#Review – My Mad Dad by Robyn Hollingworth (@MyMadDadStory) @trapezebooks @orionbooks

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Inadvertent cross-dressing
Attempted murder
Jail break
A waltz at a funeral
A hernia the size of Guernsey

Heartbreaking and darkly comic, these are the moments that litter the messy road from cared-for to carer, a journey that Robyn Hollingworth finds herself on when she’s only twenty-five years old.

Leaving London to return home to rural South Wales, Robyn finds that it’s her old life – same teddy bears resting on her pillow, their bodies tucked under the duvet; same view of the garages behind which she’d had her first cigarette and first kiss – but so much has changed.

Her dad, the proud, charmingly intelligent, self-made man who made people laugh, is in the grip of early onset Alzheimer’s. His brilliant mind, which saw him building power stations and literally bringing light into the lives of others, has succumbed to darkness.

As Robyn settles back in the rhythms of life in the rain-soaked vast Welsh valleys, she keeps a diary charting her journey as the dad she knew disappears before her eyes. Lyrical, poignant and with flashes of brilliant humour, My Mad Dad explores how in helping others we can heal ourselves.

‘At some point the cared for become the carers…this isn’t a shame and it isn’t a tragedy and it isn’t a chore. It is an honour. To be able to return the gift of love that someone bestows upon you is a gift in itself. This is a story of caring…’

*Thank you to Netgalley and Trapeze for the ARC which I have reviewed voluntarily*

What does TWG think?

I’ll be honest (when am I not?); I have no idea where to start with my review of ‘My Mad Dad’. I’m not struggling with my words because I disliked the book, not at all. In fact I feel the complete opposite – I adored it. Move over Catwoman, Batwoman and whoever else Marvel have womanised, there’s a new superhero in town, and she goes by the name of SuperRobynHollingworth!! I’m not even exaggerating. ‘My Mad Dad’ moved me to tears more than once. I would have done anything to give Robyn a big, big hug. Not to make her feel bad or anything, but the tears weren’t dripping out of my eyes because of the type of sadness you feel when you stub your toe or you watch a video on Facebook with a dog in it, they were water falling out of my eyes because I was utterly heartbroken and it wasn’t even me going through it.

When it comes to reviewing non-fiction/memoir type novels, I always say that I will review the book purely based on the content as non-fiction books can be written in a different manner to fictional novels. However, I am breaking my rule with this book as I thought the way Robyn told her story was incredible. Not only did she manage to convey her thoughts in a structured manner, ensuring that her readers aren’t confused by any medical jargon throughout the book, but she also wrote it as though she was sitting with one person and talking to them face to face. There were no airs and graces, no pregnant pauses or fake emotion, Robyn seemed to keep it real.

‘My Mad Dad’ tells the story of Robyn’s dads diagnosis with Alzheimer’s and how that one word changed not only his life, but his family’s as well. Whilst that topic is the main focus of this book, Robyn has also written about many other emotional events around the time of the diagnosis. I won’t give anything away, but I wasn’t prepared at all for my eyes were digesting. How one person can not only deal with caring for her father, but also come to terms with the permanent disappearance of something or someone else, is astounding. There were times throughout the book where Robyn admitted that this wasn’t what she signed up for at the age of twenty five, whilst also making it clear that she found it incredibly difficult at times, yet she still did what she did out of love for her family. What caught me a lot was how Robyn didn’t believe just how incredibly special she is, stating that a lot of other people’s lives are worse than hers, or that people go through worse things than her. Of course, everyone thinks that when they’re dealing with tough events because it becomes a barrier for what emotions we have left, yet if you look at the bigger picture on that thought, it’s clear that we end up devaluing our own actions when in fact we have been to hell and back. That is what I thought about what Robyn said. Maybe it’s because I am an outsider looking in at her past, seeing things that only someone who isn’t directly involved in the situation can see, I don’t know. What I do know is, is that Robyn went through utter hell, emotionally and physically, as she watched her beloved father disappear before her very eyes. Gone were his sarcastic one liners and high intelligence, instead being replaced by a man who was no longer sure of anything, even his own daughter.

I know that I have mentioned how Robyn went through hell, many times, but please don’t think that I am disregarding her other family members who endured severe pain at the time too. I cannot even begin to imagine how her father felt as he watched himself fall into an uncertain state. Or how Robyn’s mother felt when she ended up enduring her own fair share of heartache and devastation. Or even Robyn’s brother, the only person at that time who knew what Robyn was thinking, without even saying anything, fighting his own grief yet still protecting his sister. I mean, just wow.

‘My Mad Dad’ is a raw, poignant, emotional, inspirational, and relatable read which completely blew my mind in every direction. Even whilst writing scenes which would bring a stone to tears, Robyn was still able to find a piece of humour to hold onto. I sometimes felt bad that I was creased with laughter despite sobbing my heart out five minutes previous. Robyn has an incredible way of getting her message across as though it’s the most natural thing in the world. Because it is. This is her message, this is her life and having seen the devastation first hand, this is natural to Robyn.


I cried like a baby in the foetus position, laughed like a hyena, and increased my knowledge a lot quicker reading this book than if I had consulted my best bud, Google. Personally, ‘My Mad Dad’ is a book which I think every single person on this planet should read, even if they haven’t been directly affected by Alzheimer’s.

I need to stop rabbiting on now as I feel like the waterfall is ready to get going again. I will leave you with this though; sometimes in life we find ourselves in a dark tunnel without any light to guide our way and, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter how long we stay in that tunnel or whether we get told that we ‘should be out of it by now’, as long as we manage to find the way at some point, we are winning at life without even realising it. And, Robyn Hollingworth is winning a life for having the courage to get her thoughts out on paper, even if they weren’t all rainbows and sunbeams. She is an inspiration in every form possible, and this book is truly outstanding.

Buy now from Amazon

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#BlogTour! #Review – #AFamilyRecipe by Veronica Henry (@veronica_henry) @orionbooks @Lauren_booksPR

Blog Tour asset
I am so excited to be hosting day two of the #AFamilyRecipe blog tour! Veronica Henry is one of my all-time favourite authors and it is such an honour to be involved in this blog tour. Huge thanks to the team at OrionBooks for the blog tour invite, and my ARC of the novel. Here is my review:

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What’s the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .

What does TWG think?

You know the feelings you get after eating your most favourite meal; contentment, cosy, happiness – I’m sure you know the ones I’m on about, and I’m sure many of you have felt like that in the past. Imagine those feelings for a moment, just so that they come to the forefront of your mind, now imagine reading a book which allowed you to feel those feelings all over again. What would you say to that?

‘A Family Recipe’ made me feel as though I had just eaten my most favourite meal in the entire world. I felt content. Delirious. Pretty much as though I was walking on cloud nine. Yet I also felt devastated because the book had ended and I didn’t want those feelings to disappear. Veronica Henry is an author who never fails to disappoint me and, after reading her previous novel, I genuinely though that she had written her best book yet, then. But now, after reading ‘A Family Recipe’, I’m not so sure.

Why?

Because ladies and gents, THIS book is Veronica Henry’s best book yet as it made me feel things I had never felt before. Set in the family home of Number 11 Lark Hill, ‘A Family Recipe’ switches between the present day and 1942 as the author takes us back to how it all began. I absolutely adored the historical feel to the story as I was able to resonate with the characters a lot more in the present day, having known their back story and how they became who they are today. I found the ‘stepping back in time’ moments rather emotional and severely eye-opening. I won’t go into detail as for why, but trust me when I say that those parts of the book were a little slice of heaven.

In the present day, main character, Laura, has reached a point in her life where uncertainty seems to be her main emotion. Her daughters are off living their lives and the ’empty nest’ feeling couldn’t be more strong. What does she do with her life now? Having not worked for a while, Laura’s options are slimmer than most but, after delving into the family recipe box, Laura finds herself baking an idea in her head.

Of course life isn’t that simple and, despite Laura working out what she could do with her children at university, her life took a dramatic turn. I just wanted to step into the book and give her a big hug when I read what had happened. Veronica Henry wrote that part brilliantly as we were able to see both sides of the story, even though a lot of readers (if you’re anything like me) will forge their own opinion on said events and might refuse to see the situation from both sides. I know at first I did!

‘A Family Recipe’ tickled my taste buds in more ways than I could ever imagine. The strong, addictive theme was an incredible basis for the storyline itself, pulling me further in with every turn of the page. I loved every single word, every single page, and absolutely every little thing about this book! Veronica Henry has delivered an outstanding and thought-provoking novel in such a flawless manner – I really do wish I could bottle the feelings this book gave me as I never want to let them go.

A vibrant, emotive, appetising, and joyous read from the incredibly talented, Veronica Henry. I couldn’t love this book even more if I tried and it is definitely the authors best book yet, and my most favourite book of all time. ‘A Family Recipe’ is everything I could have ever dreamed of for a book, and it has been an incredible honour to read. I cannot recommend this book enough.

‘A Family Recipe’ by Veronica Henry is due to be published on the 17th May and can be pre-ordered now from Amazon