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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Uncategorised

Blog Tour: One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Today is my stop on the tour for this remarkable debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Doubleday for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

An extraordinary friendship. A lifetime of stories. Their last one begins here.

‘This is something special: moving, joyful and life-affirming’ GOOD HOUSEKEEPING Book of the Month

‘Heartwarming, remarkable stories’ BBC BOOKS FOR 2021
_______________________________________
Life is short. No-one knows that better than seventeen-year-old Lenni living on the terminal ward. But as she is about to learn, it’s not only what you make of life that matters, but who you share it with.

Dodging doctor’s orders, she joins an art class where she bumps into fellow patient Margot, a rebel-hearted eight-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant as they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.

To celebrate their shared century, they decide to paint their life stories: of growing old and staying young, of giving joy, of receiving kindness, of losing love, of finding the person who is everything.

As their extraordinary friendship deepens, it becomes vividly clear that life is not done with Lenni and Margot yet.

Fiercely alive, disarmingly funny and brimming with tenderness, THE ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF LENNI AND MARGOT unwraps the extraordinary gift of life even when it is about to be taken away, and revels in our infinite capacity for friendship and love when we need them most.

MY REVIEW:

“Living and dying are both complete mysteries, and you can’t know either until you’ve done both.”

Every once in a while you will come across a book that reaches into your heart and soul and changes you forever. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is such a book. A story of life, death, all the magical moments in between, it is hard to believe that this is a debut. Utterly mesmerising, this is a book that lingers long after reading. 

I loved Lenni. She is smart, sassy, fierce and funny. I loved how she thrived on challenging those around her; everyone from Father Arthur to the exasperated nurses, how she travelled via her imagination each day and the fact that she refused to be held back by the confines of impending death and the hospital ward. She is so alive that it is hard to believe she is dying, leaping from the page straight into my heart. Margot’s impact is a little more subtle, much like the lady herself. She has a dignified and graceful air about her, but from the moment we first meet her you also get a sense of rebellion. As we learn more, it becomes clear she has lived an extraordinary life and I could have read a whole other book about her without getting bored. I love a good multi-generational tale and their friendship is truly special and remarkable and will remain one of my favourites.

Marianne Cronin is a phenomenal new talent and this novel is storytelling at its finest. She immerses you in Lenni’s world, making you feel the helplessness, frustration, loneliness and claustrophobia of being confined to the hospital’s walls and her fear of death as she laments she has so much more she wants to experience. She has also crafted rich, compelling and memorable characters who occupy Lenni’s small world, each one vital to propelling the story forward, just like those in the stories they share through their paintings. 

What makes this book so special is how it makes you feel, which is obviously something you need to experience for yourself. I doubt I have managed to do it justice, but I’ve done my best.  Beautiful, poignant, heart-rending and hypnotic, this is a book everyone needs to read. It will make you laugh, smile, cry, break your heart, and when you close that final page you will not be the same. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Marianne Cronin was born in 1990. She studied English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Birmingham. She now spends most of her time writing, with her newly-adopted rescue cat sleeping under her desk. When she’s not writing, Marianne can be found performing improv in the West Midlands, where she lives. Her debut novel The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is to be published around the world and is being adapted into a feature film by a major Hollywood studio.

Instagram |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These links are affiliate links

Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thanks for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Romance, Erotic Literature, Saga
Format: Hardcover, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this wonderfully outrageous novel. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Ambition can be deadly

Broadcast to millions from its picturesque location off the coast of Jersey, Falcon Bay was once the world’s most popular soap opera. But with ratings at an all-time low, a new network owner, the malevolent Madeline Kane, arrives on the private island determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to the number 1 slot.

Director Farrah, leading lady Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who’ve been trying to hold the production together. But thanks to their handsome but corrupt boss, Jake Monroe, Farrah is losing episodes to male colleagues, seventy-year-old Catherine is terrified of losing the public’s adoration, and Amanda is battling her desire for a forbidden affair with a handsome new employee.

As Madeline’s pressure to revive the show intensifies, she unleashes a true battle of the sexes where the women will do anything to stay in the jobs they love and on the island they call home. Can they team up to bring down their rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge rip their friendships apart? As the story reaches its shocking climax, one thing is for certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive…

MY REVIEW:

Sexy, sassy, sharp and spectacular, Ruthless Women is like reading an episode of Dynasty. Gloriously over the top, this reads like a throwback to the days of Jackie Collins. And I’m here for it. 

Falcon Bay was once the biggest soap opera in the world, but its popularity has nosedived and the show is struggling. Thanks to a buy out of the production company it has been offered a lifeline, and the new owners have big plans for the upcoming 40th anniversary on Christmas Day. But the directions they want to take are at odds with what those at the heart of the show know to be best. Both sides are sure they’re right and will stop at nothing to save the show their love. But at what cost?

In this wonderfully written novel the author offers us a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous, of showbiz and all its trappings, pressures and perils. She draws you into the world of Falcon Bay, where the idyllic beauty of St. Augustine, and the glitz and glamour of show business are at odds with the murky, underhanded schemes that go on behind the scenes. Ambition, power, money and sex matter more than friendship, love or loyalty in this warped world. Deceit, jealousy and betrayal are rife, and the only thing you can rely upon is that everyone is out for themselves. Pulsing with drama and adrenaline, I couldn’t tear myself away and would have devoured this in one sitting if not for the pesky need to sleep.

One of the things that stands out most about this book is it’s messages of female empowerment. The author has filled her world with a powerhouse of fierce, strong and ruthless women. They are the ones who shine and propel the plot, and the fictional show, forward. They are complex, nuanced characters who are utterly compelling, even if they aren’t always likeable. These women have had enough of being written out of their own narratives and are determined to take back what is rightfully theirs. 

Now let’s talk about sex. This is the epitome of a bonkbuster. Heat sizzles from the pages as the women enthusiastically enjoy sex and there are plenty of raunchy scenes that made me glad I wasn’t reding this in public. I loved the representation of woman in their forties and above enjoying sex and having active sex lives. Even at seventy. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a racy book that focuses on a group of mature women and it was refreshing to see. 

While some will no doubt write this off as simply a bonkbuster, there is so much more to this novel. Beneath the surface this is a layered story full of depth and social commentary. Not only is there the theme of female empowerment, but the author also addresses the ‘old boys club’ mentality, sexism, misogyny and ageism that is still rife in the entertainment industry. She also examines how society looks at women. How it controls how women are perceived and what is deemed acceptable from us in terms of our appearances and the way we live our lives. It is a powerful reminder of how far we still have to go to reach true equality. 

Steamy, salacious, funny and outrageous, this is a highly entertaining read that you can get lost in. I would love to see this made into a movie or series and recommend it to everyone – so long as you don’t blush easily. With her sophomore novel, Melanie Blake has shown that the magic of The Thunder Girls was not merely a fluke and secured her place on my auto-buy list. I can’t wait to see what she writes next. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Best-selling author Melanie Blake’s own real life Rags to Bitches story reads like the plot of an outrageous drama…

At fifteen years old Melanie Blake was told by her high school career advisors that her decision to do work experience at a local record shop was an ’embarrassment to the school and a clear example that she wouldn’t go far in life or her career’. They were wrong. By twenty-one she was working at the BBC’s iconic Top of the Pops show and by twenty-seven she had built a reputation as one of the UK’s leading music and entertainment managers, with her own agency and roster of award-winning artists who had sold more than 100 million records. During this time she also built up an acting agency from scratch which quickly became the most successful independent boutique agency in the UK where she manages clients from some of the biggest internationally syndicated shows in the world.

Her roster have won Baftas, Emmys and pretty much every best actress award going and Melanie is one of the most successful female agents in the world. In the UK alone – over 25 million people a week currently tune in to watch the very stars Melanie represents in their globally syndicated shows. In 2018 after two decades at the top of her game, Melanie decided to manage a smaller client list and concentrate on her other passion, writing – first as a columnist for a national newspaper, then as a playwright and now as a best-selling novelist.

Her first book The Thunder Girls became a Number 1 Best Seller in the summer of 2019 and the play she adapted from the novel broke box office records for a new work at the prestigious Lowry Theatre.

She still represents a high profile stable of some of the best known faces on British television but is also now enjoying success in her own right as a producer, author and playwright.

Website |Instagram |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker

Published: February 25th, 2021
Publisher: Viper Books
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I am thrilled to be one of the bloggers opening the blog tour for this sensational debut. Thank you to Viper Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…

CALL ME MUMMY. IT’LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.

MY REVIEW:

“From the moment I clasped my sister’s doll to my chest, I yearned for a child of my own. I knew it would take a miracle. And here she is!” 

A number of days after finishing this book I am still at a loss as to how to write this review and do it justice. I was expecting this book to be fantastic;  I had no doubt that Ms. Baker’s vivacious charisma and hilarity would carry over into her writing. I was not disappointed. In fact, Ms. Baker exceeded my already high expectations to craft a striking, original and accomplished debut that left me excited to read more from the author. 

All Mummy has ever wanted is a child. But by a cruel twist of fate, she has been unable to have a child. So when she sees a beleaguered Kim snapping at her children in the shop it is like a knife to her heart. How can someone like her be blessed with the gift of a child that she doesn’t appreciate when it is all she wants? In an instant, Mummy decides to rescue the poor child. But she is unprepared for Tonya’s resistance and the realities of motherhood and is enraged that her picture-perfect image is not coming to fruition. Meanwhile, Kim is finding herself demonised by the press and public after she refuses to conform to their rules and expectations. She begins to fall apart and lash out at those around her, unable to see anything but her own pain. And then there is little Tonya, a scared, confused child who just wants to go home. 

This story is every parents’ worst nightmare come true. It captures the evil that lurks in the shadows and the nefarious face behind the guise of a beautiful mask. Sharply observed, darkly funny and as subtle as a sledgehammer, this made me feel ALL the  feelings. I loved the short chapters, choppy writing style and how there was a tempo of malevolence and despair that runs through the narrative. The characters and story were so unpredictable that it was impossible to guess what would happen next and my heart was in my throat over and again as I read in breathless anticipation of the next shocking twist. 

“They want the chavs, the scum, lost souls like her, to rip each other apart in the name of entertainment, so observers like her can sit on their high fucking horses, looking down on their godforsaken misfortunes.” 

The story is told from multiple points of view. Our main narrators are Mummy and Kim, with regular short chapters from young Tonya. Each had their own very distinct voice and character that felt vivid and real. At first glance, Mummy and Kim couldn’t be more different; but they are characters rich with nuance and complexities that unveil surprising similarities that would horrify both women. Mummy is menacing, capricious and chilling. Appearances are very important to her and she is very particular about the face and character that she shows people. But underneath the mask she is a woman haunted by the mental and physical scars of past trauma. A powder keg just waiting for that final spark before it blows. Kim is the opposite; she is course, foul-mouthed and has no time for airs or graces or putting on a show. She is unapologetically who she is. And underneath she is also haunted by past traumas, teetering on the edge of a breakdown. 

Like Mummy and Kim, Tonya is wonderfully written. She isn’t your stereotypical pretty, likeable child who is easy to please. Full of personality, but not the kind that Mummy had hoped for, she is a foul-mouthed, sour-faced, fierce and contentious little girl who fights Mummy every step of the way. I loved everything about her and she certainly found a place in my heart. 

Longing, obsession, pain and trauma seep from every pore of this book and its characters, the author holding my heart in her hands as she examines topics such as mental health issues, trauma, infertility, addiction, eating disorders, neglect, and domestic and sexual abuse. She looks at the effects of trauma on the psyche and how it filters down into our very being, affecting how we treat ourselves and others, sometimes with catastrophic effects. The author shows these subjects without any gloss, exposing their dark side and the wounds that can fester from such pain. She also addresses society’s expectations and judgements of mothers, particularly in situations such as a child abduction when many people seem to think they are fair game and use it as an opportunity to break them down even further instead of offering kindness and support. 

Compelling, bold, tense, thought-provoking and unsettling, this twisty page-turner had me on the edge of my seat. This is an astonishing debut that you do not want to miss. READ IT NOW!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

TW: mental health, infertility, eating disorders, neglect, sexual abuse, domestic abuse.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tina was brought up in a caravan after her mother, a fairground traveller, fell pregnant by a window cleaner. After leaving the bright lights of Coalville, she came to London and worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years. She’s probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, partly inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to have a child. Despite the grief and disappointment of that, she hasn’t stolen one. So far.

Website |Instagram |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org* |Amazon*| Google Books| Kobo
*The links are affiliate links

Please read the reviews from the other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Dead Head by C. J. Skuse

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Dark Comedy, Psychological Thriller, Zine, Crime Fiction, Crime Series

Thank you to HQ for the gifted copy of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

Victim. Murderer. Serial Killer. What next?
The third darkly comic thriller in the highly addictive Sweetpea series featuring serial killer Rhiannon Lewis.

‘Bridget Jones meets American Psycho’ RED
Can a serial killer ever lose their taste for murder?

Since confessing to her bloody murder spree Rhiannon Lewis, the now-notorious Sweetpea killer, has been feeling out-of-sorts.

Having fled the UK on a cruise ship to start her new life, Rhiannon should be feeling happy. But it’s hard to turn over a new leaf when she’s stuck in an oversized floating tin can with the Gammonati and screaming kids. Especially when they remind her of Ivy – the baby she gave up for a life carrying on killing.

Rhiannon is all at sea. She’s lost her taste for blood but is it really gone for good? Maybe Rhiannon is realising that there’s more to life than death…

The third book in the critically-acclaimed series following Sweetpea and In Bloom featuring everyone’s favourite truly original girl-next-door serial killer Rhiannon Lewis.

MY REVIEW:

“Is there such a thing as a ‘normal life’ for a serial killer?” 

It’s no secret that the Sweetpea series is one of my favourite series EVER. Or that this latest installment is one of my most anticipated books of 2021. I am not ashamed to admit that I squealed with excitement when HQ offered me a copy of Dead Head, or that I dived into it within days of its arrival. I had so many questions about what was next for Rhiannon. And what is next is a new side to Rhiannon. One that the woman herself doesn’t even recognise. 

Rhiannon is hiding out on a cruise ship after confessing to her murder spree and fleeing the UK. She is not only trying to conceal her identity to avoid prison, but also recover from the premature birth of her daughter.  Instead of feeling liberated, she is lost in malaise and can think of nothing except how much she misses her baby daughter, Ivy, who she was forced to leave behind. She has also lost her murderous appetite. Is it gone for good? Or could this be the beginning of a new Rhiannon?

Oh, how I’ve missed Rhiannon. Her coarse, dark, filthy humour, the twisted way she sees the world, how she says what’s on her mind without a care, and even her murderous ways. But I liked that in this installment we are given a more emotional and relatable Rhiannon. She is lost in malaise, missing her baby, and finds that her anger and desire to kill has dissipated. She feels untethered. Like she has lost the things that make her who she is. I thought this was a fantastic direction to take the character. After all, she might be a ruthless serial killer, but she’s still human, and few women wouldn’t be broken up at having to abandon their baby. But don’t get it twisted, she’s still got that hilarious inner monologue, dark wit and snarky personality that we first fell in love with. 

Darkly funny, compelling and sharply observed, Dead Head is a sensational installment in a truly unique series that you won’t forget. And though you need to read the previous books to keep up with events they are so brilliant that I would have recommended that you read them anyway. 

Once again, C. J. Skuse has knocked it out of the park. I loved being back in Rhiannon’s warped and crazy world and was left yearning for more. I truly hope this is not the last we see of Rhiannon.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

C. J. Skuse is the author of the young adult novels Pretty Bad Things, Rockaholic, Dead Romantic (Chicken House) as well as Monster and The Deviants (Mira Inc) and the adult novels Sweetpea and In Bloom for HQ/Harper Collins.

Born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England, C.J. has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Young People. Aside from writing novels, C.J. is a Senior Lecturer in Writing for Children on the M.A. at Bath Spa University.

C.J. loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and Sylvanian Families. She hates carnivals, hard-boiled eggs and coughing. The movies Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Ruby Sparks were all probably based on her ideas – she just didn’t get to write them down in time.

Before she dies, C.J. would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Tom Hardy present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Website |Instagram |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Bookshop.org*|Waterstones*|Amazon*|Google Books |Apple Books |Kobo
*These are affiliate links

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Girl at the Back of the Bus by Suzette D. Harrison

Published: February 8th, 2021
Publisher Bookouture
Format: Kindle, Paperback, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this powerful novel. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

I watched in awe as Miz Rosa stopped those men on the bus with her clear, calm “no” and I thought about that word. What if I said no? What if I refused to follow the path these White folks wanted for us? What if I kept this precious baby?

Montgomery, Alabama, 1955
On a cold December evening, Mattie Banks packs a suitcase and leaves her family home. Sixteen years old and pregnant, she has already made the mistake that will ruin her life and disgrace her widowed mother. Boarding the 2857 bus, she sits with her case on her lap, hoping that the driver will take her away from disaster. Instead, Mattie witnesses an act of bravery by a woman named Rosa Parks that changes everything. But as Mattie strives to turn her life around, the dangers that first led her to run are never far away. Forging a new life in a harsh world at constant risk of exposure, Mattie will need to fight to keep her baby safe.

Atlanta, Georgia, present day
Ashlee Turner is going home. Her relationship in ruins, her career held back by prejudice, she is returning to the family who have always been her rock. But Ashlee’s home is not the safe haven she remembers. Her beloved grandmother is dying and is determined to share her story before she leaves…

When Ashlee finds a stack of yellowing letters hidden in her nana’s closet, she can’t help the curiosity that compels her to read, and she uncovers an old secret that could wreak havoc on her already grieving family. As she tries to make sense of what she has learned, Ashlee faces a devastating choice: to protect her loved ones from the revelations, or honor her grandmother’s wishes and follow the path to the truth, no matter where it may lead.

For readers of The HelpOrphan Train and Before We Were Yours comes a beautiful and heartbreaking novel about redemption, family secrets and the spirit of survival found at the hardest time.

MY REVIEW:

“My right mind knew my life and so much more depended on my silence, but clearly I wasn’t finished being that girl from the back of the bus.” 

A story of an ordinary family that is told through the eyes of the matriarch, Mattie, in 1950s Alabama, and her granddaughter Ashlee, in modern-day Georgia, exploring themes of motherhood, dignity, prejudice, injustice and the fight for equality. 

Opening with Mattie taking the same bus ride as Ms. Rosa Parks on that infamous day she refused to give up her seat, the author blends historical moments with the fictional story of Mattie’s family that give it a strong sense of authenticity and impactfulness. Moving seamlessly between the dual timelines, we see how the two women face similar obstacles and dilemmas sixty years apart despite the changes in society.

“It was a belittling ballet played to the melody of racism”

The author has filled the novel with a multitude of strong, fierce and fascinating women that I loved reading. We only see Mattie’s mother Dorothy and Ashlee’s mother Savannah through the eyes of their daughters, but they both could have carried chapters of their own. It is clear they are a tribe of dynamic, indomitable women. And of course we have the woman who’s quiet but deafening protest kickstarts it all; Rosa Parks. Witnessing the illustrious Ms. Parks refusing to give up her seat that day in December 1955 is what gives Mattie the courage to stand up against the injustices she faces. The author transports you back to fifties America, allowing you to walk in Mattie’s shoes for a short time and offering a greater understanding of the inequalities she faced that I knew nothing about, such as having to get off the bus after paying to get on again at the back.

Powerful, thought-provoking, captivating and inspiring, this is a remarkable novel with a timeless message. I am looking forward to reading more from this author and highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the genre. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Suzette D. Harrison, a native Californian and the middle of three daughters, grew up in a home where reading was required, not requested. Her literary “career” began in junior high school with the publishing of her poetry. While Suzette pays homage to Alex Haley, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Toni Morrison as legends who inspired her creativity, it was Dr. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that unleashed her writing. The award-winning author of Taffy is a wife and mother of two teens, and she holds a culinary degree in pastry and baking. Mrs. Harrison is currently cooking up her next novel…in between batches of cupcakes. 

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Tandem Readalong

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

Published: January 21st, 2021
Publisher: Merky Books
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Thank you to Tandem Collective UK for the invitation to take part in the readalong and to Merky Books for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

‘You can’t stop birds from flying, can you, Sameer? They go where they will…’

1960s UGANDA. Hasan is struggling to run his family business following the sudden death of his wife. Just as he begins to see a way forward, a new regime seizes power, and a wave of rising prejudice threatens to sweep away everything he has built.

Present-day LONDON. Sameer, a young high-flying lawyer, senses an emptiness in what he thought was the life of his dreams. Called back to his family home by an unexpected tragedy, Sameer begins to find the missing pieces of himself not in his future plans, but in a past he never knew.
___________________
Moving between two continents over a troubled century, We Are All Birds of Uganda is an immensely resonant novel that explores racial tensions, generational divides and what it means to belong.

It is the first work of fiction by Hafsa Zayyan, co-winner of the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize, and one of the most exciting young novelists of today.

MY REVIEW:

“In a way, I suppose, we are all birds of Uganda.” 

We Are All Birds of Uganda is a beautifully told story that follows Sameer, a twenty-something British lawyer whose family were amongst those expelled from Uganda under the rule of Idi Amin. The story moves between Sameer’s story in the present day and that of his grandfather, Hasan, who tells his story through a series of letters written to his late wife. 

There is no denying the beauty of this book; from the stunning cover to the exquisite prose and vivid imagery that bring the story to life. But this book is one that also covers issues darker than the dazzling colours on the cover would suggest. The author explores topics such as race, gender, privilege and oppression. Even addressing the rise of open and accepted racism in society today. But what is at the heart of this story is the search for one’s identity; to learn who you are in your heart and soul. I particularly enjoyed following Sameer’s journey of discovery as a young man torn between two cultures. The author has drawn on her own background as British woman with Nigerian and Pakistani roots to explore these subjects which lends it a sense of authenticity and sensitivity. 

The racial tensions of Uganda and expulsion of Asian minorities in the seventies is something I was vaguely aware of but actually knew very little about. I was shocked and appalled as Hasan writes what is happening in his adopted home; my heart breaking for him as he is forced to leave all he loved and in fear for his life. I took no pleasure in his journey from wealthy, privileged Asian who looks down on the black Ugandans to an impoverished immigrant in the UK who is treated with the disdain he himself reserved for others. I felt only shame in how some in my country treated those seeking a place of refuge in their time of need – I shame I still feel in some of those in my country today – and his fall from grace is a stark reminder that our fortune can change in a moment. 

Richly drawn, evocative, powerful and affecting, this is a wonderful debut from an author who is one to watch. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Hafsa Zayyan is a writer and dispute resolution lawyer based in London. She won the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize in 2019. We Are All Birds of Uganda is her debut novel, inspired by the mixed background from which she hails. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and holds a masters’ degree from the University of Oxford.

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

Don’t forget to check out the reviews from other bloggers who took part in the readalong on Instagram.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Shadow Man by Helen Fields

Published: February 4th, 2021
Publisher: Avon Books
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Crime Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

The brand new crime thriller from the bestselling author of the Perfect series – Helen Fields is back with her first stand-alone novel!

He collects his victims. But he doesn’t keep them safe.

Elspeth, Meggy and Xavier are locked in a flat. They don’t know where they are, and they don’t know why they’re there. They only know that the shadow man has taken them, and he won’t let them go.

Desperate to escape, the three of them must find a way out of their living hell, even if it means uncovering a very dark truth.

Because the shadow man isn’t a nightmare. He’s all too real.

And he’s watching.

Helen Fields is back with a heart-pounding new book, perfect for fans of Cara Hunter and Stuart MacBride.

MY REVIEW:

“She wished he were just a monster. There were rules for those… But there were no rules that would keep you safe from him.”

All the stars for this spine-tingling thriller! 

What a thrill ride this was! Deliciously dark, sinister and addictive, this was like a twisty rollercoaster I didn’t want to end. From the start there’s a chill in the air and a lingering sense of dread, leaving you in no doubt what kind of read you’re in for. And with all the elements of a thriller that make my dark heart sing, I couldn’t get enough. I devoured this book; staying up until ridiculous o’clock, unable to resist the lure of breathless anticipation; reading until the author delivered her spectacular coupe de grace. 

“He pressed the handkerchief to her lips. A cotton kiss in the dark.”

Helen Fields is a crime fiction powerhouse. She was already on my must-read list thanks to her spectacular DI Callanach series, but with this standalone she has become a crime writer to shout about and recommend to anyone who enjoys this genre. She gives you everything you could want in a dark and gritty thriller: visceral, chilling prose, shocking twists and turns, plenty of heart-stopping moments, and fantastic characters, including a villain that makes your blood run cold. 

I really liked Connie. She’s intelligent, fierce and straight-talking, with a dash of quirkiness that spoke to my inner weirdo. She is so fabulously written, with such a rich backstory that I really felt like I knew her. Her achromatopsia was a fascinating aspect of her character that I loved reading. I liked how it changed her perception of people and the world around her. In fact, I think my only complaint about this entire book is that it isn’t the start of a series and I won’t get to join Connie as she solves another case. 

As much as I liked Connie I think my favourite character was young Meggy. She is a little firecracker and I loved her strength, bravery and ferocity. It gave me hope that just maybe she might survive her abduction. I loved the contrast between her and Elspeth and the way it showed it isn’t always the people you expect who take charge and fight when in those kinds of situations. 

“Death had arrived. He might be wearing jeans and a denim jacket, but there was no mistaking the lack of humanity in that gaze.” 

Fergus, aka the Shadow Man, is suitably vile and chilling, The descriptions of him are so vivid I felt like I could see him in front of me. Ghoulish and predatory, he silently stalks his prey from the shadows; waiting for the right time to strike. He is masterfully written, with the author capturing every shade of his character; from  darkest, despicable evil, to charming and feeble, that evoked some sympathy alongside the abhorrence.  Calculated, organised, methodical and manipulative, he doesn’t follow the normal rules of a kidnapper which makes him harder to predict and apprehend and Connie must think outside of the box to capture him. 

Scalpel-sharp, eerie, captivating, and dripping with suspense and heart-stopping tension, this is a page-turner full of red herrings, shocking reveals and so many twists you’ll get book whiplash. DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK! And, to Helen: PLEASE consider writing a follow up. I need more Connie!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

Thank you to Avon Books for my gifted copy of the book.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

A former criminal and family law barrister, Helen Fields has the expertise and experience to make the characters and plots scorch with authenticity.

With a background as both a prosecutor and defence counsel, Helen Fields has a depth of knowledge about crime that lends a fierceness to her writing. From Courts Martials to care proceedings, the Coroner Courts to the Crown Court, Fields draws on her professional years for the extraordinary colour and texture that makes her writing jump off the page. Twice long-listed for the McIllvanney Scottish Crime Book of the Year, and a multi-bestselling author whose books have been translated across the globe, Fields consistently produces high impact, compelling novels that readers love. The ‘Perfect’ series, set in Edinburgh, introduced the world to DI Luc Callanach. This year saw the release of Degrees of Guilt, her first psychological thriller in the name HS Chandler, a book as shockingly realistic as it is darkly entertaining.

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Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: Deity by Matt Wesolowski

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Urban Fiction

I’m a little late posting this due to ill health, but here is my review for the fifth installment in Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Karen at Orenda Books for the gifted ebook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

A shamed pop star
A devastating fire
Six witnesses
Six stories
Which one is true?

When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist, Scott King, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rake over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Are reports of a haunting really true? Why was he never officially charged?

Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

MY REVIEW:

“This journey feels like it’s just begun — pulling apart a myth bit by bit to see what lies within.”

The fifth installment in Matt Wesolwski’s Six Stories series offers what we’ve come to expect: an eerie, mysterious and exhilarating novel exploring a fictional cold case over six episodes of the fictional podcast. This time presenter Scott King is trying to get answers about the life of music superstar Zach Crystal, a controversial, enigmatic and eccentric figure who perished in a fire in 2019.

As always, we jump straight into the action, with a chilling and sinister opening that will leave you both desperate for more and terrified to turn the page. I don’t want to talk too much about the details of the plot as the beauty of these stories is the journey of discovery, the mystery and surprises that unfold. What I will say is that once again Wesolwski has knocked it out of the park.

Wesolowski’s books are always highly anticipated in the blogging and book community; and for good reason. You will never read anything else like it. He has a style that is instantly recognisable as his and has crafted a series that is compelling, memorable and unique. Wesolowski isn’t a man afraid of taking risks or writing about the dark side. And his books aren’t for the faint hearted. They will send shivers down your spine, make you question the world around you and see monsters where there were none before. He is a genius. And I am yet to meet anyone who has read his books that doesn’t agree. I was late to discover this series and I’m still playing catch-up with the earlier books. But what is so good about them is while you will want to, and should, read every one, you can dip in at any point as each one is about a completely new case with all new characters bar the presenter.

Hypnotic, thrilling, innovative and simply brilliant, Deity is an unmissable book by one of the greatest voices in fiction.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

Trigger Warnings: sexual abuse

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care.

‘Six Stories’ was published by Orenda Books in the spring of 2016 with follow-up ‘Hydra’ published in the winter of 2017, ‘Changeling’ in 2018, ‘Beast’ in 2019 and ‘Deity’ in 2020.

‘Six Stories’ has been optioned by a major Hollywood studio and the third book in the series, ‘Changeling’ was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Award for Best Thriller and Best Independent Voice.
‘Beast’ won the Amazon publishing award for Best Independent voice in 2020.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Please check out the reviews by the other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xx

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Blog Tour: The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

Published: February 4th, 2021
Publisher: Manilla Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Fiction, Noir Ficiton

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising debut novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Manilla Press for the ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

The sunniest places hold the darkest secrets . . .

A stunning 1950s set debut mystery brimming with atmosphere and perfect for fans of Tangerine, Small Pleasures and Mad Men.
________

Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .

It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .

A beguiling, deeply atmospheric debut novel from the cracked heart of the American Dream, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and ultimately under-estimated.

MY REVIEW:

“Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time.”

Sunnylakes, Santa Monica – a town whose radiant name and shimmering skies belies the truth. Look a little closer and you will see what the residents try to hide; a place crawling with deep, dark secrets. Secrets that are slowly unveiled after Joyce Haney disappears from her home in the town one sunny August afternoon, leaving behind a bloodstained kitchen and  two frightened little girls. 

Wow. Just, wow! I can’t believe this mesmerising book is a debut. Inga Vesper is a talented wordsmith who has woven this layered, intricate plot into a work of art. The prose is witty and poetic, transporting me to 50s suburbia and its  sexism, misogyny, and racism. The author also delves deeply into the historical side of the era, examining topics such as the aforementioned sexism and racism, as well as society’s view of women’s roles, civil rights, domestic abuse and mental health. It is a book that would make a perfect film or TV series and the imagery is so vivid that I felt like I could see the bright blue California skies, feel the sun beating down and the sweat forming at every pore. It was so vivid I felt like I was watching it on the screen in front of me; a mash-up of Mad Men and Perry Mason. 

“The world stops. Her breath sticks in her throat. A cocoon rises up around her, drowning out all sound. She can do nothing but stare at what is in her hands. So small and delicate and terrible.”

Stepford wives and fake smiles is what springs to mind when I think of the women of Sunnylake. And it is soon clear that Joyce Hanley didn’t quite fit the mould. We get to know Joyce through the eyes of her husband, friends and maid and from the woman herself, in glimpses of her that fateful August day.  She is an enigma. A presence that lingers on every page. But it’s a chorus of many voices who tell this story, and the author has created a wonderful melody for us. We have Frank, Joyce’s husband who is your typical fifties man. Nancy Ingram, Joyce’s neighbour and best friend. Mick, the detective searching for Joyce. And Ruby, the Hanley’s maid who first raises the alarm about Joyce’s disappearance. Each character, and all of the supporting cast, are richly drawn and compelling, but it was Ruby and Mick I enjoyed reading most of all. 

Atmospheric, beguiling, lush, claustrophobic and evocative, The Long, Long Afternoon is a decadent piece of classic noir. Don’t miss this breathtaking debut from an exciting new author who should be on everyone’s reading list. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

I am a journalist and author of crime fiction. I have an MSc in climate change management and, in my day job, specialise in science journalism with a focus on EU policy, as well as writing about climate change, energy and the Global South. Available for freelance commissions.

I am a member of the National Union of Journalists, the Association of British Science Writers and the Society of Authors. I run the West London Writers, a lively and welcoming fiction writing group in Ealing.

When I am not writing I like to walk, knit and drink copious amounts of tea with sage and honey.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Don’t forget to check out the reviews from the other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xx

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Blog Tour: Last One At The Party by Bethany Clift

Published: February 4th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Humour, Science Fiction, Science Fiction Comedy, Dystopian Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this sensational debut. Thank you to Steven at Hodder Books for the invitation to take part and for my limited edition proof.

SYNOPSIS:

THE END OF EVERYTHING WAS HER BEGINNING

It’s December 2023 and the world as we know it has ended.

The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM (‘Six Days Maximum’ – the longest you’ve got before your body destroys itself).

But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own.

Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth.

And with no one else to live for, who will she become now that she’s completely alone?

MY REVIEW:

“Everything had stopped.
And it would never start again.
Ever.”

Last One at the Party is a sensational debut that everyone needs to read. I was strangely apprehensive when I started this book. The moment I first saw that striking cover and read the synopsis I knew I had to read it and I wanted to love it. But the fact that it was billed as Science Fiction worried me as it’s a genre that isn’t usually my thing. Well, it turns out I was wrong. When it’s this book I love Science Fiction. 

December 2023. The world as we know it has ended. People have been wiped out by a virus known as 6DM (6 Days Maximum); an illness with a 100% mortality rate that kills its victims in a cruel and gruesome way. 

Against the odds one woman has survived. And now she must find a way to not only survive, but live in the post-apocalyptic world she now inhabits. 

WHAT. A. BOOK. If, when you close a book, you’re left reeling, wanting to scream at the author that they can’t end things like that and are desperate for more, then you know it is one you won’t soon forget. Even after reading a number of other books since, this one lingers. I can’t get it out of my head (and now I won’t be able to get that Kylie song out of my head either). 

“This is a story about life, not death.”

Razor-sharp, witty, riveting and achingly real, the author examines what it means to live and be human. She says in her note to the reader that opens the book that this is a story about life, not death. And it is. Death will inevitably feature in abundance in a post-apocalyptic story about a deadly virus, but despite this she has crafted a tale with a message of living your best life and staying true to who you are at its heart. 

You can’t get much more timely than a book about a virus killing off the human race being released during a global pandemic. The novel was written before Covid-19 but the author has gone back and woven current events into the story. The effect is an authenticity that would be missing without the pandemic. If this had been released before 2020 it would still have been a fantastic book, but it wouldn’t have hit so hard. It would have seemed a little far-fetched rather than something that could happen. 

The name of our protagonist is never revealed, adding to the mysterious and dream like quality of the book. She is a fantastic character; flawed, fallible and messy, she is recognisable as any one of us. I liked that the author made her so relatable. That she didn’t immediately go into survivor mode and act like a hero. I loved that her immediate response to being possibly the last person alive is to make her Hollywood movie dreams come true and live it up in lavish hotels, shops til she drops and create a bucket list of the sites she wants to see in London. She was so much fun to read and I liked her. 

“I don’t want to be alone anymore.”

But she wasn’t the only compelling and memorable character. There were others who left their mark. Her best friend was fabulous and I still laugh thinking about his hilarious coming out story. And Simon the rooster was comedy gold. My favourite character of all has to be Lucky, the Golden Retriever who accompanies our protagonist on her journey. Thank you Bethany Clift for giving her such an adorable and heartwarming sidekick. 

Last One at the Party is a sensational debut that you don’t want to miss. Funny, heartwarming, unsettling and yet hopeful, when I turned the last page I was left emotionally drained and desperately wishing I could hug everyone I love. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

Trigger Warning: Mental Health, Talk of suicide.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Bethany Clift is a graduate of the Northern Film School and has had projects in development with Eon and Film 4, as well as being a director of her own production company. Last One At The Party is her debut novel.

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Bookshop.org * |Waterstones* |Amazon* |Google Books |Kobo
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Please read the reviews from the other bloggers on the tour.

I hope you enjoyed this review. Unimpressedtil next time Bibliophiles, Emma xx