Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Book Review ~ The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Chatto & Windus
Penguin Uk
10 September 2019

✨✨ Winner of the Booker Prize 2019 ✨✨

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

What did I think about it..

I first picked up The Handmaid's Tale back in the nineteen eighties shortly after the book was published and was completely in awe of the author's imagination in bringing the troubled nation of Gilead into public conscientiousness.  I've read the story more than once and was so excited to see the book finally made visual in the Channel 4 adaptation. When I learned that this talented author felt that it was now time to revisit Gilead, some fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, I was beyond excited and couldn't wait to see just what was happening in this dystopian world which is so vivid in my imagination.

The Testaments starts in a very different place, this is not the Gilead we remember from The Handmaid's Tale, nor is it a continuation of that particular handmaid's story. It is rather a more introspective look at the tenets and beliefs which make this theocracy so complicated and of the cracks and splinters which seem to threaten Gilead's continued existence. Throughout it all we have no better narrator than Aunt Lydia, the aunt who has always struck such terror into our hearts, and who now leads us piece by piece through the complicated maze of Gilead history. Being part of the cloistered world of the Aunts at Ardua Hall is a real privilege and I found especially fascinating the snippets about the Aunts themselves, and perhaps more importantly just how Aunt Lydia became the Aunt Lydia we remember from The Handmaid's Tale.

However, Aunt Lydia is not our only narrator through this complicated process, we also have the thought processes of two unnamed witness testimonies, who offer a rather detailed vision, one from one young woman who grew to maturity in Gilead, and the other who didn't, and together these two narratives offer a tantalising glimpse into two very different worlds. 

I think The Testaments is a very timely novel, perhaps in light of the TV adaptation and a new audience, there are questions which needed to be answered. Personally I think that the author has succeeded in drawing Gilead to a close and the literary world is all the richer for this conclusion.  Is it as powerful as the Handmaid's Tale, being honest, no it isn't, nor does it try to be, however, it succeeds on its own merits as a fascinating glimpse into a dark and cruel dystopian world. There's a real sense throughout The Testaments of the author tying up loose ends, drawing together the complicated threads of a story which needed to be explained in more detail. Does it answer every question, perhaps not, but I rather like that we don't get to know absolutely everything, and I feel comfortable with the way the story ended.

My advice would be to read The Testaments for its own sake, marvel at this skilful writer's ability to make this complicated world her own, but don't even try to read it before first reading The Handmaid's Tale.

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her novels include Cat's Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and the MaddAddam trilogy. Her 1985 classic, The Handmaid's Tale, went back into the bestseller charts with the election of Donald Trump, when The Handmaids became a symbol of resistance against the disempowerment of women, and with the 2017 release of the award-winning Channel 4 TV series. Atwood has won numerous awards including the Booker Prize, the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Imagination in Service to Society, the Franz Kafka Prize, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2019 she was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for services to literature. She has also worked as a cartoonist, illustrator, librettist, playwright and puppeteer. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Blog Tour ~ Reach for a Star by Kathryn Freeman (Giveaway)

 πŸŒ πŸŒ  Delighted to be hosting today's stop on this lovely blog tour πŸŒ πŸŒ 

Choc Lit
24 September 2019

My thanks to the publishers and Rachel's Random Resources for my ecopy of the book
and the invitation to be part of this blog tour

What if your dreams were so close you could reach out and touch them? 

How could anyone resist Michael Tennant, with his hypnotic blue eyes and voice like molten chocolate? Jessie Simmons certainly can’t. But Jessie’s a single mum who can’t sing to save her life there’s no way she’ll ever cross paths with the star tenor.

At least that’s what she thinks until she’s unexpectedly invited to take part in a new reality TV show. 
The premise? Professional singers teach hopeless amateurs how to sing. The surprise? Jessie’s partner is none other than Michael Tennant!

As she becomes better acquainted with the man behind the voice, will Jessie find out the hard way that you should never meet your idols? Or will she get more than she bargained for?

What did I think about it..

They do say that you should be careful about meeting your idols as they can so often be disappointing 'in the flesh'. However, for Jessie Simmons meeting best selling singer Michael Tennant is everything she hoped it would be, he's exceptionally good looking and deliciously sexy, the only 'fly in the ointment' is that Michael is mentoring Jessie in a reality singing competition and unlike the dulcet tones of Michael, Jessie can't sing. What then follows is a real feel-good story in which Jessie discovers that, occasionally, dreams really can come true.

What this author does so well is make you feel involved with both the story and the characters from the very beginning. Jessie is every woman you've ever known. She's a single mum with two boys who love football, she stresses about her job, her lack of love life and her one aim is to make everyone happy, but somewhere along the line she has lost the idea that she's an attractive woman, that is until she meets Michael Tennant.

I devoured this story in one sitting as I really couldn't put the book down and whilst not everything goes smoothly for Jessie, I loved her journey, and laughed with her and, yes sometimes shouted in frustration when the complications in her life seemed to get too much but throughout it all there was a really lighthearted feel to the story which just made me smile.

If you like warmhearted love stories with two wonderful central characters who have more than enough angst to cause trouble between them then I am sure that you will love Reach for a Star as much as I did.

A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero. With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn't always about hearts and flowers and heroes come in many disguise.

Twitter @KathrynFreeman1

Giveaway to Win a PB copy of Oh Crumbs by Kathryn Freeman (Open INT) 

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Monday, 21 October 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

✨✨ Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of this exciting Blog Tour ✨✨ 

Paperback 17 October 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and to Random Things Tours for my invitation to this blog tour

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying just the right side of scandal.

Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina's orbit one night and can never let her go.

Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, this is an epic novel of passion, heartache and loss.

My thoughts..

In 1925, Selina Lennox is one of the Bright Young Things who scamper from decadent party to decadent party, living life at top speed, and whose champagne lifestyles are distinctly at odds with those who haven’t been born to a life of privilege. There’s a great sense of history within the story and the author recreates those hedonistic years following the Great War to perfection. It was such a sad time when so many young men failed to return, lost in the mud and mire of Northern France, and yet for those left to pick up the pieces, there was also a sense of fragility as if living life at top speed made up for their sense of loss.

However, an inadvertent meeting between society girl, Selina and the impoverished artist/photographer, Lawrence Weston will change the course of both their lives forever. Selina and Lawrence’s story is so beautifully described that right from their very first meeting the poignancy of their situation is revealed, and as the story slips effortlessly between two very different time frames so a story of loss, heartbreak and earth shattering love starts to be revealed. I can’t possibly do justice to the beauty of this story as there’s just so much to share about all the special little details, especially about Selina's young daughter Alice, whose own story, in 1936, forms quite a chunk of the narrative and whose aching vulnerability breaks your heart. ♡

As I have come to expect from this talented author, the writing and historical research in The Glittering Hour is impeccable, but it's not just the strong sense of history that draws me to this author's writing, it is her rare talent to hold the reader in the palm of her hand, and the way that she brings life to characters who, very quickly, become as familiar as friends, and whose loves and losses strike a resonance within your soul. I was so emotionally connected with both the story, and the characters, that I couldn’t put the book down, or stop thinking about it when the story ended.

There’s a shimmering sense of glitter to this story which makes it so very special, and in a year when I have read well over 150 books, The Glittering Hour is right up there at the top of my list and is, without doubt, one of my reads of the year.

About the Author

Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters. 

Twitter @Iona_Grey #The GlitteringHour



Amazon UK

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Women's at Hitler's Table by Rosella Postorino

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...WW2

48204543. sy475
Harper Collins
ebook 1 August 2019
Hardback 14 November 2019

Translated by Leah Janeczko

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

East Prussia, 1943. Hitler hides away in the Wolfsshanze – his hidden headquarters. The tide is turning in the war and his enemies circle ever closer.

Ten women are chosen.
Ten women to taste his food and protect him from poison.

Twenty-six-year-old Rosa has lost everything to this war. Her parents are dead. Her husband is fighting on the front line. Alone and scared, she faces the SS with nothing but the knowledge every bite might be her last.

Caught on the wrong side of history, how far is Rosa willing to go to survive?

What did I think about it..

Towards the latter years of WW2 Hitler was becoming increasingly paranoid and even though he was hiding himself away in the Wolfsshanze in East Prussia, the fear of being poisoned was never very far from his mind. In this fictional account ten women are chosen to act as food tasters and so protect Hitler from poison.

Rosa has recently moved from the city to live with her parents-in-law in a supposedly safer environment but soon after her arrival she is chosen to be one of Hitler's food tasters and Rosa realises that she has merely swapped one danger for another far more insidious threat. The SS collect Rosa from her home in a rural community and take her, and others, to Hitler's lair where they are given high quality vegetarian meals as Hitler didn't eat meat, but sumptuous and plentiful though the food was, Rosa couldn't begin to relax enough to appreciate the food on offer.

This is far more than the story about the food on Hitler's table, it's about the horrors of war and the absolute terror of living life with no idea if each day was to be your last. Rosa's somewhat troubled relationship with the other taster women, who see her as a city girl, and Rosa's very real fear for the life of her soldier husband makes the story all the more poignant.

The Women at Hitler's Table is inspired by the true story of Margot WΓΆlk, who was the only survivor of the 15 original women who were chosen as food tasters. Margot only revealed her story, and her horrific wartime experiences, when she was 95 years old. This fictional account is a fitting tribute to her courage and fortitude, and of the immense pressure that the taster women faced on a daily basis.

About the Author

Rosella Postorino is an internationally bestselling author and an editor. She speaks fluent English, Italian, French, and German. The Women at Hitler’s Table is her first novel to be translated into English.

Twitter @HarperCollins

Friday, 18 October 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Perfect Dress by Louisa Leaman

πŸ‘—I'm thrilled to host today's stop on this perfect blog tourπŸ‘—

e-book 17 October 2019
Paperback 6 February 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my proof copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of this blog tour

The Whispering Dress is no ordinary wedding dress shop. At this shop every gown is different. Every gown has its story. This shop is a treasure trove of history, filled with gowns from every decade for every type of bride. After all, the most important dress of a woman’s life should surely have something distinct to say.

Something bold for the shy and retiring.

Something simple for the woman who is unafraid to stand out.

And something dazzling for the bride who wouldn’t normally dare to be different.

Fran Delaney matches dresses to brides, influenced by the memories, photos and letters she has collected of the dress’s previous owner. But when Fran meets Rafael Colt, who has reluctantly inherited a gorgeous couture gown, his disinterest in the dress and his refusal to talk about his family history means the dress lies unmatched. To find the right bride for the dress, Fran must untangle the mystery surrounding the cynical but captivating Rafael and his dark family history.

What did I think about it..

Fran Delaney has the most beautiful wedding dress shop, called The Whispering Dress, where she lovingly stores her vintage gowns just waiting for the right bride to connect with the perfect dress. Fran sources the dresses from boot sales and house clearances, and does all she can to discover, not just the history of the dress, but also about the bride who once wore it on her special day. The  interior of The Whispering Dress sparkles with glittering tiaras whilst gossamer sleek veils shimmer in the light of an Art Deco chandelier. However, taking centre stage are the beautiful vintage wedding dresses, which are made from tantalising tulle and sensuous silk, all just patiently waiting for the perfect bride.

When Fran finds an exquisite couture wedding dress in a house clearance, not only does it bring her into contact with the less than charming, but incredibly handsome, Rafael Colt, but also the discovery of the dress reveals a very dark secret at the heart of the Colt family.

Inspired by a collection of wedding dresses in an exhibition at the V&A Museum in London, the author has given us a very polished first novel, and from the very start of The Perfect Dress I was lost in the story. I loved learning more about the lure of vintage wedding dresses and reading of the history behind each one, rejoicing when a dress found a new bride. And even though the mystery at the centre of the novel allows a more detailed look into the Colt family, I think it is the magic of the wedding dresses themselves which gives the story its heart and soul.

The story has moments which made me smile ,and others which are unashamedly romantic, I mean who couldn't fall for the handsome Rafael, but most importantly it also reminds us that it's not all about the Wedding Day being perfect. What is so vitally important, beneath all the gloss and glamour, is the relationship between the two people who are being married.

The Perfect Dress is a perfect read for all those who enjoy a good love story.

My Perfect Dress 

© Jaffareadstoo

Matching the dress to the bride is perhaps one of the most romantic aspects of choosing a wedding dress and I can remember going to the bridal store with my mother and even though it's over forty years ago every aspect of that shopping trip is stored away in my memory.

I had a definite idea of how I wanted to look, I'm an incredibly unfussy person, so I knew that I didn't want flounces and endless petticoats, and as this was 1979, not quite the era of the meringue dress,  it was still possible to find simple elegance. I would have loved to have worn my mother's 1940's wedding dress but sadly that wasn't still in one piece as my mother, ever thrifty, had used the silk of her dress to make little girlie dresses for me!

I knew as soon as stepped into this dress, and it was the first I tried, that it was the perfect one for me, I loved the Edwardian style, it was just beautifully elegant, and even now, forty years later, I still love looking at it and remembering the perfect dress I wore on my perfect, snowy Wedding Day in December 1979

The author, Louisa studied Art History at Leeds University before becoming a teacher working with children with special needs. After winning the Times Education Supplement’s New Writer’s Award, she turned her hand to writing books for children. In my opinion she currently has one of the coolest jobs writing content for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and her first book, The Perfect Dress, was inspired by the V&As large wedding dress collection.

Twitter @louisaleaman #ThePerfectDress


Thursday, 17 October 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker

πŸ“– Delighted to be part of this blog tour today πŸ“–

World Editions
1 October 2019

My thanks to the publisher and Random Things Tours for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of this blog tour

In Zagreb is an unusual museum: it displays mementos of broken relationships. Each exhibit describes a unique story of a broken heart, of love gone awry.

When Katia and Goran visit the museum, Goran stumbles upon an exhibit that seems to be addressed to him, from a girl he met in a Sarajevo refugee camp at age fourteen. A reminder of two days spent together while he and his mother and brother waited anxiously for visas to America to escape the war.

Encouraged by Katia, a therapist, to reconnect with his lost past, Goran confronts the youth he lost during the Yugoslav Wars. Similarly Katia, adopted by Americans at one week old after her birth mother was murdered in a gangland killing in Brazil, heads back to Brazil to uncover her own family history.

Meanwhile Tyler, a military veteran and one of Katia’s patients, attempts to put the Afghan war behind him, and finds love in unexpected circumstances.

Drawing upon his own experiences working in conflict zones, Gary Barker’s powerful novels dive deep into human love and longing. Crossing continents, and set against backdrops of war, deprivation, and violence, The Museum of Lost Love is a soulful testament to the resilience of the human heart.

What did I think about it..

This is an interesting idea for a book as not only does it explore the lives of three very different characters but it also gives us a glimpse into the poignant exhibits which are to found in the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.

I found this to be a story of several parts, initially that of Tyler who is an Afghanistan veteran, struggling with therapy, and trying to come terms with the way his life has evolved, and of his tentative relationship with his young son, Sammy. And then running alongside is the story Katia and Goran who are in a relationship but they each have deep emotional issues in their past which need to be properly addressed.

Whilst the character driven element of the novel works well, especially the author’s exploration of the intricacies of their individual lives, I think what worked best for me was the haunting and very personal exhibits which were found in the museum. Reading of love both lost and won, and of the poignant reminders, be they written or physical, made me realise the importance of keeping special such memories alive.

The Museum of Lost Love is a perceptive story which took me to places I can only visit in my imagination and which reminded me that, if we let it, love can tear us apart.

About the Author

Photo credit: Andy DelGiudice

GARY BARKER is an author, researcher, and human rights activist. He is founder and director of Promundo, an international organization that works with men and boys in more than 25 countries to achieve gender equality and end violence against women. He has been awarded an Ashoka Fellowship and an Open Society Fellowship for his work in conflict zones. His previous novels include Luisa’s Last Words, Mary of Kivu, and The Afghan Vampires Book Club (co-written with Michael Kaufman). Barker lives in Washington, DC. 

Twitter @WORLDEDBOOKS #MuseumOfLostLove

Book Review ~ The Rival by Charlotte Duckworth

 ✨✨ Happy Publication Day ✨✨ 

17 October 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book


Living in her home in the remote countryside - the perfect place to get away from it all - Helena is a career woman with no job and a mother without a baby. She blames Ashley for destroying her life. But is what happened really Ashley's fault?


When Helena hires Ashley to work for her, she's startled but impressed by her fierce ambition. They form a dream team and Helena is proud - maybe this is the protΓ©gΓ©e she's always wanted to have? But soon Helena realizes that nothing will stand in the way of Ashley's drive to get to the top. And when Helena becomes pregnant, everything she has worked so hard for is suddenly threatened, with devastating consequences...

What did I think about it..

Ashley really, really wants the life that Helena has and is determined to get exactly what she wants and the way she tries to get what she wants forms the basis of this clever, psychological suspense novel, which has all the elements needed to keep your attention absolutely gripped from start to finish.

Helena hires Ashley to work for her and at first everything seems to be going well. Ashley's fierce ambition, whilst it doesn't exactly endear her to her colleagues, means that the company goes from strength to strength however, pretty soon substantial cracks start to appear in the partnership and it becomes obvious that there will only be one winner. I've never worked for a corporate company so haven't experienced that cut throat environment where rivalry dominates but the author describes the claustrophobic nature of working as part of a competitive team really well so that I was soon engrossed in the backroom shenanigans. The story moves along at a cracking pace and the tension is invariably cranked up really high especially when the rivals really start to affect each other's work/life balance.

The story is divided well into THEN and NOW and we get the differing points of view of both Helena and Ashley which adds a clever ambiance and which kept my attention focused. I read The Rivals in a couple of sittings as I couldn't put the book down and I wanted to see exactly how it would all play out. I wasn't disappointed by the outcome.😊

Charlotte Duckworth has spent the past fifteen years working as an interiors and lifestyle journalist, writing for a wide range of consumer magazines and websites. She lives in Surrey with her partner and their young daughter. 

Twitter @charduck