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book reviews

REVIEW: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Published: July 3rd, 2014
Publisher: Picador
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review for The Miniaturist, the mesmerising debut by Jessie Burton. Thank you to BookBreak UK for organising the rereadalong and Picador for the gifted copy of the book.

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THE HOUSE OF FORTUNE PRE-ORDER COMPETITION

Pan Macmillan is offering three lucky winners the chance to win their own copy of the signed print, a unique piece of jewellery, and access to a book tour event. All entrants need to do is pre-order a copy of The House of Fortune and submit proof of purchase here.

Pre-order the book here*

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SYNOPSIS:

The phenomenal Number One Bestseller

Winner of the Specsavers National Book Award 2014

Waterstones Book of the Year 2014

Selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club 2015

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .

Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, Jessie Burton’s magnificent debut novel The Miniaturist is a story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

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MY REVIEW:

“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…”

An absolute masterpiece of historical fiction, The Miniaturist instantly became one of my favourite books when I read it back in 2015.  It’s follow up, The House of Fortune, is my most anticipated book of the year and I have been counting down to its release for many months. So when Bookbreak UK offered me the chance to take part in a re-readalong of this extraordinary story along with other bookstagrammers, I jumped at the chance to step back into Nella’s world. 

18-year-old Nella arrives in Amsterdam to live with her new husband, Johannes.  But the merchant is often away and she finds herself left with his spiky sister, their two staff and her pet parakeet, Peebo, for company.  To cheer her up Johannes presents her with a cabinet-sized replica of their home, an unusual and extravagant wedding gift that she begins to furnish with the help of a local miniaturist.  But Nella soon discovers that her new home is one filled with secrets and finds herself embroiled deeper in Amsterdam’s dark underbelly.  And it seems the mysterious miniaturist knows their secrets.  Will she be their salvation or their undoing?

“There is a story here and it seems like Nella’s, but it isn’t hers to tell.  She spins my life, she thinks.  And I cannot see the consequences.” 

Atmospheric, claustrophobic, eerie and mesmerising, this book is why I fell in love with historical fiction. It instantly became one of my favourite books when I read it back in 2015 and I was just as besotted with it the second time around. Jessie Burton is a masterful storyteller and I am once again in awe that this is a debut novel. The lyrical, elegant prose pulls you in and evocative imagery transports you to 17th century Amsterdam so clearly that you lose yourself in Nella’s world.

The richly drawn characters are all so memorable that even after seven years and hundreds of other books since I’d last read them, I could clearly remember so many small details about them. Nella is an innocent young woman at the start of the book and we see her become increasingly isolated, disillusioned, anxious and unsettled. But she also gets much stronger and finds joy in things such as her friendship with their maid, Cordelia. But as much as I loved Nella, for me it was Marin who was most fascinating. Sharp, cynical and acerbic, she begins the story as a tragic yet hard character, but the layers are slowly peeled away to reveal the unexpected truth beneath her armour, making her a joy to read.

“Nella returns home and rushes upstairs to the cabinet, running her fingers over the miniaturist’s pieces.  They are charged with a different energy, laden with meaning she cannot penetrate, yet even more addictive in their mystery.  She’s chosen me, Nella thinks, glowing with this discovery, yearning to know more.”  

The miniaturist herself is an elusive character who exists in shadows; an almost phantom presence who you can never pin down.  Nella is so intrigued by her and desperately tries to learn more about this mysterious woman who seems to tell their secrets and stories through her tiny creations. But how she does this remains cryptic throughout the story.  Her mysterious and slightly sinister presence helps to provide the gothic elements that add the gothic elements that add darker and more compelling layers to the story.

A spellbinding and stylish modern classic that should be on everybody’s reading list, I can’t recommend The Miniaturist highly enough.  I loved every moment of being back with Nella and the others and am even more excited to dive into The House of Fortune soon to see what happens next.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jessie Burton is the author of three novels, The MiniaturistThe Muse, and The Confession, all instant Sunday Times bestsellers. 

The Miniaturist and The Muse were Sunday Times no.1 bestsellers in both hardback and paperback, New York Times bestsellers, and Radio 4’s Book at BedtimeThe Miniaturist went on to sell over a million copies in its year of publication, was Christmas no.1 in the UK, National Book Awards Book of the Year, and Waterstones Book of the Year 2014.  In 2017 it was adapted as a two-part miniseries on BBC One, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Alex Hassell and Romola Garai, screened over Christmas, and now available on DVD and streaming services.

Her novels have been published in 40 languages.

Jessie’s first book for children, The Restless Girls, was published in September 2018, with Medusa​ to follow in 2021. ​Her story ‘Daphne and the Doughnuts’ appeared in The Book of Hopes, a collection of children’s stories published in 2020, from which all profits go to the NHS. 

As a non-fiction writer, she has written essays and reviews for The New York Times, Harpers Bazaar UK, The Wall Street JournalThe IndependentVogueElleRedGraziaLonely Planet Traveller and The SpectatorHarpers Bazaar US and Stylist have published her short stories. 

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊Emma xxxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

REVIEW: Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Published: April 28th, 2022
Publisher: Wildfire
Genre: Greek Mythology, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Fairy Tale
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day to one of my most anticipated books of the year!

Thank you to Caitlin at Wildfire for the gifted ARC and gorgeous finished copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

An exciting and equally lyrical new retelling from Jennifer Saint, the Sunday Times bestselling author of ARIADNE

‘Saint’s immersive novel thrusts the reader straight into the heart of Greek mythology’ ipaper on Ariadne

The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.

Clytemnestra
The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them and determines to win, whatever the cost.

Cassandra
Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.

Elektra
The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?

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MY REVIEW:

Jennifer Saint has done it again.  Elektra was one of my most anticipated books of this year, but would it live up to the splendour of Ariadne, one of my favourite books of 2021?  The answer is yes!  Enthralling, powerful and mesmerising, Elektra is a glorious tapestry of a novel, a richly drawn portrayal of war and betrayal, of families torn apart by men’s lust for women, power and the so-called will of the gods, and of women trying to find agency in a man’s world.

This time the author retells the story of the Trojan War.  But instead of taking the obvious route of telling the story from Helen’s perspective she gives a voice to three other women: Elektra, Clytemnestra and Cassandra.  Elektra is the daughter of Agamenmon, a young girl who idolises her father and longs for his victorious return from Troy, Clytemnestra is Helen’s twin sister and wife of Agamenmon, a dutiful wife until a shocking act that leaves her devastated and plotting revenge, and Cassandra is a princess of Troy who is given the gift of visions by Apollo yet no one will believe her predictions or listen when she tries to tell them what lies in store for their city.  They are very different women whose fates are inextricably intertwined and share feelings of rage at their powerlessness in a world controlled by men.  Moving between their stories the author paints a vivid and illuminating picture of the Trojan War through the prism of these strong, fascinating and unforgettable women.  

Jennifer Saint is an author I could read every day and never get bored.  Her books are a masterclass in storytelling as she brings ancient Greece and its myths back to life in vivid technicolour with her lush and evocative prose.  You find yourself completely immersed in their world as the one around you completely falls away.  Her passion and knowledge of not only the myths, but the women themselves leaps from the pages and makes me want to read more; in fact, it was reading Ariadne that awakened my love of mythology.  

Lyrical, atmospheric and consuming, I couldn’t get enough of this book, devouring it quickly and feeling bereft when I’d finished.  Elektra is another masterpiece from the talented Jennifer Saint that I will be telling everyone to read.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jennifer Saint grew up reading Greek mythology and was always drawn to the untold stories hidden within the myths. After thirteen years as a high school English teacher, she wrote ARIADNE which tells the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of Ariadne – the woman who made it happen. Her second novel, ELEKTRA, explores the curse upon the House of Atreus, giving voice to three women who are caught up in its shadows: Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra whose lives are shattered by the Trojan War and who seek to find justice at any cost. Jennifer Saint is now a full-time author, living in Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two children.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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BLOG TOUR: The Shadow Child by Rachel Hancox

Published: April 14th 2022
Publisher: Century
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this emotional debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Century for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS

Eighteen-year-old Emma has loving parents and a promising future ahead of her.

So why, one morning, does she leave home without a trace?

Her parents, Cath and Jim, are devastated. They have no idea why Emma left, where she is – or even whether she is still alive.

A year later, Cath and Jim are still tormented by the unanswered questions Emma left behind, and clinging desperately to the hope of finding her.

Meanwhile, tantalisingly close to home, Emma is also struggling with her new existence – and with the trauma that shattered her life.

For all of them, reconciliation seems an impossible dream. Does the way forward lie in facing up to the secrets of the past – secrets that have been hidden for years?

Secrets that have the power to heal them, or to destroy their family forever …

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MY REVIEW:

Since the day their eighteen-year-old daughter, Emma, left home and never returned a year ago, Cath and Jim have been struggling to cope, unable to understand why their precious daughter would walk out of their life or even if she is still alive.  Every day they are caught between feelings of guilt, despair and helplessness, clinging to the hope that they will see her again one day soon.   
Cath begins to channel her maternal feelings into their tenants Lara and Nick, hoping to fill the void that threatens to break her.  But Lara and Nick are facing their own secret traumas that they are unable to even voice to one another, trying to live up to a version of themselves that isn’t real.   
Meanwhile, Emma is trying to adapt to her new life and struggling to deal with a traumatic event that shattered her entire world.   

The Shadow Child is a story about relationships, loss, trauma and hope.  A story filled with secrets that threaten to break hearts and shatter already fragile relationships.  The author explores difficult topics such as miscarriage and grief, writing with honesty and empathy.  She also asks if it is ever acceptable to keep secrets in a relationship and examines how those relationships can be affected when a secret is revealed. 

Cath, Jim, Lara, Nick and Emma each narrate their story, allowing us a glimpse into their psyche and the opportunity to connect with them on a deeper level.   Each of them are trying to find a way to live life while also trying to come to terms with trauma, grief and heartache.  The author also examines how  events in our childhood can shape who we become and the massive impact that seemingly insignificant events can have on our lives.   

Steadily paced, emotionally resonant and intriguing, The Shadow Child is a compelling debut about the complexities and nuances that make us human. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rachel Hancox read Medicine and Social and Political Science at Cambridge, qualified as a doctor three months after getting married, and has juggled her family, her career and a passion for writing ever since. She worked in Paediatrics and Public Health for twenty years, writing short stories alongside NHS policy reports, and drafting novels during successive bouts of maternity leave. Rachel loves singing, cooking, gardening and pottery, and has five children, three dogs and a cat. As someone once said, she thrives on chaos. She lives in Oxford with her husband and youngest children.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊Emma xxx

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

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BLOG TOUR: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Published: March 3rd 2022
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Women Sleuths, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this tense and twisty thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Harper Collins for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Welcome to No.12 rue des Amants

A beautiful old apartment block, far from the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the bustling banks of the Seine. Where nothing goes unseen, and everyone has a story to unlock.

The watchful concierge
The scorned lover
The prying journalist
The naïve student
The unwanted guest

There was a murder here last night.
A mystery lies behind the door of apartment three.

Who holds the key?

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MY REVIEW:

“The gate clangs shut behind the girl. She thinks she’s staying in a normal apartment building. A place that follows ordinary rules. she has no idea what she has got herself into here” 

Welcome to No. 12 rue des Amants.
A beautiful apartment building in the heart of Paris whose residents are all hiding dark secrets.  Secrets one of them is willing to kill to keep.  But who holds the key to unlocking the mystery of Ben’s murder?  And can his sister, Jess, find it before they silence her too?

The Paris Apartment is a complex, tangled web full of crazy twists and turns that keeps you guessing.  It starts off with high levels of mystery as Jess arrives to stay with her brother, Ben, only to find his apartment empty and his wallet and keys left behind.  No one in the building wants to talk to her and they all seem to want her to leave, making her suspicious of what they might be hiding.  But despite their best efforts to conceal the truth of what happened that night, they slowly drop small clues that Jess pieces together to solve the cryptic puzzle of what happened to her brother.  The pace slowed a little in the middle but the dramatic finale was a worthy reward, my jaw hitting the floor when the full picture finally emerged. 

“It’s not her fault she made the mistake of coming to this place. That’s the worst part. She’s probably not even a bad person. 
But I know I am.”

Each of the residents narrate the story alongside Jess which heightens the tension for the reader and allows us a peek inside the minds of the strange, elusive characters living at No 12 rue des Amants.  Each character is richly drawn, flawed and nuanced, with Sophie standing out as a particularly strong character whose allure I found hard to resist.  I liked that just like the other Jess was a complex character with a past that’s  shrouded in mystery.  She was easy to root for and she was definitely the most likeable of all the characters.  
I was intrigued by how everyone in the building seems to blame Ben for things going wrong there; what could he possibly have done that was so bad?  As their secrets are slowly revealed we discover just how intricately woven the residents of this building are and begin to understand this strange, unnerving place. 

A cunningly crafted thriller that sizzles with suspense, this is another spectacular novel from Ms. Foley that I highly recommend. 

Rating ✮✮✮✮✰:

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Lucy Foley is the No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party and The Guest List, with two and a half million copies sold worldwide. Lucy’s thrillers have also hit the New York Times and the Irish Times bestseller lists, been shortlisted for the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year Award at the British Book Awards, selected as one of The Times and Sunday Times Crime Books of the Year, and The Guest List was a Reese’s Book Club choice. Lucy’s novels have been translated into multiple languages and her journalism has appeared in publications such as Sunday Times Style, Grazia, ES Magazine, Vogue US, Elle, Tatler, Marie Claire and more.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊Emma xxxx

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

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REVIEW: Keep It In The Family by John Marrs

Published: October 25th, 2022
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Literary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Thank you to John Marrs for sending me this early copy of the book to review.

SYNOPSIS:

In this chilling novel from bestselling author John Marrs, a young couple’s house hides terrible secrets―and not all of them are confined to the past.

Mia and Finn are busy turning a derelict house into their dream home when Mia unexpectedly falls pregnant. But just when they think the house is ready, Mia discovers a chilling message scored into a skirting board: I WILL SAVE THEM FROM THE ATTIC. Following the clue up into the eaves, the couple make a gruesome discovery: their dream home was once a house of horrors.

In the wake of their traumatic discovery, the baby arrives and Mia can’t shake her fixation with the monstrous crimes that happened right above them. Haunted by the terrible things she saw and desperate to find answers, her obsession pulls her ever further from her husband.

Secrecy shrouds the mystery of the attic, but when shards of a dark truth start to emerge, Mia realises the danger is terrifyingly present. She is prepared to do anything to protect her family―but is it already too late?

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MY REVIEW:

“You feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You’re looking into their eyes. A person in that situation is God.”

Ted Bundy

When a book opens with a quote from a notorious, sadistic serial killer you know it’s going to be a wild ride.  From the first page I had shivers down my spine and was on the edge of my seat, full of anticipation at the promise of such a chilling tale.  

Mia and Finn’s new house is a dilapidated two-storey detached Victorian house on an ordinary street.  It’s a house you’d never really notice but for the young couple this house is a promise of a better future.  But what they don’t yet know is that it is also a place harbouring dark secrets.  Secrets that the person who is quietly watching them knows.  The truth finally begins to emerge after the couple make a gruesome attic in the attic that haunts Mia and leaves her desperate to uncover the truth of what happened in the house.  But someone else will do anything to keep it from being uncovered.  The only question is, which of them will succeed?

“He isn’t the first to be caught in their web and he won’t be the last. Most of them beg for mercy but they are all wasting their time. There will be no change of heart because there never is. No one under this roof believes in compassion. Empathy is an alien emotion here. “

OMG!  What the f#@% did I just read?!  Deliciously dark, marvellously menacing and totally twisted, I am slightly terrified of John Marrs after reading this; though I would love to peek inside his mind to know how he came up with what is his darkest book yet.  I’ve been a big fan of Marrs’ books since I first read The One upon its release in 2017, and with every book he just gets better.  He truly is the king of the twisted psychological thriller.  Everything about his books makes my thriller-loving heart sing as he holds me hostage, my heart pounding as I read with baited breath as he drops clues like breadcrumbs to build the suspense.  Every time you think all the twists have been revealed and you have it all figured out he will pull the rug from under you and turn the world upside down.  It’s a never-ending maze of secrets, lies and murder.  Twist after twist that makes your jaw drop and your head spin.  And I can’t get enough of it. 

This story makes even the most messed-up and crazy family you know seem sane. By giving each of them a voice we are able to really get inside their minds and discover who they are. I felt most drawn to Mia, my heart going out to her in particular after the events at the end of part one.  I also really enjoyed the play on the traditional awful mother-in-law trope. Debbie is detestable for so many reasons and I admit I was team Mia from the start. 
But it is the mystery narrator who I felt was most powerfully written.  Though they are clearly a killer with a warped moral code, they are utterly fascinating. Through flashbacks to their childhood we learn that they are a creation of their horrific experiences, my heart breaking for what they endured and witnessed.  Writing a one-dimensional villain is easy, but it takes true talent such as that possessed by Marrs to craft such a mesmerising yet chilling portrayal of a disturbed individual who is both repulsive yet sympathetic. 

“To some, I’m a saviour, but to others, I’m a monster. I know what my work has been about, all the souls I’ve saved from torment. It’s part of the bargain that I can never share my role with the world. There’d be no hope of them understanding. Blinkered as they are, I could only be a monster. “

But who was our mysterious villain?  I enjoyed trying to piece the clues together to work out the answer but the clever red herrings left by the author led me to also suspect the innocent at times.  Even when I’d guessed correctly I discovered there were yet more crazy antics to come as this person toyed with their victims further and prolonged their torment with glee.  When and how would it end?  I had no idea.  But I don’t think I could have guessed what was in store even with infinite opportunities.  

Keep It In The Family is my new favourite John Marrs book.  And I think it will be yours too after you read this dark, sinister and mind-blowing tale.  Just buckle yourself in and enjoy the ride.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

John Marrs is an author and former journalist based in London and Northamptonshire. After spending his career interviewing celebrities from the worlds of television, film and music for numerous national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time author. His books include No1 bestseller and Netflix series The One, The Passengers, award winning What Lies Between Us and The Good Samaritan.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon*
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

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BLOG TOUR: Em & Me by Beth Morrey

Published: February 3rd 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Humorous Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this delightful and uplifting book. Thank you to Harper Collins for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

A mother.
A daughter.
A secret waiting to be discovered.

For too long – since the sudden death of her mother as a teenager, since the birth of her daughter, Em, when she was just seventeen – Delphine has been unable to let go of the past, obsessed with protecting Em and clinging to a secret that could ruin everything. She’s been living life in safe shades of grey.

The day that Delphine finally stands up for herself is the day that changes everything.

Delphine begins to remember what it’s like to want more: rediscovering her singing voice, opening herself to friendship, and reviving not only her mother’s roots, but her mother’s memories. As her life begins to fill with colour, can she be brave for herself and for Em? And what would happen if she finally told the truth?

A big-hearted, hopeful novel about finding second chances – and taking them.

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MY REVIEW:

“Was it better to unlock your mind like that, with the possibility of it being shuttered again, or was it preferable to stay in darkness?  You could leave things exactly as they are or be bold enough to make a change, but I was wary of making that leap.”

When I picked up this book I was looking forward to something light.  A bit of uplit after some darker reads.  And this certainly delivered. Before the story even began I was in love thanks to the gorgeous letter to her readers from author Beth Morrey.  It put a big smile on my face and set an upbeat tone that carried through to the rest of the book.  As for the story itself, this was a balm for the soul that felt like getting a warm hug in book form.  I was besotted.  I was a big fan of Ms. Morrey’s charming debut, Saving Missy, but with Em & Me she took things to another level. Enthralling, captivating and addictive, I couldn’t put this down and was to the spot as I flew through the pages.  

“We danced from story to dying and song to story until my thirteenth birthday, when the music stopped, and the stories ended, and from then on it vest just silence, me sitting on my bed with my arms around my knees, my father in his chair, both of us talking to the shadows.”

Em & Me explores the impact of the choices we make in life.  Not just the defining and pivotal moments, but also the seemingly small choices we make in our lives every day and how the ripple effect of every choice shapes our lives for both good and bad.  As the story moves between the past and present Delphine reflects on her past, looking back at the significant events that shaped her life and the decisions she made that led her to where she is today. For Delphine, motherhood is the thing that has had the greatest impact on her life.  Becoming a mother at a young age meant shelving her dreams and the life she imagined for herself, while losing her own mother at such a young age meant a huge shift in her life and we see how this loss shaped her, her grief hovering over every page.  But this is also a story about second chances, reminding us that it is never too late to chase our dreams and steer our life into another direction if only we can be brave enough to take that step.  

“The only time I felt properly warm was deep in a book, escaping to another world where I wasn’t Delphine Jones.”

This is a love letter to books and literature.  To the importance of them in our lives and the joy they bring.  I loved that both Delphine and Em are book lovers and literature is one of their biggest forms of communication.  There is so much joy to be found in books and the author really portrays this, highlighting the way they make you feel and allowing the characters to be a conduit for everything she had said in her letter at the start of the book.  It was very relatable to this lifelong bookworm and added an extra layer of joy while reading.

Delphine is a very relatable and recognisable character.  When we meet her she is frustrated, disenchanted and worn down by the daily grind of a life she didn’t plan.  One where she feels stuck and unable to reach the dreams and ambitions she once had. She is a proud woman who doesn’t like to accept help from others and is practised in hiding the full, bleak truth of her life out of the fear of discovery.  Her daughter Em is a bright, ambitious young girl full of potential.  Delphine is determined she will soar where her own wings were clipped, willing to move heaven and earth to help her reach her dreams. 

“You never forget a good teacher. They stay with you, kindly ghosts at your shoulder reminding you you’re worth something.”

While Delphine and Em are the story’s central characters, there are a number of background characters who are vital to the book.  Delphine’s old English teacher, Miss. Challoner, who is now Em’s Headteacher, and Mrs. Gill, who is Em’s English teacher, are both central to their literary love.  Their encouragement and support helps them to dream and, for Delphine, they help her realise that these dreams are not completely out of reach like she believed.  My secondary school English teacher was an inspiration in my own life and someone who gave me so much support at the times I truly needed it.  I don’t think she ever knew just how much it meant and I have never forgotten her.  Miss Challoner and Mrs. Gill were my Mrs. Ball and it felt like my old teacher was back with me whenever these characters were on the page.  But the background character who stole the show is Letty, the old lady who Delphine is hired to talk with in French, her mother’s native tongue.  Letty is a cantankerous, no-nonsense kind of woman and I adored her.  Her interactions with Delphine were funny, heartwarming and entertaining.  What seems like a frustration to Delphine at the beginning, ends up being a gift that gives her back a link to her mother and is one of the pivotal instruments in helping her to realise it is never too late to change her life.  

“Sometimes you’ve got to put yourself out there. Even if it all goes tits-up.” 

Lyrically written with an intricately woven plot, great characterisation and perfectly paced Ms. Morey’s talent as a storyteller is on full display in this novel.  She delicately weaves in themes such as teenage angst, family drama, grief and motherhood that allow us to feel for and connect with the characters and allow us to explore their deepest, most emotional memories. 

Delightful, heartfelt, warm and uplifting, there is an understated brilliance to this book that makes it stay with you long after reading.  It has that winning combination of never wanting it to end and yet needing to inhale it whole.  I am jealous of those yet to read it as I wish I could go back and read it again for the first time.  READ IT NOW!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

I’m a TV producer by trade. For a long time, I worked in development where I created quizzes, documentary formats and reality shows.

I’ve been trying to write a novel since my early 20s, when I wrote a spin-off of 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.

The Love Story of Missy Carmichael 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, and reading the entire internet when I should be sleeping.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon*
*This is an affiliate link

Published in the US as Delphine Jones Takes a Chance on April 5th. Buy here

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Gosling Girl by Jacqueline Roy

Published: January 20th 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Suspense, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Today I’m delighted to bring you my stop on the blog tour for this powerful, piercing and unsettling novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘A tour de force of engaged storytelling. With heart-wrenching pathos, The Gosling Girl delineates the bleak aftermath for all concerned when one child kills another’ Peter Kalu

Monster?                    Murderer?

Child?                         Victim?

Michelle Cameron’s name is associated with the most abhorrent of crimes. A child who lured a younger child away from her parents and to her death, she is known as the black girl who murdered a little white girl; evil incarnate according to the media. As the book opens, she has done her time, and has been released as a young woman with a new identity to start her life again. 

When another shocking death occurs, Michelle is the first in the frame. Brought into the police station to answer questions around a suspicious death, it is only a matter of time until the press find out who she is now and where she lives and set about destroying her all over again.

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MY REVIEW:

“She wants to know more.  She wants to know why.  She wants to figure out if Michelle Cameron really is the monster she’s made out to be.”

Humans are the scariest of monsters.  But are these monsters irredeemable? Should they be punished for one mistake, especially when that mistake was made when they were a child? These are some of the questions posed by The Gosling Girl, the gripping psychological thriller that tells the story of Michelle Cameron, a young woman fresh out of prison and trying to adjust to being free.  It is a life Michelle has never really known because at just 10 years old she became the most infamous and hated child in the country after murdering four-year-old Kerry Gosling.  And though she is out of prison, she will never really be free; forced to change her identity and living in fear of vigilantes discovering the truth and taking revenge into their own hands.  

What. A. Book.  Thought-provoking, poignant and totally riveting, this is a story that will linger long after you close it’s pages.   The author explores uncomfortable and difficult themes such as the nature of evil, childhood crime, institutional racism and psychological imprisonment versus physical imprisonment, forcing us to feel some uncomfortable emotions. The characters are richly drawn and compelling, the plot multilayered and intricately woven, and the writing nuanced and evocative, creating a connection between Michelle and the reader.  Jacqueline Roy is a powerful storyteller, her descriptions providing a sense of tension, unease, dread and desperation.  There is so much pain, trauma and helplessness in these words that it cuts you like a knife and bleeds from the pages. 

“She pictures the young woman who had sat opposite her on the sofa, unsure of herself, awkward, lacking communication skills. Traumatised, in all likelihood. She will take her under her wing, facilitate her in coming to terms with the terrible crime she committed and write about the process. Surely no one could object to that. “

This story is a piercing psychological portrait that goes deep inside Michelle’s psyche.  When we meet her she is overwhelmed and terrified of everything, having never made her own decisions, worked a job or lived in her own place.  She constantly lives in fear of being found out and doesn’t know if she can ever trust anyone.  The author vividly portrays her sense of isolation and fear, how she feels adrift without a soul in the world who cares for her or she can turn to, even her mother having turned her back on her once she was convicted.  I never expected that I would feel such sympathy and warmth towards a self-confessed child-killer, but the author enabled me to see beyond her abhorrent crime and look at Michelle as a real person, rather than one-dimensionally evil. 

Like Michelle, the story gives up its secrets slowly, keeping the reader guessing at the truth of what happened the day of the murder and Michelle’s childhood; small clues dropped like crumbs that make us wonder if she is guilty and what might have led to her committing such a crime. But is there anything that could make us understand a child killing another child?  Or is it always completely inexcusable, something only someone truly evil could do? By keeping the circumstances of what happened that day in the shadows and instead creating a bond between Michelle and the reader, the author allows us to see the grey areas that make this such a complex issue.  

Darkly atmospheric, disquieting, tortured and heartfelt, I can’t recommend this highly enough.  It is the perfect marriage of complex moral and social issues in a powerful and compelling psychological thriller that you’ll not be able to put down.  Read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jacqueline Roy is a dual-heritage author, born in London to a black Jamaican father and white British mother. After a love of art and stories was passed down to her by her family, she became increasingly aware of the absence of black figures in the books she devoured, and this fuelled her desire to write. In her teenage years she spent time in a psychiatric hospital, where she wrote as much as possible to retain a sense of identity; her novel The Fat Lady Sings is inspired by this experience of institutionalisation and the treatment of black people with regards to mental illness. She rediscovered a love of learning in her thirties after undertaking a Bachelors in English, and a Masters in Postcolonial Literatures. She then became a lecturer in English, specialising in Black Literature and Culture and Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she worked full time for many years, and was a tutor on The Manchester Writing School’s M.A. programme. She has written six books for children, and edited her late father’s novel No Black Sparrows, published posthumously. A second novel for adults will be published in 2022. She now lives in Manchester.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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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: 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

Categories
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
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️Emma xxx