Posted in Book Review, Fantasy, Literary Fiction, Travel

Before The Coffee Gets Cold 5* #Review Toshikazu Kawaguchi Translator Geoffrey Trousselot @picadorbooks #Toshikazu Kawaguchi #timetravel #timeslip #LiteraryFiction #Japan #CoffeeShop #Tokyo #BeforeTheCoffeeGetsCold #BookReview

#BeforeTheCoffeeGetsCold

What would you change if you could go back in time?

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early-onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .

Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story – translated from Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot – explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?

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I received a copy of this book from Pan MacMillan – Picador Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Where the ordinary meets the extraordinary, in a nondescript coffee shop in Tokyo. This story has only a few characters. Everyone in the coffee shop has a story, and this follows four individuals as they travel back in time, not to change the present, but to understand someone they care about better. Or, to make themselves understood. The time travel has many rules, but for those who follow them, there are surprisingly positive results.

This story is beautifully translated, and the ambience and culture come through the characters and the setting. This is an emotional, quirky tale of discord, misunderstanding, loss and love. The time travellers are ordinary people, they want the opportunity to do something different, in the past. This makes them authentic and relatable, and the story engaging.

The rules of the unexpected time travel are fixed, and give a sense of reality, in a fantasy situation. I understood this world, and therefore enjoyed the story.

Enchanting and original, but strangely believable, because of the authentic characters and the contemporary urban setting.

Posted in Book Review, Fantasy, Literary Fiction

The Beginning and End of Us Rose James 3*#Review @bookouture @RoseJamesAuthor #literaryfiction #supernatural #quest #love #Aphrodite #BookReview #SaturdayMotivation

Born in a honeysuckle-choked garden, a young woman discovers her true purpose in the world moments before she’s cast out of the only home she’s ever known.

Haunted by loneliness, she begins a journey to fulfil her destiny. It is a path that will lead her into the arms of four very different men – a dreamer, a fighter, an artist and a lost soul.

But could it be the secrets she left behind – and the one person she thought she had lost forever – that hold the answers to the questions she’s seeking? For while life may take you unexpected places, truth will bring you home…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I enjoy literary fiction for the beauty of the prose, and the off-kilter subjects it explores. This story qualifies on both of these. Despite its qualities, I find it difficult to connect with the characters and therefore my enjoyment is muted.

The story follows the destiny of Aphrodite, a supernatural being whose role is to keep love in the human world. If she deviates from her path, the human world loses love, so her mission is vital for humanity. Given her role, life is a rollercoaster of emotional encounters that touch her physically and spiritually. She experiences contentment and love, but a loss is always on the horizon and these makes her journey poignant and tragic.

The structure of the plot complements the story, a series of chapters mirroring her loves. The writing style focuses on the senses and is engaging.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Family Drama, Literary Fiction, Political Thriller, Suspense

Three Hours – Rosamund Lupton 5* #Review @Rosamundlupton @VikingBooksUK @PenguinUKBooks #ThreeHoursNovel #politicalthriller #suspense #familydrama #thriller #literaryfiction #crimefiction #BookReview #January2020 #MondayBlogs

Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16-year-old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Viking Books UK – Penguin Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

At the heart of this story is a battle of good against evil, but this is not a fantasy epic, but a believable, contemporary, real-time story, of horrific events and humanity at its best and worst.

The coastal, countryside setting intensifies the events, no one would expect this to happen in a rural idyll, but it does. Written, in an adrenaline-fueled intense style, it keeps you on the edge of your seat and turning the pages. The characters are complex and relatable, you find out a great deal about them in a short space of time and most cases, they are easy to empathise. The story manages to fuse action with deep characterisation perfectly, and the underlying research makes the story authentic.

The plot twists several times to increase the suspense and awfulness of what unfolds. The poignancy of what occurs makes this immersive, the waste of life and opportunity resonates. This is a quality story, thought-provoking and topical.

Absorbing, original and memorable.

Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Romance

This Is Not How It Ends Rochelle B. Weinstein 4* #Review @rochwein @AmazonPub #LiteraryFiction #Romance #Friendship #Loss #Florida #Relationships #NewYear2020 #HappyNewYear #BookReview #BookBloggers #1stBookRead2020 #WednesdayWisdom

From the USA Today bestselling author Rochelle B. Weinstein comes a moving novel of hearts lost and found, and of one woman torn between two love stories.

When Charlotte and Philip meet, the pair form a deep and instant connection. Soon they’re settled in the Florida Keys with plans to marry. But just as they should be getting closer, Charlotte feels Philip slipping away.

Second-guessing their love is something Charlotte never imagined, but with Philip’s excessive absences, she finds herself yearning for more. When she meets Ben, she ignores the pull, but the supportive single dad is there for her in ways she never knew she desired. Soon Charlotte finds herself torn between the love she thought she wanted and the one she knows she needs.

As a hurricane passes through Islamorada, stunning revelations challenge Charlotte’s loyalties and upend her life. Forced to reexamine the choices she’s made, and has yet to make, Charlotte embarks on an emotional journey of friendship, love, and sacrifice—knowing that forgiveness is a gift, and the best-laid plans can change in a heartbeat.

This Is Not How It Ends is a tender, moving story of heartbreak and healing that asks the question: Which takes more courage—holding on or letting go?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

An emotional story about relationships, serendipity, and how life and time change how we feel about those we love. The characters are beautifully flawed and therefore believable. The story is told in two timelines, showing how Charlotte meets Philip, and how past events shape their present-day love. The second timeline is the present-day and features several serendipitous events, including the drama when Charlotte meets Ben and his son.

The storytelling is engaging and the writing style easy to read but full of hidden meanings. This story is a fusion of literary fiction and romance.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance, Travel

The Museum of Broken Promises Elizabeth Buchan 4* #Review @elizabethbuchan @CorvusBooks #LiteraryFiction #Romance #Secrets #Loss #Love #BookReview #Prague #Paris #HistoricalFiction #Grief #Betrayal

The stunning new novel from bestselling Elizabeth Buchan. The Museum of Broken Promises is a beautiful, evocative love story and heart-breaking journey into a long-buried past.
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Paris, today. The Museum of Broken Promises is a place of wonder and sadness, hope and loss. Every object in the museum has been donated – a cake tin, a wedding veil, a baby’s shoe. And each represent a moment of grief or terrible betrayal. The museum is a place where people come to speak to the ghosts of the past and, sometimes, to lay them to rest. Laure, the owner and curator, has also hidden artefacts from her own painful youth amongst the objects on display.

Prague, 1985Recovering from the sudden death of her father, Laure flees to Prague. But life behind the Iron Curtain is a complex thing: drab and grey yet charged with danger. Laure cannot begin to comprehend the dark, political currents that run beneath the surface of this communist city. Until that is, she meets a young dissident musician. Her love for him will have terrible and unforeseen consequences.

It is only years later, having created the museum, that Laure can finally face up to her past and celebrate the passionate love which has directed her life.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Corvus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is the story of Laure and ‘The Museum of Broken Promises’, born out of her life experiences, as a young woman in communist Czechoslovakia, and Berlin, after the fall of the wall. The prologue gives you a taste of what is to come and introduces the historical element that underscores the story.

‘The Museum of Broken Promises’ is a place where people can deposit items that represent grief, loss or broken promises in their lives. The idea behind it is uplifting, and the book uses timeslip to see if Laure’s contributions to the museum, have a positive effect on her life.

The story moves between Laure’s life in the past and present, introducing a variety of characters, whom she comes into contact with as a naive, young woman, and a stronger older woman. Like all literary fiction, part of the enjoyment is in the beauty of the prose. The characters are often superficial because their function is to contribute to the concept of the museum.

This story needs concentration and time, to get the best from it, but if you have a few hours to spare, it will repay the investment of both.

Posted in Author Interview, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, New Books, Romance

Lorna Gray Author Interview Mrs Ps Book of Secrets/The Book Ghost #AuthorInterview @MsLornaGray @0neMoreChapter_ #30DaysofBookBlogs #PublicationDay #LiteraryFiction #HistoricalFiction #Romance #Mystery

#LornaGray #AuthorInteview

December 14 2019 is publication day for Mrs Ps Book of Secrets (UK) and The Book Ghost (US). I reviewed this original literary fiction novel on Wednesday, as the first stop on the #30DaysofBookBlogs Tour. Read my review here

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Today I have an author interview with Lorna Gray to share…

Author interview with Lorna Gray

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets (UK) / The Book Ghost (US)

What are the inspirations behind your latest story?

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets explores several themes, such as loss, returning home, belonging and family. But as you probably don’t want an essay from me, I’ll just describe the first idea I had for this book – where it all began.

The opening lines in the book speak about Lucy’s mother and grandmother performing a rather unusual war service. They were spiritualists and throughout WWII they regularly held séances in an attempt to guide the wandering souls of poor lost soldiers out of the filthy quagmire of war into the peace of the hereafter.

Those few lines in the book are autobiographical. Only in my case, it was my grandmother and great-grandmother. They acted on the principle that some of the war dead might be so shocked by their sudden end that their souls wouldn’t quite know how to move on. My great-grandmother believed she was playing a vital role in reaching out a kindly hand to them through the medium of a séance. She certainly gave comfort to their families at home who had received awful news.

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets grew from that little piece of history. It is in part a ghost story, although this definitely isn’t a novel about wartime spiritualism. What those women did was done in the spirit of giving. I didn’t want to turn the dead into a speaking part for Lucy, my heroine, where she might simply move a marker around a table to instantly demand answers to her questions.

Instead, her story is more about being sensitive to the echoes that are left behind when someone has passed. Have you ever gone into the library of an old house or a quiet garden and felt a sense of the people who have gone before? Do you ever go somewhere and find that your mind can strip away the modern layer from the scene to leave you with an idea of its history?

This is what Lucy experiences as she is pushed by the secrets of her uncle’s publishing business into exploring the boundaries between her memories and an old mystery that ought to have nothing to do with her at all.

I wanted her to walk that very fine line between reaching out and letting go.

And while she experiences all of that, I particularly wanted her to find a new friendship with Robert, her uncle’s second editor at the Kershaw and Kathay Book Press. He is the key to the other elements of the story, which involve books, and being valued, and about putting down roots in a new place and discovering whether or not they will hold firm.

Ampney St Mary near Fairford and Cirencester helped to inspire the mystery
Image Credit Lorna Gray

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets / The Book Ghost is set in the immediate post-war era, 1946. What made you choose this particular time?

I knew I wanted to bring Lucy home to a small old fashioned publishing business. I nearly set it in the present day. But then I uncovered a small piece of research about paper rationing in the war and post-war period.

Paper rationing had a massive impact on books and publishing in the 40s and early 50s. Did you know that during the war, one of the big London publishers – Penguin, I think – managed to get a large order to supply paperbacks to the Canadian army? They didn’t take payment in the form of money. They arranged for the Canadian government to send them a shipload of paper across the Atlantic because they were so desperate for supplies.

After discovering all that, I couldn’t wait to delve into the world of a small publishing business and its secrets in the era of paper rationing.

Moreton in Marsh was a wonderfully atmospheric location for a 1940s publishing business
Image Credit Lorna Gray

What is it about the post-war period that interests you?

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets is my fourth historical novel. You may not be aware that before writing this mystery, each of my previous novels has been inspired by oral history. I have always been passionate about understanding the past. The post-war period is long enough ago that for me it satisfies my urge to write about history, and yet it is modern enough that when I want to know more, I can simply ask someone to share their memories.

It makes writing and researching the period endlessly fascinating.

Do you enjoy writing stories that cross the genre boundaries? Why is this?

The way my writing seems to cross genre boundaries must come from my own reading. I don’t think I’m ever constrained by genre. I read anything from classics to modern romance and literary masterpieces and memoir.

How do you research your stories? 

Everything is researched, even down to the details of the weather. Luckily, the internet is an extraordinary resource. And then I ask people to share their memories too.

When you aren’t writing, what other interests do you have?

I keep far too many animals! Some years ago, I had the idea that I might breed goats, but when it came to finding good homes for the kids (young goats), it turned out to be very hard indeed. People weren’t terribly honest about what they intended to do with them. So now my husband and I have a large and ageing herd of pets, and they give me endless hours of happiness.

When reading to relax, what kind of books do you choose? Why do they appeal to you?

I treasure any book that has many layers. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who finds it impossible to judge a book by its cover. So I always read based on recommendations by a few trusted people. I also love to return to favourite books, discovering new details each time.

An obvious example is that I’ve read Pride and Prejudice many times. I first read it when I was a teenager and I vividly remember that initially, I could only see the characters through Elizabeth’s eyes. But then I read the book again some years later, and it turned out that the evidence had been there all along that characters such as Mr Darcy really weren’t as Elizabeth believed them to be. I love that depth of detail.

 Can you give us a brief insight into Mrs P’s Book of Secrets /The Book Ghost?

Look out for the accidental misspellings of Ashbrook. There are a few deliberate typos for the purpose of the plot, but the more I explored the concept of ‘an influence’, on Lucy’s search for the secret of a little girl’s abandonment, the more these errors crept in. For all my wise words about there being no tangible apparition in this book, the ghost certainly wanted to have his or her say. I asked the proofreader to leave them untouched.

There are no white shrouded spectres here, no wailing ghouls. Just the echoes of those who have passed, whispering that history is set to repeat itself.

The Cotswolds, Christmastime 1946: A young widow leaves behind the tragedy of her wartime life, and returns home to her ageing aunt and uncle. For Lucy – known as Mrs P – and the people who raised her, the books that line the walls of the family publishing business bring comfort and the promise of new beginnings.

But the kind and reserved new editor at the Kershaw and Kathay Book Press is a former prisoner of war, and he has his own shadows to bear. And when the old secrets of a little girl’s abandonment are uncovered within the pages of Robert Underhills’s latest project, Lucy must work quickly if she is to understand the truth behind his frequent trips away.

For a ghost dwells in the record of an orphan girl’s last days. And even as Lucy dares to risk her heart, the grief of her own past seems to be whispering a warning of fresh loss…

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Mrs Ps Book of Secrets Lorna Gray 5* #Review @MsLornaGray @0neMoreChapter_ #LiteraryFiction #HistoricalFiction #postwar #1946 #TheCotswolds #loss #Mystery #FamilyDrama #Romance #FriendShip #BlogTour #30DaysofBlogs #LornaGray #TheBookGhost #MrsPsBookofSecrets

Mrs Ps Book of Secrets

There are no white shrouded spectres here, no wailing ghouls. Just the echoes of those who have passed, whispering that history is set to repeat itself.

The Cotswolds, Christmastime 1946: A young widow leaves behind the tragedy of her wartime life, and returns home to her ageing aunt and uncle. For Lucy – known as Mrs P – and the people who raised her, the books that line the walls of the family publishing business bring comfort and the promise of new beginnings.

But the kind and reserved new editor at the Kershaw and Kathay Book Press is a former prisoner of war, and he has his own shadows to bear. And when the old secrets of a little girl’s abandonment are uncovered within the pages of Robert Underhills’s latest project, Lucy must work quickly if she is to understand the truth behind his frequent trips away.

For a ghost dwells in the record of an orphan girl’s last days. And even as Lucy dares to risk her heart, the grief of her own past seems to be whispering a warning of fresh loss…

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets will be published in the US as The Book Ghost.

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I received a copy of this book from One More Chapter via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

1946 is such an interesting time in British history. The immediate post-war years were very hard on the people. Rationing of food and other essential goods, men returning from the war changed both physically and mentally. Women, who had kept the country’s farms and industry running in the WW2, forced back to their former lives. This led to inevitable adjustment and unrest, after the relative freedom of wartime, for women, in terms of employment. Then, there were the men who didn’t return from the war and the widows who had to carry on.

Lucy, known as Mrs P, is one such widow, who finds herself unemployed in 1946 and bereft of the husband who was hers for such a short time. Returning home to her aunt and uncle and their Cotswold printing business is the only viable alternative, but even here things are not the same. They have a lodger and new employee, and Lucy struggles to fit in. The historical setting of this book proves to be the perfect backdrop for this story, and the details of life at the time and the intricacies of the printing and publishing world are absorbing.

This is Lucy’s story of coming to terms with her loss, accepting her world as it is now, and learning to live again. As the story progresses, events from Lucy’s past illuminate her present unsettled feeling, and her search to belong. The mystery of the missing girl, she discovers in a book, entangles itself with her childhood and loss, making her question everything, doubt those she should trust, and obsessively search for what happened to the young girl.

There is also a lovely friendship, which flowers into romance for Lucy. Slow-burning, because even though she feels physical attraction, feelings of guilt and fear of loss, push any thoughts of life beyond her single state, away for Lucy initially.

The echoes of her childhood, recent bereavement and the strange events that occur serve to haunt Lucy’s already emotionally unstable mind. The reader experiences this first hand, as the story is told in the first person. Sometimes, this is an uncomfortable place for the reader to be, the emotions are raw, and realisation slow to arrive, but the ending makes the angst worth suffering.

The conclusion of the mystery is not what you might expect, but it is believable, poignant, and shows how much Lucy has healed. There are still unexplained events, which you may interpret as you please. I am sure that we do not understand everything in this world, and choose to accept Lucy’s explanation.

A gently paced, historically detailed, romantic literary adventure. A young woman’s struggle with widowhood, as she explores an unusual mystery and experiences a few occurrences that defy explanation. Something original to enjoy that demands your ability to concentrate and become part of the story.

#LornaGray

Lorna Gray was born in 1980 in Bedfordshire. Her relationship with the glorious countryside of the Cotswolds began many years ago when she first moved to Cirencester. She has been exploring the area through her love of history, adventure and romance ever since.

This is Lorna’s fourth post-WWII mystery. Her three previous novels are In the Shadow of Winter (2015), The War Widow (2018) and The Antique Dealer’s Daughter (2018). She lives in the Cotswolds with her husband.

5* #Review

Read my author interview with Lorna Gray