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.
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.
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 notabletime 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.
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.
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.
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?
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 thedivide 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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…
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 punch. This is a book you need to read.
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
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.
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
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’
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!
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.
Welcome to my review of this heartwarming novel. Thank you to HQ for the gifted ARC.
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…
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this outstanding legal thriller. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.
ON AN ORDINARY WORKING DAY…
Leila Syed receives a call that cleaves her life in two. Her brother-in-law’s voice is filled with panic. His son’s nursery has called to ask where little Max is.
YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE…
Leila was supposed to drop Max off that morning. But she forgot.
Racing to the carpark, she grasps the horror of what she has done.
IS ABOUT TO COME TRUE…
What follows is an explosive, high-profile trial that will tear the family apart. But as the case progresses it becomes clear there’s more to this incident than meets the eye…
A gripping, brave and tense courtroom drama, Next of Kin will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final, heart-stopping page.
Next of Kin examines a truly devastating tragedy: the accidental death of a child caused by his loving aunt. She claims she forgot he was in the back of the car but the prosecution says she left him there deliberately. Who is telling the truth?
Authors take note, because THIS is how you write a gripping legal thriller. Once again, Abdullah takes a shocking crime and puts a thought-provoking spin on things. This trope is proving to be her signature and forte; executed to perfection each time as she makes you ponder the grey areas of a crime, holds you hostage in breathless anticipation, and throws in some shocking twists.
The book opens with a normal family get together that quickly gives way to crushing and heartbreaking scenes as three-year-old Max dies after being left in a hot car by his Aunt, Leila. As we learn his fate the pain and anguish is palpable. It is like you can actually feel their hearts shattering. Tears stung my eyes and my heart ached as I read. The emotions continue to leap from the pages as the family try to deal with Max’s tragic death, Leila’s possible guilt, the impending court case, and an array of family secrets lurking in the shadows.
Every facet of this book is spectacularly written. The story and characters are nuanced, compelling and full of depth. As with all this author’s books, this is a story that has many layers and deals with a multitude of topics, going beyond simply the crime that took place. At the heart of this book is a family who have been visited by tragedy many times. She explores the effect this has on mental health and how trauma and jealousy can affect our perception of people and events, often clouding our ability to see things clearly. She asks just how much someone can take before they break and examines the complicated threads that can both hold a family together and threaten to tear it apart.
Another aspect of Ms. Abdullah’s books I admire, is how she uses them as a social commentary, focusing on a different issue in each one. In Next of Kin it is childless women. Leila isn’t a mother, and through this she explores how it feels to be a childless woman in our society. She shows how these women are scorned, viewed as cold and selfish and looked down upon. In Leila’s case, her childlessness is even used against her as a reason she’d want to kill her nephew, adding to the already pervading sense of injustice you feel on her behalf.
Sizzling with tension, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat right until the last page, the author slowly peeling away the layers to reveal the hidden truth. And just when I thought I’d got it all figured out… Holy twist, Batman! In comes a curve ball that hits like a bomb and blows everything I thought I knew into pieces. Days later I’m still reeling from the shock.
Gritty, hard-hitting and addictive, this is one of the best legal thrillers I’ve ever read. Ms. Abdullah just keeps getting better and better and is now my go-to author recommendation in this genre, overtaking John Grisham, who I’ve been a huge fan of since my mid teens. If you haven’t read her books, then what are you waiting for? Do it now!
MEET THE AUTHOR:
From the author’s website: Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel Take It Back was named one of the best thrillers of the year by The Guardian and Telegraph and was selected for an industry-first audio serialisation by HarperCollins and The Pigeonhole. Her follow-up novel, Truth Be Told, is out now (Mar 2021, HarperCollins).
Born in Tower Hamlets in East London, Kia was raised in a family of eight children. As the most stubborn of six daughters, she constantly found herself in trouble for making choices that clashed with her parents’, a habit they came to accept when she became their first and only child to graduate from university – with a degree in Computer Science.
In 2007, Kia left her job in tech to pursue the one thing she had always wanted: a career as a writer, taking a 50% pay cut in the process. She worked as sub-editor and later features editor at Asian Woman Magazine where she interviewed British-Asian luminaries like Riz Ahmed, Meera Syal, Nitin Sawnhey and Anoushka Shankar.
Kia went on to join global publisher Penguin Random House where she helped grow digital readership at Rough Guides to over a million users per month. In 2014, she quit her day job to found Atlas & Boots, an outdoor travel blog now read by 250,000 people a month.
Today, she splits her time between London and the Yorkshire Dales town of Richmond, and spends her time writing, hiking, mentoring pupils from Tower Hamlets and visiting far-flung destinations for Atlas & Boots.
Kia loves to travel, hates to cook and periodically highlights that, in actual fact, she is one of nine children (one passed away), making her Seven of Nine… which is cool but only if you’re a Star Trek fan… which she is. But please don’t hold it against her.
Published: September 2nd, 2021 Publisher: Head of Zeus Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Novel, Domestic Fiction Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this extraordinary piece of historical fiction. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and the gifted limited edition proof copy of the book.
From the outside, Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have the perfect life, but they’re harbouring a secret that threatens to fracture their entire world.
Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.
When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy – one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.
Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried.
Will Eleanor and Edward be able to fight for their family? Or will the truth destroy them?
A perfect family is fractured and torn apart when illness invades their lives and not only tests their strength, but makes them question their core beliefs and values in this extraordinary piece of historical fiction.
Powerful, moving, thought-provoking and illuminating, this book will leave you a different person to the one who began reading. It will break your heart, make you question humanity, and then give you back your hope. Exquisitely crafted, the story is written with heart and compassion, somehow finding beauty in the most ugly of subjects. I won’t pretend this isn’t hard to read in places; characters talk about ideals that are reprehensible, make plans that sickened me and spoke vile words about some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and that is hard to digest. But these things are taken from history. And it is important to remember, recognise and learn from them. It is also a reminder that these things aren’t black and white, but nuanced, and that the best stories and lessons in life are sometimes found in the shades of grey.
The Hidden Child explores a part of British history that has been swept under the rug for decades. When we think of eugenics most of us will think of it in the context of Nazi Germany and the horrors of the Holocaust. But through this story, which begins eleven years before the start of WW2, the author strips bare the walls of secrecy to highlight our own country’s history with the Eugenics Movement. Something I was completely ignorant of before reading this book. I had no idea that the movement was born in England at the end of the nineteenth century, or how widespread it was in the beginning of the 1900s. It felt particularly poignant for me to be reading this on September 3rd, the 82nd anniversary of the beginning of WW2. To read as characters, some of whom were real people in history, discussing these ideas like they were saving the human race was stomach-churning and sobering. This was ableism at its peak and was terrifyingto read, particularly as someone who would have then been dismissed as an ‘undesirable’. The so-called treatments Mabel is subjected to are barbaric and were the hardest scenes for me to read. It made me so grateful for how far we have come in our treatment of epilepsy and mental illness in the past hundred years and serves as a potent reminder that it is not solely monsters who are responsible for the most awful and shocking times in history, but ordinary, and often admired, people too.
Edward and Eleanor Hamilton lived a charmed life. They are a wealthy, well respected couple with everything going for them. But this begins to fall apart when their five-year-old daughter Mabel begins to suffer fits. Staunch supporters of the Eugenics Movement, this, and her subsequent Epilepsy diagnosis, rocks their world. How can their perfect, healthy daughter be one of the ‘undesirables’ they campaign against? Instinctively, they hide Mabel away and keep her condition secret. This unfolding nightmare takes them on a harrowing and heart-wrenching journey of self discovery. One filled with privilege, moral superiority, uncomfortable truths, reprehensible actions and regret. As they battle her condition and try to keep their lives from falling apart, they find themselves questioning everything they thought they knew to be true. Could what they believed about those who are ‘defective’ be wrong?
Despite their awful beliefs, it is impossible not to feel empathy for this couple. For me, this is a real testimony to the skill of the author’s writing, as she manages to convey both disgust at their beliefs and some of their actions, and empathy as they watchtheir daughter suffer and attempt to make sense of what is happening. You feel their utter disbelief and devastation at her diagnosis, their heartbreak as they do what they believe is right. Through their backstories we come to understand how they were drawn to eugenics, though Edward’s past is shrouded in shadows that take much longer to come to light. And by giving them both a voice, the author allows the reader a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings they keep to themselves, revealing a fuller picture and giving us a greater understanding of them.
There is an increasing sense of claustrophobia as the secrets , isolation and fear close in around not only Eleanor and Edward, but young Mabel too. We never get the story from her perspective, instead the author takes a much more striking, and creative route, giving a voice and persona to the illness itself. This was my favourite element of the book. As someone with multiple chronic illnesses, I related to this on a very personal level. Illnesses do feel like they have their own personalities and unique voices that only you can hear. The author eloquently conveys this through Epilepsy’s enlightening and evocative chapters. It was a powerful and moving master stroke that really makes the book stand out.
This was my first foray into reading this author’s books and has immediately secured her a place on my must-read list and that of authors I recommend everybody read. The book is meticulously researched and brimming with emotion. I couldn’t put it down. A masterful storyteller, she has merged her own personal knowledge and experience with fiction and historical fact to create a book that is simply breathtaking.
Affecting, immersive, atmospheric and compelling, The Hidden Child is an absolute triumph. A story of love, loss, hope and redemption, it is a reminder that we must stand up against prejudice and those who promote it. Everyone needs to read this book, including the unmissable author’s note at the end. I would love to see this book added to school reading lists so that the next generation can heed its warnings and learn the lessons on its pages.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Louise writes twentieth century historical fiction, based around unheard voices, or from unusual perspectives.
Her debut novel, PEOPLE LIKE US (entitled DAUGHTER OF THE REICH in the US/Canada edition) and first published in 2020 into 13 territories, is set in 1930’s Leipzig, seen through the eyes of a young girl, Hetty, brainwashed into believing the Nazi dream, until that is, she encounters Walter, a Jew. The book was shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize 2021 and the RNA Historical Novel of the Year Award, 2021.
Louise’s second novel, THE HIDDEN CHILD, will be published in the UK in September 2021 and the US and Canada in October 2021, and is the story of Edward and Eleanor, firm believers in the widely held pseudo-science of Eugenics, who firmly believe in genetic superiority. Their world is shattered, however, when their young daughter, Mabel, develops debilitating seizures.
Louise lives in Surrey with her husband, children, two naughty cats and small dog Bonnie, who is the best writing companion she could ask for. Always at her side when she writes and listens most patiently when Louise needs to talk through a tricky plot problem. She is currently working on her third novel.