Wednesday 30 October 2019

Michelle Obama: The Fantastically Feminist and Totally True Story of the Inspirational Activist and Campaigner | Blog Tour

Michelle Obama by Anna Doherty
Published by Hachette
Release date October 17th 2019
Source Hachette, review copy.

A few months ago I read and reviewed (and LOVED) the first book in Anna Doherty's Fantastically Feminist series: The Brontes. The Fantastically Feminist series is all about celebrating the incredible achievements of women through Anna Doherty's wonderful words and illustrations.

In celebration of Black History Month, today I'm here to tell you about the latest book in this wonderful series: Michelle Obama!

Having recently read Becoming I was thrilled to get the chance to explore Michelle Obama's fascinating life in a different way. She's such an inspirational figure and this book is a great way of finding out all of the different kinds of wonderful work Michelle has done and continues to do.

It tells the story of Michelle Obama's life through moments in her childhood, her education, working life and through her time in the White House and the amazing work she did there. The fun illustrations and layout make this an accessible biography for children aged 5 and up.

This book, and this series in general, is a wonderful way to introduce non-fiction to children and share the lives of inspirational, diverse women.

Don't forget to visit the other wonderful blogs on the tour!

Saturday 15 June 2019

My Secret Lies With You by Faye Bird: Faye's Fave Mysteries | Blog Tour

My Secret Lies With You by Faye Bird
Published by Usborne
Release Date: 13th June 2019
Source: Usborne, paperback proof copy.

GoodreadsWordery [] | Book Depository []

Three close friends… Two unforgettable summers… One girl’s darkest secret…

Alys appeared last summer, and then she vanished without a trace.

Ifan fell in love with her.

Hannah hated her.

And Marko regrets what they did.

This summer Cait is new in town, and a girl has been reported missing. Cait needs to uncover the truth. What happened last summer? And who is Alys?

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for My Secret Lies With You by Faye Bird!

My Secret Lies With You is a YA mystery-thriller full of friendships, mysterious characters and secrets. I really love reading mysteries and thrillers in the summertime because I love a fast-paced read I can spend a whole afternoon in the sun with. I'll be taking this on holiday next month and I can't wait to find out the secrets.

For this blog tour, we're getting you in the mood for intrigue by sharing author Faye's favourite mysteries, one of which is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon - a book I really enjoyed! Here's what Faye has to say about it:

"I went to see the adaptation for the stage just before it closed in London at the end of April this year. It was a long time since I’d read the book and so I took with me the overall sense of the book, and the story, but without the specific memory of all of its parts. And I was surprised, because I think I’d forgotten just how heart breaking and harrowing this story really is. The adults behave pretty badly. Yes, everything comes good in a chocolate box way by the end, but by god we’ve gone through it with Christopher before then. I think my main memory of the book was when Christopher was travelling to London. The interminable journey, the anxiety, the chaos both in his head and all around him as he navigates his way to his mother’s house in NW2.  And the production does this so well with light and sound and physical theatre – bodies moving, walking, pulsing, treading the walls and the floor… The end of the first Act had me in floods of tears. But then alongside the pain of that journey sits all Christopher’s open and wise observation as he tries to make sense of his world, and that switched my emotions up again and made me smile. The way Haddon navigates from funny to sad and back again so beautifully – the way it doesn’t patronise Christopher at all – that is the mark of a brilliant writer and Simon Stephens has captured that perfectly from the book to the stage too. And of course Christopher is writing a book of his own in this story, and it’s a murder mystery. He refers to Arthur Conan Doyle, his favourite writer. I wasn’t a writer when I read The Curious Incident… but it was one of the books that made me want to be a writer when I read it. And there are many smart things Christopher says about writing a book, and specifically a mystery, that ring true. When asked halfway through the play about his book Christopher says it isn’t a proper book because it doesn’t have a proper end. Endings are so important to mysteries. But he also says that he was excited. “When I started writing my book there was only one mystery to solve. Now there were two.” There’s certainly a good recipe in there for success. Christopher definitely had good reason to be excited about his story, and particularly how it ends. I was excited to have been there and shared a part of it, in the theatre too."

Thanks so much to Faye for sharing her thoughts on a favourite mystery! I'd love to know what your favourite mystery/thrillers are, let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

My Secret Lies With You by Faye Bird is out now! Thanks to Usborne for the review copy and setting up the blog tour. Check out the tour poster and don't forget to visit the other stops!

Links to books in this post marked with [aff. link] are affiliate links, which just means that if you want to purchase them, it supports the running of this blog - with no extra cost to you! If you want to buy any other books, please consider using my Wordery link - thanks lovelies!

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans | Blog Tour

Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans
Published by Usborne
Release Date: April 4th 2019
Source: Usborne, paperback finished copy.

Goodreads | Wordery [aff. link] | Book Depository []

Laura was dying. There was no cure for her illness. So her family decided to grasp a desperate last hope - Laura was frozen until she could be cured.

But what happens when you wake up one day and the world has moved on forty years? Your best friend is middle-aged, your parents presumed dead. Could you find a new place to belong? Could you build a new life - while solving the mystery of what happened to the old one?

Dark secrets lurk in the future of the girl from the past…

Today I'm sharing the new YA sci-fi novel from Usborne: Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans! Described as "Sleeping Beauty with a Black Mirror-style twist", Beauty Sleep explores what it would be like for a pre-tech girl to wake up in a futuristic world. Today I'm sharing a little taster with a gripping extract from the novel to get you excited! No doubt you'll be as hooked as I was...


Extract from Beauty Sleep

I was winded by it.
"Forty? Forty years?"
"I know it's a shock," Benjie said.
It was impossible. Completely impossible. I tried to process what they were telling me, but my brain couldn't cope.
"" Then my head snapped up. "Wait, is it gone, the cancer?"
Benjie smiled. "We began treatment as soon as you were revived. You slept through most of it, but you responded well. You'll need a lot of onitoring, but we're confident you are on the road to a full recovery."
I wrapped my arms around myself, as if I was checking I was whole. "So what...when...what year is it?"
Benjie paused, then said, "2028."
It was impossible. It couldn't be 2028. That sounded so far in the future - it was science fiction.
What was the year I went to sleep then? I wracked my brain, frustrated by my lack of memory. Then I remembered sticking something into a scrapbook - a picture of Prince Andrew and Fergie getting engaged - and writing the date in bubble letters. It was March. March, 1986.
I shook my head.
How could I remember that and so little else?
Forty years?
Benjie held my arm. "I'm so sorry. We weren't sure...We didn't want..."
I pulled my knees up to my chest and curled into a ball, turning my head away from them. I closed my eyes. I wanted to shut him out.
I wanted to shut everything out.
The didn't leave. I could hear them whispering. Still I kept my eyes closed.
Forty years.
A lifetime.
No, it wasn't. It was a long time but it wasn't a lifetime.
How old would Mum and Ima have been in 1986? I searched my patchy memory. Early forties? Maybe? A spark of hope ignited.
I opened my eyes. "They could still be alive, Mum and Ima. Do they know? Can't you find them? Tell them I'm awake?"
Benjie bit his lip.
"I know they'll be old, it doesn't matter, Benjie. I just want to see them. I need to see them. I can cope, I swear."
He wouldn't look at me. Cold crept over my skin.


If that doesn't have you intrigued, I don't know what will. Beauty Sleep is out now!

Thank you so much to Usborne for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. Don't forget to check out the other stops!

Links to books in this post marked with [aff. link] are affiliate links, which just means that if you want to purchase them, it supports the running of this blog - with no extra cost to you! If you want to buy any other books, please consider using my Wordery link - thanks lovelies!

Monday 29 April 2019

Stanley and Elsie by Nicola Upson | Blog Tour

Stanley and Elsie by Nicola Upson
Published by Duckworth
Release date: 2nd May 2019
Source: Duckworth, paperback advance reading copy.

It’s 1928 and Stanley Spencer arrives in a quiet Hampshire village ready to create the commission of a lifetime. Hired as his housekeeper, Elsie quickly becomes so much more: a muse and a friend for whom he develops a deep, lifelong affection. A joy in the ordinary things bonds them, a simple love of life which is crucial to Spencer’s art but which his wartime experiences and growing celebrity have all but destroyed.

Elsie becomes a vital part of the Spencer family, sharing in the creation of Spencer’s masterpieces and the daily dramas of his life: his marriage to the painter Hilda Carline and the artistic rivalry between husband and wife; the continuing impact of the First World War on all their lives, and the scandal over Spencer’s personal and artistic attitudes toward sex. As the years pass, Elsie does her best to keep the familytogether even when love, obsession and temptation seem set to tear them apart...

Spencer painted the women in his life with a combination of ruthless honesty and nostalgic idealism, but their voices are tantalisingly absent from history. Stanley and Elsie turns the tables and gives full lives to the women who shaped Stanley Spencer’s life.

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Stanley and Elsie by Nicola Upson and I'm so excited to share my review with you. Based on the life of the artist Stanley Spencer (1891-1959), Stanley and Elsie is a fascinating look at art, the wounds of war and Stanley Spencer through the eyes of the women in his life.

Writing fiction about art is almost the ultimate test in descriptive writing as the goal is clearly to get the reader to not only be able to visualise the art as they read, but appreciate the technical detail and the feelings that a particular piece evokes. In this way, Nicola Upson has accomplished something extraordinary. I felt like I was standing in Sandham memorial chapel (the building filled with murals on everyday life during WW1, painted by Spencer) along with Elsie, seeing Spencer's vast and distinctive depictions of war memories.

I really enjoyed the reflections on finding joy in the everyday, mundane tasks and it made me pause and think about my mindset when it comes to work and daily life. I agree with Spencer's idea of there being something heroic in the everyday, of keeping on despite everything, and cherishing the peace of mundane moments. This is something that I also found within the novel, reading about the life of the Spencers. I love the comfort that historical fiction brings, especially books that spend time on the day to day lives of people in the past. The simple joy of seeing how people lived their daily lives, their tasks and homemaking, their view on hard work and holidays by the seaside.

Nicola Upson did such a fantastic job with the setting of the novel that the Berkshire countryside felt almost like another character, and it made me feel a connection to a part of England that I haven't yet visited. There is some beautiful writing on nature, weather and the changing of the seasons, which I particularly appreciated. 

Stanley and Elsie is a cosy book which deals with some big and uncomfortable topics whilst also being a comfortable and relaxing read. It has a slow burn of atmosphere and is a fascinating insight into the emotional and domestic life of a distinguished artist.


Nicola Upson was born in Suffolk and is most known for her series of novels featuring real-life crime author and playwright, Josephine Tey. 


Thanks to Duckworth for including me on this blog tour and providing an advanced copy of the book. Don't forget to head on over to the other stops on the tour!

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Celebrating Shakespeare Day with Viking | Shakespeare's memorable quotes

This post contains items that were gifted from Viking. This is not a paid-for post.

Today, April 23rd, is Shakespeare Day. Despite being written over 400 years ago, Shakespeare's works are still celebrated the world over. He introduced phrases that we still use today and he wrote with a wit still unrivalled.

To help me celebrate Shakespeare Day, Viking kindly gifted me some beautiful stationery and I decided to practice my calligraphy with some of my favourite quotes from the bard. I started hand-lettering with brush pens about two years ago and it's something I've been practising over time but using a proper calligraphy set was a new challenge for me! 

This beautiful feathered calligraphy pen came with six different nibs and I had so much fun trying out the different styles. What do you think of my efforts?

Viking stock an enormous range of products online, so whether you're stocking up for school or work or you just want to get creative, they've definitely got something for you. 

This post is not paid, Viking gifted me a box of stationery with the intention to get creative with their products. I genuinely think they're a great company and really like the range of products they stock. 

I really enjoyed getting creative and celebrating Shakespeare with these calligraphy quotes, which is your favourite?

Thursday 10 January 2019

Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden | Giveaway!

Today is the publication day for the fantastic third book in Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy: The Winter of the Witch! I'm so happy to be taking part in the blog tour for Winter of the Witch, I'm going to be sharing my spoiler-free review and stay tuned to the end for a giveaway!

There is a battle raging over Moscow, Old Gods and New are vying for control of Russia and it's people. Vasya is at the centre of this conflict, desperately trying to save both the human and magical worlds of Russia and the Winter King, who is fading in the creeping heat of summer and battle. But she might not be able to save them all.

In 2018, I read the whole of the Winternight trilogy, something I don't often do. I tend to start fantasy series and then trail off at some point, but this one had me gripped throughout. It turned out to be a five star series for me and one of the best I've read. I think the main reason for this is that it has such a great balance between character development and plot. I generally prefer character-driven novels but I get a bit frustrated when the accompanying plot is badly paced or non-existent. The Winternight trilogy has such strong characters who get you really invested and a well balanced plot which drives excitement and tension at just the right moments.

The Winter of the Witch is a really strong finale to this wonderful series. It maintains and builds on the folklore and spirit elements that were so present in the first book and made the second book so gripping, to create a fantastic, emotional and exciting final journey with so many unexpected twists and turns along the way.

One of the things I love most about this series is the sweeping range of settings across medieval Russia; the scenery was ever-changing across the course of the three books. From rural village life with lush descriptions of the nature which is almost a character within Vasya's home of Lesnaya Zemlya, to the high walls of Moscow, the dark forests of Midnight and the crackling fires of battle camps. The reader always feels completely immersed in this world as no matter the landscape, it is deftly described and fully realised without hitting you over the head with it.

Vasya is one of the best protagonists I've ever read. She could have so easily been a  manic-pixie-dream-girl or stereotypical chosen one but instead she is complex, flawed and brilliant. There were times I questioned her decisions, felt frustrated with her or urged her to take another path, but that is what makes her so real and human and an ultimately convincing character. I also really liked that romance was an undercurrent in these books, bubbling under the surface with just enough angst and emotion to invest in, but not distracting from the main story or Vasya's character development.

Vasya is firmly cemented as one of my favourite fantasy heroines of all time. Her character arc is incredible yet entirely convincing. I wholeheartedly adore her and I already can't wait to go back to this series for a reread and spend more time with her, watching her grow into the incredible woman she is in The Winter of the Witch. 

On my Instagram I described this series as epic and quiet at the same time and I think that's exactly what I love about it. It's sweeping enough to be exciting and to carry you fully into another world but it's quiet and charming enough for you to hold it close to your heart and feel like it's yours. This series felt like coming home to me, it felt like everything I'd ever wanted in a fantasy and I'll always hold it close. Read the Winternight trilogy, you won't regret it.


With the help of Ebury, I'm running a giveaway for a finished copy of The Winter of the Witch over on my Instagram! Head to the link below and read the caption for details on how to enter.

View this post on Instagram

πŸ“šπŸŽ GIVEAWAY! πŸŽπŸ“šHappy book birthday to The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden! My blog is today’s stop on the blog tour, head to the link in my bio to read my spoiler-free review. - To celebrate publication day of the third book in the Winternight trilogy, I’m collaborating with @eburybooks to give away a finished copy of The Winter of the Witch (swipe to see the gorgeous finished cover) to one lucky winner. - To enter: 🎁 Like the post 🎁 Follow me @sarahschapter 🎁 Tag a friend in the comments who might like to enter - Extra Entries: 🎁 Tag more friends (one comment per tag, up to five comments) 🎁 Comment on my review post (link in bio) 🎁 Share this post on your stories and comment when you’ve done this. - UK and Europe entries only. Giveaway ends 23:59 GMT on 16th January 2019. This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram.

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Also, don't forget to catch the other stops on the blog tour:


I was provided with a review copy of The Winter of The Witch from Ebury in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my thoughts on the book. 

Sunday 30 December 2018

Reviewing the Costa Novel Shortlist*

This post is a paid collaboration with Costa. All words, images and opinions are entirely my own.

This month I've been working with the Costa Book Awards to review the Novel shortlist ahead of the category winners announcement on the 7th January. I've spent the month reading the four shortlisted novels: The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, Normal People by Sally Rooney and From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan. I'm here today to give you my reviews and share my own prediction for the category winner.

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman
A slow-building character-driven novel with a pacy plot towards the end, The Italian Teacher begins in Rome, 1955, at a party to celebrate Bear Bavinsky. Bear is an artist with a magnetic, larger-than-life personality who seduces everyone he meets. His tendency to burn any work he is not entirely happy with creates an air of mystique and grandeur around the surviving works - making him a cult figure in the art world. But this isn't Bear's story, it's his son's - Charles 'Pinch' Bavinsky. As we read from Pinch's perspective, we begin to see Bear as an egotistical nightmare of man, who doles out rare and limited affection to his many scattered children, which they crave like a drug. The Italian Teacher explores all kinds of toxic relationships, between father and son, man and woman, artist and art.

I really enjoyed Rachman's exploration of the art world. I don't read a lot of books about art and it's something I used to really love. I know a bit about famous twentieth century artists so the references peppered throughout were quite fun for me and it was really interesting to learn a bit about how the art world works. Rachman's reflections on the importance of status and character in the art world were really thought-provoking and I found the consideration of how we leave a mark on the world and others' lives really quite moving.

The main character, Pinch, is kind of unlikeable but that isn't a downfall for me. I don't mind feeling frustrated with a character or questioning their decisions as long as I can still empathise or connect in some way. I found myself growing fond of Pinch, despite his huge flaws, because I could see myself in parts of him. The Italian Teacher is a portrait of vulnerability, loneliness and compromise who makes the reader consider what makes a life well lived.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Trojan War from the women's perspective. It is historical fiction in a time that we see as so far removed from our own yet the fear and horror running through it unfortunately has such relevance today. The Silence of the Girls is brutal, it is about as far away from the romanticisation of Trojan war retellings as you can get. The women are slaves, prizes for the man who slaughtered their families. Their treatment is appalling and the book doesn't allow the reader to forget this. We read from the perspective of Briseis, whose city was sacked and family murdered by Achilles and the Myrmidons, who is then taken as slave and Achilles 'prize'.

I was a little surprised that Achilles had quite so many of his own chapters in a story that is conceptualised as being focused on the women. Achilles was presented as a complex character and humanised to an extent but his brutality and complicity in the enslavement of women was never shied away from. I did appreciate that Achilles was a fleshed out character with emotions rather than just being a one dimensional villain, this human aspect of him made his brutal actions more despicable. I also appreciated that Achilles' POV was told in third person to Briseis' first person. However, I do wish there was more of Briseis, what we got of her was so raw but her story felt a bit undeveloped. In a book focused on the women it is a little strange to feel like Achilles is the more developed character - but perhaps that's the point.

Normal People by Sally Rooney
Probably the most hyped book on the shortlist, Normal People is quite a stunning read. Sally Rooney's prose is stark, even harsh, in places, yet even as someone who loves lush description, I fell for this book. It's a love story without being a romance and is moving and frustrating in equal parts. It's about how the unsaid things can twist a relationship and the people within it. Rather than hook us in to root for the couple or entertain us with their romance, Normal People presents the raw truth of the youthful experience of a relationship, complete with awkwardness, awe, pain and external pressures. The emotions within are so accurately depicted; it's almost shocking.

An issue I had that I've not heard many speak about is that it felt like modern historical fiction rather than a current portrayal of youth. I think because the characters attended university between 2011 and 2014, the exact years I did, I was subconsciously comparing and their vastly different experience threw me off. This is most likely a fault with me rather than the book but I felt it had quite strong 80s/90s/early 2000s vibes rather than current day eg. they wrote each other lengthy emails, which wasn't really something we did in 2012. It's nitpicky, but it did throw me out of the story a little too often and therefore affected my feelings about the book.

Overall, Normal People is a compelling, emotionally jarring read that cuts to the core of human relationships.

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
This was my first time reading Donal Ryan's writing and I was absolutely blown away by it. The expression of emotion in his writing is beautiful and almost lyrical but feels raw and cuts deep. There were times when I was reading this that is almost painful and so real. From A Low and Quiet Sea is told from the perspective of three very different men whose stories crash together at the end in unexpected ways. Donal Ryan's command of structure and interweaving detail is excellent and so much is conveyed in less than 200 pages. Like the others on the shortlist, this is very much a character-driven novel, which I usually prefer anyway. Donal Ryan does weave story and plots together in such interesting ways but the stars of the show are the complex and vivid characters whose inner lives we come to know through exquisitely constructed sentences. From a Low and Quiet Sea reflects on empathy, familial strain and how the past echoes through the present. It was a real joy, and an ache, to read.


So there we have it, my thoughts on all four books in the Novel category. Honestly, I think they are all fantastic in their own right so it's quite difficult to choose a winner. I have a feeling that Normal People may win because it's just been so hyped, but my personal winner is From a Low and Quiet Sea, it moved me the most and it's definitely made me want to pick up more of Donal Ryan's work.

The winners of each of the five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's, will be announced this coming Monday 7th January and the overall winner will be announced at the awards on Tuesday 29th January.


*This post is part of a series of posts that are sponsored by Costa. All words and images are entirely my own and 100% honest.

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