BLOG TOUR: Dangerous Women

“We’ve turned ourselves into something. We’re many small pieces, each of us different but now stitched together. A patchwork of souls.”

Today I am honoured to be joining the other brilliant Book Bloggers and Bookstagrammers on the blog tour for Dangerous Women by Hope Adams.

Dangerous Women is set in London, 1841. The Rajah sails for Australia. On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world. Daughters, sisters, mothers – they will never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other.

Until the murder…

As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect. The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart. But if the killer is not found, could it cost them all their last chance of freedom?

Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.

What Did I Think?

They say that books are one of the best forms of escapism, and when they say that they mean books like Dangerous Women. The setting of this book is done so superbly, you feel like you know exactly what image the author is describing. The setting makes you feel like you are there, watching and listening to all the women surrounding you.

The book fluctuates between narrators and this excellently adds to the story and the narrative of women’s experiences in the 1800s. The different narratives also allowed me to understand different women’s perspectives and outlooks of the time, as well as helping me to draw an emotional connection with each character.

So, I was then shocked to hear that the book was inspired by a true historic event. The Rajah voyage actually did transport 180 convicts to Tasmania (as it is now known) in which 18 women crafted a patchwork quilt, which is held at the National Gallery of Australia. Therefore, the book for me, beautifully mixed fiction and history, with female empowerment and survival right at its very heart.

Being a HUGE history nerd myself, it is no doubt that my favourite part about this book was the sheer historical context/research that went into its making. I can’t begin to imagine how much research the author must have undertaken to achieve the very feeling that you’ve stepped back in time, but for me, that was the most enjoyable experience.

Dangerous Women gives a voice to the women who were on-board this voyage in such a clever and raw way, that you read this book like you have been allowed to step onto that very same voyage with them. With the murder mystery/thriller aspect of the novel also making you catch a glimpse of just how frightening it must have been for these women, I think Hope Adams has done a fantastic job of creating a novel that celebrates women, sisterhood, and friendship.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Gaby Young and Michael Joseph for my gifted ARC andfor inviting me to be part of the blog tour!.

Dangerous Women

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Publisher: Michael Joseph
Published: 2021
No. of Pages: 400
Genre: Historical Fiction
Trigger Warnings: violence against women, self-harm, rape, incest, miscarriage, sexual assault, infant death, murder
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: How Beautiful We Were

“She says nothing, in the way mothers say everything while saying nothing.”

Happy Publication Day to this stunning book by Imbolo Mbue! 

I was lucky enough to be approved to receive an ARC of this book by Canongate on Netgalley and it has to be one of the most moving books I’ve read in a long time. 

It covers some really interesting topics, the most poignant being the destruction and ruin of a small African village as a result of a large American oil company to set up business there. In doing so, the company’s oil pipelines and drilling sites have ruined crops and poisoned the village’s water supply. 

It’s a devastating tale of destruction and loss but one that incorporates selfishness and greed. The village is full of residents who are fuelled by emotion and anger, not just at Pexton (the American oil company) but at each other and as a result, no one knows the best action to take as the majority of villagers are driven by their own motives. 

The book incorporates a range of different narratives and through these characters, we gain insight into different perspectives and how that shapes their lives and opinions. What was deeply moving for me was watching the children of the ‘Pexton generation’ grow up and retell their experiences of when Pexton first arrived on their soil. 

It is an incredible story and journey to take yourself on and one I thoroughly enjoyed, however not an easy read and one that made me reflect on how awful it must be to have your life overturned by big corporations with big bank balances. 

How Beautiful We Were

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Canongate
Published: 2021
No. of Pages: 384 
Genre: Historical Fiction, Cultural Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Racism, destruction, ruin
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells 

ARC REVIEW: Nick

Happy Publication Day to NICK by Michael Farris Smith!

2021 marks the 125th anniversary of F.Scott Fitzgerald and to celebrate his lifetime and work, Michael Farris Smith has given voice to one of the most famous unreliable narrators of all time…Nick Carraway.

Giving him his own story, NICK tells the tale of the man before Gatsby, breathing life into a character that is famous for being on the side lines.

Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world,  he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking  place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of  World War I. Floundering in the wake of the destruction he  witnessed first-hand, Nick embarks on a redemptive journey  that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance – doomed  from the very beginning – to the dizzying frenzy of New  Orleans, rife with its own flavour of debauchery and violence.

As you all know, I’m a huge lover of classics and The Great Gatsby has to be one of my favourite books because in just over 200 pages, the most incredible story takes place. In NICK, the story is just as exciting and was the perfect escapism I needed. Very different from The Great Gatsby, NICK is a far more focused on the violence and lawlessness of pre-prohibition America, and provides a stunning depiction of life post-WW1. With compelling characters and a sense of uneasiness, this book beautifully and cyclically provides a real understanding of the loss and guilt caused by war.

By the end, I was ready to read The Great Gatsby for the one millionth time! Thank you to No Exit Press for approving my advanced copy on NetGalley.

Get your copy now from Amazon and Waterstones!

ARC REVIEW (& EXTRACT): Daughters of Night

What Did I Think?

I would have never considered myself a lover of historical crime fiction but here I am, having read two of Laura Shepherd Robinson’s books now and I think it’s slowly becoming one of my favourite genres.

And that is well and truly a result of LSR’s descriptive narratives and how she slowly builds tension, drama and suspense throughout her books.

‘Daughters of Night’ isn’t really a sequel as such to her first book ‘Blood and Sugar’ but it does include similar characters, the main one being Caroline Corsham.

After witnessing the brutal murder of a local/well-known sex worker whilst in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, she sets herself on a mission to hunt down the murderer and get justice. Yet along the way, she finds herself getting mixed up in all sorts of deception and deciet and finds herself in very treacherous water…

This books is THICC but one that I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Each chapter gives just enough for you to keep you wanting more. I think my guess on ‘who done it’ changed about 15 times haha.

I am really enjoying this genre and I think if you already love historical fiction, I think you should try historical crime fiction. I definitely don’t think you’ll be disappointed with ‘Daughters of Night’ anyway!

Extract

Chapter One

In the wrong hands a secret is a weapon.

Caroline Corsham was alive to the danger, to the vulnerability of her position – she had thought of little else since last night’s disaster. Yet now that the truth was known – her secret guessed, the blade honed sharp – what choice did she have left, except to believe? A last roll of the dice. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. These banalities spurred her on. God grant me courage.

Taking a ginger comfit from her enamelled pillbox, Caro slipped it into her mouth, her nausea rising. Muslin, lace and brocade hemmed her in on every side; jewelled buttons flashing on embroidered waistcoats; pastel shades of periwig and kid glove; silver buckles glinting in the light of a thousand beeswax candles that filled the domed roof of the Rotunda with their honeyed scent. It was the opening night of Jacobus Agnetti’s exhibition of classical scenes, and half of London society had turned out for the wretched man. Distractedly, she greeted people she knew: allies of her husband in the House of Commons; clients of the Craven Bank; rival beauties, solicitous matrons, admiring gentlemen. Their laughter was shrill, pink faces merged in a smear of complacency. They smile to bare their teeth, before they rip you apart.

BLOG TOUR: The Burning Girls

I’m lucky enough to be joining the blog tour today to celebrate the release of the highly anticipated book, The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor. C.J Tudor is best known for her dark, thrilling novels such as ‘The Chalk Man’ which hit the shelves back in 2018.

Her new release, The Burning Girls is just as dark and just as thrilling as expected, but also cleverly plays upon years of Sussex history and tradition…

Five hundred years ago in a place named Chapel Croft, eight protestant martyrs were burned at the stake. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And two months ago, the vicar of the local parish killed himself.

Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fourteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping to make a fresh start and find some peace. Instead, Jack finds a town mired in secrecy and a strange welcome package: an old exorcism kit.

The more she and her daughter Flo get acquainted with the town and its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into their rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo is troubled by strange sightings in the old chapel, it becomes apparent that there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.

But uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village where everyone has something to protect, everyone has links with the village’s bloody past, and no one trusts an outsider.

What Did I Think?

As you know by now, there is nothing that excites me more than a devilish thriller that I can sink my teeth into and The Burning Girls was just that. I had to forcefully tear myself away from the pages and I can easily see how some may devour this book in one sitting.

I absolutely adored C.J Tudor’s writing. She let us grow close to the protagonists but made sure we didn’t trust any of them. The character development is so effortless, I didn’t realise it was happening until the very end.

The pace of the book was also phenomenal. The short, quick chapters were just enough to entice you in, and then brutally leave you hanging. I love to work out the plot/culprit whilst I’m reading, and I loved that every chapter gives you a hint of a clue but still leaves you itching to know more…

Although the book is quite dark and gruesome in some parts, the writing is impeccable and personally, I think it is everything you want from a thriller. Quick chapters. Short sentences. Unnerving scenes. Unpredictable characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m so glad that it was my first book thriller of 2021. I loved it that much that I actually texted my best friend, telling her to grab a copy so we could discuss. Definitely one to add to your TBR if you love an edge-of-your-seat thriller dipped in history.

At Home With The Four Indies Book Event

I also had the pleasure in attending the At Home With The Four Indies book event in which C.J Tudor herself, along with Will Dean, discussed their new releases.

C.J. Tudor spoke about her inspiration from the book stemming from her recent move to Sussex, where she stumbled across the traditions of a local town, Lewes. It is the tradition in Lewes to hold bonfires in remembrance of the Protestants who were burnt there. Upon hearing about this tradition and landing herself in a part of the UK that just screamed American Gothic, she was inspired to write a folk horror/thriller that plays upon this bloody and macabre history.

I always find it fascinating to hear the author speak about how they came to write the book and listening to C.J Tudor discuss her inspiration for The Burning Girls just made it SO much more interesting when I came to read it.

If you do decide to read it, I hope you love it as much as I did. It definitely did NOT disappoint.

The Burning Girls

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Published: 2021
Genre: Thriller, Horror
# of Pages: 400
Trigger Warnings: Murder, death, suicide, abuse, child abuse, blood, homelessness, sexual abuse
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

As always, thank you to Gaby Young, Michael Joesph and C.J Tudor for letting me be part of the blog tour for this spectacular novel.

ARC REVIEW: The Twelve Dates of Christmas

“A man is like an optional extra: you should only take one on when it’s beneficial to do so. It’s like refraining for the fourth plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to have it.”

Why Did I Read This?

I was accepted to read an ARC of this book by NetGalley and I was thrilled because I had seen this book being posted about all over bookstagram so I knew I’d picked a good one. I requested this because as I’ve said in previous blog posts, Christmas-themed books are something I’ve never really read, and I wanted to try that out this year.

What Did I Think?

Well first things first, let me say if you’re wanting a great romantic, cheese-filled story…then The Twelve Dates of Christmas is one for you.

Love Actually. The Holiday. Who doesn’t love a good rom-com around Christmas time? The Twelve Dates of Christmas follows a young woman named Kate who has moved back to her hometown of Blexford, England from London. Following a recent break-up with a guy she had been with for over five years, Kate’s friend decides to sign her up to a dating agency that promises to help singles find love before the holidays. With twenty-three days until Christmas and twelve dates with twelve different men to go on, we follow Kate in her mission to find Mr. Right.

I told you it was cheesy! What I loved about this book was I warmed to Kate almost instantly and that allowed me to just sit back and relax into the story, enjoying and getting the chance to go on each date with her and imagine how cute and Christmassy it must have been. Without spoiling it for you, each date is…unique…in its own way and I loved watching every date unfold.

One thing that’s great when your single is the sheer amount of different dating experiences you get to ‘enjoy’ but now I’m in a committed, loving relationship, I could not imagine anything worse than having to go back out into the dating scene and deal with all the crap that comes with it. Fun as it may be, none of it compares to going on a date night with your partner.

I also loved Kate’s friendships and her amusing family. I loved how even though Kate had moved away from Blexford for quite some years, she was able to rekindle her old friendships and make them better than they ever were.

Although the storyline is completely obvious from reading about 30% of the book, I loved that it panned out the way it did, and it had such a cute and heart-warming end. Just what you need at Christmas time. A truly up-lifting read that has significantly improved my opinion of Christmas-related novels.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 320
Genre: Comedy, Christmas
Trigger Warnings: Divorce, cheating, sex, stress, loneliness, death
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: The Thief on the Winged Horse

“Happy is as happy does, my brother. If she dwelled on her misfortunes less, then less misfortune would befall her.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I was kindly gifted an ARC of this book by Victoria at Head of Zeus and I took a chance on this one because fantasy is not my usual genre. The book is out now, and I read the book last month in the lead up to its publication.

What Did I Think?

As I just mentioned, fantasy isn’t my usual sort of thing, but I decided to push the boat out and try something different as the blurb sounded too good to miss…

‘The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls since the early 1800s. But their dolls are not coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.

Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires.

But then, one night, the family’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her.’

I really loved the concept of the book that combined doll making and magic. Doll making, in my opinion, is an old-fashioned art that isn’t done hardly as beautifully as it was in previous centuries. What Kate Mascarenhas does beautifully is take us back to a time where this art was celebrated and magically combines this with sorcery.

I loved the family history aspect to the story, and you can really tell how much thought must have gone into creating this community of doll-makers. Our main character, Persephone, is one I absolutely adored. I loved how strong-willed she was, but I also liked how the author made her naïve to her strength and the people around her, to make her growth more substantial.

A recurring theme throughout the book is women’s equality and I thought it was very clever of the author to raise awareness of gender inequality through the means of doll-making/magic. Obviously, the fact that dolls are women, but made by only men, highlights several issues that we can relate to in industries that exist today. Many of the male characters are sexist (some realising it and others not) and refuse to believe that women have the power, patience, and talent to create dolls or control magic.

“Those men don’t want to look at beauty. They want to look at something made for them, to confirm their desire is the most important thing in the world; they want their dolls like they want their women, a painted smile, no internal life of her own and you can blame her for your passions.”

Instead, the female characters within the book are only allowed to hold working positions such as household duties and retail. Persephone is no stranger to these inequalities and is determined to make everyone recognise her talent. Yet with an alcoholic father, and a mother who left her to make something of herself, it’s not easy for Persephone.

There were many uneasy characters in this book, and I loved how Kate made us believe that it could be any of them who stole the valuable doll.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and liked it more than I ever thought I would. My only issue was it took me a while to get into the book at the start is very slow to set the scene and provide the relevant background information. So understandably, the action doesn’t kick in for a while. Yet when the story does get going, it’s definitely one you wish you’d read sooner. 

The Thief on The Winged Horse

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
# of Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: Alcoholism, robbery, family feuds, sexism
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: The Heart Club

My last (but certainly not least) stop on the #12DaysOfClinkStreet is my review of The Heart Club by Tom Treasure. Suffering from a heart condition myself, I was extremely interested in this one when Clink Street Publishing offered me a gifted copy in exchange for a review.

The book was certainly more informative and serious than what I normally read but I was fascinated about the progress medical research and technological advances has been made since the 1940s. A perfect read if you’re looking for something more serious.

Last (but certainly not least) is my review of The Heart Club by Tom Treasure

Here’s the blurb:

Surgery on the heart was explicitly ruled out by the medical teaching of the 1940s.

A team of London doctors and scientists led by Russell Brock were determined to challenge and reverse that dogma. Together, they would help to change the history of heart surgery and the chances of survival for future patients. Brock, who had cared for the injured in London throughout the war, was poised to operate on the heart. The outstanding American surgeon Dwight Harken had trained under Brock at the Brompton. They later spent time together at a US army hospital, set in a cluster of huts in the English countryside in anticipation of the 1944 D-day landings. Brock watched Harken remove bullets and shrapnel from soldiers’ hearts and heard him speak at a 1945 meeting of British surgeons. Harken told them about operations on 134 soldiers, all of whom had survived. Coincidentally, wartime comrades in the allied forces medical services had built a bond between Guy’s and Johns Hopkins Hospital, funded by the Clothworkers’ Livery Company. This brought the surgeon Alfred Blalock to Guy’s in 1947 to perform and teach a new operation for children with fatal congenital heart disease. These were familiar at the time as ‘blue babies’ and the operations began to save their lives. With this tangible evidence from Harken and Blalock, Brock’s group — they called themselves a ‘club’ — set out to advance heart surgery.

Their work was meticulously chronicled in a rediscovered volume of minutes which form The Heart Club by cardiothoracic surgeon Tom Treasure. Many of the doctors who were members of the club were his teachers and mentors. To complete the story, three survivors, whose lives were saved by early heart operations, tell their life stories from being blue babies of the 1940s to the present.

The Heart Club is a remarkable account of the magic of medicine and the tenacity of surgical pioneers.

The Heart Club

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Published: 2017
Genre: Non-fiction
# of Pages: 312
Links: Goodreads, Amazon

ARC REVIEW: Olga’s Egg

My next stop on the #12DaysOfClinkStreet comes with a review of Olga’s Egg by Sophie Law. I picked this book to review from Clink Street Publishing because it looks gorgeous and it was something out of my comfort zone.

Next up is my review of Olga’s Egg by Sophie Law

Here’s the blurb:

When Fabergé specialist Assia Wynfield learns of the discovery of a long-lost Fabergé egg made for the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, she appears to be the only person with misgivings. On travelling to St. Petersburg to see the egg, Assia moves among Russia’s new rich but finds herself pulled back into a family past she would rather forget. With news that a friend is missing, Assia starts to dig deeper. But does she really want the answers to the questions she is asking? Set in today’s glamorous world of Russian art with glimpses into the lives of the last Romanovs as their empire crumbled in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Olga’s Egg is an enthralling tale of love, family secrets and the artistic treasures that conceal them.

I really enjoyed this book and I thought the storytelling was magnificent. If you’re like me, you probably don’t have a clue of what a Fabergé egg is or how to say it properly. I loved how the book transported me into the depths of Russian culture and it was VERY obvious that the author had done her research.

A great read and now I want my own Fabergé egg too…

Olga’s Egg

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Published:
2018
Genre:
Thriller
# of Pages:
314
Links:
Goodreads, Amazon

ARC REVIEW: Breathless

“I’m right here. We’re right here. I can’t tell you what the point of this is except that I’m so fucking happy I met you, and I can’t tell you what’s going to happen… But I do know that right now, in this moment, on this island, I’m where I’m supposed to be, and that’s with you.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I was able to receive an ARC of this book through NetGalley and the reason I requested this book was because I had heard wonderful things about Jennifer Niven’s previous book, All The Bright Places. So I decided to give her new book Breathless a try to see what all the hype was about…

What Did I Think?

I read this book after reading quite a few dark, heavy and spooky reads and I hoped that this book would give me something light to read. I hadn’t realised that it was ‘young adult’ novel and I really loved the ‘coming of age’ element of this story. 

If you are unaware, Breathless follows Claudine Henry’s final summer before moving to college. But instead of spending this time with her friends, she and her mother head off to a remote island off the Georgia coast. There, amidst the wild beauty of the place, she meets the free-spirited Jeremiah Crew. Their chemistry is immediate and irresistible, and even though they both know that whatever they have can only last the summer, maybe one summer is enough…

What I really loved about this book is the story about how Claudine goes from hating the little remote island to loving it. It gave me flashback to when I used to go to a little Welsh island for the weekends with my grandparents and absolutely hate it until I grew older and it became a place of sanctuary and quietness. 

Claudine experiences the teenage dream of having a summer romance whilst staying on the island. This is where she meets the mysterious and island-hottie, Jeremiah Crew, who will make her experience on the island one she won’t forget. I also love the part that Jeremiah plays in the development of Claudine. We go from witnessing a very torn, emotionally distressed young girl to a girl comfortable in who she is and what she wants to be. 

Overall, I enjoyed it as it provided me with the getaway I needed (even if it was only fictional) but I feel like the ending was missing something…

Breathless

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher: Penguin
# of Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Trigger Warnings: Separation, divorce, loneliness, sex
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells