Friday, 31 January 2014

Review of Calling All Services and Interview with author Tara Ford

Happy Friday everyone
I'm delighted to provide another review/interview combo of a book I've been meaning to read for quite a while. Calling All Services is the first in the Calling All series.
So, here's the blurb:-

Alex Frey, successful businesswoman, wife and mother to a busy and demanding family, doesn't find it easy to take a break. So when she's hospitalised with a mysterious illness, paralysed and afraid of what the future might bring, frustration meets fear and she can't wait to escape the hospital, get back in control of things and return her family to the normality of salmon paste sandwiches. At home, her husband Grant is determined to manage the kids, Alex's parents, his sister and anything else life can throw at him while his wife is away recuperating. But what else can possibly go wrong while Alex is in hospital? The Frey family is about to find out

And here's what I thought!
I'd never come across a book about the emergency services and on reading the opening chapters, I was struck by how much I liked the humour and the author's voice. Alex & Grant's family, including grandparents, a sensitive younger son who lacks confidence, an overconfident soldier big brother and a sulky teenage daughter will strike a chord with many - especially those who have teenage children.My own child is only 10 months old, but I was already envisaging how many of the scrapes and mishaps the kids find themselves in could well happen to us in the future. The novel takes place over only a few short days when Alex is admitted to hospital with a mystery illness. The matriarch and head of the household, she runs it with an iron rod, so it's only fitting that it all falls to pieces without her. Every calamity which could possibly happen befalls this family and the escapades are humorously portrayed. I particularly liked the characters of the overbearing mother-in-law and the nosy neighbour, Evelyn, and especially Grant's attitude towards her - ie what he would like to say to her versus what he actually said to her. I thought the book well-written, especially for a first novel and would be more than happy to read the next in the series (there will be four books in total, I believe)
A solid 4 STARS from me.

I also wanted to pose some questions to Tara about the book:-

1)      I’ve never come across a book about all the emergency services before and only of late a few about the health service. What knowledge/experience do you personally have of the health service, either as an employee or a patient?
‘Calling All Services’ is very loosely based upon my own experience as a patient, some years ago. I had always wanted to write a book, for as long as I can remember, but couldn’t quite come up with the right storyline. Then I ended up in hospital with a mysterious illness (the doctors really didn’t have a clue what was wrong with me) which was paralysing. While I lay helpless in the hospital it seemed that things were going wrong at home – like the washing machine packing up and my son’s bed breaking because he decided to have a ‘rough and tumble’ on it with his brother!
During my time in the hospital I began to think up some crazy scenarios of what might be going on at home and therefore, the early stages of ‘Calling All Services’ were born.
Incidentally, when my daughter came to visit me in the hospital, she sat by the side of the sink unit, in my room and was very annoying as she insisted on putting her thumb in to the end of the tap and popping it back out to create that famous ‘popping’ noise from the book. However, nothing in my real experience was ever as bad as it was in the book.

2)      I liked the changing POVs - in your mind is there a main character or two main characters and how did you decide how to divide up the content between Grant and Alex?
I believe that there are two main characters in the story, Grant and Alex and this is why I wanted to tell the story from both of their points of view. I felt that the story needed to written this way so as to get a real feel of both Grant and Alex’s predicaments. I used the passing of time and each incident that occurred to dictate when I needed to switch the POV and also the chapter.
3)      I liked several of the peripheral characters, including Evelyn - we’ve all met a busybody like her. Who is your favourite peripheral character?
Funnily enough, Evelyn is my favourite character but I think that she has far more clout when partnered up with Dot, so can I cheat and say that I like both Evelyn and Dot as a duo (or should I call them ‘double-trouble’?)?
4)      In the next book have you given the same weight to each of the characters as in Calling All Services?
The second book, ‘Calling All Dentists’ has been written quite differently from the first. I would say that there is one main character (I won’t tell you who but if you’ve read ‘Calling All Services’ you will know this person) and one point of view.
The second book is also set ten years in the future, which some people may not expect.
5)I loved the humour in the book. Is this a good reflection of your own sense of humour and if so, how?
I would say that the wry sense of humour is me all over. Some say that I am self-effacing and I know that I am certainly shy I think I use humour to disguise this. I see the world in a very light-hearted way and try to find the funny side of any situation – rightly or wrongly. I think my humorous outlook
has helped me through some difficult times in my life too. I have always wanted to write in the humour genre but wasn’t sure if my writing would actually make people laugh

6)Do you have any family anecdotes you can relate which rival those of Grant and Alex’s family?
Well, fortunately I do not own a mother like Dot and have a husband like Grant (he’s not all that bad though really) but I’m not sure that I can compete with Grant and Alex when it comes to family anecdotes. Their tales are far more bizarre than mine could ever be.
7) I enjoyed reading about the day-to-day family life via all of the various family members. Which family member is your favourite and why?
My favourite family member has to be Dot. I felt that I could have a lot of fun with her and create far more problems with her particular type of character. That must be my warped sense of humour again!
8) The mishaps that befell the family and the trouble they got themselves into: thumb stuck in the wash hand basin at the hospital, getting on the wrong train, scalding feet when the police were there, etc. Which was your favourite mishap?
I think my favourite mishap was the ‘thumb’ one as it made me laugh my head off when I was writing it. I was sure, at the time, that my family thought I had lost the plot as I giggled my head off in my little ‘office’ area. I could picture the scene so clearly after Grant’s rather undignified accident, on top of everything else. The fact that Alex was at a complete loss due to her ailments and could not offer any help, just made the scene even funnier in my eyes.
9) How much is Alex like her mother? Her mother is very overbearing and Alex freely admits she runs her household and makes all the decisions. Should Grant be worried?!
I don’t think that Alex is quite as bad as her mother is. Alex has always been aware of the trail of disorder and chaos that her mum can leave, so Alex works hard to make sure that she does not end up like her mum. Alex tends to show more empathy towards others than her mum does but both women like to take control of any situation. I don’t think that Grant needs to be too worried about the future – after all, he needs her – right?
10) I’ve heard there are 4 books in the series. What can you tell us about the other three?
The second and subsequent books in the series are all set ten years in the future. The members of the Frey family appear, either directly or indirectly, in each story.
‘Calling All Dentists’ should be published (all being well) in February 2014. I don’t want to say too much about the storyline except that it is quite unusual. I would suggest that if you don’t really like dentists, then maybe this wouldn’t be the book for you.
The third book is a WIP, called ‘Calling All Customers’. I like this one a lot and hope that it will be full of fun and laughter.
The fourth and final book in the series is called, ‘Calling All Neighbours’. Again, I’m hoping this will be full of humour too.
Thank you for having me here on your blog Sooz – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your thought-provoking questions.
You can buy Calling All Services on Amazon -
UK - &  US - also available in paperback.
And you can keep in touch with Tara via the following means:
Tune in on Sat when my Valentine's Day coverage will be starting. The Dating Game is perfect for this time of year, and I will also be participating in a two week event with some fellow authors - believe me, you don't want to miss this one!

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