#Giveaway #Competition Who Would Like Some New Books?!

CompetitionYes, I’m a little bit late to say it’s for the blogiversary of Eats Plants, Reads Books but I have decided to host a giveaway anyway because what random free books are the best kind of books. I have put together a list of some of my favourite books; and some that I am most looking forward to getting to read. All you have to do to win two of your choice of the below reads is subscribe to Eats Plants, Reads Books and tweet/retweet this post. That’s it* Winner will be selected at random on Sunday 8th April.

So, which of these wonderful books would most like to get your mitts on? Will you choose one of the books I selected in celebration of women’s writing for International Womens Day, or will you go for one of my more recent selections? I’m dying to hear which of these brilliant books you are most interested in 🙂

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*Full terms and conditions after the jump!

Continue reading “#Giveaway #Competition Who Would Like Some New Books?!”

#BookExtract #BlogTour: Alice’s Secret – Lynne Francis

image003I was delighted to be given the opportunity to host an extract from Alice’s Secret by Lynne Francis, a historical fiction mystery published this week by Avon Books.  Alice’s Secret is the second gripping novel from the author of Ella’s Journey – a story of love, loss and a historical mystery finally revealed that’s perfect for fans of Rosie Clarke and Tracy Rees.

2018 Alys’s life hasn’t quite turned out the way she thought… How did she end up making all the wrong choices?

Escaping to the Yorkshire countryside to help out her aunt might just be the change she needs. Throwing herself into baking cakes and cookies for her aunts beloved café helps take her mind off all of her bad decisions. But when she stumbles across a long-buried family mystery Alys can’t let it go…

1890s Alice is the sole bread-winner for her family, working at the local cotton mill. She enjoys her job, until she suddenly begins to attract the wrong attention…

How far is Alys willing to go to find out what really happened to Alice all those years ago?

Intrigued? Well, then enjoy the sneak peak below!  Continue reading “#BookExtract #BlogTour: Alice’s Secret – Lynne Francis”

#BlogTour #BookReview: Twice the Speed of Dark – Lulu Allison

TTSOD_FINALToday I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Lulu Allison’s debut novel Twice the Speed of Dark, which was published last week. I primarily read for my own enjoyment and receive many review requests that I turn down as they just do not grab me – however after I read one small excerpt of Twice the Speed of Dark I was hooked, and had to read the rest. This thoughtful, lyrical novel, in which a mother and daughter separated by fatal violence circle each other, still bound by love, will stay with you long after you have closed the pages.

The story follows Caitlin, killed by a violent boyfriend, who slowly unfurls her story from beyond the grave. As Caitlin pieces together what happened to her, and the slow erosion of herself in an abusive relationship that culminated in her death, she pieces herself back together. Meanwhile her mother, Anna, is tormented by visceral grief. As she experiences the intensity of her individual loss, Anna could not believe how little interest the world took in the death of her only child. She becomes dismayed by the indifference she sees in news reports of victims of distant wars and acts of terror, seeing echoes of her daughter in all of the unnamed dead. In notebook after notebook, Anna begins to write portraits of these victims, creating lives and loves and identities for them and siphoning to them some of her personal grief. Through these acts of love for strangers, Anna slowly begins to build a connection to the world once more.

There had been a bomb in a distant market place. One of many bombs, the deaths caused by this event barely noticeable amongst the dreadful losses that filled the news every day. But a filament snagged and slowed the story down. Somehow that detail caught her; a market place, perhaps the most domestic public space there is. People shopping for food, plastic buckets, scarves, aluminium pans. Markets all over the world selling plastic buckets and aluminium pans. A place providing easy acquisition of the humbler tools of life; domestic wares, phone parts and gaudy cases, vinyl handbags, potatoes, eggs, cabbages. Mothers buying an evening meal, teenagers shopping for the excitingly new and obligingly affordable. A man buying a bucket so that he could clean his house. These ordinary people doing ordinary things, they would be the dead.

Allison’s background is as a visual artist, and it creeps through in her writing. For me the best passages occur when she is embracing her flair for the visual, and not just in the creation of a multitude of pen portraits of the victims. Consider the evocative imagery of how she introduces Anna: “She recognises her body – the dry of winter sits on her; her tall shape clings forlornly to long bones. She is mad, a scream frozen, sharpening the air around her as the frost has sharpened the ground under her feet”. Twice the Speed of Dark deals with difficult subject matter, and if you are not a fan of literary fiction you might not want to join Allison on this journey. I for one am glad I did, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

I received a copy of Twice the Speed of Dark from the author in exchange for an honest review. Find out more here. The blog tour continues…

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#Book Review: Himself, by Jess Kidd

himselfI absolutely loved this genre bending, darkly humorous book. Opening with the brutal murder of a very young woman in the fictional village of Mulderrig on the west coast of Ireland in the 1950s, Himself initially reads as a crime novel. As the novel jumps forward 20 odd years, to the arrival of handsome Dublin orphan Mahony – armed only with a tip his mother had been taken from him in Mulderrig, and that he shouldn’t trust anyone in the village – we move from a crime genre to something  harder to define. We journey with Mahony into an unravelling of the dark heart of what happened to his mother, and what secrets the village – haunted in many ways – holds. There’s a surrealism that is at times David Lynchian – but with the humour of Flann O’Brien. Jess Kidd had me at “Just look at her, she’s a sex-mad culchie”.

Mahony takes up residence in a B&B with a long-term occupant – the aging actress Mrs Cauley – who shares Mahony’s affinity with the supernatural and a love of mysteries. Their relationship leads to the hatching of an improbable plot involving staging a riotous village production of The Playboy of the Western World as a method of uncovering the truth about what happened to Mahony’s mother. There are some plot threads that aren’t resolved, partly as there are as many ghosts in the novel as there are the living – particularly haunting is the constant appearance of Ida, a little girl without the back of her head who wants Mahony to play with her. While some balls are dropped, for this reader it didn’t really matter – I enjoyed going along for the ride. Frankly I would love to see a Mrs Cauley spin-off – she’s a brilliant character. I totally forgave any of the elements of the book that didn’t knit together, and look forward to reading more from Jess Kidd.

Himself is published by Canongate Books. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

#Book Review: Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor

reservoir 13The missing girl’s name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. In the photo her face was half turned away from the camera as though she didn’t want to be seen, as though she wanted to be somewhere else. She would be twenty years old by now but she was always spoken of as a girl”.

This short, tender, masterpiece tells the simple story of a village in the aftermath of a devastating tragedy that’s a weirdly familiar story. A 13-year-old slight blonde girl in a white hoodie vanishes while on holiday with her family in the Peak district over New Years. A media frenzy ensues, and then slowly drains away. But life must continue for the residents of the small town now synonymous with her disappearance. And so Reservoir 13 checks in regularly with a host of characters throughout the town, as weeks become seasons, become years. The slow unfurling of their lives against this backdrop simultaneously brings us a deeper knowledge of the individual characters and of the patterns of human life regardless of any one individual. This is a moving, hypnotic work well deserving of its place on the Man Booker longlist.

Reservoir 13 is published by 4th Estate. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

#Book Review: Days Without End – Sebastian Barry

days without end“A man’s memory might have only a hundred clear days in it and he has lived thousands. Can’t do much about that. We have our store of days and we spend them like forgetful drunkards.”

After fleeing the ravages of The Famine in Ireland, Thomas McNulty and his similarly pre-pubescent best friend John Cole, find themselves employment in a remote prairie tavern, dressing as women to dance with men who haven’t seen a real woman in years. As they grow older this illusion is harder to keep up, and McNulty and Cole sign up for the US army in the 1850s. The young men go on to fight in the ‘Indian wars’ and ultimately the American Civil War, at a time in history where they must keep the sexual side of their relationship secret.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It is undeniably beautifully written, and the use of the unreliable narrator creates an ambiguous space that gives a voice to those in history whose stories were cut short. The scenes of genocide are absolutely harrowing, and the evocation of the sprawling American landscapes are incredibly vivid. There is a feverish, dreamlike quality to much of the writing, familiar to fans of Barry’s The Secret Scripture (of which I am one). However, I felt like I was there more for the writing than the story, which never felt cohesive to me. The marriage and raising of Sioux baby Winona strained credibility too far. I know the intention is to say if horrendous genocide could happen, why not this? The sprawling nature of these days without end means that I never found proper resolution – while this is undoubtedly a beautiful literary novel, it is one without a satisfying conclusion.

Days Without End is published by Faber & Faber. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

#Book Review: Peach by Emma Glass

peachSomething terrible has happened to Peach, but she just wants life to go back to normal.

Something terrible has happened to Peach, but her parents are too wrapped up in themselves and their new baby to notice it.

Something terrible has happened to Peach, so she cleans herself up and self-administers stitches, tries to ignore the stench of meat and oil that follows her everywhere, tries to ignore flashbacks of a strangers gaping mouth and sausage fingers.

This short powerful book is visceral. Several of the passages are painful to read, they are so harrowingly descriptive. Peach starts off in shades of Eimear McBride and ends up in shades of Beckett, while always holding its own distinctive style. It is utterly absorbing – the reader is sucked into the impressionistic world (Peach is soft and easily bruised, sweet baby leaves powdered sugar on the lips that kiss him…) without question. A heart-breaking examination of the traumatic aftermath of sexual assault, it is astounding that this is a debut novel. Not an easy read, but a hugely important one.

Peach will be published by Bloomsbury in January 2018. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.