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Emma's Anticipated Treasures First Lines Friday Support Debuts

First Lines Friday: Victoria Park by Gemma Reeves

“At the end of Wolfie’s garden in a shed he built in the summer of 1951, the same year he turned nineteen and opened the kosher deli next to Victoria Park. He scavenged timber from a house shattered by the Blitz, and laid the roof with red clay tiles prised from the rubble.”

What is your first read of 2021? Today’s first lines are taken from mine, which is Victoria Park, a debut novel which is published on January 7th. I’m not far into it, but I’m really enjoying it so far and finding it a refreshing and uplifting read.

SYNOPSIS:

Mona and Wolfie have lived on Victoria Park for over fifty years. Now, on the eve of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, they must decide how to navigate Mona’s declining health. Bookended by the touching exploration of their love, Victoria Park follows the disparate lives of twelve people over the course of a single year. Told from their multiple perspectives in episodes which capture feelings of alienation and connection, the lingering memory of an acid attack in the park sends ripples of unease through the community. By the end of the novel, their carefully interwoven tales create a rich tapestry of resilience, love and loss.

With sharply observed insight into contemporary urban life, and characters we take to our hearts, Gemma Reeves has written a moving, uplifting debut which reflects those universal experiences that connect us all.

Keep an eye out for my review on January 14th as part of the blog tour.This sounds like the perfect way to start my reading year.

You can pre-order a copy here.

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle

Published: July 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Pensioners in the Pages

SYNOPSIS:
‘A heartwarming story about the power of community and human connection. Hubert Bird stole my heart’ Beth O’Leary, author of The Flat-Share and The Split

Hubert Bird is not alone in being alone.
He just needs to realise it.

In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment.

But Hubert Bird is lying.

The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul.

Until, that is, he receives some good news – good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on.

Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.
Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all . . .

Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows will he ever get to live the life he’s pretended to have for so long?

From bestselling author Mike Gayle, All the Lonely People is by turns a funny and moving meditation on love, race, old age and friendship that will not only charm and uplift, but also remind you of the power of ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference.

MY REVIEW:

“But what about all the lonely people?“

I read this charming, funny and moving story back in the summer but have never got around to reviewing it. I’m trying to finish reviews for all the books I’ve read this year and this is the first backlist review I’m posting.

This is a story about loneliness, about how you can find friendship even in the most unlikely places with people totally unlike yourself. It is also a story about giving yourself permission to live again after loss.

“And in that moment, as he attempted to stem his tears, Hubert realised something he hadn’t quite understood before now: he was lonely, really lonely and most likely had been for a very long time.” 

I fell in love with Hubert Bird, the eighty-four-year-old man at the heart of the story. I challenge anyone not to. In dual timeliness we are taken through the events of his life – the struggles, heartache, love and joy – and learn how he ended up living alone, isolated, with only his cat, Puss, for company. I particularly enjoyed his sweet love story with his late wife, Joyce. Theirs was a true love that survived despite the challenges and opposition of a mixed race relationship in Sixties Britain.

His friendship with his neighbour Ashleigh and her daughter Layla in the present day was also really moving. I love these cross generational relationships and seeing what each person learns from someone so different to themselves. I loved how they slowly broke down his walls and showed him he doesn’t need to be the same age as someone to be their friend.

“Apparently loneliness is a bigger killer than cancer. Can you imagine that? There’s a bigger killer than cancer in the world and no one’s doing anything about it.”

One of my first thoughts upon reading this book was why on earth I’ve waited so long to read a book by Mike Gayle. Reading this I fell in love with his writing and the way he weaves such serious and important topics into the story without it ever feeling heavy. I was also fortunate to take part in a chat with the man himself as part of the Tasting Notes Book Club, where he charmed every one of us with his wit and intelligence. I will definitely be reading more of his stories in 2021 and have been buying them in anticipation.

All The Lonely People is a truly special book that will capture your heart and make you think. One of my favourite books of this year, this is one not to be missed.

READ. THIS. BOOK!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology Mike moved to London with ambitions of becoming a music journalist. This didn’t happen however and following a slight detour in his five-year plan he ended up as an agony uncle for teenage girls’ magazine Bliss before becoming Features Editor on the now much missed Just Seventeen. Since those early days Mike has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Cosmopolitan.

Mike became a full time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, which was hailed by The Independent as ‘Full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations,’ and by The Times as ‘A funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic.’

To date Mike is the author of twelve novels including Mr Commitment, Turning Thirty and Wish You Were Here. His books have been translated into over thirty languages.

You can read more about Mike’s books here.

After stints in Manchester and London Mike now lives in Birmingham with his wife, kids, two sheds and a rabbit.

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book reviews

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

Published: October 22nd, 2020
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Happy Publication Day to this outstanding novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Allison & Busby for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

London, 1840. Evangeline, pregnant and falsely accused of stealing, has languished in Newgate prison for months. Ahead now lies the journey to Australia on a prison ship. On board, Evangeline befriends Hazel, sentenced to seven years’ transport for theft. Soon Hazel’s path will cross with an orphaned indigenous girl. Mathinna is ‘adopted’ by the new governor of Tasmania where the family treat her more like a curiosity than a child. Amid hardships and cruelties, new life will take root in stolen soil, friendships will define lives, and some will find their place in a new society in the land beyond the seas.

MY REVIEW:

“Maybe she would always be alone and apart. Always in transition, on her way to someplace else, never quite belonging. She knew both too much and too little of the world. But what she knew, she carried in her bones.” 

The Exiles is a beautifully written, layered and nuanced piece of historical fiction. Set in London and Australia in the 1840s, it is a story about women, survival and redemption. It is a story about our need to belong, about love, loss and how we carry those we love inside us wherever we go.

The voices of three very different female characters tell their stories, which entwine as the novel progresses. Mathinna is an orphaned eight-year-old Aboriginal girl who is taken from her home by Lady Jane Franklin, an explorer who likes to collect anything to do with native people and wants to see if the child can be educated and ‘tamed’. Evangeline is a naïve young woman from a small village working as a governess who finds herself pregnant and alone on a transport ship to Australia after allowing her rage to get the better of her when she is falsely accused of theft. And, finally, there is Hazel, a seventeen-year-old girl who is on the transport ship with Evangeline after being forced to steal by her mother. 

“Here she was, torn from her family and everyone she knew at the whim of a lady in satin slippers who boiled the skulls of her relatives and displayed them as curiosities.”

Each woman has a character that is rich and compelling, a spark that draws you to them and makes you root for her and care about her story. And while their lives and stories may be different, they also have similarities. Each of them have been exiled from their home and those they love and all face the harsh reality of being female in a time and place where that is hostile and unforgiving towards women. They all navigate these obstacles with strength, resilience and determination. 

This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author, and I was struck by her exquisite storytelling and how she seamlessly wove fact and fiction together to create this lush and atmospheric tale. Her imagery makes you feel like you’re there and I could see so clearly the bleak, grim and squalid conditions of the prisons, slave ship and orphanage and could almost feel the heat of the sun bearing down on me in the Australian bush. She writes every character, however big or small, with authenticity, and the research that has gone into the novel leaps from its pages. I will definitely be buying her back catalogue and devouring it as soon as possible. 

“She’d learnt that she could withstand contempt and humiliation — and that she could find moments of grace in the midst of bedlam. She’d learnt she was strong.”

A powerful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking book, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Christina Baker Kline is the author of seven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train. Her other novels include Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water, as well as Orphan Train Girl, a middle-grade adaptation of Orphan Train. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Money, More, and Psychology Today, among other publications. She lives in New York City and on the coast of Maine.

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Blog Tours book reviews

When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Gretten

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: General Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this charming debut. Thank you to Pushkin Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

A summer she can’t remember
A friendship she won’t forget

Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives – at least, that’s how it seems. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There’s only one problem: she can’t remember anything about the previous summer.

When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret. As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara’s memory starts to return and she must finally face the truth of what happened last year.

MY REVIEW:

“Something happened that made me forget everything that happened last summer.”

Nothing exciting ever happens in the small town of Sycamore. And since the incident with the witch-doctor, no-one new ever comes to visit. A summer the same as every other is stretching out in front of Clara. Until new girl Rudy arrives from London and changes everything. Now things are looking like they might be exciting after all. It would be perfect, if only Clara could remember what happened last summer that made her too scared to go into the water…

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book as it’s been a while since I read children’s fiction.

I read it quickly, immersed in the tropical setting and scary yet innocent world of young Clara. Her every emotion was palpable and there were many times my heart broke for this child. I wanted to help her, even if I had no idea what was causing her pain. The author captures the fun, freedom and innocence of childhood on a small island while also looking at the fear, frustration and pain that children also experience. She examines topics such as friendship, family, mental health, trauma and forgiveness through an age-appropriate lens that I think will make young readers feel seen.

Charming, heartfelt, thoughtful and mysterious, this is a beautifully crafted debut and a wonderful story for the young reader in your life.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kereen Getten grew up in Jamaica where she would climb fruit trees in the family garden and eat as much mango, guinep and pear as she could without being caught. She now lives in Birmingham with her family and writes stories about her childhood experiences. When Life Gives You Mangos is her debut novel.

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio, Hardback
Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction.

Happy paperback publication day to this wonderful novel. Thank you to HarperCollinsUK for my gifted copy of the book and for asking me to share my review in celebration of the paperback publication.

MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Dear readers,

In October 2002 I began writing a story that would change my life. As I poured my heart and soul into PS, I Love You, a novel that began as a story simply for myself, I had no idea the impact it would have around the world and on my own life.

So it is with great excitement that I give you its sequel, Postscript, a book intended to honour its predecessor, all its fans and supporters, and with the aim to bring Holly Kennedy forward, to discover the woman she is now seven years after the death of Gerry.

I am so proud of this story and I hope you enjoy being reacquainted with old friends, enjoy meeting new characters. I have loved every moment of writing this very special book and I hope it will hold a special place on your bookshelf as it does in my heart.

Cecelia x

SYNOPSIS:

The long-awaited sequel to the international bestseller PS, I Love You!

It’s been seven years since Holly Kennedy’s husband died – six since she read his final letter, urging Holly to find the courage to forge a new life. 

She’s proud of all the ways in which she’s grown and evolved. But when a group inspired by Gerry’s letters, calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, approaches Holly asking for help, she finds herself drawn back into a world she worked hard to leave behind.

Reluctantly, Holly begins a relationship with the club, even as their friendship threatens to destroy the peace she believes she has achieved. As each of the people calls upon Holly to help them leave something meaningful behind for their loved ones, Holly will embark on a remarkable journey – one that will challenge her to ask whether embracing the future means betraying the past, and what it means to love someone forever.

MY REVIEW:

“In one second, almost two and a half million emails are sent, the universe expands fifteen kilometres and thirty stars explode, a honey bee can flap its wings two hundred times, the fastest snail travels 1.3 centimetres, objects can fall sixteen feet, and ‘Will you marry me?’ can change a life. Four babies are born. Two people die. One second can be the difference between life and death.”

Poignant, emotive and uplifting, Postscript is a story of life, death, love and hope. Exquisitely written, it tackles the difficult topics of death and grief with sensitivity and candour, and also gives hope in its message of the power of love and healing.

The story picks up seven years after the death of Holly’s husband, Gerry, and six years after she read the last of the ten letters he left for her to read after he passed. Holly is trying to move on with her life. She’s working at a vintage clothing shop, Magpie, with her sister Cara and has been dating Gabriel for two years, who she worries she’s using as a stop-gap until she can be reunited with Gerry once more. But that isn’t who she wants to be. So she finally agrees to move in with him and begin to move forward.

“We all have something that unexpectedly derails us when we are motoring smoothly, blissfully, ardently. This encounter with the club is mine. And it hurts.”

Meanwhile Ciara has a podcast series called How To Talk About and has asked Holly to take part in the episode How To Talk About Death. Reluctantly, Holly agrees. The crowd are particularly interested in Gerry’s letters and some people express that they wish their loved ones had left them letters like he did for Holly. One lady in particular is keen for Holly to keep sharing her story and maybe even write a book. She keeps coming into the shop and Holly tries to evade her thinking she’s a bit of a stalker. When she learns the woman is part of something called the PS I Love You Club she’s had enough. But in time she begins to connect with the small group and help them as they try to leave behind a small piece of themselves for their loved ones to cherish, changing not only their lives, but hers too as she begins to re-examine what Gerry’s letters meant and what they could continue to mean. 

What a book! I read PS I Love You when it was first released and was both thrilled and apprehensive when I learned that there was to be a sequel. Would it live up to the emotive power of the first book? It didn’t take long to realise that my concerns were unfounded. Postscript exceeded all my expectations and even surpassed the first book for me. I fell in love with the author’s writing style all over again. She knows just how to stir emotion, how to break your heart one moment and then make you laugh the next. The vivid imagery and metaphors were spectacular and I couldn’t put this book down.

“We want to control our deaths, our goodbye to the world, and if we can’t control it, we can at least control how we leave it behind.”

For me, the best parts of this book were Holly’s interactions with the members of the PS, I Love You Club. They are an eclectic group whose commonality is they’ve all been diagnosed with a terminal or life-long, degenerative illness. Joy has MS and is preparing for life in a wheelchair, losing her ability to communicate and needing a feeding tube, Bert has emphysema, Paul is in remission from a brain tumor for the second time but is preparing for it possibly returning, and teenager Ginka has cervical cancer. They all have their own reasons for wanting to leave parts of themselves behind and each teach Holly something different about life, love and grief. Amongst this group Holly slowly finds a safe harbour where she can talk about Gerry without worrying she’s making them uncomfortable or having to edit what she says.

The story and character that touched me the most was Ginka. She’s just sixteen-years-old and is a single mother to baby Jewel. She has no family – they disowned her after she announced her pregnancy and cruelly told her that the cancer is God’s punishment for her sins – and lives with the heartbreak of knowing there’s no one who knows to care for Jewel and tell her about the mother who adored her. She’s practically a child herself yet is facing more pain and hardship than most of us can imagine. As a mother the idea of strangers raising my children would be terrifying. The relationship that develops between Ginka and Holly was my favourite and I loved their scenes together. Her story is just one example of this author’s magnificent talent for writing characters and stories that reach into your soul.

This novel was a truly breathtaking read that reminded me why Cecelia Ahern is such a beloved author. She tackles a difficult subject in a beautiful and powerful way and reminds us to cherish every moment with those we love. I highly recommend this book and don’t think you need to have read the first one to enjoy it.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

cecelia

MEET THE AUTHOR:

After completing a degree in Journalism and Media Communications, Cecelia wrote her first novel at 21 years old. Her debut novel, PS I Love You was published in January 2004, and was followed by Where Rainbows End (aka Love, Rosie) in November 2004. Both novels were adapted to films; PS I Love You starred Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler, and Love, Rosie starred Lily Collins and Sam Claflin.

Cecelia has published a novel every year since then and to date has published 15 novels; If You Could See Me Now, A Place Called Here, Thanks for the Memories, The Gift, The Book of Tomorrow, The Time of My Life, One Hundred Names, How To Fall in Love, The Year I Met You, The Marble Collector, Flawed, Perfect and Lyrebird.

To date, Cecelia’s books have sold 25 million copies internationally, are published in over 40 countries, in 30 languages.

Along with writing novels, Cecelia has co-created the US ABC Comedy Samantha Who? and has created many other original TV projects.

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The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon by Sarah Steele

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Published: August 6th, 2020
Publisher: Headline
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this spectacular sunner debut. Thank you to Rosie at Headline for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS: 

To unravel the story of that long-lost summer, she had to follow the thread…

Florence Connelly is broken-hearted; her beloved grandmother has just died and her marriage has collapsed.

But things change when she opens a box of vintage 1960s dress patterns, discovered inside her grandmother’s wardrobe. Inside each pattern packet is a fabric swatch, a postcard from Europe and a faded photograph of a young woman wearing the hand-made dress. Why did Flo’s grandmother never speak of this mysterious woman – Nancy Moon?

Her life in tatters, Flo decides to remake Nancy’s dresses, and to head across to the Continent to re-create Nancy’s Grand Tour of 1962. As she follows the thread, Flo begins to unravel an untold story of love and loss in her family’s past. And perhaps to stitch the pieces of her own life back together…

MY REVIEW:

“Most journeys begin with a goodbye: to a friend or a loved one, often to a lover, and sometimes a place… Some goodbyes last merely a few hours, but some will have to last a lifetime.”

This riveting and uplifting debut encapsulates the essence of summer. It transported me from Brighton and Hove to Paris, Antibes, Capri, Venice and Tuscany, so vividly that I could feel the summer sun beating down on me and the breeze in my hair.

Florence is mourning the loss of her grandmother and her marriage when she comes across vintage dress patterns from the 1960s, each containing mementos from a European adventure taken by her Great Aunt – Nancy Moon. But Flo has never heard of Nancy before. Why did her family keep her a secret? And why has she never been seen or heard from again since that trip?

Florence decides to solve the mystery of what happened to Nancy, embarking on a pilgrimage retracing Nancy Moon’s Grand Tour; remaking the dresses and following in her footsteps, slowly unravelling the untold story of her family’s past.

There’s been a bit of a buzz about this book and I had heard some great things, but I still wasn’t expecting to fall so completely in love with Nancy, Florence and this beautifully told story of family, love, loss and long-held secrets. The author’s lyrical prose and rich imagery brought the story to life as clearly as if I was watching it play in technicolour on a movie screen.

The author effortlessly moves between the dual timeliness, immersing you in their world and the mystery of what happened to Nancy. The characters are compelling, likeable and memorable, and the narrators – Florence and Nancy – are relatable and easy to connect with. But there is something about Nancy that made her leap from the page; an air of glamour and mystery that radiates from her and reminded me of the aura surrounding Marilyn Monroe or Grace Kelly; that movie-star lustre, beauty and mystery that makes them feel out of reach.

Heartwarming, uplifting, emotional and immersive, The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is a must-read, encapsulating the essence of summer like the sun is shining from the pages

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR :

Sarah Steele (c) Eoin Schmidt-Martin

Sarah Steele trained as a classical pianist and violinist in London, before joining the world of publishing as assistant at Hodder and Stoughton. She was then for many years a freelance editor. She now lives in Stroud and in 2018 was the director of Wordfest at Gloucester Cathedral, which culminated in a suffragette march led by Helen Pankhurst. The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is her debut novel.

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The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

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Published: July 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Scribner UK
Format: Kindle, Paperback, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Humour

Welcome to my spot on the tour for this spectacular debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Scribner UK for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

July, 1962

Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?

The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.

If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.

Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.

MY REVIEW:

“I am Evie, sixteen and a half, as wise as a tree, as tall as time, the fastest milk bottle in East Yorkshire, hurtling towards Womanhood.
This is all really strange.”

Witty, uplifting and simply irresistible, I devoured this book in almost one sitting; staying up until 3am to finish it. As a proud Yorkshirewoman I admit that it was the setting of this novel along with the brilliant cover that drew me to this book, but it is the delightful story between the pages and the fabulous characters that will make it linger in my heart long after reading.

1962. Evie Epworth,, sixteen-and-a-half, is on the brink of womanhood. But she has no idea what kind of woman she wants to be or what she wants to do next. She lives on a small farm in Yorkshire with her dad, Arthur, and Christine, the gold-digging housekeeper. This novel follows Evie over the course of one summer as she tries to figure out womanhood, the future, and how to help her dad escape Christine’s evil clutches.

“I don’t think I’m ready to be an Adult.
It’s all far too complicated and messy. Not to mention unfair. And cruel. In fact being an adult is so far proving pretty unpropitious (adjective – disappointing, not very promising). It’s not at all what I thought it would be like.
They don’t tell you this part of being an adult in Bunty or on the telly, about having your world torn asunder and being thrown into a world of enforced coiffured labour, wicked stepmothers and grisly water features.”

I love Evie Epworth. From the moment I opened the book and she leapt from the page I adored her. Feisty, funny, quirky, intelligent and caring, Evie is easy to like and root for and is someone I would love being around in real life. I loved how she would randomly  give the reader the definition of a word she’d read in the dictionary they kept in the downstairs loo. I think she could be one of  my favourite comic heroines of all time.

There is a lively cast of compelling and memorable characters in the book but the only one I hated was Christine. Christine was the epitome of the evil stepmother:  narcissistic, cruel, vapid and greedy. She is a wonderfully written villain and I loved her dynamic with Evie that was ripe for conflict, which the author exploits to perfection. 

Matson Taylor is a comedy master. He had me hooked from the first page with his witty, offbeat prose and he clearly has a talent for uproarious characters you won’t soon forget. Using richly drawn imagery he brought the Yorkshire countryside of the 1960s and the community he’d created to life as  vividly as any movie screen. 

Fresh, wry, and laugh-out-loud funny, this addictive debut  was like a hot cup of Yorkshire Tea on a cold day. It evoked a real sense of home for me and was a joy to read from beginning to end. Mastson Taylor is sensational new talent and I am excited to see what he writes next. 

I do have one small complaint about this book before I finish. And that is that the  many mentions of Bettys made me hungry and I started browsing online for their cakes. I’m still craving them days later! 

All jokes aside, I highly recommend this book if you need a pick-me-up, or are just wanting something fun to read.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

Matson Taylor Author Pic

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire but now lives in London. He is a design historian and works at the V&A museum, where he teaches on the History of Design programme and spends a lot of time trying to convince people that the luxury goods industry helped win the Second World War.

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Emma’s Anticipated Treasures – May 2020

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Another month, more books I’m excited to read. There are eleven books in this month’s list and, as always, it was hard to narrow it down. Is it just me or are there increasing amounts of great books out there to read?

So, here is what I’m most excited to read in May:

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Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
Published: May 7th, 2020
Publisher: Corvus
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense

I became and instant fan of Jennifer Hillier when I read Jar of Hearts last year. Her latest book’s synopsis has me really excited and I’ve been counting down to it for months.

SYNOPSIS:
All it takes to unravel a life… is one home truth.

Marin used to have it all. Married to the love of her life, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family – until their world falls apart the day their son Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. With her sanity ebbing, Marin hires a private investigator to pick up where the police left off.

But instead of finding Sebastian, she learns that Derek is having an affair with a much younger woman. This discovery sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband. Derek’s mistress is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix. Permanently.

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People Like Us by Louise Fein
Published: May 7th, 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Mystery, General Fiction

This debut novel has been all over bookstagram and book twitter. I’m a big fan of novels set in the WW2 era and this sounds like a beautiful story.

SYNOPSIS:
‘I nearly drowned and Walter rescued me. That changes everything.’

Leipzig, 1930’s Germany.

Hetty Heinrich is a perfect German child. Her father is an SS officer, her brother in the Luftwaffe, herself a member of the BDM. She believes resolutely in her country, and the man who runs it.

Until Walter changes everything. Blond-haired, blue-eyed, perfect in every way Walter. The boy who saved her life. A Jew.

Anti-semitism is growing by the day, and neighbours, friends and family members are turning on one another. As Hetty falls deeper in love with a man who is against all she has been taught, she begins to fight against her country, her family and herself. Hetty will risk have to risk everything to save Walter, even if it means sacrificing herself…

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Her Last Mistake (Detective Gina Harte Book 6) by Carla Kovach 
Published: May 11th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Noir Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural

The Detective Gina Harte series is one of my favourite crime series. The books are always gripping and well written and I would recommend them to anyone looking for a good series to read. So it goes without saying that the latest installment is on my most anticipated list.

SYNOPSIS:
Dressed in a sage green bridesmaid dress, and smiling for pictures, Holly is the happiest she’s ever been. Hours later, Holly is dead.

People love to hate Holly Long. Smart, beautiful and a woman who men find it hard to say no to, she’s the town’s most gossiped about resident.

Now Holly’s body lies in her hotel room, strangled at her best friend’s wedding party. And the gossip has stopped, because nobody wants to look like they did it.

When police search Holly’s immaculate apartment, amongst her stylish furnishings and expensive jewellery, they discover a different side to Holly. Orderly and precise, she wasn’t the chaotic party girl everyone thought her to be. In fact, Holly was a planner, and her next plan was to come out and tell her biggest secret – something she had been hiding for months, something that had the potential to ruin the lives of more than one wedding guest.

There are plenty of people who might have wanted to kill Holly, but only one who has finally made good on their promise.

An unputdownable crime thriller with an ending you will never see coming, this is the latest gripping novel from bestselling author Carla Kovach.

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These Lost & Broken Things by Helen Fields
Published: May 11th, 2020
Publisher: Wailing Banshee
Genre: Historical Ficiton

I am a huge fan of Helen Fields’ DI Callanach crime series and enjoyed her standalone novel, Degrees of Guilt, last year. As I just mentioned, I love historical fiction, so I am very excited to read one of my favourite authors’ first foray into one of my favourite genres.

SYNOPSIS:
Girl. Mother. Assassin.

How dangerous is a woman with nothing left to lose?

The year is 1905. London is a playground for the rich and a death trap for the poor. When Sofia Logan’s husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her penniless with two young children, she knows she will do anything to keep them from the workhouse. But can she bring herself to murder? Even if she has done it before…

Emmet Vinsant, wealthy industrialist, offers Sofia a job in one of his gaming houses. He knows more about Sofia’s past than he has revealed. Brought up as part of a travelling fair, she’s an expert at counting cards and spotting cheats, and Vinsant puts her talents to good use. His demands on her grow until she finds herself with blood on her hands.

Set against the backdrop of the Suffragette protests, with industry changing the face of the city but disease still rampant, and poverty the greatest threat of all, every decision you make is life or death. Either yours or someone else’s.

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Dear Child by Romy Hausmann
Published: May 14th, 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Mystery

I was fortunate enough to read a sampler of this book last summer and have been eagerly waiting to read the full book every since. I do have an ARC on my shelf so I’m hoping to get to it before publication day.

SYNOPSIS:
A windowless shack in the woods. Lena’s life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.

One day Lena manages to flee – but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called ‘Lena’, who disappeared without a trace over thirteen years ago. The police and Lena’s family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle that doesn’t quite seem to fit.

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The Glass House by Eve Chase
Published: May 14th, 2020
Publisher: Penguin UK
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Mystery, Suspense, Domestic Fiction

As soon as I saw the gorgeous cover and read the eerie synopsis I knew this was a book that would be on this list. I’m excited to be taking part in the blog tour for book. My review will be posted on May 30th

SYNOPSIS:
Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.

The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They’re grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house’s dark, dusty corners.

Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour – and the law – don’t seem to apply.

But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds.

And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.

Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .

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Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten
Published: May 14th, 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction

I’ve been fascinated with the Tsars ever since studying the end of their reign at A Level and I have discovered that I love historical fiction based on real people, so I was immediately drawn to this novel. I’m also taking part in the blog tour fort this one and my review will be posted on May 21st.

SYNOPSIS:
Spring 1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta has survived the brutal Russian winter in her remote Baltic village. Sold by her family into household labour at the age of fifteen, Marta survives by committing a crime that will force her to go on the run.

A world away, Russia’s young ruler, Tsar Peter I, passionate and iron-willed, has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire. Countless lives will be lost in the process.

Falling prey to the Great Northern War, Marta cheats death at every turn, finding work as a washerwoman at a battle camp. One night at a celebration, she encounters Peter the Great. Relying on her wits and her formidable courage, and fuelled by ambition, desire and the sheer will to live, Marta will become Catherine I of Russia. But her rise to the top is ridden with peril; how long will she survive the machinations of Peter’s court, and more importantly, Peter himself?

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Where We Belong by Anstey Harris
Published: May 14th, 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: General Ficiton

This is another one I keep seeing on book twitter and it’s had me counting down to publication.

SYNOPSIS:
One summer.
One house.
One family learning to love again.

Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.

But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.
Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?

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What Lies Between Us by John Marrs
Published: May 15th, 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense

John Marrs is one of my favourite male authors and any book of his is eagerly anticipated and an auto buy for me.

SYNOPSIS:
Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

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His & Hers by Alice Feeney
Published: May 28th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Psychological Thriller

I loved I Know Who You Are when it was released last year so I’ve been counting down to this author’s next novel ever since it was announced. I’ll be taking part in the blogger day on publication day for this book.

SYNOPSIS:
If there are two sides to every story, someone is always lying…

Jack: Three words to describe my wife: Beautiful. Ambitious. Unforgiving.
Anna: I only need one word to describe my husband: Liar.

When a woman is murdered in Blackdown village, newsreader Anna Andrews is reluctant to cover the case. Anna’s ex-husband, DCI Jack Harper, is suspicious of her involvement, until he becomes a suspect in his own murder investigation.

Someone is lying, and some secrets are worth killing to keep.

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Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth
Published: May 28th, 2020
Publisher: Headline
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Youth Novel

I’ve been desperate to get my hands on this book ever since seeing people receiving ARCs last year. Everything about it screams ‘read me’ and I’ve heard nothing but great reviews.

SYNOPSIS:
The summer burns with secrets…

It is too hot to sleep. To work. To be questioned time and again by the police.

At the beginning of a stifling, sultry summer, everything shifts irrevocably when Lily doesn’t come home one afternoon.

Rachel is Lily’s teacher. Her daughter Mia is Lily’s best friend. The girls are fifteen – almost women, still children.

As Rachel becomes increasingly fixated on Lily’s absence, she finds herself breaking fragile trusts and confronting impossible choices she never thought she’d face.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

Intoxicating and compulsive, Heatstroke is a darkly gripping, thought-provoking novel of crossed boundaries, power and betrayal, that plays with expectations at every turn.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Philosopher’s Daughters by Alison Booth ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: April 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Red Door Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Red Door Press for my gifted copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

A tale of two very different sisters whose 1890s voyage from London into remote outback Australia becomes a journey of self-discovery, set against a landscape of wild beauty and savage dispossession. London in 1891: Harriet Cameron is a talented young artist whose mother died when she was barely five. She and her beloved sister Sarah were brought up by their father, radical thinker James Cameron. After adventurer Henry Vincent arrives on the scene, the sisters’ lives are changed forever. Sarah, the beauty of the family, marries Henry and embarks on a voyage to Australia. Harriet, intensely missing Sarah, must decide whether to help her father with his life’s work or to devote herself to painting. When James Cameron dies unexpectedly, Harriet is overwhelmed by grief. Seeking distraction, she follows Sarah to Australia, and afterwards into the outback, where she is alienated by the casual violence and great injustices of outback life. Her rejuvenation begins with her friendship with an Aboriginal stockman and her growing love for the landscape. But this fragile happiness is soon threatened by murders at a nearby cattle station and by a menacing station hand who is seeking revenge.

MY REVIEW:

Thought-provoking, compelling, tender and evocative, this delightful novel explores issues such as equal rights for women and all races in nineteenth century London and Australia. 

Sisters Sarah and Harriet Cameron were raised in London by their progressive, philosopher father. After his death, Harriet travels to Australia to join Sarah, who is there on an extended honeymoon with her husband Henry. Living in Dimbulah Darwin, deep in the Australian outback, the sisters must adjust to a harsher, more dangerous existence, but soon find joy and friendship in their new home. But as racial tensions rise, they must find a way to protect not only themselves, but those they’ve come to care about.

I love historical fiction because of the opportunity to immerse myself in another place and time, and the chance to learn more about those periods. This novel captures a moment in history I knew little about, which is part of the reason I jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour. Themes of injustice run through the novel and are explored through topics such as women’s and equal rights, appropriation, and racism. It was jarring to read the stark reality of the Aborigines lack of rights and the fear in which they were forced to live in a land that was taken from them. Harriet’s battle for independence and autonomy was a reminder of those who fought for equal rights and to be thankful for the rights women enjoy living where and when we do today.

The characters are compelling, flawed and real. Harriet and Sarah are very different people but are both complex women with a heart of gold and great strength. We watch them wrestle with themselves as they embark on a journey of self-discovery, going through great changes in the seven years over which the story is told. Harriet in particular suffers an identity crisis and does a lot of soul searching during her time in the outback, embracing the teachings of the Aboriginals. I loved this inclusion of so many Aboriginal characters and the inclusion of them as memorable characters in their own right rather than simply being nameless background workers. 

Told in short, tightly crafted chapters, this is a subtle and steadily paced novel. But as the threat towards those at Dimbulah Darwin escalated, the tension radiated from the page and my heart raced in anticipation. The author’s prose is lyrical and bursting with rich imagery that made me feel like I could actually see the bright colours of the Australian Outback. 

I highly recommend this uplifting, powerful and endearing story. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alison Booth was born in Melbourne and grew up in Sydney. She is a professor at the Australian National University and the author of three novels: Stillwater CreekThe Indigo Sky and A Distant Land, all set in the fictional town of Jingera. She lives with her husband in Canberra’s inner north, and has spent two decades living and working in the UK.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Website
Instagram
Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon
Waterstones
Book Depository
Kobo
Google Books
Apple Books

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Publisher: Orion
Published: January 23rd, 2020
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this delightful novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part, and to Orion and NetGalley for the eBook ARC in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lido comes a story of friendship, belonging and never giving up your dreams.

Welcome to the café that never sleeps.

Day and night, Stella’s café opens its doors to the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is always welcome, where life can wait at the door.

Meet Hannah and Mona, best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They love working at Stella’s – the different people they meet, the small kindnesses exchanged. But is it time to step outside and make their own way in life?

Come inside and spend 24 hours in Stella’s café, where one day might just be enough to change your life…

MY REVIEW: 

Have you ever had that feeling where you just want to climb inside a book and live there? That’s how I felt about The 24-Hour Café, a delightful, heartwarming story that warmed my insides like hot chocolate on a cold day. 

The story takes place over twenty-four hours at Stella’s, a London café that has a style all of its own, sharing glimpses of the lives of two of its waitresses, best friends Hannah and Mona, and some of its customers. Over the course of the day we get to know these people, see what they’re going through, what matters to them and how their interactions with each other affect their lives, some in ways they don’t expect. It is a story about life, love, friendships, dreams and heartache. We see people at their best and their worst, when they are at their happiest and when their life is falling apart.

At the centre of the story is Hannah and Mona. The friends both live and work together, the café providing them with flexible conditions perfect for continuing to chase their dream careers – Hannah of being a singer, Mona of being a dancer. They’ve always been more like sisters than friends but this past year, things have changed and they’ve grown apart. Can they fix their problems or are things broken forever? That question is underlying over the course of the book and I was so invested in these characters that I was rooting for things to be fixed.

I devoured this book in under twenty-four hours and just couldn’t put it down. It was an easy but immersive read, with interesting characters that felt real and relatable. I immediately cared about Hannah, our first narrator, and felt the same about each character as they were introduced. I loved the different stories the author created for each narrator and how she made me genuinely care about them individually. The writing was uplifting and alluring, transporting me to this world that felt real, the vivid descriptions of Stella’s making me want to hop on a train to London and go there. 

The 24-Hour Café snuck in at the very end of the year to take a place in my top books of 2019. It is a book that manages to be quietly understated and dazzling at the same time and I predict this will be on everyone’s must-read list in 2020. If you’re looking for a delicious, captivating and touching read, this is the book for you.

*thank you to @head_in_a_book_18 for allowing me to use her lovely picture in this post.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Libby Page is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lido. Her second book The 24-Hour Café launches in January 2020.

Before writing The Lido Libby worked as a campaigner for fairer internships, a journalist at the Guardian and a Brand Executive at a retailer and then a charity. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Twitter
Instagram
Website

Libby also shares her swimming adventures with her sister Alex on Instagram

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon
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Waterstones