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Cows Can’t Jump By Philip Bowne

Cows Can't Jump‘Cows Can’t Jump’ is Philip Bowne’s debut novel and is the winner of the

18-year-old Billy is desperate to leave home. He’s working the ultimate dead-end job as a grave-digger. His Grandad’s engaged to a woman half his age, his Dad’s become obsessed with boxing, and his Mum’s certainly having an affair. Everything is changing, and Billy hates it. Meeting the older, mysterious Eva, though, changes everything. She’s passionate about Russian literature, Gary Numan, windfarms and chai tea, and Billy gambles everything for a chance to be with her. His scramble across Europe involves hitch-hiking with truckers, walking with refugees, and an encounter with suicidal cows. But the further he goes, the harder it is to be sure what he’s chasing – and what he’s running from.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, a witty, unpredictable and occasionally poignant story of first love and finding your place in life.

After leaving school, Billy is unsure of what to do with his future. He tries different paths from being a gravedigger to being a activity leader at a school where he meets his first love Eva who’s from Switzerland and from that point on Eva becomes his first priority. When Eva returns home, Billy is heartbroken and throws all his efforts and money into visiting her. Meanwhile his 80 year old Grandad called GG is marrying 38 year old Benny and his parents are convinced, she is only marrying him for his money. This results in his father investing all his time and money into learning to box and his mother setting up a secret sharers group, where women come to anonymously share their secrets.

With a series of get rich quick schemes, Billy leaves behind his arguing parents and lovestruck grandfather to follow his heart and see Eva, even though she has broken up with him. Billy then finds himself travelling solo across Europe on a very tight budget to see his first love and ends up making new friends and get caught up in dramatic and hilarious scenarios along the way.

‘Cows Can’t Jump’ is well worthy of its prize. It’s funny, fast paced with relatable characters that make this book an enjoyable read. Billy, is a sympathetic boy that I immediately found myself warming to, the underdog of the story that people like to bully and make fun off. Particularly his father, who’s trying to warm to the idea of his own father marrying someone over 40 years younger and takes his upset out on the punching bag and his sharp tongue out on Billy. As Billy finds himself on this literal journey across Europe, he discovers somethings about himself along the way, which makes for tender reading.

This story is a coming of age drama and a journey of self discovery. An insightful and empathic story that is perceptive with fascinating characters, creative dialogue that made for enjoyable reading. ‘Cows Can’t Jump’ is a clever and fun story about finding the right path in life.

You can buy ‘Cows Can’t Jump’ from Amazon.

Forgotten Toys By Ashley Laino

Forgotten Toys‘Forgotten Toys’ is the latest book by Ashley Laino.

When you look in an empty pool, you don’t usually expect to see a body at the bottom but in a a small town in eastern Pennsylvania called Pikesville one summer, that is exactly what happens.
Pikesville is quaint community that is faced with the disappearance of a local teenager Jenna Hayes and the town is turned upside down. When Jenna is found brutally murdered at the bottom of the town’s abandoned pool, the town is devastated, but to Sarah Moore, Jenna was just a girl whose name she heard around sometimes, in some circles. What does this have to do with her? She is dealing with her own issues, anyway. But when Sarah’s sister, Chloe, goes missing, Sarah must uncover a murderer before he gets to her, too, or before it’s too late.

Like a lot of people, I enjoy a good thriller so when I was approached with this book, I was eager to delve into this dark and atmospheric story.

The story is seen through the narrative of Sarah, who works in a jewellers and one day collapses when she receives news that a local girl from the town who was missing has been found dead and scalped. When Sarah returns home, her sister Chloe is distraught having known the girl is killed and on the day of the girl’s funeral Chloe disappears and Sarah finds herself trying to find whilst battling her own demons.

This book is a dark read, not only is the main plot line intense with a killer targeting and scalping girls but there’s also the main issue that Sarah and Chloe have, they both have eating disorders. Chloe purges and Sarah starves herself. Although Chloe has tried to fix herself, Sarah is constantly at loggerheads with her body and it does make for sad and unsettling reading, as she counts calories and has an unhealthy obsession with food. She is constantly in competition and trying to make her weight less. Her own relationship with her mother is equally traumatic, as she tries to control Sarah both physically and psychologically. I found Sarah to be a frustrating character, I just wanted to eat, not to overthink every bite and to get better just like Chloe.

This story is a complex thriller set in a small town where gossip is rife and everyone has an opinion. With the narrative being from Sarah’s perspective, it makes for interesting reading, as she tries to find her sister as well as deal with own mental health issues. This gives an insight into battles with eating disorders which makes for extremely sad and unsettling reading.

An emotional and atmospheric story from the first page, ‘Forgotten Toys’ is a clever thriller that handles mental health and eating disorders sensitively and delivers twists and turns that keeps the reader on their toes.

You can buy ‘Forgotten Toys’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Dangerous To Know By Chloe Esposito

Dangerous To Know‘Dangerous To Know’ is the latest book by Chloe Esposito and the third book in the Alvie Knightly Trilogy.

One year – and one very unfortunate incident – later, Alvie is homeless, surviving on meal deals, and counting her dwindling pennies. It’s time for one last hit, and if anyone can pull it off – in six-inch heels – it’s Alvie. But if she’s to succeed in her mission to avenge her ex, win back her money and secure her future, she’ll have to face her most terrifying enemy yet.

This book is a ridiculous read and I mean that in a positive way. It’s sassy, fast paced, raunchy and includes a protagonist that literally gets away with murder.

This is the third book from Chloe Knightly and just like the first book in the series, Alvie is set out for revenge and make her mark on the world. Having lost the love of her life, she’s intent to avenge her lover’s death and make some new friends and drama along the way.

I love Alvie, she’s fun, outspoken and quite messed up but that’s primarily down to the way her mother pined her and her sister against one another. Beth, Alvie’s twin sister was the favourite of the two and their mother treated Alvie brutally with her bullying behaviour and psychological treatment that helped mould Alvie into the serial killer that she’s become. As she plans her next kill, Alvie befriends an influencer called Tiffany who takes Alvie under her wing and for the first time in her life, Alvie feels like a good person.

In order for Alvie to get revenge for Nino’s death, Alvie creates a new persona called Siobhan and where she can Alvie drops in some Irish sayings, dialect and wisdom along the way that does make for fun reading.

The story is fun and witty that travels at quite a speed around the world that really engages the reader and keeps them on their toes. There’s rarely a dull moment in the book whether it’s some wit from Alvie or some predicament that she’s got herself into.

Gloriously fun and injected with razor sharp wit and violence, ‘Dangerous to Know’ is a thrilling and sad end to the Alvie Knightly series. Filled with attitude, unlikable characters and moments of poignancy that makes for sad and reflective reading, this international thriller is not for the faint hearted.

You can buy ‘Dangerous to Know’ from Amazon and available to buy from good bookshops.

Charlotte Duckworth

Charlotte DuckworthCharlotte Duckworth is a graduate of the Faber Academy’s acclaimed six-month ‘Writing a Novel’ course. Charlotte started her career working as an interiors and lifestyle journalist, writing for a wide range of consumer magazines and websites. Alongside writing, she also runs her own website design studio. Her debut novel called ‘The Rival’ was published in 2018 and today is the publication day of her second book called ‘Unfollow Me’

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    Hello! Thanks for having me! I’m Charlotte and I started my career as a journalist working in magazines. I always wanted to write novels (and finished my very first aged about 11, painstakingly typed up on my electric typewriter!) but when I was at university and informed the careers advisor of my plan, he told me novel-writing was a ridiculous idea for a career, and suggested I become a journalist instead. So I did.

    I’m not cross about it as I had an absolutely lovely time working in magazines, and later on, on websites. It was a great Plan B!

    However, deep down I knew that novel-writing was my ‘thing’ and so I have always written on the side. I managed to get an agent when I was in my early 20s, but it took a long time to get a book deal. My first novel, ‘The Rival,’ was published in 2018, and ‘Unfollow Me’ is my second. My third, ‘The Perfect Father’, is out next year.

  2. Tell us about your new book called ‘Unfollow Me’.
    ‘Unfollow Me’ stems from my own fascination with the world of influencers, and tells the story of Violet Young, a hugely popular mummy vlogger, who goes ‘missing’ from the online world, deleting all her social media accounts overnight with no warning. The book is written from the perspective of two of her most obsessive fans, Lily and Yvonne, who desperately try to uncover what’s happened to her. With plenty of twists and turns along the way!

    It’s a bit different from many other novels about social media as I wanted to explore the lives of the people addicted to the influencers, rather than the influencer herself. I find these super fans really intriguing – the lengths they will go to for their idol, and the intensity of the feelings they have for someone they have never met.

  3. Why did you decide to write crime?
    I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision! I have tried several times over the years to write more uplifting novels and they always end up turning dark…

    I remember reading an interview with Gillian Flynn where she said ‘the darker the books are, the nicer the author is’ and her pondering that perhaps writing dark books gets something out of your system. I like that idea! Generally speaking I’m a pretty happy, laidback person.

    I suppose I am fascinated with what makes ordinary people do ‘bad’ things, and really digging around inside a character’s psyche, to get to the stuff they want to keep hidden. We all have some of that bad stuff inside us, it’s just on a spectrum, and hidden better in some people than others!

  4. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I am lucky enough to have lots of author friends, so rather than risk inviting a load of my heroes (‘never meet your idols’!), I’d go for tried and tested and I know I’d have an amazing time. So, just off the top of my head: Caroline Hulse, Rebecca Fleet, Ros Anderson, Catherine Law, Holly Race, Karen Hamilton, Phoebe Locke…
  5. Unfollow Me

  6. Who’s your favourite literary villain?
    I think given that I’ve quoted Gillian above, I’d have to say Amy from ‘Gone Girl’. That book just blew me away – and Amy was a delicious character. I loved her, despite how awful she was. She was completely real to me and I completely understood why she did what she did.
  7. Is there anything that you would change about your writing journey?
    I have a rule never to regret anything, and I genuinely do believe everything happens for a reason. I wish I could have been as disciplined about writing when I was in my 20s as I am now. But I don’t think I was as good a writer then. Writing is the best career as it’s one of the ones where you get better with age.
  8. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    All stages are both my least and most favourite depending on what stage I’m working on at the time!

    I probably like the daydreaming bit the best – when you’ve got an idea and can go for long walks planning it all in your head. And it feels like the most perfect book ever written. Except it hasn’t actually been written yet…

  9. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
     I’m really sorry to be so absolutely unoriginal but it’d have to be the first line of ‘Rebecca’ – ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’.

    That book was a formative one for me. I must have read it a dozen times over the years. And it’s partly the reason I called my daughter Daphne.

  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    The first three Adrian Mole books because they would cheer me up!
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Discipline. Ring-fencing your writing time, putting your writing first and making it a priority. I’ve met so many excellent writers who just never finish anything because they don’t make writing their priority. But writing is really, really hard work, and you have to be disciplined and put in the hours or you don’t stand a chance of finishing.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Chewing gum and a bottle of water. Very boring (and sorry that’s two items). I drink loads of water while I’m writing and I chew gum to stop me reaching for biscuits. And I read somewhere that it helps you concentrate, although I’m not sure if that’s actually true.
  13. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m writing the first draft of my fourth book at the moment but my third, ‘The Perfect Father’, is already finished and will be released next year. It’s about a stay-at-home dad, who isn’t as perfect as he seems…

    You can find Charlotte online on Twitter and Instagram and her website

    You can buy ‘Unfollow Me’ from Amazon and is available from good bookshops today.

All About Us By Tom Ellen

All About Us‘All About Us’ is the latest book by Tom Ellen.

Ben’s always loved the month of December, but this year, with his relationship with Daphne on the rocks, it’s missing its usual magic. And when his old flame Alice gets back in touch. Ben’s always thought of Alice as the one that got away, and he can’t help but wonder: what if he’d done things differently all those years ago? He never imagines he might get to find out… but when a stranger sells Ben a mysterious watch one freezing winter’s night, he’s astonished to wake up the next morning on 5th December 2005: the day he first kissed Daphne, leaving Alice behind. Now Ben must make the biggest decision of his life, all over again. But this time around, will he finally find the courage to follow his heart?

If you’re looking for a male perspective on love and relationships, then check out the latest book by Tom Ellen, a witty and poignant festive tale with a modern take on ‘A Christmas Carol’

The story is seen solely through Ben’s perspective, as he ponders what if. Having been with his wife Daphne for 15 years, Ben is beginning to get itchy feet in life. Far from being the successful writer that he aspired to be, his relationship is drifting further apart and Alice, his old friend from university has gotten in touch about meeting up. Ben wonders what life could be like if he hadn’t chosen Daphne in his path for life and went with Alice instead. But on Christmas Eve when Daphne has to go to a work party, Ben goes out with his best friend Harvey and finds himself approached by an old man with a broken watch.Taking the watch, which is stuck at 11.59 finds himself being sent back to key moments in his life where he is able to make changes and really find out if life is better on the other side.

This is the second book that I’ve read in 2020 by a man writing romantic comedy and it was a breath of fresh air, filled with wit and love and injected with festive nostalgia. Ben is an interesting character who’s struggling with his place in life. Having aspired to be a successful writer and follow in his father’s footsteps, Ben is working in a job that he’s not happy with and the divide between him and Daphne grow more as she becomes more successful and his resentment grows. I loved Ben’s best friend Harvey, who’s there to offer words of support and encouragement when Ben is at his worst.

The story then flows in past, present and future sequences as Ben gets to relive the most important moments of his life and change the path of his life. These moments include him and Daphne’s first meeting as well as Ben spending more time with his mother before her sudden death. I particularly enjoyed the moments with Ben and his mother, she brought him up as a single parent and it’s on this nostalgia journey that Ben really takes the time to appreciate everything his mother did for him and this makes for poignant and reflective reading. Throughout the story, the old man who gave Ben the watch reappears with wise words helping him get on the right path.

This is a genuinely heartwarming story that is filled with hope and love. Concentrating on the complexities of relationships on all levels and the pressures of life. Beautifully written with witty and tender dialogue, relatable characters and such vivid descriptions that the roasted chestnuts were literally dripping from the pages, ‘All About Us’ is emotional roller coaster of a story that will make you shed sad and happy tears.

You can buy ‘All About Us’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.