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.

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.

#bookblitz White Knuckle Dance by Andrew Cockburn #lovebookstours

Today I’m joining in with the book blitz organised by Love Book Tours for this debut novel.

Blurb:

She’s not what she appears to be.

He’s got secrets of his own.

But someone has to lead this dance.

There is a story behind every face you walk by on the street, or that you bump into in life. But what about your own story?

Dan never thought about himself as being different, and the world would agree with him. Just a regular nice guy who works in a regular nice job in London.

His nice and normal London life in the hectic world of sales turns upside down when he meets the captivating Mary at a work event. Deep down he knew there was more to life than what he was doing. He had an inkling that things with him could maybe be a little different. That a life of drudgery wasn’t what he’d signed up for.

But there seems to be a lot more to Mary than meets the eye. And with her guidance and through their relationship, he learns things he never even knew about himself.

But Mary is not the only one with a secret. As the dance speeds up, the games begin, and the

stakes are raised.

And so begins the white knuckle dance of discovery, risk, and power.

But can there really be a winner in that deadly dance of theirs?

Author Bio

Andrew Cockburn is a Scottish writer who has lived in Asia for many years. As an anthropologist and sociologist by training Andrew has developed a keen interest in people, society and culture. Andrew’s debut novel, White Knuckle Dance, explores relationships and social norms though the lens of power and knowledge.

Amazonhttps://amzn.to/3ckc3mV

Goodreadshttps://bit.ly/3rECUk2

Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton

I’m pleased to be joining the Random Things Tours blog tour for this wonderful debut novel by Emily Houghton. Thank you to Anne Cater for the invitation to join the tour and a proof copy of the book. The book was published in ebook format this week and will be available in hardback next week in the UK.

Synopsis:

CAN YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE YOU’VENEVER SEEN?

Alice and Alfie are strangers. But they sleep next to each other every night.

Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now, so when someone moves into the bed next to him he’s eager to make friends. But it quickly becomes clear that seeing his neighbour’s face won’t happen any time soon.

Alice Gunnersley has been badly burned and can’t even look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else to see her. Keeping the curtain around her bed firmly closed, it doesn’t stop Alfie trying to get to know her. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice out of her shell, might there even be potential for more?

My thoughts:

I loved the look and sound of this story, with a colourful cover and an intriguing synopsis. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this debut novel before publication. But would it deliver the escapism I was craving at the start of lockdown 3? Well I’m pleased to say it certainly did.

The style of the book reminded me of The Flatshare, where the story is told by both main characters in alternate chapters. In this story, we have Alfie, a sociable PE teacher recovering from a life changing car accident, who has been keeping the other patients on the rehabilitation ward entertained. Alongside Alfie, hidden away behind curtains is workaholic Alice, who was badly burnt in a work place accident.

Alfie may be recovering from his physical injuries but he is struggling to deal with the emotions of losing friends in the accident and the reaction of loved ones to his injuries. Alice is refusing to look at herself and to allow others to see her. Both have experienced a traumatic event and need support, can they help each other more than the professional staff at the hospital?

I loved this book, quickly I was so involved in the lives of Alfie and Alfie I didn’t want to put the book down and ended up staying up much later than normal to carry on reading. Alfie and Alice became real as they teased each other and gave each other the opportunity to talk about their past and their worries. Life had been difficult for both of them since their accidents and both continued to have ‘bad’ days, made worse when they fell out on a number of occasions.

I liked the fact that this story didn’t wave a magic wand and suddenly make everything perfect. Alfie and Alice had to face up to their ‘new’ lives and to make major decisions, including whether they would stay in contact. As this is a no spoiler review, I will encourage you to read this emotional book to find out what happens to Alfie and Alice.

Thank you to Emily Houghton for a brilliant book to escape into, I look forward to reading more of your books in the future.

Author Bio:

Emily Houghton is an ex digital specialist and full-time creative writer.
She originally comes from Essex but now lives in London. Emily is a trained yoga and spin teacher, completely obsessed with dogs and has dreamt of being an author ever since she could hold a pen.

Emily is available for written features about her experiences and learnings on topics including; dating and the vulnerability of meeting people, self-love, body confidence, processing pain and the physical emotional body connection.

For more information please contact Hayley Barnes, Senior Press Officer, Transworld Publishers: HBarnes@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk | 020 8231 6730

Fortune Favours The Dead by Stephen Spotswood #publicationday #debutnovel2020

Thank you to Caitlyn Raynor at Wildfire Books (Headline) for this distinctive proof copy of debut novel Fortune Favours the Dead. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. Fortune Favours the Dead is published today in the UK.

Synopsis:

Introducing Pentecost and Parker, two unconventional female detectives who couldn’t care less about playing by the rules, in their cases and in their lives. 

It’s 1942 and Willowjean “Will” Parker is a scrappy circus runaway whose knife-throwing skills have just saved the life of New York’s best, and most unorthodox, private investigator, Lillian Pentecost. When the dapper detective summons Will a few days later, she doesn’t expect to be offered a life-changing proposition: Lillian’s multiple sclerosis means she can’t keep up with her old case load alone, so she wants to hire Will to be her right-hand woman. In return, Will will receive a salary, room and board, and training in Lillian’s very particular art of investigation.

Three years later, Will and Lillian are on the Collins case: Abigail Collins was found bludgeoned to death with a crystal ball following a big, boozy Halloween party at her home–her body slumped in the same chair where her steel magnate husband shot himself the year before. With rumors flying that Abigail was bumped off by the vengeful spirit of her husband (who else could have gotten inside the locked room?), the family has tasked the detectives with finding answers where the police have failed. But that’s easier said than done in a case that involves messages from the dead, a seductive spiritualist, and Becca Collins — the beautiful daughter of the deceased, who Will quickly starts falling for. When Will and Becca’s relationship dances beyond the professional, Will finds herself in dangerous territory, and discovers she may have become the murderer’s next target.

A wildly charming and fast-paced mystery written with all the panache of 1940s New York, Fortune Favors the Dead is a fresh homage to Holmes and Watson reads like the best of Dashiell Hammett and introduces an audacious detective duo for the ages.

My thoughts:

2020 may be a year of a global pandemic but it is also a year of discovering stunning debut novels, and this is definitely one of my favourites. Set in 1940’s New York, Stephen Spotswood has created two great detectives, young Will Parker and the more experienced Lillian Pentecost.

The opening chapters set the pace of the book. The first meeting of Pentecost and Parker was one that changed the life of Parker (and saved the life of Pentecost). The story is told by Parker, who jumps ahead in time from the first meeting, to tell us about their investigations into the deaths of the Collins family.

How could Abigail Collins have been murdered in a locked room, a room that only locked from the inside? And the same room as the one where her husband was found dead, apparently from self inflicted injuries a year earlier.

I loved the setting of the book in post war New York, with a great mixture of characters for all walks of life. So many suspects, from the twin children to their godfather, to the woman who claimed to be able to talk to the dead, to the managers of the Collins business empire who didn’t want to lose a lucrative Government contract.

I raced through this book, desperate to find out what happened next. This book is one of the fastest paced mystery books I’ve ever read, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing (and this reader didn’t guess correctly!)

I’m thrilled to see that a series of books are planned. This new detective duo of Pentecost and Parker are just what the book doctor ordered.

Author Bio:

Stephen Spotswood is an award-winning playwright, journalist, and educator. As a journalist, he has spent much of the last two decades writing about the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the struggles of wounded veterans. His dramatic work has been produced nationwide and includes Girl In The Red Corner (winner of the 2017 Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play), In The Forest She Grew Fangs, Doublewide, and more. His debut novel, Fortune Favors The Dead, will be released by Doubleday in October 2020. He makes his home in Washington, D.C., with his wife, young-adult author Jessica Spotswood.

Cows Can’t Jump by Philip Bowne

Today I’m taking sharing a second book review on my book blog as part of the Cow’s Can’t Jump by Philip Bowne, published by Neem Tree Press blog tour organised by the lovely Anne Cater at the Random Things Tours. Thank you for providing a copy of the book – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by my gift.

Synopsis:

17-year-old Billy has just left school with no A levels and he’s desperate to escape middle England. As a grave-digger, he’s working the ultimate dead-end job. Billy’s home life isn’t any better. In the evenings, he observes his dysfunctional family: his Grandad’s engaged to a woman half his age, his xenophobic Dad’s become obsessed with boxing, and he suspects his deeply religious Mum is having an affair. 

All the while, celebrities are dropping like flies and Britain is waiting for the EU referendum. Everything is changing, and Billy hates it.

Meeting Eva, though, changes everything. She’s Swiss, passionate about Russian literature, Gary Numan, windfarms and chai tea, and Billy gambles everything for a chance to be with her.

When things start to go wrong, Billy’s journey across Europe involves hitch-hiking with truckers, walking with refugees, and an encounter with suicidal cows. But the further he goes, the harder it is to be sure what he’s chasing – and what he’s running from.

My thoughts:

Thanks for visiting my book blog today for my review on this debut novel by Philip Bowne. This book won the Spotlight First Novel Prize from Adventures in Fiction, has been long listed for the Not The Booker Prize from the Guardian and left me laughing, blushing and feeling sad in places.

This is one of a handful of books I’ve read this year with a male main character. Billy is turning 18 in 2016, the year of the Brexit referendum and the American Presidential election. As the synopsis mentions, Billy is in the ultimate dead end job as a grave digger at the start of the book. However his life changes when he starts work at an International School and falls for Eva.

We follow Billy as he struggles with his jobs, his parents and his first big romance. When he tries to put the money together to visit Eva in Switzerland he ends up in more trouble. When he finally flies out to Switzerland, he ends up on a grand tour of Europe to find Eva. In a year when many of us are unable to travel, then join Billy as he treks across mainland Europe to meet the love of his life.

This book is full of so many interesting characters, including Christoph, the owner of the cows who can’t jump. I enjoyed how the story looked at Billy’s relationships with his family, work colleagues and the people he met on his travels. This book is modern, funny, tragic and poignant, a stunning debut novel, and I look forward to reading more by Philip Bowne in the future.

Author Bio:

Philip Bowne lives in London and works as a writer for The Wombles, a children’s entertainment brand. 

Like his protagonist, Billy, Phil attended a failing and severely under-resourced school in Bicester, Oxfordshire. However, unlike Billy, Phil ended up studying English Literature and Creative Writing at university.

While studying, Phil published short stories in literary magazines and anthologies in the UK, US, Canada and Germany. After graduating, Phil spent time in Europe and the US, working and volunteering in various roles and settings: repairing boats at Lake Como, housekeeping at a mountain lodge in California and working with charity Care4Calais in the former Calais ‘jungle’ refugee camp.Cows Can’t Jump is Phil’s debut novel, which he worked on while managing a bar in London. As well as a writer for The Wombles, Phil also works on a number of independent writing projects, including a musical set in 1970’s Soho and a sitcom set in a failing leisure centre.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I’m thrilled to share my full review for this impressive debut novel today. Thank you to Viking Books and Penguin Books UK for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my views are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My thoughts:

I must admit that this was even better than I expected – sometimes when a book receives lots of hype, it can leave you disappointed. But this one deserves the hype.

As someone who enjoys amateur detective stories (I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as a teenager), this was an enjoyable read. Great characters, most of them over 70, and so many topical British comments including Pizza Express for an alibi! A book full of secrets and more than one murder.

The story flowed well, a few red herrings, and lots of different stories inside one book. Personally I’m hoping for a sequel so we can meet the Thursday Murder Club again.

Author Bio:

Richard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. He is well known for TV shows including Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games. As the creative director of Endemol UK, Richard has worked as an executive producer on numerous shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He is also a regular on panel and game shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You and Taskmaster.

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The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant

I’m pleased to share my review today for the debut novel by Clare Marchant. Thank you to Avon Books for a digital review copy via Netgalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Two women. Five centuries apart.
One life-changing secret about to be unearthed…

1538
New bride Eleanor impresses her husband by growing saffron, a spice more valuable than gold. His reputation in Henry VIII’s court soars – but fame and fortune come at a price, for the king’s favour will not last forever…

2019
When Amber discovers an ancient book in her grandfather’s home at Saffron Hall, the contents reveal a dark secret from the past. As she investigates, so unravels a forgotten tragic story and a truth that lies much closer to home than she could have imagined…

An enchanting historical novel about love and hope in dangerous times, perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley and Kathryn Hughes.

My thoughts:


A 4.5 star read rounded up to 5.

I enjoy reading time slip novels and thoroughly enjoyed this one. The two time periods were both interesting but I enjoyed the Tudor time period the most. The historical details were fascinating and the storytelling was superb. The link between the two eras was equally interesting and heartbreaking – if you have experienced a miscarriage or a stillbirth, this may be a difficult read.

A very impressive debut novel and I’m looking forward to reading more by Clare Marchant in the future.



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