What a treat to be a member of the @bookollective #thebteam ! I was asked to take part in the Book Blog Tour of a new release from Helene Fermont – Because of You. I enjoy reading books that I wouldn’t necessarily pick up for myself, and have met a number of new authors by doing book reviews and then falling in love with their style. I confess to not having tried any Scandinavian Noir, and so Because of You was another new departure for me.
The story is essentially the life story of Hannah Stein, from her teen years until well into her 50’s. The book starts in the London of the Thatcher years, which for me was a place I could well imagine. Hannah has a roller coaster of a life, and is surrounded by a range of family and friends, as well as enemies who are all explored in some detail during the book. The characters are all well rounded and described down to their aftershave choices, on occasion the descriptions are a little too simplistic, and I would have liked to know, on a more emotional level, why they had become that way. The book covers such a large timescale I asked Helene Fermont whether she had planned it all from the beginning, or whether she starts writing with a basic premise and lets the characters and situations develop organically – her generous answer is here:
‘My main focus is always on characterisations. I spend a long time to get them just right. I’ve got a premise for a story line/plot yet will change everything if it doesn’t fit in with the characters. Characters, not the plot, are fundamental and lead the way so to speak but I always knew how Because of you would map out and devoted much time on research.
Because of You is the type of novel I couldn’t find in a bookseller. I’m very direct in the way I write which I believe stems from my partly Scandinavian background.
The novel has a big heart while also dealing with strong themes and characters that are relatable. It’s the main reason I’m so very grateful the current Amazon and Love Reading reviews etcetera resonate with that.’
The book deals with a number of very serious situations and life experiences that are perhaps the mark of the Noir rather than Chick Lit. Some of the scenes were very uncomfortable to read. However, I found the book as a whole very readable and enjoyed the sense of time and being with people through a large part of their lives, it was powerful to read about situations that many authors would shy away from. There were some elements that I found irritating after a while and Hannah herself became a less sympathetic character for me than some of the other protagonists. There was a good dilemma for the reader as to who was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in all the stages of the story, there were no clear ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ and the relationships between characters were complex and real. I would definitely read Helene Fermont again, but hope with experience comes a slightly more emotional resonance with her characters.
We try not to over do Halloween as we not really ‘into’ it, and with smaller kids it can be quite scary and I have no idea what the message is supposed to be. We focus on having fun foods and sharing out sweets to any Trick or Treaters. We also love to carve pumpkins… Here are a few books we have particularly enjoyed.
Winnie the Witch is a sure fire hit at any time of year and to be honest, she’s a witch so you could read any of them and be on theme, this collection has four separate stories, and is good for children that are able to read on their own (we also have the picture books which are much more visual, and better for a mixed age group). The four stories are all up to the same fun standard, with a few extra ghosts.
Splat the Cat is also a firm favourite in our house, and this book has flaps to lift which was especially exciting! There are lots of potentially scary things going on in the creepy old house, but don’t worry they all turn out to be quite harmless. However, Seymour the mouse is missing, maybe he is scaring all his friends? It’s a actually a good way to talk about being scared and how we deal with that, and if it’s funny to make people frightened – we had a long discussion about this and I was surprised by what the kids talked about.
We have recently bought the Usborne Very First Reading box set (going cheap at The Book People). They have been a really great, the first few are for adults and kids to read together, with different sized fonts so that it’s clear who does what – A Fright in the Night is one of these, and was very popular. A lovely vet is called to Dracula’s castle to take care of some of his more unusual pets, she helps them all and then runs when she notices Dracula’s teeth. It’s very silly, has great illustrations and doesn’t actually mention anything about vampires etc; so you can handle that how you wish. All the books have fun games and ideas for further learning at the back which we love.
To be honest The Best Halloween Hunt Ever isn’t a reading book, but we really love it! It’s a search and find book, with a few mazes too, for a small book it provides hours of entertainment for quite a big age range as everyone can find something. Even the smallest baby A enjoys searching for the larger items. The answers are in the back, and we did struggle to get everything, but that’s good as it means you can use the book more than once. As we keep these books in our Halloween box, the kids forget year on year and so it’s proved a good buy.
Last but never least is our ongoing love affair with the Mr Men. We have all of the books, both old and new and they continue to delight. Mr Tickle and the Scary Halloween is a great seasonal offering; the dark cover is enough to cause excitement, but as there is a Little Miss Scary too you can imagine the chaos she might cause at Halloween, luckily Mr Tickle finds a good way to deal with her, and peace is restored.
Hope that was helpful…
Check out BookRiots list of 100 Strange and Unusual Novels that you really just have to read! Some of these definitely look kinda cool!
It’s been a bit crazy here lately, and I haven’t been posting the link to these each month, although I have been writing them!
I’m always on the look out for new ideas if anyone has a book they would like me to review in the magazine please get in touch…