This is so often our response to grief and loss, when dealing with it ourselves or consoling others.
Elizabeth’s father took his own life in 2012. Unable to find words of her own to write about what had happened, Elizabeth took them instead from the 2006 Penguin Classics edition of Twelve Angry Men, a play she and her father attended together when Elizabeth was a teenager, and combined these with the New Zealand Government’s ‘Fact Sheet 4 – Suicide and Self-Harm’.
Armed with this limited dictionary, she was able to write poems that are by turns mournful, angry and searching. The cumulative effect is surprising in its narrative drive and cathartic power.
Even if you are not a poetry afficionado, you will find much to compel you here. This original and moving collection of poems will stop you in your tracks and the sheer power of their words will make you take a deep breath and consider all the things that are important to you in your own lives.
Genius has often been born out of suffering and it could not be clearer that the suffering here has allowed a work of great beauty to come to fruition.
Elizabeth’s suffering is exact, but it is never so personal that it wouldn’t resonate with people who have experienced their own losses in entirely different circumstances. The blending of her two sources is perfectly done, allowing two such dissonant sources to come together and create something original and beautiful out of such different spheres.
Even the angriest of her poems are love distilled into grief and an outlet for her pain. The concrete emotions are all the more powerful for being expressed in this artistic way, allowing the feelings and the factual to sing in harmony. This allows the words of the rather more factual manual to combine with the impassioned language of the text and come together to make something which resonates so much more powerfully than a mere sum of its parts.
As a teacher of poetry, there was much here that I could see being used to think about the way we teach poetry. If our students are to see it as being ”the best words in the best order“ Then there is much for them to think about here. The way that restraint can be balanced with the raw expression of pain is perfectly encapsulated here and I feel that the originality of these poems construction could lead to hours of discussion and evaluation.
Im so glad that Anne Cater invited me onto this blogtour. Its been a long time since I picked up a book of poetry thats made such a powerfully unexpected impact on me and its made me want to spend more time reading diverse poetic voices across the rest of the year.
If you fancy something completely different that will make you think as hard as it will make you feel, then this is definitely the book for you. I recommend it unreservedly and will definitely look out for more of Elizabeth’s writing moving forwards.
Writer On The Shelf
Elizabeth Kirkby-McLeod’s work has been featured in takahē, Landfall, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook and the NZPS 2018 anthology. She was longlisted for the 2008 Six Pack 3 anthology and her poem ‘Her Warning Signs’ was Highly Commended in the 2018 International Poetry Competition. Elizabeth also reviews poetry and produces the NZSA Oral History Podcast series.
In this evocative tale from the bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Gift, a strange new city offers a young girl hope. Can it also offer a lost soul a second chance?
Morocco, 1941. With France having fallen to Nazi occupation, twelve-year-old Josie has fled with her family to Casablanca, where they await safe passage to America. Life here is as intense as the sun, every sight, smell and sound overwhelming to the senses in a city filled with extraordinary characters. It’s a world away from the trouble back home—and Josie loves it.
Seventy years later, another new arrival in the intoxicating port city, Zoe, is struggling—with her marriage, her baby daughter and her new life as an expat in an unfamiliar place. But when she discovers a small wooden box and a diary from the 1940s beneath the floorboards of her daughter’s bedroom, Zoe enters the inner world of young Josie, who once looked out on the same view of the Atlantic Ocean, but who knew a very different Casablanca.
It’s not long before Zoe begins to see her adopted city through Josie’s eyes. But can a new perspective help her turn tragedy into hope, and find the comfort she needs to heal her broken heart?
It’ll be no news to anyyone who follows the blog, but I’m getting so much pleasure from time travelling through the books that I’m choosing of late. I can’t stop reaching for historical fiction, and this is one of the best books I’ve read in this genre this year. I was absolutely intrigued by the premise of this book as one of my best ever holidays was to Morocco and I loved hearing about its fascinating history across these pages This book is a real tapestry of past and present, taking these characters and moments from history and bringing them to life before our eyes whilst justaposing them with a more 20th century narrative. I was delighted to be invited on the tourand found myself absolutely intrigued by this fasciniating insight into Josie and Zoe’s lives and found myself caught up in their stories as I enjoyed this tale over the last weekend.
This book definitely did not disappoint, it let me feel absolutely part of Josie’s story where we become wholly wrapped up in the life of this unforgettable and resilient character. Life is difficult enough for people leaving their own country now – you can only imagine how much more difficult things were then. We get to hear about events from Josie’s own perspective as she awaits safe passage to America in Casablanca. I found this period and setting so fasinating and this really added to the enjoyment of the story for me. It’s a book that you’ll find hard to believe it’s fiction as you’ll become so caught up in Josie’s story and you’ll feel real empathy with her as she navigates through these extremely uncertain times
I absolutely loved the unique atmosphere of this novel and definitely found it quite addictive. It was intriguing to imagine a world in which your choices and next direction are far more constrained than women nowadays and knowing that your choices are far more restricted than they would be nowadays. The contrast of Josie’s tale with Zoe’s more contemporary expat struggles was really fascinating and I enjoyed travelling between their stories and gaining an insight into two very different Casablancas.
This novel presents this period of history in a fresh original way which makes the story stay with us and make us feel connected to Josie even when we aren’t reading it. She feels very much like a real person, despite the distance of time between us and you feel really caught up in the twists and turns of her story. This is a really enjoyable novel which I know many of my reading buddies would enjoy – I’d love to see it on the silver screen and see Josie’s life unfold in such a beautiful setting
Fiona Valpy is a talented and original writer – and I really enjoyed vicariously travelling to Casablanca whilst reading the book. You will be fascinated to uncover all that Josie went through and shocked that you didn’t know more about this fascinating time in Morocco’s rich and turbulent history. Your relationship with the characters builds and builds as you experience the challenges and constraints of their individual circumstances and everything that they have had to go through. I definitely enjoyed the contrast betwen the two time periods and it kept me turning the pages – although I’d have to say that my favourite was definitely Josie’s story.
This is a book that I know I’ll be recommending to lots of readers as I was totally immersed in its characters, its gorgeous setting and the way it really allowed me to connect with its characters. I can’t wait to see what Fiona Valpy does next as I really enjoyed The Dressmaker’s Gift too. The idea that life for people in the past can be a lot darker than you might have learned in your history books is a fascinating one, and I think that this would make an excellent Book Group read as it would be sure to provoke lots and lots of discussion and comment about Morocco’s interesting history that most people don’t know very much about…
Treat yourself to a copy and discover this beautifully evoked and fascinating story for yourself. The delicious treats that we were sent truly evoked the spirit of the setting and was as beautiful as the stories between the pages – Thank you so much FMcM!
“A novel that will whisk you to another time and place, The Storyteller of Casablanca is a tender tale of hope, resilience, and new beginnings.” —Imogen Clark, bestselling author of Postcards From a Stranger
“Fiona Valpy has an exquisite talent for creating characters so rounded and delightful that they almost feel like family, and this makes what happens to them feel very personal.” —Louise Douglas, bestselling author of The House by the Sea
Writer On The Shelf
Fiona spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007, before returning to live in Scotland. Her love for both of these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she’s written.
She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women, especially during the years of the Second Word War, and her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place.
An acclaimed Number 1 bestselling author, Fiona Valpy’s books have been translated into more than a dozen languages worldwide.
When a young woman vanishes from an exclusive oceanfront community in the middle of the night, Detective Casey Wray’s takes on a case that leads her in chilling, unexpected directions … A twisty, breath-taking police procedural. First in a heart-pounding new series.
‘Urgent, thrilling and richly imagined. Without doubt his best yet’ Chris Whitaker, author of We Begin at the End
‘Reynolds captures the claustrophobic feel of a small town … a tense slice of American noir’ Vaseem Khan, author of Midnight at Malabar House
‘If you were hooked on Mare of Easttown, this will be right up your street … I read this obsessively’ Nina Pottell, Prima
‘Rod Reynolds makes the most of this desolate, windswept location … a thrillingly complex narrative develops at speed … his superior cop saga is just the first instalment of a projected series’ The Times
Don’t trust ANYONE…
When a young woman makes a distressing middle-of-the-night call to 911, apparently running for her life in a quiet, exclusive beachside neighbourhood, miles from her home, everything suggests a domestic incident.
Except no one has seen her since, and something doesn’t sit right with the officers at Hampstead County PD. With multiple suspects and witnesses throwing up startling inconsistencies, and interference from the top threatening the integrity of the investigation, lead detective Casey Wray is thrust into an increasingly puzzling case that looks like it’s going to have only one ending…
And then the first body appears…
For fans of Susie Steiner, Peter Swanson, M J Arlidge, James Lee Burke and Tana French
I haven’t been as excited to write a blogpost for a very long time and my only worry is that I won’t be able to accurately convey just how much I loved this book in words. When you read a lot, it’s hard to pick your favourites as there are so many books clamouring for your atttention. Once I’d read the blurb of Black Reed Bay, I knew that I couldn’t resist reading it straight away – and even though my TBR is looking very tempting right now, this book skipped its way to the top of the pile and I have absolutely zero regrets about that…
Although I was totally absorbed in the story in Black Reed Bay, it is undoubtedly the characterisation in Rod Reynolds’ writing that makes it such a treat to read. Casey Wray jumps off the page as a fully-realised human being that I 100% believed in from the get-go amd I could not put this book down as I got entirely caught up in this tale that pulled me right into the investigation and didn’t let me go.
Casey is one of those rare characters that you instantly connect with, despite her life experiences being almost diametrically opposed to my own as an English teacher in a sleepy Scottish village. The setting of this beachside location was so well drawn that I could wholly imagine myself there and it definitely felt like a slice of true crime that I ws reading rather than a fictional rendition. It’s definitely one of those books that you feel like googling the events of it to see the news story behind it and I’d be intrigued to read more about the inspiration behind these cases…
Casey is definitely another fantastically strong Orenda heroine that you willl be rooting for as you read. I think that it’s a testament to the strength of the writing that we are rooting for her throughout the novel as we see all of the potential within her. Her relationship with the characters around her are convincingly and vividly depicted and you will absolutely believe in her relationship with Dave Cullen as they make a formidable pair. I love the fact that she’s an outsider and her perspective on the case as it unfolds brings a credibility to the narrative that’s often lacking in crime fiction. If you are looking for a fabulous new voice in crime fiction then look no further and I guarantee that you’ll be up unto the wee small hours, desperate to find out how this pageturner ends. It’s pace is just perfect – it’s engrossing without ever feeling rushed or too hectic and really gives you time to try and navigate the case for yourself alongside Casey and her team. I was absolutely blown away by how much I loved it and can’t wait to see what Rod does next.
You will definitely find it hard to put this book down as you’ll be so wrapped up in this slice of American noir that you’ll needto keep reading and find out how it all ends. Casey is not a character to give up easily, no matter the circumstances, so it’s safe to say that there were parts of this novel that I read with a thudding heart and sweaty palms as I was not sure how it was all going to end. Needless to say, I was not disappointed and I’m really jealous of anyone who’s yet to start reading Black Reed Bay as they are definitely in for an absolute treat.
I heartily recommend it to people who really like to get their teeth into a story that feels resolutely real and never lets you forget that even though this is fiction, there are hundreds of Caseys out there doing their best for the lost, the missing and the disappeared all over the world. I loved the skilful characterisation as much as I enjoyed the plot and I will definitely be recommending it to friends of mine who enjoy a crime novel that stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the competition.
You need to buy this book, that is my Autumn reading advice for you – use these cooler nights profitably and treat yourself to an absolutely amazing read. Thanks to the lovely Anne Cater at Random Things for inviting me on the tour – another fabulous Orenda read to add to my huge pile of favourites. All I can do now is count down to Rod’s next book – but I can say one thing for sure, the murky waters of Black Water Bay will take some beating…
Writer On The Shelf
Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling (2016) and Cold Desert Sky (2018); the Guardian has called the books ‘pitch-perfect American noir’. A lifelong Londoner, Rod’s first novel set in his hometown, entitled Blood Red City, was published by Orenda Books in 2020.
Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London. He lives with his wife and family and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters. Follow him on Twitter @Rod_WR.
I added Emma Grae’s Be Guid tae yer Mammy to the top of my TBR as soon as I received it. I love supporting Scottish writing and adore any books set here in Scotland and I was desperate to see if Jeannie’s story would resonate as much as I hoped it would. I can safely say that it was even better than I hoped that it would be and I’ve been encouraging everyone in my Wine Library Book club to get themselves a copy and enjoy it for themselves!
Be Guid tae Yer Mammy is a gritty and realistic story that so many readers will feel a strong sense of connection with. It vividly brings to life the story of Jeannie who is battling to bring up her family in spite of all the challenges that life has throw at her in the fictional setting of Glasgow’s Thistlegate. Cathy, Sandra, and Stella-Marie might be adults now, but they certainly haven’t matured in the way they treat each other. Sibling Tensions are visible here in a way that mirrors both King Lear & Cinderella – as the youngest daughter certainly gets short shrift from her older sisters. Tensions rose to the extent that Stella-Marie decides to cut herself and her family loose from the negativity and toxic relationships and decides that her wee family will make their own way in the world, far from cutting comments and a serious lack of empathy that would seem to prove that in this family’s case, blood certainly isn’t thicker than water…
This is a story about pursuing your dreams and even though Stella-Marie’s daughter Kate is from a wholly different generation to her grandmother, Jeannie and has entirely different dreams and ambitions, there is more that connects them than separates them. Kate’s determination to study at University and create a new space for herself in the world has parallels with Jeannie’s ambitions to push boundaries on the silver screen. The family’s journey through time shows the difference in expectations for young women from ordinary families in what they could realistically aim for – Jeannie has to compromise for marriage and bringing up her family, whereas Kate is much more able to set off in her own direction and achieve her ambitions in her own right now that society has changed its expectations and restrictions.
There was much I could connect with in Be Guid tae Yer Mammy and there were a fair few characters that spoke to me as I myself look backwards and forwards at opportunities for young women through the lens of my own family. I had the good fortune to study English literature at the University of St Andrews, whereas my grandmother was in service to a Doctor’s family in the Highlands by the time she was 14. There are lots of moments of both hilarity and pathos in this evocative portrayal of west of Scotland family life, warts and all and I really enjoyed immersing myself in the ups and downs of this family with everything they had to contend with and felt like I’d spent time with them as people by the end of it, rather than just characters in a book.
Emma has created a wonderful cast of characters that’s so easy to connect with. Her scots language use brings their voices to life for me and makes me feel like I’m overhearing real folk talking to one another from the town I grew up in! I think it’s great to see so many writers feeling like they are able to write about the characters and settings that they grew up in and it definitely will be a book that ‘speaks’ to a diverse array of the population. Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the blog tour and introducing me to a fantastic new voice. I’ve followed Emma on Twitter and really look forwad to seeing what she does next…
A smashing story with a strong Scots voice’ Dr Michael Dempster
\ ‘This is a brave novel… with a strong cultural identity. The main character – a thrawn auld besom wha’s guid tae hersel raither than her lassies an granddochters but whase sleekit sense o humour an couthie turn o phrase gars ye like her despite yerse’ Billy Kay, author of Scots: The Mither Tongue
‘Every so often a book comes along that pulls you in so completely you no longer see the pages when you are reading. This is one of those books. One of the characters has OCD, and as someone with OCD myself I found their experiences to be painfully familiar and brilliantly depicted. It’s refreshing (and important) to see characters with OCD depicted, where the OCD forms an integral part of their character but is not the driving thrust of the plot. I for one would like to see more of this in fiction! It’s great to feel represented like this. This book is both narratively and stylistically exciting. It opened my eyes to how beautiful Scots is and has made me want to read more literature by authors writing in Scots. But mostly this author! I can’t wait to see what Emma Grae writes next’ Lily Bailey, author of Because We Are Bad
Writer On The Shelf
Emma Grae is a Scottish author and journalist from Glasgow. She has been writing in Scots since she was a student at the University of Strathclyde, tipsily coauthoring poems with fellow writer Lorna Wallace before moving on to write fiction in the language.
She has published fiction and poetry in the UK and Ireland since 2014 in journals including The Honest Ulsterman, From Glasgow to Saturn and The Open Mouse. As a journalist, she writes under her birth surname, Guinness, and has bylines in a number of publications including Cosmopolitan, the Huffington Post and the Metro. Be Guid tae yer Mammy is her first novel.
An urgent knock on the wooden farmhouse door breaks the midnight silence. Heart racing, she tip-toes down the stairs, draws back the bolts and gazes into the eyes of a stranger. “Please, signorina. I must find a way to send my message. The war depends upon it.”
Italy, 1943. On her nonna’s tomato farm in the hills outside Naples, sheltering a soldier with an English accent is the most dangerous thing Carmela del Bosco could do. But with one look at his wounds, Carmela is filled with hatred for those who would tear apart her beautiful home and decides to risk everything, hiding the stranger in an abandoned watchtower outside the village.
In his pain and fever, he murmurs in English, but insists his name is Sebastiano and that he has a message to send that will end the war. Carmela tends to his injuries and smuggles fresh pasta from her grandmother to the watchtower whenever she can. But just as his strength returns – and passion grows between them – they are seen and betrayed by a member of Carmela’s own family.
With their lives on the line, the pair flee down the mountains into the city of Naples, where German soldiers patrol every street. Desperate, Sebastiano begs Carmela to send the message for him. But as soon as she hears it, her blood runs cold… Can she find the courage to do what’s right for her country, if it threatens the lives of everyone she loves? Will she ever see her beloved nonna again? And can she trust Sebastiano with her heart – or will he lead her into terrible danger?
An absolutely stunning and heartbreaking historical novel about the choices people are forced to make in wartime, and how one act of incredible bravery can change everything. Fans of The Nightingale, All the Light We Cannot See and Rhys Bowen will be captivated.
Lucy has dreamt of her wedding day for as long as she can remember.
And now the day is almost here. Her nearest and dearest are gathered on an idyllic Greek island and she just knows it’s going to be perfect. It has to be.
But even the best-laid plans can go horribly wrong. Why are her parents behaving so strangely? Why won’t the rather odd lady from the airport stop hanging around? Who is the silent stranger her sister brought as a plus-1?
And then they find the body.
It’s going to be a day to remember.
I absolutely love a book set abroad, where I can imagine checking in alongside all the characters and working out which of the residents are to be trusted and which ones have arrived with a few skeletons in their luggage! I also love books set in other countries at the moment since we are not able to literally travel abroad – and Tammy Cohen is one of the writers that I regularly enjoy vicariously ‘travelling’ with as some of my favourite reads of hers have taken me to Egypt and onboard a cruise ship alongside her fabulous cast of characters.
In ‘The Wedding Party’ once again, she has done an amazing job of letting me pack my bags and arrive at Kefalonia with Lucy and her guests and be a member of the wedding right alongside them – this pageturning and atmospheric read drew me in from the very first paragraph and held me captivated by its gorgeous setting and twisty plot until its very final page.
There’s nothing more likely to spoil your trip to an amazing overseas wedding than finding a body – and a sense that this is only the start of it – as this set of nuptials certainly gets your pulse racing right from the start, for all the wrong reasons. When Lucy and Jason book their exotic Greek wedding, they were definitely not planning on the events that began to unfold. As the guests gather, so too do the number of secrets and undercurrents that are swirling around the forthcoming ‘happy event’
Tammy Cohen cleverly scaffolds a tale where literally no-one is being honest with one another, not even the happy couple! The way that we start to hear about events from several different perspectives enhances the tension as we begin to see the cracks appear in front of our very eyes as we work out exactly what secrets are being kept from whom. I just could not put this clever, atmospheric and gripping read down once I’d started and I’m so grateful to #RandomThingsTours Anne Cater for inviting me to participate in this blog tour – as she knows how much I’ve enjoyed Tammy’s previous books and how much I’d been looking forward to this one
I love immersing myself in a book over a weekend and not looking up apart from to pour myself a gin and imagine that I’m touching down on the runway and travelling to a Greek wedding myself – and this book answered the brief perfectly. I loved the way that all the threads of this mystery were so assuredly woven together and the tension level never let up as we begin to wonder just how many ghosts from the past are going to emerge as the novel unfolds.
I feel like you can totally surrender to this reading experience and travel to stunning Kefalonia right alongside Jake & Lucy. I really felt like I could imagine being a wedding guest on this stunning island and found it very difficult to detach myself from this immersive reading experience that allowed me to plunge into the setting and experience the drama as it unfolded all around me. We’ve all met people like the ones in this story – from the stressed out bridezilla to the guests arriving with rather more baggage thaan the load they’re checking in with that made you feel like you really were living through these events alongside the wedding party I enjoyed the fact that we got to ‘participate’ in the interviews and read some journal entries too, threaded through the narrrative and this diverse storytelling helped keep us hooked on the events as they unfolded – I could not put this book down, every time I stopped reading it, I just couldn’t wait to get back to it.
I kept imagining myself lured back to Kefalonia trying to navigate the truth for myself and wondering whose secrets were going to unfold next. The plot is so cleverly constructed with false leads and echoes that connect, yet mislead that you’ll be addictedly turning the pages like me long unto the night. It’s a book to be devoured in one go as you won’t be able to rear yourself away and I’d absolutely love to see this on screen – it’d bring a new dimension to the idea of a big fat Greek wedding and the setting would be incredible to see on the screen in real life!
Even though this ‘holiday’ was about as far removed from a relaxing beach break as you can get, I still imagined myself packing my bags and heading off to this exclusive Greek getaway myself – it was a wonderful opportunity to escape from everything that’s so unsettling at the moment …and once you’re immersed in this wedding of the year, you’ll not be able to think of anything else except how you’re going to solve it before the final chapter!
I really loved the way that Tammy Cohen draws the reader in and keeps you guessing alongside the characters and attempt to understand what exactly is going on as ‘facts’ become tangled together and questions arise as to who exactly we can trust as we try and navigate the deft twists and turns of the plot. The way that you never quite know who’s keeping something up their sleeve next was one of my favourite things about this book and it certainly does a fine job of not allowing you to put it down as it gives you a solid case of ‘one more chapter’
This was a absolutely first class read– and if you’re feeling absolutely fed up of no foreign travel and want to travel vicariously– then this would be perfect, it’s so immersive! The sense of tension never lets up as you try and stay one step ahead – I hate giving spoilers so you’ll just have to buy it for yourself to find out how all the mysterious strands are resolved by the final page. If you love a ‘locked-room’ mystery for modern times that will absolutely keep you gripped then you’ll really love The Wedding Party and should treat yourself to a copy
Thank you so much to Anne Cater & Random Things Tours for aways recommending such great reads. I love being part of the blogging community with so many other fantastic book lovers and being able to share my views on the books I’ve loved is an absolute pleasure. Check out the other bloggers on the tour and see what they thought of Tammy’s latest fantastic whodunnit
Writer On The Shelf
Tammy Cohen is the author of six psychological thrillers, the latest of which is Stop At Nothing. She is fascinated by the darker side of human psychology. Her books explore how ‘ordinary’ people react when pushed into a corner, the parts of ourselves we hide from the world – and from ourselves.
Previously she also wrote three commercial women’s fiction novels as Tamar Cohen debuting with The Mistress’s Revenge which was translated all round the world. In addition, she has written three historical novels under the pseudonym of Rachel Rhys.
The first, Dangerous Crossing, was a Richard & Judy book club pick in Autumn 2017. She is a member of the Killer Women crime writing collective and lives in North London with her partner and three (allegedly) grown up children and her highly neurotic rescue dog.
Visit http://www.tammycohen.co.uk to find out more, or find her on facebook or twitter as @MsTamarCohen or on Instagram as @tammycohenwriter