Wednesday 17 July 2024

The Virtue Season by L M Nathan BLOG TOUR #TheVirtueSeason @lmnathanwriter @scholasticuk @TinaMories #BookReview @RandomTTours


Manon Pawlak has just turned eighteen, a debutant at the start of the Virtue Season: a process that will result in a match with a suitable genetic mate. Her best friend, Agatha, has been decommissioned, forbidden to partake in the season and unite with the boy who has had her heart since they were children.

When Manon's mother wades out into the waters of Penn Vale with stones sewn into the lining of her coat, Manon's genetic purity is called into question and she's forced to rely on the fisherman's son, Wick, to keep her secret. But as they dance, the truth about their world starts to unravel, and Manon finds herself at the centre of it all. And the council is watching.

The Virtue Season by L M Nathan is a Young Adult novel published by Scholastic on 4 July 2024. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour

Something a little different for me. It has been quite a while since I read a young adult novel. However, the blurb for this one was just so appealing that I could not resist. Set in a dystopian future, with hints of The Handmaid's Tale, I knew this one was going to be a hit. 

I have really enjoyed the experience and have much admiration for an author who can create a setting that appear so realistic and so lifelike. Add the carefully created characters and the fast moving plot and this one really is a winner. 

The story opens with a prologue that finds lead characters Agatha and Manon peeping through a window, looking in on the glittering ball that is the climax to the Virtue Season. These two girls will be taking part in the ball themselves in a the future and whilst Agatha is excited about the thought, it is clear that Manon has her doubts. 

This is not the world as we know it.  It is a land that has been ravaged by nature, with flooding that destroyed the land, followed by blistering heat and raging winds. Everything failed and the population suffered greatly, and then the final flood arrived. 

The remaining lands became divided, with wars and death. It was decided that only the healthy can survive and the decommissionings began. 

Agatha and Manon find themselves on opposite sides. Agatha's health issues means that she and Manon will not spend their adult lives as friends. They are now different. Manon will be paired with a partner to suit, whilst Agatha will be left to fend for herself. 

This is a story told from both points of view, and I have to admit that I did prefer Agatha. I guess I always shout for the underdog, but her journey felt much more of a struggle, more real and more interesting. 

Whilst nowhere near as brutal as The Handmaid's Tale, which should be expected for a novel aimed at young adults, this is a extremely well written story of speculative fiction. There are themes and issues that are explored well and most certainly relate to our current world. With a touch of romance to brighten the darkness, The Virtue Season is a story to savour. A quick read for me, but very satisfying. 

L.M. Nathan grew up in the East Midlands, moving from there to Bristol where she
studied English and Drama and then to Malta where she completed an MA in Literature. She also has an MA in Journalism which she studied for in Manchester.

She now lives in rural Lancashire, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, and teaches English.

Her first novel, The Virtue Season, was inspired by the wild landscape of home and completed when she was selected to be part of the Curtis Brown Creative novel course.

X @lmnathanwriter

Instagram @lmnathanwriter

Some Boys I Knew by Clea Myers BLOG TOUR #SomeBoysIKnew @MyersClea @RandomTTours #Giveaway #Win #Competition #Prize


What does it take for us to put our lives on hold and begin to heal? 

In the midst of a sequence of traumatic events―recovering from crystal-meth addiction, facing infertility, battling chronic fatigue, surviving breast cancer, rebuilding a relationship with her narcissistic mother only for it to fall apart again before her mother’s suicide―Clea realises she has to take a break from men. 

There had been too many disasters beginning with the Adonis-like Old Etonian, Luke, who can’t stop cheating. What unites her with darkly handsome Tarquin, who follows Clea to the USA, only to rob her? Gordon, a dumpster-diving tweaker who deserts her for a porn star; Saint Peter who persuades her into rehab; sexually confused Brent; violent Conrad and self-obsessed Alfie? Why does she turn down decent Nat who is just too nice? 

As Clea digs through the evidence, she exposes learned behaviours that keep her dependent. 

Denial is a powerful drug and the endorphin rush of apologies, promises and make-up sex fix things over and over… until they don’t. 

Rich, powerful and authentic, Some Boys I Knew takes us on a raw, insightful journey to becoming the person Clea most needs: Herself. 

A vivid memoir from the writer of Tweaking the Dream.

Some Boys I Knew by Clea Myers was published on 10 April 2024 by Cinnamon Press. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I have one copy of the book to give away. Entry is simple, just fill out the widget in the blog post. UK entries only please. 


One copy of Some Boys I Knew by Clea Myers

Clea Myers was born in London and spent her peripatetic childhood in Canada, Dubai, London and the Home Counties where she attended three different boarding schools from age 9. 
By age 18 she was relieved to escape the rigidity of boarding school life and travelled round India, a place she still adores and visits often. Due partly to connections with extended family, and to escape her immediate family, Clea attended university in the USA, where she eventually landed at Brown. Possibly not the best fit, but she did graduate with Honors- she is still rather mystified by this- and then rather unwisely decided to move to Los Angeles. 

Hollywood was where her life truly unraveled due to her commitment to a well-known devil, aka Crystal Meth. She wrote her first memoir, Tweaking the Dream: A Crystal Meth True Story to explain its' power and understand it better herself, while also sending out a clear message of awareness in the UK. Clea has been a spokeswoman for FRANK (drugs awareness charity) for many years. She is now writing the screenplay for Tweaking the Dream, with a partner based in LA.

Based now in London for many years, Clea also works as an actress & casting associate. She recently published her second book, Some Boys I Knew about her many disastrous relationships with men, and her complicated relationship with her narcissistic mother. 
Having recently trained as a mental-health peer-support worker she is organizing ‘memoir-writing workshops’ within her local community in west London with MIND,OpenAge and other organisations.

Some Boys I Knew is published by Cinnamon Press, a small independent publisher in April 2024. 

Tuesday 16 July 2024

True Love by Paddy Crewe BLOG TOUR #TrueLove #PaddyCrewe @DoubledayUK @RandomTTours #BookReview @Millsreid11


What does it mean to love and be loved?

It is the 1980s and Finn and Keely are growing up in the North East of England.

Keely is a fighter. Even in the face of loss she strives to seek connection, but finds that she’s not always searching in the right places.

Finn is quiet, sensitive, distant. He spends much of his time alone, yet deep down he wants to discover the thrill of relating to others.

When the two finally meet, everything is changed. Love – with all of its attendant joys and costs – is thrust upon them, and each must decide if they will bend or break under its pressure. True Love is a story of the trials of youth, the bonds of family and friendship, and of how much we are willing to risk to have ourselves be seen.

True Love by Paddy Crewe was published on 4 July 2024 by Doubleday. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour

True Love by Paddy Crewe has catapulted itself right in to my list of favourite books ever. This is a story that I went in to almost blind, having read the blurb, but not really knowing what to expect. 

It is astonishing. It feels like the perfect book. A story about true love in all of its many forms; a story of two individual, very different people who do not even meet until towards the end of the book but we, the reader, know that their relationship is inevitable. 

Paddy Crewe is an extraordinary writer. His beautiful prose totally captivated me throughout the novel. He writes about ordinary people who lead lives that are filled with pain, he gets to the heart of what true love is. Love can be damaging, toxic, beautiful, exciting. It can be brutal and heartbreaking. The love for family members differs from the love we feel for members of our immediate community, and romantic love is absolutely another experience. 

Told from the point of view of two lead characters; Keely and Fin. Their stories are told separately, each one given their own part of the book. Keely is a young girl who lives in a caravan on a site by the sea, her father is a sea coaler, her mother is dead. Keely has a younger brother, Welty, she cares for him. Their father does care, but he too is broken and struggles to express his feelings. When the tragedy that will shape Keely's life forever happens, her life changes. She leaves school, she starts to gather sea coal, she becomes more insular, thinner, her spark goes out.

She does discover books, and Crewe's explanation of just what reading means to Keely really touched me, I felt it so much, it could have been written just for me;

    "She can't imagine her life without books and she thanks Miss Collins every day for dropping that         first bag off outside the caravan. She doesn't know how else she would fill her time, or what could         possibly feel as satisfying. She is filled up by words. Whatever pain she suffers in her own life, the         characters she reads about set to replenishing her, all of which has led her to treat books with a             reverence that she affords nothing else. They are sacred to her, and though in her care they all wind      up dog-eared, with pages folded down and spines cracked, she would mourn one if it was ever lost or     damaged beyond use."

Keeley finds herself living alone. She has no contact with her dad and begins to find solace in the local pubs and the bottom of a glass. 

Finn has lived with his grandparents for his whole life. His parents are never mentioned, he knows nothing of them, of where they are, why they left him. He is loved, but finds it very difficult to express his own love. Speaking very few words, he suffers the anguish of being bullied by his peers. Until the day that he finds music and suddenly his voice is being heard. 

It is a given that these two damaged yet incredibly intelligent people will meet and discover their own form of true love. It is an intense relationship, both of them wary, yet at the same time, exposing everything about themselves and it feels as though this frenzy of a relationship will always continue. 

But True Love is painful and they both cause pain and feel pain. Pain that hurts so much that they can not get over it and once more, they become individuals, having to find their own paths, deal with their own lives. They have to survive. 

I didn't read Paddy Crewe's first novel; My Name Is Yip, which won so many awards, but I am most certainly going to change that now. This author has created two characters that became part of my existence whilst I was reading about them. I cared about them so much, I felt their pain, I shared in their joys, I almost mourned them when I turned the final page.  This is utterly remarkable and highly recommended by me. 

Paddy Crewe was born in Middlesborough and studied at Goldsmiths. 

His debut novel, My Name Is Yip, has been shortlisted for the Betty Trask, the Wilbur Smith, a South Bank Sky Arts Award and the Society of Authors First Novel Award, and longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize.

Monday 15 July 2024

This Motherless Land by Nikki May #ThisMotherlessLand @NikkiOMay @DoubledayUK #BookReview


When Funke’s mother dies in an accident in Lagos, she’s sent to live with her maternal family in England. Against a backdrop of condescension and mild neglect, sensible Funke strives to fit in, determined to become one of them.

Free-spirited Liv has always wanted to break free of her joyless family, to be nothing like them. Fiercely protective of Funke, she at last has an ally. The two cousins give each other what they need most: love.

But the past casts long shadows and the choices made by their mothers haunt them, shaping the trajectory of their adult lives. Can they escape their legacy?

Witty, warm, hugely entertaining, This Motherless Land bridges three decades and two continents, delving into the thorny territories of race and culture and belonging. At its heart is a story about love and how it can make the difference between surviving and thriving.

This Motherless Land by Nikki May is published on 18 July 2024 by Doubleday. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I read and reviewed Nikki May's debut novel, Wahala in January 2022 and really loved it. I've been looking forward to her follow up for a long time. 

This Motherless Land is billed as a de-colonial retelling of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. Don't judge me, but I have not read Mansfield Park! Jane Austen kind of passed me by, I had my nose stuck in glitzy novels from the likes of Jackie Collins, Penny Vincenzi and Judith Krantz when I was in school. Maybe I need to catch up?

Despite this, and despite not really knowing anything about Mansfield Park, I adored this novel. It is up to date and current, it is educational, it is sometimes funny and it is packed with characters that I loved so much. This author certainly creates characters to admire and to support, she did it in Wahala and she's done it again here. 

Funke has enjoyed a happy, quite idyllic upbringing in Lagos, Nigeria with her British mother and her Nigerian father. When tragedy strikes, and her mother is killed in a road traffic accident, Funke is sent to England to live with her mother's family. Not only is she grieving for her mother, and the life she's left behind, she also has to cope with the total difference in culture. Not helped at all by how dreadfully her Aunt Margot treats her. Her one ally is her cousin Liv, and the authors description of their beautiful relationship and how it develops and lasts is quite wonderful. 

Just as Funke begins to feel as though she is fitting in, Aunt Margot sends her back to her father in Lagos. Everything has changed there and once again Funke feels like an outsider. The depth and strength of her feelings are so well portrayed, it's often heartbreaking to read. 

Meanwhile, back in England, Liv blames herself for everything. Questioning her own lifestyle, she spirals out of control.

What May does so very well is give such an insight into two very different cultures. She exposes the bigotry of some communities whilst also supporting her characters so well. The compare and contrast elements of this vividly written story are exquisite. It's an exploration of how we belong, it can be so emotionally draining at times, but always beautifully written. It's a bold, daring and clever story with characters to cheer for, oh and a parrot called Billy! Highly recommended by me. 

Born in Bristol and raised in Lagos, Nikki May is Anglo-Nigerian. Her critically acclaimed debut novel WAHALA won the Comedy Women In Print New Voice Prize, was longlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award and the Diverse Books Award, and is being turned into a major BBC TV drama series.

THIS MOTHERLESS LAND is her second novel.

Nikki lives in Dorset with her husband, two standard Schnauzers and way too many books. She should be working on her third book but is probably reading.

Twitter/X: @NikkiOMay

Instagram: @NikkiMayWriter

Friday 12 July 2024

Imposter Syndrome by Joseph Knox BLOG TOUR #ImposterSyndrome @josephknox__ @DoubledayUK @TransworldBooks @RandomTTours #BookReview


Lynch, a burned out con-artist, arrives, broke, in London, trying not to dwell on the mistakes that got him there. When he bumps into Bobbie, a rehab-bound heiress - and when she briefly mistakes him for her missing brother - Lynch senses the opportunity, as well as the danger…

Bobbie’s brother, Heydon, was a troubled young man. Five years ago, he walked out of the family home and never went back. His car was found parked on a bridge overlooking the Thames, in the early hours of the same morning. Unsettled by Bobbie’s story, and suffering from a rare attack of conscience, Lynch tries to back off.

But when Bobbie leaves for rehab the following day, he finds himself drawn to her luxurious family home, and into a meeting with her mother, the formidable Miranda. Seeing the same resemblance that her daughter did, Miranda proposes she hire Lynch to assume her son’s identity, in a last-ditch effort to try and flush out his killer.

As Lynch begins to impersonate him, dark forces are lured out of the shadows, and he realises too late that Heydon wasn’t paranoid at all. Someone was watching his every move, and they’ll kill to keep it a secret.

For the first time, Lynch is in a life or death situation he can’t lie his way out of.

Imposter Syndrome by Joseph Knox was published on 11 July 2024 by Doubleday. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour 

It is no secret that I am a massive Joseph Knox fan. I have read all of his books starting with his Aiden Waits series and of course, the utter triumph that was True Crime Story.

It seems so long since he's published a book and Imposter Syndrome has been one of my most anticipated books of the year. 

Let's cheer for Knox, he certainly has not let me down. He has delivered a dark, brooding character in Lynch; a man who admits that he is a con-man, who will do most things for some cash, but also has his own moral code. He's a bloke that you'd be wary of, but when he's on your side, you will trust him. 

Lynch arrives in London from Paris, there's a story behind his leaving. He has no money, an almost dead phone and no luggage. Bobbie Pierce, a wealthy young woman on her way to rehab spots Lynch and is immediately struck by the likeness to her brother Heydon. Heydon has been missing for five years, his family don't know where he is, they know that money was involved and they are aware of some shady characters that he was involved with. 

Lynch never turns down the offer of food and a bed for the night, but meeting Bobbie thrusts him into situations that he could not have anticipated. Sure enough, the lure of cash means that he agrees to take on a pretty dangerous task for the Pierce family. His aim is to discover where Heydon went, and why. 

Lynch is such a complex, multi layered character. The story is told in the first person by Lynch which enables the reader to feel even more closer to the action. However, it's not only the self-confessed con-man who is dangerous .... the Pierce family are made up of a bunch of suspicious, quite warped at times, members who are devilishly determined. 

This author always keeps his readers on their toes. The plot twists around many corners, it is multi layered and complex, often throwing curveballs but always entertaining. There's also some very dark humour, some one liners that will make the reader splutter. This is a fine touch, erasing just a little of the noir .... until it begins again. 

Expect some devious characterisation and lots of darkness. Expect a plot full of surprises and don't expect to work it out before the end.  I loved it. Highly recommended by me. 

Joseph Knox has lived in Stoke on Trent, Manchester and London.
In 2020, he became an Irish citizen.

His debut novel Sirens was a bestseller and has been translated into eighteen languages. The Smiling Man and The Sleepwalker are the second and third books in the Waits trilogy.

His first standalone novel, True Crime Story, was a Times number one bestseller.

X @josephknox__

Instagram @knobbth

Thursday 11 July 2024

Probably Nothing by Lauren Bravo BLOG TOUR #ProbablyNothing @Laurenbravo @TeamBATC @simonschusterUK #BookReview


Bryony doesn't actually mind being single. So she doesn't understand why she keeps seeing (ok, sleeping with) Ed, who is perfectly fine, but also only okay. After developing the ick on their fifth date, she resolves to end things – only to receive a call the next day telling her Ed has died. 

Worse yet, he seems to have represented her to his family and friends as his great love. Obviously, it would be cruel to correct them. Then she's invited to the funeral. It would be equally rude to refuse... right? 

 Before she knows it, Bryony has been drawn in by the charisma and chaos of Ed's eccentric family and tangled in a web of her own lies. She's been guilted into signing up to his sister's pyramid scheme, she's in far too deep with several of his nearest and dearest – and to make matters worse she's experiencing a lot of physical symptoms that are becoming harder and harder to ignore…

Probably Nothing is the answer to just how far sheer awkwardness can take someone. Peppered with Lauren Bravo's irresistible wit, it explores the relatable modern cults of wellness and people-pleasing, and digs into the eternal dilemma: life is short – so should you settle for perfectly fine?

Probably Nothing by Lauren Bravo was published in hardback by Simon & Schuster on 4 July 2024. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy as part of this Blog Tour. 

I read and reviewed Lauren Bravo's debut novel; Preloved, in April 2023. I adored that book, it made my top books of the year list last year and I've been eagerly waiting her second novel. 

I said that I felt as though Preloved had been written especially for me, everything just resonated so much. I feel much the same about Probably Nothing. It's an almost tailor-made story, just for me! 

Bryony is an amazing lead character, I instantly fell in love with her and continued to have her back all the way through this story. 

Bryony has been on a few dates with Ed. She likes him, but it's not the relationship to change her world. When Ed dies, his family believe that he and Bryony were in a really serious relationship, they consider her to be part of the family now and expect her to be involved with the funeral. So, as far as Ed's family are concerned, Bryony is the grieving girlfriend, as devastated as they are by Ed's death. 
Bryony is a good, kind woman and finds herself not wanting to make the situation worse, so she goes along with it. I totally understand why she did this, I often find it hard to say no for fear of offending people, even though it often can make life difficult. 

As Bryony learns more about the family and about Ed and the binds to the whole family seem to get tighter and tighter, with no easy way out. 

Alongside Bryony's story, we also hear from Ed's sister in law Kelly. Kelly desperately wants to have a baby and is tortured by the sight of so many pregnant women, especially hard as she works in a GP surgery. Kelly's voice and point of view add another dimension to the story, we see Bryony from another perspective and we are there when these two women who are somewhat on the edge, form a tentative friendship. 

What Bravo does so very well is to explore darker themes whilst keeping her writing so relatable. There's humour but there's a great insight into how anxiety can impact onto mental health, it's cleverly and quite beautifully done. 

Bravo writes with a maturity that allows her readers to gain a great insight into the lives of ordinary people, she has created a cast of characters who are joyful, and normal and who the reader will adore. 

Another triumph from this very talented author. Bring on the next book! 

Lauren Bravo is an author, journalist and lifelong hypochondriac who has written about fashion, popular culture, food and feminism for titles including Grazia, Stylist, Vogue and Sunday Times Style. 

Her debut novel, Preloved, was named one of Red's best books of 2023. 

She lives in London with her husband and daughter.

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Sharp Glass by Sarah Hilary #SharpGlass @sarah_hilary @panmacmillan #BookReview


The last thing she remembers is standing outside the empty house. One she was employed to pack, ready for removal. Her job is her life. It is her compulsion to take care of an owner’s precious possessions, to do whatever it takes to help them move on. Now she is cold, dirty, damp, trapped in its cellar with no chance of escape, miles from anywhere. His prisoner.

And then he returns.

Her captor believes she holds the answers to why a young girl was murdered a year ago. He refuses to let her go until she reveals her secrets. But he doesn’t know she has hidden depths, and an anger she works hard to control.

The battle lines are drawn. They are the only two people who can solve the mystery of the dead girl. But when the truth is revealed, whose life will shatter?

Sharp Glass by Sarah Hilary is published on 11 July 2024 by Pan Macmillan. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I adore Sarah Hilary's writing. I have read everything that she has written and enjoyed all of her novels to date. This is an author whose books I really look forward to. The reader never quite knows what they will get, and Sharp Glass is, quite possibly, her best book to date. 

The female lead character opens the story thinking about her recent journey. She is a professional packer, employed by people to pack up their homes for moving. The job suits this woman. She's insular and also very structured, she likes things in their place. She's very good at her job. She travelled at night time, to an isolated house in the country, she hasn't met the person who hired her.

We become aware that the woman is being held in a cellar. Captured as soon as she arrived, she was put in the cellar by an unknown man. Her thoughts run wild, the man is not treating her badly, he brings food and water, he tries to make her as comfortable as possible, but she is trapped. 

This is an extraordinary piece of writing. The structure of the novel is incredibly clever and the meandering thoughts of the woman raise so many questions. We hear her innermost thoughts. It is clear that she has led a fractured, difficult life. That small things that she has collected over the years and kept in a shoe box are very important to her. Is she reliable? We only hear her story, there must be a reason why this man has captured her. 

It is filled with suspense and tension, there is a darkness that is so overwhelming and so powerful. The woman's internal narrative is full of clues to her character, but we still don't know why she is there. 

It is a story of three parts, and in the second, we learn more about the man who holds her captive. He is another fractured soul. A man who tried his best to escape from his life of pain. An educated, intelligent man who has an important, useful job, but who suffers from the memory of his earlier life. As these two people gradually get to know each other, it becomes clear that they have more in common than we would imagine. They are bound together by the tragic death of a young girl a year ago. That story is central to the theme and the horrors that unfold are shocking. 

Whilst we do not actually meet any other characters, we hear about many, especially in the third part. We hear about the cruelty, the sadness, the need for revenge. There are well hidden secrets, there are unexpected shocks in store. 

This is an immersive, sharply written and quite devastating novel that features characters who are flawed and will often make the reader feel uncomfortable. However, those characters are magnificently portrayed, formed with an incredible insight into how the mind can work. 

This is an absolute wonder of a novel that will challenge but will also take you so deeply into the minds of these characters that you will find it hard to leave them. Highly recommended by me. 

Sarah Hilary’s debut, Someone Else’s Skin, won the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year
Award and was also a World Book Night selection, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and a finalist for both the Silver Falchion and the Macavity Awards in the US. No Other Darkness, the second in her DI Marnie Rome series, was shortlisted for a Barry Award. The series continued with Tastes Like Fear, Quieter Than Killing, Come and Find Me and Never Be Broken. 

Her standalone novels are Fragile, Blackthorn and Sharp Glass