My Mother’s Secret by Sanjida Kay – Guest Post.

 

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Sanjida Kay is one of my favourite authors and her new book My Mother’s Secret is due to be published on 3rd May. It is my pleasure today to host a guest post talking about cake, which there is a lot of in the book. I will tell you what the book is about first.

About the book

Lizzie Bradshaw. A student from the Lake District, forced to work away from home, who witnesses a terrible crime. But who will ultimately pay the price? Emma Taylor. A mother, a wife, and a woman with a dangerous secret. Can she keep her beloved family safely together? Stella Taylor. A disaffected teenager, determined to discover what her mother is hiding. But how far will she go to uncover the truth? And one man, powerful, manipulative and cunning, who controls all their destinies.

Cake! by Sanjida Kay

 

 

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There are 25 different kinds of cake name-checked in My Mother’s Secret, from Daim cake bought over the counter in Ikea, to scones with cream and jam, and lavender shortbread, served with Earl Grey from Tyntesfield’s National Trust tea shop, to chocolate-orange brownies and courgette cake decorated with a cream-cheese frosting and scattered with rose petals and rosemary flowers, made by my protagonist, Emma Taylor.

‘The chocolate cake doesn’t rise, so Harry and I rescue it by soaking it with an espresso-rum syrup and layering it in tiers with salted-caramel butter cream.’
Emma Taylor

It’s an odd juxtaposition: cake and crime. Emma is a baker, working in Kate’s. Although she spends her days in what seems the most secure and seductively comforting of occupations – baking cakes and sourdough bread – Emma is anxious and nervous, hiding a terrible secret from her family and her friends. Whilst she rises around 4 a.m. to feed the yeast, her teenage daughter, Stella, is spying on her, determined to find out what her mother’s secret is. Meanwhile, a young student, Lizzie Bradshaw, out of her comfort zone in Leeds city centre, witnesses a shocking crime that will have repercussions for the rest of her life.

‘She doesn’t like alcohol in cakes. That’s Katie’s thing. And she isn’t into gluten-free or, you know, polenta. She doesn’t think it’s right for cake. Anyway, it’s what poor people eat.’ My dad winces, in spite of his best Dr Seuss face. ‘In developing countries like Mexico, I mean. You have to be middle-class to afford it here.’
Stella Taylor

The cakes – from the blackberry muffins, to the Black-forest gateau – are, of course, symbols of security, but in a thriller, nowhere, least of all the places where we live and work, are safe.
‘It sounds like something a pirate would eat.’
Paul Bradshaw

Whilst I was researching this novel, I had to delve into organised crime on the one hand, and on the other, hang out in a bakery (Hart’s Bakery in Bristol, which is the one Kate’s is based on) learning how to make croissants and discovering what on earth a friand is. Fortunately, I love baking anyhow so I found it a wonderful indulgence and a relief to write about cake in between the rather more chilling happenings in My Mother’s Secret.

‘She’d like a Victoria sponge with lots of cream and some fruit. Raspberries and jam. Something simple.’
He looks disappointed. I can see he wanted a statement of a cake. Like his love.
Stella Taylor

Unlike Emma, though, I don’t eat gluten and try not to consume sugar, so cake, in my real life, is an infrequent treat, usually made with polenta or gluten-free flour and sweetened with dates. Emma would not approve.

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The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Having reached a dead-end in Boston, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs a change. When she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who is moving to rural Pennsylvania, Leah decides to join her. But their fresh start is quickly threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.
Determined to find Emmy, Leah helps Detective Kyle Donovan to investigate her friend’s life for clues. But with no friends, family or digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Forced to question her version of reality and to save herself, Leah must uncover the truth – no matter how dark or terrible it may be…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

I was looking forward to reading The Perfect Stranger having enjoying reading All The Missing Girls.
After Leah is forced to leave the career that she loves she is encouraged by an old university friend, Emmy, to accompany her to Pennsylvania. She becomes a teacher and is adapting to her new life when the attack on the woman who looks like her followed immediately by the disappearance of Emmy puts her on edge.
It is a novel that has you questioning everything. Does Emmy exist? How much do the students know? Can Kyle be trusted?  And most importantly, how reliable a narrator is Leah?
At first I struggled to answer any of these questions. It was only in the second half of the book when I started to have any faith in my judgement. As more is revealed you realise how desperate Leah must have been to live with a woman who she knew nothing about. She was putting her faith in somebody who was a salvation when life reached critical point when they were at university. But was she relying on the wrong person? Why is Emmy so insistent on nobody being able to find her?
It is a novel where no characters stood out as being ones to like or dislike, even though I did like Leah more as I got to know and understand her. There is one, however, who I had anticipated disliking from the moment I met them. That is, until I realised I had been wrong footed. I am sure I won’t be the only one who had this character as a troublemaker only to see their true personality later in the novel.
A good follow-up novel with a fantastic ending. I will definitely read more books by this author.

The Perfect Stranger can be purchased here

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Holly Seddon – My Publication Day.

 

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It is my pleasure to welcome Holly Seddon to my blog to talk about what publication day means to her. Holly has had two novels published and I have read and enjoyed both of them.

How did you spend the day?

When my first book, Try Not to Breathe, came out in the UK, I was in Amsterdam where I live. I felt very weird and disconnected, and a little jealous as I watched my friends and family sharing pictures of themselves in bookshops with it, while I sat at home. So, this time, I made sure I was in the UK.

The evening was spent at my launch party, where I failed to eat anything (rookie error) and then got completely trashed. The run up to the party (and the dreaded speech) was full of welcome distractions like having my hair done and finalising the party play list.

Will you be following reviews from early readers or do prefer not to know?

I do follow reviews. I probably shouldn’t, it’s not good for the ego either way! Good reviews can be a little paralysing when you’re also working on your next book, while bad reviews can be tough to move past. You want to reply to reviewers and explain, or defend your characters, and of course you can’t do that.

I’ve been very lucky with reviews, but I am getting to the point where I’m trying to wean myself off the daily checks!

Is it emotional, getting the novel you have worked on for months into the public eye?

Very. With Don’t Close Your Eyes, I feel especially emotional about the characters being in the public eye. One in particular (I can’t say who without giving things away) broke my heart to write and so I was very moved knowing they were out there, and a bit protective.

If you have had books published before, does the feeling change?

Yes and no. I knew what to expect, so it wasn’t so heightened, but I still felt nervous, emotional, proud… and then drunk.

I often wonder and imagine that when your novel is published and you have been working on at least one novel since, is the book that is published less important?

That’s a good question. It’s not less important as such, but it can be jarring leaving the world of your current work in progress to revisit a plot, setting and characters that you finished working on some time ago. Embarrassingly, I actually forgot a minor plot point during an interview… hopefully I styled it out but it does happen!

And is it a distraction, welcome or otherwise having to focus on what is for you old material?

It’s a quirk of the job that’s unlike many other things. I guess people who work in films or television have a similar experience where they’ve ‘wrapped up’ months or years before and then have to talk about it like it’s as fresh for them as everyone watching for the first time.

I can’t think of many careers – certainly none I’ve had before – where that’s part of the job description. But it’s a privilege and I’m happy to do it.

What was your publication day treat? Champagne, cream cake, 10km run?

Bit of a weird one, considering I don’t eat meat, but it’s going to the burger joint Shake Shack.

We don’t have them in Holland and when we flew over to London for my first launch party last January, we took our youngest kids to Shake Shack for dinner and decided that would be our ritual. So, at lunch time on the day Don’t Close Your Eyes came out, during a heat wave, we were clustered around a small table eating burgers (or, in my case, a Portobello mushroom in a bap), fries and milkshakes. I probably should have chosen champagne…

Thanks Holly

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Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon – Review.

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About the Book

Robin and Sarah weren’t the closest of twins. They weren’t even that similar. But they loved each other dearly. Until, in the cruellest of domestic twists, they were taken from one another.
Now, in her early 30s, Robin lives alone. Agoraphobic and suffering from panic attacks, she spends her days pacing the rooms of her house. The rest of the time she watches – watches the street, the houses, the neighbours. Until one day, she sees something she shouldn’t…
And Sarah? Sarah got what she wanted – the good-looking man, the beautiful baby, the perfect home. But she’s just been accused of the most terrible thing of all. She can’t be around her new family until she has come to terms with something that happened a long time ago. And to do that, she needs to track down her twin sister.
But Sarah isn’t the only person looking for Robin. As their paths intersect, something dangerous is set in motion, leading Robin and Sarah to fight for much more than their relationship…

My Review

Wow!
Whilst I enjoyed reading Holly Seddon’s debut novel last year, Try Not To Breathe, I found this book to be much more gripping. Robin and Sarah are twins who are unidentical in every way. They don’t even appear to have the bond that you always hear about with twins.
The novel switches narrative between the two of them throughout the entire novel. Both in modern day and when they were children, when their lives started to disintegrate. Much of novel concerns emotional trauma and how each of the children coped. Mainly without any assistance from their selfish parents who don’t even seem to notice what they might be going through.
In modern day, Robin was struggling to cope. She is agoraphobic and has become fascinated about what she sees out of her window. The way that she deals with what is happening around her is convincing and upsetting equally. She could come across in her childhood and as an adult as being aggressive and unreliable but I loved her.
Sarah was more of a good girl. The sister who was always clean and tidy and good at being noticed. But she also had issues, she just handled them differently. I ached to know what had gone so wrong with her marriage and what her plans were to resolve them.
In no way at all did I see the twist coming. I went back over parts of the book and reread, just so I could see how easily I had been duped. It was jaw dropping.
This was a fantastic follow up and I’m certain it will be one of the top books for the summer.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received

The Stolen Child by Sanjida Kay – Review.

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About the Book

Zoe and Ollie Morley tried for years to have a baby and couldn’t. They turned to adoption and their dreams came true when they were approved to adopt a little girl from birth. They named her Evie.
Seven years later, the family has moved to Yorkshire and grown in number: a wonderful surprise in the form of baby Ben. As a working mum, it’s not easy for Zoe, but life is good.
But then Evie begins to receive letters and gifts.
The sender claims to be her birth father.
He has been looking for his daughter.
And now he is coming to take her back…

My Review

The Stolen Child starts with an excerpt from one of my favourite poems and had me hooked from the opening chapter.
Zoe and Ollie Morley adopted a baby girl and then a few years later had a son of their own. They moved back to Zoe’s home town of Ilkley where Ollie has a successful career as an accountant and Zoe is trying to build a career as an artist.
Evie has a few problems, some of which appear to be caused by her natural mother taking drugs whilst she was pregnant with her. So, life isn’t always easy for Zoe, Ollie is absent a lot with his work and she must deal with Evie’s issues on her own. But these are nothing compared to how hard life gets when Evie’s natural father contacts her.
I don’t recall ever feeling so tense when reading a novel before. Not only from the anxiety experienced by Zoe and Ollie but also the threat to other members of the family. I think I suspected everybody who featured, and as my options run out and I guessed who it was, it was all for the wrong reasons.
It wasn’t just the storyline that had me so gripped. There was also the description of Ilkley Moor which also has a major role in the novel. The power and remoteness that in the wrong weather could be dangerous. It is an area that I am now looking at going to later in the year. I would love to see what Zoe painted.
An excellent follow up to Bone by Bone, readers of that will not be disappointed.
You can buy the book here
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Even my little pal enjoyed it…

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