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

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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, Fiction, Relationship Stories, Summer Reads

Summer Reading – Mr Doubler Begins Again

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.

Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister

Adult Fiction

 

Here’s the synopsis:

Baked, mashed, boiled or fried, Mr Doubler knows his potatoes. But the same can’t be said for people. Since he lost his wife, he’s been on his own at Mirth Farm – and that suits Doubler just fine. Crowds are for other people; the only company he needs are his potato plants and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who visits every day.

So when Mrs Millwood is taken ill, it ruins everything – and Mr Doubler begins to worry that he might have lost his way. But could the kindness of strangers be enough to bring him down from the hill?

Mr Doubler Begins Again is a nostalgic celebration of food, friendship, kindness, and second chances, perfect for fans of Rachel Joyce and Joanna Cannon.

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This is such a deliciously lovely read and one that is perfect for sinking into during the summer.  I was lucky enough to meet Seni last year at the HQ Summer Showcase and I reviewed the novel her on Tales earlier this year which you can read here.  It’s now published in paperback and if you haven’t yet welcomed Mr Doubler not your life I urge you to do so right now.

Mr Doubler Begins Again will be published in paperback by HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins, on August the 22nd.  It is available now in hardback, audiobook and eBook 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.). 

Hardback ISBN: 9780008284985

Paperback ISBN: 9780008285012

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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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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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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Relationship Stories

The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick

Today I’m delighted to hop on the blog tour for Liz Fenwick’s wonderful The Path to the Sea.

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

For Jean, as a glamorous young wife in the 1960s, it was a paradise where she and her husband could entertain and escape a world where no one was quite what they seemed – a world that would ultimately cost their marriage and end in tragedy.

Diana, her daughter, still dreams of her childhood there – the endless blue skies and wide lawns, book-filled rooms and parties, the sound of the sea at the end of the coastal path – even though the family she adored was shattered here.

And for the youngest, broken-hearted Lottie, heading home in the August traffic, returning to Boskenna is a welcome escape from a life gone wrong in London, but will mean facing a past she’d hoped to forget.

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

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So, about a year ago I heard a little about this novel at the HQ Stories Summer Showcase. I had the great pleasure of meeting and chatting to Liz about her writing and Cornwall.

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Liz Fenwick, author of The Path To The Sea

Not only was I intrigued by her forthcoming novel but it was such a pleasure to meet such a warm and friendly author (who just also happened to have a giant jar of Cornish fudge to share).  So, when the opportunity came up to take part in the blog tour I absolutely jumped at the chance to read and review the finished novel.

I’m so pleased I did, it’s absolutely wonderful.  What did I love about it?  Well location, location, location.  Beautiful Cornwall.  Liz conjured it up so fabulously, I could literally smell the salt coming off the sea.   Add to that a big imposing house filled with memories and hidden secrets, an estranged family coming together as one lies dying – all these elements are the recipe for an engrossing and scintillating read.

The story unfolds through the eyes of the three women.  Three generations each with their own secrets.  Joan we revisit back in the 60’s on the fateful weekend when her husband dies tragically young.  All through the story we are not quite sure if she implemented in his death.  They were an ideal family and we know she loved him but something happened on that weekend  that would change life forever.  Every family have their secrets.

Diana is Joan’s daughter.  She has very little memory of the weekend her father died but her relationship with her mother has been deeply troubled ever since and she’s determined to get to the bottom of things.   For her there is a dark shadow over Boskenna and she’s not happy to be back.

Lottie has returned to Boskenna to be near her grandmother as she lies dying.  For her memories there are mostly filled with love and warmth but a tragedy still haunts her own thoughts as she returns to the family home.  Her relationship with her grandmother has always been excellent although not so much with her mother, Diana.  But Lottie also has her own distractions; complications bought about by an ex love and also the problems of a soon to be ex husband.  Complications she’s determined to put to one side whilst she tends to her grandmother but life has a habit of getting in the way.

There are so many secrets bubbling beneath the surface that threaten to come to light.  Yet it is almost a relief when all was revealed.  The Path to the Sea is a bittersweet tale but I throughly enjoyed my time at Boskenna.  If I close my eyes I too can hear the waves crashing and the feint sound of music playing in the past as laughter fills the house, before tragedy struck.  But at the end I was left with a sense of hope and a feeling of joy at having been in the company of these three women.

The Path to the Sea is the perfect summer (or winter) read and I thoroughly recommend it.  I shall definitely be seeking out Liz’s previous titles.  Oh the joy of discovering an author’s backlist!  I can’t wait.

Thank you so much to HQ Stories for my inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

About the author

Liz Fenwick

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Liz Fenwick was born Massachusetts and after ten international moves she’s back in the United Kingdom with her husband and two mad cats.  She made her first trip to Cornwall in 1989 and bought her home there seven years later.  She’s a bit of a global nomad but her heart forever remains in Cornwall.

 

 

You can follow Liz on Twitter at liz_fenwick

You can follow HQ Stories on Twitter at HQstories

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Relationship Stories

The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans

This evening I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for the latest novel by Harriet Evans, The Garden of Lost and Found.  From the moment I held it in my hands I knew I was in for a wonderful journey.

I adore a novel that features a house that is almost a character in itself.  They have such presence and there is something there, something that sucks me in, captures my imagination and whisks me away.  I am a homebody and I totally get the way we can become ingrained in a building.  Every memory clinging to bricks and mortar, every inch bringing new life and memories.  Of course the memories can’t always be good and even Nightingale House has had it’s share of tragedy.  This is a wonderful epic tale of love lost and saved, betrayal and trust, all wrapped up in a families history and even it’s future.  The house plays a big part but it is in the garden where memories are forged and generations come together.  The Garden of Lost and Found.

We begin in 1918 with Ned burning a painting, but not just any painting,  his most famous painting.  A painting whose story is ingrained throughout the pages of the book.  Why did he burn it? What madness possessed him.  It was all that remained of them. The children lost to them.  But how, when and where? It was incredibly enticing, I couldn’t stop reading, at times with tears, also anger but also with hope.  What a wonderful tale Harriet has created, almost as artfully as a painter bringing a canvas to life. I could see each character in my minds eye. They whispered their story through her words so I couldn’t turn away until I reached the very end.

Pure, wonderful escapism. Harriet wonderfully merges the difficulties faced by each of the women in this story.   From the 19th century right through to present day we watch the story of this family unfold.  Juliet, our modern day mum is going through a time of great change and upset.  As she tries to cope with all that it thrown at her she returns to the home of her grandmother and a house that holds many secrets; secrets that are now ready to be known. At times I read in horror at what was endured by the characters, and it was heartbreaking yet wonderfully moving.  A tale filled with love, courage, hate and bitterness but more than all of that it is a story of the importance of those who came before us and the hope that love can save the day.

This was a wonderful read that I consumed in a long weekend and thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

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Synopsis

Nightingale House, 1919. Liddy Horner discovers her husband, the world-famous
artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting The Garden of Lost and
Found days before his sudden death.

Nightingale House was the Horner family’s beloved home – a gem of design created
to inspire happiness – and it was here Ned painted The Garden of Lost and Found,
capturing his children on a perfect day.
One magical moment. Before it all came tumbling down…

When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale
House, she starts a new life with her three children, and opens the door onto a
forgotten world. The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers.
For who would choose to destroy what they love most? Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or,
in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness.
Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what?

About the author

Harriet Evans

Harriet Evans Author PictureHarriet Evans is the author, Going Home, A Hopeless RomanticThe Love of Her Life, I Remember You, Love Always, Happily Ever After and Not Without You. Before becoming a full time writer Harriet was a successful editor for a London publishing house. She lives in London with her family.

You can follow Harriet on Twitter at @HarrietEvans

and on Instagram at @harrietevansauthor

 

The Garden of Lost and Found was published in hardback by Headline Review on April 18th 2019. It is also available in eBook and Audiobook.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut, Family Drama, Relationship Stories

The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie

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Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie. Over 100k eBooks have already been sold to date and the publication in paperback will bring this wonderful family saga to the hands of many more readers.

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.

There is something rather wonderful about a good family saga. It pulls you in, makes you care and you follow through all the ups and downs, the heartache and the happiness because you want to see where it all ends. The Sewing Machine is one such story.

I was initially drawn in by the sewing machine. Using both image and name tempted me to pick up this engaging novel. My Nan used to own a singer sewing machine and so the brand itself holds memories of my own.

The Sewing Machine takes us through a period of time of over a hundred years, through various time points until the threads are all brilliantly brought together. Although at times heartbreaking, it was a comforting read, like a warm, hearty casserole on a winters day.

At the heart of the story is the sewing machine itself and how this item impacted on so many lives. I thought Natalie brought each of the characters together wonderfully. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each and every one. There was an awful lot of love amongst the pages of this book and it shows us that hope can be found in even the most difficult circumstances. My favourite character was Alf, such a warm, loving and generous human being. I also loved Fred and the issues he faced as he unravelled his past and the past of his family. A beautifully written debut, The Sewing Machine is simply unforgettable. I enjoyed reading this so very much.

Thank you Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for arranging my review copy.

About the Author

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Natalie Fergie is a textile enthusiast, and has spent the last ten years running a one-woman dyeing business,
sending parcels of unique yarn and thread all over the world. Before this she had a career in nursing. She lives
near Edinburgh.

www.nataliefergie.com
@NatalieSFergie