Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard

If you haven’t heard yet, there is a fabulous debut that came out on 11 August! It’s called “Housebreaking” by Colleen Hubbard and if you love Elizabeth Strout this is definitely for you!

Thank you so much to Clare over at Two Fond of Books and to Corsair Books for making me one of the lucky people to have already read this great story!

Synopsis

Following a long-standing feud and looking to settle the score, a woman decides to dismantle her home—alone and by hand—and move it across a frozen pond during a harsh New England winter in this mesmerizing debut.

Home is certainly not where Del’s heart is. After a local scandal led to her parents’ divorce and the rest of her family turned their backs on her, Del left her small town and cut off contact.

Now, with both of her parents gone, a chance has arrived for Del to retaliate.

Her uncle wants the one thing Del inherited: the family home.

Instead of handing the place over, and with no other resources at her disposal, Del decides she will tear the place apart herself—piece by piece.

But Del will soon discover, the task stirs up more than just old memories as relatives—each in their own state of unraveling—come knocking on her door.

This spare, strange, magical book is a story not only about the powerlessness and hurt that run through a family but also about the moments when brokenness can offer us the rare chance to start again.

Review

She wanted to go through life completely unnoticed, below level, submarine.”

Meet Del. 24 without much to show for. She lives with Tym, an old friend of her late father, and she just cannot be bothered. She can’t retain a job, she has no purpose, 0 ambition, and no social life. 

So when she loses yet another menial job, and Tym asks her to move out, she gets quite a kick up the backside! Coincidently, a ghost from her past shows up: her cousin Greg. He came to make her an offer on behalf of his father, her Uncle Chuck: he wants to buy her parents’ house. 

As she travels across the country and back in time, intent on accepting this offer, she is forced to face the feelings she’s buried all of those years. And when reality strikes that they are not interested in her or the house, but in fact in the land to develop and make money out of it, something in her snaps.  

She goes back to a feral state, a core and primitive instinct possessing her that she cannot (nor want to) get rid off, embarking on this insane project to deconstruct the house room by room, piece by piece, and move it across the pond as an act of vengeance against this family she so despises. 

What a clever story Colleen Hubbard has written here!

As Del has no choice but face her past, you cannot help but wonder if one can ever really escape the past? Aren’t we always forced to confront it in order to move forward?

You’re a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a terrible haircut.

By deconstructing the house, Del also deconstructs her life. To free herself from the shackles and hurts from the past, she will have to perform an exorcism. She will have to face and accept the dichotomy of nostalgia, make peace with herself, her late parents, their shortcomings, and this town and its people that she loathes and loves at the same time. 

I need to finish this. I do. I can’t explain it.

She’s so stubborn, it might kill her but she won’t give up! For once in her life she doesn’t want to. It is stronger than her, it’s an urge she cannot shake. In her determination and her fury, she takes herself to the brink, turning into a wounded animal who wants to be left alone. 

But it is without counting on others forcing a helping hand. By reluctantly (not) accepting for other people to unexpectedly make their way into her life and her project, she is given something even more unexpected: hope. 

Through this crazy endeavour, Del is working towards finding herself and letting go of the past, ready for the future, and you cannot help but wonder: what would I have done in her shoes?

With Love
AGJ

About the Author

Colleen Hubbard is an American writer who grew up in New England and now lives in (old) England with her British husband and children. Her debut novel, Housebreaking, was published in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in April 2022, in August 2022 in the UK, and is forthcoming in 2023 in translation. Her essays have appeared in Electric Literature, Literary Hub and other publications.

The Girls, by Bella Osborne and narrated by Julia Franklin

Thank you so much to Danielle at The Reading Closet, Isis Audio and Ulverscroft for having me on this audiobook tour!

Synopsis

Four old friends. Thrown back together after forty years apart. What could possibly go wrong?

In the 1970s, The Girls were best friends sharing a house and good times: Zara the famous diva actor, Val the uptight solicitor, Jackie the wild child and Pauline the quirky introvert. Now they’re in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age.

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn.

As the women confront their demons they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control can they save their friendships and each other?

Review

Meet “The Girls”: Jackie, Val, Pauline and Zara. What a fun and endearing bunch to get to know!

Each their strengths, each their flaws, each their own agenda. But how much of it is truly their own decision? As they agree to move to France and all share a house together again; and as the days go by, it becomes clear that Zara’s hand has been more than a little helpful!

What lurks behind Val’s serious, guarded and sensible nature? Why is Jackie so loud and exuberant? What secrets do Pauline keep behind her naive but ever so sweet facade? What is Zara hiding behind the theatrics, glamour and drama?

As you untangle each of their demons, past regrets and ulterior motives, you get to experience this lovely portrayal of friendship, not always rosy but always worth it when you have the best of friends to come together with. You might have drifted apart for 40 years but when it’s real, it’s always like no time has passed, especially in the light of mystery!

This book is the perfect antidote to a reading slump, ideal as an audiobook, and great companion for walks, chores or sunbathing, whatever you lovely bunch do when listening to audiobooks!

And if you’re not an audio convert yet, this is definitely a perfect one to get started, brilliantly narrated by Julia Franklin!

With the right amount of love and quirkiness, treat yourselves to this easy, funny, sensitive and engaging listen! You will devour it quickly!

With Love
AGJ

Out now with Ulverscroft, available on Audible and other trade download platforms, on the digital library platform ulibrary, and on physical CD and MP3 both in libraries and from th website The Reading House. https://thereadinghouse.co.uk/

About Bella Osborne

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel.

In 2016, her debut novel, ‘It Started At Sunset Cottage’, was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award.

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. Her novels are often serialised in four parts ahead of the full book publication.

Bella believes that writing your own story really is the best fun ever, closely followed by talking, eating chocolate, drinking fizz and planning holidays.

She lives in The Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping).

For more about Bella, visit her website at https://www.bellaosborne.com/ or follow her on Social Media: Twitter: @osborne_bella, Instagram: bellaosborneauthor, Facebook: BellaOsborneAuthor.

Don’t forget to check what my fellow bloggers are saying!

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Thank you so much to Alison Barrow for gifting me this proof, what an absolute triumph! Definitely a strong contender for book of the year 2022!

Synopsis

‘Your ability to change everything – including yourself – starts here’ – Elizabeth Zott.

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Meet the unconventional, uncompromising Elizabeth Zott.

Review

“What I love about rowing […] is that it’s always done backwards. It’s almost as if the sport itself is trying to teach us to not get ahead of ourselves.”

What an absolute gem and a strong contender for debut novel of the year!

Meet Elizabeth Zott. Scientist, mother, lover, rower, she never settles for anything.

Whilst navigating through Elizabeth’s challenges, Bonnie Garmus very wittily paint a portrait of what it was like to be a woman in the 60s, through the eyes of different generations, from Elizabeth to her daughter Madeline, from her dog Six-Thirty to Dr Mason or Father Wakely. 

Each character is a window to different ways of thinking; to prejudices that Elizabeth is intent on fighting. 

Strong, uncompromising, inspirational, you are bound to fall in love with this force of nature. If I’d been one of her contemporary, I would definitely have wanted to be like her, to share her values. 

Teaching hundreds of words to her dog, encouraging free speech and thinking for her daughter, sky is the limit for Elizabeth Zott. She thrives to use science to fix humanity, she simply cannot accept the established order of civilisation. She can’t accept those archaic, outrageous and misogynistic ways of life, stereotypes and biases that society keeps on perpetuating.

“When a boat succeeds, it’s because the people in the boat have managed to set aside their petty differences and physical discrepancies and row as one. Perfect harmony”.

Whether it’s at work, in her love life with Calvin, or with her few friends, she simply is implacable and uncompromising. It all comes down to chemistry. As a result, men fear and despise her, women envy and resent her, but she simply can’t let anyone dictate how to go about her life. 

“People need to believe in something bigger than themselves”

When you don’t fit in, you either comply and compromise, or you stand your ground. When she gets her own cooking show on TV, revolutionising the « Afternoon Depression Zone », her fierceness and intransigent nature will, in spite of herself, empower thousands of women to believe in themselves, to understand their worth, to take back some control. 

This book is a triumph! So compelling, thought provoking, it will challenge you to question subjects you didn’t even know you had to! Philosophical at times, full of clever and subtle thoughts on tough subjects, it will make your brain and your soul sense so many emotions: anger, rage, happiness, sadness, you laugh, you cry but love so much. It is pure joy!

I can’t stop thinking about it, this book is powerful, gripping, endearing, you have got to get yourself a copy. 

With Love,
AGJ

Out now in hardback, audio and e-format.

About Bonnie Garmus

Bonnie Garmus. Photography: Serena Bolton

Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked for a wide range of clients, in the US and abroad, focusing primarily on technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.

The People Next Door by Tony Parsons

Thank you so much Tony for kindly getting your publicist to send me a proof! What a gripping and brilliant new book you have gifted me! So enthralling I couldn’t put it down!

Synopsis

Lana and Roman Wade have fled the city for a little corner of paradise, exchanging their flat with its unhappy memories for a small honey-coloured house among the rolling green hills of Oxfordshire. Their new home, set in a residential Close known as The Gardens, is their dream and their new neighbours are charming. 

So why is Lana feeling so uneasy?

Lana and Roman may seem like an attractive, popular couple. But they are also a couple with a secret; a secret buried in the life they have left behind, a secret they have shared with no-one. 

But their new neighbours – these charming, affluent men and women in the Gardens – have secrets of their own. Terrible secrets; unimaginable secrets that include the apparently happy family who lived – and tragically died – in Lana and Roman’s new home.

As Lana struggles to adjust to her new life in Paradise, she becomes convinced that her new neighbours are hiding something from her, something connected with the deaths of the family who lived in her house before she did, something that could put her own life in danger…

Review

Bad things can – and do – happen everywhere” 

Meet Lana and Roman. 

Desperate to start afresh, and escape their past trauma, they decide to leave the city for this gorgeous house in an idyllic Cotswolds village… too good to be true? The price certainly is! 

So what does that hide..? You might have guessed it, something quite dramatic. 

As they try to settle in and meet their new neighbours, something shifts between them. 

Who are all of those people living in The Gardens? What lies behind their friendliness and neighbourliness? What secrets does this community hold? Who can you trust?

Cleverly switching between Lana and Roman’s points of view, Tony Parsons shares with us a brilliant exploration of the human psyche in the face of tragedy. In this one entity that is the couple, even for people living under the same roof, facing the same events, their respective experiences turn out to be dramatically different. 

As much as Roman tries to fit in, going along with whatever game is being played in this street, Lana slowly descends into madness and paranoia.

Strange things keep on happening, kindness turns into control, the sense of uneasiness grows and grows. 

How does one cope when the line between right and wrong, truth and deceit, is suddenly blurred? How do you pierce behind the masks and pretenses you are faced with? Do you even try to? How far would you go for love, to fit in?

Absolutely gripping, perfectly crafted plot with unexpected twists and turns, complex characters, embedding a love story within a psychological thriller, this book is perfection!

With Love
AGJ

Out now in hardback and e-book with Century Books

About Tony Parsons

Tony Parsons is a bestselling novelist and an award winning journalist. His books have been published in over 40 languages and his multi-million selling novel, Man and Boy, won the Book of the Year prize in 2000. Most recently, he created the Max Wolfe crime series. Tony lives in London with his family.

Edgware Road by Yasmin Cordery Khan – Blog Tour

Thank you so much Amy at Head of Zeus for having me on board! What a special book this was! I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to read this in advance!

Synospis

A wide-ranging and affecting debut novel about family and identity, from an award-winning historian.

1981. Khalid Quraishi is one of the lucky ones. He works nights in the glitzy West End, and comes home every morning to his beautiful wife and daughter. He’s a world away from Karachi and the family he left behind.

But Khalid likes to gamble, and he likes to win. Twenty pounds on the fruit machine, fifty on a sure-thing horse, a thousand on an investment that seems certain to pay out. Now he’s been offered a huge opportunity, a chance to get in early with a new bank, and it looks like he’ll finally have his big win.

2003. Alia Quraishi doesn’t really remember her dad. After her parents’ divorce she hardly saw him, and her mum refuses to talk about her charming ex-husband. So, when he died in what the police wrote off as a sad accident, Alia had no reason to believe there was more going on.

Now almost twenty years have passed and she’s tired of only understanding half of who she is. Her dad’s death alone and miles from his west London stomping ground doesn’t add up with the man she knew. If she’s going to find out the truth about her father – and learn about the other half of herself – Alia is going to have to visit his home, a place she’s never been, and connect with a family that feel more like strangers.

Review

Slow burning but gripping; set between 1987 and 2003; you wittily alternate between Khalid’s point of view then, his daughter Alia’s there and then, and MP Mark Denby’s.

From the very first page, you get sucked in this serious and complex story, which becomes a journey through different cultures, mixing up intricacies of family dynamics, friendships, politics, struggles of immigration, traditions and communities. 

Travel with Alia to Pakistan. Explore the culture and embark on this sensory journey with her. Share her internal struggles towards her family. Accompany her in her quest for answers. 

Discover Khalid’s life in the 80s. Share his dreams and ambitions for the future, his burning desire of richness and grandeur, of making a mark. Follow his struggles as an immigrant, the toughness of finding a job, his battles as a gambling addict, along with the devastating consequences that this can have. 

Delve into the political dynamics, the dilemmas of right and wrong of Mark Denby. Share his family life, his discoveries about the dodgy BCCI bank, his secrets and his demons. 

A very cleverly drafted, very rich story, where the reader gets to peel off layer after layer, page after page, delving into deep and thoroughly crafted characters, a truly pleasant read which I strongly recommend !

With Love
AGJ

Out now with Head of Zeus

About Yasmin Cordery Khan

Twitter Profile Picture

Yasmin Cordery Khan is an historian and broadcaster. She is the author of The Great Partition (for which she won the Gladstone Prize for History), and The Raj at War, and has written for the Guardian and the Observer. Edgware Road is her first novel.

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers are saying!

The House of Sorrowing Stars by Beth Cartwright – Blog Tour

Thank you so much Del Rey for having me on the tour!

Synopsis

How do you heal a broken house? First you unlock its secrets.

Alone on an island, surrounded by flowers that shine as dusk begins to fall, sits an old, faded house. Rooms cannot be rented here and visits are only for those haunted by the memory of loss.

When Liddy receives an invitation, she thinks there must be some mistake – she’s never experienced loss. But with her curiosity stirred, and no other way to escape a life in which she feels trapped, she decides to accept.

Once there, she meets Vivienne, a beautiful, austere woman whose glare leaves Liddy unsettled; Ben, the reserved gardener; and Raphael, the enigmatic Keymaker. If Liddy is to discover her true purpose in the house, she must find the root of their sorrow – but the house won’t give up its secrets so easily…

Review

Thank you ever so much to Marie-Louise and to Del Rey for having me on this tour!

What a triumph! This will definitely be one of my favorite books of 2022. Absolutely stunning!

“The petals of the sorrowing stars were stirring” 

16 years ago, a little girl lost her doll. Little did she know that this was Fate’s doing, or what would come of it. 

Madeleine Harwood (also known as Liddy), relishes in making marchpane with her father. Her family is set on marrying her to a man she has no interest in, so when she receives this mysterious package from a Vivienne Castellini, she knows she’s found a way to escape it all.

But who is this elusive Vivienne, and why would she send her a strange bulb to plant? What is this House of Sorrowing Stars that she is invited to?

As soon as she arrives, she knows that there is more to this than meets the eyes. 

The reader gets to discover this mystical and eerie place alongside Liddy, embarking into an enchanting, yet dangerous journey.

No day is the same, and each carry its load of discoveries. As Liddy meets her hosts and the guests, she slowly understands what this place is about: “a place for grief to go, and the chance to be free from whatever it is you carry – be it guilt, regret, fear or shame.

Through magical and clever writing, you get to feel all the emotions, all the memories through the page. 

But most importantly you get to experience the most special place of all: the enigmatic Library of Lost Souls, and its guardian Eloura. 

“Grief is like an anchor for the soul; it keeps you safe but unmoving”

By reading the stories within, one can free the writers from their sorrows. Having nothing to let go off, will Liddy succeed in freeing the house and its inhabitants of theirs? Can she coax the secrets out of Vivienne, Ben, or The Keymaker? 

Beautiful, atmospheric and haunting, this book is an absolute gem that will take your breath away. It will suck you in from the first page, delight you with all of its unexpected turns, and I can guarantee that as you read that last line, it will not let go of your soul that easily. Magnificent.

With Love
AGJ

Out on 10 February 2022 in hardback, audio and e-format.

About Beth Cartwright

Photo Credit: RHUK

Beth Cartwright has taught English in Greece and travelled around South East Asia and South America, where she worked at an animal sanctuary. A love of language and the imaginary led her to study English Literature and Linguistics at Lancaster University, and she now lives on the edge of the Peak District with her family and two cats. 

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers are saying!

DÁLVI by Laura Galloway – Blog Tour

Thank you so much Gaby at Midas PR and Allen and Unwin for having me on the tour!

Synopsis

An ancestry test suggesting she shared some DNA with the Sámi people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic tundra, tapped into Laura Galloway’s wanderlust; an affair with a Sámi reindeer herder ultimately led her to leave New York for the tiny town of Kautokeino, Norway. When her new boyfriend left her unexpectedly after six months, it would have been easy, and perhaps prudent, to return home. But she stayed for six years.

Dálvi is the story of Laura’s time in a reindeer-herding village in the Arctic, forging a solitary existence as she struggled to learn the language and make her way in a remote community for which there were no guidebooks or manuals for how to fit in. Her time in the North opened her to a new world. And it brought something else as well: reconciliation and peace with the traumatic events that had previously defined her – the sudden death of her mother when she was three, a difficult childhood and her lifelong search for connection and a sense of home.

Both a heart-rending memoir and a love letter to the singular landscape of the region, Dálvi explores with great warmth and humility what it means to truly belong.

Review

The land is resplendent and alive

Through this lovely memoir, full of tenderness and humour, Laura takes us back and forth through her childhood, and the events that shaped her life and tough times, all the way to the depth of “Dálvi”, meaning “winter” in Northern Sami.

An open and honest tale, of someone looking for the meaning of love, on a quest to find themselves. She shares it all: the joys, grief, heartbreaks. Her longing for approval, her desperate need to belong somewhere, to someone. It was fascinating to witness her determination, to find her way and learn to be alone with herself.

What a life she’s led! From a broken family, filled with too much loss too early, working in a hair salon, slowly making her way to The Los Angeles Times all the way to years of immersion in a small village in the Arctic, you cannot help but be inspired. 

“The first rule of dating a reindeer herder: never ask how long they’ll be away.”

I quite enjoyed traveling with Laura, and exploring the richness of a new culture. What a different world it is in the far North, with traditions and family at the core of it all. Maybe I wouldn’t like to live completely in the same way, but it certainly makes you wonder what you could do differently.

About Laura Galloway

Laura Galloway is a writer and communications strategist. She began her career at the Los Angeles Times and holds a Master of Arts in Indigenous Journalism from the Sámi University of Applied Sciences in Kautokeino, Norway, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Southern California. An ardent animal lover, she and her partner live with her two reindeer-herding dogs and two cats.

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers are saying!

Red is My Heart by Antoine Laurain, illustrated by Le Sonneur

Enormous thanks to Isabelle over at Gallic Books for gifting me this incredible book!

Synopsis

How can you mend a broken heart? Do you write a letter to the woman who left you – and post it to an imaginary address? Buy a new watch, to reset your life? Or get rid of the jacket you wore every time you argued, because it was in some way … responsible?

Combining the wry musings of a rejected lover with playful drawings in just three colours – red, black and white – bestselling author of The Red Notebook, Antoine Laurain, and renowned street artist Le Sonneur have created a striking addition to the literature of unrequited love.

Sharp, yet warm, whimsical and deeply Parisian, this is a must for all Antoine Laurain fans.

Review

credit: drawing by Le Sonneur – extract from “Red Is My Heart”

What a clever way to share with us the tribulations of a man’s suffering a heartbreak. 

Through words and art, we are the humble recipient of many representations of the colour red; anger, love, passion, life, war, danger… Our grieving man is seeing red in more than just a way. 

As he meanders through memories, trying to replay instants of a past that will no longer turn into a future, he is forced to process his loss in a beautifully poetic way. 

“I feel that by changing my watch, I will change my concept of time.

Trying to forget through far fetched ideas, what was once familiar is now alien, what was once an “evidence” is a question.

Does time heal all wounds? 

This book is a true beauty, the feelings pouring out of the pages, thanks to witty words and expressive drawings.

One to read and re-read without moderation. 

And for my fellow French readers, ce livre s’intitule “Et Mon Cœur Se Serra”

With Love
AGJ

Out now with Gallic Books

credit: drawing by Le Sonneur – extract from “Red Is My Heart”

About Antoine Laurain

Antoine Laurain lives in Paris. His award-winning novels have been translated into fourteen languages and have sold more than 200,000 copies in English. The President’s Hat was a Waterstones Book Club and Indies Introduce Selection, and The Red Notebook was on the Indie Next List.

About Le Sonneur

Le Sonneur is a contemporary Parisian artist. His work tells the story of Paris and the people who live there. His artwork is often placed in public spaces with an invitation to passers-by to interact with the work, for example by picking up a key or calling a telephone number.

As well as in Paris, his work has been exhibited in Tokyo, Berlin, Melbourne and Dubai.

The Unravelling by Polly Crosby – Blog Tour

A big thank you to the team over at HQ for having me on the blog tour! This book was simply stunning and will undoubtedly haunt me for weeks to come. Beautifully written and compelling, I am a fan of Polly’s words and having not read The Illustrated Child, I will definitely make sure to find a spot for it on my 2022 TBR pile. 

Synopsis

When Tartelin Brown accepts a job with the reclusive Marianne Stourbridge, she finds herself on a wild island with a mysterious history.

Tartelin is tasked with hunting butterflies for Marianne’s research. But she quickly uncovers something far more intriguing than the curious creatures that inhabit the landscape.

Because the island and Marianne share a remarkable history, and what happened all those years ago has left its scars, and some terrible secrets.

As Tartelin pieces together Marianne’s connection to the island, she must confront her own reasons for being there. Can the two women finally face up to the painful memories that bind them so tightly to the past?

Atmospheric and deeply emotional, The Unravelling is the captivating novel from the author of The Illustrated Child.

Review

The sea is made up of unspeakable sadness

1927: on their hauntingly beautiful island, the Stourbridge family seem to prosper. Marianne loves spending time with her father, chasing after butterflies, studying them, collecting them. But as he decides to expand his business interests beyond herring fishing, he begins to grow more distant. He wants Marianne to inherit his new silkworm venture, his magnanery. And to manage it, he brings in a new girl from France: Nan. Enigmatic and knowledgeable, she will trigger Marianne out of her boundaries, out of childhood, and shake her world for ever. 

2018: Marianne is back onto the island after it was requisitioned during the war. Now much older and incapacitated, she is looking for an assistant to help her pursue her lepidopterist’s interests, studying mutations that have occurred here since she left. She is a recluse, difficult to interact with, a very complex character, hiding many hardships and an immense grief behind her tough facade. 

When Tartelin arrives and starts working for her, she becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her, her history. Mourning herself the recent passing of her adoptive mother, this peculiar place without electricity or internet, disconnected from the rest of the world, is the perfect escape from the pain. 

She is forced to face the horrible reality that the one special person in her life is no longer with her. Always an outsider, with her ever so special ruffle of skin on her cheek, she connected with her mother in a way not many people ever will. 

“It is impossible to watch someone you love die” 

Tartelin’s sorrow becomes more and more palpable as she embarks on this therapeutic journey within this ethereal refuge. She feels a growing connection with this strange woman and her island. The more she explores, trying to coax Marianne along out of her shell, the more she hopes to soothe the pains, put the ghosts to rests, unravel the mysteries surrounding this place and its inhabitants. As she hunts butterflies, she also hunts for the truth; about Marianne, about the island, about herself, about life.  

The pull of it. Magnetic. As if it wants me to search out its secrets.” 

Unearthing secrets page after page, opening windows into the past, you get to delve deep into the protagonists’s feelings, their evolving relationship, and it makes you question your own relationship to nature, to life and death. 

Polly Crosby’s writing is absolute perfection. The story unfolds in such a poetic way, the words so delicate, touching you with the fragility of butterfly wings, something about it reaching out deep into your emotions, into the extraordinary depth of the characters, allowing you to feel the grief, the briefness of life, the atmospheric island and the magic of it all. Stunning.

There is something immensely sad about this book, but it is also full of hope. As much as things mutate, some things remain the same, like anchors. Once the island takes a hold of you, it will never let you go.

With Love
AGJ

Out now with HQ Stories

About Polly Crosby

After a whirlwind of a year which saw Polly receive writing scholarships from both Curtis Brown Creative and The University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, she went on to be runner up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel. Read Polly’s piece for the Bridport Prize’s blog here.

Polly’s novel was snapped up by HarperCollins HQ in the UK and Commonwealth in a 48 hour pre-empt, and a few days later by HarperCollins Park Row Books in North America.

Polly grew up on the Suffolk coast, and now lives in the heart of Norfolk with her husband and son, and her very loud and much loved rescue Oriental cat, Dali.

The Illustrated Child is her first novel. Her second novel, The Unravelling, is out on 6th January ‘22.

Check out what my fellow bloggers are saying

The Book of Sand by Theo Clare – Blog Tour

Thank you so much Isabelle and Century Books for inviting me to take part in this tour. What a fascinating and gripping read!

I was quite moved to discover that Theo Clare (aka Mo Hayder) died from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in July 2021, as it is unfortunately a subject very close to home, with someone in my family affected by the very same disease, and degrading slowly everyday, making it sometimes quite unbearable to watch, and forever heartbreaking.

As the book is dedicated to this cause, I am inviting you to look up what this atrocious illness is here: https://www.mndassociation.org/. It isn’t as known as it should be and for the time being, no cure has been found and many people are suffering every day.

Now, onto this fabulous book, which deserves to be read and re-read, and I cannot wait for the publication of the next installment. We were lucky that the author managed to write it before passing away and it shouldn’t be in vain.

Synopsis

Enter a world of simmering heat and shifting sands.

Where danger lies around every corner.

Where death lurks as night falls,

And you will kill – just to stay alive …

Outlines of several once-busy cities shimmer on the horizon. Now empty of inhabitants, their buildings lie in ruins.

In the distance a group of people – a family – walk towards us.

Ahead lies shelter: a ‘shuck’ the family call home and which they know they must reach before the light fails, as to be out after dark is to invite danger and almost certain death.

To survive in this alien world of shifting sand, they must find an object hidden in or near water. But other families want it too. And they are willing to fight to the death to make it theirs.

It is beginning to rain in Fairfax County, Virginia when McKenzie Strathie wakes up. An ordinary teenage girl living an ordinary life – except that the previous night she found a sand-lizard in her bed, and now she’s beginning to question everything around her, especially who she really is …

Two very different worlds featuring a group of extraordinary characters driven to the very limit of their endurance in a place where only the strongest will survive.

Review

Everything about this story is a test, about pushing the limits and the boundaries.

Meet the Dormilones, Spider, Elk, Amasha, Splendour, Noor and the others, a peculiar family not related by blood. All so distinct, from different part of the worlds, alternative backgrounds and upbringings, having nothing in common but the fact that they were chosen. But by whom? And why? 

Sent to this hostile desert, this “Cirque” and its invisible borders, to find a mysterious object known as “The Sarkpont“, they’ll have to be fierce and relentless in their search. They’ll have to dig deep into their past, their previous lives, their individual skillsets. Time is of the essence and unity is key, their survival depends on it. 

Within this terrifying and ever evolving world, heat and sun are as much a friend as an enemy. The rules are brutal, no space for self doubt or pity. Children won’t be soothed if they cry, injured won’t get a rest if they need to. They have to keep going, never stop, for they’ll face terrible peril if they do. Dangers can arise from anywhere, and the vile “Djinni“, creatures of the night, will keep coming for them. 

Meanwhile, back in Virginia, when she is visited at night by a lizard, McKenzie starts questioning her sanity and who she really is. Junior in high school, with exceptional abilities and dreaming of Caltech, she’s never felt quite right, never thought that she belonged. 

Always at odds with her brothers and the other students, she is obsessed with sand, dunes, the world around her. She has always been at one with the weather, read clouds, always the outsider, bullied, mocked, but also feared. 

More strange events keep happening and her whole world starts to unravel when presenting her science project, she uses her lizard that no one else can see… no one except for Newt… Can he really see it too? Or does she have skyzophrenia or a brain tumor as the doctors seem to think? 

As those parallel worlds and lives unfold, all the characters are put to the test, questioning their purpose, their raison d’être. What are they supposed to do? Can they make it to the end? Can they find what they’re looking for? 

This book is so cleverly crafted, and the twists and turns totally unexpected. So well rounded that I guarantee you’ll get addicted from the very first page. It’s a fantastic start to the series and I cannot wait to read what comes next as this first installment very wittily offered us the premises of a fabulous saga. 

With Love
AGJ

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Out now with Century Books

About Theo Clare

Mo Hayder in Bath, 2010. Her books about the troubled detective Jack Caffery earned her legions of fans. Photograph: Christopher Jones/Rex/Shutterstock

THEO CLARE left school at fifteen. She worked as a barmaid, security guard, filmmaker, hostess in a Tokyo club, educational administrator and teacher of English as a foreign language in Asia. She had an MA in film from The American University in Washington, DC and an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University, UK. She wrote crime novels under the name Mo Hayder, and her fifth novel Ritual was nominated for the Barry Award for Best Crime 2009 and was voted Best Book of 2008 by Publishers Weekly. Gone, her seventh novel, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and her novel Wolf was nominated for Best Novel in the 2015 Edgar Awards and is currently being adapted for the BBC. Theo Clare was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in December 2020 and passed away in July 2021.

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