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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Before We Say Goodbye by Madeleine Reiss - Book Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Josie is a proud mother, her son Scott is her entire life. Unfortunately Scott isn't healthy. When he was seven years old a virus damaged his heart and he could only be saved by a transplant. Josie's worst nightmare became reality, but because of a donor heart Scott was saved. He's nineteen years old and a student when he hears that his heart is giving up. Another transplant isn't a likely solution, so Scott has to accept his time is limited. There's one more thing he wants to do before he dies, will he be able to pull it off?

Scott knows how much his mother loves him and he also understands that she will be crushed when he dies. He doesn't want to leave this world when he knows Josie will be alone and heartbroken, so he starts a project. Scott wants to find someone for his mother. He hopes she will know happiness again in the future, if she has a boyfriend who's there for her and treasures her. Josie is stubborn, if Scott would talk to her about his plans she'd never accept his help. How will he convince his mother to go out with the men he selects for her without telling her about his secret mission?

Before We Say Goodbye is a brilliant moving story. Josie is a sweet woman. Her love for Scott radiates off the pages. I loved that I could literally feel the bond she has with her son. Scott appreciates everything Josie has done for him and loves his mother a lot as well. He's been through so much already and that's made him wise. He knows he won't have much time left, but decides to do something useful with the days he still has. I absolutely loved that idea for a story. I was impressed by his gentle and caring personality. Josie and Scott are a special family and that made their story incredibly beautiful.

Madeleine Reiss has a gorgeous captivating writing style. She writes about an emotional subject with empathy, warmth and love. I liked that even though Scott's illness is sad her story is filled with light. There's so much life, charm and hope in Before We Say Goodbye and this gives the book plenty of amazing layers and superb contrasts. I can't praise this story enough. I highly recommend Before We Say Goodbye, it's one of the most fantastic books I've read in a long time.


If you love beautiful emotional stories about a special family connection you don't want to miss Before We Say Goodbye.

About Madeleine Reiss

Madeleine Reiss was born in Athens. She worked for some years in an agency for street performers and comedians and then as a journalist and publicist. She has two sons and lives in Cambridge with her husband and her younger son.


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Building Characters
Guest post by Madeleine Reiss

Sometimes people say ‘Is that character based on me?’ after they have read one of my books. Just occasionally I have to admit that I might have been inspired by a certain aspect of their personality or the way they look, but I never exactly replicate people I know. My characters are usually an amalgam of what I have noticed and what I have made up.

I generally start the process at the beginning of writing a book, when I only have a sketchy idea of my protagonists. I often trawl through the internet (this is very good for putting off the reality of having to put finger to keyboard) looking for people who might fit the vague shape I have in my head. Once I find someone who looks right, I put their picture on my desktop so that I can see them whenever I want to. My desktop is currently populated by pictures of faces that I can’t quite bear to get rid of even though the book might be written, because they feel like a strange sort of family.

The next stage is that I will write a profile about each of them. This includes random things like what music they listen to and whether they like marmite or peanut butter and what sort of a voice they have- stuff that I will never use but is comforting to have. Inevitably this profile will change as I write the book because the characters tend to take on a life of their own and dart off in directions I never expected them to, but at least the draft version is there as a reference point.

I always hesitate to hold forth on how writers should and shouldn’t do things for two reasons- I feel I am still starting out as a writer and don’t know yet how to do things properly and because every writer has a different way of going about things. But, for what they are worth, I offer the following suggestions…

Think about what your character is adding to the book.

Is he or she central to the story? Do they move the plot forward? Do their actions trigger conflict?

I have once or twice had to get rid of beloved characters whose creation I have laboured over but who don’t bring enough to earn their place in the story.

Work out what’s going on inside their heads.

What do they think about themselves and other people? What questions do they ask themselves? What do they care about? What makes them angry or engaged?

Give them a weakness

What is the thing that would make them react badly? What is their Achilles heel? What is it that they have to overcome?

Make them relatable

Even the most dastardly villain has to be someone whose motivations are believable and who has something about them that people recognise in themselves. When it comes to your heroes (and all the people in between) we have to care about what happens to them. In order to make a story emotional and true the reader has to be able to say ‘I might have done that’ or ‘I would feel like that too if it happened to me’ or even, ‘ I didn’t know people behaved like that but I can see why.’

Look for the difference when it comes to appearance

Just as when writing about the Victorians it is advisable to restrict mentions of carriages and bonnets, try and avoid tired ways of describing people. You won’t fall in love with a character with piercing blue eyes, but you just might if he also has one ear that sticks out slightly.

Create convincing relationships

It is in working out how your characters behave towards other people and why they are drawn to certain people (or not) that helps them to come alive. A person who is hiding a secret might seek out people who don’t probe too deep, or a person who is motivated by needing to be needed might form a relationship with someone who requires this care.

Be interested yourself in your characters and what is going to happen to them. Make them people you might like to meet or people you would avoid at any cost. Give them a voice you can listen to.


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a signed paperback copy of Before We Say Goodbye by Madeleine Reiss.

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. Before We Say Goodbye sounds like an emotional story of a mother's love with characters that are vivid and endearing.

  2. Very moving. I need some tissues when reading this book. I always enjoy powerful storie and the message it bring with it.

  3. Awesome posts! Love reading about the process of writing too, thank you.

  4. Thanks for the insight into how you find your characters Madeleine - love that you can't bear to delete those photos off!

  5. I had tears in my eyes just reading the review, what a moving story this is. I'd definitely need more than one box of paper hankies.

  6. I love the story, and the cover is so pretty.

  7. Awesome! Thanks for the review and giveaway!

  8. The setup seems a little familiar but the treatment feels authentic.

  9. Sounds like a good read

  10. I can not tell you enough how much I love those Converse on the cover! LOVE! I'm really excited to read it.

  11. I love the fact that Madeleine creates character profiles. I prefer books which are character-driven.

  12. loved her last book, can't wait to read this!

  13. First, I appreciate the "Building Characters" portion of this post. Thank you!
    I feel as though I would be reaching for a box of tissues before finishing the first chapter of this book-- but in a good way! "Before We Say Goodbye" sounds like a beautiful and touching read.

  14. Wow, this sounds a heart-wrenching but lovely story. I think I will need tissues to read it.

  15. Oh my, I was practically crying reading about this book. I love a good emotional read so I will be reading this one.

  16. This book sounds like it will definitely require tissues, will be an emotional read

  17. A very sweet story! I want to know what happens!!

  18. Sounds really great, I would like to read this book. Thanks Madeleine!

  19. Lots of good tips in this guest post for would-be authors. I do admire anyone who can come up with characters, set them in a scene and write a whole novel about them and their lives and all just from their imagination.