BORN OF NO WOMAN by Franck Bouysse

BORN OF NO WOMAN by Franck Bouysse

Born of No Woman is a 359-page novel translated from the original French version into English by Lara Vergnaud. Franck Bouysse’s novel is intense, literary fiction and quite heavy subject matter, but ne which I read in a few days as the characters are interesting and you want to know what happens.

The story is set in nineteenth century France, where 28-year-old Father Gabriel goes to the local asylum to bless the body of a dead woman. While he is there, a nurse urges him to conceal the diaries of a woman called Rose and smuggle them out, which he does. Later reading these diaries, the story of Rose unfolds and that is the main focus of the book.

Rose leads an incredibly difficult life, beginning as a fourteen year old when he father sells her to the owners of a big house as a servant. But he never expects the horrors that occur there.

The book contains many distressing themes, including scenes of graphic violence and repeated rape. It is quite a depressing book to read, though the last few chapters do bring the ending to more of a happier one than I was expecting.

It is very well-written, each chapter from one character’s viewpoint, so you can see their feelings and understand their motivations. While it is a difficult read due to its dark themes, the story itself is told really well and you will feel for Rose especially and what to know how her story continues. It is also a novel that will make you think.

7.5 out of 10

THE SMALLEST MAN by Frances Quinn

THE SMALLEST MAN by Frances Quinn – There aren’t many novels you read that are truly unique. There also aren’t many novels that are absolutely brilliant. The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn is both unique and brilliant. It is a story you will fall into, and never want to forget.

It tells the story of Nat Davy, a ten year old in 1625 and a dwarf, who lives with his parents, brother and sister. When he is sold by his father to a duke, Nat’s life changes forever – and he goes on a wealth of adventures which you’ll have to read for yourself.

Nat is one of the best fictional heroes I have read. You will definitely fall in love with him. He is based on a real historical figure too (Jeffrey Hudson) and it’s interesting to read Frances’s comments at the end of the book about Jeffrey’s life.

The writing itself is beautiful, the characters are wonderfully written, the historical element is realistic (but never boring, as she doesn’t dwell on irrelevant politics) and the whole novel is a complete delight!

9.5 out of 10

New book by Fiona Leitch coming soon!

The new book by Fiona Leitch will be released by Harper Collins imprint One More Chapter in ebook on 29th November, with the paperback following on 9th December. A Cornish Christmas Murder (in the UK, alternative title A Murder Under the Mistletoe in the US) is the 4th book in the Nosey Parker cosy mystery series, but it can be read as a standalone, so it’s a great entry into the life of Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker, ex-copper turned chef and sometime amateur detective.

Here’s the blurb…

A PINCH OF PARANOIA It’s three days before Christmas, and detective-turned-chef Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is drafted in to cater a charity event run by a notorious millionaire at a 13th-century abbey on Bodmin Moor.

A DASH OF DECEPTION Things get more complicated when a snowstorm descends, stranding them all, and the next morning they find one of the guests has been gruesomely murdered in their bed…

A MURDER UNDER THE MISTLETOE Secrets mull like wine on the stove in every corner – can Jodie solve the crime before the killer strikes again?

A Cornish Christmas Murder is a must-read mystery full of heart and humour – perfect for fans of Richard Osman and The Appeal.

The book is available for pre-order at mybook.to/CornishChristmas and is now on NetGalley for early reviews.

Recipe for Mr Perfect by Anni Rose

Jess Willersey works in an office for Anymoore Ltd with Maggie and Sarah, but would really love to be a photographer. When she gets her first job photographing a steampunk wedding, she also encounters a rather gorgeous man. But will they meet again? And what will happen?

This is a romance, a rom com, book and has the elements you would expect with a very likeable heroine going through a bad time romantically. But this book also lets us follow the journeys of Maggie and Sarah too, who are all at different stages in their quest for love. Jess is recently single, Maggie has been single for years and Sarah has plenty of boyfriend offers but none of them are right. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book and felt I really knew each of the women and cared about what happened to them.

I also loved the way the animals are written in the novel – Jess’s cat and particularly Neil’s dog Dudley who deserves his own novel, he’s such a great character!

The book is well-written and easy to read, because it never loses its pace and you want to find out what happens. The characters are believable, you want the good ones to find love and happiness, and the bad ones to get their just desserts.

A really fun and satisfying read that I would definitely recommend.

8 out of 10

@AnniRoseAuthor @choclituk @lovebooksgroup @lovebookstours

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Always, In December by Emily Stone

ALWAYS, IN DECEMBER by Emily Stone

It isn’t often that a read a 400-page book in three days, but I did with this one. It begins magically and takes you on a journey, one which you will remember for a long time.

The main character is Josie Morgan, who has just finished a relationship with Oliver and is at an impasse in her life with her relationship and her job. We soon learn she lost her parents in a car accident one Christmas Eve when she was a child, so that time of year is a difficult one for her.

But this Christmas, she has an accident and meets a stranger called Max. They spend a few days together in December and … well, I’ll let you read the book to find out.

Emily Stone creates beautiful characters, each one steps out of the page and is instantly someone you know, so you care about them. Even the minor characters like Graeme – exactly the sort of man you don’t want to be stuck at a wedding with – jump out of the page with their realism.

The story takes you on a tour of your emotions and it isn’t always a happy book, I’ll warn you, but it’s a story that’s well worth reading.

9 out of 10

@emstonewrites @headlinepg @randomthingstours

Game On by Sue Anstiss

GAME ON by Sue Anstiss

I am very interested in women’s sports, so I was very keen to read Game On – The Unstoppable Rise of Women’s Sport, the new book by Sue Anstiss MBE. It talks about the inequalities between men’s and women’s sports in many different aspects from television coverage to prize money.

I especially enjoyed Chapter 3 – The Female Frailty Myth which explains how sport was seen as being unfeminine and dangerous to women’s fertility, so it was discouraged or banned. Although this is seen, quite rightly, as an old-fashioned point of view, some of the statistics are shocking. For example, it wasn’t until 1996 that women’s football was included in the Olympic Games, and it took until 2007 until Wimbledon awarded the same amount of prize money to the male and female winners.

Being a former gymnast, I was pleased to read that Barbara Slater has been one of the women at the forefront of the efforts to improve things for women’s sports. She competed for Great Britain in the 1976 Olympic Games as a gymnast and in 2009, she became the BBC’s first female Director of Sport.

It is also fascinating to read how men became the primary consumers of sports events (at live matches and on TV) due to the extra leisure time they had, from their wives doing most of the housework and childcare. As society changed in the division of labour in the home, women have gained more leisure time!

So there is plenty you will learn from this book. However, one slight criticism I have is that the book is understandably full of statistics and acronyms and is very heavy on information, which can make it a bit hard to read in large sessions.

It is, in my opinion, rather sad that sport is judged by the money its sponsors can make, but I guess that’s a sign of the times. Amateur sports are becoming a thing of the past, with more sports men and women training full time and earning a wage from it. This is covered in Chapter 7 particularly – Equal Pay for Equal Play. When reading that tennis star Naomi Osaka earned $37.4 million in 2019, instead of being proud that a woman could earn that amount, I was rather reminded of the inequalities of class as much as gender. Is anyone really worth $37.4 million a year?

Overall, I found Game On proved that the situation is improving and there are many positive things to celebrate. The women involved in these changes should be proud of what they have achieved, but this book also demonstrates that there is still a long way to go.

How To Be An Olympian Review

How To Be An Olympian by Harry Reardon

I have always been a fan of sport, being a gymnast myself when I was younger and I am a big fan of the Olympics, so the book How To Be An Olympian by Harry Reardon is just my kind of thing. The book follows two sportswomen – Hannah Dines (Paralympian on the trike) and Jess Leyden (British rower). I hadn’t heard of these girls before, despite being a big sports fan (though rowing and cycling are not amongst the sports I follow the most).

It is really interesting to follow their journeys over the five years from Rio 2016 to Tokyo 2020 (2021) and all the obstacles they face – often bureaucratic as much as injury and illness. It feels very unfair the way they are both treated at times, especially by their sports’ governing bodies. I felt very angry on their behalf, especially poor Hannah who is dumped unceremoniously by British Cycling!

This book certainly demonstrates how much resilience, determination and psychological strength you need to compete at this level. It’s not for the faint-hearted! I have a lot of admiration for both Hannah and Jess after reading this book.

It was quite striking to me reading this book that sports people are often considered to be ‘machines’ by the governing bodies – they should reach these targets by this kind of time and so on. The fact that they are human and have lives beyond sport seems to often be ignored, or in the case of the rowing, that the quad consists of four different women with their own personalities and strengths and weaknesses to consider. When you watch the races on TV, it all looks so easy at the top level!

Of course, this Olympic cycle was particularly hard. To train for four years to get to 2020, only to find out the Olympics and Paralympics are being postponed for a year (at best). You hopefully reach your peak, only to discover you have to keep at that top level for a further twelve months! So this book explains how Hannah and Jess coped with that too.

Harry Reardon writes beautifully, his style is easy to read and informative and I especially like his humour, particularly in the footnotes.

The only criticism I have is that I would have liked to have had a photo section in the middle of the book or at least photos of Hannah and Jess included on the cover or inside. I had to Google what they looked like instead!

8 out of 10

Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker

If you’re like me, you’ll remember Tina Baker for her regular slots on TV. One of those women you automatically like, as they come across as approachable and genuine. So when I saw on Twitter that she had written a book, I was interested to read it. And wow! What a book it is!

Without giving too much away, the story is mainly seen from the viewpoints of two women – Kim and a woman we only know as Mummy. Kim is one of those women we’ve all turned our noses up in the past – the sort that swears in front of her children and smokes even when pregnant. So when one of her children is abducted, the newspapers are full of ‘SCUMMY MUMMY’ headlines and the reader is there, nodding in agreement.

So ‘Mummy’ steals the young girl. She appears to be rescuing the fine-year-old from a home that looks to be poor, rough and probably abusive. Mummy has a lovely house, she’s well-spoken, bothered about tidiness, hygiene and good nutrition. She hasn’t been able to have any children of her own and wants to be the perfect mummy to this little girl.

But over the book, things change, more is revealed about both women and you will find your feelings altering too as you read more.

It is really an incredible book. I wanted to finish it as soon as possible, because I was desperate to know what happened, yet I also didn’t want it to end, because it’s so intense, absorbing and well – bloody brilliant! I had several late nights devouring it until my eyes were blurring too much to see the words, but it is truly a page turner.

It’s hard to write a unique book these days, but Tina Baker has done that. I’ve never read a book like this and it will stay with me for a long time. I am thrilled her second novel is coming out in 2022 and I’ll be pre-ordering that!

I gave this book a very rare 10 out of 10, I can’t fault it.