Contemporary

All posts in the Contemporary category

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

Advertisements

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

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):

imagesCAF9JG4S

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

Talking About You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac with Chrissi Reads

Published September 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Set in the French countryside on an idyllic summer vacation, a delicious, tender novel about finding joy and love even in the most unexpected places. 

Jess and her ten-year-old son William set off to spend the summer at Château de Roussignol, deep in the rich, sunlit hills of the Dordogne. There, Jess’s ex-boyfriend—and William’s father—Adam, runs a beautiful hotel in a restored castle. Lush gardens, a gorgeous pool, delectable French food, and a seemingly never-ending wine list—what’s not to like? Jess is bowled over by what Adam has accomplished, but she’s in France for a much more urgent reason: to make Adam fall in love with his own son.

But Adam has other ideas, and another girlfriend—and he doesn’t seem inclined to change the habits of a lifetime just because Jess and William have appeared on the scene. Jess isn’t surprised, but William—who has quickly come to idolize his father—wants nothing more than to spend time with him. But Jess can’t allow Adam to let their son down—because she is tormented by a secret of her own, one that nobody—especially William—must discover.

By turns heartwrenching and hopeful, You Me Everything is a novel about one woman’s fierce determination to grab hold of the family she has and never let go, and a romantic story as heady as a crisp Sancerre on a summer day.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What do you think of this book’s title? Does it fit or would you call it something else?

BETH: Ooh, tough question. I have to admit, the title You Me Everything is rather generic but I don’t know if that’s necessarily a bad thing. It could encompass a number of different relationships that Jess has in the book – for example with her parents or more specifically her mother, or the one she has with her son OR the one she has with the father of her son, Adam. Maybe the title is actually about about all three?! In that way, it’s quite a good title I think because it doesn’t give anything away about how the story or any of these relationships could be portrayed in the novel.

BETH: Were you initially pulled into this story by the prologue or did it take you a bit longer to become invested?

CHRISSI: I was definitely invested from the very beginning. I feel like it was some sort of wizardry or something because I don’t usually get invested so quickly. I was desperate to find out more about Jessica. I even wanted to know more about Adam although I wasn’t so keen on him as character. I wanted to know if my first impressions of him were correct. I won’t say if they were or not though!

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, what did you think of Jessica and Adam’s relationship?

BETH: This is going to be so hard to talk about without spoilers but I’ll do my best. Adam is a very strange, not necessarily likeable character, particularly when we first meet him and as a result, I didn’t like him at all, especially in the opening chapter when Jess is giving birth to their son, William. There were times when I didn’t buy into their past, present or future situation at all and I found myself getting quite frustrated with it, I have to admit. Then the author throws in a twist that I wasn’t quite expecting and I found myself feeling slightly differently – I won’t say if it’s for better or for worse!

BETH: What did you think of the relationship between Jess and her son William?

CHRISSI: I feel like overall Jess wanted the best for her son. Jess still feels hurt from the way her relationship ended with William’s father, but she has reason to want William and his father to be close. I liked how she swallowed her pride to ensure they had a relationship. I feel like Jess is such a strong character. Although she did have her family supporting her through bringing up William, she was a single parent. William is incredibly well-adjusted and perhaps wiser than Jess gives him credit for. I think their relationship was utterly believable and I loved how much they clearly cared for one another.

CHRISSI: Did you think the relationships within this story were realistic?

BETH: I think I might have touched on that in my previous answer regarding Jess and Adam, the latter of which I was especially suspicious of throughout the narrative. As for the other relationships, I did find them quite realistic, particularly Jess’s relationship with her mum which at times, broke my heart (if you’ve read this already, you’ll know what I’m referring to!) I also really enjoyed Jess’s relationship with her son William whom she raised practically on her own as a single mother and in turn, found Williams’s relationship with his father, Adam difficult to stomach for perhaps obvious reasons.

BETH: Jess has to make some very tough decisions in this novel. Without spoilers, do you think she always did the right thing or would you have acted differently?

CHRISSI: Ooh yes, Jess certainly has tough decisions to make. It’s hard to discuss without spoilers but I shall do my best. I feel like Jess was very much guided by what her parents wanted her to do with regards to William’s relationship with his father. I could understand why she wanted to stay at home and think I would have that struggle as well. I think I would want to be more truthful with people around me, but I can totally see why she kept some things secret. I’m sitting on the fence with this answer really, but I can see why Jess made the choices that she did. She’s a strong, inspirational character who keeps going despite the hardships she’s facing.

CHRISSI: This book has been compared to Me Before You. Do you see the similarities and do you feel like this is a fair comparison?

BETH: It’s even got a similar title – er…kind of. I can see the similarities i.e. female protagonist, difficult romantic relationship and health issues BUT I would hate to compare it to one of my all time favourite reads as I don’t think it’s fair to compare a story that can stand on its own perfectly well and has major differences which make it very UNLIKE Me Before You. The only way I can compare it is to say that I really liked the female lead, appreciated the moments of joy and heart-break and was touched by a fair few passages in the narrative.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I thought Catherine Isaac had a very engaging writing style. I really liked how her characters were developed. I loved how this story was an emotional read too. It certainly had depth.

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):

four-stars_0

Mini Pin-It Reviews #24 – Four Books From Netgalley

Published September 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four books from Netgalley for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Me, Myself And Why: Searching For The Science Of Self – Jennifer Ouellette

What’s it all about?:

As diverse as people appear to be, all of our genes and brains are nearly identical. In Me, Myself, and Why, Jennifer Ouellette dives into the miniscule ranges of variation to understand just what sets us apart. She draws on cutting-edge research in genetics, neuroscience, and psychology-enlivened as always with her signature sense of humor-to explore the mysteries of human identity and behavior. Readers follow her own surprising journey of self-discovery as she has her genome sequenced, her brain mapped, her personality typed, and even samples a popular hallucinogen. Bringing together everything from Mendel’s famous pea plant experiments and mutations in The X-Men to our taste for cilantro and our relationships with virtual avatars, Ouellette takes us on an endlessly thrilling and illuminating trip into the science of ourselves.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) Land Where I Flee – Prajwal Parajuly

What’s it all about?:

To commemorate Chitralekha Nepauney’s Chaurasi – her landmark 84th birthday – Chitralekha’s grandchildren are travelling to Gangtok to pay their respects.

Agastaya is flying in from New York. Although a successful oncologist at only thirty-three he is dreading his family’s inquisition into why he is not married, and terrified that the reason for his bachelordom will be discovered.

Joining him are Manasa and Bhagwati, coming from London and Colorado respectively. One the Oxford-educated achiever; the other the disgraced eloper – one moneyed but miserable; the other ostracized but optimistic.

All three harbour the same dual objective: to emerge from the celebrations with their grandmother’s blessing and their nerves intact: a goal that will become increasingly impossible thanks to a mischievous maid and a fourth, uninvited guest.

Prajwal Parajuly – the son of an Indian father and a Nepalese mother – divides his time between New York and Oxford, but disappears to Gangtok, his hometown in the Indian Himalayas, at every opportunity. Land Where I Flee is his first novel.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

3.) Joy, Guilt, Anger Love: What Neuroscience Can And Can’t Tell Us About How We Feel – Giovanni Frazzetto

What’s it all about?:

Is science ever enough to explain why we feel the way we feel?

In this engaging account, renowned neuroscientist Giovanni Frazzetto blends cutting-edge scientific research with personal stories to reveal how our brains generate our emotions. He demonstrates that while modern science has expanded our knowledge, investigating art, literature, and philosophy is equally crucial to unraveling the brain’s secrets. What can a brain scan, or our reaction to a Caravaggio painting, reveal about the deep seat of guilt? Can ancient remedies fight sadness more effectively than antidepressants? What can writing poetry tell us about how joy works? Structured in seven chapters encompassing common human emotions—anger, guilt, anxiety, grief, empathy, joy, and love—Joy, Guilt, Anger, Love offers a way of thinking about science and art that will help us to more fully understand ourselves and how we feel.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) The Transcriptionist – Amy Rowland

What’s it all about?:

This powerful debut follows a woman who sets out to challenge the absurdity of the world around her. Lena, the transcriptionist, sits alone in a room far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the Record, the New York City newspaper for which she works. For years, she has been the ever-present link for reporters calling in stories from around the world. Turning spoken words to print, Lena is the vein that connects the organs of the paper. She is loyal, she is unquestioning, yet technology is dictating that her days there are numbered. When she reads a shocking piece in the paper about a Jane Doe mauled to death by a lion, she recognizes the woman in the picture. They had met on a bus just a few days before. Obsessed with understanding what caused the woman to deliberately climb into the lion’s den, Lena begins a campaign for truth that will destroy the Record’s complacency and shake the venerable institution to its very foundation. An exquisite novel that asks probing questions about journalism and ethics, about the decline of the newspaper and the failure of language, it is also the story of a woman’s effort to establish her place in an increasingly alien and alienating world.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI-PIN IT REVIEWS: Four YA Novels.

 

Summer Of Secrets – Nikola Scott

Published September 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Nikola Scott’s heart-breaking and unforgettable new novel tells the story of two women linked by a dark secret, in 1939 and the modern day. Not to be missed by readers of Dinah Jefferies and Kate Morton.

1939. Madeleine, an orphaned young woman, fears that life at her beautiful family home Summerhill will change for ever when her adored sister Georgina returns from London with a handsome and charming fiancé. Maddie fears that the man Georgina loves is not all he seems. And even idyllic Cornwall is falling under the shadow of war…

Today. Chloe is newly pregnant. This should be a joyful time, but she is fearful for the future despite her husband’s devotion. When her work takes her to Summerhill, she’s drawn into the mystery of what happened there decades before. And the past reaches out to touch her in ways that could change everything…

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Becky Hunter and the team at Headline publishers for providing a lovely surprise on my return home from work one day to find Nikola Scott’s second novel, Summer Of Secrets on my doormat. I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s debut, My Mother’s Shadow and was delighted to be able to dive into a new half historical/half contemporary fiction from Nikola sooner than I could have anticipated. Also, happy publication day as the novel is published today, the 6th September 2018 so you can get your mitts on it RIGHT NOW! For me, if I love an author’s debut, I’m always slightly nervous about reading their follow-up. Would I enjoy it? Can I see myself becoming a fan of her work and look forward to whatever she writes? Well, yes, yes and YES on all counts here, I’m thrilled to report. Nikola Scott has a real gift for writing sumptuous, atmospheric fiction that has the heady advantage of pulling you into her world immediately, keeping you captivated throughout and making it very difficult for you to want to let go by the end.

Nikola Scott, author of Summer Of Secrets.

Like My Mother’s Shadow, Summer Of Secrets uses one of my favourite ways to create a narrative – a dual timeline and two endearing and compelling female leads in each separate time period. In contemporary times we follow Chloe, who has just recently found out she is pregnant but has misgivings for both her future and the future of her unborn child. Having previously worked as a photographer prior to getting married, she is sent to the old country estate of Summerhill to meet a person she has idolised since childhood. This person is Madeleine, whom we hear from in the alternate timeline, set just prior to the war in 1939. A talented artist, Maddy is awaiting the return of her older sister, Georgiana who has been away for a little while but when she returns she brings someone into their lives, her new beau Victor, who turns everything upside down.

The sisters have learned to be self-sufficient from a young age after tragically losing their mother and father but it has made them intensely vulnerable in very different ways and we start to see evidence of this as the story continues. However, back in the present time, how does Chloe’s story connect with that of Madeleine, Georgiana and Victor? Can both women use the links and the similarities between their lives to help themselves (and each other) in their current situation? Or are they both too terrified of the potential consequences to open up and let the other one in?

Although Summerhill itself is fictional, the story is set in beautiful Cornwall, South-West England. 

Curling up with Summer Of Secrets was like having a cup of tea with your oldest friend. Sounds comforting, right? Now imagine your friend brought some snacks along and they are slightly spicy but you weren’t expecting it? That’s what the reading experience felt like to me. The story flowed along languidly and effortlessly and, quite unusually for me, I adored both the historical and the contemporary part of the narrative. This was a surprise as I was expecting to favour the historical side of the story and I can only credit Nikola’s character creation with this sudden change in my normal habits! She has written two utterly fantastic female protagonists that I instantly fell in love with, wanted to root for from the beginning and was genuinely interested in their welfare, particularly when we learn of the harrowing things they have been through in their individual histories.

However, what really pulled me into this novel was the smidge of darkness the author placed delicately and subtly at first into each woman’s story but then became such an integral part of the narrative that it did make for tough, uncomfortable moments at points, particularly as I personally identified with certain parts. I think the personal connection that I developed, especially with Chloe, made me further invested in the novel as a whole, willing her on from behind the pages, determined that she should find happiness. My partner will also attest to the fact that I exclaimed a few “choice words” out loud by the end of the novel (which amused him greatly!) as I found myself completely engrossed, forgetting where and who I was with.

I’m overjoyed to have been given the opportunity to read a review copy of Summer Of Secrets by Nikola Scott and even happier to announce that it exceeded all my wildest expectations for her second novel. I’ll just wait here quietly, eagerly anticipating her third!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Published September 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A powerful, darkly glittering novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Elle, Time, Parade, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, PBS, Vulture, Buzzfeed, BookRiot, PopSugar, Refinery29, Bustle, The Rumpus, Paste, and BBC.

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a religious group—a secretive extremist cult—founded by a charismatic former student, John Leal. He has an enigmatic past that involves North Korea and Phoebe’s Korean American family. Meanwhile, Will struggles to confront the fundamentalism he’s tried to escape, and the obsession consuming the one he loves. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act.

The Incendiaries is a fractured love story and a brilliant examination of the minds of extremist terrorists, and of what can happen to people who lose what they love most.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Grace Vincent for getting in touch via email and asking me if I’d like to take part in the blog tour for this stunning and powerful debut novel and to Virago for sending a copy my way in exchange for an honest review. To be frank, I’m a sucker for an eye-catching cover and this one certainly does the trick but when I read the synopsis above and realised the themes of religion, the loss of faith and extremism that it would explore, I couldn’t reply fast enough to Grace’s email, enthusiastically registering my interest in reading it. On receiving the book, I have to say, I was surprised at the length – it was a mere 210 pages long and yes, I was kind of nervous. I think if you have a novel that brief, the writing has to be so immaculate that it should pull you in quickly whilst leaving you fairly satisfied at the end. In other words, the author has so much to do in such a short space of time but I was hopeful that a novel named one of the most anticipated books of 2018 by publications like The New York Times could do exactly that.

R.O. Kwon, author of debut novel The Incendiaries.

I don’t want to re-hash the blurb for you right here, Goodreads does a tremendous job of that in the synopsis above so I’d just like to go straight into my thoughts and feelings about The Incendiaries, which in fact the more time I have away from it, the more I find I’m ruminating on the story and admiring the writing. This is *almost* a “read in one sitting,” kind of narrative and in hindsight, I wish I had had the opportunity to do just that but unfortunately work commitments got in the way and I read it in two separate sittings. I fell in love straight away with the writing which is assured, grandiose, thought-provoking and at times, filled with the most vivid imagery that I can’t bear to give it away, it’s definitely something to discover for yourself. All I’ll say on that score is that I connected very personally to a certain point in the text where our narrator, Will is hallucinating and various images related to the situation he finds himself in pop into his visual field. These images are so striking and graphically written I felt as if I was there with Will seeing exactly what he sees and feeling exactly what he feels at that moment in time.

The Incendiaries is incredibly literary in its tone and style and as a result, you have to be prepared for not necessarily getting all the answers you might crave. Phoebe and the leader of the cult she becomes enmeshed in, John Leal are much more enigmatic, mysterious characters that you don’t really find out a whole lot about and whilst that might frustrate certain readers, I enjoyed the vague, almost secretive air of what has happened to these characters in their past and what may have led to them to having the views they now possess or indeed, why they carry out the extreme actions that they choose to do. Our main focus for the narrative is on Will, whom I really felt sympathetic to as he struggled to understand Phoebe and attempted to connect with her on a deeper level but who seemed to always remain rather aloof, almost like mist slipping through your fingers.

I think one of the most fascinating things about this novel was its exploration of faith. Will has previously had faith and lost it and now doesn’t know where he stands on the whole “God” question. Phoebe has been through intense personal struggles of her own and has now found something new to put her faith in but as you can tell from the synopsis, she is incredibly vulnerable and as a result, her faith may be extremely misguided. The author gave an interesting and beautifully frank interview HERE about how she was raised in a very religious household and how she too, has become somewhat disconnected and disillusioned with Christianity which reminded me very much of my own upbringing in Catholicism compared to the confusion I now find myself feeling with religion which started during my teenage years.

The Incendiaries has a quiet, wonderfully confident quality to the writing and although it has moments which are almost like streams of consciousness and an ending which doesn’t necessarily wrap everything up in a neat bow, I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience and will be watching out for whatever this supremely talented author does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

R.O. Kwon’s first novel, The Incendiaries, is published by Riverhead (U.S.) and forthcoming from Virago (U.K.) in September 2018. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. She has received awards and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, and the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. Born in South Korea, she’s mostly lived in the United States.

Find R.O. Kwon on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16556776.R_O_Kwon

on her website at: http://ro-kwon.com/

on Twitter at: @rokwon

Thank you so much once again to Grace Vincent and Virago for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Incendiaries is published on the 6th September 2018 and is available as a hardback 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 Incendiaries on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36679056-the-incendiaries?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to The Incendiaries on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Incendiaries-R-Kwon/dp/0349011877/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535818983&sr=8-1&keywords=the+incendiaries