Liz Fenwick · Recommended Reads · Reviews · The Riviera Woman · Yorkshire Woman

The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick (@liz_fenwick) @HQStories ~ Recommended Read ~ The Riviera Woman ~ Yorkshire Woman

Over the last 2 years, I have been regularly sharing my top reads from this blog over at The Riviera Woman.

The Riviera Woman, run by Anna Fill, helps women living or working on the Riviera live life to the full with it’s inspirational people and interesting articles. In 2019, Anna set up Yorkshire Woman on the same concept for women living or working in Yorkshire.

I am thrilled that Anna has asked if she can share my reviews at Yorkshire Woman too.

The first of my recommended reads on both sites is The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick. You can read my review on either site by clicking on the logos below.

The Riviera Woman
Yorkshire Woman

Anthology · Bethany Rivers · Blog Tours · Books · Poetry

Blog Tour, Review: The Sea Refuses No River by Bethany Rivers (@bethanyrivers77) ~ @fly_press ~ @annecater

I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for The Sea Refuses No River , a collection of poems by Bethany Rivers.

My thanks go to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for giving me the opportunity to take part and to Fly on the Wall Press for sending me a copy of the collection in return from my honest review.

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is a taster of what the collection is about.

Publisher's Description

The journey of grief is a strange one

and one not often talked about in our everyday reality of this society,

but I know what it’s like to dive deep,

down to the bottom of the wreck,

feel the ribs of the wreck,

after losing a parent so young in life“.

In this collection, the sea refuses no river, there is an acceptance of the pain and an acceptance of the healing moments; the healing journeys. To quote Adrienne Rich: I came to explore the wreck’, and in this collection, Bethany discovers how, ‘The words are purposes. The words are maps.’

My thoughts

The Sea Refuses No River is a poetry collection looking at the many aspects of grief. When I was approached about this tour, I was in two minds about signing up to it. Having lost my dad 18 months ago, I wondered whether I would be ready. I needn’t have worried as these poems are beautiful and quite comforting.

Each poem in The Sea Refuses No River is an emotional and honest response to the thoughts and feelings we experience when dealing with grief. Each of us follow a different path and I doubt that any two paths are the same, but I’d like to think that there is a poem here for everyone who has lost someone.

The collection is a journey of grief in itself, starting off with poems about painful moments and moving through to healing and acceptance.

I particularly identified with It’s not about the broccoli. It is a thought-provoking, lovely reaction to the things we wished we had known or asked about the person when they were alive.

The Sea Refuses No River was published by Fly on the Wall Press on 21 June 2019 and can be found at Fly on the Wall, Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

About Bethany Rivers
Bethany Rivers, author photo

Bethany Rivers (M.A. in Creative Writing from Cardiff University) is a poet and author based in Shrewsbury, who has taught creative writing for over eleven years and mentored and coached many writers from the start of their writing project through to publication.

You can find out more about Bethany on her website or connect with her on Twitter @bethanyrivers77 or on Facebook.

Follow the tour

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The Sea Refuses No River Blog Tour poster
Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Liz Fenwick · Review Copy · Reviews

Blog Tour, Review: The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick (@liz_fenwick) ~ @HQstories

I am honoured and thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Liz Fenwick’s latest novel The Path to the Sea.

Thank you to Joe Thomas and HQ for inviting me to be part of the tour and for sending me a proof copy of the book in return for my honest review.

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is a teaser of what you can expect from The Path to the Sea.

Publisher's Description with image of The Path to the Sea cover.

Sometimes going home is just the beginning…

Boskenna, the beautiful, imposing house standing on the Cornish cliffs, means something different to each of the Trewin women.

For Joan, as a glamorous young wife in the 1960s, it was a paradise where she and her husband could entertain and escape a world where no one was quite what they seemed – a world that would ultimately cost their marriage and end in tragedy.

Diana, her daughter, still dreams of her childhood there – the endless blue skies and wide lawns, book-filled rooms and parties, the sound of the sea at the end of the coastal path – even the family she adored was shattered there.

And for the youngest, broken-hearted Lottie, heading home in the August traffic, returning to Boskenna is a welcome escape from a life gone wrong in London, but will mean facing a past she’d hoped to forget.

As the three women gather in Boskenna for a final time, the secrets hidden within the beautiful old house will be revealed in a summer that will leave them changed for ever.

My thoughts with image of The Path to the Sea cover

Most visitors to this blog or to my social media pages will know that I am a huge fan of Liz Fenwick’s work, having read and reviewed the majority of her books (The Cornish House, A Cornish Affair, Under a Cornish Sky, The Returning Tide) and was absolutely bowled over last year by One Cornish Summer. I was curious to see where she was going to take her writing next. Well, Liz really has done it again with The Path to the Sea. Crikey, it is stunning and I fear that this review will not do this beautifully told story justice.

The Path to the Sea truly is a thing of beauty and this starts with the cover. Photos really do not do the blue justice. It is so vivid and evocative of those summer days by the sea. The hardback cloth is a lighter shade of blue and the writing on the spine under the jacket shines bright in silver. Is the story as beautiful as the packaging? Oh, yes! The Path to the Sea really does have the whole package.

A Liz Fenwick story would not be complete without a house and the Cornish coastline, both of which are characters in themselves. Liz Fenwick’s sense of place is perfect and it is evident that she has thoroughly researched the setting. No detail is left unturned – I don’t want to say too much for fear of ruining it but trust me, Liz has captured everything! Her rich description of Boskenna, a gorgeous house sitting on a cliff, looking out to St Austell Bay, its gardens and the coast transported me right into the story.

The Path to the Sea is told in and around Boskenna over one weekend in August 2018 and goes back and forth between the same weekend in 1962. I do love a dual time frame story and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. Liz has included the date and time at the beginning of each chapter so it helps the reader to follow the story. As we progress through the weekend and learn more about the 3 women’s stories, we are aware it is leading to a decision which has ramifications that will span the generations. My goodness me. As I was reading through, I could feel this happening. Each chapter is fairly short and it really kept me on my toes. At each turn of the page, Liz slowly reveals details of what has brought Joan, Diana and Lottie to be in Boskenna that weekend and you can feel it bubbling away under the surface. My heart was racing by the crescendo!

Although the story is told from the three women’s points of view, there are 5 voices in total: Joan in her thirties in 1962 and elderly Joan in 2018, Diana as an 8-year old in 1962 and in her sixties in 2018, and 29 year old Lottie in 2018. Each voice is so distinct that I am sure that if I had opened the book at any page, I would have been able to identify which of the women was telling their story. That’s clever.

There is one character who I have to give a special mention to and that is Tom. For those who have read The Cornish House, this is the divine Old Tom as a 36 year old. He is just as delightful as a younger man and it was great to find out about his past. If you are yet to read The Cornish House, don’t worry. Not having met Tom as an older man will not spoil your enjoyment of The Path to the Sea at all. Liz has been very skilful here to make sure this works for all readers.

There is a depth to this story that is new to Liz’s writing. On the surface, this is a multi-generational love story. Underneath, it is a story of love, loss, guilt, acceptance, forgiveness, and the result of what happens when you choose one path over another. This coupled with the rich detail and research I mentioned earlier, really do show what a talented storyteller Liz Fenwick is.

What Liz Fenwick has achieved with The Path to the Sea is simply wonderful and I am in awe.

Where to find The Path to the Sea, with cover image of the book

The Path to the Sea was published by HQ, Harper Collins on 6 June 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

About Liz Fenwick, with the cover image of The Path to the Sea
Author Liz Fenwick

Liz Fenwick, award-winning author, ex-pat expert, wife, mother of three, and dreamer turned doer, was born in Massachusetts, and at the age of twenty-six moved to London where she fell in love with an Englishman. After nine international moves, she now spends her time in Cornwall with her husband and her two mad cats, writing stories inspired by the beautiful Duchy.

Where to find Liz Fenwick, with a cover image of The Path to the Sea

You can find out more about Liz on her website at www.lizfenwick.com, connect with her on Twitter @liz_fenwick, visit her Facebook page @liz.fenwick.author and her Instagram @liz_fenwick

Follow the tour, with a cover image of The Path to the Sea

Be sure to drop by the other stops on the tour!

Blog tour poster for The Path to the Sea
Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Lara Prior-Palmer · Non-Fiction · Review Copy · Reviews

Blog Tour, Review: Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer (@LaraPriorPalmer) ~ @EburyPublishing ~ @annecater

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour and sharing my review for Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer.

Thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Ebury Publishing for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Scroll on for a taster of the book and to read my review.

Publisher's Description

The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. An outrageous feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the army of Genghis Khan, the Derby sees competitors ride 25 horses across 1000km, and it’s rare that more than half of the riders make it to the finish line.

In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, wildly underprepared and in search of the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Finding on the wild Mongolian steppe, strength and self-knowledge she didn’t know she possessed, even whilst caught in biblical storms and lost in the mountains, Lara tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. She didn’t just complete the race: in one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she won, becoming the youngest-ever competitor to conquer the course.

A tale of endurance, adventure and man’s struggle to tame the wild, Rough Magic is the extraordinary story of one woman’s quest to find herself in one of the most remote and challenging landscapes on earth. 

My thoughts

As regular visitors to this blog know, most of my reviews are of fictional stories. So when the opportunity came up to read and review a memoir, I was intrigued to see how my thoughts about the book would differ. This certainly was a curious read!

At 19 years old, Lara Prior-Palmer decides on a whim to enter The Mongol Derby, the world’s wildest and toughest horse race. With no training and a care-free attitude, she embarks on a journey that ends with her becoming the race’s youngest, and first-ever female winner.

Rough Magic is the musings of Lara’s experiences through the race. She wrote most of it whilst on the race, so it felt like I was living inside Laura’s head. At times, her thoughts become the ramblings of a wandering mind, a result of the solitary hours of being free and journeying on horseback through a wild environment.

At the beginning when Lara’s tells us that she’s going to enter the race, I felt myself wanting to jump into the pages and tell her how crazy she was. However, as the journey progresses, I did wonder if it was Lara’s unprepared nature that helped her to win. The other riders had prepared and trained for up to a year prior to the race and secured sponsorship from companies in or related to the equine industry. They had a lot riding on this race.

I have ridden several times for only short periods and within 10 minutes my legs are aching so I can appreciate what endurance you need for such an undertaken. I’ve also only ever ridden one particular horse because I trusted her and got used to her nature and her ways. In this race, competitors change horses at each stop . Horse riding is very much about the relationship between horse and rider so to ride 25 horses over 1,000km in 10 days is no mean feat.

The wild and untamed landscape also throws up some serious weather. Lara’s sheer determination keeps her going through it. I remember at one point during the book, Lara does not make it in time to the next stop so she ties the horse to herself with a bungee type rope and sleeps like that in the open air. Fair play to her, she has guts and my admiration!

Where to find Rough Magic

Rough Magic was published by Ebury Publishing on 6 June 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

About Lara Prior-Palmer

LARA PRIOR-PALMER was born in London in 1994. Her aunt is Lucinda Green, a legendary rider and one of the UK’s best-ever equestrians. Lara studied conceptual history and Persian at Stanford University. In 2013, she competed in the 1000-kilometer Mongol Derby in Mongolia, sometimes described as the world’s toughest and longest horse race. Rough Magic is her first book.

You can find Lara on Twitter at @LaraPriorPalmer.

Follow the blog tour

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Rough Magic Blog Tour poster
Advanced Review Copy · Books · Review Copy · Reviews · Victoria Hislop

Blog Tour, Review: Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop (@VicHislop) ~ @headlinepg ~ @annecater

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop.

Thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Headline Review for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Scroll on for a taster of the book and to read my review.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade. Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. She watches friends die in the ensuing famine and is moved to commit acts of resistance.

In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek.

Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live. As she looks back on her life, Themis realises how tightly the personal and political can become entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.

~ My thoughts ~

Gosh, what have I just read in 481 pages! The life story of Themis, our protagonist from 1930 to 2016, is powerful and captivating.

We first meet Themis at the end of her birthday celebrations in 2016. Two of her grandchildren, Popi and Nikos have stayed behind to help their nonagenarian grandmother to tidy up. They chat about the state of the society and Themis becomes contemplative. She takes her two grandchildren to the nearby cafe and proceeds to tell them about her past. What follows is a walk through the history of Athens and Greece in World War II, the Civil War and the post war period.

I’ll admit it took me a while to get into the story but once I was in it, there was no turning back – similar to Themis at several points in the book. I was living Themis’s life, experiencing her emotions and wondering whether I would have made the same decisions. I came to the conclusion that I probably would have. Themis is a brave and resilient woman whose life mirrors Greece’s turbulent past.

The depth of detail in this book is astonishing. It has been researched within in an inch of its life and the writing is just brilliant.

I remember reading The Island , when it came out 10 years ago and Cartes Postales from Greece in 2016 and being taken on a journey of different periods in Greece’s history. Those Who Are Loved is no different. It is historical fiction at its best and it is simply epic.

~ Where to find Those Who Are Loved ~

Those Who Are Loved Headline Review on 30 May 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK Amazon US and on Goodreads.

~ About Victoria Hislop ~

Inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony, Victoria Hislop wrote The Island in 2005. It became an international bestseller and a 26-part Greek TV series. She was named Newcomer of the Year at the British Book Awards and is now an ambassador for Lepra. The Island has sold over 1.2million copies in the UK and more than 5 million worldwide.

Her affection for the Mediterranean then took her to Spain, which inspired her second bestseller The Return, and she returned to Greece to tell the turbulent tale of Thessaloniki in The Thread, shortlisted for a British Book Award and confirming her reputation as an inspirational storyteller. It was followed by her much-admired Greece-set short story collection, The Last Dance and Other Stories. The Sunrise, a Sunday Times Number One bestseller about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, was published to widespread acclaim in 2014. Victoria’s most recent book, Cartes Postales from Greece was a Sunday Times Number One bestseller and one of the Top Ten biggest selling paperbacks of 2017. Her novels have sold 10 million copies worldwide.

~ Where to find Victoria Hislop ~

You can find out more about Victoria on her website https://victoriahislop.com/ and connect with her on Twitter @VicHislop and Facebook @OfficialVictoriaHislop

~ Follow the tour ~

Be sure to drop by the other blogs on the tour!

Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Kathleen McGurl · Review Copy · Reviews

Blog Tour, Review: The Forgotten Secret by Kathleen McGurl (@KathMcGurl) @HQDigitalUK @HQstories @rararesources

I am thrilled to be sharing my review of Kathleen McGurl’s latest novel The Forgotten Secret with you today.

Thank you to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to HQ, Harper Collins for sending me an e-copy of the book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Scroll on for a taster of the book and to read my review.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

A country at war

It’s the summer of 1919 and Ellen O’Brien has her whole life ahead of her. Young, in love and leaving home for her first job, the future seems full of shining possibility. But war is brewing and before long Ellen and everyone around her are swept up by it. As Ireland is torn apart by the turmoil, Ellen finds herself facing the ultimate test of love and loyalty.

And a long-buried secret

A hundred years later and Clare Farrell has inherited a dilapidated old farmhouse in County Meath. Seizing the chance to escape her unhappy marriage she strikes out on her own for the first time, hoping the old building might also provide clues to her family’s shadowy history. As she sets out to put the place – and herself – back to rights, she stumbles across a long-forgotten hiding place, with a clue to a secret that has lain buried for decades.

For fans of Kate Morton and Gill Paul comes an unforgettable novel about two women fighting for independence.

~ My thoughts ~

I can’t believe I am only just reading Kathleen McGurl’s stories!! I am sure I say this every time I review a book by an author whose books I haven’t read before, but I can’t!

The Forgotten Secret has everything I love in a story: contemporary and historical fiction, a mystery, characters I can easily connect with, well researched, beautifully told.

The story is told as a dual time frame, set between 1919-1920 and the present day. In the historical thread, Kathleen McGurl pulls us into Ellen O’Brien’s life and the War of Irish Independence. I warmed to Ellen instantly and the love she has for her childhood sweetheart is beautiful. Ellen’s story was not easy to read at times and there were instances where I wanted to jump into the page to hug her.

In present day Ireland, we accompany Clare Farrell on her journey to independence from her broken marriage. Having inherited a run-down farmhouse from her uncle, she seizes the chance to leave her husband, Paul, and start a new life. Gosh, I hated Paul. Even after a week, he still hasn’t redeemed himself. Well done to Kathleen McGurl for a writing a character who provoked this emotion in me! I did however really like Clare and was championing her on to really make a new life for herself.

I do love it when a house throws up a mystery to be solved and the farmhouse in this story is no exception. I will say no more for the risk of spoiling the story so you will have to read The Forgotten Secret to find out more.

I love how Kathleen McGurl intertwines both women’s stories, answering questions raised in one era in the other, tying it all up nicely at the end.

I do love reading the acknowledgements at the end of a book. Often, the author will give us an insight into where the idea for the story came from. The seed for The Forgotten Secret was a small nugget of conversation which became this great story.

~ Where to find The Forgotten Secret ~

The Forgotten Secret was published as an eBook by HQ Digital, Harper Collins, in March 2019 and will be published in paperback in May 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ About Kathleen McGurl ~

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband and elderly tabby cat. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

~ Where to find Kathleen McGurl ~

You can find out more about Kathleen on her website https://kathleenmcgurl.com/ and connect with her on Twitter @KathMcGurl, on Facebook @KathleenMcGurl, and on Instagram @kathleenmcgurl.

~ Follow the tour ~

Be sure to drop by the other blogs on the tour!

Advanced Review Copy · Books · Emily Gunnis · Reviews

Review: The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis (@EmilyGunnis) @headlinepg

I am thrilled to be sharing my review of The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis. When it was first published as an eBook, I couldn’t commit to reading to review at the time but I knew that it was a book that I wanted to read. Six months later, I finally got to read it, and it did not disappoint!

Thank you to Phoebe Swinburn at Headline Books for sending me a proof copy of the book in return for an honest review.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

A heartbreaking letter. A girl locked away. A mystery to be solved.

1956. When Ivy Jenkins falls pregnant she is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a dark, brooding house for unmarried mothers. Her baby is adopted against her will. Ivy will never leave.

Present day. Samantha Harper is a journalist desperate for a break. When she stumbles on a letter from the past, the contents shock and move her. The letter is from a young mother, begging to be rescued from St Margaret’s. Before it is too late. 
Sam is pulled into the tragic story and discovers a spate of unexplained deaths surrounding the woman and her child. With St Margaret’s set for demolition, Sam has only hours to piece together a sixty-year-old mystery before the truth, which lies disturbingly close to home, is lost for ever…

Read her letter. Remember her story…

~ My thoughts ~

The Girl in the Letter is a dual-time frame novel, which alternates between the 1950s and one weekend in 2016. In 2016, Sam’s grandmother finds some old letters in her grandfather’s belongings from a girl called Ivy, detailing her experiences in a mother and baby home in West Sussex in the 1950s. Sam feels drawn to these letters and so begins her journey of finding out who Ivy was and what happened to her and her baby.

Crikey, what an intense read. I finished it a couple of months ago and I think my heart has only just returned to beating its usual rhythm!

The Girl in the Letter is heartbreaking, gut wrenching and gripping. A couple of times I did have to put the book down for a breather because I couldn’t bear to read how Ivy, the other girls and their babies were being treated by the nuns in the home. That reaction is testament to Emily Gunnis’s powerful writing. I have read about these homes in Ireland but I hadn’t realised that they were also in England and until quite the 1970s too. It makes me so angry to think how these girls and women were punished for having children.

The Girl in the Letter is a powerful and emotive read. What a brilliant debut and I am looking forward to reading Emily’s next book.

~ Where to find The Girl in the Letter ~

The Girl in the Letter was published by the Headline Books as an eBook in August 2018 and will be published in paperback in April 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ About Emily Gunnis ~

Emily Gunnis previously worked in TV drama and lives in Brighton with her young family. She is one of the four daughters of Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Vincenzi. You can find Emily on Twitter at @EmilyGunnis.