MY VERDICT? Charming, funny and unashamedly escapist fiction. This really made me laugh! There were so many great lines and hilarious, relatable episodes in this book. Fran Cooper is an engaging, if slightly infuriating, heroine. For an intelligent and capable woman, she has a mile wide blindspot as far as her awful, controlling boyfriend, Stew, is concerned, and I’m sure some readers will take issue with that. But even though she came across as a bit of a naive doormat, I read her as a woman stuck in a rut she doesn’t know how to climb out of…until true romance arrives. I really enjoyed this and highly recommend it to anyone who would like to escape to the glam and glitzy Crystal Ball for a few hours. Thanks to the author and Random Things for the chance to take part in the blog tour.
THE BLURB: Within days of wishing she could change her life, Fran Cooper is acting assistant to a celebrity, on a yacht in the Mediterranean, and en route to a tiny Italian island and the glittering Crystal Ball, along with the world’s rich and famous.
When she – quite literally – bumps into a handsome American called Evan, a man able to keep his cool in the face of chaos, the magic really begins. Evan makes her a promise: no last names, no life stories, just one unforgettable night. Yet Evan belongs at the Crystal Ball and Fran is a gatecrasher. They may be soulmates, but their homes are an ocean apart, and their lives a world apart. They’ll never meet again – unless, on a night like this, everything can change forever…
MY VERDICT? A heart-warming and hugely engaging character driven story that doesn’t shy away from exploring some deeper issues. Veronica McCreedy is an instantly compelling character and the supporting cast – Patrick, Terry, Daisy to name a few – are equally brilliantly drawn. What made this book stand out for me was the underpinning environmental message – clear and heartfelt, but at no point heavy -handed. It’s a beautiful, clever book that works on so many levels. I highly recommend it. Thanks to the author and Random Things for the chance to take part in the blog tour.
THE BLURB: Meet the heroine everyone’s talking about . . .
Fiercely resilient and impeccably dressed, Veronica McCreedy has lived an incredible 87 years. Most of them alone, in her huge house by the sea. But Veronica has recently discovered a late-life love for family and friendship, adventure and wildlife. More specifically, a love for penguins! And so when she’s invited to co-present a wildlife documentary, far away in the southern hemisphere, she jumps at the chance. Even though it will put her in the spotlight, just when she thought she would soon fade into the wings. Perhaps it’s never too late to shine?
MY VERDICT? I wasn’t disappointed by this creepy atmospheric story and the twists and turns of the plot kept me racing through the pages. I hadn’ t realised it was part of a series, but it made sense as a standalone and now I’m going to read the rest. I love discovering a new favourite author.
THE BLURB: It was meant to be a quiet family fishing trip, a chance for mother and daughter to talk. But it changes the course of their lives forever.
They catch nothing except a broken doll that gets tangled in the net. After years in the ocean, the doll a terrifying sight and the mother’s first instinct is to throw it back, but she relents when her daughter pleads to keep it. This simple act of kindness proves fatal. That evening, the mother posts a picture of the doll on social media. By the morning, she is dead and the doll has disappeared.
Several years later and Detective Huldar is in his least favourite place – on a boat in rough waters, searching for possible human remains. However, identifying the skeleton they find on the seabed proves harder than initially thought, and Huldar must draw on psychologist Freyja’s experience to help him. As the mystery of the unidentified body deepens, Huldar is also drawn into an investigation of a homeless drug addict’s murder, and Freyja investigates a suspected case of child abuse at a foster care home.
What swiftly becomes clear is that the cases are linked through a single, missing, vulnerable witness: the young girl who wanted the doll all those years ago.
MY VERDICT? This prizewinning novel is not for the faint-hearted. The eponymous Shuggie suffers appalling neglect and abuse and the author is unflinching in his portrayal of poverty. A stunning telling of a painful story.
THE BLURB: It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain has always expected more from life. She dreams of greater things: a house with its own front door and a life bought and paid for outright (like her perfect, but false, teeth). But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and soon she and her three children find themselves trapped in a decimated mining town. As she descends deeper into drink, the children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest. Shuggie is different. Fastidious and fussy, he shares his mother’s sense of snobbish propriety. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as no’ right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.
Buy from Bert’s Books: https://bertsbooks.co.uk/product/shuggie-bain-booker-longlist-2020-6th-august-2020/
MY VERDICT? Be prepared for a lot of graphic childbirth descriptions! Beautifully written Irish fiction set in the 1918 pandemic. A story about love and loss between women that seems eerily relevant today.
THE BLURB: Dublin, 1918. In a country doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders: Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney. In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over the course of three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.
Buy from Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-pull-of-the-stars/emma-donoghue//
MY VERDICT? Page-turning horror-lite that took me down a well-trodden path then switched it with a twist I hadn’t seen coming.
THE BLURB: Recently heartbroken and practically homeless, Jules accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind. Out of place among the extremely wealthy, Jules finds herself pulled toward other apartment sitter Ingrid. But Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her. Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story – but the next day, her new friend has vanished. And then Jules discovers that Ingrid is not the first temporary resident to go missing…
Buy from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lock-Every-Door-Riley-Sager/dp/1529104416
MY VERDICT? Spell-binding historical fiction told with the pace and verve of a contemporary thriller.
BLURB:London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst, that Clara has died in care, Bess is astonished to be told she has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why. Less than a mile from Bess’s lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade.
MY VERDICT? Beautifully-written and inventive historical fiction. I couldn’t put this down.
THE BLURB: On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a sudden fever.
Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs.Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that Hamnet will not survive the week. Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright: a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.
MY VERDICT? Gripping female-centric historical fiction. Vivid characters and a perceptive look at life as an outsider. I loved this!
THE BLURB: Alice Wright doesn’t love her new American husband. Nor her domineering father-in-law or the judgmental townsfolk of Baileyville, Kentucky. Stifled and misunderstood, she yearns for escape and finds it in defiant Margery O’Hare and the sisterhood bringing books to the isolated and vulnerable. But when her father-in-law and the town turn against them, Alice fears the freedom, friendship and the new love she’s found will be lost . . .