The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh Narrated by Katherine Press #BookReview #audiobook (@TheRosieWalsh) @panmacmillan @KatherinePress @audibleuk @TheFictionCafe @nickymaunder #FictionCafeBookClub #FictionCafeReadingChallenge2020 #challenges #freereading #TheManWhoDidntCall

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Imagine you meet a man, spend six glorious days together, and fall in love. And it’s mutual: you’ve never been so certain of anything. 

So when he leaves for a long-booked holiday and promises to call from the airport, you have no cause to doubt him. 

But he doesn’t call. 

Your friends tell you to forget him, but you know they’re wrong: something must have happened; there mustbe a reason for his silence. 

What do you do when you finally discover you’re right? That there is a reason – and that reason is the one thing you didn’t share with each other? 

The truth. 

This is the first book I have chosen this year as part of the 2020 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. (If you love books, you must check it out, it is the friendliest part of the internet for bibliophiles). The challenge is to read a new book every fortnight that fits the prescribed category for that two-week period.

The first category is ‘A book which was an admin’s top five novel of 2019.’ I have vowed to try and pick unread books from my TBR to fit the challenge categories, rather than buy new ones. So I chose this book, which was one of Nicky Maunder’s top five books of 2019, as I had it already as an audiobook.

OMG, what did I just read/listen to? I knew this book had had a lot of hype but, somehow, I had failed to really read any reviews of it, so I was kind of going in to it cold. It started off quite slowly, and I wasn’t one hundred percent sold on it for the first quarter, I’d started to wonder what all the fuss was about to be honest.

Then, BAM! I’m not quite sure exactly when, or how, or why it happened but suddenly something changed and I was totally hooked. The story had wormed its way under my skin and I was desperate to keep listening to it and find out what was going on, because it became clear that this was no ordinary ‘boy meets girl’ story. There were all kinds of mysteries and clues and levels of complexity introduced to draw me through the story. Just when I thought I had go a handle on what might be happening, there was a slight twist and it threw me off course and back into bafflement as to what was going to happen. In the middle, there was a huge shock that turned all my suppositions on their head and altered my perspective on EVERYTHING that had gone before and, it was done so subtly than I was genuinely shocked to the tips of my toes and started to question all that I had listened to before.

Then, towards the end of the book, I realised that quietly and insidiously these characters had crept into my psyche and taken up root in my heart and I cared about them as if they were real people. I was riding the rollercoaster of emotions with them. I listened to the last few chapters whilst I was mucking out my ponies on Thursday and I found myself standing in the stable yard, bawling my eyes out, unable to see what I was shovelling through the tears and actually begging the author OUT LOUD not to do something to the characters that I was really afraid was going to happen. Yes, folks, this book was so good it drove me temporarily insane. Thankfully I was alone except for a fat, grey, Welsh pony and a big, black, Welsh cob that don’t seem to mind me acting a bit crazy as long as they get their oats.

This book broke me into tiny little pieces and then put me back together again. It is a masterpiece of character development and romantic tension. I have not read a book in quite a while that affected me quite so deeply and it moved me to a place for which I don’t really have adequate words. The narrative construction is perfect, I was genuinely shocked by turns this story took, and the author balanced the two main characters so well that it was impossible to decide who you cared for most. I absolutely loved it and, if I were to choose any book that I’ve read in the past twelve months that made me feel the way I wish I could make others feel with my writing, this would be it. Marvellous. Thank you for the recommendation, Nicky Maunder, I owe you one.

The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh is available now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Rosie Walsh has lived and travelled all over the world, working as a documentary producer and writer.

The Man Who Didn’t Call (UK) / Ghosted (US) is her first book under her own name, and was published around the world in 2018, going on to become an instant bestseller in several territories. It was a New York Times top five bestseller and topped the charts in Germany for several weeks.

Rosie lives in Bristol with her partner and son.

Prior to writing under her own name she wrote four romantic comedies under the pseudonym Lucy Robinson.

Connect with Rosie:

Website: https://www.rosiewalsh.com

Facebook: Rosie Walsh Writer

Twitter: @TheRosieWalsh

Instagram: @therosiewalsh

The Holiday by T. M. Logan Narrated by Laura Kirman #BookReview #Audiobook (@TMLoganAuthor) @laurakirman @ZaffreBooks @AudibleUK @NetGalley #NetGalley #TheHoliday

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Seven days. Three families. One killer.

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday, dreamed up by Kate as the ideal way to turn 40: four best friends and their husbands and children in a luxurious villa under the blazing sunshine of Languedoc-Roussillon.

But there is trouble in paradise. Kate suspects that her husband is having an affair, and that the other woman is one of her best friends. One of these women is willing to sacrifice years of friendship and destroy her family. But which one?

As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realises too late that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined.

Because someone in the villa is prepared to kill to keep their secret hidden.

My thanks to the publisher for my digital copy of this book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

It’s a nightmare scenario, isn’t it? Being trapped on holiday for a week with people you aren’t getting on with. Even if some of those people are your lifelong best friends, once you have to share living space with them 24/7 for a week, along with their husbands, whom you may not love quite as much, and their children who may not have the same expectations in behaviour as yours do – tensions are bound to arise. Add in too much sun, too much wine, and you have a powder keg ready to explode.

Then, on top of this, imagine that you suspect your husband is having an affair, and his mistress is on elf the very same lifelong friends you are taking a holiday with, the situation will inevitably boil over before the week is out, in a very public setting.

This is the premise behind The Holiday, which was a book widely feted last year, and it certainly provides a book full of intrigue and strain with many twists and turns before its thrilling conclusion. And because it is a scenario so many of us can imagine for ourselves, or may even have experienced (although to a lesser degree, I hope!), it causes an intimate level of stress in our imaginations. ‘There too but for the grace of God, go I’ is always a powerful hook for a novel.

There is a fascinating array of characters in this novel, a lot of personality flaws explored and exposed, and some morally dubious behaviour in evidence, even from the people who are supposedly the ‘good guys.’ It begs the question, what would I do to protect my family, to protect my children from harm? How far would I be prepared to go if I found myself in this situation? Are my principles really as strong as I believe, when faced with a serious dilemma. Thinking of these things can make for an uncomfortable reading experience if you allow the book to take you there.

This book was a great, entertaining read with a fabulous rope of tension running through it and enough twists and turns and revelations to keep the reader hooked. highly recommended.

The Holiday is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Bestselling author TM Logan was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. His latest thriller, The Holiday, is a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and spent ten weeks as a Sunday Times top ten bestseller in paperback, selling more than 200,000 copies to date. The Holiday takes place over a sweltering summer week in the south of France, as four best friends see the holiday of a lifetime turn into a nightmare of suspicion, betrayal and murder…

Tim’s debut thriller LIES was one of Amazon UK’s biggest ebooks of 2017, selling more than 400,000 copies and winning a Nielsen Bestseller Award. Together with his second standalone thriller, 29 Seconds (2018), his books are now published in 14 countries around the world including the USA, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and the Netherlands.

His next novel, The Catch, is due to be published on June 11, 2020.

Tim lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children, and writes in a cabin at the bottom of his garden.

Connect with T. M. Logan:

Website: https://www.tmlogan.com

Facebook: T M Logan Author

Twitter: @TMLoganAuthor

Instagram: @tmloganauthor

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary Narrated by Carrie Hope Fletcher & Kwaku Fortune #BookReview #audiobook (@OLearyBeth) @QuercusBooks @CarrieHFletcher @KwakuFortune @audibleuk #TheFlatshare #freereading

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Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met….

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. 

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rule book out the window….

I’m probably one of the last people to get round to reading (or listening) to this marvellous book, so I will be preaching to the choir here but, OMG, why did I wait so long to get to it? Now I understand what all the hype has been about and why the book has won awards, I absolutely blooming’ loved every second of it.

If you are one of the very few people who have not yet got to this book (and I advise you to correct that immediately), let me try and explain just what is so special about it. Firstly, of course, there is the genius premise behind the story. What would happen if a man and a woman were sharing a flat and a bed, but never meet? How much can you find out about someone just by sharing their living space? How intimate can you become with another person without actually ever seeing them face to face? On the audio version of this book which I listened to, Beth O’Leary explains how she came up with the idea behind the novel, and it was fascinating to hear what sparks a story idea and the process behind the story development, and I really thought it was a gorgeous story to hear and leant a new dimension to the book. The plot is so clever and unique, this is the first great thing about it, this is a love story that you’ve never heard before.

Secondly, the characters. Oh, how I love them. Tiffy is the kind of person you completely want as your best friend. Warm and open and caring. Scatter-brained and clever and creative and funny. She will worm her way into your heart immediately, and you will want to take care of her, hug her and make everything alright for her from the off. Then there is Leon. Also caring, but cautious and guarded and quiet and reserved. Careful not to give his heart away. Reticent, but warm and loving underneath. You know he and Tiffy are perfect for each other from the beginning, but how can they fall in love if they never meet, and will circumstances and other people get in their way. You will be desperate to know, desperate to help but THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO except hope and listen as the story unfolds. The author gives them such distinct and individual voices, it is always clear who is telling the story at any time throughout the dual perspective narrative and she perfectly conveys their personalities through their speech. There is also a supporting cast of friends and foes to round out the story, each one perfect for their role. I absolutely adored or loathed all of them as required.

The book is beautifully paced, funny, moving, engrossing and appealing all the way through. Not a scene, not a word is wasted. Things happen at exactly the right moment to propel the story on and keep the reader interested but the tension up. It is perfectly balanced and executed and, if I had read this book a month earlier, it would have made it into my Top 10 books of 2019 list. It is already a strong contender for 2020.

A final word about the audio version of this book. As this is a dual perspective narrative, from the alternating voices of Tiffy and Leon, it is read by two different narrators and it works beautifully. Both of them completely embody the characters they are portraying and they really bring the book to life. One of the things that really works for me about this novel is getting to see both sides of the events that happen in the book from the perspective of each protagonist and I think, having two different voices narrating these events in the audiobook, really brings this contrast to life and probably enhanced my enjoyment of the story. Audiobooks have become a big thing for me over the past 8 months (after being unable to read physical or ebooks for a period last year) and I am consuming more and more of them. This one is a particularly wonderful example and if you are a fan of audiobooks, this is one that is worth the investment.

The Flatshare is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook, and will be published in paperback on 20 February. You can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being in reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.

She is now writing novels full time, and if she’s not at her desk, you’ll usually find her curled up somewhere with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

Connect with Beth:

Website: https://betholearyauthor.com

Twitter: @OLearyBeth

Instagram: @betholearyauthor

Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce, Narrated by Anna Popplewell #BookReview #Audiobook (@ajpearcewrites) @picadorbooks @MacmillanAudio @audibleuk @AnnaPopplewells

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London, 1940. Emmeline Lake and her best friend, Bunty, are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent, and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine. 

Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. Emmy finds herself dismissing problems from lovelorn, grief-stricken and morally conflicted readers in favour of those who fear their ankles are unsightly or have trouble untangling lengths of wool. But soon the thought of desperate women going unanswered becomes too much to bear, and Emmy decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back…. 

I know, I am SO late to the party with this book. I have had the hardback version sitting on my TBR forever, and I had never got round to reading it for some reason, mainly pressures of all the blog tours I took on last year. I finally gave in and bought the audiobook with one of my monthly credits and, it was obviously fate that had stopped me reading it because I absolutely adored the audio version.

I just have to say from the off that Anna Popplewell does the most amazing job of narrating this book. Any of you who have read it will know that the author captures the patterns and peculiarities of speech from the era perfectly and, hearing this spoken aloud rather than reading it, really brings it to life. I could picture Mrs. Bird so clearly in my mind’s eye through the narration, it gave the novel an extra dimension and I would highly recommend listening to this in audio format. Not every book lends itself equally well to audiobook, and so much of the success depends on the narrator, this one is just beautiful.

Moving on from the format, I fell completely in love with this book. The premise was what drew me to it in the first place, the magical idea of a repressed wartime agony aunt refusing to deal with any Unpleasantness from her readers and a sympathetic young woman who relates only too well to the messes that women found themselves in during wartime. It was a genius way of demonstrating the perils of war in a completely fresh manner with a unique approach and it worked like magic. I have to say, I am not personally a fan of wartime books, I often find them quite traumatic, so the fact I loved this one so much is testament to the skill of the author.

The book is a delightful blend of gentle comedy and pathos. The situation the girls find themselves in is dire, but their friendships and love for those around them bolster them and pull them through, so when that is threatened, it puts their whole world into more peril than the war itself, and this is the real core story of the book. Our personal relationships are the things that hold us solid through the direst of times and anything that threatens those are the things that are truly dangerous. I absolutely adored the approach that the author took to this whole topic, it spoke to me on a really fundamental level and was the main reason that this book got under my skin.

The main character of Emmy was totally relatable as a modern young woman dealing with extraordinary circumstances. Flawed but wonderful, any reader would fall in love with her and be riding the highs and lows of her experience through every page. My twelve-year-old daughter, who listened to portions of this book while we were in the car, was fascinated by the name Bunty (which is ‘not a real name, Mummy’), and kept asking me what had happened during the portions of the book she had missed. Anything which can capture the imagination of a modern tween like this must be something special.

And what to say about the titular Mrs. Bird? Only that the author has created a character so much larger than life that anyone who reads this will never forget her. A Lady Bracknell for a new age.

I loved this book so much that I have given a copy to every one of my friends who hasn’t yet read it, nominated it as my Secret Santa book in my book club swap and gifted the audiobook to my writer buddy. I know it wasn’t published this year, but it is my read of the year for 2019, and I know I will come back to it again and again. Pure joy on the page, as close to reading perfection as you are ever likely to find.

Dear Mrs Bird is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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AJ Pearce was born in Hampshire, UK. Her favourite subjects at school were English and History, which now (finally!) seems to be making some sense.

She majored in American History at the University of Sussex, spending her Junior Year at Northwestern University in Illinois, USA.

She began writing as a hobby in 2005. In 2012 she came across a 1939 copy of a weekly women’s magazine and had the idea of writing a novel set in wartime London.

In 2016, following a seven-publisher auction in the UK, Dear Mrs Bird was acquired by Picador, and in the USA by Scribner after a similarly competitive auction.  Dear Mrs Bird was published in hardback in the UK in April 2018, becoming a Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller two weeks later. It has been sold for translation in thirteen other countries.

AJ was one of The Observer’s New Faces Of Fiction Debut Novelists 2018, and was shortlisted in the Breakthrough Author category in the UK’s 2018 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards. Dear Mrs Bird was chosen as one of NetGalley UK’s Top Ten Books of 2018, and shortlisted in the US LibraryReads Favorites of Favorites 2018.

In 2019, Dear Mrs Bird was a Richard and Judy Book Clubpick. It was shortlisted for the Debut of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards as well as the Royal Society of Literature Sir Christopher Bland Prize, and long listed for the inaugural Comedy Women in Print award.

In July 2019 it was further longlisted for the Goldsborough Books Glass Bell Award, and the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown 2019 for the best historical debut.

AJ is currently writing her second novel, the sequel to Dear Mrs Bird.

Connect with A. J. Pearce:

Website: https://www.ajpearce.com

Facebook: A J Pearce Writes

Twitter: @ajpearcewrites

Instagram: @ajpearcewrites

The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White, Narrated by Ana Clements & Paul Heitsch #AudiobookReview #BlogTour (@bclaypolewhite) @RaRaResources @audibleuk @SpokenRealms #TheUnfinishedGarden #RachelsRandomResources

The Unfinished Garden

I’m very excited to be doing my very first audiobook blog tour for The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White, so big thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for my audio copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The Unfinished Garden Front

A love story about grief, OCD, and dirt 

Tilly Silverberg is rebuilding her life with her young son, Isaac, one potted-up plant at a time. Since her husband’s death, gardening has become her livelihood and her salvation. Hiding out in the North Carolina forest, she wants only to be left alone with Isaac and her greenhouse.

New to the area, successful software developer James Nealy needs a garden. On a solitary mission to reclaim his life from irrational obsessions and relentless compulsions, he has a plan: to conquer his greatest fear. Dirt. One glimpse—or two—of Tilly’s garden, and he knows she holds the key. But when he asks her to take him on as a client, she refuses.

After a family emergency pulls Tilly and Isaac back to her native England, she’s quietly happy, because nothing has changed in her childhood village. Or has it? Her first love is unexpectedly single, her mother is scheming, and her best friend is keeping secrets. Then James appears on her doorstep.

Tenuous at first, but gradually taking root, James and Tilly forge an unlikely bond. As they work together to rescue a garden choked by neglect, they unearth each other’s secrets, each other’s fears, each other’s hopes—and maybe, a shared second chance.

I do listen to quite a lot of audiobooks in the car but my taste in aural literature tends towards thrillers, which I find make journeys pass quite quickly with their tension and short chapters, so this was a bit of a departure for me as far as audiobooks are concerned and I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it.

It is a very long book to listen to, and definitely very different to my thrillers as there is a long of internal dialogue from the characters and the pace of the story is quite slow and languorous, like the Carolina summer where the story starts. However, the pace of the writing was perfect for the story which tells the tale of a timid, blossoming relationship between bereaved Tilly and James, plagued and tormented by his OCD. Once I got used to the slower pace, I was completely enthralled by the story.

There are two narrators for the book, one telling the story fromTilly’s perspective and one from James’s, so it was very easy to tell whose point of view we were hearing at any given time. It was well done, and I think it was necessary because, given how much internal musings there are in the story, it would have been quite difficult to follow them whilst listening if there had been a single narrator.

This is a really beautiful story exploring the relationship dynamics between two damaged people and how they recognise things they need in one another. There are further complications involving extended family with internal tensions and old, unresolved relationships that add layer upon layer of texture to the tales of our internal, human stressors and difficulties. The book is a beautiful exploration of the human condition with complex but sympathetic characters and a beautiful setting that provides the ideal metaphorical backdrop for the issues dealt with in the book.

The reason I mostly listen to thrillers in audio format is that I find it difficult to fully appreciate the nuances of language and construction of the more literary novel when I am listening to, rather than reading them. When I am reading, I will often go back to read and re-read and highlight beautiful sentences or passages, to fully wring the meaning and emotion from the words. I find this more difficult to do with an audiobook and worry that I am missing some subtlety or impact in the language. I think this is a book I would like to go back and read in a physical format to make sure I have fully appreciated it, but this may well be a personal quirk of mine and should not put anyone else off listening to the audiobook.

I thought The Unfinished Garden was a rich and beautiful story, full of emotion and complexity and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The audio version is very well done and I would highly recommend it if you enjoy this genre in audio format. I will definitely go back and re-read this book in a physical format.

The Unfinished Garden is out now and you can get the audiobook here.

To read some alternative reviews of this audiobook, check out the tour stops on the poster below:

The Unfinished Garden Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Born in England, she works and gardens in the forests of North Carolina, where she lives with her family. Her novels include: The Unfinished Garden, which won the Golden Quill for Best First Book; The In-Between Hour, a SIBA Okra Pick; The Perfect Son, a Goodreads Choice Awards Semi-finalist; Echoes of Family, a WFWA Star Award Finalist; and The Promise Between Us, a 2018 Nautilus Award Winner.

Barbara is an OCD advocate for the nonprofit A2A Alliance, which promotes advocacy over adversity. 

Connect with Barbara:

Website: http://www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com

Facebook: Barbara Claypole White

Twitter: @bclaypolewhite

Instagram: @bclaypolewhite