Dot Scribbles

17.3.17

BOOK REVIEW: The Mills & Boon Modern Girl's Guide to Turning Into Your Mother by Ada Adverse

Have you ever:
Opened your mouth and heard your mother come out?
Wondered whether a bunch of flowers and breakfast in bed once a year really makes up for those 37 hours your mother spent in St Agnes' Maternity Ward?
Voiced a heartfelt opinion on the weather?
Is so, the Mills & Boon Modern Girl's Guide to Turning Into Your Mother is for you: a guide to the joys of motherhood- with a feminist twist.

This lovely little hardback book would make a great gift for Mother's Day. Each little anecdote is opposite a funny black and white photo, making it the perfect book to dip in and out of. It takes a humorous view of motherhood, family life, annoying husbands and the scary moments when you realise that you may have turned into your own mother. It made me laugh out loud and and I think most mothers need that (and wine) from day to day!

Many thanks to Mills & Boon for sending me a copy of this book and making me smile!  



8.3.17

BOOK REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY: The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown

‘Do you believe in the Devil?
I see you smile.
But I have sat down with him to dine.’
1645. Alice Hopkins returns in disgrace, husbandless and pregnant, to her brother Matthew’s house in the small Essex town of Manningtree.
When she left, Matthew was an awkward boy, bullied for the scars that disfigure his face. But the brother Alice has come back to is like a different person. Now Matthew has powerful friends and mysterious business that takes him out late into the night.
Then the rumours begin: whispers of witchcraft and of a great book, in which Matthew is gathering names.
Just how far will Matthew’s obsession drive him? And what choice will Alice make when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 373
I could not stop reading this book! Even my husband commented on how I couldn’t put it down and he’s used to me nearly always having my head buried in a book rather than listening to what he’s saying!
Beth Underdown has written a fictional book based on Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General. I remember learning about this period of history at school and it really is fascinating. The author brings the time period alive with her vivid descriptions; the details are well researched, from what people wore to the way they spoke.
Alice Hopkins has been recently widowed and left with no option but to return to her brother Matthew’s house. He had not approved of her marriage so she is expecting little sympathy. She could not have imagined what she would be returning to though. Matthew has quickly gained authority and power and seems to be on a quest to hunt down women he has claimed are witches. Alice can hardly believe what her brother has become capable of; local women he has known for many years have not been spared; he has them all tried and ultimately their fate will be death.
Alice is trapped, she does not agree with her brother but she has nowhere else to go, she is entirely dependent on him. The more she observes, the more she becomes scared of him and what he would be capable of.
I found The Witchfinder’s Sister fascinating and completely captivating. The details were so rich that it was easy to imagine the events the author described. Beth Underdown shows the awful plight of these women; the trials they endured and punishments they received. The author shows how it was almost dangerous to be a woman in the 1600’s, especially a widow or spinster. It was not men who were pursued but vulnerable women. Alice’s position as a female also makes her vulnerable and she is exploited by her own brother as he knows she has no other means to live. This all added to an almost claustrophobic feel to the book; at certain points I felt like Matthew Hopkins was unstoppable and you can feel the terror of the women in his way.
The Witchfinder’s Sister is as relevant today as it was in the 1600’s. People often had personal reasons for accusing women of witchcraft, hearsay completely out of control. Often it was because they may have looked different or behaved a little out of the ordinary. Mob rule still happens today in different forms but it is just as terrifying and immoral.
It’s only March but I already know that this will be one of my favourite books of 2017. I cannot stop thinking about Alice and her brother and it has made me want to know more about what happened. I love it when a book leaves you wanting more and I didn’t want this one to end.

Many thanks to Penguin for sending me a copy of this book to review.

I have a proof copy of this book to give away! The competition is open to UK residents, simply leave a comment on this blog post by Midnight on Sunday 12th March and I shall pick a name out of the hat! 



28.2.17

BOOK REVIEW: Girl 99 by Andy Jones

When Tom’s girlfriend walks out on him the day  before Christmas, he feels humiliated but not necessarily heartbroken. Sadie, wasn’t after all, The One. If we’re being precise, she was number eighty-five.
And so, for reasons that are only mostly wrong, Tom embarks on a mission to bring his number of encounters up to a nice neat one hundred.
Over the course of his quest he sleeps with a colleague, a colleague of a friend, a friend of a friend, a friend of a friend’s wife, the estate agent selling his flat and several more besides.
Everything is going, if not well, then at least according to plan…and then Tom meets Verity. Whether she’s The One remains to be seen, but she’s certainly more than just another number.
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 318

Andy Jones has done it again, Girl 99 is a great read full of humour and truth. Tom had been looking forward to spending the festive season with his girlfriend Sadie but she leaves him the day before Christmas. He’s more annoyed than upset, he knew she wasn’t The One; when he looks back through his conquests he realises that she was actually number eighty-five. He tells his best friend El about this which may be a mistake as he then agrees to a £1000 bet that he can’t make his number up to a 100 in the next few weeks. He certainly gives it a good try but then he meets Verity and he doesn’t want to count anymore as he knows she is The One but now he has to face up to the reality of how he has been behaving and that may not be that simple.
Andy Jones has a knack of creating a great main character that you can’t help but like. Tom does some things in the book that should paint him in a very negative light but I was still rooting for him and hoping he’d find his way. I loved the relationships he had with those around him. He is incredibly close to his Dad and Sister and after his mother’s death it is obvious that he has had to take on a bigger role in the family. One of my favourite parts of the book was his friendship with Doug, his elderly neighbour. Doug’s almost a father-figure to him, offering him wise words and trying to steer him back on to the right path. Their interactions really made me smile and they showed a very caring side to Tom’s character.
Andy Jones writes with much humour and wit; Girl 99 had me laughing out loud several times. Tom finds himself in a few interesting situations while trying to get to his 100. I think the best was his estate agent who definitely has an air of Fatal Attraction about her.
I have enjoyed all of the books by this author; his writing is funny, relevant and heart-warming, don’t miss Girl 99. 

27.2.17

BOOK REVIEW: A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

Meet thirty something Dad, Alex.
He loves his wife Jody but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son, Sam, but doesn't understand him. Something has to change.
Meet eight-year-old Sam.
Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him, the world is a puzzle he can't solve on his own.
When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other...

Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 387

This book is getting so much attention and I feel it is rightly deserved as A Boy Made of Blocks is brilliant.
At the beginning of the book Alex has just left the marital home to stay with his friend Dan. Things have been tense between him and his wife Jody for a long time but it has finally reached breaking point.The main cause of tension is their eight-year-old son, Sam who is autistic. Alex struggles to cope with Sam's behaviour and it has got to the point where Jody can't cope with the both of them.
Alex is suddenly on the periphery of their family life and he has no idea how to get back in. But Sam offers him a life-line when he starts playing the computer game Minecraft. Suddenly Alex has an activity he can do with his son that doesn't carry the same problems and pitfalls as others he has tried. As they play they slowly start to reconnect and Alex begins to see his son for what he is, an eight-year-old boy rather than  viewing him as a problem to be solved.
I have family and close friends who have children on the autistic spectrum so I do have some limited experience of it. The author is writing from first hand experience of raising an autistic child and the situations and tensions he describes rang true with what those around me deal with on a daily basis.
This book is not just about autism and it's many challenges but rather about being a parent. Keith Stuart lays bare the ways in which having children changes us all. He shows how the feeling of responsibility can be overwhelming Alex and Jody's relationship is being damaged by this person they created together; Sam has altered both of their identities and focus. They story shows them both having to come to terms with Sam's condition on their own before they can even begin to think abour working together again.
I was so impressed by the characters the author presents. They are believable and honest, vulnerable and hard to like at times. Alex is almost still behaving like a child, he needs to face up to a huge and tragic event from his childhood in order to be able to cope in the present. Everyone around him knows this but he has to come to the realisation himself and seek help.
There were so many poignant moments in this book and some of the interactions between characters were breathtaking. Keith Stuart expertly shows his character's emotions and inner turmoil through the language he uses. His ability to explore such an emotive and sensitive subject is testament to his talent as an author.
I urge you to read this book, I can see now why so many people are talking about it.

21.2.17

BOOK REVIEW: Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

1985
Lydia Quinn is found bludgeoned to death in the cellar of her family home. The local community is rocked by the brutality of the seemingly senseless attack.
Twenty years ago
Jack escaped from his hometown, leaving behind memories of a childhood cut short by his mother's murder.
Now he must return
Sarah joins her husband at his beloved aunt's hospital bed, her first chance to meet the mysterious Quinlans. It is clear that this is a family bound by secrets and someone is prepared to go to extreme lengths to ensure that the truth of what happened to Lydia stays buried.

Publisher: HQ
Pages: 343

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf is a tense, fast-paced thriller. Jack is called back to his small hometown of Penny Gate when he learns that his aunt is gravely ill in hospital. His wife Sarah goes with him; she's not met his family before, all she knows is that Jack's parents died in a car accident and he and his sister were raised by their aunt and uncle. So Sarah is extremely upset and unsettled to discover on her arrival that Jack's mother was not in an accident but instead was brutally murdered in the cellar of Jack's family home. Jack's own father was the main suspect but he too went missing that day and has not been seen since. Questions are now being raised about Jack's aunt's injuries, did she really fall or was she pushed?
Sarah feels like she has woken up in the middle of a nightmare. Why did her husband lie to her? Who did kill Jack's mother and are they still out there?
The author chooses the perfect setting for this book; the small town of Penny Gate is integral to the story. Everybody knows everyone's business and Sarah can quickly see why Jack wanted to get out of there. I really enjoyed the different local characters she presents; especially Margaret who works in the Sheriff's office. She puts her job on the line in order to help Sarah find more information,
Heather Gudenkauf infuses her book with an extremely unsettling atmosphere. Everything about Jack's hometown seems off. Sarah suddenly has nobody to trust, including her own husband and several characters are clearly holding information back. This all helps to build the tension which becomes more and more intense.
I very much enjoyed Missing Pieces, the plot was clever and the pace perfect, I would highly recommend this author.

Many thanks to HQ for sending me a copy of this book to review. 

16.2.17

BOOK REVIEW: Paris for One and other stories by Jojo Moyes

Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She's never even been on a romantic weekend away-to-anywhere-before. Travelling abroad isn't really her thing. But when Nell's boyfriend fails to show up, she has the chance to prove to everyone-including herself that she can be independent and intrepid. Alone in Paris, Nell finds a version of herself she never knew existed. In the ten other stories, Jojo Moyes introduces us to a cast of strong, relate-able women in the midst of their everyday lives.

Publisher: Penguin

 I am not usually a big fan of short-story collections but when I saw this one by Jojo Moyes, I couldn't resist. Jojo Moyes is one of my favourite authors and this collection of stories was a real delight to read.
Obviously you can read them in whatever order you like , I started with the title story, Paris for One and it was simply lovely. Nell was supposes to be having a romantic weekend in Paris with her boyfriend but he stood her up at the Eurostar so she is now in Paris alone and totally out of her depth. We follow her as she navigates the city of love; there are plenty of surprises along the way and Jojo Moyes made me fall in love with Paris all over again.
My other favourite story was Crocodile Shoes which was very empowering and witty, plus it also made me rethink my shoe choices!
Due to the nature of the book, we do not get to spend long with the character but they are likeable and believable and the stories are well thought out. I would highly recommend this collection of stories, Moyes strikes the perfect balance between humour and poignancy, it is a lovely book.

Many thanks to Penguin for allowing me to review this book via Netgalley. 

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