Meet Me At the Museum

Sometimes it takes a stranger to really know who you are..

When Tina Hopgood writes a letter of regret to a man she has never met, she doesn’t expect a reply.
When Anders Larsen, a lonely museum curator, answers it, nor does he.

They’re both searching for something, they just don’t know it yet.  Anders has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. Tina is trapped in a marriage she doesn’t remember choosing.

Slowly their correspondence blossoms as they bare their souls to each other with stories of joy, anguish and discovery. But then Tina’s letters suddenly cease, and Anders is thrown into despair.

Can their unexpected friendship survive?

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I was really excited to receive Anne Youngson’s debut novel – firstly because there had been such a buzz around it from so many readers that I respect and their description was making me desperate to get my hands on a copy and secondly because I knew that it was written as a series of letters.  I love novels in the epistolary form as I feel like you really get a sense of the speaker’s voice as well as feeling that you are somehow eavesdropping into a series of ‘found’ letters that – let’s face it – appeals to the curious among us all…

Tina and Anders are a fabulous pair to be eavesdropping on and the serendipitous nature of them  ‘meeting’ on the page is part of what totally charmed me about this utterly lovely book.

Tina’s first letter is to someone completely different, and it is only by chance that Anders, a lonely museum curator from Denmark is the one who replies.  When Tina was a child,  Professor Glob of the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark dedicated a book to Tina and her classmates. As an adult, Tina has always regretted not visiting and writes to him to explain how she feels – not knowing that Professor Glob  has passed away.

Anders replies, all the way from Denmark to Bury St Edmunds,  are a joy to read. It is truly a slow burner and I loved the way that their language and style alters as you turn the pages and their friendship grows. You can see them relaxing into this relationship and maybe because of its anonymity and uniqueness, being able to tell each other all kinds of things about their lives, hopes and dreams.

There is definitely something about writing something down rather than saying it that makes for a special kind of intimacy and their friendship blooms across the page as their letters talk about everything under the sun.

I love books like this, that you can immerse yourself in and enjoy as a treat – books that just hold you in their spell.  I’ve just been to see The Guernsey Literary & Potato Pie at the cinema and this book reminded me of reading that novel as it’s just as warm and touching with unexpected moments of connections between unlikely people that will definitely take you by surprise and win you over in a gentle and endearing way.

I would like to thank Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour. I absolutely loved this book and can see myself gifting it to lots of people as I think it’s going to be one of those books, that everyone will be talking about and asking whether you’ve read and I know loads of people who it’ll be the perfect gift for!

Treat yourself to a copy here

And make sure you keep an eye out for all the other fantastic bloggers who’ll be posting about it this week. How gorgeous does it look in my #OnTheShelfie? I was inspired by Tina’s farmhouse life to place it on my Welsh dresser for my picture this time with all my polka dots. I feel like Anders would like it!

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Writer on the Shelf

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ANNE YOUNGSON worked for many years in senior management in the car industry before embarking on a creative career as a writer.

She has supported many charities in governance roles, including Chair of the Writers in Prison Network, which provided residencies in prisons for writers. She lives in Oxfordshire and is married with two children and three grandchildren to date.

MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM is her debut novel, which is due to be published around the world.

 

Check out all of these amazing reviews!

The Observer Promising first-time British novelists 2018: ‘A novel about self-discovery and second chances’

‘I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone looking for a book that makes you think and wonder and quietly hope. I loved it’ TAMMY COHEN

‘Insightful, emotionally acute and absorbing’ Daily Express

‘A correspondence that begins with a search for clarity becomes something much deeper and richer – both for the two main characters, and for the reader.
Anne Youngson peels away the layers that prevent us from living the lives we ought to be leading, and her book is both tender and absorbing.’ LISSA EVANS, author of Their Finest Hour and a Half

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‘Meet Me at the Museum starts so quiet and small like a bud tightly closed against the winter then it unfurls into something so alive and truly beautiful. I was immensely moved by it’ TOR UDALL, author of A Thousand Paper Birds

‘Precise, clear, funny, poignant and truthful. This is a work of art, dear readers.
Revel in its beauty’ ADRIANA TRIGIANI

 

‘A moving tribute to friendship and love, to the courage of the ordinary, and to starting again’ RACHEL JOYCE

 

‘The loveliest short novel of late love you’ll ever read. Whenever I talk about it, I simply cry with joy’ JAMES HAWES
Read more  here

 

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Fault Lines – The earth shook!

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A little lie… a seismic secret… and the cracks are beginning to show…

In a re-imagined contemporary Edinburgh, where a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery.  On a clandestine trip to new volcanic island The Inch, to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery, a secret. Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she’ll be exposed, Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done…

 

I love Orenda books and can seriously say that I’ve never read a bad one yet. Combined with this, I love blogging about books written in or set in Scotland – so you can see why  I was so excited to receive this great new read from Doug Johnstone.  When I first discovered that this novel was set in a ‘reimagined Edinburgh’ I was totally intrigued. I grew up on the shores of the Firth of Forth so it was even more interesting to read about Surtsey’s adventures whilst being able to envisage the setting so clearly in my mind and remember so many occasions in these very places.

I was almost convinced that there literally might be a volcanic island that reared up in the Forth without my knowledge! Added to this, my maiden name was Johnstone so as you can see, I felt a real connection with this book and have recommended it to lots of people already. I am definitely featuring it in my Summer Reads column of 17 Degrees Magazine next month too as I love recommending books with a Scottish or local angle and I think this will definitely be a favourite read for lots of Scots this summer…

 

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Surtsey is well named for an aspiring volcanologist as she takes her unusual names from an Icelandic volcanic island. She has to endure a series of seismic events as this gripping novel unfolds and cracks certainly do appear, to continue with these volcanic metaphors.

Surtsey is planning an assignation with her very married lover Tom on the River Forth’s volcanic island The Inch when she discovers his body.  Fearful of the affair coming to light, she decides to say nothing about her dreadful discovery – but unfortunately for her, it’s all too late. Someone knows exactly what’s been going on and exactly what her involvement us too. This novel hurtles on at a cracking pace as we start to see these cracks start to appear in her life and it certainly kept me turning the pages!

Even though Surtsey is quite a complicated character who keeps her feelings close to her chest, I still really liked her. She is an intelligent and single-minded woman whose drive and determination are clear to see. It is also a nice counterpoint that we see a tender and caring side of her as she cares for her ailing mother and this definitely makes her a more rounded and credible character that has stayed with me long after finishing the book.

Even though this is a brief read, it’s certainly not slight and you’ll really be gripped by the twists and turns as you try and work out what exactly Surtsey has got herself caught up in and who is at the heart of the mystery she finds herself caught up in. As an English graduate, I worried at first that a book heavy on geology and ‘science’ would lose me or I’d lose interest in it – but I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth as I was totally caught up in this mystery and found myself wanting to find out more about the way that volcanoes work as a result.  Doug Johnstone wears his research well and it never feels like the science is extraneous to the plot or threatens to hijack the narrative at any point.

Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone is published by Orenda Books.
Many thanks to Karen @OrendaBooks for the review copy and @AnneCater for inviting me onto the blog tour.  I am so sorry that life got in the way and interrupted my post and am very happy to be sharing it with you today. This week really showed me that people in the book world are so supportive and lovely when life gets stressful and I truly feel privileged to work with such kind and caring folks

The blog tour continues tomorrow with BookieWookie and LizLovesBooks Catch up with it then as there are so many fabulous bloggers to look out for on this Orenda tour

Doesn’t it look amazing in my latest #OnTheShelfie

Treat yourself to a copy – you’ll love it  Fault Lines

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Writer on the Shelf

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Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had eight novels published, most recently Crash Land. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year.

Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and been Writer in Residence at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors.

He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, reviews books for the Big Issue, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.

 

Catch up with him on his website here

And follow him on Twitter here

 

#OMGWACA Feeling the Love!

Aisling is twenty-eight and still lives at home with her parents. She loves a drink (always served on a coaster, she’s not an animal).

She thinks whoever invented the shirt/jumper combination – the schumper – is a fashion genius.

She’d rather die than miss a free hotel breakfast.

In short,she’s a complete Aisling.

Her boyfriend John is a bit of a ride, but after seven years Aisling wants more than two nights a week at his place. She wants to be able to answer the question ‘When’s it your turn?’ by flashing a ring on her finger.

Until a week in Tenerife with John ends in a break-up, and she surprises everyone by deciding it’s time to move on, and introduce the Big Smoke of Dublin to the ways of the complete Aisling . . .

 

Complete Aisling Blog Tour

So I’m part of the Bridget Jones generation. I was one of those newly graduated girls, meeting their friends for a #Chardonnay on a Friday night and talking about dating disasters, big knickers and calorie counting at exactly the same time as Bridget and her mates. It just felt so real at the time and I think this book will affect its readers in exactly the same way! I don’t think you have to be from Ireland to recognise an Aisling and I think that whether you’ve met one, are best pals with one  or are an Aisling, you’re going to love this book.

From the very start, where Aisling is in the horrible situation of being trapped in the loo, listening to her character being assassinated right in front of her ears, we bond with her and feel like she is a real person rather than a made up character from a novel.  Her agonies about how long you should wait to be proposed to, the terror of wasting an absolutely amazing breakfast buffet and the genius way that a good pair of dangly earrings can jazz up your whole outfit are relatable with a capital R

I literally could not put this book down, I was so caught up in Aisling’s journey and I’m sure you will be too. Her ‘romantic holiday’ is perfectly cringeworthily depicted as we feel her awaiting the not-so-imminent proposal with a heavy heart as she realises that it is just not going to happen. It’s hard to feel like that – that your life is just waiting to begin and if only this one thing happened then everything else will just fall into place. Even if for you it wasn’t a white frock and a reception at the swankiest venue in Ballygobbard, you’ll still be able to connect with Aisling’s feeling of ‘Why me’ when her life plan which seemed so logical, just doesn’t pan out the way she expects it to…

The next section, where Aisling moves to Dublin with Sadhbh and Elaine is a joy to read. It’s such fun to see Aisling embrace all of these new adventures with such gusto, even if you suspect she probably still has a spare pair of tights and some wet wipes in her handbag in case of emergencies. I loved the idea behind this book: 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.

The Irish setting will be familiar to readers of Marian Keyes and it’s no coincidence that she loved the book too! #OMGWACA  isn’t just for an Irish audience though, there is lots here that you’ll recognise wherever you grew up. I totally fell for Aisling; she’s my favourite fictional character this year after Eleanor Oliphant. Although they are really different as characters, I think that what I love about them both is that they are uncompromisingly themselves throughout the book- regardless of what life throws at them.

This is the kind of book you’ll be quoting at your friends and begging them to read as you will want to have a good laugh talking about Aisling and thinking of all the ways you’ve either been like her or met someone who’s done exactly the same thing.

I loved the story behind the book too:

Authors Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen are Aislings. Maybe not complete Aislings but about 42%. The Aisling character was conceived in their sitting room in 2008, when they began to observe the many traits, characteristics and quirks of a very particular type of Irish girl; one they identified around them and one they identified with.

The Aisling character started as an in-joke between two best friends on a Facebook group which now boasts over 50,000 followers and counting.

 

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Check them out over on Facebook ~ Oh My God What a Complete Aisling

And check out some of the other fantastic bloggers on the tour – I loved hearing what they thought about Aisling and I love it when they reveal their own wee Aisling moments in their review. 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.

There’s a wee bit of Aisling in us all – I recommend you get out and treat yourself to a copy so that you can find out for yourself how much of an Aisling you really are…

 

The Fear Blog Tour – Part III

 

Sometimes your first love won’t let you go…

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey….

* * * * * * *

A big thank you to Sabah Khan for inviting me on the blog tour, I loved The Fear and it’s the perfect pageturner to get lost in this Bank Holiday weekend!

The Fear introduces us to Lou, Wendy and Chloe. Three very different women who each have their own role in this compelling and gripping read. Lou was groomed by her karate teacher,  Mike when she was only 13 years old and ended up being kidnapped and taken off to France by him – now at 32, Lou  is still haunted by this traumatic ordeal and can’t break free from her horrendous past. She cannot trust anyone and lives a solitary life as a result of being too fearful to embark upon lasting relationships as an adult. She cannot believe it when the past returns to haunt her with the discovery of Chloe’s situation: Chloe is another 13 year old gorl that Mike has targeted and it seems to Lou that she’s become trapped in a nighmare with history beginning to repeat itself.

I loved the way that Cally Taylor switches up the point of view in this book as we then hear from Lou through her diaries and hear about her evolving relationship with Mike from her young naive and innocent perspective. This is truly dark subject matter and not for everyone as her trust and his predatory behaviour provide a disconcerting juxtaposition for the reader.

C L Taylor has really created a troubling and disturbing character in Mike. He’s a seasoned pro at targeting and closing in on his prey and you will definitely feel more than a little disconcerted after reading certain passages in The Fear. The writing is skilful and fast paced and you will be up late trying to discover who exactly the mysterious Wendy Harrison is – and how exactly does she fot in to this tale. The episodes in France stand out as being particularly realistic and give you a real insight to the way that grooming and CSE works in order for people like Mike to fulfil their needs and snare a young woman through their skills and manipulation.

Lou’s obsessive need to bring Mike to justice means that you’ll race through The Fear at a breakneck pace. It was cleverly plotted and it was fun trying to see if my guesswork about the way that this book would resolve all of its different strands in its resolution would prove to be correct. I hate spoilers, so all I’ll say is that you won’t be disappointed. This is sure to please Cally’s legions of fans and bound to win her a few more! It’ll definitely be seen on tons of sunloungers this summer and will definitely be a beach read of 2018

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Writer On The Shelf

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C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and son. She started writing fiction in 2005 and her short stories have won several awards and have been published by a variety of literary and women’s magazines.

In 2014, The Bookseller named C.L. Taylor as one of the year’s Bestselling Adult Fiction Debut Authors for The AccidentThe Lie and The Missingwere Sunday Times top 10 bestsellers in paperback, and both books hit the #1 spot on the Kindle bestseller list. She has sold 1 million books to date.

Sign up to join the CL Taylor Book Club for access to news, updates and information that isn’t available on the web, as well as exclusive newsletter-only competitions and giveaways and the books that CL Taylor thinks will be the next big thing.

http://www.callytaylor.co.uk/cltaylorbookclub.html

http://www.cltaylorauthor.com

Check Cally out on Social Media:

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Grace After Henry – your next favourite read

Grace sees her boyfriend Henry everywhere. In the supermarket, on the street, at the graveyard. Only Henry is dead. He died two months earlier, leaving a huge hole in Grace’s life and in her heart. But then Henry turns up to fix the boiler one evening, and Grace can’t decide if she’s hallucinating or has suddenly developed psychic powers. Grace isn’t going mad – the man in front of her is not Henry at all, but someone else who looks uncannily like him. The hole in Grace’s heart grows ever larger. Grace becomes captivated by this stranger, Andy – to her, he is Henry, and yet he is not. Reminded of everything she once had, can Grace recreate that lost love with Andy, resurrecting Henry in the process, or does loving Andy mean letting go of Henry? 

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Reading this book uninterrupted for an entire day whilst stretching out on a sunbed looking out over *that* view has to be one of my most pleasurable experiences of 2018 so far.  Being a busy teacher, it isn’t often that I get to indulge myself by spending a whole day reading a book from cover to cover – but I’m so glad that I did get this chance to immerse myself in Grace’s story and discover this fantastic read.

This book is everything that a holiday read should be – warm-hearted, filled with characters that you both believe in and care about and wonderfully written. Grace’s bereavement is brought horribly to life and we see the full effect it wreaks on her as everyone else’s life goes on, uninterrupted all around her.

The pain and disbelief that she experiences are brought to life for us as we experience right alongside Grace the destructive bleakness of realising that the forever-home you’ve just bought with the love of your life is now yours alone after his sudden and traumatic death. The dark days after Henry’s death are full of tiny details that I really connected with – I don’t want to give any spoilers but I will tell you that if you’ve been through a recent bereavement you’ll definitely find much to connect with here.

Although this is a book about loss and how we all have to find our own path through grief, there is much to laugh about scattered through its pages. I know that there have been many writers hailed as the ‘next Marian Keyes’ over the last 20 years – but I seriously feel like I haven’t felt that same level of skill in juxtaposing absolutely awful situations with moments of sheer hilarity since I first read Watermelon way back in 2007.

Grace’s parents are brought to life just as delightfully as any of Keyes’ legendary family portraits and there are plenty of one-liners that you’ll be absolutely dying to share. I absolutely loved her dad and his obsession with celebrity gossip and his tendency to get things a little mixed-up was absolutely hilarious. My favourite slip-of-the-tongue was ‘Sex-Mice’ instead of Love Rat and I think I’ll definitely be adopting this one in real life…

Grace after Henry has exactly the right balance – you are absolutely rooting for Grace whilst at the same time questioning some of her life choices and getting frustrated with some of the ways that she deals with this awful period in her life. I mean we’ve all experienced loss – but how many of us get the experience of meeting another version of the person we’ve lost and having them fix our boiler or rub our feet when we need it most?

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The situation Grace finds herself in is a very challenging one and it’s sure to provoke much discussion if it’s chosen for your book group. I immediately lent it to my mum to read – on the adjacent sunlounger – so that I could talk it over with someone as I just felt that I HAD to. You’ll end up finishing this book feeling like you know Grace and that’s the highest compliment you can really give to a book; I really loved it and I’m going to be recommending it to everyone as it’s such a special and lovely book.

As a general rule, I’d avoid a book that people were calling ‘heartwarming’ but Grace after Henry is heartwarming in the very best way.  It deals with loss not by talking about Grace’s loss – but by allowing us to live through it with her and experience all the stages of grief that she has to wade through alongside her. It is written with sensitivity, intelligence and a wonderfully warm sense of humour and I can’t wait to read more by Eithne Shortall. If you’re heading off somewhere lovely this summer, Grace after Henry is the perfect book to pack – it not only packs an emotional punch, it will also make you laugh so hard at times that you’ll spill your afternoon cocktail. I *might* know someone who actually did…

Buy yourself a copy here, you definitely won’t regret it:

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I’d like to thank Anne Cater & Corvus Books for inviting me onto the Blog Tour – why don’t you check out some of these other fab bloggers over the next week or so

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Writer on the Shelf

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Eithne Shortall studied journalism at Dublin City University and has lived in London, France and America. Now based in Dublin, she is chief arts writer for the Sunday Times Ireland. She enjoys sea swimming, cycling and eating scones.

Eithne’s Website  

 Catch her on Twitter

 

My Spring Reads Column in 17 Degrees Magazine

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Hope you’ve all feeling like Spring might just be around the corner. A huge congratulations to Lindsay Johnston who was the lucky winner of our fantastic #TwelveDaysOfChristmas competition and won the whole pile of Winter picks. It’s been really hard to narrow down my recommendations for Spring, but I hope you find something here that you can enjoy once the weather picks up.

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Sharing my latest column from 17 Degrees Magazine – hope you find something that you’ll love as much as I did.

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A right good story…

You, Me Everything  – Catherine Isaac ( Simon & Shuster  £12.99)

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The gorgeous setting of this book in the beautiful Dordogne took me miles away from all this snow we’ve been having as Jess and her son William head over to spend the summer with absentee dad, Adam at Château de Rossignol, a grand castle that he has restored into a glamorous holiday resort. Adam has never been a dad to William, sending him baby toys when he’s far too old for them and seeming much more interested in his latest girlfriend than being involved in his son’s life. Jess travels to France determined to nurture the father-son relationship without falling for handsome, carefree Adam herself – as she knows how that one ended last time…This novel is perfect for readers who enjoy characters we can really connect with in emotional dilemmas that have us rooting for them. Jess is such a credible creation and we definitely feel for her as she struggles with conflicting emotions as William grows closer to his dad after having him all to herself for all these years. Their long summer in France is sure to send you reaching for Tripadvisor to browse your next holiday destination as it sounds so lovely, but beware –  there’s more to this trip than meets the eye and you’ll be up late turning the pages as soon as you realise that this trip to France might have more complex motives than Jess is initially prepared to admit. You Me Everything is a moving and emotional story about how far we will go for love.  Rights have sold in over twenty-two countries so make sure you read this one before the movie is released!

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Three Things About Elsie- Joanna Cannon ( HarperCollins  £12.99)

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This is another one of those books. A book that I can’t stop recommending to people – just like Eleanor Oliphant last year. The first thing you’ll notice about this book is its gorgeous cover. It’s a Battenberg cake and just like Mr Kiplings, this book is definitely exceedingly good Three Things about Elsie is my new favourite book and I hope you’ll love it as much as I did.

There are three things you should know about Elsie.  The first thing is that she’s my best friend. The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.  And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has had a fall in Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders whether an awful hidden secret from her past is about to resurface; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look identical to a man who passed away sixty years ago?  I’m determined to review this book with no spoilers, as you should definitely uncover the truth about Elsie for yourself. I really got lost in this book and felt like the characters were real people whose lives I was getting a peek into. Joanna Cannon’s new book asks us whether we can ever really know what’s going on below the surface in people’s lives and makes us think more deeply about the fact that tiny decisions we make can have huge and far-reaching consequences. This book is just as delicious as the cake on its front cover and should definitely be enjoyed this Easter with a cup of tea and a slice of Battenberg cake – you’re in for a treat.

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The Stranger – Kate Riordan (Penguin  £12.99)

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Was it simply a tragic accident? Or should the inhabitants of Penhallow have been more careful about whom they invited in?

If you’re pining for Poldark and love a historical epic, then The Stranger might be something to fill the gap. For decades, Penhallow Hall has stood frozen in time, protecting the secrets of its isolated inhabitants. But even beautiful Cornwall is no shelter from the war, and Penhallow must finally open its doors to strangers. This book is set in 1940 and we hear about the nightly blackouts and the constant fear of a Nazi invasion, as three land girls arrive to grow vegetables at Penhallow. The Stranger opens with a church bell clanging to announce the body of a young woman on the beach and we discover how this mysterious event came about as the novel unfolds. Each of the succeeding chapters form a timeline going back six weeks where we slowly learn more about how each of these characters’ backstories might have led to this mysterious drowning.  The strong plotting and skilful characterisation combine to draw you into a story bursting with secrets and Rose, Jane and Diana’s distinct voices all combine to keep you turning the pages. If you like Daphne du Maurier or Lucinda Riley, you’ll love this book and I know that my mum’s definitely going to be pinching it from me for her holidays.

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The Queen of Bloody Everything (Pan McMillan £14.99)

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If you, like me, are a child of the 70’s then you’re going to love this coming-of-age novel. Dido, the main character just wants to fit in – for her family to be just like everybody else’s. Unfortunately for her, her free spirit mother Edie has no interest in being like anyone else – least of all the ‘perfect’ Treveylans who live just next door. Dido falls in love with the Trevelyan family as soon as she moves in next door to them. Angela, the mother, is the perfect stay at home mum; Harry or Harriet is a miniature version of Angela; Tom, Harriet’s older brother, is literally Dido’s boy-next-door first love, and David is the perfect storybook dad.  Dido spends a great deal of her adolescence wishing that she was a Trevelyan and her first-person account of growing up in the 80’s and 90’s will definitely strike a chord with anyone who lived through the legwarmers and Live Aid era. Dido’s relationship with her mum is one of the best things about this novel, as we see her priorities change during the course of the novel. Dido grows up and realises that sometimes the things we want aren’t always what they seem and our relationship with our family is a bond that endures forever, despite all of its challenges. This novel has everything: drama, nostalgia and real warmth at the heart of it;  It’s the kind of book that you wish you could read all over again as soon as you’ve finished and I’m jealous of anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading it yet.

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Non-Fiction Page Turners

Member of the Family – Dianne Lake (HarperCollins £8.99)

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Following Charles Manson’s recent death, Dianne Lake reveals the true story of life with Manson and her involvement with his infamous cult – who became notorious for their series of brutal murders during the long hot summer of ‘69. In this disturbing memoir, Dianne Lake writes about her years of lost innocence with Charles Manson, revealing how she became the youngest member of his Family and offering new insights into one of the twentieth century’s most notorious criminals.  At age fourteen, Dianne Lake―with a note in her pocket from her hippie parents granting her permission to leave them―became one of “Charlie’s girls,” a devoted acolyte of cult leader Charles Manson. Dianne Lake gives a fascinating insight into her induction into this cult, vividly describing how she endured manipulation, psychological control, and physical abuse as Manson’s true vision began to unravel. From the legendary Spahn ranch and the group acid trips to the Beatles’ White Album and Manson’s messiah-complex, Dianne tells the riveting story of the group’s descent into madness from someone who was actually there. This novel is a helter-skelter tour through the kaleidoscopic nightmare that was the tail end of the 60’s and Lake is an unforgettable tour guide. This is a dark and mesmerising tale which will give fans of The Girls by Emma Cline a deeper insight into the heart of darkness that destroyed the Flower Children’s era for good. Unputdownable.

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A False Report – A True Story T Christian Miller/ Ken Armstrong

(Cornerstone £16.99)

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I am a True Crime addict and this is the best of its genre I’ve read in a long time. Its bright red cover is very eye-catching and I literally could NOT put it down until I’d reached the end.  On 11 August 2008, eighteen-year-old Marie reported that a masked man had broken into her home and raped her. Within days, police – and even those closest to Marie – became suspicious of her story: details of the crime just didn’t seem plausible. Confronted with the seeming inconsistencies, Marie broke down and said her story was a fabrication – a bid for attention. The police rapidly convicted her of making a false report and she was vilified as a liar. This book fast forwards a few years and uncovers the police officers who reinvestigated this case and cracked it wide open. Galbraith and Hendershot soon realised they were dealing with a serial rapist: a man who took calculated steps to erase all physical evidence, who photographed each of his victims, threatening to release the images online if the women went to the police. This is a gripping book, a page-turner as tense as any thriller which will make you think hard about the way the justice system operates as well as the way that we look at cases that don’t fit our perception of what rape ‘looks like’. Controversial and challenging, it really makes for an unforgettable read. Absolutely 10/10. It’s definitely going to get people talking this Spring.

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The Boy On The Shed – Paul Ferris (Hodder  £9.99)

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Paul Ferris became a professional footballer and at the age of 16 was the youngest player ever to play for Newcastle United. Coming from Northern Ireland and being a skilful winger with ‘magic’ feet, he was inevitably hailed as ‘the new George Best’. But the story of his time in the game, particularly as a young player, is one of insecurity, injuries, uncertainty, fear and, ultimately, a failure to fulfil his hopes and dreams. This is another book where although the narrator is a footballer, it’s not a ‘football book’, exactly. It is much more concerned with the struggles of growing up in Northern Ireland, a Catholic on a Protestant estate in Lisburn in the 1970s. It is a story of everyday sectarianism and its effects on so many young people;  of battling childhood adversity and coming out on the other side with the love and support of his family – particularly his mother which will definitely strike a chord with so many readers. This book is very relatable and lots of funny stories had me wanting to read them out loud as they were so like some of the stories from my own family. This book will make you laugh and make you cry and you don’t have to have any interest at all in football to read it from cover to cover. Paul Ferris has a fantastic turn of phrase and a great line in black humour that shows what a character he is. I loved it and I’m sure lots of you will too.

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Hunters: Wee Stories from the Crescent  – Anthony Camilleri (Tippermuir £9.99)

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Hunters is a funny, sad, honest and uplifting memoir of growing up in Hunter Crescent in Perth during the 1970s and 1980s –  I always try and include something local or Scottish and I loved this book from Independent publishers Tippermuir. Anthony Camilleri grew up there himself and is a fabulous tour guide of one of Scotland s working-class schemes in all its glory –  with some absolutely cracking stories and superb photographs that will be sure to send you back down memory lane. Hunter Crescent was a sprawling housing scheme just north of Perth city centre, built after an act of parliament calling for slum areas to be replaced with modern housing. For its first thirty-five years, Hunters was a model scheme. By the mid-1970s, however, things had gone horribly wrong and it took a group of dedicated and passionate tenants to get the place back on an even keel. This is a great read, it’ll remind you of Scotland as it used to be – complete with couches in the front garden, New Year parties that go on for four days and lots of real characters. I totally recommend this book if you like to look back on the past and remember the way we used to live, complete with terrible fashion choices and lots of nostalgic 70’s dinners. You’ll love it!

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Crime & Thrillers

The Memory Chamber – Holly Cave  (Quercus £12.99)

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In The Memory Chamber, true death – as we understand it –  is a thing of the past. In the future, you’ll be able to spend the rest of eternity re-living your happiest memories: that first kiss, falling in love, the birth of your children, enjoyed on a rolling loop for ever and ever. Isobel is a Heaven Architect, and she helps dying people create afterlives from these memories. So when she falls for Jarek, one of her terminally ill – but also married – clients, she knows that while she cannot save him, she can create the most beautiful of heavens, just for him. But when Jarek’s wife is found dead, Isobel uncovers a darker side of the world she works within, and she can trust no one with what she finds. I loved this unusual and thought-provoking book. We all have our own private idea of what might be waiting for us on the other side and I was totally intrigued by the sound of a ‘Heaven Architect’ and what they’d build for me.  Holly Cave is a talented and unusual writer who will definitely make you think hard about what you yourself feel about the moral dilemmas faced by her characters. It gives you a momentary feeling of being able to see the world in a different light and will definitely give you lots to talk about. If you like your books a wee bit different, you’ll really love The Memory Chamber and good luck constructing your very own Heaven.

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The Chalk Man – C.J Tudor ( Penguin  £9.99)

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Fans of Stephen King,  look no further: I might just have found you a new favourite book.  C.J Tudor is amazingly skilful of getting right under your skin, like the very best of King’s novels and definitely succeeded in getting me to turn all the lights on before I headed upstairs as I just couldn’t stop thinking about the sheer darkness in this cracking debut novel.  You can feel it in the woods, in the school and in the playground; you can feel it in the houses and at the fairground. You can feel it in most places in the small town of Anderbury . . . the fear that something or someone is watching you. It all begins back in 1986, at the fair, on the day of the accident. That was when twelve-year-old Eddie met Mr Halloran – the Chalk Man. He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun until the chalk men led them to a dead body. Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk and a drawing of a figure… I don’t want to give any more away as this is such a rattling good read. This book will definitely unnerve you and leave you looking over your shoulder in case something is on the point of dropping through your letterbox. I can’t wait to see what C.J Tudor does next as The Chalk Man had me hooked. An absolutely excellent read – buy it if you Dare!

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The Gathering Dark – James Oswald ( Penguin  £9.99)

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Inspector Tony Mclean is one of my favourite fictional characters. By this time – if you’ve been reading my reviews for the whole year – you must know that I love a bit of Tartan Noir and try to review Scottish crime fiction whenever I can as I think we do it much better than anybody else!  Whether you’re a seasoned fan of James Oswald or meeting Tony Mclean for the very first time, you’ll be drawn right into this unusual and gripping novel in no time. Edinburgh is yet again the backdrop to Oswald’s eighth novel which combines a catastrophic crash with a faint tinge of the macabre. It’s a real testament to the skill of Oswald ’s writing that both the crash and the mysterious events are very well balanced in this novel with neither storyline unbalancing the other. We get a real sense of Tony’s Mclean’s complicated personal life and feel brought alongside him in his tireless search for the truth. This novel really captures the hard work that goes on behind the scenes in police teams trying to solve crimes when everything seems against them and you’ll really empathise with the team as absolutely nothing goes smoothly as this complex investigation proceeds. I thoroughly enjoyed The Gathering Dark and think that if you haven’t already read the last 7 of Oswald’s Scottish crime novels then you’re really in for a treat catching up with Tony’ Mclean’s caseload.

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The Pinocchio Brief – Abi Silver  (Eye Books £8.99)

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If you love a writer that makes you think hard about the way society is going and like to consider our occasionally dysfunctional relationship with technology, then The Pinocchio Brief is sure to be a big hit with you this Spring. A 15-year-old schoolboy is suddenly accused of the brutal murder of one of his teachers. His defence team, consisting of experienced lawyer Judith and young, energetic solicitor, Constance, begin a desperate pursuit of the truth, revealing uncomfortable secrets about the teacher and the school along the way as they try and defend this indefensible act. As we read on, we discover that Judith is hiding her own secrets and risks everything coming to light when it is announced that a new lie-detecting device, nicknamed Pinocchio, will be used during the trial. In their attempt to save Raymond from being convicted for a crime they’re certain he hasn’t committed, how can they persuade him that silence is not the best defence and what else will be uncovered beneath the civilised façade of his boarding school? The Pinocchio Brief is a gripping thriller which really challenges us to think about the way we present the truth. It uses technology to pose questions about the justice system and the chapters narrated by Raymond himself will really stick in your mind for a long time. Abi Silver’s legal career means that the court scenes are extremely realistic and you’ll be drawn in as successfully as any John Grisham courtroom drama. This is a great holiday read that’ll have you turning the pages to reach the conclusion. If you’re jetting off anywhere sunny this Easter, make sure you pack it in your suitcase.

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I have loved reading and reviewing another 12 books for you this Spring.  I honestly can’t believe I’ve been doing this for a whole year now. If there are any genres that you’d like me to recommend or any books that you’ve loved and would like other people to know about then definitely get in touch and I’ll make sure other readers get to hear about them…

If you’ve enjoyed this selection, you can check out my regular book blog at www.ontheshelfbookblog@wordpress.com  or check out my twitter feed  @OnTheShelfBooks to see me posting regularly about great books. Have a fantastic Easter and see you in the Summer for some hot picks for the beach!

Jill

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The Black Earth Blog Tour

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1922. When the Turkish Army occupies Smyrna, Zoe Haggitiris escapes with her family only to lose everything. Alone in a sea of desperate strangers, her life is touched, for a moment, by a young English boy, Tom Collyer, also lost, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life. Years later when war breaks out, Tom finds himself in Greece and in the chaos of the British retreat, fate will lead him back to Zoe. But he will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them.

I read this fantastic read lying in the hot sun on the jetty at Cettia, looking across the sea towards the Greek islands of Rhodea & Symi and this book provided me with much food for thought about this turbulent time in Greek history. 

The Black Earth is a fascinating and immersive read, describing the lives of Greek singer, Zoe Valavani and British Officer, Lieutenant Tom Collyer, and how their trajectories criss-cross as war tears the country apart. It is a time period that I don’t really know that much about and I love this kind of novel, where I finish it and end up on Google for hours, researching all of the events in the book and looking at maps and photos of the real settings and events that have been portrayed in its pages.

Kazan’s novel begins in 1922 where we meet Zoe who is attempting to escape from Turkey with her parents on their yacht. Tragedy strikes and Zoe is left clinging to the shattered wreck of their beloved boat after a collision robs her of her parents and leaves her alone in Piraeus. This is her first encounter with Tom, but little does she know the way that fate will throw them together as the war rages on around them. I loved the character of Zoe and I found it easy to connect with her grit and determination as she battles to overcome the many obstacles that she has to endure.

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If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I really love a novel where you explore events from more than one perspective.  I think that Kazan is equally skilled at portraying the characters of Tom and Zoe and their characters both engage the reader as they spring to life off the page. Kazan paints a vivid portrait of their struggles to survive in a dangerous and unpredictable time in history. I hate including spoilers so all I’ll say is that Zoe’s talent as a singer makes her stand out, in a historical period where drawing attention to yourself is a risky proposition and there are several tense moments when your heart will definitely be in your mouth.

Tom’s life of ease and privilege before the war has ill-prepared him for the privations and horrors that he will have to endure in Greece – however, he refuses to let the terrifying sights that he has to endure to harden or coarsen him and he remains a sensitive and gentlemanly character throughout the novel. His letters allow us a real insight into his nature and this was a favourite part of the novel for me. Little did he know all those years ago that his fleeting encounter with Zoe would have the ramifications that they do as an adult and I loved hearing his thoughts and reflections on the life he hopes to have when the war is finally over and I really felt that this allowed me to connect with him just as much as Zoe, which is rare for a book told in dual perspective.

The way that Kazan brings the horror and anguish so vividly to life on the page made me totally lose myself in this fantastic read. I couldn’t tear myself away from the suffering that had to be endured and even though Kazan pulls no punches, his description is moving rather than disturbing as he opens your eyes to an aspect of the war that you might not know very much about. The fact that he has a family connection with these events lends The Black Earth an added poignancy and made me remember that even though this is a novel, the stories it tells were very much a reality for thousands of Greeks who found themselves trapped in a conflict that they were powerless to do anything about.

If you love a historical read that brings moral dilemmas vividly to life and enjoy being totally immersed in a powerful and vivid narrative then you’ll love The Black Earth. It’s a powerful story and I found myself quite emotional as it drew to a close, knowing as I did that even though Tom and Zoe were fictional characters, they’d really lived for me whilst I was lost in the book.  I will definitely look out for more from Philip Kazan as the balance of historical detail, wonderful characterisation and emotional punch was a winning combination for me.

I would like to thank Anne Cater for inviting me to participate in the blog tour – I think that The Black Earth looks fabulous in my #OnTheShelfie and  I’ll definitely be looking out for the other blog posts to see what my fellow bloggers thought of this emotional and memorable tale.

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Writer on the Shelf

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PHILIP KAZAN was born in London and grew-up on Dartmoor. He is the author of two previous novels set in fifteenth-century Florence and the Petroc series following a thirteenth-century adventurer. After living in New York and Vermont, Philip is back on the edge of Dartmoor with his wife and three children.

Follow him on Twitter: @pipkazan

Author’s Website: philipkazan.wordpress.com