Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this intriguing debut. Thank you to Tara McEvoy at Pushkin Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.
Kate has taught herself to be careful, to be meticulous.
To mark the anniversary of a death in the family, she plans a dinner party – from the fancy table settings to the perfect Baked Alaska waiting in the freezer. Yet by the end of the night, old tensions have flared, the guests have fled, and Kate is spinning out of control.
But all we have is ourselves, her father once said, all we have is family.
Set between the 1990s and the present day, from a farmhouse in Carlow to Trinity College, Dublin, Dinner Party is a dark, sharply observed debut that thrillingly unravels into family secrets and tragedy.
As the past catches up with the present, Kate learns why, despite everything, we can’t help returning home.
A brilliant coming-of-age page-turner about the complications of sibling relationships and the trauma of family secrets, perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell and Anne Enright
“But there were secrets in the centre of secrets that were still trying to come out.”
I started this book expecting a thriller and instead found myself reading an Irish family saga that follows a dysfunctional family from the nineties to the present day. It started strong, opening with protagonist Kate welcoming her family over for dinner to mark the sixteenth anniversary of the death of her twin sister, Elaine. I loved their banter and the vivid descriptions that made me feel as if I could even smell the food cooking. The story then jumps back to August 1999 as we follow Kate and her family through pivotal moments that shape their lives.
The inner demons and struggles of each of the Gleeson family are addressed in this exploration of fractured family relationships, and the effects of trauma and loss. It is written with both sensitivity and compassion, though it feels a little slow at times. The matriarch of the family, Bernadette, is an overbearing, volatile woman whose behaviour clearly traumatises her children and looms large over every aspect of their lives, even when physically absent. There were many times I wanted to slap her for things she said or did and I was willing them to stand up to her. Elaine also casts a shadow over every page, but in a very different way. She is either the vivacious, outgoing twin who Kate adores, or makes the atmosphere feel heavy with the loss of her; a spark of light that was extinguished far too soon.
If you like family drama and literary fiction, then you will enjoy this intriguing debut.
TW: Eating Disorders
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Sarah Gilmartin is an arts journalist who reviews fiction for the Irish Times.
She has an MFA from University College Dublin (2018/2019) and is co-editor of Stinging Fly Stories (2018).
Her short stories have been listed for the Sean O’Faolain Short Story Award, the RTE Francis MacManus Short Story Award and the Hennessy New Irish Writing Prize.
Sarah won Best Playwright for her play Match at the Short+Sweet Dublin 2019 festival.
Her story The Wife won the 2020 Máirtín Crawford Award at Belfast Book Festival.
Dinner Party: A Tragedy is her first novel, to be published by Pushkin Press in October 2021.
Published: September 2nd, 2021 Publisher: Pushkin Press Genre: Young Adult Fiction Format: Paperback, Kindle
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this entertaining debut. Thank you to Pushkin Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.
One girl takes on an oppressive system in this electrifying teen dystopia, set in a post-apocalyptic world sapped of natural resources A BLIGHTED LAND Ever since The Darkening, survival has been a struggle. The people of the Field toil on parched earth, trying to forge a life amid dwindling resources.
A GIFT As one of the Giften, Ruthie is a saviour to her isolated community: her hands hold the rare ability to raise food from dead soil. But she is also its greatest danger.
A SINISTER REGIME In the City lurks a dark army, intent on hunting Giften to harness their power, destroying all who stand in their way. With the threat growing ever stronger, Ruthie and her friends must leave behind all they have ever known and embark on a quest that will pitch them towards the City, and unknowable danger. One way or another, a battle is coming.
“When our world was destroyed, no thought was given to what might happen to people like us, the survivors.”
Since The Darkening life has been a constant struggle. A fight to survive that is made even harder by those in power, who insist on taking a share of the food that the isolated communities grow. But nature has provided hope in the Giften: people whose hands hold the rare ability to make food grow from the parched earth. But the Giften are in danger, hunted by an army from the City who snatch them from their homes never to be seen again, leaving behind a trail of whispered rumours about their fate.
When Ruthie shows signs of being Giften her mother is terrified. She forbids her from using her powers to avoid being betrayed by others in the Field and being taken by the MAGs. But her gift is ultimately revealed, so, along with her friends, Ruthie embarks on a perilous journey to find a place of safety. But will they be able to outrun those who hunt them? And just what is it that they want with the Giften?
“But it was the discovery of the Giften that changed everything —it read like finding out magic was real.”
Giften is an entertaining debut novel. Set in a post-apocalyptic world in the future, things such as an abundance of food, air travel and talking with people around the world are now merely stories of old passed down from previous generations. Unimaginable concepts in the world that the characters now live in.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this book, but I liked the premise and decided to venture out of my comfort zone by reading it. It took a little while for me to get into, but once the world had been built and the stage set, I found it to be gripping and I sped through the remaining pages in a few short hours. It is a book that is written for young adults, and I think the target audience would enjoy it much more as it felt a little young for me. But I was able to recognise that I’m not the intended demographic and enjoy it for what it was.
“I didn’t know that monsters look just like the rest of us.”
The story is told through the eyes of Ruthie, but we get glimpses of other people’s stories at the start of each chapter in the form of snippets of the stories Logan the Recorder has written down through the years. These help the story to slowly unfold as they give us an insight into the lives of the background characters and clues to parts of the mystery surrounding the Giften. I enjoyed this as it shows the importance and power of stories; how they shape our world and offer us valuable information about the past that we can learn from.
Ruthie is a young girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders. When we meet her she is still reeling from the disappearance of her father, Dan, two years ago and her mother subsequently replacing him with a step-father, step-brother and half-brother, when her world is turned upside down even further by a violent illness that is actually her transition into Giften. Her life is now in danger and she’s forced to leave her home to survive, her terror, heartache and confusion leapt from the pages and my heart broke for this young girl who has been forced to leave everything she’s ever known.
“You have no idea what’s coming.”
The author brings the post-apocalyptic world to life with vivid and evocative imagery and storytelling. I could see the barren land and feel the isolation that came together to create a claustrophobic and fearful atmosphere. It is a commentary on global warming and warning of what our world could ultimately look like that manages to deliver its message without becoming preachy.
Giften is a great start to a new series that has the potential to be a huge hit amongst young adult readers. If you liked The Hunger Games then you will probably enjoy this book.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Leyla Suzan is an editor who has worked in publishing for many years, editing some of our most beloved authors. Now a freelancer, while she’s not writing or editing books, she can be found in her studio making woodcut prints. Giften is her debut novel.
Happy Publication Day to this spectacular debut. I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for The Last Library on its special day. Thank you Bonnie Zaffre for the invitation to take part and the gorgeous personalised proof copy.
*This book is known as The Last Chance Library in the US
You can tell a lot about a person from the library books they borrow
Library assistant June knows a lot about the regulars at Chalcot Library, yet they know very little about her. When her mum – the beloved local librarian – passed away eight years ago, June stepped into her shoes. But despite their shared love of books, shy June has never felt she can live up to the village’s memory of her mum. Instead, she’s retreated into herself and her memories, surviving on Chinese takeaways-for-one and rereading their favourite books at home.
When the library is threatened with closure, a ragtag band of eccentric locals establish the Friends of Chalcot Library campaign. There’s gentlemanly pensioner Stanley, who visits the library for the computers and the crosswords, cantankerous Mrs B, who is yet to find a book she approves of, and teenager Chantal, who just wants a quiet place to study away from home. But can they compel reclusive June to join their cause?
If June wants to save the library, she finally has to make some changes to her life: opening up her heart to friendship, opportunities and maybe even more . . .
“Libraries are boats And the books are life jackets. Without them we’ll drown.”
The Last Library is a truly special book. A bibliophile’s dream and a hug in book form, it has secured a place in my favourite books of all time. Nostalgic, tender and witty, it is a love letter to libraries, literature and community. And when I finally closed it after reading the last sentence I did so with a big smile on my face and a warm glow inside despite feeling sad to say goodbye to the wonderful characters that I’d taken into my heart.
The story follows a varied bunch of characters as they fight to save their beloved library from closure. It is an impassioned fight. They face an uphill battle, many bumps in the road, and the council attempts to thwart them at every step, but they refuse to give up, proving themselves a stronger adversary than many expected.
“As a child she used to believe that each book had its own smell, specific to its story, and the smell of a library was the combined smell of thousands of different tales.”
This glorious debut begins with a letter from the author talking about her love for libraries and what inspired her to write this story. I thought this was a great way to open the book as it immediately establishes that a library is so much more than a room full of books; it is a solace, a refuge, and a place of community. It also sparked memories of the many happy hours I’ve spent in libraries over the years in my own reading journey, and those spent with my son as a baby, toddler and child, creating an atmosphere of nostalgiathat carries through right until the last page.
“Every inch of this room was steeped with memories, her mum’s DNA woven into the story rug and well-thumbed books. If the library was lost, June’s mum would be lost again too; and that was something June could never let happen.”
It is impossible not to take these quirky, funny and endearing characters into your heart. Librarian June is a lifelong bookworm. Her whole world is the library. She took over her role after her mother’s death eight years ago and, for her, the walls are filled with not only cherished memories, but her mother’s spirit. The idea of losing that is unimaginable to June. I liked June immediately; how she imagines lives for people and the way she finds solace in books. But I also felt sad for her. She lives a very lonely life, and one of the best parts of the book for me was watching this shy, socially awkward young woman slowly blossom and develop friendships outside of the pages of her books.
We get to know the others through June’s eyes, slowly discovering their secret lives, backstories and personalities as she does. They are an eclectic cast of characters who you’d never usually put together, but they are bonded by their shared love and need for the library. Each of them is wonderfully written, the author creating a rapport between them and the reader, and I’ll admit to having favourites. I loved the friendship between Stanley and June and had a real soft spot for his character. But the author was skilled at giving even the most spiky or ‘unlikeable’ characters a warmth that drew me to them, making it impossible not to love every one of them.
“Libraries are like a net, there to catch those of us in danger of falling through the cracks. That’s what we’re really fighting to protect.”
The Last Library is everything a book lover could want and more. It is a celebration of books and the power of stories, but also a story about community, kindness, friendship, loss and courage. A journey of self-discovery. One of the biggest aspects of the story is how libraries are so much more to a town or village than a room full of books and the author highlights the many ways they are there to help. It made my heart ache thinking of the closures we see in libraries today, especially as they were such a big part of my own childhood and that of my son. It made me determined to start using my local library again so that I can do my part to ensure they are still around for future generations.
Charming, uplifting and hopeful, this is a book that will stay with me forever. One you don’t want to miss. I urge you to read it as soon as possible.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Freya Sampson works in TV as an executive producer. Her credits include two documentary series for the BBC about the British Royal Family, and a number of factual and entertainment series.
She studied History at Cambridge University and in 2018 was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize.
She lives in London with her husband, two young children and an antisocial cat. The Last Library is her debut novel.
August is over, and so is the summer. It was not the best summer in terms of weather here in the UK, and a difficult summer on a personal level for me, but it’s been a fantastic summer in terms of reading.
In August I read a total of sixteen books, three of which were audiobooks. Here’s a summary of those books with links to my reviews:
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
I’ve been wanting to read a book by Riley Sager for years. So when I got the blog tour invitation for Home Before Dark I jumped at the chance to take part. Chilling, nerve-shredding and twisty, it did not disappoint. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Sexy and seductive, The Idea of You is a sizzling debut that was perfect for summer. It follows the story of a May/December romance between a suburban mother and the lead singer of her tween daughter’s favourite group. A sharp, sassy and hilarious novel, this was a fun read that I highly recommend. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
Normal doesn’t exist. We are all extraordinary. The above really is the perfect tagline for this remarkable debut. Patience is a thought-provoking look at what life is really like for people with severe disabilities and those who care for them. Patience Willow is a special and memorable character and I loved reading her story. It is one I will remember forever. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Sumptuous, sensual and absorbing, this intoxicating blend of skullduggery, friendship, passion and empowerment transports you back to 1820s Edinburgh. The author reimagined real characters from history and brought them to life in this exquisite tale. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
Cecily was my 100th book this year. I read it as part of a readalong with The Squadpod and also took part in the blog tour. This atmospheric debut tells the story of the War of the Roses through the eyes of the women who fought from the shadows. Though I found it hard to get into at first, was slowly drawn in, and ultimately enjoyed this fascinating debut. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫
I’ve found that I particularly enjoy audiobooks that have a podcast element. So when a fellow blogger raved about Girl, 11, I knew it was one I had to download. Compelling, tense and twisty, this was a great listen and one I’d highly recommend. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
I know it looks like I’m listening to the Harry Potter books out of order, but I actually started listening to them as I’d never finished reading the series and only got to the end of book four. I was near the end of listening to The Half Blood Prince when I paused and switched to The Philosopher’s Stone as I wanted something not quite so dark after the death of my Nan. I then finished book six once I’d finished listening to book one. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
A steadily paced family saga, Olympus, Texas is a dramatic and emotional novel that follows the Briscoe family. Atmospheric and tense, this debut explores family, flaws and forgiveness in ways that really make you think. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
One of the best thrillers I’ve read this year, She’s Mine is a dark, devious and suspenseful read exploring every mother’s worst nightmare. But there is much more lurking beneath the surface that is slowly reveals. This is just the kind of twisted thriller that I love, keeping me on the edge of my seat from the start. And that ending: Wow! If you are a fan of this genre then this is an absolute must read. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
A gritty and addictive thriller that has your heart racing, Mimic follows a brutal killer who is recreating famous works of art through his victims. It jumped straight into the action and took me on a terrifying rollercoaster ride. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
Mesmerising, powerful and heart-rending, I flew through this book in just a few hours. A portrait of lives lived under the constant threat of prejudice, it follows Jamil and his sixteen-year-old daughter Abida. Beautifully written and full of compassion, this is one that will break your heart but also give you hope. An absolute must read. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
The Wolf Mile (The Pantheon Series 1) by C.F. Barrington
The first in an addictive new series, I loved The Wolf Mile. It is out of my comfort zone so took a while to settle into. But once I did, I couldn’t put it down and I screamed in frustration when it ended. Thankfully it’s not long until book two. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
The Last Library is a wonderful debut that feels like a warm hug for book lovers. It follows Librarian June and the patrons of Chalcot Library as they battle to keep their beloved library open. My review will be posted on publication day this Thursday. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
For a lot of this month it was hard to pick a favourite, with a couple of the month’s early reads vying for the position. Then I read No Honour, and it seemed I had a clear book of the month. Enter Next of Kin to show me I was wrong. The third book from Kia Abdullah stands out even amongst the other fantastic five star rated reads this month. Her books just get better and better.
What did you read this month? Did we read any of the same books? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading this month’s wrap up. Seeyou next month Emma xxx
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Head of Zeus Genre: Suspense, Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Adventure Fiction Format: Paperback, Kindle
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this thrilling first book in a new series. Thank you to C. F. Barrington and Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC. Apologies that this is a day late, but I had my dates mixed up.
An action-packed adventure thriller, where modern-day recruits compete in an ancient, deadly game in the streets of Edinburgh.
Welcome to the Pantheon Games. Let the streets of Edinburgh run with blood . . .
The Games are the biggest underground event in the world, followed by millions online. New recruits must leave behind their twenty-first century lives and vie for dominance in a gruelling battle to the death armed only with ancient weapons – and their wits.
Tyler Maitland and Lana Cameron have their own reasons for signing up. Now they must risk their lives and join the ranks of seven ancient warrior teams that inhabit this illicit world. Their journey will be more extraordinary and horrifying than anything they could have dreamed, testing them to breaking point.
Let the Season begin.
This action-packed adventure thriller is perfect for fans of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, Battle Royale and The Running Man.
The streets of Edinburgh will be their fighting ground . . . and they will run with the blood of warriors.
The Wolf Mile is the first in an addictive new series. This is a book that’s out of my comfort zone but I was drawn to it as the synopsis reminded me of The Hunger Games, which I loved. And while it did take a little time for me to get into the story, I was soon on the edge of my seat, turning the pages furiously as I awaited Tyler and Lana’s fate.
Expertly merging fantasy and reality, the author brings the city of Edinburgh to life with his vivid imagery. And with slow, comprehensive world-building he also brings the Pantheon to life, making these brutal games feel real. By the end, I truly believed there was an underground battle raging between these seven groups and was rooting for the Horde to emerge victorious.
Tyler and Lana are great protagonists. They have rich backstories, are likeable and fascinating. I wanted them to succeed in every way and loved the twists and turns the story took us on as the author merged their real lives with that of Vahalla. The story is also filled with some great background characters, both hero and villain, who I’m hoping we learn more about in subsequent installments of the series.
The Wolf Mile is a thrilling and compelling debut that even those who don’t usually read the genre, like me, will love. I could have cried in frustration when it ended as I was so immersed in the story and am relieved that the follow up has already been announced for October. I need to know what happens next!
MEET THE AUTHOR:
C F Barrington spent twenty years intending to write a novel, but found life kept getting in the way. Instead, his career took him into major gift fundraising, leading teams in organisations as varied as Oxford University, the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
When his role as Head of Communications at Edinburgh Zoo meant a third year of fielding endless media enquiries about the possible birth of a baby panda, he finally retreated to a quiet desk beside the sea and discovered the inspiration for the Pantheon saga.
Raised in Hertfordshire and educated at Oxford, he now divides his time between running over the hills of the Lake District and dog walking on the beaches of Fife.
Published: August 12th, 2021 Publisher: Viking Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction, Political Fiction Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Welcome to my stop on the tour for this powerful debut. Thank you to Viking for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.
‘Rebellion?’ The word is a spark. They can start a fire with it, or smother it in their fingertips. She chooses to start a fire.
You are born high, but marry a traitor’s son. You bear him twelve children, carry his cause and bury his past.
You play the game, against enemies who wish you ashes. Slowly, you rise.
You are Cecily.
But when the king who governs you proves unfit, what then?
Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make your first move.
Told through the eyes of its greatest unknown protagonist, this astonishing debut plunges you into the closed bedchambers and bloody battlefields of the first days of the Wars of the Roses, a war as women fight it.
‘Rebellion?’ The word is a spark. They could light a fire with it, or smother it now in their fingertips. She chooses to start a fire.
Cecily was my 100th read of the year and one of my most anticipated books. I was drawn to it not only by the synopsis, but by its striking cover. But lying beneath that bright, luring jacket, is a dark, grim and savagestory. The author pulls you in immediately, opening the book with the burning at the stake of Joan of Arc, a shocking and atmospheric scene that feels like it’s setting the tone for what is to come.
This is the story of the Wars of the Roses through the eyes of the women who fought from the shadows. It was a brutal time. A time where power is won by blood and playing the game well is the difference between life and death. A cutthroat and ruthless time when your best friend today could be your enemy tomorrow. It is meticulously researched and beautifully written, transporting you back to a time when women were often forgotten and discounted, when they had to use the voices of men to be heard. And without taking away from those things, I feel I must mention that it took me a while to really get into this book. There were times my concentration wandered and the story felt too heavy, disjointed or hard to follow. I found it a little too bogged down in politics and would have liked more emotion and insight into what makes the characters tick. I had to put it down for a few days and come back to it, and when I did I finally got to a place where it felt like Cecily finally came alive, and it was then that I really started to enjoy the book.
“Women have no swords, brother. We do our work by talking.”
Cecily is a forgotten heroine that I am glad is finally having her story told. Feisty, strong, determined and intelligent, she is a force to be reckoned with. Born at a time when women are denied a voice orany real power, she is able to become a woman of influence in politics from the sidelines. A lot of this is down to the relationship she has with her husband, Richard. Their marriage is strong, loving and respectful, and it is clear he values her opinion. Other women gain power through marrying a weak man, which is what her enemy, Marguerite, does. The two women were undoubtedly similar in many ways, but while Marguerite comes off as unlikeable and venomous, Cecily appears resolute and caring. I enjoyed their bitter feud and how both women got stronger as time went on while the men appeared to wither.
I love how many books there have been recently that have taken a familiar story from history and told it from the woman’s perspective, illuminating voices that were silenced and finally revealing to the world the true strength these women possessed and how instrumental the moments that shaped our world today. I can’t help but wonder how many more of these forgotten heroines are out there, still waiting for their chance to shine.
A familiar story with a feminist edge, Ceicily is a powerful debut and brilliant historical read. You will never look at the Wars of the Roses the same again.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Annie Garthwaite grew up in a working class community in the north-east of England.
A schoolgirl interest in medieval history became a lifelong obsession with Cecily Neville, so, at age fifty-five, she enrolled on the Warwick Writing MA programme. Her extraordinary debut novel Cecily is the result. During a thirty-year international business career she frequently found herself the only woman at the table, where she gained valuable insights into how a woman like Cecily might have operated.
Today she lives with her partner – and far too many animals – on the side of a green Shropshire hill close to the Yorkist stronghold of Ludlow.
Today I’m delighted to revealing the striking cover for Care For Me, an exciting debut out this autumn.
When Amira takes her mother Afrah to Ravenswood Lodge Care Home, she thinks they will both be safe. But the past is just around the corner . . .
Amira is struggling to look after her mother, Afrah. So when they arrive at Ravenswood Lodge Care Home, beautiful and imposing against the background of the Scottish Highlands, she hopes it is the right decision for them both.
But soon Afrah insists her belongings are being stolen, her photographs, her jewellery, her pill boxes, Amira and the staff are convinced it’s just Afrah’s imagination, it’s just her memory.
But Afrah knows Ravenswood Lodge isn’t a safe place. Could it have something to do with the past? She remembers newspaper clippings, hazy images of a fire years ago, a memory she’s spent years forgetting and now she just wants to remember.
Someone wants her gone. But first, she needs to convince Amira of the truth.
The compelling, heartbreaking debut novel by Farah Cook, about mothers and daughters, and secrets that are never really forgotten . . .
Doesn’t that sound fantastic? I’ve been lucky enough to get an exclusive look at the early pages of the book and it had me hooked! I can’t wait to read the rest of the book and definitely recommend adding this one to your tbr.
The eBook is out September 30th and the paperback on October 21st. You can pre-order the book here*
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Farah Cook is a Danish writer of Pakistani descent. She grew up in Copenhagen with a creative and explorative childhood spent mostly outdoors. At the age of twelve, she began writing several short stories to fuel her passion for storytelling. Later, Farah graduated with a BA in Social Science from Sweden, an MA in Arts from London and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Surrey. Farah has lived in many countries, including Germany and New Zealand, but settled in London where she worked as a Marketing Manager for a large financial conglomerate. Her passion for storytelling remained, and at night she started to write all the things she’d imagine.
An alumna of the Faber Academy in London, Farah now lives in Bad Homburg, just outside Frankfurt, with her husband and two sons. She speaks six languages fluently including Danish, Swedish and German, and writes full-time.
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Head of Zeus Genre: Humour, Holiday Fiction Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this phenomenal debut. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and gifted ARC.
If you were offered a chance to cure your child’s disease, would you take it?
‘A thought-provoking, compelling and entertaining read. I could barely put the book down until its equally heart-wrenching and heart-warming ending. A wonderful, smart and funny book – I know readers will absolutely love it’ Louise Fein, bestselling author of People Like Us
The Willows have been through a lot. Louise has devoted her life to caring for her disabled youngest daughter. Pete works abroad, almost never seeing his loved ones. And their eldest, Eliza, is burdened by all the secrets she’s trying to keep from her overloaded family.
Meanwhile, Patience observes the world while trapped in her own body. She laughs, she cries, she has opinions and knows what she wants. But those who love her most – and make every decision about her life – will never know.
Or will they? When the Willows are offered the opportunity for Patience to take part in a new gene therapy trial to cure her Rett syndrome, they face an impossible dilemma. Are the very real risks worth the chance of the reward, no matter how small?
Normal doesn’t exist. We are all extraordinary.
Patience is a truly remarkable debut. Heartbreaking, harrowing, honest and hopeful, this
is a thought-provoking, no-holds-barred look at what life is like for those with severe disabilities, how it affects their families, and challenges our concept of what a good life actually looks like.
Thirty-year-old Patience Willow has Rett Syndrome. She is unable to walk or talk and requires twenty-four hour care. When a new gene therapy offers the hope of reversing the condition, her family find themselves in an impossible dilemma. Is the chance of giving Patience the life they dreamed of for her worth the risks? And is it what she would want?
“She realised she had spent almost all of Patience’s life waiting for a miracle.”
The author tells the story from the points of view of each of the Willow family: Louise, Pete, Eliza and Patience. This allows us an intimate glimpse at the ripple effect of disability on those around them. We see the strain it has put on all of their relationships, especially Louise and Pete’s marriage, the financial strain, the pressure Eliza feels to fulfill her parents dreams and be everything her sister can’t, how caring for another person can slowly wear you down and the guilt and anger they all feel.
The decision to give Patience a voice is my favourite part of this book. And what a loud and memorable voice she has! By giving her the voice life has denied her, the author makes Patience visible and reminds the reader that she is a three-dimensional character who is as nuanced and complex as any other person. That she is someone who has her own thoughts, feelings, desires and dreams, despite her inability to communicate them. We get an insight into how she feels having to watch her sister have the things she can never have, how it feels knowing she is the ‘cause’ of her family’s struggles, and what life is really like for her. We are the only ones who get to see the woman she is inside, that she is an intelligent and funny person that understands everything. And I absolutely adored her.
“Over the years I’ve heard many doctors, carers, nurses and social workers debate whether I have a decent quality of life or not. So I’d like to state here, for the record, that I do. I don’t have anything to compare my life to, of course, but then, who does?”
Through this story the author challenges the concept of what a fulfilling and happy life actually is. As someone with a disability myself, albeit a much milder one than Patience, this is something I love and appreciate. Life doesn’t have to look a certain way to be valuable. A life with limits can be happy and meaningful and, as Patience herself observes, being able-bodied does not necessarily equal happiness and contentmentin life. This is what is at the heart of the family’s dilemma over whether to enter Patience into the gene therapy. She seems happy, so is it worth risking that to give her a life they consider more ‘normal’? Personally, I would cure my own illnesses in a heartbeat and would love a better quality of life. But there are some risks I wouldn’t take to achieve that and it doesn’t make my life any less joyful or meaningful as it stands.
“But the thing was, he didn’t see her as broken. He saw her as whole, as a person in her own right, her own special variety of normal.”
Victoria Scott is a spectacular talent. She writes with heart, humour, compassion and raw honesty, managing to educate while also entertaining. I was completely invested in the lives of this family and they felt so real to me, like I could go to Oxford and pay them a visit. The Author’s Note at the end of the book is a must-read as she talks about her inspiration for the story. It was no surprise to learn that she has intimate knowledge of living alongside someone with Rett Syndrome and I believe this book will not only educate people like myself who knew nothing about the illness, but offer comfort to those who have a loved one with the illness.
An extraordinary story about family, love and hope, this is a book that will linger long after reading and hold a special place in my heart. Read this book. I can’t recommend it enough.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Victoria Scott is a British novelist, journalist, lecturer, copywriter and media trainer with two decades of experience working for online, print, TV and radio outlets around the world.
Currently, Victoria is lead tutor of the NCTJ Journalism Diploma at Sutton College, South London, and a lecturer in journalism at Kingston University.
She is also a novelist, represented by agent Hannah Weatherill at Northbank Talent Management. Her debut novel Patience will be published in 2021 by Head of Zeus, and in German translation by Droemer Knaur.
Another month has flown by and it’s time for another wrap up.
July was a great reading month. I read 16 books, took part in one book club readalong and 18 blog tours. Below is a quick summary of what I read this month:
False Witness by Karin Slaughter
Karin Slaughter is one of my favourite crime writers and book she releases is on my must-read list. I was particularly excited about reading False Witness as it was a standalone, and it’s been a while since I read one of those from her. It did not disappoint. Once again she delivered a first-class thriller that was dark, twisted and sinister. Thrillers don’t get better than this. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Carol is another of my go-to crime authors. Her newest series is her darkest yet, and I’m loving it. A Cut For A Cut sees Kate Young once again embroiled in an investigation when she and her son find the body of a young man while diving. It had my totally hooked from the start and didn’t let go. If you are looking for an exhilarating and propulsive thriller, then this is for you. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
The Rule is a readable thriller about family, love, and the lengths a parent will go to to protect their child. I really liked Daniel, the young man at the centre of the story, and the themes of duality the author used throughout. Rating: ✮✮✮✰✰
One of my most anticipated books of the year, I luxuriated in every word of this absolute masterpiece. The second book in her Romanov series follows Tsarevna Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. She is a fascinating historical figure and I loved expanding my knowledge of an era that has long fascinated me. Dazzling, captivating and truly magnificent, this is a joy for history and literature lovers alike. I’m now counting down to book three! Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Just as the tagline says, this is not another novel about a dead girl. In her startling debut, Jacqueline Bublitz has taken the familiar narratives we see in psychological thrillers and given them an original twist. Instead of asking whodunnit, she asks who was the victim? What was her story? And what can we learn from her? She also asks who was the person who discovered the victims broken body? And how did that discovery after them?
Breathtakingly beautiful, hypnotic, mesmerising and unflinching, this book went right to my soul. I’m still thinking about it almost a month after reading. It stands out not only amongst the mystery and thriller books I’ve read this year, but all the ones I’ve ever read. This is a must-read for thriller lovers and the author is a talent to watch. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Songbirds is a beautiful story that gives a voice to the voiceless. In this harrowing and heartbreaking tale, the author explores the world of transient and migrant workers, shining a light on their experiences and the institutionalised racism they face. She also highlights how this racism runs so deep that the authorities won’t search for them if they go missing, claiming they must have just moved on instead. A richly drawn novel full of memorable characters, beautiful imagery and exquisite storytelling, this is a story that needs to be read. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
The Painting is a simple yet enlightening story. A portrait of totalitarianism, immigration, family and self-discovery, it tells the story of Anika, a Hungarian immigrant living in Australia after being forced to flee her oppressively homeland. One of the few possessions she brought with her was a valuable painting. After it is stolen in what appears to be a targeted robbery, Anika is forced to confront uncomfortable questions about her family’s past. This book surprised me as it took a different, but fascinating, turn to what I was expecting. A captivating and moving story that I would recommend. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
An ordinary man on an ordinary street is hiding grim secrets in this dark and sinister thriller. I listened to this book as part of the audiobook blog tour and it chilled me to the bone. I had struggled to get into it at first, but am so glad I stuck with it as this was a gripping and unnerving psychological thriller that I couldn’t stop listening to. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
The Art of Loving You is an exploration of love, grief and the afterlife. It looks at how we find meaning in life when it seems to have become meaningless and what we do with the love we have for someone when they die. Heartbreaking yet hopeful, it follows Libby, who is left devastated after the sudden death of her soulmate Jack. Full of wonderful characters and some truly tender and beautiful moments, I couldn’t put this down. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Mrs England with the Tasting Notes Book Club for July. I am a huge fan of Stacey Halls so I was excited for this book and the online book club meeting. Wonderfully written, atmospheric and compelling, this is one of those books that is even better after you’ve thought about it for a few days and realised that things weren’t what they first appeared. For me, one of the best things about reading a book with others is the way you can read the same book yet see things so differently. This was the best Tasting Notes Book Club yet and I enjoyed the book even more after hearing about it from the author and exploring it with others in greater detail. This is an ideal read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
This warm, witty, slow-burning romance was the perfect summer read to get lost in. Poppy and Alex were fun to read and had a great dynamic. But my favourite thing about the book is the escapism it offered. I loved being able to live vicariously through the characters and travel to different countries from my back garden during a pandemic. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
Girls Who Lie (Forbidden Iceland Book 2) by Eva Björg Aegisdottir
Girls Who Lie is the second book in the Forbidden Iceland series, but was the first one I’ve read. The author quickly catches you up and it was easy to keep up with the characters making it easy to read even without the first book. A harrowing, complex and multilayered thriller, this was another amazing read from Orenda Books. I will definitely be reading the first book in the series and any further installments. Perfect for crime fiction fans. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
The Woman in the Water is a story about a fractured family, tragic death and search for answers. Though it was predictable in places, the author leaves you with enough doubt and unanswered questions that you keep turning the pages, needing to know more. A dark, tense and twisty read that fans of the genre will enjoy. Rating: ✮✮✮.5
Books, murder and mystery. What more could I want? Utterly mesmerising and addictive, I devoured this book. Perfectly plotted, intricately woven and full of tension, this is a masterclass in storytelling. The Secret Life of Writers is a stylish, sharp and suspenseful thriller that is so twisty it will make your head spin. After reading it I understand why Guillaume Musso is known as the French suspense king. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
This is one of those books that’s a bit like an iceberg: what you see at first is only a part of what is actually going on. The author slowly unveils the truth, weaving together the layers to create a complex and intricate thriller. Themes of domestic violence and coercive control are explored in various ways through out the book and it is clear it is well researched. Unnerving and affecting, I would recommend this to fans of the genre. Rating: ✮✮✮.5
Wow! Just, wow! I have been a fan of Gillian McAllister since the first time I read one of her books, but this is her best one yet. Taut, tense and twisty, this riveting thriller had me hooked. A multilayered and complex story, there is so much more to it than meets the eye. Jaw-dropping and unexpected revelations pulled the rug from under me repeatedly and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. That Night is a must read for anyone who enjoys an intelligent, sharp and sensational thriller. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
I swear that it’s getting harder and harder to choose a favourite each month, as there are just so many high-quality books being written. It was really difficult to choose this month and after getting it down to two, I just couldn’t pick between them. Therefore, my books of the month for July are The Tsarina’s Daughter and Before You Knew My Name.
What did you read this month? Did we read any of the same books?
Thanks for reading this month’s wrap up. Seeyou next month Emma xxx
Thank you to the publishers for my gifted proof copies and eBook ARCS.
“1. Monsters I have known monsters and I have known men.I have stoodin their long shadows, propped them up with my own two hands, reached for the inscrutable faces in the dark. They are harder to set apart than you know. Than you will ever know.”
Today’s chilling first lines are taken from Damage, the startling debut from Caitlin Wahrer, that was released this month. This is one of my most highly anticipated debuts this year and I’m even more excited to start it soon after reading these first lines.
Sometimes, the true story is the hardest to believe.
TONY has always looked out for his younger brother, Nick. So when Nick is badly hurt and it looks like he was the victim of sexual assault, Tony’s anger flares.
JULIA is alarmed by her husband Tony’s obsession with Nick’s case. She’s always known Tony has a temper. But does she really know what he’s capable of?
NICK went out for a drink. After that, everything’s a blank. When he woke up he found himself in a world of confusion and pain, and the man who hurt him doesn’t deny doing it. But he says the whole thing was consensual.
Three ordinary people; one life-shattering event. And when the police get involved, this family in crisis might be capable of anything . . .
Set to ignite debate and as gripping as your favourite box-set, Damage is a compulsive drama from an extraordinary new writer.