BookReview BOOTH by KAREN JOY FOWLER

ABOUT THE BOOK

From the Man Booker finalist and bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves comes an epic novel about the family behind one of the most infamous figures in American history: John Wilkes Booth.

In 1822, a secret family moves into a secret cabin some thirty miles northeast of Baltimore, to farm, to hide, and to bear ten children over the course of the next 16 years. Junius Booth—breadwinner, celebrated Shakespearean actor and master of the house in all ways—is at once a mesmerizing talent and a man of terrifying instability. One by one the children arrive, as year by year, the country draws closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.

As the children grow and the tenor of the world shifts, the Booths cement their place as one of the country’s leading theatrical families. But behind the curtains of the many stages they have graced, multiple scandals, family triumphs, and disasters begin to take their toll. A startling portrait of a country in the throes of change and a vivid exploration of brother- and sisterhood, Booth is a riveting historical novel focused on the very things that bind, and break, a family.

PUBLISHED BY SERPENT’S TAIL

PURCHASE LINK

Amazon

 MY REVIEW

This has been my favourite book to read off the Booker Longlist 2022 – no wonder it never made it to the shortlist! I’m a kiss of death to books!! But I found this piece of historical storytelling to be totally absorbing and really gave a sense of life from 1822 onwards in America, when so much was going on politically and had such an impact on people all across the country.

John Wilkes Booth is a name known to many as the man who shot Abraham Lincoln, and this book centres around the Booth family – their beginnings and encounters in the years leading up to that event. I love how each character is given their own voice to tell their own story – how the children had to grow up fast to be responsible for the parents, the struggles,the successes, the losses…. it really gives you a glimpse into how people lived at the times and how political changes were impacting families.

The story is told over a number of years and that had the most impact for me – you could see how their lives were impacted by things they saw, people they met – and then alongside their story, the story of Lincoln and how his life was panning out so it gave you a real sense of the timelines of these families whose paths were about to cross….oh and there’s a character called Harriet Mace and I do always like to see a namesake character in a book!

I found it to be totally absorbing and loved seeing the different points of view, especially of the siblings of JWB. The incident of ‘that night’ that is in the history books, is only a very small part of this book and that worked so brilliantly for me as a reader. It was described perfectly, alongside the aftershock for the family and how they found out what their brother had done.

I found this to be a fabulous read and gave me great insight in to such an infamous name in history and the impact that has on the family around.

★★★★★

BlogBlitz THE JANE AUSTEN REMEDY by RUTH WILSON @AllisonandBusby #BookReview #NonFiction #JaneAusten

Delighted to be joining in the Blog Blitz today, to share news of this wonderful new release from Allison & Busby – THE JANE AUSTEN REMEDY by RUTH WILSON

ABOUT THE BOOK

As she approached the age of seventy, Ruth Wilson began to have recurring dreams about losing her voice. And as she grappled with feelings of unfathomable sadness, she made the radical decision to retreat from her conventional life with her husband to a small sunshine-yellow cottage in New South Wales, Australia where she lived alone for the following ten years.

Ruth had fostered a lifelong love of reading, and from the moment she first encountered Pride and Prejudice in the 1940s she had looked to Jane Austen’s heroines as her models for the sort of woman she wanted to become. She resolved to re-read Austen’s six novels; to reflect on her life in relation to what she discovered in each of them. And as Ruth read between the lines of both the novels and her own life, she began to reclaim her voice.

A beautiful, life-affirming memoir of love, self-acceptance and the curative power of reading. Published the year Ruth turns ninety, The Jane Austen Remedy is an inspirational account of the lessons learned from Jane Austen over nine decades, as well as a timely reminder that it’s never too late to seize a second chance.

PURCHASE LINK

Publisher Website

MY REVIEW

If you don’t want to immediately go and re-read all your Jane Austen books after reading this memoir, then there’s something wrong with you!  The author has done an impressive job with looking back at her life and connecting it with re-reading all the novels of Jane Austen, to see how her life experiences, if at all, had changed her perception of the work she grew up with and had meant so much to her throughout her life.


As the author came to certain conclusions about her life when later in years, and completely changed the way she lived and in that reflective time she turned to the comforting words of Jane Austen to see what she could learn from the past, and how it maybe shaped her thinking and how it could still be so relevant even to this day.


Re-reading these novels gave her peace and gave her answers to questions she didn’t realise she needed answers to.  There are many other mentions too of different books by various authors that she felt a connection to and had an impact on her over the years.  


She looks back at her childhood, her marriage and motherhood and how that ‘happiness’ that society says you should have once you’ve settled down seemed far away from her, and she knew action was needed. In re-reading these books she began to see different thing in different characters that life experience shines a different light on, and  I found that to be the most fascinating – and I hope to get the same kind of experience when I pick up all the Jane Austen novels again

.A fascinating life and look back at the impact that novels written so long ago have resonated with readers for so long.  It’s a book about finding the courage to let go, move and reclaim your voice and your happy, however old you may be!


★★★★

BlogTour EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK by IAIN HOOD @renardpress @iain_hood #BookReview

Delighted to be joining you today as part of the Blog Tour for the fabulous EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK by IAIN HOOD.

My thanks to the author and publisher for putting the tour together and letting me be part of it all!

Every Trick in the Book

Iain Hood

There’s only control, control of ourselves and others. And you have to decide what part you play in that control.

Cast your eye over the comfortable north London home of a family of high ideals, radical politics and compassionate feelings. Julia, Paul and their two daughters, Olivia and Sophie, look to a better society, one they can effect through ORGAN:EYES, the campaigning group they fundraise for and march with, supporting various good causes.

But is it all too good to be true? When the surface has been scratched and Paul’s identity comes under the scrutiny of the press, a journey into the heart of the family begins. Who are these characters really? Are any of them the ‘real’ them at all? Every Trick in the Book is a genre-deconstructing novel that explodes the police procedural and undercover-cop story with nouveau romanish glee. Hood overturns the stone of our surveillance society to show what really lies beneath.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Iain Hood was born in Glasgow and grew up in the seaside town of Ayr. He attended the University of Glasgow and Jordanhill College, and later worked in education in Glasgow and the west country. He attended the University of Manchester after moving to Cambridge, where he continues to live with his wife and daughter. His first novel, This Good Book, was published in 2021.

MY REVIEW

The phrase ‘appearances can be deceptive’ comes straight to mind after reading this book and it was another fabulous reading experience thanks to the author – if you’ve not picked up his previous book, This Good Book, then go grab that as well as you won’t be disappointed!  

It’s so difficult to pin this book down to any one particular genre, and it’s one of those story that resonates so clearly with the times we are living in, where all that glitters is not gold!  We are fed images of people with the perfect lives, believing the  perception of their happiness, but in Every Trick of the Book we see that sometimes people aren’t who they say they are, and their hidden lives are much darker and this book approaches that with humour and a bit of snark, and I loved it!  It doesn’t shirk away from poking fun at everybody – right, left, media, police, celebs – and shows it all up for the hypocrisy that is often displays!

At the heart of the story are a ‘normal’ family living a very comfortable life, on the surface, following the latest causes, and then a journalist starts digging and uncovers some uncomfortable truths about their real identities, and that’s where the fun and mayhem begins!

There’s always that mystery about what is being hidden,and why,  and that kept me turning the pages faster and faster to find out, and the redacted passages just add to the confusion and head scratching!  This is a smart book and one that makes you think, makes you laugh and makes you feel that we’re all just going through life just trying to make sense of it all!  And even when we think we’ve got it figured out, we’re often far from the mark!!

This, for me, was one of those books that makes you want to re-read it almost immediately so you can pick up on those hidden messages you may have missed first time round!   A book that ticks every box for me entertainment wise, and as for Who Do I Trust?! Absolutely nobody!!

★★★★★

BookReview THE NIGHT SHIP by JESS KIDD #TheNightShip

ABOUT THE BOOK

Based on a real-life event, an epic historical novel from the award-winning author of Things in Jars that illuminates the lives of two characters: a girl shipwrecked on an island off Western Australia and, three hundred years later, a boy finding a home with his grandfather on the very same island.

1629: A newly orphaned young girl named Mayken is bound for the Dutch East Indies on the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age. Curious and mischievous, Mayken spends the long journey going on misadventures above and below the deck, searching for a mythical monster. But the true monsters might be closer than she thinks.

1989: A lonely boy named Gil is sent to live off the coast of Western Australia among the seasonal fishing community where his late mother once resided. There, on the tiny reef-shrouded island, he discovers the story of an infamous shipwreck…​

With her trademark “thrilling, mysterious, twisted, but more than anything, beautifully written” (Graham Norton, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling, Jess Kidd weaves a unputdownable and charming tale of friendship and sacrifice, brutality and forgiveness.

PUBLISHED BY CANONGATE BOOKS

PURCHASE LINK

Waterstones

MY REVIEW

Loved. Loved. Loved!!!


An astonishing piece of historical fiction that had me under its’ spell from page one and still has me mesmerized even now!! Jess Kidd has a wonderful way of storytelling, and I think this might be her best yet. Told over 2 timelines, featuring 2 amazing child characters who lived so far apart timewise, but had so much in common. Their stories will break your heart and inspire and I’m already itching to read it all over again!

This story is based on real life events, and starts in 1628 with Mayken who is travelling on board the Batavia with her nursemaid to a new life overseas. She has never met her father but is travelling to join him after the passing of her mother.

And in 1989, we meet the character of Gil, who is a lost soul after losing his mother and he’s travelling to live with his grandfather who lives on an Island and makes a living fishing. The Island is where the Batavia ran aground causing a huge loss of life.

The switching timelines work in tandem to perfection – the excitement of Mayken, the trepidation of Gil, as they both set out on different paths and exploring the loss of their mothers and the impact that has on them as very young children.

It’s a book that made me lose time as I just became so involved in the lives of these characters! From the settings, the complexity of family relationships to the pure emotion as you watch over these children as they’re faced with all kinds of challenges.

I could easily wax lyrical for hours about this book as it was just a sheer delight to read from start to finish, but I won’t so you can enjoy the drama of it all for yourself – cannot recommend it highly enough and easily one of my most favourite books of 2022.

★★★★★

BookReview ITHACA by CLAIRE NORTH @ClaireNorth42 @orbitbooks @Gambit589

ABOUT THE BOOK

‘The greatest power we woman can own, is that we take in secret . . . ‘

Seventeen years ago, king Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them have returned, and the women have been left behind to run the kingdom.

Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. Whilst he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that husband is dead, and suitors are starting to knock at her door . . .

But no one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne – not yet. Between Penelope’s many suitors, a cold war of dubious alliances and hidden knives reigns, as everyone waits for the balance of power to tip one way or another. If Penelope chooses one from amongst them, it will plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning and her spy network of maids can she maintain the delicate balance of power needed for the kingdom to survive.

On Ithaca, everyone watches everyone else, and there is no corner of the palace where intrigue does not reign . . .

published by ORBIT BOOKS

PURCHASE LINKS

Goldsboro Books – signed edition

Amazon

MY REVIEW

I found this to be a wonderfully illuminating re-tellng of Greek mythology that explores the woman, Penelope, behind the man, Odysseus, who came to the fore and has strong touches of feminism and showing the strengths of women in a very male dominated world.  Dismiss these women at your peril!

The story of Penelope is an intriguing one, and hearing her voice, mostly through the observations of Hera, was fascinating to see how she set about dealing with the loss of her husband, and the clamour around her to take over power. She’s also dealing with her son, Telemachus, who is full of that male pride and wanting to make sense of it all and make his father proud. There are different POV’s of various characters but their voices blend in to make the story so fresh, and really connected with me despite my lack of knowledge of a lot of greek mythology – this story has really made me more fascinated about it all and I now want to know more!

I loved the theme throughout of the strong women and ruthless men. Women were always undervalued or not ‘seen’ but these female characters all showed all the sides to them – supportive and ready to sabotage.. Hera being the narrator also gave an overview of other characters and showing the challenges they faced.

At the heart of the story is a tale of a family dealing with power and loss, and although it’s mostly about the female characters, I did find the story of the son really fascinating and it was good to have that different feel to his story.

This is a story of love and loss, rivalry and revenge, feasts and fights, brutality and betrayal and I found myself totally immersed in the world and the story is set up so nicely for book 2 – I can’t wait!!

★★★★★

My thanks to the team at Orbit Books for the proof copy which  I received in return for a fair and honest review.  The cross stitch kit too was fabulous and I need more book cover cross stitch kits in my life!

20BooksOfSummer2022 SWIMMING HOME by MARY-ROSE MACCOLL #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

From the author of the international bestseller In Falling Snow. In 1925, a young woman swimmer will defy the odds to swim the English Channel–a chance to make history.

London 1925: Fifteen-year-old Catherine Quick longs to feel once more the warm waters of her home, to strike out into the ocean off the Torres Strait Islands in Australia and swim, as she’s done since she was a child. But now, orphaned and living with her aunt Louisa in London, Catherine feels that everything she values has been stripped away from her.

Louisa, a London surgeon who fought boldly for equality for women, holds strict views on the behavior of her young niece. She wants Catherine to pursue an education, just as she herself did. Catherine is rebellious, and Louisa finds it difficult to block painful memories from her past. It takes the enigmatic American banker Manfred Lear Black to convince Louisa to bring Catherine to New York where Catherine can train to become the first woman to swim the English Channel. And finally, Louisa begins to listen to what her own heart tells her.

PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN

PURCHASE LINK

Amazon

MY REVIEW

This is book 20 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

An enjoyable historical fiction story that held my interest throughout, although my patience did wear a little thin at times with all the lies that were revealed!

Set in the 1920’s it’s a story about female characters – Louisa, is a successful woman, setting up her own surgery as a surgeon and championing the rights of women which to her means forgoing personal relationships. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, her niece Catherine is 15 and her only passion is swimming. She lives with her father, after losing her mother when young and has very little memory of her.

Louisa finds herself going to Australia to help her brother raise Catherine and the clash between them is quite stark at times. Catherine is very settled with the housekeeper, and this adds an element of racism to the story as Catherine is unable to stay wth Florence who is black, and that just doesn’t sit well with many. So Catherine has to move to London with Louisa and the clashes between stubborn women intensify!

I loved the characters in this story as they both had very interesting stories to tell, especially Catherine who loses herself in a quest to swim the Channel and to challenge authority. And then the big plot twists and shocks begin to drop and changes the background to the story! I shall say no more but it made for a really interesting read.

★★★

20BooksOfSummer2022 THE SECRET TO NOT DROWNING by COLETTE SNOWDEN #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

How did a girl who dreamed of being a Charlie’s Angel become such a cowed and submissive woman? On the surface Marion’s life seems fine, but she is controlled and bullied by her husband; her only ‘freedom’ is a weekly visit to the swimming baths. When a chance meeting with an old school-mate develops into a secret friendship, Marion is reminded of the person she used to be. And might still be, if she leaves her domineering husband. But is it too late?

published by Bluemoose

PURCHASE LINK


Publisher Website

MY REVIEW

This is Book 19 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022

Some books just stop you in your track with their subject and intensity – and that is exactly what this one did to me! I couldn’t focus on anything else while reading it and felt so many emotions (mostly outrage and deep anger!) at the plight of Marion.

From the stark opening of the agony of losing a baby, to the terrors she felt on a daily basis under the control of her husband, there is an immediate connection as a reader to Marion. She keeps it together on the outside, but her inner thoughts give way to that fear of doing the wrong thing, upsetting the status quo, or even him just waking up on the wrong side of the bed to attack and belittle her – while he puts on the show of being the perfect husband … well, he does buy her flowers every week so that makes him a keeper eh…… he is an absolute a***hole and one of those narcissistic characters that make everything about him… no matter what.

She finds peace and sanctity at the local swimming pool, it gives her freedom and a chance to think back over how she used to be. And then a meeting with an old schoolfriend is another way she can start to find herself again, remembering the girl/woman she used to be before being controlled. She finds it very easy to give advice to others but never so easy to follow her own advice.

This was a shocking read at times, the level of psychological abuse from him was just next level nastiness, and I found myself just willing her to take back that control and find a way out.

It had that gripping feeling of claustrophobia as she was terrified of upsetting him, and wondering when will he next explode, and as a reader you find yourself holding your breath as you read waiting to see just how cruel he will be next…. and will that be the time she finds herself. A brilliant read – highly recommended.

★★★★★

20BooksOfSummer2022 THE TYRANNY OF LOST THINGS by LUCY RHIANNON COSSLETT #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

Two hot summers converge, twenty years apart, as Harmony returns to the North London house where she lived as a child with her bohemian parents. Like theirs, her days are hazed by drugs and sex and cheap wine. Nothing else is the same in Longhope Crescent, but it’s only here she can make sense of the anxiety and loss that plague her.

PUBLISHED BY SANDSTONE PRESS

PURCHASE LINK

Publisher Website

MY REVIEW

This is Book 18 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

This was one of those stories that surprised me! I thought it was going to feel a little flat considering the subject matter, but the author brought the characters and timeline to life with the way she wrote. It centres a lot around how the past hangs over us, even if we don’t really know it at the time, and how that journey of self discovery is a necessary but worthwhile evil!

Harmony finds herself pulled back to her childhood home but doesn’t really know why. She feels like she’s blocked so much out about her youth and she’s hoping that the memories will come flooding back. And they do, but slowly, and thanks to the mysterious and cranky downstairs neighbour, who knew her parents and offers a different perspective to all that she thought she knew.

The story does a brilliant job of capturing the essence of the time, with the uncertainty in the world, and also flashes back to her parents younger years and their alternative way of living. There’s all the pitfalls of the world as you grow up, the mistakes, the reckless living and how your life impacts on so many others. There’s also a lot of darkness in the past and maybe that unresolved past is what has made Harmony feel so unsettled and detached all these years.

Once I was pulled in to this story I didn’t want to put it down and highly recommend it.

★★★★

My Bookish Weekly Wrap Up – 20th August 2022

Hello!  Happy Saturday!!  Still looking for rain to fall here so the garden is looking very sad as I’m running out of oomph to keep watering it all! So if you had downpours this week, please share!!

And it’s been a quiet bookish week too! I just can’t get going on the book front, although I have been distracted by reading Booker Prize Longlisted entries for some bizarre reason!  So you can bet that the ones I manage to read before the shortlist is revealed won’t be anywhere near that list!!

Here’s my look back!

BOOKS FINISHED

MAPS OF OUR SPECTACULAR BODIES by MADDIE MORTIMER (audiobook) – 3 STARS

BOOTH by KAREN JOY FOWLER (AUDIOBOOK) – 5 STARS

BOOKHAUL

Just one caught my eye on Netgalley this week…

THE COTTAGE IN THE HIGHLANDS by JULIE SHACKMAN

publication date – December 2022

When Leonie Baxter finds herself out of a job and out of a relationship, she’s at her wits end. Her life has just been turned upside down and she needs a plan, fast.

By chance, on a walk with her rescue puppy, Leonie stumbles across a striking house in the woods; fully furnished but unoccupied. As a journalist, she is determined to find out more, after all, reporting is in her nature.

But her attempts are thwarted by Lily Cruickshank who lives in the cottage next door. Why won’t Lily help Leonie? And who is the mysterious Flynn Talbot, whose letter Leonie finds inside the house?

And in uncovering the secrets of the abandoned house, will Leonie open her own heart and let love back into her life?

CURRENTLY READING

WE ARE ANIMALS by TIM EWINS

HAPPY READING!!

20BookOfSummer2022 THE EIGHTH GIRL by MAXINE MEI-FUNG CHUNG #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

One woman, multiple personas.

But which one is telling the truth?

Beautiful. Damaged. Destructive. Meet Alexa Wú, a brilliant yet darkly self-aware young woman whose chaotic life is manipulated and controlled by a series of alternate personalities. Only three people know about their existence: her shrink Daniel; her stepmother Anna; and her enigmatic best friend Ella. The perfect trio of trust.

When Ella gets a job at a high-end gentleman’s club, she catches the attention of its shark-like owner and is gradually drawn into his inner circle. As Alexa’s world becomes intimately entangled with Ella’s, she soon finds herself the unwitting keeper of a nightmarish secret. With no one to turn to and lives at stake, she follows Ella into London’s cruel underbelly on a daring rescue mission. Threatened and vulnerable, Alexa will discover whether her multiple personalities are her greatest asset, or her most dangerous obstacle.

Electrifying and breathlessly compulsive, The Eighth Girl is an omnivorous examination of life with mental illness and the acute trauma of life in a misogynist world. With bingeable prose and a clinician’s expertise, Chung’s psychological debut deftly navigates the swirling confluence of identity, innocence, and the impossible fracturing weights that young women are forced to carry, causing us to question: Does the truth lead to self-discovery, or self-destruction?

PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM MORROW

PURCHASE LINK

Amazon

MY REVIEW

This is book 12 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022

Dark. Intoxicating. Twisty. Gripping. …. blooming brilliant!! Fair to say that I loved this one and it was one of those stories that just kept me sat on my chair for ages at a time, often holding my breath wondering where the plots would take me next!! And they often took me to very dark places through the character of Alexa, and I loved every single minute of it!

Alexa has multiple personalities – I was a little worried how this would play out as a story, but the author has done a brilliant job of mixing them all so well, and allowing each ‘personality’ to share little glimpses into their world, while Alexa gets on with her often complicated life. And what a story she has to tell! When her best friend gets in trouble she finds herself going along for the ride, and the world she finds herself involved in is a very dark and scary place, involving the trafficking of young girls and sex work.

And we also get the POV of Daniel, her therapist, who is dealing with his own issues and watching her open up to him is very revealing and allows us to see the start of her problems from a very abusive childhood and constantly looking for ‘love’ and approval from people as she missed out on that. The world she finds herself becoming trapped in is full of other young girls who seem to be searching out for that too and it’s sad to see them mistaking sex for love, and the promise of security and money.

The twists and turns are perfectly played out and they got me good!! I always love a story that shocks and surprises and that is exactly what this did to me! A brilliant book that I cannot recommend highly enough!!

★★★★★