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.
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?
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 womentrying 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.
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.
Happy Publication Day to the phenomenal Lessons in Chemistry. Today Elizabeth Zott is out in the world and I can’t wait for you to meet her. This is one of my favourite books this year and know it will be on my list of top books of 2022. This isn’t to be missed!
Thank you to Doubleday for the gifted ARC and finished copy in exchange for an honest review.
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.
But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.
Like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
“Children. set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.”
Well, I have been Zotted. Witty, smart, vibrant and refreshing, I am in love with this heartwarming debut and its quirky heroine.
Set in America during the 50s and 60s, Lessons in Chemistry tells the story of Elizabeth Zott, a woman like no one you’ve ever met. She is an unusual woman for the times: a female research chemist, an unmarried woman living with her partner and then a single mother. When we first meet her in 1961 Zott is a TV star, the famous host of Supper at Six, a show with unique concept where she not only combines cooking and chemistry, but uses her platform as a rallying cry to the housewives watching to reach their full potential and be appreciated for all they do. The story then jumps back to 1952 and we follow Zott’s journey from no-nonsense scientist to inspirational feminist TV star in this powerful novel.
“Elizabeth Zott was a woman with flawless skin and an unmistakable demeanor of someone who was not average and never would be.”
There are some fabulous new literary heroines being written at the moment and I am here for it. Zott stands out in this crowd as a feminist icon with timeless appeal; as relevant today as she is in the era she is created to inhabit. Zott doesn’t see why women shouldn’t be equal to men, why she needs a husband or understand why others think it’s strange to have a laboratory instead of a kitchen. She doesn’t underestimate women and talks to them like intelligent and capable beings, something that wasn’t the norm at the time. She does things her own way and I adored this unconventional, determined, practical, straight-talking woman who is unapologetically herself. Zott’s passion for chemistry is all consuming. Like it’s part of her DNA. Though I’m clueless when it comes to science I still found her relatable, pulled in by her singular charm that makes her irresistible and unforgettable. And while I’m not into science personally, I did love reading a female STEM character, especially one set in the 50s and 60s. It is still a male dominated field where women are fighting for equality and Zott is an ideal icon to help challenge the sexism and misogyny of both the field and everyday life that women face to this day. The book is set just before the sexual revolution of the sixties so Zott’s world is filled with the expectation that women are stupid, lesser thanand there to be used sexually by men in power. I cheered as she challenged these expectations and rose beyond the expectations and limitations others held for her, refusing to acknowledge them herself.
“The reduction of women to something less than men, and the elevation of men to something more than women, is not biological: it’s cultural. And it starts with two words: pink and blue.”
But Zott isn’t the only great character in the book. The author has filled the book with a cast of vivid and eccentric characters that are compelling and memorable, some likeable and others more nefarious. This includes Zott’s precocious daughter, Madeline, who might be even more intelligent and straight-talking than her mother, and their dog, Six Thirty, the mostdelightful dog ever written, who provides much of the comic relief and emotion of the story and stole my heart from his first appearance on the page. I dare any of you not to love him.
Lessons in Chemistry is a book for women who are authentically themselves, who challenge expectations and refuse to play dumb even when society tells them they should. Zappy, zingy and zestful, this magnificent debut was a joy to read from beginning to end and I was sad to turn the final page. The extraordinary Elizabeth Zott and her story will leave you with a warm glow in your heart and a smile on your face that lingers and I am hoping there will be more adventures from Zott, Mad and Six-Thirty, *crosses fingers*.
Read this book ASAP and be prepared to be Zotted.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked widely in the fields of technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open-water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Born in California and most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.
As many of you know, I’m part of a wonderful group of bloggers known as the Squadpod. Over the last eighteen months these women have become not only my friends but a much-needed support network and my chosen family. It started with books and became much more. This year we have expanded our group to go beyond our WhatsApp Chats and you can now follow us on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. We have started our Squadpod Book Club, organised blog tours and even cake blasts (the one for Evie Epworth was one of my favourite moments of 2021).
Last year, I shared a list of each of the Squadpod’s 20 Favourite books of 2020 so I’m doing it again. Though this year it is obviously our 21 favourite books of 2021. So, buckle up because there a quite a few of us. But please keep reading to the end so that you can find out what book the Squadpod recommends overall in 2021…
Becca at Becca Kate Blogs
For When I’m Gone by Rebecca Ley
The Push by Ashley Audrain
Keeper by Jessica Moor
Shiver by Allie Reynolds
The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor
The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper
Everything Is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
Space Hopper by Helen Fisher
Dog Days by Ericka Walker
Lost Property by Helen Paris
The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor
The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent
The Island Home by Libby Page
Another Life by Jodie Chapman
The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain
The Pact by Sharon Bolton
The Ends of the Earth by Abbie Greaves
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
BOOK OF THE YEAR: The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
One of my favourite parts of putting together the Squadpod’s lists of favourite books is seeing how diverse they are. And this year that was even more evident. We had a lot of books that appeared on two or three of our lists, but only seven that appeared on four or more lists. One was even on many of our lists last year and very nearly took the title of overall favourite. So, here’s our ultimate Squadpod Recommendations for 2021:
Some debut novels that just narrowly missed this list but were clearly loved by many in the Squadpod were Shiver, The Last Library, The Last House on Needless Street, The Summer Job, The Appeal, When They Find Her, The Lip, Assembly and All My Lies.
Squadpod Book of the Year
We had a tie for Book of the Year, with The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot and The Wolf Den both appearing on six of the Squad’s lists.
What do you think of our choices? Do you see books you’ve loved this year on our lists? Let me know in the comments. And don’t forget to follow us.
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles! Wishing you all a Happy New Year ☺️Emma xxx
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.
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 . . .
“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.
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.
Published: July 8th, 2021 Publisher: Thomas & Mercer Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
From the bestselling author of The House Guest comes a chilling story set deep in the woods…
With his marriage over and his career in freefall, journalist Tom decides to reconnect with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Frankie. Desperate to spend precious time together now that they live an ocean apart, he brings her to Hollow Falls, a cabin resort deep in the woods of Maine.
From the outset there’s something a little eerie about the place―strange whispers in the trees, windchimes echoing through the forest―but when Tom meets true-crime podcasters David and Connie, he receives a chilling warning. Hollow Falls has a gruesome history: twenty years ago this week, a double slaying shut down the resort. The crime was never solved, and now the woods are overrun with murder-obsessed tourists looking to mark the grim anniversary.
It’s clear that there’s something deeply disturbing going on at Hollow Falls. And as Tom’s dream trip turns into a nightmare, he and Frankie are faced with a choice: uncover the truth, or get out while they still can.
“We are the scary ones. And these woods are ours.”
Mark Edwards is the king of psychological suspense. And any book he releases is an absolute must-read for me. But I was especially excited to read The Hollows as he mixes psychological suspense with true crime, which is one of my favourite genres.
With that now familiar mix of apprehension, malevolence and humour, Edwards slowly weaves the ominous tale, transporting us to Hollow Falls, Maine; a camping ground with a dark history that Tom Anderson knew nothing about when he arrived there with his daughter Frankie. Strange things soon begin to occur and journalist Tom can’t resist digging deeper into the mysterious tale of an unsolved double homicide that occurred there twenty years ago. But the more he learns, the stranger things become. And soon Tom must choose between solving the crime and getting out of Hollow Falls while he still can…
“Tonight marks the new moon. A new phase – not only in the lunar cycle, but in the history of the Hollows. A beginning, and an end.”
Sinister, suspenseful and spectacular, The Hollows exceeded my already high expectations. It is so expertly written that you forget it is fiction. It is all just so flawless and authentic that you buy it, and I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t a true crime book, that these murders are fictional, and that there was no point searching for David and Connie’s podcast as it doesn’t exist. Hollow Falls had an ominous and eerie presence that loomed over everything. It feels alive. And Edwards’ evocative imagery makes it leap from the page. I was hooked from beginning to end and found it impossible to put down.
I really liked Tom. He and Frankie were great narrators and their complex relationship made the story even more interesting. While reading from a teenage point of view made me feel old, the author has got the feeling and lingo down perfectly. As always he filled the book with a cast of equally fascinating and memorable characters. Buddy and Darlene were especially creepy, giving me chills every time they appeared on the page. One of my favourite tropes in a thriller is when an author includes a mystery narrator that we assume is the killer, so I loved that he included the enigmatic third narrator. These chapters, which were told in flashbacks that led up to the infamous crime, not only gave us an insight into the killer’s mind and motivations, but increased the tension.
“Why was this slaying so notorious? Why had it brought all these dark tourists flocking to this place?”
I loved that Edwards uses this book to not only send shivers down your spine, but also to explore our fascination with true crime. As an avid true crime reader I admit to feeling called out a few times, but not in a judgmental or negative way. It is more like a commentary on the culture of true crime, exploring why so many of us are fascinated with the subject and examines the impact that a famous case has on the place where the crime was committed, its residents and those directly affected by the crime. He explores the phenomenon of dark tourism, and this is where I learned a lot as I had no idea just how big and lucrative an industry it has become. It is clear he’s spent a lot of time researching from how vast his knowledge is and how authentically the book reads.
Cryptic, eerie and addictive, this is without a doubt his best book yet. And that ending? Omg! This book is the perfect example of why everyone who enjoys this genre needs to read his books. I am going to need a follow up, Mr. Edwards.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers about ordinary people who encounter terrifying events. He has been described as ‘a can’t-miss king of psychological suspense’ by thriller author Brad Parks and ‘a natural born storyteller with the darkest of imaginations’ by crime writer Fiona Cummins.
He has sold more than three million copies of his books and topped the bestseller lists numerous times since his first solo novel, The Magpies, was published in 2013.
I can’t quite believe that I’m doing my June wrap up and that we’re half way through the year already. One of the hardest things I had to do this month was to decide my list of favourite reads so far, so look out for that post coming soon. It was another great reading month for me and I read a total of 15 books. I enjoyed them all and most of them were four stars or above.
Threadneedle by Cari Thomas
Threadneedle was one of my most anticipated books this year. The first book in the exciting new Language of Magic Series, it is a story of secrets, lies and self-discovery interwoven with a hidden magical world. It is a magical and bewitching story that slowly hooks the reader in as the author introduces us to the characters and the hidden magical world around us. I loved the world building and following Anna on her journey and can’t wait to see what the author has in store for book two. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5 Read my review here Buy the book*
One Last Time by Helga Flatland
Beautiful, moving and heartfelt, One Last Time is a portrait of an ordinary family dealing with the realities of terminal illness. This was my first foray into Helga Flatland’s books, and I was struck by the beauty, warmth and compassion with which she writes. She skillfully created a book centred around terminal illness that manages to be elegant, poignant and funny that I would highly recommend. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book
The Forever Home by Sue Watson
Taut tense and twisty, this gripping thriller that had me hooked. It was my first time reading this author and I enjoyed her compelling characters and how she kept me guessing. I will definitely be reading more of her books. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book*
The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
The Wolf Den was another of my most anticipated books this year and I was also excited as it was the first read with the SquadPod Book Club. It did not disappoint. I am yet to post my review as I am struggling to do the book justice. It is an absolute masterpiece. Lush, evocative and enthralling, I couldn’t get enough of Amara and the women who worked at the Wolf Den. It felt like I had been transported back in time and was walking on Pompeii’s dusty streets alongside them. And that ending. Omg! I am so relieved that this is a trilogy as I have to know what is next for Amara and the others. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Keep an eye out for my review soon Buy the book*
Fragile by Sarah Hilary
Nothing was what it seemed in this mysterious and sinister thriller that had a chilling gothic twist. The suspense crackled on every page and the author had me in the palm of her hand. It was a perplexing tale full of red herrings that kept me guessing right until the end. Fans of the genre will love this book. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book*
Everything Happens For A Reason by Katie Allen
I am still shook that this extraordinary novel is a debut. It seeped into my heart and soul and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The author bravely draws on her own experiences of grief and losing a child to tell Rachel’s story, injecting an authenticity into the book that is searing. It took me through a kaleidoscope of emotions, including tears, but this book is far from depressing. Sharp, witty, sarcastic and full of dark humour, you will laugh as often as you cry. Maybe more. Everything Happens For A Reason is a powerful, moving and unforgettable story that everyone should read. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book
The Stranding by Kate Sawyer
This glorious debut was nothing like I was expecting. It was better. Captivating, imaginative and original, The Stranding is a richly imagined and evocative tale about the end of the world. It follows two survivors, Ruth and Nik, as they attempt to navigate this new existence alongside a complete stranger. An absolute triumph, this swept me away. This is a debut you don’t want to miss. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book*
Murder at the Fair by Verity Bright
This was another witty, fun and compelling cozy mystery in the Lady Eleanor Swift series. I love the combination of historical fiction and mystery and even after just two books, this feels like putting on a cosy cardigan and sitting by the fire. Great as a standalone or part of the series. Rating: ✮✮✮.5 Read my review here Buy the book*
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
I’ve been listening to the fifth book in the Harry Potter series on audio for a few months now. I often listen at night as I fall asleep, which is why it’s taken so long to get through it. I love the Harry Potter films and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios was one of my favourite parts of our 2016 visit to Florida, but I’d never finished reading the books. I decided to start where I left off reading in audio as I knew that sitting down with one of the books is something I’m not as likely to do. I loved Stephen Fry’s narration and thought it was a fantastic adaptation that was entertaining and compelling. I’ve downloaded the next book in the series and am looking forward to listening to that next. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Buy the book*
Suspects by Lesley Pearse
Suspects is an ensemble piece told in the third person, all of the residents of the idyllic Willow Close narrate the story, slowly unveiling the secrets they are hiding behind their picture-perfect facades as the police try to solve the murder of thirteen-year-old Chloe Church, who lived on the close. This was an entertaining and steadily paced whodunnit I’d recommend for those who like their mysteries without gore. Rating: ✮✮✮.5 Read my review here Buy the book*
Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza
I read Shadow Sands as part of a buddy read organised by the Tandem Collective and devoured this fast-paced and addictive thriller. I really enjoyed the first installment in this series, so I had high hopes for book two. Thankfully, the author delivered once again and I couldn’t put it down. My review will be posted soon, but I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys tense and twisty thrillers. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Buy the book*
The Beresford by Will Carver
Wow. Just wow. Will Carver is a twisted genius, and The Beresford is another outstanding and original novel from one of the most unique voices in Fiction and his best book yet. I’ve never read anything like this and it’s taking me some time to put into words what I thought of this book, so the full review will probably be up closer to publication day, which is July 22nd. What I can tell you, is that you need to read this book! Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Buy the book
One Child Alive by Ellery Kane
I didn’t need anther crime series when I read the first installment of the Rockwell and Decker series, but I’m so glad I started it. This is a compelling series with great characters, back stories and plots that are readable, tense and twisty. One Child Alive is an exciting, fast-paced thriller that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys the genre. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book*
Truth or Dare by M. J. Arlidge
The DI Helen Grace series has been a favourite of mine ever since I read the first book and anything the author writes is a must read for me. Truth or Dare is the tenth book in the series and sees Helen under pressure like never before. Not only is there an unprecedented crime wave sweeping the city, but she’s facing mounting tension in her personal life and fighting for her career and reputation. Once again, M. J. Arlidge has written a dark and cunningly crafted novel that weaves multiple plot lines together in unexpected ways. An unmissable read for anyone who loves crime fiction. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book*
This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech
This Is How We Are Human is a truly astonishing novel that explores the nuances and complexities of being human. Full of heart, warmth and wisdom, this beautiful story is one you will never forget. I really can’t say much in a short paragraph about this book, it needs so much more, so please go and read my full review. But I can tell you that this is a story that needed to be told and one that needs to be read. It is one I believe will help create more awareness and compassion for those who are neuro-diverse and I am so grateful to Ms Beech for writing it. It is quite simply one of the best books I have ever read. Go and read it. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book
With so many five-star reads that made it onto my favourite books that were also some of my favourites this year, choosing a book of the month was no easy task. I had five contenders: The Wolf Den, The Beresford, The Stranding, Everything Happens For A Reason and This Is How We Are Human. After a lot of consideration, I narrowed it down to two and chose The Wolf Den and This Is How We Are Human as my books of the month.
What did you read in June? Did we read any of the same books? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading this month’s wrap up. Seeyou next month😊 Emma xxx
Thank you to the publishers for my gifted proof copies and eBook ARCS.
Published: June 10th, 2021 Publisher: Orenda Genre: Psychological Fiction, Urban Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this truly remarkable and unforgettable novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Karen at Orenda Books for the gifted eBook ARC.
When the mother of an autistic young man hires a call girl to make him happy, three lives collide in unexpected and moving ways … changing everything. A devastatingly beautiful, rich and thought-provoking novel that will warm and break your heart…
Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.
Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.
Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.
When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.
A topical and moving drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family … to survive … This Is How We Are Human is a searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with an emotional core that will warm and break your heart.
“This is how we are human. We learn from one another.”
This Is How We Are Human is a truly astonishing novel from the incomparable Louise Beech. I need to begin this review by saying that nothing I write will do justice to this work of art. This is a story about the nuances and complexities of being human. A story full of heart, warmth and wisdom that is beautifully crafted and achingly real. It is unflinchingly honest, not shying away from the awkward, difficult or embarrassing topics and questions, instead putting them at the heart of the story and exploring them in detail. I found myself stopping frequently to discuss things with my partner, read him excerpts or laugh hysterically. The author has crafted something magnificent and special that has gone right to my soul and will stay there forever.
For a story like this you need great characters. And these are ones I will not forget. Sebastian, Veronica and Isabelle are compelling, multilayered, richly drawn and real . They each narrate their own chapters, offering three unique perspectives and getting to the heart of their stories while also allowing the reader to follow on their journeys of self-discovery. You can imagine them being you, your family or your friends. And that is what pulls you in, makes you connect to them, feel with them and fully invest in their story. And while I loved them all, Sebastian was truly the star.
“Everyone thinks autistic people can’t understand expressions, but we have to look at the strangest ones anyone can make and, and then work out what they mean. That is called irony, you know.
It is impossible not to fall in love with Sebastian. He is just the most wonderful young man; so wise and full of kindness, honesty and love. He is hilarious but also made my heart break. But what I loved most about him was that while autism is obviously part of him, it isn’t who he is. He is a nuanced character who is as individual as anyone else. He isn’t a bunch of traits or symptoms, but a human being with his own thoughts, feelings and dreams.
I am the mother of a son with autism. He is now sixteen and beginning to face similar challenges to those Sebastian faces in the book, though my son doesn’t struggle as much with social interaction and cues as Sebastian does. I am often frustrated by the clichés we see in stories featuring autism so I was a little apprehensive about how it would be represented, but I trust both Louise and Orenda, so I had faith it would be well written. And what is vividly clear from the start is not just the depth of research and commitment to authenticity Louise has taken to represent people with autism and the things they and their families go through, but also the compassion, empathy and sensitivity with which it is written. This reads like she’s lived it, though I know from her interviews she hasn’t. At the end of the book there is a note from the author about her research and it is a must read. She truly went above and beyond in her commitment to accurately represent autism. Louise, thank you.
“The small print tells us all the things we don’t really want to know, the things we should know.”
I was already a fan of her work after reading the fantastic I Am Dust last year. I loved it’s haunting gothic vibes and her exceptional storytelling. I knew from other people and interviews that Louise doesn’t really have a genre, she creates them; simply writing from her heart and brilliant imagination to give the reader something different each time. So I was excited to read another of her books, though I had a feeling this would be emotional (spoiler: I wasn’t wrong). But she also makes it side-splittingly funny, which stops the book from feeling heavy or overwhelming. And that ending; sheer perfection *chef’s kiss*.
This Is How We Are Human is a masterpiece. Enthralling, thought-provoking, powerful and heart-rending, I could have read this book forever. I loved the characters and story so much that I felt bereft when I had to leave them behind. I can always count on Orenda to publish quality fiction and this story is yet another example of why I will always recommend their books.
Louise Beech has given a voice to a story that needed to be told and characters who needed to be heard. I believe this book will help create more awareness, compassion and understanding of autism and help people with the condition to be seen for who they are, not the condition they were born with. Thank you Louise for writing it. And thank you Karen for publishing it.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. Her second book, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.
Published: June 24th, 2021 Publisher: Bloomsbury UK Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Today is the paperback publication day of Tsarina, the first in an exciting new trilogy that was also one of my favourite books of 2020. To celebrate, I’m resharing my review.
Thank you Midas PR and Bloomsbury UK for my gifted copies of the book.
The second book in the series, The Tsarina’s Daughter, is out July 8th.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE AUTHOR’S CLUB BEST FIRST NOVEL AWARD
‘It makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme’ – Daisy Goodwin
Lover, mother, murderer, Tsarina
1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta is sold into labour at the age of fifteen – where in desperation she commits a crime that will force her to go on the run. Cheating death at every turn, she is swept into the current of the Great Northern War. Working as a washer woman at a battle camp, she catches the eye of none other than Peter the Great. Passionate and iron-willed, Peter has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire.
With nothing but wits, courage and formidable ambition, Marta will rise from nothing to become Catherine I of Russia. But it comes at a steep price and is tied to the destiny of Russia itself.
“He is dead. My beloved husband, the mighty Tsar of all the Russias, has died – and just in time.”
Tsarina is a story of power, lust, sex, murder and betrayal. Of rags-to-riches. Of Catherine, the first Tsarina of all the Russias.
It begins in February 1725, on the night that Peter the Great, Tsar of All the Russias, dies. Catherine, her children and his advisors try to conceal his death for as long as possible to delay their fate. It is a matter of life and death. The story then moves between that night and flashbacks to Catherine’s life, beginning when she was just thirteen-years-old, still known as Marta and living with her serf family. We then follow her journey from poor peasant girl to Tsarina; a story that would be deemed too far fetched if you tried to sell it to a publisher. But every word of this novel is based in fact, with just a few liberties taken as the details of Catherine’s early life is shrouded in mystery.
I have always had a love for history and ever since studying the fall of the Tsars for my History A Level I have been fascinated with their story. So when I saw this book advertised I knew from just the title that I HAD to read it. After reading the synopsis it became one of my most anticipated books of the year. Thankfully, this magnificent debut surpassed every one of my high expectations. It was an all-encompassing read. A book that I took my time with, taking time to soak in every word, but also one that I couldn’t put down or stop thinking about when I had to do so.
Ellen Alpsten is a new talent to watch. Exquisitely written and wonderfully crafted, her meticulous research shines through on every page, bringing back to life those who lived and died three hundred years ago and making you feel like they are right there beside you with her powerful storytelling. I was hooked from the start and became totally lost in Catherine’s story, living every word of this book while reading it. Every moment of love and joy, every piercing pain of heartbreak and every gut-wrenching horror she witnessed and experienced, I felt along with her.
“Together, we have lived and loved, and together, we ruled.”
After reading this novel it seems unimaginable that Catherine’s story has been forgotten. That such a strong, brave and remarkable woman had been consigned to a footnote in history. At that time life for most of Russia’s people was hard, harsh and bleak. Even those in the upper classes lived in fear of falling out the Tsar’s favour and losing not only their wealth but their lives. Peter had a new vision for Russia and was a ruthless leader who was willing to sacrifice anyone and everything to achieve it. Even as his wife Catherine walked a tightrope knowing she could be stripped of everything and either sent to a convent or killed should the fancy take him. The brutality of life at that time and the lack of rights that were held by even the highest-ranking women is starkly illuminated in Catherine’s story in sobering detail.
Tsarina is a masterpiece of historical fiction. Atmospheric, intoxicating, unsettling, and compelling, this outstanding novel is one that will linger long after you close it’s pages. This gloriously decadent debut is one you don’t want to miss.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, where she dressed up her many pets and forced them to listen to her stories.
Upon graduating from the ‘Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris’, she worked as a news-anchor for Bloomberg TV London. While working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work, a nap and a run. So much for burning midnight oil!
Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint, and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons, and a moody fox red Labrador.
‘Tsarina’ is her debut novel in the ‘Tsarina’ series, followed by ‘The Tsarina’s Daughter’.
Welcome to First Lines Friday: Flashback, where on the first Friday of the month I share the first lines from one of the older books on my shelves and try to tempt you to add it to yours.
“It’s that time of year again. The time the glacier gives up the bodies.”
Those eerie first lines are taken from Shiver, the sensational debut novel by Allie Reynolds that was published in January. I read this one in December last year and it featured on my favourite reads of 2020. You can read my review here.
About a month ago, I was excited to learn that a quote from my review had been used on the Norwegian copy of the book and today I received a copy in the post. I can’t describe how amazing and unreal it feels to see my name in print on an actual book. Thank you so much to Allie Reynolds for arranging this gifted copy. I will treasure it forever.
They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.
How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.
When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.
The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.
In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light.
Do you take any notice of publishers? Before becoming a book blogger I never really paid attention to who published a book or what kinds of books certain publishers put out. Obviously I’d heard of companies such as Penguin or Bloomsbury, but I never gave it deeper thought. But now I find that I pay close attention to publishers and the kind of books they put out.
I love all the publishers I’m lucky enough to work with, but today I wanted to highlight an independent publisher that I absolutely adore: Orenda Books.
With Orenda I not only know I’m going to get a book that’s well written, I also know I’m probably going to get something a bit different. They work with a wide range of authors, including many in other countries, and I’m yet to read a book from this publisher that I didn’t like. The blog tours for this publisher fill up fast and I’m really excited about the three Orenda books I’ll be reviewing for tours in June.
I love these books so much that this year I even started a subscription with Bert’s Books to receive a book from Orenda each month so I can grow my collection. It’s a great way to support an independent bookshop and under publisher at the same time. Bert even emails you each month to make sure you’re happy with the selection, offering an earlier book if it’s part of series you’re not up to date on or an alternative title if you’d prefer.
Here are some links to some of my reviews of books that are published by Orenda: