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That Green-Eyed Girl by Julie Owen-Moylan

Published: May 12th 2022
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Mystery, Historical Mystery, Romance Novel, Lesbian Literature, LGBT Literature
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review for this outstanding debut. Thank you to Jen at Michael Joseph for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

1955: In an apartment on the Lower East Side, school teachers Dovie and Gillian live as lodgers. Dancing behind closed curtains, mixing cocktails for two, they guard their private lives fiercely. Until someone guesses the truth . . .

1975: Twenty years later in the same apartment, Ava Winters is keeping her own secret. Her mother has become erratic, haunted by something Ava doesn’t understand – until one sweltering July morning, she disappears.

Soon after her mother’s departure, Ava receives a parcel. Addressed simply to ‘Apartment 3B’, it contains a photo of a woman with the word ‘LIAR’ scrawled across it. Ava does not know what it means or who sent it. But if she can find out then perhaps she’ll discover the answers she is seeking – and meet the woman at the heart of it all . . .

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MY REVIEW:

That Green-Eyed Girl was not only the Squadpod Book Club pick for May, but one of my most anticipated debuts of 2022.  A dual timeslip novel, it moves between 1955 and 1975 to tell  an unforgettable story that deals with difficult topics such as homophobia, racism, mental illness and neglect alongside everyday issues such as teenage crushes.  

Atmospheric, immersive and utterly compelling, I am in awe that this is a debut.  Julie Owen Moylan is a skilled storyteller whose vivid prose brings the story and characters to life, transporting me to the streets of New York so clearly it was as if I could feel the oppressive summer heat on my skin, hear the noise from the traffic and smell the smoke in the jazz bars. She moves seamlessly between timelines as she slowly converges the two storylines, beginning the connection with the mysterious package and then intricately weaving them together until the full picture emerges.

The book is filled with richly drawn, fascinating characters, including our two narrators: Dovie in 1955 and Ava in 1975.  The author creates a strong connection between them and the reader, allowing us to explore their innermost thoughts, feelings and fears.  I had a particularly strong maternal connection to Ava and longed to jump into the book and be the parent she desperately needed and wanted.  Despite their many differences, Ava and Dovie are actually very similar.  Both are imprisoned in their own ways; caught in a web of shameful secrets and lies that hold them captive and paralysed by the fear of discovery.  An oppressive and claustrophobic air of anguish, humiliation and dread permeates each page, and there is a bite of loneliness and regret that runs through the story as societal values and expectations force Dovie and Ava to live these half-lives in order to conform.  It is heartbreaking, powerful and perfectly written. 

Hauntingly beautiful, poignant and bittersweet, this book was both nothing like I expected and everything I wanted.  It is a truly astonishing debut from an author I predict big things from in the future.  This is one not to be missed. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Julie Owen Moylan is a writer whose short stories and articles have appeared in New Welsh ReviewHorizon Literary Review, and The Voice of Women in Wales Anthology

She has also written and directed several short films as part of her MA in Film. Her graduation short film called ‘BabyCakes’ scooped Best Film awards at the Swansea Film Festival, Ffresh, and the Celtic Media Awards. She also has an MA in Creative Writing, and is an alumna of the Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course. 

Her debut novel THAT GREEN-EYED GIRL will be published by Penguin Michael Joseph on May 12th 2022.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊Emma xxx

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REVIEW: Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg

Published: April 14th 2022
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Romance Novel
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Nobody But Us was April’s SquadPod Book Club pick, and boy was it a good one! Unpredictable and totally crazy, this is a phenomenal debut that everyone needs to read.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

MEET 2022’S MOST DANGEROUS COUPLE . . .
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Steven Harding is a handsome, well-respected professor.
Ellie Masterson is a wide-eyed young college student.

Together, they are driving south from New York, for their first holiday: three days in an isolated cabin, far from the city.

Ahead of them, the promise of long, dark nights – and the chance to explore one another’s bodies, away from disapproving eyes.

It should be a perfect, romantic trip for two.

EXCEPT THAT HE’S NOT WHO HE SAYS HE IS.

BUT THEN AGAIN, NEITHER IS SHE . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“Morning will cast a light on all this, shine on the craziness of the situation; this sham won’t survive sunrise, like all other evil it can only thrive in darkness.” 

What a wild ride!  This is a book that does exactly what it says on the tin and lives up to its tagline that calls Ellie and Steven ‘2022’s most f*cked up couple’.  This one took me quite some time to recover from after reading.  It’s that crazy.  I thought I knew what was in store but I had no idea just how messed up this was going to get…

The story opens with Ellie and Steven heading off on a three-day trip to celebrate their six month anniversary.  They both seem anxious and feel like everything rests on this weekend but the reader is in the dark as to what that is and why.  They quickly arrive at their destination: a remote cabin in the forest, surrounded by snow and with no cell phone reception.  Right then you would know this is going to be a getaway-gone-wrong even if you’d gone into this book blind.  Ominous and claustrophobic, there is an unbearable tension that wreaked havoc on my blood pressure as I tried to guess what would happen next.  But I could never have guessed what was coming if I’d had a hundred guesses.  It plays its cards extremely close to the vest so I won’t say anything more about the plot so you can discover the craziness for yourself. 

Stylish, sinister, scalpel-sharp and sophisticated, Laure Van Rensburg’s cunningly crafted debut is one you won’t forget.  She holds the reader in her vice-like grip, making it impossible to stop reading even when you want to turn away.  Ellie and Steven are richly drawn, memorable, unsavoury and unreliable characters, hiding their dysfunction behind a mask of normalcy that once removed will change everything you thought you knew. 

Unpredictable, darkly atmospheric and charged with adrenaline, Nobody But Us is the debut everyone is going to be talking about.  Laure Van Rensburg is a spectacular new talent that is one to watch and I for one can’t wait to read what she writes next.

READ THIS BOOK!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Laure Van Rensburg is a French writer living in the UK and an Ink Academy alumna. Her stories have appeared in online magazines and anthologies such as Litro Magazine, Storgy Magazine, The Real Jazz Baby (2020 Best Anthology, Saboteur Awards 2020), and FIVE:2:ONE. She has also placed in competitions including 2018 & 2019 Bath Short Story Award.

Her debut novel, Nobody But Us, follows Ellie and Steven who take their first trip away together, but what starts as an idyllic weekend soon takes a darker turn, as it quickly becomes apparent that each of them harbour secrets – and that one of those secrets is deadly.

Nobody But Us (originally titled The Downfall) was shortlisted for the 2019 First Novel Prize, 2019 Novel London Competition and 2019 Flash 500 Novel Opening. It will be published by Michael Joseph in April 2022 and has sold in fourteen territories, including Germany, Italy, Norway and the United States.

Laure’s current work in progress, Eden Lost, was longlisted in 2019 Exeter Novel Prize and more recently shortlisted in the 2020 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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SquadPod Book Club Review: The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Published: May 13th, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Greek Mythology
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Better late than never. I’m finally sharing my review for The Wolf Den, the magnificent story that was the first Squadpod Book Club read in the summer. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For now her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken. By day, she walks the streets with the Wolf Den’s other women, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels reimagining the lives of women who have long been overlooked. Perfect for fans of Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and Madeline Miller’s Circe.

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MY REVIEW:

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

The Wolf Den is an absolute masterpiece. Lush, atmospheric and mesmerising, it gives a voice to the voiceless women lost to the sands of history. Told by Amara, a young woman sold into slavery after her family fell into poverty and now forced to be one of the she-wolves at Pompeii’s infamous brothel, this is a story of friendship, jealousy, betrayal, revenge and survival.

I luxuriated in the exquisite storytelling of this book. This ancient tale is told with a modern voice, bringing the story to life in a way that is relatable and compelling. The evocative scene setting brought the story alive and transported me back to the doomed city of Pompeii as vividly as if I were walking the dusty streets myself. The brutality and precariousness of life at the time is vividly depicted through a broad spectrum of society, from the seedy to the opulent, reminding us your fortunes could change in an instant, taking you from freedom to slavery. Meticulously researched, the author’s vivid descriptions and attention to detail illustrates her passion for the history of Pompeii and to allow those who were silenced for centuries to finally have their voices heard.

“And you would, wouldn’t you? Tear them all apart.”

The characters are richly drawn, vivacious and charismatic. They have that spark that makes you care and root for them. There is a sisterhood shared by the she-wolves, each one ready to defend the other no matter what. This book was our first Squadpod Book Club read and Clare described the she-wolves as the ‘early Squadpod’, which I thought was perfect. Each of them possess strength, tenacity and vulnerability, as well as a sensuality and wiliness that they rely on to survive. As women and slaves they were especially powerless and I liked that we saw the hard choices they had to make and unpaletable things they are forced to do in order to survive.

“She gets better at pretending, but Amara is never satisfied. The desire to escape takes hold, its roots digging under her skin, breaking her apart.”

I loved Amara and thought she was a great choice for the narrator. Though she is now a slave, she is a doctor’s daughter and an educated woman, something that sets her apart from many of the other women. And while Felix may own her body, he doesn’t own her spirit, the embers of rage burning in her alongside an unquenchable determination. I liked her immediately and found her easy to root for, even when she was unlikable.

Sumptuous, enthralling and unflinching, The Wolf Den is a phenomenal start to an exciting new trilogy. The jaw-dropping ending left me desperate for more and counting down to the release of part two next May. A triumph of historical fiction that fans of the genre shouldn’t miss. Go read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Elodie Harper is a journalist and prize-winning short story writer. Her story ‘Wild Swimming’ won the 2016 Bazaar of Bad Dreams short story competition, which was judged by Stephen King.

She is currently a reporter at ITV News Anglia, and before that worked as a producer for Channel 4 News. Her job as a journalist has seen her join one of the most secretive wings of the Church of Scientology and cover the far right hip hop scene in Berlin, as well as crime reporting in Norfolk where her first two novels were set – The Binding Song and The Death Knock.

Elodie studied Latin poetry both in the original and in translation as part of her English Literature degree at Oxford, instilling a lifelong interest in the ancient world. The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels about the lives of women in ancient Pompeii.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx