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Notki z tagiem ‘Quercus’

Blog Tour: Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

27 cze

Today I am absolutely thrilled to be kincking off blog tour for Tracy Rees’s second novel „Florence Grace„. I totally LOVED Tracy’s debut novel „Amy Snow” so I was really looking forward to her new release – Ms Rees is slowly but steadily climbing to the very top of the list of my favourite authors and she can write historical fiction in an enchanting way. So sit bequem, read my review, then pre – order the book (which is out this Thursday) and thank me later for recommendation!

 

Florence Grace

by Tracy Rees

 

 

Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 30th June 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher,  thank you!

Number of pages: 544

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 Synopsis:

Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It’s a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone.

But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie’s life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth.

Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

Rating: 4/5

 

„Florence Grace” is Tracy Rees’s second novel. Last year I read her debut „Amy Snow” ( I can see a pattern coming here!) and I was totally delighted with this book, and I was so looking forward to the new release. It is always exciting to see how the author manage with the success of the first book and how is the „dreaded” second novel, but no worries here, and even though I think that „Amy Snow” is as yet going to stay the author’s biggest success and my favourite of hers, „Florence Grace” is also a piece of a brilliant historical fiction.

„Florence Grace” is set in the beautiful Cornwall and London of Victorian England and the author really brings the times to life, with descriptions of the places, harsh landscapes, difficult times, clothes and lives of the characters – she has incredible, evocative way with words and everything she writes about is vivid and feels like jumping out of the pages at any moment.
There are many characters in this novel, and the author introduces us to new ones throughout the story but as there is a bunch of the main characters it doesn’t feel confusing – I didn’t feel confused to know who is who, even if the names were mentioned after some time of absence. As in the first book, also here the main character, Florence, is a strong and very spirited young girl. She’s intelligent, clever and she knows what she wants. She doesn’t care about appearances, which is mostly very clear when she’s in London, but she also realises that to survive she must fall into line. There is also a touch of magic to her – she sees flashes of the future and she can sense people, but it doesn’t overwhelm her personality and descriptions of her. It felt as if she is a step ahead of all the other people, as if she knows much more than people of the times. Brave, with open heart, I really enjoyed how she settled in to a new life, even though the people – her long – lost family – that were supposed to help her were not so keen on this and were not so tolerant of the differences.
In fact, all the other characters were really brilliantly drawn and it didn’t take long for me to start to love or hate them. The author took her time to introduce them to us and I really felt as if I know them all inside out, and I really liked it. There was a depth to them all and all of them had their own complicated personalities and had their own stories and I really appreciate that Tracy Rees hasn’t made their lives too easy – they had problems, they made mistakes, they acted and reacted like real people, and all in a way that was so absolutely suitable to the Victorian times.

Tracy Rees has also in a great way captured the differences between the wild, wild moors and the hard and harsh life there, with men working in the mines and women trying to nourish their families, and London, where life at first could seem so much easier and for sure more glamorous, but wasn’t it in fact much more difficult than in Cornwall? With all the lies, secrets and keeping appearances? And Florence has seen it immediately, she didn’t need any special gift to see this, and as much as she hated to live in lie she’s also seen the need to conform. But she’s never stopped dreaming about coming back to her roots.

The book started very promising and interesting though there were passages that dragged a bit, but after Florrie found herself in London it went a little downhill. There was one moment that made me laugh out loud when Florrie and her cousin went for an argument but other than that it was kept on a very steady level. I’m not saying the pace was not right because it was, I just had a feeling that we are going in circles about the same things and it spoiled the reading a little for me.

I truly admired the writing style. It is historical fiction, but written in a very accessible, not too pompous way, and I loved when Florence unconsciously switched into her Cornish accent. There are many twists and turns in the story – they must be when you take length of this book into consideration! – though nothing so very life – changing or too dramatic, which is a good thing, as the story flows really smoothly and it keeps the air of realism and possibility – it just sounds genuine. I only have some problems with the ending, which sounded… I don’t know, a little weird? Different? Not suitable for this story? I’m not sure, I can’t keep my finger on the thing, but it just didn’t sit with me and I’m afraid it can confuse some readers. But altogether, I really enjoyed „Florence Grace”. It was not as brilliant as the previous book but Tracy Rees kept to her standards and delivered a wonderful, detailed, very well thought through book. There was lots and more in this story. The author is a great story – teller and in Florrie she created a brilliant narrator. We have challenges in this novel, changes with all their ups and downs, searching for your own true self, following dreams, friends and foes, love and hate, hope and despair, wealth and poverty, truth and lies and staying true. Tracy Rees is growing in strength and she has found her own, lovely and distinctive voice and she is for sure the one to watch – I am already waiting for her third book.

 

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Love, or Nearest Offer by Adèle Geras

08 cze

Today I am very excited to be a part of Adèle Geras’s Blog Tour, featuring her newest novel „Love, or the Nearest Offer”. Double excited, I would say, as this book is my first read by this author, which I personally also find unbelievable and incredible. But, as they say, better late than never, right? Hope you enjoy my review of this very exceptional novel.

 

Love, or Nearest Offer

by Adèle Geras

 

 

Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 2nd June 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!.

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 01.09.2016)

 

 

 

 Synopsis:

What if your estate agent could find you not just your perfect house, but your perfect job, your perfect partner… your perfect new life?

On paper, Iris Atkins is an estate agent, but she’s not just good at finding suitable houses for her clients. In fact, she has a gift: Iris is able to see into their lives and understand exactly what is missing and what they need – and not just in bricks-and-mortar terms either.

Of course, concentrating so much on fixing other people’s problems doesn’t leave much time for examining your own. Over the course of one whirlwind year Iris discovers that while she may know what’s best for everyone else, she doesn’t necessarily know what’s best for herself – and what she finds out could make her happier than she’d ever dreamed of.

Rating: 3/5

 

Oh man. It may sound unbelievable, in fact I myself can’t believe it, but I’ve just checked and „Love, or Nearest Offer” is my first book by Adele Geras. Gulp. I’ve heard tons about this author and I’ve really no idea why I haven’t come across her previous novels, but well, on the other hand, I now have a great backlog list of all her titles to read, ha. And as I loved the synopsis to „Love, or Nearest Offer”, I really couldn’t wait for my copy.

The book started with chapters introducing all the characters to us, and I thought in a moment that if I am going to read about a new character again, I probably am going to start to bang my head on the wall. There were so many characters at the beginning, and it took some time before their stories started to intertwine with each other (when there are so many characters in a book I like their stories to connect somehow, it makes a sense for me, because I always think, why to write about different characters that have nothing in common in one book?). But when the stories finally started to interlock, I also started to enjoy the book much more. Each of the character has their own story, and the thing they have in common is the fact that they are all house hunting, and in the end they are almost best friends.

The story mostly resolves around Iris, who is an estate agent, and not your usual one! She doesn’t hesitate to go an extra mile or two and to postpone a sale or two to find the perfect house for all of her clients. Also – she must have a sixth sense when it comes to relationships, as she loves to play a matchmaker. In a very gentle, not imposing way, I’d say, no meddling involved and all borders preserved – I liked Iris. She was the right person on the right place, she was friendly and had tons of patience in her. I had only one big problem with her – in a moment about this. But – so actively trying to help other people, is she going to forget about her own happiness?

Iris’s current list of clients consists of Patrick, the artist, travelling between England and New York. Patrick, that has something magic in him and soon, very soon, Iris finds herself very drawn to him. Then we have the quiet, lovely widower Aidan, who spent all of his life living under the shadow of his late wife who decided about everything, starting with his clothes and finishing with the place where they used to spent their holidays. But Aidan was happy living like this, he, in fact, never realised that he can live differently. That is, till he decides to sell his house and one day literally crashes into Vina, the other client of Iris. Vina is divorced, her adult children have their own lives already and she has a feeling she must move, leave the house that hides so many memories, not always the nicest ones. And also on Iris’s list is Josie, a young mum of Zak dreaming of a house with garden and a puppy, instead of the designer flat she’s living in with her husband, but Will is not so keen on moving and commuting to work.

But back to my very big problem with Iris. I liked her, but I couldn’t cotton on to her totally, and there was one simple reason why – namely, her love life. We get to know her when she and her boyfriend Neil have just split up, though Neil quickly starts to try to persuade Iris that they are better together than apart. Iris is confident that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore, he is controlling and everything must be just like he wants it to be, and even though everybody around, her best friends and her mother tell her she should reconsider, Iris is sure that her decision is right. However, and I really, really don’t know why, I couldn’t understand her, from time to time she let Neil or the others to convince her and go with Neil to the restaurant, or she herself invites him to an opening, and they often end in bed together. And I thought, really, Iris? So do you want to end this relationship or not? What do you need to open your eyes? It bothered me, really, because altogether she was such a great person and I just couldn’t understand her actions.
Actually, the female characters in this novel were not as strong as I’d like them to be. Josie was whingey, needy and childish, and even though I understood her in her need to have the house, I know the feeling when you want something so very badly, of course I know this, I’m also a woman :) , I think the way she tried to convince her husband into buying was a little over – exaggerated, and I mean, it was about buying a HOUSE, and not a kettle or a new bed! Whatever Josie wanted, Josie got, she would stop at nothing and she wasn’t afraid to play on her husband’s feelings and even use their little boy to achieve what SHE wanted.
Vina was, in my opinion, the most authentic and most likeable female character in the book, though she also had her moments of course, especially when she went so ballistic about her friend hiding that he went to visit her daughter, and I know about the lies but oh my god, he went to see her DAUGHTER and not to visit his hidden wife and four children, right?

As much as I enjoyed the writing style, the minutiae descriptions of the houses quickly started to annoy me, as they only took my attention away from the important bits, they distracted me and they were much too exact for me, and really they didn’t bring anything important to the story.

The storytelling was fluent and really easy to engage with, and in the end „Love, or Nearest Offer” turned out to be a nice, uncomplicated read, perfect for those summery days. The pace is gentle and even but somehow it fits the book perfectly (I would only really cut the very detailed house descriptions. Sorry. Won’t be nagging again!). There are some twists and turns but they are not life – changing, though they add a lot to the story, but altogether it is a very relaxing book, if I can say so, and the author has managed to make it gripping without adding unnecessary drama and still the book stayed so true to life with the events and characters, and in the end I found myself really engrossed with the story.

 

MAKE SURE TO VISIT OTHER STOPS ON THE BLOG TOUR:

 

While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green

10 maj

Hi guys, and welcome to my stop on Linda Green’s fabulous Blog Tour! Today I am posting not only my review of the fantastic and gripping „While My eyes Were Closed” but you are also for a real treat, as there is also an excerpt from the book! And scroll down for more info about the blog tour itself!

 

While My Eyes Were Closed

by Linda Green

 

 

Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 5th May 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Psychological Drama

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

 
A nail-biting psychological drama for fans of Paula Daly, Daughter and The Girl with No Past.

One, two, three . . . Lisa Dale shuts her eyes and counts to one hundred during a game of hide-and-seek. When she opens them, her four-year-old daughter Ella is gone. Disappeared without a trace. The police, the media and Lisa’s family all think they know who snatched Ella. But what if the person who took her isn’t a stranger? What if they are convinced they are doing the right thing? And what if Lisa’s little girl is in danger of disappearing forever?

 Rating: 4/5

 

I’ve read some Linda Green’s books in the past and enjoyed them, and I know that when I’m in a need of a solid, realistic family – centred story I can easily reach for her novels. This time, however, even though the story is also centred around a family, the genre of this book is different to this that I have come to expect – namely, „While My Eyes Were Closed” is being advertised as a mystery/psychological thriller. But, as from time to time I really like to read something on the heavier side, I thought, why not, and happily agreed to read this book for review purposes and be a part of the blog tour. And am I happy that I came across this book!

Even though topic of this book is not an easy one, thanks to the light and forthcoming writing style I found myself flying through the pages. What was also so exceptional was the fact that the author could so brilliantly write the distinctive voices of the narrators, no matter if it was the shocked Lisa, the little Ella or Margot. She could incredibly well got into the heads of her characters and describe all their feelings. The chapters with the little Ella were the worst for me, I think, I am a very sensible person and I can easily imagine what other people feel, and seeing how this little girl missed her family, seeing her cry and not understand what’s happening, it was heart – breaking.

Yes, we did have the advantage, we knew that Ella’s good (whatever good means), unlike to her family, though at the end I wasn’t sure how this book is going to finish, but nevertheless, it is a story about every parents’ biggest nightmare: not knowing where your child is and what’s happening to them. When you child is dead, it’s tragic, but you know that nothing else can happen to them, but not knowing when they are… I think it is the worst feeling in the world, this helplessness, not knowing, the feeling that you can’t help… I simply can’t imagine it.

This novel is told alternatively by Lisa and Margot mostly, and slowly we start to learn what was the reason of taking Ella, and slowly all the loose ends start to wrap up. I started to suspect rather quickly what happened in the past, but it didn’t spoil the story to me, and actually the bottom line took me a little by surprise because I wasn’t able to guess everything. What I also liked was that the author left the end open, let us write our own ending.

I had some mixed feelings about Lisa and, to be honest, I wasn’t so sure about her at the beginning. She just seemed so cold and not at all bothered but maybe it was only a mask, maybe she just protected herself this way, although I still think that she didn’t react according to the situation. Though, on the other hand, how should one react in such situation? Howl? Shout? Be depressed? Or maybe I am just like the press, judging her?
But the author has in a fantastic way described how the whole family experienced this situation and how all and each of them were trying to cope with it – though mostly they didn’t cope at all, especially Lisa’s dad. She has also excellently portrayed Ella’s abductor, with her changing moods.

This is more character driven than action story, as the pace is not shockingly quick, but it’s fast enough and I enjoyed every single word in this story. Thanks to this average pace we can see how the grief affects Lisa and her family, and it was sometimes heart – breaking to see people so broken, people who didn’t know what’s happening to their little girl.

The story not only explores maternal love in many different ways but it also shows how quick we are to jump to conclusions, especially with the „help” of social media, and how quick we are to judge on appearances. It is also rather unusual to so very quickly learn who the kidnapper was but it was necessary this time and we quickly learn what urged them to go as far as kidnapping the child. You could say that with knowing from the very beginning what happened and to whom the tension in the book may be missing, but it was there, because we really didn’t know how this book is going to end, what’s going to happen and if Ella will come back home to her frantic looking for her family. The tension comes from the kidnapper and the situation Ella is found in, but also from Ella’s family, as it quickly becomes clear that not everything is as good within it. But I’d love to hear more about Lisa and her husband’s background, as we were given small hints that there is something between them – I mean, they do love each other but I had a feeling there is no trust between them, that Lisa was distancing herself a little and I didn’t find why it’s like this. I also had a feeling that some issues were started and never mentioned again, and I was missing the explanation of this strained situation between Lisa and Chloe – what really happened? Was this really the fact that Chloe didn’t feel supported by her mother? Was this the typical teenager/mum clash?

What I also liked is that the book presents a slightly different take on missing child novels that are lately popping up like mushrooms and concentrates more on the grieving process, on the fallout of the family, on the why rather than on continuously asking who did it. It shows how Ella’s mum tries to cope with the guilt that her daughter went missing when she „was on duty”, but it also very gentle deals with Muriel’s mental health problem, because I do think there was a mental health problem, as she was trying to turn Ella into someone she wasn’t. And when we are at Muriel – probably because I empathised more with Lisa, I’ve never felt a bit of sympathy to the abductor, even though the author gave them a chance to explain themselves through the chapters from their point of view. Yes, I understood where they were coming from but there was not a single moment that I sympathised with them.

It was a psychological thriller with a soul and feelings – the feelings that the author has made so visible, so palpable. Hats off to Linda Green for the way she has written this book, where she presented all points of view and gave all the characters a chance to tell their story without judging them. It is a really gripping read that keeps you turning page after page and I desperately wanted to know how it’s going to end (I had a little problem here. My review copy ended on page 374, in mid sentence, missing almost three chapters but fortunately the publisher met the challenge and I could read the book to the end. I would die not knowing the end! Thank you, Quercus!!!). It is a very cleverly plotted book and the there were many questions that were coming to my mind but the story didn’t dragged and all the questions were answered in just the right time, so that the book kept my instant interest and I desperately wanted to know what’s going to happen. Really great, high – end read, and it comes highly recommended from me.

 

EXCERPT:

MURIEL

The house reeks of emptiness. It does so all the time but

I notice it particularly in the mornings. Not that it was

ever a noisy house. Not like some of those chaotic places

you see in documentaries about people on benefits on

the television. But there was always some low-level noise

in the mornings. A workman-like hum as Malcolm and

Matthew went about their morning ablutions and got

ready for the day ahead.

I didn’t really notice it at the time. It is one of those

things you only miss when it has gone. There are rather

a lot of those. Malcolm was generally considerate with

the toilet seat, Matthew perhaps not so much. It is

strange to think how it used to bother me. And now I

am bothered by something I do not have to do. Do not

have to remind someone of.

And socks. I am disturbed by the lack of socks in the

house. It hardly seems right, does it? I mean most women

are forever complaining about having to wash them

(my mother even used to iron my father’s socks) and

find lost ones. But now, living in a house without socks

doesn’t seem right somehow. It is yin without yang.

Everything is out of balance. There are plenty of houses

with only female occupants of course. It is simply that

this house was never meant to be one of them.

I reach over and turn on the radio. I am not particularly

fond of Classic FM. I rather like John Suchet – although

I could never understand what he was doing on ITV

instead of the BBC – but I would prefer not to have to listen

to the adverts. Still, it was one of the things I discovered

after Malcolm left – that not having Classic FM on in the

mornings reminded me more of his absence than having

it on.

I think Matthew preferred it on too. Although maybe

for the same reasons I did. I don’t know because he never

spoke about his father after he left. Matthew knew better

than to bring such things up at the dinner table. Or

anywhere else for that matter. And I, of course, know

better than to discuss Matthew’s departure too.

I hear Melody miaowing outside the door. She has

never been allowed in the bedrooms. It troubles me that

so many people do permit such things. Certainly she

has been a huge comfort to me, and I understand the

human soul’s need for comfort, I truly do. But we should

not accept another species into our most private room.

That is how the lines start to become blurred. People

have this ridiculous notion that we and animals are

somehow on the same level. I blame Disney films. I blame

them for a lot of things. All of this over-sentimentality

and the vulgar Americanisms which have crept into

our language. I saw the P. L. Travers film at the cinema.

They had it on for elevenses at the Picture House in

Hebden Bridge. Saving Mr Banks, I think they called it.

Though personally I think it was Mr Disney who needed

saving. Poor Miss Travers was rather lazily portrayed, I

thought. I mean it’s all too easy, isn’t it? The middleaged,

middle-class Englishwoman as an odd and

emotionally cold spinster, out of step with the modern

world. Maybe if we’d listened more to the likes of

her then the world would be in a rather better state

today.

I prop myself up with the pillows. I’ve never believed

in jumping straight out of bed. You need a little time to

acclimatise, to see the world from a vertical position

before you actually set foot in it. I listen to the news, or

rather I am aware that the news is on. The words themselves

wash over me. You get to an age where you have

heard it all before. Each item only a variation on wellworn

themes, and it doesn’t really matter that the

names are different, or even some of the details. Because

nothing changes. Whatever sort of fuss is kicked up

about these things, the old order will be maintained.

And one day these young people, young people like Matthew,

will accept it as I do, rather than thinking they

can somehow change the way things are.

 

BE SURE TO CHECK THE OTHER STOPS ON „WHILE MY EYES WERE CLOSED” BLOG TOUR!

 

 

Blog Tour: Q&A with Cate Woods, Author of Just Haven’t Met You Yet

10 lut

Oh, I can express how excited I am today to have Cate Woods on my blog, brilliantly answering all of my questions! (OK, almost all of my questions. There was one that I didn’t dare to ask – which books did she ghost – written, but I can live with this :) ). Cate’s debut novel, „Just Haven’t Met You Yet” (you can see my review here ) is going to be released tomorrow and it’s going to be a great hit, that’s for certain, so please be sure you have ordered your copy!

Thank you Cate for your time, and thank you Alainna for making it possible! And you, guys, just sit comfortably and enjoy!

 

1. Can you please introduce yourself to the readers of the blog?

With pleasure! My name is Cate and I’m a journalist-turned-ghostwriter-turned novelist who lives in London with a husband, two small children and a hamster. I have written quite a few books before this one – mainly celebrity autobiographies, most recently for Mary Berry – but this is the first under my own name.

 

2. Would you be so kind and tell us what „Just Haven’t Met You Yet” is about?

It’s the story of Perseus James, a dreamy 31-year-old who lives in Norwich. Perseus – or Percy as she is known – has a good job, wonderful friends and a long-term boyfriend, but her well-ordered world is rocked when she is approached by a mysterious company called Eros Tech, who claim to be able to use mobile data to match people with their soulmates wherever they are in the world. Percy learns she has been selected as the perfect match for one of Eros’ wealthy clients, but she’s about to move in with her boyfriend. Should she tell them she’s not interested, or risk her relationship for a chance at destiny?

 

3. How does it feel to finally, eventually, be published under your own name?

Amazing! I still can’t believe it’s happening, and I feel extremely lucky that my wonderful editor at Quercus liked the story enough to take a gamble on it and me. It’s also quite terrifying, though, the prospect of people reading something I dreamt up while sitting on my bed, trying to feed my newborn son, delirious with sleep deprivation!

 

4. Have you ever got a writer’s block? How do you cope with it?

Oh absolutely, the whole time. For me, the best way to deal with it is move away from my laptop and do something that involves physical activity: luckily, I have a very good coffee shop a short walk away. Also, inspiration often seems to strike when I’m in the loo!

 

5. Please, give us an insight into your main character – what does make her exceptional? 

I hope many readers will be able to identify with aspects of Percy. At the start of the book she feels that although she’s in her thirties with a good job and her own home she’s still waiting for her life to begin. It takes an embarrassing wake-up call for her to realise that she needs to start living the life she has, rather than daydreaming that her life would be perfect if only she had better clothes/thinner thighs/a more glamorous career. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but Percy is basically the younger me!

 

6. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead characters from „Just Haven’t Met You Yet”?

In my head I have already cast Amy Schumer as Percy and I am currently auditioning for the male leads with Chris Pine, Chris Pratt and Chris Hemsworth fighting it out. (Literally. With their tops off.)

 

7. Where does the idea for the book come from?

I was on a walk with my Dad and we somehow got talking about how relationships would be so much easier if there was a machine that could measure how compatible you are with a potential partner. That conversation generated the spark of the idea that eventually turned into Eros Tech, and the book grew from there.

 

8. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Before ‘Just Haven’t Met You Yet’ I ghostwrote two novels for a TV presenter. As she wanted to approve the plot at the outset, I had to provide a detailed synopsis before I even started the first chapter – and I guess I’ve now got into the habit of writing the outline first. Having said that, I’ve got an idea for my next novel but have no idea how it’s going to turn out, so I might try flying by the seat of my pants for the next one!

 

9. „Would you – could you – pass up a chance to meet your one true love?”, like Percy?

Definitely not. I am extremely nosey. If someone told me that they’d found my soulmate I would have to go along to meet them, even though I’m happily married.

 

10. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

That there’s no such thing as just the one perfect person for you; we can have many soulmates over a lifetime.

 

11. Which of your characters would you want to date?

Ha – that’s a fantastic question! Definitely Milo, as I fancy myself as a bit of an action woman.

 

12. What do you wish you knew before you started writing?

That it is better to under-describe than to over-describe. For my two ghostwritten novels I devoted great chunks of text to describing my characters, but I now feel that it’s more interesting not to be too prescriptive about the physical appearance of your characters, as it allows your readers to fill in the blanks and create their own versions in their heads.

 

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Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Cate Woods /Book Review

10 lut

Just Haven’t Met You Yet

by Cate Woods

 

 

Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 11th February 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 Synopsis:

Percy James has everything a girl could want: a comfy flat, a steady relationship and a truly lovely group of friends. Then she is approached by Eros Tech. Eros is ‚the future of love’ – an agency that brings together soulmates using mobile data. Percy has been identified as a match for one of Eros’s super wealthy clients. The only problem is she already has a boyfriend . . . but what if this is *destiny*? Would you – could you – pass up a chance to meet your one true love?

A riotous romantic comedy with a warm heart and magnificent twist!

Rating: 5/5

Lately I was in some kind of a reading slump, not the one when you can’t stand the sight of a book, no matter what book it is, but the one when you must rate the books you’ve read with 2 or 3 stars. And then I started reading „Just Haven’t Met You Yet” by Cate Woods, and oh my word, it was just what the doctor ordered…!

The premise to this book sounds so original and unusual. I mean, I’ve read a lot of books with blind – dates, online dating etc, but never before have I read about computer finding your soul mate, and let’s be honest, I was incredibly curious how the author is going to tackle this issue – and believe me, the way she did it and the twists that came with it have just blown me away. Did I see those twists coming? No way! Did the book take me by surprise? Yes!!!

I loved the challenges the author put in front of Percy, our main character. At the beginning Percy seems to have it all – lovely boyfriend, brilliant friends, great job, and yes, lovely boyfriend. Did I mention the lovely boyfriend, who couldn’t be nicer and more understanding even if she wished for it? But then, out of the blue, she’s being contacted by someone very persuasive from Eros Tech, claiming that they found Percy’s soul mate, a person that is going to be perfect for Percy and she’s going to be perfect for this person. That Percy has a boyfriend already? No matter! And here the complications start – should Percy meet this person? Is this cheating? She’d be only meeting this person, right? But then, what if…? What if she fell in love with her soul – mate? Is she going to risk everything she knows to see that there really may exist a person that is destined for you?
I loved it! I loved this idea and the way the author brilliantly captured Percy’s personality. I think I can tell you that I spent a lot of my time when reading the book wondering what would I do in Percy’s shoes – and I think curiosity would get the best of me. And Percy had her doubts, of course, and it made her so realistic – that she has conscience and is loyal. The story was told from her point of view and it was brilliant to be able to get so deep into her head and hear what she thinks – because mostly it was really funny. She doesn’t have the most exciting job in the world, she leads a normal life, she has a boyfriend and a family, so really, just your normal girl from the neighbourhood, but there was something exceptional to her, she was warm and nice, and I really rooted for her. Moreover, I truly adored her living in her own world of fantasy, making up things and planning how they should end, and it reminded me so much of Becky Bloomwood, always making up fantasies as well, but it didn’t bother me at all, as Percy had her own distinctive voice and was a great individual.
The other characters were also brilliantly drawn, and I think that Mel, the one with the foul mouth and obsession with Michael Buble is really worth mentioning! Every time she entered the scenes I was wondering what new swear word she’s going to invent, and please, keep your eyes peeled for a poem in tribute of the above mentioned Michael Buble. And all the other characters, they were such a great bunch, even Percy’s mum – even though there were moments that I wanted to close the door in her face, and I am usually not a very aggressive person – they were all full of life and great personalities.

As it was told that this fantastic computer system can match you with at least 10 people, I was hoping for some more blind – dates for our Percy, and after reading about a second one I really started to doubt if this system is as good as they tried to sell it to us. I mean, this second date… No, thank you!

Cate Woods has ghost – written books before and „Just Haven’t Met You yet” is the first novel under her real name, and it’s a name to keep your eyes peeled – I adored the story, and the writing style is so incredibly light, engaging and easy to follow. It is full of humour, witty remarks that made me giggle or laugh – out – loud. It was incredibly fast paced and there was always something happening, and it was really full of twists and turns that I. Haven’t. Seen. Coming! You know this feeling when you want to know how the book is going to end but you also don’t want it to end because it’s so good? Well, it was like this with „Just Haven’t Met You”. There was not a single flat moment, the interactions were hilarious and the characters were often at difficult crossroads. It was a great, entertaining read and I am already waiting for Ms Woods’ next novel. Recommended!

 

Blog Tour: Echoes from Afar by Tamara McKinley / Book Review

27 sty

Echoes from Afar

by Tamara McKinley

 

 

Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 28th January 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 448

Genre:  Literature/Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 Synopsis:

A powerful story of love and loss from internationally bestselling author Tamara McKinley.

So this is Paris, she thought in awe. Spread out before her beneath a clear blue sky, it was like a precious gift after the smog and filth of London. No wonder it was called the city of love . . .

After a spiteful rumour ruins her career in London, Annabelle Blake must travel to Paris to start afresh. There she makes the acquaintance of Etienne and Henri – one a poet, the other a painter – both charming, talented and handsome. They spend their days flirting and drinking with the city’s artistes and Bohemians, and soon Annabelle too is swept up in the exotic and exhilarating world of 1930s Paris. But as ever more young people are drawn to the fight against Fascism in Spain, Annabelle must wake from the dream and confront the reality of war. A lifetime later, gifted artist Eugenie Ashton falls in love with Paris the moment she sets foot outside the Gare de Lyon. Like her mother Annabelle before her, the artistic delights of the city are a bright new world to her: but Eugenie will soon find that in its shadows are hidden the secrets of her family’s past.

Rating: 3/5

 

What is so brilliant in being a book blogger is the fact that we can discover new authors – new to us, as Tamara McKinley has written, as far as I know 12 novels, and „Echoes from Afar” is my first read by this author. This book is a historical fiction, and as it is one of my favourite genres, I started reading it with high expectations.

A great part of the book takes place during the Spanish Civil War, which was also a bonus for me, as I haven’t read a book set during those times before, the closest one was „The Italian Wife” by Kate Furnivall set in Mussolini’s Italy, but in Spain – not yet. The descriptions of Spain and the air raids, and also the conditions at the field hospitals were very detailed and very vivid, and especially one blitz has stuck in my memory.
Also, the book features the 1930′s in Paris, and the author brilliantly got the vibrant, jaunty atmosphere of local streets, citizens, and especially artists. Then we have a chance to see the same city almost 20 years later, through the eyes of another young girl, and see how the city and its residents have changed. There was only the right balance between the carefree Paris and the war scenes, Annabelle’s time as a nurse in Spain. The descriptions were rich and the author has really nailed the atmosphere of all the times she was writing about.

I absolutely adored Annabelle’s story, it was the best part of the book. She was a strong, independent woman and I liked the passion she felt to her nursing job – she was the right person on the right place. She was so honest in all her reactions and the way she was. Her developing relationship with Henri was so very well captured, and the author shown all the ups and downs of loving someone during the war – and one scene was truly heart – breaking. I really liked to see how this feeling between them, their love and respect to each other, just oozed from the pages. I never trusted Etienne – he seemed to accept the fact that Annabelle has chosen Henri over him but I couldn’t help the feeling that he’s plotting something against those two love birds.

However, everything in this book happened in such easy way. People met again, found each other without any problem, faced up to the facts without resistance, the secrets were not life changing and quickly revealed. Also, I missed a little a closure with Etienne, I suspected him, after Aline’s warnings, that he told lies to Annabelle, that he was guilty of this whole situation – but nothing was said about it. Then, after a really big part of the book concentrating on the story of Annabelle and Henri and their stay in Spain, I was wondering when Eugenie is going to come on the scene, and when she appeared, this part, in comparison to the earlier parts, felt too rushed and not as well developed as the first three quarters of the book. The end felt too good to be true, where everybody loved each other and everything was OK again. On the whole, the reading felt a little flat.
There were also moments in the book that seemed to me very sudden and abrupt and I was going back few pages to see if I missed something, as it looked like we were expected to know some things that happened before, in the background.

„Echoes from Afar” is a captivating, interesting read that mixes war times with feelings of love and art that takes the reader on a great journey in time and through Europe. So with the strong settings and characters and engaging plot it makes a really compelling read. Tamara McKinley is for sure an author to keep an eye on, and I will be checking more of her books.

 

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A Gown of Thorns by Natalie Meg Evans / eBook Review

15 gru

A Gown of Thorns by Natalie Meg Evans

 

 

Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 12th November 2015

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Genre:  Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

 

 

 Synopsis:

A bittersweet romantic novella set in the rolling valleys of the French Dordogne wine-making region.

Shauna Vincent, a graduate from the north of England, has just learned that the job she set her heart on has gone to a socially well-connected rival. Devastated, she accepts an offer in France from an old family friend – to be au pair to the woman’s grandchildren. Within a week, Shauna is deep in the Dordogne. With little to do other than organise her two charges’ busy social diaries, she has endless hours in which to explore the magical landscape that surrounds her. Her new home is the ancient Chateau de Chemignac with its vineyards and hidden secrets, including a locked tower room where she unearths a trove of vintage gowns, one of which feels unsettlingly familiar. Then Shauna falls asleep one afternoon in a valley full of birdsong, and has a strange dream of a vintage aircraft circling threateningly overhead. So when she suddenly awakes to find charming local landowner Laurent de Chemignac standing over her – Shauna wonders if the dashing aristocrat might be just the person to help her untangle this unexpected message from the past.

 Rating: 3/5

 

If you are in need to read a really good historical fiction then you can with certainty go for books by Natalie Meg Evans. I’ve only read „The Millicent’s Secret” by this author, although I’ve read raving reviews of her debut novel, The Dress Thief, as well, and so I’m only waiting for my day to have 48 hours to be able to read this book as well. But as those 48 hours are not in sight in the closest future, I was really happy to see that there is a novella by Natalie Meg Evans available on NetGalley.

Natalie Meg Evans can choose the best settings for her books, and this time she takes us to France – again – but to the province, Dordogne, when wine is being produced. Also, the novella takes place in the modern times, in 2003 to be exact, with only occasional flashbacks back to the WW II.

The characters are, as Natalie Meg Evans got us used to, magnificent, even though in my case I needed a little more time to warm to them. Not all of them, as there was a one particular character – Rachel – who was a queen of manipulating and lies, and I was truly scared what more she can do and destroy. Laurent was a little too moody for my liking and I couldn’t put my finger on him, couldn’t keep up with him and his moods. Our main character is Shauna, and even though there is a depth to her, I still have a feeling that I wasn’t able to get to know her as much as I’d like, that I didn’t make friends with her. But my issues apart, the characters had their own personalities and lives and they felt like jumping out off the pages any moment and I really appreciated it. And also, I had a feeling that the characters in this novella were so raw! Their lives were full of thorns and it is brilliantly described by the author. She can incredibly well pour into the paper and describe a lot of feelings and emotions, in a way that I wouldn’t be able to. All this make the characters so realistic and three – dimensional and makes the reading even more gripping.

Novella of full length story, for Natalie Meg Evans it doesn’t matter and she always gives great importance and is particular about attention to details, places, clothes, not forgetting about things that we usually take for granted and don’t spot, until she points them out to us.

But somehow, this time this book didn’t sit with me. I think it was the thing with the dress that was a little too unbelievable to me and I personally think this story could be exactly exquisite, or even more, without it. I just couldn’t get it, as well as the sudden visions and travelling of the characters back in time. Why? How come? How did it happen and how was it possible that other people could have seen this as well? I have nothing against a little magic or paranormal in the stories, but here it was for me a little too far – fetched. Also, as much as I love Natalie’s love to details, this time the story dragged on too much for liking, with the detailed descriptions of wine being made, of the way the cellars looked like and the exact schedule of children’s activities. Sure, I really, fully appreciate the work and research that’s being put in all those descriptions, but sometimes less is more.

This is a story full of secrets, lies and hidden emotions. I couldn’t wait to see what more is Shauna going to discover in or around the château, and she was really great when it came to unearthing hidden places, things and memories. She is the one who discovers that the titular gown of thorns has a lot of secrets and so wants to tell its story that somebody is desperate to keep hidden.

Natalie Meg Evans has proved that she can also write a brilliant fiction set in the modern times. Of course she hasn’t deprived us of this what she’s best at, ie. history, and she perfectly intertwined those periods in time together. We knew there is a secret, we can start to guess, but in fact when the secret has been revealed, it took me by surprise. There are many twists and turns and intertwining stories, and it is truly incredible that this all has fitted in between the pages of this novella. Nothing felt rushed here, the author took her time to describe and explain, and the characters were really well developed.

This is a very clever, intelligent read that goes far beyond the usual romance reads, a very well written novella that flows and is full of information of all kinds. Really hats off to the author for the brilliant and thorough research and really putting her heart into every page of this book. I am already waiting impatiently for her next novel!

 
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Napisane w kategorii 2015 Releases, Rating 3/5

 

Blog Tour: The Things We Do for Love by Alice Peterson / Book Review + Guest Post

07 wrz

The Things We Do for Love by Alice Peterson

 

Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 10th September 2015

Source:  Received from publisher, thank you!

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 Synopsis:

Love may hurt, but not loving hurts even more . . .

January Wild loves her daughter, her dog and her childhood home by the sea.

Single parenting is tough, but January has no regrets. She has a job she loves, a happy home and the support of her beloved grandfather. The arrival of a new boss, however, threatens to shake up January’s safe world.

 Ward Metcalfe loves great sales results and a well-run office.

Everyone at her office agrees: Ward is a soulless, corporate slave driver. Even Spud, the company mascot, dislikes him.

 A secret stands between them.

Yet over time January sees there is more to Ward than meets the eye. Rumours circulate. What exactly is he hiding? and is January prepared to risk everything to find out?

 

Rating: 5/5

 

I know, when picking Alice Peterson’s book, that I am for few hours of utter reading joy. I think nobody can write better about love and feelings as Alice does. Her books always make me laugh and in the next moment cry, but there couldn’t be more uplifting book as the one written by Alice. Her characters always fight with ghosts from their past, they have health problems and yet they feel so incredibly down – to – earth, and her stories are so true to life. And her newest release, „The Things We Do for Love”, has all of this, and much, much more.

The blurb emphasises that the relationship between January and her boss Ward is going to be a priority in this novel, yet after reading the book I can state that it was secondary to the story. Yes, it was important, but the most part of the book is devoted to the story of January and her daughter Isla. Nevertheless, I truly loved how effortlessly and gently Alice weaved in the subplot of Ward, and the tempo it developed – it was truly just right, nothing happened too abrupt there, nothing was too obvious.

Usually when a story switches between past and present, it can be sometimes confusing. Especially when, as in „The Things We Do for Love”, it gets us back to the different previous times in our characters’ lives, and then switches the narration to the present. Nevertheless, Ms Peterson has probably added some kind of magic to her writing, as I not, for a single second, felt confused. I didn’t have a problem to change the times, and I didn’t have a problem to keep on track.

There is a small and exquisite group of characters in the book, and, as usually in Alice’s books, she also didn’t forget to add a lovely canine character, a jack russel terries, Spud. January is a woman who has experienced a lot in her life – she has lost her parents as a baby, and then her grandparents took care of her and her older brother Lucas. Lucas couldn’t forget the whole drama and trauma, and we quickly learn that even as a successful adult he has still bearing a lot of grudges against his whole family, even though they did what they could to let him have the normal life. There were moments that I was truly shocked with Lucas and the way he treated his family, because I really didn’t see any fault in the way they brought him up, but of course children’s or teenagers’ minds work a little different and he probably needed more time to process his past.
But January, for me, she was a woman that we should really admire. Life was really not easy for her, mostly putting skids under her from a very early age, and yet she stroke me as a strong, never giving up woman. Oh yes, she had her flaws, and she had worse moments, but altogether I truly liked her and admired her optimistic spirit. She learnt how to cope with being a single mum, and moreover, mum of a child with handicap, because, as usually in Alice’s books, she doesn’t spare the characters and this time it is the little Isla that suffers from celebral palsy. And again, the descriptions of Isla’s conditions are very detailed, so those who are not familiar with this kind of disease quickly learn what it’s about, but they are not too detailed or too raw, dry and theoretical for us to tell it’s too medical. So yes, January’s life was not all glamorous or exciting, as she was also working in an estate agents’ office, but she was coping, and it was the most important thing, and among all the things that fell on her shoulders, she has not lost herself.

The aspect romance in this book is really brilliantly conducted. Firstly, there is Ward himself, married and always grumpy, but we, together with January, can feel that there is something more to this man, that he’s hiding his softer version somewhere deep inside. Secondly, it was absolutely not too far – fetched, too obvious, it was not the kind girl – meets – boy – they – fell – in – love – immediately romance, no. There were a lot of problems and obstacles, and actually the falling in love process itself was incredibly gently written and it was in fact not so easy to spot. And also, there were more and more problems and we really can’t be sure how this sub – plot is going to end, if there is going to be a happy end, if January and Ward are looking for new love at all?

This story is also a wonderful picture of family relationships and its dynamics, and Alice again writes how it really is, without any unnecessary dramas or twists. Families have problems, different sorts of problems, and she’s not afraid of writing about them and making the characters’ lives more complicated and not the easiest ones, and letting them to find their way to happiness, but only after making this way a little curvy.

What I so adore in Alice’s writing is that she’s telling the stories of her characters in such a normal, down – to – earth way, without adding any unnecessary dramas and complicating the plot. Her writing is also always full of respect to her characters, it’s elegant, very gentle and it evokes all kind of emotions, so be prepared that you’re going to laugh, and in the next second to be hit by such a touching scene that you’re going to cry, gasp, shake your head and then smile again. The strength of the book lies also in the fact that it is so realistic, that I could easily imagine it taking place in real life.

There is only one word that occurs to my mind when you think about this book: beautiful. It’s beautiful in an impressive way, and Alice Peterson has managed to write again a lovely, impossible to put down page – turner, a book full of characters that I was rooting for and kept my fingers crossed for them, with a story that felt so realistic. A story about love in literal meaning, about determination and about being open to everything that life is offering us. It is really incredible how much important issues, such as CP, bullying, grief or single parenthood Alice has hidden between the pages. She has did it again, gave us a fantastic read full of the most beautiful emotions, but also a modern story that many of us can relate to. I really can’t wait so that the book hits the shelves and you can read it for yourself and become convinced how fantastic read it is – you are for a real treat with „The Things We Do for Love”.

A short note to the publisher: the review copies for us, bloggers, were printed in – what I personally think, and I know not only I – a very small font. Please, take account our poor eyes next time, and I only hope that the finished copies are easier to read :)

 

GUEST POST

GRANNY IS THE BEST

 

In my new novel, ‘The Things We Do For Love’, January Wild loses her parents when she is a baby, and is raised by her grandparents in a house by the sea, in Cornwall. She never met her parents. There was always this void, something missing in her life, but at the same time she and her brother, Lucas, were lucky to have the devoted love of their grandparents. My grandmother, on my mother’s side, has been a huge influence in my life, which is perhaps why I chose, subconsciously, to write this storyline.

The first time I stayed alone with Granny was when I was 7 years old. The family dumped me in Gloucestershire while they waltzed off to Wales for a swimming and tennis holiday. I was outraged! ‘What am I going to do with Granny all week?’ I’d wailed. Granny lived in a small house called ‘The Flower Garden’. It was a red brick cottage, roses surrounding the front door. I began to think this might not be such a bum deal when she opened the fridge. Inside were ‘Ski’ yoghurts, bacon, cheese slices, sausages… she’d also bought me the little cereal boxes in the packets of 8, my favourite was Coco Pops.

The following day Granny and I went on a shopping trip to Stratford, and it was this trip that was the turning point in our friendship. We climbed on to the rickety bus right outside her house. After 40 minutes, ‘Are we nearly there?’ I kept on asking. Granny agreed that we did seem to be driving around in endless circles but was assured by the driver that we were on the right bus. After an hour we spotted a sign that read, ‘Mickleton, two miles’. ‘We must be collecting everyone in the neighbouring villages,’ Granny had said out loud. We laughed and we laughed and we laughed. Granny had a wicked infectious cackle, which I can hear right now, as I write this…

I gave a talk about her life at school, describing how she’d been brought up in a castle but then moved to the wilds of Africa when she married. The main focus of my talk was snakes. I told the gory story of Mum and Granny being attacked by a black mamba when out riding. Mum’s twin brother shot the black mamba’s head off with the only bullet he had left in his gun, I’d relayed with pride. Aged 12 I began to play competitive tennis and often Granny came to watch. By this stage her eyesight was failing so she’d sometimes clap or howl with laughter at the most inappropriate of points. But it was only when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a painful illness that stopped me from playing tennis overnight, that I truly saw the strength of her support and love, not only to me, but to my mother too. I remember her rubbing her frail hands over mine, saying she wished she could take the pain away. Her skin was paper-thin and her fingers felt like soft melting butter.

Granny died, aged 99, in 2002, when I was 28. She hung on for the launch of my first book, A Will To Win and for my sister’s wedding. I think, for most, grandparents play an important role in our lives. We always have certain memories of them. It’s hard to believe they were ever young – to us, they are simply ‘granny’ or ‘granddad’, ‘nan’ or ‘nanna’.

            My mother adores my sister’s children, Emy and Billy, and they love her back just as much because: (in Emy’s words)

  1. Granny always cooks delicious things, like her famous ham, salad and coleslaw and her hot dog combo.
  2. Granny and Grandpa are demon card and games players. We always have at least two games of Canasta and one of Monopoly.
  3. Going places. We usually go to lots of different cities and sites and cinemas.
  4. The tea & scones. Granny and grandpa both make a great cup of tea and really good scones. I mean really good.
  5. I love playing golf with them. Me and Granny taking on Bill and Grandpa.

 

The Things We Do For Love

September 10th 2015

Published by Quercus

www.alicepeterson.co.uk

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Asking for It by Louise O’Neill / Book Review

03 wrz

Asking for It by Louise O’Neill

 

Publisher: Quercus Children’s Books

Publishing Date: 3rd September 2015

Source:  Received from publisher via, thank you!

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

Rating: 5/5

 

Oh wow. You know this feeling, when you finish a book and the only thing you can think is WOW? Well, „Asking for It” is for sure this kind of a book. It left me speechless for a long time, with my feeling, emotions and thoughts whirring around in my head and I couldn’t stop thinking about this story – it’s such important, powerful novel.

„Asking for It” has truly blown my mind – I was a little sceptical, I must admit it, as the book is directed to Teen and Young Adult market, but as soon as I started reading it, it just sucked me in, and I think everybody should read it. It is important, powerful, brutally honest story that I hope will never happen in my life, but finally somebody wrote how it is. It has affected me in a way that probably any other book never did, and it awoke all kind of emotions in me. I felt anger, desperation, and I couldn’t believe this ostracism and stereotypes that people perceived this situation, „this word”.

The main character, Emma, might be unlikeable and unpleasant, but the author has done an incredibly great job to show us how a teenage girl, who at first glance has it all, can be a lonely, insecure kid inside. Emma was a truly complex character, on the surface the „It” girl, and everybody wants to be her friend, but as soon as she closes the door, as she’s not amongst her friends and must not put the „It” girl face on, she changes into mum and dad’s beautiful princess, and is the child again. She was told from the beginning that she is beautiful, and it was hammered in that beauty is all. And it was all that she could – to be beautiful, to be admired, without being in the centre of attention there was no Emma. But you can’t help and feel so sorry for her after the rape – when you see that she is a shadow of herself, when you see that everybody abandons her and when her own parents are ashamed to have a daughter like this – this change is heart – breaking and it takes your breath away.
You know what’s worst? That I can’t help thinking from time to time that maybe Emma has deserved this what happened. I mean, not the „this word” situation, it is awful, cruel, inhuman and no woman in the world should experience this, but I mean this alienation, suddenly seeing how it is to feel to be left out, put aside, and see that the world that till now was revolving around you, when nothing could happen without you, well, this world is going on and people are enjoying their lives without you. Why did I think like this? I guess because of Emma being this Queen Bee of the year, of the whole school, of all the balls, parties, events, and her attitude, her being concentrated only on her beauty (though with such mother it’s no wonder! Again, I can only say WOW when it comes to the mother, but it’s not the positive wow). And I have caught myself thinking occasionally, you see Emma how it is now, right? First everybody was fighting for your attention and acceptation, and now you’re totally alone. Of course I don’t mean that it should happen like this! But it happened, and it pained me, this whole situation.

The book is divided in two parts, before and after. The first part was a typical YA book, with a lot of characters introduced to us, and I really didn’t know who is who for a long time, as we were bombarded with so many names, and I couldn’t decide who is important and who is not. The author brings on us the world of teenage parties, drugs and drinking. After reading the blurb you know that something is going to happen, and to be honest, I have felt the tension hanging in the air, but never have I expected such an ugly, cruel thing to happen. I couldn’t believe it, just couldn’t, and I really have no words to describe how much it has shocked me. Because no matter how unlikeable Emma was, NOBODY should be put in such situation. Never, ever. You can’t justify such animal behaviour with the fact that the girl was drunk/drugged/has flirted/wore a dress.
The second half of the book describes Emma and her family’s life a year after the event happening, and I truly can’t say what shocked me more: the day it happened, or the time after it. The author describes how their lives changed, and how people treated the real victim and the aggressors, how they were giving judgements without hesitation, how they alienated the whole family. Well, this provocative, arrogant girl has Asked for It, hasn’t she?

What hits me so, so strong is that in fact the book describes our current situation in its whole brutal honesty. And it scares me. It scares me how cruel people are, how short – sighted, how opinionated, patronizing and claiming to be always right and to have opinions on everything, judging without knowing the facts. Emma, and so many other people, have so often repeated that she is the girl who has ruined the boys’ lives – and I am asking, why nobody said that the boys have ruined Emma’s life? Because in my opinion they destroyed her, and her family, together with all those people who so often see only one side to the story.

This story is incredibly realistic, and it frightens me as a parent. I know I can’t protect my daughter from the world and I can only hope something like this will NEVER happen to her. Sometimes I am thinking, what would be worse, being a bully, or being a victim? This book really shows how it is, there is no happy end, it lets the story open, just like it is in a real life. It is one thing to be right and other to be given the right. As soon as my daughter is big enough, I’m going to give her this book.

There is no happy end, no end at all, because there is no end in fact. Emma will have to live as the one who has ruined the lives. Because she was Asking. For. It.

This book has made me think, I, in fact, have finished it some time ago and still can’t stop thinking about it. The author tackles here one of the biggest taboo topics in our reality, the rape, and she couldn’t handle it in a better way. It should be read by everybody, no matter what gender they are, and perhaps it will make more people think. What is worse, it’s that the book is fiction, but it also isn’t – and it can happen to any of us, like this or in a different form. And then there is nobody who would help us. We will be left alone to deal with it.

I am going to read Ms O’Neill’s debut novel, „Only Ever Yours”, as soon as possible now, as I haven’t had the pleasure yet, even though the book is on my TBR pile – will be moved on the very top of it. Louise O’Neill is an author with amazing, strong voice and I truly can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s a must – read for all of us, a book that is going to leave incredible impact on all the readers.

 
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Napisane w kategorii 2015 Releases, Rating 5/5

 

Blog Tour: The Milliner’s Secret by Natalie Meg Evans / Book Review

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The Milliner’s Secret by Natalie Meg Evans

 

Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 30th July 2015

Source:  Received from publisher, thank you!

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 Synopsis:

London,1937. A talented young woman travels to Paris with a stranger. The promise of an exciting career as a milliner beckons, but she is about to fall in love with the enemy…

Londoner Cora Masson has reinvented herself as Coralie de Lirac, fabricating an aristocratic background to launch herself as a fashionable milliner. When the Nazis invade, the influence of a high-ranking lover, Dietrich, saves her business. But while Coralie retains her position as designer to a style-hungry elite, Paris is approaching its darkest hour.

Faced with the cruel reality of war and love, Coralie must make a difficult choice—protect herself or find the courage to fight for her friends, her freedom and everything she believes in.

 

Rating: 5/5

 
„The Milliner’s Secret” is a great introduction of Natalie Meg Evans to me. Even though I have her debut novel „The Dress Thief” on my TBR pile, I still didn’t come to reading it, which is a real shame and I am going to make it up as soon as possible. I love reading a good historical fiction and this author for sure brilliantly slots into this category.

This is for sure not a quick, easy read, and I don’t only mean the number of pages. There are many subplots woven together and connected to each other, but soon you are going to find your own pace and love this book. It’s full of twists, turns and surprises, many characters that just shine through the pages, and the storytelling is incredibly engaging. And we can’t forget this beautiful, gorgeous cover that so brilliantly brings out the atmosphere of those times and the subject matter of the story itself.

On one hand, I was not so sure what to think about Coralie, especially as the story developed and she became involved in a relationship with a German officer – you know, it was war, the Germans were occupants and often talking with a German was seen as a collaboration, and what about having a relationship? Coralie has led a relatively comfortable life and even though she had her problems, very serious problems, mostly she had her and her friends bellies full, she didn’t have to worry about a place to live, about her clothes or her job, all thanks to the relationship with Dietrich. And now compare her life to the thousands of others who didn’t have this what she had, who have struggled, starved and didn’t have a place to live. A little unfair, right? On the other hand, I think we should also admire Coralie, her loyalty and, in fact, stubbornness, and that she wasn’t afraid of taking such risks. And she of course took a lot of risks, not only when we consider her love life, but also her private life. Next to being the mistress of a German officer, she also proved that she is a woman with a backbone, that she can think and make up her mind for herself, and that she’s willing to risk her own life to help others.
So yes, Coralie is a very complex character, a character that is changing throughout the story, the same as your opinion about her is changing. There was a lot of drama in her life, she was forced to do things so dangerous that we can’t imagine it, and in the end she was still able to built a life for herself and find her peace. She starts as a shallow, not too likeable drama queen and ends as a mature woman who has survived not only a war, but much, much more. She loved with all her heart, and she hated with all her heart, and this profound dedication often put her into danger. She often first said and did and only then thought, which in those times was truly dangerous thing to do.

Of course there were many other characters in the book, and all of them played a very crucial part to the story, and I quickly grown to like or dislike all of them, but not a single one of them left me indifferent. And the author has made them very mobile characters and I found myself changing my opinion about them, wondering whom I can trust, who is the friend and who is the enemy.

I will admit it, I had problems with this book at the beginning. I struggled a little with it, because as much as I was sure that all that’s happening will be significant to the rest of story, or there wouldn’t be this story at all without this beginning, I just couldn’t get into this book and I had a feeling that it terribly drags on. I have already started to panic, really panic, when I though, boy, either the plot will start to unveil and the book gain a pace, or I’m going to put it down. Which would be a real shame, believe me – yes, I’m smart now, after finishing this long, but nevertheless hooking and wonderful story. I’d maybe love to see more complex end to this book. I mean, this story was long, it was a big book, and in comparison to the number of pages and the way the story rolled around, the end seems a little too rushed. Yes, everything was explained and neatly wrapped up, but I think it just deserved a little more.

It is for sure a novel that you’re going to long remember. It is really full of all that you could look for in a book: drama, secrets, intrigue, danger, spies, but also love, hope and clothes. It is not only a great historical fiction, but also a brilliant, entertaining story with moments that are going to take your breath away.

The author has incredibly well described Paris in the war – times, and effortlessly transported us into the atmosphere of the dimly – lit and full of smoke restaurants, the vintage fashion, the streets and moods of occupied city. She showed us few faces of the war and she wonderfully intertwined the real facts and situations with fiction in this story. Next to hat – making and wonderful descriptions of clothes, the author also wrote about Resistance in Paris, about the deportations of Jews or the plot to murder Hitler – we all know about those things and yet Natalie Meg Evans has this talent to skilfully weave in those fact to her story and describe them in a new way.

Also, the descriptions of the war – torn cities and their residents are not going to stop to amaze me. Maybe it is because I learnt my history in Poland, the country that was so destroyed by the war, and reading about it in the books, seeing all the black and white photographs, I pictured the lives of the people in totally different way. Not like Coralie’s, or others that had time to go to the cafe from time to time, to enjoy their time, to work.

This book was not only about Coralie, but it was also a great testimony of WW II, and there were truly heart – wrenching and very touching moments that brought tears to my eyes. This is amazing how well the author balanced the story, how she knew when it’s time for a more relaxing and even funny scenes, to come back with some historical facts that quickly changed the mood and brought again to our attention what this book is truly about. But this story is not a sad one, I wouldn’t say this, Ms Evans has just with subtleness and a lot of skill placed her story around the war.

The story was really complex and the situations changed very quickly, the same as characters – it often happened that I truly didn’t know who is a spy, whom I can trust and whom I shouldn’t trust. After the initial confusion and slow start, the pace was flowing and I can’t stop thinking about this incredible atmosphere that the author created, as you really didn’t know if the next knock on the door might be your last one. I truly enjoyed the writing style and the way the story was told and altogether, this novel has ticked all the boxes for me – I highly recommend it!

 

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