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Blog Tour: One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Today is my stop on the tour for this remarkable debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Doubleday for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

An extraordinary friendship. A lifetime of stories. Their last one begins here.

‘This is something special: moving, joyful and life-affirming’ GOOD HOUSEKEEPING Book of the Month

‘Heartwarming, remarkable stories’ BBC BOOKS FOR 2021
_______________________________________
Life is short. No-one knows that better than seventeen-year-old Lenni living on the terminal ward. But as she is about to learn, it’s not only what you make of life that matters, but who you share it with.

Dodging doctor’s orders, she joins an art class where she bumps into fellow patient Margot, a rebel-hearted eight-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant as they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.

To celebrate their shared century, they decide to paint their life stories: of growing old and staying young, of giving joy, of receiving kindness, of losing love, of finding the person who is everything.

As their extraordinary friendship deepens, it becomes vividly clear that life is not done with Lenni and Margot yet.

Fiercely alive, disarmingly funny and brimming with tenderness, THE ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF LENNI AND MARGOT unwraps the extraordinary gift of life even when it is about to be taken away, and revels in our infinite capacity for friendship and love when we need them most.

MY REVIEW:

“Living and dying are both complete mysteries, and you can’t know either until you’ve done both.”

Every once in a while you will come across a book that reaches into your heart and soul and changes you forever. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is such a book. A story of life, death, all the magical moments in between, it is hard to believe that this is a debut. Utterly mesmerising, this is a book that lingers long after reading. 

I loved Lenni. She is smart, sassy, fierce and funny. I loved how she thrived on challenging those around her; everyone from Father Arthur to the exasperated nurses, how she travelled via her imagination each day and the fact that she refused to be held back by the confines of impending death and the hospital ward. She is so alive that it is hard to believe she is dying, leaping from the page straight into my heart. Margot’s impact is a little more subtle, much like the lady herself. She has a dignified and graceful air about her, but from the moment we first meet her you also get a sense of rebellion. As we learn more, it becomes clear she has lived an extraordinary life and I could have read a whole other book about her without getting bored. I love a good multi-generational tale and their friendship is truly special and remarkable and will remain one of my favourites.

Marianne Cronin is a phenomenal new talent and this novel is storytelling at its finest. She immerses you in Lenni’s world, making you feel the helplessness, frustration, loneliness and claustrophobia of being confined to the hospital’s walls and her fear of death as she laments she has so much more she wants to experience. She has also crafted rich, compelling and memorable characters who occupy Lenni’s small world, each one vital to propelling the story forward, just like those in the stories they share through their paintings. 

What makes this book so special is how it makes you feel, which is obviously something you need to experience for yourself. I doubt I have managed to do it justice, but I’ve done my best.  Beautiful, poignant, heart-rending and hypnotic, this is a book everyone needs to read. It will make you laugh, smile, cry, break your heart, and when you close that final page you will not be the same. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Marianne Cronin was born in 1990. She studied English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Birmingham. She now spends most of her time writing, with her newly-adopted rescue cat sleeping under her desk. When she’s not writing, Marianne can be found performing improv in the West Midlands, where she lives. Her debut novel The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is to be published around the world and is being adapted into a feature film by a major Hollywood studio.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thanks for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Romance, Erotic Literature, Saga
Format: Hardcover, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this wonderfully outrageous novel. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Ambition can be deadly

Broadcast to millions from its picturesque location off the coast of Jersey, Falcon Bay was once the world’s most popular soap opera. But with ratings at an all-time low, a new network owner, the malevolent Madeline Kane, arrives on the private island determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to the number 1 slot.

Director Farrah, leading lady Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who’ve been trying to hold the production together. But thanks to their handsome but corrupt boss, Jake Monroe, Farrah is losing episodes to male colleagues, seventy-year-old Catherine is terrified of losing the public’s adoration, and Amanda is battling her desire for a forbidden affair with a handsome new employee.

As Madeline’s pressure to revive the show intensifies, she unleashes a true battle of the sexes where the women will do anything to stay in the jobs they love and on the island they call home. Can they team up to bring down their rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge rip their friendships apart? As the story reaches its shocking climax, one thing is for certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive…

MY REVIEW:

Sexy, sassy, sharp and spectacular, Ruthless Women is like reading an episode of Dynasty. Gloriously over the top, this reads like a throwback to the days of Jackie Collins. And I’m here for it. 

Falcon Bay was once the biggest soap opera in the world, but its popularity has nosedived and the show is struggling. Thanks to a buy out of the production company it has been offered a lifeline, and the new owners have big plans for the upcoming 40th anniversary on Christmas Day. But the directions they want to take are at odds with what those at the heart of the show know to be best. Both sides are sure they’re right and will stop at nothing to save the show their love. But at what cost?

In this wonderfully written novel the author offers us a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous, of showbiz and all its trappings, pressures and perils. She draws you into the world of Falcon Bay, where the idyllic beauty of St. Augustine, and the glitz and glamour of show business are at odds with the murky, underhanded schemes that go on behind the scenes. Ambition, power, money and sex matter more than friendship, love or loyalty in this warped world. Deceit, jealousy and betrayal are rife, and the only thing you can rely upon is that everyone is out for themselves. Pulsing with drama and adrenaline, I couldn’t tear myself away and would have devoured this in one sitting if not for the pesky need to sleep.

One of the things that stands out most about this book is it’s messages of female empowerment. The author has filled her world with a powerhouse of fierce, strong and ruthless women. They are the ones who shine and propel the plot, and the fictional show, forward. They are complex, nuanced characters who are utterly compelling, even if they aren’t always likeable. These women have had enough of being written out of their own narratives and are determined to take back what is rightfully theirs. 

Now let’s talk about sex. This is the epitome of a bonkbuster. Heat sizzles from the pages as the women enthusiastically enjoy sex and there are plenty of raunchy scenes that made me glad I wasn’t reding this in public. I loved the representation of woman in their forties and above enjoying sex and having active sex lives. Even at seventy. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a racy book that focuses on a group of mature women and it was refreshing to see. 

While some will no doubt write this off as simply a bonkbuster, there is so much more to this novel. Beneath the surface this is a layered story full of depth and social commentary. Not only is there the theme of female empowerment, but the author also addresses the ‘old boys club’ mentality, sexism, misogyny and ageism that is still rife in the entertainment industry. She also examines how society looks at women. How it controls how women are perceived and what is deemed acceptable from us in terms of our appearances and the way we live our lives. It is a powerful reminder of how far we still have to go to reach true equality. 

Steamy, salacious, funny and outrageous, this is a highly entertaining read that you can get lost in. I would love to see this made into a movie or series and recommend it to everyone – so long as you don’t blush easily. With her sophomore novel, Melanie Blake has shown that the magic of The Thunder Girls was not merely a fluke and secured her place on my auto-buy list. I can’t wait to see what she writes next. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Best-selling author Melanie Blake’s own real life Rags to Bitches 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 twenty-one 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.

Website |Instagram |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

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

Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker

Published: February 25th, 2021
Publisher: Viper Books
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I am thrilled to be one of the bloggers opening the blog tour for this sensational debut. Thank you to Viper Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…

CALL ME MUMMY. IT’LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.

MY REVIEW:

“From the moment I clasped my sister’s doll to my chest, I yearned for a child of my own. I knew it would take a miracle. And here she is!” 

A number of days after finishing this book I am still at a loss as to how to write this review and do it justice. I was expecting this book to be fantastic;  I had no doubt that Ms. Baker’s vivacious charisma and hilarity would carry over into her writing. I was not disappointed. In fact, Ms. Baker exceeded my already high expectations to craft a striking, original and accomplished debut that left me excited to read more from the author. 

All Mummy has ever wanted is a child. But by a cruel twist of fate, she has been unable to have a child. So when she sees a beleaguered Kim snapping at her children in the shop it is like a knife to her heart. How can someone like her be blessed with the gift of a child that she doesn’t appreciate when it is all she wants? In an instant, Mummy decides to rescue the poor child. But she is unprepared for Tonya’s resistance and the realities of motherhood and is enraged that her picture-perfect image is not coming to fruition. Meanwhile, Kim is finding herself demonised by the press and public after she refuses to conform to their rules and expectations. She begins to fall apart and lash out at those around her, unable to see anything but her own pain. And then there is little Tonya, a scared, confused child who just wants to go home. 

This story is every parents’ worst nightmare come true. It captures the evil that lurks in the shadows and the nefarious face behind the guise of a beautiful mask. Sharply observed, darkly funny and as subtle as a sledgehammer, this made me feel ALL the  feelings. I loved the short chapters, choppy writing style and how there was a tempo of malevolence and despair that runs through the narrative. The characters and story were so unpredictable that it was impossible to guess what would happen next and my heart was in my throat over and again as I read in breathless anticipation of the next shocking twist. 

“They want the chavs, the scum, lost souls like her, to rip each other apart in the name of entertainment, so observers like her can sit on their high fucking horses, looking down on their godforsaken misfortunes.” 

The story is told from multiple points of view. Our main narrators are Mummy and Kim, with regular short chapters from young Tonya. Each had their own very distinct voice and character that felt vivid and real. At first glance, Mummy and Kim couldn’t be more different; but they are characters rich with nuance and complexities that unveil surprising similarities that would horrify both women. Mummy is menacing, capricious and chilling. Appearances are very important to her and she is very particular about the face and character that she shows people. But underneath the mask she is a woman haunted by the mental and physical scars of past trauma. A powder keg just waiting for that final spark before it blows. Kim is the opposite; she is course, foul-mouthed and has no time for airs or graces or putting on a show. She is unapologetically who she is. And underneath she is also haunted by past traumas, teetering on the edge of a breakdown. 

Like Mummy and Kim, Tonya is wonderfully written. She isn’t your stereotypical pretty, likeable child who is easy to please. Full of personality, but not the kind that Mummy had hoped for, she is a foul-mouthed, sour-faced, fierce and contentious little girl who fights Mummy every step of the way. I loved everything about her and she certainly found a place in my heart. 

Longing, obsession, pain and trauma seep from every pore of this book and its characters, the author holding my heart in her hands as she examines topics such as mental health issues, trauma, infertility, addiction, eating disorders, neglect, and domestic and sexual abuse. She looks at the effects of trauma on the psyche and how it filters down into our very being, affecting how we treat ourselves and others, sometimes with catastrophic effects. The author shows these subjects without any gloss, exposing their dark side and the wounds that can fester from such pain. She also addresses society’s expectations and judgements of mothers, particularly in situations such as a child abduction when many people seem to think they are fair game and use it as an opportunity to break them down even further instead of offering kindness and support. 

Compelling, bold, tense, thought-provoking and unsettling, this twisty page-turner had me on the edge of my seat. This is an astonishing debut that you do not want to miss. READ IT NOW!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

TW: mental health, infertility, eating disorders, neglect, sexual abuse, domestic abuse.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tina was brought up in a caravan after her mother, a fairground traveller, fell pregnant by a window cleaner. After leaving the bright lights of Coalville, she came to London and worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years. She’s probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, partly inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to have a child. Despite the grief and disappointment of that, she hasn’t stolen one. So far.

Website |Instagram |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

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

Please read the reviews from the other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

Published: February 4th, 2021
Publisher: Manilla Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Fiction, Noir Ficiton

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising debut novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Manilla Press for the ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

The sunniest places hold the darkest secrets . . .

A stunning 1950s set debut mystery brimming with atmosphere and perfect for fans of Tangerine, Small Pleasures and Mad Men.
________

Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .

It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .

A beguiling, deeply atmospheric debut novel from the cracked heart of the American Dream, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and ultimately under-estimated.

MY REVIEW:

“Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time.”

Sunnylakes, Santa Monica – a town whose radiant name and shimmering skies belies the truth. Look a little closer and you will see what the residents try to hide; a place crawling with deep, dark secrets. Secrets that are slowly unveiled after Joyce Haney disappears from her home in the town one sunny August afternoon, leaving behind a bloodstained kitchen and  two frightened little girls. 

Wow. Just, wow! I can’t believe this mesmerising book is a debut. Inga Vesper is a talented wordsmith who has woven this layered, intricate plot into a work of art. The prose is witty and poetic, transporting me to 50s suburbia and its  sexism, misogyny, and racism. The author also delves deeply into the historical side of the era, examining topics such as the aforementioned sexism and racism, as well as society’s view of women’s roles, civil rights, domestic abuse and mental health. It is a book that would make a perfect film or TV series and the imagery is so vivid that I felt like I could see the bright blue California skies, feel the sun beating down and the sweat forming at every pore. It was so vivid I felt like I was watching it on the screen in front of me; a mash-up of Mad Men and Perry Mason. 

“The world stops. Her breath sticks in her throat. A cocoon rises up around her, drowning out all sound. She can do nothing but stare at what is in her hands. So small and delicate and terrible.”

Stepford wives and fake smiles is what springs to mind when I think of the women of Sunnylake. And it is soon clear that Joyce Hanley didn’t quite fit the mould. We get to know Joyce through the eyes of her husband, friends and maid and from the woman herself, in glimpses of her that fateful August day.  She is an enigma. A presence that lingers on every page. But it’s a chorus of many voices who tell this story, and the author has created a wonderful melody for us. We have Frank, Joyce’s husband who is your typical fifties man. Nancy Ingram, Joyce’s neighbour and best friend. Mick, the detective searching for Joyce. And Ruby, the Hanley’s maid who first raises the alarm about Joyce’s disappearance. Each character, and all of the supporting cast, are richly drawn and compelling, but it was Ruby and Mick I enjoyed reading most of all. 

Atmospheric, beguiling, lush, claustrophobic and evocative, The Long, Long Afternoon is a decadent piece of classic noir. Don’t miss this breathtaking debut from an exciting new author who should be on everyone’s reading list. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

I am a journalist and author of crime fiction. I have an MSc in climate change management and, in my day job, specialise in science journalism with a focus on EU policy, as well as writing about climate change, energy and the Global South. Available for freelance commissions.

I am a member of the National Union of Journalists, the Association of British Science Writers and the Society of Authors. I run the West London Writers, a lively and welcoming fiction writing group in Ealing.

When I am not writing I like to walk, knit and drink copious amounts of tea with sage and honey.

Website |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Bookshop.org*|Waterstones* | Amazon* |Google Books |Kobo
*Links to Bookshop.org, Waterstones and Amazon are affiliate links

Don’t forget to check out the reviews from the other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xx

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The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

They say we’ll never know what happened to those men.
They say the sea keeps its secrets . . .
‘A mystery, a love story and a ghost story, all at once. I didn’t want it to end’ S J Watson

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

MY REVIEW:

“This riddle has everything a fiction writer looks for – drama, mystery, peril on the sea. Only it’s real.”

The Lamplighters is the story of the disappearance of three men, their warring widows, ghostly goings-on, and the power and mystery of the sea. Told in dual timelines we follow the men in the days leading up to their disappearance, and their widows twenty years later as they are interviewed by a writer who is hoping to finally find the truth of what happened on that frigid winter day. 

First of all, how is this a debut?! This book is an example of storytelling at its finest. The author shifts seamlessly between the two timelines; holding the reader in the palm of her hand as she weaves her mysterious tale. The imagery is so vivid that I can see, feel and hear the waves, smell the salty sea air, and hear the siren song of the sea as she whispers her secrets.

Based on a true story, the author has changed the time, place and people to craft her own world full of secrets, mystery and intrigue. The characters and community she created are captivating, relatable and richly drawn.  We are given a first person narrative from multiple characters; in 1992 the widows tell their story, and in 1972 the doomed keepers give details of life in the lighthouse and events leading up their disappearance. 

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that it is absolutely drenched in mystery. It seeps from its every pore. There isn’t just the mystery of what happened that day on the Tower, there are other puzzles that we have to piece together so we can get the final, truthful picture of what transpired. But though there were many layers and interwoven storylines, it never felt confusing. It just sent the tension through the roof and made this book impossible to put down. I had to know what happened! In my notes there are many other plot points and aspects of the book that stood out and I would love to talk about, but I won’t because I don’t want to take away from the joy of discovering these engimas for yourself. 

The Lamplighters is a truly accomplished debut. It is one of those books that deserves to be huge and I have no  doubt everyone will be talking about this year. It is also perfect for the big screen and I am hoping I get to see it there one day. 

Atmospheric, haunting, claustrophobic and mesmerising, I found it impossible to put this one down and would have read it in one sitting if not for the pesky need to sleep. If you love an exquisitely written and layered mystery then don’t miss this book.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

Thank you to Camilla at Pan Macmillan for my gifted copy of the book.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Emma Stonex is a novelist and The Lamplighters is her debut under her own name; she is the author of several books written under a pseudonym. Before becoming a writer, she worked as an editor at a major publishing house. She lives in Bristol with her husband and two young daughters

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BUY THE BOOK

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

*The links to Bookshop.org and Amazon are affiliate links.

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The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey

Published: September 29th, 2020
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Autobiography, Memoir

*I’ve included some personal photos of Mariah, her backup singers and dancers, and of my friends who are part of the Lambily. Some were taken by me, others by lamb friends. These can’t be viewed in the WordPress app so please go to the Web page to see them.

SYNOPSIS:

The global icon, award-winning singer, songwriter, producer, actress, mother, daughter, sister, storyteller, and artist finally tells the unfiltered story of her life in The Meaning of Mariah Carey.

It took me a lifetime to have the courage and the clarity to write my memoir. I want to tell the story of the moments – the ups and downs, the triumphs and traumas, the debacles and the dreams, that contributed to the person I am today. Though there have been countless stories about me throughout my career and very public personal life, it’s been impossible to communicate the complexities and depths of my experience in any single magazine article or a ten-minute television interview. And even then, my words were filtered through someone else’s lens, largely satisfying someone else’s assignment to define me.

This book is composed of my memories, my mishaps, my struggles, my survival and my songs. Unfiltered. I went deep into my childhood and gave the scared little girl inside of me a big voice. I let the abandoned and ambitious adolescent have her say, and the betrayed and triumphant woman I became tell her side.

Writing this memoir was incredibly hard, humbling and healing. My sincere hope is that you are moved to a new understanding, not only about me, but also about the resilience of the human spirit.

Love,
Mariah

MY REVIEW:

“This memoir is a collection of the moments that matter. The moments that most accurately tell the story of who I am according to me.”

As a lamb for over twenty years, I had been eagerly awaiting this memoir for many years. I couldn’t wait to learn more about the woman I adore, whose music has been the soundtrack to my life since I was 14-years-old, and through whom I’ve made some of my dearest friends. 

I decided to listen to the audio as well as buying the book, knowing that Mariah would no doubt put her signature flare on the narration. She did not disappoint. She vividly brought her story to life, had me in hysterics, pulled on the heartstrings, made me cry and had my ears rejoicing as she treated us to sections of some of her songs.

“If this kid makes it, it will be a miracle.”

This is more than a simple rags to riches tale. It’s a story of pain, neglect, abuse, racism, fear and heartache. But alongside it is a message of hope, resilience, bravery, strength and a woman who didn’t just survive but overcame. A woman who went from being a little girl the police didn’t think would make it to one of the best-selling artists in history and living legend. 

As a fan, many of Mimi’s familiar characteristics and phrases will have their origins revealed while reading this book, though sadly they are often rooted in deep trauma. But, on the positive side, I loved having the stories behind many of her songs finally confirmed. It made me see some in a whole new light and added even more layers to her music for me.

“A complicated love tethers my heart to my mother’s.”

The most shocking part of this book for me was the details of her childhood and the neglect  endured. I knew her childhood wasn’t easy and they were poor, but the depth of their poverty and negligence of her mother surprised me. I could hear the fear of 4-year-old Mariah living in the warzone of the violent relationship between her father and older brother Morgan. A situation sometimes so bad the police had to be called to separate them – bringing with it the extra fear of being black and calling the police. 

I was also surprised by the truth of Mariah’s complicated relationship with her mother, Patricia. I was reduced to tears at how she’s treated her daughter and some of the cruel words she’s spoken to her over the years. I loved how Mariah is using this example to speak good things into her own children and as a lesson in what kind of mother she doesn’t want to be. It’s a powerful reminder of both the long-term impact our words and actions can have, and how we can learn from the past in a positive way.

“I was disappearing in installments.”

Some of the most difficult parts for me were when Mariah discusses her marriage to Tommy Mottola. The chapter ‘Side Effects’ often felt like she was telling my story as well as her own. I know only too well what it’s like to realise you’re in a relationship that isn’t healthy, of feeling yourself disappearing piece by piece, but feeling powerless to change it. 

Listening as she slowly built up her strength and made the plans to leave had me on the edge of my seat. It is hard to leave any abusive relationship and I can only imagine the extra fear it holds when your whole career is also wrapped up in that person.

“It’s been a whole rainbow of emotions.”

This book really will take you through a whole rainbow of emotions. I knew Mariah had been through a lot in her life and that this would be emotional, but I was unprepared for just how harrowing, haunting and shocking her story is and the many tears that fell when reading this book. But it isn’t all bleak, this powerful memoir is also filled with hopeful, happy and triumphant moments that will make you smile. I am left in awe of just how much she has overcome and managed to accomplish in spite of the odds stacked against her. Fan or not, this is a memoir you don’t want to miss. 

Thank you Mimi for trusting us with your truth. LYMA. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Carey was born on March 27, 1970 in Huntington, Long Island, New York to Patricia Carey (née Hickey), an opera singer and vocal coach & Alfred Roy Carey, an aeronautical engineer. Her mother is of Irish descent & her father was of African & Venezuelan descent. Mariah attended Greenlawn’s Harborfields High School. In June 1990, Mariah made her debut with “Mariah Carey” which entered at #73, but on August 4, 1990, it reached #1. Her 1990 self-titled debut album went multi-platinum and spawned an extraordinary four consecutive #1 singles: “Vision of Love,” “Love Takes Time,” “Someday” and “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” and led to Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Vocalist. Her 1993 album titled Music Box went ten-times platinum. On September 30, 1995, she made music history. Her single “Fantasy” from her 1995 Daydream album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first female artist to accomplish a number one debut in the U.S. Her other Daydream’s single “One Sweet Day” remained for 16 weeks at the top of the charts. She is the only artist since The Beatles to have so many #1 singles and albums. With “Heartbreaker”, the first single from her 1999 album Rainbow and also her 14 #1 single, she became the only artist to top the charts in each year of the 1990s, and with “Heartbreaker” at its 60th week atop the Billboard’s charts, she pushed ahead of The Beatles’s 59-week record as the only artist with the most cumulative weeks spent atop Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart.

Following “Heartbreaker,” her second single “Thank God I Found You” also from her Rainbow album became her 15th #1. “We Belong Together” from her 2005 album The Emancipation of Mimi became her 16th #1 single and was also her first #1 without any guest artists since her song “My All” (also a #1 single) captured the top spot in May 1998. The single “Don’t Forget About Us” also from her 2005 album Emancipation of Mimi became her 17th #1 single, tying her with Elvis Presley’s 17 #1 singles. Three more Grammy Awards were gained from The Emancipation of Mimi album. She is the most successful selling female artist in music history and is the only female artist to have the most #1 singles and albums and also holds the record for straight #1 singles and albums each year. Along with numerous awards and incredible vocal range, she also composes all of her own material, with the exception of song covers.

In April 2008, the single “Touch My Body” became her 18th #1 single, pushing her ahead of Elvis Presley’s 17 #1 singles. Now she is the only artist since The Beatles to have as many number one singles and the only singer alive likely to succeed them.

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The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Humorous Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for the outstanding debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the gifted ARC of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

‘I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’
 
A compelling story perfect for fans of The Doll FactoryThe Illumination of Ursula Flight and The Familiars.
 
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.
 
The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.
 
They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.
 
Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.

MY REVIEW:

“It’s been quite a life, the one I’ve had; I was there when they turned the world upside down, and I was there, right at the heart of it all, during the turbulent times that led us down the road to that day. So I got to thinking that I should write it all down, because there’s been a lot said about those times, and not all of it’s right.”

This book is a truly magnificent tale. In her outstanding debut, Frances Quinn takes you on an adventure alongside Nat Davey, a fictional character based on Jeffrey Hudson, court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria. Seamlessly merging fact with fiction, she weaves together historical events and moments from the lives of real people with those of her fictional characters and imagination. It’s so expertly done that I would have believed the entire book to be biographical is it wasn’t for her author’s note saying otherwise. 

This was a glorious novel. Immersive and absorbing, I was lost in Nat’s world and could see it all happening like it was on a movie screen – which it really does belong on, in my opinion. I loved that it is told like Nat is telling the reader his story, with him addressing us at times. It made it feel personal and added to the authentic feel.

“Because the way I look at it now, if we’d been just like other folks, what kind of lives would we have had?”

For a book to be truly memorable, you need memorable characters. And Nat is one of the most memorable characters I’ve come across. It is impossible not to love and root for this pint-sized man. His size alone in a time where being born different made you a freak makes him someone you can’t help but feel for. He faces judgement, ridicule and rejection from birth; even being sold by his father and given to the queen as a human pet. But what is one of the worst things to happen to him ultimately becomes the thing that leads to happiness in his life as he finds a home and even friendship in the queen’s service. His story is unforgettable and will stay with me.

While Nat is undoubtedly the star of the book, the cast of characters around him are equally as fascinating, richly drawn and memorable. There are some beautiful friendships and great life lessons hidden in this story. 

I could wax lyrical about this for a very long time. Instead, I’m going to say: READ THIS BOOK! You won’t regret it. The Smallest Man will be on my list of top reads of 2020 and I have no doubt it is the start of a fantastic career for the talented Ms Quinn. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Frances Quinn read English at Cambridge, and is a journalist and copy-editor. She completed the Curtis Brown Creative Course in 2015. The Smallest Man is her debut novel.

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The Package by Sebastian Fitzek

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this jaw-dropping thriller. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

All you’ve done is taken in a parcel for a neighbour. You have no idea what you’ve let into your home.

Emma’s the one that got away.

The only survivor of a killer known in the tabloids as ‘the hairdresser’ – because of the trophies he takes from his victims.

Or she thinks she was.

The police aren’t convinced. Nor is her husband. She never even saw her tormentor properly, but now she recognises him in every man.

Questioning her sanity, she gives up her job as a doctor in the local hospital and retreats from the world. It is better to stay at home. Quiet. Anonymous. Safe. He won’t find her here.

And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.

She has no idea what she’s let into her home.

MY REVIEW:

“And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.She has no idea what she’s let into her home.”

Omg! What a book! This one starts as it means to go on, jumping straight into the terrifying action with a prologue so chilling it sent shivers down my spine. The author had me in the palm of his hand from that moment on and I devoured the book in one sitting, both unwilling and unable to put it down.

The story moves between multiple timelines, all told from the point of view of the protagonist, Emma. Much of the story is her first person account of what happened starting on the day she takes in a package for her neighbour and shifts between this and her discussing the events with her friend and lawyer. It is clear early on that Emma is in trouble both legally and mentally, and is in custody for a crime, while also being treated for mental health problems.

“The message on the mirror had awoken the darkest memories from her childhood.”

This is an exquisitely crafted novel. The sinister, foreboding and malevolent atmosphere pervades from beginning to end and as we get deeper into the story we discover that this is a more intricate, layered and twisty novel than it first appears.

One of my favourite tropes is an unreliable narrator. And Emma is the ultimate in unreliability. Even she has no idea what is reality and what is her paranoid imagination a lot of the time. I loved that I spent the whole book trying to decide if what she’s telling us is truth, lies or a figment of her imagination. And, honestly, most of the time I felt as clueless as the narrator herself. She is a great protagonist: layered, flawed, fractured, likeable, unlikeable, and, most of all, compelling. You are pulled in by her and I was soon utterly immersed in her world.

“Those who weren’t afflicted were often suspicious of the mentally ill… But these people knew nothing of the demons that would embed themselves, particularly into sensitive souls, then at the moment of that person’s greatest happiness whisper into their ear and reel off their shortcomings

A big part of Emma, and the story, is mental health struggles and how others perceive those who face them. As someone with anxiety, depression and PTSD, I thought the author did an outstanding job of portraying both aspects without judgement. He made it clear that Emma’s mental illness is unquestioned while also showing us how it makes even Emma doubt what she experiences and sees. He makes her pain and torment leap from the page so the reader can’t help but be moved by what she’s going through while also allowing them to see how it might skew her perception of reality, leaving them to make their own conclusions about what the truth is. It is a powerfully observed look at how those who struggle with their mental health are perceived and treated by the mentally healthy that I hope will bring awareness and understanding while also entertaining the reader.

Addictive, chilling, tense and gruesome, The Package is a jaw-dropping thriller you don’t want to miss. Read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sebastian Fitzek is a German writer and journalist. His first book, Therapy (dt. Die Therapie), was a bestseller in Germany in 2006, toppling The Da Vinci Code from the first position. Fitzek is currently one of the most successful writers of Germany.

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The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis

Published: November 5th, 2020
Publisher: Hodder Books
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Gothic Fiction, Mystery, Biographical Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this mesmerising novel. Thank you to Steve at Hodder Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

It’s Christmas 1845 and Haworth is in the grip of a freezing winter.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are rather losing interest in detecting until they hear of a shocking discovery: the bones of a child have been found interred within the walls of a local house, Top Withens Hall, home to the scandalous and brutish Bradshaw family.

When the sisters set off to find out more, they are confronted with an increasingly complex and sinister case, which leads them into the dark world of orphanages, and onto the trail of other lost, and likely murdered children. After another local boy goes missing, Charlotte, Emily and Anne vow to find him before it’s too late.

But in order to do so, they must face their most despicable and wicked adversary yet – one that would not hesitate to cause them the gravest of harm. . .

MY REVIEW:

“They had awoken a monster.”

Atmospheric, haunting luscious and exquisitely gothic, this was everything I dreamed it would be and more. The first installment of the Bronte Mysteries was one of my favourite books of 2019 and the second installment is one of my most highly anticipated books of this year. I had high hopes, which the author didn’t just meet, she completely smashed them, crafting an even better novel than its predecessor.

Once again the book opens with Charlotte, now the only remaining Bronte child, looking back at life when her siblings were still alive. This time she remembers a particularly sinister case back in December 1845.

A child’s bones are discovered interred within the chimney of a room that has been locked up for thirteen years at Top Withens Hall, home to the scandalous Bradshaw family. When they hear of the discovery, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte’s interest in detecting is renewed and they set out to investigate, unprepared for the dark and murky secrets they are about to uncover.

This was a book that delighted my soul, transporting me back to Victorian Yorkshire and immersing me in the sister’s world. The author seamlessly merges fact with fiction to craft a richly drawn story full of memorable characters, vivid imagery and gloriously gothic mystery. I struggled to put this one down, fighting against my need to sleep as I desperately tried to keep reading and get to the end in one sitting. My mind was a whirl of questions. And though my prediction turned out to be correct, I was still shocked by the revelations that were unveiled and on the edge of my seat as I approached the conclusion.

Mesmerising, eerie and surprising, The Diabolical Bones is a magnificent novel and an absolute must read for anyone who enjoys gothic or historical fiction or a good mystery. Creating a series where the famous Bronte sisters are also detectors is pure genius, and Bella Ellis executes it to perfection. It is just crying out to become a TV show. BBC; are you listening?

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Bella Ellis is the Brontë-esque pseudonym of an acclaimed author of numerous novels for adults and children. She first visited the former home of the Brontë sisters when she was ten years old. From the moment she stepped over the threshold she was hooked, and she embarked on a lifelong love affair with Charlotte, Emily, and Anne; their life; their literature; and their remarkable legacy.

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Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

Published: October 29th, 2020
Publisher: Viking
Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this breathtaking novel. Thank you Ellie at Viking for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

THREE HOURS TO SAVE THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege.

Pupils and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news.

In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.

MY REVIEW:

Ms. Lupton, you’ve broken me. This has got to be one of, if not the most, emotionally fraught books I’ve ever read. It has seeped into my soul.

From the first page we jump into the action as headteacher Matthew Marr is shot by a masked gunman stalking the halls of his school. The story then follows the stories of staff, students, parents and police, that play out simultaneously over the 108 minutes that the school is at their mercy. The writing is evocative, alluring, and almost lyrical; barely a word is wasted as you’re drawn into the living nightmare so vividly that I found myself actually holding my breath.

As a mother, this story is one of my worst nightmares; I can not begin to imagine the terror of having one of my children held hostage by gunmen, and pray I never have to. The author pulled me in, immersing me in the story and making me feel the characters’ terror. I saw myself in the frightened mother and the police woman, saw those who’ve taught my children in the teachers, and, most gut-wrenching of all, I saw my children in the students.

While at first glance this is a book about a school shooting, it is actually so much more. It is a multilayered novel that is also a statement on our political landscape and the hate culture being fostered by racists and extremists on both sides. The author also explores what drives them to commit such atrocities, asking how are they driven to violence, destruction and revenge? And how do they mask that hatred so the people around them never see it? She shows the harsh truths of these incidents, such as some people immediately pointing the finger of suspicion at the two refugee Muslim students and how, when the identities of the gunmen are revealed, they are seen as less than human and blame is put upon their parents for not doing their job right. She helps break down these stigmas and shows the beating heart behind those who some can be so quick to dehumanise. She also reminds us it is not only “bad” parents whose children commit evil acts and they are usually as shocked and distraught by what their child has done as everybody else.But this isn’t a maudlin book, it is also incredibly uplifting at times as we are shown examples of astounding bravery, selflessness and sacrifice despite their fear. The very best of humanity versus the very worst. A reminder that there is more good in the world than bad, and what extraordinary things we can do when pushed to our limits and those we love are in danger.

I included Three Hours in #EmmasAnticipatedTreasures back in January and it more than deserves not only it’s place there, but every bit of the hype it’s generating right now. I was left with a major book hangover after finishing this powerful masterpiece and cannot recommend it highly enough. Breathtaking, intense, harrowing, moving and exceptional, this is one not to be missed. YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rosamund Lupton is the author of four novels.

Rosamund Lupton graduated from Cambridge University in 1986. After reviewing books for the Literary Review and being invited to join the Royal Court Theatre, she won a television play competition and subsequently worked as a screen writer. Her debut novel Sister, was a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, has been translated into over thirty languages and has international sales of over 1.5 million copies. It was the fastest-selling debut of 2010 by a British author, and was winner of the Richard and Judy Best Debut Novel of 2011 Award and the Strand Magazine Critics First Novel Award. Film rights of Sister are currently under option.

Lupton’s critically acclaimed second novel Afterwards also went straight into the Sunday Times bestseller lists and was the No. 2 Sunday Times fiction bestseller of 2011. The Quality of Silence her third novel was a Sunday Times best seller and a Richard & Judy bookclub pick

Her new novel Three Hours is a Sunday Times top ten best seller and a best book of 2020 in the Sunday Times, the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Stylist, Red & Good Housekeeping. It’s a Times and Sunday Times thriller of the month.

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