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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

REVIEW: Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Publisher: November 15th, 2022
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Literary Fiction, Saga, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day Mad Honey! Thank you to Eleni at Hodder & Stoughton for my gifted proof copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Olivia fled her abusive marriage to return to her hometown and take over the family beekeeping business when her son Asher was six. Now, impossibly, her baby is six feet tall and in his last year of high school, a kind, good-looking, popular ice hockey star with a tiny sprite of a new girlfriend.

Lily also knows what it feels like to start over – when she and her mother relocated to New Hampshire it was all about a fresh start. She and Asher couldn’t help falling for each other, and Lily feels happy for the first time. But can she trust him completely?

Then Olivia gets a phone call – Lily is dead, and Asher is arrested on a charge of murder. As the case against him unfolds, she realises he has hidden more than he’s shared with her. And Olivia knows firsthand that the secrets we keep reflect the past we want to leave behind ­­- and that we rarely know the people we love well as we think we do.

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MY REIVEW:

“If you want to understand something, you first need to accept the fact of your own ignorance. And then, you need to talk to people who know more than you do, people who have not just thought about the facts, but lived them.”

First of all, can we take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous cover of this book. Even if I wasn’t a fan of the author, this would be one I’d pick up for the cover alone. Thankfully, what’s between the pages is as mesmerising as what’s on the outside. Mad Honey is a contemporary masterpiece. Complex, layered, and thought-provoking, this is a book that will consume you from the first page until the last and then linger long after reading. There are shocking revelations and, as we’ve come to expect from Ms. Picoult, the story examines some controversial and difficult subjects that are told with sensitivity and compassion, while never shying away from harrowing or painful truths.

Jodi Picoult has been my favourite author ever since I read My Sister’s Keeper almost twenty years ago. Her books are auto-buys for me without even reading the synopsis, but I have to say that this one had me very intrigued because it is co-written with an author I’ve never read. And it’s perfect. Not only does Ms. Picoult once again showcase her ability to illuminate ordinary lives and reveal the secrets that are hidden behind people’s unassuming exteriors, but this is complimented by Ms. Finney Boylan. The duo have crafted a narrative so seamless that it is impossible to know where one ends and the other begins. The prose is at times poetic, others stark or heartrending, and at other times joyous or funny, taking us through every emotion alongside their pitch-perfect characters. And in an added bonus for long-term Picoult fans, this book also features an appearance from a much-loved character, lawyer Jordan McAffee, who has appeared in a number of Jodi’s previous novels.

“You tell yourself this wouldn’t happen in your hometown.
You tell yourself this isn’t anyone you know.
Until it does, and it is.”

Not only is this a story told by dual authors, but it is one of dual timelines and dual narrators: Olivia tells us the story in the present, while Lily narrates past events. The two stories are expertly interwoven to take you through the events following Lily’s death while also slowly revealing what really happened in the months leading up to that fateful day in a masterfully choreographed narrative. The authors transport us into their psyche, making us feel everything they do. There is a real sense of isolation that radiates from both narrators, their personal anguish and trauma making them feel there is no one who understands what they are living. It is tortured and heartbreaking, but oh-so real, with an overwhelming grief that feels cavernous. But it isn’t all doom and gloom. We also feel their joy, which is particularly well portrayed in Lily as we are reminded of how it feels to experience the heady, all-consuming feeling of falling in love, the excitement of discovering each other and the apprehension of opening up your whole self to them.

But what I loved most about Olivia and Lily is how authentic and recognisable they both are. These women could be your family, friend or neighbour; making the story really hit home as you realise these things could happen to anyone. Even you. In fact, one of the things that made this story so hard to read for me was how much I saw myself in Olivia and my eldest child in Asher. Like Olivia I fled an abusive marriage and then raised my son alone for many years, giving us a strong and unbreakable bond. My son is also the same age as Asher is in the current timeline, making it impossible not to bring his face into my mind as I read every word.

“These people, who do not really see me, have no idea what they are missing.”

Powerful, moving and astutely observed, Mad Honey is, quite simply, phenomenal. Not only is this one of my favourite books this year, but it is also one of my favourite Jodi Picoult books ever. It has also helped me discover a new author whose back catalogue I now plan to explore. 

READ IT NOW!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

DM for Trigger Warnings

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MEET THE AUTHORS:

Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-eight novels, including Wish You Were Here, The Book of Two Ways, A Spark of Light, Small Great Things, Leaving Time, and My Sister’s Keeper, and, with daughter Samantha van Leer, two young adult novels, Between the Lines and Off the Page. Picoult lives in New Hampshire.

Her next novel, Mad Honey, is co-written with Jennifer Finney Boylan.

Jennifer Finney Boylan is the author of sixteen books, including GOOD BOY: My Life in Seven Dogs. Since 2008 she has been a contributing opinion writer for op/ed page of the New York Times; her column appears on alternate Wednesdays. A member of the board of trustees of PEN America, Jenny was also the chair of the board of GLAAD for many years. She is currently the Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence and Professor of English at Barnard College of Columbia University.

Jenny is a well known advocate for human rights. She has appeared five times on the Oprah Winfrey Show and has also been a guest or a commentator on Larry King Live, Good Morning America, and The Today Show. She is also a member of the faculty of the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference of Middlebury College as well as Sirenland, in Positano, Italy.

She lives in Maine with her wife Deirdre. They have two children.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Isaac and the Egg by Bobby Palmer

Published: August 18th, 2022
Publisher: Headline
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this extraordinary debut. Thank you to Headline for the invitation to take part in the tour and my gifted copies of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

This is the story of Isaac and the Egg, the most talked-about book of the year.



Isaac stands alone on a bridge and screams.

Something screams back.

And that, like everything which follows, is unforgettable.


This is a book about a lot of things – grief, hope, friendship, love. It’s also about what you’d do if you stumbled into the woods at dawn, found something extraordinary there, and decided to take it home.

It’s a tale that might seem familiar. But how it speaks to you will depend on how you’ve lived until now.

Sometimes, to get out of the woods, you have to go into them. Isaac and the Egg is one of the most hopeful, honest and wildly imaginative novels you will ever read.

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MY REVIEW:

“Reality is fragile.  All it takes is a gentle tap to break its shell.” 

Oh, my heart. 

I finished this book last night and I’m still at a loss for words.  This is a story that needs to be experienced.  You will laugh, cry, your heart will break and then it will mend.  There are times you will wonder what on earth you are reading.  But I urge you to keep going because the reward is truly spectacular.  A balm for the soul that will fill your heart with hope. 

This extraordinary debut takes you on an emotional journey alongside Isaac Addy,  a grieving man who feels he has nothing left to live for.  The story opens with him standing alone on a bridge.  He screams out into the void and, to his shock, something screams back.  What follows is a truly original story that will linger long after reading.

Author Bobby Palmer paints a picture with prose that is achingly real and raw. It is meticulously written, each word carefully chosen to convey the devastating chasm of grief so evocatively that I felt my own heart break and cried real tears, yet Palmer manages to turn the ashes of grief into a beautiful and hopeful story that everyone will be talking about.  

Atmospheric, luminous, hypnotic and dreamlike, Isaac and the Egg is without a doubt one of my top reads of the year.  This accomplished debut needs to be on every reader’s TBR.  And as for Bobby Palmer? Watch out world, a new literary star has arrived!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Bobby Palmer is a freelance journalist who writes for publications including GQ, Men’s Health, Time Out and Cosmopolitan. Isaac and the Egg is his first novel.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Are you planning on reading this book? Let me know in the comments.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx

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

*All links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Published: August 18th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Fairy Tale, Horror Fiction, Contemporary Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day Sunyi Dean! I am delighted to be sharing my review for this darkly delicious debut on its book birthday. Thank you to Sasha at Pride Book Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to Sunyi Dean and Harper Voyager UK for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

A gorgeous new fantasy horror – a book about stories and fairy tales with family and love at its dark heart…

Perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, and Let the Right One In

Hidden across England and Scotland live six old Book Eater families.

The last of their lines, they exist on the fringes of society and subsist on a diet of stories and legends.

Children are rare and their numbers have dwindled, so when Devon Fairweather’s second child is born a dreaded Mind Eater – a perversion of her own kind, who consumes not stories but the minds and souls of humans – she flees before he can be turned into a weapon for the family… or worse.

Living among humans and finding prey for her son, Devon seeks a cure for his hunger. But time is running out – for her family want her back, and with every soul her son consumes he loses a little more of himself…

This is a story of escape, a savage mother’s devotion and a queer love that will electrify readers looking for something beguiling, thrilling, strange and new.

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MY REVIEW:

“We consume written knowledge, her aunts and uncles had said so many times. We consume and store and collect all forms of paper flesh as the Collector created us to do, clothed as we are in the skin of human-kind.  But we do not read, and we cannot write. “

Wow.  Just, wow.  

The Book Eaters is a darkly delicious debut that you will get lost in.  This was a highly anticipated book for me from the moment I saw the magnificent cover and read the synopsis, but I was unprepared for just how special it would be or how I would fall deeper in love with every page.  I luxuriated in it, wanting to devour it quickly but choosing instead to take my time and savour every word as I never wanted it to end.  It is truly something special and I think I may have found my favourite book of the year so far.

The story explores a secret society hidden within the human world.  They wear our skin as their disguise but feast on books, are forbidden to read and cannot write.  They live in seclusion among one of the Six Families throughout the UK but their numbers are rapidly dwindling as daughters are extremely rare. 
Devon Fairweather no longer lives with her kind.  Instead she is hiding among humans in order to protect her five-year-old son, Cai who is a mind-eater – a rare genetic mutation that means he must feast on the brains and souls of humans to survive.  The Families would turn him into a weapon, so she must hide him while also searching the country for the one thing that can cure his hunger. But time is running out. Will she be able to find the cure before it’s too late?

“Like the other Families, the Fairweathers had libraries with a flavor all their own: vintage books stitched from carefully aged leather — the darker the better—with textured, embossed covers.”

This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before.  Sinister, atmospheric, hypnotic and ambitious, this is a clever twist on the usual fantasy novel.  There are characters who aren’t human and feast on books, a lesbian herione, asexual best friend, and even though they live in a patriarchal society, girls are highly desired and valued while boys are expendable.  There are even creative spins on the usual princesses, knights and dragons we see in fantasy books.  It is all so bizarre yet totally believable and I didn’t question it for one moment.  

Sunyi Dean is an exceptional talent who has crafted a story that is like a work of art.  From the first lines she draws you into the rich world she has created, the cinematic imagery bringing everything to life in vivid technicolour and immersing you in the story with her pitch perfect writing.  Before I’d even finished the first chapter I was utterly captivated and enthralled.  It is a book that fuels the imagination, almost as if I was devouring the book as hungrily as one of the book eaters to digest and experience every perfectly-written word.  I was also impressed that despite all of the world building and backstories that were told, the book never lost momentum or tension for a moment, keeping my heart racing until the very last page.  

“There were so many things to remember when she was out and around humans. Feigning cold was one of them…. having to feign a fear she never felt, but which should have ruled her.  Solitary human women walked with caution in the night. 
In short, Devon had to act like prey, and not like the predator she had become. “

The story is told over five acts that move smoothly between past and present.  It is narrated by Devon, who was easy to like and root for.  Despite not being human, I felt an immediate bond with her and loved everything about this strong, complex and tenacious rebel.  But I think it is her ferocity as a mother that I loved most of all.  In a society where mothers are separated from their children after a few years, Devon refuses to accept this from the start and risks everything to be a more traditional mother.  She proves just how far she’s willing to go for her children when she goes on the run with Cai instead of simply accepting the fate the Families have for him.  Cai should be a terrifying and abominable creation who turns our stomachs yet Ms. Dean manages to humanise him so that all we see is an innocent child who is forced to do terrible things to survive.  I found myself feeling more sadness for him than his victims, which surprised me and is a testament to Ms. Dean’s skills as an author.   

An astonishing and imaginative debut, The Book Eaters has everything the bibliophile fantasy-lover could want and more.  It made my mind come alive and I will never be able to look at my book collection the same way again.  I am hoping that the author turns this into a series as I am hungry for more stories from these characters, especially after that sensational ending.  

Sink your teeth into this moreish read ASAP.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ 

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sunyi Dean (sun-yee deen) is an autistic author of fantasy fiction. Originally born in the States and raised in Hong Kong, she now lives in Yorkshire with her children. When not reading, running, falling over in yoga, or rolling d20s, she sometimes escapes the city to wildswim in lonely dales.

Her short stories have featured in The Best of British Scifi Anthology, Prole, FFO, Tor Dot Com, etc., and her debut novel, THE BOOK EATERS, will be published 2 Aug 2022 by Tor (USA), and 18 Aug 2022 by Harper Voyager (UK). Available at all good bookstores, in ebook, hardback, and audio.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Are you planning to read this book? Let me know in the comments below.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

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

*All links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Halfways by Nilopar Uddin

Published: July 7th, 2022
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this powerful and striking debut. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

A breathtaking debut novel from an exciting new voice in fiction – coming July 2022!

Nasrin and Sabrina are two sisters, who on the face of things live successful and enviable lives in London and New York. When their father, Shamsur suddenly dies, they rush to be with their mother at the family home and restaurant in Wales, and reluctantly step back into the stifling world of their childhood.

When Shamsur’s will is read, a devastating secret is revealed that challenges all that people thought and loved about him. It also profoundly changes the lives and identities of the sisters, and creates an irreparable family rift…

Moving between London, Wales, New York and Bangladesh, this is an epic family drama that spans over four decades. A story of mothers and daughters, of fathers and daughters, of sisterhood, it is a tale that explores belonging, family and what makes forgiveness and redemption possible.

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MY REVIEW:

When their father, Shamsur dies suddenly, sisters Nassrin and Sabrina return home to Wales to be with their mother and reluctantly step back into the stifling traditional ways, creating a clash of culture as old meets new.  The tension rises when Shamsur’s will is read and the revelation of a long-held secret sends shockwaves through the family, tearing them apart and creating a rift that seems beyond repair…

An absorbing debut that is as beautiful on the inside as its striking cover, The Halfways is a kaleidoscopic family saga.  Melodic, lyrical, vibrant and evocative, it is a glorious tapestry of a novel.  Nilopar Uddin is a gifted storyteller who has crafted an atmospheric, layered, enthralling story filled with humanity.  As she explores the many facets of family, culture, identity, belonging and forgiveness, Uddin leads you through the story gently, like a tranquil stroll on a summer’s day.  It feels light, yet bursting with imagery and emotion, dreamlike, with a stylish and cinematic edge that feels like you’re seeing the story vivid technicolour.  This isn’t a book you simply read, but one that you step into.

The story is told by multiple narrators over four decades, taking us between London, New York, Wales and Bangladesh. Moving fluidly between narrators, places and timelines, the vignettes from the past offer us a glimpse into the history of this complex family, slowly revealing who they are and what secrets they have been keeping.  The chorus of richly drawn, flawed, yet very different, characters draw you into their lives, allowing us to step into their shoes and feel everything that they do: their heartache, grief, struggles, inner turmoil and betrayal.  

Tender, moving and heartfelt, The Halfways is a captivating and lingering debut from exciting new talent.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Nilopar Uddin was born in Shropshire to Sylheti parents who, like the fictional family in The Halfways, owned and ran an Indian restaurant in Wales. Every summer her family would travel for their holidays to Bangladesh to visit extended family, and this affection for the country has continued into adulthood.

Nilopar has had a successful career as a financial services lawyer practising in both London and New York, a city that she fell in love with. She now lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She has an MA in Creative Writing from City University where she first started working on The Halfways.

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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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Audio Books Blog Tours book reviews

AUDIOBOOK BLOG TOUR: The Girls by Bella Osborne

Published: May 1st, 2022
Publisher: Isis Audio
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Pensioners in the Pages
Format: Audiobook, Paperback, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this delightful summer read. Thank you to Danielle for the invitation to take part and Isis Audio for the gifted copy of the audiobook.

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SYNOPSIS:

In the 1970s, the girls were best friends sharing a house and good times: Zara, the famous diva actor; Val, the uptight solicitor; Jackie, the wild child and Pauline, the quirky introvert. Now they’re in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age. 

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn. 

As the women confront their demons, they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control, can they save their friendships and each other?

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MY REVIEW:

“One last hoorah. What do you say.” 

Legendary actress Zara is hoping to spend her 80th birthday quietly, but her agent has other ideas and has put together a surprise party.  At the event are the three friends she shared a house with back in the 70s. Though they haven’t seen each other in decades, the group share an undeniable bond and spend the evening reminiscing on old times and wondering where the years have gone.  Wondering aloud why they are spending their twilight years alone, Zara surprises her friends when she suggests they spend them together, the other women moving into her house so they can recreate the joy of their youth.  Though initially reluctant, Pauline, Val and Jackie soon decide to take Zara up on her offer and the adventure begins. 

I love a book with older characters at its centre, so when I was offered the chance to listen to The Girls on audiobook as part of this blog tour, I didn’t hesitate.  Refreshing, funny and uplifting, it also has a much deeper side of poignant moments, controversial topics and sensitive issues which the author handles with both realism and compassion.  It also transports you to sunnier climes, something that is very welcome during the unreliable British ‘summer’.

The four women at the centre of the story are richly drawn and compelling characters, though not particularly likeable at times.  Each are very different people and are battling their own demons that are slowly revealed through glimpses into their past.  And when Zara’s true motivation for inviting them to live with her is revealed, the women are outraged.  I liked their dynamics and how the bonds, friction and struggles were still there after so many years apart.  But what I loved most of all is that despite the problems, that bond of true friendship triumphed and they supported each other through some of the most difficult moments they’ve ever faced. 

Delightful, entertaining and full of emotion and adventure, The Girls is a feel-good summer story that I highly recommend.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From Bella’s website:

I’ve been jotting down my stories for as far back as I can remember… well that’s not exactly true. I remember writing a story when I was about nine and I was in Mrs Hurran’s class. The story was about a thief who stole the crown jewels but then didn’t know what to do with them. It went on for pages and pages, in my spiders dance handwriting, so my teacher typed it up and pinned it to the classroom wall. It was a proud day!

Somehow life took over, I got a sensible job and the writing remained a hobby which other people puzzled over and which I adored.

Over the years there have been dalliances into poetry, short stories and five unfinished novels. But I decided that 2013 would be the year that was going to change. I joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writer Scheme which gave me a deadline to chase – a full length novel had to be completed and submitted  for review by 31st August. I beat the deadline by a month!

In 2014 I secured a two book contract with Harper Impulse, part of the HarperCollins Group, and my first novel ‘It Started at Sunset Cottage’ was published in ebook format on 12th February 2015 and paperback on 23rd April 2015. It went on to be shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Award and the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year 2016.

​My second book ‘A Family Holiday’ and my fifth ‘A Walk in Wildflower Park’ were both shortlisted for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year!

In 2016 I moved to Avon, which is also part of the wonderful HarperCollins family. My books are released in four digital instalments ahead of the whole story being published a few months later. 

2021 saw the publication of two novels: a romantic comedy The Promise of Summer and a bookclub read The Library. The Library was published by a new publisher – Aria, Head of Zeus. 2022 looks like it will be just as busy with The Girls out in April and A Wedding At Sandy Cove being published in July. I can’t believe these will be books ten and eleven!

​I was overjoyed to win the RNA Jane Wenham-Jones Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award 2022 with The Promise of Summer!

In my spare time I love to read, cook with my daughter, plan holidays and rehabilitate rescue hedgehogs.

Website

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MEET THE NARRATOR:

This is one of the loveliest and most challenging jobs for any actor and Julia Franklin is a passionate enthusiast for audiobooks. She has read everything from romance, historical fiction, sagas and “chick lit” to gritty detective fiction and thrillers. She has combined this with a busy career in broadcasting as a TV and radio presenter and as a voiceover artist. “There are,” she says, “few things more exciting than starting a new book and feeling it beginning to work its magic.”

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BUY THE BOOK:

The Reading House

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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 Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Shadow Child by Rachel Hancox

Published: April 14th 2022
Publisher: Century
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

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

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SYNOPSIS

Eighteen-year-old Emma has loving parents and a promising future ahead of her.

So why, one morning, does she leave home without a trace?

Her parents, Cath and Jim, are devastated. They have no idea why Emma left, where she is – or even whether she is still alive.

A year later, Cath and Jim are still tormented by the unanswered questions Emma left behind, and clinging desperately to the hope of finding her.

Meanwhile, tantalisingly close to home, Emma is also struggling with her new existence – and with the trauma that shattered her life.

For all of them, reconciliation seems an impossible dream. Does the way forward lie in facing up to the secrets of the past – secrets that have been hidden for years?

Secrets that have the power to heal them, or to destroy their family forever …

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MY REVIEW:

Since the day their eighteen-year-old daughter, Emma, left home and never returned a year ago, Cath and Jim have been struggling to cope, unable to understand why their precious daughter would walk out of their life or even if she is still alive.  Every day they are caught between feelings of guilt, despair and helplessness, clinging to the hope that they will see her again one day soon.   
Cath begins to channel her maternal feelings into their tenants Lara and Nick, hoping to fill the void that threatens to break her.  But Lara and Nick are facing their own secret traumas that they are unable to even voice to one another, trying to live up to a version of themselves that isn’t real.   
Meanwhile, Emma is trying to adapt to her new life and struggling to deal with a traumatic event that shattered her entire world.   

The Shadow Child is a story about relationships, loss, trauma and hope.  A story filled with secrets that threaten to break hearts and shatter already fragile relationships.  The author explores difficult topics such as miscarriage and grief, writing with honesty and empathy.  She also asks if it is ever acceptable to keep secrets in a relationship and examines how those relationships can be affected when a secret is revealed. 

Cath, Jim, Lara, Nick and Emma each narrate their story, allowing us a glimpse into their psyche and the opportunity to connect with them on a deeper level.   Each of them are trying to find a way to live life while also trying to come to terms with trauma, grief and heartache.  The author also examines how  events in our childhood can shape who we become and the massive impact that seemingly insignificant events can have on our lives.   

Steadily paced, emotionally resonant and intriguing, The Shadow Child is a compelling debut about the complexities and nuances that make us human. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rachel Hancox read Medicine and Social and Political Science at Cambridge, qualified as a doctor three months after getting married, and has juggled her family, her career and a passion for writing ever since. She worked in Paediatrics and Public Health for twenty years, writing short stories alongside NHS policy reports, and drafting novels during successive bouts of maternity leave. Rachel loves singing, cooking, gardening and pottery, and has five children, three dogs and a cat. As someone once said, she thrives on chaos. She lives in Oxford with her husband and youngest children.

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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 other bloggers taking part in the tour.

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

SOCIAL MEDIA BLAST: The No-Show by Beth O’Leary

Published: April 12th 2022
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance Novel
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication day to Beth O’Leary! I’m delighted to share my review for this magnificent novel as part of the social media blast. Thank you to Ella at Quercus for the invitation to take part and the gifted finished copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

The funny, heart-breaking and uplifting new novel from the bestselling author of The Flatshare

Three women. Three dates. One missing man…

8.52 a.m. Siobhan is looking forward to her breakfast date with Joseph. She was surprised when he suggested it – she normally sees him late at night in her hotel room. Breakfast on Valentine’s Day surely means something … so where is he?

2.43 p.m. Miranda’s hoping that a Valentine’s Day lunch with Carter will be the perfect way to celebrate her new job. It’s a fresh start and a sign that her life is falling into place: she’s been dating Carter for five months now and things are getting serious. But why hasn’t he shown up?

6.30 p.m. Joseph Carter agreed to be Jane’s fake boyfriend at an engagement party. They’ve not known each other long but their friendship is fast becoming the brightest part of her new life in Winchester. Joseph promised to save Jane tonight. But he’s not here…

Meet Joseph Carter. That is, if you can find him.

The No-Show is the brilliantly funny, heart-breaking and joyful new novel from Beth O’Leary about dating, and waiting, and the ways love can find us. An utterly extraordinary tearjerker of a book, this is O’Leary’s most ambitious novel yet.

MY REVIEW:

“Three women.  Three dates.  One missing man…” 

Oh, my heart.  How am I supposed to read anything else after this?  The No-Show was one of my most anticipated books of 2022 and it exceeded every one of my sky-high expectations.  Beth O’Leary hasn’t merely done it again with this novel; she’s outdone herself.  I devoured it in under a day and was left with one of the biggest book hangovers I’ve ever had. 

The No-Show is a story not just about love, but about learning who you are and loving that person, about going after what you want and stepping out of your comfort zones.  Told by a trio of female narrators, the story opens on Valentine’s Day.  First we meet Siobhan who is waiting for Joseph, her favourite London hook-up, to meet her for breakfast.  Next we meet Miranda who is looking forward to lunch with Carter, her boyfriend of five months.  And then there’s Jane, who’s relying on her friend Joseph Carter to be her fake boyfriend to save her from humiliation at an engagement party.  It is soon clear that all three women were meeting the same man, though he is someone and something different to each of them.  You see where this is going, right?  Yeah, I thought so too…

“Being a human is messy… Sometimes you just need to let yourself feel something, even if it’s ugly.”

Wonderfully choreographed, intricately woven and cleverly plotted, The No-Show is like a treasure trove: its secrets hidden under layers you have to peel back in order to discover the gems hidden at the bottom.  It is a story that breaks your heart into pieces and then puts it back together again, giving you back the hope you thought you’d lost.  It is a clear-your-schedule-and-lock-out-the-world kind of book; and it utterly consumed me.  

Narrators Siobhan, Miranda and Jane are three very different women who share similar hopes, dreams and insecurities.  They are flawed, relatable, likeable and real; the kind of women you can imagine knowing yourself, and by the end of the book they felt like friends to me.  They each had qualities I admired but it was ultimately bookworm Jane that I found myself relating to most of all.  I found this amusing as an online quiz I took a number of months ago had said that I was a Jane. I guess sometimes those quizzes are right.
And then there’s Joseph.  For most of the story I wasn’t sure what to make of him.  Was he simply a cad who’s callously playing with their hearts or is there more to him than meets the eye?  As time went on I did begin to think there was something we didn’t yet know that might help us see beyond his façade and enable us to get to know the man underneath.  If only he would let us.

“Remember everyone thought Ted Bundy was really sweet! Nobody ever suspects the nice guy!” 

Beth O’Leary is an exquisite storyteller who knows how to get to the heart and soul of both her characters and readers.  She makes the world around you vanish as you read, leaving you completely immersed in the world that she’s created.  For me, returning to O’Leary’s writing felt like being wrapped in a big hug: familiar, warm, comforting and soothing for the soul.  It also lifted my spirits, something I needed when I picked up this book.  Another thing I love about her novels is how she takes romantic fiction and transcends the genre, creating stories that explore deeper issues such as PTSD and coercive control.  In The No-Show she explores topics such as mental health, self harm, pregnancy loss and grief, weaving these serious issues in amongst the witty, lighthearted moments to create a thought-provoking yet entertaining read.

Absorbing, heartrending and hopeful, The No-Show is a masterpiece that made my heart sing.  It is my favourite read this month so far and I have no doubt it will be on my list of top books of the year.  It might even be my favourite Beth O’Leary book yet.  Believe the hype and go read this book. 

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.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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*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 social media blast.

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG BLAST: One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Published: March 1st 2022
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day to this beautiful and unique story. Thank you to Quercus books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

The heartbreaking new novel from the author of the international bestseller In Five Years

When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mum, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, the mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town where Carol spent the summer before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and – of course – delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears, healthy and sun-tanned… and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how – all she can focus on is that somehow, impossibly, she has her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman who came before.

But can we ever truly know our parents? Soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.

Rebecca Serle’s next great love story is here, and this time it’s between a mother and daughter. With her signature ‘heartbreaking and poignant’ (Glamour) prose, Serle has crafted a transcendent novel about how we move on after loss, and how the people we love never truly leave us.

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MY REVIEW:

“She had all the answers. I, on the other hand, have none of them, and now I no longer have her.”

Katy is grieving the death of her mother, Carol, who wasn’t just her mother but also her best friend, confidante and guide.  Before Carol died they had booked a mother-daughter trip of a lifetime to Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, a place full of meaning to Carol after spending the summer there before she met Katy’s father.  Trying to come to terms with her loss and find her way in the world without her mother, Katy decides to take the trip alone.  In Positano Katy can feel her mother’s spirit and enjoys discovering the places her mother once inhabited.  But then things take a strange turn when Carol appears, thirty years old and full of life.  It’s impossible.  A miracle.  It’s a chance for Katy to not only have her mother back, but get to know her as a woman.  This will be a summer she’ll never forget. 

First of all, let me warn you that this book will make you want to book the next plane to Italy and explore the Amalfi Coast for yourself.  Beautiful and transportive, I could almost feel the sun on my skin and see the terra-cotta houses nestled into the hillside.  I have found myself dreaming of Positano since reading this and it is now added to my travel bucket list.  Also, be prepared for the food descriptions which made my mouth water and my stomach rumble.  Nothing I had in my snack cupboard seemed good enough after reading about the delicious food Katy was enjoying. 

I fell in love with Rebecca Serle’s writing after reading In Five Years and was highly anticipating this book.  And while the former remains my favourite, with this book she once again shows her talent as a storyteller with a flare for evocative imagery, great characters, beautiful prose and a dash of the unexpected.  This is a book that requires you to suspend your disbelief a little when Carol suddenly seems to return from the dead thirty years younger, and I’ll admit to struggling with that at first, but once I got past that initial strangeness and my own expectations of reading the same book again, I was able to again immerse myself in the story being told.

One Italian Summer is a story of family, love, loss and self-discovery.  A story that reminds us to cherish those we love.  Katy’s deep grief is woven through every page and I found my own heart breaking along with hers.  I loved how the author explores the theme of our own identity in relation to grief, asking who we are when we lose that person close to us; are we still a daughter, a mother, a friend? Through Katy and Carol the author explores the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and how we often don’t take the time to get to know the person beyond that role.  This story is a great reminder that we need to take the time to really get to know the whole person when it comes to those we love. 

Poignant, unique and beautifully told, this is a quick read that I’d recommend to those who enjoy their stories with a touch of magical realism. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rebecca Serle is an author and television writer who lives in New York and Los Angeles. Serle developed the hit TV adaptation of her YA series Famous in Love, and is also the author of The Dinner List, and YA novels The Edge of Falling and When You Were Mine. She received her MFA from the New School in NYC. 

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️Emma xxx

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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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BUY THE BOOK:

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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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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles☺️ Emma xxx