#BookReview #PublicationDay HAMNET by MAGGIE O’FARRELL #Hamnet

ABOUT THE BOOK

Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child.


Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.


Award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes, and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.


PUBLISHED BY TINDER PRESS


PURCHASE LINKS

GOLDSBORO BOOKS – signed first edition

Waterstones – signed edition


Blackwell’s

MY REVIEW

Exquisite!!!

If I could give this 6 stars I would!! I found myself completely captivated by this story of family, of love, of grief and I lost count of how many tears I shed throughout!

This is the story of the man behind the plays. And it features his family – his wife, Agnes and their 3 children, Susanna, and the twins Hamnet and Judith. And each character has such a stunning tale to share that it’s hard to pick the one I enjoyed the most.

In Agnes, the mother, there’s her story of how she met her husband, the hard upbringing she had especially when she lost her mother, and her devotion to using medicinal herbs. Something that marks her out as different to others, and something her daughter Susanna finds embarrassing and resents her ‘abilities’.

And then there’s the bond between twins with Hamnet and Judith which was breathtakingly explored. When his sister takes to her bed extremely unwell, Hamnet is beside himself in what to do. His mother is out tending her herbs, his father is in London, and all he wants to do is find someone to make his sister better. He is truly pained by watching his sister suffer so much and is driven to extreme lengths to try and get her some help.

The story flits backwards and forwards in time to particularly memorable moments in all their lives and then those moments that are extremely devastating and gutwrenching. The descriptions of grief showed as a mother loses her child and the days, weeks, months afterwards were brilliantly portrayed and caused me to shed the most tears as you suffered those emotions with her.

I simply adored this book from the first page to the last. The ambience of the times is brought to life so beautifully, each character is well developed for you to connect with and it was a haunting, emotional and staggeringly brilliant read! A must read!!


★★★★★★

My thanks to  Georgina at  Midas PR for the review copy in return for a fair and honest review.

#BookReview THE ILLNESS LESSON by CLARE BEAMS

ABOUT THE BOOK

A mysterious flock of red birds has descended over Birch Hill. Recently reinvented, it is now home to an elite and progressive school designed to shape the minds of young women. But Eliza Bell – the most inscrutable and defiant of the students – has been overwhelmed by an inexplicable illness.

One by one, the other girls begin to experience the same peculiar symptoms: rashes, fits, headaches, verbal tics, night wanderings. Soon Caroline – the only woman teaching – begins to suffer too. She tries desperately to hide her symptoms but, with the birds behaving strangely and the girls’ condition worsening, the powers-that-be turn to a sinister physician with grave and dubious methods.

Caroline alone can speak on behalf of the students, but only if she summons the confidence to question everything she’s ever learnt. Does she have the strength to confront the all-male, all-knowing authorities of her world and protect the young women in her care?

Distinctive, haunting, irresistible, The Illness Lesson is an intensely vivid debut about women’s minds and bodies, and the time-honoured tradition of doubting both.

PUBLISHED BY DOUBLEDAY

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon   £8.49

hive.co.uk  £11.35

Book Depository  £8.49

MY REVIEW

This was an intriguing, and often horrifying, story that features a group of girls who are plagued with mysterious rashes and fainting spells, while at a new school set up by Samuel Hood and his daughter Caroline. Their lives had been ‘plagued’ by the sight of strange red birds, named The Trilling Hearts, by Caroline’s late mother, and their reappearance prompts Samuel into opening this school to ‘educate’ and shape these young women, but his motives appear to be a little off kilter and it was intriguing to see this play out.

Caroline is a fascinating character as she’s always lived with her father and has been left traumatised by the death of her mother. She wants to find her own voice but often seems unsure how to use it. She is used to deferring to the men in her life as they tell her their opinion is more important – not uncommon at that time. Women appear only to have purpose as a wife and a mother.

So when this small group of girls come together, all appears fine for a while and then strange things start happening, mainly to Eliza to begin with. She seems to be the ‘alpha’ female of the group, not afraid to voice her opinion, but when she becomes poorly it shocks the others, who begin to show similar illness traits. Is this hysteria as diagnosed by the men? What have the red birds got to do with it all? The rather unpleasant character of Hawkins is brought in to treat these girls – I’m still shuddering now……….

This was a book that was really thought provoking, especially as a female. I would have liked to have felt a bit more of a connection with the girls though as they often all seemed to blend into one, other than Eliza, but the role of Caroline was well played out. It was a little slow paced at times but I think that added to the impact of the claustrophobia and suppression of these girls not being taken seriously.

★★★★

#BookReview THE ANIMALS AT LOCKWOOD MANOR by JANE HEALEY

ABOUT THE BOOK

Some secrets are unspoken. Others are unspeakable . . .

August 1939.

Thirty-year-old Hetty Cartwright is tasked with the evacuation and safekeeping of the natural history museum’s collection of mammals. Once she and her exhibits arrive at Lockwood Manor, however, where they are to stay for the duration of the war, Hetty soon realizes that she’s taken on more than she’d bargained for.

Protecting her charges from the irascible Lord Lockwood and resentful servants is work enough, but when some of the animals go missing, and worse, Hetty begins to suspect someone – or something – is stalking her through the darkened corridors of the house.

As the disasters mount, Hetty finds herself falling under the spell of Lucy, Lord Lockwood’s beautiful but clearly haunted daughter. But why is Lucy so traumatized? Does she know something she’s not telling? And is there any truth to local rumours of ghosts and curses?

Part love story, part mystery, The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey is a gripping and atmospheric tale of family madness, long-buried secrets and hidden desires.

PUBLISHED BY MANTLE

PUBLICATION DAY – 5TH MARCH 2020

PRE-ORDER LINKS

hive.co.uk

Amazon

Goldsboro Books – signed first edition

MY REVIEW

What is it with these old houses that are full of secrets and mysterious goings on?! I love it!! And at Lockwood Manor the past is full of darkness, and as Hetty moves in to overlook the storage of the animal collection from the National History Museum during the start of the war, she is plunged into a world of family struggles whilst trying to keep track of her exhbits that keep going missing!!

Lockwood Manor is the home of Lord Lockwood and his daughter Lucy, along with a few members of staff and they’re not all pleased to be having Hetty and her collection moving in. She gets an uneasy feeling from the house from the moment she moves in and the nightmares she has are the least of her problems during her time there.

Along with the Hetty trying to settle, we also hear the story of Lucy Lockwood who has led a pretty tragic life since the death of her mother, alongside a father who seems to care very little for her. She has really bad anxiety and despite living a seemingly gilded life, you can’t help but feel enormous sympathy for her. In Hetty she finds someone she can connect with, and start to feel a little safer and it was extremely touching to see how their friendship was a real strength for them both.

As the unsettling feeling continues, there is more revealed from the past that was really shocking and I loved how the story centres around loneliness and the role that women were expected to play at that time. In Hetty and Lucy we get to see how different roles played out and it gave another dimension to the story.

A really touching and enjoyable read.

★★★★

#BlogTour THE LAST VILLAGE by AUDLA ENGLISH #BookReview #TheLastVillage @AudlaE #RandomThingsTours

Delighted you have joined me today for the latest stop on the Blog Tour for THE LAST VILLAGE by AUDLA ENGLISH. My thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of  Random Things Tours for putting this all together and letting me be part of it all.  It’s a real pleasure!

The Last Village by Audla English

· Paperback: 214 pages

· Publisher: Independently published (12 Oct. 2018)

· Language: English

· ISBN-10: 1723846171

· ISBN-13: 978-1723846175

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Village-Audla-English/dp/1723846171

ABOUT THE BOOK

CHILL WITH A BOOK AWARDS- PREMIER READERS’ AWARD WINNER

2019 AMERICAN FICTION AWARDS FINALIST- ROMANCE: HISTORICAL

The majestic Souter Lighthouse stands proudly at the edge of the cliff top surrounded by open grassy empty fields and overlooking a vast blue wilderness. Anna Charles knows nothing of the life that her grandmother once had here. It wasn’t until an unexpected engagement, that Anna discovered the past of her Gran and the truth behind an enduring love.

Seventy years earlier, Lillian Smith, had been part of the close-knit community that once thrived in the village that existed next to the lighthouse. A chance meeting with a sailor one day, would change the course of her life forever.

A moving novel set in the North East of England. The Last Village is an enduring love story which spans the 1940’s and modern day, binding the generations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Audla English grew up in the North East of England. Born in Sunderland, a graduate of Newcastle University and living in South Tyneside, she is passionate about this wonderful region which acts as an inspiration to her writing. Her award-winning debut novel ‘The Last Village’ is a dual time-line historical fiction and is written as a dedication to the now sadly demolished Old Marsden Village which was built by the Whitburn Coal Company in the 1870’s. The Marsden Rock coastal setting is also used to weave a family saga style narrative around a beautiful part of north east England. The novel is a moving love story about the life of Lily, a young woman growing up with her friends in 1945 whereas the other side of the story, in 2017, is about Anna and her own discovery of her grandmother’s past life- it is a novel which spans and binds the generations through family and friendship.

Twitter @AudlaE   Website http://www.audlaenglish.co.uk/

MY REVIEW

I found this to be a charming and engaging story which combined the different timelines so well, and really gave you the different perspectives of how life had changed over the years for the characters.  It really captures the essence of a village that was demolished, but how important it was to the people who lived there and as Anna gets to hear the story from her grandmother Lily of her recollections, it opens up so much history and shows just how many stories go forgotten about as time moves on.

In the present, Anna is preparing for her own wedding, and is reminiscing about the lovely times she used to spend with her grandmother as she grew up but how she knows very little of the life her grandmother led whilst growing up, so it is lovely for both Anna and Lily to share time together and share stories that show that although time and expectations may have changed, at the heart is the need to surround yourself with good people and to be supportive of one another.

I loved looking back in time with the stories that Lily shared.  It tells of her experiences during the war and how the community all pulled together, but that childhood innocence they all had was taken by what they witnessed and lived through.  

Anna is dealing with her own issues as her wedding approaches, namely some bitchy comments from a so called friend, and really brings to light how circumstances can change people. Whilst Anna is all about finding ways to include those closest to her on her big day, others are more concerned about showing off and changing in personality.

It was a really lovely read and both timelines had so much to explore and enjoy.  With the historical aspect, alongside the human impact, it really gave you a sense of these characters and the dramas they had to face and there’s such a warmth about both Lily and Anna that you can’t help fall in love with the both!

★★★★

#BlogTour The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E.Harrow #BookReview #TenThousandDoors @Tr4cyF3nt0n @orbitbooks

Delighted to be the latest stop on the brilliant Blog Tour for the equally brilliant THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY by ALIX E.HARROW.  My thanks to the publisher, author and Tracy of Compulsive Readers for putting the tour together and letting me be part of it!

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

Published by Orbit

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £21.72

hive.co.uk  £10.69

whsmith  £9.35

MY REVIEW

I think we’ve all dreamed of finding doors that lead to different worlds – I still live in hope of finding Narnia at the back of my wardrobe – and in this book you get to enjoy the magical journey of following January as she discovers a special book that unlocks worlds of adventure, whilst she discovers more about her past and those around her.  It was  a beautifully written story and one you can totally lose yourself in as you switch between storylines, and there’s never a dull moment in either!

January is a wonderful character. She’s seen as an oddball, but tolerated by others because she is under the care of Mr Locke, a very wealthy man, as her father is seemingly always off working looking for treasures all over the globe. As the story progresses you find out how relevant her fathers’ travels are and this just adds more depth to the story.

The book January discovers tells the story of Ade, another fascinating character, who was born in 1866 and was raised by her aunts who took very little notice of her, allowing her to roam free and adventure. When she is 15 she sees a ‘ghost’ and what transpires is a totally enthralling story that involves lots of door hunting and a wonderful love story.

I found this to be one of those books that takes a little while for you to get your bearings with the way it’s told. but it soon has you under the spell and I really loved the different aspects of the story – the romance, the fantasy elements and the historical as they all blended so well and really just kept delivering surprise after surprise!!  Highly recommended!!

🚪 🚪 🚪 🚪

#BlogTour MEET ME IN MONACO by HAZEL GAYNOR and HEATHER WEBB #BookReview @Harper360UK @HazelGaynor @msheatherwebb #MeetMeInMonaco

Thrilled to be the latest stop on the Blog Tour for the fabulous MEET ME IN MONACO by HAZEL GAYNOR and HEATHER WEBB. My thanks to the publishers for the copy of the book and letting me be part of it all!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and glamourous wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate, and second-chances.

Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique, fending off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love, and tragedy.

James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £8.96

hive.co.uk  £7.75

whsmith  £6.47

MY REVIEW

If you’re looking for a book to transport you back in time – to a time of glamour, glitz and wonderful settings, then look no further! This is the book  for you! And I found myself totally swept up in the romance and pining for the glamorous times and stars of  the past!

It’s the story of 2 women – one slightly more well known than the other! When a young actress finds herself pursued by a photographer at the Cannes Festival, she hides out in a perfume shop and gets talking to the owner and they strike up a wonderful friendship that carries them both through changing times!  

Sophie runs a perfume shop but times are tough.  She will do anything to save her beloved shop which means so much to her but she’s running out of options and time!  When the young actress, Grace Kelly, ends up in her shop she’s captivated by the scents created by this woman and the friendship that follows between the two is enchanting.  

The photographer chasing after Grace is James who is a London photographer and has been sent on assignment to capture the sights of the Cannes film festival. When he meets Sophie he is firmly put in his place by her but there’s just something about her that he can’t shake.  

Throughout the story we also get snippets of the news of the time concerning Grace Kelly and her rise to fame, and how the timeline went for her as she fell for a Prince.   I loved this little look back and how the media interest just grew and grew, and how their romance blossomed from a chance meeting.

The striking feature throughout the book is loyalty – Sophie was loyal to Grace and vice versa, and the loyalty shown by Sophie and James too was also clear to see.  He doted on his daughter despite having to spend so much time away from her, and his devotion for her  is something that really connects with Sophie even when it means it may come between them.

I found this book to be utterly spellbinding!  The historical element was perfectly played, as was the romances and the difficult choices that many characters had to make on their journeys.  I have since found myself looking back at old photos and video clips of Grace and Prince Rainier and just imagining Sophie and James being part of it all behind the scenes!!

★★★★★

#BlogTour The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott #BookReview @SimonschusterUK @CScottBooks #RandomThingsTours #PhotographerOfTheLost

Truly delighted to be the latest stop on this Pre-Publication Blog Tour for this astonishing book and to give you a little taste of what you have to look forward to come publication day in October! 

My thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for the early copy of the book and putting this tour together and letting me be part of it all!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own… An epic novel of forbidden love, loss, and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I 1921. Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she beings to search. Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. 

Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother. And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth. An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history, The Photographer of the Lost tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins, and the even greater number of men and women desperate to find them again.

Published by  Simon & Schuster

Publication Date – 31st October 2019

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Amazon UK  £12.99

hive.co.uk  £10.69

WHSMITH  £9.35

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

photo thanks to Johnny Ring

Caroline Scott is a freelance writer and historian specializing in WWI and women’s history. The Photographer of the Lost is partially inspired by her family history.

Twitter @CScottBooks

MY REVIEW

I don’t even know where to begin with my thoughts on this book – other than that I adored every single blooming page!! I found it to be such a stunning read that really captured the atmosphere of the time, the grief shared by so many and the limbo that many families were left feeling after the First World War when their loved ones were missing in action.  At a time when many were celebrating the War being over, many were left with so many unanswered questions with no word on the missing soldiers and they were left clutching to the faint hope that these men were in a French hospital, unable to get in contact with those back home.

It’s the story of brotherhood and the bonds between loved ones with 3 brothers going off to fight in the Great War – Francis, Harry and Will – and the desperate search for Francis after the war by his brother Harry and Francis’s wife Edie who was desperate to know what happened to him – even more so when she receives an envelope containing a photograph of him, 4 years after he’d gone missing. When was it taken? Where was it taken? Who was it from? Was he still alive?

 Harry becomes a ‘photographer of the lost’ on his return, which means he goes back to France often to take photos of gravestones for those back home who want a picture of the final resting place for their loved ones and  the surrounding areas – while there he devotes much of his time to trying to track down the likely places his brother may have gone, and also meets others doing similar searches for their family members.

The story changes effortlessly from the time in France after the War, to the past when the brothers were setting off to war together – their experiences on the front line, their fears, the banter they used to lighten the mood – they were just young boys and you just can’t even begin to imagine the sights they were witness to.  

Edie too sets off to France to try her best to get some answers for herself, and her storyline also looks back on how she and Francis met and how close they all were – she can’t move on until she knows the truth about her husband.

This was often a very sombre and haunting read, but so beautifully descriptive and made you totally understand just how lost people were when they didn’t know what had happened to those who didn’t come back home – they felt restless until they knew and would cling on to the hope that they’d turn up on the doorstep one day.  It brilliantly showed the human aspect of war – on those who went to fight and on those who were left behind waiting for letters and contact.

An outstanding and memorable book. Easily one of my favourite reads of 2019!

★★★★★