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Blog Tours book reviews Monthly Wrap Up

September Wrap Up 

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It’s the end of another month. Autumn is well and truly settling in here in England and it feels like the time for hot chocolate, cosy blankets and spooky reads. I admit I’m missing the sun already though. 

September has been a really busy for me. I’ve read 11 books, taken part in 12 blog tours, and have been to two book events.

First I’ll start with what I read this month:

  • The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Woman Upstairs by Ruth Heald ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Ask Again Yes by Mary Beth Keane ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫
  • The Bad Place by MK Hill ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Postscript by Cecelia Ahern ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫
  • The Flower Arranger by JJ Ellis ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • My Judy Garland Life by Susie Boyt ⭐⭐⭐💫
  • The Liar’s Sister by Sarah A. Denzil ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫
  • I Wanted You To Know by Laura Pearson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen ⭐⭐⭐⭐

My favourite book this month was The Testaments, but I Wanted You To Know and Postscript were the two others I loved most of all. 

I’ve loved taking part in so many blog tours this month but realise that I took on too many for one month. I’m being stricter about how many I do each month now and in October I have blog tours for 6 books and one novella. So keep an eye out for those reviews. 

I went to two fantastic book events this month. The first was to hear Sara Collins speak about her book The Confessions of Frannie Langton at the Festival of Women’s Writing in Hawarth on September 21st. This was my second time hearing Sara speak and again she blew me away with how intelligent, interesting and friendly she was. I took my Mum along and it was her first book event. She loved every minute and went straight home with my copy of the book to read for herself. I’m hoping it’s the start of more events together. 

The second event was one I still can’t believe I’ve been too. On September 26th I went to the VIP Launch Party for The Foundling, the new novel by Stacey Halls, which is out early next year. The Familiars was my favourite book this year so to be able to not only meet the author, but go to the launch of her next book was incredible. The event took place at Brunswik House which is a beautiful Georgean setting that couldn’t have been more perfect for the book. Stacey was so lovely and spent time talking to every single person there. Hearing her talk about her inspiration for the new novel and read from it has me so excited to dive in, but I’m making myself wait until nearer publication. I attended this event with my blogger friend, Beth, and we met some other bloggers we talk to online and an author that we didn’t realise would be there. The staff from Zaffre were all so friendly and I had some great conversations with some of them. This was my first book launch and they gave whatever launch I attend next a lot to live up to. The Foundling is out February 6th 2020.

So as you can see, September has been a great month. I’ve got some great books I’m planning to read next month and am attending an event in Nottingham where I’ll see Jessie Burton and Laura Purcell – two of my favourite authors. 

Have you read any of the books I read this month or did you attend any book events? Let me know in the comments below.

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for my gifted books, and Tracey at Compulsive Readers, Anne at Random Things Blog Tours, Peyton at Agora books and Blogger HQ for the invitations to take part in the blog tours. A big thank you to Ellen at Zaffre for my invitation to The Foundling launch party.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour Review: The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the book that Hutchinson Books is calling their “Major break-out debut of the year”. Thank  you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the blog tour, and to Hutchinson for my ARC copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

TWO FEMALE SPIES. A BANNED MASTERPIECE. A BOOK THAT CHANGED HISTORY.

1956. A celebrated Russian author is writing a book, Doctor Zhivago, which could spark dissent in the Soviet Union. The Soviets, afraid of its subversive power, ban it. 

But in the rest of the world it’s fast becoming a sensation.

In Washington DC, the CIA is planning to use the book to tip the Cold War in its favour.

Their agents are not the usual spies, however. Two typists – the charming, experienced Sally and the talented novice Irina – are charged with the mission of a lifetime: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago back into Russia by any means necessary.

It will not be easy. There are people prepared to die for this book – and agents willing to kill for it. But they cannot fail – as this book has the power to change history.

Sold in twenty-five countries and poised to become a global literary sensation, Lara Prescott’s dazzling first novel is a sweeping page turner and the most hotly anticipated debut of the year.

The Secrets We Kept Cover

MY REVIEW:

An exciting read from the first few pages, I couldn’t put this book down. I’m a big history lover but didn’t know much about the Cold War. I relished the chance to learn and found that as well as a sensational book, this was also a fascinating history lesson. The evocative imagery drew me in and I was fully immersed in the world on the pages as I savoured every expertly written word. 

Secrets. Love, Betrayal, Espionage. War. Oppression. Darkness. Hope. Freedom. History. The author has woven all of these things into this beautiful, moving and spectacular debut novel. We learn the truth behind Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago; how the banned novel came to be smuggled out of, and then back into the Soviet Union as part of a propaganda war by the US. We follow the network of courageous people charged with tasks than enabled its completion and publication, and moved between their varying perspectives and timelines in locations of East and West. 

One thing that struck me about this book is the multitude of strong women. It was an era where the world was still seen to be very much run by men. Where women with degrees were destined for the typing pool whilst their sometimes lesser educated male counterparts were the boss and where the knowledge and power these women had often wasn’t seen. From the ladies in the typing pool, to Boris Pasternak’s lover, each has their own unique strengths. 

A favourite character of mine was Irina. I enjoyed watching her grow quietly in confidence as she’s taken from a meek immigrant’s daughter to a brave US spy aware of, and delighting in, her own power. Once she is being trained by veteran spy Sally, her self-assurance blossoms and she wants to be more like her mentor, a woman who seems to exude it in her every move. Another woman who’s strength stood out for me was Olga, Boris’ mistress and muse. I did feel like her strength came from a very different place and was more self-serving, such as how she went to any length to help Boris no matter the risk to her children, who should have come first. While I didn’t agree with her putting her lover before her children, I did admire how she wouldn’t crumble even in the most desperate of circumstances. She was pivotal in Boris’ life and the story of Doctor Zhivago in a myriad of ways. The chapter in which she writes a letter to her interrogator about her experiences in the gulag, was emotional, devastating and yet hopeful. It was a stand-out chapter in the book and the one that I will probably remember most of all long after reading. 

Like Doctor Zhivago, this is a story about love and war. And while it initially may seem that the story of the Cold War is most prominent, it was soon apparent that at the heart of this book is more than one love story. It is also a story about ordinary people doing remarkable things and trying to do their part to help change history. It’s easy to see why the film rights for this book have already been snapped up as it has all the ingredients needed to make a great movie.

The Secrets We Kept is a compelling, electrifying book that reads like a combination of literary fiction, historical fiction and thriller.  If you know nothing about the Cold War or Doctor Zhivago then don’t let that deter you picking this up as I was the same before reading this. Not only have I learned a lot, but I’m eager to find out more and to read the book at its centre. 

Out now to buy from your favourite bookseller. 

Lara Prescott Author Pic

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lara Prescott was named after the heroine of Doctor Zhivago and first discovered the true story behind the novel after the CIA declassified 99 documents pertaining to its role in the book’s publication and covert dissemination. 

She travelled the world – from Moscow and Washington, to London and Paris – in the course of her research, becoming particularly interested in political repression in both the Soviet Union and United States and how, during the Cold War, both countries used literature as a weapon. 

Lara earned her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband.

FINAL The Secrets We Kept BT Poster