Tempted by….Being Anne: Help The Witch by Tom Cox @cox_tom @Williams13Anne @unbounders #bookbloggers #bloggerlove #readingrecommendations #booklove #HelpTheWitch

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Inspired by our native landscapes, saturated by the shadows beneath trees and behind doors, listening to the run of water and half-heard voices, Tom Cox s first collection of short stories is a series of evocative and unsettling trips into worlds previously visited by the likes of M. R. James and E. F. Benson.

Railway tunnels, the lanes and hills of the Peak District, family homes, old stones, shreds fluttering on barbed wire, night drawing in, something that might be an animal shifting on the other side of a hedge: Tom has drawn on his life-long love of weird fiction, folklore and nature s unregarded corners to write a collection of stories that will delight fans old and new, and leave them very uneasy about turning the reading lamp off.

I know this is usually a Monday feature but yesterday was impossible so I’m sharing it today instead. Surprise! A change is as good as a rest, they say, and I’m relaxing into the Christmas holidays.

Anyway, today on Tempted by…. I have Help The Witch by Tom Cox and the review which inspired me to buy it was this one written by Anne Williams on her blog, Being Anne. Anne is a hugely respected and inspirational book blogger, who also talks quite openly about things going on in her life in general so you really feel like you get to know her through her blog. I have been lucky enough to meet her in person and she is as lovely as she comes across on the blog. her reviews are always very detailed and honest about what works in a book and what doesn’t, so I completely trust them. No flannel here!

This was the main draw of the review for me, the pulling out of the positives and the negatives; the emphasis on what worked for her and what didn’t; the quirkiness of the stories. I do like a short story collection that you can dip in and out of when you are short on time or don’t have the brain space to embark on a longer literary journey and these sound like something out of the ordinary. I’m very drawn to something a bit different, although I’m not sure I will read them late at night while I am on my own! This book was published by Unbounders and I have found that their unique publishing model have produced some very diverse and interesting books this year, including some of my favourite reads, so I am looking forward to dipping in to this over Christmas.

If, after reading Anne’s review, you would like to get your own copy of this book, you can buy it here. And please do visit Anne’s wonderful blog, Being Anne, and get to know her, I know you’ll love her too.

 

Bittersweet by Veronica Henry #BookReview #ShortStories #Freebie (@veronica_henry) @orionbooks #Kindle

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A chance encounter on New Year’s Eve brings one woman’s dream alive; a woman begins her new life by the sea; and one strawberry tart can change everything…

From forgotten loves to second chances, new happiness and old friends, this is an uplifting and moving collection of short stories about how love changes, and how it changes us – from Sunday Times bestseller Veronica Henry.”

** Features an exclusive extract of her upcoming novel Christmas at the Beach Hut! **

Just a quick review today of Bittersweet, a delightful collection of short stories by one of my favourite authors, Veronica Henry. The book also has an exclusive extract from her new novel Christmas at the Beach Hut which will be published on 15 November.

There are seven short stories in this little collection, and everyone of them is delightful. It is really hard to write a short story but Veronica manages to imbue each of these with an impressive range of activity and emotion; I defy any of you to read them and remain unmoved. Despite the restrictions on the length of each, Veronica’s trademark warmth and empathy is obvious in each one, no one else could possibly have written these stories.

Each of these has a different twist on relationships, some of them happy, some more melancholy, but all of them ultimately uplifting. I think my two favourites were Escape to the Country, where I found myself inwardly cheering as Holly finally takes her future in her own hands, and A Certain Likeness, where we are left believing that it might never be too late.

I must admit, I didn’t read the extract from Veronica’s new book because I have it on pre-order and I didn’t want to have to wait three weeks to be able to carry on reading once I was drawn in to the story. However, if you haven’t read either of the two Beach Hut novels (and if not, why not, they are wonderful!), the extract will be a great taster of the seaside town of Everdene and I am sure you won’t be able to resist diving in to the series.

The best thing os all about this little collection is that it is FREE to download on Kindle. Yes, you heard that correctly – it is absolutely free to download, so what on earth could possibly be stopping you? You can download it here, then grab a comfy chair, cosy blanket and a mug of your favourite hot beverage and settle down for treat. You can thank me later.

If that wasn’t enough, Veronica will be guesting on my blog on Friday 16 November as part of my new Friday Night Drinks feature, to celebrate the launch of her new book, Christmas at the Beach Hut, so make sure you check that out. Veronica’s new book is available for pre-order here.

About the Author

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Veronica Henry has worked as a scriptwriter for THE ARCHERS, HEARTBEAT and HOLBY CITY amongst many others, before turning to fiction. She won the 2014 RNA NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD for A NIGHT ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Veronica lives with her family in a village in north Devon.

Connect with Veronica:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronicahenryauthor/

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor

 

A Snow Garden & Other Stories by Rachel Joyce #BookReview (@R_Joyce_Books) @TransworldBooks

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“In the course of a fortnight at the end of a year; a woman finds a cure for a broken heart where she least expects it; a husband and wife build their son a bicycle and, in the process, deconstruct their happy marriage; freak weather brings the airport to a standstill on Christmas Day; a young woman will change her life by saying one word; a father foolishly promises his sons snow; the most famous young man in the world goes back to his childhood home; and a law-abiding old man discovers guerilla gardening…”

I have to start this review with a humiliating admission – I have not read any of Rachel Joyce’s other work. I know this is awful. I have a copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry sat in my TBR pile and for some reason I just have not got round to reading it yet. I intend to rectify this very soon, having read A Snow Garden & Other Stories.

This is a small book containing seven short stories which revolve around peripheral characters that were cut from her other works, but whom she has been unable to let go of completely. She describes them as ‘making a nuisance of themselves’ so she decided to try and quieten them by giving them short stories of their own. I love that idea – the thought  that these characters have a life of their own and won’t settle until their story has been told.

In the foreword to this book, Joyce says, ‘We are at the centre of our own stories. And sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not at the centre of other people’s. But I love the fact that you can brush past a person with your own story, your own life, so big in your mind and at the same time be a simple passer-by in someone else’s. A walk-on part.’ This is the theme that binds these stories together – they intersect almost imperceptibly, but the link is there, cemented by one recurring image throughout the book, so the book feels whole and not discordant despite the seven divergent story lines.

Joyce’s writing is very clever, she brings the various protagonists fully to life skilfully in the brief span provided by the short story form, and she manages to give us a very clear insight into their experiences and characters through a snapshot of a single moment in their lives. The stories are poignant and bittersweet, with an indefinable air of magic and melancholy about them, whilst at the same time as being totally real and relatable, and very, very moving. I was left affected by each story for a long while afterwards. ‘A Faraway Smell of Lemon’ and ‘A Snow Garden’ were my particular favourites and resonated deeply with me for personal reasons, and it is testimony to Joyce’s expertise that her writing has managed to connect with her reader in this way in such a short space of time.

I particularly love her use of language, and the way she manages to communicate a very clear image with the use of only a few words. This is a complete contrast to some of the unnecessary verbiage and over-wrought imagery I have seen in a good deal of literary fiction recently, where I sometimes feel figurative language is used for the sake of cleverness rather than clarity. I especially loved her description of ‘...birds sat pegged on the black branches of the trees.‘- can’t you just precisely imagine the scene.

Each of the stories is set in the period between early December and New Year’s Eve and it is the perfect winter book. However, I would not let this put you off picking it up now – it would be a great read at any time. I devoured it in one afternoon, curled in a cosy armchair, but it is one of those books that you continue to think about long after you have closed the final page. I loved this book and would highly recommend it. I look forward to reading Joyce’s other books that I have so sorely and misguidedly neglected until now.

A Snow Garden and Other Stories is out now.

About the Author

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into 34 languages. Rachel Joyce was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘Writer of the Year’ 2014.

She is the award-winning writer of over 30 original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4.

Rachel Joyce lives with her family in Gloucestershire.