#Review Dear Life by Rachel Clarke @doctor_oxford @LittleBrownUK @emilygmoran #DearLife

Dear Life

Dear Life A Doctors Story of Love and Loss Canongate January 30th 2020

As a specialist in palliative medicine, Dr Rachel Clarke chooses to inhabit a place many people would find too tragic to contemplate. Every day she tries to bring care and comfort to those reaching the end of their lives and to help make dying more bearable.

Rachel’s training was put to the test in 2017 when her beloved GP father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She learned that nothing – even the best palliative care – can sugar-coat the pain of losing someone you love.
And yet, she argues, in a hospice there is more of what matters in life – more love, more strength, more kindness, more joy, more tenderness, more grace, more compassion – than you could ever imagine. For if there is a difference between people who know they are dying and the rest of us, it is simply this: that the terminally ill know their time is running out, while we live as though we have all the time in the world.

Dear Life is a book about the vital importance of human connection, by the doctor we would all want by our sides at a time of crisis. It is a love letter – to a father, to a profession, to life itself.

My Review

Death, the one thing you can be absolutely certain we will all experience at some point in our lives. When it will happen could be something that is totally out of our control, but what if we were to develop cancer, or another life limiting disease, how do would we cope with the knowledge that death could be sooner rather than later?

Are we afraid or would it be a welcome release from a life of anguish and pain and what about those that surround us or treat us?

Dr Rachel Clarke’s Dear Life didn’t try to answer any of those questions but instead she wrote what I can only describe as an insightful, beautiful and touching discussion on the dying process.

She had a real knack for getting to the very heart of the process, irrespective if it was from the point of view of doctor, patient, or loved one. As a doctor, were they really seeing the patient as a person, or were they a vessel that carried a disease, that required endless gruelling treatments to dissipate and cure it? Did they consider the wishes of a patient, who wanted no more, or even one who wished to carry on regardless.

And what of the patient? Clarke confronted the fear, the fear of the unknown, of leaving those we love behind but also the joy and closeness we can get from those around us, of enjoying the present for what it is.

She gave an eye opening portrayal of her role and those of other medical professionals in the Hopsice setting. It was a place not just for the dying but also for the living whose death may be some time off but needed that extra little care and support. It wasn’t a place of doom and gloom as laughter and happiness sat alongside the grief and the loss.

What stood out more than anything was the passion of the doctors, the nurses, the carers, the myriad of support staff who took it upon themselves to give the dying those final special moments.

The most poignant aspect of Dear Life was Clarke’s own relationship with death, not just as a doctor but on a personal level as she dealt with the diagnosis, treatment and death of her father.

You could sense her conflict as she balanced her role as daughter, carer and that of medical professional. Which conversation, which encounter required which hat, was a never ending conundrum that dominated before finally the role of loving, caring daughter took over.

You knew that it taught her so much, that for all its sorrow it had enhanced her professional role, gave her insight and a deeper appreciation for the journey that both patient, and loved ones travelled.

Did I find it gloomy, depressing to read? Most definitely not, it was so wonderfully written, sincere, intelligent, and opened my eyes to a world that I have already encountered but know will touch me in some way in the future.

Never judgemental, nor preachy I urge everyone to read Dear Life. It will, as has for me, change your whole outlook on the prospect of your own death but also for those around us.

I would like to thank Emily Moran at Little Brown for sending a copy of Dear Life to read and review.

About the author

 

Before going to medical school, Dr Rachel Clarke was a television journalist and documentary maker. She now specialises in palliative medicine, caring deeply about helping patients live the end of their lives as fully and richly as possible – and in the power of human stories to build empathy and inspire change. 

Her first book, the Sunday Times bestselling Your Life in My Hands, reveals what life is like for a junior doctor on the NHS frontline. 

Her memoir Dear Life (Little, Brown, Jan 2020) is based on her work in a hospice. It explores love, loss, grief, dying and what really matters at the end of life.

Rachel has written for the Guardian, Sunday Times, New York Times, Independent, Telegraph, Prospect, BMJ, NEJM and Lancet. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4 Today, BBC Newsnight, Channel 4 News, BBC Woman’s Hour, ITV News and Sky News, among others.

She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two children.

#Blogtour The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heap by H. G. Parry @h_gparry @orbitbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders #TheUnlikelyEscapeOfUriahHeap

 

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heap by H. G. Parry  Orbit January 23rd 2020

For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob – a young lawyer with an utterly normal life – hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other.

But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world, and for once, it isn’t Charley’s doing. There’s someone else out there who shares his powers and it’s up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them – before anyone gets to The End.

My Review

I’ll be honest am not quite sure what genre or where this novel fits in the grand scheme of books and publishing. You could have called it fantasy, it could have been YA am just not really sure! One thing I do know is that it was totally different from anything I have read in a very long time.

The characters Rob and Charley, brothers, in Wellington, New Zealand were total opposites. Rob, conventional lawyer, girlfriend, nice flat happy life. Charley on the other hand, was what I could only describe as one of those slightly eccentric genius’s, hugely intelligent, a product of an Oxford degree, PHD, no commonsense and no practical skills whatsoever. He made me laugh out loud with his myriad of idiosyncrasies, milk stored on a bookshelf, books in the fridge, the sign of a mind that wandered on a higher plane.

Charley was almost like a magician as he conjured up the characters from the books he read, his passion for Charles Dicken’s almost his downfall as he became to be known as a summoner pitted against another summoner intent on changing the world and not for the better.

Parry’s strength lay in her furtive imagination, the Dickensian street Charley and Rob fought to save littered with numerous well known characters from the works of Dickens and other well known authors.

I loved the Darcey’s, all four of them, each with their own individual characteristics. Then there was Dorian Grey, obsessed with his looks, Matilda, the Artful Dodger and so many more. I admired how Parry brought them to life, her understanding of the classic novels they came from was exceptional. You got carried away in Parry’s world, magical, fairytale like, with evil undertones that lurked and threatened to destroy it.

It was the classic good against evil, as you the reader relished the fight, urged Charley and Rob on.

If much of the novel lay in a fantasy world Parry didn’t neglect reality. The fractured relationship between Rob and Charley seemed beyond repair, yet events pushed them together, as a greater understanding of each other slowly emerged. She showed a family mired in secrets, with the same problems we all face in our own day to day lives, pushed out of the ordinary by the dangers they faced.

It was this combination of the real and fantastical that made this move stand out and such a delight to read. You marvelled in Parry’s wonderful imagery, smiled at the wonderful idiosyncrasies of her characters and held your breath as the world she had created threatened to disappear.

I would like to thank Party for sweeping me away to another world from which I was reluctant to leave.

I would like to thank Orbit for a copy of The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heap by H. G. Parry to read and review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour

About the author

Author photo 1

H.G. Parry is a fantasy writer based in Wellington, New Zealand. Her short fiction has appeared in Intergalactic Medicine ShowDaily Science Fiction, and small press anthologies. She holds a PhD in English Literature from Victoria University of Wellington, and teaches English Literature, Film, and Media Studies. She lives in a book-infested flat by the beach, which she shares with her sister, three guinea pigs, and two over-active rabbits.

 

#Review Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth @emjaneunsworth @bisscakes @BoroughPress #Adults

Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth   January 30th 2020

Jenny is unloved, unemployable and emotionally unfiltered. Her long-suffering friends seem sick of her and whilst her social media portrays her life as a bed of roses, it is more of a dying succulent.

Adults is what you want it to be. A misadventure of maturity, a satire on our age of self-promotion, a tender look at the impossibility of womanhood, a love story, a riot. And Emma Jane Unsworth is the only voice to hear it from. Adults is excruciating, a gut punch of hilarity and a book laden with truth that you will read again and again.

My Review

When do we truly become an adult? Is it when we turn 18, that magic number when everything suddenly becomes legal or is adulthood something we grow into at some point in the future.

It was a question I pondered as I entered the world of Jenny, aged 35, newly single, a journalist for a feminist magazine lost in the melee that was social media.

How many likes would her latest Instagram post garner, was the picture right and what about the phrasing and the dreaded hashtag. Would her carefully thought out comments under those she followed be noticed and more importantly liked. It was as if Jenny was a teenager, searching for that ideal and perfect world. It was at times irritating, serious and laugh out loud funny.

I cringed at some of her antics, at her thought processes, felt alternately sorry and mad with her. I sympathised with her best friend Kelly at her constant selfishness and social media paranoia, detested her ex boyfriend Art and fell in love with her wonderfully colourful psychic mother.

It’s not often an author can stir up so many emotions yet Unsworth did it with such skill, her narrative a wonderful mix of the stark and the colourful.

I loved the differing lengths of the chapters the emails, and letters, interspersed that gave such a rounded and in depth portrayal of Jenny.

It was almost as if we were finding out who the real Jenny was as she hurtled from crisis to crisis as Jenny, herself peeled back the layers that left her exposed and vulnerable. Would she realise her mistakes, would she be able to rebuild, to find calm and acceptance in a mad chaotic world and be free of her addiction to her phone.

Unsworth perfectly captured modern society through her characters and the story she told. A society where perfection and perception is everything, where the average person can hide their true self behind a carefully nurtured and curated social media world. It made you wonder if we have forgotten the difference between the ideal and the reality, that if we don’t measure up to our peers expectations we have somehow failed.

Unsworth wasn’t passing judgement, wasn’t lecturing on the wrongs of our world she merely and brilliantly made you stop and think, to examine your own actions and maybe do something to change your own thoughts and ways.

Adults was a thoroughly modern novel, perceptive, funny, serious and just brilliant!

I would like to thank Ann Bissell and Borough Press for a copy of Adults to read and review.

About the author

Emma Jane Unsworth - image

Emma Jane Unsworth’s first novel, HUNGRY, THE STARS AND EVERYTHING, won a Betty Trask Award from the Society of Authors and was shortlisted for the Portico Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, ANIMALS, won a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize. ANIMALS was adapted into a film, for which Unsworth wrote the screenplay. ANIMALS the film, starring Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat, premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2019 and was released in the UK later the same year. Unsworth writes essays for various magazines and newspapers. She also writes for television. She is currently adapting ADULTS, her third novel, into a TV series.

#Blogtour The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd @GuinGlasfurd @tworoadsbooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheYearWithoutSummer

The Year Without Summer

The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd  Two Roads Books  February 6th 2020

1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia
Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands. Sent to investigate, ship surgeon Henry Hogg can barely believe his eyes. Once a paradise, the island is now solid ash, the surrounding sea turned to stone. But worse is yet to come: as the ash cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.

1816
In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration. Confined inside by the unseasonable weather, thousands of famine refugees stream past her door. In Vermont, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and their livestock starve.

In Suffolk, the ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. In the Fens, farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from the Napoleonic wars, finds his family home demolished and a fence gone up in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of revolutionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost. As desperation sets in, Britain becomes beset by riots – rebellion is in the air.

The Year Without Summer is the story of the books written, the art made; of the journeys taken, of the love longed for and the lives lost during that fateful year. Six separate lives, connected only by an event many thousands of miles away. Few had heard of Tambora – but none could escape its effects.

My Review

I loved this novel for its intriguing mix of fictional and true historical detail. The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 was the catalyst for a chain of events in 1816 as its effects wrecked havoc on the world’s climate, summer a distant memory, snow, wind, rain the dominate features. In the aftermath of the 1816 eruption a British ships doctor was forced to face the trauma of an island devasted by the volcano, its people either dead or severely burnt. You could sense his helplessness, his changing attitude to his own life and his desolation at having to leave them. In America Charles Whitlock battled drought, his faith and tragedy.  In England John Constable sought acceptance for his landscape paintings and the marriage of the love of his life. Hope Peter returned from the Napoleonic Wars found himself in the midst of rebellion as the poor became poorer and the richer ever richer. In Switzerland, Mary Shelly was challenged to write a novel that would become world famous.

It sounds complicated with multiple timelines but Glasfurd’s handling of the many stands was seamless. She gave you a real sense of the themes of the time, of the changing landscape of rural England, as machinery replaced people, the landed gentries seemingly ignorant attitude to their workers and the grinding poverty in which they lived.

The weather played its part and added to the darkness, the persistent wind and rain in England, depressive and all compassing, the heat of the sun in rural America, unrelenting as it forced the characters to question their motives, their whole reason for being. I loved that it pushed them out of their comfort zones, their actions often based on obsession or desperation especially in the case of Charles Whitlock.

The characters were all so varied, their suffering and oppression relevant to their class status, which Glasfurd used brilliantly to show the differing effects of change and attitudes.

It was a novel full of wonderful imagery, the narrative insightful, and compelling, the historical detail fascinating and perfectly blended with the fictional. A novel with a different slant, a wonderful uniqueness that made for engrossing reading.

I would like to thank Two Road Books for a copy of a Year Without Summer and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Guinevere Glasfurd was born in Lancaster and lives near Cambridge with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, The Words in My Hand, was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa First Novel Award and Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was longlisted in France for the Prix du Roman FNAC. The Year Without Summer was written with support from the MacDowell Colony Foundation. Awarded grants from the Arts Council England and the British Council for her novels, her writing has also appeared in the Scotsman, Mslexia and The National Galleries of Scotland. She is currently working on her third novel, a story of the Enlightenment, set in eighteenth-century England and France.

#Blogtour Stasi Winter by David Young @djy_writer @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders #StasiWinter

 

Stasi Winter by David Young  Zaffre  January 9th 2020

IN EAST GERMANY, 1978, NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS.
The state’s power is absolute, history is re-written, and the ‘truth’ is whatever the Stasi say it is.

So when the murder of a woman is officially labelled an ‘accidental death’, Major Karen Müller of the People’s Police is faced with a dilemma.

To solve the crime, she must defy the official version of events. But defy the Stasi means putting her own life – and the lives of her young family – in danger.

As the worst winter in history holds Germany in its freeze, Müller must untangle a web of state secrets and make a choice: between the truth and a lie, justice and injustice, and, ultimately, life and death.

My Review

Stasi Winter was a novel with a winter like no other, it was cold, in fact it was Arctic. Young’s brilliant descriptions of an East Germany swathed in an arctic chill, its sea frozen solid had you shivering as you read.

It formed such a wonderful backdrop to his story, as the elements conspired against his characters, and added an extra dimension to what was already a drama filled novel.

The characters, detectives Muller and Tilsner were new to me, as I was typically late to Young’s Stasi series, yet it didn’t make a difference. Hints of their backstory were littered throughout and I soon had a good idea of what made them tick.

Muller, the leader was quite fearless for a woman in such a controlled state as East Germany. You felt she had to be twice as good as the men around her to have got to the high rank of Major, yet she lost none of her femininity, motherhood always a priority, the force which pushed her and her commitment to the powers that be to safeguard her family.

But what of those not in authority, what about Young’s main protagonist Irma, pulled into the escape plans of her new love Dieter and his friends? Quite a mixed up young woman, again with a history in previous novels, but not something that hindered the reader.

I loved the way Young used her to question how far we would go for love, or was it infatuation that drove Irma to take such risks. The more she was drawn in, the more you sensed her regret, her trepidation and I admired her questioning nature, her sense of loyalty and willingness to try and do what was right. Young made you believe in this young woman, made you want her to have a happy ending and a life of freedom.

What you could not get away from was the tension that Young created, the fear that your every move was being watched, every conversation listened into. The constant fear that at any moment you could be dragged off to reform school to relearn the ways of the East German state. It gave the novel a claustrophobic feel, its characters forever on edge, never able to relax.

The notorious Stasi Police showed an organisation who would sacrifice anyone to save face and indeed protect their country as Young highlighted the power struggle between them and Muller.

In essence Stasi Winter was cold, chilling and brutal, it’s characters thrown to the mercy of the elements in a battle against crime and the east and the west. I loved it and shall be making sure I read the other novels in the series as well as hoping a new novel will not be long before it appears.

I would like to thank Zaffre for a copy of Stasi Winter by David Young to read and review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

David Young was born near Hull and – after dropping out of a Bristol University science degree – studied Humanities at Bristol Polytechnic. Temporary jobs cleaning ferry toilets and driving a butcher’s van were followed by a career in journalism with provincial newspapers, a London news agency, and international radio and TV newsrooms. He now writes in his garden shed and in his spare time supports Hull City AFC. You can follow him on Twitter @djy_writer. Join David Young’s Readers’ Club for all the latest news from David on his books, events and giveaways: http://www.bit.ly/DavidYoungClub

Stasi Winter

#Blogtour The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell @Caroline_writes @AmazonPub @BOTBSPublicity #ThePerfectMother

 

The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell   Amazon Publishing January 14th 2020

Roz is young, penniless and pregnant. All she wants is to be the perfect mother to her child, but the more she thinks about her own chaotic upbringing, the more certain she is that the best life for her baby is as far away as possible from her hometown in Ireland.

Determined to do the right thing, Roz joins an elite adoption service and can’t believe her luck. Within days she is jetting to New York to meet a celebrity power couple desperate for a child of their own. Sheridan and Daniel are wealthy and glamorous—everything Roz isn’t. Her baby will never go hungry, and will have every opportunity for the perfect life. But soon after Roz moves into their plush basement suite, she starts to suspect that something darker lurks beneath the glossy surface of their home.

When Roz discovers she isn’t the first person to move in with the couple, and that the previous woman has never been seen since, alarm bells start ringing. As the clock ticks down to her due date, Roz realises her unborn baby may be the only thing keeping her alive, and that despite her best intentions, she has walked them both into the perfect nightmare…

My Review

Fake, wealth and privilege can buy a lot, even a baby but I definitely would not have liked to be the provider of Hollywood power couple Sheridan and Daniels’s new baby.

They were the most selfish, self obsessed couple you would never want to meet. Sheridan was the epitome of mixed up evil, damaged by a childhood lived out in people’s living rooms. Anything she wanted Sheridan got, even if that came at a terrible cost to others. I found it hard to find any redeeming features, even as events unfolded and the truth unravelled, the hints of a softer side didn’t sway me.

Her husband Daniel was the one you wanted to like, the actor who exuded sex appeal, seemed softer, more caring, yet you sensed a darkness that would eventually emerge.

And what of Roz, the woman chosen to carry their longed for second child. No money, a fractured family background, pregnant from a one night stand. She was so very vulnerable, perfectly ripe for plucking out of her Ireland home to be swept off to the bright lights of New York and the promise of money and luxury.

Mitchell didn’t give her long to enjoy her good fortune before the true nature of her situation quickly emerged. She swept us along in a fast paced, ever moving narrative that explored jealousy, greed, power and influence in a social media dominated world.

You knew the only character you could trust was Roz, the others all out to protect themselves, agendas hidden until the very last moment. I couldn’t read fast enough, as I powered through, desperate to discover Roz’s fate. Would she survive her ordeal, would she discover the fate of the previous baby donor and would Sheridan and Daniel be the architects of their own downfall?

Oh how gloriously messy it was when Mitchell revealed all!

I would like to thank Amazon Publishing for a copy of The Perfect Mother to read and review and to Emma Welton of Books On The Bright Side for inviting My Booksih Blogspot to participate in the blogtour

About the author

Originally from Ireland, Caroline lives with her family, parrot and two dogs in a pretty village on the coast of Essex.

A former police detective, Caroline has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences.

Published by Bookouture and Thomas & Mercer, she now writes full time and all her books have become number 1 best sellers in their categories. She is a USA Today Bestselling Thriller Author

#Blogtour Six Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain @SpainJoanne @QuercusBooks @MillsReid11

Six Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain   Quercus January 16th 2020

It’s June 2008 and twenty-one-year-old Adam Lattimer vanishes, presumed dead. The strain of his disappearance breaks his already fragile family.

Ten years later, with his mother deceased and siblings scattered across the globe, Adam turns up unannounced at the family home. His siblings return reluctantly to Spanish Cove, but Adam’s reappearance poses more questions than answers. The past is a tangled web of deceit.

And, as tension builds, it’s apparent somebody has planned murderous revenge for the events of ten years ago.

My Review

There’s nothing like a fractured family on which to base a novel and Jo Spain excelled, as she brought us six siblings, all spread far and wide, all with their own secrets.

The return of Adam, the son, the brother who vanished years ago and acted as the catalyst to bring them all back together at the family home in Ireland.

A family reunion that was like no other, a murder that brought out the best and the worst in their characters. Spain’s characterisations were the highlight of the novel, each sibling so different, their circumstances varied and diverse.

Clio, the youngest, Kate rich, self obsessed, James the has been TV producer, Ryan reformed drug addict, Ellen the supposedly dutiful daughter, and Adam the prodigal son.

I loved how Spain used each of their voices to tell the story, it gave us insight into their possible motives, the little pacts that formed between individual siblings. Spain left you with a feeling that there was something untold, that some knew more than they were saying, which only made the pages turn faster as the turmoil and tension became unbearable.

The before and after structure of the novel allowed to Spain to fill in the gaps, to give us the history of each of the siblings, and most importantly form an opinion on who you thought the possible culprit or culprits were. Their reactions to the unfolding drama were brilliantly captured as you found yourself drawn deeper into their intricate web of lies and deceit.

I had an incling as to who it might have been but Spain threw it all out of the window with the most wonderful twist, that at once made sense and also surprised.

Six Wicked Reasons was fascinating, intriguing and addictive and made me like Jo Spain just that little bit more!

I would like to thank Quercus for a copy of Six Wicked Reasons to read and review and to Milly Reid for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

 

Jo Spain is a full-time writer and screenwriter. Her first novel, With Our Blessing, was one of seven books shortlisted in the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition and her first psychological thriller, The Confession, was a number one bestseller in Ireland. Jo co-wrote the ground-breaking television series Taken Down, which first broadcast in Ireland in 2018. She’s now working on multiple European television projects. Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and their four young children.

 

#Blogtour The Lady Of The Ravens by Joanna Hickson @joannahickson @HarperCollinsUK @annecater #RandonThingsTours #TheLadyOfTheRavens

 

The Lady of the Ravens (Queens of the Tower, Book 1) Hardcover by

The Lady of The Ravens by Joanna Hickson   Harper Collins January 9th 2020

Two women, two very different destinies, drawn together in the shadow of the Tower of London:

Elizabeth of York, her life already tainted by dishonour and tragedy, now queen to the first Tudor king, Henry the VII.

Joan Vaux, servant of the court, straining against marriage and motherhood and privy to the deepest and darkest secrets of her queen. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, as conspiracy whispers through the dark corridors of the Tower.

Through Joan’s eyes, The Lady of the Ravens inhabits the squalid streets of Tudor London, the imposing walls of its most fearsome fortress and the glamorous court of a kingdom in crisis.

My Review

Two women navigated the court of Henry VII, Elizabeth his young queen, Joan part of her entourage. It was a court Hickson vividly captured in her wonderfully written novel The Lady Of The Ravens.

I knew little of the reign of Henry VII but Hickson gave us all the colour and vibrancy of the feasts, the weddings but more importantly the intrigue and festering plots that surrounded it. Hickson portrayed a king who desperately tried to realign his kingdom after the war between the York’s and the Lancastrians, and I for one was fascinated.

What fascinated even more was the the life of women in the royal circle, Joan young, determined to serve her Queen, who rebuked marriage and children. She was a woman with intelligence who found relaxation in books rather than tapestry or music, who roamed the grounds of the Tower of London fascinated by the Ravens that lived there. Indeed the Ravens were a common theme throughout, as they acted as her talisman, her protection against the dangers that lurked. She was a woman who matured within the pages who opened her eyes to love, but whose loyalty to those around her remained steadfast, and resolute.

Elizabeth, the Queen, another strong woman, again loyal to those around her, stalwart to her King. You wondered how she dealt with the pressure, the need to produce a healthy heir, to withstand multiple pregnancies that could have ended in her own death.

It was the sacrifices these women made that stood out, their children left to the care of nannies and governesses as they carried out their duties.

Hickson’s narrative was full of the wonderful imagery of the royal palaces, their journeys on barges down the Thames and the majestic Tower Of London. You were instantly transported to 15th Century London, the acrid smells of the streets, and the myriad of people that frequented them.

The historical aspects were well researched and informative, the air filled with imminent danger, those deemed as traitors faced with the threat of death by beheading. It was definitely not a comfortable life for many, but that added to the underlying and simmering drama created by Hickson. There were hints at trying and perilous times ahead for Joan and her Queen and I cannot wait for the next instalment.

I would like to thank Harper Collins for a copy of The Lady Of The Ravens by Joanna Hickson 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

Joanna Hickson - image

Joanna Hickson was born in England but spent her early childhood in Australia, returning at thirteen to visit her first castle and fall in love with medieval history. During a twenty-five year career in the BBC, presenting and producing News and Arts programmes for TV and Radio, Joanna also published a children’s historical novel Rebellion at Orford Castle but now she is writing adult fiction full-time, indulging her passion for bringing the medieval past and its characters to life.

First inspired by Shakespeare’s history plays she began researching Catherine de Valois, Henry V’s ‘Fair Kate’, who is the subject of The Agincourt Bride and The Tudor Bride and now her interest has progressed into the Wars of the Roses which form the background to Red Rose White Rose and the eventful life of Cicely Neville, Duchess of York and will also feature in her next two novels. As a result Joanna warns that she spends much of her life in the fifteenth century and even her Wiltshire farmhouse home dates back to that period.

She is married and has an extensive family, some of which boomerang her back to Australia for visits! Twitter @joannahickson Facebook page: Joanna Hickson

#Blogtour The Home by Sarah Stovell @sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheHome

The Home by Sarah Stovell  Orenda January 23rd 2020

When the body of a pregnant fifteen-year-old is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For she lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away…

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

A gritty, dark and harrowing psychological thriller, The Home is also a heartbreaking drama and a piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all…

My Review

Home is where the heart is or so they say. It’s where we go to feel safe and secure, but what if it wasn’t our happy place, what if it was a nightmare we longed to escape.

For Annie, Hope, and Lara home was that nightmare, one they escaped only to be plonked in a looked after home in the middle of the Lake District. From the outset Stovell left us in no doubt that The Home wasn’t going to be full of cosy social workers out to save’ three vulnerable girls. Instead in the voices of each of the three girls and head of the home Helen, she gave us characters damaged by life, and by those who were supposed to love and protect us.

Annie, was the only one who I felt had a future, one who sought refuge in education, had a greater intelligence, had more control. I loved her relationship with Hope, their shared troubles that led to love, one that Hope saw as their future, but saw Annie unwilling to compromise, unable to love at any cost.

And what of Hope, mature in some many ways, used and abused by the man she thought was protecting her, her mother, drugged up, incapable of functioning as a responsible adult. Your heart went out to Hope, her vulnerability, her clouded narrow vision of what love and family were, in the end her undoing.

Lara seemed the odd one out and I did wonder what her role would be. The silent girl, the one who watched, listened, who kept the secrets, who hovered in the background, ever present. She was Hope’s kindred spirit someone who wouldn’t answer back or question, someone she could save.

Stovell, flipped seamlessly from past to present, as she revealed the girl’s backgrounds. You could see how their thoughts, decisions and reasoning had been shaped by their trauma, the irresponsible actions of adults, their own adulthood and future scarred from the very beginning.

You questioned how they slipped through the net, the ineffectiveness of authorities put there to prevent such tragedies.

The bleakness of the Lakeland Fells added to the gloom that hung over them. The ruggedness of the landscape seemed somehow to match the ups and downs of their relationships, and the events that slowly engulfed them. They sought comfort in each other but were alone, lost in their own troubles, their own need to survive or to give in, to leave it all behind, to seek peaceful oblivion.

You would have thought their story would have been sufficient to fill the novel, but Stovell went one step further and gave us a crime novel too. How did a young pregnant fifteen year old end up murdered? Who was responsible and why?

The unravelling made for compulsive reading, the culprit already earmarked, the reader lulled into a false sense of security as they waited for the big reveal. You got to the last few pages and suddenly Stovell threw in the curve ball, your theories blown out the window, yet it left you feeling a huge sense of satisfaction that maybe things had worked out for the best. Why? Well you will just have to read The Home to discover why.

You will not be disappointed.

I would like to thank Karen at Orenda for a copy of The Hone to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting MyBookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times.

#Blogtour The Followers by Megan Angelo @meganangelo @HarperCollinsUK @joe_thomas25 #TheFollowers

Followers Paperback by

The Followers by Megan Angelo   HQ January 9th 2020

When everyone is watching you can run, but you can’t hide…

2051. Marlow and her mother, Floss, have been handpicked to live their lives on camera, in the closed community of Constellation.

Unlike her mother, who adores the spotlight, Marlow hates having her every move judged by a national audience.

But she isn’t brave enough to escape until she discovers a shattering secret about her birth.

Now she must unravel the truth around her own history in a terrifying race against time…

An explosive and unsettling novel set in the near-future, perfect for fans of Station Eleven, Black Mirror, The Circle and Friend Request.

My Review

We all dabble in social media, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, but what if you took that dabbling to the extreme? What would your life look like? For Marlow her life in Constellation is a life lived in front of a camera, the bathroom the only escape from ever watchful cameras, her every move and life event written by a team of writers.

Angelo made it all feel so ordinary, yet at the same time you were horrified, as you caught a glimpse into a dark future.

You wanted to know how she ended up in Constellation and Angelo’s dual timeline transported the reader skillfully between the past and the present.

She introduced us to Orla, prolific blogger whose flatmate Floss had a huge desire to be famous. Using Orla’s PR and social media skills her wish soon became true and you felt like you were trapped in a nightmare. Angelo made you question everything you thought about self promotion, life in the spotlight and the lengths some will go to to achieve their aim.

Floss was every bit the Instagram, YouTube, reality TV personality we see on our screens. She was utterly selfish and self obsessed, always on the look out for the next big thing that would garner followers. She used, manipulated and disrespected those around her, as Angelo perfectly curated a character you will love to hate.

Was Orla any different or was she too along for the ride, for the fame and the riches it brought with it? Orla was one of those wonderful contradictions, a character you wanted to dislike, but who you knew deep down wasn’t anything like Floss, who was somehow lost, and you wanted the real Orla to fight her way out.

As their story unfolded, so Angelo slowly revealed Marlow’s, a story that sickened and horrified me, as I knew that somewhere in the world it could be a real persons story.

And that was what was so brilliant about this novel. Yes, it was set in the future, yes Angelo was asking us to suspend belief, but was she really? Are we today laying the foundations for a future where privacy is non existent, our data used to manipulate society for the benefit of others. Is this a future that we really want or should we be doing something about it now before it goes too far and a return to the norm would be impossible.

I came to the conclusion that there is a place for both in society, that it’s our decision how far we use social media and the opposing sides should respect our choices.

What ever your thoughts I recommend that you pick up The Followers and immerse yourself in Angelo’s fabulous narrative. It was a narrative that immersed you in such wonderful storytelling, from the very first page to the last.

It would make the most wonderful Netflix series and I for one would be hooked.

I would like to thank Harper Collins for a copy of The Followers by Megan Angelo and to Joe Thomas for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Megan Angelo - image

Megan has written about television, film, women and pop culture, and motherhood for publications including The New York Times (where she helped launch city comedy coverage), Glamour (where she was a contributing editor and wrote a column on women and television), Elle, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, and Slate. She is a native of Quakertown, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Villanova University. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her family. FOLLOWERS is her first novel.