The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North



The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North


Review Date: 22 November 2015

Author: Anna North

Release Date: 11 February 2016

Publishers: W&N Publishers

ISBN –10: 1474601251

ISBN – 13: 978-1474601252


Available in Paperback, Kindle and audio


The Last Word Review

Anna North has written one of the books of 2016. It is haunting, gripping at every turn of a page

Not officially released in paperback format until February 2016 so I am grateful to Sam Eades at Orion Books for an advanced review copy ahead of publication.

The first thing that you get from The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is the cover. There is something chilling about this. A foretaste of what is to come.

Anna North has written a chilling novel about a peculiar woman and that is basically what she is here. This is written by six people who know her best. Each through their own perspective. When she was younger she spent most of her childhood alone or in the company of her brother. At college she took an interest in directing movies and this is where she became successful. But success has its pitfalls only Sophie knows all too well.

When as book is written through the perspectives of other people there is a chance that the reader can become distant from the actual story itself, but Anna North has written this so skilfully and exquisite that I struggle to find the words to tell you just how good this really is.

Each of their stories is told in reasonably short chapters which I found really helps keep the story moving along. When you look at the people who tell their story, you get a glimpse of the genius that is Sophie but one that is on the very edge of sanity and so close to an abys basically one very cold young woman.

While writing about The Life and Death of Sophie Stark I am reminded of a long dark tunnel with the occasional glimpse of light that shines through. Sophie had a troubled childhood with her father dying and a mother that in a sense went missing. There is sense that this story may at times drag the reader into a dark recess but this is the beauty of this story it is dark at times. A story that talks of stalking and retribution. Sophie’s obsession is Daniel so she starts filming him and so it begins, retribution. So it does not end there as Sophie embarks on making documentaries of those close to her. I found Sophie not only cold but totally selfish, single minded to the point that she did not care about feelings and not caring about anyone, they were there to be used in her pursuit of excellence. Don’t get me wrong here, Sophie has enormous talent by the bucket full, even those telling the stories will tell you this through their words.

Word of warning Sophie was not born Sophie. All that changed as you will find out for yourselves when you read The Life and Death of Sophie Stark and you will want to read novel by Anna North. There is so much in this book that I would recommend that reading groups seriously consider adding it to their list of books to read and discuss. Everyone will have an opinion about Sophie and the characters she uses. All human with the frailties of human life all struggling with every day’s trials and tribulations but it is the way they have been beautifully portrayed by the author makes this such a haunting and gripping read.

Do not miss this one.


Meet the Author

Anna North


Anna North graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 2009, having received a Teaching-Writing Fellowship and a Michener/Copernicus Society Fellowship. Her fiction has appeared in Nautilus, Glimmer Train, the anthology Robot Uprisings, and the Atlantic Monthly, where it was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Her nonfiction has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Paris Review Daily, Jezebel, BuzzFeed, and Salon, and she is now a staff editor at the New York Times. Her first novel, America Pacifica, was published in 2011 by Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown, and her second novel, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, is forthcoming from Blue Rider Press in May 2015. She grew up in Los Angeles, and lives in Brooklyn.

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam



Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam

Review Date: 19 November 2015

Author: Homer Hickam

Release Date: 19 November 2015

Publishers: Harper Collins

ISBN –10: 000815421X

ISBN – 13:  978-0008154219


Available in Hardback, Kindle and audio

The Last Word Review

The epic story of one man, his wife and her alligator and their epic 800 mile drive


Imagine a young couple taking a 1,000 mile adventure in their car back in the 1930’s that alone is an epic tale. Now add a passenger in the back seat. No ordinary passenger this one. It is a pet alligator. Now begins a real tale of adventure.

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam is based on the true story of his parents. Ok there are a few bits of fiction added in but this is a beautiful tale of redemption and freedom.

Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam (father of the author) graduated from High School in West Virginia just as the great depression started. Eventually after Elsie returned to West Virginia they married. One of the wedding gifts was a pet alligator named ‘Albert’. With only one bathroom in the house ‘Albert’ claimed the only bath and after Homer had a bit of a ‘scare’ there was an ultimatum from Homer. It is either Albert or me. No wishing to let a pet alligator loose in West Virginia there was only one thing to do. Take Albert home to Florida some 1,000 miles away. Now imagine a thousand mile road trip in the 1930’s with a pet alligator in the back seat.

The beauty of being a book reviewer is that you get to read some of the most amazing books and then you get to read some books that you want your family, friends and other book lovers to read. Carrying Albert Home is just that book. I was not only taken but completely captivated by this love story and basically what this story is. Then again Albert is a real star here, he plays a key role in both their lives from the minute Elsie is given Albert as a wedding gift from her first love Buddy Ebsen. Now being an alligator and taking a starring role, Albert cannot talk but you just fall for him and his unique ways. They way that the author portrays Albert really does work in this book. Then you can throw into the story some truly great names we already know of Buddy Ebsen, but also there is Ernest Hemmingway and John Steinbeck in here as well.

There is also the Rooster that appears on the journey, he just appears well naturally because why not, no real reason but he is here and adds to the story.

Rooster Pic

The journey has its moments along the way, with the odd kidnapping, bank robberies and shipwrecks. I hope by now this has more than wetted your appetite to get to know Elsie, Homer and Albert. This is story that has more than a few good laughs along the thousand mile journey but it is also incredibly moving and the ending is heart-breaking.  Few tears may be shed here so be warned.

I really loved Carrying Albert Home and want as many of you to experience the story that will captivate all that read Homer Hickam’s latest.


Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam – The official blog tour 2015


Competition time. I have five copies of Carrying Albert Home to give away in a free prize draw.  Head over to my Twitter page: @Thelastword1962 Just follow and retweet the post for this review and you will go into the draw to win one of the copies in hardback.  Terms and conditions apply. Please make sure that you read before entering.

Twitter Competition Terms and Conditions

  1. This competition is promoted by HarperCollins Publishers Limited (“HarperCollins”), 1 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9FG.
  2. This promotion is open to all UK residents except employees of HarperCollins
  3. You must be 18 to enter this competition.
  4. How to enter: Please follow and retweet the message on my Twitter feed @Thelastword1962 during the times specified below. Open to UK only. The chosen 5 winners will be sent a Direct Message requesting full name and address. Prizes to be sent be Harper Collins.
  5. The opening date for entries is 19 November 2015. The closing date for entries is 19 November 2015 at 11.59pm. No entries received after this date will be accepted.
  6. No purchase necessary.
  7. Only 1 allowed per household. If you try and enter more than once by a) using multiple Twitter accounts or b) tweeting the same entry more than once within a 24 hour period then all of your entries will be invalid.
  8. The prize is 1 of 5copy of CARRYING ALBERT HOME by HOMER HICKAM in hardback.
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  10. No cash or prize alternatives are available.
  11. HarperCollins reserve the right in their reasonable discretion to substitute any prize with a prize of equal or greater value.
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 Meet the Author

Homer Hickam



Homer Hickam is the bestselling and award-winning author of many books, including the #1 New York Times memoir Rocket Boys, which was adapted into the film October Sky.
He is a Vietnam combat veteran and has also been a coal miner, scuba instructor, palaeontologist and NASA engineer.

Solomon Creed by Simon Toyne



Solomon Creed by Simon Toyne


Review Date: 13 November 2015

Author: Simon Toyne

Release Date: 10 September 2015

Publishers: Harper Collins

ISBN –10: 0007551355

ISBN – 13: 0007551354


Available in Hardback, Kindle and audio

 The Last Word Review


One of the best thrillers of 2015. If you are a fan of Jack Reacher you will love this rip roaring roller-coaster adventure


I thought that in 2015 I had read the best thrillers, then came along Solomon Creed by Simon Toyne. This is gripping barn storming adventure that will take the reader to places most thrillers would dare not venture. It is dark at times and has religious connotations throughout.

So who is Solomon Creed? When a plane crashes in Arizona and starts a fire that spreads rapidly and threatens the small town of redemption, only one survivor crawls out the wreckage, he has no memory, he does not even know his own name, who is this barefooted man walking into Redemption?

When the police pick him up on the edge of town and search him for identification the only item they find is a book, this is no ordinary book called ‘The Making of a Town’ and is written by Redemptions founder Jack ‘King’ Cassidy. The book has been signed Gifted to Solomon Creed by James Coronado. Now the police are wondering if this is Solomon Creed. What does he want? Why is he here? Many questions about this mysterious figure with no recollection of who he is or his purpose.

The town of Redemption made its name and fortune in the gold and Copper that the towns founder discovered. Now with no more gold or copper to be found Redemption is a giant car park for redundant aircraft and an impressive stone church that is rather impressive to say the least.

Simon Toyne is an amazing storyteller that has written an all action thriller that has many twists including a drug baron, corrupt cops, murders, and a town that seems to have lost it soul not to mention reality and seems to be a town more akin to the wild west not a modern day town. There is much for the reader to take in with plot twists as we get to grips with the mysterious Solomon Creed and his purpose.

I must warn you now that this is a roller-coaster of a thriller of staggering proportions that you will not want to put down for too long. It has been the first of Simon Toyne’s novels I have read, which means I have some catching up to do.

The ending is just as intriguing as this gives us clues as to what comes next for our all action ‘hero’ not giving too much away here as I want you to experience what this reviewer has experienced with Solomon Creed. An incredibly well written and executed novel that takes the reader back and forth and many plot twists that will keep you gripped to the book and you will not want to let it go. If you are looking for a thriller for a Christmas read. It is here with Solomon Creed. I loved the cover, it says a lots of what lies between the covers.

Already looking forward to Toyne’s next thriller.


Meet the Author

Simon Toyne


Simon Toyne is the international bestselling author of the Sanctus trilogy – Sanctus, The Key and The Tower – and the Solomon Creed series. He wrote Sanctus after quitting his job as a TV executive and it became the biggest selling debut thriller of 2011 in the UK. His books have been translated into 27 languages and published in over 50 countries.


Dead Babies and Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly



Dead Babies and Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly


Review Date: 8 November 2015

Author: Alice Jolly

Release Date: 2 July 2015

Publishers: Unbound

ISBN –10: 1783521058

ISBN – 13: 978-1783521050


Available in Hardback and Kindle


The Last Word Review


A deeply personal moving memoir that not only is full of hope it is just so beautifully written

Anyone might be forgiven to mislead the title of Dead Babies and Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly as fiction book. It is anything but that. A deeply moving and very personal memoir of Alice and her husband account of losing a child but not giving up on hope that one day they would succeed in having a baby.

Through miscarriages and failed IVF treatment Alice and her husband Stephen lost four babies in the space of four years. Dead Babies and Seaside Towns is the story of how they coped through this time and the consideration of going through the adoption process and then how they decided on surrogacy. At the time Alice Jolly called this ‘a desperate measure for desperate times’.

This is a very emotional read and is so beautifully written that Jolly’s prose reads like a fictional story. As a reader you become totally immersed in both Alice and Stephens attempt in ‘completing’ the family that they so both desperately wanted.

As commercial surrogacy illegal in the UK both Alice and Stephen had to look to in the United States before finally finding a woman who would help them have a baby. Through the pages of Dead Babies and Seaside Towns you read the dilemma’s the couple faced on a daily basis as they looked at the options available.

As you read through every page, at times Alice Jolly takes us through some incredibly personal accounts and some very painful aspects it is written with such beauty and intelligence that the message that it carries will resonate far beyond the book. It is a memoir that some will be moved to tears by the immense detail and courage in writing this book, though Jolly’s dark humour does come through the book which I liked. As much as this is a powerful memoir a happy ending for the couple as it results in the birth of baby named Hope. When I realised the baby was going to be called Hope it lifted my heart and therein lies the true crux of Dead Babies and Seaside Towns, it is one of hope.

For the many thousands of women who have gone through similar experience the sheer pain of losing a child this is a book that I would recommend but also urge as many men to read this account from Alice Jolly. I have learnt so much through pages of Alice Jolly’s deeply moving memoir. A book that when you first pick it up should be hard and painful to read as heavy as a sad heart. But it is nothing like that, yes there are times as Jolly goes through the painful experience of losing a child but the whole basis of this book is uplifting. Here is Alice Jolly pouring her heart out through the pages of Dead Babies and Seaside Towns a book that when you start you will find it incredibly difficult to put down. I spent a long night refusing to do just that and finally closed the book only to find it was 3.30 in the morning.

I whole heartedly recommend Dead Babies and Seaside Towns


The Dead Babies and Seaside Towns Blog Tour

Blog Tour 12.11.15

Meet the Author

Alice Jolly


Alice Jolly is a novelist, playwright and teacher of creative writing. Her two novels (What The Eye Doesn’t See and If Only You Knew) are both published by Simon and Schuster. She is completing a third novel. Her articles have been published in the Guardian, the Mail on Sunday and theIndependent and she has broadcast on Radio 4. Four of her plays have been professionally produced by The Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. Two of these plays were funded by The Arts Council. Her monologues have been performed in London and provincial theatres and she has recently been commissioned by Paines Plough (‘The National Theatre of New Writing’). She teaches for The Arvon Foundation and on the Oxford University Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. She has lived in Warsaw and in Brussels. She has three children – a son who is twelve, a daughter who was stillborn and a daughter who was born to a surrogate mother in the United States. Her home is now in Stroud in Gloucestershire and she is married to Stephen Kinsella.      

Ordinary Joe by Jon Teckman



Ordinary Joe by Jon Teckman


Review Date: 7 November 2015

Author: Jon Teckman

Release Date: 16 July 2015

Publishers: The Borough Press

ISBN –10: 0008118779

ISBN – 13: 978-0008118778


Available in Paperback, Kindle and audio


The Last Word Review

A moral dilemma, what would you do if you were Joe? A humorous story of a man and a beautiful Hollywood actress

Allow me to introduce you to Joe West, he is just at first glance an ordinary guy, a receding hairline, a little overweight Jewish accountant. Nothing wrong with that I hear you say! Joe works in the film industry. Ah I now hear you say.

So how many of us of dreamed of what it would be like to wake up one morning alongside a Hollywood film star. Be honest? In Ordinary Joe author Jon Teckman takes that dream and turns into a rip roaring comedy that takes off from the very first sentence.

Joe West did wake up with a Hollywood actress the very beautiful Olivia Finch, Far too much to drink the previous evening and one thing led to another, remember Joe is happily married with a young family, the  thing is Olivia is rather taken with our ‘Ordinary Joe’ and will not give up on him. So it begins. Now we meet Joseph Bennett Jo’s boss and Jo does not exactly ‘get on’ with Joseph, the problem now is that Joseph has been unwittingly drawn into the affair, from here chaos takes over and the story really moves along at a steady pace allowing the reader to make up their own mind about our Joe, you will either love him or want to slap his face real hard, oh this seems to happen to Joe a number of times to the point that he loses a few teeth.

This so reminds me of some of the great British comedies of recent years and Ordinary Joe would make for another. To witness the leading character running around like the Keystone Cops trying to cover up Jo and Olivia’s illicit night of passion does read like a classic farce. Through this I really felt for Joe’s wife Natasha, though she knows Joe better than he knows himself, Joe always seemed to manage to blame Joseph for the ‘night of passion’

Sometimes the grass is not as green on the other side as it seems at first and poor Joe is doing everything he can to hide his drunken night of passion from everyone especially Natasha. Does he manage to succeed, now throw in a dead body oh and lets not forget that socks do play an important role, This is a hilarious read, and it is over all too quick. Does Joe pay for his adultery with Olivia Finch?  A wonderful debut novel from Jon Teckman that is pure escapism. One thing I should mention for other guys reading this. Just think about the socks you wear. Why? You need to read Ordinary Joe.

I have an appointment with my sock drawer I must keep.



Meet the Author

Jon Teckman


Jon Teckman was born in Northampton in 1963. He served as an advisor on film policy to both Conservative and Labour governments before becoming Chief Executive of the British Film Institute in 1999. He now lives in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire with his wife Anne and sons Joseph and Matthew. Ordinary Joe is his first novel.

How to Be Brave by Louise Beech


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How to be Brave by Louise Beech


Review Date: 6 November 2015

Author: Louise Beech

Release Date: 17 September 2015

Publishers: Orenda Books

ISBN –10: 1910633194

ISBN – 13: 978-1910633199


Available in Paperback, Kindle and audio


The Last Word Review

Your heart will be taken by this beautifully written story of loss, hope and redemption. Louise Beech is a born natural storyteller


Rarely has a book touched me the way that How to Be Brave has. Louise Beech has written a debut novel that will live long in this reviewer’s memory and for those who have read it, for those who are going to read this and I urge you to do just that, your heart will be taken by the sheer natural brilliance of the writing.

This is primarily part fact, part fiction and part memoir always a tricky one to get the right balance so that your reader follows each of the stories contained within the pages of the book, but here in How to Be Brave, the balance is remarkable.

Natalie is married to Jake a serving soldier on a tour of duty in Afghanistan so the unbearable daily tension of a wife worried about her serving husband is real. Then one day her nine year old daughter Rose collapses at home and is rushed to hospital and is diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes and all the trauma for Natalie as she stays at her daughter’s bedside, Natalie is having to cope with all the worry of will Rose survive on her own as Jake cannot get home. The daily routine of blood sugar testing and injections of insulin are real at first Rose fights Natalie in the way a nine year old can. The pain and worry are there on the pages.

Then one day Natalie is visited by man and one thing leads to another and a diary is found in their garden shed, no ordinary diary as Natalie had a grandfather (Colin) who tells the story through his diary of the sinking of his ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Natalie and Rose now embark on a voyage of discovery through Colin’s diary, while Natalie and Rose face their daily fight with Diabetes she reads passages of Colin’s diary as part of the process. What happens here is that unknown to them Colin is now holding their hands through the pain and suffering that Natalie and her daughter now face. Colin’s diary entries are real this is taken from the authors own real life relative and that of Colin trying to survive in a life boat with little in the way of rations and fresh drinking water how they all clung on to the daily hope that very soon they would be spotted and rescued through this story comes one of courage and hope, so both mother and daughter and Colin and his fellow survivors all trying to survive the stormy waters that they must tread in the hope they will come through.

As this reviewer is discovering sometimes illness can be a very lonely existence and you can feel incredibly isolated when sometimes you do lose hope that you will come through this stormy period in your life. How to Be Brave is a story of just that. Hope and survival clinging to the lifeboat and hoping and believing that you come through.

A deeply incredible book that will move you to tears so please have tissues to hand, you will need them. I have no shame in admitting that it did indeed move me to tears in parts.

The front cover of the book is of a lifeboat cradled in the hands of both mother and daughter tell the story of hope and survival. A heart-warming story that uses a real life event to tell the story of an ‘against all the odds’ fight for survival.

It is not very often that I get to the end of a book and felt completely numb at the sheer beauty of the author’s writing and storytelling. Hard to believe this is a debut novel.

How to Be Brave a book I always remember and strongly recommend it will move you as it has already moved many.

Thank you to Karen at Orenda Books for a review copy.



Meet the Author


Louise Beech remembers sitting in her father’s cross-legged lap while he tried to show her his guitar’s chords. He’s a musician. Her small fingers stumbled and gave up. She was three. His music sheets fascinated her – such strange language that translated into music. Her mother teaches languages, French and English, so her fluency with words fired Louise’s interest. She knew from being small that she wanted to write, to create, to make magic.

She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism.

She is inspired by life, history, survival and love, and always has a story in her head. Her debut novel, How to be Brave, came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story.

When she was fifteen Louise bet her mother ten pounds she’d be published by the time she was thirty. She missed this self-set deadline by two months. Her mother is still waiting for the money

The Letter by Kathryn Hughes


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The Letter by Kathryn Hughes


Review Date: 30 October 2015

Author: Kathryn Hughes

Release Date: 8 October 2015

Publishers: Headline Review

ISBN –10: 1472229959

ISBN – 13: 1472229953


Available in Paperback, Kindle and audio

The Last Word Review

Prepare to surrender a weekend to The Letter, a deeply moving love story that will linger long in the memory


The Letter was first released as an e-book and very quickly took the world by storm, and became the No1 Kindle bestseller. At last it has been released in Paperback and many more thousands can fall for the debut novel by Kathryn Hughes.

I must admit I fell for the charms of The Letter in all its glory this is a story packed full of heartbreak, and loss, primarily it is a love story with a message of hope. Quite simply it does not disappoint in anyway. A book that I did not want to end.

There are a number of leading characters that run through this novel, Tina Craig is the long suffering wife of Rick who repeatedly abuses his wife. Nothing she can do to please her husband and Rick is in complete denial of who and what he does. Quite simply a vile husband who you will quickly come to dislike immensely.

It is 1973 the day of the Grand National and Rick has stolen Tina’s savings from a jar at the back of the kitchen cupboard, yet he tries to convince Tina he won it on the horses. Red Rum is making his National debut and Rick has placed hundreds of pounds that was Tina’s on Red Rum. Tina has to place the bet on her way into work that Saturday morning but does she? Tina runs a charity shop next door to the bookies. While sorting through some clothes she finds a letter, this is no ordinary letter and clearly has not been posted. It is addressed to Chrissie and is dated September 1939.

The story picks up in that year and of the young lives of Billy and Chrissie and War is about to be declared. The story jumps beautifully between the early 1970’s and Tina and 1939 and the story of Chrissie and how Tina and Chrissie’s lives are now intertwined with each other.

The story that unfolds from here is incredibly heart-braking and could easily have been true for many in 1939. Tina despite now being pregnant wants to uncover the story of the letter and her quest and even her own journey have now begun but there is more heartbreak to come for Tina. Can she find the rightful owner of this incredible letter?  What became of Chrissie? What about Billy did he survive the war? I loved the parts played by Tina and Chrissie as well as Billy it is impossible not to loathe Rick for who he was and what he did to his wife. The 1973 Grand National brought back memories for me that I would rather not recall around a father who was similar to Rick except my father backed the wrong horse and what we suffered after. So to read this early in The Letter brought tears of immense sadness to my eyes as those memories flooded back.

The Letter by Kathryn Hughes is both beautifully written and incredibly poignant. You cannot fail to fall for this story. There is so much emotion written into the story that it carries you along and you just want to see a happy ending. So is there a happy ending. You will discover for yourself in a book that I am delighted to highly recommend.

Thank you to both Headline and BookBridgr for a review copy.



Meet the Author

Kathryn Hughes



Kathryn Hughes lives near Manchester with her husband and two children. The Letter is her first novel.