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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Dirt by Sarah Sultoon

Published: Janaury 19th, 2023
Publisher: Orenda
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Political Thriller, Political Fiction, War Story
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this compelling thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part, and Karen at Orenda for the ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

A compulsive, searing political thriller set on a kibbutz in Northern Israel, where the discovery of the body of an Israeli-Arab worker sets off a devastating chain of events…


‘A first-class political thriller’ Steve Cavanagh
 
‘A bitingly sharp, pacy thriller. Devilishly good. I inhaled it’ Freya Berry 
 
‘A powerful political thriller that brims with authentic detail. Clever, compulsive and achingly atmospheric’ Kia Abdullah 
 
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This is no utopia…

1996. Northern Israel. Lola leaves an unhappy home life in England for the fabled utopian life of a kibbutz, but this heavily guarded farming community on the Arab-Israeli border isn’t the idyll it seems, and tensions are festering.

Hundreds of miles away, in the Jerusalem offices of the International Tribune newspaper, all eyes are on Israel’s response to a spate of rocket attacks from Lebanon, until cub reporter Jonny Murphy gets a tip from a mysterious source that sends him straight into the danger zone.

When the body of an Arab worker is discovered in the dirt of the kibbutz chicken house, it triggers a series of events that puts Lola and the whole community in jeopardy, and Jonny begins to uncover a series of secrets that put everything at risk, as he begins to realise just how far some people will go to belong…

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MY REIVEW

“The body steamed gently in the heat as the birds pecked their way around it, the fetid smell of chicken feed mingling with the sulphurous whiff of smashed eggs. The pecking became indecorous as the hardest-working chicken, a champion amongst fowl, found an eyeball. Then another.”

When a thriller opens with lines like that you know you’re in for a great read. And Dirt did not disappoint. There is a sense of foreboding that hovers over the pages from the start, something ominous in the air that we are yet to discover. And there is a lot to discover in the complex, layered and twisty political thriller filled with secrets, tension and cover-ups.

1996 is a nostalgic year for me. I was 17-years-old and it was the year I felt I found a sense of freedom and adventure among my peers, so I instantly connected with Lola who is experiencing that on a much bigger scale in this story. Lola has left behind her unhappy home life in England for an adventure in Northern Israel alongside her Jewish best friend, Sam. The two are working as volunteers on a kibbutz, a fabled utopian farming community located on the Arab-Israeli border. There is a real sense of family living and working alongside these people every day. But when a body is found in the heavily guarded community all signs point to murder, and it seems Lola doesn’t know these people as well as she thought.

Meanwhile, our other narrator, Jonny, is hundreds of miles away in Jerusalem. Jonny has also come to the country to find himself, a quest to learn more about his heritage after his Jewish mother was disowned by her family for falling in love with his Irish father. A reporter for the International Tribune, a source alerts him to the body discovered on the kibbutz. Unable to resist the lure of a story, he travels there to investigate, not realising the dangerous chain of events he is about to ignite.

“You have no idea what you’ve stumbled into. Everyone thinks that it is simple – both sides hate the other and will fight to the death until one of them wins. Nothing’s ever that simple though is it?” 

Sarah Sultoon isn’t afraid to tackle a difficult subject. Her debut, The Source, was a hard-hitting read and this one is just as unflinching. Alongside her examination of the Arab-Israeli conflict is an exploration of identity that also touches on subjects such as prejudice and sexual assault. While there are occasional gruesome scenes, it is never graphic and she instead focuses on the emotions of the characters to tell her story, making the reader feel everything alongside Lola and Jonny. The writing is so evocative that I was transported and it was almost like I could feel the heat of the sun bearing down on me in the kibbutz or feel the terror as rockets flew overhead during an air raid. It gave me a real connection not only to the characters, but to the setting itself, something that is very important in this book.

A clever, intriguing and intricate thriller that I’d highly recommend.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if… Sarah lives in London with her family, and she’s currently working on her second thriller

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BUY THE BOOK:

Orenda | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xx

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

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

Published: March 3rd 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Domestic Fiction, Legal Thriller, Political Thriller
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this riveting novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

From the bestselling author of Anatomy of a Scandal, soon to be a major Netflix series…
Reputation: it takes a lifetime to build and just one moment to destroy.
‘Sarah Vaughan has done it again. Superb’ Shari Lapena

Emma Webster is a respectable MP.

Emma Webster is a devoted mother.

Emma Webster is innocent of the murder of a tabloid journalist.

Emma Webster is a liar.

#Reputation: The story you tell about yourself. And the lies others choose to believe…

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MY REVIEW:

MP Emma Webster is riding high; her career is flourishing, she’s making changes to laws she’s passionate about, and she’s being interviewed and featured on the front cover of the Guardian Weekend magazine.  But then things start to fall apart and Emma soon finds her life is in tatters as she’s put on trial for a murder she says she didn’t commit.  But what is the truth?  Is Emma Webster a terrified woman who acted in self-defence, or is she a calculating killer erasing the threat to her reputation?

Tense, twisty and powerful, Reputation is a riveting blend of captivating whodunnit, gripping legal thriller and exploration of important social issues we face today.  This was my first time reading one of Sarah Vaughan’s books and my expectations were high after hearing high praise of her previous novels.  I was not disappointed.  From the opening pages there is a foreshadowing of something terrible occurring that turns Emma’s world upside down, adding an ominous atmosphere that looms over every word.  It had me on the edge of my seat as I waited for the full story to unfold, my heart pounding as it reached its dramatic crescendo.  While I did guess some of the twists, many of them surprised me, taking the plot and characters in directions I never saw coming.  Sharply written and intelligent, this is a thriller that keeps you guessing, makes you think and entertains you all in one fell swoop.  

The characters are compelling, flawed and relatable, with problems that are both recognisable and believable.  Emma was a great protagonist and I found her easy to root for at every step.  She is a nuanced character who is strong, fierce and capable but also scared and unsure.  I was never sure if she was guilty or not but could see how everything could have come together to create the perfect storm that led to murder.  But the character I was most drawn to was Flora, Emma’s fourteen-year-old daughter.  The author expertly puts the reader back into the psyche of a teenage girl as her isolation, fear and teenage angst leap from the page. I found her chapters heart-rending as a parent of teenagers; worrying what my children might be going through without me having any clue it’s happening.  It also transported me back to my own teenage years and that feeling of having nowhere to turn and being scared to talk to your parents when something is really wrong.  Emma and Flora’s experiences mirrored each other in many ways and I did enjoy seeing how it drew them closer together when they could have let it tear them further apart. 

Emma’s political career sees her being a voice for the voiceless as she fights against violence and threats towards women, particularly concentrating on the battle for new legislation around revenge porn.  It is a fight that makes her many enemies and she is subjected to the most vile threats and abuse every day.  Before reading this book I had no idea of the extent of the abuse that is part of the daily lives of women in the public eye, the fear they live with or the many safety measures they are forced to take each day.  I was shocked and appalled at what they are subjected to and can’t imagine needing water at public events in case acid is thrown in your face or being told to accept that threats of death and rape are part of the job you’ve chosen.  All of this leads into the other many timely and important themes explored in the book such as female empowerment and solidarity, how women are judged more harshly than their male counterparts, online bullying and the misogyny,  threats and violence that women endure and have grown to expect in their day to day lives.  Even the young aren’t immune, with pre-teens and teenagers using technology as a bullying tool.  While technology and social media can be a positive thing, when it’s used in this way it means that those who are targeted have no respite from the onslaught of abuse.  

Unsurprisingly, the topic of reputation is another theme that recurs throughout the book and the author explores the subject of our reputation versus our character.  Our reputations are built from the outside in but can be destroyed by those who don’t even know us in an instant.  Emma is someone who is very aware of her reputation and carefully cultivates it, particularly in relation to her job.  She has spent years building her reputation as a loving mother, no-nonsense MP and fierce warrior for female rights.  It’s who she is from the inside out.  So when it all comes crumbling down and her reputation is left in tatters, it shakes her to her core and Emma struggles with being portrayed as a person she doesn’t recognise.  It is her reputation, as well as her freedom, that she is fighting for in court.   

Bold, brilliant and intriguing, Reputation packs a punchThis is a book you need to read. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After training at the Press Association, she spent eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter and political correspondent before leaving to freelance and write fiction. Anatomy of a Scandal, her 3rd novel and her first courtroom drama/psychological thriller, combined these experiences and became an instant international bestseller, and Sunday Times top five bestseller. Translated into 22 languages, it was also a kindle number 1 bestseller, shortlisted for awards in the UK, France and Sweden, and filmed as a six-part Netflix mini-series, starring Sienna Miller, Michelle Dockery, and Rupert Friend. It will be transmitted in spring 2022.

Little Disasters has also been optioned for the screen, was a Waterstone’s thriller of the month, WH Smith paperback of the month, Kindle bestseller, and has been published in the US and various other countries. She is currently working on her fifth novel

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon*| Bookshop.org*
*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: Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah

Published: September 2nd, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Legal Thriller, Legal Story, Domestic Fiction, Political Thriller,
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this outstanding legal thriller. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

ON AN ORDINARY WORKING DAY…

Leila Syed receives a call that cleaves her life in two. Her brother-in-law’s voice is filled with panic. His son’s nursery has called to ask where little Max is.

YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE…

Leila was supposed to drop Max off that morning. But she forgot.

Racing to the carpark, she grasps the horror of what she has done.

IS ABOUT TO COME TRUE…

What follows is an explosive, high-profile trial that will tear the family apart. But as the case progresses it becomes clear there’s more to this incident than meets the eye…

A gripping, brave and tense courtroom drama, Next of Kin will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final, heart-stopping page.

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MY REVIEW:

Next of Kin examines a truly devastating tragedy: the accidental death of a child caused by his loving aunt. She claims she forgot he was in the back of the car but the prosecution says she left him there deliberately. Who is telling the truth?

Authors take note, because THIS is how you write a gripping legal thriller. Once again, Abdullah takes a shocking crime and puts a thought-provoking spin on things. This trope is proving to be her signature and forte; executed to perfection each time as she makes you ponder the grey areas of a crime, holds you hostage in breathless anticipation, and throws in some shocking twists. 

The book opens with a normal family get together that quickly gives way to crushing and heartbreaking scenes as three-year-old Max dies after being left in a hot car by his Aunt, Leila. As we learn his fate the pain and anguish is palpable. It is like  you can actually feel their hearts shattering. Tears stung my eyes and my heart ached as I read. The emotions continue to leap from the pages as the family try to deal with Max’s tragic death, Leila’s possible guilt, the impending court case, and an array of family secrets lurking in the shadows. 

Every facet of this book is spectacularly written. The story and characters are nuanced, compelling and full of depth. As with all this author’s books, this is a story that has many layers and deals with a multitude of topics, going beyond simply the crime that took place. At the heart of this book is a family who have been visited by tragedy many times. She explores the effect this has on mental health and how trauma and jealousy can affect our perception of people and events, often clouding our ability to see things clearly. She asks just how much someone can take before they break and examines the complicated threads that can both hold a family together and threaten to tear it apart. 

Another aspect of Ms. Abdullah’s books I admire, is how she uses them as a social commentary, focusing on a different issue in each one. In Next of Kin it is childless women. Leila isn’t a mother, and through this she explores how it feels to be a childless woman in our society. She shows how these women are scorned, viewed as cold and selfish and looked down upon. In Leila’s case, her childlessness is even used against her as a reason she’d want to kill her nephew, adding to the already pervading sense of injustice you feel on her behalf.

Sizzling with tension, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat right until the last page, the author slowly peeling away the layers to reveal the hidden truth. And just when I thought I’d got it all figured out… Holy twist, Batman! In comes a curve ball that hits like a bomb and blows everything I thought I knew into pieces. Days later I’m still reeling from the shock. 

Gritty, hard-hitting and addictive, this is one of the best legal thrillers I’ve ever read. Ms. Abdullah just keeps getting better and better and is now my go-to author recommendation in this genre, overtaking John Grisham, who I’ve been a huge fan of since my mid teens. If you haven’t read her books, then what are you waiting for? Do it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From the author’s website:
Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel Take It Back was named one of the best thrillers of the year by The Guardian and Telegraph and was selected for an industry-first audio serialisation by HarperCollins and The Pigeonhole. Her follow-up novel, Truth Be Told, is out now (Mar 2021, HarperCollins).

Kia has written for The New York TimesThe GuardianThe FTThe Telegraphthe BBC and The Times, and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a nonprofit that advocates for diversity in publishing. 

Born in Tower Hamlets in East London, Kia was raised in a family of eight children. As the most stubborn of six daughters, she constantly found herself in trouble for making choices that clashed with her parents’, a habit they came to accept when she became their first and only child to graduate from university – with a degree in Computer Science.

In 2007, Kia left her job in tech to pursue the one thing she had always wanted: a career as a writer, taking a 50% pay cut in the process. She worked as sub-editor and later features editor at Asian Woman Magazine where she interviewed British-Asian luminaries like Riz Ahmed, Meera Syal, Nitin Sawnhey and Anoushka Shankar. 

Kia went on to join global publisher Penguin Random House where she helped grow digital readership at Rough Guides to over a million users per month. In 2014, she quit her day job to found Atlas & Boots, an outdoor travel blog now read by 250,000 people a month. 

Today, she splits her time between London and the Yorkshire Dales town of Richmond, and spends her time writing, hiking, mentoring pupils from Tower Hamlets and visiting far-flung destinations for Atlas & Boots.

Kia loves to travel, hates to cook and periodically highlights that, in actual fact, she is one of nine children (one passed away), making her Seven of Nine… which is cool but only if you’re a Star Trek fan… which she is. But please don’t hold it against her.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx