books, reviews

Book Review: The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart – Margarita Montimore

A remarkably inventive novel that explores what it means to live a life fully in the moment, even if those moments are out of order.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart

Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met? Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Margarita Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.

My thoughts:

This is a really clever take on time travel, Oona wakes up each time at another point in her life, completely unaware of how old she is and what’s happened recently.

Clever, funny and well written, this romp through one woman’s life, completely out of order as she tries to find some.

The supporting characters of Oona’s mother and assistant are great too, as the holders of Oona’s secret they could be the villains but they choose instead to help her and fill in the blanks.

I was kindly sent a copy of this book by the publisher with no obligation to review.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Sin Eater – Megan Campisi

A Sin Eater’s duty is a necessary evil: she hears the final private confessions of the dying, eats their sins as a funeral rite, and so guarantees their souls access to heaven. It is always women who eat sins – since it was Eve who first ate the Forbidden Fruit – and every town has at least one, not that they are publicly acknowledged. Stained by the sins they are obliged to consume, the Sin Eater is shunned and silenced, doomed to live in exile at the edge of town.

Recently orphaned May Owens is just fourteen, and has never considered what it might be like to be so ostracized; she’s more concerned with where her next meal is coming from. When she’s arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, however, and subsequently sentenced to become a Sin Eater, finding food is suddenly the last of her worries.

It’s a devastating sentence, but May’s new invisibility opens new doors. And when first one then two of the Queen’s courtiers suddenly grow ill, May hears their deathbed confessions – and begins to investigate a terrible rumour that is only whispered of amid palace corridors.

Publishing: July 2020 Mantle Books

My thoughts:

This was a really interesting alternative history (Queen Bethany instead of Elizabeth I) and May is a brave and resourceful character.

Forced into the role of sin eater, she turns investigator, determined to solve a series of suspicious deaths at court.

The writing is confident and assured, the narrative flows and carries the reader into the squalor of the 16th Century, alive with stench and mud.

The imagery is vivid and you feel as though you’re at May’s shoulder as she roams through the corridors of power and the narrow slum streets.

I look forward to seeing what Campisi does next after such a strong first novel.

I was kindly gifted a copy of this book with no obligation to review and all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Mine – Clare Empson*

Who am I? Why am I here? Why did my mother give me away?’

On the surface, Luke and his girlfriend Hannah seem to have a perfect life. He’s an A&R man, she’s an arts correspondent and they are devoted to their new-born son Samuel.

But beneath the gloss Luke has always felt like an outsider. So when he finds his birth mother Alice, the instant connection with her is a little like falling in love.

When Hannah goes back to work, Luke asks Alice to look after their son. But Alice – fuelled with grief from when her baby was taken from her 27 years ago – starts to fall in love with Samuel. And Luke won’t settle for his mother pushing him aside once again…

My thoughts:

The blurb (above) is a tiny bit off in terms of what happens in the novel – flipping back and forth between Luke as a baby with Alice and now, slowly the truth of what happened 27 years ago is revealed, and Alice’s tragic story is told.

However sometimes people become a little unhinged with grief and do things they know aren’t quite right, as happens here.

My mum is partly adopted (my Grandad isn’t her biological dad but in all other regards, including legally, is) so I sort of understand that adoption can be very painful for some people – both those who have been adopted and the parents, biological and adoptive.

And it is that pain that this story centres around, Luke’s joy at finding his birth mother, coupled with the fact he’s never felt close to the mother who raised him, means he perhaps embraces Alice too quickly and too deeply into his own small family; asking her to look after his infant son when his partner goes back to work.

Luckily it all more or less works out and it not quite as sinister as perhaps suggested by the cover and blurb.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Mexico Street – Simone Buchholz*

Night after night, cars are set alight across the German city of Hamburg, with no obvious pattern, no explanation and no suspect. Until, one night, on Mexico Street, a ghetto of high-rise blocks in the north of the city, a Fiat is torched. Only this car isn’t empty. The body of Nouri Saroukhan – prodigal son of the Bremen clan – is soon discovered, and the case becomes a homicide. Public prosecutor Chastity Riley is handed the investigation, which takes her deep into a criminal underground that snakes beneath the whole of Germany. And as details of Nouri’s background, including an illicit relationship with the mysterious Aliza, emerge, it becomes clear that these are not random attacks, and there are more on the cards…

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as runner-up in the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

My thoughts:

This was not what I expected at all. It seemed like a straightforward police procedural, then the protagonist’s apartment talked. There were strange length chapters that seemed to be about something else, bits of plot that didn’t connect to anything.

I haven’t read the previous books in this series, and as with most crime series’ it wasn’t necessary in order to follow the case, but maybe would explain some of these odd bits. Or maybe not.

Either way it’s an interesting case, and just when you think it’s been solved and is all about a feud in a minority ethnic community, it turns out to be about something else entirely.

Though I still don’t know who is setting all those cars on fire…

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Zodiac – Anamaria Ionescu*


When investigator Sergiu Manta is handed the investigation into a series of bizarre murders, he can’t sure what he’s getting involved in as he has to work with regular detective Marius Stanescu, who has his own suspicions about the biker he has been told to work with, and wants to get to the truth. The twists and turns of their investigation takes them from the city of Bucharest to the mountains of rural Romania, and back.

Amazon

My thoughts:

This was a really interesting, twisty, clever thriller. I really enjoyed it. One of the joys of translated literature is getting to read more widely but also see how tropes translate in other cultures. I’d really like to read more from this author, with her great grasp of narrative and suspense. It also gave me a tour of parts of Romania, which was really interesting too.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Twisted Ones – T. Kingfisher

When a young woman clears out her deceased grandmother’s home in rural North Carolina, she finds long-hidden secrets about a strange colony of beings in the woods in this chilling novel that reads like The Blair Witch Project meets The Andy Griffith Show.
When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother’s house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be?
Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more–Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself.
Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors–because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.

My thoughts:

I found this book super creepy. The weird appearance of the twisted things and the deeply sinister implications of life in their hands made me shudder.

Well written, gripping and perfectly capable of giving you bad dreams.

I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher with no obligation to review.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Blackwood – Michael Farris Smith*

In this timeless, mythical tale of unforgiving justice and elusive grace, rural Mississippi townsfolk shoulder the pain of generations as something dangerous lurks in the enigmatic kudzu of the woods.

The town of Red Bluff, Mississippi, has seen better days, though those who’ve held on have little memory of when that was. Myer, the county’s aged, sardonic lawman, still thinks it can prove itself — when confronted by a strange family of drifters, the sheriff believes that the people of Red Bluff can be accepting, rational, even good.

The opposite is true: this is a landscape of fear and ghosts — of regret and violence — transformed by the kudzu vines that have enveloped the hills around it, swallowing homes, cars, rivers, and hiding a terrible secret deeper still.

Colburn, a junkyard sculptor who’s returned to Red Bluff, knows this pain all too well, though he too is willing to hope for more when he meets and falls in love with Celia, the local bar owner. The Deep South gives these noble, broken, and driven folks the gift of human connection while bestowing upon them the crippling weight of generations. With broken histories and vagabond hearts, the townsfolk wrestle with the evil in the woods — and the wickedness that lurks in each and every one of us.

Michael Farris Smith is the author of The Fighter, Desperation Road, Rivers, and The Hands of Strangers. His novels have appeared on Best of the Year lists with Esquire, Southern Living, Book Riot, and numerous others, and have been named Indie Next List, Barnes & Noble Discover, and Amazon Best of the Month selections. He has been a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, the Gold Dagger Award in the UK, and the Grand Prix des Lectrices in France, and his essays have appeared with the New York Times, Bitter Southerner, Writer’s Bone, and more. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters.

My thoughts:

This was a strange book, in a good way. The blurb implies a straightforward crime thriller but it isn’t quite that.

Colburn has returned to the town his father died in, still dealing with his feelings about his parents.

Three strange drifters also arrive in town, never named, they live in their car till they, and three local residents, go missing.

It’s like a weird, anti fairy tale, with the creeping vines gradually eating up the town and its inhabitants. A town that’s slowly dying, with its empty store fronts and dwindling population.

The writing is lyrical, drawing you into the Mississippi haze.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.