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Blog Tour & Review: Cinema Lumiere by Hattie Holden Edmonds

Friday, 29 July 2016

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for Cinema Lumiere by Hattie Holden Edmonds.

Title: Cinema Lumiere
Author: Hattie Edmonds
Publisher: RedDoor Publishing
Publication Date: 24 September 2014

Twitter: @HattieHEdmonds


What if someone had secretly made a film of your life? Hannah Bailey has resigned herself to a dead-end job, she's sealed her heart against love and her catastrophic thinking is out of control. In fact, she's hard pushed to find a single reason for her existence until the day she stumbles across a tiny one-seated cinema and its mysterious French owner Victor Lever... Cinema Lumière doesn't screen Hollywood blockbusters or even low budget arthouse indies. Instead it shows people films of their lives. But how does Victor create such unique biopics and why is he so determined to coax Hannah into that single red velvet seat?

Set between the bustling streets of both Portobello and Paris, Cinema Lumière turns a literary projector on the timeless experiences of love and loss. If you liked The Time Traveller's Wife and One Day, this could well be the book for you.

Nominated for The People’s Book Prize 2016 in the Summer Fiction collection, this is the charmingly original tale of Hannah Bailey. 
Hannah lives in London with her little bull dog, Nellie. She has a dead-end career writing articles for a health magazine – not quite the direction she anticipated her career going.
Then one day, she bumps into her old friend Victor and he invites her to watch a film that he has made. However, the cinema contains but one red velvet chair and the film being shown is not just any film but one uniquely angled towards Hannah’s own life. Watching the film sends Hannah’s emotions into freefall, forcing her to face up to feelings that she has locked away for so long. How does Victor know her life so thoroughly?  Although Hannah flees from that showing in a panic, she cannot get Victor and his little cinema out of her mind…
It is quite difficult to pinpoint precisely what Cinema Lumiere is about as there are several threads to the story. However, the overall theme to me was about relationships.  The story flits between two timelines – the past and the present – tracing Hannah’s relationships with different men in her life. Through those memories we learn how Hannah’s past relationships have shaped her current life.
The most complex of those relationships being that with the old Frenchman, Victor. Theirs was an odd friendship (because of their age difference) built on a mutual love of old films and cinema. Having not seen each other for years, there is definitely more to their story and as the story progresses, the layers of secrecy are slowly peeled away until the reader can understand their friendship better.
I felt that the characterisation within Cinema Lumiere was very well crafted, with the characters all being very real and likeable. Hannah is an interesting and likeable protagonist, and a good narrator. I felt a real interest in her story.
Nellie, the British Bull Dog, is by far my favourite supporting character. She adds a sense of fun to the story.
Hannah’s new colleague, Ian, was another favourite of mine. Initially shy and reserved, he is hugely endearing and their working relationship also adds an element of fun to the story, contrasting well with the more serious nature of her private life.
There is also the addition of potential love interest, Joe. Hannah’s past romantic life has not proved straightforward and things do not seem to have become any less complicated, however Joe is an appealing character and I enjoyed reading about the development of their friendship/relationship. The story shows us that love is a risk, but that it is one worth taking.
I felt that the book had quite a dreamy and romantic undertone that was not necessarily due to the potential romance between Hannah and Joe, but rather an overall sense of love towards the things that make our lives so uniquely special, however big or small. In Hannah’s case, that ranges from the people in her life to her beloved Nellie to her love of London. It is easy to become complacent or cynical and to forget about the romance that life holds.
I found Cinema Lumiere to be quite a thought-provoking and poignant tale, with a couple of twists guaranteed to pique the reader’s interest. The complex story certainly left me with a number of questions, the type of which I am happy to accept that I will not receive an answer to. The tale reminds the reader that we are the sum of our past experiences and that we should learn to let go of any disappointments and to welcome those lessons learnt that allow us to move forward.
Cinema Lumiere is an impressive debut from Hattie Holden Edmonds. I look forward to seeing what comes next from this author.
About the Author
Hattie Holden Edmonds was the in-house writer at Comic Relief for three years, working on projects with amongst others, Richard Curtis, Sacha Baron Cohen and Armando Iannucci. Before that she was a music journalist for the German music magazine Bravo. Cinema Lumière is her debut novel. She also writes a weekly blog for the Huffington Post on all things bookish. Check her website at
Hattie Holden Edmonds has held down a variety of jobs including junior assistant on Separates in Clements department store, chief plugger-in of cables in a Berlin recording studio, hat-maker and a very clumsy waitress in an ice cream parlour. Apart from writing, she teaches meditation at a palliative care unit in Ladbroke Grove, and runs a part time and very rickety cinema from a fisherman's shack in Whitstable. She loves a good swim, and dreams of being able to knock up a decent three course meal.
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Don't forget to check out the previous or upcoming blog tour stops, as listed below!

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Book Rev iew: The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Monday, 25 July 2016

Title: The Versions of Us
Author: Laura Barnett
Publisher: Weidenfeld and Nicolson
Publication Date: 28 May 2015 epub, 31 December 2015 paperback

Twitter: @laura_jbarnett

Rating: 4 out of 5


What if you had said yes . . . ?

Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future - together, and apart - as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.

The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow. What if one small decision could change the rest of your life? 


First, I must thank the publisher for providing me with a copy of The Versions of Us in exchange for an honest review and I apologise for the delay in preparing the review.
I should admit that the reason for the delay in reviewing was because I initially started the book and couldn’t really get on with it. I therefore put it to one side to try again at a later date. I’ve learnt from past experience that it’s often my mood that dictates whether or not I enjoy a book, rather than the book itself, so I always like to give a book at least 2 tries before I give up. Anyway, I am very glad that I returned to The Versions of Us in as, once I made it past the first couple of chapters, I found myself engrossed in this unusual tale.
The Versions of Us is a ‘Sliding Doors’ style tale (if you have ever seen that film?). It is a tale of what might have been and how seemingly innocuous choices, missed opportunities or chance encounters can forever alter the course of your life.
The Versions of Us presents three alternative versions of how Eva and Jim’s lives could have worked out. Beginning in 1950’s Cambridge where the protagonists are both students, fate has deemed that their lives will be intertwined in some way and the three alternative realities show how a chance meeting (or not) plays such a pivotal part in setting the direction for the rest of their lives.
As each version gradually unfolds, the author cleverly alternates the chapters between the alternating realities, with the narrative flitting between Eva and Jim in order to enable the reader to see the tale from all sides.
The Versions of Us is an absorbing and unusual tale with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engrossed until the end. Whilst not an overly cheerful tale, the story is paced well and very readable.
The book follows quite a broad timeline, allowing the reader to experience the full scope of a relationship: from the romance and fun in the early days, through the mid-life doubts and then on to the conclusion… the author really takes the reader on a journey through the decades, showing how Eva and Jim’s characters alter over that time.
Eva, one of the protagonists, is a graceful and poised woman. She takes what life throws at her and does her utmost to make the best of all situations. She is a likeable character, albeit with a questionable taste in men. Jim, the other protagonist, appealed to me somewhat less. I felt that he was ultimately quite a selfish person, easily given to his own ruminations.
To me, Eva’s character remained more constant throughout the three versions, whereas I felt that Jim’s character altered more significantly between the three realities. The tale shows us how people can change over the years and how timing can really be instrumental. Take a look at any marriage and consider whether, had the people met 10 years earlier or 10 years later, the outcome would likely be different either for the success of the marriage or in even getting to that stage in the first place! My husband and I have said on numerous occasions that had we met 5 years earlier, chances are that we might not be married now.
The supporting characters are not well-defined and remain two-dimensional throughout the story, yet that did not detract from the book for me. This really is the story of Eva and Jim and the involvement of any other more detailed characters could well have diminished their tale.
The author has a great sense of timing and balance when jumping between the story lines. A little bit of patience is required as I must admit to wanting to skip ahead at time to follow one specific timeline. However the story manages to retain a decent pace, keeping the reader eager to know the outcome of each timeline. Reading about the different timelines does require a certain amount of attention and I did struggle at the beginning when I was dipping into and out of the book for short periods. I found that it was better to read the book in several big chunks in order to keep track of the different strands.
Overall, I can honestly say that I very much enjoyed reading Versions of Us. It is a beautifully written and emotionally involving tale of what might have been; a thought-provoking exploration of the importance of those small and unmemorable moments in time that can completely change the path of our lives. It also serves to reminds us that the alternative may not ultimately be better and that the grass is not always greener – every path will come with its own challenges, joys and sadness.
Versions of Us has left me wondering whether if you could look into a crystal ball and see ‘what might have been’ in your life, would you choose to take that opportunity? I must admit, I don’t think I could bring myself to know the other possibilities or where my path could have changed….
About the Author

Laura Barnett is a writer, journalist and theatre critic. She has been on staff at the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, and is now a freelance arts journalist and features writer, working for the Guardian, the Observer and Time Out, as well as several other national newspapers and magazines.

Laura was born in 1982 in south London, where she now lives with her husband. She studied Spanish and Italian at Cambridge University, and newspaper journalism at City University, London. Her first non-fiction book, Advice from the Players - a compendium of advice for actors - is published by Nick Hern Books. Laura has previously published short stories, for which she has won several awards. The Versions of Us is her first novel.

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Book Review: Valentina by S.E. Lynes

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Title: Valentina
Author: S E Lynes
Publisher: Blackbird Digital Books
Publication Date: 1 July 2016

Twitter: @SELynesAuthor
Facebook: S E Lynes Author

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.

But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane...

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina. 

She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?

As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears...


Thank you to Blackbird Digital Books for providing me with a copy of Valentina by S E Lynes in exchange for an honest review.
Valentina is the first novel from S E Lynes and it certainly is a fantastic debut!
The book is set in the wilds of Aberdeenshire, a remote and secluded place with rugged coastlines and sandy beaches. There is a wonderful descriptiveness to S E Lynes tale. I particularly loved the impression given of Foot Dee (Fittie), a former fishing village/dwelling with narrow streets with traditional cottages and the quirky feel of a village stuck in the past - a real taste of life-gone-by. Having since checked Google and found it to be a real village, this is now a place I would be very interested to visit.
Shona and baby Isla find themselves living in a beautiful cottage in the Aberdeenshire countryside, a trek from the nearest town or indeed any civilisation, whilst her partner Mikey is working offshore on the oil rigs. It is not long before city-girl Shona begins to feel terribly lonely, wore down from living such an isolated life. This leads Shona to meet and befriend the charismatic and enigmatic Valentina.
The plot is very well developed and engaging, with the tale woven in such a way that I struggled to put the book down. It really is an absorbing tale. There is a heavy and onerous feeling to the book from the very start, a sense of foreboding that I just couldn’t shake off.
I have to be careful what I tell you about Valentina without accidentally revealing any spoilers. However, I can say that this book really does make you question how well you know your friends and family Do you ever get a feeling that something just isn’t quite right….?
Structurally the book is interesting, in effect it is a play of 3 parts: the first from Shona’s point of view, the second from Valentina’s point of view and the third part tying up the loose ends and bringing the tale to its conclusion. Interestingly, both Shona and Valentina address the reader directly during their narratives. For me, this was a very effective way of giving each character the chance to jump from the page and tell their story. Specifically, it moves Valentina from a two to three-dimensional character and allows the reader sufficient insight to determine whether or not they feel some sympathy/empathy towards Valentina.
In my opinion, the characterisation in the book is also cleverly crafted with each character initially coming across as the very best versions of themselves. As the tale deepens so do the characters, gradually becoming more complex and darker. Shona is feisty, strong and funny, however she has been muted by motherhood, sleep-deprivation and loneliness. Initially feeling as though all the pieces in life have fallen into place, Shona gradually starts to realise that she is becoming a shadow of her former self, only coming back to life when Mikey is home from the rigs. Mikey is Shona’s partner and co-parent. She adores him and would follow him to the end of the earth. He is a wonderful father and partner – loving, caring and fun. Yet there is something subtly domineering in his manner and this gives rise to a few little niggles that sometimes pop uninvited into her mind... When Shona meets Valentia, it seems like the answer to her lonely existence during Mikey’s absences. Valentina is the life and sole of the party. She is bouncy, witty, daring and just what Shona needs in a friend. Yet we gradually realise how little Shona seems to know about Valentina and how manipulative Valentina can be.
The tale is largely about friendship and the early stages of such, where each person is finding their footing and learning to read the other person’s moods and mannerisms. In this case, Shona relishes Valentina’s colourful and energetic entrance into her life. She is no longer bored and lonely but, at the same time, she now has those niggling feelings of uncertainty that seem to accompany the start of any relationship. Is Valentina trying to take advantage of Shona’s good nature? How should she react to this without risking that burgeoning friendship, after all a good friend is there to help and not to judge… right?
The tale is also one of the importance of trust, both within a relationship and in your own instincts. Shona seems to unthinkingly put all of her trust into Mikey and Valentina, to the detriment of her own instincts, and accepts what they say virtually without question. It is important to be able to trust your partner and close friends implicitly, but not above trusting yourself. As a reader, we see Shona failing to put any trust in her own instincts. On numerous occasions she instinctively feels that something is amiss and yet she makes excuses and refuses to accept that anything might be wrong. Shona seems to back away from standing up to either Mikey or Valentina. She knows what she wants to say but then paranoia sets in and she has become so dependent upon these characters/relationships that she feels she cannot risk losing them by saying the wrong thing or by coming across as overly critical. However, holding her true self back and failing to question those irregularities, perpetuates her habit of over-thinking and her feelings of paranoia.
In my opinion, Valentina is a fantastic debut from S E Lynes. It is absolutely gripping, with an overall sense of foreboding that wriggles deep into the reader’s subconscious. I was gripped by the complexity of the characters and the intricately woven story, concluding with a twist and in a manner slightly different to what I had anticipated. I thought I had guessed the twist from an early point but, in actual fact, I was only part of the way there. S E Lynes certainly knows how to tell a story and this is one that will really get under your skin. Highly recommended!
I very much hope to hear more from S E Lynes in the near future.
About the Author

After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London for a couple of years before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband.  In Aberdeen, she worked as a Radio Producer at the BBC before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK,  she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with teaching at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children.  She lives in Teddington.
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