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BLOG TOUR: The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

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

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

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SYNOPSIS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MY REVIEW:

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

Wow.  Just, wow.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sink your teeth into this moreish read ASAP.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ 

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

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

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BOOK REVIEW: Once Upon A Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

Published: September 30th 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Fairy Tale, Magical Realism, Romance Novel, Romantic Fantasy, Paranormal Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of Once Upon A Broken Heart. I read this beguiling novel as part of a buddy read with Jodie.

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SYNOPSIS:

How far would you go for happily ever after?

From the #1 Sunday Times bestselling author of the Caraval series, the first book in a new series about love, curses, and the lengths that people will go to for happily ever after.

For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in happily ever after. Until she learns that the love of her life is about to marry another, and her dreams are shattered.

Desperate to stop the wedding, and heal her wounded heart, Evangeline strikes a deal with the charismatic, but wicked, Prince of Hearts. In exchange for his help, he asks for three kisses, to be given at the time and place of his choosing.

But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that bargaining with an immortal is a dangerous game – and that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“The bell hanging outside the curiosity shop knew the human was trouble from the way he moved through the door.”

And with that intriguing quote so begins one of my most highly anticipated books of 2021.  
I’d read many reviews raving about this book and had heard countless praise for Stephanie Garber, so I was filled with both excitement and trepidation when I finally read it as part of a buddy read in February.  Would it live up to the hype?  What I discovered between the pages was not what I expected, it was even better.  Alluring, intoxicating and beguiling, it cast its spell on me from the first page and didn’t let go.  I got lost in this fairytale world and never wanted to find my way out. 

“Always promise less than you can give, for Fates always take more,
Do not make bargains with more than one Fate,
And, above all, never fall in love with a Fate.”

Set in the fictional world of Valenda, it tells the story of Evangeline Fox, a young girl desperate to win back the man she loves.  So she seeks out Jacks, also known as the Prince of Hearts, and strikes a deal.  All he asks for is three kisses that are to be given at a time and place of his choosing.  It seems so simple.  But Evangeline soon learns that a deal made with an immortal can be dangerous and there is always a higher price to pay…

“She sensed that she was living in an illusion and if she looked closely, she’d see that everything she’d thought was stardust was really just the burning embers of a wicked spell.” 

Stephanie Garber has a new fan.  I was mesmerised by this magical tale and now understand the hype.  Beautifully and evocatively written, Ms. Garber brings to life the world she created so vividly that I felt like I was right beside Evangeline in this world of enchantment, illusion and bewitchment where fairytales come true.  But I don’t want to say more about the plot because this is one of those times I think it’s best to go in as blind as possible and enjoy the thrill of experiencing the story unfold for yourself.

“She also knew that sometimes there was a murky space in between good and evil.”

Evangeline and Jacks are great protagonists. I enjoyed their contrasting characters and how they represented good versus evil: Evangeline the innocent, sweet and naive girl who believes in love and happily-ever-after is the good, while Jacks is the seductive, enthralling, calculating and manipulative villain represents the bad.  But over time we begin to see other sides to their personalities, particularly Evangeline, who must become more wiley in order to survive her time in Valenda.  But it was Jacks who stole the show for me; his irresistible charm captivating me like those he traps with his bargains.  Plus, there is just something about a complex, layered and morally grey character like him that I love.

“All stories are both truth and lies. What matters is the way we believe in them.”

Once Upon a Broken Heart is a delightful and whimsical tale that glistens with magic.  And that ending!  It crept up on me out of nowhere and left me desperate to know what happened next.  I need book two now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Stephanie Garber is the #1  New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of the Caraval Series. Once Upon A Broken Heart is her newest book. Her books are published in over thirty languages.

When she’s not writing, she’s usually reading or watching television shows with vampires. Now that her dream of becoming a published author has come true, her new dream is to visit Club 33 at Disneyland.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx

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BLOG TOUR: The Blood Isles by C. F. Barrington (Pantheon Book 2)

Published: March 3rd 2022
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Suspense, Fantasy Fiction, Travel Literature, Adventure Fiction, Book Series, Fantasy Series
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

This is a few days late but I’m finally sharing my review for the suspenseful second book in the Pantheon trilogy. Thank you to Jade at Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

The second in an action-packed adventure thriller series, where modern-day recruits compete in an ancient fight to the death in the streets of Edinburgh.

New Season. New Rules. Same deadly game…

The Pantheon Games are the biggest underground event in the world, followed by millions online. New recruits must leave behind their twenty-first century lives and vie for dominance in a gruelling battle to the death armed only with ancient weapons – and their wits.

Last season’s new recruits Tyler and Lana have lived to fight another day, but now they face a series of even more lethal clashes before the Grand Battle that will end the Season.

It’s survival of the fittest, in the most brutal fashion imaginable. Lana must face the demons of her past, and Tyler has the mother of all targets on his back.

This action-packed adventure thriller is perfect for fans of Pierce Brown’s Red RisingBattle Royale and The Running Man.

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MY REVIEW:

“Battle is terror. The wait is worse.” 

The Pantheon Games are the world’s biggest underground events.  Bankrolled by the elite, they are watched by millions online as the chosen competitors embark on life or death battles armed with only ancient weapons.  
Tyler and Lana – now known as Punnr and Calder – are new recruits to Edinburgh’s Valhalla Horde and are gearing up for their first blood season.  It begins with the blood nights and culminates in the Grand Battle, a brutal war between Scotland’s two warring factions that is the most dangerous of Pantheon’s year.  Can the pair survive to fight another year?  Or will they fall.

In the second of C.F. Barrington’s Pantheon trilogy he again merges fantasy and reality to create a world that is believable and addictive.  The book opens with the stats of both Hordes and then succinctly catches you up on the events of book one with a section titled ‘What has come before’.  This was a brilliant idea to include as this is a complex and layered world filled with an array of characters.  I still found myself getting a little confused at times due to the huge amount of detail that is needed to explain Pantheon’s rules but it didn’t last long and I was soon back on tenterhooks as the riveting action occurred.  
In the background of the games is the ongoing search for Morgan, Tyler’s sister, who was part of Valahlla’s rival Horde.  This parallel storyline provides added tension and mystery to the story as well as increased risk to Tyler and the others who are trying to track Morgan down.  Some of those high up in Pantheon risk losing their position should she be found and reveal what she knows meaning Tyler and the others are fighting against not only their sworn enemies but those in their own ranks who will do anything to silence those who pose a threat to their position. 

There are a multitude of great characters from heroes you can root for to villains you love to hate.  I enjoyed being back with them, particularly the ones familiar from book one, and enjoyed seeing how they and their relationships developed in this instalment.  Tyler/Punnr is a great protagonist and I loved his friendship with Brante, his blossoming relationship with Lana/Calder, and the brotherly bond he shares with Oliver.  I was completely invested and worrying about Tyler would be affected should he lose any of these people just added to the tension.  I thought there was a good balance of character study and action, allowing the reader to feel a real connection with the many characters while also being full of suspense.  

The Blood Isles is an addictive and entertaining read that you will enjoy even if, like me, this isn’t your usual genre.  And that ending!  I thought my heart would beat out of my chest and am going to be counting down to book three after that climatic cliffhanger!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

C F Barrington spent twenty years intending to write a novel, but found life kept getting in the way. Instead, his career took him into major gift fundraising, leading teams in organisations as varied as Oxford University, the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles☺️ Emma xxx

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

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BLOG TOUR: The Unravelling by Polly Crosby

Published: January 6th 2022
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Magical Realism, Fairy Tale
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising and haunting novel. Apologies that I am posting late due to illness. Thank you to HQ for the gifted copy of the book and the invitation to take part.

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SYNOPSIS:

A darkly beautiful dual-timeline novel with a captivating mystery, for fans of Diane Setterfield, Kate Morton, Kate Mosse and Kiran Millwood Hargrave

’Like a surreal cabinet of curiosities – haunting, eerie, evocative’ Bridget Collins, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Binding

When Tartelin Brown accepts a job with the reclusive Marianne Stourbridge, she finds herself on a wild island with a mysterious history.

Tartelin is tasked with hunting butterflies for Marianne’s research. But she quickly uncovers something far more intriguing than the curious creatures that inhabit the landscape.

Because the island and Marianne share a remarkable history, and what happened all those years ago has left its scars, and some terrible secrets.

As Tartelin pieces together Marianne’s connection to the island, she must confront her own reasons for being there. Can the two women finally face up to the painful memories that bind them so tightly to the past?

Atmospheric and deeply emotional, The Unravelling is the captivating novel from the author of The Illustrated Child.

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MY REVIEW:

“There’s something about this place that I can’t quite get a grip on. It’s as if it’s trying to tell me something, but I don’t know the language.” 

The Unravelling is a story of mystery, grief and metamorphosis set on an isolated island where decades-old secrets are rooted in its very fabric.  Told in dual timelines, this mesmerising story is woven together by gossamer threads that slowly unfurl to reveal the mystery of this peculiar island, its mysterious matriarch and a strange summer many years earlier.

“That night my sleep is velvet blue, dark and dreamless, and when I wake in the morning I forget where I am.”

Polly Crosby is a masterful storyteller who is skilled at crafting intricate and multilayered stories that have so much hidden beneath the surface.  This one has trauma, grief and pain woven into every facet of the narrative, while beautiful, immersive and hypnotic prose pulls you into the world the author has created so completely that everything else falls away.  With evocative imagery she crafts an original landscape that feels vividly real, transporting you to this dark, cryptic place and holding you captive as you try to decipher what is real and what is imagination.  With this book Ms. Crosby has confirmed she is no one-hit wonder and secured her place on my list of favourite and auto-buy authors.

“She is right. This place is tangled up with secrets. Not just the island itself: I sense Miss Stourbridge holds secrets here too.” 

The story centres around two women: Marianne and Tartelin.  Marianne is a cantankerous, secretive old woman who has recently returned to the island owned by her family to study mutation of the local butterflies.  She has hired Tartelin, a young woman trying to come to terms with the recent death of her mother, as her assistant.  From the start Tartelin is intrigued by Marianne and eager to know more about her.  But Marianne is a closed book, unwilling to form any kind of bond or share stories with her only companion or tell her what it is that she is searching for.  They are fascinating and compelling characters, but while I took to Tartelin immediately, it took me a while to warm to Marianne, her spiky shell making it hard to see who she really is underneath.  But as the dual timelines gave us a glimpse into who they both were, and as Tartelin managed to persuade her to reveal more of her heartbreaking story, I grew to not only care about her but admire how strong she was after surviving all she’d been through.

“When I first arrived on Duhhalund, I was disappointed that it wasn’t the beautiful island I hoped for, but now I can see its strange beauty everywhere I look.  It is a wild beauty, a secret beauty that twists and burrows inside me until sometimes I can’t separate myself from it. I’ve never felt like this about a place before. It’s an exhilarating feeling. “

Ms. Crosby has created such a strong and spectacular sense of place in this book that Duhholund feels like a character in itself.  Claustrophobic and isolated, it is a place shrouded in shadows and secrets.  It is a wild place, taken over by nature, without electricity, covered in ruins and inhabited by strange creatures.  It is as if the island is alive, its sinister beauty a living, breathing thing you can feel.  There is a power to it, something almost mythical, the menace and foreboding lingering over every page as you read. 

“The pull of it. Magnetic. As if it wants me to search out its secrets.” 

Haunting, atmospheric and alluring, The Unravelling is like stepping into a cabinet of curiosities.  A magnificent historical mystery that is not to be missed.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

After a whirlwind of a year which saw Polly receive writing scholarships from both Curtis Brown Creative and The University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, she went on to be runner up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel. Read Polly’s piece for the Bridport Prize’s blog here.

Polly’s novel was snapped up by HarperCollins HQ in the UK and Commonwealth in a 48 hour pre-empt, and a few days later by HarperCollins Park Row Books in North America.

Polly grew up on the Suffolk coast, and now lives in the heart of Norfolk with her husband and son, and her very loud and much loved rescue Oriental cat, Dali.

The Illustrated Child is her first novel. Her second novel, The Unravelling, is out on 6th January ‘22.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | 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

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Review: Midnight in Everwood by M. A. Kuzniar

Published: October 28th, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Magical Realism, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

SYNOPSIS:

In the darkness of night, magic awaits…

Nottingham, 1906

Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but, as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered – she must marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But, when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in Marietta’s life.

After Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance on Christmas Eve, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own – a magic darker than anyone could imagine. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from her family’s ballroom to a frozen sugar palace, silent with secrets, in a forest of snow-topped fir trees. She must find a way to return home before she’s trapped in Everwood’s enchanting grip forever.

In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…

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MY REVIEW:

“Only the most magical things happen at midnight. When mortal folk are dreaming, safe in their beds, it is then that the sprites and goblins creep out and the air crackles with wild magic.”

Nottingham, 1906. Marietta longs to be a ballerina but she is torn between the life she wants and the one her high society family expects her to have.

On Christmas Eve, as she prepares for final performance, Marietta discovers a hidden magical world full of wonder hidden in the scenery built by mysterious new neighbour Dr. Drosselmeir. But this enchanting place holds magic darker than she ever imagined and Marietta soon finds herself fighting to find a way to break free of Everwood’s hold and return home.

I’d saved Midnight in Everwood to read over Christmas and I am so glad I did. I started it on Christmas Eve, which is when most of the magic happens in Everwood, and was so enthralled that I had to force myself to stop reading at 2am so I would be able to function the next day. I was spellbound by this magical tale that I feel sure will become a future Christmas classic.

“… once magic has entered your life, you stay in it’s glittering clutch forever.”

Luminous and enchanting, Midnight in Everwood is a dark fairytale for adults. An air of creeping menace lingers over every page like a silent shadow waiting to strike, making my heart race and sending shivers down my spine. Richly imagined and beautifully told, I was transported to another world as I followed Marietta’s journey. Ms. Kuzniar is a gifted wordsmith, her glorious prose and evocative imagery bringing the stifling rigidity of high society in the early 1900s and the dazzling beauty of Everwood to life as vividly as if I’d stepped inside them myself.

Like Marietta, I was enchanted by Everwood, a wondrous dreamworld with its sugar-spun castle, frozen landscape and magical charms. But beneath the glittering facade is a much darker side. Less of a dream and more of a nightmare. A place ruled by a tyrant who enjoys torture and pain.

“Never dull your sparkle for anyone else, flame fiercely into your own glittering future.”

This is a book filled with spectacular characters. Marietta is a brilliant protagonist who I immediately liked. Feisty and determined, she doesn’t fit the mould expected of her and refuses to acquiesce. I loved this and was rooting for her from the start. That feeling only grew after she’s captured in Everwood and I was cheering her on and hoping she would find a way to escape the king’s clutches. I loved the relationship she had with her brother, Frederick, himself a great character who I could have happily read a lot more of. But it was her friendship with Pirlipata and Dellara I enjoyed most of all. This wonderful trio were a delight to read, Dellara in particular bringing an ebullience to the page that made her captivating. I loved watching their bond grow and cheering them along as they came together to find a way home.

Shimmering, incandescent and haunting, Midnight in Everwood is a mesmerising debut sprinkled with magic. The perfect book to get lost in on a cold winter’s day while snuggled under a cosy blanket, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is one that I will treasure forever.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Maria Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows. Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nutcracker.

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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

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Review: A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

Published: September 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

SYNOPSIS:

A lyrical and atmospheric homage to the strange and extraordinary, perfect for fans of Angela Carter and Erin Morgenstern.

This is the story of The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived…

Born into a post-war circus family, our nameless star was unwanted and forgotten, abandoned in the shadows of the big top. Until the bright light of Serendipity Wilson threw her into focus.

Now an adult, haunted by an incident in which a child was lost from the circus, our narrator, a tightrope artiste, weaves together her spellbinding tales of circus legends, earthy magic and folklore, all in the hope of finding the child… But will her story be enough to bring the pair together again?

Beautiful and intoxicating, A Girl Made of Air brings the circus to life in all of its grime and glory; Marina, Manu, Serendipity Wilson, Fausto, Big Gen and Mouse will live long in the hearts of readers. As will this story of loss and reconciliation, of storytelling and truth.

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MY REIVEW:

“Up until this moment I have lived in sepia, my muddy life devoid of meaning.  That is how it always feels, until I see her, once again, bathed in colour and light.”

A Girl Made of Air is one of those rare literary gems where what is on the inside is just as beautiful as the dazzling cover on the outside.  It is genuinely one of the most beautiful and captivating stories I have ever read.  A truly mesmerising and magical debut, it weaves an enthralling tale that is poignant, sad and dark, yet also filled with hope, colour and wonder. It tells the story of a nameless and unwanted protagonist, following her from the days as a neglected child living in a circus in England then all the way to New York, where she found fame as the greatest Funambulist of all time. 

In a book filled with larger than life characters, our protagonist at first feels so small and insignificant.  She is born into a life of poverty and neglect; the unwanted child of Marina, a mermaid-esque character who swims with crocodiles, and Manu, a lion tamer.  She spends her earliest years invisible, silent and unloved, keeping to the shadows and scrounging for scraps of food.  But when she’s seven years old she is taken in by Serendipity Wilson, a flame-haired woman who dazzles all who meet her, and for the first time our protagonist experiences real kindness and love.  Now nicknamed Mouse, Serendipity Wilson takes her under her wing and teaches her the art of walking the wire, introducing her to the art that becomes her passion and sees her become the star of the show, performing in the big top and then taking her talent to Coney Island in New York.  But there is an underlying heartache that mars any happiness she finds, the rejection and hatred of her mother casting a shadow that never fades, no matter how brightly she shines.  

“What happens to all the lost memories; the moments of silent thought, the complicity of long-gone lovers, when our minds are so far gone our still breathing bodies may as well be thrown into some dark oubliette? What happens to a life once lived?”

I am still in awe that this is a debut novel.  Nydia Hetherington merges Manx folklore, fairy tales, circus freaks and fiction in this phenomenal tale of the strange and the extraordinary.  She takes us behind the shimmering spectacle of the circus, pulling back the curtain to reveal the truth of life in the grubby, bleak encampment.  The author’s descriptions are so vivid that I could see and smell the dirt, mud and animals; a rotten stench that the performers can never escape.  It is a depressing insight into the poverty they live in despite their incredible talents.   But it is also breathtakingly beautiful and intoxicating, the lyrical and evocative prose transporting you to the world the author created and bringing it to life as clearly as if you’re watching it on a movie screen.   

“My words are a labyrinth into which we can wander.  As I write these tales, I can follow each path, each fallen leaf, in the hope they might take me to the person I seek.”

There were many elements of the writing that I loved, including the author’s use of storytelling throughout the book, both in how she has Mouse narrate the story as she transcribes her memories that she scribbled down in notebooks and journals over the years and as she tells us the Manx Folklore that Serendipity Wilson would tell Mouse.  I also enjoyed how contrasts play such a big part of the story, whether that is in the characters and places which are flamboyant and colourful yet shabby and somber, or in the writing itself which manages to be both magical and full of misery.  Ms. Hetherington is clearly a born storyteller and writer whose attention to detail is evident on every page.  I never wanted it to end and savoured every word.  

Spellbinding, luminous and kaleidoscopic, A Girl Made of Air was a joy to read from beginning to end.  It is a book that lingers long after reading, where I’ll catch myself thinking about it at random moments. My only frustration is that I allowed it to languish on my shelf unread for so long.  So if you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so as soon as possible.  And be prepared to fall in love.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From Leeds — although born on Merseyside and spending the first few years of life on the Isle of Man — Nydia Hetherington moved to London in her early twenties to embark on an acting career. Later she moved to Paris where she created her own theatre company. When she returned to London a decade later, she completed a creative writing degree at Birkbeck, graduating with first class honours.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Merry Christmas! Emma xxxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Wolf Mile by C. F. Barrington

Published: August 5th, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Suspense, Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Adventure Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this thrilling first book in a new series. Thank you to C. F. Barrington and Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC. Apologies that this is a day late, but I had my dates mixed up.

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SYNOPSIS:

An action-packed adventure thriller, where modern-day recruits compete in an ancient, deadly game in the streets of Edinburgh.

Welcome to the Pantheon Games. Let the streets of Edinburgh run with blood . . .

The Games are the biggest underground event in the world, followed by millions online. New recruits must leave behind their twenty-first century lives and vie for dominance in a gruelling battle to the death armed only with ancient weapons – and their wits.

Tyler Maitland and Lana Cameron have their own reasons for signing up. Now they must risk their lives and join the ranks of seven ancient warrior teams that inhabit this illicit world. Their journey will be more extraordinary and horrifying than anything they could have dreamed, testing them to breaking point.

Let the Season begin.

This action-packed adventure thriller is perfect for fans of Pierce Brown’s Red RisingBattle Royale and The Running Man.

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MY REVIEW:

The streets of Edinburgh will be their fighting ground . . . and they will run with the blood of warriors.

The Wolf Mile is the first in an addictive new series. This is a book that’s out of my comfort zone but I was drawn to it as the synopsis reminded me of The Hunger Games, which I loved. And while it did take a little time for me to get into the story, I was soon on the edge of my seat, turning the pages furiously as I awaited Tyler and Lana’s fate. 

Expertly merging fantasy and reality, the author brings the city of Edinburgh to life with his vivid imagery. And with slow, comprehensive world-building he also brings the Pantheon to life, making these brutal games feel real. By the end, I truly believed there was an underground battle raging between these seven groups and was rooting for the Horde to emerge victorious. 

Tyler and Lana are great protagonists. They have rich backstories, are likeable and fascinating. I wanted them to succeed in every way and loved the twists and turns the story took us on as the author merged their real lives with that of Vahalla. The story is also filled with some great background characters, both hero and villain, who I’m hoping we learn more about in subsequent installments of the series. 

The Wolf Mile is a thrilling and compelling debut that even those who don’t usually read the genre, like me, will love. I could have cried in frustration when it ended as I was so immersed in the story and am relieved that the follow up has already been announced for October. I need to know what happens next!

 Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

C F Barrington spent twenty years intending to write a novel, but found life kept getting in the way. Instead, his career took him into major gift fundraising, leading teams in organisations as varied as Oxford University, the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

When his role as Head of Communications at Edinburgh Zoo meant a third year of fielding endless media enquiries about the possible birth of a baby panda, he finally retreated to a quiet desk beside the sea and discovered the inspiration for the Pantheon saga.

Raised in Hertfordshire and educated at Oxford, he now divides his time between running over the hills of the Lake District and dog walking on the beaches of Fife.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon | Google Books | Kobo
*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 xxxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Published: May 27th, 2021
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Fairy Tale, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy, Horror Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story, Fantasy Series
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this enchanting tale. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Harper Voyager UK for the gorgeous proof.

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SYNOPSIS:

Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.

‘Magic and love. Love and magic. They destroy everything in the end …’

Anna’s Aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences.

Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever.

Until she meets Effie and Attis.

They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revellers lose themselves in a haze of spells.

But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her Aunt was right all along.

Is her magic a gift … or a curse?

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MY REVIEW:

“Goddess of Silence and Secrets: Seal our mouths, so we can’t speak. Pierce our eyes, so we can’t seek. Knot our hearts, so we can’t feel. Bind our spells; to you we kneel. What is forgotten, can’t be known. What isn’t planted, can’t be sown. Lock the door and turn the key. We bear our magic silently. – The Binders’ Blessing”

This first installment in the new Language of Magic series tells the story of Anna, an orphaned fifteen-year-old who lives with her Aunt, Vivienne. They are witches, but Aunt believes magic to be dangerous and deadly, and has brought Anna up to fear her powers. When she turns sixteen Anna will undergo the Knotting ceremony and become a Binder like her Aunt, no longer able to use her magic. But when her late mother’s best friend Selene moves back to London with her teenage daughter Effie and Attis, a family friend, Anna’s eyes are opened to a world she’s never known. 

Meanwhile, a group of six women are found hanged at Big Ben, sending her Aunt and the Binders into a frenzy. As Anna begins to question the things she has been told about both magic and her past, she starts to wonder if there could be a future out there for her that doesn’t include having her magic bound. 

“Whispers divide, in secrets we thrive.”

Before we talk about the book we need to talk about the cover. Both the proof and the finished version are so beautiful that it is impossible to resist their allure. But what about what’s inside? 

Threadneedle is a story of secrets, lies and self-discovery interwoven with a hidden magical world. It opens with an eerie and macabre scene that gives the book an air of ominous foreboding and mystery. After that, things slow down a little as the author sets the scene for the reader. But when I got to about a fifth of the way through, the pace picked up and the story was soon sizzling with tension, twists and mischief.

Magic had beckoned its hand and she had followed. It was a beginning — the door was ever so slightly ajar.” 

Anna is a very sheltered character. She has been controlled and mistreated by her Aunt all her life, even believing it is wrong to have friends. The author immerses the reader in the indoctrination Anna has been subjected to by starting each chapter with a quote from The Book of the Binders and the teachings are woven into every thread of the story, omnipresent and impossible to escape, enabling you to understand Anna’s feelings of fear and powerlessness. When the outgoing and spirited Effie and Attis come into her life, they are initially unwelcome and a danger to her protected bubble. But once Effie has identified Rowan and Miranda as witches and the four of them come together, things slowly change. For the first time in her life Anna has friends, feels happy, and is making some of her own choices; though she is still terrified of the consequences should her Aunt find out. I enjoyed watching Anna’s journey as she grappled with the lies she’s been told, began to break free of her Aunt’s control and finally blossomed into her own person. 

Aunt Vivienne is a truly vile character. She is so well-written that I despised her and wished for her downfall. In fact she was so evil that I felt like if you unzipped her a demon would emerge. The women of the Binders have an equally malevolent and sinister vibe and together they would send shivers down my spine as they subjected poor Anna to yet more trauma. 

“This was magic without bounds, without rules, magic fed by something else entirely.” 

The magical world that the author has created is so believable that I accepted it without hesitation. I could imagine all of these secret, mystical places hidden in London and the witches moving amongst ordinary humans without detection. There is so much potential in this world and the characters for her future books and I’m excited to see where she takes it. 

A magical, mysterious and bewitching story full of serpentine twists, Threadneedle is an enthralling story that I would highly recommend. I can’t wait to read more of this exciting new series. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Cari Thomas grew up in the Wye Valley area of Wales and, after studying English Literature & Creative Writing at Warwick University and Magazine Journalism at the Cardiff School of Journalism, moved to London. She worked as a journalist and at a creative agency, before finally doing what she’d always wanted to do: quit her job and write a book about magic.

The result is Threadneedle, her debut novel and the first in her Language of Magic series. Be introduced to a world of wild, ancient witchcraft hidden within today’s London; where libraries made of books breathe dusty pages beneath the city, where witch clubs serve up magical cocktails and vintage shops sell memories. A world where magic gleams light and very, very dark.

Cari now lives in Bristol with her husband and son. 

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Kobo
*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
Emma's Anticipated Treasures First Line Friday

First Lines Friday

Welcome to First Lines Friday where I share the first lines from one of the books on my shelves to try and tempt you to add it to yours.

London, 1931.
There is a boy outside her daughter’s window.
Wendy feels it, like a trickle of starlight whispering in through a gap, a change in the very pressure and composition of the air. She knows, as sure as her own blood and bones, and the knowledge sends her running. Her hairbrush clatters to the floor in her wake, her bare feet fly over carpeted runners and slap wooden floorboards, past her husband’s room and to her daughter’s door.
It is not just any boy. it’s the boy, Peter.”

Today’s exhilarating first lines are taken from Wendy, Darling by A. C. Wise. I received this gorgeous finished copy yesterday and am so excited to start reading, particularly after those opening lines.

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SYNOPSIS:

A lush, feminist re-imagining on what happened to Wendy after Neverland, for fans of Circe and The Mere Wife.

For those that lived there, Neverland was a children’s paradise. No rules, no adults, only endless adventure and enchanted forests – all led by the charismatic boy who would never grow old.

But Wendy Darling grew up. She left Neverland and became a woman, a mother, a patient, and a survivor. Because Neverland isn’t as perfect as she remembers. There’s darkness at the heart of the island, and now Peter Pan has returned to claim a new Wendy for his lost boys…

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As soon as I heard about this one I knew I had to read it. I can’t wait to take a whole new look at this familiar and timeless story.

Thank you Titan Books for my gifted copy. Out June 1st, you can buy it here*
*this is an affiliate link

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. See you next week for more first lines xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Blast: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Published: April 27th, 2021
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Romantic Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Happy Publication Day to this beautiful book!

SYNOPSIS:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a sweeping romance rich with love and betrayal, with more than a dash of magic.

‘One of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long time’ MJ Rose, New York Times bestselling author of the Reincarnationalist series

They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis: the haphazard manifestations of her powers have long made her the subject of gossip – malicious neighbours even call her the Witch of Oldhouse.

But Nina’s life is about to change, for there is a new arrival in town: Hector Auvray, the renowned entertainer, who has used his own telekinetic talent to perform for admiring audiences around the world. Nina is dazzled by Hector, for he sees her not as a witch, but ripe with magical potential. Under his tutelage, Nina’s talent blossoms – as does her love for the great man.

But great romances are for fairy-tales, and Hector is hiding a secret bitter truth from Nina – and himself – that threatens their courtship.

The Beautiful Ones is a charming tale of love and betrayal and the struggle between conformity and passion, set in a world where scandal is a razor-sharp weapon.

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MY REVIEW:

“Nothing matters more than money to us, the Beautiful Ones who walk down these city streets in pristine gloves and silk-lined garments. You can give yourself the luxury of love because you are not one of us.”

The Beautiful Ones is a story of love, betrayal, society and duty. A love story that is familiar to us all: girl meets boy, girl falls in love, boy is in love with someone else, that someone else doesn’t deserve his love, all set in an Austen-esque era against a backdrop of high society inhabited by the Beautiful Ones, Losail’s elite socialites and the group that everyone wants to be part of.  

I was instantly captured by the book’s beautiful cover and intriguing synopsis, as well as rave reviews of the author’s back catalogue. It lives up to the expectation of beauty; from the glorious cover to the luxurious prose and evocative imagery. The lush, poetic prose washed over me as I read, immersing me in the opulent world of Losail’s high society. It is a world of plenty, where reputation is everything and there are rules they are expected to abide by, where scandals are feared and brandished as weapons in their power games. 

But while I was captured by its beauty, it did feel like there was something missing that prevented me from falling in love with this book. I felt like I was a little mis-sold on the magical elements of this story. It didn’t feel like there was really any fantasy element and while it is the thing that draws Hector and Nina to one another, it seemed like it had no real impact on the story. I was disappointed as I was looking forward to this part of the book, but think it would have been better to either remove it, or focus on it more.

My favourite character was Nina – a sweet, innocent, naive and romantic young girl. She doesn’t accept the boundaries and expectations of society, instead pushing back and being determined to be herself. I loved this about her and it made me root for her from the start. Hector is the first person she has met who not only accepts her for who she is, but also sees her powers as something wonderful to be nurtured. So it is hardly a surprise when she falls head over heels in love with him. I found Hector to be a nuanced character that I had mixed feelings for. But I did like his arc over the course of the book and enjoyed him and Nina together, how she helped him want to be a better person, and the things they taught each other. 

Valerie is the villain of the story. Though outwardly she is described as the most beautiful creature anyone has ever seen, it is quickly apparent that darkness lurks beneath her beauty. Rotten, vicious and vile, she will stop at nothing to get what she wants and takes pleasure in hurting those in her way. She was brilliantly written, as were the rest of this eclectic cast of characters that inhabited Losail. 

An issue at the heart of this book is how the women have no real agency, their families expecting them to acquiesce to their wishes even at the cost of their own happiness. The author explores this through our two main female characters, giving them very different experiences. Valerie was forced to marry someone she didn’t like out of duty to her family, while Nina is given the freedom to choose who she would like to marry. This makes an impact of how they see the world, giving them diverging views on life and shaping their overall character. I found this both fascinating and heart-rending. It was impossible not to feel sad for Valerie at the path she’d been forced to take and the unhappiness it had brought her, though I still feel her villainy was a choice she made. 

Entertaining and dramatic, this is a beautifully written love story that I would recommend if you enjoy historical or romantic fiction. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Rating:  ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, about music and magic, won a Copper Cylinder Award. Gods of Jade and Shadow was the 2020 American Library Association Reading List winner in the Fantasy category and won the 2020 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Mexican Gothic won a Pacific Northwest Book Award and made many best of the year lists.

She has edited several anthologies, including She Walks in Shadows (World Fantasy Award winner, published in the USA as Cthulhu’s Daughters), and others. Silvia is the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press. She co-edited the horror magazine The Dark with Sean Wallace from 2017 to 2020. She’s a columnist for The Washington Post and reviews books for NPR.

She has an MA in Science and Technology Studies from the University of British Columbia. Her thesis can be read online and is titled “Magna Mater: Women and Eugenic Thought in the Work of H.P. Lovecraft.”

Website |Instagram |Twitter |Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thank you to Jo Fletcher Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book. Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles, Emma xxx