.

Photographer Jerry, who's determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.

And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own . . .

In Chris Whitaker's brilliant and original debut novel, missing persons, secret identities and dangerous lies abound in a town as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants.

For my review of Tall Oaks please click :
bibliomaniac's review of Tall Oaks

For my interview with Chris Whitaker please click: 
bibliomaniac's Q&A with Chris Whitaker

Lie in Wait


Vividly imagined and ingeniously plotted, LIE IN WAIT is GJ Minett's stunning follow-up to the bestselling and acclaimed THE HIDDEN LEGACY

Owen Hall has always been different. A big man with an unusual fixation, one who prefers to put his trust in number patterns rather than in people, it's unsurprising that he'd draw the attention of a bully.

Or a murder investigation.

And, in the storm of emotions and accusations that erupts when a violent killing affects a small community, it soon becomes clear that a particularly clever murderer might just get away with it.

All they'd need is a likely suspect . . .

To read my review of Lie In Wait click here:

Bibliomaniac's review of Lie in Wait 

The Hidden Legacy

1966. A horrifying crime at a secondary school, with devastating consequences for all involved.

2008. A life-changing gift, if only the recipient can work out why . . .

Bearing the scars of a recent divorce - and the splatters of two young children - Ellen Sutherland is up to her elbows in professional and personal stress. When she's invited to travel all the way out to Cheltenham to hear the content of an old woman's will, she can barely be bothered to make the journey.

But when she arrives, the news is astounding. Eudora Nash has left Ellen a beautiful cottage, worth an amount of money that could turn her life around. There's just one problem - Ellen has never even heard of Eudora Nash. 

Her curiosity piqued, Ellen and her friend Kate travel to the West Country in search of answers. But they are not the only ones interested in the cottage, and Ellen little imagines how much she has to learn about her past . . .

Graham Minett's debut novel, The Hidden Legacy, is a powerful and suspenseful tale exploring a mysterious and sinister past.

To read my review of The Hidden Legacy click here:
bibliomaniac's review of The Hidden Legacy 

To read my interview with Graham click on the link below: 
Bibliomaniac In Conversation with G Minett

Cut To The Bone
CUT TO THE BONE by Alex Caan 

For fans of THE FALL a slick, dark contemporary thriller, in the tradition of SARAH HILARY and ROBERT GALBRAITH that grips from the very first page...

One Missing Girl. Two Million Suspects.

Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls.

And she's missing . . .

But she's an adult - nothing to worry about, surely?

Until the video's uploaded . . .

Ruby, in the dirt, pleading for her life.

Enter Detective Inspector Kate Riley; the Met's rising star and the head of a new team of investigators with the best resources money can buy. Among them, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris, the poster boy for multiracial policing. But can Kate wholly trust him - and more importantly, can she trust herself around him?

As hysteria builds amongst the press and Ruby's millions of fans, Kate and her team are under pressure to get results, and fast, but as they soon discover, the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much darker than anyone could have imagined.

And the videos keep coming . .

For my review of Cut to the Bone please click here:
Bibliomaniac's Review of Cut to the Bone

For my Blog Tour Q&A with Alex Caan please click here: 
Bibliomaniac's Q&A with Alex Caan

Without Trace
WITHOUT TRACE by Simon Booker 

A gripping psychological thriller for fans of Gone Girl and Making a Murderer.

"A cracking debut. A real page-turner with a compelling central character"
- Mark Billingham 

For four long years, journalist Morgan Vine has campaigned for the release of her childhood sweetheart Danny Kilcannon - convicted, on dubious evidence, of murdering his 14 year-old stepdaughter.

When a key witness recants, Danny is released from prison. With nowhere else to go, he relies on single mum Morgan and her teenage daughter, Lissa.

But then Lissa goes missing.

With her own child now at risk, Morgan must re-think all she knows about her old flame - 'the one that got away'. As the media storm around the mysterious disappearance intensifies and shocking revelations emerge, she is forced to confront the ultimate question: who can we trust...?

For my review of Without Trace please click here:
Bibliomaniac's review of Without Trace

For Bibliomaniac's Book Club March Paperlight read please click here:
bibliomaniacsbookclub March PaperLight

For more about Bibliomaniac's Book Club please click here:

Bibliomaniac's Book Club Reads 2017

Follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) 

Run for Your Life by Jenny Baker

Run for Your Life: How One Woman Ran Circles Around Breast Cancer

This weekend I ran my first half marathon in Brighton. I have been running for about two years now and I have completed quite a few 10k races so this felt like a natural progression and a good challenge for 2017....... And boy, was it a challenge! The training is more intense and more time consuming for this distance and I had to listen to my body much more carefully to avoid injuries (which I seemed more susceptible too!) and make sure I stayed well fuelled and well hydrated to keep physically fit. But not only is a half marathon a physical challenge, it is also more mentally demanding. In Run for Your Life, Jenny Baker talks a lot about how running is not about being the best or winning a race, it is about "exploring what your body can do, how far it can go and trying to go further, how it feels to run a marathon, how to develop the mental endurance that enables you to persevere when you want to give up."

"It is about being the best you can be and discovering who you are deep down." 

I'm not sure whether I can run another half marathon at the moment, but I'll see how I feel after my muscles have stopped aching and my chocolate consumption has regulated itself! What I do know though is that I have proved something to myself and that running does give me something unique - an escape, a mental headspace and a satisfaction in knowing my body is strong and fit. Running can be addictive, it can be a release, it can be hard work but it can be rewarding. Baker is right, running is about discovering more about yourself and giving yourself some time to explore what you can do.

Two years ago I couldn't run for the bus. I never thought I'd run 5k, let alone 10k, let alone a half marathon. I never thought I'd get so much out of something so physical, I never thought I would look forward so much to my weekly catch up with my 'running buddies' and I never thought that the first thing I would pack when going on holiday would be my trainers. It's funny though, as Baker also reflects, it takes a long time before you ever consider yourself "a real runner" and when you realise that running has "changed from being something I occasionally did in my spare time to being a core strand of my identity". Even when I crossed the finish line on Sunday and got my medal, I'm not sure I felt I could call myself a "real runner" but I guess I must be! And if I can do it, anyone can!

One of my friends ran a half marathon last year and she met Jenny Baker while training. She recommended that I read Jenny's book so I took it on the train down to Brighton and found it inspirational. Here's the blurb from the back of the book:

Running had been many things to Jenny Baker - a space to achieve new things, a way to keep fit and healthy and a source of friendship and community. had planned a year of running to celebrate her birthday; instead Jenny was hit with a bombshell which rocked her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had one question for her oncologist: can I keep running? It gave her a sense of identity through her chemotherapy, while her treatment was stripping away everything that was important to her. Run for Your Life is the story of how she kept running to help her beat cancer and how it helped her to get her life back on track after an intensive spell of treatment and a turbulent time in her life. 

This book is such an uplifting read. Baker's attitude and outlook on life is relentlessly positive and optimistic. There are some paragraphs which are truly inspirational. In her down to earth, straight forward observations and clear insights, Baker captures what running means to her and how it shapes her attitude to life, change, challenge, adversity and her ability to adapt and cope with whatever is thrown at her in this journey for which we are never fully prepared. Ultimately it is a book about hope and living hopefully, something which runner or non runner, we can all strive towards.

Obviously Baker's book talks about her cancer and her treatment. There are passages when she talks about developing a metaphor for cancer:

"Was it an adversary that I was battling against, or a companion that I would journey with for a while? ..........A metaphor is never perfect, but it can set your thoughts in the right direction and bring the unknown into reach."

She talks about the diagnosis and includes her original blog post "Not what I had Planned" when she found out. There is another blog post about "How to Help" and a special mention of the "Human Repair Kit" a friend gave her. There are chapters about chemotherapy, appointments, being gravely ill and the long battle which she went through.

This is as much a book about running as it is about having cancer. I thought Baker's observations about what running meant to her were really quite enlightening and they summed up my own feelings in a more concise and eloquent way than I could manage. I liked Baker's initial description of how running subverts the pressure on women to be obsessed with their appearance:

"There will always be a few women who turn up for races with a full face of make-up but when you run you really don't have to worry about what you look like. .......throw on the same kit time after time....stuff unwashed hair in a ponytail....get hot and sweaty in the face...."

In fact, for me, I find it a real relief when its a "run day" and I can just get up, pick up my gear from the last run and take the children to school without having had a shower, a second glance in the mirror or a care in the world. I run through my town puce, breathless and without style, lost in my own world and buried deep in whatever song is playing too loudly through my headphones! That is liberating!

As Baker says, running is about "experiencing my body as strong and capable, rather than something to reduce through diets or put on display." I think this is a really important message. Running can give you a space for just you and to appreciate your body; a real satisfaction that you are fit, strong and healthy.

Baker also talks about how she became very involved in the Right to Movement Palestine Marathon where "we run to tell a different story".

"Running to my chemotherapy appointments had enabled me to tell a different story about my treatment." 

Baker talks about running to her hospital appointments as a way of showing her determination, her right to choice - a choice which not everyone has. She also says it was liberating and gave her a chance to hold on to something of herself when everything else was becoming lost. This realisation led her to becoming more involved with a charity which ran to raise funds for those people in Palestine who do not have a voice, freedom or choice.

But as well as talking about her incredible marathon achievements, Baker also talks about parkrun. Parkrun is a national organisation where every Saturday at 9 o'clock in the morning, across Britain, in town centres, city centres and country villages, people meet at the park and run 5k. It's a great way to start running, to meet other runners or to take the whole family along - and the dog! - and start your weekend with a fun run around the park.

"It is where marathon finisher shirts line up next to not-been-worn-since-school plimsolls. It is for people who that Saturday felt they couldn't go any further, but who a couple of days later find they actually can. No one is too slow for park run. you can't get lost of left behind." 

And who knows, if you get the running bug then

"parkrun is the quiet witness to countless people turning their lives around, where good intentions to exercise first become a reality, where dreams of running a marathon 'someday' start to become a possibility."

It is hard not to want to close Baker's book, grab your trainers and head off out she enthuses so much about the physical, mental and emotional benefits of running. If this woman doesn't make you want to start running, no one will!

But I am going to leave you with an extract from the end of the book. I hope Baker won't mind me quoting such a large chunk of her final thoughts but I think they capture her wisdom, voice, passion and absolutely inspirational attitude to life.

"Training is an exercise in hopefulness. You sign up with a goal in mind, perhaps to run faster than ever before, or to try a different distance, or as an excuse to visit a new city. you commit yourself to a training plan and carve out time so you can follow it. But you don't know what will happen next.

There will be times when everything aligns and you run the perfect race. There will be times when you get injured and you have to modify your expectations of what you can achieve. There will be times when you have to give up on the race, take time to heal and start again in a few weeks' time. But it all starts with the choice to act hopefully.

There is no knowing what the future holds, but you do have a choice about how you will move forward. I will do what I can to live well and to live healthily but ultimately I cannot control what happens next. I choose to live hopefully." 

I can't find the exact quote now, but there was also some great advice which I took with me all the way around the Brighton Half Marathon. I'll paraphrase it but the idea is that you take each kilometre at a time - only think about the next kilometre rather than the whole race. Not bad advice for life either, don't you think?

Run for your Life by Jenny Baker is published by @pitchpublishing  and is available from Amazon.



Running has been many things to me – a space to achieve new things, a way to keep fit and stay healthy, a source of friendship and community and, in the running I’ve done in Palestine, a way to demonstrate solidarity with people whose freedom is restricted.
So when I thought about how to celebrate my 50th birthday, I naturally planned lots of running – marathons in Palestine and London and a 50k race in the autumn. Instead I was diagnosed with breast cancer and those plans evaporated to be replaced with chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.
But through all that treatment, I kept running. I ran to all my chemotherapy sessions, seven miles along the river from Kew Bridge to Hammersmith. I did my 50th parkrun and a half-marathon six weeks after finishing radiotherapy. Running was a way to hold onto my sense of identity when I felt I was losing everything, and helped me get myself back once all the treatment was over. I blogged my way through the whole experience and I’ve written a book about it, Run for Your Life, which will be published by Pitch Publishing in January 2017. I hope it will be helpful for other women facing the same thing, whether they are runners or not, and for the friends and family who love and support them. And I hope that runners of all shapes and speeds will resonate with the story of how I got into running and what keeps me going.
I’ve written a book based on this blog, about my experience of running and cancer. It was published in January 2017 by Pitch Publishing and you can download the first couple of chapters from their website, or order it on AmazonWaterstones or from other online bookshops. You can find links to my original blog posts on my ‘about’ page.
The i news has published an extract from the book and there’s an article about me in the Daily Mirror. I’ve written about my experience for Huffington Post and the Running Physio and Ealing Half Marathon have done a great press release about it. The book is being reviewed by a few people and there are more articles about it to come, so I’ll keep this updated.
I’m hoping it will be helpful to women facing a breast cancer diagnosis, to their friends and family who want to know how to support them, indeed to anyone struck by the cancer thunderbolt. But I also think it will be of interest to everyone who runs. It explores how I got into running, how running became part of my identity, why I’ve run in Palestine, how running builds resilience and makes you stronger in so many ways.
Press Article: Running with Cancer



For more recommendations and reviews you can find me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

Ragdoll (Detective William Fawkes, #1)

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the 'ragdoll'.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William 'Wolf' Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The 'Ragdoll Killer' taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

Well, books don't come much more anticipated than this one! The hype for "Ragdoll" began at least 3 months ago and the excitement for its publication have been building ever since! Early reviews are amazing; author Rachel Abbott claims it is the best debut she's ever read and MJ Arlidge compares it to the iconic film Se7en. The marketing campaign has been impressively high profile and this is possibly one of the most talked about books on social media this month.

So does it live up to the hype?

Yes, I think it does!

The opening prologue completely took me by surprise. It starts with the Jury filing back in to court. Although the case sounds very grim (understatement), I thought Cole was following the standard form. I thought I was following one particular character and was expecting one particular outcome but suddenly events - well, they don't exactly spiral out of control so much as leap up and literarily knock you over! The opening pages capture one of the most unexpected and uncharacteristic scenes I've ever witnessed in a court room!

Leap forward four years and Cole continues with Chapter One, continuing to surprise us with characters who are not afraid to test the conventions of their genre. The main Detective is named Wolf Fawkes which automatically triggers connotations in the reader's mind. I also liked TV reporter Andrea and the risks she takes with the information she has - very very gripping opening pages!

Cole is a bold, fresh voice who has written a story that is violent, gritty, dark and absolutely not for the faint hearted! It's a lot more graphic than the crime thrillers I usually read but despite this it's difficult to put the book down. The pages almost turn themselves with Cole's vivid, lively, dynamic prose and his authentic dialogue that brings the characters to life and makes them larger than the pages which try to contain them.

The chapter headings increase the tension and pace of the novel by announcing the day and time. I was immediately intrigued by how the chapters followed on each other - starting at 4.30am and then moving on through the day, sometimes by a matter of minutes to 4.32am and sometimes longer like 12.10. This is a brilliant technique. The sense of a countdown, an anticipation of a climatic finale, a sense of chase and urgency can only make you want to read on. I'm also a fan of these sorts of headings as it does help you keep track of any changes in the chronology of events or dual timelines. Well, that's if I remember to read them properly in my impatience to get on to the next chapter!

It very much reads like a film - which is no surprise as it started off as screenplay and the TV rights have been already snapped up. It will make a fantastic film. It is a great debut and will be highly successful.

"Ragdoll" is published by Trapeze on the 23rd February 2017.

Daniel Cole 
Daniel Cole

At 33 years old, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing.

He has received a three-book publishing and television deal for his debut crime series which publishers and producers describe as “pulse-racing” and “exceptional”. 

Daniel currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing book two in the Nathan Wolfe series instead.

You can follow Daniel on Twitter  @Daniel_P_Cole

Find out more about "Ragdoll"- including lots of other reviews of the book -by following Ben Willis on twitter :  @BenWillisUK   @orionbooks

Here is an article from the Guardian from last April anticipating the phenomenon of "Ragdoll":
the guardian - exparamedic wins three book and tv deal

For more recommendations and reviews you can follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

#BlogTour #Review #LoveThemandLeaveThem by Sue Shepherd

Love Them and Leave Them


The new heart-warming and heart-breaking romantic comedy from the No.1 bestselling author of Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?

Corazon Books, September 2016

Love Them and Leave Them by Sue Shepherd  - Synopsis

Sometimes you have to leave the one you love … sometimes you’re the one who’s left behind. 

On his way home, Ed makes a split-second decision that changes the lives of all those who love him.

Six years on, Ed’s daughter, Jessie, is stuck in a job with no prospects, her dreams never fulfilled. It will take more than her unreliable boyfriend, Chris, and temperamental best friend, Coco, to give her the confidence to get her life back on track.

But what if Ed had made another decision? It could all have been so different …

Six years on, Ed’s daughter, Jessica, has a successful career, loving boyfriend, Nick, and a keen eye on her dream home. But when new clients, a temperamental Coco, and her unreliable boyfriend, Chris, walk into her life, Jessica’s perfect world soon starts to unravel.

Love Them and Leave Them is a story of love, families, friendship and a world of possibilities. Whichever decision Ed makes, the same people are destined to come into his daughter’s life, sometimes in delightfully different ways. And before they can look forward to the future, they will all have to deal with the mistakes of the past.

Bibliomaniac's Review:

"We make choices all the time. Left or right? Stay or go? Choices that appear insignificant, when in reality they may be just as pivotal as the 'important' ones. The consequences of these seemingly insignificant choices can be far reaching and can, on occasion, affect people we'll never even meet."

One day Bibliomaniac was offered the chance to read Love Them and Leave Them, an opportunity which she seized upon having seen so many positive reviews of it on social media and from her fellow book bloggers whose opinion she trusted impeccably. 

She read it straight away, blogged about it and reviewed it, feeling happy to have had the chance to enjoy such a great story from the fabulous Sue Shepherd

One day Bibliomaniac was offered the chance to read Love Them and Leave Them, an opportunity which she seized upon having seen so many positive reviews of it on social media and from her fellow book bloggers whose opinion she trusted impeccably. 

But, life is never easy and before she knew it, Love Them and Leave Them got swallowed up in a back log of ARC requests - Bibliomaniac was trying to come to terms with her unhealthy relationship with NetGalley - and it sat on her TBR pile. Lonely, neglected and forgotten about. Until one day, the very generous Emma Mitchell (@emmamitchellfpr  emmathelittlebookworm.wordpress.com) gently reminded Bibliomaniac that she still had to review Sue's book and would she like a place on the blog tour? Spurred into action, Bibliomaniac knew what she had to do. 

Whichever 'story' you chose to believe, whichever version is the 'truth', fortunately at the end of the day the outcome was the same: I got there - I caught up with my fellow book bloggers and joined them in finding a great book! Late to the party, I was delighted to find that Love Them and Leave Them was both heartbreaking and heartwarming, sad and tragic, funny and full of humour. It's a love it not leave it recommendation from me! 

As Shepherd shows in her novel, sometimes the journey to your destination is different from how you imagine. How you get there can change, or be full of obstacles. You might not choose the same route as everyone else but ultimately sometimes the destination can turn out to be the same. I love this premise for a novel as I think life is full of questions about choices, chance meetings, coincidences, opportunities and fate. And there's always a part of us wondering what if...... particularly when we look back at some of the decisions we made.

Jessica, in both versions, is a character who the reader will warm to immediately. Ed's decision has huge ramifications for her - in one version, devastatingly so. In another, although everything seems to be perfect, there are trials and tribulations in store for Jessica and that journey of self discovery still has to be taken. Her relationship with her father is very convincing and very moving in both accounts.

There were a few moments when I felt Barrister Jessica's life was a little bit too good to be true, but there are underlying tensions revealed as we get to see a bit more of her relationship with her boyfriend Nick. I loved Shepherd's analogy of how the two characters eat their meals to encapsulate so perfectly the difference between them.

"I get the veg out of the way early on. It works for me. I know how to pace myself....."
"I just pick up whatever I fancy from the plate. A different mouthful every time." 

I was intrigued by the storyline. Initially I was concerned that following Jessica through two different versions of events might become confusing - particularly when their worlds begin to collide in such a unexpected manner but not at any point at all did I get in a muddle or forget who was who, which story I was involved in or who was doing what in that particular moment. Shepherd manages her plot effortlessly and seamlessly.

This book is a gentle read. It's entertaining and Shepherd has a pleasing turn of phrase. Although it is a reasonably light read, it is not without moments of poignancy, shock, sadness and drama. The characters come to life and the dynamics between them are believable. I enjoyed the challenge that Shepherd set in making me really think about the characters as we see them behaving in different situations. I did change my mind a few times about some of them!

Shepherd explores a lot of interesting themes about friendship, parenthood, responsibility, success, love, happiness and fate. All great universal themes which any reader will enjoy contemplating. All in all this is a very satisfying read.

I'm going to leave you with some quotes from the end that I thought captured the essence of the novel as well as generally being very good advice for all of us, whichever stage of our journey we are on and whichever version of life we are traveling:

"We'll be past this awful bit soon. We've just got to get the turbulence out of the way. Focus on the prize at the end." 

I will just finish with my huge apologies to Sue Shepherd for taking so long to review her second novel and I must say a huge thank you to Emma and Sue for letting me join in the Blog Tour! Don't be like me and leave this book too long - give it a go, I'm sure you'll certainly enjoy it -if not love it!

To buy a copy of Love Them and Leave Them please click here: 

Sue Shepherd

Sue Shepherd

Sue Shepherd writes contemporary romance and enjoys creating novels with heart, laughs and naughtiness. She doesn’t pull any punches when choosing her subjects, but manages to handle her characters’ challenging situations with sensitivity and humour. Her debut novel, Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret? was published by Corazon Books in March 2015. It reached the top 10 UK Kindle chart, and also topped the romantic comedy, contemporary romance and humour charts. It became available in paperback on Amazon in November 2015.

Sue’s second novel, Love Them and Leave Them, was published in September 2016.

Sue lives on the picturesqueue Isle of Wight with her husband, two sons and a standard poodle. Her passions in life are: her family, writing, the sea-side and all the beautiful purple things her sons have bought her over the years. Ask Sue to plan too far in advance and you'll give her the heebie-jeebies and she'd prefer you not to mention Christmas until at least November!

Doesn't Everyone Have A Secret?

Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret? is about three very different people, each with a secret, whose lives collide in unexpected ways.
Steph is a harrassed mum who’s considering an affair with her children’s sexy headmaster. Penny is trying to deal with a crush on her boss, OCD and a sad secret from her childhood. And Mike is a vicar who is being blackmailed for his secret, although it’s not all that it seems!
Meanwhile, all three are being watched over by their own guardian angels, who try to push them in the right direction and help move their lives along – but not always successfully …
Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret? is genuinely laugh out loud funny, but also deals in a sensitive way with serious problems that any of us could face in life. Sue Shepherd’s debut novel is bold, it doesn’t pull any punches, and it has bucket loads of heart.
You can follow Sue Shepherd on Twitter @thatsueshepherd 

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