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Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – February 2020

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February has been a crazy but wonderful reading month. I’ve read a total of fifteen books, taken part in sixteen blog tours and in two readalongs – the second one I’m still currently reading. So here is what I read this past month:

  1. Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 
  2. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. The Alibi Girl by C.J. Skuse ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
  4. Beast (Six Stories #4) by Matt Wesolowski ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. Real Life by Adeline Dieudonné ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Guest List by Lucy Foley ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. The Holdout by Graham Moore ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. Saturdays at Noon by Rachel Marks ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  11. The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. The Snakes by Sadie Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. Tales of Mystery Unexplained by Steph Young ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  15. Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can read the synopsis for the books and my reviews by clicking on the title for all except Away with the Penguins, which will be published on Monday, March 2nd.

It’s been another month of strong and phenomenal reads, which made it almost impossible to choose a favourite. After a lot of thought I’ve decided it was a tie between the two books that linger most in my mind after reading – The Memory Wood and Away with the Penguins.

In February I also attended two book events. On February 19th I attended my first book event here in Sheffield – the book launch of Firewatching, the sensational debut by local author Russ Thomas. It was a fantastic evening and I left eagerly anticipating book two in the series which is out this time next year. You can read my review for Firewatching by clicking here.

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Just a few days ago I travelled to Nottingham for the second event, The Orenda Roadshow. Orenda is one of my favourite publishers. Every book I’ve read from there collection is amazing. When you pick up one of their books you know you’re getting quality writing, great storytelling and something a bit different. Plus there’s the fact that Karen Sullivan is one of the nicest people I’ve met. At the event each of the twelve authors had a minute to talk about their latest release and later read an excerpt from the book – which resulted in tears of laughter when Matt Wesolowski read his excerpt as a 20-something vlogger. I only wish I’d videoed it. It was great to meet and get a glimpse into the personalities of so many authors and I came away with a lot of extra books on my wishlist. There was also the added pleasure of  meeting blog tour organiser extraordinaire Anne Cater at the event. A wonderful surprise.

How was your February? Did you read any of the same books? What was your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Saturdays at Noon by Rachel Marks ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Penguin UK
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Domestic Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this lovely debut. Thank you to Michael Joseph Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Emily just wants to keep the world away.

After getting into trouble yet again, she’s agreed to attend anger management classes. But she refuses to share her deepest secrets with a room full of strangers.

Jake just wants to keep his family together.

He’ll do anything to save his marriage and bond with his six-year-old son, Alfie. But when he’s paired with spiky Emily, he wonders whether opening up will do more harm than good.

The two of them couldn’t be more different. Yet when Alfie, who never likes strangers, meets Emily, something extraordinary happens.

Could one small boy change everything?

MY REVIEW:

In this wonderful debut, the author draws on personal experiences with her own son to shine a light on one of the lesser-known conditions on the autistic spectrum. It is a story about love in its many forms, about self-discovery, and how sometimes it takes an outsider to make you see what’s right in front of you. 

Emily and Jake clash from the moment they meet at anger management. Jake is a stay-at-home dad who’s overwhelmed by his son’s behavioural problems and is attending the course to try and save his rocky marriage. Emily is a spiky young girl who says only that she doesn’t belong there. Unlike his father, Emily finds herself drawn to six-year-old Alfie; there’s something about him that cries out to her. And to Jake’s dismay, Alfie feels the same way. When his wife leaves Jake gives in to Alfie’s demands that Emily be his nanny, the pair forming a reluctant acquaintance to keep him happy and find that they start to see the world, and each other, differently; slowly peeling away the layers to reveal their true selves and accepting parts of themselves they’ve been ashamed of for so long.

This warm, tender and nuanced story started slowly but soon took up residence in my heart, just as Alfie does with Emily. I was fully immersed and invested in their world thanks to the author’s deft, witty and truthful prose. And while the story did follow a somewhat prescribed and predictable track in places, it also felt organic and real, coming second to the more gritty storylines that dominate the book and make it stand out from your stereotypical love story. 

While Emily and Jake are great characters that are richly developed, Alfie is undeniably the star of the show. He’s not an easy kid to take care of, and my heart went out to Jake as he battled with his son every single day over the smallest thing. As outsiders it can be so easy to judge, but living in a situation is very different and wears a person down, no matter how much you love your child. The author ensures that the reader never doubts Jake’s fierce love for his son, even in the darkest moments, and expertly portrays the anguish and pain that they both feel. No parent is perfect but it can be hard to see the wood for the trees and accept what they think is right isn’t always best for their child (goodness knows I’m terrible at this), but it takes Emily’s fresh observations and ideas for Jake to really see his son for the first time. It’s like she breaks away the clouds that were hiding him from view. Alfie’s chapters were heartbreaking to read but they finally give him the voice he feels unable to use. Reading the torment and confusion he’s going through made me want to wrap my arms around him and tell him it will all be ok. For me these were the most poignant parts of the book.

I’m a sucker for a happy ending so I really wanted Jake, Emily and Alfie to overcome their obstacles and live happily ever after. Did they? I’m not telling. You’ll have to read the book to find out. And I highly recommend that you do. Saturdays at Noon is a beautiful and thought-provoking story, and you’ll find Alfie and the lessons we learn from him stay with you even after you close the book. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rachel Marks studied English at Exeter University before becoming a primary school teacher. After having her first son, she decided to focus mainly on being a mum, teaching one day a week and nurturing her creative side by starting a small photography business.

Despite always loving to write, it wasn’t until she gained a place on the 2016 Curtis Brown Creative online novel writing course that she started to believe it could be anything more than just a much-loved hobby. Her inspiration for her first novel came from the challenges she faced with her eldest son, testing and fascinating in equal measure. When she discovered Pathological Demand Avoidance, a poorly understood Autism Spectrum Disorder, she could finally make sense of her son’s behavior, and the idea for the first novel fell into place.

When not writing, she loves dragging her husband and two boys around Europe to off-the-beaten track and sometimes sub zero destinations, snowboarding and sightseeing, the kind of trips that would undeniably be easier without children but only half the adventure…

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Waterstones
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Saturdays at Noon Blog Tour (1)