Petals and Stones by Joanne Burn

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I was thrilled to receive this advanced review copy by Joanne Burn from Legend Press.

What an engaging read – this tale of grief, love, family, and friendship.

When Uma discovers her husband’s infidelity just hours before his untimely death, the carefully woven threads of her life begin to unravel.

Struggling to manage the grief of those around her, she escapes to a remote cottage by the coast where she swims in the winter sea, cooks the forgotten Keralan dishes of her childhood and begins the search for her husband’s lover.

It isn’t long before Uma realizes what she must do to pick up the tattered threads of her life. But will her choices jeopardize the only family she has left?

Petals and Stones explore the ties which bind us together and the choices we make that can tear us apart. This book traces the devastating impact of the discovery of infidelity immediately before a partner’s death, so that grief is contaminated by anger and betrayal. Joanne Burn’s writing explores with care and precision the nuances of love deferred for the best of intentions, the tides within family and friendship dynamics and the corrosive lies we tell ourselves.

Uma like many women, finds out her husband has been cheating. She is ready to confront him and wants to know the identity of his mistress. As she plans their conversation before he arrives home, he is killed in an auto accident.

The timeline switches from the present (2015) back to 1997 and charts the friendship of Uma, Daniel, Pippa and Aaron. I’m not sure why I was so gripped by this, maybe I’ve always had a secret yearning to run away to a cottage by the sea, but it really held my attention. There’s a great cast of characters and although Uma is central, I feel I need to acknowledge her interfering mother-in-law Mary as someone everyone knows.

Through Uma’s journey, Joanne Burn explores issues such as the emphasis on image over truth in a marriage, whether something built on a lie is sustainable, and why it sometimes takes a tragedy to recognize the reality of a situation. The author also uses symbolism effectively, specifically the lighting of fires (for cooking or warmth) to illustrate Uma’s inner fire being relit.

I especially liked that she used the four elements (air, fire, water, earth) as a basis for Uma’s healing: the way Uma was swept along by the breeze of her marriage (and the winds that signify change as she comes to her realizations), the previously mentioned fires, the ocean that calls to Uma and invigorates her, and the spices, stones, and flower petals that finally give her the answers she has been looking for.

I loved the writing flow and the premises of the story. This is a book I was unable to put down and that I highly recommend.

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All That Was Lost: by Alison May

All That Was Lost Cover

Thank you to Legend Press for this advanced review copy of All That Was Lost, by Alison May. I’m delighted to be on today’s ‘stop’ of the Blog Tour for All That Was Lost by Alison May. The book was published on 6th September and you can get your own copy at Amazon CA.

What an interesting and unique book. The plot is simple enough, a well-known psychic hires a ghostwriter to help with her memoir/autobiography, but there is actually SO much more that happens from this pairing. This is a fascinating, at times heart-wrenching, look at secrets, the cost of keeping them hidden, and whether hiding them requires lies.

 

Synopsis:

In 1967 Patience Bickersleigh is a teenager who discovers a talent for telling people what they want to hear. Fifty years later she is Patrice Leigh, a nationally celebrated medium. But cracks are forming in the carefully constructed barriers that keep her real history at bay.

Leo is the journalist hired to write Patrice’s biography. Struggling to reconcile the demands of his family, his grief for his lost son, and his need to understand his own background, Leo becomes more and more frustrated at Patrice’s refusal to open up.

Because behind closed doors, Patrice is hiding more than one secret. And it seems that now, her past is finally catching up with her. The author thrills in this English familial mystery, adding enticing plot layers as intricate and divisive as the themes she introduces.

I found it to be, Intriguing with a cast of complex characters that keep you fascinated, this is a page-turner and surprisingly tender, A resonant, emotional story about grief, loss, and love with a complex, tragic heroine–a fake psychic reaching the end of her career.

While I enjoyed the story, I seesawed between feeling for each character and despising them. My heart broke for each one of them in one chapter and in the next, I wanted to smack them for their lies. While I felt for Patrice and her hard childhood, I just think of the people I know that are desperate for any glimpse of their lost loved ones and I get furious that she was lying to everyone. In the same breath though-I wonder if a lie that makes someone feel at peace about their loss is a bad one? If someone can move on knowing their loved one is happy and peaceful isn’t that a good thing? This book left me with a lot to think about.

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Blog Tour Review: The Great Unexpected, by Dan Mooney

I received an early review copy of The Great Unexpected, by Dan Mooney (@danielmoonbags) from Legend Press and was so glad I did.

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I’ve never read anything quite like it, it’s not often you come across a read that moves you to tears from its hilarity one moment and then thought-provoking and heart-wrenching sadness the next.  While reading, I felt like I was reading one part “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Novel by Jonas Jonasson” and part something Stephen King would hash out. This is one of those books, that you don’t start late at night with the impression of only perusing a couple pages – be warned, you will not be able to put it down and you will find yourself “just one more page”-ing till the early hours of the morning.

An insanely charming, thought-provoking and heart flipping tale about Joel, who lives in a  nursing home, but following the death of his wife a few years previously, has shut himself off from everyone and decided to end his life. Yes, this sounds dark but you’ll want to read more.  Joel strikes up a friendship with Frank, a new roommate and retired soap actor who has always been the life of the party. When Joel tells Frank that he wants to end his life, Frank decides that no ordinary suicide will be acceptable, and they set out together to find the perfect way for Joel to die.

Dan Mooney created such outstanding characters with Frank and Joel that you become completely wrapped up in their escapades, which are frankly quite hilarious at times. The vision I had of them when they were ‘escaping’ the nursing home had me giggling out loud. It is a very thought-provoking read. If I could give this more than 5 stars I would, this would be an outstanding movie, or quite simply one to read again!!

If you’d like to read a few other reviews taking part in this blog tour – take a gander at the image below for all the dates!

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The Cheese Stealer’s Handbook by Shoshaku Jushaku

20829543The Cheese Stealer’s Handbook

by Shoshaku Jushaku

Synopsis:

“I used to write the truth, then smooth it out, tone it down, and try to make it plausible. Then my ex-made a convincing case against chronicling my life as a train wreck. She claimed my time would be better spent trying to write about who I want to become. “Write myself a destiny.” She said it because she wanted me to become happy . . . Fuck happiness. Happiness writes white. It does not show up on the page. First I think I have to excuse my past. No amount of liquor or drugs seems to get rid of the ghosts that haunt me. The ghosts have become buddies with the monkey on my back. I think the monkey might have substance abuse issues himself. Even if I did manage to chase away my demons there might nothing left over . . . If a better me is the goal, maybe I should consider exercise and eating right, or even eating solid food in general before tackling a novel. On second thought . . . where to begin?”

Laugh out loud tragedy … is that a thing? Well, now it is. – What a raw, unexpected and emotional ride!

A raunchy, in your face chronicle of complete debauchery, self-indulgence and character self-loathing. The Cheese Stealer’s Handbook is by and far one of the more unique things I have ever read. It reminded me of another book, “Wasting Talent by Ryan Leone” which was quite simply one of the greatest addiction stories I’ve ever read. (and re-read)

I received the book from the author, along with a handwritten letter – which I absolutely loved, and used as a bookmark. He wanted me to be as scathing as possible with this review, but quite honestly I think that Shoshaku is an exquisitely masterful writer in that he is either a junkie that can write superbly or, just a damn good writer that nailed the addicts’ mindset… Actually, he could be both, which is what sets this book apart from many others I’ve read.

I know people like the author, Their behavior gets to be ever so predictable after a while. But to SEE inside their heads, to read the thoughts as they pour out onto the page… now, that’s real magic right there! That was one of my favorite parts of reading this book, I felt that I was reading the words as the thoughts popped out of the writers head. I’m not one for defacing books, (at all) but found myself making notes in the margins for future giggles and re-reads.

This is not a safe book. It will stay with you. It will haunt you. It will take you down back alleys, beat you up, set you up in a seedy motel room,  steal your money, leave you for dead, and never let you forget it. The wonder of this book is the way it manages to make you embrace horrible things, despicable things, things that you can’t imagine, things that you hope are only true in movies even though, somewhere in your very soul, you know the devil resides in all men.

Sorry, Shosh… no scathing from this reviewer!! I give this book a 10 out of 10!!

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

I’ve been a fan of Sophie Kinsella/Madeleine Wickam, since first picking up a copy of The Undomestic Goddess back in early 2005.  I was delighted to receive a review copy of Surprise me, and it did not disappoint.

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Synopsis:

After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected “until death do us part” to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

Review:

This is a well-done novel that starts off with a light, chick-lit tone. Sometimes you just need a book that has a humorous take on life and love. I should have known from the blurb alone that this was going to be the book for me. Sophie, you came through and for that, I thank you! This isn’t your usual light chicklit read – its around 450+ pages but those are page turner pages, I found this to be a speedy read for that reason. This is the type of “guilty pleasure” book that you can read and drop the guilt. I’m surprised at how connected I felt with the characters and still find myself reminiscing about the story and feeling a little sad about having to leave them behind and move on to something else. I really like the premise of Surprise Me–rather than the typical Kinsella premise of a single girl trying to get her life together and in doing so ultimately finds love, we have a married couple worried that their marriage has gone stale.  It does take a while to get into if you’re not used to Kinsella’s tone, but the end result is a lovely message about loyalty, appreciation, partnership [and the consequences of the annoying art of not communicating] within a marriage and embracing the future, challenges and all, instead of stunting your growth by living in the past.

I’m a “quote” person, my fave quote from this novel is “Love is finding one person infinitely fascinating. And so… not an achievement, my dear. Rather, a privilege.”

If you are looking for a break from the unpleasantries that life can bring, this is definitely the read for you.