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REVIEW: All About Evie by Matson Taylor

Published: July 21st, 2022
Publisher: Scribner UK
Genre: Domestic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

The year is almost over so I’m finally sharing my long-overdue review for what is one of my favourite books this year. Thank you to Matson Taylor and Scribner UK for the gifted proof copy of this book, which was our Squadpod Book Club pick for July.

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SYNOPSIS:

EVIE EPWORTH IS TEN YEARS OLDER. BUT IS SHE ANY WISER?!

Ten years on from the events of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth, Evie is settled in London and working as a production assistant for the BBC. She has everything she ever dreamed of (a career, a leatherette briefcase, an Ossie Clark poncho) but, following an unfortunate incident involving a Hornsea Pottery mug and Princess Anne, she finds herself having to rethink her future. What can she do? Is she too old to do it? And will it involve cork-soled sandals? 

As if this isn’t complicated enough, her disastrous love life leaves her worrying that she may be destined for eternal spinsterdom, concerned, as she is, that ‘even Paul had married Linda by the time he was 26’. Through it all, Evie is left wondering whether a 60s miseducation really is the best preparation to glide into womanhood and face the new challenges (strikes, power cuts, Edward Heath’s teeth) thrown up by the growing pains of the 70s.

With the help of friends, both old and new, she might just find a way through her messy 20s and finally discover who exactly she is meant to be…

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MY REVIEW:

When the previous book in a series is not only one of your favourite books of that year, but of all time, there is some trepidation about reading the follow up. Would I enjoy this one as much and still love Evie with the same fierceness? The answer is yes! Once again Matson Taylor has knocked it out of the park with this hilarious, heartwarming and addictive novel that feels like a cup of Yorkshire tea and a piece of parkin on a cold day.  

This time, Taylor transports us to the Summer of 1972, 10 years after the events of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth, to reunite us with the eponymous heroine for more entertaining exploits. Evie is working for the BBC and living the life she’s always dreamed of  in London when a mishap involving Princess Anne and a Hornsea mug leads to her dismissal, and Evie is now forced to reassess her life. But what direction will she choose from the overwhelming number of possibilities open to her? And then there is her love life. At the ripe old age of 26 and a half she feels in danger of becoming over-the-hill and wonders why she hasn’t yet met Mr. Right. There is fun, laughter and lots of emotion, as Evie embarks on her greatest journey of self discovery yet.

Oh, Evie. How I love her. She truly feels like an old friend and I never get tired of reading her. She’s an iconic northern heroine who pole-vaults off the pages and straight into your heart. It is a slightly more sophisticated and wise Evie we meet in this book, yet she’s still the same feisty, funny, quirky and unforgettable Yorkshire lass we love. It has been great to watch her grow and I loved her metamorphosis from teenager to young woman in this story. And the snippets of information about her ex boyfriends were hilarious. 

Matson Taylor is a comedy genius and had me laughing out loud within the first few pages. He has a talent for writing witty, offbeat and uproarious characters and storylines that are also heartfelt. He paces the story perfectly, switching seamlessly between the serious and lighter moments to ensure things never feel too heavy. There are so many moments that were pure comedy gold and still make me laugh when they randomly pop into my head many months after reading the book. The evocative imagery and attention to detail brought 1970s London to life so vividly it felt like I’d stepped into a time machine and appeared in 1972. The book is filled with blasts from the past: Old Jamaica bars, Wimpy burgers, cheese and pineapple hedgehogs etc. I was assailed by memories and the nostalgia took over and thoroughly enjoyed the walk down memory lane.

Uplifting, witty and utterly magnificent, All About Evie is another must-read from Mr. Taylor. And that ending! I need book 3 now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire (the flat part not the Brontë part). He comes from farming stock and spent an idyllic childhood surrounded by horses, cows, bicycles, and cheap ice-cream. His father, a York City and Halifax Town footballer, has never forgiven him for getting on the school rugby team but not getting anywhere near the school football team.

Matson now lives in London, where he is a design historian and academic writing tutor at the V&A, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. Previously, he talked his way into various jobs at universities and museums around the world; he has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers. He gets back to Yorkshire as much as possible, mainly to see family and friends but also to get a reasonably-priced haircut.

He has always loved telling stories and, after writing academically about beaded flapper dresses and World War 2 glow-in-the-dark fascinators, he decided to enrol on the Faber Academy ‘Writing A Novel’ course. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is his first novel. 

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

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REVIEW: Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Publsihed: March 19th, 2020
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Humorous Fiction, Domestic Fiction, New Adult Ficiton, Women’s Fiction, Pensioners on the Pages
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Today I’m resharing my review for this heartwarming story. I’m taking part in the Squadpod Advent Calendar Challenge this month and today’s prompt is a ‘Book with a character you’d like to meet’. I couldn’t think of anyone who I would like to meet more than the delightful Veronica McCreedy. I read this back in March 2020 and it has stayed with me ever since. It really is the perfect book to read to lift your spirits. And I dare anyone not to fall in love with Veronica.

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SYNOPSIS:

A Richard & Judy Book Club and BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.
A truly feel-good book club read – a #1 bestseller in ebook and audio!

‘This year’s Eleanor Oliphant . . . Funny, bittersweet and wholly original.’ Daily Express

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.

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MY REVIEW:

Oh how I loved this absolute gem of a book. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, it had me transfixed. I got lost in the pages and totally immersed in Veronica’s story. 

Veronica McCreedy is an eccentric, feisty, cantankerous, witty and unstoppable old lady. I just couldn’t help but love her and she quickly found a place in my heart. Her bad-tempered idiosyncrasies became endearing and I was sure she had a heart of gold hidden behind it all. When a locked wooden box containing her teenage diaries is found, Veronica’s poignant story is slowly unveiled and we finally learn what lies underneath those brusque layers she uses to protect herself. 

Running parallel to Veronica’s story is her daring adventure to Antarctica to see the Adélie penguins. She became obsessed with them after watching a nature programme and decided she wanted to leave her vast wealth to the research programme. But she needs to make sure they are worthy of it, so she books a trip to see the penguins for herself; refusing to heed to frantic warnings of her assistant Eileen and the trio of scientists that it is too dangerous. I adored this part of the story – the different sides we see to Veronica’s personality, her blossoming friendship with young scientist Terry, and the adorable rescued chick, Pip. I found myself in awe of Eileen’s spriteliness and determination, overcoming her age and the bracing conditions to have the adventure of a lifetime. 

But behind the cuteness of this storyline is a serious commentary on climate change and our responsibility to save the environment and a number of earth’s most beloved species that are facing extinction in the near future.  It is peppered with blog posts by Terry which are informative as well as entertaining. The author has clearly done her research and I know a lot more about climate change and penguins after reading this book. 

The story is narrated by two very distinct voices and is filled with a rich, colourful and fascinating cast of characters. The cutest of these is without a doubt little Pip, and I now blame the author for the fact I really want a pet penguin! The investment, hard work and love that the author has put into this book is evident in the exquisite writing and attention to detail. I savoured every word, devouring this book while also trying to make it last as I dreaded parting with Veronica and the penguins.

Away with the Penguins is without a doubt the most delightful, joyous and uplifting book I’ve read so far this year, if not in a long time, and I have no doubt it will have a place in my top reads of the year. A lush blend of characters and storylines that is immersive and reaches into your soul and serves as a great reminder that it is never too late to have an adventure, try new things or make changes in your life. Whatever your reading preferences, I highly recommend this book. Just make sure to have lots of tissues and be prepared to fall in love.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstons | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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BLOG TOUR: The Wife Next Door by Rona Halsall

Published: October 12th, 2022
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the unsettling and unexpected The Wife Next Door. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

It was meant to be the perfect break-up…

Just because it’s over between us, doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. My ex-husband and I still care for each other a lot, and we are determined to put our sweet little boy, Toby first.

Now we’ve moved into houses right next door to each other, with each of our new partners and their children. We’ve even knocked down the garden fence, so Toby can easily run between our homes.

But it seems not everyone is happy about this big, blended stepfamily. I try to ignore the viciously-worded note in the ‘new home’ card, the red pen scrawled through my divorce paperwork, and the day I find myself locked into my house, all the keys suddenly missing…

But I can’t pretend it’s all in my head when a false accusation is made against me that could destroy my life – and Toby’s – forever.

Someone doesn’t like what’s happening under these two neighbouring roofs.

What they don’t know is that they’re messing with the wrong person. And that hell hath no fury like the wife next door…

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MY REVIEW:

Jess and her ex-husband Rob are determined not to let their break-up stop them from being friends.  In an attempt to put their son, Toby, first they move into new homes next door to each other with their new partners and their children and try to create the perfect blended family.

But it seems someone isn’t happy about the new arrangements: there are threatening messages, strange incidents and malicious accusations.  Jess’s family are concerned she’s paranoid but she’s sure someone is out to get her and tear their new blended family apart…

Taut, tense and filled with surprising twists, this is another first-class domestic thriller from Rona Halsall.  Rona was one of the first authors whose books I reviewed and has become a must-read author for me.  So much so that I don’t even read the synopsis before requesting her books or applying for the blog tour.  She can be relied upon to deliver an intriguing, gripping and entertaining read filled with revelations I never saw coming.  The Wife Next Door certainly lived up to those expectations, keeping me guessing up until the jaw-dropping finale.

Protagonist Jess was a great character.  Halsall puts the reader in her shoes and makes us feel everything she does.  I felt pretty sure she wasn’t paranoid but also couldn’t decide who could be behind what was happening.  My heart went out to her as things spiralled out of control and I helplessly watched her life fall apart.  Would she be able to prove her innocence? Or would Halsall deliver one of her sensational twists to reveal she isn’t who I thought?  

Unsettling, claustrophobic and totally riveting, this is a must-read for any thriller lover.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rona is the author of Best Selling psychological thrillers published by Bookouture. She loves a puzzle to solve, so now she writes them… her challenge is to find domestic storylines with twists that keep her readers guessing right to the end.

She has been a bit of a nomad during her adult life, moving around the north of England. Then she settled in Snowdonia, North Wales where she brought up her family while working as a business mentor. She now lives on the Isle of Man with her husband and two dogs.

She is an outdoorsy person and loves stomping up a mountain, walking the coastal paths and exploring the wonderful glens and beaches on the Island while she’s plotting her next book. She has three children and two step-children who are all grown up and leading varied and interesting lives, which provides plenty of ideas for new stories.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon | Waterstones

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: An Ocean Apart by Sarah Lee

Published: September 29th, 2022
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this marvellous novel. Thank you to Chloe at Pan Macmillan for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

It’s 1954 and, in Barbados, Ruby Haynes spots an advertisement for young women to train as nurses for the new National Health Service in Great Britain. Her sister, Connie, takes some persuading, but soon the sisters are on their way to a new country – and a whole new world of experiences.

As they start their training in Hertfordshire, they discover England isn’t quite the promised land; for every door that’s opened to them, the sisters find many slammed in their faces. And though the girls find friendships with their fellow nurses, Connie struggles with being so far from home, and keeping secret the daughter she has left behind in search of a better life for the both of them . . .

Inspired by real life stories of the Windrush Generation and her mother’s own experiences as a nurse coming to Britain from the Caribbean, Sarah Lee’s debut novel An Ocean Apart is a must for fans of Call the Midwife.

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MY REVIEW:

February 1954.  Sisters Connie and Ruby Hayes travel to the UK from Barbados to train as nurses for the newly formed National Health Services.  The sisters soon discover that England is not quite the promised land they were expecting and they face challenges they never expected.  

A story of friendship, love, hope and new beginnings, An Ocean Apart is a walk through a notable time in British history.  Inspired by her mother’s life and stories from the Windrush Generation, Sarah Lee tells the story of the women who left everything behind to become the foundation of our NHS.  Beautifully written and well researched, it is so evocative that I could taste the bland food and feel the cold English winter.  Lee doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics either, delivering an unflinching portrayal of intolerance, racism, PTSD and other important issues.

The story is narrated by Connie, Ruby and Billie, three strong, courageous and captivating women who were easy to root for, with Billie quickly becoming like a third Hayes sister.  Their stories really brought home the challenges and sacrifices of those who were the bedrock of our NHS.  I lost myself in their world and lived every emotion alongside them, so immersed in their stories that I could have kept reading about them forever and was bereft when the story ended.  There is also a cast of vivid and compelling background characters that help to tell this story.  The romantic liaisons and joyful friendships were a delight to read and the vile villain who subjected poor Ruby to such disgusting racism and bullying was brilliantly written.

Heartwarming, atmospheric and engaging, An Ocean Apart is a celebration of the NHS and the remarkable people who were part of its creation.  Perfect for fans of Call the Midwife, I would love to see this get its own TV adaptation and I’m hoping that Ms. Lee will turn this marvellous debut into a series so that I can return to these characters again and again.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Lee is a journalist and editor of 25 years, across news and features, and has written for regional and national newspapers as well as commissioned for women’s true life magazines. More recently, she has focused her attention on the world of travel, creating luxury blog. She also works with destinations and brands worldwide on storytelling marketing campaigns and conferences through her company, Captivate.

Her first book, AN OCEAN APART, is a saga about Windrush nurses, a topic to which she has a personal connection; her mother came to Britain from Barbados to work in the NHS, and many of the women she grew up around were Windrush nurses.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxxx

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

*All links are affiliate links

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BLOG TOUR: All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien

Published: September 15th, 2022
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

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

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SYNOPSIS:

They claim they saw nothing. She knows they’re lying.
1996 – Cabramatta, Sydney

‘Just let him go.’

Those are words Ky Tran will forever regret. The words she spoke when her parents called to ask if they should let her younger brother Denny out to celebrate his high school graduation with friends. That night, Denny – optimistic, guileless Denny – is brutally murdered inside a busy restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, a refugee enclave facing violent crime, and an indifferent police force.

Returning home for the funeral, Ky learns that the police are stumped by her brother’s case. Even though several people were present at Denny’s murder, each bystander claims to have seen nothing, and they are all staying silent.

Determined to uncover the truth, Ky tracks down and questions the witnesses herself. But what she learns goes beyond what happened that fateful night. The silence has always been there, threaded through the generations, and Ky begins to expose the complex traumas weighing on those present the night Denny died. As she peels back the layers of the place that shaped her, she must confront more than the reasons her brother is dead. And once those truths have finally been spoken, how can any of them move on?

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MY REVIEW:

Cabramatta, Sydney. 1996.  Seventeen-year-old Denny Tran is brutally murdered while celebrating his high school graduation with his friends.  Everyone in the busy restaurant claims to have seen nothing, their fear of retribution holding the truth hostage.  Denny’s older sister Ky refuses to accept their denials or the police force’s indifference and embarks on her own quest to find out what happened to her brother.  But is she ready for what she will learn?

This is a truly remarkable debut.  Harrowing, moving and powerful, this is the story of the aftermath of a tragedy.  A tragedy shrouded in such secrecy that the truth is almost impossible to find.  This isn’t a book you simply read but one where you live every grief-laden word, the loss and heartbreak so raw that it almost makes you weep.  Though marketed as crime and mystery fiction, the novel has more of a  literary vibe as while Denny’s murder and the mystery surrounding it are part of the essence of the book, the other topics felt more prominent in the narrative than the crime itself.  I personally loved this but am aware that some hard-core thriller lovers might struggle with a more literary novel.

Exploring themes such as grief, family dynamics and cultural and societal divides alongside darker topics such as racism and prejudice, author Tracey Lien examines the Vietnamese community and how immigration to Australia affected the generations.  I knew nothing about many of the topics covered in this book before reading and enjoyed being educated while I read as I think it is important to read books that expand our knowledge of the world and other cultures. 

As Denny’s family try to come to terms with his death, they also struggle to fathom how this all-round good kid ended up the victim of such a vicious crime.  His older sister, Ky, is our main character.  Ky is feeling overwhelming guilt as she is the one who convinced her strict mother to allow Denny to attend the celebration the night he was killed and her heartache and torment is palpable. We also see how she struggles with the different way in which her Vietnamese parents grieve his loss, a cultural divide that leaves her feeling even more alone. It is just one example of the divide between immigrants and their children, who are more immersed in Australian society than their elders, and how it affects their understanding of each other.  
The other characters are equally as compelling and I especially liked that the author ensured that Denny felt as real as any other character thanks to the flashbacks that are peppered throughout the narrative.  His life is one that was extinguished far too soon and I mourned him, the tragedy, horror and devastating impact of his murder lingering over every page.

Complex, memorable and heart-shattering, All That’s Left Unsaid is a book I’d highly recommend.  An emotional journey that I couldn’t put down, this outstanding debut highlights Tracey Lien as an author to watch and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tracey Lien was born and raised in southwestern Sydney, Australia. She earned her MFA at the University of Kansas and was previously a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. All That’s Left Unsaid is her first novel.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Squadpod Squadpod Book Club Squadpod Recommends

REVIEW: Bad Fruit by Ella King

Published: August 18th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of this dark and disturbing debut. Thank you to Harper Collins UK for the gifted copy.

This was the Squadpod Book Club August pick. Tune into our Twitter account at 7.30pm on August 30th for a live chat with the author.

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SYNOPSIS:

LILY IS A GOOD DAUGHTER

Every evening she pours Mama a glass of perfectly spoilt orange juice. She arranges the teddy bears on Mama’s quilt, she puts on her matching pink clothes. Anything to help put out the fire of Mama’s rage.

MAMA IS A GOOD LIAR

But Mama is becoming unpredictable, dangerous. And as she starts to unravel, so do the memories that Lily has kept locked away for so long.
She only wanted to be good, to help piece Mama back together. But as home truths creep out of the shadows, Lily must recast everything: what if her house isn’t a home – but a prison? What if Mama isn’t a protector – but a monster . . .

Gripping and devastating, from a voice that cuts as sharp as a knife, this is an unforgettable story about a family gone bad.

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MY REVIEW:

“Her power falls over the small space. Everyone is thrown into confusion, no one knows whether to look at her or not, to stop talking or continue. They are all in her thrall.”

Eighteen-year-old Lily does everything to please her mother; she carries out her every whim, makes her spoiled juice every night and even dyes her hair and paints her face to look more like the good Chinese daughter she wants.  But it is never enough.  Mama still finds fault with what she does and leaves Lily feeling bereft.  All she wants is to feel loved.  
As long-hidden truths begin to emerge and Lily slowly unlocks the mysteries surrounding Mama, she thinks she’s finally found the way to be the perfect daughter and win Mama’s approval.  But as things become clearer, Lily wonders if Mama is not actually her protector, but a monster….

Wow! What a crazy ride!  Disturbing, dark and twisted, Bad Fruit is a hard-hitting portrayal of a dysfunctional family that also explores themes of identity and self-discovery.  Author Ella King has crafted a multi-layered story filled with richly drawn and nuanced characters that explores difficult topics and asks hard questions.  King had me hooked, but there were also times I had to put the book down and breathe before picking it up again.

At the heart of this book is the mother/daughter relationship.  King strips bare the complexities of both this relationship and toxic families with such realism that it could be hard to read..  My heart ached for Lily.  Subservient to her mother and forced to act as a go-between for her mother and her siblings, her life is pretty bleak.  She tries to escape by locking herself away in her attic bedroom or riding her bike, but she can never escape what’s inside her head.  Her pain and desperation for love and acceptance bled from every page and I wanted to reach into the book and hug her.  

Then there is Mama.  Cruel, callous, cold, scathing and vengeful, she holds her whole family hostage with her emotions.  The author captured the essence of a toxic person so vividly in her that I would shiver every time she came onto the page and felt every bit of Lily’s apprehension and fear.  

Harrowing, unflinching and deeply human, Bad Fruit is a powerful debut from an author to watch.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ella King is a British-Singaporean novelist living in Greenwich, UK. She read Philosophy and Theology at Oxford University, is a graduate of Faber Academy’s novel-writing program, and is an award-winning writer, coming 3rd in the Aurora Prize for Short Fiction 2019 and winning the Blue Pencil Pitch Prize 2019. She’s worked as a corporate lawyer in London and for anti-human trafficking and domestic violence charities. Bad Fruit is her debut novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Loyal Friend by A. A. Chaudhuri

Published: June 23rd, 2022
Publisher: Hera Books
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Urban Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

I’m finally getting around to posting my review for this tense and twisty thriller after my stop on the tour was delayed by Covid. Thank you to Danielle at The Reading Closet Tours for the invitation to take part and Hera Books for the gifted eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

She has your back.

And may stab you in it.

Wealthy, pampered Susan is living the perfect life in leafy Kingston. She’ll never let anyone see the darkness she’s concealing behind the diamonds and rosé.

Grace is new to the group, seemingly the perfect wife and mum. Yet no one knows the truth of what’s happening behind closed doors.

Loner Natalie hides the pain of her childhood behind a carefully ordered life. But how long can the past stay hidden?

Three unlikely friends, brought together for a weekly class run by beautiful, friendly, instructor, Jade.

But when Jade goes missing in mysterious circumstances, the group starts to unravel. And as their darkest secrets come to light, it seems that no one can be trusted. Even their closest friends…

A heart-in-your-mouth thriller that builds twist after twist, culminating in an unforgettable ending. This shocking, tense and gripping read will delight fans of T.M. Logan, B.A. Paris and Big Little Lies.

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MY REVIEW:

“It was never meant to go this far.  All I wanted was for her to be taught a lesson.”

Friendly fitness instructor Jade’s weekly class brings together an unlikely group of friends: wealthy Susan whose picture perfect life is hiding a much darker truth, newcomer Grace whose image of the perfect wife and mum belies what is really happening behind closed doors, and loner Natalie who is trying to control the trauma from her childhood with a carefully structured life.  When Jade fails to turn up to class one day the group begins to unravel and their dark secrets begin to surface.  Can any of them be trusted?  And could one of them really have had a hand in Jade’s disappearance?

Shocking, surprising and suspenseful, The Loyal Friend is another dark and twisty thriller from A. A. Chaudhuri, who has proven herself to be a must-read addition to any thriller lover’s list.  It is a dark maze of twists and turns that will make your head spin.  Fast-paced, tense and exquisitely written, Chaudhur teases us by slowly revealing fragments of the many secrets being kept, keeping us on the edge of our seat as we desperately wait for the next piece to be revealed.  

The varied cast of characters are all compelling and well written.  Natalie was a very sympathetic character who was easy to root for, Grace also sparked sympathy, though her character was much more complex and layered.  But the one I enjoyed reading most was the villain of the group, Susan.  She is so unlikeable from the start and I loved her for it.  She is unapologetic about who she is and though she is someone you’d hate to know in real life, she makes a very entertaining fictional character.  Each of them is a suspect, filled with fear and acting suspiciously as they try to avoid the glare of the police.  What are they hiding?  I had my ideas and felt like one of them had to be involved in Jade’s disappearance, but I was never quite sure which of my two suspects it was, which raised the tension and kept me on tenterhooks from start to finish.  

Heart-pounding and unpredictable, The Loyal Friend is a high-octane psychological thriller that keeps you guessing.  And that ending!  I am still thinking about it weeks after finishing the book. 

Read it now. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

A.A. Chaudhuri is a former City lawyer, turned thriller writer, who lives in Surrey with her family.

Once a highly ranked British junior tennis player, competing in the national championships and a member of the national squad, she went on to tour the women’s professional satellite circuit as a teenager and achieved a world ranking of 650.

After returning to full-time education, she gained a BA Honours 2:1 in History at University College London, and a commendation in both the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course at the London College of Law, before training as a solicitor at City firm Norton Rose and then practising as a commercial litigator at two other City firms, Kendall Freeman and Travers Smith.

She left law in 2008 to pursue her passion for writing and in 2010 passed the NCTJ fast-track newspaper journalism course, in respect of which she was awarded The Oxford University Press Public Affairs Award for the most outstanding public affairs central government paper.

In 2013 and 2014 she self-published two women’s fiction novels under the name Alexandra Sage: Love & Limoncello and the sequel Love & Loss. Love & Limoncello has sold more than ten thousand copies to date, reaching number 53 in the Amazon Kindle Bestsellers List in October 2014.

The Scribe and The Abduction, published by  Lume Books in July and December 2019, are her first crime book series, plunging readers into London’s glamorous legal world and featuring series’ heroine, Maddy Kramer, fiction’s first female City lawyer amateur sleuth, who teams up with charismatic DCI Jake Carver to solve a gruesome series of murders and a puzzling abduction.

Both books have hit the bestsellers lists in the UK, Australia and Canada, with bestseller tags in Australia and Canada.

THE SCRIBE and THE ABDUCTION were published as audio books by Isis Audio on 1st  January and 1st March 2021, both read by David Thorpe.

She has also contributed an original short story THE ENCOUNTER to crime anthology GIVEN IN EVIDENCE published by LUME BOOKS in May 2020, has written many articles and short stories for The Crime Writers’ Association.

In February 2021, Alex signed a two-book contract for two standalone psychological thrillers with Hera Books, the first entitled She’s Mine was published on 18th August 2021 in eBook and 26th August in paperback. The Loyal Friend will be published 23rd June 2022.

Besides being an avid reader, she enjoys fitness, films, anything Italian and a good margarita!

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

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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: Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

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

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

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SYNOPSIS:

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

Emma Webster is a respectable MP.

Emma Webster is a devoted mother.

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

Emma Webster is a liar.

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

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MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

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

BLOG TOUR: Wahala by Nikki May

Published: January 6th 2022
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Crime Fiction, Contemporary Novel, Domestic Fiction, Urban Fiction, Political Fiction, Romance Novel
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this sensational debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to Doubleday for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

SEX AND THE CITY with a killer edge for fans of QUEENIE, EXPECTATION and MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER

SOON TO BE A MAJOR BBC TV SERIAL

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Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London.
They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English.
Not all of them choose to see it that way.

Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.

When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.

Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.

Explosive, hilarious and wildly entertaining, this razor-sharp tale of love, race and family will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Fearlessly political about class, colourism and clothes, the spellbinding Wahala is for anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.

PICKED AS ONE OF STYLIST MAGAZINE’S ‘FICTION BOOKS YOU CAN’T MISS OF 2022’

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MY REVIEW:

Wahala is a Nigerian Pidgin word meaning ‘trouble’, and there is trouble aplenty in this exciting debut. 

A story of friendship, family, identity, race and secrets, Wahala is narrated by three friends: Ronke, Simi and Boo.  Now living in London, the trio met at university in Bristol and bonded over being of Nigerian and English descent.  Their shared dual heritage made them outsiders and created a connection that they thought was unbreakable.  But when Isobel, a childhood friend of Simi from Lagos, comes into their lives, cracks in their friendships soon begin to appear and  soon all four women are forced to confront their darkest secrets and deepest vulnerabilities.  Will their friendships survive?

Wow!  What a sensational debut.  This book has a great vibe from the start and is full of humour, warmth, chaos and tension, it pulled me in immediately and didn’t let go until the final page.  Nikki May brings her characters and their world to life in vivid technicolour, educating the reader on life in Nigeria and exploring how it feels to be mixed race while also making you laugh and feel entertained.  And the food.  I was so happy to find there are recipes for some of the traditional Nigerian cuisine that is mentioned as it made my mouth water and stomach rumble reading about it. 

A book like this is nothing without great characters and Ms. May has created an enthralling group of flawed, fascinating and fabulous women.  Ronke is a dentist who just wants to find Mr. Right and have babies.  She loves cooking, especially Nigerian food, and seems to be the heart of the group.  Simi is the glamorous one, at least until Isobel arrives.  She likes the finer things in life and cares about what others think of her, always keen to project a picture perfect image of her life even if it’s falling apart at the seams.  Boo is unsatisfied with her life and feels like the grass is always greener.  She loves her husband and child but feels stifled by them and wants something more.  And then there’s Isobel, newly divorced, vivacious and exuding confidence.  I liked her at first but it didn’t take long for me to realise that this woman was a sniper from the side.  I could see her calculating to come between these three friends but couldn’t figure out why or what she wanted.  And I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure it out.  They were all such fun to read and I loved how the author portrays many facets of womanhood and female friendship through these women. There is something that we can all relate to in some way.  

Entertaining and explosive, Wahala is the debut that everyone is going to be talking about.  I was thrilled to learn that it has already been picked up for TV because it is utterly bingeable.  Read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Born in Bristol, raised in Lagos, I’m proud to be Anglo-Nigerian. I ran a successful ad agency before turning to writing and now live in Dorset with my husband, two standard schnauzers, and way too many books.

My debut novel WAHALA was inspired by a long (and loud) lunch with friends. It will be published around the world in January 2022 and is being adapted into a major BBC TV drama.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️Emma xxx

Categories
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:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx