#BookReview by Lou – A Ship of Shadows Adventure – Secrets of the Stars by Maria Kuzniar #ChildrensBook #MiddleGrade #SecretofTheStars #ShipOfShadows @cosyreads @puffinbooksuk @RandomTTours

A Ship of Shadows Adventure – Secrets of the Stars
by Maria Kuzniar

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Follow the Secrets of the Stars and hop aboard The Ship of Shadows in this riproaring, swashbuckling adventure, that is also about teamwork and friendship. This is the second in the series, the first is Ship of Shadows. So steer on down the blurb and review, not forgetting the magnificent cover that is sure to entice you in.
Thanks to Random Things Tours for inviting me to review on this blog tour and to Penguin for gifting me the book, in return of an honest review.

Secrets of the Stars 3D Book

Blurb

Secret of StarsAdventure Fiction for Children (age 9 – 12 years)
 
PREPARE FOR PUZZLES, PERIL, AND PLENTY OF CAKE IN THE SECOND THRILLING ADVENTURE FOR ALEJA AND THE CREW OF THE LEGENDARY SHIP OF SHADOWS

Aleja and her fellow pirates are eager to embark on a new adventure to find the second piece of the missing magical map. But they soon find themselves panicking, bewildered by a series of confusing clues. And time is running out – fast.

When she starts experiencing strange visions, Aleja realizes that someone is trying to tell her something. But can this new knowledge be trusted? And what will it cost her to find out?

With the crew’s loyalties tested and more secrets to unlock than ever, Aleja must find a way to beat the clock and prove herself truly worthy of her place on the ship’s crew . . .

Review

Catching up with this series and its main character – Aleja is a delight. Middlegrade/J2 readers, will enjoy being captured in such a sumptuous and rich adventure. There’s a terrific map at the start, showing Croatia, The Maldives, India, Lhasa, China, Shanghai and Melaka; which gives you a fair idea where this adventure will take intrepid young readers and Aleja alongside Frances, our explorers, who are on a mission, that isn’t without its dangers. It’s immersive and has an energy and enchantment that you may expect and desire from such an adveture.

It starts in Croatia at a great carnival that has colour and life about it. Readers first see Aleja being a fox for this, with Frances. There, looming, is The Ship of Shadows – a ship full of magic, embodies an air of mystery and captained by pirate – Captain Quint, who will stop at nothing.

The book also oozes with an air of mystery and excitement. There is also something mysterious happening to one of the explorers to do with shadows and hallucinations. There are strange puzzles to work out, to fathom and everyone has to work together to solve them and treasures to seek and to get themselves out of harms way.
There’s also the problem of time not being on their side and the formidable Pirate Lord and his vast crew to contend with, that adds to the trepidation.

There are other, perhaps more subtler and nonetheless important themes of friendship and empathy and some life challenges to overcome.

On a side note, it may make you want to eat cake by the sea.

Secrets of the Stars is even better than the first in the series, although that was needed to get everything established. There’s so much to feast your eyes upon and it is even more of a page turner. This is a series I highly recommend to collect and read as each book emerges from the depths of the sea and into your hands.

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#BookReview by Lou of This Shining Life by Harriet Kline @HareandHarriet @tabithapelly @DoubledayUK @RandomTTours

This Shining Life
By Harriet Kline

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This Shining Life is beautifully written. It’s timely, poignant and warm. If you like Rachel Joyce’s books, you’re sure to like This Shining Life. I highly recommend it!
Discover more in the blurb and my full review and a bit about the author. That is when you can take your eyes off the gorgeous cover.
Thanks to Random Things Tours for inviting me onto the blog tour for reviewing and for them and for publisher – Double Day for gifting the physical proof of the  book.

This Shining Life Cover

Blurb

For Rich, life is golden.

He fizzes with happiness and love.

But Rich has an incurable brain tumour.

When Rich dies, he leaves behind a family without a father, a husband, a son and a best friend. His wife, Ruth, can’t imagine living without him and finds herself faced with a grief she’s not sure she can find her way through.

At the same time, their young son Ollie becomes intent on working out the meaning of life. Because everything happens for a reason. Doesn’t it?

But when they discover a mismatched collection of presents left by Rich for his loved ones, it provides a puzzle for them to solve, one that will help Ruth navigate her sorrow and help Ollie come to terms with what’s happened. Together, they will learn to lay the ghosts of the past to rest, and treasure the true gift that Rich has left them: the ability to embrace life and love every moment.

Wonderfully funny and achingly beautiful, this is a story about love in all its forms: absent, lost and, ultimately, regained.

Review

This Shining Life CoverMeet Ollie, Nessa, Angran, Rich, Ruth and Marjorie, the main characters who take a few chapters or so at a time to create this beautiful book. What hits and made me take a sharp intake of breath, was the first line of the first chapter, after the prologue. What is said is insumountable and very matter of fact. It’s a strong opening! Every so often, one line punctuates the opening to a chapter, that is stark and true and just fabulous. No beating about the bush, it tells of a life event how it is and for what it is. In this instance, I like that and it fits the book so well. You’ll have to read the book to find out what it is…

This book will tug at anyone’s heartstrings, like the saddest tune from a solo violin at the very least, and certain short, sharp sentence (I won’t say what or it will spoil it), may pierce hard through your very being and reverberate round. It’s terrific and matter of fact! The book is also full of love and the warmth that brings.

Grief is inescapable at the moment and that’s what makes this book, perhaps even more timely and poignant. It beautifully portrays grief and being surrounded by it within a family very well and truthfully. It shows how people have different ideas for what to do when someone dies and how grief isn’t the same for everyone. It’s also about the love of dead loved ones and the comfort from the living.

There is also the mismatched presents that Rich had left, which further shows his love of life and the people around him. It also keeps people busy as they try to fix them out.

The book, although emotional, is far from depressing. It has that warmth and some pockets of humour. There’s other parts of life being shown as having being lived, such as a a well stocked up picnic. The nature provides a layer of peacefulness along with the layer of  anguish of death, love and life that converges together.

The peacefulness of nature is conveyed exquisitely against the forefront of the sting and in Ruth’s case, especially, the almost suffocation, sometimes claustrophobic feeling of grief closing in and confusion of grief, that all of the characters feel in one way or another. It is all brought with tenderness, but an absolute realism, right to the very end and with the comfort and love of the supporting characters.

About the Author

HARRIET KLINE works part time registering births, deaths and marriages and writes for the rest of the week. Her story Ghost won the Hissac Short Story Competition and Chest of Drawers won The London Magazine Short Story Competition. Other short stories have been published online with LitroFor Books’ Sake, and ShortStorySunday, and on BBC Radio 4. 

 

#BookReview by Lou – Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney @CynthiaDSweeney @Harper360 @RandomTTours #Fiction #GoodCompany

Good Company
By Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Today I am excited to bring to you a synposis and review of Good Company by critically acclaimed and bestselling novelist of The Nest. Good Company has a focus on relationships, forgiveness, redemption, theatre, Hollywood and so much more, with lots of intrigue that is so compelling. Discover the Synopsis and Review below as well as a bit about the author and who else is on this blog tour…
Thanks to Random Things Tours for inviting me to review and to Harper Collins for gifting me with a beautiful book, that has not your average pages at the edges.

GOOD COMPANY quote 2 Twitter

Synopsis

Good Company Cover ImageFlora Mancini has been happily married for more than twenty years. But everything she thought she knew about herself, her marriage, and her best friend Margot, is upended when she stumbles upon an envelope containing her husband’s wedding ring—the one he claimed he lost one summer long ago.

Flora and Julian struggled for years, scraping together just enough acting work to raise their daughter in Manhattan and keep Julian’s small theatre company—Good Company—afloat. A move to Los Angeles brought their first real career successes, a chance to breathe easier, and a reunion with Margot, now a bona fide television star. But has their new life been built on lies? What happened that summer all those years ago? And most importantly, what happens now?

GOOD COMPANY follows two couples entering the midpoint of their lives, against the backdrop of the New York theatre scene and Hollywood. It tells a story of what it means to, as the author says, “truly love but never truly know another person”.

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut novel, The Nest, was a smash success, receiving widespread critical acclaim and named a Best Book of 2016 by many, including The Washington Post. Much of what made The Nest beloved is back in play with GOOD COMPANY, including Sweeney’s distinctive wit and her incisive examination of the way people, and their relationships—with others and themselves—evolve over decades.

GOOD COMPANY quote 1 Twitter

Review

Instantly drawing you in, it is easy to become interested in Flora looking for a photo of Ruby from 13 years ago and doing the clear out that people do, with humour and reminiscing.

The title – Good Company is the name of a theatre company founded by Ben and Julian, based in Manhattan, so it is very apt indeed! This is a book where theatre, film and relationships collide and are so well weaved together, with references to some plays, but not all is well in the characters lives.

This is a great for if you’re missing theatre and have a penchant for Hollywood and people’s lives!

There’s a sweeping look at journalistic interview conducted as Mia has been researching Margot, an actress. It’s within this interview, where readers find out more about Margot. She shows an overbearing trait, to quite a point of it feeling sinister, especially when it comes to Flora and the doubts about her impending marriage to Julian. This is a very compelling book, to say the least, with secrets and more…

The characters make this book especially immersive. It becomes clear that the character’s lives are even more complicated and entangled and Good Company has its own complexities, including betrayal, which strikes hard, making summer not how it was supposed to be. It all creates a deeper intensity and uncomfortbleness in atmosphere, which in turn, makes you want to stay to see how it all ends.

About the Author

Cynthia Author Pic

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is the author of the instant New York Times bestseller The Nest. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.

 

 

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#Review by Lou – The Butterfly Garden by Sophie Anderson @MSophieanderson @bookouture #TheButterflyGarden #Fiction #BlogTour #ContemporaryFiction

The Butterfly Garden
By Sophie Anderson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Today I am pleased to present my review of The Butterfly Garden, a book with poignancy and new found friendship from a stranger, secrets, and a beautiful garden with butterflies and more… Thanks to the publisher – BookOuture for inviting me on the blog tour and for gifting me the book.
Discover more in the blurb and my review and about the author.

The Butterfly Garden pic

Blurb

I blamed my son for the death of my daughter….

When 25-year-old Erin flees London for Cornwall and takes a job at Hookes End, a huge house clinging precariously to the Cornish cliffs, all she knows about it are the stories people tell. The owner, reclusive novelist and butterfly enthusiast Maggie, has kept the curtains of her dusty house drawn for many years. But now she is dying, and Erin, seeing the shadows that cross Maggie’s face, wants to help in any way she can.

Years ago, Maggie’s only son Lucas ran away to the other side of the world and the searing heat of the Costa Rican jungle. Maggie is desperate to see Lucas again – there is something she needs him to know.

Erin wants to help Maggie find peace. But when she travels to the warm white sands and tropical butterfly gardens of Costa Rica to find Lucas, it becomes very clear that he is hiding something too.

As Erin unravels the webs of deceit entangling mother and son, she learns about the terrible tragedy that changed their lives forever: the night when a little girl in a fairy nightdress went missing. But with Maggie’s time fast running out, is it too late for them to find the forgiveness they need to move on?

Set against the storms of the Cornish coast and the silvery sands of Costa Rica, The Butterfly Garden is a story of love, loss, and letting go. Fans of Jojo Moyes, Harriet Evans, and Lucinda Riley will be gripped. 

Review

The Butterfly Garden picLansdown Place 1986 to Porteal 2017 is how readers will travel. I had to think about who was the narrator in 1986, so I’ll tell you now, that it is Maggie. Carrying on though, it jumps to 2017 and readers meet Erin and Mrs Muir (Maggie). Maggie is a recluse and the descriptions sho this well. All is not lost. My attention is then fully in and I want to read on. The writing is beautiful and somehow with heightened senses of how things sound, look, smell etc, that draws you in further, as does the mysteriously hidden away – Maggie Muir. I was intrigued to find out more and more as the story went on and whole pictures emerged in writing. So, what started out as frustrating, quickly evaporated.

The year 1986 is where Lucas is also met, in manuscript/diary form, aged 5 and likes Gerald Durrell’s Zoo in Jersey, which sounds fun! It’s like a bit of an insight into life before Maggie was dying and also part of her doing as she was asked by Dr Sham, who she saw at this time. Between this time frame, you’ve got 1986 being quite illuminating and yet the start of something quite claustrophobic, which becomes more so in 2017, with Maggie being as reclusive as she is. It has believability and so much sadness, especially for Maggie. It shows how life can seem one way, or assumed, such as her being a really successful writer, but underneath, what might have provided a fabulous life, she is in reality she has so many issues, and now she is dying, you know the inevitable will happen, but there is so much unfinished business in her life, that is uncovered in the book, such as more about Lucas and what happened.

There is poignancy in the use of butterflies and why they aren’t fluttering around. It is often clever how butterflies are used in stories and here it is too, as there is the use of the actual butterfly, which Maggie and in turn, Erin, has an interest in and a place called The Butterfly Garden, but there is also the significance within the symbolism of her life as everything has almost grinded to a halt, except she is writing this manuscript/diary. Yet, at some point there was, like the butterfly, a hub of activity at some point as she wrote detective novels. 

Erin has a romance, burning brightly with Simon, which gives her a life outside Maggie’s life and it is also heartwarming to see unfold. Erin isn’t without her own concerns in life as she worries about her brother who has Downs Syndrome and where he may be.

Lies and coverups are later revealed and explosive emotions come to the fore. It is however, heartwarming to see the development of the relationship between Maggie and Erin, an element of trust emerges, that you can’t help but smile at. It also drives the story further forwards, until the end, which at the start you know how it will end, but it’s the journey to there that matters and will seep into your heart and emotions.

Buy Links:

About the Author

SophieAnderson-32Sophie Anderson enjoyed a career in TV production in London before working with her husband to set up an online software business where she wrote the marketing content. But neither scratched that creative itch to tell a story, so she enrolled on a writing course and wrote her first novel The Butterfly Garden. She lives in Sussex with her husband, four children, a cocker spaniel and two cats.
 
 
 
 

The Butterfly Garden - Blog Tour

#Extract of Rising Star by Michele Kwasniewski @MicheleKwas @RandSmithBooks @RandomTTours #YA #RisingStar

Rising Star
By Michele Kwasniewski
Extract/Excerpt

Today I am pleased to show you an extract/excerpt from Rising Star, thanks to Random TTours Rand-Smith Books and Michele Kwasniewski for providing the passage.
I will also say that Rising Star is an interesting sounding book that looks at the price of fame and fortune, which is a highly fitting for today’s society of young adults. Find out about the author, the book and then discover an extract from it to get your reading eyes going.
Readers… meet Dani Truhart

About the Author

Michelle K Author PicThe author, Michele Kwasniewski, is an entertainment industry insider who has seen what the Hollywood machine can do to people – having worked for many years in film and television production on such films and TV shows as Primal FearIndependence DayEvita, Face/OffBig Brother, and many TCL, HGTV, and Discovery series including: Meet the Pandas, Adoption Story, Wedding Story, and Extra Yardage. 

 

Michelle Kwasneiwski Author PicWith her book, she shares the glamour and excitement of fame as well as the hard work it takes to achieve success and the price of living life in the public eye.  Everyone wants to be famous, but most people have no idea what that really means.  Michele has seen it firsthand.  She is an active member of the Producers Guild of America.

 

Blurb

What’s the Price of Fame?

Rising Star Cover ImageIn the first book in THE RISE AND FALL OF DANI TRUEHART series, RISING STAR, fifteen-year-old Dani Truehart is living a life that is not quite her own. Driven by her mother’s desire for fame and fortune, she has spent her childhood dutifully training for a career as a pop star. On the brink of discovery, doubts begin to creep into Dani’s mind as she questions her own desire for fame, and she wonders whether she can trust the motivations of the adults who are driving her forward.

Following a brilliant audition arranged by her vocal/dance coach and former ’80s pop icon Martin Fox, Dani is thrown full-force into the music industry. She leaves her friends, family and scheming mother behind to move with Martin, who has become her legal guardian, into the Malibu compound of her new manager, Jenner Redman. Jenner, the former swindling manager of Martin’s boy band, leverages what’s left of his depleted fortune to launch Dani’s career.

Isolated from her life at home and trying to stay apace with her demanding schedule, Dani struggles to keep in touch with those she loves, connect to her withholding mother and find her voice as an artist. With Martin and Jenner at odds over their rocky past and finding herself unprepared to handle the pressures of her future singing career, Dani’s debut album and future stardom are at risk of falling apart.

Rising Star Cover Image

Extract/Excerpt

Sean, the lights, and the gym quickly dissolve into my shrieking

alarm clock and my equally grating mother yelling my name. I roll over groaning and blindly striking out for the clock, knocking odds and ends off the nightstand. A final violent swipe turns off the alarm. I pry open my eyes. It’s 5:12 a.m.

“Danilynn Marie Truehart, get up this instant! Don’t make me walk up those stairs and get you, girl.”

I pause for a second, wondering what evil I’ve done in my past life to deserve such torment in this one. Jodi Truehart is her own special brand of torture. Some days it’s all I can do not to either burst into tears or erupt in a tirade of swear words. My mother never stops. She is unrelenting, unforgiving, and utterly determined to make me into a star.

Sighing as I haul my bones out of bed, I remind myself that if I’m really that miserable, I could make the endless lessons and rehearsals stop. My mother is all about the bottom line. If there’s any chance she won’t receive a big payoff after all these years of pushing and spending, she’ll cut her losses and turn her maniacal stage-mother- ing skills to some other money-making prospect. She’d probably just have another baby. I chuckle to myself…third time’s a charm, right?

Grabbing the stack of workout wear on the dresser, I stumble down the hall to the bathroom. My father is shambling up the stairs from the kitchen, a steaming mug of coffee in hand.

“Sorry about all the noise, Dad. Guess I overslept.”

He shakes his head. “No worries, Marie. I had an early meeting any- way.” He blows me a kiss and continues down the hall to the master bedroom.

My dad is the only one who calls me Marie. I’m named after his mother, who used to visit us a lot when we were younger. We used to hang out at her house all the time, and she used to bake the best cakes ever. But there was some sort of falling out between her and my mom, and we stopped going to see her. No one ever mentions it, and I’m too scared to ask what happened. Though I haven’t seen her in years, I always think of her when he calls me “Marie.”

“Where’s my apology, superstar?” Geena appears in the doorway of her darkened room, arms folded across her t-shirt, her blonde hair tousled. She smirks and gives me a playful slap on the butt as I pass. “Better get in that shower.” Geena puts her hands on her hips and wags her finger at me in a perfect imitation of our mother’s Texas twang, “Don’t make her walk up those steps and get you, girl.”

I groan. “God, you’re lucky you’re the smart one! If you’d been able to sing, maybe they’d have stopped at one kid, and I’d be blissfully unaware up in the stars somewhere.”

“You make your own luck, sis, believe me.” Geena winks at me and disappears into her room.

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Everything Happens For A Reason by Katie Allen @KtAllenWriting @OrendaBooks #RandomTTours #JubilantJune #EveryThingHappensForAReason #BlogTour

Everything Happens For A Reason
by Katie Allen

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Everything Happens for a Reason cover

 

Firstly I would like to thank Orenda Books and Random Things Tours for the copy of this heart-rendering and moving book. Find out in the blurb and my review about what I actually thought about this pretty unique debut book for this great blog tour.

Blurb

A beautiful, poignant and enchantingly funny debut,
inspired by journalist Katie Allen’s own experience of stillbirth and grief

Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong.
Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss.
When a misguided well-wisher tells her that ‘everything happens for a reason’, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she’s now
certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son.
Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results…
Both a heart-wrenching portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reason is a bittersweet, life-affirming and, quite simply, unforgettable read.

Review

Everything Happens for a Reason coverFairly uniquely, Everything Happens For A Reason, has no chapters as such and is instead, punctuated with emails from character to character. As much as it felt different to other books that do have chapters, the flow and movement through the book worked well, perhaps because of the timeline within the emails and instead of jarring, like it might do with chapters, in this rare instance, it gives it a stronger sense of a certain amount of reality. The book is a work of fiction but it is inspired by Katie Allen’s own experiences.

There is a  strong belief of “Everything Happens For A Reason” is an interesting concept, that is used in a way to justify and perhaps come to terms with everything, is a theme that is carried throughout the book. Rachel even believes that meeting Lola was for a reason and both are interesting characters and there is the gradual uncovering of Ben Palmer, a guy she saved at Oval, when she was pregnant, months before her baby was stillborn. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, there’s no two ways about it. The grief and the trying to live life feels authentic and pierces through to your heart. On the other-hand it also talks truthfully about how there isn’t always the time to grieve. Most of the characters have their issues they are living with.

There are also moments to smile about. It’s is full of bittersweet moments, such as some thought given to baby groups, such as baby and rhyme (if you’re in Scotland its a little bit like Bookbug), and baby yoga etc. 

I am glad that there are some funny moments. In some ways it lightens the book in a good way and in other ways, it is a brave decision to include it as some people don’t think you should find something funny, when grieving etc, but this shows life in every aspects from friendships to the politics of the day. There’s a particularly humorous analogy about a spider, for example. It shows life and grieving is not a straight line and life presents itself with unexpected moments and a web of people and situations. There’s some moments of pragmatism and others that has a bit of humour, but most of all it is emotional and an aura of it lingers round you after you’ve read it.

This is not a light read by any means, but it is some original storytelling, with a subject matter that is still almost taboo and uncomfortable for some people to talk about. It is a subject matter that is rare in books, if there at all. If you’re wanting something different and meaningful, this is your book.

 

ABOUT KATIE ALLEN

Katie AllenA beautiful, poignant and enchantingly funny debut, inspired by journalist Katie Allen’s own experience of stillbirth and grief.
Everything Happens for a Reason is Katie’s first novel. She used to be a journalist and columnist at the Guardian and Observer, and started her career as a Reuters correspondent in Berlin and London. The events in Everything Happens for a Reason are fiction, but the premise is loosely autobiographical. Katie’s son, Finn, was stillborn in 2010, and her character ’s experience of grief and being on maternity leave without a baby is based on her own. And yes, someone did say to her
‘Everything happens for a reason’.
Katie grew up in Warwickshire and now lives in South London with her husband,
children, dog, cat and stick insects. When she’s not writing or walking children and dogs, Katie loves baking, playing the piano, reading news and wishing she had written other people’s brilliant novels.

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