Blog Tour: The Lido

April 19, 2018 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Contemporary

Every now and then I want to read something that is going to fill my heart, and The Lido most certainly did that. So I’m delighted to be today’s stop on The Lido blog tour – and it’s PUBLICATION DAY! So you can now get your hands on this heartwarming novel.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: The LidoThe Lido by Libby Page
Published by Orion on 19th April 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. The lido has been a cornerstone in nearly every part of Rosemary’s life.

But when a local developer attempts to buy the lido for a posh new apartment complex, Rosemary’s fond memories and sense of community are under threat.

As Kate dives deeper into the lido’s history—with the help of a charming photographer—she pieces together a portrait of the pool, and a portrait of a singular woman, Rosemary. What begins as a simple local interest story for Kate soon blossoms into a beautiful friendship that provides sustenance to both women as they galvanize the community to fight the lido’s closure. Meanwhile, Rosemary slowly, finally, begins to open up to Kate, transforming them both in ways they never knew possible.

My Summary

When the local council threaten to sell the lido in Brixton to a developer, Rosemary is devastated. She has spent over 80 years of her life swimming in that pool. It’s where she got to know her husband, where they spent many hours together, and where she went for solace after he died two years earlier.

Rosemary won’t let the lido go without a fight and so starts distributing leaflets which grab the attention of the local paper who send one of their journalists, Kate, to meet with the 86-year-old.

Kate is 26 and having moved to London, finds that her life there isn’t what she expected. She lives with strangers and faces a constant battle with panic and anxiety. Her job at the newspaper has been dull until she is given the Brockwell Lido story and meets Rosemary.

The two strike up a friendship and Kate finds that the lido is really as special as Rosemary says. Together they take up the fight to save the pool, and in doing so save one another.

My Thoughts

I love stories of friendships across generations, so I really had high hopes for this book and I’m so pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I loved the characters of both Rosemary and Kate. While we join them in their fight to save the lido, we also go back in time with Rosemary and follow the story of her life with her husband George. I really appreciated the way this dual storytelling worked, eventually merging to the current timeline.

This novel looks at the changing world we live in, where cornerstones of local communities are being lost and replaced by new, often inaccessible to most, accommodations and facilities.  I liked the way that we are introduced to the community along with Kate. We uncover the wonders of the lido as she does, and meet the community that she has until now been oblivious to, along with her.

There’s so much to like in this story and it is wonderfully told. It’s the kind of book that feels like a hug. It’s so easy to read and such a joy to read. It’s an uplifting tale and is perfect for filling your heart with warmth.

My Rosemary!

As part of the tour I’ve been asking who my Rosemary is. I am lucky to have had many wonderful relationships with older people over the years. There’s one lady who stands out to me though; she is one of my favourite people in the world. We get on so well despite our 50 year age gap and I just adore being in her company. I’m not joking when I tell you we’ve been separated at the dinner table before so that we’ll behave!

Who is your Rosemary?

four-stars

Review: Isle of Blood and Stone

April 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Isle of Blood and StoneIsle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier
Series: Isle of Blood and Stone #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 10th April 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

Ulises asked, "How can I look at these maps, see this riddle, and do nothing? They are my brothers."

Elias reached across the table and flicked aside two shells with a fingertip. The map curled into itself. "It's bound to be a goose chase. You know that?"

"Or a treasure hunt," Ulises countered, "and you've always been good at those."

Nineteen-year-old Elias is a royal explorer, a skilled mapmaker, and the new king of del Mar's oldest friend. Soon he will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, an expedition past the Strait of Cain and into uncharted waters. Nothing stands in his way...until a long-ago tragedy creeps back into the light, threatening all he holds dear.

The people of St. John del Mar have never recovered from the loss of their boy princes, kidnapped eighteen years ago, both presumed dead. But when two maps surface, each bearing the same hidden riddle, troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young heirs? And why do the maps appear to be drawn by Lord Antoni, Elias's father, who vanished on that same fateful day? With the king's beautiful cousin by his side—whether he wants her there or not—Elias will race to solve the riddle of the princes. He will have to use his wits and guard his back. Because some truths are better left buried...and an unknown enemy stalks his every turn.

I’d been really looking forward to Isle of Blood and Stone – fantasy, maps, a dangerous treasure hunt, sounded right up my street! Oh, it was! I really enjoyed this book.

When two maps are found that seem to imply that the del Marian Kind’s two brothers survived the attack by the kingdom of Mondrago 18 years ago, King Ulises enlists his closest friend and navigating explorer, Lord Elias to help him uncover the truth. Elias has his own interest in the mystery. His late father, the Royal Navigator Lord Antoni, had been with the young princes when the attack occurred.

The King’s cousin, Mercedes, whose mother was Mondragan, joins Elias and Ulises as they attempt to find out the truth.

I loved the characters in this book. Sometimes a host of characters can feel overwhelming, but that definitely wasn’t the case here. What’s more, I felt like we actually got to know our main characters; at no point did I feel disconnected from them – a testament to Lucier’s writing.

Talking about her writing, I loved her style. It added to the feel of the book, a perfect accompaniment to the world that Lucier has created.

I found this to be a really entertaining novel. It’s easy to read, mysterious and tense at times, while wonderfully meandering at others.

When I finished reading, I actually craved more of these characters, so I was delighted to find out that there will be a second book. With the way that this book finishes, book two could go any way and I cannot wait to see what Lucier treats us to.

If you like the sound of a well-written, easy to read, fantasy treasure hunt with fantastic characters, strong females, fierce loyalty, deception and sea serpents, then this is the book for you!

four-stars

Blog Tour: The Goose Road Review & Giveaway

April 5, 2018 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Current Giveaways, Historical Fiction, YA

I’m delighted to be today’s stop on the blog tour for The Goose Road. The book is out today, so you can now get your hands on a copy! Or, be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of this post.

The Goose Road is the debut novel by Rowena House and is being published by Walker to coincide with the centenary of the end of the First World War.

I’m delighted to bring to you an extract from The Goose Road. But before that, I thought I’d share a bit of the synopsis and my own thoughts on the book.

Blog Tour: The Goose Road Review & GiveawayThe Goose Road by Rowena House
Published by Walker on 5th April 2018
Genres: YA, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-half-stars

France 1916. Angélique Lacroix is haymaking when the postman delivers the news: her father is dead, killed on a distant battlefield. She makes herself a promise: the farm will remain exactly the same until her beloved older brother comes home from the Front. "I think of it like a magical spell. If I can stop time, if nothing ever changes, then maybe he won’t change either." But a storm ruins the harvest, her mother falls ill and then the requisition appears... In a last-ditch attempt to save the farm from bankruptcy, Angélique embarks on a journey across France with her brother's flock of magnificent Toulouse geese.

 

 

My Thoughts

Living in the French countryside, Angélique and her mother are working hard to keep their family farm running while Angélique’s father and brother, Pascal, are away, fighting for France.

Upon hearing of her father’s death in combat, Angélique finds that she must raise funds in order to keep their beloved farm afloat for her brother’s much-anticipated return home.

Having lost most of their livestock to the Requisition, all that remains are her brother’s prized Toulouse Geese. With her mother grief-stricken, it falls to Angélique to find the funds to save what is now her brother’s farm.  Fuelled by sibling love and determination, she decides to sell the geese. But in order to attain the kind of money she needs, she is going to have to risk her life and take her geese closer to the front lines.

So, accompanied by her Uncle, she sets off to cross wartorn France with her magnificent geese.

Blending fact with fiction, House has created a beautiful, memorable tale. Through the character of 14-year-old Angélique Lacroix we embark on a journey into the terrifying unknown, driven by the love of a sister for her brother.

It’s a story that, although written for ages 12 and up, can be enjoyed by all. Angélique is a loveable character, a strong heroine who sets out to do what is right. Through her eyes we see the horrors of war, the toll it takes on survivors and the lives of the civilians struggling to survive. Personally, I appreciated the way the facts of the war were conveyed. I felt that it didn’t shy away from any truths but was conveyed through the eyes of an innocent 14-year-old, thus making it perhaps more manageable for the target audience.

Angélique’s love of animals stole my heart. I grew up helping on my father’s croft, so I could absolutely appreciate Angélique’s love for her livestock. I think House successfully portrays the importance of their animals, their livelihood and the impact that the Requisition had on small communities.

All in all, this is a powerful, beautifully written story. It’ll simultaneously hurt and warm your heart, and I challenge you not to fall in love with Napolean Bonaparte the gander!

That’s enough of my thoughts though. Walker Books have kindly provided me with an extract to share with you.

If you missed the first extract on the blog tour, be sure to check out Drinking Books to catch up.

Extract

My mourning dress is stiff and tight, a laced-up hand-me- down. Mother is almost invisible behind her long black veil. As we walk down the lane to the village through the warm, rosy dusk, I half expect a bat to blunder into her or a fox to stop and sniff the air as we pass.

Outside the church, the village widows flock around Mother like crows. There are Madame Villiard and Madame Arnauld, and poor young Madame Besançon, whose husband was just nineteen when both his legs were blown off at Verdun.

Old Madame Malpas draws me aside, wringing her bony hands and crying, “What’s to become of you, Angélique? You’ll very likely starve! La Mordue will go to rack and ruin without Monsieur Lacroix!”

“Pascal will be home soon,” I say. “Maman and I can manage till then.”

“Manage, child? When your corn’s still in the ground in August?”

“The farm men have been promised leave.” “And you expect the generals to keep their promises?” She sniffs loudly, then stumps off, calling to Mother,

“Madame Lacroix! What terrible news! Tell me, did he suffer?”

My best friend, Béatrice Lamy, hurries over to me.

“That woman!” she says, rolling her eyes. Then she kisses me on both cheeks and hugs me tightly. “This is unbearable, Angie. I can’t begin to imagine how you feel.”

Guilt prickles me because, just then, I’d been think- ing how much I hate wearing black and having to pretend to be sad. I wish I’d told her the truth before, but Mother always said the beatings would get worse if Father suspected we talked about him behind his back. And now it’s too late. I can’t speak ill of the dead, condemn a brave soldier Mort pour la France. What would

Madame Malpas say? “I’m fine, Bee,” I say. “Really, I am.” She cups my cheek in her hand. “You’re so brave,

Angie. I’d be in pieces if I’d lost Papa. How did you hear the news?”

I lean forward, hiding a smile, and whisper, “Pascal wrote.”

“Pascal!”

“Shhh, Bee. Not so loud.” I glance around, but the village women are too busy comforting Mother to take any notice of us. “Come on. Let’s talk inside.”

The cold stone church is empty. We sit in the front pew, the one allotted to the newly bereaved. Béatrice takes both my hands.

“Is Pascal safe?” she asks. “Is he hurt?” “I don’t know. Mother wouldn’t let me see his letter.” “Why not?” “Oh, you know. She’s upset.” “Of course. Silly question. I’m sorry.” Her eyes brim again with sympathy. Quickly I say, “Do you want to hear the good news?” “Good news?” Her eyes widen. I smile conspiratorially. “The farm belongs to Pascal now – the house, the land. Everything! It’s his.” “Oh.”

“Bee! Don’t you see what this means?” She shakes her head. “He can get married whenever he wants!” “Oh!” Her eyes widen further. “But … Papa won’t let me. I’m too young.” “Pascal will wait, I know he will. And when you’re both ready you’ll live with us, and we’ll be sisters, a real family. Won’t that be wonderful?”

Her eyes shine, then she blushes. “I do love him so much.”

We start to hug, but just then the door opens and the village widows seep inside like shadows, a horde of veiled and silent wraiths.

“I should go,” Béatrice says. “No. Please stay.” “But your mother…”

“She won’t mind.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

I slip my arm through hers while we wait, each looking up at the brightly painted statue of Saint Joan of Arc, high on her pedestal. She’s wearing a full suit of armour, and spearing the devil through his blackened heart.

“I hate that statue,” Béatrice whispers.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “I rather like it.”

 

Giveaway

Thanks to Walker Books, I have two copies of this wonderful debut to give away to Strupag readers. To be in with a chance of winning simply enter via the rafflecopter entry form below. This giveaway is open to the UK only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
three-half-stars

Review: The Unmapped Mind

April 2, 2018 in Biography, Memoir, Book Reviews

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Unmapped MindThe Unmapped Mind: A Memoir of Neurology, Incurable Disease and Learning How To Live by Christian Donlan
Published by Viking on 5th April 2018
Genres: Biography
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

"My daughter took her first steps on the day I was diagnosed - a juxtaposition so perfect, so trite, so filled with the tacky artifice of real life that I am generally too embarrassed to tell anybody about it."

Shortly after his daughter Leontine was born, Christian Donlan's world shifted an inch to the left. He started to miss light switches and door handles when reaching for them. He would injure himself in a hundred stupid ways every day. First playful and then maddening, these strange experiences were the early symptoms of multiple sclerosis, an incurable and degenerative neurological disease.

As his young daughter starts to investigate the world around her, he too finds himself exploring a new landscape - the shifting and bewildering territory of the brain. He is a tourist in his own body, a stranger in a place that plays bizarre tricks on him, from dizzying double vision to mystifying memory loss. Determined to master his new environment, Christian takes us on a fascinating and illuminating journey: through the history of neurology, the joys and anxieties of parenthood, and the ultimate realisation of what, after everything you take for granted has been stripped away from you, is truly important in life.

I enjoy the odd memoir and the description of this particular title grasped my attention. Probably for a variety of reasons 1) my Mum and my Aunt have MS 2) I have my own illness which requires a constant battle of learning how to live and 3) I wanted to learn more about the neurology of MS.

Before I started I must admit I’d no idea who Christian Donlan was, so I’d no idea what to expect in terms of writing – wow this man can write! It turns out he’s an award-winning journalist, I can see why. From the first paragraph, I was hooked. You might look at the title of this book and worry that it’ll be a bit heavy-going. Fear not, Donlan’s writing style is absorbing, he makes the ‘technical’ stuff easy to read. Most of all, it’s like sitting down in a room with a friend, chatting. That’s really the best way I can describe this book. Donlan’s writing and his turn of phrase is a delight – subject matter aside.

Donlan shares with us his journey as a thirty-something husband and new father as he discovers that he has MS.

But it’s more than just his story. We learn about neurology and MS itself. Donlan tells the story of his own illness but also educates the reader on the scope, variety, and stages of MS. As I said, my Mum has MS so I have an understanding of the disease, but Mum’s symptoms are largely different from Donlan’s. I knew this could happen, as everyone’s MS is different, but reading about further symptoms and challenges outwith my own, narrow field of vision was illuminating.

Likewise illuminating, inspiring-even is Donlan’s incredible honesty within these pages. As a reader, I felt Donlan was completely open and honest, even when it perhaps might not reflect so well on him. I applaud his bravery and openness.

From my own personal perspective, Donlan’s processing of his diagnosis was, I guess, reassuring. I could relate so much to that realisation that your life isn’t going to be quite like you had envisioned. In fact, I rarely highlight text when I’m reading but there was much of this book that spoke to me, that I felt was worth noting and remembering.

Donlan’s exploration of his relationships with those around him was a further area of great interest to me. It made me consider differing perspectives, not only how hard diagnosis and illness can be on the patient but on those around them too.

I fear I’ve rambled on a bit here, jumping all over – apologies. There is just so much to this book – a glimpse into a family at a turning point in their lives, the honesty, the impressive writing, the informative and educational side. Donlan lets us into his world and I guarantee that everyone will find something to take away from this book.

four-stars

Review: Hangman

March 26, 2018 in Book Reviews, Crime, Thriller

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: HangmanHangman by Daniel Cole
Series: Detective William Fawkes #2
Published by Trapeze on 22nd March 2018
Genres: Crime, thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Eighteen months have passed, but the scars the Ragdoll murders left behind remain.

DCI Emily Baxter is summoned to a meeting with US Special Agents Elliot Curtis of the FBI and Damien Rouche of the CIA. There, she is presented with photographs of the latest copycat murder: a body contorted into a familiar pose, strung up impossibly on the other side of the world, the word BAIT carved deep into its chest.

As the media pressure intensifies, Baxter is ordered to assist with the investigation and attend the scene of another murder to discover the same word scrawled across the victim, carved across the corpse of the killer - PUPPET.

As the murders continue to grow in both spectacle and depravity on both sides of the Atlantic, the team helplessly play catch up. Their only hope: to work out who the 'BAIT' is intended for, how the 'PUPPETS' are chosen but, most importantly of all, who is holding the strings.

I’ve been anticipating Hangman, the second novel in this series, ever since I read the first, Ragdoll, last year (you can find my review here.)

Hangman takes place some 18 months after Ragdoll. Wolf hasn’t been seen or heard of since Baxter let him flee the Old Bailey courtroom. She herself is now Detective Chief Inspector Baxter, and is trying to get on with life, until two US Special Agents enter her London office. There has been a murder in New York and they have reason to believe it connected to the Ragdoll murders. The victim, whose chest was inscribed with the word “bait” shares the same name as Wolf – William Fawkes, and was strung up on the Brooklyn Bridge by a man bearing the word “puppet” on his chest.

Baxter isn’t inclined to jump to conclusions, but when a second ‘bait’ and ‘puppet’ murder occurs in London, that once again connects to Ragdoll, she finds herself headed to New York with FBI agent Curtis and the British CIA agent Rouche to work on the case. While also unofficially roping in the only person she trusts, Edmunds, to help her from afar.

I don’t want to give too much detail about this book. Like Ragdoll, this book is pretty dark, with some shocking and graphic scenes. Yet, Cole manages to lighten this subject matter with his humour, which most definitely appeals to me.

As Cole said himself of sequels (when referring to the film Home Alone 2) …

The first movie was, secretly, one of her all-time favourites, but she found the second an uninspiring imitation falling into the age-old trap of believing that by relocating to New York City, they would create a bigger and better sequel.

In this instance, I think the New York sequel was every bit as good as, if not even better than, the original (Ragdoll).

We enter the story in an interview room with Baxter facing questions from multiple agencies, before we rewind a few weeks and follow the sequence of events that ultimately culminate in that questioning.

When I realised Wolf wasn’t going to be the focus of this book, I was a bit nervous as Ragdoll was really all about him. I needn’t have worried. Baxter is a fantastic, snarky character, suffering no fools – no matter who they may be. She’s a bold, brilliant yet flawed character that really shines in this book.

Perhaps part of the reason she shines is Agent Rouche of the CIA. The interactions between the two are fantastic, making a great partnership. Rouche’s story, his personality, along with his choice of inappropriate songs made me fall in love with his character.

It says a lot of Cole that I’m writing about his book which is filled with blood, mutilation, horrific scenes and a significant number of deaths, and I’m gushing about his characters and humour. For me, this is what made such dark subject matter so readable. It’s truly an art, and one that Cole excels at.

I also liked that we got to check in with characters from the first book, particularly Edmunds who ‘goes rogue’ in the fraud department to help out his friend.

I know that this book won’t be for everyone. There are scenes which are all too close to that witnessed in reality. But I love Cole’s writing, the way he can make your stomach squirm with one sentence, then snort with laughter with the next. I truly look forward to the third book in this series – who knows what way things will turn next?!

four-half-stars