It’s Here..! My Booktime Brunch with Antonia Honeywell on Chiltern Voice

grayscale photo of vintage radio beside stove with cooking pot

 

Thank you so much to Antonia for sending me a copy of the Booktime Brunch Show!

Feel free to have a listen, hear how much #Booklove (I know!), there was in this show, and let me know what you think!

To all the people I tagged in my previous post, have a listen to see what we said about you … (all lovely I promise..!).

Thank you for all the wonderful feedback already, and now you can hear the whole thing..

 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did doing it, and let me know if you have any suggestions of books we should be talking about for our Autumn and Christmas Special.

Lots of love,

Clare

xxx

The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath

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Mel McGrath: The Guilty Party

Published By: HQ Stories

Buy It: here

What The Blurb Says:

You did nothing. That doesn’t mean you’re innocent.

On a night out, four friends witness a stranger in trouble. They decide to do nothing to help.

Later, a body washes up on the banks of the Thames – and the group realises that ignoring the woman has left blood on their hands.

But why did each of them refuse to step in? Why did none of them want to be noticed that night? Who is really responsible?

And is it possible that the victim was not really a stranger at all?

What I Say:

‘It won’t go away, that memory, that secret. It will sink into the deeper layers of our friendship until returning to the surface someday, it will begin to destroy us from the inside.’

There is a very famous saying which I am sure you all know. ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.’

The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath is perhaps a perfect example of the fact that sometimes they can be one and the same thing.

Cassie, Anna, Bo and Dex seem to be a tightly knit group of friends who have known each other for ever, and are the sort of annoying cliquey group who can finish each other’s sentences and are unrelenting in telling jokes and limitless anecdotes about their friendship.

One night, whilst at a music festival, the group witness a a violent sexual assault on a young woman, and do nothing. They walk away, too fearful of the implications of getting involved, and retreat back to their own worlds.

The thing is, that Cassie cannot forget what she has seen. When a body of a woman is washed up from the Thames, the nameless woman is named as Marika, a real person who, it turns out, was actually a part of all of the group’s lives for very different reasons.

So far so formulaic you may think? This is where you are very wrong.

The Guilty Party is a clever and scathing examination of the true nature of friendship, how what you see is not always what you get. It may seem that the group lead a picture perfect life, but each of them is fractured and very adept at maintaining a facade whilst underneath their reality is far from perfect. Cassie is unhappy and desperately short of money. Anna’s seemingly wonderful marriage is far from it and she has issues around food. Dex is constantly cheating on his older husband who has cancer, and Bo may seem to be the very personification of a successful IT entrepreneur, but he has a very dark secret that would ruin him should it become public. The group also use their online Little Black Book to document the people they have been with, which could be explosive should it get into the wrong hands. Coupled with these secrets that bubble under the surface, Anna and Bo, once an item, seem to be unable to untangle their lives and determine the lines of their friendship, whilst Dex and Cassie were also an item before he came out.

As Cassie becomes more absorbed in trying to understand who the victim was, and unravelling the guilt that is seeping into and through her friends, she starts to realise that maybe each one of them had a part to play in Marika’s death.

When the group stay at an isolated cottage for the weekend, it is there that the four friends are forced to finally confront how each of them played a part in Marika’s fate. The location and distance of the cottage from the outside world means that inside the cottage becomes increasingly claustrophobic as Cassie, Anna, Bo and Dex are forced to not only confront the reality of what they have done, but also the fact that they may really not be as close as they think. It is as if increasingly their friendship is only held together by the reality that each of them has devastating secrets that they can never have exposed.

The plot moves quickly and backwards and forwards in time, which for me helped to add to the idea that you are increasingly disorientated as a reader, and are never quite sure who is telling the truth. I also really felt that each character really inhabited their voice in the book and that the different language and style of talking that Mel uses, really pulls you in to their world and gives a real insight into their characters.

Little by little, the cracks in the group start to get ever larger and it becomes evident that perhaps the greatest danger is from someone inside the group rather than the authorities. As the novel races towards its conclusion, the friends are forced to realise that they are far from innocent in Marika’s fate, and that their behaviour means that their lives will never be the same again once they leave the cottage.

The Guilty Party is the perfect definition of a page turner. I loved the pace of the novel, and the way that Mel makes you move deftly between the narrative and the characters, so you are never really sure what is going to happen next. It is a thoughtful and intelligent examination of privilege and morality, of friendship, and of understanding that sometimes the ties that bind us together are in fact the very things that also pull us apart. The Guilty Party is a brilliantly addictive novel, that deserves all the accolades it is receiving, and I absolutely loved it.

As Cassie says;

‘If you had been in the churchyard that night, what would you have done?’

‘And are you sure?’

Thank you so much to Joe Thomas at HQ Stories for my gifted copy of The Guilty Party and the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, in exchange for an honest review.

You can find out what my fellow Bloggers are saying about The Guilty Party by following the Tour below.

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The Rival by Charlotte Duckworth

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Charlotte Duckworth: The Rival

Published By: Quercus on 6th September 2018

Buy It: here

What the Blurb Says:

NOW
Helena is a career woman with no job and a mother without a baby. She blames Ashley for destroying her life. But is what happened really Ashley’s fault?

THEN
When Helena hires Ashley to work for her, she’s startled but impressed by her fierce ambition. They form a dream team and Helena is proud – maybe this is the protégée she’s always wanted to have. But soon Helena realizes that nothing will stand in the way of Ashley’s drive to get to the top. And when Helena becomes pregnant, everything she has worked so hard for is suddenly threatened, with devastating consequences…

What I Say:

I am going to be honest, I was wary of offering to review The Rival. I thought that it was going to be one of those ‘psychological thrillers’ that are all over the bookshops at the moment.  I don’t know about you,  but I am almost at the point where if I see one more novel promising twists and turns that you won’t see coming, I think I might have to scream into a cushion!

So, let me start by telling you that The Rival is so much more and is a brilliant timely and relevant read for all women.

It is a powerful and heartfelt study not only of female ambition and drive, and how women are damned if they work and damned if they don’t, but it also intelligently examines what it means to be a woman in society today.

The narrative in The Rival moves between the past and the present.  We meet Helena, a woman who we learn has lost a baby, and has been the victim of a campaign by her protegee Ashley,  who will stop at nothing to get the life she wants, even at the expense of Helena’s wellbeing.

Helena and her husband live in the countryside, she is currently undergoing therapy and the geographical isolation of her house seems to echo her distance from work and everyday life.  We know that Helena has lost a child and is grieving, unable to connect with her husband. She is haunted by the constant number of cars that crash into the wall of her house, often acting as the medic and counsellor until the ambulance can arrive at the scene.

What is striking about this is that it seems that Helena is slightly in a dream like state, and that as a reader, you immediately sense that this novel is far more layered than it first seems…

When her previous boss David, gets in touch with Helena to offer her a contact to get back into the world of work, she is determined that Ashley is not part of the conversation. It is becoming increasingly clear that we understand something has happened between them which has changed their lives forever.

Ashley is a young, focussed and ambitious young woman, who starts work at Helena’s company (KAMU – Kiss and Make Up).  From the start of the novel, we are in no doubt that Ashley has a career path in mind, and no one, especially not Helena, is going to stop her.

Helena and Ashley start to work together, and from the moment they share office space, Ashley is working on her plan to make sure that Helena becomes dispensable.  She puts all her energies into developing a proposal to move the company forward, and is horrified when Helena seemingly steals her ideas and presents them to David their boss. Furious with Helena, Ashley steamrollers her way onto Helena’s team and every decision she makes is designed to make Helena realise that she is not as powerful as she thinks.

Charlotte’s writing means you feel Ashley’s anger and irritation with Helena seep through every page of this novel and I was both intrigued and appalled by her!  So often, novels just make the ‘bad’ character a stereotyped cartoonish image, with no depth and little understanding of why they act like they do.  What I loved about The Rival is that we see into Ashley’s background, we learn how she has had to deal with so much in her life, and that her ambition is borne of a desire to be the best she can, so that she never ends up like her mum.

With Ashley now pushing forward, and Helena seemingly being excluded from decisions and meetings, Helena discovers she is pregnant.  This, for me, elevates The Rival way above the many novels I have read before.  Charlotte writes frankly and intelligently about women not only in the workplace, but also how they are defined and limited by the expectations of society the minute they become pregnant.

Far from relaxing and enjoying her pregnancy, Helena is constantly on edge as she battles to retain her position in the company.  Ashley now comes into her own, and sees this as the perfect opportunity to usurp Helena – I mean, after all, how can you trust a hormonal pregnant woman who may not come back anyway.  You need a young, driven and focussed woman who will not be leaving early to pick up her child – someone just like Ashley.

This was for me the crux of the novel.  The world would be a far more contented place if women supported each other, but the issue is that we are trying to work within a society that is patriarchal – it does not often support women, and leaves them fighting for their careers.  When you are on maternity leave, you can’t relax, because you know that most of your salary will be spent on childcare when you return to work, and that from the moment you do return, your whole way of working has to change.  You have to work twice as hard, always worried that you will get a call asking you to collect your child. I know when I was working, and my son was poorly, my husband and I would be arguing as to who was the least busy and could afford to take the time off.

Helena starts to realise exactly what Ashley is doing, but of course, she knows that eventually she will have to leave to have her baby, and then everything is out of her control.  Interestingly, Ashley is also irritated that if Helena leaves, she may not have a project to work on and so has to fight for her professional life.  So she cleverly decides to have some meetings in New York, knowing that Helena can’t fly, and Ashley seemingly gets everything she wants…

As Ashley starts to live the life she wants, we finally discover how Helena lost her baby, and The Rival seamlessly comes to its brilliant conclusion (no, am not going to tell you!)!

This is when the jaw dropping, did not see that coming, check back to make sure I read it correctly moments happen, and it was fantastic!

The Rival is a novel that is not easily categorised, and that is part of its fantastic appeal.  It is a clever and satisfying read, that I felt raised so many pertinent issues for all women.  Charlotte Duckworth has written a smart, challenging and timely novel, which is not only a joy to read, but is also compassionate and eloquent.

At the heart of The Rival, lies a simple truth.

If women devoted more time to supporting each other rather than trying to tear each other down, just think of what we could really achieve.

I loved it.

Thank you to Quercus Books and Ella Patel for my copy of The Rival in exchange for an honest review and to participate in this blog tour.

The Blog Tour continues with these amazing bloggers. See what they are saying about The Rival too…

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The Rules Of Seeing by Joe Heap

Joe Heap: The Rules Of Seeing

Published By: HarperCollins

Buy It: here

What The Blurb Says:

Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.

Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.

But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.

When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.

As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?

What I Say:

Rules of Seeing is a novel that I really wanted to read – I have to admit that the cover made me want to get hold of a copy!  The beautiful proof that I was sent by Charlotte at Harper gave nothing away about the story, it was white, resonating with calmness and I thought I was going to be reading a simple love story.

What I found instead was a unique and powerful, genre defying book about what it means to be able to see, and how sometimes the things that are right in front of us are what will change our lives the most.

Jillian Safinova (Nova to her friends) is a police interpreter. Fiercely independent, witty and kind, she lives her life to the fullest and is not prepared to take any rubbish from anyone.  She also happens to be blind, and has been from birth.  Nova has learned to live in a world of darkness, negotiating everything we take for granted and living happily enough as she juggles her personal and professional life.

Nova’s brother Alex, who is a doctor, tells her of an operation that would potentially restore her sight, and she is then faced with a massive choice.  Take a huge leap of faith and change everything she has ever known to be able to see, or carry on as she is.  The thing is, when Nova decides to have the operation, this is not one of those trite cinematic moments where Nova’s bandages are removed and she jumps from her bed, runs outside and drives a car away.  Imagine going from a state of no vision to a world where everything hurtles towards you at once – you have to learn the rules to survive.  The Rules of Seeing.  Nova has to work her way through all of these in order to understand the world around her that we take for granted.

As she struggles with recovery and rehabilitation, she meets Kate. An architect married to a policeman, Kate is increasingly realising that her husband is far from the upstanding member of the police force he pretends to be.  As well as having a side line in dealing the drugs he has seized in various drug operations, he is an abusive husband.  Kate’s existence is punctuated by the vicious and unprovoked attacks she suffers at his hands.  She believes that she is not worth anything more, and is resigned to living her days in the restricted world that he allows her to inhabit.

So, when Kate bumps into Nova attempting to destroy a vending machine to get the snack she wants, the two women are set on a course that will change their lives permanently.  Kate and Nova are both faced with learning new rules for their lives, and this brings them even closer together as they realise that they are attracted to each other.

What I loved about this novel, was that you really understand what it means to be blind, and more importantly, how truly challenging and frustrating it is to be invisible because of your disability.

Getting your sight back must seem to be the most incredible thing, but what Joe does is show how it can also be the most frightening and isolating thing too.  Imagine going from darkness to a world where you have to learn the rules that everyone else has known from birth.  The difference between objects, what it’s like to travel on a bus or in a car, to learn what an object you know the word for actually looks like.  How do you know how big a car is or how you distinguish colours and shapes?  Nova has to relearn every little thing, absorb it and put it into practice at the same time as continuing with her personal and professional life.

As Nova battles to accept her sight, Kate is stuck at home in London, living with a man who takes pleasure in finding ways to distress his wife.  One of the most appalling things he does is to slowly and deliberately skin a rabbit in front of her, knowing how upsetting it is, relishing the distress he causes and the power he has over her.

All the time, Kate is trying to stop herself falling for Nova, but she can see a glimpse of how happy she could be, if she could make the decision to move away from her husband.  However, when they finally do kiss, Kate, perhaps scared of what Tony would do to Nova if he found out, sends Nova away.  The journey for Nova into a world of sight is at a critical point.  She could carry on with her therapy, or purposefully forget everything she has learned to this point, and retreat into her blindness again. Rejected by Kate and bewildered by what has happened, Nova decides to return to the world she knows best.

A final awful attack on Kate by Tony, gives her the courage to leave him and stay in the flat she was renovating.  It is only then, when Nova comes to see her, that Kate is able to tell her how she has really seen Tony for who he is, and the truth about her home life comes tumbling out.  Joe’s tender and eloquent writing shows how in loving each other, Kate and Nova have found a way to navigate the life changing events they are facing, and that by being together as a couple, they can start to heal and live the lives they truly deserve.  For me, the fact that they do have ups and downs, doubts and fears about their relationship makes them seem even more real.  Who hasn’t read and re-read a text before, during and after sending it. or worried about how long is too long before getting in touch?  Their tentative steps in the relationship means that we are completely engaged by them and want only for their story to end happily

If only life was that simple, and happy ever afters were found with the turn of a page.. Tony, infuriated by his wife’s abandonment has other ideas, and Kate and Nova fall victim to his sadistic nature as he attempts to finally destroy the relationship they have fought so hard for.  Of course, as always, I am going to say nothing more other than you will need to buy The Rules of Seeing to find out whether Kate and Nova’s love triumphs.

The Rules of Seeing is a novel unlike any I have ever read.  It is a powerful, complex and challenging book that shows us unflinchingly not only what it means to be blind, but also how shocking and upsetting living in a violent relationship is.  Far from being a cosy and straightforward love story, it is a novel about how too often we settle for the way things are, and that by having the courage to be willing to really see ourselves and the world around us, we can truly have the life we deserve.

I loved it.