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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Blog Tour: The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

Published: February 4th, 2021
Publisher: Manilla Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Fiction, Noir Ficiton

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising debut novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Manilla Press for the ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

The sunniest places hold the darkest secrets . . .

A stunning 1950s set debut mystery brimming with atmosphere and perfect for fans of Tangerine, Small Pleasures and Mad Men.
________

Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .

It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .

A beguiling, deeply atmospheric debut novel from the cracked heart of the American Dream, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and ultimately under-estimated.

MY REVIEW:

“Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time.”

Sunnylakes, Santa Monica – a town whose radiant name and shimmering skies belies the truth. Look a little closer and you will see what the residents try to hide; a place crawling with deep, dark secrets. Secrets that are slowly unveiled after Joyce Haney disappears from her home in the town one sunny August afternoon, leaving behind a bloodstained kitchen and  two frightened little girls. 

Wow. Just, wow! I can’t believe this mesmerising book is a debut. Inga Vesper is a talented wordsmith who has woven this layered, intricate plot into a work of art. The prose is witty and poetic, transporting me to 50s suburbia and its  sexism, misogyny, and racism. The author also delves deeply into the historical side of the era, examining topics such as the aforementioned sexism and racism, as well as society’s view of women’s roles, civil rights, domestic abuse and mental health. It is a book that would make a perfect film or TV series and the imagery is so vivid that I felt like I could see the bright blue California skies, feel the sun beating down and the sweat forming at every pore. It was so vivid I felt like I was watching it on the screen in front of me; a mash-up of Mad Men and Perry Mason. 

“The world stops. Her breath sticks in her throat. A cocoon rises up around her, drowning out all sound. She can do nothing but stare at what is in her hands. So small and delicate and terrible.”

Stepford wives and fake smiles is what springs to mind when I think of the women of Sunnylake. And it is soon clear that Joyce Hanley didn’t quite fit the mould. We get to know Joyce through the eyes of her husband, friends and maid and from the woman herself, in glimpses of her that fateful August day.  She is an enigma. A presence that lingers on every page. But it’s a chorus of many voices who tell this story, and the author has created a wonderful melody for us. We have Frank, Joyce’s husband who is your typical fifties man. Nancy Ingram, Joyce’s neighbour and best friend. Mick, the detective searching for Joyce. And Ruby, the Hanley’s maid who first raises the alarm about Joyce’s disappearance. Each character, and all of the supporting cast, are richly drawn and compelling, but it was Ruby and Mick I enjoyed reading most of all. 

Atmospheric, beguiling, lush, claustrophobic and evocative, The Long, Long Afternoon is a decadent piece of classic noir. Don’t miss this breathtaking debut from an exciting new author who should be on everyone’s reading list. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

I am a journalist and author of crime fiction. I have an MSc in climate change management and, in my day job, specialise in science journalism with a focus on EU policy, as well as writing about climate change, energy and the Global South. Available for freelance commissions.

I am a member of the National Union of Journalists, the Association of British Science Writers and the Society of Authors. I run the West London Writers, a lively and welcoming fiction writing group in Ealing.

When I am not writing I like to walk, knit and drink copious amounts of tea with sage and honey.

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Don’t forget to check out the reviews from the other bloggers on the tour.

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

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Emma's Anticipated Treasures Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – November 2020

Well that was a fast month!

The last month of 2020 is almost upon us and my mind is full of what to include in my favourite books of the year. But before that, there’s this month’s reading wrap up and a month of reading more books to do.

November has been a slower month for me as this time of year always brings with it the worsening of my chronic health conditions. I didn’t manage to read all the ones I’d started either and am in the middle of 3 others (one paperback, one kindle and one audio).

So, what did I manage to do? I read thirteen books, took part in thirteen blog tours, two readalongs and one watchalong. One of those readalongs was a bit different as we made cocktails using the new Peaky Blinders Cocktail Book. It was also fun taking part in the Shirley watchalong. It’s made me want to finally read Shirley Jackson’s books and more about her fascinating life.

Here is what I read in November:

  1. The Night Away ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  2. The One Before ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  3. The Diabolical Bones ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. One By One ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  5. The Package ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Company Daughters ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. Fallen Angels ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. How To Belong ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. Body Language ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  11. Her Sister’s Child ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  12. Dead Girl Walking ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. Bright Lies ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read some great books this month. The Diabolical Bones and The Package were standout reads that were contenders for BOTM for a while. But when I read The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside there was no question that this would be my BOTM. EVERYONE needs to read this book! It is one of my favourites this year for sure. You can read the review for it, and the other books I’ve read this month, by clicking the link in their title in the list above.

In December I’m looking forward to a more relaxed month. I’ve only taken on three blog tours and will be doing more mood reading. I can’t wait!

Thank you to the tagged publishers who sent gifted copies.

Did we read any of the same books this month? What was your favourite book in November? Let me know in the comments.

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Blog Tours book reviews

Body Language by A. K. Turner

I’m delighted to be one of the bloggers opening the blog tour to for Body Language, the first book in an exciting new series. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and to Zaffre for the gifted eBook ARC.

Published: November 26th, 2020
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Noir Fiction, Police Procedural, Medical Fiction, Medical Thriller

SYNOPSIS:

For fans of Tess Gerritsen and Kathy Reichs comes a gripping debut thriller introducing Camden’s most exciting new forensic investigator.

Cassie Raven believes the dead can talk. We just need to listen . . .

People think being a mortuary technician is a seriously weird job. They can’t understand why I choose to cut up dead bodies for a living. But they don’t know what I know:

The dead want to tell us what happened to them.

I’ve eviscerated thousands of bodies, but never someone I know before – someone who meant a lot to me; someone I loved.

The pathologist says that her death was an accident.

Her body is telling me differently.

MY REVIEW:

“From her first day in the mortuary five years ago it had felt totally natural to talk to the bodies in her care, to treat them as if they were still alive — still people. Occasionally they would even answer.”

Body Language introduces us to a new and original voice in crime fiction. Cassie Raven is a goth mortuary assistant who secretly believes the dead speak to her, practices taxidermy in her free time and has held a fascination with the dead since childhood. It goes without saying that she’s viewed as strange by some. But I liked this complex, flawed and slightly offbeat protagonist. 

When the body of her former teacher, mentor and friend Geraldine Edwards is brought into the morgue following her sudden death, Cassie is hit by not only a tidal wave of grief, but the feeling that this wasn’t a natural death. When the police and pathologist rule out foul play she decides to listen to what the body is telling her and embarks on her own investigation. 

This was an entertaining read. It took me a while to get into, but asked halfway through the pace picked up and oozed tension. From that point on I was unable to stop reading and stayed up until the early hours finishing the whole thing. 

The novel is full of interesting and memorable characters and storylines that feel both far-fetched and relatable. The author’s examination of grief and trauma stood out to me in particular for the sensitive, moving and realistic way in which it is portrayed. And Cassie isn’t our only protagonist. We are also told the story from the point of view of DS Phyllida Flyte. She and Cassie are poles apart and yet at their core they are very much like. They are both strong women who are seen as outsiders and believe in fighting to get the answers and justice that victims deserve. I liked how the pair paralleled each other while instantly disliking each other and enjoyed watching the slow shift in their dynamic over the course of the book. 

A tense, twists, darkly humorous and sometimes grisly read that keeps you guessing, this is a great start to a new series. I’m especially excited to see where the author takes Cassie next after the jaw-dropping conclusion. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

A.K.’s first foray into crime fiction was a detective thriller trilogy, written under the pen name Anya Lipska, following the adventures of Janusz Kiszka, tough guy and fixer to London’s Polish community. The first of the trilogy led Val McDermid to select her for the prestigious New Blood panel at Harrogate Crime Festival. All three books won critical acclaim and are currently under option as a potential TV crime series.

Set in a Camden morgue, A.K.’s new novels feature crime-solving Goth-girl mortuary attendant Cassie Raven. Cassie has already appeared in Cut and Paste, a crime short for BBC Radio 4, who are interested in commissioning further stories featuring the character.

In her other life as a TV producer and writer, A.K. makes documentaries and drama-docs on subjects as diverse as the Mutiny on the Bounty, the sex lives of Neanderthals, and Monty Don’s Italian Gardens.

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Blog Tours book reviews

How To Belong by Sarah Franklin

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Zaffre
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Lesbian Literature

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this delightful novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and Zaffre for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Jo grew up in the Forest of Dean, but she was always the one destined to leave for a bigger , brighter future. When her parents retire from their butcher’s shop, she returns to her beloved community to save the family legacy, hoping also to save herself. But things are more complex than the rose-tinted version of life which sustained Jo from afar.

Tessa is a farrier, shoeing horses two miles and half a generation away from Jo, further into the forest. Tessa’s experience of the community couldn’t be more different. Now she too has returned, in flight from a life she could have led, nursing a secret and a past filled with guilt and shame.

Compelled through circumstance to live together, these two women will be forced to confront their sense of identity, and reconsider the meaning of home.

MY REVIEW:

“She’s gradually learning to identify the shape and heft of other people’s feelings, not just her own. The toil it always takes to be in the world, whoever you are.”

How To Belong is a beautifully-written and absorbing story about our need to belong and finding a place to call home. 

The story centres around Jo and Tessa, two very different women who end up living together when circumstances force Tessa to take in a lodger. Both are facing life-changing upheavals: Jo in her choice to leave her career as a barrister in London to return to her hometown of New Forest Dene, and Tessa as she tries to recover from a devastating break-up and attempts to grapple with the frightening symptoms afflicting her that seem to be worsening, leaving her unable to function at times. They are compelling characters and I enjoyed their awkward dynamic, finding it much more fun to read than if they’d been instant buddies. 

While Jo is undeniably the warmer and more outgoing of the two, I found myself drawn towards Tessa and her mysterious story. While Jo is like an open book, Tessa is one you have to read in order to figure out; the pieces revealing themselves slowly until you can complete the picture. I also related to her fear about her deteriorating symptoms and being scared to have hope. This expertly written character found a place in my heart that I know will linger.

This was my first time reading anything by this author and it certainly won’t be my last. Her engaging prose immersed me in the world she’d created and I quickly devoured this delightful novel. I would highly recommend this book and think it is one you can enjoy whatever genres you usually prefer to read. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Franklin grew up in rural Gloucestershire and has lived in Austria, Germany, the USA and Ireland. She lectures in publishing at Oxford Brookes University and has written for the Guardian, Psychologies magazine, The Pool, the Sunday Express and the Seattle Times. Sarah is the founder and host of Short Stories Aloud, and a judge for the Costa Short Story Award. Sarah lives in between London and Oxford with her family.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce

Published: August 20th, 2020
Publisher: Wildfire
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Psychological Fiction, Crime Fiction, Domestic Thriller

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this sizzling thriller. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and Wildfire for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Shocking, dark, addictive – THE LIES YOU TOLD is the compulsive new thriller from Harriet Tyce, best selling author of BLOOD ORANGE.

Can you tell the truth from the lies?

Sadie loves her daughter and will do anything to keep her safe.

She can’t tell her why they had to leave home so quickly – or why Robin’s father won’t be coming with them to London.

She can’t tell her why she hates being back in her dead mother’s house, with its ivy-covered walls and its poisonous memories.

And she can’t tell her the truth about the school Robin’s set to start at – a school that doesn’t welcome newcomers.
Sadie just wants to get their lives back on track.

But even lies with the best intentions can have deadly consequences…

‘I read The Lies You Told in two days, barely able to turn the pages fast enough. It’s spare and taut, the sense of wrongness building in chilling, skilfully written layers, with a jaw dropping last line twist’ Lisa Jewell, #1 bestselling author

‘I adored Blood Orange and therefore could not wait to get my hands on The Lies You Told. It is a triumphant encore, every bit as intriguing, well-written and addictive as its predecessor’ Sara Collins, award-winning author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton

‘An absolute page turner with a twist you’ll read twice because you can’t believe you missed it’ John Marrs, author of What Lies Between Us

MY REVIEW:

“Can you tell the truth from the lies? “

Chilling, addictive and surprising, The Lies You Told is a sizzling domestic thriller that I had me hooked from beginning to end. The author had me transfixed, unable to put the book down to sleep like I should and spent every minute I wasn’t reading thinking about it. 

Sadie was a great protagonist. She was likeable and relatable, trying to stay strong and hold it all together while feeling like she is falling apart on the inside. She has a lot to deal with: her marriage ending, moving back from another country, unwelcoming parents at her daughter’s new school, and the toxic legacy of her late mother that haunts the walls of their home. But she is determined to build a new life for herself and her daughter, and I was rooting for her to succeed.  

But that isn’t the whole story. This is an intricate and layered novel with a creeping malice that lingers in the air and seeps from the pages, casting a shadow of foreboding and suspense. In short chapters written in italics, the story flashes forward to a Sunday yet to come. At first Sadie is telling herself not to worry, that Robin is safe, slowly escalating in tension until part two, when we finally arrive at that Sunday and follow the heart-stopping events as they happen. 

This was my first time reading anything by Tyce, and she lived up to all the great things I’ve heard. She tackles a wide range of topics such as domestic violence, toxic families, parental pressure, bullying and grooming, crafting a tense, twisty page-turner with a chilling edge. The story is skillfully plotted and filled with compelling characters that enrich the suspense. 

Darkly atmospheric and utterly riveting, this kept me guessing right up until the jaw-dropping finale. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychological fiction.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Harriet Tyce was born and grew up in Edinburgh. She did a degree in English Literature at Oxford University before a law conversion course at City University, following which she was a criminal barrister for nearly ten years.

Having escaped law and early motherhood, she started writing, and recently completed the MA in Creative Writing – Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia. Blood Orange is her first novel, and The Lies You Told will be published in August 2020.

She lives in north London with her husband and children, and two rather demanding pets, a cat and a dog.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Lies I Tell by Joel Hames

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Published: June 9th, 2020
Publisher: FFS Publishing
Format: Kindle, Paperback
Genre: Psychological Thriller

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour and Happy Publication Day Joel Hames. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and FFS Publishing for the ebook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

SHE’S WATCHING YOU
BUT WHO’S WATCHING HER?

From the bestselling author of Dead North, a tense, claustrophobic psychological thriller perfect for fans of Lucy Foley, Claire McGowan and Clare Mackintosh.

Meet Polly. Meet Emily. Meet Belinda.

They’re all me. My name is Lisa and I’m an identity thief. If I’m not inside your system stealing your money, I’ve probably already stolen it. I’m your friend. I’m a thief. I’m gone.
I’m in control.

Only now, the tables have been turned. I’m in danger. My son is in danger. And I don’t know where that danger’s coming from.

Any friend.
Any enemy.
Any stranger.

Anyone from the past I’ve been trying to outrun for years.

NOBODY CAN BE TRUSTED.

MY REVIEW:

When she fled her tragic childhood home at the age of fifteen,  Lisa Atkins shed her first identity and became someone else. Ever since she has invented new identities in order to outrun her past and to scam her targets.

But now the tables have turned and she is the target. Realising that she and her son, Simon, are in danger, Lisa frantically tries to find the source of the danger. But they remain illusive. Will the past she’s been trying to outrun for two decades finally catch up with her?

This readable and intriguing thriller captured my attention quickly. The story is told in chapters that alternate between the past and present with flashbacks revealing the terrible homelife she endured and the trauma that has cast a shadow over her whole life. In the present day we watch her keep track of her various identities and scams while also being a doting mother to four-year-old Simon. It provides a shocking and thought-provoking reminder of how our modern-day love of technology and social media can be used against us by those with the knowledge to do so. Personally, I could only think how being so many different people must be exhausting. Just reading all she had to do to keep on top of her many identities left me feeling like I needed a nap!

One of the things I liked most about this book was Lisa’s nuanced and layered character. Lisa isn’t supposed to be someone we like. She’s a con artist and a thief who takes pride in what she does, but she is also a loving mother and someone with a tragic past. There is something about her that was endearing to me from the start and I couldn’t help but like and root for her. The flashbacks to her childhood were certainly a contributing factor to this as the story went on as it was impossible not to be moved by what she had gone through.  

Another thing I enjoyed about this novel is that I found it hard to predict. I had no idea who was targeting Lisa or what turns the story would take next. My only issue with this book, and the reason I have given it 3.5 stars instead of 4, is that about a fifth of the way in the tension wanes and doesn’t pick back up for quite some time. But overall this was a fascinating, twisty, and enjoyable thriller. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Joel Hames lives in rural Lancashire, England, with his wife and two daughters, where he works hard at looking serious and pretending to be a proper novelist.

After a varied career in London which involved City law firms, a picture frame warehouse, an investment bank and a number of market stalls (he has been known to cry out “Belgian chocolates going cheap over ‘ere” in his sleep), Joel relocated from the Big Smoke to be his own boss. As a result, he now writes what he wants, when he wants to (which by coincidence is when the rest of the family chose to let him).

Joel’s first novel, Bankers Town, was published in 2014, and The Art of Staying Dead followed in 2015. The novellas Brexecution (written and published in the space of ten days following the UK’s Brexit referendum, with half the profits going to charity) and Victims were published in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

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Blog Tours book reviews

Mine by Clare Empson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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Published: March 19th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery

Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part in this blog tour and to Orion for my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

‘Who am I? Why am I here? Why did my mother give me away?’

On the surface, Luke and his girlfriend Hannah seem to have a perfect life. He’s an A&R man, she’s an arts correspondent and they are devoted to their new-born son Samuel.

But beneath the gloss Luke has always felt like an outsider. So when he finds his birth mother Alice, the instant connection with her is a little like falling in love.

When Hannah goes back to work, Luke asks Alice to look after their son. But Alice – fuelled with grief from when her baby was taken from her 27 years ago – starts to fall in love with Samuel. And Luke won’t settle for his mother pushing him aside once again…

MY REVIEW:

I was not prepared for the avalanche of emotions that I would feel while reading this book. Ms. Empson broke me with this absorbing story of motherhood, family and true love. 

Told over dual timelines the story begins with 27-year-old Luke meeting his birth mother, Alice, for the first time. We then follow as they get to know each other and as Alice meets Luke’s girlfriend Hannah and baby son Samuel, and Luke meets his father Rick. Their reunion goes so well that when Hannah returns to work after her maternity leave, Alice is the one to look after Samuel. But as Alice gets closer to the family, and Samuel in particular, Luke begins to question how well they know her. Can they really trust her with their baby? Or is Luke being paranoid because he feels he’s being pushed out by his mother all over again? 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started this book, but it certainly wasn’t something so emotional.  The story is steadily paced with flashbacks to Alice finding her true love, becoming pregnant and giving up the baby she wanted to raise running parallel to the story of the two of them reconnecting twenty-seven years later. I liked the author’s decision to only have Alice’s point of view in the flashbacks as it added to the sense of mystery and put us in the same boat as Luke with wondering what happened when he was a baby and what her intentions are now. It also added to the sense of foreboding that is present throughout the book, though you are never quite sure what it will mean and where the story will take you. 

The characters slowly reveal themselves in the same way people do when getting to know each other. You could tell the author had researched the emotional impact of adoption on everyone involved and she brings that to each character expertly. The author has a way of reaching into your heart and soul so you feel everything they do: elation, trepidation and optimism when Luke and Alice meet and become part of each other’s lives, the passion and intensity of Alice and Jacob falling in love, and Luke’s heartache and confusion as his feelings for his birth mother become more complex. Both narrators were likeable, relatable and sympathetic. I was rooting for them individually and as mother and son, hoping for a happy ending after the heartache they’ve both suffered. 

Mine is an engrossing, poignant, hopeful and heartbreaking story. This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author and I will be buying her first book so I can read more. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Clare Empson worked as a staff writer on national newspapers covering everything from collapsing merchant banks to tea with the late Barbara Cartland (everything pink including the cakes). Eight years ago, she moved to the West Country and founded the arts and lifestyle blog countrycalling.co.uk.

The idyllic setting inspired her first novel, which reveals the darker side of paradise. Clare lives on the Wiltshire/Dorset border with her husband and three children.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart by Margarita Montimore ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: March 5th, 2020
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Magical Realism

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this enjoyable debut. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and to Gollancz and Netgalley for the eBook ARC in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

If you knew your future, would you change your past?

Brooklyn, 1982. Oona Lockhart is about to celebrate her 19th birthday and ring in the New Year. But at the stroke of midnight, she is torn from her friends and boyfriend, finding herself in her fifty-one-year-old body, thirty-two years into the future.

Greeted by a friendly stranger, Oona learns that on every birthday she will enter a different year of her adult life at random. Still a young woman on the inside, but ever changing on the outside, who will she be next year? Wealthy philanthropist? Nineties Club Kid? World traveller? Wife to a man she’s never met?

While Oona gets glimpses of the future and thinks she knows what’s to come, living a normal life is challenging. As she struggles between fighting her fate and accepting it, Oona must learn to navigate a life that’s out of order – but is it broken?

Margarita Montimore’s whip-smart debut is an uplifting joyride through an ever-changing world that shows us the endurance of love, the timelessness of family and what it means to truly live in the moment.

MY REVIEW:

It’s New Years Eve and when the clock strikes midnight it will be 1983 and Oona Lockhart will turn nineteen. Surrounded by friends and the love of her life, Dale, she’s having an amazing night and feeling excited about the year ahead. Only when the clock strikes twelve she finds herself awakening in a strange house, with a strange man next to her who claims they are ‘besties’ and in a body that is much older and bigger than the one she was just in. It’s 2015 and Oona is nineteen on the inside, but she’s fifty-one on the outside. She’s just had her first ‘jump’ and learns that from now on at midnight every new year she’ll jump to an undetermined and unpredictable year of her life. She will never live chronologically and her internal and external ages will always be different. She only retains the memories her internal self has lives so it is like waking up with amnesia each year. 

Frightened and full of disbelief, most of Oona’s first year is spent hoping she’ll wake up as her nineteen-year-old self again. Slowly she learns more about what to expect from her mother and Kenzie, her assistant, who are the only two people who know about her strange condition. As the years pass, Oona learns to navigate her unique situation and make the best of her rearranged life.

This was a charming, quick and entertaining read. The synopsis definitely piqued my interest. Afterall, who hasn’t thought it would be fun to jump back into a time we’re nostalgic for or know what will happen in the future? How would you feel if that actually happened? And can we really change our destiny or are some things just meant to be?

As we travel through Oona’s jumbled life we experience the highs and lows along with her on an emotional rollercoaster. Each year felt like it was almost a different person as she tries to get to grips with how best to live this crazy life. She grieves for the years and the people missing from her life in each jump, faces the temptation to know too much about her future and to change what she wishes were different and faces the heartbreaking realisation that any lasting relationships, be it romantic or friendships, will be virtually impossible. She doesn’t alway handle things well or do the right thing, like any of us in our chronological lives, but overall she does a great job of handling a situation for which there is no rule book. 

The author skillfully weaves together the myriad of threads of this complex and intricate plot, peppering the story with surprising twists and revelations along the way. Though the ending was perfect for the story, I was left wishing I could have read more of her jumbled years. The characters are richly drawn and I quickly took to Oona, finding her relatable despite the bizarre situation she finds herself in. At the core she was the same as anybody else and that truth is what made her someone you care about. 

Compelling, thought-provoking and quirky, The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart is a great debut. A perfect read for anyone looking for something a bit different.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

After receiving a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, Margarita Montimore worked for over a decade in publishing and social media before deciding to focus on the writing dream full-time. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and dog.

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Categories
Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – February 2020

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February has been a crazy but wonderful reading month. I’ve read a total of fifteen books, taken part in sixteen blog tours and in two readalongs – the second one I’m still currently reading. So here is what I read this past month:

  1. Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 
  2. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. The Alibi Girl by C.J. Skuse ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
  4. Beast (Six Stories #4) by Matt Wesolowski ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. Real Life by Adeline Dieudonné ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Guest List by Lucy Foley ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. The Holdout by Graham Moore ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. Saturdays at Noon by Rachel Marks ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  11. The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. The Snakes by Sadie Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. Tales of Mystery Unexplained by Steph Young ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  15. Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can read the synopsis for the books and my reviews by clicking on the title for all except Away with the Penguins, which will be published on Monday, March 2nd.

It’s been another month of strong and phenomenal reads, which made it almost impossible to choose a favourite. After a lot of thought I’ve decided it was a tie between the two books that linger most in my mind after reading – The Memory Wood and Away with the Penguins.

In February I also attended two book events. On February 19th I attended my first book event here in Sheffield – the book launch of Firewatching, the sensational debut by local author Russ Thomas. It was a fantastic evening and I left eagerly anticipating book two in the series which is out this time next year. You can read my review for Firewatching by clicking here.

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Just a few days ago I travelled to Nottingham for the second event, The Orenda Roadshow. Orenda is one of my favourite publishers. Every book I’ve read from there collection is amazing. When you pick up one of their books you know you’re getting quality writing, great storytelling and something a bit different. Plus there’s the fact that Karen Sullivan is one of the nicest people I’ve met. At the event each of the twelve authors had a minute to talk about their latest release and later read an excerpt from the book – which resulted in tears of laughter when Matt Wesolowski read his excerpt as a 20-something vlogger. I only wish I’d videoed it. It was great to meet and get a glimpse into the personalities of so many authors and I came away with a lot of extra books on my wishlist. There was also the added pleasure of  meeting blog tour organiser extraordinaire Anne Cater at the event. A wonderful surprise.

How was your February? Did you read any of the same books? What was your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Holdout by Graham Moore ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Legal Thriller.

Welcome to my spot on the blog tour for this sensational thriller. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Orion for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

One juror changed the verdict. What if she was wrong?

‘Ten years ago we made a decision together…’

Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. It’s an open and shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed.

Until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, persuades the rest of the jurors to vote not guilty: a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.

Ten years later, one of the jurors is found dead, and Maya is the prime suspect.

The real killer could be any of the other ten jurors. Is Maya being forced to pay the price for her decision all those years ago?

MY REVIEW:

A decade ago Maya Searle was the lone holdout on a jury that was deciding the fate of Bobby Nock, who was on trial for the murder of fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver. The others slowly changed their votes until they unanimously voted not guilty. Afterwards, the group were shocked to find themselves vilified by the press and public, 84 percent of whom believed he was guilty. Their lives were irrevocably changed and Maya has done her best to shake off her notoriety in the years since. Now a defence lawyer she is pulled back into that time she’d rather forget when she’s approached by one of the other jurors who claims to have new evidence of Bobby’s guilt and plans to reveal it in a docuseries about the case. But on the night all the jurors are back together for the first time in ten years, and before the new evidence is revealed, one of them is found murdered. And Maya is the prime suspect. Is someone exacting revenge for what happened ten years ago? And did Maya really allow a guilty man to go free?

As soon as I read the synopsis for this book I knew I had to read it. My anticipation was sky high when I started reading and, thankfully, it was even more spectacular than I was hoping. The writing was of such a high caliber that I wasn’t surprised to read the author is an award winner. Sizzling with tension, Moore knows how to hold his reader captive. Each time I was sure I had things figured out he’d pull the rug from under me. 

Told in dual timelines, the flashbacks are particularly fascinating as we get a glimpse of each of the juror’s backstories, their thoughts during the trial and deliberations, and watch how they went from one holdout voting not guilty, to changing their verdicts; each falling one at a time like dominoes as Maya argued her case. The characters were all deftly written, their transgressions slowly revealed as Maya tries to discover who would want one of them dead. I could wax lyrical about the details of this book but I hate giving away spoilers, especially when the surprises in the book are part of what makes it so brilliant. 

The Holdout is an astounding, unexpected and mind-blowing thriller. I tore through this twisty whodunit with an energy almost as fervent as the pace of the book itself. I was left not knowing which way was up after the magnificent conclusion and am still thinking about it weeks later. I have no doubt that this will be one of the most talked about thrillers of 2020. This is an absolute must-read.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Graham Moore is a New York Times bestselling novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay for The  Imitation Game won the Academy Award and WGA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2015 and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe.

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