Monday, 20 June 2016

** BLOG TOUR ** Martini Henry by Sara Crowe

Published in Hardback by Doubleday on 16th June 2016, priced £14.99. My thanks to the publisher for my review copy and inviting me on the blog tour.

Life isn’t an exact science. Things can be troublesome. Like pregnant step-mothers, the ins-and-outs of French existentialism . . . having an unexceptional name. 

In 1988, seventeen-year-old Sue Bowl has a diary, big dreams and £4.73. What she wants most of all is to make it as a writer, as well as stop her decadent aunt Coral spending money she doesn't have. 

Living in their crumbling ancestral home should provide plenty of inspiration, but between falling in love, hunting for missing heirlooms and internship applications, things keep getting in the way.

So when a young literary professor moves in and catches Sue's eye, life begins to take an unexpected turn . . .

My Thoughts:

This book is the story of Sue Bowl who wants to be a writer, it is mostly all she thinks of. She tells us her story via her journal entries and letters to her Aunt Coral who she lives with at Green Place. Green Place is a big house and has very quirky and original residents. Sue's side of the story is set in the late 1980's.

Interspersed with the journal entries Sue is reading a book called 'For the Concern of the Rich and Poor'. This book tells us the story from the 1800's of a man called London Taylor who has links to Green Place. 

I found the two separate but linked stories worked very well together and bought a richness to the story that Sue wouldn't have carried on her own. I think it is the parts about London Taylor that I liked the best. 

If I am honest I found Sue to be a little bit naive for eighteen but this is her coming of age story in her words. Words are what she does best. Her character was very charming and endearing. I felt that she very much admired her friends and looked up to them and wanted to be like them.

This book is chock a block with eccentric and individual characters so that you didn't know what you would expect them to do or say next. They added a depth to the story and are what made it comical for me.

I found this book to be entertaining, absorbing and fun without being overstrenuous to read. An enjoyable and quirky read with a touch of humour and lightheartedness but a little bit of serious too. 

About the Author:
Sara Crowe is best known as an actress. She has appeared on television, stage and film, including the iconic Four Weddings and a Funeral. She has won the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress, the Variety Club Best Actress Award and the London Critics Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer. Sara’s West End appearances includePrivate Lives, Calendar Girls and Hay Fever. She has also toured with Acorn Antiques: the Musical, and appeared in The City Madam for the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

This is the authors second novel, the first being Campari for Breakfast.

If you want to find out more please have a look at the other stops on the blog tour. 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

** BLOG TOUR ** The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs

The Joyce Girl is published in June 2016 by Impress Books. My Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy and inviting me on to the blog tour. Profits from the first year royalties go to YoungMinds in memory of Lucia Joyce, who spent most of her life interred in an asylum #youngmindsmatter.

The Joyce Girl won the Impress Prize for New Writers in September 2015. The shortlist was judged by a panel of experts in the publishing industry. The novel was also longlisted for the Bath Novel Award and the Caledonia Novel Award.

1928 Avant-garde Paris is buzzing with the latest ideas in art, music, literature and dance. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of James Joyce, is making her name as a dancer, training with some of the world’s most gifted performers. When a young Samuel Beckett comes to work for her father, she’s captivated by his quiet intensity and falls passionately in love. Persuaded she has clairvoyant powers, Lucia believes her destiny is to marry Beckett. But when her beloved brother is enticed away, the hidden threads of the Joyce’s lives begin to unravel, destroying Lucia’s dreams and foiling her attempts to escape the shadow of her genius father. 

1934 Her life in tatters, Lucia is sent by her father to pioneering psychoanalyst, Doctor Jung. For years she has kept quiet. But now she decides to speak. 

Based on the true story of Lucia, The Joyce Girl is a beautiful story of thwarted ambition and the nurturing but ultimately destructive love of a father

My Thoughts:

My initial reaction when offered to read this book was one of dismissal. I am not much of a historical fiction reader and I only know James Joyce and Samuel Beckett by name, and of course I had never heard of Lucia. I can confirm that I was wrong on every count of being dismissive. This book is quite simply stunning, it deserves to be on my best books of the year for so many reasons.

This book tells the little known story of James Joyce's daughter Lucia who lives to dance, who has a vibrancy and a lust for life that is as endearing as it is charming. She breathes energy wherever she goes. However she is also constrained by those around her, those that should have nurtured her and treated her better. Those that should have allowed her to be the vibrant butterfly that she was, instead of crushing her very essence. This is a story of identity and always having to live in the shadow of somebody else, having to forego your own dreams for the dreams and desires of another. People exploiting another for their own selfish gains.

The author paints a superb picture of Paris at that time, I could almost feel myself in the restaurants and walking down the streets. Chapters interspersed with the Lucia Paris days are chapters relating to her time with Carl Jung and it is here that we get an insight in the real Lucia. These chapters for me were absolutely heart breaking. Where all I could see was a vulnerable and broken girl, brought down by the chains that surrounded her. There was a naivety about Lucia that brought me to tears, and a realisation that she would never live her own dreams.

I must applaud the author for the sheer amount of research that must have gone into writing a novel of this magnitude. It is brave, it is bold but most of all it is beautiful. I am so pleased that somebody cared enough to bring the story of Lucia to the front, as it very much deserved to be. I never knew her, or about her but now I can assure you I will never forget her.

The writing is tight and the story flowed, it didn't feel like there was fact layered upon fact. I just immediately became engrossed in the scene and didn't want to leave the story behind.

From the very first page I was captivated by Lucia, the beautiful, elegant, graceful Joyce Girl. I defy you not to be too. There are not many books that I would describe as being deserved to be read. This is one of those, I actually feel honoured to have read this one. Please read it too.

Here's to you Lucia.

About the Author:

Annabel Abbs grew up in Bristol, Wales and Sussex, before studying English Literature at the University of East Anglia. Her debut novel, The Joyce Girl, won the 2015 Impress Prize and was longlisted for the 2015 Bath Novel Award and the 2015 Caledonia Novel Award. Her short stories have been long and shortlisted for various awards. She is now completing her second novel, based on the life of Frieda von Richthofen, wife and muse to D.H. Lawrence. Before she began writing she spent 15 years running a marketing consultancy where her clients included Reuters, Sony and the FT. She lives in London and Sussex with her husband and four children.


There is some more information below about the Impress Prize...

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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Sacred Combe by Thomas Maloney

This book was published in Hardcover RRP £14.99 and E-Book on 12th May 2016 by Scribe UK. I read my copy on The Pigeonhole, which given I am not an e book reader was something of a new experience for me. It is an interactive, serialised, online experience which I found fitted well with having something to read at lunchtimes.

A man's eye is accommodative, like his heart.'
Samuel Browne's wife has left him suddenly after three years of marriage. She invites him to 'go and live a better life without me'. He must start again, and alone.
And so it is that Sam finds himself deep in the English countryside in a cold but characterful old house, remote and encircled by hills, in the employment and company of an older, wiser man, a man as fond of mystery as he is of enlightenment. What is the purpose of the seemingly hopeless task set for Sam in the house's ancient library? What is the secret of the unused room? And where does a life lose its way or gain its meaning?
The combe is home to a truth born of fraud, a building made of light, and a family wrecked by recklessness: loss and love reverberate around the house and around the novel, providing pleasure, pain and purpose. Combe Hall is a house designed to honour and to enthral. And this very fine debut novel does exactly the same.
My Thoughts:

This is a story that leaves much to the imagination but nevertheless manages to provide a fully immersive narrative. I found it utterly absorbing and was mesmerised by the riveting and lyrical prose. For me this book is a celebration of the written word, it is a celebration of books, libraries and in many instances I found it to be a philosophical take on life and death and the stamp that we can make and should make on the world around us.

Sam Browne's life has taken a turn for the unexpected. Everything he has thought he had planned out falls by the wayside and he grows the courage to go on a journey and dare to dream of something different. It is here that he goes to work for Arnold Comberbache and they form an unlikely alliance in their search for a mystery letter and answers to secrets that have been carried for years and years.

There is a Gothic feel to the house of our story, but by god I want to live there. Full of mystery, intrigue and the best bit - thousands and thousands of books. This book is packed full of little snippets of puzzle like information and references to many great revered texts and pieces of art. I have to make an omission here and say that I didn't seem to pick out texts like many others did - I have never been much of a reader of the classics. I do want to point out that this in no way spoiled the flow of the story or my interpretation of this great book. 

This book reminds me of the fact that writing is an art much like the paintings that hang on the walls in the ancient library, it has the power to survive all of us and goes beyond just our existence. I love the fact that even the cover is like a picture frame.

This is a story for me of crossroads, a story of reflection and about taking stock before moving forward with the next stage in life. It is OK to surround yourself in a cocoon but sometimes it will be the right time to move forward.

There were many times during this book that it felt very reflective and the author alluded to silence many times, this gave the story an almost meditative state. There is much discussion of nature and birds and the author clearly has an affinity for both. The passages about both of these things are for me when the book shone most. 

I found this book to be unusual, lyrical and a piece of literary fiction that I hope goes down in the archives as one to remember from this generation. Superb stuff. 

About the Author:

Thomas Maloney was born in Kent in 1979, grew up in London, and studied physics at university. He is a competent but unexceptional mountaineer and an astigmatic birdwatcher. He lives in Oxfordshire with his wife, daughter, and kayak.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

** BLOG TOUR ** Hope Farm by Peggy Frew

Hope Farm was published by Scribe on 9th June 2016. My thanks to them and Sophie Leeds for my review copy and inviting me on the blog tour.

'They were inescapable, the tensions of the adult world - the fraught and febrile aura that surrounded Ishtar and those in her orbit, that whined and creaked like a wire pulled too tight.' 

It is the winter of 1985. Hope Farm sticks out of the ragged landscape like a decaying tooth, its weatherboard walls sagging into the undergrowth. Silver's mother, Ishtar, has fallen for the charismatic Miller, and the three of them have moved to the rural hippie commune to make a new start. At Hope, Silver finds unexpected friendship and, at last, a place to call home. But it is also here that, at just thirteen, she is thrust into an unrelenting adult world - and the walls begin to come tumbling down, with deadly consequences. 

Hope Farm is a devastatingly beautiful story about the broken bonds of childhood, and the enduring cost of holding back the truth.

My Thoughts:

Hope Farm is a book that sucked me in from the very first line, with the myriad of characters and a kaleidoscope of emotions and beautiful prose. The extremely well created characters and their strengths and weaknesses left me wanting to know more and it left me thinking. There are some wonderfully written passages about the environment that brought the story even more to life for me. 

This book is so well written, I was absolutely awed by it and entranced by the characters and the lives they lived that were so very different from my own. Set in the 1980's this book mainly focuses on the lives of Ishtar and her daughter Silver and their story surrounding their lives at Hope Farm which is a commune. 

Silver is telling her story after life at the commune and that is interspersed with older diary entries from Ishtar. Silver is a brilliant character and narrates this story so well but there is more depth and dimension added when we come across the entries from Ishtar. There is a sadness and a melancholy about this book throughout that created a tension that made me even more engrossed. It would be easy to like one character more than another but I don't think I did, it is a matter of circumstance and the past and future that make them what they are.  

This book is glorious and one of those that is an absolute joy to discover. An original look at Mother and Daughter relationships, friendships, about control and manipulation. It is about growing up, and identity and belonging and about Hope and wanting something a bit different for yourself. It would make an excellent book group choice and is one that would garner much discussion I am sure. 

Absolutely recommend this one, it is stunning, clever, well conceived and written with a maturity of the human psyche that left me in awe.  In fact I more than recommend it, I urge you to read it and then tell me what you thought so that we can discuss it. 

About the Author:

PEGGY FREW’s debut novel, House of Sticks, won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her story ‘Home Visit’ won The Age short story competition. She has been published in New Australian Stories 2, Kill Your Darlings, The Big Issue, and Meanjin. Peggy is also a member of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Melbourne band Art of Fighting. 

Hope Farm was nominated and made the Shortlist of the 2016 Stella Prize and has been Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

** BLOG TOUR ** My Girl by Jack Jordan

My Girl is due for publication on 4th July 2016. You can find out more about purchasing here. My thanks to Jack for inviting me on to the blog tour for this book. 

Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man. 

She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house. 

Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death? 

Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets. 

But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me. 

From the bestselling author of Anything for Her, Jack Jordan's My Girl is the new chilling thriller that you won't want to miss.

My Thoughts:

I have made no secret of the fact that this author's debut novel Anything for Her was on my list of best books last year. I knew that book wasn't going to be his only book and that he showed amazing talent and promise. I am so delighted that he has gone from strength to strength. You can see my review and interview for that book here.

I was absolutely delighted to be quoted on the front cover of this book, the first time that has ever happened to me. I promise however that this fact hasn't affected my review. 

This is one of the tricky books to review, as I can't tell you much about the plot. I can tell you that it is a Psychological thriller that managed to scare me. At 240 pages this book is fairly short, shorter than I am used to. I would have been just as happy for it to be longer, although it worked well as it was. It was full of the usual suspense, tension and dramatic build up that I have come to expect from this author. 

Paige is struggling, both with the bottle and the double tragedy that has beset her life. She doesn't know where to turn or how to move on. She also doesn't understand why these things have happened to her. Peculiar things start happening, but she imagined them, didn't she? Then she finds a gun in the house that must have belonged to her husband. What was it doing there, and what secrets was her husband keeping?

Paige was the best written character by far and I think the author managed to write her story very well. I think that this book could have afforded a few more chapters that were dedicated to fleshing out of the characters that bit more, so we got more of a sense of how they were feeling and got a deeper sense of what they were actually like. This in no way spoiled the story for me, but it wouldn't be right for me not to mention it, the plot wasn't affected by this in any way.

There is a moment part of the way through when I promise that I nearly fell of my chair. Very rarely have I actually gasped loudly when reading, so much so that my partner had to ask if I was OK. This is slightly unfair as I can't possibly tell you what this moment in the book refers to. You will need to read it for that. I can tell you though that I never would have guessed in a million years what the big twist was, but all of the minor plot threads weaved in to this big twist and everything suddenly made sense. 

I found this book to be intriguing, dark and disturbing. However that being said the author tackled the book with a certain amount of empathy, so that the plot remained bearable and plausible.

What I like about this author is that he writes stories that challenge and shock, he isn't afraid to push the boundaries of what we expect. He writes with grit, enthusiasm and passion and manages to deliver on all fronts. 

An entertaining and engaging thriller from a writer that goes from strength to strength. Most definitely read this one if you like to be shocked. If you like plots that intrigue and challenge, give this one a read and let me know what you thought.

About the Author:

Jack Jordan lives in East Anglia, England. He is an introvert disguised as an extrovert, an intelligent person who can say very unintelligent things, and a self-confessed bibliomaniac with more books than sense. 'My Girl' is Jack Jordan's second novel.

You can follow him on Twitter @_JackJordan_
or have a look at his website

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