If you haven’t heard yet, there is a fabulous debut that came out on 11 August! It’s called “Housebreaking” by Colleen Hubbard and if you love Elizabeth Strout this is definitely for you!
Thank you so much to Clare over at Two Fond of Books and to Corsair Books for making me one of the lucky people to have already read this great story!
Following a long-standing feud and looking to settle the score, a woman decides to dismantle her home—alone and by hand—and move it across a frozen pond during a harsh New England winter in this mesmerizing debut.
Home is certainly not where Del’s heart is. After a local scandal led to her parents’ divorce and the rest of her family turned their backs on her, Del left her small town and cut off contact.
Now, with both of her parents gone, a chance has arrived for Del to retaliate.
Her uncle wants the one thing Del inherited: the family home.
Instead of handing the place over, and with no other resources at her disposal, Del decides she will tear the place apart herself—piece by piece.
But Del will soon discover, the task stirs up more than just old memories as relatives—each in their own state of unraveling—come knocking on her door.
This spare, strange, magical book is a story not only about the powerlessness and hurt that run through a family but also about the moments when brokenness can offer us the rare chance to start again.
“She wanted to go through life completely unnoticed, below level, submarine.”
Meet Del. 24 without much to show for. She lives with Tym, an old friend of her late father, and she just cannot be bothered. She can’t retain a job, she has no purpose, 0 ambition, and no social life.
So when she loses yet another menial job, and Tym asks her to move out, she gets quite a kick up the backside! Coincidently, a ghost from her past shows up: her cousin Greg. He came to make her an offer on behalf of his father, her Uncle Chuck: he wants to buy her parents’ house.
As she travels across the country and back in time, intent on accepting this offer, she is forced to face the feelings she’s buried all of those years. And when reality strikes that they are not interested in her or the house, but in fact in the land to develop and make money out of it, something in her snaps.
She goes back to a feral state, a core and primitive instinct possessing her that she cannot (nor want to) get rid off, embarking on this insane project to deconstruct the house room by room, piece by piece, and move it across the pond as an act of vengeance against this family she so despises.
What a clever story Colleen Hubbard has written here!
As Del has no choice but face her past, you cannot help but wonder if one can ever really escape the past? Aren’t we always forced to confront it in order to move forward?
“You’re a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a terrible haircut.“
By deconstructing the house, Del also deconstructs her life. To free herself from the shackles and hurts from the past, she will have to perform an exorcism. She will have to face and accept the dichotomy of nostalgia, make peace with herself, her late parents, their shortcomings, and this town and its people that she loathes and loves at the same time.
“I need to finish this. I do. I can’t explain it.“
She’s so stubborn, it might kill her but she won’t give up! For once in her life she doesn’t want to. It is stronger than her, it’s an urge she cannot shake. In her determination and her fury, she takes herself to the brink, turning into a wounded animal who wants to be left alone.
But it is without counting on others forcing a helping hand. By reluctantly (not) accepting for other people to unexpectedly make their way into her life and her project, she is given something even more unexpected: hope.
Through this crazy endeavour, Del is working towards finding herself and letting go of the past, ready for the future, and you cannot help but wonder: what would I have done in her shoes?
With Love AGJ
—About the Author—
Colleen Hubbard is an American writer who grew up in New England and now lives in (old) England with her British husband and children. Her debut novel, Housebreaking, was published in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in April 2022, in August 2022 in the UK, and is forthcoming in 2023 in translation. Her essays have appeared in Electric Literature, Literary Hub and other publications.
Thank you so much to Alison Barrow for gifting me this proof, what an absolute triumph! Definitely a strong contender for book of the year 2022!
‘Your ability to change everything – including yourself – starts here’ – Elizabeth Zott.
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.
But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.
But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
Meet the unconventional, uncompromising Elizabeth Zott.
“What I love about rowing […] is that it’s always done backwards. It’s almost as if the sport itself is trying to teach us to not get ahead of ourselves.”
What an absolute gem and a strong contender for debut novel of the year!
Meet Elizabeth Zott. Scientist, mother, lover, rower, she never settles for anything.
Whilst navigating through Elizabeth’s challenges, Bonnie Garmus very wittily paint a portrait of what it was like to be a woman in the 60s, through the eyes of different generations, from Elizabeth to her daughter Madeline, from her dog Six-Thirty to Dr Mason or Father Wakely.
Each character is a window to different ways of thinking; to prejudices that Elizabeth is intent on fighting.
Strong, uncompromising, inspirational, you are bound to fall in love with this force of nature. If I’d been one of her contemporary, I would definitely have wanted to be like her, to share her values.
Teaching hundreds of words to her dog, encouraging free speech and thinking for her daughter, sky is the limit for Elizabeth Zott. She thrives to use science to fix humanity, she simply cannot accept the established order of civilisation. She can’t accept those archaic, outrageous and misogynistic ways of life, stereotypes and biases that society keeps on perpetuating.
“When a boat succeeds, it’s because the people in the boat have managed to set aside their petty differences and physical discrepancies and row as one. Perfect harmony”.
Whether it’s at work, in her love life with Calvin, or with her few friends, she simply is implacable and uncompromising. It all comes down to chemistry. As a result, men fear and despise her, women envy and resent her, but she simply can’t let anyone dictate how to go about her life.
“People need to believe in something bigger than themselves”
When you don’t fit in, you either comply and compromise, or you stand your ground. When she gets her own cooking show on TV, revolutionising the « Afternoon Depression Zone », her fierceness and intransigent nature will, in spite of herself, empower thousands of women to believe in themselves, to understand their worth, to take back some control.
This book is a triumph! So compelling, thought provoking, it will challenge you to question subjects you didn’t even know you had to! Philosophical at times, full of clever and subtle thoughts on tough subjects, it will make your brain and your soul sense so many emotions: anger, rage, happiness, sadness, you laugh, you cry but love so much. It is pure joy!
I can’t stop thinking about it, this book is powerful, gripping, endearing, you have got to get yourself a copy.
With Love, AGJ
Out now in hardback, audio and e-format.
—About Bonnie Garmus—
Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked for a wide range of clients, in the US and abroad, focusing primarily on technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open water swimmer, a rower, and mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.
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!
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…
“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.
Thank you so much Amy at Head of Zeus for having me on board! What a special book this was! I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to read this in advance!
A wide-ranging and affecting debut novel about family and identity, from an award-winning historian.
1981. Khalid Quraishi is one of the lucky ones. He works nights in the glitzy West End, and comes home every morning to his beautiful wife and daughter. He’s a world away from Karachi and the family he left behind.
But Khalid likes to gamble, and he likes to win. Twenty pounds on the fruit machine, fifty on a sure-thing horse, a thousand on an investment that seems certain to pay out. Now he’s been offered a huge opportunity, a chance to get in early with a new bank, and it looks like he’ll finally have his big win.
2003. Alia Quraishi doesn’t really remember her dad. After her parents’ divorce she hardly saw him, and her mum refuses to talk about her charming ex-husband. So, when he died in what the police wrote off as a sad accident, Alia had no reason to believe there was more going on.
Now almost twenty years have passed and she’s tired of only understanding half of who she is. Her dad’s death alone and miles from his west London stomping ground doesn’t add up with the man she knew. If she’s going to find out the truth about her father – and learn about the other half of herself – Alia is going to have to visit his home, a place she’s never been, and connect with a family that feel more like strangers.
Slow burning but gripping; set between 1987 and 2003; you wittily alternate between Khalid’s point of view then, his daughter Alia’s there and then, and MP Mark Denby’s.
From the very first page, you get sucked in this serious and complex story, which becomes a journey through different cultures, mixing up intricacies of family dynamics, friendships, politics, struggles of immigration, traditions and communities.
Travel with Alia to Pakistan. Explore the culture and embark on this sensory journey with her. Share her internal struggles towards her family. Accompany her in her quest for answers.
Discover Khalid’s life in the 80s. Share his dreams and ambitions for the future, his burning desire of richness and grandeur, of making a mark. Follow his struggles as an immigrant, the toughness of finding a job, his battles as a gambling addict, along with the devastating consequences that this can have.
Delve into the political dynamics, the dilemmas of right and wrong of Mark Denby. Share his family life, his discoveries about the dodgy BCCI bank, his secrets and his demons.
A very cleverly drafted, very rich story, where the reader gets to peel off layer after layer, page after page, delving into deep and thoroughly crafted characters, a truly pleasant read which I strongly recommend !
With Love AGJ
Out now with Head of Zeus
—About Yasmin Cordery Khan—
Yasmin Cordery Khan is an historian and broadcaster. She is the author of The Great Partition (for which she won the Gladstone Prize for History), and The Raj at War, and has written for the Guardian and the Observer. Edgware Road is her first novel.
Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers are saying!
Thank you so much Del Rey for having me on the tour!
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…
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—
Beth Cartwright has taught English in Greece and travelled around South East Asia and South America, where she worked at an animal sanctuary. A love of language and the imaginary led her to study English Literature and Linguistics at Lancaster University, and she now lives on the edge of the Peak District with her family and two cats.
Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers are saying!
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.
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.
“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.
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 —
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.
— Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers are saying! —
A very big thank you to Rosie Margesson for my copy of this wonderful book! It’s out now with Headline Review.
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?
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.
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!
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.
“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.
Don’t forget to check what my fellow bloggers have been saying!
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
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 ofthousands 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.”