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.

★★★★★

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 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!

BlogTour SALMACIS by ELIZABETH TRAIN-BROWN #Poetry #BookReview @renardpress @BethTrainBrown

Delighted to be part of the Blog Tour today for the wonderful SALMACIS by ELIZABETH TRAIN-BROWN.  My thanks to Will at Renard Press for putting the tour together and letting me be part of it all!

ABOUT THE BOOK

As recounted by the Roman poet Ovid, a young nymph, Salmacis, one day spied Hermaphroditus bathing; consumed with passion, she entered the water and, begging the gods to allow them to stay together, the two became one – part man, part woman.

An Eclectic Pagan, for Elizabeth Ovid’s fables are more than fiction, and form a framework for exploring identity. Drawing on the rich mythological history associated with the tale of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, and re-examining the tale through the lens of metaphor, Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman is a stirringly relatable and powerful exploration of gender, love and identity.

this is my lake salmacis, and i am the wild nymph

with a hollow in her belly and nothing between her legs

PUBLISHED BY RENARD PRESS

PURCHASE LINK

Publisher Website

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Train-Brown is a poet and writer whose work has been published internationally in various anthologies and journals. Their journalism on discrimination, asexuality, transgender issues and polyamory has also received widespread recognition. Outside of writing, Elizabeth follows in her parents’ footsteps as a circus performer and fortune teller. Salmacis is their first collection.

For more information follow Elizabeth on Twitter @BethTrainBrown or Instagram.

MY REVIEW

I don’t often read poetry, but when they’re as good as this then I definitely need to add more poetry to my TBR!!

This is a collection that is punchy, insightful and takes you on a truly evocative journey.  There are just 25 poems in this collection, but each makes you think and have a different experience with.  Some hit hard with their rawness, whilst others are more flowing and gentle, and that really captures the essence of the female experience, the ups and the downs and all that falls in between!

The language used I found myself really connecting to, and it also raised a few wry smiles from myself with some of the points made as it explored all aspects of the body and the world seen through the eyes of a woman.  It all flows so beautifully and I have found it to be one of those books that I keep picking up and enjoying different poems on different days, depending on my mood!  

Some of the words hit the reader right between the eyes with their darkness, whilst others soothe and let you know you aren’t alone in experiences and feelings, and I just found this to be a powerful and inspiring collection and I cannot wait to read more from Elizabeth in the future!

★★★★

Don’t forget to join the rest of the Blog Tour with these wonderful bloggers!

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.

★★★★

20BooksOfSummer2022 Triple Review Catch up!! #BookReviews


Anyone else reading/reviewing like a crazy person at the moment so they can complete their #20BOOKSOFSUMMER2022 challenge??!! Just me then LOL!! I will not be defeated and if that means giving up on sleep then so be it haha!! 

So here’s a catch up of 3 recent reviews I’ve just completed… .before I attack the next batch LOL!

WE ARE ANIMALS by TIM EWINS  – 5 STARS

This is book 14 of my 20 books of summer 2022.

This was a joy to read! One of those books that gets the balance between emotion and humour just perfect and full of characters that you instantly find yourself connecting with, however quirky they may be!!

(Man)Jan is waiting on a beach in Goa, and has been visiting there for 5 years hoping to reconnect with the love of his life (Lady)Jan. Already you get the sense of a deep connection that they shared and wondering why they lost touch. And that is where Shakey comes in, a young man on a gap year, who finds this character on a beach fascinating and wants to know more about him. And so (Man)Jan begins to share his story and your own journey begins as he looks back and shares those moments we can all relate to – the missed moments, human connection, fate intervening and taking you on a different path – and the poignant connection throughout with animals.

I loved the quirky humour and the wonderful little observations littered throughout the story. It connected the 2 generations with that feeling of finding yourself as you adventure through life. The family relationships were also touching to read too – beware it’s a book that makes you laugh and cry! Or maybe that’s just me being a softie!!

Do yourself a favour and grab a copy of this book!!!

TULIP FEVER by DEBORAH MOGGACH – 3 STARS

This is Book 15 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

An enjoyable historical read of romance and deception, with a clever inclusion of artwork from the times in colour which added a bit of depth and context of the styles of painting at the time.

17th Century Amsterdam is where the story is set and the country is gripped by Tulip mania, which means there’s money to be made. Sophia is married to the very wealthy, and much older, Cornelius and he is the kind of character who wants to show off his wealth, and one way is to commission a painting to preserve him and his family on canvas. So he hires Jan, and the trouble begins! Sophia finds herself spending more time with the artist than her husband.

Maria is the maid for Sophia and Cornelius and her story is included too which worked really well within the story. How her own struggles and issues became central to the story, and you get the sense that karma has a big part to play for some characters!

This was a quick and easy to read historical story – I would have loved more about the tulip mania!

STEALING ROSES by HEATHER COOPER – 4 STARS

This is Book 16 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

A slow paced but wonderful little read, centring around Eveline who is not playing ball with her mother, and societies, wishes for a young woman in 1862! Her mother wants to marry her off, as is the normal way of life at the time, but Eveline doesn’t want to settle for marriage and motherhood and feels stifled by the restrictions placed upon her.

An interest in photography and an objection to the new local railway are her path to make her voice heard and sets her on a new path that is looked down upon by many. How improper to take a walk with a man, especially while hatless!! The horror haha!

I enjoyed the historical aspect of this story, along with the setting of the Isle of Wight. The restrictions placed on women were also fascinating and the growth of Eveline as she tried to change the opinion of others was also really interesting and eye opening. Especially the changing behaviour of certain characters who behave one way in public and then show a real dark side to their personality.

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!!

★★★★★

20BooksOfSummer2022 THE CHAMELEON by SAMUEL FISHER #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

John is infinite.

He can become any book, any combination of words — every thought, act and expression that has ever been, or ever will be, written. Now 800 years old, John wants to tell his story.

Looking back over his life, from its beginnings with a medieval anchoress to his current lodgings beside the deathbed of a cold war spy, John pieces together his tale: the love that held him together and, in particular, the reasons for a murder that took place in Moscow fifty years earlier, and that set in train a shattering series of events.

Samuel Fisher’s debut, The Chameleon is a love story about books like no other, weaving texts and lives in a family tale that leads the reader into an extraordinary historical journey, a journey of words as much as of places, and a gripping romance.

PUBLISHED BY SALT

PURCHASE LINK

Publisher Website

MY REVIEW

Imagine if your books could talk! What they could say about us as they observe us from their bookshelves! And in this story that’s exactly what happens! ‘John’ is 800 years old and has a story to tell – no strange thing as he’s a book, watching over as time and history happen in front of him. And he’s a very funny narrator and I loved his humour and quips as he recounts various stories, mainly based around Roger who he is currently with. Roger has had a stroke so John is telling his story for him, watching what is going on and interpreting stories that Roger has forgotten as his mind fails him.

It was such a fresh feeling to this story, to have this really interesting perspective. The places and things a ‘book’ witnesses over the years, the situations he finds himself in – he’s even been buried! – and it was a unique reading experience as he recounts the experiences of Roger and how his family evolved from meeting Margery to fatherhood.

It’s often emotional and a really compelling story and one I thoroughly enjoyed – I just hope my books don’t get the idea to share their stories about me with the world!!

★★★★