Review: Another Life by Jodie Chapman (2021) @MichaelJBooks @jodiechapman #AnotherLife

Blurb

She could be the girl dancing on tables one night, and the next she’d be hiding in the shadows.

Just when I thought I understood her, she would melt away and become a completely new person, and I’d have to start all over again.

That’s how it was with Anna.
_______

Nick and Anna work the same summer job at their local cinema. Anna is mysterious, beautiful, and from a very different world to Nick.

She’s grown up preparing for the end of days, in a tightly-controlled existence where Christmas, getting drunk and sex before marriage are all off-limits.

So when Nick comes into her life, Anna falls passionately in love. Their shared world burns with poetry and music, cigarettes and conversation – hints of the people they hope to become.

But Anna, on the cusp of adulthood, is afraid to give up everything she’s ever believed in, and everyone she’s ever loved. She walks away, and Nick doesn’t stop her.

Years later, a tragedy draws Anna back into Nick’s life.

But rekindling their relationship leaves Anna and Nick facing a terrible choice between a love that’s endured decades, and the promises they’ve made to others along the way.

Review

Huge thanks to the author and publisher for my spot on the blog tour, and for providing me with a gorgeous finished copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t read that many love stories, mostly because I enjoy having absolutely no idea what is going to happen in a novel, but as the tagline for this book says, this is not just another love story. The characters in Another Life are complicated and frustrating and very, very real. The relationship at the heart of the book has echoes of the couple in Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water, two young people who have found each other before they have really found themselves. Anna is such an interesting character, brought up in a religion that sees non-believers, or ‘worldly’ people, as distinctly ‘other’ and not to be trusted, and while she has her rebellious side, it is clear that she is still firmly rooted in the traditions she’s been raised with. I think Chapman, who draws on her own experiences here, does a wonderful job of showing just how agonising and difficult it can be to go against the only life you know – the way that Anna keeps getting pulled back to her roots is completely understandable.

Nick, too, is a fascinating character, and his family history is heart-breaking. I won’t give anything away here, but by the end of Part One, I was crying my eyes out. As we follow Nick into his future, we can see how he, too, has forces holding him back, in a different way to Anna, but no less powerful. Their interactions in later years are so poignant and realistic – there is no simple answer to overcoming the obstacles that keep them apart. The only character in the whole book I wasn’t totally convinced by was Laura, whose storyline seemed a little too convenient for me personally, but the other secondary characters, particularly Sal, more than made up for this. I loved Sal A LOT.

This novel is complex, beautifully written, utterly absorbing, and very hard to tear yourself away from once you’ve started reading. I really liked the way that Another Life doesn’t dismiss the feelings of young people as simply naive or foolish – there is an intensity to emotions experienced in your late teens and early twenties that is captured brilliantly here, without judgement or dismissiveness, and it made me ache for the time when I felt things so deeply. This is a nostalgic, intelligent, fascinating book – a love story, yes, but so much more besides.

Another Life by Jodie Chapman is out now from Michael Joseph Books and is available to purchase here.

Blog Post: Backstories Competition!

I am delighted to be able to share a fabulous competition with you all today! Simon Van der Velde, author of the bestselling short story collection Backstories, is offering THREE lucky readers the chance to win a signed copy of the book, along with a chocolate treat!

Full details of the competition and how to enter are in the PDF below, but here’s the extract – to be in with a chance of winning, you need to guess who the lost little boy in the story is, and then sign up on Simon’s website here with your guess!

Here is the full PDF with instructions:

And here is my review of Backstories if you need extra convincing to enter!

GOOD LUCK!

Review: Empower Your Kids! by Judy Bartkowiak (2021) @judybart @LiterallyPR @FAB_Publishing #EmpowerYourKids

Empower Your Kids! by Judy Bartkowiak

Blurb

Parents have a natural and automatic desire to rescue, protect and shield their children from difficult situations. Parents want to show their love by stepping in and helping wherever they can: with homework, bedtime monsters, the dark, new experiences, making friends…

But by rescuing our children, are we helping them to build their self- esteem? By stepping in and fixing things, we communicate that we don’t think they can do it on their own. We make them think they need us. What if there was a better way?

This book will give parents the skills to guide their children to find their own solutions and to create new possibilities. These tried and tested coaching skills, drawn from the author’s vast experience of working with parents and children, will give children choices. It will give them a positive mindset, and an ‘I can’ attitude.

If we can show children how to fix things for themselves, then we set them up for a lifetime of independence, and confidence in their own abilities.

Review

I reviewed Judy’s book Understanding Children and Teens at the end of last year, and I have found it really helpful – I still use quite a few of the techniques with my kids. So I was very pleased when Helen at Literally PR reached out and asked me to join the blog tour for Judy’s latest book. Huge thanks to Helen, Judy and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

One of the reasons that Judy’s work resonates so strongly with me is that as a child, I was a real ‘bottler’ of feelings. I was a highly emotional, highly imaginative child who gradually learned to push everything down and lock it up tight, and I very strongly believe that my struggles with depression later on in life were intimately connected with this repression of my emotions. Don’t worry, I have since let it ALL out (and then some!) but when I became a parent, I promised myself that I would make sure my kids felt able to express and process their emotions openly.

A key technique that Judy introduced me to is describing emotions in terms of colour. This has been so useful with both of my children, but especially with the youngest, who has really latched onto the idea, and can name a whole spectrum of emotions according to his own personal rainbow (with some pretty surprising colour choices – but hey, it’s his thing!) In Empower Your Kids! this is expanded upon, and this week we’ve been describing his feelings using colours, size (comparisons to animals and fruits, as per Judy’s advice!), whether it is moving or still, hard or soft. It is really special to see a four year old thinking about his emotions in such a way – there’s very little hesitation, he gets the concept entirely, and I think it is really useful for him.

The tapping is something I’m still getting to grips with it – I am actually using it for my own anxiety, and once I feel more confident, I’m going to use it with the kids. We do a sort of version of our own at the moment – I have tattoos of the kids’ initials on my wrists, and when my daughter started at her new school, I told her to tap on her wrist in the spot where I have her initial, and now when she comes back she asks me how many taps I felt. It just gives her a little bit of security and connection. Judy describes EFT, or tapping, as acupuncture without the needles, and she explains it in her trademark straightforward, easy to understand style. There is a very good section in Empower Your Kids! about supporting your own wellbeing with tapping – as parents, we really do need to focus on our own mental health if we are to support our kids as we would wish – and the exercises that she leads the reader through are extremely useful.

This is a practical, informative, easy to follow guide that I know I will be referring to again and again. Together with Understanding Children and Teens, I feel I now have a really useful reference set for dealing with my own and my kids’ emotions in the way that I had always hoped to – openly, honestly, without judgement. No parent can be perfect, and I mess up A LOT, but I feel much more confident having these brilliant resources to hand.

About the Author

Judy Bartkowiak is an NLP trainer and coach as well as an EFT trainer and coach who specialises in working with children and teens.  Before becoming a therapist, she worked in market research, and then ran a Montessori nursery alongside her therapeutic work. She has written extensively on NLP. 

Empower Your Kids! A coaching guide for parents by Judy Bartkowiak is published by Free Association Books and is available to purchase here.