Adult Fiction, Family Drama, Fiction, Netgalley, Review

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshenda Muckhopadhyay

Synopsis

At eighteen, Somlata married into the Mitras: a once noble Bengali household whose descendants have taken to pawning off the family gold to keep up appearances.

When Pishima, the embittered matriarch, dies, Somlata is the first to discover her aunt-in-law’s body – and her sharp-tongued ghost.

First demanding that Somlata hide her gold from the family’s prying hands, Pishima’s ghost continues to wreak havoc on the Mitras. Secrets spilt, cooking spoilt, Somlata finds herself at the centre of the chaos. And as the family teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, it looks like it’s up to her to fix it.

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is a frenetic, funny and fresh novel about three generations of Mitra women, a jewellery box, and the rickety family they hold together.

My thoughts…

This was an interesting and engaging read. I was greatly intrigued by the title and the synopsis. This novel brings this Bengali family to life with colour and wit. The aunt of the title is cantankerous and difficult and leaves as much of a shadow on the family in death as in life. Young Somlata who has recently married into the Mitra family and after discovering her aunt-in-law’s body (and her lingering spirit) has more to deal with than an average young Bengali family. Her aunt-in-law seems hellbent on making life difficult and full of hatred and spite for her surviving family. Yet in many ways her choosing to reveal herself to young Somlata seems the obvious choice as the young girl proves that she can more than hold her own in this chaotic family.

A short but fascinating story that was highly enjoyable and a wonderful snapshot into a culture very different my own.

Thank you to the Netgalley and the publisher, John Murray for my review copy.

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is available in hardback, eBook and on Audiobook, with a paperback edition coming in 2020.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Relationship Stories, Romance, Summer Reads

The Last Concerto by Sara Alexander

Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Last Concerto by Sara Alexander.

Synopsis

Sardinia, 1968.

Eleven-year-old Alba Fresu’s brother, and her father, Bruno, are abducted by criminals who mistake Bruno for a rich man. After a gruelling journey through the countryside, the two are eventually released – but the experience leaves Alba shaken and unable to readjust to normal life.

Accompanying her mother to cleaning jobs, Alba visits the villa of an eccentric Signora and touches the keys of a piano for the first time. The instrument’s spell is immediate. During secret lessons, forbidden by her mother, Alba is at last able to express emotions too powerful for words alone. Ignoring her parents’ wishes, she accepts a scholarship to the Rome conservatoire. There she immerses herself in a vibrant world of art and a passionate affair.

But her path will lead her to a crossroads, and Alba will have to decide how to reconcile her talent with her longing for love and her family…

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My thoughts…

This is an incredibly beautifully written novel. The story is engrossing and Sara’s use of language, imagery and her characterisation create a deeply moving and engrossing story. Alba’s life on Sardinia is far from easy. Restricted by family traditions and expectations, along with the trauma and guilt that weighs her down after the abduction of her father and brother, her home life is far from happy. Those closest to her see her only as a difficult, silent child who brings grief and trouble to the family. Yet Signora Elias, a local woman who her mother cleans for, spots a talent burning bright within Alba. This kind, generous old woman takes her under her wing and teaches her the piano. Alba finally finds a way to express the torrent of emotions within and releases a unique talent from within. So many times I felt the injustice of the treatment towards Alba that watching her flourish through her music was a complete joy.

I met author, Sara Alexander at Destination HQ earlier this summer. Listening to her briefly talk about this book I was immediately intrigued to know more. She seemed such a charismatic and vibrant person and spoke of both the novel and her love of music and food (touching briefly on her produce grown on her own allotment). I could tell that she was incredibly proud of her Sardinian ancestry and I felt that such a colourful person would produce an interesting and animated story. During the evening we bonded briefly over our shared love of allotment life and I was excited to receive a copy of both this and her previous novel The Secret Legacy. I’m so glad that I did because she writes beautifully and all that charisma, colour, vibrancy and knowledge seeps into the story to create an absolutely stunning novel. She reminded me a little of Victoria Hislop, although I try to avoid author comparisons, Sara’s ability to bring Sardinia alive did bring Victoria to mind. I love the way she uses music so wonderfully and her articulation and sentence structure is superb. So many of my senses were engaged whilst reading. She conjures a piece of music to your mind with words alone, the atmosphere and emotion are all there. The same goes when she talks about food, such an important part of family life and skilfully used to bring moments with the story to life.

As for Alba’s journey well of course it isn’t easy but she is a wonderful character to follow and her story is one with joy as well as sadness. Be swept away to Italy with this gorgeous novel, it is an absolute delight from start to finish.

Thank you so much to the lovely people at HQ Stories for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for the review copy. It is wonderful and I now look forward to reading Sara’s previous novels, Under A Sardinian Sky and The Secret legacy.

As well as being a incredibly talented novelist, Sara is also and actress and I have to say my son was VERY IMPRESSED that I chatted with an actress who had appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Every time we watch it (and we do quite a lot) I remind him ‘I met her!’ 🙂

About the author

Sara Alexander

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Sara Alexander attended Hamstead School, went on to graduate from the University of Bristol, with a BA hons in Theatre, Film & TV. She followed on to complete her postgraduate diploma in acting from Drama Studio London. She has worked extensively in the theatre, film and television industries, including roles in much-loved productions such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Doctor Who, and Franco Zeffirelli’s Sparrow. She is based in London.

Find out more about Sara by visiting her website at http://www.saraalexander.net

You can follow Sara on Twitter at @AuthorSaraAlex

You can find Sara on Instagram at @sarajalexander

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Fiction, Literary, Relationship Stories, Review, Summer Reads

Do Not Feed The Bear by Rachel Elliott

Today I am so thrilled to help kick off the Random Things Tours Blog Tour for Do Not Feed The Bear by Rachel Elliott. My first thoughts upon finishing (as I hugged it close) – What a wonderful book!

On her forty-seventh birthday, Sydney Smith stands on a rooftop and prepares to
jump…

Sydney is a cartoonist and freerunner. Feet constantly twitching, always teetering on the edge of life, she’s never come to terms with the event that ripped her family apart when she was ten years old. And so, on a birthday that she doesn’t want to celebrate, she returns alone to St Ives to face up to her guilt and grief. It’s a trip that turns out to be life-changing – and not only for herself.

DO NOT FEED THE BEAR is a book about lives not yet lived, about the kindness of others and about how, when our worlds stop, we find a way to keep on moving.

A life-affirming novel of love, loss and letting go

– for readers of ELEANOR OLIPHANT,
THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP and WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT.

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Freerunning – there is something that feels quite liberating about it. Parkour UK describe the sport as something that ‘…aims to build confidence, determination, self-discipline and self-reliance, and responsibility for one’s actions. It encourages humility, respect for others and for one’s environment, self-expression, community spirit, and the importance of play, discovery and safety at all times.’ I have of course never personally done it (I don’t have the personal strength of both mind and body) but I found it interesting that throughout the novel Sydney has used it as a way to channel both her guilt and grief. She uses it as an escape, a way to disappear and yet it brings her into the spot light. It’s also something I have never encountered before in a novel and I love it.

As she is reaching her 47th birthday, Sydney returns to St Ives, the scene of a terrible tragedy in her childhood. Her grief is buried deep, as it has been for her family, never enabling them to quite move on. Life has a way of coming full circle though and soon events and people from the past creep back in bringing with it a sense of hope and, if not closure, then the ability to move on.

Do Not Feed The Bear is an exploration of grief and the effect it has on us. It’s funny but only a few days ago I listened to a Happy Place Podcast presented by the wonderful Fearne Cotton featuring the superbly inspiring, Elizabeth Gilbert. She spoke to Fearne about how damaging it can be to suppress our grief, to not allow it the voice it deserves, and as I listened I thought yes, that is so true. Over hundreds of years western society has shown us that it is weak to show our emotions, that they should be held in check and explored privately. Quite often we are afraid to allow ourselves that exploration, as if we may never be able to pull ourselves out again. It can be grief for the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one or the regret of an unfulfilled dream. There are different levels of grief and each and every one deserves our acknowledgment and the freedom to express them. This is touched on brilliantly in this wonderful novel.

This is a book that swept me up into it’s pages; a book that I wanted to hug and cherish all the time I was reading. The characters are unique and multifaceted and Rachel explores their present and their past so exquisitely that I felt bound to them and their journey. She steps perfectly into their minds bringing them alive on the page and oh, how I came to love them. In my minds eye they are still there, hopefully a little lighter in spirit since my time with them ended.

The shadow of events from that fateful summer in Sydney’s childhood has nurtured the pain of loss and this is keenly felt throughout. Yet this isn’t a dark book. Yes there is trauma and sadness and yet I never felt despair, I never felt that I couldn’t carry on reading. I felt their loss and yet Rachel writes with such tenderness and she encapsulates the sense that the dead and lost never really leave us. I found this extremely comforting.

When I’m reading a novel I often fold over corners of pages where a sentence or paragraph has particularly moved me (please don’t judge, I just never have my notebook to hand). There are many turned corners throughout my copy of Do Not Feed The Bear, the writing is stunning, so much care has been taken and every line, for me, was a joy to read. The beauty of the word structure and placement made me often pause and reflect. There is so, so much to connect to within this novel but at the very least there is a wonderful story told about life and the people we are and who we can be if we really want to.

I think one of my favourite characters is Stuart, an unusual but brilliantly written narrator but this story gives a voices to all of these wonderful characters and I urge you to grab yourself a copy and welcome them into your life.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and read the wonderful novel. Thanks also to Tinder Press for sending me the copy. You can follow Tinder Press on twitter at @TinderPress

Do Not Feed The Bear is published on the 8th August 2019 and will be available in Hardback (with a beautiful cover by the way), eBook and on Audiobook . The paperback edition will be coming in April 2020.
#DoNotFeedTheBear by Rachel Elliott Blog Tour with #RandomThingsTours and

About the author

Rachel Elliott

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Rachel Elliott is the author of WHISPERS THROUGH A MEGAPHONE, long-listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize in 2016. She is also a practising psychotherapist, and lives in Bath with her miniature schnauzer Henry.

Quickfire Questions with Rachel

Give us three adjectives to best describe your new novel.
Sad, tender, hopeful.

What are the three most important character traits of your protagonist?
Creativity, stubbornness, physical agility.

Where is the novel set?
St Ives, Cornwall, a reimagined version.

What were the last three things you Googled in the name of “research”?
• Did Lego spacemen have removable helmets in 1984?
• How many people could you fit inside a Vauxhall Cavalier?
• David Hockney’s pool paintings

Who is your biggest influence as a writer?
Everyday life is the biggest influence.

What word or phrase do you most overuse in your writing?
The words ridiculous and beautiful. Because I find so many things ridiculous and beautiful.

Who would you cast as your lead character if made into a film/TV?
Claire Danes would make an excellent Sydney Smith.

Do you have any hidden talents?
Unexpectedly, I’m quite handy with a pair of dog clippers, although my dog would disagree.

Which of your characters would you most like to have dinner with?
Belle Schaefer, a 29-year-old bookseller with an old soul. She’s a true outsider, yet a vital part of the community; she has an allotment, volunteers at an otter sanctuary, runs author events, drinks with all the old guys in a pub called the Black Hole. And every now and then, she steals things.

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Adult Fiction, Family Drama, Relationship Stories, Summer Reads, Suspense, Thriller

Summer Reading – The Path to the Sea

Books to be swept away with this summer…

There are SO MANY great books around at the moment and so I’d like to share a few that I think are particularly exciting.  I’m not going to plop them all together in one post but give each the opportunity to shine in it’s own right…

Hold on to your hats… here are my summer 2019 recommendations.

The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick

Adult Fiction

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Here’s the synopsis:

A sweeping multi-generational story set against the stunning Cornish coastline

Boskenna, the beautiful, imposing house standing on the Cornish cliffs, means something different to each of the Trewin women.

For Joan, it was a paradise where she could escape a world where no one was what they seemed.  Diana still dreams of her childhood there – endless blue skies , wide lawns and parties.  And for Lottie, returning to Boskenna is an escape from a life gone wrong in London.

As the three women gather in Boskenna for a final time, the secrets long hidden within the beautiful old house will be revealed in a summer that will leave them changed for ever.

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No matter where you are in the world Liz will whisk you away to the Cornish coast with this absorbing and atmospheric novel.  I absolutely loved it when I reviewed it earlier this year as part of blog tour.  Read my thoughts here.

The Path to the Sea was published in hardback by HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins, in June and you can find where to buy it here (also your local indie will be able to get hold of it too if they don’t already have a copy.). It’s also available on Audiobook and eBook.

ISBN: 978008324612

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Read it already?  Please feel free to let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Happy reading and I hope you have a fabulous summer!

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Blog Tour, Family Drama, Romance, STEM Fiction, Teen, YA

Stilettos and Stardust by D L Pitchford

Today I’m delighted to host the blog tour for Stilettos & Stardust by D.L.Pitchford

A modern day Cinderella with a twist…

When high school seniors Noah Barton and Eden Prince’s academic rivalry ruins a thermodynamics demo, their physics teacher decides to help them get along. By forcing them to be lab partners.

As graduation approaches, Noah and Eden are too busy figuring out college to deal with each other. Noah’s football-loving dad sabotages his chance to win a big scholarship. Eden’s traditional mother cares more about finding her a serious boyfriend than encouraging her dreams. Winning big at the regional science fair is their last hope.

Will Noah follow in his astronaut mother’s footsteps?

Can Eden show her parents the environment is more important than any relationship?

Will Noah and Eden finally learn to work together?

Follow Noah and Eden’s budding romance in this emotionally charged, gender-swapped retelling of Cinderella.

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A few months back I watched a documentary on the 1986 Challenger disaster.  It sparked so many emotions in me.  The excitement leading up to the doomed mission, the aftermath and of course the families of those left behind.  Stilettos & Stardust took my mind briefly back to that documentary and the thoughts on how hard it must be to have a mother working in space.  Noah’s mother is an astronaut and as the stories begins we know that she has been involved in an accident that will change the family forever.  Noah is devastated but determined more than ever to follow in her footsteps.  Eden however has a mother who wants her to be ‘looked after’, to never have to worry about security.  Eden however has very different ideas.  She is equally determined to win a scholarship and make sure that she is in control of her future, one that doesn’t involved a husband!

Bringing Eden and  Noah together as lab partners creates an incredibly volatile situation.   Both are competitive, argumentative and wanting to take control but to stand a chance of winning the scholarship they need to learn to work together.  We soon see that there is a very fine line between love and hate and before long the sparks are throwing up lots of complicated situations with families, friends and feelings that both are finding hard to understand.

I loved the STEM element of this novel.  It added so much interest and really gave the story a great hook.  Eden is rude, difficult and likes to be very much in control, it took me a while to warm to her.  But, once I got to know her I could see the beauty of the girl underneath and I was hopeful that all would come good for both her and Noah (who was easy to love right from the very start).   The thing I loved most was the way that both characters were equal, there was no damsel in distress – I think this may be where the reference to Cinderella comes from in the synopsis.  I personally wouldn’t class it as a Cinderella story, but a contemporary story about fighting for what you want and, hopefully, finding someone to share it with along the way.

A really lovely teen/YA read that will be enjoyed by romance and science lovers alike.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.  I shall definitely be adding a copy of this in to the School Library.  A super YA read!

About the author

D.L. Pitchford

1YA and NA author D. L. Pitchford is best known for her brutally honest stories and realistic characters. Throughout her childhood, art and literature were encouraged in every form. Pitchford fell in love with The Lord of the Rings, The Dark Is Rising, and Harry Potter. By age ten, she wrote her first fantasy book. Her love of writing grew exponentially.

In 2013, Pitchford received her BA in English, Writing, and Fine Arts from Drury University. During her studies, she focused on the human condition and penned the first scenes of her debut novel. IF WE HAD NO WINTER released April 2017 and has been commended for its gritty tone and character growth.

Pitchford lives with her husband and two sons in Springfield, Missouri, where she continues writing young and new adult novels.

Website: http://www.dlpitchford.com/
Twitter @dlpitchford
Author Page on Facebook
Instagram @dlpitchford

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Fiction, Relationship Tales

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

Today I’m delighted to be hosting then HQStories blog tour for The Library of lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

A librarian’s discovery of a mysterious book sparks the journey of a lifetime in the delightful new novel from the bestselling author of

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.

Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people―though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she’s invisible.

All of that changes when a book of fairy tales arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her best friend―her grandmother Zelda―who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda’s past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever.

Filled with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and vivid characters, The Library of Lost and Found is a heart-warming reminder that even the quietest life has the potential to be extraordinary.

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For anyone who read and love The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, you’ll know exactly how wonderful Phaedra’s novels are. You won’t be disappointed with The Library of Lost and Found.  For those who have yet to discover Phaedra, don’t wait another minute.  I loved Arthur, and now Martha has found her way into my heart.  Lovely Martha who would always help anyone but eventually found the courage to finally utter that one word that can be the hardest of all. ‘No’.  And finally begin to put herself first.

The first thing that grabbed me about this was the title.  The word Library always does it for me.  It promises adventure, stories, enchanting characters, new lives sought and found, and old demons conquered.  And there it is all wrapped up within the pages of this enchanting novel.  Martha is so ordinary and yet extraordinary. She is remarkable in  her own special way and her tale was equally joyous and heartbreaking.  I absolutely adored this novel.  It left me feeling uplifted and full of hope.  Just wonderful.  Time with this author is well spent indeed!

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick was published on the 27th June and is available in paperback, eBook and on Audiobook.

Thank you so much to the lovely team at HQ Stories for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for my review copy.  It was a joy to read.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Family Drama, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland

Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland.

 

Keep You Close is the heart-pounding, twisty follow up to Need to Know, one of 2018’s biggest thriller debuts.

‘A strange sensation runs through me, a feeling that I don’t know this person in front of me, even though he matters more to me than anyone ever has, than anyone ever will. ‘

You go into your son’s bedroom. It’s the usual mess. You tidy up some dirty plates,

pick up some clothes, open the wardrobe to put them away.
And that’s when you find it. Something so shocking it doesn’t seem real.

And you realise a horrifying truth…
Your own son might be dangerous…

Karen Cleveland brings her trademark themes of domesticity and deceit to bear in this gripping new stand-alone thriller that will make you question how much you really know about the child you raised.

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Goodness, this was super thriller with lots of twists and turns along the way.  Steph is an FBI agent woking Internal Affairs, picking up enemies along the way but driven by her pursuit to protect the innocent from the bad.  But what happens when the bad guy appears a little too close to home?  Suddenly she is filled with fear in the one place she should feel the safest, with the one person she knows the best… or she thinks she knows the best.  As her life begins to unravel Steph is forced to face the reality that her son might juts be a stranger to her and that the past always has a way of catching up with you.

This is a taught, highly charged thriller and one I thoroughly enjoyed.  As a mother I really felt for Steph.  We worry that our children will slip away from us but she faces a parents worst nightmare and some.  Karen carries the tension right the way through and has you wondering just what else Steph has to lose before this thing is finally over.  I have to say that after much consideration of ‘what would I do?’, I have to say I probably would have done exactly as Steph did in the end.  And I’m kind of hoping there might be more to come with this story…

A perfect summer read, it will keep you reading late into the night.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

Keep You Close is published by Bantam Press (a division of Penguin Books) on June 27th 2019 and is available in both print and eBook, and also on Audible.

About the author

Karen Cleveland

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Karen Cleveland spent eight years as a CIA analyst, focusing on counterterrorism and working briefly on rotation to the FBI. She has master’s degrees from Trinity College Dublin and Harvard University.  She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two young sons.

 

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