#20BooksOfSummer #BookReview Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman #DucksNewburyport

And now to BOOK 20!!! YAY ME!!!!  This years challenge has been an absolute blast to take part in and I’m really glad I chose to do  my own twist on it with the LITTLE and LARGE element – even if I didn’t stick totally to the original list!!  It made for some fun discoveries of books I’d not normally have considered and gave me a really big push to pick up those chunksters of books that often get left behind! Thanks as always to Cathy at 746 Books for hosting such a wonderful challenge…. roll on 2020!!

And what a book to finish off with!!  At 998 pages long I think it probably could have counted for the last 5 books of my total! With it being so big it took me much longer to read as I had to keep putting it down to digest the goings on (so.many.words!!!) but the challenge kept me coming back for more!!

Latticing one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless info that is the United States of America. She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of ‘happy couples’, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood pigeon egg. Is there some trick to surviving survivalists? School shootings? Medical debts? Franks ‘n’ beans? A scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster, Ducks, Newburyport is a heresy, a wonder – and a revolution in the novel.

published by GALLEY BEGGAR PRESS

PURCHASE LINK

publisher website shop

MY REVIEW

Extraordinary! That’s the simplest way I can think of to describe my time with this book! And at 998 pages long it’s not going to be one of those books you race through – not that you’d want to!

I think the author has achieved an amazing thing with this book – once you get your head round the style in which it is written, the lack of chapters/pauses…. the places you normally get to catch your breath! I found myself having to stop every now and then to take in what I’d read and then come back to it later as all those words took their toll!

It’s a book of information overload – the thoughts of a mother in America and how they take over your mind. How you think of one thing and a million other things race into your head – well, they’re all written down here so you’re left in no doubt as to how she views the world around her, the beauty, the brutality, the inane, the injustices, the horror, the humour – and everything in between. I’d find myself laughing loudly one minute at a thought she’d have, and then close to tears the next as she’d recollect events from the news or her past.

It’s often very bleak and full on but that reflects perfectly the world we live in now – it’s 24/7 and there is no escape. We’re bombarded with thoughts, news and how do we process it all? It plays on our minds constantly, building up fear, resentment, anger…..

Cleverly mixed in with the story is a side tale of a Lioness taking care of her cubs and this was beautifully written and observed, and brilliantly worked into the world created.

It all builds so ingeniously and I slowed down my pace even more reading the final few pages so that I could spend just a little bit more time in the head of this woman. This isn’t going to be for everyone because of the length of the book and the writing style, but I’m very happy to have experienced this clever and stunning book.

Heartbreaking, Humorous, Emotional and Endearing….. genius!!

★★★★★

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#20BooksOfSummer #BookReview A Respectable Woman by Susanna Bavin

And to book 19 of the #20BooksOfSummer.  This had been sitting on my shelves for a while after I’d been sent a signed copy by the lovely Susanna Bavin, and at 477 pages long it was perfect for the long part of my reading challenge! And what a mighty fine story it was too! Loved it!!

ABOUT THE BOOK

After losing her family in the Great War, Nell is grateful to marry Stan Hibbert, believing she can recapture a sense of family with him. But five years on, she is just another back-street housewife, making every penny do the work of tuppence and performing miracles with scrag-end. When she discovers that Stan is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start.

Two years later, in 1924, Nell has carved out a fulfilling new life for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbors believe she is a respectable widow and a talented machinist. But the past is hard to run from, and Nell must fight to protect the life she has made for herself and her children.

PUBLISHED BY  Allison & Busby

MY REVIEW

I’m a recent convert to the genre of Sagas and if they’re all going to be this good then I’m glad to have finally started reading them! I found this to be such an enthralling read that I had to read it in one sitting and have taken the character of Nell to my heart as she had to put up with so much heartache but still found the strength to pick herself up and carry on.

Nell had faced heartbreak in her past – she lost her family in the Great War so was facing the world alone, until a soldier, Stan, walked into her life and seemingly was her knight in shining armour. She finds married life hard, with long hours working, trying to raise her son too while Stan seemed more interested in the opening hours of the pub. By chance she finds out the truth about Stan and his other family, so she does what is best for her and her son and runs away to Manchester to start over.

Life isn’t much easier up there but she soon finds somewhere to live, a lovely woman called Leonie takes her in and treats her like her own daughter, and Nell works her fingers to the bone as a machinist as she now has 2 children to provide for. All those who know her now think she’s widowed and admire her for her ability to stay so strong. All doesn’t run smoothly though in her new home as Leonies’ son in law doesnt’ seem to like the influence Nell has over his mother in law – being nice to someone seems alien to him and the more you find out about him and how he treats his own family, the more it made my blood boil!!

As she creates a new life for herself, she never shirks the hard work and also turns into a bit of a heroine but that notoriety may soon become her downfall as the press attention brings back her past and to see how women were treated, even in the court system, at that time was appalling and quite an eye opener. With the help of her new friends you always find yourself cheering her on in her battles but always fearful that the attitudes of the time would go against her.

There were some vile characters in this book that were brilliantly described, and the character of Posy was just a delight – the author really captured the children in this so well! Naive in many situations, but wise beyond their years in others and their storylines really added extra depth to this story of triumph over adversity.

★★★★★

#20BooksOfSummer #BookReview Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Time for the rundown to the completion of this fabulous challenge!  This was book 18 and, yet again!, not on my original list but I picked this one up as I was in need of a quick read – it’s only 156 pages long – and it also is the September choice for the GoodReads book club I’m  part of so I’m getting ahead of myself already!

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the din and stink that is Cannery Row a colourful bend of misfits – gamblers, whores, drunks, bums, and artists – survive side by side in a jumble of adventure and mischief. Lee Chong, the astute owner of the fantastically well-stocked grocery store, is also the proprietor of the Palace Flophouse that Mack and his troupe of good-natured ‘boys’ call home. Dora, of the flaming orange hair and taste for Nile green dresses, runs the brothel with clockwork efficiency. Doc, who owns the laboratory, is the fount of all generosity and wisdom. Everybody wants to do something nice for Doc: the trouble is, he always ends up paying.

Packed with invention and joie de vivre, Cannery Row is Steinbeck’s high-spirited tribute to his native California.

MY REVIEW

My first John Steinbeck and not going to be my last! I was a little unsure what was ahead of me when I started this and did struggle with the first few pages, but I soon took the characters to heart, especially Doc and Frankie, and I loved seeing how things were going to pan out between this wonderful mix of outsider characters, and their quest to throw a party!

I loved the comings and going on Cannery Row – it really helped set the scene as these outcasts of society came together in their own world, none more so than Doc who the others adored as he was always there to help out. But as a man himself he was happy to dance his own tune, stay out of the ‘normal’ and was totally wrapped up in his work and helping others.

This was only a short novel but it really packed a punch and I could happily have read more as the characters lended themselves to so many storylines and avenues to explore!

★★★★

#BookReview #20BooksOfSummer The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

And now for a review of Book 17 – it’s been a good bank holiday reading weekend for me and my 20 Books of Summer list! Except this was another one of those not on my original list haha!! I won a lovely proof copy from the bods at MYVLF and as Jenny Colgan is one of my favourites I just couldn’t leave this on the shelves for too long!

ABOUT THE BOOK

A grand baronial house on Loch Ness, a quirky small-town bookseller, and a single mom looking for a fresh start all come together in this witty and warm-hearted novel by New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan.

Desperate to escape from London, single mother Zoe wants to build a new life for herself and her son Hari. She can barely afford the crammed studio apartment on a busy street where honking horns and shouting football fans keep them awake all night. If she doesn’t find a way out soon, Zoe knows it’s just a matter of time before she has a complete meltdown. On a whim, she answers an ad for a nanny job in the Scottish Highlands, which is about as far away from the urban crush of London as possible. It sounds heavenly!

The job description asks for someone capable of caring for three “gifted children”, two of which behave feral wolverines. The children’s widowed father is a wreck, and the kids run wild in a huge tumbledown castle on the heather-strewn banks of Loch Ness. Still, the peaceful, picturesque location is everything London is not—and Zoe rises to the challenges of the job.

With the help of Nina, the friendly local bookseller, Zoe begins to put down roots in the community. Are books, fresh air, and kindness enough to heal this broken family—and her own…?

published by Sphere

432 pages

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £9.99

hive.co.uk  £10.69

whsmith  £9.35

MY REVIEW

I adore Jenny Colgan and I adored her latest book that gave me all the feels and more!!

This is the story of Zoe who is a single mum doing all she can for the sake of her little boy, Hari. Life is tough and even tougher when Hari has never uttered a single word but nobody can work out why he’s suffering so badly with this social anxiety disorder. She soon finds herself being priced out of her flat in London and is running low on options for what to do next.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and she and Hari soon find themselves heading to Scotland to help run a local bookshop, as well as being nanny to 3 children while their father is often away travelling for work. The home they move into ‘The Beeches’ is a large mansion but very run down and very low on love – it’s just filled with children who have been left pretty much to their own devices so their reaction to Nanny Number Seven leads to some very interesting and humorous experiences!

I really empathized with Zoe – it was clear how much she loved Hari and she just wanted the best for him but often felt powerless to break him out of his silence. And the mix of her 3 new charges was also so fascinating – she clearly felt sorry for them having no routine or structure but finding the balance to get them onside was a frustrating process for her. 

This book was also not afraid to approach some darker subjects around childcare, grief and anxiety and it all really struck a chord with the times we are living in now. Zoe had her own doubts over making the move and how it would impact on Hari and it was so heartwarming to see bonds that he made as he began to settle into country life. I just wanted to give him a big hug!!

Add in to the mix her new boss Nina and her worries over her pregnancy, Ramsay – the father of the 3 children and owner of The Beeches and his reluctance in letting go of the past, and issues with Jaz, her ex – it just made for such an entertaining and fabulous read that I couldn’t put it down once I’d started. Just wonderful!!

★★★★★

#BookReview #20BooksOfSummer FOLLOW ME TO GROUND by SUE RAINSFORD

Back again! Time for me to review Book 16 – and guess what?!! another one that wasn’t on my original list! But it was Cosy Reading Night over the weekend and this one just spoke to me with its’ lovely gold cover and was around 200 pages so perfect for an evening of reading and scoffing of chocolate!!

‘Equal parts beauty and horror, and unlike anything you will read this year’ TEA OBREHT

‘Seethingly assured debut fuses magical realism with critical and feminist theory’ GUARDIAN


ABOUT THE BOOK
In house in a wood, Ada and her father live peacefully, tending to their garden and the wildlife in it. They are not human though. Ada was made by her father from the Ground, a unique patch of earth with birthing and healing properties. Though perhaps he didn’t get her quite right. They spend their days healing the local human folk – named Cures – who visit them, suspiciously, with their ailments.

When Ada embarks on a relationship with a local Cure named Samson, and is forced to choose between her old life with her father, and a new one with her human lover. Her decision will uproot the town – and the Ground itself – for ever.

A poised and simmering tour-de-force, FOLLOW ME TO GROUND is a sinister vision of desire and freewill, voiced in earthy prose and eviscerating detail by an astoundingly original new writer.

‘Fierce, palpable, hynoptic. A dazzling, troubling dream’ COLIN BARRETT

LONGLISTED FOR THE DESMOND ELLIOT PRIZE 2019

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £9.99

hive.co.uk  £10.25

whsmith  £9.35

MY REVIEW

I found this to be a dark, strange, absorbing and extremely enjoyable read! One of those books that didn’t always work for me, but the bits that did were so captivating that I just wanted to read on!

Ada and her father live in the woods and they aren’t human. But they’re ‘tolerated’ by the humans living nearby as they have gifts that means that they can cure sickness. It’s how they get by. 

Ada was made from The Ground nearby, which is a patch of earth that has birthing and healing properties – it must also be respected as it can eat you up so you do wonder just what is the meaning of this ground – a double edged sword maybe?!

This book allows you to see the complexities of a father/daughter relationship along with how those seen as outsiders are seen within the community and there’s always a fear of them despite their help when needed.

Ada grows close to one of the ‘cures’ she is treating, and when she spends more time with Samson the dynamics change with her father – is he being over protective? Or is she being blinded by the overbearing personality of Samson. 

WE also get to see little thoughts on the pair from the people they’ve cured – the rumours, their experiences and this was a really interesting little side story. 

As Ada grows in confidence in her own abilities she starts to think more for herself and that doesn’t always lead to the best decisions, and with Samson’s own sister showing concerns you are always wondering just who to trust in their judgement of characters.

A really interesting and twisted little story and one that I raced through and hope to re-read in the future!

★★★★

#BlogTour A TAPESTRY OF TREASON by ANNE O’BRIEN #bookreview @HQStories @anne_obrien

Hugely delighted to be the latest stop on the fabulous blog tour for A TAPESTRY OF TREASON by ANNE O’BRIEN.  My thanks to the author and publisher for letting me be part of it all!

ABOUT THE BOOK

‘Gripping’ The Times

Her actions could make history – but at what price? 

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York.

Surrounded by power-hungry men, including her aggressively self-centred husband Thomas and ruthless siblings Edward and Richard, Constance places herself at the heart of two treasonous plots against King Henry IV.  Will it be possible for this Plantagenet family to safeguard its own political power by restoring either King Richard II to the throne, or the precarious Mortimer claimant?

Although the execution of these conspiracies will place them all in jeopardy, Constance is not deterred, even when the cost of her ambition threatens to overwhelm her.  Even when it endangers her new-found happiness.

With treason, tragedy, heartbreak and betrayal, this is the story of a woman ahead of her time, fighting for herself and what she believes to be right in a world of men.


Giving voice to the forgotten women of history, this is the next brilliant historical novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Anne O’Brien.


Praise for A Tapestry of Treason

‘A wonderful novel . . . a rich, gripping, enchanting read. Anne’s vivid writing took me straight to the year 1400 and kept me wonderfully lost there throughout’ Joanna Courtney


Praise for Anne O’Brien

‘O’Brien cleverly intertwines the personal and political in this enjoyable, gripping tale’ The Times

‘O’Brien is a terrific storyteller’ Daily Telegraph

‘A gripping story of love, heartache and political intrigue’ Woman Home

‘Packed with drama, danger, romance and history … the perfect reading choice for the long winter nights’ The Press Association

‘A gripping historical drama’ Bella

published by HQ

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £10.75

hive.co.uk  £8.99

whsmith  £10.49

MY REVIEW

The Queen of getting me more interested in history is back with another fascinating and gripping historical story that gives flesh to those names of the past that we’ve all heard so much about, but brings their stories to the fore and gives them a voice.

In this book that character is Lady Constance Despenser, who is a daughter of the influential House of York.  Set in 1399 there are troubled times on the horizon surrounding the  battle over taking the throne. I have to admit to knowing very little about the ins and outs of this period of history, but this book was so brilliant in explaining the power struggles, the family disputes and the lengths people were going to to make sure they were on the ‘right side’.  There’s politics, plots and plenty of scandal to devour in this story and it all felt so relevant and relatable despite the complicated times they were living in!  You got the feeling that many of the players were only interested in self preservation so would allign themselves strategically just to take care of themselves!

Constance is an enthralling character to follow and focus on – she’s very pragmatic, a realist but she’s very clever and very loyal to her family and that comes across forcefully in this story.    In a time where women were not really heard from, she knew how to play the game, knew her role and was willing to make difficult decisions when needed.    But despite her family loyalty she doesn’t appear to be that maternal, and not very emotional when it comes to matters concerning members of her family.

What I love about these type of books is the journey that the story takes you on, and that you can then do your own research afterwards to find out more about the times and characters. I loved that there were afternotes in this book that allowed you to find out what happened to certain characters along with places to visit that had connections with the time and events in this period of history.

I found this to be an intelligent, feisty and captivating historical story and I can’t wait to see what period of history and what character Anne turns her attention to next!!

★★★★★

My thanks to the author and Lily Capewell at HQ Stories for the advance reader copy in return for a fair and honest review.

#CoverReveal DAISY’S CHRISTMAS GIFT SHOP by HANNAH PEARL @RubyFiction

cover reveal

It’s time for me to get my Christmas emoji’s out again as I’m delighted to be able to share yet another cracker of a cover with you courtesy of the lovely team at Ruby Fiction.  I wish it could be Christmas everyday…….🎄🎅⛄

Here’s a little more info about the book to get you in the mood…

Struggling to find the perfect Christmas gift? Step into Romantic Daze …

Daisy Kirk is a sucker for a love story, which is why she opened up her gift shop – because there’s nothing that makes Daisy happier than when she’s helped a customer achieve their own ‘happily ever after’ by finding the perfect Christmas gift for their loved one. And she absolutely does not just sell ‘soppy presents and frilly pants’ as her brother’s infuriating best friend, Eli, is so fond of suggesting.

The sad fact is that whilst Daisy is helping others with their love lives, hers is non-existent. But when unusual circumstances take Daisy and Eli on a road trip from London to rural Wales, will she finally get the happily ever after to her own Christmas love story?

Daisy’s Christmas Gift Shop is published on 29th October by Ruby Fiction and will be available to purchase as an eBook on all platforms, as well as in audio.

So here it is – the wait is over…… 😍

❆❅❄

What do we think?!  Hope it’s made you want to add this book to your must haves list – it’s top of mine!!