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 Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot.In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses.They’ve been dead for several days. Who has been looking after the baby?And where did they go?

Publisher: Century
Pages: 451

Lisa Jewell was one of my favourite authors when I was younger, I would buy her new books immediately and they are still on my bookshelves to this day. When she switched genre to psychological thrillers I really wasn’t sure if I should read them. However, the lovely people at Century kindly sent me The Family Upstairs and I couldn’t resist. The problem is that it is fantastic so now I am going to have to buy all her other thrillers. 
The book focuses on Libby Jones, on her 25th birthday she discovers that she has inherited a mansion in Chelsea. She then discovers that her birth parents bodies were discovered there. She was alive and well in her cot upstairs but her older brother and sister had vanished. 
Libby’s life has changed forever, she can sell the house and bank a huge amount of money but what she really wants is the truth. What happened to her parents? Who looked after her for the few days before the police discovered the decomposing bodies?
The Family Upstairs is a fantastic thriller, I could not put it down and flew through the pages. I do enjoy this genre but I sometimes find the characters a bit flat. However, Lisa Jewell delivers believable and interesting characters, they are not merely there to move the plot along. 
Jewell packs a lot in, deception, cults, domestic abuse, sexuality, growing up, religion, love and so much more. At first the events in the book seem a little far-fetched but Jewell flits between the past and the presents, gradually showing how the situation got out of control in a terrifyingly easy manner. 
Jewell keeps you in suspense for the majority of the book, there are so many brilliant twists and turns. I had to re-read one chapter more than once as I really didn't predict the plot twist coming and I love it when an author is able to shock you in that way.
This is one of the best books I have read this year, go and get a copy.

Many thanks to Century for kindly gifting me a copy of the book to review. 


BOOK REVIEW: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

'Alice had come halfway across the world to find that, yet again, she was considered wanting. Well, she thought, if that was what everyone thought, she might as well live up to it.'
England, late 1930s, and Alice Wright - restless, stifled - makes an impulsive decision to marry wealthy American Bennett van Cleve and leave her home and family behind.
But stuffy, disapproving Baileyville, Kentucky, where her husband favours work over his wife, and is dominated by his overbearing father, is not the adventure - or the escape - that she hoped for.
That is, until she meets Margery O'Hare - daughter of a notorious felon and a troublesome woman the town wishes to forget.
Margery's on a mission to spread the wonder of books and reading to the poor and lost - and she needs Alice's help.
Trekking alone under big open skies, through wild mountain forests, Alice, Margery and their fellow sisters of the trail discover freedom, friendship - and a life to call their own.
But when Baileyville turns against them, will their belief in one another - and the power of the written word - be enough to save them?
Inspired by a remarkable true story, The Giver of Stars features five incredible women who will prove to be every bit as beloved as Lou Clark, the unforgettable heroine of Me Before You.

Publisher: Michael Joseph
400 pages
October 3rd 2019

I am a big fan of Jojo Moyes and Me Before You is one of my favourite books so I was obviously going to be very excited when I realised that she had a new book out. The Giver of Stars is historical fiction at it’s best and based upon a true story, it will leave you wanting to know more about the women who inspired this fantastic story. 
Alice Wright has left her rather stuffy and unwelcoming home in England to follow her heart and marry Bennett Van Cleve of Kentucky. She finds herself a stranger in a very foreign land with a husband ruled by his father and a rather unwelcoming society. Faced with endless days alone and a husband who seems terrified to come anywhere near her, Alice jumps at the chance to get involved with a new initiative. The Horseback Librarian Program was set up by Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1930’s and the aim was to get literature out within the rural communities. The idea was to share information, encourage children to learn to read and provide education to those who may not receive it in any other form. Margery O’Hare, the daughter of a renowned Moonshiner is leading the way and she recruits Alice with several other women, Izzy, Beth, Sophia and Kathleen. 
For Alice it brings a whole new lease of life, she is out all day on a horse, travelling across wild terrain and encountering all different walks of life. Once she has proved herself she begins to make friends with this small tight-knit group of women and she finally has something that makes Kentucky feel like it could be a home. However, Bennett’s father is against the library from the very start and he has reasons to dislike Margery O’Hare, he sets out to bring them all down, his daughter-in-law included. Events spiral out of control and soon they are all in real danger with the town against them, can they turn it around and continue doing their good work or will prejudice and bigotry finish them off?
I have no idea why but I always avoid books set in the South but I’m so glad I read this one as it was fantastic. I loved the setting, the female characters, the truth behind the story and the many themes that Moyes included.
Each of the women involved in the library have their own story and they are all quite distant at the beginning and a little wary of each other. It was lovely to see these women come together until they become the best of friends and prepared to do all they can to look out for each other. Alice and Margery were my favourite characters, they are both incredibly brave in their own ways and have so much to give, it was very frustrating to see the town turning against them when they are doing so much good.
There is a romantic element to the book which was so well done, both Margery and Alice have love interests but both are hesitant to give themselves to these men for different reasons. The male characters in this book are a real mix, you have some very old-fashioned attitudes as you would expect at this time but two characters in particular show it was a time of great change and hope for women with attitudes changing. 
Obviously this book is about books too and the power they yield, a subject matter I am always happy to read about. At a time when many people did not have any access to education and the only book in the house would be the Bible, the Horseback Library Program was revolutionary. To bring literature and educational materials to rural communities saw attitudes and opinions begin to change. These people are living in real poverty and surviving day to day, it was so lovely to see how these books gave real comfort and a little escapism in what was a very difficult life.

I cannot recommend The Giver of Stars enough, I was totally taken with these women and their story from the beginning. Jojo Moyes is just so good at creating characters that you fall in love with and then spinning a fascinating story around them. I urge you to read this book, you won’t be disappointed. 

Many thanks to Michael Joseph for allowing me to review this book via Netgalley, it is published on October 3rd!


BOOK REVIEW: The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

Escape to the Scottish Highlands where a tiny bookshop perches on the edge of a loch.Zoe is a single mother, sinking beneath the waves trying to cope by herself in London. Hari, her gorgeous little boy, is perfect in every way- except for the fact that he just doesn’t speak at all. When her landlord raises the rent on her flat, Zoe doesn’t know where to turn,Then Hari’s aunt suggests Zoe could move to Scotland to help run a bookshop. Going from the lonely city to a small village in the Highlands could be the change Zoe and Hari desperately need.Faced with an unwelcoming boss, a moody, distant bookseller named Ramsay Urquart and a band of unruly children, Zoe wonders if she’s made the right decision. But Hari has found his very first real friend, and no-one could resist the beauty of the loch glinting in the summer sun. If only Ramsay would be a little more approachable.

Publisher: Sphere

Pages: 489

I loved this book! There are times when you have things going on in life and you just need the perfect book to give you a little lift. It has been quite full on since we got a new puppy in the house but being able to dip in and out of The Bookshop on the Shore has cheered me up and provided me with some lovely moments of escapism which is exactly what I needed. 
I liked Zoe straight away. She is a struggling single mother who has escaped to the Scottish Highlands from London with her young son Hari. Faced with two new jobs, one as a mobile bookseller and the other as an au pair to three children who live on a vast country estate. Zoe knows she has her work cut out to make this opportunity work.  She just wants to provide for Hari but the children are rather unwelcoming and although she loves books, nobody seems to want to buy them from her. Plus her boss, Ramsay Urquart is a complete mystery, locking himself away in his vast library, seeming to forget that he has three children to be a father to.
Jenny Colgan has created a beautiful story, a book about books and friendship and love. The characters are solid and believable and my favourite thing was the children who Zoe takes under her wing, Patrick, Mary and Shackelton. They all have their own issues but she goes out of the way to help them all. I had a particular soft spot for Patrick and the way he speaks plus the friendship he forms with Hari. 

I can’t recommend this book enough, it was simply lovely from beginning to end. 


BLOG TOUR: One Day in Winter by Shari Low

On a cold December’s morning…
Caro sets off to find the truth: has her relationship with her father been based on a lifetime of lies?
Cammy can’t wait to surprise the woman he loves with a proposal. All he needs is the perfect ring. 
Lila can no longer hide her secret. She has to tell her lover’s wife about their affair. 
After thirty years, Bernadette knows it’s time. She’s ready to leave her controlling husband…And  never look back.Over the course of twenty-four hours, four lives are about to change forever…

Head of Zeus, 449

One Day in Winter by Shari Low was a hugely enjoyable read. Set just before Christmas, it is perfect to read at this time of year as the night’s begin to draw in and you want to settle down with something cosy. 
I was surprised to see a list of characters at the beginning of the book and a little worried that I wouldn’t keep track of them all but I needn’t have been concerned. There are a fair few characters in this book but I soon got to know who they were and the ways in which they were connected to each other. 
Caro and Lila are the central female characters and they could not be more different. Lila likes to be the centre of attention and lives her life through her glamorous (and photoshopped) Instagram pictures. She has been with Cammy for a little while and is happy to keep that relationship ticking over whilst she secures her future with the married man she has been seeing behind his back. Caro on the other hand is caring and kind, she has been taking care of her sick mother whilst also searching for the father who walked out on them both years ago. Some careful internet research leads her to believe that he may have been leading a double life with another family, if she can find him then it is confrontation time. 
Cammy is the beleaguered boyfriend of Lila; his closest friends have been warning him off her but he is sure she is the one and that it is time to pop the question. He has been in love in the past and his relationship with Lila feels completely different  but he is sure he has made the right decision to ask her to be his wife. 
Bernadette has been married to surgeon Kenneth (Lila’s man on the side) for many miserable years. He has made her life hell with his controlling behaviour and constant put-downs. She has always stayed as she wanted her two children to have a father-figure plus they know nothing of his treatment of her. However, her children are now grown up and Bernadette cannot take it any longer so she makes a secret plan to leave him for good. But she has no idea that Kenneth has a secret himself in the form of a spoilt Instagram princess who he has been seeing on the side. 
The book is set over 24 hours which is a great device as it means the story maintains good pace and momentum. It is split into parts spanning 2 hours at a time so each time I reached the end I wanted to continue to the next part to see what would happen next. Each individual chapter is told from either Caro, Lila, Cammy or Bernadette’s point of view, I loved getting to know each of them plus seeing how they would react once they discovered the truth about each other. Bernadette was my favourite from the very beginning, I was willing her to leave Kenneth and the horrible life she was leading. I felt that Shari Low explored the subject of psychological abuse so well, we quickly build up a picture of how Kenneth has slowly chipped away at his wife, taking her confidence and enjoyment of life. It goes some way to explaining why she has stayed for so long.
I could not stand Lila, she is selfish and ruthless; she doesn't care about Cammy even though she is fully aware of his feelings for her. Low uses this character to look at social media and the way in which someone is able to present their life in a certain way rather than the reality. Lila cares more about her social media following rather than the real people in her every

day life. 
One Day in Winter was witty, entertaining but also contained enough to make me think. It is not a full on festive read but would be a good book in the run up to Winter. I enjoyed the plot and characters and I was particularly taken with the way in which the whole book took place in 24 hours. This is one I can highly recommend.

Many thanks to Head of Zeus for gifting me a copy to review, it is out now! 


BOOK REVIEW: Bone China by Laura Purcell

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children need, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may just be as dangerous as her last.

Publisher: Raven Books
Pages: 448

I am a huge fan of Laura Purcell’s writing and I loved her first two books, The Silent Companions and The Corset. Gothic fiction is one of my favourite genres and Bone China showcases Purcell’s talent in this arena yet again. 
Bone China is set in Cornwall so the comparisons with Daphne Du Maurier are unavoidable. They are very different though, both play on superstitions but I think Purcell plays on the reader’s fears more, her narratives are a little darker. 
Hester Why has arrived at Morvoren House which is set on the Cornish cliffs. She is to care for Louise Pinecroft, an elderly lady, partly paralysed and mainly mute. Hester has her own demons and she believes this to be her escape but she is so wrong. The house holds many secrets, Miss Pinecroft has a female ward who is locked away all day. Hester had not even been told of her existence. The house is full of strange noises and the staff persist in talking about the ‘little people’ who come in the night. 
The story flits between Hester and Louise Pinecroft forty years ago and we begin to learn how she has ended up so isolated and fearful. Hester has done some bad things and she sees Louise as a way of righting some wrongs. She is determined to help her new mistress but does she have any idea what she is up against?
Bone China is packed full of suspense and superstition. Changelings are a big theme and I found this fascinating. The idea that a fairy comes in the night and takes a person but leaves behind a replica. Fairies sound harmless but there is a very sinister edge in this book, steeped in Cornish folklore passed down from generation to generation.
Hester and Louise are very different people yet they have both been driven to try and right some wrong they feel they have done. Laura Purcell is masteful in the way she builds suspense. She builds it up with small details and events and then suddenly a situation is out of control and you are going along for the ride.
I can highly recommend Bone China, it is beautifully written and I’m already to see what Laura Purcell does next.

Many thanks to Raven for allowing me to review this book via Netgalley. 


BOOK REVIEW: Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson

Seren MacArthur is living a life she never intended. While grieving for the loss of her late father, and trying to save the Cornish seaside business he built, she has put her own dreams on hold and is struggling- until she discovers a half finished seaglass star on her favourite beach during an early morning walk. When she completes the star, she sets into motion a chain of events that will steal her heart and challenge everything she believes. Jack Dixon is trying to secure a better life for daughter Nessie and himself. Left a widower and homeless when his wife died, he’s just about keeping their heads above water. Finding seaglass stars completed on Gwithian Beach is a bright spark that slowly rekindles his hope.Seren and Jack are searching for their missing pieces. But when they meet in real life, it’s on the opposing sides of a battle. Jack is managing the redevelopment of a local landmark- and Seren is leading the community campaign to save it. Both have reasons to fight- Seren for the cause her father believed in, Jack for his livelihood. But only one can win. With so much at stake, will they ever find what they are really looking for?

Publisher: Pan
Pages: 496

I completely loved this book! Somewhere Beyond the Sea is a delight from beginning to end. I have a huge desire to visit Cornwall but Miranda Dickinson created such vivid images with her descriptions that I feel like I have already been. 
Seren MacArthur is trying to keep her father’s ailing art gallery going after his death but it is a huge struggle. Jack Dixon is struggling too, he has lost his wife and is doing everything he can to support his young daughter Nessie. He and Nessie begin to make beautiful stars on the beach made from seaglass. Seren finds them and begins adding to them. For both parties it becomes the highlight of their day and they have no idea about each other. 
Seren and Jack’s paths cross when he is the lead on a new building project that Seren and the community are opposing. They are on such different pages yet there is an undeniable connection between them. Can it ever come right and is there a solution that would make them both happy?
Miranda Dickinson gets the tone just right within the book. I loved the romantic element but she makes it realistic too by exploring the many issues that Seren and Jack have independently.
The Cornish setting is beautiful and lends itself perfectly to the story. I really enjoyed reading about the community that Seren lives in and how it has both helped and hindered her. 

Somewhere Beyond the Sea made me smile and feel hopeful for life changes and new opportunities, it’s a lovely read. 

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 be...