The Mangle Street Murders – M.R.C. Kasasian – review

Head of Zeus

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“Gower Street, London, 1882: Sidney Grice, London’s most famous personal detective, is expecting a visitor. He drains his fifth pot of morning tea, and glances outside, where a young, plain woman picks her way between the piles of horse-dung towards his front door. Sidney Grice shudders. For heaven’s sake – she is wearing brown shoes.

Set between the refined buildings of Victorian Bloomsbury and the stinking streets of London’s East End, THE MANGLE STREET MURDERS is for those who like their crime original, atmospheric, and very, very funny.

- See more at: http://headofzeus.com/books/The+Mangle+Street+Murders?field_book_type_value_1=E-Book&bid=9781781851876#sthash.7MNHmdtw.dpuf”

3.5 of 5 stars

When March Middleton’s father dies she finds that she cannot maintain the family home. On deciding to let it she moves from Lancashire to move in with her new Guardian, Sidney Grice, an old friend of her father.

Sidney Grice however is no ordinary man. He is the famous personal detective, employed by the great and good to investigate a variety of crimes.

March soon finds herself drawn into one of Sidney’s investigations when a woman appears at his door, begging him to investigate her daughter’s death.

I had bought this book and left it sat on my Kindle for a while so I was pleased to finally get to read it. I enjoyed this first adventure of The Gower Street Detective series very much. It is a fun, light-hearted read set in Victorian London. A London full of misogyny, grime and crime and one which the feisty March is more than equipped to deal with. I loved her responses to the negativity directed at her for her looks, or lack thereof, and the fact that she is a woman. She gives as good as she gets, and often as a result gains respect.

Sidney Grice is a detestable little man, conceited, contriving and critical of anyone other than himself. He is however a caricature and because of all of these characteristics a great character to read. There are a host of other lovely characters including the put upon but not downtrodden maid Molly and Inspector Pound, whose interest in March is hinted at throughout. There is also a secret in March’s past that is a main part of the story and isn’t concluded, leaving it open to run throughout the series.

Whilst I worked out the mystery from about half way through the book this didn’t stop my enjoyment. It was a quick read, with lots of short chapters that helped me race through it. Luckily the next in the series The Curse of the House of Foskett was in my to read pile so I began to read that straight after this one. I’m already looking forward to book three!

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The Summer Guest – Emma Hannigan – review

Today I review The Summer Guest by Emma Hannigan.

Headline Review

Published 31st July 2014 (paperback)

The Summer Guest

A little magic is about to come to sleepy Caracove Bay…

Lexie and her husband Sam have spent years lovingly restoring No. 3 Cashel Square to its former glory. So imagine Lexie’s delight when a stranger knocks on the door, asking to see the house she was born in over sixty years ago.

Kathleen is visiting from America, longing to see her childhood home…and longing for the distraction from the grief of loosing her husband.

And as Lexie and Sam battle over whether or not to have a baby and Kathleen struggles with her loss, the two women realise their unexpected friendship will touch them in ways neither could have imagined.

In Caracove, there’s more than a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

3 of 5 stars

I was sent a copy of this book by the publishers and this is my honest review.

Lexie and Sam have been happily married for 17 years and have spent most of that time lovingly restoring their home, affectionately recognised as a money pit. After an accident left her unable to carry on her career, Lexie opened a gallery which has become her pride and joy. She puts up with her overbearing mother and often spends time with her teenage niece, Amelie. She is delighted when she receives a letter from Kathleen asking if she can visit her childhood home. The two soon strike up a friendship, made all the more close when Kathleen moves into their ‘granny annex’.

I did struggle to get into this book in places. I didn’t warm to Lexie who I felt came across as nice and kind one minute, then selfish the next. Her and Sam battle over whether or not to have a child and her resolute refusal to discuss it grated on me. That said I am heavily pregnant at the time of reading and reviewing so that may have some influence on my viewpoint!

Each of the characters were distinct and I was left with clear opinions on all of them, which to me is always a positive. Better to love or loath a character than be indifferent to them. I liked Kathleen and Sam, and felt more on Sam’s ‘side’ than Lexie’s. His reaction to the situation he and Lexie find themselves in seemed more natural to me. I also liked the character of Maia, Lexie’s best friend, who is blunt to the point of rudeness but to me was portrayed in a funny and quirky light. I did however detest the character of Amelie, Lexie’s niece, and was always bewildered when another character said what a nice girl she was. She just appeared to me to be spoiled by Lexie and self-centred.

Overall I thought this was a gentle-paced, easy and quick read, something to take to the pool or beach perhaps.

About the Author:

Emma+Hannigan

Emma Hannigan is the author of six bestselling novels including Keeping Mum and a bestselling memoir Talk to the Headscarf which charted her journey through cancer. Emma lives in Bray, Ireland, with her husband and two children.
For more about Emma, visit her website www.emmahannigan.com or follow her on Twitter @MsEmmaHannigan.

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You had me at Merlot – Lisa Dickenson – review

Today I review You had me at Merlot by Lisa Dickenson, an e book serialised in four parts. My review encompasses all four parts.

Published by Sphere

Part 1 – 14th July 2014

Part 2 – 21st July 2014

Part 3- 28th July 2014

Part 4 – 4th August 2014

1 - 9780751557428  2 - 9780751557435

3 - 9780751557442  4 - 9780751557459

“Elle and Laurie are the last ones standing: they’re single, they’re not having babies any time soon and their weekends aren’t filled with joyful meetings about mortgages. For Elle, this is fine – she likes her independent life, she loves her job, and she has no desire to walk down the aisle any time soon. But Laurie wants love and she wants it now.

So when Laurie begs Elle to come with her on a singles holiday to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Elle is reluctant. You Had Me at Merlot Holidays promises crisp sunshine, fun and a chance to stir up some sizzling romance. Elle has no intention of swapping her perfectly lovely life for someone else’s idea of her Mr Perfect, but ten days under the Italian sun with her best friend and lashings of wine? How bad could that be?”

4 of 5 stars

I was sent a copy of each part by the publisher and this is my honest review.

First off I have to state that I think the title is genius. It boded well for the rest of the story. In the first part we see Elle being convinced to go on holiday with Laurie to Italy. Elle is happily single, having just perfected the single ladies dance she doesn’t want to a boyfriend. She loves her job, working long hours in the vain hope that she’ll be promoted. So it is with some reluctance that she agrees to go on a singles holiday with Laurie.

The rest of the instalments see Elle befriend Jamie, the rather attractive son of the owners of You Had Me at Merlot holidays but is determined not to create any romantic links. She’s also busy trying to avoid her boss and the amorous advances of an elderly American. Will Elle give in to the atmosphere of the romantic Tuscan villa and find love?

I found this to be an entertaining and funny read, indeed it made me laugh out loud in places. It also made me want to jump on a plane and head for Italy as the setting sounded divine! I loved that story was in four parts. Each part was well paced and the length was just right. A part could easily be read in a lunch break which made it perfect to dip in and out of.

I loved all of the characters, and in particular the relationship between Elle and Laurie. A great part of the story was seeing Elle’s relationship with her boss Donna and of course with Jamie develop.

This is a lovely light-hearted read, perfect for the summer, accompanied by a glass of wine of course!

 

 

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Before the Blog review – A French Affair – Katie Fforde

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title – A French Affair – Katie Fforde

Publisher – Arrow

Originally posted – on Mrsbbooks2011/blogspot.co.uk,  Goodreads, Booklikes and Amazon

Read – 11-18 Oct 2013

French Affair revised hb

Synopsis:

“Gina and Sally Makepiece have inherited a stall in the French House – an antiques centre nestled in the heart of the English countryside.  Gina is determined to drag the French House and its grumpy owner into the twenty-first century. Bearing all the attributes of a modern-day Mr Rochester, Matthew Ballinger is less than happy with the whirlwind that has arrived on his doorstep.
The last thing either of them want is to fall in love. But will a trip to France change their minds?”

My review:

Gina Makepiece and her sister Sally have been left a small legacy by their Aunt Rainey, a stall in The French House, an antiques centre in the Cotswolds. Neither of them know anything about antiques and while Sally displays little interest in old things, Gina is determined to make a success of the business and learn all she can about antiques. She has to contend with the taciturn Matthew Ballinger the owner of the French House. As she learns more about the antiques business and Matthew she slowly comes to realise she has fallen in love with antiques, the French House and its owner.

When she learns that the French House is in danger of being sold she uses all her PR skills in an attempt to raise the funds needed to save it, all the while wondering if Matthew returns her feelings.

I’m sure I’m like other people in that I have a group of authors I can turn to when I’m in a reading slump. For me that group includes Jane Austen and Katie Fforde. I have read all of her previous novels, some a number of times and have never been disappointed. I have always enjoyed the journeys the female protagonists have taken and watching how they fall in love. I know that when I settle down with a Katie Fforde novel I’m in for a treat. A French Affair was no different. I liked Gina, who was just the right level of feistiness and determined and her sister Sally who was more emotional and romantic.

The relationship between Gina and Matthew develops at a realistic pace, whereas in some romantic novels I have read the protagonists go from barely knowing each other to practically married in the space of a couple of chapters.

As always I found myself racing through this book, with the last couple of chapters a blur as I eagerly wanted to find out what would happen to Gina, Matthew and the French House. This was a lovely read and Katie Fforde fans won’t be disappointed. The only disappointment I have is that I have to wait until next year for the next book!

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Before the Blog review – The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title – The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Publisher – Penguin

Originally posted – on Goodreads, Booklikes and Amazon

Read – 17 -19 Sept 2013

9781405912792H

Synopsis

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is a story about love, life and lobster every Tuesday…

Meet Don Tillman.

Don is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet. But he has designed a very detailed questionnaire to help him find the perfect woman. One thing he already knows, though, is that it’s not Rosie. Absolutely, completely, definitely not.

Sometimes, though, you don’t find love: love finds you… 

With the charm of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night- Time and the romance of David Nicholls’ One Day, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is both funny and endearing – and is set to become the paperback of 2014.”

My review:

I originally read a library version of this book but also obtained a copy from the publishers via Net Galley which I requested for review purposes and which was provided in return for an honest review. 

Don Tillman is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet…

The Wife Project will solve that problem. He has designed a 16-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver.

Rosie Jarman is all of these things. She is also fiery and intelligent and beautiful. And she is on a quest of her own, to find her biological father – a search that Don, a genetics professor, might just be able to help her with.

The Wife Project teaches Don some unexpected things. Like why earlobe length is an inadequate predictor of sexual attraction. Why ice cream tastes different in New York. Why he’s never been on a second date. And why, despite the best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, love finds you…

Don Tillman likes routine. Everything is scheduled from bathroom cleaning to Tuesday nights being lobster night. He’s straight talking – because that’s the only way he can be. He has two friends, his colleague Gene and Gene’s wife Claudia. 

Don has decided he needs a wife. The obvious solution to him is to create a questionnaire to sift through all the potential candidates to find the correct one. He doesn’t want a drinker, smoker, perpetually late barmaid.

Into his life walks Rosie Jarman, a tardy barmaid who wants Don to help her find her biological father. As the story develop we see Don go on disastrous dates, learn to make cocktails, travel to New York, discovers things about himself he didn’t know and learns to fall in love.

Sometimes you read a blurb on a book and think this will be a favourite, without evening starting to read it. This was one of those books. I knew I would love it, my only worry was that I would perhaps not love it as much as I anticipated. I shouldn’t have been concerned. It’s rare that I give a book 5 stars, even rarer that I add a book to my list of all time favourites and one that I would recommend repeatedly. This book however is one of them. However, the trouble with loving a book so much is the fear of writing a review that doesn’t do the book justice.

It’s hard to find fault with this book, except that I wanted it to continue! The interaction between Don and the various people in his life was a joy to read. He is remarkably clever in a learned way but fails to see things as perhaps you and I would. For example he accepts that Gene and Claudia are in an open marriage, as he see’s Gene flirt and have dalliances with other women. However as he discovers more about himself and the reason why he is as he is, Don learns that things he accepted such as this are not the norm. 

He doesn’t believe he can empathise with people so will never fall in love or make new friends. He’s romantic without realizing it – saying to Rosie at one stage “It would be unreasonable of me to give you credit for being incredibly beautiful” . As Rosie influences his life more and more, and he steps away from the norm, his view of himself and the world changes. He makes new friends and realizes he is in love with Rosie and that he can still be himself outside the little world he has created.

I read the hardback version of the book, borrowed from the library and have waited impatiently for the paperback edition before I purchase it. Not because of any monetary reasons, simply because when I’m waving the book in the face of every person I meet, telling them to read it, if I accidently swipe them on the head, the paperback won’t hurt as much!

If the synopsis sounds good to you read this book. If you like it half as much as I do, you won’t be disappointed.

Update:

I’ve still to buy the paperback but I still love this book as much as I did then :-)

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Seven For a Secret – Lyndsay Faye – Blog Tour

Today is my stop on the Seven For a Secret blog tour. Seven For a Secret is the second novel to feature police officer Timothy Wilde, the first being The Gods of Gotham. Here author Lyndsay Faye discusses  Timothy Wilde and the Myth of Modern Virtue.

Timothy Wilde and the Myth of Modern Virtue

I have a thought exercise to propose regarding whether the modern era is more moral, more upstanding, more forthright, and more liberal than any other historical time period. Here are three quotes from females, and I’d like the reader to take a snap judgment on when each was written:

1) I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.

2) It is not enough to be abstinent with other people, you also have to be abstinent alone. The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery.

3) Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own inferiority.

The first quote occurs in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, completed in August of 1816. The second quote was stated by recent political Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell in 1996 during an MTV interview. The third quote was written by Mary Wollstonecraft in the late 1700’s, believe it or not—and this data, rather than discouraging me, makes me wholly delighted by the legacy of iconoclasts through the ages.

Despite the discernible theme of the preceding excerpts, feminism isn’t my point here. My point is that shockingly “modern” opinions are often expressed by free spirits living in what we think of as backward historical time periods, while shockingly backward opinions (in my humble view) take place and are then lionized by the media every single day in the present United States.

Scrolling through my Facebook feed earlier this afternoon, I came across a screen capture of a FOX news piece titled “FEMALE DO’S & DON’TS” that suggested you should make your husband happy by wearing “simple, statement clothes—well-cut jeans with a colorful top,” and not “rais[ing] your voice under pressure.” After wandering over to my computer and then afterward to my phone to double-check what year it was, learning that the year I’d suspected it to be was in fact correct, and choking down a nasty bit of stomach flux, I proceeded to gently tap my head against my desk. Repeatedly.

And with cause.

Seven for a Secret, the second installment in the Timothy Wilde series, is a book about two sisters who rise above their harrowing antebellum circumstances. It’s also about a man who refuses to fall in with the opinion that African Americans should be universally despised, and refuses to fall out with his brother after learning his sibling is bisexual. Every so often, someone comments that the novel possesses “modern values,” and every time that happens, I grow more fascinated by the subject. Do we really suppose that we’re morally superior to generations that preceded us, and do we think expressing that opinion is somehow complimentary to ourselves?

In the course of my research, I read a great many autobiographies written by people like Frederick Douglass and Lydia Maria Child, both of whom lived during the mid-19th century and espoused values some apparently regard as anachronistic; I speak of a black man and a white woman who were both pro-female rights and anti-slavery, at a time when being of either opinion essentially excluded one from polite circles. No, strike that, both of those opinions could get you swiftly killed.

Altruism isn’t common, but is altruism truly so time-specific, and so confined to modern charitable institutions or volunteerism? We shrug off murders on the news, walk past beggars in the streets, just as generations before us have done. This patting each other on the back for being up-to-date and politically correct baffles me, particularly in an America where we can’t talk about gun violence without being labeled unpatriotic, and a health care society that thinks female reproductive rights aren’t all that important in the long run. I know that I’m not the only person who has ever heard of Walt Whitman, and thus I wonder: do people truly think that homosexuals didn’t exist before the Civil War? And if they suppose gays did exist, do they think that every acquaintance who ever encountered Walt Whitman chose to sock him in the jaw?

Free people of color in Seven for a Secret are trampled upon systematically, fight back again the system that allowed slave catchers to snatch them from their homes unawares, and they’re aided by a sort-of-hapless but determined white male cop named Timothy Wilde, whose best qualities include his attention to detail and his good intentions. I didn’t invent good intentions, so I don’t find it odd that Tim owns them. But I will quote Lydia Maria Child again, and blithely, for her early and unflinching statements about female opinions and the proper spheres in which they should be expressed:

I was gravely warned by some of my female acquaintances that no woman could expect to be regarded as a lady after she had written a book.

About the book:

Pbk Jacket

“Timothy and Valentine Wilde must once again delve into the darkest underbelly of old New York.

When the beautiful and terrified Mrs Lucy Adams stumbles into the Tombs, headquarters of New York’s newly formed police force, it’s the beginning of a dense, thorny maze of crime for copper star Timothy Wilde. He’s hardened to the injustices of life in the unforgiving city he’s grown up in, but that doesn’t mean he accepts them. With immigrants flooding into the docks every day, each community is both adapting and fighting for its place in the new world, and there are many who fall victim to the clash. But the worst menace growing on the streets are the blackbirders; slave catchers who make a tidy sum from their human trade. And Timothy is about to be taken right to heart of them…”

Seven For a Secret is published by Headline Review and is out in paperback now.

About the Author:

authorpichighres

Lyndsay was born in 1980. She worked as an actor doing professional theatre for ten years before turning to writing. In the course of her acting career, she went to college in the Bay area, learned how to sing, moved to NYC with her husband, and had a ferociously, indecently great time. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Dust and Shadow: an Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H Watson and The Gods of Gotham and is a member of The Baker Street Babes, Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes and The Baker Street Irregulars. For more information on Lyndsay go to http://www.lyndsayfaye.com

Don’t miss any of the stops on the blog tour:

Seven For a Secret Blog Tour Button

 

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The Visitors – Rebecca Mascull – review

Hodder

isbn9781444765236-detail

“Imagine if you couldn’t see
couldn’t hear
couldn’t speak…
Then one day somebody took your hand and opened up the world to you.

Adeliza Golding is a deafblind girl, born in late Victorian England on her father’s hop farm. Unable to interact with her loving family, she exists in a world of darkness and confusion; her only communication is with the ghosts she speaks to in her head, who she has christened the Visitors. One day she runs out into the fields and a young hop-picker, Lottie, grabs her hand and starts drawing shapes in it. Finally Liza can communicate.

Her friendship with her teacher and with Lottie’s beloved brother Caleb leads her from the hop gardens and oyster beds of Kent to the dusty veldt of South Africa and the Boer War, and ultimately to the truth about the Visitors.

Rebecca Mascull’s first novel is the tale of a wonderful friendship, but it is also a thrilling adventure, a heartbreaking love story and a compelling ghost story.”

4.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from Rebecca Mascull and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Adeliza Golding is the much wanted child of Edwin and Evangeline Golding, born after 5 other miscarriages. She is born with extreme myopia and soon looses her sight to cataracts. When she is just two years old she contracts Scarlet Fever and is left deaf as a result. Her world is closed off. She comes to cherish the interaction with her father, misbehaving and lashing out in the hope that it is he who comes to calm her down. Other times it is Nanny who has less patience with the frustrated Liza. Meanwhile Liza’s mother has retreated to her bed and refuses to allow Liza to interact with her.

One day Liza ‘escapes’ the confines of her nanny and runs amongst her father’s hops plants. Suddenly someone grabs her hand and repeatedly stokes a pattern in it. Surprised, confused and intrigued Liza allows herself to be led away. Soon her new friend Lottie replaces Nanny and opens up the world to Liza, introducing finger spelling to her, and with it a way to interact and live again.

Lottie’s influence on Liza has a dramatic effect on the family. Her father can now communicate with her and her mother too. She soon emerges from her room and Liza can finally realise how loved she is. Lottie introduces Liza to her family and the outside world and allows Liza to become the determined, selfless, caring person she is.

I picked this book up intrigued with the synopsis but not sure what to expect. I read the first few pages and was immediately drawn into the story. Rebecca Mascull has created a compelling character in Adeliza Golding and I didn’t want to stop reading until I found out how her life was going to develop. It was a pleasure to see the relationship between Liza and other members of her family grow, and to see that family grown beyond her immediate one to include Lottie and her family.  Lottie was also a wonderful character, full of love and understanding and as the story develops we see how she has come to know finger spelling and see a little of the heart-ache that drives her.

When Liza learns to communicate she not only opens the world to herself but also the Visitors. These visitors she learns to realise are spirits, trapped on earth. She learns to first keep these visitors a secret but then opens up to Lottie of their existence. In time as she discovers more about her own spirit she figures out how she can help the ones only she can see and hear.

I loved the pace of this story, how we get to see Liza grow from a child to a young kind woman, who realises her own limitations but who is determined that her lack of senses will set her back in life. The story travels from Kent to Africa and I particularly liked that part of the story related to the Boer War.

It is a beautifully rendered story of acceptance – acceptance of ourselves and others, acceptance of our gifts and limitations, of forgiveness and accepting that we can make more of our life than was originally deemed for us if we try.

I highly recommend this book. It is part love story, saga, ghost story and historical fiction, a perfect amalgam. It is wonderful debut and I can’t recall reading a story quite like it. I eagerly await more from Rebecca Mascull.

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Love Me for Me – Jenny Hale – guest post

Today on the blog author Jenny Hale tells us about why her novel Love Me for Me is the perfect beach read.

Why is Love Me for Me the perfect beach read?

 

I have this secret spot.  It’s a place where I go to clear my mind, where I can spend time with my family, where I can hear the lapping of the waves from the screened porch while I eat my dinner.  My secret spot is so remote—located on the very edge of Virginia’s Northern Neck Peninsula—that it’s difficult to even get cell phone reception there.  It’s a tiny village in Lancaster County, Virginia, called White Stone.  When I’m there, I stay in a very small cottage that has a paddle fan on the porch, a kitchen that probably dates back to the 1950s, and an enormous grassy yard where my children can play. But what I love most about it, is that at the end of that yard, as far as I can see, is the water of the Chesapeake bay.

 PIC 1

PIC 2

When we pull up at the cottage, my children immediately run all the way down to the water because it’s down there, that we have a private beach, a few Adirondack chairs, and hammock suspended between two pines.  It is where we spend lazy days in the sunshine, watching the boats go by, playing games, and swimming.  It is also the inspiration for Pop’s house in my novel, Love Me for Me.  

LMFM COVER

 

Sometimes you find perfect where you least expect it…

Libby Potter has just lost the perfect job, the perfect apartment and the perfect boyfriend. Moving back to the same home town that she couldn’t wait to escape when she was younger was definitely not on her to-do list. Especially as it means running into the man whose heart she broke when she left.

Pete Bennett can still walk into a room and make Libby’s world stop with just the sound of his voice – even ten years on. Only now, she is the last person in the world that he wants to see.

As everyone else welcomes Libby home with open arms, she realizes she’s missed that special closeness that comes from lifelong friendship. And, as Libby tries to make amends with Pete, she begins to wonder whether she made the right choice in leaving all those years ago.

When an amazing career opportunity gives her the chance to leave again, Libby will have to decide what her version of perfect is… and where she really belongs.

Links:

Amazon.com:

http://amzn.to/1lGIpEV

 

Amazon.co.uk:

http://amzn.to/1i76unc

 

JENNY'S PIC

 

 

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The Museum of Extraordinary Things – Alice Hoffman – review

Simon and Schuster

cvr9781471112133_9781471112133_lg

Coney Island, 1911: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of a self-proclaimed scientist and professor who acts as the impresario of The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show offering amazement and entertainment to the masses. An extraordinary swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl,and a 100 year old turtle, in her father’s “”museum””. She swims regularly in New York’s Hudson River, and one night stumbles upon a striking young man alone in the woods photographing moon-lit trees. From that moment, Coralie knows her life will never be the same.
The dashing photographer Coralie spies is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community. As Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and the dispute between factory owners and labourers. In the tumultuous times that characterized life in New York between the world wars, Coralie and Eddie’s lives come crashing together in Alice Hoffman’s mesmerizing, imaginative, and romantic new novel.

– See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.co.uk/Museum-of-Extraordinary-Things/Alice-Hoffman/9781471112133#sthash.9Dgs6hlO.dpuf”

3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this novel from the publishers via Net Galley and this is my honest review.

Coralie Sardie has lived at her father’s Museum of Extraordinary Things her whole life. Though she was sheltered from the contents of the museum until she was ten she has grown up surrounded by the people paid to perform there, the ‘freaks’ on show to entertain the masses. Born herself with a deformity, having webbed hands she keeps covered, she is trained by her father to hold her breath in water for long periods, and develops a talent for swimming.

When she is ten she is introduced to the world inside the museum and soon enough becomes one of the exhibits, the Mermaid, spending her days in a tank of water.

One night when Coralie is swimming in the Hudson River she comes across Eddie Cohen. This chance meeting sets into motion a series of events that lead her to question everything her father stands for, her past and her future.

Eddie Cohen has fled from his past, his family and his faith. He has inherited his photography business from his mentor and spends his days trying to find what is missing from his life, without knowing what that is. His past catches up with him when he is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young woman. His investigation leads him to discover more about his past, himself and his future.

Though I have heard of Alice Hoffman, she being the author of many works of fiction including Practical Magic, this was the first novel of hers I have read.

There is a lovely atmosphere to this book. Alice Hoffman evokes what I imagine 1900’s New York and Coney Island to be like – the gaudy entertainment, the poverty and the struggle to ‘fit in’. It has a sense of magic woven into it even though it is not magic that fills the Museum, just the extraordinary works of nature.

It is a story of two people who searching for something they didn’t know they were looking for and finding more than they expected in the process. It weaves fact into fiction, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the fire at Dreamlands Amusement Park are integral to the story. It is also the story of two fathers, both misunderstood for different reasons, their true natures coming to light and with that providing different forms of liberation.

An enjoyable read, I’ll look out for more novels from Alice Hoffman.

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Other Publishing Company – Q&A

Today on the blog independent publishers Other Publishing Company tell us a little bit about themselves.

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1. Tell us a bit about your company (background, size, imprints etc.)

The Other Publishing Company is an independent publisher of fiction and some non-fiction. We’re funded by venture capital and publish both print and e-books that have a unique voice and fresh perspective. We also have a short story imprint called Cracked Eye that sells single, and some illustrated, stories on Kindle for 99p or 99c. Every now and then we will feature two stories in one one volume by the same writer – we call these our ‘double features.’

2. How hard is it establishing a foothold in the publishing market as an independent publisher?

There’s no denying it’s difficult. But with any business it’s important to stand out and offer the customer value. With our long books that’s done by investing in works that offer something a little different. It’s also why we’re developing the Cracked Eye short story imprint where we have started to partner engaging, entertaining, and well-written fiction with exceptional illustrators, which we believe creates a great experience that’s good value for money.

3. What is your submission policy?

We’re pretty open minded and fairly relaxed when it comes to category and genre – our philosophy is to publish stories and books that engage, entertain and intrigue – but we do have submission guidelines and these can be found in the links below. We currently get a lot of submissions but we try to read every single one. The business is growing and so is our team and obviously commissioning the right work is hugely important, so we take it very seriously.

We also run writing competitions such as the Weekend Challenge, where we challenged writers to produce a 1000-word short story on a set title over the course of a weekend.

The Other Publishing Company submission guidelines: http://bit.ly/TOPCSubmit

Cracked Eye short story submission guidelines: http://bit.ly/CrackedEyeSubmit

4. Do you have any tips for those wanting to be published?

Always read the submission guidelines! Commissioning editors are just like anyone else, they get frustrated when people do not follow clear instructions and make their life difficult. Read and re-read your work for typos, punctuation and other errors. Be ruthless; it may be golden prose to you but is a reader going to like it and love it in the same way you do? Edit, edit, edit and then edit it some more. You’ll always find weaknesses and boring bits – take them out; less really can be more! And probably the most important thing is to research the publisher or agent you’re sending your work to. Ultimately publishing decisions are business decisions. Get a feel for what they publish and whether your book fits their market. For instance, right now the Other Publishing Company is clearly publishing a lot of short stories – so send us short stories, not long biographies or other non-fiction work. Blanket emailing every publisher under the sun will waste time and only lead to despair.

5. What are the best things about publishing, and the worst?

Best: Getting to read good submissions.

Worst: Getting to read bad submissions.

6. What does the future have in store for the Other Publishing Company?

We’ve just secured second-round funding and we are working on some exciting developments for the Cracked Eye imprint, which will be announced in the Autumn. So keep an eye out for that.

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