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Tuesday, 30 November 2021

#GuestPost LAUGHING ALL THE WAY ON THE JINGLE BELLS EXPRESS by BERNI STEVENS #PublicationDay @ChocLituk @Berni_Stevens1

 


Hello all!! And it's my absolute pleasure today to be handing over the Blog to the lovely Berni Stevens as she celebrates publication day for LAUGHING ALL THE WAY ON THE JINGLE BELLS EXPRESS!  Go grab your copy NOW!!

Over to you Berni...

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Release Day: Laughing All the Way on the Jingle Bells Express

Christmas 2020, having been cancelled at the very last minute, was hugely disappointing for most of us. Families were unable to spend the festive holiday together, and so many plans were wrecked as the country went into lockdown, for what turned out to be almost six months. Because of that, I wanted my 2021 Christmas book to be light, amusing, and a lot of fun.

Originally, I’d intended to write the sequel to Izzy’s Christmas Star for this Christmas, but the idea for Laughing All the Way popped into my head unannounced one Spring day. So Izzy’s sequel will be in 2022 instead. As a teenager I was a big Agatha Christie fan, and one of my favourite books of hers was And Then There Were None which is loosely based on an old nursery rhyme. Agatha’s book tells of a ‘perfect crime’ – ten people invited to a house party on a desolate island and all ten are found murdered with no way on or off the island. Well obviously, being Christmas, I couldn’t go around bumping off my characters – I was writing a romcom after all. But I did like the idea of an invitation to something, somewhere, and so the idea started to grow ...

I’ve been fascinated for some time by the amount of people in all walks of life, who are constantly on their phones – wherever they may be. How they don’t tumble off station platforms, trains, buses and even out of cars, I have no idea. People don’t appear to have conversations any more – well obviously they do on Zoom, Teams, FaceTime and all kinds of social media – but actually face to face in the same room. Even people in restaurants are constantly peering at their phones, taking photos of their food and themselves, rather than actually enjoying each other’s company (And yes, I do it myself sometimes too).

Laughing All the Way is a story about a group of twenty and thirty-somethings who receive an invitation to go on a festive train ride the week before Christmas. If you received such an invitation – would you go? This is their story, and I hope you do laugh all the way through it. And I promise nobody gets murdered.

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About the Book:

If you received a mysterious invitation for a fun-filled festive train ride the week before Christmas, would you go?

When teacher Dee Nicholls receives her invitation, she isn’t sure what to make of it. Surely it’s some kind of joke to get her out of bed early on a weekend? Perhaps a clever festive marketing ploy?

But as the Christmas countdown begins, it becomes clear that Dee isn’t the only “Jingle Bells Express” invitee. There are other people out there who have received the same invitation: Tom the intern, Rachel the aspiring writer, Dylan the musician and his dog Muttley – and they’re not the only ones!

Could the unusual festive journey they eventually take together show them all the true meaning of Christmas, and also that happiness is sometimes right in front of you – if you just take the time to look?


Book links: 

Kindle UK: https://amzn.to/3qPAnpL 

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3HvSp6e 

Apple Books: https://apple.co/3lIGskL 

Google Play: https://bit.ly/3csVZ2L


About the Author:



Berni Stevens lives in a four-hundred-year-old cottage in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, son and black cat. She trained in graphic design and has worked as a book cover designer for more than twenty years.

Books and art remain her passion, and her love of the paranormal began when she first read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, aged fourteen. She is now on both the committee and the book panel of the Dracula Society, a society for fans of gothic literature and film.

Berni writes contemporary and fantasy romance.


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Monday, 29 November 2021

#BookReview THE KEY IN THE LOCK by BETH UNDERDOWN

 


ABOUT THE BOOK

I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unfurling out of an upper window and a hectic orange light cascading across the terrace.

By day, Ivy Boscawen mourns the loss of her son Tim in the Great War. But by night she mourns another boy - one whose death decades ago haunts her still.

For Ivy is sure that there is more to what happened all those years ago: the fire at the Great House, and the terrible events that came after. A truth she must uncover, if she is ever to be free.

Brimming with secrets, this lyrical haunting historical thriller is perfect for fans of Elizabeth Macneal, Sarah Waters and Diane Setterfield

PUBLISHED BY VIKING
PUBLICATION DATE - 13TH JANUARY 2022


PRE-ORDER LINK




MY REVIEW

If you are looking for an atmospheric gothic mystery, then look no further! I found this to be one of those stories that keeps you guessing, and gets you emotionally involved with the characters as secrets begin to reveal a shocking past!

Told over 2 time periods - 1918 and 1888 - we are following the story of Ivy who is struggling to come to terms with the loss of her son Tim 10 months earlier. She's going through the motions and trying to make sense of it all and hearing stories back from the war makes her want to know more of what exactly led to his death.

But it also triggers memories of 30 years ago when another boy died in traumatic circumstances, and she's been left haunted by his death ever since. The story flits between the 2 timelines seamlessly and both are full of mystery, deception and tragedy.

As both storylines play out, the mysteries hanging over the deaths start to reveal themselves and I loved the way it's all revealed and the emotions of the main characters are explored. There's mysteries for Ivy to uncover, all while trying to balance her emotions and find comfort or distraction in her quest to uncover the truth. A really absorbing story.

★★★★★

#BookReview THE BOOK OF FORM AND EMPTINESS by RUTH OZEKI

 


ABOUT THE BOOK

A brilliantly inventive new novel about loss, growing up, and our relationship with things, by the Booker Prize-finalist author of A Tale for the Time Being

After the tragic death of his beloved musician father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house--a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn't understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother, Annabelle, develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.

At first, Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. There, Benny discovers a strange new world, where "things happen." He falls in love with a mesmerizing street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to ask important questions and find his own voice amongst the many.

And he meets his very own Book--a talking thing--who narrates Benny's life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.

With its blend of sympathetic characters, riveting plot, and vibrant engagement with everything from jazz, to climate change, to our attachment to material possessions, The Book of Form and Emptiness is classic Ruth Ozeki--bold, wise, poignant, playful, humane and heartbreaking.

PUBLISHED BY CANONGATE BOOKS


PURCHASE LINK




MY REVIEW

Poignant, emotional, inventive - I think those words best sum up this reading experience! It has one of the most novel ways of telling the story via 2 narrators! Young Benny who is at the heart of the story, alongside the voice of 'the book'! And Benny hears the book telling his story too which leads to some brilliant exchanges between the two of them and it just makes reading their story even more captivating.

Young Benny is dealing with the sudden death of his father and this trauma leads to him starting to hear voices. And not just any voices, but the thoughts and feelings of everyday items that crowd his mind leading to those around him worry as to what is wrong with him. His mother tries her best to be there for her son, but she's dealing with her own grief and her hoarding starts to spiral out of control. There's a lot of exploration of mental health in this story and the author has approached the subjects with compassion and care.

It is a very difficult book to review as there's so many threads to it, but it all boils down to humans and their fragility. Their strength. Their quirks. And the ways that people find comfort, be that in the pages of a book or through connecting with others.

Your heart just breaks for Benny at times as there's nobody around who understands what he's going through. But he finds a strength somewhere deep down to try and make sense of it on his own, while watching his mother go through her issues. There's a clear message throughout about decluttering/letting go of the past to help clear your mind and this comes across loud and clear in a very creative way.

It's heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measures and is one of those books where the characters stay with you long after the final page. Wonderful!

★★★★★

#BookReview FEMLANDIA by CHRISTINA DALCHER #Audiobook


ABOUT THE BOOK

A chilling look into an alternate near future where a woman and her daughter seek refuge in a women-only colony, only to find that the safe haven they were hoping for is the most dangerous place they could be.

Miranda Reynolds always thought she would rather die than live in Femlandia. But that was before the country sank into total economic collapse and her husband walked out in the harshest, most permanent way, leaving her and her sixteen-year-old daughter with nothing. The streets are full of looting, robbing, and killing, and Miranda and Emma no longer have much choice—either starve and risk getting murdered, or find safety. And so they set off to Femlandia, the women-only colony Miranda's mother, Win Somers, established decades ago.

Although Win is no longer in the spotlight, her protΓ©gΓ© Jen Jones has taken Femlandia to new heights: The off-grid colonies are secluded, self-sufficient, and thriving—and Emma is instantly enchanted by this idea of a safe haven. But something is not right. There are no men allowed in the colony, but babies are being born—and they're all girls. Miranda discovers just how the all-women community is capable of enduring, and it leads her to question how far her mother went to create this perfect, thriving, horrifying society.

PUBLISHED BY   HQ



PURCHASE LINK




MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this book - extremely well read by the narrator!

 The author is back with more dystopian fiction, and it's even more scary than ever! The world has gone through many changes and what is left is bleak, especially for women. It's every man for himself and woe betide any woman who gets in the way. That leads to some upsetting and harrowing scenes at times, so beware if you are easily triggered. Miranda and her daughter Emma have to look out for themselves and desperate times lead to desperate measures, and Miranda makes the decision for them both to head to Femlandia - an all female 'utopia' set up by her mother - in the hope for some safety and relief.


You follow them on the journey to Femlandia, but the main action takes place when they arrive and Miranda is soon left to face the facts that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. It's a very scary look at human behaviour and shows that both male and females are all flawed, especially when power is involved.

They face a shocking truth when it comes to pregnancies in the camp, along with all mentions of male history being removed from the past which leads to young girls growing up with no knowledge of life on the 'outside'.

This was a shocking read at times, although it did run out of puff a little towards the end and it just left me feeling hatred towards men and women in equal measures!! No matter the best intentions of some, there's always those who are more interested in power and control over others with no thought to the consequences. A bleak but gripping read!

★★★★

#BookReview THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY by AMOR TOWLES

 


ABOUT THE BOOK

The bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility and master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction returns with a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.

PUBLISHED BY HUTCHINSON


PURCHASE LINK


Blackwell's - signed edition


MY REVIEW

Amor Towles does it again! Another spectacular and engrossing story that captures your heart and imagination from the get go! Another one of those books where I didn't want it to end and feel bereft without these characters in my imagination anymore!!

The story picks up with Emmett being driven home by the warden, back to his younger brother who has been with neighbours since Emmett was taken away a year ago. He is regretful over his choice of action in the past and vows to make up for it, especially where his family is concerned. With his house being foreclosed on, it's time for he and Billy (his wonderful brother!) to make a new life elsewhere and that was their plan - until Duchess and Wooly show up! They've hitched a ride with the warden too, albeit without his knowledge, and now they have scores of their own to settle.

What follows is a road trip with a difference! They all set out together , get parted, reunited, and you're constantly on edge as you watch their new paths unfold. The detail in the characters and their personalities are beautifully written, especially the brothers, and it's just a masterclass of the connection between humans. The disappointments, regrets, hopes and fears and I just totally lost myself in their world.

Their paths collide again in New York as Emmett tries to get his plans back on track but things don't always work out as he envisaged. Billy is just a wonder of a character - a wise old soul in a very young body, and I just found his outlook on life so amazing and innocent. I was smitten!! It's emotional and captivating in equal measures. Told from various viewpoints, it's seamless in flow and never dips in pace or drama!

This has been one of my favourite reads of 2021 and I'm already itching to pick it up again and start the journey with them all over again! Brilliant!!

★★★★★



BINGO!!!!!!! NetGalley November 2021 - Challenge Complete!! @NetGalleyNov #NetGalleyNovember

 




BINGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don't know how I've done it after a very slow start, but I managed to complete my Bingo card with a day to spare!! Yay me!! Thanks again to @emandherbooks and @totandtales for running such a brilliant November challenge!! I need them to host it every month so I can get the rest of my Netgalley shelf under control!!!

Now to write the reviews.... aarrgghh!!

Here's my completed reading list!



A BOOK PUBLISHED THIS YEAR



Saturday, 27 November 2021

My Bookish Weekly Wrap Up - 27th November 2021

 


Hello and Happy Saturday - once again! Not many Saturdays left in 2021!!! So scary! And the festive spirit still hasn't got me! Full Grinch mode continues!!

On to books!! It's been a fairly quiet bookish week for me - things on Youtube keep distracting me and taking me away from reading time!! But I did manage to finish 3 books, including 1 audiobook.  Just 1 newbie on the NetGalley shelf and 1 lovely book in the post to review!

Here's my look back!

BOOKS FINISHED



BAGGAGE by ALAN CUMMING - (AUDIOBOOK) - 4 STARS





BOOKHAUL

Just the one to tempt me at Netgalley this week

THE WINTER GUEST by W.C.RYAN
publication date - January 2022


Winter 1920. Though the war has been over for two years, many are still struggling to pick up their lives again when so much has been lost. In Ireland too, other terrible troubles are taking hold.

Then Tom Harkin, a former officer, arrives in the dead of night at a deserted railway platform. He has been summoned to Kilcolgan House, a grand old estate, to work as a tutor.

When Tom reaches the house it gradually becomes clear that this is not the imposing residence it once was. Half abandoned and filled with ghosts - both real and imagined - the noble family within co-exist only as the balance of their secrets is kept.

For there are mysteries at the heart of this family. And Tom's arrival will set into motion a series of events that may become deadly . . .

A gripping mystery packed with twists and turns, The Winter Guest is the perfect chilling read this winter.
 

And in the post I was lucky to receive this lovely parcel from the author..


CHRISTMAS WITH THE RAILWAY GIRLS by MAISIE THOMAS

Manchester, 1941

Christmas is the season for family and friends, and this year the railway girls will need each other more than ever.

Cordelia appears to have the perfect life. When her daughter Emily arrives home unexpectedly, she can't wait to introduce her to her friends. But when things don't go to plan, Cordelia must decide where her loyalty lies.

Things aren't going too smoothly for Alison either. Her beloved boyfriend has yet to propose, but there's a charity fundraiser dance and she's dressed up specially. Surely, tonight must be the night.

Colette's friends are envious of her devoted husband; he meets her after every shift on the railway, and accompanies her around town. But Colette has a secret, one that will change her life—if only she knew who to confide in.

With the festive season fast approaching, the railway girls are hoping for some Christmas magic...


CURRENTY READING






HAPPY READING