Title: The Velvet Hours

Author: Alyson Richman

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group

The Blurb

From the international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Garden of Letters, comes a story—inspired by true events—of two women pursuing freedom and independence in Paris during WWII.

As Paris teeters on the edge of the German occupation, a young French woman closes the door to her late grandmother’s treasure-filled apartment, unsure if she’ll ever return. 

An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path.

Inspired by the true account of an abandoned Parisian apartment, Alyson Richman brings to life Solange, the young woman forced to leave her fabled grandmother’s legacy behind to save all that she loved.

The Review

Ever since I heard the story of the preserved apartment found in Paris I have been fascinated. How did this apartment go unnoticed for so long? What happened to the woman who lived there? There are so many unanswered questions that of course it makes for the perfect basis of a story. I have, before reading The Velvet Hours, read two books based on the same premise and both were very well written and enjoyable but none were as engaging as the story that Alyson Richman told.

In her story we delve more into the life of the courtesan Marthe de Florain who lived in the apartment and her story is created using a mixture of fact and fiction. We see the story from the perspective of Marthe and Solange (her granddaughter) amongst the backdrop of occupied France. It truly is captivating.

If you are a fan of historical fiction that has an intriguing true story at its heard then The Velvet Hours is the book for you.

The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman is available now.

For more information regarding Alyson Richman (@alysonrichman) please visit www.alysonrichman.com.

For more information regarding Berkley Publishing Group (@BerkleyPub) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: City of Girls

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Pages: 470 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury

The Blurb

The blazingly brilliant new novel from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the international bestseller Eat Pray Love: a glittering coming-of-age epic stitched across the fabric of a lost New York.

The Review

This sumptuous tale is a lot more than the story of a debutante discovering herself. It is about the social changes in society; the development of a city; the change in time and attitudes. It is a love letter to the past and a recognition of just how magical life can be.

City of Girls is the first book in a very long time that has managed to provide the wow factor for me. The character of Vivian is shown with such unashamed honesty. We see every facet of her character – the good, the bad, and the ugly. She is an unforgettable heroine.

For me, City of Girls belongs to that rare breed of book. The one that you desperately do not want to end but cannot stop yourself from reading because you have to know what happens.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is available now.

For more information regarding Elizabeth Gilbert (@GilbertLiz) please visit www.ElizabethGilbert.com.

For more information regarding Bloomsbury (@BloomsburyBooks) please visit www.bloomsbury.com.

Title: Last Christmas

Author: Emma Thompson and Greg Wise

Pages: 256 Pages

Publisher: Quercus Books

The Blurb

The perfect gift book, featuring the writing of Meryl Streep, Bill Bailey, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman, Caitlin Moran, Richard Ayoade, Emily Watson and others, to coincide with the upcoming movie Last Christmas, starring Emma Thompson, Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding.

When you think back to Christmases past, what (if anything) made it magical? Looking towards the future, what would your perfect Christmas be? What would you change? What should we all change?

This is a beautiful, funny and soulful collection of personal essays about the meaning of Christmas, written by a unique plethora of voices from the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden.

Away from the John Lewis advert, the high street decorations and the candied orange in Heston Blumenthal’s Christmas pudding, this gem of a book introduced and curated by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise celebrates the importance of kindness and generosity, acceptance and tolerance – and shows us that these values are not just for Christmas.

The Review

I am sitting here on Christmas Eve writing the review for Last Christmas (I know that it is January the 10th as this goes live but I am trying to keep the festive period going). Admittedly, I don’t feel particularly Christmassy. Don’t worry, it will come. It will come later when I am in my new Christmas pyjamas and I have watched The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. This for me is what Christmas is about: being wrapped up warm and feeling safe and snug. Sadly, that isn’t the case for everyone.

Last Christmas which has been created by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise is a selection of tales from many different people, some celebrities others who are not famous but who are dealing with the very real issue of displacement and its creation has been to raise some much needed funds for Crisis.

The stories range from endearingly funny to absolutely heartbreaking and serve to remind us of how lucky we are and the true meaning of Christmas. If you are going to buy one book then please make it Last Christmas. The money raised from the book is going to help those in need.

Last Christmas by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise is available now.

For more information regarding Quercus Books (@QuercusBooks) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: Everyday Sexism

Author: Laura Bates

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The Blurb

In 2012 after having been sexually harassed on London public transport, Laura Bates started a project called Everyday Sexism. Astounded by the response from all over the world, she quickly realized that the situation was far worse than she’d initially thought.

In a culture that’s driven by social media, for the first time women are using this online space, now in 19 countries, to come together and to encourage a new generation to recognize the problems that women face.

In April of 2015, to commemorate the 100,000th entry, the author led a successful Thunderclap campaign that enabled the project to become the #1 internationally trending topic that day, gaining several million retweets to become the leading tweet in the English speaking world.

The Review

I work in a school and I often have conversations with students over the relativity of feminism and how sexist attitudes and practices still exist. When I try to show them real life examples I always tell them about a time that I was walking home from work, minding my own business, listening to my iPod when a man that I didn’t know stopped me in the street. Firstly, he invaded my personal space, poked me in the stomach and told me I would be much prettier if I smiled more. Thanks, random stranger.

It may not seem like much but it is this low level everyday sexism that girls and women are faced with on a daily basis. Everyday Sexism is chock full of stories like this. It is a compendium of women being subjugated to the toxic male gaze.

Laura Bates is feisty and will not stand for it. This book is for everyone who has had to deal with this kind of BS. Or for those girls who walk down the road with their keys pressed between their fingers just in case. It is just for women. You just need to read it.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates is available now.

For more information regarding Laura Bates (@EverydaySexism) please visit www.everydaysexism.com.

For more information regarding Simon & Schuster (@simonschusterUK) please visit www.simonandschuster.co.uk.

Title: The Princess of Baker Street

Author: Mia Kerick

Pages: 180 Pages

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

The Blurb

When she was a child, Joey Kinkaid, assigned as a boy at birth—wearing Mom’s purple sundress and an imaginary crown—ruled the Baker Street neighbourhood with a flair and imagination that kept the other kids captivated. Day after day, she led them on fantastic after-school adventures, but those innocent childhood days are over, and the magic is gone. The princess is alone.

Even Eric Sinclair, the Prince Eric to Joey’s Princess Ariel, has turned his back on his former friend, watching in silence as Joey is tormented at school. Eric isn’t proud of it, but their enchanted youth is over, and they’ve been thrust into a dog-eat-dog world where those who conform survive and those who don’t… well, they don’t. Eric has enough to deal with at home, where his mother has abandoned him to live in isolation and poverty.

But Eric can’t stay on the sidelines forever. When Joey finally accepts her female gender and comes to school wearing lip gloss, leggings, and a silky pink scarf, the bullies readily take the opportunity she hands them, driving Joey to attempt suicide and leaving Eric at a crossroads—one that will influence both their lives in not just the present, but the future.

Is there a chance the two teens can be friends again, and maybe even more?

The Review

The Princess of Baker Street by Mia Kerick is a book that surprised me in so many ways. If I am completely honest, I chose to read the book based on the cover. I had not read the blurb nor did I have any knowledge of Mia Kerick’s previous writing. I did not know it was an LGBTQIA+ story. Not that that would have mattered. In fact, it probably would have made me want to read it more.

What I loved about the story is that it was sensitive. Not only to Joey who is going through the agonising process of becoming the correct gender, but to Eric who is dealing with abandonment. Also to the school bully who is dealing with learned behaviour from his misogynistic father.

It is just a lovely yet heart-breaking story told with the utmost sensitivity and beauty that could have been lacking in somebody else’s hands. Mia Kerick has really worked magic in writing this story.

The Princess of Baker Street by Mia Kerick is available now.

For more information regarding Mia Kerick (@MiaKerick) please visit www.MiaKerickYA.com.

For more information regarding Harmony Ink Press (@HarmonyInkPress) please visit www.harmonyinkpress.com.