26.11.19

BOOK REVIEW: The Deathless Girls by Kiran M Hargrave

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness - they must sate it. Even with their own kin.
On the eve of her divining, the day she'll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.
Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn't understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.
They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

Publisher: Orion Childrens Books
Pages: 400

I was totally swayed by the cover of this one as it is stunning, the whole book in fact is beautifully done with ornate end pages and intricate design under the dust jacket. I had no idea that it was YA fiction which is probably a good thing as it may have put me off buying it. However, I am so glad that I did as it is such a good book. 
Lil and her twin Kizzy are travellers and are captured the night before their divining day on their seventeenth birthday. They lose their mother and their home and are enslaved by Boyar Vulcar, a cruel and cold man who they have heard many tales of. At first they are put to work in the castle kitchens but then they are promoted to serving girls in the castle’s great hall. An important guest arrives and he is to choose girls as gifts for the Dragon, a notorious and terrifying figure. Kizzy and Lil come to his notice and the sisters are once again taken on a journey that neither wanted to a fate more dreadful than they could ever have imagined.
The Deathless Girls is rich in detail and imagery, I could easily imagine the beautiful forests that Hargrave writes about and also the terrifying castle that the Dragon inhabits. I would say that this book would suit readers from about 14 upwards, there are some quite adult themes and also rather graphic descriptions of dead bodies etc. It is easy to see why this book is appealing to adult readers as although the characters are very young, the subjects dealt with in the story are complex and interesting enough for older readers to enjoy too. 
I liked Lil and Kizzy as characters and their close bond as sisters drives events throughout the story. Their fates are inextricably linked, they are very different people in many ways but their link as sisters is what decides their future. I felt that we got to know Lil more and I enjoyed the relationship that Hargrave showed between her and Mira, another slave girl. It was interesting to see Lil’s initial confusion at her feelings for Mira and then the way in which their relationship develops into something really beautiful amidst so much terror. 
I love books about vampires and I really enjoyed this aspect of the story but I was almost left wanting more. The end of the book which dealt with the Dragon felt a little rushed compared to the first half and I would have liked more about his character and his interactions with Kizzy. It felt as though we were building and building to this point and then it was slightly glossed over. 
I was impressed with just how much Kiran Hargrave explored within her story and in a very sensitive manner too. It was interesting to see how she presented prejudice towards different groups of people and the ways in which whole groups can be persecuted due to an unfounded perception of them. Kizzy and Lil are taken partly because they are travellers and partly because they are female, they are treated as objects to be bartered with rather than humans. 

I can highly recommend The Deathless Girls, the story of Lil and Kizzy will draw you in and give you plenty to think about by the final page.

19.11.19

BOOK REVIEW: The Day We Meet Again by Miranda Dickinson

Their love story started with goodbye…‘We’ll meet again at St Pancras station, a year from today. If we’re meant to be together, we’ll both be there. If we’re not, it was never meant to be…’Phoebe and Sam meet by chance at St Pancras station. Heading in opposite directions, both seeking their own adventures, meeting the love of their lives wasn’t part of the plan. So they make a promise: to meet again in the same place in twelve months time if they still want to be together.
But is life ever as simple as that?
This is a story of what-if’s and maybes- and how one decision can change your life forever…

Publisher: HQ
Pages: 392

I am a big fan of Miranda Dickinson and her latest book, The Day We Meet Again does not disappoint. Phoebe and Sam have a chance encounter at St Pancras station, Phoebe is about to go off for a year to tour Europe and Sam is heading home to Mull in search of answers about his father who walked out in his childhood. The connection between them is instant and cannot be ignored, they have very little time together but agree to meet up in a years time at the same spot they met. If it is meant to be then they will both be there. We then follow them both on their separate journeys and are privy to their messages, emails and phone-calls. On the one hand they are so sure of their feelings for each other but on the other hand there are niggling doubts, is it crazy to think they can be together after just one short encounter?
The Day We Meet Again is romantic, captivating and a joy to read. I loved how we visited so many locations within the book, Mull, Edinburgh, Paris, Puglia, Cornwall to name but a few, Miranda really gives you a good feel of them with her wonderful descriptions and you feel like you are going along for the journey.
Sam and Phoebe are both extremely likeable characters, they both make mistakes within the story but I was willing for them to be together by the end of the book. Dickinson makes the idea of love at first sight entirely believable, the way Sam and Phoebe interact with each other and the feelings they divulge make their connection realistic and as a reader you can envisage them having a future together.
I enjoyed the back story of Sam looking for his father, it shows how our past can often hold back our future. Sam knows he has to deal with this issue before he can move forward, he wants to be with Phoebe but he can’t give himself completely until he has resolved this issue. 
I can highly recommend The Day We Meet Again, it is a great book to lose yourself in for a few hours. 

15.11.19

BLOG TOUR: A Mrs Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Laurel McCullough is in desperate need of help.Her beloved grandmother has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and the baby she and her husband Zach have longed for now seems like an impossible dream. So when Mrs Miracle appears at the door, Laurel couldn’t be more relieved. She invites the nurse into her life and it’s not long before they become firm friends. When her grandmother’s condition begins to improve, and as Laurel and Zach continue their desperate quest for a child, Laurel soon realises that there is more to Mrs Miracle than meets the eye…

Publisher: Arrow Books
Pages: 257

This is the first book I have read by Debbie Macomber and it is a lovely festive read, perfect for when Christmas is just around the corner. Laurel is so worried about her beloved grandmother who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She and her husband Zach are out at work all day and she hates leaving her alone. When Mrs Miracle appears at the door, Laurel’s prayers are answered, apparently the agency sent her even though they told Laurel they had no one available. Mrs Miracle is wonderful and soon Laurel’s grandmother is the happiest she’s been for a while. Laurel is a little concerned though that her grandmother is convinced that Mrs Miracle is actually an angel sent from God, she puts it down to her illness and is just pleased to see how well she is doing. Laurel has other things to worry about too, her and Zach have been hoping for a baby for so long and Laurel feels like she has given up on this dream whereas her husband is determined to keep going. Laurel soon feels that Zach is keeping something from her and she needs to find out exactly what the secret is. 
A Mrs Miracle Christmas has a fairly religious undertone, I for one am not religious but I still enjoyed the book and the message that it delivers. Debbie Macomber manages to fill the story with so many festive details, making it a very comforting read as it so easy to identify with.
Laurel is a lovely character and just wants the best for everyone around her. She has had quite a tough start to life and her grandmother provided her with the love and stability that she so desperately needed. She wants to return that care when her grandmother needs it most so Mrs Miracle comes along just at the right time.
I’ve really enjoyed this book and it has made me look forward to carrying out the Christmas traditions that I have within my own family. It’s a lovely read that I would recommend. 

Many thanks to Rachel at Arrow for inviting me to be part of the blog tour, the book is out now! 

13.11.19

BLOG TOUR: Grandmothers by Salley Vickers

Grandmothers is the story of three very different women and their relationship with the younger generation: fiercely independent Nan, who leads a secret life as an award-winning poet when she is not teaching her grandson Billy how to lie; glamorous Blanche, deprived of the company of her beloved granddaughter Kitty by her hostile daughter-in-law, who finds solace in rebelliously taking to drink and shop lifting; and shy, bookish Minna who in the safety of shepherd's hut shares with her surrogate granddaughter Rose her passion for reading. The outlook of all three women subtly alters when through their encounters with each other they discover that the past is always with us and that we go on learning and changing until the very end.

Publisher: Viking
Pages: 304

I am a big fan of Salley Vickers writing and Miss Garnett’s Angel is one of my favourite books. Grandmothers is Vickers' latest book and it is so beautifully done. It is the story of three grandmothers, Blanche, Nan and Minna and how they navigate their relationships with the younger people in their life. They are three very different characters but I found them all endearing and likeable. Nan is extremely close to her grandson Billy but has a strained relationship with her own son, she is very aware of her own mortality, going so far as taking Billy coffin shopping with her. She has had a secret career as a published and successful poet but she is most focused on giving Billy as much of her time as she can as well as teaching him a few things along the way. Blanche is the most glamorous of the three, but perhaps the most out of control. Her daughter-in-law is preventing her from seeing her granddaughter Kitty so Blanche deals with this by hitting the bottle and shoplifting expensive items from Harvey Nicholls. Minna is the quietest of the three, she resides in a little shepherd’s hut, surrounded by her toys and beloved books. She is a surrogate grandmother to Rose who she could not love more if they were actually related. Rose is having a tough time and Minna just wants to be supportive and provide her with as much happiness as she can. Gradually these three women become involved in each others lives and learn from each other as women always seem to do. 
Grandmothers is honest and tenderly written, it really made me think of the role that they play. Vickers alludes to the fact that grandmothers often have very little power yet their role can be pivotal within a family. It’s such a fine line to tread, grandmothers can’t step on any toes but they are only too aware of the mistakes they made with their own children. 
From my own experience I find that women are able to learn so much from each other and Nan, Minna and Blanche are the perfect example of this. They encourage each other to be braver and to be true to themselves, I loved watching their relationships developing as they worked each other out.
Vickers is just so good at portraying relationships and their many different nuances. It was interesting to see the three grandmothers watching the younger characters with the benefit of hindsight and experience. It made me consider just how much the parent can affect the relationship their child has with their grandparents. Blanche, Nan and Minna all have to acquiesce to their own children despite sometimes disagreeing with them where their grandchildren are concerned. This book has made me consider my own daughter’s relationship with her grandmothers and how I could be more supportive of their role in her life as they can both teach her so much. 
Grandmothers is a book that will leave you with a lot to think about, I can highly recommend it. 

Many thanks to Hannah from Viking for inviting me to be part of this blog tour, the book is out now!




31.10.19

BLOG TOUR AND GIVEAWAY: Safe House by Jo Jakeman




I am on the blog tour today for Safe House, the fabulous new book from Jo Jakeman. Here's the synopsis:


The morning after a terrible storm, a woman turns up in a remote Cornish village. She calls herself Charlie, but it's a name she's only had for a few days. She keeps herself to herself, reluctant to integrate with the locals. Because Charlie has a secret.Charlie was in prison for providing a false alibi for a murderer. But Lee Fisher wasn't a murderer to her; he was the man she loved. Convinced of his innocence, Charlie said she was with him the night a young woman was killed. This sacrifice cost her everything.And now she has a chance to start again. But someone is watching her, waiting for her, wondering if she's really paid the price for what she did.
Sounds fantastic doesn't it! Well the lovely people at Harvill Secker have kindly offered a copy to a reader of Dot Scribbles. Simply leave a comment on this post or on the post on Instagram and I shall draw a random winner. This is open to the UK only and entry will close at

midnight on 5th November!
If you don't win a copy or simply can't wait to read it then the e-book is priced at a bargain 99p for the whole of November, simply click on the link below to buy:
Good luck to those who enter and Happy Halloween!! 

22.10.19

BOOK REVIEW: Educated by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.
Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.
Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.

Publisher: Windmill Books
Pages: 400

I do not read a huge amount of memoirs but this one kept on popping up on people’s blogs and I was intrigued. I had so many messages saying how good it was when I posted a picture of the book so I had quite high expectations when I started it! People were right though, Educated is such an interesting read, shocking and truthful it makes you consider some of the basic things we take for granted which the author had no experience of. 
Tara Westover was born to Mormon survivalists in rural Idaho, she spent her childhood helping to stockpile food and supplies for the End of Days which her father was convinced would be imminent. Her younger years were brutal, she either aided her mother who worked as a herbalist and midwife or she was put to work in her father’s scrap junk yard where she herself received several injuries and witnessed many others. Her parents shunned the medical world, so everything from burns to brain damage were treated at home with her mother’s home-made concoctions. Isolated from others, Tara and her siblings received no formal education, they did not have birth certificates or passports. Home education consisted of a handful of books which they could look at in their own time plus the lessons her father would teach about their faith and the many rules they must follow. 
Tara wanted to learn though and this thirst for knowledge led her to teach herself enough maths and english to get into college. Going against her family at every step, Tara managed to secure a college education, going on to study at both Cambridge and Harvard. These experiences threw light upon her childhood and she soon knew how abnormal and abusive it had been. Tara was subjected to both physical and mental abuse from her parents and one brother in particular, her story shows how she had to slowly adapt to a world she had no experience of. She would never consider taking pain-killers for a dental abscess, she did not even know the word Holocaust until her first college lecture and she believed she was damned to hell if she didn’t follow all the rules. 
Educated is hugely enlightening, reading about Tara’s childhood is like reading something from a different century and you constantly have to remind yourself that her experiences are recent. I was bowled over and in awe of her determination and bravery. She has obstacles put in front of her at every stop along the way but she overcomes them again and again. It was also humbling to see the people who helped her, those handful of people who realised her potential and the ways in which she had been held back. 
It was very difficult to read about Tara’s relationship with her family, it is strained from the very beginning and it only gets worse as she gets braver and begins questioning their teaching and treatment of others. Whatever they have done to her they are still her parents and siblings and it is heartbreaking to watch her struggle with the decisions she has to make about her relationship with them. 

There are parts of this book that are quite difficult to read, it feels like Tara will never get a break plus it is not fiction, this is someone’s life. Tara’s writing is compassionate and honest, I did not feel like she was looking for sympathy, it was more that she was wanting to show how this can happen and how she clawed back a proper life and future for herself. Tara’s memoir is inspirational, it is about working hard to achieve what you want no matter what start in life you have had. 

11.10.19

BOOK REVIEW: The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own.An epic debut novel of forbidden love, loss and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I.1921. Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’ but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And she begins to search.Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph grave sites, as he travels through battle scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother. 

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

The Photographer of the Lost is a fantastic debut from Caroline Scott. It is accomplished and compelling, I was so impressed with the way in which she told her story. 
After the Great War many men were missing, presumed dead. Edie’s husband Francis is one of them. She has no grave to visit and is stuck in a strange limbo, unable to grieve fully nor to move forward. She then receives a photograph of Francis in the post from France. It has no note or explanation and she begins to question if he really is dead, what if he survived and has sent her this photograph?
She sets off to find him but nothing will prepare her for war-torn France and she begins to understand a little of the horrors Francis faced. 
Harry is Francis’s brother and they fought alongside each other. Harry is back in France photographing graves for those who wish to see their loved ones final resting place. It is a huge burden but he feels it is his responsibility and also he is not ready to go home just yet. Edie asks for his help in her search for Francis and he can’t refuse her. But in helping her, he must face up to the last words he spoke to his brother plus the feelings he has always held for his sister-in-law.
The Photographer of the Lost is so well done. The descriptions of war time and the desolation left behind were rich in detail and vivid. Scott’s descriptions of the actual action were also well done, I felt like she captured the chaos and terror of being on the front line. 
Edie and Harry are also ‘lost’ and both searching for different things. Francis ties them together but also places a barrier between them. It was interesting to see how they navigate this complex relationship. 
The book is beautifully written, it is poignant without being overly sentimental. Scott has clearly done her research as her portrayal of life at the front line is raw and honest.

I can highly recommend this book, it is so important for this time period to be remembered and written about. The Photographer of the Lost is masterly and memorable, an excellent debut. 

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for inviting me to review this book, it is published on 31st October.

BOOK REVIEW: The Deathless Girls by Kiran M Hargrave

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness - they must sate it. Even with their own kin. On the eve of her divining, the day she'll...