The Dressmaker Of Paris by Georgia Kaufmann – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

I need to tell you a story, ma chère. My story.

Rosa Kusstatscher has built a global fashion empire upon her ability to find the perfect outfit for any occasion. But tonight, as she prepares for the most important meeting of her life, her usual certainty eludes her.

What brought her to this moment? As she struggles to select her dress and choose the right shade of lipstick, Rosa begins to tell her incredible story. The story of a poor country girl from a village high in the mountains of Italy. Of Nazi occupation and fleeing in the night. Of hope and heartbreak in Switzerland; glamour and love in Paris. Of ambition and devastation in Rio de Janeiro; success and self-discovery in New York.

A life spent running, she sees now. But she will run no longer.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. My aim this year is to broaden my reading and this book is one of the first that I chose to read that is out of my comfort zone. And I am happy that I did. 

Rosa is am ambitious and  extremely successful businesswoman  but she also has a problematic personal life which started with devastating events that occurred when she was in her teens. She manages to escape with help  but a series of decisions affect her for many years. Regrets, guilt and loneliness are never far away, despite the very successful business, her first to marriage to Charles and her friendship with Graca giving her something else to live for. But what she really wants is unavailable and she finds it difficult to accept that somethings are beyond repair. 

It did take me a while to settle into this novel, I don’t follow fashion trends and designers, even though I did know the names mentioned. But Rosa’s character was one that captivated me and I really enjoyed the way the chapters started with the descriptions of everyday beauty regimes. 

Rosa has had a tough life despite her business success but her personal life changed in ways she didn’t expect when she moved to New York. As you would expect, with the type of life she had it wasn’t all easy but she somehow managed to analyse, accept and make the best out of a difficult situation. 

It is a wonderful account of a life that starts in a Italian village in WW2 and ends up in a penthouse in New York, many mistakes made but also dreams accomplished. My favourite part of it was the last quarter when Rosa was able to come to terms with the decisions she had made. 

As well as a great storyline with some fascinating characters I also felt it was a travelogue. I was able to see so many places through Rosa’s life story.

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis – Blog Tour Review

About The Book

It’s Christmas 1845 and Haworth is in the grip of a freezing winter. 

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are rather losing interest in detecting until they hear of a shocking discovery: the bones of a child have been found interred within the walls of a local house, Top Withens Hall, home to the scandalous and brutish Bradshaw family. 

When the sisters set off to find out more, they are confronted with an increasingly complex and sinister case, which leads them into the dark world of orphanages, and onto the trail of other lost, and likely murdered children. After another local boy goes missing, Charlotte, Emily and Anne vow to find him before it’s too late. 

But in order to do so, they must face their most despicable and wicked adversary yet – one that would not hesitate to cause them the gravest of harm . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. How did I not know there was a Brontë Mystery series? Before I got a few chapters in I was fascinated by the idea, the setting and all of the characters. Despite not reading the first book in the series I had no problem getting to appreciate any of them. It didn’t even matter that my knowledge of the Brontë family is slim. I am only aware of who wrote which book and how young they were when they died. 

It is one of those few novels that contain everything I enjoy in fiction. A mystery, a touch of the gothic, historical facts and likeable characters. I did feel a touch of sadness because I know how and when they died and the opening chapter is very poignant. I wanted to know how many similarities the Brontë family had in this novel had to the real life family, in particular the relationship that they had with Tabby, if she existed, and the self destructive attitude of Branwell. 

Whilst you have to suspend belief that the Brontë sisters were a team of detectives what this novel does show extremely well is portray the life at the time. The struggle to keep warm,the harsh life in the orphanages, the customs and superstitions, the feeling of horror at crossing the border into Lancashire and the attitudes towards the Irish. 

This book was just what I needed after a slight reading slump.

The Octopus by Tess Little – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

There’s more than one way to capture a life.

When Elspeth arrives at her ex-husband’s LA mansion for his 50th birthday party, she’s expecting a crowd for the British film director. Instead, there are just seven other guests and Richard’s pet octopus, Persephone, watching over them from her tank. 

Come morning, Richard is dead.

In the weeks that follow, each of the guests come under suspicion: the school friend, the studio producer, the actress, the actor, the new boyfriend, the manager, the cinematographer and the ex-wife, Elspeth herself. As stories of Richard’s past surface, colliding with Elspeth’s memories of their marriage, she begins to question not just who killed Richard, but why these eight guests were invited, and what sort of man would want to trap this mysterious, intelligent creature.

From the LA hills to the Norfolk marshes, The Octopus is a stylish exploration of power: the power of memory, the power of perception, the power of one person over another.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Octopus was a novel that instantly appealed to me because it sounded so original. After all it’s not everyday you come across a novel where one of the suspects in a murder investigation is an octopus.   

When Richard is murdered at his own party the only culprit could be one of the handful of guests, or the octopus which had the ability to escape from its aquarium at night. It does sound strangely believable. But the more I read, and started to realise what a vile character Richard was I was more inclined to believe that it was one of the guests. I just had no idea who.

Elspeth, ex wife and chief narrator was the only one I really liked. She was the one who had more reason than most to want him dead, but the one I suspected least. Only because of what she kept hidden to protect their daughter from the truth. What she went through was terrible and to be able to cope alone showed a lot of strength. 

It was a little strange to read, even though there was only one narrator the story covers multiple periods of time and it switched from one to the other every few pages. It took me a while to adapt to this style but I became increasingly hooked. Especially after one of the characters was arrested and went to trial. 

I am amazed that The Octopus is a debut novel, it is definitely one of the best novels I have read this year. 

The Safe Place by Anna Downes – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A BEAUTIFUL HOME MIGHT HIDE DANGEROUS SECRETS

Emily Proudman has been offered the chance of a lifetime – leave her messy London life, move to a beautiful estate in France and help her boss’ wife take care of their daughter, Aurelia. It seems like the perfect opportunity to start again.

But once there, Emily soon starts to suspect that her charismatic new employers aren’t telling her the whole truth. That there are even dangerous secrets hidden beneath the glamourous facade. 

Rather than throwing herself headline into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool, Emily can’t help but ask questions. Why have the family been moved to this isolated house so far from home? Why does Aurelia refuse to speak or be touched? Why are there whispers in the night? 

The only problem is, the more Emily knows, the less chance there is she will ever be able to leave . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Emily is down on her luck. A failed actress, sacked from her temping job and soon to be evicted from her home. She isn’t close to her adoptive parents and doesn’t know what to do to escape her quandary. But then her ex boss appears, like a knight in shining armour and offers her the chance of a lifetime. To move to France, and be a companion to his wife and child. To Emily it is a chance to escape and she doesn’t mind that she can’t tell anybody her whereabouts or that she has to sign NDAs. She is just ecstatic, and when she sees her new home and builds up a good relationship with Nina and Aurelia she couldn’t be happier. But as Emily gets more settled she realises not everything is as it seems.

I didn’t think of this book as twist driven but there were a few surprises. The flashbacks at the end of certain chapters added to the intrigue and made me think about what might have occurred in Nina and Scott’s past. I thought I knew what had happened but I was completely wrong. 

Emily was a character who I didn’t warm to straightaway. At first I thought her to be petulant and self pitying but seeing her relationship development with Aurelia and the way she reacted when she realised what was happening in the family home I appreciated her more. 

The Safe Place is perfect for that holiday read. 

Finders Keepers by Sabine Durrant – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Ailsa Tilson moves with her husband and children to Trinity Fields in search of the new. 
New project – a house to renovate. New people – no links to the past. New friends – especially her next-door neighbour, the lonely Verity, who needs her help. 

Verity has lived in Trinity Fields all her life. She’s always resisted change. Her home and belongings are a shield, a defence to keep the outside world at bay. But something about the Tilsons piques her interest.

Just as her ivy creeps through the shared garden fence, so Verity will work her way into the Tilson family. 

And once they realise how formidable she can be, it might well be too late.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Finders Keepers is the first book I have read by Sabine Durrant and on the strength of it I will be definitely reading more. It is one of those novels where the readers assumes that they know what is going to happen only to be mistaken.

When a family moves next door to Verity she is eager to make friends although a little apprehensive. But when she develops a rapport with the son Max, who she helps with his schoolwork she gets closer to Alisa his mother. His father, Tom, though is a little less friendly. He isn’t very happy with the state of Verity’s garden, and even less happy when he discovers that she is a hoarder. I admit, I’d be the same, the description of her house made my toes curl.

I have to say that Verity is a little strange. I suspect that many have a neighbour like her. Little social skills, brittle and causing concern with hoarding. I did misunderstand a lot about her though, especially with what made her so protective of her sister’s bedroom and their disagreement.

Alisa wasn’t a character I warmed to, There were times I suspected that her life wasn’t quite like she said it was. And she wasn’t really a good friend to Verity. But there were aspects of her I admired, especially as the novel progressed. I did like Max though, very much. He was probably my favourite character in the whole book. Warm, hurting and desperate for a friend.

A great introduction to a new author for me.