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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Girls from Alexandria by Carol Cooper

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Agora Books
Format: Kindle (Paperback published April 29th)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Crime Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Historical Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this evocative novel. Thank you to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘A compelling, multi-layered read – equal parts funny, frank and sinister’ – Fiona Valpy, author of The Dressmaker’s Gift

Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.

Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.

Set against the lush and glamorous backdrop of 20th century Alexandria, Carol Cooper’s third novel is equal parts contemporary mystery and historical fiction: a re-coming of age story about family, identity, and homeland.

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MY REVIEW:

Seventy-year-old Nadia is in a London hospital and not quite sure what’s going on. Her memory isn’t what it used to be, and she keeps getting confused and misremembering. But one thing she’s sure of is that she needs to find her sister Simone, who she hasn’t seen in fifty years. The problem is, no one else believes Simone exists. Well, no one except the lovely nurse Deidre, who tries to help her find her sister before it’s too late.

The author opens the book talking about how her inspiration for the story came from her own memories of growing up in Alexandria and you can really feel that authenticity radiating from the pages. The author offers the reader not only an insight into the cultural and political landscape of Egypt, but also an authentic perspective on how it feels to grow up in Alexandria, its multiculturalism and verve oozing from the pages. It is a fascinating, educational and thought-provoking read, the author touching on a variety of subjects such as family, identity, loss, loneliness and female empowerment. 

Nadia is a character I won’t soon forget. It is impossible not to feel for her lying in hospital distressed, confused and alone. But there is so much more to her.  She is a nuanced, funny, compelling and feisty character who is determined to find her sister by solving the brief, cryptic messages she wrote on decades-old postcards; even learning how to use the internet to search for answers. I enjoyed following her through timelines, countries and cultures as she revisited old memories and searched them for any small clue that might lead her to her beloved sister. 

I will admit that it took me a little while to get into the rhythm of this story. The huge shift between the bleak British hospital where Nadia languishes alone and confused and the striking, sunny backdrop of Alexandria was difficult to follow at first, particularly as the flashbacks don’t follow a chronological order. But once I did I was engrossed, lost in Nadia’s story and fully invested in her search for Simone. 

This novel is unlike anything else I’ve read. Merging historical fiction, mystery and coming-of-age fiction,, the author has crafted a multilayered, evocative and affecting story that will linger long after reading. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Carol graduated in medicine from Cambridge University. She then spent time in different hospital specialities, including orthopaedic surgery and rheumatology, before entering general practice when her first son was born.

Carol’s journalism and broadcasting developed in tandem with GP work, and she is now well-known as a media medic. She writes for The Sun newspaper and other titles, and broadcasts on TV and radio on topical health issues.

Many of Carol’s non-fiction books are on child health and parenting, such as the much-loved guide Twins & Multiple Births, and the titles combine her professional expertise and her personal experience as a mother. As co-author of the book General Practice at a Glance, Carol won a British Medical Association book award in 2013. A companion volume, General Practice Cases at a Glance, appeared later.

Carol’s frivolous side has never been far from the surface. She became a columnist for Punch magazine and her articles can still be read in dentists’ waiting rooms. Her contemporary novels One Night at the Jacaranda and Hampstead Fever are also infused with a sharp wit. Her next novel, The Girls from Alexandriais due to be published in April 2021.

At Imperial College, London, Carol teaches medical students consultation skills, clinical reasoning, and medicine in the media. 

Carol is a Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, a trustee of Action on Pre-Eclampsia, an ambassador for Lucy Air Ambulance for Children, and honorary consultant in family medicine for the Twins Trust (formerly Tamba). She was elected President of the Guild of Health Writers in 2014.

Website | Instagram | Twitter

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon*| Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Tandem Readalong

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Published: February 16th, 2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, High Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy

SYNOPSIS:

With bits of BuffyGame Of Thrones and Outlander, this is a glorious series of total joy – Stylist

Sarah J. Maas’s sexy, richly imagined Court of Thorns and Roses series continues with the journey of Feyre’s fiery sister, Nesta

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly – proud, swift to anger and slow to forgive. And since the war – since being made High Fae against her will – she’s struggled to forget the horrors she endured and find a place for herself within the strange and deadly Night Court.
The person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred, winged warrior who is there at Nesta’s every turn. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. And when they are forced to train in battle together, sparks become flame.
As the threat of war casts its shadow over them once again, Nesta and Cassian must fight monsters from within and without if they are to stand a chance of halting the enemies of their court. But the ultimate risk will be searching for acceptance – and healing – in each other’s arms.

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MY REIVEW:

“Immortality was not a serene youth.
It was fire.”

ACOSF was one of my most anticipated books of the year, so I was thrilled when Tandem Collective UK offered me the chance to take part in a readalong of the book. At over 700 pages it is an intimidating tome, and I admit that I found the first third of the story quite slow and difficult to get into. But once things got going it was addictive, and I flew through the pages quickly; holding on for dear life as Maas took me on a high-octane and emotional thrillride. 

“So Nesta had become a wolf. Armed herself with invisible teeth and claws, and learned to strike faster, deeper, more lethally . Had relished it. But when the time came to put away the wolf, she’d found it had devoured her, too.”

ACOSF stands out from the other books in the series as it shifts from telling Feyre’s story to that of her fiery sister, Nesta. I was initially hesitant about this as I’ve enjoyed Feyre’s story and love her as a character, while Nesta wasn’t someone who lit up the pages and drew me in. But after reading it I can say I’m glad the author gave us the chance to get to know Nesta as there is so much more beneath the feisty and sullen mask. She has a story that needs to be told; one that addresses mental health, trauma and PTSD.  I liked how Maas explored these issues not only through Nesta’s story, but also through the stories of other characters. There is a lot of discussion about the issues throughout the book and it will be hard for some to read. But as someone who lives with these issues, I found it to be sensitively written and liked that Mass highlighted things like the importance of facing your pain, self care, opening up to others, and celebrating the tiny steps that are huge accomplishments in your recovery.

“Perhaps in voicing those truths, they’d given them wings. And sent them soaring into the open sky above.”

Though the familiar faces from Night Court do feature in the book, Nesta spends most of the story away from them and has isolated herself on an emotional level too. This led the way for the introduction of Gwyn and Emerie, two new characters who I loved. They have also been through trauma and through their shared experiences they develop a truly special friendship and camaraderie. Watching as that blossomed and the women slowly began to recognise their inner strength, was probably my favourite part of the book. 

“Your power is a song, and one I’ve waited a very, very long time to hear, Nesta.”

There is no talking about this book without discussing the steam factor. I’ve been shipping Nessian for a while and was hoping for them to finally get together, and we all know there have been some hot scenes between Feyre and Rhys, but I was not prepared for the level of sizzle in this book. It’s so steamy that I would find myself blushing and feeling almost embarrassed to be caught reading it – and I was at home! I did enjoy the hilarious discussions with fellow bookstagrammers that it led to though. Maas has certainly moved away from young readers with the raunchy scenes in this book. So be warned.

“When you erupt, girl, make sure it is felt across worlds.”

Ms. Mass knows just how to keep the reader begging for more, ending the book with a heart-pounding finale that had me on the edge of my seat. It was an electrifying ending to a spectacular book and I can’t wait until the next installment. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

Steam Rating:🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

TW: Mental health, sexual assault, trauma 

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series and A Court of Thorns and Roses series, as well as a USA Today and international bestselling author. Sarah wrote the first incarnation of the Throne of Glass series when she was just sixteen, and it has now sold in thirty-five languages. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog. Empire of Storms, the fifth Throne of Glass novel,is available now.

She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hamilton College in 2008 with a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Religious Studies.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Last Goodbye by Fiona Lucas

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Domestic Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this beautiful novel. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

How can you ever move on, if you can’t let go?

‘A gorgeous book about second-chances, brimming with love and overflowing with hope’ Milly Johnson

A beautiful and poignant story of love, loss and finding hope where you least expect it, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Cecelia Ahern.

Anna’s world was shattered three years ago when her husband Spencer was killed in a tragic accident. Her friends and family think it’s time she moved on, but how can she when she’s lost her soulmate?

On New Year’s Eve, Anna calls Spencer’s old phone just to hear his voicemail greeting. But to her surprise someone picks up. Brody answers and is the first person who truly understands what Anna is going through. As they begin to speak regularly, Anna finds herself opening up and slowly she discovers how to smile again, how to laugh, even how to hope.

But Brody hasn’t been entirely honest with Anna. Will his secret threaten everything, just as it seems she might find the courage to love again?

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MY REVIEW:

“That’s the funny thing about the future, isn’t it? We have all these plans, some small, some grand, but things don’t always work out the way we expect them to.” 

The Last Goodbye is a story about love, loss and letting go. A story about finding joy in life, finding your strength and learning to dream again. Beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful and uplifting, it is a story that will make you thankful for those you love and treasure all you have. 

The author addresses the many different facets of grief in this story and writes with an honesty and sensitivity that really makes you feel what the character does. She explores questions such as how do you start again, rebuild your life and your future without the person who was supposed to be there beside you? And how can you hope and dream again when your hopes and dreams were shattered in an instant? She also explores the idea that there is an acceptable time limit on grief and how you can’t move on until  you are ready. And how moving on looks different for everyone. 

An aspect of the book that particularly resonated with me was Lucas’ examination of anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia. Once again they are written with sensitivity and honesty and, as someone who has, and still does, experience these things, she has perfectly described how they make you feel. It was so vivid that I  could almost feel my own heart racing alongside theirs. 

I really liked Anna and Brody. They are great characters that I warmed to quickly. I was rooting for them and felt invested in their fate, both individually and as a couple. I liked their relationship, how they found solace in this stranger at the other end of the phone, how they inspired each other and helped each other find parts of themselves they thought were lost forever. Obviously, I was desperate to know what the mysterious Brody’s secret was. I had some ideas but didn’t get it right and thought the author did a wonderful job of making him so enigmatic, slowly unveiling parts of him to Anna and the reader at the same time. It had me on tenterhooks and made it impossible to put the book down. I needed answers! 

Tender, affecting, bittersweet and poignant, if you’re looking for a wonderful story that will give you all the feels, then this is the one for you.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Fiona Lucas is an award-winning author of contemporary women’s fiction. She has written heart-warming love stories and feel-good women’s fiction as Fiona Harper for more than a decade. Fiona lives in London with her husband and two daughters.

Website | Instagram | Twitter |Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles! Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Dangerous Women by Hope Adams

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Thank you to Michael Jacobs for the invitation to take part in the tour and for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

The compelling, gorgeously atmospheric tale of female friendship, redemption and betrayal, inspired by the incredible true story of female convicts at sea

London, 1841.

The Rajah sails for Australia.

On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world.

Daughters, sisters, mothers – they’ll never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other.

Until the murder.

As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect.

The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart . . .

But if the killer isn’t found, could it cost them their last chance of freedom?

Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.

MY REVIEW:

“That’s what we, too, are like, us women… We’re many small pieces, each of us different but now stitched together. A patchwork of souls.”

Dangerous Women is a story of dark secrets, intrigue, betrayal and redemption. Flawlessly blending fact with fiction, the author has reimagined the story group of needlewomen who made the Rajah Quilt and crafted an epic sea voyage turned locked room murder mystery where everyone is a suspect and anyone could be next…

As soon as I heard about this book I knew it was one I had to read. I’m a big lover of the three key elements at the heart of this book and had high expectations. It did not disappoint. The author brings the past to life, telling the story of the Rajah’s long journey from London to Van Diemen’s Land with almost two hundred female convicts on board. Exquisitely written, richly imagined, and told with finesse, it is a real labour of love. Her passion for the subject is poured onto the pages and the depth of her research is clear as she immerses you in the women’s bleak world aboard the ship. Her love for this story is so infectious that it has sparked a desire in me to learn more about the Rajah, its ladies and the quilt, and I’ve got a number of books added to my wishlist so I can delve deeper. 

Moving between past and present, the story is narrated by three women – Kezia, Clara and Hattie – who each offer a unique voice and perspective. All of the characters are vibrant and compelling, with richly drawn backstories full of heartbreaking tragedy. We learn that most of the women have only broken the law due to desperation and are as much victims as criminals. Thankfully, their matron Kezia understands this and is there to advocate for them with the other staff on board who may have been more ready to dismiss them as mere criminals without a thought for what they have endured. I loved her character and am eager to know more about the real woman she is based on, particularly her work with Elizabeth Fry. 

I love character-driven stories so I revelled in the fact that the author made the women’s stories as fundamental as she did the murder investigation. It made me care about them, root for them and have a stake in the outcome. Though as I learned more about them I actually found it harder to predict who might have stabbed poor Hattie. The author had embedded the truth in the women and their stories with such skill that it was invisible even to my watchful eye, making my jaw drop when it was revealed. 

Atmospheric, mysterious, suspenseful and compelling, this is a beautiful piece of historical fiction. If you are a fan of this genre, then make sure you pick up this book. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Hope Adams was born in Jerusalem and spent her early childhood in many different countires, including Nigeria and British Norht Borneo. She now lives near Cambridge. She has written books for children and adults as Adèle Geras.

Instagram |Twitter | Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Please take the time to read the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

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

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: Viper Books
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Gothic Fiction, Horror Fiction, Crime Fiction

Thank you to the wonderful Miranda at Viper Books for sending me a gorgeous gifted ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

THE MUST-READ GOTHIC THRILLER OF 2021

‘I haven’t read anything this exciting since Gone Girl’ STEPHEN KING

‘Believe the hype… a masterclass’ KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE

‘Books like this don’t come around too often’ JOANNE HARRIS

This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…

MY REVIEW:

“Don’t let anyone find out what you are.” 

The Last House On Needless Street is a gothic masterpiece. It’s a few months since I read it and yet it still lingers vividly in my mind. Mysterious, unsettling and original, I was mesmerised from the start and completely enrapt by the eerie world the author had created. And the creepier it became, the deeper I fell; lured against my every instinct into the dark and twisted world of a murderer, his cat and the mystery of a missing child.

The story is told from multiple points of view: Ted, Dee, Lauren and Olivia the cat. Yes, the cat is a narrator in this book. Each is vividly drawn, fascinating and memorable, but they may or may not be reliable, adding to the mysterious atmosphere and leaving the reader never quite sure what is and isn’t real in this bizarre tale. 

It takes a talented author to write a story that is both horrifying and funny, something Ward has achieved with flourish with this book. She has crafted a tale unlike anything I’ve read before. One full of beautiful imagery and prose that belies the dark, murky, spine-chilling story it tells. She plays with your mind, cleverly lulling you into a false sense of security where you accept what you’re reading, while using it to mask an entirely different narrative that only becomes visible as you approach the finale. And when you see it, it changes every word you just read. It is a masterclass in storytelling, twists and plotting that blows my mind every time I think about it.

“… if you wait long enough, evil always shows up.” 

One of the things I loved most is how deeply Ward delves into the mind of the killer. I need more books like this! Don’t miss the Afterward for the full, fascinating insight into Ted’s mind. The amount of research that has gone into it is phenomenal and sent me down a fascinating and frightening rabbit hole. 

Striking, inventive and gloriously unhinged, this jaw-dropping thriller is one that doesn’t come around often. It is a truly spectacular and original novel that you won’t be able to shake. One that will haunt you, horrify you and surprise you. Someone needs to call Spielberg or Howard because this is a story that belongs on the big screen.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Catriona Ward was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Her next gothic thriller, The Last House on Needless Street, will be published March 2021 by Viper (Serpents Tail).

Ward’s second novel, Little Eve (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award and the August Derleth Prize for Best Horror Novel at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. Her debut Rawblood (W&N, 2015) won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. She lives in London and Devon.

Instagram| Twitter| Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

Bookshop.org*|Waterstones* | Amazon* | Google Books| Kobo
*Links to Bookshop.org and Amazon are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles! Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter

Published: March 16th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder Studio
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Literary Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Welcome to my, slightly late, stop on the blog tour for this remarkable debut. Thank you to Niamh at Hodder Studio for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:
No future, dear reader, can break a woman on its own

A bold and dazzling exploration of fate and female agency in a world where women own the future but not their own bodies.

Like every woman, Celeste Morton holds a map of the future in her skin, every mole and freckle a clue to unlocking what will come to pass. With puberty comes the changeling period – when her final marks will appear and her future is decided.

The possibilities are tantalising enough for Celeste’s excitement to outweigh her fear. Changelings are sought after commodities and abduction is rife as men seek to possess these futures for themselves.

Celeste’s marks have always been closely entwined with her brother, Miles. Her skin holds a future only he, as a gifted interpreter, can read and he has always considered his sister his practice ground. But when Celeste’s marks change she learns a devastating secret about her brother’s future that she must keep to herself – and Miles is keeping a secret of his own. When the lies of brother and sister collide, Celeste determines to create a future that is truly her own.

Body of Stars is an urgent read about what happens when women are objectified and violently stripped of choice – and what happens when they fight back.

MY REVIEW:

“No future, dear reader, can break a woman on its own.” 

What would it be like to know your future? To have the things that will happen to you and those you love mapped out on your body and be powerless to change it? 

Body of Stars is a dazzling and luminous debut that is unlike anything I’ve read before. It is one of those books you know you’re going to love from the start; that seeps right into your soul and lingers long after you’ve finished reading. Exquisitely written with beautiful and almost melodic prose, the author cast a hypnotic spell with the captivating opening lines that lasts until the final pages. I savoured every word, eager to bathe in its splendour for as long as possible.

A multifaceted story about fate, choice, family, secrets, trauma and female agency, the author writes with truth and sensitivity as she examines timely, important issues such as male violence, rape culture, victim blaming, patriarchy and the toxicity they can breed. She also asks how women can empower themselves and come together to make a change, and looks at the positive and negative consequences of knowing your future. 

“All we knew was that our lives were speckled in advance on our skin, as it had been for our mothers, as it was for our sisters, while our brothers and fathers were left in the dark.”

The girls in this world are born marked, but men aren’t. And men are jealous, eager to know their own fates. But despite being the ones with the future on their skin, the women aren’t the ones with the agency. Their bodies aren’t their own and from birth they are read and their markings recorded by government inspectors, they have to sign waivers permitting potential universities or employers access to these records, and upon becoming a changeling they must submit to a humiliating inspection by both their mother and father. And, as changelings, the females are so potent that everyone is drawn to them; the men in particular. Some of whom will do anything to possess them. But the men are seen as powerless against their changeling allure and it is the women who are held responsible for staying safe and not getting abducted. And if they are taken and ruined, the blame is placed solely at their feet. But this isn’t an anti-men book. It is a wider story about the problems of strict gender identities and roles, and we see Celeste’s brother Miles and her father also fall foul of their society’s strict rules and roles for men. 

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that the author included excerpts and illustrations from Mapping the Future, the book used in her fictional world to interpret markings and predict their fates. The intricate detail was phenomenal and added to the sense of realism. There were definitely times I forgot this was all from the author’s wonderful imagination and I wasn’t reading about life in another country. 

It is rare to read a book where you really have no idea what will happen next, and this was one of those books. I found myself reading in breathless anticipation, trying to piece together the clues she’d dropped like breadcrumbs about Celeste and Miles’ fate. 

Mesmerising, soulful, unique and memorable, Body of Stars is an absolute tour de force. An easy five stars from me, I have no doubt this will be among my favourite books of the year. It is a book that resonates strongly and can’t recommend it highly enough. I am in awe that it is a debut novel and can’t wait to see what Ms. Walters writes next after such a phenomenal start. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

TW: sexual assault, trauma

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Laura Maylene Walter is a writer and editor in Cleveland. Her debut novel, Body of Stars, is forthcoming from Dutton. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Poets & WritersKenyon Review, The SunThe Master’s Review, Ninth Letter, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Southeast Review, Chicago Tribune‘s Printers Row, and many other publications.

Website | Instagram | Twitter

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon*| 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

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Mystery by the Sea (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery Book 5) by Verity Bright

Published: March 11th, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Kindle, Paperback, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Cozy Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Historical Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this entertaining cozy mystery. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

A magnificent seaside hotel, striped deckchairs, strawberry ice cream… and a rather familiar dead body? Lady Swift is on the case!

Spring, 1921Lady Eleanor Swift, explorer extraordinaire and accidental sleuth, hasn’t had a vacation since she arrived in England a year ago. Being an amateur detective can be a rather tiring business and she is determined to escape any more murder and mysteries. So she books into the Grand Hotel in the fashionable resort of Brighton for some fresh air, fish and chips and, of course, a dip in the ocean.

Eleanor is enjoying her view of the waves and trying to find her bathing suit when calamity strikes: a guest has been found dead at her beautiful hotel. The distraught manager, who can’t afford a scandal, asks Eleanor to solve the case as swiftly as possible. Thank goodness she has her partner in crime – Gladstone the bulldog – to help her sniff out the dastardly culprit.

But when Eleanor enters the dead man’s room, she receives a shock big enough to make her forget even the finest ice cream sundae. The body is that of her husband, who supposedly died six years ago on the other side of the world. Has he been alive all these years? Why does he have a copy of their wedding photograph with a cryptic message written on the back? If Eleanor can keep herself safe long enough to find her husband’s killer, she might discover that everything is not quite as it seems beside the seaside…

A warm and witty whodunnit! Fans of Agatha Christie, T E Kinsey and L.B. Hathaway will be utterly charmed by this addictive and absolutely gripping page-turner.

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MY REVIEW:

Brighton, March 1921. Lady Eleanor Swift is off on her first holiday since arriving back in England a year ago. The explorer extraordinaire and accidental sleuth is looking forward to some down time after the unexpected misadventures of recent months. But, before she’s even booked into her hotel, she is confronted by a dead body and yet another mystery waiting to be solved. The body belongs to Hilary, her husband who supposedly died six years ago. Can Eleanor decipher the few clues left behind to discover how he died twice and catch his killer?

Mystery by the Sea is a fun frolic that was like being in a time capsule; the author taking you back to a time when a trip to the English seaside meant striped deck chairs, donkey rides and a Punch and Judy show alongside the sea breeze, sandcastles and fish and chips. She brings it all to life so vividly that I felt like I was there walking along the breezy promenade, paddling in the sea and chasing a killer alongside the characters.

It is the fifth installment in the Lady Eleanor series but despite this it is easy to read as a standalone.  I can vouch for that as it was my first time reading this series.  Despite being an established series I never felt lost, quickly caught up on past events and soon felt like the characters and their relationships were familiar. 

Lady Eleanor is a dazzling heroine who I absolutely loved.  Outgoing, vibrant, daring and fiercely intelligent, she is a breath of fresh air and was a joy to read.  She and her butler, Clifford, make a compelling and entertaining duo who I could happily read again and again. I loved their witty banter and how their differences complement each other. Eleanor may dazzle alone, but she is even more glorious with him. The background characters are just as richly drawn; the female staff may not feature as heavily in the story but make a memorable impression and I can’t wait to see more of her blossoming relationship with DCI Hugh Seldon.

This book was just the tonic I needed on a difficult day.  Lively, charming, sharp and authentic, this glorious whodunnit lifted my spirits and left me yearning for more.  I didn’t need yet another series to add to my already bulging list, but I found one.  And I can’t wait to enjoy more of Lady Eleanor’s exploits. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Verity Bright is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing partnership that has spanned a quarter of a century. Starting out writing high-end travel articles and books, they published everything from self-improvement to humour, before embarking on their first historical mystery.

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Please read the reviews from other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Published: March 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Legend Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this breathtaking debut. Thank you to Lucy at Legend Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate―and not everyone will survive.

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MY REVIEW:

“But the possibility of the apothecary’s existence, the mystery of it, drew me deeper.” 

The Lost Apothecary is an enthralling and bewitching story of women, self-discovery and the secrets hidden in the shadows. 

In dual timelines we follow the stories of three women: Nella, Eliza and Caroline. The story opens in London in 1791. Nella runs the apothecary shop that once belonged to her mother. But this apothecary isn’t just a place of healing, it is also a place for women who seek something much darker: vengeance and murder. Twelve-year-old Eliza has been sent to the apothecary by her mistress. When Eliza begs for refuge, Nessa reluctantly allows her to stay in the hidden shelter of the apothecary and even begins to teach her some of her secrets. But when a mysterious woman makes a request that goes against everything Nessa stands for, it sparks a chain of events that will threaten everything she has; including her life.

In present day London Caroline is on what should have been her 10th anniversary trip alone after discovering her husband’s betrayal. When she finds a small vial while mudlarking she becomes fascinated by the item and determined to learn the item’s history and comes across a clue connecting the vial to a string of unsolved murders over two hundred years ago.

Past and present collide in this mesmerising tale creating a heady mix of mystery, contemporary and historical fiction that sizzles with suspense. It was a combination I found irresistible and I devoured the book quickly. Deftly written, evocative and clearly well researched, the author spirited me away to the dank, filthy streets of 18th century London where the apothecary is all smoke and mirrors; invisible to the untrained eye but visible for those in need. Shifting between dual timelines the author slowly unveils the secrets hidden in the pages, seamlessly weaving together the women’s stories in exciting and unexpected ways. I was hooked, on the edge of my seat as I desperately waited for her to reveal Nessa and Eliza’s fate. 

Nessa, Eliza and Caroline are a trio of unique voices that come together to create the perfect harmony in the narration of this tale. And while I enjoyed them all, I was definitely most drawn to Nessa and Eliza both as characters and in terms of the story. For me, Nessa was the character at the centre of it all. A solitary soul who is committed to her work, she believes she is empowering women in an era where they were at the mercy of men and their whims or desires. She has clear rules and standards: only men will ever meet death at the hand of her poisons, never women. Whatever they may have done. This dark side of her apothecary is a legacy of the betrayal she suffered at the hands of her lover many years ago, an incident that echoes in every facet of her life and is the reason she casts such a lonely shadow to this day. 

Eliza is a young and fairly innocent girl whose desire to learn and please is both her weakness and her strength. She is fascinated by what Nessa does and refuses to heed the older woman’s warnings about not shouldering the same burden she has all these years. Like Nessa I found myself feeling very maternal towards Eliza and had a real soft spot for her. 

What I liked most about Caroline was the journey of self discovery she took. When we first meet her she’s lost, feeling like her world has been turned upside down, and has no idea what she wants or what her future holds. After discovering the vial her passion for history is reignited and she finally allows her inner historian to resurface after suppressing her for all those years. She begins to see how stifled she has been and wonders if it might be time for a new dream and direction in life. That passion and her determination to solve the mystery of the vial was intoxicating and I enjoyed the friendship it kindled between her and Gaynor. 

Atmospheric, haunting, immersive and brimming with menace, this is a remarkable debut that I highly recommend. I am excited to see what comes next from this talented author and will be first in line to read it upon its release. 

Rating:  ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Penner is the debut author of THE LOST APOTHECARY (March 2021, Park Row Books/HarperCollins), available in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and translated into more than fifteen languages. Sarah and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida with their miniature dachshund, Zoe.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Please check out the reviews from the other fantastic bloggers taking part in the tour.

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

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Blog Tour: Saving Missy by Beth Morrey

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Historical Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Domestic Ficiton, Pensioners in the Pages
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio, Hardcover

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the paperback release of Saving Missy. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.

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SYNOPSIS:

Seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?

Missy Carmichael is prickly, stubborn – and terribly lonely. Until a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new. Something wonderful.

Missy was used to her small, solitary existence, listening to her footsteps echoing around the empty house, the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock. After all, she had made her life her way.

Now another life is beckoning to Missy – if she’s brave enough…

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MY REVIEW:

“So the day ended as miserably as it began. But I still felt it somewhere — that spark. The beginning of something. Or the end. Who knows?” 

Saving Missy is a story exploring loneliness, human connection, letting go and learning to live again. When we meet Missy she is rattling around her big house all alone and has no real connections with anyone other than her emails and skype calls to her son and grandson in Australia. After fainting in the park she is taken under the wing of Sylvie and Angela, two vivacious women who, much to Missy’s surprise, seem to want to be her friend. The pair open up a new world to Missy full of exciting opportunities, friendship and happiness that she isn’t sure she deserves after the things she’s done. Can Missy let go of the past and embrace life?

I first encountered Missy when I read a sampler of the story before its release in early 2020. I quickly fell in love with Missy and the world the author had created and have been frustrated at not being able to find the time to finish reading it ever since. So when the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for the paperback release arose I jumped at the chance, eager to finally enjoy the rest of Missy’s story. And I’m so glad I did. 

“The first photo summed me up, mostly, but the second had exposed my other self, the tiny part of me that could laugh like that. I wanted to poke my way into that part… and open it up so that it overwhelmed the stiffness and self-consciousness and all the other weaknesses I despised. To be that relaxed, animated woman, put her on display and leave the other stuffed away.”

Missy Carmichael is a wonderful protagonist. She is a cantankerous old lady who, despite her hard, bristly and defensive exterior, was someone I soon had a soft spot for. She is deeply flawed, awkward, lonely and worries constantly what others think. She has also spent most of her life not saying the things she desperately wanted to and seems to have lived her life for others, mostly her husband Leo who she is now lost without. She has no real relationship with her daughter Melanie since a fight the year before and her adored son Alistair and grandson Arthur live in Australia, something she is deeply bitter about. While her resentment towards her eldest child and daughter in law was hard to stomach at times it made her a more real character. I also liked that she often recognised her flaws, even if she doesn’t always try to change them.

A vital part of understanding Missy comes from the flashbacks that are woven into the narrative. These flashbacks show the reader important moments in her life that have shaped her and help us to understand the different facets of her character. It is in these chapters that the author brings Leo to life, albeit from Missy’s perspective. It is impossible to not be shaped by a relationship that spanned almost six decades so I think this was a critical part of the story that really opened our eyes to why Missy is the woman we meet in the present day.

“The idea that these vibrant, diverting women wanted to spend time with me was as gratifying as the gift of the dog bed. I’d never really had female friends before.”

The supporting cast of characters are just as riveting and richly drawn as Missy and I particularly loved the dynamics of her friendship with Sylvie and Angela. As she slowly allowed them into her heart and home I enjoyed seeing her experience female friendship for the first time in her life and the impact it had on her. We began to see a softer side to her, particularly in her interactions with her adopted dog Bobby and Otis, Angela’s four-year-old son. The author took Missy on a compelling adventure and it was amazing to see the bravery and joy she showed in the latter parts of the story. It is a reminder of how important human connection is in life, that it is never too late to grab life by the horns or to change and make amends for your mistakes. 

Charming, thought-provoking, wistful and uplifting, Saving Missy is a wonderful debut. I got lost in its pages as the author took me on an unforgettable journey. In our current climate its message of the importance of human connection couldn’t be more timely and is a great reminder to reach out to others in any way we can. Everyone should read this book. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

I’m a TV producer by trade. For a long time I worked at RDF Television, where I helped create The Secret Life of Four Year Olds series on Channel 4 and devised 100 Year Old Drivers for ITV.

I’ve been trying to write a novel since my early 20s, when I wrote a spin-off from Mary Poppins called Sister Suffragette, which was all about Winifred Banks’ adventures when she wasn’t at home singing. It’s probably for the best that it’s still in a drawer somewhere.

Saving Missy is my first full-length novel, and I wrote it on maternity leave, inspired by the people I met while I was walking my dog in the park.

In my spare time I enjoy running, cooking curries, admiring my dog every day and Christmas once a year.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon*| Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

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

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Headline Review
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this remarkable debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Headline Review for the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

On a platform in occupied Paris, a mother whispers goodbye.
It is the end.
But also the beginning.

Santa Cruz 1953. Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door.

Paris 1944. A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.

On a darkened platform two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined.

Beginning on an ordinary day and ending on an extraordinary one, WHILE PARIS SLEPT is an unforgettable read.

MY REIVEW:

Santa Cruz, 1953. Jean-Luc and Charlotte Beauchamp are living the American dream with their son Sam after fleeing Nazi occupation almost a decade ago. They have put the past behind them. Until the day a knock at their door resurfaces the everything they have tried to forget and the secret they have tried to bury since that fateful day at a Paris train station in 1944.

This book called out to me the moment I saw the cover. I love historical fiction and one of my favourite time periods is World War Two, so this was right up my street. Moving between dual timelines and multiple narrators, we are transported to Nazi-occupied France, the horrors of Auschwitz and post-war France and America to tell this story of love, loss, survival and forgiveness. 

Druart highlights the torment faced by those living under German occupation; their fear palpable as they go about their days starved from rationing, terrified of being taken away for the smallest violation and fearing for the lives of those that have vanished in an instant. She also examines the dilemma and guilt that haunts them: do they say nothing and survive? Or stand up for what is right and risk their lives? A similar question torments the Jews as they try to decide if they should comply with Nazi orders, whether it be to wear a star on their clothing or to do what they are told in the camps, even at the expense of the lives of others around them. Survival is a basic human instinct and the anguish radiates from the pages. 

Druart also looks at the PTSD experienced by survivors after the war and how they struggle with disbelief at what was done to them, wrestle with feeling like they should have done more or question why they were the ones to survive. There is also a profound sense of loss running through the story that takes many forms. Everyone has lost something because of the war. They have been altered by their experiences and the shape of their lives has changed because of them. It makes for difficult reading at time but conveys the true horror of war and its aftermath. 

But what is at the heart of this story is love. More specifically, it’s the love of a parent for their child. Samuel is the light in the darkness and the reason to survive for both couples. By asking someone to protect him when they were being taken to Auschwitz, Sarah put her son before herself and Samuel became the one thing keeping her and David going during their days in hell. For nine years they searched, missing their child and wondering if he was alive. Meanwhile Jean-Luc and Charlotte risked their lives to save this little boy. A stranger’s child. They trekked through France, over the Pyrenees and through Europe before finally entering America knowing they could be arrested and killed if they were discovered. Love for this child is at the core of their existence for both couples. Druart asks if the actions of the Beauchamps and the Laffittes were right, even if they were made from a place of love. She doesn’t judge, simply examines the effects of these decisions on everyone involved and invites the reader to decide for themselves.

While I felt for both couples, the person who I felt for most of all was young Samuel. This boy broke my heart. It was utterly heartbreaking to read as he was ripped from the only home and family he’s ever known, drugged, and taken to a foreign country where he didn’t speak the language to live with people he’s never met. They may be his biological parents but they are strangers to him. All of his emotional attachment and safety rests with the people he’s taken from and told he must never again have contact with. I just wanted to reach into the book and hug him. It is clear that everyone involved wanted what is best for him, but there are no winners in the tug-of-war for this child. Especially not him. 

Atmospheric, poignant, powerful and heartrending, While Paris Slept is a remarkable piece of historical fiction with a cinematic quality that makes it feel perfect for the big screen. Beautifully written and well researched, I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the genre or the time period. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ruth Druart grew up on the Isle of Wight, moving away at the age of eighteen to study psychology at Leicester University. She has lived in Paris since 1993, where she has followed a career in teaching. She has recently taken a sabbatical, so that she can follow her dream of writing full-time.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon*| Apple Books | Kobo
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Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx