Monthly Wrap Up | March 2021

I’m quite surprised we’re already at the end of March – a third of the year has already been and gone! Spring is here and the gorgeous weather the last few days has really made me excited for Summer and I’m looking forward to it. It’s definitely been a cold winter… Although my weather app is telling me to expect snow next week so I’m not sure how I feel about that!

March has been another quiet month which has been lovely. I’ve been watching some tv shows in my downtime which has been a nice change, I’d forgotten how many Netflix shows I was part way through or has had on my ‘list’. Reading time has been wholesome as there have been some great books this month! I took part in three blog tours (and read one with a tour date next month), read five books and reviewed four, with one review to follow next month!

What I read

The Favour by Laura Vaughan ✰✰✰✰

Nick by Michael Farris Smith

Dog Days by Ericka Walker ✰✰✰✰

Backstories by Simon Van der Velde ✰✰✰✰

The Girls from Alexandria

Book of the month 

This months book of the month is… Dog Days! I really loved this novel. The characters were wonderful, the dogs were an amazing addition to the story and overall it was just such a lovely, wholesome story. I enjoyed watching the characters change and grow, I enjoyed the weaving of stories and how realistic it felt. It was a really fabulous story and I would definitely recommend a read if you haven’t already!

Going forward…

I have three blog tours next month, I’ve read one of those books already and am part way through another. I have a few books that I need to catch up on from publication dates that have recently passed in March so I’m hoping to read some of those. There are also some great books coming out in April that I’m looking forward to getting stuck into.

As always, a huge thank you to the publishers and authors who provided me with a gifted copy of a book in exchange for an honest review. You’ll find their details tagged in each individual blog post, linked above. 

Until next time,

Book Review | Backstories by Simon Van der Velde

Thank you to Simon for sending me a proof copy of his book Backstories in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Backstories is a unique collection of stories each told from the point of view of a famous, (or notorious) person at a pivotal moment in their lives. The writing is literary but accessible and the voices vividly real. The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, and the driving themes are inclusion, social justice and of course, nostalgia – but the real key to these stories is that the protagonists’ identities are withheld. This means that your job is to find them, leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who’s mind you’ve been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.

Review

Backstories is an intriguing, captivating collection of short stories. It captures the unusual premise of imagined ‘back stories’ behind fourteen people, all well-known. Although imagined, it’s based on factual evidence so it’s easy to imagine their lives happened exactly the way they’re written about by Simon Van der Velde.

The stories are great and a real mystery. I loved the puzzling guessing game of who each story is about. A fact-following trail leading to your own conclusions, either a reveal or an uncertainty which leads you back to the story and re-picking through the clues.

Although I accepted early on that I was terrible at attempting to guess the characters behind the stories, it provided an interesting opportunity. My knowledge of people, especially outside of my lifetime, isn’t always great. I didn’t let this deter me though and I still felt I enjoyed the stories. My determination was real but I was defeated on many occasion! I am definitely going to ask my Dad to have a read of this, as his trivia and general knowledge is fabulous, so I’m sure he’ll be able to enlighten me on all the ‘backstories’ I couldn’t quite guess!

The great thing about short stories is they don’t take long to read. You can pick and chose where to go with them, you can read them in order or pick at random. You can read in one sitting or fourteen. The flexibility is brilliant and the added bonus of the unknown makes them gripping and left me wanting more.

Simon Van der Velde is fantastic writer and his vivid descriptions are really delightful. An overall interesting read, Backstories is an original, fascinating compilation. I’d definitely recommend if you are a fan of a good mystery and some amateur sleuthing!

Backstories is out today, 25 March 2021, and can be purchased from Amazon using the link below.

Purchase Backstories on Amazon

Until next time,

Blog Tour | Dog Days by Ericka Waller

Thank you to Anne and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour for Dog Days and for a proof copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

George is very angry. His wife has upped and died on him, and all he wants to do is sit in his underpants and shout at the cricket. The last thing he needs is his cake-baking neighbour Betty trying to rescue him. And then there’s the dog, a dachshund puppy called Poppy. George doesn’t want a dog – he wants a fight.

Dan is a counsellor with OCD who is great at helping other people – if only he were better at helping himself. His most meaningful relationship so far is with his labrador Fitz. But then comes a therapy session that will change his life.

Lizzie is living in a women’s refuge with her son Lenny. Her body is covered in scars and she has shut herself off from everyone around her. But when she is forced to walk the refuge’s fat terrier, Maud, a new life beckons – if she can keep her secret just a while longer…

Review

Dog Days is a beautifully captivating novel, covering an array of emotions and situations felt by three individuals and their subtly intertwined lives. It also has the wonderful addition of a trio of heartwarming canines, who add so much to the story with their warm presence.

The novel is told in the third person and each chapter is clearly headed, stating whose world we are entering. I liked the insight this gave into the range of characters and the objectivity it allowed for. At the beginning of each chapter there’s also a few words, a tiny snippet, of what to expect in the chapter which I liked. It was often quite vague which did a great job of luring me in to devour the section.

George, Dan and Lizzie are the three main characters in the novel. Each of them are extremely different but equally fascinating. They provide such a broad range of personalities, traits and general life experiences which make the whole novel an interesting and unexpected journey.

I found each character to be very likeable. Lizzie is fascinating with her facts, and clearly has an interesting personality behind her cautious demeanour. Her love for her son Lenny is evident and she clearly feels emotions deeply. George is a recently widowed, outwardly grumpy and difficult to get along with older man. He evidently struggles to display his emotions which causes problems. Dan is a somewhat suppressed man who is beginning to find his feet in an unknown world. He clearly has a big heart and I think he was probably my favourite of the three characters.

I really enjoyed watching each of the characters change and grow. I really felt for them and enjoyed being part of their somewhat bumpy journey. The relationship between each character and their dog is a lovely touch and the unique nature of this really drew me in further.

The subtle intertwining of characters in other characters stories is nice. It was nice to recognise an implied character trait or action through another person’s chapter. It gave a little unexpected insight into the character when they weren’t the current focus and these subtle links are a nice thread to carry through.

I loved the honesty within this novel, it felt true and realistic. Waller’s writing was brilliant and I could vividly imagine the characters going about their lives. This meant I felt quite attached to the story and the wonderful dogs contained within!

Dog Days is a wholesome novel with captivating characters. A somewhat raw and realistic portrayal of elements of life, it’s one that I won’t forget in a hurry. The novel is out now from Transworld. You can purchase using the link below and also help independent bookstores.

Bookshop.org

Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase via this link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour, details of which can be found below.

Until next time,

Book Review | Sleepless by Anders Bortne

Huge thanks to Sandstone Press for sending me a copy of Sleepless in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Anders Bortne has a nice life in Oslo. Married to a wonderful woman, with two delightful children, his days are occupied by his creative work. Not all is well though, Anders has been sleepless for sixteen years, and it is taking its toll on his life and his family. No remedy has gone untested: sleeping pills, yoga, herbs, acupuncture, hypnosis, but none has worked. What do we know about the most important hours of the day? What is the history of sleep, and how is our health affected? Sleepless is a book for everyone who lies awake at night and wonders what to do about it. Anders’s last resort was just across the street.

Review

Sleepless is a book primarily aimed at people who suffer with insomnia, in all its severity and chronic sleep disruption. It also teaches you about sleep and sleeplessness.

Bortne shares his journey in an honest, sometimes humorous fashion. He’s a relatable writer and I felt an insight into his journey and his life experiences with sleep which was interesting.

The mixture of science and experience is a perfect balance. You really gauge emotions and empathy for his situation, whilst also rooting for him to find the answer to his sixteen year(!!) problem.

The book runs through 9 months – each month has a different topic, beginning with pills. It goes through Bortne’s journey in chronological order as he investigated various ways to resume ‘normal’ sleep, things he tried and his own scientific, factual research.

Although the book is aimed at insomniacs, and I am, on the whole, a fairly decent sleeper, I was really interested in the life of someone who has a chronic sleep condition. The science behind sleep is something that has intrigued me for a long time and Bortne does a great job of relaying facts without being overwhelming. I felt like I learnt a lot from this book!

Overall a fascinating, honest and sometimes humorous book about Sleepless(ness). If you suffer from sleep problems, particularly insomnia, or even if you’re just interested in sleep as I was, I’d recommend this book.

Sleepless is out now, published by Sandstone Press. You can purchase it using the link below (& also help to support independent bookshops!)

Bookshop.org

Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase via this link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Until next time,

Blog Tour | NICK by Michael Farris Smith

Thank you to No Exit Press for the opportunity to be on the blog tour for NICK and for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith pulls Nick Carraway out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this exhilarating imagination of his life before The Great Gatsby

Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world, he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of World War I.

Floundering in the wake of the destruction he witnessed first-hand, Nick delays his return home, hoping to escape the questions he cannot answer about the horrors of war. Instead, he embarks on a transcontinental redemptive journey that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance – doomed from the very beginning – to the dizzying frenzy of New Orleans, rife with its own flavour of debauchery and violence.

An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery. Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to transfix even the heartiest of golden age scribes, Nickreveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades.

Review

NICK is an interesting, honest and brutal tale of Gatsby’s narrator Nick Carraway prior to his feature in Fitzgerald’s infamous novel.

The novel contains vivid descriptions right from the beginning, which make the situations Nick finds himself in crystal clear. You are able to easily picture the somewhat intense, challenging and brutal battle scenes. I was quickly immersed in Nick’s world and his encounters, his lost love and traumatic war tales.

Nick’s post-war experiences are in some ways equally as challenging to read of. The New Orleans ‘adventures’ had echoes of Gatsby‘s parties and the characters destructive and dangerous nature’s were somewhat extraordinary.

Farris Smith is a brilliant writer and this is evident from the offset. The atmosphere he creates within the novel adds to the experience and his storytelling is like nothing I’ve read before.

The overall feeling of darkness in the novel is quite a lot to take in. Carraway is a character who has been involved in a lot of harrowing, challenging experiences and I don’t feel as if these necessarily reflect the character you see in The Great Gatsby. This could be because people are generally good at hiding things in their personalities but it feels like he has witnessed an awful lot. I don’t feel as though this is wholly the impression I got from the way Nick is reflected in Gatsby.

NICK is an intense and graphic read, with excellent descriptions and superb writing. I recommend to fans of The Great Gatsby or anyone interested in Nick Carroway’s character and his past. It’s out now from No Exit Press and you can purchase it using the link below, whilst also helping independent bookshops.

Bookshop.org

Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase via this link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour, details are in the banner below.

Until next time,

Blog Tour | Giveaway | The Favour by Laura Vaughan

Thank you to Anne and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour for The Favour and to Corvus Books for providing the giveaway prize!

Synopsis

Fortune favours the fraud…
When she was thirteen years old, Ada Howell lost not just her father, but the life she felt she was destined to lead. Now, at eighteen,
Ada is given a second chance when her wealthy godmother gifts
her with an extravagant art history trip to Italy.
In the palazzos of Venice, the cathedrals of Florence and the villas
of Rome, she finally finds herself among the kind of people she aspires to be: sophisticated, cultured, privileged. Ada does everything in her power to prove she is one of them. And when a member of the group dies in suspicious circumstances, she seizes the opportunity to permanently bind herself to this gilded set.
But everything hidden must eventually surface, and when it does, Ada discovers she’s been keeping a far darker secret than she could ever have imagined…

About The Author

Laura Vaughan grew up in rural Wales and studied Art History in Italy and Classics at Bristol and Oxford. She got her first book deal aged twenty-two and went on to write eleven books for children and young adults. The Favour is her first novel for adults. She lives in
South London with her husband and two children.

Giveaway

I’m giving away a copy of The Favour, thanks to Random Things Tours and Corvus Books. Good luck! To enter, click the link below. Terms and Conditions can also be found below.

The Favour Rafflecopter giveaway

One winner will be selected at random through Rafflecopter from all valid entries. They will be notified by email and/or Twitter and there is no response within 72 hours then an alternative winner will be selected.

The giveaway is open to U.K. entrants aged 18 or over.

Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is solely for the purpose of entering the competition. The winners delivery details will be given to the tour organiser and publisher for fulfilment of the prize.

I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize and therefore am not liable for loss, delay or damage.

The giveaway is in no way affiliated with WordPress or Twitter.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour, details can be found below!

Until next time,

Book Review | The Favour by Laura Vaughan

Thank you to Readers First for my winning copy of The Favour in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Fortune favours the fraud…

When she was thirteen years old, Ada Howell lost not just her father, but the life she felt she was destined to lead. Now, at eighteen, Ada is given a second chance when her wealthy godmother gifts her with an extravagant art history trip to Italy.

In the palazzos of Venice, the cathedrals of Florence and the villas of Rome, she finally finds herself among the kind of people she aspires to be: sophisticated, cultured, privileged. Ada does everything in her power to prove she is one of them. And when a member of the group dies in suspicious circumstances, she seizes the opportunity to permanently bind herself to this gilded set.

But everything hidden must eventually surface, and when it does, Ada discovers she’s been keeping a far darker secret than she could ever have imagined…

Review

The Favour is a rollercoaster ride spanning years, a twisted tale of privilege and the desire to fit in. What would you do to be part of another world, one you thought you were destined for?

The story is told through main character Ada’s perspective, which provides a first-hand account of the various goings on. This gave a more rounded view of Ada, although I didn’t really warm to her! I found her quite a character, but she felt a little too entitled and dismissive. Nevertheless, she was well written and her personality was definitely evident.

Despite this she is a realistic character and growing up with her and the Dilettanti was interesting. Her fleeting relationships and desire to be liked are accurate of her age at the beginning of the novel – portraying an authentic display of late teens. As she grows older this somewhat lingers but it’s interesting to see how their relationships change.

The novel is split into three parts; Trompe l’Oeil, I Trionfi and Pentimento. The three elements to the story and the various years and occurrences entangled within. I don’t want to go into too much detail but I thought this was an interesting way to present the novel. I liked the way the narrative flowed and it provided an interesting direction, as I wasn’t sure where the story was heading!

It is evident that Laura Vaughan’s interests lie with Art History and Italy. Learning of her studies I can really see how much knowledge she has on her subjects. Specifically the first third of the book, when Ada is actually in Italy with Dilettanti Discoveries, there are many interesting facts about various paintings and Italy itself. It was fascinating, if a little heavy at times. It’s clear that Laura’s passion lies within the subjects and it’s wonderful to read of her expertise.

The twist at the end of the novel was one I definitely didn’t see coming. I was captivated by the direction it took and thoroughly engrossed until the end, where I was left digesting what I’d read!

The Favour is an interesting, twisty tale full of atmosphere and deceit. I’d recommend, especially to fans of The Secret History. It’s out now from Corvus books, and you can purchase using the link below, and also help support independent bookshops.

Bookshop.org

Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase via this link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Until next time,