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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA by TJ Klune (@tjklune) A fable/fairy tale for adults full of whimsy and quirky characters with a hopeful message #LGBT #fantasy

Hi all:

I bring you a review with an addendum because… Well, you will see why.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

A NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, and WASHINGTON POST BESTSELLER!
A 2021 Alex Award winner!
The 2021 RUSA Reading List: Fantasy Winner!
An Indie Next Pick!
One of Publishers Weekly’s “Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2020”
One of Book Riot’s “20 Must-Read Feel-Good Fantasies”

Lambda Literary Award-winning author TJ Klune’s bestselling, breakout contemporary fantasy that’s “1984 meets The Umbrella Academy with a pinch of Douglas Adams thrown in.” (Gail Carriger)

Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.

Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

“1984 meets The Umbrella Academy with a pinch of Douglas Adams thrown in.” —Gail Carriger, New York Times bestselling author of Soulless

https://www.amazon.com/House-Cerulean-Sea-TJ-Klune-ebook/dp/B07QPHT8CB/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Cerulean-Sea-TikTok-made-ebook/dp/B095Z4YRLP/

https://www.amazon.es/House-Cerulean-Sea-English-ebook/dp/B07QPHT8CB/

Author TJ Klune

About the author:

TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include the Green Creek series, The House on the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

https://tjklunebooks.com

https://www.amazon.com/TJ-Klune/e/B005LDJ9Z8/

My review:

This is the first book I have read by TJ Klune, and I didn’t know much about him or his books before. This story feels like an adult fairy tale, although I think it would be suitable for teens and YA as well. I also think it can fit into the category of an adult coming-of-age story, as the protagonist, Linus Baker, finds himself and learns to be his own person throughout the story, which covers just a few weeks of his life.

Linus Baker, the main character, is a grey man who lives in a grey world and has a grey job. The reviews mention 1984 and the similarities with the protagonist of George Orwell’s story are evident (minus the political angle. This book feels much more YA than that), and it also reminded me of the protagonist of Brazil, working at his little desk, and swallowed up by a strange world whose rules he tries to live by. Linus has no close friends, he doesn’t get on with his peers or his superiors at work either, and he only seems to care about his cat (it doesn’t appear to be mutual), his music (he loves to listen to records), his sunflowers (a splash of colour in his otherwise grey life), and his job. He lives by the book of Rules and Regulations of his organization and reads it as if it were the Bible. Suddenly, he is sent on a special mission, an extremely secret one, and he discovers an orphanage on an island very close to his dreams of a tropical paradise. The sea is blue (well, cerulean), the skies are sunny, and everything would be wonderful, almost like a vacation, if it weren’t for the peculiarities of the magical children who live at that orphanage. Well, and of the master of the orphanage and…

The novel looks at prejudice, persecution, harassment, intolerance, fear of the other, and the way society tends to lock away those who make it feel uncomfortable or don’t easily fit in. We are all familiar with such issues, that thankfully, have been changing in recent times, but not everywhere, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The novel is also full of hope; it explores the idea of found and chosen families; of finding a place you really belong to, and of how we can all help change things, one step at a time. There is also love (a couple of sweet ‘queer romances’, as they are described by the author) although it doesn’t become the dominant element of the novel, and the main romance is one of those “will-they/won’t they” situations where everybody else sees what is going on before the protagonists do.

The six children living at the orphanage are magical in totally different ways: some can do things, some are just… well, nobody knows exactly what kind of being they are, others have powers that can turn them dangerous, and all of them have been abused and marginalised because they don’t fit in. In a society that encourages compliance, surveillance, and uniformity, they are too visibly different. And that causes fear in the population, and it is encouraged by the powers that be.

Linus is reluctant and suspicious at first, but it seems that his superiors misjudged him. He is not just a bureaucrat without a heart who follows blindly the rules and remains detached and professional at whatever cost. He is genuinely devoted to the spirit of the job and cares about the children’s welfare, and that means he learns to see them for who they really are.

I loved the characters, especially the children, and Arthur and Zoe, the adults on the island, as well (later we meet some of the inhabitants of the town who are also formidable, Helen, the mayor, most of all); the way the story is told, like a fairytale; Linus’s transformation (which never becomes overdramatic or unbelievable); and the wit, humour, and quirkiness of it all. Some of the descriptions are as magical as the story, and by the end of the novel, I wanted to visit the island and meet the children and the rest of the characters as well. There are some reveals too, as things are not as they seem in more ways than one, but I wasn’t surprised by what we discover, and I think many readers will have guessed, or at least suspected, what we find out. But that didn’t spoil the enjoyment for me, and I hope that will be the case for most readers.

If I had to mention something I liked a little less, it would probably be the fact that “the message” of the novel is made quite evident and repeated in different ways, and readers who prefer subtlety and are fond of a less-is-more approach might feel it is heavy-handed. This fable makes its point clearly and somewhat forcefully, but it does have its heart in the right place, and the style of the story does fit into the genre, as does the fact that the story is not set in a specific time or real location (there are some vague references, mostly to do with music, but that is all). Some readers also felt that there are too many negative comments about the weight of the protagonist, but as we see the story from his point of view (although it is narrated in the third person), this seems to be another element of his lack of insight into who he really is, and further evidence of how much he has internalised society’s standards and opinions.

I have mentioned that the children have suffered abuse in the past, and they aren’t the only ones in the novel to be victims of prejudice. This is not described in too much detail, and it is mostly left to readers’ imaginations, but I would advise caution to those who feel they might be upset by such topics. You might also want to read my addendum to the review, as that might affect your feelings towards reading it.

The ending is as happy as it should be, and there is a final surprise thrown in (well, a couple) that will delight readers.

 Readers who are fond of fantasy, fairy tales, fables, and particularly enjoy adult coming-of-age stories and those who like quirky characters and Young Adult books should check this novel. It does have a positive message, and it wraps it up into a whimsical story full of heart. Highly recommended.

Just a few quotes as a taster:

These children aren’t animals. You aren’t on a safari with binoculars, watching them from a distance. How are you supposed to evaluate the children if you don’t even take the time to know them?’

‘We all have our issues. I have a spare tire around my middle. His father is Satan. Nothing that can’t be worked out if we try hard enough.’

‘Hate is loud, but I think you’ll learn it’s because it’s only a few people shouting, desperate to be heard. You might not ever be able to change their minds, but so long as you remember you’re not alone, you will overcome. ‘

‘Why can’t life work whatever way we want it to? What’s the point of living if you only do it how others want you to?’

 Addendum:

When I was checking the reviews of this novel, having almost finished it, I found out that there was a fair bit of controversy going on about it. Many reviewers that had given it good (or at least fair) reviews at first, went back to change their reviews and give it only 1 start (You can check the novel’s entry in Goodreads if you want to read about it in more detail).

It seems it all stems from this interview:

https://www.jeffandwill.com/biggayfictionpodcast/2020/03/16/episode-232-tj-klune-on-the-house-in-the-cerulean-sea-extraordinaries-and-greek-creek/

In the interview the author refers to this article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixties_Scoop

Here another article about it, this time from the Indigenous Foundations:

Sixties Scoop

There’s plenty of information about the Sixties Scoop available, but it seems that a lot of the people who read the novel had never heard of it. I hadn’t either, although, unfortunately, such things have happened before (and we can but hope they won’t happen again, but perhaps they are already happening) in other places, and other things that share similarities with it have happened, even though the circumstances were different. (In my country, many children from Republican and/or communist families were removed from them and “given” in unofficial adoptions to people loyal to Franco’s regime in the years after the Civil War and up to the 1970s. The case of the Australian aborigines is well-known, and I have reviewed books talking about similar subjects before).

Some readers felt the author was exploiting the story and the children and the communities involved.

If we take into account that nobody would have known about it if the author hadn’t freely mentioned it on one occasion (I read some other interviews, and it never came up); it doesn’t appear as if he was trying to use the historical events and people’s interest in it to sell his story, but I know these days it is difficult to know what might or might not cause outrage. I am sure many writers have read some horrific stories or news items that have sent them down a pathway that has resulted in a book that is very far from the original event, because authors are influenced by many things, and inspiration can take bizarre forms sometimes.

In any case, you don’t need to worry about the book upsetting you because of mentioning the real events or being very close to the facts. That is not the case, although that doesn’t mean the story doesn’t have an emotional impact, because it does. But you can always read the reviews, the comments, and counter-comments and make your own minds up.

Thanks to the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, sharing, and liking, and remember to keep smiling and keep making the best of things. ♥

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview #TheGlassHouse by Eve Chase (@EvePollyChase) (@PenguinUKBooks) A totally immersing and wonderful reading experience

Hi all:

I bring you a book that I’ve enjoyed by an acclaimed author I hadn’t had a chance to read yet but has now become a favourite.

The Glass House by Eve Chase

The Glass House by Eve Chase

PRE-ORDER THE STUNNING NEW MYSTERY ABOUT OLD FAMILY SECRETS FROM THE AUTHOR OF BLACK RABBIT HALL AND THE VANISHING OF AUDREY WILDE

‘A captivating mystery: beautifully written, with a rich sense of place, a cast of memorable characters, and lots of deep, dark secrets’ Kate Morton, bestselling author of The Clockmaker’s Daughter

Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.

The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They’re grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house’s dark, dusty corners.

Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour – and the law – don’t seem to apply.

But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds.

And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.

Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .

From the author of Black Rabbit Hall, The Glass House is an emotional, thrilling book about family secrets and belonging – and how we find ourselves when we are most lost.

‘I adored this beautifully-written, riveting mystery’ Rosie Walsh, bestselling author of The Man Who Didn’t Call

‘Absolutely her best yet’ Lisa Jewell, bestselling author of The Family Upstairs

‘So beautifully and insightfully written, with characters I grew to love. A compelling, moving story that kept me turning the pages right to the very last’ Katherine Webb, author of The Legacy

Praise for Eve Chase

‘Enthralling’ Kate Morton

‘Simply stunning’ Dinah Jefferies

‘The most beautiful book you will read this year’ Lisa Jewell

https://www.amazon.com/Glass-House-Eve-Chase-ebook/dp/B07VRY3DBN/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Glass-House-Eve-Chase-ebook/dp/B07VRY3DBN/

https://www.amazon.es/Glass-House-Eve-Chase-ebook/dp/B07VRY3DBN/

Author Eve Chase

About the author:

I’m an author who writes rich suspenseful novels about families – dysfunctional, passionate – and the sort of explosive secrets that can rip them apart. I write stories that I’d love to read. Mysteries. Page-turners. Worlds you can lose yourself in. Reading time is so precious: I try to make my books worthy of that sweet spot.

My office is a garden studio/shed. There are roses outside. I live in Oxford with my three children, husband, and a ridiculously hairy golden retriever, Harry.

Do say hello. Wave! Tweet me! I love hearing from readers. I’m on Twitter and Instagram @EvePollyChase and on Facebook, eve.chase.author.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eve-Chase/e/B01AKOSDWW

My review:

Thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. This is the first time I’ve read one of Eve Chase’s novels, and I’m sure it won’t be the last one as I found it a totally immersing and wonderful experience.

The plot has something of the fairy tale (or of several fairy tales), as this is a dual-timeline story where we read about some events that took place in the early 1970s —although that part of the action (in fact, the whole book) has something timeless about it— and then others that are taking place in the present. The story is told from three different points of view, those of Rita (told in a deep third person, as readers are privy to her feelings and thoughts), a very tall nanny (they call her ‘Big Rita’) with a tragic past; Hera, one of her charges, an intelligent and troubled child (almost a teen), who is more aware of what is truly going on around her than the adults realise; and Sylvia, a recently separated woman, mother of an eighteen-year-old girl, Annie, and trying to get used to an independent lifestyle again. Both, Hera and Sylvia, tell the story in the first person, and the chapters alternate between the three narrators and the two timelines. Rita and Hera’s narratives start in the 1970s and are intrinsically linked, telling the story of the Harrington family and of a summer holiday in the family home in the Forest of Dean, intended as a therapeutic break for the mother of the family, which turns up to be anything but. Most readers will imagine that Sylvia’s story, set in the present, must be related to that of the other two women, but it is not immediately evident how. There are secrets, mysteries, adultery, murders, lost and found babies, romance, tragedy, accidents, terraria (or terrariums, like the lovely one in the cover of the book), cruelty, fire… The book is classed under Gothic fiction (and in many ways it has many of the elements we’d expect from a Victorian Gothic novel, or a fairy tale, as I said), and also as a domestic thriller, and yes, it also fits in that category, but with a lot more symbolism than is usual in that genre, a house in the forest rather than a suburban or a city home, and some characters that are larger than life.

Loss, grief, identity (how we define ourselves and how we are marked by family tradition and the stories we are told growing up), the relationship between mothers and daughters, and what makes a family a family are among the themes running through the novel, as are memory and the different ways people try to cope with trauma and painful past events.

I’ve mentioned the characters in passing, and although some of them might sound familiar when we start reading about them (Rita, the shy woman, too tall and scarred to be considered attractive, who seeks refuge in other people’s family; Hera, the young girl growing in a wealthy family with a mother who has mental health problems and a largely absent father; and Sylvia, a woman in her forties suddenly confronted with having to truly become an adult when both, her mother and her daughter need her), there is more to them than meets the eye, and they all grow and evolve during the novel, having to confront some painful truths in the process. I liked Rita and Sylvia from the beginning, even though I don’t have much in common with either of them, and felt sorry for Hera. Although the events and the story require a degree of suspension of disbelief greater than in other novels, the characters, their emotions, and their reactions are understandable and feel real within the remit of the story, and it would be difficult to read it and not feel for them.

I loved the style that offers a good mix of descriptive writing (especially vivid when dealing with the setting of the story, the forest, Devon, and the terrarium) and more symbolic and lyrical writing when dealing with the emotions and the state of mind of the characters. At times, we can almost physically share in their experiences, hear the noises in the woods, or smell the sea breeze. This is not a rushed story, and although the action and the plot move along at a reasonable pace, there is enough time to stop to contemplate and marvel at a fern, the feel of a baby’s skin, or the music from a guitar. This is not a frantic thriller but a rather precious story, and it won’t suit people looking for constant action and a fast pace. I’ve read some reviews where readers complained about feeling confused by the dual timelines and the different narrators, although I didn’t find it confusing as each chapter is clearly marked and labelled (both with mention of the time and the character whose point of view we are reading). I recommend anybody thinking about reading the book to check a sample first, to see if it is a good fit for their taste.

The ending… I’m going to avoid spoilers, as usual, but I liked the way everything comes together and fits in. Did I work out what was going on? Some of the revelations happen quite early, but some of the details don’t come to light until much later, and the author is masterful in the way she drops clues that we might miss and obscures/hides information until the right moment. I guessed some of the points, others I only realised quite close to the actual ending, but, in any case, I loved how it all came together, like in a fairy tale, only even better.

This is a novel for readers who don’t mind letting their imagination fly and who are not looking for a totally realistic novel based on fact. With wonderful characters, magnificent settings, many elements that will make readers think of fairy tales, and a Gothic feel, this is a great novel and an author whose work I look forward to reading again in the near future.

Thanks to the publisher, NetGalley, and the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling. And keep safe!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE SWOOPING MAGPIE by Liza Perrat (@LizaPerrat) #RBRT #Bookreview A powerful and poignant drama recommended to book clubs

Hi all:

Today I bring you the review of a book by an author I discovered thanks to Rosie Amber’s group and who’s become a big favourite of mine. And she does not disappoint.

The Swooping Magpie: 1970s Australian Drama by Liza Perrat

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.
Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.
She’s not wrong.
Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.
Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness, and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.
Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.
Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss, and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

A searing tale of lost innocence – compelling writing from an author at the top of her game. Lorraine Mace, author of the D.I. Paolo Sterling crime series.

Capturing the attitude and angst of the teen years, and all the atmosphere of the late sixties, The Swooping Magpie’s sizzling narrative, and cracking pace hooked me from the start. It’s a tearjerker too… I actually cried. Dr. Carol Cooper, journalist, and novelist.

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07JMWDRK9/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JMWDRK9/

Author Liza Perrat

About the author:

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.

When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.

Several of her short stories have won awards, notably, the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the historical “The Bone Angel” series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII German Occupation of France, was published in October 2013. The third in the series, Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years was published in November 2015.

The Silent Kookaburra, a domestic noir, a psychological suspense novel set in 1970s Australia, was published in November 2016. The second in this Australian family drama series, The Swooping Magpie, was published in October 2018.

Friends, Family and Other Strangers From Downunder is a collection of 14 humorous, horrific and entertaining short stories set in Australia, for readers everywhere.

Liza is a co-founder and member of Triskele Books, an independent writers’ collective with a commitment to quality and a strong sense of place, and also reviews books for Bookmuse.

Liza is available for virtual book club visits (via Skype) upon request.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liza-Perrat/e/B008385OF2/

Email Newsletter sign-up for FREE short story, Ill-fated Rose, that inspired The Bone Angel series: http://www.lizaperrat.moonfruit.com/sign-up

Website: www.lizaperrat.com

Blog: http://lizaperrat.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Liza-Perrat-232382930192297/

Twitter: @LizaPerrat

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/triskelebooks/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and was provided with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is the fifth of Liza Perrat’s novels I read, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I am a fan. I have read her historical novels in The Bone Angel Series, and also The Silent Kookaburra, set, like this novel, in the 1970s. It seems that the author intends to write a new series of independent novels, set in Australia in the 1970s, reflecting the everyday lives and realities of women in the period, and this is the second one. All of the author’s novels have female protagonists and closely explore their subjectivities and how they adapt to their social circumstances in the different historical periods. They might be fictional but the pay close attention to details and are the result of careful research.

Here, the main character is Lindsay Townsend, who narrates the story in the first person, in three different time periods, the early 1970s, the early 1990s, and the final fragment, set in 2013. The first part, and the longest shows us, Lindsay, when she is about to become 16. She is (at least on the surface), a very confident girl, clever, pretty, with plenty of money, from a good family, although not all is at it seems. She seems to lead a charmed life, but her home life is rather sad, with a violent father more interested in keeping up appearances than in looking after his wife and daughter, and a mother hooked on pills and spending as much time as possible out of the house on her charity work. Despite all that, Lindsay is not a particularly sympathetic character, and I know that might be a problem for readers who are not that keen on first-person narratives, as placing you in the skin of a character you don’t like might make for an uncomfortable reading experience, even if it is for a very good reason. She is a typical teenager, overconfident, and a bit of a bully, showing no sympathy for anybody’s circumstances at the beginning of the book. She dismisses her peers, feeling superior to all of them, and, as usual at that age, she believes she knows better than anybody and is invincible. That lands her in a lot of trouble, as she falls for one of the teachers, with consequences that readers might guess but that, at the time, don’t cross her mind. At a time when society was far less tolerant of alternative families, and women’s liberation had not taken hold, Lindsay is faced with an impossible decision and is suddenly confronted with a reality miles away from her everyday life. Her intelligence (unfortunately not accompanied by common sense) and her stubbornness don’t provide her with any answers when confronted with a teenage pregnancy. Faced with hard work, and thrown in the middle of a group of girls from different walks of life and social classes, she discovers what she is really made off and learns a very bitter lesson.

Although Lindsay herself is not likeable, especially at the beginning of the story, when she goes to St. Mary’s we learn about the varied experiences of other girls in her same circumstances and it is impossible not to feel touched and care for them. We have girls from the rural outback, abused by relatives, others who are the children of immigrant families who have no means to look after their babies, and with Downey, the little aboriginal girl whose story is, perhaps, the most heart-wrenching because she is a child herself, we get a representation of the scale of the problem (and a pointed reminder of the aboriginal experience in Australia). This was not something that only happened to girls of a certain social class or ethnic origin. It happened to everybody.  Through the different timelines, we get to follow the historic and social changes that took place, how laws affected adopted children and their biological parents, and we also get a picture of the ongoing effect those events had on those women, the children, and their families. We have women who never want to learn what happened to their babies, others who try but cannot get any information, others who get reunited with their children many years later, some who suffer ongoing negative consequences from their experiences, whilst others manage to create new lives for themselves. But the wound of the loss is always present.

The author deals with the tragic topic skilfully. If at times some of the scenes seem to have come out of a horrific version of a fairy tale (there are characters who are like evil witches, and Lindsay and her friends confront tasks that would put Cinderella to shame), and the degree of corruption and conspiracy stretches the imagination, we only need to read the news and listen to personal accounts of women who have been in such situation to realise that, whatever the concessions to fiction, the writer has done her research and has managed to capture the thoughts and feelings of the many women affected by this issue.

The action is set in Australia, mostly in Wollongong, New South Wales, with some events taking place in Sidney and other areas of the country. I have always admired the author’s talent for recreating the locations of her stories and for making us experience them with all of our senses, submerging us in the smells, the sounds, the tastes (I don’t know some of the foods and labels included, but they do add to the feel of authenticity), the flora and fauna, the clothing, the music, and the language of the time. Although forced adoptions are a widespread problem and it has affected a number of other countries (we might not know its full scale yet), the realistic location (and the family connection and research the author refers to in the author’s note at the back of the book) makes it more immediate and real still.

The story is extremely well-written, with enough description, both of the place and of the period, to ground the action without making it drag, but although it manages to combine action and surprises with reflective passages, the strongest point of the novel is its exploration of the psychological effects of losing a child, especially in those circumstances. The author manages to capture the thoughts and feelings of the character and through her conversations; we also get some insight into the experiences of others. In the first part of the book we have a young girl, and we get to share her thought process, her hesitations, doubts, and we feel trapped with her by a situation she is not in control of, and even though we might not have much in common with her, we do empathise and get to see things from her point of view. We do suffer with her and her friends, and although we might not like everything she says or does, we appreciate her kindness and the way she gets to bond with the other girls at St. Mary’s. Lindsay lives through much heartache, and grows and changes as a result, but people reading this book need to be aware that there are disturbing scenes and the topic of adoptions and depression might hit close home for many.

This is another great novel and although it can be read simply as fiction, I would recommend it in particular to readers interested in adoptions, particularly forced adoptions, and the perspectives of the families involved. I think it would make for a great book club choice, as the subject is one that will interest many readers, and it will bring much discussion, and the author includes a detailed list of some of the resources she has used to research the topic, providing extra material for those interested. Personally, I felt more empathy for other characters than for Lindsay, but no matter how much or how little we like each individual who went through such experiences, this novel will give readers pause and make them reflect upon the horrors that have been enforced in the recent past in the name of morality and decency. A powerful and poignant novel, to add to the catalogue of an accomplished and talented writer.

(You can check my reviews of Blood Rose Angel here, Spirit of Lost Angel here, Wolfsangel here and The Silent Kookaburra here.)

Thanks to Rosie and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep reading and smiling!

Categories
Blog Tour Book launch Book review Book reviews

#Tuesdaybookblog #Blogtour and review THE CHRISTMAS WISHING TREE. An Eternity Springs Novel by Emily March (@EmilyMarchBooks) An enchanted town, the power of believing, a mystery, and the perfect romance

Christmas Wishing Tree Blogtour Banner
Christmas Wishing Tree Blogtour

Hi all:

Yes, I know it’s not Christmas yet, but when I got offered the opportunity to read this book in the summer, I quite fancied it (it was really hot) and the blog tour sounded very appealing as well. If any US readers of the blog fancy a copy, let me know your e-mail address and I’ll make sure you’re entered into the giveaway of a copy of the book. 

The Christmas Wishing Tree. An Eternity Springs Novel by Emily March 

Summary:
Sometimes life’s most magical journeys bring you back to where it all began…From USA Today bestselling author Emily March comes The Christmas Wishing Tree, an enchanting account of the magic and miracle of Christmas.

A man who loves adventure and the open sea, Devin Murphy returns for a short Christmas trip to his small hometown of Eternity Springs. Immersed in the joy and magic of the holiday season all around him, he doesn’t hesitate to play along when a young boy phones Santa to ask for a very special wish. Devin never guesses that a wrong number has the potential to make everything in his life so right.

Jenna Stockton adopted Reilly when he needed a mother and she intends to keep him safe. A small town across the country called Eternity Springs seems like a good place to hide from their past without any complications —until sexy Santa himself discovers her secrets. When Devin proposes a daring plan to face down the danger together and defeat it once and for all, she is tempted. Maybe Devin really is capable of making wishes come true? Perhaps in a Christmas wish they’ll both find the miracle they’ve been looking for all along…

A delightful Christmas novel in the New York Times bestselling Eternity Springs series.

Buy Links:

Macmillan

Amazon

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Books-a-Million

Indie Bound

Powells

Author Emily March
Author Emily March

Author Bio:

Emily March is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series. Publishers Weekly calls March a “master of delightful banter,” and her heartwarming, emotionally charged stories have been named to Best of the Year lists by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romance Writers of America. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeño relish has made her a tailgating legend.

Social Links:

Emily March Website

Twitter: @EmilyMarchBooks

Facebook: Emily March

Pinterest: Emily March

My review:

I am thankful to St Martin’s Press for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review and for the opportunity to participate in the blog tour of its launch.

Although I am not a big fan of Christmas, I do enjoy some Christmas stories, movies, and songs (especially out of season, when one isn’t surrounded by it). The offer to read and review this novel reached me in the middle of a pretty hot summer and it felt like the perfect way to combat the heat. It worked, for sure, and although I had never read any of the other novels in the Eternity Springs series, I quickly became enamoured of the place and its inhabitants. I can reassure you, though, that the story goes beyond the Christmas theme, and there are wonderful scenes that take place in other seasons (the Fall, the Fourth of July…) and other locations apart from Colorado (Nashville, Florida, Australia, and the Caribbean).  But I have to agree that the overall theme of the novel, and the spirit that suffuses it, is that of Christmas.

The novel, written in the third person, shares the alternating points of view (and locations) of a part-time resident of Eternity Springs, Devon Murphy (the son of Cam and Sarah Murphy, and brother to Michael, long-term residents of the town), and Jenna Stockton, a doctor specialising in Obstetrics and Gynaecology whom we meet in Nashville. While Devon seems to be a free-spirited man who loves the sea, boats, fishing, and women, but avoids commitment like the plague, Jenna is a model of responsibility. She is a single mom to Reilly, whom he adopted after looking after his mother, a young woman down on her luck who died when the boy was a toddler. She works hard and would do anything to ensure the safety and happiness of her son. But he has a Christmas wish that is out of her hands. Somehow, luck, magic, or the power of believing puts Reilly and Devon in contact, and in a roundabout way, the destinies of the three of them intersect in the wonderful town of Eternity Springs. Both main characters have secrets (as readers of the genre will probably expect): Devon has a traumatic past in the relationships department and has a lot in common with Reilly, and Jenna’s life is haunted by a stalker who seems intent on upping-the-ante and putting her and her son’s lives at risk.

I liked the characters and their relationship, that follows the well-known formula of will-they/won’t-they so successful in the romance genre (they both have very valid reasons for their hesitation, although if you get easily impatient, I must warn you that the book is quite long and the story develops over close to two years), and I liked many of the secondary characters as well (despite not having read other novels in the series, I got a fairly good sense of who they were, and I did not feel I could not fully enjoy the story because of lack of background information. And I wouldn’t mind getting to know more about many of them), particularly Celeste, her resort, and the wonderful idea of the Wishing Christmas Tree that gives the book its title. She has a touch of the magical and is the fairy godmother of the town and all the characters (and I’d love to meet her).

What I most enjoyed of the book was the town of Eternity Springs. I have read a number of novels that take place in charming towns (islands or other locations) where outsiders come and are quickly adopted by the community, becoming, in many cases for the first time, part of a big family. I always enjoy the fact that the town becomes a protagonist in its own right and when the novels works well, you feel as if you had spent time in a real place and look forward to future visits to the magical location. Eternity Springs is one of those towns, and to add to its attraction, it is located within a marvellous natural setting, and the writer does a good job of introducing us to parks, lakes, mountains, taking us on sledge rides, fishing, camping, and exploring the wonderful facilities and the traditions of the place. Although it has more than a touch of the fairy tale (everybody seems to be well-off, everybody is fairly happy, apart from the main protagonists, temporarily, and even the bad things that happen are pretty mild) and it can be a bit sugary at times, I think it would take a very cold heart to read the novel without falling for the magic of the town and its inhabitant. (And perhaps shed a tear or two. Good tears, though).

If I had to point out some things that readers might have issue with, one would be the mystery element. Jenna’s background story and her circumstances bear heavily upon her actions and how cautious she is when it comes to meeting new people and possible romances. Although the mystery element ramps up the tension and adds to the interest of the story, on occasions it seemed to be more of an afterthought and an opportunity to show Devon and his friends (all male) as a team capable of investigating and keeping everybody safe (and yes, some elements of the rescue fantasy and the knight in shining armour were clearly at work there). Although Jenna herself complains at times about being treated like a weak woman in need of protection —despite being a competent professional who had managed well by herself until that moment— this novel keeps to conventional and traditional gender roles rather than challenging them. I know that such plots and story-lines are typical of many romantic (wish-fulfilment) novels but might not suit all readers, especially those who prefer women in charge of their own destinies. As a reader of thrillers and mystery novels, I did not feel the mystery would have satisfied fans of the genre, as we are not given enough information to solve it (we get some details of the case but others are brushed over quickly and the resolution, when it arrives, is somewhat anticlimactic), and it takes a backseat to the romantic part of the story. Having read other books that mix both genres, and this being a romance with some mystery thrown in, rather than the other way round, I did not think its intended readers would be too disappointed.

There are many other subplots I have not mentioned, including dogs, pregnancies, health scares, fishing, older motherhood, baking, National Parks, love of nature, adoption, social media, stalking, counselling, vocation, tropical storms, family, traditions, Santa Claus, magic, traumatic relationships… There are wonderfully vivid and memorable scenes, the style of writing is easy and fluid, and the descriptions bring to life both the locations and the characters (without going overboard with the physical descriptions of the protagonists and love interests, although yes, don’t worry, they are attractive), and there are some sad moments, some funny ones, and many emotional and heart-warming scenes as well. There is plenty of sexual attraction and tension between Devon and Jenna, but there is no graphic sex and although there are some thrilling scenes, the doors stay firmly closed behind the protagonists when it comes to that side of things.

I know readers of romantic novels expect a happy ending. Well, you won’t be disappointed here. What’s more, I know some readers can get really upset if they feel there are elements in the story that are not fully solved and hate it when they feel that writers are using hooks and unresolved issues to keep them buying books in a series (not everybody feels the same, though). As I have said before, this novel can be read independently from the rest of the series, and all the plots and subplots of the story, even the secondary ones, are solved satisfactorily. So don’t hesitate to pick up this novel just because it’s part of a series. You will feel sad it has ended but it won’t keep you awake at night trying to guess what happened next. I kept imagining this novel as either a movie, or better even, a TV series, and would be surprised if some production company didn’t snatch it up. Done well it would be irresistible.

In sum, this is a novel that takes place in a magical location, in gorgeous settings, with a Christmas theme and a hopeful message, a romance that includes elements of mystery/thriller, with likeable characters that will make you feel home. I, for one, won’t hesitate to visit Eternity Springs again in the future.

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading and please, if you have a minute, remember to like, share, comment, click, keep reading, review and smiling. And if you live in the USA and fancy a copy of the book, leave me your e-mail in the comments and I’ll make sure you are entered into the giveaway. Good luck!

 Oh, and I wanted to let you know my blog is featured on the Top 100 Book Blogs UK/Book Review Websites UK, here. Visit if you can, as it is a very comprehensive list and you will recognise a few faces. 😉

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