#TheDaySheCameBack @MrsAmandaProwse @BOTBSPublicity #BookReview #AmandaProwse

It feels like it has been ages since I last read an Amanda Prowse novel! Many thanks to Sarah for asking me to be involved in the blog tour for ‘The Day She Came Back’, and to the publisher for supplying me with a review copy.

From the bestselling author of The Girl in the Corner comes a story that asks: how do you forgive the family that lied to you, and love the mum you never had?

When her loving, free-spirited grandmother Primrose passes away, Victoria is bereft, yet resilient—she has survived tragedy before. But even her strength is tested when a mysterious woman attends Prim’s funeral and claims to be the mother Victoria thought was dead.

As the two women get to know each other and Victoria begins to learn more about her past, it becomes clear that her beloved grandmother had been keeping life-changing secrets from her. Desperate for answers, she still struggles to trust anyone to tell her the truth.

To live a full and happy life, Victoria knows she must not only uncover the truth, but find a way to forgive her family. But after so many years, is trusting them even possible?


What does TWG think?

Can you imagine being told one thing for the duration of your life so far, only to then be told that it was a complete lie? I don’t mean being told that your favourite Teddy has been binned, despite being told that it was in the loft, or some other not so important lie. I’m meaning a massive, your mother is dead, oh wait….she’s not, type of lie. I cannot even begin to think about how Victoria felt after being betrayed by the person she trusted the most.

Obviously there are two sides to every story, and the reasons behind the betrayal become a lot clearer as the storyline progresses. However, being the cynic that I am, i couldn’t quite see how the lie was justified at all. Yes, Victoria’s grandmother had her best interests at heart, I’m not disputing that at all, but to say that her mother was dead when she wasn’t, is a step too far in my eyes.

Just to clarify, my points so far are not spoilers because they’re in the blurb….just incase anyone was thinking that I had ruined the book!

I’ll give Victoria her due, I certainly couldn’t have done what she did by meeting up with the new found person in her life. Then again, I can definitely see how being intrigued about any information she could have been given, would have been enough to go through with it.

For a young adult, Victoria seemed to have a good head on her shoulders….well, until the one night where she didn’t. Don’t blame her though, grief does weird things to your mind! What I am curious about though, is if Primose stayed alive, would Victoria be able to forgive her? Was the death of her grandmother enough to build the bridge between betrayal and moving on?

Betrayal is such a personal thing, something which nobody can truly understand unless they are the people, or person, going through said thing at said time. Nobody has any right to tell you how to feel, or that your feelings are unjustified all because they are different to how they would act. The thing is, with a topic so deep routed such as this, surmising our own reactions to it would be nion impossible because, think about it; if Victoria struggled to work out what to do and she was slap bang in the centre of everything, how would we, people who are outsider’s looking in, manage to work it out?

What I loved most about this book was the way in which Amanda Prowse made her characters come to life, and the way in which she believed in their journeys. A lot of the topics discussed in this book are ones of the quite serious nature. Topics which need to be fed well in order to be believable and realistic, and I felt that Amanda Prowse went above and beyond to make that happen. Now, I’m not entirely sure whether the author has been through similar things in her life, however I felt like she had a connection to her characters that comes with understanding what they are going through or what they have been through. That sort of understanding comes with life lessons and not through Google – I may be wrong though! Either way, I truly felt what Amanda Prowse was trying to convey. I would even go as far to say that it was magic.

‘The Day She Came Back’ is a wholesome, enlightening, thought provoking, hopeful read that takes you down paths you probably never expected to go on. The beauty of this novel is the sense of being understood, something that is so simple to say, yet one of the most complicated things to do. Amanda Prowse nails it, brilliantly.

Buy now.

#Anna – Laura Guthrie @catherinespark @cranachanbooks @lovebooksgroup

Hugest of thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroup for inviting me to take part in ‘Anna’ by Laura Guthrie, and thank you to the publisher, Cranachan Books, for supplying me a review copy.

Every cloud has a silver lining. Doesn’t it?

Anna is thirteen years old, lives in London with her father, and has Asperger’s syndrome.

When her father dies she travels up to the Scottish Central Belt to live with her estranged, reclusive mother. With little support to help her fit in, she must use everything her father taught her—especially her ‘Happy Game’—to integrate into her new community, connect with her mother, discover her past, and cope with the challenges along the way.

What does TWG think?

It’s very rare for me to read a book that is told by the point of view of a child. Now that’s not because I don’t ‘choose’ those types of books to read, it just isn’t often that I come across books written in this way. Seeing as I am so used to storylines with older characters at the focal point of the storyline, it was a little bit difficult at times to remember that Anna was only thirteen years old. She wasn’t an adult that had gone through a marriage, had a child, miscarriage, or made lifechanging mistakes, instead she was a child that was grieving the loss of a parent. A child who was moving away from all she has ever known, to live with someone who she didn’t really know, in a place she wasn’t aware of. All of that is hard enough for any person to deal with, let alone a child with asperger’s.

The topic of asperger’s is very close to my heart as my not so little brother is on the spectrum. Even with that in mind, everyone with asperger’s is unique. Their stories are different. Their outlooks are different, and nobody quite knows what all of that entails unless they’re living that life. Or, if they read books such as this one, which gives an insight to such a misunderstood syndrome.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, however I did find parts of the storyline a bit unmatched, as though I was teleporting to different events without learning the path that was taken to get there. It did confuse me at times, especially as I did feel like I was missing pieces of information and several pieces of the puzzle.

‘Anna’ was a really insightful and heartwarming read which allowed me to look at life in the way that it should be looked at; simply. I found Anna herself, to be a breath of fresh air, and her reactions to the challenges she faced was incredible. She definitely could teach many adults a thing or two, including myself.

If you’re looking for a unique, memorable, breath of fresh air type read, then I highly recommend you purchase this pronto.

Buy now.

Would you get in contact with someone you used to love, even though theres a chance they might not want to talk? #TheManILovedBefore @bookouture @AnnaMansell #blogtour

Many thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to take part in Anna Mansell’s blog tour, and for providing me with an ARC. Here is my review:

‘Dear Ben, I can only write you this letter because I know you’ll never read it…’

When Jem writes to her ex Ben, it’s to explain everything. All the secrets she kept from him – from the little lies she’d sometimes tell about how new those shoes really were, or how many glasses of wine she’d had that evening… right up to The Big Thing that happened on the night that changed everything. But she never expects he will actually see what she’s written.

She is just writing because she thinks it will help to get the words out. Later, she resolves, she’ll burn the letter, and then the past will be in the past for good.

Because Jem is doing fine now. She’s busy: working, spending time with her best friend, and looking after her mother, who’s in remission from cancer. She’s even dating again and has just met a guy who she thinks she could actually fall for. At long last, Jem is really, definitely somewhere close to happy.

But her mum finds the letter and thinks she’s doing Jem a favour when she posts it to Ben. And Jem’s new, carefully rebuilt life begins to unravel in ways she could never have imagined. Then, when her mother gets ill again, she finds herself asking who has the key to her future. The man she’s falling in love with now? Or the man she loved before?

What does TWG think?

Theres a lot of various avenues to explore in ‘The Man I Loved Before’. Not only is Jem finding it difficult to get over the man who had her heart, her mum was in remission from cancer. And, if that wasn’t enough, Jem finds herself being pulled in directions that arent good for her emotional wellbeing that ends up threatening her friendship with her best friend.

I reckon a lot of readers would find it difficult not to be empathetic towards Jem. The situations she deals with is more than enough for several people to contend with, let alone just one. Of course the fact that Jem’s mum is in remission is clearly good news, however with something like that, you cant help but wait for it to return. Not only that, her mum didnt return to her usual self after the cancer.

I enjoyed the realism of the storyline as it focused on things that can happen to real life people, without pretending that life is hunkydory because, contrary to popular belief, it isnt always like that. I appreciated the angle of the book, even though it was emotional at times and very powerful.

When Jem found herself in a sticky situation later on in the book, it did bring memories back for me as I had been in a similar boat myself many years ago. It wasnt easy to read, but i respected the author for including a topic that is often seen as taboo. However (sorry), I felt that it overpowered the rest of the book and took my attention away from other scenes in the book that I felt were important.

‘The Man I Loved Before’ is a romantic, poignant, topical read which puts relationships to the test big time. I really enjoyed the heartfelt storyline but, most importantly, I loved how difficult topics were given their time to shine in attempt to help others understand. Something that Anna Mansell has Mansell exceptionally well.

Buy now.

You’ve got #ThreeHours…how would you use them? #ThreeHoursNovel @RosamundLupton @VikingBooksUK #review

I honestly doubt that my review of ‘Three Hours’ will do the book justice at all, but I will try my very best. Hugest of thanks to Viking for the tour invite and ARC.

Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.

What does TWG think?

For someone who talks a lot, I’m struggling to find the words to express just how much ‘Three Hours’ blew my mind.

It isnt often that I have to stop reading a book for a few minutes every now and then, just so I could digest every emotion, every situation, and every single detail about the storyline. But that was the case with this book, and what a book it was.

‘Three Hours’ tells the story of a school community who are forced in a situation no-one should ever be in. Lives are at stake. Friendships are at stake. And all because of what? Racism? Bigots? Refugees? Psychopaths?

This story raised my blood pressure and stressed me out, yet given the nature of the book and what it was centred around, I would have been shocked if that hadn’t been the case.

Despite being a fictional story, Rosamund Lupton has referred to real life situations in her book which added to the authenticity and suspense, cementing the reality that people do indeed go through similar situations in their lives. They shouldn’t, and it made me feel quite emotional to see just how evil other people can be. Regardless of religion, skin colour, place of birth etc, they’re still humans and nobody should ever be made to feel anything but.

‘Three Hours’ is such a chilling, yet hauntingly beautiful read, and is one I will not be forgetting in a hurry. I feel bad saying that I loved the book as terror and gunmen dominated the essence of the book, however it was due to the topic and the way that Rosamund Lupton delivered it, which completely blew me away.

I cannot even begin to imagine the terror that refugees feel, nor can I imagine the fear that people must feel if they find themselves in amongst a siege. Even the thought of it sends shivers up and down my spine.

This is an absolutely breathtaking, chilling, raw and poignant novel that makes you sit up and take notice. Three hours may seem like a short amount of time, yet when you’re faced with a life or death situation, three hours can be a lifetime.

I am incredibly honoured that I got the chance to read a book that has ‘film rights’ written all over it, especially one as outstanding as ‘Three Hours’. This is, without a doubt, one of my all time favourite reads, and is one that I will be shouting about for a very long time to come.

Buy now

The Mother I Could Have Been, or the mother I want to be? #TheMotherICouldHaveBeen @KerryFSwayne #KerryFisher @Bookouture #blogger

Thanks so much to Bookouture for the ARC and tour invite for Kerry Fisher and ‘The Mother I Could Have Been’. Here is my review:

Why would you walk away from the one person you can’t live without?

As a child, Vicky Hall never had the sort of family she wanted. The least important person in her new step-family, ignored by her mother in favour of her two younger half-siblings, Vicky was always an afterthought. Sitting alone at her graduation ceremony at the age of twenty-one, she vows to create her own family and her own life, one which is full of the love and attention she has always craved.

When Vicky meets William and falls pregnant in Greece that summer, it isn’t planned. But the two of them believe they can make it work, showering their child with the love which they believe should be enough.

But when her son Theo is two, Vicky leaves him in the care of her mother-in-law, walks out of her front door and drives to a hotel where she takes a room for the night. She doesn’t return.

It’s unthinkable.

What kind of mother does that?

The kind who is hiding a story you can never imagine.

What does TWG think?

Please say that I wasnt the only one to read this thinking, ‘how could anyone walk away from their own child?’

Now before anyone reading this thinks I’m judging, I’m not because, even though the above thought kept going through my mind as though stuck on repeat, there are times where we have no idea what goes through someone else’s mind in one particular moment. Naturally, as the story progressed, the reasons behind Vicky’s departure became clear. But, just like Caro, another character who appears later in the book, thought, were those reasons a justifiable reason overall?

I could see where Vicky was coming from. Her sons grandmother even got my back up and yes, I had the urge to shout at the interfering witch through my kindle. Vicky had next to no confidence. She couldn’t even trust herself to make the right decision because she didn’t believe that those decisions were right. She doubted every move she made, every thought that crossed her mind – everything. I did feel for her as I could see that she was battling against her own mind and herself. In all honesty, I found it quite heartbreaking that Vicky felt so lost, like she couldnt reach out to her family in fear of judgement. Scary how powerful fear can be, isnt it?

I mentioned Caro further up in my review and, just like Vicky, she was also battling with herself because of the mislaid communication with her family, especially daughter, India. Again, it would be quick of us, as readers, to judge the situations in this book, and it would be so easy for us to sit and shout about how we would do things differently. Would we though? India was such an immature character who seriously needed to grow up and, even though I wanted to shout that, I was also able to see that the character had her own demons to deal with.

Kerry Fisher, as I’m sure you can tell, gave me a lot of food for thought with her latest book. It also goes to show that, whilst our eyes want to see one thing, our minds want to believe something completely different. Fisher highlighted how life isn’t always plain sailing and that people find themselves making decisions which will change their life, and the lives of others, for a good long while.

I’m going round the houses here, apologies. I appreciated the strength of the storyline and the sheer power and determination of every single character mentioned. Yes, they all had their flaws, but to them they were doing the best that they possibly could.

I thought Kerry Fisher absolutely nailed this book. It was suspenseful, relatable, emotional, intense, yet still an unbreakable novel which had the power of the entire world in its hands. I loved it.

Buy now.

The Nine Lives of Christmas #FlorenceMcNicoll #Battersea @orionbooks #Blogtour

Many thanks to Orion for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for ‘The Nine Lives of Christmas’ by Florence McNicoll, and for the ARC. Here is my review:

Can Battersea’s loneliest cat find a home in time for Christmas?

It’s Christmas at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and Laura is desperate to find a home for Felicia, a spiky, bad-tempered moggy with a heart of gold. Her boyfriend, Rob, can’t understand why she’s spending so much time at work, but for Laura, the animals aren’t just a job – they’re her life. She needs a partner who understands that – doesn’t she?

As the December snow falls, Laura encounters nine people, all of whom need a little love in their lives and find it in new pets. Everyone needs somebody to curl up with at Christmas, and when the handsome Aaron walks in, he takes not just Felicia, but Laura’s heart too…

What does TWG think?

Oh my heart!!! If you’re not an animal lover already, then there is a high chance you will be by the end of the book!

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is the setting for this story, and main character, Laura, is determined to find Mrs Grumpy Cat aka Felicia, a new home for Christmas. If Laura had her way, all of the animals would have a home with her but seeing as that wouldn’t be feasible, she intends to find homes for as many of the animals as she can.

This is such a special, special book. The fact that the author is trying to give rescue animals the attention that they deserve, so that they can find new homes, is such a selfless act. I mean, who wouldn’t go onto Battersea’s website after reading this? Or any other animal shelter?

They say that a pet is for life, not just for Christmas and, whilst that is certainly true, people need to remember that a lot of animals fit themselves without a special lap to fall asleep on during the cold months, and months after. Even grumpy ones like Felicia!

I fell in love with Felicia and the story! Her grumpy nature didn’t scare me at all and I had everything crossed that she would finally get her happy ending in a home where someone loves her. I am in awe of people like Laura who take care of animals as a job as, just like Laura says, the animals are like her family and not just a job.

‘The Nine Lives of Christmas’ is a heartwarming and emotive read, where the true essence of love gets sprinkled over the characters like fairy dust. If you find yourself with space in your home and space in your heart, maybe you might find what you’re looking for in a local rescue shelter.

Thought provoking, endearing, and an all round festive treat. Really enjoyed it.

Pre-order now (published 14th November).

My gift to @CathyKellyBooks is….#TheFamilyGift! Congratulations on your 20th book! @OrionBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

What an achievement! Massive congratulations to Cathy Kelly on the publication of her 20th novel, The Family Gift. Huge thanks to Tracy for the blog tour invite, and thank you to Orion for the ARC. Here is my review:

Freya Abalone has a big, messy, wonderful family, a fantastic career, and a new house.

But that’s on the outside.

On the inside, she’s got Mildred – the name she’s given to that nagging inner critic who tells us all we’re not good enough.

And now Freya’s beloved blended family is under threat. Dan’s first wife Elisa, the glamorous, manipulative woman who happily abandoned her daughter to Freya and Dan’s care and left the country, has elbowed her way back into their lives.

But Freya knows that when life gives you lemons, you throw them right back.

What does TWG think?

With ‘The Family Gift’ having a bit of a slow, uncertain start to it, I wasn’t sure whether the storyline was going to have enough to keep me hanging on. Why did I want to know about a woman who was struggling to deal with her emotions? Why did I want to hear about a family who had picked the short straw in their life?

Well, I’ll tell you why I DID want to know all of that – because it’s real life. ‘The Family Gift’ had a jam packed storyline that contained more than enough to keep me hanging on until the end.

Freya IS struggling with her emotions after being the victim of a late night attack. Freya IS struggling with her emotions due to an unwanted person returning to her life, and yes, she is also struggling with her emotions because some of the people she loves the most, are hurting and she cannot do anything to help them.

Throughout the book, Freya welcomes her subconscious, Mildred, into the fold. You know, the voice in the back of our heads that we all love to hate. The one who ALWAYS has an answer for anything.

The fact that Freya was frightened to talk about her feelings in fear of disappointing her loved ones, coming across as weak, or ruining her career because she didn’t lead the positive, bouncy life that she had been told her fans wanted to see; struck a chord with me. Nobody should feel ashamed when it comes to talking about their worries, their fears, their mental health. Nobody should feel as though they need to pretend to be happy in case people dont like them anymore. Nobody should be ashamed of being true to themselves, all because of what someone else believes.

I think that the message, Cathy Kelly, conveyed in her storyline was such an important one, and something I truly think that everyone needs to know. Its heartbreaking feeling as though you cant talk about what’s concerning you, whether it’s big or small, because of other people. I am talking from personal experience here, especially now as I am in a similar mindset to Freya and I needed to hear that it’s okay to admit that you’re struggling, or that you’re not coping. We are human and NOBODY has the right to invalidate our feelings because others think that the only way through is to just ‘get on with it’. I know I have veered off slightly here, and I do apologise, I just think that Cathy Kelly did something momentous by including a topic so stigmatic, in her book.

I finished ‘The Family Gift’ with a sense of belonging. I adored the heart and the concept of the book, and I felt that Cathy Kelly had executed the emotion and realism, absolutely beautifully. This was, by far, one of the most humbling, hopeful, and pivotal books I have ever read. A true diamond in the rough.

Buy now.

Fiona Valpy is back with a fab new #book, #TheDressmakersGift..and #TWG #reviews it for the #blogtour! @AmazonPub @ed_pr @FionaValpy

Many thanks to EdPr for inviting me to take in the blog tour for Fiona Valpy’s STUNNING novel, ‘The Dressmaker’s Gift’, and for the ARC. I am delighted to be reviewing the book as part of the blog tour today!

From the bestselling author of The Beekeeper’s Promise comes a gripping story of three young women faced with impossible choices. How will history – and their families – judge them?

Paris, 1940. With the city occupied by the Nazis, three young seamstresses go about their normal lives as best they can. But all three are hiding secrets. War-scarred Mireille is fighting with the Resistance; Claire has been seduced by a German officer; and Vivienne’s involvement is something she can’t reveal to either of them.

Two generations later, Claire’s English granddaughter Harriet arrives in Paris, rootless and adrift, desperate to find a connection with her past. Living and working in the same building on the Rue Cardinale, she learns the truth about her grandmother – and herself – and unravels a family history that is darker and more painful than she ever imagined.

In wartime, the three seamstresses face impossible choices when their secret activities put them in grave danger. Brought together by loyalty, threatened by betrayal, can they survive history’s darkest era without being torn apart?

What does TWG think?

Ever since I finished reading this book the other morning (early hours to be exact), I knew that I was going to struggle writing my review. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the book, it was the fact that I was so emotionally invested in Harriett’s story, both past and present.

I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and after reading ‘The Dressmaker’s Gift’, my love for the genre was cemented even more. Set in Paris in 1940 and then in Germany several years later, Valpy’s novel tells the story of Harriett’s ancestor, Claire, and her friends as they’re faced with living life during the war. As well as being set in the past, the story is also set in the ‘present day’ of 2017, making it a dual timeline and quite complex read.

Harriett hasn’t had it easy after losing her mum to suicide. She has never felt as though she belonged anywhere and, after finding a photograph from 1940, she was determined to find out more about where she came from. The truth becomes clear over the duration of the book, something I certainly wasn’t ready for let alone Harriett!

I’m sure a lot of you are aware of concentration camp, Auschwitz, but are you aware of the other camps? I knew of some, but nothing in depth, however that definitely changed as I learnt about Flossenburg. My goodness, my blood ran cold. The events that were described in this book about that camp were chilling, didistressing and incredibly heartbreaking. I had no idea that the Gustapo went to such lengths, and my heart broke for Claire, Vivi, and everyone else involved.

History and family ties is what makes ‘The Dressmaker’s Gift’ what it is, yet Fiona Valpy’s fragile storytelling is what gave me a body covered in goosebumps and a heart haphazardly put back together with sellotape.

Witnessing the events from 1940 through the eyes of Claire and friends, was something I will never be able to forget. The things those women endured is what people actually went through, all because of one selfish and evil individual. Its disgraceful, disgusting, diabolical, but from the bottom of my heart (not that anyone involved would be able to read this), I want to say thank you to all the soldiers who fought for the good of the people, and thank you to everyone who lost their lives for our freedom today. I wish they hadn’t.

Sorry, went off on a tangent there but it needed to be said.

I absolutely adored ‘The Dressmaker’s Gift’ for both its beauty and its emotive undertone. Fiona Valpy is an exceptional author who has given those who can no longer speak, a voice and the ability to share the power of their wisdom.

I won’t lie, this book broke me and left me utterly speechless, yet I cannot recommend it enough. This is power at its finest, poignancy in all its beauty, and the history which makes time stand still all over again. A beautiful, powerful and emotive read – one of the best books I have ever read.

The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy is out now, published by Lake Union in paperback original and e-Book.

Buy now.

#BlogTour! #Review – #FindingBlossomsintheDarkness by Simin Sarikhani (@FindingBlossoms) @Bookollective

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Bit of an emotional blog tour for you now, courtesy of Simin Sarikhani and ‘Finding Blossoms in the Darkness’. Thank you to Bookollective for the blog tour invite and ARC. Here is my review:

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A deeply moving memoir of a mother’s journey through deepest loss to hope. Beautifully designed and produced, featuring the gorgeous illustrations of Lesley Buckingham. Publication supported by imaginative marketing and publicity campaigns from Cultureshock and Bookseller Rising Stars Bookollective.

A refugee from revolutionary Iran, Simin Sarikhani had fled her home, leaving all that she had to make a new life on the other side of the world. Although no stranger to life’s challenges, she would face none so great as the death of her only child, Zhubin, at the age of 21. This heartfelt account describes one mother’s journey through the unbearable pain of a child’s death to find what had seemed forever lost: hope, meaning, love and even joy.

Guided by the letters her son wrote to her to be read after his death, and his other insightful writings, Simin was able to find light in the darkness. In this book, she shares not only her own story but also Zhubin’s simple words, with the wish that they may also bring some comfort to other bereaved parents. Simin Sarikhani was born in Iran, and now divides her time between London and Montreal. Finding Blossoms in the Darkness is her first book.

What does TWG think?

Just as I was getting ready to write this blog post, ‘Footprints in the Sand’ by Leona Lewis, came on Youtube. I don’t think my background music, while I’m typing this, could be more apt!

I’m not going to sit here and say that this is an easy read, because it’s far from it. I’m also not going to sit here and say that I read it in one fell swoop either, because I didn’t. To be honest with you all, ‘Finding Blossoms in the Darkness’ isn’t a book that can be read cover to cover, not unless you’re going to read through eyes like waterfalls and a nose like a fountain. Not a pretty image really, is it! However, this book is pretty….pretty emotive and pretty poignant. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that Simin felt when she lost her son, Zhubin, It takes a lot of courage, and a lot of strength to be able to put those emotions into words for other people, especially strangers, to read.

I won’t lie, I became incredibly emotional reading ‘Finding Blossoms’, both for Simin, the boy she lost, and for all of the other people in the world who have had to deal with something similar. Life isn’t fair at all, but the fact that Simin chose to share her grief alongside feelings of hope, love, and poignancy was incredibly moving. A breath of fresh air if you will. Everyone deals with grief in different ways, there’s no right or wrong way of how somebody approaches and digests those feelings. I want to thank Simin for choosing to share her story with the world. I want to thank her for sharing the heartache, the loss, the feelings of despair. I want to thank her for sharing the love for her son, a love that will never, ever go away.

‘Finding Blossoms in the Darkness’ may be a memoir about Simin’s own personal loss, however it is also a book which will no doubt give other bereaved parents, or members of the family, the strength to breathe.

Buy now from Amazon UK

#Review – #TheFirstBreath by Olivia Gordon (@OliviaGordon) @Booksbybluebird @Panmacmillan #nonfiction #medicalmemoir

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(ARC received from the publisher, many thanks).

This is a story about the cutting-edge medicine that has saved a generation of babies.

It’s about the love and fear a parent feels for a child they haven’t yet met.

It’s about doctors, mothers, fathers and babies as together they fight for the first breath.

The First Breath is the first popular science book about the pioneering fetal and neonatal medicine bringing a new generation into the world – a generation of babies without precedent, who would not have lived if they had been born only a few decades ago.

Olivia Gordon explores the female experience of medicine through her own personal story and sensitive, intimate case histories of other mothers’ high-risk births. She details the relationship mothers develop with doctors who hold not only life and death in their hands, but also the very possibility of birth.

From the dawn of fetal medicine to neonatal surgery and the exploding field of perinatal genetics, The First Breath tells of fear, bravery and love. Olivia Gordon takes the reader behind the closed doors of the fetal and neonatal intensive care units, resuscitation rooms and operating theatres at some of the world’s leading children’s hospitals, unveiling the untold story of how doctors save the sickest babies.

What does TWG think?

2019 is the year I decided to lose myself in medical memoirs. I used to be quite afraid of reading books about such sensitive and often harrowing subjects that non-fiction books cover, however those topics are what people have personally endured. Those books tell readers about a journey that they would love other people to understand, or to be aware of. ‘The First Breath’ is one of those books. In fact, it’s one of those types of books which make a lump the size of a crater, form in your throat, hoping that no-one will talk to you until that lump disappears, in fear of personally turning into a puddle.

If you’re a parent of a child who ended up in NICU, required surgery through the womb, or anything like that, a lot of what Olivia Gordon discusses will obviously hit home. If you haven’t been directly affected by such uncertain times, you’ll no doubt find yourself moved by Olivia Gordon’s honest and harrowing account. I was. I was astounded by what the medical profession can do to try and assist a sick baby both inside the womb, and out. I had no idea about half of the things mentioned in this book, and at times I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer extent of the medical jargon and what not.

There are a lot of medical facts throughout this book, of course, and there is also a lot of medical jargon which, to be perfectly honest, went over my head at times. Thankfully I had Google to help me to understand such terminology, and the author did give the definitions some of the time which helped, however there was still a lot that didn’t make sense for someone who hadn’t been in the position that Olivia Gordon had.

Like I say, I was blown away by the work of the surgeons, genetics teams and, the strength of the female body. I have had one child, a 9lb baby girl in 2013 and, even though I was classed as a high risk pregnancy due to my own illnesses, I to this day cannot quite believe what the human body can do. Seriously, females have 2 hearts in their bodies when they’re pregnant, and then they have to try and expel the baby once the placenta says ‘right, get out’. I mean, us ladies need to dilate to the size of a bagel. A BAGEL. Shocking really, isn’t it. So yeah, I think the female body is an exceptional thing and, like ‘First Breath’ describes, there are many times where babies unfortunately do not make it into this world and my heart goes out to every single person who has had to go through that.

The science behind this book is utterly fascinating, medical jargon aside, and the way in which Olivia Gordon incorporates her own personal experience alongside it, was both mind-blowing and incredibly emotional. Not only did the author relieve her own heartache and give the other families (and their babies mentioned in the book) a voice, she also showed the reality of the aftermath so to speak. She didn’t gloss over how difficult it was to have a child in NICU, or to have a child who ended up poorly with various challenges, for the rest of their life. She didn’t pretend that everything was rosy, nor did she hide the devastation of the procedures the surgeons carried out through the womb, because that’s just not life. It’s not realistic and, as much as we would love no-one to endure the heartbreak of losing a child, multiple children, or even their spouse/family member due to pregnancy or giving birth, it happens. But then on the other hand, there could be an extremely sick baby yet due to advanced medical science and the knowledge of surgeons and other members of the medical team, that baby may pull through.

I’m not going to sit here and say that ‘The First Breath’ was an easy read, because it wasn’t. It was very difficult to read most of the time, due to the sheer amount of emotion throughout, yet it was also a read which opened my eyes to the incredible work of the medical profession. It also opened my eyes to the challenges that parents of sick babies face, as well as the emotional turmoil and stress throughout the whole process. It was very clear that the not knowing, or the uncertainty of the future was one of the hardest things to come to terms with, as was the putting the life of your child in someone else’s hands.

‘The First Breath’ is a poignant, powerful, and devastating read which covers a topic a lot of mothers, fathers, and families will be able to relate with. I can only thank the author for sharing her own personal story, and I would like to send love to anyone who has ever been in this position.

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