#BookReview: The Man on the Middle Floor by Elizabeth S. Moore @LizzyMoore19 #RedDoorBooks #TMOTMF

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About the Book

Despite living in the same three-flat house in the suburbs of London, the residents are strangers to one another. The bottom floor is home to Tam, a recent ex-cop who spends his days drowning his sorrows in whisky. On the middle floor is Nick, a young man with Asperger’s who likes to stick to his schedules and routines. The top floor belongs to Karen, a doctor and researcher who has spent her life trying to understand the rising rates of autism. They have lived their lives separately, until now, when an unsolved murder and the man on the middle floor connect them all together. Told from three points of view, The Man on the Middle Floor is about disconnection in all its forms; sexual, physical, parental and emotional. It questions whether society is meeting the needs of the fast growing autistic section of society, or exacerbating it.

 

My Thoughts

Well, I went into reading this book expecting it to be a fairly straightforward novel about a murder in a block of flats but I was wrong. The Man on the Middle Floor is so much more than that; it’s very hard to categorise the book but it is definitely a page turner!

Nick lives alone on the middle floor. He has Asperger’s Syndrome and is trying to maintain an independent life, he’s always looking for ways to add things to his routine without it becoming overwhelming. Tam lives on the ground floor and has recently lost his job in the police force so is struggling to find his place in the world. Karen lives on the top floor. She is a woman who is so engrossed in her research work on autism that she filters out everything else around her, including her own children. The lives of of the three people become intertwined as the novel goes on and it took a much more macabre turn than I was expecting!

Whilst this book is about a murder, it is also just as much about people and how we all have our ways of dealing with what life has thrown at us. There is a real feeling that Elizabeth Moore feels passionately about autism and that this was the catalyst for the novel. She deftly explores what makes us ‘normal’ and how easily people can become derailed from the acceptable norms of behaviour in society. We get to see the murder and what led to it happening but we also see how people turn to each other for comfort when it’s not how they’ve previously behaved. The focus seemed to centre on Nick as I was reading but it’s actually Karen that has stayed in my head more since I finished reading. She seemed to be so cold to her own children and in the way she sacrificed everything and everyone for her career but then couldn’t see the wood for the trees. I can’t condone her behaviour but at the same time part of me wonders how she is now (even though I know she’s not real).

Nick is the character that stands out the most whilst reading this novel though and the plot centres around him, the man on the middle floor. I don’t know a huge amount about autism, although I have read books about it in the past, but it seemed clear to me that Nick had a lot of problems in his life and that these contributed a lot to his obsessive behaviour rather than it seeming that all of his actions were just down to his autism. I could see where his need for order and calm came from, and had an understanding of that as someone who has had mental health issues in the past.

I really liked the way the book isn’t just about a character with autism and that is focused on three very different people who just happened to live in the same building but perhaps had more in common than they would realise. Karen has all but abandoned her children for her career, something which society still frowns upon and finds hard to accept. Tam is a man who is a bit lost and who seems to be looking for companionship and perhaps a family, which can often be portrayed as something that stereotypically more woman want than men. And Nick just wants order and calm, and to be allowed to just be without outside intrusion which is again something that others can find hard to understand. This novel really shows how we all have our problems and that whatever it is that makes one person’s life difficult may not actually be that dissimilar to what someone else experiences, albeit perhaps in a different way.

From the opening chapter of this novel I really wasn’t sure what I was reading but The Man on the Middle Floor certainly had me hooked from start to finish and I read it in just two sittings!  The novel really does hold a mirror up to the reader’s perceptions and leaves you really thinking about how we determine what normal is. If you like novels that are a bit different, that make you think and defy genre then this is the book for you; I certainly recommend it!

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

The Man on the Middle Floor is out now and available in ebook and paperback from here!

 

About the Author

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Elizabeth S. Moore has worked as a journalist since she won the Decanter Young Wine Writer of the Year at seventeen. She has written columns and articles on restaurants, politics, South Africa and all things foodie. She comes from a family that has given her a lot of writing material and is currently finishing her second book, having written the first after completing the Faber Write a Novel course and being approached by fourteen agents after reading an excerpt of her novel to industry professionals. Elizabeth lives in London with her South African husband and has three daughters and a son as well as two lazy Labradors.

(Bio taken from: ElizabethMoore.com)

 

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#BookReview: Wheelchairs, Perjury & The London Marathon by Tim Marshall @AuthorightUKPR ‏@Authoright

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About the Book

The top wheelchair athletes of today enjoy the same high-profile exposure and admiration as their able-bodied counterparts. This has come about partly through wheelchair participation in mass fun-running events such as the Great North Run.

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon charts disability sports pioneer Tim Marshall MBE’s journey from the rock-climbing accident which left him paralysed, to becoming a trailblazer for wheelchair racing.

The fun-runs of the 1980s enabled wheelchair road-racing to flourish, and Marshall took part in marathons and half-marathons where wheelchairs were welcome to compete. This did not, however, include The London Marathon, from which wheelchairs were banned for the first two years. This is the story of how this prohibition was overturned, told from the competitor’s point of view. Tim and many others campaigned for the inclusion of wheelchairs in The London Marathon in the face of huge opposition from the organisers.

Finally, in 1983 the efforts of sportsmen and women, the press, the Greater London Council and members of parliament resulted in a breakthrough just ten days before the 1983 marathon, which at last agreed to wheelchair participation.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to read and review Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon for the blog tour as it’s a subject that is really close to my heart. I’m partially paralysed from a spinal cord injury in my neck and whilst the nature of my injury means I can’t self-propel in a wheelchair I’m always inspired by people who have pushed society to accept wheelchair users.

Tim Marshall suffered a spinal cord injury whilst rock climbing as a young man but he never lost his passion for life and taking part in sport. After his initial recovery period he undertook a research trip in America to look at how sports for wheelchair users was being approached and this led him to attempt to set up more opportunities for wheelchair users in the UK. This ultimately led to him pushing for there to be a wheelchair race within the London Marathon. The opposition that he faced is utterly staggering, I had to put the book down at a couple of points just in sheer shock at some of the responses he got from the event organisers.

Even though Marshall’s fight for a wheelchair race within the London Marathon is over thirty years ago now it was still shocking to read that one of the reasons for refusing him entry is because they didn’t want it to turn into a ‘multi-purpose jamboree’! I was gobsmacked reading this because the London Marathon allows fun runners in all their glorious outfits and yet it was the thought of serious athletes who happened to be wheelchair-bound that would throw the race into some kind of disrepute. I’m still reeling from this now. The organisers continued to give Marshall different reasons as to why wheelchair racers couldn’t be included each time he contacted them; all of them utterly unfounded.

The book also covers things like how wheelchair athletes came to have the more sporty wheelchairs that we’re used to seeing today as initially they were racing in their ordinary, every day chairs which were not dissimilar to the self-propelled wheelchairs you see people using today (although a lot heavier than we have now). I’d never really thoughts about how hard it would be to race in a chair like that with the wheels being straight and the high chance of your hand getting caught between your wheel and the wheel of the chair alongside you, or the lack of support for your body. I found it so interesting to read how sporting wheelchairs came to be and how the adaptations slowly came to be accepted by the racing associations.

Marshall’s passion to gain parity for disabled athletes and his determination to tell his story in the most accurate way possible really comes through in this book. I enjoyed the level of detail in the sharing of what remained of his correspondence with people relevant to his struggle, and to see how wheelchair racers were eventually accepted as part of the London Marathon.

I am so grateful for people like Tim Marshall because it is through them that society begins to shift its standpoint on how it views disabled people. Seeing the response in recent years to the paralympics, for example, and how nations have got behind their disabled athletes has been incredible. I will be watching the London Marathon this year with renewed appreciation of just how much perseverance it took to get wheelchair athletes racing alongside everyone else.

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon is such an interesting read. It encompasses how Marshall discovered wheelchair sport, then onto how he, along with others, fought, and won, the right to race in the London Marathon. This is a fascinating, inspiring and important book. I really enjoyed reading it and it’s one I definitely recommend.

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

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon is out now in paperback and ebook from here!

About the Author

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Tim Marshall was born in 1946 and gained an M.Sc in Statistics from the London School of Economics, working at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris before taking up a position at Birmingham University. His lectureship in the Medical School followed by his appointment as Associate Professor in Epidemiology and Public Health ended with his retirement in 2006. He has enjoyed a lifelong love of sport including wheelchair racing, skiing and sailing.

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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.

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#BookReview: The Long Forgotten by David Whitehouse @d_whitehouse @EmmaFinnigan @PicadorBooks

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About the Book

When the black box flight recorder of a plane that went missing 30 years ago is found at the bottom of the sea, a young man named Dove begins to remember a past that isn’t his. The memories belong to a rare flower hunter in 1980s New York, whose search led him around the world and ended in tragedy.

Restless and lonely in present-day London, Dove is quickly consumed by the memories, which might just hold the key to the mystery of his own identity and what happened to the passengers on that doomed flight, The Long Forgotten.

 

My Thoughts

I’m going to start my review by saying how beautiful the cover of The Long Forgotten is, it really is gorgeous. Initially I saw the flowers and was drawn to looking at it some more and then I noticed the white whale that comes to play a small but also huge part in the story. It feels like a work of art and the more you look at it the more you notice, and it all connects so beautifully with the novel you’re about to read.

This novel itself is incredible! I picked it up early in the evening and I read from start to finish without taking a break because I simply couldn’t tear myself away from it. Everything about this book is incredible – the writing, the plot, the characters and it’s one that I know will stay with me.

The Long Forgotten is a novel about memories but it is also a quirky, mystery novel that will have you completely and utterly engrossed. The novel is told in two time strands. In one there is Dove who is a lonely man who one day starts remembering things that he knows never happened to him. This leads him to try and find out where these memories are from. In the other there is Peter who also seems lonely until one day he finds a love letter in a botany book at the library and it leads him on a quest to travel and find the flowers mentioned.

The Long Forgotten found me at just the right time. I’ve been having a big clear out in my home and have been pondering whether if I get rid of certain items I might end up forgetting the memories attached to them. So a novel all about memories and how we remember, how things become fixed in our memory really captured my imagination. This book explores the fallibility of memory too. When Dove firsts experiences the strange memories he seems to just know that they’re not his memories, but how? It’s as if somewhere in us we know when something is not our memory but at the same time are so prone to forgetting events from our own lives. Where do the lost memories go? Is someone else remembering them, or their own version of them? It felt at times that even though the plane crash that this book is hinged on was real within the novel that it was also a metaphor for how memories can just disappear and seemingly be gone forever.

I knew I would love the story around memory as soon as I read the synopsis for this book but I didn’t expect to love the exploration around the flowers and plants as much as I did. It was fascinating to read about these extremely rare plants, most of which I’d never heard of before, and to be with Peter on his journey to locate them all and to see them in the flesh. His story had echoes of Dove’s where Peter’s friend Hens, who encourages him to go find the plants, ends up stealing stories from him in order to attract women. This left me wondering about how some people do steal stories from others in order to make themselves seem more interesting, but how sometimes things we think about can become blurred in our own minds to the point that it’s possible to not immediately remember that a story isn’t yours, that it actually happened to someone else. I’ve been on the receiving end of someone telling a story of mine to me and genuinely thinking it was theirs and it was such a weird situation. I definitely felt an echo of this within The Long Forgotten.

This novel is full of strange connections and unexpected coincidences, which make it very quirky, yet it always felt believable. At times it was almost surreal in how the dots joined together but there was such heart throughout the novel that it was wonderful to turn the final page and see how it was all so skilfully woven together (even though getting to the end of the book did leave me feeling bereft at finishing it).

The Long Forgotten is a very quirky, incredibly moving and stunningly beautiful novel that will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished reading it. I know it’s one I won’t forget and even though it’s only March I feel absolutely certain that this will be in my top books of 2018! I urge you to go buy a copy and read it right away, you absolutely won’t regret it!

My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, Emma Finnigan and Picador for sending me a copy of this book and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Long Forgotten is out now and available in hardback and ebook from here.

 

About the Author

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I have written three novels. The first, BED, was published in 2011 by Canongate in the UK and Scribner in the US.  It won The Betty Trask Prize 2012. The movie rights were optioned by Duck Soup and Film 4.

The second, MOBILE LIBRARY, was published in January 2015 by Picador in the UK and Scribner in the US. It won the Jerwood Fiction Prize 2015 and the TV rights were optioned by Duck Soup and Channel 4.

The third, THE LONG FORGOTTEN, will be published by Picador in March 2018.

I currently have a number of TV projects in development.

I have written for lots of newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, Esquire, The Times, The Observer Magazine, Sunday Times Style and many more. I’ve won awards for journalism from The Times, The Evening Standard, the PPA and the PTC. I am the Editor-at-Large of ShortList magazine.

(Bio taken from: DavidWhitehouse.com)

 

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#BookReview: The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon @HannahMMcKinnon #TheNeighbors

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About the Book

 

Abby looks forward to meeting the family who just moved in next door—until she realizes they’re the one couple who could expose her deepest secrets.

After a night of fun back in 1992, Abby is responsible for a car crash that kills her beloved brother. It’s a mistake she can never forgive, so she pushes away Liam, the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames—the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret, that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam moves into the neighborhood with his own family, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the terrible secrets they’ve both been carrying…

 

My Thoughts

The Neighbors is a novel about how the past and your secrets always catch up with you. A couple, Liam and Nancy, with a teenage son move in next to Nate and Abby and it turns out that there is a link between Abby and Liam with unresolved issues from the past. I love books that look at relationships and secrets and this book was so readable, I didn’t want to put it down from the moment I first started reading it. Some of the things in Abby’s past are clear from the start but there are other things bubbling around that I simply had to keep reading in order to find out what else there was to know. It becomes clear that other people in Abby’s life have their own secrets and it seems that at some point all will converge.

This is one of those books where I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the main character Abby because of what happened when she was younger, even when I couldn’t condone some of her actions later in the novel. It felt like the accident when she was younger had completely undone her, it had made her into a different person and someone she couldn’t even recognise anymore. It felt like even in the present day that she’d never fully come to terms with what happened, or really figured out who she was without her brother. There were elements of this that I could empathise with – I think losing someone close who is pretty much the same age as you when you’re young does change you, it certainly did me when my best friend died when we were 20. I always felt like I lost a part of me when she died and I’ve never been able to put myself back together how I was before and I could see that it was the same for Abby.

The novel has multiple narrators and goes back and forth in time so the picture of each character is gradually built up. I felt quite unsure as to how I felt about the other characters – they all seemed to have their flaws  and I kept going from liking them to disliking them and back again but I enjoyed being kept on my toes. Everyone in this novel did feel like a real person though; the flaws and the secrets and the way they all behaved felt very believable and while I didn’t always like how they acted, it did feel so human and real.

I very much enjoyed how this novel also explores guilt, and the way different people deal with the bad things they believe they’ve done. There is a definite sliding scale of how each of us feel guilt and it was interesting how this book looks at Abby and how she has such terrible guilt for her brother that is all-consuming but it doesn’t stop her consciously making decisions later on that have the potential to really hurt people emotionally. There is also the unspoken agreement that comes to pass between Abby and Liam not to let on to their respective spouses that they already know each other when they are seemingly introduced for the first time. I was interested to see how that played out in the subsequent chapters to see how each of them felt about the lie by omission.

There was a sense running through this book of fate and destiny – that there are people we’re destined to meet, and a course that we may well be on regardless of what we do to change things. Abby could have behaved differently than she did in the present day but it felt like she still had one foot firmly in the past and fate was pushing her towards the way her life might have been if the accident hadn’t happened. I always find the idea of fate fascinating, I’m never sure whether I believe in it or not but sometimes life takes you on a path with a series of events that makes you wonder occasionally.

There are elements of this book that I saw coming and others that caught me completely off-guard, which was great. I like a book that makes me start to feel comfortable and then pulls the rug out from under me and The Neighbors definitely did that.

The Neighbors is a domestic suspense novel that is very gripping, full of tension and a whole rollercoaster of emotions; I definitely recommend it!

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Neighbors is out now!

 

About the Author

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I was born in 1971 in Manchester, UK to British & Swiss parents. A year later they moved my older sister and I to Switzerland. Rather unsurprisingly I love mountains, chocolate and cheese… or mountains of chocolate and cheese, and my sister, of course.

After finishing commercial studies in Geneva, I worked as a PA for DuPont. A year later I moved to Neuchâtel and became the Purchasing Manager for an ultra-cool company that made motors for industrial and space applications.  Finding myself lacking in theoretical knowledge, I returned to university, studying part-time for a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. And then a friend of a friend introduced me to another friend who’d started up an IT recruitment business. Over the next fifteen years I rose through the ranks to become CEO.

Things outside of work were hardly boring. A chance encounter back in the dark ages of the Internet in 1999 led me down the aisle with Rob, my Canadian rock, five months later. Actually it was exactly ten weeks after we met face-to-face at the Saint John airport in New Brunswick, Canada – and we’re still married. True story. Our first son was born in 2003, followed by identical twin boys just sixteen months later, so I’m heavily outnumbered. In 2010 we all moved to Oakville in Ontario, Canada.

Maybe it was the failed attempt at a start-up company, or the fact I suddenly found myself in my forties, but one morning I decided to follow my oldest passion, started writing, and never wanted to look back. I write fiction for adults and dabble a little in kid-lit. Sometimes I think I’ll never have enough time to get all of the ideas out of my head and on paper. I also have a soft spot for short stories and mud runs. I love mud runs… hey, wait… that’s another story I could write…!

(Author Bio and Photo taken from: HannahMaryMcKinnon.com)

#BookReview: We Were The Salt Of The Sea by Roxanne Bouchard @RBouchard72 @OrendaBooks @givemeawave #saltofthesea

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About the Book

As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky…

My Thoughts

I’m going to be honest here and say that it was the stunning cover that first drew me to We Were The Salt of The Sea and after reading the blurb I knew I had to get my hands on the book as soon as I possibly could. I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to take part in the blog tour and I’m very happy to say that the novel more than lives up to the cover design.

This is a novel that straddles genres and that made it such a refreshing and gripping read for me. It’s in large part a crime novel; a woman, Marie Garant, is found dead in the ocean and the new detective Morales is pulled in to investigate. It’s also a mystery novel with an outsider, Catherine Day, turning up looking for her birth mother and trying to find herself in the process. It can even be described as a love letter to the sea, it’s clear that the author has a love of the ocean herself and it comes through so beautifully in her writing. I swear I could smell the ocean and the fishing boats as I was reading, I could hear the sea waxing and waning throughout the novel – the sea is as much a character in this novel as the people are.

You go to sea because it’s the only door that opens when you knock, because it keeps you awake at night. Every time you step ashore and into the crowd, you feel how different you are. You feel like a stranger. You go to sea because you’re a drifter among others and you only feel at home in the silence of the wind.

There is a real insular feel to Gaspé, the locals pull together and seem bemused by the outsiders that come to make a home there. There are some real characters in the village and I loved how they spoke. There are two people in particular that have a quirk of speech – one says the same word every time he speaks and the other uses a sentence whenever he is wound up about something. This brought the book to life because this is how real people speak, we all have our little quirks in our speech and it’s one of the things that makes getting to know new people so fascinating. I loved the way that I was new to this place and these people just as detective Morales was so I felt I was there with him trying to figure out how to get through the barriers to the real people. It felt like it was hard work for Morales at times but I was willing him to persevere because it seemed to me like he would find a way to be accepted given time.

It did feel like some of the characters in this book, particularly the women, were eluding me. We hear various people’s stories about Marie but everyone seems to remember her differently, and Catherine is enigmatic from the start. We know why she is in Gaspé but we never really get to know her; her and Marie are the essence of the story but they are impossible to grasp. I didn’t fully get a handle on who they really were but it was clearly how it was meant to be and it’s as if these two strong women were born of the sea and were always destined to go back there. Maybe they were part of the sea in some ways and as such were not meant to be really truly known, perhaps just like the salt of the sea itself.

Cyrille said that all truths were ever-flowing and elusive. Those who went to sea knew that anything atop the waves was forever breaking up and reforming. Differently. He said that the wind, the current and the ocean swell were insatiable; that you could never be too careful, even on a glassy sea. What was true in the here and now would make a liar of you not ten minutes later. He said the only reason we exist was the every-shifting lie that is life.

I didn’t expect this book to move me as much as it did. Novels that have mothers and daughters always get me but there was more than that in this book that brought a lump to my throat. I came to adore Cyrille and found his wisdom and his courage in facing what had to be faced really moving. I find that I’m still thinking of the novel and the people days after finishing it and even though I know these were characters in a book and not real people I can’t help hoping that Cyrille and Catherine both found peace in their very different ways after the end of the story.

This didn’t ever feel like a novel in translation for me, the story just flowed and was never jarring so I have to mention how wonderfully David Warriner has translated this book into English. I marked so many paragraphs that stood out to me as utterly beautiful and I know I’ll want to go back and read them from time to time.

I very much enjoyed We Were The Salt of the Sea; it is mysterious and lyrical and utterly stunning. I can’t wait to read more by Roxanne Bouchard. I highly, highly recommend We Were The Salt of The Sea.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a copy of the book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

We Were The Salt of the Sea is out now in ebook and is due to be released in paperback on 30th March!

About the Author

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Roxanne Bouchard reads a lot, but she laughs even more. Her first novel, Whisky et Paraboles, garnered an array of prestigious awards in Quebec and caught the attention of British researcher, Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani, of the University of Westminster, who saw for herself how Roxanne weaves poetry and geography together to delve into her characters’ intimate worlds.

About the Translator

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David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

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#BookReview: All Her Starry Fates by Lady Grey @starryfates #starryfates

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About the Book

In all her starry fates, grey explores how the otherworldly relates to the everyday— with poems about love, loss, memory, inheritance, and belonging.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve always enjoyed reading poetry but have got out of the habit of picking up poetry collections in more recent years so I was thrilled when Anne Cater of Random Things Tours offered me the chance to read and review All Her Starry Fates for the blog tour.

I was expecting to enjoy reading this collection, and I really, really did,  but I wasn’t expecting it to speak to me in the way it did. I found part one of the collection really connected with me and I found I had to stop and really think about each poem before I moved on to the next one. There is one poem in particular that I haven’t stopped thinking about: ‘was i too hard on myself / or / not heart enough / – question’. I love the play on the sound of hard and heart and how they seem similar, but also how it makes you think about how hard you are on yourself and whether there was any heart there. There is a real theme of isolation and loneliness, and of trying to find the courage to seek your place in the world and it seemed to reflect so many of my own emotions at the time I was reading. It brought me a lot of solace.

I really enjoyed how for the most part the poems were free flowing without a set structure. Most of the poems don’t have a title at the top of the page but a lot of them do seem to have a short title, which also becomes a small conclusion, at the end of a poem. Some of the later poems do have titles at the top of the page, which made it feel like the characters throughout the poems were showing themselves more, were becoming more confident and I loved that.

Parts one and two seem to be more an exploration of feelings whereas the poems in the third part seem to be telling more of a story which encapsulate the emotion from the earlier poems. It felt to me like the people expressing their thoughts in the early poems could be the people whose stories where being told in the later poems. The following two parts are a mix of story and emotion, which brings the whole collection together. There is a real cohesion through the parts of this poetry collection: it feels like the collection as a whole is a musing on the things in between that matter to us and about finding where we belong. The themes of finding a place where you fit definitely runs throughout. There were poems that felt they were about a lover, others about a child; some were musings on life in general – the happy and the sad. All seem to be about being who you are: finding the courage to be yourself and not letting others bring you down or affect you.

All Her Starry Fates is a poetry collection that I would recommend to everyone as it’s very accessible but also has a real depth to it that can be enjoyed on many levels. I adored this collection and am so pleased that I had the chance to read it; it’s a book that will really stay with me and I know I will return again and again to these beautiful poems. I highly, highly recommend this collection.

 

All Her Starry Fates is out now in ebook and print and available here.

This blog tour was organised by Anne Cater at Random Things Tours. I received a free copy of the ebook. All thoughts are my own.

 


 

 

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#BookReview: Meeting Lydia by Linda MacDonald @LindaMac1 #blogtour

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About the Book

When Marianne comes home from work one day to find her husband talking to a glamorous woman in the kitchen, insecurities resurface from a time when she was bullied at school. Jealousy rears its head and her marriage begins to fall apart. Desperate for a solution, she finds herself trying to track down her first schoolgirl crush: Edward Harvey. Even thinking his name made her tingle with half-remembered childlike giddiness. Edward Harvey, the only one from Brocklebank to whom she might write if she found him.

 

My Thoughts

I really enjoy listening to audio books, it means I can still read when my body doesn’t allow me to hold a print book or my kindle, so when Anne Cater from Random Things Tours offered me the chance to listen and review Meeting Lydia I jumped at it! I was drawn to the gorgeous cover and was intrigued by the premise of the book.

Meeting Lydia is about a woman in her mid forties, who is sent into a tailspin when she finds her husband talking to a younger, attractive woman. This coincides with Marianne suspecting she may be starting the menopause, and with her daughter about to go off to university so she begins to feel that she is unravelling.

I’ll be honest and say that I did find it a little difficult to get into this book as I couldn’t initially place the timeline, possibly because I was listening to an audiobook and couldn’t easily flick back the pages to figure it out. Once it dawned on me that this is set in the early 2000s I was fine from there on in. Marianne, encouraged by her daughter, decides to join Friends Reunited so see if anyone from school is on there. She becomes quite fixated on finding Edward, a boy she didn’t know well at school but that she had felt an affinity with. When she finds him they begin an online friendship reminiscing about school days and slowly building up a picture of their lives now. I loved the book as it got further into this relationship because it felt like I was in Marianne’s head and could really understand her better. She seemed to fantasise about what she would say to Edward and things became a little blurry as to what she had actually emailed to him and what she had only thought about saying to him. She almost has a fantasy life in her mind and I could really understand how this gave her escapism from her own mundane life.

The novel explores how Marianne feels about her school days. She was bullied at school but never spoke about it to anyone, and yet now she is going through a confidence crisis it seems like how she felt as a child is now haunting her. All the insecurities that came from not feeling good enough as a child are an echo of how she feels now as she reaches mid-life. This really connected with me, it’s easy to dismiss what happens when we’re children but sometimes the things that we couldn’t talk about then can re-emerge at vulnerable points in our adult lives.

Marianne wasn’t easy to like in the beginning of this book, she seemed quite unable to express her feelings to her husband and yet somehow holds this against him. There is also the way she is a bit hypocritical in being annoyed about his friendship with a woman and yet she has stared an online flirtation with a man. I feel like the book really did explore her thoughts and feelings as it went on and I grew to really have sympathy and a much better understanding of her. As I got further into the book I began to wonder if Edward really existed in the present day or if the whole thing was just a fantasy that she needed to escape the way she felt her life becoming undone. I think there is an element of this being left to the reader’s interpretation and I really liked that. I think we’ve all wondered about people from school and in the days before Facebook it was much harder to reconnect and to find out what had happened to old friends so you could only wonder what became of them.

I ended up really rooting for Marianne, and for her to open up to her husband and for them to try and fix their marriage. I believed Johnny when he said he wasn’t having an affair, it really did feel like Marianne’s insecurities about her changing body and her feeling older had built things up to be more than they were. I can sympathise but always believed that an honest conversation with her husband would go a long way to her finding happiness with him again.

I really enjoyed this audio book and have to mention the narrator, Harriet Carmichael, who really enhanced the experience of listening to this book – she really brings Marianne to life in a way that feels exactly right.

Meeting Lydia is a really interesting exploration of what it is to reach middle age and to wonder what might have been, to wonder if what you have is all there is; it’s a book about the insecurities that can hit at various points in life but especially as you begin to see yourself getting that bit older. Linda MacDonald writes with sensitivity and a delicate hand, yet is unafraid to tackle the issues of middle age. I recommend this audio book!

I received a copy of this book from Audible via Anne Cater at Random Things Tours. All views are my own.

Meeting Lydia is out now as an audio book, ebook and paperback!

 

About the Author

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Linda MacDonald

Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught in a secondary school in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write and paint. In 1990 she returned to teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’. She has now given up teaching to focus fully on writing.

Her four published novels Meeting Lydia, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternativeand The Man in the Needlecord Jacket can each be read independently but are also a series. A fifth part is at the embryonic stage.

 

About the Narrator

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Harriet Carmichael

I’ve always loved doing voices.  I grew up with Radio 4 being on constantly in the background. Somehow the voices and accents broadcast over the years soaked in. And now I do voices. Or if you ask my agent, I’m a “voice artist”.

For the last seven years I’ve spent most of my days in front of a microphone: as myself; as seven-year-old boys; talking baboons; angsty teenagers (usually American); androgynous talking cats; Glaswegian Grannies; the cast of The Archers

After university I trained at The Oxford School of Drama and then acted mainly with touring theatre companies – some brilliant, some not so… I had a lot of fun, but once I started doing voiceovers in warm studios with good coffee, being on the road lost some of its appeal.

And the voice can do much more than people think. Tone, timing, pitch and accent can all vary depending on the job. From commercials and corporates to cartoons, computer games and audiobooks, it’s a brilliant job and, really, I owe it all to Radio 4.

 

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#BookReview: An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth @Wildfirebks @colettemcbeth #blogtour

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About the Book

MOTHER. WIFE. POLITICIAN. LIAR.

THEN: How far did she go to conceal the truth?

Politician Linda Moscow sacrificed everything to protect her son: her beliefs,
her career, her marriage. All she wanted was to keep him safe.

NOW: What will she risk to expose the lies?

When the voices she silenced come back to haunt her, Linda is faced with
another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line…

An Act of Silence is about the abuse of power, the devastating effects of keeping the truth buried, and the lengths a mother will go to save her child.

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Colette McBeth so when I heard about An Act of Silence I knew it was a book that I had to read and I’m really pleased to say that it more than lived up to my expectations.

An Act of Silence is told from the viewpoint of quite a few characters, which I found really interesting: the way their stories go back and forth in time and are layered on top of each other made the unravelling of the story utterly fascinating and near impossible to put down. Linda is a former MP who resigned in disgrace a few years previously and is now writing a book. Her son Gabriel is a famous comedian who has been accused of murder and just wants his mother to believe that he’s innocent.

I’ll be honest and say that I thought this book was going to be about how a mother tried to cover up what her adult son had done but it is so much more more than I even expected. Seeing the story through both Linda and Gabriel’s eyes really gave such an insight into why they are the way they are with each other. I felt sorry for Gabriel at times for the way his mum just didn’t seem to show she cared but then we’d see her point of view and I could understand more. This novel goes on to be a wider look at child abuse and it makes for difficult reading at times; there are moments that really got to me but I never felt that I needed to stop reading and I put that down to how well written and how well researched this book is.

This is a book that explores what good and bad are, and whether both traits can exist in one person. It explores power and the people who abuse it. The real heart of the book though is in each act of silence. The perpetrators in this book kept quiet because it meant they got away with it, but the interest for me was in the victims and how they kept silent because they thought they wouldn’t be believed. Then later they just didn’t want to have to cope with the fall out of speaking out. Seeing the story from multiple perspectives really gives you pause for thought in this book, and it really made me think.

An Act of Silence is a tense, atmospheric thriller that will really get under your skin. It builds and builds and reaches a point where you feel like you can’t breathe, and you just simply have to know what the outcome is going to be. It’s a very powerful novel that will give you pause for thought, and it’s one that will really stay with me. I highly, highly recommend this book!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.

An Act of Silence is out now in paperback and ebook!

 

About the Author

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Colette McBeth is the critically acclaimed author of psychological thrillers, Precious Thing and The Life I Left Behind. Her new book, An Act of Silence, about a mother faced with an impossible choice to save her son, is now available in paperback.

Colette was a BBC TV News television correspondent for ten years during which time she covered many major crime stories and worked out of Westminster as a political reporter. Prior to that, she was a news editor for Sky News.

Colette is a member of Killer Women, the female collective of crime writers.

(Author bio taken from: colettemcbeth.co.uk)

 

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