Book review: All That Was Lost by Alison May

All That Was LostAll That Was Lost by Alison May
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All That Was Lost is an exploration of loss and grief and the lies that we have to tell ourselves to get through the days afterwards. There is a running theme of untruths – Patience learns to lie and slowly discovers about the lies that keep wheels turning in her family, Patrice’s whole life is a lie, Leo lies in tiny ways at first, Louise’s life revolves around the untrue belief. Running alongside is the thread about loss.
The characters are vividly drawn and their grief, and in one case, mental illness is described so realistically that at one point I was practically shouting at Louise not to misinterpret something. Alison May captures the stifling nature of being an adolescence in a northern sea side town perfectly.

This book is very different to Alison May’s other novels. It’s not a romance. Whilst it’s not a jolly book, but it is deeply moving. It was compelling enough to keep me reading until 2 o’clock in the morning. I really enjoyed it.

I received a review copy through Netgalley.

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Goodreads Book Review: Midsummer Dreams by Alison May

Midsummer DreamsMidsummer Dreams by Alison May
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not big into reading Shakespeare (it’s meant to be watched, not read), but I do know A Midsummer Night’s Dream, thanks to A-level English Lit. It’s not all that relevant to the enjoyment of the book, really, because you can read this modern adaptation without needing to know the original.

I loved the two guys. Alex is bonkers, Dom is so, so sweet. I do like a clever hero. Of the women, I loved Helen and wanted to shake Emily. Really, Emily was incredibly irritating. It’s not until the end that you find out why she’s like she is, and when you do, you can’t help feel a bit proud of her for functioning as well as she does.

The two interlinked stories are good fun and, despite the slightly magical element, completely plausible. There’s a sword fight in a car park which made me laugh out loud. (Voice of experience – do not read this book on the bus).

I should make the usual disclaimers that Alison and I are both published by Choc Lit and she’s a friend. That doesn’t mean I can’t buy her books and enjoy them as a reader too. I believe, when I reviewed the first book in the series ‘Sweet Nothing’ I said the next one was going to be brilliant. I love it when I’m right! Now I just need to work out how to be right more often.

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I’m dreaming of… Midsummer Dreams

Today is publication day for m’chum and Choc Lit colleague Alison May’s new book Midsummer Dreams. For those who don’t already know, Alison writes rather fabulous modern adaptations of Shakespeare. Her previous book Sweet Nothing is a great read.

MIDSUMMER_FRONT3_RGB-150dpi

To celebrate the big day, Alison asked a whole bunch of us to write something about dreams. So here goes.

I had a dream about two women. It was all very exciting, but the only bit I remembered when I woke up was a single image of the two women sitting on a park bench together. You could tell they knew each other very well, but that there was something awkward between them. Frenemies, if you like. One of the women was quiet and mousy and the other was a ghost in a wedding dress. This image stayed with me for the whole day. Eventually, I decided I had to find out what was going on. The end result was Please Release Me – which will be published by Choc Lit later this year. It didn’t turn up as a complete story (if only!), but it started with a dream.

I had a nightmare where I was trapped inside a giant chocolate sponge. More specifically, I was in one of those air bubbles that you get when the cake doesn’t rise evenly – the sort that Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry would probably tut at. ‘But what’s nightmarish about that?’ I hear you cry. Well, the nightmarish bit was that I started to eat my way out and started to feel sick! See. Total nightmare, right? I felt so ill that I couldn’t eat any more and I knew I still had several feet of cake to eat before I could get through. And then I remembered that it was Monday morning and I hadn’t sorted the kids’ school uniforms out, which made it all the more important that I break out of the giant cakey prison. Shudder.

I do believe that nightmares (and dreams) are my subconscious trying to tell me something. I think the subtext in this one is probably that I eat too much cake. And that I need to be more organised about school uniforms…

My dream for the future: I reckon, in the future we’ll make more of the sea and start having underwater communities where people live in giant bubbles with the entrance at the bottom of the bubble (so that the air pressure keeps the water out). A cross between the Willard Price’s Underwater Adventure and The Octonauts. Any power needs would be generated using tidal turbines and drinking water would be desalinated from the surrounding area. There are issues with waste disposal and disrupted eco systems, but I’m sure we can sort something out.

Of course, by then, I’ll be a fabulously famous novelist with oodles of money. I will also know some fabulous recipes for seaweed cake.

Right. Enough of my wittering. Now please go and check out Alison May’s Midsummer Dreams. Shakespeare never sounded so good.

Inheritance Books – Alison May

This week’s Inheritance Books are from Alison May, fellow Choc-Lit novelist. I know Alison through the RNA and  waste spend time having silly conversations with her on Twitter. I’m reading her  book at the moment. 

Hi Alison, welcome to Inheritance Books. Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Alison May compressed (2)Ahoy there. I’m Alison. I’m a writer. I’m based in Worcester, but I’m a Yorkshire girl originally. I write romantic comedies, and I’ve recently signed my first publishing contract with Choc Lit. I live with my husband and no children. I have heard about children, but it sounds like getting one would very much reduce my shoe and chocolate budget, so that’s a no, I’m afraid.

In my non-writing life, I train advisers for the Citizens Advice bureau and teach people about welfare benefits and employment law. So, if anyone would like me to check their tax credits while I’m here that would be peachy-fine.

My first novel, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, is published by Choc Lit Lite. It’s a modern day romantic comedy based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and featuring lots of romance, a splash of tequila and just a tiny bit of maths.

 You forgot to mention the slime mould. (I was very excited about this, as you probably guessed. I defy you to read about Dictyostelium discoideum behaviour and not be intrigued.)

um… anyway, which book have you inherited from the generation above? Why is it special?

Choosing my inheritance book was so easy. Straight away, I grabbed my very tatty copy of AA Milne’s The Christopher Robin Storybook from my shelf. Christopher Robin Storybook (2)It’s an anthology of Milne’s poetry and stories; my copy claims to have been published in 1931, and has the name Eileen Dalgleish handwritten on the inside cover. I have no idea who Eileen Dalgleish is, but she gave up her copy of The Christopher Robin Storybook for my family’s enjoyment and for that, I salute her.

The book came to me via my mother, who reckons she bought it from the Scarborough Girls High School Fayre when she was 11 for about a penny. Apparently, it was just as tatty then as it is now. When I asked her about the book recently, she also claimed never to have given it to me, so it may be that this isn’t technically an Inheritance Book, but a Stolen Book. Sorry readers (and sorry Mum).

Part of me thinks that I ought to single out a more grown-up and literary tome for my inherited book. My mother definitely passed a love of books and reading that goes well beyond Winnie-The-Pooh – I could have picked anything by any of the Brontes for example, but when you’re feeling a little bit blue nothing beats A A Milne. My mum can still quote chunks of his poems from memory, and I defy anyone to read In Which Tigger Comes to the Forest and Has Breakfast, and not end up feeling at least a tiny bit more positive about the world. It’s a book full of moments that make you smile.

Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?

The Blind Assassin (2)This is so much more difficult. I don’t think the entire Terry Pratchett Discworld series is available in a single volume, so I’ve ruled that out. After that, I’ve chewed over lots of different ideas, but one book keeps rising to the top of my musings: Margaret Attwood’s The Blind Assassin. Apart from loving the story, and the quality and subtlety of the writing, I’m blown away by the confidence with which this story is told. There are different time periods and different narrators and stories within stories and secrets and hints at things just beneath the surface of what you’re reading. There are layers to every character and every part of the story, which means you can read it again and again and keep discovering something new.

I read The Blind Assassin for the first time in my early twenties, around the time that I first started thinking that I might want to try writing. This was the book that made me realise that stories don’t have to be told from beginning to end, in chronological order, in third person prose. You can jump around. You can make characters talk directly to the reader. You can make characters hide their real story inside another story. That was such an exciting thing to discover. Obviously, I then spent the next ten years realising how hard that is to actually do. Attwood, of course, is an utter genius with the ways of story. As both a reader and a writer, I simply love this book.

I think I would have allowed you the complete works of Terry Pratchett (which would take up several shelves). The Blind Assassin is a great choice – it’s a very interesting book. As you say, layers. 

Thank you for sharing you Inheritance Books with us, Alison. I hope all the hard work pays off and your writing career zooms off now.

MAASN_small final cover (3)You can find out more about her at www.alison-may.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay. Her novel Much Ado About Sweet Nothing is available now. (And very funny it is too.)

You can find my review here.