Friday 29 March 2024

📖 Blog Tour ~ Finding Friends at the Cornish Hospital by Jo Bartlett

Boldwood Books
26 March 2024

#2 Cornish Hospital series

My thanks to the publishers and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book
and the invitation to the blog tour

A fresh beginning…

Esther Hamilton, is finally finding her feet after her split with her horrible ex, and is looking forward to her new single life. She has a job she loves in the busy Accident and Emergency department, a new home and for the first time ever, a chance to just have fun with her good friends. Love is very much off the cards…

An old friend…

Until the arrival of Joe Carter – the brother of Esther’s best friend, Danni. Joe is also newly single and still as gorgeous as ever, but Esther can’t lose her heart to Joe. If it all went wrong, she’d lose two of her best friends.

A second chance at love?

But working together over a troubled patient, the connection between them is undeniable. And when Esther's parents' marriage hits trouble, Joe is there for her, offering her support, and Esther knows she's fallen hard.

Are they brave enough to take a risk on love, or are they destined to remain friends forever?

📖 My Review...

Having read the first book in this series last year this has been a welcome return to the Cornish Country Hospital to meet again with characters who are now as familiar as old friends. Nurse Esther Hamilton is still struggling with unwanted attention from her ex-fiance, juggling her demanding job in the Accident and Emergency department at the hospital and at the same time worrying abut her parents who seem to have lost the spark from their relationship. 

Finding Friends at the Cornish Hospital certainly continues the series with a lovely warm hearted story which looks at the bonds of friendship and of what happens when fate intervenes. With some darker moments which are quite tense and a close look at the delicate nature of dealing with mental health issues the author doesn't shy away from difficult topics and yet manages to keep everything very light and readable. There are some laugh out loud funny moments as well as the sad stuff but all credit to this talented author for including both light and shade.

I race through these stories in a day, not because they are light on content but, quite simply, once I start I can't put them down. Finding Friends at the Cornish Hospital is no exception and whilst it is a definite continuation from the first book, it can also be read as a standalone story.

About the author

Jo Bartlett is the bestselling author of over nineteen women’s fiction titles. She fits her writing in between her two day jobs as an educational consultant and university lecturer and lives with her family and three dogs on the Kent coast.

Twitter @J_B_Writer #FindingFriendsAtTheCornishCountryHospital

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers



Thursday 28 March 2024

📖 Blog Tour ~ Kookaburras, Cuppas and Kangaroos by S Bavey


12 December 2023

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book
Nd to Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation to the blog tour

Fueled by her spirit for adventure and with her £10.00 ticket in hand, Elizabeth Isle leaves 1960s England, determined to see it all, not just Australia and New Zealand, but as much as she can on the way, too. She surrenders her passport to the Australian government and must find work to support herself on the other side of the world from her family and friends. There can be no going back for two years. Join this intrepid young woman on the adventure of her lifetime. Share her amazing experiences, discover what exotic animals await, get travel tips and meet her new friends through her letters home and over plenty of cups of tea. 

Beware - the travel bug might prove infectious!

📖 My Review..

When Elizabeth Isle leaves England on the 'Assisted Passage Migration Scheme’ in February 1960 she is heading to Australia as a Ten Pound Pom. Leaving her home behind for at least two years Elizabeth is determined to make this the adventure of a lifetime and with sponsors whom she had never met, Elizabeth must learn to adjust to life in Fremantle very quickly. However her sponsors, John and Elsie Fawcett are kindly folk and soon make Elizabeth feel like part of the family.

Written in epistolary style with letters home to her family, and diary entries, we get a colourful glimpse of what life was like for Elizabeth, from her outward bound journey on the SS Orcades, to her return home some three years later and in between we experience Elizabeth’s life as she settles on the other side of the world. The memoir has a lovely light style to it, beautifully descriptive so that it was perfectly possible to view everything through Elizabeth’s eyes as she took in the vastness of the country, the warmth of the people and the surprising wildlife. I enjoyed very much observing an almost forgotten way of life and the freedom Elizabeth experienced during this unique opportunity to see somewhere different.

By recounting Elizabeth’s adventures down under, the author has paid a lovely tribute to her mother in such a memorable way that Elizabeth’s time as a Ten Pound Pom will live on forever in this travel memoir.

About the Author

Sue Bavey (writing as S. Bavey) a British mother of two teenagers, now living in Franklin, Massachusetts, having moved to the US in 2003. Writing as S. Bavey, she won a gold award from Readers’ Favorite for her grandfather’s biography: Lucky Jack (1894 – 2000), which she wrote during COVID lockdown. She also has a number of non-fiction stories published in various anthologies.

Kookaburras, Cuppas & Kangaroos is the story of her late mother’s emigration from Yorkshire to Australia in 1960 for three years, told via airmail letters and travel diary entries.

A free prequel to Kookaburras, Cuppas & Kangaroos”, called “A Yorkshire Lass: The Early Years” is available for free download from

Twitter / X @SueBavey

Tuesday 26 March 2024

📖 Blog Tour ~ The Mistress by Valerie Keogh

25 March 2024

My thanks to the publisher and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book
and the invitation to the blog tour

She wants what you have...

Hannah Parker is a woman who always gets what she wants.

When her current husband discovers she has been lying to him – again - she knows it’s time to move on and find someone who can give her the life she desires… The life she knows she deserves…

But who will be the lucky man?

When her eye catches a glimpse of an old flame in a photograph, she’s sure it’s a sign. Mark Shepherd has always been in her thoughts – they’d been happy once, he’d adored her, but she’d made a mistake and let him get away. She won’t make the same mistake again….

Hannah is older now and wiser. She knows what men want and she knows how to keep them happy.

So what if Mark is happily married with a family of his own?

All good things must come to an end…

📖 My Review..

There’s something about this author’s work which is absolutely addictive and each time I finish one story I am already looking forward eagerly to the next one.

Hannah Parker is a woman who is used to getting what she wants and with a distasteful relationship behind her, Hannah is ready for her next adventure. When a photo of an ex-boyfriend slips from the pages of a book, Hannah knows who her next conquest will be and is determined to go after what she wants. After all, she never fails…

This is one of those books which you want read in one sitting so be prepared to get nothing done until Hannah’s story is told. And what a story it is, I found that I was gripped from the start, turning the pages faster and faster in the hope that all would be resolved but like all these books there are twists and turns galore and an ending I didn’t see coming, but which left me with a wry smile on my face.

Perfectly done as ever The Mistress is sheer escapism from start to finish, beautifully done and stylishly executed, I absolutely loved every word.

About the Author

Valerie Keogh is the internationally bestselling author of several psychological thrillers and crime series, most recently published by Bloodhound. She originally comes from Dublin but now lives in Wiltshire and worked as a nurse for many years. Her first thriller for Boldwood was published in August 2022.

Twitter @ValerieKeogh1 #TheMistress

@BoldwoodBooks #Boldwoodbloggers @bookandtonic


Monday 25 March 2024

📖 Book Review ~ Ten Poems about Cities from Candlestick Press

March 2024
Candlestick Press

My thanks to the publishers for this pamphlet

Most of us live in cities, and there is a rich tradition of poems about their tireless hustle and bustle. In Jessica Mookherjee’s lively selection, we find poems that explore the hectic rhythms of day-to-day life in a city, as well as the rather more mysterious character of a city at night – a place where streetlights and “drunken rooftops” create a dreamscape in which anything might happen.

Ever present is the sense that a city never stops:

All afternoon labouring geese fly over the city. Cars hoot,
sirens fugue. Beneath bank towers, a statue shifts. A man,
blue clown, blows two-note whistles for a living.”

from ‘Commerce, Madrid, 2012’ by Carola Luther

This mini-anthology transports us to cities real and imagined in a delightful kaleidoscope that shimmers and shifts at each rereading.

Poems by Suzannah Evans, Andrew Fusek-Peters, Kapka Kassabova, Carola Luther, John McCullough, Jessica Mookherjee, Meryl Pugh, Roger Robinson, James Tate and Sara Teasdale.

Cover illustration by Clare Curtis.

My Review

My home town nestles between two major north west cities, Liverpool and Manchester lie approximately twenty miles in opposite directions. Whilst very different, both cities offer major attractions which appeal at different levels and I think this is what comes across in this collection of ten poems about the vibrancy of cities around the world and their effect on those who pass through them whether they be city travellers or city dwellers.

The collection begins with an ethereal view of New York :

From The Lights of New York by Sara Teasdale

"The Lightning spun your garment for the night
Of silver filaments with fire shot thru
A broidery of lamps lit for you
The steadfast splendour of enduring light "

I particularly enjoyed the diverse nature of :

From Last Night, I Saw the City Breathing by Andre Fusek-Peters

Last night  I saw a city starving.
Snaking avenue smacked her lips
And swallowed seven roundabouts!
Fat office blocks got stuffed with light
And gloated over empty parking lots."

There is something very different about a city at night :

From City at Night by James Tate

The blue-black plumes of the fountain
parched my yearning , and  a tuft of cellophane
clings fondly to my foot like a diadem"

Ten Poems about Cities is a lovely anthology by ten very different poets with each poem capturing both the mood and the diverse nature of a city from day-time to night-time. There is much to observe in an ever changing landscape in places which never really sleep. This latest pamphlet is the perfect addition to the vast amount of poetry anthologies on offer from Candlestick Press and as always it is simply perfect to give, instead of card, to someone who lives in, loves or just enjoys reading about cities, especially when  each poem transports you to another place from the comfort of your armchair.

About the Publisher

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Mountains, Clouds, Walking, Birds, Wine and Happiness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter/X @poetrycandle


Friday 22 March 2024

📖 Blog Tour ~ The Teashop Girls at War by Elaine Everest

14 March 2024

#3 Teashop Girls series

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book
and the invitation to the blog tour

It is 1942, and with the country still at war, the girls who work for Joe Lyons are praying for their loved ones to return home safely.

Happily married, Rose is busy with staffing problems at the teashop with many women taking on war work. Rose dreams of her husband’s return while trying to keep everyone happy. 

Lily has her own worries when the father of her daughter appears back in her life with no explanation. Katie longs for a family of her own, so when a handsome airman arrives on the scene will she have her head turned?

At Sea View Guest House Flora, wary of a relationship and marriage, is fearful of letting her feelings for John Bentley develop further especially as she has her guests to be mindful of. 

Anya is torn, having given birth to a beautiful baby boy who is the spitting image of his father, who has been taken as a prisoner of war. Presented with a chance to save him, Anya confides in her friends, leaving her son in their care. 

With the uncertainty of the future, can the Teashop girls overcome their personal battles. The Teashop Girls at War is the third instalment in the Teashop Girls series.

📖 My Review..

It’s always such a pleasure to return to the world of The Teashop Girls and this third instalment in the series certainly shows just how complicated their lives have become especially as the teashop girls are juggling not just their homes and families, but also some find themselves caught up in a dangerous world far away from the safer environment of Sea View Guest House.

I enjoy reading of the lives of these stalwart women who not only keep the home fires burning amidst nightly bombing raids in and around Margate and Ramsgate but  they also show a strength of character in their quest to keep the reputation of the J Lyon’s Tearooms surviving in a world of rationing and making do.

The history of the time is beautifully recreated and there is a real sense of living through a time of war when people were being asked to make sacrifices above and beyond what could reasonably be expected. With a more sinister edge this time, I followed Anya’s story with particular interest and hoped everything would work out for this brave young mother.

The Teashop Girls at War is a lovely story about the power of friendship. It sits comfortably within the series and whilst all these stories may be read as a standalone it really is advisable to start at the beginning as that way you can appreciate the author’s skilful story telling and her distinct way of bringing all her characters to life.

Elaine Everest, author of bestselling novels The Woolworths Girls, The Butlins Girls, Christmas at Woolworths and The Teashop Girls, was born and brought up in north-west Kent, where many of her books are set. She has been a freelance writer for twenty-seven years and has written widely for women’s magazines and national newspapers, both short stories and features. Her non-fiction books for dog owners have been very popular and led to her broadcasting on radio about our four-legged friends. Elaine has been heard discussing many topics on radio, from canine subjects to living with a husband under her feet when redundancy looms.

Twitter / X @ElaineEverest #TheTeashipGirlsAtWar

#Teashop #WW2



Thursday 21 March 2024

Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2024 ~ Shortlist Announced.


The shortlist for the Swansea University DylanThomas Prize has been announced:

- A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (Canongate Books) – novel (Nigeria)

- Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking, Penguin Random House UK) – novel (UK/Ghana)

- The Glutton by A. K. Blakemore (Granta) – novel (England, UK)

- Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber) – poetry collection (Hong Kong)

- Local Fires by Joshua Jones (Parthian Books) – short story collection (Wales, UK)

- Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (Granta) – novel (US)

Worth £20,000, this global accolade recognises exceptional literary talent aged 39 or under, celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize invokes the memory of Dylan Thomas to support the writers of today, nurture the talents of tomorrow, and celebrate international literary excellence.

The only debut on this year’s shortlist is the astonishing new Welsh talent Joshua Jones, who is in the running for his highly acclaimed short story collection Local Fires– a stunning series of multifaceted stories inspired by real people and real events that took place in his hometown of Llanelli, South Wales. 

The sole poet in contention this year is Mary Jean Chan – who was previously shortlisted for the Prize with their debut Fleche in 2020 – and is now recognised for the collection Bright Fear, which fearlessly explores themes of identity, multilingualism and postcolonial legacy.

Three of the four novelists have also gained their second nomination for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize: British-Ghanaian author Caleb Azumah Nelson is in contention for his second novel, Small Worlds, in which he travels from South London to Ghana and back again over the course of three summers to tell an intimate father-son story exploring the worlds we build for ourselves; 

Nigerian novelist Ayòbámi Adébáyò is shortlisted for her dazzling story of modern Nigeria, A Spell of Good Things, and two families caught in the riptides of wealth, power, romantic obsession and political corruption.

US author Catherine Lacey is celebrated for the genre-bending Biography of X, a roaring epic and ambitious novel chronicling the life, times and secrets of a notorious artist.

Completing the shortlist is British novelist A.K. Blakemore, recognised for her darkly exuberant novel The Glutton, which – set to the backdrop of Revolutionary France – is based on the true story of a peasant turned freakshow attraction. 

The 2024 shortlist was selected by a judging panel chaired by writer and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale, alongside author and lecturer in Creative Writing at Swansea University, Jon Gower, winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2022 and Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin, Seán Hewitt, former BBC Gulf Correspondent and author of Telling Tales: An Oral History of Dubai, Julia Wheeler, and interdisciplinary artist and author of Keeping the House, Tice Cin.

Julia Wheeler on A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò:

“A Spell of Good Things’ by Ayòbámi Adébáyò takes us deep into the layers of Nigeria’s divided society to create a compelling and at times heartbreaking novel. Weaving social mores and destructive politics, the personal and the national are entwined to leave skilfully drawn characters wondering, what next?”

Tice Cin on Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson:

“In this deeply loving and rhythmically moving novel, we meet Stephen and his own small worlds, those lives that are ever-present in our orbiting. Paying close attention to a loneliness that comes with the no man's land of being hurtled from one's safe place, Azumah Nelson conveys elsewhereness as a solace, resting into the hand outreached that brings us home, the afterblooms of our grief, and the music of community.”

Jon Gower on The Glutton by A. K. Blakemore:

“This wildly inventive but deeply well-researched novel is distinguished by vivid, poetic prose, telling the story of Tarare, a young man cursed with an unsatiable hunger. Its superbly rendered cast of characters move through a violently changing France and a world fully out of kilter. Glutton, utterly satisfying, leaves the reader hungry for more.”

Tice Cin on Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan:

“Written with a quiet intimacy, Mary Jean Chan's second collection hums by your ear with gentle, inviting and formally inventive poetry. In a world freighted with exclusion, from the relentless snarls of colonisation to queerphobia, Bright Fear opens the door into a process of building a life for yourself, still. With lucid verse enhanced through their multilingual play, Chan tends to a garden of self-embrace and chosen community, lingering with the fullness of queer actualisation, the breath in a parent's pause, and the roots of tender soothing.”

Namita Gokhale on Local Fires by Joshua Jones:

“Local Fires by Joshua Jones is set in his hometown of Llanelli in West Wakes. This debut collection of short fiction evokes the inertia, stagnation, and vanished innocence of a post-industrial landscape. It ruminates upon toxic masculinity and generational despair , presents comic to tragic cameos of gender and sexual identity, and also a deep window to neurodivergence. A portrait of place and community that is vital , authentic and rooted.”

Seán Hewitt on Biography of X by Catherine Lacey:

“Biography of X, in its exploration of art, relationships, and power, unpicks the stories we tell about our own lives and the lives of others, and asks what happens when we have to re-write those stories in order to go on living. A deeply-imagined, ambitious and beautiful novel that manages to pull off a formal high-wire act with dazzling skill.

The winner will be announced on the 16th May 2024

X @dylanthomasprize



Wednesday 20 March 2024

📖 Blog Tour ~ The Porcelain Moon by Janie Chang


William Morrow / Harper 360
14 March 2024

My thanks to the publisher and Random T Tours for my copy of the book
and the invitation  to the blog tour

France, 1918. In the final days of the First World War, a young Chinese woman, Pauline Deng, runs away from her uncle’s home in Paris to evade a marriage being arranged for her in Shanghai.
To prevent the union, she needs the help of her cousin Theo, who is working as a translator for the Chinese Labour Corps in the French countryside.

In the town of Noyelles-sur-Mer, Camille Roussel is planning her escape from an abusive marriage, and to end a love affair that can no longer continue.

When Camille offers Pauline a room for her stay, the two women become friends.
But it’s not long before Pauline uncovers a perilous secret that Camille has been hiding from her.
As their dangerous situation escalates, the two women are forced to make a terrible decision that will bind them together for the rest of their lives.

Set against the little-known history of the 140,000 Chinese workers brought to Europe as non-combatant labor during WWI, The Porcelain Moon is a tale of forbidden love, identity and belonging, and what we are willing to risk for freedom.

The hardcover edition was included on “Best of” lists by the Washington Post, PopSugar, Bookbub, and the Globe & Mail. It also got excellent reviews from the Toronto Star (“An unsentimental, wonderfully researched page-turner about a little-known aspect of First World War history, it’s rife with life’s wisdom”) and Gloss Book Club (“What an immersive historical fiction novel!”)

This novel is inspired by the little-known history of the 140,000 Chinese workers that were recruited as laborers by the Allied powers during WWI.

📖 My Review..

What a lovely story this turned out to be and so beautifully described that I felt like I lived  alongside Pauline Deng as she seeks to escape an arranged marriage. Working in her uncle’s Paris antique business gives Pauline a certain amount of freedom, however, young Chinese women at the turn of the twentieth century had little choice about the direction of their lives.

Beautifully reminiscent of 1918 France the author very cleverly weaves two separate stories that of Pauline and also the story of Camille Roussel whose faded aristocratic background gives her abusive husband a sense of importance in the village where he was once looked down upon for being poor. However, as we find out, even the most respectable of marriages have their secrets.

Cleverly combining history I learned much about the 140,000 Chinese workers who were relocated and used as labourers by the allies in Europe. Descriptions of the labour camps were done particularly well and brought the bleakness of being in a strange country to light.

I really enjoyed reading The Porcelain Moon, it is beautifully evocative of time and place and is definitely a story which will stay with me for a long time.

About the Author

Born in Taiwan, Janie Chang has lived in the Philippines, Iran, Thailand, New Zealand, and Canada. She writes historical fiction, often drawing from family history and ancestral stories. She has a degree in computer science and is a graduate of the Writer’s Studio Program at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of Three Souls, Dragon Springs Road, and The Library of Legends.

X / Twitter @JanieChang33 #ThePorcelainMoon



Friday 15 March 2024

📖 Book Review ~ The Island of Mists and Miracles by Victoria Mas

14 March 2024

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

In 1830 a young novice called Catherine Labouré was granted a vision of the Virgin Mary. Nearly 200 years later, Sister Anne is also waiting for a sign.

Which is why she accepts a mission to go to a tiny community on an island just off the coast of Brittany. Her only companion there is a sceptical, chain-smoking older nun who just wants to be left in peace.

On the island she meets Hugo, the son of a devout family who prefers to look for the meaning of life amid the stars; Madenn, a grandmother whose daughter was killed in a crash and who finds meaning in routine; Isaac, Madenn's grandson, an otherworldly teenager who doesn't fit in but who befriends Hugo, and Julia, a sickly child. If anyone needs a miracle, it is her.

But it is not Sister Anne who receives a vision. Instead it is Isaac who is found on a promontory, transfixed, unable to utter more than the words 'I see'. The event soon becomes headline news and the world descends on the small island, opening old wounds and unleashing a chain of events none of them could have foreseen.

📖 My Review..

Leaving behind her French convent Sister Ann arrives on a tiny island just off the coast of Brittany. On the island she prays for a miracle to happen, a sign that the Virgin Mary has a special message for her, however, it is not Sister Anne who receives the heavenly vision but a troubled young islander called Isaac. With intense scrutiny focused on the Île de Batz, and religious fervour reaching fever pitch, emotions run high with disastrous consequences.

The cast of characters who flit into and out of the story bring their own particular angst. They are not always very likeable as people however, as their individual stories start to emerge so an understanding comes of why they act in such a troubled way. Some of it due unrelenting grief which, over time, has altered their perspective. I enjoyed the way in which the author allowed the story to evolve at its own unhurried pace.

Beautifully written, with a lyrical quality to the narrative, The Island of Mists and Miracles is a short but powerful story about the starkness of belief and of heightened emotions which result in unreasonable jealousy, thwarted frustration and unleashed anger.

About the Author

VICTORIA MAS The Mad Women's Ball, Victoria Mas's debut novel, has won several prizes in France (including the Prix Stanislas and Prix Renaudot des Lycéens) and was the bestselling debut of the year. Victoria has worked in film in the United States, where she lived for eight years. She graduated from the Sorbonne in Contemporary Literature. The Mad Women's Ball is now an Amazon Prime Video Original Film starring Mélanie Laurent and Lou de Louâge.

X / Twitter @DoubledayUK


Thursday 14 March 2024

📖 Blog Tour ~ Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2024 Longlist

The shortlist will be revealed on 21 March.


I am delighted to join the blog tour to share my review


A subversive historical novel set during the French Revolution, inspired by a young peasant boy turned showman, said to have been tormented and driven to murder by an all-consuming appetite.

1798, France. Nuns move along the dark corridors of a Versailles hospital where the young Sister Perpetué has been tasked with sitting with the patient who must always be watched. The man, gaunt, with his sallow skin and distended belly, is dying: they say he ate a golden fork, and that it’s killing him from the inside. But that’s not all—he is rumored to have done monstrous things in his attempts to sate an insatiable appetite… an appetite they say tortures him still.

Born in an impoverished village to a widowed young mother, Tarare was once overflowing with quiet affection: for the Baby Jesus and the many Saints, for his mother, for the plants and little creatures in the woods and fields around their house. He spends his days alone, observing the delicate charms of the countryside. But his world is not a gentle one—and soon, life as he knew it is violently upended. Tarare is pitched down a chaotic path through revolutionary France, left to the mercy of strangers, and increasingly, bottomlessly, ravenous.

This exhilarating, disquieting novel paints a richly imagined life for The Great Tarare, The Glutton of Lyon in 18th-century France: a world of desire, hunger and poverty; hope, chaos and survival. As in her cult hit The Manningtree Witches, Blakemore showcases her stunning lyricism and deep compassion for characters pushed to the edge of society in The Glutton, her most unputdownable work yet.

📖 My Review..

In a Versailles hospital Tarare lies unloved, and largely forgotten, with only the young Sister Perpetué for company. That Tarare is dying is not disputed and as we travel along the journey of his past so we begin to see just what has made this man into The Great Tarare, The Glutton of Lyon, and into a monster whose gargantuan appetite would be his downfall. We meet Tarare in the aftermath of Revolutionary France as he recounts his life in dreadful detail to Sister Perpetué, which at times shocks her into silence. From rural France to his life as a soldier, and showman, Tarare is unsparing in sharing the horrors of his life.

Based on the true story of Tarare, the French showman and soldier, who was renown for his unusual eating habits, this is serious historical fiction at its absolute best. At times quite shocking whilst at others gravely serious I followed Tarare as he moved from the small rural village he was named after and into the nightmare which became the French Revolution. His huge and unusual appetite made him the subject of public scrutiny and in doing so he seemed to lose his humanity altogether. 

Elegantly written, with beautifully written prose, which is, at times, so scarily realistic that I had to catch my breath, The Glutton definitely fired my imagination.  I started the story feeling only revulsion for this man who was purported to have eaten all manner of unusual things only to find, by the conclusion to Tarare's story, that he was merely a misunderstood man and not a depraved monster.

About the Author

A. K. Blakemore's debut novel,The Manningtree Witches, won the Desmond Elliott Prize 2021, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, and was a Waterstones Book of the Month. She is the author of two full length collections of poetry, Humbert Summer and Fondue, which was awarded the 2019 Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection, and has also translated the work of Sichuanese poet Yu Yoyo. Her poetry and prose has appeared in the London Review of Books, Poetry, the Poetry Review and the White Review, among other publications.

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X / Twitter @dylanthomasprize #SUDTP24

Instagram @dylanthomasprize

X/Twitter @midascampaigns

Monday 11 March 2024

📖 Blog Tour ~ The Other Gwyn Girl by Nicola Cornick

Boldwood Books

7 March 2024

Mt thanks to the publisher and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book
and the invitation to the blog tour

1671 – London

The Civil War is over and Charles II, the ‘Merry Monarch’, is revelling in the throne of his murdered father and all the privileges and power that comes with it. Sharing the spoils is his favourite companion, the celebrated beauty, actress Nell Gwyn. Beloved of the English people, Nell has come a long way from selling oranges and a childhood in a brothel, but as her fortunes have turned, her sister Rose has taken a different path. Marriage to a feckless highwayman has left Rose in the grim Marshalsea prison and now she needs her sister’s mercy to help get her out. But Nell needs Rose too. A plot to steal the Crown Jewels has gone tragically wrong, and Nell’s future with her protector King is at risk. If Rose can’t solve the riddle of the jewels both Gwyn sisters will head straight to the Tower.

Present Day

Librarian and history enthusiast Jess Yates has hit rock bottom. With her ex behind bars for fraud, Jess needs to lay low – easier said than done with a celebrity sister. But Tavy has her uses. Her latest TV project involves renovating Fortune Hall, and she needs a house sitter while she’s jetting around the world. The opportunity is too good to miss, especially when Jess discovers that Fortune Hall has links to the infamous Nell Gwyn.

Slowly the house begins to reveal its mysteries, and secrets that have laid buried for centuries can no longer be ignored. Jess hears echoes from a tragic past and as she struggles to understand her sister, Jess feels ever closer to Rose Gwyn, the sister forgotten by history but who had the fate of her family in her hands.

Bestselling author Nicola Cornick is back with a captivating, gripping, unforgettable tale of treachery and treason, love and loyalty, perfect for fans of Barbara Erskine, Elena Collins and Christina Courtenay.

📖 My Review...

I like nothing better than to time slip into one of my favourite periods in history. In The Other Gwyn Girl we are taken back to the time of Charles II and whilst his relationship with Nell Gwyn is well documented little is known about her older sister, Rose. This story sets the record straight and in a beautifully imagined story we follow the tumultuous events of Rose Gwyn's life and of her alleged involvement in the daring attempt to steal the Crown Jewels in 1671. The differences between Nell's life as the darling mistress of a King and Rose's life as the wife of a feckless thief couldn't be more different and so it is these stark differences which make the story all the more interesting.

In the modern day Jess Yates has been offered sanctuary in Fortune Hall where her celebrity sister Tavy renovates the medieval hall for her social media channels. Mirroring the discrepancy in the fortunes of two very different sisters The Other Gwyn Girl is an interesting story of siblings especially when one is more successful than the other and of their influence on each other's lives. I particularly enjoyed the similarities about  events in Stuart England, whilst, at the same time, being comfortable about what was happening in the modern day story with Jess and Tavy. 

Written with an authenticity which brings everything vividly to life, the author weaves past and present really well, blending them so seamlessly that I could well imagine spending time at Nell's house in Pall Mall or supping ale with Rose in The White Hart Inn in Covent Garden. I was equally fascinated by Jess as she begins to unfold the ancient history of Fortune Hall and reveals the long buried secrets of the past.

About the Author

Nicola Cornick is a historian and author who works as a researcher and guide for the National Trust in one of the most beautiful 17th century houses in England. She writes dual time novels that illustrate her love of history, mystery and the supernatural, and focus on women from the footnotes of history. Her books have appeared in over twenty five languages, sold over half a million copies worldwide and been described as "perfect for Outlander fans." Nicola also gives writing and history talks, works as a consultant for TV and radio, and is a trustee of the Wantage Literary Festival and the Friends of Lydiard Park.

Twitter / X @NicolaCornick #TheOtherGwynGirl

@BoldwoodBooks # BoldwoodBloggers


Thursday 7 March 2024

📖 Featured Book of the Month ~ The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden


Random House UK /Cornerstone
7 March 2024

World War One, and as shells fall in Flanders, a Canadian nurse searches for her brother believed dead in the trenches despite eerie signs that suggest otherwise in this gripping and powerful historical novel from the bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale.

January 1918. Laura Iven has been discharged from her duties as a nurse and sent back to Halifax, Canada, leaving behind a brother still fighting in the trenches of the First World War. Now home, she receives word of Freddie's death in action along with his uniform -but something doesn't quite make sense. Determined to find out more, Laura returns to Belgium as a volunteer at a private hospital. Soon after arriving, she hears whispers about ghosts moving among those still living and a strange inn-keeper whose wine gives soldiers the gift of oblivion. Could this have happened to Freddie - but if so, where is he?

November 1917. Freddie Iven awakens after an explosion to find himself trapped under an overturned pillbox with an enemy soldier, a German, each of them badly wounded. Against all odds, the two men form a bond and succeed in clawing their way out. But once in No Man's Land, where can either of them turn where they won't be shot as enemy soldiers or deserters? As the killing continues, they meet a man - a fiddler - who seems to have the power to make the hellscape that surrounds them disappear. But at what price?

A novel of breath-taking scope and drama, of compulsive readability, of stunning historical research lightly worn, and of brilliantly drawn characters who will make you laugh and break your heart in a single line, The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a book that will speak to readers directly about the trauma of war and the power of those involved to love, endure and transcend it.

📖 My Review..

I have enjoyed previous books by this author so I knew that I was in for a treat as her writing style is quite different and it is this quirkiness which appeals to me. The Warm Hands of Ghosts is set during the First World War when Canadian nurse Laura Iven receives news of her younger brother Freddie's death. Laura has already been discharged from her duties as a WW1 nurse and is back home in Halifax, however, determined to go back to Flanders she volunteers to work in a private hospital in order to find her brother. Freddie fighting in the trenches in Flanders has a very special story and it is Laura's quest to discover what happened to Freddie which forms the basis of the story.

What then follows is a powerful story about love and loss which cleverly combines the historical accuracy of trench warfare especially capturing the horror of the mud and blood of Passchendaele. The story is bleak in places and there were times, particularly with Freddie's story, when I had to stop and take a minute to assimilate what I had read and the direction in which the story was heading. I liked Laura from the start, she's doggedly determined to discover the truth, which I'm not about to spoil, and yet Laura is also chasing her own demons which are cleverly interpreted by this author's ability to capture even the smallest nuances of character.

Haunting, melancholy but beautifully imagined, with spectral elements, hence the title, The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a thought provoking read about  the power of love and the overwhelming sadness of devastating loss which leaves you chilled to the bone. On its publication day, I have no hesitation in making The Warm Hands of Ghosts my Book of the Month for March.

The Warm Hands of Ghosts is published by Century on the 7th March

About the Author

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden has always had a taste for wandering. She spent her junior year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrolment for a year in order to live and study in Russia. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature, and her studies included sojourns at the Sorbonne in Paris and the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow.

After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii and worked every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and guiding horse tours to serving as a personal tour guide. During this time she wrote what became her debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale. After a year on the island, she moved to Briançon, France, and spent nine months teaching. She then returned to Maui, where she began writing The Girl in the Tower, the sequel to her debut, and officially launched her career as an author. Currently she lives in Vermont.

She is the author of the Winternight Trilogy for adults and the Small Spaces Quartet for children. The Warm Hands of Ghosts is her eighth novel

Twitter / X @arden_katherine #TheWarmHandsOfGhosts