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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BOOK REVIEW: Once Upon A Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

Published: September 30th 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Fairy Tale, Magical Realism, Romance Novel, Romantic Fantasy, Paranormal Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of Once Upon A Broken Heart. I read this beguiling novel as part of a buddy read with Jodie.

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SYNOPSIS:

How far would you go for happily ever after?

From the #1 Sunday Times bestselling author of the Caraval series, the first book in a new series about love, curses, and the lengths that people will go to for happily ever after.

For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in happily ever after. Until she learns that the love of her life is about to marry another, and her dreams are shattered.

Desperate to stop the wedding, and heal her wounded heart, Evangeline strikes a deal with the charismatic, but wicked, Prince of Hearts. In exchange for his help, he asks for three kisses, to be given at the time and place of his choosing.

But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that bargaining with an immortal is a dangerous game – and that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“The bell hanging outside the curiosity shop knew the human was trouble from the way he moved through the door.”

And with that intriguing quote so begins one of my most highly anticipated books of 2021.  
I’d read many reviews raving about this book and had heard countless praise for Stephanie Garber, so I was filled with both excitement and trepidation when I finally read it as part of a buddy read in February.  Would it live up to the hype?  What I discovered between the pages was not what I expected, it was even better.  Alluring, intoxicating and beguiling, it cast its spell on me from the first page and didn’t let go.  I got lost in this fairytale world and never wanted to find my way out. 

“Always promise less than you can give, for Fates always take more,
Do not make bargains with more than one Fate,
And, above all, never fall in love with a Fate.”

Set in the fictional world of Valenda, it tells the story of Evangeline Fox, a young girl desperate to win back the man she loves.  So she seeks out Jacks, also known as the Prince of Hearts, and strikes a deal.  All he asks for is three kisses that are to be given at a time and place of his choosing.  It seems so simple.  But Evangeline soon learns that a deal made with an immortal can be dangerous and there is always a higher price to pay…

“She sensed that she was living in an illusion and if she looked closely, she’d see that everything she’d thought was stardust was really just the burning embers of a wicked spell.” 

Stephanie Garber has a new fan.  I was mesmerised by this magical tale and now understand the hype.  Beautifully and evocatively written, Ms. Garber brings to life the world she created so vividly that I felt like I was right beside Evangeline in this world of enchantment, illusion and bewitchment where fairytales come true.  But I don’t want to say more about the plot because this is one of those times I think it’s best to go in as blind as possible and enjoy the thrill of experiencing the story unfold for yourself.

“She also knew that sometimes there was a murky space in between good and evil.”

Evangeline and Jacks are great protagonists. I enjoyed their contrasting characters and how they represented good versus evil: Evangeline the innocent, sweet and naive girl who believes in love and happily-ever-after is the good, while Jacks is the seductive, enthralling, calculating and manipulative villain represents the bad.  But over time we begin to see other sides to their personalities, particularly Evangeline, who must become more wiley in order to survive her time in Valenda.  But it was Jacks who stole the show for me; his irresistible charm captivating me like those he traps with his bargains.  Plus, there is just something about a complex, layered and morally grey character like him that I love.

“All stories are both truth and lies. What matters is the way we believe in them.”

Once Upon a Broken Heart is a delightful and whimsical tale that glistens with magic.  And that ending!  It crept up on me out of nowhere and left me desperate to know what happened next.  I need book two now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Stephanie Garber is the #1  New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of the Caraval Series. Once Upon A Broken Heart is her newest book. Her books are published in over thirty languages.

When she’s not writing, she’s usually reading or watching television shows with vampires. Now that her dream of becoming a published author has come true, her new dream is to visit Club 33 at Disneyland.

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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

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

BLOG TOUR: The Unravelling by Polly Crosby

Published: January 6th 2022
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Magical Realism, Fairy Tale
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising and haunting novel. Apologies that I am posting late due to illness. Thank you to HQ for the gifted copy of the book and the invitation to take part.

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SYNOPSIS:

A darkly beautiful dual-timeline novel with a captivating mystery, for fans of Diane Setterfield, Kate Morton, Kate Mosse and Kiran Millwood Hargrave

’Like a surreal cabinet of curiosities – haunting, eerie, evocative’ Bridget Collins, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Binding

When Tartelin Brown accepts a job with the reclusive Marianne Stourbridge, she finds herself on a wild island with a mysterious history.

Tartelin is tasked with hunting butterflies for Marianne’s research. But she quickly uncovers something far more intriguing than the curious creatures that inhabit the landscape.

Because the island and Marianne share a remarkable history, and what happened all those years ago has left its scars, and some terrible secrets.

As Tartelin pieces together Marianne’s connection to the island, she must confront her own reasons for being there. Can the two women finally face up to the painful memories that bind them so tightly to the past?

Atmospheric and deeply emotional, The Unravelling is the captivating novel from the author of The Illustrated Child.

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MY REVIEW:

“There’s something about this place that I can’t quite get a grip on. It’s as if it’s trying to tell me something, but I don’t know the language.” 

The Unravelling is a story of mystery, grief and metamorphosis set on an isolated island where decades-old secrets are rooted in its very fabric.  Told in dual timelines, this mesmerising story is woven together by gossamer threads that slowly unfurl to reveal the mystery of this peculiar island, its mysterious matriarch and a strange summer many years earlier.

“That night my sleep is velvet blue, dark and dreamless, and when I wake in the morning I forget where I am.”

Polly Crosby is a masterful storyteller who is skilled at crafting intricate and multilayered stories that have so much hidden beneath the surface.  This one has trauma, grief and pain woven into every facet of the narrative, while beautiful, immersive and hypnotic prose pulls you into the world the author has created so completely that everything else falls away.  With evocative imagery she crafts an original landscape that feels vividly real, transporting you to this dark, cryptic place and holding you captive as you try to decipher what is real and what is imagination.  With this book Ms. Crosby has confirmed she is no one-hit wonder and secured her place on my list of favourite and auto-buy authors.

“She is right. This place is tangled up with secrets. Not just the island itself: I sense Miss Stourbridge holds secrets here too.” 

The story centres around two women: Marianne and Tartelin.  Marianne is a cantankerous, secretive old woman who has recently returned to the island owned by her family to study mutation of the local butterflies.  She has hired Tartelin, a young woman trying to come to terms with the recent death of her mother, as her assistant.  From the start Tartelin is intrigued by Marianne and eager to know more about her.  But Marianne is a closed book, unwilling to form any kind of bond or share stories with her only companion or tell her what it is that she is searching for.  They are fascinating and compelling characters, but while I took to Tartelin immediately, it took me a while to warm to Marianne, her spiky shell making it hard to see who she really is underneath.  But as the dual timelines gave us a glimpse into who they both were, and as Tartelin managed to persuade her to reveal more of her heartbreaking story, I grew to not only care about her but admire how strong she was after surviving all she’d been through.

“When I first arrived on Duhhalund, I was disappointed that it wasn’t the beautiful island I hoped for, but now I can see its strange beauty everywhere I look.  It is a wild beauty, a secret beauty that twists and burrows inside me until sometimes I can’t separate myself from it. I’ve never felt like this about a place before. It’s an exhilarating feeling. “

Ms. Crosby has created such a strong and spectacular sense of place in this book that Duhholund feels like a character in itself.  Claustrophobic and isolated, it is a place shrouded in shadows and secrets.  It is a wild place, taken over by nature, without electricity, covered in ruins and inhabited by strange creatures.  It is as if the island is alive, its sinister beauty a living, breathing thing you can feel.  There is a power to it, something almost mythical, the menace and foreboding lingering over every page as you read. 

“The pull of it. Magnetic. As if it wants me to search out its secrets.” 

Haunting, atmospheric and alluring, The Unravelling is like stepping into a cabinet of curiosities.  A magnificent historical mystery that is not to be missed.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

After a whirlwind of a year which saw Polly receive writing scholarships from both Curtis Brown Creative and The University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, she went on to be runner up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel. Read Polly’s piece for the Bridport Prize’s blog here.

Polly’s novel was snapped up by HarperCollins HQ in the UK and Commonwealth in a 48 hour pre-empt, and a few days later by HarperCollins Park Row Books in North America.

Polly grew up on the Suffolk coast, and now lives in the heart of Norfolk with her husband and son, and her very loud and much loved rescue Oriental cat, Dali.

The Illustrated Child is her first novel. Her second novel, The Unravelling, is out on 6th January ‘22.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | 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 reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Review: Midnight in Everwood by M. A. Kuzniar

Published: October 28th, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Magical Realism, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

SYNOPSIS:

In the darkness of night, magic awaits…

Nottingham, 1906

Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but, as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered – she must marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But, when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in Marietta’s life.

After Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance on Christmas Eve, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own – a magic darker than anyone could imagine. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from her family’s ballroom to a frozen sugar palace, silent with secrets, in a forest of snow-topped fir trees. She must find a way to return home before she’s trapped in Everwood’s enchanting grip forever.

In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…

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MY REVIEW:

“Only the most magical things happen at midnight. When mortal folk are dreaming, safe in their beds, it is then that the sprites and goblins creep out and the air crackles with wild magic.”

Nottingham, 1906. Marietta longs to be a ballerina but she is torn between the life she wants and the one her high society family expects her to have.

On Christmas Eve, as she prepares for final performance, Marietta discovers a hidden magical world full of wonder hidden in the scenery built by mysterious new neighbour Dr. Drosselmeir. But this enchanting place holds magic darker than she ever imagined and Marietta soon finds herself fighting to find a way to break free of Everwood’s hold and return home.

I’d saved Midnight in Everwood to read over Christmas and I am so glad I did. I started it on Christmas Eve, which is when most of the magic happens in Everwood, and was so enthralled that I had to force myself to stop reading at 2am so I would be able to function the next day. I was spellbound by this magical tale that I feel sure will become a future Christmas classic.

“… once magic has entered your life, you stay in it’s glittering clutch forever.”

Luminous and enchanting, Midnight in Everwood is a dark fairytale for adults. An air of creeping menace lingers over every page like a silent shadow waiting to strike, making my heart race and sending shivers down my spine. Richly imagined and beautifully told, I was transported to another world as I followed Marietta’s journey. Ms. Kuzniar is a gifted wordsmith, her glorious prose and evocative imagery bringing the stifling rigidity of high society in the early 1900s and the dazzling beauty of Everwood to life as vividly as if I’d stepped inside them myself.

Like Marietta, I was enchanted by Everwood, a wondrous dreamworld with its sugar-spun castle, frozen landscape and magical charms. But beneath the glittering facade is a much darker side. Less of a dream and more of a nightmare. A place ruled by a tyrant who enjoys torture and pain.

“Never dull your sparkle for anyone else, flame fiercely into your own glittering future.”

This is a book filled with spectacular characters. Marietta is a brilliant protagonist who I immediately liked. Feisty and determined, she doesn’t fit the mould expected of her and refuses to acquiesce. I loved this and was rooting for her from the start. That feeling only grew after she’s captured in Everwood and I was cheering her on and hoping she would find a way to escape the king’s clutches. I loved the relationship she had with her brother, Frederick, himself a great character who I could have happily read a lot more of. But it was her friendship with Pirlipata and Dellara I enjoyed most of all. This wonderful trio were a delight to read, Dellara in particular bringing an ebullience to the page that made her captivating. I loved watching their bond grow and cheering them along as they came together to find a way home.

Shimmering, incandescent and haunting, Midnight in Everwood is a mesmerising debut sprinkled with magic. The perfect book to get lost in on a cold winter’s day while snuggled under a cosy blanket, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is one that I will treasure forever.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Maria Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows. Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nutcracker.

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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

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Review: A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

Published: September 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

SYNOPSIS:

A lyrical and atmospheric homage to the strange and extraordinary, perfect for fans of Angela Carter and Erin Morgenstern.

This is the story of The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived…

Born into a post-war circus family, our nameless star was unwanted and forgotten, abandoned in the shadows of the big top. Until the bright light of Serendipity Wilson threw her into focus.

Now an adult, haunted by an incident in which a child was lost from the circus, our narrator, a tightrope artiste, weaves together her spellbinding tales of circus legends, earthy magic and folklore, all in the hope of finding the child… But will her story be enough to bring the pair together again?

Beautiful and intoxicating, A Girl Made of Air brings the circus to life in all of its grime and glory; Marina, Manu, Serendipity Wilson, Fausto, Big Gen and Mouse will live long in the hearts of readers. As will this story of loss and reconciliation, of storytelling and truth.

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MY REIVEW:

“Up until this moment I have lived in sepia, my muddy life devoid of meaning.  That is how it always feels, until I see her, once again, bathed in colour and light.”

A Girl Made of Air is one of those rare literary gems where what is on the inside is just as beautiful as the dazzling cover on the outside.  It is genuinely one of the most beautiful and captivating stories I have ever read.  A truly mesmerising and magical debut, it weaves an enthralling tale that is poignant, sad and dark, yet also filled with hope, colour and wonder. It tells the story of a nameless and unwanted protagonist, following her from the days as a neglected child living in a circus in England then all the way to New York, where she found fame as the greatest Funambulist of all time. 

In a book filled with larger than life characters, our protagonist at first feels so small and insignificant.  She is born into a life of poverty and neglect; the unwanted child of Marina, a mermaid-esque character who swims with crocodiles, and Manu, a lion tamer.  She spends her earliest years invisible, silent and unloved, keeping to the shadows and scrounging for scraps of food.  But when she’s seven years old she is taken in by Serendipity Wilson, a flame-haired woman who dazzles all who meet her, and for the first time our protagonist experiences real kindness and love.  Now nicknamed Mouse, Serendipity Wilson takes her under her wing and teaches her the art of walking the wire, introducing her to the art that becomes her passion and sees her become the star of the show, performing in the big top and then taking her talent to Coney Island in New York.  But there is an underlying heartache that mars any happiness she finds, the rejection and hatred of her mother casting a shadow that never fades, no matter how brightly she shines.  

“What happens to all the lost memories; the moments of silent thought, the complicity of long-gone lovers, when our minds are so far gone our still breathing bodies may as well be thrown into some dark oubliette? What happens to a life once lived?”

I am still in awe that this is a debut novel.  Nydia Hetherington merges Manx folklore, fairy tales, circus freaks and fiction in this phenomenal tale of the strange and the extraordinary.  She takes us behind the shimmering spectacle of the circus, pulling back the curtain to reveal the truth of life in the grubby, bleak encampment.  The author’s descriptions are so vivid that I could see and smell the dirt, mud and animals; a rotten stench that the performers can never escape.  It is a depressing insight into the poverty they live in despite their incredible talents.   But it is also breathtakingly beautiful and intoxicating, the lyrical and evocative prose transporting you to the world the author created and bringing it to life as clearly as if you’re watching it on a movie screen.   

“My words are a labyrinth into which we can wander.  As I write these tales, I can follow each path, each fallen leaf, in the hope they might take me to the person I seek.”

There were many elements of the writing that I loved, including the author’s use of storytelling throughout the book, both in how she has Mouse narrate the story as she transcribes her memories that she scribbled down in notebooks and journals over the years and as she tells us the Manx Folklore that Serendipity Wilson would tell Mouse.  I also enjoyed how contrasts play such a big part of the story, whether that is in the characters and places which are flamboyant and colourful yet shabby and somber, or in the writing itself which manages to be both magical and full of misery.  Ms. Hetherington is clearly a born storyteller and writer whose attention to detail is evident on every page.  I never wanted it to end and savoured every word.  

Spellbinding, luminous and kaleidoscopic, A Girl Made of Air was a joy to read from beginning to end.  It is a book that lingers long after reading, where I’ll catch myself thinking about it at random moments. My only frustration is that I allowed it to languish on my shelf unread for so long.  So if you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so as soon as possible.  And be prepared to fall in love.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From Leeds — although born on Merseyside and spending the first few years of life on the Isle of Man — Nydia Hetherington moved to London in her early twenties to embark on an acting career. Later she moved to Paris where she created her own theatre company. When she returned to London a decade later, she completed a creative writing degree at Birkbeck, graduating with first class honours.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Merry Christmas! Emma xxxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart by Margarita Montimore ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: March 5th, 2020
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Magical Realism

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this enjoyable debut. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and to Gollancz and Netgalley for the eBook ARC in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

If you knew your future, would you change your past?

Brooklyn, 1982. Oona Lockhart is about to celebrate her 19th birthday and ring in the New Year. But at the stroke of midnight, she is torn from her friends and boyfriend, finding herself in her fifty-one-year-old body, thirty-two years into the future.

Greeted by a friendly stranger, Oona learns that on every birthday she will enter a different year of her adult life at random. Still a young woman on the inside, but ever changing on the outside, who will she be next year? Wealthy philanthropist? Nineties Club Kid? World traveller? Wife to a man she’s never met?

While Oona gets glimpses of the future and thinks she knows what’s to come, living a normal life is challenging. As she struggles between fighting her fate and accepting it, Oona must learn to navigate a life that’s out of order – but is it broken?

Margarita Montimore’s whip-smart debut is an uplifting joyride through an ever-changing world that shows us the endurance of love, the timelessness of family and what it means to truly live in the moment.

MY REVIEW:

It’s New Years Eve and when the clock strikes midnight it will be 1983 and Oona Lockhart will turn nineteen. Surrounded by friends and the love of her life, Dale, she’s having an amazing night and feeling excited about the year ahead. Only when the clock strikes twelve she finds herself awakening in a strange house, with a strange man next to her who claims they are ‘besties’ and in a body that is much older and bigger than the one she was just in. It’s 2015 and Oona is nineteen on the inside, but she’s fifty-one on the outside. She’s just had her first ‘jump’ and learns that from now on at midnight every new year she’ll jump to an undetermined and unpredictable year of her life. She will never live chronologically and her internal and external ages will always be different. She only retains the memories her internal self has lives so it is like waking up with amnesia each year. 

Frightened and full of disbelief, most of Oona’s first year is spent hoping she’ll wake up as her nineteen-year-old self again. Slowly she learns more about what to expect from her mother and Kenzie, her assistant, who are the only two people who know about her strange condition. As the years pass, Oona learns to navigate her unique situation and make the best of her rearranged life.

This was a charming, quick and entertaining read. The synopsis definitely piqued my interest. Afterall, who hasn’t thought it would be fun to jump back into a time we’re nostalgic for or know what will happen in the future? How would you feel if that actually happened? And can we really change our destiny or are some things just meant to be?

As we travel through Oona’s jumbled life we experience the highs and lows along with her on an emotional rollercoaster. Each year felt like it was almost a different person as she tries to get to grips with how best to live this crazy life. She grieves for the years and the people missing from her life in each jump, faces the temptation to know too much about her future and to change what she wishes were different and faces the heartbreaking realisation that any lasting relationships, be it romantic or friendships, will be virtually impossible. She doesn’t alway handle things well or do the right thing, like any of us in our chronological lives, but overall she does a great job of handling a situation for which there is no rule book. 

The author skillfully weaves together the myriad of threads of this complex and intricate plot, peppering the story with surprising twists and revelations along the way. Though the ending was perfect for the story, I was left wishing I could have read more of her jumbled years. The characters are richly drawn and I quickly took to Oona, finding her relatable despite the bizarre situation she finds herself in. At the core she was the same as anybody else and that truth is what made her someone you care about. 

Compelling, thought-provoking and quirky, The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart is a great debut. A perfect read for anyone looking for something a bit different.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

After receiving a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, Margarita Montimore worked for over a decade in publishing and social media before deciding to focus on the writing dream full-time. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and dog.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Book Depository
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