#blogtour The Companion by Sarah Dunnakey @SarahDeeWrites @orionbooks @Leanne_Oliver1

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The Companion by Sarah Dunnakey  Orion July 27th 2017

Oakenshaw, Yorkshire, 1932 and Billy Shaw is happily helping out at Potter’s Pleasure Palace, an old mill turned into ‘the best entertainment venue in Yorkshire’ His Ma along with sisters Maud and Peggy run the highly successful tea room. Life is good until Billy’s life is turned upside down when Mr Potter answers an advert and sends him off to the house on the hill, High Hob, to be the companion of Jasper Harper, a boy of similar age, but not definitely not similar in nature. Jasper lives with mother Edie and her brother, Charles. Both are  authors who have fled the hustle and bustle of London to write in the relative quiet of Yorkshire.

Billy’s life changes from the moment he steps over the threshold. Edie and Charles are  so wrapped up in their own worlds they care little about Jasper’s increasingly wayward antics.  Billy remains Jasper’s companion for four years before fleeing to London as the bodies of Charles and Edie are found, both dead, the result of an apparent suicide pact.

Fast forward to present day and Anna, is the new new custodian of Ackerdean Mill, once known as the Palace. Anna wants to drag Ackerdean Mill into the present day attracting new visitors and as she begins the task she chances upon documents relating to Charles and Edie and begins to doubt the suicide verdict and it is not long before old secrets begin to surface.

Written using a dual time line Dunnakey is wonderfully adept at using this device to slowly unravel Billy’s life, the clues and revelations that Anna discovers from the people she meets in the village and the documentation and photographs she unearths.

Dunnakey’s writing is such that as the two narratives intertwine the reader is pulled one way and then the other until finally earth shattering secrets rise to the surface. and the story reaches its dramatic conclusion.

The characters are beautifully portrayed. I especially loved Billy. A sensitive boy with a love of birds, with the drive to make something of himself despite all the obstacles placed in his way.  Even Jasper had some appeal despite his violent and mean tendencies.

What really stood out for me was the imagery and the setting. I found myself transported to the wilds of the moors, feeling the warmth of the sun in the summer and the desolation and bleakness of winter. As a Yorkshire lass born and bred I felt quite homesick at times!

This novel had everything. Its a mystery, a love story and a historical novel all rolled into one and I loved it.
Thank you to Louise Oliver and Orion for the proof copt=y to read and review and the opportunity to be part of the blog tour.

About the author.

Sarah Dunnakey was raised in Yorkshire and Teeside, She has been a librarian, a Victorian education officer and a researcher before becoming a question verifier for Mastermind and University Challenge.

In 2014 Sarah won a Northern Writers Award for ‘The Companion’.

Sarah lives in West Yorkshire with her husband and teenager.

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

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The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham  Sphere July 11th 2017

Two women both at opposite ends of the social spectrum. Agatha, single, not necessarily pretty and working at a supermarket. Meg, glamorous wealthy wife of Jack, a famous sports presenter.

Both women are pregnant, babies due at the same time. But all is not what it seems. Both have a secret, a secret that needs to stay buried before it destroys what they both have.

This a taut psychological thriller and one in which Robotham gets to the very core of the psychology of each woman, particularly that of Agatha.  Agatha has even deeper, darker secrets that stem from an unhappy childhood and follow her into adult life. In some ways you feel pity for her even if what she does is wrong.

The plot takes many twists and turns and the reader is left guessing what will happen next.

A little different from your normal psychological thriller but definitely one to read and enjoy

Thank you  to Sphere and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review.

About the author

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Michael Robotham was born in Australia in November in 1960 and started his writing career as a trainee journalist in Sydney. His first novel, The Suspect, was published after a fierce bidding war. Michael has since won the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger Award for his novel Life or Death

 

 

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The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley  Bloomsbury Circus July 13th 2017

Merrick Tremayne, resides in Heligon with his brother Charles. The house is in a state of disrepair and neither has the finances to fix it and to add to their misery each despises the other.

After injuring his leg and being left with a bad limp, Merrick is resigned to life as a parson, until his old friend Clem appears offering him a position on an expedition to deepest darkest Peru to collect quinine plants.

Their adventure in the depths of Peru in an unseasonably cold summer finds them stranded in the town of Bedlam Stacks. Merrick meets Raphael, the local priest, who somehow knew his father and his grandfather.
It is soon revealed that Raphael suffers from catalepsy, lapsing into a trance like state for hours and years at a time.  At this point the novel somehow became unappealing, and indeed the whole of the second part of the novel was all too unbelievable for me.

It is meticulously researched and well written, but is tedious in parts and overly long.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Circus and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review

About the author

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Natasha Pulley was born in December 1988. She was educated at Soham College, New College Oxford and was awarded an MA in creative writing at University of East Anglia.

Natasha's first novel, the Watchmaker of Filigree Street, won the Betty Trask Award in 2016.

 

 

Together by Julie Cohen @julie_cohen @Lauren_BooksPR @orionbooks

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                              Together by Julie Cohen  Orion July 13th 2017

The blurb on the back of the proof says ‘Is this is a great love story? Or is this a story of great love? You decide’

Ok, I thought, am not a great one for love stories but lets have a read and see if I can decide.

Meet Emily and Robbie, supposedly enjoying the latter stages of their lives.  One morning Robbie wakes up, gets dressed, leaves a note on Emily’s bedside table and walks out into the morning fog and takes a swim from which he intends not to return. And so begins the story of Emily and Robbie.

Told from present to past their story slowly unfolds, from enjoying grandchildren in 2016 all the way back to their first meeting in 1962.

I have to say I quite liked this, it added to the intensity, the drama and indeed the growing mystery surrounding their relationship. You knew there was something not quite right, that Robbie and Emily were harbouring a secret and Cohen was brilliant at keeping you guessing. I must admit to a sharp intake of breath when all was revealed!

One thing I was worried about was that the story would be slightly over sentimental and mushy, but to my relief and indeed to the authors great skill it was definitely not. Yes, Robbie and Emily are deeply romantic and so deeply in love but it was never forced on you.

For me it was more about the characters and Cohen was adept at drawing out the individual and opposing traits of each character, Emily and her academic achievements and thoroughly British middle class background versus Robbie’s working class hard drinking background.

Its not all hearts and roses, there are many up and downs, secrets that threaten to surface and destroy everything they have, but what pervades is love and the strength that love has to bind us together.

Cohen has written a beautiful novel that I enjoyed immensely. When I finally closed the pages I thought long and hard before concluding that yes, this book is a great love story but what it is a story of great love.

Cohen has written a beautiful novel that I enjoyed immensely.

Thank you to Louise Swannell and Orion for a proof copy to read and review.

About the author

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Raised in the Western Mountains of Maine, Julie was 11 when she wrote her first book. She went onto study English Literature at Brown University, Rhode Island and Canbridge University UK.

Before becoming a novelist Julie became a secondary school english teacher. Her big break came when the novel Dear Thing was chosen as a Richard and Judy Book Club pick.

Julie now lives in Berkshire with her husband and son.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce @alisonbarrow @DoubledayUK

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce Doubleday 13th July 2017

1988, CD’s are in and vinyl is out according to the record buying public and the record companies, but one man is having none of it. Not one CD will cross the threshold of his music shop.

That man is Frank. Frank owns The Music Shop on Unity Street, a street that is run down suffering from the development of new shopping precincts.

Inside The Music Shop are thousands of vinyl records loving looked after by Frank who uses his extensive musical knowledge to advise his customers on what music they should listen to.

So, who is Frank? Frank is a loner, unmarried, no children with a past he keeps hidden. His only friends are his less than able assistant Kit and fellow shop owners, Maud, and Father Anthony. Yet life is about to change,  and Frank’s world is about to be turned upside down when Ilse Brauchmann faints outside his shop window.

You could say that this novel is a love story, yet it is so much more than that. It is a story of a man who has always been afraid, afraid of his own emotions, afraid of forming strong attachments, even falling in love.

Ilse Brauchmann is the catalyst that forces Frank to face up to his unconventional childhood and for the first time in his life feel what it is to be truly alive and in love.

Joyce’s writing is beautiful, tender and so full of emotion. The myriad of emotions I felt towards Frank, ranging from pure joy, to sheer frustration are testament to the skill of her writing.

Ilse Brauchmann is wonderfully portrayed as a capable, practical woman, yet underneath she is just as alone and hurt as Frank. Just who is she? What is he hiding or running away from. Just as she is the key to unlocking Frank then so is Frank the key that will unlock Ilse, and force her to confront her past and indeed her future.

There is a fantastic cast of supporting characters. Kit, is the perfect foil to Frank, hapless, accident prone and like a puppy, eager to please. Maud, the tattooist is abrupt, and fierce and Father Anthony, is the wise ex-priest full of good intentions and advice. They complement the characters of Frank and Ilse beautifully, each playing their own part in their relationship.

Music has a huge role in this novel and it is the uniting factor between Frank and Ilse, the common denominator that binds them together. The pure joy and pleasure it stirs in them emanates from the pages and you wish there was a Frank in your life to choose your music!!

Joyce has written a truly wonderful novel. It is funny, emotional and will tug at your heartstrings. It will make you happy, it will make you sad and make you appreciate the true power of music.

Just fabulous!

Thank you to Alison Barrow and Doubleday Books for a proof copy to read and review

About the author

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Rachel Joyce was born in London in 1962.  Rachel is married to the actor Paul Venables and  lives in Gloucestershire with her four children.

She has previously written plays for Radio 4.

Her first novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fly was published in 2012 to huge critical acclaim and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Rachel has written three other novels which include Perfect and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

 

 

 

 

Do Not Be Alarmed by Maile Meloy @penguinbooksuk

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy Penguin Books July 6th 2017

Its Christmas and Liv and Nora decide to pack up their families and spend it on board a cruise ship, its destination Central America.

The children, aged 6 -11 befriend two Argentinian children and soon the three families are planning an off ship excursion. Husbands depart to play golf and the wives and children along with local guide Pedro set off to the local zip wires. Disaster strikes when a tyre on the van blows and instead they end up on a deserted beach waiting for a taxi to take them back to the ship. As Liv drifts off to sleep,  Nora disappears into the forest with Pedro allegedly searching for birds. What they don’t bargain for is a strong tide that carries the children downstream,  who are unable to swim back and subsequently become lost in the dense forestry. As they try to find their way back they witness the burial of a murder victim and find themselves held captive.

What ensues is a race against time to find the children, a set of parents who begin to blame each other and a portrayal of a country wracked by corruption, drugs and murder.

Told from the perspective of the children and the parents I was all set for a fast paced thriller only to be left a little disappointed.

Yes, it was fast paced in parts, but I found some of the characters a little cold and unbelievable. I didn’t feel much empathy for their situation and the women in particular were a little irritating.

I much preferred the story told from the perspective of the children. They were certainly more believable, slightly naive and the character of Isabel a real highlight. Her story was well written and sensitively done.

I am  not quite sure about the young girl Noemi, and her place in the novel. It wasn’t necessarily needed or added in anyway to the story. Maybe the author used Noemi to show the plight of children left at home with relatives, often in abject poverty whilst parents worked away or simply escaped.

A good read, interesting plot and setting but unfortunately a little disappointing.

About the author

Maile Meloy was born in Helena, Montana in 1972 and attended Harvard University. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

Maile Meloy has written two previous novels, Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter. She has also written two short story collections Half in Love and Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It. Maile also writes children’s books.

 

 

 

Before Everything by Victoria Redel @victoria_redel @Louiseswannell @HodderBooks

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Before Everything by Victoria Redel Hodder and Stoughton July 6th 2017

The cancer is back and Anna decides that enough is enough, its time to let go and die with dignity. Not everyone agrees with the decision and want her to fight on, but Anna is adamant..

As she prepares to die her close friends from sixth grade, Ming, Molly, Caroline and Helena arrive, each with their own memories of their time with Anna. It is Helena that ultimately struggles with Anna’s decision. How will she survive without her best friend, who will she turn to when she needs that no nonsense advice so readily doled out by Anna.

As Anna’s health declines so the friends look back before everything, before the cancer took hold, to the happy times, and the bad times. They examine their individual relationship with Anna and the gap her death will leave

Sounds grim, and yes, the book and its themes are sad but the writing is such that it is not overly sentimental or will leave you drowning in sorrow. It is more a novel of relationships, and friendship and how the process of saying goodbye and remembering is different for each of us.

The narrative itself is wonderfully done, perfectly capturing the tone of the characters. I particularly enjoyed the character of Helen, the famous artist with a past she would rather forget, yet now happy and about to marry thanks to Anna’s timely interventions. The author skilfully highlights her struggle to accept Anna’s refusal of further treatment and her tenacity in trying to get the friends to persuade Anna not to give in.

The author is very clever in her portrayal of Anna in that you never actually feel sorry for her, sad yes, but you know that she has lived her life as she would wish, that she is ready to die. I felt Redel was trying to highlight the positivity of dying rather than dwelling on the negative, perhaps a chance to reflect and to make changes for those left behind.

There is humour dotted throughout providing the perfect counter balance to the sadness and also a sense of hope, a belief that you can survive the death of someone so very close to you.

The only criticism I have is the use of  brief headings interspersed throughout hinting at certain points in their lives, which I found a little confusing at times and sometimes interrupted the flow of the story.

This is a heartrending novel that is beautifully and tenderly written and needs to be put at the top of your TBR pile!

 

I would like to thank Louise Swannell and Hodder Books for providing a proof copy to read and review.

About the author.

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Victoria Redel was born in New York with her two sons. She is the author of three books of poetry and five novels including The Border of Truth and Where The Road Bottoms Out.  Redel is on the graduate  and undergraduate faculty of the Sarah Lawrence College.

 

 

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