Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen #BookReview #BlogTour (@antti_tuomainen) @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #PalmBeachFinland

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“Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village – the ‘hottest beach in Finland’. The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary. With a nod to Fargo, and the darkest noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a wicked black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives … from the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’.”

I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen. My huge thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Orenda Books for my copy of the novel which I have reviewed honestly.

What to say about this genius book? When I found myself simultaneously gasping and laughing guilty at the the opening scenes of this book, I knew from the beginning that I was going to adore it, and everything about the rest of the book cemented this opinion.

This book is the wrong way round. You know from the very beginning who committed the crime. You might think this would spoil the tension of the book but it absolutely does not. For a start, we have no idea who is the victim is, and nor does anyone else. And despite the fact that the perpetrator is not a mystery, there are enough other twists, turns and gasp-out-loud surprises throughout the book to keep you turning the pages until the wee, small hours.

The cover of this book is perfect and would have me intrigued enough to pick up the book on its own, because the setting of this book is what makes it for me. Jorma Leivo is determined to develop the perfect beach resort on the coast of Finland for those people who don’t like it too hot (I actually know a few people to whom this idea would be appealing and I wonder why this place doesn’t actually exist), complete with Florida-style chalets painted pastel colours and named in homage to Miami Vice, cocktails, sun umbrellas, plastic flamingoes and water sports. The fact that the palm trees are plastic might give a hint at the struggle he is up against, but Jorma is nothing if not optimistic and determined – in fact, his absolute determination to bring his vision to life is part of the problem. The setting sets up limitless opportunities for humour, which is the heart of my delight in this book.

The humour is on the dark side, as this is a crime story after all, and the author does not shy away from the violence associated with this genre, but a lot of it is comical. Some of the scenes border on farce and had me laughing out loud, often into my hand as I felt like I shouldn’t really be laughing at all but I could not help myself. There are an array of fantastic characters in this book which tell the story from their own perspectives in alternating chapters and that you won’t be able to help but fall in love with, even the really terrible people. The two bumbling criminal henchmen who set the whole chain of events rolling with their ineptitude in the first place. The psychopathic brother hell bent on revenge. The undercover policeman posing as a holidaying maths teacher as he windsurfs his way to solving the crime. The array of small town dwellers with big hopes and dreams, They all bring this story to joyous life and I absolutely loved all of them by the end of the book.

I don’t read enough translated fiction but, if it was all as good as this, I would read more. I wish my Finnish was good enough to allow me to read this in the original but the translator has done a wonderful job of bringing the spirit of Antti’s story to life in English so we can enjoy it seamlessly. I think this is a book that has layers and layers of nuance to peel back over multiple readings and, consequently, the paperback is now on pre-order so that I can enjoy it again and again. I can’t recommend it highly enough – life-affirming pleasure in paperback form. Books like this are the reason I blog.

Palm Beach Finland is out now and you can buy your copy here.

This book is taking a month-long tour throughout October so there are plenty of fantastic reviews to choose from. If you would like to get an alternative perspective on the book from one of my fellow bloggers, check out the tours dates below:

First Palm Beach BT Poster

About the Author

Antti Tuomainen

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards.

Connect with Antti:

Website: http://anttituomainen.com

Facebook: Antti Tuomainen Official

Twitter: @antti_tuomainen

Instagram: @anttituomainen

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A Laughing Matter of Pain by Cynthia Hilston #BlogBlitz #PublicationDay (@cynthiahilston) @RaRaResources #ALaughingMatterOfPain

A Laughing Matter of Pain

Happy Publication Day, Cynthia Hilston! I am delighted today to be shining a spotlight on A Laughing Matter of Pain on its publication day. I hope you have a wonderful day, Cynthia and that my readers will check out your new book. I haven’t had chance to read it yet, but look forward to doing so soon. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s random Resources for inviting me to take part in this publication day push.

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“Harry Rechthart always knew how to laugh, but laughter can hide a lot of pain that’s drowned by the bottle and good times. He grew up the joker in the early 1900s in Cleveland, Ohio, but as he enters adulthood, conflict splits him. His once close relationship with his brother, Erik, breaks as they come into their own and Erik goes off to college. No longer under Erik’s shadow, Harry feels he might finally shine and make others see him as someone to be proud of. Harry finds an unlikely comrade who understands how he feels–his younger sister, Hannah. Once free of high school, Harry and Hannah double date sister and brother, Kat and Will Jones, attending wild, extravagant parties during the years of Prohibition. Harry thinks he’s won at life–he’s found love in Kat, in a good time, and in the bottle. But all the light goes out fast when Harry’s alcoholism leads to disastrous consequences for him and Kat.

Harry thinks the joke’s on him now that he’s sunk lower than ever. He’s in jail. He’s pushed away his family. He’s a broken man, but in the darkest depths of a prison cell, there is hope. Can Harry rebuild his life and learn that true laughter comes from knowing true joy, or will he bury himself once and for all in this laughing matter of pain?”

To buy a copy of A Laughing Matter of Pain, follow this purchase link.

About the Author

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Cynthia Hilston is a thirty-something-year-old stay at home mom of three young kids, happily married. Writing has always been like another child to her. After twenty years of waltzing in the world of fan fiction, she finally stepped away to do her debut dance with original works of fiction. Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful is her first original novel. She’s currently working on more books. Visit her website for more information.

In her spare time – what spare time? – she devours books, watches Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, pets her orange kitty, looks at the stars, and dreams of what other stories she wishes to tell.

Connect with Cynthia:

Website: https://cynthiahilston.com

Facebook: Cynthia Hilston

Twitter: @cynthiahilston

Instagram: @authorcynthiahilston

Goodreads: Cynthia Hilston

Bear With Me by Jessica Redland #BlogTour #BookReview (@JessicaRedland) @RaRaResources #BearWithMe

Bear With Me

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for Bear With Me by Jessica Redland. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly.

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“Jemma has the job of her dreams as curator for the children’s section of a museum in London. She spends each day surrounded by the one thing she’s absolutely passionate about: teddy bears. When boyfriend, Scott, shows a genuine interest in her passion instead of laughing at her for “playing with teddies all day”, she knows he’s a keeper.

Returning home to the North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitsborough Bay to celebrate her birthday, Jemma thinks she’s heading for her happy-ever-after when Scott unexpectedly proposes. So, a few days later, why isn’t he retuning her calls or responding to her texts?

Julie has always been a wonderful single mother to Jemma and her little brother, Sean. As owner of specialist teddy bear shop, Bear With Me, and the creative genius behind the successful range of Ju-Sea Bears, she inspires Jemma with her ability to balance a demanding career with home life. So why is the shop now in disarray and why is Sean so upset?

Sam thought he had his future all worked out. With a promising neurology career, a home, and a devoted fiancée, life was looking good. But now he’s all alone in a strange city, far from everyone and everything he cares about, struggling to rebuild the tatters of his life. Did he do the right thing by running away? What does the future hold and is he strong enough to face it?

Sometimes love finds us when we least expect it. But sometimes love leaves us, just as unexpectedly. When you’ve loved and lost, can you bear to let love in again?

Bear With Me, as all will be revealed …”

So, I did not mean to post this so late in the day but this morning I found that I was in Twitter jail for the first time ever!

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Anyway, I was hanging on, hoping I’d be out so I could share this post properly but, alas, it looks like I’m in for a long stretch so it will have to take its chances on its own. Apologies, Jessica, if my tweeting misdemeanours affect the reach of the post. I promise I will reshare widely once I am released!

The cover gave me certain expectations for this book that were not not negative but I did think it was going to be a very light, untaxing kind of beach read. I have to say that I was surprised, there was a good deal more to the book than that. I was easy reading and fun in places but with a much deeper, more complex side to it that I was not expecting at all but really enjoyed.

The setting of the book, in a small seaside town on the North Yorkshire coast is fictional but so familiar to me that I believe I know the places Jessica had in mind when she was creating it, and they were places I spent all my summer holidays when I was a child as we live only 85 minutes from there, so I immediately felt at home in the setting and was able to relax into the book and integrate myself into it immediately. The author does a fantastic job of bringing the area to life in the book and anyone who isn’t familiar with the area I am sure will fall in love with it and want to visit.

The story has two main narrators, Jemma, living in London but drawn home to Whitsborough Bay by a health crisis for her mother. Sam has fled Whitsborough Bay after a personal tragedy but finds life in London a lonely existence. A chance encounter brings Jemma and Sam into contact and there stories merge as they form a friendship and find some of what the other needs in that relationship. Both characters were really well drawn and easy to warm to and I was drawn into their stories and excited to see where they would go.

This is a book that deals with some difficult issues – divorce, death, betrayal, loneliness and illness and has some complex themes of dealing with tragedy, acceptance, grief and loss and finding support in friendship, and possibly moving on through love. It was a really lovely balance between not shying away from tricky subjects but dealing with them in a deft, warm and light manner and leaving the reader ultimately satisfied and uplifted. I shed some tears, smiled some smiles and closed the book feeling like I had invested my time well by reading it. This book is much more than its cover would suggest. I would highly recommend it.

Bear With Me is out now and you can purchase a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour and read some other reviews, check out the blogs below:

Bear With Me Full Tour Banner

About the Author

Jessica - Author Photo

Jessica had never considered writing as a career until a former manager kept telling her that her business reports read more like stories and she should write a book. She loved writing but had no plot ideas. Then something happened to her that prompted the premise for her debut novel, Searching for Steven. She put fingers to keyboard and soon realised she had a trilogy and a novella!

She lives on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast – the inspiration for the settings in her books – with her husband, daughter, cat, Sprocker Spaniel, and an ever-growing collection of collectible teddy bears. Although if the dog has her way, the collection will be reduced to a pile of stuffing and chewed limbs!

Jessica tries to balance her time – usually unsuccessfully – between being an HR tutor and writing.

Connect with Jessica:

Website: http://www.jessicaredland.com

Facebook: Jessica Redland

Twitter: @JessicaRedland

Costa Del Churros by Isabella May #BlogTour #BookReview #Giveaway (@IsabellaMayBks) @crookedcatbooks @RaRaResources #CostaDelChurros #RachelsRandomResources #FictionCafeWriters

Costa Del Churros

Another blog tour today (not mega-relevant as this book was published yesterday but can anyone tell me why so many books are being published today, there seem to be dozens!) and this one is for Costa del Churros by my fellow Fiction Cafe Writer, Isabella May, so I am delighted to be taking part. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author and publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. There is also a fabulous giveaway after the review so make sure you enter that.

Costa Del Churros Cover

“The rain in Spain doesn’t mainly fall on the plain…

Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.

Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town’s flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers? 

One thing’s for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again.”

Anyone who doesn’t really, really want a sugar-coated churro and some chocolate sauce to dip it in after seeing that book cover? No, didn’t think so, it must be the tastiest looking book cover I’ve ever seen.

This is the story of four very different women who become unlikely friends when they are drawn together in a flamenco class run by the enigmatic Carmen on the Costa del Sol and it could not get more Spanish if it tried. Isabella really brought the whole feel of the location alive and the fish-out-of-water feeling of the non-Spaniards who have made it their home.

To begin with, I found it hard to warm to a couple of the characters, as they are all very different to me but as the book progresses they all grew on me, much as they grew on each other as they learn things about themselves over the course of the novel and the flamenco classes. Isabella’s writing style is very chatty and easy to read and the characters all too believable, even in their more extreme moments so it is easy to get carried along by their stories. There are a number of very astute observations in the book, it cuts close to the bone in places and might make you wince with its accuracy, and it is also quite funny, so plenty to keep the reader entertained.

Having read Isabella’s previous two books, I felt like she has really got in to her writing stride in this one and it was the most comfortable and convincing for me. I think it really grasps the nature of female friendship and the kind of dilemmas that women are faced with, at the same time as having that touch of the exotic (for those of us who aren’t living the ex-pat lifestyle anyway) that takes us away from our every day lives. A really good read for anyone looking for an escapist read now that the nights are drawing in and we are all missing the hot summer days.

Now, where are my churros, please?

Costa del Churros is out now and you can get your copy here.

Giveaway

Giveaway Prize - The Cocktail Bar

Isabella is giving away a signed copy of her book The Cocktail  Bar. To be in with a chance to win, just click the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

To follow the rest of the tour, checkout the blogs below on the relevant date:

Costa del Churros Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar. 

Connect with Isabella:

Website: https://isabellamayauthor.com

Facebook: Isabella May Author

Twitter: @IsabellaMayBks

Instagram: @isabella_may_author

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper #BookReview #BlogTour (@ItsEmmaCooper) @headlinepg @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheSongsOfUs #UpLit

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So very happy to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper as I absolutely love this book, and the person who wrote it. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on to the tour so I get another chance to rave again about this wonderful book ahead of its paperback publication tomorrow. I reviewed this book originally back in March so, when you read the review below that I am reposting today, you may recognise one of the lines from it quoted above. Yes, that’s me, on a poster! Fame at last..kind of.

The Songs of Us Cover

“If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.”

So, I have just got off a seven-and-a-half hour trans-Atlantic flight where I had planned on watching ‘Darkest Hour’ and grabbing a few hours sleep. Instead, I sat up all night and devoured Emma Cooper’s new novel from cover to cover in one sitting and I don’t regret a single second of lost sleep.

This book is, quite frankly, astonishing. It manages to be funny and heart-wrenching at the same time, and explores some huge themes of love, loss, personal struggle and family, deeply but without being the least bit heavy-going or preachy.

It starts off with a hilarious scene in a supermarket which launches us straight into the complicated and mad world of the main character of Melody King who, following an unfortunate accident, has the embarrassing habit of launching into song at times of stress and anxiety, which leads to some extremely toe-curling but funny moments. Her two children, Flynn and Rose, both in those awkward teenage years and struggling with complicated issues of their own, tend to find this less amusing. I absolutely love the way Emma has chosen the perfect appropriately inappropriate song for Melody to sing at any given moment.

The book is written in the first person from the points of view of four main characters, Melody, Flynn, Rose and Dev, Melody’s missing husband. Each has a distinct voice, totally fitting their character and the personal stresses they are under and Emma has done this so well that we are right inside each of their individual heads, seeing the situation from four totally different points of view with the tint that their specific outlooks gives to the situation. It is so cleverly and perfectly done that we have a complete emotional insight into the whole perspective of the situation they are in, you can’t help getting sucked right into the drama.

And, oh, how much did I love these characters. Emabattled, troubled, sullen but warm-hearted Flynn. My heart broke for him and I was willing him to conquer his demons and become the amazing person you can see under the surface. Brilliant but confused Rose, fragile but not, having to grow up faster than she perhaps can cope with and trying to take control in dangerous ways. I just wanted to fold her in my arms and take care of her. And Melody. I don’t really know what to say about Melody except she is so perfectly imperfect, so valiant. She has stolen into my heart and taken firm root.

This book is a rollercoaster that takes you to unexpected places emotionally and has left me bruised, battered but ultimately uplifted. It is such a brilliant portrayal of how flawed and struggling people can be, but how love and family will hold us up and help us overcome if we have each other. I know I will go back and re-read this book soon, and I will feel exactly the same way about it again. It made me laugh and cry and I didn’t want it to end, to let go of these characters that took such firm hold of me in such a short space of time. This book is something really special, I might even venture to say, perfect.

Just don’t finish it on a jumbo jet full of hundreds of curious people as it comes in to land whilst wearing non-waterproof mascara.

(Blogger note: I love this book so much I have made my two best friends wait until now for their birthday presents just so that I can give them a copy each.)

The Songs of Us is out now on Kindle and in paperback tomorrow and you can (or I should say, must) get a copy here.

To see if my fellow bloggers are as effusive about this book as I am, follow the tour below:

The Songs of Us Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

Emma Cooper Author Picture

Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire, with her partner and four children. Her spare time consists of writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day.

Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since her childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations.

The Songs of Us was inspired by Emma’s love of music and her ability to almost always embarrass herself, and her children, in the most mundane of situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two, that she began to write Melody’s story. Working full-time with a large family meant that Emma had to steal snippets of ‘spare’ time from her already chaotic and disorganised life; the majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office. She never expected to fall so deeply in love with the King family and is overwhelmed that others feel the same.

Connect with Emma:

Facebook: Emma Cooper

Twitter: @ItsEmmaCooper

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What’s Left Unsaid by Deborah Stone #BookReview #BlogTour (@DeborahStone_) @matadorbooks @LoveBooksGroup #WhatsLeftUnsaid #LoveBooksGroupTours

 

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Delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the blog tour today for What’s Left Unsaid by Deborah Stone. My thanks to Kelly from Love Books Group Tours for the invitation to take part and to the publisher and author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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“Sasha is just about managing to hold her life together. She is raising her teenage son Zac, coping with an absent husband and caring for her ageing, temperamental and alcoholic mother, as well as holding down her own job. But when Zac begins to suspect that he has a secret sibling, Sasha realises that she must relive the events of a devastating night which she has done her best to forget for the past nineteen years.

Sasha’s mother, Annie, is old and finds it difficult to distinguish between past and present and between truth and lies. As Annie sinks deeper back into her past, she revisits the key events in her life which have shaped her emotionally. Through it all, she remains convinced that her dead husband Joe is watching and waiting for her. But there’s one thing she never told him, and as painful as it is for her to admit the truth, Annie is determined to go to Joe with a guilt-free conscience.

As the plot unfurls, traumas are revealed and lies uncovered, revealing long-buried secrets which are at the root of Annie and Sasha’s fractious relationship.”

This is going to be a difficult book for me to review today as I have really mixed feelings about it and I am still not sure that my final opinion has been fully formed yet but I’ll give you my current thoughts and that will maybe help you decide if this is a book that will appeal to you or not.

The book is the story of three generations of a family with a complicated history and buried secrets which cause havoc when finally revealed. Everyone in the book is hiding something, and this lack of openness between the family members causes a lot of tension and heartbreak that ripples down through the generations with far-reaching effects. On the basis of this summary and the synopsis, this should have been a book that was right up my street as I adore a character-led, emotional drama.

The book is told through the voices of three characters. The main narrators are Sasha and her mother, Annie. Sasha is struggling in a marriage that has lost its warmth and closeness, and her son, Zac, has hit those difficult late teen years where he is rebelling slightly and his father is an absent authority figure, so Sasha has a lot on her plate. She has never been close to her mother, Annie, for reasons that Sasha cannot fathom but they are forced together more and more as Annie’s mind and health fails in old age, which leads to particular tensions. The third narrator is Joe, Annie’s deceased husband who interjects in the story with his own perspective. I really enjoyed the style of narration as each character reveals a different view of the story, with clues to the hidden secrets and pains dropped throughout the book and we can see inside their individual motivations. It is a really effective way to tell the story.

The plot itself is very interesting and, again, would be something that would ordinarily appealing and engrossing to me. We are taken back to the war years when Annie was evacuated from Manchester to rural Wales and we are made privy to events that took place then which shaped her outlook and attitude in the future. Joe’s history goes back even further as his family escaped from Russia at the end of the nineteenth century into extreme poverty in Manchester until they pulled themselves up by dint of hard work, and this family history was fascinating. The scene where he, as a Jew, is confronted by the rise of fascism in 1930’s Manchester is compelling and chilling and the kind of historical colour that will always draw me to a book and I think many people will enjoy the book for this reason.

The main issue I had, and the reason the book failed to grab me and move me as I thought it would, were the characters. I just did not engage with them, which is always the seal of doom on a book for me. Sasha should have been someone I could sympathise with, being a single parent myself, but for some reason I did not and I can’t really explain why. She just didn’t move me. I struggled even more with Annie. I felt nothing but animosity for her throughout, even when the torments she had suffered were revealed, I felt very little sympathy and could not accept that this provided enough of an excuse for her behaviour. Even when it came to the final reveal, which I had already suspected earlier on, I still could not excuse her, there just wasn’t enough warm mixed with the vinegar to make her sympathetic early on. Oddly, the only person I really warmed to was Joe, who seemed like a decent, determined and very human character.

I had another issue with the book which I can’t really say much about without giving away a major plot point but it relates to one character’s reaction to something that happened to her not really ringing true to me, as someone who something similar has happened to, but that is obviously a very personal reaction to the book that other people without the same experience are unlikely to have. This may very well be at the root of my ambivalence about the book, it is hard to know what makes one person love a book and another be lukewarm about it. For this reason, I would say that this is a book you need to pick and read for yourself to decide. I am very sure that other people will love it and be very moved by it. The book is well-written and plotted and has an interesting story and themes of family, trauma, lack of communication and the power of forgiveness that are appealing. I wish I’d loved it but, on this occasion, it just did not take an emotional hold on me personally.

What’s Left Unsaid is out now and you can buy a copy Here.

Please follow the rest of the tour by following the blog links below:

About the Author

Deborah Stone read English Literature at Durham University. She lives in North London with her husband, two sons and her dog.

Connect with Deborah:

Website: https://www.whatsleftunsaid.co.uk

Facebook: Deborah Stone

Twitter: @DeborahStone_

Goodreads: Deborah Stone

The Continuity Girl by Patrick Kincaid #BookReview #BlogTour (@patrickkincaid) @unbounders @annecater #RandomThingsTours #ContinuityGirl

The Continuity Girl Cover

“1969. Hollywood descends on a tiny Scottish village for the making of Billy Wilder’s most ambitious picture yet: a sprawling epic detailing The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. But the formidable director and his crew soon come into conflict with Jim Outhwaite, a young scientist seeking evidence for monsters.

2014. Stuck just a short walk from the East London street where she grew up, ambitious Film Studies lecturer Gemma MacDonald is restless and hungry for change. A job offer in the Highlands seems to offer escape – but only at a cost to her relationships with family and an equally ambitious American boyfriend. Then a lost print of Gemma’s favourite film turns up, and with it, an idea…

Two stories, separated by 45 years, are set on collision course – on the surface of Loch Ness, under the shadow of a castle – by the reappearance of the continuity girl herself: April Bloom.”

Today is my turn on the blog tour for The Continuity Girl by Patrick Kincaid. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for my place on the tour and to Unbound and the author for my copy of the book which, I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I knew I was going to adore this book the minute I saw the cover and read the blurb because everything about it just appeals to that side of me that loves a quirky, off-beat story and unusual characters. So I was preparing myself for disappointment, as I had such high hopes, but I need not have bothered; this book fulfilled all that it promised and more.

The plot essentially covers two stories, set 45 years apart, that ultimately converge in one of those unlikely acts of serendipity which we all wish would happen to us in real life when we see them as plot devices in novels. The central characters are two strong, individual women struggling to make the right decisions for their future, and one traditional, uptight and confused young man torn between what he knows and is used to, and what is being offered to him by a more liberal and open society and a chance meeting with a beautiful and liberated young American.

There is so much to draw the reader in in this book. Let’s start with the plot. In London in 2014, a lecturer in Film Studies is excited to be involved in the discovery and restoration of the lost scenes from Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, her favourite movie, at the same time as wrestling with a decision about her future which forces her to choose between what she feels she ought to do to please other people and what she really wants for herself. At the same time, we are taken back to the filming of the same movie at Loch Ness in 1969, when Jim Outhwaite, a marine biologist involved with studying the phenomena in Loch Ness, becomes entangled with the film crew in a way he neither wanted nor expected and which forces him to make tough choices about his own future in a world that is on the cusp of change, that change comforting him in the very realm form of the film’s Californian continuity girl, April Bloom.

I had not heard of this film before I picked up the book but I did do a little background research before I started it, as the book is based firmly on real events and people, obviously with a little poetic licence thrown in. It is one of those tales where fact is stranger than fiction and I was completely captivated by the story of the making of the film and the events in Scotland and how the author has cleverly woven them in to a charming, eccentric and humorous story which really bring the events to life and take us to the heart of them. There are some really funny moments (when they take the model monster out on to the loch for the first time being my favourite) and some poignant ones, it is a really lovely balance for the reader and it made me really keen to find out which events and characters were real and which were not, as the author joins them so seamlessly, it is impossible to tell from the narrative.

Next are the characters, and they are genuinely fabulous. Really well drawn and totally alive within the pages, I was with them from the beginning. Jim, the uptight male scientist back in 1969, was my particular favourite. He starts out so po-faced and stodgy that you wonder why April is attracted to him in the first place but a different side of him emerges as he blossoms under April’s friendship but you can still see the very real tussle going on internally between what he wants and his fear of the unknown. In fact, all the characters’ internal conflicts are so believable that they really worm their way under your skin until your heart is breaking along with their or you feel their elation. This is all I ever ask from a book but it is very hard to achieve and the author has done a masterful job here.

The setting itself is one of the highlights of the book. I am very familiar with the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness and the author really captured the essence of it here, so it was a lovely way to revisit a beloved location. The disjointed feeling caused by the placing of a glamorous film crew in this remote location cleverly mirrors the disruption that the exotic and free-thinking April causes in Jim’s ordered existence and the ripples of this are then felt all the way through to the modern day with Gemma’s ambiguous attitude towards the remastering of her beloved movie along with everything happening in her private life. The theme of impermanence runs strongly through the book, the need to embrace change to grow as individuals and the constant contradictions within all of us which cause us so much angst are considered and really give the book a depth and relevance that endeared it to me even more, and this is mirrored in the landscape itself and its inhabitants and how all are forced to change and adapt over the years to survive. There is also a lot of emphasis on lack of communication and the pain and misunderstanding that arises when people don’t talk to each other honestly and instead allow incorrect assumptions to decide their fate. This is a theme to which we can all relate I am sure.

This book is a gentle story, beautifully written with warm but complex characters, rich themes, enticing plot, gorgeously-drawn landscapes and oodles of delights to draw you in. Any book containing a pet pine marten named Autolycus has to be worth a read, surely. I loved it and it will definitely find a permanent place in my library to be revisited in future. I’m not lending you my copy though, because it’s signed so you’ll have to get your own.

Unbound has produced some really original and fascinating books so far and they are fast becoming one of my favourite publishers for stories that draw you in, make you think and offer you something extraordinary and I consider myself very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to review for them this year. Long may it continue.

The Continuity Girl is out now and you can acquire a copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the posts on the tour by following the blog listed below:

FINAL Continuity Girl Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

Patrick Kincaid Author Picture

Like April in the novel, Patrick is an Anglo-American. He was born to an English mother in Amarillo, Texas, but moved to the UK when his American father was stationed in Oxfordshire with the USAF in the mid-1970s. Unlike his older brother, Patrick was sent to a local rather than a base school, and very quickly went native. He eventually gained a PhD in English Literature at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon. For the past 14 years, he has taught English to secondary school children in an inner-city comprehensive in Coventry.

Long a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Patrick contributed one of his own, ‘The Doll and His Maker’, to MX Publishing’s SHERLOCK’S HOME: THE EMPTY HOUSE, an anthology of pastiches put together to raise funds for the preservation of one of the author’s former homes. As well as writing fiction, Patrick is a keen poet. He was short-listed for the Bridport Poetry Prize in 2012 and long-listed for the Fish Poetry Prize in 2013.

Connect with Patrick:

Facebook: Patrick Kincaid

Twitter: @patrickkincaid

Goodreads: Patrick Kincaid

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