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ARC Book Review: ‘The Austen Girls’ by Lucy Worsley

Title: The Austen Girls

Author: Lucy Worsley

Length: 286 pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Synopsis: It is 1908 and Fanny and Anna Austen have just been launched on to the ruthless Regency marriage market by Fanny’s mother. But luckily their mysteriously wealthy Aunt Jane is there to help them take destiny into their own hands and carve their own paths. What does the future hold for Jane’s nieces?

The Austen girls starts with Fanny and Anna Austen going to their first ball as they begin to look for a husband. But for both, it’s not that easy as their parents wish.

This was such a fun book. It really was. I read it in a day, which I absolutely never do. I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what was going to happen to the girls. I was also really pleased that it goes beyond them just wanting to find husbands, especially for Fanny who has such an interesting storyline.

This book is full of historical elements that really make it what it is, but what do you expect from Britain’s favourite historian. It’s so detailed from the dresses they wear, to the house, the chores, the house of corrections. I love it when historical fiction novels have this level of accuracy as it just adds the perfect atmosphere to the book, and The Austen Girls certainly has it.

It’s got fantastic characters too. Fanny and Anna are great characters to follow, and I love how their lives took such different turns. They were both strong in their own different ways and it was so interesting to read the juxtaposition. I also think Lucy creates the perfect personality for Jane Austen, she was intelligent, funny, sharp and kind. It’s such a great addition to the novel, it really is.

I also really enjoyed the Epilogue, it was so interesting to know what happened to these characters in their real lives. I thought that was really interesting and a great addition to the book

I definitely recommend this book for fans of historical fiction, of Jane Austen. I throughly enjoyed it. It’s a super quick read too.

Thank you so much to Mattea at Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: ‘Magpie Lane’ by Lucy Atkins

Title: Magpie Lane

Author: Lucy Atkins

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: Quercus

Synopsis: When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers. As Dee looks back over her time in the Masters Lodging – an eerie and ancient house – a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl; Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother. But is Dee telling the whole story. Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why was Felicity silent?

In Magpie Lane, we follow Dee as she is sitting in the police station, answer questions about a missing little girl that she had recently became a nanny for. Dee is fighting for her innocence.

Magpie Lane has got such an interesting premise and as soon as you start the book you can’t help but wonder does Dee know anything? You spend the whole book looking for clues.

It’s full of intrigue and mystery, which I loved, but it didn’t over power the whole novel. It ebbed and flowed perfectly. It had moments of real emotion and sadness . Seriously, you spend the whole trying to figure out if Dee was involved!! As the story goes on you find some things out about Dee, and it just adds to the mystery. I will say I believed she didn’t have anything to do with the disappearance, but I won’t spoil it for you. Let you see for yourself what happens when you read it.

This book didn’t rely on the mystery to keep it you interested. It had some fantastic characters too. Dee was brilliant, it’s alway so fun to read a book when we don’t know if the main protagonist is trustworthy, especially when it’s this well done. Felicity, the little girl, had so many layers to her with her mutism, her sadness. You desperately wanted to know what happened to her because you liked her. I just loved the characterisation. There’s more characters, which are also fantastic, but I’m trying not to give any spoilers away.

It was so atmospheric. It’s set in a centuries old house in Oxford and it’s the perfect setting. The house had so much history and so does the town of Oxford and Lucy really cleverly weaves them into the story. It added a whole another element to the book. It also had a bit of supernatural element to it, with Felicity seeing ghosts. It fit perfectly with the old house, the graveyards in Oxford. I’m not ashamed to admit I got a little creeped out at times.

Here’s the most pleasing thing about Magpie Lane, the ending didn’t disappoint. I couldn’t turn those pages fast enough. When I thought it ended I was a little bit like ‘oh is that it?’ But then I read that Epilogue. That’s it, I’m not saying anymore. I won’t ruin it for you.

I highly recommend this book. If you like mystery, supernatural books that have also got some heart, then this is definitely the book for you. You won’t be able to put it down.

Thank you to Quercus books for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out April 2nd (today).

Until the next review

JTH

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March Wrap Up

Well aren’t we glad March is over, even though I know there are more times a head for many of us. I normally say the months flew by, but this one certainly did not. Obviously it’s horrible what’s going on in the world right now, so I hope you are all managing to escape into different worlds with the books you are reading.

I’m off work for a while, so I’m sure I’m going to get some more reading done, but I found it hard to read. I couldn’t concentrate or focus. One book took me over a week to read and that hasn’t happened in a while.

I still managed to read 10 books, so let’s have a chat about them shall we?

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales. A big anticipated book for me that just fell a little short. I enjoyed every thing but the romance, which was the main Plot. I wasn’t bad, just wasn’t great. This one is out now. 3⭐️

Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran. An intriguing, political, clever queer YA book. I loved this book. It was super enjoyable. Great characters and a dynamic book. I highly recommend. Out April 23rd. 4.5⭐️

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora. A bit of a slow start, but ultimately I ended up loving it. Fantastic characters that I won’t forget for a long time. Intricate and brilliant. A great piece of historical fiction. Out April 16th. 4⭐️

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. Brilliant. This is the best YA book I’ve read in a long time. I adored every part of this novel. I Didn’t want it to end but I couldn’t put it down. READ THIS BOOK! Out April 6th. 5⭐️

Crescent City by Sarah J Mass. A little slow at first and extremely long, but once I got into I couldn’t put it down. Full of great characters and captivating story. I loved it. 4.5⭐️ It’s out.now

Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins. Such my intrigue and mystery in this one. I just didn’t know how it was going to end and I couldn’t wait to find out. I really enjoyed it. This one is out April 2nd.

The Austen Girls by Lucy Worley. I’m such a fan of Lucy and her book didn’t disappoint. Such a fun story full of historical information. Lovely to see Jane Austen in there too. It’s out April 2nd.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. What a title. It’s just fantastic. I loved it. Amazing characters, so beautifully written. I absolutely adored it. It’s out April 21st.

Scabby Queen by Kristin Innes. I really enjoyed this one. Full of interesting characters. Love the premise of it. Super enjoyable. It’s out April 30th.

The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick. I really enjoyed this one. It built really nicely and I couldn’t wait to find out how it was going to be resolved. I enjoyed the ending too. It’s out April 20th.

So that was it for me this month. How did you get on? Let me know

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: ‘My Dark Vanessa’ by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Title: My Dark Vanessa

Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell

Lenght: 384 pages

Publisher: 4th Estate Books

With so much hype surrounding this book, I was so lucky to get myself an early copy and I couldn’t wait to read this polarising book.

Synopsis: Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty-two and the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student of his. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Stane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that. But now, in 2017, in the midst of allegations against powerful men, she is being asked to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape.

I’m going to start by saying it’s taken me a long time to write this review. A really long time. I’ve also written this sometime after I read it. I had to sit with my thoughts for a while and let myself realise just what an impact this book had on me. My Dark Vanessa is the kind of book that will have a massive impact on anyone that reads it. It just will. It’s that powerful and visceral.

In this book we follow Vanessa, who at the age of 15 begins a love affair with her English teacher, but as time goes on and more allegations come out about him, she begins to question whether it was love at all.

Here’s what so interesting about this book, it takes a different approach to the situation. We of course as a reader know it’s totally wrong, it’s not love, it’s abuse. But to follow Vanessa as she comes to realise this herself is both heartbreaking, and powerful moment. And it’s handled by Kate Elizabeth Russel brilliantly, it’s somehow delicate yet firm. You’ll immediately feel for Vanessa. As the ‘relationship’ carries on can feel her slipping away. You can feel the effect this trauma is having on her and she doesn’t even realise it. It’s undeniably sad.

Never have I read a book that captures so perfectly what it’s trying to say. Whilst reading it, I just knew the clear message Kate was trying to get across. It’s shines another light on these horrible situations. This book did have some very uncomfortable scenes in, there’s a scene where Vanessa and her English teacher are on the phone, and he says something and you instantly know, as the reader what this book is really trying to say. Powerful.

This is Kate Elizabeth Russell’s debut novel and all I can say is wow. To take a situation that is so complex, especially in these times, and to make this book as nuanced and uncomfortable must have been incredibly hard, but Kate’s created a master of a novel. It’s everything you need this book to be, its challenging, thought provoking and exceptional.

There’s been a lot of hype around this book, and it’s totally worth it. I couldn’t put it down. I promise you, you’ll never forget this book.

I was lucky enough to receive this book at the 4th Estate Live event back in November (click here to find out about the other books I received). This one is out now. Don’t miss it.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: ‘The Weight of Love’ by Hilary Fannin

Title: The Weight of Love

Author: Hilary Fannin

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: DoubleDay UK

Synopsis: London, 1995. Robin introduces the woman he loves to his oldest friend. Their attraction is instant. Powerless, Robin is forced to watch on as Ruth and Joseph begin a passionate affair. Dublin, 2018. Robin and Ruth are married and have a son. Haunted by the ghost of Joseph, the distance between them grows until one day Robin makes a choice, the consequences of which could be devastating.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. But for me it just missed the mark. I can’t help feeling like it was all something out of nothing.

There were points in the story, especially at the beginning, where I was really into. I was excited to see where the plot was going, but ultimately it didn’t end up going where anywhere. It just needed something to happen. Something to keep the plot interesting, or something so we could connect to the characters.

Now, I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to like characters for them to be fantastic, or to care about them, or for the book to great. But you do have to care about them, and I just couldn’t care about the characters in ‘The Weight of Love.’ At times I felt sorry for Robin and thought I might be forming a tiny bit of connection to him but the moment was fleeting. None of the characters had personalities, they weren’t likeable or interesting. Two characters were in love with Ruth and I can’t for the life of me begin to imagine why. She was so dull. If there’s not much plot to a book, the characters need to better than this.

I just wonder what the point of this book was. It all felt very shallow, but like it was trying to be deep and meaningful. It was all very one tone. The book didn’t ebb and flow. It all felt very flat. I feel like I could see what it was trying to do but it just didn’t get there. The synopsis says ‘a passion affair’ but I can’t think of anything less passionate.

I at least thought the ending might save the book. But it was more of the same. It was one of those books that when you finish it, you put down and think was that?

Like I said, this book could’ve been great but for me, sadly, it just didn’t get there. It wasn’t a bad book, it just could’ve been so much better.

Thanks to DoubleDay UK for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out March 19th.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: To Lahore With Love by Hina Belitz

Title: To Lahore With Love

Author: Hina Belitz

Length: 288 pages

Publisher: Headline Review

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This book arrived in my mail box and I couldn’t wait to get started reading it.

Synopsis: Addy Mayford has always struggled with her identity. Bought up in a household of stories, food and faith by her Irish mother and Pakistani Nana, she feels constantly torn between two sides of her upbringing. Since the death of her father, she’s found contentment cooking delicious recipes from his home city of Lahore, despite the protestations of her mother that being a chef is no career for a young woman. It’s only with the lobe of her gorgeous husband, Gabe, that she’s truly found happiness. When Addy stumbles across a secret that shatters her entire world, she desperately need to escape and is drawn to the sights of Lahore and the family she’s never known. Waiting for her there is Addy’s final acceptance of who she is, and a long-buried family secret that will change her life forever.

I have to say I really enjoyed this novel. It was super sweet, heartbreaking and brimming with joy. It was one of those books where I finished reading and was just grateful I’d read it.

We follow Addy after her life falls apart, and she travels to Lahore with her best friend and Nana.

Like I said this book is super sweet, even though it has its share of heartbreak. It’s sweet because it’s full of love, family, joy and food. I feel ‘To Lahore With Love’ is life affirming I mean because it shows you no matter what happens, there’s still hope. The character of Nana, has some great advice. It just gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling.

This book also has great characters in it. Addy is a great character. You feel sorry for her immediately in the prologue, and then you just want her to succeed. I loved reading her passion for food. Also, the food in this book feels like a character itself. It’s such a huge part of the book. Also, there’s some fantastic recipes throughout this book. What more could you want? It’s fiction and a cookbook! Also, the recipes have fantastic names and backstories that give the book real charm. ‘Love me forever Lamb’ is just one of the great names.

Now when I say it’s heartbreaking, I mean it. There’s a few things that happened, that I won’t spoil but it truly shocked me. It’s hard to see Addy go through it all, because she’s such a wonderful character. Don’t worry though, it’ll break you heart. But it will put it back together again.

This is the perfect book to forget everything that is going on, and just enjoy reading.

I can’t recommend this book enough. As I’m sure you all can tell from my review I really enjoyed it. It’s so rich in love, food and culture. It’s out March 19th.

Thank you to Headline Review for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review.

Until the next review

JTH

book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, historical fiction, lgbt, queer, review, Uncategorised, ya

ARC Book Review: ‘The Secrets We Kept’ by Lara Prescott

Title: The Secrets We Kept

Author: Lara Prescott

Length: 452 pages

Publisher: Penguin Books

4.5⭐️

I’ve wanted to read this one for so long, and it’s finally being released in paperback on the 19th!

Synopsis: No one looks twice at the women in the typing pool. No one knows that two of them are trading secrets. The secret is a book, the size of one in your hands, and within its pages, a love story that could change the world. But where there is love, there is pain. And where there is deception, formidable danger…

I have to say I really, really enjoyed this book. Right from the beginning, I was completely into it and I never really lost interest.

The book is Set in that period of history known as Cold War. In the book we get to see both perspectives of the east and the west. In the west we get to see the typist to work in the state department and the new applicant who becomes a spy. And in the east we get to see the writer of Dr Zhivago and his mistress.

I mainly loved all the perspectives in this book but at times I just lost interest in the east perspective mainly the writer of Dr Zhivago’s. but I didn’t stay last for long. But I was really interested to see it was how it would all come together and I have to say I was not disappointed. I loved it. It was really cleverly done.

It has fantastic characters. They made the book for me. I loved ‘The Typists’. It was such a great perspective to choose. They knew all the secrets but were so often ignored. Then to add Lydia, who goes on to become as spy, was great. She was the character I connected with most, as she was new and we’re seeing it all through her eyes.

I didn’t know much about this period of history and know I want to know more. It was absolutely fascinating. This book had such a great premise and the story really took off from there and went above and beyond. I also had no idea these kind of things were happening Russia. It wasn’t the most detailed historical fiction book I’ve read, but the story more than made up for it.

There was also a fantastic LGBTQ+ love story in ‘The Secrets We Kept’ that I didn’t know about and was a wonderful surprise. It’s always nice to see this representation in historical fiction novels.

I was excited to read this book, as I was reading it. Does that make sense? It felt like it was all leading up to something. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened and I couldn’t turn those pages fast enough.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a book for story lovers, with a book at it’s heart. It’s beautifully written, at times intriguing with a great conclusion. I’m just sorry I didn’t read it sooner. I can see why it was picked as part of Reese Witherspoons Book Club.

Thank you to Penguin Books for gifting me with a copy of this book, in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out in Paperback March 19th.

Until the next review

JTH