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book reviews Tandem Readalong

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

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

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

SYNOPSIS:

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

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

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

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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

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book reviews Tandem Readalong

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

Published: June 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Fantasy Fiction

I read this book as part of a readalong with Tandem Collective UK. Thank you for the invitation to take part and Bloomsbury UK for my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

In this companion tale to the bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series, Feyre, Rhys and their friends are working to rebuild the Night Court and the vastly changed world beyond after the events of A Court of Wings and Ruin.
But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated – scars that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of their court.

Sarah J. Maas is a global #1 bestselling author. Her books have sold millions of copies worldwide and have been translated into 37 languages. Discover the sweeping romantic fantasy for yourself.

MY REVIEW:

“It had been a long, brutal winter that had brought me so deep into the woods that day nearly two years ago. A long, brutal winter that had made me desperate enough to kill a wolf, that had eventually led me here—to this life, this… happiness.”

A Court of Frost and Starlight is a cosy yet fierce winter novella. This short, lighthearted read with bite was perfect after the much darker and longer ACOWAR. 

While there is tension and drama with Tamlin and the Illaryians, this is overall a book about family, both blood and that you choose for yourself. Fayre is settling into her role as High Lady of Night Court but is struggling with the destruction that was left behind following the war. She feels guilty that she couldn’t do more and protect those who died and we follow her journey of self-acceptance and forgiveness, as she finds a new purpose that she hopes will help her people. 

I really enjoyed this book but felt like it’s purpose was to set up the next installment by addressing things about the faerie way of life that hadn’t yet been examined but needed to be explained before book five. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

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A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Published: May 2nd, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Fantasy Fiction

I read this book as part of a readlong with Tandem Collective UK. Thank you to them for the invitation and Bloomsbury UK for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring her land to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords and hunt for allies in unexpected places. And her heart will face the ultimate test as she and her mate are forced to question whether they can truly trust each other.

Sarah J. Maas is a global #1 bestselling author. Her books have sold more than nine million copies and been translated into 37 languages. Discover the sweeping romantic fantasy for yourself.

Contains mature content. Not suitable for younger readers.

MY REVIEW:

“To the stars who listen—and the dreams that are answered.” 

Fayre is now back in Spring Court. She has returned under the guise of going back to Tamlin but is in fact still Lady of the Night Court and biding her time before taking revenge for how he and others betrayed Prythian in the war with King Hybern. As war looms once more, her relationship with Rhysand is tested and they must decide who among the High Lords they can trust to be on their side. 

I loved how fierce, determined and strong Fayre was in this book. She stands up to Tamlin, refusing to let him twist and rewrite their narrative, even when he shreds her dignity with lewd words and savage lies. Back when I read book one, I could never understand why people loved Rhysand and hated Tamlin; now I’m totally the same. Tamlin is a vile, abusive, controlling snake and I got almost as much pleasure out of Fayre’s revenge as she did. 

I enjoyed seeing more of the other courts and how Fayre’s sisters handled their unexpected and unwanted transition to immortality. I found myself worrying about the fate of the characters and wondered if the author would take a leaf out of George R. R. Martin’s book and kill off a much-loved main character. It is quite a dark book in many ways, addressing abuse, coercive control, trauma, PTSD and consent.

This was my favourite yet in the series. Action-packed, emotional and gripping, it kept me on the edge of my seat and broke my heart. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Tandem Readalong

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

Published: October 20th, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Literary Fiction, Saga

Happy Publication Day to my favourite author!

Thank you to the Tandem Collective for the invitation to take part in the readalong and to Hodder & Stoughton for the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Jodi Picoult’s stunning new novel about life, death, and missed opportunities.

Who would you be, if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are now?

Dawn is a death doula, and spends her life helping people make the final transition peacefully.

But when the plane she’s on plummets, she finds herself thinking not of the perfect life she has, but the life she was forced to abandon fifteen years ago – when she left behind a career in Egyptology, and a man she loved.

Against the odds, she survives, and the airline offers her a ticket to wherever she needs to get to – but the answer to that question suddenly seems uncertain.

As the path of her life forks in two very different directions, Dawn must confront questions she’s never truly asked: what does a well-lived life look like? What do we leave behind when we go? And do we make our choices, or do our choices make us?

Two possible futures. One impossible choice.

MY REVIEW:

“My calendar is full of dead people… At one point, they were my clients. Now, they’re my stories to keep.”

Jodi Picoult is my favourite author and any book she releases is one I highly anticipate. So when Tandem announced a readalong of her new book I jumped at the chance to take part. It wasn’t only that it was a JP book that had me excited, it was the inclusion of Egyptology, as I have always been fascinated in ancient Egypt and looked forward to seeing how that was included in the book. 

“Even people who don’t know much about Egyptology have heard of the Book of the Dead… It’s a New Kingdom collection of spells to help the deceased make his or her easy to the afterlife —but it evolved from earlier, lesser known funerary texts… Also part of these Coffin Texts is the Book of Two Ways, the first known map of the afterlife.” 

The story begins when Dawn Edelstein is travelling on a plane that is about to make a planned emergency landing. As she prepares to land, she doesn’t see the face of her husband Brian or their daughter Meret, the person she sees in what could be her final moments is Wyatt, the man she left behind in Egypt fifteen years ago. What follows is a story of the two paths her life could have taken following a heated argument with Brian about their marriage that mirrors the two paths that can be taken to the afterlife in the titular Book of Two Ways.  

For the first time in almost two decades of reading this author, I DNF’d one of her books. This book has been a bit of a marmite book throughout the book community but like my thoughts about the controversial condiment, I’m ambiguous about this one. I didn’t stop reading it because of bad writing or not liking the story, I stopped reading because the book heavily focuses on the subject of death and I found it too traumatic to keep reading after losing one of my best friends suddenly earlier this year. 

“I think what really shocked me is how many people can’t see the shape of the life they’ve lived until they get to the very end of it.”

Overall, I liked the idea for this book and the concept of showing the two different paths Dawn’s life could take. As always with JP’s books, the story is well researched and there were many fascinating facts I learned about Egypt, ancient Egypt and death. But at times I felt like it  got bogged down in academia, which took away from my enjoyment of the story and it felt a bit like reading a textbook. 

This isn’t a lighthearted read and it is definitely one you have to be in the right frame of mind for. I wasn’t. It’s too soon for me. But I will go back and read the remaining third of this book at a later date as I was enjoying the story and characters and liked the format the story took. As with the layout of her last book, A Spark of Light, I don’t think everyone will like this. But I like that she takes these risks in both how and what she writes. It’s why she’s my favourite author. 

*I’m not rating this book at the present time as I feel my judgement would be clouded by my grief. I will rate it at a later date when I finish the final part of the book.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jodi Picoult is the #1 bestselling author of twenty-five novels including My Sister’s Keeper, Nineteen Minutes, The Storyteller, Leaving Time, the acclaimed #1 bestseller, Small Great Things, which explored the issues of power, privilege and race, and has sold more than 1.5 million copies. Picoult’s most recent novel, A SPARK OF LIGHT., published on October 2, 2018, was her tenth consecutive instant #1 New York Times bestseller, and was praised as “Picoult at her fearless best” by the Washington Post.

Picoult’s books have been translated into thirty-four languages in thirty-five countries. Four novels – The Pact, Plain Truth, The Tenth Circle, and Salem Falls – have been made into television movies. My Sister’s Keeper was a film released from New Line Cinema, with Nick Cassavetes directing and Cameron Diaz starring. SMALL GREAT THINGS has been optioned for motion picture adaptation by Amblin Entertainment and is set to star Viola Davis and Julia Roberts. Picoult’s two Young Adult novels, Between The Lines and Off The Page, co-written with her daughter Samantha Van Leer, have been adapted and developed by the authors into a musical entitled Between The Lines which had its world premiere in September 2017 at the Kansas City Repertory Theater and is expected to premiere Off-Broadway in Summer 2019.

Picoult is the recipient of many awards, including the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Alex Awards from the YALSA, a lifetime achievement award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America, the NH Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit and the Sarah Josepha Hale Award. She holds honorary doctor of letters degrees from Dartmouth College and the University of New Haven.

Picoult is the recipient of many awards, including the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Alex Awards from the YALSA, a lifetime achievement award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America, and the NH Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit. She holds honorary doctor of letters degrees from Dartmouth College and the University of New Haven. She is also a member of the advisory board for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.

Picoult lives in New Hampshire with her husband. They have three children.

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After The Silence by Louise O’Neill

Published: September 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Riverrun
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Literary Fiction

I read this book as part of a readalong with Tandem Collective UK. This post is also part of a social media blast in connection with Quercus. Thank you to Hannah at Quercus for my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Nessa Crowley’s murderer has been protected by silence for ten years.
Until a team of documentary makers decide to find out the truth.

On the day of Henry and Keelin Kinsella’s wild party at their big house a violent storm engulfed the island of Inisrun, cutting it off from the mainland. When morning broke Nessa Crowley’s lifeless body lay in the garden, her last breath silenced by the music and the thunder.

The killer couldn’t have escaped Inisrun, but no-one was charged with the murder. The mystery that surrounded the death of Nessa remained hidden. But the islanders knew who to blame for the crime that changed them forever.

Ten years later a documentary crew arrives, there to lift the lid off the Kinsella’s carefully constructed lives, determined to find evidence that will prove Henry’s guilt and Keelin’s complicity in the murder of beautiful Nessa.

In this bold, brilliant, disturbing new novel Louise O’Neill shows that deadly secrets are devastating to those who hold them close.

MY REVIEW:

“There were three of them in the beginning, and we called them the Crowley Girls. They were born of this island, as we were; sister-children, brethren, kin. Soil and bone. A common blood running through our veins, for our ancestors, had been family, once, if you understand the ways of Insirun before we begin our story – we were all connected here. But those girls were not like us.”

Darkly atmospheric, haunting, tense, claustrophobic and addictive, After The Silence is a richly drawn amalgamation of whodunnit and character study that examines the power of silence, and the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive. 

This was my first Louise O’Neill book but won’t be my last. I have fallen in love with her exquisite writing and her ability to write about such a difficult subject with such truth and sensitivity. Because, while this is a murder mystery, the author has cleverly woven into that an examination of domestic abuse, coercive control and violence against women. It is clear that she highly researched the subject as she writes with a depth of knowledge and truth as well as great sensitivity to a harrowing subject. 

Her characters are fascinating, flawed and real. They’re people you might even recognise yourself in. As someone who lived in an abusive relationship for twelve years, I saw myself in Keelin, my past relationship in hers and my ex in some of the male characters.   I loved how using the Kinsella’s beauty, wealth and faux happiness, she highlights that domestic abuse can happen to ANYONE, even those who are strong and independent, and that coercive control is so much harder to recognise as abuse than physical abuse.  

Setting the story on the small, secluded island of Inisurin added an extra layer to the book; a threatening, eerie and claustrophobic atmosphere that permeates everyone and everything. The island is also like a character in itself, and acts as a metaphor for how Keelin feels about her marriage: the island keeping her prisoner just like her marriage. There is a very real sense of being trapped with help being out of reach. That no one can save you.  

Dark, brooding, tense and twisty, After The Silence will keep you guessing right until the end. I am now such a fan of this author that I’ve already started ordering her back catalogue so I can devour her other books. 

 Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Louise O’Neill was born in west Cork in 1985. She studied English at Trinity College Dublin and has worked for the senior style director of American Elle magazine. While in New York, she also worked as an assistant stylist on a number of high-profile campaigns. Louise has written two award-winning books, Only Ever Yours and her most recent, Asking For It, which won Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. She is currently working as a freelance journalist for a variety of Irish national newspapers and magazines, covering feminist issues, fashion and pop culture. She lives in Clonakilty, west Cork.

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book reviews Tandem Readalong

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Published: August 20th, 2020
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense

I read this book, which was one of Emma’s Anticipated Treasures for March, as part of a readalong with Tandem Collective UK. Thank you to Pan Macmillan for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

From Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, the authors of the top ten bestseller The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl, comes You Are Not Alone – a gripping novel about a group of women who appear to have the perfect lives, but all is not what it seems . . .

You probably know someone like Shay Miller. She wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is becoming increasingly isolated.

You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters. They have an unbreakable circle of friends. They live a life of glamour and perfection. They always get what they desire.

Shay thinks she wants their life.

But what they really want is hers.

MY REVIEW:

This high-octane, page-turning thriller had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Filled with so many twists and turns I got book whiplash, I was not prepared for the ride I was about to embark on when I first opened this book. 

I thought I had this one figured out. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Bravo to the authors for those mind blowing revelations. Exquisitely crafted and tightly plotted, the writing is cohesive and flows well, never feeling disjointed like some books that are co-authored. And after the Zoom Q&A that Tandem arranged with the authors where they talked about their writing process, I understand why. I admit, that meeting left me with a bit of a girl crush. They’re both funny, intelligent women who write fantastic books and have a relationship that is the ultimate in best friend goals. What’s not to crush on? 

The authors have a talent for writing strong, complex female characters, and this book is packed with them. I liked Shay. Things aren’t going that well for her when we first met her and I really felt for her, especially having witnessed such a traumatic event. I could understand her loneliness and the need to connect that resulted in her gravitating towards Amanda’s friends, especially Cassandra and Jane Moore, the glamorous, mysterious and luminous sisters who befriend Shay and help her make-over her life. They are everything she wants to be: gorgeous, confident, happy and successful, and being around them makes her feel like she’s doing something right, like her life is finally going in the right direction since meeting them. 

As we get further into the book, it becomes clear that the Moore sisters are playing a sinister and twisted game with Shay as their pawn. But she fails to see behind their carefully crafted masks, and I wanted to leap into the book to scream a warning at her so many times. Eventually, she begins to see cracks in their facade and realise things aren’t adding up. But the question is, who will win? Will they continue to be a step or two ahead and keep her tangled in their web? Or will Shay surprise them by outsmarting them and coming out on top? I was rooting for Shay but had a pit in my stomach thinking that the sisters just might prevail.

You Are Not Alone is a riveting, intelligent, tense and twisty thriller that is utterly addictive and completely unputdownable. A perfect read for anyone who enjoys this genre. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHORS:

GREER HENDRICKS is the #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of An Anonymous Girl and The Wife Between UsThe Wife Between Us has been optioned for film by Amblin Entertainment, with Greer and her co-author, Sarah Pekkanen, hired to write the screenplay. An Anonymous Girl has been optioned for television, with Greer and Sarah tapped to executive produce. Prior to becoming a novelist, Greer served as Vice President and Senior Editor at Simon & Schuster. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Allure, and Publishers Weekly. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.

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Sarah Pekkanen is the internationally-bestselling author of THE WIFE BETWEEN US and AN ANONYMOUS GIRL, cowritten with Greer Hendricks.

THE WIFE BETWEEN US – an instant New York Times bestseller – is a twisty psychological tale that has been optioned for film by Amblin Entertainment. Sarah and Greer are penning the screenplay for Amblin.

AN ANONMYOUS GIRL is currently in production as a television series by eOne,with Sarah and Greer serving as executive producers.

Sarah is also the author of eight solo novels.

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