Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!! A Different Time by Michael K. Hill

Different Time Blog TourA lonely, young man risks all to uncover the mysteries of the woman talking to him from the past…

Keith Nolan falls in love with the remarkable young woman from the past, talking to him on a home video she recorded in 1989. But to keep their conversation going, he must find more of her tapes.

There are forces working against them both, and time is running out.

1989. Lindsey is young and alone. Living with her overbearing mother and indifferent stepfather, she yearns for the friends and family she left behind when her parents divorced. Desperate to be understood, she starts a video diary to try and understand the conflict between the artist she wants to be, and the ordered life her mother envisages for her.

2017. Keith is also young and alone. Having lost both his parents in a traffic accident, he spends his days trawling comic book stands and stores searching for the issues he needs to complete the collection left to him by his beloved father. One day, searching amongst the stacks, he comes across an unmarked tape. When he plays it, a young woman is talking to the camera about her life. And when he speaks to her, she speaks back…

The premise of Michael K. Hill’s A Different Time really is a doozy – it ticked all my Doctor Who/time travel/love-across-time-and-space checkboxes! And the book really is a sweet and affecting love story about two lonely young people who connect with each other – with the added complication that they exist in very different time zones.

Told from both Lindsey and Keith’s point of view, A Different Time is a light and engaging read. The plot rattles along, with Keith desperately trying to find more of Lindsey’s tapes so that he can continue their ‘conversation’ even as the impossibility of their situation – and the challenges presented by the gap between their presents – dawns on him.

Lindsey and Keith are both likeable characters and, for the most part, the book focuses upon them rather than dwelling too much on minor details, making it a quick and easy read. There is, admittedly, a bit of insta-love in their relationship but the resulting romance is both sweet and poignant, which made up for the lack of depth in some elements of their characterisation. And both characters are very relatable – young, lonely, and a little bit lost, I really did want them to find each other and to gain something through their surreal experiences.

A Different Time is definitely one of those books that you’re better just to roll with. If you stare too hard at the logistics of the plot, or you’re seeking intense depth, you’re just not going to have as much fun. Because, whilst there are definitely things you can be picky about here, if you accept the book for what it is then you’ll find a warm, heartfelt and poignant tale about love, destiny, and fate. Perfect for providing those easy-to-read, escapist feels! 

A Different Time by Michael K. Hill is available now from Amazon in both Kindle e-book and paperback editions. 

WriteReadsMy thanks go to The Write Reads for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The tour continues until the end of the month so do follow @WriteReadsTours and @The_WriteReads, as well as the hashtag #UltimateBlogTour on social media for more reviews, content, and more!

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Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!! A Place To Lie by Rebecca Griffiths

A Place To Lie CoverIn a dark, dark wood

In summer 1990, Caroline and Joanna are sent to stay with their great-aunt to spend their holidays in a sunlit village near the Forest of Dean. The countryside is a welcome change from the drama they know back home in the city, but in the shadowy woods at the edge of the forest hide secrets that will bring their innocence to a distressing end.

There was a dark, dark house

Years later, a shocking act of violence sends Joanna back to Witchwood. In her great-aunt’s lonely and dilapidating cottage, she will attempt to unearth the secrets of that terrifying summer and comes to terms with the haunting effects it has left on her life. But will she be able to survive the impending danger from those trying to bury the truth?

Atmospheric and eerie, Rebecca Griffiths’ second novel, A Place to Lie, oozes gothic vibes whilst creating a contemporary mystery set amidst a brooding village.

Behind the seeming peace of the rural village of Witchwood, and the petty frustrations and rivalries of an everyday small village mentality, dark secrets lie. Secrets that, inadvertently, sisters Caroline and Joanne stumble across at the end of one idyllic summer, and that will shatter their world apart.

Years later, following a shocking act of violence, Joanna is slowly drawn back to Witchwood. As the novel progresses, we alternate between that seemingly idyllic summer and her gradual realisation of the truth. This alternation between past and present works really well in what is a slow-burn of a thriller. The majority of the action and drama takes place in the past scenes, which are nicely contrasted with Joanna’s gradual unravelling of the significance of these events in the present.

I found the relationship between the sisters Caroline and Joanna really interesting. Without giving away any spoilers, they have become estranged in their adult lives as a result of the events that took place 13 years ago. Caroline has also developed quite complex mental-health problems, and I felt that these were explored really well, as was the resultant impact that this had on her relationship with her sister and her past.

The other characters are, admittedly, a little less well-drawn but no less so than in many thrillers of this kind. And this is more than compensated for by the wonderfully brooding atmosphere of Witchwood village and the woods surrounding it, which ooze lush gothic vibes and create a real sense of setting and place that drives the more sedate moments in the action or in the character development.

The pacing of A Place to Lie is quite sedate, with quite a gradual introduction of characters and events, leading to Joanna’s eventual return to Witchwood about two thirds into the novel. That isn’t to say that the book is compelling but the twisty, atmospheric mystery created here is closer to Daphne Du Maurier than Gillian Flynn, with shades of the domestic noir found in the latter combining nicely with the gothic brooding of the former.

A Place to Lie is a well-crafted, atmospheric rural mystery, with some genuinely shocking twists and a creeping sense of paranoia and fear that is sure to make its way onto many thriller fans’ TBR piles this summer.

A Place to Lie by Rebecca Griffiths is published by Sphere and is available now in paperback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me to take part in this tour. The tour continues until 01 September so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!

A Place To Lie BT Poster

Book Tags

Inside and Out Book Tag!

I’ve been absolutely swamped with reviews recently so I recognise that it’s been a little while since I last put any non-review content on the blog.

So when I saw this one over on Drew’s ‘The Tattooed Book Geek‘ blog (which I highly recommend you go and check out), I thought I would give it a go – give both me and all of you a slight change of pace!

Inside flap/Back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough?

I don’t really have a preference over where the blurb information is provided. Back of the book is arguably more standard – and nice and easy to read when you’re browsing in a bookshop – but books with French flaps are pretty too.

Not a fan of quotes instead of a blurb though – I don’t especially care if Author A thought Author B’s book was the best thing since sliced bread, but I would like to know a little about the story before I purchase.

Since attempting (and miserably failing) to write decent book summaries for this blog, I do have a new appreciation of the art of good blurb writing though – there’s a reason I tend to use the publisher’s blurb at the start of my review posts! Providing enough information to entice the reader without accidentally spoiling the plot is an art. Because there really is nothing worse than a spoiler!

New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: audiobook, e-book, paperback, or hardcover?

I’m a tree book over e-book reader any day. As a postgraduate student, I spend nigh on every damn day stuck at a computer so I like to get away from the screen when I’m doing my ‘non-work’ reading. My Kindle is great for holidays and Netgalley proofs, but I vastly prefer a nice paperback any day.

That said, there have been some gorgeous hardcovers released over the last few years so my hardback collection has increased quite substantially. Paperbacks are still my preference for carting about the place but a nice chunky hardback is good to curl up with at the end of the day.

And audiobooks are awesome for getting some reading in during the commute. The production value on some of them is just outstanding. I’m listening to Daisy Jones and the Six at the moment and it’s full-cast audio so the different voices of the various band members really stand out. I’m sure the book is great but now I’ve heard the audio version, I couldn’t imagine ‘reading’ it any other way.

Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books, take notes, make comments? Or do you keep your books clean clean clean? 

In my academic existence, I do write in books – notes in the margins, underlining etc. Always in pencil and only ever in books I own – the number of students who deface library copies is truly horrifying!

In my reading life, I tend to avoid writing in my books. Poetry is the exception – I find I need to unpick poetry a little more than prose so I’ll often annotate in pencil as I read. If I do want to make a note of a quote for a review, I use those peel-off sticky tabs to mark the place. Or I turn down the corner of the page. Yes, I’m a monster, I know…

Does it matter to you whether the author is male or female when you’re deciding on a book? What if you’re unsure of the author’s gender?

Not at all. If the book is a good one and the story/subject appeals then the author could be a shapeshifting wizard from Mars for all I care!

I probably do read marginally more books written by women on average – maybe because there are more female authors in the genres I tend to read? – but I wouldn’t say that the author’s gender is a conscious decision when I pick up a book.

Ever read ahead? Or have you ever read the last page way before you got there?

Yes, all the time. Knowing how the story ends doesn’t really bother me – it’s the journey and not the destination that’s the interesting part.

That said, I try to avoid skipping ahead with crime novels. Finding out whodunnit before the end of the book is the worst, and part of the joy of reading them is trying to figure it out before the detective does!

Organized bookshelves, or outrageous bookshelves?

Is there such a thing as organised chaos?

My shelves are very loosely arranged by genre – crime/thriller has its own shelf, as do classics, sci-fi/fantasy/horror, poetry/plays, and YA/children’s books. Non-fiction is roughly organised into history, biography, feminist manifestos, and books about books.

General fiction is a complete free for all, although I do try and keep titles by authors together, and I generally have separate shelves for hardback and paperbacks.

At the moment, a number of the shelves of double-stacked, which means that I either need to read more, buy less, or have a good old-fashioned book cull!

Have you ever bought a book based on the cover alone?

Absolutely. I picked up Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent purely because of the cover – and was well rewarded as it was my favourite book of that year!

Most of the time though, the cover draws me in but it will be the blurb that sells me the book – or a quick read of the first page or two.

Final question. Take it outside to read, or stay in?

Inside, always.

I love the idea of reading outdoors, the sun on my face and the wind in my hair and all that. Apart from the sun in my face makes me squint, the wind in my hair stops me from seeing the page, every wasp/ant/bug in existence seems to be instantly attracted to me the moment I step outdoors, and I turn a lovely shade of lobster if left in the sunshine without factor 50 plastered all over me for longer than 10 seconds.

So indoors it is. Preferably with a comfy chair/sofa, a blanket, and an endlessly re-filling mug of tea. And the cat, if she’s feeling generous.

And that’s it! I’m not going to tag anyone else but if you’d like to have a go at the Inside Out Book Tag yourself, do link to this post and I’ll head over and have a read of your answers! And, until the next time…

Happy Reading! x

 

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!! Devotion by Madeline Stevens

Devotion CoverLonnie is 26, rich, talented and beautiful – with a husband and son to match.

Ella is also 26, but lonely, hungry and far from home.

Their fates intertwine the day Ella is hired as the family’s nanny, and finds herself mesmerised by Lonnie’s girlish affection and disregard for the normal boundaries of friendship and marriage, but soon resentment grows too.

Unreliable narrators often make for fantastic novels. Capable of the most dysfunctional relationships, or intense obsessive friendships, and always with a surface level of dark menace, they make for page-turning and compulsive reading. And, here to scratch the unreliable narrator itch left by last year’s Social Creature, comes Devotion, the debut novel by Los Angeles based author Madeline Stevens.

Ella is young and broke, reduced to hitting up random guys in rundown bars in return for drinks and food. So when she’s able to charm her way into a job working as a nanny for affluent couple Lonnie and James, it’s like a dream come true. Mesmerised by the couple’s Instagram-worthy lifestyle, Ella quickly transforms herself into ‘Elle’, working her way into Lonnie’s confidence and gradually harvesting her home for the secrets that lie behind the glittering facade. But as the boundaries between Elle and Lonnie become ever more blurred, has Ella bitten off more than she can chew by becoming entangled in James and Lonnie’s own marital game?

Formulated as a character study, Devotion is a sharp and sensuous read. Unlike Social Creature, with its loud parties and sharp descent from glamour into madness, Devotion is a quiet exploration of the obsession, malevolence, and jealousy that can lie at the heart of misguided devotion. Ella’s fixation with the seemingly carefree Lonnie is grounded first in jealousy and then in grudging admiration before twisting into something darker, resulting in an obsessive desire to inhabit the life and person of her unknowing employer.

Similarly, Lonnie, the subject of Ella’s obsessive gaze, is also the object of devotion for her husband James and their best friend – and Lonnie’s sometime lover – Carlow. Forever the object and never the subject, Lonnie is kept at a distance from the reader. Instead, she is the canvas onto which the desires of the other characters are painted and realised.

I should mention here that this is not a novel for the faint-hearted. The subject of devotion and obsession is explored on many levels, including within a number of rather vivid sex scenes. In particular, later in the book, there are a couple of scenes that raise issues around rape, consent, and sexual violence that might disturb some readers.

Whilst this wasn’t an issue for me personally reading the novel, it did highlight the weakness in the book for me which is that, however intricate a portrait of dysfunction Devotion paints, I struggled to get a tangible sense of the motivation behind the characters’ desires.

Ella’s jealously I could understand – her life at the start of the novel seems so distant from Lonnie’s, and it is clear that the lifestyle she is introduced into, and Lonnie’s own seemingly carefree demeanour, would be desirable to her. But Ella’s quick descent into some very weird behaviour – stealing mementoes and rooting through Lonnie and James’ personal possessions, suggested a darker psychological cause that was left frustratingly unexplored.

Overall, however, Devotion is a sharply observed study of the different and varied meanings of devotion itself. Covering fascination, love, jealousy, obsession, and desire, it packs a lot into the pages and offers a slow-burn exploration of self-destruction. Whilst I felt the characters occasionally lacked conviction, the novel is packed with malevolent tension, domestic secrets, sensuality, and suspense. And, for those seeking a narrator so unreliable she won’t even admit the truth to herself, Ella/Elle should hit the spot nicely.

Devotion by Madeline Stevens is published by Faber & Faber and is available now from all good bookshops and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.

My thanks go to Lauren Nicoll from Faber & Faber for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review. Please do check out the other tour stops to see what other bloggers thought of the book!

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Reviews

REVIEW!! Unladylike: A Grrrl’s Guide to Wrestling by Heather Bandenburg

UnladylikeForget what you think you know about wrestling.

In the world of Heather Honeybadger, aka Rana Venenosa, there are no steroids, no tans, no million-dollar contracts – there is only lycra, a sweaty underground club and an unbreakable resilience. From the day that Heather steps into the ring of the punk wrestling school Lucha Britannia, she finds herself transformed into a person she never knew she could be.

How do you become a wrestler when you hate sports so much you can’t do a press-up? What makes feminists and wrestlers both mortal enemies and unlikely best friends?

For the first time, an independent female wrestler talks in depth about how she went from a sad, lost riot grrrl to an empowered, persevering fighter who has performed across the world. 

Despite being a teenager during the famous ‘Attitude’ era of WWE, I’ve never really ‘got’ wrestling. I can appreciate the showmanship and skill involved but, as a sport, it’s just not one I’ve ever really understood. Which probably doesn’t make me the obvious target audience for Heather Bandenburg’s memoir Unladylike, a chronicle of her life in the ring.

And yet, despite having next to no knowledge about wrestling – and even less about the Lucha Libra tradition that Heather becomes involved in – I thoroughly enjoyed this smart, witty and, at times, hard-hitting memoir about a young woman finding her identity and her place in the world through her absorption into the wrestling world.

Because, whilst Unladylike is a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of London’s indie wrestling scene, it’s also an incredibly identifiable personal story about finding what makes you happy, and coming to terms with the varied aspects of your own personality and your place in the world. Heather is unflinching in her portrayal and touches on issues of gender, sexuality, personal identity, self-belief, confidence and anxiety as she discusses her involvement and development within the world of female wrestling.

She also offers a considered examination of the trials that come with defining yourself as a woman in a male-dominated environment, casting a critically appraising eye over the history of women in the sport, and the struggles that many of them still face today.

Full of anecdotes and packed with fascinating details of life behind the scenes, Unladylike is also a riot to read. By turns funny, self-deprecating, insightful, it’s packed with sharp observational humour that makes for an easy, page-turning read. Sort of the reading equivalent of sharing a few drinks at the pub with a friend!

There’s also a series of great appendices at the end of the book explaining common wrestling terms, providing a brief history of female wrestling, and offering diagrams of moves – it was a useful addition that quickly helped to explain any terminology and really helped me appreciate the effort and skill that goes into each and every wrestling match.

A fascinating biography that offers a unique combination of personal memoir, sporting anecdotes, and feminist critique, Unladylike is a witty and enjoyable read that packs a surprising punch. Wrestling fans will, naturally, find much to enjoy here but, for those of us not familiar with the sport, Unladylike still has plenty to offer. If you’re looking for something a little unusual to add to your reading list, then you won’t go far wrong with this.

Unladylike by Heather Bandenburg is published by Unbound and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including the Unbound Shop, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon

My thanks go to the author for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review. 

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!! The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning

The Butcher's Daughter CoverIt is 1535 and Agnes Peppin, daughter of a West Country butcher, has been banished to live out the rest of her life cloistered behind the walls of Shaftesbury Abbey.

Not long after arriving, King Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Head of the Church of England – religious houses are being formally subjugated, and the great Abbey is no exception to the purge.

Cast out with her sisters, Agnes is free to be the master of her own fate. But freedom comes at a price as she uses her wits and tests her moral convictions against her need to survive – by any means necessary…

Plenty of historical fiction has touched upon the political and moral fallout of Henry VIII’s decision to proclaim himself Head of the Church of England but few consider the impact on an individual life in the way that Victoria Glendinning’s The Butcher’s Daughter manages to.

Bringing the landscape of Tudor England to life in vivid prose, Glendinning’s novel focuses on Agnes Peppin, daughter of a West Country butcher, and a young woman whose life alters course with one act of teenage rebellion. Sent to live out her life as a nun in the convent at Shaftesbury Abbey, Agnes is soon wrapped up in the personal trials of a life of devotion. But times are changing. Commissioners are arriving at the abbey, smaller orders are being dissolved. And soon Agnes’ life will take another turn, and she will have to learn all over again how to live in the world.

For all of the political turmoil and the intricately woven picture of another age, The Butcher’s Daughter is, at its heart, a very personal story. Whilst Agnes’ life intersects with a number of historical figures, it remains very much her story – the tale of an ordinary woman living in extraordinary times and forced to make difficult, complicated decisions in order to survive. I didn’t always like Agnes, who is a complicated and somewhat difficult character at times, but I could always understand her – she felt like a real person and, as such, the dramas of her life makes for a fascinating read.

There’s a real authenticity of detail to the novel that reminded me of C S Sansom’s Shardlake series or Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell novels. This is Tudor England in all it’s vivid, messy, uncomfortable glory. From the small details about the daily lives of the nuns to the cold-hearted and calculating decisions being taken to curry political favour by altering swathes of lives, Glendinning has painted an evocative portrait of the period. I did occasionally wonder how feasible it would be for a woman in Agnes’ position to meet quite so many significant characters – one element towards the end of the novel did stretch the plausibility just a little too far for me – but, on the whole, the world and events of the novel feel authentic.

Written with elegance, this is a richly textured and multi-layered historical novel that is perfect for fans of Phillipa Gregory or Tracy Chevalier, as well as for anyone interested in the Tudor period. Evocative and thought-provoking, The Butcher’s Daughter isn’t the fastest of reads but its chronicle of one woman’s life in turbulent times is quietly gripping and will reward a reader’s patience.

The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning is published by Duckworth Books and is available now from all good bookshops and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review. Thanks also to Chaam Zeina from Duckworth Books for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 18 August 2019 so do check out the other stops along the way. 

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Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!! The Traitor of Treasure Island by John Drake

The Traitor of Treasure IslandBuried for nearly three hundred years and now brought triumphantly to light by Dr Livesey, this is, at last, the true story of what happened on the fateful Treasure Island… 

The truth about Captain Flint and his fabled death. 

The truth about Long John Silver and his coveted wife. 

And the truth about Jim Hawkins, that double-dealing turncoat of the first order: The traitor of Treasure Island.

Re-writing a classic is quite the challenge but its one that John Drake has risen to in The Traitor of Treasure Island, a new take on a Robert Louis Stevenson’s beloved adventure tale.

Drake has kept all of the derring-do of Stevenson’s original – there are pirates and treasure and rum galore in this rip-roaring tale – but he’s made some substantial changes to the characters, not least to Stevenson’s boy-hero Jim Hawkins. Without giving away spoilers, it’s clear from the off that Drake’s Jim is far from the bold but virtuous boy that Stevenson envisaged. Instead, he’s the double-dealing renegade around whom the traitorous events of Captain Flint, Long John Silver, and the crew of the Hispanola must all revolve.

It’s a clever twist, pulled off with flair in this re-imagining of the classic tale. All of the characters are present and correct – Captain Smollett, Squire Trelawney, Long John Silver, and Mr Arrow – and Drake has a talent for bringing them to life on the page.

Dr David Livesey narrates much of the story and comes across as a diligent man with hidden depths. As with many of the other characters, he’s fleshed out more than in Stevenson’s original thanks to the focus of the story being moved away from Hawkins – although he doesn’t move too far away from his original imagining so as to feel incongruous or entirely out of character.

There’s also a number of original characters added to the story, including the fiery Selena, wife of Long John Silver and a delight to read about. Intelligent and sparky, Selena has all the quick wits and fire to be a match for Long John’s sharp intelligence. The dangerous Captain Flint also makes an appearance, becoming a more menacing figure than the ghostly presence he cast across the original tale.

Featuring all the highpoints of the classic adventure tale – the siege of The Admiral Benbow to the mutiny on the Hispanola – and with a few new twists and turns thrown in, The Traitor or Treasure Island is a fast-paced and thrilling adventure story that is sure to carry readers off on the high seas this summer.

The Traitor of Treasure Island by John Drake is published by Endeavour Quill and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The tour continues until 15 August so do check out the other stops along the way for more reviews and content!

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