Monthly Wrap Up | April 2021

It’s the end of April already and I feel like I say this every month but it’s flown by. The weather’s improving, although it seems the April showers have hit us late this year… Lockdown is easing and bookshops are back open again. I haven’t yet been to one as there aren’t any in my town but when I (eventually) venture into one of the nearby cities, it’ll be the first place I go!

April has been a great month and I feel like I’ve found a nice balance between reading and other things like catching up some TV shows. With limited time to myself, I only usually get around three hours a day, usually less, I really wanted to find a good middle ground where I didn’t feel I was forfeiting my time. I have read some fabulous books this month and took part in three blog tours, read six books and reviewed five, with one review to follow.

What I read

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex ✰✰✰✰

Poison In The Pills by August Raine

Lost Property by Helen Paris ✰✰✰✰✰

When I Ran Away by Ilona Bannister

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor ✰✰✰✰✰

The Island by C.L. Taylor ✰✰✰

Book of the month

This month, it was too difficult to choose just one book of the month so I had to choose two. My two five star reads; Lost Property and The Miseducation of Evie Epworth. Both novels had wonderful sets of characters, with brilliant female protagonists and just an overall realistic sense to their stories. I could 100% imagine both going about their daily lives and living as me and you are. Really exceptional and I highly recommend both if you haven’t read them already!

Going forward…

I have only one blog tour next month, as I’m trying to lessen the stress a little. I’ve found recently that having lots of deadlines to review by and also not being able to just ‘pick up a book’ was becoming a lot for me. I’m ever so grateful for the opportunities that are available to me and the lovely books I’m sent, I just found I was overwhelming myself a little. I’ve realised that having a book or two that I’ve purchased where there isn’t pressure to review really helps. I’m now trying to only go for blog tours which really catch my eye to ease the deadlines. I have a fair few proofs that I am eager to read but I’m approaching those in (mostly passed) publication date order so I’m hoping to catch up in the coming month with at least some of those.

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 | The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

Thank you to Matson and Simon and Schuster for my paperback copy of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth as part of the #Squadpod #CakeBlast (happening on Saturday over on Twitter!)

Synopsis

July, 1962

Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?

The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.

If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.

Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.

Review

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is a funny, interesting debut with a host of fabulous characters and a great story.

The novel is told entirely through the first-person perspective of Evie. Evie is a character who felt extremely realistic. Despite her only being 16 (and a half) she is charming, funny and a delight to be alongside for the duration of the novel. Her insights into family life, her father and Christine most specifically, are enjoyable and also partly relatable – remembering that weird stage when you’re not really a child any longer but not yet an adult and still trying to figure out your place in the world.

Evie includes an array of longer, sometimes obscure, words throughout the book with their definition which I found quirky and enjoyed. As someone with an English literature degree, words interest me and most of Evie’s defined words I have to say I’d never heard (or read) before! She (and Matson Taylor) definitely opened my eyes to some new vocabulary.

The interlude short chapters are a really interesting way of sharing more of the past and some of the other characters and their history. It’s a nice way to break up the first person perspective and inject some more interest into more of the characters. Gaining a sense of Evie’s Father Arthur and her Mother Diana’s relationship and how it came to be was fascinating. Equally Diana and Rosamund Scott-Pym, the neighbour, and their relationship was lovely to read about, particularly their unexpected friendship and bond.

Matson Taylor is a fantastic writer and evidently has the ability to make you love, and also despise, characters. There are such a combination of wonderful, warming characters who you really grow to love within the novel. Well, there are two exceptions to that… Christine really was a piece of work and combined with her mother Vera, they were like Cinderella’s stepmother and ugly sisters!

Evie’s adventures are interesting, exciting and full of the naivety of a sixteen year old. Seeing things through her eyes and experiencing things for the first time, trying that olive for example, was brilliant and refreshing. Showing a lesser written about perspective was enjoyable and Evie will definitely stay with me for some time!

A wonderful, warming novel filled with an honest, messy portrayal of life, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is out today (April 29th) in paperback from Scribner UK. You can purchase using the link below, and also help support 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.

Until next time,

Blog Tour | Lost Property by Helen Paris

Huge thanks to Anne and Random Things Tours for my spot on the blog tour for Lost Property and for providing me with a proof copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Dot Watson has lost her way.

Twelve years ago her life veered off course, and the guilt over what happened still haunts her. Before then she was living in Paris, forging an exciting career; now her time is spent visiting her mother’s care home, fielding interfering calls from her sister and working at the London Transport Lost Property office, diligently cataloguing items as misplaced as herself.

But when elderly Mr Appleby arrives in search of his late wife’s purse, his grief stirs something in Dot. Determined to help, she sets off on a mission – one that could start to heal Dot’s own loss and let her find where she belongs once more…

Review

Lost Property is an emotional, touching and brilliant novel about loss, in many senses of the word. It drew me in from the beginning with its excellent writing and beautifully written characters.

Dot Watson is a lovely character and one I warmed to straight away. She is immersed in her job at the lost property office which is intriguing and as the book goes on, we discover the reasons why. She is a fascinating character, one where there is much more to her than first meets the eye.

As the novel is told through Dot’s perspective, you really ride along with her and her abundance of emotions. Learning of her life and her reasons for making certain choices, her influences and her family. I’ve effectively said this already but it needs saying again – she is a wonderful character and I thoroughly enjoyed following her story.

I really liked how Paris began each chapter with a lost property label. These featured a description of something lost during the chapter. Initially, the item would be asked for during the chapter by a customer who had lost it, but it also featured a memory, person or occurrence. I thought this was a really nice and unusual touch. It gave a snippet of what was to come, whilst displaying it in a format true to the novel. It also wasn’t always what you’d expect!

Something that really touched me was the raw reality of Dot’s Mother’s dementia and their fractured relationship. As someone whose Grandma suffered with dementia, she passed away just last year, I really resonated with a lot of the behaviour and actions. This made it a tough read at times but Paris really is spot on with her account and clearly researched this aspect in detail. It’s nice to see things like dementia that are reality for a lot of people, but not always represented in fiction, be told in such a realistic manner.

The memories and interwoven past history of Dot is a lovely trail to follow. Piecing together Dot’s life and why she has made certain decisions, her influences and how she ended up working at the lost property department. It was emotional but also extremely absorbing. I feel like this story will be one to stay with me for a long time to come!

Lost Property is a captivating novel with a beautiful storyline. The eBook is out now and Hardback on May 13th 2021 from Doubleday Books, and you can preorder using the link below.

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 to check out the other stops on the tour, some of which can be found below.

Until next time,

Book Review | Poison In The Pills by August Raine

Thank you to August for providing me with a copy of his book Poison In The Pills in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A mysterious illness is ravaging the nation. Those suffering from the dreaded sickness are in so much pain that some victims have peeled the flesh from their bones in a desperate attempt to relieve their symptoms.

Set in and around Manchester, the novel follows Jack Bright, a scientist working to cure the sickness. Whilst investigating a clinical trial that went tragically wrong, he realises there has been a terrible mistake. But before he can find out more, he is framed.

Desperate, not only to clear his name but also to find the cause of the sickness, Jack is forced to resort to increasingly questionable methods. Breaking and entering. Blackmail. Kidnapping. With every decision, his morals are tested, to the point that he wonders whether the end justifies the means. But despite this, he perseveres, motivated by a tragedy in his past.

Jack’s luck is constantly dwindling, until he finds himself racing – not just against the people who are after him, but also the dreaded sickness.

Review

Poison In The Pills is a fast paced, immersive story that throws you right in to the action from the offset.

The novel is told from main character Jack’s perspective. We really feel his experiences and he goes, and has gone through, an awful lot in a relatively short period of time. He’s an interesting character with a lot of depth. He also appears to tangle himself in many situations that are far from ideal, or safe, and I definitely felt the vibes of Bourne or Bond in his shenanigans.

The various relationships within the novel were interesting. They seemed to develop quickly, or be learnt of quickly, which was wholly reflective of the pace of the novel. I found it interesting and quite a refreshing change that Jack appeared to surround himself with strong female figures. This is pretty unusual for a novel like this and I enjoyed it.

I’ve only visited Manchester once for a few days, but from my fairly vague memories of the city I was able to picture little bits from Raine’s thorough descriptions. They definitely made the novel feel more realistic and it was easy to picture Jack racing around a city, even without thorough knowledge of the area.

The book has a focus around science. Given Jack’s profession, and the nature of the novel, it was inevitable that there would be a lot of scientific knowledge involved. I found this interesting, there’s a lot of understanding and Raine has clearly done a lot of research! The relevance of the world’s situation currently and the COVID 19 pandemic can’t be forgotten in relation to this novel as The Itch is an illness the nation is facing, and they’re racing to find a cure.

Poison In The Pills is a gripping novel with an interesting protagonist and a lot of backstory. It’s out now, independently published, and can be purchased on Amazon.

Until next time,

Blog Tour | The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Thank you to Amber and Midas PR for the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour and for providing a proof copy of The Lamplighters in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

They say we’ll never know what happened to those men. 
They say the sea keeps its secrets . . . 

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

Review

The Lamplighters is a gripping, mysterious tale, filled with a vast array of emotions. It’s loosely based around and inspired by real events, making it all the more intriguing.

The story is set in a dual timeline, 1972 and pre-disappearance of the three lighthouse keepers, and then twenty years later in 1992 when the three women are revisiting the past with a writer. It’s also dual perspective as you hear from each lighthouse keeper in the first timeline and each wife or girlfriend in the second timeline. I feel like this adds so much more to the story and you learn much more about each of the characters. I really liked the way you gain a much more rounded overview of the situation because of this.

The wives and girlfriends segments of the story are told primarily through the perspective of them speaking to the writer, of which you are in that position and it’s as though they are speaking directly to you. I liked the way this was done as it made the reader an integral part of the chapters and also the speech flowed in a way that a q&a would, but without the questions visible. I thought this was really clever and it made me feel like I knew the characters more deeply.

I enjoyed following each character, as they all feel extremely realistic, with the relevant traits and flaws that make a person. The presence of grief and mental illness were touching and really make the characters more three dimensional. The overarching presence of loneliness and distance is really powerful and the way it affects all the relationships is fascinating.

The sense of mystery is really present through the book, the need for answers increases as the pages go on and you learn more about the uncertainty of the situation. The secrets that are being hidden by each of the characters only adds to this, as the book goes on more are revealed and it draws you in to wanting to know the truth even more with each reveal.

Stonex is a brilliant writer, and her descriptions are exceptionally clear and vivid. The sea and the lighthouse are especially well described and the writing definitely took me to the depths of remote Cornwall. The research that went into lighthouse keeping as a job, the tasks undertaken and the way of life is extensive and really interesting, I definitely feel I learnt a lot about something I knew very little about!

The Lamplighters is a wonderful, engrossing novel filled with beautiful description and a mystery at its core. It’s out now from Picador 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,

Blog Tour | The Girls from Alexandria by Carol Cooper

Huge thanks to Peyton and Agora books for the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for The Girls from Alexandria and for providing me with a proof copy in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.

Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.

Review

The Girls from Alexandria is a deep dive into a complex past and a determined present. With an intriguing premise; a novel with an older protagonist and a trail that spans two timelines, it certainly keeps you guessing.

The story is told in a now and then perspective. Following Nadia in the present, in hospital, and Nadia in the past as a young girl living with her sister Simone and family in Alexandria. We follow her story as she looks for her sister, the sister no one really believes she has.

The snippets of Nadia’s life in Alexandria paint an interesting picture, one surrounded by love and family. Her present day as a 70 year old woman is a far more lonely affair, but with memory issues plaguing her, it’s hard for her to get on the path to begin her search for her sister, especially from her hospital bed and relying on others.

It’s told in the first person which allows a lot of emotion to be conveyed from Nadia and we really go through her journey with her. As both a child and adult we grow up alongside her and feel her heartache as her sister disappears. The fact she is seventy in the present timeline is nice as I haven’t read that many books written, even in part, older protagonists. This is a refreshing change from the norm!

The inclusion of words from other languages, primarily French but also Arabic, is a great touch and makes the story feel more authentic. It also gives more of a glimpse into their way of life which I enjoyed. The location is stunning and in stark contrast to the London hospital. The vivid and colourful descriptions, especially of the beaches were a wonderful addition to the story. The history of Egypt is also interesting as I knew little about it, but the way it’s woven in through the story and the retelling of Nadia’s childhood is brilliant.

We really enter Nadia’s world and as the novel progresses, I found myself more and more eager to find out what was wrong with her and also where her sister was. The backstory of her and her family’s history that unravels is a real rollercoaster and contains some hard-hitting and emotional elements. Don’t let this put you off as I feel it adds to Nadia’s character and really gives the impression of how resilient and strong she is and has been throughout her seventy years.

The Girls from Alexandria is a novel with a fifty-year journey, a beautiful backdrop and a fascinating protagonist. It’s out now from Agora books, and you can purchase using the link below (and also help out 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.

Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour, the details for week two can be found below.

Until next time,