Blog Tour: Snow Sisters by @carollovekin @honno #GuestPost

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Meredith discovers a dusty sewing box in a disused attic. Once open the box releases the ghost of Angharad, a Victorian child-woman with a horrific secret she must share. Angharad slowly reveals her story to Meredith who fails to convince her more pragmatic sister of the visitations, until Verity sees Angharad for herself on the eve of an unseasonal April snowstorm. Forced by her flighty mother to abandon Gull House for London, Meredith struggles to settle, still haunted by Angharad and her little red flannel hearts. This time, Verity is not sure she will be able to save her…

My first thought when I was reading this book was that I wished it was winter and I had a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate with me. Because guys, this is the ideal book to cozy up with. I haven’t felt this with any other book this year and I don’t think I will. Snow Sisters is a truly magical and evocative story.

Snow Sisters is a perfect blend of contemporary, historical fiction, magical realism, gothic story, and family drama. If you like any of those genres, you will surely love this book. This is not a fast-paced book where the plot is more important than the characters. This is the kind of story that needs to be savoured and enjoyed slowly. And every now and then, we all need that kind of book in our lives.

The relationship between Verity and Meredith was my absolute favorite part of the book. Their closeness felt believable and authentic, and I rooted for them to defy their mother and live their own lives. In a book where there are only a few characters, it is extremely important that you warm up to the protagonists. And Carol excels at that. She has crafted a heart-breaking story that deals with several themes like family and kindness.

Carol Lovekin is such an amazing writer. Her descriptions were vivid and evocative and I could picture myself living in the Hull house, becoming a Pryce sister myself. Her writing is gorgeous and poetic and I’d surely love to have her skills with words.

Snow Sisters is a beautiful novel about women and sisterly love. And a ghost!

ARC, Honno, 2017

The Nature of Glimmerings & the Unanswerable Question by Carol Lovekin

If I could choose a genre in which to place my books, it would be Quirky. Since authors aren’t allowed to pick and choose let’s call mine ‘contemporary fiction’ with hints of magical realism. (Which isn’t at all the same as fantasy, let’s be clear.) My stories are firmly rooted in reality. I explore possibilities: the fine line between the everyday and the world of enchantment.

I’m a feminist and my stories reflect this too. I explore family relationships: how people, women in particular, respond to loss and how they survive. My books have ghosts, although there are no clanking chains or blood-chilling wails. All it takes to embrace my ghosts, and the magic I conjure, is a temporary suspension of disbelief.

Enter my loyal reader, with her penchant for a quirky ghost story and a liking for strong women. And her question: ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

Until I began writing seriously I would have claimed my ideas came out of ‘nowhere’ which is of course nonsensical. Ideas, however obscure, have to come from somewhere. And yet, paradoxically, the notion that a story must stem from a single concept is absurd.

It’s the word ‘idea’ itself I find problematical. It posits the notion that the genesis of a novel lies in an idea per se: a definable moment the writer can recall.

The origin of most stories is, for me at any rate, a random gathering of scattered thoughts; glimmerings as slender and obscure as a line in a poem or novel triggering a sideways digression. As I forget most of my night dreams the moment I wake up, I’ve never dreamed a story into existence. And as any I do recall are rarely logical – and I don’t write fantasy remember – my dreams are unlikely to serve me on any level whatsoever. Day dreaming however is another thing entirely: it’s where glimmerings evolve, the ‘what if’ moments and barely discernible fragments that come out of left field.

Singular words have always appealed to me. I collect them: words like cwtch which is Welsh for hug. And more often than not, a single word can entice me and suggest a theme for a scene, or present me with an unexpected tangent.

My study overlooks trees and low hills. Some mornings the mist lies as heavy as sleep and it’s like living on an island. I like to imagine the Avalon barge emerging between the mists to collect me. It never does, and chewing my pencil I sigh, scan a sky full of birds and watch instead for the ones I call my word birds. They circle a tall beech tree, ignored by a big bossy crow – my hunched, feathery muse. (I kid myself it’s the same one every day – shouting kraa from the topmost branch, urging me to stop lollygagging and get on with my work.)

These word birds are my writing familiars; they drop their glimmerings onto my windowsill; leave words and phrases in the edges of my hair. I gather up these offerings and it’s anyone’s guess what they will become. Not all the words make it onto the page and many get away. Or I put them away, because no sensible writer ever throws anything out.

The glimmerings may not at first gift me entire plots or even vague outlines. What they do is hover in a ghost location in my imagination. The place where I wave my pencil wand and cast my story spells; listen for my word birds, in case they have more enchantment for me.

My loyal reader is a gem and I love her. The fact remains, next time she asks me where my ideas come from, I shall have no choice but to answer, ‘I have no idea…’

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Blog Tour: Maria In The Moon by @LouiseWriter ‏@OrendaBooks

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Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

Louise Beech could write about any topic and I’d still read her books. As my friend Steph would say: “I would read everything she publishes, even if she wrote the phone book”. Because Louise has a way with words. She makes ordinary stories feel extraordinary. I admit I wasn’t sure of Maria In The Moon at first, as I didn’t really understand what the book was about when I checked out the blurb or even when I started reading. But the more I read, the more I liked it. There was just something about it, and I ended up falling in love with it.

I admire Louise’s ability to write such unique stories every time. Her three books are completely different in terms of genre and the stories feel special and magic in their own way. Although my favorite is still How To Be Brave, this is a close second. Maria In The Moon tells the story of a fascinating but very damaged woman named Catherine Maria, a woman who doesn’t remember a year in her life. What happened during her childhood? Why doesn’t she remember her ninth year?

After losing her house, Catherine starts volunteering at Flood Crisis and, to be honest, those were my favorite scenes to read about. Her conversations with the callers were incredible and I love the way you get to care about characters that you know nothing about. If that isn’t a sign of a great writer, I don’t know what is. So yes, all the characters were multi-layered and interesting, and despite her difficult personality, I really loved Catherine Maria and her relationships, especially the ones with her roommate, Christopher, and her parents. The dialogues in Maria in the Moon were witty and honest, deep and thought-provoking. In addition, the “love story” was well-crafted and I rooted for them to be together.

I’d recommend this beautiful book to all those who are partial to brilliant writing and favour character developing over plot. It’s heart-breaking but ultimately optimistic. Congrats on yet another success, Louise.

ARC, Orenda Books, 2017

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Book vs Film #2 Brooklyn

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

I already talked about this film/book in another post, but I wanted to feature it in this new meme. This is one of those cases where I watched the film, fell in love with it and decided to read the book hoping to feel the same. Spoiler: I didn’t.

I watched the Brooklyn film back in 2015 and I’ve watched it probably 3 times more ever since (and I still want to watch it again). I’m fully aware that this is a rather “simple” film, in the sense that it’s not an epic romantic drama like Titanic or even The Notebook. Some people have told me that: “yes, it was okay, just nothing special”. But when I watched this movie, I hadn’t watched a romantic flick where I rooted so much for the characters in a very LONG time. I had already made my mind when I watched the trailer, as I remember thinking: this Italian “fella” is so cute. And sometimes, a story is justs perfect for you.

The story features various ingredients I really enjoy (no murders this time haha!): Irish immigrants in New York, Brooklyn (I’m completely in love with the Brooklyn area), Italian accents, Irish accents, the 50s, Sunday dances, genuinely good guys who are gentle, kind and funny…

The book wasn’t bad and I would’ve probably liked it better had I read it before watching the film. It just was so different, I found it rather “cold” and I didn’t care about the characters that much. The relationships didn’t feel genuine, I felt like Eilis didn’t really like any of the guys and I certainly want to feel something when I’m reading about a romantic relationship. Underwhelmed was the perfect word to describe my feelings while reading the novel.

So this time, the film is a clear winner. Saoirse Ronan was fantastic, and I want to be Eilis and have Emory Cohen’s Tony fall in love with me. Also, I can’t watch the final monologue without bawling like a baby.

Mini Reviews #8 The Missing Girls & The Last Weekend

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Hello! We’re back with a Mini Reviews post, this time, though, I really liked the books. Both were great mysteries.

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When a girl’s body is found at a Midlands storage unit, it is too decomposed for Detective Robyn Carter to read the signs left by the killer. No one knows the woman in blue who rented the unit; her hire van can’t be traced. But as the leads run dry another body is uncovered. This time the killer’s distinctive mark is plain to see, and matching scratches on the first victim’s skeleton make Robyn suspect she’s searching for a serial-killer. As Robyn closes in on the killer’s shocking hunting ground, another girl goes missing, and this time it’s someone close to her own heart. Robyn can’t lose another loved one. Can she find the sickest individual she has ever faced, before it’s too late?

The Missing Girls is the third installment in the Robyn Carter series and I’m glad to say I liked this one better than the second book (not quite as much as the first one, though). I really like how Caroline Wyer plots her stories and the focus on the investigation as well as her relationship with her ex-boyfriend’s daughter. The case was quite intriguing and there were lots of suspects. I couldn’t wait to know more. The story featured a good and satisfying ending, too. I like Robyn more and more as the books progress, but I also want to know her team a bit more. I feel like I don’t know them as well as in other similar series and I’d love to!

On the other hand, and I know it’s not anyone’s fault, but if every review keeps saying that the ending is totally unexpected, for some people, it will be the opposite. I don’t want to say anything more about that.

Netgalley, Bookouture, 2017

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Every year for a decade, five college friends spent a weekend together at the atmospheric Chateau du Cygne Noir. Then, tragedy struck. Ten years later, Laurel Muir returns to the castle for the first time since the accident, hoping to reconnect with her friends and lay the past to rest. When a murderer strikes, it rips open old wounds and forces the women to admit there’s a killer in their midst. The remaining friends make a pact to unearth the truth, but suspicion, doubt, and old secrets threaten to tear them apart. Unsure who to trust, Laurel puts herself in harm’s way, risking it all for friendship and long-delayed justice.

I admit that when I started this book, I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much. In fact, I almost DNF’d after only one chapter. I wasn’t in the mood. A group of friends received a mysterious letter and I found those first introductory scenes quite repetitive. However. I read some great reviews, so I gave it another chance. By the end of the day, I had already finished it. The premise was very “Agatha Christie” and the moment those women arrived at the castle, I was completely on board. I enjoyed their interactions and I was super intrigued. Who had pushed Evangeline? What had happened this time? Were the two events related? I’d love to discuss The Last Weekend!

The ending was satisfying and I finished the book feeling really happy and relieved that I had kept on reading. I would surely recommend this cozy mystery for those who’re looking for a quick and smart whodunit.

 

#ThrowbackThursday Gods in Alabama by @JoshilynJackson

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Renee @It’sBookTalk began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. I’ve wanted to join this meme for a long time and I thought it would be a great idea because it forces me to read books from the TBR and not only new releases. And, of course, I can also include some old favorites!

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For 10 years Arlene has kept her promises, and God has kept His end of the bargain. Until now. When an old schoolmate from Possett turns up at Arlene’s door in Chicago asking questions about Jim Beverly, former quarterback and god of Possett High, Arlene’s break with her former hometown is forced to an end. At the same time, Burr, her long-time boyfriend, has raised an ultimatum: introduce him to her family or consider him gone. Arlene loves him dearly but knows her lily white (not to mention deeply racist) Southern Baptist family will not understand her relationship with an African American boyfriend. Reluctantly, Arlene bows to the pressure, and she and Burr embark on the long-avoided road trip back home. As Arlene digs through guilt and deception, her patched-together alibi begins to unravel, and she discovers how far she will go for love and a chance at redemption.

I haven’t had time to read much this past week, so I thought I could feature an old title today. I read Gods in Alabama back in 2010 and it was one of those books that make me realize what kind of books I like. It depicted everything I love about a story. The kind of novel I’d love to write one day. And it might not be the best in the genre, but it was my first and so it’s still today one of my favorite reads.

Gods in Alabama deals with various themes like family, racism, rape, feminism and, it’s set, obviously, in Alabama. It’s a mystery and a drama at the same time, but the characters stayed with me forever. In addition, it made me laugh. Despite all the drama, the writing was sharp and witty.

Oh, and the ending was brilliant, in my opinion, exactly what I would’ve chosen. I’ve read other books by Jackson and while I’ve enjoyed some, my first is still my favorite. What are you waiting for?