Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell / Blog Tour

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

 

Publisher: Tinder Press 43890641._sy475_

Publishing Date: 31st March 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 3384

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child.

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.

Award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes, and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.

Rating: four-stars

 

“Hamnet” takes us to Stratford – upon – Avon in 1596, when a young girl Judith is taken to bed with a fever. Her twin brother Hamnet is desperate to find help but their mother is not at home – she’s not far away, in her garden, tending to her medicinal herbs – and their father is working in London. So begins the story – also – behind Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”.

Reading books like “Hamnet”, where the author writes a story about real characters, always makes me wonder if their lives really looked like this. I think it must be a real challenge for the authors themselves, to re-tell the story that was told so many times and still to make it refreshing and original and not repetitive, and I can tell you that Maggie O’Farrell has done it brilliantly. Moreover, I am so, so glad that it’s not Shakespeare himself, but his wife Agnes that is the star of the story, that she takes the spotlight, as she was such a colourful and interesting character and Ms O’Farrell’s ability to create such a magical tale out of the few facts that we know about Agnes really deserves a standing ovation.

I truly appreciate the background stories, the courtship of Shakespeare and his wife – to – be but it was the present, this what was happening with their children, much more fascinating. The changes in the times were a bit confusing for me, and yes, it took me a few chapters to get used to the writing style, but then I could relax and really enjoy the flowing story. Yes, at times it was rather slow – paced and I simply wanted to go back to Hamnet and what was happening.

It is a book that explores mother’s grief at the loss of her child and there is a whole rainbow of emotions. It is an atmospheric novel capturing the essence of grief in a heart – breaking, beguiling way. The author also touches upon motherhood in the most difficult times, when the mother tries to learn how to survive after her child’s death.

The setting, time and the feeling of place were brought so vividly to the pages and richly described and the language used is evocative, almost lyrical, bringing the times to life. I can’t help but mention one of the sections of the book that will probably stay with me forever, as it is a real masterpiece of writing, where the author describes the way the plague has taken to finally arrive at Judith’s doorstep – amazing! Altogether “Hamnet” was an exceptional read with a difference that I truly enjoyed – highly recommended!

 

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The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves / Blog Tour

The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves

 

Publisher: Century 48669268._sy475_

Publishing Date: 2nd April 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 336

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

| Paperback (out on 17.09.2019)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A lifetime together. Six months of silence. One last chance.

Frank hasn’t spoken to his wife Maggie for six months.

For weeks they have lived under the same roof, slept in the same bed and eaten at the same table – all without words.

Maggie has plenty of ideas as to why her husband has gone quiet.

But it will take another heartbreaking turn of events before Frank finally starts to unravel the secrets that have silenced him.

Is this where their story ends?
Or is it where it begins?

With characters that will capture your heart, THE SILENT TREATMENT celebrates the phenomenal power of love and the importance of leaving nothing unsaid.

Rating: four-stars

 

Frank and Maggie have been happily married for forty years, getting by all the bumps and twists that reality put in their way – and there were plenty of them. However, it seems that now they have hit a wall – Franks hasn’t spoken to Maggie for six months. Why? Maggie can’t take it anymore and one day Frank finds her slumped over the kitchen table after swallowing the contents of a bottle of sleeping tablets. He blames himself and is desperate to explain to Maggie why he hasn’t uttered one word to her in the last half year. Encouraged by a nurse at the hospital, Frank starts to speak – is there enough time for him to tell everything?

It is a beautifully written story, both plot – wise and writing style – wise. The narration flowed so naturally, it didn’t feel forced, it just felt so normal and human and the writing is almost lyrical, so very evocative and vivid it is. The author has a way with words, her narration is touching, poignant yet uplifting and flowing effortlessly, keeping you glued to the pages.

I would say that it is a very character driven story, and they all were really well written and developed, as well as the relationships and dynamics between them – and they were never the easiest ones. Their feelings and emotions were effortlessly brought to us on the pages.
Maggie and Frank’s voices are strong and distinctive. During Maggie’s stay at the hospital we learn everything about their life together, starting with the early days of their relationship and their struggle to have a child of their own. I have expected – probably like many of you reading the book – that they had a fight, that there must have been an understatement between them and this is why they live in silence, but the truth is much more shocking and heart – breaking. The story of them is unique, full of memories, anecdotes and thoughts and there emerges a picture of people committed to each other, loving each other and caring about each other.

I must admit that the epilogue confused me a bit – probably because the author has suddenly decided to use the third narrator, so out of the blue and only for the few pages of the epilogue. Somehow it didn’t sit with me so well, not sure why, but it didn’t fit the whole story.

The story explores marriage, parenting and more difficult issues in a gentle, understanding way, showing how hard it sometimes is to communicate with our closest ones and how secrets kept from each other may affect our relationships – but we still keep them, out of fear as we don’t want to hurt them, out of love.
It is a powerful and moving book, so very honestly touching upon many heavier issues, bringing the small family to life, creating them all believable and full of flaws. It is emotional, poignant and uplifting at the same time. It is a great debut novel and the author shows her strong voice – I am already looking forward to her next release. Highly recommended.

 

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The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker by Joanna Nell

The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker by Joanna Nell

 

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 50652475._sy475_

Publishing Date: 23rd January 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 336

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 25.06.2020)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

As the wife of retired ship’s doctor Dr Henry Parker, Evelyn is living out her twilight years aboard the Golden Sunset. Every night she dresses for dinner and regales her fellow passengers with stories of a glamorous life travelling the world. The crew treat her with deference. And forbearance.

But when Henry goes missing, Evelyn sets off to search every part of the ocean liner to find him; misadventures are had – all new to Evelyn. If only she could remember the events of the night before as clearly as she can recall the first time she met Henry on a passage from England to Australia in 1953 and fell in love – abandoning her dreams to become a midwife to be a wife instead – and the long-ago painful events that left Evelyn all at sea.

Why is it so hard to remember some things and so hard to forget others? And where is Henry?

Rating: four-stars

 

Evelyn and her husband Henry have been living aboard the Golden Sunset ocean liner for years, with Henry a ship’s doctor. But now Henry is missing and Evelyn sets off to search for him in her new Finding Henry running shoes – she has no idea who has sent them but they are so comfortable! With no one on board seeming to realize that something has happened to Henry, Evelyn wanders around Golden Sunset with her handbag, ticking off places from her ship map. She also makes new friends, Nola and Frank, and she’s only too happy to tell them the story of her life – how she met Henry back in 1953 and share with them all the ups and downs of their lives together. But while she remembers some things clearly, as if they happened yesterday, many other present details escape her – why? Why is it so hard to remember some things but forget the others? And where is Henry?

This is a very character driven novel and the author has done a great job in giving Evelyn a distinctive voice, making her a special and unforgettable character. Evelyn’s life story was so incredibly compelling, genuine and filled with adventures, people, love, happiness and sadness. Evelyn often shares her knowledge with people, no matter if they’re interested or not, however Nola and Frank love to hear her memories. She loves the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the words of Florence Nightingale, who has inspired her to become a nurse. The author, even though Evelyn’s situations is so heart – breaking, often tells through a humorous narrative about her adventures (for example in the casino), and gives hope and light where there are so many challenges.

Evelyn was brilliant to read about though, I must admit, she made me feel desperate sometimes, as she was truly opinionated, stubborn and didn’t take advice easily. But she also had a heart in the right place. I was hooked by her colourful life and with her sharp life observations.

As for Henry. The disappearance of him gave the book a little element of mystery, and as we quickly learn that Evelyn is rather an unreliable narrator (apologies, Evelyn. I do love you) we really don’t know what to think. I had a few scenarios in mind, however my detective skills are non – existent and the author has taken me fully by surprise there. Which I loved.

I adored Evelyn’s memories, her telling us the tales of her life, beginning when she was only 21 years old. The present days, even if a bit more entertaining, also felt a little sad, as they showed us clearly Evelyn’s confused mind, and it made me personally sad, seeing her desperation to find Henry, using a map of the ship, crossing off places where she looked for him. It was truly heart – wrenching, to see her dedication and confusion.

Joanna Nell’s writing is warm and gentle and so full of feelings and emotions. She brings the ups and downs of ageing with empathy and humour and I love how she created Evelyn – a passionate, quirky person with quick – tempered nature who hasn’t felt sorry for herself making her full of courage and optimism despite the challenges she faces, navigating world that starts to feel strange and weird.

“The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker” is a book full of surprises. A story full of heart and emotions about love, loss, marriage that sensitively touches upon ageing, dementia, unconditional love and motherhood. It’s written with honesty, humanity and compassion.
It is a tender, sensitive story that, despite the often – confused Evelyn, is also incredibly heart – warming and uplifting. Highly recommended!

The Break Up by Tilly Tennant

The Break Up by Tilly Tennant

 

Publisher: Bookouture 50627236._sy475_

Publishing Date: 26th  March 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 315

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:
What happens when Mr Right goes rogue?

Lara doesn’t have a back-up plan. So when her safe-bet boyfriend Lucien dumps her for her best friend, Lara’s world implodes. Life after the break up stretches bleakly ahead, lonely evenings on the sofa with only a bottle of wine and her grey cat Fluffy for company…

Down the road, Theo loves his job as a jazz musician, giving other people great nights out before coming home in the early hours and unwinding with his loyal cat Satchmo.

What they don’t know is that it’s the same cat.

And when they find out, standing in the streets in their pyjamas, both on the hunt for their lost pet, sparks of the wrong sort fly.

Lara can’t deny that Theo is one of the most gorgeous men she’s ever met, but she can see exactly why he’s still single. They do say opposites attract… but is she ready to move on? And when Lucien comes back into the picture, will she be tempted back to her life before the break up, or risk everything on the chance of something new?

A wonderfully warm will-they-won’t-they romantic read that will have you laughing one minute and crying the next. If you’re a fan of Jill Mansell and Carole Matthews, The Break Up is the love story you’ve been waiting for.
Previously titled: A Cat Called Cupid

Rating: three-stars

 

“The Break – Up” introduces us to Lara Nightingale, currently dumped by her boyfriend after finding out that he’s been cheating on her with her best friend Siobhan! But no worries, fast forward a year and everything looks a little better for Lara. Her new wedding planning business is already running smoothly and she makes a name for herself, and her stray cat Fluffy is her best friend now. Only, Fluffy likes to wander in the neighbourhood and disappears for few days. One evening, looking for her loss, Lara encounters Theo who claims Fluffy is his and his name is Satchmo. Their first meeting isn’t too nice and then Lara seems to see Theo everywhere she goes – can she keep her emotions in check? And can she eventually convince him that Fluffy’s name is Fluffy and it’s her cat?

Personally I thought that the cat is going to play much more significant role, especially when the title was still “The Cat Called Cupid” (but I must say that this other title, “The Break”, is also not much better than the first one, yes, I know, Lara has broken up with her boyfriend but is it worth the whole title? ), and I was a bit disappointed that there were only few scenes with him, or rather without him as he was running away all the time. And I’ve never thought I’m going to tell this, that I was missing a cat, as I am much more a dog person and yes, I’m going to say this now loud, I don’t like cats.

The story started in a very promising way but then it went a little downhill for me – it started to feel flat and I had a feeling that the whole wedding – planning business takes our attention away from the main plot. At the beginning there were so many great scenes, for example the first meeting between Lara and Theo and I loved how he called her karate – kid later, and it’s a real pity that then the book started to feel somehow so forced and predictable.

Lara and Theo were characters full of warmth, however they just felt too two – dimensional, I’ve missed more depth in them, especially Theo whom, I have a feeling, I got to know only in terms of his good – looks. Some of their encounters were brilliantly hilarious, however the things between them escalated so quickly that I thought I’ve missed something – one minute they hate each other, the next they’re crazy in love and planning their future. I don’t know, I think I enjoyed them more as opponents than a couple, they were simply much funnier then. Of course, they are both such typical rom – com characters, jumping to conclusions, not being able to communicate, quite thick – headed and blowing things out of proportion, making me feel desperate. What’s more, it mostly took the characters’ ages until they were able to make up their minds, because every single thought was dissected – they were truly over thinking things and those inner monologues felt like a kind of filler.

This was a light – hearted story and Tilly Tennant is a lovely story – teller. Her writing is light and easy to follow and she can easily draw the reader into the book. However, she has also successfully incorporated some important issues in her book, like being in a manipulative relationship or pregnancy at a young age. If you are looking for an easy, not demanding read to relax for a few hours, I’m sure you’re going to enjoy this book.

The Middle Years by Liz Fraser

The Middle Years by Liz Fraser

 

Publisher: Unbound 52454323._sy475_

Publishing Date: 26th  March 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher via Pigeonhole, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: Non – Fiction, Parenting

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:
This is not a book about parenting. There are 1.3 billion of those already, and the main thrust is, ‘if possible, try not to be a shit parent.’

Instead, this is a book about us. You and me.

The knackered parents, flailing about in the supposedly ‘easier’ Middle Years, when our babies have sprouted body hair and attitudes, we’re supposed to be ‘getting our life back’ at last . . . but everything feels as if it’s gone a bit tits down.

From puberty to parents’ evenings, anxiety to A-Levels, divorce to depression, sex to social media, hormones to . . . Jesus, is that chin hair?!

This comprehensive, honest, hilarious and at times heart-breaking rummage through the Rotting Salad Drawer of Midlife™ that we all go through but nobody tells us about until we’re already drowning in it, holds your weary hand and offers a giant, life-saving snog of, ‘IT’S OK. IT’S NOT JUST YOU’.

Rating: three-stars

 

 

So, as much as I enjoy the yummy – mummies books full of babies, it’s time for me to move to the middle years, as my daughter has just turned 8, and so this Liz Fraser’s book couldn’t turn in the better moment. I am warned now, though I’ve been already suspecting what’s to come, what with the children growing up mentally much faster than we did – or, at least, it feels like this. I sometimes feel really, really like an idiot compared to my world – wise daughter. Urgh.

I enjoyed this book very much. Actually, I loved the first part about children – it was hilariously funny and light and enlightening. The second part, and as I can already see I’m not alone feeling like this, was not so brilliant. It suddenly felt much too bitter, and like a one long rant about marriage breakdown and divorce. Maybe it didn’t capture me so much as it doesn’t relate to me, however I had a feeling that the writing changed a bit there, turning from hilariously funny into bitterly mean – spirited rant.

I found the author’s observations absolutely spot – on, sharp and with a great dose of distance. The so – called “middle years” prepare us for another chapter in our lives, when children don’t need parents so much, but they do need many more other things. Money. Tablets. Horses. And no, not this trousers. It is perhaps more personal journey of the author but still I found it relatable and true to life. The writing is brutally honest and insightful and pulls you into easily. And it’s real, and I know that I’m not in this alone.

How Not To Be A Loser by Beth Moran

How Not To Be A Loser by Beth Moran

 

Publisher: Boldwood Books 52652899._sy475_

Publishing Date: 24th March 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 346

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Amy Piper is a loser. She’s lost her confidence, her mojo and her way.

But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…

What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.

Once upon a time Amy was a winner – at life, at sport and in love. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, she is determined to reclaim the life she had, for herself and for Joey. And who knows, she might just be a winner again – at life, sport, and love, if she looks in the right places…

Uplifting, funny and unforgettable, Beth Moran returns with a joyous tale of friendship, love and facing your fears. 

Rating: five-stars

 

Amy Piper has it all.
Or rather, Amy Piper had it all. Her number one priority used to be to win swimming race after another.
Fourteen years later, Amy is agoraphobic, battling anxiety disorders, not having been able to leave her house since several years. But she wants to be a better mother to her 13 – year – old son Joey, to be able to go out and see him winning swimming race after another, to take him to swimming practice, to be involved in outside world. She wants him to be proud of her, and so she decides to put a plan into action – this is how “How Not to be a Loser” plan commences. But is such a written deal all what it takes to overcome fear?

So, I’m not sure why but it was really hard for me to get into the book. I kept glancing at the cover to see if it is really Beth Moran’s novel because, well, I’ve never had such problems before with her story, and I really started to get worried. I couldn’t connect with the main character, I couldn’t get into the story and I started to feel desperate because I couldn’t understand why. It took me long, longer than I was expecting, to completely warm to the story and to get into Amy’s head. To be honest, it was over the 50% mark that the story started to flow for me, that it gained the pace and it’s only then that I started to feel the tale, and then – well, then I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know where the story is going to take me, wanted to know more, and well, I was simply rooting for Amy.

The way the author has got into Amy’s head and described her emotional journey is absolutely incredible. Amy has lost so much in her life, it was really heart – breaking to see, and now all these anxiety issues are controlling her life as well. She feels angry with herself that she isn’t able to share the most important moments with Joey, that this anger is not enough for her to do something. It is going to take a lot of time and help of many people, and many rules broken for her to be able to finally move on, and it was so, so uplifting to see, you will really want to give Amy a standing ovation. I loved to discover what Amy has hidden inside herself, seeing her growing into confidence, laughing at her jokes, applauding at every step she took towards overcoming her fears, enjoying her one – liners. You can’t not to fall for Amy, it’s simple like that, and you’ll want all the best for her. I loved how un – selfish she was, how – even if it was so hard to her – she always tried to find the best solution, how fair she tried to stay no matter what.
Her relationship with Joey was perfect, and this how, for his sake, she decided to overcome her fears was inspiring and huge.

The characters were absolutely fantastic, so real and true to life, with their troubles and problems and all the ups and downs that life brings.The great support network that Amy has built for herself was one of the highlights of the book. The characters brought so much to the story, not only fun and humour, but also depth, as all of them had their own important story to tell – stories that were thought – provoking and heart – breaking. Their shenanigans were something that made me laugh out loud, and their problems made me cry together with them. There was so much understanding and empathy in all those women, and it was so uplifting to see they were there for each other, no matter what.

Beth Moran has such wonderful way with words and can brilliantly write about feelings, without making the book too patronising or repetitive. She brings compassion, empathy, friendship to the pages, and she has so much understanding for her characters. “How Not to be a Loser” is an inspirational story that will make you want to put on your trainers and go for a run. It is about second chances, friendship, love and hope, hilarious and thought – provoking, and even with some of my initial issues with the book I ended loving it with all my heart. Highly recommended!

 

When Life Gives You Lemons by Fiona Gibson / Blog Tour

When Life Gives You Lemons by Fiona Gibson

 

Publisher: Avon 48639329._sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th March 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Sometimes life can be bittersweet . . .

Between tending to the whims of her seven-year-old and the demands of her boss, Viv barely gets a moment to herself. It’s not quite the life she wanted, but she hasn’t run screaming for the hills yet.

But then Viv’s husband Andy makes his mid-life crisis her problem. He’s having an affair with his (infuriatingly age-appropriate) colleague, a woman who – unlike Viv – doesn’t put on weight when she so much as glances at a cream cake.

Viv suddenly finds herself single, with zero desire to mingle. Should she be mourning the end of life as she knows it, or could this be the perfect chance to put herself first?

When life gives you lemons, lemonade just won’t cut it. Bring on the gin!

 

my-review

 

“When Life Gives You Lemons” introduces us to Viv, 52 years old, with two children, husband and stabile life. However, this life is about to change radically, when she discovers that her husbands has an affair. What follows is a story of a mature woman, coping (or not) with divorce and juggling life as a single – mother.

The book is advertised to be a hilarious romantic comedy. Publishers, please stop doing this – promising things and than not keeping your promises. It was neither hilarious nor romantic nor comedy. I don’t mean to criticise the book, because it was a nice, contemporary novel, so close to life – but perhaps it should be advertised this way.

Fiona Gibson’s characters are always real and human, and it was the same in this book. It’s a very character – driven story and Viv is the main heroine – could be your best friend, she felt so vivid and relatable, jumping off the pages. We mostly get her point of view, through her monologues and actions and thoughts on everything that is happening around her. It was actually truly uplifting and inspiring to see her growing into confidence, establishing her identity, starting to enjoy life again. She’s a character that many readers will be able to relate to and with. What I truly appreciated is the fact that nothing in her journey felt forced or overdone – no, everything seemed just like in real life, her making wrong decisions, having problems, misinterpreting situations, jumping to conclusions.
The supporting characters are a bunch of colourful, vivid people and they take care of our good mood, adding humour but also making the story this little bit more thought – provoking. They provide a range of diversion, giving Viv extra jobs and making her life fuller and complicated, hence keeping her sane (or not!).

My biggest problem was that I wasn’t sure what the book is trying to tell us. Yes, it touches upon some more difficult issues and shows character’s wonderful journey to self – confidence and discovering what it is that makes her happy, but somehow it didn’t convince me and I wasn’t sure where it’s leading at all. The pace was rather slow and there were not life – changing twists or turns, however it had its moments that made me giggle, for example Viv’s omelette – action. The author’s writing style is so easy to follow and it’s a real joy to pick the book up after a long day to relax for a while. Also, you know what’s coming, but in a good way, and this feeling of security is very comforting.

It was a rather slow – burner, this story, however it kept getting better. The author has written a contemporary fiction, balancing seriousness and problems with humour and light – heartedness. Well, you have to find fun in life, otherwise you’re going to get crazy. It is not a fluffy, meh kind of read, and the author deals with falling apart of the family in a sensitive and understanding way. Still, it is an easy and light read with a great message: when life gives you lemons, just add gin and tonic. Take the best out of life. Enjoy it. It is well written and it flow in such a natural, easy way, progressing towards the inevitable happy end. Recommended!

 

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