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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#ThrowbackThursday: We Are Called To Rise by @lmcbrideauthor‏

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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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An immigrant boy whose family is struggling to assimilate. A middle-aged housewife coping with an imploding marriage and a troubled son. A social worker at home in the darker corners of Las Vegas. A wounded soldier recovering from an injury he can’t remember getting. By the time we realize how these voices will connect, the impossible and perhaps the unbearable has already happened. We Are Called to Rise is a boomtown tale, in which the lives of people from different backgrounds and experiences collide in a stunning coincidence. When presented the opportunity to sink into despair, these characters rise. Through acts of remarkable charity and bravery, they rescue themselves. Emotionally powerful yet tender and intimate, We Are Called to Rise is a novel of redemption and unexpected love.

Today’s choice is a highly recommended book that was sent to me by Touchstone a couple of months ago. I had read and enjoyed Round Midnight and everyone said We Are Called To Rise was an unforgettable story. Sad, but uplifting.

The first thing that I noticed when I started the book was that, as in Round Midnight, the writing was flawless. I simply love the way Laura McBride gives a different voice to each one of the characters. I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone, but Bashkim was my absolute favorite. He was funny, insightful and lovely. I loved reading about his time at school and his life.

The storyline is based on a real event and I must say it’s quite tragic and devastating. So the book is indeed sad, but at the same time, the message was positive. As for me, I quite liked it, although I wasn’t in love with it as some others. In the end, this is a perfect read for those looking for a good contemporary novel featuring brilliant writing.

Blog Tour: The Room By The Lake by @emmdib ‏@HoZ_Books

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When Caitlin moved from London to New York, she thought she had left her problems behind: her alcoholic father, her dead mother, the pressure to succeed. But now, down to her last dollar in a foreign city, she is desperately lonely. Then she meets Jake. Handsome, smart, slightly damaged Jake. He lives off-grid, in a lakeside commune whose members practise regular exercise and frequent group therapy. Before long, Caitlin has settled into her idyllic new home. It looks like she has found the fresh start she longed for. But, as the commune tightens its grip on her freedom and her sanity, Caitlin realizes too late that she might become lost forever…

Isn’t that cover stunning? And the title is inspiring enough: The Room By The Lake. I only knew the book was about a mysterious cult, but I had no idea about the actual plot. And this novel definitely proved to be something completely original. I thought it might be a psychological thriller, but it wasn’t exactly that. And I don’t know how to properly explain what this was…

When it comes to the characters, Caitlin is the absolute protagonist. She was a complex and likable character, no doubt about that. Her relationship with her father isn’t easy, so she flees to New York hoping for a new beginning. She then meets Jake and Jake introduces her to his “family”. But his family isn’t what we would expect… And they’re so weird. But strangely magnetic, too.

I absolutely loved Emma Dibdin’s writing and her ability to make us care about Caitlin, the way she described her feelings, her fears, and dreams. This is not an easy novel to describe, so I’m going to keep things brief and simple. I’ll just say it’s much better to experience it.

While the first part of the book was mysterious yet slow-paced, the second part of the novel was something completely different. It was like being inside of someone’s head. A dreamy and confusing set of scenes where you didn’t know what was exactly going on.

The Room By The Lake is an original story, not the typical cult book and definitely not a thriller. The ending was a bit underwhelming perhaps, but the story was nevertheless a breath of fresh air.

ARC, Head of Zeus, 2017

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Mini Reviews #7 Yesterday & Working Fire

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Hello there! We’re back with a Mini Reviews post. This time, I bring you two books that I read during my vacation. I thought they were really entertaining but they won’t leave a lasting impression…

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Imagine a world in which classes are divided not by wealth or religion but by how much each group can remember. Monos, the majority, have only one day’s worth of memory; elite Duos have two. In this stratified society, where Monos are excluded from holding high office and demanding jobs, Claire and Mark are a rare mixed marriage. Clare is a conscientious Mono housewife, Mark a novelist-turned-politician Duo on the rise. They are a shining example of a new vision of tolerance and equality—until…a beautiful woman is found dead, her body dumped in England’s River Cam. The woman is Mark’s mistress, and he is the prime suspect in her murder. The detective investigating the case has secrets of his own. So did the victim. And when both the investigator’s and the suspect’s memories are constantly erased—how can anyone learn the truth?

Yesterday had a fascinating premise and I couldn’t resist requesting it. What if you could only remember what happened yesterday? What if there was a crime and you only had today to solve it?The book featured four different voices from very different characters. Monos and Duos. Husband and wife. Lover. Detective. This was a psychological thriller based on a sci-fi premise and it’s an interesting concept, no doubt.

At first, I couldn’t understand why Duos thought they were so much better than Monos. How is remembering two days so much better than remembering one? Then I realized this was exactly what the author had been trying to imply. In our world, this happens with racism and sexism and it makes no sense whatsoever. But some people still believe they’re superior.

As fun as this book was, I couldn’t help but find the plot a bit predictable. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters either, so while I liked it, I can’t say I loved it. In my opinion, there was something missing.

Netgalley, Headline, 2017

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Ellie Brown thought she’d finally escaped her stifling hometown of Broadlands, Illinois; med school was supposed to be her ticket out. But when her father has a stroke, she must return home to share his care with her older sister, Amelia, who’s busy with her own family. Working as a paramedic, Ellie’s days are monotonous, driving an ambulance through streets she’d hoped never to see again. Until a 911 dispatch changes everything. The address: her sister’s house. Rushing to the scene, Ellie discovers that Amelia and her husband, Steve, have been shot in a home invasion. After Amelia is rushed to the hospital, Ellie tries to make sense of the tragedy. But what really happened inside her sister’s house becomes less and less clear. As Amelia hangs on in critical condition, Ellie uncovers dark revelations about her family’s past that challenge her beliefs about those closest to her…and force her to question where her devotions truly lie.

Working Fire is a contemporary novel with a touch of mystery. This is the story of two sisters and is told from both perspectives: Ellie’s and Amelia’s. We know that Amelia has been shot, so the present narration helps us understand Ellie’s grief and determination to find out what happened. At the same time, we learn about Amelia’s life before the shooting and what exactly leads to that moment. I loved the relationship between the sisters and the family tragedy, their love for their father and the sacrifices they had made. I despised some of the other characters but found them interesting nonetheless. The writing is subtle and engaging and the book touches various themes like family, love, marriage, and lies.

I was always interested and wanted to know what had happened, but I thought there were too many unnecessary details and I struggled a little, skimmed through some pages because of that. The ending was unpredictable and introduced some interesting discussions. What would have we done?

Netgalley, Lake Union Publishing, 2017