British Books Challenge 2018

All posts in the British Books Challenge 2018 category

Blog Tour – A Dead American In Paris (Salazar Book 2) by Seth Lynch

Published June 12, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Arty Homebrook lived and died in a world of sleaze which stretched from Chicago to Paris but never beyond the gutter. He’d been sleeping with Madame Fulton, which is why Harry Fulton promised to kill him. So far as the Paris Police are concerned it’s an open and shut case. Harry’s father has other ideas and hires Salazar to investigate.

A Dead American in Paris places Salazar in the midst of an unpleasant underworld of infidelity, blackmail, backstreet abortions and murder. It’s enough to make you want to chuck it all in and take a job cleaning out the sewers. But Salazar is far too inquisitive to walk away and far too stubborn to know what’s for the best. So he wakes up each hungover morning, blinks into the sunlight, and presses on until it’s his life on the line. Then he presses on some more, just for the hell of it.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Emma Welton, amazing blogger extraordinaire at damppebbles, all round good egg and now blog tour organiser who invited me to take part in this blog tour via email. Thank you also to Fahrenheit Press who provided me with a copy of A Dead American In Paris in exchange for an honest review. I have a great love for crime fiction although I sadly, I don’t read it half as much as I used to as I felt that what I was reading was getting a bit “samey.” I tend to reserve reading the genre for books my fellow bloggers have got me really excited about, something out of the box and a bit different where I’m not going to predict the outcome halfway through. That’s why I’m so pleased that I read this book. Although it’s the second in the series and I haven’t read the first, A Citizen Of Nowhere, I genuinely believe that it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone. A Dead American In Paris is different in that it reads like a classic book in the genre. This is not only because of the time period it is set in, the early thirties in Paris but the writing style feels vintage, almost as if the author had placed himself directly within the 1930’s and is writing about it as he sees it at that moment – if that makes any sense?

Seth Lynch, author of A Dead American In Paris, the second book in The Salazar Mysteries.

Our male lead for the narrative is private detective, Salazar who has become embroiled in a very interesting case that looks remarkably like a murder carried out in a fit of jealous rage. The victim is Arty Homebrook, a rather shady character who sleeps around with a number of married women and appears to live quite a meagre existence in a shady, dirty flat. One of the aggrieved husbands, Harry Fulton is the main suspect in this case and is currently in jail pending trial. However, Fulton’s father has recently employed Salazar to find out the truth about what happened that night and of course, the real story behind the murder, is much murkier and more convoluted than anyone directly or indirectly involved in the case could ever have suspected.

An image of 1930’s Paris, where our story is set.

A Dead American In Paris was such a pleasant surprise. As I read the synopsis, I instantly knew that I was interested but I still wasn’t prepared for the journey that Seth Lynch would take me on. Not only were the characters wonderfully drawn but they felt incredibly authentic and after a very short time of reading, I wanted to know everything and anything about them. We have a wonderful and intriguing male lead in Salazar who is sarcastic, determined, impulsive but also tormented by his experiences during the First World War and by other, more individual worries and mental issues which plague him from time to time. In my eyes, this made him both a delight to read (in the way of his snide comments and that you never knew what he was going to try next!) and that he was undeniably human, with all the anxieties we all suffer at certain points in our lives.

I completely fell in love with this story. The plot, the characters, the way it moved steadily and slowly, each reveal happening methodically and intelligently. However, my favourite part had to be how it ended. As I alluded to in the first paragraph of my review, I hate the predictable and it’s a relief to know that Seth Lynch isn’t just going to rest easy on his laurels with a cliche….that’s all I’m saying!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Born and brought up in the West of England, Seth has also lived in Carcassonne, Zurich and the Isle of Man.

With two daughters, his writing time is the period spent in cafés as the girls do gym, dance and drama lessons.

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethALynch

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Seth-Lynch/e/B00E7SZ3FS/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sethlynchauthor/

Buy Seth Lynch’s book direct from Fahrenheit Press:

A Citizen of Nowhere (Salazar Book 1): http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_a_citizen_of_nowhere.html

A Dead American in Paris (Salazar Book 2): http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_a_dead_american_in_paris.html

The Paris Ripper (Chief Inspector Belmont Book 1): http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_the_paris_ripper.html

 

Thank you once again to Emma Welton and Fahrenheit Press for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. A Dead American In Paris was published in August 2017 and will be available as a e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

 

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39788613-a-dead-american-in-paris?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-American-Paris-Salazar-Book-ebook/dp/B07BSB9KBB/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528650141&sr=8-1&keywords=a+dead+american+in+paris

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Blog Tour – The Log House by Baylea Hart

Published June 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The forest is a deadly place.

Nobody knows this better than Penny. She has spent her whole life hiding in the darkness, shielding herself from the terrors that watch and wait within the trees.

When Penny is abandoned and left for dead in the forest, she is forced to navigate this terrifying labyrinth in order to return home to her son and take revenge on the woman who tried to kill her.

But the murderous creatures with the false smiles aren’t the only monsters to lurk in the forest, and some demons may be closer than she thinks.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Unbound Publishers for sending me a copy of this astonishing novel in exchange for an honest review. I haven’t read any horror stories for a little while now and as it’s one of my favourite genres, it was about time that I re-visited it once more! So when the email from Anne flew in and I read the synopsis, I couldn’t have be quicker in replying to her with an ardent: “Yes please!” Horror can be a bit hit and miss sometimes. For me, an author has to really get under my skin, build up that tension and drama and the terrifying moments have to be convincing and genuinely scare me. I mentioned in a review recently that events in a horror novel or film are often a lot more frightening if the creature/monster/villain is not completely seen, in other words – if it is only hinted at and left in shadow.

Has anyone seen the film Jeepers Creepers? As soon as I saw the monster in all its glory, I wasn’t scared anymore. (To be perfectly honest, I found it quite funny and not in the least scary but that says more about my sense of humour than the creature in the film, I think!!). Anyway, I digress – back to The Log House. What I’m trying to say is that Baylea Hart pulled off the scary moments in her novel wonderfully well. She doesn’t completely unearth the creature, there’s mention of the colour grey, and long, claw like hands but we don’t ever get the full detail about what it looks like. For me, this made it MORE frightening and definitely ensured my thorough enjoyment of the novel as a whole.

Jeepers Creepers – you don’t scare ME! The Log House? Umm…. you do!

So, the synopsis above already does a wonderful job of explaining what this novel explores and I don’t think I could do much better. Basically, we follow a young mother called Penelope who lives in a safe house with a number of other residents, including Mary whom she has had a bit of history with. Penny ends up in the forest on her own because of the bad blood between Mary and herself. She has a head and ankle injury and is quite far away from home but that’s the least of her problems. A safe house is necessary for the inhabitants of this world because of the creatures that stalk around, attracted by light and invoke instant death if you’re unlucky enough to come across one. Penny must fight to avoid these creatures as she treks through the forest to get back to her son and to avenge herself upon Mary. It’s not long though before she discovers that there may be worse things out in the woods then these monsters.

Baylea Hart, author of The Log House.

I had a sneaking suspicion that I might enjoy this book just from the dedication alone, where I felt a certain kinship with the author as soon as I read: “To my family, for giving me Stephen King books to read as a child. This is all your fault.” I thought to myself if the author of this novel has taken any inspiration from the Master Of Horror himself, (who just happens to be my all-time favourite author), I’m in for quite the ride and I was certainly correct in my initial assessment! This book is disturbing, graphic, horrifying and tense in equal measures and I was absolutely gripped by both the character of Penny and the electrifying plot. Penny is not a particularly likeable character and has made a couple of shady decisions in her past which has led to her fractured relationship with Mary but I couldn’t help but admire her gutsy, determined nature. She goes through absolute hell in those woods, not only in hiding/avoiding these awful monsters but struggling through the pain of a horrific injury combined with how she deals with several dangerous situations with some very different kinds of monsters along the way.

This is a richly imaginative tale of horror from a talented writer that made me catch my breath and provoked multiple shivers down my spine. I was particularly unnerved by the fact that Penny realises that when everything goes deathly silent, the creatures are near and she has no other option but to hide. No bird song, no leaves rustling – just utter silence.

“Watch for the silence, said the voice in her head. It’s the only warning you’ll get.”

Personally, I found this incredibly frightening and I could instantly see this being played very well in a film. As the narrative continues, we learn much more about Penny and her past, the creatures themselves and how one simple, distorted sound: “Haaaaa,” has the potential to chill your blood.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Baylea Hart is an IT Technician by day, horror writer by night and a reader everywhere in between. In 2013 she wrote, directed and edited the short film Behind the Door, which won a Top 50 spot in the Bloody Cuts “Who’s There?” competition and as of 2015 has over 410,000 views on YouTube. In October 2015 she won the Bristol Horror Writing Competition with her short story Jack in the Box, and her short story Eyes Open was published in the 12th issue of 9Tales Told in the Dark. Baylea’s debut novel The Log House was published by Unbound in 2018.

She can be found on Twitter @bayleahart and on her website http://www.bayleahart.com/

Thank you once again to Anne Cater and Unbound Publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Log House was published in January 2018 and will be available as a paperback and e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to The Log House on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36502696-the-log-house

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Log-House-Baylea-Hart/dp/1911586467/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528041732&sr=8-1&keywords=the+log+house

Blog Tour – Days Of Wonder by Keith Stuart

Published June 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A story about family, love and finding magic in everyday life, Days of Wonder is the most moving novel you’ll read all year.

Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable.

But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah’s diagnosis with a heart condition that will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen, that time is coming.

Hannah’s heart is literally broken – and she can’t bear the idea of her dad’s breaking too. So she resolves to find a partner for Tom, someone else to love, to fill the space beside him.

While all the time Tom plans a final day of magic that might just save them both.

Days of Wonder is the stunning follow-up to Keith Stuart’s much-loved debut A Boy Made of Blocks – and a book to fall in love with.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Clara Diaz and Sphere Publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I first came across Keith Stuart when I read his incredible debut novel, A Boy Made Of Blocks which completely captured my heart. So, it’s safe to say not only was I stupidly excited when I received my copy of Days Of Wonder but my expectations for the novel were astronomically high. Luckily, I was in no way disappointed. Keith Stuart writes with passion and intelligence but most importantly of all, with real heart and this novel was a touching, beautifully realised piece of contemporary fiction with an emotional edge that had me laughing and tearing up in equal measure.

Keith Stuart, author of Days Of Wonder.

This novel explores the special relationship between single dad, Tom and his fifteen year old daughter, Hannah. His wife and Hannah’s mother, Elizabeth left when her daughter was quite young and since then, it has been them against the world. This is particularly poignant when Hannah begins to get ill and heart-breakingly, is diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. In other words, her heart just isn’t strong enough to pump blood around her body. The cold, hard reality of this condition is that she could die at any time and more recently, her normal, teenage exertions have caused her to black out, indicating that she could be getting worse. Tom, manager of the local Willow Tree Theatre, has been trying to keep her spirits up ever since she was diagnosed, by introducing her to the theatre and encouraging the troupe of actors he employs to put on small plays for her each year on her birthday – these he calls “days of wonder.” The rest of the narrative follows Hannah and Tom as they struggle with her condition and the potential closure of the place that they love the best. They learn the importance of leaning on their friends within and out of the theatre and explores the beautiful bond between father and daughter as they deal with the terrifying situation where they never know whether one day may be her last.

This picture illustrates the thin walls of Hannah’s heart compared to a “normal” heart.

Oh my goodness, this book. It was so moving and brilliantly written, by the end I felt as if I knew all the characters intimately, as if they were in my own life. Keith Stuart expertly blends the happy and devastating moments of Hannah’s life with wonderful, laugh-out-loud humour and painful, gut-wrenching moments so that one moment you can be smiling and by the next page you’re horribly upset. My favourite part of the whole novel has to be the characterisation which is simply fantastic but in particular, that father-daughter relationship between Tom and Hannah which filled me with a sort of aching longing for a relationship I sadly have not experienced myself. Besides this, there are multiple other characters, like fiesty pensioner Margaret and their close friends at the theatre: Sally, Ted and James amongst others who are all beautifully drawn and all feel startlingly authentic. Additionally, all these characters have their own problems in their lives, for example, Callum’s struggles with mental illness, Sally and Ted’s independent marital issues, James’ private and internal battle with his own feelings….. I could go on.

Told in alternate chapters between both Hannah and Tom’s point of view, this is a stunning story of a father and daughter who forge a stronger and more meaningful relationship through their tough times. It highlights the importance of family and friends and the magical consequences of fighting for something you desperately believe in. As the saying goes – read it and weep. I certainly did.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Keith Stuart is an author and journalist. His heartwarming debut novel, A Boy Made of Blocks, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and a major bestseller, and was inspired by Keith’s real-life relationship with his autistic son. Keith has written for publications including Empire, Red and Esquire magazine, and is the former games editor of the Guardian. He lives with his wife and two sons in Frome, Somerset.

Find Keith on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/441866.Keith_Stuart

on Twitter at: @keefstuart

Thank you once again to Clara Diaz and Sphere publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Days Of Wonder is published on the 7th June 2018 and will be available as a paperback and e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34460802-days-of-wonder?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Days-Wonder-most-magical-moving/dp/0751563315/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528039280&sr=8-1&keywords=days+of+wonder+keith+stuart

F*** You Very Much: The Surprising Truth About Why People Are So Rude – Danny Wallace

Published June 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

You’re not imagining it. People are getting ruder. And this is a serious problem.

Did you know that even one rude comment in a life and death situation can decrease a surgeon’s performance by as much as 50%? That we say we don’t want rude politicians, but we vote for them anyway? Or that rude language can sway a jury in a criminal case?

Bestselling writer and broadcaster Danny Wallace (Yes Man, Awkward Situations For Men), is on a mission to understand where we have gone wrong. He travels the world interviewing neuroscientists, psychologists, NASA scientists, barristers, bin men, and bellboys. He joins a Radical Honesty group in Germany, talks to drivers about road rage in LA, and confronts his own online troll in a pub.

And in doing so, he uncovers the latest thinking about how we behave, how rudeness, once unleashed, can spread like a virus – and how even one flippant remark can snowball into disaster.

As insightful and enthralling as it is highly entertaining, F*** You Very Much is an eye-opening exploration into the worst side of human behaviour.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Chloe Rose and Ebury Press via Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of Danny Wallace’s new book in exchange for an honest review. A big thumbs up to blogger friend Stuart at Always Trust in Books for letting them know that I might enjoy this one too! And enjoy it I certainly did. I’ve read a few of the author’s previous books in my pre-blogging days such as Join Me and Yes Man and thoroughly enjoyed his writing style and sense of humour so I was pretty confident that I was going to feel the same about this one, especially when I found out the subject matter – rudeness, a HUGE bugbear of mine. I devoured this book in about a twenty-four hour period and loved every moment, particularly when Danny draws on personal experience and of course, the geek in me enjoyed when he drew on scientific research to illustrate his (many) great points.

Danny Wallace, British author of F*** You Very Much.

So, I don’t think I need to go into too much depth about the contents of this book – the title and subtitle pretty much do the job for me! It’s a fascinating insight into how our society has got ruder and Danny explores the reasons that may be behind this gradual change in attitudes. The book itself is divided up into certain sections, to name a few of my favourites: Bad Manors, Women And Rudeness, Policing Rudeness and Rudeness And Power. It’s not until the author delves deeper into the subjects of why people have become so rude that I really started to notice things in my own life that I have found more difficult in recent years. To take a personal example, I have a chronic illness and can’t stand up for long periods of time but have to make a long commute into London each day. The rudeness I’ve encountered when people glance at you and then deliberately look at their phone to avoid giving you a seat is frankly, unbelievable and can be quite upsetting.

Then there’s trolling on the Internet, particularly Twitter, a hotbed of vicious snipes and negativity. Danny recounts his own personal experience with a troll who sent him an incredibly nasty message. I won’t go into what happens with this pathetic excuse for a human being but let’s just say Danny feels somewhat vindicated in the end. Throughout the entirety of this book, the author talks about the topic of rudeness with a wry sense of humour that at points, had me cackling like a banshee.

Ah….if only all Internet trolls were as cute as this!

Although it was one particular “hotdog” related incident that was his inspiration for opening up this fascinating talking point, he also quotes some historical incidents and, as I’ve mentioned real, hard evidence to back up his claims. Some of the information he quotes is hysterical, for example, how can one naked bottom save lives and change the behaviour of a group of people? Other parts are far more sobering, like the shocking effect one stressful, rude incident can have on the performance of a doctor/surgeon leading to potentially mistakes being made and lives being at risk.

Why have we got ruder? It’s hard to say but it seems to be a growing problem. Danny invites you to think of TV personalities that are famous for being rude and people LOVE them for it. Think of Simon Cowell who says exactly what he thought on TV talent shows, Anne Robinson who delighted viewers with her put-downs on The Weakest Link and Gordon Ramsay where everyone is on tenter-hooks, waiting for him to blow his top with some poor, unsuspecting cook.

“Right, I’ll get you more pumpkin. I’ll ram it right up your f***ing a***. Would you like it whole or diced?”

Gordon Ramsay said this by the way, not me. Complaints his way please!

Finally, there is the perhaps obvious blatantly rude person in the media at the moment. You know, the one who was elected as President Of The United States. A lot of people didn’t see it coming but come it did and personally, I continue to be horrified with everything that comes out of his mouth. If that kind of person can be elected to be in charge of a country, well…..the less said about that the better otherwise I’ll just get into a massive rant. I’ll just say that the author describes Trump’s personality and the things that he has done/said so far perfectly when relating it to the topic of the book, but somehow manages to stay light-hearted and bring out that fantastic humorous side that he is well known for.

Donald Trump – Rudeness And Power?!

There’s so much to savour in this book, tasty tid-bits that I know I’m going to remember and quote to others like the information junkie that I am! It explores so many topics, including class, power, the modern world and women with such delicious detail that I could go on and on about the wealth of information covered within. One final thing – the author describes how if you experience someone being rude to you, you are statistically more likely to be rude to another person later on, maybe that day or perhaps a bit later, depending on how the incident has affected your state of mind. This absolutely horrified me as I would hate to be “that person,” and I would hope that I’m not intentionally rude to ANYONE. However, when I mused on it a bit more, I realised that it may be true. I’ve been grumpy, been upset and I’ve probably mistakenly snapped at someone else because I felt hard done by! It’s horrible to think of and I’ll certainly be checking my reactions in the future. Meanwhile, if you’re into non-fiction and fancy a few smiles and things to mull over, F*** You Very Much is definitely the book for you!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone

Published May 29, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, in which a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery. On a clandestine trip to The Inch – the new volcanic island – to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body. Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done…

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and providing me with a copy of Fault Lines in exchange for an honest review. Well, honestly, I’ve never read anything by Doug Johnstone before but after this little blinder of a novel, I will certainly be reading more. This is a relatively short read at 300 pages in paperback form but it packs so much intrigue, betrayal and secrets into the narrative that you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a much longer novel. At the same time, it doesn’t feel long at all. I sped through this in about a 24 hour period because I did find it so difficult to put down, I had to know what happened. Being set in Edinburgh (hailing from that fair city myself), was just the icing on the cake for me and the author backed up his alternative setting with intriguing characters and an exciting plot.

Doug Johnstone, author of Fault Lines.

The author chooses to set his story rather alternatively, as I’ve already alluded to, in a modern Edinburgh with a difference. There has been a fault in the tectonic plates which make up the shell of our planet and it has caused a volcanic island to erupt in the Firth Of Forth. Our female lead, Surtsey (named after a volcano in Iceland) is a scientist who makes regular trips to the island to collect and analyse soil samples, carry out research etc. When we meet her, she is travelling to meet her boss and married lover, Tom on the island for a rendez-vous but she is shocked to discover his body instead with violent evidence that he might have been murdered. From this time on, we follow Surtsey as she makes decisions about what to do next and learns to cope with what she has discovered and her own actions following the gruesome find. Then somebody texts her on Tom’s secret phone that he only used to contact her. They know what happened and they have no qualms about making her life a complete misery, even resorting to drastic measures when the threats have little effect.

The Firth Of Forth with the Forth Rail Bridge in Edinburgh.

What a great read this was! I adored the re-imagining of Edinburgh and it was strange, even though this volcanic island is obviously imaginary, Doug Johnstone describes everything so beautifully that I could almost picture it in my mind, from the boat ride over to the island itself. Coupled with this new entity in the middle of the estuary, the residents of Edinburgh also have to deal with regular tremors which funnily enough, have become part of everyday life. It was really interesting that as the tension and action gradually increased in the novel, so too did the intensity of the tremors which only made for a more powerful reading experience.

I just have to mention the characters as well, particularly Surtsey who at times, was quite unlikeable but unlike other books I’ve read recently where the character put me off the entire book, this wasn’t the case at all with Fault Lines. I think it’s because Surtsey felt really believable to me. She wasn’t an angel, she made some AWFUL decisions where as a reader, you just want to scream at her to “stop! go back! be careful!” but of course, we all make mistakes. She drinks too much, she smokes too much marijuana and of course, the ill-advised affair with her married boss but something about her still made me want to carry on reading. It might have been the relationship with her terminally ill mother and her wayward sister but I don’t know, in the end I just ended up feeling sorry for her.

The Icelandic volcano Surtsey, from where our main character takes her name.

All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised by my first novel from Doug Johnstone. It was a thrilling read that had obviously been methodically planned and although I guessed the perp behind the mysterious texts to Surtsey, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel in the slightest. If all the author’s books are like this, I want to be reading them!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His fourth novel, Hit & Run, is published by Faber and Faber on March 15th 2012. His previous novel, Smokeheads, was published in March 2011, also by Faber. before that he published two novels with Penguin, Tombstoning (2006) and The Ossians (2008), which received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and Christopher Brookmyre.Doug is currently writer in residence at the University of Strathclyde. Hes had short stories appear in various publications, and since 1999 he has worked as a freelance arts journalist, primarily covering music and literature.He grew up in Arbroath and lives in Portobello, Edinburgh with his wife and two children. He loves drinking malt whisky and playing football, not necessarily at the same time.

Find Doug on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/758942.Doug_Johnstone

or on Twitter at: @doug_johnstone

Thank you 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. Fault Lines was published on the 22nd May 2018 and will be available as a paperback and e-book. In fact at the time of writing it was on Amazon UK for the bargain price of 99p! If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37849000-fault-lines?from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fault-Lines-Doug-Johnstone/dp/1912374153/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527355288&sr=8-1&keywords=fault+lines

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Published May 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

What did I think?:

If you haven’t read this book yet and have been umming and aahing about picking it up, please finish your current read and read it next! I put off reading this book for the longest time, even after it won the Costa Award for Best Debut Novel and even still when it was long-listed for The Women’s Prize For Fiction this year. I have heard so many rave reviews and sometimes all the hype can make me steer clear of a book rather than gravitating towards it. After all, what if it isn’t as good as everyone says? What if I’m the lone wolf in a sea of popular opinion? I’m delighted to tell you, I’m most definitely a sheep. I ADORE THIS BOOK. Janel from Keeper Of Pages (please follow her, she’s one of my blogger bezzies and a wonderful reviewer!) finally convinced me to pick this novel up in our second buddy read this month and like The Fireman last month, we both can’t speak highly enough of it. Please check out her awesome review HERE. This novel has the strange accolade of being heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time. It made me laugh, it brought me close to tears and finally, now I see what all the fuss is about.

Gail Honeyman, author of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

So, is Eleanor Oliphant Completely Fine? Well, no she’s not. You know that very British thing that most of us do when we’re feeling rubbish and yet someone asks us how we are and we say: “Fine, thank you,” when we’re clearly not?! This is poor Eleanor. Her life consists of working nine to five, five days a week in an accounting firm in Glasgow. She barely interacts with anybody except to do her job and her social awkwardness and blunt way of speaking does not endear her to her co-workers. In fact, she becomes quite the figure of fun. As soon as Friday hits, Eleanor grabs a couple of bottles of her favourite vodka, shuts herself up in her house and doesn’t speak to another living soul until Monday morning when the whole cycle starts again. This is until she meets Raymond who works in IT at her company and they both help a stranger when he falls ill in public. From here on, Eleanor’s life changes dramatically and will never be the same again. She begins to realise she is not in the slightest “fine,” and never wishes to be so miserable or lonely again.

Glasgow, Scotland where our story is set.

I can’t even deal with how many emotions this book evoked from me. I felt an instant connection when I realised it was set in Scotland, as my veins do run blue with Scottish blood but besides the setting, this is such a stunning piece of debut fiction that it took my breath away. Beginning in quite a melancholy way, where we see the loneliness and hopelessness of our female lead’s life was gut-wrenching to say the least. However, then it changes and the story is so very uplifting that it made me cheer silently multiple times as I got to know Eleanor, broke my heart for her, rooted for her and at the end, felt real and definite hope for her future. Eleanor is a complex character that really gets under your skin. Because of her past, she is not aware of the intricate niceties of interacting with other people and can come across rude, abrupt and brutally honest.

I couldn’t believe some of the things that she came out with sometimes, there were plenty of laughs but I remember at the same time shaking my head in disbelief and sadness at her naivety when facing the modern world. Things like smartphones, going to gigs and getting her nails done are big deals for Eleanor and as she continued to force herself into new, sometimes scary situations, I couldn’t help but smile at the endearing nature of it all. You don’t find out what has happened in Eleanor’s past until quite late on in the novel and although Janel and I desperately wanted to know what had gone on with her, I completely believe this was the perfect way to structure the book. You fall in love with Eleanor first as a character and it only makes it more heart-breaking when the trauma of her past is finally revealed in full, horrific detail.

Please do me a favour and read this book if you haven’t already. Eleanor is such a special character and both her and her story will play on my mind for a long while to come.

Thank you once again to Janel for an amazing buddy reading experience!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Sealwoman’s Gift – Sally Magnusson

Published May 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives sold into slavery in Algiers were the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards. It was a time when women everywhere were largely silent.

In this brilliant reimagining, Sally Magnusson gives a voice to Ásta, the pastor’s wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Ásta meets the loss of both her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home: the stories in her head. Steeped in the sagas and folk tales of her northern homeland, she finds herself experiencing not just the separations and agonies of captivity, but the reassessments that come in any age when intelligent eyes are opened to other lives, other cultures and other kinds of loving.

The Sealwoman’s Gift is about the eternal power of storytelling to help us survive. The novel is full of stories – Icelandic ones told to fend off a slave-owner’s advances, Arabian ones to help an old man die. And there are others, too: the stories we tell ourselves to protect our minds from what cannot otherwise be borne, the stories we need to make us happy.

What did I think?:

The Sealwoman’s Gift had been on my radar for a little while after I saw it being advertised as a highly anticipated read for this year from some of my favourite book-tubers. I mean, that gorgeous cover is enough to draw you in and make you want to read it, right? Then when I found out that it was a re-imagining of an actual historical event that happened in Iceland in the 17th century which tore apart countless families, I knew it was something I had to get my hands on. I am trying to be good at the moment with a book-buying ban and a determination not to buy hardbacks on the cards, so I was delighted when Two Roads Publishers via Book Bridgr sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It came at a time when I really needed cheering up so a huge thank you to them. Generally, I found this novel to be a solid, beautifully written story that at points, was comparable to being told an old folk-tale. Of course, the fact that this event actually occurred makes this tale all the more intriguing and I thoroughly enjoyed Sally Magnusson’s fictional version of it that was quite obviously extensively researched.

Sally Magnusson, author of The Sealwoman’s Gift.

The event I’m referring to is one many people may not be overly familiar with. It happened in 1627 and involved a host of pirates who attacked the coast of Iceland, removing many men, women and children from the nearest towns, sailing them back to Algiers and selling them all into slavery. We follow one woman in particular, Ásta, who is pregnant at the time of the raid and is captured along with her husband, Ólafur and most of her children. Ásta ends up being separated from her husband and this is the story of how she copes in the house she is sold into, her relationship with her children and her absent husband and especially, how she changes as a person when she is wrenched away from a much simpler life and everything she has ever known.

The beautiful Westman Islands, mentioned by Ásta in the novel.

I always worry when I fall in love with a book’s cover that the inside won’t match the outside, so as to speak. Luckily, I had no worries on this account with The Sealwoman’s Gift. I was absolutely captivated by Ásta’s tale and the people that she met along the way, particularly in Algiers where the course of her life changes forever. I have to admit to being slightly nervous when I saw the cast of characters in the front of the novel, especially the Icelandic names which I’m not too familiar with. However, there was no need to panic, the book is written in such a way that you can easily get your head round who is who in a very short amount of time. I also loved the inclusion and translation of some common Icelandic words which just added to the other-wordly, beautifully alien and very unique feel of this story.

This isn’t just a narrative that re-hashes a moment in history, this is also a story about the relationships between families and between husband and wife and how they are altered when one or both of the parties goes through a life changing event, experiencing new things outside their humdrum, ordinary existence and developing into a different person as a result. The author uses one character in the novel to bring a folk/fairy-tale element to the proceedings when Ásta is warned about her future by one of the more superstitious islanders. I loved how this was incorporated into the tale and it gave the reader something to look back on and analyse when our female lead’s life takes a more dramatic turn.

This is a debut novel that drops you right into Iceland’s past authentically and evocatively and having been to Iceland myself, I could picture everything in full, glorious detail. I’ll certainly be watching out for what Sally Magnusson does next, her writing is too gorgeous to miss out on.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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