romance

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

Published September 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

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

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

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

A

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

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

U

What’s it all about?:

A dark enchantment blights the land

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

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

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

T

What’s it all about?:

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

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

U

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

M

What’s it all about?:

A twenty-four hour whirlwind of death and life.

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

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

5.50 a.m.

This is his heart.
And here is its story.

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

N

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

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

Hope you all have a cosy Autumn/Fall!

Love Beth xx

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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

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Published August 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

What did I think?:

I don’t think I’ve heard a bad word said about this novel. So when my lovely blogger friend Janel who blogs over at Keeper Of Pages, suggested that we choose it for our July buddy read, I jumped at the chance. My only hesitation was that I’ve heard Evelyn Hugo reads as if it were “chick-lit.” I’m not the biggest fan of that genre, particularly if it involves romance so I think that’s why I wavered a little bit before picking it up. Well, I needn’t have worried because this is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year and is definitely one I’ll be pushing into the hands of everyone who hasn’t read it yet. (You’re next, Chrissi Reads!). I’m not even sure if I can do justice to how wonderful this novel is in a short sum up but believe me, this book is totally worth your time. It’s a touching, raw and honest account of a Hollywood icon who is telling her story to reporter Monique, particularly of her seven husbands and, more specifically, revealing who was her greatest love.

Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo.

I don’t want to go into any more detail about the synopsis, the above extract from Goodreads does it kind of perfectly but I just want to re-iterate that I wasn’t prepared for how this book was going to make me feel. This is why I thank all the deities for buddy reads as if I hadn’t had anyone to discuss moments of this book with, I think I might have gone slightly mad. I was also delighted that Janel was just as invested and excited about the story as I was and as with all our other collaborations, we had a fantastic reading experience together once more. As for the narrative itself, I believe I became hooked incredibly quickly, curious about Evelyn’s story immediately and desperate to understand why she was choosing to reveal all of her secrets at that moment in her life and to that particular person (Monique).

I think we’re all aware of the fickle, occasionally dangerous side of Hollywood, particularly when you become an icon, similar to what our lead, Evelyn Hugo experiences but I certainly wasn’t expecting the beautiful way in which Taylor Jenkins Reid illustrated the dark side of the industry and how it can change/affect a person’s mindset. We’d all like to believe that it’s changed for the better in contemporary times but of course that’s not true, prejudice, sexism and bigotry are still rife – we just need to look at the recent scandals and disgusting behaviour of a certain director to have evidence of that! Back when Evelyn was a younger actress just starting out in the business though, things were demonstrably worse. She was even compelled to mask her true Cuban heritage by dying her hair blonde and portraying the image of a Marilyn Monroe-esque sex siren to get ahead in her chosen career.

What makes Evelyn such a fascinating character to read about? Yes, it’s the struggles she had to go through to get to the top and the sacrifices she made in her personal life to get there and, as I’ve mentioned, it’s a brilliant portrayal of Hollywood ideals at its ugliest. However, the most compelling thing for me about Hugo was the mistakes she made, the flaws in her character, her good heart underneath a steely, determined exterior and the dignity she maintains throughout despite intense suffering in her life. She felt so genuine and normal and of course, as she begins to reveal her secrets, the reader becomes more intrigued and fully immersed in her life. By the end of this novel, I felt like I knew Evelyn on such an intimate level, almost as if she was a real person and Janel and I both discussed how we felt as if we could google her life story on the web and there she’d be. I’m now hugely excited to read something else by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Evelyn Hugo stole my heart, broke it a little bit and made me long for more.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Past buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages (we’re so good at this that we’ve given everything that we’ve read together so far FIVE STARS!)

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

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

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

My Lady Jane: The Not Entirely True Story (The Lady Janies #1) – Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

Published August 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A comical, fantastical and witty re-imagining of the Tudor world, perfect for fans of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Lady Jane Grey, sixteen, is about to be married to a total stranger – and caught up in an insidious plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But that’s the least of Jane’s problems. She’s about to become Queen of England. Like that could go wrong.

What did I think?:

I chose this book as one of my recent Chrissi Cupboard Month picks because of the rave reviews I had heard about it, particularly from one of my favourite bloggers, Stephanie over at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction and of course, my sister whose opinion on books I trust implicitly. I’ve got to admit, I did keep putting it off, for two reasons which are both as silly as the other. The first is that I wasn’t completely sold on the cover (of the edition I have, please see image above) and I should know by now that judging a book by its cover is a very dangerous thing to do – who knows what you could be missing? Indeed, I’ve almost missed out on some amazing stories i.e. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes just because I mis-judged the cover and thought it would be something it wasn’t.

From top to bottom: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows, authors of My Lady Jane.

The second reason (and probably the silliest) is that I’m a huge fan of the Tudor period of history and adore fiction re-telling lives of the real people in this moment of history, particularly in the style of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir. As a result, I’m very familiar and fond of the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey and the thought of it being re-written to be completely different from the actual history with a humorous edge didn’t sit well with me and made me feel slightly uncomfortable, goodness knows why? Now I’ve experienced all the joy, brilliance and wit that Hand, Ashton and Meadows have brought to this tale I am a fully fledged convert to these new imaginings of history and am thoroughly berating myself for leaving it so long before reading in the first place.

My Lady Jane is the story of the Tudor dynasty, particularly the point where Lady Jane Grey ascends to the throne of England, like you’ve never heard about it before. It’s a land where there’s two classes of people, those that can turn into animals, otherwise known as Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated) and then there’s those who can’t. There’s a reason why Henry VIII was compared to a lion, you know! There’s quite a bit of bigotry and prejudice against people who assume their animal forms and huge factions of the country are at war with the young King Edward struggling to maintain control of his kingdom. It also doesn’t help that he’s dying and the succession for the throne is becoming very hazy indeed, particularly as Edward is certain if he chooses his sister Mary, she will be all too delighted to extinguish every last Eðian in England. Edward is also attempting to marry his cousin, Lady Jane Grey off so her future will be secured but the groom in question, Gifford is unable to control his urge to turn into a stallion every evening as soon as the sun goes down. Then all three become embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy for the throne that threatens not only their own lives but the whole future of England.

A portrait of the “real” Lady Jane Grey, also known as the Nine Day Queen.

This book was so much fun! I immediately texted my sister about twenty pages in and told her just how much I was enjoying it and could almost hear her sigh of relief from over fifty miles away. No, it’s not in any way a true account of the life of Lady Jane Grey but that’s one of the reasons why this book is so exciting. It feels fresh, unique, incredibly different and was so light-hearted and hilarious, it was a pleasure to settle down with it whenever I had a minute. It felt like re-visiting characters you know and love, like Jane herself, Edward and his sisters Mary and Elizabeth but also it painted them in such a distinct, new manner that it felt like you were getting to know them all over again. Gifford was a very welcome addition to the pack (or should that be herd?!), I loved his excursions as a horse, the way he opens up ever so gradually and ultimately, the growth of his relationship with Jane which was nothing short of adorable.

I really wasn’t sure whether the fantastical edge was going to work for a story about the Tudors but the authors have pulled it off magnificently. As a huge animal lover myself, I always enjoy animals within narratives but to have characters that can turn into animals? My heart was so happy. This novel was both a huge surprise and an absolute delight to read and I was completely won over by the wonderful ridiculousness of the narrative and how easy it was to devour.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton and Meadows was the forty-second book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Talking About Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore with Chrissi Reads

Published August 19, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

From the bestselling author of A Week in Paris, and the Richard & Judy Bookclub pick A Place of Secrets, comes a gripping and moving story spanning 70 years, set in Italy and in Norfolk. 

On holiday with friends, young historian Briony Andrewsbecomes fascinated with a wartime story of a ruined villa in the hills behind Naples. There is a family connection: her grandfather had been a British soldier during the Italian campaign of 1943 in that very area. Handed a bundle of letters that were found after the war, Briony sets off to trace the fate of their sender, Sarah Bailey.

In 1939, Sarah returns with her mother and sister from India, in mourning, to take up residence in the Norfolk village of Westbury. There she forms a firm friendship with Paul Hartmann, a young German who has found sanctuary in the local manor house, Westbury Hall. With the outbreak of war, conflicts of loyalty in Westbury deepen.

When, 70 years later, Briony begins to uncover Sarah and Paul’s story, she encounters resentments and secrets still tightly guarded. What happened long ago in the villa in the shadow of Vesuvius, she suspects, still has the power to give terrible pain.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your initial impressions of this book? Did it hook you from the start or did it take you a while to get stuck into the story?
BETH: I have to admit, like a lot of books in the past (and very recently!) I judged this book by the cover again. WHY do I keep doing that?! I thought it looked like a bit of a fluffy, contemporary romance which is a genre I’m not really into but I was willing to give it a chance, especially when you told me that you thought I would enjoy it and that it had a historical edge that reminded you of one of my favourite ever books, The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. However, I do have to be honest and say I wasn’t initially hooked by the beginning. When a narrative flows across two time periods, I often find myself preferring the historical tale and this was the same initially speaking, for Last Letter Home too.
BETH: In one of the very first scenes, Briony in contemporary times is trolled for some remarks she makes on feminism on a TV show. How do you think this affects her self esteem initially in trying to find information out about her mysterious grandfather?
CHRISSI: I think initially, Briony was really knocked by the after effects of the TV show. It takes her a while to get over how she was treated in the aftermath. Trolls are evil and can totally affect your self-esteem and self-worth, so this was utterly relatable. I feel like Briony was quite unstable at the start of the story and deeply affected. However, getting stuck into finding out more information about her grandfather draws Briony out of her shell and begins to give her some self belief. She has determination, that’s for sure.
CHRISSI: Do you think the dual timeline worked for this story?
BETH: At the beginning, it took a little while for me to get into it. I kept getting the main character in the contemporary time period, Briony messed up with Sarah in the historical period and it took me a little while to get their stories and who they’re involved with in the present time straight in my mind. However, once I had got this sorted, I really enjoyed how the dual time periods told such a fascinating story (from BOTH women’s points of view) and there were certainly secrets revealed that I wasn’t anticipating.
BETH: Were you aware at any points of the men “not to trust” and the men “who could be trusted,” in the narrative? Was it interesting to see the parallels between Briony and Sarah’s own lives?
CHRISSI: I’m always wary of characters in books which might say something about me. I was sure that Paul could be trusted as he seemed to be such a sweetheart. I loved reading about his interactions with Sarah. I really enjoyed the dual narrative of this story. It was interesting to see how Briony and Sarah shared many qualities with one another. They were both persistent, driven characters in their own time. I also liked how both story lines had elements of betrayal and deceit within them.
CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite narrative?
BETH: The historical narrative was hands down my favourite narrative. Although its not as overtly romantic as The Bronze Horseman, I can really see why you made that connection. I felt so awful for Sarah and her love interest in the novel, the strange triangle she found herself in and how other people’s attitudes at the time affected how she should be behaving/where she should be looking for a husband. I only wish we had heard more about her younger sister, who I found an incredibly intriguing character.
BETH: Sarah and her younger sister both have to deal with death at quite a young age – how do you think they cope with this as individuals?
CHRISSI: Good question! Sarah definitely dealt with the death in the family better than her younger sister. Sarah became really supportive towards her family. Sarah’s sister very much closes herself off from talking about death. She appears to be coping less well but I can’t say too much without spoilers! 🙂
CHRISSI: Did you feel like the chapters based during WWII were realistic?

BETH: I did. It wasn’t overtly graphic but it felt really authentic. It was simply the story of how normal people cope in extraordinary circumstances when food is reduced, danger is prominent and they are forced to live their lives they may not necessarily have imagined living them. One of the stand on scenes in the entire novel for me has to be when Paul is sent away to Italy as part of the war effort and has to witness a very difficult event, something that ends up changing his life forever.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I think it would depend on the subject matter. I did really enjoy Rachel Hore’s writing and the story was interesting, but she wasn’t an author that I’d read automatically when her book released.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

How Not To Disappear – Clare Furniss

Published July 26, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Our memories are what make us who we are. Some are real. Some are made up. But they are the stories that tell us who we are. Without them we are nobody.

Hattie’s summer isn’t going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to ‘find himself” and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum’s wedding. Oh, and she’s also just discovered that she’s pregnant with Reuben’s baby.

Then Gloria, Hattie’s great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria’s fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery — Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.

Non Pratt’s Trouble meets Thelma and Louise with a touch of Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, Clare Furniss’ remarkable How Not To Disappear is an emotional rollercoaster of a novel that will make you laugh and break your heart.

What did I think?:

This review comes with a big thank you to my wonderful sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads for recommending this book as part of my most recent Chrissi Cupboard Month, a bi-annual event where I attempt to get through some of the huge pile of books she has loaned me! I was first compelled to read this novel after being initially attracted by the front cover. Now I don’t normally like “people” on covers but for some reason, I find this one really appealing, there’s something about the colours and the attitude of the woman on the front that makes me smile. Then I read the synopsis and when I realised it touched on the subject of dementia, it was a no-brainer that I had to read it. Dementia is a topic really close to my heart for personal reasons, it’s probably my worst fear of getting older and I was completely right in thinking this would be a touching, emotionally poignant exploration of what it’s like to suffer from it.

Clare Furniss, author of How Not To Disappear.

This is the story of a young woman called Hattie who finds herself unsure about her future path in life, exasperated with her siblings, mother and stepfather and abandoned by her best friends whom it seems, have moved so far away (Edinburgh and Europe) that keeping in touch via email and the occasional text is the best form of contact she can hope for. Worst of all, she now finds herself pregnant with her friend Reuben’s baby and completely stuck as what to do as it seems unlikely Reuben would be willing to settle down. Surprisingly, Hattie then finds herself in contact with an old relative on her late father’s side, Gloria who also finds herself alone, troubled and in need of a friend. Gloria suffers with dementia and whilst her memories are starting to fail her she is determined to travel the length and breadth of the country with Hattie in tow in order to tell her story and make sense of a shattered past. As the two women travel and get to know each other, Hattie might just find the comfort and answers she desperately desires and Gloria may finally find peace along the way.

Hattie and Gloria go on a road trip across parts of the U.K. as we get flashbacks from Gloria’s past.

This book really knew just how to tug on your heart-strings. The dementia is obviously a huge part of the story and it’s absolutely gut wrenching to see how Gloria deteriorates, even in the short time that Hattie has with her but I also found it all so life affirming if that makes any sense? Gloria writes down everything in her little notebook, including tid-bits that Hattie shares with her about her own life and her problems regarding the pregnancy (in that she doesn’t know HOW to feel about it). It really warmed my heart the lengths Gloria went to and how hard she concentrated on trying to get to know Hattie better by any means necessary despite the failures in her own brain. One of my favourite things about this story just has to be Gloria as a character however, she was quite simply wonderful in every aspect of the word. From a very young age, she’s independent, says what she thinks and has a bright spark of a personality that refuses to be tamed. She goes through so much in her life, huge events that attempt to dampen that spark and sadly, they kind of succeed in one way but in another way, you can still see that old Gloria in there, refusing to lie down and be silenced. That just broke my heart.

This is a work of young adult fiction but to be perfectly honest, at no time when I was reading it did it feel that way for me. It delves into some very dark, difficult areas including teenage pregnancy, mental illness, domestic violence and emotional abuse and the intricacies of family relationships and these were all subjects that were handled so sensitively and intelligently that I constantly wanted to read on and uncover the mystery of Gloria’s life. This is a novel that has so much heart and soul emanating from every page and although it made for some tough, bitter-sweet reading moments at points, I’m ever so glad I read it and will certainly be watching out for anything Clare Furniss writes in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss was the thirty-ninth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!