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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Book Review: The Imperfect Art of Caring by Jessica Ryn

Published: November 25th, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of this heartwarming novel. Thank you to HQ for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

One small act can make a big difference

Violet Strong is strong by name but not by nature, or so she thinks. She listens but never talks about herself. She’s friendly but doesn’t have many real friends. She’s become good at keeping people at a distance ever since she left home at eighteen and never looked back.

But when Violet is forced to return home to care for her estranged mother, Glenys, she quickly finds out that life as a carer isn’t easy. Feeling overwhelmed, she’s forced to turn to the other local carers, including childhood friend, Adam, for help.

Although returning home still feels like a mistake, maybe it will help Violet right some wrongs. After all, she can’t keep running from her past forever, and in learning to look after others, perhaps Violet can start to finally love herself…

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MY REIVEW:

“Not everyone’s burdens are visible, lots are inside. Trapped. Unseen.”

Sometimes you pick up a book and it is exactly what you need.  That was the case when I decided to read this book on a whim at the weekend.  Uplifting, heartwarming and tender, this book warmed me from the inside like a bowl of porridge on a cold day. 

This is a story of friendship, community and forgiveness.  A story about loving yourself and how there is joy to be found in helping those around us.  The protagonist, Violet, is forced to move back home to care for the mother she’s not spoken to for 14 years, bringing her face to face with the people and place that she has been running from all that time.  The terrible mistake she made haunts her every minute of the day and has left her feeling that she is Bad News and better off alone.  Forced to face her demons, can Violet learn to forgive and love herself?  

I was a big fan of Jessica Ryn’s debut novel so I was highly anticipating this one.  She has a talent for enveloping important life lessons and social commentary in a heartwarming tale, executing it to perfection once more with this novel. Exquisitely written, it draws you into Violet’s world with descriptive, vivid imagery that makes the story leap from the page.  I was mesmerised. Ms. Ryn has solidified her place on my list of auto-buy authors with this book for sure. 

There is a compelling cast of characters who I loved; each one richly drawn and memorable.  I loved Violet and was thrilled that the author made her a book blogger as it immediately gave me a connection to her.  I enjoyed the many literary references throughout the book and how she finds solace in the pages of what she reads, something  I’m sure we can all relate to. She is a wonderful character and I was desperate to know what she could have possibly done that was worth such self-recrimination.  I also had a real soft spot for Tammy and enjoyed watching her blossom as the story went on. 

Charming, warm and affecting, this is a hug in book form that will give you all the feels.  The perfect read to snuggle under a blanket with this winter. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jessica Ryn is a former midwife and homeless resettlement worker. She has recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at CCCU, and her stories have been shortlisted for the Kimberly Chambers’ Kickstarter Award, Wordsmag and the Val Wood Prize for Creative Writing. When she’s not scribbling away, Jessica can be found meandering through the woods, reading stories that pull on the feel-strings and eating yoghurt-covered skittles. Jessica lives in Dover with her husband, two children and their high-spirited springer spaniel. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is her debut novel and her second book, The Imperfect Art of Caring, will be published in November.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx

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book reviews

Review: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Published: February 4th, 2016
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

SYNOPSIS:

A #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE & THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION

An exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge

Lucy is recovering from an operation in a New York hospital when she wakes to find her estranged mother sitting by her bed. They have not seen one another in years. As they talk Lucy finds herself recalling her troubled rural childhood and how it was she eventually arrived in the big city, got married and had children. But this unexpected visit leaves her doubting the life she’s made: wondering what is lost and what has yet to be found.

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MY REVIEW:

“Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden in the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.” 

When I picked up this book I did so out of duty; I am on the blog tour for the follow up and thought I should read this one first. While I’d heard great things and even read a review that day that had me feeling more excited to read it, I still wasn’t sure. It was about getting this one out of the way. I was unprepared for the masterpiece I was about to read. A book that captivated me so completely that I devoured it in one sitting over just a few hours, unable to tear myself away from the mesmerising story between its pages.

Set in New York in the 1980s, this is a story of not only mothers and daughters, but the human condition and its trials and tribulations. Lucy Barton is recovering from an operation when she wakes to find her estranged mother by her bedside. The two have always had a difficult relationship, which the author explores throughout the book. Lucy yearns for her mother’s love and recognition, feeling like she has never received either from her. As the pair talk, she finds herself looking back at her life, particularly her impoverished childhood in a small, rural town. It is a childhood filled with neglect, hunger, abuse and isolation, the scars faded, but still visible on her soul. This angst-ridden inner turmoil is cleverly juxtaposed with the lighthearted gossip and banter mother and daughter share as they talk, ensuring the story never feels too heavy.

After reading this book it is easy to see why Elizabeth Strout is so lauded and has won prestigious awards. The prose is unique and it almost feels that the protagonist is rambling, just blurting out things about her life without a filter. But it totally works. And the reason it works is because the writing is exquisite, pulling me into the world she had crafted and holding me captive until the final page. She has a new fan in this reader for sure.

Beautiful, haunting and evocative, this chilled story is one that will stay with me. My only frustration is why on earth I waited so long to read it. If you haven’t, then don’t wait any longer. Read it now! I promise you won’t regret it.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

th Strout is the author of the New York Times bestseller Olive Kitteridge, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the national bestseller Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine and New York City.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles☺️ Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Lemon by Kwon Yeo-sun (Translated by Janet Hong)

Published: October 14th, 2021
Publisher: Apollo
Genre: Literary Crime Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Thriller, Translated Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Happy Publication Day to this intriguing and thought-provoking novel. Thank you to Jade at Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

In the summer of 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became known as the High School Beauty Murder. There were two suspects: Shin Jeongjun, who had a rock-solid alibi, and Han Manu, to whom no evidence could be pinned. The case went cold.

Seventeen years pass without justice, and the grief and uncertainty take a cruel toll on her younger sister, Da-on, in particular. Unable to move on with her life, Da-on tries in her own twisted way to recover some of what she’s lost, ultimately setting out to find the truth of what happened.

Told at different points in time from the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on’s classmates, Lemon is a piercing psychological portrait that takes the shape of a crime novel and is a must-read novel of 2021.

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MY REVIEW:

“And so began the revenge of the yellow angel. Lemon, I muttered. Like a chant of revenge, I muttered: Lemon, lemon, lemon.”

Set in Korea, Lemon examines the murder of nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on in July 2002 and the impact it had on those left behind. Told by a trio of narrators, the story begins with the interrogation of one of the two boys suspected of her murder, and then follows chronologically to the present day as her sister searches for the truth of what happened that summer night. 

The story unfolds from three different perspectives: the victim’s sister, Da-on, and two of her classmates and each has a unique voice that makes them easy to distinguish from one another. But it is Da-on whose voice is the loudest of them all. Hae-on was the beautiful older sister and when she was killed Da-on was left feeling even more inadequate in comparison. To try and fill the void of her sister’s absence Da-on resorted to extreme measures, including extensive plastic surgery, to try and emulate her sister. But it didn’t work and she is still left struggling to move on. Over the years she becomes increasingly focused on Han Manu, one of the boys suspected of Hae-on’s murder, and embarks on an obsessive search for answers and revenge. It would be impossible not to feel for Da-on, her pain so vivid and raw that it makes you want to weep. And while I didn’t always agree with her actions, I did understand them. 

An intriguing and compelling read, there is a dark, haunting atmosphere that pervades each page. Beautifully written, I loved how the author used different writing styles for the different narrators yet still manages to make it all blend together and flow seamlessly. I particularly loved the chapter titled ‘Rope’ as it just felt so unique, so different to anything else I’ve read. But I have to confess that I have been left with mixed feelings about this one and think it will be a bit of a marmite book. I was all set to give this a five star rating but then it ended in such a sudden and ambiguous way. I was left feeling stunned, like I must have missed something as surely that couldn’t be it. I’ve been pondering on it ever since I finished and I still feel the same way. While I think this is a great book that is worth reading, I would caution anyone who reads it to be prepared for a cryptic climax that will make you think about what you just read. 

While it is a short read at just 148 pages, this is a book packed with emotion that examines a variety of topics. Not only does it look at the impact of Hae-on’s death on those still living over the years, but it also looks at how families were torn apart and lives ruined by suspicion. It also explores how a desire for justice can lead to a quest for vengeance and asks if healing is ever really served by doing so. Is it better to sometimes leave things without closure than cause further hurt and pain by focusing on the past?

A thought-provoking and fascinating read, Lemon is a striking and reflective story that will linger long after that final page. 

Rating: ✯✯✯✯✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kwon Yeo-sun was born in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province of South Korea in 1965. Kwon enjoyed a brilliant literary debut in 1996 when her novel Niche of Green was awarded the Sangsang Literary Award. At the time, novels that reflected on the period of the democratization movement in South Korea, were prevalent.

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MEET THE TRANSLATOR:

Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. She received the 2018 TA First Translation Prize for her translation of Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale, which was also a finalist for both the 2018 PEN Translation Prize and the 2018 National Translation Award. She has translated Ha Seong-nan’s Flowers of Mold, Ancco’s Bad Friends, and Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s Grass.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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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 – Dinner Party: A Tragedy by Sarah Gilmartin

Published: September 16th, 2021
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this intriguing debut. Thank you to Tara McEvoy at Pushkin Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Kate has taught herself to be careful, to be meticulous.

To mark the anniversary of a death in the family, she plans a dinner party – from the fancy table settings to the perfect Baked Alaska waiting in the freezer. Yet by the end of the night, old tensions have flared, the guests have fled, and Kate is spinning out of control.

But all we have is ourselves, her father once said, all we have is family.

Set between the 1990s and the present day, from a farmhouse in Carlow to Trinity College, Dublin, Dinner Party is a dark, sharply observed debut that thrillingly unravels into family secrets and tragedy.

As the past catches up with the present, Kate learns why, despite everything, we can’t help returning home.

A brilliant coming-of-age page-turner about the complications of sibling relationships and the trauma of family secrets, perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell and Anne Enright

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MY REVIEW:

“But there were secrets in the centre of secrets that were still trying to come out.”

I started this book expecting a thriller and instead found myself reading an Irish family saga that follows a dysfunctional family from the nineties to the present day. It started strong, opening with protagonist Kate welcoming her family over for dinner to mark the sixteenth anniversary of the death of her twin sister, Elaine. I loved their banter and the vivid descriptions that made me feel as if I could even smell the food cooking. The story then jumps back to August 1999 as we follow Kate and her family through pivotal moments that shape their lives. 

The inner demons and struggles of each of the Gleeson family are addressed in this exploration of fractured family relationships, and the effects of trauma and loss. It is written with both sensitivity and compassion, though it feels a little slow at times. The matriarch of the family, Bernadette, is an overbearing, volatile woman whose behaviour clearly traumatises her children and looms large over every aspect of their lives, even when physically absent. There were many times I wanted to slap her for things she said or did and I was willing them to stand up to her.  Elaine also casts a shadow over every page, but in a very different way. She is either the vivacious, outgoing twin who Kate adores, or makes the atmosphere feel heavy with the loss of her; a spark of light that was extinguished far too soon.

If you like family drama and literary fiction, then you will enjoy this intriguing debut.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

TW: Eating Disorders

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Gilmartin is an arts journalist who reviews fiction for the Irish Times.

She has an MFA from University College Dublin (2018/2019) and is co-editor of Stinging Fly Stories (2018).

Her short stories have been listed for the Sean O’Faolain Short Story Award, the RTE Francis MacManus Short Story Award and the Hennessy New Irish Writing Prize.

Sarah won Best Playwright for her play Match at the Short+Sweet Dublin 2019 festival.

Her story The Wife won the 2020 Máirtín Crawford Award at Belfast Book Festival.

Dinner Party: A Tragedy is her first novel, to be published by Pushkin Press in October 2021.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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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 Impossible Truths of Love by Hannah Beckerman

Published: October 5th, 2021
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this beautiful and moving story. Thank you to Rhiannon at FMcM Associates for the invitation to take part and to Amazon Publishing for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

From bestselling author Hannah Beckerman comes a moving story about memory, secrets, and what it really means to feel that you’re one of the family.

When Nell’s father makes a deathbed declaration that hints at a long-held secret, it reignites feelings of isolation that have plagued her for years. Her suspicions about the family’s past only deepen when her mother, Annie, who is losing her memories to dementia, starts making cryptic comments of her own.

Thirty-five years earlier, Annie’s life was upended by a series of traumas—one shock after another that she buried deep in her heart. The decisions she made at the time were motivated by love, but she knew even then that nobody could ever understand—let alone forgive—what she did.

As the two women’s stories unravel, a generation apart, Nell finally discovers the devastating truth about her mother’s past, and her own.

In this beautifully observed and emotionally powerful story of identity, memory and the nature of family, Hannah Beckerman asks: To what lengths would you go to protect the ones you love?

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MY REIVEW:

“I want you to know that I’ve always loved you… You need to know that I’ve always loved you even though you were never really mine to love.”

When Nell’s father makes a mysterious deathbed declaration it reignites her long-held feelings of not belonging within her family. Grappling with the death of her father and the slow loss of her mother, Annie, before her eyes from dementia, Nell searches for the truth behind her father’s compassion while also trying to dampen her feelings of being an outsider.

In a second timeline, we go back thirty-five years to when Annie’s world was turned upside down by a series of traumatic events. We follow as she battles to come to terms with them and makes decisions that will have repercussions for everyone in her family. As the two timelines weave together, we watch as Annie’s choices affect Nell in the present day, and how they changed a family forever. 

“In her mind the tapestry of her family history begins to unstitch, the fabric loosening at the seams”

Wow. You really do need the tissues for this one! A beautifully written dual timeline novel about love, family, memory, long-held secrets, and self-discovery, this book takes you on an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. The author has chosen to explore some of the most traumatic and devastating events that a family can go through in this book such as the loss of a child, dementia, the sudden death of a parent and decades-old family secrets. Just one of these would be enough to turn someone’s world upside down, and this family goes through them all. She writes with insight, compassion and sensitivity, drawing the reader into the heart and minds of the Hardy family so vividly that you feel everything alongside them. 

I loved the choice to tell the story in dual timelines and have just two family members as narrators. I think this helped me to feel a deep connection with both Nell and Annie. As the tangled weave of secrets slowly unravelled I felt like I lived it alongside them, breaking my heart as theirs did, shedding tears with them and silently telling them they could get through this. I feel like if other narrators had been involved  it would have diluted the emotional impact of Annie and Nell’s stories. Plus, the author still manages to convey the effect of events on the other characters through the lens of the two women.

Powerful, poignant and heart-rending, this hits you right in the heart and soul. A moving and compelling story that I highly recommend. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

TW: death of a child. Please contact me for any other trigger warnings.

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Hannah Beckerman is a bestselling author and journalist whose novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages worldwide. She is a book critic and features writer for a range of publications including The Observer and the FT Weekend Magazine, and has appeared as a book pundit on BBC Radio 2 and Times Radio. She chairs literary events across the UK, interviewing authors and celebrities, and has judged numerous book prizes including the Costa Book Awards. Prior to writing her first novel, Hannah was a television producer and commissioning editor for the BBC, Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel, and for two years lived in Bangladesh, running a TV project for the BBC. She now lives in London where she writes full-time.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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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: One Last Time by Helga Flatland

Published: June 24th, 2021
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Translated Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

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

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SYNOPSIS:

Anne’s diagnosis of terminal cancer shines a spotlight onto fractured relationships with her daughter and granddaughter, with surprising, heartwarming results. A moving, warmly funny novel by the Norwegian Anne Tyler.

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Anne’s life is rushing to an unexpected and untimely end. But her diagnosis of terminal cancer isn’t just a shock for her and for her daughter Sigrid and granddaughter Mia it shines a spotlight onto their fractured and uncomfortable relationships.

On a spur-of-the moment trip to France the three generations of women reveal harboured secrets, long-held frustrations and suppressed desires, and learn humbling and heart-warming lessons about how life should be lived when death is so close.

With all of Helga Flatland’s trademark humour, razor-sharp wit and deep empathy, One Last Time examines the great dramas that can be found in ordinary lives, asks the questions that matter to us all and ultimately celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, in an exquisite, enchantingly beautiful novel that urges us to treasure and rethink … everything.

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MY REVIEW:

Beautiful, moving and heartfelt, One Last Time is a portrait of an ordinary family, their fractured relationships and terminal illness. 

This was my first foray into Helga Flatland’s books and, as when I pick up any Orenda publication, I had high hopes. I was rewarded with a stylish and atmospheric novel full of heart, warmth and humour. 

The characters are achingly real and draw you in, making you care about them and their splintered relationships. They could be any family. Your family even. That familiarity makes it all the more potent when you read as their lives are turned upside down after Anne’s diagnosis. You can feel Anne’s struggle as she grapples with being sick for the first time in her life, her frustration as her health declines, and her pain as she comes face to face with her own mortality. We see the complexities that can exist in familial relationships, both sides of the story being shown as both Anne and Sigrid tell their story and recollect their difficult past. The author never takes sides, giving voice to both women’s pain, frustration and regret. 

It takes skill to make a book centered around terminal illness something beautiful, elegant and funny, but Flatland pulls it off with aplomb. She avoids it feeling morose, instead making the story poignant and emotionally resonant. One Last Time is a truly absorbing and thought-provoking novel that I highly recommend.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Helga Flatland is one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies. A Modern Family marked Helga’s first English publication when it was released in 2019, achieving exceptional critical acclaim and sales, and leading to Helga being dubbed the ‘Norwegian Anne Tyler’. One Last Time is her second book to be translated into English (by Rosie Hedger), and published in 2021.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Book Review: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

Published: April 29th, 2021
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Thank you to Quercus books for the gifted ARC of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

THE BRAND NEW NOVEL FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR, BETH O’LEARY.

Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend’s wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.

But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie’s ex, Dylan, who she’s avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.

Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they’ve totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with four-hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can’t avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship…

Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly, is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?

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MY REVIEW:

The Road Trip is a story about the joy and terror of falling in love, and the piercing pain and grief of heartbreak. This claustrophobic, locked-room novel centres around Addie and Dylan, a former couple who are forced to share a car ride to their mutual friend’s wedding after a car accident. In close quarters for the first time since their split, they remember the halcyon days of their relationship and then examine the charred ashes that remain, forcing them to confront what went wrong between them.

Beth O’Leary has done it again. She is one of my auto-buy authors and is always one of my first recommendations when someone wants an uplifting read. Her books are always a comfort, like putting on your favourite warm and cosy cardigan on a cold day. They warm your heart and make you smile. You know you’re getting quality writing and an entertaining story filled with real and compelling characters. The Road Trip certainly ticked these boxes, but it also had a slightly more sedated tone. It is still funny, but it focuses more on the emotion of the story than the author’s previous books. 

The storytelling is compelling and as the story progresses we see that Beth has cleverly woven together two love stories about the same couple. I love how she always finds a way to put an original spin on the traditional romance tropes to create something special. I really enjoyed the contrast of seeing the beginnings of their love story and how the author explored the nuances of love and heartache through the two timelines. We see them in the heady days of falling in love: the passion that sizzles between them and how they can’t bear to be apart.  And then it’s demise: the anger and bitterness of betrayal, and  how the person you once shared everything with is now a stranger.

As always, Beth has filled the story with an entertaining and familiar cast of characters. Along for the ride with Addie and Dylan – and driving up the tension – are  Addie’s siter Deb, Dylan’s best friend Marcus and Rodney, who they don’t know but the girls took pity on and  agreed to take to the wedding. I had a soft spot for feisty Deb and loved any scene she was in. I could easily read a book with her as the protagonist as she is just so entertaining to read. 

Fun, fresh and surprising, The Road Trip is a heartwarming and uplifting novel that is the perfect summer read.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages.
She wrote her debut novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher.
She now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time.

Website | Instagram | Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Girls from Alexandria by Carol Cooper

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Agora Books
Format: Kindle (Paperback published April 29th)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Crime Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Historical Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this evocative novel. Thank you to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘A compelling, multi-layered read – equal parts funny, frank and sinister’ – Fiona Valpy, author of The Dressmaker’s Gift

Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.

Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.

Set against the lush and glamorous backdrop of 20th century Alexandria, Carol Cooper’s third novel is equal parts contemporary mystery and historical fiction: a re-coming of age story about family, identity, and homeland.

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MY REVIEW:

Seventy-year-old Nadia is in a London hospital and not quite sure what’s going on. Her memory isn’t what it used to be, and she keeps getting confused and misremembering. But one thing she’s sure of is that she needs to find her sister Simone, who she hasn’t seen in fifty years. The problem is, no one else believes Simone exists. Well, no one except the lovely nurse Deidre, who tries to help her find her sister before it’s too late.

The author opens the book talking about how her inspiration for the story came from her own memories of growing up in Alexandria and you can really feel that authenticity radiating from the pages. The author offers the reader not only an insight into the cultural and political landscape of Egypt, but also an authentic perspective on how it feels to grow up in Alexandria, its multiculturalism and verve oozing from the pages. It is a fascinating, educational and thought-provoking read, the author touching on a variety of subjects such as family, identity, loss, loneliness and female empowerment. 

Nadia is a character I won’t soon forget. It is impossible not to feel for her lying in hospital distressed, confused and alone. But there is so much more to her.  She is a nuanced, funny, compelling and feisty character who is determined to find her sister by solving the brief, cryptic messages she wrote on decades-old postcards; even learning how to use the internet to search for answers. I enjoyed following her through timelines, countries and cultures as she revisited old memories and searched them for any small clue that might lead her to her beloved sister. 

I will admit that it took me a little while to get into the rhythm of this story. The huge shift between the bleak British hospital where Nadia languishes alone and confused and the striking, sunny backdrop of Alexandria was difficult to follow at first, particularly as the flashbacks don’t follow a chronological order. But once I did I was engrossed, lost in Nadia’s story and fully invested in her search for Simone. 

This novel is unlike anything else I’ve read. Merging historical fiction, mystery and coming-of-age fiction,, the author has crafted a multilayered, evocative and affecting story that will linger long after reading. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Carol graduated in medicine from Cambridge University. She then spent time in different hospital specialities, including orthopaedic surgery and rheumatology, before entering general practice when her first son was born.

Carol’s journalism and broadcasting developed in tandem with GP work, and she is now well-known as a media medic. She writes for The Sun newspaper and other titles, and broadcasts on TV and radio on topical health issues.

Many of Carol’s non-fiction books are on child health and parenting, such as the much-loved guide Twins & Multiple Births, and the titles combine her professional expertise and her personal experience as a mother. As co-author of the book General Practice at a Glance, Carol won a British Medical Association book award in 2013. A companion volume, General Practice Cases at a Glance, appeared later.

Carol’s frivolous side has never been far from the surface. She became a columnist for Punch magazine and her articles can still be read in dentists’ waiting rooms. Her contemporary novels One Night at the Jacaranda and Hampstead Fever are also infused with a sharp wit. Her next novel, The Girls from Alexandriais due to be published in April 2021.

At Imperial College, London, Carol teaches medical students consultation skills, clinical reasoning, and medicine in the media. 

Carol is a Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, a trustee of Action on Pre-Eclampsia, an ambassador for Lucy Air Ambulance for Children, and honorary consultant in family medicine for the Twins Trust (formerly Tamba). She was elected President of the Guild of Health Writers in 2014.

Website | Instagram | Twitter

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon*| Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*

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Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Tandem Readalong

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

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

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

SYNOPSIS:

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

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

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

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Victoria Park by Gemma Reeves

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Urban Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this wonderful debut. Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the gifted ARC and Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.

SYNOPSIS:

Mona and Wolfie have lived on Victoria Park for over fifty years. Now, on the eve of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, they must decide how to navigate Mona’s declining health. Bookended by the touching exploration of their love, Victoria Park follows the disparate lives of twelve people over the course of a single year. Told from their multiple perspectives in episodes which capture feelings of alienation and connection, the lingering memory of an acid attack in the park sends ripples of unease through the community. By the end of the novel, their carefully interwoven tales create a rich tapestry of resilience, love and loss.

With sharply observed insight into contemporary urban life, and characters we take to our hearts, Gemma Reeves has written a moving, uplifting debut which reflects those universal experiences that connect us all.

MY REVIEW:

Victoria Park is a difficult book to review as it is just so different to anything I’ve read. It takes place over the course of a year, focusing on a different character each month and is more like a collection of short stories than a novel. Though it took me a little while to get into the flow of the book as I rarely read short stories, I really liked this fresh and unique approach and thought that the author executed it well. 

We are only given a small glimpse into each character’s life as the author tells their stories via individual chapters. But we also see them a little through the eyes of other characters as she has chosen to focus these stories on a group of people whose lives are interwoven. She created a richly drawn community full of a compelling cast of varied characters. I had a soft spot for Wolfie and Mona in particular as they are such wonderful characters. I adored their love story and Wolfie’s devotion to Mona despite the challenges and was thrilled every time they were on the page. 

The author also uses the book to subtly examine many themes such as family, friendship, love, isolation, alienation and adjusting to change. There are some powerful and emotional moments that mostly occur during times the characters are quietly reflecting on their lives. 

Absorbing, funny and delightful, the book has an air of calm that made it a refreshing and relaxing read. I would highly recommend this remarkable debut.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Gemma Reeves is a writer and teacher who lives and works in London. She graduated with distinction from the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and holds an MA in Twentieth Century Literature from Goldsmiths.

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