Today I am delighted to reveal the stunning cover for Freckles, the extraordinary new novel by Cecelia Ahern which is out September 2nd.
The brand new novel from million-copy bestselling author Cecelia Ahern.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
When a stranger utters these words to Allegra Bird, nicknamed Freckles, it turns her highly ordered life upside down. In her current life as a parking warden, she has left her eccentric father and unconventional childhood behind for a bold new life in the city
But a single encounter leads her to ask the question she’s been avoiding for so long: who are the people who made her the way she is? And who are the five people who can shape and determine her future? Just as she once joined the freckles on her skin to mirror the constellations in the night sky, she must once again look for connections.
Told in Allegra’s vivid, original voice, moving from Dublin to the fierce Atlantic coast, this is an unforgettable story of human connection, of friendship, and growing into your own skin.
Five people. Five stars. Freckle to freckle. Star to star.
You can pre-order the book here* *this is an affiliate link
Thank you to Harper Collins for the invitation to take part in this cover reveal.
Thank you to Riverrun for my gifted copy of the book and invitation to the readalong.
A disturbing portrait of a modern American family.
An extraordinary debut novel by Natasha Randall, exposing the seam of secrets within an American family, from beneath the plastic surfaces of their new ‘smart’ home. Love Orange charts the gentle absurdities of their lives, and the devastating consequences of casual choices.
While Hank struggles with his lack of professional success, his wife Jenny, feeling stuck and beset by an urge to do good, becomes ensnared in a dangerous correspondence with a prison inmate called John. Letter by letter, John pinches Jenny awake from the “marshmallow numbness” of her life. The children, meanwhile, unwittingly disturb the foundations of their home life with forays into the dark net and strange geological experiments.
Jenny’s bid for freedom takes a sour turn when she becomes the go-between for John and his wife, and develops an unnatural obsession for the orange glue that seals his letters…
Love Orange throws open the blinds of American life, showing a family facing up to the modern age, from the ascendancy of technology, the predicaments of masculinity, the pathologising of children, the epidemic of opioid addiction and the tyranny of the WhatsApp Gods. The first novel by the acclaimed translator is a comic cocktail, an exuberant skewering of contemporary anxieties and prejudices.
Jenny Tinkley lives with her husband Hank and their two sons, Jessie and Luke, in a quiet suburban town. They’re a picture-perfect family living in the picture-perfect smart home. But behind the glossy, perfect sheen there are cracks: Jenny feels bored and stuck in her life, Hank is frustrated by his lack of professional success and their children are each facing their own worries and challenges.
To try and escape the monotony, Jenny begins a correspondence with a prison inmate named John. She finds excitement in their letters, but things start to unravel when Jenny agrees to become a go-between for John and his wife and develops a strange obsession with the orange glue that seals his letters.
The characters are the driving force of this story. They are compelling, relatable, and instantly familiar as someone who could be your neighbour. Jenny is a typical suburban mum. I found her relatable but did struggle to warm to her, particularly as the story went on and her actions became increasingly selfish as she spiralled into addiction. I hated Hank. He was misogynistic, toxic, controlling, and just generally awful. I thought the author did a great job of writing him and managing to evoke such strong feelings of dislike in not only me, but every other reader I’ve spoken to. For me, it was the kids that drew me to them most of all. My heart broke for them and the things they went through. I think one complaint I have about the book was that I would have liked the children to have featured more.
I also liked how the smart house was like another character. Jenny sees the house as spying on her and controlling their lives. She gets a kick from outwitting it and managing to do things unnoticed. She even tells Hank to ask the house if he has any questions at one point. I would hate to live in a house like theirs and can understand why she felt the way she did. Sometimes you can have too much technology.
I did have two issues with the book that I would like to address. The first one was how the therapist told the family that Luke wasn’t autistic because he showed a high level of empathy. This perpetuates the false narrative that autistic people aren’t empathetic which is completely wrong. While they can struggle with processing and expressing emotion, people with autism are often highly empathetic, my own son included. Second of all was how it portrayed everyone who takes pain pills as addicts. While I liked that the book raised the issue of opiate addiction, I did feel like the portrayal spiraled into harmful stereotypes. My biggest issue was with the following quote:
“The thing about pain pills is that they take away pain. Any kind of pain. It gets so that people can’t even get out of bed for the pain that life becomes… compared to the high.”
As someone who uses opiates for chronic pain, the idea that we all become addicted and care only about the high is harmful, offensive and factually incorrect. I don’t get high. Pain medication is the ONLY reason I can get out of bed and live a life that has a sliver of normality. Dependency to help ease pain is not addiction, and while some people do unfortunately spiral into an addiction, I personally know many more who are languishing in agony with no life because they’ve been tarred with the same brush as an addict and denied any relief from their chronic and debilitating pain. For me the quote above is like saying all people who drink alcohol do so to get drunk and become alcoholics. But these are personal feelings and I don’t think everyone reading will feel the same way. So I encourage you to read for yourself.
But I don’t want this to come across as sounding like I didn’t like the book, because I did. Love Orange is an absorbing and addictive debut novel that explores family, secrets and addiction in modern society. It is beautifully written, immediately draws you into the the Tinkley’s world. I also really liked the quirky humour that runs through the story. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments that made this a joy to read.
I read the book as part of a readalong organised by the publisher and really enjoyed the chats where I got to see the different things others noticed and the varied ways we can interpret the same book.
A beautifully written look at a fractured family and life in suburban America, I would recommend this novel and can’t wait to read more from the author in the future.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Natasha Randall is a writer and translator, living in London. Her writing and critical work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Moscow Times, BookForum, The New York Times, Strad magazine, HALI magazine and on National Public Radio (USA). She is a contributing editor to the New York-based literary magazine A Public Space. Her debut novel Love Orange will be released by riverrun (Quercus, Hachette) in September 2020.
Published: May 2nd, 2017 Publisher: Bloomsbury UK Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre: Fantasy Fiction
I read this book as part of a readlong with Tandem Collective UK. Thank you to them for the invitation and Bloomsbury UK for the gifted copy of the book.
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring her land to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.
As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords and hunt for allies in unexpected places. And her heart will face the ultimate test as she and her mate are forced to question whether they can truly trust each other.
Sarah J. Maas is a global #1 bestselling author. Her books have sold more than nine million copies and been translated into 37 languages. Discover the sweeping romantic fantasy for yourself.
Contains mature content. Not suitable for younger readers.
“To the stars who listen—and the dreams that are answered.”
Fayre is now back in Spring Court. She has returned under the guise of going back to Tamlin but is in fact still Lady of the Night Court and biding her time before taking revenge for how he and others betrayed Prythian in the war with King Hybern. As war looms once more, her relationship with Rhysand is tested and they must decide who among the High Lords they can trust to be on their side.
I loved how fierce, determined and strong Fayre was in this book. She stands up to Tamlin, refusing to let him twist and rewrite their narrative, even when he shreds her dignity with lewd words and savage lies. Back when I read book one, I could never understand why people loved Rhysand and hated Tamlin; now I’m totally the same. Tamlin is a vile, abusive, controlling snake and I got almost as much pleasure out of Fayre’s revenge as she did.
I enjoyed seeing more of the other courts and how Fayre’s sisters handled their unexpected and unwanted transition to immortality. I found myself worrying about the fate of the characters and wondered if the author would take a leaf out of George R. R. Martin’s book and kill off a much-loved main character. It is quite a dark book in many ways, addressing abuse, coercive control, trauma, PTSD and consent.
This was my favourite yet in the series. Action-packed, emotional and gripping, it kept me on the edge of my seat and broke my heart.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.
Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.
The weather has cooled and the nights are drawing in. Summer is officially over and autumn has arrived. Another month is also over, which means it’s time for another wrap up.
It’s been a fantastic month. I’ve read 17 books in total, which includes one audiobook, and I’m part way through two other audiobooks. I’ve read some outstanding books and discovered some new authors I’ll definitely read again.
I also took part in 14 blog tours, 4 readalongs and the Tasting Notes Book Club. I was excited to take part in my first author Q&As. The first was a private Zoom with Cecelia Ahern and other bloggers, and the other was my first over Instagram Live. Courtesy of One More Chapter I took part in a Q&A with Annie Lyons. I’m so grateful to have these opportunities and still can’t believe I’m able to talk with authors I’ve loved for years.
With so many great books, it’s not easy to choose a favourite. But Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You was such a standout read that it ended up making the choice easy. I loved it so much that it is even a contender for book of the year.
If you want to read my reviews for what I read in September, then click on the title and it will take you to my review (unless it’s one of the ones I’ve not written yet lol).
Did we read any of the same books this month? What was your favourite book in September? Let me know in the comments.
*Thank you to the publushers for my gifted copies of the books.
Published: September 17th, 2020 Publisher: Harper Collins UK Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Adventure Fiction
I’m thrilled to share my review as part of the tour for this spine-tingling debut. Thank you to Jennifer at Harper Collins for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.
The creepiest debut thriller you will read this year!
One little girl. Mirabelle’s mother loves her. She’s her ‘little doll’. Mother dresses her, paints her face, and plaits her hair. But as Mirabelle grows, the dresses no longer fit quite as well, the face paint no longer looks quite so pretty. And Mother isn’t happy.
Two little girls. On Mirabelle’s 13th birthday, Mother arrives home with a present – a new sister, 5-year-old Clarabelle, who Mother has rescued from the outside world.
But Mother only needs one. As it dawns on Mirabelle that there is a new ‘little doll’ in her house, she also realises that her life isn’t what she thought it was. And that dolls often end up on the scrap heap…
Mother Loves Me is a darkly atmospheric, claustrophobic and sinister debut that sent shivers down my spine. From the opening pages there’s prevailing unease malevolence that hangs in the air, making me read with a breathless anticipation.
Thirteen-year-old Mirabelle’s mother paints her face and dresses her like the doll she has nicknamed her, the windows are boarded up, the doors locked and the young girl has never left the house.
When Mother returns home with another little girl hidden in a bag and tells Mirabelle this is her new sister Clarabelle, she begins to question things she’d always believed, wonders if there are things Mother might be hiding; sparking a series of events that will turn her world upside down.
This is exactly the kind of twisted read I love. The book I’d just finished was one I loved so much that I was worried I’d struggle to read this, but, thankfully, this was so creepily addictive I couldn’t get enough. The author’s prose is beautiful, eerie and immersive, pulling me into Mirabelle’s small world with such vividness that I could see the story playing in my head as I read.
The characters are richly drawn and felt so real, despite their absurd situation. Mirabelle is a great narrator. The author perfectly captured her childish innocence, inquisitiveness and obedience and her fledgling desire for independence. We meet her at an age where she would have both that desperation to please desire to rebel against Mother, which combined with the jealousy that arises upon having to share her mother with Clarabelle, creates a perfect storm that the author mines to perfection.
Mother is one of the most sinister characters I’ve read for a while. She was clearly unhinged, the author capturing every shade of her evil and madness and made it leap from the page, chilling me to my core. I was terrified for both girls in her “care”. Over the course of the story we do learn what happened to make her this way, but I liked that the author didn’t let that make her a sympathetic character, despite Mirabelle’s desire to feel that way about her. It felt right that she remained an abhorrent, evil figure no matter what had happened in her past.
So, if you like a book that sizzles with tension, sends shivers down your spine, and has you on the edge of your seat, then this is the book for you. It’s as good as any chilling horror film and I would love to see it on screen.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
After acquiring a degree in English Literature, Abby taught English in state and private schools, and earned a Creative Writing MA in 2013. She wrote a great deal throughout her twenties and early thirties. To stay motivated, she told herself that even if it took her until 80 to get her work out to readers, she’d do it.
Abby lives in Wiltshire with her husband and daughter. MOTHER LOVES ME is her debut novel.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this spectacular debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Endeavour for the gifted copy of the book.
Alexandra Wilson was a teenager when her dear family friend Ayo was stabbed on his way home from football. Ayo’s death changed Alexandra. She felt compelled to enter the legal profession in search of answers.
As a junior criminal and family law barrister, Alexandra finds herself navigating a world and a set of rules designed by a privileged few. A world in which fellow barristers sigh with relief when a racist judge retires: ‘I’ve got a black kid today and he would have had no hope’.
In her debut book, In Black and White, Alexandra re-creates the tense courtroom scenes, the heart-breaking meetings with teenage clients, and the moments of frustration and triumph that make up a young barrister’s life.
Alexandra shows us how it feels to defend someone who hates the colour of your skin, or someone you suspect is guilty. We see what it is like for children coerced into county line drug deals and the damage that can be caused when we criminalise teenagers.
Alexandra’s account of what she has witnessed as a young mixed-race barrister is in equal parts shocking, compelling, confounding and powerful.
“It was watching moments like these that made me realise how important diversity is in the legal profession. I wanted to be able to give people a voice and be instrumental in changing the path of their lives.”
In Black and White is a sensational debut that tells the author’s own story; charting her journey to become a barrister.
Bold, intelligent, thorough-provoking, affecting and inspiring, Ms. Wilson draws the reader in quickly, beginning her story with her cousin’s tragic murder when they were both just seventeen. This event was a major turning point in her life and is what set her on her path to a career as a barrister. We then follow each step, from her first interest in the law, her early days in pupillage, to finally qualifying as a fully-fledged barrister.
As both a woman and person of mixed heritage, she finds herself facing obstacles of multiple kinds of discrimination along the way and examines a range of issues faced not only by her, but by people in all facets of the criminal justice system. The writing is fantastic, the story as compelling as any courtroom drama. But it’s all real. She holds the reader in her thrall, educating them without getting overly academic, using her own experiences and observations alongside the facts and figures.
Ms. Wilson is a remarkable woman who has overcome so much. Her warmth, compassion, strength and tenacity shine from every page. She often talks about not being sure if she’s the right fit for the Bar, but it is clear that she is exactly what it needs. Our justice system needs understanding, empathy, diversity and people who believe in justice and equality for all. Ms. Wilson ticks all of those boxes and is someone who can not only make great changes herself, but inspire others to do the same.
This powerful story is essential reading for anyone who cares about equality and diversity. It is a reminder of the reality of sexism, classism, racism and misogyny facing those in our legal system every day. And a reminder that through our own actions we can affect change in the places it is needed, one step at a time.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Alexandra Wilson is a junior barrister. She grew up in Essex and is the eldest of four children. Her mother is White British, her father is Black British and her paternal grandparents were born in Jamaica and came to England as part of the Windrush generation.
Alexandra studied at the University of Oxford and was awarded two prestigious scholarships, enabling her to research the impact of police shootings in the US on young people’s attitudes to the police. She went on to study for a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and her Master of Laws at BPP University in London. Alexandra was awarded the first Queen’s scholarship by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, a scholarship awarded to students showing exceptional promise in a career at the Bar.
Alongside her paid family and criminal law work, Alexandra helps to facilitate access to justice by providing legal representation for disenfranchised minorities and others on a pro-bono basis.
Today is my stop on the tour for this fascinating book. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Unbound for the gifted copy.
Where are the women philosophers? The answer is right here.
The history of philosophy has not done women justice: you ve probably heard the names Plato, Kant, Nietzsche and Locke but what about Hypatia, Arendt, Oluwole and Young?
The Philosopher Queens is a long-awaited book about the lives and works of women in philosophy by women in philosophy. This collection brings to centre stage twenty prominent women whose ideas have had a profound but for the most part uncredited impact on the world.
You ll learn about Ban Zhao, the first woman historian in ancient Chinese history; Angela Davis, perhaps the most iconic symbol of the American Black Power Movement; Azizah Y. al-Hibri, known for examining the intersection of Islamic law and gender equality; and many more.
For anyone who has wondered where the women philosophers are, or anyone curious about the history of ideas it’s time to meet the philosopher queens.
The Philosopher Queens is a beautifully illustrated non-fiction book that introduces the reader to the forgotten female voices of philosophy. A subject long dominated by the works of men, the author’s of this book decided it was time to bring those forgotten voices into the light for all to hear and finally give them the credit for their contributions they deserve.
The book is written as a series of essays that each focus on a different woman. The essay outlines the key points of her ideas and influence on philosophy, as well as personal details such as her upbringing, education, personal life and character. At the end of the book there is information about where you can read more about them should you wish to further explore their ideas. For me, it was the personal details combined with the stunning portrait of each woman that accompanies each essay, that brought each woman to life and made them leap from the pages in vivid technicolour.
I am not a philosopher. I’ve never studied it, and know very little about the subject. But I found this to be a fascinating read that educated me without feeling too heavy or academic. It surprised me to see some familiar names in this book, like George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans, to give her non-pen name), Iris Murdoch and Angela Davis, and I will certainly look at them, and their impact on our society, differently after reading this book.
If you’re looking for something different that you can pick up and read a little of when you have some time here or there, something educational or a book about amazing women and their ideas, then this is a book for you. It is in an important book that I hope will come to be studied in schools and universities for many years to come so that the future generations never forget the Philosopher Queens.
MEET THE AUTHORS:
Rebecca Buxton is a PhD student in International Development at the University of Oxford, specialising in philosophy, ethics and forced migration. Rebecca previously studied Philosophy at King’s College London. When she’s not working on her PhD she writes as a Community Fellow for Refugees Deeply, a news organisation specialising in forced displacement. In her spare time Rebecca likes to visit her one-eyed goldendoodle, Duffy, back at home in Worthing.
Lisa Whiting is currently studying for an MSc in Government, Policy and Politics following her undergraduate degree in philosophy. She studies whilst working as a policy professional focused on the intersection of policy and ethics with a particular interest in data ethics. In her spare time, she listens to podcasts, watches documentaries and tries to keep her house plants alive.
Today is my stop on the tour for this spectacular debut. Thank you to Ellie at Viking for the inviation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.
THE FIRST BOOK IN THE #1 BESTSELLING THURSDAY MURDER CLUB SERIES BY TV PRESENTER RICHARD OSMAN
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.
But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?
“This morning the Thursday Murder Club has a real-life case. Not just yellowing pages of smudged type from another age. A real case, a real corpse, and, somewhere out there, a real killer.”
One of my most anticipated books this year, The Thursday Murder Club was everything I’d hoped and more.
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim, who all live in Coopers Chase Retirement Village. Through a shared fascination with solving crime, they form the Thursday Murder Club, meeting each week to try and solve unsolved cold cases. But when local businessman Tony Curran is murdered, they finally have the chance to solve a real case. Using their wiles to befriend the local police and other secret weapons up their sleeves, can the unlikely gang catch the killer?
This cosy murder mystery was an utterly delightful read. Whip-smart, lighthearted, witty and addictive, this was impossible to put down. Richard Osman’s fictional debut showcases his skill as a master storyteller who had me in his thrall from start to finish. The richly crafted community he has created is filled with vibrant and authentic characters that leap from the pages and red herrings are skillfully woven into the story, keeping you guessing right up until that big reveal.
My favourite thing about the book is without a doubt the author’s decision to base the story around a group of retirees in a retirement home who like to solve mysteries. It’s fresh, original and means they can do things that younger characters wouldn’t get away with because, as it says in the book, people let you get away with so much more when you get to a certain age. This year in particular I have noticed there is an increasing number of books with older characters at their centre, and I love that the industry is giving a voice to a generation whose voices are often forgotten beyond being the doting grandparents. It is fantastic to see stories where they are flawed characters with complex and interesting lives. I loved the quartet who make up the Thursday Murder Club. I loved their dynamic and how well they work together despite being people who would have never had anything to do with each other if they hadn’t all been living at Coopers Chase and had a mutual interest in murder. Joyce’s diary entries were a brilliant insight into the group and I could vividly picture her sitting at her typewriter to write them.
Charming, funny and so British it’s like a warm cup of tea on a cold day, The Thursday Murder Club is an absolute triumph. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I loved the gang and am thrilled that this is the start of a new series as I can’t wait to revisit them and see what antics they get up to next. An easy five starts from me.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Richard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. He is well known for TV shows including Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games. As the creative director of Endemol UK, Richard has worked as an executive producer on numerous shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He is also a regular on panel and game shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You and Taskmaster.
Published: September 17th, 2020 Publisher: HQ Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre: Bildungsroman, Coming-of-Age Fiction, LGBT Literature
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this enthralling debut novel. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and for my gifted copy of the book.
Named a most anticipated book of 2020 by Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire, Time, People, BuzzFeed, Bustle, and more. Perfect for fans of Normal People and Fleabag
Great inventiveness, unfailing intelligence and empathy, and best of all a rare and shimmering wit’ Richard Ford
Eighteen years old, pregnant, and working as a pizza delivery girl, our dysfunctional heroine is deeply lost and in complete denial about it all. She’s grieving the death of her father, avoiding her loving boyfriend, and flagrantly ignoring her future.
Her world is further upended when she becomes obsessed with Jenny, a stay-at-home mother new to the neighbourhood, who comes to depend on weekly deliveries of pickle-covered pizzas for her son’s happiness.
As one woman looks toward motherhood and the other toward middle age, the relationship between the two begins to blur in strange, complicated, and ultimately heartbreaking ways.
Bold, tender, and unexpected, Pizza Girl is a moving and funny portrait of a flawed, unforgettable young woman as she tries to find her place in the world.
Quirky, funny and refreshing with a dark and gritty edge, this is a coming-of-age story with a difference. The narrator, who we know only as Pizza Girl, is an eighteen-year-old Korean-American who lives in Los Angeles with her mum and boyfriend and is eleven weeks pregnant. When Jenny Hauser calls in a panic requesting a pickle covered pizza that isn’t on their menu, saying it’s the only one her son Adam will eat, it sparks an unexpected chain of events.
Pizza Girl is immediately fascinated by Jenny and finds herself enamoured by the thirty-something mum as soon as they meet. The pair strike up an unusual friendship but Pizza Girl finds herself becoming increasingly obsessed with Jenny. And when lines are crossed things begin to spiral out of control.
This was an outstanding debut. The author is a fabulous storyteller, the writing atmospheric, pacy and immersive, pulling me into Pizza Girl’s world and taking me on an emotional journey alongside her. The characters are richly drawn and achingly real, their pain, loneliness, disappointment, love and joy radiating from the pages.
I quickly fell in love with Pizza Girl. Her inner monologue is laced with both humour and despair. She’s a lost soul who is full of questions and doesn’t know where her life is going; she’s just plodding along and internalising her feelings. She brought out all my maternal instincts and I just wanted to wrap my arms around her and comfort her. To listen to the things running through her mind. I loved the decision to only tell the story from her perspective as it reinforces the sense of isolation that surrounds her. I also liked that the author made her so deeply flawed. She was a far cry from your stereotypical likeable character, which made me love her all the more.
A truly original and memorable debut, Pizza Girl is a warm, tender and moving story about obsession, loss, motherhood, and finding your place in the world. I may have devoured it in a few short hours, but she will stay with me for a long time. Don’t miss this book.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
JEAN KYOUNG FRAZIER lives in Los Angeles. Pizza Girl is her debut novel.
I’m delighted to be sharing my review today as part of the blog tour. Thank you to Corinna at MacLehose for the invitation to take part and for the gifted copy of the book.
The legendary Læstadius becomes a kind of Sherlock Holmes in this exceptional historical crime novel.
It is 1852, and in Sweden’s far north, deep in the Arctic Circle, charismatic preacher and Revivalist Lars Levi Læstadius impassions a poverty-stricken congregation with visions of salvation. But local leaders have reason to resist a shift to temperance over alcohol.
Jussi, the young Sami boy Læstadius has rescued from destitution and abuse, becomes the preacher’s faithful disciple on long botanical treks to explore the flora and fauna. Læstadius also teaches him to read and write – and to love and fear God.
When a milkmaid goes missing deep in the forest, the locals suspect a predatory bear is at large. A second girl is attacked, and the sheriff is quick to offer a reward for the bear’s capture. Using early forensics and daguerreotype, Læstadius and Jussi find clues that point to a far worse killer on the loose, even as they are unaware of the evil closing in around them.
To Cook a Bear explores how communities turn inwards, how superstition can turn to violence, and how the power of language can be transformative in a richly fascinating mystery.
“A man of violence walks free. A killer bear in human form.”
This English translation of a Swedish mystery is like no other mystery I’ve read before. Set in Sweden in 1852, it follows Jussi, a runaway Sami boy who has been taken in by the revivalist preacher, Laestadius, and his family.
When a young woman goes missing and is later found dead, it appears that a killer bear is at large and a reward is offered for its capture. But Laestadius sees clues that point to a much more sinister suspect. So, with Jussi assisting him, he begins his own investigation.
But when another young woman is taken and it seems they have identified their killer, the pair find themselves in danger. For this is a killer who will do whatever it takes to remain hidden.
“People are greatly in fear of the devil. Especially when he comes in the guise of a wolf or a snake. But he is far more dangerous in human form. And most dangerous of all in the form of an angel. For when Satan himself transforms into an angel of light, it is hard to escape him.”
A sweeping Swedish historical fiction, based in fact, with elements of mystery and Scandi-noir, this is a beautifully written novel. It is a little strange at times, and took me a little while to get into, but I loved the richly drawn world the author brings to life, transporting you back to 1850s Sweden. It is a time I knew nothing about and I enjoyed learning more about that era. And just because it’s beautifully written, don’t think that means it doesn’t touch on more brutal aspects— it is a historical murder mystery after all. There were some gruesome scenes, including one involving the bear mentioned in the title that I’ll not soon forget. I also enjoyed historical elements such as the beginnings of forensics that Laestadius uses in his investigations. But, for me, it was the characters that I found most fascinating and compelling.
“By itself, each letter was frail. But when the pastor taught the young Sami boy to place them next to one another, something happened. It was like lighting a fire ; one single piece of wood was of little use, but if you added another, it instantly grew hotter. The letters derived life from each other ; in the company of others they began to speak.”
Our narrator, Jussi, is a Sami boy who was found by the preacher after fleeing his abusive home. And it was his journey I was drawn to most of all. Shy, unsure and longing for acceptance, Jussi pulled on my heartstrings. I loved his journey of self-discovery and learning. His descriptions of learning to read and exploring books brought to life the wonder, joy and transformative power of words; how they open up the world to you and change your perception of life. It was a magical thing to witness him as he discovered these things. What was harder to bear were the injustices he suffered at the hands of locals, who judge him as the weird Sami boy. There was one particular point where I shed a tear for how savagely treated and despaired at the cruelty with which some treat their fellow man.
Laestadius is a diversive figure, loved and loathed in his community depending on their views on the Lutheran revival that he is spearheading. I was ambivalent towards him myself, but liked that he saw details others didn’t and persued his quest for the truth even in the face of great opposition.
To Cook A Bear is a captivating and touching story that is unlike anything you will have read before. It kept me guessing from start to finish and the with characters are ones that will stay with me.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Mikael Niemi was born in 1959 and grew up in Pajala in the northernmost part of Sweden, near the Finnish border, where he still lives. Before the publication of To Cook A Bear, his breakthrough novel was Popular Music From Vittula (2000), selling more than one million copies. It won the Swedish August Prize and has been translated into more than thirty languages. To Cook A Bear has now been sold for translation to fifteen territories.