Can You Read Without Prejudice by Anonymous

 

We know we shouldn’t but I think we are all guilty of judging a book by its cover at times, or perhaps by its author. There are some authors you might not read as you think you don’t like their genre, which is maybe why some authors write with two or more names. Or you can be put off or attracted to a book by the artwork on its cover. This book is a bit different. As you can see from above, there is no title, no author, minimal artwork and very little else to tell you about it. Here is what the publishers Hodder & Stoughton say about it: “There are two points in life when we are all equal: at the moment of birth and at the moment of death. It is how we live in between that defines us. Delicately balanced. Perfectly crafted. Beautifully written.  We want you to immerse yourself in this dazzling novel, free from any preconceptions that a cover, title or author can bring. We ask you simply to #readwithoutprejudice.”

I’ve had a review copy of this to read for quite a while but as the publication date was given as October, I had been waiting till nearer then to read it. Then I heard that the publishers were going to announce the author and title yesterday (I’m not sure they did though or maybe I missed it) so I thought I’d better at least make a start so I really could ‘read without prejudice’. Well, I have been totally engrossed in the book over the past few days and think it is a terrific read. I’m not sure how much to say about it without giving too much away so that other reviewers who haven’t read it yet can still read without prejudice. What I will say is that the author has written a powerful book looking a very difficult and sadly all too topical situation. It’s the kind of book which will have you wondering what you would do in each character’s position, what is right and what is wrong and shows that everyone has their prejudices. It shows all the characters to have their flaws, some much deeper than others. It’s a hard-hitting storyline and can make for difficult and uncomfortable reading at times. Although I was quite sure about the rights and wrongs within the own story it did challenge some of my own thinking too. 

I do actually know now who the author is but I’m not saying yet until it’s officially announced. You can probably find out quite easily by an internet search if you really want to know. It’s an author whose books I have read previously and enjoyed though I’ve not read any for some time now. Would I have chosen to read this one knowing who it was by? Possibly but I wouldn’t have been desperate to get my hands on it. And that would have been a shame as it’s a very well crafted, thought-provoking book with some very important messages.

Thanks to the publishers Hodder & Stoughton for allowing me to read this review copy. I can’t tell you any more publication details but will add them when I know.

Ten Things You Should Know About Faith Hogan

Today I have a fun guest post by author Faith Hogan to share with you. I read her debut novel My Husband’s Wives a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it. You can read my review here and order a copy here

It’s lovely to be dropping in today sharing Ten Things You Probably Should Know About Me…

The First thing…

Although I’ve written for many years, I still describe myself as a reader first, but the truth is that since I’ve been published, I’m probably doing less reading than ever! My writing commitments have eaten into my reading time, if only they ate into my ironing time too!

The Second…

My master is not a looming deadline, rather it’s a very fat cat called Norris who demands that everyone in our house attends upon his every whim.

Third…

Perhaps, Norris knows, that the third thing you should know about me is that I’m a dog lover! I love big friendly daft dogs. The madder they are, probably the better I like them. My last dog was an untrainable beagle called Holly – who ate everything from my kitchen table to the car steering wheel – but she brought immense joy and it is only now, three years after she died that I’m ready to have another dog.

And number four…

The fourth thing, you should probably know is that I’m married to a very organised man. Unfortunately, Mr H sees a dog as another thing to organise and to pick up after. He will not be so keen on having his steering wheel chewed or the antique dining table tooth marked forever.

To important number five…

Number five – I love chocolate. All kinds of chocolate really, except Turkish delight. To spoil myself, I take a hot chocolate, dark chocolate and a good read to bed early – bliss!

Being good at number six…

Of course, I don’t spend my whole time eating chocolate! I live in the west of Ireland and although, yes, it does rain, I have the most beautiful countryside on my doorstep and I more than make the most of it. There’s nothing nicer than walking through the woods on a wet day, nice and dry, beneath a leafy canopy overhead.

Seven is a blast from the past…

My first car was a red, two-door, Ford Escort – I so thought I was the Bizz in that car!

Number eight…

My favourite part of writing is the first draft.

Which leads me on to number nine…

My second favourite part of writing is when I finish that draft and write those two, three letter words – the end!

And finally, ten…

My ‘overnight success,’ has taken many years to come about! I’ve been writing since I was at secondary school, albeit not with the intention of writing novels, but always writing…

Faith x

 

The Muse by Jessie Burton

The Muse by [Burton, Jessie]

Like many people, I read Jessie Burton’s incredibly successful debut novel The Miniaturist for my book group – for two book groups actually. I hadn’t really expected to like it, as it wasn’t a period of history I was particularly interested in, but I absolutely loved it! I was hoping for great things from her second novel and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. It is as stunning a read as its beautiful cover promises. Elements of the story are reflected in the cover and you can read a bit more about its design by clicking here.

The Muse takes place over two time periods. It’s a turbulent time in 1930s Spain, with revolution on the horizon. Olive Schloss lives with her father Harold, who is an art dealer, and her mother Sarah. She is a talented artist but frustrated in her ambitions in a family where art is so important but where women aren’t considered likely to have artistic merit. Her mother commissions local artist Isaac Robles to paint a portrait of herself and Olive as a gift for Harold. His sister Teresa also works for the family as a maid. These two will have an important effect on the Schloss family in many ways.

In 1960s London, Odelle Bastien is also trying to find her place in a not entirely welcoming city. She is from Trinidad, struggling to find acceptance and a job reflecting her ability. After some years working alongside her friend Cynth in a shoeshop, she is offered a position at an art gallery under the watchful eye of the glamorous Marjorie Quick. When her friend Lawrie brings a painting to the gallery to be valued, it provokes an extraordinary response in Quick. What does she know about the painting and what is her connection to the artist?

As you might expect from a book concerned with art and painting, Jessie Burton has written a richly detailed novel. The Spanish physical and political landscapes are evocatively portrayed. The paintings are so vividly described I felt I could visualise the colours, the brushstrokes and the finished paintings. The London which Odelle experienced was also perfectly conveyed, from the heat of the summer to the prejudice she experienced as a black woman. Both storylines were strong with the end of each section leaving me wanting more, only to be immediately immersed in the other narrative. The author is skilled at gradually revealing the story in a way to surprise you and make you want to keep on reading as you try to understand what has been happening and what the connection between the two narratives is.

I can see this book being just as successful as The Miniaturist and rightly so. It is full of strong female characters who are striving to find acceptance as women and also to have their talents recognised. Only when the two storylines are expertly brought together at the end can you truly appreciate the full story – or should I say the full picture? A wonderful book about secrets, love and ambition.

My thanks to publishers Picador for allowing me to read a review copy via Netgalley. The Muse was published in hardback and as an ebook on 30 June 2016. You can order a copy here: The Muse

From the back of the book

A picture hides a thousand words . . .

On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .

Seductive, exhilarating and suspenseful, The Muse is an unforgettable novel about aspiration and identity, love and obsession, authenticity and deception – a masterpiece from Jessie Burton, the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist.

My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal

I first heard about My Name is Leon when it was featured on the Radio 2 Book Club at the beginning of June, just after it was released. Since then, I have read so many wonderful reviews of the book that I had to find out for myself if it was a good as everyone was was saying. And it is! Leon is a character who I am sure most readers can’t help but take to their heart.

Leon is only nine and has a new baby brother, Jake, who he loves. His mother Carol though seems unable to look after either of them, quite possibly suffering from post natal depression, though she clearly has many difficulties in her life. Leon has to look after both himself and the baby, often missing school as he struggles to keep them fed and clean. When, thankfully, one of Carol’s friends discovers the situation she calls social services and both boys are given into the care of foster carer Maureen. After some time with her, the brothers are separated as baby Jake is adopted. You see, as a white baby Jake is highly sought after, if I can put it that way, whereas Leon had a different father and is black and older so isn’t wanted by that family.

My heart just went out to Leon. I would have taken him home myself! His grief at losing his baby brother was palpable and his bewilderment at being rejected was heart-breaking. I felt that Kit De Waal captured Leon’s young voice, thoughts and emotions completely convincingly. I was quite angry with social services for separating the boys but perhaps in the 80s this wouldn’t have been unusual. I’d like to think that it wouldn’t happen today, that they would try to keep a family together but I just don’t know. Thank goodness for foster carer Maureen who was so compassionate and down-to-earth and not afraid to tell Leon that she wasn’t happy with the decision either, while trying to reassure him that he was safe with her. But Maureen takes ill and Leon’s story goes in a different direction again.

My Name is Leon is a really emotional story about a very endearing character. It’s sad but it’s funny too. A heartwarming story about finding your place in the world when everything you held dear has been taken from you. A compelling read.

My thanks to the publishers for providing a review copy via Netgalley. My Name is Leon was published by Penguin on 2nd June in hardback and ebook formats with the paperback to follow next January. You can order a copy online here: My Name is Leon

From the back of the book

A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one.

Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not.

As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.

Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we manage to find our way home.

What We Didn’t Say by Rory Dunlop

What We Didn’t Say tells the story of Jack and Laura’s marriage mostly through the medium of his diary account of a difficult time in their relationship, as well as some emails between the two. In the book, the diary is being shared with their son, Mike, and has many ‘corrections’ from Laura telling her side of the story. Jack and Laura’s relationship hasn’t been easy. He was older than her, her lecturer at Uni actually, and I think he always has that fear that he is too old. This leads to a lot of jealousy on his part.

I felt quite annoyed with Laura at times as you come to realise through her edits that if they had just spoken frankly and actually listened to each other, there would have been fewer arguments and frustrations between them. But then I also felt annoyed with Jack as he always seemed to believe the worst of Laura. So in a way they were as bad as each other.

Through this book, the reader is shown the importance of expressing yourself and communicating with your partner. It shows that love however strong can be worn away through misunderstandings. But it also shows that if it is strong enough, love can overcome so much. I think there is much in this poignant read which readers will be able to relate to. A book that shows the importance of honesty and communication.

My thanks to the publishers Twenty7 for the review copy of the book. What We Didn’t Say was published as an ebook on 30th June with the paperback to follow in October You can order a copy here: What We Didn’t Say.

From the back of the book

Jack and Laura have separated. Jack thinks it’s all Laura’s fault.

Laura disagrees.

Jack writes to Laura, desperate to put across his side of the story.

Laura interrupts.

Wryly sarcastic and intensely well-observed, What We Didn’t Say is about that gap between words and feelings where relationships live – and die.

My Husband’s Wife by Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse has a real talent for creating characters who her readers can identify with. They could be friends, neighbours, relations, or you may even recognise elements of yourself. In Rosie Tipcott she has done it again. Rosie is an ordinary wife and mother, loves her home and does her best to provide happy and caring environment for everyone. Money is perhaps a bit tight, so she has a job cleaning caravans in the local holiday park to supplement what husband Phil earns in his family’s building firm. Rosie’s a bit heavier than she’d like to be, not as glamorous as she’d maybe like, slightly self-conscious about her body and is aware that the physical side of her marriage has dwindled a bit since her two girls were born. See what I mean? Rosie could be so many people you probably know.

Rosie’s world comes crashing down when her husband suddenly announces that he is leaving her for another woman. This on the day that she has just found out that her mother, who she has never known, has recently died denying her the opportunity to ever meet her. Rosie goes completely to pieces and I feel that Amanda Prowse recounted these scenes perfectly. The way Rosie reacts is how I can imagine many women in her situation reacting. Yes there is anger but mostly there is disbelief, hurt and fear. How can she cope? I felt so sorry for her. Not having had her own mother growing up, all she wanted was to have a happy, stable home and that has been her priority for her family. The reader follows Rosie as she tries to carry on as best she can, trying to keep things as normal as she can for her girls while hurting so much inside. Through a series of events, the girls go to live with their father and his mistress Gerrie and Rosie really does feel that she has lost everything. Family was all important to her and without it she doesn’t know how to define herself anymore.

I found this book a really compelling read, mostly because I found Rosie’s situation so convincing and I wanted to know how she could move on from the loss of all she held dear. Amanda Prowse has conveyed perfectly all the emotions Rosie was experiencing. Her other characters were very convincing too from selfish Phil, to the bundles of energy who were their young daughters, to Rosie’s father. At first I was quite annoyed with him as it seemed he had denied Rosie the chance to ever get to know her mother, but as the story went on I realised that he had been doing his best given the situation he was faced with. There were some really moving scenes between Rosie and her Dad as they come to know each other better and he showed just how much he loved his daughter. My only criticism – and it is a small one – is that I felt the final chapter or two could have been a bit longer. The ending was perfect, don’t get me wrong, but I feel it all happened rather suddenly and I would have liked just a few more pages building up to the resolution of the story.

A realistic portrayal of a marriage breakdown and the strength Rosie finds to carry on, My Husband’s Wife is another excellent read from Amanda Prowse and one which her many fans are sure to enjoy. I know I did!

My thanks to Simeon Prowse for asking me to read and review this book. My Husband’s Wife was published by Head of Zeus in hardback and as an e-book on Thursday 14th July. You can order a copy here: My Husband’s Wife

From the back of the book

Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings.

She goes to sit on her favourite bench on the north Devon cliffs, and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy.

But then her husband unexpectedly leaves her for another woman and takes the children. Now she must ask the question: what is left in her life? Can Rosie find the strength to rebuild herself? More importantly, does she even want to?

One Bad Turn by Emma Salisbury

Although this is the third book in the series to feature DS Kevin Coupland, it is the first I have read and the first of Emma Salisbury’s books I’ve read. There were a couple of references to previous storylines within the book but it is easily read as a standalone, although I probably will want to read more about Coupland as he is a great character. 

Kevin Coupland has literally just got off the plane from a family holiday when he is called into the police station to help with a murder enquiry, holiday clothes and all! I have to say that I think his wife deserves a medal and the title long-suffering. Before long two more bodies are found and the race is on to find the killer before they strike again. With few clues to go on, Coupland and his team are struggling to find a link and feeling very frustrated. At home he is also frustrated with his daughter, whose latest boyfriend is someone he put away for GBH. 

For me the strength of this novel was in the characters, particularly Coupland. I liked that he was just a normal guy, a dedicated policeman not struggling with alcohol addiction and with a normal stable home-life. His daughter made me smile a lot with her annoyance at what she saw as her dad’s interference in her love life and her frequent yelling matches or deliberate silences towards him. Again, his wife was earning her long-suffering medal here with her patience and negotiation between the two.

The crime story was well plotted and well paced. The final few chapters where the link between the cases was discovered and Coupland realised that his daughter may be in danger were real page-turners. Emma Salisbury has written a gripping crime novel with realistic characters.The story ended perfectly set up for book 4 and I’m looking forward to seeing how Coupland deals with what happens next.

My thanks to the author for giving me a copy of her book to review. One Bad Turn is available now as an e-book on and you can order a copy here: One Bad Turn

From the back of the book

A serial killer is on the loose…

No sooner has Detective Sergeant Kevin Coupland stepped off the plane from a family holiday than he gets the call that a woman’s body has been found on a path beside a recreation park in a smart suburb in Salford. Account Manager Sharon Mathers suffered a brutal blow to the head following a night out with friends from work.

Teamed with DC Ashcroft who has transferred from the Met under a cloud, Coupland struggles to find a motive for the killing when two days later another body is found, this time at the bottom of a footbridge at Salford Station. Could the same person be responsible? While still trying to work out the answer to this Coupland’s personal life spirals into freefall when his daughter Amy introduces him to her new boyfriend – a thug he’d put away for GBH two years before. The relationship puts a strain on the detective’s home life and impacts his judgement at work – putting him under the microscope with the powers that be.

When a third body is found he makes a startling discovery – the killings are linked to a murder in ’92. Coupland was a probationer back in the nineties – could he be linked in some way to the killer?