Review: Reunion by R. V. Biggs | @RVBiggs @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Reunion Cover Picture

About the Book

One random, violent act is enough to change Sarah Macintyre’s life forever.

Left unsettled, and yearning for a new beginning, Sarah is unsure of what to do with her life. But one day she discovers an anonymous letter hidden amidst a pile of unopened mail.

The note, however, contains nothing more than a confusing riddle.

Intrigued and excited, Sarah’s hunger for a new life compels her to search for the author to understand the puzzle and solve the mystery.

Embarking on a journey that will shape the rest of her life and that of her family, Sarah uncovers a past of which she had no knowledge, a present she must find a path through, and a future filled with intense grief and utmost joy.

 

My Thoughts

Earlier this year I read and fell in love with Song of the Robin, the first book in the Sarah McIntyre series, so I was delighted to be offered the chance to read the follow up book. Song of the Robin is one of those really special books that has made its mark on me and I’m so happy to say that I also completely and utterly adored Reunion!

Reunion picks up right after the end of Song of the Robin. Sarah is still struggling with the assault that happened in the previous book, she feels fear about it but she’s also still having strange symptoms. She feels anxious and worried but can’t seem to express to her loved ones what exactly is happening to her. Then one day she receives a strange letter in the post and this leads to Sarah uncovering some secrets and some answers!

I loved this novel, I was under its spell from the opening page until after I turned the final page. Sarah is such a great character and I constantly root for her to be well and to be happy again. I had such a connection to Song of the Robin because of the way grief is explored, it really struck a chord with me, and whilst Reunion moves on from that story the way lost loved ones are spoke of in this book was so wonderful.

This novel follows Sarah and her family for the most part but it also has short chapters from a time in the 1700s as we follow a young woman trying to survive and avenge the trauma that has been inflicted on her family. It’s not clear initially what this has to do with the main plot but it soon begins to come clear and I loved the way we get to put it all together. The atmosphere in this book is wonderful, there is such a sense of time and place, and the people are all so real and believable.

I loved seeing more of Sarah’s friendship with Rachel, they are two women who clearly have such a strong bond. Their relationship is so true to life – the way that sometimes you can’t even tell the people closest to you how you’re feeling and they can sense you holding back but you can’t break through the walls. You get to see more of Rachel in this book and to understand why she is the way she is. I wasn’t expecting the cause of her pain to be what it was but it was so believable and my heart broke for her.

There is loss and pain in this book, things that moved me to tears at times but the overriding feel is one of healing – both physically and emotionally, but it’s also about the act of healing and this is so beautiful.

I love the way the author explores fate and destiny in this book, I’m really drawn to stories about these things. I never used to believe in fate but in my own life, a few years ago, over the course of five months the very worst thing happened to me and then the very best thing happened to me. So many people have said that perhaps it was my late mum who made sure my husband arrived in my life when he did and I take so much comfort from the thought of that. Reunion looks at how the past continues to run through us and it explores how those we’ve lost are never really gone.

There is a mystery running through this book that had me utterly fascinated. I was trying to figure out what was going on along with Sarah and her family, and was utterly gripped by the way the story unfolds in this book. It’s such a great story, and told so brilliantly.

I don’t want to say too much more because future readers should read this book as I did, without knowing too much about it going into it so you get to experience the stunning journey these characters go on for yourself.

I don’t really have the words to describe how much I loved this book (and the previous one). It’s one of those times where I connected with it so much and it now means such a lot to me and I just can’t do it any kind of justice. The first book in the series made my top books of 2019 so far list back at the end of June and I can say for sure that Reunion will be on my favourite books list at the end of the year! Song of the Robin was cathartic and comforting for me, and Reunion was incredibly moving and healing. R. V. Biggs writes such stunning and special novels – I can’t wait to read whatever he publishes next. I highly recommend this series of books, they really are so different and so beautiful.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Reunion is out now and available here.

I’ve previously reviewed the first book in this series, Song of the Robinhere.

 

About the Author

R V Biggs Author Photo

R V Biggs lives in a small ex-mining village near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife Julie, and Mags the black lab. He has four grown up children and six grandchildren.

Walking with the dog is a favorite pastime and much of the story line for his first novel was developed during these lengthy outings.

Robert worked for 35 years in telecommunications but changed career paths to a managerial supporting role within a local Mental Health NHS trust. It was during the period between these roles that the concept for Song of the Robin was born.

Robert is a firm believer that destiny and co-incidence exist hand in hand and this conviction extends to his writing. He has a passion for holistic well-being and after first-hand experience of the potential healing powers of Reiki, a form of energy therapy, took a Reiki level 1 training course to heighten his spiritual awareness. Robert’s experiences in these areas helped conceive the ideas that led to Song of the Robin and its sequel Reunion, novels with central themes of fate, love and the strength of family. His writing however is not fantasy but is set in modern times involving real people living real lives.

Twitter @RVBiggs

 

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Review: Truth Hurts by Rebecca Reid | @RebeccaCNReid @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Truth Hurts Cover Image

About the Book

Poppy has a secret. 
Drew has nothing to hide.

Theirs was a whirlwind romance.

And when Drew, caught up in the moment, suggests that he and Poppy don’t tell each other anything about their past lives, that they live only for the here and now, for the future they are building together, Poppy jumps at the chance for a fresh start.

But it doesn’t take long for Poppy to see that this is a two-way deal. Drew is hiding something from her. And Poppy suddenly has no idea who the man she has married really is, or what he might be capable of.

Poppy has a secret. 
Drew has nothing to hide. 
Drew is lying.
Which is more dangerous, a secret or a lie?

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, I loved loved loved Rebecca Reid’s previous novel Perfect Liars but Truth Hurts is even better! I literally didn’t put this book down once I started reading it – it was just impossible to!

Truth Hurts follows Poppy who is sacked from her job as an au pair late at night and she ends up in a bar wondering what on earth she’s going to do next. She gets talking to Drew and they have such a great connection and end up going home together. Drew is a mysterious and handsome man and Poppy can’t believe how lucky she is to have met him. Their romance is a whirlwind and within a month they decide to get married. Drew then suggests that they make this the beginning and that they never talk about anything in their lives prior to when they met. Poppy has a secret that she can never tell and so she agrees.

I was on edge from the moment Poppy met Drew because he seemed too good to be true but at the same time I know what it is to meet Mr Right and to fall in love very quickly so I got swept up in their story. Alarm bells did ring when he surprises Poppy with a home he’s bought for them but I could absolutely see why Poppy didn’t hear those alarm bells.

I love the idea of a romantic relationship where one partner has a secret and the other is lying and yet they have agreed never to discuss the past. It’s such a great idea for a thriller and it made this book so different to other thrillers that I’ve read before. I tried to imagine agreeing to something like this and I just can’t but at the same time I absolutely believed in Poppy and why she agreed to it.

The house that Drew buys for them to live in was the third character in this novel (and in their marriage!) and I loved this element. I could really envisage this house and could feel all the creepy things that Poppy could sense. It’s not a haunted house story but the house is definitely metaphorically haunted by what happened there before Poppy and Drew moved in. It’s a creaky old house – it’s draughty, dark and dingy and for Poppy who is home alone a lot it begins to play on her mind that there is something sinister about it.

The truths in this book were shocking when they were revealed, I genuinely didn’t guess the secret or the lie. It’s so rare for a novel to keep me guessing until all is revealed so kudos to this one for that! I love how we get little bits of the past throughout the novel, which just heightens the tension and teases the possibilities of what might have happened.

Truth Hurts is a novel that had me literally on the edge of my seat and I just had to keep reading one more chapter (and one more until I was turning the final page very late at night!). I absolutely loved this book – it’s a real page turner and genuinely thrilling! Rebecca Reid is right up there now with my favourite thriller authors and I already can’t wait to read whatever she writes next! I highly recommend this one, it’s brilliant!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Truth Hurts is out now in ebook and is due to be published in paperback on 23 January 2020 and is available here.

 

About the Author

Rebecca Reid Author Pic

Rebecca is a freelance journalist. She is a columnist for the Telegraph Women’s section, works for Metro Online and has written for Marie Claire, the Guardian, the Saturday Telegraph, the Independent, Stylist, Glamour, the iPaper, the Guardian, Indy100, LOOK and the New Statesmen amongst others.

Rebecca is a regular contributor to Sky News and ITV’s This Morning as well as appearing on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, LBC, BBC News 24 and the BBC World Service to discuss her work.

She graduated from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA in 2015 and Perfect Liars is her debut novel.

Rebecca lives in North London with her husband.

 

 

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Review: Shelf Life by Livia Franchini | @LivFranchini @DoubledayUK @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Shelf Life Cover

About the Book

Ruth is thirty years old. She works as a nurse in a care home and her fiancé has just broken up with her. The only thing she has left of him is their shopping list for the upcoming week.

And so she uses that list to tell her story. Starting with six eggs, and working through spaghetti and strawberries, and apples and tea bags, Ruth discovers that her identity has been crafted from the people she serves; her patients, her friends, and, most of all, her partner of ten years. Without him, she needs to find out – with conditioner and single cream and a lot of sugar – who she is when she stands alone.

 

My Thoughts

Shelf Life is a fascinating novel that follows Ruth who is coming to terms with her fiance breaking up with her. She finds a shopping list that is the only thing left of him in their home and the novel then is told in chapters headed by each item on the list.

I loved this book. I found it was quite a meandering novel and it begged to be read slowly. I’m naturally a fast reader but I really enjoyed the fact that this book made me slow down, it made me want to take it all in and to take time to ponder what I had read.

Ruth is blindsided by her fiance deciding to end their long term relationship. She is mid-way through washing up when Neil announces that it’s over. I really felt for Ruth, I know what it’s like to have to re-evaluate life after a break up as it happened to me at the same age. It’s like a rug has been pulled from under you and suddenly you’re not sure who you are anymore, or how you relate to other people in your life.

Shelf Life is predominantly told from Ruth’s perspective but we get the occasional chapter from Neil. It’s interesting to see how Ruth feels about herself and her life, and how she related herself to Neil. Neil’s chapters are increasingly uncomfortable to read though as you get a slow realisation that he’s not the man Ruth thought he was. He inserts himself into women’s lives and seems to become the man they think they need.

There is also an occasional chapter from Alanna. This is a girl that Ruth was at school with, and later at nursing college. They then end up working together at the same care home. I found Alanna a character that I couldn’t quite work out. I got the feeling that she had been quite antagonistic through school, perhaps being part of the popular gang that Ruth was on the outside of. She seems to care about Ruth now they’re adults but I was on edge reading her perspective as I felt sure she was setting Ruth up for something. As time went on I came to quite like her but I never one hundred per cent felt sure of her. I loved this aspect of the novel though because that’s how it is in life, you can never be sure of another person’s motives even if you have known them a long time and especially if they’ve always just been on the edge of your life.

Shelf Life really captures life, and it does it in all its glory – there is humour and heartbreak all mixed in together. There are some moments in this novel that made me cringe because the descriptions are so real, and we’ve all been there, but that’s the beauty of this novel. It takes a great writer to really capture how life is and Livia Franchini is an incredible writer!

Shelf Life is a novel that I very much enjoyed as I was reading it and I’ve found that my love for it has grown even more since I finished it. I find myself thinking about it, and about Ruth, and relating it to my own life and it just won’t let go of me. It really is a novel that has so much depth and so many layers to it, some that only become apparent when you give yourself the space to ponder on it. I adored this book and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Shelf Life is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Livia Franchini Author Picture

 

Livia Franchini is a writer and translator from Tuscany, Italy, whose work has been published in numerous publications and anthologies. She has translated Michael Donaghy, Sam Riviere and James Tiptree Jr. among many others. In 2018, she was one of the inaugural writers-in-residence for the Connecting Emerging Literary Artist project, funded by Creative Europe. She lives in London, where she is completing a PhD in experimental women’s writing at Goldsmiths.

 

 

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Review: Head Shot Victoria Nixon | @VictoriaNixon_ @annecater @Unbounders #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

A girl from a Yorkshire mining town is barely thirteen when her father kills himself – her brother finds him dying. At sixteen she’s spotted by a rock star and becomes an international Vogue model. Seven years later her brother kills himself in her New York apartment and her mother dies too. With no family left, her life is now one of extreme choices. Fifty years later, Victoria confronts her past and takes her readers on an unflinching voyage through her experiences as a model and beyond. Speaking frankly about loss, love, friendship and ambition, Head Shot is a book of inspiration and purpose. Packed with astonishing images by the photographers Victoria worked with, and the defiant fashions she wore throughout her career, it also bears witness to a time of unparalleled cultural energy and invention; it’s a story in which bags and shoes can, and do, sit right next to life and death.

 

My Thoughts

Head Shot is an incredible memoir; Victoria Nixon so honestly and openly looks back on her life and career. I finished reading this book a few days ago now and am still trying to find the words for this review.

My main reason for wanting to read this book was because the Victoria Nixon lost her mum at a similar age that I was when I lost my mum and I find myself drawn to books where people explore how they cope with losing their mother whilst in their 20s. The book that I got gave me what I was expecting but so much more besides.

Victoria Nixon takes us through how she came to be a model, you get to hear of the photographers she has worked with and other models she has got to know. I loved hearing about the stars of the day that she came into contact with – such as Brian Eno! There is no name-dropping in this book, all the stories Victoria shares feel a real part of her life story and so come up in an organic way. She never seemed to be affected by the showbiz life but seemed to just be enjoying her life and working hard to be a success.

It was heartbreaking to read of her father’s death when she was only a young teenager. I can’t imagine the pain of that and how it affects a person. Victoria shares her emotions and how it led to her life becoming what it did. I very much appreciated how sensitively and honestly she looks back at her father’s death, you can see how much she loved him. Sadly for Victoria she also lost her brother to suicide when she was in her 20s. This was an incredibly moving part of the book to read. The struggles Nick had had and the way his family had tried so hard to help him were very moving to read about. Victoria doesn’t shy away from discussing mental health in her book, she clearly cares very deeply about the subject.

The loss of her mother also when she was in her 20s was a shock for her and it changed how she felt about her life. I can really identify with this. I think when you’re very close to a parent and you lose them when you’re at a stage in life of being independent but also knowing that you can always go home if you need to, it’s very hard. I have such admiration for how Victoria dealt with her grief, and how she coped with all the pain life has thrown at her. She doesn’t dwell, she reflects on things but she always knew she had to pick herself up and keep going. I found her such an inspiring person to read about.

I very much enjoyed learning about the modelling industry in the 60s and 70s. I’m not really into fashion but it was fascinating to read about what it was like to be a model, and to hear about the not-so-glamourous side of things. Nixon is clearly a very driven and determined woman and she continued to push through during the difficult times. There are lighter moments throughout the book too, moments that will make you giggle and some stories that might make you raise an eyebrow.

There are photos throughout this book and I loved seeing them. They relate to stories Nixon has shared and it really brought the book to life. I love hearing the back story to an image and so this was a joy to have in this book.

Head Shot is such an incredible memoir! It’s a stunning and candid look back at a life that will leave you feeling inspired. Victoria Nixon’s passion and determination shines through and I’m so glad I got to read about her life. I loved this book so much, it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read! I very highly recommend this!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Head Shot is out now in hardback and available here. The ebook is due for release on 15 August and can be pre-ordered at the same link.

 

About the Author

Victoria-Nixon-Author-pic

Victoria Nixon was eighteen when she was discovered by Helmut Newton, who photographed her for Vogue . This launched her international modelling career, which led to her being named the Daily Mail ’s ‘Face of 1968’.

After modelling, she went on to become an award-winning advertising copywriter, television producer and magazine editor. In the 1990s she opened the first deli in the UK to ban plastic packaging, and in 2002 her first book, ‘Supermodels’ Beauty Secrets‘ , was published, followed by ‘Supermodels’ Diet Secrets‘ in 2004. She is cofounder and managing director of a company which designs and manufactures humanitarian aid products used worldwide

Links-http://www.victorianixon.com/

Twitter @VictoriaNixon_

 

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Review: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena | @sharilapena @TransworldBooks @ThomasssHill @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Someone We Should Know Cover

About the Book

It can be hard keeping secrets in a tight-knit neighbourhood.

In a tranquil, leafy suburb of ordinary streets – one where everyone is polite and friendly – an anonymous note has been left at some of the houses.

I’m so sorry. My son has been getting into people’s houses. He’s broken into yours.

Who is this boy, and what might he have uncovered? As whispers start to circulate, suspicion mounts.

And when a missing local woman is found murdered, the tension reaches breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their secrets?

Maybe you don’t know your neighbour as well as you thought you did . . .

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Shari Lapena’s writing so I was thrilled to receive a copy of her new novel Someone We Know and I’m really happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

Someone We Know is set in a small community so when a neighbour goes missing everyone is talking about her and wondering what could have happened. Alongside this Olivia discovers that her teenage son Raleigh has broken into a couple of their neighbour’s houses and she is mortified and furious.

This book feels claustrophobic from the start, the idea of a small community is uncomfortable to me anyway (I grew up in a small town and now hate the idea of living somewhere like that) but with the break-ins and the missing woman, and the subsequent gossip about it all really made it feel like I was trapped in the neighbourhood with these people. I loved that about it though, it made me lose where I really was and I became so absorbed in the novel that I lost a whole afternoon to it!

I loved how it turns out that quite a few people in the novel have something to hide – some smaller things, some huge things and you’re constantly wondering if any of them have anything to do with the missing woman.

Shari Lapena writes red herrings so well – she misleads you and takes you down a path and then points you in a totally different direction and it’s always so brilliantly done! I had my suspicions and my thoughts about what was going on throughout the novel but I only partly clicked whodunnit right before it was revealed and I didn’t work out all of it so it was brilliant to be kept guessing throughout!

This is a novel about the secrets people hide, and how well you really know the people you think you’re closest too. It makes you question the truth that people tell and whether it’s the actual truth or their perceived truth. This is a perfect summer thriller – it’s gripping from the opening pages, it’s thrilling from start to finish and it’s a book to get lost in. I read it all in one sitting and loved it!

Many thanks to Transworld for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Someone We Know is out now and available here.

 

I’ve previously reviewed The Couple Next Door and An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena.

 

About the Author

Shari Lapena Author pic

 

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller, the bestselling fiction title in the UK in 2017 and has been optioned for television. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House and third, An Unwanted Guest, were both Sunday Times and New York Times bestsellers.

 

 

 

 

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Review: The Hidden Wife by Amanda Reynolds | @AmandaReynoldsJ @Wildfirebks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Every marriage has its problems.
But would Julia Blake really have just walked out of hers, leaving no trace?

Max Blake knows more about his wife’s disappearance than he’s letting on.
That’s what the police think anyway. But with no body, the case is growing cold…

One young journalist thinks she can find out the truth.
But the more time she spends with Max at the couple’s remote estate, the higher the risk to her own safety. And whatever happened to Julia Blake may be her fate next…

 

My Thoughts

The Hidden Wife is such a good book! Seren is a junior reporter for a local newspaper and she’s just been given her first big story. She’s been tasked to interview famous novelist Max Blake, who’s wife Julia has been missing for months. So far he’s refused all interview requests by the media so this is a big deal for Seren and could make her career!

I was intrigued from the very beginning of this book as it opens just a few hours after Julia has been reported missing and we don’t know what’s happened to her. The novel then moves forward a few months and Seren is given the assignment to interview Julia’s husband Max. Max is a famous author and has so far resisted talking about Julia in the media so Seren is thrilled, and a little apprehensive, to be given such a job! There is something of a connection between Max and Seren as she knows what it’s like to lose a loved one and not have all the answers. I was curious as to whether Max knew this and would play on it for his own advantage as he seemed a very clever man.

The Hidden Wife kept me on my toes throughout. There are moments where I thought I had the mystery cracked but then something else would happen and I would be questioning everything all over again. The novel is a slow-burn to begin with. You really get to know Seren, which I loved as it meant I was with her all the way as she gradually starts to try to learn more about Max. There is a point in the novel though where it becomes utterly compelling and from there on I just couldn’t put it down!

The further I got into this novel the more it became apparent how everyone has a face they wear for others. It’s easy to think Max is slick and clearly hiding something but we don’t know for sure that he harmed his wife, we just presume he has. Seren has some real sadness in her life and she seems to keep people at something of a distance, even the people she’s closer to. Even the housekeeper seems besotted with Max and suspicious, even a little antagonistic towards Seren but there is more to her and I enjoyed finding out what was behind her facade.

I got Rebecca vibes from some elements of this book – the missing wife Julia, who we only really see through her husband’s, and occasionally the housekeeper’s, eyes. The somewhat naive junior reporter Seren who feels a little anxious around Max but is drawn to him at the same time. And Max, the enigmatic husband – did he harm his wife? Does he know where she is? I loved that there was a sense of Rebecca in the novel whilst at the same time it is absolutely its own story.

I very much enjoyed The Hidden Wife and have found since I finished reading it that I keep thinking about it. I definitely recommend putting it on your summer holiday reading plans if you like gripping, thrilling and hard to put down novels!

Many thanks to Wildfire for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Hidden Wife is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Amanda Reynolds Author Pic

Photo credit: David Churchill Photography

Amanda Reynolds lives in the Cotswolds with her family where she writes full-time. Her debut novel, Close To Me, is a #1 e-book best- seller. The Hidden Wife is her third book.

Follow Amanda on Twitter: @AmandaReynoldsJ

amandareynoldsauthor.com

 

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Review: Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland | @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

A strange sensation runs through me, a feeling that I don’t know this person in front of me, even though he matters more to me than anyone ever has, than anyone ever will.

You go into your son’s bedroom. It’s the usual mess. You tidy up some dirty plates, pick up some clothes, open the wardrobe to put them away.

And that’s when you find it. Something so shocking it doesn’t seem real.

And you realize a horrifying truth…

Your own son might be dangerous…

 

My Thoughts

The premise of Keep Her Close grabbed my attention right away! Steph is an FBI agent and a single mum to her teenage son Zach. One day she is in his room and she makes a horrifying discovery in his wardrobe. I immediately wanted to know more and I’m happy to say that this book kept me gripped all the way through.

Steph is an FBI agent and is trained in spotting when someone is lying and so when she confronts her son and he denies all knowledge she is convinced he’s telling the truth. This made for an interesting dynamic because I think people find it hard to believe a loved one is doing anything wrong so I wasn’t sure that Steph was right to believe Zach so easily. By the same token it’s her job to know and she understands issues of security so I wondered if maybe she was right and someone was setting Zach, or possibly her, up.

Keep Her Close is set in the present day but there are a few flashbacks spread throughout the novel, and I really enjoyed that element. I like being able to slowly piece together someone’s background and to build up a picture of how they got to be who they are.

Keep Her Close soon ramps up the tension as a colleague of Steph’s approaches her with intelligence he has about a domestic anarchist group that Zach may be involved in. Steph starts digging, determined to prove that her son is being set up but the investigation leads down some dark paths and I ended up not being sure at all of who I could trust in this novel.

I really liked Steph throughout this novel. She’s something of a flawed character in that she is stubborn and doesn’t easily let people in, neither in her private life nor at work, and this makes things harder for her. She also gets fixated on a particular problem to the detriment of other things that she should be doing. And she’s fiercely protective of her son. But, for me, all of this made her human and meant I could identify with her a lot of the time and I was always rooting for her.

This was such a fast-paced, gripping novel and it would make a perfect holiday read – it’s a book to pick up and devour while the real world disappears for a while!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Keep You Close is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Karen Cleveland Author Picture

Karen Cleveland spent eight years as a CIA analyst, focusing on counterterrorism and working briefly on rotation to the FBI. She has master’s degrees from Trinity College Dublin and Harvard University. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two young sons.

 

 

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Review: The Lost Properties of Love by Sophie Ratcliffe | @WmCollinsBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

What if you could tell the truth about who you are, without risking losing the one you love? This is a book about love affairs and why we choose to have them; a book for anyone who has ever loved and wondered what it is all about.

This is a book about the things we hide from other people. Love affairs, grief, domestic strife and the mess at the bottom of your handbag. Part memoir, part imagined history, in The Lost Properties of Love, Sophie Ratcliffe combines her own experience of childhood bereavement, a past lover, the reality about motherhood and marriage, with undiscovered stories about Tolstoy and trains, handbags and honeymoons to muse on the messiness of everyday life.

An extended train journey frames the action – and the author turns not to self-help manuals but to the fictions that have shaped our emotional and romantic landscape. Readers will find themselves propelled into Anna Karenina’s world of steam, commuting down the Northern Line, and checking out a New York El-train with Anthony Trollope’s forgotten muse, Kate Field.

As scenes in her own life collide with the stories of real and imaginary heroines, The Lost Properties of Love asks how we might find new ways of thinking about love and intimacy in the twenty-first century. Frank and painfully funny, this contemporary take on Brief Encounter – told to a backing track of classic 80s songs- is a compelling look at the workings of the human heart.

 

My Thoughts

The Lost Properties of Love is a beautiful book that is part fiction and part memoir. Each chapter takes place during a different train journey and it’s a stunning look at life and love.

The book is set out in chapters that are headed with a train journey’s departure and end point and a date. It roughly follows a chapter of the author’s reminisces about her own life followed by a chapter about Trollope and his muse, Kate Field, or of thoughts on the fictional Anna Karenina.

You soon get a sense that Sophie Ratcliffe is exploring the pivotal moments in her life that have made her who she is. The loss of her father when she was just a young teenager, the affair she had with an older married man a few years later are the main events and she ruminates on these from different angles, and from different stages in her life. She compares her emotions to how Anna Karenina might have felt, and she considers the affair Trollope possibly had with his muse Kate Field and how she may have felt.

There are different textures of loss. The lost hope we find again, and the lost that we think is gone for ever. The loss of an object in the silt of mud, the loss of a smell or sound. People are lost to us, or make themselves lost.

The author’s thoughts on the loss of her beloved father were what I most identified with. The loss of a parent changes you in ways you can’t imagine until you’ve experienced it. The quote below, for all its simplicity, took all the air out of my lungs for a few moments because this is exactly how it is. You have belongings and people and one day you may well lose them, and they may well be lost forever.

The thing about having stuff, like handbags, or mementos, or fathers, is that you might lose them.

The book also explores our relationship to objects, and to the way we all lead our lives. The protagonist in this book struggles to organise the mess in her home, and at one stage ruminates that the mess is now condensed in her handbag. I could really identify with this. I finally got on top of all of my mess last year but I still feel the pull to gather stuff around me when I’m feeling down. Sophie Ratcliffe’s description of Anna Karenina’s red handbag and the things inside it brought a lump to my throat.

There are some gorgeous references to books in this book too, which I adored and so identified with. Also The Lost Properties of Love has really made me want to re-read Anna Karenina very soon, and it’s always good to be reminded of a book that you loved many years ago and have yet to revisit.

There’s a reason one of the greatest novels in English begins with it heroine’s delight that there was no possibility of taking a walk that day. There’s a reason Jane Eyre appeals to teenagers. There are no window seats on family walks. You cannot read a book while walking with your family.

This whole book is a meander through a life, in the way a train journey meanders through landscapes; it’s a gorgeous way to reflect on life. The time on a train gives us a chance to ponder and to think and this book is such a wonderful reading experience; it also made me think about events in my own life and to ponder them from different angles.

The Lost Properties of Love is such a beautiful book, and one that has been lingering in my mind ever since I finished reading it. I already feel that it’s a book I want to re-read, that it’s a book that will reward me for re-reading it and I don’t often get that feeling about a book. I recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Lost Properties of Love is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Sophie Ratcliffe Author Pic

Sophie Ratcliffe is an academic, writer, and literary critic. 

She teaches English at the University of Oxford, where she is an Associate Professor and Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall. 

She is the author of On Sympathy (Oxford University Press), and edited the authorised edition of P. G. Wodehouse’s letters. 

In her academic work, she is interested in ideas of emotion and the history of how we feel. 

She reviews regularly for the national press, and has served as a judge of a number of literary prizes, including the Baillie Gifford and Wellcome Book Prize.

Twitter @soratcli

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Review: Horizontal Collaboration by Carole Maurel and Navie | @rolcamaurel @KoreroPress #GraphicNovel @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

“Horizontal Collaboration” is a term used to describe the sexual and romantic relationships that some French women had with members of the occupying German forces during World War II. In this poignant, female-centered graphic novel created by writer/artist duo Carole Maurel and Mademoiselle Navie, the taboo of “sleeping with the enemy” is explored through the story of a passionate, and forbidden, affair. In June 1942, married Rose (whose husband is a prisoner of war) intervenes in the detainment of her Jewish friend and then accidentally embarks on a secret relationship with the investigating German officer, Mark. There is only one step between heroism and treason, and it’s often a dangerous one. Inside an apartment building on Paris’s 11th arrondissement, little escapes the notice of the blind husband of the concierge. Through his sightless but all-knowing eyes, we learn of Rose and Mark’s hidden relationship, and also of the intertwined stories and problems of the other tenants, largely women and children, who face such complex issues as domestic violence, incest, and prostitution. This fascinating graphic novel tackles the still-sensitive topic of who it is acceptable to love, and how, and the story’s drama is brought vividly to life by intimate and atmospheric illustrations.

 

My Thoughts

Horizontal Collaboration is a stunning graphic novel telling the story of women in World War 2. The book opens with Virginie and her grandmother Rose in the present day talking about love, and this leads to Rose reflecting back on the man she truly loved (not the man she married). We then discover the stories of three women whose lives overlap during the war, and get to understand things from each of their perspectives.

The novel is set in an apartment building and we get to see inside each of the inhabitants’ lives and how they all intertwine.

Rose is married to Raymond, who is away at war, and she is raising their young son Lucien. Over the course of the memoir we see her relationship with a German soldier, which she desperately needs to be kept secret but she has fallen in love with him and can’t stop seeing him. This is such a dangerous situation for Rose, but I couldn’t help but feel for her.

Josephine is another young woman who works at a cabaret club but is also working as an escort as its the only way she can make ends meet. I really liked her and felt so anxious that things weren’t going to work out for her. She seemed so lonely and sad, never giving her full self to anyone.

Then there is Madam Flament. She was something of an enigma to begin with. She seems to be quite scatty; she’s obsessed with her cats in the basement and seems to care more about them than the people living in her building. But there’s something that made me think she was watching and taking in everything that was happening, and this made me nervous about what this might lead to.

I will say that when I initially started reading this book I found it a little confusing as the story does jump from character to character. I soon realised that I needed to take my time with this novel and read it slowly, to properly appreciate the story being told and to enjoy the beautiful illustrations. Once I did this I became fully immersed in this book and I was captivated by what I was reading and seeing.

The illustrations throughout this novel are stunning. The colour palette is predominantly sepia toned but there is colour, and the way things like the way candles light up a room are captured so beautifully. The images capture the mood; the happy and the heartbreaking in such a way that I so many times had to pause for a few moments just to take in an image before moving on to the next part.

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Camile is one of the only men in this book and I found that his story was the thread that pulled the others together. He is a kindly, older man that the other people in the building seem to gravitate towards. Camile is blind and it’s fascinating that for all the atmosphere of the time made people suspicious of each other and jump to conclusions; it is the one who is blind that really saw the full picture. He heard all the things that weren’t been said, he put the pieces together but he also keeps his counsel.

It felt to me all the way through this book that it was going to have a tragic ending. I think it’s partly the time the book is set in but also there is a feeling of pressure building inside the individual characters in this book and you can feeling it simmering but you know some part of it is going to give way. The tension is palpable at times, and I spent a lot of the time I was reading this book holding my breath.

This novel really captures the fear of living through a war, and also the way that people had to find happiness where they could and to survive however they could. I really felt that this book showed how nothing is ever black and white, and that in war there are so many more shades of grey than you could ever imagine.

Horizontal Collaborations is a beautiful novel is every way. The story is incredibly written and so moving, and the illustrations are stunning. I’d recommend this book to everyone, and if you’ve never read a graphic novel before I urge you to give this one a try. This is such a poignant book that has imprinted itself on my heart and I won’t forget it!

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Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Horizontal Collaboration is out now and available here.

 

About the Authors

Navie and Carol Maurel Author pic

Carole Maurel cut her teeth on animated films before devoting herself to illustration, in particular, graphic novels. Her 2017 book The Apocalypse According to Magda was awarded the Artémisia Avenir award, which celebrates women in comics.

Navie is a screenwriter for press, cinema and television. She has a degree in history from The Sorbonne in Paris, where she specialized in the history of fascism – making Horizontal Collaboration an excellent fit for her first graphic novel.

Twitter @rolcamaurel

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: Death and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor | @melaniecantor @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has a terminal blood disease. She has three months to live — ninety days to say goodbye to friends and family and put her affairs in order. Trying to focus on the positives (at least she’ll never lose her teeth) Jennifer realises she has one overriding regret: the words she’s left unsaid.
Rather than pursuing a frantic bucket list, she chooses to stay put, and write letters to three significant people in her life: her overbearing, selfish sister, her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend finally telling them the things she’s always wanted to say but never dared.
At first, Jennifer feels cleansed by her catharsis. Liberated, even. But once you start telling the truth, it’s hard to stop. And, as she soon discovers, the truth isn’t always as straightforward as it seems, and death has a way of surprising you ..

 

My Thoughts

Death and Other Happy Endings follows Jennifer who has been feeling exhausted recently and after undergoing blood tests at the doctors is told she has a terminal illness and has three months left to live. She buys a calendar and starts counting the days, trying to work out what she should do with her final days. She decides to write letters to her sister, her ex-husband and her ex-boyfriend telling them all the things she wanted to say but never dared to!

I have to start by saying that the way I’ve described this book may make it seem a bit depressing but I swear to you that it’s absolutely not! It’s funny and moving, and it has you cheering Jennifer on. On hearing that she’s going to die soon she goes off for a walk and ends up doing something she never, ever would have done before she got the news. I knew then that this novel was going to be life-affirming and it was.

I loved that Jennifer wrote the letters that she did to her self-centred sister, her horrible ex-husband and her smarmy ex-boyfriend. She found it so cathartic, and it made me think of the kind of letters I might have written at points in my life to people who have treated me badly. It was satisfying to see her get it all out of her system. When my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer she got an urge to shred her wedding dress (she was long divorced but had kept her dress), I told her to just do it if it helped so she did. She felt so much better afterwards and wished she’d done it long ago. So I was thinking of her at times as I was reading Jennifer’s story and how she reacted to the diagnosis she received.

I also lost my best friend to cancer when I was in my early 20s and the last weeks I spent with her were full of laughter, and at times there were tears, but we were both so focused on wanting to live and have fun while we could. So I found it very moving when Jennifer and her best friend were talking about the wedding that Jennifer would likely not live to attend. It brought a lump to my throat but also happiness that at least Jennifer knew about the wedding and could help with the plans and choosing the dress.

This isn’t in any way a heavy-going book despite the subject matter but by the same token there is a believability in how Jennifer deals with the news she’s been given, and the way she grieves for the life she won’t get to have and the things she won’t get to do. Melanie Cantor has such a deft touch in the way she has written this book, it’s remarkable to deal with such a hard topic and never down play it whilst also retaining humour and lightness. It’s an utterly incredible novel.

Death and Other Happy Endings is a book that reminds you to live your life, to make time for the people that matter and to walk away from those that don’t. We all need a reminder of this from time to time and this book was the reminder I needed. I also felt like this novel gave me my best friend back for a little while as after I finished reading this I my mind was flooded with memories of her and that’s been wonderful for me.

There is so much life and joy in this book, it really is life-affirming. It’s a novel about friendships, about coming to terms with the past and finding a way forward when life has other plans for us. I adored this book – it made me cry, it made me laugh and I just felt a sense of the joy that can be found during even the hardest times. This book was solace for me and I will treasure it, it’s definitely going to be on my books of the year list! I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this book and reading it as soon as you possibly can!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Death and Other Happy Endings is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Melanie Cantor Author Picture

Melanie Cantor was a celebrity agent and publicist for over thirty years. Her clients included Ulrika Jonsson, Melinda Messenger and Melanie Sykes.

In 2004, she hosted a makeover show on Channel 4 called Making Space and in 2017 having just turned 60 she was scouted on Kings Cross station, subsequently appearing as a ‘real model’ in the most recent Dove campaign.

She turned her hand to writing in 2008. Death and other Happy Endings is her first published novel.

Twitter @melaniecantor

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou | @lauriepetrou @noexitpress @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Two sisters. One fire. A secret that won’t burn out.

The Grayson sisters are trouble. Everyone in their small town knows it. But noone can know of the secret that binds them together.

Hattie is the light. Penny is the darkness. Together, they have balance.

But one night the balance is toppled. A match is struck. A fire is started. A cruel husband is killed. The potential for a new life flickers in the fire’s embers, but resentment, guilt, and jealousy suffocate like smoke.

Their lives have been engulfed in flames will they ever be able to put them out?

 

My Thoughts

Sisters of Mine is about the two Grayson sisters. They live in a small town and everyone knows who they are. The people in the town don’t know all of the secrets the two women hold though. One night the two sisters set a fire and the repercussions of that night will be long lasting in their lives!

On the cover of my copy of Sisters of Mine it has a sticker warning that readers will burn through the novel in one sitting and I have to say that this was absolutely true for me. I started reading this novel and it had me under its spell from the opening chapter and I didn’t move from where I was sitting until after I turned the last page!

This is a really suspenseful and mysterious novel. There is a really strong bond between Hattie and Penny, one that isn’t necessarily based on them liking each other. There is a strange dynamic at play in their relationship and for a long time it seems like one of them is pulling all the strings but then the power shifts somewhat. Ultimately, they’re both complicit in making their lives turn out the way they did, and a lot of it has to do with jealousy and perceived wrong-doings between them. The title of this book is so perfect. Going into the book it seemed like it was a reference to two sisters who are close but once I started reading the book I could see its more a reference to the power play between them and ownership over each other.

This isn’t a black and white novel; the two sisters each have good and bad in them and it’s impossible to point at one of them and say that what they did was worse. They involve each other in everything and so the lines become very blurred about who is ultimately responsible and who did the worst thing.

Sister of Mine has a really claustrophobic atmosphere to it. I felt like I was right there with Penny and Hattie and it was stifling at times seeing their lives up close. The writing is brilliant to make me feel that way though, it really is a beautifully written book.

Sister of Mine is a compelling, claustrophobic and stunning look at two sisters and what each is prepared to do for the other. I loved this book, it is still lingering in my mind now and it’s a few weeks since I finished reading it. I recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Sister of Mine is due to be published on 20 June and can be pre-ordered here.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean | @FelicityMcLean @PtBlankBks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #VanApfelGirls

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About the Book

‘We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with.’

Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old during the long hot summer of 1992, growing up in a distant suburb in Australia surrounded by encroaching bushland. That summer, the hottest on record, was when the Van Apfel sisters – Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth – mysteriously disappeared during the school’s Showstopper concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river.

Did they run away? Were they taken?  While the search for the sisters unites the small community, the mystery of their disappearance has never been solved.   Now, years later, Tikka has returned home, to try to make sense of that strange moment in time. The summer that shaped her.  The girls that she never forgot.

 

My Thoughts

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is about Tikka Molloy, aged 11, and her friendship with the three Van Apfel sisters: Hannah, Cordelia and Ruth. The novel begins with Tikka in the present day where she’s living in Baltimore but she has to travel back to Australia to visit her family and she wants to know more about what happened to the Van Apfel girls.

This book is absolutely stunning. I started reading it in the garden on a beautiful sunny day and I just got lost in its pages. I was intrigued from the opening chapter and I just loved everything about this book.

Tikka is an interesting character and I like the way the book is framed both from her viewpoint as an adult reflecting on her childhood with the Van Apfel sisters but also from her viewpoint when she was an 11 year old. It really highlighted the way we remember things differently from the way they perhaps really were, and also how we just don’t fully understand things when we’re children and looking back through adult’s eyes puts a whole different spin on things.

The writing in this novel is mesmerising. I could feel the heat, I could feel the oppressive atmosphere of the Van Apfel family home when their parents were there. I had such a knot in my stomach reading parts of this book as I could see the things that 11 year old Tikka couldn’t quite grasp.

We know from the start of the novel that the Van Apfel girls all went missing but we don’t know then whether they ran away or were kidnapped, or if they came to harm so there is a mystery running through this book but it’s much more a coming of age novel. The Van Apfel girls felt almost ghostly to me throughout this book, even when we were there with them as young girls before they disappeared – it was as if they were right there but you could never got too close, you could never really get to know them fully. It wasn’t so much they had secrets as much as they were just set slightly apart from everyone else, even their best friends.

There was so much I could relate to in this book, I so remember that time when you’re wanting independence and feeling so grown up. You begin to feel you have a power but you don’t yet fully understand consequences. I felt such fear for Cordelia as she is so aware of her own body and the affect she’s having on boys (and grown men who should know better) and reading that as an adult was unnerving. I was willing her, and her sisters, to all be okay but it felt like this book was always leading towards something sad. There is a feeling of melancholy in the three sisters, and in the book as a whole, which I couldn’t look away from.

Running through this novel is the news story big in 1992 about Lindy Chamberlain who was cleared of killing her baby. She is the woman whose baby was taken by a dingo and never found. This gave another level to this novel as it did more than just reinforce when it was set but also the way that sometimes a child does just disappear. The thinking  when it happened was that the mother must have killed her baby, but her appeal in 1992 found that actually what the mother said happened was more likely to be true. This in relation to the Van Apfel girls has haunted me in the parallels and what it’s perhaps telling us about what really happened to them.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is ultimately Tikka’s story; it’s about her trying to come to terms to what happened the summer she was eleven. It’s haunted her whole life to date and she seems to be at a place where she needs some resolution that she just can’t find. This was so relatable, we might not have had the same experience as her but we all have things in our lives that haunt us, we all have those ‘what ifs’, and so often we believe if we’d just done something differently then things might have turned out better. It’s life though, and not everything works out.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is a captivating, mesmerising and haunting novel that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s such a beautifully written novel and I’m so glad that I got the chance to read it. I already know that this will be one of my top books of this year and I highly recommend it.

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Felicity McLean was born in Sydney Australia. She graduated at Sydney University with a BA in English and Australian literature and worked as a book publicist before embarking on a freelance career. Her journalism has appeared in The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail and the Big Issue, among others, and she has ghost-written celebrity autobiographies. THE VAN APFEL GIRLS ARE GONE is her first novel. She lives with her English husband and two young children in Australia.

 

 

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw | @claidlawauthor @AccentPress @annecater #RandomThingsTours

The Space FRONT COVER

About the Book

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

 

My Thoughts

The Space Between Time follows Emma from being a young girl to her becoming an adult. Her father is a really famous actor, and her grandfather is an obscure astrophysicist. As her father’s fame grows, her mother’s mental health seems to decline and Emma struggles to understand what is happening, while at the same time being deeply affected by it.

I really connected with Emma throughout this novel, there are so many things that she experiences that I could identify with. She goes through loss in different ways and her pain really radiated off the page. The way she feels grief was so palpable; the quote below is exactly how grief is.

Once, at a party, I smelled her perfume and came close to tears. I still feel that she’s close to by, almost within touching distance, her hand not quite on my shoulder, her lips not quite about to kiss the top of my head: not quite, and just out of sight. It’s as if she’s in another room, close by: her cremated particles reaching out, decaying on the breeze, becoming smaller, and smaller, and smaller.

I loved the parts of the book where Emma describes a photo of herself with her mum and dad at a film premiere but later we get another perspective on the photo as she works through her feelings about her father as he gets older. This made me cry, it so resonated with my own life and I felt I was right there with Emma. It captured grief and the slow acceptance of loss, but also the way we come to see things differently as we age. We perhaps understand more of our parents that we couldn’t possibly have grasped when we were younger and hadn’t got the reference points that being an adult ourselves brings. It’s also the acceptance that comes with getting older of taking people as they are, and that perhaps we expected more of them than they could give to us.

I came to love the fact that this book didn’t feel grounded in a particular time. There are references to things so you do know when it’s set but there is a real timeless feel to the novel. This is where the astrophysics comes into play – the idea of what is here now, and what was here before and what might be in the future. The whole novel seems to play with these ideas and Emma becomes interested in her grandfather’s work as she seeks solace from the loss in her life and it brings her comfort.

We all live in permanent chaos, however ordered our lives seem, with every innocuous action having lots of little consequences that are completely unpredictable.

There are some brilliant moments of humour sprinkled throughout too that made me properly laugh. The part of the book where Emma ends up at protest march with a man she slept with once is so perfectly written. Their argument ends up echoing the different banners around them and it’s utterly brilliant!

This is a novel that requires concentration and time so it took me a little while to get into it but there was a moment where this book just clicked for me and from then on I just couldn’t put it down. I fell in love with this story, it’s stunning!

The Space Between Time is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read and I’m so happy that I got the chance to read it.  This is a book to savour – I recommend reading it slowly and taking your time with it. There is so much of life – the beauty and the pain – contained within its pages and it’s a book where you won’t want to miss a thing. I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Accent Press for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to be on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Space Between Time is due out on 20 June and can be pre-ordered here.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner | @marriner_p @annecater @audibleuk #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Margate 1920. The Great War is over but Britain mourns and its spirit is not yet mended.

Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past.

Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side.

Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends? As the body of the Unknown Warrior is returned, can the nation find a way forward?

 

My Thoughts

The Blue Bench is a novel following four characters in the aftermath of the first world war. Edward and William have returned from the front but they are forever changed by what they have been through. Catherine and Evelyn are two young women keen to get on with their lives. The book is about their journeys as they each try to look to the future. The novel is predominantly told from the perspectives of Edward and Evelyn but all four of these characters feature all the way through.

The Blue Bench opens with a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which for the people concerned is an annual pilgrimage. The book then goes back in time to 1920 when we meet Edward, William, Catherine and Evelyn. It is such a beautiful and moving novel. It is a melancholy book but there are moments of lightness to balance the dark. It’s a meandering story that follows these four characters as they each try to build a life for themselves in the new world they find themselves in post war.

Edward was the character I was most fascinated by. He has suffered an horrendous facial injury in the war and has to wear an uncomfortable tin mask. He suffers great pain and requires more and more painkillers to get any kind of relief and this leads to him procuring these medications by whatever means necessary. I felt such sympathy for him as he struggles. I have no idea what it is to go to war but I do know what it’s like to have an obvious disability and to suffer with chronic pain, Paul Marriner captures this so well. Edward is a wonderful pianist, he enjoys playing piano and it seems to take him out of his real life for a while. People really enjoy his playing but it still is shocking to some of his audiences when they see his face; it’s as if the beauty of his playing is somehow cancelled out for people by the injury to his face. There is always something of a distance around Edward, even when his closest friend William is with him, it’s as if he can no longer allow himself to fully engage with people and life. I could feel his loneliness even when he was with people. I was rooting for him all the way through the novel and was hoping that he would beat the odds and find some happiness and calm in his life.

William is different to Edward, he’s more outgoing and a bit of a ladies’ man but he does have a caring side to him. He looks out for Edward, and tries to keep his mood buoyed up. Catherine and Evelyn are great characters too. I loved their friendship and the way they supported and encouraged each other. It’s so wonderful to find a novel where there are female characters who have each other’s backs, I really enjoyed reading about their growing friendship and seeing where life took them.

I very much appreciated how real events and people were interwoven into this novel, particularly the way the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came to be. I found these parts of the novel incredibly moving. I knew about the unknown soldier but to see the story of this brought to life in this story gave me goosebumps. It’s a real gift to write a work of fiction but to bring in real elements of history and make you feel as if you were there, to give you a new understanding of just how much something mattered.

I listened to The Blue Bench on audio book and the narrater, Colleen MacMahon, is wonderful. The pacing of the book was just right and she struck the right tone for the nature of the novel. She really made this book a joy to listen to and I will definitely be looking out for more audio books narrated by her. The audio is nineteen and a half hours long but it was one of those books that I was loving so much that I just didn’t want it to end.

I felt really quite bereft on finishing this novel. I loved every minute that I spent listening to it and I miss the characters. I still find myself wondering about them, they became so real to me. The Blue Bench is an incredible novel and one I won’t forget. It is a melancholy read, there is pain and sadness running through it but there is also fun and laughter and love – the novel may be set just after the Great War but the themes are universal and timeless in many respects. It’s a true reflection on how life is and I adored it beyond words. This will be one of those rare books that I will re-read in the future because I loved it so very much. I recommend this to everyone, it really is a stunning novel!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Paul Marriner for my copy of this audio book. All thoughts are my own.

The Blue Bench is out now in audio book and available here. It is also

 

About the Author

Paul Marriner Author picture

Paul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one (but still finding time to play drums with Redlands and Rags 2 Riches).

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: 10 Things to do Before You leave School by Bernard O’Keeffe | @BernardOKeeffe1 @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Ruby has had a difficult year to say the least. Just before she started Sixth Form, her father died from a heart attack. In the difficult months that followed Ruby became so depressed that she attempted suicide. She missed a lot of school, but now she’s about to go back and she’s worried. Is she well enough to get through her final year? Will the depression return? Should she apply to university? The night before term begins, Ruby finds something that makes the prospect even more daunting: an envelope addressed to her in her father’s handwriting. Inside is a list: ‘Ten Things I Hope You Do Before You Leave School’. It makes no sense. She can’t understand why he’d want her to do these things, let alone whether she’ll be able to do them.As Ruby navigates her way through UCAS, parties, boyfriends and A-Levels, she decides to give the list her best shot, but her efforts lead her into strange situations and to surprising discoveries. Will Ruby survive her last year at school? Can she do the ten things on The List? Will doing them make any difference?

 

My Thoughts

10 Things To Do Before You Leave School is the story of Ruby. She has had a really awful year – her dad died suddenly, which led to her becoming increasingly depressed and she attempted suicide. The novel opens with her making her return to school and we see all the anxiety that goes with that. Right before she goes back to school she finds an envelope with her name on and it’s written in her dad’s handwriting. Inside is a note of ten things he hopes she’ll do before she leaves school.

This is such an incredible novel and one I’m so glad that I read. Ruby is such a believable, real character and I could feel her pain throughout this book. She carries so much guilt about her father’s death and she’s still grieving his loss. Then she’s dealing with her recovery from depression and trying to come to terms with her suicide attempt. Not to mention all the normal teenage stuff that all teens deal with – boyfriends, school and exam pressures,  wanting to fit in. She has such a great attitude considering all she’s been through, or perhaps even because of it, and I was rooting for her to find her way through it all. It’s many years since I was Ruby’s age but I can remember what it felt like to be a teenager. I also had a very hard time during my A-Levels and really empathised with Ruby as a result.

I still haven’t got that study habit back, that feeling that I’m reading properly and that everything’s going in the way it used to. Maybe it’s the drugs. Or maybe (and this is a more frightening thought) what’s happened has changed me for good and I’ll never be the same again.

I know the pain of losing a parent, albeit I was in my 20s when my mum died. It changes you in so many ways to lose someone who you believed would somehow always be there. Facing life knowing your parent won’t be there makes everything different and Bernard O’Keeffe really captures the sense of loss.

I loved the relationship that Ruby has with her younger brother. They are typical siblings who argue and wind each other up but they also absolutely have each other’s backs. They are there for each other when they need to be and I adored that.

I found it interesting that we don’t get to see what’s on the list Ruby finds right away. We see her thinking about it and wondering how on earth she’s going to ever be able to do all of these things. We then see her going about her life and at certain points in the novel we see one of the things on the list as she ticks it off. At first I was frustrated because I wanted to know what was on it but actually I really appreciated seeing Ruby achieve each item and to have the satisfaction along with her that she’d accomplished something. I did wonder if the list would come to be something else that added pressure to her when she’s already quite fragile but it really does help her. It made me wish I’d had a list when I was her age and that something outside of myself had propelled me to the things that scared me, or that I didn’t have the confidence to do. I won’t spoil what’s on the list or whether Ruby manages to complete it but there are difficulties along the way, which made this book all the more real for me.

I recommend this book to everyone but particularly to teenagers – it’s a book that I wish I could have read when I was that age. It’s raw and honest and moving but it also gives you hope. I loved it!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

10 Things to do Before You leave School is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Bernard O Keeffe Author Picture

After graduating from Oxford, Bernard O’Keeffe worked in advertising before training as a teacher. He taught for many years, first in a North London comprehensive, then at Radley College, where he was Head of English, and most recently at St Paul’s School in London, where he was Head of Sixth Form.

He has reviewed fiction for Literary Review and The Oxford Times and, as an editor of The English Review, has written over a hundred articles for A Level students on subjects ranging from Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle to Jane Austen and Shakespeare. In 2013 he published his first novel, ‘No Regrets’.

 

Website: http://www.bernardokeeffe.com/

Twitter : @BernardOKeeffe1

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Take Me To The Edge by Katya Boirand | @Katyahazel @Unbounders @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

FIVE WORDS IS ALL IT TAKES TO PROVOKE A CHAIN OF CREATION. That is what Katya Boirand discovered the first time she asked a friend for five words and then turned them into a poem, using the words and the subject as her inspiration. This spark started a movement, and soon Katya was asking friends and strangers alike for their five words of choice. Take Me to the Edge is a selection of these poems, sitting alongside a portrait of each subject, in this stunning and joyous celebration of language, connection and art.

 

My Thoughts

Take Me To The Edge is a collection of poems which all stem from just five words that different people in Katya Boirand’s life had given her. The words are random and often seemingly completely unconnected but Boirand has taken these words and written some gorgeous poems that are collected together in this beautiful book.

The book itself is a lovely hardback and it felt like a real treat to sit down and read. Each poem is on a double page spread with one side being the poem and the other a stunning photograph of the person who gave her the five words. It really is a delight to read the poem and to take time to appreciate the fabulous photography too.

I adored the interconnectedness throughout this book in that the poems each come from five words a friend has given her. Then the photo of her friend is taken in such a way to encapsulate  the poem that came from those words. It was such a special experience to notice this and it really made me slow down to take each page in.

There are poems, like the one taken from Matt McCabe’s five words, that had a greater effect on me when combined with the fabulous photo of him on Westminster Bridge in London – it really made me stop and ponder the poem a little longer, and to think of the importance of the words ‘Fold fear beneath love / Feel peace in its prime‘. There are poems like the one created from Trish Campbell’s words that captivated me. This poem is one I read quite a few times and really sat and thought about. The photo of Trish in the sea is so perfect in combination with the poem that it brought a lump to my throat. Then there are the poems that feel really intimate, such as the poem that gave the collection its title, using words from Naurija Ziukaite – ‘Ah love, my one / I implore you / Take me to the edge‘. All so different and showing so many aspects of what makes us human.

The poems cover a wide scope but there is such a connection to the ones that went before and the ones that came after because of how they came to be. They are a snapshot of each person’s life but also of life in general and I certainly found there were a few poems that really spoke to me.

I love that at the back of the book there is a brief biography of each person who contributed five words, along with the five words they had given Boirand. When I discovered this I immediately went back and read each poem again, whilst referencing against the words they had picked. This was such a lovely thing to be able to do and I really appreciated that on getting to the end of the collection there was more for me to learn.

The thing I loved most about this book was the pure joy that I found in reading it. It’s a beautiful object, with stunning photographs and gorgeous poems. It’s a celebration of life and it was a welcome escape from all the trials and tribulations of the world we’re living in at the moment. I definitely recommend this book, I know I’ll be buying copies as gifts for people that I know will love this every bit as much as I did.

Take Me To The Edge is beautiful, captivating and a wonderful escapism!

Many thanks to the Unbound and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Take Me To The Edge is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Katya Boirand Author Pic

Katya Boirand is an actress, dancer, writer and poet. She has travelled the world but now has roots in London. Take Me to the Edge is her first poetry collection.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Song of the Robin by R. V. Biggs | @RVBiggs @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

The whispered voices and unsettling dreams were puzzling enough, but when the visions began, disquiet crept into Sarah Richards’ heart.

Living a joyless and unfulfilled existence, Sarah’s life, however, is ordered and routine. But one autumn morning she sees a figure waving to her, the figure of a man more ghostly than real
Several times he appears, but is the spectre harmless, or are his intentions malevolent?

Disturbed and intrigued, Sarah endeavours to understand the mystery, to identify her unknown stalker.

But with each visitation, she becomes ever more bewildered, and as her ordered life begins to unravel, she questions the reality of all that she knows, and with mounting horror, even her own sanity.

My Thoughts

Song of the Robin is a novel about Sarah who starts having unsettling visions and losing track of time. Her life seems very unhappy and unfulfilling, and she becomes increasingly focused on the person in her visions rather than her real life.

I found I sympathised with Sarah from the start as she’s stuck in an unhappy marriage with a man who doesn’t seem to have much respect for her. She’s increasingly on her own and feeling frustrated with how much she has to do around the house. The visions she has are creepy and unsettling to read about as it’s not clear what’s going on initially – is it a ghost, is Sarah hallucinating, is she ill? As the book progresses I became frightened for her as her life seems to descend out of control. Her friend tries to get her to see a doctor but Sarah is too lost in trying to work out who she is seeing and hearing in her visions to be able to help herself. I suffered with PTSD for many years and one of my symptoms was absences where time would pass and I would literally have no concept of it. This isn’t what is wrong with Sarah but it gave me a real connection to her as I know how frightening it is to one minute be in one place and another to realise you’re somewhere else with no memory of getting there. This aspect of the novel is very well written and I was absorbed in it.

I gradually began to work out what might be happening to Sarah but I didn’t really get it right. It was so unsettling as flashes of her visions began to make some sense to me but I could never fully put my finger on what was going on. I loved that it kept me guessing until all was revealed.

Alongside the storyline with Sarah’s visions we learn more about Sarah’s life. She lost her mum a while ago and she misses her terribly. There is a moment in the book when she goes to visit her mum’s grave and something happens that brings her immense comfort. I admit I cried at this point in the novel. My mum died a decade ago and I still miss her – sometimes I can still smell her perfume and I find it so comforting. I highlighted the section in the book and I will re-read it on the days when I feel in need of some solace. There is a real exploration of the strong bond we have with loved ones, even when they’re no longer with us, throughout this novel. There is a sense that we will always find our way back to the people we love in one way or another and I adored the way these parts of the book were written.

The writing in this novel is beautifully descriptive. Some of it is set in Scotland and I could visualise the landscape as if I was right there with the characters. I do love when setting in a book is done well, and it’s wonderful to feel like I’ve experienced a place that I’ve never been to before.

This book was so different to anything that I’ve read before and I’m so glad I took a chance and read it. This is one of those books that’s hard to define but it has something in it for everyone – it’s a mystery, it’s creepy at times but it’s also really comforting and beautiful. Song of the Robin is a book that I loved and I’ll be recommending it to everyone I can!

Song of the Robin is a captivating, mysterious and brilliant debut novel. I will certainly be looking out for more of R. V. Biggs’ work!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Song of the Robin is out now in ebook and paperback and is available here.

 

About the Author

R V Biggs Author Photo

R V Biggs lives in a small ex-mining village near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife Julie, and Mags the black lab. He has four grown up children and six grandchildren.

Walking with the dog is a favorite pastime and much of the story line for his first novel was developed during these lengthy outings.

Robert worked for 35 years in telecommunications but changed career paths to a managerial supporting role within a local Mental Health NHS trust. It was during the period between these roles that the concept for Song of the Robin was born.

Robert is a firm believer that destiny and co-incidence exist hand in hand and this conviction extends to his writing. He has a passion for holistic well-being and after first-hand experience of the potential healing powers of Reiki, a form of energy therapy, took a Reiki level 1 training course to heighten his spiritual awareness. Robert’s experiences in these areas helped conceive the ideas that led to Song of the Robin and its sequel Reunion, novels with central themes of fate, love and the strength of family. His writing however is not fantasy but is set in modern times involving real people living real lives.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: The Forgotten Sister by Caroline Bond | @Bond2Caroline @CorvusBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

To lose your family is heart-breaking.

To be forgotten by them is unforgiveable.

Cassie and Erin are sisters. They are close – in age, looks and personality – but there is one crucial difference: Cassie is adopted.

At seventeen, Cassie sets out to find her birth mother. She is hungry for the truth, but she discovers her adoption was far more complicated than even she could have imagined. In uncovering her birth identity Cassie learns that her adoptive parents have kept a terrible secret from her her whole life, a secret that now threatens to destroy everything she has ever held dear.

 

My Thoughts

The Forgotten Sister is the story of Cassie, who was adopted by her parents when she was two. She’s had a happy, safe life with them but she is beginning to wonder about her birth mother. This leads to secrets and lies being uncovered and life as Cassie knew it could be about to be destroyed.

This novel is told predominantly in the present day, with some flashbacks to a few years previously. It opens with Cassie’s parents getting a phone call that she’s been hurt and then goes back to four months previously. I was gripped by this novel right from the beginning. The characters are all so real and believable and I was intrigued by how they got to where they were.

Cassie is such a great character. She has a normal relationship with her parents, and a close relationship with her younger sister Erin. She has a boyfriend who her parents don’t fully approve of so there is some normal teenage sneaking around but on the whole she’s honest with her family. Then one day she realises she wants to know more about her birth mother but when she asks her parents she senses that they’re not telling her the whole truth. Her parents do go down the route of trying social services to see if her mother can be found but in the meantime Cassie takes things into her own hands. Cassie now has secrets and she becomes very determined to do what she has to to find her birth mother. She develops quite an attitude at times, but whilst I could see how reckless and naive she was at times I never stopped sympathising with her.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be adopted and to not know anything about your birth parents. The moment Cassie has the realisation that she doesn’t know if there are any illnesses in her family was startling to me, and I really felt for her as she reacted with shock at all the things she doesn’t know, and might never get to know.

I did feel for Cassie’s parents too. They made a decision when they adopted Cassie and have had to live with that ever since. I was shocked at the way they behaved at times but over the course of the novel I could see that they had done the best they could with the place they were in. What initially seemed like a cut and dry situation actually had many degrees to it, and this is what gave this novel its strength.

Ultimately, this is a novel that explores what makes a family, and how keeping secrets – even with the best of intentions – will always have consequences down the line. I felt that this novel was a very real, and emotional look at adoption from many angles and I really appreciated the insight it gave me.

The Forgotten Sister is a powerful and emotional novel that is very readable; it will linger in your head long after you’ve finished reading. I recommend it!

Many thanks to Corvus Books and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Forgotten Sister is out now in ebook and paperback and is available here.

 

About the Author

Caroline Bond Author Picture

Caroline Bondwas born in Scarborough and studied English at Oxford University before working as a market researcher for 25 years. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Leeds Trinity University, and lives in Leeds with her husband and three children. Her first novel, The Second Child, was published in 2018.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Samantha Henthorn! Author of #CurmudgeonAvenue | @SamanthaHfinds @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Today I’m delighted to welcome Samantha Henthorn, author of Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue, to my blog to share with us ten things about herself!

 

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me

One: I used to be a psychiatric nurse. There is a long, boring story here… After twenty year’s service, the NHS decided to retire me because I have MS. However, nursing has gifted me with the skill of observation. I am a ‘people person’ one who knows a lot about people – even ‘nincompoops’ like the ones who live in my romantic-comedy-drama series Curmudgeon Avenue.

Two: I have only been to France twice during my life, even though most of Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenueis set in France. I went to Brittany when I was eleven years old on a family holiday. And Rocamadour – another family holiday this time with my husband’s family. Plenty of wine was required on the latter holiday, and this is reflected in the book.

Three: Staying with the French theme, I cannot speak French. My high school French was lurking inside me, willing me to be one of those clever bilingual folk. So when I retired, I attended a two hour per week French course at my local library. This was a wonderful experience, the teacher was amazing. Despite this I am still unable to speak French and as time goes on, I am forgetting even more. I do remember the teacher talking about how, in France, bread is bought twice a day. I missed an hour following this statement, imagining my life as a French woman, dragging myself on my mobility scooter to the shop and back – twice! If you do happen to read Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue, you would find *slight spoiler alert* that French speaking skills were not required. And anyway, one of my proof readers lived in France for a year (with full command of the language).

Four: I had a great Auntie Edna when I was little, and she was nothing like the character Edna in my book. Auntie Edna was actually my dad’s auntie. Sadly no longer with us, but memories of her are. Dad tells me that she ‘married beneath herself’ (admit it- you love archaic phrases like this), to his mother’s brother. Whenever she opened her handbag, the room would fill with perfume – even to this day I have tried to recreate this glamour. Auntie Edna taught me how to put lipstick on when I was seven years old, by ‘smacking my lips together’. I chose the name Edna for my character because she is an absolute horror and do not know any living person with this name – (I once accidentally called a horrid character Elaine, I know an Elaine in real life, she’s lovely).

Five: Auntie Edna taught me how to make Radcliffe h’ors doevres. Or rather, mini cheddars with a squirt of Primula cheese dotted on each one (Primula with ham if you can get it) and presented on a serving plate. Perfect for impromptu parties, camping, or simply coming home tipsy and hungry. Radcliffe h’ors doevres feature heavily in the Curmudgeon Avenue series. Other brands of cheese crackers and spread are available.

Six: I’m very happily married, I really am. Although many of the characters in my series are either unhappily married or in an on/off entanglement, this is not based on anything that is happening to me. *Had to put this in because Mr Henthorn is always really concerned that ‘people will think it’s about him’ – it isn’t. (Rolls eyes).

Seven: I hardly ever say ‘well fancy’ and if I do, I’m joking or writing it in dialogue. Ahh vernacular within prose, a punishing mistress. I do sometimes have a feeling of self doubt; do people think I’m stupid? Do I sound stupid? I cannot help, and wouldn’t want to change where I’m from. I love Manchester, in particular the northern parts, Whitefield and Radcliffe (where the Curmudgeon Avenue series is set) and Bury, where I’m from. I enjoy our quirky way of saying things, our sense of humour. I have aimed to breathe Manchester life into my characters.

Eight: I’m studying a creative writing degree with the Open University and this helped me to decide that the Curmudgeon Avenue series should be witness narrated. ‘Walls have ears’ so this four storey terrace witnesses what goes on with the intertwined lives of its residents and narrates the series. The example of witness narration that the Open University quoted was The Great Gatsby… hark at me stylizing myself on a modern classic!

Nine: One of my books, 1962 is about cycling and I don’t even own a bicycle. This novel was inspired by my dad’s love and obsession with cycling. He seemed to have a special language dedicated bicycles and in turn, that inspired me.

Ten: I am covered in tattoos. The final fun factoid about me is that I have been ‘collecting artwork’ … Covered is perhaps an exaggeration, but I am inked! Usually only visible during the summer months, when jumpers and socks can be discarded my skin boasts a strawberry plant and butterflies on my foot and ankle. A large cherry blossom on my back and a pin-up-girl nurse on my arm (tasteful in full Gabardine cape). None on my face.

 

About the Book

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When Genevieve Dubois returned to Curmudgeon Avenue, this opened up the opportunity for Edna to realise her long held dream of escaping to France. But as Edna embraces all things European, Genevieve appears to be shying away from her French roots.
Meanwhile, returning to Curmudgeon Avenue for the third time, the wind had blown in the truth about the tall, handsome stranger and although Harold and Edith had been relieved to discover that he is neither an elephant detective, nor a fraud investigator, Toonan had been a little disappointed that he was not interested in her either. Matteo Dubois was looking for his mother, Genevieve Dubois, and although he did not find her on Curmudgeon Avenue, you have probably guessed that he is about to cause a disturbance- FINALLY! There is hope that the set of nincompoops that live here currently will move out, and leave me in peace! Edna had already escaped with Genevieve to France, which was a real shame for me, because Edna was one of the less annoying ones. This delightful third off-beat comedy romance book in the Curmudgeon Avenue series will make you smile.

 

About the Author

Samantha Henthorn Author Pic

Samantha Henthorn was born in 1970something in Bury, England. She has had short stories and poetry published in magazines. Her books include the Curmudgeon Avenue series (The Terraced House Diaries and The Harold and Edith adventures). ‘1962’, ‘Quirky Tales to Make Your Day’ and ‘Piccalilly’

She has two cats, one dog, one gorgeous grown up daughter and one husband. When not reading or writing, she is listening to heavy metal and would be thrilled to bits if someone read her books.

Blog : samanthahenthornfindstherightwords.WordPress.com

 Twitter: @SamanthaHfinds

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: Between the Regions of Kindness by Alice Jolly |@JollyAlice @Unbounders @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Coventry, 1941. The morning after one of the worst nights of the Blitz. Twenty-two-year-old Rose enters the remains of a bombed house to find her best friend dead. Shocked and confused, she makes a split-second decision that will reverberate for generations to come.

More than fifty years later, in modern-day Brighton, Rose’s granddaughter Lara waits for the return of her eighteen-year-old son Jay. Reckless and idealistic, he has gone to Iraq to stand on a conflict line as an unarmed witness to peace.

Lara holds her parents, Mollie and Rufus, partly responsible for Jay’s departure. But in her attempts to explain their thwarted passions, she finds all her assumptions about her own life are called into question.

Then into this damaged family come two strangers – Oliver, a former faith healer, and Jemmy, a young woman devastated by the loss of a baby. Together they help to establish a partial peace – but at what cost?

 

My Thoughts

Between the Regions of Kindness is a novel that follows several characters, and is set in two timelines – 1941 during the Blitz and 2003 in the run up to the beginning of the Iraq war. The novel opens in Coventry in 1941 and in the aftermath of a bombing Rose goes to her friend’s house and shockingly finds her dead. Here Rose makes a decision that has ramifications throughout the years that follow. In 2003 we follow Lara, Rose’s Grand-daughter as she tries to come to terms with her son’s decision to go to Iraq on a peace mission.

The novel really explores the experience of being a mother – some of the women to their grown children and another woman to her unborn baby. Jay is a troubled young man and we first know of him through his mother Lara’s perspective and as she goes into his bedroom it becomes increasingly clear that she is at a loss. She doesn’t understand why her son has gone off on a peace mission, and she didn’t have any idea that he was even planning to do this. She is stunned and gradually, over the course of the novel, she comes to know more about why her son was doing what he was doing. She only really gets to know her son in his absence and through very sporadic communications with him while he’s away. This contrasts so stunningly with the young Rose and the decision she made in 1941 when her and her daughter Mollie were living through the Blitz.

I was most affected by Jemmy, a young woman who has recently lost a baby and is now pregnant again. The loss of her first baby was heart-breaking to read about – I know what this loss feels like and the way it is explored in this novel was so honest and real. Soon after we meet Jemmy we learn that she’s pregnant again but she’s unable to feel the joy she felt before, there is just so much fear eating away at her. Her increasing desperation to keep this baby safe was palpable and I was hoping along with her that she would get a happy ending this time.

There is also an exploration of the stories that run through a family and how each generation hears parts of them and tries to understand how they came to be. Rose’s daughter Mollie (Lara’s mother) had a troubled youth and it impacted who she came to be as grew older. There are many tales that she tells such as the time she fell off a roof and throughout the novel it seems to Lara that these are embellished or possibly not even true. We do get to find out the truth of the stories, but also about what made Mollie who she is.

Then there is Oliver, a man who used to be a faith healer but after life has dealt him some blows he’s not sure he has any power to heal anymore. There are things that happen around him that made me wonder if he could heal but for me his real power came in the muddling along of his budding friendship with Lara. Sometimes it’s not in an actual healing that someone begins to be mended but it’s the having someone who will listen and be there, no matter what you throw at them that starts to heal someone.

Between the Regions of Kindness is ultimately a novel about resilience, about how we have to find a way to pick ourselves back up when the worst has happened. It’s about how people have to be vulnerable, have to let others in so that they can help us find the way through our pain, and conversely people have to let us see the person underneath the brave face so that we can help them. The exploration of grief is palpable at times but Alice Jolly’s writing is so beautiful that you just have to keep reading.

I adore the cover of Between the Regions of Kindness, it just immediately shows that even in the darkest moments new things will grow. Flowers will appear, and kindness will be shown (sometimes from the most unlikely sources but it will be there). It really is a wonderful cover and is so perfect for this stunning novel.

I loved Between the Regions of Kindness! It’s quite a chunky book but I still read it over the course of two afternoons, it just pulls you in from the opening chapter and keeps you under its spell until long after you’ve finished reading. It’s impossible for me to do any kind of justice to this novel in my review but if you take away one thing from reading my rambling thoughts it’s that this is a book not to be missed. I would recommend this to everyone. It’s rare to find a book that has so much depth and beauty while at the same time never shying away from the really harrowing parts of life. It’s a stunning book, one I am so glad I had the chance to read.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book and my invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Between the Regions of Kindness is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Alice Jolly is a novelist and playwright. She has published two novels with Simon and Schuster and has been commissioned four times by the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. She has also written for Paines Plough and her work has been performed at The Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden and The Space, East London. In 2014 one of her short stories won The Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize. Her memoir Dead Babies and Seaside Towns was published by Unbound in July 2015, and won the PEN Ackerley Prize 2016. She teaches creative writing on the Mst at Oxford University.

 

You can follow the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

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Baxter’s Requiem by Matthew Crow | @mattthewcrow @CorsairBooks #BaxtersRequiem @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Mr Baxter is ninety-four years old when he falls down his staircase and finds himself resident at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home.

Baxter is many things – raconteur, retired music teacher, rabble-rouser, bon viveur; but ‘good patient’ he is not. Indeed, Melrose Gardens is his worst nightmare. Then he meets Gregory.

Greg is just nineteen years old, but he has already suffered a loss so heavy that he is in danger of giving up on life before he even gets going. Seeing the boy’s pain, Baxter decides to take him under his wing.

Together they embark on a spirited journey to the war graves of Northern France, for Baxter to pay tribute to the love of his life; the man he waved off to fight in a senseless war; the man who never returned.

As Baxter shares his memories, Gregory starts to see that life need not be a matter of mere endurance; that the world is huge and beautiful; that kindness is strength; and that the only way to honour the dead, is to live every last second we have while we’re here.

 

My Thoughts

Mr Baxter is 94 years old and not happy to be a resident at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home. Greg is 19 and ends up working at the care home where he meets Baxter. Initially it doesn’t seem possible that a directionless young adult and forthright Baxter would get along but somehow they forge a connection.

I started reading this after lunch one day and I literally didn’t put it down until I’d turned the last page later on that afternoon. I was pulled into this story from the opening pages and I just had to keep reading.

I had a soft spot for Baxter from the start, he gives off a grumpy vibe but you can see very quickly that he has a great sense of humour. There is a moment very early on in the book when Baxter has a chat with his doctor about music and I properly laughed when I read it. My husband loves jazz and I can’t bear it so me and Baxter were like kindred spirits from the off!

‘”Are you fond of music?”

“I like jazz.”

“So that’s a no then […] If you can’t carry a tune then learn a f*cking trade”.

Baxter also has a real caring side for those who are struggling, he doesn’t show it all the time but you can sense it’s there. Greg made my heart ache; it’s so awful to read about a young person who is carrying so much on his shoulders. He has been through the most awful loss and he has no one in his life that he can talk to. His dad has shut down and won’t face up to things and so Greg is on his own with his grief. He ends up working at the retirement home and Baxter immediately realises that Greg isn’t just a sullen young man but is actually in such pain and torment.

‘[Greg] felt like there was a lifetime of conversation inside him, somewhere, and hoped that one day he’d find a companion who would encourage it to emerge.’

The friendship that grows between Greg and Baxter is heartwarming, I absolutely adored seeing them getting to know each other. It’s never mawkish despite the heartbreak that each of them has gone through – Matthew Crow hits the most perfect tone in the way these two men get to know more about each other. Baxter begins to bring Greg out of himself a bit more, and Greg seems to brighten Baxter’s days without even realising he’s doing it. Alongside this present day story we get to hear Baxter’s back story and I was enthralled. He found the great love of his life as quite a young man and for a while they lived in a cocoon in Baxter’s house. They were hopeful that one day they could go out as a couple but for that moment in time they were just so happy to have found each other. But then the war broke out and Thomas is called up. I shed tears when this happened, and again when he actually left. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to see your soul mate go off to war not knowing if you’ll ever get them back home with you again.

“When she passed […] it blew through me like a f*cking hurricane. Nobody understood, you see. Nobody had lost what I had lost. We’d all suffered, granted. But grief, it’s a different shape for everyone”.

“It’s a different size, too.”

Over the course of the novel we learn more about Greg’s story and, for me, it just began to feel like Greg and Baxter were destined to meet. Their paths crossed at a time when they both had a growing need for closure, for someone who would make time for them and they forged a beautiful friendship. I loved how Baxter helped Greg gain a bit more confidence to make friends with people around the home. It was wonderful to meet Winnifred – I want to be her when I grow up!

I almost didn’t sign up to read this book for the blog tour because I find it really upsetting to read about men lost in the war. My late Nan lost her first husband in the Second World War and finding the ‘missing presumed dead’ telegram about him after she died was one of the most heartbreaking moments in my life. It still makes me want to weep when I think about it all these years later. I’m so glad that I did pick Baxter’s Requiem up though because the tears I cried whilst reading it were cathartic and healing, and ultimately this book has a lot of joy radiating from its pages too.

I read this book a few weeks ago now and I still keep thinking about Baxter and Greg. They are two wonderful characters that I won’t ever forget! Baxter’s Requiem is one of those really special books that steal a piece of your heart, it’s now firmly on my favourites shelf and it will be a book that I re-read. It’s beautiful and moving, heartbreaking but also life-affirming… there just aren’t enough superlatives to do it justice, I just urge you to please go read it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Corsair for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Baxter’s Requiem is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Matthew was born and raised in Newcastle and began freelancing for newspapers and magazines whilst still at school, writing about the arts and pop culture.

He has written four novels, Ashes and My Dearest Jonah – the second of which was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize for Literature – and one book for young adults, In Bloom, which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and the North East Teen Book Award, and listed in the Telegraph’s Best YA of 2014 List.

His fourth book, Another Place, is also be for young adults and was published by Atom in August 2017.

Matthew’s most recent novel, Baxter’s Requiem, was published in September 2018 by Corsair.

 

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#BookReview: The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon | @VandaSymon @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #TheRingmaster #SamShephard

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About the Book

Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand

Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…

Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…

 

My Thoughts

I adored getting to know Sam Shephard in Overkill and I’m thrilled to have the chance to share my thoughts on the brilliant second book in the series featuring her, The Ringmaster!

The Ringmaster follows Sam as she investigates the murder of a university student. In the course of the investigation Sam ends up looking in to the circus that’s in town as it seems possible that there is a link. Sam has recently been promoted and has moved to Dunedin but her superior officer isn’t happy with this and makes Sam’s work life difficult but she is determined to prove herself.

Throughout The Ringmaster I loved seeing Sam build a working relationship with her fellow Officer Smithy and hope to see more of him in future novels. I also enjoyed seeing her tentatively embarking on a new romantic relationship. Sam is such a down to earth woman – she isn’t perfect but she’s very likeable and works really hard – so that seeing her go about her day having the sort of mishaps that happen to me at inopportune moments just really endears her to me. I feel like I could be friends with her. I said in my review of Overkill that I thought I might have found a new detective to fill the Kinsey Millhone-shaped hole in my life and now I can absolutely confirm that I absolutely have! Sam Shephard is such a brilliant character!

The opening of The Ringmaster is shocking, perhaps not quite as shocking as the opening chapter of Overkill, but very nearly! It seems a young woman may have been lured to her death and there’s something so terrifying and devastating about the idea of someone being killed like that by someone they trusted and cared about.

The Ringmaster is a novel that really explores at how it is to be other, to feel on the outside, to be marginalised. Sam is new to the Dunedin and made to feel like an outsider at work, she’s also having to stay with her friend Maggie’s family so doesn’t have a home of her own at the moment. The circus workers that get questioned over the murder are of various nationalities and this seems to heighten suspicion around them regarding the murder. I know what it is to other and it’s so hard when you feel that people have pre-judged you on something you can do nothing about. My circumstances are very different to the workers from the circus but I still felt an empathy for them as they tried very hard to fit in.

I struggle with understanding circuses that use animals, it doesn’t sit right with me at all. I was felt particularly sad reading about Cassie the elephant in her enclosure. In one part of the novel something really awful happens at the circus, which leads to heartbreaking scenes and I found myself in tears at this part of the book. Vanda Symon has such a brilliant way of writing scenes such as this though – she doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of the situation but at the same time there is a real sensitivity to her writing that makes me want to keep reading.

The Ringmaster has an underlying tension running through it as you look with suspicion at quite a few characters wondering if they might be the murderer. I enjoyed the psychology aspect of the investigation as Sam, with help from Maggie, tries to profile the murderer in order to try and get a lead in the case. This is definitely a whodunnit crime mystery but it’s also very much a whydunnit so even if you think you know who the murderer is you’ll still have to work out the why. I loved that there was more than one element and it certainly kept me on my toes as I was reading. The why was more of a shock to me than the who but I was still left utterly reeling by the end!

Vanda Symon is such a brilliant writer who brings something really fresh to crime fiction, a genre that I read a lot of but Vanda’s books really do stand out in the crowd.  The Ringmaster is an emotional, powerful and gripping novel. I loved it and highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Orenda for my copy of the book and to Anne for the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Ringmaster is out now and available here.

 

I’ve previously reviewed Overkill, the first book in this series, here.

 

About the Author

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Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

 

 

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55 by James Delargy | @JDelargyAuthor @simonschusteruk @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.

All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.

He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim.

Heath is a serial killer.

As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.

Gabriel is the serial killer.

Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?

 

My Thoughts

55 is a novel about a quiet town in the middle of nowhere in Australia that has not one but two men turn up at the small police station on the same day each claiming that the other one kidnapped and planned to murder him, and that they would have been victim number 55! Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins has a huge job on his hands as he listens to each story and tries to work out what on earth is going on!

Gabriel walks into the station first and he’s believed to be the victim he says he is and dealt with accordingly as his statement is taken. A short while later Heath turns up at the same police station and tells an almost identical story, and this leaves the police with a serious problem on their hands. Who is the killer and who is the victim? Or are they both killers? Or could they possibly both be victims?

Chandler is really frustrated when a more senior police officer arrives to take charge of the case. We soon find out that Chandler and Mitch used to be really close when they were younger but their friendship ended badly. This novel is told in two timelines – the present day and a few years earlier when Chandler and Mitch were helping search for a man missing in the wilderness. This was a great way to tell the story as we get to find out how close they were and how things went wrong alongside where they are now. It also felt at times like things in their friendship were mirroring elements of the story in the present day which had my brain ticking over even faster trying to see if there were any connections.

I really liked Chandler and never stopped wanting things to work out for him throughout the novel. It felt like he was always trying to do the right thing and to be fair with his staff and his family but was torn in so many directions. I think his story had me almost as tense as the main one about Gabriel and Heath because I so wanted him to be okay.

I spent the whole novel swapping and changing my mind about who I thought the guilty man was. The reveal about whodunnit is shocking – the mystery twists and turns at great pace throughout the novel but when we find out it’s almost like slow-motion as your brain takes in what happened! I’d worked out a small element of the story but nowhere near enough to fit it all together. The final pages of this novel were gobsmacking! This book has one of the best endings to a thriller that I’ve read in a really long time, it’s one of those endings that made me sit in silence for a few minutes after I put the book down trying to process it. And even now, weeks later, I still keep thinking about it!

I was drawn to this book as soon as I read the blurb, it was irresistible to me. I’m so happy to say that this novel totally lives up to the blurb and is such a unique take on a serial killer thriller novel! This is a perfect book for readers who think they can always work out whodunnit as this one will keep you guessing until all is revealed! I don’t think I’ll ever forget this book and I’m sure it will be on my best books of the year list – I highly recommend it! It’s fast-paced, addictive and utterly brilliant!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to take part on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

55 is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

James Delargy Author Photo

 

James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland but lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi-rural England where he now lives.

He incorporates this diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. He would like to complete a round-the-world series of novels (if only for the chance to indulge in more on-the-ground research).

His debut thriller, 55, will be published in June 2019 by Simon & Schuster and 17 other international publishers.

 

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55 Blog Tour Poster

Book Review: The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt |@joenutt_author @unbounders @annecater #randomthingstours

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About the Book

What’s the point of poetry? It s a question asked in classrooms all over the world, but it rarely receives a satisfactory answer. Which is why so many people, who read all kinds of books, never read poetry after leaving school. Exploring twenty-two works from poets as varied as William Blake, Seamus Heaney, Rita Dove and Hollie McNish, this book makes the case for what poetry has to offer us, what it can tell us about the things that matter in life.

Each poem is discussed with humour and refreshing clarity, using a mixture of anecdote and literary criticism that has been honed over a lifetime of teaching. Poetry can enrich our lives, if we’ll let it. The Point of Poetry is the perfect companion for anyone looking to discover how.

 

My Thoughts

I have a few favourite few poems from over the years but I aren’t much of a reader of poetry generally, I’ve always found it really intimidating. I did discover some love for poetry when I did an A-Level in English Lit as a mature student and was tasked with analysing Philip Larkin’s Mr Bleaney.  I loved reading and re-reading this poem, and went on to read everything Larkin had written. I still find other poets intimidating though. The Point of Poetry is a wonderful book that has opened my eyes to the joy of poems.

Joe Nutt opens this book with an introduction that immediately made me feel at ease and in safe hands. He takes away the fear of poetry very quickly. Each chapter looks at a different poem and Nutt takes us through the poem giving some background, relating it to present day and making you eager to actually read the poem for yourself and see what you can discover in it. I loved that the poem discussed is placed at the end of each chapter as by the time I got to it I was excited to read it, whether it was a poem I already knew or one I’d never heard of before.

I also really appreciate that Nutt didn’t just pick well-known poems, although there are some in the book, but also that he didn’t just pick poems that he loves. There are poems such as Vicki Feaver’s The Gun which he has issues with but still felt it warranted being read and explored in this book. The selection really made me think about my own reactions to the poems individually and as a whole as I got further into this book, and left me mulling over my thoughts long after I’d finished reading.

I think the chapter that grabbed me the most was the one about Holly McNish. I’d heard of her before but had never read (or watched her perform) her poetry before. I was fascinated by her poem Famous For What? and am definitely going to buy one or two of her collections very soon. I also very much enjoyed the chapter on Rita Dove’s The Bistro Styx, and the comparisons with Philip Larkin’s Church Going so I will be seeking out more of her work too.

I also want to mention the chapter on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I had to study this poem in my second year at secondary school and I hated it! I loved English, it was my favourite subject and I loved reading but the way the teacher taught us that poem made it feel never-ending and unbearable. I’ve loathed it ever since because it always takes me back to those lessons. However, Nutt’s exploration of this poem has made me see it in a different light – I’ve since sought out my copy and re-reading it now as a 40 year old I found so much more in it and I’m so glad that I had my eyes opened to it.

I’ve always been much more drawn to poems that make me feel something. Often poems that make me cry are the ones that stay with me. I feel like this book has reminded me that different poems bring out different emotions and that I should be more open-minded and actually have more faith in my own abilities to find things in poems from now on.

I do have to quickly mention how beautiful this book is. It’s a gorgeous hardback and the endpapers have a lovely illustration of keys on them (which immediately made me feel that perhaps this book could unlock the world of poetry for me, and it did just that!).

I absolutely loved this book! I feel that it’s given me back the confidence to start picking up more poetry collections again and to spend time reading poems out loud and taking time to really think about them. Not only that, it’s made me excited to read poetry again!  I’m so glad I read The Point of Poetry and I whole-heartedly recommend it!

Many thanks to Unbound for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Point of Poetry is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Joe Nutt Author Picture

Joe Nutt’s nineteen years teaching experience in the UK unusually ranged from the highly selective, private sector to challenging, inner city state schools. In 2000, he was seconded to work on a Department for Education project from his English teaching post at the City of London School and quickly established a new, commercial career but continued to write for English Literature students. He has written books on Shakespeare, John Donne and most recently a Guidebook to Paradise Lost arguably the most difficult poem in the English canon, for one of the world’s leading academic publishers. He publishes educational research internationally and is a national, and international conference speaker. He is now one of the leading educationalists in the UK and writes a fortnightly column for the Times Educational Supplement.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

FINAL Point of Poetry Blog Tour Poster

 

 

Book Review: The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby | @novelcarolyn @noexitpress @annecater #randomthingstours

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About the Book

Cora was born in a prison. But is this where she belongs?

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood.

Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

 

My Thoughts

The Conviction of Cora Burns follows Cora in late 1800s Birmingham as she tries to find her place in the world. She’s just been let out of prison and has been offered a position as a housemaid in the home of Thomas Jerwood but she is haunted by memories of her past, and is desperately seeking answers.

Cora is born in prison, then raised in the workhouse. She has a forceful personality and struggles to reign herself in. While at the workhouse Alice Salt comes into her life and this friendship greatly impacts Cora. Later the girls become separated and something happens that leads to Cora being imprisoned.  The novel begins with Cora being released but then goes back and forth in time between then and a few years earlier when she was a child. Interspersed with those chapters are journal entries from Jerwood about his scientific studies, and occasional reports from a doctor who is using hypnosis to try and get a mute woman to speak again.

This novel was set in the late 1800s and this comes through so vividly. The sense of time and place was so richly drawn, I could envisage the streets and the prison, the homes of the wealthy and the slums. It’s all so beautifully described and woven through the rest of the plot.

This is very much a novel looking at nature versus nurture and I found this fascinating.  I really enjoyed the scientific excerpts throughout this novel. I did a sociology module at college years ago and read about Lombroso’s work on how to identify criminals  by their facial features so it was interesting to see this being referred to in this novel. I often wonder about how people come to do evil things – are they born that way or made that way? Looking at this through Cora’s life was brilliant because she’s such an interesting character and while she has done awful things, and she’s not always likeable, there is something about her that made me want her to find answers and to get her life together. I couldn’t help but have sympathy for her, even though I couldn’t condone all of her actions.

I don’t read many historical novels as I always think I don’t enjoy them but this book was an incredible read! I was engrossed from the opening chapter and I got completely lost in the novel. I loved the way it was written in two timelines and with scientific documents interspersed – I was engrossed in every aspect of the story and I just couldn’t stop reading once I started! I adored this book and keep finding myself thinking about it ever since I finished reading it. I feel sure that this will be one of my favourite books of the year so I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to No Exit Press for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Conviction of Cora Burns is out now and available here.

About the Author

Originally from Sunderland, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’s College, Oxford before working in social housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language.

Her debut novel, The Conviction of Cora Burns, (previously titled Half of You) was begun in 2013 on a writing course at Faber Academy in London. The novel has achieved success in several competitions including as finalist in the 2017 Mslexia Novel Competition and as winner of the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award.

Carolyn has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.

 

 

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CURRENT Cora Burns BT Poster

Book Review: Past Life by Dominic Nolan | @NolanDom @headlinepg @annecater #RandomThingsTours #PastLife

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About the Book

Waking up beside the dead girl, she couldn’t remember anything.
Who she was. Who had taken her. How to escape.

Detective Abigail Boone has been missing for four days when she is finally found, confused and broken. Suffering retrograde amnesia, she is a stranger to her despairing husband and bewildered son.

Hopelessly lost in her own life, with no leads on her abduction, Boone’s only instinct is to revisit the case she was investigating when she vanished: the baffling disappearance of a young woman, Sarah Still.

Defying her family and the police, Boone obsessively follows a deadly trail to the darkest edges of human cruelty. But even if she finds Sarah, will Boone ever be the same again?

 

My Thoughts

Past Life is about Abigail Boone who is suffering from amnesia following a traumatic incident where she was abducted and held for days before being found. Doctors haven’t been able to treat her memory loss so now she’s just trying to pick up the pieces of her life and to move on as best she can. She’s lost her career in the police, and her relationship with her husband and son is floundering as she has no memories of either of them. Boone decides that the best thing she can do to find herself is to get back to trying to find the young woman she was searching for at the time she herself went missing.

Abigail Boone is such a brilliant character. She has her flaws – she’s stubborn, she doesn’t listen to advice and she throws herself into situations without really considering the consequences but I loved her fierce determination! She tries so hard but can’t seem to find a way through to her past and so focuses on the here and now and what she can do. I really admired this trait.

‘Identity can be proved with papers, but how do you prove self? How do you measure a person, seek evidence of what they might be? Only in the past, Boone concluded, and in that thing constructed by the past that we call a mind.’

Boone is trying to find Sarah Still, who has been missing for a long time now but Boone feels sure that she was on the right track to finding Sarah before she was attacked. This leads Boone to meet Roo, the woman she was held with, and I adored the relationship that grew between these two women. They are so different to each other and there is something of a language barrier at times but the way they overcame this and developed a respect for each other was so great to read about. The friendship they have, along with Boone’s friendship with Tess (a woman Boone helped while still in the police force and has kept in touch with), were the anchors that Boone needed in a time where she no longer connected with the people she was close to before.

I felt that Boone’s stubborn need to find Sarah, rather than being home and trying to connect with her family, perhaps came from the fact she now knows what it is to be missing. Boone is there but she’s not there; she doesn’t know who she was before and the only reference points she has are what other people have told her. Sarah is physically missing from her life but the person she left behind wants her back as much as Boone’s husband Jack and son Quin want Boone back.

This is a gritty novel, and it’s very dark in places but it’s so believable and it’s very well written. There is an air of melancholy that runs through the novel but it never feels depressing. The brilliant Boone, along with Tess and Roo, keep you hooked and I felt like I was right along with them throughout this story. I so badly wanted all of them to come out of it and be okay.

Past Life is such a brilliant and gripping crime thriller but it’s also an excellent exploration into what makes a person who they are. What is left to cling to when you’ve lost who you are, or when you’ve lost the person you love. There is so much depth in this book, and there were moments that felt so profound to me that I had to put it down for a few moments just to process what I was reading. My disability took my physical abilities from me so while I still know who I am, I can’t be who I was before so I felt something of an affinity with Boone. This book came to mean such a lot to me and I know it’s one that will stay with me. It’s very rare for me to connect so much to a crime thriller but Past Life is something special.

This is one of those really compelling books that you just can’t put down – I simply had to know how it was all going to turn out for Boone! She’s such a real, authentic character that I felt bereft when I turned the last page of this book. I still keep thinking about her and wondering how she’s getting on. This is a book that I won’t forget and I think Past Life may well make my best books of the year come the end of December! It’s gritty and gripping, thrilling and very difficult to put down… plus Boone will steal your heart! I highly recommend this book!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne from Random Things Tours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Past Life is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Dominic Nolan Author Picture

Dominic Nolan was born and raised in north London. PAST LIFE is his first novel.

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

Past Life Blog Tour Poster

Book Review: Are You The F**king Doctor? by Dr. Liam Farrell | @drlfarrell @annecater #RandomThingsTours #IrishMed

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About the Book

‘General practice is the great unknown. We stand on the cusp of the beyond. Science takes us only so far, then the maps stop in the grey areas of intuition, imagination and feelings: here be dragons. Lurching from heart-breaking tragedy to high farce, we are the Renaissance men and women of medicine; our art is intangible. Anything can walk through our door…’

Family doctor, Irishman, musician, award-winning author, anarchist and recovering morphine addict, Liam became a columnist for the BMJ in 1994. He went on to write for many major publications, winning a series of prestigious awards; in 2005, he was the first doctor to win Columnist of the Year in the Periodical Publishers Association awards.

The book contains a selection of Liam’s best work, from his columns, blogs and short stories.Brilliantly funny, glittering with literary allusion and darkly wicked humour, this book is much more than a collection of stand-alone anecdotes and whimsical reflections, rather a compelling chronicle of the daily struggles – and personal costs – of a doctor at the coalface.

 

My Thoughts

Are You The F**king Doctor? is a collection of Dr Liam Farrell’s columns and blog posts from over a period of many years. The collection is comprised of the humorous and the moving, along with some short stories inspired by his experiences as a GP.

The opening of this book was unexpected as Farrell writes very openly and honestly about his becoming addicted to morphine, and his subsequent journey to getting off it. It initially seemed a little odd to me to open the book with this story but actually it was great to see such honesty right from the beginning and to have a real insight into the man behind the following chapters. As I got further into the book it felt that knowing the author’s own medical struggles meant I warmed to him as he wrote about his patients, especially the ones that somewhat tried his patience at times!

I loved the way that this book was full of humour and the way that Farrell uses humour to get his point across to his readers. The repeated references to the over-use of antibiotics, and to patients who seek antibiotics for every ailment they suffer from made a strong point, but it’s done in such a tongue-in-cheek way that it didn’t feel like being lectured to.

The pressures of being a GP are apparent throughout this book. It must be so frustrating to have such a short time for consultations and then to have that compounded by some worried well patients bringing a long list with them, while there are other patients that really do need more time and it just isn’t there. There is a piece that shows just how hard it is being a junior doctor in a hospital when Farrell was on duty in one department and called for a consult from another department. In a roundabout way he was told that he was doing both of those roles and to get on with it. The piece is written in a humorous way but it really did bring me up short to think of working under those pressures.

One of my favourite recollections in the book was the reference to his elderly aunt, who was rather difficult, and the Wii! I completely agree with the idea of putting Wiis in all old people’s homes – they are wonderful for giving people a fun way to gain better balance and strength. There is also an amusing moment when a patient reveals her new baby daughter’s name. It seems she’s unknowingly named her after a medication (although her husband may well have known)! This whole post made me giggle to myself!

I wasn’t expecting so many literary references when I started this book but I very much appreciated them. Many of the references I knew of but others I didn’t and it sent me off looking into them – it’s always brilliant when a book leads you to seek out further learning and insight.

Dr Liam Farrell really shows the other side of medicine – it gives such an insight for patients into what doctors have to deal with on a daily basis. This is such an engaging read and has something in it for everyone to enjoy and get something out of. It’s so honest, very amusing and downright brilliant! I definitely recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Are You The F**king Doctor? is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Dr-Liam-Farrell

Dr Liam Farrell is from Rostrevor, Co Down, Ireland. He was a family doctor in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, for 20 years, and is an award-winning writer and a seasoned broadcaster. He is married to Brid, and has three children Jack, Katie, and Grace.

He was a columnist for the British Medical Journal for 20 years and currently writes for GP, the leading newspaper for general practitioners in the UK. He has also been a columnist for the Lancet, the Journal of General Practice, the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish News. He wrote the entry on ‘Sex’ for The Oxford Companion to the Body.

On Twitter he curates #Irishmed, a weekly tweetchat on all things medical, which has a global following. He also co-curates #WritersWise, a regular tweetchat for writers, with novelist Sharon Thompson.
He was the medical columnist for the BBC Radio Ulster Evening Extra 1996-98; presented the series Health-Check for Ulster TV in 2002, and was medical consultant for both series of Country Practice in 2000 and 2002 for BBC Northern Ireland.

His awards include Columnist of the Year at Irish Medical Media Awards 2003, Periodical Publishers Association of Great Britain 2006 and Medical Journalist’s Society, London 2011, and Advancing Health through Media at the Zenith Global Healthcare Awards 2018.He was shortlisted for the Michael McLaverty Short Story Competition in 2008.

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

Doctor Blog Tour Poster

Book Review: Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff | @SarahDavisGoff @TinderPress @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Raised by her mother and Maeve on Slanbeg, an island off the west coast of Ireland, Orpen has a childhood of love and stories by the fireside. But the stories grow darker, and the training begins. Ireland has been devoured by a ravening menace known as the skrake, and though Slanbeg is safe for now, the women must always be ready to run, or to fight.

When Maeve is bitten, Orpen is faced with a dilemma: kill Maeve before her transformation is complete, or try to get help. So Orpen sets off, with Maeve in a wheelbarrow and her dog at her side, in the hope of finding other survivors, and a cure. It is a journey that will test Orpen to her limits, on which she will learn who she really is, who she really loves, and how to imagine a future in a world that ended before she was born.

 

My Thoughts

Last Ones Left Alive is the story of Orpen as she seeks to find a way to survive in the dystopian world she now lives in. She had been somewhat sheltered and protected from the skrake by her mother. Maeve made sure that Orpen knows how to fight, how to survive but Orpen has never had a need to put what she’s learnt into practice until now. Maeve has been bitten and Orpen has had to leave the safety of the only home she’s ever known and risk what is out there in the wider world.

This isn’t my usual kind of read but I absolutely loved it. Orpen is such a great character – she is so feisty and tenacious and I was rooting for her all the way through the book. She is so determined to survive and to find a way to thrive in this new world.

This novel is really bleak a lot of the time but never depressing because of Orpen’s strength. The dystopian landscape of Slanbeg is devastating, nothing is as it was before, and the fear of the mysterious skrake is ever present. I found the monstrous creatures terrifying, it certainly kept me on the edge of my seat whenever Orpen had to stop and rest for a while. Orpen has learnt how to kill though and she is fearless in her fight to survive, she will do whatever it takes to save herself.

Orpen is ultimately trying to find Phoenix City; she has heard her mum and Maeve whispering about it, and she’s read about it in snippets of papers she’s found when looking for food. This takes on an almost mythical feel in the book as Orpen struggles to find any reference on the road to this place.  The sense of isolation and loneliness, and also the frustration she feels at seemingly being so close and yet so far from her where she wants to get to is tangible.

I really connected with Orpen over the loss of her mother; it’s an awful thing to lose your mum, especially when you’re young. I did feel like there were parallels to the grieving process in the battle with the very real skrake. The way you can never feel okay when grief is still so raw because the moment you relax it hits you again with full force. Eventually you have to find peace with the loss and accept that you can’t have the person back, you have to learn to live without them. It felt as if Orpen’s journey was mirroring this experience and she was growing stronger and coping better as time moved on.

I loved the exploration of humanity throughout Last Ones Left Alive. Maeve has done what she can to teach Orpen how to survive – she’s taught her how to kill the Skrake and made sure she has skills in finding food and shelter but no one has taught Orpen about what it is to be truly alone, and how to hold on to who she is in the midst of being on her own. She becomes quite brittle and fierce in her approach to potentially meeting other survivors, it’s as if she’s forgotten how to build relationships. Some of it is the all-consuming focus on the basic need to survive but I think part of it is that she has learnt how to protect herself so well that she no longer knows how to let people in. I was rooting for her to survive but also to get to a place where she could find some happiness and peace.

Last Ones Left Alive is a book about the inherent desire to survive, but also to thrive in the environment we find ourselves in. It’s brutal and heartbreaking at times but it’s also beautiful and impossible to put down! I highly recommend this one!

Many thanks to Tinder Press for my copy of the book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to be on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Last Ones Left Alive is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Sarah Davis Goff

Sarah Davis-Goff was born and raised in Ireland. After going to college in the US and UK, she eventually returned, and now lives in Dublin. Last Ones Left Alive is her debut novel.

 

 

You can find the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

Last Ones Left Alive BT Poster

Book Review: The Bridal Party by J. G. Murray | @JulianGylMurray @CorvusBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheBridalParty

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About the Book

Sometimes friendship can be murder…

It’s the weekend of Clarisse’s bridal party, a trip the girls have all been looking forward to. Then, on the day of their flight, Tamsyn, the maid of honour, suddenly backs out. Upset and confused, they try to make the most of the stunning, isolated seaside house they find themselves in.

But, there is a surprise in store – Tamsyn has organised a murder mystery, a sinister game in which they must discover a killer in their midst. As tensions quickly boil over, it becomes clear to them all that there are some secrets that won’t stay buried…

 

My Thoughts

The Bridal Party is a novel about a group of women going on a weekend away together for a hen party. The group seems quite typical of a hen party where everyone has a relationship with the bride but they don’t all know each other as well as they know Clarisse. One of the hens drops out at the very last minute and all the other women are then going into the unknown as the woman who dropped out is the one who made all the plans. This is such a great set up for the novel and I knew I was going to enjoy it!

The house the women stay in is very isolated and feels quite creepy and unnerving so already there is tension but then they each go their rooms to unpack and the tension really begins to ramp up from there!

The novel is told mainly in the present but there are flashbacks throughout that slowly let you see how these women became friends and what tensions there have been between them in the past. Secrets begin to be unravelled and it gradually catches up with the present. It was brilliant how the past came into play and how the women who’d known each other longest initially stuck together, causing the distrust and uneasiness to further grow. Female friendships can be very like this, although this book is more extreme in how things end up.

The setting of the house is remote and we soon find out that there it has links to a sinister past. It was a creepy enough idea that the house was surrounded by woodland and in the middle of nowhere but finding out its past had me really on edge. I love how the history of the house played a part in the mystery weekend that was planned, and the way this builds as the novel goes on was brilliant!

I loved that this book had genuine surprises. I was expecting this to be similar to other thrillers where a group are effectively trapped in a creepy house together but there was more to it. There is a real sinister feel running through this book, it had me on edge a lot of the time wondering how on earth it was all going work out for the group.

I thought I knew how this book was going to end, and while I worked out some elements, for the most part it took me down a completely different path and I loved that! It’s rare for a book to shock me but this one absolutely did.

The Bridal Party is twisty, tense and gripping… and most importantly it has genuine shocks in store! I definitely recommend this book!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Bridal Party is due to be published on 7th March and can be pre-ordered here.

 

About the Author

J G Murray Author Picture

J G Murray grew up in Cornwall and, after a spell selling chocolates in Brussels, qualified as an English teacher. Murray now lives, teaches and writes in London.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

The Bridal Party Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce | @Harriet_Tyce @Wildfirebks @PublicityBooks @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.

Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.

Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.

But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….

 

My Thoughts

I literally squealed with delight when a surprise copy of Blood Orange arrived at my house a couple of months ago. It was one of my most anticipated books for 2019 and I’m so thrilled to say that it was even better than I expected it to be (and I was expecting it to be amazing!).

Blood Orange is about Alison, a barrister who is rising through the ranks of her profession and has just been given her first murder case. She is married with a daughter and it seems she has it all. Alison isn’t happy though – she’s involved in a messy affair and she drinks too much. She wants to have it all but she can’t seem to get it all together.

I went into this novel expecting to dislike Alison but I actually found myself feeling sympathy for her from very early on in the book. She’s a complex character and I could see how she got herself into the situation she was in. She wanted to be ‘one of the boys’ at work so regularly goes out drinking with colleagues to try and further her career but somewhere along the line she lost her ability to say no to one more drink. Her affair is complicated, she doesn’t have control of the situation and the man she’s involved with is very aggressive in his treatment of her and she thinks she likes it.  Alison does have a toughness to her, along with a vulnerable side and I think this is why I felt for her. She’s not a victim, she has a voice and while she doesn’t always speak out when she might, you always know she’s capable of it. All of the characters in this book, Alison included, have traits that are really unlikeable but they’re all flawed in very human, and very believable ways, it made it all the more chilling to read about them.

Alison is working on defending a client for murder and this is her biggest case to date. I found it fascinating to read about Madeleine, the woman accused of murder, and to see the gradual unfolding of what happened and why. There are some parallels between Madeleine and Alison and it left me feeling increasingly unsettled about how easy it is to one day be one person in one situation and the next to have crossed a line that you can’t come back from. The scary thing about this book was the way it all happens in such a way that you can see how it could happen to anyone.

Blood Orange is a prescient novel for the #metoo era. It looks at issues around consent and where the line is between rough sex and rape. Whilst not the main storyline it’s something that does run through the novel and it’s so well done – it makes you think without it taking over the novel. It’s not just within the affair Alison is having, but also who that man is also seeing and within Alison’s marriage. There is a subtle line whereby her husband wants to help and support her but then sometimes he seems really quite cold towards her, it’s clearly complicated and something of a mess.

The novel opens with someone engaging in auto-erotic asphyxiation but we don’t know who the person is. As I was reading I would forget about the prologue and then certain things happened that had my brain ticking over wondering who it was. The ending of this novel was utterly shocking and I genuinely didn’t see it coming. I felt like I was watching a car crash in slow motion and was powerless to look away. It was such a perfect ending and was so fitting for this brilliant novel!

Blood Orange is such a compelling read – I found that I just couldn’t put it down once I started reading. It made me uncomfortable at times but in the way all the best books do, it unsettled me but I couldn’t stop reading for a second (and nor did I want to!). It’s a novel about toxic relationships, and people, and the tangled webs we weave and the way we become so entangled in them that eventually there may well be no way out. There is no doubt in my mind that Blood Orange will be in my best books of 2019, it’s a phenomenal debut and I already can’t wait to read whatever Harriet Tyce writes next! Go buy a copy of this book now, you won’t regret it!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to take part in the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Blood Orange is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Harriet Tyce Author Picture

Harriet Tyce is the author of Blood Orange, a psychological thriller due to be published by Wildfire in the UK and Grand Central Publishing in the US in February 2019.  It will also be published in a further eleven countries, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Spain.

She grew up in Edinburgh and studied English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University before practising as a criminal barrister for the next decade.  After having children she left the Bar and has recently completed with distinction an MA in Creative Writing – Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia. Blood Orange is her first novel.

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following stops:

Blood Orange Blog Tour Poster

 

#BookReview: East of England by Eamonn Griffin | @eamonngriffin @unbound_digital #randomthingstours @annecater #EastOfEngland

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About the Book

Dan Matlock is out of jail. He’s got a choice. Stay or leave. Go back to where it all went wrong, or simply get out of the county. Disappear. Start again as someone else.

But it’s not as simple as that.

There’s the matter of the man he killed. It wasn’t murder, but even so. You tell that to the family. Especially when that family is the Mintons, who own half that’s profitable and two-thirds of what’s crooked between the Wolds and the coast. And who could have got to Matlock as easy as you like in prison, but who haven’t touched him. Not yet.

And like Matlock found out in prison, there’s no getting away from yourself, so what would the point be in not facing up to other people?

It’s time to go home.

 

My Thoughts

East of England follows Dan Matlock as he gets out of prison after serving two years for causing the death of a man. He’s expecting his dad to meet him but no one is waiting for him. What follows is Dan trying to track down his dad whilst also laying a trail so that the family that caused him to be locked up can find him, and that past can be put to rest once and for all!

This isn’t my normal type of read but I very much enjoyed this book, it was so hard to put down and I read it in a couple of sittings! Dan Matlock is such a great character, one that will stay with me. He’s so much more complex than I thought he was going to be and I really appreciated that. I loved how he’s seeking to avenge himself by whatever means necessary and yet he always makes sure to look after people who need looking after. He takes time with people who he sees are lonely, even when he doesn’t have the time to give.

We follow Dan over the course of a week as he gradually gets closer to the day when things from the past will have to be put right. He immediately gets work as a debt collector with an old mate Chris, and starts scoping out the Minton and Corrigan families so he can lay a trail for them to find him. There is a great creeping undertone of menace as this novel goes on, it’s unsettling because you know the situation will come to a head and it’s just a matter of when and how. The reveals when they come are shocking, and at times violent, but it’s all in keeping with the build up.

The novel is set in the present but we also get flashes of the past and what led to Dan been put in prison, and also some really moving stories of Dan with his dad. Gradually you get a fuller picture of who Dan is and how he ended up in the situation he’s in.

The sense of place in this novel was spot on. Griffin makes Lincolnshire feel like another character in this novel – the feel of the county was done in such a way that I felt I could see everywhere he describes, I could smell the seaside and the fish and chips. It brought the book alive for me and I got so lost in it that it was like watching a film.

East of England is dark and gritty novel, that has some really moving moments in amongst the heavier stuff. I found this book near impossible to put down, and am so thrilled to discover that a second book featuring Dan Matlock is planned! I definitely recommend this one.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

East of England is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Eamonn Griffin Author Pic

Eamonn Griffin was born and raised in Lincolnshire, though these days he lives in north-east Wales.

He’s worked as a stonemason, a strawberry picker, in plastics factories (everything from packing those little bags for loose change you get from banks to production planning via transport manager via fork-lift driving), in agricultural and industrial laboratories, in a computer games shop, and latterly in further and higher education.

He’s taught and lectured in subjects as diverse as leisure and tourism, uniformed public services, English Studies, creative writing, film studies, TV and film production, and media theory. He doesn’t do any of that anymore. Instead he writes fulltime, either as a freelancer, or else on fiction.

Eamonn has a PhD in creative writing with the University of Lancaster, specialising in historical fiction, having previously completed both an MA in popular film and a BSc in sociology and politics via the Open University. He really likes biltong, and has recently returned to learning to play piano, something he abandoned when he was about seven and has regretted since.

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following stops:

East of England Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Senseless by Anna Lickley | @annal_writes @unbound_digital #Senseless #RandomThingsTours @annecater

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About the Book

Beth’s partner, Dan, inexplicably vanishes from her life and nine years later she is still struggling. In the intervening years, she has learnt British Sign Language (BSL) and got what she thought would be her dream job, supporting deaf students in college. However, she finds she still feels dissatisfied with just about everything: from working life to sex life, domestic life to social life, it’s as if the traumas of her past will forever mar her future.

Through her work, Beth meets a group of strong-minded, pragmatists who show her how they’ve adapted to challenges of having a disability.

Is Dan’s disappearance the primary source of Beth’s sadness? Can her new friends help to shift her perspective on dealing with life? Will learning BSL prove to be significant after all? And what really happened to Dan? The answers may be quite unexpected.

 

My Thoughts

Senseless is a novel about Beth, who has been through a lot in her life and is struggling to find her place. She works supporting deaf / blind students in college using BSL (British Sign Language) but the job isn’t as satisfying as she hoped – she’s always been asked to do things that aren’t part of her job, or is expected to be able to sign things at short short notice for a student and is frustrated that the student is missing out. Beth also has difficulties in her personal life – her partner Dan walked out on her a few years ago and she still doesn’t know why or even where he went and if he’s okay.

Senseless is  a novel told through the viewpoint of two characters, Sam and Beth, although it is more about Beth as her story is told in the present and the past. She has had a really tough time when she was younger and it’s something that she’s never really dealt with. You gradually get to find out and understand why Beth is the way she is, she has had a lot to cope with. She self-medicates with alcohol and sex. Beth really struggles emotionally through this novel with what she wants in life. She thought her job would bring her joy but things aren’t what she hoped for. I felt really sad for her, and was really hoping she would find contentment in her life. She’s a really likeable character and easy to identify with. Sam is another interesting character, I very much liked him and his attitude to life. He is a firefighter but hasn’t been feeling well. He wants to confide in his girlfriend but she doesn’t seem to notice that he’s struggling. Eventually he finds out what is wrong and his life is changed.

There is such great representation of disability in this novel, particularly what it’s like to be deaf but also other forms of disability such as MS and needing to use a wheelchair. I loved how Anna Lickley seamlessly raises awareness of disability throughout her novel but in such a way that you don’t feel there is an agenda. I’m disabled and use a wheelchair, so I could really identify with Sam in particular and how he felt about his increasing reliance on other people and on aids such as his wheelchair. I very much appreciated how he is such a well-rounded character and the mentions of his disability are only there when relevant and are only one part of him. I really identified with how it feels to be in a wheelchair and forever having to shout to converse with your partner or a friend, who is always behind you as they push you. This is one of the things that upsets me the most about my condition – I never get to be alongside my husband when we’re out together anymore.

‘… spoke into he air : it was weird having the person you were speaking to walking behind you.’

Anna Lickley really shows in Senseless what it is to lose a sense, or a part of your physical self to disability but also, and perhaps more importantly, how every other part of you is still the same as it ever was. Disabled people have relationships, have sex, want to socialise and do all of the same things as everyone else. I also loved the exploration of how society often sees disabled people as victims but it is so often not how we see ourselves. I’m incredibly stubborn and refuse to give in for example, and in this book the character with MS says if he has to be known as anything in relation to his condition it would to be a struggler rather than a sufferer, and I can empathise with that. The novel really draws together the way we all have our difficulties – be they a physical disability or the real unhappiness that Beth feels.

Beth ends up going on a weekend break to a horse-riding school for the disabled to act as a support worker to Paula who is deaf blind. The horse riding part of the book was so brilliant. It shows how there are times when everyone, no matter what is going on in their lives can find common ground. I really enjoyed seeing how everyone adapted and how it helped Beth to open herself up to the possibility of what life might have to offer her if she gives herself a chance.

Senseless is a novel for everyone – it’s a well-written book filled with really well-rounded characters. The exploration of how everyone is dis-abled in a way by whatever difficulty they have in life is fascinating. It’s not always easy for anyone and we all need to take more time to really see other people.

Senseless is such a brilliant read – it’s got a great storyline, with believable characters and you get completely invested in their lives. I laughed and I cried while reading this book, it really is a special novel and one that will stay with me. I found this hard to put down and will definitely be looking out for more of Anna Lickley’s writing in the future! I urge everyone to go buy a copy of Senseless and to read it asap!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Senseless is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Anna Lickley Author Picture

 

Anna Lickley’s adult life has been moulded by the challenges of adapting to disability. She was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) in the 1990s and went deaf soon after, while at university. She then began to learn British Sign Language to help with communication and loved it immediately, becoming fluent enough to teach it.
In the last seven years, Anna’s vision has deteriorated and she is now registered deaf–blind. That and other health complications led her to stop working. Although sad to leave a job she loved, she is now relishing having more time to write and much of her writing is greatly influenced by her desire to share the realities of living with disability.

 

 

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

Senseless Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden | @LumsdenRich @TinderPress #RandomThingsTours @annecater #BillyBinns

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About the Book

At well over a hundred years old, Billy Binns believes he’s the oldest man in Europe and knows his days are numbered. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time.

As he looks back at the relationships that have coloured his life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a lifetime of hope and heartbreak.

This is the story of an ordinary man’s life, an enchanting novel which takes you on an epic yet intimate journey that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on the universal turmoil of love.

 

My Thoughts

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is the story of 117 year old Billy as he begins to look back over his life, and the people he’s loved over the years. His life is nearing its end and he wonders whether he can truly remember the feeling of being in love one more time.

This novel is beautiful! I was immediately taken from the opening of the novel when Billy lists who his loves have been and a little about them. I really wanted to know more about these people and from that moment on I barely put the book down!

I loved the way that major events are touched upon in this novel as we move throughout Billy’s Life, it really brings it home just how old he is and how much life he has lived.

The loves in Billy’s life are often fleeting, and some – one in particular was heartbreaking – I had to put the book down for a moment while I composed myself as it did make me cry. There’s a real delicateness to the writing at times that really makes you pause, it’s stunning. It’s apparent that some of the difficult times in Billy’s life are things he has brought on himself but at the same time there’s an awareness that we were all young once and did silly things. He never meant the pain he sometimes caused to others.

Billy’s memories are interspersed with his life now in the old people’s home, and you can see how muddled he gets. He’s not always sure what is now and what was then, and he remembers things differently at different times. I found it really emotional seeing how Billy had clearly imagined other outcomes to get himself through the really difficult periods in his life, and now as an old man he muddles his real memories with the imagined stories. It was heartbreaking when I found myself smiling at a happy memory and then later realising what had actually happened, but in the end there was real solace in the fact that Billy remembered the imagined happy outcome over the most tragic loss. It was as if his forgetfulness was protecting him in the end, I found that so comforting.

I read this novel around the anniversary of my mum’s death and was worried it might be too much for me but actually it was a really good book to read. My mum never got to be even half Billy’s age but she had her share of heartbreak, and it makes me so sad to think of the loneliness she suffered from being divorced in the last years of her life. There was solace in reading Billy’s story though and the sense that in the end there is peace with who we are and how we ended up where we are.

I was expecting this novel to be a love story and it was, just not the way I was expecting. It was a very real story of love – it shows true love in all its complicated and messy ways. The person Billy loved the most was part of the relationship he messed up the most but the love he had for that person never wavered over the years. That is so true of how life can be. Even when you find the one it’s not always smooth sailing. I loved Billy’s ability to keep going though – even when things go wrong and he’s on his own dealing with loss and heartbreak he isn’t afraid to try again, to look for someone new.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is a story of resilience; of finding a way to go on after the worst has happened. It’s a wonderful look at a very human man – one who has made mistakes but has learnt lessons from the people he’s loved and lost along the way. There is real beauty in this book and I adored it!

Many thanks to Anne of RandomThingsTours and Tinder Press for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Richard Lumsden has worked as an actor, writer and composer in television, film and theatre for 30 years. As an actor his films include Downhill, Sightseers, Sense & Sensibilityand The Darkest Hour, as well as numerous television shows and theatre productions. THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS is his first novel.

 

 

 

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#BookReview: The Suspect by Fiona Barton | @figbarton @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

‘The police belonged to another world – the world they saw on the television or in the papers. Not theirs.’

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling. This time it’s personal.

And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

 

My Thoughts

The Suspect is the story of two teenage girls who go missing on a gap year in Thailand. Their parents are desperate for news of them, and the police soon launch an investigation. In the meantime journalist Kate Waters is on the case trying to track the girls down too. This case feels somewhat personal to Kate as her son has also been travelling in Thailand for the last couple of years and only calls home very infrequently.

Kate Waters is back in The Suspect – she is one of my favourite characters in all the series / linked books that I’ve ever read. She is a force to be reckoned with whilst also having a softer side to her. I love her determined nature and her approach to following leads in a story, she always feels like a real person to me. In The Suspect we see more of the pressures of her personal life as her eldest son Jake is off travelling and she worries about him but also knows he’s an adult and has to be allowed his freedom. However, when the two teenage girls go missing in the same part of the world she has a gradually nagging feeling about her son.

We also get the perspective of Alex’s mum, and through her we see how Rosie’s parents are coping too. The anxiety and distress that the parents are in was palpable at times, while at others we see one of the parents covering up things that he has done which made me want to slap him at times!  We also get to see the detectives on the case and see how the police investigation into the disappearance is going. I was happy to see Bob Sparkes back in this book, he’s also such a great character!

Interspersed between these chapters we get to hear from one of the missing girls in the time leading up to their disappearance. Alex is much more reserved than the girl she’s travelling with and over time the tensions build and their friendship begins to crack. Rosie was a last minute replacement on this trip when Alex’s best friend pulled out and it’s clear that these two girls didn’t have much in common from the start. This adds to the sense of foreboding that something bad is going to happen.

Fiona Barton opens The Suspect with the parents’ anguish over these girls and then gradually through the different perspectives the blanks get filled in about what happened to the girls, and how the investigation into their disappearance is going. I love how we are thrown into the middle of the story in many ways and then have to work our way outwards along with Kate and the police to figure out what has happened.

The Suspect can be read as a standalone but I definitely recommend reading the previous two books first because you get to know Kate really well that way. In this third novel featuring her the case becomes much more personal, and I loved that I already knew her and so was completely invested in wanting her to be okay.This was a much more emotional read at times than I was expecting but I felt so involved in what was going on in this story, it was so believable.

The Suspect is Fiona Barton’s best book yet! I was engrossed from the opening chapters and I didn’t want to put it down for a minute! It’s one of those brilliant novels that gives you the time to get to know the characters whilst at the same time moving the plot along at such a pace that you just want to keep reading to know what’s going to happen. The pacing was absolutely spot on and this is such a brilliant read!

The Suspect is a suspenseful, gripping and heart-rending read! I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Bantam Press for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

The Suspect is due to be published on 24th January and is available to pre-order here.

 

About the Author

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Fiona Barton’s debut, The Widow, was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and has been published in thirty-five countries and optioned for television. Her second novel, The Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller. Born in Cambridge, Fiona currently lives in south-west France. Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. While working as a journalist, Fiona reported on many high-profile criminal cases and she developed a fascination with watching those involved, their body language and verbal tics. Fiona interviewed people at the heart of these crimes, from the guilty to their families, as well as those on the periphery, and found it was those just outside the spotlight who interested her most . . .

 

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#BookReview: Into the Silent Sea by Claire Stibbe | @CMTStibbe @annecater #randomthingstours

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About the Book

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.

When Clodagh Shepherd’s curiosity gives way to obsession, her thoughts turn to revenge.

In the wake of her husband’s affair and subsequent disappearance, Clo makes an impulsive decision to befriend the beautiful stranger who has stolen her life. Answering an ad for a home help, she moves into the home of her husband’s mistress and is immediately drawn into the chilling reality behind the idyllic façade of Hamptons Life. Central to her terrifying nightmare is a deadly secret–a secret someone will kill to keep.

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, this thriller is non-stop! Clodagh and her husband Ryan split up after she discovered his affair, and in the wake of that Clo decides to apply for a housekeeper job at his mistress’ home!

At the very start of this novel it’s clear that Clo has been beaten by her husband and has been left feeling quite anxious about how he’s treated her and about his affair. She very quickly decides that she wants the upper hand and so begins her mission to find the woman he cheated with and to inveigle her way into her life. She also wants to know where her husband has gone and thinks this woman holds the answers she needs.

I did find the opening chapters a little difficult to get my head around as the pace of this novel ramps up really quickly and I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. But once Clo finds her husband’s mistress and decides to apply for a job in the same house I was utterly gripped!

Once Clo gets the job as home help the book really takes off. It’s clear right away that while Clo isn’t being honest about who she is that Marion is naturally wary of her. I felt like neither woman could be trusted and so begins something of a game of cat and mouse between them. It was fascinating to read how they were with each other because some female friendships start off with women being very distrustful of each other and in this novel that just seems to grow. There is an appearance of friendship but it doesn’t ever feel very real. I found myself utterly engrossed in the novel wanting to know how it could possibly end!

To heighten matters further Clo and Marion have a look of each other, and I could sense there would be increasing tensions around this – especially from Clo, who knows that Marion had an affair with her husband. It must be horrendous to be confronted with a younger version of yourself in that way. I did have some sympathy for Clo over this but I’ll be honest, it was short-lived!

There is also something very unsettling about the house Clo moves to, and it’s not just her relationship with Marion. The owner has a strict routine of when he’ll be there and what he expects of all of his staff. It felt very oppressive, even though it’s a beautiful house on the beach. There is an escalating claustrophobic feel to it and it really adds to the atmosphere.

There is a lot of paranoia throughout the book, and it unsettled me as I was reading – I couldn’t be sure of what was real. I loved this aspect of the book because it kept me on my toes, I could never get complacent about what I thought might happen. Clo seems to be in control at some moments but then not at others so I was never sure if she was to be trusted. There are twists and turns throughout this book and the end when it comes had me reeling!

Into the Silent Sea is a dark thriller and it definitely proves that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! It’s a real rollercoaster of a read – it’s unpredictable, gripping and thrilling! I recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Claire Stibbe for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Into the Silent Sea is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Claire Stibbe is the author of the Detective Temeke Crime series – The 9th Hour, Night Eyes, Past Rites, Dead Cold, Easy Prey. Winner of the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards for crime mystery, silver medal winner of The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, her books have also been Amazon bestsellers, reaching the #1 spot in the top 100.

She is also a reporter for Stand True 4 Blue, which features a Nationwide Newsletter dedicated to law enforcement, a member and graduate of the Citizen Police & BSCO Sheriff’s Academy. A former journalist and magazine editor, she now lives in Utah with her husband and son.

These books provide donations towards the counseling of single mothers after suffering from domestic violence and post-traumatic stress.

Find out more about Claire at http://www.clairestibbe.com/

Twitter @CMTStibbe

Sign up to Claire Stibbe’s New Release Mailing List here: http://eepurl.com/bqCQhv

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn | @r_welbourn @unbound_digital @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Is it possible to keep secrets in the age of social media? When someone lives their entire life in the spotlight, what could they possibly hide from you? Ideal Angels explores just that. It s the story of one man, one woman, one week. They meet, fall in love, and never look back. Eloise s phone is never far away, furiously cataloguing their ups and downs. But there are always shadows, lurking just out of reach. The moments after the camera flashes, unseen, uncaptured. The threat of an inescapable doom. How much can one person change you? How much can one person be your downfall?

 

My Thoughts

Ideal Angels is about an unnamed protagonist who lives a normal, fairly underwhelming life going to work and coming home, spending a lot of his time alone. Then on a night out he meets Eloise and immediately feels a connection to her. They swap numbers and the next time they meet up things become intense very quickly. Eloise is obsessed with social media and records every little detail of their time together. He isn’t keen, he doesn’t use social media but he allows her to keep taking photos because he is infatuated with her.

I found myself swept up in Ideal Angels from the opening pages. It’s written in a stream of consciousness style a lot of the time so you very quickly get inside the narrator’s head and come to understand why he is the way he is. He maintains that he’s okay alone and doesn’t need anyone but he radiates loneliness. I worried for him when he met Eloise, it felt from the off that he was going to get his heart broken. She’s so vivacious and spontaneous and he just isn’t so I felt she would quickly pull away from him and he would be distraught. There is a sense of melancholy even in the happiness he has found, like he has the fear of it ending even as it’s just beginning. I think most of us can identify with that feeling – that moment when you know you’re in love with someone, and the realisation that you are so vulnerable now, so out there to be hurt.

I loved reading about these two falling in love over the week they spend together in this novel. There are moments of real joy and happiness, and I was rooting for it all to work out. The protagonist becomes more accepting of Eloise’s need to be sharing everything about their life online, yet is steadfast in his not wanting to be online himself. It’s as if he’s decided that as long as he’s not looking at her online profiles then it’s not like she’s really sharing every minute detail of their lives.

I can totally see how social media is an obsession for Eloise and why she needs to keep up her profile, and to play to her ‘friends’. We all want to be liked and these days having lots of twitter followers makes us feel part of things: validated. I first joined twitter almost ten years ago in the worst moments of my life, I was lonely and I had no one. There was always someone online to talk to, and it was such a friendly place back then. I still have friends now that I made back then, one of them became my husband! In the end twitter got too big, it was impossible to keep up and people were less and less chatty, it felt like shouting into a void. I tweeted less and less – I became much more like the protagonist in Ideal Angels, social media was something I was aware of but didn’t really participate in. It’s a double-edged sword – it can make you feel part of something, but it can also make you even more aware of how lonely and isolated you really are.

On a side note I loved the references to Hull in this book. I felt like I was right there with the protaganist and Eloise as he shows her where he grew up. I remember when the shopping centre stripped out all the interesting shops on the top floor and made into a cinema. And I spent many a night at the Welly back in the day. Perhaps it’s in part that I know those places but I really connected with how removed he felt that everything had changed. I guess we can all understand how sad it is to go back to a place from our past and find nothing is the same, we can’t keep things the same except in our memories. This seems like such a poignant moment for me, the realisation that the Eloises of this world are perhaps desperately trying to hold on to everything but it’s not possible to have that much control. Life moves on, things change. Social media isn’t always about people showing off to their followers, sometimes it’s trying to preserve something in order to feel like you have meaning.

In the end we come to see that both of these characters are struggling in their own ways. Eloise appears to be living a happy full life but really there’s no substance to the instagram side of her and she has insecurities underneath. As I came to see there were cracks under the surface I could see how these two people connected with each other so quickly and how they fell for each other.

From the very beginning of this novel I felt like I was going to get my heart broken by these characters, and this feeling lingered even in the happy moments. This novel is such a mirror of how life can be – it’s hard to live in the moment, and when you let yourself relax and be happy at the good life has brought you there can be such a sting in the tail.

This book is so prescient in the social media age we live in, and also with regards to its look at mental health. It’s a stunning novel and one that has really got under my skin, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished reading. I loved the wry humour that runs through it, and also the beautiful way with words that Robert Welbourn has in his writing. And even though this novel broke my heart in the end, I completely and utterly fell in love with it. I can already say for sure that Ideal Angels will be one of my favourite books of 2019 because it’s such an incredible novel.

Ideal Angels is prescient, stunning and unforgettable! I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Ideal Angels is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

robert welbourn author pic

Robert Welbourn is Yorkshire born and bred – he’s lived there almost all his life, and now written a book set there. He’s had a passion for books as long as he can remember, and has been writing his whole life. His favourite authors are Bret Easton Ellis and Stephen King, and he cites Ellis as his number one influence.

He studied English Literature at Salford University, and this confirmed that he wanted to spend his life working with books. He currently works in marketing, but is hoping to spend his life telling stories.

Twitter@r_welbourn

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard @cathryanhoward @CorvusBooks #TheLiarsGirl @annecater

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About the Book

Her first love confessed to five murders.

The truth was so much worse.

Will Hurley, Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, is in prison, ten years into a life sentence.

His ex-girlfriend, Alison, has built a new life abroad, putting her shattered past behind her.

Then the copycat killings start. Will holds the key to unlocking these crimes, but he’ll only talk to Alison. Can the killer be stopped before there’s another senseless murder? And after all these years, can Alison face the past – and the man – she’s worked so hard to forget?

 

My Thoughts

The Liar’s Girl is the story of Alison, who meets the love of her life at university but then her life spirals when her best friend is murdered and her boyfriend Will is arrested for the killing. The novel is told predominantly from Alison’s perspective in a dual timeline: in the past when she’s at Uni and in the present ten years later as she’s trying to build a life for herself. Things begin to unravel when a copycat killer is on the loose and the police want Alison to come back to Dublin to speak to Will about what he might know.

The Liar’s Girl opens with a scene that was so unnerving. A young woman comes round in a house, obviously in the aftermath of a small party or gathering of other young people. She’s clearly had a drink but she’s aware that something’s really not right. Then she sees something which chills her to the bone and she runs. My adrenaline was racing as I read it and I just knew this was going to be a brilliant read (and I was so right!).

I liked Alison from the start of this novel and felt such sympathy for her at all she had been through. It’s clearly damaged her and affected her ability to form relationships with men, and she never feels like she can be honest about knowing Will or Liz. It must be so difficult to feel you have to keep such secrets. You can see from the start that Alison and Liz had a complicated friendship that is so common in the teenage years. One is often more of a leader than the other, and that leaves the other to feel like they’re just following along without really knowing who they are. When Liz and Alison get to Uni and Alison meets her flatmate and then Will she begins to grow in confidence, but then the murders happen. All through the novel I was hoping Alison would find the strength to come to terms with all the complex emotions she’d buried from the past.

I did work out some aspects of how this novel would end, although I had my doubts about a couple of the characters before I settled on a theory, but this never spoiled my enjoyment of the book as I wanted to know why and how.

The Liar’s Girl had perfect pacing for me – it’s quite a slow-burn, allowing the reader to get to know Alison and letting the tension build up, while at the same time being such a fast read because once you start reading you just don’t want to put it down! The novel is predominantly about Alison and about how the murders are investigated but it’s interspersed with creepy moments from the killer’s perspective that definitely get the adrenaline going!

The Liar’s Girl is gripping, thrilling and impossible to put down! I read this in one sitting and absolutely loved it! I definitely recommend this one!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Corvus for my copy of The Liar’s Girl and my invitation to be on the blog tour.

The Liar’s Girl is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin. Her debut novel Distress Signalswas published by Corvus in 2016 and was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger.

 

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Odette by Jessica Duchen | @JessicaDuchen @Unbound_Digital @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #Odette

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About the Book

When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. At sunset, though, it becomes a human being.

This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, in danger and adrift in 21st-century Britain, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, woman by night, with no way to go home to Russia, she remains convinced that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell.

Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled…

A contemporary twist on Swan LakeOdette asks – in the best tradition of fairy tales – whether against all the odds, hope, empathy and humanity can win the day.

 

My Thoughts

I loved reading fairytales as a child – I still have my huge works of Hans Christian Anderson and Brothers Grimm from childhood and I still love finding adaptations of my favourite fairytales so I was delighted to get the chance to read Odette by Jessica Duchen for the blog tour. I’m really pleased to say that I adored this novel!

Odette is the story of Mitzi, who one day during a storm has a swan fly in through her living room window. Mitzi seeks help for the swan and is determined to nurse it back to health but the next morning she discovers a young woman, Odette, in place of the swan. Odette is a swan princess trapped in this life of being a swan during the night and a woman during the day until she finds true love. Mitzi decides to let Odette live with her and is determined to help her.

I felt a connection to Mitzi very quickly in this novel. I know how it feels to be facing Christmas after losing a parent, and it’s hard. She misses her father terribly and doesn’t know how to even begin to work through her grief and to come to terms with him being gone. She is looking for something or someone to fill the void in her life and Odette seems to appear at just the right moment.

Odette and Mitzi help each other throughout this novel. Mitzi shows Odette what a normal life in the 21st century is like, and Odette gives some comfort and solace to a lonely Mitzi. The friendship that grows between them isn’t always straightforward but it’s believable and genuine and I wanted somehow for this to be enough for Odette to be able to stay.

Of course, this being based on the fairytale means there is a romantic interest or two, and there is also the bad guy that wants to stop Odette from finding love. I really enjoyed seeing Odette dating and learning about modern men. I have to be honest that I got so wrapped up in Odette’s new-found happiness with her friend and potential lover that I forgot to look out for the bad guy so when the reveal comes I wasn’t expecting to be who it was. It’s not often that I don’t spot things coming in a novel so this is testament to the wonderful writing!

This is a take on a fairytale but it’s also a very modern novel. Odette experiences trying to get a job and not understanding how things work because of the language barrier, and this is how it must be for refugees and newcomers to a country. I also loved the way that it looks at whether love between friends can be as fulfilling as romantic love. It really is a novel that can be taken in different ways and I really appreciated that.

Odette is a beautiful novel and is one that I think will make my top books of the year as I adored it. It’s been on my mind ever since I finished reading it and I know I will read it again in the future. I definitely recommend this book.

Odette is a beautiful, magical and moving novel, I loved it!

Many thanks to Unbound and Anne of RandomThingsTours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Odette is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Jessica Duchen Author Picture

Jessica Duchen is an acclaimed author and journalist, specialising in words for, with and about music. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous magazines around the world. Her first five novels have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Music plays a vital role in her books, and she frequently narrates concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dancesand Ghost Variations.

Jessica is the librettist for the opera Silver Birchby Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for a 2018 International Opera Award. Current projects include the libretto for a youth opera with composer Paul Fincham for Garsington 2019 (an updating of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale) and two large-scale choral works with Roxanna Panufnik.

She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and held editorial posts on several music magazines before going freelance to concentrate on writing. She edited a piano magazine for five years and was then classical music and ballet correspondent for The Independent from 2004-2016. Her output also includes plays, poetry, biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (published by Phaidon) and her popular classical music blog, JDCMB. She lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys playing the piano, cookery, long walks and obscure books about music.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton | @BrethertonWords @Unbounders @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #BoneLines

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About the Book

A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life. A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bone Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of two extraordinary characters. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no prior or special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to have the chance to read and review Bone Lines for the blog tour as it’s a book I’d seen and was curious about. I’m really pleased to say that I very much enjoyed it.

Bone Lines is set in two time lines. Eloise is geneticist in present day London and is going to be working on a skull that has been found, it’s a major archeological find and she knows this is going to be such important work. The novel also follows a woman 74,000 years ago. We see her give birth out in the open and then her struggles to keep herself and her child alive and well. The skull that Eloise is working with is named Sarah, and it’s apparent that this is the woman from the past.

I’ll be honest and say that initially I did find this novel a little hard to get into, I wasn’t sure where it was going and it’s so different from anything else that I’ve read in quite a while. A few chapters in though I felt it all began to make sense to me and I could see parallels between modern woman and the woman 74,000 years ago. At this point this book became compelling for me and I struggled to put it down.

Sarah clearly has a very difficult life, she is separated from her family and is unsure where exactly she is and whether she will ever encounter people she can join with again. She is terrified of anything happening to her child and is very protective. I felt such an emotional connection to Sarah. The way she honours the dead from her family, and the way she remembers her mother and longs for her after her child is born was incredibly moving. It really got to me in a way that I wasn’t expecting, I ignorantly assumed I wouldn’t really understand a woman who lived so long ago but this novel really made me think about how longing for our mothers, needing their support and protection at various times in our lives is such a universal human emotion. The book leaves you wondering if this innate feeling is genetic, or if it’s entirely just an emotional connection to the past.

Eloise is struggling with the issues that come with being a professional woman – ideas around having children, not having a husband etc that people often want to know about. She’s also working hard to discover if there’s a genetic link to suicide. She looks for answers about everything within science and is sure there are answers to be found. When she’s really finding it tough she starts writing letters to Charles Darwin, and while this might sound like a gimmick it actually really works within the book. It gave more insight into how Eloise thinks and feels and shows her ambition and why she strives in the way she does.

The further you get into the novel the more you see the parallels between the two women. The way they are both searching for a place to belong, a place where they fit in and feel safe. Sarah ponders on finding another group she can settle with, and Eloise seems to be looking for something that’s missing in her own life. It really opened my eyes to the universality of what humans are seeking, in spite of the circumstances of their life.

This is a beautifully written novel that explores science, evolution and emotion. It’s such an enjoyable read whilst also giving you something to think about. I’m so glad that I got the chance to read this, it feels like a book that will really stay with me. It’s made me want to read more about the period that Sarah was living and to understand how we got from there to here. I’m delighted to see that while this book stands on its own that a sequel is planned, I will definitely pre-order this book when it’s available!

A powerful, moving and fascinating novel!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne at RandomThingsTours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Bone Lines is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Stephanie Bretherton Author Pic

 

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

 

Website: http://www.stephaniebretherton.com/

Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

Bone Lines 2 Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Fukushima Dreams by Zelda Rhiando | @badzelda @unbound_digital @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Sachiko and her husband Harry live in a village on the North-east coast of Japan. They are both struggling to adapt to life as new parents to their infant son Tashi. In the aftermath of the tsunami, Sachiko wakes alone. Her family is missing. She begins a desperate search until radiation fallout from the Fukushima power plant forces her to leave the area. She moves to Tokyo, and a different life. Harry has fled to a refuge on an isolated mountain, abandoning his family. He lives there, haunted by guilt and hovering on the edge of sanity. Will they find each other and confront the question of their missing son?

 

My Thoughts

I’d not heard of Fukushima Dreams before I was offered a chance to read and review it for this blog tour but I am so very glad that it found its way to me. This is one of those really special novels that works its way into your heart and doesn’t leave, even after you’ve finished reading it.

Sachiko is caught up in a tsunami and when she wakes she is struggling to understand what has happened to her and where her husband and baby son are. She has survived and is alone in a crowded make-shift shelter. Unknown to her, her husband Harry fled their home during the initial earthquake and is sheltering in a hut on a mountain in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve struggled to write this review because Fukushima Dreams was so much more than I was expecting it to be and it’s taken hold of my thoughts and won’t let them go. This is such a beautiful, lyrical and almost dream-like novel. It’s a quiet story in many ways but it’s so powerful at the same time. It’s written in a way that you feel like you are right there with Sachiko as she struggles to comprehend what on earth has happened her and to her home.

The tsunami and the devastation it left in its wake are a large part of this novel but there is so much more to it too. We slowly come to find out that Sachiko is a new mum and has been struggling to bond with her baby. Her husband Harry was trying to write and was being driven to distraction by the baby’s constant crying and this young couple’s marriage was starting to fall apart. As a reader it’s clear that Sachiko has post-natal depression or something similar but within the novel they don’t seek medical help for her and she’s left feeling increasingly depressed and is isolating herself from the world. I felt such sympathy for her and was hoping that Harry would do something to help her but it seemed like he retreated into himself in order to work. I don’t think he understood that Sachiko couldn’t just snap out of it, and that she needed support.

As I was reading it felt like the tsunami, while clearly really happening, was also a metaphor for what happened to Sachiko when she had her baby. The fear, the confusion, the not knowing what to do or where to go, and finally the sheer overwhelming despair of ever finding normal again. And I also found that the way Harry deals with the earthquake by running away from his family and becoming so isolated on the mountain was like he was experiencing what Sachiko went through in her post-natal depression. The haze, the inability to think clearly and the sense of being so completely alone. There is real symmetry in the internal thought processes of the two characters and what is happening in the place they live. Everything has been in a state of chaos for a while and the tsunami compounds it all.

I was rooting for Sachiko to find out what happened to her husband and son, I can’t imagine what it must be like to experience a disaster on this scale and not know where your family are and if they survived. I wanted her to find some happiness. Seeing her journey as she begins to think about life again was so moving. The ending of this book is one that really makes you stop in your tracks though. I don’t want to say too much about what happens later in the novel because this really is a book to not know too much about before you read it. You need to pick it up and fall into the pages and experience this beautiful and heart-breaking novel yourself.

I finished reading Fukushima Dreams a few weeks ago now and I’ve since re-written this review quite a few times because I just can’t do it justice. It’s a simply incredible novel and I won’t ever forget it. Please just go get a copy and read it, it really is stunning!

A moving, lyrical novel about how people cope when the worst happens to them.

Many thanks to Unbound and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Fukushima Dreams is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Zelda Rhiando was born in Dublin and read English Literature at Cambridge. She lives in South London with her husband, two daughters and four cats, and is one of the founders of the Brixton BookJam. She is the author of two novels, Caposcripti and Fukushima Dreams.

 

Website: http://www.badzelda.com/

Twitter : @badzelda

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

Fukushima blog Tour poster

#BookReview: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield @DianeSetterfie1 #PassTheStoryOn #OnceUponaRiver @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

 

My Thoughts

I was beyond delighted when I was contacted about reading Once Upon A River as I read The Thirteenth Tale when it was first published and I adored it and I’ve been eagerly anticipating this new one from Diane Setterfield. I’m so happy to say that I fell in love with this novel!

Once Upon A River is a beautiful novel set along the river Thames. One night in The Swan Inn the storytellers are gathered when a mysterious man bursts in carrying what appears to be a puppet or a doll. It turns out to be a young girl and she is deemed to be dead from drowning. Later when the local nurse, Rita, checks on her she begins to breathe, which baffles everyone. The issue then becomes the need to find out who this girl is and where her parents are.

The mystery of the girl quickly spreads along the Thames and more than one family claim she belongs to them. She also becomes the subject of the storytellers and different versions of what might have happened her begin to be told.

My favourite character was Rita, the nurse and midwife, who looked after everyone within the community. I loved how she was so scientifically minded in a time when so many things weren’t understood and she didn’t have access to education. I also loved Daunt, the photographer. It was wonderful to read the process of taking photos in this time period and I felt I was right there looking over his shoulder.

Once Upon A River has a vast cast of characters, each one fully realised and becomes absolutely real as you’re reading. I loved the slower pace of this novel, it meanders like the river and the best way to read this book is to go at the pace it sets. I’m naturally quite a fast reader but this book was one I had to read slowly, I wanted to stay in this world for as long as I possibly could and I never wanted it to end. The writing is beautiful, the setting is so vivid and the characters felt like real people to me.

This is an epic novel and every single sentence is relevant to the plot so it’s a book to be savoured. The book moves between characters and gradually you see how each of their stories links to another’s story and the picture begins to come to life. Some of the people in this book are storytellers but it also felt like the novel itself is storytelling along with the story of the storytellers and it’s so beautiful.

It’s impossible for me to  do any kind of justice to this novel in my review but trust me, it’s a stunning book and I defy anyone not to enjoy it. I adored it and it’s absolutely going to be in my favourite books of this year, I can’t stop thinking about it and that’s always the mark of a wonderful book when it lingers in your mind long after you’ve finished reading it. It’s atmospheric, captivating and utterly beautiful!

Once Upon A River is out now in ebook and available to pre-order in hardback from here.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author

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Diane Setterfield’s bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale was published in 38 countries, sold more than three million copies, and was made into a television drama scripted by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave.

Her second novel was Bellman & Black, and her new novel is Once Upon a River. Born in rural Berkshire, she now lives near Oxford, by the Thames.

 

 

You can find the rest of the tour at these blogs:

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#BookReview: Bouncing Back with a Bang by Geraldine Ward @GWardAuthor @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

“Life is full of twists and turns, stops and starts. Living on a bizarre rollercoaster, Geraldine Ward is now bouncing back with a Bang.”

In a poetry collection that aims to to rock the senses and fill the reader with powerful imagery and heartfelt truth, Geraldine Ward’s mixture of critical and realistic social observation and humorous asides, will fully involve you in her journey of self discovery and take you on the ride of your life.

“Geraldine Ward’s poems take a slanted look at this world. They skilfully shine a light on those things we wish were different, the abuse we suffer or inflict.” – Reuben Woolley, Editor of “I am not a silent poet.”

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be offered the chance to read and review Bouncing Back With A Bang as I’m trying to get back into reading poetry and it’s wonderful to find new poems to explore.

Bouncing Back With A Bang is a lovely collection of poems that cover a wide variety of topics. Some are more whimsical, some require reading through a couple of times to give you time to ponder the meaning. Some are straightforward and easy to understand but none-the-less pack an emotional punch. It’s a collection about bouncing back after difficult times and so there’s something for everyone.

I adored Flower Fairy, it was whimsical and it really took me back to those days in childhood when anything seems possible.

‘A pocketful of promises in her heart.’

The poem that really got to me though was Taken, which is about the aftermath of a miscarriage. I’ve sadly been through it myself and though it was many years ago now I still know how old that child would be, and which milestones they’d be reaching. This poem captures so well and so poignantly those feelings of a child that never got to be.

I read this collection before reading about the author and all through the poems in the book I was thinking of how brilliant they would be read aloud, performed. I’ve now discovered that Geraldine Ward is a performance poet and I would love to see her live one day. I actually finished reading this book and then went back and read it again out loud and it really gave me a different take on the poems, it brought out more emotions in me with some of the writing than it had when I read in my head the first time around so I definitely recommend doing that.

Bouncing Back With A Bang is a powerful and emotional read, I highly recommend it.

Many thanks to Anne from Random Things Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Bouncing Back with a Bang is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Geraldine Ward Author Picture

Geraldine Ward is an author, mother and performance poet. Her publishing credits include children’s poetry and fiction, most recently ‘Mark’s Magic Farmyard and Other Stories’, a novella about mental health called ‘Caring for the Carer’ and ‘Now’ poetry to name but a few.

She has had individual poems published in literary magazines including ‘The Blue Nib’ edited by Shirley Bell, ‘I am not a silent poet’ edited by Reuben Woolley and ‘Writers Cafe Magazine’ edited by Marie Lightman.

In November 2017 she was one of only three poets appearing on a pre recorded podcast for BBC Radio 4 Front Row, describing her writing process for National Write a Novel Month.

Geraldine’s hobbies include playing piano, song writing and singing and learning the ukulele.

Website: http://www.geraldineward.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @GWardAuthor

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following stops:

Bouncing Back BT Poster

#BookReview: Love & Fame by Susie Boyt @SusieBoyt @ViragoBooks @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #Loveandfame

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About the Book

Susie Boyt’s sixth novel is the story of the first year of a marriage. Eve a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. Could it work? Should it work? Must the show always go on? This is a highly-strung comedy about love, fame, grief, showbusiness and the depths of the gutter press. Its witty and sincere tone – familiar to fans of Susie’s newspaper column – will delight and unnerve in equal measure.

 

My Thoughts

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t really know what this book was about when I was offered a copy, but actually I’m quite glad that I didn’t. I try and avoid books about grief and loss at this time of year but reading Love & Fame recently and finding it such a brilliant and cathartic novel has taught me that I need to be more open-minded.

Love & Fame follows people from two different families. The first is Eve, a very highly-strung actress who is struggling to find her place in the world. The second follows twin sisters Beatrice and Rebecca, who are very different from each other but also very dependent on each other.

The opening of this book sees Eve packing for her honeymoon and the way her anxiety is presented on the page was so true to how anxiety really is that it had my own heart racing at the amount of thoughts running through her head. I’ve suffered very badly with anxiety in my life and this is the first time that I’ve read a novel that truly conveys what it feels like. There is a moment later in the book that struck such a chord with me that I had to briefly stop reading, it really brought it home to me that not everyone feels like this. I could really identify with Eve’s anxiety – the way sometimes something causes it and other times it’s just lingering there waiting to catch you out when you think you’re doing okay.

‘What made you think of that?’ he would say. ‘I don’t know.’ she would smile. ‘You know how I’m always thinking about everything.’ ‘How do you mean?’ ‘Well, all the things I’ve ever said, all the things that have ever been said to me and everything I’ve seen and thought and felt in my life and it all sort of whirls around in my head all day long, and often through the night and it’s constantly going. It’s probably the same for everybody.’ ‘Maybe,’ he said.

Eve has married a man who is writing a book about anxiety and this a huge source of panic to Eve. There is black humour in her panic but I could really identify with her and found myself giggling at how ridiculous it all can be, and how aware of the ridiculousness one can be, and yet still the anxious thoughts won’t stop. While on honeymoon Eve gets the devastating news that her beloved father has died, and this sends her into such a tailspin. Grief and anxiety make for a really messed up time.

‘I suppose in a way you are in the loss adjustment business,’ Rebecca said. ‘A listening loss lessener.’

Alongside this we meet Beatrice and Rebecca. They lost their mum twenty years ago when they were young children and have dealt with it in very different ways. Beatrice has become a therapist specialising in treating grieving children, but Rebecca has remained stuck in her grief. It’s manifested in control over her eating and she cannot bring herself to even try and move through the grief, she wears it like a jumper. In some ways neither of the women have fully allowed themselves to heal from the grief, it lingers in the background of their relationship.

‘People wanted you to be upset when bad things happened in life, but if you got too upset they couldn’t take it, she thought. You’re a failure. You’re disgusting. Sometimes the window of what was acceptable, when it came to mourning, was so small.’

Love & Fame is a real slice of life. Eve attempting to follow in the footsteps of her successful acting father but her then becoming so paralysed by anxiety that she can’t do it is so believable. It’s the essence of being human that we want to be perfect at what we do, especially when people know what our dreams are and are wanting us to succeed but sometimes that becomes a pressure and the cracks begin to form. Losing a parent that you’re close to is something that changes you so completely and makes you see everything in a different light. As heartbreaking as it is it can be the catalyst for you to re-evaluate life and to find the thing that makes you happy. Eve seemed to be slowly finding her way towards this path and I was rooting for her to get there all the way through this novel.

Boyt has captured the essence of grief so well. She manages to show the pain of it in such an honest way, while also showing how it is broken up by moments of humour in the way others behave towards you. My mum died right before my 30th birthday and one of the most painful things on the day was the birthday cards that had a PS saying ‘sorry for your loss’. It astounded me at the time that people would be so utterly insensitive but now I can see the humourous side – I can just imagine people worrying about what to write and then getting it so wrong! We often don’t handle grief or grieving people very well but harm is generally not meant and Love & Fame captured this so perfectly for me. I highlighted so many passages in this novel, which is something I rarely do and I know this will be a book I go back to again and again.

Love & Fame made me cry, and it made me laugh. I found paragraphs that I had to stop and read again before continuing reading because it is so beautifully written. It’s a quirky, funny novel about anxiety, loss and grief and I absolutely loved it! I will be shouting from the rooftops about this fabulous book; I know this will be in my favourite books of the year so I’m highly recommending it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

Love & Fame is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Susie Boyt is the author of five other acclaimed novels and the much-loved memoir My Judy Garland Life which was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize, staged at the Nottingham Playhouse and serialised on BBC Radio 4. She has written about art, life and fashion for the Financial Times for the past fourteen years and has recently edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories by Henry James. She is also a director at the Hampstead Theatre.
She lives in London with her family.

 

 

 

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

Final Love and Fame Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Dead in Venice by Fiona Leitch (Narrated by Deryn Edwards) @fkleitch #audiobook @audibleuk @annecater ‏#RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Bella Tyson is a famous 40-something crime writer suffering from writer’s block ever since a bitter divorce two years before. When a fan offers her the use of an apartment in Venice, Bella jumps at it, hoping a change of scene will have her writing again. Once there, she soon meets Will, a charming Englishman, who shows her around the city.

Enchanted by both Will and her new surroundings, Bella decides to write a supernatural murder mystery and begins researching local legends and the city’s more sinister side, including an illicit visit to the island of Poveglia, spooky former home of Venice’s asylum. Soon Bella uncovers more than she has bargained for and finds herself enmeshed in a series of gruesome real-life murders that uncannily mirror the legends she is researching.

As she and Will join forces to investigate, real life and local lore merge disconcertingly – for nothing in Venice turns out to be what seems, including Will….

My Thoughts

I jumped at the chance to be on this blog tour as I very much enjoy listening to audio books and I loved the sound of Dead in Venice, it sounded like it might be something a bit different for me. I’m so glad that I did because the audiobook more than lived up to my expectations!

Dead in Venice is about Bella, a crime writer who has terrible writer’s block and is desperate to come up with an idea for her next novel. When she gets offered an apartment in Venice she jumps at the chance and is immediately excited at the possibilities for it to spark a new idea for a novel. Soon after her arrival she meets Will and it seems as though things might be looking up for her…

I must start be saying that the narrator, Deryn Edwards, is brilliant. She really captures the mood of the novel perfectly and it very much felt like she inhabited the characters, especially that of Bella. I’ll definitely be looking out for more audio books narrated by her.

I loved how we got to see Bella’s false starts when she was attempting to come up with an opening to her novel at the beginning of this book. The way she put herself into her book and then goes off on tangents is brilliant. It brought real humour to a novel that I wasn’t expecting and I adored that.

Once Bella gets to Venice she finds herself caught up in a real life murder and this finds its way into her writing. The whole novel that Bella is writing gets swept along by the increasingly bizarre murders she finds herself in the vicinity of. It was utterly engrossing and a really different take on the thriller genre. I didn’t work out whodunnit or why but I did find myself suspicious of each of the characters as the novel progressed. I even wondered at one stage, in the same way I’ve always wondered about Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, whether it could actually be Bella committing the murders that she then fictionalises!

The murders in Dead in Venice are quite gruesome and supernatural but the novel is written in such a way, with the reader seeing it through Bella the novelist’s eyes, that it never feels too much. The fictional novelist is fictionalising it further for the reader, and I found this really clever and interesting. It is a bit creepy at times as the murders Bella encounters seem to be mirroring a book that she is reading for research but hearing how Bella reacts to the situations she finds herself in just has you desperate to keep listening to find out what might happen next. I don’t particularly like being scared or feeling creeped out but I honestly just couldn’t put this audio book down!

Dead in Venice is so brilliantly written and fully immerses the reader in the novel. I’ve never been to Venice but Fiona Leitch brought it to life in this book. As I was listening to the audio I could completely envisage the setting as if I was right there with Bella. I could hear all the sounds and smell all the smells as I was listening and I felt as if I was right there in Venice with Bella.

Dead in Venice is such a quirky, fascinating novel. I got completely and utterly lost in the novel, it was brilliant escapism for me on a day when I wasn’t feeling too well. It’s a novel full of mystery and intrigue mixed with a hint of the supernatural and a dash of humour. I listened to the whole book in one afternoon and I absolutely loved it! I’m already eagerly anticipating whatever Fiona Leitch writes next but in the meantime I highly recommend this audio book! It’s one of my favourite audiobooks of the year!

I received a copy of the audio book from the author via Anne at Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

Dead in Venice is out now and available here.

About the Author

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Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London, Cornwall and New Zealand she’s finally (for the moment) settled on the sunny South Coast of England, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Her Westminster-set romantic comedy, ‘Parliamentary Affairs’, was recently optioned by an up and coming LA producer, and her action comedy ‘Lost in Berlin’ was a finalist in New York’s Athena IRIS Screenwriting Lab 2017. She’s also been shortlisted for the BBC Writers Room. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ has just been shortlisted for the Audible New Writing Grant, while her short horror story ‘Tinder’ was selected for the Twisted 50 Volume 2 anthology, published Spring 2018.

You can find the rest of the stops for the tour at the following blogs:

Dead in Venice Blog Tour poster

#BookReview: Perfect Liars by Rebecca Reid @RebeccaCNReid @TransworldBooks @BeckyShort1 #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

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About the Book

They have it all. And they’ll do anything to keep it that way.

Sixteen years ago, at an elite boarding school secluded in the English countryside, best friends Nancy, Georgia and Lila did something unspeakable.

Their secret forged an unbreakable bond between them, a bond of silence. But now, in their thirties, one of them wants to talk.

One word and everything could be ruined: their lives, their careers, their relationships. It’s up to Georgia to call a crisis dinner. – she knows there’s nothing that can’t be resolved by three courses in her immaculate kitchen.

But the evening does not go as planned.

Three women walk in to the dinner, but only two will leave.

Murder isn’t so difficult the second time around…

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when a copy of Perfect Liars arrived through my letterbox as it sounded like exactly my kind of read. I’m so pleased to say that I loved this book and so was absolutely delighted to then be invited to review it for the blog tour!

Perfect Liars is a story of toxic friendship. It’s a dual timeline set in the past when Georgia, Nancy and Lila were at boarding school together, and in the present where they come together again at a dinner party organised in an attempt to smooth over the cracks.  The three women are jointly carrying a secret from their school days and are desperately trying to keep the past hidden whatever the cost.

I was drawn to Perfect Liars as soon as I first heard about it because female friendships fascinate me and reading about them always makes for an engrossing novel. There is something about the way teenage girls bond, often united in their dislike of something others are doing and how this can keep them bonded long after they’ve really stopped liking each other all that much. Negotiating relationships with women within a circle of friends can be really quite complex at times and can be a bit like treading on eggshells , and that’s without the drama that has gone on with the three women in this novel! Rebecca Reid takes the female friendships in her novel to extreme lengths but the roots of the friendship and the underlying dislike of each other was so believable and really quite true to life in many cases.

None of the characters in this book were hugely likeable but they all had complexities that meant I couldn’t entirely dislike them all of the time. I had times where I felt sympathy and understanding for aspects of their lives and at other times I wanted to scream at them to do the sensible thing. I do enjoy a novel where the characters are a real mix of complicated and infuriating at times and sympathetic at others so Perfect Liars really hit the spot for me!

I honestly couldn’t put Perfect Liars down once I started reading it. It had me hooked from the opening pages and it’s stayed in my mind in the weeks since I finished reading it. It’s such a great novel about female friendships, about the bonds that hold people together and the desperate levels people are taken to when they feel like a ‘friend’ may be about to betray them! I highly recommend Perfect Liars and I’m already excited to see what Rebecca Reid writes next!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book, and to Anne of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Perfect Liars is out now in ebook and is due to be published in paperback in February 2019. It can be ordered here.

About the Author

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Rebecca is a freelance journalist. She has a column for the Telegraph Women’s section, works for Metro Online and has written for Marie Claire, the Independent, the iPaper, The Guardian, Indy100, LOOK and the New Statesman among others.

Rebecca is a regular contributor to Sky News and ITV’s This Morning as well as appearing on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, LBC, BBC News 24 and the BBC World Service to discuss her work.

She graduated from the University of Bristol with a BA in English & Drama in 2013 and from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA in 2015. She lives in Kentish Town with her husband.

You can find the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

#BookReview: The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks @AnneCater

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About the Book

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…
Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

 

My Thoughts

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Louise Beech so I was beyond thrilled when invited to read and review The Lion Tamer Who Lost for the blog tour.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is the story of Ben. He’s dreamt of going to Africa to volunteer on a lion reserve and the book begins with him having achieved this dream. It’s clear that Ben is unhappy and troubled though and that perhaps how he came to be in Africa is not how he dreamt it.

It’s also the story of Andrew. Andrew has a wish box and he truly believes in making wishes. He feels certain that if you wish for something very specific then it will come true.

I adored this novel more than I can even say! I love novels that explore the idea of fate and destiny and the idea that perhaps there is a person out there who we’re destined to meet. That the person will keep showing up in our lives until we meet at the right time. Ben and Andrew’s paths keep crossing until one day they finally get talking and they instantly click.

I loved that this book is set both in Zimbabwe and Hull; Louise Beech has such a wonderful way of really capturing a location and making it so real for her readers. I know the parts of Hull mentioned in this book really well but I’ve never been to Zimbabwe and yet each place felt equally vivid in my mind. I could smell the lion enclosures, I could taste the mud coffee in Africa and I felt like I was there.

The real beauty in this novel is in the characters. Ben and Andrew felt like real people to me and I miss them now I’ve finished reading. I loved seeing how they met, how they got together and how they fell in love. It was so beautiful. I was hoping Ben would find a way to come out to his dad, and that somehow it would all be okay.

It was incredibly moving how we see the lions in the reserve being nurtured to health and gradually gaining more and more freedom, it contrasted with the scene of lions in the circus. I couldn’t help but feel that the different stories of the lions was mirroring the times that the LGBTQ+ community have gone through. It certainly seemed to echo the pain of love and loss, of losing yourself and slowly finding yourself again that Ben goes through in the novel.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost broke my heart on more than one occasion as I was reading. I can’t bear it when people can’t accept two people who love each other just because of their own prejudices, so that made me tearful. The novel builds and builds and goes back and forth in time through Ben and Andrew’s story until we find out what happened and the way their story turns out had me sobbing my heart out. I can’t remember the last time I cried like that reading a book.

There is so much more that I could say about this book but I don’t want to risk any spoilers; this is one of those incredibly special books that doesn’t come along very often and you need to discover it for yourself.  The comparisons to Maggie O’Farrell are entirely justified – The Lion Tamer Who lost affected me deeply in the same way that O’Farrell’s After You’d Gone did. You know you have a special book in your hands when it makes you feel all of the feelings and it never, ever lets go of you even long after you’d finished reading.

I will never forget these characters or this story and I know I will revisit this book in the future. It’s such a stunningly beautiful, heart-rending read; one that will take a piece of your heart. The Lion Tamer Who Lost is now one of my most favourite books and I will be shouting from the rooftops for everyone to read it!

I received a copy of this book from Orenda Books and Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is out now in ebook and is due to be published on 20th September and is available here.

I’ve previously reviewed two novels by Louise Beech: How to be Brave and Maria in the Moon.

About the Author

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Louise has always been haunted by the sea, even before she knew the full story of her grandfather, the man who in part inspired novel How to be Brave. She lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – where from her bedroom window she can almost see the waters of the River Humber, an estuary that inspired book, The Mountain in my Shoe.

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, and a one year column called Wholly Matrimony about modern marriage.

Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was released in 2015 and got to No 4 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart, and was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015. This novel 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.

Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, was released in 2016 and was inspired by her time with children in care. It explores what family truly means, and how far we will go for those we love. It longlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize.

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at these stops:

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#BookReview: Daisy Belle by Caitlin Davies @CaitlinDavies2 @Unbounders #DaisyBelle #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Summer 1867: four-year-old Daisy Belle is about to make her debut at the Lambeth Baths in London. Her father, swimming professor Jeffery Belle, is introducing his Family of Frogs – and Daisy is the star attraction. By the end of that day, she has only one ambition in life: she will be the greatest female swimmer in the world.

She will race down the Thames, float in a whale tank, and challenge a man to a 70-foot high dive. And then she will set sail for America to swim across New York Harbour.

But Victorian women weren’t supposed to swim, and Daisy Belle will have to fight every stroke of the way if she wants her dreams to come true.

Inspired by the careers of Victorian champions Agnes Beckwith and Annie Luker, Daisy Belle is a story of courage and survival and a tribute to the swimmers of yesteryear.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to read and review Daisy Belle for the blog tour as it sounded like such a wonderful novel. I’m so happy to say that I adored every single minute that I spent reading this book and it more than lived up to my expectations!

Daisy Belle is the story of Daisy who from a very young age is fascinated by her father and older brother’s swimming ability and she wants to be a part of it all. She learns to swim at age four and is soon taking part in her father’s increasingly elaborate shows. Daisy wants to be the greatest female swimmer in the world but she gets drawn to performing and diving too – all the time widening her skills and abilities.

This novel is set in the mid to late 1800s and Daisy is constrained by the societal norms of the day but she constantly pushes at her boundaries. From being a young girl through to adulthood she doesn’t accept why she has to be treated differently to men. She does get treated really badly at times in the novel by some of the men in her life and that was hard to read. She also struggles against her mother who believes that Daisy should be home with her and doing more lady-like things such as sewing. I was really rooting for Daisy to pull through the difficult times and to be happy.

I loved Daisy, she is such a great character – so ambitious and feisty but also so human and likeable. I could identify with some of her drive where swimming was concerned as I was obsessed with swimming as a child so it made me feel nostalgic for the water.

Daisy gets to do so many amazing things in this book and I could really imagine it all; the novel actually played like a film in my head and I felt like I was right there with her. The writing is so evocative; I felt myself holding my breath during the mermaid show and I was cheering her on when she finally got to attempt to make an attempt at a record for a long swim.

I found this to be a really inspiring novel in so many ways. I don’t want to spoil the novel so I’ll be vague but something happens to Daisy later in the novel and I could really identify with her and how she felt. I’ve been through something similar and seeing her keep trying in spite of what happened was so brilliant to read. It’s a good reminder of how we should never just give in and accept what life throws at us but instead keep pushing at the boundaries, whatever they may be.

I absolutely recommend this book; it’s a book I adored so much and I know I will come back to it and read it again in the future. It’s so charming and inspiring, it feels like a book that everyone will love. Daisy Belle is a real contender for my book of the year!

Many thanks to Anne at #RandomThingsTours and the publisher for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Daisy Belle is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She spent 12 years in Botswana as a teacher and journalist and many of her books are set in the Okavango Delta, including a memoir Place of Reeds, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘candid and unsentimental’.
Her novels include The Ghost of Lily Painter, a fictional account of the arrest and execution of two Edwardian baby farmers, and Family Likeness about the fate of ‘war babies’ born to African American GI fathers in England during World War Two.
Her non-fiction books include Taking the Waters: A Swim Around Hampstead Heath, a celebration of 200 years of outdoor bathing, an illustrated history of the world famous Camden Lock Market, and Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames.
Her latest non-fiction is Bad Girls, and her latest novel is Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on the lives of several Victorian aquatic stars, to be published by Unbound on September 1, 2018.
She is also a teacher and journalist, and was a regular feature writer for The Independent’s education and careers supplement. From 2014-17 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design.

Her website is http://www.caitlindavies.co.uk/

Twitter: @CaitlinDavies2

Daisy Belle Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DaisyBelleSwimmingChampionoftheWorld/

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at these blog stops:

Daisy Belle Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena @sharilapena @ThomasssHill

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About the Book

We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

 

My Thoughts

I love Shari Lapena’s writing so I was thrilled to be invited to take part in this blog tour for her brand new novel, An Unwanted Guest! And I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

An Unwanted Guest is such a thrilling read! It begins with various people arriving through a bad snowstorm to Mitchell’s Inn, a beautiful hotel in a very remote location. As the guests begin to settle in for a relaxing weekend away the weather really begins to close in. Then what appears to be a fatal accident occurs and suddenly the guests are trapped and there’s a killer among them!

I’m going to start by saying that I read this novel in one sitting over an afternoon during this glorious hot weather and the writing was so good that I could sense the snow and I could feel the icy cold weather emanating from the pages. I was gripped from the beginning and got completely lost in the book. It really took me back to my early teenage years when I devoured Agatha Christie’s novels, usually reading one in an afternoon curled up in a corner hoping not to be disturbed by anyone.

An Unwanted Guest is an Agatha Christie-type locked room (or hotel in this case) mystery and it is so well done. From the minute the guests drove up to the Inn I was mulling over their character and wondering who was going to be in peril and who the killer might be. I did think I’d worked out who the killer was and although I was on the right lines I was never absolutely sure who it was and I didn’t see the ending coming at all!

This is such a compelling and gripping thriller; to have such a confined setting and a small group of characters but still to keep the excitement and the reader guessing all the way through is no mean feat. The tension builds from the start and as the book progresses I found myself increasingly on the edge of my seat wondering if anyone was going to get out of the situation alive!

An Unwanted Guest is so gripping, thrilling and completely unputdownable: I loved it so much! I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago now and I still keep thinking of it, I think it’s going to be hard to be beat for one of my favourite reads of the year come December!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

An Unwanted Guest is out now in ebook and hardback and available here.

 

About the Author

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House, has been a Sunday Times and New York Timesbestseller. Her third book, An Unwanted Guest, is out in 2018.

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at the following stops:

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#BookReview: The Million Dollar Duchesses by Julie Ferry @JulieFerryBooks #MillionDollarDuchesses

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About the Book

On 6th November 1895, the beautiful and brilliant heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt was wedded to the near-insolvent Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough in a dazzling yet miserable match – it glittered above all others for high society’s marriage brokers who, in this single year, forged a series of spectacular, and lucrative, transatlantic unions.

The bankrupt and ailing British aristocracy was suddenly injected with all the wealth and glamour of America’s newest dynasties. Millions of dollars changed hands as fame, money, power and privilege were all at play.

 

My Thoughts

I hadn’t heard of The Million Dollar Duchesses before I was invited to take part in the blog tour but as soon as I read the synopsis I just knew this was going to be a book I enjoyed and I’m so pleased to say that I was right.

The Million Dollar Duchesses is such a wonderful and interesting look at the transatlantic marriage market in the late 1800s. It looks at how rich young American women, whose family wanted to be part of New York high society, were moulded to be wives for British aristocrats who had land and status but needed money to keep their family estates running. It also looks at the enterprising women who made a business out of teaching these young women and making sure they were introduced to the right people.

The level of research that the families of the American debutantes did about British aristocracy was staggering. It was all so carefully calculated to make sure their daughters made the best match in order to assure the family status. ‘… if she decreed it, the Vanderbilt millions would purchase a duke for their daughter. That was the least they could do’. This despite the knowledge that her daughter was already in love with an untitled man and wished to be married to him.

I loved reading about the parties and the fashions, although the amount of money spent was eye-watering at times! The detailed planning that went into organising an occasion was unfathomable to me but it was fabulous to read about. It was lovely to see some photos in the book too to really get a sense of the people and the locations.

I found it really interesting to read all the references to Edith Wharton’s novels and how she was inspired by some of the women written about in The Million Dollar Duchesses.  I’m now keen to re-read some of her novels to see how much she borrowed from the real women featured in this book.

The Million Dollar Duchesses is an utterly fascinating look at the upper echelons of American society in the latter part of the 19th century. I enjoyed every minute that I spent reading this book and I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of the book from the author via Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

The Million Dollar Duchesses is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Julie Ferry Author Picture

Julie Ferry is the author of The Million Dollar Duchesses, a non-fiction book following he American heiresses that   into the aristocracy in 1895. She graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in English Literature and then upped sticks and moved to a tiny island between Japan and South Korea to teach English, where she quickly got used to being followed around the supermarket by her students. It was in Japan that she got her first byline and was quickly hooked. She was a freelance journalist writing for The Guardian and most of her favourite publications but always harboured dreams of seeing her name on the front of a book. Now, she’s managing to combine her love of writing and an obsession with interesting and largely unknown women from history, with the school run in Bristol, where she lives with her husband and two children.

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at the following stops:

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#BookReview: Her Mother’s Daughter by Alice Fitzgerald @AliceFitzWrites @AllenAndUnwinUK

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About the Book

1980: Josephine flees her home in Ireland, hoping never to return. She starts a new, exciting life in London, but as much as she tries, she can’t quite leave the trauma of her childhood behind.

Seventeen years and two children later, Josephine gets a call from her sister to tell her that their mother is dying and wants to see her – a summons she can’t refuse.

1997: Ten-year-old Clare is counting down to the summer holidays, when she is going to meet her grandparents in Ireland for the first time. She hopes this trip will put an end to her mum’s dark moods – and drinking.

But family secrets can’t stay buried forever and following revelations in Ireland, everything starts to unravel. Have Josephine and her daughter passed the point of no return?

My Thoughts

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Her Mother’s Daughter as I  very much enjoyed reading this novel.

Her Mother’s Daughter opens in 1997 with ten year old Clare excitedly awaiting going to visit her mum’s family in Ireland. She crosses off the days on her calendar as each day passes and is increasingly curious about meeting her grandparents. The timeline then goes back to 1980 and focuses on Josephine, Clare’s mum, as she leaves Ireland and her family behind. She moves away out of desperation to escape something and to try and create a better life for herself. Through the two timelines we get to see what has made Josephine the way she is, and also the impact it has on her daughter.

I’m often drawn to novels about mother and daughter relationships and always find them emotional so I was expecting this to be a novel that I would get engrossed in and would enjoy reading but I didn’t expect it have such a big impact on me. Alice Fitzgerald really shows the way that the things we do or say around children, or things that were done or said around ourselves as children, can cause such damage without us really being aware.  Clare is such a sweet girl but the way she takes on board her mother’s obsession with food and repeats the things she says without really fully understanding what her mother meant was shocking to me. It made me want to weep for her when each time she got to eat treat food she was constantly thinking of her hips and whether her thighs were chubby. There is also occasional use of a particular swear word that was really jolting because it’s the way Fitzgerald uses the word in the novel that made it so shocking and so sad at the same time. Out of the mouths of babes as they say.

The thing really broke my heart in this novel was the way that Clare so badly wants to make her mum happy, and Josephine so badly wants her daughter to love and adore her and yet they miss the mark somehow. Josephine is so damaged by her own childhood that she feels the need to be perfect and yet can’t seem to attain it, it’s always out of her reach and she can’t let herself settle for good enough. She also wants to compensate by helping her daughter be perfect but Clare is a child and children can’t be moulded to that degree – and in trying to make her perfect it has potential cause more harm. Clare actually becomes the mother to Josephine, and is also constantly moderating her behaviour to try and prevent her mum losing her temper or getting upset. It’s so sad to see a child so young already having to live on such a knife edge.

Josephine was hard to like when reading things from Clare’s viewpoint but as Josephine’s background and the reason for the pain she carries is revealed it felt impossible not to have sympathy for her. It doesn’t excuse how she treated her children but I still had compassion for her. The writing in this book really conveys the way that people can harm their children without realising purely because they are so damaged themselves, yet Fitzgerald also gives a real sense of hope that the chain can be broken. I very much appreciated this because it’s all too easy for us to blame who we are on who brought us up but we can break free of that and we don’t have to keep making the mistakes that were made by others before us.

Her Mother’s Daughter is beautifully written; it really draws you in and keeps you engrossed all the way through. I actually read it in one sitting because I just got so absorbed in it. It’s a heartbreaking novel but it does leave you with a real feeling of hope. I definitely recommend this book!

Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and Allen and Unwin for sending me a copy of the book and inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author

Alice Fitzgerald

Alice Fitzgerald has worked as a journalist for six years. She has been published in literary journals, online at Refinery29 and Hello Giggles and in magazines including Hello!. Her Mother’s Daughter is her debut novel. Born in London to Irish parents, she now lives in Madrid.

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

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