#Review The Sound Mirror by Heidi James @heidipearljames @Ofmooseandmen #TheSoundMirror #BlueMooseWomen2020

The Sound Mirror by Heidi James Bluemoose Books August 20th 2020

Book Synopsis

Tamara is going to kill her mother, but she isn’t the villain. Tamara just has to finish what began before her birth, and put an end to the damage encoded in her blood. Tamara visits her mother for the last time, accompanied by a chorus of ancestors who reveal the struggles, joys and secrets of women’s lives that echo through her own.

THE SOUND MIRROR spans three generations and thousands of miles; it is an examination of class, war, violence, family and shame from the rich details of ordinary lives and intimately rendered characters.

My Review

This novel was stunning even if I wasn’t quite sure at the start where it was going to take me. Yet that was what The Sound Mirror was all about, it was a journey into the past of three very different women of differing generations.

Tamara, present day, rushing to ‘kill’ her mother. Was she going to murder her, or was it a metaphor for something else hitherto unknown until James slowly unwrapped Tamara, a past blighted by a rollercoaster mother daughter relationship. I oozed empathy for her as Hall described her mother’s teen pregnancy, the unwillingness to be tethered by motherhood, by a child who stopped her life, got in the way.

How would Tamara reconcile that past with the present, could she forgive, move on, find fulfilment and peace in her future?

Clara, was my favourite, our post war woman, who fell foul of a pregnancy out of wedlock. Ostarcished by her family I admired her determination to make it work. A woman who didn’t want to mirror her own mother, constantly pregnant as she wrestled with umpteen children and the drudgery of domesticity. Was Clara any different as she herself produced baby after baby? To me yes, as she embraced it, loved with everything she had, a husband who was loving and caring. You revelled in her wonder at her life until the cracks began to appear, and the love she had so freely given left her bereft, washed out. As the children fledged what was left for her, what would she do? Was motherhood all she was about, as Hall depicted a spiral into depression and sorrow.

Ada, was so very different from Tamara and Clare. She was the young immigrant girl from post colonial India, multi racial, looked upon with scorn and derision as her family attempted a new life in London. I loved her intelligence, her want to go to University, yet had to settle for a secretarial colleges and a lowly admin job. Hall gave glimpses of a woman who was more than a match for any man within business, her acumen treated with jealously and a threat to the male environment she wished to penetrate. As she settled into marriage and motherhood, you saw it was never enough as she desired more, took risks before jealousy, resentment bitterness and snobbishness emerged.

Hall opened the reader up to so many questions, the history of women’s place in society, the attitudes not just of men but also the women themselves. You felt grateful for the freedoms we have today, no longer suppressed or belittled, pushed into a home life that they either resented or embraced with everything they had.

Whilst I loved that Hall provoked the reader i also admired her ability to retain the essence of a novel, the brilliant skill she had in telling a story. Each woman had their own distinct voice, their emotional struggles that made me feel everything from empathy to frustration. I continually searched for a missing link that bound them together, and when it arrived it all made perfect sense, gave answers to behaviours to events.

It completed a circle, as each woman found some form of peace, of acceptance of their past and a glimmer of a better future for one

A stunning novel that I loved from the first to the last page. Thank you Heidi James.

I would like to thank Bluemoose Books for a copy of The Sound Mirror to read and review.

About the author


Heidi James lives in London and lectures at Kingston University. Her poetry, essays and short stories have appeared in numerous publications including, Mslexia, Galley Beggar Press and Dazed & Confused.

#Blogtour Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall @AramintaHall @orionbooks @FrancescaPear #Imperfect Women

Imperfect Women
Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall Orion August 20th 2020

Book Synopsis

Nancy, Eleanor and Mary met at college and have been friends ever since, through marriages, children and love affairs.

Eleanor is calm and driven, with a deep sense of responsibility, a brilliant career and a love of being single and free – despite her soft spot for her best friend’s husband.

Mary is deeply intelligent with a love of learning, derailed by three children and a mean, demanding husband – she is now unrecognisable to herself and her friends.

Nancy is seemingly perfect: bright, beautiful and rich with an adoring husband and daughter – but beneath the surface her discontent is going to affect them all in terrible ways.

When Nancy is murdered, Eleanor and Mary must align themselves to uncover her killer. And as each of their stories unfold, they realise that there are many different truths to find, and many different ways to bring justice for those we love…

My Review

Three women, three very different lives, all connected through friendship over many years. There were marriages, births and finally a death, the murder of Nancy, beautiful, wealthy, the one who seemingly had it all.

Yet, did she or was it all smoke and mirrors, a gilded outer life that hid, boredom, unfulfillment and a lack of self worth. For her friends Eleanor and Mary, her murder was the catalyst that opened up the veritable can of worms, as they examined their own lives and indeed that of Nancy’s.

Hall skillfully stripped away their layers as she delved into their past, but also their present, as they searched for answers to Nancy’s murder and where their future might lie.

I don’t think the novel would have worked if Hall hadn’t used each of the women’s voices to tell their individual stories. Each had their own perspective of the other but most importantly of themselves and in my opinion represented the main differences in our modern society, the career woman, the stay at home Mum, and the wealthy polished poised woman who floated seemingly effortlessly through life.

Eleanor, seemed the most competent, the one who had it all worked out, successful in her profession, single, happy with her own company, but is that really what she was all about. I don’t think she regretted her childlessness, but I do think she craved that special other half, to be loved and cared for.

Mary, was the stay at home Mum, a real earth mother, her life about her children, supporting her husband, Howard no matter how awful or selfish he appeared. Hall made me feel so much empathy for Mary, conjured up images of someone slightly disheveled, weighed down by domesticity and a marriage that appeared null and void yet you wanted to yell at her, to wake her up and do something about it.

Nancy, the only one with a well heeled background, destined to marry well, to appear to have it all, the handsome successful lawyer husband, the beautiful clever child, the town house and the country house and a gilded luxurious lifestyle. But Hall showed a woman who was bored, dissatisfied, life an empty shell lacking in substance, a husband who couldn’t understand why she needed more. You knew that she would be the one to risk it all, as she leapt into something that had an edge, excitement, a guilty secret, that took away the boredom until it all became too much, the way out blocked, destined to end badly.

As Hall stripped away those layers, you read as the three women’s lives became more intertwined than even they imagined, their relationship with each other picked apart, the what if’s agonised over before the astonishing realisation that what they sought lay closer to home than any of them could have envisaged. You waited as it prepared to rip them apart, but instead, solidarity, a renewed closeness between Mary and Eleanor saw them close ranks, push out the old and embrace the new.

We had the story, the resolution, and the wonderful characters but Hall gave us more. She made us really think about what really makes us perfect, is there a woman out there that really is the ‘perfect’ woman who can successfully navigate relationships and children with ease. What about those other factors, men’s expectations to be the homemaker, to care and nurture children yet still have time for them, to love them, forgive them their indiscretions. Should women accept it, do we even deserve more or should we push until we get what we want even if that meant going against the perceived norm. And that I think was the crux of the novel, the perceptions we hold of other women, the need to believe that perfection really does exist and that if we just work hard enough it could be achievable. Maybe some form of perfection is achievable, but we have to accept that our perception of perfection is different for every individual, someone else’s circumsances and life not necessarily the one suitable for ourselves. The outward appearance of life on the outside is never what happens on the inside, the grass never greener on the otherside.

A myriad of thoughts, questions whose answers were never straight forward all brilliantly examined entwined with a compelling story made for one happy reader who was in awe of Araminta Hall’s wonderful Imperfect Women.

I would like to thank Orion for a copy of Imperfect Women to read and review and to Francesca Pearce for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participating in the blogtour.

About the author

Araminta Hall has worked as a writer, journalist and teacher. Her first novel, Everything & Nothing, was published in 2011 and became a Richard & Judy read that year. Her second, Dot, was published in 2013, and her third, Our Kind of Cruelty, in 2018. She has taught creative writing for many years at a variety of places, including New Writing South in Brighton, where she lives with her husband and three children.

Contact Araminta on Twitter at @aramintahall

#Blogtour Below The Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin @annamcpartlin @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders #BelowTheBigBlueSky

Below The Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin. Zaffre Books July 23rd 2020

Book Synopsis

How do you pick up the pieces when the person that held them together is gone?

When forty-year-old Rabbit Hayes dies, she leaves behind a family broken by grief. Her mother Molly is distraught and in danger of losing her faith. Her father Jack spends hour upon hour in the family attic, poring over his old diaries, losing himself in the past.

Rabbit’s brother Davey finds himself suddenly guardian to her twelve-year-old daughter Juliet. Juliet might be able to fill a hole in Davey’s heart – but how can he help Juliet through her grief when he can barely cope with his own?

But even though the Hayes family are all fighting their own battles, they are drawn together by their love for Rabbit, and their love for each other. In the years that follow her death they find new ways to celebrate and remember her, to find humour and hope in the face of tragedy, and to live life to its fullest, as Rabbit would have wanted.

My Review

I didn’t know I needed Below The Big Blue Sky until I actually read it. It had me laughing and crying in equal measure and it was a complete breath of fresh air after reading so much crime and grit.

For those who haven’t read, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, have no fear, as it really wasn’t necessary, as we didn’t actually meet Rabbit in person. We learnt about her through the voices of the individual members of her family as they came to terms with her untimely death. And oh my did she leave some anguish and turmoil behind that McPartlin used to the max as she mixed some superbly brilliant comedy with the bleak dark recesses of grief.

The Hayes family, what can I tell you about them? So much that it would take far too long and would give too much away but I shall attempt to give an essence or flavour of what to expect.

Juliet or Bunny was Rabbit’s daughter, left to the care of her Uncle Davey, she was mature beyond her young teenage years. She broke your heart as McPartlin sent her to America on endless tours with Davey’s band, buried her in school work and turned her in to the most brilliant personal assistant her Uncle had ever had. McPartlin showed a teenager that just couldn’t be a teenager, that shut herself off, and tried to be and do what everyone expected, afraid to let everyone down and reveal her true feelings. You knew she had to go through the downs to get to a place of peace and acceptance but McPartlin didn’t make it easy on the reader.

Her Uncle Davy was the eternal rocker, wrapped up in endless tours of America, the weight of being a new parent and honouring his sister almost too much to bear. I liked how McPartlin used his niece Juliet to make him question his life and his future, events pushing him ever closer to a decsion.

Grace, Rabbit’s elder sister, faced her own troubles, ones that McPartlin dealt with in such a sensitive yet honest manner. Again your heart broke, but the lighter moments crept in, as they made you smile and realise that perhaps better times were on there way.

Jack, Rabbit’s father, was, and I hope the author won’t mind me saying this, typical of men of his generation, a stiff upper lip, no feelings on show, just the need to run away, shut off and brood.

My favourite character had to be Rabbit’s mother Molly. Her foul mouthed outbursts were hilarious, her choice of words and no nonsense attitude were McPartlin’s jewel in her novel. She was the one they all feared, but the one they all went to, their safe haven, until she wasn’t, until she lost her sparkle and lost herself. McPartlin threw her into charity work, into protests that landed her in trouble with hilarious, yet serious consequences.

You knew that for the family to be ok, Molly needed to be ok, the jigsaw puzzle would all fit back together and they could move forward. McPartlin took her time to get them all there, the story stretching over two years, as the family struggled with grief, and their own personal issues, no quick fix to making it all right.

McPartlin was sensitive and caring in her narrative, she knew when to inject humour before the dark moments threatened to engulf the characters and the reader. I admired her ability to get the balance just right to make me laugh, to make me cry.

As I said at the beginning it was a complete breath of fresh air, a wonderful absorbing read and one I shall remember for a long time.

I would like to thank Zagreb for a copy of Below The Big Blue Sky to read and review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Anna McPartlin is a novelist and scriptwriter from Dublin, who has written for TV serial dramas featured on BBC UK, RTE Ireland and A&E America. She has been writing adult fiction for over ten years, and also writes for children under the name Bannie McPartlin. She lives with her husband Donal and their four dogs.

#Blogtour The One That Got Away by Egan Hughes @Egan_Hughes @BooksSphere @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders #TheOneThatGotAway

The One That Got Away by Egan Hughes. Sphere August 6th 2020

Book Synopsis

You love him. You trust him.

Mia thinks she has escaped her controlling ex-husband, Rob. She’s found herself a new home, a new boyfriend and a new life.

But when the police arrive to tell her that Rob has been found dead on his boat, things quickly fall apart. Mia is terrified she’ll be suspected, however the police are keeping all options open. They know Mia had reason to hate her ex-husband, but she’s not the only one. Plenty of people wanted Rob Creavy dead, not least his new wife, Rachel.

What they don’t know is that Mia has a secret, one she’s desperate to protect.

But someone else knows. Someone with very dark secrets of their own . . .

My Review

A dead body, two ex wives, and a trail of destruction. Who killed Rob Creavy and why? That is what I hoped to find out as I entered the world of Mia, divorced, happily dating, with a flourishing new business until her ex husband Rob was found murdered. Hughes raised more questions than answers, as we wondered why Mia felt so afraid that the police might assume she was the culprit.

She introduced another ex wife, Rachel, another possible suspect, with just as much reason to want him dead as Mia. But why did these two women hold so much vitriol and derision to a dead man.

Hughes unraveled a story that so many of us may have experienced, witnessed, or read about. The fairy tale romance, being swept off your feet by a handsome man, well paid, who took you to all the best places, and romantically proposed marriage. It sounded too go to be true, but who wouldn’t be drawn in, and here was the crux of Hughes’s story.

A man who changed the instant the wedding was over, who manipulated, coerced, never overtly violent but passive aggressive, little psychological digs that wore you down until eventually you gave in, submitted and gave everything you had both mentally, physically and materially.

Hughes made it hard for us to believe that such intelligent women such as Mia and Rachel could be hooked, but what you had to admire, especially in Mia’s case was her strength to start again and seemingly leave it all behind.

The relationship between Mia and Rachel was interestingly done by Hughes, you expected her to make them work together, and in some ways they did, but Hughes maintained a distance, as if one didn’t quite trust the other, both guarded, suspicious. What you didn’t expect was the part of Hughes third main character, Sky, her ultimate role, the veritable spanner in the works. You knew there was a connection with Rob, but Hughes drip fed the details of her relationship with him, left the reader guessing, until the common threads between the three became clearer.

I thought I knew how it would end, but Hughes was clever and left the best until last as she threw in a curve ball that i didn’t see and made the ending deeply satisfying.

I admired Hughes skillful handling of the novel’s structure, her ability to manage her characters, and to switch effortlessly between the then and the now. It made for an engrossing read, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon in the sun.

I would like to thank Sphere for a copy of The One That Got Away to read and review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Egan Hughes was born in North Devon and grew up in Hampshire, UK. She is now based on the South Coast of England and works in marketing as a freelance copyeditor. An early version of The One That Got Away was shortlisted for the First Novel Prize, and the 2017 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition.

#Blogtour The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill @_AlexChurchill @RedDoorBooks @annecater #RandomThingTours #TheNightLawyer

The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill Red Door June 2020

Book Synopsis

Sophie Angel is the night lawyer. Once a week, she’s the one who decides what the papers can and can’t say.

During the day, she’s a barrister. She struggles for justice in a system that’s close to collapse, where she confronts the most dangerous aspects of humanity.

Her life changes when a wealthy Russian offers her the biggest case of her career, a rape trial with a seemingly innocent client.

But is someone manipulating Sophie from the shadows? With her marriage under strain and haunted by nightmares from the past, Sophie must find the answer to these questions before it’s too late.

My Review

There was so much to The Night Lawyer that it is was quite hard to know how to review. Not only was it a fantastic crime novel, but Churchill also managed to highlight those little anomalies in law, the need to wrap up a crime irrespective of the consequences for those involved as well as its inequalities and perspectives.

Sophie, Churchill’s narrator was everything you wanted to admire, intelligent, strong, and motivated to succeed as a barrister. I particularly enjoyed the insights Churchill gave us of a barrister’s world, the perceived riches hard to come by, reputation and respect everything. Her night shifts as a lawyer for a newspaper were an interesting angle that added to the novel as the new owner’s Russian wife and her relationship with Sophie added a more personal touch. one that was intriguing, but only added to Sophie’s woes.

And what of Sophie’s husband, Theo, another barrister, more senior? He was not someone I liked, outwardly selfish, with often little thought for his wife no matter how much she supported him financially. Churchill gave him an edge, made me suspicious and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, but as the novel unraveled and his true colours emerged I disliked him even more and hoped he would get what he deserved.

If her role as a newspaper lawyer gave us one angle, her life as a barrister allowed Churchill to show us the inner workings of this often enclosed world, but also the dilemma’s many in Sophie’s position face. Would we represent someone who was so clearly guilty, or would we stand by our morals and principles? What about the man accused of rape in a society where he was presumed guilty unless proved otherwise? Churchill brilliantly showed a Sophie that clearly found those decisions hard, but ultimately a woman of principle who trusted her own instincts and stuck by what she believed. Her belief in what was right drove her to pursue justice, to be relentless in her protection and safeguarding of her clients. I loved how Churchill made her stand out amongst her peers, a barrister for the good, even if it meant courting danger to herself.

Indeed that danger was almost a sideline, as Sophie’s life slowly crumbled, as her marriage appeared on the brink and murmurings within her chambers, saw colleagues question her personal and professional life. If that wasn’t enough Churchill took us to Sophie’s past life in Russia, her families sudden escape, the mystery that never seemed to be solved. It might have appeared an added distraction, an oddity but it wasn’t. In many ways it enhanced the story, gave reasons for Sophie’s make up, showed a woman who had always had to fight to be who she was. It gave her closure on a hidden part of her life and to me it was the impetus she needed, that gave her the courage to stand up to those who wanted to see her fail.

Churchill May have raised numerous questions but she didn’t lose the essence of what a good crime thriller should be about.

We had the brilliant court room scenes, the tense cross examination of witnesses, the mad scramble for last minute information that simmered in the background. There was tragedy and danger that brought the novel to a thrilling end and left me wondering if perhaps there could be more from Sophie Angel.

I would like to thank Red Door for a copy of The Night Lawyer 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

Alex Churchill was a barrister, specialising in serious crime for over three decades, and a writer.

#SocialMediaTour The Revolt by Clare Dupont-Monod #ClaraDupont-Monod @QuercusBooks @CorinnaZifko #TheRevolt

The Revolt by Clara DuPont-Monod Quercus August 6th 2020

Book Synopsis

It is with a soft voice, full of menace, that our mother commands us to overthrow our father . . .
Richard Lionheart tells the story of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In 1173, she and three of her sons instigate a rebellion to overthrow the English king, her husband Henry Plantagenet. What prompts this revolt? How does a great queen persuade her children to rise up against their father? And how does a son cope with this crushing conflict of loyalties?

Replete with poetry and cruelty, this story takes us to the heart of the relationship between a mother and her favourite son – two individuals sustained by literature, unspoken love, honour and terrible violence.

My Review

The Revolt was a gem of a book, not overly long, but full of historical detail both factual and of course some dramatic licence.

It was the story of a remarkably powerful woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, husband of Louis VII of France before leaving and divorcing for Henry II of England. Mother to eight children DuPont-Monod chose Richard to tell her story.

Not her favoured son, but the son who appeared to be more balanced and more importantly a son who remained fiercely loyal to his mother, almost hanging off her skirt tails as she steered the course of his life.

DuPont-Monod showed a man desperate for his mother’s love, for acknowledgement, admiration which always seemed lacking. Was he just a puppet, a tool which she could steer to gain control and power, to retain her beloved Aquitaine, to overthrow her husband?

Whatever her ambitions, her desires she was a woman ahead of her time. The depths with which she found the strength to carry on despite prolonged imprisonment, were impressive. Her prowess as a political strategist and tactician were remarkable and in a modern world you knew she would go far. DuPont-Monod didn’t forget to show us her vulnerabilities, the grief and loss of her beloved son, William, the fleeting moments of despair, of not being able to carry on, of letting it all go away and to just give in.

They were however, momentary and as Eleanor plotted and steered Richard onwards, we began to see Richard the man, emerge. DuPont-Monod showed a man at odds with himself, desperate for his mother’s love, yet unable to show love for others, battle hardy, seemingly no soft centre. He was cruel, barbaric in the battle field, quick and impulsive to destroy anyone even innocent people who stood in his way. You watched as DuPont-Monod skilfully burrowed into his mindset, as in the latter stages he began to question his mother’s actions, why he felt unable to rebel, when at times all he wanted was the normal genteel mother so many others around him had.

When Richard finally became King, you felt it wasn’t enough, knew that it was his mother who would rule, dictate his every move and decision. As he embarked on his crusades to the east, DuPont-Morond superbly examined the parallels between religion, faith, Muslim versus Christian that could so easily be seen in the modern world of today.

You realised we haven’t really changed that much, the conflict, the terrorism still prevalent, the same issues argued and debated, the weapons of war the only difference.

We were given intermittent flashes of an outsiders viewpoint, Richards father Henry, the sorrow he felt as his sons rose against him. Alys, his betrothed who saw a man that could not love, that pulled up the barricades, pushed anyone who dared to enter away.

Richard, however, was Richard The Lionheart, mighty knight, master of tactical warfare, admired by many, yet never the King he was supposed to be.

Eleanor of Aquitaine, was the mighty, all powerful Queen, who pulled Richards strings, was strong and fierce. Together they were the ultimate team, one that DuPont-Monod portrayed with a narrative that was sparse, economical, its short punchy sentences mirrored the power and brutality of the actions and events. The historical detail was superb, the imagery of court, of the battles, brilliant, the subterfuge and intrigue immensely compelling and mind bending.

It is not a period in time I would have liked to have experienced but I am so glad that I had DuPont-Monod to give me a brief but brilliant insight.

I would like to thank Quercus for a copy of The Revolt to read and review and to Corinna Zifko for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the Social Media Tour.

About the author

Clara Dupont-Monod studied ancient French at the Sorbonne, and began her career in journalism writing for Cosmopolitan and Marianne. Her novels often draw on medieval myths and history, and have been nominated for the Prix Goncourt and the Prix Femina, two of France’s most prestigious literary awards. She lives in Paris, and has been haunted by the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine for many years.

#Blogtour The Bird In The Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor @HazelGaynor @HarperCollinsUK @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheBirdInTheBambooCage

The Bird In The Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor Harper Collins August 20th 2020

Book Synopsis

China, 1941. With Japan’s declaration of war on the Allies, Elspeth Kent’s future changes forever. When soldiers take control of the missionary school where she teaches, comfortable security is replaced by rationing, uncertainty and fear.
Ten-year-old Nancy Plummer has always felt safe at Chefoo School. Now the enemy, separated indefinitely from anxious parents, the children must turn to their teachers – to Miss Kent and her new Girl Guide patrol especially – for help. But worse is to come when the pupils and teachers are sent to a distant internment camp. Unimaginable hardship, impossible choices and danger lie ahead. Inspired by true events, this is the unforgettable story of the life-changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher, in a remote corner of a terrible war.

My Review

Its always interesting to see what an author will do with a novel based on true events and characters. Of course you never know how true to events they maybe and what artistic licence the author will take, but to me that didnt matter, what I wanted was a good story with characters that I could connect with and I wasn’t disappointed.

The premise of a boarding school in China for children of diplomats, missionaries and business people was not something I had necessarily associated with World War II. The invasion by the Japanese and their subsequent imprisonment proved mesmerising, sad, but also humbling, as Gaynor used the voices of Nancy, one of the students and her teacher Elspeth to relate a wonderful story.

Most novels concentrate on the barbaric aspect of war time internment, and yes, Gaynor touched on this, the rape of women, the reprisals for those that disobeyed but what was refreshing was the more human angle she took, the techniques and sheer guts and determination Nancy and Elspeth used to stay alive and maintain some sense of optimism

You couldn’t help but feel huge empathy for Nancy, separated from her mother, the prospect of many more months, years with no contact, but Gaynor didn’t drown her in self pity. From somewhere deep inside she gave her a deep resolve and an inner strength that forced her to get out of bed each day and make the most of what she had. Her friendships, particularly with Dorothy and Mouse were endearing, and the indomitable Mrs T provided sparks of joy in what could have been a very bleak narrative. Indeed Mrs T was one of my favourite characters, her subversive actions under the guise of a library showed the bravery and risks many took to make life just that little bit more bearable.

Elsbeth, their teacher, was in fact the heroine of the novel, the onset of war an obstacle that prevented her flight back to England. Gaynor showed us a woman who had immeasurable energy, strength and resolve. Her selflessness, her need to protect her students as she gave them structure, a purpose was astounding. Her lapses in confidence, in stamina were always momentary, before a friend or her inner voice spoke to her, and urged her onward

The Girl Guiding movement played a huge part, the badge challenges, the skills it asked of its participants the ultimate force that pushed the girls, gave life a meaning and an ingenious tool used by Elspeth.

Gaynor, intertwined the fate of the local Chinese, their fear but also bravery as they assisted the interned. The soldiers that guarded them a mix of the good and the bad, feared by their prisoners.

You got a huge feel for the sapping heat in the summer, the biting chill of the winters, the illness that plagued their malnourished and ravaged bodies. You wondered how they survived, where they found the resolve and stoicism to endure.

I loved that Gaynor don’t drag the novel down with endless misery, and gloom, but injected moments of joy, of love and more importantly friendship. They were friendships that endured time and life and I would have been so cross if Gaynor had not included an epilogue!

The Bird In The Bamboo Cage was a refreshing change in the swathe of novels set in World War II. It was entertaining, educational, fascinating and a wonderful read.

I would like to thank Harper Collins for a copy of The Bird In The Bamboo Cage 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

Hazel Gaynor is an award-winning, New York Times, USA Today,
and Irish Times, bestselling author of historical fiction, including
her debut THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, for which she received
the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. THE
LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER was shortlisted for the 2019
HWA Gold Crown award. She is published in thirteen languages
and nineteen countries. Hazel is co-founder of creative writing
events, The Inspiration Project, and currently lives in Ireland with
her family, though originally from Yorkshire.

#Blogtour The Final Cut by S. J Watson @SJ_Watson @doubledaybooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheFinalCut

The Final Cut by S.J Watson Doubleday August 6th 2020

Book Synopsis

In writing Final Cut I wanted to move away slightly from the entirely domestic, urban and claustrophobic feel of Before I Go To Sleep and open the story world a little. I’m returning to my preoccupations of memory, narrative and identity, though bringing a fresh spin and new maturity to them.
The story follows a young ambitious documentary film maker whose first film was lauded and her second less so, and who is struggling with her third film. She hits on the idea of making a film about life in a small, northern village and is persuaded, against her better judgement and for reasons unknown, to film
in Blackwood Bay. Once there she discovers a town shrouded in mystery and full of secrets, that threaten to engulf and ultimately destroy her. She has to dig deep to save herself, as well as the lives of others.
In researching the book, I was drawn to the idea of the way we document our lives now, on Instagram and Twitter etc., and the downsides of that, as well as the darkness that can hide in plain sight and the abuses that people can visit on their fellow humans. The sad fact is I had to tone down some of the horrific
atrocities I read about, or else the book would’ve been too dark, even for me.

My Review

A northern seaside town, disappearing girls and an up and coming filmmaker, made for a heady mix in The Final Cut. Watson gave us Alex, the young film mmaker, out to prove she wasn’t a one hit wonder, forced by circumstances back to Blackwood Bay. He created a great air of mystery around her, as his narrative switched skilfully between then and now. A story emerged of an Alex, who had had to quite literally drag herself up from a life on the streets, from drugs and danger to a seemingly safer environment.

But that’s where Watson made it interesting, was she really in a safer environment, what connection did she have to Blackwood Bay.

I loved the flashbacks he made Alex endure, a sense of something bad, as memories blocked came rushing back to her. You felt the simmering tensions, the fear of being recognised, of trying to work out exactly what had happened to her all those years ago.

The Bay’s characters had that mix of the normal everyday to the ones with something to hide, of secrets hidden deep within the Bay itself. All the potential connections and scenarios whirled around in your mind as you tried to understand, as Watson cleverly changed tack, as you turned round from one dark alley before hurtling down another.

The crashing of the sea waves, the cliffs and storms added to the maelstrom, the atmosphere dark and at times chilling. Alex’s memories forced themselves to the forefront as she encountered familiar faces, locations and the realisation that she wasn’t who she thought she was slowly dawned ever more brightly.

Watson played with us, and his characters, tangled possible answers until the last glorious twist, the truth shocking, and revelatory to Alex and ultimately us, the reader.

Watson so clearly grasped the psychology behind trauma, its consequences, the brain’s ability to block out the bad, the people, locations that could trigger flashpoints, and ultimately the crashing realisation of a past hidden away.

His themes of the exploitation of young girls, of its devastating consequences were realistic, not far from what happens in the real world and skilfully handled to provide a novel that was for me, page turning and complelling.

I would like to thank Doubleday for a copy of The Final Cut 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

S. J. Watson’s first novel, Before I Go To Sleep, became a phenomenal
international success and has now sold over 6,000,000 copies worldwide. It won the Crime Writers’ Association Award for Best Debut Novel
and the Galaxy National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year. The
film of the book, starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong,
and directed by Rowan Joffe, was released in September 2014. S. J.
Watson’s second novel, Second Life, a psychological thriller, was published to acclaim in 2015.
S. J. Watson was born in the Midlands and now lives in London.

#Blogtour Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry @jessbarryauthor @HarvillSecker @JazminaMarsh #Don’tTurnAround

Don't Turn Around
Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry Harvil Secker July 30th 2020

Book Synopsis

An addictive, fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Perfect for fans of LISA GARDNER and CLARE MACKINTOSH.

‘A novel like razor-wire…part chase thriller, part psychological suspense’ AJ Finn, author of #1 bestseller The Woman in the Window

Two strangers, Cait and Rebecca, are driving across America. Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move...

My Review

Don’t Turn Around was good, in fact it was very good. It was tense, urgent and at times made me feel quite cross and angry, a sure sign that the author had tapped into my emotions, and really made me think about what I was reading.

At the novels heart were two brilliant but flawed women, Cait and Rebecca, both at opposite ends of the economic and social spectrum. Cait, young, a struggling writer, who worked in a bar to make ends meet. Rebecca, beautiful, poised, married to an upcoming politician, with an ice maiden exterior, but something something deeper and vulnerable hidden within.

The reason for their meeting and subsequent road trip was at first subject to conjecture, reasons that swirled around until Barry slowly peeled away the layers and revealed a reason that you couldn’t quite believe.

Barry used the voices of Cait and Rebecca and the characters they encountered to tell the story, enabled us to see the version of events, the reasons from all angles, that gave a balanced viewpoint on the themes raised.

Indeed the themes raised were deep, current and relevant. For Rebecca she had to question, decide how far she was prepared to sacrifice her own happiness and principles and, to some extent her own identity for the love of a man, for the furtherment of his career. Would she allow those around her husband dictate and take away her right to what happened within her own body, make her suffer unimaginable torment and anguish for political gain. As her husband and those around them plotted, strategised I found myself getting angrier and angrier, how dare they assume, belittle, threaten.

For Cait, an article written after a sexual encounter, provoked outrage, but not as you would have thought, as she found herself vilified online and indeed in public. Again Barry provoked thought, the interpretation of sexual experiences from a male perspective wildly different from those of a woman. Who was right, was the old stereotype still in play, a woman’s sexual encounters frowned upon, a man’s seen just as a bit of fun?

As their road trip continued as the danger to themselves increased, you watched as the two wildly different women, found common ground, camaraderie, and renewed strength to believe in themselves, to take control and stand up for what they wanted.

For all its myriad themes, Barry didn’t forget that we were actually reading a crime/psychological thriller. I loved the darkness of their road trip, the glaring headlights in their rear window, the sense of fear, of being watched, of not knowing which one of them was the target. Their resourcefulness was admirable, as they gained strength and confidence from each other, the final encounter surprising, hugely dramatic and tense.

The ending was………. Definitely not for me to say as this is a book I want you to read. A novel where the author balanced her thought provoking and current themes with that of a crime psychological thriller brilliantly.

I would like to thank Harvil Secker for a copy of Don’t Turn Around to read and review and to Jasmine Marsh for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who has lived and worked in London for the past fifteen years. Look for Me, previously published as Freefall, her debut thriller, has sold in more than twenty-two territories around the world and has also secured a major Hollywood film deal.

#Blogtour The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah @SaharMustafah @Legend_Press #TheBeautyOfYourFace

The Beauty Of Your Face bu Sahar Mustafah Legend Press August 3rd 2020

Book Synopsis

Afaf Rahman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school in the Chicago suburbs. One morning, a shooter―radicalized by the online alt-right―attacks the school.
As Afaf listens to his terrifying progress, we are swept back through her memories: the bigotry she faced as a child, her mother’s dreams of returning to Palestine, and the devastating disappearance of her older sister that tore her family apart. Still, there is the sweetness of the music from her father’s oud, and the hope and community Afaf finally finds in Islam.
The Beauty of Your Face is a profound and poignant exploration of one woman’s life in a nation at odds with its ideals. 

My Review

This wasn’t quite the book I thought it would be, as I expected the author to concentrate on the aftermath of a school shooting. And perhaps that was the whole point of Mustafah’s book, to challenge our preconceived ideas, the stereotypes we have of situations and people within our society.

It started with the schools shooting, not in your everyday multiracial school but the Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school, its headmistress Afaf, who hid in an old confessional as the shooter ran amok. It was almost as she listened to the screams, to the random shots that she saw as the phrase goes, ‘her life flash before her’. Mutsafah, cleverly looked back, to Afaf’s childhood, to her family and what made her the woman she was today.

It was an utterly fascinating and honest portrayal of the conflict religion can cause, of the comfort and sense of belonging it can give to a person.

Afaf at the outset was just an ordinary young girl of an immigrant family, a family whose roots stemmed from Palestine, who hoped to find riches in the suburbs of Chicago. Their family wasn’t perfect, a mother, who really didn’t want to be there, an older sister, the apple of her eye, a father who worked hard and a younger brother,Majeed. As so often happens a major event can set off a reaction, a future that was perhaps not the one anticipated and so it was that the disappearance of older sister, Nada became the catalyst. Afaf was the onlooker, the one who watched as her family fell apart, a mother who recoiled within herself, a father who turned to alcohol.

Afaf, herself was completely lost, the buffer between her warring parents, a sense of responsibility towards her younger brother. It wasn’t until her father found his own religion, took her to a meeting that Afaf finally found a place she belonged, something that brought her comfort and peace.

Story ended you might have thought, but no for me this is where the real crux of the novel lay. Mustafah didn’t give us the happy ever after, she carefully considered what being a Muslim in America actually meant. Did people still view you the same as everyone else, was there general acceptance and how did it change Afaf’s life.

In so many ways, Mustafah gave us an Afaf who on the one hand found life easier, the rituals, the comraderie a comfort, a place where she finally had friends. Yet outside the confines of the mosque, she was met with scorn, derision, the hajib, the outward facing symbol that marked her as different, foreign, not a true American. The twin towers terrorist attack amplified her difference, all Muslims terrorists, unwanted even if she was a born and bred American.

It was a devastating, thought provoking narrative, the shooting the climax, the representation of true hate, of ignorance. Mustafah was careful to maintain a balance, religion at its heart but also the consequences of our upbringing, the role of the media and those around us, another contributing factor to attitudes, and actions.

The Beauty Of Your Face was an important book, it’s themes serious but Mustafah retained the most important essence of a novel, to tell a story, to immerse the reader in the life of Afaf, a life that will be hard to forget.

I would like to thank Legend Press for a copy of The Beauty of Your Face to read and review and to Lucy Chamberlain for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Sahar Mustafah_photo credit Rebecca Heal

Sahar is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, a richly complex inheritance which she explores in her fiction. She is a member of Radius of Arab American Writers, as well as a 2015 Voices of Our Nation fellow (VONA). She currently writes and teaches in Illinois.
Follow Sahar on Twitter @SaharMustafah