Catching up…

I was going to start this blog with an apology but then I had to stop myself. It is pretty pointless to apologise for things I can’t control, and I certainly haven’t been able to control the fact that life has just got in the way of blogging recently.

A new job, the inevitable Christmas term mounting chaos means that blogging has had to take a back seat. It is as simple as that.

Well, almost…

You see after a few weeks back at work, when the lazy hazy days of summer were firmly behind me I started to feel the pressure of blogging. Trying to fit in great reviews was a challenge and suddenly reading started to feel like a bit of a chore.

For the first time since my university days I looked around at the mounting pile of books and began to feel overwhelmed. Usually I will quite happily hoard reading material without any real thought of when or how I am going to get it all read; there is something liberating in just have a huge choice of books around me. But suddenly the liberty was vanishing and I was feeling the pressure.

The pressure was probably self imposed but it was real. I was waking up feeling guilty about ARCs I hadn’t read, I started avoiding reading certain books because I didn’t want to have to make notes or erudite comments.

In short reading was in danger of becoming a job, not a pleasure.

And that is something reading has never been to me.

And something I never want it to be.

So for a while I had to stop. Not stop reading but stop blogging.

I have kept up with my blog tour commitments, and will absolutely continue to do so but I have dramatically cut down on agreeing to others.

I haven’t requested an ARC for over two months. I won’t lie this has been HARD! On a superficial level I miss the thrill of book post and the chance to have a sneaky peek at greatness to come. So many times I have logged to Twitter and seen beautiful books by fabulous authors and my fingers have twitched over my email. But have restrained myself. I often have to have stern words, telling myself the book trolley is full…and the night stand…and the book shelves. I have to tell myself that I can’t read everything.

What I haven’t done is stop reading. I have given myself permission to read away from the pile, to read out of my self imposed order and to remind myself of the love of books again.

I feel like I have pulled myself back from a bit of a brink. There is no doubt I love blogging but I love reading more. And I don’t want to lose sight of that.

As a blogger I fully intend to stick around, but I have to admit to myself that I can’t take on every book written and sometimes a pause is a necessary thing.

In the last month I have read some cracking books, and I fully intend to write a catch up blog very soon. But if I don’t then the world won’t end…

Thanks for joining me on my Sunday ramble…

And KEEP READING!

Rachel x

Blog Tour Review: Ghoster by Jason Arnopp

Before I dive into Ghoster , let me extend my thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers and Orbit books for inviting me on the tour…

Wow! Well I’ve literally just finished Ghoster and I have to say my mind is blown!

I’m not really sure where to start…

Firstly Ghoster definitely defies all attempts to fit it neatly into a genre. I started out reading this thinking I was heading into a thriller… half way through I thought I was wrapped up in a ghost story…and by the end I wasn’t really sure where I had been taken!!!

This is a book which thrives on the unexpected and the confusion it creates. It takes the reader down a whole warren of rabbit holes, pushing back the boundaries of both reality and fiction.

When paramedic Kate Collins meets Scott Palmer she believes she has met the man of her dreams. After a whirl wind long distance romance she packs up her life in Leeds to move in with him on the south coast.

Only problem is that when Kate arrives she finds Scott has disappeared. His flat is empty and the only sign of life is Scott’s abandoned smart phone.

And so begins Kate’s desperate quest to discover what has happened to Scott. At first she believes she has been unceremoniously dumped, and it is hurt and anger that motivate her actions. But when unexplained phone calls, noises and damage in the flat begin to escalate, her fury begins to turn to concern and ultimately fear.

Hacking into Scott’s phone seems the logical thing to do but for Kate it is dangerous on so many levels. Prior to her meeting Scott Kate had a serious social media addiction, one that proved to have dire consequences for her paramedic partner and best friend Izzy. By entering Scott’s digital world Kate is reopening old wounds and breaking her own digital detox.

And the more she reveals the more sinister and, frankly down right weird the situation becomes. Nothing is what it seems and there are forces at play that no one seems to understand.

This novel is unlike anything else I have read this year. As I mentioned in my intro it defies classification. I wanted to write my review as near to finishing it as I could, quite simply because I felt that was the best way of putting in to words a true reaction.

Kate is definitely a troubled soul, as is Scott and other characters in the novel. At the heart of their problems is an over reliance on the virtual world and an addiction to online connections. There is certainly a warning within these pages about the danger of excessive internet use, of shunning reality in pursuit of some Instagram perfection.

But is that the whole story? I feel not, but putting my finger on what I am missing feels very tricky. There is no point I pretending that this novel is straightforward. It’s not!

I suspect that for every person that reads it, each will find a different perspective, a different message and a different interpretation of that very unique ending.

Certainly a novel to make to you think!

And there is more…

For more reactions and reviews check out the rest of the Ghoster blog tour. Details below!

Blog Tour Review – A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan

The weather has turned this week. It’s dark mornings, cosy nights and rain splattered windows abound in Cumbria. So A House of Ghosts was the perfect accompaniment to herald the arrival of Autumn.

Many thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me on the blog tour and to Zaffre books for my copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

It is Winter 1917 and the world has been turned upside down.

Thousands of young men have lost their lives, thousands more missing, presumed dead and equal numbers have returned home from The Great War bearing the burden of physical and mental injury. The country is cloaked in a collective grief and interest in spiritualism is on the rise.

Off the coast of England, in an old Monastery Lord and Lady Highmount have assembled an varied group of people together, hoping to contact their sons, recently killed in France.

The group includes not one but two celebrated mediums; Count Orlov, a displaced Russian, whose wife and child were killed as their boat to England fell prey to a U Boat, and Madame Feda. The gathering has also attracted the attention of intelligence officers, who have planted two agents in their midst. The mysterious ‘Donovan’, recently returned from serving in the trenches, a man not easily shaken, and Miss Kate Cartwright.

Kate too has lost her brother in the war and is attending the gathering with her parents, both desperate to contact their fallen son. Kate too is a gifted, if somewhat reluctant, spiritualist. She continually sees spirits all around her, and has inherited the FitzAubrey glass, a mirror which shows the dead and sometimes the future.

Add to the gathering a shell shocked solider, Simms, a cad of an ex-fiancé and a socialist Butler. Then top it off with a raging snow storm and the scene is set for a intriguing and dark tale. Secrets are closely guarded in all quarters and the host of the gathering appears to be enemy number one.

I have to start my reaction to this book by saying that this week has been ‘off the chart hectic’ away from all things blog and book related…

…and I still managed to devour A House of Ghosts in just over 2 nights. It is the kind of book that from the first page gets into your head, under your reading skin and just pushes you forward to the last page.

Very definitely a supernatural tale, there are spirits surrounding the narrative from the earliest chapters, this is also a murder mystery, a family saga and a story filled with intrigue.

As the story unfolds over just a short period of time the action and plot are pacy. There is a feeling of inevitability and tension right from the off. The background of the war years contributes to the feeling that people are behaving in unexpected and unconventional ways. These are unprecedented times which are challenging all members of society, whatever their background and beliefs.

Strong characters and strong emotions carry the story forward. It has a sense of purpose and place with a unique setting and a gripping storyline.

Kate is a strong female lead. Despite the challenges and grief in her life she exhibits a core of steel. She is Donavan’s intellectual equal and the novel is all the stronger for it.

This book is the perfect read for the encroaching storms and long awaited firesides of October. A truly atmospheric read.

Rachel

And there is more…

To read other reviews of this fabulous book, check out the rest of the blog tour. Details below!

Blog Tour Review- An Author on Trial by Luciano Iorio

It’s a while since I reviewed or even read some non fiction, so I have been eagerly anticipating this fascinating Blog Tour Review of An Author on Trial by Luciano Iorio.

This is the story of Giuseppe Jorio, the father of our author. An Italian school teacher and writer , working post and pre World War Two, Jorio’s first novel La Morte di un Uomo (Death of a Man), published in 1939 was well received.

However the work he truly laboured over was an account of his passionate and extramarital affair, conducted and concluded before the birth of his son. Il Fuoco del Mondo (The Fire of the World) was the novel into which Jorio poured his heart and soul. The passionate affair that had been conducted with a younger woman called Tina, led to an unwanted pregnancy and a back street abortion. Stricken by these events Jorio changes his mind about wanting children, was reconciled with his wife and as a consequence his son Luciano was born.

Il Fuoco del Mondo, Jorio’s third novel, was rejected by his publisher. Finished and submitted after the war, the publisher recognised what it’s author didn’t; a growing conservatism and level of censorship from the Christian Democracy party, openly fuelled by the Vatican. When Jorio decided to self publish, he was arrested, his book seized and he faced charges of obscenity.

So began a six year battle to clear his name and defend his book. It was a battle which would encompass five trials, as the case was thrown backwards and forwards from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. Jorio was the first author to be convicted of obscenity in pre-war Italy and the only one to be handed a prison sentence.

The case hinges on whether this book could be classed as ‘a work of art’ and therefore exempt from the rules surrounding obscenity. It is clear through the personal papers, letters and diaries bequeathed to his son after Jorio’s death this novel was considered by the author as his masterpiece. To have it dismissed publicly as nothing more than obscenity was something Jorio never recovered from either professionally or privately.

Some years after the trials Jorio published his book in a ‘purged’ version, with all words consider obscene cut out. Accompanied by a pamphlet detailing his struggle Jorio called this work ‘Umana.’

As his son takes us through his father’s life a portrait emerges of a committed writer, but also a torment and difficult man.

Luciano himself admits that his relationship with his father was often difficult and towards the end of his life somewhat fractured. Luciano seems to struggle to come to terms with the fact that his existence is often seen by his father as a direct result of Tina’s abortion.

Luciano is honest about his father’s short comings and shows us a picture of a man who was a times self absorbed, without being self aware. Through his father’s writing Luciano is trying to find a place, a peace and understanding.

A short, but fascinating book highlighting how art can fall prey to circumstance and politics. And how much of one’s heart and soul a writer pours into there work.

Rachel

Blog Tour Review – The Seagull’s Laughter by Holly Bidgood

Today I take my turn on the Blog Tour for an absolute gem of a book. Huge and heartfelt thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me on the tour and to Wild Pressed Books and Holly Bidgood for a copy of The Seagull’s Laughter in exchange for an honest review.

This is a book which spans both timeline, place and genre, bringing together different stories and different strands to create a beautiful telling of human resilience and self discovery.

At it’s beginning and indeed it’s heart it is the story of Malik, a young Greenlandic man, living and working a traditional and quite solitary life. Born in the years following the Second World War to a Greenlandic mother and an English Arctic explorer named Rasmus, Malik has always felt and treated as an outsider, a misfit. His unique colouring and his one black, one blue eye seem to symbolise his mixed heritage and his own uncertainty about his place in the world.

We meet Malik in 1973, when a strange man, bird like in appearance, visits Malik to tell him the father he has never met has died. Having lost his mother and, being estranged from his young daughter, Malik takes the stranger, the man we come to know as Birdie, up in his offer to return to England with him for the funeral.

So begins a strange odyssey, a journey Malik undertakes to explore his roots and attempt to find answers to his past and ultimately his place in the world. Accompanying him is a traditional Greenlandic spirit guide, Eqingaleq, seen and acknowledged only by Malik himself. A comforting steer through his life, Eqingaleq has a strange habit of disappearing just when you think that Malik might be most in need of him.

Malik finds himself in England, unsure of his purpose, without resources and unable to speak the language. It is the rather dutiful kindness of his father’s family, of the wife Rasmus betrayed all those years ago, that enable him to start to fashion a life for himself.

But this arrangement is doomed not to last. The bonds are too fragile and there is too much that Malik doesn’t understand to make this a permanent home. With the ongoing visits from the increasingly sinister Birdie and unwelcome discoveries Malik is once more forced out onto his lonely journey.

Fate brings him into contact with Martha and Neil. As a young unmarried mother, on the run from a violent partner and a gay man, trying to escape prejudice and hatred, they too are seeking a safe place in the world. Drawn to Malik they invite him to join them on their journey north, to the Island of Shetland.

This book is a journey of discovery. The narrative works across two time frames. The story of Rasmus, told in the third person breaks down the relationship between himself and Ketty, Malik’s mother, providing a level of context and understand vital to Malik’s story.

The narrative of the ‘present day’ is told in the first person, allowing us inside the struggles and experiences of first Malik and then Martha. It paints a vivid picture of a small group of misfits, all seeking to be true to their souls, all facing challenges and ultimately looking to find their place in the world.

Through their journeys we explore the age old questions of heritage and belonging. Bidgood explores the ideas surrounding what we gain from our parents, the choices we make about whether we choose to embrace or overcome our heritage. Watching Malik struggle to get to grips with the English language we come to realise that it is more than a collection of words; that a language is cloaked in and made up of unwritten rules about cultural norms and society. In the same way the Greenlandic folklore, so beautifulLu woven through the narrative, reflects the deep running veins of family heritage and tradition.

This is an accomplished and unique novel. Beautifully constructed and skilfully written, it is a rallying cry to all those on a journey of discovery, those looking for a time and place to call home.

And there is more…

For other views of this charming and unusual book check out the other #BlogTour stops, all listed below.

Visit to ‘The Book Lounge’ in Kirkby Lonsdale

My local town Kirkby Lonsdale is without a doubt a fabulous place to live. It is home to a thriving community, excellent eateries, beautiful scenery and a small but perfectly formed high street, filled with unique and independent shops.

Just over a year ago Kirkby welcomed new addition, a fantastic book shop The Book Lounge. And #BookShopDay seems the perfect time to tell you all about it.

The Book Lounge, Kirkby Lonsdale

The Book Lounge was established by Valerie Laycock after she took voluntary redundancy from her job as a school librarian at a school in Lancaster.

Starting by selling second hand books, which arrived by the pallet load, each box a book-filled surprise, the shop has steadily grown over the past year of opening.

Valerie now stocks a small range of new books, many written by local authors, including authors from Casterton, Kirkby Lonsdale, Blackpool and Lancaster. There is also an impressive range of book related gifts, (I may have indulged!)…

…as well as a beautiful and impressive selection of Valerie’s own book related crafts and greetings cards, sold under the brand name Valerie Ann Crafts. I can’t wait to take delivery of my handmade Bookish Advent Calendar!!

Valerie’s passion for reading and her enthusiasm for spreading a love of books to younger generations shines through as we sit and chat. Above our heads is a very impressive collection of signed books that Valerie has collected after hosting many author events.

In her previous role Valerie was never happier than when she managed to set a young person off on their reading journey and foster a life long love of learning. She is very clear that the process of sharing books is a two way street. She recalls how pupils harangued her for months to read the Twilight Books, before she finally relented and found herself hooked.

One of Valerie’s obvious frustrations is how hard it is to get her hands on second hand young adult fiction; a genre very close to her heart. Providing a good quality reading experience for her younger customers is extremely important to Valerie and was a key driver in her stocking new fiction.

Her work to inspire and foster a love of reading continues in her new role. She is currently engaged in a series of local book school visits, working alongside local author Danny Rurlander. Danny’s recently published debut novel Spylark is the story of Tom, a boy recovering from a accident who uses his drone to escape his reality. But when the drone uncovers something sinister the adventure begins. Danny’s own website www.dannyrurlander.com provides more information on the places within the novel. Set in the Lake District it is truly a way of bringing books to life.

Everything about Valerie’s beautiful shop oozes a true love of reading. From the cozy seating areas, welcoming fire, to the funky counter made entirely of books which took Valerie 3 days to create!

And don’t miss the ‘ Book Stairs’, each a personal favourite of either Valerie or one of the many English Teachers she has worked with over the years.

The Book Lounge might be a new addition to the town but it is very important, and there are exciting plans afoot. As part of the town’s annual Christmas Market Weekend The Book Lounge intends to embrace the magical theme. They will be decorating the shop and it’s alley within the theme of Harry Potter and welcoming a magician to the shop.

So if you find yourself in our neck of the woods, make sure you find time for a bit of book love in the Book Lounge, where you will find a warm welcome and some cracking Coffee and Cake!

Rachel x

P.S You can find The Book Lounge on Twitter @The_Book_Lounge

Blog Tour Review : Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

This may not be the first blog tour I have taken part in; it is certainly not the first Blog Tour I have published on the blog but this one has a special place in my heart. The Ten Thousand Doors of January was one of the first tours I signed up for; thank you Tracy Fenton! It was also the first very first book I was lucky enough to receive in exchange for a review.

So this book was always going to be a little bit special, and that was before I had even got past the excitement of the truly gorgeous cover. The premise of this book was so intriguing. As a child I was never happier diving in to a book, especially a book that took me into strange, magical words. I read and reread Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood books until the covers fell off. The books were only saved from complete destruction by my discovery of C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.

So the idea of The Ten Thousand Doors, to Ten Thousand World was a tale too good to miss…

This is the story of January Scaller. At the beginning of the 2oth Century she is living as the ward of the engimatic, mysterious and wealthy Cornelius Locke. Her father is employed by Mr Locke to travel the world collecting treasures and curios, strange and exotic. January is left, well cared for but lonely amongst a large and curious colletion of artefacts. With her dark skin and enquring mind January feels equally out of place. She accepts Locke’s kindness but is forever questioning her place in his house and the wider world.

Locke lives a strange life. As a member of a strange and secret society his obsession with the usual seems to extend to every area of his life. He holdS January close; her social circle is limited to the local grocers boy Sam, a rather dry governess, and later a loyal but quite terrifying dog.

Her childhood is one of disjointed discoveries about the world around her and herself, including the revelation that she can conjure other worlds through writing…

Hooked yet? It gets better…

Then,one day, out of the blue, Jane arrives. Powerful, unconventional she is a lifeline for January. She claims to have been sent by Jane’s father and there is an immediate connection. When her father disappears and January refuses to accept Mr Locke’s certainty that he is dead, her sheltered life at Locke Hall is comes to and abrupt end and her own adventures begin.

The discovery of a strange book and the power within its pages throws January on to a quest into the mysteries of the world around her and the hidden details of her past.

Just how many doors are there open in this world? Where do they lead and why are so many people associated with Mr Locke so keen to close them?

Here is a story which celebrates the power of words, the power of books and the power of the unknown, a power which can take us beyond ourselves. It is multilayered, a feast of stories within stories. It is a study of how the fear of the unknown has the power to destroy possiblities and how a mind that refuses to open will stifle and threaten change and beauty.

The doors within the book represent this kind of change and the drive to shut them is seen as way of maintaining stability and keeping power and knowledge in selective hands, often at the expense of what is right and true.

There is a focus on the complexity of relationships both within families, through the need to understand and embrace our heritage and through the realisation that those closest to us don’t always operate in our best interests.

This novel almost defies description and definition. It is so many things; it is an adventure, a fantasy, a beautiful love story but also, importantly, a social commentary. In a time when the world seems to be shutting doors, feeding fear and is intent on putting up walls, this novel is an antidote to small minds and insular thinking.

And there is more…

For more reaction and reviews to The Ten Thousand Doors Of January check out the rest of the tour…