Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Painting by Alison Booth

Published: July 15th, 2021
Publisher: Red Door Press
Genre: General Fiction, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this moving novel. Thank you to Midas PR for the invitation to take part and Red Door Press for the ARC.

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MY SYNOPSIS:

A young Hungarian woman confronts her family’s past in an engrossing quest for a stolen painting.

When Anika Molnar flees her home country of Hungary not long before the break-up of the Soviet Union, she carries only a small suitcase – and a beautiful and much-loved painting of an auburn-haired woman in a cobalt blue dress from her family’s hidden collection.

Arriving in Australia, Anika moves in with her aunt in Sydney, and the painting hangs in pride of place in her bedroom. But one day it is stolen in what seems to be a carefully planned theft, and Anika’s carefree life takes a more ominous turn.

Sinister secrets from her family’s past and Hungary’s fraught history cast suspicion over the painting’s provenance, and she embarks on a gripping quest to uncover the truth.

Hungary’s war-torn past contrasts sharply with Australia’s bright new world of opportunity in this moving and compelling mystery.

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MY REVIEW:

“The portrait was home, it was family, it was the uncle she’d never met, it had become a part of who she was.”

The Painting is an simple yet enlightening portrait of totalitarianism, immigration, family and self-discovery.  It tells the story of Anika, a Hungarian immigrant living in Australia with her Aunt after being forced to flee her oppressive homeland during communist rule. One of the few possessions she brought with her was a painting from her family’s secret collection that she is shocked to discover is actually a very valuable piece by a French Impressionist. When it is then stolen in what looks like a targeted theft, questions about the painting’s origin force Anika to face uncomfortable questions about her family’s past. 

After loving the author’s novel The Philosopher’s Daughter last year, I jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour for this book. Compelling, mysterious and skillfully written, the author drew me into Anika’s world, taking me back to a period in time that I knew little about, offering me the chance to be educated while also being entertained. 

“A cobweb of lies and concealments, that’s what a police state was. That’s what families became.”

The book is clearly well researched and the author writes with compassion, bringing  to life the fear and suspicion that grips those who lived under the communist regime before the fall of the Soviet Union. Anika and her family are unable to communicate freely as the secret police listen to their phone calls and open their letters and after the break in she is scared to reveal any emotion or give information to the police even though they are there to help her. I think where we see the greatest effect of her upbringing though is in her distrust of everyone she meets. She is suspicious and unable to put her faith in anyone but her family, which affects every facet of her life. It can’t be easy to alter your entire way of thinking, and I enjoyed watching Anika’s journey as she slowly learned to see the world in a different way. 

“She felt sick at heart about what she might discover in Budapest. It could blow her family apart. She would have to take things slowly, very slowly. One question at a time.”

When Anika learns the true origins of the painting her whole world falls apart and she is forced to question what secrets her family might be hiding. How did her grandparents amass their secret art collection? Could there be more to their secrecy than fear of the Hungarian secret police? She has to confront the fact that they could be very different people from who she has always believed and I admired her bravery in seeking the truth at the cost of her own comfort. I appreciated the sympathy with which the author wrote these parts of the story, making me feel like I really understood Anika’s anxiety, heartache, and the strength it took her to find answers. 

This book surprised me. I was expecting a book that focused on an investigation into the missing painting but instead found myself reading a story that focused on what the painting meant to Anika and the other characters. The author intricately weaves their stories together, crafting a captivating and moving novel that I would definitely recommend. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET 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.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten

Published: July 8th, 2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction, Book Series
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for this magnificent novel on its publication day. Thank you to Midas PR for the invitation to take part and to them and Bloomsbury UK for the gifted copy and champagne.

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SYNOPSIS:

When they took everything from her, they didn’t count on her fighting to get it back… Born into the House of Romanov to the all-powerful Peter the Great and Catherine I, beautiful Tsarevna Elizabeth is the world’s loveliest Princess and the envy of the Russian empire. Insulated by luxury and as a woman free from the burden of statecraft, Elizabeth is seemingly born to pursue her passions.

However, a dark prophecy predicts her fate as inexorably twined with Russia. When her mother dies, Russia is torn, masks fall, and friends become foes. Elizabeth’s idyllic world is upended. By her twenties she is penniless and powerless, living under constant threat. As times change like quicksand, an all-consuming passion emboldens Elizabeth: she must decide whether to take up her role as Russia’s ruler, and what she’s willing to do for her country – and for love.

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MY REVIEW:

“Everything comes at a price.”

Take a bow, Ellen Alpsten, for you have created another absolute masterpiece.

The Tsarina’s Daughter follows the journey of Tsarevna Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. When the story begins she is a teenager, known for being the world’s most beautiful Princess and awaiting her expected engagement to the King of France. But after her mother’s death her fortunes quickly change and a dark prophecy predicting a turbulent future inexorably linked with her beloved Russia seems to be coming to pass. As Russia is torn apart, so is Elizabeth’s life, and we follow her one a journey of highs and lows, of rags and riches and of life and death.

Tsarina was one of my favourite books of 2020 and put Ellen Alpsten on my list of aut-buy authors. I was elated to learn that it was the first in a series and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the follow up. Expectations were high, and she exceeded them all. The Tsarina’s Daughter is a spectacular novel. Exquisitely written, beautifully crafted and addictive, I luxuriated in every word. Once again the author’s meticulous research leaps from the pages and transports you back in time to the opulence of Imperial Palace and the rule of the Tsars. One of the things I love about historical fiction is when a book educates and entertains you, and this certainly does both of those things flawlessly.

“I had not yet turned twenty but felt weighed down by all I had lived through.”

Elizabeth is a fascinating historical figure. The daughter of not only one of Russia’s greatest Tsars, but its first Tsarina, she is understandably a force to be reckoned with. She lives in an era where everything is a matter of life or death. You have to watch your every word and play the game carefully in order to survive, and I loved watching her grow and learn to master the rules of the game. But Elizabeth was also born during a time of great change, where women took power and had their voices heard for the first time in Russia’s history. At the beginning of her journey, the best she hopes for is to be the wife of a great King, and by the end she is fighting to take her place as Tsarina of All of Russias.

The Tsarina’s Daughter is a dazzling, magnificent and captivating novel that I couldn’t put down. And after that ending I can not wait for book three to see what is next for Elizabeth and the Romanov dynasty. This outstanding series is a must for any history lover.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, where she dressed up her many pets and forced them to listen to her stories.

Upon graduating from the ‘Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris’, she worked as a news-anchor for Bloomberg TV London. While working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work, a nap and a run. So much for burning midnight oil!

Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint, and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons, and a moody fox red Labrador.

‘Tsarina’ is her debut novel in the ‘Tsarina’ series, followed by ‘The Tsarina’s Daughter’.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Emma's Anticipated Treasures First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday

Welcome to First Lines Friday, where I share the first lines from one of the books on my shelves to try and tempt you to add it to yours. I’ve not done this for a few weeks due to having multiple blog tours falling on a Friday, so I’m happy to be back sharing first lines once again.

Dorchester, Dorset, 19 August 1642
As the hour for the priests’ execution approached, the press of people heading for Gallows Hill grew denser and more impatient. Jayne Swift had expected crowds, but not such a multitude as this. It seemed every Puritan in Dorset had come to gloat at the the spectacle of Catholics being hanged, drawn and quartered, because there wasn’t a road or street in Dorchester that wasn’t thronged with hard-faced men and women, their eyes aglitter in anticipation of papist blood being spilt.”

Today’s first lines are taken from The Swift and the Harrier, the latest novel from Minette Walters, which is published on November 4th. Walters is one of my favourite authors and I’ve read her books for as long as I can remember. I think I’ve read all of her thrillers and I’m intrigued by her switch to writing historical fiction, especially as it’s become my joint favourite genre alongside what used to write, so I’m looking forward to jumping into this and reading a completely different book from her.

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SYNOPSIS:

Dorset, 1642.

When bloody civil war breaks out between the King and Parliament, families and communities across England are riven by different allegiances.

A rare few choose neutrality.

One such is Jayne Swift, a Dorset physician from a Royalist family, who offers her services to both sides in the conflict. Through her dedication to treating the sick and wounded, regardless of belief, Jayne becomes a witness to the brutality of war and the devastation it wreaks.

Yet her recurring companion at every event is a man she should despise because he embraces civil war as the means to an end. She knows him as William Harrier, but is ignorant about every other aspect of his life. His past is a mystery and his future uncertain.

The Swift and the Harrier is a sweeping tale of adventure and loss, sacrifice and love, with a unique and unforgettable heroine at its heart.

You can pre-order here*
*this is an affiliate link

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Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the gorgeous gifted ARC.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours Book Features Extract

Blog Tour -Extract: A Summer at the Castle by Kate Lord Brown

Today I’m sharing with you an extract from A Summer at the Castle, the latest book by Kate Lord Brown.

Thank you to Kate for the invitation to take part and providing the extract.

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I’ve wanted to write a book set in the south west of Ireland since visiting Kenmare and
Dingle twenty years ago. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and I’ve never forgotten staying
at Dromquinna, where Diana’s fictional castle is set. Here we meet her for the first
time, and get a glimpse of her home, inspired by the real life magical location …

Kenmare

Diana Hughes strode across the gravel driveway of Castle Dromquinna, leading a scrawny black goat with amber eyes with her good arm. The hem of her orange kaftan rode up over Diana’s strong, tanned legs as the goat struggled. She tightened her grip on the cerise pashmina she had tied around its neck. ‘No you don’t, my friend. Let’s get you safely back in the field.’ She dragged the goat onwards, and looked up at the stone crest above the porchway carved with DH, her silver-grey hair blowing in the breeze. Storm clouds scudded across the sky, blocking the sun. Rain, she thought, longing blooming in her chest for golden, sunlit days in Italy. She was counting down the days to her annual holiday.

‘Let me take ’im Mrs Hughes,’ the gardener said, setting down his wheelbarrow. ‘Right handful this one is.’

‘That would be grand, thank you Seán. Check Mephistopheles’ fence again, would you please?’ The gardener scooped the goat up into his arms, and Diana untied her scarf from its neck. ‘You’re a rascal, so you are,’ she said, scratching the goat’s bony head, its ears quivering in pleasure. She adjusted the sling at the back of her neck, her eyes narrowing.

‘You’ve not been swimming, Mrs Hughes? Not with your arm?’

‘Just a paddle with this ruddy thing,’ she said, raising her arm in its plaster cast. ‘I haven’t missed a day since 1988 and I’m not going to start now. The water is gorgeous at this time of the year. Bracing.’ She picked a piece of reed from the goat’s back. ‘I found you down by the bay, didn’t I?’

On the porch she stamped her feet, and swung open the heavy mahogany door to the reception area. At once the familiar smells of the Castle embraced her: the open fire, beeswax polish, the rich incense perfume of the stargazer lilies on the circular table at the heart of the flagstoned hall. ‘Is Darcy here yet?’ she asked the girl behind the desk, pulling off her wellies, and tucking them behind a door marked ‘private’. A white cat with aquamarine eyes jumped down from the red velvet armchair by the fire and wound its way around her bare feet. ‘Hello Kato, have you had your breakfast?’ She slipped on a battered pair of black espadrilles and walked on.

‘Conor’s in the kitchen with your daughter,’ the girl said. ‘Mrs Hughes, someone was—’

‘Not now.’ Diana strode through the hall, stopping to adjust a skew-whiff painting of Kenmare Bay. She knew every inch of the Castle intimately, had chosen every lamp, every rug, every picture herself. The restaurant, and the few discreet rooms above for guests who wished to stay over before driving back to Dublin and beyond, still had the air of a private house. It was classic, artfully shabby. The antiques suited the eighteenth-century architecture and anything newer she had aged. From the derelict bones of an old people’s home awash with avocado bathrooms and safety handles, Diana’s creation had risen like a pop-up page in a glossy magazine. She had added to it over the years, replacing make-do with make-a-statement pieces bought at country house auctions to complement those her husband had collected. At the thought of Kavanagh, she smiled, and paused to look out across the formal garden, the gravel pathways flanked with topiary leading to the walled kitchen garden with its neat brick pathways and raised beds of herbs. We’re a good team, that’s what Kavanagh always used to say. You’ve got the taste and beauty, Di, I’ve got the balls and cheque book. A peacock cried out, stalking across the lawns. Diana brushed a tiny strand of cobweb from the grey-painted moulding of the window frame, blowing it free from her fingertip. She made a mental note to tell the housekeeper to brush down the hand-painted wallpaper, its vines snaking up to the ceiling. You have an eye, my girl, she thought, imagining her husband’s deep voice. You have an eye, for sure.

I feel old, she thought, walking on through the Castle. Her broken arm ached, and her ribs were still mending, bruised from the fall. What would you make of me now, Kavanagh? Where’s the girl you fell in love with in Porto Ercole? She thought of the rugged Tuscan coast, the deep green and peace of the vineyards and olive groves rolling down to the shimmering sea, of her simple whitewashed cottage in the hills. I’ll take a holiday, after this. Her expression softened and her eyes took on a faraway look. Italy was hers alone – there were no demanding customers, no arguing staff to discipline, no TV cameras, no calls from the accountant, no letters from the bank. Perhaps I shall treat myself, book into Il Pellicano for a few days before opening up the cottage. She thought of the hotel’s sunbathing terrace overlooking the endless blue sea, imagined the warmth of the sun easing her bones, the glittering light through her closed eyelids. But there’s work to be done first. Diana took a deep breath, and winced. God, I hope I’ve done the right thing asking Darcy to come home. She pushed open a baize-lined door marked ‘Private’ and strode along the flagstone corridor leading to the family kitchen in the old tower. She could hear laughter up ahead, the deep roll of Conor’s voice telling a story.

‘You didn’t?’ Darcy’s voice, her soft Irish accent melded with west coast American.

‘There you are,’ Diana said, pausing in the doorway. Her daughter stood beside the scrubbed pine table at the heart of the yellow kitchen. The flagstone floor was covered with worn Persian carpets, and faded Liberty print cushions littered the old blue sofa by the stove. The white-painted cabinets and dresser were battered rather than distressed, and littered with pots of utensils. It was a working, homely place, and Diana’s favourite room in the whole Castle. An oil painting of Diana in her prime, her arms full of fresh produce from the kitchen garden, dominated the room, gazing down from the wall between the two floor-to-ceiling sash windows. Darcy stepped towards her mother, her eyes betraying her nerves and joy. Diana tucked a strand of glossy dark hair behind Darcy’s ear, cupped her cheek in her thin, dry hand. ‘It’s good to see you.’ Darcy hugged her mother carefully. ‘There, now,’ Diana said, closing her eyes, breathing in the warm vanilla scent of her daughter. She pressed her lips to the top of Darcy’s head.

‘I was worried about you,’ Darcy said, her voice muffled.

‘It’ll take more than a few broken bones to finish me off,’ Diana said, straightening up as they stepped apart. ‘You do look well. You’ve cut your hair since I saw you last.’ You have the look of your father, she thought, his dark beauty.

‘It’s easier in the kitchen. How’s the arm?’ Darcy said.

‘And the ribs,’ Conor said.

‘I could scream, it’s so frustrating.’ Diana walked to the stove, holding her side. ‘Can’t swim, can’t cook. Shall we make a pot?’ She fumbled with the tea caddy.

‘Here, let me. Sit down, woman,’ Conor said, pulling out a wheelback kitchen chair for her. He filled the kettle, and set it on the stove. ‘Honestly, would it kill you to ask for help?’

‘Yes, probably. You know me,’ Diana said, wincing as she sat down.

‘I was so glad that you called me,’ Darcy said, sitting opposite her.

‘I didn’t want to bother you.’ Diana gestured at Conor, who was sorting through the morning papers. ‘He said it was time for the next generation to take over on the show.’

‘Young blood.’ Conor fished out the Irish Times and took down a pair of tortoiseshell glasses from his hair to read the front page. ‘People have had enough of looking at our faces.’

‘We’ve always assumed you’d take over running the Castle when I retire—’ Diana said.

‘But you’re not retiring yet, are you?’ Darcy said.

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SYNOPSIS:

Scandal, secrets and strawberries.
A recipe for disaster…

Every summer, Diana Hughes organises a famous baking competition at her beautiful castle in the south west of Ireland, to raise funds for its upkeep. But this year, amongst the bunting and scrumptious cakes, everything is turning out a little differently than planned!

First, her daughter Darcy arrives on the doorstep unexpectedly, after running away to the sunny hills of California with a broken heart a year ago. Then a mysterious stranger tries to sabotage the competition. Diana and Darcy soon find out that the past is quickly catching up with them – and it’s about to turn their lives upside down!…

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kate was a finalist in ITV’s The People’s Author contest, and her novel ‘The Perfume Garden’, which has been published in nine languages, was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2014. She was regional winner of the BBC International Radio Playwriting competition this year, and she holds an MA in Creative Writing. Her books have been top ten bestsellers in the UK, Canada, and several European countries. In 2020 she was highly commended in the RNA Elizabeth Goudge Trophy.

Kate has also written editorial, reviews and regular columns for Traveller, Conde Nast, Good Housekeeping, Blueprint,  The Bookseller, Bookbag, Writers’ News, Arts Business, Gulf Times, Woman, Oryx, the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Express and others. She wrote the first book club column in the Middle East for two years, introducing a host of writers to the region through the pages of Ahlan! After many years living overseas, she has returned to the wild and beautiful south west of England, where she grew up. Kate has two books out in 2021, ‘A Season of Secrets‘ and ‘A Summer at the Castle‘ with Orion, and ‘Die Schritte zu deinem Herzen‘ (Silent Music) was published by Piper Dec 2020. Kate is working on her next novels.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Book Features book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Publication Day Feature: Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten

Published: June 24th, 2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Today is the paperback publication day of Tsarina, the first in an exciting new trilogy that was also one of my favourite books of 2020. To celebrate, I’m resharing my review.

Thank you Midas PR and Bloomsbury UK for my gifted copies of the book.

The second book in the series, The Tsarina’s Daughter, is out July 8th.

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SYNOPSIS:

SHORTLISTED FOR THE AUTHOR’S CLUB BEST FIRST NOVEL AWARD

‘It makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme’ – Daisy Goodwin

Lover, mother, murderer, Tsarina

1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta is sold into labour at the age of fifteen – where in desperation she commits a crime that will force her to go on the run. Cheating death at every turn, she is swept into the current of the Great Northern War. Working as a washer woman at a battle camp, she catches the eye of none other than Peter the Great. Passionate and iron-willed, Peter has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire.

With nothing but wits, courage and formidable ambition, Marta will rise from nothing to become Catherine I of Russia. But it comes at a steep price and is tied to the destiny of Russia itself.

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MY REVIEW:

“He is dead. My beloved husband, the mighty Tsar of all the Russias, has died – and just in time.”

Tsarina is a story of power, lust, sex, murder and betrayal. Of rags-to-riches. Of Catherine, the first Tsarina of all the Russias.

It begins in February 1725, on the night that Peter the Great, Tsar of All the Russias, dies. Catherine, her children and his advisors try to conceal his death for as long as possible to delay their fate. It is a matter of life and death. The story then moves between that night and flashbacks to Catherine’s life, beginning when she was just thirteen-years-old, still known as Marta and living with her serf family. We then follow her journey from poor peasant girl to Tsarina; a story that would be deemed too far fetched if you tried to sell it to a publisher. But every word of this novel is based in fact, with just a few liberties taken as the details of Catherine’s early life is shrouded in mystery.

I have always had a love for history and ever since studying the fall of the Tsars for my History A Level I have been fascinated with their story. So when I saw this book advertised I knew from just the title that I HAD to read it. After reading the synopsis it became one of my most anticipated books of the year. Thankfully, this magnificent debut surpassed every one of my high expectations. It was an all-encompassing read. A book that I took my time with, taking time to soak in every word, but also one that I couldn’t put down or stop thinking about when I had to do so.

Ellen Alpsten is a new talent to watch. Exquisitely written and wonderfully crafted, her meticulous research shines through on every page, bringing back to life those who lived and died three hundred years ago and making you feel like they are right there beside you with her powerful storytelling. I was hooked from the start and became totally lost in Catherine’s story, living every word of this book while reading it. Every moment of love and joy, every piercing pain of heartbreak and every gut-wrenching horror she witnessed and experienced, I felt along with her.

“Together, we have lived and loved, and together, we ruled.”

After reading this novel it seems unimaginable that Catherine’s story has been forgotten. That such a strong, brave and remarkable woman had been consigned to a footnote in history. At that time life for most of Russia’s people was hard, harsh and bleak. Even those in the upper classes lived in fear of falling out the Tsar’s favour and losing not only their wealth but their lives. Peter had a new vision for Russia and was a ruthless leader who was willing to sacrifice anyone and everything to achieve it. Even as his wife Catherine walked a tightrope knowing she could be stripped of everything and either sent to a convent or killed should the fancy take him. The brutality of life at that time and the lack of rights that were held by even the highest-ranking women is starkly illuminated in Catherine’s story in sobering detail.

Tsarina is a masterpiece of historical fiction. Atmospheric, intoxicating, unsettling, and compelling, this outstanding novel is one that will linger long after you close it’s pages. This gloriously decadent debut is one you don’t want to miss.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, where she dressed up her many pets and forced them to listen to her stories.

Upon graduating from the ‘Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris’, she worked as a news-anchor for Bloomberg TV London. While working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work, a nap and a run. So much for burning midnight oil!

Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint, and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons, and a moody fox red Labrador.


‘Tsarina’ is her debut novel in the ‘Tsarina’ series, followed by ‘The Tsarina’s Daughter’.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Suspects by Lesley Pearse

Published: June 24th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Saga, Thriller, Mystery, Domestic Fiction, Romance Novel, Historical Romance
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this entertaining whodunnit. Thank you to Megan at Midas PR for the invitation to take part and to Michael Joseph for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

What do you do when your dream home becomes your worst nightmare?
_______

Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect . . .

On the day Nina and Conrad Best move into their new home in picture-perfect Willow Close, a body is discovered.

Hurrying inside with their belongings, they see horrified neighbours gather around the police cordon – one of the residents has been attacked and brutally killed in the woods.

When police start to interview the residents of the Close, they soon discover each neighbour harbours their own secrets. Because everyone on the Close is far from what they seem.

Nina and Conrad thought they’d found their dream home.

But have they moved into a nightmare . . . ?

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MY REVIEW:

Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect…

Willow Close is a picture-perfect neighbourhood so idyllic that houses rarely come up for sale. Nina and Conrad feel lucky to have bought their new home on the close that backs onto a lush wooded area. But on the day they move in, the body of a young girl is discovered in the woods.

Thirteen-year-old Chloe Church had lived on Willow Close all her life and the residents are shocked to hear about her brutal murder in the woods that surround their homes. Suspicions quickly flare as neighbour suspects neighbour. And as the police investigate it soon becomes clear that Willow Close is a place full of secrets where many of the residents aren’t what they appear to be and anyone could be the killer…

Suspects is a steadily paced whodunnit with an atmosphere full of suspicion. An ensemble piece told in the third person, it reads like a darker version of Neighbours. The author introduces us to the residents of Willow Close, slowly unveiling the secrets they are hiding behind their picture-perfect facades: dodgy dealings, unhappy lives and crumbling marriages. I genuinely couldn’t pinpoint a suspect, instead being suspicious of everyone.

I admit that I struggled to get into the book at first. Focusing on everyone in the Close felt like it took away the tension and made it hard to connect with any of the characters. But about half way through the tension rises and I felt like I’d got to know the characters enough to care about them. It was at this point I felt like the murder became the focus of the story, rather than the drama of the lives of the residents, which also made it more gripping. 

The residents of Willow Close are a varied cast of characters. We get to know the life and backstory of each one in depth over the course of the book; some of which are wildly entertaining, while others are more mundane and ‘normal’. I loved Conrad and Nina and could have happily read more of the story from their perspective. I also had a soft spot for Janice, who was a warm and genuine character. The author wrote some fantastic villains and I often wanted to slap Trudy, Rose and Dee, with Dee being particularly callous, calculating and vile. 

This was my first foray into this author’s books and I would definitely read more. An entertaining story that explores what makes people tick and what is really going on behind our neighbours’ doors, I would recommend this for those who like their mysteries without the gore. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

International bestselling author Lesley Pearse has lived a life as rich with incidents, setbacks and joys as any found in her novels. After her mother died, Lesley spent three years in an orphanage before she was taken home when her father remarried. Resourceful, determined and willing to have a go at almost anything Lesley left home at sixteen. By the mid Sixties she was living in London, sharing flats, partying hard and married a trumpet player in a Jazz rock band. She has also worked as a nanny, a Playboy bunny and designed and made clothes to sell to boutiques. It was only after having three daughters that Lesley began to write. The hardships, traumas, close friends and lovers from those early years were inspiration for her beloved novels. She published her first book at 49 and has not looked back since. Lesley is still a party girl.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Readalong

Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan

Published: April 29th, 2021
Publisher: Two Roads/John Murray Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Contemporary Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I read this book as part of a readalong hosted by the publisher. Thank you Two Roads Books for the gifted copy of this book

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SYNOPSIS:

Madame Burova – Tarot Reader, Palmist and Clairvoyant is retiring and leaving her booth on the Brighton seafront after fifty years.

Imelda Burova has spent a lifetime keeping other people’s secrets and her silence has come at a price. She has seen the lovers and the liars, the angels and the devils, the dreamers and the fools. Her cards had unmasked them all and her cards never lied. But Madame Burova is weary of other people’s lives, their ghosts from the past and other people’s secrets, she needs rest and a little piece of life for herself. Before that, however, she has to fulfill a promise made a long time ago. She holds two brown envelopes in her hand, and she has to deliver them.

In London, it is time for another woman to make a fresh start. Billie has lost her university job, her marriage, and her place in the world when she discovers something that leaves her very identity in question. Determined to find answers, she must follow a trail which might just lead right to Madame Burova’s door.

In a story spanning over fifty years, Ruth Hogan conjures a magical world of 1970s holiday camps and seaside entertainers, eccentrics, heroes and villains, the lost and the found. Young people, with their lives before them, make choices which echo down the years. And a wall of death rider is part of a love story which will last through time.

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MY REVIEW:

“Madame Burova was a woman who knew where the bodies were buried.”

With that breathtaking first line I was hooked. What a way to start! I was ready for a book full of intrigue, suspense and spirits. Madame Burova is a story of two women, a lifetime of secrets and identity. The author moves seamlessly between dual timelines and narrators, slowly unveiling decades-old secrets and piecing together the truth of Billie’s mother’s identity.

This is a story filled with an array of authentic, vibrant, quirky and compelling characters. The women are fierce, feisty, independent and flawed, showing strength but also showing their vulnerable side. I enjoyed the banter between Imelda and her mother, Shunty-Mae, and enjoyed following Billie’s journey as she tried to rebuild her sense of self and discover who she really is after having her world torn apart. The author had me completely invested and unable to turn away. But the character who really stole my heart was young Treasure. I had tears in my eyes for that boy many times as he reminded us of the devastating effects of racism and bullying.

“As she read what was written on the pages it contained, her whole world washed away like the chalked hopscotch squares of her childhood in a sudden downpour of rain.”

This is a very character-driven story. And while I enjoyed that, and loved the characters and mystery elements of the book, I wanted to see more of Imelda’s gift. I was expecting a book full of mysticism and was disappointed that there was relatively little of it featured in the story, particularly in the present day. But that aside, the rest of the book was brilliant and I thought the mystery element was particularly well written as the author kept me guessing right up until the big reveal. As someone who reads a lot of books featuring mysteries, I like when one isn’t easy to guess and keeps me on my toes.

The author really brought the 1970s to life with her evocative imagery, making me feel like I had stepped into the pictures in my parents’ old photo albums. I felt like I could see the people in their flares and platform shoes walking down the street and smell the smoke in the cafe alongside the bacon grease. Speaking of the cafe, I loved how it was the local meeting place and at the core of a lot of the action in that era. It felt true to the time and place and some of my favourite scenes took place there. Another thing that added to the authenticity of the era, were the toxic behaviours that were more acceptable in the 70s that the author skillfully wove into the lighthearted, witty and tender prose. While it was hard to read at times, it was sensitively written and served as an important reminder of how such things were deemed acceptable just a few short years ago.

Uplifting, funny, warm and affecting, Madame Burova is an entertaining story that I would recommend. This was my first foray into Ruth’s books and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

FROM RUTH’S WEBSITE:
I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford. My sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me.

As a child, I loved the Brownies but hated the Guides, was obsessed with ponies and read everything I could lay my hands on.  Luckily, my mum worked in a bookshop.  My favourite reads were The MoomintrollsA Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets, and gravestones.

I passed enough O and A levels to get a place at Goldsmiths College, University of Londonto study English and Drama.  It was brilliant and I loved it.

And then I got a proper job.

I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (Human Resources – Recruitment, Diversity and Training). I was a square peg in round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage.

In my early thirties I had a car accident which left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously.  I got a part-time job as an osteopath’s receptionist and spent all my spare time writing.  It was all going well, but then in 2012 I got Cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing, and the eventual result was THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS.

I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering husband.  I spend all my free time writing or thinking about it and have notebooks in every room so that I can write down any ideas before I forget them.  I am a magpie; always collecting treasures (or ‘junk’ depending on your point of view) and a huge John Betjeman fan.  My favourite word is antimacassar and I still like reading gravestones.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon*| Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Shadows Over the Spanish Sun by Caroline Montague

Published: May 27th, 2021
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Romance Novel, Adventure Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this beautiful novel. Thank you to Ellen at Orion for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Escape to the Spanish hills with this spellbinding story of passionate love, family secrets and betrayal

A country in the shadow of war. A love that burns through the decades…

Mia Ferris’s heart has always belonged in Spain. Every childhood summer was spent at her grandfather’s hacienda, riding together amongst the olive trees or listening to his stories of the past. So when she learns that he has fallen from his horse, she knows that she belongs by his bedside – even if it means leaving behind her life in London, and her new fiancé.

But as Leonardo fights for his life, and Mia to save the family home from financial ruin, secrets begin to emerge that tell a different story of the past – a terrible history that begins with a boy running for his life over the Andalusian hills, and ends with a forbidden love that only war can destroy…

As Mia untangles the passions and betrayals of the past, everything she thought she knew is turned upside down. Can she heal the wounds of the past, and face the truth of her own heart?

A sweeping novel of passionate love, betrayal and redemption, set against the turmoil and tragedy of the Spanish Civil War.

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MY REVIEW:

“Throughout my erratic childhood it had been a haven of tranquility, a golden sanctuary. Papa Leonardo had wrapped me up in his world of horses, orange groves and fireflies.”

One of the things I miss during this pandemic is travelling to new places. Thankfully, we can still travel through books and this beautiful novel transported me to the sunny skies and stunning vistas of Spain. The lush and evocative descriptions made me feel like I was in Andalusia.  It was the perfect book to enjoy in the garden on the day the sun had finally decided to arrive in England.

A sweeping saga laced with secrets, mystery and betrayal, this is a story of family, love, loss and forgiveness. The author immerses you in the world of the Palamera de Santos family. She moves seamlessly between timelines and narrators, taking the reader on a journey alongside Mia as she slowly unfurls the enigmas of her family. 

This book is filled with wonderful characters that are so vibrant and well written that they leap from the page and compel you to keep reading. I adored the relationship between Mia and Leonardo. It is so special and there were parts that felt reminiscent of my own relationship with my grandmother. I love reading about multigenerational relationships, whether they are family or friends, and combining that with my love of historical fiction and mysteries made this story irresistible to me. With that being said, it is probably no surprise to learn that Leonardo’s backstory was one of my favourite parts of this book. My heart went out to him as a scared, heartbroken little boy and I enjoyed seeing what he went through over the years that shaped him  into the man that Mia knows. 

One of the reasons I love historical fiction is because I like broadening my knowledge of history. And as I didn’t know anything about the Spanish civil war, this story offered the perfect chance to educate myself more about it. I found it fascinating and also liked reading about the time leading up to WW2 from a different perspective than I’ve read previously. 

Shadows over the Spanish Sun is a tender, moving and sumptuous story that will take your breath away. Perfect for fans of historical fiction. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From early childhood a poem, executed by my own hand was a compulsory requirement for my father’s birthday. To the reluctant five year old this was considered a trial, but by the age of seven writing poetry had become my passion. At ten I won my first national poetry competition and from that moment I dreamt of being a writer.

This particular dream took rather longer than I had hoped because reading law, marriage at nineteen, children, a career as an interior designer – something always got in the way. When I moved with my second husband, three children and four step children to Burnt Norton twenty years ago, and I happened upon the empty pools made famous by TS Eliot in the first of his Four Quartets, I knew that one day the dream would become a reality.

In 2018 after first writing a historical novel set at Burnt Norton I changed agents to William Morris Endeavour and it was here that I felt truly at home. Within a fairly short time, Matilda Forbes Watson had procured a two book deal with Orion for ‘An Italian Affair’ and ‘A Paris Secret’. She recently procured a further two book deal for a novel set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and a novel set in Greece.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Emma's Anticipated Treasures

First Lines Friday

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

“My little nephew, Ivan is innocent — he’s a baby, and as pure as only a one-year-old can be. But tonight, at my order, the infant Tsar will be declared guilty as charged.”

Today’s first lines come from one of my most anticipated books this year, The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten.

Recently I was fortunate to win an amazing giveaway of a proof copy of the book and a bottle of champagne. Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing & Midas PR for my giveaway prize. I was so excited when it arrived yesterday and am eager to dive into the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

When they took everything from her, they didn’t count on her fighting to get it back…

Born into the House of Romanov to the all-powerful Peter the Great and Catherine I, beautiful Tsarevna Elizabeth is the world’s loveliest Princess and the envy of the Russian empire.

Insulated by luxury and as a woman free from the burden of statecraft, Elizabeth is seemingly born to pursue her passions. However, a dark prophecy predicts her fate as inexorably twined with Russia. When her mother dies, Russia is torn, masks fall, and friends become foes. Elizabeth’s idyllic world is upended. By her twenties she is penniless and powerless, living under constant threat.

As times change like quicksand, an all-consuming passion emboldens Elizabeth: she must decide whether to take up her role as Russia’s ruler, and what she’s willing to do for her country – and for love.

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Doesn’t that sound amazing?! The Tsarina’s Daughter is the follow up to Tsarina, which was one of my favourite books of 2020. You can read my review here.

Published July 8th, you can order a copy of the book here* (this is an affiliate link)

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

Categories
Emma's Anticipated Treasures First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday

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

“She holds her hands up as if in prayer, steam evaporating from her skin. The water laps at her neck as she lies back into its warmth. Laughter and female voices surround her, a confusion of sound echoing off the stone. She filters it out, focusing on her fingers turning them, watching the water drip down, the steam rise. They could be anybody’s hands, she thinks, they could belong to anybody. But they belong to Felix.”

Today’s first lines are taken from The Wolf’s Den by Elodie Harper, the stunning debut that was published yesterday.

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SYNOPSIS:

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

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

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

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

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This is one of my most anticipated reads this year and I’m so excited to read it, particularly after attending last night’s Zoom event ‘Myths and Legends’ with the author. This book is also our first pick for the SquadPod Book Club, which starts next month. I can’t wait to finally read it alongside fellow book lovers. Click on the social media links below for more information and to join in.

Buy the book here*
*This is an affiliate link

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx