When We Fell Apart

Author: Soon Wiley

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 12th May 2022 in Hardback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Simon & Schuster for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

A profoundly moving and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties that bind families together – or break them apart…

When the Seoul police inform Min that his girlfriend Yu-jin has taken her own life, he’s sure it can’t be true. She was successful, ambitious, happy, just on the cusp of graduating from university and claiming the future she’d always dreamed of. Min, on the other hand, born to an American father and Korean mother, has never felt quite the same certainty as Yu-jin about his life’s path. After growing up in California, where he always felt ‘too Korean’ to fit in, he’s moved to Seoul in the hope that exploring his Korean heritage will help him find a sense of purpose. And when he meets Yu-jin, little does he know that their carefree relationship will set off a chain of events with tragic consequences for them both.

 Devastated by Yu-jin’s death, Min throws himself into finding out why she could have secretly wanted to die. Or did she? With a controlling and powerful government official father, and a fraught friendship with her alluring and destructive roommate So-ra, Yu-jin’s life was much more complex than she chose to reveal to Min. And the more he learns about her, the more he begins to doubt he ever really knew her at all.

As Yu-jin’s story – a fraught exploration of selfhood, coming-of-age, and family expectations – collides with Min’s, the result is an engrossing page-turner that poses powerful, urgent questions about cultural identity, family bonds, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.

My Thoughts:

Part of my love of books, is that they offer and provide me an opportunity to view people, places and perspectives that are different from my own and it was this that drew me to Soon Wiley’s debut novel When We Fell Apart; it is a magnificent, melancholic, moving, mysterious read. Echoes of its content, linger with you long after you have finished reading. It is a literary experience not to be overlooked and one I highly recommend you embark on. Beautifully written and constructed and it cannot fail to make an impact on you, as it has me.

Let me give you a little taste of what this book is about; Min is a Korean American and like any of us, wishes to find his place in this world but when your origins are from two diametrically different social, political, cultural, and geographic backgrounds, discovering and exploring your personal history is vital in establishing an understanding of yourself and where you fit, your identity.  To do this, Min has moved to Korea and has started to build a new life and a natural part of this is to make friends and embark on relationships and build a sense of belonging. Yu-Jin is his girlfriend, from a prestigious family, her father has great power and status and with this comes the expectation and extraordinary pressure on his daughter to be successful, regardless of any else and very early on in the story, you can see Yu-Jin fulfilling this expectation but at the same time, utilising it to attempt relieve the relentless pressure on herself, yet to no avail and as a reader, I think you can see, that she can’t really escape.

Min is seemingly oblivious to her predicament and it comes as an overwhelming shock when he receives news that Yu-Jin has taken her own life! And like anyone who has experienced such a tragic loss, he searches for answers; how could he have missed this, how could he have changed the outcome, did he really know Yu-Jin at all, his guilt, frustration, sadness are all palpable…so is his need to find and understand the reason/s of why she would do this, what in her life could have made her believe that her only recourse was to die…Min makes it his mission to find out and in doing so, he may find more understanding of self.

What makes this novel so powerful, is that as readers we are omnipotent and are given a broader insight of events and the characters, so you have a sensation of knowing more than the characters and a sense of what might occur next but without it being confirmed. I loved how Soon, revealed both Min’s and Yu-Jin’s alternating perspectives, their backstories and current progression through life and the myriad of facets that made them the people they are. I found the juxtaposition between Min’s life in American and his life in Korea fascinating, that his reality is/was that despite having roots in both places, he didn’t really fit in either! And with Yu-Jin, she stole my heart if I am honest, her journey, her reasoning, her choices come from both a personal and a cultural perspective that is almost emotionally incomprehensible; the Korean concept of ‘Han’, a ‘collective despair’ over the failure to be able to choose one’s own destiny, individually or nationally…Han is the essence that prevails when this right is repressed and an understanding of this concept, provides an anchor for us as readers to comprehend Yu-Jin’s decision/s.

The more I read this novel, the more I appreciated Soon’s ability to transport me vicariously into another world, his knowledge and skill in depicting Korea’s complicated nature, it’s vibrant culture and turbulent history, he educates and enlightens his readers throughout. This is a clever, complex book; it is thought provoking and profound and when the heavy hitting themes are engaged, those of identity, of culture, of grief, of loss and Soon wealds and weaves them adroitly and sensitively through the voices of his characters and their environments. Once you read this book, you will never forget it and as this is Soon’s first novel, I shall be very interested to see and read what he writes next.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

A native of Nyack, New York, Soon Wiley received his BA in English & Philosophy from Connecticut College. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wichita State University. His writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and earned him fellowships in Wyoming and France. He resides in Connecticut with his wife and their two cats. When We Fell Apart is his debut novel.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Birdcage

Author: Eve Chase

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 28th April 2022 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Kallie Townsend & Penguin Michael Joseph for my gorgeous, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

Lauren, Kat, and Flora are half-sisters who share a famous artist father – and a terrible secret. Over the years they’ve grown into wildly different lives. But an invitation to Rock Point, the Cornish cliff house where they once sat for their father’s most celebrated painting, Girls and Birdcage, reunites them. Rock Point is a beautiful, windswept place, thick with secrets, electrically charged with the events of the summer – twenty years before – that the family daren’t discuss. And there is someone in the shadows watching their every move. Someone who remembers the girls in the painting – and what they did.

My Thoughts

It is my pleasure today to be sharing with you my thoughts on Eve Chase’s latest novel The Birdcage. I was instantly intrigued by details of this novel and when my copy arrived, I admit to being completely seduced by its dark beauty and as it turned out this book is stunning both inside and out! For me, Eva is fast becoming the maven of dysfunctional family dynamics, what I infer by this, is that Eve has an incredible ability and discernment in delving into the tangled complexities of familial relationships, especially ones that aren’t more common to us as readers, such as a single parent or the 2.4 children descriptors. Eve’s cast of characters and their relationships are multi-dimensional; a complete package of awkward, annoying, amusing, and authentic and add to this a whopping great secret and the component elements of the plot revealed over a dual timeline…what you end up with is a dynamite read, exhilarating, enticing and explosive…Enjoy it, I certainly did!

Eve’s writing and story development for me has strong echoes the work of Mary Ann Evans (more commonly known as Victoria writer George Elliott) who was renowned for her realism, psychological insight, her intrinsic sense of place and magnificent description of the countryside and I believe that Eva has all these delicious elements in her work, plus with added extra spice in the forms of modernity and mystery! At the core of this novel are three half-sisters, Lauren, Kat & Flora and their fractious interlocking relationship with each other, their respective mothers (yes plural, not a typo) all orbiting their famous artistic, philandering, irreverent and often irresponsible father whose endless carefree and careless nonchalance has and continues to colour their lives! At this point I was certain he needed castrating!

As children each of the women has a different mother and each one has grown up in very different cultural and societal environments from the others and their points of reference in life are influenced by this and it tends to significantly impact how they see themselves as individuals and how each of them responds and reacts to the others and as is often the way with girls; their go to defensive position when emotionally challenged is to parry with jealously, suspicion and spite! Their father’s laisse faire attitude to morality and relationships further fosters and spreads a pervading tone of resentment firstly within the mothers and then within their daughters and I can’t say I blame them! And it is easy to understand why they’ve avoided each other’s company for so long…

Until at the request of their father (Charlie) who insists they visit him, as he has an announcement to make the three women return to ‘Rock Point’ their grandmother’s former home and the hub of some of their childhood summers. With a great deal of reticence and curiosity, they return, it has been 20 years since their last visit in the Summer of 1999 during the solar eclipse, when something sinister and traumatic occurred but none of them have acknowledged this event to each other or anyone else…ever! Pieces of this episode a tantalisingly revealed to us, as the story dips back from present to the past, providing teasing glimpses of the girls in their early teens with all their adolescent drama and with each return to the past, a drop more tension is added to the tale and certainly compels you to read on…So what did happen in the late summer of 1999; what could possibly have occurred to leave such a gaping emotional scar on the landscape of their lives???…as if, I am going to tell you that! Not a chance…once you read the book, you’ll find out! What I will say is that the women are not alone in knowing the truth of the matter, because someone is now leaving nasty notes around the place, insisting they leave and never return…could now be the time to slay the spector of their secrets past!

Now I admit, that it has taken me several days since finishing this book to full appreciate it’s genius. I struggled with the fact that apart from a cheeky vicious African grey parrot called Betha whose random attacks amused me greatly, I really disliked Lauren, Kat and Flora but I realised that I wasn’t necessarily supposed to like them, they are often irritating, irrational and selfish (then again aren’t we all sometimes) they are indeed a product of the unorthodox circumstances of their childhood and burdened with a need for reassurance and acceptance, that they failed to receive and with the secret they are harbouring is it any wonder they are, the way they are!!! Fear not, they do eventually grow on you as a reader as I discovered.

The Birdcage is a triumph, it is powerful, provoking, poignant and pertinent, it is book, that you can’t put down and one you want to discuss with all your bookish friends on finishing it. I enthusiastically suggest you add a copy to the top of your to be read piles very very soon.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Eve worked as a journalist for women’s magazines and national newspapers for many years. She lives in Oxford with her family, and a very hairy golden retriever, Harry. The Birdcage is her fourth Eve Chase novel.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Tell Me An Ending

Author: Jo Harkin

Publisher: Hutchinson Heinemann

Available: 12th May 2022 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Hutchinson Heinemann for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

Across the world, thousands of people are shocked to receive an email telling them that they once chose to have a traumatic memory removed. Now they are being given the chance to get that memory back. For Mei, William, Oscar, and Finn there is a piece missing, but they’re not sure what. And each of them must decide if the truth is worth the pain, or better left unknown. For Noor, who works at the memory clinic Nepenthe, the process of reinstating their patients’ memories begins to shake the moral foundations of her world. As she delves deeper into the programme, she will have to risk everything to uncover the true human cost of this miraculous technology. An exploration of secrets, grief, identity and belonging – of the stories we tell ourselves, and come to rely on, Tell Me An Ending is a sharp, dark, and devastating novel about the power and danger of memory.

My Thoughts:

Tell Me An Ending by Jo Harkin, is a book that it could be very easy to compartmentalise and label a dystopian thriller of sorts. However, when I read the description of the book, it seemed to be much more than this mere label suggests…oh my goodness it is so much more. Reading it, is a complete brain stimulation experience; yes, you read it but when you do (and you must)! Immediately your brain kicks in and the questions, scenarios and thoughts come pouring into your mind…an avalanche of what ifs and what would I dos…it’s a book that pokes, provokes and pesters your little grey cells …. making reading it, utterly mind blowing! If I am honest, I am sitting here still in awe of you Jo, the scope of your imagination and this genius novel of yours!

Consider this, all of us have episodes in our lives we wish to forget, break ups, bad financial decisions, the loss of a loved one…what if, you could remove those overwhelming experiences from your memory, so you wouldn’t have to revisit or relive them. What if, you could make the choice to remove such memories…would you, could you, should you…yes/no, maybe, perhaps, probably…see even now my mind is spinning with the possibilities, is this ethical/moral or just state sanctioned mind control? Nepenthe in one of their state-of-the-art memory clinics can provide you with this service; they can relieve you of the burdens of your mind; book an appointment, chat with counsellor/psychologist, sign your paperwork, pay your fee and…Zap…those pesky recollections are gone and you can get on with living your life! Sounds perfect…but and you know that there had to be one…didn’t you! What if, there is an undisclosed flaw in this ground-breaking scientific advancement? One that Nepenthe despite rumours and conjecture, fiercely denies…what if, some of their clientele maybe suffering from ‘traces’; flashbacks of memory and ones that the clients have no comprehension of what they relate to! Causing them a great deal of consternation and confusion…does it sound like such a good idea now?!

Oh but there’s more, clients who choose to undergo this procedure, Nepenthe label’s self-informed clients and they know that their memories have been erased but there is also a group of clients labelled self-contained; who due to the nature/scope of their traumatic memories, have had them removed but also any knowledge of this procedure has been erased as well (everyone reading this is now going ooooh or resisting the urge to run screaming into the hills in blind panic) yes exactly, these clients are completely in the dark until Nepenthe is forced because of the emergence of the ‘trace’ phenomenon to offer their self-contained clients the opportunity to have the removed memories returned! Can you imagine the enormity, never mind the myriad of emotion and questions you’d have at receiving a letter; saying by the way, you won’t remember this but we removed some of your memory and we didn’t ask you but you can have it back now, if you want!!! See I told you it was mind blowing didn’t I…

The concept of this novel is original, outstanding, and deviously oppressive and Jo is exceptional in her delivery, it all seems so obvious and normal but yet you can see through the eyes and voices of her characters that having memories removed either by choice or necessity…is anything but normal. I also admired that Jo constructed the story from different perspectives; Noor works at Nepenthe and is fully indoctrinated in the pros of memory removal and is almost oblivious in her loyalty and support of her boss and mentor Louise and of Nepenthe’s memory mission. Until by increments she begins to understand, that activities within the clinics supersede their mandate in a manner she can’t even imagine never mind reason out and this in turn impacts and alters her own relationships! In contrast to Noor, we have the clients themselves, Oscar, William, Finn, and Mei, each of whom has their own story and role to play in the progression of this novel, each one is intimate, authentic, and wholly individual and contains surprise elements that build a whole picture for the reader. Two of my favourite characters were Mei whose innocence and intelligence is so endearing and Oscar, who is seemingly incorrigible, inscrutable and utters some hilarious one liners but this is a cunning distraction as he has a significant link to Nepenthe! I shall say no more!

Jo’s book is shout out loud phenomenal; a truly scintillating, stimulating, sinister and sensational read; which presents you with so many ethic conundrums to cogitate. I leave you with this thought of mine; memories are what inform us of who we are, where we’ve come from and may direct where we are going. Our ability to recall the past informs our present but what if these signposts in our minds are removed, what if you can’t remember, your life, the school friends you made, the person you first fell in love with…what could be the impact of not knowing or not experiencing an event!!! Have you ceded control of your will, your right to choose…Chilling thought isn’t it…Maybe when you buy Jo’s book (and I insist that you do) you’ll find some answers…then again will you remember them!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

 Jo Harkin studied English Literature at university. She daydreamed her way through various jobs in her twenties before giving in and becoming a full-time writer. She published four real-world literary fiction novels under a pseudonym, before deciding to follow her passion and move into speculative fiction. Her focus is ‘what if’ stories with an emphasis on human lives. She lives in Berkshire.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Elizabeth of York; The Last White Rose

Author: Alison Weir

Publisher: Headline Review

Available: 12th May 2022 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Headline for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

The spellbinding story of Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor queen.

An English Princess, born into a war between two families. Eldest daughter of the royal House of York, Elizabeth dreams of a crown to call her own. But when her beloved father, King Edward, dies suddenly, her destiny is rewritten. Her family’s enemies close in. Two young princes are murdered in the Tower. Then her uncle seizes power – and vows to make Elizabeth his queen. But another claimant seeks the throne, the upstart son of the rival royal House of Lancaster. Marriage to this Henry Tudor would unite the white rose of York and the red of Lancaster – and change everything. A great new age awaits. Now Elizabeth must choose her allies – and husband – wisely, and fight for her right to rule

My Thoughts:

When as a lover of historical fiction, I heard that Alison was embarking on a new series of books the Tudor Rose Trilogy. I literally clapped my hands in glee and anticipation, how could I not! History fans everywhere (my self included) are already enamoured with Alison’s skill at reanimating and reimagining our Tudor heritage, with her extensive knowledge and in exquisite detail. For me, Alison is masterful at marrying factual history with insightful, intuitive, and imaginative fiction, allowing her readers to inhabit the lives of remarkable, resilient, regal women; whose vital roles in our past all too often have been relegated to the margins and footnotes of the past we are taught. Through Alison’s exceptional articulation, she opens our eyes to their pivotal contributions, their daily trials, their subtle voices, their ambitions, and their societal limitations.

Before reading Alison’s latest book; Elizabeth of York; The Last White Rose my knowledge of Plantagenet history was sparse and confined to a rather complicated board game I received as a child, called Kingmaker; which allowed players to fight out the War of the Roses by choosing characters and picking a side, be it the White Roses (the Yorks) or the Red Roses (the Lancasters) and through strategy and battles you fought for the Crown (and little tip here, you always needed the Earl of Warwick to win!) I was utterly fascinated by this game and the names and roles of its cast of characters and it inspired my reading choices as I grew older. And now through Alison’s inspired creativity and historical prowess; I get to immerse myself in the circumstances of the era through the eyes and experiences of Elizabeth of York, a woman at the core of one of the most brutal, turbulent, and ultimately transformative periods of history. Elizabeth played a key role in fortifying Henry Tudor’s tenuous claim to the throne and as mother to the future Henry VIII her comprehension and burden of affixing her family’s legacy Alison recounts to us in her wonderful book.

It is very easy when engrossed in Elizabeth’s world to forget that her viewpoints, experiences, and emotions are a product of Alison’s prestigious creation but they are portrayed so astutely because of Alison’s own diligence in research and her expansive knowledge of the period. Which reassures my enquiring mind about the voracity and authenticity of the actions and assumptions of the characters in this book. Spanning the entirety of Elizabeth’s life, from her earliest recollections at 4 years old of seeking sanctuary with her mother; impresses on us readers the uncertainty and the instability of the world she resides in; the nature and nuances of her life, the actions and reactions that shape her are all explored as she experiences a revolving door of peace and peril; there is no real opportunity for settled contentment, just the seemingly endless pervading atmosphere of truculence

Elizabeth was a wife, a mother and a Queen but still confined by the limitations put upon her sex; it’s often difficult to accept these restrictions when as modern woman with liberty at my fingertips; to have my own aspirations, to achieve my own goals, to have ambition in my career and foster my dreams; to have the freedoms of choice about how to live my life and who to love is my right but to understand and accept that Elizabeth not have any of these options, to accept the shackles women of her rank and status were bound by, does make me more than a little cross and heavy hearted; but as I was reading, I realised I needed to assess Elizabeth in a different way, I tried to view her from the perspective of a chess board but I didn’t see her as a pawn in the game of her life, to be manipulated and sacrificed though it would be easy to see her this way…instead, I chose to view her like one of the most powerful pieces on a chess board, the Queen, whose movements within the game may be perceived as restricted yet this is an under estimation of her power as it is Elizabeth’s, her power is not in stating her own claim to crown, not in voicing opinions (though I wanted her too) nor is it a balking at the variety of arranged matches (the Dauphin of France, her Uncle) for others political gain. Elizabeth’s power and silent gumption is in her position, her status and rank, her subtle influence over her husband and sons. Her bloodline and virtue as a maiden; her wiles as a wife and her maternal manipulations as a matron; powers overlooked and underestimated by the patriarchal environment and not always fully appreciated by the modern one!

Elizabeth ‘fights’ within the scope of the game to secure a dynasty and monarchy for a lifetime to come, with peace and security the ultimate goals. One of the many reasons I admire Alison’s books especially the fictional ones, is that she is never sentimental in her depictions of the remarkable women whose stories she re-imagines, nor overly romantic in her extrapolations of their complicated lives. For me, she encapsulates reality and retrospectively recalibrates in this novel Elizabeth’s life, so we can see and appreciate the pivotal role, she played in this social and political maelstrom of history.

The Last White Rose is not a light-hearted historical romp, nor would I want it to be; it is an impressive, imaginative, immense tome to be savoured, enjoyed and considered for its excellent historical context and it’s enticing and engaging re-animation of a truly incredible woman and I loved every one of its 500 pages and I hope you find it as intoxicating and immersive as I have done.

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Alison Weir is the bestselling female historian in the United Kingdom, and has sold over 3 million books worldwide. She has published twenty history books. Alison is also the author of twelve historical novels, including the highly acclaimed Six Tudor Queens series all of which were Sunday Times bestsellers. The complete short-story collection, In the Shadow of Queens, accompanies this series. Alison is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an honorary life patron of Historic Royal Palaces.

Note from the Author:

Elizabeth of York’s life has always fascinated me because it spans my two favourite periods of English history: the Yorkist age and the early Tudor era, a time that saw the end of the medieval period and the dawn of modern England. Her marriage to Henry VII united the warring royal houses of York and Lancaster and founded the Tudor dynasty. Elizabeth was beautiful and cultivated – and she should have been the rightful Queen of England after the probable deaths of her brothers, the Princes in the Tower, in 1483. She had a better claim to the throne than Henry VII, but because she was a woman, no one championed her right. She was regarded chiefly as the heiress of the royal House of York, through whom the right of succession could be transmitted by marriage. She passed on that right to her son, Henry VIII. Having published a biography of Elizabeth in 2013, I have long wanted to write a novel about her, because there are tantalising gaps in her story. Despite the wealth of source material, history does not always record her thoughts, emotions, motives, hopes and fears. She was passionate and proactive in intriguing behind the scenes to become queen. Once she was crowned, however, her voice was silent, so we can only speculate on how events affected her. And that leaves plenty of scope for a novelist… Among the many mysteries that surround Elizabeth is the fate of the Princes in the Tower. We can only imagine the distress that her brothers’ disappearance and rumours of their murder caused her. Later, the emergence of a pretender claiming to be the younger Prince must have impacted profoundly on her. In this novel, I offer what I believe to be the most credible explanation of what happened to the Princes. Having written six novels about her daughters-in-law, the wives of Henry VIII, Elizabeth of York was the obvious choice for my next foray into fiction, this book being the first in the Tudor Rose trilogy that will span three generations of England’s most celebrated royal dynasty.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

One Good Thing

Author: Alexandra Potter

Publisher: Macmillan

Available: 28th April 2022 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Macmillan for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

In life, nothing is certain. Just when you think you have it all figured out, something happens that changes the course of everything . . . Liv Brooks is still in shock. Newly divorced and facing an uncertain future, she impulsively swaps her London Life for the sweeping hills of the Yorkshire Dales, determined to make a fresh start. But fresh starts are harder than they look and feeling lost and lonely she decides to adopt Harry, an old dog from the local shelter, to keep her company. But Liv soon discovers she isn’t the only one in need of a new beginning. On their daily walks around the village, they meet Valentine, an old man who suffers from loneliness who sits by the window and Stanley, a little boy who is scared of everyone, hides behind the garden gate and Maya, a teenager who is angry at everyone and everything. But slowly things start to change… Utterly relatable, hilarious and heart-breakingly honest, this is a novel about friendship, finding happiness and living the life unexpected. And how when everything falls apart, all you need is one good thing to turn your life around and make it worth living again.

My Thoughts:

It has been a while since I last treated myself to one of Alexandra’s books and I had forgotten how glorious they are, more fool me! When I read the book description for her latest novel One Good Thing, I saw it as a fortuitous moment and dived right in. From the moment you start reading this novel, for me at least it is like being embraced by a friend; joyous and familiar. I think I was drawn to this book probably because I relate to both the story and the main character Olivia (Liv) in fact I was amazed how the story mirrored my own life in the past few years. This is a heart-warming and empowering tale which takes the reader from the tears of adversity to the celebration of life. I love how Alexandra has the gift of weaving the many facets of life into her story, to the extent you complete forget that Liv isn’t actually a real person, I’d like to imagine we would be friends is she were. This wonderful book is charming, comforting, comic and divinely cathartic and cannot fail to find a home in your heart, as it has mine.

There is a fantastic line (somewhere in the middle/end stages of the book, sorry I forgot to note the page) …which adeptly sums up the core of this story for me…”A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water…” quite frankly this quote needs to be on bookmarks and tote bags across the land, it is utterly marvellous and completely true! And as you will discover, sums Liv up perfectly…Liv is a character you instantly warm to, her experiences resonate with you as a reader possibly because we have all suffered heartbreak at some stage in our lives.

The book begins with her being in a great deal of emotional turmoil, her 10 year marriage has ended suddenly; she is hurt, bewildered and more than a bit hacked off; her nincompoop of a husband has walked out and shacked up with a younger model (time for much eye rolling and twitchy taser fingers from me).  The horrible dawning realisation, that he has stopped loving her and moved on without a backward glance, leaving her alone, shocked and bereft…because a loss like this, as any of us who have experienced such a thing know; is very much like a death…Liv is left grieving for the life she had, the life she knew, the expectations she had of their future together…now in an instant..poof…it has all gone! So, what will Liv do now…?

Alexandra has cleverly structured Liv’s onward story around the well-known theory of grief by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who provided a concise guide on the complexity of loss and its many variations and the progression of reactions to it, from shock and disbelief the progression of an emotional journey towards acceptance and forward to hope but as Alexandra notes in the opening page “Loss is universal but it is also very personal and everyone’s journey is their own’! And in this novel, we get to follow Liv’s journey….starting with her brave decision to leave the tatters of her London life behind and move to a dated and somewhat dilapidated cottage in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales! Ok, I might be being a little dramatic, Yorkshire is not quite the wilds but I made the same move in equally as trying circumstances as Liv,  from London to York and it does/did feel a bit like that! Life is very different here in the frozen North – my words not Liv’s or Alexandra’s! Although when Liv arrives at her new home, at night in the dark and cold of a Yorkshire winter, she does wonder what on earth she has done and considers has her loss turned her loopy!

Liv starts her new life focusing on the renovation of her home and on one of her endless trips to buy supplies, a chance encounter with a young woman (Maya) in the car park, who is collecting donations for a local dogs home. This interaction, leads Liv to another decision, she is no longer bound by her ex’s phantom pet related allergies and decides that maybe a dog in her life, will bring her new joy and stem some of the loneliness, she’s feeling…intent on rehoming a puppy, until that is.. she meets Harry…a scruffy, mongrel, who has been mistreated and dumped and in seeing his sadness and depression…Liv looks into his eyes knows he’s the dog for her! Despite their rather traumatic but amusing journey home and Gucci handbag chewing incident; Harry becomes a conduit of change in Liv’s life, his presence brings new connections and friendships with Valentine, Ben and Stanley, Maya…who they meet on their daily walks. Harry teaches Liv to slow down, to look and listen at the people and places around her. And as the characters’ lives intermingle, their stories and experiences are shared with us and Liv. And she begins to understand that the broken-hearted are all around her, hiding in plain sight, that we can’t ever really know what is happening in other people’s lives, that though Liv or you or I might feel alone, in actual fact, we aren’t; our individual journeys maybe different but the feeling we experience are the same and that by reaching out to others, the way Liv does to Valentine in his window or Stanley a little boy in a garden…we become stronger, together!

One Good Thing is a literary lullaby to loss, love, laughter and ultimately life…the idea that one good thing from coco heart on your morning latte to phone call to say the man you love doesn’t have cancer can instantly turn your life around in a myriad of unexpected and miraculous ways…for Liv, Harry was her one good thing that made the difference and forged links and love in her new life and I can’t wait for you to read this wonderful book and see what happens, there might be some dancing on the beach at Whitby and a few secrets and surprises to be revealed but that’s for me to know and you to find out. This book is a simply must read, if I were you, cancel any plans you might have, snuggle up on your sofa with a frothy coffee and several bacon rolls and read…For me, this book has been my One Good Thing in a very trying week…I think it could be yours too.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Alexandra Potter is the bestselling author of numerous romantic comedy fiction novels in the UK including CONFESSIONS OF A FORTY-SOMETHING FUCK UP, which is currently being developed as a TV series. Her books have sold in twenty-two territories and achieved worldwide sales of more than one million copies (making the bestseller charts in the UK, US, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Serbia). Yorkshire born and raised, Alex currently lives in south-west London with Mr California and their Bosnian rescue dog, and when she’s not spending time writing or travelling, she’s spending far too much time on Instagram being reminded that she should be exercising regularly, drinking enough water, practising mindfulness, and feeling blessed. Follow her @alexandrapotter

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Hiding Place

Author: Simon Lelic

Publisher: Viking

Available: 5th May 2022 in Paperback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Ellie Hudson & Viking for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

Four Friends. One Murder. A game they can’t escape.

‘It was only a game.’

Until a boy went missing.

‘No one was meant to get hurt.’

But a body has been found.

‘Just some innocent fun.’

Except one of them is a killer.

Ready or not, here I come.

It’s time to play hide and seek again.

A PULSE POUNDING DETECTIVE THRILLER: 20 years after a boy goes missing at boarding school, his body is found and his friends, now some of the most powerful people in the country, are the suspects – for fans of THE CHALK MAN PB and THE GUEST LIST.

My Thoughts:

Today it is my turn to share my thoughts with you on Simon Lelic latest book The Hiding Place and my first experience of reading one of his many novels, a situation I will be rectifying shortly. As huge crime fiction fan, it seems I have been remiss in not discovering Simon’s books until now but on the flip side of this acknowledgement is my excitement in discovering a new author (to me) and his books. From the minute I turned the first page of this book, I was completely engrossed in the story. Simon pens a slick, sinister, and scintillating read indeed!

The story is told to us, through two perspectives over a dual timeline that of the detectives in the present and 22 years previously we see and hear things from the victim point of view, which certainly adds a growing and palpebral tension throughout the novel. The book opens with a boy in terror, hiding and hoping not to be discovered! We then return to the present with Detectives Fleet and Collins arriving at an exclusive and expensive boarding School; where in the old church on the campus a skeleton in a foetal position has been unearthed and you cannot help but think, how did we come to this; especially as you are pretty certain you know who the victim is (as are the detectives) but what trajectory of events and sinister circumstances led to murder and why haven’t they come to light until now, what deadly game was played and has it come to its fruition? I really admired Simon’s skill at moving us readers seamlessly back and forth between the two timelines and across his excellent plotlines without giving the game away and yet still providing us with ample hints and teasing suggestions about what occurred then and what is occurring now, making the reading exceptionally enticing and addictively engaging.

Ben Draper missing for 22 years; when we meet Ben, he’s being dropped off at yet another boarding school by his father (who is beyond unpleasant in manor) and you can tell that any trouble Ben gets himself into is as a direct result of dire parenting! Ben finds it difficult to connect with others, he doesn’t make friends and is constantly the victim of bullying but at this time, he is quickly allowed entry into a friendship group of three other students, who have labelled themselves as outcasts as well but it is unclear whether their intentions are good and Ben is wary, can they be trusted….it is all just a little bit suspicious! The School and these new so call friends to me anyway bare a sinister taint, made greater when Ben disappears during an ‘innocent ‘ game of hide & seek…and you know there was nothing innocent about this so-called game!! Back in the present, Detectives Fleet and Collins seek to unravel, the secrets and lies and I grew very fond of DS Nicola Collins in her black suit and converse; she doesn’t suffer fools and she’s a woman you don’t want to mess with, determined and diligent and she wants answers. I enjoyed the quick wit and amusing banter between her and Fleet, and I loved how they bounced ideas off each other regarding the complexities of this case. The biggest question of course, is can they ferret out the truth in this devious tangled web but that is for me to know and you to read the book and find out and be prepared to expect the unexpected!

I am thrilled to have discovered Simon’s books, this one was deliciously sticky, sinister and a sensational read, you can hardly put it down because you desperately want to know what happens next! If like me you are always looking for a new crime procedural to devour then Simon’s books are definitely ones you need to add to your crime library. I know I will be adding more to mine.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Simon Lelic is the author of seven highly acclaimed thrillers: Rupture (winner of a Betty Trask Award and shortlisted for the John Creasey Debut Dagger), The Facility, The Child Who (longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger), The House, The Liar’s Room, The Search Party and The Hiding Place. He has also written The Haven series for younger readers, twice shortlisted for the CrimeFest awards.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

A Little Hope

Author: Ethan Joella

Publisher: Muswell Press

Available: 26th April in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Fiona Brownlee and Muswell Press for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

In the small town of Wharton, Connecticut, lives are beginning to unravel. A husband betrays his wife. A son struggles with addiction. A widow misses her late spouse. At the heart of these interlinking stories is one couple: Freddie and Greg Tyler. Greg has just been diagnosed with a brutal form of cancer. He intends to handle this the way he has faced everything else: through grit and determination. But can he successfully overcome his illness? How will the Freddie and their daughter cope if he doesn’t? How do the other residents of Wharton learn to live with loss and find happiness again? Celebrating the grace in everyday life, this powerful debut immerses the reader in a community of friends, family, and neighbours and identifies the ways that love and forgiveness can help us survive even the most difficult of life’s challenges.

My Thoughts:

As I sat down to write my thoughts on Ethan Jollea’s book A Little Hope, one quote repeatedly popped into my mind and I haven’t been able to exorcize it since; John Steinbeck said, A little hope, even hopeless hope, never hurt anybody. I realised that in essence, Ethan’s book is a literary manifestation of this suggestion. Usually as a book blogger, when I opened a book and begin to read, instantly I form an impression or sense of the novel and a sort of recognition hits me, rather like the smell of bacon cooking or coffee brewing and these impressions grow as I continue to read. However, on occasion, and this is one such occasion, this familiar pattern desserts me because I am simply blown away by the power, poignancy, magic, and magnitude of the words I hold in my hand. Now I must attempt to articulate for you how sublimely sensational this book is; as I suspect repeating the phrase WOW a thousand times, won’t be considered enough of a review nor adequately express how much I admire this book! There really aren’t sufficient superlatives to sing its praises nor how superb Ethan’s skill is as through the character vignettes, he provokes/evokes a torrent of emotion within his readers, in such cogent, calm undeniably bewitching fashion. This book is the embodiment of literary soul food!

Welcome to Wharton, a quintessential quiet American town in Connecticut but unlike previous visits to such environs, Peyton Place (1956) by Grace Metalious comes to mind and which focused on a small, conservative, gossipy town in New England; where adultery, lust and murder, hypocrisy, social inequities, and class privilege were at its twisted heart. Ethan’s novel chooses a broader esoteric; with his story being structured across one year and told through a series of character driven vignettes, which overlap and interlink in the most divine way. Ethan’s character creation is simply sublime; you just believe that these people are real, despite knowing logically that they are not! Each character has a story to share and what stories they are, taking you from joy to despair and back again with whispers of every sentiment in between; the simple beauty of their construction rolls of the pages and inhabits your subconscious as you follow their intimate and intricate lives.

Freddie and Greg Tyler, an all-American couple, who seem to have it all, the beautiful home, the wonderful little girl, a cat and a dog complete the domestic idle until a shadow falls across their prefect lives; Greg is ill, diagnosed with a pernicious form of cancer and the impact of this crushing diagnosis begins to shatter their dreams; despite Greg’s almost deluded determination to fight and survive but at what cost!

Alex and Kay Lionel; Alex is Greg’s boss, mentor, and friend but Alex sees Greg as a son, a salve to his and Kay’s grief; as they once had a son; who was killed in the most tragic circumstances and this loss nor the weight of this burden has ever left them but there is more to their story; Alex holds a secret and his wife Kay cannot acknowledge it and the enormity colours their lives!

Then we have the widow, Darcy Colley, who over time has built a new life from the ashes of her loss, though she still misses her husband Von and wishes he was still beside her especially as their son Luke is struggling on his life path! Luke can’t seem to get life right and his biggest regret was losing his true love Ginger. Which is deliciously ironic because Ginger Lord, is back in town, to a be a bridesmaid for her friend Suzette; in a suitably hideous dress and her thoughts turn to Luke and what could have been!

Over the year to come, which of Wharton’s residents will find resolution, reconnection, realisation, or resignation, but then for all involved there is always a glimmer of hope.

Ethan is in my opinion a literary anthropologist; his cast of characters are his cherished specimens to be observed, explored, and understood. His style of writing is infused with the echoes and essences of the great American writers; Capote and Steinbeck and their intelligent, elegant extrapolations of the American way of life, Ethan has taken their style mantel on to another level by layering emotional intelligence and intimacy on top. Creating a novel, so observant and appreciative of the complexities of lives being lived, being for better or for worse; his ability to identify the nuances of human nature, the things in life we hold dear, the issues we cannot release, the depth of the fears we have regarding the future, the impact of loss or being lost and yet despite everything we face, there is always a little hope!

For me, this book is the perfect read; I completely and utterly adored it, despite having puffy eyes from the odd episode of crying in both sadness and joy!  I have also just discovered that a second book is on its way which has made me incandescent with joy! A Little Hope will bring every reader who holds it in their hands and hearts a great deal of hope and it is absolutely one of my favourite reads of 2022 and I have no doubt that it will be one of yours too! I ardently suggest that you do everything in your power to get hold of a copy of this book today, right now…it’s payday, treat yourself….

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Ethan Joella teaches English and psychology at the University of Delaware and specializes in community writing workshops. His work has appeared in River Teeth, The Cimarron Review, The MacGuffin, Delaware Beach Life, and Third Wednesday. He lives in Delaware with his wife and two daughters.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Behind The Olive Trees

Author: Francesca Catlow

Publisher: Gaia & Fenrir Publishing

Available: 6th May 2022 in Paperback & eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tour & Francesca Catlow, for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

She thought she’d found her lost past, but did she uncover all the secrets?

Melodie returns to her mother’s house in Corfu for the first time since inheriting it. Only, she discovers it isn’t empty. She finds someone has been living there; a girl who claims the property is hers. Behind The Olive Trees is the second book in the Little Blue Door series and is set in 2022 within the context of the pandemic. The novel is a continuation of Melodie’s journey to finding herself and finding out about her past but has also been adored by readers new to Catlow’s work. This is women’s fiction at its best, with a unique balance of romance, family saga and mystery-thriller all rolled into the real-world-escapism of the UK’s favourite Greek island, Corfu.

My Thoughts:

It is my pleasure today to be sharing my thoughts on Francesca Catlow’s second book in the Little Blue Door trilogy; Behind the Olive Trees. What struck me on reading the description of this novel was that sometimes a name or an idea of a place draws you to it. Corfu for me, is such a place, as a child it was one of my grandparent’s favourite holiday destinations, to escape the grey drizzle of their Stockport home. My grandad a man of very few words, spoke with great fondness of this island’s natural beauty and the warmth of its atmosphere and I think it always refreshed his soul to visit. To date, I have not yet had the pleasure of exploring it for myself, although now by reading Francesca’s intoxicating story of familial intrigue, sun, and secrets from a fictional perspective at least, I feel I have had a taste of the island.

With her vibrant and atmospheric descriptions, Francesca transports her readers to Corfu’s sun-baked beaches and hidden grottos, to its umbrella strewn cafes with the sounds of coffee cups, clinking in the sun as the island’s guests and residents alike take respite and our protagonist Melodie returns to these familiar haunts. As I mentioned, this is the second book in this tryptic but my first taste of the series, I have not yet read the first book The Little Blue Door but I promise, I will be re-tracing my steps as I am curios to find out how Melodie’s story begins and what contentious circumstances of her past have coloured her present and what relationship conundrums, led to an estrangement between a mother and her daughter!

As we re-join Melodie in this book, she on the cusp of a whole new life; having found love and sanctuary in the arms of widower Anton and they are about to marry making Melodie a wife and mother all at one time. As Anton has a 14-year-old daughter Gaia, who is a sparky, savvy and sweet teenager and more than a little wise beyond her years too and a firm favourite of mine,! With her wedding approaching Melodie, with reluctance and as yet unexplained trepidation returns to her mother’s home, which has stood empty since her death. On arrival at the house, Melodie and Gaia discover a squatter, who has made herself at home and when Melodie confronts her;  she is attacked and literally thrown out of her own house, I have to say I was shocked and indignant by the violent aggressive actions of this intruder, as Melodie is but also deliciously inquisitive as to why behave in this way; what a dramatic reaction, what previous actions could have stoked such a venomous response…I know, I couldn’t wait to find out!

Melodie retreats from the situation and vows to deal with this usurper after her wedding, which is the most entrancing episode, I loved this wedding; simple, elegant, family orientated, beach side with chiffon and bougainvillea blowing in a warm breeze, friends and family uniting to celebrate this loving couple, with dancing, drinking and the wonderful plate throwing tradition and the vision of one of Anton’s brother’s trousers splitting during some enthusiastic dancing, can’t fail to make you smile! After the wedding, Melodie discovers that the aggressive intruder, is in fact her sister Keres, who it seems was stolen from their mother and discarded by their nefarious father! Melodie seeks to right the wrongs of the past and welcomes this prickly young woman into her life and home…but very quickly it is apparent all is not what it seems, is Keres who she says she is and what are her motives for seeking out reconnection with Melodie…the subtle thrilling tension builds, as a reader your mind is filled with a multitude questions in your quest to unravel the truth! Will Anton and Melodie’s life together be tarnished by Keres’s intentions; is she a victim of her past or the orchestrator of villainy! But of course, if I say more, then I will spoil your fun in uncovering the resolution!

Francesca’s novel is topical, tropical, thrilling and utterly tantalising to read, her cast of characters delightfully engaging and her plotlines, have a mischievous slow burn quality and although revelations are made, you are left with a teasing sense of disquiet and a delectable impression that there is still more to come! Which of course there is in book three…which now you have whetted our appetites Francesca, I hope will be coming soon! If you are looking for an ensnaring and enticing family saga to read this bank holiday weekend then these are the books for you, it’s a series, so in my opinion you need both books to sate your curiosity. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on Corfu with Melodie and I look forward in gleeful anticipation to what will happen next!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Francesca Catlow is a mother of two young children and a carer to her husband, she has created her own publishing brand to produce novels her own way and to create her own work-life freedom. Born and raised in the heart of Suffolk, Catlow has travelled extensively in Europe with her French husband and, more recently, their two children. Of all the places she’s been, it is the Greek islands that have captured her heart.

www.francescacatlow.co.uk

Twitter/Tik Tok – @FrancescaCatlow

Facebook/Instagram – @FrancescaCatlowOfficial

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Belles of Waterloo

Author: Alice Church

Publisher: Unicorn Publishing Group / Universe

Available: 1st April 2022 in Paperback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Unicorn Publishing Group/Universe for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Maria, Georgy, and Harriet navigate their first throes of passion, scandal, and love in the heady pre-war atmosphere of Brussels in 1815. Little do they know they will soon be waltzing their way to the battle of the century at a small village called Waterloo. As the fight for Europe rages outside the city walls, Maria seeks to find herself – will she also find a husband along the way?

My Thoughts:

The moment I read the details of Alice’s book The Belles of Waterloo I clapped my hands in glee and knew immediately I had to read it. I do relish a novel that re-imagines the remarkable lives of women during periods of history that my previous formal education has failed to develop. Alice’s book is irresistible, sumptuously, and seamlessly blending her incredible factual knowledge with delectable fictional inspiration. Alice’s inviting insight of the time and the family comes alive on the page; you are immersed in their world and I became very attached to the sisters three and all their trials, tribulations, and triumphs. I warn you now, once you start reading this book, you won’t be able to stop or escape its historical embrace, nor will you wish too! Prepare to be enticed by rank, reluctance, romance, and reticules!

The novel opens in London, a city awash with jubilation and excitement, Bonaparte has finally been bested; the celebrations are underway, the pageantry, the sights and sounds fill your senses, the anticipation of balls and dinners to mark the occasion but for Harriet, Georgy, and Maria much to their dismay, will it seems miss it all! As their mother Lady Caroline, informs them, the entire family is moving to Brussels and given the girls reaction to this announcement, Belgium may well be the ends of the earth and they can’t believe that their mother would take them away from town just as the ballrooms of London will be filled with potential suitors! But they are astute enough to ascertain that despite their discontent and disappointment, there is no other option; if their family is to avoid financial scandal brought about by their own father’s addiction to the ‘green baize’ and their creditors menacing approach!

After a gruelling three-week journey and I have to say my mind boggled at the concept of travelling in two carriages with 11 children for this period of time. If I’m honest it maybe the concept of 11 children that sets my mind aquiver with horror more, than than the mode and duration of travelling! The family arrives in Brussels and much to the surprise and delight of Harriet, Georgy, and Maria, they find their new home is a large, delightful house, pleasantly situated right in the heart of society! They soon discover that their exile may not be as tedious as expected and the potential for romantic adventure may well be within their grasp; as there is soon a cavalcade of eligible suitors gracing their drawing room and they receive invitations that draw them into the vibrant and heady high society of Brussels! I confess I did spend some time, playing match maker in my head at this point; Georgy and the Prince of Orange; Harriet and General Barnes and what of Maria and the increasingly infamous Lord Hay, would their romantic hearts be satisfied or would the ‘cruel world where women were judged harshly on their dress, manners and accomplishment’ prevail! Just as you are caught up in all this tantalising romantic potential, the political circumstances shift and Bonaparte escapes Elba, rallies his forces and all frivolity is quashed by the encroachment of War on their lives and society, where the focus comes down to a battle to be fought in nearby Waterloo! And of course, I know what happens next but you’ll have to buy the book to find out won’t you! I know, I’m a monstrous tease!

This book is like a box of exceedingly posh chocolates, it’s beautiful to look at but once you unwrap it, there are layers of literary and historic delight to tempt, discover and savour. I loved that each chapter starts with an extract from the real letters of the family, Alice based her characters upon. I was fascinated by the sublime details of dress and etiquette and that this story is revealed from a wholly female perspective; where these incredible, intelligent, individual women, their emotions, expectations, and their untapped strength are at its heart. I applaud Alice’s sublime ability to transport her reader from boats and ballrooms to battlefield with such vicarious imagination. The very essence of this outstanding historic romantic read, embraces, and entices you as a reader and you cannot fail to enjoy every morsel! I can’t wait for you to read it too because if you love historical fiction as much as I do, this book really is a must read!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Alice Church has specialised in Wellington-era history since studying for her BA at University College London. After graduating in 2012 she worked as a researcher on the Wellington portrait catalogue ‘Wellington Portrayed’ (Unicorn, 2014). She has also published a biography of Lady Georgiana Lennox, daughter of the 4th Duke of Richmond (Universe, 2016). She lives in Dorset with her husband Charles and son Freddie. This is her first novel.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Wet Paint

Author: Chloë Ashby

Publisher: Trapeze

Available: 14th April 2022 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Alex Layt & Trapeze for my gifted copy of this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

 Since the death of her best friend Grace, twenty-six-year-old Eve has learned to keep everything and everyone at arm’s length. Safe in her detachment, she scrapes along waiting tables and cleaning her shared flat in exchange for cheap rent, finding solace in her small routines.

But when a chance encounter at work brings her past thundering into her present, Eve becomes consumed by painful memories of Grace. And soon her precariously maintained life begins to unravel she loses her job, gets thrown out of her flat, and risks pushing away the one decent man who cares about her.

Taking up life-modelling to pay the bills, Eve lays bare her body but keeps hidden the mounting chaos inside her head. When her self-destructive urges spiral out of control, she’s forced to confront the traumatic event that changed the course of her life, and to finally face her grief and guilt.

My Thoughts:

Today I am sharing my thoughts with you on Chloë Ashby’s debut novel Wet Paint. Chloë brings a fresh perspective and a direct voice to women of her generation, I just realised how ancient that statement makes me sound, but age is a factor here, so read on. Wet Paint is an arresting, awkward and brilliantly articulated story of the hazards of dealing with life in your mid-20s. I found it fascinating in how many ways the world has moved on, developed, and changed since my own 20s and how society’s expectations have expanded for better and for the worse and subsequently how our individual reactions and coping strategies to the varied circumstances we face, mould us in to courageous, capable women . This book is not…. a novel of fluffy happiness, where insight dawns on the protagonist and she lives a better life or worse goes on to live happily ever after…this is reality, the visceral, vivid, and vexing experiences of a young woman attempting to negotiate a life hampered by loss, guilt and grief…it is instead, an ode to survival.

The story opens with a young woman, filling the silence of the room she has found herself in by talking and talking, her own anxiety has taken hold and she cannot stop the outpouring nor her overthinking of everything. When it dawns on you as a reader, you are the fly on the wall and are watching our protagonist in a counselling session, which was confirmed for me when the term ‘abandonment issues’ was uttered, classic parlance for this type of environment! This one sided jittery, jarring conversation, is a brilliant opening, it conveys the turmoil in the mind of the character and her need to say what she needs to express, as quickly as possible, so it’s done, it’s over and whatever her issue/s are, by the act of expelling a torrent of words, she can convey her story, a verbal exorcism of sorts, surely by doing it this way, her burden will be vanquished or explained and won’t require further examination, which she really can’t bear!…Eve says it herself –  how did a simple train journey end here!

When we meet Eve, she is most certainly stumbling through life, she’s 26, lives in a shared house in London with a condescending couple. She has an uncomfortable relationship with her one remaining parent and didn’t finish her degree, Eve is not winning at life! Instead, she’s a waitress, with a litany of previous such jobs in her wake; it’s a role filled with unpleasantness and pitfalls and daily Eves faces ‘acceptable’ harassment from the clientele that frequent the bar she works in…you can imagine of what I speak; leery city boys and avaricious men with wallets bigger than their IQs and who are pathologically incapable of keeping their hands to themselves!!! On this day in this place, Eve is fed up with their mauling and applies a swift slap to frequent perpetrator; as a result, she is once again unemployed and as a reader and a woman, you are reduced to gnashing your teeth at the unrelenting unfairness of the situation. I confess, my taser finger was twitching madly and I was certainly thinking, that a short sharp bust of electricity to some of this world’s cockwombles, would in my humble opinion, go a long way to improving things for a lot of women! I digress – back to Eve. Who on being fired again, decides to branch out and opts new career path as a life model, with some interesting and intriguing outcomes!

Eve for me, is the modern version of anti-heroine; she’s a catastrophe, difficult, demanding and often unpleasant, she seems to lack even a hint of common sense or foresight regarding her actions, nor does she care, she is often unobservant and self-interested. As a reader you will learn of the circumstances, that may have made her this way and some readers will pity her and explain away her selfishness and self-destructive behaviour, citing that there is always a reason, an explanation, or an excuse for what she does but so is the fact she takes no personal responsibility for her actions. Eve possess a subtle level of entitlement in an obtuse way and her complete audacity in taking other people’s belongings, being late and being inconsiderate towards, the few people left in her life that do seem to care is staggering. I did wonder if it was my age, perceptions, and own experiences, that made me see her this way! I found myself to be enthusiastically frustrated by her; Eve is not likeable but perversely, I think that is why I did enjoy her antics and honestly because Eve may well be a darker reflection of ourselves! She is the literary vehicle, that allows us to see the impact of grief on life, the burden of loss and guilt that has hindered her progression, the very core of herself has been shattered not once but twice and fighting the spiralling darkness within, is hard selfish work!

One of my favourite parts of this novel is Eve’s happy place (not a euphemism for anything naughty) but reference to Eve’s visits to a painting she nickname’s the barmaid, located at the Courtauld Art Gallery; the painting in question is by Manet and titled  A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882) which is where Eve comes to find solace and revisit past memories of happier times and her best friend Grace, whom she met while they were both studying Art History in the hallowed halls of Oxford. Two girls who were as different as fire and ice but who forged a sibling like attachment. But now, Eve sits alone and remembers and cogitates!  Anything further on this element, is for you to uncover!

Chloe’s book is tantalising, thrilling and tremendous; unflinchingly emotional and evocative, providing scope and depth to the increasingly heavy weight issues of being a young woman in this modern world of ours and attempting to deal with raw, overwhelming circumstances, without the aid of a familial safety net. As all the elements of Eve’s life explosively collide, as the tension and tempo of the story rises, you are left breathless with anticipation about how this story could or will end but as to what that end will be…ah well now…You’ll have to read the book and find out, won’t you!

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Chloë Ashby is an author and journalist. Her first novel, Wet Paint, will be published by Trapeze in April 2022. Since graduating from the Courtauld Institute of Art, she has written about art and culture for publications such as the TLS, Guardian, FT Life & Arts, Spectator and frieze. She is the author of Look At This If You Love Great Art (Ivy Press; June 2021) and The Colours of Art (Frances Lincoln; August 2022).

 www.chloeashby.com

Lost Property

Author: Helen Paris

Publisher: Penguin/DoubleDay

Available: 13th April 2022 in Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Penguin/DoubleDay for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

A moving, uplifting and life-affirming debut novel from an exciting new voice in Book Club fiction.

With themes of loss, hope, forgiveness, and kindness, this is a novel about finding your place in the world.

One lost purse. One lost woman.

A chance encounter that changes everything.

Dot Watson has lost her way. Wracked with guilt and struggling with grief, she has tucked herself away in the London Transport Lost Property office, finding solace in the process of cataloguing misplaced things. It’s not glamorous or exciting, but it’s solitary – just the way Dot likes it.

That is, until elderly Mr Appleby walks through the door in search of his late wife’s purse and Dot immediately feels a connection to him. Determined to help, she sets off on an extraordinary journey, one that could lead Dot to reclaim her life and find where she truly belongs…

 My Thoughts:

It is my absolute joy and pleasure to be sharing with you my thoughts on Helen Paris’s debut book Lost Property and it’s a corker; charismatic, charming, calamitous, comforting and ultimately cheering; this is a novel about lost property but more potently, it is about the properties of loss! Reading this book, is like coming home, it is funny and familiar and you cannot help but adore Dot…her lot in life and her experiences will resonate with you. As she did for me, if I am candid, I am very like Dot Watson bar her sartorial choices and taste for soups of the world (I am scotch broth or cream of chicken fan through and through, Helen knows what I am referencing here). Dot is the doyenne of the dijon, focused, diligent, probably more than a little bit OCD, with an innate belief, there is a place for everything and everything has its place and takes her role of reuniting property with their person, very seriously! This is a must-read book for you, if like me you were enraptured by Elinor Oliphant; The Cactus or most recently The Maid; where a quirky heroine, her emotional intelligent and societal perspectives are just a little bit different. I should also say I love this novel so much, that I’ve read it twice and the character voices on the audiobook version are a perfect joy! You simply must read it or listen to it for yourself…I insist vigorously you buy it and buy one for a friend while you’re at it!

For over a decade, Dot Watson with her fastidious, professional approach has made it her raison d’être to reunite the variety of ephemera retrieved or handed in from buses, trains and tubes at Transport for London with their forgetful and on occasion, careless owners; anything and everything from ubiquitous black umbrellas to funeral urns and back again, handbags, books, travel cards, you name it; these items will probably pass through Dot’s hands and be suitably attired with a detailed descriptive dijon label and then kept safe until the item in question can be returned or re-homed. Dot rarely deviates from her rotes or routines, her work uniform of brogues, pleated skirt and felted jacket nor her avid addiction to travel guides or her preference for an ‘adult’ drink now and again! Dot’s life is a perfect holding pattern of secure unexcitment but these weren’t the dreams and aspirations she had a girl, nor the direction she intended her life to take. In a previous lifetime, she studied languages, lived and loved in the sumptuous city of Paris, explored its beauty and mystery and aspired to be UN translator and travel the world. Until tragedy struck! The sort of life changing, joy sucking episode, the weight of which cripples Dot emotionally, the burden of grief and loss so overwhelming that only the lost property pit in Baker Street can provide sanctuary and protection from its onslaught. Dot’s own experiences of loss, illuminates the reasons she places such profound importance in her task of reunion. Belongings, have tangible memories, they allow their owner to recall a time, a place, a person, a connection, it may only be fleeting but it is present. It is this understanding, that drives Dot especially when she meets Mr John Appleby, who has lost his leather bag, containing a trowel, tulip bulbs and his deceased wife’s purse, his sadness at being without this ordinary familiar item resonates with Dot, she is aware of what such a loss costs and makes it her mission to locate said items but this isn’t going to be as simple as she expects!

The winds of change are blowing for Dot both personally and professionally; the Lost Property department has a change of management and the pompous, jargon spouting, terrifik uttering slime that is Neil Burrows takes charge and makes a plethora of unnecessary modernisations; aimed solely at making him look good! Worse still he has his clammy sights set on our delicious Dot and quite frankly, showering in battery acid would be more preferable than being ‘clasped’ by NB! This repugnant man needs frequent and repeated tasering to his unmentionables although Dot manages to fend him off in her own indomitable way, you’ll see how! This hideous change to Dot’s work environs is not the only discombobulation she faces; a year previously, she had moved in with her mother, whose mental faculties due to dementia were starting to fail, a fall resulting in a broken hip and Dot’s sister Philippa, supercilious queen of the spray and swipe, takes charge and moves their mother to safe confines of ‘The Pines’ nursing home! Because Philippa knows what’s best for everyone, her mother and Dot and now, she believes it’s time to sell her mother’s house and for Dot ‘to get on with her life! And trust me, all of this comes with some comic and calamitous happenings and possibly a hint of romance but I am certainly not going to spoil those elements for you…although the episode of Dot and Philippa, finally understanding each other’s perspectives and then being chased by a bull in a muddy field, is utterly hilarious. I am still wiping tears of mirth from my eyes!

At the core of this wonderful story is the poignant, profound issue of loss, the properties of which impact everyone, every day in a myriad of ways. Loss of a loved one is the hardest of these to bare and it permeates the essence, choices and living of those left behind. With Dot’s loss, she bears a burden of guilt, of regret, of recrimination and a heartfelt belief that her words or actions in some way bore responsibility or negatively influenced the circumstances; grief narrowed her perspectives and so did, a lack of comprehension regarding the true intentions and actions of her sister and mother. So all-encompassing and powerful was her hurt that it skewed the reality of the situation, placing her in a stasis of sorts and emotive hibernation; now with her own emotional fog clearing, a dawning realisation occurs in a dramatic manner and shatters finally the numbing bubble she resides in and a new Dorothea Watson emerges, ready and willing to live and love again.

Helen has written a story to be treasured and shared, it is imbued with insightful, amusing, and enduring characters; a charming intelligence and the ability to make you laugh and cry at the same time. Lost Property is a sincere, scintillating, sparkling read and its power and profundity will remain with you long after you’ve closed the cover of the book. I cannot wait for you to cherish this book as much as I have.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Helen Paris worked in the performing arts for two decades, touring internationally with her London-based theatre company Curious. After several years living in San Francisco and working as a theatre professor at Stanford University, she returned to the UK to focus on writing fiction. As part of her research for a performance called ‘Lost & Found’, Paris shadowed employees in the Baker Street Lost Property office for a week, an experience that sparked her imagination and inspired this novel.

Lost Property is her first novel.

A note from Helen:

“Although entirely a work of fiction Lost Property was influenced by the short time I spent in Lost Property, Baker Street shadowing different employees as research for a performance. Whether it’s a designer bag left in the back of a black cab or a woolly scarf forgotten on the number 44 bus, loss touches all of us. It is pervasive, and it never ends ¬¬– as Dot Watson might say, ‘It’s reliable like that.’

I have always been fascinated by the memories that objects hold, how even the most everyday object – a pipe, a bag, a small purse – can help us recall a place or a person or a particular time in life.  Objects can be totemic, portals to the past.  Tactile memory ¬– the memories triggered by holding familiar objects – can be profound.  Some objects almost let us time-travel back to the places we yearn to be, to the people no longer with us, and linger there, if only for a moment.”

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

Shattered Bones

Author: Kate Bendelow

Publisher: Bloodhound Books & Isis Audio Ltd

Available: Out now in paperback, eBook & audiobook

Thank you to Danielle Price, Isis Audio Ltd for my gifted audio copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

How do you catch a killer if you can’t identify the victim? A scene of crime officer collects the evidence piece by piece in this gritty British mystery.

SOCO Maya Barton is called to a canal where a heavily decomposed male body has been discovered. A bank card belonging to Trevor Dawlish is found in the cadaver’s pocket, and the name matches that of a missing person.

All seems straightforward—until Trevor’s wife phones the police to say that Trevor has returned home, leaving Maya and the team wondering who the unknown male is.

When it’s revealed that the male was dead before he entered the water, Maya finds herself with a murder on her hands. But when another body is discovered, the case becomes further complicated. The hope is that facial reconstruction of the first victim will help solve the mystery—but it may lead Maya and her team down an even darker path.

My Thoughts

It is my pleasure to be reviewing Kate Bendelow’s second book, Shattered Bones in the Maya Barton series. I am a huge fan of crime novels and Kate’s books; are now firm favourites and I have devoured the first two narrated by Annabelle Indge on audiobook in a week; I was completely engrossed in book one – Definitely Dead and moved seamlessly and greedily on to this second book and if I am honest, I am already clamouring for book three. They are addictive listening; I can tell you. I am very much a creature of habit and with crime novels I can’t bear to read them out of sequence because for me, there are always underlying elements that span a series and I simply must know the origins of these plotlines before I can settle down and immerse myself in the present circumstances! But you can certainly read them, however you choose, so long as you read them!

Shattered Bones opens with a malicious, sinister promise made, the sense of rage is palpable and the need for revenge is polluting the air! It is certainly a gripping way to start this second book but as to who might be making these dark utterances; you will have to wait and see! Maya Barton is a SOCO or scenes of crime officer, for anyone not familiar with the label. Her job is to retrieve the deceased and all the ephemera surrounding their discovery be it by foul means or fair! Maya is sharp, sassy and when the need arises occasionally snarky and when you work with some big egos, quick wits are required! Maya has been called to recover a decomposing body from a canal and you get the full decidedly gruesome details of how exactly this is achieved. It is one of the many elements, I love about Kate’s books. Yes, the characters and plots are fiendishly devious but the authentic and knowledgeable aspects of Maya’s job are based on reality, as Kate has held a similar role in real life and she embeds these very specific nuanced details to Maya’s actions. Which sets apart her books from other crime novels and makes them for me even more enticing to read.

All the signs point to this body being a missing chap called Trevor but as water does terrible things to bodies, his identification is tricky! Made more so when a call from his wife reporting his return to their home and his assault on her, but how is this even possible if he is supposed to be dead and his remains languishing in a canal!!! Clearly all is not what it seems and something nefarious is at hand and when the DNA results don’t add up either, there is a lot more investigating to be done. Plus, Trevor’s wife, is beyond irritating (in fact, a third of the way, through the book, I would have quite happily drowned her myself!) When the missing Trevor and his wife are tied to another suspicious death and Maya points out a number of discrepancies, will her discoveries be heeded or dismissed by her police colleagues, after all Maya does have a reputation for relishing a conspiracy and she’s not been wrong yet!

 I was completely engaged by the twisted web of sinister plot lines this book has and how brilliantly they all join together, equally I revelled in how Kate leaves you just enough subtle clues to figure out her compelling plot and yes, I did figure out who had a hand to play in the murders and why and I had a fantastic time figuring it all out. I bet I sound smug now as well, sorry about that! I was also enamoured with the sub plot underpinning this story, it all relates to Maya’s past and watching this menacing figure, creep ever closer to Maya and her mum, Dominique is both terrifying and thrilling all at once and you will have to read Kate’s books to find out anymore! Because I don’t do spoilers and yes, I know I am a dreadful tease!

I have been completely enthralled, engaged, and occasionally terrified by Kate’s latest book. Maya is a fantastic protagonist, she’s clever, kind and doesn’t suffer fools, she sounds like me! The plotting is seamlessly excellent and there is a wonderful edge of tension to the sub plots. Also, there is a great sense of authenticity and originality to the role of a SOCO that I haven’t seen in any other crime novel I have enjoyed to date. I can’t wait to find out what happens in book three, which I hope will be coming very soon, Kate, I hope you are typing fast now, we need more Maya. This is a clever, compelling crime series that every crime fan needs to add to their library.

Happy Sleuthing Bookophiles…

About the Author:

I am the author of The Real CSI: A Forensic Handbook for Crime Writers. I also deliver presentations on the same subject to crime writers. I hope you find The Real CSI a useful resource.

Bloodhound Books are the publishers behind the SOCO Maya Barton trilogy. It’s crime fiction with a twist, as the main protagonist is a scene of crime office rather than a detective. The first two books in the series are Definitely Dead and Shattered Bones and are perfect for you if you’re interested in forensics crime scene investigation.

Please follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or my author page https://www.facebook.com/Katebendelowauthor/

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Fledgling

Author: Hannah Bourne-Taylor

Publisher: Aurum

Available: 5th April 2022 in Hardback and Ebook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Aurum for my beautiful, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone. 

Book Details

Hannah Bourne-Taylor grew up in the English countryside, the daughter of a biologist and conservationist. Years later, she found herself living in rural Ghana for her husband’s work. Without a job or purpose of her own, she sank into depression and was suffering from acute anxiety. Fledgling examines the struggles of reshaping an identity when ‘normal’ life has fallen away. Fuelled by the power of nature, it is also a raw and uplifting account of Hannah’s unexpected bond with two wild birds who she rescues and raises with the intention of releasing back into the wild. Brimming with determination and hope, it a reminder to us all that nature can provide solace in the most unexpected ways. Even the tiniest of creatures can show us what is important in life and how to find happiness

My Thoughts

There are some books that come into my life that completely take me by surprise, by the power of their contents and connection they bring to me as a reader. Everything around you seems to fall away when you immerse yourself in the pages of such a book and Fledgling by Hannah Bourne-Taylor, is just such a book. When I finally turned the last page, I sat on my sofa slightly giddy and in awe of all I had just read and vicariously experienced. WOW doesn’t even begin to do sufficient justice to the impact this book had on me or I hope on you when you read it and I can hardly articulate how much I want everyone I know to read it. Before I had even read a few chapters in, I knew Hannah’s story had etched itself onto my heart, it is bewitchingly beautifully written and Hannah has a turn of phrase equal to such classics penned by Thomas Hardy and you can’t help but admire them. This is a book unlike any other I have read and yet there is a familiarity and comfort to be found within the soothing cadence of its pages and just for the record. I love marmalade just as much as Hannah does, for similar reasons!

Hannah is a keen and sensitive observer; she sees, absorbs, appreciates the natural world around her. Her impressions of her environment from wildest Africa to the drizzlier urban shores of the UK are recounted in poetic, detailed beauty; she knows the lay of the land that she walks upon like the creases of her hand. In the prologue of this book Hannah recalls stargazing and the progression of the seasons, from nature emerging from the grey slumbering solicitude of Winter; to the warming song of Spring; sky bound travellers whose arrival herald the summer months; from dawn chorus to evening lullaby and these words, just resonate in your soul.

 Hannah’s photographer’s eye finds wonder in the smallest aspects of the world she sees and what is more incredible is that she has the ability to transcribe for us the most lyrical, vibrant and sumptuous images into words. When she’s first introducing us to Swifts, she imparts the fact that Swifts sleep on the wing and don’t roost like other birds and she is wondering what is like to live in the sky and sleep among the clouds and how this remarkable feat doesn’t quite correlate with the ordinary life below; ” As though they can’t possibly exist at the same time, let alone in the same view, as rows of cottages. Cottages full of people who are curled up on sofas or gathered in kitchens eating late-night bowls of cereal or snoring under duvets. And yet, above televisions and baths, dining table and computers, bunk beds and four posters, shooting stars graze the skies and sleeping swifts glide”. I ask you how, can you fail to fall in love with such a description; my biggest concern when writing my review was that I would become overly obsessed with noting down such slices of literary deliciousness, I seem to have filled a notebook full of them!

As Hannah and her husband leave the UK for Ghana; she is faced with a whole new world and she becomes a ‘trailing spouse’, a follower of her husband; her career and aspirations are put indefinitely on hold as she is not permitted to work and her life is held in his wake! The poignancy of leaving behind all Hannah knows rolls of the pages, the start of an unknown adventure, will it bring tribulation or despair; her awareness of danger in its many forms; from dangerous reptiles to emotional isolation and depression. Hannah’s new life is not one dreams are made of; she is lost and at a loss, the overwhelming sense of her isolation, being lonely and homesick is heartbreakingly tangible. The struggle she has to establish a necessary form of identity in her new environment, which is not helped by being trapped in concrete box of an apartment! Like me, Hannah has lived an urban nomadic existence; constantly moving to different houses, places, continually having to start anew; everything changes, except for the birds. When and wherever she has been they are ‘her anchor of home’, which becomes even more vital during her time abroad. The loss of the sense of home and the identity that comes with being settled is the partial heart of this book.  

With Hannah’s move abroad, she never imagined how much she would lose her sense of belonging within herself…until her reconnection with Swifts and their ‘graceful madness’ sparks recognition, realignment, redemption, and resuscitation. When a young swift is displaced from its nest, Hannah steps in, as much to save this little bird as to save herself and the enormity of this task is revealed and this won’t be the last time she undertakes such actions, as a glorious mannikin finch will also have a stunning impact on Hannah later on but that is for me to know and you to read for yourselves and it would be far too easy for me to spoil what happens next or on Hannah’s return years later to the UK…I envy you the experience, of discovering these elements of the book for the first time.

This book is such a consummate joy to read; Hannah’s environmental awareness is beyond admirable, her story and experiences that she shares with us her readers are magnificently elucidating, edifying and educational, with every word, you can see and smell the bougainvillea, the fluctuations of palm fronds, the relentless march of ants, the combes of paper wasps, the silver flash of puff adders but the birds are the stars of this show. For me, this book epitomises nature and nurture, the potential of the symbiotic relationship between humans and all creatures, winged, pawed, clawed, or hoofed; it is a magnificent lullaby to nature combined with a determination by Hannah to nurture those creatures, often overlooked and in doing so, she finds understanding, solace, and nurtures herself, it is truly inspiring. All I can say now, is that you simply must buy this book, today with all haste!

About the Author:

Hannah Bourne-Taylor graduated from the London College of Fashion, with a First in Photography in 2008. She became an equine photographer with photographs exhibited in the Royal Academy and solo exhibitions in London and New York. From 2013 – 2021 Hannah lived in rural Ghana with her husband who ran the ‘Right to Dream’ charitable foundation. She worked within the charity’s media team producing a documentary series on gender equality in celebration of the foundation’s girls’ programme, the first of its kind in Africa. Since 2019, Hannah has ghost written and edited several books, including working closely with Anne Glenconner on her bestselling Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown.

Hannah is now back in the UK, putting down roots in the Oxfordshire countryside with her husband and their two Ghanaian rescue dogs. She is writing her second book, based around British wildlife and conservation, to be published by Aurum in 2023. She is currently actively involved in a number of conservation projects within the UK, including The Bumblebee Conservation Trust; The Woodland Trust; People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and Froglife. More information can be found here: https://hannahbournetaylor.com; or via Twitter: @WriterHannahBT @aurumpress #Fledgling

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

A Question of Guilt

Author: Jørn Lier Horst

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 3rd March 2022, in paperback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Kallie Townsend & Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

WISTING IS BACK IN THE FOURTH NOVEL IN THE COLD CASE QUARTET (AS SEEN ON BBC FOUR)

The record-breaking Norwegian TV series, Wisting, hit UK screens on BBC Four in 2019 and the second series is due to air soon. Be ahead of the game and join investigator William Wisting to discover the killer… In 1999, seventeen-year-old Tone Vaterland was killed on her way home from work. Desperate for a conviction the police deemed the investigation an open-and-shut case and sent her spumed boyfriend, Danny Momrak, down for murder. But twenty years later William Wisting receives a puzzling letter. It suggests the wrong man was convicted for Tone’s death and the real murderer is still out there. Wisting is quickly thrown into a terrifying race against time where he must find the sender, decipher this mysterious letter, and catch the real killer before they strike again…

My Thoughts:

I am an ardent fan of all things dark, freezing, grisly, gripping and colloquially known as Scandi Noir, thanks to epic tv series like The Killing, The Bridge & Der Pass and of course the world renowned Millennium series – aka Girl with a Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson. This month, I embarked on a new, well to me, Scandi crime series and I fell into the world of William Wisting masterminded by the deviously talented Jørn Lier Horst. Whose books, I had missed…until now!

I have to admit, that this is the first book of Jørn’s I have read although it is the 4th book in the Wisting series and I hate reading out of sequence as such series often have underlying story lines that run across all the books (and so it is here) but fortunately  on this occasion, I was able to mitigate this issue because BBC iPlayer has an excellent tv dramatization of some of the previous books and as Jørn is an Executive producer of the series. I had every faith the TV version would be adhering to the tone and tension of the books and would catch me in a general manner…which they did! But have no fear I have two of the earlier books lined up to listen to!

A Question of Guilt is from the outset an arresting, atmospheric instalment and as I was reading the book, it struck me how structurally similar it was to one of my beloved complicated jigsaw puzzles. As any proficient puzzler will attest; each one of us has a process for solving tricky jigsaws; some of us like to throw caution to the wind and dive in without any preparation. Others of us are more considered, strategic, and ordered in our puzzling process. I confess, I am much more the latter, than the former. As I prefer to start a puzzle by locating the outside edge pieces and dividing the rest in trays according to colour/image. Now why all this reference to jigsaws, in the middle of a book review. Well because for me, this book is a complex, creative, crime conundrum; all the elements are just like the pieces of a puzzle, with timelines over a 20-year period, a variety of characters whose actions and behaviours influence both the past and the present and clues to direct the reader towards information to create the whole picture and like any crime reader. I always like to pit my wits against the author’s imagination and see if I can figure it all out before the revelation! Which I do by organising the plot in the same way I do jigsaw puzzle pieces – see I’m a nerd (and proud of it). Trust me I needed all my puzzling prowess to fathom out and navigate the clues and mystery in this book and yes it paid off but obviously I can say why…no spoilers here!

Just to give you a little taste of what you can expect; Wisting is a police detective, he is supposed to be on leave until he receives the first of four cryptic letters; containing nothing but a series of numbers in black marker; to what do these numbers pertain? Can Wisting decipher them; Who sent the notes and why? Wisting soon finds himself, re-examining a case two decades old; that of 17 year old Tone Vaterland; who went missing after finishing work at a local eatery and then a few days later, her naked brutalised body was discovered! Naturally the case was investigated and the conclusion was drawn, that her recently dumped boyfriend Danny Momrak, sort revenge, with a tragic outcome. The case was investigated, evidence gathered, witnesses interviewed (or were they) and the case fully prosecuted and the murderer imprisoned… or was it!? Was the right man punished for his crimes; now there is new evidence and the advancement in technology may suggest that a murder has walked free, possibly more than once, especially if the current murder is taken into consideration! Naturally, as Wisting starts to re-assess the past cases and the new, his investigating creates waves and he must deal with the political pushback from those, whose starring roles in the old cases, led them and their careers on to bigger and better things! Digging up this past case and another, with a nearly identical MO, will cause unnecessary ructions for all involved and they are very displeased, and that’s putting it mildly! Will the new technology and newly discovered evidence prove a miscarriage of justice has occurred or is there something more nefarious afoot…well that’s for me to know and you to find out when you read the book! It would be no fun if I spoil the surprises!

One of the most striking things about this book (and I suspect the other in the series may prove similar) is it’s clear that Jørn’s own knowledge of policing, investigating and legal procedure, is woven skilfully into Wisting’s character his attitude and actions. Which makes you forget that you are reading a work of fiction, because it makes the story, plot and its twists and turns completely authentic in tone and taste. I have enjoyed every page of this engaging, atmospheric episode and I am very much looking forward to revelling in Jørn’s earlier books to discover more about William Wisting and his past cases; this is a Scandi Noir series, you don’t want to miss, it is definitely a set to add to your crime collections.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Having worked as a police officer and head of investigations before becoming a full-time writer, Jørn Lier Horst has established himself as one of the most successful authors to come out of Scandinavia. His books have sold over two million copies in his native Norway alone and he’s published in twenty-six languages.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Diamond Eye

Author: Kate Quinn

Publisher: Harper Collins

Available: 29th March 2022 in Hardback, eBook & audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Harper Collins, for my lovely, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

New from the bestselling author of The Rose Code, which was an immediate #2 New York Times and #1 Canadian Globe and Mail bestseller, an Indie Pick and Amazon Best Book of March 2021

Based on true historical facts: Like her previous novels, Kate has been inspired by real events and people, basing Mila, her sniper heroine, on a real-life female figure

She’s the war’s most lethal sniper. And the one they least expect… In the snowbound city of Kiev, aspiring historian Mila Pavlichenko’s life revolves around her young son – until Hitler’s invasion of Russia changes everything. Suddenly, she and her friends must take up arms to save their country from the Fuhrer’s destruction. Handed a rifle, Mila discovers a gift – and months of blood, sweat and tears turn the young woman into a deadly sniper: the most lethal hunter of Nazis. Yet success is bittersweet. Mila is torn from the battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America while the war still rages. There, she finds an unexpected ally in First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and an unexpected promise of a different future. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a terrifying new foe, she finds herself in the deadliest duel of her life. The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.

My Thoughts

It is my pleasure today to be reviewing Kate Quinn’s latest book The Diamond Eye; I have been aware of Kate’s previous books and I have The Alice Network to listen to on audiobook very shortly and I am relishing the experience to come. What predominantly draws me to Kate’s books is her ability to reveal the lives and accomplishments of remarkable women, whose courage, resilience, determination, and skills which until now have been shielded from our exploration by the continued patriarchal recounting of history. As if women had no significant part to play on the world stage in times past; as we are merely a footnote in time, relegated to kitchens or nurseries. Kate’s books for me, recalibrate this limited viewpoint of the anonymity of women. As with creative skill and significant research, she weaves an authentic and fascinating story of the woman or women each of her books focuses on. I have been completely transfixed by Kate’s latest book and life in my small household has been frozen; Comet my cat has been woefully unimpressed by my continued focus on reading it and not on capitulating to his every feline whim!

Let me introduce you to Lady Death, single mother, graduate, library researcher, sniper, war hero with 309 kills to her name; who is Lyudmila Pavlichenko? Well, my lovely bookophiles, I hope to merely wet your literary taste buds with my review but full disclosure is yours to discover, when you read the book for yourselves! What intrigued me about the scope of this novel was it seamless blending of imagination, biographical fact and edged with a tantalising thriller element. The book is divided into segments; starting in 1942 with a Russian Delegation visiting the White House and being greeted by the in dominatable Eleanor Roosevelt, as reader you have the feeling of being an omniscient watcher. Amongst the press core clamouring there is another more sinister watcher of these events. Interspersed between sections are Eleanor’s own notes for the day and what she observes. The book, then takes us back in time to follow Mila’s journey and but returns to this 1942 visit at salient points to allow us to uncover a brewing plot and I am doing my best to avoid any semblance of spoilers here.

Now we go back 5 years to 1939; to Mila; a young mother at 21, with a failed marriage trying to arrange a divorce from her arrogant, ambitious surgeon husband; who seduced her at 14 and made her a mother at 15 and 6 weeks after the birth of their son left her! But still years later he won’t release her from their marriage and trust me when I say if ever a man needed tasering (repeatedly) Alexi is top of the list; his constant belittling of Mila, he calls her by the nickname ‘crumb’, on the face of it, this moniker seems endearing or sweet until you examine the nature of the term. A crumb is a waste product and therefore disposable and unimportant. This is how he views and treats his wife, mother of his son! As you read this story, if you are female (or identify as such) you will need to grit your teeth as Kate does not spare our sensibilities and fully reflects via her male characters the typical standing of women at this time; machismo and sexism are rife. As a woman you cannot help feeling irritated and incredulous at the predictable, puerile male perspectives that pour forth on to the page but they are wholly necessary to illuminate the incredible feat Mila achieves despite these derogatory viewpoints.

You cannot help pondering, how Mila became a sniper and I promise all is revealed; there is defining moment, when her vile husband reappears and take their 6 year old son to the shooting range (a seemingly odd turn of events for us in the west) but not an unusual social pursuit in the former Soviet Union under its communist mantle. Mila tracks them down at the range and a series of small events unfurl but they set Mila on the path to being a supreme markswomen. I was enthralled by Mila’s undertaking to train become a superior marksman/women, the relentless training, drilling, and practicing and the wonderfully described understanding of her weapon/s; as she begins to hear ‘ the song a rifle sings’ and her steely determination and anthem of ‘Do Not Miss….Anything’! What is also absorbing, is the endless questioning of her decision to become a sniper; how does a girl, a mother, a student, a librarian kill 100s of men without compunction, what is her secret!?

The assumption is that to be Lady Death makes her an enigma to her sex and I enjoyed the Russia folklore behind this title too; with endless often unflattering caricatures of her looks and character being assumed (from her own comrades to the US press); such a woman must be a wild feral creature; a snarling spitting savage, ice cold and with the immoral consciousness of a beast from a ‘snowbound hellscape!’ I confess I did think this was a rankling irony, that her commanders and some of her fellow soldiers all servants of the communist regime, that pretends to afford equality to both genders, but in reality, this is only hyperbole when it comes to a successful women. The constant disbelief in Mila’s skill and ability, the idea from the west that she is communist stooge and the disappointment in her being so ordinary but I loved the fact, she couldn’t care less what anyone thought/thinks of her and her rifle becomes her spine, the support she requires to face all that is to come. Mila lets her rifle and kill tally do the talking! Though as things turn out, this underestimation, misassumption, and dismissal of her; by a sinister figure and his cohort, who are watching her while she is visiting the US and seeking to embroil her in a nefarious plot, will turn out to be something they regret…that’s all I’m saying!

This intriguing, imaginative, irrepressible story with an incredible heroine at its core is a darkly delicious read awash with tantalising tension. A maelstrom of blood, smoke and history re-told and its pages will transfix you, from the moment you open the book. The scintillating detail of the unrelenting, un-retreating toll of War; of Mila’s pivotal role at Odessa, Sevastopol, the relationships she makes during the most trying of circumstances, her fortitude and sheer will to succeed and survive. This book is a triple threat of history, heroines and hellscapes and oh so much more…bravo Kate, I adored it and I have no doubt you will to and as it’s payday weekend, this is the book you need to buy…right now!

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia

Please do read some of the other reviews of this book on the blog tour.

The Flames

Author: Sophie Haydock

Publisher: DoubleDay

Available: 17th March 2022 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & DoubleDay for my beautiful, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

EVERY PAINTING TELLS A STORY, BUT WHAT IF THE WOMEN ON THE CANVAS COULD TALK…

Vienna, at the beginning of the 20th century, is an exhilarating social whirl, a city of ideas, of music, of ground-breaking art, led by Gustav Klimt until the arrival of his scandalous protegee, Egon Schiele. Into this world come four women, each with their own story to tell:

ADELE: passionate, fierce, obstinate. The daughter of a bourgeois family, she rails against the strictures of her class and harbours her own wild fantasies.

GERTRUDE: spirited, single-minded, possessive. The sister to budding artist Egon Schiele, she longs for an exciting life away from their tempestuous family home.

VALLY: determined, independent, proud. A model for celebrated artist Gustav Klimt, she has carved her way out of poverty and is now forging a brave new path for herself.

EDITH: quiet, conventional, loyal. Or is she? Younger sister to Adele, Edith is overlooked and wonders if there is another version of the woman she might become.

Four flames, four wild, blazing hearts, longing to be known. In an elegant bohemian city like Vienna, everything seems possible – until an act of betrayal changes everything. For just as a flame has the power to mesmerize, it can also destroy everything in its path.

My Thoughts:

As I may have mentioned before, my undergraduate degree is in Art History, so it has always been an area of fascination and interest to me. But the world of art is vast, spanning centuries, countries and cultures; it is not unsurprising that there are some areas of this arena that remain undiscovered by own meagre studies and so whenever I get the opportunity to explore and examine the works and world of an artist, I am not overly familiar with, I am always exhilarated to learn more about them and their influences. Art is a passion for both the producers and the viewers, different images resonate in your heart and mind and periods of prolific production are etched on our social conscious. If I say to you; Renaissance, Impressionist, Pre-Raphaelite, or Art Nouveau I am certain any number of images will pop into your head as they do mine.

Egon Schiele it seems was both a pre-war and an inter-war artist although until I embarked on reading Sophie’s debut novel ‘The Flames’ I had never been able to put him and his work into context nor was I aware that he was Gustav Klimt’s protégée. Sophie’s book focuses on Schiele’s muses and recounts their back stories and relationship to the artist and to each other. The backbone and ribs of this novel are awash with Sophie’s magnificent knowledge of this period, this artist and the women who inspired him. Schiele’s work has become seminal to this point time and is universally recognised. However, Schiele’s images though absorbing could also be considered; awkward, misshapen and brutal in many ways and are a complete contrast to the golden stylised ethereal glory of Klimt and as Sophie reveals considered pornographic (likely due to the unflinching, uncompromising, and stark attitudes of his nudes (or rather partially dressed models). All four of the women in this book, were drawn and painted by Schiele on numerous occasions and we probably recognise them more than we do him. Adele, Gertrude (Gertie), Valley and Edith, whose images today adorn the walls of galleries and museums. Sophie’s book is undoubtedly a literary labour of love. It is opulent and sumptuous in its contextual historical details and in its illumination of the politics and society of this age.

The novel is divided into individual books focusing on each of the women but bookended by a modern tale set in the late 1960s and designed to draw the elements of this story together; the book opens with a violent bicycle crash where a young woman collides with a rather rabid old woman, who you think seems to be quite mad, with her muttering and cursing and refusal of help. After she is removed from the scene of the accident, the young woman (Eva) discovers a piece of jewellery and is determined to return it to the disturbed old woman now in hospital. This is our first meeting with Adele!

I loved how each segment of the story; is introduced with an image of the woman it relates to, painted by Schiele; so, Adele’s book is illustrated with ‘Seated Woman with legs drawn up’. And we embark on our interlude with Adele, who is contradictory, obstinate, selfish, and naïve and I confess I really didn’t like her or (in modern parlance) her entitled behaviour towards everyone including her sister (Edith) and her intense resolution to meet Egon and a teenage girl’s obsession unfolds as does the turbulence surrounding the start of WWI! But despite Adele’s desires and schemes, her plans are thwarted and let’s just say things do not go her way and there are some delicious surprises to come.

The book then segways to Gertie – Gertrude; Egon’s little sister, whose love and loyalty to her brother, rolls off the pages. Through her story, we learn of the Schieles’ troubled and tormented past, their life before Vienna; in the rural setting of Tulln; where their father was a station master but their family life is anything but perfect. Their father is tyrannical and incensed by Egon’s failure to measure up to his expectations and sees no value in his daughters or his wife. His violence towards his family, spills out into his professional life and circumstances for the family are dire until tragedy becomes a blessing of sorts! And if you want to find out more, then you will have to read on for yourselves! We move on to Vally; who is flamboyant, fierce, and independent; once a model for Klimt, she wants to find her way in the world on her terms but she is overshadowed by Egon and he does not treat her well! In fact, his treatment of her made me grind my teeth rather! I loved her tenacity, determination, and defence of her loved ones! And how she does not allow society’s restrictions to hamper her, regardless of the cost!

Edith is the fourth muse and Adele’s sister, she is solicitous, obedient, and quietly charming and you think, she is often trampled by the force of her sister’s character. But her quiet calm is her weapon and she wields it masterfully to successfully change the path of her life; to remove society’s shackles, to shake off the conventional and become someone completely different and wholly unexpected. I think Edith is my favourite character, because she is so unexpected and overlooked but that doesn’t stop her and interestingly it is only Egon who really sees her!

Like comets these 4 remarkable women orbit the sun that is Egon Schiele, their trajectory impeded and influenced by him and not always for the good! Through their perspectives and voices we learn more of the artist and the man, the best and worst bits. Each woman see’s and relates to him differently and I admired, how Sophie blended seamlessly fact and fiction to create these women’s voices, lives and aspirations.

This is a truly remarkable read and I loved every line of it; it is a book to ignite your passion for art history, to illuminate the women, whose power and uniqueness are captured for all time on canvas. The flames of their collective and individual influence ignited and inspired Schiele and now through this story they are not easily forgotten nor can they be extinguished by the annals of time. Their presence will burn bright in the minds of all who read this book. It is a magnificent story of trials, tyranny and triumph and will be out in the world tomorrow. Make sure you get hold of a copy; you will miss out if you don’t!

Happy Reading Bookophiles!

About the Author:

 Sophie Haydock is an award-winning author living in east London. The Flames, is her debut novel. She is the winner of the Impress Prize for New Writers. Sophie trained as a journalist at City University, London, and has worked at the Sunday Times Magazine, Tatler and BBC Three, as well as freelancing for publications including the Financial TimesGuardian Weekend magazine, and organisations such as the Arts Council, Royal Academy and Sotheby’s. Passionate about short stories, Sophie also works for the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award and is associate director of the Word Factory literary organisation. Her Instagram account @egonschieleswomen – dedicated to the women who posed for Egon Schiele – has a community of over 110,000 followers and continues to grow. For more information, visit: sophie-haydock.com.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

Reputation

Author: Sarah Vaughan

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 3rd March 2022 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tour and Simon & Schuster, for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

A lifetime to build, one moment to destroy…

Emma is a high-profile MP. Impassioned and empathetic, she wants to make a positive difference but faces threats and trolling as she tries to work in the public eye.

When she launches a campaign to protect women from the effects of online bullying, the abuse steps up. And when her teenage daughter’s character is called into question, Emma learns how far she will go to protect both their reputations. But still: how did she come to be standing trial for murder? She only lied once – didn’t she?

As with Sarah’s last two books, Reputation is both a very successful, suspenseful mystery and emotionally involving: the perfectly positioned book for readers who are curious about what it means to be a woman in the world today. A timely, thought-provoking novel about women, perception, and power.

My Thoughts:

I have a confession, Reputation is the first of Sarah’s novels I have read; don’t get me wrong, I am in possession of her previous books (though if you asked me where they are in my book filled house, I’d have to spend time locating them!) It is not the case of them just being in my stacks of TBR (to be read) books; nor of any antipathy on my part towards Sarah or her novels but more a personal reticence to experience the magnitude of anxiety that their content might unleash in me! What on earth could I mean, I can hear you say with probably a level of exasperation. Sarah’s books for me are exceptional and she adroitly and ardently creates casts and scenarios around remarkable, flawed women facing the tribulations of modernity and reading of these women’s fictional experiences, makes me awkward and edgy with a prevailing sense of unease and no amount of frothy coffee can dispel the sensation. I have prevaricated and have left them unread because, if such incredible fictional women can face destruction…how can ordinary ones in reality like me, survive and succeed in the often poisonous world we live in! Until now, I have performed my reading ostrich approach, buy the books, and read the blurb, take them off the shelves on the odd occasion, when feeling emotionally braver and then chickening out and putting them back; saying to myself nope – not quite ready yet… Pandemics and perimenopause may just have made me brave or more resilient, plus I couldn’t resist the sound of this book!

For several weeks now I have seen glimpses of the front cover of Reputation on social media and when my wonderful proof copy arrived, it didn’t look the same; it was very silver, shiny, and enticing but not the image you see above and then when I sat down to read, I discovered I couldn’t open the book, literally! Serious muppet moment – it was in a slipcover, which required me to slide it off, to uncover the book jacket I was expecting! I am so glad nobody was present to witness my utter gormlessness – how on earth did I not notice this and in the words of Homer Simpson ‘Doh’! Enough of my foolishness let’s talk about Reputation!

The prologue of the story describes the discovery of a body at the bottom of a flight of stairs and my instant reaction; how did we come to this! We then jump back three months to September 2021; meet Emma Webber an MP, divorced, mother of one teenage daughter; she is diligent, determined and driven, passionate about serving her constituents and influencing change for her causes. A photo shoot and front cover in The Guardian magazine, she envisions may assist her in garnering attention for issues she wants to pursue politically. The cover shot is arresting, powerful and alluring, not really how Emma sees herself and of course, there is a price to pay for putting this image of herself out into the world…trolling, vile and vicious abusive words hurled at her! Furthermore, this image will become the bane of her life and will be used a metaphorical stick to taunt and beat her with at her arrest and during her trial. Those that serve the public do so at the emotional, psychological cost to their friends and family!

 My previous words may sound like a bit of a spoiler – they are and they aren’t (ooh I’m such a tease) …a word of advice, assume nothing! Assumption is not your friend, don’t for one second think you know, what is going to occur within the framework of this novel! Just wallow in the glorious genius of the read!

I loved how the story was revealed to the reader, each chapter is written from the perspective of individual characters although mostly Emma and we are introduced to cast by increments; Ex-husband David, who made my eyes roll with irritation regarding  his behaviour; his new wife Caroline, who filled me with distrust and dislike, or Simon, who will make anyone want to charge their tasers to the max – excuse the vernacular – he’s a card carrying cockwomble . Each chapter  is filled with the characters; emotional ephemera, their intentions or inattention, their actions/reactions and for me I was most fascinated by the incomplete and often incomprehensible communications between Emma and her daughter Flora; who is only 14 and in that shadowy twilight zone between childhood and adulthood, where her awareness, fear and vulnerability is heightened but not necessarily understood  and the confusion of communication and  their own individual limited perceptions leads to calamity – you can see disaster brewing  but not the form it will take, remember I said not to assume; all you can do is be a helpless observer…, I said Sarah’s books make me edgy and no I couldn’t stop reading either and nor must you!

It is not a surprise that this book has garnered hype, I usually have a couple of reactions to this, curiosity and sceptism will the contents match the hyperbole? In the case of this novel – ‘hell yes’! As I read the first chapter, a wry grin spread across my face and I found myself nodding in appreciation to my fellow blogging bookophiles, the hype is right! There is an innate symbiosis between reality and imagination in this novel. Sarah is a consummate wordsmith, with a sublime command of vocabulary mixed with creativity and cunning, that seduces the intellect in an unparallel manner…let me just say lachrymouse as an example. Every aspect and element of this story is subtly scintillating and intellectually stimulating, it is fine wine for the mind or in more prosaic terms; a damn fine read!

For me Sarah is the savvy and gloriously sinister 21st century equivalent of Dickens, Elliot, Austin, or Atwood, through the voice of her powerful, female protagonist and how she addresses and tackles in her plot the variety of pertinent, social topics women endure daily. It struck me how astute the title of this novel is; Reputation, the very nature of the word promotes trust, resilience, and integrity. It is a phrase of praise, a societal award of respect and a crucial element of success! A damaged reputation can only herald negative connotations (as you will find out) and how much more costly its loss is to women. Women have fallen on the sword of reputation; it has been used (and still is) to define or defile their character and moral judgement. The loss of reputation for women equals censor and sanctions. In times past it has marked them/us for destitution and even death. A man’s reputation is never defined with the same life changing magnitude; the word can be used in conjunction with their actions or behaviour but never their perceived appearance, perspective, or social value and to my mind this still has not changed. When you read this book, see what you think!

I know it might only just be March but the complexity, cleverness, and charismatic nature of this book, is not one I will ever be able to forget. It’s a 10-star read, it really is exceptional and its characters, essence and power will resonate with you long after you finish reading. It may even be my top read of 2022…Reputation it is published today, Congratulations Sarah, my enthusiastic recommendation to you all, would be; Buy it, now…go on click, click, click…you will not regret it. I promise!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Brought up in Devon, Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After training at the Press Association, she spent eleven

years at the Guardian as a news reporter, political correspondent, and health correspondent, before leaving to freelance and write fiction. Anatomy of a

Scandal, her third novel was an instant international bestseller and translated into 22 languages, long-listed for the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Novel of

the Year 2018 and short-listed for the Audible Sounds of Crime Award, GoodReads Jury’s Out award, French Elle’s Prix des Lectrices and Richard &

Judy’s ‘Best of the Decade.’ Anatomy of a Scandal has been adapted for screen and will air on Netflix as a six-part series in Spring 2022. Little Disasters, her

fourth novel, was selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month in 2021, has been sold to the US, France, Portugal, Sweden, and Spain, and optioned

for TV. Reputation is her fifth novel.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

The Kitchen Front

Author: Jennifer Ryan

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Available: 3rd March 2022 in Paperback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Pan MacMillan, for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

From the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir comes an unforgettable story inspired by the true events of a BBC-sponsored wartime cooking competition.

Two years into the Second World War, and German U-boats are frequently disrupting Britain’s supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio programme called The Kitchen Front launches a new cooking contest – and the grand prize is a job as the programme’s first-ever female co-host.

For young widow Audrey, winning the competition could be a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. However, her estranged sister, Gwendoline, is equally set on success even if her own kitchen maid, Nell, is competing against her. And then there is Zelda, a London-trained chef desperate to succeed in

a male-dominated profession – and harbouring a secret that will change everything . . .

My Thoughts:

A few years ago, now, The Chillbury’s Ladies Choir was one of the first audiobooks, I ever bought and I was completely absorbed in the story from the moment I started listening to it.  I was thrilled to discover that Jennifer has been busy writing in the past few years (I have a previous book to catch up on) and The Kitchen Front is her latest book. From the outset I was captivated by this delicious story; in fact, I completely consumed it in 2 days, it a literary feast for any/all history fiction fans, it is illuminating, tantalising, educating and evocative. A sumptuous treat for all who read it!

A radio programme, A cooking competition, a secret or two and a quartet of extraordinary women in wartime; a charismatic and charming story of kinship, love, life and loss and the true power of friendship that binds them all together. A community of resilient, strong, occasionally jealous, and often embattled women; Audrey, Gwendoline, Nell and Zelda, all different in class, status and aspirations; yet each is independent and all are carrying life’s battle scars and from inauspicious beginnings; trying circumstances and familial wounds; these women refuse to let what has gone before, define them now or stop them acknowledging their mistakes and forming an alliance which will eventually bring joy and success to all their futures. It a story filled with triumph over domestic adversity, character driven and utterly heart-warming and compelling be prepared for tears of joy and sadness and you will definitely require a tissue or two. I applaud Jennifer’s imagination and skill as a writer in recreating the past with the essences of real-life stories. These glorious women, you wish you could know and I loved how their lives and experiences were the focal point of the book and the men in their lives, played a part, some of them in very nefarious ways but they were peripheral and the limelight is on the women and their prestigious cooking talents.

The culinary vernacular of the time graces nearly every page of this novel and I for one can’t wait for you to hear more about sprod, mock custard, sardine rissoles and of course SPAM! Where would we be without spam!!! I remember being served Spam fritters in my primary school in Peckham in the early 80s; it’s very much like eating a greasy, crunchy Frisbee!!! And from the sounds of it, not much about its texture and consistency has changed since the war period!!! You will of course get an amusing introduction to Qwitch…or Quiché. Sorry but this mis -pronouncement is almost as funny as the time; I was outside a restaurant looking at the menu, when a loud voice behind me, said “ooooh I fancy some crud-ites”…I turned quizzically to my dad and we grinned at each other as the dawning light of comprehension came – she meant crudités.

Throughout the novel is very apparent how much effort and research Jennifer has undertaken to craft her characters and authenticate their stories and the acknowledgements confirm this in detail and I may have added some other books to my ‘to buy list’! Jennifer has been gathering and immersing herself in the war papers archived from the Ministry of Food/Mass Observation project and is clearly awash with food pamphlets, tips and techniques and a myriad of recipes and ways to countermand the food shortages of the period. With food rationing in Great Britain being in force from 1940-1954 everyone has a tale to tell of their own experiences and Jennifer references her own grandmother as I can reference my grandfather; a baker who would engage me as a child with his stories of making cakes for special occasions and all the tricks he used to make them look as grand as they should without being able to use the rationed sugar, flour, eggs etc. Rationing made for the mother of all invention and it is this knowledge and invention that is the backbone Jennifer says to this story and it clearly and beautifully is, it really has made my heart sing!

This book is truly a delight to savour, a tasty morsal for readers like me who adore character driven historic fiction. It is impossible to put the book down, I have no doubt you will find the same, when you try it for yourselves. I am off to buy The Spies of Shilling Lane, which is Jennifer’s previous book, that I haven’t read yet, as I really am not prepared to say goodbye to the evocative, emotional embrace her novels provide……chin, chin…dearest bookophiles!

And Happy Reading!!!

About the Author:

Jennifer Ryan is the author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. She lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. Originally from Kent and then London, she was previously a non-fiction book editor.

@JenniferiRyan

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Fear Less Live More

Author: Aimee Fuller

Publisher: Octopus Publishing

Available: 17th February 2022 in Hardback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Octopus Publishing for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

As someone who has lived outside her comfort zone, Aimee Fuller has a lot to say about fear.

 A former professional snowboarder who spent years riding on the fine edge of progression at the top of her sport, Aimee made history as the first woman to land a double backflip in competition and competed in two Winter Olympics. In 2019, she fronted the documentary Running in North Korea, which shows her running her first-ever marathon in one of the most isolated countries in the world. Through testing her own resilience, she has discovered that while it is scary to step outside your comfort zone, it can also be a prerequisite for growth.

 In this bright and insightful book, Aimee gives an honest account of her experiences with fear and how, when the worst happens, she manages to pick herself back up again with purpose and an even greater thirst for life. Encouraging you to get up close and personal with your fears, Aimee shows you: What fear is, both physically and mentally How to recognise it in yourself How to be mindful of fear without letting it take control How to reframe fear and build a healthy relationship with it What to do when things go wrong Drawing on her training as a professional athlete, Aimee provides confidence-building tools that can be applied to any aspect of life, like goal-setting, maintaining consistency, celebrating your strengths, learning from failure, taking comfort in choice, owning your decisions and visualising success. Fear Less, Live More is for anyone who wants to be the driver of their own life.

My Thoughts:

Women like Aimee are a complete inspiration to me, she’s dynamic, daring, decisive, driven and her determination is off the scale, yes, she’s a 2 time Olympian and a famous snowboarder but she’s also humble, authentic, and very funny (in a good way)! So, on seeing she had written a book to motivate and inspire others, it wasn’t a hard sell for me to want to read it.  I didn’t need to find out who Aimee is from the old interwebby…I’m a huge armchair fan of snow sports, plus I’ve just spent the past 16 days glued to the Winter Olympics in Beijing and have been enjoying her demonstrations and commentary on the telebox. 

As to my own snow experiences, they are firmly in the past, thanks to torn ligaments in my left ankle (Rugby) and damage to the ball bearing bits of my spine (picking up Grannie), these circumstances stopped my skiing fun for the most part. What I enjoyed most about this book, is its mixture of practical advice/suggestions and discoveries that Aimee has made that have helped her or changed/re-arranged her perspectives of fear and have enhanced her journey to success. She shares triumphs and trials and a recommendation to avoid breaking your bum (I’ve done this 3 times and it bl**dy hurts) so I concur, that this isn’t something you want to experience! This book is a pocket rocket of a relatable read, once you start it you are so fascinated by Aimee’s words, you really can’t put it down.

This vibrant book is a biographical/self-help hybrid and I enjoyed the format, it’s concise and divided into short, easily digestible sections with some great section titles – I mean how can you resist reading a section called ‘When in doubt, go for the backflip’…this even had me channelling my Kung Fu Panda vibes for 10 minutes or so, though my equivalent is more of a forward roll! Aimee has loved sport all her life and she started young and she recounts how her skills have had to be learned both physically and mentally and that it doesn’t end there, hours, days, weeks, months and years of honing these skills comes from practice, practice, practice that there is no easy route to success, no quick fix and no short cuts and if or when you leave your comfort zone, perspective and practice are key. Nobody is born a superstar; this comes from hard work.

As you read this book, you cannot fail to admire Aimee’s mindset and she gives you her toolkit for building your own, although, as I have a butterfly mind, leaping from one thing to the next, I don’t know I will manage to achieve, Aimee’s zen master level flow state – I can only keep trying but I suspect Aimee might approve of that course of action. My favourite bits of this book, are when Aimee puts you in her head, it’s as if you are the angel or demon on her shoulder, you can see and feel her emotions and reactions to the situation she’s facing the excitement, the fear, the exasperation- like the Big Air Event at PyeongChang you can feel how charged she is but then her binding breaks and this change of routine breaks her spell and causes mental chaos, which has a physical impact (literally) and this is something we can all comprehend!

Fear Less Live More is full of Aimee’s wit and wisdom, shared with authenticity and you cannot fail to be inspired and it seems fitting to share with you Aimee’s words that have seared themselves in my head and they are “To truly live, rather than exist, you need to own your life  and know what your priorities are today and in the future….Set your intentions now, maintain that focus and most importantly, enjoy the ride” and as Aimee says – You Got This! So now I say, you need to get this book, today, as it cannot fail to have a positive influence in your life, as it has mine.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Aimee Fuller is a two-time Olympian, broadcaster, and sport and media personality. She is a qualified yoga instructor and loves to share her passion for movement. As a professional snowboarder, Aimee made history as the first woman to land a double backflip in competition at the X Games.

She took part in two Winter Olympics for Team GB and, in 2017, ranked third in the world in the Big Air World Cup rankings. She is now a member of the British Olympic Association (BOA Athletes’ Commission. Aimee hosts regular features on BBC One’s Ski Sunday and presents live TV events across sport for Red Bull TV and the Olympic Channel.

She hosts a weekly podcast, Monday Mile with Aimee Fuller, in which she invites celebrity guests excelling in their field to walk a mile with her and share their secrets to Monday motivation. It’s all about taking the conversation outside, away from the screens – after all, they do say the best conversations happen sideways. In collaboration with BBC Sounds, Aimee presented a 13-part podcast series around the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In The Olympic Mile, Aimee walked a mile with some of Team GB’s finest athletes as they discuss their training plans, mindset, Olympic goals and much more.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Rebel Daughter

Author: Miranda Malins

Publisher: Orion

Available: 17th February 2022 in Paperback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Alex Layt & Orion for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

A country torn apart by war. A woman fighting for her future…

Ely, 1643. England is convulsed by Civil War, setting King against Parliament and neighbour against neighbour. As the turmoil reaches her family home in Ely, 19-year-old Bridget Cromwell finds herself at the heart of the conflict.

With her father’s star on the rise as a cavalry commander for the rebellious Parliament, Bridget has her own ambitions for a life beyond marriage and motherhood. And as fractures appear in her own family with the wilful, beautiful younger sister Betty, Bridget faces a choice: to follow her heart, or to marry for power and influence, and fight for a revolution that will change history…

A gripping evocation of the Civil War, and the hidden stories of women at the heart of power… Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Anne O’Brien

My Thoughts:

Having absolutely loved Miranda’s debut novel The Puritan Princess last year. You can imagine my excitement at hearing there was to be a second book. I am not sure who was more ecstatic myself or my father as we both admired Miranda’s extraordinary historical knowledge and her ability to write such evocative and emotional tangibility into her characters stories. We both had high expectations of The Rebel Daughter and these expectations were surpassed; this book, is just as beautifully written and imbued with history as Miranda’s first book and you are drawn into the story from the opening line, actually it was the wry comment that Biddy makes regarding a quote from proverbs ‘that women don’t get many verbs’ that made me fall a little bit in love with this book.

The Rebel Daughter follows the life and experiences of Bridget (Biddy) Cromwell, the eldest daughter of the infamous Oliver Cromwell. Bridget is a woman of her time, she knows and understands her role in her family, her church and wider society and accepts her place in them. However, this acceptance of societal restraints does not repress her intellect or directness; she’s no fool and she doesn’t suffer them either. Bridget is rather disparaging of her prettier and flippant younger sister Betty, whose behaviour is more than a little silly, so I don’t blame Biddy for her annoyance! My dad says she reminds him of me, I take that as a huge compliment!

From the outset, you do understand and recognise Biddy’s disappointment in not being born male; because of the physical and intellectual liberty her brothers may field, when she doesn’t have the same opportunities; that hearth and home will be her lot, although she is not convinced that she wants to marry at all! Biddy is stunned when Major Henry Ireton proposes. Betty describes him as not quite handsome, more lupine but Biddy can appreciate he is a diligent and determined man, who is dedicated to the same cause as her father, who he clearly admires and admonishes her sister, saying she would prefer intelligent conversation over good looks! I did enjoy the progression of Henry and Biddy’s relationship; from its awkward beginnings, you can see the love between them emerge. And I attribute that development to how well Henry appreciates, respects, and listens to Biddy’s forthright opinions on matters both political and religious and is not threaten by her or them, unusual perhaps in a man of his time.

I think one of the many reasons, I enjoy Miranda’s books so much is her attention to and knowledge of historical details for this period. Her stories paint such a vibrant impression of society, of the complexities of the civil war, the vivid and violent political bias of both sides. The treachery of the times and the fear that religious and political uncertainty brings to all her cast and this in turn brings such an incredible atmosphere to her book. The other main reason for my admiration of this book and its predecessor is Miranda’s dedication to illuminating the lives of fascinating female protagonists, to write such strong, intelligent women, giving them a voice, perspectives, and fictional acknowledgement of their achievements. When so often in history and historical fiction their roles are downplayed and underappreciated. As a woman, it is refreshing to have a remarkable woman’s life and points of view be the focus of the story.

This second instalment of Miranda’s Cromwellian series is as pertinent, powerful, and poignant as her first. It is engaging, entertaining and enlightening and very addictive reading, it kept me completely absorbed in the storm building in the story rather than one rattling my windowpanes this past week. In my opinion, Miranda certainly brings history to life and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series (given how this book ends) I am hoping desperately for a third book…I don’t think that’s a spoiler! This is definitely a historical series you want to add to your bookshelves and one I thoroughly recommend, if you haven’t read them yet!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Miranda is a writer and historian specialising in the history of Oliver Cromwell, his family and the politics of the Interregnum period following the Civil War. She studied at Cambridge University, leaving with a PhD, and continues to speak at conferences and publish journal articles and book reviews. She also enjoys being a Trustee of the Cromwell Association. Alongside this, Miranda works as a commercial solicitor in the City and began writing historical novels on maternity leave. She lives in Hampshire with her husband, young son, and cat Keats.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Chasing Lions

One woman’s 55,000-mile journey in search of her Inner Lion

Author: Amanda Marks

Publisher: Antler House Press

Available: 13th February 2022 in Paperback & eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Antler House Press for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

Chasing Lions is an empowering and captivating memoir. It shows that a lack of self-confidence doesn’t have to stop you from living the life you want and finding the love you deserve.

When Amanda is mugged by a gang of schoolkids, she knows things have to change. She decides to go in search of her inner lion.

It proves to be a bruising experience both physically and mentally. But she perseveres and surprises herself by becoming a truck-driving tour leader in the bohemian and male-dominated world of overland expeditions.

Over three years and 55,000 miles, Amanda faces her feelings of inadequacy as she strives to discover her roar. On her journey, she watches the moon rise over the Serengeti and the sun set behind Egypt’s pyramids, she rafts with Zambezi river gods and communes with gorillas, she faces lions in the wild, has her fortune told by a crab sorcerer . . . and meets her soulmate?

Chasing Lions is a compelling tale of inner transformation through immersion in the natural world and being open to the rich diversity of life. Amanda’s story encourages us to live life to the full, be brave, and choose love.

My Thoughts:

It is my great pleasure today to be reviewing Amanda’s memoir, Chasing Lions. From the moment I stuck my nose in the cover of this book, I soon realised I was prepared to offer myself up as Amanda’s new bestie so strongly was the connection I had to her words, recollections, and journey to become ‘more lion, less mouse’. In between the sunset orange covers of this intrepid, inspiring, and irrepressible read are adventures waiting to ensnare and amuse you. I couldn’t put it down, I was intoxicated by Amanda’s words; which paint vibrant pictures in your head as you follow her explorations; the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people, and the vivid places most of us will only see online or in magazine pictures. But Amanda has seen them all and now shares them with us her avid readers in her poetic connection between literature and landscape (more or less her words not mine).

What strikes you as begin to read, is how relatable Amanda’s story is; just like the rest of us, her childhood experiences (being mugged) impact her mind and reactions to circumstances she faces as a young woman and that she doesn’t like how she reacted to such an event or how it made her feel. But, life moves on, university and all the changes and challenges that occur. Leaving Uni and heading into the world of work/career, buying a home, living life to the full with a busy social live. And you feel keenly that although Amanda appreciates all that she’s achieved to this point, there is something missing; I remember it well in my mid 20s – that sensation of ‘is this it’! And for most of us it is, gosh that sounds dull doesn’t it! But for Amanda a Dragoman Overland Adventures event at her local Agricultural college, turns the status quo on its head. The missing piece of her life’s jigsaw is revealed but can she make that piece fit!

As I continued to read, I pondered on how strange it was, that Amanda considered herself more mouse than lion; when she bravely and determinedly went after a different life from the one she was living; getting her HGV licence, learning truck mechanics (which to me seems mind-bendingly complicated and I’m lucky if I can locate my de-icer and a scraper on a good day). Striving to achieve the status of tour leader with Dragoman (whose brochures I regularly received in my 20s and poured over – I so wanted to spend 6 months travelling in Africa) but I couldn’t ever afford it and worse still, I wasn’t even courageous enough to try (minor life regret) although I did spend a month in India back in 2011 for my sister’s wedding (and I made the most of it but no tents were involved- shudder)

But through Amanda’s detailed descriptions and memories in this book, I have been allowed to live vicariously through her adventures; from the Pyramids in Egypt, to the red rock city of Petra; to the ‘smoke & thunder’ of the Victoria Falls and through the seductive sands in the African dessert, to the muddy truck swallowing holes of Zaire or white water rafting on the Zambezi (that one I am more than happy to just read about) and to the legendry but now ruined  Zanzibar imbued and tainted by horrors of the slave trade and ivory trafficking. And so much more… but I shall leave those episodes for you to read for yourselves.

Through these exploits, Amanda shares her tears, her laughter and meeting of people who have become lifelong friends (I loved the update about them all at the end) and one in particular who became a little bit more than that! I loved that Amanda too suffers from the missing spatial awareness gene (welcome to the club my dad & I are very familiar with this genetic mutation and have the gift of falling down/up in public too without the aid of a vat full of gin!) I found myself nodding my head in recollection, as Amanda documents her limited communication with friends and family through air mail letters and the odd phone call, the only way to communicate before we had mobile phones and the technology that can track us any and everywhere! Talk about a different world!

Through all these 1000s of miles Amanda has travelled, yes, they are incredible but they have clearly brought more to her than adventure and stunning views. Her exploits have carved an identity and have internally secured a sense of belonging in her which in turn has lead to an acceptance of self and of others as well as making her incredibly independent and confident. Traits she feels she lacked before her time as an overland tour leader. It certainly helped when once again she was mugged (actually I think she was mugged a further two or three times during the course of this book – I did think at this point of an alternative title to this memoir could be – No More Mugging Mandy! Sorry couldn’t help myself, the phrase popped into my head!) But as frustrating and unpleasant as these experiences were for her as an adult, the psychological results this time were hugely different! I found myself muttering ‘you go, Girl’ in to the pages of the book!

I have loved every word of this book, its humour and honesty touches your heart and mind and certainly shifted some of my perspectives on life! I only hope I have sufficiently encouraged you to read it too. As it really is a MUST read book and I want you all to enjoy it as much as I have. Amanda would too, I suspect, plus she also encourages you to buy your copy from your local independent book shops as well – so you know what to do, place that order today!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Ever since reading the Narnia novels of C.S. Lewis as a little girl, I yearned for a magical connection with nature. I found it. I found it in the hills of Durham and the north of England where I grew up, and I found it when I became a lifelong traveller exploring far-flung lands as a guide and then a travel company founder. I have sat, entranced, with gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild; I have paddled in a dugout canoe for 5 days on the Congo River; I have walked across living root bridges in north-east India and trekked through the Amazon forest in Peru.

I believe in taking myself out of my comfort zone now and then, to try new things, to meet new people and to open my eyes to different cultures, beliefs, and ways of life. Sometimes, though, talking to a tree is enough for me.

When not on my travels, I live in Suffolk with my husband, two grown boys, a cat and a dog, in a house that has ancient markings to stop witches entering.

www.amandamarks.co.uk

facebook@amandamarksauthor

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

The Perfect Escape

Author: Leah Konen

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 3rd February 2022, in Paperback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Kallie Townsend at Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

When her husband Harry walks out after just six months, a girls’ weekend away with two friends seems like just what Sam needs.

But they aren’t even halfway to their destination when things start to go wrong: car trouble that just happens to leave them stranded in the town where Harry lives.

And that’s only the beginning.

Because there are three things Sam doesn’t yet know:

One of her friends is lying about why they’re there.

One is lying about who she is.

And one of them will never make it home . . .

My Thoughts:

As soon as I saw the book details for The Perfect Escape, I clapped my hands together in glee. How could anyone resist the suggestion of a book awash with sinister secrets and breath-taking betrayals – I know I couldn’t! Pull up a snuggly blanket, froth your coffee and crack open a packed of mini eggs and prepare for the dark thrills to come.

What could be more innocent and enjoyable than 3 friends having a girly weekend away to escape life’s trials: Margaret, Sam & Diana are all fed up with the collapse of their relationships and the processes involved in separating or divorcing! Sam is reeling from being abandoned by her husband after only 6 months of marriage; Margaret’s husband Lars refuses to believe their relationship is done and Diana’s husband has taken to stalking her but their plans are soon scuppered when car trouble leaves them stranded in the town of Catskill. Initially you think, well that doesn’t sound too bad but of course, life is never that simple. As it turns out this town is home to Sam’s soon to be Ex and his new paramour! So, it isn’t surprising that the women want to get back on the road and continue with their trip. Yet something seems set against them doing just that! Fractures in the women’s relationship start to materialise and Sam begins to wonder if she knows her friends as well as she thinks she does!!

From the moment you start reading this book it is filled with a very subtle tension, that ramps up in increments the more pages you turn. You very easily become engaged with the 3 female protagonists and find yourself invested in their lives and all the while wondering in which direction is this tale going to turn and what the potential outcomes could be! When one of the 3 vanishes and all their plans for weekend of relaxation dissipate, you know nothing good is going to happen next! The investigation into the missing woman is woefully insufficient and boarding on negligent and you get the distinct impression, their concerns are not being taken seriously and boy is that frustrating and you begin to wonder what will make the investigators take this sinister turn seriously – well a body might and does!

Leah’s cleverly crafted tale demands your attention and you can’t help but admire her skill at infusing her story which such delicious tension, you know with some certainty something bad this way comes! But the what, the when, the why and who is only tantalisingly uncovered, which means you can’t put the book down until your dark curiosity is assuaged. It is a supremely compelling read, taut, tantalising, and tempestuous; and it definitely leads you to think; should you really trust your friends?! Well, you will have to read it for yourselves to find out as I don’t do spoilers!

The Perfect Escape is the perfect excuse for escaping into a book for all my fellow crime bookophiles and one you don’t want to miss out on, so make sure you get hold of a copy soon. I was thoroughly immersed in this book and I hope you are too!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Leah Konen is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and English literature. She lives in Brooklyn and Saugerties, NY, with her husband and their dog, Farley. Find her online at leahkonen.com or on Twitter and Instagram @leahkonen

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

Open

AN UNCENSORED MEMOIR OF LOVE, LIBERATION AND NON-MONOGAMY

Author: Rachel Krantz

Publisher: Octopus Books

Available: 25th October 2021 in Hardback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Octopus Books for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

‘A New York journalist’s immersive account of the behind-closed-doors world of Polyamory.’

‘This is a starkly naked story of a young woman’s adventure of self-discovery, told with a striking lack of shame or apology.

This book will help a lot of people.’ —Dr. Christopher Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of Sex At Dawn

When Rachel Krantz met and fell for Adam, he told her that he was looking for a committed partnership – just one that did not include exclusivity. Excited but a little trepidatious, Rachel set out to see whether love and a serious relationship can coexist beyond the familiar borders of monogamy.

This is her open and honest true story. Now, in her debut memoir, she chronicles her dive into non-monogamy. With fly-on-the wall detail and extraordinary perceptiveness, OPEN takes us inside Brooklyn parties and into the wider swinger and polyamory community.

 Armed with her journalistic instincts, detailed journal entries and interviews with experts and therapists, Krantz also breaks new ground in confronting the unique ways tacit abuse and gaslighting can manifest when things get so complex. Unflinching and brazen, OPEN asks what liberation really looks like, and whether the pleasure really is worth the pain.

My Thoughts:

Now this is a very different book and I admit the moment I read the first chapter of Rachel’s book Open; all I could hear in my head was Meatloaf (RIP) singing the immortal lines; ‘I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that!‘ I suspect I wouldn’t be alone in making such an instant judgement on this subject of monogamy or rather non-monogamy. Except that in Rachel’s frank, intimate and blush inducing authentic book she turns the accepted and established conventions about relationships on their heads and reveals what she would or won’t do for love or loves!

Having dived into reading the first 100 or so pages I took stock and it became apparent firstly how apt the title of this book is and secondly, reading Rachel’s personal, pithy, pertinent words about her recollections about some of her eye-opening experiences; if you are easily, shocked by physical intimacy in all its glorious forms, this probably is not the book to read on your commute (even on a kindle!) then again, who am I to judge – read away bookophiles!  As I continued to immerse myself in Rachel’s memoir; what became vividly evident to me, is that it is very easy to make assumptions based on your own knowledge or experience which you can mistakenly apply to another’s person’s choices but part of the glory of this book is how bold it is in encouraging its readers to keep an open mind and an open imagination; to maintain a personal fluidity to the changing emotional, psychological and sociological environment. The importance to us as individuals to have the right and/or the opportunity to explore, to uncover (double entendre included) to have experiences both mentally and physically relating to what you desire or might do; without being vilified for such perceived peccadilloes.

I loved how the book was structured around years of Rachel’s life from ages 27 – 31 with some very juicy segment titles within these years; Pure, Uncut Kryptonite; I didn’t say No; Taming Dragons; If These Walls Could Talk; And She Lived Openly Ever After – I mean aside from them being deliciously witty, each will lead you on a journey of adventure that you might not expect though you may enjoy them or not! Each year Rachel writes about, brings some incredible candour about her more saucy sexual escapades, yet though they are graphic in their recounting, they are not written to titillate or as a form of pseudo factual erotica. The frankness of the details is merely Rachel’s vehicle for extrapolating her growth and development and she coined the phrase ‘deviant jackpot’ that made me laugh out loud!

Rachel has done a sterling job in excavating the psychological side of polyamorous/polyamory relationships both the positives and the pitfalls; the impact of trust or jealousy within such relationships parameters and in the balance does juggling all the emotional/psychological issues; make such relationships worthwhile?!

I expect some readers will find elements of Rachel’s D/S (Dominant/Submissive) relationship difficult as with everything in life; some D/S relationships can be perceived as controlling or even abusive or coercive and as Rachel discovers for herself, some are but many aren’t; despite being perceived as such. Unlike the often-stereotypical porn versions, that focus on the aggression, humiliation, or violent encounters. The D/S community is very clear that within such a relationship the power balance tips towards the submissive and proponents are always vocal about how such relationships should be based on the four pillars of trust, communication, respect and honesty and above all else consensual! I think Rachel discovers that her relationship with Adam doesn’t always meet these standards; but you will have to read the book yourself to see what you think!

Overall, I very much relished and appreciated Rachel’s investigative journalist approach to the detail, scope, and research she has taken to illustrate and explain her discoveries and the footnotes are fascinating and will provide you with acres of information if you are interested in further perspectives. I admire Rachel’s courage and candour in exploring this arena and her honesty and integrity in the manner she shares what she has uncovered for herself. At no point does she seek to influence the reader or direct them in what might a suitable choice; she just provides the options for you to consider! As to whether, I believe open relationships work, I think that is all down to the persons and personalities involved but it would certainly provoke passionate debates if this was your book club read! Personally, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this bold, brazen, and insightful book and I thoroughly recommend you add it to your ‘to be read’ piles.

Happy Reading Bookophiles.

About the Author:

Rachel Krantz is a journalist and one of the founding editors of Bustle, where she served as senior features editor for three years. Her work has been featured on NPR, The Guardian, Vox, Vice, and many other outlets. She’s the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Investigative Reporters and Editors Radio Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and the Peabody Award for her work as an investigative reporter with YR Media.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Dálvi

Six Years in the Arctic Tundra

Author: Laura Galloway

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Available: 3rd February 2022 in Paperback

Thank you to Gabriella Drinkald, Midas PR & Allen & Unwin for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

One woman’s story as an outsider in a reindeer-herding village in the Arctic Tundra, forging a life on her own in one of the most unknowable cultures on earth

An ancestry test suggesting she shared some DNA with the Sámi people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic tundra, tapped into Laura Galloway’s wanderlust; an affair with a Sámi reindeer herder ultimately led her to leave New York for the tiny town of Kautokeino, Norway. When her new boyfriend left her unexpectedly after six months, it would have been easy, and perhaps prudent, to return home. But she stayed for six years.

Dálvi is the story of Laura’s time in a reindeer-herding village in the Arctic, forging a solitary existence as she struggled to learn the language and make her way in a remote community for which there were no guidebooks or manuals for how to fit in. Her time in the North opened her to a new world. And it brought something else as well: reconciliation and peace with the traumatic events that had previously defined her – the sudden death of her mother when she was three, a difficult childhood and her lifelong search for connection and a sense of home.

Both a heart-rending memoir and a love letter to the singular landscape of the region, Dálvi explores with great warmth and humility what it means to truly belong.

My Thoughts:

Since I moved to Yorkshire from the urban sprawl of London 7 years ago (in May) I have often quipped to friends and family that I now live in the frozen North (my take on a corrupted Game of Thrones line). So, when I read the details of Laura’s book; the irony struck me, that compared to the balmy climbs of Yorkshire in winter, Laura had literally lived in the frozen North where temperatures drop well below my comprehension of cold! How could I not be drawn to discover more about Laura’s story.

As I started to read her book, what resonated with me was how much I could relate and understand Laura’s life changing choice; granted my move to Yorkshire (though often chilly and occasionally socially and linguistically baffling) was not in the same league. Nor is it anywhere near as courageous, challenging, or remarkable as Laura’s decision to deposit her New York infused worldly goods into storage and with her two beloved and intrepid felines (Boo & Rennie) brave the dark, stark and heart-stoppingly cold wilderness that is the arctic tundra. To live amongst people whose, language, culture and social constructs are so diametrically opposite to all she knows! Part of me, thought why would anyone make such a choice, never mind that there would be serious limitations on trips to bookshops and coffee shops, that alone would make me panic!

Here’s what I discovered; Laura’s extraordinary decision, wasn’t made on a whim, nor was it planned to the epic proportions of an arctic trek. This magnificent and monumental commitment was born out of a life time of personal trauma; the loss of her mother as a small child; the intervening years of isolation; of mental and physical abandonment inadvertently inflicted on her by her father’s grief and limitations in coping; resulting in his choice to marry a woman of such diabolical, narcissistic, psychological villainy; whose conscious actions towards her step children makes any Disney created cartoon wicked stepmother a pale imitation on the antagonistic, avaricious and awful Joan!!! Whose words and actions year by year dismembers the Galloway family and her behaviour made me grit my teeth in rage and distress on Laura’s behalf! Add into Laura’s history; a disastrous marriage, the end of which came by complete surprise to her; when she’s cruelly served divorce papers in a bouquet of flowers! What sort of cretin does such a thing to someone, they once supposedly loved – trust me, my taser finger was twitching vigorously with a need to enact violent and savage revenge on Laura’s behalf and I may have even shouted into the pages of the book ‘what a complete W**k*r!

Laura’s experiences of life seemed to be overwhelmed with the bewilderment of loss and permeated with the incomprehensibly of grief and as her story unfolds from childhood; her motherless status marks her out as different and distances her from connection with the herd (if you like). When a completely innocuous receipt of a DNA testing kit in a conference attendee gift bag becomes the first step on her journey of self-discovery or probably more accurately, a discovery of the strength of self. The results of said kit, suggested that Laura has Sami heritage and she does expand in detail the heritage/lives of indigenous Sami people. This tenuous DNA link coupled with a chance encounter at a wedding with reindeer herder Ailu and her calamitous life experiences to this point, fuels her drive to ‘Go North’. As readers we are drawn into Laura’s new world, with languages and perspectives vastly different and often much more difficult than our own.

I think it was at this point in the book, I tried to assess the bones of what drove Laura, when it dawned on me. That she, for so much of her life, had been alone (and not by choice) and that she was searching for identity, community and crucially to belong, to somewhere/to someone! This adventure to the arctic was her quest to finding the intangible belonging and as part of this journey, she embarks on learning and studying the Sami language to become part of this community; where visitors given no advance warning of arrival; where family is key; where reindeer herding is a culture within a culture; where beer comes in angry bear cans and where dogs are not merely pets to be cosseted but work partners to their reindeer herding masters. In this remarkable new environment Laura feels a complete loss of control (she can’t speak the language and she doesn’t know the customs) and yet surprisingly living and learning within these constraints brings her emotional liberation and invigoration.

Just as I settled into believing that Laura may have stumbled onto some sort of frozen nirvana that would heal or soothe her wounded soul. Laura’s ‘new’ life is brutally forced to change again and with shocking immediacy and no I’m not telling you why, you will have to read her book and find out what happens next but I will say, there are puppies involved so there is joy along with the sadness to come!

For me, reading Laura’s story has been engaging, emotional and extraordinary. It is one of escape, to save herself; to put aside everything that had made her, her (her words not mine)! Every page you turn in this book brings with it the essences of encouragement and enlightenment. Laura’s epic (in every sense of the word) experiences have made her who she is now and I can’t fail to admire her bravery and I am overjoyed that she wrote it all down to share with us, her readers. Once I started reading her story, I couldn’t put it down and I kept reading into the early hours of the morning wrapped in a blanket. I have no doubt that once you get your hands on this book, you will do the same. This is a MUST buy book and is definitely going on my favourite 22 books of 2022 list!

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

Laura Galloway is a writer and communications strategist. She began her career at the Los Angeles Times and holds a Master of Arts in Indigenous Journalism from the Sámi University of Applied Sciences in Kautokeino, Norway, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Southern California. An ardent animal lover, she and her partner live with her two reindeer-herding dogs and two cats.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Shadows We Cast

*Spotlight Post*

Author: Sarah Tinsley

Publisher: SRL Publishing Ltd

Available: Out Now in Paperback & eBook

Thank you to Sarah Tinsley & SRL Publishing Ltd for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book.

Thoughts:

Welcome my lovely bookophiles to my spotlight post for Sarah Tinsley’s novel The Shadows We Cast. This is a dark, powerful and thought provoking read and one not to be forgotten. Please find the book details below and to whet your appetite and extract of Sarah’s novel. As it’s payday weekend, this would be superb choice to add to your book collections. Be aware there are elements within the novel that could be triggers for some readers

Happy Reading Bookophiles

Book Details

What if you couldn’t recognise the violence in others? Or in yourself?

Nina refuses to accept the role of passive victim after being sexually assaulted. She becomes obsessed with an online vendetta that risks her job, her friendships, and her sanity.

Eric thinks, if anything, he’s too nice. But when he takes advantage of a stranger he is forced to confront the kind of man he really is.

The Shadows We Cast is a dark novel about consent and control that unsettles ideas about victims and villains.

Extract:

It’s important to make it across the office without talking to anyone. On the cusp of the swishing doors, she maps out a route. Too far into sales and Harris will berate her with his weekend, but too far the other way and Tom will find a sarcastic way of flirting. A weaving motion through the middle is the only option. Risky, as Dev would sulk for the rest of the day without a greeting, but it’s still pretty early, odds are he hasn’t made it in yet. Head down, she begins her assault on the carpet. Too quick for the HR lot, wallowing around the kitchen like it’s a watering hole. Mondays never start quickly for them.

There’s a clear gap between the partitions at this end of Sales. But then, the looming size of Brian. The gap behind his chair is small, but he seems safely amused by something on his phone, either that or he’s checking up his nostrils. Speed is the only way. Nina turns her body at the approach, slips through the gap and is away, taking a sharp left towards the comfort of the other engineers, a missed comment falling to the floor behind her. Last bit. Dev’s space is thankfully empty, a few other milling bodies – they’ve been avoiding her more in the Sarah Tinsley 9 last couple of weeks. Her presence makes them think of deadlines now. That should dissuade conversation.

The haven of her glass door is just a few steps away. There’s a smudge on the gilt of her name plaque, but she can’t bring herself to raise a hand to wipe it smooth. Nina slips through the door, wearied by the smallest part of her day. Secreted behind her desk, she is safe. Unreachable. Coming here should have made it better, a distraction from the dreams that left her blunt and smudged. She feels like an echo. She writes the phrase on a post-it, a three-word sentence, then tucks it away in the bottom tray, the place for things that don’t need attention.

The desk is unchanged – her gold cat perched on the far corner, waving through the glass wall. The movement through it is detached, like events on a screen. There must be something different. Being here usually brings relief. Nothing of that lightness this morning. She checks the filing cabinet. Everything is alphabetical, colour-coded, her emergency stash of cola bottles in the bottom drawer. In her rush to get out of the door, she forgot to bring anything for lunch. Another social hurdle – the sandwich van. The smell of coffee and disinfectant wipes from the previous inhabitant is gradually succumbing to her Juicy Fruit chewing gum and Tippex. She touches each item, turning the stapler to the left, unable to find the thing that is out of place. “Should have gone straight to the police,” that’s what Holly would say. Not something she could face yesterday; a grey Sunday morning, skin prickling with alcohol residue and something else that crawled in her stomach. It’s pointless to go there until she’s sure what happened. Can present a clear and detailed account. Otherwise, why would they take her seriously?

About the Author:

Sarah Tinsley grew up in Cornwall but isn’t any good at surfing. She’s a proud working-class writer who amplifies marginalised voices and issues in her writing. Her first novel, The Shadows We Cast, is written in dual narrative, revealing the inner thoughts of both the victim and the perpetrator of a sexual assault. It’s a dark novel which unsettles ideas about victims and villains. It won the Spread The Word/Bookouture Prize in 2020 and was long listed for the Laxfield Literary Agency Award.

Sarah’s short fiction has been published widely, including in Mslexia and Litro. She came third in the Bristol Short Story Prize 2021, was long listed for the Primadonna Prize in 2020 and won the Segoria International Short Story Prize in 2015. She has an MA in Creative Writing from City University.

Sarah is passionate about promoting diverse writers. She’s the Director of Write By You, a company that runs writing workshops and coaching for young, female, diverse writers in the UK. She also provides resources, workshops, courses and coaching and feedback services to writers. Her focus is on helping others find the unique voice we all possess, and fitting creativity into even the busiest of lives.

Sarah loves books that make her think and are beautifully written. Her favourites include Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, How To Be Both by Ali Smith and anything by Margaret Atwood. Her other interests include running, art in its many forms, travel and food, especially cheese and wine. You can start a conversation with her by discussing your favourite feminist, TV series or red wine.

Please do read some of the reviews available on this tour.

The Language of Food

Author: Annabel Abbs

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 3rd February 2022 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours, and Simon & Schuster for my beautiful, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Eliza Acton is a poet who’s never boiled an egg.

But she’s about to break the mould of traditional cookbooks

And change the course of cookery writing forever.

England 1835. Eliza Acton is a poet who dreams of seeing her words in print. But when she takes a new manuscript to a publisher, she’s told that ‘poetry is not the business of a lady.’ Instead, she’s asked to write a cookery book. Eliza is horrified but her financial situation leaves her no choice. Although she’s never cooked before, she is determined to learn and to discover, if she can, the poetry in recipe writing.

To assist her, she hires seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the daughter of local paupers. Over the next ten years, Eliza and Ann change the course of cookery writing forever. Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, The Language of Food is the most thought-provoking and compelling historical novel you’ll read this year. Abbs explores the enduring struggle for female freedom, the complexities of friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, while bringing Eliza Acton out of the archives and back into the public eye.

My Thoughts:

 Annabel was inspired to create this story after inheriting antique cookbooks and I too have my own collection of recipe books going back to the 1940s. I know first-hand how informative, inspiring, and amusing, they can be. For example, I know how to host a Canasta party (granted, I have no idea how to play Canasta) and which nut bowls and coffee cups to use for such an occasion! During a period of redundancy a few years ago, I turned to my large collection and I set myself a creative task (but not as glorious as Annabel’s book I might add) to learn 100 cake and dessert recipes in a year; which I did and my success snowballed into me baking and selling cakes, biscuits and desserts to friends and family and I still do; as well as making the occasional wedding cake and I proudly earned a professional certificate in sugar work as well! The Language of Food is indeed is a creative and inspirational tool, and a huge reason for my immense joy in reading this marvellous historical bio fictional book.

I would be hideously remiss if I didn’t comment on how utterly stunning this book’s cover is; it is truly a feast for the eyes and I did spend time, identifying the different food related images woven on to a blue and white Flemish tile. Just examining the cover made me salivate with anticipation while simultaneously ponding on the delicious story inside.

I was instantly drawn to this book because, I relish the sense of discovery I find in reading the re-imagined lives of real women, whose triumphs have been smothered by the patriarchal swathes of history that dominate our consciousness. Annabel’s consummate skill in blending historical fact with captivating fiction is totally absorbing and once you start reading this book, it is nearly impossible to put it down! Well until the content of the mouth-watering food descriptions, drive you wild with hunger and you are force to hunt out your last bag of cheesy puffs to sate your desire for sustenance (of course, this might just be me, well the cheesy puff part away!)

The novel opens post the time period of the story; with a gift of a book which proves to be a disappointment, an unpleasant discovery and results in a determined decision made by the recipient (yes, I am being cryptic but hopefully I am teasing your taste buds for the story to come, just as Annabel planned). The story is recounted to us in alternating chapters, titled after some incredible sounding dishes and from two perspectives, that of Eliza Acton and Ann Kirby. Eliza is lady, a spinster poetess who doesn’t hold the usual or societally acceptable ambition of becoming a wife, she ardently wishes to publish more poems (such behaviour is not deemed seemly for a women of her class, especially by her mother!) and in her endeavour to publish more of her work, Eliza faces the rejection and patronising discrimination of her sex by a pompous twit of a publisher (vile man). He dismisses her poems, they are outmoded, cookery books are the literature of the day but these books are not as we know cookery books to be today. They are instruction manuals for ladies to advise their cooks, because women of this class would certainly never be found in a kitchen!!! The horror of the very idea of a lady being in a kitchen is palpable and it did make me smile, over the concept of it being acceptable for Eliza to direct her cook to make food but is deemed beneath her station and almost scandalous for her to actually make the food herself! Eliza will not let what society decrees as her role, stop her from following her passions.

Eliza circumstances worsen when her father’s inept financial management leaves the family bankrupt, he flees to France to escape his creditors. Her sisters have no options but to become governesses while Eliza and her ever disapproving mother decide to set up a boarding house in Tonbridge to attract customers ‘taking the waters’ at Tunbridge Wells. In contrast Eliza, Ann, who is the epitome of the working poor, she’s a teenager who is desperately trying to hold her family together; her mother is deemed quite mad and needs to be always watched! Her father is mentally and physically damaged after serving in the war and has turned to drink, to blot out his suffering and life. When the local vicar, suggests that he might be able to get her a place in service, Ann seizes the opportunity but faces hard emotional cost to do so; she goes to work for the Acton’s as a scullery maid.

Eliza decides after perusing several ‘cookery’ books, that seem quite hopeless. That she will indeed write a cookbook because (and I love this quote) ‘a recipe can be as beautiful as a poem’ and begins her secret experiments in the forbidden downstairs realm of the kitchen! Ann’s employment with the Acton’s places her under Eliza’s command and so begins her introduction to the wonders of food, that isn’t soup made of turnip peelings and stale bread! Ann is like a sponge absorbing all the new sensations around her.

I was completely engaged by these two women from vastly different social positions bound together in a somewhat awkward friendship but their strikingly similar in that secretly they both have dreams and aspirations that don’t revolve around matching and hatching! Eliza and Ann form a bond over their love of food and cooking (completely scandalous and a little amusing when you discover the lengths Eliza’s mother will go to, to disguise her daughter’s excellent cooking). I was captivated by the vivid tantalising descriptions of their forays in food, trying new recipes, adding different herbs and spices, the vibrancy of the tastes and smells, rolls off the pages (trust me you will be scavenging for a snack by now).

Both women will face several trials and tribulations along the way (no I’m not telling you what they might entail, no spoilers here) but there are definitely secrets and surprises yet to come but freedom, friendship and food are the heart of this wonderful book.

 As I said at the beginning of my review, my own love of baking and the cover of this novel drew me in but Eliza and Ann’s remarkable endeavour captivated me completely. Annabel’s historical research and academic understanding of women and their role in society at this time is evident in glorious abundance and the recipes are sublime. It is powerful, pithy, and poignant story to read and I consider The Language of Food already one of my favourite books of 2022! I know you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Annabel Abbs is the rising star of biographical historical novels. She grew up in Bristol, Sussex and Wales before studying English Literature at the University of East Anglia. Her debut novel The Joyce Girl won the Impress Prize and was a Guardian Reader’s Pick and her second novel Frieda: The Original Lady Chatterley was a Times 2018 Book of the Year. She regularly appears on national and regional media, with recent appearances on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and Sky News and is popular on the literary festival circuit. She was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, the Caledonia Novel Award, and the Waverton GoodRead Award. Annabel lives in London with her husband and four children.

 Abbs’s third novel, The Language of Food, the story of Eliza Acton, Britain’s first domestic goddess, publishes in the UK in February 2022 and is currently being translated into 14 languages

. “When I inherited a collection of antiquarian cookery books, I suspected a story might be lurking in one of them. Researching and writing the story of Britain’s first domestic goddess has been a wonderful culinary adventure.” – Annabel Abbs

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

Write It All Down

How to Put Your Life on the Page

Author: Cathy Rentzenbrink

Publisher: Bluebird Books for Life

Available: 6th January 2022 in Hardback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Bluebird Books for Life for my glorious, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

Why do we want to write and what stops us? How does the urge to express ourselves fight with the worry that no-one will care or that we will get in trouble? How do we identify and overcome everything that gets in our way so we can start making work?

Sunday Times bestselling author Cathy Rentzenbrink shows you how to tackle all this and more in Write It All Down, a guide to putting your life on the page. This is a kind, encouraging and stimulating book that explores the nature of memoir writing and offers helpful guidance on how to write your life on paper. Rentzenbrink will help you to discover the pleasure and solace to be found in writing; the profound satisfaction of wrestling a story onto a page and seeing the events of your life transformed through the experience of writing the self.

Perfect for both seasoned writers as well as writing amateurs and everyone in between, this helpful handbook will steer you through the philosophical and practical challenges of writing the self. Intertwined with reflections, anecdotes, and exercises from successful writers such as Dolly Alderton, Matt Haig, Kit de Waal, Sathnam Sanghera and Maggie O’Farrell, Write It All Down is at once an intimate and enjoyable narrative and an invitation to share your story.

My Thoughts

Like many other readers I was charmed and captivated by Cathy’s book ‘Dear Reader’ her reading memoir that articulated her lifetime’s love of books and reading and literally put into words the joys, comfort, and experiences so many of us have in the pages of books we’ve come to love.  If you’ve not yet read it…do, immediately!  I am sure you can appreciate my delight in discovering that Cathy’s latest book will take her readers on a writing voyage but it was with trepidation, I decided to embark on this journey with her. Not because I believed I wouldn’t enjoy the book because I LOVED it, but because writing for me has always been tinged with trauma and challenge.

Until I started reading Cathy’s book ‘Write it all Down’, I would never ever have considered myself a writer (the very idea makes me shudder with imposter syndrome). When it comes to writing anything and I do mean anything, I am a fearful procrastinator; seriously – I must write my weekly shopping list at least twice and even then, it’s unlikely I can read what I’ve written! I should explain I am dyslexic and for many people this effects their ability to read (that is oversimplifying the issue I might add). However, that has never been my stumbling block, in fact it’s the opposite, I read fast and can retain most of what I’ve read (to some extent, there’s a rather endless process to ensure this, which I will share another time).

One of my main issues, is the ability to be articulate in writing; I can’t discern vowel sounds, grammar is my bane and I regularly lose all control of tenses and sometimes even spelling the simplest words flummoxes me (this has been somewhat mitigated since dawn of predicted text technology, which I love, even if I do have to mis-spell the word I want 10 times before my phone/laptop gives me the word I need!) As a result, the idea of writing anything fills me with abject terror and the knowledge that if I am going to write anything that it will take me an age. I have carried this fear since I was 15 years old; except when it came to writing my journals, here I was free to just write down my emotions and experiences and I wrote them for over a decade until my mental health plunged me into darkness in my mid 20s and I put down my pen!

16 months ago, I picked it up again; after the world and normalcy vanished on the horizon and we were plunged into the realms of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unlike many people, I did not find lockdown or the restrictions traumatic or hideous (although I did miss my daily frothy coffees and bacon roles; perusing in bookshops/charity shops and brunches out with my Aged Ps) I loved being at home (I still do nearly 2 years later) I adapted and enjoyed the virtual world by discussing books and reading on social media but realised I was limiting myself. It was time to be brave, to face my bet noir…I wanted to share my love of books and reading with the world.

 On 6th June 2020; I became ‘The Fallen Librarian Reviews’…I was going to be a book blogger (granted one with no clue whatsoever) but the kindness and support of my fellow book bloggers (@squadpodcollective that means all of you) gave me the courage and the confidence to put fingers to keyboard and write (it took me four hours to write 2 paragraphs) and post my first review and now 160 + reviews later. I seem to have the hang of it (just) but usually, I feel what I have written is awkward and primarily fuelled by bucket loads of fear and coffee. So, I when I saw the details for Cathy’s book, I saw it as opportunity to learn, to develop and to challenge myself further on my writing journey. Now, thanks to Cathy’s book, I can write on a page, that I’m a writer (of sorts) see, I’m not quite there yet! I am now also armed to deal with all forms of nerviation!!

Cathy’s book is a comfort blanket for writers; all of us from professional to procrastinating. Her words and insights in this wonderful book; embraces the reader because it is filled with soothing observation and enthusiastic practical encouragement to write. It isn’t a how to write guide but a guide to writing for ourselves to removing our excuses; a necessary call ‘to putting bum on a seat’ as per Ernest Hemmingway & Cathy’s instruction and write something/anything to make writing as much a part of your life as brushing your teeth. It is a book that Cathy herself recommends you read through once to glean the lay of the land (so to speak) and then go back, revisit the areas that interest you, annotate the book, dip in and out of chapters, tab the pages, revisit the sections relevant to your journey and I have to say that this approach is certainly working for me.

 I loved the witty, short, sharp accessible chapters which are situated under the 4 Sections (Preparation, Excavation, Crafting & Editing and Getting Work Done) a buffet of advice if you like (my favourites are the iceberg tip and MVP observation), although as this review has probably gone off topic and is now a bit long, you can see I haven’t fully embraced the Crafting and Editing segment yet! Throughout the sections there are prompts and exercises and I loved that Cathy doesn’t expect you to take just her word for it but has included advice from other writers to about their approaches to writing and I confess I have a new ‘to buy list ‘ of books as well, as Cathy has shared her writing/memoir shelves with us as well!

I am so enamoured with this book, that I have been carrying my copy around with me (around my little house) in my bag when I go out and on two train journey (to Scotland & back again) Cathy’s ability to candidly share her experience and advice is truly intoxicating, irresistible, inclusive, improving, and inspiring to read. I have no doubt you will enjoy it as much as I have! I am off to finally open my new notebook with its pristine pages, it is time for me to put my life down on a page because I can and I am worthy! (You will see what I mean by this statement when you get to the end of Cathy’s book). So you’ll just have to buy a copy now, won’t you!

Happy Writing Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of the Sunday Times best-seller The Last Act of Love and of A Manual for Heartache, Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books and Everyone is Still Alive. It took her twenty years to wrestle her own life story on the page and she loves to use what she has learnt about the profound nature of writing the self in the service of others. Cathy has taught for Arvon, Curtis Brown Creative, at Falmouth University and at festivals and in prisons, and welcomes anyone, no matter what their experience, education, background, or story. She believes that everyone’s life would be improved by picking up a pen and is at her happiest when encouraging her students to have the courage to delve into themselves and see the magic that will start to happen on the page.

Website – https://cathyreadsbooks.com/

 Instagram – @writeitalldown_

Twitter – @catrentzenbrink

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

A Year in the Life

Adventures in British Subcultures

Author: Lucy Leonelli

Publisher: Unbound

Available: 20th January 2022 in Paperback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours, & Unbound for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

● In her late twenties and already a partner in her headhunting firm, Lucy Leonelli was seemingly on top of the world, but despite her success she couldn’t shake the feeling she was missing out on life out there.

● So, Lucy did the only reasonable thing she could do: she hung up her suit and set out on a year long journey to uncover her most authentic self.

Stepping outside her comfort zone, she turned to twenty-six little-understood subcultures of the UK – communities often heard about but very seldom seen.

For two weeks each, she lived with battle re-enactors, circus performers, hill baggers, Morris dancers, naturists, trainspotters, yogis, zeitgeist political activists and more,

experiencing first-hand their social rituals and customs.

A Year in the Life charts Lucy’s adventure as she swam naked with lawyers and vets, cast spells with teachers and IT consultants, dressed in tight latex, drank with self-proclaimed vampires, and fought the undead in an epic LARP battle.

It tells of the importance of community in an increasingly isolating society; of the unquenchable human thirst for a sense of belonging; of how misguided our own prejudices can be;

and of how when we open the door to others, we might just learn something about ourselves

My Thoughts:

When I saw the details about this book, my instant reaction, was ‘ooooh, that does sound interesting!’ I have an innate fascination with other people’s views and insights on life and Lucy’s book ‘ A Year in the Life – Adventures in British Subcultures’ sounded exactly the type of read to intrigue me and indeed it did. It is an A-Z guide of adventures into the lifestyle choices of a wide variety of people, who live life differently and Lucy’s impressions and reactions to joining in with their preferences and her amusing tenacity at attempting to combat FOMO, (Fear of Missing out). Lucy recounts her alphabetical sabbatical with honesty, humour, and humility, you really can’t fail to love a book, that teaches how to polish your apples…literally! This book is literary lesson in not judging a book by its cover; until that is, you experience for yourself other people’s lifestyle choices and how not to assume you know what they are all about merely from impressions in articles/social media.

What becomes apparent through Lucy’s experiences is that community, identity and sense of family or belonging is very much at the core of all these diverse and diverting groups. And that as a society our collective need for acceptance is paramount, regardless of whether you are a hard-working aristocrat, a competitive Hill Bagger (no not a euphemism for anything naughty, despite how it sounds) or a Goth with a steampunk fetish. These communities embody a credo of accepting their members just as they are, without prejudice or judgment. Which is an observation, I find refreshing and reassuring in our modern society where social media promotes & endorses (intentionally & unintentionally) often arbitrary criticism of individuals and subcultures.

I was thoroughly immersed in reading this book and I rather enjoyed living vicariously through Lucy’s forays; her bravery in baring all with the naturists, her questing and questioning mind when studying Kabbalah and putting her best foot forward (the left one, always start with the left foot) into female Morris dancing all while dressed up like ‘the bastard offspring of little red riding hood and a Christmas reindeer’ (this line made me laugh so much, I had to put in my review for everyone else to enjoy). I also admired her constant reminders to herself and us (her readers) not to pass judgement (even when it seemed easy and obvious to do so; especially with the Fox Hunters and the Essex (TOWIE) folk where society’s perceptions of them have not been kind. Lucy’s book confirms for me (bookish geeky soul) that weird in all its forms is wonderful and we should embrace, reach out and form communities of likeminded people but we should also remain flexible and curious in our outlook and choices and just because we choose to enjoy certain pursuits from LARPing to Wicca and back again. Don’t assume, these are the only choices available or allow our perspectives to be so narrow as to assume that our outlook is the only ‘right’ one. As ridged adherence to this ‘I’m right’ thought; history has shown us, can leads to oppression (Apartheid) and murder (Holocaust) we should choose to be free, to enjoy multiple facets of ourselves because that way life will never be boring.

So, my lovely bookophiles, gird your elf ears, donne your red tasselled shoes and revel in this joyful jaunt of a read, it will prove eye opening in every sense of the word and I hope you love reading it as much as I have, it might even have convinced me to be a little bit more adventurous in my own lifestyle choices.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Lucy Leonelli is a self-proclaimed social tourist with an unquenchable thirst for exploring, experiencing, and understanding

the world’s most colourful subcultures and communities. Born in Bristol, she now runs executive recruitment for a technology firm in

Silicon Valley and lives in Berkeley, California. @lucyleonelli

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Family

Author: Naomi Krupitsky

Publisher: Borough Press

Available: 6th January 2022 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Borough Press for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

A captivating debut novel about the tangled fates of two best friends and daughters of the Italian mafia, and a coming-of-age story of twentieth-century Brooklyn itself.

Two daughters. Two families. One inescapable fate. Sofia Colicchio is a free spirit, loud and untamed. Antonia Russo is thoughtful, ever observing the world around her. Best friends since birth, they live in the shadow of their fathers’ unspoken community: the Family.

 Sunday dinners gather them each week to feast, discuss business, and renew the intoxicating bond borne of blood and love. But the disappearance of Antonia’s father drives a whisper-thin wedge between the girls as they grow into women, wives, mothers, and leaders. And as they push against the boundaries of society’s expectations and fight to preserve their complex but life-sustaining friendship, one fateful night their loyalty to each other and the Family will be tested. Only one of them can pull the trigger before it’s too late.

The Family explores the complicated bonds of female friendship, marriage, and family secrets, as well as the pressure placed on women in history to conform to a certain mould, and how that conformity changes a person. It shines a light on the role of women in the Mafia and charts the history of one of New York’s most infamous neighbourhoods.

My Thoughts

I am about to make you an offer you can’t refuse…buy this book! And now an apology for shamelessly purloining this universally recognised quote from the film ‘The Godfather’. It was far too tempting not to start my review of The Family without referring to the Cosa Nostra classic. It will also put you in no doubt that Naomi’s debut novel delves into the shadowy world of the mafia, as I am assuming most of us will have experienced by now either the Godfather trilogy or the familiar TV series the Sopranos, which have up to this point provided us with a visceral, violent and glamorised version of the lifestyles of a mob family and whose stories and character depictions are predominantly from a male perspective; where expensive suits, violent repercussions for the merest slight and shifty business dealings are core components. Where women within these environs fall into the roles of the crone, the mother & the virgin, represented as mothers, wives and daughters who know their dutiful roles and certainly never stray into the business end of a mafia family. Naomi’s novel turns this patriarchal stereotyped approach on its head! Focusing her story on the lives and friendship of two women in this clandestine community.

Sofia Colicchio and Antonia Russo live with their families in the same apartment block, and have been best friends since birth, their fathers work for the Fianzo Family and they are unaware of anything outside their protected bubble. Until on a weekend at the beach, Antonia’s father ‘disappears’ (and all that implies). Leaving her mother bereft, broken, and unable to function and wanting nothing to do with the Colicchios or anyone from ‘The Family’ although Antonia is unclear why! The emotional fallout of this episode combined with the girls growing into teenagers and embarking on high school, impacts their once close friendship, fragmenting it and they start to go in different directions. Antonia discovers the school library and focusing on her studies while also looking after her mother. Sofia learns the power of having moxie, with sashaying hips and ruby pout. As time passes, the girls turn into women, they fall in love; embark on careers and face the tribulations of motherhood, their relationship with each other ebbs and flows like the tide. Until one of their husbands puts all they know in jeopardy and the two women must choose who their real family is…after all Family is Everything!

I loved this book, Naomi has deliciously blended literary and historical context, with her compelling story of friendship between two remarkable, intriguing women at its heart; who face the complexities of societal constraint and familial expectation. Where forging a life of their own design is the aspiration in circumstances where attaining the ‘American dream would have to be gleaned, bought or stolen‘. This wonderfully wrought story illuminates for its readers, the true harsh realities of emigration, the loss of family, of origins and identity, the cost and confusion of the war years on Italian Americans and the trajectory of the criminality of mafia families. Naomi’s novel is an insightful, immersive, imaginative book, that once you start reading, is instantly addictive and a reading experience I have been thoroughly engaged in and enjoyed. I hope you do too!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Naomi Krupitsky attended NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and is an assistant editor at the Vida Review and a bookseller at Black Bird Bookstore. She lives in San Francisco but calls many places home. The Family is her first novel.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Postmistress of Paris

Author: Meg Waite Clayton

Publisher: Harper 360

Available: 6th January 2022  in Hardback eBook and audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Harper 360 for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Last Train to London revisits the dark early days of the German occupation in France in this haunting novel—a love story and a tale of high-stakes danger and incomparable courage—about a young American heiress who helps artists hunted by the Nazis escape from war-torn Europe. Wealthy, beautiful Naneé was born with a spirit of adventure that transcends her Midwestern roots. For her, learning to fly is freedom. When German tanks roll across the border and into Paris, this woman with an adorable dog and a generous heart joins the resistance. Known as the Postmistress because she delivers information to those in hiding, Naneé uses her charms and skill to house the hunted and deliver them to safety.

 Inspired by the real life Chicago heiress Mary Jayne Gold, who worked with American journalist Varian Fry to smuggle artists and intellectuals out of France, Meg Waite Clayton has fashioned a sweeping tale of romance and danger, set in a world aflame with personal and political passion. The Postmistress of Paris is the haunting story of an indomitable woman whose strength, bravery, and love is a beacon of hope in a time of terror

My Thoughts:

Welcome to my first review of 2022 and what a fantastic book to start my book blogging year with. The Postmistress of Paris is Meg’s 6th book but my first experience of reading her work and trust me, it won’t be the last; in fact, I have already bought one of her previous books for my TBR (to be read) pile. As soon as I saw the details for this book, I was desperate to read it as novels based in history, influenced by the real lives of woman always excite and inspire me and quite frankly take me to my happy place. From the moment, you read the first chapter of this novel you find yourself transported to Paris in the 1930/40s, and embarking on a story; richly detailed, compellingly atmospheric, and beautifully absorbingly written. It’s a triple threat as they say (but obviously in a good way).

I loved the opening to this story, a young woman in her red plane with her poodle, flying over Paris and the places she knows so well, then comes a heart in the mouth incident involving a black swan, a swooping emotional moment that takes you from elation to terror in a heart beat, and this moment encapsulates the tone of this story from the outset, although I didn’t realise it until I finished reading the book, how much this was true.

Naneé is a wealthy American, whose rich father untimely death provided her with freedom from the expected norms and restrictions of her time, class, and gender.  Her father’s death occurred a decade hence, when she was undertaking her European year before capitulating to her family’s societal expectations but now a decade later, she is remains in Paris living life to the full, unencumbered by marriage and motherhood. She’s a spirited adventuress; beautiful, intelligent, with money – she can do whatever she wants. Paris in the late 1930s is melting pot of ideas, philosophy, art and a city which is the epitome of cosmopolitan, elegant and decadent. Attending parties with surrealist artists, discussing the nature of art, literature, politics, culture. I loved Naneé intelligence and sharpness, she is unimpressed with her surrealist friends’ sensibilities; where women are depicted naked and dismembered and men are not! She is an independent woman before society was able to label her and despite her hedonistic tendencies, she is charming, kind, and honourable and I adored her (I think because secretly we all see ourselves as being a little bit like Naneé or at least we wish to be.)

The dark spector of German (Nazi) invasion is looming, so Paris is also awash with refugees fleeing their purges and persecution. At one of these parties, Naneé meets Eduardo Moss, a Jewish German photographer, and his small daughter Loki (and her wonderful stuffed Kangaroo, Pemmy – who could have a book of her own given the adventures she has). The book is structured around the perspectives of these characters and their different locations around France as the Nazi menace becomes their reality and Vichy France with its nefarious collaborative stance is founded! What fascinated me was Meg’s ability to imbue her story with such vivid historical detail and subtle emotional intelligence. Paris in denial, the glibness and foolishness about the attitudes of their invaders, the incongruous acceptance of Petén’s actions that only in hindsight can we clearly see their vile intentions. This attitude transforms to a subtle, silent, urgency and Naneé’s evolving comprehension that she cannot just sit by; but needs to act, to assist, to be involved; to defend her adopted country, it’s people and those fleeing the hateful doctrines of the Nazi hoard!

Naneé with her English friend T & son Peterkin flees across France and ends up circuitously in Marseille and crosses paths with Varian Fry; who is setting up the American Emergency Rescue Committee or in French Centre Americain de Secours (CAS) whose remit is to assist with emigration to the US, of refugee intellectuals, under threat of arrest by the Vichy police or worse the Gestapo. Varian discovers that he and his fellow American sponsors have vastly underestimated the circumstances and need of huge number of anti-Nazi writers, avant-garde artists and German socialists, trying to escape.

Varian distrust’s Naneé’s motives to help, initially believing she might be a spy! But she soon become embroiled in the work of CAS, becoming its Postmistress (a rather ironic title for the dangerous job of a messenger) but her American papers allow her exceptional freedom of movement, utilizing this she delivers messages /instructions/updates to those in dire straits. Understanding that if she is discovered or captured, she may well be shot! Naneé, Varian and other CAS employees secretly arrange escapes from French internment camps, forged passports, and orchestrate illegal border crossings, among other hair-raising activities. What makes reading all this, so absorbing and compelling is that these elements of Meg’s book are real occurrences and I must admire, Meg’s intensive research and storytelling skills to incorporate these incredible historical feats into her book, and this element of reality certainly add more fission to their escapades!

For me the power and the readability of this novel is in its diarised structure; which allows for the multiple perspectives of the characters; how Naneé, Varian, Eduardo & Loki’s own stories are weaved around and intersecting with each other’s; bringing their own urgent, humorous, harrowing and emotionally wrenching experiences to the story. Meg is an master storyteller and she has a sublime gift in creating authentic, tangible characters who as a reader, you relate to, admire, and emotionally connect with completely.  Meg’s characters’ journeys are heroic, intrepid, and utterly entrancing, this book is a truly fabulous historical read, it will make you laugh and weep (Naneé farewell to her dog completely reduced me to tears at one point). This novel illuminates the brutality of war, the impact of cruelty and prejudice, the brilliance of art, the power of love and potency of history. It is a book whose essence and characters will remain with you, long after you finish it and I entreat you enthusiastically to buy a copy because you will truly miss out on an incredible reading delight if you don’t!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Meg Waite Clayton is a New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently Beautiful Exiles. Her previous novels include the Langum Prize–honoured The Race for Paris; The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction (now the PEN/Bellwether); and The Wednesday Sisters, one of Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Essential Best Friend Novels of all time. She has also written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, and public radio, often on the subject of the particular challenges women face

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

Rachel’s Holiday

Author: Marian Keynes

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 25th Anniversary Edition – out now

Thank you to Chloë Rose at FMcM Associates and Penguin Michael Joseph for my gorgeous, gifted copy and for having me on the anniversary blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

Meet Rachel Walsh.

She’s been living it up in New York City, spending her nights talking her way into glamorous parties before heading home in the early hours to her adoring boyfriend, Luke.

But her sensible older sister showing up and sending her off to actual rehab wasn’t quite part of her plan. She’s only agreed to her incarceration because she’s heard that rehab is wall-to-wall jacuzzies, spa treatments and celebrities going cold turkey – plus it’s about time she had a holiday. Saying goodbye to fun and freedom will be hard – and losing the man who might just be the love of her life will be even

But will hitting rock bottom help Rachel learn to love herself, at last?

My Thoughts

Welcome to my spot on the anniversary blog tour for Rachel’s Holiday by the magnificent Marian Keynes…well how time flies! 25 years ago, I was a mere 22 years of age, had left university and was finding my feet in the world of work (and trying to figure out what career I wanted to have, trust me at this point I had no clue, I not sure I do now either!) In 1997, I got my first copy of Rachel’s Holiday with its eye-popping fuchsia pink cover, emblazoned with the title and in the middle a small pair of lime green open toed mules. Sadly, this copy met a watery end in the one and only ‘dropped my book in the bath’ episode of my lifetime (so far) let’s hope I don’t drop the iPad next time, that would be bad in so many more ways, I am sure you can imagine! Over the past couple of decades, I have bought at least 8 copies of this incredible read, to gift to friends and to replace versions of my own copy which fell apart due to my zeal for re-reading it.

I simply could never get enough of Rachel, there is something so wonderfully flawed, frustrating, and funny about her. Her struggles with life, her imperfections resonated with me and I think with every woman I know who read this book. For me at 22 and now at 47 (eek I’m old) Marian’s ability to speak to the hearts of her readers and fans, to articulate authentically how striving for or to be perfect (foisted upon us by the images and wealth of media that tells us that we need to be this way or that) need not be our goal or gateway to satisfaction, acceptance, friendship, or love. That no matter who we were or are now, we are enough, just as we are; big knickers, fluffy slippers, size whatever, salesgirl or CEO. We should be ourselves, with all the lumps and bumps and for most of us, the idea of being our real selves was and is a revelation and Rachel was the first heroine we could believe in, be inspired by and see ourselves as! Marian through her female-centric, comedy ridden, astute stories and original tangible characters has become the voice of more than one generation of women but she didn’t stop there, as we aged and face different predicaments so Marian adapted her characters and they grew up with us and inspired us to be exactly who we are, no pretence necessary!

Let me introduce or re-introduce you to Rachel Walsh, who when you are in your 20s and the world is your oyster, life is still complicated, confusing, often calamitous but gloriously fun too. Rachel certainly sees her life that way and refuses to accept or acknowledge the darkness within has escaped and pulled her into the trap of addiction and a near fatal overdose. Even when her big sister steps in for some tough love, Rachel resists the interference or the suggestion she has a problem, especially when she’s dragged from the comfort and familiarity of the bright lights and excesses of the New York party scene and is re-located to the controlled, restrictive calm of the Cloisters Rehab Centre…. Rachel’s worse nightmare (and mine too if I’m honest!)

Therapy, self-help, and whole bunch of meditating weirdos, with who she has absolutely nothing in common! Rachel has no intention of changing, she certainly isn’t going to take the rehab process seriously. In fact, to cope with this episode she decides to view it as Spa Holiday, that she can hopefully while away the time, being pampered, detoxing and celeb spotting. But in slow increments, reality dawns and Rachel’s truth is out, she’s is going to have to face the spectors of the past that haunt her present and she has no choice but to see herself through other people’s eyes and face what she has become! Beyond the party girl persona is a young woman struggling, with insecurity, depression and poor self-worth, her issues would put any cast on the Jeremy Kyle show to shame!

There are moments when you dislike Rachel, her flaws and selfishness are so tangible and I think we recognise them as our own and occasionally I didn’t know whether I wanted to slap her or hug her, probably both (and I suspect many people I know might say that about me too)! Rachel’s journey is profound, poignant, and very pithy, her outrageous reactions to her fellow inmates and her often comic failure to adhere to rules or be honest about the destruction she is reeking on herself or the impact of her actions on friends and family. Until it finally occurs to her that she too is a misfit but so what; that her actions have had consequences and the powerful, heart-rending realisation of what she’s done can’t be undone or hidden but with work it can be forgiven!

In 1997 and now in 2021, Rachel’s Holiday was/is wholly unique in the perspectives it portrays, it was then and is now a truly modern coming of age story, brutal, beautiful, and brilliantly crafted by Marian.  This book was a seminal work, focusing on the protagonist and her experiences from tragedy to triumph; a love story if you will but not one where a perfect girl meets Mr Right and lives happily ever after but one where someone ordinary just like me and you, finally understands, accepting and loving yourself for who you are is paramount to enjoying your life. Rachel’s story is one that will make you cry, cringe and curse (often simultaneously) and one that withstands the ravages of time and every time (be it your first reading or your 20th) you gain further insight into yourself as well as laughing at inopportune moments in public!

Happy Anniversary Rachel’s Holiday and to Marian; thank you for always taking us, your readers to the heart of the matter, for comforting, challenging and charming us with your marvellous words and characters. You are an inspiration (not only for having the best nail varnish collection in the world) but for telling stories about how life is, you are a creative giant and I cannot wait to read more of what happens next in ‘Again Rachel’ which is being published in 2022.

Happy Reading Bookophiles….

About the Author:

Marian Keyes is the international bestselling author of Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, Rachel’s Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels, The Other Side of the Story, Anybody Out There, This Charming Man, The Brightest Star in the Sky , The Mystery of Mercy Close, The Woman Who Stole My Life, The Break and her latest Number One bestseller, Grown Ups. Her two collections of journalism, Making it up as I Go Along and Under the Duvet: Deluxe Edition are also available from Penguin

Please do read some of the other reviews on this Anniversary Blog Tour.

PAH

Author: Orla Owens

Publisher: Lavender Publishing

Available: 21st June 2021 in Paperback & eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Orla Owens for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

Susan Brown is trapped. She lives in nurses’ accommodation she hates, on the run from a past she detests, desperate for a future she can’t afford. Yet.

Calton Jonas is lost. He travels across the country, from beach to city, settling in a small town with a job at the morgue.

Jeffrey Jeffreys is happy as long as life provides him with enough whiskey and beer.

Their lives cross. Old wounds open. Susan takes control but not all of them can survive…

My Thoughts:

PAH is Orla’s second book but my first experience reading any of her work but given how incredible a read this is, you can imagine my joy to discover that I had also bought the eBook of The Lost Thumb which was her first book and which I must confess I have had buried in my ‘to be read’ pile or rather piles for some time. My lovely friend Ellie @elspells13 and fellow Squadette @Squadpod3 told me that I would love this book and she was right…I did indeed. Orla is an incredible imaginative story weaver and her dark deviant imagination (which I adore) captivates you the moment you read the first page of either of her books. Focusing on family but not the fluffy, happy, let’s do everything together, wear matching kitsch jumpers in our Christmas photo and grin smugly out at all our friends type of family. More the ordinary, broken, bent and destructive type of family (I am now wondering if you’ve ever met my mother, she might just give Susan’s a run for her money!). The typical family who on the surface functions in the expected socially agreed manner but is breathtakingly dysfunctional at its core. This book is awfully addictive, dark, devastating and in my opinion utterly divine and you simply must read it!

PAH is not really a word, but the instinctive negative dismissive verbal projectile that our protagonist Susan wields regularly to deflect and defend herself against life. Susan is a nurse which by the very nature of the job, implies a caring and self-sacrificing nature but not in Susan’s case; it amused me, how diametrically opposed Susan’s character traits are to her chosen career, but then is it really what she chooses, the expectation and constraints of her sex have a lot to answer for! Susan is more nurse Hatchett, crossed with American Psycho and in fact she could not care less about her patients. She only really sees other people, as pawns she can sacrifice to serve her own ends. Susan is the epitome of an anti-heroine and it would be very easy to consider her a hideous, appalling person; except I didn’t just see her that way. For me, the character of Susan could represent anyone of us; if we allowed the dark sides of our own personalities to run amok! Susan’s darkness inside has leeched out and tendrils of it touch everything about her and when you discover the possible justification for her tainted character, it may make her behaviour more palatable…then again it might not. I know, I’m being cryptic with jolly good reason, you’ll see why when you read the book!

Parental failure is element that colours Susan, Calton & Jeffrey’s lives; what was it that Philip Larkin wrote in ‘This be the verse’ “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had” and this quote couldn’t be a more fitting way to eloquently describe Susan and Calton’s experience, nor fail to imply the damaging impact such parental ineptitude could lead to and goes a long way to explaining why Susan is the way she is! So, it comes as no surprise, when the parentally suffocated and adored Jeffery Jeffreys (very Catch 22) enters the fray, that Susan preys upon him and views him as the solution to her job loathing issues and the inevitability of the trajectory of the plot towards catastrophic consequences. Poor Calton is in the mix as well and the resulting ramifications lead to the situation that are examined in ‘The Lost Thumb’. So I shall leave you in suspense about anymore details on this!

The thought or thoughts that have rattled around in the forefront of my mind, since finishing this book; is the matter of nature v nurture; are Susan, Calton & Jeffrey born with predefined character traits because they are innate or ingrained in their genetic makeup so their emergence is inevitable/ natural. Or is responsibility for their characteristics and personality development or deviance the direct result of parental nurturing or failure to nurture…a truly complex conundrum isn’t it! I have to admire Orla’s skill at putting this controversial debate into a visceral and almost visual format via the lives of her cast.

Orla has written the most original, outstanding, and outrageous novel and it surely deserves prizes for its authentic genius. You will never have met such a dysfunctional damaged cast of characters whose actions will permeate into your thoughts long after you’ve finished reading. Orla Owen is masterful storyteller, with a magnificent malignant streak and an incredible insight into the darker sides of life. She is now a firm favourite of mine and I will happily and greedily devour whatever she pens next. This mesmerizing book is not to be missed…I insist you buy a copy, right now!

About the Author:

Orla Owen is a writer, online editor, and author of the novel The Lost Thumb, PAH is her second novel.

In 2020 she won second prize in the Sandstone Press Short fiction competition and was published in Storgy magazine. Her writing focuses on the dark and macabre side of family life, the parts that go on behind closed doors.

Before she became a writer, she was an actress and drama practitioner, studying Theatre at Bretton Hall College of Arts. She has performed at the Royal Court and Edinburgh fringe, as well as working on The Women’s Theatre Workshop mentoring scheme.

Supporting women in writing is important to her and she worked on a writers’ mentoring scheme, as an assistant to the author Kerry Hudson, at the WoMentoring Project

She is currently working on her third novel

Twitter: @orlaowenwriting

Website: www.orlaowen.com

Instagram: orlaowenwriting

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Talking to Calippa Cumberland

Author: Chick Yuill

Publisher: Instant Apostle

Available: 22nd October 2021 in paperback

Thank you to Rhoda Hardie at Rhoda Hardie PR & Instant Apostle for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

It’s half past four on Christmas Eve, 1976. Lori Bloom, aged three and three quarters, is leaving a busy department store with her mother when the tannoy announces that a child in reception is lost and crying for her parents. The impact on Lori is immediate. ‘Calippa Cumberland’, the mysterious girl with blond hair and a curious name, becomes her imaginary friend and a constant presence into adulthood. As one Christmas follows another, Lori finds herself confronting painful questions and in need of a companion in whom she can confide – and finds herself sharing her experiences and her innermost thoughts with Calippa. Will there ever be someone Lori can completely trust? And will Christmas Eve ever be about finding and being found, rather than losing and being lost?

My Thoughts:

Faith and Christianity have been a large part of my life; my lovely Daddy Two Spoons was a Vicar before he retired but rather like Lawyers and Doctors; his calling didn’t start or end with the life span of his career. Having a faith for me is about belief and attempting to follow biblical teaching and it is not the same as ‘being religious’ which is something I am often asked if I am, when people discover my dad’s job. Religion often has a bad reputation these days and sadly with good reason and for me Religion and Faith are not the same thing. So why am I telling you all this, well because it’s not often my book blogging/reviewing crosses over into my faith. However, this lovely, charming novel imbued with faith and festive tones sounded too good to miss and if you want a novel full of Christmas spirit, this maybe the book for you.

The story opens on Christmas Eve 1976 when our main protagonist Lori is a small child, and with her mother in a department store, when a tannoy announcement about a lost child changes her outlook and all the subsequent chapters are also set on Christmas Eves but over progressing time and this allows us to follow Lori Bloom’s life and all the trials and tribulations she faces. This is a character driven story and Chick has immense talent and insight in developing his cast of wonderful and empathetic characters, you cannot fail to warm to Lori her lovely personality and the way she sees the world. I also have a soft spot for Madge who is now in her twilight years and has been there and done it all in many respects yet regardless of what life has thrown at her, retains the ability to be wonderfully kind and I can’t help but admire that trait in a character. And Chick is absolutely spot on in his belief that a good story, well told, can encourage and change it’s readers perspectives.

I think one of the elements of this beautiful story that strongly resonated with me, was Lori interaction with Calippa Cumberland; because for 20 years of my life I wrote regularly in journal and like Lori addressed all my intimate thoughts and emotional reactions to my circumstances to an imagined friend (although mine was influenced by the name of woman in painting – Kisella) because it was sometimes easier and safer to express myself this way than it was to friends or family. I think Lori may feel this way too, as Calippa would never break her trust or lets her down. There is a great deal of poignancy to this novel and how through life we lose people we love; either because our lives diverge in different directions or through the ultimate loss, losing loved ones to death but to counterbalance this, Chick also directs his cast to hope, to strive to find or be found. Woven in his words are messages of encouragement, spirituality, faith, and the true meaning of Christmas. I will warn you this story has the ability to provoke an intense emotional reaction and I can’t possibly tell you anything about the end, as you need to read it for yourselves without me spoiling any of its impact.

If you are searching for a different type of Christmas read this year, I thoroughly recommend you embark on Lori’s journey as it may inspire you in more ways than you could imagine. This is a unique novel about one life but it has the ability to impact many lives. Ordinarily I am not a fan of Christian literature as it can be a little preachy, trust me, this book is nothing like that. It is beautiful and memorable story and I enthusiastically encourage you to read it as its essence and characters will remain with you long after you’ve turned the last page of the book.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Chick is a speaker, writer, and broadcaster with a passion to bring matters of faith into the wider arena of public life and discourse. He believes that nothing reaches truth or touches people’s hearts better than a well-told story. Talking to Calippa Cumberland is Chick Yuill’s 6th novel to be published by Instant Apostle

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Retreat

Author: Alison Moore

Publisher: Salt Publishing

Available: 15th November 2021 in Paperback

Thank you to Helen Richardson of Helen Richardson PR & Salt Publishing for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

Since childhood, Sandra Peters has been fascinated by the small, private island of Lieloh, home to the reclusive silent-film star Valerie Swanson. Having dreamed of going to art college, Sandra is now in her forties and working as a receptionist, but she still harbours artistic ambitions. When she sees an advert for a two-week artists’ retreat on Lieloh, Sandra sets out on what might be a life-changing journey.

My Thoughts

It is my pleasure today to be reviewing Alison Moore’s 5th novel The Retreat and my first experience of reading one of her books but having been captivated by this story, I guarantee this won’t be the last of Alison’s books I read. Having lived on the Isle of Wight, I have a deep-seated fascination with island life and this book, takes that interest to another unnerving level!

The Retreat is a relatively short novel at only 157 pages, yet though it may be small, it is incredibly mighty in my opinion. Packed from the first page with a moody atmosphere and tinged with foreboding that subtly draws you into the story.

From childhood Sandra has been beguiled by the remote Island of Lieloh, which she viewed from the distant Leil where she was holidaying with her parents; aware it was home to the famous actress Valerie Swanson, Sandra was drawn to its mystical presence. Throughout her life, Sandra has had artistic aspirations but life’s practicalities quashed them. So, when she comes across an advert for an artistic retreat on Lieloh, she is compelled to take advantage of this opportunity to visit the island and pursue her desire to become an artist.

Carol is a writer who is struggling to write and when her friend Roman offers her his house on the island he owns, she takes the opportunity to focus on her writing without life’s multitude of distractions. Yet, time without distraction is not to be; no sooner is she situated in this strange house, then odd occurrences begin; the odour of garlic when nobody is cooking to name one. Instead of concentrating on her writing Carol sets out to discover more about the history of the house and its previous owners.

Sandra arrives at the retreat but her expectations of acceptance and recognition by her fellow artists are short lived, she is ostracised and picked on, everything she suggests from food recommendations to tea making is received negatively and her hopes of finally living her dream are destroyed and with it her desire to improve her painting skills; by quite frankly a horrible group of people (I kept wanting her to give them a piece of her mind or push them off a cliff and leave)! As to what transpires, well that is for me to know and you to find out, I really have no intension of spoiling the story and if I say much more I might!

The tangibility of Sandra’s emotions, her sense of alienation and the treacherous nature of bullying are all themes woven together in this story, with the addition of a mysterious island as the setting for this experiences makes it a deliciously sinister read, and when you add in Alison’s incredible knowledge of other stories set on islands and of fairy tales and her detailed beautiful prose, the combination makes this book a darkly tinged, scintillating adventure. And if unexplained noises make you as jumpy as me, I recommend keeping this book for daylight reading only! This is a clever, creative, and creepy book and despite its diminutive proportions, it cannot fail to capture your imagination, as it has mine. I hope you add this book to your ‘to buy list’ as it is too exceptional to be missed!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Alison Moore is a novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards (New Writer of the Year), winning the McKitterick Prize. Both The Lighthouse and her second novel, He Wants, were Observer Books of the Year. In 2018, she published her fourth novel, Missing, and her first book for children, Sunny and the Ghosts, followed by Sunny and the Hotel Splendid and Sunny and the Wicked Lady. Her most recent novel is The Retreat.

Her short fiction has been included in Best British Short Stories and Best British Horror anthologies and broadcast on BBC Radio. The title story of her collection, The Pre-War House, won the New Writer Novella Prize. She is published by Salt. Born in Manchester in 1971, she lives in a village on the Leicestershire-Nottinghamshire border. She is an honorary lecturer in the School of English at the University of Nottingham. http://www.alison-moore.com

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

How To Live In The Country

Author: Tom Hodgkinson

Publisher: Unbound

Available: 14th October 2021 in Hardback

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Unbound for my lovely, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

‘A COMBINATION OF ALMANAC, COMMONPLACE BOOK AND DIARY, THIS IS A TASTY ODDITY . . . RICHLY ENTERTAINING’ INDEPENDENT

As lockdown has caused us all to re-evaluate our lives, becoming more self-reliant and living in closer harmony with nature have emerged as important priorities. Many of us have even decided to up sticks and leave the city behind for a less frenetic existence in the country.

To mark this, we are re-issuing Tom Hodgkinson’s classic month-by-month guide to getting the most of living in the country in a handy small hardback format.

 If you have just made the move, are planning to do so soon (or just dream of doing it one day) this is the perfect book for you.

 ‘EVERY GARDENER AND ALLOTMENT HOLDER SHOULD HAVE A COPY’ THE OLDI

Originally published as Brave Old World in 2011, this handsome pocket edition has a new introduction by Tom and a foreword by actor Dominic West – a man who swallowed Tom’s advice whole and made the move back to the land.

It is also illustrated throughout by artist Alice Smith’s beautiful black and white montages and drawings. Covering everything from bee-keeping, poultry rearing, pig farming, bread baking, wood- chopping, fire-laying, bartering, home-schooling and much more, How to Live in the Country is the perfect source of inspiration for old hands and beginners alike: useful, informative but also refreshingly honest and realistic. Tom Hodgkinson draws on the wisdom of an eclectic range of thinkers and writers as he guides us through each month of the year, giving lists of tasks for both garden and animal husbandry, offering tips and short-cuts, and weaving in stories about his own experience of raising a young family in rural Devon.

My Thoughts:

My first thoughts when I saw this book was how lovely it looks and very shortly afterwards, I realised the cover matched the content and it was pocket sized perfection. I thoroughly enjoyed the new introduction to the book penned by Dominic West, who illustrates that you do not need to have first-hand experience of life in the country to appreciate the content of this book! In fact, if you have moved to the country and have found you have all the gear but no idea, this exactly the read you need.

 Tom has created a month-by-month guide to rural life; it is the sort of book, that you don’t need to sit down and read all at once, it is one that you can dip into (depending on the season) or your mood. Which is exactly what I have done, when reading it. This is a rural almanac, it is irresistible, irrepressible, intellectual, and often delightfully irreverent. I have spent the past few weeks reading it and I have frequently been spouting my learnings to my family; although they may be starting to roll their eyes at me now!! I am surprised by how much of what I have read, has stuck in my head. I know more about the water density in logs than I ever thought possible (over 20% water within them means they won’t burn well), see, it’s really a shame I don’t have a log burner! I was also fascinated by the concept of Old World v New World (and the frequent comparison to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World) and the idea that just because something is new, very techy and saves oodles of time, doesn’t necessarily make it good. Sometimes tradition trumps tech!

Part of what amused me about this devious little tome, is that yes, it is awash with the finer points of country life but at the same time is completely dispels any dreamy notions a reader may have of living the good life; how much easier a rural idle might be! Trust me nothing about living a rural life is simple or easy but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rewarding! I also love the lengths Tom goes to advise those, who are considering the decision to flee their urban confines. You could almost retitle the book ‘ How Not To Be a Numpty When Moving to The Country’! The structure of this book is wonderful, each month is title with a prevailing task to be accomplished (Seed Sowing, Chicken Husbandry, Feast) and is furnished with mix of history of philosophic views, traditions, folklore and then come Tom’s own experiences or acts of calamity; if ever the phrase learn from my egregious errors was more pertinent and I confess they did make me laugh!! As a list lover myself, I couldn’t help but admire the detailed lengths Tom documents to achieve the tasks that need to be completed; if you have land and/or livestock, they are eminently practical and exceedingly clear well considered. Is the grass greener on the rural side of the fence, often it is but it is also often colder, muddier, and filled with rogue chickens; You’ve been warned!

This wonderful book would make the perfect gift this Christmas, it will certainly surprise, amuse and inform anyone who receives a copy (and remember to follow Christmas present guidelines) buy 2 gifts and buy 1 for yourself, which means you can treat yourself to a copy and indulge before anyone else.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Tom Hodgkinson is the founder and editor of The Idler and the author of bestselling books including How to be Idle, How to be Free, The Idle Parent and Business for Bohemians. In 2014, after more than a decade in rural Devon, he and his wife Victoria Hull returned to London and established The Idler Academy, which hosts literary events and offers online courses in academic and practical subjects including philosophy, calligraphy, music, business skills, English grammar, public speaking, dancing, drawing and self-defence.

Please do have read of some of the reviews on this blog tour.

When Then Becomes Now

Author: Sara Madderson

Available: Now in Paperback & eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Sara Madderson for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

You’re seventeen, and you’re hopelessly, crazily in love.

One night, everything goes tragically wrong, and you won’t see him for twenty-one long years.

When your paths cross again, you’re married. And he’s famous.

How can you be together?

How can you not?

“Twenty-one years of no contact and no answers and no way to heal from the fact that she fell off a figurative cliff, that day in 1998, and she’s been stumbling along ever since, putting one foot in front of the other, trying to exist.”

My Thoughts:

As Autumn slides into Winter, I have needed some pure escapism in my reading choices, so I was thrilled to be able to return to Sorrell Farm with Sara Madderson’s 3rd book in this delicious series, When Then Becomes Now. Knowing I had this delectable morsal to indulge in, I snuggled up on my sofa, broke open the Borders Biscuits (my latest addiction) and made a huge frothy coffee and settled down to enjoy another exciting ex-rated and ex-filled reading romp! Every girl I know has an ex who got away…what happens when 21 years later he returns all perfect pecs and peachy bum…I can’t wait for you to find out, so get your naughty knickers at the ready ladies (Sara knows what lavish lingerie, I’m referring to!) and soon you will too and trust us, they are a necessary acquisition as is this book!

Clara Winter is the in-house photographer at Sorrell Farm, mother of twins and has a lifestyle most would envy. Having recently put her creative skills to good use, taking stunning pictures for the Sorrell Farm Cookbook, when Evelyn (Sorrell Farms Commercial Director) tasks her with taking pictures of the Well Being & Mindfulness Conference the farm is hosting, Clara relishes the opportunity until she discovers who the celebrity fitness guru is going to be….Alex Molloy; emerald eyed, tattooed, taut bodied, former bad boy and fitness god and the love of Clara’s teenage life until a traumatic event tore them apart! Clara is filled with trepidation and unsure if she can face him after all this time, but armed with a cinching belt, a bra of epic engineering and tummy taming spanx, she’s ready for their first explosive meeting! I must confess I did admire Clara’s effort (in my world wearing anything more than comfy PJs is me making an effort!) Alex has never forgotten Clara and all those long supressed emotions surface as he greets her, with the very sexy ‘Hello Angel’…. a delightful swoony moment and one of many in this succulent instalment.

This story has dual timelines; the current being 2019 and the Clara & Alex’s past in 1997; we follow them as teenagers, their meeting and falling in love and overwhelming teenage lust where all sense of proportional reaction is void. I loved Sara’s astute perceptions of being a teenage girl in love, the all-encompassing, all-consuming power and intensity of the emotions involved! Clara as a teen was diligent, shy, and studious, focused on her studies with her tight by loyal friendship group, helping her parents run their Italian restaurant (and having read all about Valentina’s I now have strong desire for biscotti)! Alex was popular, with a bad boy shell, that melted when he was with Clara, she inspires him to be better, to fulfil his potential! One of the elements in Alex and Clara’s backstory, I loved was Sara’s skill in expressing the sensory element of their relationship, the feel of Clara’s hair in Alex’s hand, the scent of Alex’s skin, how these permeate into their individual subconscious; is both sensual and tender and it cannot fail to cause your own reminiscing of past loves…for me that is the smell of Calvin Klein’s CK One and the tones of Savage Garden’s ‘truly, madly, deeply’! A little sigh and smile moment there!

In 2019, Alex and Clara are once again drawn to each other, they literally can’t help themselves and certainly that desk in a beautiful hotel, helped Clara on her way to her happy place and Alex’s too (yes, I’m being suggestive…but it is very hot!) and yet the sadness of their lives lived apart and the reasons for this, torments Alex still and  Clara being once again prepared to give him her all (despite the upheaval it will cause her and the life she built without him)! I did enjoy Sara’s ability to draw comparison between Alex & Clara and the protagonists in Edith Warton’s Age of Innocence (Clara’s favourite book) and explore the truly complicated nature of relationships and how in love sometimes ‘Courage is required to put aside what is comfortable to attain greater happiness’.  Is this the challenge Alex and Clara can take on and finally win!? Ah well, as if I’m going to spoil that element of the story! You will just have to find out for yourselves! Of all the Sorrell Farm books, this one delves sensitively into the true complexities of love and relationships; regardless of race, status, or age. It is the most sexy, sensory, sublime story and I loved it and I suspect you will too!

When Then Becomes Now is the prefect, passionate, poignant romance for this winter season; prepare for angelic reunions, beautiful bows and bums and some steamy sensual unfinished business, utterly irresistible in my book! A sultry story suitable for every type of stocking be they slinky silk or Santa covered!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Sara Madderson is an author, entrepreneur, wife, and mother. She was born in Ireland and moved to the UK with her family when she was ten years old. She lives in London with her husband Chris, their two children, Paddy and Tilly, and their cocker spaniel Charlie.

Before turning to writing, Sara worked in finance for a decade and then ran her own fashion brand, Madderson London, for eight years. She earned her MPhil in Early Modern History from the University of Birmingham.

Metamorphosis is Sara’s first book. Given that she spent most of her childhood writing and designing clothes, she’s now seen both of her childhood career dreams come true! She’s enjoyed the adventure of publishing independently as much as she’s enjoyed the writing process itself. She’s now completely hooked on writing!

Twitter @saramadderson

Please do read some of the reviews available on this blog tour.

A Ghost In The Throat

Author: Doireann Ni Ghriofa

Publisher: Tramp Press

Available: 28th October 2021 in Paperback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Helen Richardson of Helen Richardson PR and Tramp Press for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

WINNER Book of the Year, the Irish Book Awards

WINNER Foyles Non-Fiction Book of the Year

WINNER James Tait Black Memorial Prize

SHORTLISTED Gordon Burn Prize

SHORTLISTED Rathbones Folio Prize

SHORTLISTED Republic of Consciousness Prize

LONGLISTED Desmond Elliott Prize

‘When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries’

In the 1700s an Irish noblewoman, on discovering that her husband has been murdered, drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary poem. Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire was famously referred to by Peter Levi, then Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, as the ‘greatest poem written in these islands in the whole eighteenth century.’

In the present day, a young mother narrowly avoids tragedy. On encountering the poem, she becomes obsessed with its echoes in her own life and sets out to track down the rest of the poet’s story. Culminating in Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s own translation of the poem, A Ghost in the Throat is a devastating and timeless tale about one woman freeing her voice by reaching into the past to hear another’s

My Thoughts;

When my friend and fellow squadette Sue at Brown Flopsy’s Book Burrow (@brownflopsy) messaged us The SquadPod Collective (@squadpod3) and enthusiastically insisted that we all needed to read this book, I checked out the details and thought…ooooh Sue’s right this book does sound incredible! I added it immediately to my To Buy List and then as if the fates knew something I didn’t, I was sent an email asking if I wanted to be part of the blog tour for this very book. How could I resist! This book is indeed breath taking, sublimely beautiful and nearly impossible to review with sufficient addjectives to impart how astonishing a read it is or how much, I want you to read it too. Sue said it was unequalled and she was right!

Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill was a 17th century Irish poet, who poured her feelings of profound loss, grief and mourning of her murdered husband in the soulful, lyrical poem Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire (The Keen for Art O Laoghaire) copies of this incredible poem in both Irish and English are located at the back of the book and I found it germane to read the poem before I embarked on reading this book (and I would also suggest you read it again at the end of your journey with this book) as your comprehension of its themes and nuances, will transform after you’ve read this novel. This book is a song of women, sung in the past and the present, an investigation, a memoir both beautiful and brutal; a tapestry of prose, stitching elements together; pulling at the threads of different women’s lives to create discernible images and experiences, to enrich emotions to the point of visibility. It is truly stunning to read.

A harried mother of three is our narrator she has a lifelong fascination with this poem and as she reads it aloud, it almost become a living entity that weaves its evocations into her life and drives her to investigate the poem further and this exploration propels, motivates, and bolsters her. I loved being involved in her life’s journey, the truths, experiences of love, marriage and motherhood and the emotions that crash like waves on a beach, the ebullience, the consternation, the depletion, and the solace she gleans from the known certainty of her routine and how this links her to generations of women who before her, have trodden these familiar paths of womanhood and succinctly extrapolates the reality of being female, a wife, a mother, a crone. All through the book repeated phrase ‘this is a female text’ allowing the reader to assume, she too is included in this story and its female centric themes.

Over the period of the novel, you see our narrator move closer to the poet, especially when tribulations impact her own life and further compel her learn all she can about Nelly (the pet name given to the poet by family). Yet her discoveries are hampered by the socio-cultural traditions of the time, where the voices and stories of women were predominately oral not written and any that were written, have often been buried beneath the lives and words of men making finding tangible answers difficult.

This book is an ode to womanhood and the clever observation or sentiment that the point we’ve reached in our lives, colours how we see, what influences us and inspires what we read (doesn’t it just) is wonderful. This book is poetic, profound, pertinent, and utterly phenomenally perfect, it will forever be present in your heart as it now is in mine. It belongs on your bookshelf, I insist, and implore you to get a copy and I will go as far as to beg you to buy one, right now, today…. you will never have read such an book as this, and I’m not sure I will read anything quite like it ever again!

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

DOIREANN NÍ GHRÍOFA is a bilingual writer whose books explore birth, death, desire, and domesticity. Doireann’s awards include a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Seamus

Heaney Fellowship, the Ostana Prize and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. She is a member of Aosdána. A Ghost in the Throat is her prose debut.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The Reacher Guy

The Authorised Biography of Lee Child

Author: Heather Martin

Publisher: Piatkus, Constable and Robinson – a division of Little Brown Book Group

Available: 21st September 2021 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Piatkus, Constable and Robinson – a division of Little Brown Book Group for my beautiful, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

The definitive, authorised biography of Lee Child

The Reacher Guy is a life of bestselling superstar Lee Child, a portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. It tells the story of how the boy from Birmingham reinvented himself to become the strongest brand in publishing, selling over one hundred million books in more than forty different languages across the globe.

Heather Martin interviews friends, teachers, colleagues, and neighbours, including agents and editors. Based primarily on her conversations with the author over a period of years, together with readings of his books and research in his literary archive, this authorised biography reveals the man behind the myth, tracing his origins back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally floats free of his fictional creation.

Lee Child comments: “I met Heather Martin some years ago, and we started talking about why people love telling and hearing stories. To get more depth and detail we started talking about why I do. Eventually I said, ‘If you want to really get to the bottom of it, you’re going to have to write my biography.’ So she did. It was a fun and illuminating process. I had forgotten a lot, and it was fascinating to be reminded. Now it all makes sense.”

My Thoughts;

I do love a good biography, especially one that explores, examines, and extrapolates the life of a writer. So the moment the details of this book hit my inbox, I knew I had to read it! After all Lee Child is an author recognised the world over, primarily lauded for being the creator of the inscrutable Jack Reacher; whose high octane, testosterone filled escapades have been immortalised in millions of paperbacks and in celluloid (the casting of whom I will not be debating here).

Lee Child has always been a bit of an enigma to me, as an avid reader I have embarked on several of his contemporaries work but I have to confess that  only once have I owned one of his books and that was more by accident than design (an ex left it behind when we parted ways!) and I didn’t read it because, I can’t bear to read books out of order, so I re-homed it but not through lack of interest! I saw the opportunity of reading this biography as a pathway into igniting my reading interest in the Jack Reacher series and as it turns out, my ploy worked; very soon, I shall be starting my Jack Reacher Odyssey although I have Heather to thank for the encouragement!

This biography is an epic tome indeed, standing at 500 + pages but from my first foray into its pages it is/was abundantly clear why Heather was awarded the task of crafting Lee’s authorised life on paper. The book is magnificently penned and minutely researched; you are awash with details of Lee’s early life (including the fact that his given name is actually James Dover Grant) Heather expertly and knowledgably recounts the symbiotic relationship between Lee Child and Jack Reacher (who, it does seem is really Lee’s imagined alter ego) Heather transports us back to Lee’s brummie childhood; where he consumed books (all books on every subject imaginable) his thirst for knowledge raged unquenched; in his early life, you get distinct impression than Lee was much more a fighter than a writer; given his parent’s unilateral disinterest and disappointment in him and their distinct lack of emotional nurturing, it is not surprising that his self-reliance, independence of thought and physicality formed a protective shell allowing his successful progress to manhood.

Heather does not follow a traditional timeline approach in the construction of this book (birth to retirement) but instead directs readers to the impressions of his friends, colleagues, family of the man himself; their reminiscences and recollections and their roles in his life; that undoubtedly influenced him and set him on a very determined career path and with an inscrutable single-minded direction to success, with priority being to care for his family. Lee is not a man who wastes opportunity, nor does he squander chances and if something within his life/career needed to happen, he would make it (with an immense force of will). His need for success and status to re-enforce security for his loved ones is apparent and he definitely has a very unorthodox approach to parenting (but I’m sure his daughter had no issues with it). Redundancy was the catalyst in his life; deciding to focus his attention on writing an airport blockbuster, as it was most likely to bring him financial success than any literary aspirations (I loved the complete confidence of his approach to this task) and of course he was right x 25. Heather leaves us in no doubt that Lee knows his own mind and rarely deviates from his personal trajectory or truths.

This book is a treasure trove of information on who Lee Child is; brilliantly crafted and illuminated by Heather and for any Jack Reacher fans, it will be almost biblical in stature! I was thoroughly engaged in how Jim Grant became Lee Child, his route into writing, publication and all the challenges this entails; his love of football (Aston Villa), his growing affection for the US and how such a famous writer maintains his humanity with the added spice of creativity and cynicism. Hearing his voice, his directness, his vivid reactions made the book even more intriguing and interesting. If blockbusting biographies were a thing, this one would be an award winner. It is an amusing, astute and addictively absorbing book and so utterly compelled was I to keep reading, that I bought the audiobook as well; so, while doing the dull admin at work (I’m still working from home) I could carry on this incredible journey!

 This book is going to make the perfect Christmas gift for everyone you know and will certainly dispel any festive fug or fatigue. Or if like me you follow the Icelandic ‘Jolabokaflod’ tradition, I can’t think of a better way of spending Christmas Eve, than immersed in this insightful and immense biography! Just don’t forget a huge box of choccies too, you will need it!

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author

Heather Martin was born in West Australia. She grew up in Aix-en-Provence, Paris, and Perth, where she would fall asleep to the sound of the Indian Ocean. She left Australia for England to become a classical guitarist but found herself singing with a Venezuelan folk group and learning to speak Spanish instead. She read Languages at Cambridge, where she also did a PhD in comparative literature, and has held teaching and research positions at Cambridge, Hull, King’s College London, and most recently, the Graduate Centre, City University New York.  Heather is a long-time Reacher fan. While waiting to get her hands on the next in the series, she once read a Lee Child book in Spanish and wound up writing to the author about the fate of his character in translation. The Reacher Guy is her first biography.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

The Girl, The Crow, The Writer And The Fighter

Author: George Paterson

Publisher: Into Books

Available: 21st October in Hardback, eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Into Books for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

It’s 1965 and provocative author Henry Miller is taken incognito to an infamous title fight. In the turbulent aftermath of the bout, Miller is forced to battle his way through the ensuing melee in order to make a vital connection with the keeper of a tightly guarded secret. ‘Is it safe?’ Twenty years later, a young Maine waitress receives an unusual bequest.

 From the estate of an elderly patron, May Morgenstern takes ownership of a bound collection of letters, hitherto unseen correspondence between her late friend and the aforementioned writer in which he not only recounts the story of how he came to be accused of the slaying of the man who fathered her but how his fate came to be linked with that of future heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston. George Paterson’s epistolary tale of murder and chicanery is a study of chaos in instalments. ‘The Girl, The Crow, The Writer And The Fighter’ is an incendiary, exciting, ‘what if?’ page turner which spans continents and lifetimes

My Thoughts

As a book blogger, whenever I sit down to read a book I am due to review, I am always accompanied by the book I’m reading (obviously) a note book; of which I now possess an indecent number; a pen, in any number of colours, I’m dyslexic and I can’t always read my own writing and colour pen on paper helps; a pack of page markers, the more novel the better (little owl heads a present) and a very very large mug of frothy coffee. Only when these components are in place, can I relax and read, well usually. However, on this occasion about 100 pages into this book, I had to drag myself from my reading cocoon and decamp to my kitchen table in order to draw a mind map of the contents, the cast & the plotlines of this novel to keep it all straight! This is truly a clever, complex, and compelling read; a blissful marriage of fact and fiction furnished with an extraordinary number of characters, crime chaos and literary calamity and it will certainly keep your brain fully engaged until you turn the last page and it will certainly cause you to smile in amusement too!

The book opens in the mid-60s; where the thinly disguised, decadent author Henry Miller is taken to an infamous boxing match but the purpose of his attending is not merely to revel in the pugilistic skills of the fighters but this title fight is the foil for a clandestine meeting between Miller and the confidant of an incredible secret!

Twenty years later; a collection of letters is bestowed on a waitress of The Columbus Diner in Auburn Maine, May Morgenstern, who is certainly quirky, with a quick temper and an even quicker whit. Elie, the deceased, left strict instructions that the contents of an ornate box, could only be opened in private and the letters inside only opened and read (in sequence) by May. Who soon discovers that the letters are a series of correspondence between the reprobate author Henry Miller and Elie! As May follows Elie’s instructions and reads the letters; an incredible story unfurls! Now it would be remiss of me to detail too much (as you know I do dislike a spoiler!) Instead, I shall give a few tasty titbits to sate your curiosity; Paris and an accusation of murder; the acquisition of an African treasure; the unwanted attention of ‘The Crow’; Miller’s near miss on the Med; An unlikely alliance between the writer (Miller) and the fighter (Sonny Liston – the 1962 world heavy weight boxer) and heaps more. What I hear you ask of May’s role; what part does she have to play and is she the catalyst to bring conclusion to this crime caper! You don’t really expect me to tell all do you!!!

George Paterson is the complete crime mixologist; creating fantastic identities and experiences for his characters and he is a mastermind of magnificent plotting (I’m applauding George) and I loved the depth and scope of the historical/literary research as well. The letter format throughout, is engaging and I loved how much was implied within their contents. Reading this novel, was an entertaining, exciting, and educational experience. It is a book I could hardly put down (bar the mind mapping necessity). I think it would make a fantastic book club read (there is so much content to discuss and dissect). This is definitely a book to put on your to buy list….or it would make a fabulous festive gift for any discerning readers you know.

Happy Reading Bookophiles

About the Author:

George Paterson is a writer, DJ and musician who, as a member of the bands White and DMP, released a number of well received albums on the Poco Alto Label. His work can be found in a number of independent feature length and short films as well as providing the musical backdrop to the London stage production of the play, ‘ISM’.

Since returning to Scotland in 2017, his focus has been split between the spoken word – his popular weekly ‘Lost in Music’ radio show – and the written, with articles appearing in a number of online publications before finding a home as a regular features writer and reviewer for INTO Creative. @gfpaterson

Please do read some of the other reviews on this tour

Heaven On Earth

Author: Sara Madderson

Available: Now in Paperback & eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Sara Madderson for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

TWO GUYS. ONE CHOICE. IT’S OBVIOUS, RIGHT?

Sadie has one job: to court the press and put Sorrel Farm on the map. She doesn’t suffer fools. She knows what she wants—in work and in love. And she always gets what she wants.

Ned is the farm’s quiet, intellectual Finance Director. And he’s smitten. He’s got so much to give. If only Sadie could be bothered to look below the surface…

Danny is everything Ned is not: overtly sexy, overtly flirtatious and extremely self-assured. But there’s something off about him…It’s obvious who the more attractive proposition is. Well, it’s obvious to everyone but Sadie.

Join Sadie’s messy love triangle and reunite with your favourite characters from Food for Thought: Evelyn, Angus, Zoe and more!

My Thoughts:

It is my great pleasure today, to be bringing you my review of Sara’s second book in her Sorrell Farm series. Sara’s books really are becoming a favourite of mine and truly bring me to my happy place (no that isn’t a euphemism for anything…) As the nights draw in and we all start to snuggle up with blankets and expresso martini’s (ok that may just be me) now is the time to indulge in some literary light relief and to find a new dishy ruggedly handsome book boyfriend to swoon over or rather lust over, trust me when you meet Angus & Ned in this instalment you will know exactly what I mean! So, get your bath lilies at the ready ladies, let Angus & Ned get you in a lusty lather…time to relax and indulge in some romantic raunchy reading.

Evelyn has moved from the highs of Holland Park life, is amicably divorcing her celebrity chef husband Seb (who was outed in a previous book) and has up sticks to the wilds of deepest darkest Kent, to Sorrell Farm. The home and business of her friends Jess the potty mouthed pocket rocket and Zoe her wife, the ying to her yang; a serene, beautiful and talent chef. Evelyn has invested in their business and taken up the role of Commercial Director and aspires to take Sorrell farm to the next level commercially and boost their brand; at her side is the delicious, dedicated Angus Rutherford (doesn’t his name just give you tingles) Sorrell Farm’s Manager, they are a match made in heaven although the focus in this novel isn’t on them (Sorrell Farm Book 1 – Food for Thought expands their story). As part of her remit, Evelyn has employed a new PR manager Sadie (former journalist) to boost the farm’s public profile and get her projects off the ground.

Sadie is a savvy, smart, stylish London girl, a blond bombshell but she is feeling slightly marooned in Sevenoaks but she is relishing the challenge of her new job and getting to work side by side with media darling Evelyn Macleod is an absolute dream. Her last relationship to a city trader, died a slow death and she is wondering if the rural idle of Sorrell Farm will bring more pleasures than fresh air and fantastic food, maybe a brawny farmer or two to scratch a romantic itch! Enter the devilishly handsome Danny, Sorrell Farm’s new deputy farm manager; flirtatious and fit, who makes it obvious from the outset he’d fit the bill! But is he the flying saucer of man candy (one suck and you’re done; oops sorry if that’s too rude – innuendo intended)! Can Sadie see past his obvious advances and recognise his dastardly behaviour for exactly what it is! (no I’m not telling you what he does but trust me my taser finger was twitching and still is)!

There is another prospect at Sorrell Farm for Sadie; can she really see, Ned Fitzsimons the farm’s finance director; whose diaper butt chinos have put her off from day one! Has Sadie missed her chance at finding love, will his nerdy obsession with financial data and his hidden hot swimming bod, turn her head in the right direction?! Well, that is for me to know and you to find out and trust me, you really want to! Especially page 129, Ned in speedos (thank you Sara) or even better on Page 198, when Sadie is studying Ned’s bookshelf and realises that his reading choices are ‘a facet of Ned and his Nedness’ (be still my fluttering heart, a man who reads…the fallen librarian swoons). How can any reader resist this man and if you are wondering, will there be a happy ending for all involved? I’m not telling!

With every book of Sara’s I read, I love her focus on woman centric fiction; her cast of very different, dynamic, driven women who form lasting friendships, rather than tear each other down or steal each other’s men. They appreciate each other’s strengths and build their relationships, support each other often over a glass of bubbly or a frothy coffee (perfection right). I admire how Sara entwines these themes in this book and her others; I told you, Sara’s sassy sexy stories really are my happy place! I also very much appreciate that Sara develops her characters with a defined understanding of self, that when they make mistakes, their flawed choices or actions aren’t swept under the carpet but addressed; as Sadie does when analysing her tendency to ‘push her own agenda’ in work and love and not give her power over men the respect it warrants! For me, this engaging mix of the fun and frivolous with the depth of emotional intelligence makes Sara’s creations an absolute must read every time. Bar one thing; Sara my darling glorious writer; the issue of granola, it is never supremely tasty; unless you are equine in nature or it is part of my posh crumble topping and served with lashings of whipped cream! Sorry I digress…. back to my review.

Heaven on Earth indeed, this novel is a rural romantic romp of a read; with heaps of fabulous food, fun and frolics down on the farm; be prepared to meet mouth-watering men and meals!  This is the perfect book to keep you warm (in every way) this winter! So, don’t delay, treat yourself to a copy, today!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Sara Madderson is an author, entrepreneur, wife and mother. She was born in Ireland and moved to the UK with her family when she was ten years old. She lives in London with her husband Chris, their two children, Paddy and Tilly, and their cocker spaniel Charlie.

Before turning to writing, Sara worked in finance for a decade and then ran her own fashion brand, Madderson London, for eight years. She earned her MPhil in Early Modern History from the University of Birmingham.

Metamorphosis is Sara’s first book. Given that she spent most of her childhood writing and designing clothes, she’s now seen both of her childhood career dreams come true! She’s enjoyed the adventure of publishing independently as much as she’s enjoyed the writing process itself. She’s now completely hooked on writing!

Twitter @saramadderson

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

Born Of No Woman

Author: Franck Bouysse

Translated by; Lara Vergnaud

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Available: 21st October 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours and Weidenfeld & Nicolson for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details;

A dark and addictive story of betrayal and desire.

Nineteenth-century rural France.

 Before he is called to bless the body of a woman at the nearby asylum, Father Gabriel receives a strange, troubling confession; hidden under the woman’s dress he will find the notebooks in which she confided the abuses she suffered and the twisted motivations behind them.

 And so, Rose’s terrible story comes to light: sold as a teenage girl to a rich man, hidden away in an old manor house deep in the woods and caught in a perverse web, manipulated by those society considers her betters.

 A girl whose only escape is to capture her life – in all its devastation and hope – in the pages of her diary…


My Thoughts

It is well known by anyone who reads my book blog posts, that I have an appetite for translated novels; why is that I hear you ask? For me, books written by authors in different languages to my own and whose work contains a variety of unfamiliar socio-cultural environments and who endow their knowledge, life experiences or geographical heritage to their work, brings me personal development and understanding of the wider world. Or, in simpler terms; their work, reads differently in terms of prose and syntax and they approach literary legacy and historical environments from a different perspective from those I am already familiar with and can on occasion present me with a comprehension challenge which I enjoy. Franck’s work is wholly new to my reading eyes and such unfamiliarity presented me with that excited fluttery feeling you get when embarking on a new reading adventure. His book Born of No Woman is beautifully written (and the translation by Lara Vergnaud is excellent and has lost none of the story’s melodic mysterious fluidity from being translated from French to English) and its content is profoundly intellectually stimulating. How could I not read it!

This novel is not an easy read, its content is at times shudderingly brutal but not grossly so; the atmosphere and storyline for me has echoes and essences of classic literature; from the emotional scandal of Clarissa by Samuel Richardson to immense cruelty of humanity illuminated in The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas; to the trapped moth like heroines in Thomas Hardy’s books; Franck has imbued his book with these sorts challenging characteristics and environs and I personally marvelled in his skills in doing so but if you are sensitive to triggers around sexual violence and coercion please be aware these elements are to be found throughout the story.

The story is set in rural France over two timelines and told chapter by chapter from the perspective of individual characters. Gabriel is a Parish Priest and when taking confession, is told by a mysterious cloaked woman that when he is called upon to bless the body of a woman (with only the name Rose) at the local Asylum, he will find secreted with her body some notebooks! The woman begs him to take them from the Asylum and read them; he is perplexed as to why he should do this! She informs him, because someone other than me, needs to know of her story! When the request comes for him to visit the Asylum, he does as suggested and smuggles the notebooks from under the watchful malignant eye of the Asylum doctor and Rose’s life and trials become known, finally! As a 14 year old girl, Rose was sold by her father Onesime to a blacksmith and his conniving crone of a mother to be their servant! Onesime as a farmer and father of 4 daughters has convinced himself that he was/is doing the best thing for Rose and his family but really these thoughts are to assuage his guilt for doing such a thing especially as neither Rose nor his wife are/were aware of his plan.

After the initial shock of the change of her circumstances and all the accompanying emotions they bring about; Rose settles into her new role; despite the strict, awkward oddness of the house and the subtly odious occupants she now serves! As a reader, the sense of disquiet you feel at Rose’s situation, begins to grow and you realise that Rose is on a path to destruction, disillusion and despair and there is nobody to protect or save her from her fate not even the mysterious groom/gardener Edmond, with whom she is starting to fall in love (although she unclear of the sensations she is feeling in her head or body) All you can do is watch helplessly as the horrors unfurl; where money trumps virtue; where obsession belies reason; where the quest for legacy begets cruelty and destruction but these are only hints at themes contained within the story as I leave you to discover the full extent of the plot and resolution for yourselves, if you are courageous enough!

What I found utterly absorbing about this book, was the structure and content of viewpoints I was reading the story from or is it through; Gabriel the priest, Rose the mistreated and maligned heroine, her foolish father Onesime or Edmond, (who I am labelling the watcher) are not the for the most part the villains of the story; those characters though strongly present and their vile machinations; key to the story progression, are not given the opportunity to speak to the reader! The reason for this, I believe is because their ruinous, heinous, and nefarious behaviour and actions speak louder than any words could when recounted through the other character’s voices.

The other remarkable element to the way this novel is constructed is that as the reader you are given omnipotent foresight (that’s a bit of a mouth full isn’t it!) What do I mean; well because of the content of each character’s viewpoint and where on the timeline they are imparting their thoughts to us, I could see what was to befall Rose, before she could realise it; yet at no point in the story were any of the happenstances predictable and this led to a mounting sense of tension and inevitability but when the full scope of the revelations come, so too do, the startling and shocking surprises; and of course, I have no intension of giving you any inkling on what these might be but only my cryptic clue to you, is that, they do relate to knowledge and action/or lack there of, but they cannot be predicted nor spoiled!

This book is a modern masterpiece; moving, melodic and mournful; filled with evocative atmosphere and literary legacy; cleverly crafted and sublimely written; you are compelled to keep reading, despite not always wanting to ascertain the depth of the visceral trials and traumas that unfold and yet despite all Rose has suffered there is hope, just a glimmer! This is indeed a remarkable read and Rose’s story will not be leaving my thoughts anytime soon and I enthusiastically encourage you to read it too.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Franck Bouysse is a French author. His novels Grossir le ciel in 2014, Plateau in 2016 and Glaise in 2017 have met with wide success and won a vast array of literary awards. Previously a teacher of biology and horticulture, Bouysse lives in the south-west of France.

BORN OF NO WOMAN has won every prize awarded by readers in France, including the GRAND PRIX DES LECTRICES ELLE, one of the most important prizes in France. It has also won THE PRIX DES LIBRAIRES (given by booksellers), PRIX PSYCHOLOGIES MAGAZINE and the PRIX BABELIO.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

A Clockwork River

Author: JS Emery

Publisher: Head of Zeus; An Ad Astra Book

Available: 14th October 2021 in Hardback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Paige Harris & Head of Zeus for my gorgeous, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

A sister searches for her missing brother as a new power rises amid the splendour and the squalor of a once great city in this thrilling hydropunk debut from J.S. Emery.

Lower Rhumbsford is a city far removed from its glory days. On the banks of the great river Rhumb, its founding fathers channelled the river’s mighty flow into a subterranean labyrinth of pipes, valves and sluices, a feat of hydraulic prowess that would come to power an empire. But a thousand years have passed since then, and something is wrong. The pipes are leaking, the valves stuck, the sluices silted. The erstwhile mighty Rhumb is sluggish and about to freeze over for the first time in memory.

In a once fashionable quarter of the once great city, in the once grand ancestral home of a family once wealthy and well-known, live the last descendants of the city’s most distinguished engineer, siblings Samuel and Briony Locke.

Having abandoned his programme in hydraulic engineering, Samuel Locke tends to his vast lock collection, while his sister Briony distracts herself from the prospect of marriage to a rich old man with her alchemical experiments. One night Sam leaves the house carrying five of his most precious locks and doesn’t come back…

As she searches for her brother, Briony will be drawn into a web of ancestral secrets and imperial intrigues as a ruthless new power arises. If brother and sister are to be reunited, they will need the help of a tight-lipped house spirit, a convict gang, a club of antiques enthusiasts, a tribe of troglodytes, the Ladies Whist Club, the deep state, a traveling theatrical troupe and a lovesick mouse.

Epic, rollicking and in love with language, Jacob and Sara Emery’s sprawling debut novel of humble kitchen magics and awe-inspiring civil engineering is a rare and delicious commodity – the world’s first hydropunk novel.

My Thoughts

As a book blogger, I am often given marvellous opportunities to try books that are completely different from my more familiar reading preferences; although if I am honest, I do have eclectic reading tastes from the biographical to the fantastical. So, it will come as no surprise to you, that on receiving the details for this book, I jumped at the chance to read it. My first surprise came when my long suffering postman handed me a huge brown brick; as he couldn’t fit it through my letter box and who gratefully said, ‘thank goodness, you’re in, I really didn’t want to cart this back to the sorting office!’ This beautiful epic tome is huge (at over 700 pages) so prepare for some heavy lifting! I also must confess that every time I look at it and when it came time to put pen to paper to write my review…the little voice in my head (admit it we all have one, ok it might just be me) sings…I love big books, I cannot lie…yes to the tune of ‘that song’!!

 I realise that sometimes the size of a book might be off putting or even intimidating (I confess with blog deadline looming possibly more so!) but please don’t let the size put you off. I have been reading it in 100-page bites and it has been a delicious reading delight! I have been thoroughly transported by this fantastical fiction odyssey; time and pages flew by as I followed Samuel and Briony Locke on their magnificent adventures and I know you will be too; welcome to the undiscovered world of Hydropunk!

To whet your appetite, let me give you a little glimpse into this new world! Little Rhumbsford was once famed for its incredible engineering pedigree but these days it has lost its lustre and slowly but surely is falling into rack and ruin. Samuel and Briony are siblings; weary of the sameness of their lives to some extent but tied to the town by their familial legacy but little do they know what circumstances and events will set them on a thrilling quest. Samuel (Sam) was once a student of hydraulic engineering with an obsession for locks, now he’s spending his time tending his collection. Briony in contrast is fascinated by art of alchemy and examining and experimenting its mystical parameters and very much trying to distract herself from the impending and unpleasant possibility that against all her wishes, she may have to marry ‘a rich old man’ in order to save her family home!

One evening Sam heads out with a selection of his most precious locks to give a lecture on the subject but when he doesn’t return. Briony is determined to locate her brother and engaged in this task, becomes enmeshed in a tangle of secrets, political machinations, and startling revelations. Prepare to be swept up in this fantastical vortex; involving keys, locks, underground canals and so much more; it is an epic, sprawling and just the right sort of crazy type of journey and I adored it and I have no intention of giving anything away in my review because you need to find out all of this book’s creative quirks for yourself.

What struck me from the start of this novel was the genius of this hydropunk world, the atmosphere, vivid imagination that brings all aspects of the plots and characters to life. It reminded me very much of the essence of the glorious Studio Ghibli animated films which blend the magical with the industrial; and in this story where elements of history, heritage, science, and fantasy combine and provide such sublime elegance to this imagined world and immerse the reader in adventures, thrills, love, loyalty friendship, and battles of whit.

For me the true heart of this novel is the cast of intriguing, irascible and irresistible characters from our main protagonists who you cannot fail to engage with; who are definitely flawed (as we all are) and yet can still amuse and frustrate you in equal measure; to the supporting cast that range from a love sick mouse, a precocious, dare I say grumpy house spirt to a tribe of troglodytes or the infamous ladies whist club, I mean how can you resist reading about them all.

This book is nectar to those of us who delight in fantastical odysseys, such as Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time; Narnia, Harry Potter or if you enjoy the complexities of Japanese Manga saga’s this could be the read for you. A truly scintillating, sensory, sinister, and singly unique reading experience and one I have been engrossed in for the past 2 weeks. I look forward to reading more from the vivid, slightly squirrelly but most excellent imaginations of Jacob and Sara Emery.

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Authors:

J. S. Emery is a brother-sister writing team, born in North Idaho into a home schooling family of seven children, each of whom received an air rifle and a copy of The Odyssey by way of a fifth birthday present. This background prepared them wonderfully for writing fantasy novels but very poorly for formal education. After dropping out of secondary school, they worked jobs including ballet dancer, emergency room janitor, and map librarian in various parts of Europe and North America. They now live in the United States, where they are godparents (and, increasingly, dungeon masters) to one another’s children.

Please do have a read of some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Lemon

Author: Kwon Yeo-sun

Translated by Janet Hong

Publisher: Head of Zeus – an Apollo Book

Available: 14th October 2021 in Hardback & eBook

Thank you to Jade Gwilliam & Head of Zeus for my gifted copy and goodie bag and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

PRAISE FOR LEMON “Chilling, suspenseful and disconcerting. A story of taking things into one’s own hands, when driven to despair by injustice and grief. I couldn’t put it down and read deep into the night until I finished it, with my heart hammering. “Frances Cha, author of If I Had Your Face

In the summer of 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became known as the High School Beauty Murder. There were two suspects: Shin Jeongjun, who had a rock-solid alibi, and Han Manu, to whom no evidence could be pinned. The case went cold.

Seventeen years pass without justice, and the grief and uncertainty take a cruel toll on her younger sister, Da-on, in particular. Unable to move on with her life, Da-on tries in her own twisted way to recover some of what she’s lost, ultimately setting out to find the truth of what happened. Told at different points in time from the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on’s classmates, Lemon is a piercing psychological portrait that takes the shape of a crime novel and is a must-read novel of 2021

My Thoughts:

I am a great fan of translated fiction but most of what I have read to date; has been mainly European in origin. So, when I read the description of this novel, it sounded fascinating and a new literary experience for me and I wasn’t wrong! I am literally breathless in my awe of this book. Lemon is a wholly unique reading experience; it is short, sinister, startling and utterly sublime. Right from the first paragraph you are filled with a sense of intrigue; for what is happening, what has happened and what might happen next!

This novel is only 150 pages long and my goodness, the clues, nuances, and suggestions imbedded in the prose are incredible, literally if you blink you will miss something vital. I revelled in the subtle, clever plotting and trajectory of the story. The publicity for this book says ‘Not Just Any Book. Not Just for Any Reader.’ and this is utterly true and why, might this be, I hear you ask. Because this story doesn’t guide you from one point to another, it doesn’t spoon feed you clues; the very essence of the novel is about the reader using their own imagination and logic to put the pieces of the complex puzzle together! The way this book is structured and written for me is wonderful and I adored it but it may seem confusing and disjointed (however intentionally) for others. Regardless of the construction, I think you should definitely read it, actually I revise my suggestion; you really must read it.

The story is told in a series of vignettes; covering 17 years from 2002 – 2019, each chapter is titled with a year and a clue of sorts (Shorts, Poem, Rope) elements/items that could be related to the murder of schoolgirl Kim Hae-on and each one is narrated from different character perspectives and their own powers of observation, suggestion, and thoughts. But there is no defined route to what happened, why it happened nor is revelation of the culprit/culprits obvious as all assumption on these matters is left to the reader to surmise. The astute details of the story, the immense construction of each character is breath taking and so incredibly succinct, you don’t see the sinister surprises until you are confronted by them and at this point all that is left for a reader to do is laugh at the cleverness of the writer’s direction. Now if you are wondering why I am not providing a more detailed examination of the story, plot or characters; simply, to do so might colour or influence your experience of reading the book and you need to read it without my opinion or anyone else’s; to truly appreciate it’s magnificence!

Lemon is an apt title for this story; it is sharp in its story telling complexity, bitter in its impact on those who are grieving and the ways they attempt to deal with death and injustice. And darkly delicious in the way it draws the reader into the lives of the characters involved. I haven’t read anything quite so engaging and absorbing in a while, once I started reading, I devoured it in a single sitting. I loved the stark, blunt, and lyrical flow of the writing and the social/cultural details that are so specific to Korea and the skill of the translator Janet Hong for keeping the atmosphere, tension and subtly intact and none of genius of this story was lost in translation! Truly, I was not expecting this book to be as magnificent as it is, it is a book not to be missed and I insist you get hold of a copy! You will miss out if you don’t!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Kwon Yeo-sun is an award-winning Korean writer. She has won the Sangsang Literary Award, Oh Yeongsu Literature Award, Yi Sang Literary Prize, Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Tong-ni Literature Prize and Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award. Lemon is her first novel to be published in the English language

About the Translator:

Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. She received the TA First Translation Prize and the LTI Korea Translation Award for her translation of Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale, which was also a finalist for both the 2018 PEN Translation Prize and the National Translation Award. Her recent translations include HaSeong-nan’s Bluebeard’s First Wife, Ancco’s Nineteen, and Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s Grass

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

A Woman Made of Snow

Author: Elisabeth Gifford

Publisher: Corvus

Available: 7th October 2021 in Hardback and Ebook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Corvus for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

A gorgeous, haunting, and captivating novel of a century-long family mystery in the wilds of Scotland, and one woman’s hunt for the truth.

Scotland, 1949: Caroline Gillan and her new husband Alasdair have moved back to Kelly Castle, his dilapidated family estate in the middle of nowhere. Stuck caring for their tiny baby and trying to find her way with an opinionated mother-in-law, Caroline feels adrift, alone and unwelcome.

But when she is tasked with sorting out the family archives, Caroline discovers a century-old mystery that sparks her back to life. There is one Gillan bride who is completely unknown – no photos exist, no records have been kept – the only thing that is certain is that she had a legitimate child. Alasdair’s grandmother.

As Caroline uncovers a strange story that stretches as far as the Arctic circle, her desire to find the truth turns obsessive. And when a body is found in the grounds of the castle, her hunt becomes more than just a case of curiosity. What happened all those years ago? Who was the bride? And who is the body…?

My Thoughts:

2021 has been another year of incredible books and I have been fortunate enough to have read and enjoyed a number of them but the memory of their delight’s wanes overtime but just occasionally a few of them provoke a tangible emotional and physical attachment to their incredible content and for me, it means their story becomes etched upon my heart and mind and can never be forgotten. A Woman Made of Snow is one of those books; having turned the last page, I felt an immediate sense of loss and a sensation of regret for finishing it too quickly! This novel, is a lullaby of literature; majestic, magnetic, mournful, and melodic, beautifully written and with gossamer layers of storylines and a chorus of detailed characters who draw you into their lives. Up until now, I have not had the pleasure of reading any of Elisabeth’s previous four books but I will be rectifying that oversight tomorrow, when I intend to purchase a couple of them (it’s my birthday next week and I believe a pre-birthday treat is a necessity) and as I am now utterly addicted to Elisabeth’s wonderful storytelling, I can’t bear to wait longer to read more and this is therefore a legitimate reason to buy more books!

One of the many facets of this book, that compelled my adoration of it was Elisabeth’s own explorations to the Dundee V&A and Ellie Castle (which she mentions in the acknowledgements of this book and from the pictures she shared on twitter a few days ago) and how items from their collated histories inspired this adventurous, tumultuous, evocative, and poignant tale. Which at its core, focuses on complexities of female familial relationships, impacted, and influenced by the social and cultural expectation of the time, yet despite differing environmental borders and timelines. How the nuances of communication can be misinterpreted or misconstrued depending on the assumptions, perceptions, and emotions of an individual, which with remarkable insight and intuition Elisabeth has her characters examine and explore of themselves and their relatives.

The book is structured over two timelines and follows two triptychs of characters; In the late 1940s we have Caro Gillian; an educated woman, whose dreams of an academic career have been somewhat thwarted by her gender and limitations placed on women post war and by her own choices of falling in love and having a baby (not that she has much control over these elements) and due to necessity have seen her ensconced on her husband’s family estate in the wilds of Scotland with her widowed mother-in-law still in residence at Kelly Castle. Martha is overjoyed to have her son, his wife and her new granddaughter so close at hand and does her best to make them feel welcome and included but her erstwhile enthusiasm and support is viewed as interference and disappointment by Caro; which as I read, I understood was very probably Caro projecting her own feelings about her change of plans onto the actions of her mother in law and that Martha’s own struggles and difficult experiences with her former mother-in-law; colour her actions towards Caro. What was striking to me, was how similar both women are in fact and I think Martha recognises in Caro some of her own aspirations and realises that she needs a project; so, asks Caro to put her academic skills to use and research the family history using the boxes of letters, pictures, and ephemera in the attic and clear up one or two mysteries, including a missing wife!

This task sparks, Caro’s interest as she immerses herself in research and finding information on the family and then the plot thickens, during a tremendous storm, which floods the estate including Caro & Alasdair’s cottage; as the water recedes, a body is discovered and Caro is determined obsessively so to uncover who it might be and what connection they have to her family and Kelly Castle.

Interspersed between the chapters of Caro, Martha and Alasdair’s lives; Elisabeth transports us back to Kelly Castle in the 1880s, and the lives of Louisa & Charlotte Strachan and Oliver Gillian.  Louisa & Charlotte are orphans, as their father perished in the Fredrick Artic exploration, that resulted in tragedy and scandalous rumours around what occurred on that trip; the sisters are taken in by their aunt in Glasgow but due to sense of duty, guilt and friendship Mr Gillian; Jute Mill Owner, Oliver’s father and the underwriter of their father’s Arctic adventure (because his Mill needed Whale Oil) He invites them to spend their summers in the fresh air at Kelly Castle. Charlotte however does not conform to social niceties or the restrictions placed on young women of the time and her actions and reactions cause trouble! Charlotte’s behaviour exacerbates Sylvia Gillian’s (Oliver’s mother) disapproval of the girls and coupled with her sense of propriety, ridged adherence to society’s rules and her own aspirations for her son! Sylvia does not approve nor like the Strachan sisters and takes the opportunity to rid herself of their presence in her home, for good and when you add in mental instability as well, you can see calamity on the horizon!

Circumstances change for the sisters and when Oliver starts to form a romantic attachment to Louisa; you begin to hope for a happy ending! When a startling turn of events results in Oliver being Arctic bound and his experiences and adventures lead to some incredible twists and turns in the story, that will illuminate the missing pieces in the family history puzzle, Caro is investigating! With some eye-opening revelations to come for us readers and of course, I am telling you absolutely nothing about those, as you will have to read this glorious book for yourself and discover all its stunning secrets!

I really hope you can see from my review, how much I adored this book and Elisabeth’s incredible talent for weaving history, mystery, myth into a unique tale of love, loss and life. This novel will take you on a journey that transports a reader through time, from the Jute, Jam & Journalism of Dundee to the wildness of a remote Scottish Castle to the deadly frozen beauty of the Arctic; illustrating in vivid detail the lives of the Inuit people and their relationships to Scottish Whalers, the hinderance of societal prescription and the tragedies and the triumphs of our cast of characters and how circumstances and human flaws led to familial fracture, sinister happenstance and ultimately resolution. Oh, my goodness, this is such a melodic, masterful, magnificent novel; I desperately want everyone I know to read it and fall in love with this story as much as I have, it should be on every bookophiles to buy list and it would be the perfect Christmas gift for everyone you know!! Elisabeth you are an incredible storyteller and I can’t wait to read all that you’ve written previously and all that you write next…this latest book of yours maybe my favourite of 2021!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames. A Woman Made of Snow is her fifth novel.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour

Dreamtime

Author: Venetia Welby

Publisher: Salt Publishing

Available: 23rd September 2021 in Paperback & eBook

Thank you to Helen Richardson at Helen Richardson PR and Salt for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

‘So, where is he then, your dad?’ The world may be on a precipice but Sol, fresh from Tucson-desert rehab, finally has an answer to the question that has dogged her since childhood. And not a moment too soon.

With aviation grinding to a halt in the face of global climate meltdown, this is the last chance to connect with her absentee father, a US marine stationed in Okinawa. To mend their broken past Sol and her lovelorn friend Kit must journey across poisoned oceans to the furthest reaches of the Japanese archipelago, a place where sea, sky and earth converge at the forefront of an encroaching environmental and geopolitical catastrophe; a place battered by the relentless tides of history, haunted by the ghosts of its past, where the real and the virtual, the dreamed and the lived, are ever harder to define.

In Dreamtime Venetia Welby paints a terrifying and captivating vision of our near future and takes us on a vertiginous odyssey into the unknown. Dreamtime reads like a modern reimagining of a classic adventure novel, centred around themes such as the climate crisis, sexual abuse, migration, virtual reality, and the US–China geopolitical rift. Utterly terrifying and unputdownable.

My Thoughts:

You know the old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover, well Dreamtime is precisely the book, you don’t want to do that with, though if you study it, you may get a few clues!

What a scintillating surprise this incredible book is, the cover is indeed mesmerising and its detail definitely sets the tone for its enthralling contents. When I read the details for this novel, what attracted me to it, was my own fascination of how other people, Venetia in this case, envision the future! Trust me, Venetia’s fictitious concepts for what’s instore for the world; are deliciously horrifying and if you thought the Covid-19 pandemic has been trying…then what might come next, will blow your mind, mine is still reeling from the possibilities. The narrative really captured my attention and Venetia’s skill in extending known facts regarding global concerns, which, if not addressed, could have outcomes, most of us simply can’t comprehend or imagine but in a dark, vividly expressed, and incredible way, Venetia has imagined them! This book might be small (in length) but my goodness its contents are mind blowingly huge and undeniably brilliant…I am almost in literary shock, trying to elucidate for you how magnificent a read it is…it is the sort of book, that you are dying for everyone you know to read…so you can discuss it…avidly, over vast G&Ts until late into the night!

The book opens in year 2035 (I had to work out that I would be approaching 61 years of age in reality) Sol our protagonist is attending the Lights rehab centre (well it was this or prison) in Tucson, Arizona, think dry, arid dessert with exceedingly high temperatures, where you might not survive if you went for a hike and got lost! Lights is where mindfulness and ultra-new age practices and philosophies rule; owning your own recovery is  the mantra, hardcore yoga for addicts, a routine of gong baths, re-birthing and womb therapy are part of the course (and would have me running screaming to the hills, I confess, if I were Sol, prison would have been preferable) but I do admire Venetia’s in depth knowledge of such practices and how she has Sol views the variety of treatments as  ‘surrendering to the idiotic‘ (a line that still has me laughing) and really she is bidding her time and ‘playing the game’ to get through the experience. We also start to build a picture of Sol’s background and how she became an addict and her all-consuming obsession with finding her father and interspersed with these revelations we have Kit. Who is almost a brother to Sol, they share the same background experiences, however Kit doesn’t see Sol as his sister! I have to say, it’s this is an odd correlation to make but Sol and Kit, reminded me of the Danger Mouse and Penfold dynamic, with Sol’s tendency to dive headlong into things, usually resulting in calamity and Kit’s panicked but ultimately sensible choices to reign in the chaos, there is a level of tongue in cheek here within the context of dystopian drama!

A surprising source gives Sol the means and motivation to attempt to locate her father, Kit goes with her and this is the start of an epic journey in every sense of the word, figuratively and literally but is it real or not!? What also become subtly apparent, is that the world as we know it today, no longer exists! This story is a voyage of discovery, it is not for the faint hearted, as there are the atrocities of a constantly failing society to be navigated. Venetia does not shy from tackling very emotive and raw themes; rape, racism, cults, drugs, and the failure of humanity to act in its own best interest! A maelstrom of fact, experience, and imagination; it is immersive, uncomfortable, and intensely emotive and intellectually stimulating to read. As to whether Sol and Kit’s odyssey comes to a successful fruition; don’t expect the pieces of this puzzle to conform to your expectations! They won’t, they don’t and I’m thrilled about that!

Dreamtime is an unequivocally unique, unusual and an uninhibitedly insightful book; I have read widely and extensively all my life and never have I experienced a story like this one and I doubt I ever will again! It is a novel; you will need to read at least once more to fully appreciate Venetia’s creative genius in imaging this story and I want every book lover I know to experiences it! Go and buy a copy…Today!!!…Now!!!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

VENETIA WELBY is a writer and journalist who has lived and worked on four continents. Her debut novel Mother of Darkness was published by Quartet in 2017 and her essays and short fiction have appeared in The London Magazine, Review 31 and anthologies Garden Among Fires and Trauma, among others. She lives in London with her husband, son and Bengal cat. Find out more at www.venetiawelby.com or follow Venetia on Twitter @venwelby or Instagram @vvwelby for updates.

Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour.

The Couple at No.9

Author: Claire Douglas

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 30th September 2021 in Paperback, eBook & Audiobook

Thank you to Ella Watkins & Penguin Michael Joseph for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

It was the house of their dreams. Until the bodies were found . . .

When pregnant Saffron Cutler and her boyfriend Tom move into 9 Skelton Place, they didn’t expect to find this.

Two bodies buried under the patio over thirty years ago.

When the police launch a murder investigation, they ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner – Saffy’s grandmother, Rose, whose Alzheimer’s clouds her memory.

But it is clear she remembers something . . .

What happened thirty years ago?

What part did her grandmother play?

And is Saffy now in danger? . . .

My Thoughts:

Firstly an apology to Claire & Penguin Michael Joseph, my review for this blog tour was due to be posted yesterday 21st September, but I had an episode of dyslexic confusion (I transposed a 7 for a 1) I believed it wasn’t due until next week! But at 10pm yesterday, I discovered my error and hopefully my post today will make up for being a day late, for which I am very sorry. Here’s my review.

I am always overjoyed when I discover a writer whose work, I have heard about but not yet experienced for myself and this was the definitely the case for me with Claire Douglas’s latest book The Couple at No.9 which is a dextrously constructed crime maze of a novel; with Claire directing you with confidence down one path of assumption, before dispelling your conclusions and driving you to a dead end of suspicion and then re-routing you with erudite skill in another direction! This book is a masterpiece of creepy, crime cleverness that you cannot put down once you turn the first page and I will certainly be adding the rest of Claire’s crime collection to my must buy list, you will need to do the same!

From the outset, you are immersed in the plot of the story; Saffron (Saffy) Cutler and her partner Tom are renovating their new home, when their builders unearth a hand and that is only the beginning as their macabre revelation morphs into the discovery of two bodies buried in the garden! Instantly the questions start to come, who are they, why were they killed and how on earth did they end up here in Saffy’s grandmother Rose’s former home! Saffy enlists her mother Lorna’s help; driven by curiosity and a need for answers (and familial need to potentially protect her grandmother) Saffy is determined to get to the bottom of matters but will her erstwhile investigations put her in danger! I confess the voice in my own head kept screaming; noooo don’t do that rather often! But of course, the characters don’t listen to me, and regardless of my own fear of the plot trajectory, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of reading the book but it certainly added a building tension to my reading, never mind making my questioning imagination run amok!

The character perspectives of this story in my opinion make it such brilliant read, the alternating voices, ideas, and authentic natures of Saffy, Lorna and Rose make you forget you are reading fiction. Claire’s astute and perceptive development of Rose; Saffy’s much loved grandmother, whose advancing dementia is erasing her recollections and recognition, makes her viewpoint fascinating and I admired Claire’s skill in layering her characters intellectual and emotional reactions to their circumstances and how they influence the actions of the other protagonists. But as to how the story fully unfolds, well now as if I am going to spoil that, I will say that all the multitude of questions you start this book with do come to fruition although the answers you uncover are a heady mix of astounding, discomforting and far reaching and the necessity for justice for those who need or deserve it may well be sated! I know, I ‘m being a tad cryptic but I am doing my best not to ruin your reading experience of this novel.

This is a thoroughly absorbing, addictive & delightfully shrewd crime novel and one I won’t forget anytime soon. I have loved its sublime cleverness and its ability to surprise me more than once. It is a novel every crime buff needs to add to their collection, you will miss out if you don’t add it to yours!

Happy Reading Bookophiles….

About the Author:

Claire Douglas always wanted to write novels and, after many years of trying to get published, her dream came true when she won the Marie Claire Debut Novel Award in 2013 with THE SISTERS. Her subsequent novels LOCAL GIRL MISSING, LAST SEEN ALIVE and DO NOT DISTURB all reached the Sunday Times top ten bestsellers list and are published in over fifteen countries. LOCAL GIRL MISSING was the bestselling crime debut of 2018 in Germany. Her fifth thriller, THEN SHE VANISHES is due for release in Ebook end of June 2019 and in paperback August 2019.

You can find Claire on Twitter at @DougieClaire, Instagram as clairedouglasauthor or visit her Facebook page clairedouglasauthor.

Please do have a read of the other reviews on this blog tour.

For Your Own Good

Author: Samantha Downing

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Available: 19th August in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Kallie Townsend & Penguin Michael Joseph for my lovely, gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

SOMETIMES THE MOST UNLIKELY PEOPLE HAVE THE DARKEST SECRETS

Teddy Crutcher is a successful teacher at a top school. He’s a pillar of the community.

Only you know the truth.

He’s married to a beautiful wife – the best thing that ever happened to him.

But no-one has seen her in a while.

He’s so dedicated that even the tragic death of a school parent doesn’t distract him.

Even when the rumours start, saying it was murder.

You’re sure Teddy is hiding something about what happened.

You’re sure you can prove it.

But you didn’t stop to think that when it comes to catching a killer, there’s no place more dangerous than just one step behind . . .

My Thoughts

I must admit that For Your Own Good is my first experience of reading one of Samantha’s books but it absolutely won’t be the last, especially as I have discovered that I bought the audiobook for My Lovely Wife (guess what I am listing to next). So, you will have to forgive my reading choice oversight up to this point. Samantha’s latest book is enticing, engaging, utterly enthralling and downright deliciously evil…oh my goodness you are in for a piquantly dark treat. It is a novel that for us readers undermines your assumptions, to assume anything when reading this book, may well lead you astray! Just when you believe you know precisely the what, the why, the who and the when…rest assured you don’t! As this story cleverly and deftly twists and turns, leaving you breathlessly agog!

Teddy Croucher is the current incumbent of the prestigious Teacher of the Year award; firmly ensconced in his role at the exclusive and expensive Belmont Academy. On the face of things, he has altruistic and admirable aspirations, especially for his students. However, his public face is merely a facade that hides the malignant, twist soul within and to cross him, could be deadly and as the story progresses the dark depraved lengths of this cast are seemingly endless and not confined to a single character! Especially if you add into the mix wealthy demanding parents who will cross all boundaries to ensure their child’s success and a cohort of students who have their own special brand of entitled deviousness! My goodness what a nest of vipers…!

What really grabbed my attention, when engrossed in this novel was Samantha’s cohesive and creative use of multiple character narration; using different voices and viewpoints to create a whole picture through the eyes of her machiavellian cast which provides the reader with many poisonous possibilities; which in its entirety makes for delectably divisive reading. The atmosphere of malevolence, manipulation and murder are rife and the reactions and reasonings of each character’s part is chilling. My advice when reading this sinister spectacular is to assume nothing and expect the unexpected as Samantha is a genius at making what seems benign and ordinary utterly petrifying and I did consider hiding behind my sofa cushions to avert my building internal tension regarding the direction of the story, yet regardless of my unease, I certainly couldn’t put this book down!

Am I perhaps being reticent about the specifics and trajectory of the plotlines within in this novel…heck yes!!! It is far to delightfully diabolical to spoil the experience for you! This taut, twisted, thrilling, tainted tale imbued with exceptional dark humour is an astonishing blend and it means Samantha’s latest book is not to be missed…I mean it, go, and buy it…right now!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Samantha Downing is the author of the bestselling My Lovely Wife, nominated for Edgar, ITW, Macavity, and CWA awards. Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films have partnered to produce a feature film based on the novel. Her second book, He Started It, was released in 2020 and became an instant international bestseller.

For Your Own Good was released on July 20, 2021. It has been optioned by Robert Downey Jr. and Greg Berlanti for HBO Max.

Please do have a read of some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

The House Beneath The Cliffs

Author: Sharon Gosling

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Available: 19th August 2021 in Paperback and eBook

Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours, Simon & Schuster for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details:

A remote yet beautiful Scottish village. A tiny kitchen lunch club. The perfect place to start again.

Anna moves to Crovie, a tiny fishing village on the Moray Firth, for a fresh start. But when she arrives, she realises her new home is really no more than a shed, and the village itself sits beneath a cliff right on the edge of the sea, in constant danger of storms and landslides. Has she made a terrible mistake?

Yet as she begins to learn about the Scottish coast and its people, something she thought she’d lost reawakens in her. She rediscovers her love of cooking and turns her kitchen into a pop-up lunch club. But not all the locals are delighted about her arrival, and some are keen to see her plans fail. Will Anna really be able to put down roots in this remote and wild village? Or will her fragile new beginning start to crumble with the cliffs . . .?

Beautiful, moving and utterly absorbing, The House Beneath the Cliffs is a novel of friendship and food, storms and secrets, and the beauty of second chances. An exciting new voice in commercial fiction, perfect for fans of Victoria Hislop and Kate Morton

My Thoughts:

The House beneath the Cliffs is Sharon’s debut adult novel and if like me, you’re a huge fan of writers like Heidi Swain, Trisha Ashley and Holly Hepburn then Sharon’s book is an absolute must read for you. It is the perfect book to snuggle up with this autumn, I suggest you breakout the frothy coffee and the Ferro Roche stash and curl up on your sofa, as it it’s time to visit the tiny remote village of Crovie. Sharon’s delightful imagination has opened a door to new world, creating an authentic, charming, amusing, and poignant story, with a cast of quirky, vivid characters, who from the moment you meet them, find a place in your heart. I mean, how can you resist a story about friendship, food and finding a home; I devoured it in 3 hours and I doubt I’m the only reader who will do so! Every page of this book resonates with its readers and you cannot put it down!

Anna Campbell is not yet 40 and a talented chef but her life has just imploded, her 20 year relationship has ended and the loss of a beloved parent recently has added to the turmoil, seeking to distance herself from the overwhelming upheaval of the situation and the feelings of sadness and disappointment that threaten to engulf her. Anna make’s a dramatic decision, she is leaving her past behind and starting afresh and almost on a whim, buys the tiny cottage Fishergirl’s Luck in the wild and remote village of Crovie. Believing that starting over is the answer to her problems but an unfortunate encounter with the village grouch (Douglas McKean) whose grumpy attitude towards her arrival, sparks concern in Anna. Has she made an error in judgment and acted in haste; this uncertainty is amplified when she finally gains access to her tiny new home and wonders what on earth, she’s done moving to the end of the world to live in a teeny shack!

Some of Anna’s doubts about her decision are dispelled when she is warmly welcomed by her new neighbours, Pat & Frank Thorpe, who live at Weavers Knot, the B&B (opposite) and with their support and encouragement. Anna take’s her new home in hand and she learns more about the incredible former occupant of her cottage, the independent and irrepressible Bren. Anna starts to assess her life choices both past and present, what to do career wise and whether making Fishergirl’s Luck her permanent home is practical; slowly Anna starts to settle in to her home and the village and makes friends (The usual suspects dinners, Rhonda the gifted potter, Old Robbie, who isn’t old but a widower with a young son (young Robbie) but there is still tension with Dougie Mackenzie, who remains a curmudgeon, and he takes every opportunity to spoil Anna’s contentment and her plans!

 Especially when Anna is inspired by Bren’s little recipe book and starts to produce incredible food for her new friends, which develops in the tiny kitchen lunch club and despite a few hiccups, this gem of a venture proves to have a life of its own (in some fantastic ways). Anna’s romantic life also features a new delicious ingredient (the rather yummy New Zealander Liam, who is both pretty and witty) and vastly different from Anna’s ex – Geoff, celebrity chef, arrogant, condescending and (excuse me for the rude words) a total ‘nob head’…trust me, my taser finger was twitching…but I will leave you to find out more about this unsavoury character for yourselves, as trust me, he does make a nuisance of himself!

As to how the rest of the story unfolds; well, I shall say there are lots of secrets to be revealed, storms to be weathered both figuratively and literally and Anna learns that friends can be family and provide sanctuary for heart and mind and love of a place and it’s people can enable you to find where you belong…am I being cryptic, I do hope so…as I really want you to read the book and discover its surprises for yourself, be warned you may need a tissue or two as well!

Sharon’s story is a cornucopia of charm, community, and character. I loved this book so much; the detail of the village of Crovie (which is a real place, see Sharon’s author note) the structure and contents of Fishergirl’s Luck is delightful and Robbie’s letters are beautifully beetroot filled.  Sharon’s style of writing is humourous, intuitive and full of emotional intelligence and the relatability that she brings to her storylines and characters, makes Anna and co, feel like real friends and I do hope we will be able to visit Crovie again very soon because I want to know what happens next for Anna, Pat, Rhona et al…there needs to be many more books in this series…please Sharon, we your readers need more…

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Sharon Gosling lives with her husband in a very remote village in northern Cumbia, where they moved to run a second-hand bookshop, Withnail Books in Penrith. She began her career in entertainment journalism, writing for magazines in the science fiction and fantasy genre, before moving on to write tie-in books for TV shows such as Stargate and the ‘re-imagined’ Battlestar Galactica. She has also written, produced, and directed audio dramas based in the same genre. When she’s not writing, she creates beautiful linocut artwork and is the author of multiple children’s books. The House Beneath the Cliffs is her first adult novel. Follow her at @sharongosling.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

Mimic

Author: Daniel Cole

Publisher: Trapeze/Orion Books

Available: 19th August 2021 in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook

Thank you to Ellen Turner and Orion Books for my beautiful gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.

Book Details

1989

DS Benjamin Chambers and DC Adam Winter are on the trail of a twisted serial killer with a passion for recreating the world’s greatest works of art through the bodies of his victims. But after Chambers almost loses his life, the case goes cold – their killer lying dormant, his collection unfinished.

1996

Jordan Marshall has excelled within the Metropolitan Police Service, fuelled by a loss that defined her teenage years. Obsessed, she manages to obtain new evidence, convincing both Chambers and Winter to revisit the case. However, their resurrected investigation brings about a fresh reign of terror, the team treading a fine line between police officers and vigilantes in their pursuit of a monster far more dangerous and intelligent than any of them had anticipated…

My Thoughts:

As soon as I was aware Daniel had written another book, I could barely contain my excited anticipation.  I absolutely loved his Ragdoll trilogy as they are supremely sinister and utterly addictive reading. So, I knew I would be in for a devious, dark treat with this latest book. Mimic is, indeed, enthralling, gritty and a gloriously grisly novel and you simply can’t stop turning its pages, prepare yourself for some high-octane sleuthing!

Daniel sets the thrilling and chilling tone of his latest book, with a spine tingling prologue; The Day Death Came to Visit and with these dark words seeping into your head, the story begins in 1989; a routine call on a cold winter day; a body has been discovered, DS Ben Chambers is expecting to find the corpse of a rough sleeper, killed by the cold. What he discovers instead is a victim displayed as a statue; the horrifying, stunning audacity of the crime is not lost on Ben and when further human masterpieces are discovered DS Chambers and PC Winters (his rather pretty but dim sidekick) are hot on this nefarious killer’s trail but they get too close and Ben nearly falls victim to the sinister sculptor of death…their brutal, breathtaking battle, leaves blood and bodies in its wake!

Seven Years further on…Chambers and Winter’s still bare the emotional and physical scars of their encounter but when trainee detective Jordan Marshall enters the fray, requesting their assistance once more in tracking this maestro of the macabre, they can’t say No! Jordan has been conducting her own investigation, as she too has a tragic connection to this case and the fallout has cast a pall on her life; can they together, finally capture this violent virtuoso of death but what might be the cost this time around ( and No, I’m not telling you anymore, you will have to buy a copy and find out!)

One of the reasons I am addicted to Daniel’s books, is his skill in crafting clever, complex plots and making us reader’s omnipotent watchers, we are given insight into his heroes/heroines lives but also glimpse into the disturbed psyches of his vicious, violent villains and their dark logic for committing the crimes they do. Which certainly ratchets up the tension, when you’re reading, as you can potentially guess, what might happen next but usually you will be wrong, I speak from experience! Daniel also has a penchant for the absurdities of life; often portrayed in the dialogue of his cast; in this book, Winter’s consideration of what to say to the killer, when they catch up with him…it involves custard creams, never mind the hilarious gems regarding He-man and receding hairlines…a delicious relief from the shadowy twists and turns of the book.

This novel is a crime masterpiece; Daniel specialises in the spectacular, sinister crime battles between good and evil; a mysterious, malevolent killer verses flawed, determined & quick-witted detectives, making for a sublime story! Do remember to breathe when you’re reading because occasionally with the tense atmosphere and the sensation of the killer on your heels, you may forget! This latest instalment from Daniel, is a sophisticated, exciting, exceptional, clever book and absolutely surpasses any expectations I had and you must add it to your crime collections and I have a sneaking suspicion, this will not be the last we hear about Chambers, Winter’s and Marshal…I can’t wait for more!

Happy Reading Bookophiles…

About the Author:

Daniel Cole (@DanielColeBooks) is the Sunday Times bestselling author of the Ragdoll trilogy, which has now been published in over thirty countries. A TV adaption is currently in the works and his fourth novel is due to be published late-summer 2021. He has worked as a paramedic, an animal protection officer, and with the beach lifeguards, but for the past five years has been describing himself on paperwork as a ‘full-time writer’.

He lives on the south coast of England and divides his time between the beach and the forest.

Please do read some of the other reviews on this blog tour.

She’s Mine

Author: AA Chaudhuri

Publisher: Hera Books

Available: 18th August 2021 in Paperback & eBook

It is my pleasure today to bring you a wonderful extract from AA Chaudhuri latest book, just to give you all a little taste of this exciting new crime thriller.

I was very lucky to read and review The Abduction last year and it was the prefect dark, twisty blend that we crime readers all adore and as you will be able to read for yourself, this latest book is definitely a story to add to your Crime Collections…Happy Reading Bookophiles…

Book Details

Her missing daughter was just the start of the nightmare

Twenty years ago, Christine Donovan took a call she should have ignored while shopping. In those few seconds while her back was turned, her toddler, Heidi, was kidnapped. She’s never been seen again.

Despite having two other children with husband Greg, Christine remains guilt-stricken that her neglect caused her child to be stolen, while haunted by a secret that consumes her.

Just as she takes measures to finally heal, a note is posted through her door, with the words she has always longed to hear: Heidi isn’t dead.

Christine might finally get the answers she craves – but what she doesn’t know is that finding her daughter will uncover dark secrets close to home.

In seeking the truth, Christine might destroy everything that she loves … so how far is she willing to go to find Heidi?

With a truly jaw-dropping end twist, She’s Mine is a dark, scandalous, and gripping read from a major new talent in psychological thriller writing. For fans of Harriet Tyce, C.L. Taylor and Apple Tree Yard.

Extract

You and I were in Peter Jones on the King’s Road. It was an unusually hot late-summer’s day and we’d ducked inside the air-conditioned department store to seek sanctuary from the heat. Like me, you were wearing a sleeveless cotton dress, only yours was dotted with pretty multicoloured butterflies, while mine was plain blue-and-white striped. I knew even then that you were a girly girl. You would giggle when I decorated your hair with ribbons and sparkly hairgrips, and you would always point to the pretty pastel-coloured dresses in the shops and in my glossy women’s magazines, not to mention delight in opening my handbags, testing every cosmetic inside, often with very messy results. You would play for hours on end with your dolls, smoothing down their hair, giving them hugs when they were sad or scared, attempting to change their nappies, feeding them milk with your plastic baby bottle. And you would sit upright on my bed, watch me with fascinated eyes as I sat at my dressing table and applied my lipstick, or arranged my hair in the style I wanted for that day. You were my princess. But you were also a daddy’s girl. The joy on your face was priceless on the rare occasions Greg came home early from work and scooped you up in his arms, spinning you round until you were dizzy and showering you with kisses as you giggled uncontrollably. I can still remember your unaffected laughter, the way your face broke out into the broadest of smiles, the pure, natural elation of being loved. It is one of my fondest, yet most painful, memories.

That day – the day you were stolen from me – you had just turned two-and-a-half. That unbelievably cute age; chubby cheeks, chubby arms, chubby legs, loveable little phrases that would melt my heart. And when I looked at you, I’d have this urge to wrap you up in my arms and squeeze you tight, because you were just too goddamn gorgeous and it was almost hard to believe you were mine. You came from me, and I’d wonder how I had existed, truly lived, before you.

You had a delicious mop of chocolate-brown curls, just like your father, the dinkiest of milk teeth interspersed with a few adorable gaps, fat little legs that kicked about in the buggy as you took in your surroundings with glee, curious about everything, your big brown eyes filled with wonder, along with pure, unconditional love for the one with whom you felt most safe. The one person who attended to your every need. Who, more than anyone, you could trust to keep you safe.

If only that had been true.

About the Author:

A. A. Chaudhuri is a former City lawyer. After gaining a degree in History at University College London, she later trained as a solicitor and worked for several major London law firms before leaving law to pursue her passion for writing. She is the author of The Scribe and The Abduction, books 1 and 2 of her Kramer & Carver legal thriller series featuring the feisty Maddy Kramer, also published in audio. Her first psychological thriller with Hera Books, She’s Mine, will be published in 18th August 2021. Represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency, she lives in Surrey with her family, and loves films, all things Italian and a good margarita!

#1 Amazon Australia Amateur Sleuth Mysteries (Aug ’19); #1 Amazon Canada Women Sleuth Mysteries; (Aug ’19) top 10 Amazon UK Legal crime thrillers (Aug ’19); #1 Amazon Australia Legal Thrillers (November ’19)

Please do take a look at some of the reviews on this blog tour