Book Review

The First Time I Saw You – Emma Cooper

August was dedicated to getting ahead on my blog tour reading when I suddenly realised just how many books I had committed to reviewing in September, so there is no book jar update this month. I did however find myself with a gap in my reading schedule at a point when I was away from home and without access to the jar. Well, this just seemed like the perfect opportunity to dive in to the latest book by Emma Cooper (to be honest, I had been waiting for an excuse to bump this one to the top of my reading list since the day it released. Her debut, The Songs of Us made my top ten reads of 2018, so I had very high hopes for this one. Read on to find out if it lived up to my expectations.

BLURB:

From the author of The Songs of Us. Fans of Jojo Moyes and Lucy Dillon will love The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper.

Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin. 
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes. 
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey. 
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be. 
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back. 
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways 
than they could have predicted…

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REVIEW:

So, did Emma’s second book live up to her first? Of course it did! I never doubted it. Once again she has created a cast of characters that are so real and relatable that you just take them straight into your heart. After bawling my eyes out while reading The Songs of Us, I was expecting something of a bumpy ride, and sure enough after reading for just a short while, I felt the first crack in my heart. After fetching the biggest box of tissues I could find, I settled down to continue reading.

Although most of us don’t have the same devastating history as Sophie, I am sure every woman reading this will be able to relate to the way she views her clothes and make up as an armour to protect her from the world. Her pain at what she had been through was almost palpable at times and made me want to just sweep her up in a big hug. Samuel’s family life comes as a massive contrast to Sophie’s and it was impossible not to fall in love with the chaotic McLaughlin family. I think that is a family that anyone would want to be a part of.

The First Time I Saw You is filled with beautiful moments and periods of absolute devastation in equal measure. I ricocheted between laughing out loud and fighting to hold back tears throughout. The little nod to The Songs of Us was just perfect and brought a lump to my throat. Throughout the book, I was put in mind of the film, Serendipity, which is one of my favourites – if you enjoyed that, you will love this book.

Just a warning to the unsuspecting reader – you might think that by the time you get to the epilogue you are home and dry. You are not! Keep those tissues close by until the very last page.

You can find out more about this book and about Emma over on Goodreads.

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Book Review

The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada – Neil Randall

Today’s review takes a look at a book, the likes of which I have never encountered before, The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada by Neil Randall. Many thanks to Neil, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part in the tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

Nine stories

One artist

The whole world against him

The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada is the story of an outsider, a lonely, misunderstood young artist who chronicles all the unpleasant things that happen to him in life. Abandoned by his parents, brought up be a tyrannical aunt, bullied at school, ostracized by the local community, nearly everyone Jacob comes into contact with takes an instant, (often) violent dislike towards him. Like Job from the bible, he is beaten and abused, manipulated and taken advantage of. Life, people, fate, circumstance force him deeper into his shell, deeper into the cocoon of his fledgling artistic work, where he records every significant event in sketches, paintings and short-form verse, documenting his own unique, eminently miserable human experience. At heart, he longs for companionship, intimacy, love, but is dealt so many blows he is too scared to reach out to anybody. On the fringes of society, he devotes himself solely to his art.

You can purchase your copy of this book here.

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REVIEW:

The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada is a strange book, and sitting at my computer now I am finding it hard to put my thoughts about it into words. At first I just thought it was all very weird, the lack of emotion in the retelling of Jacob’s life, the way each chapter skipped forward so much in time with limited reference to what had gone before, not to mention the very peculiar social experiment that Jacob was subjected to.

As the events of each chapter unfolded, I found myself questioning the reliability of the narrator. After all, how could someone who claims to be so innocent so often find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time? Could this account of Jacob’s life be trusted or was it his distorted view of how his life had gone so wrong? However, as I thought about it more, I came to see just how clever this book really was. If you just took a snapshot of all the bad things that had happened to you and erased all the good, what would your life story look like? Jacob must have had good times in his life, but by choosing not to show those, Neil Randall presents a very clear image of just how easy it is for someone to become isolated, slipping through the cracks of society, scared of showing any emotion to the outside world.

All in all, this is an extremely thought-provoking book that gave me a lot more than I bargained for.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Nine Lives of jacob Fallada Author Head shot (RW)

Neil Randall is the author of seven published novels and a collection of short stories. His work has been published in the UK, US, Australia and Canada

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GIVEAWAY:

Giveaway to Win 3 Copies of The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  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 Rachel’s Random Resources reserves 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 Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Enter here

Make sure you pay a visit to the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book.

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Book Review

The Unlikely Occultist – Isobel Blackthorn

Join me today in taking a look at the fascinating life of Alice A Bailey, courtesy of Isobel Blackthorn. Many thanks to Isobel, and to Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour, and for providing me with my copy of the book.

BLURB:

A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey

Librarian Heather Brown discovers the fascinating life of Alice Bailey – a long forgotten occultist.

Back in 1931, Alice is preparing to give a speech at a Swiss summer school. But how can she stave the tide of hatred and greed set to bring the world to its knees? 

Soon after, Alice is put on Hitler’s blacklist. What she doesn’t realize is the enormity of her influence to the world, and the real enemies who are much closer than she thinks.

A dynamic and complex figure, Alice Bailey’s reach was huge. She was influential among people and organizations of global power, especially the United Nations, and is widely regarded as the Mother of the New Age.

Yet today she is maligned by fundamentalist Christians, Theosophists, Jews, academics and above all, by conspiracy theorists. Are any of these groups justified in rejecting the unlikely occultist?

“Blackthorn’s exploration of Alice Bailey’s life and work provides a unique and intimate insight into Bailey’s life and the times in which she lived. For anyone seeking to explore the roots of Bailey’s influence on the New Age movement as well as her unsought role as the bête noire of the conspiracy scene, there’s no better place to begin.” – Aaron John Gulyas, associate professor and author of Conspiracy Theories

You can purchase your copy of The Unlikely Occultist here.

The-Unlikely-Occultist-Main-File copy

REVIEW:

Prior to picking up this book, I had never heard of Alice A. Bailey and although that wasn’t an issue whilst reading about Alice’s life, there did seem to be the assumption that the reader would have some knowledge of Western Esotericism and Theosophy. Sadly I do not, and this made The Unlikely Occultist a challenging read for me. Although in the chapters told from Heather’s perspective there was a great deal of information, facts and figures about the movement to which Alice Bailey belonged, unfortunately this just baffled me. I suspect this is largely down to my own understanding, and for a more academic mind than mine, I am sure this would make fascinating reading.

Despite the fact that I struggled with the esoteric thinking behind Alice’s work, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her life, and the decisions and events that led her down the path that she eventually took. She is truly an inspiring lady who fought back against adversity time and again to remain true to her beliefs, and as I read I found myself, much like Heather, longing to know more about her and fill in the undocumented gaps in her life and what would seem to be her spectacular fall from grace. Reading about Alice’s work made me want to read up on her work more, and then perhaps return to this book with fresh eyes to gain a better understanding of her influence in the New Age movement.

Added to my new found interest in Alice, I have some researching of my own to do, having stumbled across a family name in the book – whether this person was an actual relation, or it just a big coincidence, remains to be seen, but finding out will certainly make for an interesting project for me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Isobel Blackthorn Headshot 1 copyIsobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes across a range of genres, including psychological thrillers, gripping mysteries, captivating travel fiction and hilarious dark satire.

Isobel holds a PhD in Western Esotericism for her ground-breaking study of the texts of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey. Her engagement with Alice Bailey’s life and works has culminated in the biographical novel, The Unlikely Occultist.

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Don’t forget to have a look at the other blogs taking part in this tour for more information on this book.

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Book Review

The Family – Louise Jensen

I am a huge fan of Louise’s writing, so when I saw her latest book pop up on NetGalley I requested it instantly and that sat somewhat impatiently with everything crossed waiting to see if I would be approved. I was so excited when the email popped through – thank you so much to Louise and to her publisher, HQ, for approving my request.

BLURB:

ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.
 
But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.
 
Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…

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REVIEW:

As I said at the top of this post, I was thrilled to be approved for an advanced copy of this book, and even more excited when I found out that quite a few of my friends from The Fiction Cafe had also been approved. We decided that we would set up a read along for the book and so we now have a little chat in Facebook Messenger where we can swap our thoughts. I have never taken part in a read along before, but it was so much fun that I can’t wait to do another one.

The Family is a significantly darker book than Louise’s previous work and it felt a lot more emotionally charged than your average psychological thriller. From page one I was teetering on a knife’s edge between controlling myself or letting the tears flow. The grief and desperation in the opening chapters is almost painful to read and my heart hurt for Laura and Tilly.

I can see the appeal of the Oak Leaf Organics way of life – shut off from technology, the constant pressure from social media, accepted for who you are and not what has happened in your past. On the one hand, it felt idyllic, but on the other my head was screaming that Laura should run far and run fast! Although everything seemed so innocent and welcoming, I couldn’t shake the sinister feeling that hung over me.

I actually finished reading this book a little over a week ago and it has taken until now for me to get my thoughts in order sufficiently to write the review that it deserves. By the time the full story unfolded my head was in a spin, not knowing who to trust, what the truth really was. It was exhausting, but at the same time completely brilliant.

Every time I read a book by Louise Jensen, my first thought is always that there is no way she can top the previous book and every time I am proven wrong. The Family is no exception to this, and I honestly think this is her best book yet.

The Family isn’t released until 17th October, but you can pre-order your copy here.

For more information about Louise and her books, head on over to Goodreads.

Book Review

One of Us – Rachel McLean

Today marks the welcome return of Rachel McLean to my blog, with her latest novel, One of Us, the third book in the Village trilogy. I am sure you all know by now that I am a huge fan of Rachel’s and I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of this book. Many thanks to Rachel, and to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part in this blog blitz and for providing me with a copy of the book. This review will contain spoilers for the first two books, so you might want to read them first. Have a look at my reviews for Thicker Than Water and Sea of Lies for all the details.

BLURB:

‘Leave, or die.’

Jess Dyer has won safety for her sister-in-law Ruth and proved her worth as the leader of her refugee community.

Sarah Evans has stood up to her parents and discovered who she can trust.

But the villagers still aren’t welcome. When the local population expresses its anger, can Jess keep everyone safe? And can she hold it together as Steward when someone she loves dies?

And how will Sarah react when her new fiancee Martin receives death threats, telling him he must leave her, and their village?

One Of Us is a gripping thriller about belonging and acceptance. It’s the third book in the Village trilogy, and the sequel to Sea Of Lies.

OOU cover

PURCHASE LINKS:

Buy here

REVIEW:

Rachel McLean’s author bio (see below) states that she wants to write thrillers that make you think, and she has certainly done that with One of Us. Set six months after Sea of Lies, we find the villagers still healing from the kidnap and rescue of some of the village women, and starting to move on with a more settled existence. However, this new found calm is short-lived when they are asked to accept people from the neighbouring town into their community. At first their reaction to this surprised me. After all a community that were once reliant on charity would surely be willing to offer this same charity to others in need. However, the more I thought about it, I could see how their experiences and the treatment they had received at the hands of the very people who now needed their help may have hardened their hearts. I was left wondering how I would react in this situation – my heart tells me that I would always try to help someone in need, but my head can see how it could become more important to keep my family safe.

One of Us feels like a much more emotional book than the previous books in the series. Where they seemed to concentrate more on action, this book deals more with the reactions and the internal turmoil of the characters. My heart absolutely broke for Ruth and Ben in the aftermath of her kidnap and arrest, as well as for poor Martin who still hasn’t been fully accepted by the village. Touching on subjects including depression, PTSD and persecution, this book really touched me, and showed a side to Rachel’s writing that I hadn’t fully appreciated before. Add to these subjects the shocking death of a character who I had grown to love, and you are left with a book that will really put you through the emotional wringer.

Put simply, One of Us is a triumphant end to the Village trilogy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

rachel mclean

My name’s Rachel McLean and I write thrillers that make you think.

What does that mean?

In short, I want my stories to make your pulse race and your brain tick.

Do you often get through a thriller at breakneck pace but are left with little sense of what the book was really about? Do you sometimes read literary fiction but just wish something would damn well happen?

My books aim to fill that gap.

If you’d like to know more about my books and receive extra bonus content, please join my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub. I’ll send you a weekly email with news about my writing research and progress, stories and bonus content for each book. And I’ll let you know when my books are on offer.

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Book Review

June Book Jar – Part 3

It is finally time for my final June Book Jar update. As with my previous posts for June, if you want to find out more about any of these books, just click on the title and it will take you on over to Goodreads.

40344249._SY475_First up in this third instalment is The Possible World by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz, the last of the NetGalley books that I read on my holiday. The Possible World is a beautifully written book, and is another one that I think will stay with me for some time. Although it starts with three apparently separate stories, each with a character suffering their own personal heartache, the stories are cleverly weaved together as each character begins to find peace in the others as they begin to heal from their own struggles. It is a a wonderful, gentle book, despite the horrors that have been witnessed, and is one I would thoroughly recommend.

17416065My next book was Looking for Alaska by John Green. This is another book that I have had for a while and just hadn’t got round to reading. John Green is the master of teen devastation and this book is no exception. Filled with a quirky cast of misfit characters I went into this book knowing that it was building to a life changing event for the teens, but having no idea just how heartbreaking this would be. As much as I know they will break me, I just can’t get enough of John Green’s books. (I have also just found out that there is going to be a TV adaptation of Looking for Alaska, so I have everything crossed that we can access it in the UK).

12067._SY160_Book number three in this update is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said. Apart, these authors are geniuses, but get them working together and it is perfection. If only it were possible for them to write more together. I loved every single page of this book, it was everything I had dreamt it would be and more. The absolute cherry on top of the perfectly iced cake was that when Death arrived on the scene, he still spoke in capitals, even though we were a long way from the Disc. Now I am off to binge watch the TV series with hopes that it will be even half as good as the book.

9542439Last but certainly not least is The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory. It is quite fitting really that it has taken me until today to write this review, as the latest edition of Writing magazine landed on my doormat today, and who was looking at me from the front cover? Only Philippa Gregory herself. I am very much looking forward to reading that article. I read The Other Boleyn Girl some time ago, and decided that I wanted to go back to the beginning of the Plantagenet and Tudor series and read them all in the right order. Although I knew something of the Tudors, I knew very little about the Plantagenets, and as such The Lady of the Rivers was fascinating to me. I will confess that I haven’t read the previous Cousins War books, but I actually found it didn’t matter. I have also loved history, but Philippa Gregory has a way of bringing it to life in a way that I find some other historical authors don’t. I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of the books, and I am sure I will one day return to the beginning of the Cousins War series too.

Well, that is finally it for my June update. I won’t have a July update post for you as I have been a busy little bee with reading for blog tours – I have some coming up for you that I am very excited about, so watch this space.

Book Review

Birth of the Mortokai – D.G. Palmer

Happy publication day to D.G. Palmer and Birth of the Mortokai. Many thanks to you and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of today’s festivities and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

Daniel Welsh was born different—and to Daniel, to be different means to be alone. But what if he’s wrong?

Born an albino with a photographic memory, Daniel Welsh never expected to fit in. Yet, when he is approached by Trinity—a young girl who definitely isn’t human—she reveals a whole new world where he might just belong. Ariest is a place where his features aren’t a disability or the mark of a freak, but rather a trait of powerful mages born of human-faerie unions. His father is a renowned war hero and swordsman, his mother is a human doctor, and that makes him a powerful mage that’ll tip the scales. Magic is real—and so is the threat it brings.

Trinity and her father, a battle mage, aren’t the only ones to have discovered Daniel and his gifts hidden in the human realm.

The Shade have awakened.

Enemies to the fae realm long thought dead have been lying in wait for their moment to strike. Young mages like Daniel are the perfect morsel for their starving appetites and they start their killing spree without delay with the nearest unsuspecting mage boy. Daniel cannot sit idly by while monsters take innocent lives, so he will embrace a destiny he is only just beginning to understand… even if it means losing a life that’s finally worth living.

Birth of the Mortokai is a young adult coming of age fantasy adventure novel. Trigger warning: this novel contains descriptions of albinism, a real genetic disorder that affects 1/17,000 persons worldwide per year.

Birth_of_The_Mortokai

PURCHASE LINKS:

Kobo

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

REVIEW:

In Birth of the Mortokai, D.G. Palmer has created a book that flows so beautifully that the stresses and strains of the real world simply melt away as you are completely absorbed by the new world that Daniel finds himself in. Just as Daniel was able to leave behind the upsets of his Earth realm life, I found that my problems were totally forgotten for the few hours in which I was reading this book. Obviously all books act as a form of escapism, but it takes something special for me to shut out the real world as thoroughly as I did with this one.

In some ways, stepping off the train in Ariest felt like coming home, my love of fantasy and folklore meaning I was already familiar with some of the fae that Daniel meets – Selkie, Kelpie and Kitsune to name a few. As well as these familiar faces, I loved meeting fae that I hadn’t come across before, the Bellowers and the Undine (and hopefully more to come in the future because I am really hoping there is going to be a sequel to this book soon). Arriving in Ariest just in time for Beltane, I felt almost as swept away by the festivities as Daniel did – I could practically hear the music and smell the food.

The blossoming relationship between Daniel and Trinity was incredibly touching, two people who have struggled to make connections throughout their existence finally finding each other. As their little band of potential friends and comrades grew it was interesting to see subtle changes to the dynamics and their personalities.

The villains of the piece, the essence-draining Shade were suitably sinister, and the appearance of one at the Beltane festival left me with questions that I hope I won’t have to wait too long to get answers for. How have they managed to hide in Ariest since their defeat? Has someone unleashed them? Have they been coming and going through the doors in Fungal’s castle? I will be on tenterhooks until I find out!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

508b889b-2c4e-4851-9dd2-6ae30200233f

Currently residing in London, England, D.G. Palmer writes in the Spec Fiction genre, using his imagination to create vivid worlds and captivating characters.

An avid reader and player of video games, in the past, he was part of table top roleplaying groups where he nurtured his storytelling by penning several story arcs.

Feel free to follow him on Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram. If you wish to receive updates about his latest books, event dates and other exclusive news, sign up to The World of D.G. Palmer and enter his mind. He warns it can be a mess sometimes, so make sure you wipe your feet on the way out – you never know what you might take with you.