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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: Mika In Real Life by Emiko Jean

Published: September 8th, 2022
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Literary Fiction, Humorous Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Today is my stop on the blog tour for the moving and heartfelt Mika in Real Life. Thank you to Jen at Michael Joseph for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

AT 35, MIKA SUZUKI IS STRUGGLING.

She’s been fired (again). Her last relationship went up in flames. Her mother is perpetually disappointed in her.

And now, she’s had a phone call from sixteen-year-old Penny Calvin: the baby she reluctantly placed for adoption when she was just a teenager herself.

Penny has questions – and Mika is desperate to meet her girl. But she barely feels like she can take care of herself . . .

Is she ready to show Penny who Mika Suzuki really is?

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MY REVIEW:

“All these moments live in me still. You live in me still. Half of my breaths, a quarter of each heartbeat, are yours. I guess that’s what happens when you have children — they take a piece of you.”

Mika in Real Life was a hidden gem that took me by surprise.  The story opens with a letter from Mika to her daughter and then jumps back to the day Mika receives Penny’s first phone call seven months earlier.  What follows is a heartfelt, funny and insightful tale of self discovery that explores the powerful bond between a parent and child.  By the third page I already felt broken and I was unprepared for the emotional journey this takes you on, going through a rainbow of emotions over the next 375 pages.

Wonderfully written and compelling, Emiko Jean perfectly captures the essence of the parent and child bond; the intensity, fear, sacrifice, constant change, grief and inadequacy you feel as a part of your heart walks around outside your body.  As a mother myself, I felt so much of this story on a visceral level.  It was like my own heart and soul was wide open for all to see.  She also examines how the reality never quite measures up to the fantasy and expectations we have and how parenthood is the epitome of learning the art of letting go, something that really hit home with me as the mother of two eighteen-year-olds going through that stage of spreading their wings.

“It was a kind of beautiful agony having a child. Feeling their emotions as well as your own.”

Mika is one of those characters you cannot help falling in love with.  She is a mess, has no idea what she’s doing or who she is and makes some huge mistakes, but that is part of her charm and what makes her so relatable.  I was rooting for her at every step and enjoyed reading as she found herself while getting to know Penny.  It is so easy for us to get caught up in where we thought we should be in life and compare ourselves to others and Mika is a great reminder why that isn’t healthy and why we should celebrate what we have rather than chastising ourselves for what we don’t have or didn’t accomplish. 
The book is also filled with great background characters.  I loved Penny and thought the author did a fantastic job of really capturing both how it feels to be a teenager and how it feels to parent one.  I also had a real soft spot for Thomas and enjoyed seeing a positive but realistic representation of a single father.  

Moving, witty and layered, this delightful book is one that will linger long after turning the final page.  Highly recommended.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

When Emiko is not writing, she is reading. Most of her friends are imaginary. Before she became a writer she was an entomologist (fancy name for bug catcher), a candle maker, a florist, and most recently a teacher. She lives in Washington with her husband and children (unruly twins). She loves the rain.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstone | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: An Ocean Apart by Sarah Lee

Published: September 29th, 2022
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this marvellous novel. Thank you to Chloe at Pan Macmillan for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

It’s 1954 and, in Barbados, Ruby Haynes spots an advertisement for young women to train as nurses for the new National Health Service in Great Britain. Her sister, Connie, takes some persuading, but soon the sisters are on their way to a new country – and a whole new world of experiences.

As they start their training in Hertfordshire, they discover England isn’t quite the promised land; for every door that’s opened to them, the sisters find many slammed in their faces. And though the girls find friendships with their fellow nurses, Connie struggles with being so far from home, and keeping secret the daughter she has left behind in search of a better life for the both of them . . .

Inspired by real life stories of the Windrush Generation and her mother’s own experiences as a nurse coming to Britain from the Caribbean, Sarah Lee’s debut novel An Ocean Apart is a must for fans of Call the Midwife.

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MY REVIEW:

February 1954.  Sisters Connie and Ruby Hayes travel to the UK from Barbados to train as nurses for the newly formed National Health Services.  The sisters soon discover that England is not quite the promised land they were expecting and they face challenges they never expected.  

A story of friendship, love, hope and new beginnings, An Ocean Apart is a walk through a notable time in British history.  Inspired by her mother’s life and stories from the Windrush Generation, Sarah Lee tells the story of the women who left everything behind to become the foundation of our NHS.  Beautifully written and well researched, it is so evocative that I could taste the bland food and feel the cold English winter.  Lee doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics either, delivering an unflinching portrayal of intolerance, racism, PTSD and other important issues.

The story is narrated by Connie, Ruby and Billie, three strong, courageous and captivating women who were easy to root for, with Billie quickly becoming like a third Hayes sister.  Their stories really brought home the challenges and sacrifices of those who were the bedrock of our NHS.  I lost myself in their world and lived every emotion alongside them, so immersed in their stories that I could have kept reading about them forever and was bereft when the story ended.  There is also a cast of vivid and compelling background characters that help to tell this story.  The romantic liaisons and joyful friendships were a delight to read and the vile villain who subjected poor Ruby to such disgusting racism and bullying was brilliantly written.

Heartwarming, atmospheric and engaging, An Ocean Apart is a celebration of the NHS and the remarkable people who were part of its creation.  Perfect for fans of Call the Midwife, I would love to see this get its own TV adaptation and I’m hoping that Ms. Lee will turn this marvellous debut into a series so that I can return to these characters again and again.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Lee is a journalist and editor of 25 years, across news and features, and has written for regional and national newspapers as well as commissioned for women’s true life magazines. More recently, she has focused her attention on the world of travel, creating luxury blog. She also works with destinations and brands worldwide on storytelling marketing campaigns and conferences through her company, Captivate.

Her first book, AN OCEAN APART, is a saga about Windrush nurses, a topic to which she has a personal connection; her mother came to Britain from Barbados to work in the NHS, and many of the women she grew up around were Windrush nurses.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxxx

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

*All links are affiliate links

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Book Features Extract Squadpod Squadpod Recommends

SQUADPOD SANTEMBER – Extract: The Disassembly of Dorren Durand by Ryan Collett

Published: May 13th, 2021
Publisher: Sandstone Press
Genre: General Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

As part of the Squadpod’s Sandtember, I’m featuring an extract from The Disassembly of Doreen Durant on the blog today. Thank you to Sandstone for the extract and proof.

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SYNOPSIS:

From her apartment window, Doreen Durand witnesses a horrific accident.
The police want to know what she saw. Doreen doesn’t want to tell them – or anyone. But when she runs away it’s straight into the fantastic world of the wealthy and mysterious Violet Cascade. With one rogue police officer in pursuit, and life becoming more bizarre by the day, Doreen is caught up in a surreal game of cat and mouse.

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EXTRACT:

Chapter One.

The first weekend after Whitney left, a man showed up at the apartment unannounced. He knocked on the door too many times in a row, then rang the doorbell. Doreen ignored it at first – slightly scared, but also sleepily negligent – but when he drilled one more ungodly time on the doorbell, she pushed her hair around into something not haphazard, slipped on a pair of sweatpants, and answered it.
‘Whitney, right?’ said an older, grizzled man. He wore a stained t-shirt that wrapped too-tight around his globe of a gut and extended a callused hand in greeting. ‘I’m Jack.’
‘Sorry, no,’ said Doreen, not saying her name and not taking his hand. 
‘I’m here for the couch.’
‘The couch? What?’
‘You must be the roommate. Whitney gave me the address. I’m here for the couch you girls were selling.’
Doreen looked over her shoulder at the sofa in the living room, one of the few things Whitney had left. There was the sofa, a coffee table, an empty TV stand, and not much else. ‘I didn’t know she was selling it,’ Doreen said to the sofa. Jack craned his neck to try to see around her. 
‘I’m sorry, I don’t want to cause a fuss,’ he said. ‘She posted an ad for the couch the other day. I said I was interested and we made a deal over email. I already sent her a hundred bucks – pretty good deal for a couch that nice. She said this morning would be a good time to pick it up. She said you might be the only one here, but it was fine to stop by.’ 
‘Right,’ said Doreen. She picked at nothing behind her ear and squinted at the man. ‘I guess, yeah, you have to take it. Sure.’
Jack called down to a younger man who had been waiting in a pickup truck in the parking lot and the two of them came inside, thudding across the living room carpet in heavy, dusty boots, Saturday-sweaty. They lifted the long sofa, but struggled to shimmy it out the front door. The apartment was built in the seventies – Whitney said she had had to sign a waiver about lead paint or something – and its age showed whenever furniture was moved around like this. The floor creaked, the walls were too easily scuffed. The wood around the doorframe might as well have been made of fabric and seemed to stretch around the sofa squeezing through. 
‘That’s it. There we go,’ said Jack. They marched it down to the pickup and threw it in the back. After they had it secured, Jack turned and nodded a mannish goodbye up at Doreen on the balcony, who shrugged and went back inside. 
A brighter rectangle of carpet remained where the couch had been. Whitney had bought it, so she had sold it. That was it. Logic, running its course around Doreen like a river running dry. 
What else had she bought? Doreen paced around and took inventory of all the things in her life that were not her own and could also vanish without warning. It was true, she hadn’t bought any of the furniture in the apartment – Whitney had been living there for almost a year before she came along – but the sudden removal was still jarring. For a minute, it felt like her life was being uprooted without her, but that was followed quickly by the realization that these roots were never hers to begin with.
This scene repeated itself all weekend and the following weekend as well. With no warning, strangers showed up at the apartment asking for Whitney, explaining the transaction they had made and requesting entry. One after the other, the coffee table, the TV stand, the kitchen table and chairs, the decorative poufs, a mirror – all disappeared, taken away by strangers – men and women of varying ages and degrees of inclination towards small talk, like ants touring the shell of some dead animal, taking what they needed. 
After the second weekend of this, Doreen still hadn’t communicated with Whitney. An aggressive-aggressive text message would have been more than appropriate to send by now, but she didn’t. 
It wasn’t that she was actively refusing to communicate – the idea of reaching out, of snidely asking if anyone else would be coming by, just wasn’t there to be had. She sat on the carpet in the empty living room alone and did nothing while the dwelling around her disappeared. The trappings of life flew away. Sounds reverberated differently in the emptiness. She had no idea what to do with herself.
She started letting things go. Nothing extraordinary, but little things like letting the few dishes that were left pile up in the sink, leaving wrappers and pop cans on the floor, letting the long black tails of chargers for different electronics dangle out across the living room. It wasn’t depression, she thought, it was simply a letting go. A closing. She felt a valve in her mind turn off, and another turn on, leading somewhere else, with some other function entirely. There was a miraculousness to it. She felt weightless. She had read once, in some quasi-self-help, tip-ridden pop-up article, about the importance of letting go – a more dressed-up version of spring cleaning, sponsored by a cleaning company – and how it could clean the mind, reformat the authenticity of life. Doreen wasn’t sure this was what was happening to her, but whatever was happening she allowed it. 
She lost track of time. She started to forget things, like turning the lights off in the kitchen or in the living room before bed, leaving them on all night. Other times, she’d spend a whole day forgetting to turn them on, dwelling in the dark. She would run the air conditioner at arctic levels or not at all. She started sleeping at odd times throughout the day, napping all the time. She went to work, then came home and disrobed right in the living room, leaving her clothes on the floor. She dragged Whitney’s bare mattress into the living room and fashioned it into a couch, which became a multi-purpose nest as the clutter gathered, until another stranger came and took that away, so then she dragged her own mattress out and never slept in her bedroom again. 
After nearly two months of this, like an amoeba left to morph and transform (some might say break down), new household problems cropped up. That strange smell from the laundry machine – maybe it wasn’t mold, maybe there was a dead rat behind it, Doreen wondered but did nothing about it – then the rust forming in the tub. The toilet and the kitchen sink continually clogging. These combined dangerously with her new listlessness – outliers that threatened to taint the overall image of her well-being as not one of letting go and living lightly, but one of neglect and mental illness. Objectively speaking, anyone stepping foot in that apartment would see more than a few reasons for concern, but after the strangers stopped coming to take her things away, she was left alone. 
The only person who saw the inside of Doreen’s apartment now was a delivery boy named Tyler, who caught glimpses of the chaos behind her when she opened the door for her dinner. She had stopped grocery shopping entirely and had taken to ordering in expensive meals every night when she came home from work. Money was another thing she felt herself letting go and she let it fly, ordering the best meals from the best places.
‘Sorry, I know it’s probably not my place to ask, but are you OK?’ Tyler finally asked one evening. He had just dropped off a platter of sushi. 
‘What do you mean?’ said Doreen. She leaned out. Her long hair draped like a privacy curtain between him and the scene behind her. He craned his neck to see past her. He shrugged.
‘You’re ordering food every night, tipping me way too much money, and – I don’t want to be rude – but your apartment looks kind of messed up.’
‘Messed up?’ Doreen adjusted her jacket. She was still wearing her work clothes on this occasion. She looked professional, with a blue blouse with a high collar, a dark skirt, and a freshly dry-cleaned white jacket. Behind her though, was a nest of blankets, empty take-out boxes covered in crumbs, unopened mail, cords for electronics, silverware, mugs. Also, all of the lights were off and the blinds were closed. Doreen and Tyler were standing in almost total darkness. 
‘Not messed up,’ said Tyler. ‘It’s just that it doesn’t seem healthy to still have your take-out boxes from yesterday and the day before all thrown around back there. It looks like you’ve just let the trash stay there. And the lights are always off. Did they cut your power or something? Do you have any furniture?’
‘How would I have charged my phone and used it to order dinner if I didn’t have power?’ said Doreen without missing a beat. 
Tyler fumbled over himself.
‘I’m sorry, I was just saying—’ 
Doreen leaned back into the living room and turned on the light, the mess behind her lit up in all its glory, then she stepped outside and stood next to Tyler, closing the door behind her. The two of them faced each other, illuminated by the orange glow through the window. Shadows cut across Doreen’s diamond-shaped face. 
‘Is that better?’ she asked. ‘Now that you can’t see it? 
‘I just wanted to make sure everything was OK,’ said Tyler. ‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.’
‘No, you shouldn’t have.’ 
The next evening, when Tyler came back with a bacon cheeseburger, two orders of sweet potato fries, and a strawberry shake from a hip new gastropub, Doreen was standing outside the front door already, waiting for him. The porch light was on this time and the door was closed behind her. She accepted the food, thanked Tyler and stayed standing there until he left. He got on his motorcycle, consulted his phone for his next delivery, and drove off. Once he was out of the complex and Doreen could no longer hear his motorcycle bumbling off into the night, she finally went inside and closed the door. Nothing had appeared out of the ordinary this time except for a small pile of dead grass, dirt, and a bottle cap on the ground, and the porch light itself, which had been twisted upside down. 

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ryan Collett is a writer, knitter, and animator. He grew up in Oregon and now lives in London where he works as an editor. He also runs a popular YouTube…

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BUY THE BOOK:

Sandstone Press | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

*These links are affiliate links

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Squadpod Book Club Uncategorised

SQUADPOD BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Caged Little Birds by Lucy Banks

Published: September 15th, 2022
Publisher: Sandstone Press
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of this superbly sinister novel. Thank you to Sandstone Press for the copy of the book, which is the Squadpod Book Club September pick.

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SYNOPSIS:

The public think Ava’s a monster. Ava thinks she’s blameless.

In prison, they called her Butcher Bird – but Ava’s not in prison any more. Released after 25 years to a new identity and a new home, Ava finally has the quiet life she’s always wanted.

But someone knows who she is. The lies she’s told are about to unravel.

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MY REVIEW:

“He thinks he knows me, that he’s got it all figured out. But really he’s only seeing the tip of what lies above the surface. The rest is hidden, and it will always stay that way.” 

Ava is trying to adjust to life again after spending twenty-five years in prison.  But that isn’t all that’s new, she also has a new identity to protect her from the public who see her as a monster.  Ava thinks they’ve got her wrong and what happens wasn’t her fault.  But there’s someone who’s sure it was and they want to see her pay.  Is her new life about to fall apart?

Dark, harrowing and haunting, this twisted tale is an intimate look inside a fractured mind.  There is an immediate sense of unease and an eerie atmosphere that lingers over the pages.  Ava’s long sentence and ominous nickname – Butcher Bird – hint at a terrible crime but she believes herself to be blameless.  A mere victim of happenstance and other people’s actions. But her subconscious seems to know what she can’t admit to herself and she is haunted by the spectre of those she’s accused of harming.  It is exquisitely written, each word infused with heartache, grief and trauma that pulls at your heartstrings even when you doubt that you should be feeling any kind of empathy for Ava.  The author drops small breadcrumbs that help the reader piece the puzzle together, slowly revealing the full, awful truth of Ava and her crime.  It sent chills down my spine as things built to a shocking and unexpected climax.

Ava is one of the most chilling and unsettling characters I’ve read. Spectacularly written, she is unlikeable and unreliable yet utterly compelling, and there is something about her that makes it impossible not to feel some sympathy for her.  She also seems pretty harmless and pathetic, if not a bit arrogant, and I found myself wondering if she wasn’t as bad as everyone seems to think, yet there was that little voice just stopping me from believing what she said.  As time goes on we begin to see Ava come apart; she is increasingly paranoid and her inner monologue reveals the true darkness harbouring within her that she tries to hide.  

Superbly sinister and tantalisingly twisty, Caged Little Birds is an unnerving thriller that you won’t be able to put down.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Originally from Hertfordshire, Lucy Banks moved to Devon, where she promptly fell in love with the landscape and lifestyle. Author of the Dr Ribero’s Agency of the Supernatural series, and winner of several literary awards and competitions, she lives with her husband, two children, and extremely boisterous cat.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Sandstone Press | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Join us on Twitter tonight for a chat with the author.

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

Published: September 27th, 2022
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

I’m thrilled to be opening the blog tour for this spectacular novel. A huge thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Doubleday books for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.

The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie’s empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho’s gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.

With her unique Dickensian flair, Kate Atkinson brings together a glittering cast of characters in a truly mesmeric novel that captures the uncertainty and mutability of life; of a world in which nothing is quite as it seems.

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MY REVIEW:

“There was a reckoning coming for Nellie.  Could she outrun it?” 

Shrines of Gaiety is a fictional insight into the seedy underbelly hiding beneath the glittering nightlife of 1920s London.  It follows Nellie Coker, the scene’s undisputed queen, who has built an empire for herself and her children.  At her clubs aristocrats, royals, stars and foreighn dignitaries mingle with gangsters and pay a shilling at a time to dance with girls. But success comes at a price and Nellie’s enemies are now plotting her downfall and she must fight to keep what she built. Can Nellie triumph once again or will her enemies finally succeed?

What. A. Book.  Mesmerising and exuberant, it is not only a work of art on the outside but between its pages too.  But this is a book where the beauty lives alongside the darkness.  For behind the dancing, drinking, respectability, sparkle and splendour is a cesspit of morality; an intricate and tangled web of deception, lies, debauchery, drugs, murder and sex trafficing.  A gritty and menacing underworld that is actually behind the glittering nightlife patrons enjoy.

“The delinquent Coker empire was a house of cards that Frobisher aimed to topple. The filthy, glittering underbelly of London was converged in its nightclubs, and particularly the Amethyst, the gaudy jewel at the heart of Soho’s nightlife.” 

An example of historical fiction at its finest, Kate Atkinson has once again shown why she is a must-read for any fan of the genre.  A masterclass in storytelling, this exquisitely crafted novel had me transfixed as the roaring twenties, glamorous nightlife and seedy underworld were brought to life in vivid technicolour.  It was impossible to put down and I devoured in just two sittings as Nellie’s world consumed me and the real world surrounding me fell away.

Nellie Coker is an ambitious, strong, powerful, ruthless and notorious character who demands loyalty and is fiercely protective of her family and what she’s built.  She is someone you can’t help having a soft spot for despite the fact that she is actually quite unlikeable.  She has that spark that draws you to her and makes you want to be in her orbit even if you know she’s someone you should stay away from.  It was easy to see why she was so successful. 

“Girls like Freda are meant for the Nellie Coker’s of this world. She devours them.”

But Nellie is not our only narrator and this is a saga told by an ensemble cast of richly drawn and charismatic characters such as Nellie’s six children, spiky Chief Inspector John Frobisher, former librarian Gwendolen Kelling and young Freda Murgatroyd.  Gwendolen was my favourite character while Freda brought out my maternal side as I worried about the vulnerable young runaway falling victim to the nefarious people waiting to pounce on naive young girls. There was also an array of compelling background characters that were equally as well written. 

Dazzling, evocative and consuming, this glorious romp is one of my favourite books this year.  If you enjoy historical fiction then this is an absolute must-read.  Highly recommended.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kate Atkinson is an international bestselling novelist, as well as playwright and short story writer. She is the author of Life After Life; Transcription; Behind the Scenes at the Museum, a Whitbread Book of the Year winner; the story collection Not the End of the World; and five novels in the Jackson Brodie crime series, which was adapted into the BBC TV show Case Histories.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien

Published: September 15th, 2022
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this remarkable debut. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

They claim they saw nothing. She knows they’re lying.
1996 – Cabramatta, Sydney

‘Just let him go.’

Those are words Ky Tran will forever regret. The words she spoke when her parents called to ask if they should let her younger brother Denny out to celebrate his high school graduation with friends. That night, Denny – optimistic, guileless Denny – is brutally murdered inside a busy restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, a refugee enclave facing violent crime, and an indifferent police force.

Returning home for the funeral, Ky learns that the police are stumped by her brother’s case. Even though several people were present at Denny’s murder, each bystander claims to have seen nothing, and they are all staying silent.

Determined to uncover the truth, Ky tracks down and questions the witnesses herself. But what she learns goes beyond what happened that fateful night. The silence has always been there, threaded through the generations, and Ky begins to expose the complex traumas weighing on those present the night Denny died. As she peels back the layers of the place that shaped her, she must confront more than the reasons her brother is dead. And once those truths have finally been spoken, how can any of them move on?

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MY REVIEW:

Cabramatta, Sydney. 1996.  Seventeen-year-old Denny Tran is brutally murdered while celebrating his high school graduation with his friends.  Everyone in the busy restaurant claims to have seen nothing, their fear of retribution holding the truth hostage.  Denny’s older sister Ky refuses to accept their denials or the police force’s indifference and embarks on her own quest to find out what happened to her brother.  But is she ready for what she will learn?

This is a truly remarkable debut.  Harrowing, moving and powerful, this is the story of the aftermath of a tragedy.  A tragedy shrouded in such secrecy that the truth is almost impossible to find.  This isn’t a book you simply read but one where you live every grief-laden word, the loss and heartbreak so raw that it almost makes you weep.  Though marketed as crime and mystery fiction, the novel has more of a  literary vibe as while Denny’s murder and the mystery surrounding it are part of the essence of the book, the other topics felt more prominent in the narrative than the crime itself.  I personally loved this but am aware that some hard-core thriller lovers might struggle with a more literary novel.

Exploring themes such as grief, family dynamics and cultural and societal divides alongside darker topics such as racism and prejudice, author Tracey Lien examines the Vietnamese community and how immigration to Australia affected the generations.  I knew nothing about many of the topics covered in this book before reading and enjoyed being educated while I read as I think it is important to read books that expand our knowledge of the world and other cultures. 

As Denny’s family try to come to terms with his death, they also struggle to fathom how this all-round good kid ended up the victim of such a vicious crime.  His older sister, Ky, is our main character.  Ky is feeling overwhelming guilt as she is the one who convinced her strict mother to allow Denny to attend the celebration the night he was killed and her heartache and torment is palpable. We also see how she struggles with the different way in which her Vietnamese parents grieve his loss, a cultural divide that leaves her feeling even more alone. It is just one example of the divide between immigrants and their children, who are more immersed in Australian society than their elders, and how it affects their understanding of each other.  
The other characters are equally as compelling and I especially liked that the author ensured that Denny felt as real as any other character thanks to the flashbacks that are peppered throughout the narrative.  His life is one that was extinguished far too soon and I mourned him, the tragedy, horror and devastating impact of his murder lingering over every page.

Complex, memorable and heart-shattering, All That’s Left Unsaid is a book I’d highly recommend.  An emotional journey that I couldn’t put down, this outstanding debut highlights Tracey Lien as an author to watch and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tracey Lien was born and raised in southwestern Sydney, Australia. She earned her MFA at the University of Kansas and was previously a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. All That’s Left Unsaid is her first novel.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Published: September 15th, 2022
Publisher: Ultimo Press
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this truly original whodunit. Thank you to Tracy at Campulsive Reader Tours for the invitation to take part and Ultimo Press for the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘And then there is a scream. Ragged and terrified. A beat of silence even after it stops, until we all seem to realise that the Reading Room Rules no longer apply.’

Hannah Tigone, bestselling Australian crime author, is crafting a new novel that begins in the Boston Public Library: four strangers; Winifred, Cain, Marigold and Whit are sitting at the same table when a bloodcurdling scream breaks the silence. A woman has been murdered. They are all suspects, and, as it turns out, each character has their own secrets and motivations – and one of them is a murderer.

While crafting this new thriller, Hannah shares each chapter with her biggest fan and aspirational novelist, Leo. But Leo seems to know a lot about violence, motive, and how exactly to kill someone. Perhaps he is not all that he seems…

The Woman in the Library is an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship – and shows that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

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MY REVIEW:

“And then there is a scream. Ragged and terrified. A beat of silence even after it stops, until we all seem to realise that the Reading Room rules no longer apply.”

Bestselling Australian crime writer Hannah Tigone is creating a new story set in the Boston Public Library.  It opens with four strangers sitting at a table when a bloodcurdling scream pierces the silence.  A woman has been murdered.  Finding themselves under suspicion, the four new friends embark on a quest to find out who killed the woman in the library.  But could one of them be the killer?

As she writes, Hannah shares each new chapter with fan and aspiring author Leo Johnson. But there are clues that Leo may not be all he seems…

Entertaining, addictive and suspenseful, The Woman in the Library was a heart-pounding rollercoaster ride.  Action-packed, shrewdly choreographed and twist-filled, I flew through it in under a day. Author Sunil Gentill tells the story in a truly unique way.  This is a story within a story and the chapters alternate between the murder mystery novel and letters critiquing her work.  It is a great concept and she executed it perfectly, the dual narratives working well in tandem and keeping the reader on tenterhooks as she builds things to a shocking crescendo.

Though she is elusive and never features in her own voice, Hannah lingers over every page of the book and I found myself quickly drawn into her fictional storyland with its fascinating characters, exhilarating tension and the compelling mystery that Freddie and her friends were trying to solve.  In the letters I got a creepy vibe from Leo early on and was intrigued by his character more than any other.  He’s quite the enigma as we know almost nothing about him as all he seems to discuss with Hannah is her work.  I loved how Gentill used this to heighten the tension in the novel and created a second mystery for the reader to unravel.  

Writing is a theme that is intrinsically woven into the heart of this book.  The cast of characters has many authors, aspiring authors and journalists and in addition to Hannah’s novel, we have Leo discussing his ‘opus’ and Freddie writing her novel and using her new friends for inspiration.   It was an interesting glimpse into not only the writing process but the kinds of challenges and dilemmas faced before a book makes it into our hands.

A clever multiple whodunit that had my nerves on edge, The Woman in the Library is a riveting read that has the vibe of an old-fashioned murder mystery.  Highly recommended. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sulari Gentill is an Australian author, also known under the pen name of S.D. Gentill. She initially studied astrophysics before becoming a corporate lawyer, but has since become a writer. She is the author of the award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, a series of historical crime fiction novels set in the 1930s about Rowland Sinclair, the gentleman artist-cum-amateur-detective.

Website

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BUY THE BOOKS:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The Nanny by Ruth Heald

Published: September 8th, 2022
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Fiction, Noir Fiction, Hardboiled
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this riveting thriller. Thanks to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

As I clutched baby Chloe’s blanket, tears streamed down my face as I remembered what happened the night she disappeared. Looking up at the apartment block I once called home, my mind was crowded with memories. David’s words echoed in my head, telling me to get out and never come back. I understood why: our mistake had ruined everything.

When I accepted a job working as a nanny for David and Julie and their young children, I was excited to be making my own way in the world. I bonded with baby Chloe instantly and would have done anything for her. She had David’s thick, dark hair and smiling eyes. I fell in love with her and was excited for my future.

But when a terrible mistake led to Chloe disappearing, I was instantly blamed. With no evidence, I was let go and I returned home to rebuild my life.

Twenty years later and I am still haunted by what happened. I have a family of my own now and I’ve worked hard to be the best wife and mother I can be, but I’ve never forgotten the child who stole my heart.

Then a young woman arrives on my doorstep and the past secret that I have kept from my family comes hurtling into my present.

I try to tell myself that I am overreacting. But the woman in front of me looks so much like David. Who is she and why is she here? And if I welcome her in, will she want to be a part of my life, or destroy it?

A totally addictive psychological thriller that will have you reading late into the night. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, T.M. Logan and Shalini Boland.

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MY REVIEW:

When eighteen-year-old Hayley accepts a job as a nanny for British couple David and Julie while in Bangkok she can’t believe her luck and quickly bonds with baby Chloe and her sisters Emily and Eva.  But tensions soon rise between Hayley and the couple and when little Chloe disappears the same night that Hayley leaves, she is blamed and questioned by police.  With no evidence the police release her and she is free to rebuild her life.

Twenty years later Hayley is married with a young daughter of her own but is still haunted by what happened all those years ago and the secret she’s been keeping ever since.  A secret that is now at risk of being revealed.

Tense, twisty and unpredictable, The Nanny is a compelling thriller.  The story alternates between timelines as it tells the story of what happened in Bangkok and current events.  Hayley is an unreliable narrator and we are never quite sure what secrets she is keeping or if we can really trust her.  All the same, she was a likeable character who I enjoyed reading and felt a lot of sympathy for during her time in Bangkok.  There are some well-written background characters such as Johanna, who I liked but never fully trusted.  But it was Julie who was the best character for me.  A new mother isn’t your typical villain but Heald has created someone I truly despised and, quite frankly, needed telling where to get off.  

This is one of those books that really keeps you guessing for most of the book and just when I thought I’d got it all figured out, the rug was pulled from under me with another shocking twist that changed everything I thought I knew.  As the suspense builds to a heart-stopping climax, I was on the edge of my seat and reading in breathless anticipation.

A first-rate thriller filled with mystery and foreboding, The Nanny is a riveting page-turner from one of my must-read authors. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ruth Heald is the bestselling author of psychological thrillers THE WEDDING, I KNOW YOUR SECRET, THE MOTHER’S MISTAKE and THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS, and the relationship drama 27: SIX FRIENDS, ONE YEAR.

Ruth studied Economics at Oxford University and then worked in an eclectic mix of sectors from nuclear decommissioning to management consulting. She worked at the BBC for nine years before leaving to write full time. Ruth is fascinated by psychology and finding out what drives people to violence, destruction and revenge. She’s married with two children and her novels explore our greatest fears in otherwise ordinary, domestic lives.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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

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BLOG TOUR: The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson

Published: September 1st, 2022
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Historical Fiction, War Story, Saga
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this extraordinary story. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Hodder & Stoughton for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

London, 1944.

Clara Button is no ordinary librarian. While the world remains at war, in East London Clara has created the country’s only underground library, built over the tracks in the disused Bethnal Green tube station. Down here a secret community thrives: with thousands of bunk beds, a nursery, a café and a theatre offering shelter, solace and escape from the bombs that fall above.

Along with her glamorous best friend and library assistant Ruby Munroe, Clara ensures the library is the beating heart of life underground. But as the war drags on, the women’s determination to remain strong in the face of adversity is tested to the limits when it seems it may come at the price of keeping those closest to them alive.

Based on true events, The Little Wartime Library is a gripping and heart-wrenching page-turner that remembers one of the greatest resistance stories of the war.

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MY REVIEW:

“History isn’t about dates and battlefields, leaders and royalty. It’s about ordinary people getting on with the business of living in spite of such unforgiving odds. And somehow in the process always managing to hold hard to hope.” 

London, 1944. In disused tube stations there is now a community of people living in makeshift shelters after being forced from their homes by Nazi bombs. The station at Bethnal Green is also home to something truly remarkable: the country’s only underground library, which was created by Librarian Clara after the one above ground was destroyed. Assisted by her best friend Ruby, Clara offers people an escape from the harsh realities of war through books and has created a thriving place of friendship and sanctuary for the residents. But there are some who don’t like what the library has become and Clara, Ruby and their patrons are forced to come together to battle other enemies close to home.

Based on an astonishing true story, this was an absolute gem of a book.  A moving tale about an unusual library and its patrons, it has heartbreak and joy in equal measure with strands of hope woven into the narrative.  I loved the addition of the quotes from library workers at the beginning of each chapter and the Author’s Note at the end is a must-read. 

“They were a community, albeit a strange one, living along the Central Line but going nowhere.” 

I had heard of people taking refuge in the underground stations during the Blitz, but before reading this book I had no idea that people lived there in communities or that one had a library built in.  How has this extraordinary story gone untold for so long?  Kate Thompson resurrects this unique neighbourhood, transporting the reader back in time so you feel as if you are walking among them.  They are a colourful cast of characters, so full of life and a contrast to the bleakness of their temporary home.  You can feel the bonds that they formed and the importance of the library as an escape for them.  It was a light in the darkest of times, and I felt as passionate as Clara and Ruby as they fought for the little library and its patrons. 

Powerful, poignant and immersive, this heartwarming page-turner is a story everyone should read.  An inspiring story of friendship, resilience and hope, it is a reminder that truth is often stranger and more compelling than fiction.  I would love to see this adapted for the big screen so that more people can discover this extraordinary tale. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ 

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kate Thompson was born in London in 1974, and worked as a journalist for twenty years on women’s magazines and national newspapers. She now lives in Sunbury with her husband, two sons and a Lurcher called Ted. After ghost writing five memoirs, Kate moved into fiction. Kate’s first non-fiction social history documenting the forgotten histories of East End matriarchy, The Stepney Doorstep Society, was published in 2018 by Penguin. Her seventh novel, The Little Wartime Library is to be published by Hodder & Stoughton in the spring of 2022.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon |Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles, Emma xxxxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Last Girl To Die by Helen Fields

Published: September 1st, 2022
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this astonishing and unsettling thriller. Thank you to Olivia at Avon for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

In search of a new life, seventeen-year-old Adriana Clark’s family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.

Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.

The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?

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MY REVIEW:

All the stars for this truly astonishing and mesmerising novel!  Merging mythology, folklore and superstition with suspicion, mystery and murder in an isolated, claustrophobic and forbidding setting, The Last Girl To Die is a tantalising and unforgettable read.

Set on the Isle of Mull, the story follows Sadie Levesque, a Canadian private investigator and teenage tracking specialist, who has been hired to find missing 17-year-old Adriana Clark.  After days of searching she finds poor Adriana’s body inside a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head in a macabre twist.  Faced with an island of people who distrust outsiders and closely guard their secrets, finding the killer is not going to be easy.  Or without danger.  And the more she uncovers, the more those with secrets will do anything to keep them hidden…

I have been a fan of Helen Fields ever since reading her debut novel and I don’t even read the blurb before adding her books to my TBR anymore.  She always delivers a well written, suspenseful, gritty and visceral thriller filled with compelling characters, but with this book she took things to another level. Sadie is my favourite of her standalone protagonists and I enjoyed the decision to move away from traditional crime fiction by including supernatural and mythological elements as I love a witchy read.  I didn’t want to put this book down and found myself thinking about it every minute I wasn’t reading.  

From the start there is a sense that there is more to this island than they want to tell, a sense of chilling foreboding that you can’t shake. As the ancient folklore and rituals are slowly introduced we understand this place and its people a little more but I found my sense of horror grew with each new shocking twist and surprising revelation. Fields captured the atmosphere of a secluded island perfectly and I felt like I was walking on Mull alongside Sadie, and the animosity, distrust and menace radiating from the pages and cast of characters bringing it to life in vivid technicolour.

Gripping, unpredictable and breathtakingly brilliant, this is Fields’ best book yet.  If you like nerve-shredding thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat and the unsettling aura of the supernatural, then this is for you. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Helen Fields is the author of best-selling crime, thriller and historical fiction books Perfect Remains, Perfect Prey, Perfect Death, Perfect Silence, Perfect Crime, Perfect Kill, These Lost and Broken Things & Degrees of Guilt written as HS Chandler. A former barrister and film producer, her books have been translated into more than 20 languages. 

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links