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Book Tag – Books Beginning With A.U.T.U.M.N.

Published September 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Autumn as today marks the beginning of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. I came up with this idea after seeing one of my favourite book tubers, Lauren from Lauren And The Books do a video at Christmas. She took each letter of the word CHRISTMAS and presented a title from her bookshelves that began with that letter. I’m going to nab that great idea and today I will be taking each letter of the word SUMMER and showing you a book from my TBR that begins with that letter which I hope to get round to very soon.

Check out my books beginning with S.P.R.I.N.G. HERE and my books beginning with S.U.M.M.E.R. HERE!

So without further ado, let’s get on with it!

A

What’s it all about?:

Science historian Laurel Braitman draws on evidence from across the world to show, for the first time, how astonishingly similar humans and other animals are when it comes to their emotional wellbeing.

Charles Darwin developed his evolutionary theories by studying Galapagos finches and fancy pigeons; Alfred Russel Wallace investigated creatures in the Malay Archipelago. Laurel Braitman got her lessons closer to home — by watching her dog. Oliver snapped at flies that only he could see, suffered from debilitating separation anxiety, was prone to aggression, and may even have attempted suicide. Braitman’s experiences with Oliver made her acknowledge a startling connection: non-human animals can lose their minds. And when they do, it often looks a lot like human mental illness.

Thankfully, all of us can heal. Braitman spent three years travelling the world in search of emotionally disturbed animals and the people who care for them, finding numerous stories of recovery: parrots that learn how to stop plucking their feathers, dogs that cease licking their tails raw, polar bears that stop swimming in compulsive circles, and great apes that benefit from the help of human psychiatrists. How do these animals recover? The same way we do: with love, medicine, and above all, the knowledge that someone understands why we suffer and what can make us feel better.

I adore non-fiction about animals and this book, which I won in a giveaway on Twitter has been sitting on my shelves for far too long. I’m hoping to put it on my TBR for Non Fiction November so will hopefully be reading it very soon, as I read the synopsis, I’m too excited to leave it any longer!

U

What’s it all about?:

A dark enchantment blights the land

Agnieszka loves her village, set in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she is everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he takes.

There was SO much hype around this book when it first came out and I can’t believe I still haven’t read it yet. I know my sister, Chrissi Reads didn’t get on too well with it and I’ve heard mixed reviews but I’m determined to find out what I think myself – what a gorgeous synopsis!

T

What’s it all about?:

During the long, hot summer of 1976, a young Cambridge mathematician arrives in a remote village in the Lake District and takes on a job as a farm labourer. Painfully awkward and shy, Spencer Little is viewed with suspicion by the community and his only real friendship is with scruffy, clever ten-year-old Alice.

This book wins the award for the shortest synopsis ever! Anyway, I’ve heard great things, particularly from my favourite book tuber, Savidge Reads so this definitely has to be read. At some point. #toomanybooks

U

What’s it all about?:

‘According to his mother, Jack Burns was an actor before he was an actor, but Jack’s most vivid memories of childhood were those moments when he felt compelled to hold his mother’s hand. He wasn’t acting then.’

Jack Burns’ mother, Alice, is a tattoo artist in search of the boy’s father, a virtuoso organist named William who has fled America to Europe. To fund her journey, she plies her trade in the seaports of the Baltic coast. But her four-year-old son’s errant father can’t be found, and soon even Jack’s memories of that perplexing time are called into question. It is only when he becomes a Hollywood actor in later life that what he has experienced in the past comes into telling play in his present……

Confession time. I haven’t read any John Irving before despite owning a few books by him on my shelves. This looks like a perfect place to start though. Intriguing synopsis and potentially fascinating characters I think!

M

What’s it all about?:

A twenty-four hour whirlwind of death and life.

In the depths of a winter’s night, the heart of Simon Limbeau is resting, readying itself for the day to come. In a few hours’ time, just before six, his alarm will go off and he will venture into the freezing dawn, drive down to the beach, and go surfing with his friends. A trip he has made a hundred times and yet, today, the heart of Simon Limbeau will encounter a very different course.

But for now, the black-box of his body is free to leap, swell, melt and sink, just as it has throughout the twenty years of Simon’s life.

5.50 a.m.

This is his heart.
And here is its story.

Also published as The Heart, this book won the Wellcome Trust Book Prize in 2017 and as a scientist who loves science non fiction, this seems like the perfect book for me. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book!

N

What’s it all about?:

Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.

To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things.

Ian McEwan. Contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Told from the point of view of a foetus. Enough said, right?

Here ends my Books Beginning With A.U.T.U.M.N! What I’d love to know from you guys is if you’ve read any of these books before and what you thought? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you’d like to do your own books of A.U.T.U.M.N. from your TBR, I’d love to see them so please feel free.

Hope you all have a cosy Autumn/Fall!

Love Beth xx

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It’s All In Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness – Suzanne O’Sullivan

Published September 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘Even if medical tests cannot explain your pain or tiredness or disability, it does not lessen your suffering. The pain of medically unexplained illness is every bit as real as any other and, if anything, is multiplied by the lack of understanding.

Most of us accept the way our heart flutters when we set eyes on the one we secretly admire, or the sweat on our brow as we start the presentation we do not want to give. But few of us are fully aware of how dramatic our body’s reactions to emotions can sometimes be.

Take Pauline, who first became ill when she was fifteen. What seemed at first to be a urinary infection became joint pain, then food intolerances, then life-threatening appendicitis. And then one day, after a routine operation, Pauline lost all the strength in her legs. Shortly after that her convulsions started. But Pauline’s tests are normal; her symptoms seem to have no physical cause whatsoever.

Pauline may be an extreme case, but she is by no means alone. As many as a third of men and women visiting their GP have symptoms that are medically unexplained. In most, an emotional root is suspected and yet, when it comes to a diagnosis, this is the very last thing we want to hear, and the last thing doctors want to say.

In It’s All in Your Head consultant neurologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan takes us on a journey through the very real world of psychosomatic illness. She takes us from the extreme — from paralysis, seizures and blindness — to more everyday problems such as tiredness and pain. Meeting her patients, she encourages us to look deep inside the human condition. There we find the secrets we are all capable of keeping from ourselves, and our age-old failure to credit the intimate and extraordinary connection between mind and body.

What did I think?:

Oh, the thoughts. Oh, the feelings. Let me try and start at the beginning and I’m hoping my words make some sort of coherent sense. If not, I apologise. I have a couple of non fiction shelves at home (which you’ll see in due course if you enjoy my Shelfie by Shelfie book tag), and never seem to get round to reading them until this year, I began a new venture where I read three books at once – a current “main” read, a non-fiction read and a re-read of an old favourite. I’ve been eagerly anticipating many of my non-fiction reads, well….apart from this one. Let me explain. I’m a sucker for an interesting title, cover and synopsis and I don’t shy away from potentially controversial subject matters if it means I can educate myself about particular topics but I really wasn’t sure whether this book might hit a little too close to home, even for me.

Neurologist and author, Suzanne O’Sullivan who won The Wellcome Trust Prize in 2016 with It’s All In Your Head.

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you might have seen in a previous review/post that I’ve been struggling for the past eight years with a chronic illness. Basically, my diagnosis is fibromyalgia with chronic fatigue syndrome and hypermobility. It’s got to the point in my life now where I’m managing to cope really well with it. I still have my bad days of course, and at the end of the week, it’s still a mission to keep myself standing upright but I’m absolutely determined  to stay positive and that it’s not going to take my life away from me. This is why I still continue to work full-time, even if it is quite a struggle at times, I have to be honest. If you want to read more about my story, I wrote a personal post HERE.

As I was FINALLY picking up this book, I felt nervous and excited in equal measure. I didn’t know whether this book was going to make me feel horribly angry or completely vindicated about my own chronic health issues. I posted a picture of the book on Instagram and had some amazing and very interesting responses, many of whom were reacting the same way as I did when I first saw that title. Of course, a title like It’s All In Your Head seems to have been deliberately chosen to be controversial and raise a few hackles and, job done, my hackles were well and truly primed. Nobody with chronic illness likes to be told “it’s all in your head,” especially considering the amount of pain, suffering, physical and emotional turmoil we go through on a daily basis. There is literally nothing else my doctor can do for me and how to manage my pain myself has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.

However, as I soon came to realise as I made my way through this fascinating and insightful book is that we don’t have to take that title literally and assume the author is saying something she is clearly not. As I’ve learned myself through my chronic illness journey, sadly a lot of my condition is psychological but a) that does not mean I’m going crazy, b) that does NOT mean I’m imagining it, c) my pain IS real and will probably always be there and d) I have to find the best way to cope with it (with the help and support of my loved ones) that will mean I have a fulfilling and enjoyable life. The author does briefly touch on illnesses like fibromyalgia and like she confirms, there is no definitive test for diagnosing it which makes it hard for both the patient and the doctor to ensure that the treatment offered is correct. Obviously more research desperately needs to be done and is ongoing but various studies have shown that although the pain is felt physically in different regions of the body, one theory is that the actual problem may lie in the pain receptors of the brain. In this sense, when you take the phrase “it’s all in your head,” might not mean what I initially assumed it to mean when I looked at the cover of the book and was instantly offended!

In this book, O’Sullivan follows a number of different patients, all with medically unexplained symptoms ranging from tiredness and pain to numbness, paralysis and even violent seizures and when nothing is discovered in blood tests, scans etc, suggests that there may be an emotional connection to the terrifying (and often debilitating) symptoms they are experiencing. She explores some intriguing ideas, including the age-old question – when did it become such a stigma to be psychologically unwell? As a society, we have an undeniable determination to pin everything down with physical evidence of malaise, only accepting cold, hard figures and scientific facts to prove that we are genuinely unwell. However, the individuals she talks about are truly exhibiting physical signs of illness and even if there isn’t a test yet that can decipher exactly what’s going on, O’Sullivan is simply suggesting all possible avenues, even psychiatric ones should be explored so that the patient can get the most appropriate, effective and individual treatment for them alone.

I’m so glad I read this book. Not only was it an absorbing and informative read but personally, I felt like it made me look at my own health problems in a whole new light. I came to this book determined to be angry with it and sceptical of the author’s own thoughts and feelings. However, at the end I felt slightly ashamed when I realised that they were perfectly sound and sensitive, particularly in her reactions to people who are genuinely suffering. Of course there are always going to be “those” people who are attempting to cheat the system and fake illness which is a real shame for those of us who are in very real pain and torment but I loved that O’Sullivan takes each one of her patient’s ailments seriously and compassionately, ensuring all the relevant boxes are ticked before suggesting that there might be an alternative explanation for their symptoms.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

It’s All In Your Head: True Stories Of Imaginary Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan was the forty-sixth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Blog Tour – After He Died by Michael J. Malone

Published September 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

You need to know who your husband really was…

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son, Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…
When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought they knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.
Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and all at Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and providing me with a complimentary copy of this fantastic psychological thriller in exchange for an honest review. There’s been a few novelists published by Orenda that I’ve been woefully behind in getting round to their work and Michael J. Malone is another one of those that I wish I’d picked up MONTHS ago. I’ve heard glowing praise and read wonderful reviews about his other work and of course, I’ve been following my fellow bloggers reviews on this blog tour which only made me keener to find out if I too could potentially become a huge fan. Well, Orenda never let me down with the supreme quality of authors that they publish so it was no big surprise that I loved everything about this novel, meaning Malone has yet another adoring reader to add to his list, which he fully and absolutely deserves – this story was exciting, meaningful and wonderfully told.

Michael J. Malone, author of After He Died.

Set in and around Glasgow, this is primarily the story of our female lead, Paula Gadd, in her late forties and grieving for her husband, Thomas who passed away unexpectedly one evening while out for dinner. Paula wasn’t present at the time of his death and sadly, blames herself for not being there at her husband’s time of need. However, things are about to get a whole lot darker when at her husband’s funeral a young woman slips a note into her pocket with a phone number to call insinuating that Thomas wasn’t who Paula thought he was. Having been married for almost thirty years, Paula’s world implodes as she continues to struggle with both her grief, the memories of losing her teenage son Christopher some years previously and this intense, new information that she has no idea what to do with. As the story continues, Paula begins to find out some remarkable secrets about her husband that still continue to affect certain people around her, including herself, in very frightening and unpredictable ways.

Glasgow, Scotland where much of After He Died is set.

Being of Scottish descent myself, I was delighted to read a book set in my home country which brought back feelings of nostalgia, happiness, comfort and home. I particularly enjoyed the way Malone used Scottish words and phrases that occasionally slip into my own vocabulary and leaves a minority of English people I may be talking to at the time looking rather confused! Coupled with this was the marvellous characterisation, particularly of Paula and the young woman she meets at the funeral, Cara. Funnily enough, I wasn’t sure about Paula at first. I was desperately sorry for her loss and was interested in how her future would look but it wasn’t until further along in the narrative that I really warmed to her. Much like Cara, she has gumption, drive, determination, focus, incredible strength and bravery and as some of you might know by now, I can’t get enough of a resilient, gutsy female lead!

However, I think the thing I admired most about this novel was the way Michael J. Malone chose to write about poverty in Scotland in contemporary times. It’s something that’s not really written about (or if it is, I haven’t read it, happy to accept recommendations!), and of course, it’s not just in Scotland, it’s all over the world, I accept that unequivocally. Nevertheless, it’s so refreshing to read a story where a well-off upper middle class woman comes face to face with the darker side of people who go hungry, are addicted to drugs, are homeless etc and explores her reactions/actions as a result. This is why I loved Cara so much as a character too. She was a real fighter for the unheard and often unseen, despite having a difficult upbringing herself and I loved her “never give up” attitude, morals and ethics. I might have had a bit of a girl crush, to be honest!

As I mentioned before, I can’t believe this is the first Malone book I’ve experienced but I’m ever so glad I started with this one. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment and can only rub my hands in gleeful anticipation at his past novels, just waiting to be explored.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up
in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary
magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland
and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize
from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes:
Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The
Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a
number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines soon
followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also
worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Find Michael on his Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6203125.Michael_J_Malone

on Twitter at: @MichaelJMalone1

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. After He Died was published on 30th July 2018 and is available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to After He Died on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40492826-after-he-died?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to After He Died on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/After-He-Died-Michael-Malone-ebook/dp/B07DFPCLNK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1537471301&sr=8-1

Talking About The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen with Chrissi Reads

Published September 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?
BETH: This novel is written by two authors – Greer Hendrick and Sarah Pekkanen, sadly neither of whom I’m familiar with. I’m always a bit nervous when I read a book that is written by two people, no matter who those two people are. I always wonder about how the writing process and how they manage to write together coupled with worrying that it might feel a bit disjointed as a result. I’m not sure why I feel this as my last experience with dual authors was very positive! Luckily, I had nothing to worry about. From that very first read of the synopsis, I was hooked and remained that way from the beginning to the end of this novel – it was fast-paced, easy to read and very compelling.
BETH: When you read that startling synopsis do you think it prepared you for the story within? Or were you still surprised by the twists and turns?
CHRISSI: Confession time! I didn’t read the synopsis before I read this book. When I looked at your question, I just had to look it up. What a cracking synopsis! After reading this book, I know it had so many twists and turns along the way. I think if I had read it prior to starting the story I may have been very cautious about the characters and events that happen in the story.
CHRISSI: Did you find any of the characters in this book likeable? If so, who? And if not, did it affect your enjoyment of the story?
BETH: Good question! Hmm. I don’t always need to find a character likeable to enjoy a story. Sometimes, I even prefer to read about more unlikeable individuals as I think it makes for a juicier narrative but it was quite hard with The Wife Between Us. I say that because I didn’t particularly like ANY of the characters. I disliked one of them intensely (but the less said about that the better), I disliked others to different degrees and I felt indifferent to others still! I did however, really like Aunt Charlotte, she was a lovely addition to the novel.
BETH: How do you think this novel compares to others in the genre?
CHRISSI: It’s an interesting one. This genre is so heavily populated, yet I do think it’s a book that stands out. I quite often can guess where a book is going yet with this one, it did surprise me. I definitely had a WTF moment when reading it and the ending did surprise me. I didn’t predict the ending and I’m pretty sure my mouth did actually fall open during the last chapter. It also stands out because it’s written by two authors. I can often struggle with this as their styles can be so different, but with this book it really, really worked!
CHRISSI: Without spoilers, were you able to predict the ending?
BETH: Nope. Not at all. Not even a little bit. I texted you about 42% through and I was like: “I’m so confused right now!” and although I then started to understand what was going on quite quickly afterwards, the twists and turns were not over by a long shot. There are still a multitude of surprises to be found throughout the second half of the book and particularly at the end. I love a novel where I can’t see something coming and it’s completely unpredictable and that’s what The Wife Between Us was for me.
BETH: Did you enjoy the relationship between Vanessa and her Aunt Charlotte in this novel? How did it differ to the one she had with her mother?
CHRISSI: Good question! The relationships in this book are fascinating. I feel like Vanessa’s relationship with Aunt Charlotte was much stronger than her relationship with her mother. They seem incredibly close. Aunt Charlotte seems to somewhat have Vanessa on a pedastal. I feel like Aunt Charlotte would tell Vanessa what she wanted to hear, whereas her mother might question her actions more?
CHRISSI: Do you think this book would make a good film?
BETH: Ooh, yes. Absolutely! I can totally see perhaps Reese Witherspoon and Patrick Dempsey in some of the lead roles and I think if it’s done in the right way, with the right cast, screenplay and director, it could be absolutely explosive. I’d definitely watch it. I would also hope that I would have forgotten the ending by then so I could be surprised and shocked all over again!
BETH: Would you read another book by these authors?
CHRISSI: I would! I see that the authors have another book coming out next year. I’m definitely intrigued to read that!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!
BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
four-stars_0
CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):
3-5-stars

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) – Sylvain Neuvel

Published September 19, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Themis Files is a deeply human story about a world-changing alien discovery.

17 years ago, a young girl named Rose fell through the ground in the Black Hills and found herself in an underground chamber filled with gleaming symbols, lying in the palm of a giant metal hand. Now a physicist, Rose leads a research team struggling to determine the hand’s origins. When another giant limb is discovered, she quickly devises a method for unearthing the hidden pieces, convinced there is an entire body out there waiting to be found.

Halfway around the globe, Kara watches helplessly as her helicopter shuts down over a pistachio field in Turkey. That’ll leave a mark, but she’s about to crash her way into what might be the greatest endeavor in human history.

This is a hunt for truth, power, and giant body parts. Written as a series of interview transcripts, journal entries and mission logs, The Themis Files tells the tale of a handful of people whose lives are inexorably linked by the discovery of an alien device and the commotion that follows.

What did I think?:

The books I buddy read with Janel who blogs over at Keeper Of Pages will always be a bit special to me as not only do we always have a wonderful experience reading them but we have a great chat about them too, always managing to be on exactly the same wavelength (sister from another mister, Janel?) and so far, we’ve given every single one we’ve read together five stars which I believe proves we really know how to pick some good ones! I’ve been stupidly excited about every book we’ve read together as usually they’ve been ones that have been languishing on my TBR for the longest time but I was particularly excited about Sleeping Giants. I managed to get my hands on a Goldsboro signed first edition with sprayed black edges and it’s one of the most gorgeous books I think I’ve got in my whole collection. Luckily, the story inside lived up to the beauty of the cover and although Janel and I had some teeny tiny issues with it, I still count it as one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Sylvain Neuvel, author of Sleeping Giants, the first book in The Themis Files trilogy.

As a work of science fiction, Sleeping Giants focuses mainly on two female lead characters, both strong, determined and intelligent. Rose is a physicist who when she was a young girl, happened to fall down a hole in the ground and land in the palm of a giant metal hand. Now she is part of the team under the instruction of an incredibly mysterious man who start to find other pieces of this alien-esque body dotted all around the world. With the assistance of Kara, a trained pilot who becomes vitally important to their mission, the team attempt to assemble the body parts into a whole, robotic creature whose purpose in the beginning is suspected but not quite fully known. As they start to try and move the robot, they discover further functions and capabilities of the strange object that have the potential to change the world for ever. All individuals involved in the mission become dangerously obsessed, almost to the point of madness as piece by piece, the possibilities in front of them are slowly revealed.

I have to admit, when I first received this book in the post, back when I used to be a member of Goldsboro Book Of The Month Club, I wasn’t very sure. I’m not a huge fan of science fiction as a genre BUT have found myself swayed in the past couple of years or so with fantastic books like The Sparrow and The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet. I think I can speak for both Janel and myself when I say that we were absolutely delighted by the story we found within, particularly the way it was set out – in the form of journal entries, files, telephone conversations etc. (Note to myself: “That may be why it’s called The Themis FILES, Beth!”). It was so very easy and compelling to read in this format and incredibly tempting to just read one more entry rather than putting the book down.

However, I think I was most bowled over by the availability of fiesty, sassy and clever female leads that we received in the form of Rose and Kara. They were so magnificent to read about in their own way – one quieter and methodical but with a steely confidence and no nonsense attitude and the other with well…..just an attitude. Only joking, I adored Kara’s fight, intolerance for stupidity and refreshing way of saying exactly what she was thinking disregarding any consequences to herself. Of course, we do start to see both women’s vulnerabilities and get some idea of what make them the women they are in the present time but when it comes to that explosive cliffhanger of an ending, it’s perfectly obvious that a whole lot more is going to be revealed in the next book in the series.

I think our only quibble with this novel (and it is a small one) is that because of the format, you don’t really get a linear narrative. That is, we might get a journal entry about a certain event that happens and we won’t get another file until a couple of years down the line in the future. This unfortunately had the effect of making us feel like we had skipped over really important parts of our characters lives and as a result, this made it slightly disjointed and jumpy, where we had to adjust quite quickly to the rapid movements ahead in time. It wasn’t difficult to adjust, not by any stretch of the imagination and we both still thoroughly enjoyed it but sadly, there were those occasional parts where I believe the reader could potentially think: “Wait, what have I missed?!”

Saying that and I really do want to end this review on a positive note because I still highly, HIGHLY recommend this book, this was honestly such a minor issue that I don’t think it would affect anyone’s enjoyment at all. I would still give a definite five stars for the story within this novel, I just have to be honest and if I have a slight doubt about jumps in the plot, I can’t give it the full five unfortunately. However, it was so, so close and I’m really excited to announce that Janel and I will be one hundred percent continuing with the series and reading the second novel, Waking Gods for our buddy read in October!

Thank you once again to Janel for an amazing buddy reading experience. Check out her amazing review HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

Past buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

The Fireman by Joe Hill – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

 

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel was the forty-fifth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Woolgrower’s Companion – Joy Rhoades

Published September 18, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Kate Dowd’s mother raised her to be a lady but she must put away her white gloves and pearls to help save her family’s sheep farm in New South Wales.

It is 1945, the war drags bitterly on and it feels like the rains will never come again. All the local, able-bodied young men, including the husband Kate barely knows, have enlisted and Kate’s father is struggling with his debts and his wounds from the Great War. He borrows recklessly from the bank and enlists two Italian prisoners of war to live and work on the station.

With their own scars and their defiance, the POWs Luca and Vittorio offer an apparent threat to Kate and Daisy, the family’s young Aboriginal maid. But danger comes from surprising corners and Kate finds herself more drawn to Luca than afraid of him.

Scorned bank managers, snobbish neighbours and distant husbands expect Kate to fail and give up her home but over the course of a dry, desperate year she finds within herself reserves of strength and rebellion that she could never have expected.

The Woolgrower’s Companion is the gripping story of one woman’s fight to save her home and a passionate tribute to Australia’s landscape and its people.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the author, Joy Rhoades for getting in touch and asking whether I’d be interested in reviewing her novel and to Virago UK for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. I had already seen some very positive reviews of this book from my fellow bloggers and was really looking forward to getting stuck in. I’m a big fan of historical fiction, especially when based around the Second World War period and even more so when we get to hear about a country aside from Germany, France, Holland or Britain that was based so far away from the immediate troubles but you could still see the devastating effects that the war had on the communities. I particularly love reading about countries that I’ve never visited before and the landscape and culture were so vividly drawn in The Woolgrower’s Companion that I could almost imagine I was right there experiencing everything our characters are going through at that point in their lives.

Joy Rhoades, author of The Woolgrower’s Companion.

Our female lead for the novel is Kate Dowds who lives on an estate, Amiens that farms primarily sheep, with her father in New South Wales. The year is 1945 and Kate soon finds out that the family are in dire financial straits with the terrifying possibility that Amiens will be re-claimed by the bank and that her and her father will be forced to leave and find a new home and livelihood. Kate’s father hasn’t been the same since he returned from the Great War, his memory decidedly unreliable and his moods changeable, prone to uncharacteristic outbursts. Additionally, two Italian prisoners of war have recently arrived at Amiens in order to help with the daily work, Luca and Vittorio but instead of being put at ease and relieved by their presence, Kate feels increasingly threatened and confused. Brought up as a lady and not accustomed to the hard work of running a farm, Kate must not only step up and take on more responsibility for running Amiens due to her fathers ill-health but she must also find a way to raise the money to save the family from an increasingly dire situation. However, as the money continues to trickle away, her father slowly deteriorates, the bank closes in and the tension between workers heightens on the estate, Kate begins to realise how desperate her life has really become and must draw on all her abilities to rescue them all.

New South Wales, Australia where The Woolgrower’s Companion is set.

Although it took me a little while to become fully invested in this story, by about halfway through I had become enraptured with both the plot and the characters, particularly our female lead, Kate, the struggles she goes through and the patience, strength and determination she displays to try and get herself and her father out of a very sticky situation. I’ve had personal experience with witnessing a person I know with PTSD and I fully understand how frightening, heart-breaking and frustrating it can be not only for the individual going through it but for the people around that it also affects and so my heart broke a little bit for Kate each time we saw a scene with her and her father. His reactions to his daughter were so familiar and reminiscent of my own experiences that at times, it was difficult to read but at the same time, highly rewarding as I felt even more connected to Kate than when I first began the novel.

Finally, I appreciated that the author didn’t make this novel a typical love story which it could quite easily have been. Perhaps the reader might realise where the narrative is heading eventually but I was delighted that it wasn’t all about the romance. It was much more about Kate as a character, her struggles and triumphs, the difficult relationship with her father, the treatment of the Aboriginal people and in effect, it was more a love story to Australia itself as the description of the land and the creatures within it was nothing short of magnificent and so visceral in the details. I would definitely be interested in reading more from Joy Rhoades in the future and was mesmerised by a truly captivating story.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Blog Tour – The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

Published September 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Long ago Andrew made a childhood wish. One he has always kept in a silver box with a too-big lid that falls off. When it finally comes true, he wishes it hadn’t…

Long ago Ben dreamed of going to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally goes there, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…

Ben and Andrew keep meeting where they least expect. Some collisions are by design, but are they for a reason? Ben’s father would disown him for his relationship with Andrew, so they must hide their love. Andrew is determined to make it work, but secrets from his past threaten to ruin everything.

Ben escapes to Zimbabwe to finally fulfil his lifelong ambition. But will he ever return to England? To Andrew? To the truth?

A dark and poignant drama, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a mesmerisingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart.

What did I think?:

I’m ashamed to say The Lion Tamer Who Lost is my first experience with Louise Beech’s writing but after this beauty of a novel, it certainly won’t be my last and I will one hundred percent be perusing her back catalogue of works whilst thoroughly chastising myself for not picking a book up by her sooner! As an author, Louise has always been at the periphery of my awareness, I’ve read the rave reviews from my fellow bloggers, I’ve heard the hype and become intrigued and when Anne Cater emailed me to invite me to take part in the blog tour for her latest novel, I simply had to jump on board and finally experience what it seems like everyone else has had the joy of experiencing so far. Thank you so much to Anne and to Karen Sullivan and all at Orenda Books for allowing me to download a copy of this superb, memorable and inspiring novel in return for an honest review and I’m delighted to report back that I loved every minute of it.

Louise Beech, author of The Lion Tamer Who Lost.

I might sound like a bit of a broken record here but as with a lot of other books I’ve read this year, I really cannot tell you too much about this book for fear of ruining it’s magic and majesty for the thousands of lucky readers who are still to get their paws on it. In a nutshell, it’s about two men, Ben and Andrew – the former goes off to Africa to fulfil his dream of working at a lion sanctuary but when he arrives there, he can’t help but have regrets and concerns about the situation he has left back home. Andrew is a writer, a dreamer, hungry for love and a family of his own and in the habit of making wishes (kept in a special wish box) that have a strange way of coming true, even if they are not in the way he would have hoped or expected. It’s a love story but it’s also a story of identity, learning to love yourself, accepting yourself for who you are, the importance of family and friends and communication between all parties and the desperate situations that we find ourselves in when communication falls apart.

Ethical volunteering at a lion sanctuary near Cape Town, South Africa.

https://www.viavolunteers.com/volunteer-south-africa-cape-town-lion-tiger-sanctuary.php

Now, I had heard rumours about the stunning nature of Louise Beech’s writing but I still wasn’t prepared for the sheer gorgeousness and emotion that encompassed the entire narrative. Louise really understands how to write characters that get deep under your skin in that you immediately feel an emotional attachment with them, are invested in their past, present and future stories and only want the best outcome for them as the story continues. This was definitely the case for me. Ben and Andrew were so vivid, real, raw and available throughout the novel that I felt I could have walked into the story and immediately sparked up a deep and meaningful conversation with them.

I also appreciated that this story wasn’t just about romance, it was also about family and friendship and, even more specifically, about all the troubles that come with that. As the old saying goes: “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family,” and Ben and Andrew both find this out in different ways as Ben struggles to connect with his bigoted father and military brother and Andrew finds it hard to find any family at all after the loss of his mother, no siblings and never knowing whom his father was. There are flawed characters, there are difficult circumstances and both men learn a lot about themselves and each other in the process but it all felt so incredibly authentic, just like issues any one of us may experience with our families and have to deal with.

I can’t express in enough words to try and convince you how wonderful and heart-breaking this novel is but I’m hoping my star rating speaks volumes. I became completely enamoured with the writing, the plot and the characters and was left bereft by the ending. Louise Beech deserves all the praise in the world for creating such a magnificent story that will remain etched on my memory for a long time to come.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be
Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in
My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Her third book, Maria in
the Moon, was widely reviewed and critically acclaimed. Her short fiction has
won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the
Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport
Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of
Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre,
where her first play was performed in 2012.

Find Louise on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4122943.Louise_Beech

on her website at: https://louisebeech.co.uk/

or on Twitter at: @LouiseWriter

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Lion Tamer Who Lost will be published on 20th September 2018 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to The Lion Tamer Who Lost on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40191563-the-lion-tamer-who-lost

Link to The Lion Tamer Who Lost on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lion-Tamer-Who-Lost-ebook/dp/B07DFQ9SW7/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537036095&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lion+tamer+who+lost