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First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday: Flashback

“Sometimes when I close my eyes, there is a rifle in my hands. My hands are small; my fingers are pudgy. I’m eleven years old. There’s nothing special about this particular rifle, nothing to distinguish it from any other Remington, except that this is the rifle that killed my mother.”

Today is the first in a new series where on the first Friday of each month is a flashback to an older book. As soon as I read the gripping first lines above I knew this was the book to start with. And that book is…

The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne! This was on my list of most anticipated reads when it was released last summer. I was a big fan of Karen’s first book, The Marsh King’s Daughter, so I’m very excited about reading this one.

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SYNOPSIS:

A startling novel of psychological suspense, as two generations of sisters try to unravel their tangled relationships between nature and nurture, guilt and betrayal, love and evil.

You have been cut off from society for fifteen years, shut away in a mental hospital as punishment for the terrible thing you did when you were a child.

But what if nothing about your past is as it seems?

For a decade and a half, Rachel Cunningham has chosen to lock herself away in a psychiatric facility, tortured by gaps in her memory and the certainty that she is responsible for her parents’ deaths. But when she learns new details about their murders, Rachel returns, in a quest for answers, to the place where she once felt safest: her family’s sprawling log cabin in the remote forests of Michigan.

As Rachel begins to uncover what really happened on the day her parents were murdered, she learns – as her mother did years earlier – that home can be a place of unspeakable evil, and that the bond she shares with her sister might be the most poisonous of all…

You can buy the book here*

*This is an affiliate link

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‘The Wicked Sister is massively thrilling and altogether unputdownable’ KARIN SLAUGHTER

Well, if the Queen of crime Karin Slaughter says it’s unputdownable who am I to argue?

Have I tempted you to add this to your tbr? Let me know in the comments below.

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Thank you for reading this week’s first lines Friday. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Support Debuts

In Black and White by Alexandra Wilson

Published: August 13th, 2020
Publisher: Endeavor
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Biography, Autobiography

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this spectacular debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Endeavour for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Alexandra Wilson was a teenager when her dear family friend Ayo was stabbed on his way home from football. Ayo’s death changed Alexandra. She felt compelled to enter the legal profession in search of answers.

As a junior criminal and family law barrister, Alexandra finds herself navigating a world and a set of rules designed by a privileged few. A world in which fellow barristers sigh with relief when a racist judge retires: ‘I’ve got a black kid today and he would have had no hope’.

In her debut book, In Black and White, Alexandra re-creates the tense courtroom scenes, the heart-breaking meetings with teenage clients, and the moments of frustration and triumph that make up a young barrister’s life.

Alexandra shows us how it feels to defend someone who hates the colour of your skin, or someone you suspect is guilty. We see what it is like for children coerced into county line drug deals and the damage that can be caused when we criminalise teenagers.

Alexandra’s account of what she has witnessed as a young mixed-race barrister is in equal parts shocking, compelling, confounding and powerful.

MY REVIEW:

“It was watching moments like these that made me realise how important diversity is in the legal profession. I wanted to be able to give people a voice and be instrumental in changing the path of their lives.”

In Black and White is a sensational debut that tells the author’s own story; charting her journey to become a barrister.

Bold, intelligent, thorough-provoking, affecting and inspiring, Ms. Wilson draws the reader in quickly, beginning her story with her cousin’s tragic murder when they were both just seventeen. This event was a major turning point in her life and is what set her on her path to a career as a barrister. We then follow each step, from her first interest in the law, her early days in pupillage, to finally qualifying as a fully-fledged barrister. 

As both a woman and person of mixed heritage, she finds herself facing obstacles of multiple kinds of discrimination along the way and examines a range of issues faced not only by her, but by people in all facets of the criminal justice system.  The writing is fantastic, the story as compelling as any courtroom drama. But it’s all real. She holds the reader in her thrall, educating them  without getting overly academic, using her own experiences and observations alongside the facts and figures. 

Ms. Wilson is a remarkable woman who has overcome so much. Her warmth, compassion, strength and tenacity shine from every page. She often talks about not being sure if she’s the right fit for the Bar, but it is clear that she is exactly what it needs. Our justice system needs understanding, empathy, diversity and people who believe in justice and equality for all. Ms. Wilson ticks all of those boxes and is someone who can not only make great changes herself, but inspire others to do the same. 

This powerful story is essential reading for anyone who cares about equality and diversity. It is a reminder of the reality of sexism, classism, racism and misogyny facing those in our legal system every day. And a reminder that through our own actions we can affect change in the places it is needed, one step at a time. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Alexandra Wilson is a junior barrister. She grew up in Essex and is the eldest of four children. Her mother is White British, her father is Black British and her paternal grandparents were born in Jamaica and came to England as part of the Windrush generation.

Alexandra studied at the University of Oxford and was awarded two prestigious scholarships, enabling her to research the impact of police shootings in the US on young people’s attitudes to the police. She went on to study for a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and her Master of Laws at BPP University in London. Alexandra was awarded the first Queen’s scholarship by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, a scholarship awarded to students showing exceptional promise in a career at the Bar.

Alongside her paid family and criminal law work, Alexandra helps to facilitate access to justice by providing legal representation for disenfranchised minorities and others on a pro-bono basis.

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Blog Tours book reviews

A Ruined Girl by Kate Simants

Published: August 27th, 2020
Publisher: Viper
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this gripping thriller. Thank you to Miranda at Viper Books for the invitation to take part and my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

TWO BOYS LOVED HER.
BUT WHICH ONE KILLED HER?

On a dark night two years ago, teenagers Rob and Paige broke into a house. They beat and traumatised the occupants, then left, taking only a bracelet. No one knows why, not even Luke, Rob’s younger brother and Paige’s confidant. Paige disappeared after that night. And having spent her life in children’s homes and the foster system, no one cared enough to look for her.

Now Rob is out of prison, and probation officer Wren Reynolds has been tasked with his rehabilitation. But Wren has her own reasons for taking on Rob as a client. Convinced that Rob knows what happened to Paige, and hiding a lifetime of secrets from her heavily pregnant wife, Wren’s obsession with finding a missing girl may tear her family apart…

MY REVIEW:

A Ruined Girl is a raw, dark, tense and riveting thriller. Told in dual timelines by dual narrators, we move between past and present as the story of what really happened the night two years ago the teenagers Rob and Paige broke into a house is told.

In a seemingly motivationless crime, the pair beat and terrified the occupants before taking a bracelet and leaving. Rob was captured and imprisoned for his role in the crime, but Paige hasn’t been seen since that night. Now, Rob is being released, and probation officer Wren Reynolds is tasked with his rehabilitation. But she has an ulterior motive for taking on his case.
She’s sure he’s hiding something, and is determined to find out what it is. And, as time goes on, she becomes increasingly obsessed with finding out what happened to Paige. Whatever the cost…

Complex, layered and dripping with suspense, this was a real page-turner. On a normal day, I would have flown through this in one sitting, but even in a pain-filled haze this book held my attention and had me thinking about it when I wasn’t reading. Flawlessly plotted, the author had me in her thrall from the chilling prologue to the final page.

I loved the many subplots that made up the narrative of this story. In a thriller, every little thing, however benign, becomes potentially significant, and I enjoy trying to figure out what is important or a potential clue. I was sure I had this one figured out. And that feeling was only confirmed when some of the revelations were as I predicted. I sat back, planning to just enjoy the book, safe in the knowledge that I knew what was coming, only to be completely blindsided by a jaw-dropping revelation that turned everything I thought I knew on it’s head. I’m still in shock!

All of the characters in this book are richly drawn, intriguing, flawed and real. I liked Wren, for all her faults, and thought she made a great protagonist. But the character I found myself particularly drawn to was Paige. We only see Paige through the eyes of others; the rose-tinted glasses or betrayal of Luke’s crush, or Wren’s investigation. I understood their fascination with her, the author creating an aura of mystery and sadness surrounding her that made me want to rescue her. It seemed inevitable that there was to be no happy ending, but, like Wren, I hoped for justice.

Atmospheric, taut, twisty and utterly addictive, I highly recommend this novel. This was my first read by this author, but it won’t be my last.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kate Simants is a writer of psychological thrillers and crime fiction.

After a decade working in the UK television industry, specialising in investigative documentaries, police shows and undercover work, Kate relocated from London to Bristol to concentrate on writing. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Brunel Univeristy (2007) and another in Crime Fiction from the University of East Anglia (2018), where she was the recipient of the UEA Literary Festival Scholarship. Her novel LOCK ME IN was shortlisted for the 2015 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and is published by HarperCollins.

Kate won the 2019 Bath Novel Award with her second novel A RUINED GIRL, which is published by Viper/Serpent’s Tail in August 2020.

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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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Categories
First Line Friday

First Line Friday: Unto This Last by Rebecca Lipkin

Today’s First Line Friday is also a Publication Day post as this gorgeous historical novel is released today.

“Ruskin chased the open carriage as it thundered across Westminster Bridge. Several times he very nearly lost sight of it, yet he still pursued the landau, drawn by a pair of sprightly grey mares. The tales of his frock coat flapped bird-like as he crossed the gustiest part of the bridge, while he could hardly avoid scuffing his leather boots when he stumbled in his hurry, for he had no time to look where he was going.”

SYNOPSIS:
London, 1858.

Passionate, contradictory, and fiercely loyal to his friends, John Ruskin is an eccentric genius, famed across Britain for his writings on art and philosophy. Haunted by a scandalous past and determined never to love again, the 39-year-old Ruskin becomes infatuated with his enigmatic young student, Rose La Touche, an obsession with profound consequences that will change the course of his life and work.

Written in a style recalling Victorian literature and spanning a period of twenty years, the story poses questions about the nature of love, the boundaries of parenthood, and compatibility in marriage. Unto This Last is a portrait of Ruskin’s tormented psyche and reveals a complex and misunderstood soul, longing for a life just out of reach.

Until This Last is published by Book Guild Publishing on August 28th, 2020
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rebecca has had a passion for Victorian art and literature from a young age. She first discovered John Ruskin through E.M. Forster’s novel, A Room with a View, and later joined the Ruskin Society at the age of seventeen to learn more about Ruskin’s work. Rebecca pursued a career in journalism, specialising in arts writing and theatre reviews, and has worked for a number of national publications.

Rebecca says, “Most accounts of John Ruskin’s complex personal life focus on his brief marriage to Effie Gray, but his twenty-year relationship with Rose La Touche was of huge importance to the evolution of his thinking; it is a captivating and tragic story of two people whose loving friendship transcended boundaries and conventions to the very end.”

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao

Published: August 6th, 2020
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Domestic Fiction
Trigger Warning: Mental Health Problems

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

SYNOPSIS: 

Gwendolyn and Estella are as close as sisters can be. But now Gwendolyn is lying in a coma, the sole survivor after Estella poisons their entire family.

As Gwendolyn struggles to regain consciousness, she desperately retraces her memories, trying to uncover the moment that led to this brutal act.

Journeying from the luxurious world of the rich and powerful in Indonesia to the spectacular shows of Paris Fashion Week, from the sunny coasts of California to the melting pot of Melbourne’s university scene, The Majesties is a haunting and deeply suspenseful novel about the dark secrets that can build a family empire – and also bring it crashing down.

MY REVIEW:

“When your sister murders three hundred people, you can’t help but wonder why – especially if you were one of the intended victims – though I do forgive her if you can believe it.”

I have a penchant for anything with butterflies, so I was immediately drawn to the stunning cover of this book. When I read the synopsis it became a book I had to read and I was thrilled to receive an early copy from the publisher. Then, in May I read the first line above to share for #firstlinefriday and I was hooked. I knew I had to shelve my current reading plans and read this immediately. 

“How ironic. We had embarked on this mission to save the family from darkness, only to discover that we ourselves were darkness through and through.” 

The Majesties opens with Gwendolyn looking back on the day that her sister Estella murdered three hundred people and left her, the sole survivor, lying in a coma. It then follows as Gwendolyn looks back at their family’s history and events leading up to the murders, as she tries to figure out what drove her beloved sister to commit such a crime and how she missed the warning signs.

At its heart, this is a story about family. The murders happen at a family event, the novel is narrated by the sister or the killer, and their family dynamics are a big part of the storyline. The author examines the impact of the unspoken secrets and shame lying behind their respectable family’s polite facade. How it can trickle through the generations causing greater damage than anyone ever imagined. She also explores the topic of mental health: asking how we can miss the signs of someone close to us struggling or push our concerns aside while wrapped up in our own lives, and how those around us are affected by our mental health struggles. 

“It was like watching someone drown without struggling, sinking serenely to the bottom of the deep blue sea.”

Tiffany Tsao is an exquisite writer. Her beautiful prose and vivid imagery brought the world she created to life and transported me to a place and culture I knew little about. The time and effort she has put in to get every line just right jumps from the page and I savoured every delicious word. I found the parts about the bagatelles – the Majesties – fascinating and once again her research and knowledge was evident. It is hard to believe this is a debut novel and I will definitely read what she writes next.

There is so much more to this layered and cleverly written novel than meets the eye. It addresses some deep, difficult and sinister topics and will surprise you just when you think you have it all figured out. I am still reeling from that ending! 

The Majesties is a mesmerising debut from a wonderful new talent that you don’t want to miss.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tiffany Tsao is a writer and literary translator. She is the author of the novel The Majesties (originally published in Australia as Under Your Wings) and the Oddfits fantasy series.

Her translations from Indonesian to English include Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s poetry collection Sergius Seeks Bacchus, Dee Lestari’s novel Paper Boats, and Laksmi Pamuntjak’s The Birdwoman’s Palate. Her translations of Norman’s poetry have won the English PEN Presents and English PEN Translates awards.

Born in the United States and of Chinese-Indonesian descent, her family returned to Southeast Asia when she was 3 years old. She spent her formative years in Singapore (8 years) and Indonesia (6 years) before moving to the US for university. She has a B.A. in English literature from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in English literature from UC-Berkeley. She now lives in Sydney, Australia with her spouse and two children.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Leave Well Alone by AJ Campbell

Published: August 1st, 2020
Publisher: Code Grey Publishing
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Thriller

Today is my stop on the blog tour of this riveting debut thriller. Thank you to AJ Campbell for the invitation to take part and the finished copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Absorb yourself in the powerful debut novel from AJ Campbell

LEAVE WELL ALONE

How far would you go to protect your family from the truth?

A broken family. Skeletons in the closet. Lives in danger.

When Eva’s brother Ben announces he has found their mother, Eva is determined to have nothing to do with the woman who abandoned them eighteen years ago to a traumatic childhood in foster care. Eva is happy now, in a loving relationship with rich and dependable Jim, and she is pregnant.

Nothing can change Eva’s mind. Her eyes are on the future, not the past. But when her baby is born with a serious hereditary illness, she is forced to confront both her mother and her past. Eva begins to find forgiveness. But as old secrets and layers of deceit emerge, she makes a shocking discovery, leaving her fearing for her baby’s, Jim’s, and her own life.

Great for fans of AJ Finn, Lisa Jewell, Paula Hawkins and K.L Slater.

MY REVIEW:

“That bone-chilling winter’s day when my brother returned home for good was when I first contemplated murdering my mother.”

“That bone-chilling winter’s day when my brother returned home for good was when I first contemplated murdering my mother.”

What an opening line! Full of foreboding, tension, mystery and sinister promise, I was instantly hooked. And from that moment I was immersed in this tense, twisty and compelling debut. I didn’t want to put it down, and the only reason I didn’t read it in one sitting was my body’s pesky need for sleep. 

This is a truly unique psychological thriller. It is so evocative that you feel everything the characters do and are taken on an emotional rollercoaster ride as they navigate trials and conflict in this dramatic story. Told in dual narratives in dual timelines, the author tackles  themes of childhood trauma, mental health issues, physical health issues, family secrets and forgiveness in a well thought out, thorough and realistic manner. The descriptions of Eva’s anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD particularly resonated with me, and I found she was the character I most connected with. What she had gone through as a child and the journey she went on over the course of the book really tugged on my heartstrings, and I could understand her reticence to forgive or reconnect with her mother after all that had happened.  While I wasn’t holding my breath, I did hope that she would find the happy ending she deserved after going through so much. 

I read a lot of thrillers and I will be honest and say I picked up this book for the blog tour at a time I really didn’t think I was in the mood for it. But what I didn’t know is how good this was going to be. Ms Campbell’s riveting and vivid writing had me under her spell from the opening line that packed a punch and dives straight into the anger and emotion of Eva’s story.  She knows exactly how to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, guessing what will happen next.

A gripping, suspenseful and thrilling read, Leave Well Alone is a fantastic debut that I would highly recommend. Just make sure you don’t have any plans, as you’re not going to want to stop reading.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Until the birth of her twins in 2005, which radically changed her life, AJ was an accountant for several investment banks in London. One of her twins was born with severe disabilities, as a result of which she had to give up work to care for him. It was during this incredibly challenging (and rewarding) time that AJ began to draw on her love of the written word, partly for day-to-day inspiration and partly for her own mental health. She started writing her debut novel, Leave Well Alone, and then enrolled in several creative writing courses with the Faber Academy where she progressed with her writing career.
AJ lives on the Essex / Hertfordshire border with her husband and three sons and splits her time between caring for her son and family and writing.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Published: August 13th, 2020
Publisher: Canongate
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this truly exceptional novel. Thank you to Canongate for the invitation to take part and the gifted book.

SYNOPSIS:

Between life and death there is a library.

When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change.

The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren’t always what she imagined they’d be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger.

Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

MY REVIEW:

‘Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘And within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?’

Despite reading the synopsis, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I had heard nothing but praise which made me apprehensive: what if I was the one who didn’t love this book as much as everybody else did? I needn’t have worried. 

The Midnight Library is an exceptional book. Who hasn’t wondered how their life might have turned out if they’d made different choices? I know I have. I loved the idea of getting to live the different lives you might have had. I don’t want to say too much about the plot or the lives Nora lives as I think it would ruin the joy of the journey that it takes you on as you discover this intelligent and thought-provoking story for yourself. 

“The only way to learn is to live.”

I loved Nora. She is a great character who has been fantastically written. Haig has made no secret of his own mental health struggles and has written two non-fiction books about it, so it isn’t a surprise to me that he wrote Nora with such emotion, depth, sensitivity and raw truth. A lot of the time, reading her was like looking in a mirror. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my adult life and have had periods of being suicidal, so I felt like I ‘got’ Nora completely. One major difference between us though is I try not to look at life with regret, so it was interesting to read her regrets and the way they shaped her and how they changed as she moved through her various lives.

“It is so easy, while trapped in just the one life, to imagine that times of sadness or tragedy or failure are a result of that particular existence. That it is a by-product of living a certain way, rather than simply living. I mean, it would have made things a lot easier if we understood there was no way of living that can immunise you against sadness. And that sadness is intrinsically a part of happiness. You can’t have one without the other.”

I loved the prevailing message and deeper themes that are at the heart of this beautifully written story.  I am in awe of how themes of anxiety, depression and suicide were delicately woven into this atmospheric, poignant and enchating story. It somehow avoids feeling dark and is instead a real balm for the soul. It made me look at my own life and how I handle my darkest times. It is a book that will stay with me forever.

Emotionally resonant, powerful, hopeful and utterly immersive, The Midnight Library is a glorious novel that I never wanted to end. Everyone needs to read this book. It is something truly special and one that you will never forget. It may even change your life. I only wish I could experience it for the first time all over again.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Matt Haig is an author for children and adults. His memoir Reasons to Stay Alive was a number one bestseller, staying in the British top ten for 46 weeks. His children’s book A Boy Called Christmas was a runaway hit and is translated in over 40 languages. It is being made into a film by Studio Canal and The Guardian called it an ‘instant classic’. His novels for adults include the award-winning How To Stop Time, The Radleys and The Humans.

He won the TV Book Club ‘book of the series’, and has been shortlisted for a Specsavers National Book Award. The Humans was chosen as a World Book Night title. His children’s novels have won the Smarties Gold Medal, the Blue Peter Book of the Year, been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and nominated for the Carnegie Medal three times.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Silence by Susan Allott

Published: August 6th, 2020
Publisher: The Borough Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Crime Thriller

Today is my stop on the tour for this riveting debut. Thank you Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and The Borough Press for the gifed copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father, Joe, phoning from Sydney.

30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens’ next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. Joe claims he thought she had gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and he’s under suspicion of murder.

Back home in Sydney, Isla’s search for the truth takes her back to 1967, when two couples lived side by side on a quiet street by the sea. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?

Deftly exploring the deterioration of relationships and the devastating truths we keep from those we love, The Silence is a stunning debut from a rising literary star.

MY REVIEW:

“This is the community she grew up in. Where people know everything but say nothing.”

Susan Allott is an author to watch. In her debut novel, a dramatic family saga that I couldn’t put down, Allot has captured a sense of time and place so vividly that you can see the outdated wallpaper and feel the acrid heat. It is a mysterious, foreboding, emotional and layered story that takes the reader back to one of the darkest times in Australian history, merging it with the tantalising tale of a woman missing for thirty years and long-held secrets finally being revealed. 

Told using dual narratives, we simultaneously follow neighbouring families the Greens and the Mallories during the summer of 1967. A summer that will leave them inextricably linked after Mandy Mallorie disappears and Joe Green comes under suspicion. In 1997, Isla Green returns home to support her family and tries to get to the bottom of what happened thirty years ago. As Isla delves deeper into the past, shameful secrets resurface that threaten to rock her whole world. Could her father have killed Mandy? And how much does her mother know?

This was a powerful and affecting read. Examining relationships, secrets and lies, the author handles difficult subjects such as domestic abuse and alcoholism in a real but sensitive way. The characters are flawed but intriguing and I couldn’t help but feel invested in their fates.

Atmospheric, haunting, utterly compelling and with a strong emotional resonance, this novel drew me in, transporting me back in time and to the other side of the world. One I would highly recommend, it kept me guessing right until the unforgettable finale. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Susan Allott is a fiction writer whose debut novel THE SILENCE was published in e-book and audio formats on 30th April 2020 by Borough Press (Harper Collins, UK) with the hardback edition due to be published on 6th August 2020. The UK paperback will follow in April 2021.

THE SILENCE was published in North America on 19th May 2020 by William Morrow (Harper Collins, US) with the paperback to follow in May 2021.

In Australia and New Zealand THE SILENCE was published by Harper Collins on 1st May 2020.

Harper Collins will publish THE SILENCE in the rest of its English language territories in August 2020.

In Italy THE SILENCE will be published by Harper Italia and in France by Editions Belfond.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Twins of Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor

Published: August 6th, 2020
Publisher: Monoray
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Biography, Autobiography

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this moving novel . Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Monoray for the gifted copy of the book .

SYNOPSIS:

The Nazis spared their lives because they were twins.

In the summer of 1944, Eva Mozes Kor and her family arrived at Auschwitz.

Within thirty minutes, they were separated. Her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, while Eva and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man who became known as the Angel of Death: Dr. Josef Mengele. They were 10 years old.

While twins at Auschwitz were granted the ‘privileges’ of keeping their own clothes and hair, they were also subjected to Mengele’s sadistic medical experiments. They were forced to fight daily for their own survival and many died as a result of the experiments, or from the disease and hunger rife in the concentration camp.

In a narrative told simply, with emotion and astonishing restraint, The Twins of Auschwitz shares the inspirational story of a child’s endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil.

Also included is an epilogue on Eva’s incredible recovery and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis. Through her museum and her lectures, she dedicated her life to giving testimony on the Holocaust, providing a message of hope for people who have suffered, and worked toward goals of forgiveness, peace, and the elimination of hatred and prejudice in the world.

MY REVIEW:

“There are not many children of the Holocaust, much less Mengele twins, who lived to tell their stories. Eva did. And this story is told in her voice, in the first person, as an adult looking back over sixty-five years; to a time when a little girl, clutching at the trembling hand of her identical twin sister, showed up at the gates of horror—and survived.”

Eva and Miriam Mozes were just ten years old when they were herded onto a cattle car with around 100 other Jews and taken to Auschwitz. Upon their arrival the twins are selected for ‘special treatment’ by Dr Josef Mengele – also known as the Angel of Death – who used twins, dwarves, the disabled and Gypsies as human guinea pigs for his experiments.

This is the story of their daily fight to survive in Auschwitz and Eva’s life after the war as an advocate for education and change.

“We were Jews, and we were guilty.”

The Holocaust is one of the times in history I am most fascinated with. My dad has always read about it voraciously and I was definitely influenced by his interest in the subject. Mengele’s experiments are obviously something I’m aware of, but I hadn’t read much about them. Certainly not a first person account. So I knew this was a book I wanted to read as soon as I read the synopsis.

“We never thought they would come to our tiny village.”

The book starts out with how life was for the family before and at the beginning of the war and talks about seeing the rise in anti-semitism amongst not only the government, but in school and among the people they know in their village. Reading about how children were given books talking about killing Jews and how propaganda films such as ‘How To Catch And Kill A Jew’ were shown in school and at the theatre, brought tears to my eyes. I can’t imagine how scary that must have been to a child. One of the things that broke my heart most of all is reading of the family’s missed chances at escape before being sent to Auschwitz, knowing they may have all survived if only they’d been able to flee.

“We shrieked. We cried. We pleaded, our voices lost among the chaos and noise and despair. But no matter how much we cried or how loud we screamed, it did not matter. Because of those matching burgundy dresses, because we were identical twins so easily spotted in the crowd of grimy, exhausted Jewish prisoners, Miriam and I had been chosen. Soon we would come face to face with Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor known as the Angel of Death… But we did not know that yet. All we knew was that we were abruptly alone. We were only ten years old.

And we never saw Papa, Mama, Edit or Aliz again.”

Eva talks about losing trust in her parents’ ability to protect her and her sisters as the hatred progresses and how she lost any sense of safety. That hit me right in my mother’s heart. I would do ANYTHING to protect my children and couldn’t imagine the pain of not being able to do that and their lives were at risk. I pictured my own children at 10 years of age being all alone in a fight for survival and completely alone. It is unfathomable. I will never understand how people can be so cruel to other humans, especially innocent children.

“At Auschwitz, dying was easy. Surviving was a full-time job.”

Eva is a survivor and shows a quiet strength from the moment she arrives at Auschwitz. That strength continued throughout her life and she was a tiny, but mighty who was promoted Holocaust education and toured giving speeches on the life lessons she had learned, hoping to encourage others to live in kindness rather than hate. She was open about her struggle with anger, hate and bitterness towards not only the Nazis, but her parents, for many years before choosing to forgive. This, along with her advocacy for change, saw her become a controversial figure among survivors, who often misunderstood what that meant. But she stayed true to herself and fought for change until her death in July 2019.

“Anger is a seed for war; forgiveness is a seed for peace.”

Poignant, powerful and lingering, this, like any Holocaust story, is a harrowing read. Dire living conditions, the daily struggle to survive and the cruel experiments that were supposed to kill her are described in detail which, while avoiding being gruesome, are still upsetting. But what stands out is that this is a story of courage, survival and triumph over evil.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Eva Mozes Kor was a Romanian-born survivor of the Holocaust. Along with her twin sister Miriam, Kor was subjected to human experimentation under the direction of SS Doctor Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland during World War II

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