Monday, 18 November 2019

The Giver Of Stars by Jojo Moyes @jojomoyes @MichaelJBooks #TheGiverOfStars #BookReview

The greatest love story is the one you least expect . . .
Alice is stifled, bored, and misunderstood.
So when she meets wealthy and handsome American, Bennett Van Cleve, she is quickly swept off her feet.
Marrying him and moving to America seems like a great adventure - but life as a newlywed in stuffy Baileyville, Kentucky, is not at all what she hoped for.
Until, that is, she responds to a call for volunteers to start a travelling library, surprising herself by saying yes, before her husband can say no . . .
Led by feisty and rebellious Margery O'Hare, this unlikely group of women travel far and wide on their mission to bring books and reading to those that need it, and Alice finally finds the freedom, friendship and love that she's been looking for.
But not everyone approves of what they are doing, especially her new father-in-law. And when the town turns against them, will their belief in each other and their work be enough?
The Giver of Stars is a mesmerising tale of female friendship, romance, and the wonder of books and reading, inspired by a remarkable true story.

The Giver Of Stars by Jojo Moyes was published in hardback by Michael Joseph on 3 October 2019.

I discovered Jojo Moyes' writing fifteen years ago when I read The Peacock Emporium. I was enthralled by her writing and her fabulous plot development. I went back and read her two previous books; Foreign Fruit and Sheltering Rain and have since read every one of her books as they've been published.

I have my favourites; The Last Letter To Your Lover is one of them. Of course, she's probably most well-known now for the Me Before You trilogy; a collection of novels that tell the heartwarming and emotional story of Lou Clark. As much as I love those books, I was delighted to hear that her latest book would be another standalone.

I've not been disappointed. The Giver Of Stars has now taken a place on my favourite novels by Jojo Moyes list - in fact, it's on my favourite novels by anyone list! Seeped in history, backed up by what must have been intensive and impeccable research; this novel has taken me to a place that I knew nothing about before, introduced me to characters who became friends and taught me about the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky; a forward-thinking and brave group of women who everyone should know about.

Late 1930s. America is in the middle of the Great Depression and rural Kentucky is probably suffering more than most states. Poverty is rife and the rural isolation of many of the inhabitants only makes things feel so much worse.

Eleanor Roosevelt is determined that people should be educated and that they need books, it is her dream that establishes the Travelling Library; staffed in Kentucky by five extraordinary women; far ahead of their time. Fearless and determined. This is their story, and it's wonderfully written by this talented and gifted author.

I especially enjoyed reading about Alice. An Englishwoman who felt stifled by her family at home, she grabbed the chance to marry American Bennett Van Cleve, believing that he was her ticket to a new life on the other side of the world. Sadly for Alice, Bennett wasn't the man that she'd hoped for and she finds herself living alongside her overbearing father-in-law, with the ghost of Bennett's late mother watching over everything that she does. Seeing an opportunity to escape her unhappiness, she signs up to be one of the Horseback Librarians.

Along with feisty leader Margery and three other women, Alice and the book deliveries become a huge and important part of the community. But this is 1930s America and there are plenty of people who disapprove of women riding out alone; especially when they are offering advice along with the books.

The Giver of Stars is a huge book; not so much in page length, but in substance and in the joy that it brings to the reader. I was totally captivated by the characters, the plotting and the wonderfully created setting. This really is a book to savour slowly, it's a sweeping story that centres on female friendship and loyalty, and has a fabulous dash of romance too.

Highly recommended, it is utterly absorbing and I lost myself completely in it.

Jojo Moyes is a novelist and journalist. Her books include the bestsellers Me Before You, After You and Still Me, The Girl You Left Behind, The One Plus One and her short story collection Paris for One and Other Stories. Her novels have been translated into forty-six languages, have hit the number one spot in twelve countries and have sold over thirty-eight million copies worldwide.

Me Before You has now sold over fourteen million copies worldwide and was adapted into a major film starring Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke. Jojo lives in Essex with her husband and their three children.

Website :
Twitter : @jojomoyes
Author Page on Facebook
Instagram : @jojomoyesofficial

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Someone Is Lying by Jenny Blackhurst @JennyBlackhurst @headlinepg #SomeoneIsLying #BookReview

One year after Erica Spencer trips and falls down a flight of stairs at a lavish Halloween party, the residents of the exclusive gated community where she lived have comes to terms with her death and moved on with their lives.
Until one day, a post on the school's website announces there will be a podcast to expose what really happened on the night of the accident. Six suspects are named, with the podcaster promising to reveal the murderer by the end of the series.
Everyone in this community has secrets to keep, and one of them is already a killer...

Someone Is Lying by Jenny Blackhurst was published in paperback by Headline on 14 November 2019.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I'm such a fan of Jenny Blackhurst's writing. I've followed her career from book one and I really do think that she improves with every book.

The story takes place in Severn Oaks; a small, exclusive gated community in the heart of Cheshire. The residents are a mixture of yummy mummies and wannabe celebrities and the community is linked together by the death of prominent resident Erica Spencer. It's a year since Erica died; tragically falling down stairs whilst drunk at a Halloween party.

The residents have all tried to move on from the tragedy and are now concentrating on the annual community picnic - usually organised by Erica, but now happily taken on by the remaining female residents.

By the end of the picnic the community are in shock, especially the Severn Oaks Six ..... six residents who are very fearful after first reading an anonymous Facebook post and then hearing a podcast in which the unknown narrator threatens to expose what really did happen to Erica.

There are quite a few characters to get to know at the beginning of this story, and it did take me a while to sort them all out, but once I had, there was no stopping me! I become completely consumed by the whole community thing and of course, by the mystery of what really happened a year ago.

Jenny Blackhurst excels at taking her readers on a twisted journey with sharp bends and shocks along the way.  Her depiction of the effects upon not only the Severn Oaks Six, but the rest of the community is excellently done. She creates a sense of controlled hysteria amongst the cast of characters which compels the reader and keeps them on their toes.

Someone Is Lying is a thoroughly entertaining, gripping read. It's fast-paced, well thought and kept me turning the pages well into the night.

Jenny lives in Shropshire where she grew up dreaming that one day she would get paid for making up stories. 
She is an avid reader and can mostly be found with her head in a book or hunting Pokemon with her son, otherwise you can get her on Twitter @JennyBlackhurst or Facebook. 

Her favourite film is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, but if her children ask it's definitely Moana.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Testament by Kim Sherwood @kimtsherwood @YoungWriterYear #YoungWriterAwardShadow @riverrunbooks

was honoured to be asked to be on the shadow panel for this year's Young Writer of the Year
Award, sponsored by The Sunday Times and the University of Warwick.

The shadow panel will read and discuss the shortlisted books, we will then pick our winner and see if we agree with the official panel.

The exceptional debuts of multi-award-winning British-Jamaican poet Raymond The White Review Short Story Prize winner Julia Armfield, British-Brazilian novelist Yara Rodrigues Fowler, and writer and Creative Writing teacher Kim Sherwood have been shortlisted for the 2019 Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award. It is the first year the University of Warwick, home to the acclaimed Warwick Writing Programme, acts as the title sponsor of the prize, following two years as its associate partner.

The judges have chosen the shortlisted titles – two novels, a poetry and a short story collection; written by three women and one man – from a record number of submissions to the prize. Publishers submitted over 100 books this year – prompting The Sunday Times Literary Editor Andrew Holgate, Chair, to sign up two further judges: the writer, editor and bookseller Nick Rennison and Warwick University’s Gonzalo C. Garcia have joined the award-winning poet and writer Kate Clanchy and the best-selling author Victoria Hislop.

My thoughts on Testament by Kim Sherwood

Of everyone in her complicated family, Eva was closest to her grandfather: a charismatic painter - and a keeper of secrets. So when he dies, she's hit by a greater loss - of the questions he never answered, and the past he never shared.
It's then she finds the letter from the Jewish Museum in Berlin. They have uncovered the testimony he gave after his forced labour service in Hungary, which took him to the death camps and then to England as a refugee. This is how he survived.
But there is a deeper story that Eva will unravel - of how her grandfather learnt to live afterwards. As she confronts the lies that have haunted her family, their identity shifts and her own takes shape. The testament is in her hands.
Kim Sherwood's extraordinary first novel is a powerful statement of intent. Beautifully written, moving and hopeful, it crosses the tidemark where the third generation meets the first, finding a new language to express love, legacy and our place within history.

Testament by Kim Sherwood was published by in July 2018 by riverrun.

Eva's grandfather; a well respected and renowned artist has died. Eva is devastated by his death and not only has to deal with her own grief but that of his friends and admirers from all over the world. It feels as though Joseph Silk belonged to everyone, not just his family.

Joseph left Hungary in 1945 and had a successful life in Britain. He didn't speak about his early life and when Eva comes across documentation linking him to the Jewish Museum in Berlin, she is both intrigued and very surprised. It seems that Joseph completed a 'Testament' detailing the time he spent in a Hungarian Labour Camp. This Testament has been recently discovered by one of the curators of the Museum and he would like to include it in an upcoming exhibition.

Eva travels to Berlin and it is whilst she is there that she discovers the truth that Joseph spent so long hiding from his family, and hiding from it himself.

Also interweaved within the modern-day story, the author cleverly tells Joseph's story in his own words as a teenager. This enables the reader to gain a rounded view of circumstances and the long-term effects these have had on a family.

This is an important and passionate story and the author's writing is beautiful; quite lyrical in places. There were times though that I felt the beauty of the prose took away something of the harshness of the story; almost as though the contrast was just a little too much. However, there is no denying that this such a powerful and accomplished debut. It's a startling and eye-opening read; which took my breath away in parts.

Testament is not only the detailed story of the horrors of wartime atrocities, it is also a detailed and wonderfully perceptive novel of relationships; and especially the relationship between Eva and her father, and grandfather.

Astute and compelling. An excellent debut from an author to watch out for.

Kim Sherwood was born in Camden in 1989 and lives in Bath. 
She studied Creative Writing at UEA and is now Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England. 
Her pieces have appeared in Mslexia, Lighthouse, and Going Down Swinging. 
Kim began researching and writing Testament, her first novel, after her grandfather, the actor George Baker, passed away and her grandmother began to talk about her experiences as a Holocaust Survivor for the first time. 
It won the 2016 Bath Novel Award, was longlisted for the 2019 Desmond Elliot Prize and shortlisted for the 2019 Author ’s Club Best First Novel Award.

Twitter @kimsherwood

Thursday, 14 November 2019

All At Sea by Gemma Roman BLOG TOUR @GemmaRomanBooks #AllAtSea #RandomThingsTours

Alice is young, in love and living on the Cornish coast. 
Life should be perfect. 
But Alice is about to meet someone who will make her question everything.

All At Sea by Gemma Roman was published in August 2019. I'm delighted to share my thoughts about the book as part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour today

All At Sea is a novella at just over 160 pages and is the first in a series of novellas set in Cornwall.

Gemma Roman writes very well. The sense of place shines though and Cornwall becomes as much a characters as the Alice, Mia and Kai.

This is Alice's story. She's always been happy to stay in her Cornish home town, happy to miss out on university to stay with her boyfriend Kai. She's assistant manager at a local bar and that keeps her busy; she's pretty happy with life. Kai is a freelance photographer and often has assignments that take him to other cities for a while. Whilst Alice loves Kai, she's happy for him to travel and enjoys spending time on her own. Kai, on the other hand, would like more from their relationship and has asked Alice to marry him more than once.

Whilst Kai is off on a job in Manchester, Alice's life turns into something of a whirlwind. She is swept off her feet by a newcomer; this is an unexpected and surprising affair that has long-term implications for Alice and Kai.

The author then takes the story a few years into the future where we meet both Alice and Kai; older, wiser and in very different situations. That attraction is still there and it's time to face up to this.

The author has created a cast of believable, if not always likeable characters who feel realistic and true. She has examined the complexities of relationships very well, and whilst this is only a short book, it has real emotional depth. 

A quick read that I finished in one evening, but a very satisfying one. I look forward to reading more from this series.

“I'm Gemma Roman.
I have pretty much always been a bookworm.
I always loved reading, writing and the creative arts, and also enjoyed dancing which led me to study for a degree in Dance Studies when I was at University. Following graduation, I worked in retail and became interested in the wealth of characters that I came across daily while working in customer service.  
I'd had a few ideas rumbling around in my head for a while, and so spent a few years writing my first novel in my spare time. I finally managed to release it in June 2016, and am now planning for the release of my new book 'All At Sea', which is due out in 2019.
Follow me on the social media links below to stay updated on all of my bookish news, and even subscribe to my blog  (www.gemmaromanbooks/

Author Page on Facebook

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

On The Up by Alice O'Keeffe BLOG TOUR @AliceOKeeffe @JennyPlatt90 @hodderbooks @coronetbooks #OnTheUp

By reading Style magazine, I was training myself not to want things. It was going quite well. I had already found that I did not want a pair of Yves Saint Laurent mules, a chandelier made from plastic antlers, or a diamond-encrusted necklace in the shape of a pineapple. I was still working on not wanting a fitted farmhouse kitchen in warm wood.
Sylvia lives in a flat on a council estate with her not-quite-husband Obe and their two young children. She dreams of buying a house on a leafy street like the one she grew up in. If she closes her eyes, she can see it all so clearly: the stripped floorboards, the wisteria growing around the door...
It's not ideal that she's about to be made redundant, or that Obe, a playworker, is never going to earn more than the minimum wage. As sleep deprivation sets in, and the RnB downstairs gets ever louder, Sylvia's life starts to unravel.
But when the estate is earmarked for redevelopment, the threat to her community gives Sylvia a renewed sense of purpose. With a bit of help from her activist sister, and her film-maker friend Frankie, she's ready to take a stand for what she believes in.
Warm, witty and brilliantly observed, On the Up is about relationships and community, finding a way through the tough times, and figuring out what's really worth fighting for.

On The Up by Alice O'Keeffe is published in hardback by Coronet / Hodder Books on 14 November. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

I remember reading about On The Up in The Bookseller earlier this year and thought then that it sounded like my sort of read. I was delighted when I was offered the chance to read a pre-publication copy and even more delighted to find that I was right. It's such a fabulous story; the characters are large and warm and the narrative is absolutely perfect. I read this in just over a day, hardly putting it down at all.

Sylvia and Obe are almost-married. They live in a poky council flat on a busy estate with their two small children; The Toddler (aka Larkin), and That Baby (aka Eliot). Theirs is an accidental family; two children, much loved, but unplanned, and signalling the end to Sylvia's Plan for life.

Her latest plan is to get off the estate. The leave their tiny flat behind and live on a long road with trees and gardens; in a house with space and light. Much like the house that she grew up in. It is this alternative plan that forms the basis for the story, but there is so much more going on.

This is a delicately, often hilariously funny depiction of modern day life for a young family with very little money. It concentrates on the dreams for the future, and the hopes of the past, and what has been lost.

Alice O'Keeffe's character building is really quite wonderful. I adored Sylvia and whilst she and I have nothing in common, I really could empathise with her, and who she felt. Obe is a laid-back guy who tends not to worry; I can understand why he would drive Sylvia mad sometimes, but he's basically a good, kind bloke who loves his family, and ultimately would do anything for them.

The author's supporting cast of characters are just as perfect, and I had a special soft spot for Bill; the Anti Social Behaviour Officer for the local council who becomes much more to Sylvia than a council official. 

On The Up is a story of family, community and hope. It is cheering and uplifting with characters who begin to feel like actual friends. A sparkling debut, I'm looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Alice O'Keeffe is a freelance writer and journalist. 
She was deputy editor of the Guardian's Saturday Review section, and writes book reviews, interviews and features for the Guardian, Observer and New Statesman. 
She has been a speechwriter at the Department for Education and literary programmer at the Brighton Festival. 
Alice lives in Brighton with her husband and two children.

Twitter @AliceOKeeffe

Saturday, 9 November 2019

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall BLOG TOUR @KateFurnivall @simonschusterUK @ed_pr #Giveaway #TheGuardianOfLies #Win

Discover a brilliant story of love, danger, courage and betrayal, from the internationally bestselling author of The Survivors. 
1953, the South of France. The fragile peace between the West and Soviet Russia hangs on a knife edge. And one family has been torn apart by secrets and conflicting allegiances. Eloïse Caussade is a courageous young Frenchwoman, raised on a bull farm near Arles in the Camargue. She idolises her older brother, André, and when he leaves to become an Intelligence Officer working for the CIA in Paris to help protect France, she soon follows him. Having exchanged the strict confines of her father's farm for a life of freedom in Paris, her world comes alive. 
But everything changes when André is injured - a direct result of Eloise's actions. Unable to work, André returns to his father’s farm, but Eloïse’s sense of guilt and responsibility for his injuries sets her on the trail of the person who attempted to kill him. 
Eloïse finds her hometown in a state of unrest and conflict. Those who are angry at the construction of the American airbase nearby, with its lethal nuclear armaments, confront those who support it, and anger flares into violence, stirred up by Soviet agents. Throughout all this unrest, Eloïse is still relentlessly hunting down the man who betrayed her brother and his country, and she is learning to look at those she loves and at herself with different eyes. She no longer knows who she can trust. Who is working for Soviet Intelligence and who is not? And what side do her own family lie on?

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall is out now, published by Simon & Schuster, priced £8.99 in paperback. 

As part of the Blog Tour organised by ed public relations, I am delighted to offer the chance to win a paperback copy of The Guardian of Lies to one lucky reader. Entry is simple; just fill out the competition widget at the end of this post.


Further praise for Kate Furnivall's novels:

'Gripping. Tense. Mysterious. Kate Furnivall has a talent for creating places and characters who stay with you long after you’ve read the final word' Jane Corry

'Exquisitely heart-wrenching & utterly engrossing' Penny Parkes

'A thrilling, compelling read. Wonderful!' Lesley Pearse

‘Wonderful . . . hugely ambitious and atmospheric’ Kate Mosse

‘A thrilling plot … Fast-paced with a sinister edge’ Times

‘Truly captivating’ Elle

‘Perfect escapist reading’ Marie Claire

One paperback copy of The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall

Kate Furnivall didn't set out to be a writer. It sort of grabbed her by the throat when she discovered the story of her grandmother - a White Russian refugee who fled from the Bolsheviks down into China. That extraordinary tale inspired her first book, THE RUSSIAN CONCUBINE. From then on, she was hooked.

Kate is the author of ten novels, including THE RUSSIAN CONCUBINE, THE LIBERATION and THE BETRAYAL. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages and have been on the Sunday Times and New York Times Bestseller lists.