I Love New Books And I Cannot Lie…!

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Let’s put this out there.  I just love books. I have since the moment my Mum first pushed one into my hands.  If someone’s reading a book on a bus, or in a coffee shop, I need to know what they are reading.   If I’m at a friend’s house, the first thing I do is look at their bookshelves, and see if they have anything there I haven’t read yet.  I can’t help it.

Show me a bookshop and I’ll show you a happy woman.  There is nothing I love more than spending time browsing, picking them up, putting them down, occasionally sniffing  them (oh come on, we’ve all done it!)!

Anyway, the reason for this post is two things.  After posting this picture of books I had got from the fabulous Rennie Grove Hospice Charity Bookshop in Princes Risborough, someone asked me how can you possibly find time to read them all?

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Honestly?  I probably won’t ever read all the books I have on my shelves, and this is even though a couple of weeks ago I had a massive cull and sent over 100 of them to my local charity shop.

Here’s the thing.

When you love reading as much as I do, and I don’t know if this makes sense, it’s the comfort of knowing that you have that book on your shelf.  As I sit here, I can see book after book that I have bought, and I can tell you when and where I got them too.  That’s the thing for me, each book I have holds a memory, and there are some I am reluctantly able to give up – like those ones when I NEEDED to buy a book and I thought it looked interesting, but there are also some I will never ever part with – my collection of Jilly Cooper novels (hardback and paperback thank you), or the first hardback book my Mum gave me (Adventures of the Wishing Chair Again).

The other thing?  I also have a current wishlist of books that haven’t been published yet, that I am already desperate to read.  It seems crazy that I have so many books I haven’t read yet,  and they are sitting looking at me accusingly as I type this, but that’s the joy of being part of this brilliant bookish community.  Just when you think you couldn’t possibly want any more books,  even more come along…

Anyway, for your perusal, and in no particular order, here to hopefully to give you some ideas for your Summer/Autumn/Winter Reading Lists, are the books I am really excited to read this year..

 

Claire Lombardo – The Most Fun We Ever Had

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (25 June 2019)

 

The Most Fun We Ever Had by [Lombardo, Claire]

What The Blurb Says:

At a family wedding, the four Sorenson sisters polka-dot the green lawn in their summer pastels, with varying shades of hair and varying degrees of unease. Their long-infatuated parents watch on with a combination of love and concern.

Sixteen years later, the already messy lives of the sisters are thrown into turmoil by the unexpected reappearance of a teenage boy given up for adoption years earlier – and the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past is revealed.

Weaving between past and present, The Most Fun We Ever Had portrays the delights and difficulties of family life and the endlessly complex mixture of affection and abhorrence we feel for those closest to us. A dazzlingly accomplished debut and an utterly immersive portrait of one family’s becoming, it marks the arrival of a major new literary voice.

Why Do I Want To Read It?

I absolutely love novels about families, and more importantly about families that have secrets and things to hide. Throw in a shifting timeline and I’m in!

I am looking for a novel to lose myself in this Summer, and this looks just perfect.  I think it’s going to be everywhere this Summer, and I am really excited to read it!

 

Alix Nathan – The Warlow Experiment

Serpent’s Tail (4 July 2019)

 

 

What The Blurb Says:

Herbert Powyss lives on a small estate in the Welsh Marches, with enough time and income to pursue a gentleman’s fashionable cultivation of exotic plants and trees. But he longs to make his mark in the field of science – something consequential enough to present to the Royal Society in London.

He hits on a radical experiment in isolation: for seven years a subject will inhabit three rooms in the cellar of the manor house, fitted out with books, paintings and even a chamber organ. Meals will arrive thrice daily via a dumbwaiter. The solitude will be totally unrelieved by any social contact; the subject will keep a diary of his daily thoughts and actions. The pay? Fifty pounds per annum, for life.

Only one man is desperate enough to apply for the job: John Warlow, a semi-literate labourer with a wife and six children to provide for. The experiment, a classic Enlightenment exercise gone more than a little mad, will have unforeseen consequences for all included.

In this seductive tale of self-delusion and obsession, Alix Nathan has created an utterly transporting historical novel which is both elegant and unforgettably sinister.

Why Do I Want To Read It?

I am currently reading lots of (and loving) historical fiction.

The Warlow Experiment certainly ticks all the boxes, and I think the premise and whole concept of imprisonment and isolation will make for a very interesting read and lots of debate too!

 

Lisa Taddeo – Three Women

Bloomsbury Circus (9 July 2019)

What The Blurb Says:

All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn’t touch her?

All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, a hated pariah in her small town?

All Sloane wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object of men, including her husband, who liked to watch her have sex with other men and women?

Three Women is a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions.

Why Do I Want To Read It?

This is the first of my non-fiction titles on my Must Read List.  I think it sounds like an interesting and timely examination of women’s sex lives and the reality of relationships behind closed doors.

 

Rachel DeLoache Williams – My Friend Anna

Quercus Books (23 July 2019)

What The Blurb Says:

This is the true story of Anna Delvey, the fake heiress whose dizzying deceit and elaborate con-artistry deceived the Soho hipster scene before her ruse was finally and dramatically exposed.

After meeting through mutual friends, the ‘Russian heiress’ Anna Delvey and Rachel DeLoache Williams soon became inseparable. Theirs was an intoxicating world of endless excess: high dining, personal trainer sessions, a luxury holiday … and Anna footed almost every bill.

But after Anna’s debit card was declined in a Moroccan medina whilst on holiday in a five-star luxury resort, Rachel began to suspect that her increasingly mysterious friend was not all she seemed.

This is the incredible story of how Anna Sorokin conned the high-rollers of the NYC social scene and convinced her close friend of an entirely concocted fantasy, the product of falsified bank documents, bad cheques and carefully edited online photos.

Written by Rachel DeLoache Williams, the Vanity Fair photography editor who believed Anna’s lies before helping the police to track her down (fittingly, deciphering Anna’s location using Instagram), this is Catch Me If You Can with Instagram filters. Between Anna, Fyre Festival’s Billy McFarland (Anna even tried to scam Billy) and Elizabeth Holmes, whose start-up app duped the high and mighty of Silicon Valley, this is the year of the scammer.

Why Do I Want To Read It?

I first heard about Anna Delvey ‘s story on the BBC Website, and instantly went and looked her account up on Instagram (it’s @theannadelvey if you are interested).  I have watched the Netflix Fyre Festival Documentary, and listened to The Dropout Podcast, and have to say that this book sounds amazing! I am fascinated by the psychology behind the people who do things like this, and My Friend Anna is going to be a brilliant addition to the genre.

 

Laura Purcell – Bone China

Raven Books (19 September 2019)

 

What The Blurb Says:

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

Why Do I Want To Read It?

If you know me at all, then you will know I am a HUGE Laura Purcell fan.  I have read, loved and raved about both The Silent Companions and The Corset.

When I heard that Laura had a new novel coming out, and then I read the synopsis, I knew the only place this was going on was my Must Read List.  Laura’s novels are always so brilliantly written, and she can strike fear into my heart with just one well placed line or a single moving wooden object!

Yep, I’m going to need to read this one…!

 

JoJo Moyes – The Giver of Stars

Michael Joseph (3rd October 2019)

 

What The Blurb Says:

Why Do I Want To Read It?
  1. It’s by Jojo Moyes.
  2. It’s about books.
  3. IT’S WOMEN DELIVERING BOOKS ON HORSEBACK FOR GOODNESS SAKE!
  4. See 1, 2 and 3!

Kate Elizabeth Russell – My Dark Vanessa

4th Estate Books (23 January 2020)

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What The Blurb Says:

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager–and who professed to worship only her–may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

Why Do I Want To Read It?

I saw Kate reading from her novel on 4th Estate’s Instagram stories, and knew that it was going straight on my wish list! As you may or may not know, there is a HUGE book buzz about this novel already, and I think its going to raise lots of interesting questions about sexuality and women.

Absolutely going on my Reading Wish List..

 

Jane Healey – The Animals At Lockwood Manor

Mantle (Pan Macmillan) 

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What The Blurb Says:

In August 1939, a lonely thirty-year-old Hetty Cartwright arrives at Lockwood Manor as the director of the evacuated Natural History Museum.

She is unprepared for the scale of protecting her charges from party guests, wild animals, the elements, the tyrannical Major Lockwood and Luftwaffe bombs. Most of all though, she is unprepared for the beautiful and haunted Lucy Lockwood.

For Lucy, who has spent much of her life cloistered at Lockwood suffering from bad nerves, the arrival of the museum brings with it new freedoms. But it also resurfaces memories of her late mother, and nightmares in which Lucy roams Lockwood hunting for something she has lost.

When the animals start to move of their own accord, and exhibits go missing, they begin to wonder what exactly it is that they might need protection from.

As the disasters mount up, it is not only Hetty’s future employment that is in danger, but her sanity too. There’s something, or someone, in the house. Someone stalking her through its darkened corridors…

With its atmospheric setting, beautifully rendered romance and vivid characters, The Animals At Lockwood Manor is perfect for fans of Sarah Waters, Jessie Burton and Alice Hoffman.

Why Do I Want To Read It?

I came across this novel purely by chance (Thank You Bookish Twitter!), and have to say that I absolutely loved the cover.

When I read the synopsis too, it seemed to have that perfect balance of haunted house setting and absorbing characters which make for a perfect read in my eyes!

I think it is going to be one of those novels that everyone will be talking about, and I want to be one of those people!

 

So there you go – the books I really want to read at the moment.  I can tell you now that there will be more that I don’t even know about at this point, but they will pop up on my timeline and there will be another ten I will have to add…

Which books are you looking forward to and why?

Love
Clare xx

 

Crushed By Kate Hamer

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What The Blurb Says:

Phoebe stands on Pulteney Bridge, tights gashed from toe to thigh. The shock of mangled metal and blood-stained walls flashes through her mind as she tries to cover her face so she won’t be recognised. It wouldn’t do to be spotted looking like this. She’s missing a shoe. She feels sick.

Phoebe thought murder and murder happened. Thoughts are just thoughts, they said. Now she knows they were wrong.

At home, Phoebe arranges the scissors and knives so they point toward her mother’s room. She is exhausted, making sure there’s no trace of herself – not a single hair, not even her scent – left anywhere in the house. She must not let her thoughts unravel, because if they do, there’s no telling who might be caught in the crossfire, and Phoebe will have to live with the consequences.

What I Say:

We all remember our teenage years, when it was so important to belong, to feel that we were part of a group. It is that time in our lives when we were not children, not yet adults, but we were stuck, unable to make that leap, at times frustrated by our parents, who continued to impose limits while we were desperate for the first chance of freedom.

Phoebe, Orla and Grace are three friends, trying to navigate their way through the tangled rites of passage that the teenage years bring.  Phoebe is the beautiful and seemingly powerful leader of the group, Orla is overweight and trying to find her self and her sexuality and is also completely in love with Phoebe, while Grace is a full time carer to her mother who has MS.

All three girls have complicated relationships with their mothers. Phoebe is at the mercy of her overwhelming and controlling mother, who wants to make sure Phoebe does nothing without her say so. Orla is frustrated by her seemingly naive and nervous mother, who does not want her to be anything other than the nice heterosexual daughter she can spend time with.  Grace is single handedly doing everything for her mother, and her Mum is totally reliant on Grace, both of them only want to stay together in their flat.

So far, so what? A group of teenage girls with different family situations. Haven’t we read about this a thousand times before?

Maybe you have, but in Crushed, Kate Hamer has taken these three teenage girls, and added a simmering sense of unease right from the very first page.

For me, the title, Crushed, was about how each of the group slowly buckles under the weight of expectation and the claustrophobia that steadily engulfs them. It is about the excruciating tension being a part of such a tight teenage group brings, especially with Phoebe at its core.

When they start to study Macbeth in their English class, it marks the start of a Summer which will change the girls’ lives forever. Phoebe is utterly obssessed with the witches in the play, and believes that she and her friends can hold and harness the same power that they have. The childhood games they played where they plotted and schemed in the safety of the den in the forest, are now replaced with the unwavering teenage belief that they are more powerful than this world, and can make the things they want to happen become reality. 

Phoebe also finds herself attracted to her young (and very married) English Teacher, and after initally rebuffing her advances, he finds himself intoxicated by her, with devastating consequences.

As the novel progresses, and we switch back and forth between Phoebe, Orla and Grace’s lives, we see how each of them, under the oppressive Summer skies, all strive to make their mark on the world.  Each of them has a goal, each of them wants to make sure that they can control their lives and be in ultimate charge of their destiny. They start to wonder whether something beyond their understanding and control is permeating their world and taking their fates out of their hands.

Phoebe is increasingly in the grasp of something unworldly, and is determined to rule her life, to be the Queen Of Her House. She becomes increasingly hedonistic and crosses boundaries and limits relentlessly. Orla always feels like she is the second choice for Phoebe – picked up and dropped on a whim.  Orla seeems to believe the way she needs to connect with the world is to have something to love that will love her back unconditionally – and decides that a baby will solve all her problems. Meanwhile, Grace’s determination to be the only person to care for her Mum, leads to her increasingly isolating them from the world outside. Grace emphatically believes that she alone is able to single handedly take on board the burden of caring for her, and becomes mentally and physically like a soldier, fighting her battles against social services and any do gooders that try to stop her looking after her mum.

Crushed is a difficult novel to review, because to say too much more would give away the plot! Suffice it to say that Kate’s writing is beautifully measured, so evocative of those teenage summers where the languid days stretched ahead of all of us, filled with the promise of what we could do and become, and the time we could spend with our friends, free from the constraints of school and out of sight of our parents.

It is a novel that will take you back to your teenage years, remembering those friendships that meant the world to you, and for which you would have done anything. Crushed is also a deeply unsettling and thought provoking novel about how destructive teenage girls can be at their very worst, and how indestructible they believe they are at their very best.

Crushed is the perfect Summer read, a novel that will both delight and unnerve you at the same time, and take you back to those seemingly endless Summers and memories of the friendships you lived for.

Thank you so much to Sophie Portas at Faber for a copy of Crushed in exchange for an honest review and a chance to be part of this Blog Tour.

Find out what my fellow bloggers have to say about Crushed too…..

 

 

The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

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Beth O’Leary:  The Flatshare

Published By: Quercus Books

Buy It: here

 

What The Blurb Says: 

Tiffy and Leon share a flat

Tiffy and Leon share a bed

Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

What I Say

Tiffy Moore has just dumped an awful boyfriend called Justin.

Tiffy works at a publishing house and Leon is a Palliative care nurse.

Tiffy has a scatty client called Katherin, who is just about to hit the big time with her book about crocheting, and she needs Tiffy just as much as Tiffy needs her.

Tiffy decides to rent half of Leon Twomey’s bed.

Tiffy is at work when Leon isn’t and vice versa.

Tiffy starts to leave post it notes for Leon, little ones at first, longer ones as they start to communicate.

Leon starts to learn about Tiffy from the notes she leaves him, and Tiffy starts to learn about Leon, and they start to cook and look out for each other.

Leon has a brother called Ritchie who is in prison for an armed robbery he says he didn’t do, and is waiting for his uselesss lawyer to speed up his appeal.

Leon nurses a man called Mr Prior who was in love with a man during World War II and before he passes away, Leon wants him to be reunited with the love of his life.

Leon and Tiffy start to edge closer to each other, realising that they are attracted to each other.

Leon and Tiffy go to Brighton to find Mr Prior’s Mr White, Tiffy hurts her ankle and Leon and Tiffy spend the night together… but nothing happens.

Leon and Tiffy return back to their flat, and suddenly everything has changed between them.

Their Flatshare is no longer as uncomplicated as it should have been, as more things happen and other people get involved.

Leon and Tiffy realise that sometimes, you have to take chances and go beyond what you have accepted for so long, to understand you are worth so much more.

Leon has to try to open his heart and life up to the things he has tried to run away from, to finally find the happiness he deserves.

Tiffy has to realise that the man of her dreams is not the one who controls her every move, and that she has to believe in herself to really find the love she deserves.

Leon and Tiffy are relatable, flawed and fully formed characters who will come into your lives and are impossible to forget.

Leon and Tiffy share the novel with their unique voices and viewpoints, and the story moves along at a perfect pace, filled with normal friends like Mo, Gerty and Rachel.

The Flatshare is the novel we all need to read, especially now. It is a gorgeous, joyous, unapologetic, heartfelt book that is impossible to put down, and even harder to forget.

The Flatshare is a novel that restores your faith in people and in love.

The Flatshare shows that you can read a romantic, comedic novel that will turn all the cliches on its head, but at the same time it is whip-smart, genuinely funny, and made we wish I had a Leon in my life.

Beth O’ Leary has written a novel that I absolutely loved, cannot stop recommending, and was just what I needed to read.

Tiffy and Leon share a flat.

Tiffy and Leon share a bed.

Tiffy and Leon finally meet.

Tiffy and Leon’s story is The Flatshare.

I am so glad that I met them, and I think you will be too.

 

 

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

 

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Published By: Quercus Books

Buy It: here

 

What The Blurb Says:

Maddie and Ian’s romance began when he was serving in the British Army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend Jo in Europe. Now sixteen years later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America.

But when an accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, the years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of shocking crime.

But what in this beautiful home has gone so terribly bad?

What I Say:

Beautiful Bad is a novel that many might classify as a psychological thriller, a page turning, shocking, twisty, turny book that asks you to try and work out what really happens. It is all those things, but it is also something much more complex.  It is an acute and intricate observation of the effects of conflict and PTSD on a relationship, how the realities of being in a war torn environment has consequences not only for those who served, but also for all those who love and live with them.

When a novel’s first chapter is titled ‘The Day of the Killing’, you are immediately aware that something awful is going to happen – you just don’t know when and to whom…

Maddie and Ian are undeniably attracted to each other from the moment they meet.  He is an ex-soldier, now working as a bodyguard in Europe, and Maddie is a travel writer who frequently visits her friend Jo, a woman who is determined to ensure that people get the humanitarian supplies they need whatever the cost. Unfortunately, it transpires that Ian is currently in a relationship with a woman called Fiona, and Maddie knows she cannot get involved.

The novel switches between time lines and moves backwards and forwards. From before Maddie and Ian were a couple, to when they were, to the Day of The Killing.  I have to admit, I did find the switching between timelines a little confusing at times, but, it makes you pay attention and this is certainly a novel that commands your attention at all times.

As Maddie and Ian edge ever closer, Jo makes it very clear that she is not happy about the relationship and does everything in her power to keep them apart. When they cannot fight their attraction any more, Jo seemingly massively overreacts and Ian and Maddie are cut out of Jo’s life. It may seem like they have finally got what they wanted, but it is then that Annie Ward starts to slowly drop little hints into the plot that Ian may not be as perfect as he seems.

He and Maddie initially stay at a beautiful hotel, wrapped up in each other in the first wonderful days of their relationship, but when Maddie wants to go out to the bakery, Ian becomes extremely agitated. He convinces Maddie to stay in, with her believing that it comes from a place of love as oppose to anything more sinister. This is when the alarm bells start to ring…

When we later learn that Maddie has had an accident while away with Ian, that has left her with serious facial injuries and no memory as to how it happened, the seeds of doubt are further subtly sewn in our minds. How far can we trust Ian – really.

This sense of things not being quite right seems to form the basis of their marriage, as Ian’s work constantly takes him far away from Maddie. When she gives birth to their son Charlie, the idyllic life she had pictured for the three of them is very far from the reality of her day to day existence. Ian’s prolonged absences and intermittent communication give Maddie time to think about what is happening, and strengthens the bond between herself and Charlie so they become a tight insular family unit..

Alone, isolated and overburdened, Maddie finds that her sessions with Therapist Cami J are the very thing that will help her understand the complicated reality of her relationships with Ian and Jo. Little by little, Maddie starts to come to the conclusion that she needs to do something to stop the creeping fear that permeates her days and increasingly her nights.

From the moment Maddie starts therapy, all the events prior to arriving in her home, and what she discovers when she moves in there, slowly and deliciously start to unravel. As we head towards the shattering conclusion (still am not telling you what is going to happen!), the novel picks up its pace and finally reveals the uncomfortable truth underneath the beautiful facade which has been so purposely constructed by Ian and Maddie.

Beautiful Bad is a clever and well paced story, that works by serving to unnerve us and make sure we never quite know who to trust. It is a refreshing and smart take on the well versed psychological thriller, which Annie Ward has skilfully turned on its head and made us look at again with new eyes.

Thank you to Ella Patel at Quercus Books for my copy of Beautiful Bad in exchange for an honest review.

 

Your Guilty Secret by Rebecca Thornton

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Rebecca Thornton: Your Guilty Secret

Published By: Bonnier Zaffre

Buy It: here

 

What The Blurb Says:

You know Lara King.

The top billing of the showbiz pages, you’ve seen her every morning; over your breakfast, on your commute to work. You know everything about her; you’ve dissected her life.

Her perfect relationship with film-star Matthew Raine. Her beautiful six-year old daughter Ava.

And so when a terrible incident shatters the family’s carefully constructed facade, a media frenzy ensues.

What happens when the perfect woman begins to unravel? When her whole life is really just a lie? One she will do anything she can to stop you from finding out?

 

What I Say:

Before I posted the picture of Your Guilty Secret to my social media feeds, I took a photo of the novel on some gorgeous fabric I found, used portrait mode, and then went through all the filters on Instagram until I found the one I wanted. Finally when I was happy with how it looked, I posted it and tagged it with all hashtags I could to make sure as many people as possible saw it.

Today’s world is one presented through an Insta-perfect lense, tweaked and refined until we feel comfortable hitting the ‘post’ button.  I did all that just to show you all one picture of a novel I was going to read.  Lara King, the protagonist of Rebecca Thornton’s thought provoking and perfectly timed novel, has to go through that process for every thought, action and decision she makes. 

Lara King, celebrity, mother, and soon to be fiancee of actor Matthew seems to have it all.  Every one wants to be her, companies are desperate to be part of her empire, and she revels in the fact that millions of her followers are hanging on every post and tweet that comes from her perfect world. For Lara, life is all about living the dream as long as she can ensure that people online care enough about her brand.

Lara is intelligent enough to understand that her world is built on the adoration of her fans, and that the worst thing for her career would be that they lost interest in her mother and daughter posts. In an attempt to stay relevant, she realises that she has to expand her ‘brand’, which means she decides to get ‘engaged’ to Matthew.  Tellingly, this is purely a calculated publicity stunt to maximise both their celebrity status. It is a massive media event, with the world press and the online community desperate to see what Lara King is going to do next.  The interesting thing is that behind the scenes, as Lara attempts to control every element of the day, you can see that all is not as glossy as it seems. Lara only wants things done the way she knows will ensure she keeps getting the attention she wants.

Little by little, the reader is made aware that while what the outside world sees can be edited and filtered, in real life, there are many things which Lara cannot control however hard she tries.

One day, when Lara takes her daughter Ava for a day out, she does what many people do, and takes her eyes of her daughter for a second.  Unfortunately for Lara, her daughter disappears.

From the moment the world realises that Lara’s daughter is missing, her carefully constructed world starts to come crashing down.  The novel very cleverly show us how it is so easy to be built up on a sea of likes and unwavering adoration, but that people are just as willing to turn against you when you are no longer regarded as popular. Your choices are questioned, conspiracy theories abound, and Lara is desperately reliant on her steely media savvy to attempt to ensure her followers stay connected to her.

The novel is told in a dual narrative – Lara and her missing daughter, and Lara’s life before she found fame.  We also see what the internet thinks of what is happening- so we can understand what the ‘normal’ people are being told alongside the narrative that Lara is controlling. What is interesting is that from the outset of her time in the spotlight, Lara has a fierce determination and an unnerving ability to ensure she reaches the top whatever the cost to those around her.

To reveal any more would give the plot away, but as Lara’s perfectly curated world descends into chaos, there are many surprising twists and revelations that will disorientate and shock you! Every sentiment of our social media obsession rings true, and we see that if one person falls from grace, there are a million more waiting to step into the limelight, desperate to be this year’s next big thing.

Your Guilty Secret by Rebecca Thornton is a clever and biting examination of the social media world we are all part of.  It makes us realise that what we see is not always what we get, and that perhaps it is time for us all to step away from measuring our world in likes and followers, and instead attempt to reconnect with the real world and the people in it..

Rebecca Thornton is a journalist and runs an online advertising business. Her work has been published in Prospect magazine, the Daily Mail, the Jewish News and the Sunday People. She was acting editor of an arts and culture magazine based in Jordan, and she’s reported from Kosovo, London, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Rebecca is a graduate of the Faber Academy and The Exclusives is her first novel. She lives in London.

Thank you very much to Ellen Turner at Bonnier Zaffre for my copy in exchange for an honest review and for asking me to be part of the Blog Tour.

The Blog Tour continues with these amazing Bloggers – find out what they are saying about Your Guilty Secret…

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Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

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Harriet Tyce: Blood Orange

Published By: Wildfire Books

Buy It: here

What The Blurb Says:

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.

Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.

Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.

But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….

What I Say:

‘She and I have both let our husbands tell us how to feel bad about ourselves, carrying all the guilt for failures that belong to them too.’

Sometimes as a book blogger, it is easy to fall under a spell and believe the hype surrounding a novel. People tell you that it’s breathtaking, that it’s one you cannot afford to miss, and that your blogging life will shine less brightly if you don’t somehow manage to read it.

Let me say from the outset – absolutely believe the hype about Blood Orange.

From the very first page you are drawn into Alison’s world and become a helpless bystander and a fierce protector of her. She seems to have it all, a successful career and a lovely picture perfect family. Unfortunately, like so many of us, what you seem to see is not really what you get. Alison is having an affair with a senior colleague called Patrick – it is not a hearts and flowers romantic relationship – it is unsettling, and the sex seems at times to push the boundaries as to how consensual Alison actually is. Her husband Carl works part time as a counsellor, and is responsible for the running of the home and the childcare for their daughter Matilda.

The problem is that Alison is seemingly out of control at home and work,  as she drinks far more than she should, and is unable to be the mother, wife and career woman she desperately wants to be. Aware that her life is becoming increasingly reckless, and that Carl is now at the point where he is concerned for her spending time with her daughter, Alison tries to keep her professional life in check. This is easier said than done as she is inexplicably and constantly drawn to Patrick, who knows how much she needs him, and as a result, treats her as despicably as he wants.

When Alison is asked to defend Madeleine Smith by Patrick, a woman who is charged with the murder of her husband, she has to work with Madeleine to understand why she attacked her seemingly loving husband in such a frenzied and unprovoked attack. As Alison tries to establish herself in the case, working with Madeleine and at the same time ensuring she keeps Patrick happy with her work, as a reader I was aware of how desperately frustrating and common this scenario is. Patrick is the one who has given her the case, and she is constantly under his control which makes it even more complicated for her as the lines between personal and professional life become increasingly blurred. She may think she has the authority, but Patrick relishes in ensuring she knows he is really in charge.

In Alison, Harriet Tyce has created a character who on paper we would all perhaps aspire to be, in that on the outside she has a successful career and a solid, reliable partner who supports her in her work.

The thing is, I am writing this review in 2019, and yet the same societal entrenched issues are achingly evident in Blood Orange. Alison cannot be a successful career woman and a successful mother. If she does one, she is seen as not fully committing to the other, and our society is still very ready to admonish women for whichever choice they have to make. Alison is trying to do her best in a world which wants her to make a decision to be one thing or the other.

The men in Blood Orange are strong and dominating characters, but they are not likeable. Patrick and Carl are full of the privileges and sanctimonious speech that the patriarchal society they are born in rewards them for. Carl’s willingness to be the house husband somehow means he is regarded as noble and selfless, whilst Alison’s dedication to work and career is seen as selfish and thoughtless. Patrick is driven and ambitious, yet for Alison to admit to be those things is regarded as a sign she cannot possibly be a ‘real’ mother.

As Alison works with Madeleine to prepare her defence, she starts to understand that although they may on the surface be very different, their lives have much in common, and both of them are controlled by the men in their lives. Madeleine’s admission of murder actually comes from a place of love and protection, and as Alison desperately tries to keep everyone happy, she is forced to confront the fact that in order to free herself of all the toxicity in her life, she might just have to do the unthinkable to protect her daughter.

It is difficult to write a review of Blood Orange, because to say too much would give away everything. I loved this book because Alison isn’t perfect. She is flawed, emotional and sometimes you just want to reach into the novel and tell her to get a grip for the sake of her daughter if nothing else. The writing is raw, truthful and at times far from comfortable. The scenes between Patrick and Alison are extremely graphic, but that is only true to the nature of their relationship, which at times seemingly comes from a place of mutual hatred and a need to assert their power over each other.

In Blood Orange, Harriet Tyce has written a novel which will in turn appall, repulse and shock you.  Like Alison, it is not until the final chapters that the full horror of what has been happening will ultimately dawn on you. 

It will make you stop in your tracks, read the last chapters with your heart in your mouth, and realise that in Alison, Harriet has created a character whose flaws and faults are actually the very things that are used against her by the men who she so unfailingly trusted.

I absolutely loved Blood Orange.

Harriet has written an unlikely heroine for our times, who helps us all understand that no one ever really knows what goes on when we finally close our doors to the outside world .

Thank you so much to Georgina Moore and Wildfire Books for my gifted copy.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden

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Richard Lumsden: The Six Loves of Billy Binns

Published by: Tinder Press

Buy It: here

 

What The Blurb Says: 

I remember my dreams but not where they start.
Further back, I recall some of yesterday and the day before that. Then everything goes into a haze.
Fragments of memories come looming back like red London buses in a pea-souper.
Time plays funny tricks these days.
I wait for the next memory. I wait and I wait.

At 117 years old, Billy Binns is the oldest man in Europe and he knows his time is almost up. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time. As he looks back at the relationships that have shaped his flawed life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a life full of hope, mistakes, heartbreak and, above all, love.

What I Say:

Billy Binns is the reluctant oldest resident in The Cedars, and he is also (possibly) the oldest man in Europe having been born in 1900.  As Billy is coming to the end of his days, he decides he needs to remember the people who have brought love into his life.

Billy decides that to understand what they meant to him, he wants to write it all down.  In leaving his memoir to his son Archie, he is not only telling him about himself, but also the world he grew up in, and why he is the man he is today.  Billy tells us straight away that the five great loves in his life are Mary, Evie, Archie, Vera and Mrs Jackson.

I think that Richard Lumsden has done something very brave with Billy Binns.  You may disagree, but I have to tell you that at certain times I really didn’t like him.  I didn’t like the choices he made or the things he did, but then, can we honestly say we can hold ourselves up as some sort of perfect mortal!  It is also important to say that if you are looking for some rose tinted remembrances from a kindly old man as he bids farewell to the world, this novel might not be for you!  Billy lies, cheats, tries to kill someone (admittedly because they were violent towards their wife) and makes disastrous choices that make you wince and despair of him.

We follow Billy right from his early years in London working in the Fish Market to when he fakes ID in order to join the army for the First World War, through to his time as a Bus Driver in the Second World War and his eventual arrival at The Cedars.  The depictions of Billy’s military career during World War I are truthful and uncompromising.  It is a testament to Richard’s writing as to how visceral and awful these scenes are, but this is Billy’s life, and we are re-living it with him – otherwise how do we really understand why Billy is who he is, and the true horrors for the men who gave their lives for us.

As we follow Billy, we learn about each of his five loves.  The narrative moves between the present day with Billy having to navigate life at the Cedars, and his recollections of the loves of his past.  Sometimes you are not sure whether you are reading about the past or present, but that is the point of Billy’s reminiscences, he is drifting backwards and forwards, sideways and every way to tell his story.

For me what also made this a different type of novel is that the way Billy deals with sex and relationships is sometimes very uncomfortable to read.  I often felt that Billy was ruled by desire rather than rationale, and some of the descriptions of his encounters didn’t endear Billy to me, in fact, I felt at some points he got what he deserved!

As we follow Billy through his life, and meet his loves, you become completely absorbed in the relationships too.  When they end, certainly for at least one (Sadie!), you want to sit Billy down and have a word with him as to what he is throwing away!  This is the crux of Billy Binns- he is unaware that the best thing he has is right in front of him, and he has to go through all these different relationships and events in his life to ultimately realise it.

Richard also seamlessly intertwines Billy’s life story with the changing social history of Britain.  We learn about the reality for those serving and those who stayed at home for both World Wars, and also what it really means to be British during a time of massive social change.  Issues such as class, women, racism and sexism are tackled, alongside Billy’s own personal experiences of love, loss and growing old in Britain.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is an ambitious and clever novel, which is filled with humour and tinged with moments of tragedy.  Billy’s life has been full, colourful and determined by his need to love and be loved – whatever the cost.  His moral compass is occasionally off, and sometimes you might not like Billy very much, but his flaws are what make him human and who are we to judge a man for wanting to find his true love?

Thank you very much to Caitlyn Raynor and Tinder Press for my free copy of Billy Binns.