Shelf Life Blog Tour

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Ruth is thirty years old. She works as a nurse in a care home and her fiancé has just broken up with her. The only thing she has left of him is their shopping list for the upcoming week.

And so she uses that list to tell her story. Starting with six eggs, and working through spaghetti and strawberries, and apples and tea bags, Ruth discovers that her identity has been crafted from the people she serves; her patients, her friends, and, most of all, her partner of ten years. Without him, she needs to find out – with conditioner and single cream and a lot of sugar – who she is when she stands alone.

‘A Bridget Jones for cynical souls’ Natasha Bell, author of The Perfect Wife

I am absolutely head over heels in love with this book!  I have recommended it to precisely 14 people as ‘the perfect book for you’ , talked about it to everyone at my Book Group and will definitely be putting it in my next book column too. I was SO excited to be emailed and invited on the tour for this book as when your blog is called #OnTheShelfBooks, it seems like fate to be reviewing a book called #ShelfLife.

I’m so very privileged to be kicking off the blog tour and can’t wait to tell you all about how much I fell for Ruth and feel totally bereft now that I’ve finished reading it and her original and resonant voice isn’t part of my daily life any more…

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I don’t think you have had to experience a break up like Ruth to bond with this book, but by god – if you have there will be moments in this novel that you’ll read and read again saying ‘HOW DID SHE KNOWWW?’  and I think that there will definitely be whole friendship groups all over the UK who will be wondering whether Livia Franchini was sitting behind them in a cafe, eavesdropping on their conversations as so much of this book feels so utterly REAL that at times you forget that this is an actual novel and feel like Ruth is just there, nattering to you and telling you all these things as one of her friends…

I’d like to thank Anne Cater  for inviting me on the tour and recommend that you follow it and see what all the other fab bloggers had to say about this unforgettable book. It’s so good to back in the blogging world after my extended trip and this was such a great read to remind me of why I love bookblogging so much – when I get to read fantastic novels like Shelf Life and tell other people how much they’ll love it too!

Natasha Bell has said: “ “Shelf Life feels like a Bridget Jones for cynical souls’ and I couldn’t agree more. I had the nervousness you get when you’ve REALLY LOVED a book and you’re waiting for your friend to read it too, so you can both talk about all the things that really chimed with you and the characters that you felt were so perfectly drawn that you can’t quite believe that they’re not real people. Books about dating and love and friendships and families are ten a penny – but this one really is different. It’s dark and light in exactly the right ratio to be truly satisfying and there will be moments where you’ll literally be devastated for Ruth – but by the end the holistic effect is both cathartic and gratifying and I’m so jealous of everyone who hasn’t read it yet…

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As you will have surmised by now, I literally could not put this book down, I was so caught up in Ruth’s journey and I’m sure you will be too. It really felt like we’d been through this together. Her combination of  devastating brutality and acerbic humour mean that everyone can identify with some part of her story– she’s a representation of all the things that we all struggle with in modern life – how to be ourselves in a world that’s always telling us that our plain old self just isn’t good enough..

It’s hard to feel like that – that your life is just one series of catastrophes after another and everyone is too busy dealing with their own losses and darknesses to be much bothered about yours. Neil is a pretty horrific character and trawling through his emails is just about as ghastly as a Sunday lunch with Ruth’s mum – but you’ll find that out for yourself as you immerse yourself in the depths of Ruth’s life and some of this is pretty bloody dark…  It’s hard to write originally about difficult experiences, but I’m definitely not exaggerating when I tell you that Livia Franchini has pulled it off and you will have to get a copy yourself to see that I’m telling you the absolute truth!

I loved the idea behind this book: that in the middle of loss and devastation it’s important to remember sometimes that our future might not always be written the way that we think it is and that we can change our destiny without having to leave behind the things which make us our essential selves.

This is the kind of book you’ll be buying for all your friends and begging them to read as you will want to spend hours talking about Ruth’s battles disappointments and realisations and thinking of all the ways you’ve either been treated like her or met someone who’s been through exactly the same set of emotions even if the root causes were slightly different…

I hope that you find some time to check out some of the other fantastic bloggers on the tour – I am really looking forward to hearing what they thought about Shelf Life and I love it when they reveal their own wee dire breakup moments in their reviews. Mine was breaking up with an ex boyfriend and leaving a whole uni folder at his flat – then having to go back after my grand exit and shamefacedly retrieve my folder of notes on 18th-century poetry whilst totally avoiding the sniggers of his flatmates who had totally been slagging me off as I arrived.

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Shelf Life is a modern look at love with MSN messages, shopping lists, dating profiles, heartbreak, insanely good dialogue and a character that you will be able to bond with through the awful experiences that she’s subjected to throughout the book. Livia Franchini is definitely a writer to watch for me – and if you have a look at these stunning reviews from a whole host of amazing writers you can see that I’m not alone in my opinion!

Buy yourself a copy here:

 

Writer On The Shelf

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Livia Franchini is a writer and translator from Tuscany, Italy, whose short stories have been published in numerous anthologies. Livia is also an inaugural writer-in-residence for the Connecting Emerging Literary Artist project. She lives in London and is completing a PhD in experimental women’s writing at Goldsmiths University.

 

Shelf Life is whip-smart, slyly heartbreaking, and I felt the truth of it in my bones. Franchini dissects ideas of love, dating and identity in a way that feels both ruthless and humane. I loved it.” (Sophie Mackintosh, author of ‘The Water Cure’)

“This is a beautiful novel. The scene with the mother and the chicken is one of the most rigorous, affecting, strange scenes I have read in a while and it’s still haunting me. It was funny, and sad, and I devoured it. It reminded me of Convenience Store Woman. I absolutely loved it.” (Susannah Dickey, author of ‘Tennis Lessons’)

“Livia Franchini has delivered an impressive, Sally Rooney-esque debut novel.” (New Statesman)

“Shelf Life is dark and disarming. It wryly explores hunger and denial and the play between pleasure and power in an honest portrayal of the complexities of desire. Franchini’s voice is sharp and clever and her debut novel tells us truths about how and why we love.” (Jessica Andrews, author of ‘Saltwater’)

Shelf Life is a truly unique read; a book so thoughtfully and articulately written it draws the reader deep into the painful heart of a fracturing relationship. Ruth, the novel’s central character is crafted in such a believable way, I felt every one of her disappointments keenly. I was rooting for her throughout. By the final page I felt like we’d been through something monumental together.” (Jan Carson, author of ‘The Fire Starters’)

“I absolutely loved this – really moving and powerful” (Rebecca Reid, author of ‘Perfect Liars’)

Butchers Daughter Blog Tour @Duckbooks

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We are, all of us, princes and peasants, alone in this world.

The Butcher’s Daughter is the richly atmospheric story of a young woman’s struggle to define herself in a world of uncertainty, intrigue and danger in a period of great upheaval during the Tudor era.

It is 1535 and Agnes Peppin, daughter of a West Country butcher, leaves her family home in disgrace. Banished and forced to abandon her new-born infant, she is meant to live out her days cloistered behind the walls of the Shaftesbury Abbey.

But as Agnes grapples with the complex rules and hierarchies of her new life, King Henry VIII has proclaimed himself the new head of the Church. Religious houses are being formally suppressed and the great Abbey is no exception to the purge.

Free at last to be the master of her own fate, Agnes descends into a world she knows little about, using her wits and testing her moral convictions against her need to survive by any means necessary…

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Every once in a while you read a book that’s totally different for you – that might be in its structure, its subject matter, its narrator – or in the case of this book – all three at once!

I love a book that confounds all my expectations, but this unusual and immersive novel certainly does

We all have experienced places that have ‘spoken’ to us. Whether you are religious or not, experiencing some greater power in a special place is an overwhelming feeling. I’ve never religious– but I really felt like I was able to appreciate some of the atmosphere filtered through Agnes’ experiences and it was fantastic to be transported back in time to this turbulent and unpredictable time in our history.

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This novel allows us to follow the life of Agnes and discover all about her life and see Shaftesbury Abbey through her eyes. I was really intrigued to read this novel as I love Victoria Glendinning’s Electricity and how it allowed me to immerse myself in the Victorian era ee all the changes that were happening then – and I have always been fascinated by the Tudors and this certainly added an extra dimension for me as I read.  I became engrossed in the intrigue and the unspoken motivations that made this such a dangerous time to be alive if you were religious and a woman during these purges and uncertainties.

Glendinning is such a skilled writer that she allows us to ‘inhabit’ Agnes’ life and find out her story by walking in her shoes and learning that everyone does ‘walk their own path’ on this life’s journey and that these important historical events actually happened to real people and were not just national events but life events for hundreds of real people – like Agnes herself.

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Agnes was, of course, the most intriguing character for me: her place during one of the most turbulent and uncertain times in history fascinated me as her situation presented her with many dangers and challenges – whether moral or intellectual and the novel allows us to see that although she was a survivor, this was never easy.  I love being inspired by books to do some research afterwards and this led me on a real journey looking into this part of history and some of the characters that had similar experiences to Agnes

 

You can read more about one such nun here ; I was truly fascinated by her story and loved finding out more about this part of history. Mr On the Shelf is a History teacher who will be teaching the Tudors this term and I’m grateful to him for patiently answering my incessant questions about Henry, Cromwell, the monasteries and anything else that occurred to me as I was lost in the pages of this book.

19th-century engraving depicting the Nun of Kent.

Even though I am not a religious person myself, the description of Agnes’ trials and tribulations was skilfully conveyed and intriguing to read about. You could absolutely believe in her story as this complex and fascinating woman came to life on the page as this novel unfolded and she faced difficult decisions, battled Sir John Tregonwell and attempted to have agency in a time when women were very much seen as pawns rather than players on the board.

It does not matter whether you are a Christian or an atheist, there is something very compelling about the way that the dissolution of the monasteries and Henry’s religious reformation is portrayed in this novel that will captivate you and make you want to read more about this intriguing period that I hadn’t really known that much about before reading this novel.

Agnes is a strong woman, a fascinating character and a compelling narrator. If you love a historical read that is well-researched and full of details that bring this fascinating period wonderfully to life. I really enjoyed it and it has definitely sent me reaching for another book set during the Tudor period as I didn’t want to leave, once I’d immersed myself in Agnes’ time.

I would like to thank Duck Books Chaam Zeina for a copy of The Butcher’s Daughter to read and review and for inviting me on the tour. It makes me so happy to encounter books through my blogging that I might otherwise never have read and it’s one of the many reasons that I’m so glad that I found blogging and all the wonderful people I’ve met through doing it.

Buy yourself a copy here

 

Writer On the Shelf

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Victoria Glendinning is an award-winning biographer, critic, broadcaster, and novelist. Educated at Oxford where she studied modern languages, she later worked for The Times Literary Supplement. She is an Honorary Vice-President of English PEN and Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature. Her acclaimed biographies include Elizabeth Bowen: Portrait of a Writer and Edith Sitwell: A Unicorn Among Lions, which won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography, and Rebecca West: A Life.

Follow the rest of the blog tour and discover what all of the other bloggers have enjoyed about this wonderfully immersive historical read 

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Summer Reads 17 Degrees Column

Summer Reads @17DegreesMag  

 

Hope you are all enjoying the Summer and taking the opportunity to get some summer reading done. 2019 really has been an amazing year for reading. I spent this summer trekking and volunteering in Mongolia, my blog post about this is still brewing 🙂

My book column for Scottish Lifestyle Magazine 17 Degrees was published whilst I was away and I’m sharing my column about these fantastic summer reads.

 

  1. A Summer Reunion

Fanny Blake 

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A Summer Reunion is the perfect holiday read.  Amy, Linda, Kate and Jane were best friends at school. After a turbulent time in her marriage, Amy decides to invite her old friends to her stunning Mallorcan villa for a reunion weekend. As the four old friends gather, secrets are unearthed, old scores settled and new friendships forged. Will this holiday bring them together or tear them apart – and will the gorgeous Mallorcan sunsets bring new chances for happiness to blossom 

This is the perfect poolside treat and would make a fabulous movie – a sun-kissed holiday treat for you to enjoy this summer. 

 

2.Do Not Feed The Bear

Rachel Elliot

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Sydney has never really come to terms with what happened in her family when she was only ten years old. As a free runner, she’s been putting distance between herself and things she wants to get away from all of her life.  She heads off to St Ives to evade a big birthday that she has no interest in celebrating – and that’s where things start to get interesting. This book will appeal to fans of Eleanor Oliphant – it’s thought-provoking, filled with characters that you care about and unexpectedly touching in its treatment of loss and letting things go. Treat yourself to a copy!

 

 

3.The Path To The Sea

Liz Fenwick

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Set in stunning Cornwall, this evocative read tells the tale of three generations of Trewin women who gather at their family home, Boskenna one final time. Once they come together, the secrets hidden within this beautiful old house will be revealed,  leaving all three of them changed forever. This is a book to really lose yourself in as you travel through time thinking about the way that love and loss shape our lives. If you are a fan of Kate Morton and love an immersive and nostalgic summer read, you’ll absolutely love The Path to the Sea. 

 

4.The Woman Who Wanted More

Vicky Zimmerman

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Kate Parker is about to turn forty and her world has fallen apart. To soothe her broken heart she volunteers at Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies where she meets the redoubtable 97-year-old Cecily Finn. Cecily soon prescribes Kate a self-help book with a difference – packed with recipes to cook herself back to happiness and thus begins an extremely unlikely friendship between two lonely and stubborn souls. This mouth-watering holiday read is based on the writer’s own amazing grandmother Cecily who sounds like a real character. I hope you love it as much as I did!

 

5.The House On The Edge Of The Cliff

Carol Drinkwater

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Grace first came to France a lifetime ago. Young, wild and full of adventure, she met two very different men and young hearts ran free. Until one hot summer night changed everything. Now, Grace is living an idyllic life in her stunning Provençal villa – Until a stranger arrives at the villa. A man who knows everything, and won’t leave until he gets what he wants. If you enjoy a simmering tale of passion and intrigue in a stunning setting you will love this book and won’t be able to put it down until you find out the truth. 

 

6.Five Steps To Happy

Ella Dove

If you love a feel-good read on your sun lounger, you’ll adore this inspirational tale. Heidi experiences a life-altering accident at just 32 and her whole world falls apart. Heidi feels far too young to be an amputee and feels like her old life is slipping away when she meets Maud and her grandson Jack who teach her that every journey begins with a single step and that her future still has a lot of happiness in store. I loved this heartwarming novel based on the uplifting true story of journalist Ella Dove – it’ll brighten up your day wherever you’re heading this summer. 

 

 

Drama and Darkness…

 

  1. Beyond Reasonable Doubt

Gary Bell

And now for something completely different. Elliot Rook is the epitome of an old Etonian QC. Or so everyone believes. In fact, he is an ex-criminal with a past that he has been keeping secret forever. Until now that is. A young woman has been found murdered and Billy Barber,  violent football hooligan and white-supremacist, is accused of her murder. Barber insists that if Rook refuses to defend him, he will expose him, destroying the life that Rook has spent his entire life building. A truly arresting holiday read that launches an exciting new crime series. 

 

8. The Closer I Get

Paul Burston

If you enjoy a book that breaks the mould, then you’re going to love The Closer I Get. Tom is a successful writer, but he’s struggling with writer’s block. He can’t seem to move for an online admirer, Evie, whose persistence goes way beyond mere admiration. Evie is smart, intelligent and unstable and her social-media friendships seem to be everything she has. This is a smart and twisty read with its finger truly on the pulse –  if you’re searching for something dark and provocative this summer then look no further. Stash it in your beach bag and enjoy the ride.

 

 

  1. The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone 

Felicity McLean

 

Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old during the summer of 1992, growing up in the Australia suburbs. That summer, the hottest on record, was when the Van Apfel sisters – Hannah, Cordelia and Ruth – mysteriously disappeared during the school’s Showstopper concert, at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river.  Did they run away? Were they taken? The mystery remains unsolved until Tikka starts to see the events of the past with fresh and less innocent eyes. This one is for fans of The Virgin Suicides and is a totally thrilling and intelligent summer read that you won’t be able to put down.

  

10.Those People

Louise Candlish

 

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Lowland Way is a suburban paradise. Beautiful homes. Friendly neighbours. Kids playing outside in harmony.  But Darren and Jodie don’t follow the rules and soon disputes over loud music and parking rights escalate to threats of violence. Then, a horrific crime shocks the street. As the police start their enquiries, the residents close ranks: They did it. But there’s a problem. The police don’t agree. And the door they’re knocking on next is yours.  Make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen before you start as once you begin, you won’t want to tear yourself away from this twisty and terrifyingly plausible read. 

 

11.Whisper Network

Chandler Baker

A summer read that taps into the #MeToo movement telling the tale of Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita who have worked in the same legal office for years. Each of the women has a different relationship with their boss, Ames, who has always attracted whispers about the way he treats women. Those rumours have been largely ignored, swept under the rug and hidden by those in charge. But the world has changed. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough. This is a provocative and timely read that will have you cheering them on in their battle for justice. 

 

12.Nobody’s Wife

Laura Pearson

 

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Emily and Josephine have always shared everything. They’re sisters, flatmates, and best friends. It’s the two of them against the world. After Emily’s perfect wedding, Josephine finds her ideal man too and it seems that all four of them are set to live happily ever after. Nothing can prepare them for happens next as lust and betrayal threaten to destroy everything. This is a breathlessly tense summer read that you’ll be recommending to everyone. It lures you into the dark heart of these relationships and makes sure that you can’t stop reading until you know how this portrait of obsessive love will end. Buy it now…

 

 Lucky Dip

 

  1. Sweet Sorrow

David Nicholls

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I was so excited to finally get my hands on Sweet Sorrow that I definitely squealed when it came through my letterbox.  Fans of One Day have waited a long time for this book and it’s definitely been worth the wait. Sweet Sorrow describes the life-changing summer when Charlie met Fran – when nothing was ever quite the same again. If Charlie wants Fran he has to embrace her passions – even if that means joining her Shakespeare drama hobby… This is a nostalgic, poignant and moving look at first love from a writer who’s the very definition of relatable. This is your summer must-read. Buy it now!

 

  1. The Family Upstairs

Lisa Jewell

 

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Lisa Jewell has successfully transitioned from chick-lit to dark thrillers and this one is better than ever.  In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby lies awake in her cot, happily waiting for someone to pick her up. In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them,  a hastily scribbled note. They’ve been dead for several days. Who has been looking after the baby – and where have they gone? You’d better not start this on your holiday flight, as you won’t want to get off the plane until you’ve solved this. A stand out summer read that will have you totally gripped. 

 

 

15.Lowborn: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns

Kerry Hudson

 

Kerry Hudson is a successful novelist and journalist but her early years were very different from the life she lives now. The poverty she grew up in was grinding and dehumanising; her family life disrupted and often highly traumatic. Lowborn is Kerry’s exploration of where she came from. She revisits the places she grew up in to try to discover what being poor really means. She journeys into her own childhood, realising that sometimes in order to move forward we first have to look back on the things that make us who we are. An important read that I just could not put down. 

 

16.The Flatshare

Beth O’Leary

 

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Tiffy and Leon share a flat. Tiffy and Leon share a bed. Tiffy and Leon have never met.  Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution. Until things take a turn for the unexpected and these flatmates get more than they bargained for.  If you loved Me Before You or Love Actually, this will be your new favourite book. I’d love to see this one on the big screen: I’ve already cast the main characters so you’d better read it fast before it gets snapped up. 

 

 

  1. Three Women

Lisa Taddeo

 

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

If you love non-fiction, then this book has to go to the top of your list. I just can’t stop thinking about it.  Lisa Taddeo spent eight years researching this novel, spending hours with these three women to give us an unrivalled insight into their passions, hopes and fears. These three women step outwith the boundaries of conventional relationships – through adultery, forbidden desires and even a teacher: student affair. This is my read of the year so far and I’m recommending it to everyone. I was totally addicted to its searing honesty and compassion for these women and the choices they have made. Totally outstanding. 

 

 

  1. Love, Interrupted: Navigating Grief One Day at a Time

Simon Thomas

Simon Thomas, the former face of Sky Football, reveals how grief nearly destroyed him in this heartbreaking memoir. When Simon lost the woman he loved, the future he’d imagined disappeared forever. Gemma tragically died from acute myeloid leukaemia just three days after diagnosis.  Simon is brutally honest about his journey through grief – he knew that, for the sake of his eight-year-old son, he had to find a way. Love, Interrupted is a moving story of love, loss, faith, and family that will inspire you this summer with its honesty and inspiring message that hope can be found where we least expect it. 

 

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I have loved finding so many fantastic reading recommendations for you this Summer – you might find new writers to enjoy as well as some old favourites here.

 Hope you’re all having a fantastic summer! 

Jill