Blog Tour: Tapestry by Beth Duke

Twenty-one-year-old Skye Willis lives in Eufaula, Alabama, a tourist mecca of stately homes and world-class bass fishing. Her childhood friends are either stuck at dead ends or have moved on to accomplish Big Things.

Skye’s grandmother, Verna, insists on being called “Sparrow” because she suspects her ancestors were Muscogee Creek. She dresses in faux deerskin and experiments with ancient Native American recipes, offering a myth or legend to anyone who will listen.

Skye has no idea what to do with her life. She’s smart as hell, but she has no faith or knowledge there’s something out there she was “born to do.” Nor does she know much of anything about her father, who died in Afghanistan when she was a toddler. He and his family are a mystery her mother won’t discuss. But when Sparrow sets out to confirm her Creek ancestry through genetic testing, Skye joins in.

The results hit like a DNA bomb, launching them both on a path filled with surprises and life-changing events. Skye learns a harder truth than she ever expected.

Alternating chapters between Skye’s Alabama life and an intertwining tale of greed, deceit, and control in Texas, this story offers proof that all life is a woven tapestry of past, present, and future.

What I Thought:

I’ve read Beth Duke before and loved her mix of contemporary American fiction and historical elements. Painting a picture of her characters from their earlier years leads to a better understanding of their actions in the present – whether good or bad!

Tapestry addresses that most modern of dilemmas – what happens when a DNA kit drops a bomb into a family? How does the family deal with the fact that they have lied, and how does the child forgive being lied to?

At the heart of this book is human connection – the connections that are not known about, and those that bind a family. It’s also about how chance can lead us to the right places, as Skye discovers through her Grandmother both what she wants to do with her life, and also with whom she wishes to spend it.

Beth Duke is adept at adding local and period detail to her books, without it seeming forced – there is some fantastic historical information about AfricaTown (Plateau), Alabama, a settlement formed by the last known people to be illegally brought to the USA as part of the slave trade. I can’t really let you know how exactly this ties in to the plot, as it would give things away, but there is further reading at the back of Tapestry about this fascinating settlement and lots of links online to explore too.

What I loved most about this book, is that it is populated with strong women. Sparrow, Lisa and Skye form an impenetrable family unit – them against the world – and despite the squabbles that any family might have, they remain devoted to each other. This really comes to the fore in the later stages of the book and it’s great to see three such women together and written so very well.

Tapestry is published by The Art of Dixie.

To find out more about Beth Duke and her work, you can check out her website. If you’d like to connect with her, you can do so on Twitter.

This post is just one in a blog tour to celebrate Tapestry by Beth Duke. To find out more about the book, and for exclusive extracts and giveaways, why not check out some of the blogs below?

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

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Blog Tour: Queen of Bones by Teresa Dovalpage

Juan, a Cuban construction worker who has settled in Albuquerque, returns to Havana for the first time since fleeing Cuba by raft twenty years ago. He is traveling with his American wife, Sharon, and hopes to reconnect with Victor, his best friend from college—and, unbeknownst to Sharon, he also hopes to discover what has become of two ex-girlfriends, Elsa and Rosita. 

Juan is surprised to learn that Victor has become Victoria and runs a popular drag show at the local hot spot Café Arabia. Elsa has married a wealthy foreigner, and Rosita, still single, works at the Havana cemetery. When one of these women turns up dead, it will cost Padrino, a Santería priest and former detective on the Havana police force, more than he expects to untangle the group’s lies and hunt down the killer. 

What I Thought:

A really interesting second Havana Mystery from Teresa Dovalpage. I read Death Comes in Through the Kitchen and Queen of Bones follows that up with more from Havana through the eyes of a non-resident.

In this instance, though, Juan is returning to Cuba from the US after escaping on a raft with his best friend, years before. What Juan didn’t know was the tangled web he left behind him.

There is lots of interesting background in this book for someone like me, who has only a rudimentary knowledge of the political situation in Cuba, and it’s valuable to have someone like Teresa Dovalpage writing about it from her unique perspective of being born in Cuba, but living in the US.

There is more of an emphasis in this book on the religious traditions in Cuba which are widespread, despite many years of political oppression. Padrino, the detective from the first book, has now retired and become a Santeria priest. He features firstly in the dramatic opening of the book, then can’t stop himself becoming involved when a murder is committed.

Alongside the great background, we mustn’t forget that this novel is a murder mystery, with a gripping plot before we finally find out who the wrong ‘un was. At first, it seems as though Juan’s old friend Victor – now a club singer called Victoria – may have been the victim of a hate crime, but it’s much more intricate than that!

A really interesting read, with some fantastic descriptions of the sights and sounds of Havana, it’s definitely worth picking up.

Queen of Bones is published by Soho Press.

To find out more about Teresa Dovalpage, you can check out her blog. Otherwise, why not connect with her on Twitter?

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of Queen of Bones. If you would like to take a look at some more reviews, exclusive content and giveaways, why not check out some of the blog below?

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

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Blog Tour: One Hundred and Fifty-Two Days by Giles Paley-Phillips

Soon. He will be allowed to visit his mother soon. His mother who is terminally ill, his mother who he has been barred from seeing as he recovers from his own bout of pneumonia.

Until then, with the help of his physiotherapist Freya, he must navigate his increasingly empty and isolated existence: his father, who finds solace in the bottom of a glass; his Nana Q, whose betting-slip confetti litters her handbag; his friends, who simply wouldn’t understand.

Time passes with the promise of soon, but one hundred and fifty-two days later the boy will come face to face with his grief, and move beyond to a world full of possibility, hope and love.

What I Thought:

I think I’ve said before that I have a tricky relationship with books in verse and poetry in general, so it’s something I tend to avoid. My not realising that One Hundred and Fifty-Two Days was in verse led me to reading it and I have to be thankful to my misunderstanding, as this is a beautiful and very special book that I might otherwise have missed.

Semi-autobiographical and written from the point of view of a teenage boy, the book gives a unique and heartbreaking insight into the thoughts and feelings of the boy as he deals with his own grief at not being able to see his mum, while also watching the rest of his family implode with the weight of it all.

Despite the obvious anger he feels at his father, who is not coping, the boy is still able to empathise with him and there are several verses where these two states of being clash.

Although each verse creates the whole of this book, they can be read – and bookmarked – individually and revisited to help with one’s own times of crisis. There is a lot in the verses that resonates.

Despite the heavy-hitting grief of the book, the final section does inspire hope that the boy’s little family will make it through and find their own strength – it’s ultimately hopeful and incredibly uplifting for such a diminutive book.

One Hundred and Fifty-Two Days is published by Unbound.

To find out more about Giles Paley-Phillips, you can connect with him on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of One Hundred and Fifty-Two Days. For more exclusive content, giveaways and reviews, why not check some of the blogs and Instagrams below?

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

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Book Review: The Confectioner’s Tale by Laura Madeleine

At the famous Patisserie Clermont in Paris, 1909, a chance encounter with the owner’s daughter has given one young man a glimpse into a life he never knew existed: of sweet cream and melted chocolate, golden caramel and powdered sugar, of pastry light as air.

But it is not just the art of confectionery that holds him captive, and soon a forbidden love affair begins.

Almost eighty years later, an academic discovers a hidden photograph of her grandfather as a young man with two people she has never seen before. Scrawled on the back of the picture are the words ‘Forgive me’. Unable to resist the mystery behind it, she begins to unravel the story of two star-crossed lovers and one irrevocable betrayal.

What I Thought:

I love a good timeslip novel and, after reading Laura Madeleine’s Where the Wild Cherries Grow, I’ve now read her debut novel, The Confectioner’s Tale. And what a tale!

In my experience, what tends to happen in novels that are based in two time periods, is that the ‘modern’ period is contemporary, but in Laura Madeleine’s novels, the ‘modern’ section is still historical for us – in this case, it’s 1988. This works really well, as there is still the mystery of a person many years later trying to figure out how many pieces of a puzzle relate to one another, while still being a truly historical novel. Plus, I’m sure that in the modern age of mobile phones and the internet everywhere, the slow unravelling of the early 20th Century portion would resolve far too quickly!

Alongside the mystery being resolved, and the romantic tone of the story, I’ve found in both Laura Madeleine’s books a real reverence for the food. There are such sumptuous descriptions of the fare coming out of the Patisserie Clermont, and the book is positively alive with delicious sights and smells. If you look at Laura Madeleine’s blog, you’ll find a great many recipes there, shared with the same enthusiasm.

I really enjoyed this book, and Laura Madeleine’s writing style. It was easy to root for love to find a way for the young couple and the book resolved in a heartwarming way. I’ll definitely be grabbing Laura Madeleine’s latest two novels – in fact, I think I already have one of them!

The Confectioner’s Tale is published by Black Swan.

To find out more about Laura Madeleine and her work, you can take a look at her blog, linked above, or why not catch up with her on Twitter?

Please note: I received a review copy of this book through Netgalley. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

What if you could live your great love story again?

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’ve been together for almost a decade, and Lydia thinks their love is indestructible.

But she’s wrong. Because on her 27th birthday, Freddie dies in a tragic accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob ’til her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to live her life well. So, enlisting the help of his best friend and her sister Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world and starts to live – perhaps even to love – again.

Then something unbelievable happens, and Lydia gets another chance at her old life with Freddie. But what if there’s someone in her new life who wants her to stay?

What I Thought:

After reading Josie Silver’s One Day in December a while back, I was really pleased to pick up a copy of her new book, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird.

On reading the blurb I immediately thought of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie, Sliding Doors, as that too deals with what ifs and lives lived in parallel, but while the book and movie had some similarities in feel, I felt that the multi-universe/multi-life concept was more fully explored in the book.

Nothing in this book is easy for Lydia Bird, as she loses her fiancé within a few pages while getting ready for her birthday dinner. While this is a dramatic and fast-paced entry into Lydia’s world, what unfolds afterwards is a carefully-paced examination of grief, and the lengths people would go to for one more minute, one more day, with their lost loved one.

Lydia is a beautifully written character, and you can empathise with her desperation to see Freddie again, so the fantastical part of the plot, where she is actually able to live parts of her life in an alternate world, where Freddie is alive, is not quite as odd as it may sound and fits nicely with the sections of Lydia’s real life.

The world that Freddie inhabits is almost, but not quite, identical to Lydia’s real world – and that’s not just in the fact that Freddie is alive there. Certain situations with her family and friends are different in each world and the perfect moments that Lydia remembers with Freddie are not quite so perfect now she’s had to get used to living without him.

Ultimately, the concept really works well in looking at how people move through grief, and how becoming consumed by it can have ripples in our nearest and furthest circles.

I would describe this book as more hopeful that anything else – hope that even after the very worst things in our life, we can move on and, although our future lives may be different, they are no less important and worthwhile.

Definitely recommended for all the hopeless (and hopeful?) romantics – I’m excited to see what comes next from Josie Silver.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is published by Viking.

To find out more about Josie Silver and her books, you can check out her website. Or why not connect with her on Twitter?

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. Why not check out some of the brilliant blogs below for exclusive content, giveaways and more reviews?

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

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