#Dead Ground by M.W Craven @MWCravenUK @LittleBrownUK #DeadGround #TeamPoe #TeamTilly

Dead Ground
Dead Ground by M.W. Craven Little Brown UK June 3rd 2021

The Blurb

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is in court, fighting eviction from his beloved and isolated croft, when he is summoned to a backstreet brothel in Carlisle where a man has been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Poe is confused – he hunts serial killers and this appears to be a straightforward murder-by-pimp – but his attendance was requested personally, by the kind of people who prefer to remain in the shadows.

As Poe and the socially awkward programmer Tilly Bradshaw delve deeper into the case, they are faced with seemingly unanswerable questions: despite being heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing in the victim’s background check out? Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene – and why did someone on the investigation team steal it? And what is the connection to a flawlessly executed bank heist three years earlier, a heist where nothing was taken . . .

My Review

When you know Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are due for another outing there is that wave of anticipation as you wait to be invited onto the blogtour, get accepted and then the excitement when the book finally hits the door mat.

You never know where or what Craven will conjure up for them but there is always the certainty it will be damn good.

Dead Ground was no exception, yet this time it was different, it felt like a step away from the gruesomeness we would normally expect. Yes there was a murder or two but it felt more considered, in depth and definitely more complex.

The research was meticulous, Cravens knowledge of the military, police procedure, MI5, Al Qaida and Isis was a powerful tool he used brilliantly. It never swamped or drowned out the story but showed the hard work and determination Poe and Tilly needed to crack the investigation.

And what of the investigation? At first I wasn’t quite sure exactly where Craven was heading, the opening chapter almost comical as he plunged multiple James Bonds into a bank heist. Next stop a dead body in a brothel and an enamel rat. Throw in feisty American FBI agent Melody Lee and MI5 officer Hannah Finch and you knew Poe and Tilly had their hands full.

I was pleased to see that Poe had lost none of his grumpy, no nonsense manner, a man who didn’t mince his words, knew his limitations and cut through red tape with what felt like a knife. Tilly was also at her absolute best, and Craven has done a wonderful job developing her character, the rough edges still visible but none of her tenacity and intelligence diluted

Tilly and Poe struggled, almost felt defeated as Craven upped the complexity, a myriad of layers, people, subterfuge as the horrifying tragedy and selfishness of conflict and war emerged. It was tense and utterly enthralling, and a tad frustrating as Poe and Tilly met dead ends, obstacles and people that stood in their way.

But hey, this was Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw, the dream team, the team that are almost invincible, that don’t care for procedure, only for truth and justice. Now Craven may have less blood and gore but that didn’t stop him giving us his trademark dramatic and tense ending, the final pieces of the jigsaw finally in place and the true culprits revealed.

It may have been a departure for Craven but it was a welcome one, one that showcased Craven’s diversity, skill and technique. The relationship of respect and deep friendship between Poe and Tilly was further cemented, Poe’s vulnerability and search for the truth of his parentage again questioned and his search for answers seemed to be a little closer.

I cannot wait for the next instalment ans I do hope it will not be a long wait.

I would like to thank Little Brown for a copy of Dead Ground to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour

M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, returning after 31 years to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals. His first novel featuring Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw, The Puppet Show, was published by Constable to huge acclaim, and it has since won the CWA Gold Dagger Award and been shortlisted for the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards: Best Crime Novel, the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award and the Dead Good Reader Awards. M. W. Craven lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can usually be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.

#Blogtour The Couple by Helly Acton @hellyacton @ZaffreBooks @Tr3cyF4nt0n #Compulsivereaders #TheCouple

The Couple by Helly Acton Zaffre Books May 27th 2021

The Blurb

Millie is a perfectionist. She’s happy, she’s successful and, with a great support network of friends and family (and a very grumpy cat), she’s never lonely. She loves working at a big tech firm and is on track be promoted to her dream role. The last thing she needs is romance messing up her perfectly organised world.

Besides, normal people just don’t have romantic relationships. Everyone knows that being in a couple is a bit . . . well, odd. You know, like having a pet snake or referring to yourself in the third person. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up? No, Millie is more than happy with her conventional single life.

So, when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that prevents you falling in love, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until she starts working with Ben. He’s charming and funny, and Millie feels an instant connection to him.

Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?

My Review

After a couple of deep intense novels The Couple was the perfect antidote, it had lightness to it but some serious thought provoking ideas that definitely set my head reeling.

We met Millie, successful, intelligent and happy living the single life with just a cat, all be it an antisocial cat for company. She had friends June and Ruth, her wonderful partners in crime and perhaps that was where the hint of change began to appear as Acton placed Ruth in a relationship and anomaly in society.

An anomaly you might say? What was wrong with that? In Acton’s world relationships were very much against the expected norm. Couples were derided, charged more living expenses and positively discouraged. Instead you were supposed to use the App Slide to have that fleeting connection, to serve a base need. It seemed to be a world Millie embraced, totally believed in, as Acton gave her the certainty that every day would follow a familiar routine, get up, walk to work, grab the same coffee from the same place, eat the requisite lunch on a particular day. Then Acton threw in a curve ball, a new employee Ben, a new product that promised to cure the heartbroken, to ensure the single life was forever, never to be breached.

Was it something we would have wanted, was the life Millie strived to achieve really attainable, sustainable or indeed what was wanted?

Ben was the light of the novel, the catalyst that Acton cleverly used to open up a new Millie, a Millie that glimpsed a different life but railed against it. You could sense Millie’s fear of being swamped by another person, of losing her identity, her individuality, of what friends would think, the attitude of her work colleagues and the promise of the longed for promotion disappeared.

It was fun and interesting to watch Acton put her through the veritable wringer of emotion and angst. It made me laugh, made me frustrated made me look at my own situation and think what I would do or want. Yes the singular life, the ordered predictably or everyday appealed but where was the spontaneity, freedom to show off the person you loved, to enjoy a relationship, the good and the heartbreak that perhaps made us all the better for experiencing.

And this is what I liked so much about The Couple, Actins’s ability to entertain, but infuse her narrative with a subversive serious aspect.

I would like to thank Zaffre Books for a copy of The Couple to read and review and to Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Helly Acton

Helly Acton is a copywriter from London with past lives in Zimbabwe, the Middle East and Australia. She studied Law at King’s College London before following a more creative path into advertising. At 26, Helly took a career break to travel in Africa and Asia, before landing in Sydney. Six years and one life-affirming break up later, she returned home and threw herself into online dating in the city. Helly uses this experience as a single woman in her early thirties – torn between settling down and savouring her independence – as a source of inspiration.

Helly currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, Chris, their little boy, Arlo, and their little dog, Milo. Sometimes, she gets their names mixed up.

#Blogtour This Is How by We Are Human Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomTTours #ThisHowWeAreHuman

This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech Orenda Books 10th June 2021

The Blurb

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.

Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.

Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.

When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.

A topical and moving drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family … to survive … This Is How We Are Human is a searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with an emotional core that will warm and break your heart.

My Review

A new novel by Louise Beech is always something to celebrate, to get excited about and she is an author that never disappoints. This Is How We Are Human was no exception, in fact I would go as far as to say that it is her best novel yet.

I had to wait a couple of days before writing my review. I needed to let the words but more importantly the characters sink in, to gain perspective and just enjoy and appreciate what I had read.

At first glance you would be forgiven that we had been here before, an autistic character grappling with life in a normal world, but Beech turned it on its head and took us somewhere where perhaps we never think about, never really appreciate. Just because a person has what we perceive to be a disability doesn’t mean that they don’t have sexual needs just like everyone of us. What we don’t do is talk about it, we just brush it under the carpet and dismiss, not for Beech.

She gave us Sebastian James Murphy aged twenty years, six months and two days, age so important, to know he was an adult, not a child. He was funny, serious, intelligent, loved fried eggs and desperately wanted to have sex. Mother Veronica was going to make his wish come true and would do anything to make it happen, and when the solution presented itself it all seemed just too good to be true.

Enter Violetta, high class escort, a woman just trying to make the best of her own personal situation. I absolutely loved her, she was honest, practical and the fact Beech didn’t make her the usual stereotypical escort was utterly refreshing. So often we see the glamour, and the money not the risk, the brutality and sense of righteous ownership from the clients. My heart sank every time she went to a meeting and I recoiled as I read Beech’s unflinching descriptions. Beech infected her with such huge vulnerability, a body and mind ripe for something new and unexpected that you sort of guessed what would be yet enjoyed the journey and revelled in the outcomes.

The relationship between Violetta and Sebastian was a true highlight, and one Beech depicted with huge sensitivity. It never felt awkward or forced but tender, poignant. I felt they were each other’s trigger to open their minds to new things, to endless future possibilities. You couldn’t help but admire Beech’s ability to get so deep inside Sebastian’s mind, to normalise his autism, to show that he had the same feelings, needs as all of us, just a different approach to getting there.

But life never runs smooth and when truth found it’s way out it made for some tense and heart rending reading . The emotion Beech infused was, at times, unbearable but necessary, necessary to show what Sebastian, Violetta and Veronica meant to each other and the profound effect decisions made can have.

This was a novel that left its footprints in your mind that would leave an indelible mark, of a novel never to be forgotten and an author who once again showed immense skill and unbound versatility.

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy This Is How We Are Human to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Reader’s Choice in 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe, was shortlisted for the Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her 2019 novel Call Me Star Girl won Best Magazine’s Book of the Year, and was followed by a ghost-story cum psychological thriller set in a theatre, I Am Dust. Louise is currently working on her seventh book, and she lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Follow Louise on Twitter @LouiseWriter and visit her website: louisebeech.co.uk.

#Blogtour Diving For Pearls by Jamie O’Connell @jamieoconnell @DoubledayUK @annecater #RandomTTours #DivingforPearls

Diving for Pearls
Diving For Pearls by Jamie O’Connell Doubley Uk June 3rd 2021

The Blurb

A young woman’s body floats in the Dubai marina. Her death alters the fates of six people, each one striving for a better life in an unforgiving city.

A young Irish man comes to stay with his sister, keen to erase his troubled past in the heat of the Dubai sun. A Russian sex worker has outsmarted the system so far – but will her luck run out? A Pakistani taxi driver dreams of a future for his daughters. An Emirate man hides the truth about who he really is. An Ethiopian maid tries to carve out a path of her own. From every corner of the globe, Dubai has made promises to them all. Promises of gilded opportunities and bright new horizons, the chance to forget the past and protect long-held secrets.

But Dubai breaks its promises, with deadly consequences. In a city of mirages, how do you find your way out?

My Review

I love Instagram and many of the so called celebs I follow spend holidays or even live in Dubai. You cannot help but be bedazzled by the beautiful hotels, beaches, the rich luxurious lifestyle they enjoy, but is it all a huge front, is there something murky, unsavoury that lurks beneath the shiny exterior?

Jamie O’Connell didn’t hesitate to show Dubai at its best but where he excelled was Dubai at its worst. His characters were from all walks of life from Siobhan, a harried mother of two, wife to a wealthy businessman wrapped up in designer clothes, and ladies that lunch to Tahir, a humble Pakistani taxi driver, earning money to give his family a better life.

There was Aasim who lived a life of perceived freedom, a medical student in Dublin, a man who hid his homosexuality from his family.

Trevor sister of Siobhan, physically fit yet mentally exhausted, adrift and finally Lydia Russian sex worker part of a subversive underground out to satisfy the needs of her wealthy characters. Joan mother of Siobhan and Trevor, worried for her children yet neglectful her own life.

My favourite character had to be Gete the Ethiopian maid. She was O’Connell master stroke, our eyes, our ears, our objective commentator who watched on as events, actions tore down carefully constructed lives.

At first I felt I was reading a series of short stories as O’Connell introduced his characters and then suddenly a death, a young women’s body in Dubai Marina. It all started to make sense, Aasim’s dash home, Siobhan’s husband prolonged absence, a fretful Tahir and a cautious Lydia.

It was then Dubai’s contradiction reared it’s head, no longer the rich bright safe haven, as O’Connell unearthed police brutality, corruption, racism, sexism, a two tired legal system that supported the white, the wealthy. O’Connell spared nothing, made you angry at the injustice, the need for a quick conviction, the maintenance of Dubai’s glossy veneer.

You read as characters scrambled to protect themselves, selfish intent at the forefront, the truth hidden below the surface cruelly exposed. The wealth and glamour lost its sheen as escape seemed the only option and O’Connell left you with a distinct bad taste in the mouth. Why should money, race, social status dictate outcomes, the very poorest the ones who suffered, pay the price? Yet O’Connell also showed the importance of family, money secondary to happiness, to live a life that may not have the glamour but was somehow purer and simpler.

A fabulous debut novel that definitely provoked but also had all the elements of a damn good story.

I would like to thank Doubleday UK for a copy of Diving For Pearls to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Jamie O’Connell has had short stories highly commended by the Costa Short Story Award and the Irish Book Award Short Story of the Year. He has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines Short Story Competition and shortlisted for the Maeve Binchy Travel Award and the Sky Arts Futures Fund. He has an MFA and MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin. He has worked for Penguin Random House, Gill Books and O’Brien Press. Diving for Pearls is his first novel.

#Blogtour One Last Time by Helga Flatland #HelgaFlatland @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #OneLastTime

One Last Time by Helga Flatland Orenda Books 24th May 2021

The Blurb

Anne’s life is rushing to an unexpected and untimely end. But her diagnosis of terminal cancer isn’t just a shock for her – and for her daughter Sigrid and granddaughter Mia – it shines a spotlight onto their fractured and uncomfortable relationships.

On a spur-of-the moment trip to France the three generations of women reveal harboured secrets, long-held frustrations and suppressed desires, and learn humbling and heart-warming lessons about how life should be lived when death is so close.

With all of Helga Flatland’s trademark humour, razor-sharp wit and deep empathy, One Last Time examines the great dramas that can be found in ordinary lives, asks the questions that matter to us all – and ultimately celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, in an exquisite, enchantingly beautiful novel that urges us to treasure and rethink … everything.

My Review

You would be forgiven for thinking you were heading into a crime novel as the opening scenes depicted Anne beheading her chickens. Her hurried stuffing of the carcasses into a freezer hinted at a woman with a lot on her mind who you surmised was at a crossroads in her life, a moment that would have consequences for her and her family.

Before the reasons were revealed Flatland swiftly moved to Oslo and Anne’s daughter Sigrid, a hard working GP, mother and wife. Here we had our two leading characters, whose lives Flatland proceeded to reveal in flash backs and their interactions as they navigated Anne’s slow demise.

Anne and Sigrid so different yet there were hints of similarities they perhaps never saw, or refused to acknowledge both extremely headstrong, wilful in their pursuit of what they wanted. For Sigrid, an apology for her perceived abandonment as a child, cast aside as Anne cared for her ill husband. For Anne, the desire to die on her own terms and perhaps to mend and bridge the gulf that existed between herself and Sigrid.

How they navigated the process was something Flatland did with amazing skill and sensitivity. Anne determined to be independent, to find solace in her rural surroundings yet a sense of unfinished business, to pull Sigrid close, to find a way of explaining her past actions, to find solace before she died. Flatland so beautifully showed her anguish, guilt that perhaps she would leave her mute, sick husband alone, but also anger at Sigrid’s unwillingness to let down her guard, to cede something, anything that showed they still had love and respect.

Sigrid was just as torn, her role as doctor became the armour she could hide behind, the clinical almost emotional less way she dealt with Anne’s cancer felt harsh and lacking in compassion. Flatland gradually chipped away at that armour, as we watched Sigrid’s own deteriorating relationship with daughter Mia. Would she make the same mistakes, or was there an opportunity to learn, to let Mia grow, learn, find her own way with Sigrid’s support and understanding.

At times Flatland made me frustrated, the tension that hung in the air of things left unsaid. You wanted to bash Sigrid’s and Anne’s heads together, tell them that time was short, that grudges, past mistakes should be left behind, to make the most of the time they had left. I railed against Sigrid’s need to always see the worst of her childhood, the happy moments shut away, out of sight. Her relationship with past love and father of Mia, Jen’s, an itch that needed to be scratched, unfinished business. Did she still have feelings, was her current partner enough or was there something more that she wanted. Yet Flatland showed that it was necessary for them to navigate this path, to understand and finally, hopefully reach a resolution.

You knew the ending but not how it would be and when it came it was tender, poignant hugely emotional, tissues close to hand. You left with a sense of having read an author with an acute understanding of the human psyche, of what makes us tick, of the contradictions, the complexities of family, and the intensity that often forms the basis of mother daughter relationships.

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of One Last Time to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Helga Flatland is 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. A Modern Family marked Helga’s first English publication when it was released in 2019, achieving exceptional critical acclaim and sales, and leading to Helga being dubbed the ‘Norwegian Anne Tyler’. One Last Time is her second book to be translated into English (by Rosie Hedger), and published in 2021. Helga is (sporadically) on Twitter @HelgaFlatland.

#Blogtour Heat Stroke by Hazel Barkworth

The Blurb

Rachel and her daughter Mia have never had secrets. Until now. Lily is missing. She’s somewhere she shouldn’t be – with him. Mia worries for her best friend. But she feels betrayed. In the middle of a stifling heatwave, somebody knows more than they’re letting on. Rachel, Lily and Mia stand on the edge of irrevocable change. Soon, just one burning question will remain… how could they let things go this far?

My Review

I didn’t mean to read it all in one sitting but I couldn’t help myself, it was so good.

From the very first sentence, the first page, I could not put it down, I wanted to know where Lily was, but more importantly I was intrigued by teacher and mother Rachel.

She was our narrator, and from the outset I just knew something didn’t fit, there was a niggle in the back of my mind that maybe she wasn’t honest with us and those around her.

She was Mum to Mia, a single child, adored, cosseted and loved, husband Tim absent due to work. Yes Rachel was a good Mum, a good teacher, yet she was very much full on, lonely, lost, wracked with anguish as she watched Mia grow up, need her less, pull away to live her own life. Maybe if Tim had been there he would have diluted the situation, provided the balance that she needed rather than push her into situations that Barkworth fully exploited with wonderful success.

As the hunt for Lily intensified Barkworth pushed Rachel closer and closer to the edge, yet there was restraint, the need to protect Mia at all costs. Was she right or should she had said something? I was torn, I could see both points of view, and I erred on the side of honesty and transparency. It was what made this novel so damn good, the dilemma Barkworth posed, the feeling of losing your child, that dread of the empty nest and how far you would go to protect your child.

When anyone disappears there is always that urgency, to collect information, and ultimately to find them as quickly as possible and Barkworth’s narrative perfectly matched that. The sentences were short, punchy, economical, nothing wasted, the information, feelings, actions, events thrown out there. It was intense, but utterly compelling and immersive. The insertion of what Lily might be going through, were timely and

I didn’t think Barkworth could increase the intensity any more but she did, the latter pages a maelstrom of emotion and revelations. I was exhausted when I finally read the final sentence, sleep took sometime as I needed to climb down from an adrenaline fuelled high.

Heat Stroke was just superb, an amazing debut novel.

I would like to thank Headline for a copy of Heat Stroke to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

HAZEL BARKWORTH grew up in Stirlingshire and North Yorkshire before studying English at Oxford. She then moved to London where she spent her days working as a cultural consultant, and her nights dancing in a pop band at glam rock clubs. Hazel is a graduate of both the Oxford University MSt in Creative Writing and the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-Writing course. She now works in Oxford, where she lives with her partner. HEATSTROKE is her first novel.

Quick Reads celebrates its 15th birthday @midaspr @readingagency #quickreads

CELEBRATING THE 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF QUICK READS:

SHORT BOOKS AND GREAT STORIES TACKLING THE ADULT LITERACY CRISIS

One in six adults in the UK – approximately 9 million people – find reading difficult, and one in three people do not regularly read for pleasure. Quick Reads, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, plays a vital role in addressing these shocking statistics by inspiring emergent readers, as well as those with little time or who have fallen out of the reading habit, with entertaining and accessible writing from the very best contemporary authors.

OYINKAN BRAITHWAITE: The Baby is Mine (Atlantic)

LOUISE CANDLISH: The Skylight (Simon & Schuster)

KATIE FFORDE: Saving the Day (Arrow)

PETER JAMES: Wish You Were Dead (Macmillan)

CAITLIN MORAN: How to Be a Woman, abridged (Ebury)

Over 5 million Quick Reads have been distributed since the life-changing programme launched in 2006. From 2020 – 2022, the initiative is supported by a philanthropic gift from bestselling author Jojo Moyes. This year, for every book bought until 31 July 2021, another copy will be gifted to help someone discover the joy of reading. ‘Buy one, gift one’ will see thousands of free books given to organisations across the UK to reach less confident readers and those with limited access to books – bring the joy and transformative benefits of reading to new audiences.

27 May 2021 | £1 | #QuickReads @readingagency

www.readingagency.org.uk 

Buy one, gift one: Buy a Quick Read this summer and we’ll gift a copy to help someone discover the joy of reading.”

My Review

The Baby Is Mine.jpg

I was a librarian for 20 years before a career change yet I still champion reading and it’s importance for everyone. Reading doesn’t comes easily for some and the thought of a book with hundreds of pages can seem daunting, this is where the quick reads series can help those reluctant or those who struggle.

The Baby Is Mine was everything a quick read should be, as Braithwaite entertained with a fabulous story. She gave the reader an opportunity to escape England to experience another country, the heat, the culture and three characters who held your attention.

Bambi was the alpha male chucked out by his girlfriend for cheating only to find himself peacemaker as his aunt and her dead husbands mistress fought over a baby. It was tense, fraught with arguments, darkness, locked rooms and exciting. Just who was the mother of this innocent lovely baby, a question that kept you turning the pages. The aunt and girlfriend were suitably bitchy, claws out, both desperate to prove they were the mother.

The ending was unexpected but very fitting for the time and feel of the story. If anything can persuade an individual that reading is an escape from the rigours of normal life then The Baby Is Mine would be the perfect introduction.

About the author

Image result for Oyinkan Braithwaite

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at a Nigerian Publishing House and has been freelancing as a writer and graphic designer since. She has had short stories published in anthologies and has also self-published work.

In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top ten spoken word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam. In 2016, she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

She is the author of My Sister, the Serial Killer, which won the 2019 LA Times Award for Best Crime Thriller, the 2019 Morning News Tournament of Books, the 2019 Amazon Publishing Reader’s Award for Best Debut Novel, the 2019 Anthony Award for Best First Novel.

It was also shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019, shortlisted for the Goodreads Choice Awards 2019 in the Mystery & Thriller and Debut Novel categories, shortlisted for the British Book Awards 2020 in two categories, shortlisted for the Cameo Awards 2020 in the Book to Audio category, shortlisted for Book Bloggers’ Choice Awards 2020.

It was longlisted for the Booker Prize 2019, and longlisted for the 2020 Dublin Literary Award.

My Sister, the Serial Killer is being translated into 30 languages and has also been optioned for film.

#Blogtour Mrs Narwhal’s Diary by S. J Norbury #SJNorbury @LouiseWalters12 @dampebbles #damppebblesblogtours #MrsNarwhalsDiary

Mrs Narwhal’s Diary by S.J Norbury Louise Walters Books May 16th 2021

The Blurb

“It was Woman’s Hour who suggested I keep a diary. They said it was good for mental health, and I must say I did feel much less frazzled after writing everything down yesterday. The frustrations were all still there, but somehow smoothed out – as if by a really good steam iron.”

Mrs Narwhal is overwhelmed. Her husband, Hugh, is unkind and unhappy – working every hour at a job he hates to save the ancestral home he never wanted. Then there’s Hugh’s sister, Rose, who’s spurned her one true love, and ricochets from crisis to crisis; and not to mention two small boys to bring up safely in a house that could crumble around their ears at any moment…

When Hugh’s pride receives a fatal blow, and he walks out, Mrs Narwhal is plunged into a crisis of both heart and home. With help from Rose she sets out to save the house her husband couldn’t. But can she save her marriage? And does she really want Hugh back?

Funny, charming, and moving, Mrs Narwhal’s Diary is an irresistible story which will enchant and delight its readers.

My Review

When a person decides to keep a diary the reasons can be many, but for most it’s a place to write inner feelings, and events of the day and this was the case for Mrs Narwhal.

The opening entry was droll, the ringing of a bell to signify the death anniversary of her husbands father, the family, disparate, unhappy. It was Norbury’s opportunity to set the scene to lay out the characters before the reader. Hugh, the husband, dull, the weight of the world on his shoulders, Rose the sister, colourful, flighty, the young sons desperate for escape and adventure, innocent onlookers to a broken family.

Broken? An inherited house full of history, the family seat that fell in ruins around them, a garden that could never be tamed and a tree house that screamed health and safety at you. All of this with dire financial issues, Mrs Narwhal the glue that appeared to hold it all together.

I loved that she was strong, determined, honest to herself, fully aware her marriage may not survive, Hugh lost to her, as she waded through a treacle like life. The catalyst when it came felt like a relief, the shackles released, Rose, invigorated, given a sense of purpose as Norbury sent them on a meandering path to rescue not only a house but a family.

It was never dark or full of utter despair, the diary was laced with humour, with appalling country characters full of snobbish self worth and entitlement. You grinned as Mrs Narwhal navigated dinner parties on her own, dealt with a love sick Rose and watched as her boys ran riot.

Norbury did give us a serious side in the shape of Hugh, the inability to cope with expectation, responsibility, suffocated by a house that fell around his eyes. Escape may have seemed cowardly but you did wonder what would have happened if he had stayed. I may have felt frustrated with him at first but as Norbury dug deeper you felt empathy, anger at his parents and admired the poignancy Norbury injected within the narrative.

I did want a happy ending, my investment in the characters demanded it as I fell in love with the chaotic, mad but utterly beguiling world of the Narwhal’s. Obviously it is not for me to reveal but for you to discover.

I would like to thank Louise Walters Books for a copy of Mrs Narwhal’s Diary to read and review and to Damp Pebbles Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

S J Norbury lives in Herefordshire with her family. Mrs Narwhal’s Diary is her first novel.

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3aDOjKw

Book Depository: https://bit.ly/3xscUMc

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/2R5p3pt

WHSmith: https://bit.ly/2QZkOMq

Foyles: https://bit.ly/3gHJMKX

Nook: https://bit.ly/3aEgMQf

Blackwells: https://bit.ly/3tXM1xk

#Blogtour The Ash Museum by Rebecca Smith @RMSmithAuthor @Legend_times #TheAshMuseum

The Blurb

1944. The Battle of Kohima. James Ash dies leaving behind two families: his ‘wife’ Josmi and two children, Jay and Molly, and his parents and sister in England who know nothing about his Indian family. 
2012. Emmie is raising her own daughter, Jasmine, in a world she wants to be very different from the racist England of her childhood. Her father, Jay, doesn’t even have a photograph of the mother he lost and still refuses to discuss his life in India. Emmie finds comfort in the local museum – a treasure trove of another family’s stories and artefacts. 
Little does Emmie know that with each generation, her own story holds secrets and fascinations that she could only dream of.

Through ten decades and across three continents, The Ash Museum is an intergenerational story of loss, migration and the search for somewhere to feel at home. 

My Review

The Ash Museum was a nostalgic trip down memory Lane not only for Emmie but also for me. I felt I was stepping inside my own recollections of the 80’s and 90’s, the clothes, the music, the world in general.

Of course what I didn’t remember nor had lots of knowledge was that of India’s tea plantations, the British who ran them, their overriding righteousness and sense of entitlement not only of the land but also it’s people.

It was where Smith began her story, the two little children, Jay and Molly, born out of wedlock, an Indian mother, a British father. She brilliantly portrayed the mothers constant anguish, wondering when she might be abandoned, the worry about the future of her children.

It set up the rest of the novel beautifully as Smith thrust us into the future to the life of Emmie and her father Jay. Jay of mixed race inheritance, singled out at school just because his colouring, his family were slightly different. Assumptions made you cross, frustrated but that just highlighted how skilled Smith was, never letting the racism take over the novel. She gave a balanced view point, gave Jay and Emmie reasons to succeed and for Emmie, in particular, a quiet reticence, a shyness and unwillingness to push her father into discussing his and her own heritage.

The willingness to dig deeper wasn’t a huge earthquake just a series of events, gentle nudges that pushed Emmie to be brave, to finally push her father to acknowledge his past.

I loved Smith’s narrative, the wonderful descriptions, the use of the Ash Museum and it’s eclectic and disparate collection of odd and wondrous artefacts. It reminded me of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, a place that never ceases to amaze and intrigue on the several times I have visited.

The feel of the novel was always one of hope, the dark carefully balanced with the light and joyous elements. It had a poignancy that tugged at heart strings, and I loved Emmie’s emergence from the slightly lonely woman lacking in self confidence to one that found a little of herself, of renewed friendships and happiness.

The Ash Museum was a veritable trip down memory lane, one that I revelled in and loved.

I would like to thank Legend Times for a copy of The Ash Museum to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

RebeccaSmithPhoto.jpg

Rebecca Smith was born in London and grew up in rural Surrey. From 2009 – 2010 she was the writer in residence at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, Hampshire. The Ash Museum was inspired by her time there and by being left hundreds of old family photographs and letters.


Twitter:  @RMSmithAuthor
IG:  @rebeccamarysmith7

#Blogblast Painting Time by Maylis de Kerangel Translated by Jessica Moore #MaylisdeKerangal @MaclehosePress @QuercusBooks @MillsReid11 #PaintingTime

A highly original coming-of-age story: an atmospheric and aesthetic portrayal of love, art and craftsmanship told through the story of a young decorative painter Kerangal’s novels sell hundreds of thousands of copies in her native France. Painting Time has so far sold over 135k copies there. 13 translation deals across the world have been agreed.

Behind the ornate doors of 30, rue du Métal in Brussels, twenty students begin their apprenticeship in the art of decorative painting – that art of tricksters and counterfeiters, where each knot in a plank of wood hides a secret and every vein in a slab of marble tells a story.
Among these students are Kate, Jonas and Paula Karst. Together, during a relentless year of study, they will learn the techniques of reproducing materials in paint, whether animal, vegetable or mineral, and the intensity of their experience – the long hours in the studio, the late nights, the conversations, arguments, parties, romances – will cement a friendship that lasts long after their formal studies end.
For Paula, her initiation into the art of trompe l’œil will take her back through time, from her own childhood memories, to the ancient formations of the materials whose depiction she strives to master. And from the institute in Brussels where her studies begin, to her work on the film sets of Cinecittà, and finally the caves of Lascaux, her experiences will transcend art, gradually revealing something of her own inner world, and the secret, unspoken, unreachable desires of her heart
.

My Review

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Painting Time but once I began I knew I was in for a veritable treat.

Let’s start with the narrative, so beautifully descriptive, the world of trompe l’oeil a world I have never encountered. It was utterly fascinating to read of the techniques, the intricate detail and enrapt focus of Paula, Kate and Jonas as they attempted to replicate, to capture what went before. My absolute favourite had to be the caves of Lascaux, the history enthralling the cave paintings tantalisingly vivid.

How might you ask did the author connect the art of trompe l’oil to Paula’s past and present life. The answer lay in the actual art form itself, as Paula became more and more immersed, the peeling back of the art synched perfectly with the peeling back of her childhood memories. An awkward girl who never seemed to fit in and that appeared to carry on in her adult life. Each job she undertook felt like a coat she tried on, one that never fit, never felt comfortable. Her relationships with others were the same, transient, short lived never matching expectation, or quite the fit for Paula, her personality and her life.

Jonas and Kate hovered in the background, their lives different but was their life any better than what Paula had? I loved the special bond she shared with Jonas, was it love, unrequited love, did a future loom in the distance?

It wasn’t until the latter part of the novel, the author sending Paula to Lascaux, that a sense of fulfilment, of finding that match and a belonging began to take shape. Terrorism reared it’s head, the attack on illustrators forced a reassessment, an opportunity to be honest and open and a glimpse of a future left you feeling content and satisfied.

The magic of Painting Time was Kerangel’s narrative skill, the sublime and vivid way in which she described that art, the technique. It was her ability to weave it seamlessly into Paula’s self discovery and development that was the genius stroke and one that made reading an absolute joy and pleasure.

I would like to thank Maclehose for a copy of Painting Time to read and review and to Milly Reid for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blog blast.

About the author

See the source image

MAYLIS DE KERANGAL spent her childhood in Le Havre, France. Her novel, Birth of a Bridge (MacLehose, 2015), was the winner of the Prix Franz Hessel and Prix Médicis in 2010. In 2014, her fifth novel, Mend the Living, was published to wide acclaim in France, winning the Grand Prix RTL-Lire award and the student choice novel of the year from France Culture and Télèrama. In the UK, Mend the Living was longlisted for the Booker International Prize in 2016, and won the Wellcome Book Prize in 2017 – only the second novel and the first work in translation ever to do so.