#Blogtour Something To Live For by Richard Roper @richardroper @orionbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders #SomethingToLiveFor

Something to Live For

Something To Live For by Richard Roper    Orion 26th June 2019

Sometimes you have to risk everything to find your something…

All Andrew wants is to be normal. He has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that’s what he’s told people.

The truth is, his life isn’t exactly as people think and his little white lie is about to catch up with him.

Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he’s forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.

My Review

I’ve lost count of the number of novels that feature a female protagonist emerging from their shell like life into a new world. It was a refreshing change to read a novel where the protagonist was male and your thoughts immediately leapt to if their emotions, their emergence would be the same as their female counterparts.

There were similarities but somehow it felt different, mainly I think because our natural thoughts are that men are the strong ones, the ones that don’t often have those sensitive and needy tendencies. Roper gave us Andrew, a man in his early forties, a council worker with a job that I found utterly fascinating, but essentially a loner, a man more interested in model railways than connecting with other humans.

His job, that of organising and, in his case attending funerals for those who died alone, was perfect for him, almost mirroring his own life. You could see his mind whirl as he looked to the future, would that be him, is that what he wanted? Yet Andrew couldn’t change, trapped, reasons hidden deep down, that refused to surface, that Andrew refused to deal with. Roper gave us fleeting glimpses of a past life, little clues, a sister, a love for Ella Fitzgerald, but hate for the song Blue Moon. It pulled you deeper and deeper into Andrew’s innermost thoughts, his demons, and all I wanted to do was hug him, tell him it would be ok, that he could recover, live a full fun filled life.

I have to admit that Andrew’s unwillingness or even inability to change, to do something about it, made me feel a little frustrated but that frustration slowly dissipated as his story unfolded and as in all things it took something or someone to trigger that want and need to change. Peggy was the perfect foil, the polar opposite, outgoing, funny and such a wonderful character and my imagination as to what she wore, what she looked like went into serious overdrive.

I loved that she didn’t care what others thought and that she ‘got’ Andrew, knew how to tap into his subconscious, to rattle him so much that he couldn’t not change. It helped that she had her own issues, but I loved her selflessness, her willingness to help Andrew.

Their relationship was brilliantly portrayed by Roper, its ups and downs both serious and full of humour, but what really made this novel was his ability to understand his characters, to go deep beyond the surface. They all hid sorrow, difficulties, it was all part of normal life but it was how they navigated their issues, how they found solutions or accepted compromise that Roper excelled.

You felt yourself smiling as Andrew slowly found his voice, began to stand up for himself, relax and enjoy everyday life as his confidence slowly soared to new heights. It was the background to the loneliness that got me, that Roper captured beautifully, his narrative emotional and poignant, there were things that I could identify with, could imagine myself in Andrew’s shoes, could feel his pain and distress.

For all it’s poignancy and emotion Something To Live For for wasn’t without humour, moments that made you laugh and grin and perfectly counterbalanced what could have been a dark and sorrowful sorry.

Roper wrote of issues that we could all identify with, the everyday things, the more traumatic aspects that assault our lives at any time. He didn’t feel the need to inject some madcap ideals or sensationalise, it was a novel that was very much grounded in ordinary lives and that is what was so endearing about Andrew and Peggy, their colleagues and friends.

It gave me hope that we don’t have to be lonely, that there is something or someone out there for everyone, that we don’t have to be afraid to take those first steps, and emerge into a brand new world.

I would like to thank Orion for a copy of Something To Live For to read and review and to Tracy Fenton Of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Richard Roper was inspired by an article he read about the council workers who deal with situations when someone dies alone. Their days are spent sifting through the ephemera of those who’ve slipped through the cracks, searching for clues to a next of kin. Council workers are under no obligation to attend the funerals. Yet they do, sometimes dozens of them a year, just to make sure at least someone is there. Richard Roper lives in London. SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR is his first novel.

 

#Blogtour In Alexa’s Shoes by Rochelle Alexandra @rochellie28 @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours #InAlexasShoes

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In Alexa’s Shoes by Rochelle Alexandra

In Alexa’s Shoes – a dramatic, uplifting true story of a teenage girl overcoming great odds to survive. A historical novel that beckons the reader to follow in the footsteps of a real-life individual one step at a time. Based on the true story of the author’s grandmother.

In the autumn of 1940, thirteen-year-old Alexa’s happy life is ripped from her as she, her mother, and many of the locals are rounded up by the Nazis in Poland. Loaded into trucks, they are transported to an unknown destination. Terror and uncertainty become the new normal. Life is a continuous nightmare as she is selected by the Gestapo officer’s wife, destined to become little more than their slave.

Separated from everyone she loves Alexa relies on her Christian faith, inner strength and courage, to endure through her long nightmare. Her story takes her on a treacherous journey across war-ravaged Europe in search of her family and the life she once knew. Despite living through unimaginable hardships and life-threatening danger, Alexa feels that someone or something seems to be looking out for her. Years later, she finds out that not all was as it seemed, as hidden secrets from this dark period in history are revealed to her.

My Review

Any story that tells of the trials of the persecuted in World War II is always important, but always seems to centre around the Jewish community and the concentration camps, In Her Shoes chose a differing perspective, one I knew nothing about. Alexandra chose to focus on the suffering of the Poles and in particular young girls who typified Hitlers vision of the Arian race, blonde hair and blue eyes. She chose as her subject, her Grandmother Alexa, and it is what made this story so special, that the words on the page were written with love, with meaning and most importantly truth.

What would you do if at the age of 14 you set out with your mother to buy new shoes and ended up in Dachau? What if you then ended up being a slave for an officer of the Gestapo and his family, forced to work long hours for no pay? Alexa was that young girl, forced to grow up, to accept her lot and just get on with it. Your heart leapt as you read, as you held nothing but admiration for this young girl who for 5 long years, washed, cleaned, milked, looked after children all with good grace and the belief that one day she would be free.

But freedom came at a cost, the loss of family, of friends, of a home and livelihood. How do you rebuild when you have nothing?

It always amazes me when I read such stories at the stoicism of those individuals, their desire not to be seen as victims but as survivors and that is what Alexandra so cleverly got across in her novel.

It was harrowing to read of Alexa’s journey but it was also uplifting, full of hope, of friendships that would last a lifetime. It wasn’t one sided, it was balanced, objective, didn’t tar all Germans with the same brush, that some could be kind, and respectful of their captives.

What I couldn’t quite get my head round at times was Alexa’s capacity for forgiveness, for her trusting nature, her strength and bravery that saw her face many difficulties in her long life. I think her faith in God, that God would give her the strength, and that gave her the will to carry on, to strive for a life that she had for so long been denied.

I liked that her story didn’t stop at the end of the war, that Alexandra wrote of the afterword, the rebuilding of her life, the creation of a family that was loved and cherished, never taken for granted.

In that respect In Her Shoes was unique, a refreshing but educational and thought provoking novel that engaged, and enthralled.

I would like to thank for a copy of In Her Shoes to read and review and Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blogtours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour .

About the author

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Rochelle Alexandra was born in Glasgow, Scotland where she grew up, then moved to New York to live when she was eighteen.  She had an early love for writing poetry, winning a National Scottish competition and later had a few poems published in the USA.  She’s a talented artist and photographer with a real love for children, horse riding and travel.  Her favourite jobs were in advertising, working for a newspaper, a photographer’s assistant and private chef.  She ran her own freelance art business painting portraits, murals, abstracts and commissions.

She never set out to be a writer, but after hearing her Polish grandmother’s gripping true life history during WWII first hand, she made a promise to her gran that she would write her story in book form.  Sadly her grandmother Alexa passed away aged 92, just two months before the novel ‘In Alexa’s Shoes’ about her life was due to be published.  Little did Rochelle know that she’d love the writing process so much and now has several future novels planned.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/roshellie28

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rochelle-Alexandra-Author-402257290515469/

Website: https://www.rochellealexandra.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ro_alexandra_author/

In Alexa's Shoes Blog Tour

 

#Blogtour Needlemouse by Jane O’Connor @JaneOConnor100 @eburypublishing @TessHenderson1 @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders #Needlemouse

Needlemouse

Needlemouse by Jane O’Connor  Ebury  June 27th 2019

Time to come out of hibernation…

Sylvia Penton has been hibernating for years, it’s no wonder she’s a little prickly…

Sylvia lives alone, dedicating herself to her job at the local university. On weekends, she helps out at a local hedgehog sanctuary because it gives her something to talk about on Mondays – and it makes people think she’s nicer than she is.

Only Sylvia has a secret: she’s been in love with her boss, Professor Lomax, for over a decade now, and she’s sure he’s just waiting for the right time to leave his wife. Meanwhile she stores every crumb of his affection and covertly makes trouble for anyone she feels gets in his way.

But when a bright new PhD candidate catches the Professor’s eye, Sylvia’s dreams of the fairy tale ending she has craved for so long, are soon in tatters, driving her to increasingly desperate measures and an uncertain future.

Sylvia might have been sleep walking through her life but things are about to change now she’s woken up…

A quirky, charming uplifting novel perfect for fans of Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Sarah Haywood’s The Cactus. The feelgood bestseller about unrequited love, loneliness and the redemptive qualities of hedgehogs featuring the most unlikely heroine of 2019.

My Review

The title of this novel intrigued me and I started reading wondering just what a Needlemouse actually was, O’Connor didn’t tell me straight away, she kept me waiting, as she pulled me into the life of Sylvia Penton.

Who was Sylvia Penton? For me she was a woman who seemed rooted in routine, in self control and most importantly she was a woman in love.  It wasn’t the all encompassing, passionate type, it was one sided, blinkered and I found it quite sad and heartbreaking. The subject of Sylvia’s affections was definitely not deserving,  not the man who she thought he was, and it was unsettling to read of Sylvia’s protectiveness towards him, her need to shelter him from those who sought to distract him, to take him away from her. This was where O’Connor cleverly employed her hedgehog analogy,  as we were given a Sylvia with the sharp needle like spikes and only fleeting glimpses of a soft interior.

That soft interior only ever seemed to emerge in her relationship with Jonas and her stints of volunteering at his hedgehog sanctuary. You desperately wanted that soft interior to take over, for Sylvia to wake up, open her eyes, much like a hedgehog awakening from hibernation, and to see the world from a new and differing perspective, a new beginning.

You could feel the frustration her family and so called friends felt and indeed yourself as you read, but that only made you desperately want Sylvia to have her happy ending.  As her story unfolded, so your frustration ebbed away, you felt yourself warming towards Sylvia that little bit more, you inwardly cheered as you watched as a new and better model of a woman slowly began to appear. You could forgive her indiscretions, could see that she wasn’t an unkind person, just lonely, afraid, wrapped up in a life that she didn’t want but didn’t know how to change and let go.

Needlemouse wasn’t one of those novels that plunged you into deep despair, that left you feeling bereft. Yes, it had its serious side, but there was a wonderful lightness, little ripples of humour, of being able to see the goodness in everyone no matter what they had done or said. It was full of hope, of being able to turn life around, and enjoy it even if that meant losing a little bit of self control and opening up just a bit more.

I loved the cover, I enjoyed the novel and I now know what a needlemouse is, so thank you Jane O’Connor for enlightening me.

I would like to thank Ebury for a copy of Needlemouse to read and review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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Jane O’Connor is a former primary school teacher turned academic and writer. She was born and brought up in Surrey and lived in London until she moved to the West Midlands in her mid-thirties. Jane’s PhD was about child stars and she is now a Reader at Birmingham City University where she researches children’s experiences of celebrity, media and everyday life. Jane lives in Sutton Coldfield with her husband and two young sons in a house full of pirates, dinosaurs, superheroes and lots of books. She really likes all animals, especially hedgehogs. Needlemouse is her debut novel.

Needlemouse

#Blogtour The Body Lies by Jo Baker @JoBakerWriter @doubledaybooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheBodyLies

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The Body Lies by Jo Baker  Doubleday  June 13th 2019

When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the big city and the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget. But when one of her students starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book – and he has written her a horrific fate.

Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it’s too late?

At once a breathless battle-of-wits and a disarming exploration of sexual politics, The Body Lies is an essential book for our times

My Review

When does fiction cross that line, become real, so real that you don’t quite not want to believe it. Baker’s The Body Lies was a novel that brilliantly explored that scenario and was chilling and very clever in its telling.

It was Baker’s ability to write so distinctly, in the voices of her two main protagonists, the outlying characters slipped in that this gave this novel that added extra dimension.

We never knew the name of our Creative Writing Lecturer, whose marriage seemed on the brink, but who adored her small son. It was a new beginning, a chance to put the horror of an attack behind her and to discover her real self in a safe and creative environment. But life sometimes never lives up to expectations and as she was piled with more and more work, the students in her MA group seemed to jangle her nerves and you could sense an uneasiness creep in. Baker gave us the feeling that she was balanced on a knife edge, a simmering tension that something or someone could tip the precariousness of her situation at any time, it was just a matter of how and when.

Baker threw in Nicholas, slightly odd, his writing tinged with nuance and frightening reality. It was the interplay between her and Nicholas that intrigued, that drew you in, that crackled with atmosphere and tension. Would something happen, what would happen and when? What I liked was that it wasn’t one dramatic event but a build up of individual incidents, of a persons story unfolding, the nuances of their psyche slowly revealed. You wanted to read quicker but Baker made us wait, dangled titbits in front of us before a drama filled final few pages wrapped up the loose ends and gave us a deeply satisfying ending.

I admired Baker’s structure as she interwove the students writing into the narrative, used it to reveal their characteristics , the reasons for their actions and behaviours. The novel brilliantly highlighted the differing interpretations we can each have, of not only the written word but also the way in which we talk, act and are perceived by our peers.

I loved the frisson of sexual tension, jealousy, the understated yet important themes of mental health that simmered throughout. The novel thrilled but not in the way of your usual thriller, it had more about it than that. It had much more of a contemporary feel that was thought provoking and intelligent and one that I cannot recommend highly enough.

I would like to thank DoubleDay for a copy of The Body Lies to read and review and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour

About the author

Jo Baker Author

JO BAKER is the author of the acclaimed and bestselling LONGBOURN and A COUNTRY ROAD, A TREE.

Her new novel, THE BODY LIES, is a thrilling contemporary novel that explores violence against women in fiction but is also a disarming story of sexual politics.

Jo Baker lives with her family in Lancashire.

Twitter @JoBakerWriter

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#Blogtour When We Were Rich by Tim Lott @timlottwriter @ScribnerUk @anncater #RandomThingsTours #WhenWeWereRich

 

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When We Were Rich by Tim Lott  Scribner June 24th 2019

Millennium Eve and six people gather on a London rooftop. Recently married, Frankie Blue watches with his wife, Veronica, as the sky above the Thames explodes into a kaleidoscope of light. His childhood companion, Colin, ineptly flirts with Roxy, an unlikely first date, while another old friend, Nodge, newly ‘out’, hides his insecurities from his waspish boyfriend.
 
New Labour are at their zenith. The economy booms, awash with cheap credit. The arrival of the smartphone heralds the sudden and vast expansion of social media. Mass immigration from Eastern Europe leave many unsettled while religious extremism threatens violent conflict.
 
An estate agent in a property boom, Frankie is focused simply on getting rich. But can he survive the coming crash? And what will become  of his friends – and his marriage – as they are scoured by the winds of change?
 
When We Were Rich finds the characters introduced in Tim Lott’s award-winning 1999 debut, White City Blue, struggling to make sense of a new era. Sad, shocking and often hilarious, it is an acutely observed novel of all our lives, set during what was for some a golden time – and for others a nightmare, from which we are yet to wake up.

My Review

First up on the blogtour and I am hoping my review does this blockbuster of a novel justice.

It was a novel that took me back to the millennium, the dawn of a new era, and new beginnings. Tony Blair was in power, the Millenium Dome was seen as an object of ridicule and our bunch of characters were about to be challenged in ways they never would have thought.

There was Frankie, Veronica, Nodge and Colin, characters many will have met before in Lott’s novel White City Blue. I have to admit that I have not read it but am pleased to say it was not necessary When We Were Rich stood perfectly well on its own.

It was a nostalgic novel, a coming of age novel in the sense that we were just getting used to new technology, Facebook, Twitter and smart phones not yet words that tripped easily off the tongue. Lott’s characters took us through the ups and downs of the early 2000’s all with their personal successes and failures.

Frankie, driven by a need to make a name for himself, to be admired, to be rich. I like that Lott didn’t make him arrogant, egotistical, a character that we would dislike. He was, instead driven and focused, did everything for his wife and daughter even if he didn’t show his love as he should. Lott gave us glimpses of little chinks in his armour, a vulnerability that made him warm and likeable.

Veronica, Frankie’s wife was typical of women at that time, wanting equality at home and in the workplace not willing to be just a mother. She was at the forefront of the need to find answers in therapy and Mindfulness, as she helped others find the answers but almost reluctant to find her own answers, admit her own failings.

You wondered what made their marriage work, each from differing backgrounds and you asked yourself if the marriage would survive or how it would fall apart.

Colin was the nerd, at the vanguard of computer game development, a loner, boring, set in his ways. I loved his and Roxy’s relationship, their wildly different characteristics that somehow worked and complemented one another. Roxy In particular was carefree, lived for the day didn’t worry about the future, appeared superficial but hid an intelligence and her own vulnerabilities. She was the humour, the flamboyant comedy character who I absolutely loved.

The gay community was finally finding its feet, it’s place in society more defined. Nodge was our guide in that new world as he got used to his own coming out, an acceptance of who he was and finding that special someone.

Lott brilliantly used each of his characters to great effect as they navigated the new political ideals. We saw the flux of Eastern European immigrants and their cheap labour, the property boom, the terror attacks, the economic crash. It was as if someone had torn up the rule book, a free for all, until they all learnt the new ways, and their place in a new world.

When We Were Rich showed us how far we have travelled in such a short space of time. It made you pause, to think where you were, what you were doing, how your own politics, professional and personal life had changed. Above all When We Were Rich was one of those great modern historical novels that so accurately portrayed a confusing and whirlwind time.

I got the feeling that Lott hadn’t quite finished with his characters, that their story was still unfolding and I have my fingers crossed that we will get another glimpse into the lives of them all.

I would like to thank Scribner for a copy of When We Were Rich go read and review and to Anne Cater Of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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#Blogtour A Modern Family by Helga Flatland @HelgaFlatland @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #AModernFamily

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A Modern Family by Helga Flatland  Orenda Books June 21st 2019

When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce. Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.
A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…

My Review

Parents are supposed to be our constant, they brought us into the world, they nurtured and then let us fly out into the big wide world. We often think our parents are invincible, nothing could ever happen to upset the status quo, but what if suddenly, they were divorcing, no longer able to stay together? What happens to those grown up children? Would it be just another blip, all part of a modern world or would it be something more, something unimaginable, something that would open up little fractures, that grew to huge chasms upsetting the family dynamic?

A Modern Family based itself on those questions, as Flatland observed, investigated and presented us with Liv, Ellen and Hakon, the grown up children, all different, all affected but to varying degrees.

It was their voices that pulsated loudly, that had me clinging on to every word, as she immersed me in her perfect and powerful characterisations.

Liv, the eldest, the one the other two were supposed to look upto, yet Flatland made her seem childish, at times selfish that her parents, her security blanket had been pulled from under her. Her need to control, her need for certainty was a huge loss and you could sense her frustration and indeed your own frustration, your impatience with her, as you willed her to get a grip, to stop behaving like a spoilt child and to basically grow up!

Ellen, the middle child, seemed more matter of fact, stronger, able to deal yet she hid her own secrets, her own insecurities, an indefatigable facade no one could penetrate. Those secrets felt like they drowned out her parents divorce, a mere sideline to her own troubles and discontent. I felt somehow more connected to Ellen, had more empathy, wished she would let her guard down, share her problems and let herself be helped.

Hakon, the youngest was the longed for last child, the cossetted spoilt one, the one I found the most complex. He held strong opinions, his perspective on life, on relationships so brilliantly portrayed by Flatland. You sensed his naivety, his unwillingness to look beyond his parents marriage and divorce as a simple fact of life and you knew that when his fall came it would be the hardest.

What you could not get away from was the sheer quality of Flatland’s narrative, so many layers, so much emotion and feeling packed into the pages. Her exploration of the children’s differing perspectives was for me the best part of the novel. I loved how she made us feel so many differing emotions for her characters, how she laid bare their innermost thoughts, their, at times, irrationality, how they reverted back to the young children they once were, stamping their feet when they couldn’t have what they wanted.

I would loved to have seen their parents perspectives, how they viewed their children’s actions and behaviour, did they think them selfish, unreasonable.

The only way I could think to describe A Modern Family was a bit like an earthquake, one big eruption followed by small rippling aftershocks that left behind fault lines in need of repair.

What you could say about A Modern Family was how utterly brilliant it was. The PR blurb compared Flatland to Anne Tyler, but I wouldn’t do that as she is one on her own, one at the top of a pile of contemporary fiction. I didn’t just love this novel, I adored it and I definitely want more, so I hope Orenda Books are listening!

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of A Modern Family to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller.
The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.

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#Blogtour God’s Children by Mabli Roberts #MabliRoberts @honno @damppebbles #Damppebblesblogtour #GodsChildren

 

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God’s Children by Mabli Roberts   Gwasg Honno Press April 11th 2019

Kate Marsden: nurse, intrepid adventurer, saviour of the lepers or devious manipulator, immoral and dishonest?’

As she lies on her deathbed visited by the ghosts of her past, who should we believe, Kate or those who accuse her of duplicity? Memory is a fickle thing: recollections may be frozen in time or distorted by the mirror of wishful thinking. Kate’s own story is one of incredible achievements, illicit love affairs and desperate longing; those of her accusers paint a very different portrait – of a woman determined on fame and fortune.

The reader navigates a narrative as fractured as the Siberian ice Kate crosses in search of a cure for leprosy, and as beautiful as Rose, her lost love, as the full picture emerges of a life lived when women were not expected to break the mould.

My Review

I didn’t realise until I reached the end of the novel and read the afterword that God’s Children was actually based on a true story, and what a story it was.

It was fascinating to read of Nurse Kate Marsden, her life and her mission, a story of a strong and thoroughly modern woman of her time, perhaps misunderstood in a world where women definitely took second place.

I wasn’t quite sure that I actually liked her, as her distinctive voice alternated between someone who strove to help ‘her lepers’ to an often ruthless woman in pursuit of self aggrandisement. Those mixed feelings were reinforced by Roberts quite clever structure, as she darted from one place to another, and from past to present, Marsden’s background as varied as the many voices she employed. It could so easily have backfired on Roberts, interrupted the flow of the narrative but her skilful handling ensured that it flowed smoothly. In some ways it perfectly portrayed Kate’s mind as she lay in her hospital bed, her thoughts wondering as she remembered, as the ghosts of her past visited and challenged her own memories and actions.

I don’t think I ever made up my mind about her intentions, what drove her, but what I knew for sure was that I loved Roberts narrative. I was particularly struck by her descriptions of Siberia, of the cold, of the desolate and varied landscape, of the challenges faced by herself and her companions. It provided a real contrast with the splendour of the Russian Court, the streets of Paris, New York and New Zealand.

Themes of religion, of Marsden’s devotion to God, pervaded the pages, as it drove her to succeed in her mission, almost contrary to her sexuality and how she was perceived within society. It made her stand out, an anomaly and you had to admire her, whilst at the same time questioning if she used it as a means to an end.

Whatever Kate Marsden was, and what she did or didn’t do, you had to admit that she was one hell of a woman, strong, brave, fierce and independent. Roberts brilliantly brought Marsden’s story to life and to the attention of this rather ignorant reader and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I would like to thank Honno for a copy of God’s Children to read and review and to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour

About the author

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Mabli Roberts lives in a wild, mountainous part of Wales. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and has worked as a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Wales, Newport. Most of her inspiration comes from her love of history and from long walks in the timeless landscape around her.

Mabli also writes as Paula Brackston, PJ Brackston and PJ Davy. Nutters was shortlisted for the Mind Book Award and The Witch’s Daughter was a New York Times bestseller.

Her work has been translated into five languages and is sold around the world.

You can find out more about her books on her website www.paulabrackston.com, her Author’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/worldofpaulabrackston/ and YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/paulabrackstonbooks as well as the God’s Children Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Gods-Children-1476228589147399/

 

 

#Review The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliffe @Craig_Cliff @melvillehouse @tomclaytonesque #TheMannequinMakers

 

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The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff  Melville House  June 6th 2019

‘The skin was smooth and bright as porcelain, but looked as if it would give to the touch. What manner of wood had he used? What tools to exact such detail? What paints, tints or stains to flush her with life?

So wonders the window dresser Colton Kemp when he sees the first mannequin of his new rival, a man the inhabitants of Marumaru simply call The Carpenter. Rocked by the sudden death of his wife and inspired by a travelling Vaudeville company, Kemp decides to raise his children to be living mannequins. What follows is a tale of art and deception, strength and folly, love and transgression, which ranges from small-town New Zealand to the graving docks of the River Clyde, an inhospitable rock in the Southern Ocean to Sydney’s northern beaches. Along the way we meet a Prussian strongman, a family of ship’s carvers with a mysterious affliction, a septuagenarian surf lifesaver and a talking figurehead named Vengeance.

My Review

We’ve all seen the mannequins in store windows, elegantly modelling the clothes they want us all to wear, but who makes them, who dresses and sets the window.

Enter The Carpenter and Colston Kemp, dressers for two rival stores in small town Manumura. Each had their own style, their own characteristics, each had their own story to tell and what a story it was.

It was a story that enthralled and surprised, as it wasn’t exactly what I expected. If you thought it would be outright war in a small town between mannequin makers then you couldn’t be more wrong. Cliffe’s novel was instead more about the men, what made them who they were and he approached their characters from totally differing angles.

The Carpenter, Gabriel Doig didn’t come across as particularly charismatic but that didn’t matter as Cliffe sent him on the most wonderful adventure. It was an adventure that tested his strength, showcased his strong character, his inert sense of survival. What I loved more than anything was his passion for wood, the way Cliffe described how it almost came alive as he worked his magic. The intricacies of wood carving was utterly fascinating, the imagery wonderful.

Colston Kemp was the polar opposite, a man who lacked the passion, the magical touch with wood, his alternative one I found shocking and brutal. Cliffe chose to use his twin children Eugen and Avis to tell his story and you could see how his misguided passion and fearsome will to succeed was reflected in their actions. You felt sorry for them, for their naivety, their trust and utter belief in a father who they thought wanted only the best for them.

Yet you knew Kemp was driven by grief for his dead wife, a grief that perhaps unhinged him, no one there to question his plan and put him back on track. It didn’t make me feel anything but disgust for him, frustration at his actions and I read on in hope that he would at some point redeem himself.

What struck me most about The Mannequin Makers was Cliffe’s wonderful ability to portray the scenes in his story, the imagery vivid and complex, his narratives many layers showcased the best and worst of human nature.

It had everything you look for in a novel, historical detail, a spot of intrigue, adventure and survival and it was a damn fine novel.

I would like to thank Tom Clayton at Melville House for a copy of The Mannequin Makers to read and review.

About the author

Craig Cliff is the author of the novels Nailing Down the Saint and The Mannequin Makers, and the story collection A Man Melting, which won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. In addition to fiction, Craig has published poetry, essays and reviews, been a newspaper columnist and judged poetry and short story competitions. His work has been translated into German, Spanish and Romanian and he participated in the University of Iowa’s International Writers Program in 2013. He was Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in 2017 and currently lives in Wellington with his young family.

#Blogtour Sister Of Mine by Laurie Petrou @lauriepetrou @noexitpress @annecater #RandomThingsTours #SisterOfMine

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Sister Of Mine by Laurie Petrou  No Exit Press  June 20th 2019

The Grayson sisters are trouble. Everyone in their small town knows it. But no-one can know of the secret that binds them together. Hattie is the light. Penny is the darkness.
Together, they have balance. But one night the balance is toppled. A match is struck. A fire is started. A cruel husband is killed. The potential for a new life flickers in the fire’s embers, but resentment, guilt, and jealousy suffocate like smoke.
Their lives have been engulfed in flames – will they ever be able to put them out?

My Review

Family binds us together, an undeniable bond that will, one hopes never break. What if that bond came with added extras, with secrets that cannot be told, that could spell danger?

Laurie Petrou brilliantly explored those themes as she told the story of Penny and Hattie.

Penny, the elder, the strong one, the one who felt her job in life was to look after younger sister, Hattie yet always felt that unmistakable need to leave, to make her own life far away.

Hattie, vulnerable, who hid a rebellious streak, could be manipulative in pursuit of what she wanted and at times I couldn’t quite decide if she was victim or villain.

Told in Penny’s voice you would have thought we would only get one side of the story, of her struggle to build her own life. In many ways it was but Petrou also gave Penny introspection, the ability to see both sides, that made her life one of inner turmoil. The happy phases seemed short lived before the invisible string pulled her back to her sister. I loved the complex emotions Petrou portrayed, the love hate relationship, the jealousy but most of all the secrets.

The secrets were never quite what they seemed as Petrou kept you guessing, small chucks interlaced in the narrative that only partly informed. Petrou was great at building the tension, the emotions and events like a pressure cooker just waiting to explode. When the explosion happened you were left wondering who would survive, would the bond between Hattie and Penny still exist or be irrevocably broken.

You couldn’t get away from the small town mentality that existed where they lived, their lives a goldfish bowl, everyone with their own opinion. It added to the taut atmosphere, the sense of anticipation, the frustration felt by Penny as she fought to maintain control of her life and those around her. I felt sorry for her, saw her as a victim of circumstance and wished it all could have been different.

I admired Petrou’s skill in making me feel this way, at her ability to make me care about the characters she had created.

It was very definitely a novel driven by the characters within, the story Petrou’s way of examining their emotions, their actions and how they dealt with the consequences.

It was a novel I admired hugely and I look forward to reading more.

I would like to thank No Exit Press for a copy of Sister Of Mine to read and review and to Anne Cater Of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Laurie Petrou Author Picture

LAURIE PETROU has a PhD in Communication and Culture, and is an Associate
Professor at Ryerson’s RTA School of Media in Toronto, where she is also the Director
of the Masters of Media Production program. She has given several TEDx talks on
subjects including gender and rejection. Laurie was the inaugural winner of the Half
the World Global Literati Award in 2016, a prize that honours unpublished work
featuring female protagonists, for her novel Sister of Mine. She now lives in a small
town in Ontario wine country with her husband, a wine maker, and their two sons.

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#Blogtour The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw @claidlawauthor @AccentPress @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheSpaceBetweenTime

The Space FRONT COVER

The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw  Accent Press  June 20th 2019

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains
of sand on Earth…
Emma Maria Rossini’s perfect life begins to splinter when her celebrity father becomes more distant, and her mother dies suspiciously during a lightning storm. This death has a massive effecton Emma, but after stumbling through university, she settles into work
as a journalist in Edinburgh. Her past, however, cannot be escaped. Her mental health becomes unstable. But while recovering in a mental institution, Emma begins to
write a memoir to help come to terms with the unravelling of her life. She finds ultimate solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe – which offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

My Review

I can’t quite work out why I liked this novel so much, maybe because it wasn’t quite what I expected. After reading the blurb I was prepared for the scientific theory and a narrative that would be quite dark and stark. Instead I was more than pleasantly surprised at the lightness and humour that infused the novel.

I loved his main character, Emma, and her fractured journey from young girl to adulthood. Here was a young girl who tried so desperately to understand the adult world she found herself in, a famous actor father, largely absent, and a mother who struggled in the spot light and did her best to hide her mental health issues before leaving Emma to cope on her own.

And what about Emma’s own mental health, explored so wonderfully and poignantly by Laidlaw? It was definitely not dark but laced with some wonderfully funny moments. You read as she struggled to cope with the fame her father relished, the apparent distance he placed between Emma and her Mum. Did he really love them, were there other people, all questions you saw her asking but could never find the answer. If her father was the ogre her brilliant scientist Grandfather was her hero, the one she admired and loved the most. He was a man who never lost faith in his scientific theories of the universe who batted away the ridicule. I admired the skill in which Laidlaw pulled apart his theories and perfectly matched them to the thoughts and events in Emma’s life, a unique way to try make us understand what was happening to her.

The theory itself was luckily in layman’s terms, easy for us, the reader to understand.

As Emma’s life progressed so did her difficulty in maintaining two personas and you knew that at some point she would come crashing down. When she did Laidlaw made us feel her rawness and pain and the battle with herself as she attempted to put herself to back together.

I couldn’t help but feel empathy for Emma, felt anger at her Father, frustration at her Mother. Their own self absorption came at a price, but Laidlaw didn’t let us wallow as he kept the darkness away with his wonderful supporting cast. I loved Oz and Patsy, but my absolute favourites had to be the Dalek and Knox of which I shall say no more!

Mental health is something that can affect us all at some point in our lives it’s portrayal more prevalent than ever in the novel. Those novels are often bleak, and dark often leaving you empty and bereft but not The Space Between Time, it was a shining star, a novel of love, laughter and hope and I absolutely loved it.

I would like to thank Accent Press for a copy of The Space Between Time to read and review and to Anne Cater Of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Charlie Laidlow Author picture

Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up
children.

The Space Between Time Blog Tour Poster

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