Review: The Sewing Room Girl.

sbavinIf Susanna Bavin ever needs an alternative career, I think she should consider being a hypnotist. 

I’m sure she must have had some training already because the minute I see one of her books, it’s impossible to look away; anything could be happening around me and I wouldn’t notice. 

Her third book, The Sewing Room Girl, is a powerfully written story, full of twists and turns, heartbreak and smiles, that will stay with me for a long time. 

Here’s the blurb:

Born into service, sixteen-year-old Juliet Harper has always idolised her mother, Agnes. But Agnes is haunted by what could have been, and the glamorous life she might have lived if she stayed in Manchester rather than settling down in the Lancashire moorland with her husband.

Life takes another unexpected turn when Juliet’s father suddenly dies. Agnes’s reputation as a seamstress leads to her being taken on by local landowners the Drysdales, where she is proud to work. But it will be a bumpy road for both of them as they settle in to their new lives.

Will Juliet ever be able to choose her own path? And what will become of them when Agnes falls ill?

Every single character pulls their weight. As usual, Susanna’s villains are enough to make me shiver when I think about them, even now. Also, I think plucky, courageous Juliet might just be my favourite of Susanna’s leading ladies (and I don’t say that lightly). 

The time period (1890s) and location seem meticulously researched. Susanna has the perfect touch when it comes to weaving in interesting little titbits of the time without making it seem like a history lesson. 

Her wonderfully warm writing style lured me deeper and deeper into the tale until I felt like I was there living it with them. 

I pre-ordered this one and I will be doing the same with book four.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £2.48 (via Amazon).

My rating:  Five stars. 

Susanna was one of my first Behind The Book interviewees last year, talking to me just before debut was published. You can read more here.

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Book Review And Blog Tour: Another Day In Winter.

ARIA_LOW_ANOTHER DAY IN WINTER_EIn her latest book, Another Day In Winter, Shari Low gives a masterclass in how to seamlessly weave multiple plot lines into one exciting, charming and emotional story.

Just as she did in the first book in this series, One Day In December, she takes four characters, in this case Shauna, Tom, Chrissie and George, and tells their stories over a 24 hour period.

Opening the book is like being pulled into a whirlwind; once the words start spinning around you, there’s no way out of the vortex – at least until you reach the end, feeling slightly windblown but very happy.

Here’s the blurb:

One day, four lives, and a wintery web of secrets and lies.

On a chilly morning in December forever friends Shauna and Lulu touch down at Glasgow Airport on a quest to find answers from the past.

George knows his time is nearing the end, but is it too late to come to terms with his two greatest regrets?

His grandson Tom uncovers a betrayal that rocks his world as he finally tracks down the one that got away.

And single mum Chrissie is ready to force her love-life out of hibernation, but can anyone compare to the man who broke her heart?

It again starts with a long cast list but I’ve learnt not to be daunted by this and to put my faith in Shari’s skills as a storyteller. She’s never let me down. I would love to see how she plans her books. I imagine something like the police investigation boards you see on TV sometimes, with little photographs of suspects and lots of red squiggly lines which eventually all point toward the same conclusion. And that’s what ultimately happens, the individual tales nearly touch, converge, pull away again but the reader knows where it is heading – or at least they hope they do. The only trouble is, it creates a battle between wanting to read it as quickly as possible to find out the ending and slowly savouring every page.

Her characters feel real, which means I laughed and cried along with them. While the main four are all new, it was lovely to see some familiar faces from book one return – a bit like meeting old, cherished friends again.

Not to jinx anything but this engrossing tale has all the makings of a best-seller. I really hope there is at least one more in this series (and then spring, autumn and summer follow). That’s not asking too much, is it?

Format: Kindle.

Price: £2.48 (via Amazon).

My rating: Five stars.

To find out more about Shari please visit her Facebook page , website or follow her on Twitter.

With thanks to Aria (via NetGalley) for the ARC and the opportunity to be part of the tour.

Also, don’t just take my word for it, find out what the other fabulous bloggers on the tour thought.

Another Day in Winter blog tour poster (2)

 

Book Review: Bloody Brilliant Women.

BloodybrillwomenMark recently bought Freya the children’s book, Fantastically Great Women Who Made History, written by Kate Pankhurst.

After reading it with her I remember thinking two things ‘yay for Mark’ and ‘I wish there was something like this for adults’.

BEHOLD, Bloody Brilliant Women.

Journalist and presenter Cathy Newman has plugged a gap in the market and I, for one, am incredibly grateful.

I can’t remember learning about any women in my humanities lessons, although I’m sure there were some – it was 30ish years ago and my memory isn’t what it was.

This book goes further, though, not just highlighting already well known women in Britain but “…the pioneers, revolutionaries and geniuses your history teacher forgot to mention”.

It’s a lively book that isn’t just readable but relatable. It’s also funny in places and definitely makes you think. Suggesting the Bayeux Tapestry could be a precursor to the Daily Mail’s ‘side bar of shame’ is just one example.

It reminds me of a book version of the fantastic programmes by Lucy Worsley or Kate Williams which are as engrossing as they are engaging. In fact, I hope it can somehow be made into a tele series. We need it.

Here’s the blurb:

A fresh, opinionated history of all the brilliant women you should have learned about in school but didn’t.

In this freewheeling history of modern Britain, Cathy Newman writes about the pioneering women who defied the odds to make careers for themselves and alter the course of modern history; women who achieved what they achieved while dismantling hostile, entrenched views about their place in society.

Their role in transforming Britain is fundamental, far greater than has generally been acknowledged, and not just in the arts or education but in fields like medicine, politics, law, engineering and the military.

While a few of the women in this book are now household names, many have faded into oblivion, their personal and collective achievements mere footnotes in history. We know of Emmeline Pankhurst, Vera Brittain, Marie Stopes and Beatrice Webb. But who remembers engineer and motorbike racer Beatrice Shilling, whose ingenious device for the Spitfires’ Rolls-Royce Merlin fixed an often-fatal flaw, allowing the RAF’s planes to beat the German in the Battle of Britain? Or Dorothy Lawrence, the journalist who achieved her ambition to become a WW1 correspondent by pretending to be a man? And developmental biologist Anne McLaren, whose work in genetics paved the way for in vitro fertilisation?

Were it not for women, significant features of modern Britain like council housing, municipal swimming pools and humane laws relating to property ownership, child custody and divorce wouldn’t exist in quite the same way. Women’s drive and talent for utopian thinking created new social and legislative agendas. The women in these pages blazed a trail from the 1918 Representation of the People Act – which allowed some women to vote – through to Margaret Thatcher’s ousting from Downing Street.

Blending meticulous research with information gleaned from memoirs, diaries, letters, novels and other secondary sources, Bloody Brilliant Women uses the stories of some extraordinary lives to tell the tale of 20th and 21st century Britain. It is a history for women and men. A history for our times.

Maybe, because I had been reading Freya’s book, I assumed it would take a similar format; an extended look at one woman at a time. That’s not the case. The eight chapters are on broad themes such as education, women between the wars and a final one bringing things up to the present.

Once I had worked out that I wasn’t just reading a really long introduction, it was fine, possibly even better because it features many, many more bloody brilliant women – although it did require a higher level of concentration than the hour before bed afforded.

As I was reading this book, I felt the might of their power behind me and, as a result, I felt empowered. I definitely think this should be required reading for high school students, of both sexes.

I will be getting a paper copy for Freya’s book shelf because, even if history lessons have improved since my day, I think it will be essential reading when she’s older.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £9.99.

My rating: Four and a half stars.

With thanks to Harper Collins UK/William Collins for the ARC (via NetGalley) in return for an honest review.