Blog Tour: The Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies

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Published by Penguin Viking Books, 21 March 2019, £3.50

Another true gem from Dinah Jefferies! Packed with gorgeous detail, mystery, humour, and romance. Any season, any day, any time- a new Dinah Jefferies book will whisk you away into an exotic vintage dream. After a few pages of The Missing Sister, you will be strolling down dynamic streets of 1930s Burma feeling the humidity and getting peckish for the local food.

Jefferies is already established as one of my favourite writers, her addictive stories are always flowing beautifully as the far-flung settings she visits. The Missing Sister is the most mysterious addition to her repertoire. It is about a young English woman called Belle, who takes up a job as a singer for a hotel in Burma. Her father had just passed away and she has no connections left at home. She recently found a newspaper clipping that stated how her parents were living in Rangoon when their baby daughter disappeared; a daughter that they had before her and that she never knew about. She decides to go to Burma, still under British colonial rule, to see if there are any remnants of her parent’s history and her past.

Racial politics and mental health are the two main compelling themes, especially the treatment of women suffering from mental health problems. Ignorance is recognised as the biggest enemy. Interwoven with Belle’s new adventure are segments of her mother’s life from a few decades earlier. These chapters are written in the first person, which compared to Belle’s third person POV are a little jarring, but certainly, thicken the plot. I love how Belle begins to connect threads of mystery and how friendly characters she meets along the way appear disturbingly suspicious. Moving melancholia and heart-fluttering moments punctuate continuously- and what a wonderful ending!

Many thanks to Georgia Taylor at Penguin for my review copy

xxx

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Blog Tour: Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

IMG_20190106_093941011Published by Viking, Jan 2018 (paperback), 336 pages, £6.99

A carefully constructed story about mother-daughter relationships, paranoia, and trust. Emma Healey has a talent for exposing the disturbing nature of a fragmented family.

I was blown away by her debut, Elizabeth is Missing, but felt tepid about this second novel. The pacing was slower and it found it hard to empathise with some of the characters.

Lana, a teenage girl, goes missing during an art retreat in the country. After a few days, she is found by the police, to the relief of her parents. However, she cannot remember what happened during her time away or to her mother’s suspicion, is deliberately hiding something. So her mother, Jen, keeps probing her, hoping that she would open up. She goes through multiple theories, thinking up all kinds of solutions to engage with her daughter. At the same time, Lana becomes more distant and begins to change her habits, as if her character is distorted. Jen is certain something happened and begins comparing her relationship with her daughter before and after the incident, her paranoia driving the whole family mad.

To an impressive degree, Healy creates a quietly turbulent situation, where nothing is quite right. But we can’t quite put our finger on what exactly is wrong. Everything is hanging in suspense, the bonds between the family are barely being kept together, but not broken yet. Instead of chapters, it’s structured in episodes, flash backs, random thoughts- reflecting the shards of memories and suspicions the mother has to piece together. However, it felt too fragmented and left me grappling with what concept to focus on. I found it tricky to get a fuller understanding of the characters; Lana felt too mysterious and Jen started to get quite frustrating. During traumatic times, you would expect anyone to be more than frazzled, but her lack of strength was more annoying than endearing.

The ending was interesting, not the gut-pull Elizabeth is Missing had, but a quieter inward revelation which is chilling in its own way. Unfortunately, the route the novel took to get to the final point perhaps undermined the impact it should have had.

Thank you so much to Georgia Taylor from Viking for my copy

xxx

 

 

Blog Tour: Only a Breath Apart

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Published 22 Jan, Tor Teen, 359 pages, £8.27

Katie McGarry brings another tale full of grit and heart. All her books have a raw, face-your-demons edge, but Only a Breath Apart takes a slightly darker path. It is filled with the ache of haunting memories, domestic abuse and the shadow of murder. At the centre is the significance of land and human bonds.

We start with Jesse, who is grieving the death of his beloved grandma. He has been brought up to believe that his family is cursed. Nothing but melancholia and disaster has befallen each family member, especially his mother. When he discovers that, in order to inherit his land, he must win the approval of an old childhood friend, he feels certain that he is doomed. His past has come to bite back. On the other end is Scarlett, imprisoned by her dominating father and bursting to come out of the icy shell she has formed to protect herself. When she runs into Jesse, the boy who used to be everything to her, she can feel that her control is going to crack for better or worse. Read an excerpt below and in my last post.

McGarry has long been one of my favourite YA writers. Her work has found a way to make my soul feel both ravaged and warmed (Walk the Edge I still listen on audiobook on loop). As described, Only a Breath Apart, is darker but not as forlorn as I may have outlined in the plot. It carries a strong hopeful tone with fierce characters that fight for the next sunrise. Jesse and Scarlett claw tooth and nail for their independence, whilst trying to figure out the depth of their attraction to each other (McGarry scores again with another dynamic couple). Scarlett’s situation, in particular, exposes the sinister extent of domestic instability and its manipulation of security and control. I love the supernatural theme that carries throughout, circling around anxieties about the future, the afterlife and the role of destinies. Some parts of the story lingered a little too long on the over-riding message about land and relationships. Overall, it will sweep you into McGarry’s world of rural dust-bitten America and teen love.

Thank you Tor Teen for my copy! xxx

*EXCERPT*

~SCARLETT~

“I thought you said you were meeting Camila.”

I jump at the sound of Dad’s voice and spin in his direction. “I am.”

Dad studies me, and I hide my hands behind my back to conceal the slight quiver that could announce my guilt. When I left him, he was in good spirits, but his moods can quickly shift. There are two patched up holes in my bedroom that can testify to this. Dad replaced the drywall, covered it with fresh paint, but the perfection can’t take away the memory of the way my heart pounded through my chest as he drove his fist through the wall.

He inclines his head toward the booth of balloon animals. “Camila appears to be working.”

“She’s getting off soon,” I say too fast as I bite back the need to ask why he didn’t go home like he said he was.

“Why did you leave us if she’s still working? You said Camila would be done by five-thirty.”

My mouth dries out, and the tremble in my hands travels to the rest of my body, but I force out a cleansing breath. Show no fear. Don’t give him any reason to doubt a thing I say. “She was supposed to be off by now, but her parents asked her to work a few more minutes.”

“If Camila isn’t getting off until later, you should have told me,” There’s a subtle sharpness to his tone that causes hurricane warnings in my brain. “I was showing you a great deal of trust by letting you find Camila on your own.”

“She’s only running a few minutes late. Her parents are watching me so I’m okay.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I glance over and my heart lifts when I notice Camila’s mom watching us. Her stare gives credibility to every falsehood rolling off my tongue. She’s not watching because she thinks I need a babysitter, but probably because she’s mentioned to Camila that she’s perplexed by my father’s strict rules.

I touch the crystals on the table as if I’m interested in them. It’s difficult to act normal as Dad looks at Camila’s mom then studies me. Please believe me, please believe me. Please.

I’m so stupid. I should have never left Dad early. I should have never lied. But I did. Dad was having fun at the fair, Mom was having fun and my sister, Isabelle, was having fun. They were all laughing and smiling. They’ve forgiven him, and I haven’t. I can’t, not again, and this is one of the many ways life is no longer simple.

I want to peek at him in an attempt to understand my fate, but I don’t. Eye contact doesn’t help when he’s angry. It only makes it worse.

Being in public won’t soothe his temper. He’ll just be more discreet. Like last year when Dad had arrived early to pick me up at a football game and saw me heading to the bathroom by myself. After I had returned to my friends, he called me away with a smile on his face. He had placed a seemingly loving arm around my shoulder, but his fingers dug into my arm as he severely whispered in my ear how I was irresponsible and that it was time to go home.

Dad didn’t cause a scene at the game. The yelling started the moment we were alone in his car and continued until he left me in my room. I stayed on my bed for hours, curled up in a ball and sobbing.

My throat swells as I think of how this will play out. Will it be like Christmas? Will he throw a lamp and force Mom to clean it up as I watch? Or will it be like this past spring and he’ll flip the kitchen table, breaking all the dishes that had been placed there for dinner?

Dad steps closer to me, and I’m filled with dread. “Next time, in a situation like this, you return to me and have Camila text you when she’s done working. I don’t like the idea of you being alone.”

All I want is to be alone, for my thoughts and actions to belong only to me. But he’s not angry, he’s believing me, and I release a breath I had unknowingly held and take the small win.

 

Would you dare to defy destiny? Are our destinies written in stone? Do we become nothing more than the self-fulfilling prophesies of other people’s opinions? Or can we dare to become who we believe we were born to be?

“A gorgeous, heartfelt journey of redemption and love” (Wendy Higgins), ONLY A BREATH APART is a young adult contemporary novel from critically acclaimed Katie McGarry. “Haunting, authentic, and ultimately hopeful” (Tammara Webber), order your copy of ONLY A BREATH APART now!

 

About ONLY A BREATH APART:

They say your destiny is carved in stone. But some destinies are meant to be broken.

The only curse Jesse Lachlin believes in is his grandmother’s will: in order to inherit his family farm he must win the approval of his childhood best friend, the girl he froze out his freshman year.

A fortuneteller tells Scarlett she’s psychic, but what is real is Scarlett’s father’s controlling attitude and the dark secrets at home. She may be able to escape, but only if she can rely on the one boy who broke her heart.

Each midnight meeting pushes Jesse and Scarlett to confront their secrets and their feelings, but as love blooms, the curse rears its ugly head…

 

Amazon | Kobo | Google Play

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Gritty and real, Only a Breath Apart is a story of hope conjured from pain, strength drawn from innocence, and love earned from self-respect. Beautiful, poignant, and fierce.”
―Kristen Simmons, critically acclaimed author of the Article 5 series


 

Add it to your Goodreads today!

 

 

 

Katie McGarry Bio:

Katie is the author of the PUSHING THE LIMITS series, THUNDER ROAD series, SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME, and the upcoming YA novel, ONLY A BREATH APART. Her novels have received starred reviews, critical acclaim and have won multiple awards including being a multiple Goodreads Choice Award Finalist for YA Fiction, multiple RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Award Finalist for Best YA Fiction, including a win in the category, and she was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick.

 

 

 

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The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (Audio experience)

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July 2018, 336 pages, Corvus, £2.48 (ex Amazon Whispersync)

Scrolling through twitter, I read about an author who is gathering praised for diversifying romance. Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient is a love story with an autistic heroine and Vietnamese American hero. It engages sharply with issues about disability and social norms without compromising on heat and drama. Always grumbling about how there is a lack of representation and people of colour in romance, I don’t make as much effort as I should to seek out alternative stories. Hoang proves that our much loved formula-genre is ever more enhanced with voices that are usually excluded.

I’m not sure why romance is dominated by the white boy meets girl scenario, the answer lies somewhere uncomfortable and complicated. The stigma that the romance genre carries, in general, makes it hard for those within the industry to criticise it at all. But I’m glad there are authors shaking things up while keeping what we love best: lurve.

Hoang was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, previously known as Asberger’s Syndrome. The creation of her heroine, Stella Lane, was modeled close to her personal journey with autism. Stella is a successful economist, but struggles with social situations especially reading social cues and is very sensitive to sensory disturbances, such as loud noise. This makes dating a nightmare. Feeling great pressure from her parents to find a husband she decides to be practical and hires an escort to teach her how to be the perfect girlfriend. Enter Michael, a very good looking guy down on his luck and facing bankruptcy. He has resorted to escorting to make ends meet. When he meets Stella, he realises that she is no ordinary client. What she is proposing sounds ridiculous and dangerous, but he finds himself tempted just to spend more time with her. This is where the reader gets hooked into their unique dynamic.

The teacher-student-contract plot does of course crop up all the time, and it’s one of my favourites (Educating Caroline by Patricia Cabot). However, Hoang introduces a new spin to this reverse ‘Pretty Woman’ story, by dealing with ideas of cultural differences, social expectations and class. Nothing too heavy.

I listened to this on audiobook- my first time listening to romance. Quite an experience! Mostly exciting, but I do not recommend tuning in when you are in crowded places. Sometimes the dialogue felt very slow moving at times, but I’m not sure whether that was from the narrator or writing. Overall, this is a wonderful read that paves a promising future for the industry.

XXX

Blog Tour: One Day in December by Josie Silver

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Published 18 Oct, Penguin, 432 pages, 99p on Amazon Monthly Kindle deal

If you want to weep, laugh, melt and cry out in anguish during the chilly months, then One Day in December is your perfect fix, an ideal Christmas romance for fans of Richard Curtis tearjerkers. It not only deals with the sentimental and cosy parts that love-stories should tick off, but the infernal frustration and rage involved. This debut novel proves that fate can be both cruel and wondrous.

I do genuinely believe in love at first sight, or a certain connection that two people can have which is almost instant. You have to believe in this theory, even a tiny bit, to enjoy the story. Two strangers, Laurie and Jack, glance at each other through a misty bus window and experience just that. Everybody knows how buses can get during the winter;  jam-packed, foggy and cough-fumed. For Laurie, all of this evaporates for one second of life-altering, mysterious magic. Then it’s gone as her bus drives away. She spends a whole year searching for ‘bus-boy’ only to be introduced to him as her best-friend’s new boyfriend. She convinces herself the whole concept of Jack as her instant soul mate is insane and gets on with life. And life certainly barges through, another point this novel conveys successfully. Through new careers, holidays, illnesses and even marriage, time slips by ruthlessly. The only way to claim moments is to be fearless and take chances. Ten years can be filled with everything and nothing.

We have all been a Laurie; out of uni and trying to figure out how to be independent. She is sweet, passionate and realistic. I have just watched the Bridget Jones double dose of lunatic and heart-warming tumbles. The films came out when I was too young to understand all the jokes grown-up girls and mums were making around me. One Day… reads like a homage to the great Bridget. It has the same hilarious manic narration but navigates a style of its own. It does well in keeping a reader’s attention through the spirals of diverting events. The language was at times quite dated, perhaps a generation behind. Overall, it was a pleasure to have been part of Laurie’s and Jack’s beautiful journey, which truly left me in awe about life’s magic moments.

Many thanks to Georgia Taylor at Penguin General for my copy xxx

 

 

Born to be Wilde By Eloisa James (Wildes #2)

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Always a perfect weekend read

Published by Piatkus Books, 31st July 2018, 384 pages, £5.99

Born to be Wilde begins beautifully, as all of Eloisa James’ novels, perfect for early morning commutes and lazy Sunday noons. It instantly claims you from the first few sentences and fills you with that warm, soothing glow you expect from a classic regency romance.

Lavinia Gray, friend of the scandalous Wildes clan who we were introduced to in Wilde in Love, is in trouble. The money has gone and her mother has committed crimes. In a fit of desperation she turns to Parth Sterling, unofficial Wilde member, bosom pal of her friends’ husbands and self-made rich bachelor. Despite being the one who has always irritated her, prickled her with his comments about her frivolity, caused her to retaliate with childish taunts, she asks for his hand in marriage. But he turns her down. That is what she expected anyway. Why would sensible, serious Parth want her anyway? And she doesn’t want a man who lacks understanding, compassionate and respect. As she comes to terms with her rejection, she realises how hurt she was. However, her proposal was not born out of love… or was it?

Parth has already chosen a perfect bride for himself. Someone who ticks all the boxes and is as practical as he is. When he learns part of Lavinia’s problems, he volunteers to find her a husband, the best candidate being a Prince. But he also finds it hard to get her proposal out of his head. When Lavinia realises she can earn money by doing what she loves best, she grows in confidence. Parth is able to understand her interests more, and the longer they spend time together on his ‘matchmaking’ trials, he realises that practicality is no match for what he has been denying for years.

I loved how the two MCs gradually accepted their feelings for each other. A deliciously stubborn coupling who bicker, clash heatedly and are drawn together like magnets. My favourite scene was a reckless rain-soaked one. Typical but quite necessary. We also follow Lavinia’s journey to earn independence and save her mother, learning about 18th fashion and addiction on the way. However, the narrative struggled to keep my interest towards the end and falls a little flat towards the final fifty pages. Still waiting for the best of the series.

Many thanks to Little, Brown/Piatkus for my copy xxx

Blog Tour: Wilde in Love by Eloisa James

20171108_113244Published by Piatkus, 31st October 2017, 416 pages, £8.99

Eloisa James returns with another heart-hugging and racy romp perfect for this season. As days darken and leaf strewn streets beckon us into the sanctuary of a warm reading nook, this book is ideal for curling up and warming the soul, with of course some pulse quickening moments.

It’s the first in a new series (although it never really matters which part of a romance series you begin with), set in the Georgian period and is an idol story. Lord Alaric Wilde returns to England from years of exploring and writing to find out he has become something of a sensation, with leagues of women devouring his books and plastering their bedroom walls with his handsome face. Confused by all the attention he retreats to his father’s castle to reunite with his family only to find a host of their guests fawning over his every movement. The one who isn’t the least bit interested (of course) is a young woman called Willa Ffynche. Spirited and witty, Willa is unfazed by his reputation and is frankly indifferent to him.

The fact that it’s a simple plot set in one location with a small circle of characters, is a testament to the author, who kept me reading into the night. The obstacles keep on piling. Alaric has to convince Willa that his interest in her, whilst other women are throwing themselves at him, is not because she is another unmarked territory to conquer. Willa, composed and sensible, finds it increasingly difficult to ignore the mere heat of his presence. James is skilled at creating tension without dialogue, just with the characters being in the same space. Even if Willa does succumb to her attraction, marriage with Alaric, who is followed eagerly by every newspaper, is the last thing that she wants if she is to have a peaceful life. James expertly drops moments of recognition and satisfaction, building towards a blissful ending with a note of suspense. She also throws in memorable quirks such as a delusional missionary and an intelligent skunk that helps save the day.

Many thanks to Piatkus for my review copy xxx