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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Published: November 25th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Literary Fiction, Saga
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the mesmerising, soulful and addictive Wish You Were Here. Thank you to Kate at Hodder and Stoughton for the invitation to take part and the gifted copies of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Diana O’Toole’s life is going perfectly to plan. At twenty-nine, she’s up for promotion to her dream job as an art specialist at Sotheby’s and she’s about to fly to the Galápagos where she’s convinced her surgeon boyfriend, Finn, is going to propose.

But then the virus hits New York City and Finn breaks the news: the hospital needs him, he has to stay. But you should still go, he insists. And reluctantly, she agrees.

Once she’s in the Galápagos, the world shuts down around her, leaving Diana stranded – albeit in paradise. Completely isolated, with only intermittent news from the outside world, Diana finds herself examining everything that has brought her to this point and wondering if there’s a better way to live.

But not everything is as it seems . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“Sometimes it feels like the whole world is holding its breath.  If we don’t gasp, soon, we will all pass out.” 

Wish You Were Here is a beautiful, heartfelt and absorbing story about resilience, hope and survival.  It explores the fear and trauma of the pandemic and the limitless potential of the human mind.  Moving between New York and the Galapagos, it follows Diana O’Toole as she goes on an unexpected journey of self-discovery after she finds herself stranded on Isabelle Island as the world shuts down. 

Jodi Picoult is my favourite author and can be relied upon to deliver a story I will get lost in.  She is a masterful storyteller who knows how to get right to my soul, but all the same I had some fears that it might be too soon for a book that focuses on the pandemic.  But while Picoult doesn’t shy away from the raw, unvarnished truth of covid and the effects of the pandemic, this is a story that focuses on finding beauty in the bleakest of times and hope when things seem hopeless. 

“The idea of being by yourself on a desert island has a romantic cachet to it, but the reality is less attractive.”

The story takes us back to the early days of the pandemic, vividly conveying the fear, uncertainty and confusion we all felt through Diana’s eyes. It brought back that terror at seeing how things escalated so quickly, that cheerful optimism that it would all be done within a matter of weeks, and the reality that it has changed every one of us forever. I liked that she offered us two very different experiences of the pandemic: Diana stranded alone in paradise, learning how to survive in a place she doesn’t know or speak the language, and Finn’s emails from the front lines in a New York hospital as he helplessly watches hundreds of patients die and works himself to the bone. Both characters are filled with fear, loneliness and desperation but in different ways, which Picoult expertly explores. But at its heart this is a story about self-reflection and self-discovery.  About how no matter the plans we make, life will happen, sometimes taking us in the most unexpected directions.  

Mesmerising, soulful and thought-provoking, Wish You Were Here is an absolute masterpiece. Ms. Picoult has outdone herself, creating one of her best and most moving stories to date.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty five internationally bestselling novels, including MY SISTER’S KEEPER, HOUSE RULES and SMALL GREAT THINGS, and has also co-written two YA books with her daughter Samantha van Leer, BETWEEN THE LINES and OFF THE PAGE. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Bookshop.org*| 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 xxxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Readalong Tandem Readalong

The Maid by Nita Prose

Published: January 20th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review for this phenomenal debut. Thank you to the Tandem Collective UK for selecting me as a VIP for this readalong and to them and Harper Collins for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

POLISHED TO PERFECTION, THE HOTLY-ANTICIPATED DEBUT, COMING JANUARY 2022
RIGHTS SOLD IN 29 TERRITORIES

*Film rights snapped up by Universal, with Florence Pugh set to star as the title character*

I am your maid.
I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry.
But what do you know about me?

Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?
 
But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?

Escapist, charming and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how everyone deserves to be seen. And how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s found in the dirtier, grey areas in between . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“I am your maid. I know so much about you. But when it comes down to it: what is it that you know about me?”

Molly loves her job as  a maid at the luxurious Regency Grand Hotel. She enjoys blending into the background and takes pride in her work cleaning up the messes that guests leave behind. But when she stumbles across the infamous Mr. Black dead in his bed it seems she has finally found a mess she can’t easily wipe away. Finding herself embroiled in the murder investigation, Molly’s whole world changes and, suddenly, everyone can see her.  Could Molly really hold the key to solving Mr. Black’s murder? 

This book! A murder mystery that was also a balm for my soul, it was like nothing I’ve ever read before and I loved every single thing about it.  I just know this is going to be HUGE when it’s released next year.

First of all, how on earth is this a debut?  The writing is exquisite, with evocative imagery that brought the world the author had created to life in vivid technicolour.  The opulent splendor of The Regency Grand made me think of the Emerald City from my favourite book, endearing me even more to this fictional place.  I devoured this book, unable to get enough as I lived every moment alongside Molly.  Nita Prose is an exciting new talent and I will be buying anything else she writes without hesitation.

“It’s easier than you’d ever think- existing in plain sight while remaining largely invisible.”

I adored Molly.  Quirky, naive and endearing, it was impossible not to love her.  She knows she’s different, that she doesn’t perceive things in the same way others do and that her love of order makes her seem strange, and we feel her pain at knowing that. She’s always struggled to navigate the world, but it is even harder without her beloved Gran who’s always guided and interpreted things for her.  Molly’s loneliness and naivete make her the perfect candidate for others to take advantage, which they do, and I dreaded the inevitable moment when she learned of their duplicity.  But, like those around her, I underestimated Molly and sat back in awe as she took us all by surprise when she found her power and strength in her darkest moment.  The world would be a better place if we were all a little more Molly. 

One of the unexpected parts of the story for me was how emotional it would feel.  Molly is all alone in the world after losing her Gran and the author makes us feel this deeply. The book is filled with Molly’s memories of her Gran and the quotes of sayings or advice she would give, making her as much of a presence for the reader as she was for Molly. The quotes from Gran were one of my favourite things about the book and having lost my own Nan just a few months ago, it made me feel an even stronger connection to Molly.

“It seems everyone’s an ameteur sleuth. They all believe they can waltz right into the hotel and solve the mystery of Mr. Black’s untimely demise.”

Another aspect I enjoyed was the shift in tone that takes place, making it almost feel like it is split into two parts.  The first part has a more chilled vibe, filled with lots of gorgeous imagery and heartrending moments as Molly talks about her loneliness in the world.  But after finding Mr. Black things switch up and the excitement and tension rises, keeping me on the edge of my seat and reading in breathless anticipation. 

Heartwarming, addictive, tense and twisty, The Maid is a phenomenal debut that is not to be missed.  Everyone is going to be talking about this book.  I was thrilled to find out the rights have already been bought and can’t wait to see it on the big screen. 

Go and read this book!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Nita Prose is a longtime editor, serving many bestselling authors and their books. She lives in Toronto, Canada, in a house that is only moderately clean.

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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

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Oh William by Elizabeth Strout

Published: October 21st, 2021
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Literary Fiction, Saga
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Oh William. Thank you to Viking for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

“But who ever really knows the experience of another?” 

The Pulitzer Prize-winning, Booker-longlisted, bestselling author returns to her beloved heroine Lucy Barton in a luminous novel about love, loss, and the family secrets that can erupt and bewilder us at any point in life

Lucy Barton is a successful writer living in New York, navigating the second half of her life as a recent widow and parent to two adult daughters. A surprise encounter leads her to reconnect with William, her first husband – and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidante. Recalling their college years, the birth of their daughters, the painful dissolution of their marriage, and the lives they built with other people, Strout weaves a portrait, stunning in its subtlety, of a tender, complex, decades-long partnership.

Oh William! captures the joy and sorrow of watching children grow up and start families of their own; of discovering family secrets, late in life, that alter everything we think we know about those closest to us; and the way people live and love, against all odds. At the heart of this story is the unforgettable, indomitable voice of Lucy Barton, who once again offers a profound, lasting reflection on the mystery of existence. ‘This is the way of life,’ Lucy says. ‘The many things we do not know until it is too late.’

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MY REVIEW:

We are back with Lucy Barton. Told in the present day, Lucy is now in her sixties and recently widowed. She and her first husband, William, have an amicable but complex relationship which is the focus of the book, exploring their marriage, the lives they’ve built since divorcing, taking a look at their pasts, and unearthing some surprising family secrets. 

This is a story of unfinished relationships. Of self reflection, introspection, regrets, acceptance and forgiveness. Told in the same conversational style, Lucy again narrates the story. But while I was blown away by its predecessor, this one didn’t quite hit that same sweet spot for me. And it was because of William. This serial philanderer wasn’t particularly likeable or endearing and I didn’t feel any connection to him or invested in the trials and tribulations he was facing. Maybe if he’d narrated it I’d have felt a bond that had me more invested, I don’t know. It also felt like this book was more melancholy, where the other was chilled. And it was missing that emotional pull that drew me into the character’s story and made me need to know they would be ok.

But there are things I did enjoy, like getting to see more of their daughters, looking back at more of Lucy’s childhood, and the storyline about William’s father, who was a German Prisoner of War in Maine. The latter was my favourite part of the book and if the whole novel had been an exploration of the lives of William’s parents then it would have been more interesting to me. 

There is no doubt that Elizabeth Strout is a gifted storyteller. Her writing is intelligent, poised and thoughtful, enveloping you in the world she’s created. When I started reading this book it felt like I’d been wrapped in a warm hug, and I am looking forward to seeing what tone and style her books outside of this series take.

Overall, I do recommend this book, especially if you enjoyed her previous book or family sagas. After all, we all read the same book differently and I believe it’s important to make up our own minds about each one.

Rating: ✮✮✮✰✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Elizabeth Strout is the author of the New York Times bestseller Olive Kitteridge, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the national bestseller Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine and New York City.

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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

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book reviews

Review: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Published: February 4th, 2016
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

SYNOPSIS:

A #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE & THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION

An exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge

Lucy is recovering from an operation in a New York hospital when she wakes to find her estranged mother sitting by her bed. They have not seen one another in years. As they talk Lucy finds herself recalling her troubled rural childhood and how it was she eventually arrived in the big city, got married and had children. But this unexpected visit leaves her doubting the life she’s made: wondering what is lost and what has yet to be found.

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MY REVIEW:

“Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden in the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.” 

When I picked up this book I did so out of duty; I am on the blog tour for the follow up and thought I should read this one first. While I’d heard great things and even read a review that day that had me feeling more excited to read it, I still wasn’t sure. It was about getting this one out of the way. I was unprepared for the masterpiece I was about to read. A book that captivated me so completely that I devoured it in one sitting over just a few hours, unable to tear myself away from the mesmerising story between its pages.

Set in New York in the 1980s, this is a story of not only mothers and daughters, but the human condition and its trials and tribulations. Lucy Barton is recovering from an operation when she wakes to find her estranged mother by her bedside. The two have always had a difficult relationship, which the author explores throughout the book. Lucy yearns for her mother’s love and recognition, feeling like she has never received either from her. As the pair talk, she finds herself looking back at her life, particularly her impoverished childhood in a small, rural town. It is a childhood filled with neglect, hunger, abuse and isolation, the scars faded, but still visible on her soul. This angst-ridden inner turmoil is cleverly juxtaposed with the lighthearted gossip and banter mother and daughter share as they talk, ensuring the story never feels too heavy.

After reading this book it is easy to see why Elizabeth Strout is so lauded and has won prestigious awards. The prose is unique and it almost feels that the protagonist is rambling, just blurting out things about her life without a filter. But it totally works. And the reason it works is because the writing is exquisite, pulling me into the world she had crafted and holding me captive until the final page. She has a new fan in this reader for sure.

Beautiful, haunting and evocative, this chilled story is one that will stay with me. My only frustration is why on earth I waited so long to read it. If you haven’t, then don’t wait any longer. Read it now! I promise you won’t regret it.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

th Strout is the author of the New York Times bestseller Olive Kitteridge, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the national bestseller Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine and New York City.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles☺️ Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour – Dinner Party: A Tragedy by Sarah Gilmartin

Published: September 16th, 2021
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this intriguing debut. Thank you to Tara McEvoy at Pushkin Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Kate has taught herself to be careful, to be meticulous.

To mark the anniversary of a death in the family, she plans a dinner party – from the fancy table settings to the perfect Baked Alaska waiting in the freezer. Yet by the end of the night, old tensions have flared, the guests have fled, and Kate is spinning out of control.

But all we have is ourselves, her father once said, all we have is family.

Set between the 1990s and the present day, from a farmhouse in Carlow to Trinity College, Dublin, Dinner Party is a dark, sharply observed debut that thrillingly unravels into family secrets and tragedy.

As the past catches up with the present, Kate learns why, despite everything, we can’t help returning home.

A brilliant coming-of-age page-turner about the complications of sibling relationships and the trauma of family secrets, perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell and Anne Enright

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MY REVIEW:

“But there were secrets in the centre of secrets that were still trying to come out.”

I started this book expecting a thriller and instead found myself reading an Irish family saga that follows a dysfunctional family from the nineties to the present day. It started strong, opening with protagonist Kate welcoming her family over for dinner to mark the sixteenth anniversary of the death of her twin sister, Elaine. I loved their banter and the vivid descriptions that made me feel as if I could even smell the food cooking. The story then jumps back to August 1999 as we follow Kate and her family through pivotal moments that shape their lives. 

The inner demons and struggles of each of the Gleeson family are addressed in this exploration of fractured family relationships, and the effects of trauma and loss. It is written with both sensitivity and compassion, though it feels a little slow at times. The matriarch of the family, Bernadette, is an overbearing, volatile woman whose behaviour clearly traumatises her children and looms large over every aspect of their lives, even when physically absent. There were many times I wanted to slap her for things she said or did and I was willing them to stand up to her.  Elaine also casts a shadow over every page, but in a very different way. She is either the vivacious, outgoing twin who Kate adores, or makes the atmosphere feel heavy with the loss of her; a spark of light that was extinguished far too soon.

If you like family drama and literary fiction, then you will enjoy this intriguing debut.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

TW: Eating Disorders

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Gilmartin is an arts journalist who reviews fiction for the Irish Times.

She has an MFA from University College Dublin (2018/2019) and is co-editor of Stinging Fly Stories (2018).

Her short stories have been listed for the Sean O’Faolain Short Story Award, the RTE Francis MacManus Short Story Award and the Hennessy New Irish Writing Prize.

Sarah won Best Playwright for her play Match at the Short+Sweet Dublin 2019 festival.

Her story The Wife won the 2020 Máirtín Crawford Award at Belfast Book Festival.

Dinner Party: A Tragedy is her first novel, to be published by Pushkin Press in October 2021.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon| 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

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Impossible Truths of Love by Hannah Beckerman

Published: October 5th, 2021
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this beautiful and moving story. Thank you to Rhiannon at FMcM Associates for the invitation to take part and to Amazon Publishing for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

From bestselling author Hannah Beckerman comes a moving story about memory, secrets, and what it really means to feel that you’re one of the family.

When Nell’s father makes a deathbed declaration that hints at a long-held secret, it reignites feelings of isolation that have plagued her for years. Her suspicions about the family’s past only deepen when her mother, Annie, who is losing her memories to dementia, starts making cryptic comments of her own.

Thirty-five years earlier, Annie’s life was upended by a series of traumas—one shock after another that she buried deep in her heart. The decisions she made at the time were motivated by love, but she knew even then that nobody could ever understand—let alone forgive—what she did.

As the two women’s stories unravel, a generation apart, Nell finally discovers the devastating truth about her mother’s past, and her own.

In this beautifully observed and emotionally powerful story of identity, memory and the nature of family, Hannah Beckerman asks: To what lengths would you go to protect the ones you love?

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MY REIVEW:

“I want you to know that I’ve always loved you… You need to know that I’ve always loved you even though you were never really mine to love.”

When Nell’s father makes a mysterious deathbed declaration it reignites her long-held feelings of not belonging within her family. Grappling with the death of her father and the slow loss of her mother, Annie, before her eyes from dementia, Nell searches for the truth behind her father’s compassion while also trying to dampen her feelings of being an outsider.

In a second timeline, we go back thirty-five years to when Annie’s world was turned upside down by a series of traumatic events. We follow as she battles to come to terms with them and makes decisions that will have repercussions for everyone in her family. As the two timelines weave together, we watch as Annie’s choices affect Nell in the present day, and how they changed a family forever. 

“In her mind the tapestry of her family history begins to unstitch, the fabric loosening at the seams”

Wow. You really do need the tissues for this one! A beautifully written dual timeline novel about love, family, memory, long-held secrets, and self-discovery, this book takes you on an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. The author has chosen to explore some of the most traumatic and devastating events that a family can go through in this book such as the loss of a child, dementia, the sudden death of a parent and decades-old family secrets. Just one of these would be enough to turn someone’s world upside down, and this family goes through them all. She writes with insight, compassion and sensitivity, drawing the reader into the heart and minds of the Hardy family so vividly that you feel everything alongside them. 

I loved the choice to tell the story in dual timelines and have just two family members as narrators. I think this helped me to feel a deep connection with both Nell and Annie. As the tangled weave of secrets slowly unravelled I felt like I lived it alongside them, breaking my heart as theirs did, shedding tears with them and silently telling them they could get through this. I feel like if other narrators had been involved  it would have diluted the emotional impact of Annie and Nell’s stories. Plus, the author still manages to convey the effect of events on the other characters through the lens of the two women.

Powerful, poignant and heart-rending, this hits you right in the heart and soul. A moving and compelling story that I highly recommend. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

TW: death of a child. Please contact me for any other trigger warnings.

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Hannah Beckerman is a bestselling author and journalist whose novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages worldwide. She is a book critic and features writer for a range of publications including The Observer and the FT Weekend Magazine, and has appeared as a book pundit on BBC Radio 2 and Times Radio. She chairs literary events across the UK, interviewing authors and celebrities, and has judged numerous book prizes including the Costa Book Awards. Prior to writing her first novel, Hannah was a television producer and commissioning editor for the BBC, Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel, and for two years lived in Bangladesh, running a TV project for the BBC. She now lives in London where she writes full-time.

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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

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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 not the killing, that’s not the thing. Gotta watch, moniter, think, a lot, and – come the time – carve into the void. That’s it. Carve into the void. Find a way to make the universe shrink, to make it shrink till it’s condensed into the barrel of the gun or the point of the knife. That’s all. Don’t ask any questions, don’t be driven by anger, choose protocol, and proceed methodically.”

Today’s captivating first lines are taken from the international bestseller, The Anomaly by Hervé le Tellier., which is published in the UK on January 20th. I was fortunate to recently receive a copy along with some great book swag and I’m looking forward to diving into this one very soon.

SYNOPSIS:

WINNER OF THE PRIX GONCOURT. 1 MILLION COPIES SOLD. AN INTERNATIONAL PHENOMENON.

What do you do if your life is no longer your own?

When flight Air France 006 enters a terrifying storm, the plane – inexplicably – duplicates. For every passenger on board that day, there are now two – a double with the same mind, body and memories.

Just one thing sets them apart. One plane leaves the storm in March. The other doesn’t land until June. For world leaders, the emergence of the June flight raises serious alarms. No science, faith, or protocol can explain this unprecedented event.

But for the passengers, a bigger question is at stake. What happens to them, now that their life is shared? What happens to those who land in June, when their March doubles make decisions that will change their lives forever?

And as the doubles prepare to meet, they have an extraordinary decision to make.

If there are two of them, and just one life – who gets to live it?

A runaway bestseller and winner of the 2020 Prix Goncourt, The Anomaly is a genre-defying, whip-smart novel that explores the very essence of who we are.

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How amazing does that sound? If I’ve tempted you, then you can pre-order your copy here*

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

*This is an affiliate link

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Blog Tours Q&A

Blog Tour: Q&A with Fiona Valpy

Happy Monday Bibliophiles! Today I’m delighted to be sharing a Q&A with author Fiona Valpy as part of the blog tour for her latest novel, The Storyteller of Casablanca, which is published tomorrow.

What drew you to writing? Had you always wanted to become a novelist?

From early childhood I’d always been an avid reader and lived in a home filled with books. Often, I would finish a book and think ‘I wish I could have written that’, but all my time was filled with my career and motherhood until we made a move to France. There, I found both inspiration and the time to write my first books. Now I can’t imagine my life without writing.

What made you want to shift from contemporary fiction to historical fiction?

While the countryside and contemporary culture of France were the initial inspiration for my writing, the country’s history – especially the legacy of being occupied during World War 2 – are all-pervasive and soon claimed my attention.

I still wanted to include a contemporary slant to my books, though, and so I began writing dual timeline novels. There’s a challenge in finding the connection between two separate eras and pulling them together in a way that’s convincing. I love the sense of interweaving two storylines which may seemed disconnected at first, but which later converge. And of course, our histories are such a part of who we are today.

What is it about the Second World War that you think readers are so fascinated by?

It’s still just within living memory for some, although of course that generation is slipping away fast and so there’s a sense of urgency in recording their first-hand testimonies and making sure their voices will still be heard as the years go by. We’ve also reached new milestones in terms of documents being de-classified and information released, allowing previously unknown facts to come to light and enabling new interpretations of wartime events.

While subsequent generations have been fortunate to live in a time of peace, life can still be challenging, and I believe we can learn a great deal from understanding how others have suffered and faced up to difficulties. In particular, in some ways the war gave women an opportunity to break free of the limitations society placed on them and prove themselves in new ways, playing their part in the fight against oppression.

I believe women are incredibly resilient and have qualities that are absolutely vital in today’s world – not just strength and endurance, but also kindness and compassion. I hope my books help women to see themselves in this light.

What research did you do for The Storyteller of Casablanca?

I’d organised a research trip to Morocco but the global pandemic stymied those plans. So I had to find other ways to fill in the gaps and ensure I could still transport the reader to that other time and place. I studied travel guides and pored over maps, but also read more widely and around my subject, including novels by Driss ChraÏbi (The Simple Past), Paul Bowles (The Sheltering Sky) and Anthony Doerr’s Africa-based short stories (The Shell Collector). Meredith Hindley’s book Destination Casablanca offered a wealth of insight into the city during the war years and Hal Vaughn’s FDR’s 12 Apostles was a useful source of detail about the establishment of espionage networks in North Africa prior to US invasion in November 1943.

Videos on YouTube helped me visit the sights and souks, and the internet offered up additional information on some of the real-life characters that appear in the book, including the inspirational Josephine Baker and Hélêne Cazês-Bénatar. Other such characters, like Dorothy Ellis, proved to be frustratingly elusive despite all my research efforts though, so I hope I have done her justice.

In The Storyteller of Casablanca there are many different stories told in different ways. Can you tell us a little more about this?

I’ve included storytelling in many different forms in the book – there’s everything from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and the murder mysteries of Dorothy L. Sayers, La Fontaine’s Fables, and traditional African and Berber Folk Stories, to the Tales from the Thousand and One Nights.

It’s one of the key themes of the book. I wanted to explore how the stories we tell are an important part of our history and at the same time can inspire and shape our future, as well as illustrating the common ground between different cultures in the past and present. There’s a universality in the human need to tell our stories and make our voices heard that transcends borders, cultures, race, religion, age and gender.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a novel set in Italy during World War 2 at the moment, as well as revising my first three books (The French for… series of contemporary novels) which are to be re-issued in the coming year, so my writing continues to keep my busy!

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I don’t know about you, but this interview has made me even more excited to read The Storyteller of Casablanca. Still not sure? Well here’s some more info to whet you’re appetite…

SYNOPSIS:

In this evocative tale from the bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Gift, a strange new city offers a young girl hope. Can it also offer a lost soul a second chance?

Morocco, 1941. With France having fallen to Nazi occupation, twelve-year-old Josie has fled with her family to Casablanca, where they await safe passage to America. Life here is as intense as the sun, every sight, smell and sound overwhelming to the senses in a city filled with extraordinary characters. It’s a world away from the trouble back home—and Josie loves it.

Seventy years later, another new arrival in the intoxicating port city, Zoe, is struggling—with her marriage, her baby daughter and her new life as an expat in an unfamiliar place. But when she discovers a small wooden box and a diary from the 1940s beneath the floorboards of her daughter’s bedroom, Zoe enters the inner world of young Josie, who once looked out on the same view of the Atlantic Ocean, but who knew a very different Casablanca.

It’s not long before Zoe begins to see her adopted city through Josie’s eyes. But can a new perspective help her turn tragedy into hope, and find the comfort she needs to heal her broken heart?

You can buy the book here

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Fiona is an acclaimed number 1 bestselling author, whose books have been translated into more than twenty different languages worldwide.

She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women, especially during the years of World War II. Her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place.

She spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007, before returning to live in Scotland. Her love for both of these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she’s written.

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

Thank you to FMcM Associates for the invitation to take part in the tour and the gifted copy of the book. And a special thank you to Fiona Valpy for taking the time to answer these questions.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Ghostlights by Grainne Murphy

Published: September 1st, 2021
Publisher: Legend Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this moving story. Thank you to Legend Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Can we ever truly escape our past?

The Ghostlights is the poignant story of a family of Irish women who are each looking for the real meaning of home. This is a novel about family, obligation, identity and small-town life, written with deftness and sensitivity by the author of Where the Edge Is.

When a stranger checks into a family B&B – in a small village in rural Ireland – no one takes too much notice… at least until his body is found in the lake four days later.

The identity of the unknown guest raises questions for polar opposite twin sisters Liv and Marianne and their mother Ethel, all of whom feel trapped by the choices they made earlier in life. They each find themselves forced to confront their past, their present and what they really want from their future.The new novel from Gráinne Murphy, whose short fiction has been longlisted for 2021 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award.

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MY REVIEW:

Can we choose to be forgotten? And just how do we want to be remembered when we’re gone? Those are the questions at the heart of this story.

Four days after checking into the B&B in Coolaroone, Fred Stille’s body is found in the lake.  The discovery and mystery surrounding him forces the family that runs the B&B to evaluate their own lives and legacy in this poignant tale.

This is a story about family, home and identity that explores love, guilt, resentment and forgiveness. Beautifully written, it tackles serious issues such as alcoholism and suicide in a way that is honest but sensitive, and adds a dash of humour to lighten the mood. 

Filled with very real characters who are easy to relate to, I felt like they could be any family on any street. The author explores familial relationships and the complexities surrounding them; the deep seated resentments and jealousies, the way they talk to and relate to each other and the bond they share that ultimately overcomes everything else. Narrated by Ethel, Liv and Marianne, we soon learn they are flawed women who are haunted by their personal demons. The death of a guest magnifies everything, forcing them to really look at how they can move forward instead of being held back by regret. 

Set in rural Ireland, it has a great sense of place, vividly portraying the sense of community and claustrophobia of small town life. I think that it was an ideal setting for this story as immersing the reader in a place where religion, folklore and superstition are at the core of village life, adds to the atmosphere of the story. When Fred’s body is found, it impacts the entire community. They claim him as one of their own and there is a genuine outpouring of grief for this stranger. It is a reminder that we are all part of the same community and that there is kindness to be found even in the darkest of moments. 

The Ghostlights is a very human story. One that I’m sure will resonate in some way with most of us. Warm, witty, compassionate and contemplative, this was an enjoyable read from a talented storyteller. I’ve enjoyed both of her books and am looking forward to seeing what she writes next.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Gráinne’s debut novel Where the Edge Is will be published by Legend Press in September 2020, with The Ghostlights to follow in 2021.

Gráinne’s stories are about family and identity, about staring life down and choosing the kind of person you want to be. Earlier novels were shortlisted for the Caledonia Novel Award 2019, the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair 2019, the Luke Bitmead Bursary 2016 and the Virginia Prize for Fiction 2014.

In short fiction, her story Further West placed third in the Zoetrope All-Story Contest 2018, with other stories appearing in Nivalis 2015 (Full of Grace), Irish Literary Review Issue 5 (Frank & Alfie) and RiPPLE 2016 (The Agatha Christie Bookclub).

Gráinne’s several lives to date include stints in forensic research, human resources, training, volunteering and editing. No matter what she did, it always came back to words. After spending several years struggling to eavesdrop in Belgian cafes, she now lives and writes in a gloriously rainy corner of West Cork.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon| 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
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Songbirds by Christy Lefteri

Published: July 8th, 2021
Publisher: Manilla Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this beautifully told story. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and Manilla Press for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

She walks unseen through our world.
Cares for our children, cleans our homes.
She has a story to tell.
Will you listen?

Nisha has crossed oceans to give her child a future. By day she cares for Petra’s daughter; at night she mothers her own little girl by the light of a phone.

Nisha’s lover, Yiannis, is a poacher, hunting the tiny songbirds on their way to Africa each winter. His dreams of a new life, and of marrying Nisha, are shattered when she vanishes.

No one cares about the disappearance of a domestic worker, except Petra and Yiannis. As they set out to search for her, they realise how little they know about Nisha. What they uncover will change them all.

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MY REVIEW:

‘Isn’t it funny,’ Aliki said, in her most adult voice, ‘that you saw everything but yourself ?’

Songbirds is a beautifully written story that gives a voice to the voiceless. Using her exquisite storytelling, Christy Leferti explores the world of migrant and transient workers, showing why they leave their families, including children, behind and travel thousands of miles to work only to be mistreated and abused. They are also encumbered by huge debts owed to those who facilitate their new jobs. They are unseen and unheard, their own lives and stories of no consequence to anyone but themselves and others like them.

Nisha is a character we only get to know through others, which reinforces the sense of invisibility that surrounds her and women like her. Petra and Yannis are the ones to narrate and reveal her story, and Petra in particular realises that she knows nothing about Nisha, despite the fact this woman has lived in her home for nine years and cares for her daughter.  She also shines a light on the institutionalised racism towards these workers that runs so deep that authorities won’t search for them if they go missing, instead simply assuming they have moved on. 

‘What they uncover will change them all.’

There are themes of bondage and captivity woven throughout this story in a variety of ways. As we learn more about the exploitative situations Nisha and other domestic workers often end up in, we see that what they believe to be their escape, is actually a bigger prison than they left behind. Yannis is caught in the web of his black market dealings and unable to escape them, and finally Petra is an emotional captive, frozen stagnant after her husband’s death to the detriment of her relationship with her daughter. 

Harrowing, heartbreaking and powerful, this is  a story that needed to be told and demands to be read. A story that reminds us you can find beauty and joy in the darkest of places. It will move you, anger you, and hopefully spark a greater understanding and empathy for the people whose stories it tells. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Brought up in London, Christy Lefteri is the child of Cypriot refugees. She is a lecturer in creative writing at Brunel University. The Beekeeper of Aleppo was born out of her time working as a volunteer at a Unicef supported refugee centre in Athens.

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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