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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022 Squadpod Book Club Support Debuts

BLOG TOUR: Nobody But Us by Laure van Rensberg

Published: November 10th, 2022~
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psycholgical Thriller
Format: Paperback, Hardback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour celebrating the paperback publication of Nobody But Us. Thank you to Sryia at Michael Joseph for the invitation to take part and gifted paperback copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘READS LIKE A GLOSSY 90s THRILLER. OBSESSED‘ JUNO DAWSON
‘IT GRIPS LIKE A VICE’ WILL DEAN
‘A MUST READ FOR 2022’ 5* READER REVIEW
‘ADDICTIVE AND INTOXICATING’ 5* READER REVIEW
‘NOT ONE TO BE MISSED’ EVENING STANDARD
________

He’s a well-respected college professor. She’s a young and eager-to-please student.

He knows she would do anything for him. She knows his certainty is his weakness

He thinks he’ll get what he wants. She thinks he’ll get exactly what he needs.

Two liars.
One twisted path.
A game of cat and mouse.

BUT WHO IS THE HUNTER? AND WHO IS THE PREY?

********

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’. It took me quite some time to recover from this one 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

********

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.

********

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

BLOG TOUR: Ginger and Me by Elissa Soave

Published: July 21st, 2022
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Mystery, Dark Comedy, Coming-of-Age Story, Urban Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this poignant, funny and affecting debut. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

********

SYNOPSIS:

Wendy is lonely but coping.
All nineteen-year-old Wendy wants is to drive the 255 bus around Uddingston with her regulars on board, remember to buy milk when it runs out and just to be okay. After her mum died, there’s nobody to remind her to eat and what to do each day.

And Wendy is ready to step out of her comfort zone.
Each week she shows her social worker the progress she’s made, like the coasters she bought to spruce up the place, even if she forgets to make tea. And she even joins a writers’ group to share the stories she writes, like the one about a bullied boy who goes to Mars.

But everything changes when Wendy meets Ginger.
A teenager with flaming orange hair, Ginger’s so brave she’s wearing a coat that isn’t even waterproof. For the first time, Wendy has a real best friend. But as they begin the summer of their lives, Wendy wonders if things were simpler before. And that’s before she realizes just how much trouble Ginger is about to get them in…

An unforgettable debut novel from the winner of the Primadonna Prize 2019 which will stay with you long after the last page.

********

MY REVIEW:

“Ginger and me were best friends that summer, she was the first best friend I’d ever had.  I wish we could have stayed that way forever.” 

Ginger and Me opens in Polmont Prison with narrator Wendy sure that she will be set free as soon as the mysterious reason she is there is cleared up.  When she’s sent back to prison to await her trial after the initial hearing she is shocked and confused. 
We then jump back to a year earlier.  Wendy is living a solitary life following the death of her mother.  She drives her bus and goes home, her only visitor is her support worker, Saanvi, who comes by weekly and encourages Wendy to step out of her comfort zone.  Following her advice, Wendy befriends Ginger, a teenager she meets on her bus, and joins a local writing group.  It’s the happiest she’s ever been and it is all about to spiral into tragedy…

“Things hadn’t gone exactly as planned but still, the bond between us was getting stronger with every meeting. It had taken me a long time to find my soulmate but now that I had, there was no way I was going to mess it up.” 

Heartfelt, moving and achingly real, Ginger and Me is an accomplished debut that explores loneliness, grief, friendship, obsession and self-discovery. It claimed my attention quickly, the author holding me in the palm of her hands as she wove her lingering tale.  Steadily paced with a suspenseful atmosphere that looms over every page, it is a cornucopia of heartbreak, tragedy and trauma with heart and humour woven in to help bring light to the darkness.  And while we know from how it begins that Wendy will end up in prison, we don’t know what led her there, keeping me guessing and adding to the tension which builds to a shocking climax.  And that ending!  I still have chills.

“She was charismatic and fun, that’s what people forget when they focus on what happened later. I mean, if you read a book and your favourite character did something terrible on the first page, they’d never get the chance to become your favourite character, would they? No, you have to get to know them a bit first, learn what they are and what it is you like about them. Later when they do things you can’t deal with, well, it’s too late because you’re committed to liking them regardless.”

The story is narrated by Wendy, who talks directly to the reader, creating an intimate connection.  She is a likeable, quirky and interesting character who is very literal, doesn’t see the world the way others do, and often misses what people mean or is really happening.  It gives her an innocence and vulnerability that made me feel protective of her and there were times her lack of self-awareness broke my heart or made me cringe.  I wished I could jump into the book and gently explain what was going on to help her avoid embarrassment and heartache.  Ginger and Diane are also compelling characters.  We only ever see them through Wendy’s eyes yet the author manages to create unique connections between them and the reader too.  I felt a particular affection and maternal instinct towards Ginger, who is a troubled and often melancholy teenager who has a terrible home life and much darker problems that Wendy doesn’t quite grasp.  I could see how she was desperate to be rescued but there was no one to save her.  Elissa Soave took me on an emotional journey alongside these characters that lingers long after turning that final page.  

“I think if you read books, it calms you down. And it makes you realise there’s a place for everybody, no matter how weird.  It’s like, there’s a whole world out there and no one can stop you from entering, it’s open to anyone who wants to be part of it, even me. “

As a bibliophile, I love a book about books or characters who love books, so the fact that this book had both of those things made me so happy.  felt a deeper connection to Wendy because of her love of books and could understand some of her feelings towards Diane as I know that feeling when an author seems to be writing what you’re thinking.  All of the references to literature made this an even greater joy to read and made my bookish heart sing. 

Funny, dark and poignant, Ginger and Me is a memorable debut you need on your TBR.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

TW: Sexual abuse, death of a parent

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Elissa Soave is a Scottish writer. She won the Primadonna Prize 2019 and her debut novel, Ginger and Me, will be published by HQ Stories (HarperCollins) on 21 July 2022.

Elissa’s fiction is set in the domestic but often dangerous world of ordinary people. Her characters tend to be alienated, damaged, and often angry, but their perspective on the world and the way in which they deal with their problems will reassure readers of the resilience of the human spirit.

********

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022 Squadpod Squadpod Book Club Squadpod Recommends Support Debuts

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.

********

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 . . .

********

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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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*
*These are affiliate links

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022 Squadpod Book Club Squadpod Recommends Support Debuts

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.

********

SYNOPSIS:

MEET 2022’S MOST DANGEROUS COUPLE . . .
________

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 . . .

********

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

********

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.

********

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org* |
*These are affiliate links

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Review: Midnight in Everwood by M. A. Kuzniar

Published: October 28th, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Magical Realism, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

SYNOPSIS:

In the darkness of night, magic awaits…

Nottingham, 1906

Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but, as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered – she must marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But, when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in Marietta’s life.

After Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance on Christmas Eve, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own – a magic darker than anyone could imagine. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from her family’s ballroom to a frozen sugar palace, silent with secrets, in a forest of snow-topped fir trees. She must find a way to return home before she’s trapped in Everwood’s enchanting grip forever.

In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…

********

MY REVIEW:

“Only the most magical things happen at midnight. When mortal folk are dreaming, safe in their beds, it is then that the sprites and goblins creep out and the air crackles with wild magic.”

Nottingham, 1906. Marietta longs to be a ballerina but she is torn between the life she wants and the one her high society family expects her to have.

On Christmas Eve, as she prepares for final performance, Marietta discovers a hidden magical world full of wonder hidden in the scenery built by mysterious new neighbour Dr. Drosselmeir. But this enchanting place holds magic darker than she ever imagined and Marietta soon finds herself fighting to find a way to break free of Everwood’s hold and return home.

I’d saved Midnight in Everwood to read over Christmas and I am so glad I did. I started it on Christmas Eve, which is when most of the magic happens in Everwood, and was so enthralled that I had to force myself to stop reading at 2am so I would be able to function the next day. I was spellbound by this magical tale that I feel sure will become a future Christmas classic.

“… once magic has entered your life, you stay in it’s glittering clutch forever.”

Luminous and enchanting, Midnight in Everwood is a dark fairytale for adults. An air of creeping menace lingers over every page like a silent shadow waiting to strike, making my heart race and sending shivers down my spine. Richly imagined and beautifully told, I was transported to another world as I followed Marietta’s journey. Ms. Kuzniar is a gifted wordsmith, her glorious prose and evocative imagery bringing the stifling rigidity of high society in the early 1900s and the dazzling beauty of Everwood to life as vividly as if I’d stepped inside them myself.

Like Marietta, I was enchanted by Everwood, a wondrous dreamworld with its sugar-spun castle, frozen landscape and magical charms. But beneath the glittering facade is a much darker side. Less of a dream and more of a nightmare. A place ruled by a tyrant who enjoys torture and pain.

“Never dull your sparkle for anyone else, flame fiercely into your own glittering future.”

This is a book filled with spectacular characters. Marietta is a brilliant protagonist who I immediately liked. Feisty and determined, she doesn’t fit the mould expected of her and refuses to acquiesce. I loved this and was rooting for her from the start. That feeling only grew after she’s captured in Everwood and I was cheering her on and hoping she would find a way to escape the king’s clutches. I loved the relationship she had with her brother, Frederick, himself a great character who I could have happily read a lot more of. But it was her friendship with Pirlipata and Dellara I enjoyed most of all. This wonderful trio were a delight to read, Dellara in particular bringing an ebullience to the page that made her captivating. I loved watching their bond grow and cheering them along as they came together to find a way home.

Shimmering, incandescent and haunting, Midnight in Everwood is a mesmerising debut sprinkled with magic. The perfect book to get lost in on a cold winter’s day while snuggled under a cosy blanket, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is one that I will treasure forever.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Maria Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows. Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nutcracker.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Review: A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

Published: September 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

SYNOPSIS:

A lyrical and atmospheric homage to the strange and extraordinary, perfect for fans of Angela Carter and Erin Morgenstern.

This is the story of The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived…

Born into a post-war circus family, our nameless star was unwanted and forgotten, abandoned in the shadows of the big top. Until the bright light of Serendipity Wilson threw her into focus.

Now an adult, haunted by an incident in which a child was lost from the circus, our narrator, a tightrope artiste, weaves together her spellbinding tales of circus legends, earthy magic and folklore, all in the hope of finding the child… But will her story be enough to bring the pair together again?

Beautiful and intoxicating, A Girl Made of Air brings the circus to life in all of its grime and glory; Marina, Manu, Serendipity Wilson, Fausto, Big Gen and Mouse will live long in the hearts of readers. As will this story of loss and reconciliation, of storytelling and truth.

********

MY REIVEW:

“Up until this moment I have lived in sepia, my muddy life devoid of meaning.  That is how it always feels, until I see her, once again, bathed in colour and light.”

A Girl Made of Air is one of those rare literary gems where what is on the inside is just as beautiful as the dazzling cover on the outside.  It is genuinely one of the most beautiful and captivating stories I have ever read.  A truly mesmerising and magical debut, it weaves an enthralling tale that is poignant, sad and dark, yet also filled with hope, colour and wonder. It tells the story of a nameless and unwanted protagonist, following her from the days as a neglected child living in a circus in England then all the way to New York, where she found fame as the greatest Funambulist of all time. 

In a book filled with larger than life characters, our protagonist at first feels so small and insignificant.  She is born into a life of poverty and neglect; the unwanted child of Marina, a mermaid-esque character who swims with crocodiles, and Manu, a lion tamer.  She spends her earliest years invisible, silent and unloved, keeping to the shadows and scrounging for scraps of food.  But when she’s seven years old she is taken in by Serendipity Wilson, a flame-haired woman who dazzles all who meet her, and for the first time our protagonist experiences real kindness and love.  Now nicknamed Mouse, Serendipity Wilson takes her under her wing and teaches her the art of walking the wire, introducing her to the art that becomes her passion and sees her become the star of the show, performing in the big top and then taking her talent to Coney Island in New York.  But there is an underlying heartache that mars any happiness she finds, the rejection and hatred of her mother casting a shadow that never fades, no matter how brightly she shines.  

“What happens to all the lost memories; the moments of silent thought, the complicity of long-gone lovers, when our minds are so far gone our still breathing bodies may as well be thrown into some dark oubliette? What happens to a life once lived?”

I am still in awe that this is a debut novel.  Nydia Hetherington merges Manx folklore, fairy tales, circus freaks and fiction in this phenomenal tale of the strange and the extraordinary.  She takes us behind the shimmering spectacle of the circus, pulling back the curtain to reveal the truth of life in the grubby, bleak encampment.  The author’s descriptions are so vivid that I could see and smell the dirt, mud and animals; a rotten stench that the performers can never escape.  It is a depressing insight into the poverty they live in despite their incredible talents.   But it is also breathtakingly beautiful and intoxicating, the lyrical and evocative prose transporting you to the world the author created and bringing it to life as clearly as if you’re watching it on a movie screen.   

“My words are a labyrinth into which we can wander.  As I write these tales, I can follow each path, each fallen leaf, in the hope they might take me to the person I seek.”

There were many elements of the writing that I loved, including the author’s use of storytelling throughout the book, both in how she has Mouse narrate the story as she transcribes her memories that she scribbled down in notebooks and journals over the years and as she tells us the Manx Folklore that Serendipity Wilson would tell Mouse.  I also enjoyed how contrasts play such a big part of the story, whether that is in the characters and places which are flamboyant and colourful yet shabby and somber, or in the writing itself which manages to be both magical and full of misery.  Ms. Hetherington is clearly a born storyteller and writer whose attention to detail is evident on every page.  I never wanted it to end and savoured every word.  

Spellbinding, luminous and kaleidoscopic, A Girl Made of Air was a joy to read from beginning to end.  It is a book that lingers long after reading, where I’ll catch myself thinking about it at random moments. My only frustration is that I allowed it to languish on my shelf unread for so long.  So if you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so as soon as possible.  And be prepared to fall in love.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

********

MEET THE AUTHOR:

From Leeds — although born on Merseyside and spending the first few years of life on the Isle of Man — Nydia Hetherington moved to London in her early twenties to embark on an acting career. Later she moved to Paris where she created her own theatre company. When she returned to London a decade later, she completed a creative writing degree at Birkbeck, graduating with first class honours.

********

BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Merry Christmas! Emma xxxx

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Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022 Support Debuts

Emma’s Anticipated Treasures: Most Anticipated Debuts of 2022

We aren’t even out of 2021 yet, but 2022 is overflowing with so many exciting books that I have had to create three lists to share the ones I’m most anticipating: Most Anticipated, Most Anticipated Debuts and Next in Series

Following on from my list of most anticipated books, today I’m sharing what debuts I’m particularly looking forward to next year. It feels like each year the debut novels being released just get better and better, forcing me to add yet more authors to my auto-read list.

Here are my most anticipated debuts of 2022:

Wahala by Nikki May

SYNOPSIS:
SEX AND THE CITY with a killer edge for fans of QUEENIE, EXPECTATION and MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER

SOON TO BE A MAJOR BBC TV SERIAL

————

Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London.
They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English.
Not all of them choose to see it that way.

Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.

When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.

Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.

Explosive, hilarious and wildly entertaining, this razor-sharp tale of love, race and family will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Fearlessly political about class, colourism and clothes, the spellbinding Wahala is for anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.

Published January 6th by Doubleday. Buy here*

The Maid by Nita Prose

SYNOPSIS:
POLISHED TO PERFECTION, THE HOTLY-ANTICIPATED DEBUT, COMING JANUARY 2022

I am your maid.
I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry.
But what do you know about me?

Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?
 
But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?

Escapist, charming and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how everyone deserves to be seen. And how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s found in the dirtier, grey areas in between . . .

Published January 20th by Harper Collins. Buy here*

The Christie Affairr by Nina De Gramont

SYNOPSIS:
In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Only I know the truth of her disappearance.
I’m no Hercule Poirot.
I’m her husband’s mistress.

Agatha Christie’s world is one of glamorous society parties, country house weekends, and growing literary fame.

Nan O’Dea’s world is something very different. Her attempts to escape a tough London upbringing during the Great War led to a life in Ireland marred by a hidden tragedy.

After fighting her way back to England, she’s set her sights on Agatha. Because Agatha Christie has something Nan wants. And it’s not just her husband.

Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .

The Christie Affair is a stunning novel which reimagines the unexplained eleven-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926 that captivated the world.

Published January 20th by Mantle. Buy here*

Daughter of the Moon Goddess (The Celestial Kingdom Book 1) by Sue Lynn Tan

SYNOPSIS:
A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess.

A young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm, setting her on a dangerous path where those she loves are not the only ones at risk…

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the powerful Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when her magic flares and her existence is discovered, Xingyin is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to train in the Crown Prince’s service, learning to master archery and magic, despite the passion which flames between her and the emperor’s son.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies, across the earth and skies.

But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream ―striking a dangerous bargain, where she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic, of loss and sacrifice ― where love vies with honour, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.

Published January 20th by Harper Voyager. Buy here*

A Fatal Crossing by Tom Hindle

SYNOPSIS:
November 1924. The Endeavour sets sail to New York with 2,000 passengers – and a killer – on board . . .

When an elderly gentleman is found dead at the foot of a staircase, ship’s officer Timothy Birch is ready to declare it a tragic accident. But James Temple, a strong-minded Scotland Yard inspector, is certain there is more to this misfortune than meets the eye.

Birch agrees to investigate, and the trail quickly leads to the theft of a priceless painting. Its very existence is known only to its owner . . . and the dead man.

With just days remaining until they reach New York, and even Temple’s purpose on board the Endeavour proving increasingly suspicious, Birch’s search for the culprit is fraught with danger.

And all the while, the passengers continue to roam the ship with a killer in their midst . . .

Published January 20th by Century. Buy here*

Her Perfect Twin by Sarah Bonner

SYNOPSIS:
HER PERFECT TWIN. YOUR NEW OBSESSION.

When Megan discovers photographs of her estranged identical twin sister on her husband’s phone, she wants answers.

Leah already has everything Megan has ever wanted. Fame, fortune, freedom to do what she wants. And when Megan confronts Leah, an argument turns to murder.

The only way Megan can get away with killing her twin is to become her.

But then lockdown hits. How can she continue living two lives? And what happens if someone else knows her secret too?

HER PERFECT TWIN IS THE MOST ADDICTIVE, TWISTY THRILLER YOU’LL READ IN 2022. DON’T MISS THIS WILD RIDE OF A NOVEL.

Published January 20th by Hodder & Stoughton. Buy here*

Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman

SYNOPSIS:
‘Weaves together Ancient Greek myth with suspenseful mystery and beguiling romance…utterly irresistible’ Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne

A pure pleasure of a novel set in Georgian London, where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations and romance.

Perfect for readers who loved The Binding and The Essex Serpent.

London, 1799. Dora Blake is an aspiring jewellery artist who lives with her uncle in what used to be her parents’ famed shop of antiquities. When a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, Dora is intrigued by her uncle’s suspicious behaviour and enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a young antiquarian scholar. Edward sees the ancient vase as key to unlocking his academic future. Dora sees it as a chance to restore the shop to its former glory, and to escape her nefarious uncle.

But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has believed about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth she starts to realise that some mysteries are buried, and some doors are locked, for a reason.

Gorgeously atmospheric and deliciously page-turning, Pandora is a story of secrets and deception, love and fulfilment, fate and hope.

Published January 27th by Harvill Secker. Buy here*

The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews

SYNOPSIS:
A beguiling tale of superstition, myth and murder, perfect for fans of The Binding, The Essex Serpent and Once Upon a River.

SHE IS AWAKE…

Norfolk, 1643. With civil war tearing England apart, reluctant soldier Thomas Treadwater is summoned home by his sister, who accuses a new servant of improper conduct with their widowed father. By the time Thomas returns home, his father is insensible, felled by a stroke, and their new servant is in prison, facing charges of witchcraft.

Thomas prides himself on being a rational, modern man, but as he unravels the mystery of what has happened, he uncovers not a tale of superstition but something dark and ancient, linked to a shipwreck years before.

Something has awoken, and now it will not rest.

Richly researched, incredibly atmospheric, and deliciously unsettling, The Leviathan is set in England during a time of political and religious turbulence. It is a tale of family and loyalty, superstition and sacrifice, but most of all it is a spellbinding mystery and a story of impossible things.

Published February 3rd by Raven Books. Buy here*

Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim

SYNOPSIS:
An expansive epic spanning the turbulent decades of Korea’s fight for independence, perfect for fans of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko

Beasts take many shapes…

It is 1917, and Korea is yet to be divided into north and south. With the threat of famine looming, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school in cosmopolitan Pyongyang, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. But the city’s days as a haven are numbered. 

Jade flees to Seoul where she forms a deep friendship with an orphan boy called JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets. As Jade becomes a sought-after performer with unexpected romantic prospects, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence. Soon Jade must decide between following her own ambitions, or risking everything for the one she loves. 

From the perfumed chambers of the courtesan school to the glamorous cafes of a modernising Seoul, the unforgettable characters of Beasts of a Little Land unveil a world where friends become enemies and enemies become saviours, where heroes are persecuted and beasts take many shapes.

Published February 3rd by Oneworld Publications. Buy here*

The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

SYNOPSIS:
Brimming with romance, betrayal, and enchantment, The Embroidered Book reveals and reimagines a dazzling period of history as you have never seen it before.

‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all’

1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette.

The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless. When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.

In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives.

But every spell requires a sacrifice. And as love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.

Published February 17th by Harper Voyager. Buy here*

A Good Day to Die (Pretty Boy Thriller 1) by Amen Alonge

SYNOPSIS:
Meet Pretty Boy. Vengeance is on his mind.

His real name:
Unknown

His code of conduct:
Don’t be a pawn in someone else’s game.
Never underestimate the enemy.
Above all, survive. There is no glory in death.

His mission:
It’s been ten years since Pretty Boy left the big city – today he’s back. No one knows why, but it’s clear that revenge is on his mind: he is determined to make the person responsible for his exile from the London scene finally pay. But his plans seem derailed when he takes possession of a bracelet, unaware that its original owner has set a high price for its safe return. Suddenly, the hunter becomes the hunted and Pretty Boy will have to find out if it is indeed a ‘good day to die’.

Jam-packed with action, an unforgettable cast of characters and peppered with dry humour, A Good Day to Die marks the arrival of a fresh and exciting new voice in thriller writing.

Published February 17th by Quercus. Buy here*

The Dictator’s Wife by Freya Berry

SYNOPSIS:
‘I am not my husband. I am innocent. Do you believe me?’

The beautiful, enigmatic wife of a feared dictator stands trial for her late husband’s crimes against the people. The world will finally know the truth. But whose?
__________

WOMAN
I learned early in life how to survive. A skill that became vital in my position.

WIFE
I was given no power, yet I was expected to hold my own with the most powerful man in the country.

MOTHER OF THE NATION
My people were my children. I stood between him and them.

I am not the person they say I am.
I am not my husband.
I am innocent.

Do you believe me?

Visceral and thought provoking, haunting and heartbreaking, The Dictator’s Wife will hold you in its grip until its powerful conclusion and keep you turning the pages long into the night.

Published February 17th by Headlilne. Buy here*

Daughters of a Dead Empire by Carolyn Tara O’Neil

SYNOPSIS:
From debut author Carolyn Tara O’Neil comes a thrilling alternate history set during the Russian Revolution.

Russia, 1918: With the execution of Tsar Nicholas, the empire crumbles and Russia is on the edge of civil war–the poor are devouring the rich. Anna, a bourgeois girl, narrowly escaped the massacre of her entire family in Yekaterinburg. Desperate to get away from the Bolsheviks, she offers a peasant girl a diamond to take her as far south as possible–not realizing that the girl is a communist herself. With her brother in desperate need of a doctor, Evgenia accepts Anna’s offer and suddenly finds herself on the wrong side of the war.

Anna is being hunted by the Bolsheviks, and now–regardless of her loyalties–Evgenia is too.

Daughters of a Dead Empire is a harrowing historical thriller about dangerous ideals, loyalty, and the price we pay for change. An imaginative retelling of the Anastasia story.

Published February 22nd by Roaring Brook Press. Buy here*

Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook

SYNOPSIS:
Fortune favours the brave in Lizzie Pook’s mesmerising debut novel, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter.

1886, BANNIN BAY, AUSTRALIA.

The Brightwell family has sailed from England to make their new home in Western Australia. Ten-year-old Eliza knows little of what awaits them on these shores beyond shining pearls and shells like soup plates – the things her father has promised will make their fortune.

Ten years later and Charles Brightwell, now the bay’s most prolific pearler, goes missing from his ship while out at sea. Whispers from the townsfolk suggest mutiny and murder, but headstrong Eliza, convinced there is more to the story, refuses to believe her father is dead, and it falls to her to ask the questions no one else dares consider.

But in a town teeming with corruption, prejudice and blackmail, Eliza soon learns that the truth can cost more than pearls, and she must decide just how much she is willing to pay – and how far she is willing to go – to find it . . .

Published March 3rd by Mantle. Buy here*

The Old Woman with the Knife by Gu Byeong-Mo

SYNOPSIS:
Hornclaw is a sixty-five-year-old female contract killer who is considering retirement. A fighter who has experienced loss and grief early on in life, she lives in a state of self-imposed isolation, with just her dog, Deadweight, for company.

While on an assassination job for the ‘disease control’ company she works for, Hornclaw makes an uncharacteristic error, causing a sequence of events that brings her past well and truly into the present.

Threatened with sabotage by a young male upstart and battling new desires and urges when she least expects them, Hornclaw steels her resolve, demonstrating that no matter their age, the female of the species is always more deadly than the male.

Published March 3rd by Canongate. Buy here*

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

SYNOPSIS:
‘We have your daughter’

Frida Liu is a struggling mother. She remembers taking Harriet from her cot and changing her nappy. She remembers giving her a morning bottle. They’d been up since four am.

Frida just had to finish the article in front of her. But she’d left a file on her desk at work. What would happen if she retrieved it and came back in an hour? She was so sure it would be okay.

Now, the state has decided that Frida is not fit to care for her daughter. That she must be re-trained. Soon, mothers everywhere will be re-educated. Will their mistakes cost them everything?

The School for Good Mothers is an explosive and thrilling novel about love and the pressures of perfectionism, parenthood and privilege.

Published March 3rd by Hutchinson. Buy here*

Twelve Secrets by Robert Gold

SYNOPSIS:
Ben Harper’s life changed for ever the day his older brother Nick was murdered by two classmates. It was a crime that shocked the nation and catapulted Ben’s family and their idyllic hometown, Haddley, into the spotlight.

Twenty years on, Ben is one of the best true crime journalists in the country and happily settled back in Haddley, thanks to the support of its close-knit community. But when a fresh murder case shines new light on his brother’s death and throws suspicion on those closest to him, Ben’s world is turned upside down once more.

He’s about to discover that Haddley is a town full of secrets. No one is as they seem. Everyone has something to hide.

And someone will go to any length to keep the truth buried . . .

Published March 3rd by Sphere. Buy here*

Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu

SYNOPSIS:
With every misfortune there is a blessing and within every blessing, the seeds of misfortune, and so it goes, until the end of time.

It is 1938 in China, and the Japanese are advancing. A young mother, Meilin, is forced to flee her burning city with her four-year-old son, Renshu, and embark on an epic journey across China. For comfort, they turn to their most treasured possession – a beautifully illustrated hand scroll. Its ancient fables offer solace and wisdom as they travel through their ravaged country, seeking refuge.

Years later, Renshu has settled in America as Henry Dao. His daughter is desperate to understand her heritage, but he refuses to talk about his childhood. How can he keep his family safe in this new land when the weight of his history threatens to drag them down?

Spanning continents and generations, Peach Blossom Spring is a bold and moving look at the history of modern China, told through the story of one family. It’s about the power of our past, the hope for a better future, and the search for a place to call home.

Published March 17th by Wildfire. Buy here*

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May

SYNOPSIS:
In the aftermath of the First World War, a young woman gets swept into a glittering world filled with illicit magic, romance, blood debts and murder in this lush and decadent debut novel.

On Crow Island, people whispered, real magic lurked just below the surface. But Annie Mason never expected her enigmatic new neighbour to be a witch.

When she witnesses a confrontation between her best friend Bea and the infamous Emmeline Delacroix at one of Emmeline’s extravagantly illicit parties, Annie is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where magic can buy what money cannot; a world where the consequence of a forbidden blood bargain might be death.

Published March 31st by Orbit. Buy here*

Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

SYNOPSIS:
THE MOST HOTLY ANTICIPATED DEBUT OF 2022 WITH A HEROINE TO FALL IN LOVE WITH

—–

The Nigerian accent Dictionary
Huzband (pronounced auz-band) noun
1. A male partner in a marriage
E.g. Yinka’s younger sister, Kemi, is married to Uche
2. A non-existent man in a non-existent marriage whose whereabouts is often questioned, usually by Nigerian mums and aunties to single British Nigerian women
E.g. So, Yinka. Tell me. Where is your huzband? Ah, ah. You’re thirty-one now!

Yinka wants to find love. Her mum wants to find it for her.

She also has too many aunties who frequently pray for her delivery from singledom, a preference for chicken and chips over traditional Nigerian food, and a bum she’s sure is far too small as a result. Oh, and the fact that she’s a thirty-one-year-old South-Londoner who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage is a bit of an obstacle too…

When her cousin gets engaged, Yinka commences ‘Operation Find A Date for Rachel’s Wedding’. Armed with a totally flawless, incredibly specific plan, will Yinka find herself a huzband?

What if the thing she really needs to find is herself?

Published March 31st by Viking. Buy here*

The Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer

SYNOPSIS:
Today I might trace the rungs of her larynx or tap at her trachea like the bones of a xylophone . . .

Something gleeful and malevolent is moving in Lia’s body, learning her life from the inside out. A shape-shifter. A disaster tourist. It’s travelling down the banks of her canals. It’s spreading.

When a sudden diagnosis upends Lia’s world, the boundaries between her past and her present begin to collapse. Deeply buried secrets stir awake. As the voice prowling in Lia takes hold of her story, and the landscape around becomes indistinguishable from the one within, Lia and her family are faced with some of the hardest questions of all: how can we move on from the events that have shaped us, when our bodies harbour everything? And what does it mean to die with grace, when you’re simply not ready to let go?

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is a story of coming-of-age at the end of a life. Utterly heart-breaking yet darkly funny, Maddie Mortimer’s astonishing debut is a symphonic journey through one woman’s body: a wild and lyrical celebration of desire, forgiveness, and the darkness within us all.

Published March 31st by Picador. Buy here*

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

SYNOPSIS:
‘Your ability to change everything – including yourself – starts here’ ELIZABETH ZOTT

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Meet the unconventional, uncompromising Elizabeth Zott.

Published April 5th by Doubleday. Buy here*

Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg

SYNOPSIS:
**PRE-ORDER NOBODY BUT US AND MEET 2022’S MOST DANGEROUS COUPLE**

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 prying 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 . . .

Published April 14th by Michael Joseph. Buy here*

The Aerialists by Katie Munnik

SYNOPSIS:
THE AERIALISTS is a rich historical novel based on the true story of Louisa Maud Evans, a fourteen-year old girl who died during the Great Exhibition in Cardiff, 1896, and whose demise – tumbling 8,000 feet into the Bristol Channel – captured the imagination of the city.

Paris, 1891 Laura is living on the streets, far from the American Prairies where she was born. When aerialists Ena and August Gaudron, believing Laura to be English, decide to rescue her, she soon finds herself ensconced in the family hot air balloon business, and offered the chance to learn how to fly.

Cardiff, 1896 The Gaudrons accept an invitation to be part of the Cardiff Fine Art, Industrial and Maritime Exhibition, presenting a show of balloon ascents and parachute descents. Late one night, a young girl, Grace Parry, knocks on the door. She is desperate to fly, whatever the cost. 

As Grace’s dreams begin to take wing, can Laura be the one to keep her grounded? Histories real and invented intertwine as the novel explores the many risky ways girls are expected to perform.

Published April 14th by The Borough Press. Buy here*

The Honeybee Emeralds by Amy Tector

SYNOPSIS:
Alice Ahmadi has never been certain of where she belongs. When she discovers a famed emerald necklace while interning at a struggling Parisian magazine, she is plunged into a glittering world of diamonds and emeralds, courtesans and spies, and the long-buried secrets surrounding the necklace and its glamorous former owners.

When Alice realizes the mysterious Honeybee Emeralds could be her chance to save the magazine, she recruits her friends Lily and Daphne to form the “Fellowship of the Necklace.” Together, they set out to uncover the romantic history of the gems. Through diaries, letters, and investigations through the winding streets and iconic historic landmarks of Paris, the trio begins to unravel more than just the secrets of the necklace’s obsolete past. Along the way, Lily and Daphne’s relationships are challenged, tempered, and changed. Lily faces her long-standing attraction to a friend, who has achieved the writing success that eluded her. Daphne confronts her failing relationship with her husband, while also facing simmering problems in her friendship with Lily. And, at last, Alice finds her place in the world―although one mystery still remains: how did the Honeybee Emeralds go from the neck of American singer Josephine Baker during the Roaring Twenties to the basement of a Parisian magazine?

Published April 14th by Turner Publishing Company. Buy here*

Theatre of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth

SYNOPSIS:
Behind the spectacle there are always secrets.

Unruly crowds descend on Crillick’s Variety Theatre. Young actress, Zillah, is headlining tonight. An orphan from the slums of St Giles, her rise to stardom is her ticket out – to be gawped and gazed at is a price she’s willing to pay.

Rising up the echelons of society is everything Zillah has ever dreamed of. But when a new stage act disappears, Zillah is haunted by a feeling that something is amiss. Is the woman in danger?

Her pursuit of the truth takes her into the underbelly of the city – from gas-lit streets to the sumptuous parlours of Mayfair – as she seeks the help of notorious criminals from her past and finds herself torn between two powerful admirers.

Caught in a labyrinth of dangerous truths, will Zillah face ruin – or will she be the maker of her fate?

A deliciously immersive tale, Theatre of Marvels whisks you on an unforgettable journey across Victorian London in this bold exploration of gothic spectacle.

Published April 28th by Hutchinson. Buy here*

My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa

SYNOPSIS:
A girl in a new country.

A dark secret left behind.

A dead body which might tell all.

Ever since she was adopted from an orphanage in Sri Lanka, Paloma has led a privileged Californian life: the best schools, a generous allowance and parents so perfect that Paloma fears she’ll never live up to them.

Now at thirty, Paloma has managed to disappoint her parents so thoroughly that their relationship will never recover. Unemployed and friendless, the only person still talking to her is Arun – the Indian man subletting her spare room. That is until Arun discovers Paloma’s darkest secret, one that could jeopardize her fragile place in this country, and the next day is found face down in a pool of blood.

On finding Arun’s body Paloma flees her apartment. But by the time the police arrive, there’s no body to be found or signs of struggle – and no evidence that Arun ever even existed in the first place.

The police may be quick to dismiss everything, but Paloma knows what she saw. Is this tangled up in her childhood in Sri Lanka and the desperate actions she took to leave so many years ago? And did Paloma’s secret die with Arun or is she now in greater danger than ever before?

Published May 5th by Hodder. Buy here*

That Green Eyed Girl by Julie Owen Moylan

SYNOPSIS:
Pre-order this immersive, emotionally gripping novel about jealousy, loyalty, and the secrets we keep to protect those we love . . .

_______

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 . . .

Published May 12th by Michael Joseph. Buy here*

A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin

SYNOPSIS:
Get ready for summer 2022’s biggest historical!

The season is about to begin – and there’s not a minute to lose

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.

With only twelve weeks until the bailiffs call, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her, and Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.

The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost, especially when it comes to his own brother falling for her charms.

Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one – not even a lord – will stand in her way…

Published May 12th by Harper Collins. Buy here*

The Pharmacist by Rachelle Atalla

SYNOPSIS:
THE BUNKER IS DESIGNED TO KEEP THEM ALL SAFE.

In the end, very few people made it to the bunker. Now they wait there for the outside world to heal. Wolfe is one of the lucky ones. She’s safe and employed as the bunker’s pharmacist, doling out medicine under the watchful eye of their increasingly erratic and paranoid leader.

BUT IS IT THE PLACE OF GREATEST DANGER?

But when the leader starts to ask things of Wolfe, favours she can hardly say no to, it seems her luck is running out. Forming an unlikely alliance with the young Doctor Stirling, her troubled assistant Levitt, and Canavan – a tattooed giant of a man who’s purpose in the bunker is a mystery – Wolfe must navigate the powder keg of life underground where one misstep will light the fuse. The walls that keep her safe also have her trapped.

How much more is Wolfe willing to give to stay alive?

Beautifully written and utterly gripping, The Pharmacist will be a guaranteed conversation starter when it is published.

Published May 12th by Hodder. Buy here*

Thrown by Sara Cox

SYNOPSIS:
The wise and gloriously big-hearted debut novel from the much-loved broadcaster, Sara Cox

Becky: a single mum who prides herself on her independence. She knows from painful experience that men are trouble.
Louise: a loving husband, gorgeous kids. She ought to feel more grateful.
Jameela: all she’s ever done is work hard, and try her best. Why won’t life give her the one thing she really wants?
Sheila: the nest is empty, she dreams of escaping to the sun, but her husband seems so distracted.

The inhabitants of the Inventor’s Housing Estate keep themselves to themselves. There are the friendly ‘Hellos’ when commutes coincide and the odd cheeky eye roll when the wine bottles clank in number 7’s wheelie bin, but it’s not exactly Ramsay Street.

The dilapidated community centre is no longer the beating heart of the estate that Becky remembers from her childhood. So the new pottery class she’s helped set up feels like a fresh start. And not just for her.

The assorted neighbours come together to try out a new skill, under the watchful eye of their charismatic teacher, Sasha. And as the soft unremarkable lumps of clay are hesitantly, lovingly moulded into delicate vases and majestic pots, so too are the lives of four women. Concealed passions and heartaches are uncovered, relationships shattered and formed, and the possibility for transformation is revealed.

Published May 12th by Coronet. Buy here*

Ordinary Hazards by J.M. Miro

SYNOPSIS:
1882. North of Edinburgh, on the edge of an isolated loch, lies an institution of crumbling stone, where a strange doctor collects orphans with unusual abilities. In London, two children with such powers are hunted by a figure of darkness – a man made of smoke.

Charlie Ovid discovers a gift for healing himself through a brutal upbringing in Mississippi, while Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight, glows with a strange bluish light. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are confronted by a sinister, dangerous force that threatens to upend the world as they know it.

What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London to the lochs of Scotland, where other gifted children – the Talents – have been gathered at Cairndale Institute, and the realms of the dead and the living collide. As secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.

The first in a captivating new historical fantasy series, Ordinary Monsters introduces the Talents with a catastrophic vision of the Victorian world, and the gifted, broken children who must save it.

Published June 7th by Bloomsbury. Buy here*

Meredith Alone by Claire Alexander

SYNOPSIS:
All that stands between Meredith and the world is her own front door . . . but what will it take for her to open it?
________

Meredith Maggs hasn’t left her house in 1,214 days. But she insists she isn’t alone.

She has her cat Fred. Her friend Sadie visits when she can. There’s her online support group, StrengthInNumbers. She has her jigsaws, favourite recipes, her beloved Emily Dickinson, the internet, the Tesco delivery man and her treacherous memories for company.

But something’s about to change. Whether Meredith likes it or not, the world is coming to her door . . . Does she have the courage to overcome what’s been keeping her inside all this time?

Published June 9th by Michael Joseph. Buy here*

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

SYNOPSIS:
Your fate arrives in a box on your doorstep. Do you open it?

It seems like just another morning.

You make a cup of tea. Check the news. Open the front door.

On your doorstep is a box.

Inside the box is the exact number of years you have left to live.

The same box appears on every doorstep across the world.

Do you open yours?

THE MEASURE

IT’S THE DECISION OF A LIFETIME.

Published July 7th by The Borough Press. Buy here*

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

SYNOPSIS:
This is not a romance, but it is about love

Two kids meet in a hospital gaming room in 1987. One is visiting her sister, the other is recovering from a car crash. The days and months are long there. Their love of video games becomes a shared world — of joy, escape and fierce competition. But all too soon that time is over, fades from view.

When the pair spot each other eight years later in a crowded train station, they are catapulted back to that moment. The spark is immediate, and together they get to work on what they love – making games to delight, challenge and immerse players, finding an intimacy in digital worlds that eludes them in their real lives. Their collaborations make them superstars.

This is the story of the perfect worlds Sadie and Sam build, the imperfect world they live in, and of everything that comes after success: Money. Fame. Duplicity. Tragedy.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow takes us on a dazzling imaginative quest as it examines the nature of identity, creativity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play and, above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love.

Published July 14th by Chatto & Windus. Buy here*

Small Angels by Lauren Owen

SYNOPSIS:
A wedding in a small English village attracts a malicious spirit, forcing secrets from the deep past and troubled present out into the open–a hypnotic tale of sisterhood, first love, and hauntings from the acclaimed author of The Quick

As a teenager, Kate found a safe harbor from her parents’ constant fighting in the company of the four Gonne sisters, who lived with their strict grandparents next to Small Angels, a church right on the edge of dense green woods. The first outsider to ever get close to the sisters, Kate eventually learned the family’s secret: The woods are home to a capricious, menacing ghost whom generations of Gonnes had been charged with stopping from venturing into the village itself. But as the sisters grew older, braver, and more independent, and started bucking against the family’s burden, the bulwark began to crack, culminating in a horrifying act of violence that drove a terrible wedge between the sisters and Kate.

Chloe has been planning her dream wedding for months. She has the dress, the flowers, and the perfect venue: Small Angels, a charming old church in the village her fiancé, Sam, and his sister, Kate, grew up in. But, days before the ceremony, she starts to hear unsettling stories about Small Angels. And worse, she begins to see, smell, and hear things that couldn’t possibly be real.

Now, Kate is returning home for the first time in years, for Sam and Chloe’s wedding. But the woods are coming alive again, and Kate must reconnect with Lucia, the most troubled of the sisters and her first love, to protect Chloe, the village, and herself.

An unforgettable novel about the memories that hold us back and the memories that show us the way forward–this is storytelling at its most magical. Enter Small Angels, if you dare.

Published August 2nd by Tinder Press. Buy here*

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Are you looking forward to any of these? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Blog Tour: Cecily by Annie Garthwaite

Published: August 12th, 2021
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction, Political Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this powerful debut. Thank you to Viking for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘Rebellion?’
The word is a spark. They can start a fire with it, or smother it in their fingertips.
She chooses to start a fire.

You are born high, but marry a traitor’s son. You bear him twelve children, carry his cause and bury his past.

You play the game, against enemies who wish you ashes. Slowly, you rise.

You are Cecily.

But when the king who governs you proves unfit, what then?

Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make your first move.

Told through the eyes of its greatest unknown protagonist, this astonishing debut plunges you into the closed bedchambers and bloody battlefields of the first days of the Wars of the Roses, a war as women fight it.

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MY REVIEW:

‘Rebellion?’
The word is a spark. They could light a fire with it, or smother it now in their fingertips.
She chooses to start a fire.

Cecily was my 100th read of the year and one of my most anticipated books. I was drawn to it not only by the synopsis, but by its striking cover. But lying beneath that bright, luring jacket, is a dark, grim and savage story. The author pulls you in immediately, opening the book with the burning at the stake of Joan of Arc, a shocking and atmospheric scene that feels like it’s setting the tone for what is to come.

This is the story of the Wars of the Roses through the eyes of the women who fought from the shadows. It was a brutal time. A time where power is won by blood and playing the game well is the difference between life and death. A cutthroat and ruthless time when your best friend today could be your enemy tomorrow. It is meticulously researched and beautifully written, transporting you back to a time when women were often forgotten and discounted, when they had to use the voices of men to be heard. And without taking away from those things, I feel I must mention that it took me a while to really get into this book. There were times my concentration wandered and the story felt too heavy, disjointed or hard to follow. I found it a little too bogged down in politics and would have liked more emotion and insight into what makes the characters tick. I had to put it down for a few days and come back to it, and when I did I finally got to a place where it felt like Cecily finally came alive, and it was then that I really started to enjoy the book.

“Women have no swords, brother. We do our work by talking.”

Cecily is a forgotten heroine that I am glad is finally having her story told. Feisty, strong, determined and intelligent, she is a force to be reckoned with. Born at a time when women are denied a voice or any real power, she is able to become a woman of influence in politics from the sidelines. A lot of this is down to the relationship she has with her husband, Richard. Their marriage is strong, loving and respectful, and it is clear he values her opinion. Other women gain power through marrying a weak man, which is what her enemy, Marguerite, does. The two women were undoubtedly similar in many ways, but while Marguerite comes off as unlikeable and venomous, Cecily appears resolute and caring. I enjoyed their bitter feud and how both women got stronger as time went on while the men appeared to wither.

I love how many books there have been recently that have taken a familiar story from history and told it from the woman’s perspective, illuminating voices that were silenced and finally revealing to the world the true strength these women possessed and how instrumental the moments that shaped our world today. I can’t help but wonder how many more of these forgotten heroines are out there, still waiting for their chance to shine. 

A familiar story with a feminist edge, Ceicily is a powerful debut and brilliant historical read. You will never look at the Wars of the Roses the same again. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Annie Garthwaite grew up in a working class community in the north-east of England. 

A schoolgirl interest in medieval history became a lifelong obsession with Cecily Neville, so, at age fifty-five, she enrolled on the Warwick Writing MA programme. Her extraordinary debut novel Cecily is the result. During a thirty-year international business career she frequently found herself the only woman at the table, where she gained valuable insights into how a woman like Cecily might have operated. 

Today she lives with her partner – and far too many animals – on the side of a green Shropshire hill close to the Yorkist stronghold of Ludlow.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Blog Tour: Patience by Victoria Scott

Published: August 5th, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Humour, Holiday Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this phenomenal debut. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

If you were offered a chance to cure your child’s disease, would you take it?

‘A thought-provoking, compelling and entertaining read. I could barely put the book down until its equally heart-wrenching and heart-warming ending. A wonderful, smart and funny book – I know readers will absolutely love it’ Louise Fein, bestselling author of People Like Us

The Willows have been through a lot. Louise has devoted her life to caring for her disabled youngest daughter. Pete works abroad, almost never seeing his loved ones. And their eldest, Eliza, is burdened by all the secrets she’s trying to keep from her overloaded family.

Meanwhile, Patience observes the world while trapped in her own body. She laughs, she cries, she has opinions and knows what she wants. But those who love her most – and make every decision about her life – will never know.

Or will they? When the Willows are offered the opportunity for Patience to take part in a new gene therapy trial to cure her Rett syndrome, they face an impossible dilemma. Are the very real risks worth the chance of the reward, no matter how small?

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MY REVIEW:

Normal doesn’t exist. We are all extraordinary.

Patience is a truly remarkable debut. Heartbreaking, harrowing, honest and hopeful, this 

is a thought-provoking, no-holds-barred look at what life is like for those with severe disabilities, how it affects their families, and challenges our concept of what a good life actually looks like. 

Thirty-year-old Patience Willow has Rett Syndrome. She is unable to walk or talk and requires twenty-four hour care. When a new gene therapy offers the hope of reversing the condition, her family find themselves in an impossible dilemma. Is the chance of giving Patience the life they dreamed of for her worth the risks? And is it what she would want?

 “She realised she had spent almost all of Patience’s life waiting for a miracle.”

The author tells the story from the points of view of each of the Willow family: Louise, Pete, Eliza and Patience. This allows us an intimate glimpse at the ripple effect of disability on those around them. We see the strain it has put on all of their relationships, especially Louise and Pete’s marriage, the financial strain, the pressure Eliza feels to fulfill her parents dreams and be everything her sister can’t, how caring for another person can slowly wear you down and the guilt and anger they all feel.

The decision to give Patience a voice is my favourite part of this book. And what a loud and memorable voice she has! By giving her the voice life has denied her, the author  makes Patience visible and reminds the reader that she is a three-dimensional character who is as nuanced and complex as any other person. That she is someone who has her own thoughts, feelings, desires and dreams, despite her inability to communicate them. We get an insight into how she feels having to watch her sister have the things she can never have, how it feels knowing she is the ‘cause’ of her family’s struggles, and what life is really like for her. We are the only ones who get to see the woman she is inside, that she is an intelligent and funny person that understands everything. And I absolutely adored her. 

“Over the years I’ve heard many doctors, carers, nurses and social workers debate whether I have a decent quality of life or not. So I’d like to state here, for the record, that I do. I don’t have anything to compare my life to, of course, but then, who does?”

Through this story the author challenges the concept of what a fulfilling and happy life actually is. As someone with a disability myself, albeit a much milder one than Patience,  this is something I love and appreciate. Life doesn’t have to look a certain way to be valuable. A life with limits can be happy and meaningful and, as Patience herself observes, being able-bodied does not necessarily equal happiness and contentmentin life. This is what is at the heart of the family’s dilemma over whether to enter Patience into the gene therapy.  She seems happy, so is it worth risking that to give her a life they consider more ‘normal’? Personally, I would cure my own illnesses in a heartbeat and would love a better quality of life.  But there are some risks I wouldn’t take to achieve that and it doesn’t make my life any less joyful or meaningful as it stands. 

“But the thing was, he didn’t see her as broken. He saw her as whole, as a person in her own right, her own special variety of normal.”

Victoria Scott is a spectacular talent. She writes with heart, humour, compassion and raw honesty, managing to educate while also entertaining. I was completely invested in the lives of this family and they felt so real to me, like I could go to Oxford and pay them a visit. The Author’s Note at the end of the book is a must-read as she talks about her inspiration for the story. It was no surprise to learn that she has intimate knowledge of living alongside someone with Rett Syndrome and I believe this book will not only educate people like myself who knew nothing about the illness, but offer comfort to those who have a loved one with the illness. 

An extraordinary story about family, love and hope, this is a book that will linger long after reading and hold a special place in my heart. Read this book. I can’t recommend it enough. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Victoria Scott is a British novelist, journalist, lecturer, copywriter and media trainer with two decades of experience working for online, print, TV and radio outlets around the world.

Currently, Victoria is lead tutor of the NCTJ Journalism Diploma at Sutton College, South London, and a lecturer in journalism at Kingston University.

She is also a novelist, represented by agent Hannah Weatherill at Northbank Talent Management. Her debut novel Patience will be published in 2021 by Head of Zeus, and in German translation by Droemer Knaur.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

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Book Features book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Publication Day Feature: Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten

Published: June 24th, 2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Today is the paperback publication day of Tsarina, the first in an exciting new trilogy that was also one of my favourite books of 2020. To celebrate, I’m resharing my review.

Thank you Midas PR and Bloomsbury UK for my gifted copies of the book.

The second book in the series, The Tsarina’s Daughter, is out July 8th.

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SYNOPSIS:

SHORTLISTED FOR THE AUTHOR’S CLUB BEST FIRST NOVEL AWARD

‘It makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme’ – Daisy Goodwin

Lover, mother, murderer, Tsarina

1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta is sold into labour at the age of fifteen – where in desperation she commits a crime that will force her to go on the run. Cheating death at every turn, she is swept into the current of the Great Northern War. Working as a washer woman at a battle camp, she catches the eye of none other than Peter the Great. Passionate and iron-willed, Peter has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire.

With nothing but wits, courage and formidable ambition, Marta will rise from nothing to become Catherine I of Russia. But it comes at a steep price and is tied to the destiny of Russia itself.

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MY REVIEW:

“He is dead. My beloved husband, the mighty Tsar of all the Russias, has died – and just in time.”

Tsarina is a story of power, lust, sex, murder and betrayal. Of rags-to-riches. Of Catherine, the first Tsarina of all the Russias.

It begins in February 1725, on the night that Peter the Great, Tsar of All the Russias, dies. Catherine, her children and his advisors try to conceal his death for as long as possible to delay their fate. It is a matter of life and death. The story then moves between that night and flashbacks to Catherine’s life, beginning when she was just thirteen-years-old, still known as Marta and living with her serf family. We then follow her journey from poor peasant girl to Tsarina; a story that would be deemed too far fetched if you tried to sell it to a publisher. But every word of this novel is based in fact, with just a few liberties taken as the details of Catherine’s early life is shrouded in mystery.

I have always had a love for history and ever since studying the fall of the Tsars for my History A Level I have been fascinated with their story. So when I saw this book advertised I knew from just the title that I HAD to read it. After reading the synopsis it became one of my most anticipated books of the year. Thankfully, this magnificent debut surpassed every one of my high expectations. It was an all-encompassing read. A book that I took my time with, taking time to soak in every word, but also one that I couldn’t put down or stop thinking about when I had to do so.

Ellen Alpsten is a new talent to watch. Exquisitely written and wonderfully crafted, her meticulous research shines through on every page, bringing back to life those who lived and died three hundred years ago and making you feel like they are right there beside you with her powerful storytelling. I was hooked from the start and became totally lost in Catherine’s story, living every word of this book while reading it. Every moment of love and joy, every piercing pain of heartbreak and every gut-wrenching horror she witnessed and experienced, I felt along with her.

“Together, we have lived and loved, and together, we ruled.”

After reading this novel it seems unimaginable that Catherine’s story has been forgotten. That such a strong, brave and remarkable woman had been consigned to a footnote in history. At that time life for most of Russia’s people was hard, harsh and bleak. Even those in the upper classes lived in fear of falling out the Tsar’s favour and losing not only their wealth but their lives. Peter had a new vision for Russia and was a ruthless leader who was willing to sacrifice anyone and everything to achieve it. Even as his wife Catherine walked a tightrope knowing she could be stripped of everything and either sent to a convent or killed should the fancy take him. The brutality of life at that time and the lack of rights that were held by even the highest-ranking women is starkly illuminated in Catherine’s story in sobering detail.

Tsarina is a masterpiece of historical fiction. Atmospheric, intoxicating, unsettling, and compelling, this outstanding novel is one that will linger long after you close it’s pages. This gloriously decadent debut is one you don’t want to miss.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, where she dressed up her many pets and forced them to listen to her stories.

Upon graduating from the ‘Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris’, she worked as a news-anchor for Bloomberg TV London. While working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work, a nap and a run. So much for burning midnight oil!

Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint, and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons, and a moody fox red Labrador.


‘Tsarina’ is her debut novel in the ‘Tsarina’ series, followed by ‘The Tsarina’s Daughter’.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* |Bookshop.org* | Amazon*| Google Books |Apple Books |Kobo

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx