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Blog Tour – Blackberry And Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

Published January 10, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

WHEN Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Ella Patel for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Quercus Books for providing a complimentary copy of the novel on a recent Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening/bloggers event which showcased some of the books they were excited about for 2019. I was lucky enough to meet the author herself and her editor at the event and they made Blackberry and Wild Rose come alive in my imagination before I had the good fortune to read it leaving me in no doubt at all that this book HAD to make my January TBR. Now I’ve read it, I can see why Quercus were excited. This gorgeous, sumptuous novel is abundant in historical detail and provides a fascinating insight into the work and politics of Huguenot silk merchants in the late eighteenth century.

Sonia Velton, author of the debut novel Blackberry And Wild Rose.

Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres to devour and I always believe, must be the most difficult but rewarding niches to write within. The amount of research that has to go into your chosen time period/setting must be astronomical because at the end of the day, the reader has to feel transported to that particular place. It has to be evocative, believable and encapsulating and certainly with the historical fiction I read, I like to be able to visualise everything I’m reading about so succinctly. In Blackberry And Wild Rose, it is obvious that Sonia Velton knows her topic inside out and upside down. More importantly, she is able to produce a compelling, rich narrative that immediately captures the readers attention with some glorious, authentic characterisation that puts you immediately within the grimy, vivid and impoverished heart of eighteenth century London.

Spitalfields woven silk court dress from the 18th century.

Image from: https://www.museumoflondonprints.com/image/138334/spitalfields-woven-silk-court-dress-18th-century

Blackberry And Wild Rose is a beautiful story of two very different women, the wife of a Huguenot master silk weaver, Esther Thorel and a young woman, Sara Kemp who has been working as a prostitute since she arrived in London. Esther “rescues” Sara from the brothel and the demanding madam she is working under and sets her to work in her home as a maid, believing she is doing a good, Christian deed. Before long, we start to realise that there is a lot more bubbling under the surface for both women that will have drastic implications for the rest of their lives. I loved that nothing about either of the characters that Velton creates is black or white, good or bad. We get a unique impression of each woman along with their thoughts, feelings and potential motives for their actions. Additionally, as we get to know them a bit better, we realise that each woman has their own particular flaws that make them imperfect but, provide them with an increased resilience. They are then able to battle through their problems and focus on making a better life for themselves with minimal damage to their dignity and characters.

Set against the backdrop of the seedier side of London at this time period, I loved how this novel was a story of two halves. That is, the rich Huguenot wife who seemingly, never wants for everything and the “down on her luck” young woman who resorts to selling her body just to be able to survive. The clash of two such different women with the realisation that in fact, they’re more similar than they realise was fascinating to read and with the addition of the silk-weaving politics at the time, made for a hugely enjoyable reading experience. Sonia Velton writes with such beauty and elegance that I was delighted by this novel and certainly made a little note to myself to seek out whatever she writes in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Sonia Velton has been a solicitor in Hong Kong, a Robert Schuman Scholar in Luxembourg and spent eight years being a full-time Mum of three in Dubai. She now lives in Kent. Her first novel, BLACKBERRY AND WILD ROSE, tells the story of a fictional household of master silk weavers living in eighteenth century Spitalfields. The protagonist is loosely inspired by Anna Maria Garthwaite who was the foremost silk designer of the mid-eighteenth century and the title takes its name from an actual silk design. The novel was shortlisted as a work in progress for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2015 and longlisted for the Myslexia Novel Competition.

Find Sonia on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17154363.Sonia_Velton

or on Twitter at: @soniavelton

Thank you so much once again to Ella Patel and Quercus Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Blackberry And Wild Rose is published on 10th January 2019 and will be 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 Blackberry And Wild Rose on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36222190-blackberry-and-wild-rose?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to Blackberry And Wild Rose on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackberry-Wild-Rose-Sonia-Velton/dp/178747075X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1546941572&sr=8-1&keywords=blackberry+and+wild+rose

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Introducing The Girl Who Lived Twice (Millennium #6) by David Lagercrantz – COVER REVEAL

Published November 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special post on bibliobeth today. I’m delighted to be involved in the cover reveal of the sixth book in the Millennium series which was originally created by Stieg Larsson before his untimely death. The first three books in the trilogy were: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. The trilogy made him second best-selling author in the world in 2008, the third novel became the most sold book in the USA in 2010, the series has sold over 80 million copies world-wide and has been adapted into major motion pictures.

After Larsson’s death of a heart attack at fifty years old, David Lagercrantz decided to continue on the series and so far has published The Girl In The Spider’s Web in 2015 and The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye, released last year.

In the sixth book of the Millennium series, The Girl Who Lived Twice, we see the return of protagonist Lisbeth Salander and although I really need to catch up with this series (Spider’s Web has been on my book shelves for quite a while now!) I can’t wait to get started. The thought that I have two books in the series to read at the moment with the next one being released next year is very exciting!

I’d love to know in the comments if you’re a fan of the Millennium series? Are you looking forward to the next book being released or are you a little behind like me and need to catch up? OR – if you’ve never read the series before is it something that interests you?

Thank you so much to Hannah Winter at Quercus books for the opportunity to share this cover reveal!

Love Beth xx

The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

Published November 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?

A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Wilkie Collins and MR James meet Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the lovely people at Quercus Books, not only for hosting a fabulous Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening which I was delighted to attend with my blogger bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages but for kindly providing me with a copy of Elly Griffiths new stand-alone novel to check out and review prior to its publication this month. Elly Griffiths is probably best known for her archaeologist Ruth Galloway series of books that began with The Crossing Places back in 2009 and currently boasts ten books, the most recent, The Dark Angel published earlier this year and the eleventh in the series, The Stone Circle due to be released in 2019. For some reason, she’s always been on the edge of my radar, particularly this series which I know is well loved with Val McDermid herself calling it “my favourite series.” However, I just haven’t managed to get round to reading anything – occasionally when I know I already have so many books to catch up on in a crime series, it can be a little daunting and slightly intimidating!

Now I have FINALLY experienced what a great writer Elly Griffiths is, I have immediately put the first Galloway book on my wish list with a view to reading it in the very near future. The Stranger Diaries has everything you might want from a thriller, including great characterisation, an exciting and unique plot and an ending you just don’t see coming. I was instantly entranced by the mystery, delighted by the thought of a story within a story and although there were plenty of red herrings thrown in the readers way, never guessed what was really going on which came as a very welcome surprise when I reached the tantalising finale.

Elly Griffiths, pen name for Domenica de Rosa, British crime novelist and author of The Stranger Diaries.

The Stranger Diaries follows our female protagonist, teacher Claire Cassidy who teaches English at a local school and a creative writing course on the side. Currently, she is also hard at work on a biography of the famed Gothic author R.M. Holland who also shares a strong connection with the school, having a study in the uppermost parts of one of the buildings. Holland was perhaps most famous for his short story The Stranger and his tragic life when his wife fell down the very steps that lead to his study within the school, her ghost still reported to haunt the building.

The tension and terror increases exponentially when a teacher’s body is found murdered with a quote from Holland’s famous story beside her and it’s not long before the suspicious deaths start to pile up, revealing strange parallels and comparisons to The Stranger. DC Harbinder Kaur is tasked with investigating and cracking the case however her job becomes infinitely more difficult when Claire starts to find messages in her diary that she hasn’t written. More importantly, these are messages written in the same hand that wrote the notes at the crime scenes of Claire’s murdered acquaintances.

Shoreham By Sea, Sussex, England – setting for The Stranger Diaries.

When I first picked up this book at the Quercus event I was instantly intrigued by that fascinating synopsis. Notes in a diary written by a stranger? Chilling! I was overjoyed to discover once I began reading that this teaser of the situation our main character finds herself was a mere prelude to a wonderfully Gothic and nail-biting story. The inclusion of The Stranger short story that Claire teaches in her course and how it ties in with the contemporary narrative was magical to read and brought a beautiful sense of atmosphere and drama to the proceedings. The novel is told by three different characters – Claire herself, her teenage daughter Georgie and Detective Harbinder Kaur who were all written perfectly with their own separate personalities and completely believable. I didn’t particularly warm to any of them on the initial meeting but what’s wonderful about Elly Griffiths writing is that you really feel you get to know them on a deeper level as the story continues and they become more “real.”

I’m definitely not going to be fearful any more of finally starting this talented author’s other series of books, namely the Galloway and Mephisto series! Furthermore, I’m hugely grateful to Quercus for giving me the opportunity to experience Griffiths’ gripping writing in a stand-alone novel. It’s easy to see why she has such a legion of fans and I’m so pleased to call myself one of them.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

A Different Drummer – William Melvin Kelley

Published November 12, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Set in a mythical backwater Southern town, A Different Drummer is the extraordinary story of Tucker Caliban, a quiet, determined descendant of an African chief who for no apparent reason destroys his farm and heads for parts unknown–setting off a mass exodus of the state’s entire Black population.

Nearly three decades offer its first publication, A Different Drummer remains one of the most trenchant, imaginative, and hard-hitting works of fiction to come out of the bitter struggle for African-American civil rights.

What did I think?:

There are these special books that don’t come round very often but when they do, they evoke such strong feelings in the reader that makes them impossible to forget. That’s the way I’m still feeling about A Different Drummer a few days after finishing it. This is the kind of book that you finish reading and feel emotionally changed as a person. It’s also the kind of book that you instantly need to talk to everybody about to gauge if they had a similar response and you might even (if you’re like me) press it into the hands of your nearest and dearest and insist they read it too. I think I would have read this book eventually, I have become a lot more intrigued in African-American history recently but I certainly wouldn’t have read it as soon if it hadn’t been for the lovely people at Quercus Books providing me with a copy at a recent Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening and letting me know that it was “one of the most important books they would publish this year.” I wholeheartedly and passionately agree.

William Melvin Kelley, author of A Different Drummer.

A Different Drummer is Kelley’s extraordinary debut novel and was originally published in 1962. Described as a “lost masterpiece from a forgotten giant of American Literature,” this novel won Kelley much critical acclaim with comparisons rolling in to writers such as James Baldwin and William Faulkner. I don’t want to say too much about the narrative because the beauty of this novel is discovering its understated brilliance for yourself. It follows Tucker Caliban, a descendant of an African chief forced into slavery as one afternoon, he obliterates his farm suddenly and without warning and then proceeds to leave with his family in tow. This precipitates the entire black population from the town and surrounding areas to follow in his footsteps and move out and away. The reader is left with a multitude of questions – what was Tucker’s reasoning behind his actions? Furthermore, how did this inspire a whole race to follow his lead?

Although the town in Kelley’s story is fictitious, the novel is set in the American South.

This is the kind of book that sneaks up on you without you recognising the majesty of its power or the effect it might be having on you until you reach the very end. I began reading A Different Drummer and instantly admired the writing style and quiet confidence of the story-telling but initially, didn’t believe it was anything too special. I’m not sure when the switch happened in the novel for me but I don’t think it was long before I realised that I was reading something very unique and exciting indeed. We hear from the point of view of a number of different characters, across the historical period where Tucker grew from a boy into a man. Then, as we view Tucker through their eyes and sense the vicious undercurrent of racism and prejudice in the town, we begin to understand the actions that led to rising tensions for Tucker personally and eventually, the mass departure of the black population.

This is a slow-burning, deliciously literary novel that gradually assimilates piece by piece, the smaller pieces of a puzzle until we have the full, horrifying picture. It does feel languid and methodical at points but I believe that only makes the resulting climax at the finale of the book even more pertinent and shocking. There’s no big twist, that isn’t the kind of novel this is but the author is definitely not afraid to explore the darker, more brutal sides of prejudice. It really captured my attention, made me think and at many points, completely took my breath away. Quercus are right. This is SUCH an important book. It needs to be read and appreciated.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Friday Black – Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Published October 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In the stories of Adjei-Brenyah’s debut, an amusement park lets players enter augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors, a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory, and an author sells his soul to a many-tongued god.

Adjei-Brenyah’s writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage, and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day. These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world.

What did I think?:

This review comes with a huge thank you to Quercus Books whom at a recent “Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening” kindly provided me with a copy of this book in a fun little “blind date,” where the book was wrapped up in standard brown paper with a few teasing pieces of information on the front to suggest what might be inside. If you follow me on Instagram/Twitter you might have already seen what was there but for those of you who don’t I’ll just mention it here briefly because it was what was said on the front that made me desperate to find out exactly what the package contained. Endorsed by both Roxane Gay and George Saunders (if this isn’t accolade enough in itself?) it was described as being “a punchy short story collection examining racial injustice in modern America.” Buzzfeed also called it “Black Mirror-esque.” With these two exhilarating statements I knew I was in for something very unique and noteworthy and once I opened it and was faced with that stunning cover design and a synopsis that knocked my socks off I knew that I was a very lucky girl indeed and this collection was going to be nothing short of monumental.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of the short story collection, Friday Black.

So, I had already suspected that I was in for a wild ride with this collection but even then, I still wasn’t fully prepared for the journey it would take me on both emotionally and intellectually. I don’t want to talk about any individual story too much and ruin the pleasure other readers are going to get from this astounding debut but it’s honestly one of those books where after you read it, you feel a little changed as a person. The collection opens in the most gut-wrenching and shocking manner with a story called The Finkelstein 5 (possibly my favourite story of them all) and to give you an idea of the personal impact on me I’ll give you a taster of the first few lines:

“Fela, the headless girl, walked toward Emmanuel. Her neck jagged with red savagery. She was silent, but he could feel her waiting for him to do something, anything.”

You know when you start reading something and you get this instinct that what you’re about to witness in the form of devouring these words is going to be incredible and unforgettable? That’s what The Finkelstein 5 was for me and it was impossible to resist as soon as I had read that outrageous (but brilliant!) first paragraph. From this first story onwards, each of the other tales stands on their own individually and proudly as a true testament to the sheer strength and beauty of Adjei-Brenyah’s writing style. Many stories verge on the dystopian and fantastical but frighteningly, many of them actually feel realistic. It’s easy to imagine these horrific instances of racism, prejudice and brutality occurring if the technology mentioned in one particular story – “Zimmer Land” is used in a malicious way to justify abhorrent racist attitudes.

One of the stories in this collection, Friday Black imagines the retail event Black Friday in a particularly violent fashion. This particular image I discovered from Black Friday 2017 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I had a sneaky suspicion that I was going to adore Friday Black and I wasn’t wrong. It’s fairly rare that I feel inspired to tweet, especially after a short story but in this case, The Finkelstein 5 had such an enormous impact on me I immediately had to tell the whole world about it. It was so powerful in both its scope and intensity that I couldn’t fail to be affected and was the perfect way to begin a staggeringly good collection. Yes, there’s always the worry that the following stories won’t live up to the brilliance of the first but I was delighted to discover that almost every single tale afterwards left some sort of footprint in my mind.

I was completely prepared to be moved, haunted and dumbfounded but I wasn’t expecting things to get so emotional and there was a particular story – “Lark Street” that absolutely destroyed me and left me a sobbing mess. I really can’t say anymore but if any regular readers are aware of my personal struggles the past eighteen months or so, I’m sure you’ll understand. Amidst this devastation however, I couldn’t help but be in complete awe of this writer’s talent, his ability with words, his imagination and creativity and the way in which he managed to make me feel so much, in very different ways with each of his stories. Thought-provoking and highly original, this is short story collection you really can’t afford to miss!

Published by riverrun publishers, an imprint of Quercus Books, Friday Black is out NOW.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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