Friday 19 April 2024

Hard Times for the East End Library Girls by Patricia McBride - #bookreview #blogtour


Cordelia walked towards the corner of her street, her mind on the Christmas she'd just spent with her parents. It had been a subdued holiday. Her father was furious that much of their house was to be requisitioned by the army as a convalescent centre...

***

As the war hits London, they’ll band together…

War strikes close to home for chief librarian Cordelia when her flat is bombed, and her beloved Robert is called up and sent abroad. Fortunately, her colleagues Mavis and Jane can help see her through hard times.

The three friends find purpose in making the Silvertown library a friendly sanctuary for their deprived and devastated community. But sinister forces, from callous bureaucrats to crafty criminals, still lurk among the stacks. Worse, Jane’s soldier husband is injured and suffers both physically and mentally.

With so many struggles Cordelia and her friends might need more than books to survive war's shadow. Can they find light in the darkness?

A captivating tale of resilience and determination, perfect for fans of Lizzie Lane, Elaine Roberts and Lesley Eames.

***

Last year I read the first book in this series, The Library Girls of the East End, and if you would like to read my review please click here. I enjoyed that book very much, so I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to read the next book in the series for a blog tour.

I enjoyed the opportunity to spend more time with the three main characters, Cordelia, Jane and Mavis. Their personalities are developed further in this book, and by the time I had finished reading it I definitely felt as though these three women were my friends.

They are all employed by the library and are alone with their men away at war. In this book, we meet a new library volunteer, conscientious objector, Tom, as well as a range of visitors, each of who have something to add to the colour of the story. 

The library is also to be used as an IIP centre by the Red Cross, where people can come to look for their missing friends and relatives. In addition, they set up a quilting group to enable those who have lost or are lonely to come together to talk, share and to produce a quilt dedicated to those they have loved. The library becomes the real heart of the community.

The author is a great story teller and has the skill to bring her characters alive on the page. She is also accomplished at creating a setting which is completely believable. It is a very engaging story with much to commend it and demonstrates the importance of friendship and community. I highly recommend it.

Although this book is the second in a series, it would work equally well as a stand alone novel.

ISBN: 978 1835180105

Publisher:  Boldwood Books

Formats:  e-books, audio, hardback and paperback

No. of Pages:  264 (paperback)


About the Author:


Patricia McBride is an author of heartwarming World War II sagas featuring fierce female friendships. She resides in Cambridge, England with her husband. When not writing, Patricia enjoys curling up with a cup of tea and books about strong woman in war time. Patricia's latest series follows the adventures of three librarians living and working in London's impoverished East End during the Blitz. The first book, The Library Girls of the East End, introduces posh Lady Cordelia Carmichael, bold Mavis and more timid Jane. Despite their differences, the three band together to keep their beloved library running amidst food rationing, air raids, and family troubles. And of course, romance.



(ARC and all media courtesy of Rachel's Random Resources)

(all opinions are my own)

Thursday 18 April 2024

Goodbye Birdie Greenwing by Ericka Waller - #publicationday #spotlight


 This is my second spotlight post today. I could not resist shining a light on this book which I cannot wait to read. Goodbye Birdie Greenwing which published today looks like a fabulous read. I am sure you will agree.

The Blurb

Great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave and impossible to forget ...

Birdie Greenwing has been at a loose end ever since her beloved twin sister and husband passed away. Too proud and stubborn to admit she is lonely, Birdie’s world has shrunk. But then some new neighbours move in to the house next door.

Jane has come to Brighton for a fresh start, away from her ferociously protective mother Min. While Jane finds it hard to stand up for herself, her daughter Frankie has no problem telling people what she does and doesn’t want. Ada Kowalski has come to England to follow her dreams, but her new life is harder than she expected.

When a series of incidents brings their lives crashing together, the three find that there is always more to a person than meets the eye …

Goodbye Birdie Greenwing celebrates relationships in all their quirky, complicated uniqueness. It is a story about the choices we make and how we justify them. About finding out who we are, not who other people think we should be.

ISBN: 978 0857527257

Publisher:  Doubleday

Formats: e-book and hardback

No. of Pages:  352 


About the Author:


Ericka Waller lives in Brighton, by the sea, with her husband, three daughters and dogs. She loves reading (anything and everything), writing, and 1970's interior design (some may call it 'tut'). She has rheumatoid arthritis but can still talk the hind leg off a donkey. Always time for a cup of tea and some book recommendations.


(author media courtesy of Curtis Brown)

(all opinions are my own)

Spitting Gold by Carmella Lowkis - #publicationday #spotlight


 Now here's a book I fancy reading. Spitting Gold looks fabulous and is a debut novel by author Carmella Lowkis. Today is publication day and I am shining the spotlight on this gorgeous looking book.

The Blurb

Paris, 1866. When Baroness Sylvie Devereux receives a house-call from Charlotte Mothe, the sister she disowned, she fears her shady past as a spirit medium has caught up with her. But with their father ill and Charlotte unable to pay his bills, Sylvie is persuaded into one last con.

Their marks are the de Jacquinots: dysfunctional aristocrats who believe they are haunted by their great aunt, brutally murdered during the French Revolution.

Sylvie and Charlotte will need to deploy every trick to terrify the family out of their gold – until they experience inexplicable horrors themselves.

The sisters start to question if they really are at the mercy of a vengeful spirit. And what other deep, dark secrets threaten to come to light...?

Spitting Gold is a darkly atmospheric and propulsive historical debut that twists and turns, blending gothic mystery with a captivating sapphic romance.


ISBN: 978 0857529466

Publisher:  Doubleday

Formats:  e-book, audio and hardback

No. of Pages:  336 (hardback)

 

About the Author:

Carmella Lowkis grew up in Wiltshire and has a degree in English literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick.

After graduating, she worked for some years in public and academic libraries, before moving into book marketing. She is currently a Brand Executive at Vintage, Penguin Random House, and lives in North London.

Her debut novel, Spitting Gold, is set in 19th century Paris and follows two estranged sisters – formerly celebrated (and fraudulent) spirit mediums – as they come back together for one last con.


(author media courtesy of Mushens Entertainment)

(all opinions are my own)

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Before the Swallows Come Back by Fiona Curnow - #bookreview


A knock on the door. 'On you go, sweetheart. It's for you.' His words, slow, breathy, like they had been pushed from somewhere very deep, very narrow. Charlotte grinned at her father, tip-toed to the door, let out a deep sigh, and pulled it open. The delivery man stood there with her birthday present. There was only one thing it could be. The size of it. The shape of it...

***

Tommy struggles with people, with communicating, preferring solitude, drifting off with nature. He is protected by his Tinker family who keep to the old ways. A life of quiet seclusion under canvas is all he knows.

Charlotte cares for her sickly father. She meets Tommy by the riverside and an unexpected friendship develops. Over the years it becomes something more, something crucial to both of them. But when tragedy strikes each family they are torn apart.

Charlotte is sent far away.

Tommy might have done something very bad.

Before the Swallows Come Back is a story of love, found family, and redemption that will break your heart and have it soaring time and time again as you sit on the edge of your seat desperately hoping.

***

I can hardly put into words how beautiful this book is. In all honesty, I had never heard of it until one of the members of my Book Group mentioned it. She was gifted a copy for Christmas and suggested that we all read it. I am so very glad that she did as it was a five shiny star read for me.

It is set in Scotland and the vivid descriptions made reading this visceral. In fact, I think the environment in this book is every bit as important as the characters. This is a book to get lost in. The natural world is so beautifully depicted I was completely immersed.

The main characters are Charlotte, a young girl who cares for her ill father, and Tommy, a Tinker who, with his family, set up camp every summer in the woods and fields a bike ride away from Charlotte's house. Every summer they meet and become the unlikeliest of friends. However, this bond strengthens as the years progress and it was a sheer delight to follow. Their friendship represents the coming together of two alternative lifestyles. 

One of the things which I loved about this book was the gentle pace at which it moved along. However, about half way through there are a couple of dramatic events which I definitely did not anticipate. From there, the book becomes more people centric with the dialogue and prose being every bit as engaging as its leisurely the first half.

The book is a love letter to the natural world and the environs of Scotland. The writing is exceptional and beautiful to read. I was mesmerised by it. It is one to be savoured. At times I slowed down my reading to take in its beauty, and I can well imagine reading this book again as there is something very special contained within it's covers.

This is a fabulous book and is an independent publication. If Ms. Curnow's other books are anything as gorgeous as this one, then I want to read them all. I highly encourage you to read it.

ISBN:  978 0995531499

Publisher:  Curnow

Formats: e-book and paperback

No. of Pages:  414 (paperback)


About the Author:

Fiona was the winner of the Federation of Writers (Scotland) short story competition, 2023. 

Her writing has been described as, "Human experience impacted upon by political situation, interwoven with a love of nature."

She dropped out of school aged fifteen, because being the consummate rebel, she hated it! After becoming a single parent she decided to return to education, graduating in 1996 with an honours degree in primary education. Ah, the irony! 

As soon as she graduated she packed everything she owned into her Renault 11, including her daughter, two dogs and a cat, and headed off to Estonia to become an international school teacher. 

After travelling the world teaching for fifteen glorious years she returned home to pursue a long held ambition of committing herself to full time writing.

She lives on the east coast of Scotland where her days are spent dog-walking and writing.

She has written four books under the name F J Curlew. She now also writes under her given name of Fiona Curnow.


(author media courtesy of https://fjcurlew.wixsite.com/author/bio)

(book and all opinions are my own)




Tuesday 16 April 2024

Looking for Lucie by Amanda Addison - #bookreview #blogtour

 


Dad walks into the dining room carrying a showstopper of a cake. All eighteen candles flicker above the raspberry and pistachio topping...

"A work of art, Steve," says Nana Pat...

"Baking is pretty similar to building; cake for the bricks and cream for cement. Just on a much smaller scale!" laughs Dad...

***

Looking for Lucie is a contemporary YA novel that explores identity, self-discovery, and newfound friendship as an 18-year-old girl sets out to uncover her ethnic heritage and family history.

"Where are you really from?"

It's a question every brown girl in a white-washed town is familiar with, and one that Lucie has never been able to answer. All she knows is that her mother is white, she's never met her father, and she looks nothing like the rest of her family. She can't even talk about it because everyone says it shouldn't matter!

Well, it matters to Lucie and-with her new friend Nav, who knows exactly who he is-she's determined to find some answers.

What do you do when your entire existence is a question with no answer?

You do a DNA test.

***

Publishing on 18th April, you only have to wait a couple of days to be able to get your hands on this fantastic book for young adults. Having said that, it has been many years since I could call myself young, but I enjoyed every word of this book. 

It is aimed at a secondary school-age audience, so roughly 11-18 year olds.  The main character, Lucie, has her eighteenth birthday at the beginning of the book, and she is on the cusp of going to university to study art. She is also having an identity crisis. She has never looked like her family, mum, step-dad and sister, Maisie. She is darker skinned and has always been unable to answer the question when people ask "Where are you really from?" and the answer, Norfolk, did not satisfy. Her mum has never talked about her biological father, and she is desperate to know more about him and his ethnicity. This leads her to secretly taking a DNA test. Lucie was a wonderful character and she was very easy to identify and engage with. I was rooting for her every step of the way.

The book moves along at an appropriate pace for the genre. There were some surprises along the way which kept the plot moving forwards nicely. 

The book considers what it means to belong, as well as personal identity and working out how we fit into our individual world. I enjoyed following Lucie's journey as she grappled with some of these questions.

The majority of the chapters are written from the perspective of Lucie and her new friend, Nav. Later in the book we also get to hear the viewpoint of Lucie and Nav's mothers. The multiple perspectives enable the reader to understand that family dynamics and how or where we belong are never simplistic. This book performs an excellent job of demonstrating that situations can be viewed differently, and will vary with each individual.

If you have a young person in your life, I suggest buying them a copy of this book... but I would have a sneaky read of it before you pass it to them! Both young adults and adults alike will adore this book, and I heartily recommend it.


ISBN:  978 1911107682

Publisher:  Neem Tree Press

Formats:  Paperback

No. of Pages: 272


About the Author:

Amanda Addison is an award-winning author of books for adults and children. Her writing has been translated into German, Greek, Italian and Ukrainian. Her picture book, Boundless Sky, was nominated for The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal, and her YA novel, Looking for Lucie, was listed for the Searchlight Writing Novel Opening Award. A graduate of Chelsea school of Art, her writing and artwork are inspired by travel, textiles, and the natural world. Amanda holds an MA in Writing the Visual and lectures in Art & Design and has also led workshops in Creative Writing at the National Centre for Writing. Amanda lives in Norfolk, UK, with her family.

Her writing includes flash fiction, short stories, picture books and novels. She explores themes of home and belonging, and enjoys using the juxtaposition of rural and city life. Her characters are often artists or scientists, as their curiosity about the world around them are two sides to the same coin, and the exploration of art and science can give us meaning and purpose in life with its infinite avenues of discovery. Amanda’s debut YA novel, Looking for Lucie, Neem Tree Press 2024, explores the above. It is a contemporary story of identity, self-discovery, and newfound friendship. Lucie, an 18-year-old art student sets out to uncover her ethnic heritage and family history with her new scientist friend Nav. Together they unravel family secrets.

Amanda believes in the power of stories as a window on the world, and a mirror to better see ourselves and is passionate about stories which are empowering and inclusive. When not writing she can be found swimming in the North Sea or running in the countryside, and that is when she gets some of her best ideas!



(book and media courtesy of The Write Reads)

(all opinions are my own)

Monday 15 April 2024

Yellow Bird's Song by Heather Miller - #excerpt #blogtour

 


Today I am thrilled to be bringing you an excerpt from Yellow Bird's Song by author, Heather Miller. But first, a little about the book...

The Blurb

Rollin Ridge, a mercurial figure in this tribal tale, makes a fateful decision in 1850, leaving his family behind to escape the gallows after avenging his father and grandfather’s brutal assassinations. With sin and grief packed in his saddlebags, he and his brothers head west in pursuit of California gold, embarking on a journey marked by hardship and revelation. Through letters sent home, Rollin uncovers the unrelenting legacy of his father’s sins, an emotional odyssey that delves deep into his Cherokee history.

The narrative’s frame transports readers to the years 1827-1835, where Rollin’s parents, Cherokee John Ridge and his white wife, Sarah, stumble upon a web of illicit slave running, horse theft, and whiskey dealings across Cherokee territory. Driven by a desire to end these inhumane crimes and defy the powerful pressures of Georgia and President Andrew Jackson, John Ridge takes a bold step by running for the position of Principal Chief, challenging the incumbent, Chief John Ross. The Ridges face a heart-wrenching decision: to stand against discrimination, resist the forces of land greed, and remain on their people’s ancestral land, or to sign a treaty that would uproot an entire nation, along with their family.

***

ISBN:  978 1962465229

Publisher:  Historium Press

Formats:  e-book, hardback and paperback

No. of Pages:  370 (paperback)

***

The Excerpt

John Rollin Ridge, West Dessert, Utah, 1851

Instead of other travelers along this desert route, we’d found wagon carcasses, adding ours to the lot. Whether human corpses decayed inside, I couldn’t say. I didn’t stop to find out, ridding myself of guilt for not burying the dead. My body couldn’t have done it properly with so little water, not without following directly behind them. 

As the afternoon waned, we dismounted and walked beside our thirsty animals. In the desert, a man’s horse becomes too weak to carry him. So, he travels on foot, closer to the dust, breathing and clogging his mind with villainous grains. Packs double their weight with worry, heavier with one last blanket of self-preservation. Yet, parched though he may be, his mind sings songs, like uprooted choruses from a withered elder, telling his trials to impatient warriors who already know the legend’s end.

Expanses of grass shrunk into patches, peeking through worn spots in the desert, like leg hair peeking through worn and holey farmhand pants. We found the pooled water brackish, the color of tea from iodine, salt mixing with sparse rainwater. It wasn’t potable for man or beast. With each disappointment from the lack of soluble water, our progress trickled, nearly stopping entirely. 

The sway of horses and pack mules found their rhythm, sluggish though it was. Heat rippled across the sand to just repel back to us from wide mountain berths. Thorny bushes turned pale, a shade lighter than the sand at our feet, desperate for water deep in their roots. Snakes could not reach it and fled, finding no shade. 

We pressed forward into the sun, past the mountains near Salt Lake. Each pull at the rim of our hats remained where it was stretched. Bandanas covered our mouths, eyes asquint, leaving each of us absent identity. 

Aeneas coughed, attempting to break his silence, rallying saliva enough to articulate some question or another. One which I’d likely have no answer to. He said, “How are we gonna feed the horses, Rollin?” 

I was right. 

Wacooli answered behind me. “Anee, we’ll have to search for grass on foot and bring it to ‘em.”  

From my brother’s response to Wacooli’s lack of enthusiasm, I knew Aeneas stewed in his thoughts. His concern for our animals was more about him than the beasts. 

Aeneas said, “You know what I’m hungry for? Grandma’s fried bread, Mama’s glazed chicken, Honey’s pole beans boiled with fatback, and strawberry pie.”

“Damn it, Aeneas! Doesn’t do us any good thinking about it.” I took the fatal risk of putting my thoughts to voice while lingering in Aeneas’ conjured savory tastes. I bit my tongue and swallowed twice. “Aeneas, do you remember Papa asking Mama to take all the seeds out of his strawberries?”

“Nope. Too little. You can hold Papa in your thoughts better than me, Rollin. You’ve got more stock.” 

When I didn’t answer right away, he asked, “What did Papa say?”

“Said they got stuck in his teeth, and she needed to remove them.”

“Did she throw something at him?” Aeneas smiled briefly and tried a laugh, but his throat was too dry to form the sound. 

“No. She kissed him, as I remember it.” 

The memory was as sweet as the fruit. Our lives were so predictable then, freedom through synchronicity. Running Waters will always be home, not the cabin in the West at Honey Creek, or Mama’s dogtrot in Fayetteville, but our home, Running Waters, in Cherokee Nation East, settled among valley lands in the foothills of the Appalachians. 

My parent’s extensive farm stretched into the valley on a high hill, crowned with a fine grove of oak and hickory, with a large clear spring at its foot. The orchard was on the left, wheat and cornfields to the right, pastures of cows, goats on one side near the house, and sheep grazing on the other.3 Behind the house, the running spring gave our home its name. After Grandfather’s New Echota Treaty in 1835, we, too, would run over rock, slip on moss, and fall downhill with only brief plains to pool. 

The ground whitened under our horse hooves, salted sand gathering in random odd-shaped lines. Only God could articulate their rhyme and reason. Boot tracks marked our path northwest. Each saunter brought another thought: some forward, most backward. Where we’d been, what we’d lost. My thoughts rambled without any respite.

***

About the Author:


As a veteran English teacher and college professor, Heather has spent nearly thirty years teaching her students the author’s craft. Now, with empty nest time on her hands, she’s writing herself, transcribing lost voices in American’s history.



(all media courtesy of The Coffee Pot Book Club)
(all opinions are my own)

Friday 12 April 2024

Whitechapel Autumn of Error by Ian Porter - #bookreview #blogtour


 Many of the women employed in the world's oldest profession were part-timers, spending much of their lives earning a pittance for long hours of tortuous work in other industries. Some attempted to live a double life of apparent respectability, keeping their night work a secret.

Maud Nash was such a woman...

***

Whitechapel 1888; a killer is on the loose and the newspapers are ensuring the nation knows all about not just the crimes but the terrible living conditions in which they are being perpetrated.

Nashey, a tough, scary yet charismatic man of the night, whose mother had to prostitute herself when he was a boy, knows the identity of the killer but keeps it a secret. He believes the publicity generated by the murders is forcing the authorities to address the poverty and degradation in the area. He allows the killer to remain free (whilst ensuring no more women are attacked) so the unsolved murders continue to dominate the headlines. He meets Sookey, an eccentric middle-class slummer and civilising influence. The two of them share a mutual friend, Mary Kelly, a fiery young prostitute whose back-story tells of how she was reduced to such a life.

To fund his surveillance of the killer, Nashey agrees, against his better judgement, to assist an old adversary to commit a daring night robbery under the noses of the huge police presence in the area.

Is it too late for Nashey and Mary to correct their mistakes?

***

Set in London's East End during the late 1880's when Jack the Ripper was a name on everyone's lips, the author has done a great job of capturing the menacing atmosphere in which people lived.

It has been well researched and there is more emphasis on the victims rather than Jack the Ripper himself.  The author demonstrates the poverty that Whitechapel's inhabitants lived vividly. It is obvious why so many people turned to crime and prostitution.

I liked the main characters of this book, namely Sookey, Nashey and Mary. Three very different individuals whose lives become intertwined as they experience the squalor of the area. They were well fleshed out and easy to engage with, although I did find Sookey's character took me a while to understand. However, there were women like her, Beatrice Webb/Potter springs to mind. Women who were committed to researching the lives of the poor.

The author describes the degradation and terror of living through such a time extremely well. A lifestyle that is fuelled by poverty, worry over where the next meal or nightly roof over their heads is coming from, coupled with the fear experienced of being on the streets after dark and becoming the Ripper's next victim.

Nashey discovers the Ripper's identity fairly early in the book, which gave this story a slightly different edge to the norm. The reader is let into this secret, and we follow Nashey's journey as he plots to reveal the Ripper's identity.

It is a moderately paced novel with a sufficiently interesting plot to keep the reader engaged. I think anyone who likes fiction set during this period will enjoy this book.

ISBN: 978 1805143987

Publisher:  Matador

Formats:  Paperback

No. of Pages:  384

***

About the Author:

Ian Porter is a historian, lecturer, public speaker and walks guide. He has a particular interest in women's history and social history. His novels are renowned for being extremely well researched and historically accurate. Whitechapel Autumn of Error is a typically feminist, social history novel that brings the dark streets of the East End 1888 to life. He has written several other novels including the highly acclaimed Suffragette Autumn Women's Spring, set during the fight for the vote for women, and a Plague On Both Your Houses, set in both London and Berlin in 1918/19 during the final months of the Great War and the Spanish Flu. Ian is getting on a bit (well, aged 69). His grandparents were young adults living in East London at the time of the Whitechapel Murders.



(book and media courtesy of Random Things Tours)

(all opinions are my own)