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#Bookreview BECAUSE OF YOU by Dawn French (@Dawn_French) (@PenguinUKBooks) You’ll cry, laugh, and love it

Hi all:

I bring you a book that I requested on a bit of a whim and it was a total win.

Because of You by Dawn French

Because of You by Dawn French

THE EAGERLY AWAITED, LIFE-AFFIRMING AND MOVING NEW NOVEL FROM NUMBER-ONE BESTSELLING AUTHOR DAWN FRENCH

‘Dawn tackles the big ones – love, death, grief, childhood, motherhood, parenthood – head on’ Guardian

‘Beautifully observed’ The Times
__________

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock . . . midnight.

The old millennium turns into the new.

In the same hospital, two very different women give birth to two very similar daughters.

Hope leaves with a beautiful baby girl.

Anna leaves with empty arms.

Seventeen years later, the gods who keep watch over broken-hearted mothers wreak mighty revenge, and the truth starts rolling, terrible and deep, toward them all.

The power of mother-love will be tested to its limits.

Perhaps beyond . . .

Because Of You is Dawn French’s stunning new novel, told with her signature humour, warmth and so much love.

‘Gorgeous . . . wise and full of love’ MARIAN KEYES

‘An extraordinary book – sad, heartening, gripping and reassuringly human’ JO BRAND

‘Dawn French is a wonderful writer’ Daily Mail

‘Incredible’ RUSSELL BRAND

‘Moving . . . French’s best yet’ Good Housekeeping

READERS LOVE BECAUSE OF YOU:

‘Tugs at your heart strings. I would have a box of tissues when reading!’ 5*****

‘I had tears in my eyes by the end of the book. Absolutely wonderfully written’ 5*****

‘A profoundly emotional read about the love between mothers and daughters. A book that I did not want to put down’ 5*****

‘Have your tissues ready when you read this one. It is really moving and will hit you right in the heart’ 5*****

https://www.amazon.com/Because-You-Dawn-French-ebook/dp/B08DT8N1T1/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Because-You-Dawn-French-ebook/dp/B08DT8N1T1/

https://www.amazon.es/Because-You-Dawn-French-ebook/dp/B08DT8N1T1/

Author Dawn French

About the author:

Dawn French has been making people laugh for thirty years. As a writer, comedian, and actor, she has appeared in some of Great Britain’s longest-running and most celebrated shows, including French and Saunders, Murder Most Horrid, The Vicar of Dibley, Jam and Jerusalem, Lark Rise to Candleford, and, most recently, Roger and Val Have Just Got In. Her bestselling memoir, Dear Fatty, was published in the United Kingdom to critical acclaim, and her first novel, A Tiny Bit Marvellous, was a number-one UK bestseller.

https://www.amazon.com/Dawn-French/e/B001KCGBAU/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Having lived in the UK for a long time, I knew Dawn French’s work as an actress and comedian, but I had not read any of her books. Although I had heard about his memoir, I didn’t realise she had also published fiction, and I couldn’t resist when I had the chance to read this book. And it was a great decision.

Although this is not a mystery, I will try to avoid any spoilers, and will not offer too many details about the plot. Suffice to say that this is (mostly) a story about two mothers and a daughter (the fathers are around but don’t play too big a part), the price they have to pay for that relationship, and it deals in themes such as family, identity, grief, the mother-daughter bond, love and sacrifice…

I’ve mentioned two mothers and a daughter. Both mothers, Hope and Anna, are very different. From different social spheres and ethnic background (one well-off, one just getting by, one white British, one Jamaican-British), in very different personal circumstances (one married and going through a planned and expected pregnancy, one unmarried and her pregnancy a total surprise that have changed the couple’s plans), and their partners have nothing in common either. Julius (Anna’s husband) is pompous, self-centred, and only interested in his political career. (Silent) Isaac is all good will, kindness, and only interested in the well-being of his fiancée and his soon-to-be-born daughter. The two couples are in the same hospital for the birth of their daughters, Florence and Minnie, but things don’t go to plan.

I loved both mothers. Their experiences are vividly described and cover the whole gamut of emotions. Loss and joy, grief and hope, second-chances/the beginning of a new life, and becoming stuck in a dark hole. I’ve long believed that comedians are great observers of human behaviour, and there is evidence aplenty of that here, as there are beautiful touches and nuances, insights into the thought processes of the characters and their actions, that help create some memorable scenes. The story is narrated in the third person from alternating points of view (mostly those of the two mothers and of Minnie, the daughter, but we also get some insight into the fathers’ thoughts), and although at first I felt somewhat distanced from the protagonist due to the way the story was told, I soon became used to it and realised that it might have become unbearable to read the devastation and utter desolation the characters experience if it had been written in the first person. It is still a very emotional experience (tears came to my eyes more than once), but the narrative choice and the inclusion of lighter and comedic touches (one of the policemen, Tripshaw, plays the part of a buffoon, there are some unexpectedly humorous passages in pretty dire circumstances, and there are also some lovely life-affirming scenes surrounding the girl’s childhood and her growing up) make it a bitter-sweet but ultimately inspiring read.

I’ve already said I loved both mothers, and I must say that I like all the female characters, especially Debbie Cheese, the wonderful policewoman who understands the situation and empathises with the mother from the beginning, and Minnie, the daughter, colourful, unique, and full of zest for life and love. She knows who she is and doesn’t allow anybody to change her mind. The men are not that important, although Lee (or Twat), Minnie’s boyfriend, seems a keeper, truly devoted, and determined to stick around.

Readers who don’t like sudden changes in point of view don’t need to worry, as these do not occur in the middle of a chapter, and we are clearly told in each moment whose point of view we are following, so there’s no possible confusion.

The lovely details about the relationship mother-daughter don’t disrupt the flow of the story, which is beautifully written and contains sharp psychological insights into the world of family relationships and all its ups and downs. The story starts, then moves forward 18 years, but then we go back again to the beginning and follow its development in chronological order, so although we have an inkling of the ending, we don’t get the full details until the ending proper. And it is quite an ending.  I felt, at times, that Tripshaw’s malapropisms were pushed beyond the limit and so were Julius’s excesses but, in general, it is easy to read, and there are some truly funny and also some truly insightful moments. I thought I’d share a few:

Here, Tripshaw is, for once, word-perfect:

‘Well, Mr Lindon-Clarke, that went well, didn’t it? Truly, I’ve met some pricks in my time, but you, sir, are the full cactus.’

Anna, also talking about her ex-husband, Julius Lindon-Clarke, and his self-centredness and conceit:

‘He’s like a budgie: loads of talk, until it sees a mirror.’

‘How ironic that her emotional skeleton was made of pain, the very stuff that would not support her —it couldn’t. Pain is not galvanizing, it’s corrosive, so she would eventually rust. It was already happening and she knew it. All the parts of her held together by pain were deteriorating. She needed new reinforcement if she was going to claim her future without alcohol or sleeping pills or fear or endless crying. Anna needed to bestow this forgiveness.’

I recommend this novel to anybody who, like me, might be curious about Dawn French’s writing or has already read some and want more, who enjoy stories with strong and varied female characters, and who are particularly interested in books about families and mother-daughter relationships. It is well written, beautifully nuanced, full of wonderful characters, and, despite the sad moments, it is ultimately life-affirming and heart-warming (sorry, I know some people hate such accolades, but they are true).  It won’t be the last of French’s novels I read, I’m sure of that.

Thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the novel, thanks to all of you for visiting and reading it, and remember to like, share, comment, click, keep smiling, keep reviewing, and above all, keep safe. 

Oh, and in case any of you need some reading material or are looking for something suitable for Halloween, don’t miss this fantastic multi-author giveaway organised by Marie Lavender, who has visited my blog on many occasions.

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT by Chelsea Sedoti (@chelseasedoti) An obnoxious and annoying main character that you’ll get to care about. #amreading

Hi all:

You know I have a bit of a thing for unreliable narrators and also for obnoxious narrators. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice and fluffy characters too but … I also like difficult ones. They can be the most rewarding. And here we have one of those…

 

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti
The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti.

SOURCEBOOKS Fire

Sourcebooks Fire

Teens & YA

Description

Hawthorn wasn’t trying to insert herself into a missing person’s investigation. Or maybe she was. But that’s only because Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don’t happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she’ll turn up at any moment—which means the time for speculation is now.

So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie’s disappearance. A theory way too absurd to take seriously…at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie’s boyfriend. After all, it’s not as if he killed her—or did he?

Told with a unique voice that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, Hawthorn’s quest for proof may uncover the greatest truth is within herself.

Advance Praise

“A dark, comedic mystery about a girl’s quest for proof that ultimately helps her discover some truths about herself. We officially love Hawthorn. One minute, our heart was breaking with her raw, aching loneliness, then we were laughing with her crazy sideways wisdom. Like Thorny, this book is offbeat, smart and awesome.” -Justine Magazine

“Hawthorn’s wildly creative imagination and humor drive this mystery’s plot forward…Recommended for teens who appreciate a protagonist with a lively imagination and an acerbic tongue.” -School Library Journal

“Sedoti’s debut offers an enlightening look at the dangers of relying on outward appearances to judge someone’s character, and Hawthorn’s first-person narrative, filled with obsessive thoughts and, eventually, meaningful reflection, is a lively, engaging vehicle for the story… Fans of character-driven novels will appreciate this.” -Booklist

“A solid coming-of-age novel with light spunk and individuality.” -Kirkus Reviews

“Sedoti deftly pulls readers into [Hawthorn’s] head where her yearning for excitement, angst about the future, and insecurity bring further depth to her character. Hawthorn and Lizzie both emerge as surprising, intricate characters whose stories are resonant and memorable.” -Publishers Weekly

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Hundred-Lies-Lizzie-Lovett-ebook/dp/B01EVJECJA/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hundred-Lies-Lizzie-Lovett-ebook/dp/B01EVJECJA/

Author Chelsea Sedoti
Author Chelsea Sedoti

About the author:

Chelsea Sedoti fell in love with writing at a young age after discovering that making up stories was more fun than doing her school work (her teachers didn’t always appreciate this.) In an effort to avoid getting a “real” job, Chelsea explored careers as a balloon twister, filmmaker, and paranormal investigator. Eventually, she realized that her true passion is writing about flawed teenagers who are also afraid of growing up. When she’s not at the computer, Chelsea spends her time exploring abandoned buildings, eating junk food at roadside diners, and trying to befriend every animal in the world. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she avoids casinos but loves roaming the Mojave Desert.

Goodreads page:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13990575.Chelsea_Sedoti

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Sourcebooks Fire for offering me an ARC of this book that I voluntarily chose to review.

This Young Adult novel is told in the first person by the protagonist, Hawthorn, a girl named after the tree, not the writer, as she has to clarify many times throughout the book. She’s seventeen and not the most popular girl at school. She feels the least popular, as she only has one friend, Emily, she never eats at the cafeteria to avoid others, never gets invited to parties… She has an older brother, Rush, who was a popular football player in High School, although he hasn’t made his dreams come true, her mother is a hippy who stays at home baking and cooking vegan food that nobody seems to appreciate, and her father is more practical and keeps trying to push Hawthorn into choosing a college and growing up. Hawthorn, who writes the story in a diary format, in the first person, is not a lovely girl (well, she is lovable but that’s different). She is selfish and has nothing kind to say to anybody or about anybody. As is often the case at that age, she always thinks the worst of anybody who tries to get closer to her and assumes that everybody’s life is better than hers. She also knows everything and everybody else is boring and/or lame. Let’s say that although she complains bitterly about how unfair her life is, it is not surprising that she doesn’t have a big fan club.

Then, one of the popular girls, Lizzie Lovett, who went to High School with her brother and had since left to live in a nearby town, disappears. She was a cheerleader and a popular girl, everything Hawthorn assumes is a recipe for happiness. She dismisses everybody’s concerns and decides that she’s alive and well. Later, she comes up with a fantastic and paranormal explanation for the disappearance, something that makes her the butt of everybody’s jokes. Somehow, despite the dislike she manifests for the missing girl, she decides to learn everything she can about her in order to prove her theory right, and that becomes her mission in life. That results in her investigating her life, working at her old job and even befriending her boyfriend.

The writing is strong and the character of Hawthorn is realistic and strongly rendered (like her or not. After all it takes all kinds of people). However much or little we might like her take on life (she does moan a lot and can be extremely negative, not only about herself but about everybody around), she is clever, she has a strong imagination and she refuses to be constrained by other people’s expectations and never follows other people’s lead. She refuses to grow up if that means you have to become dull and you can only do what others have done before. How convinced she is of some of her hare-brained schemes is debatable (even she comes to question that towards the end) but that doesn’t stop her or make her less determined.

Throughout her investigation and her adventures, Hawthorn gets to hear quite a few truths about herself; she discovers that she should extend the kindness and tolerance she wishes for herself to others and finds out that friends aren’t  there only to make you feel good and to agree with you. She also discovers that people aren’t who they seem to be, that identity is fluid, and that happiness is less straightforward than she imagines.

Hawthorn’s character grows and matures during the book, even if others don’t, and the cast of secondary characters, that include the members of her family, the people at the café and the visiting hippies, are vividly portrayed and all have important lessons to teach. Even Enzo, Lizzie’s boyfriend, offers her an insight that is reproduced in the novel itself: sometimes it’s best to leave the ending to the imagination and not to tie all the loose ends. We can’t know everything but that doesn’t mean we can’t make good use of what we learn along the way. (I don’t mean the novel doesn’t end; it does and in a satisfying if somewhat unsurprising way, but the mystery of Lizzie Lovett isn’t fully resolved.)

This novel is strong on characterisation and makes us share the life of a seventeen-year-old girl (however uncomfortable that might be), one that craves excitement and interest and likes to bring drama into her life. I have read negative reviews by people who strongly dislike the main character, although acknowledge the book is well written and the character sounds real. Perhaps for some of us, Hawthorn reminds us of aspects of our personality and our experiences as teenagers that we’d rather not remember because there’s no doubt that most of us have at times been as obnoxious and annoying as her. The mystery and the plot aren’t the main drivers of the book, therefore, I recommend it to those who enjoy character driven novels, quirky stories, and personalities, and to those who still remember or want to, the difficult and challenging years of adolescence. And of course to young adults looking for a different kind of heroine.

Events at the Literania Book Festival 2017

Before my thanks, I wanted to tell you that, as from tomorrow, I’ll be helping at a book festival in Madrid, called Literania. Although we started with books we’ll have a bit of everything (yes, readings, children’s events, music, food, reading marathons, chats by well-known authors and experts…). I have programmed a few more reviews in advance but might not be able to come back to you very quickly, although I hope to bring you some info about the event. And just in case you’re around or know somebody who is in Madrid, here is the link:

http://literania.global/

Thanks so much to NetGalley and to the publishers, thanks so much to all of your for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK! And don’t worry if you don’t see me around for the next 10 days or so. I’ll be busy!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden (@arden_katherine) A magical fairy-tale with a touch of the classics

Hi all:

I thought we could finish the week with a bit of magic. I’ve noticed that some readers find the book depressing, but I love fairy tales and the best are a bit dark….

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

Atmospheric and enchanting, with an engrossing adventure at its core, The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman.

Editorial Reviews

Advance praise for The Bear and the Nightingale

“Stunning . . . will enchant readers from the first page. . . . with an irresistible heroine who wants only to be free of the bonds placed on her gender and claim her own fate.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Utterly bewitching . . . a lush narrative . . . an immersive, earthy story of folk magic, faith, and hubris, peopled with vivid, dynamic characters, particularly clever, brave Vasya, who outsmarts men and demons alike to save her family.”Booklist (starred review)

“Arden’s supple, sumptuous first novel transports the reader to a version of medieval Russia where history and myth coexist.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Radiant . . . a darkly magical fairy tale for adults, [but] not just for those who love magic.”—Library Journal

“An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale . . . A Russian setting adds unfamiliar spice to the story of a young woman who does not rebel against the limits of her role in her culture so much as transcend them. The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderfully layered novel of family and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic.”—Robin Hobb

“A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up.”—Naomi Novik

“Haunting and lyrical, The Bear and the Nightingale tugs at the heart and quickens the pulse. I can’t wait for Katherine Arden’s next book.”—Terry Brooks

The Bear and the Nightingale is a marvelous trip into an ancient Russia where magic is a part of everyday life.”—Todd McCaffrey

“Enthralling and enchanting—I couldn’t put it down. This is a wondrous book!”—Tamora Pierce

https://www.amazon.com/Bear-Nightingale-Katherine-Arden-ebook/dp/B01ESFW7F8/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bear-Nightingale-Katherine-Arden-ebook/dp/B01ESFW7F8/

About the author:

Author Katherine Arden and her book

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent a year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to guiding horse trips. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.

Here a link to the author on the publisher’s page:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/2100493/katherine-arden

And an interview:

http://uk.monsoon.co.uk/view/blog/author-qa-katherine-arden-929

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Random House UK/Ebury Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.

I’m a big fan of fairy tales and I’m always happy to discover new tales and stories that fit in that category, or that retell some old classics. And I love the stories based on old folktales that capture the beauty of old language, customs and the historical times and places long gone. The Bear and the Nightingale reminded me how much I like these stories and how the best of them are irresistible, at least for me.

Set in Russia (before it was Russia, as the author explains in her notes), the novel creates a great cast of characters, those “real” (princes and princesses, labourers, farmers, villagers, a landed family with food connections), others with a touch of the paranormal, like the protective spirits (of the house, the door, the stables, the forest, the lakes) that might turn nasty if not fed or treated kindly by human beings, the horrific ones (Death, The Bear, vampires), and animals, like the magical nightingale/horse of the title.

The character at the centre of the story, Vasilisa (Vasya), is the youngest child of her mother, Marina, who wanted to have a girl who would be like her. Marina had the ability to see things others couldn’t (the spirits of the forest, of the house, and she could also talk to animals) and she wants to pass her ability on. She dies when her daughter is born, and young Vasya grows among a family who loves her but doesn’t fully understand her. She can talk to horses, they teach her how to ride, and she can talk to the spirits others believe in but can’t see. She loves the old fairy tales and later realises they’re not only fantasy and old-wives tales. As is still the case, people fear what they can’t understand, and a newcomer, a priest, tries to change things by getting rid of old beliefs and putting the fear of God into people’s hearts. This can only lead to disaster.

The descriptions of the landscapes, the houses, the creatures, the atmosphere and the weather are beautifully achieved, in a style reminiscent of classical fairy-tales. The characters are also fascinating and we get a good understanding of their psychological make-up and of what moves them. Particularly interesting are the priest and Vasya’s stepmother, who try as they might, can’t reconcile their wishes with what is expected of them, but Dunya, the housemaid and ersatz mother to Vasya is a touching character, the family relations are heart-warming and even the animals have their own personalities. The author explains that she has tried to adapt the Russian names to make them easier for English-speaking audiences, and in my opinions she succeeds in both, maintaining the particular characteristics of Russian names, whilst not making it confusing or disorienting. The poetry of the language is another great success and I found the book impossible to put down.

There are many moments of sadness, scary moments, and also moments of the story that will make us think (Vasya is different and misunderstood, accused of being a witch despite her efforts to save her village and her people, the weight of custom and the role of men and women in traditional societies are also subject to discussion, family ties and religious thoughts…), but it is a magical story that will make us remember the child we once were. A word of warning, this is not a story for young children, and although some of the imagery is familiar as is the case with many of the classics, there are cruel and terrifying moments as well.

As an example of the writing, I wanted to share some of the passages I highlighted:

At last, they saw the city itself (Moscow), lusty and squalid, like a fair woman with feet caked in filth.

“In Moscow, priests are in love with their standing and think overmuch of the gold in their churches. They eat fat meat and preach poverty to the miserable.” (This is Sasha, one of Vasya’s brothers, who later becomes a monk).

Here, Vasya complaining of her lot in life:

“I am foolish. I was born for a cage, after all: convent of house, what else is there?”

“All of my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come’. I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me….”

Just in case I didn’t make myself clear, I love this book, and although I know it’s not the type of book that everybody will like, I’d recommend that you check a sample or the read inside feature and see what you think. You might be rewarded with a magical reading.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publishers and to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK! And have a great weekend!

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