Once upon a time, the only way to get publicity for a book was through the mainstream media - book reviews in the newspapers and magazines that had a monopoly on spreading the word about new publications. That was always going to mean that many books got overlooked, and that books written by the mates of those in positions of influence in said newspapers and magazines were going to get a bigger share of the column inches, together with books by the publishing houses with the biggest marketing and publicity budgets. Now, I'm glad to report, all that has changed. Social media, for all its goods and evils, has opened up a huge number of potential avenues for writers to explore, most importantly all of the many book bloggers out there. This is so valuable, especially to debut novelists - such as myself - and those who do not have hundreds of friends in positions of power - such as myself - because now we can get word about our books out to thousands of potential readers. I have to say here and now that I am full of admiration and thanks for the amazing job these bloggers do. I have tried writing book reviews - you might have read some of my attempts here - and it's really, really difficult. To sum up a book and explain why you did - or didn't - like it is hard, and especially so if you are not going to give away spoilers. So I thank with all my heart all those bloggers out there who do it so well, so willingly - and for free. Apart from free copies of the books they review, I'm not aware that these very special people get any other reward for all their time and hard work. But they do a marvellous job and they have taken power away from big companies and the establishment and given it to real people and that has got to be a good thing. And I'd say that even if I wasn't benefitting from it! Promise.
I am going to carry on my feeble attempts at reviewing what I read but I do have one caveat. I have decided that I will not write a review of anything to which I could not give an Amazon 4 or 5 star rating. The only reason for this is that I know how incredibly hard any author works to write any book. It's a bit like me being a teacher. I feel that all teachers should get a prize for just being there in the classroom every day, regardless of what they do once there, purely because teaching is such incredibly hard work and so utterly thankless most of the time, and facing up (all alone) to 150 hormonal, stroppy, antagonistic teenagers every day should be rewarded in and of itself. So if I don't like a book, I will keep that to myself. All appreciation of writing is subjective and we all like different things. If that weren't the case there'd only be the need for one book in one genre for the rest of time. I want to spread the joy of reading, not put writers' efforts down.
With that said, I am going to share the review of Garden of Stars written by a self-confessed Swedish book-addict, Magdalena Johansson. Judging by the number of reviews she posts, Magdalena is one-woman book eater - and I've also noticed that she doesn't give away stars lightly. So I was delighted to receive 4 out of 5 stars and this thoughtful review:
I have to admit that the cover for Garden of Stars by Rose Alexander was probably a large reason for me to accept and read this book. That and my weakness for dual storylines. I just love books with two different timelines.
Garden of Stars is about two women, not related through blood, but they share a deep bond through love. Sarah Lacey is at a crossroad in life, she has for the last twenty years never gotten over the man she met in Portugal when she was young. Now, she is for the first time going back to Portugal and there he will be. But what about her marriage? She doesn't even know if she loves her husband anymore, but they have built a life together and have two daughters. Sarah's great-aunt Inês gives Sarah her diary and through it, she learns more about Inês, but she also learns that Inês has kept a secret for decades...
Sarah and Inês life stories may be quite different, but they both faced difficult decisions in life and I loved how some things felt parallel, how they both have to make sacrifices and that sometimes you have to stop looking backward and look forward instead. Garden of Stars is a book that stayed with me after I turned the last page. I felt enriched after finishing the book. Like Inês last advice in the book not only was for Sarah, but for me as a reader as well.
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