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.

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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.

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. 

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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.

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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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The Intersection by Catherine Grace – Blog Tour

Thank you very much Erin and the team over at Jasami Publishing for having me on this tour!

Synopsis

The story of a young woman haunted by the memory of her dead husband, who has not left her home in three years. Suddenly she is being stalked by her husband’s doppelgänger and someone is attempting to kill her. With her friends’ help, Em searches to solve the question of the mystery man. How did Peter really die? And will she find the answer before the killer strikes for the last time? 

Review

“It was her way to live life on the outside without ever having to go out into the world that had taken so much from her. She knew if she stayed safe inside she would not feel the loss, the devastating pain that engulfed the outside world.”

Em hasn’t been outside in years. She will not leave this flat, designed by her late husband Peter. She tries and keep his memory alive, amongst his things, to the exact specifications he wanted.

She cannot bring herself to face the outside world. It is brought to her daily by her friends Stefan, Sarah and Tommy.

As a writer, she draws her inspiration through what she calls “Her Intersection” = gazing from her window and watching people, imagining their lives, their hopes, their dreams. Which way will they go? Left? Right? What are they thinking? How will this simple choice affect their lives?

It is far easier for Em to imagine that live her own life. That is until Derek shows up. Who is Derek? Once pretending to be Peter himself, having survived, once introducing himself as Peter’s long lost twin brother… which one is it (if any)? And who is that mysterious dark and petite woman spotted with him?

As Em’s world gets shrouded in mystery, she will find herself at an intersection of her own, having no choice but to try and uncover the truth behind Peter’s accident; forcing her to take uncomfortable decisions, move on with her life and getting to know more about this enigmatic neighbour of hers Stefan.

This title was first published in 2020 with Jasami and has now been tweaked and relaunched to give Cathrine the tour she deserves. Overall a lovely mystery / whodunnit, centered about friendship, love, touching upon mental illness is a very poetic manner, keeping you guessing with the right balance of suspense.

With Love
AGJ

About Catherine Grace

Catherine Grace was a journalist, wrote computer  tutorials, and worked international corporate events. Her creative outlet was always creating stories. Inspired by one of her professors she decided to put pen-to-paper or in her case fingertips to keyboard and write what she loves: mysteries.

The reason she selected Jasami Publishing Ltd to assist with her first publication is that it aligned with her personal ethos, to give back to the community. Catherine resides in Scotland.

The Memory Box by Kathryn Hughes

A very big thank you to Rosie Margesson for my copy of this wonderful book! It’s out now with Headline Review.

Synopsis

Jenny Tanner opens the box she has cherished for decades. Contained within are her most precious mementoes, amongst them a pebble, a carving and a newspaper cutting she can hardly bear to read. But Jenny knows the time is finally here. After the war, in a mountainside village in Italy, she left behind a piece of her heart. However painful, she must return to Cinque Alberi. And lay the past to rest.

After a troubled upbringing, Candice Barnes dreams of a future with the love of her life – but is he the man she believes him to be? When Candice is given the opportunity to travel to Italy with Jenny, she is unaware the trip will open her eyes to the truth she’s been too afraid to face. Could a place of goodbyes help her make a brave new beginning?

Thoughts

Remarkable! I really didn’t expect to be swept away like that!

Kathryn’s writing is beautiful and easy, she transports you instantly within this wonderful story of love and loss, where you get to meet 2 amazingly endearing, flawed and relatable main characters.

Jenny is 100 years old, and knows that time is running out. Her most prized possession is this hand carved wooden box, made with love, offered out of love, and filled with love. As she takes her loving Green Meadows’s carer Candice though those few precious items, she gets to share her life story. 

And what a life she has led! Candice unknowingly becomes the guardian of Jenny’s adventures, griefs, losses, love stories, sufferings, joys and regrets. We get privy to terrible ordeals from the dark part of our history that is WWII, signing an implicit pact that the sacrifices that happened should never be forgotten, and making you wonder what you would have done in the same situation. 

Kathryn Hughes wittily alternates different narrations, and different timelines, keeping us on our toes. 

In the 1940s you follow Jenny being sent away to Wales with her little brother Louis to ensure their safety as WWII is raging; but even amongst adversity, she still managed to meet the love of her life, Nico, for whom she will sacrifice everything, including break the heart of her new Welsh family. 

Nico, the beautiful, dark and mysterious type, declared enemy alien by Churchill simply for being an Italian in the United Kingdom. This offers the reader an insight into a lesser known side of WWII (at least from my perspective). Italy fought too, and from within, against the fascists and “Il Duce“, thanks to very brave men and women known as partisans.  

As Jenny shares deeper and darker memories with Candice, back in our 2019 present, she subtly helps this simple and caring girl detangle herself from the web of lies and abuses her boyfriend Beau has created around her, whilst hoping to take Candice along to one last trip to Italy.

God I despised him so much! Through Beau’s character and behaviour, Kathryn demonstrates the subtle face abuse can take. It shows the hurt and danger words can represent – violence isn’t simply physical, it can take many forms, including devious comments, implied threats, lies and manipulation. It infuriated me so much to witness Candice’s blindness and submissive acceptance to it all! 

The dynamic between those 2 women is stunningly portrayed. Both freeing each other from the darkness in their lives, liberating themselves of regrets, protecting each other, without even realising it.

Through the exploration and explanation of the significance of the items in Jenny’s memory box, the story unravels for both of them, taking twists and turns that I never expected! I, for one, was truly blindsided by the denouement. 

Such a clever, thought provoking and heartwarming story, I strongly recommend it!

With Love
AGJ

–About the Author – Kathryn Hughes–

Kathryn Hughes was born near Manchester, UK in 1964. After thirty years working as a secretary and bringing up two children, she finally realised her dream of writing a book. Her debut novel, The Letter, set in her home town, was first published in 2013 and since then has become an international best-seller, translated into 30 languages.

“The Lost Girls” by Heather Young – Blog Tour

Thank you so much Hollie over at Verve Books for inviting me on this tour! This was such a wonderful discovery, Heather Young is definitely a new author to watch, I cannot wait to read her second novel “The Distant Dead” due to be published in Spring 2022!

Synopsis–

In 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys the family – her father takes his own life, and her mother and two older sisters spend the rest of their lives at the lake house, keeping a decades-long vigil for the lost child. Sixty years later, Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before her death, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person who might care: her grandniece, Justine. For Justine, the lake house offers freedom and stability – a way to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the home she never had. But the long Minnesota winter is just beginning. The house is cold and dilapidated. The dark, silent lake is isolated and eerie. Her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more about the summer of 1935 than he’s telling.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives to steal her inheritance, and the man she left launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house haunted by the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.

Review

“The things we do for love are the hardest things to regret.”

What a truly impressive debut!

Heather Young transports you with so much ease and through beautiful writing to this mysterious lake in Minnesota. She wittily brings out every little detail of the lives of the Evans’s girls – past, present, future.

Alternating between Lucy’s and Justine’s stories, you get to meet all the protagonists, who drag you in this fabulous family portrait, however dysfunctional it is, analysing the cause and effect of their actions, their choices, the secrets they keep and the price they paid.  

Through Lily, you share history, ever so slowly pulling the thread, unravelling the mystery of what happened to her sister Emily. Poor little Emily, overprotected by their mother, despised by her sisters, adored by her father. As Lucy exorcises her demons, freeing herself from her regrets, you share the weights of the secrets, you become part of this “last summer” when everything changed, connecting with her fate.

Through her eyes, you understand the bonds of the past, with her sister Lilith, the Miller bothers their neighbours, and Justine’s mother: Maurie, who left the lake as soon as she could, never to return. 

Through Justine, you get to grow and evolve, trying to learn lessons from the past, witnessing how her ancestors have shaped her future through their destiny, how the choices we make impact future generations, how it impacts our roots and behaviours, showing how what is unconsciously passed down can manifest in different ways, but more importantly how one can shake things around. 

It is so easy to fall into old habits, mirroring what we have seen done all of our lives; through understanding where we come from, we can hope to move forward in the right direction. With Lucy’s inheritance, Justine is given the chance to start over, to escape the toxic relationship she is in, but more importantly the chance to find herself, and give to her daughters what none of the Evans girls ever had. 

“Please remember […] all of us. We are the ghosts of lives stolen and lives never lived.”

Atmospheric, gripping, thought provoking, I can only praise this book! Such a beautiful story about family, love, tragedy, building tension throughout and never letting you down!

With Love
AGJ

Out now with Verve Books 

About the Author – Heather Young

HEATHER YOUNG is the author of two novels. Her debut, The Lost Girls, won the Strand Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for an Edgar Award. Her second novel, The Distant Dead has also been nominated for the 2021 Edgar Award for Best Novel. A former antitrust and intellectual property litigator, she traded the legal world for the literary one and earned her MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars in 2011. She lives in Mill Valley, California, where she writes, bikes, hikes, and reads books by other people that she wishes she’d written.

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Lemon by Kwon Yeo-Sun, translated by Janet Hong

Thank you so much to Jade over at Head of Zeus for having me on this tour! What a fabulous book, so refreshing and peculiar! I had to read it twice to really appreciate it – I cannot say I am familiar with Korean literature, but this has definitely piqued my interest!

Synopsis

In the summer of 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became known as the High School Beauty Murder. There were two suspects: Shin Jeongjun, who had a rock-solid alibi, and Han Manu, to whom no evidence could be pinned. The case went cold.

Seventeen years pass without justice, and the grief and uncertainty take a cruel toll on her younger sister, Da-on, in particular. Unable to move on with her life, Da-on tries in her own twisted way to recover some of what she’s lost, ultimately setting out to find the truth of what happened.

Told at different points in time from the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on’s classmates, Lemon is a piercing psychological portrait that takes the shape of a crime novel and is a must-read novel of 2021.

Review

What happened? 

This is the main question posed by Yeo-Sun in this very short, but ever so clever book. 

More specifically, what happened to the deceased Hae-on? Accident? Murder? What happened to the people she left behind after her death?

This novel is simply fascinating. A cross between genres, a hybrid beauty, where crime mystery meets psychological drama. Very witty.

The imagination is just as painful as reality. No, it’s more painful. After all, what you imagine has no limit or end.”

Be prepared to let yours run wild as you follow the different characters’ thoughts. You might answer this main question, you might not, you might think you have, but in any event, you will not stop thinking about it. 

Yeo-Sun throws clues at you, as much as she throws you off. Every chapter brings its share of questions and shattered beliefs. 

She delves into the psychology in the face of loss, and dissect how each protagonist filled the void left by Hae-on’s death. It pushes the reader to reflect on the impact of death on their life and behaviors, showing you very subtly how it can shape the future = different degrees of guilt escalating to different degrees of madness. Lines between right or wrong become blurry. 

Was Hae-on somehow punished for her breathtaking beauty? Her nonchalance?

A suspect fleeing to America shortly after… out of guilt? Or simple opportunity?

Why was Hae-on in Shin Jeongjun’s car? Why didn’t she come home that night?

What does Yun Taerim know? Did she see anything? She was so envious, jealous of Hae-on. When she died, she could shine again… but at what price? 

Was Han Manu a simple witness? Was he involved? Or was he then as unlucky as he seems to have been his whole life?

How far will Da-on go to keep her sister alive ? To come close to some truth? Having had no other choice but to assume responsibility for the household from childhood, she bears the guilt to the same level, if not higher, than her mother. How does one live through something like this? What does it take to stop “falling”?

Life has no special meaning. […] Life begins without reason and ends without reason.”

So many questions, not always straight answers. This novel will force you to analyse every little detail and find your own personal way through the story. Packed with a hell of a punch, thought-provoking, and eliciting a wide range of feelings and emotions, I can only recommend you pick this up, I am confident it isn’t like anything you’ve read before!

With Love
AGJ

Out now with Head of Zeus in Hardback and e-book.

About the Author – Kwon Yeo-Sun

Kwon Yeo-sun is an award-winning Korean writer. She has won the Sangsang Literary Award, Oh Yeongsu Literature Award, Yi Sang Literary Prize, Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, Tong-ni Literature Prize and Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award. Lemon is her first novel to be published in the English language.

About the Translator – Janet Hong

Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. She received the TA First Translation Prize and the LTI Korea Translation Award for her translation of Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale, which was also a finalist for both the 2018 PEN Translation Prize and the National Translation Award. Her recent translations include Ha Seong-nan’s Bluebeard’s First Wife, Ancco’s Nineteen, and Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s Grass.

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