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Dog Days By Erica Waller

Dog Days‘Dog Days’ is the latest book by Erica Waller.

Dog Days is a novel about those small but life-changing moments that only come when we pause to let the light in. It is about three people learning to make connections and find joy in living life off the leash.

I spent a lazy Sunday with my head in this book. A beautifully written story tackling sensitive subjects such as grief, mental health, domestic abuse as well as sexuality.

The story is seen through the perspective of three characters, George, Lizzie and Dan. Grumpy old man George, who throughout the story made me think of George from the Pixar film called ‘UP’. George has a gruff and ignorant nature and is at a loss when his wife Ellen dies suddenly. George is used to having Ellen, making his meals, washing his clothes and without Ellen there to do these things for him, George’s life stops at a standstill with only a beautiful little Dachshund puppy called Poppy to keep him company. Ellen thoughtfully bought Poppy as something for George to focus on as well as help him lose weight and get some exercise. It’s at his lowest that Betty comes into George’s after receiving complaints about Poppy’s barking and comes to George’s rescue much to his disgust. Betty is a warm-hearted and bubbly woman who loves to help others and the pair of bicker constantly with George protesting against Betty’s help and Betty fighting against with wonderfully sweet and creative language.

Lizzie has turned up at a women’s shelter with her little boy called Lenny, but has yet to reveal her story. She’s a quiet intense woman who misses her old life of being a primary school teacher and is at her most comfortable sharing facts and information with people. She’s not a dog lover but part of leaving at the shelter is to take elderly Jack Russell Terrier called Maud for walks. Maud knows that Lizzie isn’t used to dogs and does all she can to offer friendship and comfort to Lizzie.

Dan is at crossroads with his sexuality and when Atticus comes to his counselling sessions, Dan has to finally confront his thoughts much to his own fears. Dan is a wonderful character, he’s kind, shy and outspoken Atticus helps Dan finally feel comfortable with himself. Dan has a beautiful Golden Labrador called Fitz, a loyal companion who accepts Dan, no matter his sexual orientation.

All three people are facing real struggles in their lives and as they face them, there’s a four legged there to offer a hug or lick at their lowest ebbs. I absolutely adored this book and I found myself racing through it, purely for George’s perspective as he was the most amazing character. He’s a traditional man, with an old-fashioned mindset. Ellen did everything for him but he cared for Ellen in his own way, crafting pieces of furniture for her that made her delighted. His relationship with Betty was truly clever and fun reading as they battled with each other, but they brought some joy and company to their lives. Out of the three characters, George was the man with no interest in dog but as the story progresses, we see the shutters come down and he grows to love the tiny dog and the company she provides. Another beautiful element to the story, was the inclusion of letters to George from Ellen that she left for him after her death. These letters make for tender reading, as she’s offering guidance and support with gentle reminders of things that need sorted. These letters usually arrive when George is at his lowest.

As a dog lover myself, this book wholeheartedly proves the comfort and companionship that dogs provide, they offer no judgement and will love you unconditionally. This book was a joy to read from the start to finish. Filled with wit, tenderness and moments that will genuinely break your heart and give you hope, Ericka has written a book that handles hard hitting issues with grace and sensitivity, ‘Dog Walks’ is a book that stays with you long after you reached the final page.

You can pre-order ‘Dog Days’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 11th March 2021.

All The Good Things By Clare Fisher

All The Good Things‘All The Good Things’ is the first book by Clare Fisher.

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?

‘All The Good Things’ is Clare’s debut novel and it’s a hauntingly great tale and female prison life and mental illness.

The story is seen through the narrative of Beth, a young troubled woman who’s in jail and is told by her counsellor to write about all the good things in her life.

As Beth works on her list, she brings us back to her past from growing up with foster families, finding her feet and dealing with the realisation of becoming a teenage mother.

Beth is a complex character, which is no surprise as she had a troubled upbringing, with a mother who had her own health problems, she spent most of her time absent from Beth’s life and Beth spent her time moving from different families, hoping to eventually one day find her own permanent place in life. She’s outspoken with a quick temper but underneath all this bravado, she’s insecure and unhappy and longs for content.

Having spent most of her life feeling unloved, she bares her soul into her writing, revealing her thoughts and fears of becoming a mother as well as voicing her excitement. As the story progresses, we delve further into Beth’s life and what path she took to end up in prison.

This story is beautifully written and handles the subject of mental illness with care and grace. Not only is Beth, a wonderful lead character with a strong personality and kind heart, the friends surrounding her, inject a dose of humour into this serious and poignant tale.

A heartbreaking and honest story about the difficulties of mental health and redemption, ‘All The Good Things’ is a book that stays with you long after you reached the final page.

You can pre-order All the Good Things from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 1st June 2017.

Paper Swans By Jessica Thompson

'Paper Swans‘Paper Swans’ is Jessica Thompson’s latest book.

Ben Lawrence seems to have it all – the hot job, the flashy car, the luxurious apartment. But one tragic day in his past mars his future. Since the events of that day he hasn’t truly got close to anyone. He made a promise that love was the price he would pay for his mistakes. When Effy Jones – a bright, ambitious charity founder – walks into the PR firm where Ben works, neither realise that their lives are about to be turned upside down.

‘Paper Swans’ see the return of Jessica Thompson with her signature style of writing, a story told by both the female and male leads, this time it was case of Ben and Effy, an unlikely pair who have a strong attraction towards each other but just like Jessica’s previous books, they both have issues that makes this new relationship unable to properly work.

Ben, is a hard working PR guru, one of the best in the business, his grumpy boss thinks he’s great and his colleagues admire him. Rich, handsome and with no shortage of female companions, he lives the life of a jack the lad, never committing and always shying away from relationships. To the outside world, it looks like he has no desire to settle down but behind closed doors, he harbours a deep secret which makes him stay away from love. Trying to fight against the memories of his past, he attends a therapist but nothing seems to help until he meets Effy and suddenly love seems like an option.

Effy is completely different to Ben, having successfully set up her own charity called Dafina Kampala, for poverty stricken children in Uganda, she is a selfless person with a huge heart. She makes Ben feel like a better person, as he is given the chance to work alongside with her charity and she makes him appreciate the smaller things in life. Although, Ben feels close to Effy, he can’t tell her about his past and lives in fear that she will find out the truth about him. Loved up and happy, the couple enjoy a new relationship until Effy goes out to Uganda to work on her charity but not before she finds that Ben is working with a company that caused a major oil disaster. Disappointed and hurt that he kept such big news from her, she leaves Uganda heartbroken and ignoring all contact with him.

Like her other books, ‘Paper Swans’ has a sweetly illustrated cover of paper swans in yellow and silver foil. Another addition to the story is that each chapter’s title is a line within a chapter, I thought this was particularly quirky and made me look out for the lines.

I’ve read all of Jessica’s books and have enjoyed them immensely, they are always poignant stories of love and heartbreak, told in dual narratives with compelling characters and ‘Paper Swans’ was just that.

Both Ben and Effy are interesting characters with Effy being a more stronger person of the two. After witnessing poverty and sickness in the world, she wants to make a change whereas Ben is a whiz kid in public relations but this is probably what makes the two of them such an interesting couple with opposites attract. Effy is quite forward and is quick to tell what she thinks, which often catches Ben off guard.

We know Ben has suffered some great tragedy in his life and there are mentions of this from the very start but once again in Jessica’s signature style of writing, there are little mentions of memories but nothing is revealed until the end.

This book is another wonderful story from one of my favourite authors, it’s a sweetly written tale about love but also focuses on the subjects of mental health and poverty and handles both topics beautifully. A highly recommended and heartwarming book.

You can buy Paper Swans from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Story Of You By Katy Regan

The Story Of You‘The Story Of You’ is the latest book by Katy Regan.

There is no story of me without the story of you. I want to explain it all to you. How this happened. How that summer – the summer I was 16 – made me the person I am today. I want to share my memories with you: the happy memories are like sunbursts, sparkling on the sea. But then, like a current dragging me under, there’s that summer of 1997.

The summer my life exploded.
The summer I had to grow up.
The summer you came into my life.

And so this is the story of you.

‘The Story Of You’ is a story of a woman struggling with life and a couple wanting to give their relationship another chance.

The story is seen through the narrative of the leading lady Robyn. The middle daughter of three sisters, her life has never been the same since her mother dies and her father so quickly moved on and forged a new relationship with a woman who is the polar opposite of their mother. The daughters relationship detoriate with their father, all distancing themselves and keeping secrets. Through the story, it is told in the past tense. There are flashbacks to the summer, seventeen years ago that changed Robyn’s life. She met and fell in love with Joe, the love of her life and thought that she would spend the rest of her life with him but fate had different idea. Fast forward to now and Joe gets back in touch with Robyn, when his own mother dies and requests for Robyn to attend the funeral. Having been there when her mother died, Robyn returns home and all the feelings that she thought had long since been buried and gone, resurface and finds herself reminiscing with Joe, remembering the good times when death didn’t get in the way. But things step further, when they end up together resulting in Robyn becoming pregnant. Joe is delighted at the thought of giving their relationship another go, whilst Robyn is terrified that history is going to repeat itself.

Robyn is a psychiatric nurse, working with people that she see as more than patients and wants to create trusting and safe relationships with them so she properly help them with their issues. Robyn has problems of her own, a past that won’t leave her alone and is constantly in her thoughts and causes her to have secret panic attacks, especially with an unexpected pregnancy, she is terrified that something will go wrong. Hiding her panic attacks, insecurity and flashbacks from her past, Robyn has more in common with the patients than she lets on and that is why she has gets on so well with them. A caring, considerate character and a lot more patience and understanding than her fellow colleagues. She has a particularly heartwarming relationship with a young woman called Grace, a troubled woman who has bad episodes brought on by her abusive past. Grace is outspoken and gruff, but has a soft sweet side when talking about her daughter who was taken away from her. The main love interest in the story is Joe, a man who has never let his love for Robyn waver. He is fun and vibrant and distracts her from the fears in life.

Another interesting addition, is the letters that Robyn writes throughout the story, confiding worries and remembering times past, these inclusions in the story adds a sweet sentiment to the story. At the start I thought it wasn’t terribly clear who the ‘you’ was in the story but thought that the ending chapter, it was revealed and captivated the innocence of the story wonderfully.

With one of the most prettiest cover of recent times, this book is a beautifully written story that is an compelling and an emotional tale, which highlights serious issues as teenage pregnancy, rape and mental health. ‘The Story Of You’ is a story warm that flows at a gentle pace and is filled with heartwarming characters, witty dialogue and tells the story of moving on and second chances.

You can buy The Story of You and will be available in paperback from 25th September 2014.