July is here with a heatwave and beautiful sunny days. Perfect weather for camping but I am not packing my tent up. This month is NaNoWriMo Camp so I have joined a cabin with fellow writers for support. My pen and PC mouse are poised ready to start. In the past I have set a target of words with one success but I have research to do so it is target hours this time. Wish me luck I need it.
I love books. I adore book shops and one of my top things to do on my bucket list was to visit Hay-on-Wye in Wales. That was until I read Book Towns: forty-five paradises of the printed word by Alex Johnson.
Book Towns: forty-five paradises of the printed word
Title: Book Towns: forty-five paradises of the printed word
Author: Alex Johnson
Genre: Travel, literature
Publisher: Quarto Publishing Group
Release Date: 22nd March 2018
The so-called “Book Towns” of the world are dedicated havens of literature, and the ultimate dream of book lovers everywhere. Book Towns takes readers on a richly illustrated tour of the 40 semi-officially recognized literary towns around the world and outlines the history and development of each community, and offers practical travel advice.
Many Book Towns have emerged in areas of marked attraction, such as Ureña in Spain or Fjaerland in Norway, where bookshops have been set up in buildings including former ferry waiting rooms and banks. While the UK has the best-known examples at Hay, Wigtown and Sedbergh, the book has a broad international appeal, featuring locations such as Jimbochu in Japan, College Street in Calcutta, and major unofficial “book cities” such as Buenos Aires.
Despite its unassuming and slightly uninspiring cover, this is a wonderful coffee table book. It showcases Book Towns around the world to explore, drool and fantasize over so is perfect to look at while you or visitors are having a cup of tea or coffee. If like me, you don’t know what book towns are they are towns dedicated to literature with book shops, festivals and history. They are bibliophiles’ dream locations. This non-fiction book covers over 40 of them and inspires with it’s stunning photographs, simple format and descriptions. It made me want to be there to experience the shops, smell the books and browse the endless bookshelves for the perfect book or two or three. I would love to visit them all especially Hay-on-Wye, Sedbergh and Wigtown as they are in the UK but I long to travel to Fjaerland in Norway. If I won the lottery I would go on a worldwide tour ticking them off one by one. It would take me to:
Would I recommend?
It is an ideal addition to a bookcase and would make a lovely gift for book lovers and travellers. I long for a physical copy to treasure and dream over.
Now where is my passport?
Thank you NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln for an advanced copy to review in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. You have made this book dragon very happy.
Have you been to a book town? I would love to hear your experiences.
As soon as I spied the latest Louise Jensen’s novel on the screen I knew I needed to read it. I know from experience from reading her previous books The Gift and The Surrogate once opened I was in for a thrilling, high tension ride.
The Date by Louise Jensen
Title: The Date
Author: Louise Jensen
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Release Date: 21st June 2018
One night can change everything.
‘I know it as soon as I wake up and open my eyes… Something is wrong.’
Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future. By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her.
Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her. She can’t recognise her friends and family. And she can’t recognise the person who is trying to destroy her…
From the no. 1 bestselling author of The Sister, The Gift, and The Surrogate, The Date is a gripping page-turner that will keep you awake until the early hours. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and Before I Go To Sleep.
I made the mistake of thinking I could read just one chapter before I started the day I was wrong. Never has a tagline of “An unputdownable psychological thriller with a breathtaking twist” been so appropriate. The Date captivated me from the first page until the last. Louise Jensen’s use of language and pace threw me straight into the story as Ali wakes up from her date the night before. My heart raced along with hers as the tension deepened and the implications of her acquired prosopagnosia or “face blindness” became apparent. It causes everyday problems but when you are under threat anyone could be an attacker or the date. The use of this condition adds more fear into this plot and works well. The novel begins with the nonsensical and now eerie poem The Owl and The Pussycat byEdward Lear and it set the tone for the book. I did not know where this story was going and the twists took me to unimaginable places.
Louise Jensen is the queen of twists and tension. She does not let you go until the final word has been read but even then you are left reeling by revelations the book has revealed. She is on psychological thriller writer I can read again because the second time despite knowing the upcoming twists she manages to place you into the character’s mind again who is oblivious to the trauma ahead.
Would I recommend?
Oh yes. Don’t dilly dally if you love psychological thrillers, put it in your basket now! Her books are on my forever shelf when they are not on loan to book trustworthy friends.
More information on Louise Jensen and her books can be found here
Last week I had to spend the weekend in hospital but I was lucky to have The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper to keep me company. Thank you, Mai Taylor, from Mai’s Musings for recommending and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy to give an honest review.
Book Review for The Songs of Us
Title: The Songs of Us
Author: Emma Cooper
Release Date: 31st May for e-book 20th September paperback
Genre: Romance, Contemporary fiction
‘Quirky, clever, and original, this will break your heart, but put it back together again’ Katie Fforde
‘This is a very special book indeed: funny, powerful, heart-wrenching and so poignant’ Jo Thomas
‘One of my favourites of 2018’ Amazon reviewer
Fans of Jojo Moyes, Cecilia Ahern and Marian Keyes will love The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper, a laugh-out-loud, funny and heartbreaking novel of love, loss and what it means to be a family.
If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.
If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.
But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.
Readers love The Songs of Us:
‘Rarely does a book come along that is as unique and mesmerising as The Songs Of Us‘
‘Reminiscent of (and in my humble opinion right up there with) Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and Cecilia Ahern’s PS I Love You‘
‘It had me laughing and crying in equal measures’
The imagery Emma Cooper’s writing evoked in the first few pages made me splutter and a chuckle and I knew I was going to enjoy this book. The writing is strong and I instantly connected to the flawed characters of the King’s dysfunctional but loving family unit. Melody, Flynn, and Rose share their perspectives as they all cope with the consequences of Melody’s neurological condition in their own way. I cringed and laughed with them as Melody’s singing provided many unforgettable moments. The premise of singing when anxious sounded absurd but it quickly becomes believable. Emma Cooper has a talent for blending humour with heartbreak to produce a unique, warm, funny, heartbreaking and memorable read. I have yet to start a new book days later because it refuses to let me go.
I wish I could see the sculptures and art created in the book; they are described in intricate detail and they sound stunning.
Music plays a huge role in the story so expect many earworms or involuntary singing along while reading. The clever use of songs adds to the flow and pace of the novel. I was delighted to discover an accompanying playlist on Spotify.
Would I recommend?
This is one of my favourite books in this genre and once it is released will live on my forever shelf. It reminds me of Sophie Kinsella and Jojo Moyes at their best. You will need a box of tissues from the start to wipe the tears from laughter and sobbing.
It is ages since I delved into some historical fiction so I was looking forward to reading Letters to the Pianist by S.D Mayes. It has been on my radar for a while with its intriguing blurb and atmospheric cover.
In war-torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the terrifying bombing of their family home. They believe their parents are dead, their bodies buried underneath the burnt remains – but unbeknownst to them, their father, Joe, survives and is taken to hospital with amnesia.
Four years on, Ruth stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist and is struck by the resemblance to her father. Desperate for evidence she sends him a letter, and as the pianist’s dormant memories emerge, his past unravels, revealing his true identity – as her beloved father, Joe. Ruth sets out to meet him, only to find herself plunged into an aristocratic world of sinister dark secrets.
Can she help him escape and find a way to stay alive?
This debut instantly transported me back in time to the Second World War and I remained there until I reached the end. I loved the premise of a missing father and how the characters came to life on the page. It is about the love of family, the bond they share and survival in the dark times of war. The plot took me on a journey to places I wasn’t expecting to go with emotional, heart-stopping moments making me want to share this book among friends so can be discussed more. I can not wait to read more from this author.
I am now off to have some fish and chips by the sea because this is another book that made my taste buds tingle.
Would I recommend?
I love this book and would recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction and family sagas. It is worthy to be on my bookshelf to be reread and would be wonderful as a book club read.
Have you read it? Let me know what you think below.
I love Sharon Bolton’s books and I am counting down the days until the release of her latest novel The Craftsman on 3rd May 2018. I was excited to find Alive for free on Kindle.
Author: Sharon Bolton
Release date: 1st March 2018
For fans of Val McDermid, Elly Griffiths and Peter May, prepare to delve into the dark world of The Craftsman with Alive, the ghostly short story thriller by Sunday Times bestseller Sharon Bolton.
A dark moon is rising. A perfect black circle, barely visible in the night sky, the dark moon casts its void over the wind-scorched moor, over the soaring mass of a great limestone hill, and over the town that cowers in its shadow. The dark moon is the absence of moon before the slender silver crescent of the new moon appears again and people can breath a little easier.
The month is March and the night is clear and cold, black as pitch. The full moon in March is known as the Worm Moon, welcome despite its ominous name, marking as it does the end of winter and the emergence of earthworms from the thawing ground. Dark moons have never been named, although they are sometimes called the dead moons. The dark moons reign over nights when people stoke up their fires, draw their curtains tighter and try to think happy thoughts. In the town of Sabden at the foot of Pendle Hill in Lancashire they usually fail.
In Sabden’s soot-blackened terraced houses, the sleepers’ dreams darken when the moon leaves the sky. Infants wake up cold, mothers tremble with elusive fears for their children and old folks slip a little closer to death. Only the Craftsman welcomes the dark moon. Alone in the town, he is awake, and ready to start work.
Alive is a nail-biting, heart-racing, page-turning thriller that will have you up all night and includes an extract of Sharon’s upcoming novel The Craftsman.
Alive is the perfect appetiser to wet your appetite for Sharon’s crime-fiction reads – a gripping tale that will leave you terrified to turn the lights off!
This is a quick short story based in the 1960s but is spooky and sends shivers down your spine.Sharon Bolton excels at creating an atmosphere that makes you dread turning the lights out or go out at night and this is no exception. This is perfect to tempt you to read The Craftsman. It is going to be a long wait. I may have to delve into my favourite book of hers Blood Harvest in the mean time.
Have you read any of her books? Let me know in the comments below.
Some books make you stop reading, unable to pick up a new one up while you recover from the awe of storytelling, love of characters and powerful emotion the book has evoked. As a writer, it makes me want to put your pen and notebook away as it puts it puts my work to shame. The Toymakers is one such book and it makes me want to grab a copy for all my friends and demand they read it – mainly so I can talk obsessively about it with someone. As I consider you my friends and finances dictate I can not go on a shopping spree*, I am sharing a post originally published on Duvet Dwellers Books instead.
Hope you enjoy.
What book has given you a book hangover?
* Maybe a giveaway will be needed in the future
Book Review: The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale caught my eye before it was published because the blurb instantly reminding me of my favourite film, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.
I had high expectations as I placed a reservation on it at the library and that was before my friends who were lucky to receive an ARC raved about it including Mai Musings. A copy is now in my hands and the last page has been turned — blimely what a book!
Title: The Toymakers
Author: Robert Dinsdale
Publisher: Del Ray
Release date: 8th Feb 2018
Do you remember when you believed in magic?
The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open!
It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.
For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical…
This book was magical, stunning, and beyond my high expectations. The premise of a magical toyshop where toys are brought to life is one of childhood stories and movies but Robert Dinsdale with his superb imagination, writing style and the backdrop of the first World War has turned it into an amazing work of adult fantasy fiction.
From the moment I entered the shop with Cathy Wray, I was enchanted and captivated by the store, toys, and the relationship that evolves between herself and the two brothers, Kaspar and Emil. It is hard to say anything about the book without giving any of the magic away because discovering it for yourself part of the joy of this book but it takes you on a journey of emotions from childish delight and wonder to heartbreaking sobs. The main characters and toys will stay with me forever.
Would I recommend?
Yes! This is a book that I could get passionate about, demanding all my friends read so I can talk about it for hours. It is on my Kindle and will soon be on my forever shelf so I can dip into it at any time. Buy it (no excuse as this month it is 99p on Kindle Monthly), borrow it and delve into its magic then let me know what you think.