The Things We Thought We Knew #Blogtour

IMG_4966Ravine and Marianne were best friends. They practised handstands together, raced slugs, and looked up at the stars and imagined their own constellations. And then, one day, Marianne disappeared.

Ten years later, Ravine lies in a bed in her mother’s council flat, plagued by chronic pain syndrome, writing down the things we remember. As her words fill page after page, she begins to understand that the only way to conquer her pain is to confront the horrors of her past.

Heartbreaking, seductive and utterly unforgettable, The Things We Thought We Knew is a rich and powerful novel about the things we remember and the things we wish we could forget.

Mahuda Snaith’s debut novel just GOT me. I read it from cover to cover on a hot sunny Sunday in June and promptly zoomed it into my top reads of 2017. Sometimes you just connect with a book as the character and the writing just intersect with your way of looking at the world and this captivating debut novel really stole my heart this summer.

 

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I Loved this book…

I was initially tempted by the gorgeous colours of the front cover and the fact that it was marketed as a British ‘Coming of age’  read made me desperate to read it. Last weekend saw me reclining on the decking in the garden totally immersed in Ravine’s story and engrossed in her world.

 

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Ravine has spent her last 10 years of her life in bed suffering chronic pain syndrome, since the day her friend Marianne disappeared… Her council flat in Leicester is described in so much detail by Mahsuda Snaith that we can literally smell the stale air and despair that lingers in Ravine’s ‘My Little Pony’ bedroom as she suffers daily both emotionally and physically. The writing is superb, capturing tiny details that make you sympathise with both Ravine and her eternally hopeful mother, Amma and will things to change for them and alleviate the stagnation and resignation they find themselves locked in.

The Things We Thought We Knew‘s use of the ‘pain diary’ is a clever device to allow us access into Ravine’s past and find out fragments of information about Marianne’s disappearance and this is a tantalising way to ensure that we keep on reading to find out exactly what Ravine is hiding and what she’s not prepared to remember even for herself. It’s so hard to believe that the original novel began when Mahuda Snaith was only sixteen – but it goes a long way to explaining how accurately she conveys the teenage intensity of Ravine’s feelings and her portrait of a unique friendship is wonderfully done.

The books it most reminded me of was Joanna Cannon’s fabulous  The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Isabel Ashdown’s Summer of ’76 and if you’ve enjoyed either of these two fantastic, evocative  British reads you’ll absolutely love this debut novel.

Amma was my favourite character and I loved the way she determinedly supported Ravine despite all of the elements of her illness that she just couldn’t understand.  I also loved the way that Mahuda Snaith keeps lots of the elements of Marianne’s disappearance hidden from us to draw us into the story and keep turning the pages, immersed within Ravine’s claustrophobic world.

This is a powerful, affecting and evocative read that I wholeheartedly recommend. I hate spoilers so all I can say is you just HAVE to read it for yourself. Thanks so much to @ThomasHill at @TransworldBooks for the advance (gorgeous) copy. My sister has now nicked it and I can’t see me wrestling it off her any time soon…

I can’t believe it’s her debut novel and can’t wait to read more of her finely drawn portraits of British working class life. She’s a talented writer and definitely one to watch.

IMG_4964.JPGThe Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith is published by Doubleday and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Buy it here

 

Writer On The Shelf

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Mahsuda Snaith was born in Luton and brought up on a Leicester council estate.  She is a writer of novels, short stories and plays, and is the winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2014, Bristol Short Story Prize 2014 as well as a finalist for the Mslexia Novel Competition 2013.  Mahsuda leads creative writing workshops at De Montfort University, has performed her work at literary festivals and has been anthologised by The Asian Writer, Words with Jam and Closure: Contemporary Black British Stories.

 

 

 

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Being Simon Haines: Blog tour

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Meet Simon Haines.

For a decade he’s been chasing his dream: partnership at the legendary, family-run law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett. The gruelling hours and manic intensity of his job have come close to breaking him, but he has made it through the years and is now within a whisker of his millions: in less than two weeks, he will know the outcome of the partnership vote. He decides to spend the wait in Cuba in an attempt to rediscover his youthful enthusiasm and curiosity, and to clear his mind before the arrival of the news that might change his life forever. But alone in Havana, he becomes lost in nostalgia and begins to relive his past…

Set against the backdrop of an uncertain world, and charged with emotion, Being Simon Haines is a searching story about contemporary London and aspiration, values and love. Painting a picture of a generation of young professionals, it asks the most universal of questions: are we strong enough to know who we are?

Simon Haines is a driven man. He’s so driven in fact, that he’s lost all sense of who he really is and what he really wants out of life.  As soon as this gorgeous book arrived with its strokable minimalist jacket I wanted to open it up and find out who Simon Haines was and why he’d lost all sense of himself along the way as he climbed the corporate ladder.  I loved this relatable premise and I found this book totally engrossing once I’d started: I really wanted to get to the heart of the ‘real’ Simon and discover what had brought him to this point.

I also enjoyed the way that McAulay’s novel flips back and forward in time – from Simon’s journey of self-discovery in Cuba back to his formative years where we begin to see that Simon hasn’t always been a slave to the rat-race of competitive partnership battles; he was once a pretty normal guy with time for relationships, friends and dare I say it – fun?

The flashbacks into his past where we explore his relationships with girlfriend Sophie and best mate Dan from University begin to flesh Simon out for us as a character – transforming him into a much more nuanced and human character than the grey ‘suit’ that we meet at the beginning. We see that he once had time for people, hobbies and a zest for life that he’s lost touch with in his determination to make it in the legal world.

The fact that writer MacAuley is a solicitor himself means that the work stresses that Simon is feeling have an incredibly realistic feel and the way they build up and threaten to overwhelm Simon Haines mean that you really develop your sense of compassion for him as the novel progresses. I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of his ‘escape’ to Cuba as well and felt that the balance between the present time and Simon’s past at the University of Nottingham was just right –  allowing the reader to keep being pulled forward to the next development in Simon’s character until we begin – as he does –  to get a truer sense of who he really is.

 

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Simon’s law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett is incredibly well drawn with realistic characters and lots of legal jargon thrown in so that we really appreciate how immersive and overwhelming it can be for a young man who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of professional success. I loved Giles and his catastrophic disregard for protocol and felt he was a great foil for the serious moments of self-reflection and navel gazing that Simon developed in his ‘escape from it all’ in gorgeous Cuba.

Being Simon Haines is a refreshing read as it dares to be more than just another thriller and takes a genuine look at what we sometimes sacrifice in the pursuit of happiness in a way that never feels ‘worthy’ or sermonising. It allows us a glance into a dog-eat-dog world where success is deemed much more valuable than personal fulfilment and dares us to ask ourselves what we might have jettisoned along the way in our own lives.

I always enjoy a book much more if I’m not hyping myself up before I read it and Simon Haines was exactly that. It was definitely a grower and I found myself thinking about Simon’s life choices and their repercussions whilst driving to work and marking my essays at school. I will definitely seek out more books by Tom Vaughan McAulay and am curious about which direction he’ll go in his next novel. At times I really forgot that this was fiction – in the best possible way – and it’s a real testament to McAulay’s writing that we really believe in Simon’s plight and can empathise with his feelings of having lost himself somewhere along the way in his relentless pursuit of success before self.

 

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I’d like to thank the lovely Anna @RedDoorBooks for sending me a copy of Being Simon Haines and allowing me to step outside my book comfort zone and enjoy a fascinating exploration of modern manhood and think deep about what drives us and makes us happy in the modern world.

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Tom Vaughan MacAulay was born in Chester in 1980. Tom is a solicitor and has worked both in London and Milan during his career. He currently lives in North London and is in the process of completing his second novel.

Follow him on Twitter here

See if you fancy any of the other new releases at Red Door Publishing: or follow them on Twitter to keep up to date with their fantastic releases this Summer

Red Door Books

 

 

Exquisite Blogtour: Dark & Divine

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Exquisite – Sarah Stovell. Blog Tour Review.

Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of best-selling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it?

When Anne Cater messaged me to ask me about the Exquisite Blog Tour, I was literally up early every morning waiting for the postman until it arrived. Having seen the cover reveal during the winter and taken part in a Twitter moment where we were guessing the genre and plotline from the cover itself, my anticipation had really reached fever pitch.

Let me tell you that Exquisite did not disappoint.

The cover reveal hinted at a dark and mysterious tale where everything is not quite as it seems and I’d have to say that #TeamOrenda have done it again in choosing Sarah Stovell as one of their 2017 debut writers. Karen, you really have the magic touch!

The thriller’s enduring popularity at the moment during the ‘Grip Lit’ wave really means that writers have to think outside the box if they want their readers to be genuinely shocked at the end of their read and I am happy to report that Sarah Stovell manages this with skill and originality. I am also determined to ensure that there are no spoilers as this ending really is worth the wait.

I absolutely love an unreliable narrator and in Exquisite, you’re not just getting one voice that hints at there being more to their unfolding narrative than meets the eye, but two wonderfully contrasting voices that play with your mind and weave in and out of your sense of direction until you really are left wondering who on earth to trust.

Bo is mired in domestic drudgery and willing to be distracted by a younger rawer talent whose voice captivates her.

Alice’s single-minded determination to ‘set the darkness echoing’ by writing it out of herself is unleashed with unstoppable force after colliding with Bo’s world at a writing retreat where something hard to extinguish is kindled…

I loved the contrasting voices of Bo and Alice at the beginning of the novel and appreciated the skill with which Sarah Stovell manages to create both credible dialogue and lyrical descriptions of the natural environment in a finely tuned balance that really made her prose sing. Added to this, her slow-burning sense of rising sexual tension really made this a page turner as you race to see if your ‘narrative compass’ is as reliable as you thought it was.

I read this in a single day, being utterly loath to drag myself away from the claustrophobic and intriguing world that Sarah draws you into. I love books that are even better than the one you’ve been anticipating and I have to say that this novel was ‘Exquisite-ly‘ so. This book is the narrative equivalent of a ‘Magic Eye’ painting – you know that there’s more going on below the surface and try as you might to decipher exactly why it is, things keep shifting before your very eyes and the final picture eludes you right to the very end. And perhaps even afterwards…

Anyone who has ever been separated either by time or circumstances from the object of their affections will find much to relate to in the epistolary exchanges between Bo and Alice and I was very impressed by how credible their evolving friendship altered before our very eyes into something altogether more compulsive and glitteringly dangerous. Bo’s maturity, fame and experience seem to give her the upper hand in the relationship at the beginning of Exquisite and the way that this situation unravels is another exquisite aspect of Stovell’s writing.

I think it’s difficult to make a thriller genuinely sexy without seeming to try too hard or feel contrived – but Exquisite manages the perfect balance of a perfectly created fictional world and a realistic portrayal of an unsettling relationship.

 

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I loved this novel and I’ll be recommending it to everyone who likes their novels unpredictable, sexy and with a hidden sting in the tail. Sarah Stovell is definitely a talent to watch and yet more confirmation that Karen Sullivan’s eye for a fabulous read is firing on all cylinders. I look forward to Stovell’s next novel with just as much excitement as I awaited the postman arriving with Exquisite.

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart.

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She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. 

Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

Follow Sarah on Twitter here: @Sarahlovescrime

Treat yourself to a copy and find out how fabulous it is for yourself:

Treat yourself to Exquisite

It was an absolute honour to take part in the Blogtour and hopefully create a huge bizz around this fantastic read with all my amazing fellow bloggers. Liz and Anne’s blogs from yesterday really got me in the mood and are definitely worth a read

Anne Cater: Exquisite Blogtour

Liz Loves Books Exquisite blogtour

I am delighted to be sharing today’s spot with the lovely @frizbot and here’s a link to her review too to whet your appetite still further

Writes of Woman on ‘Exquisite’

 

Thanks again to #TeamOrenda for letting me take part and looking forward to seeing more fab books from Karen’s magical bookshelf in the very near future.

Exquisite looks fab in my #OnTheShelfie alongside my other Orenda title this month, the excellent #Block46 which, if you haven’t already read, I also heartily recommend.

Have a great weekend & happy reading everyone

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