#bookblitz Setsuko and the Song of the Sea by Fiona Barker

Thanks to Kelly for the invitation to join the Love Books Tours book promotion for this beautiful book. My full review will follow next month on the blog tour.

Synopsis:

Setsuko loves the sea. She swims its shallows. She dives its depths. But she worries that her friends have chosen to abandon her way of life. Then she meets a whale who also fears he is the last of his kind. In return for giving him hope, he gifts her a song which she uses to remind people of the beauty of the ocean. Setsuko took the song and made it her own. They played together from the first crisp light of morning until the setting of the evening sun. Everyone who heard Setsuko’s song was filled with the wonder of the sea.

They remembered the beauty and mystery of the ocean. A story of an unlikely friendship, Setsuko and her friend the whale have one thing in common ― their love of the sea. Much like the revered ama-san, ― women who have been diving off the coast of the Shima peninsula in Japan for over 2,000 years ― Setsuko is a strong girl who is on the path to becoming one of these real-life mermaids.

10% of the net profits from each book will be donated to the Marine Conservation Society, the UK charity working for seas full of life. Visit www.mcs.org.uk to find out more.

Books on the Hill Open Dyslexia Kickstarter Project #GuestPost

In my previous employment, I worked with children who needed extra support with their reading and spelling. Many of the children were diagnosed with dyslexia or dyslexic tendencies. So I’m happy to share details of this campaign on my book review blog to make fiction more accessible for people with dyslexia.

BOTH Publishing by Books on the Hill

Our Kickstarter Starts April 2nd 2021

Making exciting good quality fiction accessible to a minority group currently not provided for by today’s UK traditional mass book market and providing a new tool for booksellers to use in their drive to increase diversity and inclusion.

Who Are We Working With 

We have been so fortunate that many great authors have agreed to contribute to this project. All are brilliant authors and are names I am sure you will recognise. 

Stan Nicholls, who has been a great support to me particularly with my PhD. He is the author of many novels and short stories but is best known for the internationally acclaimed Orcs: First Blood series. 

Steven Savile, the fantasy, horror and thriller writer, now lives in Stockholm whose father is a customer of our bookshop. 

The horror duo that is Thana Niveau and John Llewellyn Probert, both well established and engaging authors and also residents of Clevedon. 

Adrian Tchaikovsky is an Arthur Clark Award winner and best known for his series Shadows of the Apt, and for his novel Children of Time. 

Steven Poore is the highly acclaimed fantasy writer who I first met on my first fantasy convention in Scarborough. 

We finish the Magnificent Seven with Joel Cornah, who also has dyslexia, and with whom I participated in a podcast on dyslexia for the Clevedon Literature 2020 ‘Festival in the Clouds’. 

How To Get involved 

We are launching a Kickstarter beginning in April 2nd 2021 for 30 days, with the focus on paying for the printing of our books and giving us starting capital to continue to print more titles. 

There will be many ways you can be involved in this. You can contribute on the Kickstarter website itself. There will be a number of different options of donating money, in which you will receive rewards, such as ebooks of a title or a paperback of one or more of the titles to be published. In addition a unique reward from authors who are contributing to the project. 

You can still contribute outside the kickstarter. We are happy to receive your help in the shop, where we will have a donation box available. 

The Project 

Books on the Hill is passionate about helping people who have dyslexia, or have any difficulty with reading, to access the joy of good fiction. There are great books out now for children with dyslexia, with specialist publishers like Barrington Stokes and mainstream publishers such as Bloomsbury doing their part. However, there are sadly very few books for adults with Dyslexia in traditional mass market publishing. 

Dyslexia is a learning difference that primarily affects reading and writing skills. The NHS estimates that up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK have some form of dyslexia, while other dyslexic organisations believe 1 in 5 and more than 2 million people in the UK are severely affected. 

Dyslexia does not stop someone from achieving. There are many individuals who are successful and are dyslexic. Famous actors, such as Orlando Bloom; Entrepreneurs like Theo Paphitis, and many, many more, including myself. All of who believe dyslexia has helped them to be where they are now. Dyslexia, though, as I can attest to, does not go away. You don’t grow out of it, and so we are acknowledging that and trying to without being patronising, create a selection of books that will be friendly to people who deal with dyslexia every day. 

Since we started the project in 2019, Books on the Hill have had many adults customers with dyslexia come in shop the asking for something accessible to read. For example, one customer asked if we stocked well known novels in a dyslexic friendly format. Unfortunately we had to say no, as they just don’t exist. We explained what we are trying to achieve by printing our own and she replied: 

“I have been reading [children dyslexic] books but they are a bit childish so am really happy I have found your company!! Thanks so much again and thank you for making such a helpful and inclusive brand – it means a lot. “ 

This response is not isolated. We have had many adults come in to the shop with dyslexia, who do not read or struggle to read and they they believe dyslexic friendly books would have real impact on their reading for pleasure. 

The Team 

Books on the Hill is Alistair Sims. He is the manager and commander-in-chief of the bookshop (though his partner, Chloe and his mother, Joanne, who set up the bookshop with him, may disagree with this description ). Alistair is dyslexic and has a PhD in history and archaeology. Alistair could not read until he was 13 and is passionate about helping anyone who has difficulty reading. He is the driving force behind BOTH Press and has been involved in every step in this project, from finding award winning authors to contribute, the cover design, and the road to publication, including setting up for distribution. 

Books on the Hill are collaborating with Chrissey Harrison, who is also an local author and member of North Bristol Writers Group. Chressey and Alistair have designed the book-covers together, with Chrissey creating the finished product we now look on at awe with. Nearly all the design work has been done by Chrissey, and she is also in charge of the printing process, typesetting. We are so proud and appreciative to be working with her. 

Special mention must go to Harrison Gates, who runs Nine Worthy, and who has dedicated his time and expertise to produce our print catalogue for us free of cost. 

Joanne Hall is an author, editor and formerly the Chair of BristolCon, Bristol’s premier (and only) science fiction and fantasy convention. We must give a huge thank you to Jo for proof reading the stories free of cost. 

Vicky Brewster has edited all the new stories by the authors. She specialises in editing and beta reading long-form fiction. Vicky is a great professional editor.

The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent

Today I’m pleased to be sharing my review on here and on my first Bookstagram Tour, for this gorgeous book. Thank you to Ellie Hudson at Viking Books for the invitation and a fabulous finished copy of the book. The end papers are stunning and my teenage daughter crocheted the lobster to match the book during her school holiday.

Synopsis:

Have you ever imagined running away from your life?

Well Birdy Finch didn’t just imagine it. She did it. Which might’ve been an error. And the life she’s run into? Her best friend, Heather’s.

The only problem is, she hasn’t told Heather. Actually there are a few other problems…

Can Birdy carry off a summer at a luxury Scottish hotel pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert)?

And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she’s ever actually liked (but who thinks she’s someone else)

The Summer Job is a fresh, fun, feel-good romcom for fans of The Flatshare, Bridget Jones and Bridesmaids.

My thoughts:

This was the book I started my Easter holiday readathon with. After reading some ‘gruesome’ historical fiction, I needed something to read to make me smile. I’m happy to say that reading about Birdy made me smile, laugh and occasionally groan, as her summer job changed her life.

As I read the book, I found myself hoping that Birdy would make a success of her summer job, despite pretending to be her best friend. As we got to know Birdy, we discovered a deeper character than we may have initially imagined when she was getting drunk on free wine in London with her friend Tim.

I loved my virtual visit to Scotland with Birdy. Lizzy Dent has created a character with flaws but with a big heart. There are many comic moments for Birdy, involving clothes, food, customers, corks to name but a few. My family had to put up with me giggling along to this story. However we also find out more about her childhood and begin to understand why she hasn’t yet found the life she deserves.

In addition to Birdy, Lizzy Dent has created a wonderful set of characters, some with secret ambitions or ‘skeletons in their cupboards’. I’m not a regular wine drinker (the bottles in the photos were gifts to my husband), but I enjoyed learning about wine alongside Birdy. This is also a book for people who love food, with wonderful sounding menus.

The past 13 months in the UK have been strange with repeated lockdowns due to the global pandemic. As many of us will be staying in the UK again for our summer holidays, this book will be at the top of my list of books to enjoy during your holiday – no weight allowances for suitcases this year. I’ve seen lots of love for the book from other reviewers and I’m happy to confirm that this is one of my favourite books of 2021.

Extract:

To enjoy an extract for the book, visit https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2021/january/summer-job-lizzy-dent.html

Author Bio:

Lizzy Dent (mis)spent her early twenties working in Scotland in hospitality, in a hotel not unlike the one in this novel. She somehow ended up in a glamorous job travelling the world creating content for various TV companies, including MTV, Channel 4, Cartoon Network, the BBC and ITV. But she always knew that writing was the thing she wanted to do, if only she could find the confidence. After publishing three young adult novels, she decided to write a novel that reflected the real women she knew, who don’t always know where they’re going in life, but who always have fun doing it. The Summer Job is that novel.

The Girl from the Island by Lorna Cook

Thank you to Avon Books for a digital review copy of the third book by Lorna Cook via Netgalley. I have read and enjoyed The Forgotten Village and The Forbidden Promise (see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/03/19/bookreview-the-forbidden-promise-by-lorna-cook/) .

Synopsis:

A world at war. 
One woman will risk everything. 
Another will uncover her story.

1940: When the island of Guernsey is invaded by the Nazis, two sisters are determined to rebel in any way they can. But when forced to take in a German soldier, they are shocked to find a familiar face on their doorstep – a childhood friend who has now become their enemy.

2016: Two generations later, Lucy returns to Guernsey after the death of a distant cousin. As she prepares the old family house for sale, Lucy discovers a box of handwritten notes, one word standing out: resistance. Lucy’s search for the author will uncover the story of a forgotten sister who vanished from the island one night, never to be seen again.

A timeless story of love and bravery, perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Rachel Hore.

My thoughts:

I’m pleased to say that this is another enjoyable historical fiction novel from Lorna Cook. This novel is based in Guernsey, a place I would like to visit after the Covid 19 pandemic has finished. It is only in very recent years that I became aware of how the Channel Islands had been occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.

This book looks at one family, who had to deal with the occupation, where neighbours were deported to prison camps, the wireless was banned and neighbours would inform on each other. How would Persephone and Dido cope with the challenges?

In this time slip novel, Lucy is back in Guernsey in 2016, after the death of her distant cousin Dido. When clearing out the house, Lucy becomes interested in some of the old papers she finds and sets out to solve the mystery about what happened to the residents of the house.

I enjoyed how the characters developed, the secrets revealed, the parallel sister stories and the historical details. As you would expect from a novel set during the occupation, there are some heartbreaking stories. But we also have happy and humorous moments too, when Lucy spends time with her new neighbour.

Happy to recommend to readers who enjoy time slip historical fiction novels.

The Scarlet Dress by Louise Douglas

Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital copy of The Scarlet Dress to read and review via NetGalley. The book was published in February 2021 and I’m sharing my mini review today.

Synopsis:

Alice Lang was wearing her favourite scarlet dress when she disappeared twenty-five years ago, and her memory still casts a long shadow.

In the long, hot summer of 1995, twenty-two-year-old Alice Lang rents a caravan on a holiday park on the outskirts of the lively holiday resort of Severn Sands. She befriends Marnie, a shy, damaged little girl whose father is the park’s caretaker and whose mother died a few months earlier. Will, whose mother runs the bar, falls in love with Alice, and is unbearably jealous of anyone else she sees. Tensions rise until one evening Alice disappears from her caravan. She’s never seen again, and only her scarlet dress is found washed up on the shore.

A quarter of a century later, the town is run down and nobody comes there anymore. Mr and Mrs deVillars, former owners of the holiday park, have passed the failing business onto their son Guy, who promptly sells the land for development. Builders clearing the land to create an expanse of executive homes uncover human bones. It has to be Alice.

Will and Marnie’s lives were entirely shaped by what happened that summer, and now Alice has been found, they must struggle to pin down their memories, to escape the secrets of the past, the lies they told and the unbearable guilt they’re both carrying.

They need to find out what happened to Alice. Who killed her? And why?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Louise Douglas and I look forward to reading more in the future (I have The House by the Sea on my Kindle ready to start).

As the synopsis tells us, Alice went missing 25 years ago and her body has finally been found buried at the holiday park. So why was her scarlet dress found by the estuary? Who could have wanted to harm Alice – a visitor to the area?

The story follows Will and Marnie, both of them were severely traumatised by the disappearance of Alice. Will has been trying to solve the mystery for 25 years, having fallen in love with Alice that summer when he was just 19 and Marnie is scared about what happened to Alice, who had been kind to her during an already difficult year.

The main characters have to deal with the press and police interest into the events of 25 years ago. Will had always blamed Guy, but was it Guy? Who was the mystery person that Alice was going to share a bottle of champagne with on the evening she disappeared?

The setting seems very dark and drab, as the holiday site park has become a muddy building site. As Will and Marnie start to think about what happened during the three weeks Alice stayed at the holiday park, they start to remember conversations and events. How many secrets could they uncover?

I enjoyed how the story evolved. Although I had worked out who Alice was and why she may have been murdered quite early in the story, I didn’t know who the killer was until near the end of the story. Happy to recommend this book and I look forward to reading more by Louise Douglas in the future.

Here and Now by Santa Montefiore

I’m pleased to share my review for the latest paperback book by Santa Montefiore on my book blog today. Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own and and not influenced by the gift. Today is the paperback publication day and I’m looking forward to buying a copy to add to my Books and the City collection.

Synopsis:

Marigold has spent her life taking care of those around her, juggling family life with the running of the local shop, and being an all-round leader in her quiet yet welcoming community. When she finds herself forgetting things, everyone quickly puts it down to her age. But something about Marigold isn’t quite right, and it’s becoming harder for people to ignore.

As Marigold’s condition worsens, for the first time in their lives her family must find ways to care for the woman who has always cared for them. Desperate to show their support, the local community come together to celebrate Marigold, and to show her that losing your memories doesn’t matter, when there are people who will remember them for you . . .

Evocative, emotional and full of life, Here and Now is the most moving book you’ll read this year – from Sunday Times bestselling author Santa Montefiore.

My thoughts:

Occasionally I become so involved in an emotional story that I find myself crying. The last book to do that was The Sight of You by Holly Miller (reviewed at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/06/08/the-sight-of-you-by-holly-miller/ ) until I read the last few pages of Here and Now and found myself properly crying – this was not just moist eyes, but proper tears. So my first suggestion is when you buy the book (because you should), is to stock up on tissues too.

This was the first book I had read by Santa Montefiore and before you ask, I’m not sure why either. I requested the review copy via NetGalley back in March 2020 as the UK headed into lockdown 1 and Simon and Schuster kindly approved it.

Marigold is a wonderful character, much loved by her family and neighbours and community. The way the story is written to show how her little episodes of forgetfulness become more serious is a heartbreaking tale uplifted by how her family and friends help her to stay happy. Marigold has been looking after her mum, her husband and daughters for many years, now they need to work together to help her.

The book is beautifully written, full of wonderful characters, some happy and some grumpy (Nan), humour (moles, christmas puddings etc), love (pink roses) and romance. At the time of reading this in July 2020, many of us were anxious about the global pandemic, a virus we cannot see whilst we also have an unseen condition which steals the memory of people that we currently cannot protect ourselves from. However, as the title suggests, we need to live in the here and now, to enjoy the small things – the birds singing, the food we eat, time with family and friends.

Thank you to Santa Montefiore for this wonderful story, I look forward to reading more of your books in the future.

Another Life by Jodie Chapman

Thank you to Michael Joseph and Penguin Random House for a proof copy of this emotional debut novel, published in the UK on Thursday 1st April 2020. This book is a BBC2 BETWEEN THE COVERS PICK. Here is my mini non spoiler review.

Synopsis:

She could be the girl dancing on tables one night, and the next she’d be hiding in the shadows.

Just when I thought I understood her, she would melt away and become a completely new person, and I’d have to start all over again.

That’s how it was with Anna.
_______

Nick and Anna work the same summer job at their local cinema. Anna is mysterious, beautiful, and from a very different world to Nick.

She’s grown up preparing for the End of Days, in a tightly-controlled existence where Christmas, getting drunk and sex before marriage are all off-limits.

So when Nick comes into her life, Anna falls passionately in love. Their shared world burns with poetry and music, cigarettes and conversation – hints of the people they hope to become.

But Anna, on the cusp of adulthood, is afraid to give up everything she’s ever believed in, and everyone she’s ever loved. She walks away, and Nick doesn’t stop her.

Years later, a tragedy draws Anna back into Nick’s life.

But rekindling their relationship leaves Anna and Nick facing a terrible choice between a love that’s endured decades, and the promises they’ve made to others along the way.

My thoughts:

This was an emotional read. Nick’s life was filled with loss, he lost his mum at an early age (we don’t find out what happened until part way through the book) and the book starts with his brother in the grip of severe depression.

The story moves backwards and forwards in time, through Nick’s childhood, the summer he spent working at his local cinema (and met Anna) and then to more recent times as he travels to New York to visit his brother.

Anna has had a very different childhood to Nick, but is drawn into a relationship with him whilst her on/off boyfriend is away. Will it be a summer fling or can it last forever?

A thought provoking read about love, family, loss and the future. I enjoyed Jodie Chapman’s storytelling and look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Author Bio:

Jodie Chapman has spent twelve years working as a photographer and lives in Kent. In 2016, she was accepted on the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course. Another Life is her first novel.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Today I’m pleased to share my thoughts about The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex. Thank you to Picador, Viking Books and Pan MacMillan for a digital review copy via NetGalley.

Synopsis:

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

My thoughts:

Having seen great reviews for this debut book, I was pleased to be able to start reading it myself. Very quickly we start to discover more about the men who vanished and the thoughts of the women they left behind. As the secrets and stories are slowly revealed the reader starts to find out what happened over the last few weeks before the men disappeared.

The suspense in the book builds beautifully and the writing created a story that I didn’t want to put down. The book brings to life the lifestyle of the lighthouse keepers, the daily routines and the difficulties of coping with being back in the ‘real world’. There are many elements to the story and I was kept guessing until the end.

A fascinating story that I’m happy to recommend. I look forward to reading more by Emma Stonex in the future.

Common Ground by Naomi Ishiguro

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about Common Ground by Naomi Ishiguro. Thank you to Tinder Press for a copy of this novel, won in a prize draw on Twitter. Common Ground was published on Thursday 25th March in the UK.

Synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of ESCAPE ROUTES, a bittersweet story of coming-of-age in a divided world, in the tradition of TIN MAN or BLACK SWAN GREEN.

It’s a lonely life for Stan, at a new school that feels more ordeal than fresh start, and at home where he and his mother struggle to break the silence after his father’s death. When he encounters fearless, clever Charlie on the local common, all of that begins to change. Charlie’s curiosity is infectious, and it is Charlie who teaches Stan, for the first time, to stand on his own two feet. But will their unit of two be strong enough to endure in a world that offers these boys such different prospects?

The pair part ways, until their paths cross once again, as adults in London. Now Stan is revelling in all that the city has to offer, while Charlie seems to have hit a brick wall. He needs Stan’s help, and above all his friendship, but is Stan really there for the man who once showed him the meaning of loyalty?

My thoughts:

I haven’t read Escape Routes yet, so this was my first introduction to the writing of Naomi Ishiguro. As the synopsis above states, this is a story about Stan and Charlie, two boys growing up in England, struggling to fit in with the ‘norm’. The boys have lived very different lives but find a common bond and become friends, but will their families be able to accept the friendship?

I enjoyed the story, both the teenage years and the ‘getting reacquainted’ in their early twenties. Naomi’s writing quickly made me care about both of them, hoping that they would find peace in a world that seemed to be stacked against them. I’m being deliberately vague in my review, because I don’t want to spoil the story for future readers, who also deserve to have the moment of clarity about the story that I did.

I work for a social mobility charity and this story could easily be about the young people that we work with. How many single parents leave their young teenagers home alone overnight so that they can work and earn the money needed to survive?

This is a thought provoking, well written debut novel, and I’m looking forward to reading more by Naomi Ishiguro in the future.

Author Bio (from Amazon):

Naomi Ishiguro was born in London, in 1992. Her first novel, ‘Common Ground,’ comes out with Tinder Press on 25th March 2021. Her first collection of stories, ‘Escape Routes,’ was published in February 2020. She’s a recent graduate of the University of East Anglia’s MFA Creative Writing Programme, and spent two years in her early 20s working as a bookseller at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath.

The Dinner Guest by B P Walter

Thank you to One More Chapter and Harper Collins UK for the opportunity to read and review a digital copy via NetGalley. I’m taking part in the OMC Blogger Readalong this week and here is a mini non spoiler review.

Synopsis:

Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.

Matthew: the perfect husband.

Titus: the perfect son.

Charlie: the perfect illusion.

Rachel: the perfect stranger.

Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen.

And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.

Classic crime meets Donna Tartt in this nerve-shredding domestic noir thriller that weaves a sprawling web of secrets around an opulent West London world and the dinner that ends in death.

My thoughts:

This was an interesting read. Rachel is arrested for the murder of Matthew after confessing to the police, but was she the killer? The synopsis mentions the word perfect four times – but were any of the four perfect?

The story moves back and forwards in time, as we discover more about how Matthew and Charlie met, and how they met Rachel. This story features secrets and lies, revenge and betrayal.

Few of the characters in the story were likeable but I was keen to keep reading, to find out who killed Matthew, and why. I enjoyed the story and I’m happy to recommend it. It is currently 99p on the Kindle in the UK.