#BookReview – The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva

When I received my copy of ‘The Existence of Amy’ I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as the cover is very unusual, but it certainly intrigued me and I couldn’t wait to get started!

The Blurb

Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead. 

A fictional story that depicts the reality of mental illness behind a perception of normality.

My Thoughts

‘The Existence of Amy‘ is clearly written by someone who has a high level of understanding of mental health, as Lana Grace Riva gives a real insight into what life is like living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (O.C.D). It is interesting that the author didn’t actually use the term O.C.D until near the end of the book, but really there was no need to as it was clear what Amy was struggling with. I hadn’t before appreciated the difficulties that some people face because of their O.C.D, something I feel is quite a taboo subject or one which is often taken lightly and underestimated, so it was quite the eye-opener.

Despite struggling with her own life, Amy is very considerate of others and completely appreciates how her behaviour is making them feel, which I found so profound. It is difficult to comprehend how one person can be experiencing such an arduous journey but is still able to feel compassion for others even when this is not reciprocated. I was rooting for Amy throughout the book, she is such a likeable character and I very much wanted her to find peace within herself.

Amy is so well supported. The relationships she has with her work colleagues is incredible and they go above and beyond to help her without her having to tell them what is wrong. I found it interesting that her male colleagues Ed and Nathan were more supportive than her female colleague Sally who didn’t seem to try to understand, but instead appeared irritated and angry with Amy. It made me wonder if this is the same in real life and how I would react if I were in the same situation.

Overall I would highly recommend, ‘The Existence of Amy’ particularly if you or someone you know has O.C.D. The moral of the story for me was: ‘Be Kind! You don’t know what others are going through’ something we could all do well to live by. Lana Grace Riva is certainly going to be one to watch and I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

About the Author

Lana Grace Riva has written two books, one non-fiction the other fiction, both based on her experiences of mental health. Her first book ‘Happier Thinking’ is a short collection of tips and exercises to maintain a healthy mind. Her second book ‘The Existence Of Amy’ is a fictional story based on a very real depiction of mental illness.  

Website: http://www.lanagraceriva.com

Buy your copy here…

Not The Deaths Imagined by Anne Pettigrew

This is my first ever cover reveal and I could not be more excited, particularly as the author is a fellow Scot! Anne Pettigrew’s new novel, ‘Not the Deaths Imagined‘, released on the 1st August 2020, sounds like my kind of book and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy.

Pre-order your copy now…

Blurb

In a leafy Glasgow suburb, Dr Beth Semple is busy juggling motherhood and full-time GP work in the 90s NHS. But her life becomes even more problematic when she notices some odd deaths in her neighbourhood. Though Beth believes the stories don’t add up, the authorities remain stubbornly unconvinced.

Soon, Beth’s professional reputation is challenged. There follows a chilling campaign of harassment and she finds her professional reputation – and family – are put at risk.

Is a charming local GP actually a serial killer? Can Beth piece together the jigsaw of perplexing fatalities and perhaps save lives? And as events accelerate towards a dramatic conclusion, will the police intervene in time?

From the author of Not the Life Imagined, this slow-burning tartan noir novel from a Bloody Scotland Crime Spotlight author follows Beth on another quest for justice. Reflecting Pettigrew’s own medical expertise, Not The Deaths Imagined re-affirms the benefits of growing up in a loving family and the need for friends in hard times, while offering insight into the twisted development of a psychopathic mind.

The Cover

So, without further ado, here is the cover for ‘Not the Deaths Imagined’

About Anne Pettigrew

Glasgow-born, 31 years a Greenock GP, graduate of University of Glasgow (Medicine 1974) and Oxford (MSc Medical Anthropology 2004). Worked also in psychiatry, women’s health, and  journalism (Herald, Pulse, Doctor, Channel 4). In retirement took Creative Writing tuition at Glasgow University aiming to pen novels about women doctors (rare in literature except as pathologists or in Mills & Boon). Runner-up in SAW Constable Award 2018, chosen as a 2019 Bloody Scotland Crime Spotlight Author – ‘one to watch.’ Member of several writers’ groups and a short story competition winner, she lives in Ayrshire and enjoys good books, good wine, and good company.

Follow Anne Pettigrew

Pre-order your copy now…

Top 10 Books for a One Year Old

As a book lover myself, it was really important to me that my daughter was introduced to as many books as possible to try to ignite a love for reading at an early age. Now, age 1, she loves nothing more than sitting and listening to a story. So I have compiled a top 10 list of her favourites for all of those parents of toddlers looking to engage their little ones in the world of stories.

1 – Ten Little Dinosaurs by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty

This is by far my daughter’s favourite story. She has actions and sound effects for every page and loves to hear it over and over again. The story tells the adventure of ten little dinosaurs as they leave their sleeping Mum to step foot into the big wide world. A great way to introduce counting backwards from ten to one.

2 – Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

I love this book because it introduces lots of other fairy tale characters such as Cinderella, Bo-Peep and the Three Bears. It is essentially a book of ‘I spy’ with clever illustrations that have characters hidden in them for your little one to find.

3 – That’s Not My Panda by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells

All of the Usborne touchy-feely books are excellent. They include lots of different textures and are designed to develop sensory awareness. When using these books with my daughter, I try to have the soft toy to go alongside it so she can relate more to the animal.

4 – On the Farm by Axel Scheffler

‘On the Farm’ is an interactive story with sliders which will keep your toddler engaged. I have found it to be a good introduction to animals that live on the farm and the noises they make.

5 – Oi Frog! by Kes Gray and Jim Field

‘Oi Frog!’ is a rhyming story about a cat who tells a frog where all of the animals should sit. What I like about this book is that it introduces more unusual animals such as weasels, gophers, gibbons and newts.

6 – Sleep Tight Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

My daughter loves this book as it has lots of flaps to lift and look under. It is a story about the Hungry Caterpillar making his way home to bed, passing other animals as he does so. A book that your toddler will enjoy before bedtime.

7 – Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy

This is certainly a story that all parents can relate to, longing for five minutes peace. The thing I like the most about this story is that it is not a rhyming story which is quite a refreshing change. In this story, Mrs Large just wants to have some peace from her children and heads to the bathroom to take a nice hot bath, but the five minutes peace that she hopes for is just not going to happen.

8 – The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

My 7 year old nephew absolutely loved this story when he was a toddler and my daughter is very much following in his footsteps. The story is about a snail who goes on an adventure with a whale and then plays a part in rescuing him. I particularly like the illustrations as they include a lot of different animals to introduce to your child to.

9 – What am I? My Year illustrated by Fiona Powers

This is a great little book. It is a rhyming story that introduces all of the months of the year. A great way to introduce months of the year to your little ones.

10 – Ten Little Pirates by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty

This is another book in the ‘Ten Little’ series, all of which I would recommend. This story tells the tale of ten little pirates who go off on an adventure. The stories are very similar as they follow the same format, something I feel is very positive for younger children as they begin to recognise some of the words.

Why Do I Read?

‘Why do we have to read?!’ The question I have been asked by several disgruntled children over the years. Is there truly a simple answer to this question? This led me to thinking about why, as an adult who is able to make decisions for herself, I continue to read daily. Initially I answered with the cliché ‘because I love it!’ but why do I love it? And so I thought a little deeper, which I appreciate can sometimes be dangerous…

When I was very young I used to read because I was told it would make me clever. I had absolutely no idea how it was going to do this or indeed what that even meant – clever at what? Was I not already clever? How would I know if it was working? It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I actually started to enjoy reading and found genres and authors who excited me.

Then I became a teacher …

About 3 years ago I moved schools and went from having scores of children who enjoyed reading and had access to countless books at home to, what can only be described as, a challenging class in a deprived area. Reading for enjoyment was a completely alien concept to them and during these times in class they would stare hopelessly into space hoping that they would somehow become invisible.

Encouraging reading became a daily struggle – we went to the local library, had class Book Clubs – which I am sure were initially only enjoyed because of the free food. Countless hours were spent in class just reading and when I say ‘we’ I do indeed include myself in that. I introduced a variety of books that I knew they would enjoy, I sourced books based on their interests, I shared what I was reading too – well I shared what I could, no 10 year old needs to hear about the murderous goings-on, raunchy encounters and violent clashes in the latest psychological thriller I was engrossed in.

Within a few months I had three boys in the class fighting over the copy of ‘Divided City’ and had to order another two to keep them from recreating the violent scenes from the story itself. That’s when I knew that I was beginning to change the culture and these children’s lives.

So, to get back to the initial question, Why do I read? I read because I see the impact it has on us as humans, especially our young people who begin to see the world differently. I have seen first hand how reading allows children to better articulate themselves due to their increased vocabulary. It improves concentration and focus and their view of the world around them, giving them confidence to challenge others ideas and thinking. I read not only because I want to be a positive influence on the children I teach but because I love the feeling of delving into a different world, a different life where I connect so much to it that it feels like it is a part of my own. This is something I think everyone should experience. Why do you read?

Kristen Bailey: Has Anyone Seen My Sex Life?

Having read a multitude of Psychological Thrillers recently, I wanted to change it up and read something light-hearted, funny and engaging. This is exactly what I got from Kristen Bailey’s laugh-out-loud book.

What’s it about?

The story follows the life of Meg Morton, a journalist and mother of three as she uncovers her husband’s closely guarded secret after being confronted by a very large sex toy which appears in the post one Monday morning. Meg’s journalistic instincts kick in and she investigates further, but all is not as it first seemed. This book is definitely not for the prudes among us nonetheless it is certainly something a bit different and will undoubtedly keep you entertained.

My thoughts

Danny’s secret is revealed quite early on in the book and I am not ashamed to say that I did think, ‘Where on earth can this story go now?’ But Kristen did not disappoint and the story just gets better from there on in. We meet Danny’s brother Stu who is a real ‘Jack the lad’ with a huge personality and an even bigger heart, I fell in love with him as much as the Mum’s at the school gates. On that note, in several of the chapters we are introduced to life at the school gates which, as someone with experience of this in a small village school, I considered to be quite amusing as I am sure other Mums out there will too.

Meg and Danny’s relationship is full of fun, they are so relatable that I often found myself yearning to be their friend. From the outset you can tell that these two people are meant to be together and that did help me to relax into the story as I had a real sense of ‘happily ever after,’ something I both expected and desired.

Final words…

A laugh-out-loud, slightly over the top and exaggerated story with some very sincere and tear-jerking moments. I would thoroughly recommend it! I loved it so much that I have already pre-ordered Kristen’s Bailey’s forthcoming novel, ‘Can I Give my Husband Back?’ Happy reading!

Rachel Abbott: The Murder Game

I have chosen Rachel Abbott’s book, ‘The Murder Game’ as my first review as I absolutely LOVE her! I have read all of her books to date and just cannot get enough. ‘The Murder Game’ did not disappoint! 

What’s it about?

The story is about a group of friends who get together for a wedding but in true Rachel Abbott style, there is a mystery to be solved. The celebrations don’t quite go as planned and one year later the same group of friends are invited back, but for what? Relationships are torn apart, truths are uncovered and lives are shattered. What’s not to love? 

My Thoughts 

The story is based on the life of Lucas, the friend who binds all of the others together. Smarmy, arrogant and controlling are the words that come to mind when I think of him. There are times in the book where I want to feel sympathy for him but it just didn’t happen. As the friends reunite a year later he has planned a game for them all to play, which is unravelled as the story progresses.

The other characters filled me with pure frustration, why did they not leave? The book was so compelling; I had to find out more about Lucas’ game and what secrets were going to be revealed. 

This is the second in the Stephanie King series – the detective in the story. I really want to like this woman but I feel that she keeps her cards very close to her chest and there’s so much we just don’t know about her yet. I hope that there are more books in the series, as I yearn for more insight into her life. 

The relationship between Stephanie and Gus is interesting. I want the relationship to be real and the happy ending I think both characters deserve however I just don’t feel it. There is clearly chemistry between them that much is clear, but we will need to see if it is the happy ever after I would hope for. 

Final words…

As with all of Rachel Abbott’s books it was gripping from the very start. If you have not yet read one of her books then I would highly recommend them, you will be hooked! 

This is me…

I am the Charismatic Critic, author of the book review blog ‘Tea, Books and Biscuits’. I feel like I should be writing a really deep and meaningful entry as my first blog post, but that’s not quite the feel I am going for here. I will however tell you a bit about myself and explain what inspired me to start this blog in the first place. 

I love tea, doesn’t everyone? It solves all of the world’s problems and is the answer to everything. I am quite sceptical when I offer someone tea and the offer is declined, I mean who doesn’t love a cup of tea? Being a tea lover is actually part of the selection process when I choose my friends. 

I love biscuits, a good old-fashioned Bourbon is my favourite although I am partial to a custard cream. Truthfully though, I’m not really that fussy, I will accept any and all biscuits.  

I love books, especially psychological thrillers and books that can make me laugh out loud. Choosing a new book is one of the hardest decisions I have to make in day. I know they say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I find it really hard not to. Maybe that means I’m superficial? I also take a lot of time reading reviews written by others, which is what has inspired me to write this blog in the first place. I hope that I can inspire others to grab a book, a cuppa and a biscuit and enjoy some ‘me time’. 

I am not sure if this is even going to be read by anyone, but if you do happen to stumble across my page then please follow me on Twitter @charismaticcri1.