Extract: After I’ve Gone by Linda Green

Monday 11 January 2016

I smell his bad breath a second or two before I feel his hand on my arse. That’s the weird thing about public transport gropers, they always seem to have personal hygiene issues.
‘What’s your problem?’ I shout, as I spin around to face him. Immediately, the crowd of people jostling around the ticket barriers parts. The one thing commuters hate even more than delays is a confrontation.
The guy with the dodgy breath and wandering hand obviously hadn’t expected this. He looks to either side, desperate to pass the buck.
‘Nope, it’s definitely you, middle-aged man in the shiny grey suit. Get off on touching women’s arses, do you?’
He shuffles his feet and looks at the ground then pushes his way towards the ticket barrier.

‘That’s it, you run along to work. I bet the women at your office can’t wait to see you. Keep your mucky hands to yourself
next time, OK?’ I glance behind to see Sadie looking at me with a raised eyebrow.
‘What?’ I say. ‘He got off lightly if you ask me.’ There is now a clear path in front of me to the ticket barrier. I go straight through and wait for Sadie on the other side. A young guy with dark hair stops in front of me.
‘Nice takedown,’ he says with a smile.
‘Do you want me to go after him for you?’
He is wearing a plum-coloured jacket over a white T-shirt, like he’s come in for dress-down Friday on a Monday by mistake.
‘What I really want is for all members of the male species to go to hell and stop bothering me.’
The smile falls off his lips. ‘Point taken,’ he says, before walking off.
‘What did you do that for?’ asks Sadie, staring at me. ‘He was only trying to be nice.’
‘Yeah, well, it’s difficult to tell sometimes.’
Sadie shakes her head. ‘I don’t get you. Is this national bite-someone’s-head-off day or something?’
‘PMT and hunger, always a bad combination. Come on, I need food.’
Breakfast (I hate the word ‘brunch’ so I refuse to call it that, even when it is after ten thirty) for me consists of a huge blueberry muffin (that I hope will count as one of my five a day) and a can of Tango (that possibly counts as another). Mum used to tell me that the day would come when I wouldn’t be able to eat and drink all that crap without looking as if I did. I’d taken it as a green light to have as much of it as possible while I could still get away with it.
I hear footsteps approaching as I stand waiting to pay. Sadie gives me a nudge. I look up. The guy who’d offered to go after the groper is standing there, bunch of flowers in hand. Actually, it isn’t a bunch; it’s a proper bouquet. Handtied, I think they call it, not that I’ve ever seen a machine tie flowers.
‘An apology for earlier,’ he says. ‘On behalf of the male species. To show we’re not all complete jerks.’
All conversation in the queue stops. I am aware my cheeks are turning the same colour as the roses in the bouquet.
‘Thanks,’ I say, taking them from him. ‘You didn’t have to do that.’
‘I know, but I wanted to. I also want to ask you out to dinner but I’m not sure if that would be risking a massive public bawl-out so I’ve left my business card in there with the flowers. Call me if you’d like to take up the invite. And thanks for brightening my morning.’ He turns and walks away, one of those supremely confident walks that stops just short of being a full-blown swagger.
‘I hate you,’ says Sadie. ‘I have no idea why I chose someone who strangers give flowers to as a best friend.’
‘You didn’t choose me,’ I reply. ‘I chose you, remember? Mainly because you had the best pencil case in reception.’
‘Well, whatever. I still hate you. You don’t even have to try. You wear a puffer jacket, leggings and DMs and you still get a gorgeous stranger asking you out.’
‘I might not call him,’ I say, lowering my voice, aware other people in the queue are listening.
‘Then you’re a bigger mug than I thought.’
‘Well, I’m certainly not going to do it straight away.’
‘Playing hard to get, are you?’
‘No. I’m just starving and I’m not going to do anything until I’ve stuffed this blueberry muffin down my gob.’
Sadie smiles at me and looks down at the flowers. As well as the roses there are lilies and loads of other things I don’t even know the names of.
‘They must have cost him a packet,’ she remarks.
‘Shame he didn’t know I’d have been happy with a blueberry muffin then,’ I reply. She laughs. I hold the flowers a little tighter, despite myself.


You have 18 months left to live . . . On a wet Monday in January, Jess Mount checks Facebook and discovers her timeline appears to have skipped forward 18 months, to a day when shocked family and friends are posting heartbreaking tributes to her following her death in an accident. Jess is left scared and confused: is she the target of a cruel online prank or is this a terrifying glimpse of her true fate?

Amongst the posts are photos of a gorgeous son she has not yet conceived. But when new posts suggest her death was deliberate, Jess realises that if she changes the future to save her own life, the baby boy she has fallen in love with may never exist.



Extract: Say My Name by Allegra Huston

There, under a table heaped with china of the sort nobody uses anymore, she spots it, almost hidden behind random objects carrying price stickers faded by time. Daylight filters through grimy windows onto worn green velvet, golden wood. Strangely, the case is open—as if it’s hoping to be found.

It’s bigger than a violin, much smaller than a cello. It’s fat, squarer than most instruments of its kind, with an elongated neck, and—this is what draws Eve in—encrusted with vines. The fragile carvings seem greener. They were once painted, maybe.

Eve moves the piles of junk aside so that she can crawl under the table. Usually she wears jeans for these expeditions, but it’s a hot New York summer, so this morning she chose a thin dress, counting on the intricate print to disguise any smudges. It will rip easily, though, so she tucks up the sides into her underwear to keep it off the floor.

As she crouches down, the bones of her knees crack. Though she’s fit and strong, her forty-eight-year-old body is starting to show age. Her brown hair has almost no gray in it—good genes, her mother would have said—but soon she’ll have to decide whether to color it. She’s never seen the point of lying about her age and, being married, she’s less concerned about looking young than she might be if she were single. Still, the ugly milestone looms. She’s tied her hair in a ponytail and covered her head with a scarf to protect against cobwebs.

By profession, Eve is a garden designer. Her husband, Larry, makes enough as a product development manager for a pill-coating supplier to pharmaceutical companies to enable him to treat her little business as, basically, a hobby. This annoys her, but the truth is, she treats it that way too. Taking it more seriously would mean confronting Larry and claiming ownership of her time and priorities, which she is not prepared to do. The status quo feels fragile, although it also feels as lasting as mortal life allows. All that’s required is that she keep the delicate political balance, and doesn’t rock the boat or disturb the sleeping dogs. She’s gotten into the habit of not pushing any communication past the minimum required for practical matters and the appearance of enough closeness to assure her that their marriage is sound.

On weekends, guiltless and free, she searches out treasures for her friend Deborah’s antique shop. Larry doesn’t com- plain; she suspects he’s glad to have the house to himself. For her part, she’s glad to be away from it. The strange objects she finds ignite her imagination, conjuring up lives more exciting, and more terrifying, than the low-intensity safety of her own. Today she’s exploring a northerly part of New York City that, like a tidal pool left by successive immigrant waves, houses people from nations that may or may not still exist: Assyrians, Armenians, Macedonians, Baluchistanis. The alphabets in which the signs are written change block by block. Neighborhoods like this are her favorite hunting grounds.

On her hands and knees under the table, she tugs at the instrument in its case. It shifts with a jerk, leaving a hard outline of oily dust on the floor. Probably it hasn’t been moved in years. She lifts it up onto a tin chest, keeping her back to the storekeeper to disguise her interest.

The vines twine over the body of the instrument and up its neck, stretching out into the air. Though the delicacy of the carving is almost elfin, it has the strength of vines: blindly reaching, defying gravity. The tendrils are dotted with small flowers: jasmine, so accurately rendered that Eve identifies them instantly. A flap of velvet in the lid conceals a bow, held in place by ribbons. It, too, is twined with curling vines.

She wiggles her fingers into the gaps between the instru- ment and the velvet lining, prying it loose. A moth flies out into her face and disappears in the slanting shafts of light.

Holding it by the neck, she senses another shape. With spit and the hem of her dress, she cleans away the dust. There’s a pudgy, babyish face, the vines tightening their weave across its eyes. Cupid, blinded by love.

Eve pinches up dust from the floor to dirty the face again. She has learned not to improve the appearance of things until after the bargaining is done and the money has changed hands. Then she turns the instrument over.

The back is in splinters.

Eve touches her finger to the ragged shards of wood, long- ing to make this beautiful thing whole again. The damage must have been deliberate: an accident would have broken off the vines. What drove that person over the brink? Musician’s frustration? Rage at fate? Heartbreak? She can almost feel remnants of the emotion stuck to the gash, like specks of dried blood.

If she had it repaired, the cost would almost certainly be more than the instrument is worth. And even an expert might not be able to restore it completely. It could serve as a decorative item, but only if the gash stays hidden. Deborah won’t want it—she has a rule against broken things. Also, she feels more comfortable with things that have names, like bowls and vases and candlesticks. Passionless things that sit prettily in nice rooms. The history that this object bears on its back would freak her out.

Eve moves to return the instrument to its exile, but she can’t bring herself to do it. Now that she has touched it, she cannot push it back into the shadows.


Released 27th July 2017, click here to buy.

Book Review: The A-Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson

The A to Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson
Release Date: 20th April 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 432
ISBN: 978-0008150198
Buy: Paperback  Kindle
Rating:Image result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink hearts





What’s the Story?

P is for Paris where it all began. J is for Jealousy where it all came undone. But the most important letter is F. F is for Forgiveness, the hardest of all.

Sisters Poppy and Rose used to be as close as two sisters could be, but it’s been over a decade since they last spoke. Until they both receive a call that tells them their mother has gone – without ever having the chance to see her daughters reunited.

Andrea, though, wasn’t the kind of woman to let a little thing like death stand in the way of her plans. Knowing her daughters better than they know themselves, she has left behind one very special last gift – the A-Z of Everything

My Thoughts…

Estranged sisters Poppy and Rose haven’t spoken in over ten years due to something that happened in their past that tore their relationship apart. However, when their mother, Angela, dies their lives are brought back together with the concoction of a very clever plan on Angela’s behalf. In the days before her death Angela compiled an ‘A-Z’ of tasks and challenges for the girls to complete together. From E is for Elvis to X is for X-Men, along with the help of good friend, Lewis, Angela takes her daughters of a fully-fledged trip down memory lane and encourages them to face up to the demons of the past, and maybe, just maybe, forge a future where they can get along. But the biggie is can they get past the scariest letter of the alphabet? F is for Forgiveness after all…

As a massive fan of Debbie Johnson’s previous books I was off-the-scale excited to get stuck into the A-Z of Everything. As much as I adore her light-hearted romantic comedies, I knew from the offset that this novel was going to be something just that little bit different, but I had by no means appreciated exactly how different it would be…
Another thing I had certainly not anticipated was being in tears before I even got to Chapter 2. This book really played with my emotions, it was beautiful yet heart-breaking, upsetting yet uplifting and I absolutely loved every minute of it.
Angela is such a bright, vibrant and loveable character who, despite not featuring in the present day, still shines out purely through the monologues, recordings and poems that she complies for her A-Z. I felt as though I built up a good picture of her in my mind of this flamboyant, sometimes outrageous lady who was full to the brim with love for her daughters. The way she saw the A-Z through, despite the end of her life becoming more and more imminent, was an inspiration and the longing that she possessed for her daughters to be reunited, despite not being around to see it for herself, will really tug on your heartstrings.
Poppy and Rose were both fascinating characters and easy to relate to – whatever your situation. Rose has found herself in a vicious cycle of overeating in a bid to conquer her unhappiness, whilst lonely Poppy fills the void in her life by sponsoring children in other countries (which there’s nothing wrong with…only she currently has 27 on the go…) There were times when I wanted to bash their heads together (and I’m sure Angela felt exactly the same way) I was desperate to find out what occurred in their lives all those years ago to cause them to fall out as spectacularly as they did.
I absolutely loved the idea behind The A-Z of Everything and it was unlike any book I’ve ever read before. It’s based on such a unique concept and you can’t help but wonder how you would react if you were faced with Rose and Poppy’s situation. The way in which the story is formatted helps you to build up a realistic image of both the girls past and present, as you piece together the mystery of how things ended up the way in which they did.
The overwhelming theme to this novel is, of course, grief. Debbie Johnson tackles this tricky topic with sensitivity and tact whilst sprinkling in a hefty dose of hope and warmth for good measure. Understandably Rose, Poppy and Lewis (who I loved, incidentally – it’s all about the tweed…) are going through a tangle of emotions and Debbie manages to portray their feelings so well, really getting to the heart of their emotions through her writing.
The other thing I took away from this novel is to never forget how precious time with loved ones really is. It’s all too easy to let petty feuds and arguments get in the way of what is really important and this book is a stark reminder that we should embrace and enjoy every moment we get to spend with the people we care about.
My favourite thing about The A-Z of Everything is that whilst the story centres around losing a loved one and the emotional upset that follows, it is also interspersed with humour. There are many moments where I found myself quietly giggling, as well as wiping away the odd tear (Angela on the carousel anyone…?!) Allowing the reader to take away the message that despite how dark things may seem there is always a silver lining hiding somewhere and we should never take life for granted.

I adore Debbie Johnson’s writing. She brings her characters to life in such a unique and understated way and I love the direction that her writing appears to be taking with The A-Z of Everything. You can tell that Debbie put a huge amount of time and research into writing this novel too, it’s so brilliantly executed and I honestly can’t fault it. It’s a real story about real people and one of those books that will have you crying both tears and laughter and tears of sadness. I always think this is a really tricky balance to achieve but Debbie does this with ease.
Debbie Johnson has firmly cemented her well-deserved place on my list of favourite authors and I can’t wait to see what she’ll bring us next…

A huge thank you to Felicity at HarperCollins for the opportunity to review.

A Visit to Peters Books

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you will know that I have recently started a new job working as a School Librarian. To say this is my dream job is an understatement…I am absolutely LOVING it. The school has only recently had their library fitted and so I have lots of blank spaces to fill and books to buy (which I see as a very important responsibility…)I am being given the opportunity to put my own stamp on the library and I desperately want to turn it into a place where the children want to spend all of their time, snuggled on a beanbag getting lost in a book…

I was presented with an out-of-this-world opportunity recently in the shape of visiting Peters Books in Birmingham. If you’re not sure what Peters is, basically they are a supplier of books and furniture for libraries and academies. Working at a public library I had come across Peters before (my colleagues once told me how they used to visit on book-buying sprees and be given free reign to fill up a trolley with stock. I was both in awe and slightly disbelieving. Surely a process such as that didn’t REALLY exist…? Did it…?)


On Tuesday I found myself heading into Birmingham, armed with questionnaire’s filled out by pupils detailing the books they would like for their library (David Walliams, Roald Dahl and Beast Quest were mentioned multiple times.)
To say I was excited is a teeny, tiny understatement. I was technically shopping for books and this was MY JOB.
I had all sorts of ideas in my head as to what this magical place would be like, but it completely surpassed my expectations. Whilst it may look like your average building from the outside, the inside of Peters is spectacular.
The first thing you see is, of course, books (and we’re not even on the ‘bookish’ floor yet…) book displays, book quotes, book-related signage. WOW. I was particularly taken with the Alice in Wonderland quotes…

Then when you get onto the floor where the magic happens (aka you buy the books) it’s like entering a calm, tranquil, gorgeous-smelling room of heaven. I could practically hear the harps playing and the fluffy clouds underneath my feet.
It was like entering the most gorgeous of bookshops and having it practically to yourself. We were greeted by one of the really lovely librarian’s when we first arrived who had a rough idea of what we were after and had hand-picked a few titles for us beforehand. It also being one of the hottest days I have ever known in my 27 years on this planet I was relieved to discover that Peters has first-rate air con. This is very important because I would undoubtedly get flustered as I was deliberating over the Angelo Saxon books.
But before the book-buying there was some very important business to be dealt with. Lunch. Yes…They even provided lunch in their gorgeous Reading Cafe which was filled with bookish quotes and the most enviable bookish cushions I’ve ever seen in my life.
Once I had scoffed my sandwiches and cake (book buying is hard work and requires sustenance) we were off.
Starting with non-fiction, the lovely librarian explained how things worked and pretty much left us to it. It’s such a dizzying prospect to be faced with thousands of books and deciding which ones would work best for your library. Whilst this was a hugely exciting task it was also pretty scary – I wanted to choose the right books. Books that the children would enjoy, books that would encourage them to read, books that would help them with their learning. It was really important to get this right.
I’m not fibbing when I say there were literally books about EVERYTHING. Some children had requested books on YouTube, tutorials, becoming a game programmer…well guess what – Peters had those…and every other slightly obscure topic you could think of. Every request that we had was satisfied.

To begin with I was conscious of over-spending and was analysing every book wondering ‘do we really NEED that!?’ Then when I had my first trolley totalled up and discovered I hadn’t even spent a quarter I really went to town and used my book-buying skills to my advantage… (This involved as many books as I could physically cram onto a trolley, then when that was full going back for another trolley) In all seriousness it wasn’t as Supermarket Sweep-esque as I’m making out. I’ll have you know I worked very hard making some crucial decision (e.g how many copies of Gangsta Granny should I buy?)

The time flew by in a blur of picture books, early readers, fiction and new-releases. My school being a first school I didn’t venture into the young adult section, which is probably a good thing because I know I would have wanted one of everything.
There was just so much to look at…and I’m not just talking books. There was furniture, toys, library-decorations…everything book related you could think of (I had to try SO hard to resist a Gruffalo hand puppet. In fact he’s still calling to me now…*clicks Amazon*)

The final total of books purchased was 701 and we came in £100 under budget, so all in all this was a hugely successful trip. Plus the lovely people at Peter’s will be labelling and cataloguing all of our haul for us so when they arrive they will be ready to be read. I cannot wait. I will be stood outside looking for a delivery van every day until they arrive…

I was also impressed with the amount of wonderful freebies on offer. I came out with zillions of colourful posters, cardboard display stands and a very cool Harry Potter trunk which I am rather excited about.

My experience at Peter’s was insane and I loved every minute. I still can’t fully believe that I was given this opportunity and I just hope that I selected our books well and they help to establish that all-important love of reading in the pupils.

As for me I’m off to stand outside the school gates looking for that delivery van…







Book Review: All the Good Things by Clare Fisher

All the Good Things by [Fisher, Clare]All the Good Things by Clare Fisher

Release Date: 1st June 2017

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 240

Buy:  Hardback  Kindle

Image result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink hearts



What’s the Story?

Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve ever to feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.
What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone – even a 100% bad person – deserve a chance to be good?

My Thoughts…

When we first meet Beth she is undergoing counselling in prison. We don’t know exactly what it is she has done to land herself there, but when her therapist, Erika, tells her to write a list of all of the good things in her life she is doubtful. What if there aren’t any good things? And more to the point, does she deserve to have anything good in her life ever again…?
As Beth compiles her list we are taken on a heart-wrenching journey, full of loneliness, despair, anger, tragedy, pain, confusion interspersed with joy, that is Beth’s life. From growing up in foster care, to first boyfriends and jobs, we follow Beth on her tremulous journey through to adulthood before discovering what the bad thing that she has committed really is…

I deliberately avoided reading any reviews of All the Good Things after someone told me it was a difficult one to write about without giving too much away. I was determined that no spoilers were going to ruin it for me, meaning I didn’t really have any idea of what to expect when I picked up this innocent-enough looking novel on a sunny Saturday in my back garden…
All the Good Things completely consumed me. It took over my life for the two days that I was reading it and real-life became an inconvenience that was to be dealt with as quickly as possible so I could bury myself back within its pages.

I loved the format of the story, the title of each chapter being an item from Beth’s list and then we go on to find out the story behind what it was that made her happy (and some of these things were magical…Friends you can be weird with and Flirting on Orange Wednesdays were my personal favourites). It then plays out chronologically, each telling us a different episode from Beth’s life.
As the story progresses it becomes more and more difficult to believe that Beth is now only 21. She has been through so much in her short life, the difficulties starting when she was only a young child. Since then her life has been a catalogue of disasters and failings upon other peoples part as she is constantly let down…Whether that’s by the authorities, the people who are supposed to be there helping her, or, perhaps most painful of all, those closest to her.
A childhood spent growing up within the care system and constantly being uprooted leaves Bethany destructive and confused. Her real mother seemingly doesn’t want any contact with Bethany and this vulnerable little girl tries to find her way in life by clinging on to the things that she loves most; namely reading, making up stories and as she grows older – running. But she soon discovers that running away is not always the best thing to do…
I desperately wanted good things for Bethany. I didn’t know what the ‘bad thing’ was that she’d done to land herself in prison, but my heart broke for this young women who had no one. You can’t help but place yourself in Beth’s position throughout certain parts of the novel and I’ll freely admit that if I was in some of the situations that she found herself in I would either be a sobbing mess/terrified/ready to just give up. Yet Beth keeps on fighting, which is what drew me to this hugely complex and deeply affecting character. She felt so very real to me and has such a strong voice throughout the story.
When I discovered what the ‘bad thing’ that Beth had done really was, my opinion didn’t necessarily change. It shocked me, it frightened me, it upset me..but it also got me wondering – despite being ‘100% bad’ – wasn’t Beth really a victim herself?

Despite the awful things that Beth has been through and the battles she’s faced, this is still a story full of hope. It’s profoundly moving and one of those stories that I really can’t get out of my head. I find myself wondering what happens next for Beth, despite finishing this book over a week ago.
All the Good Things is one of those books that reminds me why I love reading so much. When a story can completely consume your thoughts and you find yourself becoming so involved with the characters that you are daydreaming about them when you’re supposed to be working you know that your books a good ‘un. And this really, really was. BIG STYLE.
I honestly can’t believe that this is Clare Fisher’s debut. Where did she come from? I sincerely hope that she’s writing her second novel right this second because I desperately need to read more from this hugely talented author.
I loved her style of writing, her characterisation, her unique voice, the way in which she makes the reader feel fully immersed in the story, the way she manages to correlate both the good and the bad, the unhappiness and the happiness, the sadness and the joy.  I just love Clare Fisher.

Just writing this review has made me want to re-read All the Good Things (in case there were bits I missed…You never know…) If you’re looking for a good novel to get into over the summer then this needs to be top of your list. Just don’t forget the tissues and be prepared to lose a day or two of your life to this superb story.


A huge thank you to Penguin for the opportunity to read and review All the Good Things.