The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen by Juliet Ashton

The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen

Every year for the past four years that I’ve been blogging I’ve been privileged to spend an evening at Simon and Schuster in the company of wonderful authors including Juliet Ashton. You can read about the most recent of those evenings here. Consequently, when Megan Denholm at EDPR got in touch to invite me to participate in the blog tour for Juliet Ashton’s latest novel, The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen I was thrilled to accept.

I loved Juliet Ashton’s The Woman at Number 24 which I reviewed here and The Sunday Lunch Club, my review of which you can see here.

The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen was published by Simon and Schuster on 26th December 2019 and is available for purchase through these links.

The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen

The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but Cherry Blossom Mews is a miraculous place. It’s somewhere that finds you, rather than the other way around.

Sadie McQueen has leased a double fronted space in this small cul de sac in a culturally diverse corner of central London. The cobbles muffle the noise of double-deckers roaring past the arched gates. Turn right and you are in a futuristic maze of corporate glass monoliths. Turn left and you see a wide street with many different houses. Towering above the mews are the degenerating tower blocks of an infamous estate. The old folks home and the nearby school are both in need of TLC; the private members’ club that set up shop in a listed Georgian building has been discreetly refurbished at huge expense.

Into this confusion comes Sadie. She fell in love with the street the moment she first twisted her ankle on its cobbles. Her double-fronted unit is now a spa. She has sunk all her money into the lease and refurbishment. She’s sunk all her hope into the carefully designed treatment rooms, the calm white reception space, the bijou flat carved out of the floor above.

Sadie has a mission to connect. To heal herself from tragedy. Sadie has wrapped the mews around her like a warm blanket, after unimaginable loss and unimaginable guilt. Her hard-won peace is threatened, not only by the prospect of the mews going under but by a man aptly named Hero who wakes up her comatose heart.

Sadie has a lot to give, and a lot to learn, not least that some ghosts aren’t ghosts at all.

My Review of The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen

Sadie’s been through a lot, but life isn’t necessarily about to get any easier.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen. Initially I didn’t feel the same emotional attachment I have with Juliet Ashton’s writing in the past, as it took me a while to adjust to the number of characters, but before long she had bewitched me and when I realised I had found tears in my eyes on several occasions I knew I’d become as captivated as ever.

It’s quite hard to define what makes Juliet Ashton’s writing so appealing. Anyone who has read her before will know that the people in her stories are always vivid and real, flawed and human, so that they could be part of a circle of friends for any reader, but there’s an indefinable magic here woven amongst the 80 year age span. The small consistent setting of Cherry Blossom Mews contains a microcosm of society that I adored. Even Noel the dog has a personality and all life is here with relationships as messy and convincing as any in the real world. Chloe appealed to me most, but every single person represented someone I could relate to or I feel I have met in the past. From feeling slightly apart at the very beginning, Juliet Ashton made me care about each and every one of them.

The setting of Cherry Blossom Mews is inspired so that there is a fantastic consistency of place. It feels like a beating heart at the centre of London. Indeed, I’d really rather like to move in. I loved the depiction of the tree after which Cherry Blossom Mews is named, and the significance of the tree as the narrative progresses makes it yet another vibrant ‘character’. I can’t add more without spoiling the plot but its position in the centre of the courtyard emphasises its significance to the story and the people living there.

And what a plot there is in The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen. So many of the events completely took my by surprise and I found myself exclaiming aloud. This is a real roller-coaster of a narrative. I simply did not predict so many elements and yet they are completely fitting and rewarding.

However, I think what appealed to me most about The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen is that the themes presented are ultimately positive and heartwarming. The exploration of what truly makes a family is intriguing and Juliet Ashton manages to depict love and friendship without cloying sentimentality whilst ensuring an entertaining and uplifting read. Regret, love, addiction, parenting, relationships, jealousy and trust added in to the mix provide actions and experiences that enable any reader to find a theme that resonates with their own experiences or beliefs.

The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen is enormously satisfying. I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed between its pages. It’s a book I wish I hadn’t actually read yet as I think it would be perfect to take on holiday or to read on a cold winter’s afternoon because it feels both real and entertaining. Smashing stuff!

About Juliet Ashton

Juliet Ashton (c) Charlie Hopkinson

Juliet Ashton was born in Fulham and still lives in London. She writes under a variety
of names, including her real name, Bernadette Strachan, and as Claire Sandy. Juliet
is a former voiceover agent to stars including Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. She is
married and has one daughter.

You can find out more by following her Juliet on Twitter @julietstories.

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She Ran Away From Love by Mawson

She Ran Away From Love front cover

I was delighted to be asked by Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources if I would like to participate in the blog tour for She Ran Away From Love by Mawson because I loved and reviewed another of Mawson’s books, It’s a Bright World to Feel Lost Inhere.

She Ran Away From Love.png

She Ran Away From Love is available for purchase here.

She Ran Away From Love

She Ran Away From Love front cover

The Light of Love pours down on Frilly. It shines so brightly that she quails and runs away. Upset with herself for feeling scared, she wakes her good friend Mawson and pours out her confusions. She wants to learn how to be bold and is convinced that she can do this by going on a quest. With muddled help from Mawson she sets off into the great Out There. But is a quest to find oneself really the answer?

My Review of She Ran Away From Love

Frilly is afraid of the light of love.

Those who know my reviews will expect me to make a complaint to begin with here because there’s quite a mix of upper and lower case letters at times in She Ran Away From Love when they are not grammatically appropriate which should annoy me. However, instead, I felt this technique mirrored the confusion Frilly is feeling about her identity and allowing herself to love so that it’s a positive and not a negative.

I admire the themes explored her as She Ran Away From Love has the appearance of a child’s book but it has resonance for adults. I laughed aloud at Mason’s attempts to meditate and teach Frilly mindfulness as her concentration wanders to food, just as mine does in similar situations. The concepts of finding your own happiness, taking a chance, friendship and identity are explored through humour and sensitivity.

She Ran Away From Love is a cute little book about being brave, taking a chance and finding yourself that I enjoyed reading. The photographs of Mawson and Frilly add to that enjoyment too.

About Mawson

Mawson writer bear

Mawson, a big hearted, soul searching teddy bear, is here to help. He is one of this bright world’s few Writer-Bears. He speaks about Being One’s Best in an world that is often baffling – and not only for bears. He is often muddled about things (well, he is a bear). But he is always confident that things are going to turn out All Right.

You can visit Mawson’s website and find him on Twitter @mawsonbear and Instagram for more details as well as with these other bloggers:

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The Other You by J. S. Monroe

The Other You

It’s a real honour to be part of the blog tour for The Other You by J.S. Monroe on publication day and I’d like to thank Vicky Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to participate and for sending me a copy of The Other You in return for an honest review.

Published by Head of Zeus today, 9th January 2020, The Other You is available for purchase here.

The Other You

The Other You

Is he who you think he is?

Kate used to be good at recognising people. So good, she worked for the police, identifying criminals in crowds of thousands. But six months ago, a devastating car accident led to a brain injury. Now the woman who never forgot a face can barely recognise herself in the mirror.

At least she has Rob. Kate met him just after her accident, and he nursed her back to health in his high-tech modernist house on the Cornish coast. When she’s with him, the nightmares of the accident fade, and she feels safe and loved.

Until, one day, she looks at Rob anew – and knows, with absolute certainty, that he has been replaced by an impostor. Is she right? Have her old recognition skills returned? Or is it all in her damaged mind?

This intricate, original and emotionally charged psychological thriller is perfect for fans of J.P. Delaney and Louise Candlish.

My Review of The Other You

Kate’s seemingly idyllic life as she recuperates after a car accident might not be what it first appears.

The Other You is a dynamic and thrilling narrative that held me spellbound. I loved the gradual reveals and plot details that J. S. Monroe teases and intrigues the reader with as the story progresses because they wrong-footed me at every turn. I got to a point where I didn’t trust anyone and couldn’t wait to see how The Other You might resolve itself.

Short, snappy chapters with cliff hanger endings in The Other You ensure a fast paced and captivating read and the continuous present tense makes it all feel immediate and dynamic so that events seem to unfold in real time. I certainly experienced an elevated heart rate as I read because this is such suspenseful writing from J. S. Monroe. I loved the overall quality of the writing too; with vivid descriptions, naturalistic dialogue and a perfect variety of sentence and paragraph length I found The Other You a masterclass in thriller writing.

I thought the themes were excellent as they explore the fine lines between good and evil, the positive and negative outcomes of technological advances, and they make the reader question their own perception of morality, especially when considering Silas’s relationship with his son Connor. Add in the convincing and meticulously researched details about county lines, drug culture and brain injury and recovery, and The Other You is a potent thought-provoking read.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Other You. It’s a heart-thumpingly good read and I recommend it most highly.

About J. S. Monroe

JS Monroe

J.S. Monroe read English at Cambridge, worked as a foreign correspondent in Delhi, and was Weekend editor of the Daily Telegraph in London before becoming a full-time writer. His psychological thriller Find Me became a bestseller in 2017, and, under the name Jon Stock, he is also the author of five spy thrillers. He lives in Wiltshire, with his wife and children.

You can follow J.S. Monroe on Twitter @JSThrillers and visit his website for more information. You’ll also find him on Facebook and there’s more with these other bloggers:

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Cover Reveal: Never Saw You Coming by Hayley Doyle

Never Saw You Coming

It’s always so exciting being in at the start of a book’s life and I’m thrilled to be helping reveal the cover of Never Saw You Coming by Hayley Doyle today, as it looks a gloriously uplifting read. Let me tell you all about it:

Never Saw You Coming will be published by Harper Collins imprint Avon on 2nd April 2020 and is available for pre-order through the links here.

Never Saw You Coming

Never Saw You Coming

Some people go looking for love. Others crash right into it. 

Zara Khoury believes in love – so much so that she flies from Dubai to Liverpool to be with a man she barely knows. It’s a risk, but she’s certain that uprooting her life for Nick is the new start she needs.

Jim Glover is stuck. Since his Dad died, he’s put his dreams aside and stayed at home in Liverpool to care for his mum. Trapped in a dead-end job, he’s going nowhere – that is, until he gets a phone call that just might change his life..

Zara and Jim aren’t supposed to meet. But then fate steps in, and when their worlds – and cars! – collide, the real journey begins…

A gorgeous tale about taking risks and living life to the full – perfect for fans of Beth O’Leary and Josie Silver.

Now doesn’t that sound just wonderful? I can’t wait to read it.

About Hayley Doyle

Hayley Doyle

Hayley Doyle is an actress and writer from Liverpool. She gained a BA (Hon) in Acting from LIPA and made her West End debut playing Ali in ‘Mamma Mia!’ at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Hayley also appeared in Peter Pan alongside Brian Blessed and enjoyed touring regionally with new writing projects that all went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Her passion for new writing turned into novel writing and she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Brunel University. Using her experience on the stage and writing skills, Hayley started teaching musical theatre to children that landed her a job in Dubai. It was during her time living in the Emirates that she set up her own company, Hayley’s Comet, training children and teenagers in all aspects of theatre including writing their own shows. Hayley also became a regular voice presenting on Dubai Eye 103.8.

She relocated to the UK in 2016 and lives in London with her husband and their two children.

You can follow Hayley on Twitter @HayleyDWrites for more information.

The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper

The First Time I saw you

I can’t believe it’s almost four years since Emma Cooper last featured on Linda’s Book Bag (in an excruciating post here that shows just how the blog has evolved – sorry Emma for the awful quality of that early blog post – I’ve improved now!). However, I’m delighted to rectify the situation with a review of Emma’s latest release The First Time I Saw You and I’d like to thank the lovely folk at Team Bookends for sending me a surprise copy.

Published by Headline Review in paperback on 9th January 2020, The First Time I Saw You is available for purchase through the links here.

The First Time I Saw You

The First Time I saw you

Lost:
Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey.
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be.
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back.
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways than they ever expected…

My Review of The First Time I Saw You

Sophie and Samuel find that mixing business with pleasure can be tricky!

I have absolutely no idea where to start in a review of Emma Cooper’s The First Time I Saw You. It’s a book that took hold of my heart, shredded it into tiny pieces and left me wrung out emotionally. In other words, I absolutely adored it!

Emma Cooper writes so emotively. Her descriptions are poetic so that they become vivid three dimensional images in the mind’s eye, giving place and setting an authenticity that transports the reader to Washington, Wales and Samuel’s family home in Ireland. The direct speech resonates with realism and warmth, bringing the characters in The First Time I Saw You alive and making them utterly human.

Indeed, there wasn’t an extraneous character, or moment with them, in this book. They elicited my empathy, my sympathy and, very often, a physical response so that I wanted to climb into the pages of The First Time I Saw You and hold them, shake them and intervene in their messy, glorious, lives.

And yet… there’s something more than skilled writing, great settings and believable characters here. Emma Cooper imbues her words with a magic that transcends competent and emotive writing so that the reader is spellbound and captivated by the love, the fear, the grief, the despair and happiness woven throughout the story. I found the iterative image of Alice in Wonderland hugely effective, and affecting, too.

The narrative itself is just fabulous. The plot is so completely believable, partly because not everything works out quite as I had expected or indeed wanted, making it much more realistic and compelling as a result. I want to say so much more about the tiny hints and details that almost go unnoticed but I can’t spoil the story for others. Let me just say that the plot of The First Time I Saw You took me through every emotion until I had no free will but had to carry on reading until I had gulped the last word through messy, sobbing tears.

This is a book I won’t forget in a hurry. It’ll be going straight on my books of the year list for 2020. I loved every single moment with The First Time I Saw You. It is wonderful and I urge you to read it for yourself.

About Emma Cooper

emma ccooper

Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire with her partner and four children. She spends her spare time writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day. Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations.

You can find out more by following Emma on Twitter @ItsEmmacooper and finding her on Facebook.

Underground by Uijung Kim

Underground_cover_UijungKim

As a new year gets underway I’m already looking ahead to more books and travel, so what could be better than combining the two and reviewing a children’s book that features both elements. My enormous thanks to Lefki at Cicada Books for sending me a copy of Underground: Subway Systems Around the World by Uijung Kim in return for an honest review.

Underground: Subway Systems Around the World is available in all good bookshops and online from major retailers, including here.

 Underground: Subway Systems Around the World

Underground_cover_UijungKim

This is a playful search-and-find book of underground systems around the world. Die cut pages introduce the subways of 10 different cities. On the first page we see the exterior of the train, and are presented with fascinating facts and figures about the transport system. On the following die cut page, we find the inside of the train and the platform, bustling with activity.

On this busy page, young readers are invited to spot key items that are unique to the city in question; a pretzel, an I ♥ NY t-shirt and a Statue of Liberty headband on the New York subway, for example. Perfect for train-obsessed children, but also for a wider audience, this book teaches young readers about transport and also about cultural signifiers of different cities around the world. Uijung Kim’s busy, colourful illustrations have a manga-like sensibility that feels joyously contemporary.

The cities included are: London, New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Moscow, Beijing, Mexico City, Paris, Madrid and Sydney.

My Review of Underground: Subway Systems Around the World

A visual exploration of 10 subway systems from around the world.

Now, I know this is a book primarily for children, but I really liked it because I’ve been on the subway systems of London, Madrid, New York, Paris, Sydney and Tokyo and looking at Uijung Kim’s artwork in Underground brought memories flooding back, enabling me to relive some incredible trips. With Beijing coming up this year and Moscow on my bucket list of places to visit, I found Underground was great fun for adults as well as children!

I like the way Underground is structured so that the subway is shown first and then a part page reveals travellers inside the train. The illustrations are bright, busy and hugely visual with a naive style children would love.

Underground appeals to children of many ages because the facts and figures are themselves interesting, and there’s enormous potential for research into geography and culture through the places included. Similarly, the glossary affords language development and international appreciation. I had no idea, for example, that carved Mandarin ducks are given as wedding presents in Korea.

I found it quite tricky to spot some of the hidden items to be found and I think this is an excellent feature. It teaches children patience and observation whilst being fun. There are opportunities for numeracy development too, perhaps counting the people in the train, or for younger children the number of dogs featured, or maybe people with glasses.

Underground is a book with a simple premise but considerable potential beyond its initial intention. I was impressed.

About Uijung Kim

Uijung_Kim_Bio_Pic

Uijung Kim, originally from South Korea now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Uijung studied Art and Design in Gunsan University, South Korea and illustration at the College for creative studies in Detroit, MI, USA. Inspired by her childhood experiences and the family and friends she grew up with her work is strongly rooted in Korean culture through color, tone and narrative. Uijung likes making people happy and wants her work to speak to kids of all ages.

For more information about Uijung Kim, follow her on Twitter @UijungKim, visit her website and or find her on Facebook. Uijung is also on Instagram.

The Choice by Claire Wade

The Choice

It’s a great privilege to start off a blog tour and I am delighted to do so by sharing my review of The Choice by Claire Wade today. My enormous thanks to Alainna at Orion for inviting me to participate and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Published by Orion on 26th December 2019, The Choice is available for purchase through these links.

The Choice

The Choice

Imagine a world where…

Everything you ate was monitored by the government.
Every step you took was counted.
Your children were weighed every day at school.
Neighbours reported on neighbours and no one was safe from judgement.
Sugar was illegal, and baking was a crime.

Imagine if that world was here…

What would you do?

Toe the line or fight for your freedom…

My Review of The Choice

A dystopian future may not be far away…

Before I begin my review properly, I must acknowledge the cover to The Choice. With food and healthy eating so important to the plot, and women in charge of the country, the illusion images of inversion/subversion, an apple and a female head could not be more fitting. Superb.

On my goodness! I felt most uncomfortable reading The Choice as I was tense and unnerved from beginning to end by Claire Wade’s writing. I think it says something about the quality of this book that I felt enraged and helpless in equal measure – exactly like Olivia. There’s a genuine Orwellian undercurrent to the prose and narrative that gets under the reader’s skin until they feel complicit in the action. Even worse, I had the horrible sensation as I read, that this is no distant Orwellian future or allegorical farm, but a situation that might be happening very soon in our present lives. I think it’s the Norwich setting that adds so much to the sense of unease. Norfolk is seen as such a gentle, rural county and yet here in The Choice we see the potential for evil, for mass control and for man’s (and, especially, woman’s) inhumanity so that there is even greater impact.

I abhor unfairness, and reading The Choice made me rage, but also made me feel ashamed. I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have simply capitulated under Mother Mason’s regime if it meant protecting my family and yet Claire Wade makes it clear what the morally correct decision is so that she entirely got inside my head with her writing.

The plot is cleverly constructed; every element is so utterly plausible and resonates with histories we have already witnessed or futures that could so easily happen. As the story unfolded I struggled with the level of reference to food, not because it wasn’t crucial to the plot, but because the descriptions of taste and aroma are so convincing that I was permanently hungry as I read. I’d love to see The Choice as a television series. I think it would have audiences gripped.

I’m not sure how far it was the intention of Claire Wade to affect her readers so directly in writing The Choice, but she has led me to reevaluate my life, my view of morality and choice, and my attitude to food and my weight. I’m trying hard to be less of a slave to my Fitbit now! There are clear messages about what is valuable in life and how family, friendship and love are the most powerful catalysts for change. That said, there is also a horribly realistic presentation of the concept that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely so that The Choice is a book to disturb, to make you think and to make you realise you’d better beware what you wish for. I found it fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Claire Wade

clare wade

Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition 2018. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn’t do what she wanted; her only escape was through her imagination. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she’s deeply familiar with.

Her favourite things are books, baking and the WI. She’s the founding president of a modern WI (Women’s Institute) and runs a baking club for other cake lovers.

You’ll find her in her writing room, nicknamed Narnia because it’s also home to a wardrobe and is the place where she escapes to other worlds. She’s happiest if she’s got a slice of chocolate cake, a cup of tea and a good book.

You can follow Claire on Twitter @clairerwade and visit her website for more information. You’ll also find Claire on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

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