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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

BLOG TOUR: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Published: May 12th 2022
Publisher: Phoenix
Genre: Historical Fiction, Medical Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for for this astonishing, powerful and unforgettable novel. Thank you to Alex at Phoenix Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Montgomery, Alabama. 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend has big plans to make a difference in her community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she intends to help women make their own choices for their lives and bodies.

But when her first week on the job takes her down a dusty country road to a tumbledown cabin, she’s surprised to find that her new patients are just eleven and thirteen years old. Neither of the Williams sisters has even kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and for those handling their welfare benefits, that’s reason enough to have the girls on birth control. As Civil grapples with her new responsibilities, she takes India and Erica into her heart and comes to care for their family as though they were her own. But one day she arrives at their door to discover the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will ever be the same.

Inspired by true events and a shocking chapter of American history, Take My Hand is a novel that will open your eyes and break your heart. An unforgettable story about love and courage, sisterhood and solidarity, it is also a timely and hopeful reminder that it only takes one person to change the world.

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MY REVIEW:

“How dare they?  Our bodies belonged to us. Poor, disabled, it didn’t matter.  These were our bodies, and we had the right to decide what to do with them.  It was as if they were just taking our bodies from us, as if we didn’t even belong to ourselves.” 

Of the many profound quotes in Dolen Perkin-Valdez’ astonishingly powerful Take My Hand, it is this one that I feel best sums up its message.   If the erosion of human and female reproductive rights matters to you, then this is probably the most key piece of literature you can read right now.  A story about poverty, race, eugenics and the fight for justice and equality, this mesmerising novel is a reminder that we must heed the mistakes made in our history to avoid repeating them once more.

“We thought we were doing something useful for society, but this is where the so-called good deed had gotten us. Right smack into a nightmare.” 

Set in Montgomery, Alabama in 1973, the story follows Civil Townsend, a newly qualified nurse working at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic.  Civil is a young woman who believes in the good work she’ll be doing at the clinic serving poor Black women.  She believes in the difference that can be made to their lives through contraception and good care and has a strong moral code that guides her.  But when she’s given her first case she is shocked to discover her patients are sisters aged just eleven and thirteen and that they are on the new Depo-provera shot.  What follows is a shocking tale based in fact that goes beyond these two innocent young girls and even Alabama, shocking the entire United States.  It will leave you outraged, appalled, heartbroken and determined never to allow such a tragedy to happen again. 

“History repeats what we don’t remember…”

I believe there are some books that come at the perfect time.  That you read them when you are meant to in order for them to have the greatest impact on you and change your life in some way.  That is what happened with this book.  It feels like fate that this book, set around the time of Roe vs Wade, is being released just as courts in America threaten to overturn it and take away the rights of women once again.  It feels like a call to arms to protect these rights and prevent the events of this story from ever happening again as they threaten to do if women’s rights are once again stripped away.

“I had never known that good intentions could be just as destructive as bad ones.” 

Though based on a true case, the characters and events are fiction, but Ms. Perkins-Valdez writes so exquisitely that you believe every word is real as she breathes such life into the richly drawn characters that they felt like flesh and blood that stood in front of me.  Her writing is hypnotic yet invigorating, both putting a spell on me so I was lost in its pages and filling me with a passion to ensure such evil never happens again.  It is a memorable masterclass in storytelling that made this book immediately take a place as one of my favourites of all time.

“A year never passes without me thinking of them. India. Erica.  Their names are stitched inside every white coat I have ever worn.  I tell this story to stitch their names inside your clothes too. A reminder to never forget.  Medicine taught me, really taught me, to accept the things I cannot change. A difficult-to-swallow serenity prayer. I’m not trying to change the past. I’m telling it in order to lay those ghosts to rest.” 

Civil is a remarkable heroine and I adored her.  Intelligent, strong, brave and kind, she only wants to do good in the world and is devastated to learn that good intentions don’t always mean a good outcome.  She is also still trying to come to terms with her own trauma that is portrayed in such a real, but sensitive way that really connects you to her pain.  
Erica and India, the sisters at the heart of this tragedy, are two girls that you can’t help but take into your heart just as Civil did.  From the start I was desperate to know what fate had befallen them but was unprepared for the shocking truth that tore my heart in two and made tears fall from my eyes.  I wanted to hold those sweet girls and undo everything that they were forced to endure.  I was thankful that they found a champion in Civil who would fight for them to her last instead of allowing them to remain a silent statistic like so many others before them.  She gave them a voice when no one else was willing to hear them and made an entire country listen to what they had to say.  

“There is no greater right for a woman than having a choice.”

Magnificent, timely, poignant and immersive, this unforgettable novel rocked me to my core and seared itself into my heart, mind and soul. A story that everyone needs to read, I can’t recommend it highly enough and will be putting it into the hands of everyone I possibly can. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel WENCH. In 2011, she was a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction. In 2017, HarperCollins released Wench as one of eight “Olive Titles,” limited edition modern classics that included books by Edward P. Jones, Louise Erdrich, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Dolen received a DC Commission on the Arts Grant for her second novel BALM which was published by HarperCollins in 2015.  In 2013, Dolen wrote the introduction to a special edition of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave, published by Simon & Schuster, which became a New York Times bestseller. She followed that with an introduction to Elizabeth Keckly’s Behind the Scenes published in 2016.  Dolen is a 2020 nominee for a United States Artists Fellowship.

Her forthcoming novel TAKE MY HAND will be published April 2022 by Berkley/Penguin Random House.

Dolen is the current Chair of the Board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. On behalf of the foundation, she has visited nearly every public high school in the District of Columbia to talk about the importance of reading and writing.   She is currently Associate Professor in the Literature Department at American University and lives in Washington, DC with her family.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Published: May 12th 2022
Publisher: Penguin UK
Genre: Romance Novel, Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this magnificent contemporary romance. Thank you to Ellie at Penguin UK for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming…
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Nora is a cut-throat literary agent at the top of her game. Her whole life is books.

Charlie is an editor with a gift for creating bestsellers. And he’s Nora’s work nemesis.

Nora has been through enough break-ups to know she’s the one men date before finding their happy-ever-after. To prevent another dating dud, Nora’s sister has persuaded her to swap her city desk for a month’s holiday in Sunshine Falls.

It’s a small town straight out of a romance novel, but instead of meeting sexy lumberjacks, handsome doctors or cute bartenders, Nora keeps bumping into…Charlie.

She’s no heroine. He’s no hero. So can they take a page out of an entirely different book?

Binge-read The Hating Game and now looking to escape into another suitably steamy love story? Look no further… Set over one sizzling August, BOOK LOVERS is the new chemistry-filled ‘rivals to lovers’ romcom from New York Times #1 bestseller Emily Henry

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MY REVIEW:

“Sometimes, even when you start with the last page and you think you know everything, a book finds a way to surprise you.”

Book Lovers is a bibliophile’s dream romance novel.  Heartwarming, emotional, funny and uplifting, this was an utter delight from beginning to end.  I finished it with a smile on my face, warmth in my heart and tears in my eyes.  

Workaholic Nora is a successful, cut-throat literary agent with little time in her life for anything else.  Her sister Libby is a burnt out, heavily pregnant mum-of-two who needs an escape.  Together the sisters head to Sunshine Falls, the setting that inspired the bestselling book by one of Nora’s clients, for a month-long vacation armed with a checklist Libby has created to ensure they get the full small town experience.  But Sunshine Falls has something in store neither of them foresee: Charlie Lastra, Nora’s professional rival who is also in town.  What follows is a compelling and immersive enemies to lovers story with a fabulous literary twist. 

This was my second time reading one of Emily Henry’s books and has secured her place on my list of auto-buy romance authors.  Well-written, nuanced and believable, she knows how to pull you in and make you root for her characters even when they themselves don’t.   Romance novels can be cliched, tired and predictable, but while Book Lovers is filled with the usual tropes and clichés, it draws attention to them, makes fun of them and surprises you by not always taking the route you expect.  I especially liked how it flips the familiar trope on its head and offers a refreshing twist on the usual romance heroine by putting the ambitious city girl who enjoys her life and has no desire to change it at the heart of the book.

“Because that’s my life. The trope that governs my days. The archetype over which my details are superimposed. 
I’m the city person. Not the one who meets the hot farmer. The other one.
The uptight, manicured literary agent.. I’m the one who gets dumped.”

Nora, Charlie and Libby were great characters that I found easy to root for.  The bond between the sisters was beautiful and Charlie and Nora make a believable couple with funny, authentic banter and chemistry that sizzles from the pages.  I liked that the author also explores their pasts to help us understand them better, allowing us to see why they made decisions we might not have otherwise understood.  But what I loved most of all was how the author wrote Nora as someone who lives and breathes books.  In her job she’s passionate, dedicated and cut-throat, nicknamed ‘the shark’ by her colleagues, and her literary love spills over into every facet of her life, he sees people as the character they would be in a story, thinks in plots and views life through the lens of the tropes she knows so well.  She even applies this thinning to herself, accepting that in a romance novel she would be the girl the hero dates before meeting the love of his life in the small town.  It made her one of my favourite heroines to date and we all know a book about books makes any book lover extra happy.

An enthralling contemporary romance with depth, warmth, heart and humour, Book Lovers is a truly uplifting enemies to lovers story that will make you believe in the power of true love.  And books.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
Steam: 🔥🔥🔥

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Emily Henry writes stories about love and family for both teens and adults. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the now-defunct New York Center for Art & Media Studies, and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it. 

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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

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BLOG TOUR: Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

Published: March 31st 2022
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Contemporary Literature, Romance Novel, Humorous Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

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

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SYNOPSIS:

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?

MARIE CLAIRE ‘BEST BOOKS OF 2022’ AND FEBRUARY PICK FOR MALALA’S LITERATI BOOKCLUB

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MY REVIEW:

Let me just start by saying that everyone needs to read this book! Funny, heartwarming and addictive, Yina Where is Your Huzband? is feel-good fiction at its absolute best.  This delightful debut is a balm for the soul and I inhaled it quickly, too hooked to put it down for long and unable to stop thinking about it whenever it wasn’t in my hands.  Lizzie Damilola Blackburn is a magnificent storyteller and I am an instant fan. I will pre-ordering anything she writes in future without hesitation. 

The story centres around thirty-one year old Yinka.  Yinka wants to find love but her interfering mum and aunties want to find it for her.  They do this by attempting to set her up with any bachelor they come across that they deem suitable and publicly praying for God to deliver her from the curse of singledom.  They see her love for chicken and chips over traditional Nigerian food as an obstacle and think she’s already over the hill.  
When her cousin announces her engagement Yinka decides it’s time to take matters into her own hands and launches Operation Wedding Date.  Will she find love in time for the wedding?  Or does she need to find herself first?

Yinka is a single-woman’s heroine for the modern age.  A kind of spiritual, 21st Century Bridget Jones.  And I absolutely adored her.  She was easy to relate to and root for and I was cheering for her every step of the way as she tries to navigate not only societal and cultural expectations of who she is and what her life should look like, but the expectations of her well meaning, but interfering, family.  I also loved the author’s realistic portrayal of complex family dynamics and friendships and the effect they can have on our behaviours.  
Just like Yinka, the other characters are fascinating, vibrant, memorable and leap from the pages.  There is also a chaos and craziness to both the characters and the story that is part of their charm.  It also helps to convey to the reader the feelings of mounting pressure that Yinka experiences, making my own heart pound with stress at times. 

Yinka Where Is Your Huzband? was everything I’d hoped for and more.  I never wanted it to end and actually hugged the book to my chest after reading.  It is a story not only about the search for love, but also a journey of self-discovery and learning to love ourselves. 
Yinka and her story are perfect for the big screen and I truly hope to see them there soon.  Does anyone have Reese Witherspoon’s number?

READ THIS BOOK NOW!  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Lizzie Damilola Blackburn is a British-Nigerian writer, born in Peckham, who wants to tell the stories that she and her friends have longed for but never seen – romcoms ‘where Cinderella is Black and no-one bats an eyelid’. In 2019 she won the Literary Consultancy Pen Factor Writing Competition with the early draft of Yinka, Where is your Huzband?, which she had been writing alongside juggling her job at Carers UK. She has been at the receiving end of the question in the title of her novel many times, and now lives with her husband in Milton Keynes.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx

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

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

Published: March 3rd 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Domestic Fiction, Legal Thriller, Political Thriller
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this riveting novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

From the bestselling author of Anatomy of a Scandal, soon to be a major Netflix series…
Reputation: it takes a lifetime to build and just one moment to destroy.
‘Sarah Vaughan has done it again. Superb’ Shari Lapena

Emma Webster is a respectable MP.

Emma Webster is a devoted mother.

Emma Webster is innocent of the murder of a tabloid journalist.

Emma Webster is a liar.

#Reputation: The story you tell about yourself. And the lies others choose to believe…

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MY REVIEW:

MP Emma Webster is riding high; her career is flourishing, she’s making changes to laws she’s passionate about, and she’s being interviewed and featured on the front cover of the Guardian Weekend magazine.  But then things start to fall apart and Emma soon finds her life is in tatters as she’s put on trial for a murder she says she didn’t commit.  But what is the truth?  Is Emma Webster a terrified woman who acted in self-defence, or is she a calculating killer erasing the threat to her reputation?

Tense, twisty and powerful, Reputation is a riveting blend of captivating whodunnit, gripping legal thriller and exploration of important social issues we face today.  This was my first time reading one of Sarah Vaughan’s books and my expectations were high after hearing high praise of her previous novels.  I was not disappointed.  From the opening pages there is a foreshadowing of something terrible occurring that turns Emma’s world upside down, adding an ominous atmosphere that looms over every word.  It had me on the edge of my seat as I waited for the full story to unfold, my heart pounding as it reached its dramatic crescendo.  While I did guess some of the twists, many of them surprised me, taking the plot and characters in directions I never saw coming.  Sharply written and intelligent, this is a thriller that keeps you guessing, makes you think and entertains you all in one fell swoop.  

The characters are compelling, flawed and relatable, with problems that are both recognisable and believable.  Emma was a great protagonist and I found her easy to root for at every step.  She is a nuanced character who is strong, fierce and capable but also scared and unsure.  I was never sure if she was guilty or not but could see how everything could have come together to create the perfect storm that led to murder.  But the character I was most drawn to was Flora, Emma’s fourteen-year-old daughter.  The author expertly puts the reader back into the psyche of a teenage girl as her isolation, fear and teenage angst leap from the page. I found her chapters heart-rending as a parent of teenagers; worrying what my children might be going through without me having any clue it’s happening.  It also transported me back to my own teenage years and that feeling of having nowhere to turn and being scared to talk to your parents when something is really wrong.  Emma and Flora’s experiences mirrored each other in many ways and I did enjoy seeing how it drew them closer together when they could have let it tear them further apart. 

Emma’s political career sees her being a voice for the voiceless as she fights against violence and threats towards women, particularly concentrating on the battle for new legislation around revenge porn.  It is a fight that makes her many enemies and she is subjected to the most vile threats and abuse every day.  Before reading this book I had no idea of the extent of the abuse that is part of the daily lives of women in the public eye, the fear they live with or the many safety measures they are forced to take each day.  I was shocked and appalled at what they are subjected to and can’t imagine needing water at public events in case acid is thrown in your face or being told to accept that threats of death and rape are part of the job you’ve chosen.  All of this leads into the other many timely and important themes explored in the book such as female empowerment and solidarity, how women are judged more harshly than their male counterparts, online bullying and the misogyny,  threats and violence that women endure and have grown to expect in their day to day lives.  Even the young aren’t immune, with pre-teens and teenagers using technology as a bullying tool.  While technology and social media can be a positive thing, when it’s used in this way it means that those who are targeted have no respite from the onslaught of abuse.  

Unsurprisingly, the topic of reputation is another theme that recurs throughout the book and the author explores the subject of our reputation versus our character.  Our reputations are built from the outside in but can be destroyed by those who don’t even know us in an instant.  Emma is someone who is very aware of her reputation and carefully cultivates it, particularly in relation to her job.  She has spent years building her reputation as a loving mother, no-nonsense MP and fierce warrior for female rights.  It’s who she is from the inside out.  So when it all comes crumbling down and her reputation is left in tatters, it shakes her to her core and Emma struggles with being portrayed as a person she doesn’t recognise.  It is her reputation, as well as her freedom, that she is fighting for in court.   

Bold, brilliant and intriguing, Reputation packs a punchThis is a book you need to read. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After training at the Press Association, she spent eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter and political correspondent before leaving to freelance and write fiction. Anatomy of a Scandal, her 3rd novel and her first courtroom drama/psychological thriller, combined these experiences and became an instant international bestseller, and Sunday Times top five bestseller. Translated into 22 languages, it was also a kindle number 1 bestseller, shortlisted for awards in the UK, France and Sweden, and filmed as a six-part Netflix mini-series, starring Sienna Miller, Michelle Dockery, and Rupert Friend. It will be transmitted in spring 2022.

Little Disasters has also been optioned for the screen, was a Waterstone’s thriller of the month, WH Smith paperback of the month, Kindle bestseller, and has been published in the US and various other countries. She is currently working on her fifth novel

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon*| Bookshop.org*
*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

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Nasty Little Cuts by Tina Baker

Published: February 24th 2022
Publisher: Viper
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

I’m delighted to be opening the blog tour for this terrifically twisted thriller. Thank you to Viper Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

WHO WILL SURVIVE THE NIGHT?

A nightmare jolts Debs awake. She leaves the kids tucked up in their beds and goes downstairs. There’s a man in her kitchen, holding a knife. But it’s not an intruder. This is her husband Marc, the father of her children. A man she no longer recognises.

Once their differences were what drew them together, what turned them on. Him, the ex-army officer from a good family. Her, the fitness instructor who grew up over a pub. But now these differences grate to the point of drawing blood. Marc screams in his sleep. And Debs hardly knows the person she’s become, or why she lets him hurt her.

Neither of them is completely innocent. Neither is totally guilty. Marc is taller, stronger, and more vicious, haunted by a war he can’t forget. But he has no idea what Debs is capable of when her children’s lives are at stake…

A powerful exploration of a relationship built on passion, poisoned by secrets and violence. Perfect for readers of Blood Orange and Big Little Lies.

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MY REVIEW:

“What if the thing she’s most afraid of isn’t some threat lurking outside the safety of this cosy home, clawing at the doors, peering into her double-glazed windows, its breath frosting the panes? 

What if it’s right here in the kitchen beside her?” 

Debs wakes early Christmas Eve from a nightmare.  Quietly, she makes her way downstairs and discovers she has woken up to something even more terrifying than what haunts her dreams; her husband, Marc, standing in the kitchen holding a knife.  She no longer recognises the man she married and as fear courses through her, she wonders what he has planned.  Over the course of a few hours that cold morning, the couple’s problems in their marriage come to a head.  But will Debs and her children make it out alive?

Tina Baker has done it again!  Nasty Little Cuts jumps straight into the action, taking no prisoners with a twisted opening, heavy with foreshadowing.  There’s an unbearable sense of dread as Debs and Marc face off against one another in the kitchen,  the story unfolding slowly as it moves between that December morning and flashbacks to the past; small clues about their characters and relationship unveiling as the reader is kept on a knife edge wondering how Debs will escape.  

“Each word, a tiny snag, each shallow cut stings. A word, a look, a sigh. One after the other after the other, all in a row, like the teeth on a bread knife. Tiny, tiny serrations. Eventually, they could slice you in half.”

My love for Ms. Baker is no secret.  I adore her.  And I have been waiting with bated breath for this follow up ever since I finished her fantastic debut, Call Me Mummy.  Once again she has delivered a knock-out thriller that is complex, layered and nuanced.  It is a psychological puzzle that not only examines the characters in uncomfortabledetail, but explores topics such as depression, PTSD, infertility and the need for communication in relationships.  She breathes pain into the story that will make your heart break in two.  I loved the imagery she used to describe depression, anxiety and PTSD; the dark, haunting, overwhelming feelings that you can’t escape and eat you up from the inside.  It is so vivid and raw, helping those who might never have experienced these things really understand how it feels.  The writing is ebullient, sharp, funny and riveting, much like the lady herself, and she creates a tone that moves between deeply unsettling, heart-wrenchingly emotional and darkly amusing, keeping me hostage as I was unable to tear myself away. 

“For a long time now a syrupy blackness has seeped back into this vacuum inside him.” 

The characters are deeply flawed and achingly real.  Richly drawn and compelling, they are superbly written and jump from the pages.  Dolly is a vivacious, fun child and I couldn’t get enough of her.  I loved little Pat-Pat, who reminded me of my own son when he was young, right down to the ‘Duracell bunny’ comparison.  And while there are multiple narrators, Debs feels like the main character.  The true heart of the story.  And it is her I felt the strongest connection with.  Her terror during those hours in the kitchen is palpable, making my heart race as if I was in the room myself.  Marc is someone we see as the villain from the start, but I found my heart breaking for him as I learned of his past and the inner turmoil he was trying to keep locked inside.  It isn’t easy to make a character someone the reader can both loathe and feel sympathy for, but Ms. Baker shows her talent as an author when she manages to accomplish this with Marc. 

“Bruises fade. Another blooms internally.” 

This is a portrait of a failing marriage and we soon discover the idyllic, happy relationship they try to portray isn’t the truth. Theirs is a marriage filled with misery, misunderstanding, isolation, abuse and fear.  A toxic relationship that is slowly killing them both on the inside but neither knows how to fix.  They are both adrift and desperately trying to reach out and tell each other what they feel and need.  Only they never come out and say it, leading to a minefield of miscommunication and resentment.  It is devastating to watch as they destroy not only themselves, but each other, all building up to the morning that Debs finds Marc in the kitchen holding the knife.  They have reached their breaking point. 

Nasty Little Cuts is a pacy, punchy and gripping thriller.  A harrowing, brutal and tortured story that will make your heart pound and leave your nerves on edge.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  Go and read this as soon as possible.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.

Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she’s not stolen a child – so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Bookshop.org*

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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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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville

Published: February 3rd 2022
Publisher: Zaffre
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Gothic Fiction, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this unsettling gothic tale. Thanks to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and Zaffre for the ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

A house built on secrets
An old woman haunted by her past
A young woman fighting for her life

For Sara Keane, it was supposed to be a second chance.
A new country. A new house. A new beginning.

Then came the knock on the door.

Elderly Mary Jackson can’t understand why Sara and her husband are living in her home.
She remembers the fire. She remembers the house burning down. But she also remembers the children. The children who need her. The children she must protect.

‘The children will find you,’ she tells Sara, because Mary knows she needs help too. As Sara becomes obsessed with what happened in that house nearly sixty years ago, and the family wiped out in one bloody night, she begins to see things. Things that can’t be real.

In a story that spans six decades, the truth will not stay buried, and the ghosts of the past can never remain in the shadows . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“The children. They’ll find you… They’re hiding. Waiting for me. Waiting for you.”

A fire tears through The Ashes in the dead of night, forcing Mary to flee the only home she’s ever known and reducing it to a shell.  Sara and Damien Keene move in as it is being rebuilt, but strange occurrences leave Sara feeling uneasy.  Then one morning, an old woman turns up, her feet bloodied, demanding to know why Sara is in her house and where the children are.  Who is this woman?  And what children is she talking about?  Unsatisfied with her husband’s explanation, Sara is determined to discover what secrets he and the house is hiding.  The old woman is the key.  But can she get Mary to finally speak the secrets she’s been holding in for decades?

The House of Ashes is a dark, twisted and unsettling gothic novel that you don’t want to read in the dark.  From the first pages I had chills, reading on tenterhooks with an almost unbearable feeling of dread in my stomach.  It isn’t a book for the faint hearted; the author explores dark themes such as abuse that are written with both brutal honesty and heartwarming compassion.  It is in these themes that we see Mary and Sara’s lives mirror each other; both kept prisoner in The Ashes by men who terrify them.  And just as the house kept them captive, the book did the same to me, refusing to let me go until I’d read the final page and its story had been told. 

“People about the town would say she’s mad in the head. Some of the children would call her Scary Mary. And fair enough, she might be a wee bit touched, but who wouldn’t be after what she went through.” 

Told by multiple narrators, the story unfolds in the past and the present.  Sara and Mary are the main narrators and while Sara’s story mostly focuses on the present, Mary tells the story of her past.  She finally speaks the secrets she’s been silent about for sixty years, slowly revealing to the reader the dark secrets that the house holds within its walls and the true horror of that bloody night.  I had a real soft spot for all of the women but felt for Mary most.  She was a young girl who knew nothing but a life within the walls of The Ashes. A life of neglect, abuse and fear that made the house both her misery and her solace.  Seeing the story through her eyes was heartrending and I loved how the author managed to convey such childish innocence alongside her resignation to things no one should ever know.  

“Maybe you shouldn’t know too much about that place. Not if you’re going to live in it.” 

The Ashes is more than just a house. It is like another character that lives and breathes.  A sense of malevolence and foreboding radiating from this chilling place.  But the strange and unnerving occurrences aren’t merely there to torment it’s inhabitants, it is the past returning to try and warn those in the present.  Warnings they must heed in order to survive.  

Darkly atmospheric, harrowing and haunting, The House of Ashes is a chilling gothic tale.  Just make sure you read with the lights on!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Stuart Neville’s debut novel, THE TWELVE (published in the USA as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the LA Times. He has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Barry, Macavity, Dilys awards, as well as the Irish Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year. He has since published three critically acclaimed sequels, COLLUSION, STOLEN SOULS and THE FINAL SILENCE.

His first four novels have each been longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and RATLINES was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

Stuart’s novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, Greek and more. The French edition of The Ghosts of Belfast, Les Fantômes de Belfast, won Le Prix Mystère de la Critique du Meilleur Roman Étranger and Grand Prix du Roman Noir Étranger.

His fourth novel, RATLINES, about Nazis harboured by the Irish state following WWII is currently in development for television.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Bookshop.org*
*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

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs

Published: February 3rd 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this exquisite and beautiful novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the gorgeous gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks around the world. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.

Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you’ll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye.

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MY REVIEW:

“Neat and elegant, Miss Acton. Bring me a cookery book as neat and elegant as your poems.”

The Language of Food tells the story of Eliza Acton, the woman who wrote what became known as the greatest British cookbook of all time. It follows her as she and her assistant, Ann Kirby, spend ten years creating the now-famous recipes. But it is so much more than a book about food and poetry.  It is a story of strength, endurance, friendship and self-discovery that you won’t be able to put down.

“I have started to see poetry in the strangest of things: from the roughest nub of nutmeg to the pale parsnip seamed with soil. And this has made me wonder if I can write a cookery book that includes the truth and beauty of poetry.”

I’m not going to lie, a big part of the reason I wanted to read this book was the cover.  I mean, look at it!  It is simply beautiful.  And I was delighted to find that inside the book was something every bit as breathtaking as it’s cover.  

This delicious story is a readers and food lover’s paradise. Annabel Abbs is an exquisite wordsmith and storyteller, writing like a dream with lyrical and poetic prose that is woven together like the delicate folding of ingredients in a cake recipe.  I was completely immersed and lost myself in the story, torn between wanting to savour each word like I would a luxury box of chocolates and needing to read it quickly so it sated my hunger.  I loved how she combined fact with fiction so seamlessly that it was impossible to tell where one ends and another begins.  Her vivid imagery transported me back in time to Victorian England, the tantalising whispers of scandal kept me guessing and the descriptions of food made my mouth water and stomach rumble; I wanted to eat everything! Well, almost everything (I’m not sure about eel or badger ham). 

“There was something else about her too.  A poignancy I can’t explain.  A feeling that we are united in some odd and intricate way.”

Told in alternating chapters, this is a narrative driven by the thoughts, desires, actions and choices of two strong, captivating, complex and memorable female characters. They make unlikely friends, coming from such different backgrounds that they wouldn’t even recognise the life the other lived:  Eliza raised as a lady in a wealthy family with a father that indulged her dreams while Ann lives in poverty trying to juggle survival with caring for a disabled, alcoholic father and a mother with severe mental health issues. But despite their apparent differences, they are also very alike. Both women possess an underlying strength that carries them through the darkest of times, go against societal expectations, and discover a shared talent and passion for cooking.  I loved watching their bond blossom as they figured out their new roles in life side by side and seeing the kindness with which Eliza treats Ann even though she is one of her servants, allowing the girl to feel like she has value for the first time in her life.  I knew nothing about this cookbook or these characters before starting this book but after reading I feel like they could be my closest friends, the author writing them so evocatively that they sprang to life from the pages. Eliza was a woman ahead of her time and I can see why she remains an inspiration for modern cooks to this day.  

Decadent, sensuous, enthralling and heartwarming, The Language of Food is, quite simply, a work of art.  A luscious feast for the imagination that will stir all of your senses, I can’t recommend this highly enough.  Now I’m off to buy the author’s back catalogue!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Annabel Abbs is the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, a fictionalised story of Lucia Joyce, daughter of James, and her relationship with Samuel Beckett. It won the Impress Prize for New Writers and the Spotlight Novel Award, and was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, the Caledonia Novel Award and the Waverton Good Read Award. The Joyce Girl was a Reader Pick in The Guardian 2016 and was one of ten books selected for presentation at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, where it was given Five Stars by the Hollywood Reporter. It is currently being adapted for stage and screen.

Her second novel, Frieda, is a fictionalised story of Frieda Weekely, the German aristocrat who eloped with DH Lawrence and who was the inspiration for Lady Chatterley. It was a 2018 Times Book of the Year. Her 2019 non-fiction book, The Age-Well Project, explores the latest science of longevity and has been serialised in the Guardian and The Daily Mail.

Her journalism has appeared in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Irish Times, Tatler, The Author, Sydney Morning Herald, The Weekend Australian Review, Psychologies and Elle Magazine.

She earned a BA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, where she now sponsors a post-graduate scholarship in creative writing, and an MA from Kingston. She was born in Bristol, and now lives in London and East Sussex.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon*| Bookshop.org* | Blackwells (gorgeous indie edition with sprayed edges)
*These are affiliate links

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Fall by West Camel

Published: December 9th, 2021
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Urban Fiction, LGBT Literature, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this exquisite book. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Karen at Orenda for the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Estranged brothers are reunited over plans to develop the tower block where they grew up, but the desolate estate becomes a stage for reliving the events of one life-changing summer, forty years earlier.

Twins Aaron and Clive have been estranged for forty years. Aaron still lives in the empty, crumbling tower block on the riverside in Deptford where they grew up. Clive is a successful property developer, determined to turn the tower into luxury flats.

But Aaron is blocking the plan and their petty squabble becomes something much greater when two ghosts from the past – twins Annette and Christine – appear in the tower. At once, the desolate estate becomes a stage on which the events of one scorching summer are relived – a summer that shattered their lives, and changed everything forever…

Grim, evocative and exquisitely rendered, Fall is a story of friendship and family – of perception, fear and prejudice, the events that punctuate our journeys into adulthood, and the indelible scars they leave – a triumph of a novel that will affect you long after the final page has been turned.

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MY REVIEW:

Fall is a book that unfolds slowly.  Like a flower yet to bloom, its petals gradually unfurl to reveal its full glory: a beautiful yet broken tale of  trauma and pain. 

Twin brothers Aaron and Clive Goldsworthy have not spoken for 40 years.  Their lives have taken very different paths: Aaron lives in isolation at the rundown tower block where they were raised, while Clive is a successful businessman who owns the company wanting to redevelop it.  As they battle on opposite sides of the same fight, the story moves seamlessly between the present and the life-changing summer whose ripples are still felt today.

This was my first foray into West Camel’s writing.  Exquisitely told, this multilayered story is intricately woven and compelling, filled with characters that lure you in and make you care about them. A somber atmosphere pervades over every page and as each complex layer unfolds the pain pierces your heart.   The author explores subjects such as friendships, fractured and toxic family, prejudice and self-discovery, exploring how the events of our childhood and adolescence shape our entire lives, sometimes leaving scars that will never heal. 

This is definitely one of those books where it is best to go in kind of blind so I won’t say more about the plot.  But I will urge you to pick up this book and experience it for yourself. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel (slipped into the Orenda Books submission pile under a false name), and it was shortlisted for the Polari First Novel Award and longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker Prize. He lives in London and is currently working on his second novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Orenda Books| Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon*| Kobo| Google Books| Apple Books
*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 ☺️ Merry Christmas, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Her Dying Wish (Detective Gina Harte 10) by Carla Kovach

Published: December 16th 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Noir Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Crime Series
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this compelling thriller. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook.

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SYNOPSIS:

Kerstin is wide awake. While her family sleeps around her, the devastating secret her husband just told her is spinning through her mind. Does she really know the man she married? And are her children still safe in this small town?

She jumps as she hears a sound from outside. Peering into the inky darkness, her eyes focus on movement at the bottom of the garden. Someone is out there.

She watches as the figure strikes a single match. Kerstin gasps at the sight of the face staring back at her, smiling, as if enjoying her fear.

A car door slams and the figure makes a dash for the trees, leaving something behind – a small memorial candle. As it flickers in the darkness, Kerstin knows exactly what it means. Someone is coming for her, and her family is in terrible danger…

Fans of Angela Marsons, Cara Hunter and Clare Mackintosh will love this utterly gripping crime novel. Her Dying Wish will keep you up all night!

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MY REVIEW:

A match is struck and the house goes up in flames, a candle left outside like a memorial to their victim.  Detective Gina Harte is determined to catch the killer but also desperately trying to keep her own dark secret that could end her career while under pressure from a journalist that refuses to quit.  After a second attack the mystery deepens, and Harte and her team are in a race against the clock before more lives are taken.

Her Dying Wish is the tenth book in the Detective Gina Harte series and it is another tense, twisty and pacy thriller from the talented Carla Kovach.  Ms. Kovach knows how to pull you in with a compelling plot while keeping you guessing and on the edge of your seat as she takes you on an electrifying rollercoaster ride.  And this book did that more than ever. 

I’ve become very fond of Gina over the last ten books of this series and feel a personal connection to her as a survivor of an abusive marriage.  I’ve been with her through her journey and the many pressures she’s faced, but she is facing her biggest challenge yet and under immense pressure as a local journalist relentlessly pursues her past and threatens to uncover her darkest secret.  This ramps up the tension as the secret she’s hiding has the potential to end her career, and probably this series.  I was rooting for her every step of the way and the idea of all being revealed felt as terrifying for me as it did for Gina.  But did she manage to keep her secret?  You’ll have to read to find out. 

But there is more to this book than Gina’s secret.  There is also a sick killer on the loose who is setting fire to people’s homes while they sleep inside.  Their motives appear to be personal but other than that there are no real clues.  Gina and her team are in a race against the clock with little to go on and the stakes get higher at each turn.  I found myself reading with breathless anticipation as Gina tries to solve the case and save her own skin. 

Once again Carla Kovach has delivered a compelling first-class thriller that you won’t want to put down.  I highly recommend both this book and the whole series to anyone who enjoys well-written crime fiction. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Carla Kovach is a crime and horror author from Worcestershire. Her most popular work, the DI Gina Harte series is published by Bookouture. As well as books, she also writes stage and screenplays.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon*| Google Books| Apple Books| Kobo
*This is an affiliate link

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Wishing you all a Merry Christmas Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Call of the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Published: November 11th, 2021
Publisher: Black Swan
Genre: Humorous Fiction, Adventure Fiction, Holiday Fiction, Pensioners in the Pages
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Today is my stop on the tour for this delightful and uplifting book. Thank you to Anne at Random Things tours for the invitation to take part and to Black Swan for the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Meet the heroine everyone’s talking about . . .

Fiercely resilient and impeccably dressed, Veronica McCreedy has lived an incredible 87 years. Most of them alone, in her huge house by the sea.

But Veronica has recently discovered a late-life love for family and friendship, adventure and wildlife.

More specifically, a love for penguins!

And so when she’s invited to co-present a wildlife documentary, far away in the southern hemisphere, she jumps at the chance.

Even though it will put her in the spotlight, just when she thought she would soon fade into the wings.

Perhaps it’s never too late to shine?

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MY REVIEW:

‘Penguins,’ I remind her, ‘are not only a source of endless entertainment; they are an example to us all.’

Hazel Prior has done it again. Call of the Penguins is another absolute gem of a book. Full of wit, warmth and wisdom, she reunites us with our unlikely heroine in this delightful sequel to one of my favourite books of last year.

Jumping straight in, the story picks up with Veronica McCreedy back at her house in Scotland by the sea. Her adventures in Antarctica with her beloved penguins are never far from her mind. So when she is offered the chance to venture to Australia and the Falklands to present a wildlife documentary on her favourite bird, she jumps at the chance. It seems the octogenarian’s adventures are not over yet.

My love of this book and it’s protagonist are no secret, so I was thrilled when I learned that Hazel Prior had written a follow up and immediately ordered the book. I couldn’t wait to be back with Veronica, although I admit to a little trepidation that I might not love this book as I did the first one. I need not have worried. Call of the Penguins is filled with the same heartwarming and heart-rending emotions of the first book as the author dives deeper into the lives of these now-familiar characters.

“I am fizzing with excitement like a bottle of vintage champagne.”

87-year-old Veronica McCreedy is the same intrepid, bold, sharp, feisty and determined woman from book one, only with less of the cantankerous protective layer she used to surround herself with. Instead, she is now surrounded by people she loves. And her memories of the penguins. And just like Veronica, the other characters in the book are a colourful, intriguing and richly drawn bunch. I had a particular soft spot for Daisy, a nine-year-old battling cancer.  Gutsy, ebullient and utterly compelling, Daisy reminded me a lot of Veronica. It was impossible not to love her, especially during her cute and comical interactions with the penguins. 

This is a story about family, self-discovery, self-reflection, unlocking hidden secrets and penguins. Lots of cute penguins. It is clear that not only does Ms. Prior adore these wobbly creatures, but also has a wide range of knowledge about them. This book is filled with even more penguin trivia, this time taking us to the southern hemisphere and featuring a variety of species. It even gave me a new favourite: the Little penguin. 

Once again the book also contains commentary on climate change, plastics and our responsibilities to change our habits in order to create a world that is safe for the birds and animals we love. Reading it certainly made me stop and think about my own part in this and left me with a desire to change some of my shopping habits. But it never preachy, instead expertly woven into the story so all you feel is the passion of the characters for this vital cause. I love how she educates while entertaining the reader and I’ve learned so much reading these books. 

Utterly addictive, joyous and uplifting, Veronica’s story reminds us all that it is never too late to have an adventure or to make the most of life. It is the perfect book to cosy up with under a blanket on a cold day and totally lose yourself in. After all, that’s what I did. So grab a blanket, hot chocolate and some biscuits, and go read this book.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Hazel is an enthusiastic and experienced harp-player based in Somerset and Exmoor. Her repertoire spans many styles of music and includes singing with harp accompaniment.  

Hazel is also an author. Her two bestselling novels, published by Penguin Random House, are described as ‘quirky’, ‘lyrical’ and ‘life-affirming’. AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS (USA tile = HOW THE PENGUINS SAVED VERONICA) is a Richard and Judy and a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx