The Cornish Cream Tea Bus by Cressida McLaughlin #BookReview (@CressMcLaughlin) @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam #TheCornishCreamTeaBus

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Baking fanatic, Charlie Quilter, is surprised when her late uncle bequeaths his vintage bus to her in his will. Keen to give the bus a new lease of life, Charlie thinks it will be the perfect mobile café for afternoon tea, and when her friend, Juliette, suggests Charlie comes to stay with her in the picturesque Cornish village of Porthgolow, she’s thrilled at the chance of a new start.

Charlie and her cute dog, Marmite, make new friends wherever their bus stops – except for the sexy but reclusive owner of the posh spa up on the hill, Daniel Harper, who isn’t very pleased that her bus is parked outside his lovely hotel.
Has Charlie’s Cornish dream developed a soggy bottom? Or can she convince Daniel that her bus could be the start of something wonderful for the little village – and for them?

I can never wait to get my hands on a new Cressida McLaughlin book. Over the short time she has been writing, she has quickly become one of my favourite authors when I am looking for a sweet, feel good romance with a dash of humour and some really relatable characters and her books are ones I always dive straight in to as soon as they arrive. The Cornish Cream Tea Bus, her fifth full-length novel, has not let me down, in fact I think it might be her best book yet.

The books follows the adventures of Charlie, left an old bus by her beloved Uncle Hal, and she feels like she needs to make the most of it to honour his memory. Charlie is at a crossroads, having just been through a nasty break-up, as well as her bereavement, and she seizes on this as an opportunity to shake her life up. A summer spent in the Cornish village where her best friend lives, deciding what to do with the old bus, seems just what she needs.

Of course, the path of life… and love… never did run smooth and Charlie has to face practical obstacles, difficult villagers, natural disasters, and  an unwelcome love triangle as she navigates her way to a new life, all against the picture-perfect backdrop of a quaint, but a bit tired, Cornish village. So far, maybe not so unusual, so what makes this book stand out from similar books in the genre?

There is a very simple answer to this question, it is the warmth and skill in Cressida’s writing. She is someone who has a very recognisable voice and style, I would recognise one of her books if it were sent to me under a plain cover, and I absolutely love it. Her lovely personality and upbeat attitude shines through in the writing and oozes into her characters, so you can’t help but warm to them and want them to get their happy ever after. Her heroines are always approachable but feisty and go-getting, not damsel in distress types waiting to be rescued, and this is something I can totally get behind in a romantic heroine.

Of course, characters are no fun if they are perfect, so it is reassuring to see that some flaws are included, in Charlie’s case, jumping to conclusions based on flimsy evidence and acting on impulse are the main things that cause her issues. Part of the joy of the story is watching the characters recognise their weaknesses and trying to overcome them, even if sometimes they are a slow study. The book also has a host of interesting supporting characters to shore up the main story arc, including the obligatory adorable pet with personality. All the ingredients for a cracking escapist novel are here.

This book took me on a trip to a fabulous, escapist location, introduced me to some characters that quickly became friends, and led me on a journey through a light-hearted romance that gave me all the feels and left me feeling warmed and satisfied by the end. It is the ideal read for this transitional season, as summer slowly eases into the chill of autumn and, if you have never picked up a book by Cress before, do yourself a favour and get this as soon as you can. I promise you will quickly become a big fan.

The Cornish Cream Tea Bus is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David.

Cressy’s favourite things – other than writing – include terrifying ghost stories, lava lamps and romantic heroes, though not necessarily at the same time. (Though perhaps a good starting point for a story . . ?)

When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful and romantic Norfolk coastline.

Connect with Cressida:

Website: https://cressidamclaughlin.com

Facebook: Cressida McLaughlin

Twitter: @CressMcLaughlin

Instagram: @cressmclaughlin

 

 

Countdown by Matt Phillips #BookReview (@MRPhill25) @ADRBooks @DownAndOutBooks #crimefiction #noir #california

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Welcome to California. Weed is legal. Grow it. Sell it. Smoke it. Eat it. But the money you make off it—there’s the rub. Bank it, and the Feds will ask questions. Keep it around, and you’ll get robbed. LaDon and Jessie—two hustlers who make selling primo weed a regular gig—hire a private security detail to move and hold their money. Ex-soldiers Glanson and Echo target the cash—they start a ripoff business.

It’s the wild, wild west. Except this time, everybody’s high.

With their guns and guts, Glanson and Echo don’t expect much trouble from a mean son-of-a-gun like LaDon Charles. But that’s exactly what they get. In this industry, no matter how much money there is for the taking—and no matter who gets it—there’s always somebody counting backwards…to zero.

Today I am delighted to be reviewing Countdown by Matt Phillips. My thanks to Henry Roi, the author and the publisher, All Due Respect, for my e-copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is my first book by Matt Phillips, although I do have a copy of Know Me From Smoke sat on my TBR which I was given as a birthday present, mainly because I love the cover!

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Now that I have read Countdown, I will be moving this up the pile, because I really enjoyed the story and the style of writing, despite the fact that it is very different from my ‘go to’ comfort books. Although I seem to be reading more and more outside my comfort zone these days, due to the opportunities book blogging has afforded me, so maybe I no longer have a comfort zone.

What I really mean is that this is not a book I would normally pluck off a shelf in a shop when I am browsing, which is a mindset I need to get out of because some of the most profound reading experiences I have had over the past couple of years have been via books that I would not have chosen for myself but that I have been offered via blogging. For me, one of the greatest joys of reading is living vicarious experiences and lives that I will never have myself outside the covers of a book, and this book is a perfect example. The story follows the trials and tribulations of running a not-quite-legal marijuana business in California, where trade in the drug has been legalised, but the banking of the money made from the trade has not.

You know from the off that the characters in this book are not people that are naturally going to be people you can sympathise with, or particularly relate to, when you are a middle-aged mother living in rural England who has always been fairly puritanical when it comes to drug use. The fact that I actually did find some of the characters, especially LaDon, sympathetic and a person you would like to succeed, even if their goals are fairly nefarious, was testament to the skill in the writing in this novel. Either that, or the fact that I started grading on a curve with the other, very repellent, characters! Either way, I became invested in the adventures of the main protagonists in this book in a way that I did not expect, given the subject matter and, in spite of the fact that I have never met a Californian drug dealer and these characters were like no one I have ever known IRL, I still felt the characters were believable, with clear and authentic drives and desires and character traits.

The story takes part over a short period of time, and in a tight location, which gave the story a very fast and natural pace which kept it bowling along and carried me with it. It felt like a fairly quick read because of this and there were no lulls or doldrums to interrupt the flow of the book. I felt like the author had done an amazing job of cutting all the flab from the book and leaving only a lean, efficient reading experience which I thoroughly enjoyed being carried along by. I just sat back and let the writing sweep me through with little effort on my part, but obviously a good deal by the author.

The setting of the book is what really set it apart from other things I have read in the genre. The gritty, mean streets of southern California are the net that holds this story together and were convincingly and brightly portrayed in the book. The author does not shy from writing about the unpleasant underside that exists in the city, rather he revels in it, describing it truthfully, but almost lovingly, so that the reader is fully immersed in its sights, sounds, scents and its constant tensions and dangers. For the author, it feels like these traits, which are things that would deter many of us from visiting such places, are what actually draw him and his characters to them, because they are alive and honest in their darkness. I certainly felt this myself during the reading, even if I would only dare revel in them from the safety of my sofa in rural Yorkshire. As I said, one of the many joys of reading.

This book was a very different read for me, but what that certainly catered to a lot of the things are look for in a satisfying book and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is not offended by violence, sex, strong language, graphic scenes or drugs. So Mary Whitehouse types probably should not pick it up, I’m sure anyone else will enjoy it.

Countdown is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Matt Phillips was born in Palm Springs, California and raised in the Coachella Valley and nearby Mojave High Desert. He lives in San Diego. He has worked as a busboy, pool attendant, waiter, bartender, halfway-decent restaurant manager, film festival administrator, newspaper reporter, and editor.

His books include Countdown, Know Me from Smoke, The Bad Kind of Lucky, Accidental Outlaws, Three Kinds of Fool, Redbone, and Bad Luck City. Short fiction has appeared in Mystery Tribune, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, Tough Crime, Near to the Knuckle, Powder Burn Flash, Pulp Metal Magazine, Manslaughter Review, and Fried Chicken and Coffee.

Matt earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Connect with Matt:

Website: https://www.mattphillipswriter.com

Facebook: Matt Phillips

Twitter: @MRPhill25

An Elegant Solution by Anne Atkins #BookReview #BlogTour (@anne_atkins) @malcolmdown @LoveBooksGroup #AnElegantSolution #LoveBooksTours

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When someone mentions the City of Cambridge you probably think of an iconic building, its four corners stretching out of the once medieval mud and into the arms of everlasting heaven, its white limestone yearning into eternity… and without even knowing exactly what ephemeral joys or permanent wonders the vision brings to mind, it s a safe bet that the one thought which doesn t occur to you is that the Chapel might not be there by Christmas.

Theo (Theophilus Ambrose Fitzwilliam Wedderburn to his friends) is a Junior Research Fellow in Number Theory. Prompted by a supervisee to demonstrate how to trace the provenance of bitcoins, Theo happens across a shocking revelation, with embarrassing ramifications for the whole University. Meanwhile he is being stalked unseen by someone from his childhood. To his annoyance, Theo falls for a cheap con… and discovers a horror set not only to rock the very seat of power itself but to change the face of Cambridge and its beautifully iconic image for ever.

I am thrilled to be one of the blogs opening up the tour for An Elegant Solution by Anne Atkins today. Huge thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially, and to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group for my place on the tour.

This is one of those very rare and delightful books that come out of nowhere and take you by surprise by being something totally different to what you expected and affecting you in ways you never saw coming. I’ll be honest, the reason I signed up for this blog tour was purely because I have an odd obsession with books set in and around universities, which was sparked in my youth by reading Dorothy L. Sayer’s Gaudy Nightstill one of my favourite book of all time. I had no real idea what to expect from the story,  and what actually appeared between the covers of this book was a beautiful revelation.

This wasn’t immediately apparent when I started the book. In fact, I started it twice because the opening chapter did not grip me the first time around. However, on my second attempt I read a little further and I had never been so glad that I persisted with a book because, once I got into it, I was gripped, charmed and profoundly moved by the characters, the story, the setting and the underlying themes of this book in a way that I never saw coming and that has stayed with me long after I closed the back cover. I have actually never read anything quite like it in the way it blends the plot, which could be something out of a flashy thriller, with a deeply poetic and affecting characterisation of living with autism and a developing relationship, none of which ends how you expect. I can’t repeat enough just how much this book surprised and delighted me, possibly more than anything else I have read this year.

If, like me, you are drawn to pick up this book because of the setting of Cambridge University, you will not be disappointed. The author does a wonderful job of immersing the reader in the feel and life of the city and the hallowed halls of the University. It gives the academic voyeur a tantalising peek into the world of this esteemed institution and its esoteric rituals, a world that most of us will never experience outside the pages of a novel. She makes the city and the university central to the book, so that the delicious descriptions of that world and environs are not awkwardly and unnecessarily tagged on to the plot, dragging it down, but are essential to its workings. It is very cleverly and seamlessly done and allowed me to revel in the setting without being pulled from the story.

I did worry to begin with that the plot itself was not only a little outlandish, but that it was also going to be too complicated for me to follow, as someone who knows very little about cryptocurrency and cares even less. I was very wrong on this front. The author does a great job of making sure that there is not too much technical information in the book and, what is there, is just enough and clearly explained to enable the bitcoin dunce to follow what is going on and understand how it propels the story. The book is very unusual in the way that the thriller aspect of the book felt more like the sub-plot, there to showcase the characters and the personal issues that beset them, rather than the main point of the book. A thriller for people who want a bit more food for the brain. Weirdly, despite the grand finale, it also didn’t feel like an OTT, bang bang thriller, with things whamming at you constantly. As I said earlier, I have never read anything quite like it, which is no mean feat given the volume of books and the wide genres I read in.

All of that being said, the characters are what drive this book and what made me fall irrevocably in love with it. The two main players, Theo and Charlotte, were fully rounded people that I immediately fell for and I was rooting for from the beginning. The exploration of Charlotte’s complex family dynamic and Theo’s autism were done so lovingly and sympathetically that they may me feel deeply involved in their development and I felt genuine joy and pain for both of them as their stories unravelled. The characterisation is done with great understanding, and gave a very different view of autism to me than I have read before. It is obviously an issue very personal and important to the author, and this came across in the pages. At the end of the book, I was yearning for a particular outcome and, whilst it did not end as expected, it left me feeling happy and hopeful … and making up my own ideas for what happens to the characters after the narration ends. The fact I cared enough to spend a deal of time thinking about this is testament to how much the story touched me.

It is not often these days that a book comes out of nowhere and really surprises me and touches my soul. This is one of those books. I cannot tell you how much I loved it, I hope it reached the wide audience it deserves.

An Elegant Solution is out now in ebook and physical formats and you can get a copy here.

To get some alternative reviews of the book from my marvellous blogger colleagues, please visit the blogs listed below:

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About the Author

Anne Atkins

Anne Atkins is a well-known English broadcaster and journalist, and regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. She took an involuntary, and long, break from writing fiction when her son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, their daughter repeatedly hospitalized with a severe illness, and finally the family was made homeless.. Thankfully those dark days are now behind her and she and her husband Shaun along with some of her children now live happily in Bedford, England.

Connect with Anne:

Website: http://anneatkins.co.uk

Twitter: @anne_atkins

Love Books Group Tours (1)

The 365-Day Writer’s Block Workbook by Morgen Bailey #BookReview #BlogTour (@morgenwriteruk) @BOTBSPublicity #amwriting #writingtips #creativewriting #creativewritingtips #writingadvice

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Over a thousand sentence starts, three per day, with writing tips at the end of each week to motivate and inspire, providing kick-starts to avoid the dreaded ‘writer’s block’. Useful for any writer at any level, whether they have 10 minutes or 10 hours, to start a new project. Also an ideal tool for writing groups.

With a combination of six first-person, six second-person, six third-person and three non-specific point of view starts per week, there are plenty to choose from. Beginning at ‘Day 1’ this book has been designed to be started at any time of the year, and regardless of whether the sentences are used in order or not. With a choice of three per day a writer can select one, two or all and see where it leads them.

Today is my turn on the blog tour for this non-fiction title, designed for writers of all levels, The 365-Day Writer’s Block Workbook by Morgen Bailey. My thanks to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially, and to Sarah Hardy at Books On The Bright Side Publicity and Promo for inviting me on to the tour.

As a striving-but-as-yet-unpublished writer, I was very keen to take part in the blog tour for this useful little book. I have done various writing exercises and prompts before, and have found they often produce some fascinating pieces of work that can be expanded or incorporated into bigger projects, so I was eager to see if the prompts in this book would spark similarly useful creativity in the word-weary writer’s mind.

The book is small but perfectly formed, with three writing prompts per day for a whole year, in a mixture of tenses. Each week of prompts is then rounded off with a writing tip, which cover a multitude of authorly concerns. The format works well for ease of reference, but you wouldn’t necessarily have to stick rigidly to the recommended regime (I was listening to your tips on alliteration, Morgen, but not the one about adverbs – oops.), but could easily choose a day at random, whenever you feel the need of a spur, and work like that. I obviously have not spent a year working through this book on a daily basis in order to write this review, but did try a random mix of the prompts and read all of the weekly tips, and it did produce some fascinating ideas.

With regard to the prompts, I liked the fact that we were given one for each tense per day. I have to say, I am a cautious (possibly lazy) writer, who prefers the comfort of third person past tense, so using the prompts that pushed me out of this comfort zone was a very useful and surprising exercise, and the results may make me a little braver and more experimental in the future. I also adopted the approach of rejecting the very first idea that popped into my head after reading the prompt, on the basis that this was probably too obvious if it came so easily and I wanted to make my writing more surprising, and this worked really well. Some of the prompts resulted in some possibly bizarre ideas, but that is the fun part of writing. I am sure I am not the only aspiring author whose brain produces odd ideas from time to time!

The writing tips were probably my favourite part of the book. Some of them were ones that were not news to me, but some really made me think, and a lot of them will provide a very useful checklist in the process of editing my current WIP, so much so that I am going to summarise them in an editing reference document. For a small volume, this definitely packs a big punch.

This is a great little workbook for any writer who sometimes needs a little push to get the pen to the page, or for anyone who wants an odd thought or sentence from a third party that might spark that new creative connection in their brain that leads to a great piece of writing. A useful tool to have in your writer’s toolbox.

The 365-Day Writer’s Block Workbook is out now and you can get a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, please check out the tour poster below:

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About the Author

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Based in Northamptonshire, England, ‘Morgen with an e’ is the author of numerous short story collections, a chick-lit novel (with crime and mystery novels in the works), a series of writer’s block workbooks, articles, and she dabbles with poetry.

As well as being a freelance editor (who offers a free 1,000-word sample), she is a creative writing tutor for Northamptonshire County Council’s Adult Learning (10-week evening and one-day Saturday classes). Morgen is also speaker of anything writing-related, panel moderator, and event tutor, and will be running a two-hour editing course at the 2017 Crime & Publishment weekend, alongside Lin Anderson and Martina Cole!

Morgen is also a writing-related blogger who ‘spotlights’ authors, agents, editors, illustrators and publishers. Other content includes guest posts, flash fiction, poetry, and reviews (crime / chick lit novels, short stories and writing guides).

A charity shop volunteer (dealing with donated books) and regular cinema visitor, she walks her dog while reading (often teaching-related), writing, editing or listening to writing-related podcasts, she reads (though not as often as she’d like and mostly for review on her blog), and in between she writes.

Connect with Morgen:

Website: https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com

Facebook: Morgen Bailey Author

Twitter: @morgenwriteruk

Instagram: @morgenwriteruk

Take It Back by Kia Abdullah #BookReview (@KiaAbdullah) @HarperCollinsUK @NetGalley #PublicationDay #TakeItBack #NetGalley

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The Victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses the boys of something unthinkable.

The Defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.

Whose side would you take?

Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on her by her family and forged a glittering career at the Bar. All before hanging up her barrister’s wig to help the victims who needed her most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.

Jodie’s own best friend doesn’t even believe her claims that their classmates carried out such a crime. But Zara does. And Zara is determined to fight for her.

Jodie and Zara become the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she’s looking for. But at what price?

Another publication day review to share with you, this time for Take It Back by Kia Abdullah. Happy publication day, Kia, and my thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was a fascinating legal thriller that deals with a multitude of complex and contentious issues that are very relevant in current society and, at the same time, providing a page-turning ‘who did what’ story. There are so many layers to this book that it is one I will definitely go back to and read again with a fresh set of eyes to make sure I have rung every nuance from it, but I will do the best I can to write my review based on my first read of it.

The story involves an allegation of rape by a girl with facial deformities against a group of boys from an ethnic minority background and, from the off, it causes discomfort in the reader as our sympathies are pitted against one another as we try and work out which characters are the real victims in the story. This is the main theme of the book, how do you deal with individuals from two separate, disadvantaged groups pointing the finger at one another without allowing personal or societal prejudices affect your judgement? The narrative casts a sharp and unflattering light on the way our society currently operates and how we view and react to people very different to ourselves. The book made me ask some very uncomfortable questions about my own privilege and possible prejudices and preconceptions and, by the end, I was left with more questions than answers and a good many issues to probe further.

The main character in the book is Zara, a modern woman with a high-flying career who has taken the drastic step of leaving behind a lucrative career at the Bar to help victims of sexual violence. Zara comes from a Muslim family and has a good many demons of her own to address, a number of which she is forced to confront as her current case spirals out of control and spills over into her personal life. The use of Zara as the main focus of the book is a clever vehicle for forcing the reader to see the kinds of problems minorities have to face in our society and what conflicts they are presented with. Those of us who do not fall into these categories can find it almost impossible to imagine what challenges are presented daily to minorities and books like this one which don’t shy away from presenting these challenges to us in a digestible format can offer the opportunity to think about these things from a  different angle. The author does a really great job of portraying Zara as someone real and flawed and sympathetic so we can try, for a brief time, to slip into her shoes.

The protagonists on both sides of the criminal investigation are portrayed as complicated  characters with motivations, personalities, desires and faults that are revealed gradually throughout the novel. so that the readers perception of who might be telling the truth and who might be lying can change from page to page as we learn more about them, just as Zara’s does. I had no clear idea of the truth until the very last page and, as a result, the book held my attention easily from beginning to end. It wasn’t an easy read, though. These are some deeply troubling issues that are being addressed in the story and parts of it made me extremely uncomfortable in a way that had me asking questions of myself throughout. For a thriller of this type, this is an unusual and accomplished achievement and puts this book a cut above some of the run of the mill titles that have appeared in this genre. To dismiss it as just another of its type would be to do the book a grave disservice.

The settings and descriptions of the book present a grim background that perfectly suits the plot and the writing really brought everything to life – location, characters, mood and story. This is a skilfully written book that offers a big punch and a lot of food for thought, as well as a gripping read. It is a book that will stay with me for a while and I highly recommend it.

Take It Back is out today and you can get a copy here.

About the Author

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Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. She has contributed to The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC and Lonely Planet, and is the founding editor of outdoor travel blog Atlas & Boots, read by 250,000 people a month.

Connect with Kia:

Website: https://kiaabdullah.com

Facebook: Kia Abdullah

Twitter: @KiaAbdullah

Instagram: @kiaabdullah

The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman #BookReview (@rowancoleman) @eburypublishing @penguinrandom @ecrisp1 @BleuViola #PublicationDay #TheGirlAtTheWindow

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Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

Today is publication day for The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book and am delighted to share my review today. My thanks to Penguin Random House and the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially and a happy publication day to Rowan!

What can I say, this book has absolutely everything an avid reader could wish for when they pick up a new tome. I knew this book was going to be something special because the author has set it in a place that means a great deal to her and she has obviously poured her heart and soul into it. The passion and emotion bursts off the page and straight into the heart of the reader and carries them along on an immersive emotional journey through the story. I was completely drawn in to the world of the characters and the setting of the book and held in such an iron grip by the narrative that I could barely bear (Kate Baker – take note!) to put it down and interact with my family. I raced through it in record time and felt bereft when it was done.

The story is set in the wilds of Yorkshire, in the house that is rumoured to have inspired parts of Wuthering Heights and it is uncanny how the author has managed to evoke the atmosphere of that great novel with her story. Rowan really does the beauty and atmosphere of my home county great justice in the setting and the reader is immediately transported to the isolated Yorkshire Moors that so inspired Emily Bronte and gave Wuthering Heights the dark and wild atmosphere that characterises it.

Anyone who follows Rowan on Twitter and knows anything about her will not be able to read the book and fail to feel that the main character of Trudy has, to a degree, been inspired by Rowan’s own famed obsession with the Brontes. Returning to her childhood home at Ponden Hall after a great personal tragedy, Trudy becomes embroiled in a treasure hunt involving lost Bronte artefacts and a story that she believes intrigued her heroine, Emily, centuries before. I absolutely loved the character of Trudy and was completely engrossed in her life and emotions from the very first page. Her relationships with her young son, husband and estranged mother were beautifully portrayed in the story and felt completely authentic. The emotional journey experienced by the characters was extremely affecting and I felt myself experiencing a vast range of emotions myself as I read – sorrow, terror, intrigue being just a few of them – it was very skilfully done. These are characters and stories of the best kind, the kind that make you feel like you have made new friends, that you care about them and feel sad when you have to let them go. The great thing about novels, of course, is that they will still be there when you want to return to them, and this is definitely a book that the reader will want to treasure and return to and experience again.

The plot of the novel covers so much. Personal tragedy, family relationships, mystery, history, literature and a thrilling ghost story, all at the same time. There is so much packed in to the book, I was hugely impressed that it all flows so naturally and blended seamlessly. As someone who is making attempts to write herself, I could not help being awed by the skill that this complex book has taken to produce and, aside from being a marvellous read, it is something I will be studying to see how Rowan managed to pull it off. In fact, I would love to hear from the horse’s mouth what process Rowan used to put this book together. There was so much fascinating information and detail about the Brontes woven in to the story, but it never felt that it was included in anything other than a natural way that enhanced the narrative. The ghostly aspects were suitably creepy and disturbing. The book actually managed to produce in me the same deeply troubling sensations I felt when I first read the opening chapters of Wuthering Heights where the narrator is being haunted by Cathy’s ghost. It gives me the shivers thinking about it to this day. Ghost stories are very hard to do well, but Rowan achieves this, and goes beyond.

This book is complex, emotional, fascinating, gripping, troubling, affecting, beautiful and moving, all at the same time. It is a masterpiece, and a masterclass in writing. I absolutely loved every word, every page and know I will return to it again and again. One of my favourite books of the eighty I have read so far this year. I have bought a copy to cherish, you should too.

The Girl at the Window is out today and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Rowan Coleman’s first novel Growing Up Twice was a WHS Fresh Talent Winner. Since then, Rowan has written fifteen novels, including The Memory Book which was a Sunday Times bestseller. It was selected for the Richard and Judy Bookclub and awarded Love Reading Novel of the Year, as voted for by readers.

Her latest novel, The Summer of Impossible Things, is a Zoe Ball TV Book Club selection.

Rowan lives with her husband and their five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire, juggling writing novels with raising her family. She really wishes someone would invent time travel.

Connect with Rowan:

Facebook: Rowan Coleman

Twitter: @rowancoleman

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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

The Unfinished high resolution

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

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Twitter: @bclaypolewhite

Instagram: @bclaypolewhite