#BlogTour Review : The Thief On The Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas

If you are looking to inject some magic into your life this winter, then look no further than the enchanting and evocative read that is The Thief On The Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas published on 12th November by Head of Zeus.

It’s always a promising sign when I finish a book in day, pushing aside all other chores and commitments to lose myself entirely in it’s pages. It’s an even better sign when the plot, character and general magic of the book in question are still dancing around my head several days later. It was hard to pull myself from the world created by this book, but for all the right reasons.

Welcome to Kendrick’s Workshop; a firm specialising in the creation of enchanted dolls since 1820. The firm was established by four unique women; the Peyton sisters, whose own births were shrouded in an air of magic and mystery. The four sisters; Lucy Kendrick, Rebecca Jackson, Sally Botham and Jemima Ramsay all married, but Jemima died young and left no heirs.

Fast forward 200 years and Kendrick’s is still trading, it’s dolls, each bearing it’s own particular enchantment or ‘hex’ are collected across the world. The business is tucked away on the Eyot, a small river island in Oxford. Only descendants of the four founding sisters are employed here and the community that has grown up around the company is insular, cloaked in traditions, festival and an unchallenged hierarchy which hands all the power to men.

For despite the creation of the company being down to four gifted and powerful women, since their death only men are allowed to work as sorcerers with the workshop. Women are employed in various capacities such as dolls house creation, working in sales but they are forbidden from obtaining the prized position of making and enchanting the dolls the world covets.

Every male descendant of the Kendrick’s sister is bestowed one hex on his thirteenth birthday, and it is his to lay upon a doll of his creation. In a continuation of the patriarchal hierarchy that runs through this community each daughter’s hex is given to her father and only shared at a time of his choosing.

When we step onto the Eyot in 2020, there is a feeling of change in the wind. Conrad Kendrick, descendant of Lucy Kendrick is head of the firm. At war with his alcoholic brother Briar, Conrad is the undisputed ruler of the Eyot. His housekeeper Hedwig, is young and ambitious and is making herself indispensable by attending to Conrad’s every need. She is intelligent and wily and looks for opportunity to work within the system for her own empowerment and gain.

Persephone Kendrick, Briar’s daughter is frustrated. Deprived of her hex by her father she works in the company shop, but is desperate to fulfil her ambition of working as a Sorcerer. She, like many on the Eyot, is discontented with her lot on the island and is straining at the boundaries of what is accepted.

When a young, charismatic and talented doll maker by the name of Larkin arrives in their midst the community and it’s order is shaken to it’s core. Larkin seems to possess proof that he is descended from the younger and childless sister, Jemima. Conrad takes Larkin into the firm, employing him as doll maker. He is, however forbidden the knowledge of enchantment.

Larkin and Persephone, drawn together by a common goal, strike up and alliance. And when the rare and priceless doll ‘The Paid Mourner’ is stolen from under their noses the order of Kendrick’s is threatened. Conrad is of the belief that the doll has been taken by the fae folk, a long held belief in the community. Tales of the mysterious Thief on a winged horse have provided the basis of the customs and way of life on the Eyot for hundreds of years. It is the disappearance of the doll that provide the catalyst for the events that follow.

The Thief on the Winged Horse is a skilled tale of female empowerment, of women reclaiming their birthright in a world of tangled belief and tradition that seek to deny them. The story and it’s telling weave together a curious and beguiling mix of fantasy and ordinary. The tale might be set in the modern day but it is rich and alive with feelings of other worlds and a time gone by.

Here is a skilled and tangible feeling of reality and fantasy intertwined, a feeling that this all this magic, enchantment and unsettling beauty could be found amongst us, if only we had the skill to find it.

As well as being a tale of magic, it is a tale of duplicity and deviousness operating both within the close circle of the Eyot and the world beyond. It is a narrative driven forward by many varied and carefully constructed agendas and intrigues. It is a fable that teaches us about the imparting of knowledge and the power it brings. It has things to say about equality, what true equality means, and how the pursuit of equality is bound tightly to the welcoming of truth and self discovery.

The Thief on the Winged Horse is truly unique. It is a beauty of a book and it has been my absolute pleasure to support it’s journey into the world by taking part in these blog tour. I recommend that you inject a little magic into your lives this Christmas by getting this one on your wish list.

And there is more…

For other reactions and review to The Thief on the Winged Horse check out the rest of the blog tour listed below…

#BlogTour Review: When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott

Last year I read a beautiful, thought provoking book called The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott. Set in the period of and immediately after the First World War it was one of those books that stayed with me. It took me to places I hadn’t been and gave me knowledge and perspective I didn’t expect. So when Anne Cater invited me on to the blog tour for Caroline’s latest book When I Come Home Again I jumped at the chance.

In her second novel Caroline returns to the First World War. We begin in the final week of the war, when a soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. Scared, confused and totally alone, ‘Adam’ as he is named, has no memory of who he is or where he has been.

He is released to the care of James Haworth and his superior Dr Alan Shepherd, both specialists in treating men traumatised by war. Adam is taken to Fellside House in the heart of the Lake District where his therapy begins. Over the course of years there seems to be little progress. Adam shows an innate empathy for nature and skill for tending the overgrown gardens, as well as a talent for drawing but he is unable or unwilling to open the locked box of his past.

When, two years after the war, an article about Adam runs in the national press, three women come forward to claim him as their own. Celia is a mother, stuck in time, still believing that Robert her son will come home. Anna has been running the farm single handedly since her husband Mark left abruptly for war. Lucy is struggling under the weight of raising her brother’s children after he failed to return from the front.

Each women has a credible case, each women is convinced that Adam belongs in their lives. But Adam is unable to wholly connect with anyone. The only tangible clue to his past is the face of a women he draws over and over again, a woman he claims has revisited him in the woods that surround Fellside House.

The effects of war are beautifully and painfully presented here not only in the character of Adam and the other men who are treated at Fellside. Beyond just these collection of men Scott has created a cast of characters that are all touched, even years on, by the four years of fighting and absence. Each of the women who come forward to claim Adam have a story to tell; a story of loss, of struggle and of learning to cope in a world that will never be the same again.

Effects of the war radiate through and permeate each character and each strand of this beautifully woven story. James might be striving to fix the men in his care but he too has been left broken by the horrors of war. Haunted by his experiences in France and visions of the death of his brother- in- law, Nathaniel, James is slowly unravelling. His night terrors and daytime drinking are pushing his wife Caitlin further and further away. He is trapped in his memories as much as Adam is trapped by his inability to remember.

This novel is a sensitively and beautifully crafted tribute to those who survived. It examines in detail, through individual stories, the aftermath of war, the changes that it wrought on society, both on a national and individual level and acknowledges that loss, grief and death did not end on the final day of the war. This is a story of afterwards. Told without sentimentality but with swathes of empathy and realism, these characters tell their own tales of trying to move forward in a time when every has changes beyond recognition.

When I come home again is a portrait of memory. Of how each of us remember in different ways, how each of us construct and hold those memories close to help us cope with events and the world around us. This novel also asks the question of what happens when memories fail us. Not just by refusing to unlock their secrets, but also by distorting and dominating our present. Each character in this book is held in time by the past, one way or another.

This November, over 100 years since the end of The Great War, I heartily recommend you take some time to read this novel and consider the legacy of the war. I guarantee that this story will hold you still and will linger long. And that is just as it should be.

Rachel x

And there is more…

For more reactions and reviews, check out the rest of the blog tour, listed below…

Book Review: Cat Step by Alison Irvine

I have said it before and I will say it again, sometimes blogging and the book blogging community leads me to a book that I would never have stumbled upon otherwise. This very definitely the case with Alison Irvine’s recently published novel Cat Step. I am grateful to Jordon Taylor- Jones for my gifted copy. It arrived on Saturday and was read, cover to cover, by Sunday afternoon.

This is the story of Liz, a talented dancer who previously made her living and also found the love of her life working on cruise ships. Yet when we meet her that golden time seems long past. Recently arrived in Lennoxtown, Liz finds herself making a spilt second decision with far reaching consequences.

Her four year old daughter Emily is unwell, and has, after a fitful night, has fallen asleep in the car on the way to the local shops. Exhausted, harassed and unsupported, Liz decides to leave her daughter sleeping in the locked car while she runs into the shop. But when a thief tries to break in this decision comes to everyone’s attention and defines Liz’s arrival in the sleepy Scottish town.

Told from Liz’s perspective we see first hand the challenges a young and fragile mother faces as she tries to come to terms with a life she never expected and all the things she has lost. It is the absence of Emily’s father, Robbie that has brought Liz to this remote place, far from the support she has in her native London. And it is the pursuit of truths both in her own past and that of others that will either move her forwards or push her further under.

There is no doubt that Liz is struggling; struggling to connect with her young daughter, struggling to find direction in a life that hasn’t turned out the way she planned and struggling to find someone who she can trust to confine in and help her find a way through.

This is a novel that looks at the small choices we make every day, the choices that we make unwittingly, those actions we take at times of great change or under great pressure. This novel examines and highlights how those choices stack up and how they might appear to other people looking in. This novel focuses on how judgements attached to these choices can be life defining and life limiting and throw us onto a entirely different course.

Liz is a character who is entirely believable and familiar. Written with empathy and skill the author lays bare motivations which are easily identified. As a reader we follow the trajectory of Liz’s experiences and choices, sometimes with a sense of hope, sometimes with despair. The people she encounters in Lennoxtown give of themselves sparingly and only a piece at a time. At a time in her life when Liz needs, even if she can’t acknowledge it, a level of support and understanding the reader is left wondering is she will find the stability and answers she needs.

This is a simple story and yet at the same time one driven by complexity and confusion. This is the story of how life, experience and grief can blur all those red lines and make the unexpected and unthinkable a sudden and unlooked for reality.

Rachel x

Book review: Walter and Florence and Other Stories by Susan Hill

The thing I love about Bookish Twitter is that you discover new and unexpected gems every single day. A few weeks ago I responded to a tweet from writer Susan Hill, asking for book bloggers to be in touch. Under a week later I was sat in my garden, enjoying a copy of her latest collection of short stories.

Walter and Florence and Other Stories was published on 10th May 2020 by Long Barn Books, and for short story lovers it is a must read.

This is a collection of ‘real’ stories. This may seem a strange thing to say and maybe it is. But what I mean by this is that from the beginning I was enthralled by each tale , I was captured. I wasn’t looking for the deeper meaning, my attention wasn’t wondering, I wasn’t even pausing to make notes.

I was just enjoying that simple but honest pleasure of being told a good story.

The subject matter found within the collection is diverse, and showcases the author’s skill, experience and versatility as a writer. There is a gentleness, and a beguiling charm to the stories that are woven here. There isn’t a story in this collection which I was able to break away from.

To those of you who have read, and marvelled at Hill’s The Woman in Black it will come as no surprise when I tell you that the two ghost stories within this volume are special.

The title story Walter and Florence begins as the tale of a quiet domestic life. A couple drawn to each other, childless but happy; their marriage is the very model of ‘for better, for worse.’ But when one spouse dies, the other is left vulnerable. The ending is unexpected but triumphant. And steeped in the supernatural.

The Quiet House again centres around a widow. Lost, lonely and barely recovered following the death of his beloved, the unnamed widow takes refuge in the The Quiet House, trying to escape the demands of Christmas. But what he finds there is most unexpected. So too is what he discovers about himself.

There is a feeling in several of these stories of a reawakening. Of characters finding answers, or even asking new questions; a sense that a life they thought was mapped out for them might not be as secure as they thought. For example in Irish Twins we see Fern struggling to find her place in the world when the ties between her and her sister begin to break. This is the bond she has always relied on begins to give her life shape and meaning. How does she move forwards now?

And similarly Paula, the wife of Adrian, captured so perfectly in Hunger, finds moving to the country is not what she anticipated it would be. But the reality might something all together more liberating.

Each story has a clear sense of pace and purpose. Sometimes rooted firmly in the domestic, but never humdrum or dull, the characters are beautifully drawn. They speak to the reader and take the mind’s eye into their own world. This is never more true than in the case of the final story Reader, I Married Him.

This piece was published in a collection of stories of the same title, edited by Tracey Chevalier. This was a collection of works connected to and inspired by Jane Eyre, published by Harper Collins.

In this story Hill has painted a haunting, sometimes quite heartbreaking portrait of an ageing Duchess of Windsor. We find this infamous woman looking back on her life and the choices she made, with a raw frankness. It is a simple yet compelling challenge to the long held view of the manipulative femme fatale, who stole a king.

This is a collection of stories that will charm and entertain. They are written with authority. There is a sense of an author in charge of her craft throughout, drawing her audience in and holding them lightly in her hand. This is story telling at it’s best.

Rachel x

October Wrap Up – Escaping from the world…

It’s been a strange old October. The world shows no sign of getting any calmer and in general things feel trickier than at any point in the year. My reading, the book community and the friends I have within it seem like a focal and high point in my life at the moment. And I continue to be grateful for that.

In terms of blogging this month there has been the inevitable slowing of posts. I am working on roughly a post a week at the moment; the Autumn return to school necessitates a slow down! But the blog is still alive and kicking!! Just a wee bit slower!

I have been involved in some fantastic bookish events this month. High on this list was the Blog Tour for A More Perfect Union by Tammye Huf. This is a beautiful story of love that transcends barriers but also a study of true freedom and what it costs us.

I was thrilled to be able to take part in the cover reveal for Medusa Retold by Sarah Wallis, published by Fly on the Wall Press next month. I often say I don’t read enough poetry, but this myth interpretation is firmly in my sights.

Talking of November releases please don’t miss the unique and beautifully crafted novel by Catherine Cusset about the genius that is David Hockney! David Hockney – A life is published by Arcadia Books on 12th November.

One of the most beautiful and moving books I have read this year has been published this week by the wonderful BlueMooseBooks. Sharon Duggal’s Should We Fall Behind was a joy from the first sentence to the last; the perfect antidote to the craziness of the world around us. It is out now, and everyone needs a copy in their lives.

As well as new releases this has also been a month of dipping into the TBR pile and getting to those books that have been waiting for too long. I finally got around to polishing off Kate Atkinsons latest Jackson Brodie novel Big Sky, as always a pleasure. I read my first, and definitely not my last (!) Donal Ryan, the haunting All We Shall Know. And I was lost in the beauty that is Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie, the Women’s Prize nominee which deals with one fateful day in a tower block’s history; a day that will change the world forever.

And of course with Hallowe’en upon us October isn’t complete without some haunting reads. Tick off one long delayed visit to The Haunting of Hill House and an often trodden path to Wuthering Heights and spooky reads are accounted for.

I have also spent the last week looking forward. November promises to be a bumper month of reading and new releases. I am lucky enough to be part of four blog tours, all unmissable reads. Look out for the latest release from Caroline Scott. Following on from the wonderful Photographer of the Lost, Caroline returns to WW1 in her latest novel When I come home again. It is looming large in my mind still, and already causing a well deserved Twitter storm after it’s release earlier this week.

Dipping into the magical and the next two blog tour reads are The Thief On The Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas – perfect for fans of The Doll Factory and Once upon a river – and The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow. Any story that combines witches and suffragettes gets my vote!!

The final blog tour read ready for next month was the delightful How to belong by Sarah Franklin. Set in the Forest of Dean and populated with a cast of authentic characters this one was an absolute joy. I can’t wait to share my review.

My final book of October was a dip into my pile of 2021 proofs. I am squirrelling away information ready for my Most Anticipated Reads of 2021 blog posts later next month. And my goodness did I start my 2021 reading with a bang! I am still finding the words to describe The Push by Ashley Audrain, but this one is going to be HUGE!!!

So there ends the month of October. I have a few reads on the go which are hanging on in there and will pop in next months round up. Happy reading and stay safe.

Rachel x

Blog Tour Review: A More Perfect Union by Tammye Huf

Today I am thrilled to be taking my turn on the Blog Tour for A More Perfect Union by Tammye Huf, published by Myriad Editions . Thank you to Emma Dowson for my gifted copy and blog tour invite.

It’s 1848. In Ireland the potato famine has the country in it’s grip and families are being ripped apart. The combination of hunger, economic ruin and unjust British Rule is driving more and more Irish families to seek a life across the Atlantic.

When Henry O’Toole arrives in New York, it seems that anti- Irish feeling is as rife here as in the land he left. But when a violent twist of fate and a change of name pushes him in a different direction he finds himself in Virginia and a world he never knew existed. In amongst the booming cotton plantations of the South, Henry encounters the horror of slavery for the first time.

Establishing regular work on the Jubilee Plantation Henry falls deeply in love with Sarah, a house slave. Not long sold to this establishment, Sarah is mourning the loss of her family. The situation seems hopeless, their union is not only considered a moral abomination but also illegal.

And so begins a tale of developing feeling, of trying to establish a union when all the world is against you, and the inequalities within the relationship threaten to destroy it at every level. For Henry believes that he has known what it is like to live under unjust rule. He tries to compare his experiences back in Ireland, working for British landowners, to Sarah’s situation. And it is not long before he sees that comparison comes up short. For Sarah being a slave mean that every part of her life is controlled. What she eats, who she talks to, where she goes, who she marries. Despite his love and empathy Henry can never truly understand this.

Yet he is determined to try, and equally as determined to get Sarah away from the life she lives and make her a free woman, and his wife.

Whilst Sarah and Henry are at the heart of this story, this is a novel populated with vivid characters, all with their own unique stories to tell and all add a different dimension to the tale of this plantation and it’s place in history. There is Maple, cook and house slave, gifted to Miss Martha on the occasion of her marriage, and forced to leave her family behind. Each day she is tormented by the fear of what is happening to her mother and daughter; both left at the mercy of Master Jeremiah. Bessie, the old cook and childhood nurse of Master Johnson, now widowed and blind, who is set free in a perceived gesture of kindness but cannot comprehend life beyond the plantation walls and her family. Red, young and with fire in his belly, refusing to accept his lot and silently looking for a way to escape.

The plantation owner, Master Johnson, believes himself to be progressive and just. He claims his slaves are treated well, and while it is true he spares the lash more than most of his society, he still sees his slaves as no more than his property. The concern he has for their treatment stems from a desire to pacify the growing anti-slavery movement of the North rather than genuine concern for their welfare.

Here is a detailed, complex and beautifully drawn portrayal of a relationship tied down with complexities and opposed from all sides. Each individual story, each character, each carefully placed word within this web of beautiful prose, provides strength to it’s authenticity and power. It is a story of the greatest adversity and the struggle of love in the darkest of times.

It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to have had the chance to read this book, and to add my voice to it’s supporting blog tour. Tammye Huf, your book is a triumph and I wish it every success as it makes it’s way out into the world.

And there is more…

For more reviews and reactions to A More Perfect Union check out the blog tour below…

Book Review: David Hockney – A Life by Catherine Cusset

Sometimes you stumble across a book quite unexpectedly and you know it’s one you need to read . This exactly what happened when David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset winked at me on book twitter. Huge thanks to Anna Zanetti at Midas PR for my gifted copy

Published on 12th November by Arcadia Books this is a novel charting the life of Hockney, celebrated English Artist, from his childhood in Bradford, through the Art college years in London, hedonistic times in LA and back to his roots on the East Coast of Yorkshire.

This novel details beautifully the artist’s continuing search for reality, originality and creativity. Each section of Hockney’s life is laid bare with insight and clarity, drawing the artists own personality and emerging sexuality in to the narrative. Captured vividly and with a sense of place and purpose is Hockney’s continual determination to be true to his sense of self, both in his artistic process and in the way he lived his life.

Here is a portrait of an artist, ever evolving, working across two continents, redefining his boundaries, skills and understanding of the artistic process. Always refusing to compromise and following his creative urges rather than those widely accepted norms or expectations. Hockney and his art never stagnate and often challenge.

This novel has a prose that is authentic, a delightful combination of fact and fiction. It charts the triumphs but also the tragedies of Hockey’s life and career and how these events have made him both the man and artist we celebrate today. At the core of his story are his relationships, with lovers, friends and his supportive parents. Throughout a rapidly changing age Hockney’s own sexuality provides both inspiration and heart ache.

Throughout the book Hockney’s work and life are intertwined and inseparable. Life informs art and art informs life, both pushing him forward and fuelling the next stage of creativity and brilliance. I defy anyone not to read this book without Google close at hand. References to and the names of Hockney’s work litter these pages and it adds immeasurably to the reading experience when you see these works before you. Every canvas, every sketch, adds something to this novel and indeed the story of Hockney’s life.

For any one who wants to understand and appreciate a giant of the British Art world and watch an artist evolve in every sense of the word David Hockney: A life, is an inspired place to start. It is an ambitious undertaking that achieves it’s aim of providing a unique and compelling portrait of a supremely talented artist.

Rachel x

Book Review: Should We Fall Behind by Sharon Duggal

Bluemoose Books haven’t let me down yet. And in this year of 2020, when the rest of the world seems out of kilter, their unique commitment to publishing only women writers seems spot on.

Their latest title, published on 20th October Should we fall behind by Sharon Duggal, is yet another triumph. A testament to people, a patchwork of individual stories that weave together to form a community. Stories that sometimes go unheard, even untold but nevertheless form the bedrock of actions and reactions and affect the lives of others around them.

At the heart of this story is Jimmy. Young, troubled and homeless, he finally seems to find a human connection with another young homeless girl, Betwa. When Betwa disappears Jimmy finds himself drawn to the neighbourhood she has described, desperate to find the warmth and humility she has awakened within him.

Within this novel are a cast of people waiting to be found. Multigenerational, multicultural, these skilfully drawn characters all come together in one place. But each have different stories that have modelled and shaped them.

Here are a collection of lives that haven’t taken the course individuals have hoped. In each case familial relationships have both nurtured and disappointed; at times they have twisted, at times they have broken. Each character harbours their losses and regrets, there is a tangible sense of each holding themselves still and close , trying to not to crack as they get through each day.

The arrival of Jimmy within their community, a human being at his lowest ebb, acts as a catalyst. For Rayya, looking after her dying husband, watching the love of her life disappear before her eyes, her long buried maternal feelings are reignited and she reaches out with compassion and empathy.

Ebele, running from her past, protecting her young daughter, reacts with hostility and fear. While landlord, Nikos Makrides, can barely lift himself from his own grief and loss to feel anything at all.

With insight and clarity Duggal brings the community of characters together, woven tight with a gentle prose, sharpen with an edge of humanity and reality that brings some sense of resolution to each character. Here is a story that effortlessly pulls the reader into the depths of character’s hopes, dreams and despair. Here is a commentary on how we treat our fellow man, when our fellow man is in desperate need. This is a window on what individuals truly see when they encounter a homeless person or more specifically when they fail to see. Why, for example, do we equate possessions with actual human worth? When does a person stop being seen as a person? With intelligence and perception this writing sweeps away the myths surrounding street dwellers and forces us to look beyond what we think we see.

The relationship developing between Betwa and Jimmy , shows us the best of human connections. It is this relationship that reawakens him and gives him purpose, and it is a process repeated within the story of other characters . This novel is a web of human connection, radiating outwards in the most joyful way.

Thank you Bluemoose for the chance to read this special title, another gem in the crown.

Rachel x

September’s gone??! Here’s a quick wrap up!

So autumn is very much upon us and September seems to have disappeared in the blink of an eye. For me September is always about the start of the school year, always busy, but this year unsurprisingly it has presented it’s own unique challenges!!

As such the reading totals are way down on last month and the type of books I have read have varied enormously!!

For example, there have been a number of books which I think of as ‘dip in and out books’, books perfectly suited to grabbing when I have five minutes to indulge myself. Keeping me company throughout the whole month has been the glorious Poems to live your life by collected and illustrated by the wonderful Chris Riddell. It’s been the perfect bedside companion to busy days and early mornings.

Entirely different and accidental poetry and very light relief has been found in The beautiful poetry of Donald Trump by Rob Sears. Each poem is a little gem created by the author from actual Trump quotes. As with anything surrounding the current US President it is hilarious and scary in equal measure.

My final ‘dip in and out’ read has been the excellent The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla. This is a collection of experiences and essays by a multicultural cast of voices, focusing on what being a immigrant in Modern Britain really means. Illuminating, sometimes heartbreaking, this collection is likely to provoke every emotion going but it is an absolute must read.

Immigration seems to have been a bit of a theme in my reading this month. I started the month with the fabulous, if some what challenging Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar, part fiction, part fact this is an honest account of what it is like to grow as a Muslim in the USA.

And in a similar vein the month drew to a reading close with the beautiful The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim. My Instagram review can be found here

In a bid to escape the reality of daily news I have reawakened my habit of listening to an audiobook on the drive to work. I am almost at end of my life long love Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, performed by the talented Joanna Froggat. and l have also listened to this month’s book club pick Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

I have been involved in two cracking blog tours this month. One was the mammoth but delightful undertaking of Unto This Last by Rebecca Lipkin, a detailed and compelling retelling of the complex loves of John Ruskin.

The second was an absolutely fascinating series of essays focusing on female philosophers too long over looked and unappreciated. The Philosopher Queens by Lisa Whiting and Rebecca Buxton . It’s already on my Christmas Gifting list for this year!

I am sent so many fabulous books to read and review and I am genuinely appreciative and overwhelmed by them all. But I wanted to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to Camilla Elworthy from Picador. This year, thanks to her, I have had the pleasure to read some amazing books, including the incomparable Shakespearean by Robert McCrum; my Instagram review can be found here

But this month Camilla sent me a book that literally saved me. In all kinds of ways this has been a tough month but sinking into the pages of Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink was like being enveloped in a warm and book lined cloak. I am so grateful for the chance to read and review this book. Camilla, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You!

I have ended the month with two cracking books which have both come highly recommended and neither disappointed. I delighted in the short but deliciously dark Sisters by the super talented Daisy Johnson. And lost myself in the workings of the Royals with The Governess by Wendy Holden.

So there we have it; September’s reading laid bare. On to October…

Rachel x

Book Review – Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Since all this Covid madness began the one thing I have been missing hugely is hugs. Not being able to throw my arms around a friend or give a colleague a reassuring squeeze is just the hardest thing in the world. So if you, like me are missing your fix, get your hands on Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink, because this my friends is a book hug! Huge and heartfelt thanks to Camilla Elworthy at Picador for my gifted copy.

It’s not often these days I sit down to write a blog post with no notes. As I am reading I am usually scribbling away, trying to get my thoughts down. But this review has come from a place of love and instinct; I don’t need any notes to tell you this book spoke immediately to me.

Any book that has embraced and celebrated Rebecca and The Chronicles of Narnia within the first 10 pages is guaranteed to touch a special place within me. These are the books that I return to time and again, that are tied up within my life, woven into the fabric of growing up. So many familiar and favourite books are to be found here. The Cazalet Chronicles, for example provokes an almost identical reaction within me as it does the author; a beautifully constructed time-gone-by saga which gives more of it’s self every time you read it.

And there are books celebrated here that remind me of those I love. I have never read a Catherine Cookson in my life but these novels were the backdrop to my childhood, exchanged every other Sunday by my Mum and my Grandad, each new release eagerly awaited and devoured.

Cathy Rentzenbrink reads compulsively and with passion. I am told I am a quick reader, but I am in awe of her ability to devour three books a day. This book felt like sitting down with a kindred spirit and comparing notes. This isn’t a list of books the author has read; it isn’t a volume of put together reviews; it is a tale of how reading had underpinned, shaped and support a life, through all it’s challenges and joys. And I feel a deep connection with that.

You see reading has helped to build me and it always has the power to put me back together again. For me reading is like breathing. I need to read. In this world of box sets and social media the amount I read each year often seems to provoke constant comment, as if compulsive reading is some kind of disease or affliction. Maybe it is but like the author I am powerless to change now.

Cathy Rentzenbrink has made books her salvation and her career. It is a source of regret to me that no one ever told me and the teenage me never realised, that I could make books the centre of my professional life. Maybe my blog is part of the desire to address this. Or maybe it is way of fulfilling that desire to recommend books to complete strangers in libraries, in book shops and in public transport.

This book felt like coming home to an old friend. My reading list has grown beyond all measure and so has my bookish heart.

Rachel x