Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Couple by Helly Acton

Published: May 27th, 2021
Publisher: Zaffre
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Fantasy, Humour
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this delightful and refreshing love story. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Zaffre for the gifted ebook ARC.

********

SYNOPSIS:

Millie is a perfectionist. She’s happy, she’s successful and, with a great support network of friends and family (and a very grumpy cat), she’s never lonely. She loves working at a big tech firm and is on track be promoted to her dream role. The last thing she needs is romance messing up her perfectly organised world.

Besides, normal people just don’t have romantic relationships. Everyone knows that being in a couple is a bit . . . well, odd. You know, like having a pet snake or referring to yourself in the third person. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up? No, Millie is more than happy with her conventional single life.

So, when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that prevents you falling in love, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until she starts working with Ben. He’s charming and funny, and Millie feels an instant connection to him.

Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?

********

MY REVIEW:

Imagine a world where being single was the norm and those in relationships were viewed as not only unusual, but less-than. Or a world where there’s a drug designed to prevent you falling in love. That is the world of The Couple, the delightful new book by Helly Acton. This book was a joy to read from beginning to end. A glorious mix of humorous, warm and compelling writing, the author also examines and challenges our perceptions of society, life and love. 

I adored Millie and Ben. Millie is a Type-A personality, a demure perfectionist with a love of schedules, order and control. She knows what she wants to achieve and won’t let anything get in her way. Yet there is also a vulnerability to her in her eagerness to please, concern about what others think and the panic attacks she suffers from. And then there’s Ben. Ben is ebullient, spontaneous, chaotic, adventurous and doesn’t care what others think. But he is also funny, kind, thoughtful and charming. I could see why Millie fell for him. The author expertly conveys Millie’s torment over her feelings for Ben and how the idea of even a crush, let alone being in love or having a relationship filled her with dread and a sense that there was something wrong with her. Their chemistry leapt from the pages and while it might seem cheesy and predictable, I found it well written, hopeful and authentic. It was impossible not to root for them and hope they would have the happy ending they deserve.

At the beginning of the book the author explains that she wanted to write a book for the happy single people who are tired of being made to feel ‘less than’ because they’re not in a relationship. There is a lot of societal pressure to be part of a couple, meaning some settle for unhappy, bad or toxic relationships just to be part of one. It was fascinating to see how the world could look if the roles were reversed. I enjoyed the discussions between those on different sides of the debate and thought that the addition of a new drug that is the antidote for love was a brilliant and thought-provoking concept. For all the heartache and struggles that love can sometimes bring, do we really want to live in a world without romantic love? 

All the stars for this funny, entertaining and uplifting book that gave me all the feels. A refreshing twist on the usual love story, I devoured it quickly. Perfect to lose yourself in, I highly recommend you read this book. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

********

MEET THE AUTHOR:

I was born in Zimbabwe, finished school in the UK, spent time in Saudi Arabia and partied away my twenties in Australia.

After six years and one life-affirming divorce in Sydney, I returned home to London. Here, I made up for lost time with my family,
embraced midulthood and enjoyed the single life in a city where the dating apps don’t run dry. 

I am an open book and use my experiences as an inspiration for my stories. Like the time I married the wrong person because everyone else was doing it. Or the time I only dated men my Mum swiped right on, to see if She could choose any better. Or the time a date told me I wasn’t a real writer because I hadn’t published a book. I did eventually find Mr Right At The Right Time, and married Chris in 2019.

In the words of my completely unbiased publisher, I am a ‘huge talent’ and THE SHELF is a fabulously feminist novel and a breath of fresh air, full of real, relatable characters and an important message. The book is clever and empowering but, most importantly, incredibly fun. In my spare hours, I am writing, rewriting, and rewriting again, my second book, which is due for release in 2021.

THE SHELF has been optioned for Television by Monumental Pictures and the rights sold in five territories.

********

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 tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Until Next Weekend by Rachel Marks

Published: April 29th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Romance Novel, Contemporary Romance, Humorous Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this fantastic book. Thank you to Chrissie at Michael Joseph for the invitation to take part and the ARC of the book.

********

SYNOPSIS:

NOAH AND KATE WERE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER.

Married with two gorgeous sons, it looked like they’d got their happy ever after.

But marriage isn’t easy. And one day, Kate left, taking their two boys with her.

These days, Noah is a weekend dad – and it breaks his heart. He misses the chaotic mealtimes, the bedtime stories, the early mornings and the late homework.

Suddenly, he decides enough is enough – he has to win his family back. Starting with Kate.

The only problem?

IN SIX WEEKS’ TIME, KATE IS GETTING MARRIED TO SOMEONE ELSE . . .

********

MY REVIEW:

Until Next Weekend is a story about love, loss and moving on. It made me laugh, made me cry, and it made my heart ache. The author has cleverly crafted a nuanced, emotive and tender story that is also a funny and entertaining read.

It is expertly and sensitively written, weaving serious topics such as depression, suicide, grief and child neglect amongst the lighthearted jokes and banter. With evocative and descriptive prose she brings the story and characters to life. I loved the scenes with Noah’s pupils in particular as she perfectly captured the wonderful innocence, beauty and frustration of young children in his buzzing, chaotic classroom. 

I liked Noah. He’s a great character who feels very real. He makes mistakes and isn’t always likeable, yet the author knows how to make you care about him and root for him, particularly for the sake of his young sons. But while he was a great narrator and main character, for me the stars of the show were Mimi and little Harley. 

Barmaid Mimi is a vibrant, charismatic and feisty character who challenges Noah from the moment they meet. I enjoyed their dynamic and how she helped him to grow. Harley, Mimi’s troubled nephew who is also one of Noah’s pupils, was by far my favourite character. He has a lot of problems and is initially seen as a naughty and unlikeable child. But we soon learn there is much more to his behaviour than first meets the eye. My heart broke for him as his story unfolded and this little boy found a place in my heart. Marks is a master at writing troubled children and knows exactly how to shatter your heart into a million pieces and make you want to throw your arms around them and reassure them it will all be okay. 

Compelling, truthful, thought-provoking and dripping with humour, Ms. Marks is two for two on fantastic books that I would recommend. I’m looking forward to reading what she writes next.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

Trigger Warnings: Depression, suicide.

********

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rachel Marks studied English at Exeter University before becoming a primary school teacher. After having her first son, she decided to focus mainly on being a mum, teaching one day a week and nurturing her creative side by starting a small photography business.

Despite always loving to write, it wasn’t until she gained a place on the 2016 Curtis Brown Creative online novel writing course that she started to believe it could be anything more than just a much-loved hobby. Her inspiration for her first novel came from the challenges she faced with her eldest son, testing and fascinating in equal measure. When she discovered Pathological Demand Avoidance, a poorly understood Autism Spectrum Disorder, she could finally make sense of her son’s behavior, and the idea for the first novel fell into place.

When not writing, she loves dragging her husband and two boys around Europe to off-the-beaten track and sometimes sub zero destinations, snowboarding and sightseeing, the kind of trips that would undeniably be easier without children but only half the adventure…

********

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 tour.

Until next time Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Worst Idea Ever by Jane Fallon

Published: April 29th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Romance Novel, Contemporary Romance, Domestic Fiction, Humour, Humorous Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

Best friends tell each other everything.Or do they?

Georgia and Lydia are so close, they’re practically sisters.

So when Lydia starts an online business that struggles, Georgia wants to help her – but Lydia’s not the kind to accept a handout. Setting up a fake Twitter account, Georgia hopes to give her friend some anonymous moral support by posing as a potential customer.

But then Lydia starts confiding in her new internet buddy and Georgia discovers she doesn’t know her quite as well as she thought. Georgia knows she should reveal the truth – especially when Lydia starts talking about her – but she just can’t help herself.

Until Lydia reveals a secret that could not only end their friendship, but also blow-up Georgia’s marriage . . .

Georgia’s in too deep.

But what can she save?

Her marriage, her friendship – or just herself?

********

MY REVIEW:

Worst Idea Ever is a sharply-observed story of tumultuous female friendship, a misguided act of charity, jealousy, vengeance and betrayal. 

Georgia and Lydia have been best friends for over twenty years. But while on the surface they appear to be soul sisters who are more like family and friends, they are both hiding secret jealousies and rivalry that lurks beneath their love and support of one another. When Georgia, a successful children’s author and illustrator, drunkenly creates a fake twitter account to secretly try and boost Lydia’s confidence in her own creative endeavours, she sparks a chain of events that sees their resentment and irritation boil over and threatens to tear them apart forever. 

Why on earth have I waited so long to read one of this author’s books?! After inhaling this book in pretty much one sitting and staying up until 3am to finish it as I NEEDED answers, I’m kicking myself for letting her books languish on my shelves for so long. I loved how she pulled the rug from under me with a jaw-dropping twist that took this from an entertaining but predictable read, to one that had me on the edge of my seat trying desperately to figure out what would happen next. It was pure genius and made it impossible to put the book down. 

Expertly written, Fallon entertains while examining the complexities of issues such as friendship, jealousy, deception and revenge, putting the reader in the shoes of both sides of the story so they can make their own mind up about who and what is right or wrong. She also looks at the lies we tell ourselves to excuse our bad decisions, the damage we can cause to others when trying to do the right thing, and the masks people can wear to hide who they really are. 

Georgia and Lydia are great characters that I enjoyed individually and as a duo. They have that easy rapport of long-standing, close friendship, that I’m sure we all recognise. They’ve been there for each other’s highest highs and lowest lows and feel like they know each other inside out. But there are things unspoken, fragments of envy and conflict they don’t give a voice to, that lurk under the surface and fester. It is a combination of all of these things that leads to Georgia’s misguided act of kindness and Lydia’s Judas kiss of betrayal. 

If you’re looking for an entertaining read full of twists and tension, then this is the book for you. Compulsive, clever, witty and utterly brilliant, I am an instant fan. Now I’m off to buy more of her books…

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

********

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jane Fallon is the multi-award-winning television producer behind shows such as This Life, Teachers and 20 Things to Do before You’re 30. Her debut novel “Getting Rid of Matthew’ was published in 2007 and became a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller as have her subsequent books ‘Got You Back’, ‘Foursome’, ‘The Ugly Sister’, ‘Skeletons’, ‘Strictly Between Us’,’My Sweet Revenge’, ‘Faking Friends’ and ‘Tell Me a Secret’
Her 10th novel Queen Bee is available now to pre order in both paperback and for Kindle.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

********

BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and for the gifted ARC. 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 Support Debuts

Blog Tour: Saving Missy by Beth Morrey

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Historical Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Domestic Ficiton, Pensioners in the Pages
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio, Hardcover

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the paperback release of Saving Missy. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.

********

SYNOPSIS:

Seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?

Missy Carmichael is prickly, stubborn – and terribly lonely. Until a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new. Something wonderful.

Missy was used to her small, solitary existence, listening to her footsteps echoing around the empty house, the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock. After all, she had made her life her way.

Now another life is beckoning to Missy – if she’s brave enough…

********

MY REVIEW:

“So the day ended as miserably as it began. But I still felt it somewhere — that spark. The beginning of something. Or the end. Who knows?” 

Saving Missy is a story exploring loneliness, human connection, letting go and learning to live again. When we meet Missy she is rattling around her big house all alone and has no real connections with anyone other than her emails and skype calls to her son and grandson in Australia. After fainting in the park she is taken under the wing of Sylvie and Angela, two vivacious women who, much to Missy’s surprise, seem to want to be her friend. The pair open up a new world to Missy full of exciting opportunities, friendship and happiness that she isn’t sure she deserves after the things she’s done. Can Missy let go of the past and embrace life?

I first encountered Missy when I read a sampler of the story before its release in early 2020. I quickly fell in love with Missy and the world the author had created and have been frustrated at not being able to find the time to finish reading it ever since. So when the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for the paperback release arose I jumped at the chance, eager to finally enjoy the rest of Missy’s story. And I’m so glad I did. 

“The first photo summed me up, mostly, but the second had exposed my other self, the tiny part of me that could laugh like that. I wanted to poke my way into that part… and open it up so that it overwhelmed the stiffness and self-consciousness and all the other weaknesses I despised. To be that relaxed, animated woman, put her on display and leave the other stuffed away.”

Missy Carmichael is a wonderful protagonist. She is a cantankerous old lady who, despite her hard, bristly and defensive exterior, was someone I soon had a soft spot for. She is deeply flawed, awkward, lonely and worries constantly what others think. She has also spent most of her life not saying the things she desperately wanted to and seems to have lived her life for others, mostly her husband Leo who she is now lost without. She has no real relationship with her daughter Melanie since a fight the year before and her adored son Alistair and grandson Arthur live in Australia, something she is deeply bitter about. While her resentment towards her eldest child and daughter in law was hard to stomach at times it made her a more real character. I also liked that she often recognised her flaws, even if she doesn’t always try to change them.

A vital part of understanding Missy comes from the flashbacks that are woven into the narrative. These flashbacks show the reader important moments in her life that have shaped her and help us to understand the different facets of her character. It is in these chapters that the author brings Leo to life, albeit from Missy’s perspective. It is impossible to not be shaped by a relationship that spanned almost six decades so I think this was a critical part of the story that really opened our eyes to why Missy is the woman we meet in the present day.

“The idea that these vibrant, diverting women wanted to spend time with me was as gratifying as the gift of the dog bed. I’d never really had female friends before.”

The supporting cast of characters are just as riveting and richly drawn as Missy and I particularly loved the dynamics of her friendship with Sylvie and Angela. As she slowly allowed them into her heart and home I enjoyed seeing her experience female friendship for the first time in her life and the impact it had on her. We began to see a softer side to her, particularly in her interactions with her adopted dog Bobby and Otis, Angela’s four-year-old son. The author took Missy on a compelling adventure and it was amazing to see the bravery and joy she showed in the latter parts of the story. It is a reminder of how important human connection is in life, that it is never too late to grab life by the horns or to change and make amends for your mistakes. 

Charming, thought-provoking, wistful and uplifting, Saving Missy is a wonderful debut. I got lost in its pages as the author took me on an unforgettable journey. In our current climate its message of the importance of human connection couldn’t be more timely and is a great reminder to reach out to others in any way we can. Everyone should read this book. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

********

MEET THE AUTHOR:

I’m a TV producer by trade. For a long time I worked at RDF Television, where I helped create The Secret Life of Four Year Olds series on Channel 4 and devised 100 Year Old Drivers for ITV.

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

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

In my spare time I enjoy running, cooking curries, admiring my dog every day and Christmas once a year.

Website | Instagram | Twitter |Facebook

********

BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

********

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

Categories
Book Features 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.

“It’s one of those spring mornings you get down on the coast, a scene so brilliant it reminds you of a child’s painting: the sky a solid block of Crayola blue, the sun scrubbed to a radiant beam. On the horizon crisp white clips of sails like petticoats, like maids curtseying to the shore. The Beacon winks with buttercups and dandelions. The grass does silent t’ai chi in a breeze that may adjust a hat to a jaunty angle, but would never be so rude as to whip it off your head. And there is the windmill, casting its shadow on the bodies of Luke and Lizzie, Dan and Atticus, on George and betty and their dogs.”

Anyone else feeling like they’ve just been transported to the coast? So what book is this? What book do we need to pick up to be taken away to a balmy day by the sea?

It’s Dog Days, the debut novel from Ericka Waller that was published yesterday.

********

SYNOPSIS:

George is very angry. His wife has upped and died on him, and all he wants to do is sit in his underpants and shout at the cricket. The last thing he needs is his cake-baking neighbour Betty trying to rescue him. And then there’s the dog, a dachshund puppy called Poppy. George doesn’t want a dog – he wants a fight.

Dan is a counsellor with OCD who is great at helping other people – if only he were better at helping himself. His most meaningful relationship so far is with his labrador Fitz. But then comes a therapy session that will change his life.

Lizzie is living in a women’s refuge with her son Lenny. Her body is covered in scars and she has shut herself off from everyone around her. But when she is forced to walk the refuge’s fat terrier, Maud, a new life beckons – if she can keep her secret just a while longer…

Dog Days is a novel about those small but life-changing moments that only come when we pause to let the light in. It is about three people learning to make connections and find joy in living life off the leash.

You can buy the book here*

********

‘Funny, sad, gritty and beautifully told, this story will make you look at life again and appreciate the small acts of kindness that make everything worthwhile.’ HAZEL PRIOR, author of AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS
‘A soulful, lyrical tale… Such a treat.’ BETH MORREY, author of SAVING MISSY
‘Tender, humorous and hopeful’ LISSA EVANS, author of V for Victory

********

I’m hoping to read this book later in the month and can’t wait to lose myself in its pages. Is this one you plan to read? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

*This is an affiliate link

Categories
Blog Tours

Blog Tour: Uncoupling by Lorraine Brown

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Romance Novel, Contemporary Romance, Humorous Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I am delighted to share my review for this uplifting debut. Thank you to Orion for the invitation to take part in the tour and for my gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Could one split second change her life forever?

Hannah and Si are in love and on the same track – that is, until their train divides on the way to a wedding. The next morning, Hannah wakes up in Paris and realises that her boyfriend (and her ticket) are 300 miles away in Amsterdam!

But then Hannah meets Léo on the station platform, and he’s everything Si isn’t. Spending the day with him in Paris forces Hannah to question how well she really knows herself – and whether, sometimes, you need to go in the wrong direction to find everything you’ve been looking for…

MY REVIEW:

After a romantic break in Venice, Hannah and Si are on their way to his sister’s wedding in Amsterdam. Then, following a calamitous series of events, Hannah finds herself stranded alone in Paris with no passport, luggage, purse or phone. At the station she meets Leo, a suave, handsome French man who while vexing her at first, slowly reveals himself to be everything that Si isn’t. Could a series of mistakes have led Hannah to what she didn’t know she was missing all along afterall?

Charming, absorbing and uplifting, this was the perfect Valentines read. Wonderfully cliched and featuring my favourite romance trope – enemies to lovers – this was pure heartwarming escapism. I travelled through the pages to Paris as the author’s vivid imagery brought the city to life. It felt like I was there alongside Hannah exploring the city and enjoying Leo’s guided tour of the city of love. I have been to Paris once, on a day trip during a French Exchange trip when I was a teenager many years ago, and I found myself reminiscing and wanting to get out my grainy photos of that rainy day. It has also made me want to go back with my partner and see the city through fresh eyes, a little like Hannah did in the story. 

The story and characters are richly drawn and compelling, the author crafting a novel that is part contemporary love story and part self-discovery. Hannah and Leo are entertaining and compelling characters and the story is richly drawn and transportive. It was like I could hear Leo’s French accent and picture his darkly handsome features. I could feel the anxiety and frustration radiating from Hannah, and later her inner turmoil as she began to question so many things about her life. 

Funny, engaging and utterly delightful, this debut is a welcome escape and the perfect pick-me-up for those lockdown or winter blues. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to read more from the author in the future.

Rating: ✯✯✯✯

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Lorraine Brown previously trained as an actress and has recently completed the final year of a postgraduate diploma in psychodynamic counselling. She lives in London with her partner and their 8-year-old son and can usually be found writing in coffee shops, feeling guilty about not going to the gym and watching too much Netflix. Uncoupling is her debut novel and is being published in the UK by Orion and in the USA by Penguin Random House (as The Paris Connection), as well as in Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, The Czech Republic, Croatia and Turkey.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

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

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

BLOG TOUR: Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

Published: February 4th, 2021*
Publisher: Piatkus
Format: Kindle, Audio
Genre: Humorous Fiction, Contemporary Romance
*Hardcover out March 25th

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this heartwarming debut. Thank you to Frankie at Little Brown Book Group for the invitation to take part and the ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

When Amy Ashton’s world fell apart eleven years ago, she started a collection.

Just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.

Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves – soon there’ll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery, and Amy’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she’d lost still be hers for the taking?

Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and The Keeper of Lost Things, this exquisitely told, uplifting novel shows us that however hopeless things might feel, beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places

MY REVIEW:

“We all have baggage. No one travels lightly anymore.”

Amy Ashton is not your typical literary heroine. Standoffish and strange, Amy lives alone in a house that resembles an episode of hoarders. But to Amy her house is perfect; full of the treasures she collects and protects. But I soon discovered that beyond that spiky outer shell is a nuanced, vulnerable and caring woman whom I adored. The story itself was also full of surprises. I was immediately enamoured by the author’s prose and quirky tale and soon found there were unexpected layers to the book waiting to be discovered, including a mystery that grew like the ivy in Amy’s wild back garden. I was hooked. 

I’ve found that a lot of the debuts I’ve read over the last year have been outstanding, and Everything Is Beautiful certainly fits that current mode. Full of pathos, heart, charm and wit, I devoured this book and got lost in Amy’s world. The story is told in dual timelines with flashbacks that are linked to specific items in Amy’s collection. Through these chapters the author tells the story of each item’s meaning to Amy, the memories it evokes, and slowly unveils how she became this way, piece by piece; each one waiting to be discovered by the reader like one of Amy’s treasures. These flashbacks also give an insight into who Amy used to be; when she was vibrant and happy and just like any other young woman you might meet.

“Her house was fairly full, of course, but that was because it was filled to the brim with treasures.”

But Amy isn’t the only compelling character in this story. The author has created a cast of characters that are all equally important to understanding Amy and her story. I was particularly taken with young Charles and Daniel, the two little boys who have moved in next door to Amy and decided she is their friend. One of the great things about kids is they don’t see the world as adults do and they can see the beauty in a person when adults only see someone weird. I loved seeing Amy through their eyes and how they slowly brought out a different side to her we might not have seen if they hadn’t moved next door. 

This is an absolute must read. Uplifting, warm and wistful, this is a beautiful story that will linger long after reading and has gone straight onto my forever shelf. It reminded me of a combination of Eleanor Oliphant and The Illustrated Child, which are two other debuts I adore. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Eleanor Ray has an MA in English Literature from Edinburgh University and works in marketing. She lives in London with her husband and two young children.

Eleanor was inspired to write EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL by the objects her toddler collects and treasures – twigs, empty water bottles and wilting daisies. She is currently working on her next novel.

Website | Instagram | Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:
Little Brown Book Group

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

*This book is known as The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton in the US and is published June 8th.

Happy reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xx

Categories
Blog Tours

Blog Tour: Rescue Me by Sarra Manning

Published: January 21st, 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romance Novel, Humorous Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this utterly heartwarming novel. Thank you Niamh at Hodder and Stoughton for the invitation to take part and my gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Margot doesn’t have time for love.

Will is afraid to love.

And neither of them are expecting to fall in love with Blossom: a gentle Staffy with a tragic past, a belly made for rubbing and a head the size of a football.

After their first meeting at the rescue centre, both Margot and Will want to adopt Blossom so reluctantly agree to share custody. But Will’s obsession for micro-managing and clear-cut boundaries and Margot’s need to smother Blossom with affection, means that soon they have a very confused and badly behaved dog on their hands.

Can they put their differences aside to become successful “co-pawrents” and maybe even friends? And meanwhile, does Blossom have plans of her own?

MY REVIEW:

Heartwarming, uplifting, witty and absorbing, this book wraps its arms around you like a warm hug. It was just what I needed to read when I picked it up. Though I don’t know if  my partner would agree as I’ve been banging on about getting a dog ever since. 

Margot is thirty-six and ready for commitment and babies. Unable to find a man who’s as ready as she is and recently abandoned by her jerk of a cat, Percy, she decides to look for unconditional love at the dog rescue centre. She intends to adopt a cute, handbag-sized dog that will look good on the Gram but doesn’t bank on Blossom, the naughty staffy with bald patches, stealing her heart. The problem is Blossom has also stolen the heart of Will, who is at the rescue centre after being told by his therapist that he needs to open his heart up to others. Faced with the doggy version of the judgment of Solomon, they decide the only sensible solution is to share Blossom. But of course, things don’t run smoothly in this story about  healing and finding love in unexpected places. 

If you need a book that will lift your spirits when you’re down then this is the book for you. I adored this book. Yes, it’s a little cliched and predictable in places, but it is also a well-written, hilarious and tender story that gives you all the feelings. Many times I found myself sat smiling to myself like an idiot while reading and I kept laughing out loud and reading lines to my partner as it was just too funny to keep to myself. 

There is no way I would consider sharing a dog with a stranger as I know I’d find it too painful, but it does make for a great story that is ripe for conflict and hilarity, which the author mines to perfection. Margot and Will are fantastic characters who are both equal parts likeable and frustrating. They are both trying to deal with their own heartaches and see Blossom as a way to do this, even if it is kind of reluctantly in Will’s case. 

But the star of this show is undeniably Blossom. Like Margot and Will, Blossom stole my heart. The author’s love of dogs leaps from the pages and even if you weren’t a dog lover at the start of this book, I guarantee you will be by the end. Not only that, but if you’re anything like me you will be wanting to adopt one for yourself. We lost our old German Shepherd almost three years ago and this really didn’t help my yearning for another dog. I’ve been longingly looking at dog pictures and ads since reading this book and feel the hole left by our old girl more than ever. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I do like a good ‘enemies to lovers’ trope and this one was done so well that I couldn’t help but root for them and eat it up like the sappy woman I am. I couldn’t wait for them to finally get together and was going crazy with how long the author kept us waiting for it to happen. Like the secrets and twists in this story, the romance slowly unveils, raising the anticipation for the reader. 

All jokes aside, this is a truly wonderful novel that I highly recommend. It was my first time reading this author and I definitely plan to read more. And don’t miss the author’s notes when you’ve finished. I promise you want to read them. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarra Manning has been a voracious reader for over forty years and a prolific author and journalist for twenty five.

Her novels, which have been translated into fifteen different languages include Unsticky, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, After The Last Dance, The Rise And Fall Of Becky Sharp and her latest, Rescue Me, which publishes in 2021. Sarra has also written over fifteen YA novels, and four light-hearted romantic comedies under a pseudonym.

She started her writing career on Melody Maker and Just Seventeen, has been editor of ElleGirl and What To Wear and has also contributed to The Guardian, ELLE, Grazia, Stylist, Fabulous, Stella, You Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and is currently the Literary Editor of Red magazine.
Sarra has also been a Costa Book Awards judge and has been nominated for various writing awards herself.

She lives in London surrounded by piles and piles of books.

Instagram |Twitter |Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Happy reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xx

Categories
book reviews Support Debuts

Love Orange by Natasha Randall

Published: September 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Riverrun
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Humor, Satire, Psychological Fiction, Humorous Fiction

Thank you to Riverrun for my gifted copy of the book and invitation to the readalong.

SYNOPSIS:

A disturbing portrait of a modern American family.

An extraordinary debut novel by Natasha Randall, exposing the seam of secrets within an American family, from beneath the plastic surfaces of their new ‘smart’ home. Love Orange charts the gentle absurdities of their lives, and the devastating consequences of casual choices.

While Hank struggles with his lack of professional success, his wife Jenny, feeling stuck and beset by an urge to do good, becomes ensnared in a dangerous correspondence with a prison inmate called John. Letter by letter, John pinches Jenny awake from the “marshmallow numbness” of her life. The children, meanwhile, unwittingly disturb the foundations of their home life with forays into the dark net and strange geological experiments.

Jenny’s bid for freedom takes a sour turn when she becomes the go-between for John and his wife, and develops an unnatural obsession for the orange glue that seals his letters…

Love Orange throws open the blinds of American life, showing a family facing up to the modern age, from the ascendancy of technology, the predicaments of masculinity, the pathologising of children, the epidemic of opioid addiction and the tyranny of the WhatsApp Gods. The first novel by the acclaimed translator is a comic cocktail, an exuberant skewering of contemporary anxieties and prejudices.

MY REVIEW:

Jenny Tinkley lives with her husband Hank and their two sons, Jessie and Luke, in a quiet suburban town. They’re a picture-perfect family living in the picture-perfect smart home. But behind the glossy, perfect sheen there are cracks: Jenny feels bored and stuck in her life, Hank is frustrated by his lack of professional success and their children are each facing their own worries and challenges.

To try and escape the monotony, Jenny begins a correspondence with a prison inmate named John. She finds excitement in their letters, but things start to unravel when Jenny agrees to become a go-between for John and his wife and develops a strange obsession with the orange glue that seals his letters.

The characters are the driving force of this story. They are compelling, relatable, and instantly familiar as someone who could be your neighbour. Jenny is a typical suburban mum. I found her relatable but did struggle to warm to her, particularly as the story went on and her actions became increasingly selfish as she spiralled into addiction. I hated Hank. He was misogynistic, toxic, controlling, and just generally awful. I thought the author did a great job of writing him and managing to evoke such strong feelings of dislike in not only me, but every other reader I’ve spoken to. For me, it was the kids that drew me to them most of all. My heart broke for them and the things they went through. I think one complaint I have about the book was that I would have liked the children to have featured more.

I also liked how the smart house was like another character. Jenny sees the house as spying on her and controlling their lives. She gets a kick from outwitting it and managing to do things unnoticed. She even tells Hank to ask the house if he has any questions at one point. I would hate to live in a house like theirs and can understand why she felt the way she did. Sometimes you can have too much technology.

I did have two issues with the book that I would like to address. The first one was how the therapist told the family that Luke wasn’t autistic because he showed a high level of empathy. This perpetuates the false narrative that autistic people aren’t empathetic which is completely wrong. While they can struggle with processing and expressing emotion, people with autism are often highly empathetic, my own son included. Second of all was how it portrayed everyone who takes pain pills as addicts. While I liked that the book raised the issue of opiate addiction, I did feel like the portrayal spiraled into harmful stereotypes. My biggest issue was with the following quote:

“The thing about pain pills is that they take away pain. Any kind of pain. It gets so that people can’t even get out of bed for the pain that life becomes… compared to the high.”

As someone who uses opiates for chronic pain, the idea that we all become addicted and care only about the high is harmful, offensive and factually incorrect. I don’t get high. Pain medication is the ONLY reason I can get out of bed and live a life that has a sliver of normality. Dependency to help ease pain is not addiction, and while some people do unfortunately spiral into an addiction, I personally know many more who are languishing in agony with no life because they’ve been tarred with the same brush as an addict and denied any relief from their chronic and debilitating pain. For me the quote above is like saying all people who drink alcohol do so to get drunk and become alcoholics. But these are personal feelings and I don’t think everyone reading will feel the same way. So I encourage you to read for yourself.

But I don’t want this to come across as sounding like I didn’t like the book, because I did. Love Orange is an absorbing and addictive debut novel that explores family, secrets and addiction in modern society. It is beautifully written, immediately draws you into the the Tinkley’s world. I also really liked the quirky humour that runs through the story. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments that made this a joy to read.

I read the book as part of a readalong organised by the publisher and really enjoyed the chats where I got to see the different things others noticed and the varied ways we can interpret the same book.

A beautifully written look at a fractured family and life in suburban America, I would recommend this novel and can’t wait to read more from the author in the future.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Natasha Randall is a writer and translator, living in London. Her writing and critical work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Moscow Times, BookForum, The New York Times, Strad magazine, HALI magazine and on National Public Radio (USA). She is a contributing editor to the New York-based literary magazine A Public Space. Her debut novel Love Orange will be released by riverrun (Quercus, Hachette) in September 2020.

Website |Instagram |Twitter|Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

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

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

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

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

SYNOPSIS:

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon |Waterstones |Hive |Google Books |Kobo