Blog Tour: The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead.

So begins Christopher Fowler’s foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves.

Whether male or female, domestic or international, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega-seller or prize-winner – no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. And Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives, and why they often stopped writing or disappeared from the public eye.

These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced us to psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world.

This is a book about books and their authors. It is for book lovers, and is written by one who could not be a more enthusiastic, enlightening and entertaining guide.

What I Thought:
I adore books about books! And The Book of Forgotten Authors could definitely keep your TBR pile busy for the foreseeable future.

While reading the book, I was pleased to note that I had actually heard of a number of the authors, and on further reading, there were some books I’d heard of or film adaptations that I had had no idea of the author of – situation corrected!

I really like the way Christopher Fowler has gone about researching and presenting each author and their works in the book, as it works both as something to read and also as a great reference guide should you wish to go on and read any of the books – if they are still available. I’ve already added several to my Goodreads list and I’ve kept the book to hand for the next time I’m on a book-buying spree!

As non-fiction titles go, it’s remarkably easy to read, being set out in chapters of just the right size about an individual author, with sections about multiple authors of a certain genre. There is incredible warmth towards the forgotten authors, and some lovely anecdotes about Christopher Fowler’s own purchase of some of the titles he’s written about.

The Book of Forgotten Authors was published by riverrun on 5th October.

This post is part of a blog tour to support the release of The Book of Forgotten Authors, so please do check out some of the other fantastic blogs involved:

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book for the purposes of review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Stories for Homes vol 2 ed. Debi Alper & Sally Swingewood

Published and unpublished writers come together to create an anthology of stories about what ‘home’ means.

55 writers are included in a second charity anthology that brings issues around housing, poverty and crisis to life through the power of storytelling. Volume One of the Stories for Homes Project raised over £3K for housing charity Shelter and raised awareness of housing issues. Volume Two of the anthology includes stories, poems and flash fiction and again all proceeds will be donated to the charity.

What I Thought:
I think we all continue to be shocked by Grenfell Tower and the response to it – some reports from just last month indicate that 80% of survivors are still yet to be rehoused – so this second volume of Stories for Homes goes some way to raise both money and awareness of the ongoing agony that the survivors are going through.

Volume 1 of this project raised £3K for Shelter and helped to bring awareness to the very many and complex issues that surround housing and homelessness in this country – they say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the fact that these issues continue to make headlines and show no signs of improving is a real indictment of our government and our country.

The 55 stories in this anthology, whether they are from previously published or unpublished writers, deal with ‘Home’ as both a physical entity and as a concept – is Home your four walls, or is it your family, your friends or where you feel safest?

It also deals with complex issues, such as a return from prison (Coming Home), the end of the American Dream from a migrant perspective (Giving Thanks), feeling safe in your own home (Up the Garden Path) and even uses fairytale to look at the value we put on our own homes (A House of My Own)

Varied in length and style though they may be, there will be at least one story in this collection that resonates with everyone – at the very least it shines a light on the ongoing struggles faced by too many of our most vulnerable citizens every day.

With the proceeds of this volume again going to Shelter, it’s well worth buying – especially as we move into the coldest months of the year – if only to allow Shelter to help more people in crisis. You can buy the ebook from Amazon, or directly from The Stories for Homes website, where you can also pick up the first volume and additional content.

If you feel you would like to make a donation to Shelter, outside of the purchase of this book, then you can do so here. There is lots of information about where your money will go, plus the option for a one-off, or regular donation.

The Blog tour has been ongoing, since the anthology’s release on 28th September, so please do check out some of the other fantastic blog taking part:

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book to enable accurate participation in the book tour. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: The Doctor’s Wife is Dead by Andrew Tierney

A mysterious death in respectable society: a brilliant historical true crime story

In 1849, a woman called Ellen Langley died in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. She was the wife of a prosperous local doctor. So why was she buried in a pauper’s coffin? Why had she been confined to the grim attic of the house she shared with her husband, and then exiled to a rented dwelling-room in an impoverished part of the famine-ravaged town? And why was her husband charged with murder?

Following every twist and turn of the inquest into Ellen Langley’s death and the trial of her husband, The Doctor’s Wife is Dead tells the story of an unhappy marriage, of a man’s confidence that he could get away with abusing his wife, and of the brave efforts of a number of ordinary citizens to hold him to account. Andrew Tierney has produced a tour de force of narrative nonfiction that shines a light on the double standards of Victorian law and morality and illuminates the weave of money, sex, ambition and respectability that defined the possibilities and limitations of married life. It is a gripping portrait of a marriage, a society and a shocking legal drama.

What I Thought:
What started out as a genealogical curiosity is presented by Andrew Tierney in a well-reasearched, and rage-inducing account of the appalling treatment of a woman at the hands of her husband.

In The Doctor’s Wife is Dead, Ellen Langley’s life and death are presented in all their gory details, with supporting evidence presented in a really accessible way. This real-life account of a woman considered and old maid by the social mores of the time, but certainly not by today’s standards, finally married to a younger doctor with prospects could have been a happy and unremarkable tale but, as is presented in the book, Ellen’s husband was more interested in her connections, leading to a miserable life of physical and mental abuse, ending with a burial in a pauper’s grave.

It should be pointed out that there are some educated suppositions made, based on the evidence that Andrew Tierney has unearthed but it seems that the story is indicative of the treatment of any number of women during this time – those declared insane or hysterical when they were nothing of the sort, but who simply had no rights and no hope should the men in their lives turn against them.

As dry as non-fiction can sometimes be, this account is as gripping as any fiction title and is paced beautifully, through to the conclusion of the case, and an epilogue in which we find out how Dr Langley ended his life. Definitely recommended for lovers of true crime.

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Death in the Stars by Frances Brody

Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive.

During the eclipse, Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can’t help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths – and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina’s elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play, and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame…

What I Thought:
I’m celebrating the imminent release of Frances Brody’s latest Kate Shackleton mystery, Death in the Stars, by having a cup of proper Yorkshire tea – fitting, as that county is the basis for Kate Shackleton’s superbly twisty and mysterious adventures.

Having not read a Kate Shackleton book until last year, reading Death at the Seaside, I’d now be quite happy to read all of them (which I’m attempting to do!) and this latest instalment is a brilliant addition to the collection.

As ever, Kate Shackleton is the chic woman-about-town and go-to lady detective for the upper classes, but she won’t be easily deceived and put off – fairly early on, Kate sniffs out that Selina is not telling her the full story. Her usual supporting cast of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden are also on the case, using their experience and detecting talents to help Mrs Shackleton bring the killer to justice.

The real-life eclipse and its surrounding events allows Frances Brody to put her research skills to work, and she ties the factual events beautifully into the fictional account of Billy Moffatt’s disappearance and death, with it never feeling forced. This is the feeling throughout the novel – there is plenty of period detail, background information about what’s going on at that particular time and also the deeply-felt repercussions of the First World War but it is introduced so delicately that it just fits into the fictional elements.

The method of murder in this novel is very clever and there continue to be surprises right up to the final few pages. On reflection, of the Kate Shackleton books I’ve read, this one so far is the best – I look forward to seeing how the others compare as next on my list is Dying in the Wool, the first Kate Shackleton adventure.

Death in the Stars is published by Piatkus on 5th October. To find out more about the series, or Frances Brody, check out her website.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of Death in the Stars, so please do take a look at some of the other fantastic blogs taking part – also, keep an eye on my Twitter account, as I’ll have a giveaway of Death in the Stars running soon!

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book for the blog tour. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Orphan Sisters by Lola Jaye

Lana and May are a very long way from home.

Their Nigerian parents have emigrated to England in search of a better life for their family. Nineteen Fifties London is a great adventure to the girls but not always welcoming. There are signs in windows of lodging houses warning: ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’.

When tragedy strikes and the girls lose their father, their mother is unable to cope. When she fails to recover from the surprise birth of another child all three girls are sent to an orphanage. Lana is determined to keep her sisters together but when baby Tina gets adopted, she must admit their family is about to be torn apart – perhaps for ever…

What I Thought:
There seems to be a very healthy market for what I would term ‘nostalgia’ titles – set in the 1940s and 1950s, these titles have a nice girl in a difficult situation, who then comes through in the end. What they tend to all have in common, is that the little girl is invariably white and, reading Orphan Sisters, was the first instance in which I’ve read about children of colour during this time period.

Anyone who knows a little about the UK during the 1950s will be familiar with the blatant racism of this time – the landlords who would accept ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’ and the Rivers of Blood speech – and it’s unusual and interesting to read a fiction title about the experience of those who came to the UK for better opportunities at that time.

The book begins in Nigeria, with such a sense of hope – Lana and May’s father is working in the UK and the family waits for word that they may finally make the long journey themselves. When they do, they discover a whole new, fascinating world, but one where the people are not quite so friendly and the weather not quite so warm.

Lola Jaye writes the girls very well, capturing their childish delight at their new experiences, and their new home provided by a father that is working his way up. But suddenly it all comes to an end – Daddy suddenly, and dramatically passes away.

Lana and May’s lives are then thrown into turmoil, with a mother who cannot cope with two daughters, a surprise pregnancy and an abject loss of hope. They eventually end up placed in an orphanage. Lana fights to keep the family together, but will everything be torn from her as her parents were?

Orphan Sisters is, despite some harrowing sections, a lovely book to read. While terrible things happen to the girls, there is inspiration to be drawn from their determined nature. If you read the book and take it at face value, then it is what it is, but if you bring to mind the time period in which it is set, imagining just how hard it must’ve been for the girls with the prevailing attitude towards black people being so awful, it is a small insight into how life would have been for the hundreds of people who came to the UK from Nigeria, the West Indies, India and many other places in hopes of a better life.

Like most of these nostalgia titles, there is an uplifting ending to this book, but it is handled well and not schmaltzy. The whole book, in fact is very well written and although it deals with difficult subject matter, it is never overtly depressing as the main characters have such hope for their future.

Orphan Sisters is definitely recommended. The ebook is available now, but the paperback is due for release on 21st September.

Please Note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All view are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Home by Kate Hughes

“You need to come and get my daughter. She’s not safe anymore.”

For Sophie, life with her daughter has never been easy. Rosie’s extreme autism has made her unpredictable and often difficult. Like most mothers though, her first instinct has always been to protect her child and keep her close. However, when Rosie’s escalating violence culminates in a terrifying incident at home, Sophie is faced with a choice that no parent ever wants to make. A choice that will inevitably plunge her into a set of unimaginable new circumstances which will test her to the limit.

A true test of a mother’s love.

Could you send your child away?

What I Thought:
From reading the description, it’s instantly clear that Home is not going to be a light summer read, but although it deals with an impossible situation, in which no parent would wish to find themselves, it does so in a compassionate and in no way sensationalist way.

The depth of detail and compassion for the main characters makes sense when you read Kate’s afterword, as the heart of the story – a severely autistic child who is put into residential care for their own safety and wellbeing – has its roots in her own family.

Sophie, as a working single parent, trying to manage two daughters, one of whom is autistic, is entirely relatable – she’s doing her best and feeling like she’s failing, but hanging on to the bright moments in her life with her two daughters. In some ways, when she makes the decision to have Rosie taken into residential care, relating so much to Sophie makes it more agonising as you can’t help but wonder what you would do in the same situation. Thankfully it’s a decision that most of us will not have to make as, as Sophie falls apart after making it, I’m sure most people would too.

At one point, even though deep down she knows that Rosie’s care is the best for her, Sophie and her older daughter, Chloe, Sophie says that she feels like Rosie has died as she’s missing from the family home and they are all expected to move on with their lives without Rosie at the centre of them – this whole section is heartbreaking to read and imagine.

Though the whole book details with a sensitive and difficult subject, it is handled with care and no judgement – the only person judging is Sophie herself. It certainly brought me a new perspective on the care of autistic children. There is a great deal in the media about the rise in autism diagnoses but they seem to very much focus on children, forgetting that they do grow into adults with the same issues and challenges.

As I said, Home is not a comfortable read, but it is a compelling and compassionate one, and well worth your time.

Home is self-published by Kate Hughes, and you can connect with her Twitter.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book, by the author, for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

FIRST THERE WERE THREE

The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.

THEN THERE WERE TWO

But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or…

CAN THERE ONLY EVER BE ONE?

All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.

What I Thought:
If you like your thrillers dark and twisty, then Final Girls is definitely for you. Riley Sager ingeniously keeps the reader guessing and is adept at convincingly pointing us down the wrong path.

Quincy is a likeable character, although it’s clear that the life she has built since the horrific events at Pine Cottage will come tumbling down eventually – it’s just expedited by Lisa’s suicide and Sam’s arrival in her life. Since most of the novel is from Quincy’s point of view, we have to take what she says at face value and decide for ourselves whether she is reliable or not, for instance, the police investigating Pine Cottage don’t believe her claim of amnesia, but she is adamant that she doesn’t remember the events of that night – I won’t spoil the book by telling you either way!

The inclusion of flashback scenes is done well, and timed perfectly to add just enough information, and sow enough doubt to make the next contemporary section compulsive reading, so it is easy to whip right through this book, which is the epitome of ‘unputdownable’. The ending is unexpected but in keeping with the tense and thrilling atmosphere within the book and the epilogue provides a final horrific and yet strangely positive closure.

This is Riley Sager’s debut novel, although since it is so assured, I was unsurprised to learn that Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a previously published author. Regardless – Final Girls is an excellent thriller and highly recommended.

Final Girls was published by Ebury Press in July 2017.

Please Note: I was given a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The House by Simon Lelic

Whose story do YOU believe?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.

AND NOW THE POLICE ARE WATCHING THEM.

What I Thought:
The House is an incredibly difficult book to review, simply because it gets right to the action and there is so much potential for spoilers!

What I can tell you though, is that it’s a really original take on the epistolary novel, being written in journal entries back and forth between Jack and Syd, the young couple who have bought the house in question.

In the very first entry, Jack explains that the police are watching them, and then the story unfolds from Jack and Syd’s purchase of the house – which seems like a character in its own right. After a gruesome discovery in the loft, which Jack keeps hidden, some unexplainable things start to happen.

The journal entries work really well, as the way it’s set up gives Jack and Syd a right to reply to each other – for example, Jack uses some flowery language about Syd in the first few entries, and her reply is basically ‘Erm, no, that’s stupid’ which sets the tone for their relationship and the pressure that they’re under now that the police are watching them.

With this, though, comes the spectre of the unreliable narrator – I read a brilliant discussion about unreliable narrators earlier in the year, citing some of the best modern examples of that type of character and Syd and Jack can definitely join their ranks!

The use of the house as a character works well too, the descriptions of this house that is sold lock, stock and barrel and filled with taxidermy, family photos and loads of junk, as a brooding presence is very well done and it’s a shame that this drops off a little in the second half.

As this is a thriller, there is an inevitable twist, and when it comes in this novel it is pitched very well – I had thought I knew what was going on in the book, but it was a surprise to me! As a seasoned (read: old) reader of crime and thriller novels, I like to think I’m not easily decieved. Turns out I can still be led down the garden path!

For lovers of the thriller genre, The House is definitely a recommended read and it’s out now in eBook. If you prefer to wait for the physical copy, that’s out in November, published by Penguin.

This review is part of a blog tour for The House, which has been and is running on the brilliant blogs below – do take time to check them out…

Note: I received a copy of the book for the purposes of the blog tour, and to provide an honest review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: To Provence, With Love by T. A. Williams

Anything is possible…

Struggling writer Faye Carter just can’t believe her luck. She’s off to Provence to write the autobiography of a famous film star and she’ll be staying in the stunning chateau!

So when she meets charming (and completely gorgeous) lavender farmer, Gavin, she knows that she’s made the right choice – even if glamourous, elderly Anabelle seems to be hiding something…

But when the sun is shining, the food is delicious and the air smells of honey, anything seems possible. Will the magic of Provence help Faye finally find a happy-ever-after of her own?

What I Thought:
I was thrilled to recently take part in a blog tour to celebrate the release of To Provence, With Love and host an interview with the author. This is the third T. A. (Trevor) Williams book that I’ve read, and I’ve really enjoyed all of them.

Trevor has a deft touch with his novels, giving them foreign, yet familiar, settings and introducing a likeable cast of characters, for whom it is easy to wish good things.

In this novel in particular, you get a real sense that Trevor knows Provence well, and the writing brilliantly evokes the sights, sounds and smells of rural France.

Although the novel makes no apology for being a romance novel, there is a subtle hint of mystery in Faye’s situation, which is hinted at throughout the book before finally being revealed in the last few pages. This and a few other clever little twists enhance the romantic storyline and make the book a delightful summer read.

To Provence, With Love is out now, published by HQ Digital.

To find out more about Trevor and his other novels, you can visit his website. He is also available on Twitter.

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Excerpt & Giveaway: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett

Morning all! Today’s post is a double treat for all of you looking for a beach read for what’s left of the summer (where’s the sun gone!!??), as not only can you read about The Big Dreams Beach Hotel, but you can also enter a contest to win a copy of Lilly Bartlett’s previous novel, The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square. If that wasn’t enough, I also have the first three chapters of The Big Dreams Beach Hotel for you to download and read to whet your appetite!

Wriggle your toes in the sand and feel the warm breeze on your face at the hotel that’s full of dreams…

Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.

What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.

That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.

How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?

Click on the image below to begin reading the book, and then pop back to enter the contest…

And now for the contest!

You’re warmly invited to the Wedding of the Century with all your favourite friends. It’s the most vintage fun you’ll have this year!

To WIN a personally inscribed paperback of this gorgeous book, simply sign up here: http://eepurl.com/b96-Yz

Winners will be randomly selected and notified on August 18th via the email used to sign up.

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel is available to buy in ebook from 18th August, published by Harper Impulse.

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