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BLOG TOUR: Guilty Women by Melanie Blake

Published: April 28th 2022
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Genre: Crime Thriller, Suspense, Humorous Fiction, Erotic Mystery Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this sexy, salacious and spectacular novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Harper Collins for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

THE SENSATIONAL NEW THRILLER FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

Can they get away with murder?

 On a beautiful island off the English coast, four TV actresses gather.
Their fifth member is missing – and only they know why she was killed.
As the secret between them threatens to come out, tensions on set run high.
The women are determined that the show must go on – no matter what it costs.
But one of them is on the edge of telling the truth – and no show in the world could survive this scandal…   
 
All of the women have something to hide – but the question is, are they all guilty?

The cast of RUTHLESS WOMEN is back – but this time they’re in trouble…

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MY REVIEW

We’re back in Falcon Bay for more blood, blackmail, backstabbing, Botox and bonking.   Two months on from the now infamous live Christmas Day episode that ended in tragedy, St Augustine’s Cove is just beginning to get back its serenity after the media circus that followed Madeline Kane’s death.  But one of the group is so filled with guilt over her part in the TV-executive’s death that she’s threatening to crack.  The others rally round to try and stop her from hitting self-destruct, but can they survive the scrutiny of a cut-throat reporter, an ex with an unquenchable thirst for revenge and the glare of the world’s media and get away with murder?

Sassy, sharp, saucy and spectacular, this is another winner from Melanie Blake, who has shown herself to be the new queen of the killer bonkbuster.  While this isn’t my usual kind of read, these delightfully over-the-top tomes of pure escapism have become auto-reads for me.  I love the feeling of nostalgia that comes from these books, like a throwback to the eighties heyday of Dynasty and Jackie Collins but with a modern-day twist, and how we are given a peek behind the curtain to see the darker truths that lurk behind the glitz and glamour of showbiz.  They are a guilty pleasure that I devour hungrily,  feeling bereft when I’m finished. 

Another allure for me is how the author has chosen to shine a spotlight on the mature woman.  Women of middle age and above have long been silenced and invisible, especially in the media, and I love seeing them given a voice at last.  The women in these books, whether heroine or villain, are powerhouses; beautiful, fierce, ambitious and utterly compelling.  They are the shining stars who propel both the plot and fictional show forward and write their own stories in a business dominated by men. Themes of sisterhood and female empowerment running through every page, particularly within the bond that our quintet of narrators share.  But they are also flawed and complex, making terrible decisions that I couldn’t condone yet the author still had me rooting for them every step of the way.  And then there’s the sex.  This is a spicy novel that not only embraces the sexuality of these women but celebrates it, reminding us that it isn’t just young women who are hot, vivacious sexual beings.  It is refreshing to see such representation of older women, particularly as a woman of that age myself.

An outrageous, lusty romp filled with adrenaline, Guilty Women is a hilarious and gripping read that had me completely hooked.  Highly recommended for some sizzling summer reading.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Steam: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Bestselling author Melanie Blake’s own real life Rags to Riches story reads like the plot of an outrageous drama…

At fifteen years old Melanie Blake was told by her high school career advisors that her decision to do work experience at a local record shop was an ‘embarrassment to the school and a clear example that she wouldn’t go far in life or her career’. They were wrong. By nineteen she was working at the BBC’s iconic Top of the Pops show and by twenty-seven she had built a reputation as one of the UK’s leading music and entertainment managers, with her own agency and roster of award-winning artists who had sold more than 100 million records. During this time she also built up an acting agency from scratch which quickly became the most successful independent boutique agency in the UK where she manages clients from some of the biggest internationally syndicated shows in the world.

Her roster have won Baftas, Emmys and pretty much every best actress award going and Melanie is one of the most successful female agents in the world. In the UK alone, over 25 million people a week currently tune in to watch the very stars Melanie represents in their globally syndicated shows. In 2018 after two decades at the top of her game, Melanie decided to manage a smaller client list and concentrate on her other passion, writing – first as a columnist for a national newspaper, then as a playwright and now as a best-selling novelist.

Her first book The Thunder Girls became a Number 1 Best Seller in the summer of 2019 and the play she adapted from the novel broke box office records for a new work at the prestigious Lowry Theatre. She still represents a high profile stable of some of the best known faces on British television but is also now enjoying success in her own right as a producer, author and playwright.

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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 it reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

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

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

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

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

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SYNOPSIS:

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

Three women. Three dates. One missing man…

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

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

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

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

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages.

She wrote her debut novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher.

She now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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 social media blast.

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

BOOK REVIEW: Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Published: April 5th 2022
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Historical Fiction, Humorous Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day to the phenomenal Lessons in Chemistry. Today Elizabeth Zott is out in the world and I can’t wait for you to meet her. This is one of my favourite books this year and know it will be on my list of top books of 2022. This isn’t to be missed!

Thank you to Doubleday for the gifted ARC and finished copy in exchange for an honest review.

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SYNOPSIS:

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.

Like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

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MY REVIEW:

“Children. set the table.  Your mother needs a moment to herself.”

Well, I have been Zotted.  Witty, smart, vibrant and refreshing, I am in love with this heartwarming debut and its quirky heroine.  

Set in America during the 50s and 60s, Lessons in Chemistry tells the story of Elizabeth Zott, a woman like no one you’ve ever met.  She is an unusual woman for the times: a female research chemist, an unmarried woman living with her partner and then a single mother.  When we first meet her in 1961 Zott is a TV star, the famous host of Supper at Six, a show with unique concept where she not only combines cooking and chemistry, but uses her platform as a rallying cry to the housewives watching to reach their full potential and be appreciated for all they do.  The story then jumps back to 1952 and we follow Zott’s journey from no-nonsense scientist to inspirational feminist TV star in this powerful novel. 

“Elizabeth Zott was a woman with flawless skin and an unmistakable demeanor of someone who was not average and never would be.” 

There are some fabulous new literary heroines being written at the moment and I am here for it.  Zott stands out in this crowd as a feminist icon with timeless appeal; as relevant today as she is in the era she is created to inhabit.   Zott doesn’t see why women shouldn’t be equal to men, why she needs a husband or understand why others think it’s strange to have a laboratory instead of a kitchen.  She doesn’t underestimate women and talks to them like intelligent and capable beings, something that wasn’t the norm at the time.  She does things her own way and I adored this unconventional, determined, practical, straight-talking woman who is unapologetically herself.  
Zott’s passion for chemistry is all consuming.  Like it’s part of her DNA.  Though I’m clueless when it comes to science I still found her relatable, pulled in by her singular charm that makes her irresistible and unforgettable.  And while I’m not into science personally, I did love reading a female STEM character, especially one set in the 50s and 60s.  It is still a male dominated field where women are fighting for equality and Zott is an ideal icon to help challenge the sexism and misogyny of both the field and everyday life that women face to this day.  The book is set just before the sexual revolution of the sixties so Zott’s world is filled with the expectation that women are stupid, lesser thanand there to be used sexually by men in power.  I cheered as she challenged these expectations and rose beyond the expectations and limitations others held for her, refusing to acknowledge them herself.

“The reduction of women to something less than men, and the elevation of men to something more than women, is not biological: it’s cultural.  And it starts with two words: pink and blue.” 

But Zott isn’t the only great character in the book.  The author has filled the book with a cast of vivid and eccentric characters that are compelling and memorable, some likeable and others more nefarious. This includes Zott’s precocious daughter, Madeline, who might be even more intelligent and straight-talking than her mother, and their dog, Six Thirty, the most delightful dog ever written, who provides much of the comic relief and emotion of the story and stole my heart from his first appearance on the page. I dare any of you not to love him.

Lessons in Chemistry is a book for women who are authentically themselves, who challenge expectations and refuse to play dumb even when society tells them they should.  Zappy, zingy and zestful, this magnificent debut was a joy to read from beginning to end and I was sad to turn the final page.  The extraordinary Elizabeth Zott and her story will leave you with a warm glow in your heart and a smile on your face that lingers and I am hoping there will be more adventures from Zott, Mad and Six-Thirty, *crosses fingers*.

Read this book ASAP and be prepared to be Zotted.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

ABOUT

bjgbw copy.jpg

Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked widely in the fields of technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open-water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Born in California and most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.

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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

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Em & Me by Beth Morrey

Published: February 3rd 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Humorous Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this delightful and uplifting book. Thank you to Harper Collins for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

A mother.
A daughter.
A secret waiting to be discovered.

For too long – since the sudden death of her mother as a teenager, since the birth of her daughter, Em, when she was just seventeen – Delphine has been unable to let go of the past, obsessed with protecting Em and clinging to a secret that could ruin everything. She’s been living life in safe shades of grey.

The day that Delphine finally stands up for herself is the day that changes everything.

Delphine begins to remember what it’s like to want more: rediscovering her singing voice, opening herself to friendship, and reviving not only her mother’s roots, but her mother’s memories. As her life begins to fill with colour, can she be brave for herself and for Em? And what would happen if she finally told the truth?

A big-hearted, hopeful novel about finding second chances – and taking them.

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MY REVIEW:

“Was it better to unlock your mind like that, with the possibility of it being shuttered again, or was it preferable to stay in darkness?  You could leave things exactly as they are or be bold enough to make a change, but I was wary of making that leap.”

When I picked up this book I was looking forward to something light.  A bit of uplit after some darker reads.  And this certainly delivered. Before the story even began I was in love thanks to the gorgeous letter to her readers from author Beth Morrey.  It put a big smile on my face and set an upbeat tone that carried through to the rest of the book.  As for the story itself, this was a balm for the soul that felt like getting a warm hug in book form.  I was besotted.  I was a big fan of Ms. Morrey’s charming debut, Saving Missy, but with Em & Me she took things to another level. Enthralling, captivating and addictive, I couldn’t put this down and was to the spot as I flew through the pages.  

“We danced from story to dying and song to story until my thirteenth birthday, when the music stopped, and the stories ended, and from then on it vest just silence, me sitting on my bed with my arms around my knees, my father in his chair, both of us talking to the shadows.”

Em & Me explores the impact of the choices we make in life.  Not just the defining and pivotal moments, but also the seemingly small choices we make in our lives every day and how the ripple effect of every choice shapes our lives for both good and bad.  As the story moves between the past and present Delphine reflects on her past, looking back at the significant events that shaped her life and the decisions she made that led her to where she is today. For Delphine, motherhood is the thing that has had the greatest impact on her life.  Becoming a mother at a young age meant shelving her dreams and the life she imagined for herself, while losing her own mother at such a young age meant a huge shift in her life and we see how this loss shaped her, her grief hovering over every page.  But this is also a story about second chances, reminding us that it is never too late to chase our dreams and steer our life into another direction if only we can be brave enough to take that step.  

“The only time I felt properly warm was deep in a book, escaping to another world where I wasn’t Delphine Jones.”

This is a love letter to books and literature.  To the importance of them in our lives and the joy they bring.  I loved that both Delphine and Em are book lovers and literature is one of their biggest forms of communication.  There is so much joy to be found in books and the author really portrays this, highlighting the way they make you feel and allowing the characters to be a conduit for everything she had said in her letter at the start of the book.  It was very relatable to this lifelong bookworm and added an extra layer of joy while reading.

Delphine is a very relatable and recognisable character.  When we meet her she is frustrated, disenchanted and worn down by the daily grind of a life she didn’t plan.  One where she feels stuck and unable to reach the dreams and ambitions she once had. She is a proud woman who doesn’t like to accept help from others and is practised in hiding the full, bleak truth of her life out of the fear of discovery.  Her daughter Em is a bright, ambitious young girl full of potential.  Delphine is determined she will soar where her own wings were clipped, willing to move heaven and earth to help her reach her dreams. 

“You never forget a good teacher. They stay with you, kindly ghosts at your shoulder reminding you you’re worth something.”

While Delphine and Em are the story’s central characters, there are a number of background characters who are vital to the book.  Delphine’s old English teacher, Miss. Challoner, who is now Em’s Headteacher, and Mrs. Gill, who is Em’s English teacher, are both central to their literary love.  Their encouragement and support helps them to dream and, for Delphine, they help her realise that these dreams are not completely out of reach like she believed.  My secondary school English teacher was an inspiration in my own life and someone who gave me so much support at the times I truly needed it.  I don’t think she ever knew just how much it meant and I have never forgotten her.  Miss Challoner and Mrs. Gill were my Mrs. Ball and it felt like my old teacher was back with me whenever these characters were on the page.  But the background character who stole the show is Letty, the old lady who Delphine is hired to talk with in French, her mother’s native tongue.  Letty is a cantankerous, no-nonsense kind of woman and I adored her.  Her interactions with Delphine were funny, heartwarming and entertaining.  What seems like a frustration to Delphine at the beginning, ends up being a gift that gives her back a link to her mother and is one of the pivotal instruments in helping her to realise it is never too late to change her life.  

“Sometimes you’ve got to put yourself out there. Even if it all goes tits-up.” 

Lyrically written with an intricately woven plot, great characterisation and perfectly paced Ms. Morey’s talent as a storyteller is on full display in this novel.  She delicately weaves in themes such as teenage angst, family drama, grief and motherhood that allow us to feel for and connect with the characters and allow us to explore their deepest, most emotional memories. 

Delightful, heartfelt, warm and uplifting, there is an understated brilliance to this book that makes it stay with you long after reading.  It has that winning combination of never wanting it to end and yet needing to inhale it whole.  I am jealous of those yet to read it as I wish I could go back and read it again for the first time.  READ IT NOW!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

I’m a TV producer by trade. For a long time, I worked in development where I created quizzes, documentary formats and reality shows.

I’ve been trying to write a novel since my early 20s, when I wrote a spin-off of Mary Poppins, called Sister Suffragette, which was all about Winifred Banks’ adventures when she wasn’t at home singing. It’s probably for the best that it’s still in a drawer somewhere.

The Love Story of Missy Carmichael is my first full-length novel, and I wrote it on maternity leave, inspired by the people I met while I was walking my dog in the park.

In my spare time I enjoy running, cooking curries, and reading the entire internet when I should be sleeping.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon*
*This is an affiliate link

Published in the US as Delphine Jones Takes a Chance on April 5th. Buy here

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy

Published: January 20th 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Suspense, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Today I’m delighted to bring you my stop on the blog tour for this powerful, piercing and unsettling novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘A tour de force of engaged storytelling. With heart-wrenching pathos, The Gosling Girl delineates the bleak aftermath for all concerned when one child kills another’ Peter Kalu

Monster?                    Murderer?

Child?                         Victim?

Michelle Cameron’s name is associated with the most abhorrent of crimes. A child who lured a younger child away from her parents and to her death, she is known as the black girl who murdered a little white girl; evil incarnate according to the media. As the book opens, she has done her time, and has been released as a young woman with a new identity to start her life again. 

When another shocking death occurs, Michelle is the first in the frame. Brought into the police station to answer questions around a suspicious death, it is only a matter of time until the press find out who she is now and where she lives and set about destroying her all over again.

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MY REVIEW:

“She wants to know more.  She wants to know why.  She wants to figure out if Michelle Cameron really is the monster she’s made out to be.”

Humans are the scariest of monsters.  But are these monsters irredeemable? Should they be punished for one mistake, especially when that mistake was made when they were a child? These are some of the questions posed by The Gosling Girl, the gripping psychological thriller that tells the story of Michelle Cameron, a young woman fresh out of prison and trying to adjust to being free.  It is a life Michelle has never really known because at just 10 years old she became the most infamous and hated child in the country after murdering four-year-old Kerry Gosling.  And though she is out of prison, she will never really be free; forced to change her identity and living in fear of vigilantes discovering the truth and taking revenge into their own hands.  

What. A. Book.  Thought-provoking, poignant and totally riveting, this is a story that will linger long after you close it’s pages.   The author explores uncomfortable and difficult themes such as the nature of evil, childhood crime, institutional racism and psychological imprisonment versus physical imprisonment, forcing us to feel some uncomfortable emotions. The characters are richly drawn and compelling, the plot multilayered and intricately woven, and the writing nuanced and evocative, creating a connection between Michelle and the reader.  Jacqueline Roy is a powerful storyteller, her descriptions providing a sense of tension, unease, dread and desperation.  There is so much pain, trauma and helplessness in these words that it cuts you like a knife and bleeds from the pages. 

“She pictures the young woman who had sat opposite her on the sofa, unsure of herself, awkward, lacking communication skills. Traumatised, in all likelihood. She will take her under her wing, facilitate her in coming to terms with the terrible crime she committed and write about the process. Surely no one could object to that. “

This story is a piercing psychological portrait that goes deep inside Michelle’s psyche.  When we meet her she is overwhelmed and terrified of everything, having never made her own decisions, worked a job or lived in her own place.  She constantly lives in fear of being found out and doesn’t know if she can ever trust anyone.  The author vividly portrays her sense of isolation and fear, how she feels adrift without a soul in the world who cares for her or she can turn to, even her mother having turned her back on her once she was convicted.  I never expected that I would feel such sympathy and warmth towards a self-confessed child-killer, but the author enabled me to see beyond her abhorrent crime and look at Michelle as a real person, rather than one-dimensionally evil. 

Like Michelle, the story gives up its secrets slowly, keeping the reader guessing at the truth of what happened the day of the murder and Michelle’s childhood; small clues dropped like crumbs that make us wonder if she is guilty and what might have led to her committing such a crime. But is there anything that could make us understand a child killing another child?  Or is it always completely inexcusable, something only someone truly evil could do? By keeping the circumstances of what happened that day in the shadows and instead creating a bond between Michelle and the reader, the author allows us to see the grey areas that make this such a complex issue.  

Darkly atmospheric, disquieting, tortured and heartfelt, I can’t recommend this highly enough.  It is the perfect marriage of complex moral and social issues in a powerful and compelling psychological thriller that you’ll not be able to put down.  Read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jacqueline Roy is a dual-heritage author, born in London to a black Jamaican father and white British mother. After a love of art and stories was passed down to her by her family, she became increasingly aware of the absence of black figures in the books she devoured, and this fuelled her desire to write. In her teenage years she spent time in a psychiatric hospital, where she wrote as much as possible to retain a sense of identity; her novel The Fat Lady Sings is inspired by this experience of institutionalisation and the treatment of black people with regards to mental illness. She rediscovered a love of learning in her thirties after undertaking a Bachelors in English, and a Masters in Postcolonial Literatures. She then became a lecturer in English, specialising in Black Literature and Culture and Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she worked full time for many years, and was a tutor on The Manchester Writing School’s M.A. programme. She has written six books for children, and edited her late father’s novel No Black Sparrows, published posthumously. A second novel for adults will be published in 2022. She now lives in Manchester.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

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

SquadPod Book Club Review: The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Published: May 13th, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Greek Mythology
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Better late than never. I’m finally sharing my review for The Wolf Den, the magnificent story that was the first Squadpod Book Club read in the summer. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For now her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken. By day, she walks the streets with the Wolf Den’s other women, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels reimagining the lives of women who have long been overlooked. Perfect for fans of Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and Madeline Miller’s Circe.

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MY REVIEW:

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

The Wolf Den is an absolute masterpiece. Lush, atmospheric and mesmerising, it gives a voice to the voiceless women lost to the sands of history. Told by Amara, a young woman sold into slavery after her family fell into poverty and now forced to be one of the she-wolves at Pompeii’s infamous brothel, this is a story of friendship, jealousy, betrayal, revenge and survival.

I luxuriated in the exquisite storytelling of this book. This ancient tale is told with a modern voice, bringing the story to life in a way that is relatable and compelling. The evocative scene setting brought the story alive and transported me back to the doomed city of Pompeii as vividly as if I were walking the dusty streets myself. The brutality and precariousness of life at the time is vividly depicted through a broad spectrum of society, from the seedy to the opulent, reminding us your fortunes could change in an instant, taking you from freedom to slavery. Meticulously researched, the author’s vivid descriptions and attention to detail illustrates her passion for the history of Pompeii and to allow those who were silenced for centuries to finally have their voices heard.

“And you would, wouldn’t you? Tear them all apart.”

The characters are richly drawn, vivacious and charismatic. They have that spark that makes you care and root for them. There is a sisterhood shared by the she-wolves, each one ready to defend the other no matter what. This book was our first Squadpod Book Club read and Clare described the she-wolves as the ‘early Squadpod’, which I thought was perfect. Each of them possess strength, tenacity and vulnerability, as well as a sensuality and wiliness that they rely on to survive. As women and slaves they were especially powerless and I liked that we saw the hard choices they had to make and unpaletable things they are forced to do in order to survive.

“She gets better at pretending, but Amara is never satisfied. The desire to escape takes hold, its roots digging under her skin, breaking her apart.”

I loved Amara and thought she was a great choice for the narrator. Though she is now a slave, she is a doctor’s daughter and an educated woman, something that sets her apart from many of the other women. And while Felix may own her body, he doesn’t own her spirit, the embers of rage burning in her alongside an unquenchable determination. I liked her immediately and found her easy to root for, even when she was unlikable.

Sumptuous, enthralling and unflinching, The Wolf Den is a phenomenal start to an exciting new trilogy. The jaw-dropping ending left me desperate for more and counting down to the release of part two next May. A triumph of historical fiction that fans of the genre shouldn’t miss. Go read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Elodie Harper is a journalist and prize-winning short story writer. Her story ‘Wild Swimming’ won the 2016 Bazaar of Bad Dreams short story competition, which was judged by Stephen King.

She is currently a reporter at ITV News Anglia, and before that worked as a producer for Channel 4 News. Her job as a journalist has seen her join one of the most secretive wings of the Church of Scientology and cover the far right hip hop scene in Berlin, as well as crime reporting in Norfolk where her first two novels were set – The Binding Song and The Death Knock.

Elodie studied Latin poetry both in the original and in translation as part of her English Literature degree at Oxford, instilling a lifelong interest in the ancient world. The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels about the lives of women in ancient Pompeii.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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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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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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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Merry Christmas! Emma xxxx

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Blog Tour: The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict

Published: September 30th, 2021
Publisher: Zaffre
Genre: Mystery, Puzzle, Crime Mystery, Holiday Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this heart-pounding locked-room murder mystery.

For those playing along, today’s clue can be is as follows:

🗝️Clue number 6

This dairy tipple has simple class
It’s Christmas cheer but in a glass

Thank you to Eleanor at Zaffre Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Twelve clues.
Twelve keys.
Twelve days of Christmas.
But who will survive until Twelfth Night?

Lily Armitage never intended to return to Endgame House – the grand family home where her mother died twenty-one Christmases ago. Until she receives a letter from her aunt, asking her to return to take part in an annual tradition: the Christmas Game. The challenge? Solve twelve clues, to find twelve keys. The prize? The deeds to the manor house.

Lily has no desire to win the house. But her aunt makes one more promise: The clues will also reveal who really killed Lily’s mother all those years ago.

So, for the twelve days of Christmas, Lily must stay at Endgame House with her estranged cousins and unravel the riddles that hold the key not just to the family home, but to its darkest secrets. However, it soon becomes clear that her cousins all have their own reasons for wanting to win the house – and not all of them are playing fair.

As a snowstorm cuts them off from the village, the game turns deadly. Soon Lily realises that she is no longer fighting for an inheritance, but for her life.

This Christmas is to die for . . . Let the game begin

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MY REVIEW:

Twelve clues.
Twelve keys.
Twelve days of Christmas.
But who will survive until Twelfth Night?

Lily Armitage is reluctantly returning to Endgame House for the first time since her mother’s death twenty-one years ago. The grand house nestled in the Yorkshire Countryside is a place haunted by memories she doesn’t want to revisit. But she is heading back after receiving a letter from her late Aunt Lilliana asking her to take part in the final Christmas Game.  Because this is no ordinary Christmas Game; not only will the winner inherit Endgame House, but the game will finally reveal long-held family secrets, including the truth of Lily’s mother’s death all those years ago.  But not everyone is playing fair.  And when Lily and her cousins are stranded at the house by a snowstorm, things soon turn deadly, leaving Lily not only fighting for answers, but her life.

A suspenseful and claustrophobic Christmas murder mystery, this was like Agatha Christie with a dash of Cluedo.  I inhaled it in one sitting, drawn in from the first page and held captive, unable to turn away until the game was over and all of the dark secrets had been revealed, just like the players themselves.  

“It’s cruel, when she thinks of it, to ask her to return to this house, with its secrets written on walls and she’s the one who has to strip back the wallpaper.” 

A delightfully twisty and suspenseful puzzle, I am still in awe that this is a debut.  The story is skillfully written, cleverly plotted and filled with evocative imagery that brings the isolation and heart-pounding fear Lily felt inside this grand house in the snowy Yorkshire Dales to life.  It felt like I was inside it myself, taking every step beside her as she played the game.  She was a great protagonist who was easy to root for and get behind.  But everyone at Endgame House is hiding secrets, including Lily, some of which are darker than others.  The author had me on the edge of my seat as I tried to figure them out along with whatever other mysteries this place held.  

A heart-pounding and addictive locked-room murder mystery, this sensational debut is the perfect puzzle for crime lovers.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From her website:
A K Benedict read English at Cambridge and Creative Writing at the University of Sussex. She writes in a room filled with mannequins, clowns and teapots.

Her debut novelThe Beauty of Murder (Orion), was shortlisted for an eDunnit award and is in development for an 8-part TV series. Her second novel, Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts (Orion), was published in February 2016 and The Stone House, a tie-in novel for Doctor Who spin-off Class, was published by BBC Books in October.

Her poems and short stories have featured in journals and anthologies including Best British Short Stories, MagmaScaremongrel, and Great British Horror. Her first audio drama, The Victorian Age, was released as part of the Torchwood range at Big Finish in February, while Outbreak, a three-part Torchwood drama co-written with Guy Adams and Emma Reeves, will be released November 2016.

Before becoming a full-time writer in 2012, A K Benedict was an indie-rock singer/songwriter, playing with her band The Black Tulips and solo as Pimpernelle. She was also a composer for film and TV, with music played on BBC 1, Channel Four, Sky, XFM, Radio 1, Radio 3 and in award-winning films. She still composes occasionally and now sings with The Slice Girls, a group of female thriller writers singing songs of sex, death and criminal activities.

She is currently writing scripts, short stories, a standalone psychological thriller and the sequel to The Beauty of Murder. She lives in St Leonards-on-Sea with her dog, Dame Margaret Rutherford. 

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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Book Review: The Imperfect Art of Caring by Jessica Ryn

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

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

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SYNOPSIS:

One small act can make a big difference

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

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

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

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MY REIVEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx