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

AD PR PRODUCT
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 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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QUICK READS 2022

Today, Tuesday 9 November 2021, the amazing Reading Agency is revealing the covers of the fantastic stories that will be published next year as part of their incredible initiative aimed at tackling adult literacy crisis!

I am really proud to have been invited by Midas PR to join in on spreading the word and it is my pleasure to share below the press release, along with some exciting peak into the 2022 titles!!

Happy reading!
With love
AGJ

THE READING AGENCY REVEALS QUICK READS COVERS AND HOW THOUSANDS OF FREE ‘BUY ONE, GIFT ONE’ BOOKS ARE SPREADING THE JOY OF READING

14 April 2022 | www.readingagency.org.uk | #QuickReads | @readingagency

The Reading Agency has unveiled the eye-catching covers for the Quick Reads stories publishing on 14 April 2022, written by M.W. Craven, Paula Hawkins, Ayisha Malik, Santa Montefiore, Kate Mosse, Graham Norton, Lemn Sissay and Alex Wheatle.

Forming part of the life-changing literacy programme tackling the UK’s adult literacy crisis by helping less confident readers start reading, these eight, new short books will also be included in the World Book Night 2022 list.

The Reading Agency has also shared the many ways in which the 36,000 copies of this year’s Quick Reads titles donated as part of the 15th anniversary ‘Buy One Gift One’ campaign have reached those who struggle with reading or have limited access to books. 

From August to October, tens of thousands of free books were distributed to local authorities, libraries, prisons, adult learning organisations and community-based charities around the country. The ‘Quick Reads’ short stories by best-selling authors Louise Candlish, Katie Fforde, Peter James, Caitlin Moran, Oyinkan Braithwaite and Khurrum Rahman have been encouraging new readers at food banks, homeless shelters, literacy classes, refugee groups as well as those in prison, to find the pleasure and benefits that come from reading.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, said: ‘Thanks to the support and generosity of our Quick Reads publishers and the close collaboration of our many partners, including the generous support of Jojo Moyes, tens of thousands of these transformative stories have been put directly into the hands of those who need them the most helping progress of our mission to break down barriers to reading, and spread the joy of books to new audiences.’

‘Buy One, Gift One’

This year’s ‘Buy One, Gift One’ campaign helps The Reading Agency to get copies of these transformative books into the hands of those that need them most, particularly those who have experienced acute hardship throughout the pandemic. This year, thousands of free books are being distributed in partnership with libraries and other organisations who are providing frontline support, including homelessness charities, food banks, prisons, and Young Offender Institutions.

Libraries in Newham, an east London borough facing significant problems in poverty and inequality, are gifting books to services supporting young people experiencing mental health issues and running functional skills courses. These include local Youth Zones, Newham Youth Offending Team, Supported Living, Adult Learning Services, the Newham Food Alliance and Colleges of Further Education.

Councillor Charlene McLean, Deputy Mayor and Lead Member for Resident Participation and Engagement, Newham Council said: ‘Here in Newham we are really excited to be gifting The Baby is Mine by Oyinkan Braithwaite, through our Adult Learning Service, Supported Living Schemes, Youth Zones and Youth Offending Teams. By gifting through these routes we aim to reach those adults and young people who would benefit most from a Quick Read, discovering, perhaps for the first time, a book that is accessible end engaging with no pressure to read it and no one judging their reading ability. We really hope that by gifting the right book, for the right person at the right time, our donations will help our selected residents to develop a love of reading and further improve their literacy skills.’

Krystal Vittles, Head of Service Delivery, Suffolk Libraries, said: ‘At Suffolk Libraries’ we decided to gift from our static libraries as well as through our prison libraries to ensure these fantastic books made an impact, and hopefully spread a little joy. We also worked with our partners at Suffolk County Council to gift these books through local foodbanks as a gift for people who are experiencing tough times. We believe that reading, literacy and access to books is a fundamental human right and so we’re always keen to be part of initiatives like this to spread the love of reading.’ 

Oldham Libraries have distributed copies to the Oldham Council Emerging Communities Team, the Local Authority Asylum Support Liaison Officers, the Oldham Lifelong Learning Centre – who deliver literacy skills courses – and the Oldham Street Angels, who provide food, clothing, shelter and support to Oldham’s homeless. 

Jacqueline Widdowson, Senior Library Officer, Oldham Libraries, said: ‘We plan to work with our local homeless charity, The Street Angels. Many of Oldham’s homeless people already use our libraries and are big readers. It will be nice to encourage both current and lapsed readers to enjoy the escapism and warmth of taking yourself outside of your current experience through reading.’

– Ends –

About Quick Reads 2022 Titles (14 April 2022)

M.W. Craven, The Cutting Season (Hachette, Constable)

M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals… M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can usually be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country. www.mwcraven.com

MW Craven said: “In my sixteen-year career in the probation service I witnessed the devastating impact of illiteracy and low-level literacy on an almost daily basis. From the first-time offender being unable to read the community order he was being asked to sign, to the coping mechanisms and the myriad excuses used to avoid reading out loud on the offending-behaviour courses we ran. Many of these men and women had basic reading skills, but little to no confidence, and that is why the Quick Reads programme is such a wonderful thing. Reading is such a vital part of communication and I couldn’t say yes to being involved fast enough.”

Poe’s just hanging out on a Saturday afternoon… Hanging from a hook in a meat packing plant isn’t how Washington Poe wants to spend his weekend. He’s been punched and kicked, and when the Pale Man arrives it seems things will soon go from bad to worse. The Pale Man is a contract killer, and he and his razor are feared all over London. But Poe knows two things the Pale Man doesn’t. And now things are about to get interesting…

Paula Hawkins, Blind Spot (Penguin Random House, Transworld, Doubleday)

credit Phoebe Grigor

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before writing her first book. Paula was born and brought up in Zimbabwe. She moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. Her first thriller, The Girl on the Train, has sold 23 million copies worldwide. Published in over forty languages, it has been a Number 1 bestseller around the world and was a box office hit film starring Emily Blunt. Paula’s second thriller, Into the Water, and her latest book, A Slow Fire Burning, were also instant Number 1 bestsellers. 

Paula Hawkins said: “I jumped at the opportunity to write a Quick Reads. Reading is such a joy for me – it has been since childhood. Books have formed the cornerstone of many of my friendships; they connect me to people and places I might never go. They’re fundamental to my understanding of the world. But I’m acutely aware that, for all sorts of reasons, people might struggle with reading, so it’s a great privilege to be invited to write a Quick Reads. I can only hope that Blind Spot will help someone else discover the pure pleasure that can be found within the pages of a favourite book.”

‘How can you say things like this? How can you be so blind?’ Since they were kids, Edie, Jake and Ryan have been the closest of friends. It’s been the three of them against the world. Edie thought the bonds between them were unbreakable. So when Jake is brutally murdered and Ryan accused of the crime, her world is shattered. Edie is alone for the first time in years, living in the remote house that she and Jake shared. She is grief-stricken and afraid – with good reason. Because someone is watching. Someone has been waiting for this moment. Now that Edie is alone, the past she tried so hard to leave behind is about to catch up with her…

Ayisha Malik, Sofia Khan: The Baby Blues (Headline, Review) 

credit Ailah Ahmed

Ayisha Malik was born and raised in South London and is a lover of books (obviously), and writer of contemporary fiction. A former publicist at Penguin Random House, turned managing editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, turned full-time writer. Her debut novel, Sofia Khan is not Obliged, and its sequel, The Other Half of Happiness, (Zaffre), were dubbed as the ‘Muslim Bridget Jones.’ Her latest novel, This Green and Pleasant Land, (Zaffre) is out now. She has also contributed to the anthology, A Change is Gonna Come, (Stripes Publishing), and upcoming collection, A Match Made in Heaven, (Hope Road Publishing). Malik is also known for ghost-writing Great British Bake Off winner, Nadiya Hussain’s, adult books. www.ayishamalik.com

Ayisha Malik said: “Growing up, reading was such a huge part of my understanding of the world and myself. That experience should be available to everyone and Quick Reads is a brilliant way of trying to make that happen. I’m honoured to be a part of something so crucial, and to have had such fun with the story along the way.”

Sofia Khan is going about everything the wrong way. At least, that’s what her mother, Mehnaz, thinks. Sofia is twice-divorced, homeless and – worst of all – refusing to give up on a fostered baby girl. Sofia’s just not behaving like a normal woman should. Sofia doesn’t see it like that. She’s planning to adopt Millie, and she’s sure it’ll be worth it. (Even if it means she and Millie have to stay at Mehnaz’s place for a while.) And as Sofia finally begins to live the life she’s chosen, she finds both romance and happiness start to blossom.But then someone comes back from the past – and not even Sofia’s own past. Suddenly, she’s faced with a choice. To do what’s best for those she loves, Sofia might have to break her own heart. And she might find herself needing the last person she expected…

Santa Montefiore, The Kiss (Simon & Schuster) 

credit Laura Aziz

Santa Montefiore’s books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages and have sold more than six million copies in England and Europe. She is the bestselling author of The Temptation of Gracie and the Deverill series, among many others. She is married to writer Simon Sebag Montefiore. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha, in London. santamontefiore.co.uk

Santa Montefiore said: “The main reason that I write is to entertain. It gives me enormous pleasure to know that people enjoy my stories. It’s what drives me and propels me from book to book. However, I’m aware that there are many people out there who might find my novels too long or perhaps too densely written for their tastes. That’s why I agreed to write a story for Quick Reads. It gives those readers who wouldn’t normally pick up one of my novels the opportunity to give me a go. With this in mind, I wanted to write something special for them. I know how much my readers love stories based in Italy, so I set mine in Tuscany, and I made sure that I added all the things they enjoy, like romance and mystery, into the mix. It was a story, based on a true story I had heard, that I had been sitting on for a while and wasn’t sure what to do with. So, in a way, Quick Reads benefited both me as well as their readers, because I was able to use this gem of an idea which was too small for a larger book. I thank Quick Reads for inviting me to write for them, and my readers, longstanding and new, who enable me to do what I love doing best.  I really hope they are entertained and perhaps, if they are, I might have the opportunity to write for them again.”

Sometimes your biggest mistake can also be a blessing… Madison has always known she had a different father to her siblings. But it wasn’t until she turned eighteen that she learned his name. And now she wants to meet the man who shares her fair hair and blue eyes: Robert. Robert is a very lucky man. A big house, beautiful wife, three handsome sons. Eighteen years ago, he made a mistake. A brief fling that resulted in a daughter nobody knows about. Robert must finally tell his family the truth. Will they ever be able to forgive him and accept Madison as one of their own?

Kate Mosse, The Black Mountain (Macmillan, Pan Books)

Kate Mosse is an award-winning novelist, playwright and non-fiction writer, the author of six novels and short story collections, including the multimillion-selling Languedoc Trilogy – Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel – and number one bestselling Gothic fiction The Winter Ghosts and The Taxidermist’s Daughter. Her books have been translated into thirty-seven languages and published in more than forty countries. The Founder Director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, she is also the Deputy Chair of the National Theatre in London. Kate divides her time between Chichester in West Sussex and Carcassonne in south-west France. www.katemosse.co.uk

Kate Mosse said: “I wrote my first Quick Read in 2009 and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my writing life.  Meeting new readers, many of whom were just starting to fall in love with stories on the page, transformed how I thought about storytelling, about language and about the barriers some people face to engaging with fiction.  It made me question how I wrote, and why I wrote, and I’ve been grateful for everything I learnt because of it. The programme is exceptional – always innovative, always exciting, always finding ways to support literacy but also to give emerging readers access to the widest possible range of books.  It genuinely changes lives and it’s an honour to be part of the 2022 list.”

It is May, 1706. Ana, a young Spanish woman, lives in a small town on the north-west coast of Tenerife with her mother and twin younger brothers. The town is in the shadow of a mighty volcano, which legend says has the devil living inside it. However, there has been no eruption for thousands of years and no one believes it is a threat. One day, Ana notices that the air feels strange and heavy, that the birds have stopped singing. Tending the family vineyard, a sudden strange tremor in the earth frightens her. Very soon it will be a race against time for Ana to help persuade the town that they are in danger and should flee before the volcano erupts and destroys their world. Will they listen? And Ana herself faces another danger…

‘A powerful storyteller with an abundant imagination’ Daily Telegraph

Graham Norton, The Swimmer (Hodder, Coronet)

credit Sophia Spring

Graham Norton is one of the UK’s most treasured comedians and presenters. Born in Clondalkin, a suburb of Dublin, Norton’s first big TV appearance was as Father Noel Furlong on Channel 4’s Father Ted in the early 1990s. He then secured a prime time slot on Channel 4 with his chat shows So Graham Norton and V Graham Norton. Known for his quick wit Graham began hosting a variety of talent shows on BBC One from Strictly Dance Fever and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? to The Eurovision Song Contest and BAFTAs. Graham was soon approached by the BBC to front his own self-titled chat show The Graham Norton Show in 2007. Graham Norton has won 9 BAFTAs for Best Entertainment Performance, and Best Entertainment Programme. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, a show on BBC Radio 2 every Saturday, and is a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Norton won the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards in 2017. Graham’s third novel will be published in hardback, eBook, and audiobook in October. 

Graham Norton said: “Being involved with Quick Reads was a huge pleasure as well as a real challenge. I loved the discipline involved in shaping a story that was accessible at the same time as being exciting, emotional and hopefully rewarding. Books and stories are an extraordinary escape for so many and I am thrilled to work with Quick Reads in helping to unlock the world of words for new readers.”

Helen is a retired teacher living on the Irish coast. She enjoys the peace and quiet – despite the burden of Margaret, her unpleasant sister. Margaret arrived three years ago for a short holiday, but somehow managed to stay and worm her way into Helen’s life. One day, Helen sees a man struggling in the sea and decides to investigate. She doesn’t quite know what it is, but something about it feels very strange…

Lemn Sissay, My Name Is Why (abridged) (Canongate)

credit Aida Muluneh

Lemn Sissay MBE is a BAFTA nominated international prize winning writer. He was awarded an MBE for services to literature by The Queen of England, The Pen Pinter Prize and a Points of Light Award from The Prime Minister. Google “Lemn Sissay” and all the hits will be about him. There’s only one person in the world called Lemn Sissay.www.lemnsissay.com

Lemn Sissay said: “This is why I wrote My Name Is Why. Family is a collection of stories between one group of people over a life time. For some it is an anthology of disputed tales over a lifetime.  Families can uphold what they believe to be a fact which is in fact pure fiction. What matters most of all is harmony: the truth has little to do with it. The same could be said for storytelling. I wrote My Name Is Why because no member of my family knew who I was or what I had been through. I have found an extended family in the readers of my book and I am thankful to every one of them.”

An abridgement of his bestselling memoir of the same name.  How does a government steal a child and then imprison him? How does it keep it a secret? This story is how. This story is true. My Name Is Why is a true story about growing up in care and fighting to succeed despite the cruelty and failures of the care system.

Alex Wheatle, Witness (Serpent’s Tail)

credit Anne Mortensen

Born in 1963 to Jamaican parents, Wheatle spent much of his childhood in a Shirley Oaks children’s home. He wrote lyrics about everyday Brixton life. By 1980 Wheatle was living in a social services hostel in Brixton, South London. He participated in the 1981 Brixton riots and aftermath. While serving time in prison he took to reading. His first novel, Brixton Rock, was published to critical acclaim by BlackAmber Books in 1999. Following the publication of his second novel, he turned his attention to writing YA fiction and has won a number of awards, including the 2016 Guardian Children’s Fiction Award. www.alexwheatle.com

Alex Wheatle said: “I may have been nominated and short-listed for many awards, but I believe my greatest success in this old writing game is when a school librarian informs me that one of their students, who has never picked up a book before, cannot put an Alex Wheatle book down. ‘They have found a story they can finally relate to,’ I am often told. Reading for pleasure is a crucial gateway to all learning.  If I can engage a reader with my characters, my narratives and the themes that are important to me, then I believe I’m passing on my humanity.”

Cornell is having a bad time. Kicked out of school for a fight he didn’t start, he finds himself in a Pupil Referral Unit. Here he makes friends with one of the Sinclair family. You just don’t mess with the Sinclairs, and when Ryan Sinclair orders him to come with him to teach a rival some respect, Cornell witnesses something that will change his life. Torn between protecting his family and himself, Cornell has one hell of a decision to make. Witness is Alex Wheatle at his best: a thrilling story about street violence, friendship and making the right choices. 

About The Reading Agency & Quick Reads

The Reading Agency is a national charity that tackles life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. We work closely with partners to develop and deliver programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds. The Reading Agency is funded by Arts Council England.  www.readingagency.org.uk

Quick Reads, a programme by The Reading Agency, aims to bring the pleasures and benefits of reading to everyone, including the one in three adults in the UK who do not regularly read for pleasure, and the one in six adults in the UK who find reading difficult. The scheme changes lives and plays a vital role in addressing the national crisis around adult literacy in the UK, engaging the one in three adults who do not regularly read for pleasure and the one in six adults who find reading difficult. Each year, Quick Reads works with UK publishers to commission high profile authors to write short, engaging books that are specifically designed to be easy to read. Since 2006, over 6 million books have been distributed through the initiative, 5 million library loans (PLR) have been registered and through outreach work hundreds of thousands of new readers each year have been introduced to the joys and benefits of reading. From 2020 – 2022, the initiative is supported by a philanthropic gift from bestselling author Jojo Moyes. The titles are available for just £1 at bookshops and are free to borrow from libraries. They are used across the country in colleges, prisons, trade unions, hospitals, and adult learning organisations.”

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.

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

Seadogs and Criminals by Alex Fisher – Blog Tour

A big thank you to Eleanor from Literally PR for inviting me on this blog tour! I love a good treasure hunt!

Synopsis

Victorian London. 

Joseph Winter is a master criminal, known around the backstreets as Trace – because he never leaves one. That is, until a tip-off about a fabled treasure map turns sour, shattering his reputation and turning his dreams to dust.

With nothing left to lose, Joseph decides to take the leap and persuades a group of interesting strangers to join him on the hunt. After taking to the waves, they are catapulted into a wonderous odyssey stretching across the globe, unearthing not only missing clues, but their own hidden depths when pushed to extremes demanded by the sea.

The treasure hunt leaves questions. Yet soon Joseph begins to ask his own…

Why are they doing this? Who can I trust? Who am I now?

Review

In need of some adventure? Look no further! Embark on Joseph Winter’s journey and sail away in the hope of discovering the Lost Loot…

When two writers, Alex and Charlie, overhear someone recounting tales of treasure in a pub, they jump at the chance to go and meet the elusive Mr Winter to hear his story first hand.

Being a criminal in Victorian London isn’t as easy as it seems… Having what it takes to be a talented thief is one thing, but finding someone reliable to sell the swag is another matter! 

Joseph “The Trace” cannot help it… It is part of him and his itch is uncontrollable. He keeps on promising his lover Lucy that he will stop, but the lure of profit and the thrill of the act is too grand. 

So when Mad Vinny tempts him with the prospect of finding a map, leading to the legendary Lost Loot, Joseph cannot refuse. His grandfather was an explorer, and it seems like fate that he should follow in his footsteps.

Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong and The Trace is thrown in jail, but not before retrieving the first clue of his fantastic journey out in the seven seas. 

Being strong minded and resourceful, it isn’t long before he manages to enlist likeminded individuals to escape and accompany him on this voyage of a lifetime, aboard Captain Robertson’ ship.

Through doubts, dangers and storms, all of our protagonists will have to find their place and question everything they thought they knew. Life at sea can be cruel sometimes and the lessons to be learned are not only about how to sail… if they hope to succeed, they will have to dig deeper into their past, and delve in the secrets and clues scattered for them.

Who is a friend? Who is a foe? Turning criminals into seadogs is not enough, the elements will be testing and Joseph will have to watch his back…

Fancy sailing out towards the Equator and beyond? Pick up a copy today! 

And if like me you’ve enjoyed reading this book, you are in luck because book 2 is out now too!

With Love
AGJ

Out now and published by Grosvenor House Publishing.

About the Author – Alex J Fisher

Alex Fisher grew up in Cambridgeshire with his parents and two sisters, and still lives there today. Alex says, “Despite the obvious beauty of the flat fields and ongoing horizon there is not much to do, and you need to be able to drive to get anywhere. My active imagination extended beyond childhood, although now I exchange action figures for blank sheets of paper and a keyboard.”

Alex has learned many things whilst on the trowel and honed his skills these past few years so that he can build houses of a quality standard. He also has some experience in other trades too such as plastering, tiling, groundworks and drainage, but bricklaying is his main area of expertise. This, as well as creative writing. After an idea had been planted, he began writing Seadogs and Criminals when he was 18, making sure to at least write for an hour a night after work. Toward the end of the book though, this turned into three and a half hours a night and became an obsession. It was a thrill to write, absorbing him into the story so much so that he became lost in the pages with the characters. It was a mixture of sadness and exaltation to finish the book and now, after years of proof-reading and editing, he managed to self-publish Seadogs and Criminals into a series of two books, the second of which was published in August. Even though this is the end of a chapter, he somehow feels that this is not the end of the book. There is more to come, and he is excited to discover where his journey leads next.

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

BLOG TOUR – 10 YEARS OF SWEET CHERRY

SWEET CHERRY PUBLISHING TO MARK 10th ANNIVERSARY WITH LAUNCH OF TWO NEW IMPRINTS: CLOCK TOWER & CHERRY STONE

Happy 10th anniversary Sweet Cherry!! To participate to the celebrations taking place this week, I’m kicking off this blog tour by sharing with you a fantastic book extract!! After explaining a bit more about this amazing independent children’s publisher, you will get the chance to access an exclusive extract of “Football Rising Stars – Marcus Rashford” by Harry Meredith! How exciting is that!? It will be out on 21 October so if you like what you’re seeing here, get your orders in!

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers will be saying and make sure to follow Sweet Cherry on social media to join the fun of the celebrations… The coming week will be full of surprises I’m sure!

Thank you very much to Amber over at Midas PR and Diva from Sweet Cherry Publishing for having me on this tour !

www.sweetcherrypublishing.com | www.clocktowerpublishing.com | www.cherrystonepublishing.com

#SweetCherry10

The award-winning, Leicester-based, independent children’s publisher Sweet Cherry Publishing has announced two new imprints: Clock Tower and Cherry Stone. The new imprints will launch in October to mark the 10th anniversary of Sweet Cherry Publishing,winner of Small Press of the Year at The British Book Awards 2021, and form part of the publisher’s mission to bring great stories within everyone’s reach.

Abdul Thadha, Managing Director of Sweet Cherry Publishing, said:
“Marking our tenth year in children’s publishing is a huge celebration for Sweet Cherry. It’s been incredible to watch our list develop, our team grow and our global reach widening year on year while remaining true to our humble Leicester roots. It’s been a decade but it’s only the beginning for Sweet Cherry as we launch two new imprints, hire and develop publishing’s rising stars and bring more and more great stories within everyone’s reach.”

Clock Tower Publishing will champion new, marginalised and diverse voices in publishing and aim to bring their readers a range of high-quality trade fiction for all ages – including standalone and series titles – that authentically showcases the world we live in while leaving them hooked into a compellingly great story. The name of the imprint is inspired by the company’s Leicester roots, and their ethos as a hub for multiculturalism and diversity.

The first publishing from Clock Tower Publishing will be released early in 2022. The list will also include the previously announced neurodiverse middle grade novel by Isabelle Marinov, Boy Underground (October 2022). Boy Underground follows an autistic 12-year-old protagonist, Hugo, who finds comfort in maps, especially that of the Paris underground with its maze of tunnels, quarries, bunkers and catacombs. Further acquisitions for Clock Tower Publishing will be announced over the coming weeks.

Cherry Stone Publishing will be dedicated to bringing literary classics to a modern audience of all ages, celebrating the themes, genres and writing of renowned authors that paved the way for the contemporary books published today. The imprint will offer beautiful editions of the classics at excellent value for money, making them the perfect gift for book lovers. 

Two collections will be released on 14 October 2021 by Cherry Stone: The Art of War and Other Military Classics from Ancient China, an intricately designed collection bringing together Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and more translated military texts and treatise from famous Chinese generals and writers; and an eight-book box set of Maurice Leblanc’s gentleman-thief Arsène Lupin, the perfect gift for fans of mystery fiction and classic literature.

As part of further publishing to mark Sweet Cherry’s 10th anniversary, the publisher will release ten of Dick King-Smith’s titles to mark the centenary of the author’s birth upcoming in 2022. Further anniversary celebrations will be announced over the coming weeks.

Football Rising Stars – Marcus Rashford” by Harry Meredith (extract)

About Sweet Cherry Publishing

Sweet Cherry is an award-winning, independent children’s book publisher based in Leicester, celebrating its 10thanniversary in October 2021.

Sweet Cherry Publishing was founded by Abdul Thadha in 2011, with the mission to ensure that children of all backgrounds and abilities should have access to great stories. Based in the Midlands where literacy rates are amongst the lowest in the UK, Sweet Cherry aims to break down the barriers that often get in the way of reading: the team is positive and fun, with kindness, success, and collaboration at the core of their values. Thadha alsochampions inclusivity amongst the staff and strives to make creative careers accessible to underrepresented backgrounds: now, half of the management are from BAME backgrounds.

Sweet Cherry Publishing includes three imprints: Sweet Cherry Publishing, launched in 2011, focuses on easy-to-read illustrated fiction with a core focus on middle grade; Cherry Stone Publishing, launched in October 2021, presents favourite classics with modern covers that are great value for money and make the perfect gift; Clock Tower Publishing, launched in October 2021, features quality trade fiction for all ages – both standalone titles and series – creating a platform for marginalised and new voices to be heard.

Sweet Cherry won Small Press of the Year at The British Book Awards 2021.

About Clock Tower Publishing

Clock Tower Publishing was launched in 2021 and is an imprint of the award-winning Leicester-based independent publisher, Sweet Cherry Publishing.

Clock Tower champion new, marginalised and diverse voices in publishing, inspired by Leicester’s multicultural heritage, and aim to bring their readers a range of high-quality fiction that authentically showcases the diverse and inclusive world we live in while leaving them hooked into a compelling great story. From fantasy fiction to future classics, Clock Tower are dedicated to creating a great list of quality trade fiction that’s championed by its authors and illustrators alongside a diverse team of book lovers.

About Cherry Stone Publishing

Cherry Stone Publishing was launched in 2021 and is an imprint of the award-winning Leicester-based independent publisher, Sweet Cherry Publishing.

Cherry Stone’s team of diverse publishing professionals come from a range of backgrounds and their passion for reading inspires the list of books we publish. Dedicated to bringing literary classics to a modern audience, Cherry Stone showcase the themes, genres and writing of renowned authors that paved the way for the contemporary books published today – and publish titles that educate, entertain and inspire readers to champion a love for reading and keep the classics alive for new generations. Cherry Stone offers beautiful editions of the classics at excellent value for money, making them the perfect gift for book lovers, avid readers, fans of the classics, literature students and book collectors across the world.

www.sweetcherrypublishing.com  | @sweetcherrypub

About Abdul Thadha, Managing Director of Sweet Cherry Publishing

Abdul Thadha founded Sweet Cherry in 2011 with a wealth of experience in online bookselling. From selling his used university textbooks to brand new books from a Leicester-based bargain store, Abdul’s eBay store climbed the ranks so much so that he needed warehouse space. This blossomed into Books2Door.com, a multi-million-pound online bookselling platform that buys print runs from all major book publishers and sells to consumers, businesses and schools all around the world.

The Writer’s Cats by Muriel Barbery, illustrated by Maria Guitart

A very big thank you to Isabelle over at Gallic for gifting me this wonderful book! As you might have gathered I am a huge fan of Muriel’s, and this is simply a treat!

Synopsis

Like so many writers, Muriel Barbery is a lover of cats. Grey-furred and amber-eyed (matching her home décor), Barbery’s four Chartreux cats keep her company as she works from her house in the French countryside, entertaining her with their quirks and foibles, inspiring her with their beauty, and soothing her nerves.

But that’s not all. For Kirin, Ocha, Mizu and Petrus – named after the writer’s love of all things Japanese, and, in true French style, of good wine – are no ordinary felines. These intelligent creatures have taken it upon themselves to guide their owner’s writing – flicking aside sections of her manuscript with a disdainful tail, pointing an approving paw at others. And it’s time these put-upon literary consultants got the recognition they deserve.

With delicious wit and irony, the international bestselling author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog gives an insight into her writing life – and the paws behind the pen. Accompanied by delightful illustrations by Maria Guitart, The Writer’s Cats is the perfect gift for cat lovers and book lovers everywhere.

Thoughts

Exquisite!

In this ever so clever illustrated story, sneak a peak into Muriel’s intimacy and writing process.

Through an incredible amount of humility and poetry, she shares with the readers how Kirin, Ocha, Mizu and Petrus provide invaluable assistance to cure the symptomatic writer’s afflictions: restlessness, doubt, denial.

Every single one of us needs help sometimes, and what a beautiful way to admit it, doing so through paws and meows. 

She opens the doors to her home and her heart with much ingenuity, and Maria’s illustrations accompany it all so well; It is simply delightful!

It is out on 19 October so make sure to pre-order a copy! And if you haven’t read any work by Muriel Barbery yet, I can only try and persuade you to do so: The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a masterpiece!

–About the Author – Muriel Barbery–

Muriel Barbery is a former lecturer in philosophy and the author of four previous novels, including the IMPAC-shortlisted multimillion-copy bestseller The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Published in France in 2006 and in the UK in 2008, the novel was translated in 44 countries, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide, and was described by Le Figaro as ‘the publishing phenomenon of the decade’. Muriel drew on her own experience of living in Kyoto, where she was a writer in residence at the Villa Kujoyama for two years. She has also lived in Amsterdam and Paris and now lives in the French countryside.

“Her Little Secret” by Julia Stone – Blog Tour

Thank you very much to the Orion Dash team for having me on this tour!

Synopsis

His therapist. Their love affair. Her Little Secret.

Cristina knows all about boundaries. As a therapist, it is vital that she keeps her clients at a professional distance.

Enter new client Leon: educated, charming, affluent — and newly bereaved, following the death of his married lover, Michelle. Cristina soon learns that Leon has an ulterior motive for approaching her: Michelle was one of her clients, and Leon is desperate for her insights into the woman he loved.

Moved by the depth of his feelings, Cristina is drawn to help him through his grief. But as she struggles to ignore her own growing attraction to sophisticated, attentive Leon, her boundaries start to blur and then collapse, and the two embark on their own clandestine love affair.

But why does Leon switch so quickly from charm to criticism, attentiveness to distance? Can anyone truly be as perfect as he paints his beloved Michelle to have been, and what is hidden inside of her off-limits therapy file? Torn between her conscience and curiosity, Cristina is about to discover the truth is far beyond anything she could have imagined…

For fans of You, Before I Go to Sleep and Obsession, Her Little Secret is an utterly chilling new psychological thriller about obsessive love and the danger of crossing lines.

Review

The French say you can’t play chess if you are kind-hearted. Like war, you need strategy and a killer instinct to win“.

A very interesting take on psychology and therapy, bound to make you feel quite tense as you never know how far things will escalate to. 

After the death of her father, Cristina isn’t quite sure how she fits in, how to move forward. She is on and off with her ex-husband Davy, who is himself moving on. She’s still grieving and this makes her connect more deeply and differently with Leon. 

The reader really gets to delve into the characters’ psyche and witnesses the psychological shift that operates in Cristina’s head. She is desperate to appear (and be) professional after a year off, but Leon somehow manages to get her to let her guard down.

It truly was fascinating to get prime access to the “behind the scenes” and insights into a therapist brain; especially when said therapist becomes her own worst enemy. Human nature and human brains are so ambivalent. There are always many different options, different reasons hidden behind someone’s behaviour.

In this book, you are much more than a reader. You become an observer, a voyeur, it is somehow intimate. You are privy to Cristina’s internal struggles between her ethics, personal and professional, and her desire of acceptance from this man who she is falling for. 

She wants to save him as much as to be loved by him. All along Leon slowly weaves this web, demonstrating strange behaviour that you can’t help but try and analyse with her. 

The more Leon drags her into this bizarre menage a 3 with his late lover Michelle, against whom Cristina cannot help but compare herself to, the more boundaries are slipping away, the lies are increasing, and the insecurities intensify.

Will Cristina let herself get tangled in all of it? What are Leon’s real intentions? Will she throw away her whole life, friends, career for him? What are their respective secrets?

Get a copy today to find out!

With Love
AGJ

Out now in e-format and paperback with Orion Dash.

About the Author – Julia Stone

Julia Stone is a psychologist, trainer, coach, and psychotherapist. She attended Faber Academy in 2017 and in 2018 won The Blue Pencil First Novel award. Julia has a background in psychology and psychotherapy and has a passion for writing and the arts.  She was born in London and has lived east, north and west but never made it south of the river. Several years ago she moved to the countryside and now lives in rural Suffolk with her partner and varying numbers of ducks, muntjac and moorhens.

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

Bonus Content: The Inspiration for Her Little Secret by Julia Stone

This morning my Twitter followers expanded by one, with the addition of a famous international actor. Of course, I politely followed back – having first checked his profile. He has the photo, the banner header, the many images from his films, and the requisite thousands of followers. It appears to be him. But that begs two questions: how could I ever be sure that this person is who they say they are? And, if he is Mr Megastar, then why on earth would he be following me?

These questions relate to the original inspiration behind Her Little Secret. What if a client presents a story which isn’t true? In my work with couples I sometimes hear two completely different versions of events. Like a mirror image. She paints him as a miser. He describes her as wasting their savings. Both believe their interpretation is ‘the truth’. But how would I know if one of them was lying to me?

How would you know if a stranger is lying to you from the start? TV detective programmes suggest there are visual ‘tells’, a scratch of the nose, eye contact maintained too long. Stories which are too detailed, too consistent. But these are amateurs’ mistakes, a practised liar knows how to lie.

Cristina, the therapist in Her Little Secret, observes: ‘Unlike prospective employers, it would be frowned on for a therapist to search social media for background information, check out websites or scour LinkedIn CVs… All we have to work on is what the client choses to share with us.’ Cristina doesn’t get to meet her client’s friends and family, she doesn’t see them at work or at home in the evenings. All she knows is what she sees, hears and feels in the therapy sessions. 

But what if someone came for therapy and didn’t tell the truth? What possible reason could they have…?  These were the questions that got me thinking.

As a therapist, Cristina has been trusted with a lot of secrets. Leon is being selective with the truth because he wants something – something only Cristina can tell him. The story idea blossomed from there.

What does she know that he wants to find out? 

What drives his desperation? And how far will he go to get what he wants? 

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