Egg Marks the Spot (Skunk and Badger #2) by Amy Timberlake @amys_writer_photos @jonklassen @algonquinyr #EggMarkstheSpot #SkunkAndBadger

Praise for Skunk and Badger:


A People Best Book for Kids of 2020
A Booklist Editor’s Choice Book of 2020
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2020
A New York Public Library Best Book of 2020 An Evanston Public Library Great Kids Book of 2020


“A splendid entry in the odd-couple genre. Exceptionally sweet.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review


“It’s a treasure of a book that promises future misadventures from your new favorite odd
couple.” — Booklist, starred review


“Art by Caldecott Medalist Klassen offers Wind in the Willows wistfulness. Gleeful, onomatopoeic prose by
Newbery Honoree Timberlake, meanwhile, keeps readers engaged through laugh-out-loud repetition.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review


“Amy Timberlake writes with whimsical humor reminiscent of A.A. Milne, Arnold Lobel and Kenneth Grahame, which is reinforced by Jon Klassen’s splendid illustrations. [A] charming, funny and touching trilogy opener.” — Shelf Awareness


“Skunk and Badger is everything I want in an early reader book: madcap silliness, fun science facts about geology and chickens, and a heartfelt lesson about the mistakes Badger makes on a bumpy road to friendship with Skunk and lead him to reckoning atonement. ”


—The San Diego Union Tribune
Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake
with pictures by Jon Klassen


Hardcover ISBN: 9781643750057, $18.95 Ship Date 8/26, Pub Date 9/15
Ages 8-12, Grades 3-7
Also available as an e-book & audiobook


A Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of 2020

A School Library Journal Best Book of 2020
A Shelf Awareness for Readers Best Book of 2020 A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2020 An Indigo Best Book of the Year 2020


“Curmudgeonly Badger is not amused when Skunk moves in. Endearing comedy ensues.” —People
“Gloriously complemented by Jon Klassen’s

meticulous illustrations, Skunk and Badger has the feel of a bygone era while telling a completely modern (and delightful) story of how hard change can be, and how worth it change is.” —NPR


“Clear themes of tolerance, friendship, and understanding drive the story in a way that children will respond to… A sweet unlikely friendship story.” —School Library Journal


“Reminiscent of Lobel’s Frog and Toad stories… Readers graduating from Lobel’s work but still looking for a good animal buddy story will find it with Skunk and Badger.” — The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


“Kids will love the humor in this book, as the two of them learn to become friends. Hint: you’ll love it, too.” —Philadelphia Tribune


“Wordy fun, with laugh-out-loud dialogue… Scratchy yet sophisticated ink drawings by Jon Klassen add warmth to the already cozy text…they give this handsomely designed book the look and feel of a classic.” —The New York Times Book Review
★ ★

“Both an entertaining solo read for emerging readers and a lively read-aloud for younger kids. Klassen’s occasional illustrations add yet more pizazz to a story rich with
humor and heart.”
—Washington Parent


“Underneath the cosy atmosphere of Timberlake and Klassen’s creation is a deep, thought-provoking children’s book that doesn’t talk down to younger readers.” —Bookstr


“The characters are so lovingly drawn, and the world they inhabit so vivid. Skunk and Badger feel like literary friends with many pages of stories to tell.”
—New York Journal of Books


“Amy Timberlake has written a laugh-out-loud funny book for younger middle graders that puts a fresh spin on the old trope of learning the importance of friendship. Kids will love this one, as will anyone who gets hold of it.” —Manhattan Book Review


“If this pandemic has taught us lessons, one is that children are capable of dealing with a lot, and living in close quarters takes negotiation, which Amy Timberlake so lovingly shows with Skunk and Badger.”


—Kira Wizner, Merritt Bookstore
“This is a special book about many important things: compromise, forgiveness, family, and science. It is also my new favorite family read-aloud of the year.” —Summer Laurie, Books Inc.


“Everything I want in an early reader book; madcap silliness, fun science facts about geology and chickens, and a heartfelt lesson about the mistakes Badger makes on a bumpy road to friendship with Skunk. Loved it!”


—Mimi Hannan, La Playa Books
“A perfect family read-aloud in the style of classics Frog and Toad and The Bat Poet, Skunk and Badger have ‘very important’ lessons to teach.”


—Cheryl McKeon, Market Block Books
“Skunk and Badger is such a clever, fun story sure to be enjoyed as a read aloud and early chapter book. And what is not to love about the CHICKENS!”
—Christine Patrick, Winchester Book Gallery


“Amy Timberlake has created a masterpiece! These two characters truly come alive!” —Chelsea Elward, Booked LLC


Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake
with pictures by Jon Klassen
Hardcover ISBN: 9781643750057, $18.95 On Sale Now
Ages 8-12, Grades 3-7
Also available as an e-book & audiobook


“’We love Skunk and Badger. We don’t just like it. We love it.’ – Nico, age 3.5” —Community Bookstore


“These two unlikely roommates struggle to get along, but it is easy for readers to fall in love with them both.” —Meghan Hayden, River Bend Bookshop


“A charming story of friendship, perfect to read aloud to all ages. I haven’t been this charmed by a book in a long time.” —Cathy Berner, Blue Willow Bookshop


“It’s the perfect book for curling up around. Like Frog & Toad or Wallace & Gromit, Skunk & Badger are certain to be beloved.”


—Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books
“This is a perfect family read-aloud. More, please!”


—Suzanna Hermans, Oblong Books & Music


“ Loved every little bit of this story, and I knew what voice I would use for a read-aloud for both characters within just a few well-crafted sentences. Great fun!”


—David Wolff, Content Book Store
“What a wonderful, heartwarming story. Destined to become a classic, Skunk and Badger is exactly the kind of spring book kids need right now!” —Anderson McKean, Page & Palette


“Amy Timberlake’s first book in the Skunk and Badger series is a fun take on the odd-couple friendship.”


—Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop


“This is a lovely, quirky story excellent for read-togethers or bedtime storytime. Frog & Toad. George & Martha, and many other odd-couple pairings in kid lit can welcome Skunk & Badger to the party.” —Ellen Greene, Bookpeople

About the Book:


Egg Marks the Spot (Skunk and Badger 2)
HARDBACK EBOOK
By Amy Timberlake
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Buried in the heart of every animal is a secret treasure. Badger’s is the Spider Eye Agate, stolen years ago by his crafty and treasure-trade-dealing cousin, Fisher. Skunk’s is Sundays with the New Yak Times Book Review.

When Mr. G. Hedgehog threatens to take the Book Review as soon as it thumps on the doorstep, Skunk decides an adventure (“X Marks the Spot!”) will solve both their problems. Badger agrees, and together they set off for his favorite campsite on Endless Lake. But all is not as it seems at Campsite #5. Harrumphs in the night. Unexpected friends.

Then Fisher appears, and Badger knows something is up.

Something involving secrets, betrayals, and lies.

And a luminous, late-Jurassic prize.

In a volume that includes full-color plates and additional black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott medalist Jon Klassen, Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake takes readers on a second adventure in the new series reviewers have called an instant classic, with comparisons to Frog and Toad, Winnie-the-Pooh, and The Wind in the Willows.

About the Author:

Amy Timberlake’s novels for young readers have received a Newbery Honor, an Edgar Award, a Golden Kite Award, and the China Times Best Book Award. She grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin, but now calls Chicago home. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, and holds an MA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Illinois. You can find her walking on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail on cool, crisp fall days.

About the Illustrator:

Jon Klassen is a Canadian-born author-illustrator. His books include I Want My Hat Back; This Is Not My Hat, winner of the Caldecott Medal; and We Found A Hat. He is a member of the Order of Canada in recognition of his contributions to children’s literature. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.

My Review:

As a child I enjoyed The Wind in the Willows. Skunk and Badger book 1 was good and I was waiting for book 2.

When I got a review invitation email from Algonquin, I accepted it because I wanted to be part of the next installment of Skunk and Badger’s adventures.

Badger wants to collect more rocks and Skunk just wants a quiet Sunday. Let the adventures begin! As with book 1, I was looking forward to the antics and twists and turns of the book. The pacing is good.

The illustrations are beautiful.

Thanks to Amy Timberlake, John Klassen and Algonquin Young Readers for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4 stars.


$18.95 (US)
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Pre-Order here:

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REVIEW QUOTES


“Leaning heavily on its delightfully whimsical qualities, Book 2 of Timberlake and Klassen’s endearing series also boasts a whole lot of heart, perhaps even more so than its predecessor. Even as its often fantastical premise careens over the edge (and thrillingly so), the series’ titular duo keep it grounded thanks to Timberlake’s clear admiration for these characters and their quirks. Klassen’s artwork, meanwhile, continues to awe with its wistfulness. As wonderful as Important Rock Work.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review.


Blog Spotlight: At  the Edge of the Haight by Katherine Seligman

“At the Edge of the Haight brims with empathy for the overlooked and the underserved. It’s a deep, dark, and necessary look into lives often discarded and disregarded—an urgent and important read and a startling debut.”

— Ivy Pochoda, author of These Women

**The 10th Winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction**

AT THE EDGE OF THE HAIGHT (Publication Date: January 19, 2021), the riveting and empathetic debut novel from veteran journalist Katherine Seligman, is the 10th winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction—and the first since Lisa Ko’s The Leavers. Uncompromising in its thorny humanity, this timely work of fiction addresses head-on one of the most urgent issues facing society today: the surge in homelessness amid the rising tide of urban wealth, privilege, and inequity. “To read AT THE EDGE OF THE HAIGHT is to live inside the everyday terror and longings of a world that most of us manage not to see, even if we walk past it on sidewalks everyday,” says Barbara Kingsolver, who established the Bellwether Prize. “As a time when more Americans than ever find themselves on the edge of homelessness, this book couldn’t be more timely.”

In San Francisco, where the unhoused sleep near apartments charging astronomical rents, 20-year-old Maddy Donaldo finds her way to Haight Ashbury, long a haven for young travelers, drifters and seekers. She lives with her makeshift family of fellow homeless citizens in the hidden spaces of Golden Gate Park. The delicate balance of her life, where she knows who to trust, is upended when she witnesses the killing of a young homeless boy. Suddenly, Maddy is the unwilling focus of attention—from the police, from the boy’s parents, and from the killer. When she feels pressured to reveal details about her own past and the family from which she ran away, she must decide the best course of action: to stay lost or be found.

Visit Algonquin Books at algonquin.com | Follow us on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

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More about Katherine Seligman: 

Katherine Seligman is a journalist and author who lives in San Francisco. She has been a writer at the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, a reporter at the San Francisco Examiner and a correspondent at USA Today. Her work has appeared in Redbook, Life, Money, California Magazine, the anthology Fresh Takes and elsewhere.

Early Praise for AT THE EDGE OF THE HAIGHT:

“What a read this is, right from its startling opening scene. But even more than plot, it’s the richly layered details that drive home a lightning bolt of empathy. To read At the Edge of the Haight is to live inside the everyday terror and longings of a world that most of us manage not to see, even if we walk past it on sidewalks every day. At a time when more Americans than ever find themselves at the edge of homelessness, this book couldn’t be more timely.”

—Barbara Kingsolver

“Through careful observation, author Seligman seeks to humanize a community that is often ignored and misunderstood…Winner of the 2019 PEN/Bellweather Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, At the Edge of the Haight is a thoughtful look at modern homelessness.”

—Booklist 

“Unsparing but…an intense, personal drama about wayward lives positioned between redemption and disaster. Putting a human face on those who live at society’s margins, At the Edge of the Haight is an intimate novel whose young characters struggle for survival and a little bit of dignity.

—Foreword Reviews

“Seligman is to be commended for an insightful portrayal of homelessness. She’s at her best when showing just how tenuous life on the streets can be… heartfelt…brave…storytelling.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Earnest … Seligman has a strong sense of the city and of the challenges faced by the homeless … Seligman’s portrayal of life as a homeless young person is immersive.”

—Publisher’s Weekly

“A terrific novel, half murder-mystery, half a tale of growing up.  The heroine and her friends are unique in my reading experience—homeless young people living in Golden Gate Park, with their own community and their own rules—and their story is suspenseful and touching throughout.” 

—Scott Turow

“At the Edge of the Haight brims with empathy for the overlooked and the underserved. It’s a deep, dark, and necessary look into lives often discarded and disregarded—an urgent and important read and a startling debut.”

— Ivy Pochoda, author of These Women

“This book pulled me deep into a world I knew little about, bringing the struggles of its young, homeless inhabitants—the kind of people we avoid eye contact with on the street—to vivid, poignant life. The novel demands that you take a close look. If you knew, could you still ignore, fear or condemn them? And knowing, how can you ever forget?”

—Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound

“I love Maddy Donaldo. I can’t wait for you to meet her. Not since Carson McCullers’s Frankie Addams have I seen a character so defined by her deep dualism—an electric desire to be both invisible and seen, free and bonded.”

—Mesha Maren, author of Sugar Run

“Subtle yet compelling . . . written in delicate, understated prose, At the Edge of the Haight not only offers unexpected insights into the daily life of those who are young and on the streets, but into the confusion of tenderness, hurt, fear and fierceness that tumble within the minds of many. An enlightening read for anyone of any age.”

—Helen Benedict, author of Wolf Season

“I loved this novel: its tenderness, its toughness, its brilliantly-named protagonist Maddy—these days, what thoughtful person isn’t mad?  Maddy is a Holden Caulfield for our times, smart, streetwise, a survivor who is not jaded.  Seligman’s vivid portrait leads us to understand San Francisco’s street people not as “the other” but as extensions of our friends, our families, our neighbors, ourselves.  If there is hope for our species, it begins there.”

—Fenton Johnson, author of At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life

“At the Edge of the Haight is a novel of rare grace and compassion that opens a window onto a world to which we often keep ourselves closed. With a keen sense for setting and state of mind, Kathrine Seligman takes us on a journey into the hidden spaces of America, where the friction created between the need to be seen and to disappear, to remember and to forget sets little fires that help us see better, help us stay warm.”

—C. Morgan Babst, author of The Floating World

Blog Tour: Spotlight-Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle

Hieroglyphics By Jill McCorkle Algonquin, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61620-972-8 About the Book:  The engrossing latest from McCorkle (Life After Life) meditates on the physical and emotional imprints that make up a life. Octogenarian couple Frank and Lil retire to Southern Pines, N. C., from the Boston area to be closer to their adult daughter, Becca, and for Frank, a retired professor who has been drifting with no sense of purpose, to explore his past. Frank had lived there during his youth, after a 1943 train accident injured his mother and killed his father. Lil spends her time sorting through and composing journal entries to leave for her children, and through Lil’s voice, McCorkle finds an elegant mix of wistfulness and appreciation for life (“The premature blue dusk of a winter afternoon… the kind of light that makes you feel immortal”). Meanwhile, Frank walks the train tracks near the accident site and frequently drops by his former home. The house is now occupied by Shelley, a single mother who lives with her young son, Harvey, and guards herself against outsiders. Early on, McCorkle makes clear that Shelley is hiding secrets in the house, and as Frank persists in his desire to tour the house, Shelly’s family’s betrayals and falsehoods bubble to the surface. Throughout, McCorkle weaves a powerful narrative web, with empathy for her characters and keen insight on their motivations. This is a gem. HIEROGLYPHICS By Jill McCorkle Review Issue Date: April 1, 2020 Online Publish Date: March 15, 2020 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication Date: June 9, 2020 McCorkle returns to Southern Pines, North Carolina, to explore themes of fate, mortality, and the human need for coping rituals. Four characters take turns narrating what at first appears to be a rather aimless accretion of vignettes. On closer reading, however, the ingenious structure of this novel reveals itself. The present action begins on June 12, 2018, as Frank, a retired professor in his 80s, leaves what appears to be a suicide note and heads out in search of artifacts from his childhood. A single mother named Shelley is struggling to retain her court reporting job after the trial judge discovers that she’s doing more than simply transcribing the trial of a prominent doctor accused of killing his young mistress. Shelley’s younger son, Harvey, self-conscious about his repaired cleft palate, is worrying his mother and teachers with his fixation on serial killers and ghosts. Frank and his wife, Lil, recently moved to North Carolina from Newton, Massachusetts. Their reminiscences, conveyed by his interior reflection and her notebook entries, reveal the tragic coincidence that united them: In the early 1940s, each lost a parent to a disaster when Lil’s mother died in a Boston nightclub fire and Frank’s father perished in a North Carolina train wreck while returning from Florida with his wife. Frank’s formerly idyllic childhood in Newton was doubly curtailed by his father’s death and his mother’s refusal to leave North Carolina. She married Preston, the tobacco farmer who rescued her from the wreck. The remainder of Frank’s childhood was spent in Preston’s house, near the tracks—the house that Shelley now occupies. Lil’s notes, spanning decades, reveal Frank’s infidelity and their eventual reconciliation. Death permeates this starkly honest tale, unleavened by McCorkle’s usual humor. Frank is still obsessed with the funerary customs and afterlife mythology he once studied. Harvey is transfixed by morbidity. Shelley harbors conflicting sentiments about justifiable homicide. Lil rails against Frank’s growing fatalism. Gathers layers like a snowball racing downhill before striking us in the heart with blunt, icy force. My Review:  Lil and Frank have been married for years. Shared tragic circumstances made them bond when they first met.  As the years pass, they are each still missing their loved ones.  When they move from Boston to North Carolina. Lil starts going through letters and diary entries. I was intrigued by this and love any novel with a diary or letters as this means there are secrets in store.   Frank cannot stop thinking about his childhood home— so much so that he starts visiting it.  Now, it’s Shelley’s home. She lives there with her son and they want as normal a life as possible. where a young single mother, Shelley, is just trying to raise her son with some sense of normalcy.   Heiroglyphics is an excellent and unique blend of well-fleshed-out characters. What it means to be family, or a mother or child is intertwined with each character’s search for answers to their past, current reality and questions for the future.  It’s moving and the pace is good for the type of novel it it with apparent strangers linked by the search for their own truths.  How can we really know the intentions of those who raised us?  There’s mystery and intrigue amongst the lives of people fighting to be the best they can.  I enjoyed my first novel by Jill McCorkle and Heiroglyphics was a novel to make me think and feel.  Thanks to Jill McCorkle and Algonquin for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.  4 stars.  BUY HERE   

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai@algonquinbooks; @nguyenphanquemai@algonquinbooks@nguyen_p_quemi 

About the Book: 

A sweeping story that positions Vietnamese life within the ​rich and luminous history of national epics like The Tale of Kieu and the Iliad. Expansive in scope and feeling, The Mountains Sing is a feat of hope, an unflinchingly felt inquiry into the past, with the courageous storytelling of the present.”—Ocean Vuong, 2019 MacArthur Fellow, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.
Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.

About the Author: 
 

Born into the Viet Nam War in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai grew up witnessing the war’s devastation and its aftermath. She worked as a street vendor and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia. She is the author of eight books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction published in Vietnamese, and her writing has been translated and published in more than 10 countries, most recently in Norton’s Inheriting the War anthology. She has been honored with many awards, including the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hà Nội Writers Association, as well as international grants and fellowships. Quế Mai first learned English in 8th grade and The Mountains Sing is the first novel written in English by a Vietnamese national to be published by a major American publisher. Currently based in Indonesia, Quế Mai’s journalism regularly appears in major Vietnamese newspapers. For more information, visit http://www.nguyenphanquemai.com.

Early Praise for The Mountains Sing

by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

 

“The Mountains Sing is an epic account of Vietnam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling. Through the travails of one family, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai brings us close to the horrors of famine, war, and class struggle. But in this moving and riveting novel, she also shows us a postwar Vietnam, a country of hope and renewal, home to a people who have never given up.” 

—Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize

 

 

“A sweeping story that positions Vietnamese life within the ​rich and luminous history of national epics like The Tale of Kieu and the Iliad. Expansive in scope and feeling, The Mountains Sing is a feat of hope, an unflinchingly felt inquiry into the past, with the courageous storytelling of the present.”

—Ocean Vuong, 2019 MacArthur Fellow and author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

 

“Good literature frees us from

being trapped in our own skins by allowing us to identify with characters and see the world through their eyes. Reading this novel, I was moved by Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s beautiful, even poetic, depictions of enduring courage. I came away with a deeper understanding of the war in which I fought.”

—Karl Marlantes, bestselling author of Matterhorn, What It’s Like to Go to War, and Deep River

 

 

“Quế Mai tells the story of the war that tore apart Việt Nam, and of the generation lost to the war, by braiding around it two beautiful strands told by the older and younger generations of a family. This book is an act of love, compassion, and ultimately healing, and very much needed by all who survived the war.”

—Thi Bui, illustrator, and author of The Best We Could Do

 

 

“Marvelous…The Mountains Sing is a beautiful story of the simple challenge of keeping a family together and the courage of perseverance. It is told with the sureness of a master storyteller who has the spirit of a poet. A large and complicated story, marvelous to read.”

—Larry Heinemann, author of Paco’s Story, winner of the 1987 National Book Award

 

 

“In this moving family saga, author Que Mai gives us a rare glimpse into the lives of ordinary North Vietnamese as they struggle to survive the calamities that descend over their country – from the Japanese occupation during World War II, to the harsh and ideological rule of the communists, to the American bombing of the North, and to the shocks and aftershocks of the Vietnam War. It is a story of loss and sorrow, of longing for peace and normalcy, and—above all—of the triumph of hope over despair, told in the authentic voices of a resilient and resourceful grandmother and her granddaughter. “

—Mai Elliott, Pulitzer Prize Finalist for The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family
“Over the last two decades we have been gifted with works by Vietnamese writers who have brought us into the consciousness of those that Americans saw only as backdrops for their own stories. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai not only adds to that rich body of work, she daringly Trầnscends it.” 

—Wayne Karlin, author of Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam, editor of Curbstone’s Voices from Vietnam series

 

“A poignant and vivid portrayal of a brutal slice of Vietnamese history from a perspective that is so rarely heard abroad: that of the Vietnamese themselves. We are starkly reminded of how those wars—and wars everywhere—wash over and drown both the guilty and innocent alike.”

—Doreen Baingana, author of Tropical Fish: Stories out of Entebbe, winner of the 2006 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize
“Based on Quế Mai’s family history and on the lives of the people around her in village and city life, The Mountains Sing is the story of four generations of the Trần family told from the point of view of the family matriarch and her granddaughter, a wise young girl who provides, in contrast to her grandmother’s rich and moving story, the perspective of the generation that literally grew up with the war. But this is not simply another war story, or another example of so-called ‘Vietnam Lit’ because this is a manuscript distinct in its story-telling techniques. This is a story about the power of hope and love in the face of the worst imaginable circumstances, framed by a beautifully clear arc and peopled by the fully developed characters of the Trần family who come alive and seem to sit right there beside us to tell their story. In The Mountains Sing, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai has found a true and clear voice in English that is rich and compelling the way only those who come to English as a second language can sometimes manage.”

—Bruce Weigl, Pulitzer Prize Finalist and author of the bestselling memoir The Circle of Hanh
“Although I am hesitant to use the word, this is an epic novel. Quế Mai has pulled off something rather extraordinary here—she is teaching her readers large swathes of Vietnamese history, while never losing a novelist’s connection with the emotional reality of her characters. Since she is writing not simply about a war but one still in living memory, parts of this story are very painful and dark but she neither shies away from this nor alienates the reader from it. There were points when I wanted the horror to stop, but I never wanted to stop reading. The structure is clever, the writing often evocative, the characters convincing and very touching and the whole narrative deeply engaging. And this is a first novel! Impressive.”

—Sara Maitland, author of seven novels including Daughter of Jerusalem, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award
“The Mountains Sing is an enthralling family saga, set against the turmoil of war and a changing political climate. Inspired by real life events, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s story will thrill, shock and terrify the reader in equal measure. It will also inspire them with its life-affirming qualities of everyday heroism and survival against all the odds.”

—Philip Caveney, author of twelve adult novels and winner of the 2016 Scottish Children’s Book Awards
 

• An engrossing story of family, adversity, war, loss, and triumph, Vietnamese poet/journalist Nguyen’s first novel written in English is narrated in tandem by Hoang and her grandmother Dieu Lan, with Hoang chronicling her survival as a young teenager in 1970s Vietnam and her grandmother describing the hardships she endured during initial fighting in the 1950s. With her six children mostly serving their country, their whereabouts unknown, Dieu Lan becomes caretaker to Hoang, relaying to her a life story that begins with her growing up the sole daughter of a successful farming family in the North, then fighting to escape to the South with her young children in tow as war descends. What finally unfolds is the matriarchal Tran family’s saga from 1930 to 2017, told lovingly to convey family bonds but never skimping on the gritty and emotionally disturbing details of war. VERDICT Recalling Min Jin Lee and Lisa See, Nguyen displays a lush and captivating storyteller’s gift as she effortlessly transports readers to another world, leaving them wishing for more. This may be Nguyen’s first novel published here, but one can only hope it will not be the last.
My Review: 

I did not know anything about Vietnamese history before I got an ARC copy of this novel from the publisher. 
The characters and everything about this novel had me completely absorbed. 
The Mountains Sing is a journey of tradition, of discovery of personal fights for every single character in a fascinating but war-torn country. 
Asian culture, and any culture, is interesting to me. The visuals and description are excellent. The Mountains Sing is an exceptional novel and an outstanding debut. 
Just as enthralling as Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden  or Homegoing by Yaaa Gyasi- MY REVIEW HERE
Thanks to Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and Algonquin Books for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. 
5 sparkling stars although it deserves a lot more. Loved it.

BUY THE BOOK HERE

 
 

 

Spotlight Post: Why  Liv? by Jon Sebastian Shifrin

About the Author : 

JON SEBASTIAN SHIFRIN is a writer whose political commentary and short stories have appeared in various newspapers and literary journals. He also is the founder  of The Daily Dissident (www.dailydissident.com), a popular current events web magazine. Jon lives in Washington, DC.

About the Book : 

As a twenty-something corporate employee with a doctor-in-training girlfriend, Livingstone Modicai Ackerman—Liv, to his friends—personifies success. Yet all is not as it seems. His job is tedious and soul-gutting, his girlfriend is a vacuous, image-conscious snob, and, meanwhile, his pathologically narcissistic parents are constant irritants. Add to this the febrile political climate dominated by a reactionary group, the Patriot Posse, led by a mendacious radio personality with outlandish hair and catchy campaign slogan to “Make America Great Again,” is a presidential candidate—and he’s winning!

How does one maintain a sense of dignity and worth in such a cynical environment devoid of humanity and hope?
Buy HERE

Spotlight Post: The Order of Time By Scott P. Southall 

About the Author: 


 Scott Southall is an American author and banking executive. The Order of Time is his debut novel. He grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. playing sports, exploring the woods behind his house, and stretching his imagination by reading any book he could get his hands on. He attended Georgetown University where he earned a bachelors degree in business.
 

Scott and his Australian wife Kylie live in the paradise which is also known as Sydney Australia.

 

Connect with Scott Southall at ScottPSouthall.com, Facebook.com/Scott.SouthallAuthor and Instagram.com/ScottSouthallAuthor

About the Book : 

Anastasia and Edward Upton are eleven years old twins who are different in almost every way. Despite this they are inseparable and the best of friends. They tackle the highs and lows of sixth grade together whether they are fending off bullies at the elite Blake Academy or examining rare antiquities as the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Life gets complicated for Anastasia and Edward after discovering that their friend and mentor, Dr. Gregorian, is part of a secret society called the Order of Time. They learn that time is not fixed, it is a fluid continuum where changes to the past can create ripples all the way through to the present.

Buy HERE 

Spotlight Post: A People’s History of Heaven by Mathwangi Subramanian

About the Book: 

In the tight-knit community known as Heaven, a ramshackle slum hidden between luxury high-rises in Bangalore, India, five girls on the cusp of womanhood forge an unbreakable bond. Muslim, Christian, and Hindu; queer and straight; they are full of life, and they love and accept one another unconditionally. Whatever they have, they share. Marginalized women, they are determined to transcend their surroundings.

 

When the local government threatens to demolish their tin shacks in order to build a shopping mall, the girls and their mothers refuse to be erased. Together they wage war on the bulldozers sent to bury their homes, and, ultimately, on the city that wishes that families like them would remain hidden forever.
Elegant, poetic, and vibrant, A People’s History of Heaven takes a clear-eyed look at adversity and geography–and dazzles in its depiction of these women’s fierceness and determination not just to survive, but to triumph.

Praise for A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF HEAVEN
By Mathwangi Subramanian

“The language [takes] on a musicality that is in sharp contrast to the bleak setting…refreshing…a strong debut.”
—New York Times Book Review

“Subramanian writes with empathy and exuberance, offering a much-needed glimpse into a world that too many of us don’t even know exists. This is a book to give your little sister, your mother, your best friend, yourself, so together you can celebrate the strength of women and girls, the tenacity it takes to survive in a world that would rather have you disappear.”
–Nylon

“The novel tenderly guides the reader into and through the struggles of lives lived at the margins, with a sensitivity to experience that can’t be reduced to an apolitical and static image of slum life. If anything, Subramanian deftly explores what political solidarity can look like…A People’s History of Heaven does not reduce its characters to dozens of fists raised in the air, but instead gives a full account of the extraordinary lives that stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the wreckage of a wealthy city, ready to fight against the bulldozers upon the horizon.”
—Believer

“A vibrant novel…a beautiful story of love, loyalty, and female friendship.”
—HelloGiggles

“[A] colorful, dramatic coming of age story.”
—Ms. Magazine

“This novel features a wide cast of characters and each girl has a unique perspective to offer. This book highlights many themes such as poverty, feminism, transgender issues, and living with disabilities. This beautifully written novel follows these girls as they navigate life’s obstacles with the love and support of their friends and family… I also fell in love with each character very quickly. Each girl in the story is very compelling in their own way, and I kept turning the pages to learn more about them…Perfect for readers who want to learn more about Indian and South Asian culture, or for readers who love stories featuring strong female friendships.”
—Reading Women

“Subramanian’s observations are sharp, witty, and incisive; her writing is consistently gorgeous. She is passionate about the plight of Indian girls subjected to a patriarchal system that ruthlessly oppresses and devalues them…In depicting the societal ills that oppress India’s women, Subramanian refuses to acquiesce to the plot that fate seems to have written for these girls. With the assistance of each other, their mothers, and a particularly dedicated headmistress — and in ways that stretch credulity — each girl overcomes seemingly intractable obstacles to face another day.”
—Washington Independent Review of Books

“Spending time with this fearsome five is…just plain fun. Slum life is never romanticized. The narrator, an unnamed member of the girls’ inner circle, delivers enough cynical wisdom and pithy commentary to show just how wise these girls are to their plight without dismissing how insidious cultural messages are. What crystalizes is the sure knowledge that none of them are powerless…A People’s History of Heaven forefronts human dignity and the intelligence it takes to survive at the intersection of so much society uses to set people apart, while also making it clear that, ‘in Heaven, anger is not about any one person. It’s about the whole world.’”
–Foreword Reviews

“Poetic…Subramanian’s rich imagery conjures up the bustle of a diverse city where children live in poverty mere blocks from three-story homes where their mothers work as maids. With its heroic young cast, A People’s History of Heaven has huge YA crossover potential, and its social commentary makes it a wonderful book club selection. As colorful as a Rangoli design, this bittersweet coming-of-age story will linger in the reader’s mind.”
–Shelf Awareness

“Wonderful…The stories of these young women…are full of emotion and drama, and also fierce power and hope. Their relationships and support for one another is inspiring, making this a beautiful testament to friendship and individuality. More LGBTQ+ novels about people of color, please!”
–BookRiot

“Subramanian sets her story within the harsh reality of Indian slum life but neither sentimentalizes the poverty of the girls nor dwells on it. Instead, she shows their potential and the joy that they can find with each other.”
—Real Change News

“Tackling some of the most trenchant issues facing Indian women in particular—casteism, arranged marriage, forced sterilization—as well as women all over the world…It has the heart-on-its-sleeve melodrama of some of the most successful teen novels and films, though it will likely also appeal to adults wanting to tuck in to a novel which is like the brainy big sister of a Lifetime movie. A girl power-fueled story that examines some dark social issues with a light…touch.”
–Kirkus Reviews

“A People’s History of Heaven forefronts human dignity and the intelligence it takes to survive at the intersection of so much society uses to set people apart.”
–Foreword Reviews

“How can a novel about a group of daughters and mothers on the verge of losing their homes in a Bangalore slum be one of the most joyful and exuberant books I’ve read? Subramanian writes without a shred of didacticism or pity, skillfully upending expectations and fiercely illuminating her characters’ strength, intelligence, and passionate empathy. A People’s History of Heaven should be a case study in how to write political fiction. Each page delighted and amazed me.”
–Heather Abel, author of The Optimistic Decade

“Strong debut…Subramanian’s evocative novel waves together a diverse, dynamic group of girls to create a vibrant tapestry of a community on the brink.”
–Publishers Weekly

“Everything about A People’s History of Heaven is wonderful: the lyrical, light touch of the narrator, the story, the humor, and most of all, the girls. This novel—as shiny and crinkly and heartbreaking as “cellophane the color of false promises”—overflows with girls I want to meet, befriend, celebrate, and shelter from the ills of their world. But they don’t need me to do that! Faced with bigotry and bulldozers, these girls know exactly what to do: stick together and help each other learn, love, see, fight. These are girls who ache, girls who build, girls who claim or escape girl-ness. Read about Banu, Deepa, Joy, Rukshana, Padma, and Leela: These are girls who save the world.”
–Minal Hajratwala, author of Leaving India

“What a thrill to read a novel as daring and urgent as A People’s History of Heaven. It’s a story about defiance in the face of erasure, about the survival tactics of an unforgettable group of girls. I can’t remember the last time I encountered a voice of such moral ferocity and compassion.”
—Tania James, author of The Tusk That Did the Damage

“Everything about A People’s History of Heaven is wonderful: the lyrical, light touch of the narrator, the story, the humor, and most of all, the girls. This novel…overflows with girls I want to meet, befriend, celebrate, and shelter from the ills of their world. But they don’t need me to do that! Faced with bigotry and bulldozers, these girls know exactly what to do: stick together and help each other learn, love, see, fight. These are girls who ache, girls who build, girls who claim or escape girl-ness. Read about Banu, Deepa, Joy, Rukshana, Padma, and Leela: These are girls who save the world.”
—Minal Hajratwala, award-winning author of Leaving India

About the Author: 

Mathangi Subramanian is an award-winning Indian American writer, author, and educator. She is a graduate of Brown University and the Teachers College of Columbia University, and the recipient of a Fulbright as well as other fellowships. Her writing has previously appeared in the Washington Post, Quartz, Al Jazeera America, and elsewhere. This is her first work of literary fiction.  

 

Buy the book HERE

And HERE

 

 

 

 

 

* 1 *

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Breaking the Sky

 

 

The bulldozers arrive on a Friday, orders of destruction in their glove compartments, construction company logos on their doors. Beneath their massive wheels, tin roofs shatter and cinder blocks crumble, wooden doors splinter and bamboo frames snap. Homes and histories disintegrate, ground into dust.

Our houses may break, but our mothers won’t. Instead, they form a human chain, hijabs and dupattas snapping in the metal- lic wind, saris shimmering in the afternoon sun. Between the machines and the broken stone, our mothers blaze like carnations scattered at the feet of smashed-up goddesses. Angry, unforgiving goddesses, the kind with skulls around their necks and corpses beneath their feet.

The kind that protect their children. That protect their daughters.

***

Ragged jigsaw of tilted tents, angry quilt of rusted roofs, maze of

sagging sofas. Muddy monsoon squelch, dry summer hum. Jangle
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and clatter of gunshot tongues firing words faster than Rajni fires bullets. That’s where we’re from.

People who aren’t from here? They think beauty is country col- ors. Rice-paddy green, peacock-neck blue. Sunsets gold and purple and pink. No one writes poems about pavement gray, road-roller yellow, AC-bus red.

People who aren’t from here can’t see past the sign stuck in the ground thirty years ago. “Swargahalli,” it once said. English letters straight like soldiers. Kannada letters curved like destiny. Now it’s been split in two, cracked by one of the bulldozers the city sent to erase us the first time—or maybe the second or the third. (After a while, we stopped counting.) All that’s left is the word Swarga.

“Swarga?” people ask. “As in Sanskrit for Heaven? This place?” “Heaven?” we say with them. “This place?”

Sometimes they laugh. Sometimes we do too. But most of the time, we don’t.

Because the sign isn’t right. But it’s not wrong either.

***

There are five of us girls: Deepa, Banu, Padma, Rukshana, and Joy.

Born the same year in the same slum. In the same class at school— until Deepa’s parents pulled her out. Her mother, Neelamma Aunty, says it’s because Deepa’s blind, but we don’t believe her. In Heaven, there are plenty of reasons to stop a girl’s education. None of them are any good.

Every afternoon, we stop at Deepa’s house on the way to our own. We like sitting with her in the sunlight that puddles out- side her door, our hands busy peeling garlic bulbs or stripping
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A People’s History of Heaven​5

 

curry leaves off of their stems. We like sipping the sugar-strong coffee Neelamma Aunty pours us while she tells us the day’s gos- sip, rumors and stories we’ll tell our mothers. We like answering Deepa’s questions about our classes. What we learned, what she’s missed. It makes us feel lucky. Smart. Important.

The afternoon of the demolition, though, Deepa and Neelamma Aunty aren’t home. They’re with the rest of our mothers, hand in hand, staring down the machines. The world smells like burnt rubber. The engines are off, but the air still hums.

Joy takes Deepa’s hand, joins the chain, and asks, “What’s going on?”

Deepa blinks her sightless eyes and says, “The city said we had a month. They lied.”

“Same way they lied about getting us a water pump,” Padma says, reaching for Joy with one hand and Rukshana with the other, “and about cleaning up the sewage behind the hospital.”

“Where are the police? They always send police,” Rukshana says, taking Joy’s hand and reaching for Banu’s. Rukshana’s mother is always dragging her to protests, so she knows these things.

“The police? They left,” Deepa says. “Told the bulldozer drivers not to run us over while they were gone.”

“Are they coming back?” Padma asks.

“Who knows,” Deepa says. “It’s Holi weekend. I bet they’re all off playing colors with their policewallah friends.”

“Makes sense,” Joy says, nodding. “They don’t care about people like us.”

“You mean they don’t see people like us,” Banu says. “That’s different.”

“You’re right,” Rukshana says. “It’s worse.”
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“Whether they see us or not, this is our home,” Deepa says. “The city can’t just take it away from us.”

“Sure they can,” Rukshana says.

“Well, they won’t,” Deepa says. “We won’t let them.”
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Blog Tour: Spotlight and Review- Dreaming of Rome by T.A. Williams

Title: Dreaming of Rome

Author Name: T.A. Williams

 

Previous Books (if applicable): Dreaming of Venice, Dreaming of Florence, Dreaming of St Tropez, Dreaing of Christmas and Dreaming of Tuscany

 

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 

Release Date: 6th May 2019

 

Cover Image:

About the Book: 

Rome is where the heart is… The heartwarming read of the summer
Jo has had enough of handsome men. After a painful break-up, she’s decided she doesn’t believe in love.

Then, while on a professional trip to the magical city of Rome, she meets Corrado, a scientist and her brother-in-law to be, who doesn’t believe in love either. To him, it’s just a biochemical reaction. So what’s the problem?

Well, he’s gorgeous for a start, as well as charming, generous, intelligent and attentive, and she feels herself immediately falling for him, despite her new outlook.

The majesty of the Eternal City brings them ever closer together. But is their relationship doomed, or will love conquer all?

Heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measure, Dreaming of Rome is a joyous and uplifting read from T.A. Williams, perfect for fans of Holly Martin, Tilly Tennant and Jenny Oliver

My Review:

I absolutely love the way T.A.Williams writes. When you have one of his books you are guaranteed sun, amazing locations and total immersion in a different culture, language and customs.

Dreaming of Rome takes us to Rome and the surrounding areas via the adventures of Jo who is invited to her sister’s wedding and also to her gorgeous house.

Jo swears she’s over men after a disasterous breakup and another disasterous date during which I was cheering her on and hoping for the best that she found someone really worthy of her love. So, leaving London for Italy is pretty easy for her. Jo has a passion for butterflies and the butterflies were made so visual in the book, a unique characteristic.

Regarding love: Is Corrado the one for her? Or someone totally different? In true T.A. Williams style, of course there’s romance, lounging by the pool and mouthwaterring food as well as great company as well as not so great company. And there has to be a dog. Daisy was a real character and she stole the show on more than one occasion.

The premise is pretty simple, but T.A. Williams pulls the plot off with ease and takes the reader along to Italy (I could almost literally taste the ice creams and other food!) Food, romance, sun and fun, Dreaming of Rome is a laid-back book that really keeps the reader hooked.

A great addition to the Dreaming of……series which has already taken me to many locations.

It really helps that the author lived in various couuntries and has such a love of languages and culture because I always feel I learn some new vocabulary through the easy way the foreign language is woven into the text. This makes the books more enjoyable for me. I learnt some Italian for a year is but still learnt something new through this novel.

A perfect summer/ beach novel- or one for any time of year. Feelgood, and a wonderful pace.

Thanks to T.A. Williams for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review plus a space on the blog tour fot this title.

5 sun drenched stars

Links to Book:



Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

About the Author:



T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing.

Twitter: @TAWilliamsBooks

Blog Tour: Wedding Bells at Villa Limoncello by Daisy James (Tuscan Trilogy #1) 

Title: Wedding Bells at Villa Limoncello 

Author Name: Daisy James

 

Previous Books (if applicable): 

Sunshine & Secrets, Confetti & Confusion and Mistletoe & Mystery

 

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 

Release Date: 11th March 2019

 

Cover Image:

About the Book:

 Escape to Villa Limoncello… where dreams come true in unexpected ways. Perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Jenny Oliver and Kat French
When Isabella Jenkins is unceremoniously fired from her fancy London job, she escapes to Tuscany. A few weeks hiding amongst rolling hills and grape vines at Villa Limoncello sounds exactly like the distraction she needs.

But Italy holds emotional memories for Izzy and with a hapless handyman, a matchmaking village matriarch and a gorgeous – if infuriating – local chef named Luca Castelotti, her quiet Italian get away turns into an unending cacophony of chaos.

Suddenly Izzie finds herself on a mission to pull off the wedding of the century and maybe get her life in order in the process. If only Luca’s gorgeous smile wasn’t such a powerful distraction…

 My Review: 

Isabella Jenkins, or Izzie as she’s known, is happy with her job as an interior designer in London and with life until she is fired and has to start anew, 
She’s shocked and wondering what to do when her friend Meghan talks about her brother’s wedding. 
Meghan always wants to be there for Izzie as only a good friend should be and before Izzie knows it, she’s jetting off to the Tuscan sun to help with organising the wedding. 
Villa Limoncello is nestled in a rural part of Tuscany and proves a perfect retreat for Izzie. The characters are all nice, and everything seems too perfect at times. I was very surprised at how well they spoke English and found some parts of the book dragged, especially the first 40 percent. Perhaps the pace there was meant to set the scene and lure the reader in. 
Just as with Daisy James’ Paradise Cookery School series, an exotic location is teamed with rustic charm, friendly locals and good food. There are good times, as well as ones that do not go so well. 
I enjoyed the wedding preparations and was swept up in the atmosphere, more so I think as I have very recently celebrated my own wedding. But it’s a very quick and relaxing novel. 
Part 1 of a new series, I am looking forward to the other books. I did feel that the characters were a little underdeveloped and stereotyped but maybe that was intentional, leaving room for more adventures in future books.
 A good start to a new series and it is wonderful to review another Daisy James book. 
Thanks to Daisy James and Canelo for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and my place on the blog tour for this title.  
3.5-4 stars.

 

Where to Buy:
Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

About the Author:


Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the north east of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her summerhouse, she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.

Twitter: @daisyjamesbooks
 

 

I reviewed another series by Daisy James in the past called The Paradise Cookery School. 

Book 1: Sunshine and Secrets  

Book 2: Confetti and Confusion

Book 3: Mistletoe and Mystery

Blog Tour: What Happens in France by Carol Wyer

Title: What Happens in France

 

Author Name: Carol Wyer

 

Previous Books (if applicable): TBC

 

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 

Release Date: 28th January 2019

 

Cover Image:

Book Blurb:

She stood and took her place in front of the camera… It was now or never”
Bryony Masters has been looking for her long-lost sister, Hannah, for years, but when their father has a stroke her search takes on new urgency. So when primetime game show, What Happens in France, puts a call-out for new contestants, Bryony spots the ultimate public platform to find her reality TV-obsessed sister, and finally reunite their family.

With the help of handsome teammate Lewis, it’s not long before she’s on a private jet heading for the stunning beauty of rural France. With a social media star dog, a high maintenance quiz host and a cast of truly unique characters, Bryony and Lewis have their work cut out for them to stay on the show and in the public eye.

Yet as the audience grows and the grand prize beckons they find that the search that brought them together may just fulfil more than one heart’s wish…

This heartwarming romantic comedy of friendship, family and laugh-out-loud adventures is perfect for fans of Kirsty Greenwood, Colleen Coleman and Marian Keyes.

My Review:

I was introduced by this book’s title so downloaded it straight away. The cover is very eye catching and I was hooked by the synopsis. However, as soon as I started it I realised that the book has very sad undercurrents, with Bryony’s father’s health being far from good because of a stroke. I have my own chronic health issues and live with disabilities so I immediately identified with the family.

I’m a very sensitive person and was very moved by the sadness that Bryony’s father’s stroke caused her and her mum. I just wanted to appear in the book and hug them. On top of that, Bryony’s sister Hannah has not been part of the family since she went missing at age 16, which was 30 years ago. I found Bryony’s attempts to search for her humbling and was touched by the blog entries she wrote. The tone in which they were written was as if she were talking to her sister face to face and were moving and at times frank and very true to life.

Hannah was a real fan of reality TV shows and Bryony sees the game show, What Happens in France, as an opportunity to find Hannah and finally reunite the family.

She and team mates Lewis jet off to rural France to participate. There, Bryony sees she is in for a real adventure. Will she and Lewis hit it off? Is love on the cards and will she find Hannah? Read this if you want to know. Bryony is courageous, strong driven and pours her heart into everything she does. There’s a real sense of the importance of family in this novel which I loved and it really begs the question: What would you do to reunite your family?

The book will make you feel, think, smile and cry. Such an amazing tale. The writing just flows so well too.

What happens in France was suspenseful, sweet and, far from being a slushy romance, I’d say it is “a romance with edge.” The plot has an excellent pace and so many layers. This was the perfect introduction to Carol Wyer’s books for me and I really want to discover more of her books. 5 stars.

Thanks to Carol Wyer and Canelo for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review and my blog tour slot for this title.
Links to Book:
Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Author Bio:


As a child Carol Wyer was always moving, and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.

Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

Twitter: @carolewyer

CHAPTER ONE

THURSDAY, 6 JULY – AFTERNOON

 

Bryony drew up outside Melinda’s house. The gaily coloured yellow front door stood out boldly among the row of identical houses, all of which had brown doors. The door was much like Melinda herself. Melinda was a one-off and she didn’t much care if others thought her odd or different. It was one of the things Bryony loved about her. In Bryony’s opinion, her friend’s front door was far more inviting than the others in the street. Someone – no doubt Sean’s father – had planted clumps of marigolds in the garden. A grinning garden gnome in a ridiculous costume and bright red hat dangled his rod into the flowers. The wooden sign hanging from a nail on the front door read: ‘Forget the Dog. Beware of the Wife,’ adding to the impression that this was a house filled with fun and frivolity.

Bryony rang the doorbell and waited. The door opened wide and there stood Melinda, a huge smile on her round face as always. Her smooth chestnut bob clung to her head like a helmet but her large brown eyes sparkled with youthful enthusiasm.

‘Come in,’ she said, wiping her hands on a faded tea towel. ‘You’ve arrived at just the right time. I’ve finished putting the final touches on the casserole and it’s ready to go in the oven. We’d best go in the kitchen. Freddie’s off school. He had a temperature this morning so I let him stay at home. He’s been playing with his Lego again and there are bricks everywhere in the lounge. I daren’t clean in there. Sean had to fix the vacuum cleaner last time because I hoovered up several yellow bricks and they got stuck in the pipe. Anyway, I’ve finished my housewifely chores and am ready for a glass of wine. Make that a very large glass of wine. Care to join me?’

‘It’s only one o’clock,’ protested Bryony.

‘And? You haven’t got to go back to work, so why not?’

Bryony laughed. ‘Only a small one. I have to drive, remember.’

Melinda led the way into the kitchen, a friendly space that oozed warmth and contentment. The fridge was covered with plastic letters spelling ‘Freddie’, ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’. Several drawings had been added to the side of it: one of a large sun shining over a house, one of a large dinosaur and another of three stick figures holding hands. Plastic animals adorned the shelf above the sink and a piece of pottery showcasing the small handprint of a child took pride of place; next to it stood a photograph of a grinning boy with dark hair and chocolate-brown eyes who looked exactly like his mother.

Melinda swept away small pots of herbs into a cupboard and extracted two glasses from another, all the while moving plates and pans into the sink so they were out of view. Bryony sniffed the air. It smelt of warm dough and lemon essence. A rack of scones stood cooling next to a sponge cake. Melinda had indeed been busy.

The bright room was dominated by a huge dining table protected by a plastic, floral tablecloth. A chubby face peered out from under the table.

‘Hello, Briny.’

‘Hello, Freddie. What are you doing under the table?’

‘I’m not under the table. I’m in a boat. This is my sky,’ replied the boy, solemn-faced, pointing to the underside of the kitchen table. ‘It’s night-time. I’ve been travelling all day. I’m sailing to Zanzibar.’

Bryony lifted the cloth to get a closer look. Freddie was seated in a large cardboard box, his mother’s egg whisk in one hand and red spatula in the other, ‘paddling’ from one end of the table to the other. He wore a pirate’s hat made of newspaper and somebody had painted a black moustache under his nose.

‘Are you looking for treasure?’ asked Bryony.

The boy shook his head. ‘I’m looking for a new country to live in. Daddy says he’s fed up of this one,’ he said then set about rocking his body to make the box slide along the floor. Melinda shrugged her shoulders in a display of astonishment and passed a glass of wine to Bryony. Melinda took a sip and sighed with pleasure. Freddie crawled out from under the table and handed Bryony his whisk.

‘Mummy, I’m going to get my dinosaurs. They want to go to Zanzibar too,’ he shouted as he scurried off.

‘Zanzibar?’ Bryony said.

‘I’ve no idea where that came from. Maybe it was from one of his bedtime books. I expect it’s sunny there and the roads have no potholes. Sean spent an hour complaining about the state of the roads last night. He hit an extra-large pothole on his way home. I don’t think the van’s too damaged but Sean wasn’t happy. He went on about England being a third-world country and grumbled that we should all move to a better one. He wasn’t serious but obviously our little earwigging child decided he was.’ She slugged back the remainder of her wine. ‘I needed that. It’s been a long day. I envy these younger mums. It’s tough racing after a hyperactive five-year-old when you’re well into your thirties.’

‘You do a fantastic job. Freddie is a credit to you. He’s a well-balanced, healthy boy and that’s all down to your parenting skills. You’re always there for him and you spend loads of time with him. You’re a fantastic mother.’

Melinda blushed. ‘Being a mother wasn’t exactly what I planned but it is the best job ever,’ she admitted.

‘Who’d have thought the career-minded, hard-nosed Melinda Ashbrook would become a full-time mother, eh?’

‘Less of the hard-nosed, thank you. I loved being a crime scene investigator but I’m so lucky to be in a situation where I get to be a stay at home mum.’

Singing from the room next door indicated Freddie had now abandoned his plans to row to Zanzibar and was watching television.

Bryony regarded her friend, whose face had taken on the look of maternal pride that accompanied a child’s achievement. There was no doubt that Sean and Freddie had transformed her. Bryony recalled the first time Melinda had brought Sean back to their flat, eyes glittering with mischief but still nervous in his ill-fitting suit he’d worn to impress them both.

Sean had succeeded in exposing Melinda’s gentler side that hitherto had been well and truly concealed. Being the only daughter in a family of four boys, and the youngest sibling to boot, she had learnt to stand up for herself at an early age and give away nothing in the emotion department. Her brothers had signed up for the Armed Forces but Melinda had followed in their grandfather’s footsteps, studied forensic science, and become a crime scene investigator with the police force.

Bryony had all the time in the world for her friend. Without her, Bryony’s time at school would have been even more horrendous than it already was. Melinda had been her friend and protector on more than one occasion, and in return Bryony had offered her unwavering affection and friendship that would always stand the test of time.

Melinda pointed at the small television screen on the wall above the kitchen table. ‘Ooh! Turn it up, Bry. It’s Professor David Potts, the gorgeous host of Mate or Date? Now, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed. He could charm me with that Irish lilt of his alone. Makes me go weak at the knees thinking about it.’

‘Behave yourself, woman. You’re happily married to Sean. If anyone should be thinking about such nonsense, it’s me.’ She pointed the remote at the set. ‘You’re right though. Professor Potts is absolutely divine. Lovely accent, piercing blue eyes, charisma. I wouldn’t want to be on a dating show but I’d happily spend all night listening to him explain the Theory of Relativity or even the offside rule in football. He is one very sexy man.’

Bryony turned up the volume and both women watched Professor Potts talking about the importance of protecting elephants in the wild. Once it was over, Melinda turned off the set.

‘I’d definitely trade in Sean for that man. He makes my toes tingle.’

Bryony laughed again. ‘That’s never going to happen. You and Sean are soulmates. I can’t imagine you ever trading him in. You and he are great together.’

‘We are, although some days I feel like I need an adventure – a whole new sexual adventure. A girl can dream, can’t she?’

‘Get a grip, woman. You two should spend more time together, without Freddie. Remind yourselves of what it was that attracted you to each other. Freddie arrived so quickly after you got together you didn’t have many opportunities to enjoy life as a couple. Why not have a date night? I’ll babysit Freddie for you.’

‘You and your sensible suggestions. You’re right, of course. We ought to light candles, play soft music and rip each other’s clothes off with unbridled lust but to be honest we’re both a bit tired these days. My mind is willing but my flesh is wobbly and not up for it. Talking of babysitting Freddie – he’ll be staying over at my mum’s at the weekend. He loves Granny Brigitte. She cooks him pancakes and lets him eat jelly beans. So, do you fancy coming around for booze, crisps and a bit of a murder mystery game?’

Bryony shook her head. ‘Shouldn’t you and Sean be enjoying some time together? Alone.’

‘Nah, honestly we’re fine. I’m crazy about Sean. And we see enough of each other. If I needed time away with him, I’d take it. The grandparents are always willing to have Freddie. It’s me. I don’t like parting with Freddie or being away from him.’

Bryony felt a small pang of envy. Although she didn’t begrudge her friend any happiness, she would like to have experienced the same herself.

‘A murder mystery night will do us both good. Sean bought me the game for Christmas. It’ll give us the chance to open it at last. Go on. Remember the fun we had when we did them way back in Birmingham?’

‘Okay. Why not?’

Melinda beamed at her. ‘It’ll be a hoot. Maybe I’ll arrange it so I get to be the elegant lady of the manor who is looking for a bit of rough and passionate sex with the gardener. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Sean is the gardener,’ she added, shutting her eyes and tilting her head back, playing out her fantasy in her mind. ‘He could be one of those beefcake sorts – strong, silent, muscular. I’m liking this idea already.’

‘Is it a murder mystery night or a weird sexual fantasy version of events?’

Melinda ignored the comment and said, ‘We could all do with a fun night. I’ll phone around and arrange it. I’m sure I can rustle up a few guests at short notice. There’s the new chap, Lewis, who moved in a couple of months ago.’

Bryony’s mouth opened in surprise. ‘You’re trying to match me up with someone again, aren’t you?’

Melinda giggled. ‘Might be. And why not? You’re young – thirty-six is still classified as young – free and single. He appears to be on his own too. He’s renting number forty-one, the Shepherds’ place. I’ve waved hello but not spoken to him. Sean met him at the gym a couple of weeks ago. They both like running, so Sean’s enjoyed having someone to talk to while he jogs along on the treadmill. It makes the time go quicker. He says Lewis is a really good guy with a quirky sense of humour.’

‘That’s a good start. I bet he won’t like me though. The last guy I went out with said I surrounded myself with an invisible, impenetrable force and I frightened him.’

‘When you stop trying to do a million things at once, you might actually meet someone. You’re always too occupied to get involved.’

Bryony pursed her lips but gave up the idea of arguing. Her friend was right. She wondered if she didn’t deliberately keep herself occupied to avoid meeting men. She rubbed at her forehead, her fingers lightly grazing the scar there, hidden now by a fringe but still evident when her hair fell away from her face. ‘Okay. Count me in for the party. I could do with a laugh.’

‘Great! I’ll get onto it immediately.’