The Lady of the Ravens- Joanne Hickson

There is a plethora of books to choose from about the Tudor era at the moment, detailing the lives of those involved in the court of Henry VIII, so it was refreshing to stumble upon this novel which provides a different perspective; this time centred during the reign of King Henry VII.

“When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive.”

The story of the beginning of the Tudor period is told through the eyes of Giovanna, known as Joan, who is lady-in-waiting to Henry’s wife Elizabeth. Through her story, the reader is allowed glimpses into court life, whilst seeing her own relationships with her family develop.

Joan is an extremely likeable character and highly thought of by both Elizabeth and King Henry. Desperate for the new sovereign to prosper, Joan puts great faith in the adage that while the ravens protect the Tower of London, the monarchy will be safe.

The ravens provide a consistent thread throughout the novel; a constant reminder of the links between each of the principal characters while the relationship between Joan and Sim, a young boy who she takes into her care who shares her love of the birds, is a heartwarming element of the story.

Equally compelling is the developing bond between Joan and Richard Guildford, a man whom she at first holds in contempt, but who later becomes her husband due to the necessities of court expectations.

Hickson writes with an accessible style but one which is clearly well researched and based on historical fact. A fascinating read!

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee- Casey Cep

Harper Lee’s legacy; her incredibly successful, yet her only published novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, means her name will always be revered in literary terms. Nonetheless, it has remained something of a mystery until now why she failed to publish any further work. 

In Furious Hours, Casey Cep reveals a fascinating insight into the author; whose passion for writing never waned, but who found herself ultimately unable to produce that elusive second novel, despite holding in her grasp a story that would no doubt have been another best-seller.

Furious Hours is divided into three sections, the first providing the background to the Reverend Willie Maxwell and his heinous crimes which ultimately went unpunished, the second detailing the life of the reverend’s then lawyer, while the third provides an in depth portrait of the woman Lee became after the publication of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

The three parts inevitably intertwine, providing a fascinating insight not only into the story, but also the private life of both Lee and her close friend Truman Capote.

A Spark of Light- Jodi Picoult

‘The Center for women’s reproductive health offers a last chance at hope – but nobody ends up there by choice.

Its very existence is controversial, and to the demonstrators who barricade the building every day, the service it offers is no different from legalised murder.

Now life and death decisions are being made horrifyingly real: a lone protester with a gun has taken the staff, patients and visitors hostage.

Starting at the tensest moment in the negotiations for their release, A Spark of Light unravels backwards, revealing hour by urgent hour what brought each of these people – the gunman, the negotiator, the doctors, nurses and women who have come to them for treatment – to this point.

And certainties unwind as truths and secrets are peeled away, revealing the complexity of balancing the right to life with the right to choose.’

Fans of Jodi Picoult will know she is not one to shy away from controversial subjects and A Spark of Light follows the usual trend. The central character, Wren, is a fifteen year old who finds herself in the midst of a hostage situation at a controversial abortion clinic in Mississippi. Her father, Hugh McElroy is a hostage negotiator called to the scene.

What unfolds is an intriguing examination of the conflicting views on the topic of abortion told through the eyes of the characters as the tale unfolds from the present day before taking us back in time to reveal how each came to hold their opinions.

Picoult handles the subject matter objectively and sensitively, allowing the reader to see both sides of the story and draw their own conclusions. A thought- provoking read.

Prosecco & Promises- A L Michael

Prosecco and Promises Blog Tour Week 1 (3)

I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for A L Michael’s latest offering ‘Prosecco & Promises.

Meet Mia: an unforgettable heroine learning the meaning of life and love on a beautiful Italian island. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Lindsey Kelk and Lucy Vine

Mia’s dad has always been her idol. Now, she faces losing him and he is insisting that she leave England to visit her mother’s family on the Italian island of Ischia.

Arriving on the island, Mia is embraced by the warm, crazy relatives she hardly knows. Despite her doubts about the trip, it is in Italy that Mia discovers connections to a part of her life that’s been missing, and during the sun-soaked days and steamy nights Mia falls for handsome local Salvatore. But as the day of her departure draws nearer can she risk having her heart broken twice in one summer?

Review:

This is a deliciously delightful novel. The main character, Mia, has promised to fulfil her father’s dying wish by returning to the beautiful Italian island of Ischia, the place where her Italian mother grew up. Mia’s mother died in a car accident when she was young and when her father discovers that his cancer has returned, he asks her to reconnect with her Italian family.

On arrival in Ischia, Mia finds herself battling with her emotions and surrounded by family members she barely knows; some of whom are desperate to reconnect to her, while her grandmother can barely bring herself to look at her and refuses to speak.

Mia takes off into the hills and there she discovers a place that jolts memories from the past- an old shop selling antiques that she remembers from her childhood. When she steps inside, she encounters Salvatore for the first time.

As the story develops, we learn more about Mia and how her life experiences have moulded her character. She appears moody and aloof, angry and bitter, shaped by the grief of losing those closest to her and yet there is always a hint of a softness within, if only she would allow it to surface.

This is a novel about love, loss, family ties and rediscovering yourself and what you believe in.

Prosecco Wide

 

Book Spotlight

Title: Prosecco and Promises

 

Author Name: A. L. Michael

 

Previous Books: Cocktails and Dreams

 

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 

Release Date: 12th February 2018

 

Publisher: Canelo

 

Cover Image: 

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If you love Prosecco and Promises, why not read more about Mia’s best friend Savvy in Cocktails and Dreams? Out now!

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Author Bio: A.L. Michael is hurtling towards the end of her twenties a little too quickly. She is the author of 10 novels. Her most recent collection of books, The Martini Club Series, started with Cocktails and Dreams, to be followed by Prosecco and Promises, and Martinis and Memories. She likes to write about difficult women. Well, they say to write what you know. Andi works as a Content Writer, as well as a therapeutic facilitator. She has a bunch of degrees in stuff to do with writing, and wrote her MSc dissertation on the power of creative writing in eating disorder recovery. She truly believes stories can change your life.


Author Photo: author pic

Author Social Media Links

Twitter: @AlMichael_

Facebook: A.L. Michael

Website: A. L. Michael

 

From Rome with Love- Jules Wake

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Although part of a series, this can be read as a standalone novel.

Lisa is planning a trip to Rome to return a ring found among her grandmother’s possessions to her estranged father. Having organised the trip with her Italian friend Giovanni, she is horrified to discover on the flight that Will, a mutual friend who once broke her heart, has invited himself along under the guise of a business trip.

However, when Giovanni’s plans go awry and Lisa finds herself alone in the eternal city, she finds herself relying more and more on Will’s help in finding her father and slowly but surely, the barriers begin to come down.

The author, Jules Wake, creates vivid images of Rome, weaving in the sights and sounds of the city with ample references to culture, food and, of course, wine!

The plot takes an interesting twist towards the end of the novel, adding intrigue to what otherwise would have been a standard romance. Worth a read.

Rome is where the heart is- Tilly Tennant

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Kate is in need of a change of scenery. Unceremoniously dumped by her husband, she decides it’s time to broaden her horizons and do some travelling; something previously restricted during her marriage.

She’s always wanted to visit Rome and, in doing so, begins an adventure and something of a journey of self discovery, with the odd embarrassing disaster along the way!

Enter Italian policeman Alessandro- who rescues Kate one evening after she falls asleep on the Spanish Steps after consuming too much wine- and the stakes suddenly become higher. Will she succumb to Italy (and Alessandro’s) charms?

This is a delightful easy read with likeable characters. The author Tilly Tennant perfectly depicts the eternal city and weaves the storyline effortlessly, examining the relationships between Kate and her sisters and the central character’s own insecurities as she contemplates a new romance.

A perfect summer page-turner!

You Will Not Have My Hate- Antoine Leiris

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Antoine Leiris lost his wife Helene in the Bataclan attack in November 2015. Days after her murder, he posted an open letter to the terrorists on Facebook, writing the immortal line ‘Vous n’aurez pas ma haine’ in an incredible show of dignity and restraint in the face of his loss.

You Will Not Have My Hate is a raw and powerful testimony of Leiris’ life in the days and weeks after the attack. Despite his composed Facebook post, we learn of his struggles to contemplate raising his 17 month old son alone.

The details of his attempts to maintain a regular, daily routine, whilst remembering ‘mama’ by singing songs and looking at photographs is heartbreaking and yet throughout, the reader is filled with a sense of admiration for a man who vows to continue living life for the sake of his son and the woman he has loved and lost.

He is inundated with letters of support and mothers at his son’s nursery rally round providing daily meals on a rota basis, all with the best of intentions, but ultimately adding to his sense of hopelessness.

Yet despite the despair, the reader draws immense inspiration from Leiris’ remarkable courage and determination.

Truly exceptional.

The Fifth Letter-Nicola Moriarty

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This is a slow burner which ratchets up to breakneck speed by the end!

The tale begins with the story of how the four girls came to be best friends, taking the reader back to high school and introducing Joni as the main protagonist of the tale.

Fast-forward several years and the four friends find themselves sharing a run-down beach house on an annual trip away where, after a few glasses of wine, Joni suggests they should each write a letter, revealing something about themselves they haven’t already shared with the group.

This ultimately becomes a true test of friendship as a web of suspicion and intrigue plagues the remainder of the mini-break and threatens to destroy the bonds that have been so strong over the years.

When a mysterious fifth letter is discovered in the dying embers of the fire, written by one of the group who then had second thoughts and tried to destroy the evidence, the plot thickens.

Someone in the group harbours potentially dangerous thoughts towards one of the others and Joni resolves to determine exactly who, with almost disastrous consequences for them all.

With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK for an advanced copy.

A Magical Venice Story: The Girl of Glass- Holly Webb

This is the latest offering in the ‘Magical Venice’ series by Holly Webb, although it can be read as a standalone story as its characters are unique to this tale. Marketed at readers aged 9 and upwards, this is a beautiful tale for children and adults alike.

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Mariana lives on the Venetian island of Murano with her glassmaker father, stepmother and sister Eliza, who is seriously ill. While Mariana longs to learn the art of glass making, her father refuses to teach her and instead she spends her time travelling to mainland Venice in search of the ‘perfect potion’ to cure her ailing sister.

A series of events turns the lives of the whole family upside down and Mariana finds herself in charge of protecting a glass doll made in Eliza’s image by her father in an attempt to appease her distraught stepmother. When this plan goes awry, both girls find themselves stationed on the mainland in a palazzo where magic and danger are never far away!

Published on 9th March 2017. With thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Children’s Group for an advanced reading copy.